American Elephants


Constitution? That Doesn’t Apply To Us! by The Elephant's Child

There was a very weird meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee this last week. The committee was questioning Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Secretary Panetta repeatedly stated that the U.S. needed “permission” from international bodies and organizations as a legal basis for using military force. He cited NATO support or a United Nations Security Council resolution as an example of such “legal basis” for action.

As the revolt in Syria heats up with talk of U.S. intervention, Senate Armed Services Committee member Jeff Sessions asked Secretary Panetta:

We spend our time worrying about the U.N., the Arab League, NATO, and too little time, my opinion, worrying about the elected representatives of the United States. As you go forward, will you consult with the United States Congress?

Seems like a straightforward question, but he never got an answer. Obama’s intervention in Libya was extremely questionable. Instead Panetta rambled weirdly about getting “permission” from international organizations before engaging the U.S. Military abroad:

You know, our goal would be to seek international permission. And we would come to the Congress and inform you and determine how best to approach this, whether or not we would want to get permission from Congress.

Sessions asked “So you are saying NATO would give you a legal basis and an ad hoc coalition of nations would provide a legal basis?”

Let me for the record be clear again Senator so there is no misunderstanding. When it comes to the national defense of this country, the President of the United States has the authority under the Constitution to act to defend this country and we will. If it comes to an operation where we are trying to build a coalition of Nations to work together to go in and operate as we did in Libya or Bosnia, for that matter Afghanistan, we want to do it with permissions either by NATO or by the international community.

Sessions was clearly dumbfounded, reminding him that he needed to worry about getting legal authority from Congress as the U.S. Constitution requires before engaging in foreign hostilities. That’s a well-known tenet of the Constitution — that only Congress can declare war. It was observed by President Bush as he sought and got Congress’ OK before the last Iraq War, and its breach was fuel for the 1987 Iran-Contra scandal that dogged the Reagan administration. Panetta repeated the rambling response about international permission.

The Pentagon tried on Thursday  to clarify the remarks made by Secretary Panetta when he told a Senate committee that the U.S. military was seeking “permission” from a foreign organization to intervene in Syria. The official said Panetta was “re-emphasizing the need for an international mandate.  We are not ceding U.S. decision-making authority to some foreign body.”

Neither Panetta nor the Pentagon official seemed to grasp that the president cannot just charge off and commit the armed forces of the United States without consulting with Congress. There does not need to be a formal declaration of war, contrary to the squawks of many liberals during the Bush administration, but the president must consult with Congress and get their assent. It is a startling look into the mindset of this administration.



Progressives: Their Unsurprising Characteristics. by The Elephant's Child

The first sentiment animating 19th–century Progressivism was admiration of parliamentary democracy, a system sometimes described as dictatorship punctuated by elections.  It has remained appealing ever since to intellectuals and activists for whom “the practice of American democracy meant the institutionalization of the liberal-progressive agenda,” in Pearson’s words.  Many liberals were enraged that Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell could marshal his 41 Republican colleagues to exploit the filibuster and other procedural arcana to thwart 59 Democratic senators as well as President Obama and the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. These complaints that the Senate’s rules frustrate democracy led to complaints that its existence does so: a legislative chamber where Wyoming’s 564,000 residents enjoy equal representation with California’s 37 million was condemned as “resolutely, aggressively, anti-democratic,” one which “ought to be abolished.”

From an essay titled “Enough Already” by William Voegeli in the Claremont Review of Books, Winter 2011/2012. Worth your time.



Thoughts for the Coming Week: by The Elephant's Child
March 11, 2012, 6:14 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Freedom, Law, National Security | Tags: , ,

Countries that pursue economic freedom get prosperity as a bonus.
                                                                                                 Barry Asmus

The clear lesson of history is that individual liberty, the basic underpinning of American society, requires constant defense against the encroachment of the state.
                                                                                               Walter Wriston

A society that puts equality—in the sense of equality of outcome—ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.                                                                                                                                            Milton Friedman

Christianity, democracy, the rule of law, indeed free markets, are things worth having, as we might attest; also motherhood, and apple pie.  But none of them can be imposed, each must be freely chosen.  All are things we chose for ourselves, over many centuries of trial and  error.                                                   David Warren
  



Hard Choices: What’s Right Or What Will Buy Votes. by The Elephant's Child

Expectations about public policy have an enormous impact
on the market price of gasoline.

Holman Jenkins, writing in the Wall Street Journal, points out that candidate Gingrich’s energy  plan would put “the U.S. government unambiguously in favor of cheaper gasoline. He’d arguably be the first president since Reagan who didn’t believe gasoline is a bad, obsolete product and priced too low.”

Don’t underestimate the psychological and political upheaval this would bring about. For decades, U.S. policy has been riven with a costly ambiguity about Washington’s real aim for gasoline prices. In 2008, both parties nominated climate warriors for president, and both parties at times have favored dramatically increased fuel-mileage mandates, which imply higher gas prices unless Washington intends auto makers to go broke selling vehicles consumers don’t want.

For decades, too, the EPA, in pursuit of relatively small air quality gains, has been allowed to balkanize the U.S. refining market with “boutique” fuels, driving up the price everywhere. For decades, environmentalists have been empowered to put domestic resources off-limits not just to preserve pristine nature, but to express disapproval of our energy “addiction.”

Every once in a while these urges even threaten to coalesce into coherence with an outright policy of higher gasoline prices, as when the Clinton administration flirted with a BTU tax or the Obama administration plumped for cap and trade.

Back in the real world, politicians are in a state of panic when faced with the higher gasoline prices that are a direct result of their policies. President Obama was confronted with this paradox  at the White House press conference this week. His response was interesting: “Do you think the president of the United States going into re-election wants gas prices to go up higher? Is there anybody here who thinks that makes a lot of sense?”

When Obama took office, gasoline prices averaged $1.89 a gallon.  Today, here in Washington state, the average is hovering right around $4.00, though the national average is lightly lower. Democrats in Congress are considering ways to go after “oil speculators.” The president is more interested in going after the oil company CEOs. The 1%, you know.

On Thursday, the Senate voted on an amendment that would fast-track the $7 billion, shovel-ready Keystone XL pipeline. Eleven Senate Democrats crossed the aisle to vote to eliminate the need for a federal permit and addressed environmentalists concerns by allowing Nebraskans to determine the route. Senate Republicans voted unanimously for Keystone, which would bring 830,000 barrels of crude oil from Alberta to gulf refineries, easing supplies and creating thousands of much-needed jobs.

The president put his press conference response aside and worked the phones hard, lobbying Senate Democrats, The final vote was 56–42, meaning a majority voted to strip the president of authority to block the pipeline, but it was 4 short of a filibuster 60-vote threshold to make it stick. Obama owns the Keystone XL Debacle.

Obama’s constant refrain “There’s no silver bullet” does not hold. Here are just a few things that could bring the price of gasoline down.  State and federal taxes on gasoline average 45.7 cents a gallon, with the  highest in New York at a combined 67.4 cents a gallon, and the low in Alaska at 26.4 cents.  A number of analysts have noted that the Fed’s devaluation of the dollar has led directly to higher oil prices, adding as much as 56 cents a gallon.

Federal and state rules require about 18 separate boutique fuels, or local blends, about what can be and can’t be in their fuels. Sen. Roy Blunt has offered a bill to give the EPA more authority to waive these local rules. There are a long list of environmental rules— in 1999 the EPA required refiners to drastically cut the amount of sulfur in gasoline and diesel which cost the industry almost $5 billion and $1.5 each year. Environmental rules have driven smaller refiners out of business, closing 4 on the East Coast which makes gas more expensive in the region.

Environmental rules require refiners to add 6.6 million gallons of “advanced biofuels” to their product. The law has cost refiners almost $7 million in fines, since these advanced biofuels don’t exist commercially and nobody knows if they will, which means bigger fines as the mandated amount increases.

So, there is not much that a president can do about the world price of oil, but there’s a lot that is quite possible to do in this country to lower the cost — if one so chose.




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