Attorney General nominee Eric H. Holder, Jr. unequivocally said “Waterboarding is torture” at his confirmation hearing January 15. Asked if he would prosecute those who engaged in felony torture or allow the President to immunize the perpetrators, Holder told Senator Patrick Leahy (D-N.H.), “Mr. Chairman, no one is above the law.”
This topic reminds me of the story about the national politician who campaigned on a party platform promoting the Welfare State. His stump speech was filled with promises of all the government services that he would fight for, if the voters would just elect him to Congress. He promised to meet all of the people’s needs relating to childcare, education, nutrition, housing, transportation, healthcare, pensions, and good-paying jobs for every citizen. Finally, at one town hall meeting, a boy raised his hand and asked, “Why would we need jobs?”
Vice President-elect Joseph Biden arrived in Baghdad on January 12 for an unannounced visit. It was part of a three-nation Asian tour for the vice president-elect, who visited Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The trip provided further confirmation that the incoming Obama administration intends to pursue an interventionist foreign policy — allying ourselves with Pakistan in our war against terrorism despite the fact that Pakistan is far from a paragon of human rights and "democracy"; supporting the planned U.S. military buildup in Afghanistan that basically entails shifting the war in Iraq to a new theater; and staying engaged in Iraq, a country that Biden once proposed dividing into three parts.
President-elect Barack Obama has selected the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Bill Clinton, Carol Browner, to serve as his “Assistant to the President on Energy and Climate Change.” Plenty of the “qualifications” on her résumé should raise eyebrows for anyone concerned about freedom or sovereignty, but perhaps most alarming is her leadership seat on Socialist International’s “Commission for a Sustainable World Society.” The organization believes, among other things, that “an essential aspect of realising a more fair and effective form of global governance is reform of the United Nations,” it says on its website.
As we have reported in the past week (here and here), former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has been extraordinarily busy of late, flitting about the world and proclaiming the need for President-elect Obama and other leaders to seize current crises as opportunities to build a "new world order." Now Kissinger has formalized his verbal statements in an essay for the International Herald Tribune, which is the global edition of the New York Times. The essay, entitled, "The chance for a new world order," came out on January 12, when Kissinger was in Beijing (along with new world order advocates Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcrosft and Winston Lord) to celebrate our growing interdependence with communist China, a key part of the new world order crafted by Kissinger nearly 40 years ago when he paved the way for Nixon's historic trip to China.
President Bush unwittingly summed up the eight years of his presidency in what was expected to be the final press conference on January 12. “I readily concede I chunked aside some of my free market principles,” Bush said of his moves during the recent financial bailout. “Chunked"? Yes, he used the word “chunked.” The press conference was full of Bushisms like this. He told the press that “Sometimes you misunderestimated me.” Misunderestimated.
The United States has escalated its covert war against Iran, the New York Times reported on January 10. The article reported that the program involved efforts to disrupt the country’s nuclear program, including covert attempts to “penetrate Iran’s nuclear supply chain abroad, along with new efforts, some of them experimental, to undermine electrical systems, computer systems and other networks on which Iran relies."
With just two weeks left in office, President Bush designated almost 200,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean as a national monument using powers granted by the Antiquities Act of 1906. The new marine "monument," an area about the size of Spain, is the largest protected area of ocean ever established, breaking a previous record also set by Bush in mid-2006, when he decreed 140,000 square miles in Northwest Hawaii off-limits using the same authority.
On January 8, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (along with 11 House colleagues) introduced House Resolution 34, whose title reads: "Recognizing Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza, reaffirming the United States' strong support for Israel, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process." Within a day, H. Res. 34 gained 116 cosponsors and was passed by the House on January 9 (House Roll Call 10) by an overwhelming margin of 390 to 5.
"Federalism" is one of those words that turns many readers aside, as it conjures up images of boring old theoretical interpretations of John Locke treatises. The reality of federalism is much more exciting than the theory — it is actually about the insatiable struggle for power between elites in the federal government and elites in the state governments. Money, power, secret tribunals, corruption: now those things are interesting.