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Mar 29, 2015

Continued Sanctions Would Be Much Better Than Obama's Bad Deal

Every Liberal in creation is saying the choice is between Obama's bad deal and immediate war with Iran.  I think that's a false choice.  It's possible that sanctions combined with the falling price of oil may seriously weaken the regime. Manufacturing and running centrifuges is expensive. The Iranians also have a huge and expensive security structure. They are sponsoring Shi'ite militias or armies in wars in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. They have expensive internal subsidies for food and gasoline to keep the populace under control. All of this has to be paid for by oil revenues. Estimates vary, but the Mad Mullahs need somewhere between $100 to $130 a barrel of oil to pay for all of this. Right now the price is about $55 a barrel. Iran has lots of natural gas reserves, but no export terminals and limited export pipelines. They will not be able to borrow money for export facilities if they are under sanctions. The US could put even more pressure on them by legalizing the export of crude oil and natural gas.

While I'm sure that the Mullahs won't cut the centrifuges, if they cut sponsoring wars and terrorism, their allies would be defeated. Defeats in foreign adventures can be deadly to the prestige authoritarian governments need for survival. If they cut in domestic subsidies they could be overthrown in the resulting unrest. If they cut domestic security they could lose control of dissidents and be overthrown. Add to the mix that Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, has terminal cancer and is expected to die within 2 years. The combination of financial stress and a succession struggle could topple the whole regime. It's worth at shot. The current agreement guarantees an Iranian nuclear weapon within 10 years or less.  That's a lock on a nuclear war in 10 years or less.

Why There Was Jewish Support For Civil Rights in 1964

It wasn't just the holocaust that made Jews sympathetic to civil rights protest. Even in the US, Jews were subject to some of the same discrimination as blacks. There were restrictive deeds which prevented Jews from owning property in certain areas. There were quotas on college admissions of Jews because admitting people based on objective criteria lead to too many Jews and not enough of the "right people" being admitted.

My grandfather was Jewish. My grandmother was a Methodist minister's daughter. When they married in 1929, both of their families thought they were nuts. However, one of the tricks they used to beat restrictive deeds was funny. They lived wherever they wanted to live. If the deed or lease said no Jews, my grandmother bought the property or signed the lease by herself. She wasn't Jewish. Restrictive deeds were outlawed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Irony of Jewish Mistrust for Evangelicals

The big question last week was why the Jewish vote was still going to Democrats given that the current administration is so hostile towards Israel.  One answer was that the GOP alliance with Evangelical Christians made Jews nervous.

It's ironic that the GOP alliance with Christian Conservatives feels threatening to Jews. The alliance was born out of the government attempts to control church sponsored schools and home schooling. The Evangelical Christians became politically involved because state and local governments were harassing them. They wanted religious freedom to go their own way. The Jewish view of this is that the Evangelicals want to take over the public schools and force Christian prayers into the classrooms. While that may have been true prior to 1964, it certainly has not been their goal since 1976, and definitely is not today. My insight on this comes from the fact that while I'm a Protestant, my grandfather was Jewish and my wife is Jewish. I have talked to both sides and there's a big misunderstanding here. 

No TNR, Republicans are not Responsible for Netanyahu

The article from The New Republic linked below says that Republicans are responsible for what Benjamin Netanyahu does and says.  This is really crazy.   Clearly, the left never takes responsibility for anything.  The disasters of the last 6 years are all Bush's fault.  Why the Prime Minister of Israel is Republicans' responsibility is beyond me.  The only thing I can think of is that Obama has treated him as badly as he would treat a Republican, therefore he is one.  Israel is a sovereign state.  It is not a US possession.  A domestic American politician is not responsible for any foreign leader.  However, if you insist, then Obama and the Democrats who favor negotiating with Iran are responsible for "Death to America" and "Death to the Zionist Entity."  Please have them explain immediately and at length why they support that position. 

What Netanyahu said about the Palestinians is true.  There is no Palestinian leader who both wants to make peace and can deliver peace.  Any Arab territory where Israel withdrew from occupation has been quickly turned into a base for rocket and sometimes tunnel attacks on Israel.  There is no way any Prime Minister of Israel, no matter what party they belong to, can negotiate a peace agreement with the current or any foreseeable future Palestinian leader.  Netanyahu has revealed an inconvenient truth.  I would hope that the left is not so dedicated to Obama that it's willing to become as anti-Semitic as he is.  

Mar 23, 2015

What About Paid Up Dads With Visitation Problems?

As a divorced father without physical custody, you need all of your support payments to be on time.  If they are not, your wages will be garnished.  On the flip side, no enforcement mechanism exists for your visitation.  The police will not enforce your order.   It will cost you thousands of dollars to litigate missed visitation.  Agreements you make for allowing one of two field trips during your visitation time are unenforceable.  The child can go on both field trips and the school will do nothing.  The courts will do nothing.  

The current legal framework views fathers only as a source of funds, with no reciprocal rights to visitation.  This forces fathers into a position of extreme inflexibility on visitation, because no compensatory visitation is offered or if it is, it's not enforceable.  Years later, your children will resent the inflexibility, but won't remember their mother's part in it.  This situation cries out for reform.  It hasn't changed in 30 years.

Republican Second Guessing on Cotton's Letter

Republican second guessing of Senator Cotton’s letter was in full swing last week.  Some said it should have been addressed to the president instead of the Mad Mullahs.  Many said it wasn’t “helpful.” My view is that both of those positions are bunk.

I don’t think changing who the letter was addressed to would have lessened the liberal screaming.  For it to make any difference, you would have to assume that the left needs a legitimate reason to complain. I believe that's entirely false. They scream in proportion to how much damage is done. Senator Cotton's letter with 46 cosigners was embarrassing because it was entirely accurate in saying that executive agreements can be canceled at will, showed that Obama could never get a treaty through the Senate and was timed just as the administration was making additional concessions to clinch the deal. Just like "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor," our Dear Leader was lying about the binding force of an executive agreement to get a deal, any deal for his legacy. By pointing out that Barry the Brilliant could not really deliver, the letter wrecked the legacy and "Peace in Our Time." The damage was massive, so the response was equally massive. No tailoring of the message would have reduced the Pravda Press retaliation. They threw everything they had at Cotton, including charges of treason, ignorance, stupidity, arrogance and cowardice. All of the fireworks were needed to distract everyone from the basic point that everything in the letter was accurate. You were also not supposed to notice that the letter was posted on a US government web site and was never sent anywhere else. Senator Cotton spoke truth to power. When you do that, power has a tendency to massively retaliate. Sugar coating the offence will not lessen the retaliation.

Addressing the letter to the president would have been racism and disrespect for the First Black President! They would not have written such a letter to a white president! Nobody ever has written such a letter to a white president! It also would have shown mere personal animosity to Obama, with no need to even discuss policy disagreement.

I think the way Cotton did it was better. This way, we got to talk about the Dear Comandante letter to the dictator of Nicaragua in 1984, which was signed by 10 Senate Democrats including John Kerry. We got to mention that there has been only one prosecution under the Logan Act of 1799 and in 1803 they didn't get a conviction. We got to talk about Nancy Pelosi's chat with Bashar al Assad. We didn't have to talk about race. We made the Democrats look hypocritical. We had them accuse a decorated combat veteran of treason. It played very well to our base. John Kerry had to admit everything in the letter is true. My point is either way you're going to take a lot of flak from the Pravda Press. Why bother to over think this. They can only hang you once.

Contrary to the not “helpful” argument, I think the letter was very helpful.  This administration is the most outlaw administration in history.  I was pleasantly surprised that 47 Republican Senators had the guts to sign the letter. Barry the Brilliant and his merry band of outlaws have ignored the Constitution so many times that it's beginning to look like a used Kleenex. Every time the administration circumvents a Constitutional provision, the least we can do is publicly call them on it. The talking heads on TV don’t see a pattern, but I do.  On Obamacare, immigration, EPA regulation, the internet, wilderness designation, recess appointments and other areas too numerous to mention, our Dear Leader has ignored Constitutional and legal processes to rule by decree.  This time, the Pravda Press can make the messengers the story. But repeatedly pointing out that our Dear Leader is violating Constitutional provisions and linking the behaviors together is the only way we can move the argument to where it ought to focus.  We have to force the talking heads to connect the dots. 

If the administration establishes precedent after precedent that the Constitution is a dead letter, we will lose our heritage of limited government and become an elected dictatorship. When the elected dictator decides we no longer need elections, even those will be gone.

Mar 14, 2015

Legal Trash Talk: Liberal Reaction to The Letter

There is a lot of legal trash talk this week about “The Letter.”  Liberals called the 47 Republican Senators “Traitors” in big headlines.  The Pravda Press said that the letter was a violation of the Logan Act.  The commentators said the letter violated the Constitution’s allocation of all foreign negotiations to the president.  All of this was hogwash.

Just so everyone is clear on this, the Constitution defines treason:  "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."  I know liberals don't read the Constitution because it reminds them of the Tea Party, but it really helps to occasionally know what you're talking about. 

The Logan act was passed in 1799.  It outlawed negotiations between private parties and foreign governments.  The last and only prosecution under the Logan Act was in 1803.  It did not result in a conviction.  Since the Republican Senators did not negotiate and since they are Senators and not private individuals, the Logan Act doesn’t seem to apply.  Low information voters don’t know any of this, so the smear worked.

Since Barry the Brilliant said he would veto any attempt by Congress to advise him on negotiations with Iran and then consent to any agreement, the person ignoring the Constitution was the president, not the Senate Republicans who wrote the letter.  Treaties are supposed to be made with the advice and consent of the Senate, according to the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2.  As with many other things, our Dear Leader is ignoring the Constitution in this regard also.  Since no remedy is specified, 47 Republican Senators chose to help themselves by writing an open letter to the Iranians to remind everybody, the Iranians, the president and the public that agreements which happen without the advice and consent of the Senate are not binding.  If one side is ignoring the Constitution, you can hardly complain when in reaction the other side fails to preserve decorum. 

I think any agreement President Obama signs will have exactly the same binding power on the next administration as the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 has had on the Obama Administration, in other words none.  The Budapest Memorandum, signed by the Clinton administration, guaranteed the territorial integrity of the Ukraine in return for the surrender of 1,800 ex-Soviet nuclear weapons on Ukrainian territory. It was signed by the US, UK and Russia. The UK has special forces in the Ukraine right now training Ukrainian forces. Obama sent MREs (meals ready to eat).  According to the German ambassador to the US, Obama told Angela Merkel that the US would not send military aid to the Ukraine. So the US is not helping the Ukraine defend itself from piecemeal annexation by Russia at all.

Liberals seem to go to the Lewis Carroll school of legal interpretation.   I need to quote Mr. Carroll extensively so you understand how this really works.
“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

In simpler terms, heads means liberals win, tails means conservatives lose. Liberals are to be the master. There are no laws any more, just liberal interpretations to suit liberal convenience.   The Constitution is to be interpreted out of existence.  It seems the liberal elite prefers a dictatorship of the liberal elite to the rule of law.  The trash talk is just there to justify their actions to the low information voters who don’t know any better.

Liberal Road to Plutocracy and Religious Intolerance

Liberals like to say that Conservative policies will lead to plutocracy and Christian theocracy. Conservatives see the end result of ever more powerful government, which throws the Constitutional checks and balances under the bus, as the surest way to crony capitalism and religious intolerance.

Goldman Sachs, the big Wall Street bank, gives all of its political donations to Democrats because complicated regulations, like Dodd Frank, makes it easier for them to compete against smaller firms. It's called regulatory capture in academic circles. In Chicago, it's known as political clout. A powerful government with heavy regulatory schemes has influence it can sell. This leads to corruption.

The main reason that Evangelical Christians became Conservatives is because they wanted to home school their kids. The authorities tried to make that impossible. It was a religious freedom issue. Most Conservatives are strongly in favor of religious toleration.

It is not religious toleration to force Catholic Nuns to pay for abortions under Obamacare or lose all federal funds for their work helping the poor of all faiths. It is not religious toleration for the City of San Francisco to try to outlaw circumcision for everyone, including Orthodox Jews. It is not religious toleration to force private vendors to bake cakes or take pictures for gay weddings when they have religious objections to them. It is not religious toleration to try to sue them out of business when they refuse.

Before Liberals make stupid assumptions, I go to a Protestant church once a year for Easter. My Grandfather was Jewish, as is my wife. My sister in law is the best thing that ever happened to my little brother. She also happens to be black. I am in favor of gay marriage, as long as it's done by state law, and not a Supreme Court 14th Amendment ruling. I plan to attend a gay wedding this summer.

The difference is that I am willing to tolerate other religious views. Liberals are not.

Obama Suppressed Bin Laden Documents to Help Reelection

The Bin Laden raid on May 2, 2011, yielded “the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever,” according to a senior US military official.  There were 10 hard drive, nearly 100 thumb drives and a dozen cell phones, not to mention DVDs, audio and video tapes and loads of other material.  However, what happened next, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, should really shock you.
 In May, 2012, President Obama said, “The goal that I set—to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.”  This statement was backed by 17 documents that the CIA released which supported the statement.  The Defense Intelligence Agency, our uniformed military intelligence, saw facts on the ground that contradicted this narrative.  So the DIA, asked for access to the Bin Laden documents to resolve the difference between what they saw on the ground and what the CIA publicly was saying.

A small DIA team of analysts got limited, read only, access for a short period of time.  They were not allowed to make any copies.  Their conclusion based on the documents was that Al Qaeda had doubled in size by May, 2012.  Since that wasn’t what the White House wanted to hear, all further DIA access to the Bin Laden documents was shut down and the DIA was orderd to stop further analysis based on the Bin Laden documents.

Recently, more of the Bin Laden documents were released during the public trial of a Bin Laden associate in Brooklyn.  There are now about 24 documents available to the public.  They show negotiation between Al Qaeda and Pakistani Intelligence.  They show cooperation between Al Qaeda and Iran.  They show initial efforts to take advantage of chaos in Libya to build Al Qaeda cells there.
Since the Obama administration is unlikely to make good use of the documents, they should be made public.  Rep. Devin Nunes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, inserted a provision in the 2014 intelligence authorization bill that requires the documents to be released.

The original suppression of DIA access to the Bin Laden documents put party politics over national security.  The Obama administration should not be allowed to continue to promote its own political interests at the cost of the nation’s security. 

Link to Article (subscription required)

Senator Cotton Speaks Truth to Power

How dare Senator Cotton speak truth to power!  Just because everything in the letter was completely true is no excuse.  Senator Cotton has interrupted delicate negotiations which were to conclude with an agreement that could never command even a majority in the Senate, let alone a 2/3 vote needed to ratify a treaty.  It was very rude of him and his 46 colleagues to notice that Emperor Barry the Brilliant can't bind the United States to a deal without ratification.  Who does Senator Cotton think he is anyway, a Senator or something? 

I think Conservatives and Liberals differ greatly in our views of the Iranian regime.  When Iranians chant "Death to America" and "Death to Israel," I believe them.  Since 1979, the Mad Mullahs have said they are at war with America.  And they have backed it up with acts of war starting with taking our embassy in 1979 and then continuing with the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut in 1983 and the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996.  More recently, Iran was the major supplier of the deadliest IEDs used against US troops in Iraq.  I do not believe for a minute that the Iranian government wants peace.  I believe they want world domination, because that's what they say all the time.

Every Liberal press flack in creation is attacking Senator Tom Cotton personally as a stupid war monger. Senator Cotton has a Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude from Harvard.  He also has a Harvard Law degree.  One of his professors was Elizabeth Warren. His academic record is better that Obama’s, or at least what we know of it.  Cotton is not an ignorant hick.  Tom Cotton is a US Army combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.  He was awarded a Bronze Star for heroism under fire in Afghanistan.  He does not take war lightly.  As a Vietnam Era veteran, I find personal attacks on Senator Cotton's motivation for writing the letter to be extremely offensive.

The letter that everyone is complaining about was entirely accurate.  There were no lies in the letter, as even John Kerry was forced to admit that executive agreements do not have any binding power on future administrations.  The letter inconveniently pointed out that Emperor Barry the Brilliant had no clothes, that he can’t deliver what he was promising the Iranians without a Senate vote.  The timing might not have been what liberals would have preferred, but free speech is valid all the time whether you're a Republican or Democrat, Senator or President.

The agreement in prospect will remove economic sanctions against Iran.  The letter writers want sanctions to continue and actually to get stronger.  I also want the sanctions to be strengthened.  I think the sanctions combined with the current price of oil would be extremely effective.

The fall in the price of oil puts Iran in a very bad position economically.  Oil is at about $55 a barrel.  Iran needs oil at over $100 a barrel to fund all of their terrorism, wars and centrifuges.  They have a huge military and internal security structure which is very expensive.  The have large internal subsidies for food and energy.  The Iranian inflation rate is 30.3% according to the Iran central bank.  They are broke.  Continued sanctions could lead to a much better Iran arms deal.  Continued sanctions might even lead to the collapse of the current regime. 

One way to keep the price of oil low would be to allow American crude oil to be exported.  In the US, existing oil storage tanks are almost completely full.  Right now the difference between West Texas Intermediate, the American benchmark oil price, and Brent Crude, the international price, is about $10 a barrel.  The prices would be roughly the same if the US could sell crude on the international market.  Right now, that’s illegal.  

Signing the current deal as it's described in the press is much more likely to lead to was than continuing the sanctions.  In reaction, Saudi Arabia signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with South Korea.  The Saudis have also made it clear that if they need to, they can purchase nuclear weapons from Pakistan.

The Israelis have no way to attack Iranian centrifuges in the deeply buried concrete bunkers with conventional weapons.  The Israelis would have to use multiple nuclear ground bursts to do the job.  There would be a lot of radioactive dirt thrown into the air.  If the Iranians look like they are about to break out with nuclear weapons, there is a strong possibility of Israeli preemptive attack.

My conclusion is that the deal in prospect is more dangerous than no deal at all.  The letter was a legitimate exercise in free speech by a decorated combat veteran and Senators whose duty to the country was to head off what they saw as a very bad deal by reminding everyone of the obvious.  Without Senate approval, the deal is not binding.

The Letter:
Iranian Inflation
Oil Storage Full:

Mar 9, 2015

Jews: The Canaries in the Coal Mine

There are a lot of idiots who think everything that's wrong in the Middle East would be fixed if only Israel was removed. Many believe we don't need to continue to support Israel because they have enough weapons to make it on their own. Both ideas are totally manure.

The terrorist tactics that ISIS and Al Qaeda use today were tested on Israelis by Palestinian terrorists starting in the 1970's. Then, lots of people said the Jews brought it on themselves and it was nobody else's problem. Now, the terrorism has expanded to include everybody else who doesn't practice Islam exactly according to whichever Jihadist nut is holding a gun to their head. As Jews were in the run up to World War II, Jews are today the canary in the coal mine. It may start with them, but it never ends with them.

By now, everyone should realize we have big problems with Islamofacism, whether it's Sunni ISIS or Shi'ite Iran. Of the two, Iran is the more dangerous. Iran is working on a nuclear bomb. Iranian leaders organize frequent government sponsored street demonstrations around two slogans, "Death to America" and "Death to Israel." Iranian leaders have called Israel a one bomb country. They also have said that even if Israel retaliates with nuclear weapons, Muslims will win because there will still be over a billion Muslims and no Jews. Further, they are also working on an ICBM that can reach the US. The best we can hope for there is that they want to discourage us from protecting Israel. The worst case is that they are crazy enough to attack us. Everyone thought Hitler was a joke. It would be a big mistake to believe Iran is a joke.

If we leave Israel to fend for itself, we are risking a general war in the Middle East. The Saudi's and the Gulf States are so scared of a nuclear Iran that they will make a deal with the Israelis for a coordinated attack on Iran. The attack might include nuclear weapons, because against the Iranian air defense systems the Israeli Air Force can't deliver a conventional weapon big enough to destroy the Iranian centrifuges in their deep underground bunkers. They would have to use nukes.

Mar 8, 2015

Defending the Constitution Is Not a Judicial Monopoly

The Judiciary does not have a monopoly on defending the Constitution. Every federal official, including Congressmen, Senators, federal officials and members of the military, takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I did twice, once when I joined ROTC as a cadet and again when I was sworn in as a US Air Force 2nd Lieutenant. So if the president is violating his oath of office by issuing "executive actions" contrary to Constitutional processes, Congressmen and Senators have a duty to stop it any way they can in order to fulfill their oath. Congressional Republicans gave it a good old college try, then gave up and funded DHS including two unconstitutional executive programs. In effect, Republicans punted to the courts. 

The Democrats put party over country and violated their oaths of office in order to support their president's rule by decree. If this precedent is allowed to stand, the Constitution is a dead letter. We will have replaced it with an elective dictatorship, at least until the incumbent dictator decides election are no longer needed.  That’s a very high stakes bet on what Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts had for lunch.

So how did we get here?  "What we've got here is a failure to communicate!" The problem is that Republicans fought this as if the issue was amnesty when the issue really should have been defending the Constitution. It was worse that the Republicans did not vigorously complain about all the previous decrees issued by His Highness Barry the Brilliant, such as postponing the Employer Mandate Tax under Obamacare. We didn't complain about the executive action implementation of the Dream Act by decree as an unconstitutional act either. Instead of having a unified message that the Chicago Machine Prodigy had no respect for the Constitution, we had a fragmented message that was spread over multiple issues with no unified theme. Given that the Pravda Press is the Public Relations arm of the DNC, this was fatal to our cause. We were maneuvered into a position where the vast majority of voters thinks we want to shut down DHS because we don't like immigrants. Even conservative pundits barely mention that the Constitutional Lecturer in Chief has a pattern of taking numerous executive actions contrary to law. Boehner was forced to surrender, because all the alternatives were worse. He did push it all the way and made the Democrats vote not to compromise.

What we should learn from this is that we need a unified message that this administration from top to bottom has no respect for the Constitution and no respect for the law. Every spokesman should tie every issue to this theme. The next time we try to stop His Majesty from issuing another decree, we need to have laid the ground work so that even the lowest information voter gets it. For starters, every Republican spokesman should be referring to the SNL skit about how bills become law. They get it, even if Republican office holders and spokesmen don’t.

SNL skit on executive action:

Global Warming Alarm Is A Late Night TV Ad for Steak Knives

Science the way I learned it was a painstaking process of alternately theorizing and testing with experiments. Anthropomorphic global warming is a late night TV ad for steak knives. Act now or the planet will be irretrievably destroyed. Also, we'll double your order. That's high pressure sales tactics in the service of a wild political program. Pinky and the Brain say that if you let them take over the world, they can save you. Since they are speaking from their laboratory, you should believe what they say is scientific. You're not supposed to notice that they try to take over the world every night.

Mar 1, 2015

Pravda Press: Congress Must Fund Unconstitutional Program

The Pravda Press is concentrating on the horror of the Department of Homeland Security not being funded.  Secondarily they are arguing that the president’s immigration program is a good program.  This is not just some fight over funding Homeland Security or immigration policy. This is a fight over whether we have the rule of law under the Constitution or an elected dictatorship with no checks and balances. No matter whether you like the outcome or not, allowing any president to rule by decree undermines the rule of law. The president justifies his executive actions on immigration by saying Congress failed to act. What this means is that, by his own admission, Obama is circumventing the law. Saying other presidents issued executive orders is a red herring. When Bush issued signing statements, E. J. Dionne went ballistic with complaints. President Obama has gone beyond signing statements with his executive actions on immigration. He has changed the law unilaterally, adding provisions for work permits and green cards for people who do not qualify under the law for either. If the president can decree anything he likes with no checks or balances, then the Constitution is a dead letter. Congress and the Judiciary are no longer required. We have an elected dictator with no checks and balances. Liberals must believe their own propaganda that Hillary is inevitable, because any Republican with that kind of power ought to scare the crap out of them. Imagine Jeb Bush, Scott Walker or Bobby Jindal being able to issue decrees that change the law. What scares me is the death of limited government by law is happening right now, with nobody taking any notice of what's being lost.
Even SNL Gets It:
E. J. Dionne Doesn’t Get It

Control Gerrymandering with the Mathematical Meaning of Compact

Compact and contiguous are both terms with mathematical definitions. Compact means that a line drawn between any two points in the district does not leave the district. Contiguous means connecting without a break, in other words no islands. If these definitions were enforced by the courts, gerrymandering would be a lot harder to do. My Congressional district was drawn to look like a Thompson submachine gun. It was not compact by mathematical definition, but was legal by current case law. I believe clarifying the meaning of compact to be the mathematical definition is the easiest and most practical way to control gerrymandering. 
Exceptions could be made for coastlines and physical, as opposed to political, islands. Obviously, state borders are OK as district boundaries no matter how convoluted they are. However, rivers that are internal to a state open up gerrymandering possibilities. Defining a river allows all sorts of abuse. As an example, the navigable waters of the US became any mud puddle in your back yard after the EPA got through interpreting the law.  
Perhaps exceptions could be based on the existing road network instead. If two places are physically close, but you have to drive 100 miles in a roundabout fashion to travel from one to the other, then they shouldn't have to be in the same district. For example, the Grand Canyon should be OK as a district border. At this point it gets tricky, but maybe the law should say that contiguous points excluded from a district must be further away by road than any points included in the district.

Big Picture on ISIS 1 MAR 15

While I was originally hopeful about the Arab Spring, I was quickly disillusioned when Egypt's election brought the Muslim Brotherhood program of one man, one vote, one time. At this point, I'm not sure any of these places, besides Tunisia and Iraqi Kurdistan. can be governed in a democratic fashion. I know for sure that US voters will not support the time and expense it takes to build a democratic nation out of these places. What we can do is eliminate the really bad actors, like ISIS and Bashar al Assad. We can try to have better governance instead. These countries have borders drawn 100 years ago, without regard to the ethnic, religious and tribal makeup of the people who live there.

Expecting such countries to retain their borders while becoming multi ethnic nonsectarian republics is absurd. We should accept that Sunnis want a Sunni country and help them set one up in the parts of Iraq and Syria where they live. We should do the same for the Kurds. We should give up on trying to build a nonsectarian Iraqi army. It's an impossible task. It didn't work before under American occupation and it's unlikely to succeed now with a few American advisers. We should arm organizations who show they are willing to fight without committing atrocities. This means dealing directly with the Kurds and Sunni tribal groups whether Baghdad likes it or not.

The US doesn't seem to have many friends in the region. Iran owns Baghdad. The Turks have to be seriously pressured to do anything even minimally useful. The Kurds are pro American, pro-Israeli and relatively religiously tolerant. They fight ISIS with whatever they have. The risk that Kurdish equipment will fall into ISIS hands in useable condition is very low. There's no reason not to arm them to the teeth. Giving training and weapons to the Iraqi Army is not just a waste of time, it's a weapons transfer to ISIS.

The way this looks right now, the Shi'ite militias are going to be the only other power in Iraq besides the Kurds. If the Kurds, Yazidis, Christians and other minority groups can't defend themselves independently, stopping ISIS will not stop the genocide. It will just change who is doing the killing from Sunni jihadists to Shi'ite jihadists

Unfortunately, most of the Sons of Iraq, Sunnis who helped us get rid of Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, are probably dead by now. They were sacrificed so our Dear Leader could please his base by totally withdrawing from Iraq. Once we left, Al Maliki's Shi'ite government cut off their money and equipment. ISIS probably killed most of them. Who would trust us now, given the way we abandoned them last time?  We have to offer a much better deal this time.  We have to offer a Sunni Regional Government similar to the Kurdish Regional Government.  And we also have to guarantee funding for the government, because Baghdad will cut them off again as soon as the US loses interest.  Possibly the funding can come from the Gulf Oil States.  Maybe then we can start to form Sunni Arab units who will be motivated to fight ISIS.

We were not able to train an effective Iraqi Army when we occupied Iraq. Why do we think we can do better now under worse conditions? If we train 5,000 to 10,000 Kurds, Yazidis and Christians we will get an effective fighting force. If we train 20,000 Iraqi Army soldiers, we will get a better armed ISIS, just like last time. However, as far as I can tell, the Kurds and their allies are still short of equipment and ammunition. The Wall Street Journal had a recent story about a Christian militia in Kurdistan training with borrowed guns and almost no ammunition. All of the good stuff is going to Baghdad. It seems that anything given to the Kurds, has to be inspected and approved in Baghdad before it’s shipped to the Kurds. Barry the Brilliant seems to think he can get a great nuclear arms control deal if he appeases the Iranians enough.

As far as I can tell, the best way to take Mosul is from Iraqi Kurdistan. Google Maps only shows one town, Bartella, between Peshmerga held Kalak and Mosul. Bartella used to be the largest Christian town in Iraq, so I’m sure the Kurds are sheltering a lot of people from there who could help take the place.

Mosul is the second biggest city in Iraq.  It is a city divided by the Tigris River. The population was a mixture of Sunni Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrian Christians and a lot of other ethnic and religious groups.  The east side was predominantly Kurdish.  The west side was predominantly Sunni Arab.  The ISIS garrison in Mosul is estimated to be about 6,ooo armed men.

City fighting is very costly in terms of casualties.  While the remaining Kurds will help in the eastern side, the Sunni Arbs in the west side have no motivation to do so.  Without help from inside, any attacking force is going to take a large number of casualties.  Given how unmotivated Iraqi Army troops have proved in the past, I don’t believe they will ever be willing to take massive casualties fighting for Mosul.  They will refuse any order to attack.

My first thought was this.  If the Sunni side of Mosul is going to be destroyed anyway, why not just drop thousands of leaflets warning the civilians it's going to be flattened? Then give the civilians a week to leave. At that point, carpet bomb the place with B-52s and big fuel air explosives. Make sure that nothing much can live through the bombing.

The problem with just bombing the place is that ISIS has prevented the civilian population of Mosul from leaving.  ISIS has a “guarantee” system.  Anyone leaving Mosul has to designate 3 hostages in Mosul who will be punished if the departing person fails to return to Mosul.  So most of the civilian population is still in Mosul and can’t get out.

There may be as many as 100,000 military aged civilian men in Mosul.  The majority of them are Sunni Arabs.  Many of them probably have hidden AK-47 assault rifles.  At the moment, they have no motivation to resist ISIS.  If they expel ISIS, the Shi’ite Baghdad government returns to power or the Kurdistan Regional Government takes over.  Either way, they get nothing.

To me, the solution seems to be guaranteeing a Sunni Regional Government similar to the Kurdistan Regional Government.  The administration’s position is that Iraq is a unitary state.  Our position in the Ukraine is that the Ukraine is not a unitary state. (snarky comment)  As long as we hold the position that the Sunni Arabs have to live with the Iranian backed Shi’ite government in Baghdad without a regional government of their own, I don’t see how we can expel ISIS from Mosul with troops from Iraq. 

Article on the Mosul Offensive Announcement and Feasibility:
Article on Stopping ISIS
Article on Iraqi Christian Militia (Requires Subscription)
Interview With Kurdistan High Representative to the US
Article on ISIS Occupation of Mosul