Bill to allow Americans to sue Saudi Arabia for terrorism is against the rule of law (that it passed unanimously is a telltale sign)

It’s odd that we side with President Obama as he is facing the first veto override of his term.  Though the fact that the bill passed both the House and the Senate unanimously is a hint of its perniciousness.

The bill, called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), would allow citizens who can convince a jury that they were victimized by terrorism to sue governments that they believe contributed to the terrorist acts.  We agree with the high-minded reasons that both the Obama Administration and some of the Republicans’ best legal and foreign-policy minds put forth in illustrating the bill’s dangers:  it undermines sovereign immunity, could prompt retaliatory lawfare from other countries, and  could place Americans abroad at risk of being detained by countries where the divide between civil and criminal prosecution is not as clear as in America.

We also fret that—while we are not condoning our supposed allies like Saudi Arabia in creating the environment for and directly supporting attacks on the U.S.—subjecting more defendants to the whims of the U.S.’s tort system is not the definition of justice.  Supporters of the bill reflexively cry that “it’s not about the money,” but we’re sure that the tort bar doesn’t see it that way.

The lawsuit industry undermines the U.S. economy every day via “jackpot justice,” in which it’s not that hard to employ emotionally-charged arguments to convince juries that some faceless, deep-pocket foreign defendant should pay up.  The preponderance-of-the-evidence standard on such civil matters is a dangerous substitute to deal with complex issues that should be left to the international political process.

The bill, while not unconstitutional, violates the spirit of the American constitution’s visionary prohibition of Bills of Attainder and ex post facto laws.  JASTA strikes us as a ham-handed attempt to scapegoat for imprecise reasons a defined boogeyman after the fact—a a sophisticated form of mob rule that these constitutional provisions were designed to deter.

Most bills that pass Congress unanimously are trivial, with the only down-side being wasted legislative resources.  When they are not trivial, such laws almost always increase government and erode liberty, as the political class generally agrees on these values as opposed to their converses.  Unanimous laws generally fit the pattern of benefiting from emotional resonance—as in the case of JASTA—and being seen as having little down-side.*

JASTA is not trivial and carries significant down-sides, though it does fit the general pattern of feel-good unanimous legislation and all of its ills.

*We would like to see a historian write a book on unanimously-passed legislation and the dissenters (like former Rep. Ron Paul (Tx.)) who have stood alone against them.  Such a work would certainly be filled with anecdotes that would educate and often amuse political junkies.

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Clinton says on Israeli TV that ISIS is “rooting for Donald Trump”; MSM gets outraged that Trump appears with Larry King

We long for the quaint unspoken rule that politicians don’t engage in partisan attacks or criticize their political opponents from overseas.  President Obama has made a sport of eviscerating this decorum.

Similarly, Hillary Clinton declared in an interview on Israeli TV that ISIS is “rooting for Donald Trump’s victory.”  The terrorists, according to Clinton, are praying, “Please, Allah, make Trump president of America.”  The illogic of this claim aside, the mainstream media failed to take Clinton to task for fear-mongering and attacking from overseas the patriotism of an American politician—as they always do while attempting to criticize Republicans for such perceived affronts.

For example, the media came down hard on Trump for mild praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, especially that uttered in an interview with American media icon (and Trump friend) Larry King.  They piled on the he-said-this-on-Russian-media trope because King’s show happens to be syndicated on Russia Today, a government-controlled outlet.

This criticism of Trump for a non-offense compared to silence on Clinton shows a double standard outrageous even by MSM standards.

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We never get the right questions on re-thinking the Iraq war

The most obvious way for a politician (or non-politician) to explain his ostensible waffling on support for President Bush’s war on Iraq beginning in 2003 is to say that it was a reasonable idea at the time, but, given the history, he wishes that we hadn’t begun it.  This result was not inevitable from the outset, but rather came about because of our insane rules of engagement—in which President Bush tied one had behind our proverbial backs and then President Obama tied the second hand too.  Moreover, Obama made the fatal mistake of promising to withdraw and then doing so before the job was finished, erasing gains that we had made after the surge toward the end of Bush’s term.

This seems like a simple and valid reading of history (and is our position).  Yet the media never ask the right question.  At Wednesday’s “commander-in-chief” forum for the presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton duly said, “I think the decision to go to war in Iraq, and I have said that my voting to give President Bush that authority was, from my perspective, my mistake.”

Perhaps it’s implicit, but she didn’t explain why.  Nor do the media ever drill down on this point.  The hard left would say that many members of Congress who voted for the war were simply duped by the Administration’s false intelligence.  But very few people in either party offer the view that the decision to go to war was a mistake only in light of how it turned out due to conscious decisions once we were at war, and why that is the case—simply circumstance or bad luck, the realization that America simply doesn’t have the will to do what it takes to win a war, or President Obama’s fecklessness?  Even putting aside the issue of blame, is our polity not mature enough to understand that it is possible that an action might have been warranted at the time but simply didn’t work out as we had hoped—and that doesn’t mean it was a mistake?

There are different types of mistakes:  (1) decisions that were inherently erroneous to begin with, (2) those that were simply calculated risks but didn’t turn out well, and (3) those that might have been right but in which execution failed (and perhaps should have been predicted to fail).

“Mistake” is an odd word; it has acquired an imprecise definition in common usage, though the dictionary definition seems to mirror (1) above.  Is buying a lottery ticket a mistake if you don’t win?  We would say no.  Getting married to your ex-wife?  Probably yes.  Launching “New Coke”?  Hard to say.

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What October Surprise can we expect for Trump?

The mainstream media, especially the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN, has been getting more hysterical each day during Donald Trump’s campaign.  Their coverage has probably hurt Trump at the margins, though the returns to the manufactured outrage are diminishing.  The conservative “never-Trump” crowd is not much more credible or insightful.

There is no doubt that these outlets are investing heavily to dig up whatever they can, while the bar for outrage among persuadable voters grows higher and the MSM increasingly finds itself shouting inside an echo chamber inhabited by its already-virtuous anti-Trump readers.  What might they come up with?

We previously speculated that the media would pursue the tried-and-true strategy of linking Trump’s family to the Nazis, however dubious any connection might be.  No doubt they are soliciting any leaks they can find about Trump’s health and finances.

It’s astonishing that someone who has employed thousands of people over the years in the inherently rough-and-tumble realm of urban real estate development  hasn’t been tarred with claims of unlawful business practices.  (A few stories about the visa statuses of Melania Trump or models he’s engaged don’t amount to much.)  No alleged unpaid wages, illegal employees, discrimination, shady permits, safety code violations, or, the holy grail, sexual harassment by some Trump office manager?  At a minimum, no disgruntled former employees who will complain about what a horrible boss he is?   (The public seems to understand that a few lawsuits and bankruptcies among thousands of real-estate ventures are normal in America.)  In reality, all of the evidence suggests that Trump is an exemplary businessman and employer.

We are holding our breath awaiting whatever scurrilous charges the press comes up with.  Perhaps it will be the conservative media, which is less lazy and even more motivated to stop Trump than is the mainstream media, that strikes hardest.

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Dallas police use of robot-deployed bomb is troubling

The media has rightly focused in recent days on the decision by the Dallas police to use a robot to blow up the black-power activist who murdered five police officers.  Although the sniper, Micah Johnson, ultimately got what he deserved, we are troubled by this use of technology.

Even if we shed no tears for the shooter in this case, it is not hard to envision a scenario where such a dystopian killing machine is abused (or, given the competence we generally expect from the government, malfunctions) in the future.  We are reminded of the exploding collars affixed to prisoners in the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Running Man.

Steve Sailer makes the point that use of the robot was not much different than the typical police tactic of using a sniper to take out an active shooter, but, as other commenters point out—aside from the precedent and optics—the robot didn’t appear necessary in this circumstance.  The shooter was boxed in and not an immediate further threat to anyone.  Given the potential for collateral damage from a robot, it seems a bit draconian.

Even a sniper who has admitted guilt, as Johnson did in his “negotiations” with the police, is entitled to due process (though the Dallas police chief’s and media’s repeated description of Johnson as a “suspect” in recounting the events seems inaccurate—how about “perpetrator”?).  Police generally are charged with subduing and arresting a perpetrator unless killing him is necessary to prevent further loss of life.

Why couldn’t a robot be affixed with tear gas, a taser, or some other non-lethal disabling agent?

Incidentally, a Salon writer called this use of force a “frightening precedent.”  In a first, we agree with every word of the article (except for the reference to “the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” which we had never heard of and, given that it was brought to us by the United Nations, probably means the opposite of its title suggests).

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A reminder of how incompetently the government administers the “no fly list”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) has introduced a “compromise” that would bar Americans who are on the government’s infamous “n0 fly list” from buying a gun while introducing a mechanism to appeal denial of a gun purchase.  How long would such an appeal take?

Such a proposal would be a gross violation of Americans’ constitutional rights.  The burden of proof should be on the government to deny someone’s fundamental rights, not the other way around.  What’s next, curtailing First, Fourth, or Fifth Amendment rights for people on the list?

A more practical matter is the sheer incompetence with which the government administers the list, along with other databases on which some guilty and some innocent Americans find themselves.  That is, the government is just as incompetent in this arena as in every other.  The list is secret, with no defined criteria for who puts an American on it or how to get taken off.  Plenty of horror stories abound that show how difficult it is for anyone to navigate the bureaucracy to challenge inclusion on such a list.  (Big-government advocates will retort that flying is not a constitutional or civil right.  That is hardly a reassuring rejoinder in a free country.)

Perhaps this could be a viable measure for foreign nationals, particularly those who don’t have a green card.  Collins notes that “most” of the people on the list are foreigners, but that is also not very reassuring in light of the opacity with which the government maintains the list.

Please, Republicans, don’t fall into the MSM/liberal trap of feeling pressured to “do something,” namely, to add yet another ineptly-run government program to try to remedy a litany of existing ineptly-run government programs.

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Be very suspicious of the left’s motives to allow “lateral entry” for military officers

Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently unveiled a proposal to allow people to enter the military directly from outside at levels up to O-6 (colonel, or captain in the Navy) in potentially any job.  The plan, which is being considered by Congress, would expand this option from its current narrow parameters, which allow lateral entry up to the O-4 level (major, or lieutenant commander in the Navy) only for chaplains, lawyers, doctors, and dentists.

Secretary Carter uses the example of cyber specialists as a case where such a program would be most useful, as it’s difficult to develop officers with the level of expertise needed in-house.

This seems like a reasonable concept in principle, if applied selectively, and if it were intended solely to increase the effectiveness of the military (i.e., if conceived by Republicans).  It is an idea with merit and with major implications for both the military and civilian sectors.  It is worth careful consideration.

Color us skeptical, however, at the motives behind this under people like President Obama or Secretary Carter.  The author in the linked article says that the plan “suggests eroding the military’s tradition of growing its own leaders and cultivating a force with a distinct culture and tight social fabric.”

We have no doubt that “eroding” the armed forces’ “distinct culture and tight social fabric” is the whole point.  The left despises the military culture.  When Democrats are in power they enjoy conducting their transformative gambits on the military, be it redesigning training materials to be more politically correct, placing women in combat roles, forcing the forces to accept homosexuals, and next, naturally, removing the ban on “transgendered” warriors.  The left loves being able to play such games with the military, both because it is a perfect laboratory for their insane social engineering experiments—as a large population that has to follow orders and which collects lots of data—and because they see the military as a bastion of such abhorrent retrograde values as patriotism, meritocracy, and masculinity.

We assume that the left’s real motives in making such a sweeping change to the way that America grooms its military leaders are—in addition to making its culture more susceptible to their social-justice ideology—opening up a spigot by which they can corruptly appoint cronies to plum positions; installing moles who are loyal to them instead of to the chain of command (as is the norm in the federal civilian bureaucracy, in which an invisible, unaccountable band of dedicated leftists can always be counted on to drag their feet and stymie the attempted governance of any Republican administration); and, of course, fast-tracking affirmative-action hires to counter the perceived “diversity” problem in the upper officer ranks.

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