Monday, February 2, 2009

Offshore energy development moves forward - for now

We were the change! Offshore energy development moves forward.
IER, February 2, 2009

With all of the news about the inauguration of President Obama, you probably missed a very good piece of energy news—the Department of Interior is working to open up 31 offshore areas for energy exploration and development. This is the first time in over 25 years that many of these areas will be opened for energy development. Your efforts were instrumental in pushing the Federal government to open up more areas for energy exploration!

Last summer IER was the first group to call on President Bush to end the moratorium on offshore energy exploration and development. IER’s efforts, the high price of oil, coupled with the will of the American people led President Bush to tear up the moratorium on offshore energy development and start the process for increased energy access.

After Bush’s actions, the drop in oil prices was immediate and dramatic. The Bush Administration put out the proposed rule and over 30,000 people used IER’s website to send comments to the Administration in favor of increased energy development. Your comments gave the Administration the support it needed to propose the new plan for offshore energy exploration.

Unlike many of the economic “stimulus” proposals being considered by Washington politicians, energy jobs are real jobs. Responsibly developing America’s abundant but off-limits domestic energy supply would create 160,000 new jobs alone, generating $1.7 trillion for local, state and federal tax revenue, and providing a major shot in the arm to a flagging national economy.

But the Obama Administration does not necessarily have to allow increased access to America’s vast domestic energy resources. Supporters of President Obama are already lining up against increased domestic energy access. Environmental groups have already sued to stop energy exploration in the Atlantic.

President Obama in his inaugural address stated that “We will not apologize for our way of life.” We completely agree. We hope President Obama will fully embrace American energy, produced by Americans, for Americans. Many of his supporters will continue to oppose the use of America’s energy resources, but as Obama noted in his inaugural address, “the time has come to set aside childish things.”

If you support increased domestic energy production, please click here and send a message to the Administration that you support America and America’s energy resources.

Ban Congratulates Iraqis on Violence-Free Provincial Elections

Ban Congratulates Iraqis on Violence-Free Provincial Elections
UN, New York, Feb 2 2009 3:10PM

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today congratulated the people of Iraq for “strongly exercising” their right to vote in provincial elections that took place over the weekend, in an atmosphere that he called “admirably free of violence.”

“He was deeply impressed by their resolve to participate in a process that should strengthen Iraq’s democracy and further the cause of national reconciliation,” according to a <"statement'>">statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson, which added that the Secretary-General also commended Iraqi’s determination to ensure a credible electoral process.

Saturday’s provincial, or governate, elections – the first polls held in the strife-torn country in four years – took place in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, with elections for the provinces of the Kurdistan Region and the Kirkuk Governorate to take place at a later stage.

Some 14,467 candidates vied for posts in 6,471 polling centres. In addition, there were 84,000 Iraqi observers, 420,000 party agents and around 400 international observers.

In his statement, Mr. Ban commended Iraqi’s determination to ensure a transparent and credible process through such massive monitoring and other measures, praising the work of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and the staff involved at each step of the process.

He also expressed satisfaction that the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (<"">UNAMI) was “able to make helpful contributions to the process, including through its technical assistance,” and pledged UN support for further stages of the process.

The next stage of the election process includes the adjudication of formal complaints before results can be certified.

While noting that provisional results have yet to be announced, Staffan de Mistura, Mr. Ban’s Special Representative in Iraq, said that the UN is satisfied that the elections were conducted smoothly both procedurally and in terms of security

The polls “mark another important step in Iraq’s recovery,” he added.

“The United Nations was present in all 14 governorates and I myself visited polling centres in Anbar, Najaf and Baghdad,” he said. “I was very pleased to see Iraqis from all communities exercising their right to vote, particularly Iraqi women who turned out in large numbers.”
UNAMI, which Mr. de Mistura heads, has provided the Commission with advice and assistance on a broad range of electoral issues, including a nationwide revamping of the voter registry in order to increase accuracy and reduce the potential for multiple voting.

In a <"Newsmaker'>">Newsmaker interview with the UN News Centre released today, the Special Representative said that these elections were an important test for Iraq, since they are the first conducted by the Iraqis themselves, with UN assistance, and they are the first in which Sunnis voted in substantial numbers, among other factors.

In addition, he said, they are the first elections that will affect the day-to-day lives of Iraqi voters.

“These elections are about real power, in the sense that they are going to nominate the people who are on the ground, in the various district councils, and will be deciding on electricity, water, budget and jobs,” he said.
Feb 2 2009 3:10PM
For more details go to UN News Centre at

Great Depression: Policies that decreased competition in product and labor markets were especially destructive

How Government Prolonged the Depression, by Harold L Cole and Lee E Ohanian
Policies that decreased competition in product and labor markets were especially destructive.
WSJ, Feb 02, 2009

The New Deal is widely perceived to have ended the Great Depression, and this has led many to support a "new" New Deal to address the current crisis. But the facts do not support the perception that FDR's policies shortened the Depression, or that similar policies will pull our nation out of its current economic downturn.

The goal of the New Deal was to get Americans back to work. But the New Deal didn't restore employment. In fact, there was even less work on average during the New Deal than before FDR took office. Total hours worked per adult, including government employees, were 18% below their 1929 level between 1930-32, but were 23% lower on average during the New Deal (1933-39). Private hours worked were even lower after FDR took office, averaging 27% below their 1929 level, compared to 18% lower between in 1930-32.

Even comparing hours worked at the end of 1930s to those at the beginning of FDR's presidency doesn't paint a picture of recovery. Total hours worked per adult in 1939 remained about 21% below their 1929 level, compared to a decline of 27% in 1933. And it wasn't just work that remained scarce during the New Deal. Per capita consumption did not recover at all, remaining 25% below its trend level throughout the New Deal, and per-capita nonresidential investment averaged about 60% below trend. The Great Depression clearly continued long after FDR took office.

Why wasn't the Depression followed by a vigorous recovery, like every other cycle? It should have been. The economic fundamentals that drive all expansions were very favorable during the New Deal. Productivity grew very rapidly after 1933, the price level was stable, real interest rates were low, and liquidity was plentiful. We have calculated on the basis of just productivity growth that employment and investment should have been back to normal levels by 1936. Similarly, Nobel Laureate Robert Lucas and Leonard Rapping calculated on the basis of just expansionary Federal Reserve policy that the economy should have been back to normal by 1935.

So what stopped a blockbuster recovery from ever starting? The New Deal. Some New Deal policies certainly benefited the economy by establishing a basic social safety net through Social Security and unemployment benefits, and by stabilizing the financial system through deposit insurance and the Securities Exchange Commission. But others violated the most basic economic principles by suppressing competition, and setting prices and wages in many sectors well above their normal levels. All told, these antimarket policies choked off powerful recovery forces that would have plausibly returned the economy back to trend by the mid-1930s.

The most damaging policies were those at the heart of the recovery plan, including The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which tossed aside the nation's antitrust acts and permitted industries to collusively raise prices provided that they shared their newfound monopoly rents with workers by substantially raising wages well above underlying productivity growth. The NIRA covered over 500 industries, ranging from autos and steel, to ladies hosiery and poultry production. Each industry created a code of "fair competition" which spelled out what producers could and could not do, and which were designed to eliminate "excessive competition" that FDR believed to be the source of the Depression.

These codes distorted the economy by artificially raising wages and prices, restricting output, and reducing productive capacity by placing quotas on industry investment in new plants and equipment. Following government approval of each industry code, industry prices and wages increased substantially, while prices and wages in sectors that weren't covered by the NIRA, such as agriculture, did not. We have calculated that manufacturing wages were as much as 25% above the level that would have prevailed without the New Deal. And while the artificially high wages created by the NIRA benefited the few that were fortunate to have a job in those industries, they significantly depressed production and employment, as the growth in wage costs far exceeded productivity growth.

These policies continued even after the NIRA was declared unconstitutional in 1935. There was no antitrust activity after the NIRA, despite overwhelming FTC evidence of price-fixing and production limits in many industries, and the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 gave unions substantial collective-bargaining power. While not permitted under federal law, the sit-down strike, in which workers were occupied factories and shut down production, was tolerated by governors in a number of states and was used with great success against major employers, including General Motors in 1937.

The downturn of 1937-38 was preceded by large wage hikes that pushed wages well above their NIRA levels, following the Supreme Court's 1937 decision that upheld the constitutionality of the National Labor Relations Act. These wage hikes led to further job loss, particularly in manufacturing. The "recession in a depression" thus was not the result of a reversal of New Deal policies, as argued by some, but rather a deepening of New Deal polices that raised wages even further above their competitive levels, and which further prevented the normal forces of supply and demand from restoring full employment. Our research indicates that New Deal labor and industrial policies prolonged the Depression by seven years.

By the late 1930s, New Deal policies did begin to reverse, which coincided with the beginning of the recovery. In a 1938 speech, FDR acknowledged that the American economy had become a "concealed cartel system like Europe," which led the Justice Department to reinitiate antitrust prosecution. And union bargaining power was significantly reduced, first by the Supreme Court's ruling that the sit-down strike was illegal, and further reduced during World War II by the National War Labor Board (NWLB), in which large union wage settlements were limited by the NWLB to cost-of-living increases. The wartime economic boom reflected not only the enormous resource drain of military spending, but also the erosion of New Deal labor and industrial policies.

By 1947, through a combination of NWLB wage restrictions and rapid productivity growth, we have calculated that the large gap between manufacturing wages and productivity that emerged during the New Deal had nearly been eliminated. And since that time, wages have never approached the severely distorted levels that prevailed under the New Deal, nor has the country suffered from such abysmally low employment.

The main lesson we have learned from the New Deal is that wholesale government intervention can -- and does -- deliver the most unintended of consequences. This was true in the 1930s, when artificially high wages and prices kept us depressed for more than a decade, it was true in the 1970s when price controls were used to combat inflation but just produced shortages. It is true today, when poorly designed regulation produced a banking system that took on too much risk.

President Barack Obama and Congress have a great opportunity to produce reforms that do return Americans to work, and that provide a foundation for sustained long-run economic growth and the opportunity for all Americans to succeed. These reforms should include very specific plans that update banking regulations and address a manufacturing sector in which several large industries -- including autos and steel -- are no longer internationally competitive. Tax reform that broadens rather than narrows the tax base and that increases incentives to work, save and invest is also needed. We must also confront an educational system that fails many of its constituents. A large fiscal stimulus plan that doesn't directly address the specific impediments that our economy faces is unlikely to achieve either the country's short-term or long-term goals.

Mr. Cole is professor of economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Ohanian is professor of economics and director of the Ettinger Family Program in Macroeconomic Research at UCLA.

WSJ Editorial Page: Tax avoidance and Democratic Party standards

Driving Mr. Daschle. WSJ Editorial
Tax avoidance and Democratic Party standards.
WSJ, Feb 02, 2009

So Tom Daschle, the erstwhile prairie populist and scourge of multiple Presidential nominees, failed to disclose and pay taxes on hundreds of thousands of dollars of income. He also waited months to pay up and told the Obama transition team about his tax oversights only days before his Senate confirmation hearing to become Secretary of Health and Human Services.

This one is going to be fascinating to watch, less for what it says about Mr. Daschle than what it will reveal about Democratic standards. Every Republican in America knows that if Mr. Daschle were a Reagan or Bush nominee he'd now be headed back to private life faster than you can say John Tower. That's the way Democrats have treated GOP nominees who were accused of far lesser transgressions than Mr. Daschle's tax, er, avoidance. The question is whether Democrats are going to treat Mr. Daschle according to the standard that Mr. Daschle set when he was running the Senate.

And what standard was that? Well, on taxes, you may recall that Mr. Daschle's Senate Democrats led the campaign against "Benedict Arnold corporations" that earn too much income overseas. The companies do this legally, in part to avoid a U.S. corporate tax rate (35%) that is the developed world's second highest, but that hasn't stopped the Daschle Democrats from comparing them to traitors.

Then there was the assault on legal tax shelters, led in the Daschle Senate by Democrat Carl Levin. The Levin hearings encouraged the Justice Department to prosecute employees who sold tax shelters for KPMG, though no tax court had found them illegal. Most of the KPMG charges were later thrown out of court, but not before careers were ruined and life savings spent on legal defense fees. Under political pressure in 2002, the IRS disclosed the names of users of a KPMG shelter, including William Simon Jr., a Republican candidate for California Governor. Democrats cried that Mr. Simon was a tax cheat, and he had to release years of tax returns to show otherwise.

Now we learn that Mr. Daschle failed to report some $255,000 in income from 2005 through 2007 for a car and driver supplied to him for personal use. The chauffeur service was provided by Leo Hindery, a big Democratic donor who also made Mr. Daschle a bundle by making him a limited partner in InterMedia Partners, a private equity shop.

As a legal tax matter, this isn't even a close call. Mr. Daschle says he used the car service about 80% for personal use, and 20% for business. But his spokeswoman says it only dawned on the Senator last June that this might be taxable income. Mr. Daschle's excuse? According to a Journal report Friday, "he told committee staff he had grown used to having a car and driver as majority leader and did not think to report the perk on his taxes, according to staff members." How's that for a Leona Helmsley moment: Doesn't everyone have a car and chauffeur, dear?

The Senate Finance Committee is also reviewing whether certain "travel and entertainment services" provided to Mr. Daschle and his wife Linda, an aviation lobbyist, should also be reported as income. The Washington Post reports that Mr. Daschle has earned more than $5 million over the past two years, including $220,000 from the health-care industry he's been nominated to regulate. Capitalism is wonderful, but at the very least Mr. Daschle's record strips the veneer from President Obama's moralizing that lobbying and special interest pleading are the root of all evil in Washington. In appointing Mr. Daschle, Mr. Obama is showing that lobbying is fine as long as it is done by people who agree with him.

Some Democrats said on the weekend that Mr. Daschle deserves to be confirmed because they "know" he is "honest." But that isn't the standard Mr. Daschle set for GOP appointees who had no ethical taint. In 2001, he established a new, 60-vote confirmation standard for Eugene Scalia to be Labor Department Solicitor, though Mr. Scalia had been approved in committee and would have won on the Senate floor. He also filibustered Miguel Estrada, a judicial nominee of wide renown, on the trivial grounds that the Bush Administration wouldn't release internal memos when Mr. Estrada had worked as a Justice Department staff lawyer.

We'll be watching in particular to see how Democrats Max Baucus and Kent Conrad handle the Daschle tax mess. Finance Chairman Baucus gave a pass to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, albeit for a lesser offense, and Mr. Conrad also voted to confirm Mr. Geithner though not without saying he wouldn't have done so in "normal" times. We assume by "normal" he doesn't mean when nominees are Republican. If nothing else, a vote to confirm Mr. Daschle will expose the insincerity of Democratic tax populism.

If Mr. Daschle were the stand-up guy his fellow Democrats say he is, he'd withdraw his nomination and spare them the embarrassment of confirming someone who thinks the tax laws apply only to other people.

WaPo: The latest salmonella outbreak highlights gaps in the nation's food supply

Peanut Bummer. WaPo Editorial
The latest salmonella outbreak highlights gaps in the nation's food supply.
Monday, February 2, 2009; Page A12

EVEN THOUGH he's not caught up in this mess, Mr. Peanut must want to clobber the geniuses at Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) with his cane. The Food and Drug Administration revealed last week that the company's Blakely, Ga., facility knowingly shipped salmonella-tainted peanut products 12 times between 2007 and 2008 to locations in the United States and abroad. The company, based in Lynchburg, Va., has urged anyone in possession of its products made in the past two years to throw them out.

This is one of the biggest recalls in U.S. history and another example of vulnerability in the nation's food supply. None of PCA's peanut products are sold directly to consumers. But the FDA says that more than 70 firms used the company's goods in all manner of foods, from cookies and pet food to ice cream and cereal. Since the salmonella outbreak was discovered last summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that eight deaths and 501 illnesses spread across 43 states and Canada may be linked to the Georgia plant. The FDA alleges that not only did PCA knowingly ship bad merchandise but it went to another testing facility to get a clean bill of health after initially getting test results that were positive for salmonella. The company denies this allegation. The FDA said that the problems that led to the contamination were not fixed.

The FDA uncovered the problems by securing inspection reports done by the state of Georgia, using a special 2002 law meant to prevent bioterrorism. The agency last inspected the Blakely plant in 2001 and then contracted out the inspections to the Georgia Department of Agriculture. While this practice is not uncommon for the FDA, it speaks volumes about the lack of resources the agency has to protect the nation's food supply. According to Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the FDA has lost more than 600 inspectors since 2004. "The fewer inspectors the FDA has, the more it relies on state inspectors," she told us.

Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) has reintroduced legislation that would give the FDA more money and authority over food safety, including the power to issue mandatory recalls of contaminated food. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) will try again to get a bill passed that would require the FDA to devise a system that would make it possible to trace food and produce from the farm to the dinner table. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) has a bill that would give the FDA more money and authority to conduct inspections. As we have learned over the past year, much of the food safety system in this country is based on the trust that manufacturers are introducing products into the food supply that are clean and safe. President Ronald Reagan had a mantra for dealing with Russia that is apt here: "Trust but verify." Congress must give the FDA and other relevant agencies the power to do it.

Don't Push Banks to Make Bad Loans: Contrary to myth, commercial bank lending is up

Don't Push Banks to Make Bad Loans. By Vert Ely
Contrary to myth, commercial bank lending is up. So are standards.
WSJ, Feb 02, 2009

There is a widespread belief that banks are now refusing to lend as much as they should, and that Congress should pressure them to extend more credit to consumers and businesses.

In reality, banks as a whole increased their lending during 2008 -- the notion they haven't is based on a misunderstanding of U.S. credit markets. Pressuring banks to lend more could backfire.

Lost in too many discussions of the financial sector is that banks and other depository institutions account for only 22% of the credit supplied to the U.S. economy (down from 40% in 1982). "Shadow banking" -- notably asset securitization and money-market mutual funds -- now supplies 33% (up from 14%). Insurance companies, other financial intermediaries, nonfinancial firms and the rest of the world provide the balance.

As far as commercial banks go, Federal Reserve data released last week show that their lending increased 2.36% during the last quarter of 2008. For all of 2008, commercial-bank lending rose by $386 billion, or 5.63%, even as the economy slid into recession. Over that 12-month period, business lending jumped $152 billion, or 10.6%, real-estate loans were up $213 billion, or 5.9%, and consumer lending rose $73.5 billion, or 9%. Other categories of bank lending such as loans to farmers, broker-dealers and governments, declined $53.2 billion, or 5.4%.

Fed data also show that during the first three quarters of 2008, the total amount of credit supplied to the economy increased $1.91 trillion, or 3.8%, with $540 billion of that amount coming from foreign lenders.

Nevertheless, Treasury recently demanded that the 20 largest recipients of government capital investments start providing detailed monthly reports about their lending and investment activities. This new requirement could lead to government lending mandates. That would not be a good idea.

In the first place, the drop in stock-market and house prices has made millions of families feel poorer and led them to save more than in recent years. It has also encouraged them (especially Baby Boomers approaching retirement) to pay off debt. They don't need more debt.

More broadly, many of the most creditworthy neither need to nor want to borrow right now. Richard Davis, CEO of U.S. Bancorp, recently said that he is seeing the demand for loans diminish at his and other banks "from people and businesses spending less and traveling less and watching their nickels and dimes."

Lenders moreover have tightened lending standards, correcting an excessive laxness that contributed to our financial mess. Zero or very low down-payment mortgages are out, as are "covenant light" corporate loans. Likewise, lenders have trimmed credit-card limits and cut the amount of money available under home equity lines of credit as home values have declined.

And contrary to the "lend more" message broadcast from inside the Washington Beltway, bank examiners are criticizing weak loans and forcing banks to tighten lending standards. Bankers are caught in a vise between politicians and examiners.

A lot of the credit tightness is a reflection of the near-collapse of loan securitization. Recent Fed plans to buy asset-backed securities may help revive asset securitization, but bankers have no control over the fate of that initiative.

The economy is in recession and working off the consequences of a housing bubble fed by excessive mortgage credit. Given that loan demand typically falls during a recession, it's amazing that bank lending increased as much as it did last year. It was essentially flat during the 2001 recession.

Bankers should always lend prudently, as they are now doing. If they are jawboned or worse by Washington into reckless lending, the U.S. will set itself up for another debt crisis, even before the present mess has been cleaned up.

Mr. Ely, the principal in Ely & Co. Inc., is a financial institutions and monetary policy consultant.

Extraordinary rendition and Human Rights Watch in the era of Hope and Change

Re: Rendition. By Mark Hemingway
The Corner/NRO, Feb 02, 2009

Buried in that LAT article on rendition Jonah linked below is a flip-flop from Human Rights Watch that would impress even the East German judge. Here's Human Rights Watch in April of last year:

The US government should:

·Repudiate the use of rendition to torture as a counterterrorism tactic and permanently discontinue the CIA's rendition program;
·Disclose the identities, fate, and current whereabouts of all persons detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody by the CIA since 2001, including detainees who were rendered to Jordan;
·Repudiate the use of "diplomatic assurances" against torture and ill-treatment as a justification for the transfer of a suspect to a place where he or she is at risk of such abuse;
·Make public any audio recordings or videotapes that the CIA possesses of interrogations of detainees rendered by the CIA to foreign custody;
·Provide appropriate compensation to all persons arbitrarily detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody.

Now here's Human Rights Watch in the era of Hope and ChangeTM:
"Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place" for renditions,
said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
"What I heard loud and clear from the president's order was that they want to
design a system that doesn't result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to
be tortured — but that designing that system is going to take some time."

Violence in Pakistan: Trend Analysis December 2008

Violence in Pakistan: Trend Analysis December 2008. By Alok Bansal and T. Khurshchev IDSA, January 31, 2009


Amidst apprehensions of a conflict between India and Pakistan after attacks on Mumbai on 26 November, as Pakistani security forces ostensibly diverted their attention from the Western to the Eastern borders, terror related violence showed an increase from 372 in November to 388 in December. Although there was no movement of troops from the Western borders to the East, Pakistani security forces allowed vast tracts of land in FATA and Swat Valley go under the control of Taliban. This was probably an attempt to put pressure on the West in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks, but only helped the militants to consolidate their position. As a result besides South and North Waziristan Agencies, the Taliban has established its writ in Orakzai Agency and Swat Valley. As the security forces toned down their operations against the militants, the causality figure of militants reduced significantly from 462 in November to 216 in December. Absence of any major military operations also ensured that the casualties of the security forces also reduced considerably form 56 in November to 23 in December. However, the casualties of civilians rose from 286 in November to 340 in December, as the militants utilized this breather to settle scores with pro-government tribal leaders and secular political activists. Nevertheless, the total number of deaths from violence reduced form 804 in November to 579 in December, but it would be wrong to discern a durable trend from it as the reduced casualties were mainly because of the throwing in of towel by the security forces. In keeping with the militants’ policy of sorting out allies of the government as well as those who dared to oppose their dictats, the kidnapping figure has risen sharply form 65 in November to 271 in December.

Continuing the trend of last three months, NWFP continued to witness the most number of violent attacks in Pakistan. The number of violent incidents decreased from 184 in November to 178 in December, averaging almost six a day. During the month 307 people were killed and 209 injured as against 342 killed and 308 injured in the previous month. However, the number of injured are likely to be much more as the exact number of injured were often not reported in the media.

100 alleged militants were killed during the month as against 190 killed and 123 injured in November. The security forces arrested 248 alleged militants including 109 persons from Hangu on December 30, for their alleged involvement in sectarian violence during Muharram. On the other hand 191 civilians were killed and 172 received injuries in December, as against 111 killed and 157 injured in November. Similarly, number of people kidnapped by the militants has also increased to 70 in December from 32 the previous month and the figures include seven security personnel kidnapped in December and three in November. During the month 16 security personnel were killed and 36 injured as against 41 killed and 28 injured the previous month, thereby clearly indicating a marked lull in the security forces’ operations against the militants.

Like in the past, the main targets of the militants remained security posts, police stations, schools and shops selling CDs, wine and cosmetics. However, during the month, the supply convoys to NATO troops in Afghanistan were added to this list. In the biggest assault ever on this vital military supply line, over 300 vehicles and containers vehicles that carry goods from Pakistan for NATO troops in Afghanistan were destroyed. On 7 December, the Taliban torched more than 160 vehicles carrying NATO in Peshawar and the very next day, they again torched in Peshawar 53 vehicles destined for NATO forces in Afghanistan. The impunity, with which the attackers could target these high value targets in the heart of Peshawar city is indicative of state complicity. It appears that the security establishment in Pakistan wanted to use these attacks to ease the US pressure being put on Pakistan to act against the perpetrators of Mumbai attack. The strife between Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other tribal groups remained unabated and its cadres beheaded two followers of rival cleric Pir Samiullah in Gwalerai area of Matta tehsil. Militants operating in the restive Swat valley announced unilateral ceasefire during Eidul Azha. On 26 December, Taliban in Swat district imposed a blanket ban on female education and warned the teachers of ‘severe consequences’. The militants also shot and injured a Chinese engineer and his security guard in Dargai on 24 December.

As against six suicide bombing in November, there were only three such attacks in December in NWFP, but they resulted in greater casualties. As against 28 people killed and 53 wounded in November in NWFP, 56 persons were killed and 71 injured in suicide attacks in December. Two of the three attacks were directed against the security forces and the third attack was at a polling station set up for a by-election in Bunir district.

Unlike the other parts of Pakistan, there was an increase in the incidents of violence in FATA, which increased from 108 in November to 122 in December. However the casualty rates dropped significantly and as against 337 killed and 109 injured in November, 201 persons were killed and 125 injured in December. 100 militants were killed and 63 injured in December as against 254 killed and 68 injured in the previous month. The security forces also arrested 31 alleged militants including Al Qaeda members as compared to 88 in November. Similarly, 87 civilian were killed and 31 injured as against 111 killed and 57 injured in the previous month. Besides, 185 (including 160 persons who were taken hostage by rival tribes in Kurram Agency on 16 December) civilians were kidnapped by the gunmen as against 23 in November. In the absence of any major operation by the security forces, only four security personnel lost their lives in the region as against eight in November. Besides, 15 security personals were injured and one was kidnapped.

During the month as the security forces halted their operations against the militants, the interregnum was utilized by the militants to exterminate a number of alleged US spies. At least nine such ‘spies’ were killed in five different incidents in North and South Waziristan itself. Each dead body carried a note accusing them of spying for the US. Around four hundred alleged Taliban surrendered to the authorities during the month mainly in Mohmand agency. In accordance with the trend observed in NWFP, lorries and tankers carrying supplies for International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan were attacked while passing through the Khyber Pass and TTP claimed responsibility for these attacks.

The region also witnessed one suicide attack in December as against two such incidents in November. On December 5, seven tribesmen were killed and eight others injured when a suicide bomber blew up an explosive-laden vehicle near a jirga between Baramadkhel and Utmankhel tribes in Kalaya, the headquarters of Orakzai Agency. The tribes had actively participated in anti-Taliban tribal militias set up by the security forces.

The number of incidents in Balochistan remained constant at 30, but the casualties dropped significantly. Barring isolated incidents, the ceasefire announced by the three Baloch nationalist outfits in September was being adhered to. During the month, 11 persons were killed and 17 wounded in violent incidents as against 40 killed and 27 injured in November. Only two militants were killed in December as against 12 killed and 15 injured the previous month. However, the security arrested 40 alleged militants as against 17 in November. Eight civilians were killed and 17 injured as against 23 killed and 11 injured in November. Besides, 14 persons were kidnapped as against two in November. Similarly, only one security personnel was killed during the month as against five killed and one injured in November. Most of the attacks during the month were on pipelines and railway lines, besides a few attacks on security posts.

Other AreasTerror activities in other parts of the Pakistan remained at more or less the same level as in November. There were 58 incidents of violence in December as compared to 60 in November. 60 people lost their lives and 22 were injured in December as against 49 killed and 176 wounded in November. In December, 14 armed miscreants were killed and 96 arrested as against six killed and 37 arrested in November. Similarly, 44 civilians were killed and 20 injured in December as against 41 killed and 175 wounded in November. Two security personnel were also killed and two injured in December as against two killed and one injured in the previous month.

A number of political activists of PPP and MQM were killed in a number of incidents between 16 to 19 December in Karachi. In the recent past, criminal activities and violence in Karachi have shot up. In response a joint team of Sindh Police and Pakistan Rangers arrested more than 60 suspects, including Afghan nationals on 2 December and recovered huge quantity of arms, ammunition. Besides Karachi, in a major crack down, Islamabad police foiled terrorist attacks planned during Christmas, Benazir Bhutto’s death anniversary and the New Year’s Eve by seizing 650 kilograms of explosives and 520 detonators on December 26. Similarly, on December 30, Police in Lahore recovered a gas cylinder packed with 10-kilogram of improvised explosive device (IED) connected to a cell phone and a detonator from bushes.

ConclusionThere has been a significant decrease in violence in Pakistan that can be attributed to the reduced activities by the security forces and a carte blanche given to the militants after the attacks on Mumbai. TTP volunteered to fight against India along side Pakistani army and Baitullah Mehsud declared on December 24, “Despite our differences with the government, the protection of Pakistan and its people is as much our duty as it is of the armed forces” and claimed that ‘hundreds of thousands of suicide bombers’ were ready to defend Pakistan in case of war with India. He further added, “The armed forces and the nation do not need to worry about the western borders in case of an Indian attack”. The statements were meant to win the support of Pakistani public and prove his patriotic credentials and succeeded in its aims to a large extent.

Alok Bansal is Research Fellow and T. Khurshchev is Research Assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi

Full article, with graphs and table, here.

Conservative views on Deputy Attorney General Nominee David Ogden: Questions on Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution

Deputy Attorney General Nominee David Ogden: Questions on Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. By Steven Groves
Heritage, February 2, 2009

On January 6, Barack Obama nominated David Ogden to be the next deputy attorney general of the United States, the second highest position in the U.S. Department of Justice. Reportedly hanging in Ogden’s office at the time of the nomination was a plaque commemorating his victory in a controversial 2005 death penalty case before the U.S. Supreme Court.[1]

That case, Roper v. Simmons, was controversial not only because it determined the constitutionality of the juvenile death penalty but also because, in deciding the case, a narrowly divided Supreme relied in part upon the laws and practices of foreign nations as well as other sources of foreign law and “the opinion of the world community.”

Although Ogden is certainly qualified for the position of deputy attorney general,[2] the views expressed in the brief he co-authored on behalf of the defendant in the Roper case are troublesome and should be explored during his Senate confirmation hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary, currently scheduled for February 5.

Relying on Foreign Sources of Law to Interpret the U.S. Constitution

The Supreme Court’s citation to foreign law in cases interpreting the United States Constitution is controversial and has sparked an ongoing debate within the U.S. legal community.[3] The Court’s decision to rely in part on foreign jurisprudence in reaching its decision in the Roper case is part of that debate.

The Roper v. Simmons Case. In 1993 in St. Louis, Missouri, Christopher Simmons, nine months before his 18th birthday, planned and carried out the cold-blooded murder of 46-year-old Shirley Crook. Following a plan that he had discussed in great detail with his friends, Simmons and an accomplice broke into Crook’s home, hogtied her with electrical wire, wrapped her head in duct tape, drove her to a bridge, and threw her into the Meramec River, where she drowned. Simmons subsequently bragged about the murder, explaining to friends that he killed Crook “because the bitch seen my face.” Simmons was subsequently arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.[4]

Simmons’ case was appealed through the Missouri legal system and ultimately argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, where Simmons was represented by a team of attorneys which included Ogden. Among the arguments made in the brief co-authored by Ogden and submitted to the Supreme Court was that, in making its decision, the Court should look to the laws, legal opinions, and decisions of foreign nations and international organizations regarding the death penalty.[5]

Ogden argued that the laws of foreign nations enjoy a direct cause-and-effect relationship with the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution: “Almost without exception, the other nations of the world have rejected capital punishment of those under 18, confirming that the juvenile death penalty is contrary to Eighth Amendment standards of decency.”[6] In other words, since the “other nations of the world” disfavor capital punishment for juvenile killers, it necessarily follows that the death penalty for juvenile killers in the United States is contrary to the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

United Nations Treaties and International Organizations. In support of this position, Ogden’s brief in Roper cites to the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989, the terms of which bar the execution of persons who commit crimes while under the age of 18.[7] However, the United States did not vote in favor of the CRC in the General Assembly and has thus far—under both the Clinton and Bush Administrations—chosen not to become a party to the CRC.[8] The United States has excellent reasons not to ratify the CRC.[9] And yet Ogden’s brief maintains that since “every [other] country in the world” is a party to the CRC, the United States (including the Supreme Court) should follow its terms and outlaw the juvenile death penalty.

Ogden’s argument turns logic on its head. In effect, the Roper brief maintains that even though the United States has specifically chosen not to join the CRC, it should still be bound by its terms. Moreover, it necessarily follows that the Supreme Court should ignore the U.S. government’s decision not to ratify the CRC and impose upon the nation the CRC’s death penalty prohibition.

Citing to a 2002 report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Ogden’s brief in Roper also arguesfor the proposition that there is a new “international customary norm” barring the juvenile death penalty—a norm to which the United States is now bound.[10] The U.S., however, has never consented to be bound by the recommendation of the Inter-American Commission, which has no jurisdiction over U.S. persons and cannot compel the U.S. government. Moreover, neither that commission nor any other international organization has the authority to declare anything to be a binding, international norm.

In sum, then, Ogden’s brief maintains that the Supreme Court should interpret the U.S. Constitution with deference to (1) a global legal “consensus” allegedly reached by other nations of the world regarding the juvenile death penalty, (2) the provisions of a U.N. human rights treaty that the United States has never ratified and is not party to, and (3) a declaration by an international commission that has no authority over the United States. These three arguments have in common the desire to achieve by judicial proclamation that which could not be attained through the democratic process—either through Senate ratification of the CRC or through the amendment or repeal of the death penalty law in Missouri.

The death penalty is a serious issue for U.S. constitutional law that has been hotly debated in legal, social, cultural, and religious circles throughout America’s history and across the globe. The circumstances under which it should be imposed continue to present vexing moral questions, especially since 1958, when the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren declared that the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment should be interpreted according to “evolving standards of decency.”[11] Regardless of whether one believes that imposing the death penalty on persons who committed heinous crimes while under the age of 18 is cruel and unusual, it is improper for the Supreme Court to rely on arguments foreign to U.S. law such as those made in Ogden’s brief in the Roper case.[12]

Questions for Ogden

If confirmed by the Senate as deputy attorney general, Ogden would be placed in a position of great influence over the policy of the Department of Justice, second only to the attorney general, whom he would “advise and assist … in formulating and implementing Department policies and programs.”[13] Accordingly, Ogden will have a major hand in counterterrorism policy, enforcement priorities, sentencing, and the decision whether to authorize federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty in appropriate cases. What role will the decisions of foreign courts and the “opinions of mankind” have on Ogden’s policy recommendations?

Ogden’s co-authorship of the Roper brief does not definitively establish that the arguments in the brief reflect his personal opinion, nor does it dictate how he will advise the attorney general on matters of legal policy. It is right and proper, however, to inquire of Ogden during his Senate confirmation hearing concerning his views on international sources of law and give him an opportunity to explain his beliefs regarding the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Such inquiries could include:

  • Reliance on foreign legal norms appears to have led to an incremental erosion of the number of crimes for which the death penalty is warranted. For instance, the death penalty is no longer available in cases where the defendant was a juvenile or mentally retarded at the time of the offense[14] or in cases of rape.[15] What is next? If the “world community” reaches a consensus that the death penalty should not be applied for the crimes of terrorism, treason, or other federal capital offenses, what will you recommend to the attorney general in such cases?
  • If confirmed you will be involved in deciding which federal cases are appropriate candidates for the death penalty.[16] What weight will you give to the decisions of foreign courts and other “international norms” in your death penalty recommendations to the attorney general?
  • International criminal legal norms are not limited to death penalty issues. For example, 135 nations apparently more “civilized” than the United States currently prohibit the imposition of the sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for juvenile killers, while 44 U.S. states and the federal government currently permit such sentences.[17] Do you respect the sovereignty of each state in the Union to decide appropriate punishments for juvenile killers, including LWOP sentences? In your opinion, does foreign law trump the laws of 44 U.S. states as well as the laws of the very government for which you are seeking to serve as deputy attorney general?
  • The legal systems of the world greatly vary from one another and from the U.S. criminal justice system. The criminal laws, social mores, and cultural traditions of other nations are also considerably divergent. Under what circumstances should the United States adopt the normative values and laws of other nations?
A Crucial Issue of Constitutional Interpretation

Given the major role that the deputy attorney general will have in determining the criminal legal policy of the United States over the next four years, the arguments advanced by Ogden in the Roper v. Simmons case deserve close scrutiny.

Although the Senate confirmation hearing of Ogden will certainly not determine the propriety of relying on foreign sources of law to interpret the Constitution, the Committee on the Judiciary should not ignore his opinions on such a crucial issue of constitutional interpretation.

Steven Groves is Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.