Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mexican Corrections Instructors Graduate from New Mexico Training Academy

Mexican Corrections Instructors Graduate from New Mexico Training Academy
US State Dept, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of the Spokesman

Washington, DC, April 23, 2009

On Friday April 24, 2009, the first class of twenty-four federal correctional instructors from Mexico will graduate from the New Mexico Corrections Department’s (NMCD) Training Academy in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The officers will return home and serve as the initial cadre of instructors at Mexico’s first-ever corrections academy in Xalapa, Veracruz. There, the instructors will begin teaching the first basic academy class of 200 new cadets.

As part of the Merida Initiative, the Department of State’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs is assisting the Government of Mexico with establishing the corrections academy which is scheduled to be officially opened in late June 2009.

The Mexican correctional cadets began their six-week training class at the NMCD Training Academy on March 16. The cadets received basic instruction for four weeks, defensive tactics instructor course for one week, and during the final week, they received train-the-trainer instruction. Graduation is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. at the NMCD Training Academy gymnasium, located at 4337 State Road 14. Dignitaries from Mexico and the U.S. Department of State will be present.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the New Mexico Corrections Department have a Memorandum of Understanding that allows the Corrections Department to train and mentor prison staff from Mexico and Central America.

Note: For security reasons, neither photography nor videotaping of the graduating officers’ faces is allowed. Reporters planning to attend the ceremony must contact the New Mexico Corrections Department Public Information Office in advance.

WSJ Editorial Page on Credit Cards: Lend less and charge more. No, lend more and charge less!

Political Credit Cards. WSJ Editorial
Lend less and charge more. No, lend more and charge less!
WSJ, Apr 23, 2009

If you use credit cards -- and actually read your mail -- you don't need anyone to tell you that card issuers have been raising fees and interest rates while often cutting credit limits too.

The political class has also noticed. Yesterday the House Financial Services Committee passed a so-called cardholders bill of rights. Chris Dodd, desperately looking for a chance to appear tough on the banks he used to succor, has written an even more draconian bill in the Senate. And today President Obama is meeting with the heads of several large banks in what the White House has advertised as a little friendly arm-twisting session over their rates and billing practices.

Credit card issuers are the companies that consumers love to hate, which makes them an easy populist target. But despite our conflicted relationship with the card companies, Americans enjoy some of the best and easiest access to consumer credit anywhere in the world. Or did enjoy.

This past weekend, Presidential adviser Larry Summers berated the card companies, saying consumers were being "deceived into paying extraordinarily high rates" of interest on the debt they've accumulated by, well, buying things they want. No one disputes that rates have been going up this year, which may seem unfair with the fed funds rate pegged at near-zero and the prime rate at an all-time low of 3.25%. But card issuer greed doesn't begin to explain what's happening.

Far more important, credit-card delinquencies are rising and will continue to rise as long as the economy keeps bleeding jobs. Many credit-card issuers, having seen in housing what happens when you lend people money they can't pay back, don't want to repeat the experience. So they're pulling back or increasing the cost of credit, or both.

The once-booming market for securitizing and selling credit-card receivables has also dried up along with most of the rest of the securitized debt market, forcing banks to keep that debt on their balance sheets.

And in December the Federal Reserve approved regulations that impose most of what Barney Frank and Caroline Maloney want in their bill anyway -- effective July 2010. These columns warned at the time that the new rules would restrict consumer access to credit and increase interest rates and fees. This wasn't soothsaying, merely judgment based on price-control experience. Q.E.D.

Faced with mounting charge-offs and looming restrictions on their prices, card issuers have been raising prices now, in advance of the Fed hangman. Banks are also closing accounts and raising rates now to recalibrate their risk levels before the new restrictions take effect. But that is exactly what the Fed expected them to do, and it's one of the reasons it gave them a year and a half to prepare. Even the House bill, for the most part, wouldn't take effect for a year.

But then this week's credit-card dog-and-pony show isn't about helping consumers. It's about once again blaming the bankers for what ails the economy, even if the political class is partly responsible. Our politicians spend half of their time berating banks for offering too much credit on too easy terms, and the other half berating banks for handing out too little credit at too high a price. The bankers should tell the President that they'll start doing more lending when Washington stops changing the rules.

The President's Apology Tour

The President's Apology Tour. By Karl Rove
Great leaders aren't defined by consensus.
WSJ, Apr 23, 2009

President Barack Obama has finished the second leg of his international confession tour. In less than 100 days, he has apologized on three continents for what he views as the sins of America and his predecessors.

Mr. Obama told the French (the French!) that America "has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive" toward Europe. In Prague, he said America has "a moral responsibility to act" on arms control because only the U.S. had "used a nuclear weapon." In London, he said that decisions about the world financial system were no longer made by "just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy" -- as if that were a bad thing. And in Latin America, he said the U.S. had not "pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors" because we "failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas."

By confessing our nation's sins, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that Mr. Obama has "changed the image of America around the world" and made the U.S. "safer and stronger." As evidence, Mr. Gibbs pointed to the absence of protesters during the Summit of the Americas this past weekend.

That's now the test of success? Anti-American protesters are a remarkably unreliable indicator of a president's wisdom. Ronald Reagan drew hundreds of thousands of protesters by deploying Pershing and cruise missiles in Europe. Those missiles helped win the Cold War.

There is something ungracious in Mr. Obama criticizing his predecessors, including most recently John F. Kennedy. ("I'm grateful that President [Daniel] Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old," Mr. Obama said after the Nicaraguan delivered a 52-minute anti-American tirade that touched on the Bay of Pigs.) Mr. Obama acts as if no past president -- except maybe Abraham Lincoln -- possesses his wisdom.

Mr. Obama was asked in Europe if he believes in American exceptionalism. He said he did -- in the same way that "the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks in Greek exceptionalism." That's another way of saying, "No."

Mr. Obama makes it seem as though there is moral equivalence between America and its adversaries and assumes that if he confesses America's sins, other nations will confess theirs and change. But he won no confessions (let alone change) from the leaders of Venezuela, Nicaragua or Russia. He apologized for America and our adversaries rejoiced. Fidel Castro isn't easing up on Cuban repression, but he is preparing to take advantage of Mr. Obama's policy shifts.

When a president desires personal popularity, he can lose focus on vital American interests. It's early, but with little to show for the confessions, David Axelrod of Team Obama was compelled to say this week that the president planted, cultivated and will harvest "very, very valuable" returns later. Like what?

Meanwhile, the desire for popularity has led Mr. Obama to embrace bad policies. Blaming America for the world financial crisis led him to give into European demands for crackdowns on tax havens and hedge funds. Neither had much to do with the credit crisis. Saying that America's relationship with Russia "has been allowed to drift" led the president to push for arms negotiations. But that draws attention away from America's real problems with Russia: its invasion of Georgia last summer, its bullying of Ukraine, its refusal to join in pressuring Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions, and its threats of retaliation against the Poles, Balts and Czechs for standing with the U.S. on missile defense.

Mr. Obama is downplaying the threats we face. He takes comfort in thinking that Venezuela has a defense budget that "is probably 1/600th" of America's -- it's actually 1/215th -- but that hasn't kept Mr. Chávez from supporting narcoterrorists waging war on Colombia (a key U.S. ally) or giving petrodollars to anti-American regimes. Venezuela isn't likely to attack the U.S., but it is capable of harming American interests.

Henry Kissinger wrote in his memoir "Years of Renewal": "The great statesmen of the past saw themselves as heroes who took on the burden of their societies' painful journey from the familiar to the as yet unknown. The modern politician is less interested in being a hero than a superstar. Heroes walk alone; stars derive their status from approbation. Heroes are defined by inner values; stars by consensus. When a candidate's views are forged in focus groups and ratified by television anchorpersons, insecurity and superficiality become congenital."

A superstar, not a statesman, today leads our country. That may win short-term applause from foreign audiences, but do little for what should be the chief foreign policy preoccupation of any U.S. president: advancing America's long-term interests.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

WSJ Editorial Page: Federal President's invitation to indict Bush officials will haunt his presidency

Presidential Poison. WSJ Editorial
His invitation to indict Bush officials will haunt Obama's Presidency.
WSJ, Apr 23, 2009

Mark down the date. Tuesday, April 21, 2009, is the moment that any chance of a new era of bipartisan respect in Washington ended. By inviting the prosecution of Bush officials for their antiterror legal advice, President Obama has injected a poison into our politics that he and the country will live to regret.

Policy disputes, often bitter, are the stuff of democratic politics. Elections settle those battles, at least for a time, and Mr. Obama's victory in November has given him the right to change policies on interrogations, Guantanamo, or anything on which he can muster enough support. But at least until now, the U.S. political system has avoided the spectacle of a new Administration prosecuting its predecessor for policy disagreements. This is what happens in Argentina, Malaysia or Peru, countries where the law is treated merely as an extension of political power.

If this analogy seems excessive, consider how Mr. Obama has framed the issue. He has absolved CIA operatives of any legal jeopardy, no doubt because his intelligence advisers told him how damaging that would be to CIA morale when Mr. Obama needs the agency to protect the country. But he has pointedly invited investigations against Republican legal advisers who offered their best advice at the request of CIA officials.

"Your intelligence indicates that there is currently a level of 'chatter' equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks," wrote Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, in his August 1, 2002 memo. "In light of the information you believe [detainee Abu] Zubaydah has and the high level of threat you believe now exists, you wish to move the interrogations into what you have described as an 'increased pressure phase.'"

So the CIA requests a legal review at a moment of heightened danger, the Justice Department obliges with an exceedingly detailed analysis of the law and interrogation practices -- and, seven years later, Mr. Obama says only the legal advisers who are no longer in government should be investigated. The political convenience of this distinction for Mr. Obama betrays its basic injustice. And by the way, everyone agrees that senior officials, including President Bush, approved these interrogations. Is this President going to put his predecessor in the dock too?

Mr. Obama seemed to understand the peril of such an exercise when he said, before his inauguration, that he wanted to "look forward" and beyond the antiterror debates of the Bush years. As recently as Sunday, Rahm Emanuel said no prosecutions were contemplated and now is not a time for "anger and retribution." Two days later the President disavowed his own chief of staff. Yet nothing had changed except that Mr. Obama's decision last week to release the interrogation memos unleashed a revenge lust on the political left that he refuses to resist.

Just as with the AIG bonuses, he is trying to co-opt his left-wing base by playing to it -- only to encourage it more. Within hours of Mr. Obama's Tuesday comments, Senator Carl Levin piled on with his own accusatory Intelligence Committee report. The demands for a "special counsel" at Justice and a Congressional show trial are louder than ever, and both Europe's left and the U.N. are signaling their desire to file their own charges against former U.S. officials.

Those officials won't be the only ones who suffer if all of this goes forward. Congress will face questions about what the Members knew and when, especially Nancy Pelosi when she was on the House Intelligence Committee in 2002. The Speaker now says she remembers hearing about waterboarding, though not that it would actually be used. Does anyone believe that? Porter Goss, her GOP counterpart at the time, says he knew exactly what he was hearing and that, if anything, Ms. Pelosi worried the CIA wasn't doing enough to stop another attack. By all means, put her under oath.

Mr. Obama may think he can soar above all of this, but he'll soon learn otherwise. The Beltway's political energy will focus more on the spectacle of revenge, and less on his agenda. The CIA will have its reputation smeared, and its agents second-guessing themselves. And if there is another terror attack against Americans, Mr. Obama will have set himself up for the argument that his campaign against the Bush policies is partly to blame.

Above all, the exercise will only embitter Republicans, including the moderates and national-security hawks Mr. Obama may need in the next four years. As patriotic officials who acted in good faith are indicted, smeared, impeached from judgeships or stripped of their academic tenure, the partisan anger and backlash will grow. And speaking of which, when will the GOP Members of Congress begin to denounce this partisan scapegoating? Senior Republicans like Mitch McConnell, Richard Lugar, John McCain, Orrin Hatch, Pat Roberts and Arlen Specter have hardly been profiles in courage.

Mr. Obama is more popular than his policies, due in part to his personal charm and his seeming goodwill. By indulging his party's desire to criminalize policy advice, he has unleashed furies that will haunt his Presidency.