Sunday, May 24, 2009

Japan should have ability to strike enemy bases in defense: LDP panel

Japan should have ability to strike enemy bases in defense: LDP panel
Japan Today, Monday 25th May, 06:44 AM JST

TOKYO — A subcommittee of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s defense panel plans to propose that Japan be allowed under a new basic defense program to have the ability to strike enemy bases within the scope of its defense-only policy, according to a draft proposal made available Sunday. It also says Japan should be allowed to develop an early warning satellite system to detect the launch of a missile or other objects that may be aimed at the country.

The recommendations are being sought apparently in view of North Korea’s missile launch in April. The government plans to compile a basic defense program for fiscal 2010 to 2014 by the end of this year, and the subcommittee wants to make those recommendations for the deliberations of the outline.

‘‘Japan should have the ability to strike enemy bases within the scope of its defense-oriented policy, in order not to sit and wait for death,’’ the LDP subcommittee said in the draft proposal.

The government takes a stance that Japan can strike an enemy military base even under the nation’s pacifist Constitution, if hostile attacks are certain.

But Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada and some lawmakers have taken a cautious attitude toward examining Japan’s possessing such capability.

Japan, meanwhile, is depending on a U.S. early warning satellite against possible missile attacks. But since the April 4 missile launch by North Korea, there have been calls for developing Japan’s own system among members of the LDP.

How Joe Biden Wrecked the Judicial Confirmation Process

How Joe Biden Wrecked the Judicial Confirmation Process. By Collin Levy
The vice president can't complain if Republicans object to Obama's Supreme Court nominee.
WSJ, May 22, 2009

Vice President Joe Biden is widely praised for the expertise he brings in helping Barack Obama choose a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Having served for three decades on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he is considered an asset both for his relationships with committee members and his familiarity with the nuts and bolts of judicial nominations. So let's have a look at how the confirmation process actually fared under Mr. Biden's leadership.

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Biden was present for the nomination and confirmation of every currently sitting Supreme Court justice except for John Paul Stevens. In 1986, the year before Mr. Biden took over as committee chairman, Antonin Scalia was approved by the Senate in a vote of 98-0. Then came Robert Bork and a presidential election.

Before Judge Bork's nomination, Mr. Biden had said he would support him. And why not? He was widely considered a dazzling legal mind and had even received (during his confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals) a rating of "exceptionally well-qualified" from the liberal-leaning American Bar Association. "Say the administration sends up Bork," Mr. Biden told the Philadelphia Inquirer in November 1986, "and, after our investigations, he looks a lot like Scalia. I'd have to vote for him, and if the [special-interest] groups tear me apart, that's the medicine I'll have to take."

But by the time of the actual nomination, Democrats were promising to play "hardball" with President Ronald Reagan's nominees and Mr. Biden was running for president. Mr. Biden's Democratic colleagues lined up against the nominee. They were led by Sen. Edward Kennedy, who demonized him with a monologue on "Robert Bork's America," which he promised would be "a land in which women would be forced into back alley abortions." Liberal groups joined the chorus for Mr. Biden to recant his earlier support, which he did, helping to defeat Mr. Bork's nomination.

Back then the tactics were considered shocking. Warren Burger, the former chief justice, said he was "astonished" by the comments he'd read about a nominee he thought was one of the most qualified he'd seen in 50 years. If the Senate rejected Mr. Bork, he said, "then they shouldn't have confirmed me."

Just one year after the conservative Mr. Scalia's unanimous confirmation the winds had changed dramatically. The Senate had hitherto proceeded on the principle that it owed the president deference on his judicial selections. No longer.

"The framers clearly intended the Senate to serve as a check on the president and guarantee the independence of the judiciary," Mr. Biden said in August 1987 in defense of his newfound opposition to Judge Bork. "The Senate has an undisputed right to consider judicial philosophy." With that marker placed, the ultimate winner of the seat vacated by Justice Lewis Franklin Powell Jr. was a nominee nearly devoid of political philosophy -- Anthony Kennedy.

Mr. Biden's obstruction was further rewarded by the first President Bush. In attempting to dodge controversy, he gave liberals David Souter, whose appeal was enhanced by the fact that he had been a federal judge for less than a year and had almost no paper trail.

By the time Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings came around, Mr. Biden's modus operandi was well known. In his book, "My Grandfather's Son," Justice Thomas recalls that before the Anita Hill inquisition began, Mr. Biden called him and said "Judge, I know you don't believe me but if the allegations come up I will be your biggest defender." "He was right about one thing," Justice Thomas wrote, "I didn't believe him."

Under Mr. Biden's leadership, holding up nominations to the nation's appeals courts also became a routine exercise. In 1988, the Senate Judiciary Committee delayed 17 months before refusing to confirm law professor and scholar Bernard Siegan to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals because of his libertarian positions on economic issues. In 1992, Mr. Bush's nominee to the 11th Circuit, Edward Carnes, endured an eight-month delay and an attempted filibuster before finally being confirmed. By 1992, 64 judicial nominees were stuck in the senatorial muck waiting for the Judiciary Committee to give them a yea or nay.

The Senate obstructionism that began with Reagan's nominees thus became a game of political revenge as each new batch of nominees was made to suffer at the hands of one party for the treatment its nominees had received in the last round. Republicans blocked some of President Bill Clinton's nominees, including briefly, Sonia Sotomayor, the Second Circuit judge said to be on Mr. Obama's short list to replace Mr. Souter. Unable to bottle up Miguel Estrada in committee in 2003, Democrats filibustered him on the floor of the Senate. Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.) held up as many as four judicial nominations for years in retribution for Republicans blocking Mr. Clinton's nomination of Helene White (she was confirmed for the Sixth Circuit last year). And so on.

The effect of this game has been toxic not only for the nominees but for the courts. Many circuits have suffered judicial emergencies, defined as vacancies on courts overwhelmed by their caseloads, or vacancies languishing more than 18 months on busy circuits. Some stood open longer. The Bush administration's 2006 appointment of Peter Keisler to fill the D.C. Circuit seat vacated by John Roberts was left to expire, unfilled, at the end of the administration.

True, Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito were confirmed -- but without the support of then Sens. Joe Biden or Barack Obama. Mr. Alito was confirmed by a vote of 58-42, the second narrowest margin in Senate history (after Clarence Thomas). Even Chief Justice Roberts's margin of 78-22 was contentious in historical terms. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed 93-3, Sandra Day O'Connor 99-0, John Paul Stevens 98-0, and David Souter 90-9.
What is in store for Mr. Obama's nominees remains to be seen. Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said he isn't inclined to the filibuster even if it is an option and most expect the president's Supreme Court choice will be confirmed.

As a matter of judicial philosophy, however, Mr. Obama has said he wants a nominee who "understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book." If that is considered by opponents as grounds for rejection Joe Biden will know where they're coming from.

Ms. Levy is a senior editorial writer at the Journal, based in Washington.

WaPo on California Sinking: The case against a federal bailout

California Sinking. WaPo Editorial
The case against a federal bailout
WaPo, Sunday, May 24, 2009

CALIFORNIA FINDS itself in more than a bit of a bind: Facing at least a $21 billion budget deficit, the state could run out of money in a matter of weeks. Borrowing to help fill the hole will be challenging and expensive, given that California has the lowest credit rating of all 50 states. Last week's warning by Standard and Poor's to Britain about a possible debt downgrade will make risky government borrowing even more difficult. The state would like to see Uncle Sam pick up part of the tab; but as steeped in the bailout business as the feds have become, there are strong reasons for them to refuse to add California to the list of recipients.

This is a budget crisis that has been a long time coming. The requirement of a two-thirds vote in the legislature to raise taxes or pass a budget has exacerbated partisanship and made sensible budgeting impossible. The initiative process -- which too often allows politicians to turn the hard decisions over to voters who, surprise, aren't always willing to make them -- results in a crazy-quilt fiscal scheme whose ever-changing priorities leave it underfunded and inherently unstable. When they do make decisions, legislators have routinely elevated the interests of public employees unions over the broader interests of the state, producing crushing costs from high salaries and benefits. Temporary measures and gimmicks have been used to mask these problems for years.

It should come as no surprise, then, that an economic downturn could lead the state to the fiscal brink. Last week's referendum offering up a slew of budgetary fixes was a fiasco, with voters accepting only a plan to freeze the pay of their legislators in the years they run deficits. Now Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has to decide how to proceed. He has said that the state needs to find at least $5.5 billion in spending cuts -- likely to come from education, health care and other areas. One-time measures such as selling assets are also on the table: prisons, fairgrounds, concert halls for sale -- anyone, anyone? Even if there are buyers, more action will be required.

As for federal government help in providing funds directly or through loan guarantees, there are economic arguments in favor: California's economy is larger than that of most countries, and the spending cuts and tax increases that would be required to balance the budget are precisely the opposite of the policies needed during an economic downturn. However, there are stronger arguments on the other side. The federal government already is heading dangerously deeper into the red. Getting involved could open the bailout door to 49 other eager states, which would be less likely to manage their own budgets properly if they believed the federal government would save them from their mistakes. The Obama administration seems inclined to agree. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has said that money from the Trouble Assets Relief Program (TARP) probably cannot be used to help the states, and the Federal Reserve appears hesitant to get dragged into the mess.

Bailing out the banks was defensible because of the critical and central role they play in the economy. Bailing out the auto companies may have made sense in order to save jobs -- though now that the government is heading for long-term ownership, we are beginning to doubt the worth of that policy. Bailing out the states would be an even more perilous road to start down.

WaPo on Hugo Chavez: Is Silence Consent?

Is Silence Consent? WaPo Editorial
The Obama administration's 'engagement' policy is convenient for Hugo Chávez's latest crackdown.
WaPo, Sunday, May 24, 2009

WHILE THE United States and Venezuela's neighbors silently stand by, Hugo Chávez's campaign to destroy his remaining domestic opposition continues. On Thursday night state intelligence police raided the Caracas offices of Guillermo Zuloaga, the president of the country's last independent broadcast network, Globovision. They claimed to be looking for evidence of irregularities in the car dealership that Mr. Zuloaga also runs. In fact this was a thinly disguised escalation of an attack that Mr. Chávez launched this month against Globovision. The channel has been officially accused of "inciting panic," based on its accurate reporting of a mild May 4 earthquake in Caracas; under the regime's draconian media control law it could be shut down. Few doubt that that is Mr. Chávez's intent: Two years ago he revoked the license of the country's most popular television network after a similarly trumped-up campaign.

To recap: In February Mr. Chávez eliminated the limit on his tenure as president after a one-sided referendum campaign that included ugly attacks on Venezuela's Jewish community. Since then he has imprisoned or orchestrated investigations against most of the country's leading opposition figures, including three of the five opposition governors elected last year. The elected mayor of Maracaibo, who was the leading opposition candidate when Mr. Chávez last ran for president, was granted asylum in Peru last month after authorities sought his arrest on dubious tax charges. The National Assembly, controlled by Mr. Chávez, is considering legislation that would eliminate collective bargaining and replace independent trade unions with "worker's councils" controlled by the ruling party. Another new law would eliminate foreign financing for independent non-government groups.

This is hardly the first time that a Latin American caudillo has tried to eliminate peaceful opponents: Mr. Chávez is following a path well worn by the likes of Juan Perón and Alberto Fujimori -- not to mention his mentor, Fidel Castro. But this may be the first time that the United States has watched the systematic destruction of a Latin American democracy in silence. As Mr. Chávez has implemented the "third phase" of his self-styled revolution, the Obama administration has persisted with the policy of quiet engagement that the president promised before taking office.

"We need to find a space in which we can actually have a conversation, and we need to find ways to enhance our levels of confidence," Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon Jr. said two weeks ago, echoing earlier remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. We have no objection to dialogue with Mr. Chávez. But isn't it time to start talking about preserving independent television stations, opposition political leaders, trade unions and human rights groups -- before it is too late?

Gates recommends F-35 as Japan's next main striker

Gates recommends F-35 as Japan's next main striker