Mr. Holder doesn’t regret

I want to note the recent New York Times story “Holder decision on Benghazi case reverberates,” addressing the mucked up prosecution of Ahmed Abu Khattala by the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. Khattala is the terrorist apprehended in Libya and charged for the murder of Ambassador Stevens and the others who died trying to protect him. The story is full of suggestive and appalling details on the bureaucratic politics underlying the treatment of the case. We should all be interested and I hope readers will cheek out Michael Schmidt’s story.

I wrote a while back on the absurd “protocols” adopted by Attorney General Holder to govern the prosecution of Guantanamo detainees in American courts. I dug up the “protocol” and posted a link to it in “Trying KSM: Why? An insane protocol.” It’s still insane and it’s still accessible on the Department of Justice website.

Congressional pushback has prevented the “protocol” from going anywhere, but Obama and Holder may yet get the last laugh. In the meantime, they have essentially implemented the underlying rationale into the protocol for the treatment of captured terrorists (such as Khattala). This week I called the Department of Justice public affairs office and asked for an explanation why Khattala’s prosecution was proceeding in federal district court rather than in a military commission. I thought I knew why, but I wanted to be sure to get it straight. Public affairs officer Marc Raimondi responded by email (and I am grateful to him for the response):

Guantanamo was never on the table for Khatallah. This administration has not added a single person to the Guantanamo population since President Obama took office, and we have had substantial success delivering swift justice to terrorists through our federal court system.

Since 9/11, successive administrations have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists. And recent history proves that our courts system is capable of dispensing justice even to some of the most hardened terrorists in the highest-profile cases. Some examples you might recall:

  • In 2010, Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square Bomber, pled guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.
  • In 2012, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “underwear bomber,” was sentenced to life in prison.
  • In April 2011, the United States captured Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali national and member of al-Shabaab who had close associations with al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). He pled guilty to a range of charges including material support to al-Shabaab and al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula. We acquired very valuable intelligence from Warsame.
  • In October 2013, the United States captured Abu Anas al-Libi and is currently prosecuting him in the Southern District of New York in connection with his alleged role in al-Qa’ida’s conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals and to conduct attacks against U.S. interests worldwide.
  • In March 2014, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a former associate of Usama bin Laden who conspired to kill U.S. nationals, was convicted in the Southern District of New York.

What we have here is an ideologically driven category error. As one can infer from the tone of Raimondi’s message, Holder et al. are proud of it. Like the other byproducts of the Obama regime, we will be living with the damage for some time to come.

Mr. Holder Regrets

Actually, of course, he doesn’t. Holder was asked by an interviewer, what was your biggest failure as Attorney General? He had so many to choose from! Politicizing the Justice Department, Fast and Furious, stonewalling the House of Representatives, allowing the legalization of marijuana contrary to federal law, failure to enforce the immigration laws, and lots more. But naturally, Holder didn’t mention any of those failures:

Holder’s answer makes little sense, in that the Attorney General isn’t responsible for passing legislation, “reasonable gun safety laws” or otherwise. But, as he quickly added, this was really our society’s failure, not his. Holder is an ideologue, so it is natural that his only regret is that he didn’t succeed in pushing the hard-left agenda even farther. Good riddance; the Department of Justice is well rid of him, but the damage he has done to that institution will live on.

Fusion at Last? Not So Fast

One of the easiest scams to pull off in the energy world these days is to get a breathless story planted in the media about a laboratory “breakthrough” on energy from some advanced or unconventional source, like banana peels (when you aren’t smoking them) or unicorn flop sweat. Often these technologies are real, but the “journalists” never think to ask two basic questions: how much does it cost compared to existing energy sources, and can it be scaled up? Usually the answers to these questions is “a LOT,” and No, it can’t be realistically scaled up to our needs.  That’s why we usually never hear another thing about these nifty “breakthroughs.”

That’s why I take all such stories with a big grain of molten salt recycled from an advanced nuclear reactor, and especially when it comes to fusion power. I’ve toured the Princeton Plasma Energy Lab, and also the Max Planck Laboratory which is trying to develop fusion power in Munich, Germany. In both cases the scientists and engineers working there were clear-eyed that feasible fusion power is still a very long way off—maybe 2040 if major technological challenges can be overcome. But we still see a lot of chirpy news stories that fusion power is just 10 years away! Fusion has been 10 years away for the last 40 years.

But I sat up and took notice last week when Lockheed-Martin said they have made a breakthrough in a fusion energy project that could be rolled out commercially in a decade. Lockheed-Martin is no university lab needing to get a good PR plug, so it would seem to be more serious:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lockheed Martin Corp said on Wednesday it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion, and the first reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be ready for use in a decade.

Tom McGuire, who heads the project, said he and a small team had been working on fusion energy at Lockheed’s secretive Skunk Works for about four years, but were now going public to find potential partners in industry and government for their work.

Initial work demonstrated the feasibility of building a 100-megawatt reactor measuring seven feet by 10 feet, which could fit on the back of a large truck, and is about 10 times smaller than current reactors, McGuire told reporters.

In a statement, the company, the Pentagon’s largest supplier, said it would build and test a compact fusion reactor in less than a year, and build a prototype in five years.

Once again, nothing here on the cost of the prospective technology.  I’ll start to believe it if the Pentagon orders a couple of early reactors for a major military facility somewhere here in the U.S.  Before anyone gets carried away, Nature magazine throws some suitable skepticism on this story:

Although nearly everybody is pleased to see an industrial giant such as Lockheed Martin jump into the fusion fray, academics remain sceptical. Lockheed has yet to release any data from its initial experiments. And without more details, nobody can work out how this design differs from predecessors that have been tried and abandoned in decades past.

“It’s hard to tell the man on the street anything from a scientific point of view,” says Stewart Prager, director of the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in New Jersey. “It’s not clear what their science claims are.”

Here’s Lockheed’s four-minute video about their project; it doesn’t really explain in any detail why we should think this will work, but it sure looks cool. As Michael Ledeen and Glenn Reynolds like to say, faster please.

New poll shows Cotton 8 points ahead

A new poll, this one by Talk Business and Politics/Hendrix College, puts Tom Cotton’s lead over Mark Pryor at 48-41. The survey included more than 2,000 likely voters and was taken after the last week’s Cotton-Pryor debate (as I understand it, there will be no more debates between the two). The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percent.

According to Dr. Jay Barth of Hendrix College, the survey shows that both Cotton and Pryor have locked up the support of their respective Party faithful. However, “Cotton has a strong advantage among the state’s voters who term themselves Independents (although surveys we have completed in the past suggests that most of them now actually see themselves as closer to the Republican Party). Among this crucial group, Cotton leads 59%-28%.”

Bolstered by this poll, Cotton now leads Pryor by 5.5 points in the Real Clear Politics average. And RCP has moved the race into the “leans Republican category.”

To help seal the deal, you can contribute to Tom’s campaign by going here.

Deperate Dems “not ready to accept defeat”

John normally covers pathetic fundraising letters from Democrats, but this one captured my fancy. The first sentence is true; the rest is whimpering:

Dear [X]:

We are completely out of ideas.

After President Clinton emailed you this morning to ask for help, we really thought we would be in a better place.

But we aren’t. The Koch Brothers, Karl Rove, and the other Republican outside groups are spending millions against us. It’s the biggest spending spree of any midterm election EVER. So big — it doesn’t even look like President Clinton’s email can dig us out of this hole.

There is still time, though. Things are rough, but we’re not ready to accept defeat. If we can bring in 5O,OOO donations before tomorrow’s ad buy deadline, we can get back on track. Will you answer President Clinton’s call-to-action today?



That’s strange. Isn’t Barack Obama the president?

“A Time for Choosing” @ 50

As noted here before by Paul and me, this year marks the 50th anniversary of Barry Goldwater’s famous “extremism in defense of liberty” speech at the GOP convention, which I also wrote about in the Claremont Review of Books. The other more important speech of 1964 was Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing,” whose precise 50th anniversary arrives next Monday.

The SpeechPower Line readers in the LA area may wish to mark their calendar, as the Reagan Library will be hosting me for a lecture and panel discussion about “The Speech” at 11 am Pacific time. You can read more details and reserve a seat here, and nearby is the poster that Pepperdine has placed all around campus.

My lecture will cover the five main elements that made the speech such an effective piece of political rhetoric, how it contrasted in subtle but meaningful ways from Goldwater’s approach, and—most importantly—the unheeded lessons today’s conservatives ought to take from the speech. If you’re not able to come, not to worry: I’ll be publishing an edited version of the lecture in a major newspaper this weekend (stay tuned for details), and will eventually post the complete text here on Power Line.

Cannon Cover copyBut wait! There’s more! The lecture will be accompanied by a panel discussion with Lou Cannon and Carl Cannon. (Yes, they are related.) Lou of course covered Reagan throughout Reagan’s entire career starting with the governor’s race in 1966, and his son Carl, now one of the impresarios of RealClearPolitics, co-authored with his father an interesting book a few years back tracing out some of the continuities between Reagan and George W. Bush called Reagan’s Disciple. I thought it would be interesting to have a two-generation Cannon perspective, and I’m delighted that Lou and Carl graciously accepted my invitation to participate.

Not sure if it will be webcast live, but the Reagan Library usually tapes these events and makes them available later on their website.  And if you have a half-hour, here’s the original:

Obama explains

It is a sign of the pollution of our public discourse that the President of the United States rubs shoulders with the vile Al Sharpton, demagogue and race hustler extraordinaire. Sharpton is one of the most vile figures in American public life.

It’s an old story, and the race hustle has become a strategic component of Democratic politics. Sharpton has become a mainstream figure in the modern Democratic Party. So it’s no surprise that Obama appeared on Sharpton’s radio show, even if disgust is the appropriate reaction.

Against all the odds, however, for the second time in this campaign season, Obama said something useful and, even more improbably, something true in his appearance with Sharpton (first time here). Obama explains that those Democrats who are running for election or reelection in Republican states who are notably, at times comically, seeking to avoid the taint of Obama, are invaluable supporters of his. Listen up:

Well, look, here’s the bottom line. We’ve got a tough map. A lot of the states that are contested this time are states that I didn’t win. And so some of the candidates there, you know, it is difficult for them to have me in the state because the Republicans will use that to try to fan Republican turn-out. The bottom line is, though, these are all folks who vote with me. They have supported my agenda in Congress. They are on the right side of minimum wage. They are on the right side of fair pay. They are on the right side of rebuilding our infrastructure. They’re on the right side of early childhood education.

So, this isn’t about my feelings being hurt. These are folks who are strong allies and supporters of me. And I tell them, I said, you know what, you do what you need to win. I will be responsible for making sure that our voters turn up.

So those Democratic candidates holding themselves out as independent souls with the best interests of their states at heart are just full of it. Thank you for the explanation. Thank you very much.

Via Mary Katharine Ham/Hot Air.