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SFWA responds by doubling down. And other matters

View 832 Monday, July 07, 2014

 

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009

 

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The President of Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) has spoken regarding the SFWA position on the Amazon/Hachette dispute. (See yesterday’s View.)

It hasn’t appeared in public yet so I won’t quote it, but it is a public announcement intended to be read by everyone, so eventually you’ll see it.

My first impression brings to mind the word stonewalling. Far from apologizing for giving an incorrect impress, it asserts that SFWA did nothing wrong and is only supporting authors who have been harmed by Amazon’s tactics. And it informs us that SFWA did not call for a boycott of Amazon. It doesn’t say “not yet”, and perhaps it was not intended as a veiled threat, but why else would one bring that up? Of course a moment’s thought would tell you that a command for a boycott of Amazon is not going to happen unless the President and Board are all suffering from hypoxia (hard to do since they meet Skypishly, not in the same room), but again the question arises, why bring it up at all in a public message?

Mystery upon mystery. It is like watching an episode of Doc Martin, only in this episode Dr. Martin and all his friends have been subjected to nitrous oxide.

I can now reprint this morning’s SFWA release re: the Amazon/Hachette fracas and SFWA’s endorsement of the petition:

 

SFWA’s support of Douglas Preston’s open letter reflects our concern about Amazon’s tactics in their dispute with Hachette and the way those tactics are impacting writers and their careers. We are, unfortunately, aware that this is not the first time Amazon has used negotiating tactics that have injured writers. To be clear, we are doing this in support of writers (members and otherwise) not, as some have suggested, to support Hachette Book Group and “Big” publishing over self-published and small press authors.

SFWA is a _writers_ organization and we have fought against practices that harm writers, no matter what the source, including “Big” publishing, scam agents, vanity presses, etc. If we are unwilling to weigh in on behalf of traditionally-published authors in disputes with online distributors like Amazon, Nook, and Kobo, what chance do we have of supporting other writers in the same arena?

Even as we are signing on to Mr. Preston’s letter, we have not called for boycotts of Amazon, we have not called for members to stop publishing with Amazon, and we have left our Amazon links up on the SFWA website. We recognize that suppliers and distributors negotiate the terms of their relationship but we hope that both parties can conduct this business in ways that do not punish _the very people who provide the products they both sell._ This is not about a conflict between traditional and independent models of publishing and efforts to frame it as such do more to harm than help the lives of _all_ working writers.

Steven Gould
For the Board

As I said, stonewalling, or doubling down, do not seem to be inappropriate words.  To the best of my knowledge no further explanations from the SFWA officers is forthcoming.

 

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The situation in Ukraine grinds on. The Ukraine forces appear to be regaining control over their eastern territories, and the Russians are not intervening to prevent that. I cannot believe that President Putin has renounced his claims to the Russian speaking Russians in Ukraine, so what is his strategy? I had though he would have the pro-Russian rebels fall back and consolidate, then offer some kind of deal in which there comes to exist an autonomous region still part of Ukraine but friendly to Russia.  That may yet be the goal.  We can only watch and wait. There I still fighting going on, but so far it’s not city-leveling destruction.

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Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.

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Bill Gaubatz, RIP; the DC/X story; the Big SFWA Indie Flap; and more

View 832 Sunday, July 06, 2014

 

Christians to Beirut. Alawites to the grave.

Syrian Freedom Fighters

 

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009

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I haven’t done much this week. I’ll try to catch up a bit now.

I heard today that Bill Gaubatz, the project director for Douglas who built the DC/X, has died. Bill was the engineer who took the DC/X concept and turned it into flying hardware, on schedule, and under budget. He knew how to build teams and get them working, and this without much support from his employer: a reusable spaceship would not be as profitable as selling more and more expendables, and Douglas already sold expendables to the the Air Force. Still, they did bid on the project, they put a good man in charge of it, and they got out of his way.

I’ve told the DC/X story before, but last time I told it was when I had just missed my last chance (as it turned out) to see Bill Gaubatz again. I’ll repeat it here:

I missed the 20th Anniversary of the DC/X which happened in New Mexico over the weekend. A lot of people wanted me to come to it, and I’d have liked to go, but the logistics couldn’t be arranged. We’d planned to get together with Phillip and the grandchildren on this weekend a long time ago, and while the DC/X was important and it sure wouldn’t have happened without me (well, me, Max Hunter, and General Graham were the ones who went to VP Dan Quayle then the Chairman of the National Space Council –

Rather than make that a long parenthetical I may as well tell the story. The Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy came about in a curious way. Back in August of 1980 before the election there was a planetary encounter or some other event at JPL, and G Harry Stine and BJO Trimble were there. Mrs. Trimble was the Star Trek fan club activist who had pretty well sparked the big push for another season of Star Trek when it was being considered for red or green light by the network, Harry was an old space enthusiast, consulting engineer, pilot, and science fiction writer, and I was an SF writer with some political experience. We planned a small conference to be held at Larry Niven’s house later in the fall to see what we could do to promote the space budget in the incoming administration, which we thought would likely be Reagan’s. I’d done some briefings when Reagan was Governor and I was in the professor business. None of this was important and it wasn’t worth making notes about.

But then Reagan won the election, and he asked General Schriever to prepare a paper for his incoming administration: a space and defense policy. At this point it gets complicated. Back in 1968-70 I was the junior author of a book called The Strategy of Technology. The senior author was Dr. Stefan T. Possony, then a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford. We had worked together on some other projects, and Steve was very much my mentor. The Strategy of Technology was a succès d’estime, meaning that it sold reasonably well, but got really good reviews and was interesting to the people we had written it for – it eventually was a textbook at all three service academies in one class or another, as well as in the War Colleges, and there are copies used in some senior military seminars even to this day. (The principles are still valid but all the examples are from the Cold War or Seventy Years War era when the Soviet Union with its 26,000 nuclear warheads and enormous delivery capacity was the main threat to the US. Those who remember that era will understand; but there is now a generation that doesn’t remember the USSR and its Strategic Rocket Service and Tsar Bomba and the rest of it. But I digress.) Anyway there was a third author to The Strategy of Technology, Francis X.Kane, Ph.d., Col. USAF. As an active duty Air Force officer Duke didn’t want his name on the book, which was quite critical of some US policies. Kane had been Director of Plans for General Schriever, and General Schriever asked Duke to do the transition team space plan that Reagan had asked for. Kane obtained his Ph.D. in political science from Georgetown University where his principal advisor was Professor Stefan T. Possony. Possony had been in the Pentagon during much of WW II, then to Georgetown, and thence to the Hoover. (Possony got his Ph.D. from the University of Vienna about the time I was born; he was active in the Schussnig government which opposed – with the help of Benito Mussolini – Hitler’s bid to take over Austria.  Obviously that opposition failed. When Austria fell, Steve fled to Czechoslovakia, and when that fell he fled to France where he was an advisor to the Air Ministry – until 1940, when he fled to unoccupied France and managed to get passage to Oran and thence to the United States.  Steve was fond of saying that the Gestapo had his library – three times.)

Steve and Duke asked me if I could help get this space plan together. It would need a meeting of a number of aerospace people, and a good working environment. The Nivens had already committed to a space promotion conference, and agreed to expand it. It expanded beyond even his home’s ability to provide guest space for all those who were coming – about 40 all told – but Marilyn Niven with some volunteers said she could handle the meals, and the house was certainly large enough and had the right atmosphere for a space conference. We reserved a nearby motel for sleeping rooms; everything else would happen at Niven’s house in Tarzana.

I started inviting people mostly by phone, with the promise of an opportunity to be persuasive at a level where persuasion might have some effect. We had a pretty good turnout, starting with Buzz Aldrin, George Merrick who was manager of the Shuttle program at North American, Dr. Gould from North American, Max Hunter, General Graham, Gordon Woodcock from Boeing, George Koopman, several other military officers, Phil Chapman, Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy, Lowell Wood from Teller’s people, Steve Possony of course, a number of science fiction authors I thought would be useful including Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Greg Bear, Dean Ing. Gary Hudson and some space entrepreneurs. Art Dula. Phil Chapman. BJO Trimble was recording secretary and in charge of building a fan base. I’m naming names off the top of my head, and I will forget a lot of them. SF publisher Jim Baen. More active duty military people none of whom were officially there. We worked all weekend and produced a paper for the transition team, then at the President’s request we started in on a plan for after inauguration at another meeting. The President read the full reports, which strongly recommended Strategic Defense. In 1983 he made his Star Wars speech. It included several phrases from the Council reports.

Anyway, after that frantic period between November 1980 and January 1981 we were asked to continue to work on space policy, and we were all space enthusiasts. I was chairman, largely because I had found someone willing to host the conference and Niven sure didn’t want that job. We did some good work in the next eight years. Then, in 1988, we had a meeting at which Max Hunter said “Maybe it’s time to revive the X Programs.” There’s a long story in that. Anyway, a much smaller group still under the name of Citizen’s Advisory Council on National Space Policy (well, I had to call it something; Newt Gengrich thought it was a pretty good name) devised the SSX project, which General Graham, Max Hunter, and I took to DC just after the inauguration. Mr. Bush had pretty well cleared all the Reagan people out of the White House, but he couldn’t fire VP Dan Quayle, and Quayle was ex officio the chairman of the National Space Council and also had been “the respected junior Senator from Indiana” even in the New York Times until the day he was the Republican VP nominee after which, in under 24 hours, he became a bumbling philandering fool in much of the media; but in fact he was a pretty sharp cookie. He had control of a fair amount of the Strategic Defense Initiative research budget. The SSX Project was 600,000 pounds Gross Lift-Off Weight. There wasn’t enough money in the SDI funds to built that, but there was enough to fund a scale model to test many of the vital concepts of Single Stage to Orbit, and Mr. Quayle was able to get that project funded after having RAND and some other people reevaluate the feasibility of Single Stage to Orbit – which most of the aerospace industry had decided was impossible. There were also questions about control at low speeds and low altitudes. DC/X would test those questions and others. But this isn’t an essay on X projects – for that see my Access To Space.

Anyway, after that Mr. Quayle passed the SSX proposal to the National Space Council which got DC/X funded. Bill Gaubatz made the ship happen, on time, under budget, not paper studies but flying hardware, and I’d have liked to have been at the 20th Anniversary. And of course the whole story is more complicated than this; but it would not have happened without Dan Graham, Max Hunter, and for that matter me. So I’d love to have gone to the Anniversary. But I’d rather have spent the weekend with my grandchildren.

What I would have said had I been at the anniversary is that the SSX Project as proposed by the Council back in 1989 would still be an excellent X project. The 600,000 GLOW is still just about right, and with new structure materials and vast improvements in computers, gyros, avionic – both in capability and weight savings – SSX might actually make orbit. Max Hunter used to say “We may not make orbit with SSX but we’ll sure scare it to death.” And we would learn just what we would need to make a fleet of ships that were savable and reusable, and which could fly several missions a month, at essentially fuel costs. That’s access to space. One day we’ll do that. Not by government built ships; but government does have a role, as it did in development of aircraft. Not building airplanes but in funding research. And X projects are still one of the most valuable tools for developing technology. But then I’ve said all this before. If I’d have gotten to the meeting I’d have said it again.

http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/ssx-dcx-star-wars/

I note that over the years many of the participants in making DC/X possible have died. Those include Robert Heinlein, Harry Stine, Duke Kane, Steve Possony, Dan Graham, and I’m sure many more. I hope they’re all waiting to welcome Bill Gaubatz to the old space warriors club.

 

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The big flap started last Thursday with a letter to all Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) members from SFWA President Stephen Gould:

Dear SFWA Member,

Author Douglas Preston has written a protest/response to Amazon about its recent behavior in its negotiations with Hachette Book Group and is inviting co-signers in support of this message. I think it strikes a pretty good balance between respectful and accurate and I will be signing it as an individual and as President of SFWA. In addition, the Board had decided to endorse this message and we invite members to co-sign as individual authors (by emailing Preston at djpreston@me.com .)

Steven Gould

President, SFWA

This was followed by a storm of protests from independently published writers who believed that SFWA had taken the side of traditional publishers of which Hachette is one the Big Five, against Amazon, which is the major publisher of independently published works, fiction and non-fiction, science fiction and fantasy and all other genres, and incidentally also the book seller of nearly half the printed books sold in these United States.

The story was told that this was a deliberate insult by SFWA aimed at independently published writers, and worse, it comes in the midst of a long and drawn out debate within SFWA over whether to admit as ‘professional writers’ those whose only credentials are self-published worked. One of the people who brought up the issue of admitting self-published writers to SFWA was me, and the case I used as illustration was Dr. Jennifer Pournelle, my daughter, whose book Outies, a book written (with permission) in the universe of The Mote In God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle has been a top selling science fiction book for decades, and remains popular (and very readable I would say, but then I would, wouldn’t I?). When Jenny wrote the book she solicited offers from publishers and received several, all with generous (for first novels) advances, but terms that gave the publishers the lion’s share of eBook rights so long as the book was “in print”; and since electronic books never go out of print, that means the life of the copyright. She did some calculations based in part on Mote sales, and some expectation the author’s name would attract some attention and sales, and decided to self-publish the work, again with our permission. The bottom line is that the book earned more in a year than the advance offered by the publisher, and she still owns all the eBook rights; and it’s still selling, as indeed it ought to since it’s a pretty good read. Not as good as Mote, say I, but then I’d say that, wouldn’t it?

I pointed out that this ought to qualify as a valid credential for joining the Science Fiction Writers of America. She was offered publication by a major publisher, and has earned more in self-publication than she was offered, and she retains all her rights in the book, and surely that’s professional? And since she has been the publications manager for a major California university, she’d be a pretty darned valuable member. My point was that if SFWA is the organization of those who write and publish science fiction in America, she blooming well qualified, and so did a number of other writers out there.

SFWA has dithered over this for two years. Since we were in the process of moving incorporation from Massachusetts (a rather bad place to incorporate a national organization because of their laws about face to face annual meetings) to California (not my recommendation but better than Mass.) and that didn’t get finalized until last month, we couldn’t have changed the by-laws anyway, but we could have been ready to do it when we legally could, but we didn’t and hence I say dithering. The current schedule is that the officers will vote on the matter at the end of August, and then put it to the membership, and it will all be settled by the end of November, and I still call that dithering; but we are slowly making progress.

But with that record of inaction on the matter comes the action last Thursday, without notice and without consolation with anyone, not past presidents, not the committee that has been studying admission of independently published writers, not any readers, not a Ouija Board or a spirit medium in an attempt to make contact with founder Damon Knight, nor anyone else. Just suddenly the President, apparently authorized by a vote of the board, puts the organization on record as endorsing that petition; and this has been interpreted by nearly everyone in the Independently Published Author community as a slap in the face.

Not so, not so, at least one past president, and at least one board member, has said; but of official word from President or Board comes there none as of this afternoon, and the professional science fiction and fantasy writers who have been independently rather than traditionally published have begun declaring their unhappiness over this. I can’t really blame them, but I do wish they would wait a bit before believing that SFWA wanted to insult them. I doubt that was the motive.

But that has taken up some of my time this weekend, and probably shouldn’t. I would better have used my time writing something here, or working on several projects I have going including one with Niven called “Story Night at the Stronghold” which takes place a couple of years after Hammerfall for those familiar with Lucifer’s Hammer (and if you aren’t you are missing one whacking good story). I doubt I have persuaded anyone, and I am chagrined that the Masters of SFWA have not acted at least to issued a clarification of what they meant by endorsing that petition, and stating that they are not taking sides in this commercial dispute but protesting the tactics of one side, Amazon . I would also like them to protest the tactics of the other side, the traditional publishers, who want to lower royalties and payments to authors, yet like to be thought of as the authors’ friend.

As to my own experience with Amazon, a reasonable part of my income now comes from eBook sales of my backlist (and the collaborations with Niven). Amazon pays much higher royalties than the traditional publishers, and pays them monthly, not every six months for the period ending six months ago.

Anyway it’s dinner time, and if you’ve heard anything about this flap, it really ought to be a tempest in a teapot, but I can well understand independently published authors some of whom are making considerably more per month than some traditionally published SFWA members make in a year feeling a bit miffed about this restriction on just who is professional and who is not.

More another time.

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‘The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s most accurate, up-to-date temperature data confirm the United States has been cooling for at least the past decade.’

<http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2014/06/25/government-data-show-u-s-in-decade-long-cooling/>

——

Roland Dobbins

 

‘The levels of Antarctic sea-ice last week hit an all-time high – confounding climate change computer models which say it should be in decline.’

<http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2681829/Global-warming-latest-Amount-Antarctic-sea-ice-hits-new-record-high.html>

————–

Roland Dobbins

 

And more and more data accumulate to show that whatever the climate is doing, we don’t have a model to explain it.  Perhaps there won’t be a Krakatoa or Tambora volcano in the 21st Century.  But what if there is?

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Subject: : Does anyone today remember the cost of freedom????

This was just one beach.

.http://thefallen9000.info/

William Ellern

Some still remember.  Some have forgotten.  And increasingly, more never knew.

 

 

 

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Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.

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Persia

View 831 Monday, June 30, 2014

 

Christians to Beirut. Alawites to the grave.

Syrian Freedom Fighters

 

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009

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Persia

http://warontherocks.com/2014/06/military-intervention-iranian-style/

Very interesting article which portends that direct Persian incursions into Iraq (IMO the worst thing that can happen in the ME) are unlikely. Despite having a reputation for power projection, the Persians seem to be quite shallow in military/economic influence.

David Couvillon

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Avoider of Yard Work

The history of Persian influence over the various Muslim empires has always been mixed: after the conquest and conversion of Persia by the Muslim Arabs, the vast riches of the Empire changed the nature of many of the Muslim peoples, and there is still a tradition that the Bedouin clans are the only pure Muslims. Persia added a great deal of culture and educated sophistication to the Muslim society.

That history is  not yet complete. Persia is now the chief center of Shiite population and power.

The Islamic Republic of Iran today is being confronted by existential attacks on its alliance system, the axis of resistance, on two fronts: first Syria, and now Iraq. While it has largely contained the Syrian civil war—having reversed the tide in favor of Bashar al Assad’s regime after three years of sustained military, political, and economic support—the crumbling of the Iraqi state and the possibility of a Sunni resurgence has elites in Iran alarmed.

Iran is now in the uncomfortable position of planning to stage a military intervention in Iraq, one that is likely to follow a pattern that has emerged since 1979.

The article and analysis are worth reading.The article and analysis are worth reading. The Middle East is not easily comprehended, and often when you think you understand what’s going on, you find that you do not. I oppose the first Iraq intervention under GHW Bush, as well as the conquest of Iraq by his son George W Bush. We destroyed the Baathist state and Saddam, and did Iraq the favor of having to throw out his rapacious sons; but whether we did Iraq a favor by doing that is debatable.

Persians know how to build competent empires; but it is not clear that the current rulers of Persia have studied the right texts. We shall see.

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/10916086/The-scandal-of-fiddled-global-warming-data.html

 

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Deb Houdek Rule on PBS History Detectives Tonight

Tonight’s the night for the PBS History Detectives season premiere show on Civil War sabotage!

I was interviewed several times for this episode in Memphis and New York. I haven’t seen the final show yet, so I’m excited (and nervous) to see how I did, and how much of my interviews they included. It’s on 9pm ET/8pm CT on your PBS station.

My book, Sultana: A Case for Sabotage, which includes much more research on the Confederate Boatburners, and the St. Louis connection to the destruction of the Sultana, is in print and eBook on Amazon. I also hope people will stop by my website at http://www.civilwarstlouis.com/the-boatburners/ to read more.

Deb

D. H. Rule / Deb Houdek Rule

Author of Sultana: A Case For Sabotage <http://www.amazon.com/Sultana-A-Case-For-Sabotage/dp/1940058058>

 

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Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.

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EPA Victory or Defeat? History and Policy in Iraq

View 830 Tuesday, June 24, 2014

 

Christians to Beirut. Alawites to the grave.

Syrian Freedom Fighters

 

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009

 

“Today, I can announce that our review is complete, and that the United States will pursue a new strategy to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility.

This strategy is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant.

[W]e will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative, and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe haven to terrorists.”

“We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq.

Barrack Obama
December 14, 2011
Fort Bragg, North Carolina

 

 

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I subscribe to several newspapers, and I read most of them at the breakfast table. Today I was amused to see the difference in headlines on the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. The Times proclaimed:

Justices give EPA a win on emissions

Supreme Court upholds rules curbing greenhouse gases from power plants

David G. Savage

The Obama administration’s drive to regulate global-warming gases won a surprising victory in the Supreme Court on Monday with the support of two conservative justices.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Antonin Scalia joined the court’s moderates and liberals in a 7-2 vote to uphold most of an Environmental Protection Agency rule that requires new or rebuilt factories and power plants to use the “best available technology” to limit their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Because these “major polluters” are already required to obtain clean-air permits from the government, the EPA is justified in adding greenhouse gases to the list of restricted pollutants, Scalia wrote for the court.

http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-supreme-court-power-plants-20140610-story.html#page=1

All of which is fairly depressing. Then I turned to the Wall Street Journal. There was nothing about the decision on the front page. Nothing. That was a bit startling. Then I turned to the editorial page:

A Constitutional Tutorial for Obama

The President doesn’t possess ‘an unheralded power’ to rewrite laws.

The Obama Administration’s abuse of executive power is emerging as this Supreme Court term’s defining theme, and on Monday the Justices applied some basic constitutional law to the White House’s anticarbon agenda.

In Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, the Justices feed several major climate regulations into the wood chipper. "When an agency claims to discover in a long-extant statute an unheralded power to regulate a significant portion of the American economy," the majority observes, "we typically greet its announcement with a measure of skepticism."

The ruling amounts to an overdue correction to Massachusetts v. EPA, the 5-4 ruling in 2007 that held greenhouse gases can be "pollutants" under clean air laws that were written decades before the carbon panic. That decision wrongly rewrote the Clean Air Act, but it was also always narrower than liberals made it out to be and never the license for policy rewrites that became the EPA’s interpretation.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/a-constitutional-tutorial-for-obama-1403562504

Which should give you a clear idea of the quality of American main stream journalism.

The fact that Scalia wrote the opinion ought to be a clue that it would not be quite so pleasing to President Obama as the Times seems to think.

The Court, as is its usual practice, decided rather narrowly, and some of the key laws implementing Cap and Trade were not involved in this case; narrowly the EPA has been given a power, but as the Journal concludes:

The Court did still preserve 7-2 the Mass. v. EPA prerogative to regulate carbon in other contexts, such as requiring new or substantially modified power sources to install "best available control technology." But the ruling says this authority is not "unbounded," which suggests the Court is warning EPA to tread carefully when exercising "extravagant statutory power over the national economy."

That could include the rules for existing power sources that the EPA rolled out earlier this month. They are grounded in an obscure catch-all clause of the Clean Air Act that wasn’t before the Court in Monday’s case. Section 111(d) runs only a few hundred words, yet the EPA is claiming unprecedented authority to command the states to create cap-and-tax programs or otherwise ration energy use. A less willful Administration would heed this warning and restrain its ambitions, but this one refuses, so the High Court will have to keep issuing Constitution 101 tutorials.

In any other Administration, such a Supreme Court smackdown on so important a regulation would also invite more media scrutiny of executive overreach. When the 2008 Boumediene decision gave terrorists the right to make habeas corpus challenges to their detention, the story was that the High Court was reining in a power-mad President.

Mr. Obama’s regulatory abuses are far more corrosive to the Constitution than anything George W. Bush did on war powers, but the press corps has barely noticed. Maybe it will start now that the Supreme Court is calling out President Obama’s lawbreaking.

I would be inclined to accept the WSJ interpretation. Of course the Attorney General and the Democrats in general will have the Times view.

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Iraq

http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/iraq/articles/20140624.aspx

As clear and concise timeline and evaluation of the ISIS and Iraq as I have seen; and as accurate as known.

David Couvillon

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Avoider of Yard Work

For those interested in this situation this is just what Colonel Couvillon says it is: but do understand that ‘concise’ is a relative word. This would not have been considered lengthy when I was in graduate school, but in these days of the Internet and half page summaries of centuries and millennia, it is long enough indeed.

An example is this summary of the present dilemma facing the corrupt and semi-competent Iraqi regime:

There have been growing calls in Iraq for the government to build the kind of oil-fueled welfare state that exists next door in Saudi Arabia. But Iraq has more people and pumps less oil than Saudi Arabia, so there is more incentive for Iraqis to take any job and hustle in a way that Saudis have not had to for generations. But that’s not enough. Iraq has a more effective education system than Saudi Arabia but Iraqis with skills tend to flee the country because of the corruption and high crime rate. Not enough educated Iraqis, who occupy most of the management jobs, are willing or able to address the damage done by rampant corruption. Too many people are willing to gut an essential logistical or maintenance task in order to steal some money meant to get important things (like national defense) done. This is especially true in the government bureaucracies, and that includes the military. Some Iraqis understand how this works and want it changed but the officials in power are more interested in stealing. There’s a popular realization that the corruption is a key problem but so far there have not been enough senior government leaders willing to risk assassination and personal financial loss to move decisively against the problem. This corruption has a direct impact on the growing of Islamic terrorist violence because the stealing cripples the security forces by leaving the soldiers and police unpaid and unsupplied.  If the Shia do not get organized they will see the better organized (even when it comes to corruption) Sunni minority once again be in control and the Shia will again be poor and living in fear of Sunni retribution for real or imagined misbehavior.

The report continues:

The U.S. has told the Iraqi leaders that if they do not take effective action to deal with the Sunni Islamic terrorists the U.S. will do so and that will be at the expense of the Iraqi politicians who created the current mess. One unpleasant side effect of all this is that the U.S. is now under pressure to attack ISIL in Syria as well. While this could be construed as aiding the Assad government it isn’t because ISIL has been openly fighting other rebel groups in Syria since January. Everyone hates ISIL.

This places more belief in the determination of the current President than I have: in my judgment President Obama wants out of Iraq, and since whatever he does will leave behind a mess that can be blamed on President Bush, there is no need for the US to carry out any real attempt to reform Iraq. Any actual reform is unlikely to succeed, there is a good chance that replacing Maliki will bring up someone worse, and that can be blamed on President Obama, not President Bush.

ISIL has taken Mosul, but so far has not strictly enforced Sharia in this key city, but there will be considerable pressure from the ISIS leadership to do so. Mosul is of crucial importance to the viability of any Sunni state in Mesopotamia. ISIS control of Mosul is not certain: the Kurds want the city and its oil refineries, and have a reasonable claim to it; but then there are Arab non-ISIS Sunni who have an even older claim to the city and its oil. It is possible that the non-Arab Kurds, nominally Sunni (“Compared to infidels, Kurds are Moslem”), can come to some compromise division of the oil revenues of the city, but that would require agreements entered from reason and not passion: something not very common in the area.

One must never forget that Jordan has a high stake in the outcome of these civil wars. In 1958 when Faisal II (Hashemite cousin of Hussein of Jordan) was still King of Iraq, there was a short lived attempt to federate the two monarchies as the United Arab Kingdom; this in answer to Nasser’s short lived federation of Egypt and Syria as the United Arab Republic. The Hashemites were the legitimate Protectors of Mecca from classical times down to the British conquest of the area in World War I. The British eventually were influential in giving the Arabian peninsula as a partly united area to Ibn Saud, displacing the Hashemites from their position of Sharif of Mecca that stemmed from the times of the Prophet. The Hashemites were compensated with the Kingdoms of Jordan and Iraq. There are clan and family ties between members of the Sunni ruling class in Jordan and their counterparts in Iraq.

In the time of Richard Lionheart the Moslem world was divided into factions and engaged in civil wars to the benefit of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Crusader Kingdom with its outlying fortresses looked to be stable. Then Saladin the Kurd united the Kurds, and with the aid of his (Aryan, no Arab) Kurds united the warring Arab factions against the invaders. Jerusalem was retaken by the Arabs. Of course European intervention in the Middle East, and particularly into Mesopotamia, was much more difficult in those times; but it remains expensive. Our intervention into Iraq might have turned a profit had the goal been conquest and levying tribute in the form of oil on Baghdad; but we had more noble ambitions.

I quoted this before the Bush I invasion, as well as after 9/11 :

John Quincy Adams on American Policy:

Whenever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

Fourth of July, 1821

If we intend to abandon this principle it is important that we understand the consequences, and also the requirements. It will not be cheap – and it will require that we learn the principles of rule without the consent of the governed. That has historically been a skill that Republics have regretted allowing their Legions to learn.

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Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.

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