Olson on Fitzgerald

October 31, 2005

Ted Olson is a legal giant who knows at first hand the importance of the war on terror. He just tagged the prosecutor targeting the administration as a political hitman.

Olson’s wife, Barbara, died on AA Flight 77, the one that hit the Pentagon – she talked with her husband on her cell as she flew to her death. Olson is a brilliant jurist, winning 20 of the 23 Supreme Court case he’s argued.

Here’s what he has to say about prosecutor Fitzgerald (WSJ, subscription).

The man he has indicted, Lewis Libby, was investigated, along with numerous others, to see whether someone violated a law prohibiting the intentional disclosure of the classified identity of a covert intelligence agent who’d served as such outside the U.S. during the five years preceding disclosure.

Apparently he committed no such crime — at least the indictment doesn’t charge him with that. Instead, Mr. Fitzgerald asserts, he misled investigators and grand jurors about conversations he had with reporters regarding Ms. Plame and her husband Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador engaged in a bitter dispute with the administration over its justification for the Iraq war.

If special prosecutors can be empowered to investigate allegations of conduct that isn’t first established to be criminal, and to interrogate witnesses — especially reporters — about memories of distant conversations with sources regarding conduct that isn’t plainly criminal, there is no politically motivated allegation that can’t be turned into a criminal cover-up.

So, regardless of how one might feel about the administration or the war in Iraq, the circumstances of this prosecution, and the involvement of reporters such as Tim Russert as prosecution witnesses, ought to give us occasion to pause and consider the implications of Mr. Fitzgerald’s redefinition of “Meet the Press.”

If Olson says Fitzgerald is a political hitman, he is, and the administration can respond accordingly.

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Beating Borkers, Porkers and Stalkers

October 31, 2005

The president has decided to play hardball with his enemies, which is great news for America and the world.

The President’s Strategy

Like all successful managers, President Bush doesn’t sweat the small stuff. Instead he focuses on these clear (but hard to achieve!) strategic goals:

1. Keep America safe by vigorously prosecuting the war in terror and encouraging the spread of democracy.

2. Keep the economy growing.

This makes eminent sense – a safe and rich America is much more able to solve its many problems than a defeated and poor one.

His enemies seek to draw him and his team into dissipating their time on non critical problems, so that he can’t achieve his strategic objectives.

Hence the Borking of Miers by congressional conservative, who want the US out of Iraq, the Porking of the same group, who want to tie him up in endless budget negotiations, and his Stalking by Fitzgerald, who wants to make the administration spend its time defending past policies.

Over the weekend, the president has decided stay focused on his strategic goals.

The Borkers

For Brits unfamiliar with US history, “Bork” means:

“to destroy a judicial nominee through a concerted attack on his character, background and philosophy.”

The process was invented by the killer Edward Kennedy for the 1987 Dem destruction of Robert Bork following his nomination for SCOTUS by Ronald Reagan. They even attacked his video rental history! Until a month ago, Borking was an exclusively Dem tactic, but the conservatives in congress just Borked Miers and told the president to give them a right winger.

The president had to decide whether to spend precious time negotiating with all the parties to find someone who would be confirmable (the Dems won’t confirm a right winger). Or he could have committed the smallest amount of his time to the problem by giving conservatives their wish.

He’s done the latter, nominating Samuel Alito, who:

…has been dubbed “Scalito” or “Scalia-lite” by some lawyers because his judicial philosophy invites comparisons to that of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (search), for whom Alito once clerked.

Scalia is a right wing member of SCOTUS, much is hated by Dems, who will fight tooth and nail to Bork anyone who resembles him. Still, that’s not the president’s problem – the conservative critics have to fight this one, leaving the president to focus on the nation’s priorities.

The Porkers

(Brit readers: Pork is the name for a common practice of US senators who cause Federal funds to be spent on useless projects in their own states).

A recent post quoted conservative critics complaining that the Federal government is spending too much and it’s the president’s fault. It’s not his fault – spending bills comes from congress and all the president can do is veto items, which congress can override.

Accordingly, the most time-efficient tactic for the president is to simply veto every item he dislikes, tell the people why, and excoriate congress if they override him.

The Stalkers

Fitzgerald seems to have given up on getting Carl Rove, and is now focusing on tying up the vice president in lengthy hearings.

It’s easy to see how the administration will deal with this – tie him up in legal knots and delay everything he does. Then in January 2009 use the presidential prerogative to pardon anyone he gets convicted. This has the virtue of following precedent (set by Clinton, of course).

They’ll probably set up a special containment team to deal with Fitzgerald, with motions for delay, refusal to supply documents, claims of executive privilege. Lawyers are great at running up time and cost, so that should be easy.

****

With this policy, America and the world stays safe, and there’s a chance that the next president will be Republican!


The End Of The Sand Hill Road

October 31, 2005

Sand Hill Road is the Palo Alto home to the big beasts of venture capital. They’ve belatedly realized that their business model for Internet startups is broken and are scrabbling to avoid ending up on the scrapheap. Isn’t capitalism wonderful?

The WSJ reports (subscription):

Internet start-ups and venture capitalists are back in vogue in Silicon Valley. But now the two don’t necessarily go together.

Consider Flickr, the innovative online-photo service launched by a small Canadian company early last year. Like many Web start-ups today, it was built on a dime: Husband-and-wife founders Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake used cheap software to construct the Flickr site, eschewing pricey computers. Some gear, such as computer storage, was “about 100 times cheaper” than it would have been even five years ago, says Mr. Butterfield. It cost only about $200,000 to pay salaries and get the site up and running, he says.

By last year, several top venture-capital firms were clamoring to invest in Flickr through its parent company, Ludicorp Research & Development Ltd. In December, Mr. Butterfield had a funding offer from Accel Partners of Palo Alto, Calif. But the entrepreneur decided instead to sell to Internet giant Yahoo Inc. for what people familiar with the matter say was about $25 million, significantly higher than the value Accel had put on the company and Accel’s proposed investment.

It’s a scenario playing out all over Silicon Valley — and one with potentially big ramifications for venture capitalists. A new generation of Internet companies — many offering online photo and blogging services or downloadable software for businesses — have been built for a fraction of the cost just a few years ago

It’s amazing the VCs missed this – together with other the entrepreneurs, I moved from VCs to self-funded businesses 8 years ago, here’s why.

Trying to get VC funding eats up huge amounts of your time when you should be signing up Beta customers and building product. And in return for funding you, they make you to swap your stock with options (they take the stock), they take a board majority, and often invest in several of your competitors. Then if after 12 -24 months they decide your company lost the race, they pull the plug.

But, starting around 1997, you haven’t actually needed a lot of cash to build a profitable software business.

You don’t need offices or any of the overheads that go with them – you can inexpensively outsource payroll and accountants. PCs, servers and bandwidth are cheap, and one or two first rate developers working from home with modern software and components can build almost anything.

If you to concentrate on delivering real value to real customers, they then pay you! You don’t need cash to ramp sales and support as the business takes off – instead you partner with one of the galaxy of burned out tech business that have sales and support in abundance, but lack product. They’ll do this for margin.

Then you exit by a trade sale, like the Flickr folk (great job!).

No stock options – they don’t work anyway thanks to Sarbanes-Oxley, no control-freak MBAs cluttering up the board – in fact, no board meetings! Just you and the developers working together like crazy to make your first customers ecstatic.

This trend is moving at warp speed and if you ride it, you’ll get rich. Just sign up a pre-launch customer first, partner with a great developer, put all your cash in the business, and work 100 hour weeks for two years.


The Tough Get Going

October 30, 2005

The Iraqi army is kicking Sunni ass, so after the December elections the coalition can move to facing down the next two dominoes – Syria and Iran (if it’s still there). This tremendous achievement in just over 2 years compares with the 10 it took to train up an indifferent German army in much less hostile environment. Confirming that tough conditions breed tough armies.

Here’s what’s happened.

For generations, Iraq was dominated by Sunni Arabs because Sunni Arabs held most of the leadership posts in the army and police. Kurds and Shia Arabs were often the majority of the troops and beat cops, but they nearly always took orders from a hierarchy of Sunni Arab supervisors and officers.

The Sunni Arabs knew that the management and leadership skills necessary to run an army or police force were not easily acquired. It took years of training and experience. There was no way the Kurds and Shia Arabs could quickly replace those Sunni Arab officers and NCOs.

Thus Sunni Arab terrorists would drive out the foreign troops, especially the deadly Americans, and, then the Sunni Arabs would take over again. But then something very, very bad (for the Sunni Arab takeover plan) happened. Battalions and brigades of Iraqi troops began to show up, commanded by Kurds, Shia Arabs, and some turncoat Sunni Arabs, that could do the job.

Currently there are 207,000 Iraqi soldiers and police that are trained and equipped for operations. There are sufficient leadership to deploy 120 army and police battalions for combat operations. About three dozen of these battalions are well enough led to undertake security operations without American supervision.

Training a new army from scratch in modern warfare is incredibly hard for trainers and trainees. The US military has done a brilliant job and the Kurds and Shias have shown remarkable courage and diligence. Nobody has ever done anything like this before – the German army wasn’t reformed until 1955, 10 years after WW2, and is still incapable of defending its country.


New York Lawyers For Hillary

October 30, 2005

Hot on the heels of the first Moonbat lawyer for New York comes another one working for a Dem victory.

“Withdrawing Miers put a Band-Aid on the rift,” says George Conway III, a New York lawyer who is beginning to emerge as one of the new generation of conservative-activist leaders. “That rift now is healed and will be reopened only if he makes the same mistake twice — then the Band-Aid will come right off.”

He says some nationally prominent conservative leaders have privately dissented from most or, in some cases, all of the president’s initiatives on a range of fronts. “It’s a long, long list.”

He says it includes expanding the federal government’s role in education and the welfare state through Medicare drug benefits, encroachment on personal freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism, the decision to go to war with Iraq and what they see as mismanaging the war, not opposing the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance regulations, promoting a guest-worker program for illegal aliens and not fighting the principle of enforced diversity in the University of Michigan racial-preferences cases.

Quite reasonable list, except that keeping the economy growing through the worst attack on the US homeland ever, preventing a repetition, and confronting and defeating America’s enemies does to take up a president’s time.

Still, these conservatives should get what they want on Iraq – Hillary will withdraw as soon as they elect her!


Fitzgerald Changes History

October 29, 2005

The special prosecutor has decapitated the US administration, very neatly given that he’s found no underlying crime. Glasses will be raised to him in Iran (for a while), France, Mexico, Russia, China, SCOTUS and George Galloway’s pad.

The London Times:

…the indictment of Mr Libby by Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor examining the unmasking of CIA operative Valerie Plame, bodes ill for Mr Bush.

There is the specter of his Vice-President, Dick Cheney, being forced to take the witness stand. It will claim untold hours of Administration time and energy; likewise the continuing investigation into Mr Rove, Mr Bush’s senior adviser. The inquiry’s demands on Mr Rove have already brought the White House close to paralysis. During Mr Bush’s first term, little moved without Mr Rove’s say-so. And with him tied up with lawyers, little appears to be moving at all.

This is not a good time for Mr Bush to be distracted. His ambitious second-term domestic agenda of pension and tax reform is on life support. A bellicose and would-be nuclear Iran needs careful handling. Middle East peace is far from a reality.

The French are delighted because this gives them more than they ever dreamed of from their Niger yellowcake setup – more in a later post. With the administration tied in knots, there will be no change to US immigration policies and no Social Security reform. The Iranians, Russians & Chinese will continue their arms buildups unchallenged by the US and the Dems will stop a conservative getting on to SCOTUS.

George Galloway is safe. If the US tries to extradite him, a Brit judge will have to decide if he’s going to face a civilized legal system. Galloway will point at Fitzgerald’s leaks and abusive procedures, plus the 50-year jail sentences Fitzgerald has threatened Libby with. The Brit judge will conclude that this the same as an extradition to, say, Russia and nix it.

Fitzgerald has changed the world – not bad for a Brooklyn-born son of Irish immigrants.


Another Victory For SCOTUS Expertize

October 29, 2005

SCOTUS cited “international precedent” when ruling that 18-year old Americans could not be executed for murder, but they missed Saudi Arabia (hat tip LGF):

A 14-year-old Egyptian boy faces execution in Saudi Arabia after a flawed trial in which he was convicted for the murder of another child, Human Rights Watch says.

Oh well, the justices don’t get to travel much.