Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why Invoke Executive Privilege?

President Obama's decision to invoke executive privilege (EP) to prevent documents related to the Fast and Furious operation from being handed over to the House Oversight Committee is very puzzling. It's hard to see how the decision could withstand legal scrutiny and thus hard to understand why the President would have done it in the first place, unless he's desperately trying to hide something.

There are at least two reasons to think Mr. Obama's assertion of EP will not hold up in court. First is that EP applies only to the president and his staff in their role as advisors to the president. It does not apply to cabinet officials or to anyone outside the president's staff.

Second, it does not apply in cases where the purpose of soliciting the documents is to determine whether there has been government misconduct, which is the very reason the House Oversight Committee has subpoenaed them.

The fact that Mr. Obama chose to take this route suggests an atmosphere of panic in the Oval Office, but why? It's hard not to think that either the White House knew about Fast and Furious early on, even though they've denied it, or worse, that White House personnel, possibly the President himself, were actually involved in the decision to go ahead with the operation. If this were the case it would be extremely problematic for Mr. Obama to have signed off on an operation that subverted the law, subverted a foreign government (Mexico's), and resulted in two hundred dead Mexican civilians and the deaths of two American agents, all for an operation the rationale for which is incoherent, as we'll discuss tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Ed Morrissey has some helpful details to add at Hot Air on the use of executive privilege. This is not going to go away, and I suspect that within a couple of days even the mainstream media will start reporting on it.

Is Time Slowing Down?

The assumption among scientists has been that, except for situations in which special or general relativity applies, time always flows at a constant rate. A hundred years today is the same as a hundred years a billion years ago. Now, apparently, there are some dissenters from this view who think that time is actually slowing down:
People often say that time speeds up as we age, but if the latest scientific theory is true the opposite could well be the case. The radical theory by academics suggests that time itself could be slowing down - and may eventually grind to a halt altogether.

The latest mind-bending findings - put forward by researchers working at two Spanish universities - proposes that we have all been fooled into thinking the universe is expanding. In fact, they say, time itself is slowing down until eventually, in billions of years time, it will cease altogether.
If this is true then was time passing much more quickly in the distant past such that an event which, say, takes an hour to complete today might have taken only a minute to complete a billion years ago? If so, if a billion years in today's time is much longer than a billion years at the time of the universe's inception what does that do to claims that the universe is thirteen billion years old?

What is time anyway? Is time something "out there," objective, such that were there no minds to experience it it would still exist? Or is time, as Kant thought, a way our mind processes experience so that were there no minds there'd be no time?

If it's the latter, if time is a subjective phenomenon, then until human beings (or at least minds of some sort) appeared in the universe there would have been no time. There would have been only events occurring willy-nilly compressed in a timeless matrix perhaps like data compressed in a zip-file.

If that's so then to ask how much time elapsed from the Big Bang to the appearance of minds is a nonsense question. There was no time. It's as if all the events recorded on a movie film are run through the projector at near infinite speed. All the events happen and they all happen in the same relation to each other but they do so instantaneously.

To ask the question, then, about the age of the universe is to ask simply how long it would have taken to go from the Big Bang to the appearance of minds if someone was somehow observing the process.

It's all very strange.

Yet Another Evolution

The dictionary defines "chutzpah" as unmitigated effrontery or impudence. It defines "hypocrite" as a person who falsely professes beliefs and values he doesn't really possess. I leave it to the reader to decide which of the two, if either, applies to our president.

Yesterday, Mr. Obama granted his Attorney General "executive privilege" so that he would not have to submit subpoenaed documents to the House Oversight Committee trying to get to the bottom of the ignominious Fast and Furious debacle.

Whether the courts will allow this use of executive privilege to stand is uncertain. It's unclear what grounds Mr. Obama has for asserting executive privilege when national security is not at issue and the matter does not involve the White House (of course, we only have Mr. Obama's and AG Holder's word for it that F&F doesn't involve the White House. The fact that EP is being employed leads one to suspect that perhaps they're trying to hide something damaging).

In any case, executive privilege is something to which Senator Obama took a dim view when it was invoked by a Republican president.
This makes about the five thousandth flip-flop Mr. Obama has executed since becoming president. Like a freshly landed trout he twists and gyrates whenever he thinks it'll confer a political advantage to abandon any belief he professed in the past. He certainly gives the appearance of lacking any underlying core principle that guides those beliefs. Perhaps his apologists will construe this invocation of EP as merely another evolution in the President's thinking, like his reversal on gay marriage, Gitmo, the Bush tax cuts, and numerous other positions, but taken together with so many other such reversals, it begins to give one the impression of a hollow man devoid of any real character or virtue.

Now comes on top of all these a biography of Mr. Obama by David Maraniss in which he reveals that the President's autobiography Dreams of My Father is riddled with dozens of false claims about his family and himself. The man is simply not who he has claimed to be. It's very sad for the country.