Bill HillThe hot rumor floating around the courthouse is that Dallas County Republicans are encouraging District Attorney Bill Hill to step down early so that Governor Rick Perry can appoint his Republican successor. The Governor’s appointee then would have the advantage of running as an incumbent going into the 2006 general election. Hill already has announced that he won’t run for re-election next year. Since Dallas County has become closely divided between Democrats and Republicans, Republicans are worried that they might lose the DA’s office in the next election cycle, just like they lost the Sheriff’s race in 2004. The two names most prominently mentioned to be appointed by the Governor are Criminal District Judge Henry Wade, Jr. and Dan Hagood.
Meanwhile, Dallas County Democrats are waiting in the wings to see what the Republicans do, convinced that 2006 offers them the best opportunity to capture the DA’s office since the days of Henry Wade, Sr., the last Democrat to serve as District Attorney of Dallas County.
Former Dallas Fire Chief Steve AbrairaJack Ayres, Jr., attorney for removed Dallas Fire Chief Steve Abraira, shares his exchange of views with the Editorial Editor of the Dallas Morning News about the News’ endorsement of Abraira’s removal. Jack Ayres, Jr. is a Dallas trial lawyer who has won notable lawsuits over the years. He is the attorney for the former Dallas Fire Chief Steve Abraira who recently was removed from his position by the Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm.
After the Chief’s removal, the News wrote an editorial strongly endorsing Ms. Suhm’s decision to get rid of Steve Abraira. It struck me at the time that the editorial in question was unduly critical of the Chief and contradictory of the positive article written about Chief Abraira by James Ragland in the News only a few days earlier.
What follows is an exchange of letters between Mr. Ayres and Dallas Morning News Editorial Page Editor Ms. Keven Ann Willey. They are provided with the permission of Mr. Ayres Jr.:
Speaking to the Dallas Chapter of Legatus last night at the Park Cities Club, former Reagan advisor Dr. John Lenczowski, stressed "the importance of a strong religious faith in combating the threat of militant Islam". Lenczowski was a key member of President Reagan’s national security staff and worked closely with NSC Director William Clark in developing the Cold War strategy in the Reagan Administration which helped to topple the Soviet Empire. Dr. Lenczowski now is the President of the Washington-based Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft and national security affairs.
In his remarks to the Dallas organization, the former Reagan advisor pointed out that totalitarian ideologies in the 20th century had sought to weaken the influence of religious faith, particularly in Europe. To a significant degree, those efforts to undermine the faith of Europeans proved successful to such a degree that Western Europe should be thought of today as a "post –Christian" society. Dr. Lenczowski cited the fact that only about 4% of the people living in Western Europe go to Church on Sunday; and he suggested that the western elites, both in Europe and the U.S., have become increasingly secularized. While Islam is not strong militarily as it once was, its adherents have more fervor for their Islamic faith than do Europeans who, to a significant degree, are "spiritually impoverished".
In support of his position, Dr. Lenczowski compared the birth rate for children born to Muslims and "Christians" in Europe. While Muslims living in Europe typically had large families, "Christian" Europeans are not even reproducing at a survival level. Europeans are committing what Dr. Lenczowski called "demographic suicide". He even cited instances of former Christians converting to Islam in Western Europe.
Dr. Lenczowski cited the importance of sound "religious education" for young people in order to rebuild the Christian faith in Europe and reverse the decline in belief in the United States. He stressed that a strong Christian presence in Europe and the U.S. is necessary to combat an increasingly militant brand of Islam.
Legatus is a national organization of Catholic business leaders.
Dick CheneySpecial Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald called a press conference on October 28 to announce a five-count indictment against I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff and principal national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney. Fitzgerald indicted Libby on one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury, and two counts of false statements. The charges were made against Libby for his alleged cover-up of his role in blowing the cover of "Valerie Wilson," a covert CIA operative. The other main target of Fitzgerald’s investigation, Bush political advisor Karl Rove, dodged the bullet of an indictment after he made a fourth (and final) trip to the grand jury and after Rove’s attorney engaged in lengthy, last-minute discussions with Fitzgerald’s office, according to sources close to the investigation. While Rove was not indicted, the special counsel made clear that his investigation was "not over" and that Rove was still a target. Shortly after his initial statement, Fitzgerald also announced that he intended to call Vice President Cheney at Libby’s trial, signaling that the Vice President himself might be a target of Fitzgerald’s investigation.
What happens next? It is difficult to speculate how far the investigation will go and who else may be indicted as Fitzgerald looks into the improper use of national-security information by administration officials. One immediate fallout of the indictment is that the alliance of mutual convenience between Karl Rove, the President’s chief political advisor, and Vice President Dick Cheney, the "king" of foreign policy in the Bush Administration, may well be over. One commentator asked, after Rove managed a last-minute escape from "political execution," "Did Rove rat on Scooter?" The speculation is that "Rove fingered Libby to save his own skin," as Joshua Frank put it.
Cheney was a latecomer to the Bush presidential team. Karl Rove, on the other hand, had dreamed of a Bush presidency even before George W. Bush’s first race for governor of Texas in 1994. More than any other individual, Karl Rove is responsible for George W. Bush’s election as governor of Texas and president of the United States. People tend to forget that Cheney was selected by the Bush team to identify and recommend a running mate in 2000 and that he, in effect, recommended himself.
During the selection process, there was a lot of speculation by Texas political insiders that Karl Rove was not pleased with the naming of Cheney as Bush’s running mate. Those same sources believed that Rove would have preferred someone like John Danforth, a former senator from Missouri who was a Bush family friend from way back. Instead, Cheney’s selection meant that a bureaucratic insider, who had been President Ford’s chief of staff and President George H.W. Bush’s secretary of defense, would now be vice president of the United States.
While Danforth likely would have assumed the secondary role that most vice presidents fill, the selection of Dick Cheney immediately changed the dynamics of the office. From day one, Vice President Cheney became the most powerful figure to hold that position in my lifetime—particularly in the critical arena of foreign policy.
For all practical purposes, Cheney and Rove divided power in an administration in which the President would be minimally engaged in setting the policy agenda. Vice President Cheney had the preeminent role in the foreign-policy decisionmaking process. The Vice President became the de facto president of foreign policy, with Lewis Libby as his right-hand man. The Vice President also exercised authority over certain domestic issues, such as energy policy. Meanwhile, Karl Rove ran the White House political operation and had a significant say over the President’s domestic agenda.
A lot of people do not realize that, while Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney wield enormous power in their own spheres of influence within the Bush administration, they are not long-time political allies. Nor do they necessarily share the same worldview.
That division of authority within the Bush White House worked until the war in Iraq began to go badly and the investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame heated up. Both Cheney and Rove had supported the war, albeit for very different reasons. But the Plame investigation was principally about the improper use of classified national-security information by administration officials. Those same officials may have had a motive to manipulate intelligence in order to justify the war in Iraq, a position they had promoted long before September 11, 2001. All of this was going on within Cheney’s sphere of influence, not Rove’s.
So, it would not be surprising if Rove is cooperating with Patrick Fitzgerald’s office in an investigation that may ultimately bring down the Vice President.
Cheney’s advice has not served the President well. A majority of Americans have turned against the war in Iraq. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Marine Corps officer and chief of staff to former secretary of state Colin Powell, recently charged that the "Cheney cabal hijacked foreign policy" in the Bush administration and has made a mess of things in the Middle East.
Gen. Brent Scowcroft, national-security advisor to George H.W. Bush, made a scathing attack on Cheney in a recent New Yorker article over what Scowcroft calls the administration’s "radical intervention" in the Middle East, orchestrated by the Vice President. Neoconservative architects of the war such as Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith have already jumped ship. Now, Libby is gone. Will the Vice President be next?
Karl Rove has an excellent political antenna. He has to know that the neocon-directed foreign policy in the Middle East has turned into a political liability for his boss. Will Karl seek to persuade the President that Dick Cheney’s supremacy over the foreign-policy decisionmaking process should end?
The place to watch for a possible shift in direction for the Bush administration is at the National Security Council staff level. If Stephen Hadley were to leave (and an individual more independent of Cheney were to take his place as national-security advisor), this might indicate a shift in power away from Cheney. Meanwhile, the Vice President has to worry that the special counsel has him in his sights and that Karl Rove may not be helpful to him at this particular moment.
Death by a thousand cuts. At least that is what it felt like for those poor souls who were invested in precious metals during the 1980s and 1990s. By the time the bear market in gold and silver had ended in 2000-01, the asset class had become abandoned by mainstream investors. Gold and silver bulls were seen as a collection of lunatics, survivalists, old cranks, and members of the fringe of society. The World Wide Web had grown large enough to become an outlet for these cult-like gold/silver bugs that were now able to swap stories of conspiracy theories, Y2K advice, and other odd bits and pieces of information.
Fast forward a few years later where bullion and mining stocks have both appreciated handsomely, yet the gold/silver (or anti-Dollar) community is still treated like a social pariah. Sure, on occasion we may see John Hathaway, Bill Fleckenstein or Peter Schiff on CNBC, but they are often lumped into the ‘gloom and doom’ category in the context of a bull-bear debate. And of course each time gold hits a new high, the mainstream press will trot out one of these guys to give their two cents about the current state of the markets. But as the gold price eases and/or the NASDAQ recovers, these ‘gloom and doomers’ retreat back to their lairs and its back to the same bullish drivel from permabulls such as Larry Kudlow or John Rutledge.
To date, gold and silver have slowly but methodically grinded there way up from the depths of 2001. There have been painful setbacks, but the trend has continued even in 2005 as the Dollar has appreciated against virtually every major currency to the tune of 10% or more. No matter how well you think gold will do in the coming years, we think silver will do much better. The supply/demand picture is simply much tighter in the tiny silver market. Best estimates are that identifiable silver bullion inventories in total are valued at only about $4 billion dollars. The U.S. gold ETFs alone have attracted nearly that much capital in just about a year’s time. If the silver ETF is approved in the next six or so months as planned, it will likely have a profound impact on the demand side of the silver equation.
Yes, we know, you’ve heard it all before from silver bulls that silver could spike at any time etc. etc. Such talk and relatively little follow-through price-wise is frustrating for those of us who have held physical silver for years, even considering that the grey metal has almost doubled over the last four years. But suppose the new silver ETF, which is currently being reviewed by the SEC, has the power to create an immediate tightness in the metal once it is introduced. Moreover suppose that this scenario is not cooked up by the silver-bug community, but rather, by a group of manufacturers and customers who have dealt with silver for decades. According to Reuters, the Silver Users Association (SUA) "sees the removal of large quantities of physical silver having a negative impact on industry-specific employment as well as the overall economy, both through job losses and inflation. The organization has stated it supports the buying and selling of silver as an investment in general, but it does not endorse a silver ETF because of the potential liquidity problems it would create."
So there you have it. Not from crazy gold bugs trying to smother you with precious metals propaganda, but from a group of mainstream businesses. According to Reuters, "The SUA was established in 1947 to represent the interests of companies that make, sell and distribute products and services related to silver. Members include fabricators, manufacturers and other consumers as well as financial institutions and precious metals firms." If this SUA development is not a confirmation of just how tight the silver market is, then we don’t know what else could be.
Judge AlitoSenator Charles Schumer, a leader of the liberal Democrats in the U.S. Senate, made it very clear Wednesday that he intends to oppose Judge Samuel Alito’s nomination in the U.S. Supreme Court. Senate hearings are expected to begin on the Alito nomination on January 9, and the liberal opponents of the President’s nominees are focusing on Alito’s statement of opposition to abortion when he applied for a Justice Department job in the Reagan Administration in 1985. At that time Alito expressed his "disagreement" with many of the Supreme Court rulings handed down under the liberal Chief Justice Earl Warren. In the job application that he submitted prior to the time he was elevated to the federal bench, Judge Alito expressed his belief "that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion".
Since his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Alito – like Chief Justice John Roberts before him – has expressed to the senators that he has "great respect" as a Judge for the precedent power of previous Court decisions, including the Roe v. Wade case, which was the landmark 1973 abortion ruling.
At the moment, Judge Alito appears to have sufficient support in the U.S. Senate to overcome any Democratic-led filibuster, but abortion rights advocates are mounting a major campaign against Alito. In recent decades, support for abortion rights has become a litmus test for potential Democratic candidates for the Presidency. The last Democratic nominee who ran as a "pro-life" candidate was Jimmy Carter who won the Presidency in 1976 only to lose to Ronald Reagan in 1980. Carter warned recently that the Democratic Party has become too closely identified with a pro-abortion viewpoint and should be more open to pro-life candidates running as Democrats. By highlighting Judge Alito’s opposition to abortion as a reason to vote against him, Sen. Schumer clearly isn’t paying much attention to former President Carter’s views that the Democrats are hurting themselves by being so identified with the abortion rights position.
There is a certain irony in how the Bush Administration is promoting the Alito nomination as compared to how it handled the brief campaign on behalf of Harriet Miers. With Miers, the Administration went out of its way to emphasize her strong ties to an evangelical church and had friends of hers who were judges vouch to social conservative supporters of the President they were confident she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. In the case of the Alito nomination, the Administration has done just the opposite, emphasizing Judge Alito’s respect for precedent.
Reading between the lines, the reality is that (more likely than not) Judge Alito is more supportive of the view that the abortion issue is a political issue which generally should be resolved by elected, legislative branch of government rather than by federal judges. That is not to say, however, that Judge Alito – or John Roberts for that matter – would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Even if both Roberts and Alito were so inclined to revisit the Roe decision, that would still leave only 4 votes on the 9 member Supreme Court willing to reverse Roe v. Wade. Assuming that Judge Alito is confirmed, what people can expect going forward is that the Supreme Court will show more deference for legislative and Congressional acts designed to place limits on abortion rights.
The silly season normally ends ‘round about Labor Day. But someone failed to inform the residents of Clark, Texas. The Dallas Morning News reported on Wednesday that the town, located in southwest Denton County, has renamed itself DISH. That’s DISH as in Dish Network Satellite TV. The story was broken by Darrell Ankarlo of KLIF-AM, and has received national attention. The 55 residences of DISH, Texas (Ouch! That sounds awful.) are being handsomely compensated for participating in the promotional stunt. They will receive 10 years of free satellite TV, courtesy of Dish Network.
Perhaps I’m being a bit hard on the good residents of Clark—er, DISH. Come to think of it, there are intriguing possibilities here. Perhaps I could offer to rechristen my superannuated Ford Taurus. I’ll offer some fine German auto company the right to place their nameplate over the Ford oval in exchange for…a fine German auto. And then there’s my given name. Sorry, Mom, but a 5 year supply of pizza is too attractive an offer to pass up.
The National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index was released today and carried a relatively pessimistic tone. The report held that sharply lower consumer confidence and rising mortgage rates would definitely lead to decreased housing starts over the next few months. The index declined 8 points to 60. But that was seen as a level well above the midpoint and indicated a solid majority of homebuilders believe conditions will remain generally positive in their respective markets. The Homebuilder’s Chief Economist, David Selders, estimated that new home starts would decline around 5 -6% during 2006. Selders attributed part of the decline in home buying interest to the recent hurricanes.