Monday, May 22, 2006

May 15 - May 21, 2006

The Fat's in the Fire
Now There's Only
Hell to Pay

I'm just a guy who flunked out of college in his freshman year 40 years ago, and never looked back. I only mention this to point out that, when it comes to luminaries, I am hardly one of the brightest of lights. No one has, or ever will, ask me to become a distinguished fellow for a think tank. And we can all be thankful for that!

But it does leave me wondering how smart the folks are who we entrust with our economy, nation and world peace. I get emails every day from folks, who like me, are just, well, average. We wake up every morning wondering what the "geniuses" we send to Washington have done lately to screw something up that we'll all have to pay to fix. And most of time we are not disappointed. They have indeed screwed up something, and most of the time it's something we had warned them not to monkey with or just this would happen.

Call it cosmic consciousness, luck, or just good old fashioned common sense. But, be it the mess in Iraq, or the energy crisis, crashing stocks, the collapse of the US dollar on world market, the immigration mess or the rekindled fires of inflation -- many ordinary folk out here saw it coming.

On the other hand the folks we send to Wasghington tasked with the job of making sure that none of those kind of thins become a problem not only miss the point, but the kind things that actually creat such problems, then they proceed to do things to make them worse, not better. The public record on this irrefutable and unambiguous.

I'm not suggesting we send college flunk-outs to Washington, but it does leave one wondering if things could be any worse if we did.

Anyway, I have a point to make today so let's get to it.

Back in 2002 I wrote an opinion piece for the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle. In it I predicted precisely what was going to happen to our economy if George Bush and his supply-side Moonies were allowed their way. Below I reproduce that article as it ran nearly four years ago. Since then taxes have been slashed by a couple of trillion bucks for the wealthy. And big business hasn't seen a more lenient federal regulatory environment since Reagan left open the safe doors open at the nation's savings and loans two decades ago.

So read this golden oldie. Then ask yourself the following question:

“If a guy with nothing but a high school to recommend him saw this coming, why didn't our supremely educated former Fed chief, Alan Greenspan? Or his equally taught successor, Ben Bernanke? Or, for that matter, all those GOP members of Congress who stood behind the President this week grinning as if they'd just discovered the cure for cancer as Bush approved another $70 billion in tax cuts?”

Voodoo economics, 21st century style:
Son of a Gingrich, grandson of a Reagan

By Stephen P. Pizzo
San Francisco Chronicle
December 15, 2002

When Republicans regained control of both houses of Congress in November, they won more than bragging rights. They also realized their best opportunity yet to enact the twin sacraments of conservative economics: tax cuts and deregulation. With Democrats out of power and a new White House economic team now in place, GOP conservatives hope they can finally achieve their vision of a low-tax, lightly regulated economy.

Twice in the past two decades, supply-siders have tried to prove that a booming economy can be created by deep tax cuts -- resulting in more tax revenue -- buttressed by ending mettlesome federal oversight and bureaucratic regulations.

Unfortunately, the Republicans' attempts to do this have left taxpayers saddled with hundreds of billions of dollars of debt, fomented waves of corporate corruption and may end up costing pension funds and small investors trillions of dollars.

Nevertheless, no sooner had this fall's election results been announced than House and Senate Republicans were proposing additional tax cuts and lining up to whack away once again at the federal regulatory apparatus.

Maybe the third time will be the charm. We better hope so, because current government obligations already exceed projected tax revenues by over $20 trillion dollars. (Update: It's now pushing $55 trillion)

Cutting taxes and reducing regulation have been central tenets of Republican orthodoxy even before Ronald Reagan took them prime time.

Lowering taxes is supposed to result in more investment, growth and jobs. And deregulation frees companies from expensive rules leaving more money for shareholders, expansion and -- jobs. Ruled by Adam Smith's "invisible hand," businesses are persuaded to do the right thing because it's in their own enlightened self-interest.

Liberal Democrats dismiss all this as a sop to corporate contributors and a tax giveaway to the wealthy. Even President Bush's own father dissed supply- side theory as "voodoo economics." Bush Senior was right.

The first test of these theories came in the 1980s. In his eight years in office, Reagan slashed taxes by over $750 billion. He also began deregulating the financial services sector by signing thrift deregulation into law. The measure lifted historically tight oversight of the nation's savings and loan associations, cutting them loose to prosper by investing their federally insured deposits in whatever they thought could turn a buck. It was the most ambitious piece of deregulation of the financial sector since the Great Depression.

Reagan thought deregulating savings and loans would spur home construction and create jobs. It didn't. And his tax cuts failed to produce more high- paying jobs or higher tax revenues, which dropped off a cliff while defense spending soared.

Bipartisan pork kept domestic spending climbing as well. It was Vietnam-era "guns and butter" economics all over again. To cover the fall in tax revenues, Reagan whipped out the National Platinum Card. By 1987, the United States was the world's largest debtor nation. (Update: Since this was written US government debt has doubled to $8.3 trillion)

Warning: Political conditions today mirror the Reagan era. Reagan's popularity among voters convinced Democrats it was in their best short-term interest to support his proposed tax cuts.

Back in 1988, I sat through countless hours of congressional hearings in which members of Congress -- most of whom voted for thrift deregulation and/or interfered with later attempts by regulators to rein in the industry -- pounded the lectern demanding to know: "Where were the accountants? How could this have happened right under the noses of auditors from prestigious accounting firms like -- Arthur Andersen?"

The answer was clear: Outside accounting firms were thoroughly compromised. Instead of reporting trouble at the thrifts they audited, they helped cook their books, hide bad loans and inflate the value of assets. They even shredded documents to hide their culpability. Sound familiar? (Upate: More familiar than ever since I wrote this piece... Enron, Global Crossing, Worldcom, etc)

In 1989, thrifts were reregulated, to the public's benefit. But it was a different story for accountants. There were calls to regulate them, too, but the industry greased key House and Senate members with generous campaign contributions. Even after aiding and abetting the looting of hundreds of S&Ls, accountants were allowed to continue to self-regulate.

Congress' failure to place the accounting industry under SEC oversight in 1989 would cost taxpayers, workers, pension funds and small investors dearly over the next decade. (Update: Accountants once again were given a piece of the action for cooking the books for crooket companies, aided and abetted by an SEC that refused to enforce time-tested accounting standards and rules -- again.)

Record Reagan-era deficits and the savings-and-loan debacle did little to dampen conservative enthusiasm for lower taxes or deregulation.

In 1994, a new breed of fiscal conservatives swept into office. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Georgia Republican, ruled under the "Contract With America" -- a fresh call for lower taxes and "smaller government." The congressional class of '94 was to taxes and deregulation what the Taliban were to Islam -- uncompromising fundamentalists.

President Bill Clinton responded by slipping into his "triangulation" mode and declaring, to the delight of conservatives, that "the era of big government is dead over." (Update: Just as his wife is now triangulating for conservative votes by declaring that the era of abortion on demand may be nearing an end, as is the era of flag burning.)

Bill Clinton's State of the Union remark provided a green light for the deregulators.

Under Gingrich's leadership, House conservatives mounted repeated assaults on the federal regulatory apparatus. Because the SEC regulated public companies, it was second in line only to the Environmental Protection Agency for congressional ire. In 2001, Louisiana Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin used his chairmanship of the powerful House Commerce Committee to block then-SEC head Arthur Levitt's frantic effort to pass a rule requiring big accounting firms to separate their auditing from their increasingly lucrative consulting businesses.

Tauzin (who was among the largest recipients of accounting industry contributions) lambasted Levitt when he testified before the Commerce Committee and later threatened to cut the SEC's budget if Levitt did not drop the matter.
Levitt backed off -- and the time bomb ticked on.

The regulatory vacuum was filled by lawyers. Public interest and investor groups, unable to get the attention of federal agencies such as the EPA or SEC, turned to the courts. Judges and juries began ruling for plaintiffs, slamming companies with fines into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

House conservatives were furious. Unable to intimidate an independent judiciary, Congress simply changed the law. In 1995, they passed the "Private Securities Litigation Reform Act," making it much harder for private attorneys to get a class-action case accepted by the courts and reducing the level of liability faced by corporate insiders, their accountants and law firms.

It would be six years before the first corporate domino would fall, but Congress had put in place yet another cog in the wheels of the corporate crisis to come.

In 2001, when George W. Bush took office, his first push was for a $1.6 trillion tax cut over 10 years. Democrats fell in line after trimming the cuts to a still-hefty $1.3 trillion. And despite growing concern over the uncertain future of Social Security and Medicare, the Bush tax cuts became law.

It was 1984 all over again.

The jury is still out on the Bush tax cuts, but signs are not good. As with Reagan's tax cuts, less money is flowing into the federal treasury, new revenues have not materialized and defense spending has soared. In less than two years, the $5.6 trillion tax surplus forecast by the Congressional Budget Office in 2000 has vanished. The national Platinum Card is back in use.

On the deregulatory front, those 1994 Contract With America chickens came home to roost with a vengeance beginning in December 2001 with Enron's collapse. Enron was followed in short order by dozens of other marquee U.S. companies.

Once again, loosened federal oversight -- rather than sparking innovation, investment and growth -- enabled an orgy of self-dealing, insider abuse and other skullduggery.
Earlier this year, I once again found myself listening to congressional testimony.

There on C-Span was Rep. Tauzin, again holding hearings, this time on the Enron collapse. More than a decade ago, Arthur Levitt told him it would happen. Here was Tauzin, pounding the lectern as he interrogated representatives from Arthur Andersen. "Where were your auditors? How could this happen?"

The answer Congress got in 2002 was the same as in 1989. Even some of the "perps" were the same. (Arthur Andersen had worked for Charles Keating's Linoln Savings.)

One might think such a dismal batting average would sober up even the most rabid fiscal jihadist. On the contrary -- even though a recent New York Times/CBS News poll shows that two-thirds of the country thinks the money from the now-vanished federal surplus should have been used to help save Medicare and Social Security, not subsidize a trillion-dollar tax cut -- conservatives see their historic mid-term victory last month as a mandate to finish the job.

What about the expensive failures of the past? Conservatives say the only reason things went badly was that liberals gummed up the works, first by snookering George H.W. Bush into breaking his no-new-taxes pledge (he raised them in 1990), and then by aiding and abetting Clinton during his eight-year reign.

Diehard conservatives don't give up. This time, they say, they'll get it right.


Update: Well, of course there was no way they could "get it right," because supply-side theory, like creation science, is faith-based nonsense. It's based on the premise that those who say "I'll believe it works when I see it work," have backwards, that we will see it only when we blindly believe it.

The lesson we learned the last time this theory was put to a real-world test is that money NEVER trickles down. Them who's got it, keeps it. But, money does trickle up. If Bush if had done just the opposite thing, cut a trillion bucks in taxes from workers paychecks, they would have spent it, creating demand for products and services, which in turn would have created jobs, and so on. Duh!

Well, now we've had another dose of supply-side nonsense and, so far, so bad. We get to learn once again, it doesn't work. (Except for those who are already loaded, that is.)

The US dollar is in collapse on world markets. Gold is at 25-year highs. Energy prices are at record levels.

"Gold is the barometer of pulic confidence in fiat money....The dollar's collapse is nothing less than a body blow to capitalism. When we downplay the significance of energy prices we are not denying that a crisis is looming. It's just a lot more threatening than an increase in the cost of tank of gas." (Enconomists David Ranson & Penny Russell, Wall Street Journal May 18, 2006)

Consumer debt is at record levels. Government debt is at record levels. We don't have money left to cover our obligations to Medicare or Social Security. Mortgage loan late payments have jumped to alarming levels in recent weeks.

"Deliquencies are sharply study shows 29% of borrowers who took out mortgages last year have no equity in their homes...higher interest rates and a cooling housing market could push delinquency rates higher in comong months experts fear." (Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2006)

There's about to be hell to pay. And it was all so predictable... and avoidable.

May 17, 2006

Shades of Maxwell Smart

I've never doubted for a second that the government would spy on its own citizens – any government - not just ours. Information is, as the saying goes, power – always has been, always will be. So, as much as my civil libertarian side hates it, the realist in me shrugs each time a new piece of evidence surfaces that they are up to doing just that.

Or more precisely trying to do just that.

As I downed the final dregs of a cold Corona the other day I recalled all the stories I had written over the years about monumentally expensive failed government computer system upgrades. In fact, hard as I thought, I couldn't recall a single story lauding a government agency for a successful computer project. Not one. Ever.

Just last year we learned that the FBI had wasted $700 million trying to develop a modern networked computer system able to track criminals and terrorists and allow its offices around the nation to talk to one another – for the first time.

That one didn't work either. Still doesn't. In fact the FBI is now busy chucking that system and starting over.

That story produced a shrug from me too. I recalled a 1994 meeting I had with an FBI agent just appointed to head the FBI's San Francisco office's new computer crimes division. I was working for a nascent Internet company at the time and he asked if he could drop by and check out this new thing called the Internet. He explained that, thought the FBI did have a computer crimes division, none of the FBI's computers were online. “Yeah,” he said. “They don't allow it. It's a security issue.”

Remember... this was in San Francisco... the hottest hot bed of Internet R&D at the time.

Last week everyone was atwitter over news that the NSA has been scooping up all our phone records. Some say that since 9/11 they have squirreled away as many as one trillion phone transactions. Again, I shrugged.

Which brings me to the theme of this rant;

Will the real US Government please stand up.

* Are you the black-helicopter flying, eyes in the sky, ears to the ground, all-knowing Big Brother government?
* Or are you really the Maxwell Smart, bumbling, money-wasting, last to know anything, government?

Help me out here.

For starters I find it difficult to imagine that it can be both at once. Are we to believe that within the same government whose top national police agency, the FBI, can't install a computer system that works, another agency, the NSA, can? It's possible, but nothing in my direct experience with government agencies would cause me to believe it.

And sure enough, it's not so. There is plenty of evidence that the NSA's computer systems are just as big a mess as the FBI's – certainly a more expensive mess, and likely an even bigger one.

Last week reporters for the Baltimore Sun got a peek under the NSA's Cone of Silence. They reported that the man now up for the top CIA post, former NSA head, General Michael Hayden, managed to blow $2 billion during his tenure at the NSA on a failed agency-wide computer upgrade. .

WASHINGTON: May 9, 2006 -- Two technology programs at the heart of the National Security Agency's drive to combat 21st-century threats are stumbling badly, hampering the agency's ability to fight terrorism and other emerging threats, current and former government officials say....One is Cryptologic Mission Management, a computer software program with an estimated cost of $300 million that was designed to help the NSA track the implementation of new projects but is so flawed that the agency is trying to pull the plug. The other, code-named Groundbreaker, is a multibillion-dollar computer systems upgrade that frequently gets its wires crossed. (Full Story)

Is it just me, or doesn't the NSA phone spying story collide a wall of contradictions? I mean collecting a trillion pieces of data is the easy part. (Because the NSA didn't collect them in the first place. The phone companies did. The could because, unlike the NSA and FBI, have computer systems that work.) But once in possession of such a huge and ever growing mountain of data, then what? You need to slice it, dice it, find matches, produce tracking reports, integrate data into spreadsheets... and so on. And you need computers and software that work for any and all that.

So, what happens when NSA analysts feed data into Gen. Hadley's $2 billion cuisinart – which includes the NSA's $1.2 billion threat-sniffing initiative called “Trailblazer?"

Well, for starters, it might be the last time any sees that data. Here's what 10 analysts who recently left the NSA told the Sun about the NSA's expensive failure:

* When the agency's communications lines become overloaded, the system often delivers garbled intelligence reports,
* NSA analysts and managers say the new cumbersome and unreliable system has cut their productivity in half since it was installed,
* The new system requires analysts to perform many more steps to accomplish what the old system used to get done with a keystroke or two.
* They report getting locked out of their computers without warning,
* Agency linguists say the number of conversations they can translate in a day has dropped significantly with the new system.
* NSA employees get new computers every three years on a rotating schedule, so some analysts always have computers as much as three years older than their colleagues', often with incompatible software.
* E-mail attachments get lost in the system... simply disappear. Where do they go? The contractor's explanation: “The just drop out.”

General Hayden has now been tapped by President Bush to fix the CIA. It looks to me that he is getting away from the NSA in the nick of time since his $2 billion computer system has left the NSA stuffed like a Jonestown goose with data it can't digest. (Heck of job, Stevie!)

By now you must be wondering who got paid $2 billion for failing? One of the usual suspects, of course. No not Halliburton, but close. Going under the name, “The Eagle Alliance,” the contract was managed by Computer Sciences Corp. and San Diego-based Science Applications International (SAIC.)

“CSC spent $520,000 in 2001 to lobby Congress and various government agencies on its own behalf. That same year, the company also paid lobby firms a total of $580,000. In total, Computer Sciences Corp spent $1,100,000 in 2001 on lobbying fees associated with a variety of issues, including appropriation and procurement bills related to the Defense Department, Treasury Department, the Executive Office of the President and other federal agencies. The company also lobbied on "legislative proposals for privatization and commercialization of Federal services," according to lobby documents filed with Congress. In 2002, Computer Sciences Corp spent a total of $1,110,000 to lobby on similar issues....On April 18, 2003, Computer Sciences Corporation's DynCorp International won a contract from the U.S. Department of State to provide up to 1,000 civilian advisers to help organize civilian law enforcement, judicial and correctional agencies. The estimated value could be as high as $50 million for the first year, depending on assessments of Iraqi capabilities and needs." (More)

And the other familiar face:

(MCLEAN, VA) – Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) today announced a contract award from the National Security Agency (NSA) to be the provider of the technology demonstration platform (TDP) phase of the TRAILBLAZER program. The NSA selected the SAIC-led Digital Network Intelligence (DNI) Enterprise team that includes Northrop Grumman Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., The Boeing Company [NYSE:BA], Computer Sciences Corporation (NYSE:CSC) and SAIC wholly-owned subsidiary Telcordia Technologies to contribute to the modernization of the NSA's signals intelligence capabilities. (More)

(For more on these two companies see Divvying up The Iraqi Pie)

The Bush administrator's short list of favored defense contractors can be written down on a fortune cookie slip: Halliburton, Science Applications International Corp. Fluor, Computer Sciences.

"It's more of the same people," a former NSA official told the Sun. "The contracting system makes it very hard to engage industry, and it's very hard for people to break into government contracting. This is one of the areas I think needs tremendous review."

For an administration that talks about “accountability” they sure don't walk that talk. Instead they reward failure, at lease when it's among friends. Medals are handed out to those forced to get out of Dodge before their misdeeds catch up with them. And favored companies, that waste billions of taxpayer dollars on failed technology projects, are rehired to fix the mess they so profitably created in the first place.

(Oh, by the way, the FBI and NSA are not the only departments spending billions trying to reinvent the software/hardware wheel. Homeland Security is working on a little known computer systems they call ADVISE ( Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement.) So far little is known about this project, except that nearly $50 million has been spent just testing it. But with such a name only a bureacrat could love, how can fail -- right?

All of which explains why I shrugged when I read the NSA phone spying story last week. Don't get me wrong. I hate it when government kicks me in the privates. I hate it when Nanny-government Democrats try to protect me from everything, including myself. And I hate it when paternalistic Republicans want to protect me from _______ ____________ (fill in the boogeyman dejur.) by keeping an eye on us. I just doubt they can do it. Oh yeah... also I am sure they'd like those they see as our enemies to believe they can do it. But, personally, I doubt it. And I doubt that our enemies are losing much sleep over of it either.

Not that we should stop demanding that our elected officials follow the law. Or that we shouldn't impeach and/or indict those found to have broken the law. We should – even if, as I suspect, they are failing at their illegal task. After all, you don't have to be a competent crook to be convicted. If you try to rob a bank, but fail to get a dime, you still get to go to jail for bank robbery.

Oh, one more thing. If you want to report a suspected terrorist to the FBI or NSA, include your tip in the body of your email. Because if you send it as an attachment, it's likely to vanish in transit. Where do the attachments go? They don't know that – either.

May 11, 2006

One Final Squeezing
of the Grapes

Remember the rampant looting that followed the fall of Saddam? You may have thought that was a pretty brazen display of thievery.

Forget about it. Those Iraqis were pikers compared to the Republican-engineered looting about to begin right here at home.

Context being everything, let me set the stage.

The GOP can read the polls. They know the jig is up. Americans are onto them and fully intend to throw them out of power beginning with this November's mid-term elections.

Which is why the rush is on to top off their booty accounts and those of their well-heeled friends. It's every man, woman and contractor for themself now -- and never mind appearances. Just start stuffing the cash into the old duffel bags until they're dragged kicking and screaming away from the till.

Which brings me to the measure passed by the Republican Senate this week. When you're looking for loose cash these days where better to look than Iraq and Afghanistan. And this week they went straight for it. The Senate was considering a supplemental bill to fund reconstruction in the countries we de-constructed during Bush's first term in office. The sum the White House requested -- a lip-smacking $109 billion.

You might remember that soon after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began Halliburton and other administration-connected contractors, were caught stealing hundreds of millions. (“Stealing” --such an ugly word. They prefer “billing disputes,” and “cost overruns.”)

The flap over those early capers resulted in the appointment of Stuart Bowen as Special Inspector for Iraq Reconstruction. Bowen was given a $24 million annual budget and as staff of 55 junkyard dog auditors.

Apparently the White House failed to conduct it's usual background checks of Mr. Bowen. Because, if they had, he would never have been hired. Unlike the standard issue administration yes-men, Bowen turned out to be the real deal. He and his small auditors thought they were actually supposed to catch cheats. And, sure enough, they began catching contractors forcing them to put the cookies back in the jar.

Which explains this week's White House hat trick. The administration had GOP senators on the appropriation committee to make a tiny change in wording to the new $109 billion authorization. It was a tiny change and, I am sure, they hoped would go unnoticed.

Under prior authorizations Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction funds were described as “Relief and Reconstruction” funds. Under the measure passed this week by the Senate the newly authorized funds would fall under the description, “Foreign Operation” funds.

Here's the rub: Under law Relief and Reconstruction funds must be audited by Stuart Bowen's bean-counters. But Bowen has no authority over appropriations designated as Foreign Operations funds. Those funds are audited by the State Department Inspector General.

Now, remember... Bowen's annual budget is $24 million and he has 55 seasoned auditors.. (auditors, by the way, who have gotten to know the perps and their tricks very, very well.)

The State Department Inspector General has an budget more like the Mayberry Police Dept., $1.3 million and just 4 auditors.

“This is nothing more than a transparent attempt to shut down the only effective oversight of this massive reconstruction program which has been plagued by fraud and mismanagement.” (Sen. Pat Leahy, D-VT)

So, with Republican majority's days likely to end in six months, and the inevitable end of the US occupation in Iraq sure to follow soon thereafter, it was time for one, final all-out, all-you-steal, grab it and dash, romp through the Federal Treasury.

Oh, and don't bother complaining or denouncing the “Republican culture of corruption,” because they know you know. They've been caught red-handed so many times we react to new allegations the same way we react when when hear Michael Jackson or a priest molested another kid. So, what else is new?

These guys are so past being ashamed by their behavior. They know what they are. They know we know what they are. And they're okay with that -- I'm mean really okay. After six years at sucking at the federal tit, they're laughing all the way to the (offshore) bank. They may lose power for a while, but the money they stoled will assure they at least experience a (very) soft landing.

More Grapes
Of course not every GOP suppoter can be a defense contractor. Some are in other businesses, like oil and finance. But they too have been taken care of thanks to the Bush tax cuts on income, dividends and capital gains.

But like war profiteering, fat tax cuts were threatened. They were set to next year, just as Democrats might win back the majority. Holy emergency Bat-Bush!

Something had to be done, and done fast. So the GOP majority passed bills this week extending those tax cuts, despite the exploding national debt created by the first round of cuts.

And, just as it was with the first round of Bush tax cuts, the extension benefits the wealthy far, far, far more than it benefits ordinary working families. Someone making a million bucks a year will get a $42,000 tax break. Someone making $25,000 a year will get a $10 tax brek. If you make under $50,000 a year you'll get around $50.

Caution: Your Tax Dollars at Work
So I guess the moral here is that, between now and November, do not get in between a GOP member of congress or one of their big business supporters and any loose federal money. The final harvest in full swing now, and you will get trampled.

What we will witness over the next few months will be one final, unembarassed, undisguised, squeezing of the American taxpayer.

"Final" might be too optimistic. Because they've done it before, been thrown out, and returned to do it to us again. So, let me qualify that. One final squeezing, until the next time the GOP and it's supporters can snooker enough Americans to believe in their phony “supply-side” Ponzi scheme.

Quote of the Day
"Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose - and you allow him to make war at pleasure."
Abraham Lincoln