Setting the Record Straight

November 16, 2008

Candidate for AG?

Specterlation About DOJsr-specterjpeg1

     This site did not intend to join all of the speculation about whom Barack Obama would or should choose to serve in his Cabinet, but we find one somewhat intriguing. It needs a lot of thought because it is fraught with danger, but it would be a twofer, perhaps a threefer.
     Largely overlooked in the heat of the presidential campaign was the extremely important need to retrieve the U.S. Constitution from the Bush administration’s shredder and begin pasting it back together.
     There are some who justifiably claim this is a matter so urgent and important, it should be at the top of Obama’s agenda instead of the economy or Iraq.

sr-spectergonzalesnprjpeg1     To bring the United States back under the aegis of the Constitution, Obama needs a dedicated attorney general already on record as one of the harshest critics of the Bush administration and its disastrous toady in the job, Alberto Gonzales, when it comes to constitutional matters.
     The selection we are talking about is Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. He has been livid and unstinting in his criticism of the administration’s use of the Justice Department to run roughshod on the rights not only of detainees alleged to be terrorists, but also on its own citizens in the name of fighting terrorism.

     As a Republican, his appointment also would serve to provide someone who could act somewhat as an ombudsman to the White House to make sure it did not try to keep all the extralegal powers Bush grabbed for himself, a grab likely to be exposed when the details of all of his secret executive orders are learned. That would be Specter’s second value as the next AG.
     His third contribution would be to give up a Republican seat in the Senate and let a Democratic governor, Ed Rendell, appoint the next senator from Pennsylvania, possibly putting the Democratic majority in the Senate over the magic 60-vote line without needing turncoat Joe Lieberman to remain in the party.
     That is the positive side of this nomination. The negative is that Specter is as unpredictable as earthquakes and can sometimes go off on some gawdawful quests, none more so than his vicious behavior in the Judiciary Committee’s hearings on the Clarence Thomas nomination to the Supreme Court, who himself was a pitiful selection for the job. We don’t mean to be equally vicious here, but as a saving grace, that did occur before Specter’s brain cancer was discovered and treated.




October 28, 2008

Stevens to ACLU: Help?

Ted Stevens and His Ironic Conundrum

     For some of us, there are few things more pleasurable than watching irony play out. The example here is that Sen. Ted Stevens may not be able to vote for himself in his reelection bid Nov. 4 in Alaska, said to be a tight one even before his conviction on seven felony counts.
     As a Republican, his savior may be an organization his fellow conservatives have always referred in vitriolic tones and as evil incarnate—the American Civil Liberties Union.
     It seems that Alaska is one of 20 states that bar felons from voting until they have completed their sentences. That might present Stevens with a technicality he can squeeze through and vote. He has only just been convicted and will not be sentenced until after the new year, much less have a chance to complete his sentence.
     Why would the ACLU be interested? The 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870 in the wake of freeing slaves and intended to block state efforts to keep them from being able to vote, states:
Section 1.
   The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Section 2.
   The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
     The 13th Amendment, ratified at the end of the Civil War, had already defined “servitude” as it applies to convicts by stating: neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The key words are: “servitude, except as a punishment for crime.” It also gives Congress the power to enforce the amendment.
     But Congress rarely has tried and the fact remains only two states, Maine and Vermont, allow felons to vote without some conditions. Two, Kentucky and Virginia, flat-out deny felons the right to vote, eight allow some convicted of felony to vote and the rest allow only prisoners, probationers or parolees to vote.


     Some estimates put the number of people denied the right to vote because of felony convictions at 5 million, and half of them are blacks. That is more than enough to affect a presidential election, let alone a state outcome.

     The U.S. Supreme Court has ducked the issue. The last court to kick the issue away, in 2004 and 2005, was the same court that appointed George W. Bush as president.
     The court seems to uphold disenfranchisement of felons based on a provision of the 14th Amendment, which seems to condone the denial of a vote to people guilty of “participation in rebellion or other crime.” The trouble with that view is that the 15th Amendment ratified two years later would trump the 14th, stating clearly felons cannot be denied the vote. (There also is the argument that “other crime” has to mean something at the level of rebellion, or why even mention rebellion. A similar argument was involved in the Nixon impeachment proceedings when a committee wrestled with whether “high crimes and misdemeanors” meant misdemeanors also had to be “high [or major] misdemeanors.”)
     The last time Congress made an attempt to use its 15th Amendment powers was in 2002, when the Senate killed a Democrat-led bill to enforce it, 31-63, with all Republicans voting against it. Joe Biden joined John McCain in voting against it. Stevens was among six senators, all Republicans, who did not cast a vote.


June 23, 2008

The Time Has Come


 Guns and Flying Pigs                

The time has come, the walrus said,
To talk of many things:                   
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax,
Of cabbages and kings                   
And why the sea is boiling hot,       
And whether pigs have wings.

 Columbine, Virginia Tech, Helsinki, Omaha, Kirkwood, Louisiana Tech, Portsmouth, Los Angeles, Lane Bryant, DeKalb — Next?

          The incidents go on and on and what is the National Rifle Asso-ciation’s response? “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” That is a non-sequitur response, as it was intended to be–deflect the question you do not want to answer and turn it to something else. Who ever said guns kill people by themselves?

          The matter that needs to be addressed is the easy access to guns by people who will do stupid things with them, causing far more destruction and death than with any weapon that does not rely on an explosive force.

          These are weapons of destruction, just as deadly as smoking tobacco, and much more efficient and quick about it. It is far more irresponsible to allow firearms to be widely and easily available than to allow cigarettes to be available, yet even the laws that exist to govern guns are far less strict than those applied to tobacco.
          The only tobacco restrictions are decades of “just don’t advertise them on TV” to today’s restrictions on where you smoke, not at all on whether you can smoke at all. Despite all the evidence that smoking tobacco is a lethal cancer-causing addictive, tobacco companies still push them, and change their corporate names so you can no longer identify the perpetrators. The NRA never offers comments about any of these massacres because it pretends that guns are not associated with them, that the events have nothing to do with guns.

          Well, we need to talk about this subject, instead of talking about whether pigs have wings and pretending the world is the reverse of what it is and citing only part of the Second Amendment and pretending it says other than what it says.
          If we do not, there will continue to be Columbines and Virginia Techs and Helsinkis and Omahas and on and on. The why is not the issue for the common weal, it is the how that counts. There will continue to be the pretense that possession of guns is worthwhile because some people can use them to protect their property–the NRA never misses a chance to note those times that such use is successful in one out of the thousand times they are kept for that purpose. It blithely ignores the other 999 cases in which the possession of a gun leads to tragedy befalling the possessor.

          Here are some possible actions that can be taken at the federal level, the only level where any restrictions can be an effective check, beginning with the smallest and building to the ultimate.
          Go ahead and institute those mental-condition checks. One might also include everyone seeking “fame” in today’s society of sycophants.
          Otherwise, do something useful, beginning with what the NRA will label the camel’s nose under the tent, and let us hope it is at least that, and if they don’t work, let’s put the whole camel in the tent:

Ban sales of firearms to anyone under 21, just as selling cigarettes is restricted.
Hold a firearm possessor liable for any damages caused by an under-age person using that firearm.
Ban personal concealment of firearm while not in one’s home.
Require all firearms in personal possession to be kept locked up.
Ban all but supervised and licensed possession of handguns.
Expand the ban to all firearms. 
Ban all handguns.
Ban the private possession of all firearms.
Restrict the possession of firearms by law enforcers.
Restrict even the use of firearms by law enforcers.
Ban all firearms not kept by state militias (National Guard), just to be in compliance with the Second Amendment.   


The sun was shining on the sea,  

Shining with all its might.               

He did his very best to make         

The billows smooth and bright.     

And this was odd, because it was

 The middle of the night.                   
So said Tweedledum to Tweedledee 
Alice Through the Looking Glass 



June 14, 2008

McCain’s Un-American Activities

McCain a Change? Not So Far

     Presidential candidates often paint themselves in shades of gray so they can attract the lowest common denominator eligible to vote. Often, this means obfuscating their positions on controversial subjects.

     Barack Obama, by being a freshman senator who has cam-paigned for president for most of his time in the U.S. Senate, has laid down little national record on which he can be judged.

     John McCain has done and said a lot, and much of it already is being closely examined. Obama has the luxury of pointing fingers at the opposition for taking positions he never had to take. John McCain does not. That situation is somewhat unbalanced, but those are the kinds of conflicts candidates have to face.

     One of these issues already has come home to haunt McCain. He paints a different picture, but the Supreme Court, the majority members of which were appointed by his own Republican Party, has rejected one of his major positions.

     McCain’s campaign site strangely uses only generalities about his efforts to combat terrorism. This immodesty is uncharacter-istic of a presidential candidate, and an examination of the issue and the Supreme Court’s take on it suggests why that is.

     Three years after the loony U.S. inva-sion of Iraq, McCain helped author the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which established procedures for denying “terrorist” detainees access to federal courts, i.e, the habeas corpus guarantee of the U.S. Constitution, the only right included in the body of the document (the rest were added as the Bill of Rights amendments). McCain and his Senate colleagues demonstrated no interest in another American standard, that a person is pre-sumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law.

     The usual argument in this case was the United States cannot afford to turn loose a terrorist and give him a chance to act again, so it had to take drastic actions. Under our legal system, judges quite often have been able to either deny bail or set bail so high it cannot be met by those charged with abominable crimes, so that is no argument.

     Despite the fact the deciding vote among 5-4 justices who struck down that law was cast by a justice appointed by Repub-licans, McCain denounced the decision as one of the worst in history.

     As McCain justifies the law, those being detained in Quantan-amo are “enemy combatants,” even before they have been adjud-icated by the U.S. court system to be so.

     One of the worst sins of the Bush administration has been the way it has chosen to combat terrorism, by abrogating the privacy rights of ordinary citizens and denying the guarantees of our U.S. Constitution, the finest example of democracy in the world, to citizens and aliens alike.

     If McCain wishes to paint himself as a presidential candidate who would not be a carbon copy of the one still in office, his failure to express a mea culpa for his role in Boumediene v Bush smeared that tint.

     And there is lots more fallout to come in correcting the Bush mess. How McCain responds to those corrections will be telling enough about how he would serve as president.


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