Setting the Record Straight

November 11, 2008

Another Imperial Presidency?


The Dangerous Path of Executive Orders

      A disturbing juxtaposition of news items began the week as the United States began its transition of governments. The new government will behave as the old in at least one
     And lay this one on the Democrats who took control of Congress and announced immediately (through the new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) that there would be no attempt to impeach President Bush.
     The head of Barack Obama’s transition team, John Podesta, said, “There’s a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we’ll see the president do that. I think that he feels he has a real mandate for change. We need to get off the course that the Bush administration has set.”
     But Podesta, and the Obama camp, apparently does not realize that course the Bush administration set was enabled to a great extent by broadening the use of executive orders way beyond its legal authority and is the basis of many of the impeachable offenses the Democrats declined to address.
     To wit, from the New York Times: The U.S. military was given authority through an executive order signed by Bush in 2004 to attack Al Queda anywhere in the world, even in countries not at war with the United States, a gross violation of international rights.
sr-bushsignjpeg     Before that, we learned executive orders were signed with impunity to violate constitutional rights, the Geneva Convention and all sorts of domestic and international laws as the Bush administration behaved as if it was above and beyond any and all laws.
     That behavior established a dangerous behavior that eventually could lead to an authoritarian state if the checks and balances embodied in the U.S. Constitution are not used to hold that behavior in check.
     The best way to do that would have been to begin impeachment proceedings against Bush, even if there was no real sentiment to take them to the ultimate and oust him from office. The great value of the proceedings would have been to let future presidents, including Obama, know they do not have this power, regardless of how powerful and regal they may feel in the Oval Office.
      That needed to be done because once a president, or anyone else for that matter, is given authority, regardless of how ill-gotten it is, is not likely to want to give it up, as we have warned on this site before.
      Our worst fears have been realized, in the person of John Podesta, who presumably is relaying the sentiment of the Obama presidency to
      Congress needs to step in say, “Hey, wait just a darn minute here. We are in the same party, but we didn’t support Obama to be elected as king, merely as a president. Back off or we’ll start tying your hands.”
      Beyond that, somebody needs to take the Bush executive orders to the Supreme Court, and get the judicial branch to do its part in bring- ing the executive branch back within the constraints of the Constitution. This might be a good activity for the Republicans while people biased for their party are still running the court.
      Obama assumption of Bush violations is not change we need. Legislative and judicial branches with the guts to rein back in the executive branch is the change we need.



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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