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The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox

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Capitalism is a Failing System

This editorial by Richard D. Wolff caught my attention:

Janet Yellen, the United States’ Federal Reserve’s new chair, and I were graduate economics students around the same time at Yale University. The professor who shaped the macroeconomics we learned was James Tobin. He taught us to be Keynesian economists: that is, to accept capitalism as the sole object and focus of our studies, to celebrate it as the best possible system and to preserve it against its own serious faults. Keynesian economics teaches that to secure capitalism’s blessings requires systematic government intervention in the workings of the economy.

So far, conventionally Keynesian and even neo-liberal.

No courses at Yale troubled Yellen or myself with any analyses of how exploitation lies at the core of capitalist production. We were never taught that the majority of industrial workers produce more value for employers than what employers pay them. We were prevented from encountering arguments examining how this idea of “more” (or, in economic terms, of a surplus) contributed fundamentally to the systemic inequalities that define capitalist societies.

Now we’re getting interesting:

Capitalism’s dysfunctions have led me to appreciate and independently learn what Marxian economics has to teach me, outside of Yale’s mainstream economics. Yellen and her cohorts avoided and bypassed all that.

Convinced that we can do better than capitalism, many have analyzed the incipient alternatives emerging from capitalism’s deficiencies, such as cooperatives, workers’ self-directed enterprises and others. For us, Occupy Wall Street represents a powerful surge against capitalism, yet another sign of the waning tolerance for a system that Yellen will try to preserve.

The whole article is worth a read.

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$1 Trillion Farm Bill Another Victory For The 1 Percent

In the farm bill, Congress boosted the already-massive subsidies to agribusiness while screwing the poor. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law on Friday.

Via DSWright on FDL:

The price tag for the Farm Bill comes in at nearly $1 trillion. Most of that money is designed to enrich the already rich. Remember that next time someone tells you the 1% hate “Big Government.” Because austerity and fiscal discipline speeches haven’t stopped wasteful programs– they have just given cover to cutting meager benefits for the poor.

Many so-called Democrats voted for an almost $9 billion cut to the SNAP (formerly Food Stamp) program, which takes away $90 a month from 850,000 of the nation’s poorest who seek help to buy groceries. This is in addition to the cuts already enacted late last year.

UPDATE: Food Stamp Cuts Signed Into Law

Republican legislators refused invitations to attend the signing ceremony because they wanted bigger safety net cuts.

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McDonald’s Wants YOU To Pay Its Workers

h/t Low Pay Is Not OK

The video’s release comes a week after economists at the University of California Berkeley and the University of Illinois released a study finding that fast food workers in the US draw nearly $7 billion annually in taxpayer-funded federal aid, in the form of food stamps ($1 billion), Medicaid ($3.9 billion), and earned income tax credits ($1.9 billion). More than half of the 1.8 million “core” fast food workers who work at least 11 hours per week and 28 percent of those who work full time rely on some form of public assistance, according to the study.

More info: Recently released study by economists at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign: “Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Fast Food Industry” (PDF).

McDonald’s helpline to employee: Go on food stamps
Fox Doesn’t Understand Why Low-Wage Workers Need Government Assistance

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They Only Call It Class Warfare When We Fight Back

SNAP facts

Via Media Matters: As the Republican-led House votes to cut $40 billion dollars from the food stamp program, we encourage you to brush up on your facts about SNAP.

Is it right to eliminate food assistance for 3.8 million Americans while expanding federal subsidies for millionaire farmers, including some members of Congress?

More: The Real Consequences Of Terrible Journalism

UPDATE: House Votes To Cut Food Stamps By $40 Billion

Yesterday, in act of extreme viciousness and cruelty, the House of Representatives voted to give those already down a swift kick to the teeth. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and backed solely by Republicans in a 217-210 vote, cuts $40 billion in nutrition aid over 10 years and starts denying people food as early as next year.

UPDATE: Writing a Neutral Story About Something So Heartless As the Food Stamp Vote Is Not Good Journalism

Yesterday’s vote was not only an undeniable act of heartlessness, it was also perhaps the ultimate example of how today’s increasingly radical and unhinged GOP leadership picks on the poor, coddles the rich, makes thinly veiled appeals to racism, and plays time-wasting political games instead of governing.

…Everyone is concerned when there are a lot of people getting food stamps, but the problem is that they are hungry, not that they are being fed.

UPDATE: The Average American Family Pays $6,000 a Year in Subsidies to Big Business

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Robert Reich: The 7 Biggest Economic Lies

Best video I saw today. H/t Huffington Post.

I would add another lie to the list, the Faux News-worthy idea that raising the federal minimum wage to keep up with inflation will cause unemployment. Wrong. Wall Street financiers crashing our economy causes unemployment.

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Congressman Uses Out-of-Context Bible Quote to Justify Screwing Poor People

SNAP

Sometimes I think Republicans have their own special GOP edition of The Bible. Via Think Progress:

The House Agriculture Committee convened earlier this week to discuss whether or not to cut as much as $4.1 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).

As House members discussed slashing the budget for the Farm Bill, which funds SNAP, Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) took issue with some Democrats who cited Jesus Christ’s call to care for “the least of these” when describing the government’s need to assist the hungry. Instead, Fincher explained that his support for the proposed cuts by quoting a very different Bible verse – 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”

But while the use of 2 Thessalonians is a convenient tool for those who want to justify ignoring the poor, Fincher’s lukewarm Biblical argument doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. As many religious bloggers have already pointed out, the author of 2 Thessalonians was actually referring to ancient Christians who had stopped working in anticipation of Jesus’ Second Coming. The verse is concerned with correcting a theological misunderstanding (i.e., don’t just wait around for Jesus, live an active faith), not passing judgement on the poor.

Worse still, Fincher’s use of the Bible to defend the slashing of food stamps isn’t just bad theology, it’s also bad policy.

Undergirding Fincher’s sloppy exegesis is an old conservative fiction that people who rely on food stamps are lazy parasites who mooch off the government and refuse to work. In reality, most of the country’s 47 million food stamp recipients are children or the elderly, and many are employed. A 2012 report from the USDA found that 45 percent of SNAP recipients were under 18 years of age, nearly 9 percent were age 60 or older, and more than 40 percent lived in households with earnings.

Fincher’s misguided Bible-thumping ignores the plight of America’s 8.9 million “working poor.” This massive group includes the thousands of participants from the recent fast food and retail workers strikes, people who, despite working full-time 40 hours a week for booming industries, often only make around $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 a year. That’s far below the federal poverty threshold of $23,550 for a family of four and leaves many working families with no choice but to apply for food stamps just to feed their loved ones. The strikers, who are consistently backed by droves of religious leaders, are clearly willing to work, yet lawmakers like Fincher (who made his millions with the help of government farm subsidies) stand poised to deny them access to the food they need by decimating funding for SNAP.

UPDATE: Local Charities Speak Out On GOP’s Effort To Slash Food Stamps

UPDATE: 50 Million Americans Are Going Hungry As Congress Considers Gutting Food Stamps

UPDATE: Krugman: “Get really, really angry” about GOP attack on SNAP


More info:
Congressman Who Gets Millions In Farm Subsidies Denounces Food Stamps As Stealing ‘Other People’s Money’

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Reason Derangement Syndrome

Think Progress reported yesterday that the painfully unaware State Rep. Dennis Hedke has introduced a bill that would prohibit public funds from promoting sustainable development. An interesting story, and a great example of rightwing hypocrisy and nincompoopery. But I also think it overlooks the real story.

The article points out that Hedke is so blissfully ignorant of his own actions that he can’t see why anyone would question a connection between his day job and his latest bill. This is interesting, since his day job is contract geophysicist for some 30 local oil and gas companies. Conflict of interest? Certainly not!

“I can’t see why,” Hedke said. “I didn’t think about that. It really never crossed my mind. I’d probably just say no.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Worst ‘Socialist’ Ever

Obama commie

The Romney campaign makes its closing argument, which can be paraphrased as: “OMG! Another four years of socialism will be the end of America!” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL):

“The president’s just not a supporter of the free enterprise system. This isn’t the first time I’ve said it, and I believe it with all my heart.”

If President Obama is a socialist, Steve Benen recently pointed out, he’s “the worst socialist of all time.”

“A soaring stock market, record high corporate profits, private sector job growth … it’s almost as if the president didn’t listen to Karl Marx at all.”

In fact, as the financial website Motley Fool noted, President Obama is far and away the best president for corporate profits since 1900.

More info:
Clint Eastwood: America Can’t ‘Survive’ Another Obama Term
President Obama’s Marxist-Leninist Economics

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Leaked GOP Platform Details Plan to Kill Medicare and Medicaid

Via Talking Points Memo:

In a leaked copy of their party platform, snagged by Politico on Friday afternoon after the Republican National Committee accidentally posted it to its website before taking it down, the GOP details their plan to privatize Medicare and Medicaid, dropping the current single-payer model in favor of a voucher program similar to the insurance exchange model envisioned by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The platform also proposes 65 as the eligibility age for the new voucher program (Americans are currently eligible for medicare at age 62). Although the replacement programs will still be called “Medicare” and “Medicaid,” after privatization the original programs will no longer exist.

“The first step is to move the two programs [Medicare and Medicaid] away from their current unsustainable defined-benefit entitlement model to a fiscally sound defined-contribution model,” the draft platform reads. “While retaining the option of traditional Medicare in competition with private plans, we call for a transition to a premium-support model for Medicare, with an income-adjusted contribution toward a health plan of the enrollee’s choice. This model will include private health insurance plans that provide catastrophic protection, to ensure the continuation of doctor-patient relationships.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has found that the Republican plan will raise seniors’ out-of-pocket medical expenses by thousands of dollars.

Unlike the first Ryan budget proposal unveiled in 2011, the Romney-Ryan plan includes the option for seniors to buy into a government-run plan with their vouchers. In other words, the GOP plan to replace Medicare would also allow for a public option, something that the Obama administration failed to include in the ACA.

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Poverty Rate Highest Since 1965 While Both Parties Embrace Austerity

Obama in Hawaii

The Associated Press reports that census figures for 2011 reveal that American poverty is spreading at record levels. The official poverty rate will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010 to 15.7 percent.

Meanwhile, in Washington, both major political parties have agreed to cut programs designed to keep more people from falling into poverty. Millions could fall through the cracks as government aid from unemployment insurance, Medicaid, welfare and food stamps diminishes. Right-wing media decries the increase in poverty while opposing anti-poverty measures such as the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

We’re about to fall victim to the Big Lie, as both parties push austerity plans for the middle class (not the rich) such as Simpson-Bowles and the Ryan budget proposal.

Cutting or eliminating government programs that benefit the less advantaged has long been an ideological goal of conservatives. Doing so also generates a tidy windfall for the corporate class, as government services are privatized and savings from austerity pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens.

U.S. financial interests that stand to gain from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security cutbacks “have been the core of the big con,” the “propaganda,” that those programs are in crisis and must be slashed, said James Galbraith, an economist at the University of Texas.

Michael Moore said it best:

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

UPDATE: Black Americans Have Suffered an Historic Wipeout of Their Wealth, With Few Signs It’s Coming Back

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BREAKING: Tim DeChristopher Thrown into Solitary Confinement By Anonymous U.S. Congressman

Photo: (Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Update March 29, 2012:  Our outrage and phone calls worked; Tim was released this morning in advance the press conference. (see video)

We are lost as a nation when Big Oil can inflict still greater punishment than a Federal Court itself through an anonymous congressional proxy. This is too outrageous for words.  It’s Kafkaesq.

You can read more about this new travesty of justice here, here, here and here.

DeChristopher’s legal team has scheduled a 1:30 p.m. press conference on TOMORROW (Thurs, March 29, 20112)  in front on the Frank E. Moss Federal Courthouse, at 350 Main Street in Salt Lake City, to announce Tim’s appeal and discuss issues related to DeChristopher’s confinement. Source

Please join us there!  But first, please make some phone calls.

DEMAND Tim DeChristopher inmate #16156-081 be immediately removed from the Special Housing Unit (SHU) and placed back in the Minimum Security Camp at FCI Herlong.

530-827-8000, Richard B. Ives, WARDEN, Eloisa DeBruler, Public Information Officer

202-307-3198, Charles E. Samuels, Jr., Director

PRIORITY CONGRESSIONAL MEMBERS TO CALL:

Jim Sensenbrenner, WI, Chairman of Subcommittee, (202) 225-5101
Louie Gohmert, TX, Vice Chairman of Subcommittee, (202) 225-3035
Jason Chaffetz, UT, DC: (202) 225-7751 UT: (801) 851-2500

**MORE CONGRESSIONAL MEMBERS TO CALL HERE**

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