Archive for category 2010 Elections

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


Caucus or Primary? Count My Vote, Utah Elections and Political Parties

If you’ve been following the news lately, you will know that  Count My Vote is attempting to be a citizens initiative to change Utah’s caucus system to a primary system.   At a minimum, it’s gotten Utahns talking about how we select our candidates for public office which is good.  I’m not convinced Count My Vote’s solution solves the problem they claim to want to solve.  Will switching from the current caucus system improve voter engagement and turnout?  That depends on whether it addresses the reasons people don’t vote.

Do we know why Utah has low voter turnout in primary and general elections?  Why don’t eligible voters actually get out and vote? Read the rest of this entry »


Republicans continue to demonstrate there is indeed voter fraud

Because the GOP is nothing if they aren’t a grand example of dishonesty

In a 630-page deposition, released to the press yesterday, former Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer described a systemic effort by Republicans to suppress the black vote. Referring to a 2009 meeting with party officials, Greer said “I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting.”

Being upset that the GOP is suppressing the minority vote is a little like being upset that ocean has salt in it. It is pretty “what they do” at GOP-land. Is this gut, “Jim” also a shocked when they gay bash and talk about invading other countries? Seriously, where did he grow up?


The Crisis in American Leadership (Part One)

This post started as a complaint about the President’s approach to leadership.  It has clearly evolved.

We are living – as the old curse says – in interesting times.  The myriad challenges facing us today require dynamic, flexible, innovative and charismatic leaders.  Our era requires great leaders.  Yet we seem to have a dearth of great leaders.  The crisis in American leadership can be stated simply as our leaders have proven deeply inadequate to our challenges. Read the rest of this entry »


What Rachel Said

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

This is the newest Rachel Maddow spot in MSNBC’s “Lean Forward” campaign. She tries to answer the question of whatever happened to the “jobs-jobs-jobs” the Republicans promised everyone in the 2010 election campaign. We are still waiting for those jobs, and our unemployment insurance is running out…

Nobody cares about culture wars while they are losing their job, their home, and their life savings.


In a Common Cause with Common Cause

I once felt betrayed by the organization known as Common Cause, because I started to get very concerned about unverifiable voting machines early in 2003. Some time later, Common Cause sent me a fund raising letter with large type pledging to attack election problems in the country. I can’t remember whether the machines were even mentioned, but it seemed a given that you couldn’t ignore such an obvious danger to free elections. I sent them one hundred dollars and got exactly no results from them, MoveOn, PFAW, ACLU, or any other high profile organization that was supposed to watch out for little ol’ me and the right – they tell me I possess – to have my vote counted with confidence. Even today, all of these organizations have barely let out a peep about the machines.

This Washington Post article points to the fact that maybe Common Cause is heading back to their roots:

Bob Edgar, a mild-mannered former Democratic congressman and Methodist minister who heads Common Cause, said the group’s renewed activism hearkens back to its founding in 1970 as an anti-Vietnam War, pro-civil rights organization. The group recently named Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich as its chairman.

“It’s really getting back to our roots,” Edgar said. “We believe this is a very dangerous moment, where democracy is really at a crossroads.”

He added: “We’re going to continue to focus on the Supreme Court, particularly those who want to politicize the Supreme Court. And we’re going to continue to use the Koch brothers as the poster children for a group of people who want to move our democracy toward a plutocracy.”

The organization is starting to cause a little hell over something that is absent – of course – from every television news broadcast except the Rachel Maddow Show, as far as I know. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have anything to do with the voting machines, but I’ve got to hand it to Common Cause; this is important and they are the main reason we know anything about it:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

There is a very good reason to turn back a Supreme Court Decision which allows unlimited funds to be spent by corporations or any other source that wishes to influence our elections secretly. An American based, fake grassroots group (what’s new) called “Citizens United” brought the case and some in our highest court lapped-it-up in another 5 to 4 decision.

Seems as though two of the “lappers” were one Antonin Scalia and one Clarence Thomas whom Common Cause bravely exposes as having remarkable ties to people who are dubiously placed when it comes to money in elections; especially the midterm election held after the “Citizens United” case in 2010.

Of course my hopes for the outcome of a deeper investigation is that Mr. Thomas, who has been caught lying on his taxes for over a decade would be removed from the court and face charges.

Either for money, or to hide his wife’s involvement in a political group called “The Federalist Society”, Mr. Thomas has skirted the law he obviously took an oath to protect. Looks as though Mr. Scalia is in a bit less trouble in this case, but he should have recused himself on a case involving Cheney many years ago also.

Of course, this is an opinion piece, but when I think of “grass roots” I don’t think of people with tons of money trying to make a fortune off the rest of us using secret cash; do you?

That, plus the rule of law is a ridiculous farce in this country, however, this story seems to have legs!

From The New York Times:

The Supreme Court had no comment on the issue Monday. Nor did officials at the Federalist Society or at Koch Industries.


Rep. Alan Grayson: ‘If you want people to support you, then you have to support them’

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) was elected from Florida’s Eighth Congressional District in 2008, a right-leaning district that was in Republican hands for 30 years. Unlike the so-called Blue Dogs, Grayson believed in representing the people who supported him and taking the fight to the opposition. He offended Republican members of Congress by pointing out that the Party of NO never offered an alternative plan to address the health care crisis. He came to the defense of ACORN when Congress passed an unconstitutional bill of attainder against an organization trying to help people stay in their homes in the aftermath of the mortgage meltdown. He sponsored “The War Is Making You Poor Act,” a proposal to reduce taxes by ending supplemental appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan. He fought the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy with one of the snarkiest speeches ever.

In an interview with the New York Times, Rep. Grayson pointed out the biggest problem of the Democratic Party, the so-called “enthusiasm gap.” It’s not hard to figure out (emphasis added):

“If you want people to support you, then you have to support them,” he said. “You have to think long about what you did for people who voted for you, made phone calls for you, who went door to door for you.”

…He called the Republicans “a hopeless sellout party that will never do anything constructive for ordinary people in this country.”

In the interview, Grayson points out that the Obama administration simply failed to deliver for the people. Prior to the 2010 election equal rights advocates, those who care about human rights, the environmentalists, labor unions, the antiwar movement, and basically all Democrats saw their concerns ignored or even made worse by the White House. Then, after the election, President Obama broke his biggest and most often repeated campaign promise by coming out in favor of bonus tax cuts for the richest two percent of Americans.

Unlike most members of Congress, Rep. Grayson saw a chance to speak truth to power for two years instead of spending all his time trying to get re-elected. He lost last November, which means it will be up to somebody else to call bullshit on the Republicans this year. And they are bringing it by truckloads.


Rep. John Shimkus: Bible Disproves Climate Change

Via TPM:

Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) believes that there can be no such thing as climate change because it’s not in The Bible.

Guess who has been tapped to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Environment and Economy Subcommittee?

Oh, in case you missed the news, the Republicans have already abolished the Select Committee on Global Warming.


Compromise Or Capitulation?

This morning on MSNBC, anchor Chris Jansing wondered aloud if President Obama’s cave-in to the Republicans on extending all of the Bush tax cuts represents “compromise,” as the White House claims, or capitulation. Good question.

CapitulationI remember watching on TV the scene in Grant Park the night Barack Obama was elected President. People were literally jumping up and down and hugging each other. They were happy for a moment because the nightmare of the Bush administration was coming to an end. As it turned out, it was the beginning of another “reign of error.”

Bad politics by itself can be overcome. Bad POLICY resulting from bad politics is a double whammy, and the consequences can be irreversible. Robert Kuttner:

Let’s stop pretending. Barack Obama is a disaster as a crisis president. He has taken an economic collapse that was the result of Republican ideology and Republican policies, and made it the Democrats’ fault. And the more that he is pummeled, the more he bends over.

Item: Candidate Obama campaigned on a moderate health care reform proposal. He was against the individual insurance mandate and for the public option to bring down costs (in place of single-payer, which Democrats took off the table during the 2008 presidential primaries). Instead, we got legislation to protect the profits of the health care industry without any cost controls. Steeply rising health care costs are literally killing Americans by the tens of thousands, and they doom any attempt to rein in long-term federal deficits.

Item: I just checked and found out that my house is now worth less than I paid for it eight years ago. Its value has declined more than 40 percent in the past three years. The Obama administration’s feeble efforts to help homeowners have been a dismal failure. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT):

“We got to own up to it… There is a war going on. The middle class is struggling for existence, and they are taking on some of the wealthiest, most powerful forces in the world, whose greed has no end. And if we don’t begin to stand together and start representing those families, there will not be a middle class in this country.”

Item: In an interview aired last night, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told “60 Minutes” that rising income inequality is “creating two societies.” In September, new Census figures showed that the income gap between America’s richest and poorest was the widest on record. The U3 unemployment rate is at 9.8 percent, and the U6 is about double that. The real unemployment rate is above 22 percent.

Item: Instead of drawing a line in the sand and making clear that Democrats will not cut Social Security, Obama encouraged Democrats to support the deficit hysteria of the Catfood Commission, which offered an anti-government, anti-social insurance proposal that had very little public support and no constructive impact on the economic recovery that the country needs, and robbed Democrats of their most potent issue — that Democrats defend Social Security and Republicans don’t.

Item: U.S. intransigence on carbon emissions is likely to cause another failure of international efforts to limit climate change. President Obama’s participation in the Copenhagen summit was a disaster, and the Cancun negotiations that began this week are probably also doomed. One-sixth of the world’s population may become climate refugees, a process that has already begun.

Item: The Obama administration has concluded a South Korea Free Trade Agreement, originally negotiated by George Bush in 2007. On the campaign trail, Obama himself criticized this agreement because, like NAFTA and CAFTA, it would cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs. Now the President is taking credit for it, and receiving praise from right-wing corporate groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Item: Normally this would be the biggest story of all, but it has fallen down the priority list due to the Obama administration’s domestic policy fiascoes. General David Petraeus recently came close to admitting that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable, and definitely signaled that he expects U.S. forces to be fighting there for at least five more years. Remember that it costs $1 million per year to deploy one soldier halfway around the world to Afghanistan, exclusive of pay, training and equipment.

The cave-in on extending the Bush tax cuts is one capitulation too many. There is already a very, very long list of Obama administration policies that are in effect extensions of Bush’s worst-ever presidency. I haven’t got time to cover them all in one post. The bottom line is, this country can’t afford a second Obama term. Democrats ought to start working now to find a new candidate for 2012.

UPDATE: Tax Cut Deal Includes Monstrous Estate Tax, Dividend Concession

UPDATE: Obama Agrees To Extend All Bush Tax Cuts And Cut Estate Tax In Deal With Republicans


Let’s Talk About Tomorrow: Moving Democrats Forward (Two)

Honestly, I don’t remember – ever – the level of anger in the netroots that I’ve seen in the last few weeks.  Aside from Nancy Pelosi, I’m not sure there’s a current Democratic leader who isn’t on the receiving end of that anger (Pelosi doesn’t get a total pass but she’s easily the most prominent Dem not a target of that anger).  The Democratic base in general is seething, the progressive wing of the party is spitting with rage.  In my previous post, I discussed some of the roots of this anger by pointing out what I believe were the mistakes of Democratic leaders.  The summary is simple: Democrats had a possibly once in a generation chance to remake politics and they blew it.

There are a host of specific issues but the anger itself is actually more than the sum of its parts.  Going into 2012, the voters who delivered Democratic majorities in 2006 and 2008 are splintered, disspirited and restless.  The long term demographic trends that favor Democrats remain in place.  But, for that to matter, the party has to be able to take advantage of them with strong campaigns and candidates and then follow up with effective policy making.

Throughout the last two years, the left has been relatively quiescent.  No more.

In my earlier post, I focused on leadership issues, namely the failure of Democratic officeholders to lead effectively.  In this post, I want to focus on the most difficult and often most complicated part of moving forward: precise, creative destruction.

Read the rest of this entry »


Let’s Talk About Tomorrow: Moving Democrats Forward

Margaret Wheatley recommends a period of “cooling” as an integral part of solving any problem.  Since the election, I’ve been allowing myself to take that period before thinking too deeply about what needs to happen next.  I’ve used the time to read as much as possible about the polling and various articles and opinion pieces about “what happened” and allow what I’ve read to process in my brain.  I’m ready to move to the next step.

First and foremost, we need to own that Democratic leaders have failed spectacularly at leadership.  Time and again they demonstrated an extraordinary level of incompetence at both policy and politics, a tone-deafness to message that has been incredibly damaging and have spent huge amounts of energy in pointless attempts to win Republican votes.  That’s not to say they weren’t facing a difficult environment and working with fractious caucuses in both house, but it is to acknowledge they badly mismanaged the things they should have managed well.

Second, but no less important: the 2010 election was not an embrace of the Republican party or its ideas.  It was a barbaric yawp from an electorate that has been pushed to wall by a bad economy and a political system seemingly incapable of solving the right problems.

Third, loathe though I am to say it, it’s become obvious that the Obama team ran a brilliant campaign yet has turned out to be a complete dud in office – seriously they’re like the Keystone Kops of politics – “Here, take our guns we won’t need them in the shoot out, we’ll be too busy falling on our asses in a pile of banana cream pies.”  The result has been a badly mismanaged presidency incapable of facing facts on the ground and dealing with an opposition party that wants to kill them just to watch them die.

Fourth, as bad as things are, there is absolutely a fruitful path forward. Read the rest of this entry »


Happy Thanksgiving


What to be thankful for today? First, I’m thankfully taking one day off from criticism and complaints to acknowledge some things that are going well.

The FBI just raided the offices of hedge funds in in New York, Connecticut and Boston as part of a widespread investigation into insider trading that has already led to one arrest. Thanks, FBI!

I’m thankful that the TSA decided to make things easier for the traveling public yesterday by backing down a little, turning off some of their body scanners, and going easy on the pat-downs. Nobody wants to be treated like a criminal just because they bought a plane ticket. And I thank the LAX bikini lady, too. She had the right attitude, IMHO.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has set aside 187,000 square miles of critical habitat for Alaskan polar bears, a move that might displease the oil and gas industry. Thanks, Fish and Wildlife Service!

Thankfully, a Texas jury has convicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of using corporate money from Washington lobbyists in a scheme to redraw the electoral map in favor of Republicans.

Richard (RJ) Eskow, Senior Fellow with The Campaign for America’s Future, has a good post at HuffPo. Today he is thankful for the wisdom and common sense of the American people. A lot of us are progressives even though most don’t self-identify that way.

In public opinion polls, majorities oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and college loans. We want more regulation of Wall Street, more help for the unemployed and less fortunate, more investment in infrastructure, and more taxes for the wealthy. What happened in the last election? Many Americans didn’t go to the polls for the simple reason that neither major political party is promising to do what we want.

Now I’m going to have a nice dinner at home. Happy Thanksgiving to all…

UPDATE (just one): What Leading Progressives Are Thankful For


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