Archive for category The Constitution
NEW YORK, May 7 (Reuters) – A U.S. spying program that collects data about millions of Americans’ phone calls is illegal, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday…
It should not have taken so long to reverse the ugly policies of the Bush administration. We are finally making some progress. Congress ought to allow Section 215 of the so-called USA PATRIOT Act to expire next month.
Newly-confirmed U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch not a fan of the Constitution. Apparently.
Utah Senator Mike Lee says he agrees with the court decision. Lee is co-sponsoring Senator Patrick Leahy’s “USA Freedom Act” that would tighten the rules for domestic surveillance.
In the aftermath of yesterday’s court ruling and the looming June 1st deadline to reauthorize the section of the PATRIOT Act the court ruled illegal, the Democratic Party establishment appears to have shifted somewhat on domestic spying.
Ben Carson is one of the Tea-GOPers thinking about possibly wanting to be the Commander in Chief of our military. Let’s hope nobody else shares his views about war crimes.
Hashtag Presidents’ Day?
Source: The Daily Mirror
The Constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.
President Obama asked Congress on Wednesday for new war powers to go after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The draft resolution (PDF) asks Congress to enact a three-year Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS. The resolution notably restricts the use of American ground troops and seeks to avoid a prolonged conflict.
Obama announced his plan to launch airstrikes against ISIS back in September, and the White House’s AUMF resolution seeks to formalize the U.S. military campaign to “degrade and defeat” ISIS.
The draft AUMF has already been criticized as imprecise. For example, it defines the enemy as “ISIL [sic] or associated persons or forces.” But that would include the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels (armed by the U.S.), who routinely fight alongside ISIS. Like the 2001 AUMF (which would remain in effect), there is no geographical limitation in the new draft AUMF. Potentially it could authorize attacking Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Asked today if he agreed that language was “fuzzy,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest replied with a firm yes, saying it is “intentionally” fuzzy “because we believe it’s important that there aren’t overly burdensome constraints that are placed on the commander-in-chief.”
I left the Army with the rank of captain, but it doesn’t take a four-star general to realize you can’t fight a war intelligently unless you know who the enemy is, and where to find them. Oh, and by the way this draft AUMF is probably a violation of the U.N. Charter – though that’s somewhat debatable.
“The devastating and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us that when we give military authority to the executive, it should not be a blank check,” Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said.
“Unfortunately, the authorization proposed by the president this week is too broad. In order to ensure meaningful limits on executive branch authority, an AUMF should at a minimum contain a clear objective and geographical limitations. It should also include an enforceable ban on the deployment of ground troops with exception for only the most limited of operations, unambiguous language, and a repeal of the 2001 AUMF,” they said.
The future of Utah public lands?
Speaking Thursday at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City, former Arizona Governor and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt slammed Utah’s illegal and unconstitutional attempt to steal 31 million acres of our public lands. The federal government ignored Governor Herbert’s December 31 deadline to close down land management agency offices and turn over control to the state.
“Our public land heritage really is under attack,” said Babbitt, speaking at a Conservation Alliance event. “We’ve really got a crowd of uninformed, misguided politicians who are attempting to dismantle or abolish public lands and the agencies that administer them.”
“The sponsors of this are fronting for the oil and gas, coal and tar sands industry,” he said…
“Public lands belong to all Americans,” he added. “They are used for energy production right now in a careful, responsible way. But for whatever reason, Utah politicians are saying we have to do it faster and do more, cast off environmental regulations and put all our heritage at risk.”
…Babbitt cautioned Westerners Thursday against dismissing today’s land transfer movement as just another retread of past Sagebrush Rebellions.
“This is different,” Babbitt said. “The money is coming nationally, from the fossil fuel industry, and married to the ideology that is being pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council and others, who are wrapping this into broad-scale attack against the federal government.”
The Utah legislature has appropriated $2 million of OUR money to sue the federal government in support of their insane ALEC-inspired raid on our national forests, national wildlife refuges, and BLM public lands.
Utah is lone cowboy trying to wrangle public lands
Despite numerous invitations from Utah lawmakers, no other states have signed on.
The right-wing Utah legislature began a legal battle to steal our public lands when Gov. Gary Herbert signed HB 148, the “Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study” in March 2012. Supposedly, if the federal government does not turn over title to 31.2 million acres of land by the end of this month the State of Utah will spend millions of dollars of our tax money on a ridiculous lawsuit. HB 148 is utterly unconstitutional according to the Property Clause (U.S. Const. art. IV, sec. 3, cl. 2.), the Utah Constitution (Article III), and illegal under Section 3 of the Utah Enabling Act.
We found out yesterday that a theoretical takeover of public lands by the State of Utah would place a heavy burden on the state budget.
A study released Monday by researchers at three Utah universities found that transferring national forests and other public lands to the state of Utah would cost taxpayers at least $280 million per year — a price tag that could only be paid if the state were able to increase drilling and mining, seize energy royalty payments that are owed to U.S. taxpayers, and, if energy prices remain low, raise taxes to pay for the shortfall.
Here’s the right-wing “plan”: Fire 5,000 or so federal employees, abolish all of our national forests and national parks, and turn over Utah public lands to the corporations– particularly the oil and gas industry and the tar sands industry. These are the same legislators who slashed the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation budget by nearly 80 percent. What could possibly go wrong?
Tea-GOP Congresswoman-elect Mia Love regarding our public lands: “I support returning ownership back to the state of Utah.” The premise of this statement (not to mention the grammar) is completely wrong, because the public lands in Utah have always been in federal ownership since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The State of Utah did not exist until 1896, nearly a half-century later.
State-level land grab attempts such as the Transfer of Public Lands Act (the 2012 Utah law that demands the federal government hand over public lands to the state by December 31, 2014) violate both the U.S. Constitution and the Utah Constitution. However, the U.S. Congress has the ultimate power over all federal lands. The Property Clause in Article 4 of the Constitution says: “The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States…”
Now that the Tea-GOP controls both houses of Congress, will Mia Love get her wish?
For the Republican Party, the growing internal debate over whether America’s public lands should be seized and sold represents a choice between the conservation values of Republican President Theodore Roosevelt and the power of a special interest-driven agenda. Former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar observed in August that the RNC’s endorsement of land grabs would “cause Teddy Roosevelt to turn over in his grave.”
With the debate escalating over whether public lands should be seized or sold, candidates who dodged the issue but won on Tuesday will likely soon have to say whether they are with the party of Teddy Roosevelt or Cliven Bundy.
President Obama has the power (delegated by Congress to the chief executive in the Antiquities Act of 1906) to proclaim national monuments on public lands. He has already done so 13 times to protect more than 260 million acres of land and water, which is more than any other President. And he says he is “not finished” with national monuments.
There is a proposal for a Greater Canyonlands National Monument in Utah. The Tea-GOP has it coming. Will President Obama bring it?
The Sagebrush Gang Rides Again? (February 2012)
An FA-18 takes off from the US Navy aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush in the Gulf last Friday
CENTCOM confirms airstrikes against ISIS forces near the Mosul Dam. These attacks were offensive actions that went beyond the stated reasons for U.S. military action, namely to protect refugees and the city of Erbil.
Congress must get involved as soon as possible. Our Constitution does not allow the President to conduct offensive military operations on his own, without congressional authorization.
I get it. Democrats don’t want to vote for a new war in Iraq before the November elections, and the Tea-GOP/neocons are extremely reluctant to approve anything President Obama does or might do, even if they agree with it in principle.
Well, too bad. Congress (and only Congress) has the responsibility to either authorize another war or rein in this President. Mission creep is already underway – soon there will be about 1,000 U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq. The Pentagon has disclosed that a failed hostage rescue attempt last month resulted in a firefight with ISIS on the ground in Syria.
Any decision to wage war on ISIS has to take into account the fact that Syria is their base of operations. Are we going to commit our armed forces to fight, effectively, on behalf of the Assad regime in Damascus?
Bill Roggio, editor of The Long War Journal:
US launches 6 more airstrikes against Islamic State
The US has now “conducted a total of 90 airstrikes across Iraq. Of those 90 strikes, 57 have been in support of Iraqi forces near the Mosul Dam.”
…When President Obama “authorized the U.S. Armed Forces to conduct targeted air strikes to support operations by Iraqi forces to recapture the Mosul Dam” on Aug. 14, he permitted the United States military to serve as Iraq’s air arm as Iraqi and Kurdish forces went on the offensive in northern Iraq.
The Obama administration should be very explicit about its goals and objectives in Iraq if it wants to retain the support of the American public for an extended period of time. If the goal is to conduct limited airstrikes in the north to help the Iraqi government and the Kurds regain some lost ground with the hopes of containing the Islamic State, then it should say so. If the goal is to further the defeat of the Islamic State by striking in other theaters and possibly putting advisers, forward air controllers, and special operations forces on the ground, then the administration should communicate that as well.
[T]he Pentagon now appears to be on board with launching attacks in Syria if they target ISIS with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey saying ISIS would be a threat as long as they had safe zones in Syria and that “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of- days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated.” General Dempsey went on to call the Syrian-Iraq border “essentially non-existent.”
So, to recap, the Obama Administration now wants to fight with the Assad government against ISIS. Degrading Assad’s capability to kill his own people no longer a priority because he is also using that capability to kill ISIS forces. There’s still a red line somewhere it’s just not very straight.
In the aftermath of the killing of James Foley the Obama Administration has ratcheted up the rhetoric against ISIS now calling the group an imminent threat to US national security and global interests. Part of that label apparently entails attacking ISIS wherever they are including outside of current “limited” US operations in Iraq with plans to expand the US military campaign against ISIS into Syria.
Of course, in the real world there is no way ISIS constitutes an imminent threat to U.S. national security.
At the Bundy Ranch standoff, so-called right-wing militia members aimed assault weapons at law enforcement officers. No arrests were made, and Cliven Bundy remains a free man. Last night in Ferguson, Missouri, an overwhelming police force including SWAT teams rampaged through residential streets firing stun grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets. They attacked peaceful, unarmed protesters and arrested reporters. The city never imposed a curfew, which means citizens were supposed to be allowed to assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights.
Something is wrong. The media are blaming so-called “homeland security” and the militarization of even small-town police departments, which can buy a surplus MRAP from the Army for only $5,000 even if they don’t need one. Worse than that, there seems to be a trend of police use of deadly force against unarmed suspects – many of whom are being shot multiple times or shot in the back.
Ferguson Seeks Answers After Police Shooting Of Michael Brown
Does the Second Amendment Only Apply to White People?
Alderman, 2 reporters arrested as Ferguson erupts for 4th night
Did Police Use Excessive Force Against Ferguson Protesters?
Ferguson’s Police Got Free Military Gear Straight From The Pentagon
Actually, they’re called “public lands” because We The People own them.
Think Progress has investigated the use of millions of dollars of our tax money to promote the unconstitutional seizure of public lands. The money goes to litigation funds, so-called “studies,” to ALEC and to the American Lands Council (ALC) — an organization created to help states claim ownership of federal lands, in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The President of the ALC is Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory. In 2012, Ivory sponsored HB 148, the Utah Transfer of Public Lands Act, which asserted that the federal government must turn over all public lands in Utah to the state government by the end of this year. Ivory receives a $40,000 a year salary from ALC, and his wife is on the payroll too.
The majority of Utahns disapprove of this naked land grab but “our” legislators are onboard with ALEC and ALC and the Koch brothers, not the citizens.
While a major media news blackout provides cover, Congress is debating whether to give the president the authority to fast-track a massive free trade agreement, the secretly-negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Members of Congress haven’t even been able to read it even though corporate lobbyists have.
President Obama is at odds with Democrats in both houses of Congress concerning reauthorizing a procedure called the “trade promotion authority” (TPA), that would grant the White House power to submit free trade deals to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is strongly against it.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has now publicly opposed giving President Obama fast track authority.
“We need transparency. We need a seat at the table to understand what they believe they are doing, so we can make it better. And if we don’t make it better, then we will not accept a path that is a job loser.”
TPP is part of the plan for global corporatocracy run by and for the 1 Percent. Unelected lobbyists and trade representatives are at the table, while representatives from the public at large and businesses other than huge monopolies, are conspicuously absent. From what little we know of the agreement, it would violate the U.S. Constitution, weaken environmental protections, and lead to more job losses, erosion of wages, and worsening inequality. TPP also threatens freedom of speech on the Internet because it would extend restrictive intellectual property laws and rewrite international rules on enforcement.
Former Constitution Party Utah State Senate candidate Trestin Meacham began a fast the day after District Judge Robert Shelby released his ruling that Utah’s Amendment 3 prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying is unconstitutional. He is attempting to draw attention to what he says is an option for the state: Nullification.
Nullification is a far-right theory that has repeatedly been rejected by the Supreme Court. Article VI of the United States Constitution contains the Supremacy Clause that states, “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”
Utah’s Amendment 3 was a clear violation of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (emphasis added).
…No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
“This has nothing to do with hatred of a group of people. I have friends and relatives who practice a homosexual lifestyle and I treat them with the same respect and kindness that I would anyone. This is about religious freedom, and an out of control federal government.”
H/t Think Progress
More info: Trestin’s Fast
UPDATE: U.S. Supreme Court on Monday put same-sex marriages in Utah on hold, granting the state’s request for a stay pending appeal.