Archive for category The Constitution
BREAKING, via TPM:
In a suit filed in federal court in Utah late Tuesday, Justice Department officials argue that the government “has preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters.”
“Utah’s adoption of its own immigration policy disrupts the federal government’s ability both to administer and enforce the federal immigration laws including as set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), and to establish and pursue federal policies and priorities pertaining to, inter alia, the identification, apprehension, detention and removal of aliens unlawfully in the United States,” the suit claims.
We told you so. Rep. Stephen Sandstrom thought that it was OK for Utah to ignore the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution in an attempt to score political points with right-wing opponents of immigration. The DOJ has already sued Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina. Now it’s our turn.
Avi Asher-Schapiro reports for Salon that the Egyptian military is using teargas made by an American company, CSI, based in Jamestown, Penn.
So, to sum up the irony: We invade a country in the middle east, Iraq, because they had nothing to do with a terrorist attack made, at least partly, because many people felt America is an imperial power, and has too much military influence. Since we know they had nothing to do with the attack, we have to add talk about “spreading democracy” into the mix. We don’t actually spread democracy, rather we bomb a couple hundred thousand Iraqis into the next world. This is totally not an example of the afore mentioned military influence or imperial behavior. Just sayin’.
Via Digby, I learned today that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is definitely involved in the coordinated effort to suppress the 99 Percent Movement. I have nothing against the good men and women of DHS, whose mission is to “ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards.” However, that mission statement says nothing about attacking peaceful demonstrations that are supported by the majority of Americans.
An anonymous Justice Department official told the Minneapolis Examiner’s Rick Ellis that the recent evictions of Occupy movement across the country including Salt Lake City, Denver, Portland, Oakland, and New York City were “coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.” Apparently, DHS is now providing “threat assessments” to local law enforcement and they even arrested protesters in Portland. Un-answered questions include whether federal aid has been given to cities to provide overtime pay for police conducting middle-of-the-night raids on demonstrators, and why these coordinated crackdowns took place while President Obama was out of the country.
Update: ‘Occupy’ crackdowns coordinated with federal law enforcement officials
Homeland Security detain Occupy Portland Photographer
Justice Dept: Homeland Security Advised Raids On Occupy Wall Street Camps
DOCUMENT: Department of Homeland Security: “Occupy Pittsburgh Threat Assessment”
While the spotlight is on the 99 Percent Movement and our demands for justice and democracy, we might have lost track of what our friends the Blue Dog “Dems” are up to. Think Progress has an update. Rep. Jim Matheson and his fellow Blue Dogs are endorsing a Republican plan for a radical Balanced Budget Amendment, a plan that according to recent analyses would actually cost America 15 million jobs.
It’s hard to overestimate the negative effects such an amendment would have on the country’s economy. In addition to destroying millions of jobs, it would force such massive spending cuts that House Republicans’ own budget would be unconstitutional. According to a recent study by Macroeconomic Advisers, enacting a BBA now would double the nation’s unemployment rate and cause the economy to shrink by 17 percent — a far cry from the 2 percent projected growth that would occur with no such amendment.
Unfortunately, according to another analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the consequences get worse. The draconian budget cuts caused by a Balanced Budget Amendment would force lawmakers to gut Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), among other programs…
Given that this incredibly bad constitutional amendment is never going to be enacted, why is Rep. Matheson backing it? It’s an empty gesture, a loud “screw you” to the American middle class and nothing more. Is Matheson tired of asking Utahns to vote for him? Did he decide to campaign against the 99 Percent and see if that works? I can’t explain it.
The U.S. House of Representatives votes today on a resolution to affirm the phrase “In God We Trust” as the nation’s official motto. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), the founder and chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, sponsored the legislation. Nice to know Congress is keeping busy, with so little going on in these days of peace and prosperity.
No one is proposing to change the motto. It’s engraved in stone on public buildings. It’s on our money. My father used to joke that they always forgot the second part, “… All others pay cash.”
Interestingly enough, the motto was adopted in 1956, one year after the phrase “under God” was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance. The legislation that made “In God We Trust” official actually violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”
Next time a politician gets on a podium and starts pontificating about how government needs to start abiding by the Constitution, I hope somebody asks what would be a good replacement for the national motto.
UPDATE: Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State:
“This meaningless, purely symbolic vote won’t create one job, help one family struggling to pay its mortgage or rebuild one piece of infrastructure… I think we know by now that this Congress likes God. Can we move on?”
Salon blogger and Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald appeared on Democracy Now! Friday morning to voice his displeasure over the United States’ killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, a U.S. citizen who was considered a radical cleric for Al-Qaeda.
Well, the “chief of external operations” for al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen has been taken out. At least, that’s the title given to him by the Obama administration. The killing of New Mexico – born Anwar al-Awlaki, plus another American named Samir Khan, was hailed this morning on MSNBC as “V-Q Day” for victory over al-Qaeda. War over, we won.
Or maybe, we just killed a guy with a website. Which is stupid, because his words will live after him anyway now that he’s been made into a martyr. No proof has been offered that al-Awlaki was an enemy combatant by any real definition, let alone a high-ranking al-Qaeda leader, nor was he charged with any crime. Since the U.S. government never even tried to revoke his citizenship, we must conclude that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of anything. Instead, they just gave him an extra-judicial death sentence. We’re told that other Americans are still on the list to be assassinated, but the names have not been made public.
No, the war isn’t over. The Obama administration has redefined presidential war powers, asserting the courts should play no role in establishing and enforcing the rules under which the president can kill American citizens that he unilaterally determines to pose a threat.
The targeted killing program violates both U.S. and international law. As we’ve seen today, this is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts. The government’s authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific, and imminent. It is a mistake to invest the President — any President — with the unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country.
President candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX):
“If the American people accept this blindly and casually, that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys, I think it’s sad.”
UPDATE: Scarecrow on FDL:
The inescapable conclusion is that the rest of the world is becoming America’s “free fire zone,” and the President, this government, and perhaps too many of the American people think it’s not only okay but something to celebrate when we behave exactly like the terrorists we supposedly abhor.
The US military is the greatest military force the world has ever known. But that means that when commanded by civilian leaders with little regard for the rule of law, it can also become the most dangerous terrorist state the world has ever known.
UPDATE: Josh Marshall of TPM says that killing Anwar al-Awlaki was legal, and the right thing to do.
UPDATE: Via Glenn Greenwald, a major question has been answered. If Awlaki was a traitor as alleged by the U.S. government for years, why was he still a citizen?
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department last week incredibly admitted what was obvious all along: there is no legal basis for stripping Awlaki of the protections of citizenship:
While the Obama administration contends al-Awlaki’s U.S. citizenship didn’t prevent the CIA from targeting the alleged terror leader with a drone, the government didn’t have the right to take away that citizenship.
“It’s interesting,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at Friday’s daily briefing amid a barrage of questions on the airstrike that killed al-Awlaki in Yemen. Nuland said she asked State Department lawyers whether the government can revoke a person’s citizenship based on their affiliation with a foreign terrorist group, and it turned out there’s no law on the books authorizing officials to do so. “An American can be stripped of citizenship for committing an act of high treason and being convicted in a court for that. But that was obviously not the case in this case,” she said. “Under U.S. law, there are seven criteria under which you can strip somebody of citizenship, and none of those applied in this case.”
In other words: we wanted to strip Awlaki of his citizenship, but there’s no legal authority for us to do that, so we just went ahead and killed him. What a world apart from George Bush.
UPDATE: Via anonymous sources, Reuters reports that the Obama administration marks U.S. citizens for death based on the findings of a secret committee of the National Security Council. The process was approved by a secret legal memo from the DOJ. This all sounds familiar.
Previous One Utah posts:
Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, two Americans captured and held by Iran since 2009, had an interesting point to make at their news conference yesterday in New York (via Think Progress):
According to Bauer and Fattal, Iranian prison guards repeatedly used the harsh conditions of Guantanamo Bay and CIA prisons around the world to justify their own human rights violations:
BAUER: In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would immediately remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay. They would remind us of CIA prisons in other parts of the world, and the conditions that Iranians and others experience in prisons in the U.S. We do not believe that such human rights violations on the part of our government justify what has been done to us. Not for a moment. However, we do believe that these actions on the part of the U.S. provide an excuse for other governments, including the government of Iran, to act in kind.
According to the hikers, extended solitary confinement “was the worst experience of all our lives.”
It was already a well-known fact that torture and inhumane treatment of detainees by the USA helps other governments try to justify similar acts. In violation of the U.S. Constitution and international treaties, the Obama administration continues to hold people indefinitely without any charges being brought against them, under conditions similar to the Iranian prison Bauer and Fattal experienced.
Great hair. He comes across like a combination of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The late, celebrated Texas columnist Molly Ivins described Governor Rick Perry as “not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” Where is Molly when we really need her? Of course, she tried to warn us about Bush, too.
Perry likes to go around saying that Texas is responsible for more than 40 percent of all of the new jobs created in America. In reality, Texas ranks dead last in total job creation. It would have been worse except for 125,000 public sector jobs added between 2007 and 2010. Oh, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics says Texas is tied for the top spot in the nation for population making nothing more than minimum wage.
The funniest thing about Rick Perry: He’s the new GOP front-runner.
UPDATE: He’s learning… Perry ducks a question about his claim that Social Security is unconstitutional.
Senator Mike Lee: I Want America’s ‘House To Come Down’ Unless Congress Votes To Rewrite Constitution
From Think Progress: Utah’s junior senator dabbles in extortion. In an interview on MSNBC’s Hardball last evening, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) admitted that he is using the threat of a catastrophic default to try and force the Senate into rewriting the Constitution in favor of a permanent era of conservative governance.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: How many days do you think we have, on the outside, to get this debt ceiling through before we have a problem? How many days?
LEE: I don’t know, maybe ten days.
MATTHEWS: Okay, in ten days you want to change the United States Constitution by two-thirds vote in both houses? That’s what you’re demanding.
LEE: Yes. If possible we can’t change the Constitution just in Congress but we can submit it to the states. Let the states fight it out.
MATTHEWS: And you think you’re being reasonable by saying you want a two-thirds vote in the House, which is Republican, and in the Senate which is Democrat. You want the Democratic Senate, by a two-thirds vote, to pass a constitutional amendment or you want the house to come down?
LEE: Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying and I’ve been saying this for six months.
Senator Lee’s proposed amendment makes it functionally impossible to raise taxes by imposing a two-thirds supermajority requirement. It would also require America to return to 1966 spending levels — spending cuts that are so steep they would have made every single one of Ronald Reagan’s budgets unconstitutional. Because Lee wants to write these draconian cuts into the Constitution, We the People would lose our power to overrule these cuts by electing different leaders.
Extortion is too kind a word to describe Lee’s threat. And why is it that people who are pleased to describe themselves as “conservatives” always want to radically change our Constitution?
UPDATE: The fun is just beginning. Hoyer: After Default Crisis, Look Forward To Another Government Shutdown Fight. A TPM commenter says:
It’s important to remember what these “crises” really are… the only “crisis” is that there are Republicans in Congress. We are not having a problem funding our government. We are not having a problem paying our bills. We are having a problem because Republicans are erecting barriers to us doing these things.
UPDATE: The Debt Ceiling Debacle
“It is clear we must enter an era of austerity; to reduce the deficit through shared sacrifice,” reads the statement issued by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, as she endorsed Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid’s plan to cut $2.7 trillion in spending over 10 years with no call for the wealthy to pay anything in taxes.
It has come to this. The proud liberal leader of House Democrats, excluded from many of the debt ceiling negotiations because she insisted on defending Social Security and Medicare, has now capitulated to the austerity caucus. And the Republicans still refuse to take yes for an answer.
Maybe American government has put aside concerns over the Constitution once and for all. How else can we explain the United States Armed Forces fighting an unprovoked war in Libya without any congressional authorization? There is bipartisan opposition to the war among members of Congress, which has so far been countered by Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
By the way, President Obama’s defenders claim that the 1973 War Powers Resolution (WPR) gave the President the ability to wage war in Libya for 60 days without congressional authorization. In fact, there is no such unfettered power– as candidate Obama himself pointed out in 2007. Section 1541(c) of the WPR explicitly states that the 60-day grace period applies only to “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” Libya never attacked us.
Today is Day 77 of this war, anyway. It’s an illegal war without any doubt or room for argument.
UPDATE: A bipartisan group of congressmen has filed a lawsuit against President Obama.
The lawsuit challenges what the lawmakers see as “the executive branch’s circumvention of Congress and its use of international organizations such as the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to authorize the use of military force abroad, in violation of the Constitution.”
UPDATE: As the Libyan War reaches the 3-month mark, the Obama White House staff has come up with a truly bizarre reason for not obtaining congressional authorization – U.S. operations there are not “hostilities” by the new Obama definition of the word.
Pizza millionaire Herman Cain seems mostly unaware of national political issues, but his candid responses clearly indicate he’s an honest man who knows right from wrong. His Sarah Palin-like cluelessness probably means his Presidential ambitions won’t get far, but in the meantime he’s the most interesting candidate the Republicans have got.
Of course, I disagree with him on a lot of his right-wing positions– but Cain is the first candidate of either party to stand up against the Obama administration’s plans to kill Americans without due process.
[I]n an interview with The Atlantic, GOP Presidential contender Herman Cain was asked about this policy and whether he would also approve of assassinating Americans. Cain at first seemed unaware of the policy, but later affirmed that he believed every American has a right to due process and that we should not be assassinating U.S. citizens:
INTERVIEWER: President Obama has said that he has the authority to assassinate American citizens if he’s declared them an enemy combatant in the War on Terror. Al Awlaki is one guy who is on the official government list where he can be taken out. Do you have any thoughts on that? Is it a good policy because it allows us to take out Americans who may have joined Al Qaeda? Or is it a bad policy -
CAIN: Well first of all, this is the first that I have heard – you’re saying it’s okay to take out American citizens if he suspects they are terrorist related. Is that what you said?!
INTERVIEWER: Yes, that’s what I said.
CAIN: I’ve got to be honest with you. I have not heard that. I had not heard that’s something that he said. I don’t believe that the president of the United States should order the assassination of citizens of the United States. That’s why we have our court system, and that’s why we have our laws. Even if the person is suspected of being affiliated with terrorism, if they are a citizen of this country, they still deserve the rights of this country, which includes due process. Osama bin Laden was not a citizen of the United States of America. So I would not have changed the decision the president made in that regard. But if you’re a citizen, no, it is not right for the president to to think he has the power to have you assassinated. No. He has the power to make sure you’re locked up, but you have to go through due process.
Cain’s position puts him to the left of the Obama administration and many of his Republican colleagues…
He said “I’ve got to be honest with you,” and then proceeded to say something honest!
Previously, Cain expressed support for the “right of return” of Palestinians, an answer that put him at odds with the Washington-based bipartisan view that Israel can do no wrong. But his campaign issued a retraction the very next day.
This country needs more principled conservatives. Senator Rand Paul tried to stop the Senate from re-authorizing the unconstitutional USA PATRIOT Act, but he cut a deal and backed down at the last minute.
UPDATE: Watch out, Herman! It’s True: Sarah Palin Is Back, National Bus Tour Starts Sunday
UPDATE: In the latest Gallup poll, Herman Cain places fifth in the GOP nomination race. But he’s ahead of T-Paw, Michele Bachmann, and Jon Huntsman.
UPDATE: Cain supports the Ryan plan to kill Medicare and replace it with a voucher system. But unlike other Republicans, he refuses to lie about it.
Nobody’s talking about the fact that the centerpiece of Ryan’s plan is a voucher. Now, a lot of people don’t like to use that term because it has a negative connotation…
I support Ryan’s plan 100%. We don’t need to come up with another plan. The people who are backing away from Ryan’s plan, which is very well thought out…they simply lack courage. I don’t know another way to put it. They lack courage. Don’t back away from something simply because it’s controversial or because it’s difficult to explain to the American people.
UPDATE: GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty thinks we have troops occupying Iran.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and a few top congressional insiders are trying to sneak through new worldwide war authority in a “must pass” piece of legislation. Literally in a midnight session last week, a new global authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) was tacked onto the Defense Authorization bill.
The New York Times editorialized:
Not content with the president’s wide-ranging powers to pursue the archcriminals of Sept. 11, 2001, Republicans want to authorize the military to pursue virtually anyone suspected of terrorism, anywhere on earth, from now to the end of time.
There have been no hearings on the worldwide war legislation, nor has its necessity been explained by Rep. Buck McKeon or anyone else in Congress.
This AUMF would give the President — any President — the power to unilaterally take our country to war wherever, whenever and however he or she sees fit. It would essentially declare a war without limits and without end.
When many are hoping to see an end to escalating conflict and abuses of power in the name of fighting terrorism, Congress is heading in the opposite direction.
UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald continues his years-long effort to explain why America can’t kill its way to security: They hate us for our freedoms.
We are now engaged in an illegal war against Libya. Yesterday, the official 60-day window for the War Powers Act expired, and there was no action to approve military use by Congress, yet we continue to be involved in direct military action in Libya. With this, a new precedent has been firmly established. The President of the United States can now unilaterally and freely wage war on any country or attempt to kill anyone anywhere on earth, for as long as the President wants. It is truly frightening god-like power solely vested in a single individual.