Archive for January, 2008 Podcast 27

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008 Podcast 27 is all about the explicit-content rating: Grown-up talk about pre-marital (or extra-marital) sex of various skeezy varieties. Oh, and a nice long chunk on the Hillary-and-Bill-versus-Barack stuff from the campaign trail. Details below.

Special thanks, by the way, to Sven for turning me onto the Tool song, Adam for turning me onto the Patty Griffin song, and Dave for turning me onto Mute Math. My Robot Friend I came by on my own.

By the way, if you like these podcasts, please consider helping me get more listeners by casting a vote at Podcast Alley. You could also post a customer review at iTunes, if you’re feeling frisky.

Latest Signing Statement Flouts Reason and Law

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

In signing the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008 into law, President Bush issued a signing statement stating that he would not enforce four sections of the law, citing that they would “inhibit the president’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations”. These sections were:

  • Forbidding use of taxpayer money to build permanent military bases in Iraq
  • Strengthening protections for whistle-blowers within government contractors
  • Requiring intelligence agencies respond to Congressional requests for information within 45 days
  • Establishment of a “Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan” to investigate contractor wrong-doing

All four of these seem to me imminently reasonable — necessary even — things to put into law, and I find it outrageous that the President would refuse to execute them. But setting that aside, I’d like to look at the legality of this signing statement from a couple points of view.

First, some would argue that the division of war-related powers between Congress and the President are unclear, so it is within reason for the President to assert that these would unconstitutionally limit his powers. If you take that point of view however, the correct response would be for the President to either veto the bill, or sign it and challenge the sections he believes unconstitutional in court. Of course he won’t do this because he wants to sign the bill to get the bits he wants, and I suspect he refuses to take his challenge to court because he fears he would lose; I certainly believe he would, as the above provisions seem well within Congress’ funding and oversight powers to me. The President is essentially exercising powers reserved for the Supreme Court by making judgments on constitutionality, and it is this Congress’ responsibility to check him.

Second, some would argue that signing statements are an executive tool with a historical precedent, used when the President’s duty to the Constitution runs afoul of Congress’ wishes, and so it is reasonable for the President to use this tool. If you take this point of view however, then even as the President suspends execution of the law, I believe it is again his responsibility to immediately take his challenge to the courts to ensure he himself is acting constitutionally. Since he is not (again I believe for the same reasons stated above), then it falls to the Congress to check him.

Both arguments lead to one conclusion: when the Executive branch is actively avoiding legal rulings on policies being pursued (as they have repeatedly done — here, as well as in cases such as FISA), the only Constitutional recourse is impeachment, and I mean this is a very concrete legal sense, not an “impeach the bastard!” sense.

So to get back to the topic at hand, can anybody defend Bush refusing to execute sections of law that I believe most people would agree make sense, and supporting this refusal on very questionable legal grounds? I certainly can’t, and Congress should be ashamed for running out the clock rather than doing their job.

Hilzoy on Bill and Hillary’s Lying About Obama

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

Hilzoy has some interesting commentary (that I basically agree with) about what it means that Hillary (and/or Bill) have chosen over the last few weeks to make what are essentially dishonest attacks on Barack Obama: Lies And Democracy.

When politicians lie… they raise the amount of time it takes to do one’s job as a citizen adequately, and they raise it dramatically. It’s as though they walked up to people and said: if I weren’t around, you might be able to fulfill your civic obligations by reading the papers, but thanks to my lies, in order to exercise your right to vote responsibly, you will have to spend hours Googling and going over long-forgotten articles in order to find out the most basic facts. If you don’t, I’ll be able to deceive you. Ha ha ha!

People who do that have no respect for voters, no respect for their right to make up their own minds, and no respect for our democratic system. The only way they will stop is if we stop tolerating it. In a democracy, we get the leaders we deserve. I very much hope we deserve better than the Clintons.

Tenth Anniversary of the Finger Waggle

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

It seems kind of ironic, given the prominent role Bill Clinton has been playing in the Democratic primary lately, but apparently it was 10 years ago yesterday that he gave the nation the finger-waggle while declaring, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

For your viewing pleasure:

The Center for Public Integrity on the Bush Administration’s Iraq Lies

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Nice summing up of the lies Bush and Company told in the run-up to war with Iraq: Iraq: The War Card. Pretty much speaks for itself.

Kleiman on Drum on Obama

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Interesting commentary by Mark Kleiman on Kevin Drum’s recent statements about Barack Obama (who Drum apparently sees as either naively being truly willing to deal with conservatives, or dishonestly saying he’ll practice kumbaya while secretly planning to be as nasty to conservatives as Hillary would be). According to Kleiman, that gets it wrong: Obama is just being honest, while Hillary is being the sort of politician we have every reason to expect her to be. Anyway, I think I’m with Kleiman on this one. I was paying attention when the Iraq War vote happened, and I know how Hillary was talking then. And I know how she’s been talking lately (to the extent she’s been willing to, which isn’t much) on the subject of torture. And that’s enough to put me firmly in the Obama camp.

Anyway: Style, substance, and “kumbaya”.

Greenwald on Levant on the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s Investigation of Suspected Thoughtcrime

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Glenn Greenwald has some extremely apt things to say about Ezra Levant’s interrogation by the Alberta Human Rights Commission in response to Levant, publisher of a Canadian right-wing magazine, choosing to publish cartoons depicting Mohamed, and thereby eliciting complaints from an Islamic group’s imam: The Noxious Fruits of Hate Speech Laws. Among those apt things is his description of the above video as “nothing short of stomach-turning.” There’s also this:

For those unable to think past the (well-deserved) animosity one has for the specific targets in question here, all one needs to do instead is imagine these proceedings directed at opinions and groups that one likes. If Muslim groups can trigger government investigations due to commentary they find offensive, so, too, can conservative Christian or right-wing Jewish groups, or conservative or neoconservative groups, or any other political faction seeking to restrict and punish speech it dislikes.

Philosoraptor on McGovern on Impeachment

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

I still like Philosoraptor, even if he’s a bit too rah-rah about blowing things up for my taste sometimes. But I really enjoyed reading his take on the recent McGovern article calling for Bush to be impeached: McGovern: Impeach Bush.

It’s always struck me as peculiar that the very people who have the most pronounced tendency to wave the flag and extol the virtues of America also seem to have the least actual respect for the Constitution and the institutions of our government. That brand of patriotism–if patriotism it even is–is of a tribalistic, sophomoric variety. Actual patriotism, however, requires a commitment to the principles of the Consitution, and an ability to take an objective view of matters of this kind by transcending partisan commitments. There may be legal arguments that show that impeachment is not, in fact, called for, but if those arguments exist they have not been made public. From the perspective of the well-informed layperson, given the available evidence and arguments, impeachment must at least be seriously considered.

The New Hampshire Polls: What Happened?

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

If you’ve already decided that it was a conspiracy, in which Hillary got her friend Ray Buckley to rig the New Hampshire voting machines, you probably don’t care about this. (And you’ll probably want to avoid it, because it mentions something that seems like a pretty big hole in your argument: that exit polling showed the same Hillary win that the machines did.) But for the rest of us obsessives, this article in the Columbia Journalism Review is kind of interesting: The Polls: What the #$!% Happened?

No real answers, but some informed musing about what was and wasn’t a factor.

Update: Oh, and immediately after posting this, I came across the following Joshua Micah Marshall item at TPM: Enough.

There is also something perverse about the quick knee-jerk reaction to assume that any election that dramatically doesn’t go your way was stolen. It stems from the same fidelity to assumption and desire over fact that so many of us have excoriated in the present administration. There is a sullen childishness at work in this thinking that no robust political movement can ever be built on.

What he said.

Sleeper: If I Vote for Obama, It’ll Be Because…

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

One of the better things I’ve read on Barack Obama’s candidacy lately is this piece by Jim Sleeper: If I Vote for Obama, It’ll Be Because… Podcast 26

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

The newest podcast is available: Podcast 26. This one features the following:

I really like how this one turned out, especially the part where I followed (sort of) listener pelonpelon’s suggestion and played around with mixing in a little Bush at the beginning of “Post-modern Sleaze”. Anyway, check it out.

Andy Olmsted’s In-the-Event-of-My-Death Post at Obsidian Wings

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

This is worth reading: Andy Olmsted.

If there is any hope for the long term success of democracy, it will be if people agree to listen to and try to understand their political opponents rather than simply seeking to crush them.

Peters on Obama on Videotaped Interrogations

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Bet I get some folks’ attention with that headline. But it turns out it’s not CIA videotaping, but police videotaping in Illinois, that the story refers to. Apparently Barack Obama was a key player in passing legislation requiring law enforcement in Illinois to videotape interrogations and confessions. At least in Charles Peters’ view, the story says something about Obama’s skills, and (by extension) how he might lead as President: Judge Him by His Laws.

Greenwald on the Mystery of Gonzales’s and Addington’s Position on Destroying the Torture Tapes

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

A better-than-usual (which is saying a lot) Glenn Greenwald column that touches on what I believe to be a key part of the destroyed-torture-tapes story: The fact that the top legal advisors of the president and vice president were present at a meeting where an act of obstruction of justice was apparently discussed (an act that subsequently came to pass), and the public is being kept in the dark as to what action they advised: Oligarchical decay.

In case after case, our political establishment has adopted the “principle” that our most powerful actors are immune from the rule of law. And they’ve adopted the enabling supplemental “principle” that any information which our political leaders want to keep suppressed is — by definition, for that reason alone — information that is “classified” and should not be disclosed.

I think I’ll be making another one of my periodic calls to the office of my congressional representative, the otherwise-awesome Lois Capps, to encourage her to break with Nancy Pelosi on the subject of impeachment. Because loyalty to one’s party is one thing. But complicity with torture is the sort of thing that tends to look bad when reflects on it later in life.