Constitutional Questions

More about impeaching the vice president, but in general terms. In all their other wisdom, the Framers of the Constitution back in 1787 left a glaring oversight in the federal impeachment process. Article 1, Section 3 clearly states that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over presidential impeachment trials. Not explicitly said, though, is that the vice president, being the President of the Senate presides over all other impeachment trials.

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided…..

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 3

Constitutionally speaking, then, this would mean the vice president would technically preside over his own trial. Obviously he would have to recuse himself, so who would preside instead? Since the chief justice presides over presidential trials, my guess is that he would try the vice president as well.

Interesting enough, Ohio representative Dennis Kucinich back in April introduced a bill to impeach the vice president. The bill is currently dead in a House committee. Bill summary:

Sets forth articles of impeachment stating that Vice President Cheney: (1) has purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive the citizens and Congress of the United States about a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and about an alleged relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, to justify the use of the U.S. Armed Forces against Iraq in a manner damaging to U.S. national security interests; and (2) has openly threatened aggression against Iran absent any real threat to the United States, and has done so with the U.S. proven capability to carry out such threats, thus undermining U.S. national security.

The Cheney Presidency

bush and cheney

He’s not running to become the next president, but he doesn’t have to. If you haven’t been reading the Washington Post’s fantastically revealing articles on Vice President Cheney, you should most definitely check them out. The articles are an insight to the stealthy, pseudo Cheney presidency.

Another article every American and Congressperson should read is an argument for impeaching the vice president. Quote:

Cheney is impeachable for his overweening power and his sneering contempt of the Constitution and the rule of law.

I’m amazed that so little light has been shed on the goings-on of the White House during this administration. The previous Congress allowed much of the beefed-up executive branch to happen since it failed in its oversight duties, giving the president and the vice president what amounts to free-reign on doing whatever they wanted to do. This new Congress, though, has thus far not done too much more than the last one. Subpoenas keep getting issued, but what, if anything, has become of any one of them that were issued? I appreciate the job that people like Vermont senator Patrick Leahy have been doing in trying to expose and correct the administration’s wrongdoings, but more needs to be done.

Checks and balances in our government work only when those who are supposed to be doing the checking and balancing actually do their job. Subpoenas may not be the best tool for this job particularly when the person overseeing the nation’s law enforcement, the attorney general, seems to have trouble doing his job too. Instead, more drastic measures perhaps should be explored. Take Illinois representative Rahm Emanuel’s threating to cut-off the vice president’s funding after the veep said he was not part of the executive branch. Cheney, then, reversed his original stance.

This administration has already proved it will do what is necessary to get what it wants. Congress, on behalf of the American people who elected them, should do no less.

(Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

Sending the Wrong Signals

capitol

The House of Representatives is poised to give themselves a pay raise for the excellent and very hard work they’ve been doing. After the $4,400 increase, their salary will be nearly $170,000.

Nevermind that the median household income, as of 2005, was $46,326; nevermind that 37 million [PDF] Americans live below the poverty level; and nevermind that 46 million Americans have no health insurance coverage.

As always, Congress is looking out for the working men and women in this country. I’m glad they found the time to take care of themselves amidst all their important work fixing the education system, fixing the health care system, saving Social Security and Medicare, finding alternative fuels, securing the borders, curtailing the illegal immigration problem, and solving that pesky Middle East problem. Well done, Congress, well done. You are a shining example for the rest of us.

(Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

A Mess All Around

I’m a little confused about the situation in Iraq. The top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, offers, what I think, are contradictory assessments, or dates for assessments. Of course, though, we can’t call them “timelines” or, gasp, even “benchmarks.”Supposedly in September, just over two months from now, the general will issue a report assessing the progress, or lack of, on the troop increase, a.k.a. “the surge.” But, the general has also said it will take years (yes years, not two months) to resolve insurgency problems in Iraq.

So my question is, what is this September deadline for? Is it really a deadline for anything? Or will the general and the president keep on doing what they’ve been doing all along and continue the war? Will they send more troops and say they need a few more months? Or will we somehow be roped into a war with Iran?

I’ve struggled for a long time, now, with the Iraq war. Nevermind why we went or if we should have went. We’re there now, and that’s the reality. No sense dreaming about what-ifs in this situation. That helps nobody.

On one hand, I understand the necessity for remaining there. If we pulled out tomorrow, the region would likely collapse into a bigger mud hole than it already is. Civil wars on a mass scale seem likely. But on the other hand, what good are we really doing there? The Iraqi government seems reluctant, if willing at all, to stand up for themselves; we appear to be breeding more terrorists day-by-day (whether they’re al Qaeda or not, because some nut case with an IED is still a terrorist); electricity in the country is scarce after how many years; oil production and revenues are as prolific as sharks in a backyard swimming pool; etc. etc. etc.

What would happen if we pulled out? Chaos, probably. And that isn’t something we can afford seeming as that region is of extreme importance to us since we can’t seem to find alternative fuels. So, perhaps the entire Mideast oil supply gets cut off. Then we have to rely on reserves, which won’t last long, and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, not exactly someone begging on our doorstep to be invited to dinner. Now, then, the crisis is at home. Not because some terrorists “followed us home,” but because we, the American people and government, have no foresight. If we don’t need the oil, we don’t need to be there.

If we continue there, prospects aren’t really any better. Things will simply keep on keeping on. What about the prospect of splitting Iraq into three countries, or at least three highly autonomous regions (which would likely split apart anyway)? I don’t know much about that, other than letting the Iraqi Kurd population up north have their own country could embolden the Kurds in Turkey to revolt for their own country too. A mess all around.

So, really, there is no solution. No solution, at least, that will make everyone happy. We are left with choosing from the less-worse of choices, but which one is that?

What I find interesting, though, on Monday a top Republican senator hammered away at the president’s fortifications. Indiana senator Richard Lugar:

Our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond…. In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved.

Someone, somewhere needs to have a plan. A plan that will work for all parties involved. It would be great if, say, someone in Congress or the White House stopped with all the silly, inconsequential non-binding resolutions and posturing and actually do what we all sent them there to do: solve the hard problems. If they can’t, then let’s get someone in charge who can.

Bushism #87,927,752

More proof the president doesn’t know what’s going on:

You know, I’ve heard all the rhetoric you’ve heard it, too about how this is amnesty. Amnesty means that you’ve got to pay a price for having been here illegally, and this bill does that.

President Bush, today, deviating from months-long statements of the opposite persuasion

Standing Up to the President

50 high school Presidential Scholars met with the president Monday for the usual meet-and-greet. This time, though, the students proved why they were Presidential Scholars: they presented him with a letter urging him to stop torturing terrorist suspects.

We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants.

The president, of course, told them we don’t torture people.

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Perhaps certain Congressional leaders, say Pelosi, Reid, McConnell, and Boehner, should take notice. High school students can stand up for human rights and international law, but our paid Congresspeople can’t?

(Nod: The Daily Dish)

BuzzDash

A cool site with tons of interactive polls. You can even see in real-time other site users voting in the polls. Wicked cool and easy to get lost on the site.

All Tied Up

Looking for creative ways to lace and tie your shoes? Look no further.

The Man with the Hat Is Back

Proof that not everything in the world has gone bad.

The Other White Meat

Democrats leading up to the 2006 midterm election railed against the Republican “Culture of Corruption” and touted their plan to end the shadowy deals and hidden uses of tax-payer money.

Well, there’s a reason why only 14% of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress, according to the Gallup Poll. 14%!

Part of the Democrats’ plan they campaigned on was to bring earmarks out into the light. Congresspeople often bring back the bacon for their home districts, securing taxpayer money for pet projects. Anderson Cooper of CNN and his staff called all 435 members of Congress to see if each would disclose the list of earmarks each requested. The results?

  • 45 have turned over their requests.
  • 68 flat out refused.
  • 6 told us they did not request any earmarks.
  • But the majority, 316, never responded.

45 out of 435 isn’t exactly shedding light on the pork problem. Oh, and one of the 68 who refused? None other than Speaker Nancy Pelosi. How’s that for campaign promises.

New Rules

How far off the rocker is the vice president? According to him, the Office of the Vice President does not fall in the Executive Branch. Not being part of the Executive Branch allows his office not to report on documents they classify or declassify. Yes, more secrecy from the White House.

So the VP’s office is not in the Executive Branch, but the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, better known as AMTRAK, is. Go figure.

On the Way to Big Things

Things are going to get interesting. Might there be a three-way race between three New Yorkers? Let’s hope not.

Exodus

Did the Bush Administration and its pre-war planning (or lack thereof) take into consideration the massive refuge crisis in Iraq? Quote:

The United Nations says in a recent report that an estimated 1.4 million Iraqis have already fled to neighboring countries, mostly to Jordan and Syria, and at least 2,000 more leave Iraq every day.

More Trouble at the Justice Department?

While the Justice Department’s civil rights division seems content to move away from race cases and instead pursue religious cases, there may have been more Justice employees removed for political reasons. Quote:

In Congressional testimony in March, [Joseph D.] Rich [who recently stepped down as head of the voting rights section after a 37-year career at Justice] said seven managers had been removed or marginalized for what he characterized as political reasons or perceived disloyalty. Department officials acknowledge the changes, but dispute the reasons.

About the shift taking place:

Not until recently has anyone in the [Justice] department considered religious discrimination such a high priority. No one had ever considered it to be of the same magnitude as race or national origin.

Brian K. Landsberg, a law professor at the University of the Pacific and a former Justice Department lawyer under both Republican and Democratic administrations

Judges Say U.S. Can’t Hold Man as “Combatant”

And the cards begin to fall. Finally. Quote:

To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians, even if the president calls them “enemy combatants,” would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution and the country.

Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, U.S. Fourth District Court of Appeals

Voting Overseas

Apparently if you’re a U.S. citizen overseas (such as military personnel), voting in elections back home isn’t a sure bet. Quote:

A system should be in place, regardless of the cost, to make sure that the very defenders of our democracy have the opportunity to take part in it

Sgt. James Mowrer, an Iowa National Guardsman deployed in Iraq who helped organize voters in his unit in 2006

Iraqis Are Failing to Meet U.S. Benchmarks

Surprised? I’m not.

The Twin Towers

Watch this video, especially from 8:25 to about 10:15. That’s all I’m going to say.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3249714675910247150

“Shining”

These recut trailers work the best when the new version is so drastically different from the actual film. This one’s still one of the best.

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“Scary Mary”

Time to lighten things up a bit around here. You thought Mary Poppins was a sweet, charming lady? Think again.

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“Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”

Frightening, dangerous, and unconscionable: GOP presidential candidates advocate torture or rather “enhanced interrogation techniques.” From the transcript:

All were posed this hypothetical in the debate on Tuesday:

Three shopping centers near major U.S. cities have been hit by suicide bombers. Hundreds are dead, thousands injured. A fourth attack has been averted when the attackers were captured off the Florida coast and taken to Guantanamo Bay, where they are being questioned. U.S. intelligence believes that another larger attack is planned and could come at any time.

How aggressively would you interrogate those being held at Guantanamo Bay for information about where the next attack might be?

Mayor Giuliani:

I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they could think of. It shouldn’t be torture, but every method they can think of… I’d say every method they could think of, and I would support them in doing that because I’ve seen what (interrupted by applause) I’ve seen what can happen when you make a mistake about this, and I don’t want to see another 3,000 people dead in New York or any place else.

What exactly is “every method they can think of” that sets it apart from torture?

Governor Romney:

Yeah, first of all, let’s make sure that we understand that the key in electing the next president is to find somebody who will make sure that that scenario doesn’t ever happen, and the key to that is prevention….

Some people have said, we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo. We ought to make sure that the terrorists (applause) and there’s no question but that in a setting like that where you have a ticking bomb that the president of the United States not the CIA interrogator, the president of the United States has to make the call. And enhanced interrogation techniques have to be used not torture but enhanced interrogation techniques, yes.

Again, what’s the difference?

A sane view, however, from Senator McCain:

The use of torture we could never gain as much we would gain from that torture as we lose in world opinion. We do not torture people….

One of the reasons is, is because if we do it, what happens to our military people when they’re captured? And also, they realize there’s more to war than the battlefield.

Thoughts On My Thoughts

Clarification on yesterday’s post: I didn’t mean to suggest that Congressman Paul said we invited 9/11. We live in a world of consequences, good ones and bad ones. To pretend we don’t or to pretend we are immune from any consequences goes beyond any level-headed mentality. This, I think, was what Congressman Paul was saying. We have to realize we cannot do anything in the world that won’t have ramifications. Does that “justify” 9/11? Surely not. But to assume we can do anything in the world we want without anyone else caring or trying to do something to stop us is dangerous.

Thoughts on the GOP Debate

In last night’s GOP presidential debate, Texas Congressman Ron Paul said this:

Have you ever read the reasons [Al Qaeda] attacked us? They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We’ve been in the Middle East.

After Paul was finished with his comments, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said this:

That’s really an extraordinary statement. That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (applause) And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that. (applause)

I find Giuliani’s comments baffling. Let me remind Mr. Giuliani of Osama bin Laden’s fatwa, released in 1998:

…for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples…. On that basis, and in compliance with God’s order, we issue the following fatwa to all Muslims: The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies civilians and military is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it….

Bin Laden says Americans should be attacked because we have troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. Sorry, Mr. Giuliani, but is that not exactly what Mr. Paul mentioned? But that’s ok, you got the applause and the sound bite, so that’s all that matters.

On another note, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said this:

My fear is that McCain-Kennedy [immigration bill] would do to immigration what McCain-Feingold has done to campaign finance and money in politics, and that’s bad.

Mr. Romney, let me remind you that in the first fundraising quarter, you raised $20 million dollars. Was that “bad”?

Starving Congress

U.S. Representatives James McGovern (D-MA), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Tim Ryan (D-OH) have pledged to live on an average food stamp budget just $3 a day from May 15-21, 2007 and have invited other Members of Congress to join them in the Food Stamp Challenge.

More details here.

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My blog needs a title. Have any suggestions?