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Unhappy About the Debt Ceiling Deal? Don’t Complain, Act

5:27 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Election night crowd, Wellington, 1931

The people, united, will never be defeated!

So, are you unhappy? Odd are good that if you are a political junkie, if you are a follower of politics or if you have ever heard the word politics that you are in some form of discontent this morning. The plan that has been put forward as a “deal” has all the appeal of being told that you get to live, but you’ve had your left leg cut off and sometime later this year we’ll know how much of your right leg gets cut off as well.

It is getting late in the day but there still are ways that you can affect the outcome. You see this thing is not going to get out of the House without Democratic support. And a significant amount of it.

It could easily fail if Speaker Boehner’s “institutional” Republicans fear a primary more than they fear bucking their weak and oft confused leader. But there is a flip side of this, there is the Democratic 90 to 100 votes that are going to be needed to make it all happen.

Right now the leaders of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus are saying they are extremely unhappy with the plan and at least a couple of them are saying they will not support it. While there is some cross over between the two caucuses, between they have enough members to make passage much harder, if they all stick together to vote no.

At this point I am not sure what the President would do if faced with a last minute collapse of this, to quote the leader of the CBC, “Sugar coated Satan sandwich”. There is a lot of talk about the 14th Amendment, or the specifically reserved right to mint platinum coins or even the fact that there is a Homeland Security directive that seems to allow the president to take all kinds of unilateral action in the event of a wide range of emergency conditions including, specifically, economic turmoil.

I am pretty damned unhappy with President Obama, but even at the depths of my frustration I know that he is a smart guy and that smart folks don’t put all their eggs in one basket, even if they are saying they do. So, with that assumption of competence we can have some hope that if Progressives did derail this craptastic deal there would be something other than default in our future.

So what is there for someone who is seeing red to do? Quite a lot actually. The vote in the Senate is going to be first. It is a lock. It is going to happen and it is going to pass. There is no point in working there. However given the numbers of voices saying they are unhappy with the deal in the House there is a chance to push for rejection of a bad deal.
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Water Cooler- If The President Uses the 14th Amendement, Who Would Have Standing To Sue

6:02 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

The Supreme Court 2011

The Supreme Court 2011 by DonkeyHotey, on Flickr

What happens if the President does the right thing and invokes the 14th Amendment? Well, Rush Limbaugh’s head explodes and douses half of Florida with fat, but that is not what I am talking about.

One of the reasons that has been given for not at least touting this maneuver as a negotiating tactic is that the President’s legal team is telling him that it is not legal. But here is the thing, there has not been much testing of this idea that he can controvert the debt ceiling legislation by Constitutional grounds.

Contrary to what Ed Schultz keep blathering on what President Truman did has nothing to do with whether or not it is legal. Truman acted under the color of the 14th Amendment but got slapped down hard in the Youngstown v Sawyer.

That something like this would happen now if President Obama invoked the 14th Amendment the Supreme Court would just overturn it, and we would be right back in the default barrel. But would that really happen?

You see in Youngstown there was a clear group who had standing to sue the president. Namely the owners of the steel mills he had seized, based on the idea that we need to price and wage controls as we entered the Korean War. They were very clearly being harmed as they had no say in either the prices they could sell their goods nor the wages they had to pay their employees.

It seems likely that there is no one who would have standing (meaning that they were being harmed) if the President did invoke the constitutional option. Mathew Zeitlin has a full run down over at The New Republic (I know, they are not exactly what you’d call reliably liberal, but I do peek in there once in a while).

He points out that the because of various recent Supreme Court decisions, tax payers, individual Senators and Representatives and even bond holders have no actual way to prove injury and thus standing. There is a chance that both Houses of Congress could pass a resolution claiming that their power was usurped, which would give them a place to start, but it is unlikely that that would happen. In the House yes, but probably not in the Senate.
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Debt Ceiling Fight Has Me Thinking of Gallipoli

5:59 am in banality of evil by Bill Egnor

Gallipoli 100

Gallipoli 100 by Britrob

I am a big movie fan. As part of the deal that brought cable to the town I grew up in (Ypsilanti represent!) and one of the very few perks of Dad’s time as City Attorney, we were one of the first homes in town to get cable. So I was exposed to a huge range of films as a early teen and later.

One of the ones that always got to me was a Mel Gibson flick called Gallipoli. It is the story of two Australian runners who enlist in WWI and are sent to that disastrous campaign. At the end of the movie the troops are in their trenches, and they are about to be ordered to charge a hill controlled by Ottoman machine guns.

Mel Gibson’s character is a orders runner. He has been given the order that will stop the attack that will certainly lead to the slaughter of the troops, which the other runner is part of. He fails to get there in time and the men go over the top, into the teeth of the machine gun fire.

The other runner has been saying the mantra that he recited before a race and when the whistles blow he goes over the top, and starts to run to the enemy lines, eventually dropping his gun and being shot down. It is a horrible and wonderful statement about war and futility and courage.

What the hell does all of this have to do with politics? I am so glad you asked, gentle reader! I have been feeling more and more like that runner in Gallipoli lately. Specifically in regards to the completely manufactured debt ceiling crisis and the “solutions” that are coming out of it.

There are a lot of folks to slather blame on. One of them who is not getting a lot of play is Chicago Mayor Rham Emanuel. He is the guy who made “a crisis is an opportunity that should not be wasted” a White House article of faith.

Of course that would not be too bad if it were not for the President’s willingness to use a dangerous game by the Republicans to try to achieve a so-called ‘grand bargain” on a wide range of contentious issues. The major failure on the President’s part in this was assuming, against evidence and the fact that there are 85 hard right Republican House Freshmen, that he would have rational actors to negotiate with.
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Mirror Image Speeches, Both Bad

5:49 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Mirror Image

Mirror Image by cosygreeneyes

I watched both speeches last night on the debt ceiling. I have to say that this whole thing makes me crazed. It is a dumb time to talk about pulling trillions out of the economy, especially when we are talking about a policy that is supposed to be a decade long. All I see from the debt reduction right now is a slow growth of jobs because we never addressed the underlying problem of demand.

Be that as it may, there was plenty to be unhappy about from both the President and Speaker Boehner. President Obama is pitching us on the idea that cutting spending, and cutting it on social safety net programs is somehow going to bring the confidence and jobs fairies out of their coma and everything will be Moring in America again (I am not keen in any fashion on how much this President, this Democratic President grooves on Ronald Regan).

I understand that he is standing on the bridge of the Titanic and watching the Republicans push and iceberg into the path of the national and planetary economy. At this point I am not at all sure that there is much different he could have done, but that does not let him off the hook for granting the legitimacy of the deficit reduction by hostage taking (call it Disaster Legislating) in the first place.

He had the bully pulpit and could have been hammering it for months if he chose to do so. It is entirely possible that things would have been different, but it is water under the bridge now.

Last nights speech was kind of a primer for those (unlike you and me) who have not been paying attention and don’t have a the history of debt ceiling fights on the tip of our tongues. Still he was far too easy on the Republicans in terms of who is at fault for our massive debt. Five trillion (that is 5 million, million for those how don’t do big numbers well) was added to our debt in the 8 years of the Bush administration. That is more than 1/3 of the total.
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The McConnell Plan; Evil Genius or Political Capitulation

5:59 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Mitch McConnell, Filibuster King

Mitch McConnell, Filibuster King by DonkeyHotey

Yesterday Minority Leader Mitch “The Box Turtle” McConnell offered up a new plan for dealing with the debt ceiling. There has been a lot of talk back and forth amongst us Lefties as to whether this is a massive blink or if it might be evil genius. Personally I think it comes down somewhere in the middle.

For those who have not had time to untangle it here is what Sen. McConnell is proposing. Over the next two years the president can raise the debt ceiling on his own but he has to see if Congress likes it or not.

He would propose that he is going to raise the debt ceiling, by 700 billion dollars. He would be required to propose cuts which would happen if Congress disapproved of the increase. Then the Congress would vote on a non-binding resolution approving or disapproving of his doing so.

If they vote to disapprove, then the president could veto that resolution of disapproval. Then it would bounce back to the Congress who could try to override the veto, and in theory, require that the president enact his cuts.

What would actually be required it legislation that would have a 2/3 majority in both Houses of Congress detailing the cuts and raising the debt ceiling. To give this gymkhana time to play out, the instant the president notifies Congress of his intent to raise the debt ceiling, it would automatically increase by 100 billion.

So, that is what is being proposed, the question remains is it a capitulation or evil genius?

On the one hand it is definitely a shift in the power and would be a short term loss for the Republicans. Right now, and to the massive consternation of Democrats, Progressives and Liberals the Republicans have won an incredible amount of concessions from the President. They have a 5 to 1 ratio of cuts to revenue increases on the table, including the Holy Grail of movement Conservatism, massive changes to entitlements.
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Afghan Government Pulling Itself Apart Over Election Fraud

5:43 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Hamid Karzai - Caricature

Hamid Karzai - Caricature by DonkeyHotey, on Flick

Pic courtesy of Donkey-Hotey

Okay so we are (slowly) getting out of Afghanistan. Sure we’ve been there a decade and there are still large areas of the country that the we don’t control, but there is a (sort of) military there and the US will train more and more soldiers for it in over the next three years of our withdrawal. It’ll work, no really, after all there is a democratic government that will hold it all together when we leave….oh, wait, there isn’t really a solid government there.

How bad is it? Well, there was a little noticed commission that found recently found that 62 of the 249 (about 25%) were elected fraudulently and should be removed from their seats.

Given that we know there was massive fraud in the last round of both the presidential and parliamentary elections, this might sound like a good thing, a cleaning of the Afghan house political, with an eye to being a more open and functional democracy. That would be great it if were actually the case but, sadly, it does not look as though it is.

You see, the law makers this commission found should be removed is seen, unsurprisingly, by these law makers and others as a way for President Hamid Karzai to discredit one of the only institutions that might counterbalance him. After all there is a huge cloud of electoral fraud hanging over his re-election and there is no commission looking into that.

Then there is the Parliament’s defense of itself. After the commission came out with its report, the Parliament voted to fire the Attorney General and all six of the nations Supreme Court Justices involved. There are even calls for the impeachment of President Karzai (who ever said that the Afghans weren’t learning from our politics?).

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Water Cooler – Did The White House Just Throw A Birther Head Fake?

6:01 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Head Fakes

Head Fakes by Matt Stratton, on Flickr

Okay, let’s talk about the President releasing the “long form” birth certificate. I have held off talking about the actual situation because A) I am still convinced that it was part of a plan to suck all the oxygen out of the nomination of Panetta and Petraeus and B) I needed some time to think it through.

When I first heard about it my reaction was “Bloody Hell!” mostly because it seemed like a really bad move politically. After 30 months of stonewalling on this issue and making the Birthers look like lunatics it initially looked like the President was caving and giving away one of his better points for reelection.

But I have thought it through over the last 36 hours and I am not so sure that it is as bad as all that. Part of why I went in the direction I did is that we’ve all been trained that the President’s negotiating style is cave to something approaching the middle and then give ground from there. We’ve seen it time and again and this looked very much like that.

However, this was not a legislative move, this is and was all about campaigning (except for the added benefit of distracting form the DOD/CIA two step) and there the President has a very different style which seems to fit the situation and the facts better.

During the primary season and the general election on thing that President Obama and his team were known for was the head fake on positions. He would take a position that was designed to get an overreaction from his opponents and then pivot to move the conversation in a direction that favored him. It is really a classic political move, but it is not used as often as you’d think because it requires incredible message discipline and a really cool head to pull it off. Give credit where credit is due, the president has these traits and used them to great affect in his campaign.

Now look at the whole birth certificate situation from that point of view. It has grown and grown in size and volume to the point where questioning his birth in Hawaii is nearly sine qua non for a “serious” Republican candidate. Then there is the clown prince Donald Trump using his jackassery to promote his show and stir this controversy up. He has taken the bleating to 11 and staked a lot of his credibility on it.
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President Obama Plans CIA/DOD Two Step, But No One Seems To Notice

12:39 pm in Executive Branch, Foreign Policy, Government by Bill Egnor

Amidst the explosion of Orly Taitz head (with her hair how can you tell?) and Donald Trump being puffed up by the media like Rush Limbaugh after a truckload of Cialis over the President releasing his “long form” birth certificate there was some actual news which is mostly being overshadowed in by this silly season stuff.

Namely that it is expected that tomorrow the President will announce that CIA Director Leon Panetta will be moving to the position of Sec. Defense and, wait for it, General David Petraeus will be moving in to the CIA Directors job. Now whose heads are exploding?

I hate this announcement for a million different reasons. First off I don’t think that Panetta has done a stellar job as Director of CIA. While I understand that a clandestine service is not going to talk about what it does, as in almost never without a subpoena and a threat of contempt of Congress, but my impression is that he has not changed that much at the Spy agency since taking over there. I could be wrong, but that is my impression. Let’s all hope I am wrong.

The real problem is more with good ol’ General Dave. Ya’ll correct me if I am wrong but I thought that the reason we put him in command in Afghanistan was that he was the only one that could win it. Does that sound familiar to anyone? I am sure I read something like that half a million times from Right Wing sources. Maybe it was just a nightmare…

Now for those of you who are “glass half full” kind of folks, like myself, there is some good news. If we are pulling Gen. Dave out of Afghanistan, that pretty much means that the White House has figured out that there is not a whole hell of a lot they can do there anymore and it is time to fold our tents and get out of there. That is really crappy news for the Afghans, it will leave them with a totally corrupt government and an insurgent ex-government that is really licking its chops to get back into power. Still we have pretty much showed that at this late date there is nothing left to do in this war but leave.

On to more bad news; I have a real problem with the on going conflation of military and intelligence gathering. The two groups should be able to work together but putting military leaders into positions in the clandestine services just feel a little too much like “Seven Days in May” (if you haven’t seen it, rent it! Really).

We have already had too many examples of what can happen when the military is not properly constrained and is involved in a long war. The remarks of General McCrhystal and the revolution of psy-ops against Senators visiting our longest running war are just a couple of examples of what can happen. When you put folks like that behind the security wall of the CIA there has to be reason to be concerned.
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What Makes A President Presidential?

5:32 am in Executive Branch, Government by Bill Egnor

Carpet @ Oval Office Library @ Clinton Presidential Museum

Carpet @ Oval Office Library @ Clinton Presidential Museum by Scott Adams, on Flickr

What makes someone Presidential? I am not talking about policy, since there is a lot (some of folks who don’t agree with me will say almost none) of difference in policy, but that quality that makes you think of president as the President?

Looking a back on the presidents I have been aware of in my life I am still not sure how to define that. We talk a lot about leadership. I have been really disappointed in President Obama’s leadership. For all that he has achieved legislation that meets a carefully parsed description of his campaign promises; he has really not taken a lot of what look like strong stands.

It was, we are assured, a tactical move to have the president mostly stay out the process. I was willing to take that at face value at the time, but at this point given the disappointments in terms of other issues that really matter to me (torture accountability, full civil rights for gay citizens, EFCA) I don’t really see him as a strong leader.

Still, is that what it means to be presidential? A strong man? President Bush, for all that he was a feckless clown, was willing to stand strong on issues. It got us into a totally unjustifiable war that is going to cost upwards of 3 trillion (3,000 billion) when all is said and done. He was so “strong” that he was wiling to tell the world, including our allies, that you are with us or against us.

At the same time he suffered from some waffling and showed lots of signs of being pushed around by his own party. Take the nomination then withdrawal of Harriet Myers for the Supreme Court. It was a goofy and overreaching nomination, but the backlash from his own party caused him to get her to withdraw. I think that we wound up with a worse Chief Justice in John Roberts, who is at least smart to go along with being unfailingly conservative. Ms. Myers would have been such a dufus she would have never been made Chief Justice.

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Water Cooler – More Trump-Birther Performance Art

5:10 pm in banality of evil by Bill Egnor

I know it is Art Saturday, so bear with me, but I have begun to think that Donald Trump’s embrace of Birtherism might very well be performance art. I mean really, it can’t be about politics. After all if it were he’d be worried that he is throwing his lot in with folks like disgraced Col. Terrance Lakin or Dr. Esq. Orly Taitz, dandelion-haired Queen of the Birthers.

Both of these people have gotten them selves in serious legal hot water pursing the best course of action if one really believes that the President is not really born in the United States, namely the courts. After all, when you are really running for president you do everything you can to distance yourself from the craziest of ideas in your base.

That is not what Trump is doing. I am not sure if it quadrupling down or octupling down at this point but take a look at what he said to Talking Points Memo today, just minutes before going in front of a tea party crowd in Boca Raton:

I just have to make a couple of points about this. The whole “citizenship” thing is BS. No one, not a single person is disputing that President Obama’s mother is a United States citizen. No one ever has. So, no matter what Barack Obama would have been a US citizen, and anyone should know that.

Which brings me to the other point; Trump talks about how he went to a great school, and mentions that he says that to show that it is not just loonies who believe this horse pucky. The problem there is two fold. Orly Tatiz has a D.D.S and J.D. Now admittedly she got her legal degree from a correspondences school, but she did pass and managed to pass the California Bar. Col. Lakin went to medical school and was a practicing flight surgeon for 17 years.

It does not matter how highly educated you are, you can still be prone to believing conspiracy theories if something in the theory motivates you that way. For Mr. Trump, that seems to be keeping his T.V. ratings high, not running for office.
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