March 1, 2014
Palin Mocked in 2008 for Warning Putin May Invade Ukraine if Obama Elected

So this is pretty dumb.  Breitbart.com is pretty clearly trying to suggest here that Sarah Palin was saying some sort of foreign policy sooth when she suggested that Russia would invade the Ukraine if Obama was elected.  A few questions for the editorial staff:

  1. The U.S. Government has already denounced Russia’s invasion of Crimea.  What would a McCain-Palin administration have done differently?  Impose economic sanctions?  Go the U.N. Security Council?  U.S. trade with Russia only accounts for about $26 billion dollars in imports, with a trade deficit in Russia’s favor of about $15.8 billion.  That’s less than 1% of Russia’s GDP.  And neither the U.N. Security Council nor the General Assembly are ever going to approve sanctions against Russia.  So what’s the alternative?  Bomb Moscow?
  2. Russia is taking advantage of political instability in the Ukraine that occurred after the current President abused his authority. What policies could an American President realistically have enacted to prevent this situation from occurring?  Should we station American troops on the Ukrainian border and start another Cold War?  What if the Ukrainian public refused to allow U.S. troops in their borders?
  3. If the McCain-Palin ticket was elected, what would the administration have done differently to prevent this situation from occurring?  Threaten to invade Russia?

In reality, Palin’s comments are just an example of the old saying that even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Which is, of course, not due to any particular virtue of the clock, or the insight of the clockmaker.  Palin was rightfully mocked for saying this because the implied causes and effects of her statement don’t bear any relation to reality.  It would be like me predicting in 2000 that the financial markets would suffer a catastrophic crash if George W. Bush was elected—despite the fact that there’s no evidence that the markets wouldn’t have crashed under Al Gore or John Kerry.  It’s not genuine insight.  It’s coincidence parading as wisdom.

January 29, 2014
Fact-Checking The State Of The Union Address

From the article:

“I”: By positing the existence of a fixed, independent self that is distinct from the group, Obama succumbs to a classic existential misconception: reifying the ego, that illusory, shifting entity that is not apart from, but of, the whole.

Amazing.

(Source: theonion)

December 18, 2013
FOIA And The Presidential Privilege

In a recent federal case, Judge Ellen Huvelle from the D.C. District Court has some excellent legal analysis regarding when the Presidential Communications Privilege applies, and when it does not.

In 2010, the Obama administration issued a policy document called Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development (the “PPD-6”).  This was a diplomatic document that “purports to communicate policy relevant to national security and foreign relations topics.”  It was distributed to a number of federal agencies, including the Dep’t of State, USAID, It was widely distributed throughout the Executive Branch beyond the White House.

An organization called the Center for Effective Government made a FOIA request seeking the PPD-6, and was denied.  They later sued to get the document.  However, the Government claims the PPD-6 is protected under something called “Exemption 5,” which is the exemption in FOIA related to presidential communications.

While the PPD-6 appears to have been distributed on a need-to-know basis, the fact remains that the Presidential Communications Privilege does not protect every document that comes from the President’s desk.  The court summed up the relevant law:

The presidential communications privilege is a “presumptive privilege for [p]residential communications,” United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 708 (1974), that “preserves the President’s ability to obtain candid and informed opinions from his advisors and to make decisions confidentially.” Loving, 550 F.3d at 37; see also In re Sealed Case, 121 F.3d 729, 750 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (“[T]he privilege itself is rooted in the need for confidentiality to ensure that presidential decisionmaking is of the highest caliber, informed by honest advice and full knowledge.” (emphasis added)). The privilege protects those “documents or other materials that reflect presidential decisionmaking and deliberations and that the President believes should remain confidential,” and, once the privilege is invoked, the documents become presumptively  privileged. In re Sealed Case, 121 F.3d at 744. Further, unlike the deliberative process privilege, which is also encompassed under Exemption 5, the presidential communications privilege “applies to documents in their entirety, and covers final and post-decisional materials as well as pre-deliberative ones.” Id. at 745.

The privilege also protects:

communications authored or solicited and received by those members of an immediate White House adviser’s staff who have broad and significant responsibility for investigating and formulating the advice to be given the President on the particular matter to which the communications relate.

The emphasized text is important.  Because the PPD-6 was distributed beyond the immediate White House Advisors’ staff, it can’t reasonably be construed to be covered by the Presidential Communications Privilege—particularly since FOIA exemptions are supposed to be interpreted narrowly:

The scope of the privilege is to be “construed as narrowly as is consistent with ensuring that the confidentiality of the President’s decision-making process is adequately protected.”Judicial Watch, 365 F.3d at 1116 (quoting In re Sealed Case, 121 F.3d at 752); see also Abramson, 456 U.S. at 630 (“FOIA exemptions are to be narrowly construed.”). As such, it “only applies to communications that … advisers and their staff author or solicit and receive in the course of performing their function of advising the President on official government matters” and does not generally “extend to staff outside the White House in executive branch agencies.”In re Sealed Case, 121 F.3d at 752; see also Judicial Watch, 365 F.3d at 1116. “[T]here is, in effect, a hierarchy of presidential advisers such that the demands of the privilege become more attenuated the further away the advisers are from the President operationally.” Judicial Watch, 365 F.3d at 1115

Accordingly, Judge Huvelle found that the PPD-6 was not protected by the Presidential Communications Privilege, and ordered the Government to make it available for inspection.

While this decision is a win for government transparency, one wonders what the Executive Branch’s reaction to this will be.  Will they start defensively classifying everything that comes from the President’s desk?  Such an approach would be inconsistent with FOIA, of course.  But not everybody has the time or effort to litigate each time the Government classifies a document.  

On the other hand, nothing is really being lost here.  Had the court gone the other way, we would still not have access to the PPD-6, and the scope of the privilege would have been increased as a matter of law—a decidedly undesirable result.

Nonetheless,the court’s decision does a good job of explaining when something is supposed to be privileged under FOIA and when it isn’t.  Useful information for anyone trying to figure out what the Executive Branch is up to.

November 27, 2013
"20% Of Obama’s Pardons Have Gone To Turkeys"

It’s like dark comedy, only it’s real life.  Here are some statistics for Presidential Pardons relative to number of applications for clemency:

Ronald Reagan: 1 in 8

George H.W. Bush: 1 in 19

Bill Clinton: 1 in 16

George W. Bush: 1 in 55

Barack Obama: 1 in 290

Political liability is not an excuse.  This is unprecedented restraint.  It seems like a good time to recall the words of Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 74:

The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel. As the sense of responsibility is always strongest, in proportion as it is undivided, it may be inferred that a single man would be most ready to attend to the force of those motives which might plead for a mitigation of the rigor of the law, and least apt to yield to considerations which were calculated to shelter a fit object of its vengeance. The reflection that the fate of a fellow-creature depended on his sole fiat, would naturally inspire scrupulousness and caution; the dread of being accused of weakness or connivance, would beget equal circumspection, though of a different kind. On the other hand, as men generally derive confidence from their numbers, they might often encourage each other in an act of obduracy, and might be less sensible to the apprehension of suspicion or censure for an injudicious or affected clemency. On these accounts, one man appears to be a more eligible dispenser of the mercy of government, than a body of men.

Some of these are not hard cases.  In the case of Weldon Angelos, a first-time offender sentenced to 55 years in prison, a  Republican-appointed Judge who wrote Angelos’ sentencing order actually requested that the President pardon Angelos, because the 55-year sentence mandated by law was manifestly unjust:

[This] court believes that to sentence Mr. Angelos to prison for the rest of his life is unjust, cruel, and even irrational … To correct what appears to be an unjust sentence, the court also calls on the President—in whom our Constitution reposes the power to correct unduly harsh sentences—to commute Mr. Angelos’ sentence to something that is more in accord with just and rational punishment. 

Why has the Obama administration not acted on this case?  Why are turkeys representing a greater proportion of Obama’s presidential pardons than any of his republican or democratic colleagues in the past 4 decades?  This is shameful.  And it needs to change.

October 7, 2013
theonion:


High-Powered Washington Fixer Tells Blood-Soaked Obama To Listen Carefully

LTMC: Presently being wracked verily with hearty guffaws.

theonion:

High-Powered Washington Fixer Tells Blood-Soaked Obama To Listen Carefully

LTMC: Presently being wracked verily with hearty guffaws.

1:45pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZMMjnxx26_Tm
  
Filed under: politics onion obama satire 
September 10, 2013
Question

What do you call it when an ex-KGB Russian President brokers a peace agreement to stop a nobel peace prize winning American President from bombing a country?

Sub-question: is it better to burn out than to fade away?

September 2, 2013
The President On Syria

Barack Obama, 2007:

The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation[.]

Barack Obama, 2013:

[W]hile I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.

Sigh.

August 31, 2013
Obama’s Syria Speech

I am literally laughing out loud at all of the hypocrisy in this speech.  It is utterly ridiculous to hear a President bloviate about standing idle in the face of dead children when missile strikes that he approved have murdered children in no less terrible ways.  I am tired of this absolutely ridiculous rhetorical prestidigitation regarding the use of chemical weapons.  NEWS FLASH: PARENTS DON’T CARE HOW YOU KILL THEIR CHILDREN.  BUT THEY DO CARE IF THEIR CHILDREN DIED BY YOUR HAND.

Thank goodness Obama so graciously “let” Congress vote on this, despite thinking he has the power to intervene without their approval.  And giving the U.N. security council the finger was a nice touch.  Who cares about the U.N.?  Who needs international law, which is responsible for things like, oh say, the Geneva Conventions.  Fuck it.  America is above the law.

Get in touch with your Congressman NOW.  Tell them you do not want this unnecessary war.  Tell them that this “humanitarian” intervention will do more harm than it causes.  Tell them that America’s track record in the middle east is terrible.  Tell them that you are sick and tired of watching America dropping bombs in the middle east while the American poor rot in public housing and prison cells.  If your Congressman is a Republican, tell them that by attempting to topple Assad, we are giving direct military aid to Al-Qaeda-linked rebels in Syria.  Tell them that a vote for Syria is a vote for giving material aid and comfort to the “terrorists” they’ve spent so much time complaining about over the past ten years, and using as a boogie man to deprive us of yet more civil liberties.

If you need source material for any of this, please flip through my Syria tag.  You’ll find plenty of articles dealing with the reasons why Syrian intervention is a terrible idea.  Let’s get out ahead of this thing and see if we can convince enough politicians to vote against it before the jingoist patriotic war fervor crawls up their spine.

August 20, 2013
"A lot of Republicans seem to believe that if they can gum up the works and make this law fail, they’ll somehow be sticking it to me. But they’d just be sticking it to you."

President Obama, Saturday

"On the unstoppability of Obamacare: We have this system in which Congress passes laws, the president signs them, and then they go into effect. The Affordable Care Act went through this process, and there is no legitimate way for Republicans to stop it." - Paul Krugman

(via liberalsarecool)

LTMC: The fly in the ointment here is that they don’t need the legislative process.  The Supreme Court’s decision in NFIB v. Sebelius held that the enforcement provision of the Medicaid expansion law was unconstitutional, which means states can literally just opt out of the Medicaid expansion portion of the law.  Some states are also doing everything they can do stop the healthcare exchanges from going up, which is part of the reason why the administration keeps delaying the implementation of the law.

That’s the funny thing about dual-sovereignty: when you’ve got more than one cook in the kitchen, the meals don’t always come together nice and neat.  If anyone thinks NFIB v. Sebelius was the last piece of litigation related to the ACA, I imagine they’ll probably be unpleasantly surprised in the future.  This one’s getting dragged out to the last man.

August 7, 2013
quickhits:

Sen. Obama worked to rein in the sort of surveillance Pres. Obama defends.
[photo via Barack Obama]

LTMC: Yes he did, which is one of the reasons I voted for him in 2008.
What saddens me most is that this is something that he could press for without expending a lot of political capital.  Americans of every political stripe do not approve of the breadth or methodology of the NSA’s surveillance programs.  So it is no answer to claim that Obama is limited by the politics of pragmatism.

quickhits:

Sen. Obama worked to rein in the sort of surveillance Pres. Obama defends.

[photo via Barack Obama]

LTMC: Yes he did, which is one of the reasons I voted for him in 2008.

What saddens me most is that this is something that he could press for without expending a lot of political capital.  Americans of every political stripe do not approve of the breadth or methodology of the NSA’s surveillance programs.  So it is no answer to claim that Obama is limited by the politics of pragmatism.

8:06pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZMMjnxriWZnJ
  
Filed under: politics nsa obama 
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