Thursday, January 29, 2009

Note To George W. Bush: Game Over Dude

It's just seven days into the Obama administration and apparently George W. Bush doesn't realise that he's no longer President of the United States.

You may recall that in May of 2008, former Bush adviser Karl Rove was subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee to testify on the firing of U.S. attorneys as well as, the prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman. Mr. Rove's response was to decline, asserting that he was exempt under executive privilege. On July 30, 2008, a US Congressional panel voted 20-14 to hold Rove in contempt of Congress.

Arrest, try, convict, right?

Not so fast. While Congress can hold someone in contempt, it's up to the Attorney General to go forward with the prosecution. As you might imagine, the Bush Justice Department declined. And so Rove went on to become another tool in the Fox News tool box.

Fast forward to 2009.

On January 26, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, again issued a subpoena requiring that Mr. Rove testify before his committee. Sounds like a slam dunk, right? Well not according to Rove, who is now asserting that executive privilege applies even though Mr. Bush has left office. It's a ridiculous claim when one considers that the Supreme Court has rendered opinions on the matter before. Most notable is that of Chief Justice Burger who stated that "executive privilege would most effectively apply when the oversight of the executive would impair that branch's national security concerns."

So how exactly does Mr. Rove testifying on the firing of U.S. Attorneys constitute a national security concern?

Answer, it doesn't. But then the rule of law was never a strong suit of President Bush who can count among his executive privilege gems:

• preventing the disclosure of details about Vice President Dick Cheney's secret meetings with energy executives.

• stopping the release of document to Congress relating to Pat Tillman's friendly fire shooting death.

• preventing the investigation of whether the the firing of U.S. Attorneys was politically motivated.

Hmmmm . . .

Now executive privilege has a place in government. To be fair, lots of Presidents have used it before, including George Washington. A President needs to be able to receive the unfettered counsel of his or her advisers. But the Supreme Court has been clear that when claimed, its use should be narrow in scope. In other words, it should be the exception rather than the rule. And there's one other thing . . . No President has ever tried to use it after they were out of office. Perhaps no one told W. that his game is over.

Repeat after me. Arrest, try, convict, repeat. Arrest, try, convict, repeat.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over, Now OUR Work Begins

I'm 41, I'm the first wave of Gen X, and you bet your ass I'm pissed.

With these words I inaugurated Wide Awake In Hoserland in June of 2006. I knew back then that the United States were in a mess, but I'm not sure that I realised how much damage was still to be done. It'll likely take a decade if not a generation to undo that damage. How history will judge George W. Bush remains to be seen. Whatever the judgment let the record of the time show that these were not our best days.

We can do better. We must do better.

I'm 44 now and today I stood in a room with over 1,000 people who cheered, cried and expressed hope for a new direction. It was a moment that I will never forget, and I suspect that this is true for many of us around the country if not the world. It's as though a large weight was lifted from our collective shoulders. The sense of history was palpable.

Now the work begins.

That first Hoserland post addressed many ills of our time; rising energy prices, human rights violations, accounts of treasonous activities, and the disintegration of constitutionally afforded rights. Some of these things President Obama can address. He can close Guantanamo Bay and ensure that the detainees receive fair trials with legal representation. He can issue executive orders against using practises that are classified as torture by the Geneva Conventions as interrogation techniques. He can attempt to make peace with our enemies. He can prohibit spying on fellow citizens without a court issued warrant.

But President Obama is not Superman or Jesus.

Our economic woes, energy dependence and degrading environment are not something that one man can address. Neither are the issues of gender based pay inequality, civil rights for the LGBT community, a strained health care system, or an eroding manufacturing base. This work we must all do. And believe me, it's going to take all of us.

Now more than ever, it is critical that we stay engaged.

• Write your congressional leaders as key issue come before Congress. Let them know where you stand.

• Do not let the environment of politics as usual continue.

• Engage in service based activities in your local community.

• Live a less wasteful life.

• Share.

I'm 44, I'm the first wave of Gen X, and you bet your ass, I'm hopeful.

There are times in history when we are given a unique opportunity. This feels like one of them. It's our opportunity.

So what are we going to do with it, America?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Three Ring Circus That Is The 111th U.S. Senate

It's a show that would make P.T. Barnum proud.

The 111th Congress officially started on Saturday, January 3 and the three ring circus has landed squarely on Capital Hill. Currently, the United States Senate appears to occupy the center ring. As we prepare to engage in one of the hallmarks of our democracy, the orderly transition of power, in an historical year no less, three senate seats remain unfilled.

In ring number one: Minnesota.

The Minnesota seat remains unsettled due to a razor close election that, after a labourious recount, appears to have resolved in favour of Democrat, Al Franken. But, because a lawsuit is pending by the possibly outgoing Senator, Norm Coleman, the Republican Minnesota governor will not certify the election. Fair enough, the lawsuit revolves around making sure that all votes are counted. Not exactly the way you want to start a new Congress, but if the last eight years of the Bush Administration have taught us anything it's that every vote counts. Right, Florida?

In ring number two: Illinois.

The vacant Illinois seat can be summed up as a giant pissing match between Senate leaders and the the indicted Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich. Mr. Blagojevich is currently under indictment for allegedly trying to sell the seat, but he is reticent to resign his office and the Illinois legislature has been snail snot slow about convening impeachment proceedings. End result, the governor made an appointment in the form of Roland Burris. By all accounts, Mr. Burris has been an honourable public servant and uninvolved in the scandal that Mr. Blagojevich finds himself in. The Senate, however, refuses to seat, Mr. Burris on the grounds that the Illinois Secretary of State has not certified the appointment. The Secretary refuses to do so and thus we have the first Congressional quagmire of the year. The thing is, the Secretary of State doesn't legally have the right to refuse to certify the appointment and Mr. Blagojevich, while clearly ethically challenged, is still the sitting governor. In other words, like it or not, he still legally has the right to make the appointment. So, denying Mr. Burris his seat appears to not only be wrong, but it also appears to be illegal. Seat the man and get about the business of the people.

And in the center ring . . . New York!

As ridiculous as the Minnesota and Illinois disputes are, it's my own state that appears ready to take the prize for Senatorial idiocy. Why? Because Governor David Patterson is apparently incapable of making a decision. When Senator Hillary Clinton was tapped to be Secretary of State in the Obama administration, Paterson announced that he would take his time in making a decision. It appeared to be a prudent approach given the high profile nature of the seat. As we wound into the holiday season, rumours started to spread that Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President Kennedy would be appointed. While moderately controversial, and discussed for about a week, the governor remained relatively mum on the subject. Christmas came and went. So did Hanukkah. And then New Year's Eve. And still there was no appointment. There still isn't. Why? No one appears to know. I don't know what the issue is, but I do know this. The game has started and New York deserves to have full representation. There's no recount issue here, no indictment or scandal of any kind. So let me put it plainly. Governor Paterson, get off your ass and make the call.

Not exactly an auspicious start to the 111th.