This is getting ridiculous! As the oil spill in the gulf continues to grow with gallons and gallons of oil spewing from an underwater well, the President has taken to finger pointing while complaining that he is tired of the finger pointing. The President gave a laughable address about the situation from the Rose Garden on Friday. The President began, “I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter. You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else.” Ahem…Mr President, you are about to do that.
While this President has recieved the most donations from BP and its affiliate PACS in the past twenty years, he actually had the cojones to claim, “For too long, for a decade or more, there has been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill. It seems as if permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil companies. That cannot and will not happen anymore.” So does this mean that the President is going to return his donations? How about that cozy relationship between his EPA and companies like BP that was passed over when it came time to scrutinize the operations. And why exactly was Obama’s team so prepared for just such a disaster as he has claimed? Could it be that they knew this accident would come eventually?
Several solutions have been tried by BP to plug the oil leak and nothing is working, but that has not stopped Obama from claiming that his administration has been on top of the problem. He did fly over the situation a while ago after all. Obama said, “The potential devastation to the Gulf Coast, its economy, and its people require us to continue our relentless efforts to stop the leak and contain the damage. Now, from the day he took office as Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar has recognized these problems and he’s worked to solve them. Often times he has been slammed by the industry, suggesting that somehow these necessary reforms would impede economic growth. Well, as I just told Ken, we are going to keep on going to do what needs to be done.” I’m sorry, how do reforms help this situation right now? Did Obama and the rest of Congress think about these reforms while pocketing big donations and allowing oil lobbyists to whisper in their ears. And I know a thing or two about Ken Salazar since he used to represent me in Congress. He has been the biggest roadblock to shale exploration in Colorado. His idea of reform is to leave us beholden to foreign entities for our energy. Wait a minute, isn’t BP a foreign entity?
When exactly was the last time an oil spill accident happened with an American company. Too long ago to remember. Even the Exxon Valdez was transporting foreign oil. Several legislatures have put forward legislation to block all off shore drilling forever. These boneheads and their Green industrial Complex are going to leave this country unsecure and screwed.
FreedomsWings is a conservative libertarian gay female blogger and radio host. Co-founder of the Conservative Alliance Media Network and Founder of Freedom’s Wings Politics.
By SCHUYLER DIXON
The Associated Press
DALLAS — A 22-year-old man accused of posing as a high school basketball star in West Texas was charged with sexual assault Friday after an underage girl reported having sex with him last summer when she thought he was a teenager, police said.
Guerdwich Montimer was arrested for the third time in four days, this time after a 16-year-old girl in Odessa told police and school district officials she had sex with him at a home in August when she thought he was 15-year-old Jerry Joseph, said Odessa police Cpl. Sherrie Carruth.
Officials said Montimer enrolled at a junior high school and later at Permian High School last year with a fake birth certificate from Haiti. Suspicions were raised recently after coaches at an amateur basketball tournament said they recognized Joseph as Montimer, a 2007 graduate of a Florida high school and a naturalized U.S. citizen from Haiti.
Montimer was being held in jail Friday on a $50,000 bond, according to a court affidavit released Friday.
Montimer was originally arrested Tuesday on a misdemeanor charge of failure to identify himself to a police officer, and school officials said he admitted that he wasn’t Joseph. He was arrested again Thursday on a third-degree felony charge of tampering with a government document.
A jail official said Friday there was no information about whether Montimer had an attorney. The sexual assault charge, a second-degree felony, carries a sentence of two to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Based on information provided by the girl, investigators determined Montimer “intentionally and knowingly engaged in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old juvenile and portrayed himself to be 15 years old when he was actually 21 years of age,” Carruth, the Odessa police official, said in a statement.
Permian High School made the state basketball playoffs with Joseph helping lead the way as a sophomore star. Questions arose after the season, and Joseph was initially cleared by immigration authorities and allowed to return to the school.
The investigation continued, and a fingerprint from a passport found in his room matched one taken by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after the allegations surfaced, according to an affidavit. School officials said Montimer confessed after he was confronted with the new evidence.
His last name has been widely reported as Montimere, including by The Associated Press, but an affidavit released Thursday had several references to official documentation with Montimer, the spelling used by Odessa police.
by Michael Zak
Civil rights. Inalienable rights. Human rights. Animal rights. Individual rights. Group rights. God-given rights. Sacred rights. Natural rights. Positive rights. Negative rights. Children’s rights. Parent’s rights. Patient’s rights. Property rights. Personal rights. Basics rights. Fundamental rights.
Just what is a right? Can some rights be more basics or fundamental than others? Which is more important, a basic right or a fundamental right? Do the rights of the many outweigh the rights of the few? Are rights absolute? One could assert whole new kinds of rights and then argue about where they fit in among all the other rights. How about essential rights, or core rights, or perhaps preeminent rights?
Definitions of the nature and origin of rights vary widely – from a gift from God, to one of Thomas Jefferson or James Madison’s tenets, all the way down to “a good thing” – but these disputes can be left to theologians and historians and scatterbrains. Let constitutional scholars debate the fine points of original intent or understanding (of each delegate? or the drafter of a particular clause? or the Convention as a whole? or Congress? or the ratifying state conventions?). What really matters is how rights function within our constitutional system.
A person saying he has the right to XYZ, for instance, is saying that regardless of what other people want, he must have XYZ and society must give it to him. To admit there is such a right is to accept that the opinion of the majority on his having XYZ is meaningless; it is to accept that your opinion on the issue is meaningless, too. As anti-democratic limitations on the scope of majority rule, rights are like provisions of the Constitution. Indeed, they are one and the same, because in a practical sense – the only sense that matters – a right is a government policy that must be so regardless of majority will.
Any constitutional provision can be seen as a right. For example, Article I, Section 9, Clause 5 – “No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any state.” – can as easily be: “Every person has the right to export Articles from any State without a federal Tax or Duty laid on it.” The first part of Article II, Section 2 is the equivalent of “The President has the right to be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy.” One could say he has the right to veto laws and grant pardons. A Supreme Court Justice has the right to serve for life, and the Supreme Court has the right to original jurisdiction over cases involving foreign ambassadors. The residents of every state have the right to representation by two Senators. People have the right to have their federal laws enacted by a Congress consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives. There are many more such variations on the theme, but the point is that the Constitution is nothing but a long list of rights, that is, government policies that must be so regardless of majority will.
In addition to provisions limiting the ability of Congress or the President to change the general structure of the government apart from the amendment process, the Constitution contains many specific limitations on government action that are recognizable as rights. The narrow definition of treason means that a person has the right not to be convicted of treason for a crime that does not fit the definition. The privileges and immunities provision is a right, as is the jury trial guarantee. The Constitution protects creditors by prohibiting states from voiding contracts (as they had done under the Articles of Confederation). Congress may not pass a bill of attainder (a legislative pronouncement of guilt) or an ex post facto law (making an act illegal after it was committed). The habeas corpus protection against arbitrary arrest is one of the most important rights protected by the Constitution.
As Alexander Hamilton pointed out in Federalist 84, the Constitution contains these rights and more even without the amendments known as the Bill of Rights. Can the Bill of Rights protection against unreasonable searches somehow supersede the right to a jury trial spelled out in Article III? Does freedom of the press outrank freedom of speech? Is the 3rd Amendment ban on quartering soldiers in private homes more important than the 13th Amendment ban on slavery? Does the order in which they are listed matter, so that freedom of religion is more important than freedom of speech? No, to all these questions. Since the entire Constitution – every rule in the rule book – must be so regardless of majority will, every provision of the original text (where unamended), of the Bill of Rights, and of the later amendments is no more or less important than any other.
Since the entire Constitution – from “We, the people” to “shall have intervened” – is one long right and rights can only be exercised within our constitutional framework, constitutional rights are the only kind with any meaning. As determined, ultimately, by the Supreme Court, an issue is either a political question – meaning it is to be decided by majority vote – or it is a constitutional right – meaning the correct decision, as determined by the Constitution, must be imposed on the American people whether people want it or not. In the latter case, figuring out just what it was the Constitutional Convention decided for us on a particular issue may be difficult to determine, but the task does not involve balancing one provision of the document against another.
Some rules in our society’s rule book cannot outweigh other rules; they are all equally valid. Once understanding that any part of the Constitution, whether expressed as a provision or a right, is a policy that must be so, a person can see the absurdity of trying to balance one right against another. Gone are tussles between rights and responsibilities, positive rights and negative rights, the rights of the many and the rights of the few, personal rights and property rights, human rights and economic rights, group rights and individual rights, fundamental rights and not-so-fundamental rights. No constitutional right can be outweighed by some other consideration, because all constitutional rights are absolute. Either something is mandated by the Constitution or it isn’t.
This essay is adapted from Back to Basics for the Republican Party, a history of the GOP cited by Clarence Thomas in a Supreme Court decision.
By John Dickerson
President Obama was feeling loose at a Democratic campaign fundraiser Thursday as he talked about the Republican Party. “We got our mops and our brooms out, we’re cleaning stuff out, and they’re sitting there saying, ‘Hold the broom better.’ ‘That’s not how you mop.’ ” He then went from the utility closet to the garage. “After [Republicans] drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back. No! You can’t drive! We don’t want to have to go back into the ditch! We just got the car out! We just got the car out!”
After months of unified Republican opposition, Obama has mostly given up on the bipartisan talk that characterized his campaign and first 15 months of his administration (although it’s still a nice sentiment for college commencement addresses). Also, with a tough election ahead, both parties are defining their opponents in ever sharper terms. And yet, just when bipartisanship is falling out of favor in the White House, a scraggly version of it is popping up through the cracks in the concrete. Financial regulatory reform will likely pass in the Senate with Republican votes. And Elena Kagan, the president’s Supreme Court nominee, will also probably get a number of Republican votes.
There was a time when administration officials made great effort to show that they were working on a bipartisan basis. His commitment to bipartisanship was part of what voters liked about Obama. Even when Republicans said they would not vote for legislation, White House officials worked hard to show that Republican ideas had been incorporated into it. In the original stimulus package, for example, the administration agreed to a $70 billion adjustment to the Alternative Minimum Tax that did little to stimulate the economy but which was favored by Republicans.
Now it appears there will be actual bipartisanship. On financial regulatory reform, several Republicans have been working with Democrats to shape the bill. Republicans will almost certainly vote for the bill, and it will pass. Meanwhile, Kagan has only been through her preliminary meetings with senators, but some Republicans (Susan Collins and Scott Brown, to name two) already sound favorably disposed to her.
This does not suggest a new era in Washington or a thaw, but the timing of these new blips of bipartisanship is a bit inconvenient politically for Democrats. Limiting the expected losses in the 2010 elections requires painting Republicans as blindly obstructionist. Depicting them as merely meddlesome with bad ideas won’t do. It doesn’t inspire people enough to get out to vote. Neither does saying they’re merely dumb at first but ultimately persuadable. The argument has to be clear and bright. Republicans need to be defined as a party that thinks, as the president put it, “If the Democrats lose, we win.”
He has to make that contrast stark because polls show that the American people don’t really see much of a difference between the two parties in Congress. In the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, when people were asked which party cares more about “average Americans,” only 35 percent said Democrats in Congress. That’s better than the 20 percent who cited Republicans, but it shows that on a key issue of the day, neither party is doing very well. Majorities also think both parties care more about large corporations.
One way to change that dynamic is to enlist someone who people do think is looking out for them. Just more than half—51 percent—of those asked think Obama is looking out for average Americans. The same poll showed that nearly 70 percent of Americans like Obama personally. So he still may have the best standing to make the case against Republicans. From Day One, the president told his Democratic audience in New York, Republicans have blocked him for purely political reasons. This would seem to contradict his commencement address in Michigan earlier this month, when he told the graduates: “You can question somebody’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives. … The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation.”
The president would probably prefer to stay above the fray. But his Democratic colleagues are not in a position to make much of a case against their opponents and aren’t likely to improve their reputation with the public. They are not, for example, going to take rash measures to become more transparent in lawmaking or give up earmarks entirely, gestures that might shock the public into giving the Democrats who control Congress a second look. (Though they’re trying.)
The irony, for the president who spent so much of his early administration trying not to look partisan, is that financial reform may be a bipartisan success precisely because he was willing to play rough. Unlike health care reform, where Obama stayed out of the congressional fight, with financial reform he has been more active. He took on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell directly, saying his efforts to label the legislation a “bailout bill” were “cynical and deceptive” and, questioning his motives, argued that Wall Street bankers were guiding his hand. And twice, Obama criticized specific amendments as favors to Wall Street. Democrats think this presidential pressure (and polls that show 71 percent of the people think Republicans care more about large corporations) helped bring Republicans to the negotiating table.
Republicans, of course, see it differently. They argue that they helped bring the Democrats to a more reasonable piece of legislation by unifying against an earlier, unreasonable version. Yet Republicans also face a risk from bipartisanship: If they can actually work with Democrats, can they really be as crazy as Republicans say?
What all this means is that even after the bipartisan bill passes, there will still be partisan fighting over why it did. Maybe the president can console himself that this (politically inconvenient) era of bipartisanship is likely to be fleeting.
By Jerry Seper
Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Friday there was “insufficient evidence” to bring a civil complaint against members of the New Black Panther Party who disrupted a Philadelphia polling place in the 2008 general elections.
Mr. Perez, the only Justice Department official to testify publicly before the commission about the case, said that without sufficient proof that party members or the organization’s leader, Malik Zulu Shabazz, directed or controlled unlawful activities at the poll or made speeches to incite or produce lawless action, the complaint “would have likely failed” in court.
“Based on the totality of the evidence and the relevant legal precedent, the acting assistant attorney general made a judgment about how to proceed, choosing to seek an injunction against the only defendant who brought a weapon to the Philadelphia polling place on Election Day and to voluntarily dismiss the other three defendants,” he said.
Mr. Perez said a decision to proceed with claims against one of the New Black Panthers, Minister King Samir Shabazz, and to dismiss the claims against the three others was “based on the merits and reflects the kind of good faith, case-based assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of claims that the department makes every day.
“We assure you that the department is committed to comprehensive and vigorous enforcement of both the civil and criminal provisions of federal law that prohibits voter intimidation,” he said. “We continue to work with voters, communities and local law enforcement to ensure that every American can vote free from intimidation, coercion or threats.”
The commission began an investigation into the New Black Panther Party case after the civil complaint was dismissed, trying to determine if political interference led to the dismissal. Several commission members also have been angry over what they have called the Justice Department’s refusal to turn over documents or to make witnesses available to be interviewed.
The Justice Department steadfastly has maintained that it followed the law and evidence in the case and was not influenced by partisan politics.
Republican Commissioner Todd Gaziano asked whether an independent counsel should be named to investigate the handling of the complaint, a request that does not appear to have much support. Last month, in its first public comments about the case, the New Black Panther Party said it did not break any laws and praised a decision by the Justice Department to dismiss the complaint.
A written statement by the party conceded that one member — Minister King Samir Shabazz — should not have brought a nightstick to a Philadelphia polling place, but described it as “an honest error.”
“What these Republican witch hunters repeatedly fail to mention is that the individual member involved in the nightstick incident was, in fact, legally penalized,” said the statement from Minister Hashim Nzinga, chief of staff to party leader Mr. Zulu Shabazz.
Mr. Samir Shabazz, head of the Philadelphia chapter, and Jerry Jackson, a Philadelphia party member, were videotaped outside a polling place wearing black military-style uniforms, which included combat boots and black berets. Mr. Samir Shabazz also brandished a nightstick.
Mr. Zulu Shabazz, a lawyer and D.C. resident, also was named in the complaint, accused of directing and endorsing their behavior. The party itself also was included as a defendant.
None of the defendants answered the charges or made any court appearances, and the Justice Department won the case by default. But the department ultimately chose to drop the allegations against Mr. Jackson, Mr. Zulu Shabazz and the party as a whole. The department did obtain an injunction against Mr. Samir Shabazz prohibiting him from brandishing a weapon outside a polling place until 2012.
Mr. Perez said that while none of the New Black Panther Party members responded to the complaint, that did not absolve the Justice Department of its “legal and ethical obligations to ensure that any relief sought was consistent with the law and supported by the evidence.
“The entry of a default judgment is not automatic, and the Pennsylvania Bar Rules impart a clear duty of candor and honesty in any legal proceeding In discharging its obligations in that regard, the department considered not only the allegations in the complaint, but also the evidence collected by the department both before and after the filing of the complaint.”
By Eric Zimmermann
The U.S. needs more immigrants and a value-added tax to help reduce the deficit, former President Bill Clinton said Friday.
Clinton said the country was “mortgaging out a lot of our sovereignty” by using foreign creditors to pay for an “exploding” debt.
His recipe? More growth and revenue, fueled by immigrant workers and a controversial value-added tax.
“I think we’re going to have to have more taxpayers, which is why I favor, in a disciplined way, immigration reform and letting more immigrants come to the country,” Clinton told CNBC. “I think it would make more jobs for people who are unemployed, not fewer.”
Second, Clinton said, more tax revenue could be collected by imposing a value-added tax, which taxes products at each stage of the manufacturing or distribution process.
“I think they ought to look at a progressive value-added tax, just because — and I think it’s important the American people understand this — most of our competitors have tax systems like this,” Clinton said.
“If you have a value-added tax … you lower the income taxes, corporate and personal, and you put a little revenue collector on every stage of sales in a product or service, but if it is exported, you don’t pay the last price,” he added.
Such a tax would be “not easily evadable” and would make the U.S. more competitive, Clinton said.
Finally, Congress needs to reduce healthcare costs and show more fiscal discipline.
“We can’t keep doubling the cost of health are after inflation every decade,” Clinton said. “So my view is, control spending on an annual basis, work on healthcare costs, get more taxpayers and try to have the most competitive possible tax system. And eventually you’ve got to really enforce these pay-as-you-go rules.”
Clinton suggested Democrats hadn’t been as fiscally conservative as they should be, repeating his argument from earlier in the interview that the debt was “exploding.”
“I simply don’t think we can afford to keep exploding this debt. And I think you’re going to — the Democrats, we’re more socially progressive, but we’re also going to have to be fiscally conservative, I think. I just don’t think that it’s fair for America to take any other course.”