Saturday, June 21, 2014

Last Call For George Will's Unrestrained Id

Hot on the heels of his last column, "College Rape: Those Sluts Are Making It All Up" comes Washington Post carbuncle George F. Will's newest masterpiece, "Will Nobody Rid Me Of This Troublesome Black President?"

Regarding immigration, health care, welfare, education, drug policy and more, Obama has suspended, waived and rewritten laws, including the Affordable Care Act. It required the employer mandate to begin this year. But Obama wrote a new law, giving to companies of a certain size a delay until 2016 and stipulating that other employers must certify they will not drop employees to avoid the mandate. Doing so would trigger criminal perjury charges; so he created a new crime, that of adopting a business practice he opposes.

Presidents must exercise some discretion in interpreting laws, must have some latitude in allocating finite resources to the enforcement of laws and must have some freedom to act in the absence of law. Obama, however, has perpetrated more than 40 suspensions of laws. Were presidents the sole judges of the limits of their latitude, they would effectively have plenary power to vitiate the separation of powers, the Founders’ bulwark against despotism.

Congress cannot reverse egregious executive aggressions such as Obama’s without robust judicial assistance. It is, however, difficult to satisfy the criteria that the Constitution and case law require for Congress to establish “standing” to seek judicial redress for executive usurpations injurious to the legislative institution.

Got that? The President has the authority to do what he's doing, but not this President because the courts and Congress need to step in.  Otherwise, it's the plenary executive. It took me all of 60 seconds to Google up a George F. Will column saying the plenary executive under the last President was worthy of debate when it came to John Yoo, warrantless wiretapping, and the NSA.

Without more information than can be publicly available concerning threats from enemies operating in America, the executive branch deserves considerable discretion in combating terrorist conspiracies using new technologies such as cell phones and the Internet. In September 2001, the president surely had sound reasons for desiring the surveillance capabilities at issue.

But did he have sound reasons for seizing them while giving only minimal information to, and having no formal complicity with, Congress? Perhaps. But Congress, if asked, almost certainly would have made such modifications of law as the president's plans required. Courts, too, would have been compliant. After all, on Sept. 14, 2001, Congress had unanimously declared that "the president has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism," and it had authorized "all necessary and appropriate force" against those involved in Sept. 11 or threatening future attacks.

Will's biggest problem with Bush was that he should have told Congress, because Congress and the courts would have rubber-stamped Bush's efforts and would have made it look official.  When both Congress and the Supreme Court signed off on the Affordable Care Act, somehow it makes Obama lawless in order to do what's necessary to make the law work and get the American people affordable health care coverage.

When the goal is open lying to Congress, the Courts, and the American people about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and then bombing the hell out of Iraq, Will's got no problem.  When the goal is to correct the issues in a law that provides health insurance for Americans, that's lawlessness that must be stopped by whatever means necessary, including Will's solution, House Republicans suing the President in front of the Supreme Court, an unprecedented step that has never been considered before in American history.


Army Of Madness

Nothing good is going to come from this, folks.  Nothing good at all, especially for the people of Iraq.

It had been quite the morning for Jamli Umm Saif, a mother of four. After morning prayers on Saturday, she sent off her husband and eldest son to join a military parade by the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia run by the populist cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

Then she rang up her girlfriends, and told them to come watch the parade wearing white shrouds draped over their black chadors, as a sign that they too, the women of the Mahdi Army, were ready for martyrdom.

“Yes, we are women,” said Umm Saif, a nickname meaning “mother of Saif,” giggling from behind her black face cover. “But don’t be mistaken. We can fight too. We will all fight.”

Here in the Shiite heartland of Iraq, volunteers have revived battalions of the Mahdi Army, one of the dominant groups preparing for battle following the call for a “defensive jihad” June 13 by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the highest authorities in the Shiite faith.

From the sidelines of the parade on a main street in Najaf, Umm Saif, 47, and her friends waved green flags, one of the colors of Shiite Islam, as their men marched by the thousands, singing in support of Mr. Sadr.

The cleric himself, who only recently returned from Iran, where he is studying theology, was not present, but his “army,” which he had disbanded in 2008, seemed to be back in full strength.

The long-predicted sectarian civil war in Iraq is back, and we bear the responsibility for giving birth to it.  There's also nothing that we can do militarily that won't make this worse and won't cause more deaths than lives it might save.

But the match that lit this powder keg?  That was in Bush and Cheney's grubby little hands.

Doing The RIght Thing Twice In One Week?

Not only has the Presbyterian Church voted this week to allow same-sex marriage to be performed by pastors, it seems this unusual religious morality continues into the crime of recognizing that Palestinians are human beings, and that they are not being treated as such by Israel.

After passionate debate over how best to help break the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted on Friday at its general convention to divest from three companies that it says supply Israel with equipment used in the occupation of Palestinian territory.

The vote, by a count of 310 to 303, was watched closely in Washington and Jerusalem and by Palestinians as a sign of momentum for a movement to pressure Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to end the occupation, with a campaign known as B.D.S., for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), one of a handful of historic mainline Protestant denominations and the church of many American presidents, is the largest yet to endorse divestment at a churchwide convention, and the vote follows a decade of debate — and a close call at the assembly two years ago, when divestment failed by only two votes.

Amazing. Here's the crux of the issue:

The measure that was passed not only called for divestment but also reaffirmed Israel’s right to exist, endorsed a two-state solution, encouraged interfaith dialogue and travel to the Holy Land, and instructed the church to undertake “positive investment” in endeavors that advance peace and improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians
. It also said the motion was “not to be construed” as “alignment with or endorsement of the global B.D.S.” movement by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The language was written by the church’s 65-member Middle East committee.

Of course the Presbyterians are being immediately attacked.

Major Jewish organizations were quick to issue statements expressing distress and outrage. Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, called the divestment action “outrageous” and said it would have a “devastating impact” on relations between the national church and mainstream Jewish groups.

Mr. Rada, the church’s moderator, said at a news conference after the vote, “I don’t believe you could talk to a single commissioner and have any of them say they were doing this as an anti-Jewish issue.

“I think there is a lot of emotion about the unjust treatment on the part of the Israeli government toward the Palestinians, but there is equal upset,” he said, about “terrorist activity that has been undertaken by the Palestinians.”

Equating Israeli treatment of Palestinians through collective punishment and military action with Palestinian terrorism in any way, no matter how valid the comparison, no matter how many bodies these actions create on both sides, is a recipe for instant accusations of antisemitism.  Judging by the comments in that NY Times piece on the divestment vote, such a statement immediately makes all Presbyterians in the US anti-Semitic and anyone who agrees with them as well.

It's not the case, but why look for solutions?

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