Election

The Binary Fallacy and The End of Both Parties

Michael Collins

Also posted here

(Wash., DC)  The results of eight years of Bush-Cheney at the helm make the demise of the Republican Party an easy call.  Our financial system is on life support.  The major banks are insolvent, according to banking and legal authority William K. Black.  If they’re not, they’re in intensive care.  No matter how many trillions of dollars worth of infusions they receive, they’re not making loans.  The economy is in a free fall with growth down 6% a quarter and job losses running at nearly  600,000 a month.  We’re stuck in two catastrophic wars.  Despite President Obama’s election, we’re viewed with suspicion and disregard throughout the world.

The public knows which party bears the primary blame for all of this and they’re not about to forget any time soon.  The Republican Party is headed for the political graveyard.

They’re not going to rely on past achievements though.  Through their self-proclaimed national leader, the odious Rush Limbaugh, they’ve chosen to attack the first Latino nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, for being a “racist.”  Former Oxycontin addict Limbaugh said, “She brings a form of bigotry and racism to the court.”  He went on to say that nominating her was like nominating Klansman and Aryan Nation advocate David Duke for the highest court.

These charges are quite literally bizarre, particularly with Limbaugh calling anyone else a racist.  Newt Gingrich has joined Limbaugh in a duet of stupidity.  This is appropriate since Gingrich is the architect of the power and policies used by Republicans to drive the nation into its current crisis.

The political impact for Republicans will be devastating.  Sotomayor is the first Latino nominated to the Supreme Court.  Latinos represent the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States.  They went for Obama 67% to McCain’s 33%, and comprised 9% of the electorate in 2008.  Among Latino youth, the fastest growing segment of the Latino population, the choice was 76% Obama compared to 19% McCain.

Sotomayor is also a woman nominee.  Women comprised 53% of the electorate in 2008 and they went for Obama 56% to 43% for McCain.  Many of those women are working and struggle with fools like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich on a regular basis.
(more…)

A Modest Proposal – An Iraqi Vote on Troop Withdrawal

A Modest Proposal

An Iraqi Vote on Troop Withdrawal

By Michael Collins

(Also published at OpEdNews, The Agonist, The Smirking Chimp )

Over the years, we’ve seen various “exit strategies” proposed for withdrawal from Iraq.  The best proposal was made by a Baghdad man on his way to a demonstration just a few days after that city fell.  A  U.S. reporter asked what should happen now.  The man turned to the reporter and said, “Thank you for getting rid of Saddam.  Now please leave our country.”

That advice was probably the best input that United States policy makers ever received (if they even noticed).   It was freely offered and no one died in the process.

Why not give democracy a chance?

The Iraqis have a right to a direct vote on the options for U.S. troop withdrawal.

The ballot would be simple.

Should U.S. troops leave Iraq?   Yes   No

If you answered Yes, how soon should they leave?

Immediately __    6 months __   12 months__    18 months__

Iraqis have wanted the U.S. out of their country almost from day one.  Various surveys show that a solid majority of citizens want coalition troops to leave within a year.  In 2004, 86% of Iraqis wanted U.S. troops out – 41% immediately and 46% after a new government was established.  At the start of 2006, 94% of all Iraqis supported their government setting a timeline for U.S. withdrawal from immediate departure to a timed departure over two years.   A few months later, even a poll by the U.S. Department of State showed nearly 70% of citizens wanted U.S. occupation to end.

Polls in 2007 and 2008 conducted by a variety of organizations demonstrate that a majority of Iraqis want foreign troops to leave.

Here’s why they’re upset.  Over a million Iraqis have died in sectarian and other forms of violence kicked off by the U.S. invasion.  For the most part, this has been Iraqis killing other Iraqis, an outcome of the extensive civil strife that was predicted before the invasion.

In addition, the quality of life in Iraq is dreadful and the citizens do notice.   Since 2007, large segments of the population describe a “declining quality/availability of (the) electricity supply, water, fuel, education, local government and medical care.”  Harm to an immediate family member was reported by 17% of Iraqis.

But the Iraqis are no fools.  They’ve lived with the darkest expressions of the Bush – Cheney White House since March 2003.  Nearly 80% of all Iraqis believe that coalition troops won’t withdraw even if they’re asked.  .

Just a month after the citizens of the United States saw the neoconservatives and their dreams of empire leave power , a new plan was announced.  Most U.S. troops will be withdrawn by within 18 months.  Thirty to fifty thousand will remain to help with security and the never ending process of training Iraqi security forces.

Aren’t we missing a step?

Who asked the Iraqi people about the withdrawal schedule?  As the self-proclaimed proponents for democracy and human rights, shouldn’t the United States inquire as to the will of the people before initiating any policy changes?  Failing to do so means we’ve skipped a critical step.  How democratic is that?  It’s their country after all.

Did someone forget to raise those questions when the new plans were developed?

Relying on the ever shifting positions of a very unpopular Iraqi government is useless in assessing the will of the Iraqi people.  The only way to determine their will is through a national election.  Should U.S. troops stay or go?  If they should go, what is the preferred timeline?

Those who speak the language of empire might say that this modest proposal, democracy for Iraq, allows Iraqi citizens to determine U.S. foreign policy.

The answer to that is simple.  Right now U.S. foreign policy trumps Iraqi domestic policy and democracy.   Denying the vote to the Iraqis on this most vital matter denies their rights to self determination and belies the role of the United States as a proponent of democracy.

A 2003 Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on Iraq stated that:

“Iraqis remain a proud people. Gratitude over the removal of Saddam mixes with a strong strain of nationalism. Military occupation elicits complex reactions, and Iraqis, citing their long history of civilization, believe that they are capable of running their own affairs.”  Committee on Foreign Relations, July 2003

That statement was made in 2003.  It’s 2009.

Do we believe in the right of self determination for the long suffering people of Iraq?  If so, at long last, let’s prove it by letting them chose their own fate.

END

Permission granted to reproduce in whole or in part with attribution of authorship and a link to this article.

Seating Franken and Burris Memo to Congress

Seating Franken and Burris


Al Franken (D-MN) left and Roland Burris (D-IL) right
Image cc
Image cc

Memo to the U.S. Senate:
Try Following the Rules

Michael Collins

Originally published at American Politics Journal

We’ve seen what happens when people don’t follow the letter and intent of important laws, particularly those where there is a general consensus and an absence of moral ambiguity.  Consider our history from the implosion of Enron through stock market collapse.  This extreme damage was enabled by the deliberate defiance, evasion, and perversion of rules and laws, all in the service of personal gain for a very few.  Citizens lost $6 trillion in that episode of lawlessness.

President Bush and his administration consistently broke the laws of the United States by illegally tapping phones and emails, “selling” the Iraq invasion based on outright lies, and, in the case of six cabinet officials, participating in the “choreography” of torture sessions.  All of them found the Constitution a nuisance and rendered it meaningless by their actions.  The cost of these violations is incalculable.

A government gains legitimacy through the ascent to shared rules and laws by the vast majority of citizens.  No government can retain legitimacy, however, when the legislature fails to enforce and live by the very laws that they are sworn to protect.

Democrats and Republicans are now unified along party lines in their defiance of the laws.  Is this the new national unity we’ve been hearing about?

Yet this is exactly what is happening in the cases of the legally appointed Senator from Illinois, Roland Burris, and the soon to be certified winner of the Minnesota senatorial election, Al Franken.  Republicans are threatening to delay the seating of Franken, even when he’s certified the winner of the Minnesota Senate seat.  Senate Democrats all signed a letter of implied threat to the governor of Illinois regarding his selection of Roland Burris as the U.S. Senator from Illinois.

The final vote count for Franken shows him winning by a narrow margin.  The same elections system that conducted the recount will recommend and likely receive certification of the election quickly by the authorized state authority.

Burris was appointed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) according to the laws of Illinois.  There’s no provision that says a governor can’t make a selection if he’s been indicted for any crime.  The Illinois Supreme Court refused to remove the governor when the request was made by the State Attorney General.  The Illinois legislature could have impeached him but it didn’t.  He is still the governor of Illinois.

Senate objections to Franken and Burris show that the United States Senate has thrown out the rule book and is ignoring established law when it comes to plans for the “presumptive” Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken, and the legally appointed Senator from Illinois, Roland Burris.

The Laws of the United States, Illinois, and Minnesota Were Followed

A candidate or appointee only has three requirements to be a legitimate Senator.

Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution states:  “No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.”  (Author’s emphasis)  Link

Both Al Franken and Roland Burris pass muster for these requirements.

The XVII Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlines the popular election of Senators and the authority and procedures required to replace them in case they leave for some reason.

AMENDMENT XVII

“Passed by Congress May 13, 1912. Ratified April 8, 1913.

“Note: Article I, section 3, of the Constitution was modified by the 17th amendment.

“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

“When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

“This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.  (Author’s emphasis)  Link

This amendment provided for the popular election of Senators.  This is so simple.  Elected and appointed Senators should be immune from the actions by the any judicial, authority unless there are violations of state or federal law in the process of appointments.

But the Senate has one slim provision that can be invoked in the case of a real controversy or a contrived political event.

Article I. Section 5 states that:  “Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members” (continues) Link

This provides the Senate with the option of rejecting a prospective member.  In point of fact, there have been more than a few challenges to elections, mostly in the House.  No Senator has ever been denied a seat as a result of Article I, Section 5.

Seat Al Franken as the United States Senator from Minnesota

Al Franken lost the initial vote count by less than one half of one percent of the total vote.  That qualified him for an automatic recount.  Minnesota election law clearly specifies a recount process and even states that the recount vote will be different than the initial reported election result:  “Once the recount is over, the state elections board certifies the election.  The election is over at the point the results are certified.”

“The final results as modified, if necessary, by the recount are considered the final results of the election and are certified as final by the canvassing board.
Minnesota Election Recounts: Federal, State, and Judicial Offices

The Uptake.Org reported late Saturday night that final recounting is finished and Franken has a 225 vote lead.  The Minnesota Secretary of State commented at a post recount conference Saturday night that any election contest challenging the recount would be futile.  He praised the openness and fairness of the recount.  At a post recount press conference, Coleman’s representatives said they’d recommend a challenge in the form of a Minnesota election contest but indicated that the former Senator (his term expired Jan. 3 at noon) had not reached a decision.

The recount proceeded in an open and transparent way.  Results were reported by the Secretary of State and in the states major newspapers daily.  Controversies between the campaigns were handled by the appropriate courts and decisions were made in a very timely fashion.

Franken followed every single rule.  He did what many candidates fail to do.  He fought for the right of Minnesota voters to have their ballots counted and the right of all citizens of that state to have a Senator elected by a majority of the voters.  Norm Coleman, the initial winner, chided Franken for taking the option of a mandatory recount.  Franken didn’t back down or complain. He simply followed the rules and will very likely be certified as winner and therefore U.S. Senator from Minnesota.

But Republicans are now talking about making up their own rules.  They don’t want Franken seated until the conclusion of an anticipated appeal of the election through an “election contest.”  Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), head of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, threatened “chaos” if the Democrats tried “to jam this issue through the Senate and seat a senator who has not been determined to be the winner of the election” StarTribune.com, Jan. 3, 2009.

Wait a minute!  The canvassing board is the duly impaneled body that “determines” the “winner” of the election.  Franken will most likely be certified Monday, Jan. 5.  Coleman’s term expired at noon Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009.  Does this mean that any certified winner of a Senate race can be denied his seat by a legal challenge of the final decision?

It’s absurd.  Cornyn can object all he wants.  The rules are clear.  Franken should be seated if certified the winner, as anticipated.  There is no valid precedent in any of the election contests in the past to deny him that seat (See Appendix B).

Should a contest be brought against a senator-elect prior to his being sworn in, the chamber’s custom has been to seat the individual contingent upon his credentials being in order. (10) Thus, the precedent has been that a senator-elect has a “prima facie” right to the seat, while the contest brought against him is being investigated.  Moreover, the individual is considered seated “without prejudice” to himself or to the office. This pseudo-legal arrangement allows the Senate to remove the individual by a simple majority vote, should a subsequent investigation find him not to be entitled to the seat. Otherwise, the Senate’s only course of action would be “expulsion,” which would require a two-thirds majority (12).”  Partisanship and Contested Election Cases in the Senate, 1789-2002, Jeffery A. Jenkins, Northwestern University.  Studies in American Political Development, 19 (Spring 2005), 53-74, Cambridge University Press. (Author’s emphasis)

This is outlined in a report by the Senate outlining the election contests to date.

If Coleman pursues a post certification election contest, the Minnesota canvassing board certification becomes “provisional” by state law indicating that a contest is under way.  It may take three months to resolve the election contest.  The citizens of Minnesota will be denied representation should the Senate refuse to seat the declared winner after certification.

Seat Roland Burris Now

Roland Burris, the former Illinois Attorney General and Comptroller, was selected by indicted Governor Rod Blagojevich to fill the term of President elect Barrack Obama.  The day after the governor’s arrest, Illinois senior Senator, Richard Durbin (D-IL), appealed to Blagojevich to call for a special election rather than make an appointment to fill President-elect Obama’s vacated Senate seat.

“Please understand that should you decide to ignore the request of the Senate Democratic Caucus and make an appointment we would be forced to exercise our Constitutional authority under Article I, Section 5, to determine whether such a person should be seated.

“We do not prejudge the outcome of the criminal charges against you or question your constitutional right to contest those charges. But for the good of the Senate and our nation, we implore you to refrain from making an appointment to the Senate.”

Signed by the entire Senate Democratic leadership and all members of the Democratic Caucus.  Sen. Richard Durbin, (D-IL), Dec. 10, 2008

In the first paragraph above, Sen. Durbin says that the Democratic Caucus “would be forced to exercise its “Constitutional authority” to review the appointment.  This is a reference to Article I, Section 5 above.  The “Senate Democratic Caucus” has no authority under the United States Constitution.  It isn’t even mentioned.  The Senate does have the authority to “be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members.”  But no Senator or group of Senators is “forced” to do this.

Doesn’t this sound like an implied threat? ‘We want a special election not an appointment by you, Rod.  Go right ahead and we’ll invoke that section of Article I, Section 5 on Qualifications.’

How would they proceed?  Will they reject this fully qualified man as a United States Senator because the governor filling the vacancy, unlike all other citizens, is judged guilty as charged without the right to a trial by a jury of his peers.  Gov. Blagojevich has been charged, not convicted.  Is it is still possible to say this:   the governor is innocent until proven guilty.

How does it look when the Senate throws away the presumption of innocence by threatening to obstruct a legal appointment based on the presumed guilt of the governor making the appointment?

Why didn’t just one Senator stand up and point out that the appointment of Roland Burris was made by a sitting governor according to the laws of the State of Illinois, as the Constitution provides?

Will just one Senator on the Republican side take Sen. Cornyn to task for his obstructionist threat regarding Al Franken?

Why are they so special that they don’t have to follow the rules?

We’re witnessing the beginning of the 111th Congress engaged in the wholesale disrespect of the law in favor of partisan bias.  There is no regard for the law, no regard for process, and no indication of even the slightest degree of insight on the part of those flaunting the laws.  There isn’t even one objection to the violation of process, rules, and law from any Senator.

The majority of citizens are subject to the laws as they stand.  If you steal an iPod, that’s a felony in most states.  You’ll do some time if you can’t afford an attorney.  If the felony stands, you’ll lose your right to vote in many states.  In all instances, a felony places huge barriers to gainful employment, including a career in any of the professions.

Yet when it comes time to obey the Constitution that they’re obliged to honor and protect, what do the Senators do?  They allow their personal bias and political interests to trump the Constitution without any noticeable objection from the legislative body.

This type of disregard for the law by lawmakers is not only unacceptable; it impedes citizens from implementing their own “bailouts” and “recovery” programs by denying them access and positive influence on the government in this critical period of our history.

Memo to Congress:  Try following your own rules, precedents, and, most importantly, the Constitution of the United States.  The laws and rules that Congress should follow are fairly straight forward and the underlying principals are clear — respond to the will of the people and respect their right to representation.

END

NB:  The obedience to what I characterized as ” important laws, particularly those where there is a general consensus and no moral ambiguity” in no way diminishes the utility of civil disobedience for morally repugnant laws like those resisted by Martin Luther King, and others.

This article may be reproduced in part or in whole with attribution of authorship and a link to this article.

See this link for Appendix A (Minnesota election law) and Appendix B (Senate precedents and history on election challenges to U.S. Senators)