Saturday, July 30, 2011

Increasing the Stupidity Ceiling

Our former Supremo, El Grande Generalissimo Dumbasso Jorge W. Bush, is famously alleged to have scorned Our Wonderful Constitution as a "goddam piece of paper," although it appears that he never actually said that. If he had, though, I'd have to agree with him: that's exactly what it is, as I've observed here before. It's something that came to my mind on Friday, as I was talking with a friend at the day job -- a man whose love of authoritarianism teamed up with his Donkey partisanship and spilled over in the form of his fervent hope that "President Obama would put the GOP on notice that they either put a debt-ceiling increase that worthy of his signature on his desk by noon on Monday, or he'd invoke the Fourteenth Amendment and do it himself." This was an aspect of the debt-ceiling farce that I'd been blissfully unaware of until then. I've since looked into it a little:
As lawmakers struggle to resolve the debt crisis, a growing number of observers wonder whether President Obama has one last trump card at his disposal: ignoring the debt ceiling altogether.

Top Democrats are reviving an argument — one that has arisen several times — that the White House could invoke the 14th Amendment of the Constitution to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval.

“Is there anything that prohibits him from doing that?” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) told the newspaper The Hill. “The answer is no.”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) has described it as the least bad
option if Congress doesn’t act.

The White House, for its part, continues to resist the speculation.

“Only Congress can increase the statutory debt ceiling,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Friday. “That’s just a reality.”

But many legal scholars are suggesting that Obama could do it.

Jack Balkin, a law professor at Yale, has laid out how this would work. At some point after Tuesday’s deadline, Obama would face the demands of multiple contradicting laws. On the one hand, the government is required to pay out money that has
already been appropriated. On the other, it would not be allowed to float new debt to cover its obligations.

So, Balkin notes, Obama “has a constitutional duty to treat at least one of the laws as unconstitutional as applied to the current circumstances.” And the wording of Section 4 of the 14th Amendment suggests that the debt ceiling would have to give way: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law ... shall not be questioned.”

If Obama interpreted that clause to mean that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional and authorized the Treasury Department to begin issuing new debt, it’s not clear that anyone could stop him. As Jeffrey Rosen writes in the New Republic, individual memb
ers of Congress would not have standing to sue — Congress would need to pass a joint resolution, which is unlikely given Democratic control of the Senate.

t is also unlikely that individual taxpayers or bondholders would have standing.

“The most likely outcome is that the Supreme Court would refuse to hear the case,” Rosen argues. And if a suit did make it through, Rosen adds, even the conservative justices would probably rule in Obama’s favor — at least if they held to their judicial philosophies.

But Obama would still face political blow-back. The decision would probably set off an extensive legal and public-relations battle over the scope of the president’s powers
. Democrats and Republicans alike were upset about Obama’s decision to intervene in the armed conflict in Libya without Congress’s consent. An unprecedented constitutional maneuver would allow the opposition to paint a portrait of a president who thinks his authority has no bounds.
In case anyone's interested, here's the text of Amendment 14, Section 4:
Section 4.

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
In context, the meaning of the text is very clear: Union debt is good and must be paid; Confederate debt is no good and cannot be paid. Just an accountant's orders for a mopping-up operation for the post-Civil War era. (I do like that Lincolnesque tyrant's formulation: not "must be paid," or "must be honored," but "shall not be questioned." No questions, dammit, no questions! Just pay!)

What does this have to do with limits placed on the further acquisition of government debt? Obviously, not a thing. I suppose, though, that it should be faintly encouraging that our supervisors are bothering to cast about for any sort of fig leaf at all. Maybe it's just a bit of wry irony on their part. Of course they can do anything they want, anything at all: who's going to stop them? They're doing anything they want to right now, and have been for a long time. Who's stopping them now? How? The whole thing is quite funny, really.

Another bit of humor can be seen in the Post's concern that the Peace Laureate might be painted by his "opposition" as a president who thinks his authority has no bounds. Folks, we have a president who already openly asserts his authority to have American citizens assassinated, anywhere in the world, without the smallest trace of due process apart from President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho's say-so ... and so godlike a figure as that is supposed to be concerned about public perception? Don't make me laugh -- at least, don't make me laugh any more than our Idiocracy-esque public life is already making me laugh. It's such a good show. I do declare that, if I laugh any harder, I'll start crying instead.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

So What Is it This Time?

They say that when a street fighter's doing some showy stuff with his right hand, it means he's about to kick you in the knee. So now that America's unified in irrelevant outrage, I have to wonder: what are our supervisors doing right at this moment? Arranging yet another sand war? Or maybe jacking around with the money debt again?

Friday, July 01, 2011

Paging Lee Greenwood

Via this morning, Anthony Gregory gives a succinct summary of the New Paradigm:
We are not really surrendering our gels, forgoing our bottled water, or taking off our shoes for our own good. That’s all a ruse. The TSA is an agency whose function, if not intended purpose, is to condition obedience and subservience into the population. It is an arm of the federal police state and cannot be reformed into anything else. It must be abolished totally and nothing short of that will bring liberty back to air travel.

Even more fundamentally, the media and talking heads — certainly the conservative opponents of TSA — forget why we have a terrorist threat, such as it is, in the first place: Because the U.S. government is waging imperial wars abroad, slaughtering children, propping up corrupt regimes, overthrowing governments, playing geopolitical favorites, cutting people off of international trade, and generally behaving as the biggest bully in the world. The blowback terrorism that results can never be stamped out so long as the wars continue. Those who criticize the TSA but defend the wars, and those who defend the TSA but question the wars, should recognize they are two sides of the same imperial coin. The same statism behind the degradation of domestic passengers is in play in the dehumanization of foreign civilians bombed from the sky. Washington, D.C., sees itself as master of our lives and ruler of the world. So long as we accept its pretensions to control the planet, we will be treated as imperial subjects are always treated: as mere cogs in the machine, disposable and malleable human livestock, at the very best.
As I've said over and over again in this space, Americans who imagine themselves enjoying freedom while sending their armies everywhere else to plant the boot on brown foreigners' necks are dreaming a fool's dream ... and a wicked fool at that. Hire a psycho to go out every morning and collect your "protection" money, and he'll do so ... but at the end of his shift, he'll want to come home and relax, and you'll find that he hasn't turned miraculously into good company. He's still a psycho, and he's got your house keys.

Get out there this weekend and enjoy your Fourth-O-July. Just make very sure you enjoy it in Officially Approved™ ways, O marvelously free American. Otherwise, you'll have these clowns to deal with.