Thursday, April 05, 2007

Recess appointment abuse

President Bush made some more “recess appointments” the other day, bypassing the Senate to install several people to positions that they would have otherwise been able to fill.
This is an abuse of the executive power granted in the Constitution. Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution says: “The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”
But the positions that Bush is filling did not become vacant during the Senate recess. The authors of our Constitution added that provision because back in 1780s the U.S. Congress did not tend to meet for long periods of time. There would be long delays between sessions of Congress, thus government vacancies might go unfilled for lengthy periods during which time the Congress was not around to give its advice and consent. So the recess appointment was created to allow the President to fill those vacancies temporarily.
But times have changed and today the Congress is in session pretty much year around. Therefore, one should assume that the recess appointment provision should rarely be used. But quite to the contrary, it seems to be used with ever increasing frequency as Presidents have struggled with opposition parties controlling the other branches of government.
It is a bipartisan issue with both Republican and Democratic presidents taking advantage of this loophole to bypass their political adversaries in the appointment process. Although presidents all the way back to Washington have used recess appointments, it seems to have really taken off during the Reagan years when Uncle Ronnie bypassed the Democratic Congress repeatedly by making 243 recess appointments. Bill Clinton made 140 such appointments during his two terms.
But Bush Jr. may be the worst of all. Even with a Republican Congress during the first six years of his presidency, Bush has made 167 recess appointments so far.
Lately, he has been very blatant in making in-your-face recess appointments of officials who were already reviewed and rejected by the Senate. That is clearly contrary to the spirit, if not the letter of the law. I truly hope that someone will challenge him on this and get it before the Supreme Court because it is an abuse of power that should not be tolerated from Republican or Democratic presidents.

Money makes the World Go Around...

The financial reports for the 2008 presidential candidates are out and they contain quite a few surprises, not least of which is Barack Obama’s matching nearly dollar for dollar the fundraising strength of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
Hillary brought in a record-breaking $26 million, but was no doubt surprised to find Obama hot on her heels with $25 million and with a wider contributor base to boot.
That bodes well for Obama. He looks to be in the race for the longhaul.
Meanwhile, the Republican field has been shaken by the surprisingly strong performance by the Flip-Flop King Mitt Romney who raked in a cool $23 million, nearly double that of John McCain, the one time Conventional Wisdom frontrunner.
McCain is clearly in trouble with just $12.5 million in his first campaign fundraising haul. And Rudy Giuliani, the current frontrunner in all the polls, is not doing too much better with just $15 million. To put that in perspective, consider that Giuliani is just barely hanging even with John Edwards who raised $14 million.
So Hillary clearly has the advantage at this point as she is leading in both the money race and in the polls. But Obama is a major factor in the race and isn’t going to go away anytime soon. Meanwhile the Republicans have a mixed bag with a guy raising tons of money but with little poll support, while their frontrunner in the polls is being left in the dust by the Democrats.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Blogroll deletion

It is with great sadness that I must remove
The View From the Nest from my San Antonio blogroll. I do so only because the owner, The Rantin’ Raven, requested it on account of the fact that he inexplicably shut the site down and deleted it entirely. The Ranting Raven’s politics and mine are 100 percent polar opposites, but that did not prevent us from becoming blog buddies. I also had the pleasure of meeting Raven in person, along with his lovely family, at the San Antonio Blogger Bar-B-Q that he helped organize a couple of years ago.
I hope that Raven’s decision to delete his blog was not because he recieved threats or any other kind of nastiness like that. And I hope that he will eventually find his way back to the local blogosphere where he should know that he will be sorely missed.

On a positive note, I want to take this opportunity to note some recent additions to the local blogging community including Intimations of Mortality authored by a local attorney; Walker Report by a councilman from Balcones Heights; and Dig Deeper Texas by a group of civic-minded activists.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Great expectations

Baseball season has started again and I’m looking forward to an enjoyable year.
Fortunately, I’m not a Cubs fan like at least one unhappy fellow I know.
I’m not sure how well the Astros will do without some more pitching support now that they have lost Andy Pettite and perhaps Roger Clemens. The first game didn’t go well with Roy Oswalt pitching a good game only to have Brad Lige and another closer lose it in the final innings. But it’s only the first game of the season.
It was kind of a strange start to the season with a lot of unexpected finishes. The Yankees got off to a good start with a 9-5 victory over the Devil Rays (are they supposed to be any good yet?). But the Chicago White Sox lost to the Indians 12-5 and the Boston Red Sox were whooped 7-1 by the hapless Kansas City Royals.
I always like this time of the year when the baseball season is fresh and the basketball season is gearing up for the playoffs. The Spurs have looked really good lately and my level of expectation for their chances in the playoffs has gone up accordingly.

Catching up...

I’ve been out sick for the last couple of days...
Lot of interesting news stories have come out during that time:

High Court Faults EPA Inaction on Emissions

The Supreme Court rebuked the Bush administration yesterday for refusing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, siding with environmentalists in the court's first examination of the phenomenon of global warming.
The court ruled 5 to 4 that the Environmental Protection Agency violated the Clean Air Act by improperly declining to regulate new-vehicle emissions standards to control the pollutants that scientists say contribute to global warming.
"EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority. The agency "identifies nothing suggesting that Congress meant to curtail EPA's power to treat greenhouse gases as air pollutants," the opinion continued.
The Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement that the ruling "repudiates the Bush administration's do-nothing policy on global warming," undermining the government's refusal to view carbon dioxide as an air pollutant subject to EPA regulation.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Anthony Kennedy stepping into the pivotal swing role once occupied by Sandra Day O’Connor. It’s nice to think that even after Bush got two of his horrible picks onto the Supreme Court, we can still get good decisions like this one through.

Prosecutor Posts Go To Bush Insiders

About one-third of the nearly four dozen U.S. attorney's jobs that have changed hands since President Bush began his second term have been filled by the White House and the Justice Department with trusted administration insiders.
The people chosen as chief federal prosecutors on a temporary or permanent basis since early 2005 include 10 senior aides to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, according to an analysis of government records. Several came from the White House or other government agencies. Some lacked experience as prosecutors or had no connection to the districts in which they were sent to work, the records and biographical information show....
No other administration in contemporary times has had such a clear pattern of filling chief prosecutors' jobs with its own staff members, said experts on U.S. attorney's offices. Those experts said the emphasis in appointments traditionally has been on local roots and deference to home-state senators, whose support has been crucial to win confirmation of the nominees.
The pattern from Bush's second term suggests that the dismissals were half of a two-pronged approach: While getting rid of prosecutors who did not adhere closely to administration priorities, such as rigorous pursuit of immigration violations and GOP allegations of voter fraud, White House and Justice officials have seeded federal prosecutors' offices with people on whom they can depend to carry out the administration's agenda.

The Bush administration has clearly abused their power when it comes to selecting U.S. Attorneys. If the law is such that the U.S. attorneys “serve at the privilege of the president” then I think after this administration that law needs to be changed. Every new president can pick their own people for the U.S. Attorney slots (with Senate approval), but after they are in place the administration needs to back off and let them do their jobs. This nonsense about ranking the attorneys based on their fealty to the Bush administration’s political agenda is unconscionable and should not be tolerated. If we need a new law to keep this kind of abuse from happening in the future then so be it.

How Bogus Letter Became a Case for War

Dozens of interviews with current and former intelligence officials and policymakers in the United States, Britain, France and Italy show that the Bush administration disregarded key information available at the time showing that the Iraq-Niger claim was highly questionable.
In February 2002, the CIA received the verbatim text of one of the documents, filled with errors easily identifiable through a simple Internet search, the interviews show. Many low- and mid-level intelligence officials were already skeptical that Iraq was in pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The interviews also showed that France, berated by the Bush administration for opposing the Iraq war, honored a U.S. intelligence request to investigate the uranium claim. It determined that its former colony had not sold uranium to Iraq.
Burba, who had no special expertise in Africa or nuclear technology, was able to quickly unravel the fraud. Yet the claims clung to life within the Bush administration for months, eventually finding their way into the State of the Union address.

I still want to know who created the phony document and why.