January 9, 2012 archive

Congressional Game of Chicken: More Recess Appointments

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post reports:

Obama is set to appoint Sharon Block, Terence Flynn, and Richard Grifin to the board – something unions have made a big priority for them in the new year. Senate Republicans have opposed the recess appointments to the NLRB on constitutional grounds, but unions charge that Republicans are only interested in rendering the agency inoperative.

Obama’s move, which will help energize unions in advance of the 2012 election, is yet another sign that he is determined to circumvent GOP opposition and make government functional again by any means necessary. It’s another sign that the White House and Dems have abanoned the illusion that anything can be done to secure bipartisan compromise with Republicans on the major items on Obama’s agenda.

From Think Progress:

All 47 Senate Republicans have warned Obama of a “constitutional conflict” should he choose to use his recess appointment powers – authority he is well within his right to use, as ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser noted yesterday – but it was Chief Justice John Roberts, a noted conservative, who said the president should make recess appointments to keep the NLRB functioning, as ThinkProgress reported in 2010.

Obama’s appointment of Block, Flynn, and Griffin is important, too, because it boosts the board’s membership to five, protecting its quorum even if member Brian Hayes follows through on his threats to quit. Preserving its right to quorum ensures that its rulings will not be thrown out on legal challenges, as more than 600 cases were by the Roberts Court in 2010.

Congressional Game of Chicken: Obama Ends The Farce

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

It was announced by the White House that President Barack Obama will make a recess appointment of former Attorney General of Ohio, Richard Cordray to head the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):

President Barack Obama installed Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with a recess appointment today, testing the limits of his executive authority to fill the post without Senate approval.

Obama nominated Cordray to be the bureau’s first director in July, almost one year after enactment of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory law creating the agency. Republicans blocked Cordray’s confirmation by the Senate last month. Putting him in the job today may set up an election-year court fight between the White House and Congress.

Even thought the Senate has been under Democratic control since 2006 when the tactic of pro forma session was first employed to keep President George W. Bush from making recess appointments to the bench, there have been questions by legal scholars about the constitutionality about their use. It has since been used to placate the Republicans in hopes of winning their cooperation, obviously to no avail.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called President Obama move “arrogant”, saying that “Breaking from this precedent lands this appointee in uncertain legal territory, threatens the confirmation process and fundamentally endangers the Congress’s role in providing a check on the excesses of the executive branch.”

House Speaker John Boehner had a similar reaction calling the appointment an “extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab” by the president.

The legal precedent for these sessions is on very shaky ground. In a 1993 court case involving the Postal Service Board of Governors, Justice Department lawyers argued in court papers that presidents can make recess appointments when the Senate is out of session for more than three days.

The brief suggested that a president might lack that authority during shorter breaks. Pointing to the constitutional requirement that the Senate and House get one another’s consent before adjourning for more than three days, the Justice Department said the constitutional framers might not have considered shorter recesses to be significant.

“If the recess here were of three days or less, a closer question would be presented,” the Justice Department argued.

However, lawyers who advised President George W. Bush on recess appointments wrote that the Senate “cannot use sham ‘pro forma’ sessions to prevent the president from exercising a constitutional power.”

David Dayen at FDL points out the Constitutional argument that there is no time requirement in the Constitution for Congress to be in recess before the president can make recess appointments:

As for the judicial question on whether pro forma sessions count as keeping Congress in session, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled back in 2007 that “The Constitution, on its face, does not establish a minimum time that an authorized break in the Senate must last to give legal force to the President’s appointment power under the Recess Appointments Clause.” On the other side of this, Solicitor General Neal Katyal, in a 2010 case, argued that the Administration recognized that a 3-day recess was “too small,” in their understanding, to make appointments.

While the Republicans will very likely mount a court challenge, claiming past precedent, it may well fail since the president has the power to make recess appointments under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution which states, “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.” It can be argued that Congress is in recess when they gavel out at the end of each day or whenever there is no quorum, which goes to the constitutional argument about pro forma sessions.

The other issue is why didn’t he appoint Elizabeth Warren who is eminently more qualified than Cordray to head the CFPB? It is most likely because of objections from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s objections and her memo to the the state attorney general’s who are negotiating a settlement with the big banks over mortgage fraud.

Make no mistake, Obama is doing this now for purely political motivations. It emphases Republican obstructionism and as a ploy to win back the disenfranchised left wing of the Democratic Party, as well as, the Independent voters who believed in all his “hopey, changey” campaign rhetoric.

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Making it safe for Billionaires to ride the Subway again.

Relax, if You Want, but Don’t Put Your Feet Up


Published: January 6, 2012

It is perhaps the most minor crime New Yorkers are routinely arrested for: sitting improperly on a subway seat. Seven years ago, rule 1050(7)(J) of the city’s transit code criminalized what was once simply bad etiquette: passengers putting their feet on a subway seat. They also cannot take up more than one seat if it interferes with other passengers’ comfort, nor can they block movement on a subway by doing something like standing too close to the doors.

Paul J. Browne, the New York Police Department’s chief spokesman, said enforcement of subway regulations had made the transit system much safer.

“One of the reasons that crime on the subways has plummeted from almost 50 crimes a day in 1990 to only seven now is because the N.Y.P.D. enforces violations large and small, often encountering armed or wanted felons engaged in relatively minor offenses, like putting their feet up, smoking on a platform, walking or riding between cars, or fare beating,” Mr. Browne said.


The Wizard


Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Attentive readers know I don’t much respect it.  To pretend to have a standard and yet not hold yourself or people you support to the same is a flat out LIE!

I don’t mince words either.

See yourself in this mirror?  Stop being an asshole then.

The evil of indefinite detention and those wanting to de-prioritze it

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Sunday, Jan 8, 2012 6:18 AM Eastern Standard Time

As we head into Election Year, there is an increasingly common, bizarre and self-evidently repellent tactic being employed by some Democratic partisans against those of us who insist that issues like indefinite detention (along with ongoing killing of civilians in the Muslim world) merit high priority. The argument is that to place emphasis on such issues is to harm President Obama (because he’s responsible for indefinite detention, substantial civilian deaths, and war-risking aggression) while helping competing candidates (such as Gary Johnson or Ron Paul) who vehemently oppose such policies. Thus, so goes this reasoning, to demand that issues like indefinite detention and civilian deaths be prioritized in assessing the presidential race is to subordinate the importance of other issues such as abortion, gay equality, and domestic civil rights enforcement on which Obama and the Democrats are better. Many of these commentators strongly imply, or now even outright state, that only white males are willing to argue for such a prioritization scheme because the de-prioritized issues do not affect them. See here (Megan Carpentier), here (Katha Pollitt) and here (Dylan Matthews) as three of many examples of this grotesque accusatory innuendo.

There are numerous glaring flaws with this divisive tactic. For one, it relies on a full-scale, deliberate distortion of the argument being made; demanding that issues like indefinite detention, civilian deaths and aggressive war be given high priority in the presidential race does not remotely advocate the de-prioritization of any other issues. For another, many women and ethnic and racial minorities – as well as gay Americans – are making similar arguments about the need for these issues to receive substantial attention in the election.

More important, it’s irrational in the extreme to argue that self-interest or “privilege” would cause someone to want to prioritize issues like indefinite detention and civilian causalities given that the civil liberties and anti-war advocates being so accused are extremely unlikely themselves to be affected by the abuses they protest. For the most part, it isn’t white males being indefinitely detained, rendered, and having their houses and cars exploded with drones – the victims of those policies are people like Boumediene, or Gulet Mohamed, or Jose Padilla, or Awal Gul, or Sami al-Haj, or Binyam Mohamed, or Afghan villagers, or Pakistani families, or Yemeni teenagers.

Put another way, when you spend the vast bulk of your time working against the injustices imposed almost exclusively on minorities and the marginalized – as anyone who works on these war and civil liberties issues by definition does – it’s reprehensible for someone to deploy these sorts of accusatory tactics, all in service of the shallow goal of partisan loyalty enforcement. Those who were actually driven primarily by privileged self-interest would want to de-prioritize these issues in a presidential campaign, not insist on their vital importance.

And that is this real point here: what’s so warped about those who employ this tactic for partisan ends is how easily it could be used against them, rather than by them. All of the authors of the three accusatory examples linked above (Carpentier, Pollitt, and Matthews) – as well as most of those Democrats who have now sunk to explicitly arguing that such matters are unimportant – are white and non-Muslim.

I don’t employ or endorse that wretched reasoning, but those who do – such as the authors of the above-linked accusations – should have it applied to them and their own political priorities; they deserve to reap what they are sowing.

On this Day In History January 9

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 9 is the ninth day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 356 days remaining until the end of the year (357 in leap years).

On this day in 1493, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, sees three “mermaids”–in reality manatees–and describes them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” Six months earlier, Columbus (1451-1506) set off from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, hoping to find a western trade route to Asia. Instead, his voyage, the first of four he would make, led him to the Americas, or “New World.”

Mermaids, mythical half-female, half-fish creatures, have existed in seafaring cultures at least since the time of the ancient Greeks. Typically depicted as having a woman’s head and torso, a fishtail instead of legs and holding a mirror and comb, mermaids live in the ocean and, according to some legends, can take on a human shape and marry mortal men. Mermaids are closely linked to sirens, another folkloric figure, part-woman, part-bird, who live on islands and sing seductive songs to lure sailors to their deaths.

West Indian manatees are large, gray aquatic mammals with bodies that taper to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. They have two forelimbs, called flippers, with three to four nails on each flipper. Their head and face are wrinkled with whiskers on the snout.

Manatees can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas – particularly where seagrass beds or freshwater vegetation flourish. Manatees are a migratory species. Within the United States, they are concentrated in Florida in the winter. In summer months, they can be found as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts, but summer sightings in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are more common. West Indian manatees can also be found in the coastal and inland waterways of Central America and along the northern coast of South America, although distribution in these areas may be discontinuous.

Manatees are gentle and slow-moving animals. Most of their time is spent eating, resting, and traveling. Manatees are completely herbivorous.

West Indian manatees have no natural enemies, and it is believed they can live 60 years or more. As with all wild animal populations, a certain percentage of manatee mortality is attributed to natural causes of death such as cold stress, gastrointestinal disease, pneumonia, and other diseases. A high number of additional fatalities are from human-related causes. Most human-related manatee fatalities occur from collisions with watercraft.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning
Defy your own group. Rebel against yourself.

–Cathy Guisewite

Clasping 2

Late Night Karaoke

A Horse Whisperer

You smell like an ugly Big Mac to them.  In the wild a lion kills them by jumping on their back and biting through their spine and the first thing you want to do is put a dead animal hide and then jump on top of that.  It is amazing that they will let you.

This is a rough quote from a real horseman.  I offer it up in this environment of political horsemanure to spiritually ground those who are so inclined.  His story is now on that lamestream media channel known as Shotime.



Pique the Geek 20120108: Aluminum Part II of II

Last week we discussed the production and uses of aluminum, and that piece got a lot of comment traffic and made the Kos Recommended List, which I value greatly.  Some of the comments asked questions and made me decide to write a follow up piece, because some of the questions were excellent in their own right, and some of them also caused me to think a bit further about our use of this material.

Tonight we shall concentrate on a few more uses of aluminum, why it is so unique, and less environmentally damaging ways to produce it.  It turns out that there is an experimental process to refine aluminum that does not produce nearly as much carbon dioxide as the Hall-Héroult process, and might be more energy efficient as well.

There is no time like the present, so let us get started!  That is unless you have an objection.