Saturday, January 29, 2011

Our Disguised Republican President

Mr President, today on your Facebook page, you spoke of >>unleashing the talent and ingenuity of American businesses and American workers in every corner of this country.

American workers are too busy still worrying about jobs, Mr President, and have little gumption left to unleash anything, especially where all of the reward will go to corporate CEOs and shareholders. All of it! "They" have gotten ever richer while middle and lower class workers pay and standard of living has been stagnant for 30 years.

Corporations have done many fine things over the years. Sadly, creating wealth for anyone other than senior corporate executives has not been an achievement of late.

You're obviously a really bright guy, bu I wonder if you nodded off the day they taught about the effects of rewards (and non-reward) on human behavior.

Unless you change and start to push for and promote the interests of American workers instead of the interests of America's corporations and Americans wealthiest, your role as a great disguised Republican president will be cemented in history.

Words alone, even inspiring words from on high, will not long inspire people to act where there is no reward in sight.

For 30 years the richer have gotten richer and the rest of us have been treading water, despite having bled for increases in productivity. The idea that a rising tide lifts all boats works in the harbor; sadly, it turns out that it doesn't work in our economy. We have worked harder and harder with no real reward.

You speak of hope. We look at our economic condition fr the past 30 years and at your adherence to the economics of corporatism and find that your words of "hope" simply don't apply to our economic situations. Not without change we actually experience.

When I worked for your election, I knew you weren't a liberal. Sadly, I didn't know that you are a closet Republican.

If your sense of "what is possible" aligns only with Republican ideas and abandons those of Democrats, then you should step aside now and let a real Democrat lead.

You speak of necessary compromise. In my world compromise means each side gives some. The only give, the only compromise from conservatives is that they won't insist today that we privatize social security and Medicare. They'll hold off an insist on that tomorrow.

A few months ago you promised you wouldn't give on extending the tax cuts for the rich. That was on November 11, 2010: "President Obama was adamant on Friday that he isn't caving in to GOP pressure to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans" New York Daily News.

If all you can do is give up stuff, and not insist that Republicans do the same, if what you have achieved so far is the best you can do, sadly I have come to believe your presidency is a failure.

Yeah, you've had a few "victories." Tax cuts for all! That is republican dream and victory. Repeal of DADT. You didn't lead on that, you followed the clear will of the people. Etc. Remember, the majority of Americans wants the public option, but you caved. ACA did some good stuff, but it left the American people even more ensnared in the clutches of the insurance industry.

In your first 2 years, I see a lot of victories for the Republicans, and few for the Democrats. And these have been because the majority voiced simply couldn't be ignored

I hate to tell you this, but you've blown it.

Its time to step aside and give Democrats a chance to rally and win in 2012.

The Social Security Crisis in 2037

Social Security currently has a $2.6 trillion surplus. It has enough to pay every penny of SS obligations through 2037, at which point it will "only" have enough to pay "only" 78%.

We have 26 years to figure out a solution. But conservative leaders seem to be trying to scare us into thinking we have to act immediately!

I believe that they are trying to scare us into thinking here is an immediate problem so they can "privatize" it and give that $2.7 trillion to Wall Street. Then Wall Street executives will get even higher bonuses (and make even higher contributions to conservative politicians) by playing with our money.

When Wall Street collapsed because of the bad investments they made, aggregate losses for (i) the stock markets, (ii) housing and (iii) retirement savings totaled $8.3 trillion. Since peaking in the second quarter of 2007, household wealth is down $14 trillion.

Because of its defaults, bank failures and losses, Wall Street had to be bailed out by the US Government.

The United States has never defaulted on it obligations. Not a penny.

So which which is the safe investment of our money? Wall Street or the US Government?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ohio Proposed Secret Gov Agency

Ohio Governor John Kasich has proposed privatizing the Ohio Department of Development, creating a private corporation, using our tax dollars, which would act almost entirely in secret and have little transparency or oversight. His proposal is embodied in House Bill 1,, for this the 129th General Assembly.

It flies in the face of the much ballyhooed Republican promise in its "Pledge to America:" that “We will fight to ensure transparency and accountability ... throughout government."

Below are sample letters which I have sent- one to my representative, one (shorter, and sweeter) to the Toledo Blade. Feel free to copy and modify for your own letter to your representative.

To find who your representative is, go to

Sample Letter to Representative

Via email

The Honorable [your rep]
Ohio House of Representatives
Columbus, OH

Re: House Bill 1 of the 129th General Assembly Regular Session,
Formation of the publicly funded private company "JobsOhio"

Dear Representative _________;

As a constituent and voter, I urge you to oppose HB 1.

Creation of an almost entirely private institution with extremely limited public oversight flies in the face of (1) the principles of open government, (2) good stewardship of our government by our elected representatives, and (3) the people’s right to know what our government is doing.

Last year, Republicans made a “Pledge to America.” In that Pledge, Republicans promised that “We will fight to ensure transparency and accountability ... throughout government.”

HB 1 breaks that promise. I urge you to keep that promise in the “Pledge to America” by opposing HB 1.

I value honesty and integrity in government and in politicians and especially in elected officials. Like many Americans, I believe my elected officials should and will keep their promises.

The proponents of HB 1 have argued that it is necessary because “allowing public access will weaken the ability of the new entity to negotiate.”

HB 1 goes far beyond protecting details in negotiations which need to be kept private. That concern can best be met through carefully crafted, narrow exceptions to the Ohio Open Records Law , Ohio Revised Code, Title 1, Section 149, , and the Ohio Open Meetings Law, ORC, Title 1, Chapter 121,

Those Ohio laws already contain a well designed scheme of exceptions to the general principle of open government. If that scheme exposes too much detail of negotiations, then amend those specific provisions.

I believe that hiding all aspects of an entire government agency doing the public’s business from public scrutiny breaches the stewardship of government we so rightly and naturally expect of our elected officials, especially where public funds, tax payer funds, will be used.

Some people argue that we, the taxpayers, know how to spend our money better than the government. HB 1 would deny us the knowledge of how our money is spent and thus to know if our elected officials are spending our money well.

“The motivating idea behind Ohio's right-to-know laws was expressed by an Ohio court in 1994 when it wrote ‘public records are the people's records, and officials in whose custody they happen to be are merely trustees for the people.’"



Be sure to include your address, legislators always pay more attention to voters in their district.

Sample Newspaper Letter

Dear Editor:

Ohio Governor John Kasich has proposed privatizing the Ohio Department of Development, creating a private corporation, using our tax dollars, which would act almost entirely in secret and have little transparency or oversight. His proposal is embodied in House Bill 1

Americans value open and transparent government

This proposal flies in the face of that value, and especially in the face of the Republican promise in its "Pledge to America:" that “We will fight to ensure transparency and accountability ... throughout government."

If there is a need for some secrecy in negotiations, which is a reasonable need, those needs can be better met by adding to the exceptions in the Ohio Open Records and Open Meetings laws.

Cloaking an entire agency behind a veil of secrecy simply does not conform with the obligations of our elected officials to represent we the people.


Friday, January 7, 2011

It's We The People, People

In a discussion of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's use of the filibuster across the board, including for judicial nominations,Ian Milhiser at Think Progress wrote:

"So while McConnell’s claim to consistency on judicial filibusters is obviously false, he has been consistent on one thing: doing everything in his power to make sure only conservatives are allowed to govern."

When the Republicans read the Constitution, maybe they need to slow down and focus on the first three words: "We the People."

The Constitution is not for or about conservatives, it is about We the People and I believe they need to understand that they do not hold the only acceptable views of what our country is or what it means to be an American.

Repeat after me: "We the People...."

Leadership Of the People Needed

Dear President Obama

Now is the time for you to start to actually lead the people of the United States. I'm guessing you do a lot of talking with Congressmen. If you want to succeed, you have to engage with "we the people."

I’ve taken a pretty hard view about your presidency. In a some moments of political angst, I’ve even said you should step down now so that the democrats have a chance in the 2012 elections.

But I’m always willing, in fact, I would love to change my mind.

I think my biggest concern has been your inability to lead the country’s “dialog” on important issues. On the news, we mainly hear Republican talking points (and their attacks on you. Stand up for yourself man - or at least find some surrogates to do so. Amazingly, somehow you are perceived as "anti-business! How on earth can a devotee of the Chicago School of Economics let himself be painted that way?*)

Right now there is starting to be a lot of noise about the debt limit and whether Republicans will use the need for it to extract draconian political concessions.

Now is the time for you to take control, to be the nation’s leader. Are you going to let the fiscally suicidal capture this discussion as well? And leave the important response to Senator Graham? “Let me tell you what’s involved if we don’t lift the debt ceiling: financial collapse and calamity throughout the world."

You should be the one telling the nation that. And repeat it. And Repeat it. And repeat it. Hammer it home!

Maybe you don't understand - there are people who will oppose you regardless of what you do. It really is OK to stand up to them and tell them "you're wrong." You won't be losing them, you will never have them. And you will gain supporters by doing so.

You have to step up and lead the discussion.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Learn to use bullet points.
  • Then use them
Erudite discussion of the intricacies of public issues has its place, but you need first to

capture people’s attention!

Few people read law reviews or other highly thought our treatises. Don’t try to led with footnotes and complexity. People don’t even read headlines anymore. They listen to sound bites. You obviously love good thinking based on a firm grasp of the full range of information available News flash: most people don't!

I disagreed with much of what President Bush did, but he accomplished what he did because he led the dialog, the discussion, and he kept it simple.

You can lead the discussion AND advance the values and goals of the Democratic party: put forth your vision and negotiate from there. You might be surprised what becomes possible when you get into the public awareness game.

Talking with congressional leaders is fine. You have to learn how to effectively talk with the American people and capture us with your vision.

You captured us during the campaign. A two year vacation from effective communication is enough. Get back to work and start to lead the nation!


* You have seem to have bought the view that "if it's good for business, its good for the country." That is a pretty limited view, and it certainly isn't, or shouldn't be, a view of the leader of the Democratic Party. Corporations have done many fine things. But the driving corporate motive of profits for a select few is a non-starter when it comes to serving all of "We the people of the United States."

Compliment them for the good stuff they do, but show us that the American people come first, and maximizing profits is not at the top of the list of goals of America.

You've talk constitutional law. Please reread the mission statement for the US, the Presamble of the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to
  • form a more perfect Union,
  • establish Justice,
  • insure domestic Tranquility,
  • provide for the common defence,
  • promote the general Welfare, and
  • secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Monday, January 3, 2011

What Limited Government Means

[On Edit. In an interesting and thoughtful response, the first below, AH points out that my post could be read as implying that there is and was only one view of what the Constitution means and what the Drafters "intended." I erred to the extent that implication can be read into my post. I have long maintained that there was not (and could not be, given human nature) any one fixed and unanimous view among the drafters of the Constitution as to what they intended. Which, of course, completely cuts the legs out from the advocates of "originalism" and the "original intent" dogma]

[Also on edit - There is an extraordinary discussion of the history of American law at, which discusses the many and sometimes extreme differences of opinion among the 'founders,' and thus demonstrates the fact there there was no single intent of the 'founders.' As there were many differences, there could not be an "original intent."]

In the first Federalist Paper, Alexander Hamilton wrote:

"An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized."

Today's conservatives are living proof of the drive of some to stigmatize an energetic and effective federal government. They claim the mantle of authority of the Founding Fathers as described in the Federalist Papers. But "in the cold bright light of waking reality,"* in many respects they are the repudiation of the principles laid out in them

Many conservatives believe, consciously or unconsciously, that "government is the problem, as President Reagan so grandly announced

Many liberal democrats believe that government can be a powerful engine for good, and it the vehicle "to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." (Preamble, US Constitution.)

Conservatives strongly argue that with our Constitution the "Founding Fathers" intended that the federal government be "limited" both in power and size. A conservative idea which has recently gained wide attention is the "Tenther" idea that unless a power is specifically named in the constitution, it does not and cannot exist at the federal level.

Those views are not supported in the Constitution itself or in the writings of the Founders.

In the Federalist Papers, the Founders tell us that the two central limitations on government powers are (1) the checks and balances among the three branches of government, and (2) the power of the people to regularly vote: "governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." (Declaration of Independence.)

Conservatives often cite the Federalist Papers as authority for their views on "limited government." They often cite the many times that word is used, but usually ignore the discussions in which that word is used, and, indeed, they have completely ignored Hamilton's definition of a "limited constitution." (See below.)

Brief Background

The Federalist Papers were written when it had become clear that the original Articles of Confederation had failed because of a central government with very limited powers. The Constitutional Convention was convened, and the Constitution we now have was drafted. The Federalist Papers were written to support the newly proposed Constitution.

There were, of course, people who denied that the Articles of Confederation had failed, and they preferred the very limited powers thereunder.

Because most people believed the Articles had failed, the draft of the new Constitution expanded the powers of the central government. The writers of the Federalist Papers (who supported the expanded role) were determined to ease the concerns of the anti-federalists, and thus, they spoke of the new Constitution as being "limited," using that term in that context a number of times in the eighty five Federalist Papers

In the 1700s, the model of an "unlimited" government was a monarch with vast powers, making laws, judging laws and administering them were mostly concentrated in the one person, the King: to them a limited government is something with less concentrated power than a monarch has.

Limited Government in the Eyes of the Federalists

How did the Founders actually define the concept of a limited government? Did the Founders hold the Tenther idea that for the federal government to have a certain power, it had to be specifically mentioned?

Hamilton wrote: "By a limited Constitution, I understand one which contains certain specified exceptions to the legislative authority; such, for instance, as that it shall pass no bills of attainder, no ex-post-facto laws, and the like." [Emphasis added.]

This, the most direct "refudiation" of the Tenthers.

Hamilton didn't think a power had to be specifically named to exist, he though it had to be specifically denied to not exist.

For example, in Federalist Papers 8 and 24, Hamilton noted that the Constitution does not specifically mention standing armies, and yet he had no doubt that they were constitutionally permissible, not withstanding the two year funding limitation.

Similarly in Federalist 81, discussing the powers of the Supreme Court, Hamilton noted: "In the first place, there is not a syllable in the plan under consideration which DIRECTLY empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution...." [Emphasis in the original.]

And in Federalist 29, he specifically invoked the Article II "necessary and proper" clause to show that congress has powers not specifically enumerated.

Governmental Power and Wisdom

How about reading the Constitution restrictively? Was Hamilton worried that the new Constitution might be read by some too restrictively?

In Federalist 25 he wrote "Wise politicians will be cautious about fettering the government with restrictions that cannot be observed...."

Indirectly, Hamilton suggests that today's advocates of a "small, weak federal government" are, by that very idea, unwise.

What Did the Federalists View as the Limits on the Federal Government?

One might ask, how did the FF's conceive of a constitution which could be both expansively read as also providing for a limited government?

First, as noted, they were working in the context of having recently left a government ruled by a monarch. King George was their vision of an unlimited government.

The checks and balances they wrote into the Constitution, wherein each branch of government serves to check the power of the other branches was to them, a foundational element of a "limited government." (See Federalist 51.)

Similarly, as described in Federalist 53, written by either Hamilton or Madison, they viewed regular frequent votes for congressmen serving in the House of Representatives as a method of limiting government.


The Founders, in the voice of the Federalists, did not view "limited government" as being defined by size or presumptive limitations on powers being exercised; they didn't believe that unless specifically mentioned a power didn't exist: they viewed limits on government as resting in the checks and balances of our system and in the citizens right to vote.

The Founders recognized that the "necessary and proper clause" gives birth and legitimacy to powers which are not specifically mentioned.

Those who argue that a "limited government" is one with very limited powers are both "unwise," in Hamilton's words, and, often, are those who benefit from such limitations, who benefit from accumulations of unchecked and unbalanced corporate, mercantile, and back room political power.

Perhaps In Federalist 1, Hamilton demonstrated a prophetic vision of today's political climate:

"And yet, however just these sentiments will be allowed to be, we have already sufficient indications that it will happen in this as in all former cases of great national discussion. A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives. An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty."

* The cold bright light of waking reality was a recurring phrase of Professor Grant Gilmore, legal scholar and historian extraordinaire.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Chief Justice Heal Thyself

In his annual report on the state of the federal judiciary, Chief Justice Roberts called attention to the desperate need for more judges, and he called attention to political obstructionism which is to blame.

Sadly, however, Chief Justice Roberts blamed both parties.

In the cold bright light of waking reality, the current Republican Senators have blocked far more nominees than any senate in the past - at more than twice the rate of as under Bush II.

The Chief Justice wrote: “Each political party has found it easy to turn on a dime from decrying to defending the blocking of judicial nominations, depending on their changing political fortunes.”

The facts belie the not so subtle suggestion that both parties are equally responsible:

The Chief Justice continued his critique: “There remains, however, an urgent need for the political branches to find a long-term solution to this recurring problem.”

Chief Justice Roberts, there is also an urgent need for a non-politically biased judiciary; your misleading characterization of the problem is stunning display of the very partisanship you criticize.

Physician, heal thyself