Scalia: Some Rights Are More Equal Than Others

There’s a great quote in Animal Farm by George Orwell where he notes that some animals are more equal than others. Even though Antonin Scalia is steeped in fear of danger to our citizens, he’s decided that the right to bear arms is a far more equal right than is habeas corpus. So goes my reading of the case.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Reviewing Antonin Scalia’s opinions this last week in two big cases, his dissent in the habeas corpus decision thratening the viability of Gitmo, and his majority opinion in the Washington DC case threatening all the citizens of that fair city, I am reminded of that famous quote in George Orwell’s Animal House: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” As the two cases before the Supreme Court tackle two of our most fundamental rights, of habeas corpus and the right to bear arms, it seems appropriate to note whether Justice Scalia treeats them equally. I aver he does not. Habeas corpus to Scalia evidently only counts if a person is a citizen of the US, though if that citizen is declared an enemy combatant, that right likely goes out the window for Scalia. Why? Good question – answers after the break…


Friday, June 27th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Generational Wedge Issues and the U.S. Fiscal Crisis: Up Yours, Baby Boomers

Goodness Gracious of apathy I sing
The baby boomers had it all and wasted everything
Now recess is almost over
and they won’t get off the swing…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Up YoursI’ve been out of the loop for the past few days, and yesterday evening I wanted to catch up on the chatter in the progressive blogosphere. But as I hit a few of the blogs that I visit on a regular basis, it wasn’t the election chatter that caught my eye. My attention was consumed by a new advertisement that’s been rolled out on some A-list blogs (see the screen capture to the left). The creative aspect of the ad hit me with the force of a ton of bricks:

Up Yours, Baby Boomers

My initial reaction, as a card carrying member of the baby boomer generation? “Whoa. You talkin’ to me, buddy? You got somethin’ to say? Let’s take it outside and discuss. I might be on the shorter side in stature, and getting a bit long in the tooth, but I think I can hold my own in a smackdown. So, why you dissin’ me, baby? WYFP? Ready to go?

Why did I get my ass up in the air? Because in my view, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation advertisement sets up a very pressing national problem as a generational wedge issue…


Friday, June 27th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

More On That Plan For A Theocracy…How About Anarchy?

Americans look overseas when thinking about sectarian conflict. If the November election is viewed by religious ideologues as a significant shift towards secularism, it could serve to trigger comparable extremism here in the homeland. This video may provide a preview.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Take a look at the following video and tell me you can’t imagine that extreme religious groups in America could ever trigger the same sectarian strife that currently plagues the Middle East. I don’t think the thought is that far fetched…and I’m convinced that the evidence supports the contention that ideological intransigence has led some religious leaders in the United States to the precipice of promoting acts of anarchy.

The gist of this video and many of the sermons that are being delivered in churches around the country is that the Bible is the only valid law. Further, the inference is that it is acceptable to ignore the laws of the nation when they conflict with God’s law. What remains to be seen is the level of resistance that these religious zealots are willing to promote.


Thursday, June 26th, 2008 |

Does It Get Any Worse? 57,000 Lbs. of Chicken Stolen from Food Bank

I’ve heard of hot TV’s “falling off of the back of trucks”, but never frozen chickens. Over this past weekend, someone stole 57,000 lbs of frozen chicken (and two tractor trailer rigs) from the Food Bank of Delaware. Does it get any lower than that?

Commentary By: Richard Blair

In one of my previous life incarnations, I managed the logistics operations at an inner city food bank. I’ve written about hunger issues on ASZ many, many times, and yes, it’s personal to me. So when this story came to my attention (from a former associate), it bothered me on a whole lot of levels, because I frequently dealt with the food bank that’s involved in the story…


Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

RIP, Hippy Dippy Weatherman – a Personal Remembrance

A comedic great died yesterday. My first introduction to George Carlin was way back in the early 1970′s. One spring afternoon, he rocked my world and opened my eyes with his biting social commentary. Every since, I don’t think I’ve viewed the world around me in quite the same way.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

George Carlin

“When you’re born, you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front-row seat.”

–George Carlin

As a high school junior in 1971, I had never heard of George Carlin. Maybe I just led a sheltered life at the time, but I wasn’t familiar with his background as a controversial Tonight Show (Carson-era) guest host, the seven words you can’t say on TV, or any of his other schtick. All I knew is that the school I attended was hosting Carlin for a noontime show, and it didn’t cost me a thing. Talk about a hell of an assembly…


Monday, June 23rd, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Impeachment Imperative

Presidential impeachment is the only remedy the American people have against the establishment of rule by a dictator, and is not an action to be taken lightly (as it was in the recent past). However, neither should it be considered “optional” for political reasons when a sitting President has committed criminal acts.

Commentary By: E in MD

On the tenth of June we saw the Democratic Congressman of Ohio’s 10th District draft and bring to the floor of Congress the Articles of Impeachment for President George W. Bush. Impeachment is a process that is long, expensive, and exhausting to the American people and the system of government that supports and protects them. However, some people seem to feel that impeachment in this case is either not justified or is just a waste of time.

Granted, Congress does have a whole host of important issues on their plate right now. The war, telecom immunity, domestic infrastructure, the energy crisis, the mortgage crisis. The list seems endless and perhaps that is why we have a Congress in the first place. The people occupying space in Congress are elected in order to do two things: the first, something they seem to have forgotten on many fronts, is to be the direct representative for the American people to their government. Obviously with three hundred million plus citizens, we can’t all head down to DC and start shouting and expect to get anything done, although given the track record Congress has had in doing this job over the last few years, perhaps it’s time that a large portion of us did just that. The second job of Congress is to provide a check on the other two branches of government.

Our government really isn’t that complicated, though it can certainly seem that way when you are trying to get something accomplished. We have three branches with each one co-equal and important. Each branch has specific things that fall under their jurisdiction and each branch is set up so that the competition inherent in our species will help to mitigate personal ambition amongst the members. The legislative branch, of which the Congress is but one part, is responsible for writing the laws and for keeping a budget. The executive branch is tasked with signing or rejecting the laws and then executing the laws that have been approved and making sure that they are applied equally to all people. The judicial branch is there primarily to ensure compliance with the Constitution and to make sure that restitution in some form is made when the executive discovers and prosecutes someone breaking the laws made by the legislative branch.

The executive is not empowered to interpret the law. That is the strict province of the judicial branch. The legislative branch is not entitled to prosecute the law, with the exceptions of impeachment and as the need arises in their capacity of advice and consent. The judicial branch is neither empowered to write, nor approve, nor execute the law. This system works because each branch balances out the powers of the others, thus preventing the consolidation of power within one branch, entity, group, or individual.

The biggest problems occur when parts of the system break down as they have now. For two full Congressional sessions, we had a Republican-controlled legislature that effectively gave the President anything he wanted with no real debate, study, or even much thought, all out of party loyalty and individuals grasping for power. We can see this in the rhetoric and tactics that the Republican party uses in its propaganda campaigns.

The Democrat-controlled Congress is suddenly a –do nothing Congress’, but they fail to mention the reason why nothing is getting done is because the Republicans are blocking every bill that comes along, even ones honoring the contributions of American mothers on Mother’s Day. When by some miracle a bill manages to appeal to the –minority’ enough that it passes, the President simply vetoes it. When the Republicans were in the majority they controlled everything including scheduling and committee assignments, and in many cases locked the minority out of the entire process using procedural delays and maneuvers. Now that they are in the minority they are still exercising control because of the threat of filibustering in the Senate and the delay of debate in the Congress. They are doing this not because the bills coming through are particularly offensive, but rather they are doing it out of sheer spite. They are playing the system for their own personal gain and to avoid culpability not only for their party but for their President.

It was only when the Democratic party recaptured a slim majority in Congress in 2006 that the Congress again started doing their job and began to question the actions and motivations of the Bush administration. By this time, however, Bush had already been re-elected and was two years into his second term in office. The new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has stated outright that impeachment as an issue was “off the table”, when she has absolutely no right to do so. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say: the Speaker of the House shall be gifted with the power to selectively ignore parts of this document at his or her leisure. Her desire to somehow appear nonpartisan in the face of such obvious corruption has effectively destroyed all credibility and power the Congress retained merely by her failure to act. This power she sacrificed is OUR power, the only power we as American citizens can truly wield, short of outright revolution.

With all of these things these things in mind, I must say that: There is no more important issue than impeachment.

On June 12th of 2008, in the Sun-Sentinel newspaper an editorial was written stating:

The nation does have a few pressing issues pending that could use some attention from our federal lawmakers.

Let’s see. There are a couple of wars going on, unemployment is on the rise as the value of a house continues to fall, millions of Americans have no health insurance, and did we mention that gas prices are expected to hit $5 a gallon? You get the idea. And still, some in Congress feel the nation is just itching for another presidential impeachment.

In this nation, right now, because of the machinations by the 107-110th Congresses, I as an American citizen, can be dragged out of my house in the middle of the night, jailed indefinitely, be subjected to torture, have all of my financial accounts frozen and my property and land seized, all because of the word of one man and one man alone. Having this much power in the hands of one man effectively promotes a that man to the status of a King. This is the very reason why we have separate, distinct and co-equal branches of government -to prevent abuses of the public trust, the Constitution and the citizenry by anyone one branch. No where in the Constitution does it say that the President shall be exempt from whatever law he should choose during times of war.

Until the point where the Supreme Court ruled that the detainees of the US Government still have habeas corpus right it was at the sole discretion of the Executive that any on person be jailed under the Global War on Terror as an –unlawful enemy combatant’. Whether or not you were a citizen of the US isn’t relevant because if the executive branch has already decided that your rights don’t matter then how is informing them that you are an American citizen going to change their minds when you are strapped to the waterboard. If they do not accept your 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th amendment rights even though legally mandated to do so I doubt very much the fact that you are an American citizen will matter in the slightest. Even with the Supreme Court ruling, anyone can still be jailed as such, but in theory they have the right to contest their confinement as legal or illegal, assuming the administration allows them access to a lawyer that is.

George W. Bush under the rhetoric of the war has decided on his own merit, using no constitutional basis at all that the laws of our nation do not apply to him. One can see this from his signing statements alone but it is more apparent in his actions. Whatever, Jose Padilla may or may not have done, he was an American citizen and as such had the rights and protections of an American citizen. Not only did his conviction prove that there was no need for his indefinate incarceration and physical and mental torture to provide a conviction but it also proved that under Bush’s regime any one of us. You, me, Bill Gates, could find ourselves in the same exact predicament.

A second editorial on the Sun-Sentinel on June 16th, 2008 states:

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel rightly upbraided partisan Democrats like Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Robert Wexler for promoting impeachment of President Bush. It failed to note that impeachment is for actual violation of law, not opposition to policies.

I have read the Articles put forth by Congressman Kucinich and while there are some parts I believe should be removed, ultimately it is the criminal behavior of the Bush administration that is finally being addressed. The bottom line is that impeachment is the solemn duty of the Congress, and like the rest of the Constitution, they do not get to pick and choose the parts that they wish to abide by and which they will ignore. The FISA law states with exclusivity that FISA shall be the sole method by which the government will collect intelligence from domestic sources even during war time. George W. Bush’s warrant-less wiretapping scheme violated that law on an untold number of occasions. Each count is a felony with a penalty of up to five years in prison and/or ten thousand dollars in fines.

Another count of the indictment is the fact that George W. Bush admitted that he knew and approved of the use of torture on US Detainees. You can call it –enhanced interrogation’, if it will make you sleep better at night. Referring to these actions as the antics of a –fraternity hazing’ is not only disingenuous but is outright dangerous to American civilians and soldiers abroad. Whether or not you agree with the terms used to justify the torture of other human beings, if the United States is known to use these techniques against other human beings then Americans caught by other organizations will have no qualms using the very same techniques against us. If you were subject to these techniques under the claws of Iran or North Korea or China you would know what it was when it was happening to you and you would call it torture. Just because the same exact technique is applied by an employee of the United States government does not make it right or just or good. Torture and its use against anyone is wrong and torture against anyone in our custody is a violation not only of US law but our treaty obligations and international law as well.

Lastly, if the Senate Report on Iraqi WMD Intelligence is to be believed and the President or his cabinet knowingly falsified evidence or used evidence they knew was false then they are also guilty of defrauding the United States government. This is yet another felony violation and one that has led to over four thousand American deaths, untold Iraqi death,s and a total cost for the war that may measure in the trillions of dollars.

On these facts alone, he should be impeached. We are not discussing lying to Congress about extramarital relations with a twenty-one year old intern. We’re discussing the commission of an untold number of felonies that have resulted in the deaths and torture of thousands of people. If it were you or your loved ones who had been treated in such a fashion, I would like to think you would not be so quick to dismiss the attempt to bring an admitted criminal to justice.

Whether the author of the original editorial likes it or not George W. Bush has violated the law, and the President, more than anyone because of the power he wields, must be beholden to the law. Otherwise the law has no meaning. We do not allow the bank robber to walk out of the bank without consequences just because he said “I’ll never do it again”. Allowing these actions to go unpunished is tantamount to endorsement and some future President who may well be even more malfeasant than George W. Bush could use that endorsement as legal precedent for even more heinous acts against our nation.

I, for one, would rather see this President in prison for his actions than to see my children suffer at the hands of some future President who also sees himself as the right hand of God.

We are not a nation of men. We are a nation of laws. A man or woman who makes the choice to ignore a law deserves to be punished whether they be a bank robber, a rapist, a murderer, or a torturer. Even when the person ignoring the law happens to be the President of the United States and it is the sworn duty of Congress to act. Every other year each member of Congress who is elected or re-elected must swear the following oath ( From Article VI, Clause 3 of the US Constitution ):

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. [So help me God]*.

To claim that impeachment is somehow not a duty because this President happens to be unpopular is either shear ignorance of our form of government or the ravings of a partisan divided heart that believes the Constitution is no more than a piece of paper full of guidelines.

* The actual wording of the oath for members of Congress was not codified in the Constitution as it was for the President. It specifies only that Congressmen “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this constitution.”. However US Code Title 5, Part III, Subpart B, Chapter 33, Subsection 3331 did codify the above oath into Law.

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008 by E in MD |

Associated Press and ASZ Linking Policy

Due to the Associated Press harassment of bloggers, ASZ will no longer link to or cite Associated Press stories, nor link to their media partners.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

It seems that the Associated Press has started targeting bloggers for linking to or excerpting stories published under an AP byline. Fine and dandy. I guess it keeps their lawyers busy, no matter how specious the DMCA filings against an individual blogger might be. Fair use is fair use, and what the AP did in their heavy-handed demand for removal of references to seven AP stories on Drudge Retort was just flat out wrong, ill advised, and little more than general cyber harassment.

Henceforth, ASZ will join other major left (and right) wing blogs in not linking to any story from the Associated Press, either directly or at one of their media partner sites. Additionally, unless absolutely necessary (because no other source is available), ASZ will not excerpt nor cite from any AP article.

We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause our readers.

Monday, June 16th, 2008 by Richard Blair |
Category: Admin,Blogging

I Will be Absent, But McCain is a Putz

I will be taking my weekends at the Jersey shore, but John McCain is still a putz, and he’s going to prove that over and over again while I’m out. Please be sure to enjoy McCain shooting himself in the foot in the meanitme.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Yes, I will not be posting on the weekends most of this summer, due to enjoying the sunshine on the New Jersey coast.

Alas, that means I will not comment on John McCain’s lack of follow through on his promise to refrain from ugly campaigning. I suspect you folks can do without my snark.

But if you can’t do without my snark, then I suggest you take a look at the folks who are hesitant, to say the least, at supporting John McCain. That would be the Christian conservatives who are worried about a McCain candidacy. That might be a fun read for you all.

I’ll see you all on Monday.

Friday, June 13th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Honoring War Dead Threatened By Bush Funding Cuts

We shouldn’t expect the Bush Administration to respect veterans, not after the last seven years of examples. Now they’ve cut the funding for military honors at funerals of veterans. The big question to me is how McCain plans on surging and accelerating this policy of disrespect.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Yes, the government funds those salutes with guns at the funerals of dead veterans. In Rhode Island, at least, they are going to ration the salutes and honors, limiting them to Medal of Honor winners, those killed in action, general officers and those who have served 20 years or more. the rationing is due to funding cuts by the Bush Administration. From the Army Times:

The sound of a gun salute at funerals for Rhode Island veterans could soon be heard less frequently, due to a federal funding cut.

The Rhode Island National Guard has informed funeral directors that it can only supply firing squads for certain veterans, including those killed in action, Medal of Honor winners, general officers or those who served at least 20 years.

Local vets are livid over the new restrictions. But a National Guard spokesman blamed a cut in federal money for the military honors program – from $1.16 million to $775,000.

Rhode Island state law requires a firing squad and a bugler for any honorably discharged vet, so long as the request has been made by the vet’s family. It looks like the Bush Administration has decided this isn’t a very good law. Perhaps the vets and their families will raise a stink about this or something.

Those of us in the know understand that this is part of the Bush policy of disrespecting the men and women who have served our nation well. It shouldn’t be surprising, given Bush’s own service record, and those of his VP, that they have disdain for soldiers, as much as they posture. This is the latest example, but far from the only example of that disdain.

Monday, June 9th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Jumping: Oil Prices and Unemployment

I’m just an ordinary guy, not an economist or banker or commodities trader or insulated political political pundit. But I can read, and two stories today seem to be a harbinger of bad things to come. The GOP pyramid scheme of the last 8 years is about to collapse, it’s not going to be pretty, and I’m getting scared. Not merely concerned. Jumping-out-of-my-Fruit-of-the-Looms scared.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

A couple of OMG stories from this morning almost take my breath away, and indicate just how bad the economy is tanking, despite a market run up in the past couple of weeks. And baby, it’s not going to get any better anytime soon. It’s getting scary.

First up: the unemployment rate jumped to 5.5% in May. Earlier this morning, when I was listening to the news, economists were expecting the number to come in at 5.1% (still a rise over April). A half percent in one month. That’s nearly unprecedented, and gives us an idea of just how deeply the current economic situation is impacting companies. No doubt that oil / gas prices have a great deal to do with this extreme jump in people looking for work. Which leads us to…

Next up: after price drops due to significantly decreased demand and rising inventories, oil prices have rebounded dramatically in the past couple of days. I previously opined that there’s an “oil bubble” in the works, and when it crashes, it’s going to crash hard. But not yet. There are predictions that oil will be at around $150 / barrel by 7/4/08.

Let’s just take one slice of the economy. High oil prices are invoking a major crisis in the airline industry, and honestly, just about any industry that relies on tourism or transportation is going to be suffering dramatically in the coming months. By fall, the U.S. airline industry could literally be shut down to most all travel except business. Flying on an airplane, or getting anywhere distant by any means of transportation is going to become a luxury for the well-heeled, or reserved for absolutely necessary business travel or immediate family emergencies.

Listen, I’m just an ordinary guy, not an economist or commodities trader. And without much exaggeration, I can honestly say that I’m scared to death. I can’t help but feel that there’s a terribly hard crash coming. The GOP pyramid scheme of the last 8 years is about to collapse, and it’s not going to be pretty.

Update: The stock market is responding by going into pure panic mode this afternoon. I’m not sure what took so long for the pain to take hold inside of the hermetically sealed economic bubble that seems to insulate those who make their fortunes on Wall Street. Many of us regular folk have been feeling the pain for a long time. Did someone on the Street just figure out that stratospherically expensive oil might not be a good thing in the long run for their own deep pockets, and they might be personally affected sooner than later? The sad thing is, we’re not yet anywhere close to the bottom of the economic cycle.

Friday, June 6th, 2008 by Richard Blair |
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