Friday, December 7, 2012


Obama's republic
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Justinian in Cobell v Salazar, Donald Rumsfeld, Drones, Military detention, Roger Fitch Esq, US Presidential election
Shock: the rich prefer Obama ... Democrats outvoted Republicans, but state gerrymanders keep GOP in control of the House ... Recomposition of the ultra-orthodox DC Circuit ... Rumsfeld gets torture immunity ... Native American compensation claims settled after 16-year class action ... New policy for drone assassinations ... Roger Fitch reports from Washington 
The Presidential election wasn't even close
"The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods."
H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)
THE precipitous decline of the American republic has been slowed - if not arrested - by the re-election of Mr Obama and the rejection of a Republican Senate.
The pillage du jour - in this case, the systematic looting of the nation's dwindling assets by Republicans and their rapacious corporate allies - has been momentarily interrupted. 
Still, Mr Obama and the Democrats are not entirely trustworthy (see below) as the US faces a so-called "fiscal cliff" in which unpleasant choices in spending cuts may be forced on a recalcitrant Congress. 
Now that it's all over, Obama has survived, perhaps through the intervention of Mother Nature in the form of the super-storm Sandy. 
The election result was a blow for Rupert Murdoch, who deployed over 30 of his people nationwide to campaign for Republicans.
Six billion dollars may have been spent in this year's election cycle - over $500 million of it by special interest groups in the last month.
As it turned out, the presidential election wasn't even close, historically speaking, but unpredictable things happened, considering the Republican candidate's wealth and religion.
The rich apparently preferred Obama, and a greater percentage of Mormons supported George Bush when he last ran than supported Romney this year.
With Democrat candidates for Congress receiving more votes than Republicans, you would think Obama would have a Democrat majority in the House - as he does in the Senate - but thanks to Republican state-based gerrymanders, the opposition kept control of the House while losing the popular vote
It's one of the few times in the last 100 years that the losing party in the House still got control of it
While  Republicans lost the popular vote, they have one of their biggest House majorities in 60 years. That won't be easy to change: only 74 of the 435 House districts remain marginal, or "competitive." 
The Republicans still have the edge in statehouses, where gerrymanders of federal constituencies are made. 
Come January the Republicans will have complete control of 27 states versus 19 for the Democrats. Only three states have split legislatures, and Nebraska is unicameral.      
Some say the Republicans have lost the culture war.
Perhaps, too, the claim that the US is a "Christian nation" can be laid to rest
The Republican "Southern Strategy" of targeting "White Anglos" is also breaking down.
With Texas now having a majority-minority population of 55 percent, the days of Republican-dominance in that state are numbered.
In Florida, another state becoming competitive for Democrats, there was a gratifying removal of the accused war criminal Allen West, a Republican, from his House seat. At the same time, the liberal Florida Democrat Alan Grayson, ousted in the Republican sweep of 2010, was returned to Congress. 
The conservative Washington Post doesn't like either of them.
There were other pleasing results such as the failure of big money to buy influence in state judicial elections.
*   *   *
ALTHOUGH federal judges are not elected, one bright spot in the election may turn out to be the future composition of the ultra-orthodox DC Circuit.
With Obama having won four more years, David Sentelle, the most partisan Republican on the DC Court (see my post here) has decided to take senior status
There are four vacancies to be filled in DC, a golden opportunity for Obama to reshape this "second-most important" federal court and break the ideological edge held by Republican operatives and "movement conservatives". 
With four years, the president hopes to do the same with the Supreme Court. And with good reason - a new study confirms what we always knew: conservative justices invalidate liberal laws, and vice-versa.     
*   *   *
PRESIDENT Obama is defending the seemingly unconstitutional provisions of the National Defence Appropriation Act that purport to allow indefinite extrajudicial (military) detention of US civilians in the US and abroad.
Sadly, he has the amicus support of Senate Republicans.  
Meanwhile, with the election safely out of the way, DoJ has signed a sweetheart settlement in the robo-signing mortgage scandal that makes recovery by civil plaintiffs more difficult.
*   *   *
THE 7th Circuit, sitting en banc, has overruled a unanimous three-judge appeals panel, and given former Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld immunity for torture that he personally ordered.
Jonathan Hafetz, the Times and Kevin Gosztola comment on the case.
*   *   *
THE Native American claims case Cobell finally ground to completion after 16 years when the DC Circuit signed-off on the settlement
The case has a long and sordid history, including the shock removal by the DC Circuit of the now Senior DC District Court judge, Royce Lamberth, who imprudently alluded to the racism of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and held two Secretaries of the Interior in contempt. 
The government never did account for the amount of Indian trust funds converted to other use over the last 135 years.
The $3.4 billion settlement, reached in 2010 but delayed until Congress appropriated the money, is paltry compared to the loss the Indians suffered.
*   *   *
THE Obama administration has produced a policy for drone assassinations at last: they were afraid to leave it to Mr Romney.
Disturbingly, the Times saw merit in institutionalising - bureaucratically - a practice long considered criminal by the US government itself.
It's too late, of course, for Anwar al-Awlaki, the American who was assassinated by CIA drone in Yemen in 2011. 
But, the US is now claiming he was no longer a citizen anyway when they killed him, and they had been thinking about charging him with something
Meanwhile, though drone due process is still in abeyance for citizens as well as foreigners, the Pentagon has decreed that in future, humans must decide before a drone kills someone. 
Now that's comforting.