Monday, March 16, 2015

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is sneezing a little as we fill out our brackets and prepare for our fantasy baseball drafts. Oh, and here's the blog post roundup from last week.

Off the Kuff reports on the last (we hope) special legislative election of the year.

Libby Shaw, writing for Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos, is both outraged and embarrassed by the 47 GOP U.S. Senator saboteurs: The Snow Made Them Do It.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is terrified that private entities are controlling are access to water. Oligarchy is the Republican way.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson: The GOP in Texas used to be for local control, now they're not. Why is that? They're For Local Control As Long As They Control The Locals.

A tale of letters, email, and self-inflicted wounds was told by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value visited the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.  He hopes that any race of super-smart alien cows who visit us have mercy on our souls. APHV is part of

jobsanger celebrates his ninth blogging birthday today.

Bluedaze reported on state Rep. Phil King's "Fracking Nanny" bill, which was tabled in committee.

Texas Leftist, also tracking state legislative developments, blogged about Big Oil's efforts to subvert local control, specifically Houston's regulating pollution from their refineries along the Ship Channel.

And John Coby at Bay Area Houston posted twice about how to drive in Texas.


Here's more great Texas liberal blog postings from across the Lone Star State.

Texans for Public Justice wants the Lege to understand that public integrity depends on prosecutorial independence.

Grits for Breakfast noted the attempt by state legislators to scale back the statute of limitations for rape, and collected more criminal justice bill filings from Austin.

Trail Blazers posted about Rand Paul's SXSW boasting about his Snapchat skills, and his sniping at Hillary Clinton.

Socratic Gadfly wrote about Harry Truman and healthcare, while The Makeshift Academic reminds us that Obamacare is about people, not states.

Austin Contrarian illustrates the problem of disconnectivity in the streets.

The TSTA blog previews a couple of bad education bills, and Raise Your Hand Texas testifies that an A-F grading system for schools and school districts is a bad idea.

Texas Vox calls for renewables to push out coal.

Mean Green Cougar Red supports doing away with Daylight Saving Time.

Rafael McDonnell recalls a meeting and interview he had with anti-gay pastor Flip Benham 20 years ago.

The Quintessential Curmudgeon wonders if those Kiwanis "American Flag" flyers fall under the definition of ethical fundraising.

Prairie Weather wryly observes that what intellectual poverty looks like is exemplified in that Apple wristwatch.

Houston Matters provides an update on the spring bale of sea turtles that the NOAA Fisheries Service is raising and releasing in Galveston.

Juanita Jean caught us up on that "Jinx" TV star named Robert Durst.

Fascist Dyke Motors pens a murder mystery.

Last, The Texas Observer eulogizes former Texas land commissioner Bob Armstrong.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

It's mutiny, not treason.

Here's where I need to say "IANAL", and that I know nothing about the Uniform Code of Military Justice (which applies more to Sen. Joni Ernst as a military reservist and signatory to Sen. Tom Cotton's letter than it does him), but it certainly seems as if someone who holds both a Bronze Star and a Harvard law degree should know better than to have stepped on the line of the Logan Act, or demonstrated what a US Army general refers to as mutiny.

“I would use the word mutinous,” said (retired Major Gen. Paul D.) Eaton, whose long career includes training Iraqi forces from 2003 to 2004. He is now a senior adviser to “I do not believe these senators were trying to sell out America. I do believe they defied the chain of command in what could be construed as an illegal act.” Eaton certainly had stern words for Cotton.

“What Senator Cotton did is a gross breach of discipline, and especially as a veteran of the Army, he should know better,” Eaton told me. “I have no issue with Senator Cotton, or others, voicing their opinion in opposition to any deal to halt Iran’s nuclear progress. Speaking out on these issues is clearly part of his job. But to directly engage a foreign entity, in this way, undermining the strategy and work of our diplomats and our Commander in Chief, strains the very discipline and structure that our foreign relations depend on to succeed.”

The consequences of Cotton’s missive were plainly apparent to Eaton. “The breach of discipline is extremely dangerous, because undermining our diplomatic efforts, at this moment, brings us another step closer to a very costly and perilous war with Iran,” he said.

“I think Senator Cotton recognizes this, and he simply does not care,” Eaton went on to say.

If you'd rather have it illustrated, then here you go.

When in doubt, pull out your trusty pocket copy of the US Constitution -- every true conservative carries one, you know -- and turn to the 14th Amendment, Section 3.

"No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability."

Cotton's letter and the 46 other senators who signed it aligned themselves with their counterparts in the Iranian government: hard-boiled, war-mongering conservative extremists.  Both of those wish to derail the nuclear non-proliferation proposal under discussion between Iran and the United States, negotiating on behalf of the United Nations Security Council.  Some critics want to call those talks 'aid and comfort to the enemy'.  Prosecutorial discretion aside (ham sandwiches and indictments, as they say), that charge really doesn't hold any water.  The letter's contents do not reveal anything resembling aid or comfort to the people of Iran, and that nation is not even quite our enemy, as they are our ally -- not just at the moment  but for some months now -- against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/whatever we're calling them this week.

But that's where people get the idea that Cotton's letter is treasonous; that "aid and comfort to the enemy" phrase, which is also mentioned in Article 3, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution.

"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court."

If you're still asking, "WTF does all this mean, PDiddie?" then here's a good interpretation (of the 14th Amendment, Sec. 3):

This section is stating that no person who has previously taken an oath into office (Congress, presidential, vice presidential etc) is allowed to engage in activities against or in harm to the state (country). So if someone is found to have engaged in a rebellion or is found to have aided enemies of the United States they are not able to hold office. This can, however, be ignored by a two thirds vote in Congress. (Emphasis is mine.)

So even if someone in Congress were found to have committed mutiny -- or treason, for that matter -- US Senators and Representatives can nullify that by a 2/3rds vote.  That's what happened in the late 1970s, when Congress removed the ban of CSA president Jefferson Davis from serving his re-unified country in public office (a little late for him to take advantage, to be sure).

But the best example of why there will be no consequence to Cotton or the others is that there are accused international war criminals named George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, et. al., and a confessed war criminal and brazen, declared intentional recidivist named Dick Cheney who roam America wild and free today, more than a decade since they committed their war crimes.  Prosecutorial discretion, as they say.

Nothing of significance is going to come of Cotton and his in-Obama's-face disgrace beyond apoplectic indignation... with the exception of petitions and Democratic fundraising letters, of course.  And every political consultant worth his salt will tell you that you can't raise nearly as much money using the word 'mutiny' as you can 'treason'.

Update: Don't believe me?  Would you believe Sean Penn?

Sunday Funnies

Courtesy Boing Boing: "Notably naïve Christian group names Alaska men’s shelter 'The Glory Hole'"

Cutline: "Father Gordon Blue sprinkles holy water on Executive Director Mariya Lovishchuk, left, and Jon Pollard in her office during a Rededication Service of the Glory Hole Shelter on (Feb. 26)", from the Juneau (AK) Empire.

They do good work, feeding and providing shelter to hungry and homeless Alaskans.  After you finish laughing, consider donating.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Of letters and email and self-inflicted wounds

Who has cut themselves the worst, Hillary or the 47 Cotton-picking morons?

I checked in with my alter-ego, Saul Relative -- whom the RNC is still soliciting -- and his response was: "meh, it's all relative".  It's certainly possible that aspiring presidential nominees Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio gained standing among GOP primary voters by trolling the Logan Act, but will ultimately lose the war, i.e. a November 2016 general election that has independents and moderates as the key to victory (as if those three guys had any chance of winning to begin with).

Potential but as yet undeclared contenders like Rob Portman may have injured his prospects because he's from purple Ohio, and Lindsey Graham helped his because he's from South Carolina.

So as it may go down in twenty months -- the economy, stupid notwithstanding -- to who's got the maddest foreign policy ballin' skilz, let's check in with the Iranian mullah who gets the last word in the matter of the pending, possible nuclear agreement between his nation and the US (and the other UN Security Council states, it should be emphasized).

Iran's supreme leader said Thursday that a letter from Republican lawmakers warning that any nuclear deal could be scrapped by the next U.S. president is a sign of "disintegration" in Washington.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the letter a sign of "the collapse of political ethics and the U.S. system's internal disintegration," according to the official IRNA news agency. It was the first reaction to the letter by Khamenei, who has the final say over all major policies.

Khamenei said states typically remain loyal to their commitments even if governments change, " but American senators officially announced the commitment will be null and void after this government leaves office. Isn't this the ultimate degree of the collapse of political ethics and the U.S. system's internal disintegration?"

Oops, he nailed it.

Khamenei called the letter “stupid” and “disgusting” and said he was negotiating with backstabbers.

He blamed the letter on the fact that they had been recently addressed “by a Zionist clown,” referring to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

He complained that the Senators had accused Iran of supporting terrorism, which, he said, “is laughable.” (Iran sees Hizbullah and Hamas as legitimate resistance movements). He countered that it was the United States that created ISIL (Daesh), the world’s worst terrorist organization by its invasion of Iraq. He also accused Israel, which he said that the US backs to the hilt, of being a terrorist state.

He said that when an administration concludes an agreement with someone, the next administration is bound to honor it, but that in the US this principle has been discarded. The GOP senators had pledged, he said, to make any agreement with the Obama administration “as though it never existed.” “This is the utmost in the decline of political ethics … that is, this system is a system on the verge of oblivion, such that a person sees these things in it… They actually said they want to give Iranians a lesson so that we would understand their laws. We don’t need the lessons of those people!”


Do those 47 senators actually hate Obama more than they love their country?  More than they fear nuclear war?  I report; you decide.

On the other hand, this next cartoon may be a perfectly cringeworthy illustration of everything we have to look forward to with respect to the Democratic party's primary debates.

This may not seem absurd to the people who gathered last night in Houston to get themselves ready, but I can assure them that it certainly does to many others.

Paging Elizabeth Warren, Martin O'Malley, Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, and/or Joe Biden to the red courtesy phone at Gate 411: you have an emergency clue holding.