What is Ted Cruz eligibility to be President? Let democracy sort it out.

Don’t get me wrong: I just love the schadenfreude of Republicans, having now purchased eight years of good will and continued power on the basis of a wink-wink/nudge-nudge Birther flirtation, finding themselves with a potentially – even just arguably – illegitimate candidate for President. Or more specifically: that Republicans have a choice of leadership between a lock of hair with an Il Duce complex or an illegitimate alien. Love it, love it, love it.

But as a citizen, I’m actually a bit caught off-guard that this question even exists? What is and what is not a legitimate candidate for President? Our nation’s relationship with Europe before and after the Revolution was a lot closer than it is now. I would have thought this question would certainly come up quite a bit.

Senator Ted Cruz’s eligibility to become President of the United States seems very-much in question, hinging on a very arcane set of conventions and historical interpretation of what a “natural born” citizen is.

Obama, McCain and The Ted Cruz Eligibility Problem:

In order for a person to become the President of the United States, that person must meet only three criteria: they must be over 35 years old, have lived in the United States for 14 years and be a “natural born” citizen of the United States. I think the Senator would forgive me if I say we’re not worried about his age. And he’s been in American political life for longer than 14 years, so we’re ok there. But this “natural born citizen” business? That’s different.

Ted Cruz is born to an American mother and a Canadian father, in Canada. To the casual observer, this would seem to be a pretty cut-and-dried case. But I’ll bet if you compared notes with your neighbor, you’d find that you came to different conclusions.

History isn’t much of a guide and the Constitution never makes clear what a “natural born citizen” is. Perhaps this is because at the time, there wasn’t a question: American law was founded by the British before the Revolution and after the Revolution, American lawyers would have followed British Common Law. The Constitution only concerned itself with building a government and the rest was left to the citizenry.

The Common Law process for citizenship would have been to base the solution on the patrilineage of the child. In other words, where Dad’s from is where Baby’s from. That puts Ted Cruz up to his flag pin in maple syrup.

This is actually a very different case from the two previous (and in President Obama’s case, perpetual) cases of citizenship and the Presidency. Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, the paper trail of President Obama’s life is one of an American born on American soil in Hawaii. In John McCain’s case, an American father and mother gave birth to a son on an American base, therefore American-occupied soil. Senator Cruz is very clearly born in Canada. Only the question of his parentage remains.

To any modern ear attached to any modern-thinking brain, this sounds pathetically, backwardly sexist. Like, wenches-and-knights sexist. Leprosy-and-mutton-legs backward. But it’s also the law, and you can’t just ignore it because you don’t like it. And so the issue remains.

Right now, there are Constitutional and legal scholars pouring over the records for some kind of precedent. Anything that would prove that, in the United States, the law was widely interpreted one way or the other. But they probably needn’t bother: it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Americans would have broken with sexist tradition unless it was very, very recent.

The Good News: it’s not a Constitutional question.

As complicated as the question might be, it strikes me that this doesn’t necessarily have to be a question we leave to the scholars. For a start, since the basic problem is that the Constitution does not proscribe a solution in this case, this isn’t really a Constitutional question at all.

It is a question of whether we choose to live in a society that embraces a backward legal interpretation at the expense of modernity and gender justice. It’s also a question of whether we choose to live in a society that ignores legal precedent when it is inconvenient to our mores. It’s a hell of a question, as a matter of fact. And it probably shouldn’t be answered by anyone else but us.


Losing a few Democrats in the Senate Might be a Good Thing for Democracy

Ok, so I know that headline is something that would make most Progressives and Democrats howl that I’ve gone all Rightie on them. Let those people howl.

But we have twice now in the last five years found members of the majority party discussing openly the possibility of changing the “filibuster rules,” to make it harder or even impossible to filibuster a bill. The latest is Senator Dick Durbin just yesterday. I am hardly a fan of the filibuster as a general rule, but it seems to me that the drama surrounding its use these days is largely manufactured and more a product of the state of the Senate over the last ten years or so than a real tactic.

It is doubtful to me that there is anyone in the Senate with the fortitude to manage a filibuster for real. Nevertheless, the idea of staying up past nine o’clock without the aid of cocaine and hookers seems to strike fear into the hearts of Democrats and Republicans alike, regardless of whether or not the monster under the bed actually exists. The question is therefore not whether or not anyone will stay up past their bedtimes to block the majority party’s agenda but whether the majority party has the votes to stop it if it did happen. “It” being the filibuster that probably will not actually happen, but the media and the Senate insists *is* happening over and over again.

If the Senate was down to a 55/45 split or even a 51/49 split, breaking a filibuster would be nearly impossible. Since the hypothetical filibuster is at this point unbreakable, the Senate is forced to consider the alternative: that reality might be preferable to fantasy, and majority vote might very well be all that is required.

Would the majority party continue to insist that they require 60 votes to get anything done in this case? Would we effectively have a complete government shut-down because of hypotheticals? Perhaps temporarily. But it won’t take long for folks up there to realize that, without bills to point to, they won’t have much to show their constituencies come the next election.


Afghan Minerals and the House of Saud Effect

The big story coming out of this weekend has been the discovery – or rather, the announcement of the discovery – of a trillion-dollar mineral resource in Afghanistan. The Obama Administration is trying to paint this as a potential game-changer and a way out of the mess. Many others are painting this as an excuse to prolong our stay – especially since one of the major mineral deposits is lithium, a critical resource in the development of energy-efficient rechargeable batteries in a post-fossil world. So, is the Obama Administration looking for a reason to stay or a reason to leave? And does it matter one way or the other for the people of Afghanistan?

Because to me, the problem I see brewing with the new mineral deposit cache is one which the Saudi Arabian people have been dealing with for nearly a century, which is that having resources in the country does not do the people any good unless the people can actually work in the jobs that those resources produce. Even in the most coopted countries, common people often do the manual labor that comes with international economic success, but this is not the case in Saudi Arabia. In that country, the Wahabi imams run the schools, which teach a strictly Koran-based syllabus. Such an education does not really help secure a job as an engineer or even as a forklift operator, since math, science or writing are not on the agenda.

The result is an angry population from which many Taliban and al-Qeada recruits are plumbed. Even without the international terrorist scene, riots and hunger are common place problems for the House of Saud. To compensate, the government creates “make busy” projects building monuments and water fountains which do nothing to enrich the people, let alone lifting them from their primary intellectual poverty.

In Afghanistan, literacy rates are around 34% for men and 10% for women. This does not bode well for the economic boon that the mineral deposits supposedly represent. Even if the Afghan government weren’t corrupt, the chances are slim that any real work can be found for the majority of Afghans. So, do we make a commitment to stay and educate a generation of Afghans? Or do we leave them to the fate the Saudi people face? Do we, in finding the exit strategy both the American and Afghan people want, end up leaving behind an even more economically-striated place than we went into?


The Hard Part About Utopia

Ideology is pure. Real life is messy. Answers to life’s pressing problems are legion, but if we can’t agree to settle on one answer, it sometimes seems like we’d have been better off without any. Which is why when Rand Paul says that “the difficult part” about believing in freedom is insisting on your own narrow definitions – even when even when and especially when no one agrees with you – I have to wonder what definition of freedom he’s referring to.

Because as I understand it, freedom’s best expression comes out in the will of the governed. Without a democratic process that allows all voices to be heard, any other concept of freedom including anarchy seems to me to be a temporary state at best. And if there is one voice in a thousand that disagrees with Rand Paul, what then? And if, as is most likely the case, there is a spectrum of answers ranging from Rand’s through mine and beyond, what then?


Cuba to Allow Unrestricted Cell Service

Of course, it goes without saying that all calls will be monitored. Still, unrestricted cell access opens up the Cuban market to much more revenue (which is what they’re after) and allows Cubans much less restricted access to information in the outside world. Will this new found freedom also extend to Wireless Internet?

Cuba allows unrestricted cellular phone service | Reuters

The Cuban telecommunications monopoly ETECSA said it would begin mobile phone service for the general public in the next few days.

“ETECSA is able to offer mobile phone service to the public,” it said in a statement published in the Communist Party newspaper Granma.


Ron Paul’s Misbegotten Sense of History

O.K., I have generally avoided the Ron Paul thing where possible. He’s a principled guy and says what he honestly believes, and for that, he is to be commended in this world of otherwise duplicitous politicians.  I can further understand the attraction for a guy who will not allow politics to dampen his beliefs or curb his message.  Normally, such backbone is a sign of intelligence.

It’s just unfortunate that, in this case, the guy’s fucking nuts. That’s the only down side, though I must admit it’s a formidable obstacle to the presidency. Have a look at this supposed bedrock Republican trashing the only Republican I’d consider voting for:


Folks, this one’s like shooting ducks in a barrel. Ducks with unusually large ears. But let’s line ’em up, shall we?


And Epitaph to Power Politics

The below-linked article on Pakistani President Musharraf’s vow to end the military emergency state in that country contains an interesting and perhaps enlightening epitaph to his military/political career. It’s a great lesson in what the politics of power will get you, in Pakistan or in the States:

Musharraf Says He Will End Emergency Rule by Dec. 16 –

At first, many Pakistanis welcomed the new military leader, a moderate Muslim with a winning manner who pledged to bring about sweeping political, social and economic reforms.After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Musharraf quickly sided with the West against the Taliban movement in neighboring Afghanistan.

But Musharraf began to lose support in Pakistan as his policies were resisted by domestic interest groups, Islamic extremism spread and he attempted to legitimize his rule by holding elections that monitors said were badly flawed. The low point came last March, when he tried to depose the chief justice of the Supreme Court, setting off a protest movement by the legal community that gained wide support among the civilian populace.

“This has been like a Greek tragedy. In his struggle for political survival, General Musharraf dismantled brick by brick the positive legacy he had built,” said Mushahid Hussain, a former senior aide to Sharif who later joined Musharraf’s political coalition.


Conformity and Democracy: a Study

Talking Points Memo’s “Table For One” today features author and professor of law Cass Sustein. He has used his Table time to discuss a fascinating study done in Colorado exploring the effects of socialization on political opinions. Groups of basically like-minded people were first polled on political subjects, then allowed to discuss them with the group, then polled again:

Colorado Springs and the Politics of Conformity | TPMCafe

The results were simple. In almost every group, members ended up with more extreme positions after they spoke with one another. . .. . . Aside from increasing extremism, the experiment had an independent effect: it made both liberal groups and conservative groups significantly more homogeneous—and thus squelched diversity.

“Extremism” is perhaps a poorly-chosen word for what he’s talking about, as furious commenting suggests. The point is that people of like minds, when discussing politics at any length, tend to become even more strident in their beliefs and swing harder towards their respective wings. In his second installment, he goes on to explain that not only was this not any kind of specific benchmark of Internet culture, but in fact that sitting Federal judges displayed the same “joiner mentality,” leading to far more extreme positions in situations where like-minded judges sat in the same court.

What this all means for modern politics is interesting to consider. Professor Sunstein insists that the conclusions of his book are not as dire for political expression online as one might think, but certainly we can see that the blogging community has had this case-hardening effect in many quarters. There’s no question that, while I certainly have always been politically-aware, there’s never been anything in my life quite like DragonFlyEye.Net. Moreover, DFE had originally started as just an “About Me” type of webpage, and only for the purposes of practicing some of my then-hobby, web design. w00t! How times have changed!

On a more disappointing note, you can’t escape the fact that the Supreme Court is now populated by the most Conservative judges in a generation. If this idea of like-minded individuals swinging harder is true, I am very, very concerned for the future of this country with such group of men chatting amongst themselves. I wonder if Thomas and Scalia have taken to throwing stuff at Bryer and calling him a wussie. . .

Here in Monroe County, we can hope that the thinning of the Republican herd in the Legislature might have the opposite effect: in addition to the fear of losing more seats, the fact that there are less Conservative minds to speak in the Lej might hopefully mean a smoothing over of the rougher Conservative edge just by virtue of this above-cited effect. Unfortunately, the rules of the Legislature as outlined by the Monroe Charter are, as I understand them, entirely weighted towards the majority party, so this might be a pipe-dream.

But back to the conformity and extremity question:

I think most of us assume that the ability for the average private citizen to blog means greater diversity of thought, not conformity. Are we wrong?


The Visible Hand of the Marketplace

It’s been a remarkably busy day today, what with the holidays coming up, and all. One thing’s for certain: you will never find yourself with a lack of work as a web designer for a consumer product corporation around the holidays!

But I wanted to speak briefly about a particular theme of Republican and Conservative politics that deserves some exploration. This is also in relation to the theme of “Government as a Public Square” that I’ve been meaning to return to and haven’t.

A Dangerous Game in FEC Nomination Battle

I posted this article to the DFE News Updates section a moment ago (BTW, pick up the feed!), but I thought this one deserved a lot more attention than the national media has given it. A little-reported and highly important battle is being waged within the Senate over the appointment of members to the Federal Election Commission.  The line is being drawn over a Hans A. von Spakovsky, who was formerly a member of the highly-dubious “Justice” Department of the Bush “Administration.”

And the battle lines are of immediate concern to the primary antagonist of the battle, Barack Obama.  His political future may depend on the makeup of that body, especially given all the hanky-panky the Republicans have been willing to play.  But in putting up the fight against this nomination, Obama is playing a very dangerous game for which I see only very scant chance of victory:

Senate Battle Over FEC Nominee May Hamper Agency’s Ability to Act –

“Historically, they’ve been done as a group to prevent one party’s nominees from going through and not the other’s,” Stewart said. “That’s the way we’ve always done them, and Senator McConnell sees no reason that should change.”

Obama and three other senators who have formally objected to a Senate vote on von Spakovsky said they want each FEC nominee to be voted on separately. They said it should take 60 votes for him to be confirmed.

As for the fate of the FEC if the stalemate persists, those on both sides agreed that members of the commission’s staff would be able to continue to conduct routine work, but little else would get done, at least until Bush made four new recess appointments. Such a move would mean he was conceding defeat on the von Spakovsky nomination.

I don’t mean to suggest that there aren’t perfectly good ethical reasons for concern over the von Spakovsky nomination: he has presided over some very dubious Justice decisions including the Tom DeLay Texas redistricting scheme.  Even if it means a partisan fight where there has previously been none, this does seem like a fight worth having.  But if the end-game here is that Bush can just nominate whomever he so chooses in a recess appointment, that’s not a game Republicans can lose by playing.  If the media won’t even pay attention to the story, where is Barack’s ammunition coming from?

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Government Waste?

Ninety dollar hammers; sixty dollar ashtrays; 10-year studies of fly crap. We’ve all heard the stories. Everywhere you look, there is another story in the media discussing the wasteful nature of government spending, pointing out the most egregious and flagrant misuse of taxpayer dollars. “The Fleecing of America,” is what it’s called on at least one news show. Even in the most nominally frugal administrations, it seems, there is no end to the pork-barrel excesses of Washington.

And all of these stories fuel the argument that government is simply too wasteful to be effective at providing much of anything to citizens. Conservative thinking says that this waste is endemic to governments, and that the private sector would be more effective at providing services. As I watch these stories, as I listen to the crowing of fiscal Conservatives about the effectiveness of corporations over government and as I watch Joe Public nod his head in agreement, I am compelled to ask a question:

Dude. Don’t you have a job?

Get Ready for a Jaw Dropper. . . .

No kidding.  These people have absolutely no shame whatsoever:

Press Briefing by Dana Perino

Q And the protests, themselves, seem to have been stilled. What do you make of that?

MS. PERINO: Well, unfortunately, intimidation and force can chill peaceful demonstrations. And reports about very innocent people being thrown into detention, where they could be held for years without any representation or charges, is distressing; and we understand that some of the monasteries have been sealed. Now, obviously, this has, again, a chilling effect on protestors, but we would ask that everyone show restraint and allow those who want to express themselves to be able to do so in Burma.

Oh, heavens! What kind of country would lock up its own citizens without a right to trial?

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