Former Campbell County Commissioner and Gillette City Councilman Stephen F. Hughes, 66, was found dead inside his business, Landmark Inc., early Friday morning, according to information released by …
On the 113th Congress
From the Jan. 5 The Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y.:
The transition in Congress from one of the least productive in memory to the most diverse in history is a welcome change — but one that will be but a footnote without new members agitating the old guard for action.
The previous 112th Congress was a failure of historic proportions, passing fewer bills than any in the post-World War II era. Its most noteworthy accomplishments were negative: a knock-down, drag-out in 2011 over raising the federal debt ceiling that resulted in the nation’s credit rating being lowered, and subsequent failure to resolve related budgeting issues that led to last month’s “fiscal cliff” debacle.
The 113th Congress sworn in on Jan. 3 doesn’t just boast new blood, but new perspectives. More than 100 women, 43 African-Americans, 31 Latinos, 12 Asian-Americans and seven openly gay or bisexual members are among the ranks. Religious diversity is likewise broad, including the first Buddhist senator and first Hindu representative.
All to the good, in terms of Congress looking a little more like the folks it represents. Now it must serve those folks. ...
On calamities ahead
From the Jan. 2 The Anniston (Ala.) Star:
Americans might be wondering if they are stuck in a Looney Toons cartoon. We technically went over the fiscal cliff at the start of 2013, but just like Daffy or the Road Runner, we’ve yet to begin our descent. We are in that part of the cartoon where the victim hovers in midair, quizzically looking around and waiting for the next calamity. ...
Our concern is that the so-called fiscal cliff we appear to have avoided is but one in a series of challenges. In other words, Americans may have crawled in midair back to safe ground, a la Daffy Duck, but there’s an ACME safe headed straight for our collective heads.
It’s expected by March that Washington will commence a fresh set of brinksmanship. This time the argument will be over raising the debt ceiling. Republicans have signaled they will not raise the debt ceiling unless they extract massive spending cuts from the Obama administration. Not this time, comes the response from the White House. Playing around with the nation defaulting on its debt isn’t something Obama is apparently willing to discuss.
These are proxy fights over a bigger ideological struggle. Should government grow or should it shrink? An even more important question is who will feel the most pain from the shrinking?
Democrats have voiced support for a stronger and smarter government. Its actions have often not matched its rhetoric. ...
The Republican side says it is dedicated to drastically shrinking government. ... A closer inspection finds the cutting is highly specific for the GOP. Cuts to the Defense Department are generally off the table. Despite the bluster of the tea partyers, very few on the GOP side want to see Medicare or Social Security on the chopping block.
Don’t expect this cartoon to end any time soon.
On more Obama secrecy
From the Jan. 7 The Des Moines Register:
Critics of the Obama administration’s expanded use of pilotless drone aircraft to kill alleged terrorists abroad have been assured that the strikes are justified and legal. Yet, when The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union asked for detailed evidence of the government’s legal arguments, they were told that is a national security secret.
Recently, a federal judge ruled in the administration’s favor, though even she expressed exasperation: “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusions a secret.”
This is hard to take from a president who, as a candidate, promised to do a better job than the previous occupant of the White House in making important government information available to the American people. It is also hard to take from a president who has kept in place many of the war-on-terror tactics he found troubling or offensive when they were practiced by President George W. Bush. ...
... The federal FOI Act is shot through with loopholes, and the administration didn’t have to do much heavy lifting to slip through several of them in this case. Besides, federal courts are typically deferential to presidential claims of national security to justify keeping information from the public.
The question is why the administration insists on keeping secret legal opinions that spell out the arguments for the legality and constitutionality of these drone strikes. ... Why would they keep confidential the formal arguments in favor of drone killings? ...
The president obviously believes the attacks are morally and legally justified. He should release all legal justifications produced by his administration or explain to the American people why that cannot be shared with them.