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Confidence v. No Confidence

It looks like we’re on the “confidence” theme this week. I admit that I came down pretty hard on Paul Vallely in my article, “Former general confuses US with UK,”  mocking his call for a vote of “no confidence” on President Obama in the House of Representatives. Granted, I correctly noted that such a vote has no legal significance, but I did not fairly label it what it really is, a political ploy. (The idea that a vote by a majority of the Republican-controlled House would result in an Obama resignation is  ludicrous.) In this country, the political party in power governs, and the opposition tries to get them out. And those out of power in Washington today use every trick they can to make the Obama Administration look bad, and this “vote of no confidence” scheme should be viewed as what it is, politics.

One of the reasons that I wanted to back off a little on the current “no confidence” move is that it is not just something that right-wing nut jobs cooked up in their anti-Obama program. The other side tried the same gambit when it was the Bush administration in power. Turn the clock back to May of 2007 and read this from Think Progress:

Last week, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) called on the Senate to hold a no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The White House and its conservative allies quickly derided the vote, calling it “nothing more than a meaningless political act.” This morning on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called it a “gotcha game.”

So what happened with that move? A resolution of no confidence was introduced, but even though  53 Senators voted to debate the issue (38 opposed), it fell shy of the 60-vote supermajority necessary to fend off a Republican filibuster. Although the “no confidence” vote was not held, Gonzalez did resign (for more on this controversial figure, check out the Wikipedia).

Folks like me on the Internet try to get good information, but we don’t govern the country, or try legal cases. If I make a mistake, the only consequence is a little hit on my credibility. When it comes to members of Congress, they have to make real decisions that affect real people, and their standard of correctness must needs be far higher than mine. When Congress needs a legal opinion, they may seek guidance from the Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library of Congress, and that’s exactly what some did in 2007 regarding the “no confidence” question, resulting in the production of this report: “No Confidence” Votes and Other Forms of Congressional Censure of Public Officials from June of 2007.

The report concludes (in part):

Aside from obvious symbolic, political or publicity implications, there are no specific legal consequences in the passage of such a resolution, nor is there any legal significance or consequence for the Senate or the House to choose one phrase of disapprobation or condemnation over another, or to include or not to include the concept or expression of a loss of “confidence” in an official.

The report is of particular interest in its tabulation of historical resolutions of this type, going back to 1973.

“Complicity” doesn’t mean what you think it does, and other birther misapplications of the English language

lunaticSometimes I wish the birthers could hear themselves the way others do.1 I’m sure it would be a shock. :shock: Here’s a little bit of transcript from the Mike Volin “Where’s Obama’s Birth Certificate” Internet radio show yesterday talking about the delivery of his Sheriff’s Kit to members of Congress.

Caller: Hey Mike, I just wanted to mention that if we send these kits to like the TV stations, the news outlets, the papers and any other senators or congressmen, we should send them “certified” or “registered.” That way they actually have to sign for them. They actually have someone there, has to sign and acknowledge that they got the kit.

… doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of this – when it comes down, because anybody that is on  the wrong side and has notification of the evidence in hand are complicit with this crime, and that is one of the things that we need to keep these  congressmen and senators on their toes.  “You’re complicit with the crime that you have been made aware of.”

Some words don’t mean what birthers think they mean, and “complicity” may be one of them. Knowing about the commission of a crime and not reporting it is complicity. Where I think the first caller is mistaken, is in confusing complicity with being an accessory to the crime. Generally complicity is not itself a crime without significant subsequent involvement. Let me list some problems with calling anything here “complicity”:

  1. The Sheriff’s Kit never specifies exactly what the crime is. Even if the birth certificate is a fake, putting a fake document on the Internet is not a crime, and every President lies (well maybe not Jimmy Carter which was one of his problems). The birth certificate was never submitted to anyone as a legal document or used in candidate filings. Lying on TV is not fraud.
  2. Even if we did say that Obama’s selective service registration was forged, it happened more than 5 years ago and the statute of limitations has run out.
  3. Even if we did say that Obama’s birth certificate was forged, the Sheriff’s Kit doesn’t say who did it, when or where.
  4. Reading the Sheriff’s Kit does not give a member of Congress any personal knowledge of the commission of a crime. Indeed the compilers of the Sheriff’s Kit have no knowledge of the commission of a crime, only conclusions. The presentation is a narrative of arriving at conclusions, not evidence of a crime.
  5. Complicity implies failure to report a crime. The Sheriff’s Kit is public information, and law enforcement is already aware of it. The birthers actually think that the information they are plying on Congress actually came from law enforcement in the first place! There is noting left to report.
  6. The birthers want people to do something about a crime (whatever it is), but failure to do so is not complicity. TV stations, news outlets and papers have no legal duty to do something about a crime they are aware of—that’s not complicity.
  7. Congress has no role in prosecuting crimes. They can remove someone from office through impeachment, but not prosecute them for a crime. The decision to impeach or not is wholly up to the members of Congress and the failure to do so is not complicity.

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Has Zullo shown the Reed Hayes report to anyone in Congress?

One of the many hidden mysteries surrounding Mike Zullo and the Cold Case Posse is the Reed Hayes report. Hayes, a handwriting expert, reportedly produced a report (sometimes labeled an “affidavit”) for Mike Zullo (not for the Cold Case Posse) that concludes that Obama’s birth certificate is a “100% forgery.”

The question of why the Hayes report remains a secret looms. To my way of thinking, the most likely reason is that Zullo, who seems to claim ownership of the report, is planning to include it in a book for sale. Zullo, however, is not saying that, so let’s assume for the sake of discussion that he has some motive other than financial gain, some motive that goes towards his goal of discrediting Obama’s personal story.

Given that the whole Cold Case Posse case against Obama stands or falls on the basic premise that the President’s birth certificate (White House PDF image) is a computer-generated forgery, and that premise is all but gone now that it has been found that what they call marks of forgery are artifacts of a common Xerox office machine that the White House owns, it would seem a matter of the utmost urgency that they get some new evidence out there. It hasn’t happened.

One of the big embarrassments for Mike Zullo was his presentation to Congressman Woodall. Woodall was unimpressed by the lengthy argument. The recording of that conversation, now scrubbed, did not mention anything about the Hayes Report, nor of any of the secret evidence that is supposed to be so convincing. So my question is: has Zullo shown the Reed Hayes Report to any member of Congress, and if not, why not?

Orly Taitz should read the Constitution

I don’t know how Orly Taitz passed the citizenship test, much less the bar exam, given her complete ignorance of the Constitution. Yesterday Taitz wrote:

Obama was running deficit  that is 3 times higher than the deficit that was incurred by Bush.

What’s wrong with this picture? Whether the number is right or wrong (I didn’t look it up), all federal spending is authorized by Congress. The President signs spending bills, but he doesn’t write them (he doesn’t write the ones that get passed).

Taitz goes on to say:

So in spite of additional 650 billion that he took from us in taxes this year, he managed to incur the same 1.2 trillion debt in 2013.

In fact, all revenue bills must begin in the House of Representatives, currently controlled by the Republican Party.

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

– US Constitution, Article I, Section 7.

The lack of factual content makes the Orly Taitz blog less than worthless.

Essential services, Obot blogs, continue amidst US government shutdown

A dysfunctional US Congress has caused over 1 million federal workers to be sent home as the federal fiscal year begins with no budget. Certain essential services, however, will continue, including immigration and border controls and payments to social security recipients, and also thankfully, there will be no reduction in federal funding for blogs such as this.

I have strong feelings about the government shutdown, but they are not relevant to the birther movement, except that some of the same rumor-based decision making processes we see with birtherism, seem to play a role in the Tea Party approach to legislation.

Congress should investigate the birthers

Birthers have clamored for a Congressional investigation of Barack Obama’s birth certificate, but birthers are a minority. Most people, the non-conspiracy minded folks, don’t have doubts about who is legitimately President of the United States, whether they like the choice or not. Birther theories don’t stand up to scrutiny. Anyone who cares can find out all the information necessary to make a decision without subpoenas and testimony.

I think that Congress, instead of bowing to the nut cases, should rather investigate the very real birther phenomenon. There are things that no one knows about the birthers. Congress  should find out who’s funding it, whether it poses a danger to national security, and what can be done to prevent loss of productivity and family disintegration by similar movements in the future. Is it a confidence racket? Were laws violated? Is legislation needed to tighten up the rules for tax-exempt organizations that run political smear campaigns? Does the IRS need more money for investigators? These are legitimate Congressional concerns.

Some might argue that Congress has a long list of more important issues to deal with: the debt limit, continuing government operational funding, advice on executive branch judicial appointments and immigration reform; however, as a minority1 in Congress has these important issues bottled up, they might as well investigate birthers.


1While Republicans are a majority in the House of Representatives, obstructionists are not. Moderate Republicans plus Democrats in the House make the real majority and they would work on these more important issues if given the chance by the House leadership. In the Senate, the minority Republican party blocks legislation through filibuster.