Category: Politics

My proposed debate question for the Vice Presidential debate

It’s really the only thing I care about in the debate between the Vice Presidential candidates:

The current office of the Vice President has maintained that, constitutionally speaking, the office itself is neither in the executive branch of the government as designed by the founding fathers, nor is it in the legislative branch. It is therefore not subject to oversight rules or laws specifically covering those two branches.

To each vice presidential candidate: Do you agree with this interpretation of the office of the Vice Presidency? Please answer "yes", "no", or "I don’t know" first, followed by your explanation.

Followup, if you agree with the interpretation, would you support an amendment to the constitution specifically defining which arm of government the Vice Presidency belongs to, such that proper legislation can be created to hold the office itself accountable to the people?

[EDIT: I am not stacking the deck here.

The Vice President *and* the President have invoked executive privilege with oversight committees in the Congress, claiming the office of the Vice President can invoke executive privilege. Therefore they view the office as not being in the legislative branch.

However, the office of the Vice President has refused to comply with an executive order regarding record keeping with the national archives for the executive branch, claiming that they are not part of the executive branch of the government.

By both asserting executive privilege and at the same time noting the constitutional role of the Vice President as the tie breaker as the "President of the Senate" in avoiding executive orders applying to the executive branch, this clearly shows that the office of the Vice Presidency views itself currently as belonging solely to no defined branch of the United States government according to the constitution. I do not think that is an unreasonable interpretation of the current state of things.

Now, one might try to defend this to say "well, the constitution is rather vague on this point" but that is a false defense.

Either the office is in one of the branches of government or it is not an office. And since the constitution defines it as an office in our government it must belong to one of the branches. I don’t care which, as long as it is in a branch so that oversight can be applied to it. This is how checks and balances work. We can all agree on that right? We’re supposed to have checks and balances? Currently there are no checks then on the office of the Vice Presidency if you accept the current interpretation.]

We all have a 9.11 story.

Labor day weekend, 2001 my wife and I went to Boston to join a gathering of Internet friends. I drove up from Dallas, because it was a side of the country I rarely got to visit, and Rochto flew in to Boston Logan Airport on Sept first, 2001. We had a great weekend. We saw Humpback whales, went to a Blue Man Group show, visited salem ("MORE…..WEIGHT.") and I made gumbo for my friends.

The morning of the third, I drove Rochto to Logan. We got out of the car and went through the airport security. At the time Logan was being basically completely redone because of the Big Dig. I watched as construction workers in yellow hard hats bypassed airport security and metal detectors easily with just a wave and a tip of their hard hat.

"If anyone has a hard hat on the plane," I joked to Rochto, "fake illness and get off the plane"

I watched from the window as her flight took off. It was early, I hopped in my car and headed out from Boston.

My route took me by New York City.

Ignoring the GPS suggestion to take the route around I said "fuck it" and decided to drive through Manhattan. My car at the time was a 1999 Porsche Boxster, an artifact of Microsoft stock price during the .com bubble. I took the top down and drove through the city, all the way to the tip to see the towers. I stared at them while at a red light, rising above me. Magnificent.

I left the city and moved on to continue my trip back home. I took my time getting back, reaching Dallas on September 7th.

"A plane hit the world trade center."

When you hear that, at 8am in Dallas (where it was 9am in NYC) your first impulse is a small plane. An accident, surely. I’d just walked in. A co-worker popped up from her cube and spread the news. We were due to conduct a postmortem on Windows XP training development. First thing I thought of was those towers rising above me. Instead we watched clustered around the TV’s installed at the Las Colinas Microsoft campus as another plane hit. Towers fell. And, unknown to us at the moment, heroes struck the first blow in the war on terror. What would they think of our country now?

Later in the day, the next thing I thought of was my wife on a plane out of Logan, source of two of the jets that day. The place I’d made the flippant joke that security was lax for construction.

All my life I’d lived within the cone of sound of DFW airport. With the planes grounded, our house just three miles away was silent. I felt the sixth sense of a greater or lesser path for our society, and had no way to articulate it, or even to see that my underlying unease was more than the simple crime of what had happened to America.

I’ve said it before. There is an old adage that a liberal is just a conservative that has never been mugged. On 9.11 the entire country got mugged.

I’m tired of having the shit scared out of me to make my decisions in life. Who I vote for, what measure should pass. I’m tired of thinking about pre 9.11 and yearning for that time and people saying that yearning is naive.

I cannot imagine for a moment that Bin Laden is displeased with what we have become. I think, in fact, he is extremely pleased. We’re looking over our shoulders. Our freedoms are far less than before. Every election since has been based not on who can best serve us, but who can best protect us. The checks and balances of our government are off kilter. Our military, stretched. A wound left on lower Manhattan remains bare and, to a certain extent, still bleeding.

There are those who say a return to the less paranoid days of pre-9.11 are naive. That kissing my wife before she actually boards the plane as opposed to at a line an hour before that she must arrive early to get through is ignorance of evil. That questioning the false premise of the invasion of another nation means I’m weak on national security.

That thinking it’s wrong for our government to create far more leniant rules to eavesdrop on conversations based off suspicion rather than fact is an abuse of power somehow means I would want another 9.11. Fear is our primary watch word. We now judge our lives and our well being on who will prevent attack. Those that stated that a government that governs least is a government that governs best have handed unprecedented power to government.

Somewhere, do not doubt it, Osama Bin Laden is smiling.

We have constricted. Recoiled. This is natural. This is normal. I don’t like it, but I cannot deny the underlying premise for doing so is not cynical so much as it is still, seven years later, shock and hurt.

I would that one day within my lifetime, we forgive. I don’t mean forgive terrorists for believing that in attacking civilians they achieve their goals. I mean forgive ourselves our understandable reaction, and move forward instead of backward.

Primary Colors Part 7

Despite the crowds flowing into the convention center main hall, and unlike every other Washington State democratic party event since february, there was plenty of seating. I was suprised since there were some rather high bill speakers in the morning slate. I spent some time hunting down my 45th LD homies and just being a fly on the wall for surrounding conversations.

What struck me immediately was the overall Clinton/Obama conversations. The Clinton people ranged from resigned to highly, *highly* pissed off. Someone had come into the hall and plastered key areas with hundreds of Clinton signs. In an interesting bit of floor drama I’ll get into later on, there was a new measure for the charter to utilize results from the Washington State primary results instead of the Washington State caucus results, which if made retroactive would have materially altered Obama’s delegate count since he won the primary by a more narrow margin than his caucus blowout margin.

As I mentioned previously the rather odd but fun parade had gotten people in the mood. Senator Patty Murray warmed the crowd up, so when Gov. Christine Gregiore took the stage folk were pumped.

fired up

They used her margin of victory after three recounts (133 votes) into a pretty snazzy campaign ad. Although I should mention that I’m getting sick of hearing U2’s Beautiful Day as a campaign rallying theme.

What was most interesting about her speech is that she did all but tell Clinton supporters to "get over it". Her speech was very much focused on the silly attempt by Republicans in the state like her challenger Dino Rossi to remove the word "Republican" from the ballot next to their name and replace it with "GOP Party" (Grand Old Party Party?), electing Obama, and telling people to get past the primary season now that the party had a nominee.

Given the majority of the group were Obama supporters it wasn’t a suprise to hear cheering for this speech.

Senator John Kerry was due to give the keynote however he was attending a funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq. I feel bad retroactively for joking that he didn’t make it because he figured out they were sending him to Spokane instead of Seattle. I feel worse because another soldier died in that senseless war. Senator Amy Klobuchar filled in instead and gave a really good speech that was designed again to rally support behind Barack Obama. She had several personal anecdotes about the Senator and the fact she’s a freshman in the 110th.

Amy Klobuchar

She was a perfect choice I think as her talk really worked to humanize Obama to the more hostile of the Clinton supporters.

Ah but after all the speeches are done, there’s the incredible boring work of convention business. A collision of Robert’s Rules of Order, a long church service, standing in line at the DoMV for your license plate tags, doing your taxes, organizing 100 hyperactive children to form a straight line, listening to Ben Stein give an 8 hour lecture, and punching yourself in the stomach repeatedly. The seats started to empty.


Which isn’t to say I didn’t have a good time watching it all. In fact aside from the drama of the new motion to allocate delegates using the results of the primary (it was never clear to me if that motion would have been retroactive to the February results) which failed, the job of state delegates at the convention who were not running for state elector or national delegate was to show up, maintain quorum, vote the charter, go home. So I spent a lot of time just listening to people.

One thing was clear, the Clinton supporters in general are completely mystified as to her loss. I watched one Clinton supporter, an older woman, tearfully talking to a younger woman with an Obama button about why in the world she had not supported Hillary after all that Hillary had done for women. The younger woman was mystified at the very line of the argument, saying "but I support Obama because of his plan. I don’t like Clinton’s plans at all!" The Clinton supporter just had a blank look and no response to it. It was an incredibly telling exchange.

During the good of the order call at the end, a Clinton support took the mic to promise a floor fight in Denver, and that they would never ever give up. While one at the other end of the floor spoke about realizing Barack had won, and really, was she going to support pro-life John Mccain just to spite her own party?

So as the convention wound down we Wa 45th LD delegates headed out to dinner to rehash the convention, talk about the election, and just have a good time. A few were running for National delegate the next day, but I left the next morning to take Rochto some Schlotzsky’s.

This marks the end of my participation in the primary process this election and I think it’s been probably one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in a while. I encourage everyone to get involved in the electiont this year no matter what your politics. You’ll meet interesting people, silly people, scary people, and awesome people all in your own political belief sphere. And it will force you to really know your candidates positions and plans far more deeply than simply reading a position paper on their website.

Primary Colors Part 6

This will be my last primary colors post for 2008 as tonight, officially my role as state delegate for Barack Obama ends. At Large national delegates will be chosen tomorrow however I will be unlikely to be elected to that position as there are more than 500 candidates and 11 openings and I plan to enjoy a nice drive back tomorrow.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a incredible experience this primary season.

Mai detailz! Letz me show you dem!

I didn’t hit the hospitality suites hard at all last night but for some reason I had a hard time waking up this morning. I chalk it up to my not sleeping well in general away from home.

But like a real something or other trooper I woke up this morning bright and early, ate my wheaties and downed my coffee and was at the opening ceremonies at 9am.





So I know I have already blogged about the parade but it was a surreal experience to be standing there, slightly swaying against the overall enthusiasm of the crowd combined with the overall miasma of the combined force of the surrounding hangovers, and quite another to be confronted with the sheer faux oppulance of the parade. Look!


Dismantle…Oppression? Isn’t that potentially oppressing oppression by sheer expression of needing to dismantle it?

Oh wait, there’s more:


THAT’S RIGHT PEOPLE. POLAR BEAR. Now I know I’ve expressed how anti bear I am in general but to see a freakish cardboard human generated pantomine of a polar bear IN REAL LIFE really changed my mind about them in general. For now. Thankfully Rumsfeld and Cheney made appearences, in true garb, to calm the crowd and unite against a cause.


It was about this point I started to seriously question what I had been putting in my coffee.

But with cries of "Yes we can!" and "Are there donuts?" we entered the hall for the running of the 2008 Washington State Democratic Convention.

Primary Colors Part 4

I’m here at the Washington State Democratic Convention located in Spokane.

The drive out to Spokane from Seattle is roughly a straight line east that takes about 4 or 5 hours depending on weather, traffic etc. I decided to road trip it mostly because it’s a beautiful drive and 90 through the cascades is one of the more excited stretches of interstate in the Eisenhower system. Tight, coiled curves with a posted speed of 60 and sometimes 70mph. Outstanding for the Benz. After that it’s mostly long stretches through the eastern Washington "desert" (it’s a dry climate for sure but its not a desert like you normally think of one) to Spokane.

Unfortunately in the middle of that drive, almost equidistant between Seattle and Spokane, in the middle of nowhere, I blew out the right rear tire. It wasn’t like a normal blowout when you know it happens either. I didn’t really hear anything but was driving along and felt an odd vibration in the wheel, and I couldn’t tell if it was just the road or me, it was so slight. I looked in my rearview to notice I was spewing run flat material to the road from my back right side and I could see smoke. So I immediately pulled over and sure enough I’d shredded the tire. According to the GPS I was 11 miles from the nearest exit with any type of services. Luckily I was only 45 miles from an exit that had a Mercedes Benz service center. So I hit the little wrench button on my dash, spoke to a rep who dispatched a service technician.

Meanwhile I stayed in the car and twittered my misfortune and called Rochto to let her know what happened and that I was ok.

I shit you not, a tumbleweed drifted by.

I sat there in air conditioned comfort watching it roll by in the wind while I listened to satellite radio, sipped bottled water and twittered on my phone. Truly we live in a marvelous time, a golden age of technology and convenience.

After a while I started to feel like a complete schmuck. I got to thinking about lamenting my misfortune when I’m fortunate enough to have the access to technology and services that meant I could goof off looking at a pretty god damned beautiful part of the country, when any other normal person would have gotten out and changed the god damned tire themselves. So I hopped out and moved my luggage from the trunk to the back seat and proceeded to get out the mini spare and equipment. I was looking for the mini-lugs the spare used when the technician arrived. He got the mini on while I cleaned out the run flat and shredded rubber from the wheel to put it in the trunk.

Once we got the mini spare on and checked the car for any other damage the dealership couriered in 2 new rears to a local tire service center at the last exit so I wouldn’t have to travel the 45 miles to the dealership on a mini spare at 50mph. (thanks to one of my followers on twitter we had already arranged for them to be ready to put the tires on when I got there) and within about 2.5 hours of the blowout I was back on the road. It’s weird to think, but I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, and thanks to having a GPS, Smartphone, and locater service built into the car the overall inconvenience to me was pretty minimal. It was cool getting to use all those services that I take for granted, but the underlying feeling of kind of being way too privileged stuck with me. Just a few years ago I would have been making that 11 mile trek in 90 degree heat to get help if I had not have had a spare, etc. I started to feel even more elitist when you

think about the China Earthquake victims or the poor people in the Midwest being killed by tornados or flooding.

So I rolled into Spokane about three hours later than I intended, which meant I missed out on the treat I was most looking forward to upon arriving, a sandwich from one of the few remaining Schlotzsky’s deli’s in the Pacific Northwest since their bankruptcy 3 or 4 years ago caused almost all of them up here to close. Ah well. Chalk that up to the awwwww poor baby column.

I checked in and headed down to Spencer’s for a beer and some goofing off online. Spokane gets a bad rap, it’s actually a nice enough place and very close to Coeur d’Alene which I think is a really incredible place to visit. The convention is held at the appropriately named "Convention Center" downtown and the next 2.5 days mostly represent meetings and workshops before I cast my delegate vote for Barack Obama and end my part in the primary process. As Internet access makes itself available to me I’ll post more pics and blog entries. But I’ll also be twittering from my phone through the time as well.