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Archive for February 2008

Should your place of birth determine whether you can be president of the United States?

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Originally published on on Thu, 02/28/2008 – 10:50am

“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

Those of us who still remember what we learned in school know that to be president, you have to be at least 35 years old. And some of us even recall that a person must have been a resident within the United States for 14 years.

But the Constitution requires a “natural born Citizen” or “a Citizen of the United States” to be president or vice president.

Those who were not born in the United States and not to U.S. citizens are generally declared to be ineligible. Prominent people on this list include former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, and even Jerry Springer, who contemplated a run for the U.S. Senate with the notion that he wouldn’t want to move up after reaching the Senate.

There is the story of Bill Richardson’s father, who sent Bill’s mother into the United States so Bill would be born in the United States.

But what about John McCain? McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936, but does that make him a “natural born Citizen”?

As you can see in today’s The New York Times, McCain isn’t the first one to have this issue.

Lowell P. Weicker Jr. ran for president in 1980, but was born to American parents in Paris, France. George Romney (yes, Mitt’s father) was born to American parents in Mexico and ran in 1968. Barry Goldwater was born in the Arizona territory in 1909, before it became a state, to parents who presumably were American citizens.

The most amusing example, and unlike the others, he did become president, is Chester A. Arthur, who is listed as being born in Vermont, but rumors suggested it was Canada. Even though he was never elected president, Arthur was elected vice president, and under the Constitution, must meet the same qualifications as president.

From Wikipedia:

“Most official references list him as having been born in Fairfield in Franklin County, Vermont on October 5, 1829. But Arthur sometimes claimed to have born in 1830, the date that is on his grave inscription and occurs in some reference works. His father had initially migrated to Dunham, Québec, Canada, where he and his wife at one point owned a farm about 80 miles (129 km) north of the U.S. border. There has long been speculation that the future president was actually born in Canada and that the family moved to Fairfield later.”

Before anyone thinks this is just about McCain, consider this: Barack Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961. If he had been born three years earlier, he would have the same issues as Barry Goldwater.

The confusion over who can qualify for president isn’t limited to place of birth. Even a water cooler discussion over whether Bill Clinton or George W. Bush could serve as vice president again can get heated.

The 22nd Amendment: “Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.”

The key word is elected. Clinton or Bush could theoretically be VP, if the president died or became incapacitated, the VP could become president, but not run for re-election. Others disagree with this interpretation.

There was a serious question of Dick Cheney’s Constitutional viability in 2000. Cheney was living in Texas when Bush selected him as his VP nominee. Under the Constitution, two people from the same state can’t serve as president and vice president. The Cheneys “magically moved” to Wyoming, but there were underlying unanswered questions.

Does a primary domicile count as being from a state? In terms of eligibility, Alan Keyes ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004 against Barack Obama, and claimed that a rented apartment in Calumet City, Illinois, established his residence in that state, even though he owned a home in Maryland. Senate members must live in the state they represent.

Texas and Wyoming both don’t charge a state income tax, but perhaps there were other financial reasons why Texas was advantageous. If Cheney took advantage of those, he would be a “resident of Texas” and therefore Constitutionally ineligible to hold his current post (as would Bush).

Children born to American citizens are considered U.S. citizens, regardless of where they are born. Children born in the United States to those who aren’t American citizens are considered U.S. citizens. Right now, those in the first group may not be eligible to be president; those in the second group definitely are eligible. Sounds like eligibility needs to be clarified.

There is no consensus that John McCain isn’t eligible, but there is no consensus that he is.

Again, from Wikipedia:

All persons born in the United States, except those not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. government (such as children of foreign diplomats) are citizens by birth under the Fourteenth Amendment. There is some debate over whether other persons with citizenship can also be considered citizens by birth, or whether they should all be considered to be “naturalized”. Current US statutes define certain individuals born overseas as “citizens at birth,” as opposed to citizens by birth.

So is McCain a “citizen of birth” or a “citizen at birth”?

It’s perfectly appropriate to make the rules difficult to become president, but those rules should be clear-cut so that anyone who wants to grow up to be president of the United States should know from the start whether they have that chance.


Written by democracysoup

February 28, 2008 at 10:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

NAFTA re-negotiation works both ways, er, three ways

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Originally published on on Wed, 02/27/2008 – 12:19pm.

It takes two to tango, but three to re-negotiate NAFTA.

It was great hearing that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama want to re-negotiate NAFTA. Clearly, a number of people haven’t liked what NAFTA has done and how it has affected certain elements of the economy. And some of those affected actually live in the United States.

What wasn’t said last night in the debate is that there are Canadians and Mexicans who would love to re-negotiate NAFTA for their own reasons. And if the U.S. wants to re-negotiate to help itself, so does Canada and Mexico.

As today’s Globe and Mail (Canada’s primary national newspaper) points out, re-negotiation also would “open the door to an improved dispute- resolution mechanism, something Canada has long advocated.”

Canada has also been concerned about the amount of foreign investment in its companies, especially its media.

I confess to not knowing as much about Mexico’s issues with NAFTA (I’m somewhat of a Canada-ophile), but the idea that the U.S. is forcing Mexico to take its corn and high-fructose corn syrup would upset me if I lived in Mexico.

The debate focused on whether Hillary Clinton supported NAFTA as part of the Clinton Administration. However, though NAFTA is thought of as a Bill Clinton project, the agreement was initially pursued by Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (Conservative Party), U.S. President George H. W. Bush (Republican), and the Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (long-time ruling PRI). While Clinton did not alter the original agreement, he did put forward the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation.

NAFTA has definitely been a boon to companies in all three countries, but it has been highly questionable whether it has been good for consumers and those who, well, like having jobs.

But Clinton and Obama (and John McCain if he comes around) should know that opening up NAFTA won’t apply just to U.S. interests. Be prepared to reopen the agreement on a number of issues. But you will find that Canada and Mexico can be eager to comply if their demands are met as well.

Written by democracysoup

February 27, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Those without cable or satellite have a fuzzy view of the presidential race

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Originally published on on Wed, 02/27/2008 – 9:37am

For those with cable or satellite TV, February 17, 2009 doesn’t mean a whole lot. For those who use rabbit ears to get television, the date in February is a significant deadline. February 17, 2009 marks the transition from analog to digital TV.

And if you do have cable or satellite, you probably think the transition isn’t significant, but to many Americans, their TV watching depends on it.

So what does this have to do with politics? We keep hearing that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have had 20 debates. But if you are one of those who don’t have cable or satellite, there haven’t been 20 debates. There has been – one? The only one that leaps to mind that was on broadcast TV was the Saturday night contest in New Hampshire on ABC.

For goodness sake, we had a writers’ strike, where networks were showing low-rated reruns. And we had a scenario where CBS and NBC both blew off Saturday night programming to cover a regular-season football game scheduled to air on the NFL Network. (ironically, CBS blew off “Good Night, and Good Luck” to show the game. Did CBS eventually reschedule that December broadcast?)

And yet the networks couldn’t show presidential primary debates. If they were worried about ratings, then all four major networks should have carried the debates at the same time, or traded off so each network would have carried an equal number of debates.

Saturday night programming is so devalued on the broadcast schedule that only FOX consistently runs first-run programming on Saturday Night (COPS, America’s Most Wanted). This fall, ABC’s Saturday night programming was literally college football games. So, since the networks devalue Saturday night so much, they could have had the debates on Saturday night and not “suffered” too much.

Despite what the corporate media would like to believe, the airwaves belong to us. They serve a purpose to a lot of Americans who vote. The millions of coupons the government is printing up for digital converters (so those with analog TVs can still watch TV after the conversion) proves over-the-air TV is still relevant.

Think about this when it comes to political coverage on TV: In Canada, you can watch “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and the “Colbert Report” with an antenna on CTV, but you can’t watch those shows in the United States with an antenna.

One easy solution for broadcast TV is to stream the debates on a separate digital channel. For example, in Chicago, the NBC station (Channel 5) broadcasts its regular fare on 5-1. A weather channel airs on 5-2. If it had a third digital channel, the station could have run last night’s MSNBC debate on 5-3.

The right-wing element goes nuts over a brief exposure of a female nipple (e.g., Janet Jackson), yet there’s no protest over a lack of political debates on broadcast TV. If the right-wingers feel the airwaves need to be protected from a nipple, the left-wingers need to stand up to protected the airwaves from ignorance.

Written by democracysoup

February 27, 2008 at 9:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The politics of taking a trip to the grocery store

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Originally published on on Tue, 02/26/2008 – 2:06pm

We didn’t have to read the stories online or in the newspaper to know grocery prices are going up. We know just by going up and down food aisles in the grocery store.

In the wholesale prices for January just released, food prices rose by 1.7 percent, the biggest monthly increase in three years. In particular, prices for beef, eggs, and bakery products were all up sharply.

If the food involves corn, the price of that food will go up. And there are lots of those foods, thanks to our obsession with corn, as profiled in “King Corn” or Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

And given that we are in a presidential year, where you would think there would be pressure to help the economy, well, good luck. We have an incumbent in the White House who isn’t concerned with the price of food. After all, it became a Bush family rule in 1992 that no family member would ever be asked the price of anything in a grocery store ever again.

In 1992, “it’s the economy, stupid” was the cry. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton actually battled on the economy, and who would make things better. In 2008, Iraq and illegal spying dominate headlines, and even on an economic level, credit card debt, college debt, bankruptcies, energy costs, and health care costs have bigger headlines than the price of food.

So don’t expect much help when it comes to your food bill in 2008.

Now we should point out that our food prices have been kept low for political purposes for some time. The cost of high-fructose corn syrup isn’t much in pennies, but filling up foods with fillers such as high-fructose corn syrup cost us more in weight and health bills.

But wages have also been low, and so when food goes up (as well as gasoline), it makes an impact on consumers. When you aren’t sure whether you want to burn the gas to save 40¢ on a gallon of milk, money is tight.

So the food prices will climb higher, but is there anything we can do about it?

There was the story of a friend of a friend who says he survived for 3 months of gefilte fish, water, and day-old bread. This was back in the recession of the early 1990s and he was a college student. I can’t vouch for the story since I didn’t see him do it. But I met the guy, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

But you don’t have to resort to those extremes. The good news is there are things we can do, but it won’t be easy.

Thanks to the unstable economy, people who are struggling already know how to survive with a bit of creativity. Buy in bulk, use double coupons, and switch to generic brands. Is there more we can do? Here are a few tips:

* Spend more time in the outer walls of the grocery store. Grocery stores put produce, meat, bread, and dairy against the walls. The less time you spend in the food aisles themselves, the better you will eat and the lighter your food bill will be at the end of the trip.

* If you live in a large enough area, hit an ethnic grocery store. You will be surprised how cheap and good the produce can be.

* Grow your own food. Depending on where you live, this may not be viable for half the year. But if you have time and not much money, a few homegrown treats can stretch a food dollar.

* Buy foods with more fiber. Pick the whole wheat or whole grain breads and spaghetti. Foods with fiber make you more full and you eat less, therefore stretching out how much you spend.

* Beans and rice. Let’s face it: Beans and rice are cheap and can stretch your food bill out.

* Cook more at home. Eating out can do damage to a food bill.

* Finally, eat less. Most of us could stand to consume less food. If a pound of spaghetti normally lasts 4 servings, make it last for 6 or 8 servings. If you can double your use from a pound of spaghetti, even if the price goes up, you still save money.

Written by democracysoup

February 26, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Speak up if something goes wrong in the voting booth

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Originally published on on Fri, 02/22/2008 – 2:26pm

You may have missed this story in the hype of voting on Super Tuesday. Given where we are, we couldn’t avoid it.

On Super Tuesday, 20 voters in Chicago were given what looked like pens to use on paper ballots. When the voters complained that their responses couldn’t be seen and were not recorded, election judges told them it was okay since the “pens” had invisible ink.

They weren’t pens; they were plastic styluses meant for touchscreens.

Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader is one of the best reporters in this city, known for its corruption, in exposing injustice. And even he couldn’t find exactly why judges so grossly misinformed the constituents.

Here are a couple of excerpts from his story:

An election judge gave her a ballot and a pen, but when (Angela) Burkhardt tried to use it the pen made no mark. When she asked him for another, he told her she didn’t need one. And then he uttered the words that will live on in infamy. As Burkhardt recalls it: “He said, ‘It’s a magic pen’ — his words exactly — ‘that uses invisible ink.'”

No one knows why he said this.

By then more than an hour had passed and it was well after 7 AM. That’s when Burkhardt met Amy Carlton, who was also trying to vote. “The pen didn’t work, so I went to an election judge — it was one of the two Republican judges. I didn’t get his name,” Carlton says. “He said, ‘It’s OK. It’s invisible ink and the scanner will read it.'” He then added an assurance he hadn’t offered Burkhardt: “He said, ‘We’ve been trained not to use the [regular] pens. You don’t have to worry,'” says Carlton.


One issue to take from this experience: if something is amiss when you go to the voting booth, by all means, say something. Don’t be afraid to speak up. And follow up for goodness sake. No offense to any election judges, but sometimes they are clueless or sharply underinformed.

Written by democracysoup

February 22, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The First Lady, er, Spouse, needs to make a difference

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Originally published on on Thu, 02/21/2008 – 11:12am

A president has a lot of power and influence, but the power (normally) is limited in nature. Unlike the past images of First Ladies (they have been all ladies so far) where being a hostess for White House parties was a major selling point, First Ladies have had a stage to focus on issues important to them.

Let’s face it — there are a lot of issues that have been severely neglected, and could use a national spotlight. And the First Lady, er, Spouse can have a lot of influence, if they want to take advantage.

But as a society, we have reached the point where having a First Lady — yes, Laura, I’m talking to you — that doesn’t do anything with that platform is a detriment to our country, and dare I say, unpatriotic.

In the modern era — defined by me as Gerald Ford to the present — only two First Ladies have dropped the ball, and both had the last name of Bush.

Barbara Bush is known more for her gaffes about Katrina refugees in the Astrodome than anything she did as First Lady. And Laura Bush’s main thrust is “Reading is good,” even if she doesn’t say it loud or proud or anything. You could argue that if she taught George, she could teach anybody, but we haven’t seen proof of that.

Rosalyn Carter did wonderful things for mental health. Betty Ford was a pioneer in helping people get treatment for addictions. Hillary Clinton was a great role model on a number of issues — health care, children’s immunizations, and public awareness of health issues – and her pioneer status of serving as a U.S. Senator while being First Lady (for about 17 days).

Let’s not leave out Tipper Gore, who as the spouse of the Vice President, also did a lot for mental health. She would have made a great, positive First Lady (despite the PMRC crap from the 1980s).

Then there’s Nancy Reagan, who made “contributions” to the anti-drug campaign. Her “Just Say No” campaign’s public appearances are cringing, and in this classic TV episode of “Diff’rent Strokes“, legendarily cringing. But at least, Nancy tried to do something.

The good news is that we will have a First Spouse in 2009 who will do more to help the world. Bill Clinton would be an incredible world ambassador, at minimum. Michelle Obama clearly isn’t afraid to speak up, a helpful tool when she speaks up for a good cause. Obama could focus on smoking, after all, she got her husband to give up smoking. And for the first time since Jimmy Carter, we would have pre-teens in the White House, so the issues that mothers of young children deal with (there are a lot of those) could also shine. And to be fair, Cindy McCain’s work with Operation Smile to help kids with cleft palates should be commended.

In another nod to Tipper Gore, you don’t have to be the First Lady to speak up. She established the role of the spouse of the Vice President to be an influence, something where Lynne Cheney has been silent.

If Obama gets the nod, and he picks a woman to be the vice president nominee, that husband would also be in the pioneer shoes, and perhaps, among other things, share how enlightened men can be in that partnership called marriage. Obviously, if Clinton gets the nod, Bill Clinton will try on the pioneer shoes himself and do a great job.

Laura Bush has had a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in this country, perhaps to even introduce some of the “compassion” missing from her husband. And she has completely failed. Regardless of which party wins in November, that role needs to be filled by someone who wants to make a difference.

Written by democracysoup

February 21, 2008 at 11:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Michelle Obama speaks to those too young to remember JFK or LBJ

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Originally published on on Wed, 02/20/2008 – 12:33pm

Michelle Obama is 44 years old. According to Wikipedia, she turned 44 on January 17.

I am 41 (January 26 if anyone is asking).

When I heard Michelle Obama’s statement, it resonated with me.

“For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.”

Now I don’t have a horse in the Democratic Party race. I personally have been Switzerland from the start. But I really liked what Michelle said.

Older readers (defined as older than me) might remember John F. Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act. But Michelle doesn’t and I don’t. I can relate to that.

So put yourself in our situation. I do remember having my cartoons interrupted for the Watergate hearings, and I remember my parents insisting on making us watch Richard Nixon go through the back of the White House to the helicopter. But when Nixon took off in the helicopter, I was 7.

The first Democratic president I remember was Jimmy Carter. I grew up in a conservative area, so I remember much Carter-bashing. My parents liked Carter, so it wasn’t an issue inside the house. While Carter was the first president I really remember, this was still in my childhood.

By the time Bill Clinton came along, I was 25 and Michelle was 29 during the 1992 election. There was hope after 12 miserable, deflating, depressing years of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Everything I had learned growing up about how society had been was being dismantled and thrown out the window. So even though I thought I had hope, I never previously had hope, so I don’t think I really knew what hope was.

The 1992 election of Bill Clinton could qualify as a time to be proud of our country in my adult lifetime, and if Michelle is completely honest, she might admit that was true.

But I can also understand if looking back on it now, pride isn’t quite the word to use. Relief might be a better phrase. Finally we had a president who wouldn’t do more damage to our country. But the anguish of the MSM beating up on Bill Clinton became too much to take. I am 41 and the only president in my lifetime, adult or otherwise, who did not get a honeymoon period was Bill Clinton. As Clinton gave concession after concession to the right to get them on his side, what hope there was had drained away.

Two stolen elections since then, along with further dismantling of what little we have left in society, and I’m not sure, even more than in 1992, what hope is.

Bill Clinton was a centrist. Heck, even the “liberal” bastion of John F. Kennedy appointed Byron “Whizzer” White to the Supreme Court. White dissented on Miranda v. Arizona and Roe v. Wade. Hope to me is someone who be an architect for truly making a difference.

If the next president is Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, unlike Michelle Obama, I might feel relief, not hope. I would wait to see if the MSM can treat a Democratic president as well as (or even close to) a Republican president. I would wait to see if the new president can make a difference in re-establishing some semblance of the great things our society used to be before Reagan.

Michelle Obama said, “because I think people are hungry for change.” The people are so hungry for change, Michelle; they are starving so badly they don’t remember what food tastes like. But will they really get fed — in my adult lifetime?

Written by democracysoup

February 20, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized