Month: April 2020

What is Executive Privilege?

What is executive privilege? If someone wishes to explain something as being, or not being, covered by the poorly understood doctrine of executive privilege, it ought to be well understood first. To begin, it is not written anywhere in the US Constitution, but has always been respected as a part of Common Law (U.S. Common law is, or was, derived from British Common Law) and is based on court decisions, and opinions developed going back to the frightful events of 1215 in the Runnymede Meadow.

George Washington claimed such a privilege but it was not called “Executive Privilege” until the mid 1950’s when the phrase was coined. But the concept had been used all along by many presidents, and accepted, more or less by our Congresses.

So what is it ?

The idea is that when an executive such as the president is conferring with his adviser or advisers or other high officials about items of national importance that the president is using as a basis for a decision those discussions and the individuals involved might be best kept secret so that political pressures would not taint the truth and usefulness of the information.

Generally the presence of a disinterested party would negate the concept of a private conversation. A trivial subject or one already well known publicly, would also compromise that assumption of necessary secrecy.

How has it usually worked ?

When a committee of Congress requests or subpoenas information as to how a decision was reached and who presented that information, a president might well claim the conversation with and between those advisers to be in the national interest and private.

Almost always either house of congress has accepted that claim. Quite often as a compromise the president will provide all, or enough of the information to selected members of Congress so that they, being above reproach can explain to their peers that the claim is valid. That has worked out fairly well for two hundred and forty years with possibly some exceptions.

Back to the previous comments. So Hunter Biden has absolutely no right to claim excessive privilege and I doubt that he ever tried to do so. Attorney-client privilege, spousal privilege and usually the religious confessional privilege are similar and almost always honored.

Similarly the current president can invoke the privilege but it never has been used to cover up all information passed between all members of an administration.

That is significant due to an important exception. Executive privilege does not and never has been allowed to cover violations of the laws, rules,or regulations, implicit or implied, of this nation, anyway not until the current administration decided to challenge the right of Congressional oversight that is written into the Constitution. But that is another interesting discussion.

Charlie Jensen

Copyright 2020, Foc’sle Chatter, All Rights Reserved

What’s next for the USS Theodore Roosevelt?

The USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier. 
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier

As I watched the Skipper of the Teddy Roosevelt depart with what can only be described as a tumultuous cheer and chant from the standing crew who know that the Captain had sacrificed his command and likely his career to protect them from what might be thought to be a slow moving Naval command structure, I was reminded that the Russian Revolution of 1918 actually started in 1905 when the crew of the Battleship Potemkin revolted.

True, they were twelve years apart, but that was a slower age. For now, the TR will be commanded by the Executive Officer who must have been in the communications loop seeking medical help. But as quickly as possible the Navy will have to post another ranking officer to take command. Will he be able to don the robes of unfailing loyalty Captain Crozier earned from his crew?

Before going any further with that “History replicates itself” thought, let’s consider what this situation capped by dismissing the ship’s captain will send to the rest of the fleet. Is the Corvid-19 virus slowly working its way through other nuclear-powered aircraft carriers? They are, with the help of the few escorts that accompany them virtually independent of the usual fuel and food imitations of vessels in the past and could roam the seas for quite some time.

It must have dawned on some officers and crew members, not only the TR, but other navy ships, that the executive power in Washington is in the hands of the most incompetent bunch or pissants ever.

At some point the men who serve must wonder if the orders that they might receive from one of the trump toadies are valid legal orders.

And that might also be being thought about by the officers and staffs of the Army, Marine, and Air Force units at home and abroad. After all, just about everyone knows in their heart, whether they are willing to admit it openly or not, that trump was only elected through the chicanery of foreign forces which puts his legality on soft sand.

What will happen when a new skipper is assigned and takes over a crew who know that Captain Crozier was dismissed on a paperwork technicality while he was trying to protect the crew.  Should the orders be to take the ship out to sea, or another ship’s orders be to remain at sea while the virus needlessly decimates shipmates one after another?  War is one thing, but incompetence is another.

I hope the Navy moves fast and prevents things from getting out of control. Still, I wonder if history’s fickle finger of fate is not at work once again.

Charlie Jensen

Copyright 2020, Foc’sle Chatter, All Rights Reserved

Ways to Improve Our Government

There are so many things that need change in this country, whether by election, revolution, or the natural efforts of Mother Karma doing her spring cleaning a few months early. One is to recalculate the minimum wage so that a person can support his or her family (1.67 children) in a decent manner, live in fair housing and afford a pleasant week or two vacation every year.

Obviously the laws need updating so that medical care is available to all, either by supporting optional private insurance or a single government pays-all system, possibly some balance of both.

The office of Attorney General must be removed from the Executive Department’s control. Also, after a president’s or cabinet secretary’s term ends any asset, or funds, gained through violation of laws, including the written Constitution, must be recovered by seizure of those assets.

Candidates must release three or four years of tax returns plus the results of a independent physical examination conducted within the year preceding their nomination. It should include the standard tests that can disclose dementia.

The Second Amendment must be clarified and strengthened to protect every citizen’s right to own firearms, except rapid fire military weapons, subject to reasonable local safety and perhaps insurance strictures. Notice, local, not federal.

All government officials, including Congress, with executive powers must move their assets into real arm’s length blind trusts until their term ends, they resign, or are fired. Purchase of property, especially stocks or bonds, must be done by the trust company independently of the principle during the term, except the disposal of the family farmland or home. Of course dying in office would be considered to end one’s term.

Senator’s terms must be capped at two six year terms. Representatives at three four years terms in total. No public official may be allowed to lobby Congress for a term equal to the number of years they held office. The Citizen’s United decision must be replaced by an amendment declaring that Corporations of any kind are not people under the Free Speech Amendment, or any other construction.

Political campaigns must be publicly financed by the government and limited private (1040) donations, perhaps $3,000 or $5,000. Tax forms should have a section where the payer can designate which political group his donation or deduction should receive it.

Every effort must be made to insure that within some measurable number of months the entire nation is powered by dam fed water generators, solar panels or wind turbines. Other environmentally neutral processes, e.g. tide, can be added.

Every effort must be made to make the United States the world’s leader in environmental clean air, clean food, and clean water protection laws.

Public education K-12 must be afforded to all minors, college and trade school education should be provided via earned public or private scholarships and or grants in the national interest.

The situation with the Electoral College must be worked on and probably modified so that a minority president will never win the Executive Office.

People, we can now see the results of abuse of power. I am sure that some can offer added thoughts, pro or con, but I think the things that are the source of most problems that have nearly brought the nation to its knees are covered.

I do believe that some clever people can come up with appropriate language to achieve similar goals. A commission of fifty seven, one from each state, chaired by a former president, two Federal judges, one for the federal territories, and three drawn by random lot from social security numbers of actual taxpayers could be assembled to sit in a non-air conditioned room all summer at Constitution Hall in Philadelphia to work out details of amendments to put before the people and not be allowed to go home except on weekends until they have considered each and every issue on the public docket. Hell, the Declaration of Independence was signed by 57 (56) delegates, and the Constitution by thirty eight two hundred and thirty years ago.

Charlie Jensen

Copyright 2020, Foc’sle Chatter, All Rights Reserved