Friday, February 29, 2008

Is John McCain a "Natural Born Citizen" of the United States?

The Republican nominee was born to American parents in the Panama Canal zone. Does that make him a "natural born citizen" of the United States, as their constitution requires the President to be. (In Canada, of course, we have never had a Canadian-born head of state. The first Canadian-born PM was over almost thirty years after Confederation, and the first Canadian-born Governor General nearly a century after.)

Anyone thinking of doing a comprehensive analysis of the point is going to have trouble competing with Larry Solum's here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

One reason NAFTA isn't going to have real environmental or labour standards

CTV says the Obama campaign has contacted the Canadian embassy to tell them not to worry about their protectionist rhetoric for the Ohio primary. Obama and the Canadian government both deny it, although apparently there was some sort of chat.

The Pithlord is not in a position to shed light on such backroom dealings. However, I do know that serious environmental and labour standards in NAFTA are not going to fly. Among the reasons is that most environmental and labour law in Canada is within provincial jurisdiction and, unlike in the US, there is no way for the Feds to require provinces to meet international commitments. This is the result of a Privy Council decision that made all my profs at U of T gnash their teeth, but nonetheless remains the law.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

SCC on International Law: Is there anything new here?

Two posts down, I highlight the Supreme Court of Canada's statement that "the Charter should be presumed to provide at least as great a level of protection [of a right] as is found in the international human rights documents Canada has ratified."

One possible response is that there is nothing new here. Canadian courts have never had a problem with citing those of other countries (or international tribunals) as persuasive authority. In fact, it wasn't that long ago when a lawyer would be a bit apologetic about using a Canadian case at law, possibly explaining that the "English courts do not seem to have considered this question, my lord." Even American cases are allowed, if possibly seen as a sign of desperation.

Still, I am not aware of any other example of holding that international or comparative law is presumptively binding. And yet I don't know how else to interpret what they said in the Bill 29 case. Indeed, the ILO seems more authoritative than past decisions of the Supreme Court itself.

Against National Self-Determination

In the wake of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of indepence, I get into an argument with libertarian Brian Moore about the merits of a "right of national self-determination."

Friday, February 08, 2008

Tested. And failed.

In addition to race-baiting (or, more kindly, majoritarian ethnic identity politics) and possession of ovaries, what is Hillary Clinton's argument for why she should be the Democratic nominee for President?

Experience. Record. But what is the record?

Brad DeLong (2003) speaks from his experience in the Clinton I administration. Interestingly, he thinks his view is that of everyone else involved in Hillary Clinton's only independent executive policy-making initiative:

My two cents' worth--and I think it is the two cents' worth of everybody who worked for the Clinton Administration health care reform effort of 1993-1994--is that Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to be kept very far away from the White House for the rest of her life. Heading up health-care reform was the only major administrative job she has ever tried to do. And she was a complete flop at it. She had neither the grasp of policy substance, the managerial skills, nor the political smarts to do the job she was then given. And she wasn't smart enough to realize that she was in over her head and had to get out of the Health Care Czar role quickly.

So when senior members of the economic team said that key senators like Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have this-and-that objection, she told them they were disloyal. When junior members of the economic team told her that the Congressional Budget Office would say such-and-such, she told them (wrongly) that her conversations with CBO head Robert Reischauer had already fixed that. When long-time senior hill staffers told her that she was making a dreadful mistake by fighting with rather than reaching out to John Breaux and Jim Cooper, she told them that they did not understand the wave of popular political support the bill would generate. And when substantive objections were raised to the plan by analysts calculating the moral hazard and adverse selection pressures it would put on the nation's health-care system...

Hillary Rodham Clinton has already flopped as a senior administrative official in the executive branch--the equivalent of an Undersecretary. Perhaps she will make a good senator. But there is no reason to think that she would be anything but an abysmal president.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A Democratic Convention Scenario

Let's suppose Obama wins the most delegates in the primaries/cacuses (excluding Michigan and Florida). But the margin is small enough that Clinton wins with superdelegates (Democratic office holders who automatically get to go to the Convention). How legitimate does a Clinton win look to Obama's constituencies? How likely is it that the Democrats can still win in November in those circumstances?

For extra credit,

Does it matter if Clinton wins most of the votes?

Does Clinton pretty much have to make Obama the VP candidate then? Would he take it?