Archive for the ‘legislation’ Category

In a sweeping and refreshing change to his predecessor’s position on implementing legislation, President Obama today issued a memorandum for staffers directing them to review all of the so-called “signing statements” written by George W. Bush.  The former president was notorious for using the signing statements as a way of circumventing or undermining the laws as written, often in violation of the Constitutional power of the Executive Branch.

Here’s the full text:

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary For Immediate Release March 9, 2009 March 9, 2009

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

SUBJECT:

Presidential Signing Statements

For nearly two centuries, Presidents have issued statements addressing constitutional or other legal questions upon signing bills into law (signing statements). Particularly since omnibus bills have become prevalent, signing statements have often been used to ensure that concerns about the constitutionality of discrete statutory provisions do not require a veto of the entire bill.

In recent years, there has been considerable public discussion and criticism of the use of signing statements to raise constitutional objections to statutory provisions. There is no doubt that the practice of issuing such statements can be abused. Constitutional signing statements should not be used to suggest that the President will disregard statutory requirements on the basis of policy disagreements. At the same time, such signing statements serve a legitimate function in our system, at least when based on well-founded constitutional objections. In appropriately limited circumstances, they represent an exercise of the President’s constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and they promote a healthy dialogue between the executive branch and the Congress.  With these considerations in mind and based upon advice of the Department of Justice, I will issue signing statements to address constitutional concerns only when it is appropriate to do so as a means of discharging my constitutional responsibilities. In issuing signing statements, I shall adhere to the following principles:

1. The executive branch will take appropriate and timely steps, whenever practicable, to inform the Congress of its constitutional concerns about pending legislation. Such communication should facilitate the efforts of the executive branch and the Congress to work together to address these concerns during the legislative process, thus minimizing the number of occasions on which I am presented with an enrolled bill that may require a signing statement.

2. Because legislation enacted by the Congress comes with a presumption of constitutionality, I will strive to avoid the conclusion that any part of an enrolled bill is unconstitutional. In exercising my responsibility to determine whether a provision of an enrolled bill is unconstitutional, I will act with caution and restraint, based only on interpretations of the Constitution that are more well-founded.

3. To promote transparency and accountability, I will ensure that signing statements identify my constitutional concerns about a statutory provision with sufficient specificity to make clear the nature and basis of the constitutional objection.

4. I will announce in signing statements that I will construe a statutory provision in a manner that avoids a constitutional problem only if that construction is a legitimate one.  To ensure that all signing statements previously issued are followed only when consistent with these principles, executive branch departments and agencies are directed to seek the advice of the Attorney General before relying on signing statements issued prior to the date of this memorandum as the basis for disregarding, or otherwise refusing to comply with, any provision of a statute.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA
# # #

Another smack down to the Bush League.  Are we finally seeing a rollback to the traditional role of the President?  Could this be the end of the so-called “Unitary Executive” promulgated by the Bush-Cheney regime?  By God, I hope so.  It’s about time.

As revealed a week ago in the New York Times, presidential candidate and political “maverick” John McCain made expeditious use of a loophole in a campaign-finance law that he himself championed last sumer, in order to use his wife’s personal corporate jet for campaign purposes:

McCain frequently used wife’s jet for little cost

What kind of a man has such foresight as to draft a law that contains a loophole that he himself can exploit later on?  Is this the kind of person we want in the White House?

Maverick, my ass.  He’s just another crass, craven, self-serving, corrupt politician.  He’s no different from the rest of them.

This will come as a shock to some people, but what follows is a list of what I consider political “non-starters” this year. They are issues that are either peripheral to the main discussion, or are dangerous distractions from the real problems that we face as a nation. They are in no particular order, since placing a list of national non-priorities in a hierarchy was nearly impossible. So sit back and prepare to be offended.

  • Gay Marriage. Politicians and pundits who bloviate endlessly about this are wasting both time and air. The Republicans and their cronies in the Fundy-Wacko community would love to believe that this is the biggest threat to morality and virtue since the last biggest threat, but in reality it’s a blip on the radar scope. Does it really matter, cosmically speaking, if Peggy wants to marry Sue and Joe and Steve want something more than a “civil union”? No. Does the fate of our nation hinge on preventing such unions from occurring? No. Does it affect my marriage and my children? No. There is an inherent biological component to homosexuality, and being exposed to it does not increase your chances of “becoming gay.” You either are, or you’re not.
  • Abortion. Make no mistake about this – I am personally opposed to the practice of abortion, especially the vicious and despicable method of performing late-term abortions commonly known as “partial birth”. I would like nothing more than to see this procedure outlawed, and soon. However, at present, the debate has been stifled by the shouting of bigots and hatemongers on both sides. The extreme left would love to overlook the fact that abortion does, in fact, destroy a human life, and often leaves the (former) parents grieving and in psychological trauma as a result. The extreme right has been desperately trying to ignore the fact that it’s been their policies of “smaller government, less regulation” that have led to wage stagnation, rising costs of living, and people being so desperate that when faced with the expense of a child, abortion seems a more viable option. It’s time to move past the rancour and try to reach some middle ground. It’s the law of the land, so we might as well accept it. Oh, and if it’s going to be an accepted medical procedure, let’s try treating the clinics that perform it like hospitals. Regular inspections of their facilities and medical documentation would be a good start.
  • Illegal Immigration. This relative non-issue has been made into a hot-button topic by racists and bloody-minded right wingers across the country looking for someone to blame for problems we’ve pretty much created for ourselves. The real problem isn’t that illegal immigrants are coming across the borders and “taking American jobs”, and it isn’t that terrorists could sneak into the country and pose as plantation workers. Illegal immigration has been a fact of American life for decades, and will continue to be so whether we ignore it, or build a fence, wall, force field, or whatever. Walls won’t keep people out, and it’ll only be a huge waste of money and effort if we build one. No, the main reason our economy is in the shitter is not because of illegal immigrants – it’s because of the unethical and frankly despicable behavior of American corporations that have shipped America’s manufacturing base overseas in the quest for cheaper labor and less regulation. It’s not Jose’s fault you lost your job last year – it’s Joe the CEO’s fault. But it’s easier to blame the brown-skinned person, so that’s what the right-wing wacko racists want you to do.
  • Taxes. Once again, it’s time for a reality check. Every year, we get to hear from the usual suspects that the reason the American middle class can’t get ahead is because taxes are too high. Meanwhile, since Bush’s last round of tax cuts, the rich have increased their share of the national wealth from merely stratospheric to astronomical, while middle class wages have actually declined. Check out Robert Reich’s column from yesterday’s New York Times. Anyone who hasn’t felt the effects of rising costs of living and stagnant wages is either rich or not paying attention. So take taxes out of the picture. Americans, in fact, pay the lowest taxation rates of any industrialized nation, and it shows. Our government currently is having to borrow money just to make operating expenses, and has recently voted a stimulus package of hundreds of billions of money from God-knows-where. The dollar is sliding down the toilet compared to other currencies, if this is any indicator. And our government fiddles while Rome burns. What we need is higher taxes, on the upper levels of income.
  • The Stimulus Package. So our elected (and one selected) officials finally woke up to the fact that the economy is in deep shit. Good for them. But as I’ve said before, putting $1200 in the pockets of the average American family and hoping it’ll “turn the economy around”, when the real problem is that the family in question isn’t paid enough to live on in the first place, won’t solve the problem. This is irrelevant, pointless, and mostly a waste of time. After all that money’s been spent, or more likely, put in the bank for later, the economy will continue its inexorable slide into oblivion. It took 30 years of Ayn Rand-style cutthroat capitalism to get us in this mess, it’s not gonna be solved overnight. Besides, trusting the lot currently occupying Washington to fix the economy is like finding out the guy that just wrecked your car is also a mechanic, and then taking it to him to get it fixed.
  • Ronald Reagan. Why is every Republican candidate trying to run as the next Ronald Reagan? Is it because he was truly a great president, the apotheosis of conservative ideals, or is it because their own merits and abilities are so meager and uninspiring that anyone else looks great in comparison? Please, guys. Reagan was an adequate president. If you can’t run on your own ideas, stay out of the race. Reagan is dead, and good riddance. Try, just once, to be yourselves for a change.
  • Bill Clinton. I’m trying to be even-handed here. Yes, Bill Clinton is irrelevant. It’s eight years since his administration sailed into the sunset, and the left still can’t let go of him. Fortunately there’s only one candidate running as the next Bill Clinton. Unfortunately, it’s his wife. She gets the same note that I just sent out to the Republicans – if you can’t run on your own merits, stay the fuck home. Clinton was a mediocre president who got lucky (in more ways than one). He was not a military genius, but he did learn to respect the military he commanded. That’s something Bush II has never learned yet. Besides that, he did commit perjury in front of a grand jury. Granted, it was about an illicit sexual affair with an intern. But perjury is perjury, whether it’s about sex, lies, or videotape. So the impeachment, however frivolous, was well-earned. Oh, and to all you Clinton defenders who keep saying “how could he have” about the intern in question – Monica Lewinsky was a babe then, and she’s a babe now. Get over it.
  • George Walker Bush. Well, this pretty much goes without saying. The best we can hope for is that he fades ignominiously into the dustbin of history. Sadly, the messes he’ll leave behind will take years, maybe even decades, to clean up. America, I hope you’ve learned your lesson.
  • Republicans. Pasty-faced, rich, middle aged white men are so out this year. GOP, prepare to be PWNED.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m sure there are a lot of other non-issues to discuss, but I honestly don’t feel like it at the moment.

…when you can just ignore inconvenient laws?

Bush Issues Signing Statement On Defense Act, Waiving Ban On Permanent Bases In Iraq

As with virtually everything connected to this administration, the question that should be on everyone’s mind is “how much lower can Bush sink?”

The sad saga of the S-CHIP revamp, recounted briefly below, gives a fairly clear answer. The truth is, the depths of this President’s mendaciousness in toadying up to the nation’s plutocracy have yet to be plumbed.

Read on:

Time: Bush Vetoes Kids’ Health Bill (AP)

(WASHINGTON) — President Bush vetoed legislation Wednesday that would have expanded government-provided health insurance for children, his second slap-down of a bipartisan effort in Congress to dramatically increase funding for the popular program.

It was Bush’s seventh veto in seven years — all but one coming since Democrats took control of Congress in January. Wednesday was the deadline for Bush to act or let the bill become law. The president also vetoed an earlier, similar bill expanding the health insurance program.

Bush vetoed the bill in private.

In a statement notifying Congress of his decision, Bush said the bill was unacceptable because — like the first one — it allows adults into the program, would cover people in families with incomes above the U.S. median and raises taxes.

“This bill does not put poor children first, and it moves our country’s health care system in the wrong direction,” Bush’s statement said. “Ultimately, our nation’s goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage, not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage.”

Bush urged Congress to extend the program at its current funding level before lawmakers leave Washington for their holiday break.

Note the third paragraph, specially highlighted for emphasis. This time, he didn’t even have the guts to do it in public. Instead, he pulled a maneuver typical of thieves and assassins everywhere – he stabbed them in the back, in the dead of night.

And why? For the same cowardly, self-serving, toadying excuses as last time. It might actually work, and it would mean higher taxes, maybe this time for the wealthy. And God knows we don’t want the rich to pay their fair share of the country’s upkeep.

Sins and crimes are always committed under the cover of darkness or secrecy.  If Bush was truly proud of this latest betrayal, he’d have done it publicly.

In the midst of all the brouhaha about bridge players and voting, and discussions about which Republican candidate is the most anti-immigrant, pro-war, authoritarian jackass, a bill was introduced in the Senate. It’s official number and title were S. 1959, A bill to establish the National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, and for other purposes. Read the full text here.

Fortunately, this camel’s-nose-under-the-tent of unconstitutional government surveillance hasn’t completely gone unnoticed. Several bloggers, most notably here, here and here, have begun a grassroots campaign to pressure Congress into blocking it.

The bill has been locked in Committee since its introduction in August of this year. Before being passed to the Senate, however, it was approved by 404 House members who clearly had neither read nor thought about the power the bill gives the Federal government.

A “National Commission” within the Executive Branch to study “domestic terrorism” would naturally lead to surveillance of any individual or group whose actions are deemed “suspicious”. First we had illegal wiretapping, now they’ve found a way to make it legal.

Some have said this bill won’t affect American citizens, because it’s intended to be directed against only violent groups or groups intending violence. I say that’s what it means today. Who knows what a future President might do with a rubber-stamp Congress, especially if one of the post-911 authoritarian paranoiacs like Giuliani, Romney or Tancredo gets elected? This bill, combined with the unconstitutional and toxic so-called “USA PATRIOT Act”, is another dangerous step down the slippery slope to a surveillance society.

This bill is dangerous, unnecessary, unconstitutional and deeply unAmerican. Call or write your Senator and urge him or her to vote against it. Exercise your freedoms while you still have them.

Earlier this week the Senate sat and listened to Michael Mukasey, nominee for Attorney General, split hairs and obfuscate in a desperate attempt to deny what everyone with half a brain already knows – that the so-called “intensive interrogation techniques” used by CIA and other American government operatives are, indeed, torture.

The questions the Senate committee asked related specifically to waterboarding, a torture technique used since the Spanish Inquisition to extract information from uncooperative prisoners (or more likely, just for the fun of it). When asked if waterboarding is constitutional, Mr. Mukasey said this:

”I don’t know what is involved in the technique,” Mr. Mukasey replied. ”If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.”

The questioner, Senator Whitehouse of R.I., correctly described this as semantics.

Mukasey also said in earlier questioning that the President’s function as Commander-in-Chief might allow him to supersede laws previously enacted by Congress.

This, of course, is complete and utter bullshit. The President’s job as Chief Executive is separate from his function as Commander-in-Chief, and as C.E. he is not above the law, he is merely the man who sees to it the laws are obeyed. No President has, or ever had, the authority or right to circumvent the law. Mr. Bush has exceeded his Constitutional authority and abused the rights and privileges of his office.

Waterboarding is torture, has always been torture, and will always be torture. Here’s a simple test to see if a particular “interrogation method” falls under that umbrella. I’ll keep it simple for any Conservative or Republican readers out there:

If we wouldn’t want our enemies to do it to our troops, it’s probably torture.

If Bush wouldn’t want his own children treated that way, it’s probably torture.

If you wouldn’t want your son or daughter treated that way, it’s probably torture.

If the Soviet Union did it, it’s torture.

If the Khmer Rouge did it, it’s torture.

If the North Koreans did it, it’s torture.

Just because we’re doing it, that doesn’t make it “not torture.”

How’s that sound? Simple enough for you?  Waterboarding is Torture.  Period.  End of discussion.  To suggest anything else is hair-splitting nonsense.  It’s not bullshit, it’s Bush-shit.

Mr. Mukasey has already demonstrated with his hair-splitting semantics that he is completely unqualified to be Attorney General. He claims the administration didn’t pressure him into giving that answer, but I find that hard to believe. He is clearly lacking the independence of thought and critical reasoning needed to be a truly effective A.G.

After Gonzales, the last thing we need in this country is yet another rubber-stamp for the Bush/Cheney agenda.