Tuesday, June 20, 2006

June 7 - June 19, 2006

June 17, 2006


"Boldness be my friend!"

If you are like me you just get weary listening to the weaselly crap both Republicans and Democrats peddle daily to us in the hopes something they say will “resonate.” with one demographic or another.

I was listening the Hillary Clinton's tortured logic earlier this week as she tried to explain to Democrat activists that she was against what Bush is doing in Iraq, but is also against setting a date for withdrawal. But what's she “for.”

Hell if I know – or at this point, care any longer.

So I was moping around this morning, feeling lower than the axles of tricked out low-rider, when it occurred to me that I am probably not alone... not by long shot. What I want more than anything else these days is for someone – I don't even care which party they are in – just someone, to take genuine bold action. Bold. Not parsed to the nth degree. Not Bermuda-triangulated to cognitive oblivion. But bold. The kind of stuff that makes you shoot coffee through your nose when you read it in your morning paper, bold.

So I cooked up a wish list of bold positions that I want to see in my paper in the coming weeks and months. I don't care what order they arrive. I'll take any one of the following announcements on any day.

Health Care: Acknowledging that only a single-payer health insurance system can be both profitable and cover everyone, Congress passes America's first national universal health insurance system. The new entity would be a public/private partnership run by the private sector but regulated and underwritten by government, much the same way Freddie Mac ad Fannie Mae serve the residential marketplace as GSE's “Government Sponsored Entities.” (Minus, of course, the fat-cat abuse recently discovered at those two GSE's.

Illegal Immigration: Forget the fence. Congress increases funding and staffing for a national network of workplace immigration auditors. Businesses are provided on-line tools inorder to verify citizenship, much like the national database gun shops are now required to use before selling someone a firearm. Business with more than 100 employees will have their employment records audited without notice at least once a year. Penalties for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants will be enforced with a vengeance and violators listed on a publicly on the Web.

National Energy Policy: Congress funds “Manhattan Project II” – a crash 10-year program to replace oil and coal with renewable, sustainable, non-polluting energy sources The Manhattan II Project would be funded by a 50 cent tax on all gas and oil products, except for those used for home heating.

Campaign Reform: Since the Supreme Court has ruled that money in politics is equal to free speech, Congress passes a constitutional amendment requiring that all national campaigns for House, Senate and Presidential be funded solely from special, federal campaign fund. The money in this fund would come from a small surtax on all individual, businesses and corporations and the money distributed in equal amounts to any candidate that gathers at least 10% of primary votes.

Lobbying Reform: Congress passes a total prohibition of all forms of lobbyist-provided gratuities, including trips on private planes at below-market ticket prices. Any “fact finding” trips sponsored by interest groups must first be approved by the House and Senate ethics committees and listed on a public website at least 30-days before departure to allow for public comment and/or protest.

Open Government: Congress passes an open government law modeled after California's Brown Act, requiring that all the publics' business be conducted in public, excluding only matters involving personnel, national security and Supreme Court deliberations. (Under such a law Cheney's energy task force meetings would have been illegal.)

Budgeting: Congress passes a balanced budget amendment requiring that the nation's annual budgets be in balance, except in time on congressionally approved war or formally declared national emergency.

Taxes: Congress repeals the Bush tax cuts for the top 1% of earners and shifts those savings to individuals earning under $30,000 a year (couples earning under $60,000.) For wage earners these tax savings would be reflected as a cut in their payroll tax.

A Livable Wage: Congress mandates an increase in the minimum wage to $10 an hour -- and (this time) indexes the minimum wage to inflation so it will never again fall behind.

National Security: Congress formally adopts News For Real's “Don't Do That” national defense strategy.

Iraq: Congress ties further funding for the war in Iraq to a blueprint that requires the President to begin to disentangle the US from it's presence in that country. The plan begins with a six month deadline to move all US troops to Iraq's borders to provide border security, air and logistical support for the emerging Iraqi security force. Six months later US troops must begin an orderly withdrawal from Iraq with all troops out of that country by the end of 2007.

Want More Bold Moves ?

General Motors: The company announces that the “GM” brand will no longer stand for General Motors, but for “Green Machines.” In 2008 model year GM will begin a company-wide transition away from the internal combustion engine. Until better technologies are mature GM will begin by producing only hybrid non-commercial vehicles. Ultimately the company's announced goal is to, within a decade, be the first auto company to offer a full fleet of fuel-cell/electric powered vehicles.

Iran: Congress announces it will refuse to support any Iraq-style preemptive military action on Iran and instead sends the White House a copy of the “Don't Do That” strategy.

Venezuela: Butt out.

Cuba: Butt in -- but in a nice way for a change. Lift the travel ban and embargo.

Mexico: The President announces that we must stop pretending that Mexico is anything but what it is -- a nearly dysfunctional, feudal nation on our border. A country run by a clique of elite crooks who exploit and oppress their own people, export their labor surpluses and welfare costs to the US, while looting the Mexican treasury and their country's natural resources. And that henceforth we will treat Mexico and it's leaders accordingly.

Gitmo: Close it. Transfer the prisoners to a maximum security prison in the US and begin a 90-day review of each case, after which each prisoner must be either formally charged, provided a lawyer and tried, or released immediately and returned to their home country. Those that can make a case that they would be harmed if forced to return to their home countries could apply for temporary residence in the US and would have their petitions heard within 60 days of release.

As I said above, any one of those things would be rare shaft of sunlight into what has become a very gloomy and dispiriting picture of America's leadership. If all of those bold moves came to pass it really would finally be “morning in America.” Politicians misread Americans. We are not only ready for bold ideas, but starved for them. We don't lack bold ideas, what we lack are bold leaders.

Which why none of the above will come to pass, and why it is likely to instead remain 'mourning in America,” at least for the foreseeable future.

"Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."
J.W.Von Goethe

June 7, 2006
Congressional Castration

Am I missing something? I mean, I wasn't exactly an "A" student in civics class, but I do clearly recall that the way the US Constitution was written – and remains unamended – is that Congress passes bills, the President either signs them into law or vetoes them. If he signs a bill it becomes a law that the President/executive branch is tehn constitutionally required to enforce.

Am I wrong about that? Did I miss passage of a constitutional amendment that changed the balance of power established by our founders?

If not, then the President of the United States has broken the law, not just once, but hundreds of times.

That's how many times this guy has signed bills into law and then, after the camera left signed a separate document he calls “a signing statement,” that, in effect, says “Just kidding. Now, here's which parts of that bill I just signed I will enforce and which parts a I won't enforce.”

Phillip Cooper is a leading expert on signing statements, in fact he wrote the book on the subject: By Order of the President: The Use and Abuse of Executive Direct Action. Two years ago Cooper wrote that George W. Bush had issued 23 signing statements in 2001; 34 in 2002, raising 168 constitutional objections; 27 statements in 2003, raising 142 constitutional challenges, and 23 statements in 2004, raising 175 constitutional criticisms. In total, during his first term Bush raised a remarkable 505 constitutional challenges to various provisions of legislation that became law.

That was number has now passed 750.

The White House claims all this is constitutionally kosher. But how can it be? Would someone explain to me how these noxious signing statements are any different from the line item veto, that the US Supreme Court ruled was unconstitutional?

If you read one of Bush's signing statements they read very much like a line item veto, “yes to this part of the bill, no to this part, “ etc. Sure looks like a duck to me.

For those of you unfamiliar with a Bush signing statement here's a short example. Bush signed this little gem right after signing the USA Patriot Act “Improvement and Reauthorization Act,” earlier this year. President hailed that bill in a pre-signing statement for the cameras. What he didn't mention was the little piece of paper under that bill that he would sign once everyone left the room. Here it is:

President's Signing Statement on H.R. 199, the "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005"

Today signed into law H.R. 3199, the "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005," and then S. 2271, the "USA PATRIOT Act Additional Reauthorizing Amendments Act of 2006." The bills will help us continue to fight terrorism effectively and to combat the use of the illegal drug meth-amphetamine that is ruining too many lives.

The executive branch shall construe the provisions of H.R. 3199 that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch, such as sections 106A and 119, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive's constitutional duties.

The executive branch shall construe section 756(e)(2) of H.R. 3199, which calls for an executive branch official to submit to the Congress recommendations for legislative action, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to recommend for the consideration of the Congress such measures as he judges necessary and expedient.

March 9, 2006.

“Shall construe?” Who the hell gives a fig how the president “construes” something he about to sign? Surely not the US Constitution. And most certainly the courts don't care. I've read a lot of Supreme Court cases where the “intent of Congress,” in passing a bill was central to the case. But I have never heard of a case in which the “intent of the President” in signing a bill was given a centella of regard. Because it doesn't matter, constitutionally. If the court sees that a President signed a bill, rather than vetoing it, they consider it prima facia evidence of only one thing – that the president intended to sign the bill into law. And not some of it, but all of it.

(Besides, when it comes to "construing,"the meaning of laws, isn't that the job of the third branch or government, the courts? Is Bush claiming that right now as well? Our newly self-minted Construer in Chief-Justice?)

Therefore, can any party of the first, second, third or millionth part, explain to me why not a single member of Congress is yet to drag this White House into court over this clear and present attack on the constitutions' separation of powers?

After all, established law (stare decisis) is on the side of the angles in this matter. We've been here before, and not that long ago either. The Supreme Court settled this matter with a clear and unambiguous decision in 1998. The Court it ruled against a law congress passed that granted the president the power to pick and chose which budget items he will or will not enforce, the line item veto. The Court struck it down and told both Congress and the president that, if they wanted to rearrange the constitutional balances of power, the only constitutionally legal way is with a constitutional amendment.

“U.S. District Court Judge Thomas F. Hogan decided on February 12, 1998 that unilateral amendment or repeal of only parts of statutes violated the U.S. Constitution. This ruling was subsequently affirmed on June 25, 1998 by a 6-3 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case Clinton v. City of New York.” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in a concurrence of the opinion of the Court, objected to the argument that the Act did not violate principles of the separation of powers and threaten individual liberty, stating that the "undeniable effects" of the Act were to "enhance the President's power to reward one group and punish another, to help one set of taxpayers and hurt another, to favor one State and ignore another." (More)

Bush's signing statements are an even more egregious constitutional insult than the line item veto. At least the line item veto was granted to the president by congress. This time congress wasn't even asked. Bush simply claimed this power for himself. And, as least so far, has he's gotten away with it.

So, I ask again, why has no member of congress filed suit? You would think that they would at least be offended. Besides being unconstitutional, Bush signing statements are also condescending. They might as well be worded like this:

To: Congress
From: The President of the United States

To Whom it May Concern:
I have read you bill noted above and, I signed it in front of the TV cameras with you around me smiling jackals. Because I understand you need to show your constituents back home that you really are doing something up here after all.

But I didn't like some of the parts of the bill you gave me. But rather than embarrass you with a veto or -- God forbid! -- provide you an opportunity to embarrass me with veto override, I will simply ignore the parts of this bill I don't like.

So, for your records, here is my marked up copy of your bill. For your convenience I drew a little happy face :-) next to the sections I will enforce, and a little frowny face :-( next to the sections I intend to ignore.

Now, y'all all have a nice day.
George W. Bush :-)

This administration has usurped plenty of congressional power over the last six years as well as chipping away at the third “co-equal” branch of government, the courts. But Bush's signing statements, which treat congressional legislation like boxes of See's candy, is the most blatant, obnoxious and dangerous coup of them all.

“These signing statements are to Bush and Cheney's presidency what steroids were to Arnold Schwarzenegger's body building. Like Schwarzenegger with his steroids, Bush does not deny using his signing statements; does not like talking about using them; and believes that they add muscle. But like steroids, signing statements ultimately lead to serious trouble.”

(John W. Dean, Former White House Counsel under Nixon)

Where's congress today? Well, the Senate is voting on an ammendent to the constition -- to protect us from the scourge of same-sex marriages.

Where are key Democrats?

Hey, Hillary, tell us if you will, which poses the greatest threat to the American way of life -- flag burning or presidential signing statements? Hmmm? Tough one huh?

Hello members of congress! Is anyone home any longer? Did you all forget that the Supreme Court is just across the street? Hell, you could pitch a briefcase full of Bush's signing statements and hit the goddamn place.

Shouldn't you be storming the steps of the Supreme Court, frothing at the mouth, lawyers in tow, demanding the court's immediate and urgent attention to this attack on the legislative branches' constitutional power?

Shouldn't you be? After all, didn't each of you take the oath pledging to “obey and protect the US Constitution?”

Or did you have your own little signing statement tucked into your pocket when took that oath? Maybe you signed later. You know, “just kidding.” That would explain it. That's about the only thing that would explain it.

I look forward more and more with each passing day to the first Tuesday of November. Because on that day I'm going into the voting booth loaded for bear -- encumbant bear.

Shame on you. You are beneath contempt.

All of you.