Thursday, January 18, 2007

An Introductory Lesson on Signing Statements

We're all familiar with Bush's controversial "signing statements," which have been decried as impinging on legislative power. The real issue here, however, is what they mean, or what they are worth. No one disputes -- Bush included -- that Congress has absolute legislative authority. Congress makes the laws. They become effective when signed by the President. No one disputes that, when interpretation of laws becomes necessary as a result of disputes over their application, the arbiter of this interpretation is the judiciary. No one disputes the fact that we all are bound by those laws, presidents, congresspeople and judges included. That's Civics 101.

Any law student will tell you that a judge's job in interpreting statutory language is fairly prescribed. Their are well-known canons of interpretation and construction which guide the procedure of such interpretation. First, for instance, if a statute is unambiguous, then it must simply be applied as written. If there is an ambiguity, the appropriate tool is to look to what's called "legislative history" which is material that reflects the intent of the law's drafters. Typically this material is found in hearing transcripts and other texts produced by the leglislature (Congress, in the case of federal laws). There is no canon of construction that looks to the intent of either of the other two branches -- executive or judicial -- to interpret the meaning of statutory language. Indeed, conservatives often point this out insofar as they decry "judicial activism" -- which is a judge interpreting a law according to his own view, rather than the view of the legislature who drafted the law. This is exactly the argument that informs us that the President's signing statements are worthless. They may not be considered by judges (or Justices) when they interpret statutes of disputed meaning. They are, in my view, worth no more than any other citizen's take on a statute that governs him or her. Indeed, if it makes folks feel better, everyone should start issuing "signing statements" as to how or why or when the law that was passed does not apply to them.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Oops - I Said Something Controversial

Hoping for my first ever commenters to come over from Americablog -- which I adore, but which pisses me off sometimes. I went over there and questioned blind "support the troops" nonsense. That's a big no-no in Bush's America. We'll see. Even a negative comment would be nice at this point.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Revoking War Authorization

Below is a portion of my recent missive to my local House Rep.

VIA FACSIMILE: 202-225-5933
Congressman Chris Murphy
501 Cannon House Office BuildingWashington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Murphy:

Congratulations on your new office. It’s a promising new year on the Hill. . . . I offer the following views and suggestions, wholly unsolicited, purely in the spirit of improving our nation’s plight overseas.

I write to strongly recommend a potential legislative course of action to confront the continued usurpation of legal authority by the Executive Branch under the Bush Administration, in its prosecution of the Iraq War: revisit the authorizing legislation.

As you know, in October, 2002, the U.S. House and Senate passed Pub. Law 107-40, entitled “Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq.” (hereafter “the 2002 Resolution”). The bill, which won broad bi-partisan support and was signed into law by the President, contains a narrowly drafted authorization of Executive war power. Congress authorized this war to fulfill only two very narrow objectives, as follows:
(a) AUTHORIZATION. The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to
(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.
See Pub. Law 107-40 §3 (2002).

Furthermore, Section 4 contains reporting requirements, which, it is safe to say, have not been fulfilled by the Executive Branch, other than in dubious fashion. Seizing on the limited authority granted by the 2002 Resolution, and ramping up scrutiny on the reporting requirements, are legislative methods that have the potential to bring together members of Congress in both houses and from both sides of the aisle, some of whom supported the 2002 Resolution, and some of whom did not. It is a way to challenge assertions of Executive authority, which, as you know, derives its Constitutionality only to the extent of the legislative authorization.

More simply put, it is a means by which to re-build a Constitutional barrier to the continuing loss of U.S. lives and treasure, and at the expense of the U.S.’s international security interests, in a country which never did pose a threat to the United States worthy of force authorization, and which was clearly no longer in violation of any relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. Thus, the two narrow bases upon which Executive authority rests have long since evanesced, if ever they existed.

For these reasons, I strongly urge you to support, or even introduce legislation which reiterates the limitations on Executive authority under the 2002 Resolution.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Goode Gone Bad!

In case you've been following the ridiculous debate between Reps. Goode (R - Va) and Ellison (D - Mn) over Ellison's stated plan to be sworn in to the new session of Congress holding a Koran, I think you'd have to say Ellison has handily won this debate, having just landed a bit of a haymaker. It seems, a month or so before Goode's stupid comments insulting Ellison and everyone in his district, Ellison contacted a former constituent of his MN district, who is now a director of special collections at the Library of Congress, and will be using an extremely rare, antique copy of the Koran originally owned by a fellow who was born in Goode's VA district, namely, Thomas Jefferson (in case you haven't heard of him, he's one of those jerks who forgot to put God anywhere in the Constitution which both of these guys will be swearing to uphold).

Hat tip to Americablog on this one.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Solemn Consternation About the Proper Decorum at a Hangin'

Here is another human exercise in the absurd:

Apparently, folks are outraged that the proper decorum for a hanging was not followed for Saddam's solemn ceremony. IT'S A HANGING! I think we should be looking at the behavior of the folks who secured rope around a man's neck, let him drop, and dangled him by his head. Or the puppet president who signed the order decreeing that it should be done. Or the American military, who we must constantly pledge to support, who simply handed him over, knowing what would be done with him. That's what I'm outraged about.