state of the union

So just how are we doing on the land of the free these days? Let's see:

First, The Boston Globe reported on Bush the Second's assertions that he can ignore more than 750 laws, laws he himself signed, including military rules, affirmative-action law provisions, requirements to report to Congress about immigration services problems, nuclear regulatory whistle-blower protections, and laws against political interference in research.

The Globe notes that W is the first president in modern history to never veto a bill, thus making him immune from veto-overrides; instead, he signs them and then quietly files "signing statements" in the federal register, in which he lays out his "legal interpretation" of the bill. These often assert that the president has the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills -- including provisions negotiated with Congress in order to get the bills passed in the first place.

Says Portland State University law professor Phillip Cooper, "There is no question that this administration has been involved in a very carefully thought-out, systematic process of expanding presidential power at the expense of the other branches of government. This is really big, very expansive, and very significant."

Then, USA Today reported the that the NSA has beencollecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth.

The telcos have all issued statements denying that they've handed over records. However, as this article on ThinkProgess notes, a presidential memorandum signed by the President on May 5 allows the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, to authorize a company to conceal activities related to national security. (Such concealment would normally violate securities law.) "There is no evidence that this executive order has been used by John Negroponte with respect to the telcos. Of course, if it was used, we wouldn't know about it," the article notes.

Oh, and while we're contemplating the state of the nation, I stumbled across this entry in Barry Ritholtz's blog, where we notes that despite the GDP being up for the first quarter of 2006, wages are stagnant or falling.

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