Thursday, January 04, 2007

Say Hi to Laura!

The president has claimed that he has the power to open our mail. He put it in a signing statement.

This according to, the seattle times, the New York Daily News, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. It made the local TV news. A reporter snarked away about it. I think the TV snark-out is what has triggered this rant.

I know, I know. Who uses the mail any more? But here's the thing. The internet providers will turn over your emails at the drop of a hat. Especially if you are living in China. The government is listening in on your phone conversations. But up until now it was understood that provided that your letter was not ticking as if it had a bomb in it and provided that you do not live with someone psycho or snoopy ... you were going to be the first to open the envelope and the first to read the contents. That's the law.

And now GW is so concerned for our national security that he wants to peek into my birthday cards to see if my mom sent along a dollar bill.

Enough already. Get a Frickin' warrant.

If he doesn't like a law passed by Congress, he should freakin' veto it.

If he wants to expand his executive powers, he should pass a flippin' constitutional amendment.

Maybe GW's stooges are finding it difficult to persuade rational and reasonable Judges to grant them the warrants to spy on American citizens. At least that is my fantasy, that someone offical in this darn country is rational and unwilling to sell our civil liberties down the river.

Before I fly completely off the handle, having consulted the other online oracle, there is no reason to think that a signing statement is the same as a law. As wikipedia says:

"Signing statements do not appear to have legal force by themselves."

*whew* Good point, friend.

But -

Wikipedia goes on to say that:
" As a practical matter, they may give notice of the way that the Executive intends to implement a law, which may make them more significant than the text of the law itself."


"The upswing in reliance on signing statements during the Reagan administration coincides with the writing by Justice Samuel A. Alito – then a staff attorney in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel – of a 1986 memorandum making the case for "interpretive signing statements" as a tool to "increase the power of the Executive to shape the law." Alito proposed adding signing statements to a "reasonable number of bills" as a pilot project, but warned that "Congress is likely to resent the fact that the President will get in the last word on questions of interpretation." "

James Monroe started it but that darn Sam Alito is the real legal innovator and popularizer.

If a President signs a bill into law and then writes a little note of protest, a note that has no legal force, and does not uphold the law then he is not fufilling his responsibilities as written in the Constitution.

Is not upholding the law the same as breaking it?

Is he committing acts of Civil Disobedience? Protesting what he feels to be unjust laws? Okay.
But y'know when regular citizens commit acts of Civil Disobedience they are generally arrested. They appear in court and often the pay fines or do community service. Some of them serve time or have suspended sentences. Some of them have the charges dropped. Nonetheless, something happens.

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced the "Presidential Signing Statements Act of 2006" (S.3731) on July 26th 2006. It was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It had no cosponsors. And there in committee, the bill, she died.


One could write to one's senator and ask them why.
If one's senator was on the Judiciary Committee one could try and badger them for answers, urge them to reintroduce a bill of similar sentiment and language.

'cause it's not just about the mail and the sanctity of my birthday card.

It's about how a government built on good foundations run smoothly and effectively even if run by weirdos and regular shmoes. It's about telling GW and every other person who aspires to be president that they are but one of three branches of government, not king. And about how that shouldn't change because someone flew a plane into a building. It's about checks and balances.

This is why I stopped reading the news. It makes me cranky and prickly. I sit and read and type and fume and shout and curse. Or I get really sad and I cry.

Then again, if I had been reading the news last year I might have read about this act and been shouting from my soapbox last July 26th. Writing letters and emails and making calls.

Of course, I did not read about the mail thing from Google News or Yahoo News.

I read about it first on where I go to be amused. I read about it on a blog (wtf!).

And I ended up pissed off.

I am tempted to send my snail mail correspondence with a little post-it that says :"Dear GW, Say Hi to Laura for me."


Molly said...

I just hope he doesn't open my Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes!

ergo said...

Molly: I wouldn't put it past him. ;)

These days I wouldn't try to put anything past him. He'd probably tack a signing statement on it.

This whole thing puts the phrase: "Never take your eye off the Man" in an entirely different light for me.

ergo said...

I've been chewing away at the things I like that start with the letter "N" but of late it seems that I am vocab challenged. I keep coming up with things like "N," as is Vanilla.

Molly said...

Sorry! I didn't mean to stump you with the letter "N." If you want to use vanilla you can totally have the letter "V." There is no need for me to be the letter nazi :-)