Monday, June 29, 2009

David Swanson: Emperor Barack's Signing Statements

The Emperor's Seven Signing Statements
By David Swanson

Lawless detention is the least of it. State secrets and warrantless spying scrape the surface. Drone attacks and ongoing torture begin to touch it. But central to the power of an emperor, and the catastrophes that come from the existence of an emperor, is the elimination of any other force within the government. Signing statements eliminate congress. Not that congress objects. Asking congress to reclaim its power produces nervous giggles.

Look at how the latest war supplemental funding bill was passed. The Emperor's people wrote most of the bill. The Emperor combined it with the IMF banker bailout. The Emperor threatened and bribed his way to deals with enough congress members to pass it. The Emperor preemptively told other nations the bill would pass and then badgered congress with the claim that this nation (He, the nation) would be damaged if he turned out to have lied. The Emperor lied to congress members and the public that this would be the last war supplemental bill. Congress members claimed to back it because it was the last one (not that this made the slightest sense), and others openly, proudly, and obliviously declared that they were switching their votes to yes in order to please the Emperor.

When the bill came to Emperor Barack he signed it and released his sixth and only legal signing statement announcing that he'd signed it. Two days later (Fridays being the favored day for signing statements) Obama released his seventh signing statement, claiming to have signed the same bill on that day as well, but perhaps beginning to establish the precedent that "signing statements," like "executive orders," can be issued at any time. The seventh signing statement did what the first five had done: it illegally and unconstitutionally altered the law in favor of bestowing illegal powers on the Emperor. The seven statements are posted here. Here's the heart of the seventh statement:
"[P]rovisions of this bill within sections 1110 to 1112 of title XI, and sections 1403 and 1404 of title XIV, would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by directing the Executive to take certain positions in negotiations or discussions with international organizations and foreign governments, or by requiring consultation with the congress prior to such negotiations or discussions. I will not treat these provisions as limiting my ability to engage in foreign diplomacy or negotiations."
An executive would be someone who executed the laws of congress, suggesting that a different capitalized E word is actually intended, that "Executive" is now a stand-in for "Emperor." Similarly, "constitutional" in this context refers to's third definition of "constitution", namely "the aggregate of a person's physical and psychological characteristics." In other words, "constitutional authority" is "imperial authority" derived from the character of the Emperor. We know this because the U.S. Constitution does not create any presidential authority to conduct foreign relations (only to "receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers") but does require the advice and consent and two-thirds approval of the Senate in order to make treaties, and does give congress the power "to regulate Commerce with foreign nations" as well as complete power over the raising and spending of public funds, not to mention the power "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."

The sections of this latest law tossed out by Obama were ploys to win the bill's passage, including requirements that he work to strengthen labor and environmental standards at, and report to congress on the activities of, the IMF and the World Bank. Unlike an emperor, an executive would be required by the U.S. Constitution to "take Care that the Laws by faithfully executed," stated by candidate Barack Obama thus:

"I will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law."

Obama's first signing statement made part of the law his right to use the hundreds of billions of dollars appropriated in that bill in "new" and "far-reaching" ways that he would "initiate," as well as the understanding that an "oversight board" created by the executive branch -- rather than congress -- would oversee the activities of the executive branch, or as Obama calls it "the Federal Government."

Obama's second signing statement declared his intention to violate dozens of sections of the law he was signing, including sections providing for the spending of funds, sections related to the creation of international treaties, and sections restricting retaliation against whistleblowers.

Obama's third signing statement, on the "Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009," announced his intention to violate requirements in the law related to the appointment of a government commission.

Obama's fourth signing statement, on a bill creating a "Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission" threw out a requirement that the Emperor provide that commission with information.

Obama's fifth signing statement was applied to a bill that created a commission and included on it six members of congress. The signing statement declared that those six commission members Š
"will be able to participate only in ceremonial or advisory functions of [such a] Commission, and not in matters involving the administration of the act."

Is it time to stop endlessly being "shocked" by these yet? Obama, like Bush, argues in his signing statements that the sections of law he intends to violate are unconstitutional. The problem is not that either one of these presidents is necessarily always wrong or that such questions can ever be decided to everyone's satisfaction. The problem is that the Constitution requires the president to veto a bill or sign and faithfully execute it. The time to argue against the constitutionality of a provision is before a bill is passed or upon vetoing it. Such an argument can even be made upon signing a bill. It just can't be accompanied by a declaration of the power to violate the law.

Presidents Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton made innovations in the abuse of signing statements without which Bush Jr. could not have done what he did. Now Obama is further advancing the genre. At some point, of course -- as Germans once learned (and learned before nukes or climate crises were on the table) -- it can become too late to act.
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David Swanson is the author of the upcoming book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" by Seven Stories Press. You can pre-order it and find out when tour will be in your town:
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Robert Sheer: Obama's $1.5 trillion plus bailout isn't working

oreclosure Fiasco Continues:
The Bush-Obama Strategy of Throwing Billions at Banks Doesn't Work

By Robert Scheer, Truthdig

Posted on June 27, 2009, Printed on June 27, 2009

It's not working. The Bush-Obama strategy of throwing trillions at the banks to solve the mortgage crisis is a huge bust. The financial moguls, while tickled pink to have $1.25 trillion in toxic assets covered by the feds, along with hundreds of billions in direct handouts, are not using that money to turn around the free fall in housing foreclosures.

As The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, "The Mortgage Bankers Association cut its forecast of home-mortgage lending this year by 27% amid deflating hopes for a boom in refinancing." The same association said that the total refinancing under the administration's much ballyhooed Home Affordable Refinance Program is "very low."

Aside from a tight mortgage market, the problem in preventing foreclosures has to do with homeowners losing their jobs. Here again the administration, continuing the Bush strategy, is working the wrong end of the problem. Although President Obama was wise enough to at least launch a job stimulus program, a far greater amount of federal funding benefits Wall Street as opposed to Main Street.

State and local governments have been forced into draconian budget cuts, firing workers who are among the most reliable in making their mortgage payments--when they have jobs. Yet the Obama administration won't spend even a small fraction of what it has wasted on the banks to cover state shortfalls.

California couldn't get the White House to guarantee $5.5 billion in short-term notes to avert severe cuts in state and local payrolls, from prison guards to schoolteachers. Compare that with the $50 billion already given to Citigroup, plus an astounding $300 billion to guarantee that institution's toxic assets. Citigroup benefits from being a bank "too big to fail," although through its irresponsible actions to get that large it did as much as any company to cause this mess.

How big a mess? According to the Federal Reserve's most recent report, seven straight quarters of declining household wealth have left Americans $14 trillion poorer. Many who thought they were middle class have now joined the ranks of the poor. Food banks are strapped and welfare rolls are dramatically on the rise, as the WSJ reports, with a 27 percent year-to-year increase in Oregon, 23 percent in South Carolina and 10 percent in California. And you have to be very poor to get on welfare, thanks to President Clinton's so-called welfare reform, which he signed into law before he ramped up the radical deregulation of the financial services industry, enabling our economic downturn.

Citigroup, the prime mover for ending the sensible restraints of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, is now a pathetic ward of the state. But back in the day President Clinton would tour the country with Citigroup founder Sandy Weill touting the wonderful work that Weill and other moguls were doing to invest in economically depressed communities. It wasn't really happening then, and now millions of folks in those communities have seen their houses snatched from them as if they were just pieces in a game of Monopoly that Clinton and his fat-cat buddy were playing.

Once Weill got the radical deregulation law he wanted, he issued a statement giving credit: "In particular, we congratulate President Clinton, Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, NEC [National Economic Council] Chairman Gene Sperling, Under Secretary of the Treasury Gary Gensler, Assistant Treasury Secretaries Linda Robertson and Greg Baer."

Summers is now Obama's top economic adviser, Sperling has been appointed legal counselor at Treasury, and Gensler, a former partner in Goldman Sachs, is head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which he once attempted to prevent from regulating derivatives when it was run by Brooksley Born. Robertson worked for Summers in pushing through the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which freed the derivatives market from adult supervision and contained the "Enron Loophole," permitting that company to go wild. Robertson then became the top Washington lobbyist for Enron and was recently appointed senior adviser to Fed Chair Ben S. Bernanke. Baer went to work as a corporate counsel for Bank of America, which announced his appointment with a press release crediting him with having "coordinated Treasury policy" during the Clinton years in getting Glass-Steagall repealed. As a result of deregulation, B of A too spiraled out of control and ended up as a beneficiary of the Treasury's welfare program.

Why was I so naive as to have expected this Democratic president to not do the bidding of the banks when the last president from that party joined the Republicans in giving the moguls everything they wanted? Please, Obama, prove me wrong.

Robert Scheer is Editor in Chief of Truthdig and author of a new book, The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America.
© 2009 Truthdig All rights reserved.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Roger Shuler: Memo to Eric Holder: Don Siegelman Prosecution Was Riddled With Misconduct

Roger Shuler's piece, below, lays out in harrowing detail the gross instances of
prosecutorial misconduct in Don Siegelman's case.

Read it, send it out--and call/fax/email Eric Holder and the White House,
calling on to dispense some justice at long last (as that would be a "change" indeed).


Attorney General Eric Holder 202.514.2001; fax: (202) 307-6777; E-mail:

White House 202-456-1111; toll free number: 800-833-6354; E-mail:

Memo to Holder: Siegelman Prosecution Was Riddled With Misconduct
Attorney General Eric Holder is taking firm steps to deal with prosecutorial misconduct during the George W. Bush era. And that's a good thing.

But the beneficiaries of Holder's reviews, so far, have all been Republicans. And that is not a good thing--especially when you consider that perhaps the most egregious example of prosecutorial misconduct in the Bush years came in the case against Don Siegelman, the former Democratic governor of Alabama.

How corrupt were the actions of prosecutors in the Siegelman case? We can point Mr. Holder and his staff in several directions:

* The Paul Weeks affidavit--Holder's reviews have focused largely on Alaska corruption cases involving former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens and state legislators Victor Kohring and Peter Kott. In each case, federal prosecutors failed to disclose evidence to the defense. And William M. Welch, chief of the U.S. Public Integrity Section, was involved in each case.

Alabama attorney and GOP whistleblower Jill Simpson says Welch also was involved in the Siegelman case. And as happened in Alaska, Welch apparently withheld key information from the defense. Simpson says Welch came to Alabama when defense attorneys in the Siegelman case moved for the recusal of U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller. Welch's role, Simpson says, was to defend Fuller--and he succeeded in keeping the judge on the case.

But Simpson says Welch should have been aware of an affidavit from Missouri attorney Paul Weeks, charging Fuller with misconduct, perhaps of a criminal nature. A copy of the affidavit was hand delivered to the Public Integrity Section, and Simpson says Welch had a duty to disclose the contents of the affidavit to the Siegelman defense team. Simpson says there is no indication that the affidavit ever was disclosed.

* The Nick Bailey notes--Former Siegelman aide Nick Bailey was the key prosecution witness, testifying essentially that Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy had struck a deal where Scrushy would be appointed to a hospital-regulatory board in exchange for his contribution to an education-lottery campaign. But 60 Minutes reported that prosecutors interviewed Baily some 70 times in order to get his testimony straight--and even had him write down key portions of his statement. Bailey's notes should have been turned over to the defense, but they were not.

Scott Horton, of Harper's magazine, reported that Bailey even mentioned the notes during the trial:
In fact, Bailey brought the proceedings to a stop by referring openly to the written notes he prepared at the prosecutor?s behest. The defense demanded to see them, and in a chambers hearing, Judge Fuller directed the prosecutors to turn them over. The prosecutors denied their existence. Bailey stated that he was required to prepare the notes on paper supplied by the prosecutors, and they were placed in a binder that the prosecutors or an FBI agent working with them retained.

* The mysterious check exchange--Nick Bailey testified that he saw a check change hands at a meeting involving Siegelman and Scrushy. But there was a slight problem with Bailey's story: The check was cut days after the meeting. It could not have changed hands the way Bailey testified. Scott Horton sums up this episode succinctly:
Bailey testifies that he saw a check change hands at a meeting at which Scrushy?s appointment to the oversight board was decided. This is the evidence that landed Siegelman in prison. And it was false. And the prosecutors knew that it was false.

* The Lanny Young bombshells--Another key witness for the prosecution was former lobbyist and landfill operator Lanny Young. According to a report in Time magazine, Young provided some damaging information about Siegelman. But Young also told prosecutors that he had paid tens of thousands of dollars in apparently illegal campaign contributions to prominent Alabama Republicans Jeff Sessions and William Pryor. That information should have been turned over to the Siegelman defense team. It was not.

* Leura Canary's "recusal"--According to Justice Department whistleblower Tamarah T. Grimes, U.S. Attorney Leura Canary remained involved in the Siegelman case long after she had supposedly recused herself. Grimes supported her story with e-mails showing that Canary was involved in the case well after her "recusal."

* Hanky Panky Between Jurors and Prosecutors--Grimes also provided e-mails that revealed previously undisclosed contact between jurors and the prosecution.

As we reported here at Legal Schnauzer:
Grimes also provided e-mails that show previously undisclosed contacts between prosecutors and the Siegelman jury.

A key prosecution e-mail describes how jurors repeatedly contacted the government's legal team during the trial to express, among other things, one juror's romantic interest in a member of the prosecution team. "The jurors kept sending out messages" via U.S. marshals, the e-mail says, identifying a particular juror as "very interested" in a person who had sat at the prosecution table in court. The same juror was later described reaching out to members of the prosecution team for personal advice about her career and educational plans.
And that was not the only hanky panky between jurors and the prosecution:

Further undisclosed evidence of prosecution team members speaking with jurors following the verdict emerges in Grimes' written statement to the DoJ. In it, she says a member of the team prosecuting Siegelman had spoken with a juror suspected of improper conduct ? apparently at the time the judge was due to question the juror about that conduct. Grimes quotes the lead prosecutor in the case as saying someone had "talked to her. She is just scared and afraid she is going to get in trouble."

The prosecutorial misconduct in the Siegelman case clearly dwarfs that in the Alaska cases. So why has Eric Holder, so far, refused to look in the direction of Alabama?