Volume 21, Number 4
War on Housing
Outside the (Ballot) Box
Aurora Levins morales
A Woman President
Immigration Reform Now
César cuauhtémoc garcía Hernández
Review: Challenging Authority
Review: Subcommander Marcos
Iraq's "Good News"
Recession Pt. 2
NYT & Trade
U.S. & Kenya
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Executive Signing Statements
In a refreshing investigative series in the Boston Globe from 2006, journalist Charlie Savage dropped a bombshell on the Bush administration. Reporting on Bush's use of "signing statements," Savage highlighted the president's long-standing contempt for legislative authority. Since then, the story has generally been overlooked, although it recently resurfaced when Bush issued another statement that he would disregard Congress's prohibition of permanent military bases in Iraq. The president's issuance of this signing statement is just one of hundreds of challenges he's made to national laws.
A signing statement is an official announcement from the Executive— an attempt to alter the intent of a law by allowing the president to interpret its execution. While signing statements hold no official legal standing, the president acts as if they grant the power to disregard segments of bills he disagrees with. Since taking office, the Bush administration has issued over 150 signing statements, containing over 500 constitutional challenges and questioning more than 1,100 provisions of national laws. This is a significant increase from years past. Former presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton issued over 300 such statements combined, while only a total of 75 signing statements were issued from the early 1800s through the Carter presidency.
Interpretive signing statements have received support from some legal scholars and officials associated with the Administration, such as Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and John Yoo of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Council. The American Bar Association, the ACLU, and other legal scholars, however, have challenged the signing statements as unconstitutional and a violation of the principles of checks and balances and separation of powers. In response to Bush's circumvention of the military bases ban, Harvard law professor David Barron questioned the Administration for "continuing to assert the same extremely aggressive conception of the president's unilateral power to determine how and when U.S. force will be used abroad."
Some Democrats in Congress have also challenged Bush's assumption that he can unilaterally interpret laws outside their original intent. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi explains: "I reject the notion in his signing statement that he can pick and choose which provisions of this law to execute.... His job, under the Constitution, is to faithfully execute the law —every part of it—and I expect him to do just that."
Sadly, there's been little sustained effort by the Legislative and Judicial branches to prohibit these attacks on the legal system. The few bills that have been presented in Congress seeking to prohibit signing statements have gone nowhere, ignored by the majority of Democrats and Republicans. The Supreme Court has also failed to rule on the constitutionality of the signing statements, contributing to the legal ambiguity surrounding Bush's controversial actions.
Afew examples of Bush's signing statements provide a better picture of his contempt for the law:
- Regarding a bill requiring the Justice Department to provide reports to Congress on how the FBI has utilized the PATRIOT Act to spy on citizens and confiscate property, Bush declared his power to withhold such information if he feels it would hurt national security in some way.
- Concerning a law protecting whistleblowers at the Dept. of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission from punishment, Bush claimed that it was within his power to determine whether potential whistleblowers are even allowed to provide information to Congress.
- In response to a 2004 law preventing the U.S. from deploying troops in Colombia against FARC and FLN guerillas, Bush announced that only he, as the commander in chief, has the power to decide whether troops will be used. Bush deemed the law "advisory in nature."
- Although a law was passed requiring that scientific information "prepared by government researchers and scientists shall be transmitted uncensored and without delay" to Congress, Bush issued a statement claiming it is within his power to withhold information if he feels it could damage U.S. national security, relations with foreign countries, or generally interfere with the operations of the Executive.
- Perhaps most controversially, Bush issued a signing statement countering Congress's prohibition on torture (included in the 2005 McCain Amendment), claiming that it was within his constitutional power to ignore the ban in order to "combat terrorism."
You've probably noticed a pattern with many of these statements: they don't simply establish presidential power to "interpret" or "execute" the law; they represent a fundamental abrogation of the major provisions of the bills themselves. Of what use is a bill prohibiting torture, if the ban can be bypassed by any president who does not feel bound to honor it? What is the point of prohibiting the deployment of troops to Colombia, if the president ignores this requirement? Rather than voting against a ban on torture, Bush has taken the back-door approach, signing the bill, then quietly issuing a statement that he will not be bound by the law.
Not surprisingly, the media response to Bush's signing statements has been lacking. On the one hand, there are Savage's investigative reports in the Boston Globe, which have shed light on the long-neglected story of presidential contempt for the law. On the other hand, researchers have found that the Globe's reporting has been largely ignored in other major outlets. The watchdog group Media Matters for America concluded that: "Except for a short March 24  United Press International article, some scattered editorials and opinion columns, and brief mentions in an April 1 San Francisco Chronicle article and an April 23 Washington Post article, Savage's reporting on Bush's ‘signing statements' and the Democratic response were ignored by major newspapers and wire services. Aside from Keith Olber- mann, who reported on the Globe article on the March 24 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, the cable and broadcast news networks ignored the ‘signing statements' as well."
My own analysis also indicates mixed results in the Paper of Record. On the editorial side of the New York Times, the paper actually opposed the signing statements. In a 2008 editorial on the president's circumvention of the military bases ban, the paper attacked the Administration for its "passive-aggressive" attempts "to undermine the power of Congress...declaring that he [has] no intention of obeying laws he [has] signed." In a 2007 op-ed, Adam Cohen censured Bush for his de-facto veto of the torture ban—for using an "extralegal trick...to bypass the ban on torture. It allowed him to make a coward's escape from the moral and legal responsibility" of prohibiting such behavior.
However, while the Administration has been issuing signing statements since it took office in early 2001, a review of the NYT's coverage demonstrates that the topic didn't even make an appearance in the paper until a full five years later, in January 2006. Overall, the paper has run only seven stories featuring the signing statements, in the just over seven years of the Bush administration's tenure. Furthermore, six of those stories were clustered between January and July of 2007 when Republican Senator Arlen Specter was attacking the president for the statements and when the Senate was grilling Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito for his support for the statements. Only one other report from mid-2006 through early 2008 featured the signing statement issue, despite the continuing conflict between Congress and Bush over his distaste for national laws.
Whenever I teach the presidency section in my American government class each semester, many of my students become enraged when they find out about the Bush administration and the signing statements debacle. They're bewildered that a political leader could be allowed to blatantly disregard the law without being held politically accountable. While Bush's contempt for the law may very well be an impeachable offense, it certainly hasn't been treated that way in Congress.
Anthony DiMaggio has taught Middle East Politics and American Government at Illinois State University. He is the author of Mass Media, Mass Propaganda: Examining the News in the "War on Terror."
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.