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What Is the Point of Congress? – he’s got a point… That’s what they’re calling defenders of the Constitution these days — “wackjobs”…
What Is the Point of Congress?
That’s what a lot of folks are wondering, including petitioners in Vermont who want Bush and Cheney arrested for crimes against humanity.
February 4, 2008
By Sean Gonsalves
Seems our neighbors in the northeast have grown over-weary of the current White House regime treating the Constitution and the laws enacted by the people’s representatives like an optional menu.
Petitioners in Brattleboro, VT gathered enough signatures (5 percent of the electorate) to put a question on their upcoming town ballot that calls for Bush and Cheney to be arrested “for crimes against our Constitution.”
Predictably, Bush loyalists and assorted Drudge Report readers across the nation are none too pleased — even though the Vermont measure, which will be voted on March 4, is about as symbolic as they come.
News of the ballot question circulated through cyberspace. A storm of neo-complaints followed, hitting Brattleboro like a wicked Nor’eastah.
“In e-mail messages, voicemail messages and telephone calls (to Brattleboro officials), outraged people are calling the measure the equivalent of treason and vowing never to visit Vermont” the Associated Press reported.
One caller asked: “Has everyone up there been out in the cold too long?” Another said: “I would like to know how I could get some water from your town. It’s obvious that there is something special in it.”
Others, like Brent Caflisch of Rosemount, Minn., sent an e-mail message that was a bit less circumspect. Oh ya. “Maybe the terrorists will do us all a favor and attack your town next, our country would be much safer with several thousand dead wackjobs in Vermont,” according to the AP account.
That’s what they’re calling defenders of the Constitution these days — “wackjobs,” like Paul Craig Roberts.
Though he’s not a Brattleboro resident, Roberts is one of millions of Americans bitten by the same impeachment bug buzzing around Brattleboro. He also happens to be the former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during the Reagan administration, former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, contributing editor of National Review and author of the book “The Tyranny of Good Intentions.”
Roberts breaks it down like this: “In truth, Congress gave up its law-making powers to the executive branch during the New Deal. For three-quarters of a century, the bills passed by Congress have been authorizations for executive branch agencies to make laws in the form of regulations. The executive branch has come to the realization that it doesn’t really need Congress. President Bush appends his own ‘signing statements’ to the authorizations from Congress in which the President says what the legislation means. So what is the point of Congress?”
In case you’re wondering, a “signing statement” is a presidential footnote attached to a law passed by Congress. It instructs the executive branch on how to interpret the law, essentially giving the president line-item veto power to cherry-pick provisions of law to be followed or ignored, turning the idea of checks-and-balances into a joke.
Historically, signing statements have been used, on rare occasion, by Republican and Democrat administrations going back to the days of James Monroe and Andrew Jackson. But since Reagan, signing statements have been used with increasing frequency. According to the Law Library of Congress, No. 43 has issued over 700!
Ironically, perhaps, it was candidate Clinton’s husband, and now fierce campaigner, whose promiscuous use of signing statements was checked by the Supreme Court in the 1998 case Clinton vs. City of New York, declaring line item vetoes unconstitutional.
Now, with everyone focused on the primaries, Bush gives us another example in signing the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act last week, attaching a signing statement even after having rejected Congress’ first version because it would have supposedly made the Iraqi government vulnerable to “expensive lawsuits.”
Congressional Quarterly reported on the provisions Bush intends to ignore: “One such provision sets up a commission to probe contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another expands protections for whistleblowers who work for government contractors. A third requires that U.S. intelligence agencies promptly respond to congressional requests for documents. And a fourth bars funding for permanent bases in Iraq and for any action that exercises U.S. control over Iraq’s oil money.” (More on this here.)
Bush may be a lame-duck but don’t sleep. If Congress doesn’t grow a Brattleboro-like backbone and impeach this administration before they leave office the precedent will be set and the Constitutional question of the future will be the one Roberts is asking: What is the point of Congress?
Modern-Day Slavery at the SuperBowl
Most viewers watching the SuperBowl will be oblivious to the abuses of one of its key sponsors.
February 3, 2008
By Emira Woods
After 26 years of chaos and war, Liberia, on the shores of West Africa, is reemerging as a beacon of hope in a difficult region. A peaceful democratic transition ushered in Africa’s first woman president, a successful UN peacekeeping effort, and a wave of repatriates eager to build for the future.
One glaring blemish on this positive picture is the condition of workers engaged with Liberia’s largest employer, Bridgestone Firestone.
The American icon, now a division of a Japanese corporation, is the sponsor of the 2008 and 2009 Super Bowl half-time shows. It also runs the world’s largest rubber operations in Liberia. The country’s fertile soil and stable workforce brought Firestone to Liberia back in 1926. For 82 years, the company has secured a steady flow of rubber from Liberia to the United States through a system based on modern-day slavery.
I visited the plantation in 2005, just after Firestone signed an agreement with the interim government extending its lease until the year 2042. I met an 11-year old boy, Abu, a scrawny yet handsome kid, with long arms, skinny legs, and eyes as bright as a full moon. Abu was working on the Firestone plantation. He had been “helping his dad from before the sun was up.” Abu explained how he started at 4:30 a.m. cleaning the storage cups, applying chemicals and pesticides to trees, and then moving on to collect the white rubber sap streaming down each tree.
Abu poured the cup of rubber sap into a large bucket. Then he hoisted two of these buckets onto a pole to move from tree to tree. When the buckets were full, each weighing 75 pounds, Abu struggled and winced in pain but carried his load a mile up the road to vast storage tanks where the rubber would be poured into tanker trucks and taken to a processing area before shipment to America. Abu shared his dream of one day becoming a doctor. Yet, unable to go to school and used as a beast of burden, that’s quite unlikely. He and countless other children exploited on the Firestone rubber plantation have no way out.
Abu and his family are shackled by a quota system that withholds pay unless a set number of trees are tapped (milked) each day. Firestone says this number is 650 trees, but rubber tappers place the number at 1,100 trees that must be tapped three times each day. According to a CNN report, even at the lower rate of 650 trees, it would take each tapper 21 hours to perform that labor each day. This unbearable quota forces workers to bring their children to work or risk losing the daily meager wage of $3.19.
In November 2005, the International Labor Rights Fund brought a case against Firestone in U.S. Federal court for violations of child labor rights. Now in discovery phase in U.S. District Court in the Southern district of Indiana, the case spotlights Firestone’s modern day slavery and abuse of children’s rights.
Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency, strengthened under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has also cited the company for chemicals and other toxic wastes dumped into the riverways adjacent to the plantation. Workers have complained about toxic fumes from ammonium nitrate, formaldehyde, pesticides, and other chemicals, added during the processing of the rubber.
It’s simply un-American for a company that uses child labor and abuses the environment in a war-torn nation to be the official sponsor of the Super Bowl. It’s also a mistake for the NFL to allow Bridgestone Firestone to use the Super Bowl to showcase the brand to more than 1 billion viewers around the world.
The NFL should examine carefully how it anoints official sponsors and set some standards. The visibility of a marquee event like the Super Bowl demands a process that weeds out irresponsible corporations.
Ironically, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, is a Board member of Action for Healthy Kids, which promotes a vision that, “All kids develop the lifelong habits necessary to promote health and learning,” How then could Commissioner Goodell allow sponsorship from a corporation linked to child labor? While it may be late for SuperBowl XLII, Firestone’s deal for next year’s game must be revoked.