S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Executive vs. Judiciary vs. Legislative

Tensions among the branches of the U.S. government are apparent in many current news stories. It seems really hard to find a good judge these days. And our current president continues to ignore Congressional intent and act above the law in what he says is "protecting us." Alarmed citizens worry that an imperial president is ignoring the laws that Congress passes. They also worry that he is appointing judges who will support his increasing assertions of executive powers. These trends are clearly subverting the three-branch system of government established in the constitution.
Our current president is going around the law regarding FISA Court oversight of domestic surveillance, and those judges want to know how and why. So does the Senate, who will hold hearings on the matter early in February, with Republican Senator Arlen Specter presiding. Our current president wants to fundamentally change the direction of the Supreme Court of the United States. His extreme Right Wing nominee, Judge Alito will probably take a seat on the SCOTUS, despite strong Democratic opposition. Bush appointee Chief Justice Roberts has come down on the side of the administration in one of his recent court votes.
Nor are things going swimmingly for the administration of justice in Iraq. The new judge in the trial of Saddam Hussein in Iraq is being seen as a Baath party leftover. Aljazeera reports that the new Saddam trial court judge should resign. This BBC article is also saying that Iraqis feel the judge "should resign:" To quote,
The body set up to remove Baath party members from positions of power in Iraq has raised objections against the judge in charge of Saddam Hussein's trial. The Iraq Commission said Said Hameesh was a member of the former ruling party and should be barred from the case.

Many of us sincerely wish that Judge Samuel Alito would be barred from taking Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's place on the SCOTUS. But our current president will probably have his way in the matter. Democrats are able to do little more than delay the inevitable. This is the Reuters headline: "Democrats force delay on high court nominee vote"; to quote:
Democrats on Monday forced a one-week delay on a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, but the 55-year-old conservative was still expected to be confirmed by the full Republican-led Senate.
Senator Patrick Leahy, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member, announced his opposition yesterday. He feels that Alito will do nothing to check presidential power grabs. Several Senators, including Harkin, Mikulsky, Baucus, Durbin and Kennedy, all plan to vote against our current president's nominee. CNN reports on that; the article further states that a filibuster remains unlikey, saying that the Democrats just do not have the votes.
The makeup of the SCOTUS is of vital importance to average American citizens for many reasons. Why? Your very freedom under the Constitution is under fire from our current president. It is his position that spying on us without judicial oversight is an absolute presidential right. The story about the NSA intelligence gathering operation came out in December. And those who would have been doing the required oversight wanted to find out what was going on. The Washington Post reported in a December 22 story that FISA court judges wanted to be briefed on the NSA domestic surveillance program.
Several members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said in interviews that they want to know why the administration believed secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails of U.S. citizens without court authorization was legal. Some of the judges said they are particularly concerned that information gleaned from the president's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to gain authorized wiretaps from their court.
What is more, illegal domestic spying has been going on for a very long time without any of us knowing about it. The Washington Post, in an article by Peter Baker (on 12/18/05), maintains that OCP approved secret eavesdropping on American citizens shortly after the 9/11 attacks. I quote from the article,
A high-ranking intelligence official said yesterday that the presidential directive was first issued in October 2001, not in 2002, as other sources have told the Times and The Washington Post. And yesterday Bush said his directive came "weeks" after Sept. 11. The high-ranking official would not say whether the authority was changed or broadened significantly in 2002 or later during regular reviews.
The NYT reports that the Congressional Research Service determined that the domestic surveillance program probably broke the law. Our current president recently says he had no objections to Congressional hearings on the subject, if it does not give away secrets to our enemies. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will testify before the Senate Judiciary hearings scheduled to begin Feb. 6. He has sent a report to the congress asserting the legality of the NSA program.
A recent Supreme Court ruling by the majority supports Oregon's so-called "assisted suicide" law. But there is evidence of what I believe will be a major rebalancing trend towards the extreme Right on the court. Voting with the minority, was Chief Justice Roberts, who voted to support the Bush administration's wish to strike the state law down.
With the new chief justice, John G. Roberts Jr., in dissent in the most high-profile case since he joined the court, the decision lifted a major barrier to state initiatives like the one in Oregon, which has the only assisted-suicide law in the country.
In conclusion, all these stories convince me that the congress and the judiciary must act assertively to check our current president's assertions of an extreme right wing agenda power grab. Two legs, of the three holding up the Balance of Power Stool of our system of government, have been cut short. That stool, upon which we all sit, is tilted. If something does not change we will slip off.
My "creative" post today at Southwest Blogger is about an internet mystery--the disappearance of "the Apartment" .

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