Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Go Porkbusters...

From the TRB Newsletter "A Congressional Research Service report explores the legal issues associated with President George W. Bush's January 29, 2008, Executive Order 13,457, "Protecting American Taxpayers from Government Spending on Wasteful Earmarks." The report provides an overview of the provisions of the order and explores questions that have arisen regarding both the President's authority to control executive branch activity in this context and the effect of non-statutory congressional spending directives. The report also evaluates potential congressional responses to the executive order."


One analysis against the framework laid out in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer and concludes (in the middle of the report, page 9) "... there does not appear to be any discernible basis upon which it could be asserted that Executive Order 13,457 runs contrary to constitutional or statutory precepts...."

The next analysis looks at Lincoln v. Vigil and Shannon v. US. It concludes with the Comptroller General position that regarding Congressional directives in non-statutory documents "The executive branch ... has a practical duty to abide by such expressions. This duty, however, must be understood to fall short of a statutory requirement giving rise to a legal infraction where there is a failure to carry out that duty.”

The report describes that one of the ways Congress can respond to the EO....(wait for it)...(wait for it)..."would be for Congress expressly to include each earmark in the text of a statute and thereby place it beyond the agency decision-making process that the executive order requires for nonstatutory ones."

Yeah Let's hope they choose that one. But don't hold your breath.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Soviet Border Guard Syndrome (SBGS)

I've noticed a little phenomenon in life and have come up with a name to explain it.

Here are the charateristics of the situation:

Take an individual with very little control over events in his or her life. May not have much authority or get much respect at home. May not have much authority or get much respect at work. Life may generally suck.

This same individual gets into in a position of power or authority, usually some small sphere of life, say the referee at your kids soccer game or the convenant committee on the homeowners association.

When you interact with this individual, you must, YOU MUST, lend this person proper deference to their authority, because while you are in their sphere, they have the power. Threaten their power or disrespect them at your own risk. Otherwise, they will make that little sphere of life as miserable for you as the rest of their life outside it is for them.

This I call "Soviet Border Guard Syndrome."

I hope that's clear enough, but if not, imagine yourself at a Soviet border checkpoint or customs dealing with some minor functionary. He says you have to do something or he's not letting you in (or out). You know its a grey area, and decide that you don't have to follow his orders. Your life becomes miserable until... well until you see it his way. Of course if you "go over his head," to get your way it won't be forgotten and you will be miserable the next time you try to pass his checkpoint.

Soviet Border Guard Syndrome. SBGS