A Specter is Haunting Washington

Arlen SpecterI’m a little concerned about this business of Arlen Specter switching over to the Democratic party.

It’s clear why he’s jumping ship — he’s openly admitted it: the Republicans have moved far enough to the right that he can’t expect their support in a primary campaign, so he’d never make it to the general election (which he’d have a decent shot of winning) if he sought the Republican nomination.

And Obama and the Democrats are agreeing to this (and most likely telling him they’ll support him over any other Democratic candidates) because it means that he’ll be a little more cooperative with them over the next year, leading up to the election. They figure a Specter in the hand is worth two potential real progressives in the bush. (How’s that for a shredded maxim?)

Personally, I have my doubts about whether it’s worth it. Sure, if Specter was going to try to get his old party’s nomination, he’d have to take a giant step to the right, and that would mean the Democrats would get just about no cooperation from him over the next year, “independent record” or not. I think he knows that that wouldn’t be enough to convince the party base to keep him. He could pull a Lieberman and declare himself an independent. He may have been one of the three most moderate Republicans in the Senate, but that was still pretty far to the right of your average Democrat. Is this deal going to change any of his votes in the next year?

It seems to me he’s getting a lot more out of this deal than the rest of us are.

And there’s more to it than that. Let’s not forget that this is about Pennsyltucky, a place I’m personally not so quick to trust. Think about some of the people who currently represent the state:

Congressman Joe Sleestak, 7th District — that’s him with his son, Joe Jr.

Congressman Chaka Fattah, 2nd District

If you don’t see what I’m getting at, maybe this will help:

That’s right — I think Pennsyltucky may be the Land of the Lost. And if that’s the case, it’s unwise to make deals with any politicians from there. When he goes home on a routine campaign expedition, what are the odds that he’ll be eaten by a dinosaur? Hell, the whole state could be swept off to some distant time and place at any moment. What’s the DCCC supposed to do if that happens?

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Bachmann in Overdrive

Michele BachmannYou’ve just got to love Representative Michele Bachmann from Minnesota. She’s easily one of the most entertaining members of Congress I can think of. Remember when, right before the election she suggested that Obama is “un-American,” then denied saying it a day or two later?

Crooks and Liars has some video of Bachmann questioning Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner today. They note her insistence that the two of them renounce any support of a “global currency,” which wasn’t difficult for either of them to do, since neither has ever expressed any support for the idea.

We know where she’s coming from, of course. A global currency is a big step along the path to a single global government, and a world government is a sure sign that we’re in the End of Days. Electing the anti-christ to the presidency isn’t helping, either.

But I thought her other big question was even more telling. She asked both men:

What provision in the Constitution could you point to to give authority to the Treasury for the extraordinary actions that have been taken?

They both tell her that they’re authorized to do what they’re doing because Congress passed legislation telling them to do it, and that doesn’t seem to satisfy her. Maybe she thinks that everything the government can do is spelled out in the Constitution — that every law we’ve got was written into the original document, so Geithner and Bernanke should have been able to recite the precise article and section that includes the bailout of AIG.

I think she needs to have a look at Article 1, Section 1, which should be pretty easy to locate:

All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Seems pretty straightforward to me.

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Google the Yenta

I was doing some research for a blog post earlier today. I needed to get some information on a member of Congress who’d officially come out as an atheist, so I ran a Google search for [atheist in congress]. Look what I got in the onebox:

Google results for atheist in congress

It seems my mother has been speaking with Larry and Sergey. They’re all in cahoots, trying to get me a date even when I’m not looking for one. A word of advice: I’m not going to date someone all the way down in DC, even if she is an atheist. I’m sure there are plenty of perfectly nice atheists right here in Boston, so stick that in your algorithm and smoke it, Google.

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Congressional Democrats Utterly Impotent

George BushLet’s have ourselves a little history lesson. The became law in 1978. It was intended to regulate searches and surveillance on sources of foreign intelligence in order to protect American citizens from having their civil rights infringed on. How was it to work?

FISA provides two documents for the authorization of surveillance. First, FISA allows the Justice Department to obtain warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) before or up to 72 hours after the beginning of the surveillance. FISA authorizes a FISC judge to issue a warrant for the electronic cameras if “there is probable cause to believe that… the target of the electronic surveillance is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.” 50 U.S.C. §1805(a)(3). Second, FISA permits the President or his delegate to authorize warrantless surveillance for the collection of foreign intelligence if “there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party”. 50 U.S.C. §1802(a)(1).

A lot of civil libertarians were pretty upset over this. After all, we’re talking about a secret court authorizing secret surveillance, and the Justice Department didn’t even have to wait for the court to authorize their activities before they started.

Fast forward to 2001, when (say it with me) September 11 changed everything.

The White House put through an executive order authorizing the NSA to begin tapping phone calls without either gaining permission from the FISC in advance, or even letting them know about it before the 72 hour deadline. Why? Apparently, it was because September 11 changed everything. The White House felt that they needed to be able to move quickly against threats, and that FISA was just too slow and clumsy to keep up with them. They never really explained why a law that allowed them to go ahead and bug people and then get permission three days later was too slow, but it was probably just because, you know, September 11 changed everything.

On to August of 2006:

On August 17, 2006 U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled in ACLU v. NSA that the Terrorist Surveillance Program was unconstitutional under the Fourth and First Amendments and enjoined the NSA from using the program to conduct electronic surveillance “in contravention of [FISA or Title III]“.In her ruling, she wrote:

The President of the United States, a creature of the same Constitution which gave us these Amendments, has indisputably violated the Fourth in failing to procure judicial orders as required by FISA, and accordingly has violated the First Amendment Rights of these Plaintiffs as well.

Of course, the judge failed to take into account that September 11 changed everything.

So we found ourselves in a situation where the executive branch requested that the legislature clarify FISA — basically to give them more latitude, by allowing the Attorney General to make the final decision as to whether surveillance was justified in each case. But the Democrats took the majority (albeit a narrow one) in both houses of Congress last year. Of course, they would fight this effort.

Then again, this is the same Democratic majority that folded on Bush’s funding request for the war in Iraq, despite the fact that they were swept into office on a wave of dissatisfaction and anger over Bush and his war. In other words, the public gave them the majority to stop Bush.

Well, they’ve done it again. First the Senate, and then the House voted to approve Bush’s plan. The only compromise, if you can call it that, is that in six months they’re going to revisit the issue. In other words, in six months they’ll wimp out and approve this crap all over again.

Do they not understand what’s going on here? Their majority isn’t big enough to overturn a presidential veto. I get that. But their majority is big enough to stop Bush’s programs from being approved. When he says they’re endangering Americans and emboldening the enemy (because September 11 changed everything), they have to clearly and loudly respond by stating that he is lying in order to keep us afraid so that he can continue to strip away what’s left of our civil rights. They mustn’t give him an inch.

So they just roll over and let him have everything. Fucking everything.

Some people say the Democrats are doing this in order to make it clear that this is Bush’s war, thus giving them a political advantage in next year’s election. Bullshit. Do they give a damn about the country at all? You don’t stand by and let these people eviscerate the Constitution in order to have something to put in your negative ads.

Rush D. Holt, a representative from New Jersey, is quoted as follows:

I’m not comfortable suspending the constitution even temporarily. The countries we detest around the world are the ones that spy on their own people. Usually they say they do it for the sake of public safety and security.

I can’t understand how a single member of the Democratic party could vote for this. It’s absolutely disgusting, and folding because of fear mongering and a threat to have your vacation delayed is just cowardly.

To hell with them.

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