Check out this
hilarious sad post over at Macro Man.
This afternoon, at 12:48 PM EDT, the House of Representatives signed away our fourth amendment rights. After a year of wrangling, the Bush administration was able to convince 105 Democrats, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, to vote for this horribly flawed bill. And because the fourth amendment wasn't enough for them, they have established a precedent of allowing the Bush administration to ignore whatever other laws they please.
The biggest issue in this bill is how the telecoms are being treated. In the previous bill that the House rejected, telecommunication companies that allowed the justice department to set up wiretaps that they knew were not warranted and thus were unconstitutional and illegal were granted unconditional immunity. This time, Kit Bond, who I am ashamed to say is one of my state's Senators, was able to work out a "compromise." Instead of blanket immunity, the FISA court would be able to hear whether or not the companies were given letters in which the administration says that what they want to do is legal. The court is not, however, allowed to judge whether such a statement was legal. Because Alberto Gonzales has already testified to the Senate that such a letter was sent to these companies, the courts will only be allowed to determine whether a well accepted fact is a fact. In other words, the telecos were just voted immunity.
The precedent set is that if the Bush administration breaks a law, and asks others to aid and abet him with it, no one will face any prosecution. All Bush has to do to overturn a 220+ year old amendment is write a letter saying, "Trust me."
On a more positive note, both of the local Congressmen, my own William Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan, both voted against it. I had the pleasure of meeting both of them at the Missouri Democratic Convention and both are upstanding men that deserve the positions they have earned.
I don't know if this updated bill still needs to go before the Senate (I'm 99% sure it does), but I don't hold high hopes that it will be killed there. This leaves us only one last option - the Supreme Court. Even though Congress is stripping the courts of their rights to hear cases on this issue, because it is a Constitutional issue, the Supreme Court can still choose to hear a case. With justices like Alito who believe that since we are at war with "radical islamists" we don't need to follow the Constitution, I fear even that might not be enough.
What follows is a response I sent to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel regarding an editorial they published attacking Congressman Robert Wexler for co-sponsoring articles of impeachment (pdf) (videos here) that Congressman Dennis Kucinich presented against (still)President George W. Bush.
This article was forwarded to me by Congressman Wexler and the shortsightedness of the author and the editorial board that published it deeply saddens me. It is nothing more than a low brow attack on a person attempting to fight for those things the author claims to want.
In the editorial, the author claims that holding impeachment hearings to address the current president's actions against our country is a distraction from issues that should be focused on. The examples this author gives of such "real" issues are Iraq, the economy, health insurance and oil/gas prices. However, this author misses the actual bottleneck these issues are running into.
On every single one, Congress has passed legislation, or begun holding hearings. Every piece of legislation that has passed to address these issues has been vetoed by that same president this author wants to leave in office.
Congress passed, repeatedly, legislation that would set firm benchmarks that would allow our military and national guard to come home and would set actual goals that the Iraqi Parliament had to meet. This was vetoed.
Congress at the beginning of the year passed legislation that authorized tax rebate "stimulus" checks to be issued. This bill fortunately was signed by President Bush, but the new one currently wending its way through the Senate, one that would help those who have lost their jobs during this crisis, currently faces a veto threat.
Earlier this year Congress attempted to legislate an update to the expiring SCHIP bill providing government subsidized health care to hundreds of thousands of young children. This is personal to me because my wife and I were able to afford to have our child because we barely fell on the cusp of the former income level. If I had been making $100 more a year, we would not have been able to afford to have a child. When the Democrats, including Rep. Wexler, attempted to expand this bill to catch those who would fall through the cracks, the Republicans in the Senate were able to block it with a veto from the president.
On energy prices, Congress has been holding a number of hearings attempting to get to a point where they can fix some of the issues. Some proposals include measures such as taxing the excessive profits of the oil companies (some making more than all but a couple nations, worldwide) and using these revenues to fund research and development of new forms of energy that would help drive down consumption of these commodities and push the prices lower. These measures also face a presidential veto.
The only way to pass meaningful legislation on these "REAL issues" is a change in the presidency. There are only two ways to change the president, an election held every four years electing a new president, the inauguration of whom is just over six months away, or impeachment. According to the Constitution, "The President, Vice President, and all other civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors." A president who has violated the Constitution he has sworn twice to uphold - in removing habeas rights, unwarranted wiretapping of civilians, and more - and who has sold our military and our children's futures into the hands of Halliburton and China has, in my informed opinion, acted treasonously and committed high crimes and misdemeanors. This president, and his equally guilty vice president, should be removed not only because of his illegal activities outlined by Rep. Kucinich, but also so Congress, and the nation, can move forward on REAL issues.
If you too would like to send the Sun Sentinel a piece of your mind on this issue, email them at email@example.com.
Moderator of Meet the Press for the past seventeen years, Tim Russert today passed away from an apparent heart attack. He was one of the few political pundits willing to ask the harder questions (not that he would always push for real answers). He will be missed.
Two short stories of how easy it is to see through John McCain:
This evening, McCain's new TV ad came on during dinner. You know, the one that says, "Only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war." After the end of the commercial, my son asks, "Is John McCain pretending to be Barack Obama?"
Yes, Isaac, but he isn't doing a good job of it...
"[I]t's time to restore the ties that bind us together and to come together around the ideals we share, the values we cherish and the country we love."
Thank you, Sen. Clinton, for these kind words. My only hope is that it will reach as many ears, and as many hearts, as if it had been said on Tuesday.
Let us come together as a family and begin the healing we so desperately need before November.
Yesterday, my wife, son and I went to an Obama party to watch the final primary results. Originally it had been scheduled for a restaurant, but the level of response from area Obama supporters was so great, they had to move it to an art gallery at the last minute. When we got there just after six, there were easily fifty people around the room and (horrors) a giant Lou Dobbs on the projector (fortunately, the room was loud enough that his drivel was drowned out).
As the evening wore on toward the time the South Dakota primaries closed, more people crowded in. Eventually, McCain took the stage to a small smattering of "boo"s, but he was largely ignored similar to Dobbs. Every so often, the CNN delegate ticker would roll over as a new super delegate would pledge for Obama, bringing cheers from the whole room. There his counter was at 2114 when the head of the Missouri Democratic Committee took the stage. He and three other Missouri super delegates were still unpledged and had said that they would vote as a block. He told us, five minutes before the SD polls closed, that all four of them had decided to pledge their support to Obama. The applause of the couple hundred people was deafening.
With this enthusiasm we welcomed even Republican pundits calling McCain's just finished speech "the worst ever." We watched as South Dakota was projected for Clinton, but our spirits weren't dampened because we knew this nomination battle was finally won.
Then Senator Clinton took the stage. We applauded her; proud of the fight she had fought; respectful of the enormous effort that her supporters had put out for her as we had for Sen. Obama; glad to have such a strong leader on our side.
Then she began her speech: "I want to start tonight by congratulating Senator Obama and his supporters on the extraordinary race that they have run." "Uh oh," I said to my wife, "this doesn't sound too conciliatory..." In fact, to me it sounded like the sort of thing she would say to the loser of a contest. But we were still optimistic and applauded her praise of Obama.
"Nearly 18 million of you cast your votes for our campaign, carrying the popular vote with more votes than any primary candidate in history." Yup, there it was, the knife in the back. The glaringly misleading half-truth designed to divide the party. The tone in our room immediately changed. We knew that more than 18 million people also cast their vote, as best they could, for Obama. In fact, by all counts except one, Obama won more votes than any primary candidate. Even on that one in which he didn't, more people voted against Clinton than have ever voted against a primary candidate in history.
"And I am committed to uniting our party so we move forward stronger and more ready than ever to take back the White House this November." Ok, we thought, after what she has just said, how does she intend to do that?
"You know, I understand that that a lot of people are asking, 'What does Hillary want? What does she want?'" We are, Mrs. Clinton. We do want to know what you intend to gain by drawing this out with more divisive politics. What do you want?
"I want to end the war in Iraq. I want to turn this economy around. I want health care for every American. I want every child to live up to his or her God-given potential." So do we all. Work with us, help us get Barack Obama elected the next president of the United States and you will see all these things and more. "And I want the nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected. " Ah, there it is, 'I want to use those people that voted for me as bargaining chips." It couldn't have been said more clearly.
The problem with this is manifold. She herself showed in this speech that she doesn't hold respect for those voters beyond the power it will give her. She has also, with this stance shown that she does not have even that level of respect for the 18 million people who voted for someone else. And she has shown that she doesn't respect her opponent enough to even admit when he has had a clear victory. Even this morning, her communications director couldn't answer when asked whether Obama had won the majority of the delegates needed to become the nominee.
Senator Hillary Clinton, I do not know what drove you to take this stance on the day your own metrics for victory were met by your opponent. What I do know is that you threw away your best remaining chance to bring this party together, not as Clinton or Obama supporters, but as Democrats. Instead, for whatever reason, you have chosen to drive that stake into the heart of this party. You had the opportunity to leave with the strength of a leader, instead you have encouraged the idea that your due was stolen from you.
You, of all political leaders, know what this image means to so many. And yet, rather than leading your supporters past that, you chose to relish in it. You know better than most, that none of those things you hope for will be accomplished under a McCain presidency. You also know that without the support of your followers, we may be doomed to four years of McCain. But still, rather than securing a central role as a Democratic leader, you chose to hold your own party hostage.
I do know that your campaign has said you will concede the nomination this Saturday. My only hope is that such belated words will be strong enough to bring us all back together.
Yesterday, the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee ruled on Florida and Michigan's delegations to the Democratic National Committee Convention. The final ruling gave Florida and Michigan their full delegation, but reduced each delegate's vote to 1/2. Also, in order to more fairly seat Michigan's delegation after Sen. Obama removed his name from the ballot according to his view of the oath he gave following Michigan's early primary, Hillary Clinton was given 69 delegates, and Obama was given 59. These numbers reflect not only the actual primary ballots, but also the exit polling that showed many of Obama's supporters voted for Clinton because only her name was on the ballot. This wound up giving Obama an extra 4 delegates out of Clinton's total. This was worked out as a compromise to Clinton's request that Obama receive no delegates from Michigan and the rules, as laid out last year, that no Michigan delegates would be seated.
This now gives Obama a delegate total of 2052 to Clinton's 1877, with the goal post set (firmly I hope) at 2118. Obama now needs 66 of the remaining 280 unpledged delegates (24%) and Clinton needs 241 (86%). Switching those four delegates would mean Clinton would need 239 (86%) and Obama would need 68 (24%). Unfortunately, as Sen. Clinton made clear beforehand, any seating of Michigan's delegation that gave Obama any votes would be completely unacceptable to her, and as such Harold Ickies, her representative at the meeting, has stated he will fight this ruling to the Convention.
What follows is part of a comment I left over at BAC's blog:
...[T]he votes by this committee could have no effect on [party unity], no matter how they voted. The only way we will see unity is if Sen. Clinton, and her ardent supporters, stop vilifying Sen. Obama as the devil re-incarnate and work to bring unity themselves. The people have spoken; Obama has won more states, more pledged delegates, more "super" delegates, more caucuses, more primaries, and more popular vote.
Sen. Clinton has fought an incredible campaign, but she has lost fairly. If she continues to drive wedges between her supporters and the DNC and the Democratic presidential nominee, not just women, not just Americans, but the whole world will be forced, by her, to suffer under a third George W. Bush term.
As much as we might wish (the more salient of us at least), nothing Sen. Obama could say, nor anything any of his supporters could say, can prevent Hillary Clinton from driving that wedge in if she so wishes. There is no magical speech Obama could make; sometimes the ball is just in the other person's court and there is nothing one can do about it. Insults have been bandied, feelings hurt, but we are willing to lay those aside and apologize for any we have delivered. But we cannot take that step without Sen. Clinton and her supporters.
Unity can only be brought by both sides working together.