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A Faerie's Farthing

Flitting through the internets looking for sparkly bits. All content mine and not to be reproduced without permission.

Location: All Material Copyrighted, United States

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Yes, Dear Readers, there is a Santa Claus!

Yes, Dear Readers, there is a Santa Claus!

"I &hearts Russ" is the new "I Like Ike." At least it should be.

In Congress, where numbers are everything, the math on the Patriot Act suddenly seems to be moving in favor of Sen. Russell Feingold.

He was a minority of one four years ago, when the Wisconsin Democrat cast the lone Senate vote against the USA Patriot Act in the traumatic weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. The law, he said then, gave government too much power to investigate its citizens.

...The new Senate arithmetic that emerged this week is enough to place the renewal of major portions of the law in doubt. It was enough to inspire Senate Republican leaders to consider a backup plan in case Feingold's filibuster threat succeeded.

That will be topping my Christmas list for sure! Not only does it look like Feingold has the numbers, but it's a truly bi-partisan group willing to stand with him.

The opposition that began with Feingold's one vote has bloomed into a bloc of Democrats and Republicans concerned about a range of powers the original act gave the FBI, and how they are used. This group prefers the curbs on government power passed by the Senate but rejected in a compromise with the House. Now, faced with an up-or-down vote on the accord, they say no.

...In the last week, Feingold has attracted important allies, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record), R-Neb., a possible presidential candidate in 2008. On Thursday he added another to his column: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (news, bio, voting record) of California, the original Democratic co-sponsor of the 2001 Patriot Act.

..."It's just very gratifying," Feingold said, grinning during an interview this week in his office. "We've stood the test of time. Our concerns were legitimate."

Of course they were! The act is some 340 pages long and was passed into law just one month and 12 days after September 11, 2001. It really makes you wonder how much of it was written in advance, or how much review it could have possibly had before going to a vote. Thanks to google, and FOX news of all outlets, we don't have to wonder so much:

Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., wrote a remarkable op-ed in the Washington Post last weekend titled "We Need to Read the Bills."

...The op-ed is remarkable in that while its thesis — "Congressman says Congress should read bills before voting on them" — sounds like something from The Onion, it is completely serious, exposing a notable disconnect between what most of America thinks goes on in Washington and what actually happens.

...The Patriot Act, for example, weighs in at 340 pages — svelte by federal legislation standards. Yet the Senate was given just three days to read the bill before voting on it (and approving it 98-1). And just two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Sen. Orrin Hatch found a pending appropriations bill due for a vote, and tacked on a slew of amendments that served as a kind of precursor to the Patriot Act — again, giving the Senate no time to actually read and contemplate them.

...Author Gene Healy writes in the introduction to the new book, Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything, that in 1998, the American Bar Association assembled a task force charged with compiling a complete list of federal crimes. The panel concluded that a complete list was nearly impossible to assemble...

"[Even] teams of legal researchers — let alone ordinary citizens — cannot reliably ascertain what federal law prohibits," Healy writes.

It is said that a democracy is only viable so long as the general population is able to understand the issues in question. I'm not sure what to think if experts can't even make heads or tails of things. In the case of the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, it's even worse because our lawmakers don't even know exactly what laws they passed. But, of course, if they bothered to read through 340 or so pages of various bills, they wouldn't have time for their really important work, like defending Christmas from the evils of human secularism! Thankfully, the Senate has a reputation and tradition of being more even-tempered than the House; if they successfully filibuster this abomination, they will have well earned it.

the senior Democrat on the issue, Sen. Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record), D-Vt., told reporters that more than 40 votes exist to sustain a filibuster in a test vote Friday.

...Feingold finds himself with some unlikely allies, including the Christian Defense Coalition. Notably, the National Rifle Association has not endorsed the Patriot Act renewal that was personally negotiated by Vice President Dick Cheney. The NRA's non-position allows its Senate supporters to oppose renewing the law in its entirety.

"Folks, when we're dealing with civil liberties, you don't compromise them," said Sen. Larry Craig (news, bio, voting record), R-Idaho, an NRA board member.

Yes; that Larry Craig. I guess we have to let him out of his room just for this. I've been rather intrigued by his support against this abomination. He's apparently a huge fan of Alito's, so it seemed incongruous that he would take such strong stand in defense of civil liberties. I guess the NRA tie explains that - and Alito overturning a ban on the possession of machine guns. I'm rather disturbed at the implications of the NRA's various positions "allowing" Senators to take certain courses of action. It seems a conflict of interest for a member of Congress to sit on the board of an organization that routinely lobbies our legislative branch.

But that's a debate for another day; all skepticism aside, this is wonderful news. If you didn't watch the house debate from yesterday, it's really good stuff. Sensennbrenner was his usual cantankerous self; the behavior of the house leadership overall is quite puzzling and, frankly, rather juvenile. Hastert whined that "a short-term extension is irresponsible," but seems to think that forcing a highly contentious bill to a premature vote is perfectly reasonable. Many key provisions of the act are due to expire at the end of this month; it's hard to see how a temporary extension of them is somehow harmful, especially if a compromise could ultimately strengthen the legislation. Is it all just ego and eminence front? I can see why Sensenbrenner might take it personally, since he originally introduced the bill. But why does Hastert care so much? I can only assume it's about the appearance of control and power. It's preferable to thinking they really just hate civil rights.

All the more reason I &hearts Russ!

wing tip to daily kos!


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