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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Short-Term Memory Loss 

Here's a simple question: do you think the Republicans would allow legislation like the USA PATRIOT act to become law if it had been proposed by a Democratic president?

It's a trick question. Bill Clinton tried to get Congress to enact anti-terror legislation in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Republicans would have none of it.
President Clinton's proposals would have expanded pre-trial detention and allowed more federal wiretaps of terrorism suspects, eased deportation of foreigners convicted of crimes, allowed the detention of aliens convicted or suspected of crimes, let the President criminalize fund-raising for terrorism, and revived visa denial provisions to keep dangerous people out of the US.

[...]

Clinton's "Omnibus Counter Terrorism Act of 1995" would have:

"[P]rovided clear Federal criminal jurisdiction for any international terrorist attack that might occur in the United States [including] Federal criminal jurisdiction over terrorists who use the United States as the place from which to plan terrorist attacks overseas." Allowed deportation of "alien terrorists without risking the disclosure of national security information or techniques."

It would have "prevent[ed] fundraising in the United States that supports international terrorist activities overseas," implemented "an international treaty requiring the insertion of a chemical agent into plastic explosives when manufactured to make them detectable," and granted "more tools to federal law enforcement agencies fighting terrorism."

These proposed "tools" would have included: Providing for "disclosures by consumer reporting agencies to the FBI for counterintelligence and counterterrorism purposes." Also "relaxed standard[s] for obtaining 'pen registers' and 'trap and trace' device orders which already exists in routine criminal cases, to national security cases."

Note: a "'pen register' is a device which records the number dialed on a telephone" and a "'trap and trace' device is similar to 'Caller ID,' providing law enforcement with the telephone number from which a call originates. [This] would not permit law enforcement to monitor actual conversations being conducted."

Clinton's proposals "would require hotel/motel and common carriers such as airlines and bus companies to provide records to the FBI pursuant to authorized national security requests just as they must do now for virtually all state and local law enforcement. [This because] FBI has found that, while some of these entities voluntarily provide such information, an increasing number refuse, absent a court order, a subpoena, or other legal protection.

Clinton also sought to "fund costs associated cases which arise in connection with terrorism crises, including logistics and other support" and he wanted to "Create an interagency Domestic Counterterrorism Center headed by the FBI" to "establish a partnership effort between the Justice Department, including the FBI, and other federal and state law enforcement authorities to coordinate [ant-terror] efforts within the United States."

President Clinton "directed the Attorney General to conduct this assessment and report her recommendations in 60 days. The assessment has already begun" and directed "the FBI Director, the Attorney General, and the National Security Adviser to prepare a presidential decision directive authorizing any and all further steps necessary to combat foreign and domestic terrorism.

The Clinton Administration also submitted "New Legislative Proposals" which called for investigations and hiring "approximately 1000 new agents, prosecutors, and other federal law enforcement and support personnel to investigate, deter, and prosecute terrorist activity," and would have made it more difficult for terrorists to commit - and easier for law enforcement officers to detect, prevent and investigate - terrorist acts.

It would have required "the inclusion of microscopic particles in certain raw materials, thereby permitting law enforcement to trace the source of the explosive even after a device has been detonated" and "permitted military participation in crime-fighting involving weapons of mass destruction ... to permit military participation in criminal cases involving chemical, biological, and other weapons of mass destruction; areas in which the military has specialized expertise."

[...]

Other Clinton Administration anti-terrorism legislative proposals include: The Comprehensive Antiterrorism Act of 1995, The Counter Terrorism Technology Research Act of 1995, The Antiterrorism Amendments Act of 1995, The Effective Death Penalty and Antiterrorism Act of 1995, and the Senate and House versions of The Omnibus Counter Terrorism Act of 1995.

According to CNN, Republicans refused to cooperate with President Clinton's efforts to protect us from terrorist attacks: "July 30, 1996 President Clinton urged Congress Tuesday to act swiftly in developing anti-terrorism legislation before its August recess. But while the president pushed for quick legislation, Republican lawmakers hardened their stance against some of the proposed anti-terrorism measures.

"Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, doubted that the Senate would rush to action before they recess this weekend. The Senate needs to study all the options, he said, and trying to get it done in the next three days would be tough. One key GOP senator was more critical, calling a proposed study of chemical markers in explosives 'a phony issue.'" [Mike Hersh.com]
The most maddening thing about this is not that we didn't pass this legislation ten years ago, it's that it didn't get a chance to be considered because the Republicans for purely political reasons wouldn't consider it. All their concerns about civil liberties is just a steaming pile of horseshit; they just didn't want to let Bill Clinton get away with doing something that might actually show that the Democrats weren't a bunch of lily-livered Kum-by-Yah-singing hippies who tried to "feel the pain" of the oppressed. They had to wait until they got one of theirs in office. Notwithstanding 9/11 and the evidence that the Bush administration was fully aware of the abilities of the likes of Osama bin Laden and the existence of Al-Qaeda, the Republicans have shown that they don't give a rat's ass about the finer points of protecting privacy as long as they get to write the laws, and they have no objection whatsoever to expanding the presidential powers to a level not seen since the Nixon administration as long as one of theirs is in office.

The arrogance is palpable. The response to the news that the president withheld intelligence evidence from Congress is that there are certain members who can't be trusted with that kind of information, and anyway, the White House knows best. Yeah, that idea of shared powers and the people electing their representatives to do their business is so 18th century. The reaction to the news that President Bush authorized wiretaps on Americans has been an echo of Nixon's "if the president does it, that means it is not illegal." Nixon's term came to an abrupt end because of attitudes like that, but thirty years later it's back, and so are the defenders of it: "The president needs every bit of power he can have to defend America." Try selling that to the Republicans when there's a Democrat in the White House. Oh, wait; we did, and chances are that if President Clinton had tried to do anything that the current administration is doing, he would have been impeached and rightly so. But the standards are different for the Republicans. So would somebody please give the president a blowjob so we can get this over with?

Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday Blogaround 

This might be the last working day for some people, but there are those who have to work, y'know...

But if you have the time off -- or even if you don't -- take a stroll through the pickings of The Liberal Coalition.
  • All Facts and Opinion chimes in on Ford shifting into reverse.
  • archy hunts werewolves and wooly mammoths.
  • Bark Bark Woof Woof takes on responsibility.
  • blogAmY yucks it up.
  • bloggg gets into legal definitions.
  • Chris is very busy.
  • Collective Sigh has a capital suggestion.
  • A White Christmas? CorrenteWire has a genetic explanation.
  • Dodecahedron goes to pot.
  • Echidne writes about the man who got away.
  • firedoglake continues the pursuit of the evil-doers in Plamegate.
  • Tena at First Draft celebrates the holidays.
  • The Fulcrum takes a look at the death penalty in terms of quantum sociology.
  • Happy Furry Puppy explains why he should win every Koufax Award.
  • Harry Dogwater has a catechism.
  • iddybud on the emergence of the Religious Left.
  • Left is Right has some news clips.
  • Liberty Street reveals the intelligence gap.
  • Make Me a Commentator finds a handy scapegoat.
  • MercuryX23 has the list of all the companies Focus on the Family wants you to boycott because they're gay-tolerant.
  • Pen-Elayne listens to a Christmas Carol.
  • Rook's Rant shows why I don't miss living in Minnesota.
  • rubber hose looks at some Swiss cash.
  • Science and Politics is looking for submissions to a new Carnival.
  • Scrutiny Hooligans declares Santa an enemy combatant.
  • Sooner Thought counts the dead in Iraq.
  • Speedkill shares a well-reasoned Christmas song.
  • Steve Gilliard on why the vote in Iraq may be bad news for the U.S.
  • T. Rex has a concise compendium of recent right-wing nutsery.
  • Trust the Invisible Library to know how good Wikipedia is.
  • Wanda has a couple of interesting news items.
  • WTF Is It Now has the Bill Frist Disconnect Festival.
  • Steve at The Yellow Doggerel Democrat gives the TSA a spelling lesson.
  • ...You Are a Tree has a music review.
  • Don't forget the Koufax Awards nominations; you might find some very nice candidates here in TLC. And there's also The Practical Press Awards to consider. Ah, an embarrassment of riches.

    And already it begins... 

    (Sorta-kinda cross-posted from my place, as TypePad is currently Bloggered: I don't know how long it will be until that link actually works. I originally posted this last night, but I doubt many people got to see it before TypePad went boom.)

    The old typing drill is beginning to look very true these days: Now is the time for all good men people to come to the aid of the party. Yesterday afternoon, Markos posted a Republican strategery memo for next year. I think we've got our work cut out for us--because if we don't, the corrupt, venal Republicans are going to try their damnedest to do it for us, à la the Not-So-Swift Lying Scumbags for Defamation who rose to prominence in the last presidential contest.

    Here are the money graphs (emphasis added):

    Collectively and individually the Democrats have decided to talk about the Bush Administration and us rather than present their own alternative vision of where the country should go in the coming years. They have done this for two reasons. First, they have deep internal divisions that they would rather not reveal to the public. Second, they know that the public rejects the core beliefs of the majority of their party -- higher taxes, bigger government and surrender in Iraq.

    Those core beliefs were visible to American voters to some degree in the presidential election of 2000 and even more dramatically in the form of an obstructionist Democratic Senate in 2002 and the liberal Kerry candidacy of 2004. They will be visible again in 2008 when Democrats are forced to define themselves over the course of a presidential campaign. However, in 2006 we will have to define the Democrats since they will steadfastly refuse to do it themselves.

    [snip]

    Next year we should not let the Democrats get away with being critics as opposed to problem solvers. They must be forced to defend the solutions they are offering to the American people -- higher taxes and bigger government at home combined with defeat and retreat abroad. Since they won't spell out their agenda to the American people we must do it for them.


    Clearly, we need to get our thinking-caps on. Historically, one of the bigger problems on the leftward end of the political spectrum has been a tendency toward either fragmentation along ideological lines or else a very loosely defined, wishy-washy "we're not the other guys" platform that makes precisely this kind of cynical Republican machination possible. It is patently obvious (to me, at least--and if I've gotten the point I have to figure it's pretty doggone obvious--or should be--to people who get paid big bucks to think about these things) that the Democrats are going to have a hard time winning next year even in the face of rampant Republican corruption, ineptitude, arrogance, hubris, and failures of all kinds--unless we can point to something we stand for, and not just because we stand against the Republicans.

    And the sooner we start getting that agenda worked out, the sooner we can start pushing it and using it--because clearly we're going to need it, and need it to be visible, workable, and memorable. Otherwise, the Republican Slime Machine is going to do to us exactly what it did to John Kerry in 2004. One time through that nightmare was quite enough for me, thankyouverymuch, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way. We need to get our people on the ground, with our agenda, and push it so hard and so loud and for so long that the Republicans simply won't be able to overcome the noise we're generating. I know it's still 2005, but in game terms we're pretty clearly in the final minutes of the fourth quarter (third period, what have you) and we're playing from behind. Now is not the time to screw it up, especially when all we need to do to win it is get a simple, straightforward agenda that all of us (or at least most of us) can rally around and which will give voters a clear choice between us and the other guys when it's time to step into the voting booths next fall.

    I shouldn't have to explain why this is important, but I'm going to anyway: just to underscore the importance of this work. The Republicans are in complete control of the federal government--and it is visibly falling apart around our ears, as is the country it's supposed to represent and to serve. Our national reputation elsewhere in the world, once a shining beacon of liberty and freedom to peoples everywhere, is in tatters--and the very people who should be patching it up and burnishing it to a high gloss are the ones who are dragging it through the mud and ripping it into shreds. The Republicans' allegiance is to their party first, their corporate masters and their big-money donors second, and then--and only then--to the country and its people. Even then, their attention seems to be focused primarily on providing ever more bounty for the already wealthy, while doing next to nothing (beyond a few cosmetic measures, and those few begrudgingly done) for the truly needy, the elderly, the veterans, the widows and orphans, the homeless, etc. They will rape our environment, rob our Treasury blind--and then pass the bills and the interest charges on to our children and our children's children--all so they can steer a few billion more in no-bid contracts to their campaign contributors. They will bitterly bemoan--and do all in their power to change--those "pesky" regulations that keep our air and drinking water safe, our working places reasonably free from hazards, our wages and benefits even remotely fair, our elections an accurate reflection of the people's will, and anything else which interferes with their corporatist, materialist, elitist agenda. There is no law they will not break or bend (or try to get changed in favor of their donors), no tradition they will not abrogate, no treaty or international obligation they will not ignore (or refuse to ratify, no matter how worthwhile the goal), if it means even a scintilla more power for themselves and "their kind," and to hell with the needs and wants of the rest of the country or even the whole world.

    That's what we're up against. And all that suggests at least one possible point of our agenda for next year. We're the Party of Everybody Else. We're the ones who stand up for the little guys, the ones who don't have a couple of hundred thou to drop into the party's coffers, who weren't born with silver feet in their mouths, who don't have half the members of Congress on our speed-dial lists. We're the party of fiscal sanity (and that point is a no-brainer: I'm sure the Republicans will try to hammer us with their old, worn "tax-and-spend" lies, but they should do so at their peril). Anybody who looks at what the Republicans have done with this country's finances in the five years they've held total control of our government and still thinks they have an iota of credibility in these matters is truly living in Fantasyland. Hello?!?! We went from a budget surplus to the biggest budget deficit in history--a deficit that is still ballooning as these buffoons try to pass even more tax cuts for their wealthy friends and masters, tax cuts which they will pay for by taking food off the tables of the poor, medicine out of the hands of widows, orphans, and wounded American veterans, teachers out of the classrooms and scholarship dollars out of the hands of those who need them to have any chance of achieving even some small measure of the American Dream.

    We're the party that stands for a strong America. And by "strong" we mean not only militarily and economically (where we pretty much don't have any serious competition, at least not for the foreseeable short-term future) but ethically and morally and relationally. We must repair the network of alliances that has kept us safe and ensured that our concerns are given a respectful hearing in the capitals of the world for decades. We must be strong in our support for the least and the lowliest among us. It is a crime of monumental proportions that anyone in this richest country on earth goes to bed hungry at night, or without health care--or a roof over his or her head. We can, we must, and we shall do better.

    The Republican memo makes it clear that they're going to try to smear us with this "defeatist" meme they've been trying out in the last couple of weeks. We must make it perfectly clear that we have no interest in surrendering anything--but that we, unlike the Republican fantasists currently in the Pentagon, in Congress, and in the White House, recognize there is nothing good that can come from a continuing U.S. presence in Iraq. Unlike the Shrubbery, we prefer not to make policy decisions based on fantasies or wishful thinking--we will be guided by the facts, and by the best available opinions of those whose business it is to know those facts. If that means that our best course of action is to get our troops out of Iraq, then that is the course we will follow--always keeping the safety of our troops, and of the Iraqi people toward whom we bear a tremendous responsibility, paramount. That's an unpalatable truth, but there's no denying it is true.

    The Democrats. We stand for truth, for justice, for the American Way, for fiscal sanity, for reality-based decision-making. We will actually restore honor and dignity to the White House, instead of only talking about it even as we do everything in our power to sully that dignity and soil that honor, as George W. Bush has.

    It's not perfect, not by any means. But it's my contribution toward the start of the process of finding a platform that is. Or at least one that's as close to perfection as we can come.

    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    THE CRAZY LIST 

    Check out this list of companies James Dobson wants his flock of homophobic Neanderthals to avoid because they may, indeed, do business with gays and lesbians. I have tried to categorize them as best as I can. Please excuse any mistakes I may have made, it is a very long list: Corporations, Industry & Legal • AT&T • SC Johnson and Son • Dow Chemical • Johnson & Johnson • Procter & Gamble • Owens Corning (Home exterior products) • Northrop Grumman Corp. • DuPont • International Paper Co. • Corning • Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. • Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe • Morrison & Foerster • Alston & Bird • Air Products & Chemicals • Mohawk Industries • McKinsey & Co. • Cargill • Reynolds American • Jenner & Block • Visteon Corporation...

    Read the rest at the Fantabulous Blog...

    Carnival of the Liberals - call for submissions 



    Carnival of the Liberals #2 is coming up next week on Neural Gourmet. Send your entries to:
    cotl-submissions AT carnivaloftheliberals DOT com

    Sunday, December 11, 2005

    Call for Bad History 

    We have a host for the next Carnival of Bad History. As we were rapidly approaching to the date for the winter CoBH and still lacked a host I was debating whether to give up on the whole carnival idea or resign myself to permanent hosthood. I was actually in the process of writing a post on the subject when I got a note from Coturnix saying that he had located a host volunteer. The Neural Gourmet has stepped up to the plate to, uh, punt a basket, or whatever it is you do at the plate--I never was very good at the sports metaphor thing. The next CoBH will be held on December 22. That means you have lots of time to write a post, post a post, and submit said post to The Neural Gourmet for inclusion. Have a myth you want to bust? Heard someone say something astonishingly ahistorical? Discovered a great conspiracy theory? Just want to review a bad movie? If it has anything to do with history, this is your chance.