The Deaf Claque

Because they’re worth clapping for…probably…

Obama’s Statement on the FISA Bill

I hope this isn't an accurate metaphor for Obamas campaign

Yesterday after hearing about and reading through the FISA bill, I sent an email to Senator Obama/ his campaign. It basically said that I supported him and was very disappointed to see that he voted in favor of the bill.

I also said that though his message is of empowering the people and encouraging them to participate in the political process, his vote had the opposite affect on most that I’ve talked to. It’s one thing to be let down by the Bush Administration, but it’s something else to be let down by someone you support.

Here’s the message I received back; Obama’s statement in response to criticism for his vote:

Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.

That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.

After months of negotiation, the House passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year’s Protect America Act. Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President’s illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.

It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I voted in the Senate three times to remove this provision so that we could seek full accountability for past offenses. Unfortunately, these attempts were unsuccessful. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.

It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people.

I, sir, am not convinced. The bill is considerably better, but taking the opportunity of just compensation for losses from American citizens is just not acceptable, no matter how much better it is than the original bill.

If a car dealer asks $2 Million for a Hyundai, I’m not going to pay $500,000 for it just because it’s a lot better than $2 Million.

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July 11, 2008 Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Bills, Congress, FISA, General Discourse, Nathan Schmitt, Senate | Leave a comment

Senate Passes Telecom Immunity Bill

Yesterday, July 9, 2008, the Senate (the House has passed it as well) passed H.R. 6304, the telecom immunity bill.

Under Title II, Section 802, the bill states that:

[…] a civil action may not lie or be maintained in a Federal or State court against any person for providing assistance to an element of the intelligence community, and shall be promptly dismissed, if the Attorney General certifies to the district court of the United States in which such action is pending[…]” [and there is a list of qualifications you can read if you click the hyperlink above]

It should be noted that the protection is only for civil actions from which citizens may seek damages; there is no protection from criminal charges being brought against parties. As far as the accountability of telecoms goes, and any other party for that matter (as defined under Title II, Section 802), there is still some degree of accountability to which these parties may be held, but it is specifically criminal.

What this means for the American people is that private citizens may not sue for damages (compensation for losses of any sort) as a result of surveillance. The offending parties may only be sued by the United States government, thereby providing no just compensation for transgressions against private citizens, and can only result in the punishment of the offending parties.

This is a very, very sad day for America as well as the United States Constitution and anyone who believes in it. Here is the text of the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

And Obama voted for it…What is happening?…I’m starting to get that feeling about Obama that I got about McCain when he flipped from a harsh critic of the Bush Admin to a supporter of them. Not that the big O is joining the ranks of the Bush Administration by any means, but his vote in favor of this bill is, in my mind, a serious transgression against the people of the United States. And that’s from an Obama supporter.

There’s another thing that’s bothering me. The bill is ridiculously sloppy. For example, Title II, Section 802, Paragraph 5 (which is one of the circumstances under which the Attorney General may dismiss a relevant case):

“(5) the person did not provide the alleged assistance.”

Excuse me? What? The Attorney General’s job is to argue cases, not to decide them.

I’m really ashamed to be an American right now.

I’d like to just leave you with this, the Presidential Oath of Office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The President regularly referrs to his oath and states that it is his job to protect the American people. I don’t know if he wasn’t paying attention when he took it or if he just forgot what it says, but he swore an oath to protect the U.S. Constitution, NOT the American people.

If we Americans don’t wake up and do something, we deserve what’s coming to us.

July 10, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Bills, Congress, FISA, George W. Bush, Video | 2 Comments

Phase 2: Senate Report on Pre-war Intelligence

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Phase 2 of the Senate Report on Pre-war Intelligence was released this past Thursday. In a press conference about it’s release, Senator Jay Rockefeller stated that, “In making the case for war administration officials distorted the facts or were not supported by the facts, and said that they knew or should of known were not true.

The Huffington Post is sadly one of the few news sources that really covered it. Below is an excerpt, kind of the meat of it:

“the breadth of the Committee’s citations of examples in which the Bush administration’s comments were not supported by intelligence could reignite public dissatisfaction over the war. According to a release from Rockefeller’s office that was provided to The Huffington Post, these examples include:

— Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.

— Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.

— Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products.

— Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community’s uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.”

June 11, 2008 Posted by | Congress, George W. Bush, Iraq War, Jon Stewart, Nathan Schmitt, Senate, The Media, Video, White House | , | Leave a comment

Signing Statement: National Defense Authorization Act for 2008

By Nathan Schmitt

Vodpod videos no longer available.

On January 28, 2008, President Bush signed into law National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Searchable) (H.R. 4986) along with a signing statement effectively giving himself the power to ignore sections 841, 846, 1079, and 1222. Here is a quick summary of these four sections:

§ 841 “established a commission to be known as the `Commission on Wartime Contracting'” that is essentially in charge of investigating defense contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

§ 846 Provides “protection for contractor employees from reprisal for disclosure of certain information” relevant to violations of law regarding such defense contracts.

§ 1079 States that the various heads of Intelligence must deliver requested Intelligence information, within 45 days of such a request, to one of the congressional Committees on Armed Services.

§1222 Prohibits the use of alloted funds for the creation of permanent military bases in Iraq or for the U.S.’s “control of the oil resources of Iraq.”

I’m not quite sure from whence the President claims this authority because he does not explicitly (or implicitly) state why he thinks he has such power. There are however three constitutional provisions that speak directly to this question:
Art. I, § 8, ¶ 12: Congressional Enumerated Powers:

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years[…]

This provision vests the power of Military Appropriations specifically in Congress.

Art. I, § 8, ¶ 18: Necessary and Proper Clause:

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution [the powers] vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States […]

This provision states (along with Art. I, § 1, ¶ 1) that Congress is the sole legislative body and that it has the power to make laws that it deems necessary and proper to uphold the Constitution.

Art. I, § 7, ¶ 2 & 3: The Presentment Clause:

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated […]

This clause lays out the process which a bill must go through to become a law.

The first provision clearly implies that the President does not have the power to overlook Section 1222 of H.R. 4986. It really doesn’t get any more black and white: the power of military appropriations was vest explicitly and distinctly to Congress and the President’s signing statement is therefore in direct conflict of the Presentment Clause.

As far as the other three sections that the President posits to negate, the language of the Presentment Clause is very clear in stating “If he approve[s of the bill] he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections.” This is not a debate of any kind, I’m simply at a loss. The President assumes the power he does on the basis that he wants it, and not on any Constitutional provision, law, statute, case, precedent, etc…

Wow…

February 13, 2008 Posted by | Bills, Committee on Oversight, Congress, George W. Bush, House of Representatives, Impeachment, Iraq War, Jon Stewart, Nathan Schmitt, Presidential Vetos, Video | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Senate Confirms Mukasey

By Theo O’Brien

The senate has moved to confirm Michael Mukasey to the position of attorney general, despite heavy skepticism by Democrats over the issue of waterboarding—the controversial interrogation technique that simulates drowning.

“After daylong negotiations, the Senate opened debate Thursday night on President Bush’s nomination of Mukasey, a retired federal judge, to replace Alberto Gonzales.

To win confirmation, Mukasey has promised to enforce any anti-waterboarding law passed by Congress but his Democratic opponents say he is being disingenuous because any such law would likely be vetoed by President Bush.” (1)

November 10, 2007 Posted by | Congress, Michael Mukasey, Senate, Theo O'Brien | , , | Leave a comment

Dennis Kucinich: Dick Cheney Impeachment Resolution (Video)

By Nathan Schmitt

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Yesterday, Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich presented the House with a resolution for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney (Video above). House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Democrat) immediately moved to table the resolution, but the motion was shot down by a vote of 251-162, more than half of the votes against tabling were Republican. A summary:

House Democrats on Tuesday narrowly managed to avert a bruising debate on a proposal to impeach Dick Cheney after Republicans, in a surprise maneuver, voted in favor of taking up the measure.

Republicans, changing course midway through a vote, tried to force Democrats into a debate on the resolution sponsored by longshot presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.” (1)

Also,

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “impeachment is off the table” and Congress is focused on responsibly getting U.S. troops out of Iraq, covering 10 million uninsured children and meeting national priorities long neglected by the Bush administration, said her spokesman Nadeam Elshami.” (1)

November 7, 2007 Posted by | Congress, Dick Cheney, House of Representatives, Impeachment, Nathan Schmitt, Video | , , | Leave a comment

Bush Defends Mukasey, While Attacking Congress

By Theo O’Brien

 

Click Here for Speech (External Video)

In a speech today (original source) before the Heritage Foundation, President Bush plead for the confirmation of Michael Mukasey while scolding Congress for what he considers a lack of progress and support for the troops deployed overseas.

 

Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey’s recently struggled with Democrats over his definition of torture. In his speech the President rose to the defense of his nominee reasoning that the acceptance of Mukasey as Attorney General is key to America’s safety against terrorism.

 

The job of the attorney general is essential to the security of America. The attorney general is the highest ranking official responsible for our law enforcement community’s efforts to detect and prevent terrorist attacks here at home.” (1)

In response to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s continued pressure for a more revealing insight into the legality of the United States’ interrogation techniques by Mr. Mukasey, the President had this to say:

Finally, he does not want any statement of his to give the terrorists a window into which techniques we may use and which ones we may not use. That could help them train their operatives to resist questioning and withhold vital information we need to stop attacks and save lives.” (1)

President Bush recently vocalized his disapproval of Congress, chastising the fact that they have not sent him a War Spending Bill yet. Today, he again called on Congress to allocate the funds necessary to fund the Iraq war.

 

Congress is also stalling on the emergency war supplemental to fund our troops on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq. This crucial bill includes funds for bullets and body armor, protection against IEDs and mine-resistant ambush-protective vehicles.” (1)

He also spoke adamantly of the need to pass other bills to support the troops fighting in Iraq currently, and those who have returned.

Congress also needs to pass the Department of Defense spending bill, as well as a funding bill for our nation’s veterans.

There are reports that congressional leaders may be considering combining the funding bills for our military and our veterans together with a bloated labor, health and education spending bill.

It’s hard to imagine a more cynical ploy than holding funding for our troops and our wounded warriors hostage in order to extract $11 billion in wasteful Washington spending.” (1)

This has been the latest of a string of pleas by the President for financial support of the war, highlighted by his recent criticism of Congress as having “the worst record for a Congress in 20 years.” (2)

November 1, 2007 Posted by | Congress, George W. Bush, Iraq War, Theo O'Brien | , , , | Leave a comment

President Bush Criticizes Congress: A Response (Video)

By Nathan Schmitt

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Yesterday, I wrote about the President’s very harsh criticisms of Congress in a speech he gave that morning. I was glad to see this clip from “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” a mainstream news media source, point out some of the rational flaws (to say the least) with that speech. However, I must say that I could do without Olbermann’s openly hostile tone and occasional jabs. There seem to be a lot of things wrong with the system and those in charge, but hostility doesn’t seem like the most effective means of change.

Near the end of the video, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi responds to Bush’s criticisms of Congress.

October 31, 2007 Posted by | Congress, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Economics, General Discourse, George W. Bush, House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, Nathan Schmitt, Video | , , , | Leave a comment

President Bush Urges Congress to Pass Appropriations Bills

By Nathan Schmitt


This morning, the President gave a speech highly critical of congress saying that,

They have not been able to send a single annual appropriations bill to my desk, and that’s the worst record for a Congress in 20 years.” (1)

The bill that the President is referring to throughout this speech is presumably his war funding request for $194.6 Billion:

I hope the leadership feels that way, and they ought to give me a bill that funds, among other things, bullets, and body armor, and protection against IEDs, and mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles.” (1)

There was, however, an inherent contradiction in the President’s speech. On one hand he said that Congress is spending–or hoping to spend–far too much money yet urges them to send him a war funding bill.

Spending is skyrocketing under their leadership — at least proposed spending is skyrocketing under their leadership…

I again urge them to pass a clean Defense appropriations bill, and a war supplemental bill to fund our troops in combat.“(1)

It appears to be rather obvious that the President doesn’t have a problem with how much money is being spent, but instead, where he thinks the money should be going. This is no revelation by any means, but his juxtaposition of blatantly contradictory arguments serves to highlight the trend of quality of discourse taking place in contemporary politics. This disingenuous discourse cannot be specific to any person, party, or group but seems to be a general trend of thought that may (though not necessarily) emerge when reaching for ends of power and influence.

Perhaps Socrates–through Plato, of course–meant something relevant to this when he said, “I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.

October 30, 2007 Posted by | Congress, Economics, General Discourse, George W. Bush, Nathan Schmitt | , , , | 1 Comment

The Candidates (Part 2): Ron Paul (Video)

By Nathan Schmitt

The second of “The Candidates” series: Republican Texas Representative Ron Paul. Here are his congressional voting records.

October 28, 2007 Posted by | "The Candidates", 2008 Election, Congress, House of Representatives, Nathan Schmitt | , , | Leave a comment