Saturday, February 02, 2008

Vermont Pulling National Guard Troops From Iraq?

    "If the president believes there's still a need to have our National Guard in Iraq to stabilize that country or whatever, it's his job to go back to Congress and ask for that authorization," Fisher added. "The president doesn't have the authority to permanently federalize our Guards." Vermont State Representative Michael Fisher (D-Lincoln) speaking to OneWorld.

   This past Wednesday, Vermont State legislators went ahead and introduced some legislation that pretty much demands that their National Guard troops be brought back from Iraq. Minnesota, , Pennsylvania, and  New Hampshire lawmakers are thinking of doing the same thing, according to OneWorld writer

Aaron Glantz.

  All of the states which have troops in Iraq should take the same measures as Vermont is to get our people back home to the U.S. I seriously doubt that President Bush has any legal authority to use members of the National Guard, whose sole purpose is to help with major disasters in our own country, not in the Middle East or elsewhere. Of course, things such as the laws have never stopped this moron in the past and I doubt if such things will at this time.

     Read more Here

Friday, February 01, 2008

U.S. House Of Representatives Economic News Fact Sheet

  From The Gavel

1) 17,000: Employers cut payrolls by 17,000 for the first time in more than four years, with job losses in manufacturing, construction, and financial services.

2) 3.4 million: President Bush is tied for the worst jobs record of any President since the Great Depression, with 3.4 million manufacturing jobs lost.

3)  Less than 1 percent: Economic growth in the fourth quarter was a sluggish 0.6 percent — its slowest pace since 2002.

4)  2.2 million: Nationwide, the foreclosure rate jumped 75 percent – with 2.2 million filings – in 2007.

5) $3.50: Families are paying $2.98 a gallon for gasoline — double the price in 2001, and three times the amount for home heating oil over 2001, and the price of crude oil recently peaked at record of $100 per barrel. Experts estimate that the average national price of gasoline could rise to a record $3.50 a gallon or more by June, with prices approaching $4 a gallon in some areas.

   Booming economy Mr. Bush? HMMM

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The Senate’s Agreement On Debating The FISA Bill

  You should know by now that I am not going away on this particular subject because this is an important piece of legislation that has to come out in you and I's favor.

   Here's a statement from Sen. R. Feingold concerning debate over this FISA legislation.

Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold
On the Senate’s Agreement on Debating the FISA Legislation

February 1, 2008

“I am pleased that Republicans have finally backed down from their efforts to ram a deeply flawed FISA bill through the Senate without votes on amendments. We all agree that FISA needs to be updated so our government can go after the foreign communications of suspected terrorists. But we must not provide overly broad and unnecessary powers that infringe on the rights and privacy of law-abiding Americans, especially to an administration that has proven it cannot be trusted. Next week, we have an opportunity to fix this bill, but only if senators stand up to the administration’s attempted power grab and support my and other amendments to put in place checks and balances. If the final bill produced by the Senate doesn’t protect the privacy of law abiding Americans or if it includes immunity for telecom companies, I will strongly oppose it and will vote against cutting off debate on it.”

As a result of the agreement, several of Senator Feingold’s proposed amendments, critical to improving this deeply flawed bill will be considered and voted on:

  • Dodd-Feingold Amendment Stripping Retroactive Immunity
    Along with Senator Chris Dodd, Senator Feingold will offer an amendment to strike Title II of the Intelligence Committee bill, which provides immunity to telecommunications companies that allegedly cooperated with the President’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program.
  • Feingold-Webb-Tester Amendment to Provide Protections for Americans
    Senator Feingold intends to offer an amendment along with Senators Jim Webb and Jon Tester to allow the government to get the information it needs about terrorists and purely foreign communications, while providing additional checks and balances for communications involving Americans. Under the Intelligence Committee bill, many law-abiding Americans who communicate with completely innocent people overseas will have their communications swept up, with virtually no judicial involvement or oversight.
  • Prohibiting "Bulk Collection"
    Senator Feingold successfully offered this amendment in the Senate Judiciary Committee to prohibit "bulk collection" -- the collection of all international communications between the U.S and a whole continent, or even the entire world. Such collection without a foreign intelligence purpose would be constitutionally suspect and would go well beyond what the government has says it needs to protect the American people. Yet, the Director of National Intelligence testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the Protect America Act – which was enacted last year -- permits "bulk collection." The amendment prevents such massive dragnets by requiring the government to certify that it is collecting the communications of foreign targets from whom it expects to obtain foreign intelligence information.
  • Prohibiting "Reverse Targeting"
    Senator Feingold successfully offered this amendment in the Judiciary Committee to add a meaningful prohibition on “reverse targeting,” a practice by which the government gets around FISA’s court order requirement by wiretapping an individual overseas when it is really interested in a person in the U.S. with whom that supposed foreign target is communicating. The Director of National Intelligence has agreed that “reverse targeting” is unconstitutional. Senator Feingold’s amendment requires the government to obtain a court order whenever a significant purpose of the surveillance is to acquire the communications of an American in the U.S.
  • “Use Limits” Amendment
    This amendment, which was part of the Senate Judiciary Committee version of the FISA bill, gives the FISA Court discretion to impose restrictions on the use of information about Americans that is acquired through procedures later determined to be illegal by the FISA court. This enforcement mechanism is needed because the government can implement its procedures before it has to submit them to the FISA Court for review to determine whether they are reasonably designed to target people overseas rather in the United States.

In addition, Senator Feingold was successful in including the following amendment in the bill:

  • Giving Congress Access to FISA Court Materials
    This amendment assists Congress in its legislative and oversight functions by requiring that Congress be provided timely access to FISA court pleadings related to significant interpretations of law, which may be necessary to understand the court’s rulings, as well as past FISA court orders containing such interpretations. The amendment was part of the bill reported by the Judiciary Committee and is based on language approved on a bipartisan basis by the Intelligence Committee when Senator Feingold offered it as an amendment to the intelligence authorization bill.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

FISA Still Providing Backbone For The Democrats

    It is being reported that at least 5 of the Democratic amendments to the FISA Bill will get a chance to be voted on. So, the Democrats did not cave in to Republicans in the Senate, thus far. Will wonders never cease?

   The 5 amendments:

  • Striking Immunity (Feingold/Dodd): Strips the provision providing for telco amnesty from the current bill.
  • Sequestration (Feingold): Prohibits the use of illegally obtained information.
  • Bulk collection (Feingold): Requires the government to certify to the FISA Court that it is collecting communications of targets for whom there is a foreign intelligence interest.
  • Reverse targeting (Feingold): Prohibits warrantless reverse targeting by requiring a FISA Court order for surveillance of a foreign person where the "significant purpose" of the collection is to target a U.S. person located in the United States.
  • Substitution (Whitehouse-Specter): Substitutes the government for telcos being sued for their participation in the warrantless wiretapping program, but only if the company is first determined by the FISA Court to have cooperated with the Bush Administration reasonably and in good faith.

The amendments that would require a 60 vote majority are:

  • Minimization (Whitehouse-Rockefeller-Leahy-Schumer): Minimization is the process of weeding out data obtained about U.S. persons and destroying it. This amendment would grant the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court the discretionary authority to not only approve minimization rules but to review their implementation.
  • Sunset Provision (Cardin): Shortens the sunset of the FISA Amendments bill from six years to four years.   Source

      Dick Cheney was on Rush Limbaugh's Rush Limbaugh’s radio show  yesterday, spouting off his idiot ideas on telecom amnesty. Here is a piece of it.

V.P. Cheney: People who don’t want to — I guess want to leave open the possibility that the trial lawyers can go after a big company that may have helped. Those companies helped specifically at our request, and they’ve done yeoman duty for the country, and this is the so-called terrorist surveillance program, one of the things it was called earlier. It’s just absolutely essential to know who in the United States is talking to Al-Qaeda. It’s a program that’s been very well managed. We haven’t violated anybody’s civil liberties. It’s in fact a good piece of legislation.

  Keep hounding those Senators folks. We need to keep their asses in line on this. If you Senator is a Republican, call him/her anyway and let them know what you think.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Giuliani As Director Of Homeland Security?

     From The Hill:

        Rudy Giuliani is a great patriot, a great American, and I hope to see him in a McCain administration as the Director of Homeland Security. He still has so much to offer and our country needs him.

                           Mich. GOP Rep. Candice Miller

    LMFAO!!! Spoken like a true Republican. Representative Miller must have run out of medication today. Can someone please help her out?

The FISA Debate: Not Just About Telecom Amnesty

   The net-roots fight has thus far has been about the amnesty provision which lets ATT and Verizon and many others off the hook for giving the government our phone records illegally, but there is much more to it.


Yesterday Sen. Feingold met with a handful of bloggers to talk about critical issues facing the Senate, and at the top of the list was of course FISA. He took us to task, gently, for focusing the fight on telco amnesty. He was right to do so. Speaking for myself, I focused on this aspect because it was the guaranteed poison bill of the bill--if it wasn't included, Bush would veto.  This seemed the most straightforward of the myriad of issues to explain and to rally people behind and to get the Democrats in the Senate to finally stand up to the administration. It's worked so far, but Senator Feingold is absolutely correct in that we need to really understand the scope of the problems both in the PAA, and in the bill currently pending before the Senate.

Senator Feingold discussed these problems with us a few weeks ago. And he reiterated them to us yesterday.

As I say in my listening sessions, I take out my Blackberry and I say, "Do you folks realize that if you make a phone call or e-mail or do what I did yesterday, I received an e-mail from my daughter who's in England, that that is no longer private. That the government can suck up all your e-mails and all your phone calls whether it be to your son or daughter in Iraq or your child that's in their junior year abroad, or it's a reporter over there, and there's no court oversight of it at all. It's just 'trust us' by the administration." That's what's going on in this legislation.

Here's what else there is that Democrats are fighting for against the Republicans, in trying to get their amendments considered:

Meaningful oversight of intelligence activities. Democrats have offered an amendment that would grant the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court the discretionary authority to not only approve minimization rules but to review their implementation.  The SSCI bill only grants the Court authority to do the former. The minimization compliance review amendment would ensure the meaningfulness of rules approved by the FISA Court to protect Americans whose communications are incidentally picked up by the intelligence community while conducting foreign surveillance by ensuring that those rules are followed. (Whitehouse-Rockefeller-Leahy-Schumer)

Exclusivity of FISA. Democrats have an amendment that would reiterate Congress' original intent that FISA be the exclusive means for conducting electronic surveillance. The amendment would reject the President's now discredited argument that the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force against al Qaeda and Taliban granted him authority for warrantless wiretapping outside the parameters set forth in FISA and affirmatively state that only an "express statutory authorization" would create an exception to FISA.  (Feinstein)

Review the President's warrantless wiretapping program. Democrats have an amendment that would require the relevant Offices of Inspectors General to jointly examine the legality of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which was conducted in secret and unauthorized by Congress, and report its findings back to Congress.  (Leahy)

Ensure the timely review of expanded authorities. Democrats have an amendment that would shorten the sunset of the FISA Amendments bill from six years to four years, ensuring that future Presidents and Congresses' have an opportunity to review the need for and effectiveness of these authorities.   (Cardin)

Access to FISA Court documents. Democrats have an amendment that would require that Congress be given timely access to FISA Court pleadings, opinions, and decisions that contain significant interpretations of law, retroactive five years.  The SSCI bill mandates congressional access going forward, but does not require access to previous documents. (Feingold)

Prohibit the use of illegally obtained information. Democrats have an amendment that would create an incentive for the government to adhere to FISA guidelines by limiting the government's use of illegally gathered information on U.S. persons, unless it is determined by the FISA Court that the information indicates a threat of death or serious bodily harm or the government has amended its defective procedures to conform with the law. (Feingold)

Limit "bulk collections." Democrats have an amendment that would prevent the government from authorizing "bulk collections," such as all communications between the U.S. and the rest of the world. While absurd and of questionable constitutionality, such collections may be permissible under current law. This amendment would limit the opportunity for abuse by requiring the government to certify to the FISA Court that it is collecting communications of targets for whom there is a foreign intelligence interest.   (Feingold)

Require a warrant when targeting U.S. persons. Democrats have an amendment that would prohibit warrantless reverse targeting by requiring a FISA Court order for surveillance of a foreign person where the "significant purpose" of the collection is to target a U.S. person located in the United States.  (Feingold)

Provide an alternative to blanket immunity for telecommunication companies. Democrats have an amendment that would substitute the government for telecommunication companies being sued for their participation in the warrantless wiretapping program, but only if the company is first determined by the FISA Court to have cooperated with the Bush Administration reasonably and in good faith. Plaintiffs would be entitled to appear before the court as well, and if the court found that the company did not act reasonably and in good faith, the company would remain in litigation and not be substituted. This approach strikes a balance between the "full immunity" approach, which would rob plaintiffs of their day in court, and the "no immunity" approach, which may unfairly punish companies who relied upon the Bush Administration's claims that the warrantless wiretapping program was legal.  Moreover, this approach places the primary responsibility for any wrongdoing where it belongs: with the Bush Administration.  (Specter-Whitehouse)


   We still have a long way to go on this bill so let's not slack off now.

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John Edwards Drops Out Of Primary Race, Giuliani Is Next

  As luck would have it, Democratic Presidential hopeful John Edwards has withdrawn from the race as of today. This leaves our choices of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and I think that Clinton will end up being the Democratic nominee.

   I shudder at the thought, but if she wins the nomination, then I will have to vote for her, unlike many people who say that they'd rather for for John McCain or another Republican. That is a stupid line of thinking. I do not want another Republican in the White House who will carry on Bush's policy's to the tee for the most part.

  I should also note that it is expected that Rudy Giuliani is will to drop his bid for the Republican nomination and to cast his support to John McCain after he got trounced on Florida yesterday. Good riddance to that asshole!.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Obama's Statement On FISA

  This is an interesting statement from Barack Obama to Firedoglake and I like it!

Statement of Senator Obama:

I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill.

Ever since 9/11, this Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.

The FISA court works. The separation of power works. We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight, and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend.

No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people - not the President of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program. We have to make clear the lines that cannot be crossed.

That is why I am co-sponsoring Senator Dodd's amendment to remove the immunity provision. Secrecy must not trump accountability. We must show our citizens – and set an example to the world – that laws cannot be ignored when it is inconvenient.

A grassroots movement of Americans has pushed this issue to the forefront. You have come together across this country. You have called upon our leaders to adhere to the Constitution. You have sent a message to the halls of power that the American people will not permit the abuse of power – and demanded that we reclaim our core values by restoring the rule of law.

It's time for Washington to hear your voices, and to act. I share your commitment to this cause, and will stand with you in the fights to come. And when I am President, the American people will once again be able to trust that their government will stand for justice, and will defend the liberties that we hold so dear as vigorously as we defend our security.

   An idea for you from DK:

    So here's our new target. Call, fax, and e-mail Senator Rockefeller and the likely suspects among the Democrats to urge them to make sure that all of the Democratic caucus's FISA amendments get to the Senate floor and that they establish a 50 vote threshold on Democratic amendments.

FISA And The Senate

  Okay, so we finally got our representatives to do the right thing for once and to vote " nay " on cloture of this piece of legislation. So the debate, which Republicans did not want, will continue. This is a good thing, but, what comes next?

  Now that all of the progressive blogs and other organizations who rounded up hundreds of thousands of citizens who called their Representatives and voiced their opinions have all patted themselves on their backs, myself included, it is time for a reality check.

  The Democrats in the Senate managed to embarrass and humiliate Resident Bush and the rest of those communist GOPers, which is great. Even poor old Senator Mitch McConnell (KY) went cowering off into the darkness after realizing that his cloture bullshit was not going to happen. McConnell is, unfortunately, my representative and it was a great day to watch this piece of shits tactics go down in flames.

  So what will the Dems in the Senate do now. I am of the opinion that the only reason the Democrats stopped cloture on the FISA Bill was because they got pissed off that the Republicans wouldn't allow any debate or votes on the Amendments that Dems wanted added to this bill. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it. Senator Reid is the one I am concerned about since he has supported the telecom amnesty part of this bill from the beginning. I doubt that voters changed his mind one bit.

  The FISA extension  may expire this week and we will no doubt then have maybe 30 days of debating, discussion, and then probably capitulation on part of the Democrats.   Just my thoughts.

   We can't let up on our Senators on either side of the aisle. We should continue to email, fax, call or visit them to let them know that telecom amnesty is not an option in any way, shape, or form. The Progressives/Democrats have the momentum and we should make damned sure that it stays this way. Don't slack off now because WE, THE PEOPLE  proved that we can be a force to deal with!!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mitch McConnell's Cloture Vote Loses:FISA Debate To Continue!!

  From  DK

Update 5: Cloture defeated by a vote of 48 ayes to 45 nays! Debate continues on the FISA bill. Take a bow, this is a tremendous victory and a big humiliation for Bush and his Republican enablers. - smintheus
Update 6: Now the Senate is proceeding to the second cloture vote, this time to vote on a bill to extend the current temporary FISA bill for 30 days beyond its expiration date on Feb. 5. Republicans are trying to block cloture on this bill. McConnell was blubbering on the floor that the bill is no good because Bush has threatened to veto it. He doesn't seem to realize that there are a lot of Dems who'd like to call Bush's bluff: If Bush vetoes the extension, then it shows he doesn't think the FISA bill is essential - or else he cares more about giving telecoms amnesty than he does about protecting America. - smintheus
Update 7: The second cloture vote fails as well (by the same margin, 48 'aye', 45 'nay'). So we're back to debating the original bill. - smintheus

  I would say the the voices of the American citizens has been heard in the United States Senate by some true " Patriots " for once! And it is about fucking time!

   We did have one Democrat who voted  " nay " but then changed her vote to " aye". That would have been Mary Landrieu. I guess that her spine needed some more vacation time.

  That crying sound that you hear is both George Bush and Dick Cheney, down in his bunker.

   CORRECTION: There were actually 4 Democrats who voted on the Republican side. They were Senators Pryor, Ben Nelson, Lincoln, and Landrieu.

Senator Clinton's Statement On FISA

   By way of  Firedoglake at DK

    Hillary Clinton's statement on the FISA legislation:

Today, I will vote against Republican efforts to shortchange the debate on the FISA Amendments Act, important legislation that would modernize our surveillance laws and give our nation's intelligence professionals the tools they need to fight terrorism and make our country more secure. Rather than allow the Senate the opportunity to consider important amendments to this vital legislation, Republicans are instead blocking meaningful debate on this bill by playing procedural games, choosing instead to score cheap political points at the expense of our Homeland Security.

This legislation deserves a thorough debate. Several provisions - including those which would have a profound impact on the civil liberties of Americans - need to be the subject of careful deliberation. For example, the bill under consideration gives telecommunication companies blanket retroactive immunity for their alleged cooperation in the administration's warrantless wiretapping program. I continue to believe that a grant of retroactive immunity is wrong, and I have cosponsored Senator Dodd's amendment to remove that provision from the bill. The Bush Administration has blatantly disregarded Americans' civil liberties over the past seven years, and I simply will not trust them to protect Americans' privacy rights. With the temporary Protect America Act set to expire on February 1st, I strongly believe that we need to pass balanced legislation that protects our civil liberties and the rule of law while giving our law enforcement and intelligence agencies the tools they need to protect our country.

FISA And The Cloture Vote

  Today is the day that we find out who the truer " patriots " are in our congress as the vote for cloture on the FISA/Protect America Act/Teloco Amnesty bill come before the Senate. It looks like both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will be in D.C. to vote!

By mcjoan at DailyKos

Bumped. Today's the day, folks. Rumor is that McCain will not be on the floor this afternoon, but we can't trust rumor. We need to flip three of the Dem Senators listed below, all of whom voted with the Republicans to table the Judiciary version of the bill. Put the pressure on them. mcjoan

Jane breaks the great news that Senator Clinton will be on the floor tomorrow to vote against McConnell's cloture vote on the Intelligence Committee's pro-telco amnesty FISA bill. Beating this vote is critical, and good for Clinton for taking the time out of the campaign to do her current job. The Obama campaign hasn't yet said if he will be there, too, though he is scheduled to have a fundraiser in DC at 4:00. [Update: That was fast! Jane is now reporting that Obama will be there to vote no, too. This is great news. Thank you, Senators, for listening to us, and in turn, sending this critical message.]

This is good news for keeping this fight going, and good news for us. Citizen action, our pressure,  is making a difference. The massive push back from the left has actually succeeded in throwing a monkey wrench into the works. That's not yet an out and out win, but it's movement in the right direction. Defeating this cloture vote is more movement. Forcing either a short-term extension of the PAA, or letting the bill lapse all together buys more time, and more opportunity, as Glenn explains.

Even just a two-week or one-month extension will allow more time to marshall the opposition to telecom immunity and a new FISA bill and to do what's possible to encourage the House to stand firm behind their bill -- in exactly the way that the Dodd Delay in December prevented quick and easy resolution. The longer this drags on without resolution, the more possible it is to push the opposition to a tipping point, and sometimes unexpected developments or even some luck (such as McConnell's overplaying his hand on Thursday) can prevent it all from happening.

As the events of the last two months demonstrate, if citizen opposition is channeled the right way, it can make a genuine difference in affecting the course of events in Washington. Defeating telecom immunity will keep alive the lawsuits that will almost certainly reveal to some extent what the Government did in illegally spying on Americans over the last six years or, at the very least, produce a judicial adjudication as to its illegality. And, in turn, the effects from that could be extremely significant. Because victories are so rare, it's easy to get lulled into believing that none of these campaigns are ever effective and that citizens can never affect any of it, which is precisely why it's so important to remind ourselves periodically of how untrue that proposition is.

So keep pushing, clear up until 4:30 tomorrow afternoon, EST.

The Senators we need to convince of this are those who voted with the Republicans to table the Leahy substitute amendment, the version of the bill that contained all of those protections, and didn't allow telco amnesty. One of them, Rockefeller, has already said he'll vote no on cloture. Call the rest of the Senators and tell them to stand with their majority on Monday's cloture vote and vote no.

  • Bayh (202) 224-5623
  • Carper (202) 224-2441
  • Inouye (202) 224-3934
  • Johnson (202) 224-5842
  • Landrieu (202)224-5824
  • McCaskill (202) 224-6154
  • Mikulski (202) 224-4654
  • Nelson (FL) (202) 224-5274
  • Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551
  • Pryor (202) 224-2353
  • Salazar (202) 224-5852

In addition, call or e-mail your own Senators. Both CREDO and EFF have great tools to make it easy.