“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Time To Challenge Obama

Much has recently been made of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) reauthorization , which was approved quickly last week by the House, and is now coming to the Senate. There really is no nice way to put this. This is a very bad bill. It essentially gives Mr. 28% approval everything he asked for, which is far too much for anyone who thinks they enjoy living in freedom. Not only does this bill gut what limited civil liberties protections were in the original 1978 FISA, but it also grants the phone companies blanket immunity from civil liability for cooperation with the government in conducting wiretapping that was illegal at the time it was done. The importance of being able to take the phone companies to court is not to extract money from them, nor even to punish them. It is, very simply, to know what happened. I would be ok with granting limited immunity if it were conditional upon public hearings with subpoena power. But this Congress is on the verge of granting immunity without any disclosure. Sunshine is democracy's disinfectant. When the public's business is done secretly or deliberately hidden, regardless of the motivation, we are corroding democracy's foundation.

So, many are asking why the Democratic Congressional leadership is cooperating in passing this legislation. There have been several theories put forward, among them, predictably, is the provision of campaign money from phone companies to these leaders. I don't buy it. Every one of these leading Democrats holds a very safe seat, unlikely to be challenged by a Republican, so the campaign donations should have minimal impact. The only theory I have heard or imagined that makes sense is that, in the post-9/11 atmosphere in which Bush used fear as a political weapon, the leadership was made aware of his wiretapping plan, knew it was illegal, and nevertheless approved or condoned it. Thus, they now fear they will be discovered to have been complicit, and perhaps legally liable.

So, what to do? Can this bill yet be stalled? Maybe. Some Democrats, led by Sen. Russ Finegold of Wisconsin, can be counted upon to attempt to filibuster it, but they need 41 votes to sustain that action. It's important now to contact other Senators to try to support that effort. But there is one other measure that needs to be taken. This is an opportunity for Sen. Obama to show leadership and strength on behalf of the Constitution. He is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States. It is hard to imagine the leadership pushing this bill, no matter what consequences they fear, if he stands up in clear opposition to it. And if he does so, not only will he win the enthusiastic allegiance of those who cherish the Constitution and its guarantees of liberty. He will also demonstrate the authentic strength of his convictions, the kind of personality trait that attracts independent voters. Now is the time to flood Sen. Obama's office with messages to this effect.

Those who would give up a little liberty in exchange for a little security are deserving of neither.
--Ben Franklin