congress


Congress started today,

Will the Real Senate Please Be Seated

and already fighting with each other,

Senate Dems May Try To Seat Franken

Defiant Burris Heads to Washington to Claim Senate Seat

Obama is back to work in Washington,

Obama Discusses Tax Cut On First Day Back: Wants $500 Tax Cut For Most Workers 

the teachers had to go back, but we have one more day of freedom!

Not sure how much more I will get to post now that I’ll be focusing on classes, debate, clubs, and trying to graduate early or enroll in the dual credit program, so may not be here much.

Happy new purple beach house to the folks at Relaxed Politics!

Last night the Senate confirmed Mukasey as attorney general, but they didn’t have to.  They could have filibustered it and made the Republicans come up with 60 votes, just like the Republicans do to them ALL THE TIME!
Someone showed me this article this afternoon a it pisses me off!  The title is “Reid Allowed Vote On Mukasey In Exchange For Military Funding Bill” which is disturbing enough, but this is the part that’s really disturbing:

What of the talk that Reid might allow a filibuster of the Mukasey confirmation vote? Asked why this didn’t happen, a leadership source claimed that it was because Dem leaders were convinced that Repubs would be able to break off enough Dems to reach the 60 vote threshold and defeat the filibuster.

“They would have gotten 60,” the leadership source says, adding: “Some on the Democratic side honestly fundamentally don’t believe in filibustering cabinet secretaries. We are on the cusp of a new administration, and we think it will be a Democratic one. Filibustering here would have set a bad precedent.”

Why is the leadership concerned about “a bad precedent” when the alternative is to let every other country and all of the future Americans will think that WE think torture is OK.  Also, this strategy won’t work and now democratic voters will think that the Democrats in the Senate are all wimps.  Greg Sargent, the author of that article, says

Of course, this argument will ring hollow to some. Good behavior by Dems now is hardly likely to produce the same on the part of Republicans; indeed, they’ve already been filibustering like nothing else. And it also seems likely that the Dem leadership preferred to avoid the filibuster because it really wanted to get the defense approps bill passed as a shield against GOP criticism (though it can also be argued that there’s pressure on Dems to get defense approps passed for other reasons) and so leaped at the chance to do this. That seems to be the reason that Dems rushed the vote through last night. Critics will point out that Dem worry about GOP attacks was hardly a good enough reason to wave the Mukasey vote through.

Forget critics.  Who DOES think that last night’s vote was a good idea?

General Peter Pace

 

photo from ABC News

General Peter Pace is the chairman of the joint chiefs, making him the most elevated military office in the United States. He is not our priest-in-chief or our parent-in-chief, but he seems to think he is, and that his “upbringing” and his beliefs make him qualified to tell the rest of us, the entire military, and the United States Senate what is immoral. Why is that his job? It isn’t, but he doesn’t seem to know that!

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The first amendment to the United States Constitutions says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This may be why Pace refers to his upbringing and not his religion, but it is commandments from his RELIGION that is causing him to repeatedly condemn homosexuality and adultery.

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In a March newspaper interview the general said that:

My upbringing is such that I believe that there are certain things, certain types of conduct that are immoral. I believe that military members who sleep with other military members’ wives are immoral in their conduct, and that we should not tolerate that. I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral, and that we should not condone immoral acts. So the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell allows an individual to serve the country, not — [inaudible] that allows individuals to serve their country. If we know about immoral acts, regardless of committed by who or — then we have a responsibility. And I do not believe that the Armed Forces of the United States are well served by saying through our policies that it’s okay to be immoral in any way, in any way, not just with regards to homosexuality. This is from that standpoint saying that gays should serve openly in the military to me says that we, by policy, would be condoning what I believe is immoral activity. And therefore, as an individual, I would not want that to be my policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that, if were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with someone’s wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior between members of the Armed Forces.

You can listen to that here.

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Two days later, the Washington Post reported this,

The Pentagon’s top general said Tuesday he should not have voiced his personal view that homosexuality is immoral and should have just stated his support for the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in an interview that has drawn criticism from lawmakers and gay-rights groups.

The written statement by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not apologize for his stance on homosexuality. In a newspaper interview Monday, Pace likened homosexual acts to adultery and said the military should not condone it by allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces.

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But ….. the general repeated all his opinions again this week in a Senate hearing, and this time the Code Pink protesters replied by quoting (very loudly and repeatedly) their favorite bible verse, “THOU SHALT NOT KILL! THOU SHALT NOT KILL!” They are absolutely correct — if we need any religion at all mixed in with the military, THAT is the kind of morality we should be following.


Like most of my political posts,

 

this is cross-posted at Political Teen Tidbits

 

and at YouThinkLeft.

These suggestions are from Code Pink. (Thanks Franya.) What else might work? Please leave a comment.

1. Tell Senator Lieberman: No War in Iran!

Joe Lieberman is waving his sword again. On Sunday, he told CBS “I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq.”

Upon hearing these words, our own Leslie Angeline, a CODEPINK member from Santa Rosa, CA, decided to go on a hunger strike until Senator Lieberman agreed to meet with her. Leslie, who recently returned from a peace delegation to Iran, has made it her mission to prevent America from attacking the country.

You can join us in solidarity by calling and emailing Lieberman’s office to demand that he retract his irresponsible call for military action in Iran. Call (202)224-4041 and ask to speak to Vance Serchuck, Lieberman’s Legislative Aide on foreign relations and Iran, or click here to send an email along with the picture on the above right of our action outside his office. We are holding photos taken from Leslie’s recent trip to Iran. Ask Lieberman if he really wants to attack these beautiful people, this beautiful place. See more action photos here.

As Leslie says, “70% of the Iranian population is under the age of 30-the age of my son. Iran is a country of warm, kind, and generous children and their families. We cannot start bombing these kids.”

Download and distribute our latest DON”T IRAQ IRAN flyer!

 

2. Learn What Presidential Candidates Are Saying About Iran

It is critical during this election season, to listen to what the presidential candidates – both Republican and Democrat – are saying about Iran. When a candidate says “No options are off the table,” they are sanctioning not only a possible military attack, but also a nuclear attack on Iran. This is totally unacceptable. We must insist that they put a nuclear attack off the table, and that they call for negotiations, not war.

Click here to download our list of presidential candidates and their positions on Iran.

3. Sign Our Petition to the UN Security Council!

Click here to add your name today!

4. Tell Congress! Don’t Iraq Iran!

Help us prevent another war in the Middle East. This time Congress must stop a pre-emptive attack! Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) has introduced legislation (S.759) that would prohibit any funds from the recent supplemental bill to be used in attacking Iran. Urge your Senator to support S.759 TODAY!

5. Ask Your Press to be Critical and Vigilant!

The mainstream media is already jumping on the bandwagon about the Iranian threat. We hoped they would have learned their lesson after spreading falsehoods about WMDs in Iraq. But once again journalists such as New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon, Judith Miller’s sidekick in the WMD and phony aluminum tubes reporting, are quoting anonymous sources as proof that Iran is providing Iraqi militias with powerful explosives to attack US troops. For more analysis of the press and Iran, click here.

In fact, the evidence against Iran is insubstantial and full of exaggeration. Even General Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he hasn’t seen any intelligence that supports the claim. We need to tell the press that now is the time to ask serious questions instead of blindly supporting the administration’s headlong rush into another tragic and unnecessary war. Please contact media outlets and tell them we demand a critical, vigilant press. Click here to send your letter now!

 

6. Learn More!

PowerPoint Show of influential and famous Iranians in our midst:

In recent years, the media has damaged Iran?s image so badly that when people hear the name of Iran, they only picture black chadors, terrorism, and ayatollahs. These stereotypes are being constructed to make it easier for governments to attack Iran with public approval. This is why NoWar SA has produced a prsentation to help break down these negative stereotypes.

This is from Progressive Democrats of America. Please call or email.

Fema Trailers

Push the Senate Today to Support Katrina Survivors

September 25th, 2007

100,000 displaced. 65,000 families still living in FEMA trailers. This is the Gulf Coast two years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. After years spent dragging its feet, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs is holding hearings today on the Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act, the bill that will create a real road home for thousands of renters and owners in New Orleans and throughout the region.

Tell Chairman Dodd (D-CT) and the committee to move the legislation and bring Katrina survivors home.

The legislation, already passed in the House, will establish a right
to return for residents of public housing, release funds to create a
Road Home program that really works, designate $1.7 billion for rental housing and earmark millions for community development programs.

Read more about the bill here.

The legislation is finally on the agenda; let’s work together to make sure the Senate makes it a priority.

Send a letter today.

Thank you for standing up for just recovery in the Gulf…and nothing less.

Le’Kedra, Rosa, Ditra, Noeleen, Josué and Andre
The KIN Team

Many photos available here.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Bush would nominate some honest lawyers who respect the constitution to head up the justice department?  All of the top spots are empty.  But he will want people he can trust to not investigate his administration, someone who agrees to illegal wiretaps and torture and  prisoner rendition around the world, and I really hope that the congress doesn’t give in.

Gonzales leaves Justice Department

Outgoing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wipes his eye during his farewell ceremony before Justice Department employees, Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, in the Great Hall at the Justice Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)AP – Resigning Attorney General Alberto Gonzales left the scandal-scarred Justice Department on Friday, declaring himself hopeful about its mission of ferreting out crime and defending the truth. Gonzales quit after 2 1/2 years at the department amid investigations into whether he broke the law and lied to Congress. He has denied any wrongdoing.

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TV clipartThink Progress has a post up called

If It’s Sunday, It’s Karl Rove

and in it they have a list of questions that they want the talk show hosts to ask Rove. Here’s the list:

In addition to those, I think they should also ask him about these things:

  • Who Jeff Gannon was spending nights with in the White House?
  • Is George Bush drinking or doing drugs?
  • Who is the real president, Bush or Cheney?
  • Why did you decide to leave now?
  • What gave you the idea that there are no rules for you and your friends?
  • Why did you decide Congress doesn’t matter anymore?
  • Did you rig the voting machines?
  • Don’t you feel guilty destroying the country like this?

What else would you ask him?

Even the White House won’t defend Alberto Gonzales any more. Nor will any other conservatives. So why is he still attorney general? Only because he is friends with Bush? Only because he knows all of Bush’s secrets? What a sham!

Here are some choice quotes from the interview on Fox. From Chris Wallace:

“By the way, we invited White House officials and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Attorney General Gonzales. We had no takers.”

From Newt Gingrich:

“Both the president and country are better served if the attorney general is a figure of competence. Sadly, the current attorney general is not seen as any of those things. I think it’s a liability for the president. More importantly, it’s a liability for the United States of America.”

This is Senator Schumer talking this morning about Attorney General Gonzales. I want to be a senate dem when I grow up.

Congratulations to Harry Reid and the democratic senators for finally standing up to the republicans.  Enjoy your pajama party!

Senate debating all night on Iraq


WASHINGTON
– Democrats steered the Senate into an attention-grabbing, all-night
session to dramatize opposition to the Iraq war but conceded they were
unlikely to gain the votes needed to advance troop withdrawal
legislation blocked by Republicans.

You may have noticed that under the Cheney-Bush Administration, most federal agencies are almost out of a job, and exist only so that the industries they regulate can police themselves, hint hint, wink wink. We saw it with the group that was supposed to inspect coal mines, and with food safety and air safety and all safety. Well, check this out, especially they part they put in bold and the part I marked in red:

A new amendment, called Section 123, was quietly added to Title I of the 2007 Farm Bill a few weeks ago, and it is a huge step backwards on food safety. If passed, it would hamstring state and local food safety efforts by wiping out critical authority on meat, poultry and biotechnology.

The sweeping language of Section 123 would prevent states from prohibiting the sale of USDA-inspected products. This provision could prevent local health inspectors at a supermarket from condemning contaminated meat or spoiled poultry! Since 90% of food inspections are done at the state and local level, the impact could be severe.

Section 123 also prohibits states from passing laws that protect animal welfare, such as laws on horse slaughter and sale of horsemeat.

Finally, Section 123 prohibits state and local laws on biotechnology — such as laws to review whether or not to grow genetically-engineered rice in a state.

After recent problems with Melamine in pet and livestock feed, Listeria in chicken, and E. coli in spinach and ground beef, we should be strengthening our food safety system, not weakening it! Tell your Representative to stand up for food safety and oppose Section 123 in the Farm Bill.

There is a petition to sign and also a request to call Congress.


The US is number 1 !!!! (Is that a good thing?))

There is a new list out of all of the things that United States leads in. Unfortunately, the list excludes things like health care, education, press freedom and income equality. Instead, consider these items:

First in oil consumption:

The United States burns up 20.7 million barrels per day, the equivalent of the oil consumption of China, Japan, Germany, Russia, and India combined.

First in carbon dioxide emissions:

Each year, world polluters pump 24,126,416,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the environment. The United States
and its territories are responsible for 5.8 billion metric tons of
this, more than China (3.3 billion), Russia (1.4 billion) and India
(1.2 billion) combined.

First in external debt:

The United States owes $10.040 trillion, nearly a quarter of the global debt total of $44 trillion.

First in military expenditures:

The White House has requested $481 billion for the Department of
Defense for 2008, but this huge figure does not come close to
representing total U.S. military expenditures projected for the coming
year. To get a sense of the resources allocated to the military, the
costs of the global war on terrorism, of the building, refurbishing, or
maintaining of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and other expenses also need to be factored in. Military analyst Winslow Wheeler did the math recently: “Add $142 billion to cover the anticipated costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; add $17 billion requested for nuclear weapons costs in the Department of Energy; add another $5 billion for miscellaneous defense costs in other agencies … and you get a grand total of $647 billion for 2008.”

Taking another approach to the use of U.S. resources, Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard Business School lecturer Linda Bilmes added to known costs of the war in Iraq invisible costs like its impact on global oil prices as well as the long-term cost of healthcare for wounded veterans and came up with a price tag of between $1 trillion and $2.2 trillion.

If we turned what the United States will spend on the military in 2008 into small bills, we could give each one of the world’s more than 1 billion teenagers and young adults an Xbox 360 with wireless controller (power supply in remote rural areas not included) and two video games to play: maybe Gears of War and Command and Conquer would be appropriate. But if we’re committed to fighting obesity, maybe Dance Dance Revolution would be a better bet. The United States alone spends what the rest of the world combined devotes to military expenditures.

First in weapons sales:

Since 2001, U.S. global military sales have normally totaled between
$10 and $13 billion. That’s a lot of weapons, but in fiscal year 2006,
the Pentagon broke its own recent record, inking arms sales agreements worth $21 billion. It almost goes without saying that this is significantly more than any other nation in the world.

First in sales of surface-to-air missiles:

Between 2001 and 2005, the United States delivered 2,099 surface-to-air missiles to nations in the developing world, 20 percent more than Russia, the next-largest supplier.

First in sales of military ships:

During that same period, the United States sent 10 “major surface combatants” like aircraft carriers and destroyers to developing nations. Collectively, the four major European weapons producers shipped 13. (And we were first in the anti-ship missiles that go along with such ships, with nearly double [338] the exports of the next largest supplier Russia [180]).

First in military training:

A thoughtful empire knows that it is not enough to send weapons; you have to teach people how to use them. The Pentagon plans on training the militaries of 138 nations in 2008 at a cost of nearly $90 million. No other nation comes close.

First in private military personnel:

According to bestselling author Jeremy Scahill, there are at least 126,000 private military personnel deployed alongside uniformed military personnel in Iraq alone. Of the more than 60 major companies that supply such personnel worldwide, more than 40
are U.S.-based.

And here are some things where we are no longer #1:

Not first in automobiles:

Once, Chrysler, General Motors and Ford ruled the domestic and global roost, setting the standard for the automotive industry. Not any more. In 2006, the United States imported almost $150 billion more in vehicles and auto parts than it sent abroad. Automotive analyst Joe Barker told the Boston Globe, “It’s a very tough environment” for the so-called Detroit Three. “In times of softening demand, consumers typically will look to brands that they trust and rely on. Consumers trust and rely on Japanese brands.”

Not even first in bulk goods:

The Department of Commerce
recently announced total March exports of $126.2 billion and total
imports of $190.1 billion, resulting in a goods and services deficit of
$63.9 billion. This is a $6 billion increase over February.

Like most of my political posts, this is cross-posted at Political Teen Tidbits and at YouThinkLeft.

As American citizens we used to have the right to know why we were in jail, the right to hear what the government was charging us with, and the right to have an attorney. Those are in our constitution. But now they are gone. To read how and why, read this column by Glenn Greenwald. The most important part is this:

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 is, without question, the single worst law enacted during the Bush presidency, and is one of the most destructive laws passed in the last several decades. It is not merely a bad law. It vests in the President the power to detain people indefinitely with no meaningful opportunity to contest the government’s accusations. That is the very power the Founders sought first and foremost to prohibit.

More significantly, whether a country permits its political leaders to imprison people arbitrarily and with no process is one of the few defining attributes dividing free and civilized countries from lawless tyrannies. Or, as Thomas Jefferson put it in his 1789 letter to Thomas Paine: “I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” To vest the President with the power to imprison people indefinitely with no charges is fundamentally to transform the type of country we are.

These rights are all part of habeas corpus, which is defined as

Habeas Corpus

( n) Habeas Corpus is the Court order directing the law enforcement authorities to produce a prisoner supposed to be in custody of them, in the designated court , in person. The Latin word means ‘you have the body’ means the physical presence of the person before the court.

Or, From Merriam Webster (look at the 2nd definition):

habeas corpus

Main Entry: ha·be·as cor·pus
Pronunciation: ‘hA-bE-&s-’kor-p&s
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Medieval Latin, literally, you should have the body (the opening words of the writ)
1 : any of several common-law writs issued to bring a party before a court or judge; especially : HABEAS CORPUS AD SUBJICIENDUM
2 : the right of a citizen to obtain a writ of habeas corpus as a protection against illegal imprisonment

Right now the problem is that the Bush Administration has taken away these rights with the Patriot Act, the Military Conditions Act and the rendition programs and the use of Guantánamo. Prior to those, habeas corpus “has been a revered piller of western legal philosophy and an ethical imperative as a civil right since the Magna Carta.”

From Why Habeas Review Matters:

Of all of the legal protections that we hold as American ideals and as examples to other nations as embodied in our Bill of Rights, the right of habeas corpus is the only civil liberty to be held so important by the Founders that it was included in the Constitution itself. This week, the United States Senate voted to restrict that right of petition for grievance.

A right to challenge being held by the government for improper reasons is at the heart of our democracy — where such right was established to secure our rights to liberty and freedom, and to stop imprisonment of opposition candidates for political reasons.

The right of habeas corpus is our firewall against the tyranny of the majority — it dates back to the Magna Carta, which bound the king to the rule of law. To threaten habeas corpus protections tears at the very fabric of rights in this nation.”…

The Constitution is not a document of convenience. It is what we strive toward in this nation in terms of legal freedoms and rights, and to so blithely cast its principles aside for political expediency in the short term moment is shameful.

Further, our nation was founded on the principle that “all men are created equal.” Each time we take a step away from that, we cheapen that ideal, and we trample on the sacrifices made by so many at the birth of this nation who paid dear with their lives so that their children, and their children’s children, might live in a nation that held up the idea of liberty and freedom from tyranny as a beacon to the whole of the world.

To say that an enemy combatant is less deserving of the protections afforded our citizens because he or she is not from this nation is morally wrong, let alone legally questionable under our treaty obligations.

From Keith Olbermann, via Crooks & Liars:

In fact, Countdown has obtained a partially redacted copy of a colonial “declaration” indicating that back then, “depriving us of Trial by Jury” was actually considered sufficient cause to start a War of Independence, based on the then-fashionable idea that “liberty” was an unalienable right.Today, thanks to modern, post-9/11 thinking, those rights are now fully alienable.

The reality is, without habeas corpus, a lot of other rights lose their meaning.According to Firedoglake, “House Armed Services Committee was considering adding a provision to the Defense Department Authorization Bill being marked up in committee today and Thursday” and they need our phone calls to help save our rights.

Please call and tell them that you want habeas corpus restored — completely and fully — and that we elected them to a majority in Congress to do the tough work, not to sit back and keep their powder dry.

You can call the toll-free switchboard, or else the direct numbers:

1 (800) 828 – 0498
1 (800) 459 – 1887
1 (800) 614 – 2803
1 (866) 340 – 9281
1 (866) 338 – 1015
1 (877) 851 – 6437

Leadership
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (202) 225-4965
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, (202) 225-4131

Armed Services Committee Democrats
Ike Skelton, Missouri, Chairman, 202-225-2876
John Spratt, South Carolina, 202-225-5501
Solomon P. Ortiz, Texas, (202) 225-7742
Gene Taylor, Mississippi, 202 225-5772
Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii, (202) 225-2726
Marty Meehan, Massachusetts, (202) 225-3411
Silvestre Reyes, Texas, (202) 225-4831
Vic Snyder, Arkansas, 202-225-2506
Adam Smith, Washington, (202) 225-8901
Loretta Sanchez, California, 202-225-5859
Mike McIntyre, North Carolina, (202) 225-2731
Ellen O. Tauscher, California, (202) 225-1880
Robert A. Brady, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-4731
Robert Andrews, New Jersey, 202-225-6501
Susan A. Davis, California, (202) 225-2040
Rick Larsen, Washington, (202) 225-2605
Jim Cooper, Tennessee, 202-225-4311
Jim Marshall, Georgia, (202) 225-6531
Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam, (202) 225-1188
Mark Udall, Colorado, (202) 225-2161
Dan Boren, Oklahoma, (202) 225-2701
Brad Ellsworth, Indiana, (202) 225-4636
Nancy Boyda, Kansas, (202) 225-6601
Patrick Murphy, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-4276
Hank Johnson, Georgia, (202) 225-1605
Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire,(202) 225-5456
Joe Courtney, Connecticut, (202) 225-2076
David Loebsack, Iowa, 202.225.6576
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York, (202) 225-5614
Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-2011
Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona, (202) 225-2542
Elijah Cummings, Maryland, (202) 225-4741
Kendrick Meek, Florida, 202-225-4506
Kathy Castor, Florida, (202)225-3376

Also from Firedoglake,

The full list of Armed Services Committee members can be found here. Feel free to call the Republican members of the Committee, too — even though some of the Republican leadership on the Hill may have difficulty understanding the phrase “rule of law” or why it is important. (H/T to Nell for the link on that one.) More on the need for restoration of habeas from the NYTimes.