Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Posts tagged ‘Law’

Informed Citizenship

I received a fascinating email today. The email me pointed to the results of a recent congressional vote on an amendment to invoke cloture on a habeas corpus amendment. This email expressed the forceful opinion that anyone who voted against the amendment was “a U.S. traitor.”

That email was quickly followed by a response from someone else wisely suggesting that the original author read the entire bill and all riders attached to it before judging those who voted. The author essentially reminded us that sponsors of amendments and riders often try to attach their legislation to “sure to pass” bills in an attempt to sneak pork through congress.

I did a bit of research myself and was about to “reply all” to add my two cents, when it occurred to me that the issues I was pondering would make for good blog conversation.

According to my brief internet research, “Cloture is the formal procedure used to end a filibuster. It can take up to three days and requires 60 votes. Cloture can also be used even if there is no filibuster underway, to ban non-germane amendments. If cloture wins, 30 additional hours of debate are allowed prior to voting, but they are rarely used. If cloture fails, debate would continue without limits. Instead, the bill is usually set aside.”

By my read, this means that voting FOR cloture truly means voting to limit debate on the issue, which in my mind is bad thing. Granted, failure often means the bill is set aside, but that’s a different matter and not the REQUIRED outcome of a nay vote on cloture.

Now, further research shows that this specific vote on cloture was held on a habeas corpus amendment which was attached to another amendment to the defense bill – how confusing! And trying to follow sound advice to read the bill and all the riders is practically (and I mean that literally) impossible. There are 96 different amendments to the original bill. The original bill itself is 12 pages of LINKS to text – and there are 4 different versions being considered in congress right now.

How can a relatively educated citizen desiring to be an informed democratic participant dig through this kind of bureaucracy to form an informed opinion?

Thomas Jefferson felt strongly that an informed populace was essential to the preservation of democracy and the avoidance of tyranny. According to data from the US Census Bureau, my attainment of a master’s degree places me among the top 12% of the U.S. population in terms of education. Yet I still often feel stupid when it comes to trying to be an informed citizen.

If we need to be educated and informed to preserve our democracy, yet even someone who should be considered educated often feels thwarted in her efforts to become informed, what does this imply for the future of our democratic republic?

If You Don’t Like the Weather…

I live in Ohio, between Cleveland and Akron. Although the last week has been uncharacteristically sunny, Cleveland is statistically one of the top 20 least sunny cities in the continental US. (http://www.weathertoday.net/weatherfacts.htm) The two funniest Ohio weather jokes are “We have 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, and construction,” and “If you don’ t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes.”

Like all jokes, these have a ring of truth to them – particularly the last one. The crux of the joke is that the weather can change quickly around here. Political events over the past few months have shown that the winds of political change can also quickly shift direction.

Just a few months ago, I was blogging about the President Bush’s blatant disdain for the Constitution and my fear that the Democrats, having gained power in Congress, would be unable or unwilling to exercise their people-given power to stop him. Now it’s early April and Congress – after what I consider a rocky start – is finally starting to challenge the President.

Have you heard of “Sunshine Week”? No…it isn’t a description of last week’s Ohio weather. According to CNN, Sunshine Week is, “a three-year-old national initiative led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. It is intended to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.” During Sunshine week this year (March 11 – 17), the House passed three bills designed to open more government records to the public.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/03/14/congress.sunshine.ap/index.html

“For the past six years, we have had an administration that has tried to operate in secrecy, without transparency, without the public having knowledge about their action,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Well, this week, Congress is finally pushing back.”

All I can say is “amen” to that and what TOOK you people so long to get moving!

From the FBI’s abuse of the patriot act provisions (really now, is ANYONE surprised at THAT revelation?) to the deepening hole in which the Attorney General finds himself, the actions of this administration are finally being examined in a way they haven’t been since Bush first took office in 2000. I predict that future investigations will turn up even more egregious violations of the very laws and liberties Bush pledged to uphold and protect.

And, much to my relief, Nancy Pelosi is proving that you don’t need to be a man to have the …um… kahunas to stand up for what is right. From leading the charge to cut off funding for Iraq to visiting Syria in defiance of White House middle eastern policy, she is a strong symbol for the taking back of power by the people – the balance that the founders of this nation intended us to exercise.

According to CNN, Vice President Dick Cheney today said that Democrats are essentially telling U.S. troops to “retreat — with no regard whatsoever for the actual conditions on the ground in Iraq.” For once, Cheney has it right! The Democrats are simply reflecting the popular majority of the American people, who want a retreat – now. Congress is simply doing its job in representing the will of the people by voting to cut off funding.

For us in Ohio, it’s predicted to be a snowy Easter this year, but it looks like the sunshine is going to continue for a while in Washington D.C.. Let’s hope that it stays that way for more than the next 10 minutes, because we’ve been waiting a long time for this kind of political weather.

We Have Seen the Enemy…

Most people have heard the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” And in an effort not to offend any feline lovers out there, I will also refer to the statement that, “A leopard can’t change its spots.” Well, folks, in case you haven’t been paying attention – and the White House fervently hopes you don’t – President Bush is at it again.

Two more revelations in the past 12 hours show the depths to which this administration seems determined to strip the populace of their rights and subvert the law of the land. It is shocking to me that anyone could possible support this man as President given how he is raping our system of checks and balances.

First, this little gem: in a recent signing statement attached to a completely innocuous piece of legislation initiating some minor postal system reforms, Bush has signaled his intention to once again thumb his nose at the protections offered to the general public by the Constitution of this land. He has clearly signaled his intention to interpret the law to mean that the government can open personal, first class mail without a warrant.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/01/04/bush.mail.ap/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

Then, less than 12 hours later, this other tidbit of news: in the spring of 2006, when the Jack Abrahamoff scandal was escalating, the Bush administration apparently created a document changing the status of Secret Service White House visitor logs from Secret Service property subject to Freedom of Information Act requests to White House property, exempting them from such requests. What’s more, they didn’t tell anyone about the existence of this document until they presented it in court!

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/01/05/white.house.visitors.ap/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

There are few words that describe the depth of my disgust for this administration. I have a generally low regard for politicians of either major political party, mind you, but the utter disdain this President has shown for the laws of this country continues to astound me.

I truly believe that this man has done more harm to freedom and democracy in this country then any other man in our nation’s history. He is certainly a larger threat to the freedom of our citizens than any foreign dictator or religious infidel.

Not only does Bush subvert the entire legal system upon which this country is founded, he lies through his teeth, blatantly, with no apparent concern about being caught or confronted. If you doubt or disagree with my words, take a look at some of these links:

http://www.antiwar.com/roberts/?articleid=8166

http://www.bushwatch.com/bushlies.htm

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20021125/alterman

…or just watch almost any episode of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show!

Now, I will grant you that it’s relatively easy to find web links to support just about any position one could think to hold, regardless of the validity or verifiability of that position. And the “sources” I link above may not be considered to be neutral or independent.

But this is, in part, why these habitual lies and routine abuses of law are slipping by the radar of most Americans – they are under-reported and under-emphasized by most mainstream media outlets.

Any news anchor can report a change in policy as “news” fed to it by the White House. Where are the minds putting these individual pieces of news together and revealing them as actual trends? And there are, my friends, pronounced political trends toward lawlessness and lies by our own administration.

My two fears are 1) that the Democrats, now that they are in power, will still be unable to stop this administration because it’s playing such dirty and underhanded politics and 2) that the Democrats themselves will fall into the trap of playing dirty in the same way. This is why I haven’t voted for a major party political candidate in over 12 years and why we need a viable third party in this country, but that will have to be the subject of a future blog post.

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