Sixteen Democrats Allow Republicans to Expand Warrantless Wiretaps

Enough Democrats in the Senate willing to give in on principle and joined with the Republicans to allow for expansion of warrantless wiretaps. I always found it strange that Bush took this course. If he had requested this authority in the first place, there is no question he would have received a rubber stamp when the Republicans controlled the Senate. I imagine it is yet another example where he simply believed he was above the law, and didn’t anticipate, or care about, the political consequences. Thanks to sixteen Democrats, he is still able get a rubber stamp from Congress.

Bush “threatened to hold Congress in session into its scheduled summer recess if it did not approve the changes he wanted.” Did some Democrats go along so that their vacations wouldn’t be interrupted? Perhaps those members deserve a permanent vacation following the next election..Among the reactions to the bill reported by The Washington Post:

Privacy advocates accused the Democrats of selling out and charged that this bill gives the government more authority than it had under a controversial warrantless wiretapping program begun in secret after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Under that program, the government could conduct surveillance without judicial oversight only if it had a reason to believe that one party to the call was a member of or affiliated with al-Qaeda or a related terrorist organization. This bill drops that condition, they noted.

Democrats “have a Pavlovian reaction: Whenever the president says the word ‘terrorism,’ they roll over and play dead,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Washington legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, predicted that the bill’s approval would lead to the monitoring of ordinary Americans by the National Security Agency, which conducts most of the government’s electronic surveillance. “If this bill becomes law, Americans who communicate with a person abroad can count on one thing: The NSA may be listening,” he said.

An editorial in The New York Times appearing before the final vote places the issue in context:

The fight is over the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to obtain a warrant before eavesdropping on electronic communications that involve someone in the United States. The test is whether there is probable cause to believe that the person being communicated with is an agent of a foreign power or a terrorist.

Mr. Bush decided after 9/11 that he was no longer going to obey that law. He authorized the National Security Agency to intercept international telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans and other residents of this country without a court order. He told the public nothing and Congress next to nothing about what he was doing, until The Times disclosed the spying in December 2005.

They give two lines “that must not be crossed.” At least we got one out of two as these provisions do expire in six months:

First, all electronic surveillance of communication that originates or ends in the United States must be subject to approval and review by the FISA court under the 1978 law. (That court, by the way, has rejected only one warrant in the last two years.)

Second, any measure Congress approves now must have a firm expiration date. Closed-door meetings under the pressure of a looming vacation are no place for such serious business.

The Grand Haven Coast Guard Parade

I don’t know if I’ll get much of a chance to post today, being busy Grand Haven’s annual Coast Guard Parade this morning and the fireworks this evening. (There will be some appletini’s served to help guests pass the time in between).

This year I don’t think politics will play a part, but it has in the recent past. Last year, Republican c candidate Dick DeVos received negative publicity for the disrespect he showed to the Coast Guard and parade in trying to use it to campaign after his request was denied by campaign officials.

Two years ago supporters of John Kerry were given permission to appear in the Coast Guard Parade and entered a float of John Kerry’s swift boat to honor the Coast Guard. My report, along with a photograph which had also been included on the official Kerry campaign blog, follows:


West Michigan Shows Support For John Kerry and US Coast Guard

Last Monday we saw tremendous support for John Kerry with record attendance for a political rally in Grand Rapids. Today was the day of the annual Coast Guard Parade in Grand Haven Michigan–Coast Guard City, USA. In a week in which John Kerry has pointed out George Bush’s failures in defending the country from terrorist threats, and others tried to distort Kerry’s military record, it was fitting that a replica of John Kerry’s swift boat was included in the Coast Guard Parade.We knew it was a going to be a good day when driving into Grand Haven, which sits in the midst of Republican West Michigan. We passed numerous cars with Kerry bumper stickers and gave each other thumbs up (and the opposite to the rare cars with Bush stickers). While actually at the parade, we saw many people wearing Kerry stickers and badges, but other than for the county Republican Party float, not a single Bush badge.

Chris Dodd Takes on Bill O’Reilly


When Democrats decided not to have a debate on Fox News to avoid giving legitimacy to the network as a news organization for their failure to follow basic standards of objective journalism, conservatives tried to spin this as Democrats being afraid to face Fox News. That is an absurd argument which already admits that Fox News is not an objective news organization by admitting that Fox News sees itself as being in an adversarial position with the Democratic Party.

While not wanting to give Fox legitimacy by allowing them to cover a news event such as a debate, Democrats frequently appear on Fox News, showing no fear of their dishonest debate tactics and smears. Chris Dodd demonstrates very well how to handle dishonest commentators such as Bill O’Reilly in the video above.

Mitt Romney Finds the Republican Problem on Health Care

The Trail at The Washington Post details an exchange in which Mitt Romney got a few lessons on the health care problems of the working class. This is just a small sample:

“After we pay our huge deductibles for our insurance and our cost for our prescriptions, there’s nothing left,” she said.

“Are you a Massachusetts resident?” Romney asked.

“No I’m a New Hampshire resident,” Griffin said, and then added, before Romney could jump in, that “we pay over $1,000 a month for our insurance. Then we have co pays. Every time you go to the doctor, it’s $50 a visit. Then you have co-pays for our prescriptions. Can you tell me what your co pay is?”

“Yes,” Romney said. “$10 for each prescription.”

“That’s very nice isn’t it?” Griffin answered dryly.

“Yes. What are yours? Romney asked.

“Mine are like $30-$50. I have three sick children.”

This provides an excellent reminder that the health crisis isn’t limited to the uninsured. Mitt Romny tried to answer, but it was obvious he has no plan to help. This will make it hard for any Republican to get elected in 2008.

Republicans might respond that this isn’t the role of government. By their logic, government shouldn’t get involved should you be robbed, your house catches on fire, or the country is invaded. Only the most radical libertarian argues that government shouldn’t be involved with providing police protection, fire departments, and a military. For most of the industrialized world it is also accepted that government has a role in health care. This does not need to be “socialized medicine” as Republicans scream. The plans offered by the Democratic candidates will help alleviate the problem while preserving our system of private delivery of medical care.

Republicans will have a hard time winning in 2008, which is a shame for Mitt Romney. Imagine a socially liberal businessman who was involved in expanding health care coverage for his state. This is the type of person who could win in a blue state, to become Governor or possibly even President. Unfortunately such a person cannot win the Republican nomination–which is another reason why it will be hard for the Republicans to win the general election.

Republican Humor


It looks like Saturday Night Live has recaptured the humor of its early years. No, wait, this isn’t an SNL satire of a Republican ad. It is a real Republican ad. (Hat top to Josh Marshall.)

Kevin Drum quotes Hendrik Hertzberg writing about YearlyKos:

No one naked around here. No chaos at YearlyKos. No “sweet smell of marijuana,” as the straight papers used to refer to it. No demands for revolution. No denunciations of bourgeois democracy. The Democratic National Committee Chairman is listened to respectfully and cheered enthusiastically.

I think the difference between today’s left and yesterday’s is partly explained by the difference between the wars that have energized them. Vietnam was, as Bob Dole might say, a “Democrat war.” You couldn’t protest it just by putting your energies into electing Democrats, and of course you couldn’t do it by trying to elect Republicans, who liked the war even more. You had to go to the left of the Dems, and if you hadn’t happened to have already acquired a moral/political compass, you might keep going till you ended up at the feet of Chairman Mao. This war is an all-Republican affair. And this generation, thank God, is perfectly content to stick with Chairman Howard.

Kevin adds:

What’s happening now isn’t a youth revolt, and it’s not powered by free love, free acid, or fear of being drafted. It’s powered by a lot of bog ordinary moderate liberals who have been radicalized by George Bush and the Newt Gingrichized Republican Party. I think a lot of journalists (though I don’t mean to include Hertzberg here) don’t quite get this because they haven’t internalized just how far off the rails the modern Republican Party has gone. Until they do, they’re going to continue to misunderstand what’s happening.

There is a lot of nutty stuff posted at Kos, which is bound to happen at any community blog of that size. Kos has even written some nutty stuff of his own, which I’ve sometimes commented on here. His comments on the contractors killed in Iraq were inappropriate, and during the 2004 election Daily Kos was removed from the blogroll at the official Kerry blog because of this. He made a mistake and appears to have learned from it–which is far more than can be said about the hatred which continues to come from the right, including many of those who are now attacking Democrats for appearing at YearlyKos.

At least this is consistent. The Bush campaign screened people at their campaign rallys to keep out those who disagree with him.  Most of the current Republican candidates are afraid to answer questions posed by users of YouTube. In contrast, Democrats are willing to appear before normal people who utilize the internet, but Republicans attack them for this.