S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Your Congress at Work?

Is it working?
Do you feel that your congress is working for you? Or are the lobbyists and special interests still getting their ears? In addition I am a "Blue" living in a "Red"state and have difficulty with this because few Democrats hold congressional office.

Is reform coming? But at least a few Republicans are trying to make things a little better. Democrats do not think they are going far enough. Here is the story from MyWay on a Republican lobby reform bill. To quote from the AP story,
Nearly two months after lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty in a sprawling
federal corruption investigation, Republicans are circulating election-year reform legislation. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., called a meeting Tuesday of the Senate rules committee to review the measure, which he distributed late Monday. The draft was not formally released, and it was not clear how much support it would attract.
Democrats appeared to be keeping their distance from the bill, which seemed to be less stringent on several points than legislation they have proposed.
Congress probably hears us on this - On the face of it, the idea of our port terminals being operated by foreign companies or foreign governments seems not in our security or business best interests. I cannot think of a better place for government subsidies if they are needed. Certainly we should be able to find an unneeded subsidy somewhere that could be transferred to port operation costs. And I am not suggesting that we cut security efforts at airports. But, obviously the airport lobby has outdone the port lobby on this one. And I can understand why. People fly on airplanes in larger numbers than they use seaports. We should be able to do security for both.
When the UAE story came out it touched a nerve, however. The story from CNN is headlined - Senator: Companies seek review of ports deal - Sunday, February 26, 2006; Posted: 12:39 p.m. EST
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (Reuters) -- Dubai Ports World and Britain's P&O have voluntarily requested a 45-day U.S. national security review of their deal giving Dubai Ports World control of terminal operations at six U.S. ports, a U.S. senator said Sunday. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, a Virginia Republican, told NBC's "Meet the Press" he had a copy of an agreement that was being sent to the Bush administration and members of Congress by Dubai Ports and P&O. The two companies jointly request the Bush administration's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) "conduct a review -- full and 45 days -- for the acquisition," Warner said.
President Bush is not listening - Our current president's ratings continue to slip. It seems that Congress is more in tune with the general public's views on port security. Yahoo News has an article on public opinion of Bush. Quoting it,
In recent days, the Bush administration has faced increasing sectarian violence and fears of civil war in Iraq as well as strong bipartisan congressional opposition to a deal allowing an Arab state-owned company to operate six key U.S. ports.

According to the poll, 70 percent believe the Dubai Ports World transaction should not be allowed to go through while only 21 percent did not see the ports deal as a problem.
Domestic surveillance still threatens our civil liberties - House Democrats are calling for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the administration's program on domestic spying. Quoting from a Yahoo News story,
The White House on Monday rejected the call by more than a dozen House Democrats for a special counsel to investigate the Bush administration's eavesdropping program. . . . In a letter released Monday, 18 House Democrats told Bush that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should appoint a special counsel. They
said the surveillance of terrorists must be done within the bounds of U.S. law, but complained that their efforts to get answers to legal and factual questions about the program have been stymied — "generally based on the feeblest of excuses."
"If the effort to prevent vigorous and appropriate investigation succeeds, we fear the inexorable conclusion will be that these executive branch agencies hold themselves above the law and accountable to no one," wrote the lawmakers, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a member of the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees. . . . In their six-page letter, the Democrats said the special counsel should investigate any possible violation of federal criminal law, noting that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act says the monitoring of U.S. citizens and residents — without a warrant — is punishable by imprisonment.
Bush administration officials have argued the program does not fall within that law. They say Bush was exercising his constitutional authority as commander in chief when he allowed the National Security Agency to monitor — without court approval — the international calls and e-mails of people inside the U.S. when one party may be linked to terrorism. The administration also maintains the president had the power to order the surveillance under a broad 2001 authorization to use military force in the war on terror.
The 18 lawmakers also want the special counsel to consider any crimes that may be
committed to interfere with the investigation, including perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence and witness intimidation.
Democrats exercise leadership in the Senate and the House and through State Governors, who have been meeting together talking about healthcare this past weekend. The Executive branch is not the only place where leadership can be exerted. This is not a monarchy, nor a dictatorship. This is yet another call for Democrats to stand up their ideas.
In this vein, and to conclude, I'll cite this very thoughtful and important post on Sunday by Steve Clemons of The Washington Note. He feels that this is the deal. Quote (Steve's links included):
Democratic Imperative: Bush's "Unitary Executive" Notion Must be

The Washington Note works hard to provide constructive, serious critiques of Bush administration foreign policy and attempts to avoid reckless typecasting or tractionless hyperventilation regarding what this administration is up to.
We try instead to characterize honestly the power grab that the Executive Branch has been engaged in since 9/11, but we also recognize that the administration is not
monolithically united behind the adminstration's most outrageous positions -- and that the loyal minority has not done its part. On both the Democratic side and among Republican moderates, those who believe in checks-and-balances have done little to compellingly challenge this White House.
I want change in policy -- not shrillness for its own sake -- but this excellent summary of the vital debate about Executive Branch power by Sidney Blumenthal has hardened my resolve to do whatever I can to delegitimate and defang Cheney's operation.

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