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    22 December 2005

    Drilling in ANWR blocked, PATRIOT ACT extended

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    - A budget bill passed the Senate yesterday, but only with VP Cheney breaking a tie. The new budget will "allow states to impose new fees on Medicaid recipients, cut federal child-support enforcement funds, impose new work requirements on state welfare programs and squeeze student lenders...". This measure did not include a provision to open up ANWR to the oil companies. This is good news, but not great news. Congress seems unable to comprehend the seriousness of the decline of oil and unable to form a new approach to take our country into the 21st Century. Gal Luft, of the Set America Free Coalition, corectly states that if "[w]e don't make any progress. The only thing that changes is the level of dependence -- it increases every year."

    - The GOP is repeating the same lies debunked yesterday. This is a pretty pathetic showing on a serious matter. One judge has resigned from the secret surveillance court, and others have expressed concerns; threatening to disband the court since the President now claims the power to bypass the court. To U.S. District Judge Dee Benson of Utah; "The questions are obvious ... What have you been doing, and how might it affect the reliability and credibility of the information we're getting in our court?"

    Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) remains skeptical of the program and vows to start hearings next month after the Scalito battle. Click here to petition for hearings to begin before rather than after the SCOTUS confirmation.

    Here is today’s quote from Bush assuring everyone that a court order is required and gotten in all domestic espionage events...

    Columbus, Ohio - 9 June 2005 Bush said:
    One tool that has been especially important to law enforcement is called a roving wiretap. Roving wiretaps allow investigators to follow suspects who frequently change their means of communications. These wiretaps must be approved by a judge, and they have been used for years to catch drug dealers and other criminals.

    This part's especially ironic...
    Finally, we need to renew the critical provisions of the Patriot Act that protect our civil liberties. The Patriot Act was written with clear safeguards to ensure the law is applied fairly. The judicial branch has a strong oversight role. Law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone, a federal judge's permission to track his calls, or a federal judge's permission to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of these tools. And these standards are fully consistent with the Constitution of the U.S.

    So much for that.

    - Scott McClellan has been mute on many things so far this term as the presidents spokesman. stating, over and over again, that he will not comment on ongoing investigations (unless it will help the president and his friends). He's taking the same tone when asked to comment on 'Snoopgate' only the investigation hasn't started yet. Anyway, I highly recommend reading this diary of Scotty's press briefing yesterday; be ready to laugh.

    - The President and the 911 Commission have been using a myth as fact. the WaPo calls them out on it.

    - Senate Republicans caved to a Democratic led, but bipartisan, filibuster of the PATRIOT ACT and passed an extension of six months to keep the act on the books while the disparate parties negotiate a deal. The President has said that he would veto an extension but that is just Texas tough-talk. IU doubt he would do such a thing, but if he does, good I hate the act and think we should write a new one now that all the hype of 11 September 2001 is behind us. But the president has a point when he says that we can’t go days, weeks, months without these safety measures. Let’s just cut out the Orwellian parts.

    - The case of "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla was slamed by an appeals court yesterday rejecting "the administration's move to avoid another Supreme Court review of its powers of detention." The statement continued by declaring that the government’s actions have ruined "its credibility before the courts." This case is weak and based partly on the waterboarding (aka torture) of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Here is the short version

    - Sunni and secular voices have found common ground in Iraq. They feel that the recent elections were fraudulent. They threaten to boycott the new parliament.

    - Kevin Drum looks at the powers held by wartime presidents.

    - Jack Abramoff is coming closer to a plea agreement (tip to Atrios)
    Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under indictment for fraud in South Florida, is expected to complete a plea agreement in the Miami criminal case, setting the stage for him to become a crucial witness in a broad federal corruption investigation, people with direct knowledge of the case said.
    At the same time, prosecutors in Washington have been sifting through evidence of what they believe is a corruption scheme involving at least a dozen lawmakers and their former staff members, many of whom worked closely on legislation with Mr. Abramoff and accepted gifts and favors from him. Although Mr. Abramoff is also in negotiations in that case, it is unclear whether a settlement can be reached in time for both agreements to be announced at once.

    Posted by Geoff

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