Thursday, August 30, 2007

Trust us. We're the government.

SCRANTON- At a hearing today at the federal courthouse here, lawyers for Sameh Khouzam, an Egyptian national facing torture if he is deported to his home country, argued that Middle District Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie should stop the deportation and release Khouzam from York County Prison, where he has been detained since late May.

Amrit Singh of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project said that "the government's position is extreme" and that the government "is asking you to ignore that the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals found" that Khouzam has scars that are consistent with torture, that there is evidence of past violations of so-called "diplomatic assurances" by the Egyptian government, and that a State Department report notes that Egypt has been a regular torturer.

Khouzam escaped Egypt in 1998 after being tortured for his religious beliefs. In mid-flight, the United States revoked his visa after the Egyptians claimed that he was wanted on homicide charges. He was detained on arrival.

Six years later, in 2004, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals granted him a "deferral of removal" under the Convention Against Torture, a treaty to which the United States is a party. In 2006, he was released from prison and lived and worked in Lancaster County until his detention by ICE officials in May. The federal government claimed that it had diplomatic assurances from Egypt that Khouzam would not be tortured upon his return.

"The issue before this court is the United States' obligations under the Convention Against Torture," Singh said. "There is no foreign policy exception in the Convention Against Torture."

Government attorney Douglas Ginsburg argued that Egypt is an ally and that a court is not in a position to intervene in foreign relations.

"Why would they work with us again if their dealings would be opened up to scrutiny," Ginsburg asked.

Judge Vanaskie asked Singh about the murder charge against Khouzam, for which he was reportedly convicted in absentia, and Singh noted that the charges are highly dubious.

Vanaskie also stated to Ginsburg, "One of the concerns I have is that using diplomatic assurances after the deferral of removal makes the process seem like a charade."

In response, Ginsburg said that a ruling against the government "harms diplomatic relations between countries."

Despite relying on the Egyptian diplomatic assurances, Khouzam and his attorneys have not seen any documentation of these assurances, and in court, Singh questioned the lack of a monitoring mechanism by the U.S. government to ensure that the Egyptian government follows through on its commitment.

More information, including briefs and links to related information, can be found at

Andy in Harrisburg in Scranton

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

No sleep 'til Scranton

Tomorrow at the federal courthouse in Scranton our crack attorneys will present oral arguments to stop the deportation of Sameh Khouzam, an Egyptian national who has been tortured in his home country, and will argue for his immediate release from York County Prison before Middle District Judge Thomas Vanaskie. I'll be blogging from Scranton, which will no doubt bring back some fond memories of the Hazleton trial.

To learn more about this important case and to read the most recent briefs, visit the case page on our website. Also, Sameh's supporters have a webpage with a variety of links at

Andy in Harrisburg

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Because we think you might care...

There have been a few noteworthy items in the papers the last few days.
  • Yesterday's The Patriot News of Harrisburg featured a front page story on a local high school that has created an alternative program for teen mothers and other students who have personal struggles that keep them from attending the traditional school day. You may recall last spring we took on a case in which a teenage mother in the Central Dauphin School District was being disciplined for missing school to care for her child. Kudos to Susquehanna Township School District for finding an avenue for teen parents who both want to complete their education and care for their child.
  • In Sunday's The Morning Call of Allentown, a murder victim's son and daughter-in-law wrote a moving tribute to their loved one and an explanation for why they asked the Lehigh County DA to stop pursuing the death penalty for the perpetrator. The torturous process for victims' family members is yet another reason why Pennsylvania should at least take the time to do a serious examination of the death penalty, with a two-year suspension of executions. If the legislature passed and the governor signed Senate Bill 850, the study commission created by the bill could include victims' families as one of the areas of study. In a related note, the Pennsylvania Moratorium Coalition, of which ACLU-PA is a part, has officially launched its new website.
  • For years, the ACLU and our allies have been advocating for alternative programs to reduce incarceration rates and recidivism. The politicians have finally caught on. Governor Rendell has introduced a plan for easing our overcrowded jails, which is modeled after a program that New York implemented ten years ago.
  • And finally, immigration. *sigh* From the "I've officially heard it all" category, the author of a letter to the editor in today's Patriot News claims that immigration law is discriminatory. Against white people. "Until 1965 Caucasians were 90 percent of the population. Now we're 66 percent. In 1965 when immigration laws were changed radically, sponsors of the legislation said the U.S. ethnic mix wouldn't change. However, Hispanics went from 1 percent to 14 percent and Asians from 1 percent to 8 percent. The fact is that current immigration law is designed to reduce the percentage of Caucasians by this immigration policy. So anyone supporting legal immigration is supporting a discriminatory law." And the anti-immigrant crowd wonders why we think they're a) nuts and b) racist.
Andy in Harrisburg

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Alberto Gonzales resigns

The rats are jumping off the sinking ship.
A longtime friend of Bush, who once considered him for appointment to the Supreme Court, Gonzales is the fourth high-ranking administration official to leave since November 2006. Donald H. Rumsfeld, an architect of the Iraq war, resigned as defense secretary one day after the November elections. Paul Wolfowitz agreed in May to step down as president of the World Bank after an ethics inquiry. And top Bush adviser Karl Rove earlier this month announced he was stepping down.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Chertoff on your passport: Don't leave home without it!

It might be time to get your passport renewed. If Michael Chertoff has his way, you're going to be needing it a lot more often.

Last week, Chertoff informed the National Conference of State Legislatures that residents of states who do not comply with the REAL ID Act by May of 2008 will need to show their passports for all "federal purposes." That includes boarding any airplane, even for domestic travel, entering any federal building, and visiting any national park. That's right: to fly from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, or attend federal court, or visit Valley Forge Park or the Smithsonian, you'll need to show your passport - or your REAL ID.

This is my favorite part of the CNN article:

"The [ACLU] dubs the IDs "internal passports" and claims it wouldn't be long before office buildings, gas stations, toll booths, subways and buses begin accessing the system.

But Chertoff told legislators last week that DHS has no intention of creating a federal database, and Walsh, of the Heritage Foundation, said the ACLU's allegations are disingenuous."

So essentially, they deny that REAL ID is an internal passport - but if you don't have one, you will need to carry your passport.

REAL ID is a horrible piece of legislation. It was snuck through Congress piggybacked onto a bill to fund the Iraq occupation and Tsunami relief, ostensibly to combat terrorism; only it will do almost nothing to prevent terrorism. What it really does is allow the government to track every detail in the lives of American citizens. Taken with the new FISA revisions approved last week by the Democrat sheep in Congress, one wonders how long before the US Government is using spy satellites, Enemy of the State style, to track its citizens.

But wait, there's no need to wonder: according to the New York Times, Chertoff and Homeland Security are working to implement that plan, too. Why am I not surprised that Michael Chertoff is a fan of Michael Bay movies?

Oh, and REAL ID is going to cost billions to implement, most of which is the responsibilities of the states.

It's such a terrible program, one by one the states are rejecting it. Sixteen states so far have enacted legislation to reject REAL ID. One state, Alabama, has already attempted to enact REAL ID provisions, and found the program to be an intractable quagmire. Twenty-one more (including Pennsylvania) are in the process of passing similar legislation. Chertoff and the Federal Government remain undeterred.

To comfort us, Chertoff assures the public that (according to CNN) "DHS has no intention of creating a federal database." What he doesn't mention is that your REAL ID card will be linked to your Social Security number, which means there is already a federal database in existence. It will also be linked to your birth certificate, your driver's license, That also means it's a convenient way for a thief or a terrorist to steal your identity - it will all be contained in one handy wallet-sized card!

We are working to stop REAL ID in Pennsylvania, but the real task before us is to repeal it on a Federal level. Otherwise, in less than a year, when you want to board a plane, go to court, take a jog in Valley Forge, visit the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall, hike the Appalachian Trail, or visit Gettysburg battlefield or the Flight 93 memorial, you're going to need to show your passport or you'll be turned away.

UPDATE: Thanks to Jiminy Cricket at Daily Kos for providing the following list of places where, as of May 2008 (according to Michael Chertoff), you will need your passport (or REAL ID card) lest you should be turned away:

(Removed a few that seemed dubious as State functions - these are all Federal)
  • Going to the post office
  • Applying for federal grants and subsidized federal loans
  • Visiting the offices of your elected officials
  • Running for office
  • Going to the IRS building
  • Applying for food stamps
  • Receiving social security
  • You or your company applying for federal jobs
  • Medicare
  • Opening a bank account in any FDIC assured bank
Chris in Philly

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How much jail time should she do?

As pointed out in a column by Anna Quindlen in Newsweek and on America Blog, Planned Parenthood and the National Institute for Reproductive Health have launched a provocative new campaign to ask, "How much time should she serve?" If abortions become illegal, what should be the punishment for women who have an illegal abortion?

Quindlen writes:
Nearly 20 years ago, in a presidential debate, George Bush the elder was asked this very question, whether in making abortion illegal he would punish the woman who had one. "I haven't sorted out the penalties," he said lamely. Neither, it turns out, has anyone else. But there are only two logical choices: hold women accountable for a criminal act by sending them to prison, or refuse to criminalize the act in the first place. If you can't countenance the first, you have to accept the second. You can't have it both ways.

This question was put to a group of anti-abortion demonstrators in Libertyville, IL, which was captured on video and then, of course, uploaded to YouTube.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The USA PATRIOT Reauthorization Act: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

So how many more "little-noticed provisions" of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 (yes, that's really the name) are waiting to rear their ugly heads? Earlier this year we found out about a provision that was snuck in that allowed the executive branch to replace US attorneys without Senate confirmation, as had been the law. Now it turns out that, according to an LA Times story today, there's a provision that:

" the attorney general the power to decide whether individual states are providing adequate counsel for defendants in death penalty cases. The authority has been held by federal judges.

Under the rules now being prepared, if a state requested it and Gonzales agreed, prosecutors could use 'fast track' procedures that could shave years off the time that a death row inmate has to appeal to the federal courts after conviction in a state court."

The article goes on to say:

"The move to shorten the appeals process and effectively speed up executions comes at a time of growing national concern about the fairness of the death penalty, underscored by the use of DNA testing to establish the innocence of more than a dozen death row inmates in recent years." Of course, many of those individuals freed on DNA evidence would be dead now if the appeals process had been sped up, as DNA tests simply weren't available when they were initially sentenced.

A USA Today article on the same topic mentions that "Pennsylvania [is]among the states that have expressed interest in participating in this fast-track execution program."

My question: how is Gonzales going to find the time to do this fast-tracking of executions with all the secret warrantless wiretapping he's now busy authorizing?

Sara in Philly

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No hate in our town

Statewide action for unity in our communities

Lately, we've been hearing a lot of Pennsylvanians scapegoating undocumented immigrants. Their words and actions are dividing our communities and making many people – immigrants and citizens alike – feel fearful and rejected. Hate breeds hate, and it’s time for those of us who recognize the valuable contributions of immigrants – our friends, neighbors, families, US! - to speak out.

On September 1, 2007, while supporters of Hazleton mayor Lou Barletta and his anti-immigrant ordinance rally in Harrisburg to breed more fear and distrust of immigrants, we will offer a voice for unity. A "No Hate in Our Town" press conference will be held in Harrisburg by a coalition of groups to speak out against hate and in support of all workers.

Join those in Pennsylvania who are working to end the divisiveness caused by these anti-immigration ordinances. There is no time like the present to begin working together to achieve equality of rights for all, and also to appreciate and respect others – not only those who are most like us – but also those who are most different from us.

But we need more than a show of unity in Harrisburg.

Leading up to and over Labor Day weekend, we're asking communities and neighborhoods, families and friends across Pennsylvania to come together to say, loud and clear, "No Hate in Our Town." Gathering at our BBQs and parties, our town halls and local parks we can make our voices heard.

Here's what you can do anytime between now and Labor Day:

1) Print or make a sign that says: "No Hate in Our Town" and another sign that says the name of your town or community: "Anytown, PA";

2) Take a picture with a group of friends, neighbors, and/or family holding the signs

3) Send your photo to: by Sep. 4. (If you can send the photo before Sep. 1, we'll put it up on the website in time for our press conference in Harrisburg.)

We'll put your photo up on a website for everyone to see. If possible, have people in the photo wear a white ribbon or white clothing as a sign of solidarity.

Thank you for showing your support. We look forward to joining you now and throughout the Labor Day weekend to say, "No Hate in Our Town!" And let's continue to work together to make sure that Pennsylvania stays a welcoming place for all people.

Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission
Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition
Pennsylvania Network of Unity Coalitions
Pennsylvania Immigration & Citizenship Coalition
American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania


Monday, August 13, 2007

This is not news: Immigrants are not criminals

The Chambersburg Public Opinion, which is one of the stranger monikers for a Pennsylvania newspaper ("moniker," trolls, it means ....ah, forget it), featured three articles (at least) on immigration on Sunday. Chambersburg is one of the PA towns that considered an ordinance similar to Hazleton's but decided to wait for the outcome of the legal challenge. Although the trolls here at SF and the demagogues whom they follow would claim differently, local law enforcement in Franklin County confirmed what most right-thinking people already know- immigrants do not commit crime at a higher rate than natural born citizens.
"It's pretty much the same," (Washington Township Police Chief Barry) Keller said. "They're not committing crimes that are unique to the area."

"We've had some serious crimes involving them," said Waynesboro Police Chief Ray Shultz. "But I'm not seeing a large number of increases involving immigrants."

In terms of crime levels recorded by state police, exact figures do not exist. But those committed by immigrants would be representative of the society as a whole, (PA State Police Trooper Ed) Asbury said, adding that whites and blacks commit crimes.

"We don't see an abnormal increase in relation to the population percentage," he said. "The amount of crime would actually be normal for the percentage or less than the average for the population."

Not that the nativists would let the facts get in the way of a good story.

You can find the expert report on immigrants and crime that we presented at the Hazleton trial at our website (PDF). And here are the other two articles from the Sunday fishwrap:
Getting past prejudice
Churches strive to welcome all

Andy in Harrisburg

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Swimming in the mainstream

As anyone familiar with the ACLU knows, we are not afraid to take on an unpopular issue or position. But I'm not going to lie- it's nice being liked, too. So in an article dissecting the breakdown of conservatism and the GOP in The Economist, two paragraphs caught my eye since they touched on three ACLU issues in quick succession:
The Republicans have alienated America's fastest-growing electoral block—Hispanics—with their visceral opposition to immigration reform. Nearly 70% of Hispanics voted Democratic in House races in 2006, up from 55% in 2004. That trend is sure to have been solidified by the Republicans' recent scuppering of the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, in a revolt sodden with xenophobia. Lyndon Johnson once noted that the Democrats' support for civil rights had cost them the South for a generation; the Republican Party's opposition to immigration reform may well have cost it the Hispanic vote for a generation.

Republicans have also whipped up a storm of opposition among middle-of-the-road voters on social issues. The religious right's opposition to abortion has always been an electoral liability: only 30% of voters favour overturning Roe v Wade. But in the past few years social conservatives tested people's patience still further over a federal marriage amendment and Terri Schiavo. Fully 72% of Republican voters opposed the Republicans' attempt to use the might of the federal government to keep the severely brain-damaged woman alive. The voters got their revenge in the 2006 mid-term elections— "bloody Tuesday" in the words of Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group. Rick Santorum, once the religious right's most prominent champion in the Senate, barely scraped 41% of the vote in Pennsylvania. Ken Blackwell, social conservatism's most prominent black champion, went down to a humiliating defeat in the race for the Ohio governorship. Social conservatives lost ballot initiatives on everything from abortion to gay marriage. (my bolds)

Now, to us, it doesn't matter who is standing up for the issues we care about, as long as someone is, so the partisan angle is unimportant here. What matters is this: The ACLU is not some radical band of wingnuts. Many of our positions, including some of our most prominent issues, are embraced by millions of Americans. Why? Because the people of this country believe in the Constitution, they believe in fairness, they believe in justice, and they believe the government should butt out of their lives.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Hold your elected officials accountable for their vote on the FISA amendment

As you undoubtedly know, late last week Congress rolled over and played dead, passing the horrible amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act with the Orwellian name "Protecting America Act of 2007." (I guess we need protection from those pesky constitutional rights.)

The amendment broadly expands the government’s authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants. It takes oversight away from the FISA court and gives it to the attorney general (that well-known protector of constitutional rights) and the director of national intelligence. (For a longer explanation of why this bill is so bad, click here.)

Senator Arlen Specter choose to vote for this atrocious bill. At several stops on the town hall tour he's been taking around Pennsylvania this week, he's been asked to explain his vote. His answer? He respects the director of national intelligence; he plans to get rid of Attorney General Gonzales, so it doesn't matter that this act gives him incredible powers; and it's up for renewal in six months so it doesn't really matter anyway.

Call me crazy, but passing laws based on the personalities involved (or on your belief you'll be able to get rid of one of said personalities) seems kind of counter to that whole "checks and balances" thing.

The only bright spot in this bill is that, as Specter points out, it's up for renewal in six months. We need to make sure that the same thing doesn't happen with this as happened with the PATRIOT Act (another bill people passed with the assurance of "hey, it's only temporary!"). Tell your senators and representatives how you feel about their vote on this important issue! Click here to see how your representative voted.

You can also sign the national ACLU's petition to Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi, telling them we will not tolerate their continued abandonment of their responsibility to hold the Executive Branch in check.

Sara in Philly

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

US Citizen Wrongly Deported to Mexico Found

Back in June we wrote about the plight of Pedro Guzman, a developmentally disabled US citizen who was illegally deported on May 11 from a California jail, where he was serving time for trespassing, a misdemeanor offense. His frantic family has been searching for him for the past three months.

Thankfully, he was reunited with his family Tuesday.

According to the ACLU of Southern California, who represented Mr. Guzman's family:

"Little is known about Mr. Guzman's time in Mexico. He told his family today that he attempted to cross the border several times but was turned away. He said he walked from Tijuana to Mexicali, a distance of more than 100 miles, and ate out of trash cans as he looked for a way back into the U.S. His family says he was nearly unrecognizable, and that they are seeking immediate medical attention for him.

Border agents detained Mr. Guzman as he attempted to cross into the U.S. near Calexico early Sunday morning. County officials had issued a warrant for his failure to appear at probation hearings, despite attempts by the family and ACLU/SC to explain to probation officials that he had been wrongfully deported. The government had promised to immediately notify the family and their attorneys if it found Mr. Guzman. Instead, it took 36 hours for the family to be notified."

Sara in Philly


Anti-immigrant strategy: Lie as much as possible

Woe, the Republic. We already knew that the anti-immigrant zealots are so successful because they are incredibly vocal. It's becoming increasingly clear that they are also successful because they lie.

There's no disputing it. Mayor Barletta rode stereotypes about immigrants and crime all the way to his ordinance, now to the 3rd Circuit of Appeals, and maybe even to a run for Congress. Of course, never mind that we blew up his crime argument in court by presenting- get this- the facts.

Now there's word that the anti-immigrant crowd is gearing up to use blatant nativism- factual inaccuracies be damned- to paint their political opponents. This today from the WaPo's Ruth Marcus:
Bashing Democrats on immigration -- accusing them of doing everything but carrying illegals' luggage across the border -- is a GOP mainstay. But the accusations that Republicans started to peddle last week reached a new low in dishonest nativism.

The first salvo involved the House version of the measure to extend the children's health insurance plan, SCHIP.

"What we do is take, at the cost of seniors who get . . . choices of their own health-care plans, we take it away," former speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) claimed during the House debate. "We wipe it out, and we give it to people who are illegal aliens."

"That bill, if it becomes law, would take $197 billion out of the Medicare trust fund, from our seniors, to give to illegal aliens," charged Rep. Ron Lewis (R-Ky.).

Leave aside the inflated numbers. Leave aside the scare talk about "our seniors." (AARP, the seniors' lobby, supports the bill.)

The provision at issue would repeal a 2006 requirement that everyone applying for Medicaid provide proof of citizenship -- passports or original birth certificates. That might sound sensible, but it has been a cumbersome, expensive solution to a non-problem.

In 2005, when he was overseeing the Medicaid program for the Bush administration, Mark McClellan noted that an inspector general's investigation did "not find particular problems regarding false allegations of citizenship, nor are we aware of any."

Because many Medicaid applicants don't have such papers easily at hand -- they're not the passport-carrying types -- the requirement has resulted in tens of thousands of eligible children being denied coverage or kicked off the rolls and has cost states millions of dollars to administer.

The ACLU, of course, has no position on SCHIP. But we do have a big problem with people using nativism, xenophobia, and racism- all neatly tied up into a package of lies- to advance their causes. It's wrong.

But I said, "Woe, the Republic," at the top because people will buy it. The nativists wouldn't use this line of attack if it didn't work. We and our allies have to answer the misinformation and answer it with fervor and strength.

Andy in Harrisburg

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More blogging from the ACLU

National ACLU has had a blog for some time. For a while, their posts were sporadic, but I just noticed that over the last few months that they've been blogging regularly. Check it out at this link and check in regularly. National has a great capacity for getting information up on a regular basis, and it looks like their plan is to do just that. Now there is another place for people named anonymous to troll.

Andy in Harrisburg


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What they're saying about the warrantless surveillance bill

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI):
Our constitutional rights should not be sacrificed to scare tactics. Congress must stand up to the president. The sooner that Democrats realize that standing tough on national security doesn't mean giving into the administration, the better off they - and the country - will be.

The Washington Post, which is not exactly an editorial board of liberals:
Instead of having the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court ensure that surveillance is being done properly, with monitoring of Americans minimized, that job would be up to the attorney general and the director of national intelligence. The court's role is reduced to that of rubber stamp.

This is as reckless as it was unnecessary. Democrats had presented a compromise plan that would have permitted surveillance to proceed, but with court review and an audit by the Justice Department's inspector general, to be provided to Congress, about how many Americans had been surveilled. Democrats could have stuck to their guns and insisted on their version. Instead, nervous about being blamed for any terrorist attack and eager to get out of town, they accepted the unacceptable.
There is one small saving grace here: These sweeping new powers expire after six months. Of course, having dropped the audit requirement, lawmakers won't have a good way of knowing how many Americans had their communications intercepted. The administration will no doubt again play the national security card. Democratic leaders say they want to move quickly to fix the damage. If only we could be more confident that they won't get rolled again.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, before the bill passed:
That this Democratic Congress is even considering Director McConnell's proposed changes is, for lack of a better word, a disgrace. Just this week we discovered that even the secret intelligence court has rebuffed the administration's request to scoop up unidentified foreign to U.S. calls through some still-secret dragnet. Congress, ostensibly a level-headed check on executive overreaching, got rolled on the Patriot Act and now is about to get rolled on a brave new world of warrantless wiretapping.

Even worse, it is about to get rolled by a White House and intelligence community that does not enjoy the trust of the American people.

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks on Monday:
Here we go again. I was going to write a nice, fun piece about Matt Damon on a lovely Sunday afternoon when the Democrats went and ruined everything, as usual. From time to time, I am told that I am too hard on the Democrats. It is not possible to be too hard on these vacillating, spineless, rudderless, clueless clowns.

Meteor Blades at Daily Kos, addressing the 57 iDiotcrats who voted for the bill, including PA's own Senator Casey:
Frankly, you epitomize weak. Your every pore exudes feebleness. You are surrender monkeys. And you've just casually tossed away a basic protection as if it were a banana peel.

Pressed, I suspect that over the next month some of you will defend this pitiful capitulation with the argument that it's only for six months, and that you'll have a chance to amend the amendment, to rewrite the law more properly. You'll pretend that you won’t kiss the President's ass half a year from now when he comes back and says exactly what he said this time: Give me what I want or I'll blame you the next time terrorists kill Americans. Weak is bad enough. Must you be simpletons as well? How many times has he marketed this crap? How many times have you bought it? Do you also fall for those late-night $19.95 television deals for a double-set of knives that never need sharpening?

Cenk Uygur later on Monday:
The Democratic capitulation on the FISA law is one of those things that make you grow even angrier as time passes by. As one of our listeners said this morning, "I am growing sick and tired of growing sick and tired."
If you say it's not possible to fight back, I have two words for you: Russ Feingold.

This is not some futile effort to get Feingold to run or anything. I'm just using him as an example because apparently he's the only one left in the Senate with a sack. The rest of them have the grand, brilliant strategy of waiting Bush out. How very brave!

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of these Democrats. Is anyone going to pay a price for voting the wrong way on this FISA bill? Are Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi going to hold them to account? I'll give you a moment to stop laughing.

These are the Pretendocrats (another listener suggestion) - they pretend to fight the Bush administration, while actually doing squat.

The New York Times:
But the problem with Congress last week was that Democrats were afraid to explain to Americans why the White House bill was so bad and so unnecessary — despite what the White House was claiming. There are good answers, if Democrats are willing to address voters as adults. To start, they should explain that — even if it were a good idea, and it's not — the government does not have the capability to sort through billions of bits of electronic communication. And the larger question: why, six years after 9/11, is this sort of fishing expedition the supposed first line of defense in the war on terrorism?

While serving little purpose, the new law has real dangers. It would allow the government to intercept, without a warrant, every communication into or out of any country, including the United States. Instead of explaining all this to American voters — the minimal benefits and the enormous risks — the Democrats have allowed Mr. Bush and his fear-mongering to dominate all discussions on terrorism and national security.

The Times did say something that I want to take issue with:
Many of the 16 Democrats in the Senate and 41 in the House who voted for the bill said that they had acted in the name of national security, but the only security at play was their job security.

Wrong. Stop buying this frame that members of Congress had to choose between standing up for the Constitution and getting re-elected. That is a false choice. As Glenn Greenwald reminded us yesterday morning and yesterday afternoon, the GOP failed miserably in 2006 while running on the "Dems are weak on terrorism" card. Jon Tester won a Senate seat last year in Montana advocating repeal of the PATRIOT Act. In 2004, when Feingold's opponent ran ads filleting him for his vote against the PATRIOT Act, Feingold's poll numbers went up, not down.

There are Democrats and Republicans, including Senators Casey and Specter, who have yet to receive the memo that the American people believe in the Constitution. Now, it would be nice if they actually upheld their oath of office and defended it, rather than shredding it.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Monday, August 06, 2007

"My grandparents came here legally...."

...which is real easy to do since there were no immigration laws in those days. Unless you happened to be Chinese.

Brian Donohue of the Newark Star Ledger lays out everything that's wrong with the "my ancestors did it the legal way" talking point in an op-ed that was prominent in Sunday's Patriot News.
There's one problem with the argument. It's utter hogwash.

First of all, for hundreds of years, as immigrants poured in by the hundreds of thousands from the 1600s to the early 1900s, there were simply no federal immigration laws to break.

Unless you were a criminal or insane (or after 1882, Chinese), once you landed here, you were legal.

Crediting yesteryear's immigrants with following the laws is like calling someone a good driver because they never got caught speeding on the Autobahn.

"Only 1 percent of people who showed up at Ellis Island were turned away," said Mae Ngai, author of "Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America."

"What that statement is ignorant of is that we didn't always have restrictions. It's a fairly recent phenomenon."

Level the playing field hypothetically, and the argument becomes even more preposterous.

Imagine today's immigration laws, which make it impossible for most poor foreign farmers to immigrate legally, in effect in, say, 1849.

Somewhere in Ireland, a starving farmer turns to his family, their mouths green from eating grass in the midst of the potato famine.

"We could escape to America and have food to eat," the farmer says. "But I'd never do that without a visa. That would be a violation of U.S. immigration law."

Ridiculous, of course. That farmer would have done exactly what today's Mexicans, Chinese and Guatemalans are doing by the millions — get to the United States so they can feed their families, and worry about getting papers later.

I love it when others say these things so that we don't have to.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Democrats suck

Back from vacation and ready to rant.

Democrats suck. They just happen to suck less than the Republicans.

The ACLU is often tagged as being a partisan Democrat group. We are not since we are a non-partisan non-profit organization. It's an insult when people say that we're a Democrat group. Why would we want to be associated with this crew of weak-kneed losers? Yes, I'm all tuned up about the passing of the Gut FISA and Capitulate to the President Act, passed by Congress and signed into law yesterday by El Presidente.

Glenn Greenwald summarizes well:
Prior to the November, 2006 elections, the Bush administration tried desperately to force the Congress to enact new FISA legislation to legalize warrantless eavesdropping. The Democrats resisted just enough to prevent its enactment. Karl Rove and Republicans generally then ran around the country exploiting that obstructionism in order to accuse Democrats of being "soft on terror" and "wanting to prevent the President from listening in when Osama calls," the Republicans were crushed in that election, and Democrats obtained an historic victory. In the not-blue state of Montana, Jon Tester defeated an incumbant GOP Senator by running on a platform of repealing the Patriot Act in its entirety. Wouldn't the most basic rationality compel Democrats to draw the conclusion that this rank Terrorism fear-mongering does not actually work?

Yet here they are, after refusing to legalize warrantless eavesdropping prior to their midterm victory, allowing this legislation to pass now that they are in the majority.

This is why I'm registered "no affiliation."

Andy in Harrisburg

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Presidential hopefuls weigh in on Hazleton decision

Interestingly, both Barack Obama and Fred Thompson put out statements about the Hazleton decision:

Barack Obama's statement
Fred Thompson's statement

Sara in Philly

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Who's your daddy?

If you heard spluttering and yelling coming from the direction of Center City Philadelphia around 1:00 pm today, that would have been me after reading about a truly horrific bill that a state representative in Ohio introduced last month.

The bill, sponsored by Ohio State Representative John Adams, would require a woman seeking an abortion to obtain the written informed consent of the fetus's father. According the law, not knowing the identity of the father is not an excuse. A list of potential fathers would need to be submitted, and paternity tests on the fetus would need to be performed.

The Record Courier quotes Adams as saying, "This is important because there are always two parents and fathers should have a say in the birth or the destruction of that child. I didn't bring it up to draw attention to myself or to be controversial."

The oh-so-enlightened bill does allow for exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest. In those cases, the woman merely needs to present a police report.

Thankfully, the bill seems to have little chance of passing, but just the fact that the bill has eight co-sponsors in addition to Adams is chilling.

Sara in Philly

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