United States News Digest
Specter NSA Bill 'Worse Than Nothing at All'
At the request of all the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a hearing was held July 26 on the new bill drafted by Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa) in collaboration with White House. Despite Specter's earlier outspokenness against the Administration's domestic surveillance program, his new bill is justifiably being attacked by Democrats and by civil liberties and constitutional-rights organizations as a complete capitulation to the Bush Administration.
One giveaway is that the new Specter bill is supported by the Administration, despite the White House's previous opposition to any legislation on the spying program. In the Tuesday hearing, attended by only one other Republican besides Specter, right-winger John Cornyn of Texas also voiced his support of the Specter bill.
All the Democrats on the Committee who spoke, attacked Specter's bill. Ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) called it more of a concession than a compromise, and said it would "permit vast new amounts of warrantless surveillance of telephone calls involving American citizens." Edward Kennedy (D-Mass) called it "a sham proposal" whose purpose is "to codify the breathtakingly broad and erroneous view of executive power asserted by the Bush Administration and rejected by the Supreme Court."
Two of the four non-government witnesses, Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Mary DeRosa of CSIS, said that it would be better to have no bill at all, than Specter's billwhich merely legalizes what the Administration has already been doing, illegally. "Your bill would endorse the radical concept of the imperial Presidency," Dempsey told Specter.
While questioning Dempsey, Sena. Leahy characterized what has happened as: "The President said here, 'I'll stop breaking the law if you'll pass a law saying that I'm pardoned for breaking the law, and I don't have to follow the law any more,'" adding that, "It's sort of Alice-in-Wonderland."
GOP Members Boycott Hearing on Military Commissions
The House Armed Services Committee held its second hearing on military commissions and the implications of the Supreme Court's Hamdan ruling on July 26, and the whole effort can only be described as pathetic. The four witnesses were experts on international tribunals, including two judges who had served on the international tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. As one witness testified, and elaborated to EIR, the hearing was important because Administration representatives have made extravagant claims about the procedures used by these tribunals, claiming falsely that they permit the exclusion of defendants, widespread use of hearsay evidence, use of anonymous witnesses, and admission of evidence obtained through coercion and torture.
In contrast to the Committee's first hearing two weeks ago, in which a handful of Republicans asked useful questions, the GOP side was completely unserious; most didn't attend or participate, and only one Republican member other than Committee chairman Duncan Hunter asked any questions (although there are 34 Republican members of Committee). At the previous hearing, Hunter made it clear that he fundamentally disagrees with the Supreme Court's ruling; this time, he made a fool out of himself by harping on ridiculous claims (such as that U.S. troops would have to read Miranda rights to "terrorists" captured on the battlefield) which had been discredited in the previous hearing.
A couple of knowledgeable sources told EIR that they suspect that behind this lack of seriousness, is the intention is for the House to simply rubber-stamp whatever the Administration proposesalthough it is thought that the Senate is much less likely to do so.
Democrats Present Fascist Energy Plan
"Rohatyn's Fascist Energy Plan" should be the name of the "energy security" strategy presented by Democratic Center for American Progress think-tankers John Podesta, Madeleine Albright, and Carol Browner in a conference call press briefing on July 26. These Truman Democrats devised a "biomass-based" plan that is actually worse than the 2005 Energy Policy of the Bush Administration, and follows the anti-nuclear energy policy of the late Albert Wohlstetter, mentor of neo-cons like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, and James Woolsey.
The report's nuclear program is basically not to tear down existing nuclear plants! In answer to a question from 21st Century Science & Technology magazine about nuclear, Podesta said, "There may be a future for new nuclear [plants] ... but that will not come without restraining, through a cap-and-trade mechanism, or another vehicle, the production of carbon dioxide." In other words, mandatory emission limits on power plants, with participation in crazy trading of emission credits, or no possibility of nuclear. Other elements are: no U.S. reprocessing; fuel enrichment only by "select countries"; strengthened inspections and multinational controls on nuclear programs; non-approval of the India-U.S. nuclear deal, unless India agrees to U.S.-imposed safeguards; and so on.
Other components of the program are full backing for the insane global-warming hoax and proposals of Al Gore, including mandatory "cap-and-trade" carbon emissions; 10-25% of energy to come from renewables under a "Renewable Portfolio Standard," or RPS, which would also apply to liquid fuel; a "smart grid" electrical system; new international transit routes and pipelines outside of the Mideast, including military and security measures to protect them. The main criticism of the Bush Administration is that it isn't tough enough on Iran and North Korea, and other security threats!
As for advanced technologies like thermonuclear fusion, Podesta commented that he'd be "long dead" before fusion power produced electricity.
21st Century submitted several follow-up questions in writing.
Pension Proposals Would Worsen Pension Crisis
All three GOP proposals for pension reform now before the Congress would worsen the private pension crisis, reports Rep. George Miller (D-Calif), the ranking member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. On July 24, Miller released an analysis prepared by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) that "shows that all of the Republican proposals now being discussed by negotiators would actually reduce the contributions that companies must pay into their pension plans and increase the PBGC's deficit," ... and would also "encourage more companies to dump their [traditional, non-401(k)] pension plans faster." Says Miller, "This pension reform is the worst of every possible world. By driving up the PBGC's deficit, it will increase the risk of an eventual taxpayer bailout of that agency." He claims that the PBGC analysis shows that it would be better if the Congress did nothing to reform pensions than if Congress adopts any of the proposals under consideration.
Can Bolton Overcome a Filibuster?
The White House may be short of votes to overcome a filibuster against U.S. representative to the UN John Bolton, according to a story in the July 25 Roll Call, which quotes both Democratic and Republican Senators saying there may not be the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, despite the about-face by Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio). Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn) said on CNN's Late Edition July 23 that he expects a "bruising fight" if the Administration goes ahead with seeking a permanent appointment for Bolton as UN Ambassador. Dodd said that Bolton has polarized the situation at the UN, and that the National Security Agency wiretap transcripts obtained by Bolton are still an issue, as are Bolton's efforts to fire two intelligence analysts.
Senator Mark Dayton (D-Minn) said on July 25 that he is undecided about Bolton, and he said he is concerned about a recent New York Times story which reported on foreign diplomats saying that Bolton had alienated traditional allies with his combative style.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Bolton's nomination on July 27, at which Democrats went to great pains to try to prove that Bolton has been an ineffective representative of the U.S. at the United Nations.
ABA Blasts Bush/Cheney Signing Statements
The American Bar Association Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements and the Separation of Powers Doctrine issued a report July 24 which warns that the Bush-Cheney Administration's unprecedented use of signing statements to override laws passed by Congress, and to announce the intent not to enforce those laws, is a serious challenge to the Constitution's framework of checks and balances, and to the separation of powers.
"The original intent of the framers was to require the President to either sign or veto a bill presented by Congress in its entirety," the report says. "A line-item veto is not a constitutionally permissible alternative, even when the President believes that some provisions of a bill are unconstitutional."
The ABA cites reports that, in this Administration, all bills are routed through Vice President Cheney's office, so that they can be reviewed by David Addington for any perceived threats to the "Unitary Executive"i.e., Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt's theory of the Führerprinzip being used to justify the Cheney-Bush dictatorial power grab.
Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on July 24, in a Senate Floor speech, that former Reagan Justice Department official Bruce Fein and his own staff are preparing a bill which would give Congress standing to sue the President in Federal court, to obtain judicial review of Presidential signing statements and have them declared unconstitutional.