Saturday, December 17, 2005

Patriot Act blocked, steroids to blame

Set to expire December 31, renewal of the Patriot Act was stalled when Senate Democrats and a few Republicans blocked "action on a volatile issue that pits anti-terrorism efforts against civil liberties protections." (U.S. Senate Roll Call Vote)

This didn't please Pres. George Bush who used his weekly radio address "to criticize Democrats who have blocked the renewal of the anti-terrorism law that Congress passed overwhelming after the Sept. 11 attacks. In a live broadcast from the White House, the president said the effort to stall a vote was 'irresponsible and it endangers the lives of our citizens.'"

The Patriot Act is an offense to American civil liberties through such stipulations as roving wiretaps and secret warrants. For instance, let's suppose that Pres. Bush "signed a secret order in 2002 allowing the National Security Agency to spy on hundreds of U.S. citizens and other residents without court-approved warrants."

While Congress was dealing with important issues such as the BCS and steroids in baseball, they could have been taking action on this:
— the Republicans' $40 billion-plus, five-year spending cut plan. It would take on the spiraling growth of federal benefit programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and student loan subsidies. It is part of a campaign by Republican leaders to burnish their party's budget-cutting credentials as they try to reduce a deficit swelled by the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina.

— the $453 billion defense budget. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, is trying to add a plan for oil drilling in a wildlife refuge in Alaska. The legislation already combines Pentagon money with that for the war in Iraq with hurricane relief aid and a scaled-down plan to fight bird flu.

— a $602 billion appropriations bill for the departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services. GOP moderates in the Senate dislike the spending levels for many programs.
See also:
  • EFF: E-mail your senator: "At the very last moment in the passage of the PATRIOT Reauthorization Bill, 46 senators stood up for civil liberties. Their filibuster prevented the enactment of a law that would make permanent several key PATRIOT powers, maintain the secret seizure of records using National Security Letters, and introduce wide-ranging surveillance powers that name neither a subject or location with no prior judicial oversight. The rejection of PATRIOT was a terrific victory for civil libertarians. For once, we have something to thank our representatives for. If your senator voted for the filibuster to continue, you can write a letter to them below, and give your support to their fight. We'll make sure only those senators who voted for the filibuster receive the mail."
  • FOXSports.com - 2005: The sports year in weird
  • The Robesonian Online: Hypocrisy continues to be rampant in the NCAA

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