Saturday, December 17, 2005

Political Rant of Miscellany

It's been quite a while since I've made a political post, but not for want of subjects.

The Abramoff scandal continues to chug forward, but as the details are coming forward, the public's interest is already fading. It's a shame, because this scandal gives ample demonstration of many of the things wrong with lobbying in this country. I'm astounded by the range of activities Abramoff is accused of -- this is one of the more despicable ones (and it's also tied to Tom DeLay). Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) is the latest politician to agree to give back money he received from Abramoff. Burns pushed for a $3 million grant from a federal program intended for impoverished Indian tribal schools to one of the richest tribes in the country, a client of Abramoff. In the wake of the Abramoff investigation, Senator McCain has become the first Republican to join the call for an overhaul of lobbying laws.

Speaking of McCain, in the good news/bad news world of McCain's anti-torture bill, Bush has agreed to the basic provisions of the bill, something that was fairly inevitable in light of the 90-9 vote with which it passed the Seante. Still, there's the possibility that it won't be as significant a step forward as it might have been, seeing as how the language in the accompanying bill by South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham would make it significantly easier to rely on information gained from torture performed overseas. Strangely, this bit of news isn't getting nearly as much attention as Bush's reversal.

I hope the senators in the filibuster concerning the Patriot Act don't back down -- they are almost unanimous in their support of much of the Patriot Act, but are concerned that the current bill takes away too much from our civil liberties. When there are a few libertarian-bent Republicans (e.g., Sununu, Murkowski) joining the Dems, it seems that their concerns are legitimate. The trick will be to get their message out, which is that they aren't the ones preventing the bill's passage; rather, it's their colleagues who aren't willing to keep reasonable safeguards in place. Of course, as the minority position, they're at a disadvantage in making this argument.

The story has just broken, but NSA spying on international conversations smells very fishy to me. The standard is that you go before a secret court and if you make a half-assed showing that there's reason to spy on the individual, the court will issue a warrant. In other words, if a person being investigated were actually a likely terrorist, it would have been no big deal to get the warrant. This is what makes me believe that the people being investigated weren't likely terrorists.