Republicans bail on the $700 billion bailout bill. Dow drops another 700 points.

Despite a much hyped bipartisan agreement being reached on Sunday apparently it was still too much for some Republicans to stomach and enough of them voted no that they managed to kill the bill:

A four-hour debate included impassioned pleas for and against the measure from Democrats and Republicans alike. Even some of those arguing the legislation must be approved were quick to point out problems with it.

But the vote began with both Democratic and Republican leadership telling their members the only way to protect the economy from a spreading credit crunch was to vote for the difficult to swallow measure.

After the defeat, Republican leaders accused Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, of giving a “partisan speech” which “poisoned” Republican support.

Pelosi said the $700 billion “is a number that is staggering, but tells us only the costs of the Bush administration’s failed economic policies.”

But Barney Frank, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Comnmittee, demanded: “Because somebody hurt their feelings, they decided to punish the country?”

Sure, why not? They’re already rich.

Though I must admit that I don’t know enough about economics to know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Even with the amendments that were added to the $700 billion bailout plan I was still uncomfortable with hastiness it was being pushed through Congress so, in a way, I’m kind of glad the Republicans were their usual petty and selfish selves and blocked it from passing. I’m particularly bothered by the news reports that the Treasury came to the determination that it needed $700 billion by plucking a number out of their ass as opposed to, say, basing it on an actual need. I’m not against using taxpayer money to help resolve the crisis so long as we’re not using more than we really need to and there’s some guarantees that the government will get it back once Wall Street starts making profits again.

I don’t have any stocks to worry about at the moment, hell, I don’t even have a 401K (haven’t been able to put money into one for a few years now). As it stands we’re keeping our heads above water, but it’s been tight ever since the first layoff back in 2005. I haven’t a clue what’s really going to happen in terms of the economy as a whole, but I think a few more institutions on Wall Street feeling the repercussions of their idiocy aren’t entirely unwarranted. At this point the best I can hope for my family is that we manage to continue treading water until things improve. That makes all the noise and fuss surrounding the bailout hard to wrap my head around, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there’s a little sense of satisfaction in seeing so many rich people freaking out over what their future has in store for them.

Having solved all other problems Congress takes on Chinese-made American flags.

How’s the economy doing? On the rebound already? And the war in Iraq? All wrapped up and done with? High gas prices? Glad that’s all settled then. Just in time for Congress to get pissy about American flags:

The American flag has many labels: Stars and stripes. Old Glory. And sometimes, made in China.

Congress can’t halt the flow of Chinese-made flags, but lawmakers can try to control where they are flown. The House declared Monday that any flag flown on federal property should be made in the U.S.A.

“It’s not a major problem facing the nation,” admitted Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif. “But it’s an irritant.”

It’s bad enough they’re wasting time on something this stupid, but it just had to be a Democrat that appears to be leading the charge. It probably doesn’t help that he’s the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee which pretty much means he has to demonstrate his knee-jerk patriotism on a regular basis or they’ll remove him for his position. Apparently Filner’s first plan was to pass legislation that would force the government to only purchase American-made American flags, but that ran into some trouble:

“But we were told that this mandatory stuff runs into trade agreements,” the eight-term congressman said.

That is because the U.S. has gone to great pains to hammer out trade deals with other countries and can’t impose new limits after the fact.

His solution was a nonbinding “sense of Congress” resolution that cleared the House on Monday. It doesn’t have any teeth, he admitted, but it’s a start.

So not only is this nonsense stupid, but it’s also pointless and unenforceable making it a perfect 100 on the scale of time wasters. Though I can’t entirely fault Filner alone as it turns out various state governments have also been engaging in pointless displays of knee-jerk patriotism. Take for example this stunning law:

A new law in Minnesota says all flags sold in the state must be made in the U.S., with violations subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and jail time of up to 90 days. The industry says similar measures have cropped up in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.

Got that? It’s now illegal in Minnesota to sell an American flag that wasn’t made in America. That’s just nuts. Not as nuts as people getting death threats over a Eucharist, but it’s well on the way there. Of course the folks who make American flags in America are just pleased as punch about all of this:

It’s not just the government — several retail chains have decided to buy American-made flags. Liberman’s company sells flags to Ace Hardware, Target and Lowe’s. But he’s had trouble selling flags to some retailers.

“Others have not had a problem selling flags saying they are made in China or made in Korea,” he said. “We’re constantly trying to convince them there is a difference in quality and usability.”

I suppose I could see an argument over quality, but usability? As long as the damned thing hangs off a pole and flaps in the breeze what the hell else is there to use?

ArsTechnica.com reports that the new FISA law is worse than you think.

Remember last month when the Democrats took their pussification to new heights by passing the new FISA law that would grant the Telecoms immunity from prosecution as a compromise? As it turns out giving the Telecoms immunity is the least of the problems that bill creates:

The new FISA compromise: it’s worse than you think – ArsTechnica.com

The 114-page bill was pushed through the House so quickly that there was no real time to debate its many complex provisions. This may explain why the telecom immunity provision has received so much attention in the media: it is much easier to explain to readers not familiar with the intricacies of surveillance law than the other provisions. But as important as the immunity issue is, the legislation also makes many prospective changes to surveillance law that will profoundly impact our privacy rights for years to come.

Specifically, the new legislation dramatically expands the government’s ability to wiretap without meaningful judicial oversight, by redefining “oversight” so that the feds can drag their feet on getting authorization almost indefinitely. It also gives the feds unprecedented new latitude in selecting eavesdropping targets, latitude that could be used to collect information on non-terrorist-related activities like P2P copyright infringement and online gambling. In short, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 opens up loopholes so large that the feds could drive a truck loaded down with purloined civil liberties through it. So the telecom immunity stuff is just the smoke; let’s take a look at the fire.

Go read the full article as the law is stunning in terms of major changes it makes to what criteria the government must meet in order to spy on someone and how long they can do it before they have to submit to judicial oversight. The fact that the Democrats helped to rush it through the House without any real debate is simply astounding as noted by the folks at Ars:

Democratic leaders have worked hard to portray the legislation as a compromise, but close examination of its provisions suggests that it is an unvarnished victory for President Bush and his allies in Congress. The legislation eliminates meaningful judicial oversight of eavesdropping between Americans citizen and foreigners located overseas and effectively legalizes dragnet surveillance of domestic-to-foreign traffic. It stretches out the judicial review process so much that the government will in many cases be able to complete its surveillance activities before the courts finish deciding on its legality. And Democratic leaders have capitulated on the immunity question, agreeing to language that would almost certainly lead to retroactive immunity for lawbreaking telecom companies.

What the fuck is up with the Democrats? Why the hell are the bending over, lubing their asses up, and yelling “bring it on” to the Republicans? Just what is it they hope to accomplish with this legislation if (or when) they gain control of the Presidency? They sure seem to have something up their sleeves with as eager as they are to go along with the Neocons on this issue.

Pussification of House Democrats hits all time high.

Someone explain to me what we accomplished in giving the Democrats control of both halves of Congress back in 2006? Because so far I’m not seeing them do much of jack shit with it. Not only have they not brought the troops home, but the House just passed a bill giving the telephone companies immunity on illegal wiretapping:

WASHINGTON – The House Friday easily approved a compromise bill setting new electronic surveillance rules that effectively shield telecommunications companies from lawsuits arising from the government’s terrorism-era warrantless eavesdropping on phone and computer lines in this country.

The bill, which was passed on a 293-129 vote, does more than just protect the telecoms. The update to the 30-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is an attempt to balance privacy rights with the government’s responsibility to protect the country against attack, taking into account changes in telecommunications technologies.

Opponents of immunity believe civil lawsuits are the only way the full extent of the wiretapping program will ever be revealed.

Key senators voiced strong opposition to the compromise, although they’re unlikely to have the votes to either defeat or filibuster the bill. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, condemned the immunity deal. He said that nothing in the new bill would prevent the government from once again wiretapping domestic phone and computer lines without court permission.

Specter said the problem is constitutional: The White House may still assert that the president’s Article II powers as commander in chief supersede statutes that would limit him actions.

“Only the courts can decide that issue and this proposal dodges it,” Specter said.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of California disputed that, saying FISA would from now on be the authority for the government to conduct electronic surveillance.

“There is no inherent authority of the president to do whatever he wants. This is a democracy, not a monarchy,” she said.

Someone please explain to me how it’s a Republican that’s criticizing this compromise while a Democratic leader is supporting it. What the fuck is this? Opposites day? Supposedly FISA was the authority before this bill came along and yet the Bush Administration got away with ignoring the FISA court altogether. What’s to stop that from happening again?

Most annoying of all is the fact that Senator Obama voted for this so-called compromise. I am, much like the ACLU, outraged over how the Democrats are bending over and smiling while Bush rams it up their collective asses. With a bunch of spineless pussies like this in power it won’t matter if the Democrats win the White House.

This just in: The Congressional Democrats are still a bunch of pussies.

U.S. Democrats to back down on Iraq war conditions | Reuters

WASHINGTON, June 16 (Reuters) – Democrats in the U.S. Congress, who came to power last year on a call to end the combat in Iraq, will soon give President George W. Bush the last war-funding bill of his presidency without any of the conditions they sought for withdrawing U.S. troops, congressional aides said on Monday.

Lawmakers are arranging to send Bush $165 billion in new money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, enough to last for about a year and well beyond when Bush leaves office on Jan. 20.

“It’ll be the lump sum of money, veterans (funding) and that’s it,” said one House aide familiar with the negotiations on the legislation.

The aide was referring to the funding for the unpopular Iraq war, now in its sixth year, and a measure being attached to expand education benefits for combat veterans.

[…] With this bill, Congress will have written checks for more than $800 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with most of the money going to Iraq.

Yes, I know they’re just waiting until the next President gets in there on the assumption it’ll be Barack and they can finally start bringing troops home, but these assholes have rolled over on just about every demand that Bush has made since they took control in 2006. It’d be nice to see some backbone for a change.

President Bush: The Torture President.

It’s a slow day at work today so I’m getting caught up on my current events. Events such as the recent passage of an anti-torture bill by Congress which Bush promptly vetoed. Congress was unable to get the two-thirds majority needed for an override ensuring that while Bush likes to keep claiming that his administration doesn’t torture the fact remains that it has in the past and will continue to be able to do so in the future:

The Bush administration has opposed taking any interrogation options off the table, saying that to do so would rob U.S. investigators of important tools. In a statement after the vote, Press Secretary Dana Perino said, “The bill would have eliminated the legal alternative procedures in place in the CIA program to question the world’s most dangerous and violent terrorists.”

Water boarding isn’t legal. We tried, convicted, and executed several Japanese military people for doing it to our troops during WWII, what’s changed over the decades that makes it legal when America does it?

In his veto message Saturday, Bush said: “The fact that we have not been attacked over the past 6 1/2 years is not a matter of chance. It is the result of good policies and the determined efforts of individuals carrying them out.”

That may or may not be true, but it doesn’t provide a compelling argument that water boarding and other forms of torture are legal and should be available as interrogation techniques. There’s been no evidence outside of anecdotal claims by the Administration that any terrorists attacks have been thwarted thanks to the use of water boarding. It’s just another example of how Bush is perfectly happy to lie to your face and then keep on doing whatever the hell he wants to do. Just a shame there’s not enough politicians in Congress with the balls necessary to stand up to him.

Congress tells Telcos it’s OK to break the law.

So Congress went ahead and gave the phone companies that cooperated with the Bush Administration’s illegal warrantless wiretap program retroactive immunity. This pretty much means you can expect this sort of thing to happen again in the future.

The folks over at TPM Muckraker have the list of pussy Democrats who jumped ship to give the Bush Administration what they wanted:

The Senate voted on the Dodd/Feingold amendment, which would have stripped retroactive immunity from the surveillance bill just now. The final tally was 31-67; crossing over to vote nay were Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Evan Bayh (D-IA), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jim Webb (D-VA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kent Conrad (D-ND), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Update: Here’s the official tally.

Looks like it’s time to write a letter to Debbie Stabenow and ask what the fuck she was thinking and why she thinks I should ever vote for her again. As for the presidential candidates? Well Hillary wasn’t present for the vote, which is a strike against her in my book, and the other two people with any real chance of being nominated voted pretty much as you’d expect them to. McCain voted for giving immunity, which is just one more reason I wouldn’t vote for him for President, and Obama voted against it which just raises his status in my eyes that much more.

Tell me again why we bothered to give Congress to the Democrats in ‘06? What, exactly, have they been able to stop the White House from doing?

Bush Administration doesn’t give a shit about your civil liberties.

Remember back when President Bush first starting asking Congress to pass his various so-called anti-terrorism programs and Congress balked because of the privacy and civil liberties issues that would be impacted? Remember when Bush said, “Not a problem! We’ll set up a Privacy and Civil Liberty Oversight Board to make sure we’re not stepping on anyone’s rights? Remember when it turned out that the board itself wasn’t really living up to its intended purpose so the 9/11 Commission recommended some changes, which Congress implemented, that made the board more independent, bipartisan, and accountable to the public?

Remember all that?

Well the Bush Administration can’t have been too happy with the changes because they’ve made sure there’s no one on it:

The Bush administration has failed to nominate any candidates to a newly empowered privacy and civil-liberties commission. This leaves the board without any members, even as Congress prepares to give the Bush administration extraordinary powers to wiretap without warrants inside the United States.

The failure rankles Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), respectively chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee.

“I urge the president to move swiftly to nominate members to the new board to preserve the public’s faith in our promise to protect their privacy and civil liberties as we work to protect the country against terrorism,” Lieberman said in a statement.

“The White House’s failure to move forward with appointing the new board is unacceptable, and I call on the administration to do so as quickly as possible to prevent a gap in this vital mission,” Collins said in a statement.

Terms for the board’s original members expired on Jan. 30, but no nominations have been sent to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which must approve appointees for the five vacancies.

Anyone who’s being totally honest with themselves knew this board was a joke the day it was announced and it should come as no surprise that once Congress gave it some teeth and made it independent of the White House that President Bush would suddenly forget to nominate anyone to actually man the post. Not that it matters, even with the revisions Congress made the board is largely powerless to do anything about protecting your civil liberties.

Civil-liberties advocates like Lisa Graves, deputy director of the Center for National Security Studies, considered the board to be apologists for the government’s anti-terrorism policies, rather than independent civil-liberties watchdogs.

“This board failed miserably in its mission of helping to protect Americans’ privacy and instead acted mainly to help the White House whitewash programs like warrantless NSA wiretapping that violate Americans’ civil liberties,” Graves said. “Now that Congress has changed the board’s rules to make it a little more independent, the White House appears to have no interest in appointing anyone to it.”

But even the newly configured board doesn’t have enough power and what is really needed is a totally independent body with the ability to subpoena documents, according to Timothy Sparapani, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We want them to be more than just the privacy version of Congressional Research Service,” Sparapani said. “They need to be able to slap hands and force people to consider privacy in the initial creation of programs, and then whack people into line when privacy violations occur.”

What I find amazing, however, is the fact that the Bush Administration is still trying to expand the President’s power to spy on Americans despite the very good possibility that the next President will be a Democrat. Either they’re delusional in thinking there’s no way in hell a Republican won’t win the election or they’re convinced that a Democrat would never abuse the power in the manner which they have.

H.R. 888 rewrites history to support “Christian Nation” myth.

I was going to write a long rant about House Resolution 888, but vjack over at Atheist Revolution has done such a good job I’m just going to repost his entry here and hope he doesn’t mind:

House Resolution 888, sponsored by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA-4th District), seeks to rewrite American history to include a number of falsehoods perpetuated by Christian extremists. This should be of grave concern to every American atheist as well as anyone who values historical accuracy.

For many specific examples of the misinformation contained in H. Res. 888, see Chris Rodda’s excellent post at Talk To Action. It is long, but it really is a must read. Rodda has done an impressive job of debunking many of the claims contained in the resolution. Plain and simple, this is revisionist history intended to promote the “Christian nation” myth through deception.

For more information about the implications of H. Res. 888, talking points you can use when discussing what is wrong with it, and even a sample letter you can send to your Representative in Congress, see Bruce Wilson’s helpful post at Talk To Action. Contacting your Representative is especially important if he or she happens to be on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. You can find the letter I sent to my Representative here.

And why exactly should you care about any of this revisionist history stuff? Here are a few reasons:

Please join me in helping to spread the word about this one.

Contact your representatives and let them know your stance on this issue. I’m working on my letters as soon as I finish this entry. And if you don’t already have vjack’s blog in your blogroll then add it in. Good stuff.

The Democrats in Congress are a bunch of pussies.

Remember how back before the 2006 elections all the Conservative pundits were making dire predictions about how the world as we know it would end if Nanci Pelosi became speaker of the house? How they suggested that she would single handedly bring about the ruin of this great country? Remember the sense of relief many of us felt when the Democrats took control of both houses and we thought that, finally, Bush would no longer get whatever the hell he wanted by a rubber stamp Congress?

Remember all that?

Would somebody please explain to me then why it is that it seems like pretty much business as usual on the Hill?

The agreement signaled that congressional Democrats are ready to give in to many of the White House’s demands as they try to finish the session before they break for Christmas—a political victory for the president, who has refused to compromise on the spending measures.

The House last night also approved a new version of legislation that would stave off the spread of the alternative minimum tax, a parallel tax system originally targeted at the very rich, to millions of middle-class families. The House version would not add to the federal budget deficit.

I’m often asked why I won’t just declare myself a Democrat seeing as I tend to side with them more often than not and this is one example why. They keep doing things to show me that they don’t deserve my loyalty. That they are, in fact, a big bunch of spineless pussies who couldn’t make a stand on an issue if their lives depended on it. At this point it’s beginning to look like it doesn’t matter if we had fucking Martians running Capitol Hill as the President is going to be able to do whatever the fuck he wants regardless.