Dems Support Telecom Immunity

I’m starting to think a bunch of the House Democrats are in the McCain camp when it comes to giving retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies for giving our private call information to the government. Now it’s House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who’s trying to get this done in secret, hoping that his proposed changes to FISA will get passed before congress knows what hit them.

Why is it necessary for Democrats — who were elected specifically to help bring an end to the abuses of this White House — to cave to the administration on every single issue? Why do they feel it’s necessary to “come to an agreement” with George W. Bush on anything, let alone major telecom companies disclosing private information on US citizens to the government?

Bush Justice Overturned – Again

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court has determined that detainees at Guantanamo Bay have the right to seek relief for their detention in civilian courts. What this means in real terms for those being detained is still not clear. Also unstated is whether or not those being held on so-called floating prisons will be afforded the same rights as those at Guantanamo.

UPDATE: Justice Anthony Kennedy noted in the ruling that “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.” Joining Kennedy in the 5-4 decision were Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens.

In his letter of dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts essentially said the detainees, some of whom have been in Guantanamo for six years, have had “the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants.” Justice Antonin Scalia adopted a more Cheney-ish approach, noting that this decision “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.”

This is not the first time that detainees have been given the right of Habeas Corpus. Twice before, the courts have ruled in their favor. In each previous case, however, a Republican Congress (along with the Bush Administration) quickly changed the law following the rulings, necessitating another round of Constitutional challenges before the detainees could have their case heard in the civilian courts.

This Time, it’s Telecoms

More lobbyists in McCain’s campaign have been discovered. Amazing how this whole thing is turning out to be markedly similar to the roach theorem, where if you see one or two, there are probably ten or more hiding in the cabinets. This time, it’s lobbyists pushing for full immunity to telecommunications companies that illegally wiretapped US citizens.

Here are the three lobbyists with their current positions and backgrounds, as reported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (most of this article heavily cribbed from that one):

Charlie Black – Chief Political Advisor for the McCain Campaign
Formerly of BKSH & Associates, a lobbying firm he helped found, was being paid by AT&T until March of 2008Wayne Berman – National Finance Co-Chairman for the McCain Campaign
Formerly Managing Director of Ogilvy Government Relations, a prominent lobbyist for telecom immunity in the FISA legislation

Dan Coats – Justice Advisory Committee Member of the McCain Campaign
Campaigned extensively for McCain along with Trent Lott, who became a paid lobbyist for AT&T after leaving the Senate in 2007 and was seeking immunity for the telecoms

Also in the article from the EFF is a note that USA Today found the following:

Of the 66 current or former lobbyists working for the Arizona senator or raising money for his presidential campaign, 23 have lobbied for telecommunications companies in the past decade.People who lobbied for telecom companies on those issues include McCain’s campaign manager, his deputy manager, his finance chief, his top unpaid political adviser and his Senate chief of staff. Telecom companies have paid the lobbying firms that employed those top five McCain advisers more than $4.4 million since 1999, lobbying records show.

And just as McCain’s close ties with Soviet Bloc lobbyists have shaped his foreign policy views on Russia, so apparently have his ties with telecom lobbyists changed his views on immunity for illegal wiretapping. While initially appalled at the thought that telecoms would provide information to the government without any justification (warrant, subpoena, etc.), he has since said “neither the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate.”

Quite different from November 2007, when McCain told CNET the following:

When companies provide private records of Americans to the government without proper legal subpoena, warrants, or other legal orders, their heart may be in the right place, but their actions undermine our respect for the law….

If retroactive immunity passes, it should be done with explicit statements that this is not a blessing, there should be oversight hearings to understand what happened, and Congress should include provisions that ensure that Americans’ private records will not be dealt with like that again.

So where is the “uninfluenced McCain?” How is it that his thoughts on such Constitutional legal matters can change in a matter of months if not for the influence of lobbyists? Can some conservative please explain it? I mean, McCain is supposed to be this pillar of political cleanliness. Isn’t he?

Yet Another McCain Lobbyist

There have been so many lobbyist ties to John McCain that we’re going to have to come up with an acronym for them: YAML.

The more I hear about John McCain’s foreign policy ideas, the more I get really really scared for America should this guy be elected (or selected by the Supreme Court, or whatever). We’ve known for a while that he wants to take a hard line against Russia, but it’s only now becoming clear exactly why he wants to take a hard line. It turns out that the McCain campaign’s senior foreign policy and national security advisor, Randy Scheunemann, was paid over $2 million as a lobbyist for several Soviet Bloc countries who wanted to gain entrance to NATO. These countries, conveniently, feel the same way about Russia as does Senator McCain. From the Salon article:

At various times from 2001 through early this year, Georgia, Latvia, Romania and Macedonia paid Scheunemann and his partner, Mike Mitchell, more than $2 million. Much of Scheunemann’s work focused on paving the way into the NATO fold. Two of Scheunemann’s clients, Latvia and Romania, were admitted to full NATO member status in 2004, after which they ceased paying him.

So let’s just get this straight. Lobbyist is paid to say, “Russia bad! Georgia, Latvia, Romania and Macedonia, good!” Lobbyist joins Republican Nominee’s campaign to help create foreign policy guidelines for Republican Nominee. Republican Nominee comes out and says, “Russia bad, Georgia, Latvia, Romania and Macedonia, good!”

How is it possible that so many conservatives say John McCain stands up to lobbyists and corporate interests when everywhere you turn, there’s a lobbyist in his campaign? I just don’t get it, but perhaps I’m not seeing something clearly. Perhaps some John McCain supporter can enlighten me?

At the VERY least, there is a huge conflict of interest here. Bottom line, a lobbyist for these Soviet countries has the ear of the GOP nominee, and it appears as if the GOP nominee is creating his ideas on foreign policy at least in part under the influence of this lobbyist. YAML on which the media will probably let the “maverick” slide.

Catapult the Propaganda

From Senator John McCain’s speech last night:

Now, you’ll hear from my opponent’s campaign in every speech in every interview every press release that I’m running for Pres bush’s 3rd term. You’ll hear every policy of the president is described as the Bush/McCain policy. Why does senator Obama believe it’s so important to repeat that idea over & over again? Because he knows it’s very difficult to get Americans to believe something that they know is false.So he tries to drum it into your minds by constantly repeating it…

Or as George W. Bush would say,

In my line of work you gotta keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kinda catapult the propaganda.

And speaking of McCain’s speech, what a train wreck. Not only was it full of lies, but it seemed like something was wrong with his vision (or perhaps just with his speech), because he was having a hard time pronouncing words and reading sentences off the teleprompter. And listen to this little laugh at the end of this clip. I almost think it’s worse than Bush’s infamous snicker.