Entry for February 15, 2006

The picture of Hurricane Katrina is from Zodiac Training Academy .

Today, I was watching the C-SPAN channels while cooking up my dish for the book group potluck tonight to discuss Marc Estrin’s Insect Dreams:  The Half-Life of Gregor Samsa.

There were two topics:  the Patriot Act in the Senate  and Katrina in the House. 

Here’s what Arlen Specter (R-PA) told reporters regarding the Patriot Act during a break for a quorum call:

Sometimes cosmetics will make a beauty out of a beast and provide enough cover for senators to change their vote.

Spector was acknowedging Russ Feingold’s  (D-WI) complaint that the deal struck by John Sununu (R-NH) with the White House wasn’t very substantive, but that it would be enough to get the Act extended.

Now those who receive court-approved subpoenas for information in terrorist investigations could  challenge a requirement that they tell no one. They would no longer have to tell the FBI the name of the attorney they consulted about a National Security Letter. Supposedly most libraries would not be subject to the National Security Letters.  

On this last point I heard someone from the National Library Associatiion refute this saying that only single libraries are exempted.  Consortia are not and most libraries belong to  consortia.

 I had to leave for dinner before Feingod got to speak and the Congressional record isn’t posted yet,  but news accounts report Feingold complained that changes were merely a  “fig leaf” to cover weaknesses that leave people vulnerable to government intrusion.

What we are seeing is quite simply a capitulation to the intransigent and misleading rhetoric of a White House that sees any effort to protect civil liberties as a sign of weakness.

Feingold also pointed out that the judicial review of “gag ordrers” can only take place after a year and requires the recipient to prove that the government  acted in bad faith.

That is a virtually impossible standard to meet.

Recogizing that he no longer had support for a filibuster, Feingold acquiesced, but not before promising to try to get some changes.  It would be an uphill battle, as his fellow senators seem to be finding “cosmetics” and “fig leaves” sufficient.

Majority Leader Bill Frist is calling it a done deal.

The outcome here is absolutely predetermined.

Guess as far as he’s concerned there’s not even any need for debate, huh?  Some democracy…

*

Over on the House side, Tom Davis  (R-VA) was releasing A Failure of Initiative, the Final Report by the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina .  While Pelosi boycotted the process,  Democrats such as William Jefferson (LA), Cynthia McKinney (GA) and Shelia JAckson-Lee (TX) participated at the iniviation of the committee.  Davis blasted the White House for not participating more readily and the report found

It remains difficult to understand how government could respond so ineffectively to a disaster that was anticipated for years, and for which specific dire warnings had been issued for days. This crisis was not only predictable, it was predicted.

The introduction concludes:

With Katrina, there was no shortage of plans. There were plans, but there was not enough plan-ning. Government failed because it did not learn from past experiences, or because lessons thought to be learned were somehow not implemented. If 9/11 was a failure of imagination, then Katrina was a failure of initiative. It was a failure of leadership.

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