Monday, December 17, 2007

Crowd-Sourcing a Filibuster

Chris Dodd is going to be reading letters submitted via blogs during his filibuster of the telecom amnesty bill today. This one's a humdinger:

I thank Senator Dodd for the opportunity to participate in this debate. For the Senate’s edification: I’m twenty-three years old and a new voter who isn’t going away any time soon.

The United States of America is founded upon the rule of law. Senators and representatives swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” According to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution—a document for which centuries’ of blood and tears have been shed—“the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Yet here the Senate stands, poised to grant immunity to telecommunications companies for profiting from the warrantless and lawless spying perpetrated upon the law-abiding citizenry; here the Senate stands, poised to usurp the judiciary, the branch of government responsible for determining whether the laws of the land have been broken and meting out punishment where appropriate; and here the Senate stands, poised to usher in its own irrevelancy—and, worst of all, in exchange for nothing: no promises that this flagrant lawbreaking will cease, no testimony to be offered in the course of real and rigorous investigation.

“Give me liberty or give me death,” said Patrick Henry. “Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither,” said Benjamin Franklin. Now the telecommunications companies lobby the lot of you, saying, “Give us immunity, or we’ll suffer the consequences of our lawbreaking.” Now the President comes before you, saying, “Give my partners in crime immunity, or there’ll be investigations and findings that taint my legacy.”

Never mind the judiciary. Never mind that it’s the job of the courts to ascertain whether any laws have been broken. So Congress rushes in to save the day! Immunity for profit-driven corporations, amnesty for lawbreakers!

I submit to this body that the Founders are rolling in their graves.

Voters could be forgiven for not realizing the Democratic Party won control of both houses of Congress in the 2006 mid-term elections, for there’s so little evidence of any checks being brought against President Bush, whose polling to date is both abysmal and deserved. Yet now Democrats brandish the majority and usher in much of the same: more war, more lives lost, more of our tax dollars pouring into places I’ve never even heard of, and here we’ve got next to nothing to show for it. I hear citizens of other countries get something for paying their taxes; I can’t even imagine what that’s like.

And what are Americans to think, except that they’ve been betrayed by both parties? I congratulate Democrats and Republicans for their breathtaking cynicism, for how well they’ve worked together to engender so much apathy among voters that millions of Americans stay home on election day. What choices we have!

The legislature abdicates oversight, puts blind faith in the executive, and extends immunity to lawbreaking telecommunications companies. Are those companies to be pitied for going along with the President’s plan in direct contravention of the law and raking in cash? Are they, along with the President, to be congratulated for their foresight, considering that this warrantless spying upon Americans is reported to have gone on well before 9/11? (And mind you how well all of that illegal surveillance served to protect us on that awful day.) Are these companies to be respected more than voters? Are they to be granted immunity for lawbreaking, in return for nothing? Congress doesn’t even appear to be interested in leveraging immunity in return for testimony.

What will I tell my children? It’s fine to break the law if the president says so? It’s fine to break the law if you can lobby Congress to grant you immunity? It’s fine to break the law if you can stuff cash into the coffers of senators and representatives? What country is this? I say again: the Founders are rolling in their graves. For the past fifteen years, I’ve watched the news and felt disgust for the whole sorry lot of you.

You who purport to lead, yet cower like beaten dogs before the President, as if he were king. You who vote upon legislation you likely don’t even read. You who coif your hair into absurd, unmoving helmets and whiten your teeth and don designers suits and appear on TV, daring to tell me you represent my interests. You who pass pointless, meaningless resolutions condemning commercials and congratulating professional sports teams for winning while Americans go hungry, while Americans go without healthcare, while Americans work two jobs to make ends meet, while Americans die in Iraq and Afghanistan. You who swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution and flatter yourselves by conflating your re-election with the interests of your country and constituency. You who fret about keeping your powder dry until the are barracks overrun.

You who tell me to live in a constant state of fear, but to keep on shopping; do keep shopping. How proud my children should be to be born American! They’ll shop in the face of constant fear with fists full of credit cards. And I’ll say to them, “What shall we buy tomorrow, children?” But, of course, I have my own ideas: our very own Senator, our very own Representative, our very own President. I should buy the whole sorry lot of you to be heeded at all.

And so here is the Senate in all its majesty. Where are the Patrick Henrys, the Benjamin Franklins? God save America from her greatest enemy: a pack of pathetic, self-serving cowards.

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