Monday, October 30, 2006

My Democratic Congress Wish List (Part II)

(The second of a two part series. Part I covered impeachments, the War Powers Resolution of 1973 and the Patriot Act. Part II addresses FISA, Iraq, and more.)

6. Legislate treaty abrogation.

Article II of the Constitution requires two thirds of the Senate to ratify all treaties, but nothing in the Constitution or U.S. Code addresses treaty abrogation. This administration has unitarily abrogated at least three ratified treaties--the Geneva Convention, The UN Convention Against Torture and the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty. One can also reasonably argue that the 2005 U.S.-India nuclear agreement was a violation of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

The treaty ratification process is meaningless if the executive can single-handedly reverse it with a snap of the fingers, and treaties themselves are completely hollow if the other parties know we're not at all serious about keeping them.

The Senate must play a role in any treaty abrogation. Abrogation by a simple majority is not sufficient. We've seen how a Senate ruled by the sitting president's party becomes a rubber stamp. I propose that the same two thirds supermajority necessary to ratify a treaty be required to abrogate it.

I'm not sure if simple legislation would be sufficient to impose abrogation guidelines. It might be, since the Constitution doesn't allows the two legislative houses to make their own rules. But if Congress itself decides a formal constitutional amendment is the way to go, then I say go for it. Pursuing a treaty abrogation amendment beats the living spit out of pushing for one that bans gay marriage or allows Arnold Schwarzenegger to run for president.

7. Bring the hammer down on FISA.

Let's leave the matter of data mining aside for a moment. I have yet to hear a single coherent argument that says the requirement to get a 72 hour retroactive warrant to spy on the phone calls of U.S citizens and permanent residents hampers the president's ability to protect America from terrorism. I don't care how long or cumbersome the FISA applications may be. They're mostly boilerplate, and they're on a word processing template. If the Justice Department needs more lawyers to fill the things out, they can hire more. There's no shortage of lawyers in Washington D.C. who know how to fill in the blanks of a Microsoft Word document.

What's the point of a retroactive warrant? It's all about keeping Big Brother honest. If he never has to answer to anybody about which Americans he's spying on and why, then he can spy on any American he wants for any reason he wants. And once he has the power to do that, you can bet a life's worth of phone bills that he'll abuse it.

8. Enact real federal election reform.

Nobody in Congress is likely to go for this, but these steps could truly reform the congressional campaign contribution process:

-- No more corporate contributions.

-- No private contributions from outside the state or district in which the election is being held.

-- Strict limits on PAC and Political Party spending in any state or Congressional district.

A change to the nature of the Electoral College could profoundly change presidential campaign spending strategies. If we trash the state-by-state "winner take all" electoral rules and make each state's electoral votes proportional to its popular vote, then individual states turn from red or blue to lighter and darker shades of purple. Party and PAC budgeters could no longer target "battleground states" because every state would be a battleground.

Please note that my Electoral College reform plan does not shift presidential elections to a purely "popular vote." The state-by-state proportion of electors would remain the same as it is now, so the vote of an individual in a small northeastern state would still count for three or four times the vote of an individual in a heavily populated western state. Still, though individual votes wouldn't all carry the same weight, they'd all count. Hopefully, that would bring more people to the polls who otherwise would have stayed home because they figured their minority vote wouldn't have mattered.

9. Enact real energy policy reform.

Yeah, we're addicted to foreign oil all right, Mister Bush. But as long as your Uncle Dick's big oil cronies dictate U.S. energy policy, we'll stay addicted for as long as those big oil cronies can make big money on foreign oil. This administration isn't going to do much about energy reform except talk about it to fool the proles into thinking they actually want to do something about it. Energy is the coin of power in the Next World Order. As long as we need foreign oil to run our country, we will to go to war to control the flow of it.

If there were ever a good reason to justify using the Constitution's commerce clause to dictate conditions to private enterprise, forcing the U.S. energy industry to rehabilitate our oil Jones is it.

10. Oh, yeah. Iraq.

General George Casey, U.S. commander in Iraq, recently said Iraqi forces will be ready to take over security responsibilities in 12 to 18 months. That sounds remarkably similar to what he was saying 12 to 18 months ago. In fact, the whole Iraq fiasco is starting to sound like a kid at bedtime saying, "Five more minutes, Dad," over and over and over and over…

We turn one corner after another; we stumble from one final throe to the next. Malarky Maliki tells our troops what they can or can't do in his country, and if his troops don't want to participate in a "joint" operation he approves of, he let's them stay behind while our guys get killed and maimed doing his dirty work for him. He insists we can't impose any deadlines on his government and that mouth breathing president of ours goes along and says, Yeah, that's right, we can't push deadlines on no sovereign nation like Iraq.

So our sovereign nation can't tell that sovereign nation when to get its sovereignty together, but that sovereign nation can tell ours what we can or can't do with our troops and when they can or can't leave that sovereign nation? Malaki's done nothing but screw up, yet we're letting him call all the shots and Bush is kissing his keyster.

I don't want timelines, or benchmarks, or even deadlines. I want ultimatums. We need to tell Malaki we're leaving in six months and if he doesn't like that, we'll leave right now.

Bush won't do that. Congress can and must.

Honorable Mention

My priorities are for a Democratic Congress to restore the legislature's checks and balances over the executive branch and turn our Barbecue Republic back into a real one. But I would also like to see a number of other legislations enacted early in a Democratic "contract with America."

-- Raise the minimum wage. If we allow American citizens to work for slave wages, we're making them slaves. Hasn't that been illegal for over a century now? Didn't we fight a civil war over that issue?

-- Repeal Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy. If one percent of the population owns 38 percent of the wealth and 100 percent of the politicians, does it not seem fair that they should bear the brunt of the tax burden?

-- Slash and burn defense acquisition. The U.S. presently spends as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. Where's the payoff on the investment? Our military didn't defend us against the 9/11 attacks and it isn't accomplishing our national aims overseas. The major Mobil/Exxon stockholders wouldn't put up with that kind of return, and their patron saint Dick Cheney wouldn't expect them to.

-- Slash and burn Homeland Security. They're doing a heck of a lousy job, aren't they? We'd be safer without them.

-- Expand AmericaCorps to fill the gaps in Social Security care of disabled Americans. Take the money needed to support the project out of the defense budget. Put the money to a use that actually helps Americans.

-- Trash the school voucher program and fix public education. We can fluff school financing the same way we can solve darn near all of our other problems. Lose a B-2 bomber. Lose an aircraft carrier. Lose a wing of F-22s. We'll never miss them. They don't make a dinar's worth of never mind to Ahmed the car bomber.

These are my thoughts on the subject of federal government change at the moment. I look forward to hearing yours.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

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