“What do you do?” may be the No. 1 question asked in[side] the Beltway. It achieves two things: It gives the asker the opportunity to brag about their own job title and lets them know whether the person they’re talking to is worth their time.
Job titles and associations are the lifeblood of D.C. You’re no one unless you have a title, whether it’s “congressman,” “ambassador,” “chief of staff,” or an impressive title at a firm or media company. Unlike most jobholders in America, politicians in D.C. get to keep their titles for life. Think about it: You can be the CEO or vice president of the largest corporation in America, but once you leave that job, so goes the title. In Washington, D.C., you can have the title of “president,” “congressperson,” or “senator,” and that is your title for life. It doesn’t matter if you were a terrible congressperson who served only one term; you will forever be referred to and introduced as a “congressperson.”
It’s bizarre perks of D.C. power such as this that draw thousands of young, type-A recent college grads to Washington — out of a desire not to serve our country but to get a title. And if you don’t have a title, good luck getting someone to talk to you for longer than two minutes. Washington is a town obsessed with titles and where being an obnoxious blowhard is socially acceptable. But it wasn’t always like this, and it’s certainly not what our Founding Fathers envisioned.
If we are to have a nation of laws to guide ourselves, how do we draw these vague, fuzzy lines where the law ceases to apply, where it’s a free for all, where there is no longer a fixed right and wrong and everything becomes a matter of feelings, assumptions and personal perspective? Yankah may be write that race and law cannot be cleanly separated in our collective consciousness, but then we cease to be a nation of laws when we ignore one for the other.
Here’s a question I asked myself yesterday: Would I rather have my phone records collected and readied for possible inspection by the National Security Agency, or have my genitalia scrutinized by the Transportation Security Administration?
One answer, of course, is, why choose? In today’s America you can have both. [Ed. Is this a great country or what?!?]
The 4th Amendment is an ancient memory, clearly an affectation among us hicks.
How many records did the NSA seize from Verizon? Hundreds of millions. We are now learning about more potential mass data collections by the government from other communications and online companies. These are the “details,” and few Americans consider this approach “balanced,” though many rightly consider it Orwellian.
These activities violate the Fourth Amendment, which says warrants must be specific—”particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” And what is the government doing with these records? The president assures us that the government is simply monitoring the origin and length of phone calls, not eavesdropping on their contents. Is this administration seriously asking us to trust the same government that admittedly targets political dissidents through the Internal Revenue Service and journalists through the Justice Department?
The country is in the very best of hands. Ai yi yi yi yi!
No one objects to balancing security against liberty. No one objects to seeking warrants for targeted monitoring based on probable cause. We’ve always done this.
What is objectionable is a system in which government has unlimited and privileged access to the details of our private affairs, and citizens are simply supposed to trust that there won’t be any abuse of power. This is an absurd expectation. Americans should trust the National Security Agency as much as they do the IRS and Justice Department.
When British soldiers were roaming the American countryside in the 1760s with lawful search warrants with which they had authorized themselves to enter the private homes of colonists in order to search for government-issued stamps, Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” The soul-searching became a revolution in thinking about the relationship of government to individuals. That thinking led to casting off a king and writing a Constitution.
What offended the colonists when the soldiers came legally knocking was the violation of their natural right to privacy, their right to be left alone. We all have the need and right to be left alone. We all know that we function more fully as human beings when no authority figure monitors us or compels us to ask for a permission slip. This right comes from within us, not from the government.
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And, of course, to prevent the recurrence of soldier-written search warrants and the government dragnets and fishing expeditions they wrought, the Constitution mandates that only judges may issue search warrants, and they may do so only on the basis of probable cause of crime, and the warrants must “particularly describ(e) the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Last week, we discovered that the government has persuaded judges to issue search warrants not on the constitutionally mandated basis, but because it would be easier for the feds to catch terrorists if they had a record of our phone calls and our emails and texts. How did that happen?
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After 9/11, Congress enacted the Patriot Act. This permitted federal agents to write their own search warrants, as if to mimic the British soldiers in the 1760s. It was amended to permit the feds to go to the FISA court and get a search warrant for the electronic records of any American who might communicate with a foreign person.
In 30 years, from 1979 to 2009, the legal standard for searching and seizing private communications — the bar that the Constitution requires the government to meet — was lowered by Congress from probable cause of crime to probable cause of being an agent of a foreign power to probable cause of being a foreign person to probable cause of communicating with a foreign person. Congress made all these changes, notwithstanding the oath that each member of Congress took to uphold the Constitution. It is obvious that the present standard, probable cause of communicating with a foreign person, bears no rational or lawful resemblance to the constitutionally mandated standard: probable cause of crime.
The power to appoint all federal judges is shared by the president and the Senate. The legal framework for such appointments is established by provisions within the Constitution under Article II, Section 2, Clause 2.
Nominations for judicial appointments by the president are transmitted by message to the Senate. The message is read and the Senate executive clerk assigns a consecutive number to the message. In most instances, the Senate Judiciary Committee begins the consideration of a nomination by gathering more information about the individual nominated. The nomination of federal judges is subject to a committee hearing, during which the nominee and others testify.
Several options are available to the Judiciary Committee regarding the disposition of a nomination, and the Committee is not required to act upon nominations at all. In the event the Committee chooses to report a nomination, it can choose to do so favorably, unfavorably or without any recommendation.
The committee chair usually reports the nomination to the full Senate. The legislative clerk then notifies the executive clerk, who assigns the nomination a number and places it on the executive calendar of the Senate. When a nomination is considered by the full Senate, it is done in executive session, not a legislative session. The procedures utilized during an executive session are similar in nature to a legislative session. One exception is that floor consideration may not begin until a nomination has been placed on the calendar for a minimum of one day, except in the case of unanimous consent.
Only rarely does the Senate vote to reject a nomination. Unsuccessful nominations typically die from inaction. On occasion, a nomination may be sent back to the Committee for further consideration. Under Senate rules, pending nominations may be sent back to the president when the Senate recesses or adjourns for more than thirty days. The Senate retains the right to waive this rule by unanimous consent.
When a nominee is confirmed, the secretary of the Senate will attest to a “resolution of confirmation,” which is then sent to the White House. The president may also choose to withdraw a nomination at any time, which ends the nomination process.
shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient
The latter portion of this clause is referred to as the Recommendations Clause and it has been used by Presidents for the basis of making legislative proposals to Congress as well as for declining to make legislative proposals, even when called upon by Congress to do so.
Another clause relevant to the role of the president in Article II, Section 3, provides that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” This provision is known as the Take Care Clause. Under some laws, agencies are required to submit proposals to the President before they submit them to Congress. Congress has frequently taken action to provide agencies and federal employees with independence from the President.
There are executive branch agencies, such as the FCC, and legislative branch agencies, such as the Government Accountability Office. Both types of agencies are typically vested with the authority to execute specific laws. At the same time, agencies must abide by decisions from the judicial branch.
It is not uncommon for agencies to play a critical role in the drafting of laws. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that a large portion of legislation that is considered within the legislative process is often either drafted or influenced by employees of the executive branch.
The Citizen’s Handbook provides practical guidance how to prepare for and meet with elected officials and staff, how to write effective letters and emails to elected officials, strategies for influencing legislators face-to-face, best practices for communicating with Congress and state legislatures, and how to write persuasive “letters to the editor”. Includes the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
The Citizen’s Handbook is a practical handbook on how to be a successful citizen-advocate and includes off-the-record comments from Members of Congress and staff on what truly influences legislative outcomes. The overall theme is summed up in a quote by Thomas Jefferson: “We do not have a government of a majority; we have a government of the majority to participate.”