Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Senator Dianne Feinstein’

13th July 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate is poised to hold a hearing to discuss the repeal of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) and a possible replacement piece of legislation referred to as the Respect for Marriage Act. To provide further information on these developments it is necessary to quote directly from the Washington Blade website, WashingtonBlade.com:

The Senate Judiciary Committee has announced that an anticipated hearing on legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act has been set for July 20. According to a notice, the hearing on DOMA repeal legislation, also known as the Respect for Marriage Act, will take place July 20 at 10 a.m. in Room 226 the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Witnesses who will testify will be announced in the coming days. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is co-sponsor of the legislation that would repeal DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. In the Senate, the legislation is sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)…

The administration of this web log asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above in order to read this article in detail.

In the context of American immigration the provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) result in a situation where the LGBT community is subject to legal discrimination. For instance, same sex bi-national couples cannot receive the same visa benefits as their different-sex counterparts. Therefore, visas such as the K-1 visa, the CR-1 visa, and the IR-1 visa are not available to those who have a same sex partner or for those couples who have entered into a same sex marriage. This discrimination occurs even where the same sex couple in question has been married in one of the sovereign American States or the District of Columbia where same sex marriages are legalized and/or solemnized. Currently, pending legislation such as the aforementioned Respect for Marriage Act (introduced in the United States House of Representative by Representative Jerrold Nadler, who also introduced the Uniting American Families Act designed to deal specifically with the immigration implications of DOMA) and the Reuniting Families Act (introduced by Representative Mike Honda) would address certain aspects of DOMA. In fact, the Respect for Marriage Act is designed to provide a doctrine of “certainty” whereby those couples married in one of the sovereign American States which recognize such unions can rely upon federal recognition of such unions regardless of their physical location.

In news pertaining to business in China and the United States of America it recently came to this blogger’s attention that China may be poised to import as much as 2 million metric tons of American corn. In order to provide more specifics it is necessary to quote directly from an article written by Tom Polansek and posted to the website of the The Wall Street Journal, WSJ.com:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture raised its estimates for corn exports to China fourfold, another nod to the country’s rising demand in a market under strain. In addition, the amount of the grain used to make ethanol is expected to eclipse its use in animal feed in the U.S. for the first time ever. China is now forecast to import 2 million metric tons of U.S. corn in the next marketing year, which begins on Sept. 1, compared to the previous projection of 500,000 tons…Traders also point to China as the likely buyer behind hundreds of thousands of tons that the USDA lists as going to “unknown destinations.” “The increase in Chinese imports is likely lagging what is really going to happen,” said Joel Karlin, analyst for Western Milling, a producer of animal feed in California. The USDA left its estimates for export to China in the current crop year, which ends Aug. 31, unchanged at 1.5 million metric tons…

This blogger asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks above to read this story in detail.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for the regulation of American agricultural matters. This agency routinely publishes information related to the state of the American agricultural sector. It would appear that the rising demand from China for American agricultural products is not set to diminish anytime in the immediate future. The Chinese-American trade relationship is often noted for the fact that China exports a large amount of manufactured goods to America, but it seems as though less attention is paid to the amount of agricultural products which America provides to China. One issue on this blogger’s mind is the impact that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) might have upon the demand for American agricultural products. As this regional grouping becomes increasingly geopolitically and economically potent it stands to reason that demand for agricultural products from the ASEAN jurisdictions (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam) may be on the rise. Hopefully any and all of these developments prove to be a boon to America’s farmers and agricultural community.

For information pertaining to same sex marriage recognition please see: Full Faith and Credit Clause.

For information related to American company registration please see: US Company Registration.

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6th February 2011

Those who read this blog frequently may have noticed that the administration has been keeping track of the proposed extension to the so-called “Patriot Act.” It appears that there are efforts being made on Capitol Hill to streamline the passage of a bill which would extend this important Act. To quote directly from a recent article on RT.com a Russian News Source for global news:

Now that the major provisions of the Act are about to expire, the US Senate’s Judiciary Committee is in a real hurry to rubberstamp the extension of the Act rather than discuss and debate the far-reaching measures.

As the US Senator Dianne Feinstein of California put it “They expire in three weeks and I think there’s no time really to go into the changes.”

Let’s take a look at the above quotation for a moment. The Senator would appear to be saying that the bill should be passed “as is” without significant discussion due to the fact that there is “no time” for any discussion. Doesn’t this conflict with the fact that within the same quotation the Senator notes that there are three weeks left before the Patriot Act expires? How then is there “no time” to discuss the bill, when there are in fact approximately 3 weeks left to discuss the bill? This blog posting was not written to discuss the details of the Patriot Act, but instead to discuss the issue of what appears to be legislative shirking. In recent history there have been several examples of a disturbing trend within the Federal Legislature. Namely, the notion that bills coming before said legislature which have incredible ramifications for the American people and the Institutions that make up the American way of life should be “passed first and discussed later”. RT.com delves into this issue further:

There was ‘no time’ either for real debate back in 2001, when the Patriot Act was adopted weeks after the 9/11 attacks.

According to Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, the lawmakers had not even read what they were passing.

“What happened once the Patriot Act was passed, the Fourth Amendment right – to be protected from unreasonable searching was just thrown out.”

To provide clarity to the reader, Congressman Kucinich is referring to the Constitutional Rights guaranteed under the 4th amendment to the United States Constitution which, to quote from Wikipedia, states:

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.

RT.com continues:

The Congressman was one of the very few who openly opposed the Act.

“We have a challenge to the essence of democracy with the very existence of the Patriot Act,” Denis Kucinich warns. “And of course its name – the Patriot Act – who would want to oppose the Patriot Act, because it makes it sound as though you’re a patriot if you are for it. But actually the idea of tying patriotism to the destruction of cherished constitutional privileges needs in itself to be challenged.”

This blogger does not point this out in an effort to criticize Mr. Kucinich, but strictly speaking pursuant to the plain language of the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, as quoted above, the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures is a RIGHT, not a privilege. Those reading this posting who would accuse this blogger of being overly interested in semantics should note that there is a substantial distinction between rights and privileges in jurisprudence. As usual, Wikipedia turns out to have the most concise synopsis of the differences between rights and privileges in layman’s terms. To quote directly from Wikipedia’s entry on the issue of rights vs. privileges:

A privilege is a special entitlement to immunity granted by the state or another authority to a restricted group, either by birth or on a conditional basis. It can be revoked in certain circumstances. In modern democratic states, a privilege is conditional and granted only after birth. By contrast, a right is an inherent, irrevocable entitlement held by all citizens or all human beings from the moment of birth.

The above digression is not intended to be a jab against Mr. Kucinich as his use of the term privilege was likely unintentional. Instead, this digression was an attempt to elucidate the importance of the distinction between rights and privileges.

To get back to the issue of the Federal Legislature’s apparent reluctance to discuss the Patriot Act extension on the basis of “time constrains” the question must be posed: what is the United States Senate’s job if it is not to discuss pending legislation? According to the website senate.gov, United States Senators are paid 174,000 USD per annum. To quote another page from senate.gov:

Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. They are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80 percent of his or her final salary.

The compensation of United States Senators is not really the crux of this posting, but the above cited figures are noted in an effort to show that US Senators are not uncompensated for their service to the United States of America. This begs the question: what are they compensated for? The short answer: to legislate, which includes discussing pending legislation or proposed extensions to previously enacted legislation! In many ways, the United States Senate was specifically designed to be a deliberative body which would slowly and intelligently scrutinize proposed legislation, or to quote US Senator John Kyl on senate.gov:

George Washington likened the House to hot tea, and the Senate was the “saucer” that cooled it.

Clearly, the Senate’s raison d’etre is to do exactly the opposite of what Senator Feinstein has suggested. Instead of acting as a “rubber stamp” the Senate is to be the great “scrutinizer” of proposed legislation. It should be noted that this is not the first instance in recent American history that expedience has been cited as a valid reason for railroading through legislation with little or no scrutiny. To cite just one example: the bailout legislation. To quote Representative Brad Sherman from California when discussing said legislation on the House floor:

The only way they can pass this bill is by creating and sustaining a panic atmosphere. That atmosphere is not justified. Many of us were told in private conversations that if we voted against this bill on Monday, that the sky would fall, the Market would drop two or three thousand points the first day-another couple thousand the second day-and a few members were even told that there would be martial law in America if we voted no. That’s what I call fearmongering. Unjustified. Proven wrong. We’ve got a week, we’ve got two weeks to write a good bill. The only way to pass a bad bill: keep the panic pressure on.

Clearly, Representative Sherman was not a supporter of the “legislate first, ask questions later” philosophy. That said, the financial legislation that resulted in the banking bailouts would appear to have been, at least partially, the result of high pressure tactics utilized by those hoping to see that legislation’s passage. What was the result of passing such important legislation without careful analysis? Significant amounts of money allocated as a result of the bailouts has not been accounted for and many Americans have noted their disapproval of the way in which public funds were allocated. Meanwhile, the economy continues to be turbulent. Prior to the passage of the bailout bill, expediency was one of the major themes trumpeted by those in support of the legislation’s passage. In the aftermath of the bill’s passage there are many who wonder if it might not have been better to have taken a more deliberate approach toward that legislation.

Federal legislators’ seeming lack of enthusiasm about discussing the extension of the Patriot Act comes on the heels of recent announcements that Federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation appear to have violated the civil rights of a substantial number of Americans during the last decade. To quote directly from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s official website eff.org:

EFF has uncovered widespread violations stemming from FBI intelligence investigations from 2001 – 2008. In a report released today, EFF documents alarming trends in the Bureau’s intelligence investigation practices, suggesting that FBI intelligence investigations have compromised the civil liberties of American citizens far more frequently, and to a greater extent, than was previously assumed.

The Patriot Act was signed into law on October 26, 2001. There are some who may infer that the passage of the Patriot Act is linked to the apparent violations which have been discovered by EFF.org. Those interested in the the full story on the apparent violations allegedly perpetrated by the FBI are encouraged to check out the full story on EFF.org.

Readers should note that this blogger believes that there is room for debate on any issue which is being proposed for passage by the US Congress and that all Americans are entitled to their opinion regarding the Patriot Act, or any other law for that matter. However, failure to properly vet legislation prior to passage by the US House and Senate should be alarming to anyone no matter what the subject matter of the proposed legislation may be. The following is quoted from a recent article posted on the Voices section of the official website of the Washington Post, WashingtonPost.com:

The Sensenbrenner bill [The House's version of the proposed Patriot Act Extension Bill] is expected to easily pass the Republican-led House next week. The measure would then go on to the Senate, which will be in recess the latter part of next week. The Senate would next be able to take up the bill when it comes back during the week of Feb. 14.

Both chambers are in recess during the week of Feb. 21 for the President’s Day holiday, and by the day they come back — Feb. 28 — the provisions will have already expired.

That means that if the Senate doesn’t act on the House-passed legislation during the week of Feb. 14, the provisions would either expire or both chambers might be forced to call a pro-forma session during their President’s Day recess.

Again, the implication of this quote would seem to suggest that there is not a great deal of time to pass this legislation. In reality, at the time of this writing there are 22 days left before the expiration of the Patriot Act. If the House or Senate is required to come out of recess or forgo a vacation in order to facilitate debate or discussion on a bill that has a dramatic impact upon the rights of US Citizens wouldn’t that be a good thing? After all, isn’t that what legislators are paid to do? Again, the substance of the Patriot Act is not the main point of this article. Instead, this post is written in an attempt to point out the apparently recent habit of the US legislature to enact important legislation with little or no discussion or debate in the name of expedience.

It should be noted that President Barack Obama in conjunction with the previous Congress authorized a previous extension to the Patriot Act in February of 2010. To quote directly from the website ThatsMyCongress.com:

Yesterday, to top it off, the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate passed a reauthorization of Patriot Act provisions without any reform to them. This passage was made via voice vote, a move for secrecy so that no one could track the vote of a specific senator on the issue. The vote to make American citizens’ private lives transparent to the U.S. Government was made in a way to make American senators’ votes opaque to U.S. citizens.

The 2008 promise by Democrats to reform warrantless wiretapping, intrusive surveillance, restore constitutional protections, reject national security letters and reform the Patriot Act has not simply been forgotten. The promise has been broken.

Again, to reiterate, any piece of legislation that would allow the government to gain access to “any tangible thing” during an investigation is, by virtually anyone’s estimation, an important piece of legislation. Therefore, in extending such legislation shouldn’t there at least be discussion? One would think.

For related information please see: Patriot Act Extension.

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