Sunday, July 10, 2005

A Tale Of Two Cities(' Newspapers)

It's true that I write an awful lot about F. Jim Sensenbrenner. Is he my congressman? No, thank goodness. The FBI would probably be living at my house, especially if I made a habit of going to his town hall meetings.

But this is also another in my continuing series on why the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sucks. Give a news organization a monopoply, and this is what you end up with, folks: anemic reporting, and cluelessness in the editorial boardroom.

Check out today's front-page story by Craig Gilbert:
Iron will brings perils, payoffs for Sensenbrenner
He defends leadership style by showing results

When Jim Sensenbrenner is making news, it often means one thing. Somebody is ticked off. Sometimes it's him. Sometimes it's the Democrats. Sometimes it's his own side. But to the powerful House Judiciary Committee chairman, that isn't all bad.

"It is very hard to make a difference and actually change things if you have a reputation of 'going along to get along' for everything," said the Wisconsin Republican in a long interview about his event-filled chairmanship.

"People who cave too early simply because they like to see more 'smiles' end up failing at actually making the changes I think everybody who runs for office wants to accomplish," Sensenbrenner said.
And so begins a relatively flattering piece on F. Jim. Really--I read the whole thing looking for the promised "perils." Seems the only "peril" is that he makes people mad. The story even includes a number of Democrats who must have been lined up at Craig Gilbert's door to praise the pompous jerk. "Oooooh, he's so even-handed," they say. "Aaaaah, he's so good at what he does."


Compare, now, the front page story in this morning's Chicago Tribune*:
Lawmaker prods court, raises brows
Demands longer term in Chicago drug case

In an extraordinary move, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee privately demanded last month that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago change its decision in a narcotics case because he didn't believe a drug courier got a harsh enough prison term.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), in a five-page letter dated June 23 to Chief Judge Joel Flaum, asserted that a June 16 decision by a three-judge appeals court panel was wrong. [. . .]

[Jay] Apperson, who is chief counsel of a House Judiciary subcommittee, argues that Sensenbrenner is simply exercising his judicial oversight responsibilities. But some legal experts believe the action by the Judiciary Committee chairman, who is an attorney, is a violation of House ethics rules, which prohibit communicating privately with judges on legal matters, as well as court rules that bar such contact with judges without contacting all parties.

Further, the letter may be an intrusion on the Constitution's separation-of-powers doctrine, or, at least, the latest encroachment by Congress upon the judiciary, analysts said.

David Zlotnick, a law professor at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island and an expert on federal sentencing law, said, "I think it's completely inappropriate for a congressman to send a letter to a court telling them to change a ruling."

However, Stanley Brand, a Washington, D.C., attorney and former House counsel, said: "I don't think it's appropriate, but I don't know if it rises to the level of an ethical violation. It's unseemly. It's not something members ought to do, but they do it. . . . The context is troubling."
The story goes on for three web pages, providing solid reporting and thoughtful and varied analysis--as opposed to Gilbert's puff piece. The Trib notes that the appeals court issued a revised ruling specifically to explain why F. Jim was legally wrong on the issue, and how F. Jim the whined to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about the matter. The Trib also provides a long and disturbing section on the context of F. Jim's interference--the long list of Republican's efforts to poke their noses in from Congress on judicial matters over the last several years.

I wonder if maybe Craig Gilbert should re-think the flattery: He notes that F. Jim gets compared to a rottweiller or pit bull. Jackal is more like it.

[* Login to the Trib: kos@dailykos, dailykos]

Saturday, June 11, 2005

I wonder if he took his marbles, too

UPDATE: Barbara O'Brien has so much more. Go read, please.

What do you do when you people start telling you things you don't like? When you're the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, you just take your gavel and go home:
Following repeated Democratic criticism of the Bush administration, House Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) on Friday gaveled a hearing to a close and walked out while Democrats continued to testify - but with their microphones shut off.

The hearing's announced topic was the USA Patriot Act, which granted broad new powers to federal law enforcement after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Republicans presented several witnesses who supported the administration's call for reauthorizing the legislation. But when four witnesses hand-picked by the Democrats launched into a broad denunciations of President Bush's war on terror and the condition of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Sensenbrenner showed his pique.

He urged witnesses to "wrap it up" and repeatedly told Democratic committee members that their time for questioning had expired.
A lot of people in Wisconsin's fifth CD think that having F. Jim in Congress is good for us, since he holds such a powerful position in the Judiciary Committee. Problem is, unless Republicans change their ethics rules (not unheard of), this is F. Jim's last year as chair.

And let's face it: This year of F. Jim's chairmanship has been nothing short of horrible. Remember a couple months back, when F. Jim took the liberty to rewrite Democratic descriptions of amendments to make Dems sound like they supported child molesters? Seems like F. Jim is more than willing to let partisan stupidity get in the way of good law. That's not what Wisconsin's fifth CD voters really want.

Video from the shut-down here and here.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Two Bad Bills, and they have F. Jim's name on them

It's been a while since we've updated here at the all-things-anti-Sensenbrenner ranch. So we're going to hit two balls with one bat:

By now you have probably heard of the REAL ID bill. This is F. Jim's pet project, leftover from last fall's inter-Republican fights. UNREAL ID has all the skinny you need. Essentially, the REAL ID is designed to be a national ID card. It adds countless layers of bureaucracy to the process of getting identification. (This is a big deal, considering how many states--including Wisconsin--are making moves toward requiring state ID to vote!) This is Big Brother come to life and from Brookfield.

The second bill is another of F. Jim's projects, the bill that, among other things, "provides for a two year jail sentence if you observe or come across information about drug distribution near colleges and do not report it to authorities within 24 hours and provide full assistance investigating, apprehending, and prosecuting those involved." That's right: Don't Snitch, Go To Jail. The Drug Policy Alliance has more.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

*Everyone* is dumping on Sensenbrenner!

As a follow-up to yesterday's post about F. Jim and staff's unconscionable re-writing of Democratic amendments meant to protect innocent people, calling those innocent people "sexual predators."

Today, the blogosphere is a-buzz with disapproval. I thought I would point you to a few of my favorite bloggers and their responses:
  • Kevin Drum, at the Washington Monthly: "But that won't stop me from noting the spectacular temper tantrum thrown by Judiciary Committee Republicans yesterday."
  • Barbara O'Brien, at Mahablog: "[W]e're just looking at pettiness here. Or are we? It's possible we're looking at the work of someone--and be clear the someone is a conservative Republican--so demented that he/she believes Democrats want to protect sexual predators from prosecution, and the amendments were re-written to reveal the Dems' "true intentions." Farfetched, I know, but people on the edge of psychosis do stuff like this, and seems to me lots of righties are dancing close to the edge these days."
  • Digby, in a post F. Jim would fine for bad language, at Hullaballoo: "Quick, somebody ask head security mom, Cokie Roberts, if she thinks it's ok for Republicans to act like juvenile delinquents on the taxpayers dime."
  • Finally, Sensenbrenner opponent Byan Kennedy: "I am shocked that Sensenbrenner would stoop so low as to re-write the amendments and completely alter the proceedings of the committee.  Where is his respect for the legislative process?  Once again, we see that Mr. Sensenbrenner acts like a petulant child.  He has let his power as a committee chair go to his head.  This kind of puerile behavior is like a high school student changing someone’s grades in the teacher’s grade book and then getting mad because they got caught.  Sensenbrenner needs to grow up and start representing the people of the 5th district, not his own selfish interests."

In comments, feel free to link to any other bloggers or "real" news outlets reporting this story. And while you're at it, give F. Jim's office a call and ask him why he is lying about Democrats' amendments and engaging in this kind of childish behavior: (262) 784-1111 (district office); 1-800-242-1119 (the HOTLINE for those outside of the Milwaukee metro area); (202) 225-5101 (DC office).

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Sensnbrenner must think he's King

We had a revolution about this sort of thing. I'll let Rep. Louise Slaughter give you the skinny:
I want to talk for a minute about another abuse which has occurred in this chamber, a personal affront to three of our colleagues I have never witnessed in my near twenty years serving in this House.

The Rules Committee discovered yesterday that the Judiciary Committee Report on this very bill, which was authored by the Majority Staff, contained amendment summaries which had been re-written by committee staff for the sole purpose of distorting the original intent of the authors.

This Committee Report took liberty to mischaracterize and even falsify the intent of several amendments offered in Committee by Democratic Members of this body.

At least five amendments to this bill, which were designed to protect the rights of family members and innocent bystanders from prosecution under this bill, were rewritten as amendments designed to protect sexual predators from prosecution and were then included in the committee report as if that was the original intent of the authors. The thing is, sexual predators were not mentioned anywhere in any of these amendments.

These amendments were no more about sexual predators then they were about terrorists or arsonists or any other criminal class in our society.

These amendments were about the rights of grandmothers and siblings and clergy and innocent bystanders.

I asked the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee [our very own F. Jim Sensenbrenner] about this deception yesterday afternoon at the Rules Committee hearing.

And instead of decrying what I certainly expected would be revealed as a mistake by an overzealous staffer...The Chairman stood by those altered amendment descriptions.

[F. Jim Sensenbrenner] made very clear to the Rules Committee that the alterations to these members’ amendments were deliberate.

When pressed as to why his committee staff took such an unprecedented action, the Chairman immediately offered up his own anger over the manner in which Democrats had chosen to debate and oppose this unfortunate piece of legislation we have before us today.

In fact…He said, and I quote... "You don’t like what we wrote about your amendments, and we don’t like what you said about our bill."

To falsely rewrite the intent of an amendment submitted by another member, to intentionally distort its description as being designed to protect sexual predators, is no different than accusing a fellow member of Congress as being an apologist for sexual predators themselves.

That is in effect what the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee has done here, with all deliberation.

And he has ensured that these amendment descriptions will be encapsulated in the record for all time by including those unfair and incorrect amendment summaries in the Committee report.

This is a new low for this chamber, Mr. Speaker.
And given all the recent news about Tom DeLay, the House has a pretty low standard already.

Reader JAB from over at the Daily Aneurysm also comments, as well as points us to Raw Story (watch out for the blankety-blank pop-up ads), which has actual samples of how F. Jim imperiously distorted the language used to descibe Democrats' amendments.

2006 cannot come soon enough, eh?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Vacation, had to get away

As a follow-up to our post a few days back, ABC News is also reporting on privately-funded trips by members of Congress. Guess who leads the way?
From the boulevards of Paris to the beaches of Puerto Rico, members of Congress — Democrat and Republican — have taken more than $16 million in trips paid by private sources in the last five years, according to a report released by PoliticalMoneyLine, an independent research group.

At the top of the list, at least monetarily, sits Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who has taken $167,000 worth of trips.
Sometimes Wisconsinites complain that F. Jim had "gone Washington." I think this cements the case: He spends so much time jetting around on the dime of people who never elected him that he barely has time for the people at home. (And when he is home, he doesn't always treat us well. See the post below.)

Seems like it's time to send F. Jim a message: We don't a Washington Congressman--we want a Wisconsin congressman. I say it's time to put F. Jim on permanent vacation.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Senselessbrenner talks out of both sides of his two faces

On Saturday April 23, 2005, F. James Sensenbrenner spoke to people at the Glendale Public Library, which was primarily composed of Democrats. At that meeting he made comments claiming that the Judicial, Legislative and Executive branches should be kept separate and independent (I believe it was in response to a question regarding what was going on in the Senate, and that he being a member of the House of Representatives shouldn’t have a say in what they do, even while he blames the Senate for not moving forward on legislation passed by the House.) I made the comment that he should explain that to President Bush.

Later at the Menomonee Falls Village Hall meeting which was attended by only about 8 people, (only two of which were Democrats, US), Sensenbrenner commented that people needed to understand that majority means majority, and that majority rules should prevail. (That was in response to a question regarding the “holdup” of current judicial nominees, which, of course, is referring back to the gridlock in the SENATE - something that the Republicans did with Clinton’s judicial nominees in 1999 and 2000. The Senate does not have simple majority rules, because the original framers of the Constitution decided that the minority should have the ability to block the majority from passing legislation, unless there was at least a 60-40 vote.) So much for the separation, and independence, of the three branches of government when playing up to a partisan crowd.

At the Shorewood Town Hall meeting prior to the Easter Break, (the afternoon of the day that he had faced substantial opposition from the labor unions in Wauwatosa), Senselessbrenner refused to follow his own rules that he was so adamant about during the early part of the meeting, when people were willing to waive their place in the sign up list to allow people to speak ahead of them because they weren’t able to wait through the entire meeting to speak. (Sensenbrenner would tell them that if they weren’t in his Congressional District, they couldn’t speak until the end. He also claimed that a Hispanic woman didn’t live in his district and wouldn’t be allowed to speak until much later, even though she did live in his district.) Towards the end of the meeting, Sensenbrenner proclaimed that because he had made an agreement with the Village of Shorewood, (that we would be out of the building by a certain time), he only had time for one more question. Both my wife and I were on the list, but Sensenbrenner wouldn’t call on us, and when he called on someone who had already left the meeting, he fumbled around because he couldn’t find anyone else that he WANTED to call on. Then someone in the audience, who appeared to be a SHILL, raised his hand and asked to be heard, and Sensenbrenner immediately called on him, without question, even though he didn’t appear to be on the list. (He claimed he did, but I doubt it.) The SHILL immediately set the stage by asking a question of the audience, “Raise your hands if you believe in free choice.” Most people were surprised by this question, or perhaps puzzled by it, so there weren’t too many takers on it. Then he proceeded to go on a rant, proclaiming that: ”I’m glad you believe in free choice, because I also believe in free choice. And I believe that I should have free choice in deciding what to do with MY MONEY. I believe that I should be able to invest my money as I choose and that I can do it better than Social Security can.” He went on to praise Senselessbrenner and denounce the rest of us for being so much in favor of taxing the rich.

I got the distinct impression that Senselessbrenner, having been embarrassed by the opposition earlier in the day, made a few emergency calls to get someone to show up in support of him during the afternoon session. I also get the impression that he will probably do more of that, and do it in advance to get more Republican turnout to his Town Hall meetings in the future.

During that meeting and others prior to the Easter Break, Senselessbrenner played to the largely Democratic crowd, claiming that he was against drilling in ANWR. Of course, the Energy Bill, which he voted FOR last Thursday, included a provision which allowed drilling in ANWR. On his website, Senselessbrenner talks about how getting something passed is better than nothing, and claims that he was opposed to the provision that would not allow the removal of MTBE from reformulated gasoline, but doesn’t mention ANWR AT ALL. After the Easter Break at his Glendale Town Hall, I pointed out that drilling in ANWR was included in the Energy Bill that Senselessbrenner voted FOR. He vehemently claimed that he had fought to remove the ANWR provision from the Energy Bill. But given his anti-environmental stances against even REPUBLICANS in his own district, it appears that he is just putting on a dog and pony show to the faithful or uninformed. Those who have been paying attention to the Republican bills going through the past several Congresses under Republican control, are well aware that issues like ANWR that might get Republican Congressmen in hot water in their home districts, are intentionally bundled with larger bills so that they are lost in the paperwork. Most people are unaware that these issues have been voted on, in addition to the fact that it gives the Republicans an easy way to claim that they “fought” to remove the provision in the larger bill, but that the larger bill was a "better but imperfect compromise".

Sadly, Senselessbrenner didn’t take that position when refusing to allow the Amber Alert bill to move out of his committee and go to vote on the House floor several years ago, because he claimed that he wanted to include stricter penalties for those who committed kidnap, rape and murder against children, and make it “better”. During his almost year and a half holding up that emergency alert bill, it has been estimated by experts (including Clint Van Zandt, ex-FBI profiler), that there is a child kidnapped, raped and murdered almost every other day, every year in the United States. That works out to about 180 per year or almost 270 during the time that Senselessbrenner delayed that legislation. Most of those children killed were killed within 72 hours of abduction. And what did Senselessbrenner’s stronger legislation accomplish? Ask the families of the two recent victims in Florida, where Florida is now looking into creating even stronger legislation than Senselessbrenner’s Federal Bill, which didn’t prevent repeat offenders from getting out and doing it again

Friday, April 22, 2005

Vacation, all I ever wanted . . .

American Radio Works, in conjunction with Marketplace, has put together an index of sponsored travel by Congress members and the political parties in the last four years or so. Sadly, most of the top offenders are Democrats (proving there is much work still to be done on all sides). But, wouldn't you know it, our very own F. Jim is sitting at number 14 (the top 3%) on the list.

Here's what we know:
F. James Sensenbrenner, Republican Party
Total number of trips - 16
Total cost of trips - $126,424.65
Average cost per trip - $7,901.54
Total number of days spent traveling - 95 days
Rank of representative - 14 (Out of 582)
By comparison, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold had a grand total of $1095 spent on him (this is why we love Russ).

Now, there's no guarantee that these paid-for trips affect F. Jim's ability to represent the good people of Wisconsin's fifth congressional district, but if he's regularly being wined and dined by, say, the National Association of Broadcasters every year or so, it, you know, looks bad for us.

F. Jim needs to spend more time actually listening to his constituents instead of jetting around on someone else's dime.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Welcome, Fighting Bobbers!

We're so glad you dropped by. We're still getting the ball rolling here at SensenbrennerWatch, but rest assured that as we get steam built up--and as we get closer to Election 2006--you will be able to get your daily diss of ol' F. Jim.

We're also looking for 5th CD volunteers who might want to help out on this project or others. Feel free to leave a comment and we'll get back to you!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I'm telling you, Sensenbrenner scares me

It's bad enough that F. Jim doesn't remember his civics lessons well enough to know that the third branch of government--the judiciary--is independent. Now, it turns out, he's actively trying to subjugate the courts to the Congress.

Max Blumenthal of The Nation wandered into that "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" conference some of the most extreme elements of the Republican party held last weekend. This is the one, you may remember, at which conservative activist Edwin Vieira said that Stalin--you remember Stalin? Brutal killer? Bad goatee?--"offered the best method for reining in the Supreme Court. 'He had a slogan,' Vieira said, 'and it worked very well for him whenever he ran into difficulty: "No man, no problem." ' " (The complete Stalin quote is, "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem.")

The Sensenbrenner part comes on page two of Blumenthal's article. You've heard about the threats against the physical well-being of judges; what's working under the surface is an attempt to strip judges of their Constitutional authority:
The threatening tenor of the conference speakers was a calculated tactic. As Gary Cass, the director of Rev. D. James Kennedy's lobbying front, the Center for Reclaiming America, explained, they are arousing the anger of their base in order to harness it politically. The rising tide of threats against judges "is understandable," Cass told me, "but we have to take the opportunity to channel that into a constitutional solution."

Cass's "solution" is the "Constitution Restoration Act," a bill relentlessly promoted during the conference that authorizes Congress to impeach judges who fail to abide by "the standard of good behavior" required by the Constitution. If they refuse to acknowledge "God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government," or rely in any way on international law in their rulings, judges also invite impeachment. In essence, the bill would turn judges' gavels into mere instruments of "The Hammer," Tom DeLay, and Christian-right cadres. [. . .]

In the Senate the bill was sponsored by Richard Shelby, a senator from Roy Moore's home state; among the co-sponsors is Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, who is contemplating a run for the Republican nomination for President. The bill was introduced on March 3, before the Terri Schiavo affair erupted, before Florida Circuit Judge George Greer ordered the removal of her feeding tube and before he became the poster-child for the right's judicial impeachment campaign.

Now, according to Howard Phillips in a speech to the conference, his "good friend" Wisconsin GOP Representative James Sensenbrenner is planning to hold hearings on the Constitution Restoration Act in the House. DeLay, who appeared on a big screen during a Thursday morning session to call for the removal of "a judiciary run amok," has put his name on the act as the House sponsor.
Howard Phillips, you may remember, is the founding father of the Constitution Party, which invites you to join them as they "work to restore our government [. . .] to its Biblical foundation." (Does this mean his "good friend" F. Jim will be introducing legislation to stone adulterers? Come to think if it, this does explain F. Jim's desire to over-regulate the entertainment industry.)

The "Constitution Restoration Act" is to the Constitution what the "Clear Skies Initiative" is to air and the "Healthy Forest Initiative" is to trees (read more about it here). Call F. Jim right now and ask him why he thinks our Constitution isn't worth protecting: (262) 784-1111 (district office); 1-800-242-1119 (the HOTLINE for those outside of the Milwaukee metro area); (202) 225-5101 (DC office).

Monday, April 11, 2005

A trip down memory lane

Vast Dairy-State Conspirator Stacie takes a moment to remind us of an old gem from F. Jim:
Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls), Tom Petri (R-Fond du Lac), Paul Ryan (R-Janesville), and Mark Green (R-Green Bay) today blasted Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and the Clinton-Gore Administration for their failure to implement a comprehensive energy policy to deal with staggering gas prices Wisconsin consumers continue to face at the pumps.

Today’s criticism came in response to predictions made by Secretary Richardson in April that high gas prices, then topping $1.50 per gallon, were only temporary [. . .]. “Secretary Richardson’s misguided prediction that we in Wisconsin could look forward to relief from outrageous gas prices by Labor Day is only one example pointing to the lack of any comprehensive energy policy on the part of the Clinton-Gore Administration,” charged Sensenbrenner.
Gas was $2.28.9 at the gas station by my apartment today, for the "cheap stuff." In 2000 dollars, that's $2.06 (handy calculator here)-- below the $2.09 cited by the press release, but well above the $1.60 the Republicans were screaming about.

So, I can [expect] Reps. Sensenbrenner, et. al., to release an updated statement calling for the Bush Administration to do something other than offer token relief, and to make policy, not just talk about it? Right?
Sure, Stacie. F. Jim will almost certainly step up any minute now. Yep. Any minute.

National Recognition for Sensenbrenner Watch

Well, kind of. Wisconsin Blogger Flamingo Jones has used her soapbox at The American Street to point to SW's post below on F. Jim's rejection of an independent judiciary (a perspective rejected even by Bush!). So, Welcome TAS readers! Spread the word about us to all of your Wisconsin freinds!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

When will F. Jim speak up?

Yesterday, Republican Connecticut Congressman Christopher Shays smartly distanced himself from the tomfoolery of Tom DeLay:
"He is an absolute embarrassment to me and to the Republican Party," U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Bridgeport, told more than 50 Greenwich residents yesterday morning at Town Hall. He was in Greenwich to host a public forum, open to all political parties, on whatever pressing issues attendees were interested in discussing.

DeLay is facing legal problems in his home state and in the nation's capital. A grand jury in Texas has indicted two of DeLay's political associates on charges involving illegal campaign contributions. In Washington, a Senate committee and the Justice Department are investigating whether Republican lobbyists close to DeLay paid for lawmakers' trips abroad and other gifts in order to influence legislation.

DeLay also made headlines last week by calling for congressional oversight of judicial decisions, saying federal courts had "run amok," in part by disregarding the "will of the people." The comments reflect DeLay's outspoken criticism of federal judges for failing to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. DeLay's criticisms also come as a preview to an expected showdown over Senate rules governing the confirmation of President Bush's judicial nominees -- an issue that both Democrats and Republicans say is critical to upcoming fights to fill Supreme Court vacancies.

Yesterday, Shays flatly denied supporting DeLay, telling the small but lively gathering that the Texan probably will not last out this term as house majority leader, lacks credibility and will never attain the prominent position of speaker of the house.

"He knows that . . . if he ever runs for speaker, I get to vote on the House floor, and my 'No' vote combined with the Democrats means he will never be speaker," Shays said, drawing applause from the room. "One of the things I want to say here is that Tom DeLay will never be speaker in Congress." [. . .]

"Do I think Tom DeLay will be the majority leader by the end of this term? No," Shays said. "I don't think Tom DeLay is going to survive. He goes to the edge and he goes beyond . . . Even knowing there's a microscope on him, he continues to do these things."
It's time to apply some pressure Sensenbrenner: Does F. Jim, as a leader in the House and chair of the committee that oversees that judiciary DeLay keeps threatening, support Tom DeLay and his unconstitutional and unconscionable actions? If so, why?

Once again, those phone numbers: (262) 784-1111 (district office); 1-800-242-1119 (the HOTLINE for those outside of the Milwaukee metro area); (202) 225-5101 (DC office);; or ask him at one of his town meetings.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Unclear on the concept: the Judiciary Branch

In today's New York Times, there's an article about Tom DeLay and his grandstanding over judges:
Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, escalated his talk of a battle between the legislative and judicial branches of government on Thursday [. . .]. Mr. DeLay faulted courts for what he said was their invention of rights to abortion and prohibitions on school prayer, saying courts had ignored the intent of Congress and improperly cited international standards and precedents. "These are not examples of a mature society," he said, "but of a judiciary run amok."
Now, that's not so surprising, given the escalating rhetoric recently from "the Hammer," as they call him, and from the way-past-mainstream cultural conservatives.

It's bad enough that a vote for F. Jim is a vote to support this kind of extremism in the Republican leadership, but now we're starting to hear it from F. Jim's team themselves. Further down in the NYT article, we get this piece of work:
In an interview, Jeff Lungren, a spokesman for Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the panel was likely in some way to take up the issue of how the federal judges handled Ms. Schiavo's case.

But Mr. Lungren said Mr. DeLay had not requested a hearing and the committee had not decided on a course of action. "There does seem to be this misunderstanding out there that our system was created with a completely independent judiciary," he said.
While it's true that I passed high-school civics, I suppose it's possible that not everybody did. But for Mr. Lungren, I recommend a refresher on one of the most basic, fundamental tenets of U.S. government, that our federal system consists of three separate and independent branches of government.

Moreover, the courts were, in fact, established to help keep in check the excesses of the Congress. I'm no constitutional lawyer, but I can read English, and what Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 78 (my bold, Hamilton's CAPS LOCK):
According to the plan of the convention, all judges who may be appointed by the United States are to hold their offices DURING GOOD BEHAVIOR; which is conformable to the most approved of the State constitutions and among the rest, to that of this State. Its propriety having been drawn into question by the adversaries of that plan, is no light symptom of the rage for objection, which disorders their imaginations and judgments. The standard of good behavior for the continuance in office of the judicial magistracy, is certainly one of the most valuable of the modern improvements in the practice of government. In a monarchy it is an excellent barrier to the despotism of the prince; in a republic it is a no less excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body. And it is the best expedient which can be devised in any government, to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws. [. . .]

The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited Constitution. By a limited Constitution, I understand one which contains certain specified exceptions to the legislative authority; such, for instance, as that it shall pass no bills of attainder, no ex-post-facto laws, and the like. Limitations of this kind can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing.
I have no doubt that Jeff Lungren was authorized to say what he said to the New York Times, and that his statement accurately reflects the view of F. Jim. In other words, then, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee holds a 180-degree opposite opinion of the role of the judiciary than those who wrote the bloody Constitution! Yes, yes, yes we have an "independent judicary"--if we didn't, Hamilton says, our civil liberties would amount to nothing.

Is that what you want, Mr. Sensenbrenner? A world where our civil liberties amount to nothing?

In fact, why don't we ask him: (262) 784-1111 (district office); 1-800-242-1119 (the HOTLINE for those outside of the Milwaukee metro area); (202) 225-5101 (DC office);; or dog him at one of his town meetings. Ask him if he thinks our civil liberties amount to nothing.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Say A Swear, Go To Jail

So says F. Jim, who wants to tighten indecency standards. See this piece from Reuters:
Violators of federal broadcast decency standards should face criminal prosecution, U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner said on Monday.

"People who are in flagrant disregard should face a criminal process rather than a regulatory process,'' the Wisconsin Republican said at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association annual convention. [. . .]

He said it was "far better'' for consumers to press a button on their remote control to lock out programs or channels than for the government to set the standard.

But he admitted that if Congress put it up for a vote soon while the controversy was hot, there was a good chance they would approve expanding decency standards.
I found F. Jim's politicizing of Terri Schiavo indecent. Can I make a citizen's arrest here?