a digital common place book | an @s_m_i production | one of a few

Mr. President, four years ago, following one of the most devastating attacks in our nation’s history, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act to give our nation’s law enforcement the tools they needed to track down terrorists who plot and lurk within our own borders and all over the world - terrorists who, right now, are looking to exploit weaknesses in our laws and our security to carry out even deadlier attacks than we saw on September 11th.

We all agreed that we needed legislation to make it harder for suspected terrorists to go undetected in this country. Americans everywhere wanted that.

But soon after the PATRIOT Act passed, a few years before I ever arrived in the Senate, I began hearing concerns from people of every background and political leaning that this law didn’t just provide law enforcement the powers it needed to keep us safe, but powers it didn’t need to invade our privacy without cause or suspicion.

Now, at times this issue has tended to degenerate into an “either-or” type of debate. Either we protect our people from terror or we protect our most cherished principles. But that is a false choice. It asks too little of us and assumes too little about America.

Fortunately, last year, the Senate recognized that this was a false choice. We put patriotism before partisanship and engaged in a real, open, and substantive debate about how to fix the PATRIOT Act. And Republicans and Democrats came together to propose sensible improvements to the Act. Unfortunately, the House was resistant to these changes, and that’s why we’re voting on the compromise before us.

Let me be clear: this compromise is not as good as the Senate version of the bill, nor is it as good as the SAFE Act that I have cosponsored. I suspect the vast majority of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle feel the same way. But, it’s still better than what the House originally proposed.

This compromise does modestly improve the PATRIOT Act by strengthening civil liberties protections without sacrificing the tools that law enforcement needs to keep us safe. In this compromise:

We strengthened judicial review of both National Security Letters, the administrative subpoenas used by the FBI, and Section 215 orders, which can be used to obtain medical, financial and other personal records.

We established hard time limits on sneak-and-peak searches and limits on roving wiretaps.

We protected most libraries from being subject to National Security Letters.

We preserved an individual’s right to seek counsel and hire an attorney without fearing the FBI’s wrath.

And we allowed judicial review of the gag orders that accompany Section 215 searches.

The compromise is far from perfect. I would have liked to see stronger judicial review of National Security Letters and shorter time limits on sneak and peak searches, among other things.

Sen. Feingold has proposed several sensible amendments - that I support - to address these issues. Unfortunately, the Majority Leader is preventing Sen. Feingold from offering these amendments through procedural tactics. That is regrettable because it flies in the face of the bipartisan cooperation that allowed the Senate to pass unanimously its version of the Patriot Act - a version that balanced security and civil liberties, partisanship and patriotism.

The Majority Leader’s tactics are even more troubling because we will need to work on a bipartisan basis to address national security challenges in the weeks and months to come. In particular, members on both sides of the aisle will need to take a careful look at President Bush’s use of warrantless wiretaps and determine the right balance between protecting our security and safeguarding our civil liberties. This is a complex issue. But only by working together and avoiding election-year politicking will we be able to give our government the necessary tools to wage the war on terror without sacrificing the rule of law.

So, I will be supporting the Patriot Act compromise. But I urge my colleagues to continue working on ways to improve the civil liberties protections in the Patriot Act after it is reauthorized.

I thank the chair and yield the floor.

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Senator Barack Obama, February 16, 2006 (via soupsoup)

Absolute power, etc.

  Bruce Springsteen loves Barack Obama. Bruce Springsteen does not love Chris Christie. Being overtly supportive of Barack Obama might get Chris Christie his holy grail: The approval of Springsteen, even a meeting with him. Believe me — he’d rather meet with Springsteen than with Obama, or anyone else.
- ‘Bruce Springsteen loves Barack Obama. Bruce Springsteen does not love Chris Christie.’

Why Exactly Is Chris Christie Subverting Mitt Romney? - Politics - The Atlantic

It’s worth trying to imagine any black man associated with a credible black candidate for the presidency, joking about beating down the incumbent president of the United States. Racism isn’t just in what you do and don’t say, but in the terrain you walk. It is baked in the cake — a fact which is hard to understand when you are the party of white people.
- In which Ta-Nehisi Coates is once again in my brain, thinking my thoughts about life, society and politics, and expressing them so much more eloquently than I could.

It’s Funny Because We’re White - Politics - The Atlantic

The pervasiveness of campaign lies tells us something we’d rather not acknowledge, at least not publicly: On many issues, voters prefer lies to the truth. That’s because the truth about the economy, the future of Social Security and Medicare, immigration, the war in Afghanistan, taxes, the budget, the deficit, and the national debt is too dismal to contemplate. As long as voters cast their votes for candidates who make them feel better, candidates will continue to lie. And to win.
I am actually relieved to see these kinds of responses, because they accurately reflect the GREAT imbalance of power in the intellectual as well as political realm — what the Asian voices in my book describe and protest against. For a long time, Western histories simply suppressed non-western perspectives — nobody cared what the ‘native’ thought. But even today, the benignly universalist West creates the standards of judgement, and the historian at the imperial metropole of course writes the truly objective and coolly rational history. And the non-westerner challenging it with other perspectives is prone to be described — and discredited — as no more than a polemicist (The word is usual preceded by a damning adjective like ‘left-wing’ and ‘angry’). In this ‘universalist’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ perspective from the West, the parochial-minded native always responds and reacts, he doesn’t initiate anything or have original thoughts, let alone a history, of his own. But, you know, it is getting too late for this kind of ideological trickery.
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Pankaj Mishra, author of the excellent anti-imperialism book From the Ruins of Empire, responds to those criticizing his book for being “polemicist.”

A brilliant conversation between Mishra and Tabish Khair can be read here.

(via mehreenkasana)
This is the republic in the age of the Internet, an ersatz exchange between different types of power: political power (Paul Ryan himself); creative (University of Wisconsin grad student Danielle Henderson, who first matched an image of Ryan Gosling to the algorithm “Hey girl, [pro-feminist comment]”); what we might call creatively distributional power (the thousands who made all sorts of other Ryan Gosling jokes); and the physically distributional (the pilot today who strapped the banner to his or her plane and took off into the air, to fly above Paul Ryan himself).
	    (via Banner Above Paul Ryan-Led Event: ‘Hey Girl, Choose Me, Lose Choice—P. Ryan’ - Technology - The Atlantic)
This is the republic in the age of the Internet, an ersatz exchange between different types of power: political power (Paul Ryan himself); creative (University of Wisconsin grad student Danielle Henderson, who first matched an image of Ryan Gosling to the algorithm “Hey girl, [pro-feminist comment]”); what we might call creatively distributional power (the thousands who made all sorts of other Ryan Gosling jokes); and the physically distributional (the pilot today who strapped the banner to his or her plane and took off into the air, to fly above Paul Ryan himself).

(via Banner Above Paul Ryan-Led Event: ‘Hey Girl, Choose Me, Lose Choice—P. Ryan’ - Technology - The Atlantic)