NJ Civil Unions in Effect Today

As of midnight this morning, civil unions have officially become recognized in the state of New Jersey.

“The civil unions, which offer the legal benefits but not the title of marriage, were granted automatically to the hundreds of gay New Jersey couples who had previously been joined in civil unions or married in other states or nations.”

New Jersey is now the third state to recognize civil unions, following Connecticut and Vermont.

A handful of town halls opened their doors at 12:01 this morning to accomodate those seeking to apply for a license. New Jersey has a 72-hour waiting period, so those new applicants will not be able to hold their ceremonies until the waiting period is up.

While the civil union law is not considered “equal” by many advocates, including the ACLU, this is a positive step forward in recognizing the rights of all.

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Stupid People Say Stupid Things

“The Constitution does not say that every citizen has the right to habeas corpus.” – Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

Unless Gonzales doesn’t believe the Constitution applies to all U.S. citizens, we need a new Attorney General that has actually read the Constitution:

Article I, Sec. 9:

“The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”

Gee – I don’t seem to remember being invaded, or a rebellion breaking out, do you?

Breaking News: Bush Reads Constitution

In an amazing twist, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez has issued a new letter in which he states that the NSA Wiretapping/domestic surveillance program is now subject to FISA courts.

The full text of the letter can be viewed below (via TPM).

According to right-wingers, FISA was absolutely unnecessary and the President had the power to do as he wishes, without the approval of FISA (even when a warrant could be received retroactively up to 72 hours of wiretap initiation).

In late 2005, Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, and AEI “scholar” Gary Schmidt penned an Op-ed for The Washington Post (which of course left out much vital information about FISA) which contained this gem:

“This is presumably one reason why President Bush decided that national security required that he not simply follow the strictures of the 1978 foreign intelligence act, and, indeed, it reveals why the issue of executive power and the law in our constitutional order is more complicated than the current debate would suggest. It is not easy to answer the question whether the president, acting in this gray area, is “breaking the law.” It is not easy because the Founders intended the executive to have — believed the executive needed to have — some powers in the national security area that were extralegal but constitutional.”

Kristol and Schmidt argued that the President can, in some instances, break the law if he deems it necessary. These “rule of law” Republicans (neocons in sheeps clothing) threw their ideology out the window and sold their souls to support actions by the president merely because he is of the same party, and wished to support the neoconservative agenda. All of this for actions that could easily have been avoided, since FISA allows for wiretapping to begin, with the stipulation a warrant is received within 72 hours. Not to mention only 6 requests from the Bush Administration to the FISA court for a warrant were ever denied.

Now just over a year later, the President is admitting (or is possibly frightened of Congressional subpoenas)that FISA is the rule of law in the United States, and will finally follow its provisions. Integrity, credibility and the Constitution were thrown out the window over the slighest of challenges: 6 denials and slightly over 150 modifications to warrants by the FISA courts. Another example of Bush’s delusion that he is King, and can do as he wishes.

Or maybe someone finally read the Constitution to him.

Update: This sudden change of heart, it seems, comes only a day before Gonzolez is set to testify before Congress on the issue. After 6 years of GOP rule, unchecked powers, and the ability to do as he wishes, President Bush reversed his course just one day before his “course” was set to be questioned. Under oath.

Let the Children Lead the Way, Part II

My absolutely beautiful, brilliant niece, Kayla Alexis, in Washington DC showing the world that she won’t let them take away her Constitutional rights.

Mike McConnell’s Firm in Charge of SWIFT/TFTP?

President Bush announced today that Retired Vice Admiral John “Mike” McConnell will be replacing John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence.

McConnell, who served under both Bush 41 and Clinton as the head of the NSA, left politics in 1996 to become a Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., “a prominent defense and intelligence consulting and engineering firm.”

During the summer of 2006, The New York Times reported on an “international financial surveillance program” run by the Bush Administration, referred to as “TFTP” (Terrorist Finance Tracking Program) in which the United States received banking information through SWIFT, “a worldwide financial messaging network by which messages concerning financial transactions are exchanged among banks and other financial institutions.”

According to Wikipedia:

“A series of articles published on June 23, 2006, by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times revealed that the Treasury Department and the CIA, United States government agencies, had a program to access the SWIFT transaction database after the September 11th attacks called the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program. The Belgian government said in September 2006, that the SWIFT dealings with the US government authorities were in breach with Belgian and European privacy laws.”

After an international outcry, the United States government hired an outside contractor to monitor the transactions and to ensure that the access to SWIFT was not abused.

And who exactly was the contractor hired to monitor for abuse? McConnell’s very own Booz Allen Hamilton.

New Law Lets Bush Read Your Mail

Using signing statements Bush now has sweeping new powers to open Americans’ mail without a judge’s warrant.

The Carpetbagger Report has more:

Experts said the new powers could be easily abused and used to vacuum up large amounts of mail. The legislation in question, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, is mostly mundane, but as the New York Daily News noted, it also explicitly reinforced protections of first-class mail from searches without a court’s approval. Bush’s…signing statement said he’d ignore the privacy provisions under “exigent circumstances.” That could refer to an imminent danger, or it could refer to “a longstanding state of emergency.”

Once again, Bush has pushed the limits of the executive branch. I do not understand how any American could support such behavior. A nearly completely incompetent man now was the right to read our mail. This is truly disgusting and frightening.

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