Nothing will motivate a man to move forward faster than knowing what's behind Him.

Archive for the ‘Know Your Stuff’ Category

Home “Buyers” Beware Part II


It’s A Racket!

If you remember the housing bubble, then you should remember when it burst.  Well get ready for the Housing Bubble Burst Part II

Location, Location and don’t forget, did I mention Location  Your agent wants to close the deal.  It really don’t matter to them if it’s near a nuclear plant or a waste dump.   That being said, check out the surroundings of the property.

IMG_2529

Take into consideration that stop lights are a health hazard in that exhaust fumes from cars stopping idling from 15 seconds to 3 minutes and starting up in four different directions.   A round-a-bout is not as bad as a stop sign.   A 4-way-stop intersection is the worst.  By law every vehicle has to slow down, stop, idle then accelerate. This will be going on in all four directions.    So you may want to rethink the highly promoted corner lot and take these into consideration.

IMG_2526IMG_2527

Another health hazard is properties near power sub-stations.   Electrical companies deny cancer clusters ever exist but why take the chance.  They are all about the money and don’t want  law suits.   There are warning signs posted all over.  Why would you want to live near it.

IMG_2528

Yet another controversial location is near a cell tower.  A cell tower is a relay system for cell phones.   You cell phone is a high frequency low power transceiver and it’s signal is picked up by these towers and amplified and retransmitted.    Some towers are set up to retransmit  signals from other cell towers.   Why subject your family to highly amplified high frequencies?  It’s not worth the investment.

Near a freeway,  don’t even think about it.   Not only do you have to contend with the noise, but the exhaust fumes from gas and diesel fueled vehicles that travel up and down the freeway 24 hours a day.  What happens when there are frequent traffic backups?  Idling vehicles, diesel and gas.    If you care about your family, stay away.   You agent will not be concerned about your future health, closing is their game.

The HOA.  Do your really want to pay someone to tell you what you can and can’t do on you own property?  hold up, wait a minute, your city, county and state code enforcement officer does that, so you already have three, do you really need another?

IMG_2530IMG_2533

The highly advertised Bus stop.   If you have asthma or any other respiratory illness you want to stay as far away from living at a bus stop as you can.   A vehicle stopping and starting by your home every 15 min……not a good thing.   If you don’t have a respiratory problem now…you will.   Admittedly, this is an extreme example.  this home is on the corner, a bus stop right at the garage, at a stop light and a cell tower across the street.  That’s before you even look at the inside of the house.

Flood Planes

Check the area’s flood plane map.   The is as elevation in most every area that will always flood.   Compare the flood plane with the elevation  and find out the elevation of the property you are considering.    I don’t have to tell you that the elevation of your property should be substantially higher than the flood plane.

The Greenbelt.   These areas are promoted in areas where no other construction is allowed.   While it may seem nice to live near a green belt, there are restriction and research need to be done to find out what can and can’t be done on your property.    Various restriction apply so thoroughly do your research to assure that the restrictions would not hinder you ambitions now or in the future.

Industrial Areas.   After reading this far, do I really need to explain why this area is not a good idea.   But I will say this, trucks, noise, traffic and I don’t want to get into what is stored, shipped in and out of these areas.

Railroad Tracks.   Really!!!

To Be Continued…….

Home Buyers Beware


It’s A Racket

If you remember the housing bubble, then you should remember when it burst.  Well get ready for Housing Bubble Burst Part II.

Your “Buyer’s” Agent

Fresh out of a Seminar, the job of the agent is to close the deal.  They are brokers.  They are closers,  they don’t make any money until the deal is closed.   So, make no mistake, your buyer’s agent is all about the money.  He/She is all about their commission.   One thing you need to understand is that the more they sell the house for the more money they will make.    Some offers never make it to the seller because of the commission factor.   Each agent has a minimum that they are willing to work for and it’s all in the price of the house.    Very seldom do a buyer actually get to see or haggle with the owner, in fact you may or may not see them at the closing.

This agent is ready and willing to write up and offer and take your “earnest” Money.   Never, and I mean never give anyone any money unless that house is exactly the way you want it.   This is not a handshake deal, they have your money and all you have is a promise.   This agent don’t own this property, yet they will make excuses about the property.  They want to close.    They want you to like the property to give up the money, even though there are problems.   I will get into property conditions in a future publication.

The buyer’s agent will  likely not know anything about the house you want to see.  Check with the listing agent to see if the property is available, your agent may not. There is absolutely no reason for an agent to show you a property that has already been sold.   If this happens, immediately find yourself another agent.    The listing may be sold and just not updated on the Multi-listing Service (MLS).   Unless they are willing to do the foot work for you, you are basically on your own.   You tell  “your” agent how much you have/qualified for, how many rooms, bathrooms, square feet and all the things you want in a home.  Besides,  buying a home is the most important commitment you will make, second only to marriage.   Keep in mind that being a  real estate agent does not require a college degree.  Getting a real estate broker’s license is easy.   All is needed is 90 hours in classes.    A Real Estate agent do not take an oath with their hand on a bible vowing to give you the best deal you can get.  That being said, you will at least one time end up at a house that is nothing like the house you told the agent you wanted.   You are not paying for their services, so why should they go out of their way for you.  That is the attitude you should have.   Besides,  they see you as a person that is under the illusion that you are some day going to actually own a home.

You need to research the real Estate laws in your state.  Then consider agents has already attended that seminar  found some loopholes and end runs around them. There are a few things that you should realize.    You will never own your home free and clear.  There will always be property taxes, where the county levy against you according to the value that they think it’s worth.  This method incorporates two ways of increasing your taxes.   One in which the county just outright increase your tax rate, and other is when they increase the value of your home.   Tax Levies in some counties and cities are put to a vote.  This is sometimes disguised on a ballot as a temporary tax that will expire in a few years.   In a few years it is put back on the ballot as not raising you taxes, in which I might add is the year that the initial levy is to expire and your taxes would go down.   In any case there would be a value assessment done and home values would be raised to accommodate the taxes needed.   Are you getting the feeling that you might need some Vaseline?    Then there is eminent domain, where the city, county, state or Federal government can come in and take your property just because they found a use for it.   More Vaseline anyone? 

A Real estate agent is on the same level as a used car salesmen.   They don’t own the property, they don’t know much about it,  they only know how much it is and where it is.  I can’t stress this enough, they want to sell it to you by any means that they can.    If they have their way you will hit the ground running and in a few years your home (for what ever reason) will be back on the market.   That is their lively hood,  recycling homes.      Ask your potential agent “how many newly built homes have they sold?”     If none then, your agent is Entirely in the home recycling business, and we all know how vicious and cutthroat the recycling industry can be. 

 

Ghost Bidding

Once your (Buyer’s) Agent have summited a written offer to the listing agent, you may be contacted by your “buyer’s” Agent and told that they have gotten a lot of offers for the house and suggest that you raise your offer.  It’s not like you are at auction and can see who you are bidding against.  In fact you may be bidding against yourself.   The agent works on a commission and the more the house sell for the higher the commission.   It’s not in their financial best interest to get you the best price.   Don’t be a glorified lollipop (sucker) and fall into the real estate trap.   You are making an  offer, they will either accept it or a better offer.   They will not tell you how much the other offer is.  You will only know how much the property sold for after the agents close the deal and all is paid.   Never consider it as losing a bid, you made an offer, you did not enter a bid, this is not an auction.   You didn’t lose anything.  You still have your money, and you are not burdened with an over  priced home.  As is the case and the result of so many foreclosures today.    Most people don’t realize that they not only have to pay for the home but has to maintain the home.    Buying an overpriced home don’t leave any wiggle room for maintenance, upgrades and improvements.    Don’t allow your “buyer’s” Agent to get you bogged down with promissory notes.

Definition of “Promissory Note”

A financial instrument that contains a written promise by one party to pay another party a definite sum of money either on demand or at a specified future date. A promissory note typically contains all the terms pertaining to the indebtedness by the issuer or maker to the note’s payee, such as the amount, interest rate, maturity date, date and place of issuance, and issuer’s signature. The 1930 international convention that governs promissory notes and bills of exchange also stipulates that the term “promissory note” should be inserted in the body of the instrument and should contain an unconditional promise to pay.

Submitting an Offer

They love to ask the question “Are approved”?” and “how much are you qualified for?”.    Never tell them how much you are qualified for, tell them how much you are willing to finance.    Just because you qualify for 400,000 do not mean you have to go out looking for a home for 400.000 even though the $ signs and % signs are flashing all through the agents head.  

When the offer is written by a good realtor, a realtor that truly represents you will go in under the asking price so as to have some wiggle room for negotiations.  Most offers, if for the asking price will require the seller to pay all closing.   If your agent can’t accomplish that, then immediately get yourself  another agent.  It will be in your best interest to require that they accept your offer by a certain time of a certain date.   if they do not accept it by the stipulated time and date given, proceed to recover your earnest money immediately.   No further negotiations on your part is required.    If your agent suggest that you resubmit an offer,  if you chose to do so, do so without any earnest money.  

Insure that there is a stipulation that the property will be vacated by the closing date.   At closing, you will be responsible and liable for the property. Allowing the owners to occupy the home after closing without contract could  subject you to liabilities and damages to the property that you would be hard pressed to recover from.  It’s not worth it.     There also should be a stipulation that all trash is to be removed.    Also should be stipulated that any and all personal property that is left behind will be forfeited by the owners and shall immediately become the property of (You) the new owners.

Don’t be surprised after a couple of offers, your agent email or text you that they will no longer represent or work with you.    Don’t be offended,  they realize that you are not a glorified lollipop (sucker).

   A professional would not allow it to get to this point.   A professional would work with you and only show you homes within your criteria and within your means to pay.    They would not expect you to settle for less or over extend your budget.    A professional will find you a home, write up a reasonable offer, insure all the paper work is done to present to your lender close the deal and move on to the next buyer. 

If you listen to some agents closely, you would think they are representing the seller.     These UNPRO’s are urgently trying to close the deal, even at your expense.   Besides, you are  actually the only person in this deal that is spending money.    Any money being spent by the seller is only after they are paid or comes out of the price of the home.    

Remember,  you are the one that will have a mortgage, you are the one that will have the liability and responsibility after closing and the seller and broker is paid.   You are the one that will have to pay taxes, maintenance, upkeep and improvements over the next possible 30 years.    Buying a home is not a speedy process, so don’t allow any agent to rush you into something that’s  going to take you 30 years  to get out of.  Don’t worry about the one that got away, think about it as the one that got out of your way.  

Always be mindful of what your mortgage payments will be.  Keep in touch  with your lender so you will be apprised of the interest rates.   Go over your financing to see what you maximum payments will be.   Just because you qualify for a certain amount don’t mean you need to spend that amount.     Keep in touch  with your lender so you will be apprised of the interest rates.    

 

To Be Continued and Updated……….

The Solar Energy Equation


power needed x 2 = inverter power

if you needed 250 watts

250 X 2 = 500

500 would be your inverter power

inverter power / 500 = batteries @ 100ah

500 / 500 = 1 battery @ 100am

if your inverter power was 750-1000 watts you would want 2 batteries @ 100ah

if your inverter power was 2000 watts you would want 4 100ah batteries.

solar panels =  90 watts x 100ah batteries

if you had 1 100ah battery you would want 90 watts of solar panels to be useful  

keep in mind that 15 watts = approx. 1 amp.   an ideal charging rate is 10 amps which is about 150 watts.  

if you had 2 100ah batteries you would want 180 watts of solar panels.

Don’t get me wrong, you can have a 45 watt solar panel system but don’t let your battery go flat 11.9 volts you will be days on end to top off your 100ah battery

 

The ideal beginner solar system would be 500 watt inverter, 1 100ah battery and 90 watts of solar panels.   

On Opposing The U.S.A Patriot Act


Editor’s note: In an address given October 12, 2001, to the Associated Press Managing Editors Conference at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Sen. Feingold (D-Wis) explained why he, alone among United States Senators, voted against the Administration-sponsored “U.S.A. Patriot” Act. The text below followed his introductory remarks.

[T]his conference comes at a tragic time for our country. Let us first pause to remember, through one small story, how September 11th has irrevocably changed so many lives. In a letter to The Washington Post last Saturday, a man wrote that as he went jogging near the Pentagon, he came across the makeshift memorial built for those who lost their lives there. He slowed to a walk as he took in the sight before him – the red, white and blue flowers covering the structure, and then, off to the side, a second, smaller memorial with a card.

The card read, “ Happy Birthday Mommy. Although you died and are no longer with me, I feel as if I still have you in my life. I think about you every day.”

After reading the card, the man felt as if he were “drowning in the names of dead mothers, fathers, sons and daughters.” The author of this letter shared a moment in his own life that so many of us have had – the moment where televised pictures of the destruction are made painfully real to us. We read a card, or see the anguished face of a grieving loved one, and we suddenly feel the enormity of what has happened to so many American families, and to all of us as a people.

We all also had our own initial reactions, and my first and most powerful emotion was a solemn resolve to stop these terrorists. And that remains my principal reaction to these events. But I also quickly realized that two cautions were necessary and I raised them on the Senate floor within one day of the attacks.

The first caution was that we must continue to respect our Constitution and protect our civil liberties in the wake of the attacks. As the chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, I recognize this is a different world with different technologies, different issues, and different threats. Yet we must examine every item that is proposed in response to these events to be sure we are not rewarding these terrorists and weakening ourselves by giving up the cherished freedoms that they seek to destroy.

The second caution I issued was a warning against the mistreatment of Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, South Asians, or others in this country. Already, one day after the attacks, we were hearing news reports that misguided anger against people of these backgrounds had led to harassment, violence, and even death.

I suppose I was reacting instinctively to the unfolding events in the spirit of the Irish statesman John Philpot Curran, who said: “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”

During those first few hours after the attacks, I kept remembering a sentence from a case I had studied in law school. Not surprisingly, I didn’t remember which case it was, who wrote the opinion, or what it was about, but I did remember these words: “While the Constitution protects against invasions of individual rights, it is not a suicide pact.” I took these words as a challenge to my concerns about civil liberties at such a momentous time in our history; that we must be careful to not take civil liberties so literally that we allow ourselves to be destroyed.

But upon reviewing the case itself, Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, I found that Justice Arthur Goldberg had made this statement but then ruled in favor of the civil liberties position in the case, which was about draft evasion. He elaborated:

“It is fundamental that the great powers of Congress to conduct war and to regulate the Nation’s foreign relations are subject to the constitutional requirements of due process. The imperative necessity for safeguarding these rights to procedural due process under the gravest of emergencies has existed throughout our constitutional history, for it is then, under the pressing exigencies of crisis, that there is the greatest temptation to dispense with fundamental constitutional guarantees which, it is feared, will inhibit governmental action. “The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances…. In no other way can we transmit to posterity unimpaired the blessings of liberty, consecrated by the sacrifices of the Revolution.”

I have approached the events of the past month and my role in proposing and reviewing legislation relating to it in this spirit.

And so we must redouble our vigilance. We must redouble our vigilance to ensure our security and to prevent further acts of terror. But we must also redouble our vigilance to preserve our values and the basic rights that make us who we are.

The Founders who wrote our Constitution and Bill of Rights exercised that vigilance even though they had recently fought and won the Revolutionary War. They did not live in comfortable and easy times of hypothetical enemies. They wrote a Constitution of limited powers and an explicit Bill of Rights to protect liberty in times of war, as well as in times of peace.

There have been periods in our nation’s history when civil liberties have taken a back seat to what appeared at the time to be the legitimate exigencies of war. Our national consciousness still bears the stain and the scars of those events: The Alien and Sedition Acts, the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, the internment of Japanese-Americans, German-Americans, and Italian-Americans during World War II, the blacklisting of supposed communist sympathizers during the McCarthy era, and the surveillance and harassment of antiwar protesters, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., during the Vietnam War. We must not allow these pieces of our past to become prologue.

As this morning’s panel has discussed, even in our great land, wartime has sometimes brought us the greatest tests of our Bill of Rights.

For example, during the Civil War, the government arrested some 13,000 civilians, implementing a system akin to martial law. President Lincoln issued a proclamation ordering the arrest and military trial of any persons “discouraging volunteer enlistments, [or] resisting militia drafts.” Wisconsin provided one of the first challenges of this order. Draft protests rose up in Milwaukee and Sheboygan. And an anti-draft riot broke out among Germans and Luxembourgers in Port Washington. When the government arrested one of the leaders of the riot, his attorney sought a writ of habeas corpus. His military captors said that the President had abolished the writ. The Wisconsin Supreme Court was among the first to rule that the President had exceeded his authority.

In 1917, the Postmaster General revoked the mailing privileges of the newspaper the Milwaukee Leader because he felt that some of its articles impeded the war effort and the draft. Articles called the President an aristocrat and called the draft oppressive. Over dissents by Justices Brandeis and Holmes, the Supreme Court upheld the action.

During World War II, President Roosevelt signed orders to incarcerate more than 110,000 people of Japanese origin, as well as some roughly 11,000 of German origin and 3,000 of Italian origin.

Earlier this year, I introduced legislation to set up a commission to review the wartime treatment of Germans, Italians, and other Europeans during that period. That bill came out of heartfelt meetings in which constituents told me their stories. They were German-Americans, who came to me with some trepidation. They had waited fifty years to raise the issue with a member of Congress. They did not want compensation. They came to me with some uneasiness. But they had seen the government’s commission on the wartime internment of people of Japanese origin, and they wanted their story to be told, and an official acknowledgment as well.

Now some may say, indeed we may hope, that we have come a long way since the those days of infringements on civil liberties. But there is ample reason for concern. I have been troubled in the past month by the potential loss of commitment to traditional civil liberties.

As it seeks to combat terrorism, the Justice Department is making extraordinary use of its power to arrest and detain individuals, jailing hundreds of people on immigration violations and arresting more than a dozen “material witnesses” not charged with any crime. Although the government has used these authorities before, it has not done so on such a broad scale. Judging from government announcements, the government has not brought any criminal charges related to the attacks with regard to the overwhelming majority of these detainees.

For example, the FBI arrested as a material witness the San Antonio radiologist Albader Al-Hazmi, who has a name like two of the hijackers, and who tried to book a flight to San Diego for a medical conference. According to his lawyer, the government held Al-Hazmi incommunicado after his arrest, and it took six days for lawyers to get access to him. After the FBI released him, his lawyer said, “This is a good lesson about how frail our processes are. It’s how we treat people in difficult times like these that is the true test of the democracy and civil liberties that we brag so much about throughout the world.”

Now, it so happens that since early 1999, I have been working on another bill that is poignantly relevant to recent events: legislation to prohibit racial profiling, especially the practice of targeting pedestrians or drivers for stops and searches based on the color of their skin. Before September 11th, people spoke of the issue mostly in the context of African-Americans and Latino-Americans who had been profiled. But after September 11, the issue has taken on a new context and a new urgency.

Even as America addresses the demanding security challenges before us, we must strive mightily also to guard our values and basic rights. We must guard against racism and ethnic discrimination against people of Arab and South Asian origin and those who are Muslim.

We who don’t have Arabic names or don’t wear turbans or headscarves may not feel the weight of these times as much as Americans from the Middle East and South Asia do. But as the great jurist Learned Hand said in a speech in New York’s Central Park during World War II: “[T]he spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias . . . .”

Was it not at least partially bias, however, when passengers on a Northwest Airlines flight in Minneapolis three weeks ago insisted that Northwest remove from the plane three Arab men who had cleared security?

Of course, given the enormous anxiety and fears generated by the events of September 11th, it would not have been difficult to anticipate some of these reactions, both by our government and some of our people. And, of course, there is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country that allowed the police to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your email communications; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to hold people in jail indefinitely based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, then the government would no doubt discover and arrest more terrorists.

But that probably would not be a country in which we would want to live. That would not be a country for which we could, in good conscience, ask our young people to fight and die. In short, that would not be America.

Preserving our freedom is the reason that we are now engaged in this new war on terrorism. We will lose that war without firing a shot if we sacrifice the liberties of the American people.

That is why I found the antiterrorism bill originally proposed by Attorney General Ashcroft and President Bush to be troubling.

The proposed bill contained vast new powers for law enforcement, some seemingly drafted in haste and others that came from the FBI’s wish list that Congress has rejected in the past. You may remember that the Attorney General announced his intention to introduce a bill shortly after the September 11 attacks. He provided the text of the bill the following Wednesday, and urged Congress to enact it by the end of the week. That was plainly impossible, but the pressure to move on this bill quickly, without deliberation and debate, has been relentless ever since.

It is one thing to shortcut the legislative process in order to get federal financial aid to the cities hit by terrorism. We did that, and no one complained that we moved too quickly. It is quite another to press for the enactment of sweeping new powers for law enforcement that directly affect the civil liberties of the American people without due deliberation by the peoples’ elected representatives.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed at least to some extent, and while this bill has been on a fast track, there has been time to make some changes and reach agreement on a bill that is less objectionable than the bill that the Administration originally proposed.

As I will discuss in a moment, I concluded that the Senate bill still does not strike the right balance between empowering law enforcement and protecting civil liberties. But that does not mean that I oppose everything in the bill. Indeed many of its provisions are entirely reasonable, and I hope they will help law enforcement more effectively counter the threat of terrorism.

For example, it is entirely appropriate that with a warrant the FBI be able to seize voice mail messages as well as tap a phone. It is also reasonable, even necessary, to update the federal criminal offense relating to possession and use of biological weapons. It made sense to make sure that phone conversations carried over cables would not have more protection from surveillance than conversations carried over phone lines. And it made sense to stiffen penalties and lengthen or eliminate statutes of limitation for certain terrorist crimes.

There are other non-controversial provisions in the bill which I support – those to assist the victims of crime, to streamline the application process for public safety officers benefits and increase those benefits, to provide more funds to strengthen immigration controls at our Northern borders, expedite the hiring of translators at the FBI, and many others.

In the end, however, my focus on this bill, as Chair of the Constitution Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, was on those provisions that implicate our constitutional freedoms. And it was in reviewing those provisions that I came to feel that the Administration’s demand for haste was inappropriate; indeed, it was dangerous. Our process in the Senate, as truncated as it was, did lead to the elimination or significant rewriting of a number of audacious proposals that I and many other members found objectionable.

For example, the original Administration proposal that was dropped contained a provision that would have allowed the use in U.S. criminal proceedings against U.S. citizens of information obtained by foreign law enforcement agencies in wiretaps that would be illegal in this country. In other words, evidence obtained in an unconstitutional search overseas was to be allowed in a U.S. court.

Another provision would have broadened the criminal forfeiture laws to permit – prior to conviction – the freezing of assets entirely unrelated to an alleged crime. The Justice Department has wanted this authority for years, and Congress has never been willing to give it. For one thing, it touches on the right to counsel, since assets that are frozen cannot be used to pay a lawyer. The courts have almost uniformly rejected efforts to restrain assets before conviction unless they are assets gained in the alleged criminal enterprise. This proposal, in my view, was simply an effort on the part of the Department to take advantage of the emergency situation and get something that they’ve wanted to get for a long time.

The foreign wiretap and criminal forfeiture provisions were dropped from the bill that we considered in the Senate. Other provisions were rewritten based on objections that I and others raised about them. For example, the original bill contained sweeping permission for the Attorney General to get copies of educational records without a court order. The final bill in the Senate requires a court order and the certification by the Attorney General that he has reason to believe that the records contain information that is relevant to an investigation of terrorism.

Another provision increased penalties for conspiracy to the level of the penalties for the underlying crime. I was concerned that this might bring the federal death penalty into play for conspiracy. The provision was modified to make life in prison the maximum penalty for conspiracy.

And the definition of “federal terrorism offense,” originally a laundry list of federal crimes that in some instances might, but in most instances would not, relate to terrorism was significantly narrowed.

So the bill the Senate passed last night was certainly improved from the bill that the Administration sent to us on September 19, and wanted us to pass on September 21. But again, in my judgement, it did not strike the right balance between empowering law enforcement and protecting constitutional freedoms. Let me take a moment to discuss some of the shortcomings of the bill that we passed in the Senate very late Thursday night, by a vote of 96-1. And I guess you know by now who the “one” was.

First, the bill contains some very significant changes in criminal procedure that will apply to every federal criminal investigation in this country, not just those involving terrorism. One provision would greatly expand the circumstances in which law enforcement agencies can search homes and offices without notifying the owner prior to the search. The longstanding practice under the Fourth Amendment of serving a warrant prior to executing a search could be easily avoided in virtually every case because the government would simply have to show that it has “reasonable cause to believe” that providing notice “may” “seriously jeopardize an investigation.” This is a significant infringement on personal liberty.

Notice is a key element of Fourth Amendment protections. It allows a person to point out mistakes in a warrant and make sure that a search is limited to the terms of a warrant. Just think about the possibility of the police showing up at your door with a warrant to search your house. You look at the warrant and say, “yes, that’s my address, but the name on the warrant isn’t me.” And the police realize a mistake has been made an go away. If you’re not home, and the police have received permission to do a “sneak and peak” search, they can come in your house, look around, and leave, and may never have to tell you.

Another very troubling provision has to do with the effort to combat computer crime. The bill allows law enforcement to monitor a computer with the permission of its owner or operator, without the need to get a warrant or show probable cause. That’s fine in the case of a so called “denial of service attack” or plain old computer hacking. A computer owner should be able to give the police permission to monitor communications coming from what amounts to a trespasser on the computer.

As drafted in the Senate bill, however, the provision might permit an employer to give permission to the police to monitor the emails of an employee who has used her computer at work to shop for Christmas gifts. Or someone who uses a computer at a library or at school and happens to go to a gambling or pornography site in violation of the Internet use policies of the library or the university might also be subjected to government surveillance – without probable cause and without any time limit.

I am also very troubled by the broad expansion of government power under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA. When Congress passedFISA in 1978 it granted to the executive branch the power to conduct surveillance in foreign intelligence investigations without meeting the rigorous probable cause standard under the Fourth Amendment that is required for criminal investigations. There is a lower threshold for obtaining a wiretap order from the FISA court because the FBI is not investigating a crime, it is investigating foreign intelligence activities. The law currently requires that intelligence gathering be the primary purpose of the investigation in order for this lower standard to apply.

The bill that passed the Senate last night changes that requirement. If it becomes law, and there is every reason to believe with a Senate vote of 96-1 that it will, the government will only have to show that intelligence is a “significant purpose” of the investigation. Even if the primary purpose is a criminal investigation, the heightened protections of the Fourth Amendment won’t apply.

It seems obvious that with this lower standard, the FBI will try to use FISA as much as it can. And of course, with terrorism investigations that won’t be difficult because the terrorists are apparently sponsored or at least supported by foreign governments.

But the significance of the breakdown of the distinction between intelligence and criminal investigations becomes apparent when you see the other expansions of government power under FISA in this bill. One provision that troubles me a great deal is a provision that permits the government under FISA to compel the production of records from any business regarding any person if that information is sought in connection with an investigation of terrorism or espionage.

Now we’re not talking here about travel records pertaining to a terrorist suspect, which we all can see can be highly relevant to an investigation of a terrorist plot.FISA already gives the FBI the power to get airline, train, hotel, car rental and other records of a suspect.

But under the Senate bill, the government can compel the disclosure of anyone – perhaps someone who worked with, or lived next door to, or went to school with, or sat on an airplane with, or has been seen in the company of, or whose phone number was called by the target of the investigation.

And under this new provisions all business records can be compelled, including those containing sensitive personal information like medical records from hospitals or doctors, or educational records, or records of what books someone has taken out of the library. This is an enormous expansion of authority, under a law that provides only minimal judicial supervision.

Under this provision, the government can apparently go on a fishing expedition and collect information on virtually anyone. All it has to allege in order to get an order for these records from the court is that the information is sought for an investigation of international terrorism or clandestine intelligence gathering. That’s it. On that minimal showing in an ex parte application to a secret court, with no showing even that the information is relevant to the investigation, the government can lawfully compel a doctor or hospital to release medical records, or a library to release circulation records. This is a truly breathtaking expansion of police power.

As some of you know, I raised a few of these issues during our debate on the bill on Thursday night. I had to wage war with my own leadership over the previous two days to get that opportunity. The leadership of both parties wanted to take this bill, which was never considered or voted on in the Judiciary Committee, and ram it through the U.S. Senate without a single amendment being offered.

In the end, the high water mark for my three amendments was 13 votes – that was on the amendment to the computer trespass provision. Prior to that vote the majority leader of the Senate stood up and implored the Senate to vote down all of my amendments, not on their merits, but because a deal had been struck on this bill.

This was not, in my view, the finest hour for the United States Senate. The debate on a bill that may have the most far reaching consequences on the civil liberties of the American people in a generation was a non-debate. The merits took a back seat to the deal.

Let me turn to a final area of real concern about this legislation because I think it brings us full circle to the cautions I expressed on the day after the attacks. There are two very troubling provisions dealing with our immigration laws in this bill.

First, the Administration’s original proposal would have granted the Attorney General extraordinary powers to detain immigrants indefinitely, including legal permanent residents. The Attorney General could do so based on mere suspicion that the person is engaged in terrorism. I believe the Administration was really over-reaching here, and I am pleased that Senator Leahy was able to negotiate some protections. The Senate bill now requires the Attorney General to charge the immigrant within seven days with a criminal offense or immigration violation. In the event that the Attorney General does not charge the immigrant, the immigrant must be released.

While this protection is an improvement, the provision remains fundamentally flawed. The Senate bill, even with this seven-day charging requirement, would nevertheless continue to permit the indefinite detention in two situations. First, immigrants who win their deportation cases could continue to be held if the Attorney General continues to have suspicions. Second, this provision creates a deep unfairness to immigrants who are found not to be deportable for terrorism but have an immigration status violation, such as overstaying a visa. If the immigration judge finds that they are eligible for relief from deportation, and therefore can stay in the country because, for example, they have longstanding family ties here, the Attorney General could continue to hold them indefinitely.

The second provision in the bill that deeply troubles me allows the detention and deportation of people engaging in innocent associational activity. But the Senate bill would allow for the detention and deportation of individuals who provide lawful assistance to groups that are not even designated by the Secretary of State as terrorist organizations, but instead have engaged in vaguely defined “terrorist activity” sometime in the past. To avoid deportation, the immigrant is required to prove a negative: that he or she did not know, and should not have known, that the assistance would further terrorist activity.

This language creates a very real risk that truly innocent individuals could be deported for innocent associations with humanitarian or political groups that the government later chooses to regard as terrorist organizations. Groups that might fit this definition could include Operation Rescue, Greenpeace, and even the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban in northern Afghanistan. This provision amounts to “guilt by association,” which I believe violates the First Amendment.

And speaking of the First Amendment, under this bill, a lawful permanent resident who makes a controversial speech that the government deems to be supportive of terrorism might be barred from returning to his or her family after taking a trip abroad.

Now here’s where my cautions in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and my concern over the reach of the anti-terrorism bill come together. To the extent that the expansive new immigration powers that the bill grants to the Attorney General are subject to abuse, who do we think is most likely to bear the brunt of that abuse? It won’t be immigrants from Ireland, it won’t be immigrants from El Salvador or Nicaragua, it won’t even be immigrants from Haiti or Africa. It will be immigrants from Arab, Muslim, and South Asian countries. In the wake of these terrible events, our government has been given vast new powers and they may fall most heavily on a minority of our population who already feel particularly acutely the pain of this disaster.

The anti-terrorism bill that we considered in the Senate this week highlights the march of technology, and how that march cuts both for and against personal liberty. Justice Brandeis foresaw some of the future in a 1928 dissent, when he wrote:

“The progress of science in furnishing the Government with means of espionage is not likely to stop with wire-tapping. Ways may some day be developed by which the Government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences of the home. . . . Can it be that the Constitution affords no protection against such invasions of individual security?”

We must grant law enforcement the tools that it needs to stop this terrible threat. But we must give them only those extraordinary tools that they need and that relate specifically to the task at hand.

In the play, “A Man for All Seasons,” Sir Thomas More questions the bounder Roper whether he would level the forest of English laws to punish the Devil. “What would you do?” More asks, “Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?” Roper affirms, “I’d cut down every law in England to do that.” To which More replies:

“And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast . . . and if you cut them down . . . d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake. ”

We must maintain our vigilance to preserve our laws and our basic rights.

You and I have a duty to analyze, to test, to weigh new laws that the zealous and often sincere advocates of security would suggest to us. This is what I have tried to do with the so-called anti-terrorism bill.

Protecting the safety of the American people is a solemn duty of the Congress; we must work tirelessly to prevent more tragedies like the devastating attacks of September 11th. We must prevent more children from losing their mothers, more wives from losing their husbands, and more firefighters from losing their brave and heroic colleagues. But the Congress will fulfill its duty only when it protects both the American people and the freedoms at the foundation of American society. So let us preserve our heritage of basic rights. Let us practice that liberty. And let us fight to maintain that freedom that we call America.

Source: http://www.archipelago.org/vol6-2/feingold.htm

Events In African American History For October 25


1. In 1892, 118 Years ago Today, L. F. Brown received Patent for Bridle bit Patent No. 484,994.

2. In 1940, 70 Years ago Today, Benjamin O. Davis Sr became the first Black general in US Army.

3. In 1940, Black newspaper owner’s group, the NNPA (Negro Newspaper Publishers Association), is founded.The group later changed its name to the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

4. In 1958, An estimated 10,000 students led by Jackie Robinson, Harry Belafonte, and labor leader A. Phillip Randolph, participate in a youth march for integrated schools in Washington, D.C.

5. In 1976, A  full pardon is granted to Clarence “Willie” Norris, the last known survivor of the nine “Scottsboro Boys.” The group of black men had been framed in a 1931 conviction for allegedly raping two white women.

6. In 1990, Evander Holyfield knocks out James “Buster” Douglas in the third round to become the undisputed world heavyweight champion.

7. In 1992, 18 Years ago Today, Cito Gaston, as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, became the first Black Manager to lead a Major League Baseball team to win a world series title, defeating the Atlanta Braves.

8. in 1994  Susan Smith (a white woman) set off a nationwide man hunt when she claimed that a Black Man had car jacked her and kidnapped her two young children.  It was later revealed that she had murdered her two boys by buckling them in her car and driving them into a lake.

9. In 1997, 13 Years ago Today, The Million Woman March in Philadelphia at the Museum Of Art included Winnie Mandela and Maxine Waters as Keynote Speakers.

Birthdays Of Famous African Americans For October 24


1. Kweisi Mfume (Frizzell Gerald Gray), Activist, Former NAACP President, five-term Democratic Congressman from Maryland’s 7th congressional district, serving in the 100th through 104th Congress.

2. Perry Lee Tavares, R&B Artist,  a member of  the Grammy award winning  R&B, funk and soul music group Tavares composed of five  brothers from New Bedford, Massachusetts.

3. Monica Denise Arnold, professionally known as Monica, is an American R&B singer, songwriter, and occasional actress. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Arnold was a member of Charles Thompson and the Majestics, a traveling 12-piece gospel choir prior to signing a solo recording contract with Arista Records in 1995. In 1991, at the age of eleven, Monica was discovered by music producer Dallas Austin at the Center Stage auditorium in Atlanta performing Whitney Houston 1986’s Greatest Love Of All.

4.  Betty Swann (born Betty Jean Champion) is an soul music singer, best known for her 1967 hit song “Make Me Yours“.

5. Adrienne Eliza Bailon, actress, singer-songwriter, dancer, and television personality. She was a member of former girl groups 3LW and The Cheetah Girls, and is also known for her roles in the Disney Channel Original Movie of the same name and latter sequels which brought the group to prominence. She is currently a solo artist via Island Def Jam, as well as hosts afternoon programming and other events for MTV.

Events In African American History For October 23


1. In 1888, 122 Years ago Today, A. B. Blackburn received Patent for Cash carrier

2. In 1947, 63 Years ago Today, NAACP petition on racism, “An Appeal to the World,” presented to United Nations.

3.  In 1989, Charles Stuart (A White Man), shot and killed his pregnant wife, Carol Stuart. His accusation that a black man was responsible inflamed racial tensions in Boston.

Tag Cloud