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June 25, 2008

We have a Filibuster!

Quote of the Day:

“It [the State] has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste, with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men. “
— H. L. Mencken

Subject: Feingold will filibuster the warrantless spying bill

Good News on FISA

Yesterday DC Downsizers bombarded the Senate with thousands of messages requesting that their Senator’s filibuster to block the “FISA Amendments Act of 2008.” Last night word came that Senator Russ Feingold will do exactly that!

Thanks to Senator Feingold we will now need only 41 nay votes to defeat this bad bill.

With a little more work we can . . .

* Preserve the 4th Amendment’s protections against warrantless spying on American citizens
* Force the telecoms that collaborated with previous illegal spying to defend themselves in court

We may also have some breathing room. The Senate is trying to leave town, and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid announced last night that they probably won’t have time to deal with the FISA bill before they go. We’ll be coming back to this campaign. In the meantime . . .

It would be nice to call Senator Feingold’s office — particularly if you are registered to vote in Wisconsin — and praise him for having the courage to filibuster the “FISA Amendments Act of 2008.” You can call his office at 202-224-5323.

National Animal Identification System

We also have other work to do. We’ve been campaigning for a long time against something called NAIS, the National Animal Identification System. NAIS is a bureaucratic nightmare designed to tag every farm animal in America, and track them in yet another vast centralized government database.

The alleged purpose of NAIS is too improve food safety, but the rules are written to favor large corporate farms, while strangling small farms in a web of expensive compliance costs. NAIS could put many farmers out of business and concentrate agriculture in fewer and fewer hands.

This could make our food supply less safe, rather than more secure. Centralized food production will be more vulnerable to the spread of disease. We need diversity, not concentration.

NAIS is also unnecessary. Despite highly publicized problems our food supply has actually been getting more safe, without additional regulation. The economist Alex Tabarrok provides the evidence here.

In addition, some of the most publicized food problems, as with the sick cow forced into the food chain by the Hallmark/Westland company, owe more to the failure of government regulators to do their job using powers and resources they already have. In fact, those cows were tagged under current regulation. Obviously, that didn’t prevent sick cows from being processed into meat for schoolchildren, and NAIS won’t do so either.

NAIS is just another government power grab. And, as usual, Congress and the bureaucracy are trying every trick in the book to ram this system down the throat of America’s farmers. The tactics they’re using could, ironically, be called “picking off the herd.” If they can’t pass NAIS, they’ll phase elements of it in, piecemeal.

The first piece of the meal is a provision inserted into a pending agriculture appropriations bill. This provision would prohibit the USDA from buying food for the federal school lunch program from farms that aren’t NAIS compliant. And lest you think we’re exaggerating about the intent, here’s how House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro presented this proposal to her Congressional colleagues . . .

We will also strengthen Animal ID and the National School Lunch Program including language to provide market-based incentives to strengthen both the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and the National School Lunch Program. This proposal would increase participation in the animal ID program… Because AMS (Agricultural Marketing Service) is a major purchaser of meat products through the School Lunch Program, this proposal would generate significant market-based incentives to strengthen the department’s voluntary animal ID system and support livestock producers and other premises that signup for USDA’s system . . . The public has already made a massive investment in USDA’s NAIS system – $128 million since fiscal year 2004. Why not use the system that the public has paid for to support producers who voluntarily enroll in NAIS and to strengthen the animal traceability capability to provide better assurances for the National School Lunch Program?

The bill provides a total NAIS funding level of $14.5 million. That’s $4.8 million above 2008 levels. But it will only succeed in driving up the cost of the school lunch program, centralizing the sources of food for this program, and harming smaller, local farms.

DownsizsDC.org has signed a coalition letter asking Congress to remove this provision from the appropriations bill. You can help by sending a similar message to Congress. Our standard message for this campaign asks Congress to end the NAIS program. PLEASE USE YOUR PERSONAL COMMENTS to request that the school lunch NAIS provision also be removed from the current agriculture appropriations bill, which does not yet have a bill number assigned, but is in now moved to mark-up by the full Agriculture Committee. You can send your message here.

Support

Finally, we’re down to five days left in the month of June, and we still need to raise another $1,364 to earn the $3,600 in matching contributions and make budget for this month. As you can see in this message, DownsizeDC.org is having an effect! Would you please help us make the goal by the deadline? You can contribute here.

Thank you for being a part of the growing Downsize DC Army.

Jim Babka
President
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

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