It seems like the announcement of every other Washington scandal lately
includes a reference to some �obscure provision� of one of our laws.
federal prosecutors are fired and under an obscure provision of the
USAPATRIOT Act, allowing the administration to replace them without Senate
- The FBI
issues over 144,000 National Security Letters collecting personal
financial information due to an obscure provision of the USAPATRIOT Act.
- An obscure
provision of the defense budget bill makes it easier for a president to
override local control of law enforcement and declare martial law.
- A last-minute
addition to the Medicare bill enables certain insurance companies to circumvent
the time restrictions placed on Medicare Advantage registrations.
- Due to an
obscure provision of the 2004 tax law, oil companies will save at least
$3.6 billion over the next decade in corporate taxes.
- An obscure
provision of the Deficit Reduction Act requires participants to prove
their citizenship to qualify for Medicaid, even though most of the poor
served by Medicaid lack passports or other documentation.
- Oil companies
stand to gain as much as $28 billion under an obscure provision in the energy
bill that waives the royalties on oil and gas produced in the Gulf of
The list goes on and on. I realize that all these laws are complex and
detailed. It can take hours to read them. And I know that our lawmakers are
very busy with junkets and fund-raisers and campaigns. But, can�t they make the
time to find some of these weird loopholes BEFORE they vote for them? I mean,
lobbyists and the administration provide a great public service by writing
these laws; do we have to count on them to read them to us as well?
I started wondering what other legislative surprises await us. So,
unlike at least half of our lawmakers, I decided to actually read some laws in
search of more of these �obscure provisions.� I�m afraid I found some doosies!
- The Emergency
Budget Appropriations Act declares the lima bean as our National Fruit.
- Under a
provision of the Immigration Reform Bill, border agents have �the right to
question, torture and ingest illegal aliens, but only if the agents are
really, really hungry at the time.�
- The War
Powers Act empowers the president to declare war, not only on Afghanistan
and Iraq, but �any Middle Eastern country whose name begins with a vowel.�
That means potential targets include Iran, Israel, Oman, the United Arab
Emirates and sometimes Yemen.
- A little
nugget in the Veterinary Public Health Workforce Expansion Act declares
George W. Bush as President for Life.
- The Milk
Marketing Orders Act -- �In Heaven, loyal Bushies will be rewarded with
400 gallons of premium ice cream, 72 virgins and a really nice car.�
- There�s a
rather disturbing line in the Energy Bill that says �Dick Cheney is one
extremely handsome fellow.�
- And, believe
me, you don�t want to know how the Compact of Free Association Amendments
Act of 2003 defines �serving at the pleasure of the president!�
Doesn�t anyone read these things?
I found lots of obscure provisions in practically
every law I read, but the Patriot Act and the Military Commission�s Act are
just chock full of them! How did all of these provisions slip past our good
senators and congresspeople? I mean, there is no way any legislator would
knowingly vote for a bill that includes the crazy stuff I found hidden there.
These laws have provisions that effectively eliminate habeas corpus and condone
torture. They enable indefinite detention without cause, indiscriminate
wiretaps and extensive warrantless mining of our financial and personal
information. The executive branch can declare pretty much anyone an �enemy
combatant� with no rights or protections. I mean, there�s no way our good and
decent legislators would have approved any of those obscure provisions if they
had known about them! Would they?