The Patriot Act

By Martin Leatherman, staff
This Fourth of July weekend, Americans will descend on their local parks and fire up the barbecues for a celebration of independence and liberty packed with fireworks and patriotic zeal. The Patriot Act, just four years old, has asked Americans to relinquish some of those hard-earned liberties in exchange for greater security. Passed by Congress in the emotional aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the controversial bill expanded the federal government’s investigative and intelligence-gathering powers to fight terrorism. Among other things, it allows secret searches of private property, defines terrorism broadly, expands the government’s ability to watch people, and opens Internet use and personal reading habits to federal scrutiny. Now, with portions of the bill due to “sunset” or expire, Congress has begun debating its reauthorization — and critics are targeting provisions they say are too easily abused.

The Labor Movement

By Martin Leatherman,
Even as income and union membership declines for America’s working class, problems of forced labor and low working standards worldwide are driving new activist movements. Many concerns are focused on the AFL-CIO, the leading federation of traditional U.S. industrial unions. John Sweeney, president of the group, is under pressure from dissidents to make huge changes in priorities, including a new emphasis on organizing over lobbying. Andrew Stern, president of the growing Service Employees International Union, is even calling for Sweeny’s removal. At its peak in the 1960s, about 30 percent of workers in the United States were unionized.

The Activist Judiciary

Martin Leatherman,

With Representative Tom DeLay calling for the dismantling and rearranging of the courts, and three contentious federal judicial nominations up for confirmation, judicial activism is again in the spotlight. The conflict has its roots in the 1803 Supreme Court case Marbury v Madison, in which Justice John Marshall established the power of judicial review for American jurists. His ruling enables the courts to overturn legislation that is deemed contrary to the Constitution, a precedent that solidified the role of the judiciary as a separate but equal entity in federal government. Now, Republican members of Congress, saying that the courts have exceeded their mandate, have begun to push for more control. According to the Associated Press, DeLay has been investigating several ways of doing this.

FOCUS: Election Reform

Research by Allison Bloch, Intern 
The controversies of the 2000 presidential election provoked heated debate and new legislation intended to prevent similar problems in the future. In 2004, with electoral irregularities only growing more widespread, calls for reform have renewed appeal. Campaign finance, the electoral college and disenfranchisement are just a few of the issues under debate. will be following this issue throughout 2005. Consider this short survey just the tip of the iceberg.

The Recount Accounts

Research by Allison Bloch, Intern 
BREAKING NEWS: Get the latest on U.S. election recounts. Improved processes and technology were supposed to prevent a rerun of the Florida 2000 election debacle. Instead, in 2004, complaints have multiplied. Ohio, New Mexico, Nevada, Washington state and San Diego, Calif., are rife with accusations of irregularities, and the discoveries of lost and undercounted votes. Protesters face an uphill battle to get recounts underway.