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June 22, 2006

Is Congress a “gang” under S.155?

Today’s Downsizer-Dispatch . . .

Sigmund Freud famously asked, “What does woman want?” He also famously asserted that “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

Downsize DC not-so-famously asks, “Is Congress a gang, and does it need to be abated?”

And we not-so-assertively assert that “Sometimes Congress could be a gang, depending on the future use and misuse made of Senate bill 155 — the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act.” And so could your motorcycle club, your chess club, your rose growing league, and potentially any association under the sun, including Downsize DC.

It all depends on what the meaning of is, is. Sigmund Freud’s use of the word “sometimes” would seem to suggest that sometimes he thought a cigar was not just a cigar (Bill Clinton probably agrees), and Congress’s historical relationship to the Constitutional words “Congress shall make no law,” would seem to suggest that sometimes a club, or association, could also be a gang.

The definition of “gang” could depend on the answer to the question, “What does Congress want?” Congress clearly wants to have a “living Constitution” that can have any meaning at any time, with no actual words ever being changed. And they may also want a “living S. 155” so that any group could be labeled a gang, if the Feds felt a need to abate or prevent that group.

S. 155 is the brainchild of Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein of California. This bill has many different versions, under many different names. It seems to mutate faster than the HIV virus. It also, like most Congressional bills, shows a tendency toward promiscuity. It could be joined with another bill, with a different subject, at any time. And a major disease could result.

S. 155 would make it a crime to belong to a group, or to recruit members to that group, as long as that group is called a gang. S. 155 would also do all sorts of other things, many of which are unknown to us because the bill is long, and we haven’t had time to read it yet. WE ONLY JUST LEARNED ABOUT THIS BILL FROM SECRET INFORMERS LAST NIGHT! But remember, Congress won’t read S. 155 either, before they attach it to “The Sweetness and Light and Everything Good Act” in the dead of night, and rush it to a vote.

Indeed, the gang known as the Senate Judiciary Committee is having a secret conspiratorial meeting (otherwise known as an executive session) right now, to consider S. 155. And rumor has it that they may join S. 155 to some kind of “we hate sex offenders” bill that no one will dare to vote against. There are so many things wrong with all of this . . .

* Neither gang abatement nor sex offenses are the business of the federal government.
* Criminal law is a state function, under our Constitution, not a federal function.
* The Judiciary Committee should meet in secret.
* Bills should not be attached to other bills.
* Bills should be available to the public for at least a week before a vote is held.
* Laws should not engage in prior restraint, or criminalize free association.
* Laws should not be vague, leaving the concrete details to bureaucratic discretion.

But there’s more. S. 155 has all the makings of another RICO Act. RICO is the law that, among other things, allows the government to charge your property with a crime, and seize it under a civil procedure with lax standards of evidence. Do we really need another RICO Act?

In the movie “Little Caesar,” the gang leader Rico, played by Edward G. Robinson, is shot down. As he lays dying he asks the great existential question, “Is this the end of Rico?” The answer is yes. Rico dies. The RICO Act, and all its clones, like S. 155, should suffer the same fate. Congress should not deal with lawless gangs by becoming a lawless gang. But that’s exactly what they’re doing. And the time is short to thwart this criminal conspiracy . . .

We don’t have time to mount one of our standard Electronic Advocacy campaigns. Phone calls are needed. Make the Senate Judiciary Gang nervous. If you see one of your Senators on the Gang Roster below, call them and tell them to oppose S. 155 and all its variants. If your Senator is not on this list then call the Senate Judiciary Gang Leader, Arlen Specter, and tell him to stop S. 155.

* Make a note of what you want to say before you call.
* Be polite yet firm.
* When you’re done, please email feedback at and let us know how your call went.

Please do so now. It will be fun, and it will only take a minute. Here’s the list of gang members . . .

Arlen Specter – CHAIRMAN, PENNSYLVANIA – 202-224-4254
Orrin G. Hatch – UTAH – 202-224-5251
Patrick J. Leahy – VERMONT – 202-224-4242
Charles E. Grassley – IOWA – 202-224-3744
Edward M. Kennedy – MASSACHUSETTS – 202-224-4543
Jon Kyl – ARIZONA – 202-224-4521
Joseph R. Biden, Jr. – DELAWARE – 202-224-5042
Mike DeWine – OHIO – 202-224-2315
Herbert Kohl – WISCONSIN – 202-224-5653
Jeff Sessions – ALABAMA – 202-224-4124
Dianne Feinstein – CALIFORNIA – 202-224-3841
Lindsey Graham – SOUTH CAROLINA – 202-224-5972
Russell D. Feingold – WISCONSIN – 202-224-5323
John Cornyn – TEXAS – 202-224-2934
Charles E. Schumer – NEW YORK – 202-224-6542
Sam Brownback – KANSAS – 202-224-6521
Richard J. Durbin – ILLINOIS – 202-224-2152
Tom Coburn – OKLAHOMA – 202-224-5754


Our gang of monthly pledgers grew dramatically yesterday. We’re still processing and will have a report for you soon. If you would like to join the gang by making a monthly pledge of $3 or more, or by making a one-time contribution to cover our June costs, you can do so here.

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.

Perry Willis
Communications Director, Inc.

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