The Watering Hole, Saturday, June 8, 2013: Mother, Should I Trust The Government?

When your government, one that is supposed to be of the People, by the People, and for the People, appears to violate the Constitution and invade the privacy of the People without probable cause, should you really just trust them when they can just say they can’t tell you exactly what they’re doing because it would harm national security? Especially when, most of the time, they are not required to prove to any judge that national security really is involved? And this is despite the fact that when the Supreme Court ruled that the government can invoke such a privilege (it was not the first time it was used, simply the first time the Supreme Court said they could do it), they stressed that the decision to withhold evidence is to be made by the presiding judge and not the executive. Unfortunately, judges generally defer to the Executive. This is a bad idea. The government doesn’t always tell the truth, which is what happened in the very case that led to recognition of the state secrets privilege. “In 2000, the [withheld classified information from the 1953 case was] declassified and released, and it was found that the assertion that they contained secret information was fraudulent.” So the right of the government to claim that information shouldn’t be released because it contained details whose release might be harmful to national security was based on a case where the government lied and said the release of certain information would be harmful to national security when it really wouldn’t. Doesn’t that mean they can keep anything they want secret just by invoking “state secrets,” even if it doesn’t really apply? How do you convince a judge to look at the information and challenge the government’s claims?

We recently learned that our government has been collecting “telephony metadata” on every phone call made by Verizon customers (and let’s not assume that it only applied to Verizon customers) for several years now. It is important to note that they stressed that it was important to note that they were not listening to the phone calls themselves, nor were they recording the calls so they could be listened to later, and that they were only collecting the phone number of the caller, the phone number being called, the time of day, the length of the call, and possibly the location of the parties involved (! emphasis mine). Here’s why I’m concerned (from the second link):

“But civil liberties lawyers say that the use of the privilege to shut down legal challenges was making a mockery of such “judicial oversight”. Though classified information was shown to judges in camera, the citing of the precedent in the name of national security cowed judges into submission.

The administration is saying that even if they are violating the constitution or committing a federal crime no court can stop them because it would compromise national security. That’s a very dangerous argument,” said Ilann Maazel, a lawyer with the New York-based Emery Celli firm who acts as lead counsel in the Shubert case.

“This has been legally frustrating and personally upsetting,” Maazel added. “We have asked the government time after time what is the limit to the state secrets privilege, whether there’s anything the government can’t do and keep it secret, and every time the answer is: no.”

That’s not how our country is supposed to work. We’re not supposed to have a Constitution that defines and limits our government’s powers, but then decide we’ll ignore it when it gets in the way of doing what we want to do. If you want to do a search on private information without a warrant and without probable cause, then amend the part of the Constitution that says in order to do a search on private information, you have to have a warrant and you have to have probable cause. And if you read the Constitution (which I know many Americans have not, as evidenced by what we’ve seen at Tea Party rallies), you will find that the only mention of secrecy in our government is to the part of each House of Congress’ daily journals they think should be kept secret. It mentions nothing about Executive Privilege, or state secrets, or even of any right of the President (or Vice President) to hold secret meetings and keep the advice of the unnamed guests secret. People (and by the term “People” I’m generously including Justices of the Supreme Court) seem to forget that the President of the United States, for all the power we give that office, is a Public Servant. So any advice given to the President, by anyone at all, that concerns what might be in the best interests of the People ought to be both available to the public and actually in the best interests of the people. Otherwise, the President is not being a servant of the public but a servant of a private interest, and this can not be allowed. But in order to make sure that isn’t happening, we have to have access to what was discussed in those meetings. [Discussions with military personnel would be an obvious exception, but only because the military personnel would be addressing their Commander in Chief, and would not be having domestic policy discussions.]

The argument that if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to worry about is a ridiculous one because that isn’t the point. The point is that our Constitution clearly says that not only do you have a right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, but that if they want to begin one, they have to get a warrant, supported by oath or affirmation, and “particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” (The Constitution is unclear on whether the search they can now conduct can be an “unreasonable” one. If the TV shows I’ve seen showing cops cutting open furniture, spilling powders on the floors and tables, and emptying anything that might be a container are in the least bit realistic, then it seems they are then allowed an “unreasonable” search.) So who gave the FISA Court judge a statement under oath or affirmation that says it’s necessary to know what number was called from your phone, when the call was made, how long it lasted, and where the two of you were when the conversation was taking place? The authority to conduct any such search is supposedly granted under the USA PATRIOT Act, but that law, if you know what the letters mean, is about tools for fighting Terrorism. Is there some reason the government should have the idea that you’re a terrorist? Then what business do they have keeping track of how your phone is being used?

Another false argument is that you already give your personal information away to private corporations, so what’s wrong with the government asking them to give that same information to you? What’s wrong is that a private corporation does not have the authority to throw you in jail based on what it knows about you. And for all anybody knows, it’s probably in the tiny print of that credit card agreement that you gave them permission to share everything they know about your credit card use history the first time you used it. I think it says somewhere in there that you agree to any new Terms of Use by using the card. But that’s because you didn’t equate the private corporation with your government. Perhaps that’s where you went wrong. Is there really any difference any more?

A line from the following was the inspiration for the title:

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss government surveillance or anything else that keeps you up at night.

Watering Hole: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 – And So It Begins

Monday, January 21, 2013 was a historic day.  It was the 50 year anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous “I got a dream” speech and it was the second Inauguration of America’s first African American President.  If someone would have suggested that history would merge on that date 12 years ago, I would have laughed at the idea.

Anyhow, I hope that you got to hear President Obama’s second Inauguration speech.

Congratulations to President Obama and Vice President Biden.  America is fortunate to have such strong and intelligent leaders.

This is our Open Thread.  Speak Up!  It’s your First Amendment right.

Across the Pond: January 20th, 2013 – Sunday Round Up

Right. Well, I’m up anyway, so let’s check the webs.

The Hostage Crisis in Algeria seems to be over. But it ended in a bloodbath. The situation is still not quite resolved while I am typing this, but one thing is clear: All attackers and the hostages remaining in the hands of their captors are dead.

The Algerian government seems to not have thought twice about getting this done, never mind the cost. It reminds me of the Beslan massacre where a hostage taking by Chechen rebels in a school was ended by the Russian forces without any consideration of the hostages’ fate.

“The terrorists were prepared to commit a collective suicide; the army’s intervention led to their neutralisation. Unfortunately, the hostages were executed,”

said El Watan a local newspaper. Well, the public will hear the truth about this at some point.

There is, of course, the war in Mali headlining over here in Europe. You can find a very useful summary of the players involved on the BBC News website. The French are involved in a situation, which, in my humble opinion, may land them in their own version of Afghanistan. Germans are discussing what kind of contribution they can make but there’s the fact that this is a super election year which will be kicked off today in Lower Saxonia. Chancellor Merkel will, obviously, not be getting into any military adventures this year if she can help it at all. President Obama does not show any inclination to get the US involved either. 

Neu ist, dass die USA nicht instinktiv zu einer Führungsrolle innerhalb einer solchen «Koalition der Willigen» drängen. Bereits im Libyen-Krieg hatten sie nach aussen hin den Franzosen den Vorrang gelassen. Die Amerikaner übernahmen damals aber, ohne dies an die grosse Glocke zu hängen, einen beträchtlichen Teil der Lufteinsätze und halfen den Europäern aus, als diesen die Munition ausging. Obama nannte dies «Führung von hinten», was ihm einigen Spott eintrug – aber um einen Führungsanspruch handelte es sich gleichwohl. Davon kann in Mali keine Rede mehr sein.

(It is new, that the US does not instinctively claim a leading role in such a “coalition of the willing”. In the Libya war they had already let the French have the leading role, at least outwardly. The Americans, however, have at that time without making any fuss about it taken over a considerable number of airstrikes and helped out when the Europeans were running out of ammunition. Obama called this “leading from behind” which caused some ridicule, but – nevertheless – included the will to lead. In Mali there is no mention of it. Translation by yours truly

When it comes to foreign politics, looking at it from our side of the pond, New Obama, is naturally a topic of interest. The sudden change in his handling of the Republican opposition does not go unnoticed:

After being widely criticised in his first four years for a lack of savvy during negotiations with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Obama has suddenly taken a much harder line. In debates over the so-called “fiscal cliff” of tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of last year, Obama’s team secured a deal widely seen as a victory. That tougher stance has also been matched by Obama staking out a strong position on forthcoming talks with the Republicans in Congress over raising the debt ceiling. Indeed, only days after Obama gave a speech on the issue marked by stern language the Republicans last week appeared to cave in and moved to extend the ceiling for another three months. (read the whole post here)

About time, I’d say.

Have you finished your coffee? Not yet? Well, there’s more for reading found in the old world:

Oil and the interests of Canada’s First Nations

Catholic Hospitals refuse Aid to Rape Victim (Germany has its own bible belt, methinks)

Boeing’s Dreamliner is grounded

and

The Swiss are fretting over what will happen to their banks.

I hope you’ll enjoy your Sunday Morning reading.

This is an Open Thread! Join in. What is important to you today?

This is How I Feel Today

Unfortunately, the Republicans in Congress will continue to obstruct progress and try to keep the country from moving forward.  The GOP has not learned that the tide is changing and that the younger, more diverse population does not accept their right wing conservatism. The rule of the old, angry, white man is beginning to fade into the past.

Yesterday showed that money can’t buy the Presidency of the United States.  Guess Sheldon Adelson investigation by the FBI will continue.

Watering Hole: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 – The Town Hall Debacle

Tonight is the second in the 2012 Presidential debates and the format will be the town hall.  Which Romney will show up?  That’s a good question.  There is speculation that Romney will try to show that he “feels our pain” by telling stories of woe from the people that he met somewhere in his life.  Obama needs to share his stories of how people are better off during his presidency.  The President’s message should remain positive and he should speak truth to Romney lies.  President Obama needs to knock Romney off of his game.  This will be challenging because Romney is well practiced at changing the game just to close the deal.

If you have the time to read the many falsehoods spoken by Romney, here is a link to “Romney tells 533 lies in 30 weeks”.  With this many compulsive untruths being told by one person, could this person (Romney) be a pathological liar?

H/T to DailyKos for putting together Romney debating Romney.

This is our Open Thread.  Speak Up!  And if you have a favorite “Romney Lie”, let’s hear it.

The Watering Hole – Saturday June 16, 2012 “Tucker Knows Better”

Earlier in the week, a reporter named Neil Munro, who works for Tucker Carlson’s virtual fish wrapper, The Daily Caller, interrupted President Obama as he was delivering prepared remarks in the Rose Garden.

Tucker Carlson, in his ever-increasing desire to be labeled history’s biggest dick, defended the reporter’s behavior saying, “What’s wrong with asking the president a question?” Nothing. In fact it’s a perfectly legitimate expression of our First Amendment rights. Except that there is a time and a place for such questions, and during the president’s prepared remarks is not one of them. And as Shep Smith of Fox News Channel said of his colleague, “Tucker knows better.” And yet Tucker sees nothing wrong with it. Why does anyone pretend Tucker Carlson matters anymore?

This is our Open Thread.  You don’t have to complain about Tucker Carlson, but I won’t stop you if you do.

Court freezes Obama’s funding of embryonic stem cell research

The Raw Story:

A US court on Monday issued a temporary halt to federal funding of embryonic stem cell research which President Barack Obama had authorized, saying it involved the destruction of human embryos.

US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled in favor of a Christian group that opposes the research, issuing a temporary injunction that will allow plaintiffs to bring their lawsuit before the court.

“ESC (embryonic stem cell) research is clearly research in which an embryo is destroyed,” the judge said.

“To conduct ESC research, ESCs must be derived from an embryo. The process of deriving ESCs from an embryo results in the destruction of the embryo. Thus ESC research necessarily depends upon the destruction of a human embryo,” he added.

In March, Obama lifted a ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, lauding potential medical breakthroughs and a new era for US science shorn of political ideology.

The president’s executive order reversed predecessor George W. Bush’s ban, which critics say hampered the fight to find treatments for grave diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes.

Let me get this straight.. The Religious Right won’t allow embryos, that by the way are already slated to be discarded from fertility clinics, to instead be used for good in the research to find cures that will very likely save many lives.. AND YET, they have absolutely NO problem whatsoever with starting wars that kill hundreds of thousands of lives (many who are innocent), flying manless drones over countries we aren’t even at war with that drop bombs killing so many innocent lives, or even denying medical care in THIS country to those who can’t afford it.. Those lives don’t have any value I guess.. Or is it just that once the embryo becomes a live, breathing human being, their responsibility to ‘value’ life ends?? Or is it that they only value lives they consider valuable?

It seems to me that if the Right applied this fervancy to ‘preserve life’ at all costs, and to ‘do no harm’ across the board, wars would end and we as a nation would take care of all our citizens, the living, breathing ones who are the most vulnerable or at risk.

Hmmm, while I’m at it..

Is the way they ‘value’ life the same way they ‘value’ marriage between one man and one woman (well, one at a time I guess.., with others on the side)? I just can’t follow this logic..

President Obama accepts General Stanley McChrystal’s Resignation

This is President Obama’s statement this morning in the Rose Garden where he addressed reporters, the nation, and the soldiers in the field following a twenty minute meeting with General Stanley McChrystal (now ex-commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan) on the statements made that came out yesterday in the article in the Rolling Stone Magazine article “The Runaway General” by Michael Hastings.

In this video, the President announces that he has accepted the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal, that he will nominate General David Petraeus to take over command of troops in Afghanistan, and that the Administration remains unified in its commitment to victory in Afghanistan.

Transcript of President Obama’s remarks this morning.

The Watering Hole: June 16 – Calculations

Oil Spill Diver

picture source: http://www.recursosmarinos.net/?p=81

The damaged well of the Deepwater Horizon site issues up to 60’000 barrels of oil into the Gulf per day. This is ongoing for 57 days now, that makes a total of 3.4 million barrels. The worst oil spill ever caused by Iraqi forces during Gulf War I added up to 8 million barrels leaked into the environment. If the relief well is in place and stops the spill, say mid August, there will be 7 million barrels in the Gulf of Mexico. There is no reason to be that optimistic, however. The Ixtoc oil spill, which occurred 160 ft below surface and not 5000 ft, took nine months to plug. If we take this as a model, there will be 16 million barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico by January.

There is nothing BP, or all of the oil industry or your President can do about it now.

This time mankind has overreached itself and lost.

This is our open thread.

America Will Triumph

I wanted to share this article from Frank Schaeffer.

Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times best selling author.

Obama Will Triumph — So Will America
By Frank Schaeffer

Before he’d served even one year President Obama lost the support of the easily distracted left and engendered the white hot rage of the hate-filled right. But some of us, from all walks of life and ideological backgrounds — including this white, straight, 57-year-old, former religious right wing agitator, now progressive writer and (given my background as the son of a famous (evangelical leader) this unlikely Obama supporter — are sticking with our President. Why?– because he is succeeding.

We faithful Obama supporters still trust our initial impression of him as a great, good and uniquely qualified man to lead us. Obama’s steady supporters will be proved right. Obama’s critics will be remembered as easily panicked and prematurely discouraged at best and shriveled hate mongers at worst.

The Context of the Obama Presidency

Not since the days of the rise of fascism in Europe , the Second World War and the Depression has any president faced more adversity. Not since the Civil War has any president led a more bitterly divided country. Not since the introduction of racial integration has any president faced a more consistently short-sighted and willfully ignorant opposition – from both the right and left. As the President’s poll numbers have fallen so has his support from some on the left that were hailing him as a Messiah not long ago; all those lefty websites and commentators that were falling all over themselves on behalf of our first black president during the 2008 election. The left’s lack of faith has become a self-fulfilling “prophecy”– snipe at the President and then watch the poll numbers fall and then pretend you didn’t have anything to do with it!

Here is what Obama faced when he took office–none of which was his fault:

  • An ideologically divided country to the point that America was really two countries
  • Two wars; one that was mishandled from the start, the other that was unnecessary and immoral
  • The worst economic crisis since the depression
  • America ‘s standing in the world at the lowest point in history
  • A country that had been misled into accepting the use of torture of prisoners of war
  • A health care system in free fall
  • An educational system in free fall
  • A global environmental crisis of history-altering proportions (about which the Bush administration and the Republicans had done nothing)
  • An impasse between culture warriors from the right and left
  • A huge financial deficit inherited from the terminally irresponsible Bush administration.

And those were only some of the problems sitting on the President’s desk!

“Help” from the Right? Continue reading

Obama dismisses Quitter Palin’s expertise on…nuclear issues

President Obama responds to Quitter Palin’s high-pitched word salad criticism of his nuclear policy:

I really have no response to that.  Last I checked, Sarah Palin’s not much of an expert on…nuclear issues.

SMACK!  BANG!  ZOOM!

Interesting pause after saying the Quitter wasn’t much of an expert on…what? Politics?  Parenting?  The English language?  The human condition?  Anything?  Come on, give!

Our Work Is Not Done

President Obama reminds us of the first nine months and all that was accomplished in that time.  We need to keep our sleeves rolled up because our work is not done.   (Obama’s remarks begin about 9 minutes into this video).

This was our President’s speech to Organizing for America.

(h/t Muzikal203 at DailyKos)

Are you fired up and ready to go?

The Cowardice of Conservatives

News Hounds has uncovered a gem. If you want to know what today’s Conservatives are like, just listen to the people who claim to speak for them. Now, I have a hard time understanding how Conservatives think (which inspired me to write “Conservative” below), and I just can’t reconcile the nonsense I hear out of people like Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, and the philosophy of Conservatism I heard preached by conservative giants like Barry Goldwater. One thing Goldwater always said Conservatism was about was Continue reading

It’s on…

Truthout, Robert Reich

Yesterday the American Medical Association came out against a public option for health care. And yesterday the President reaffirmed his support for it. The next weeks will show what Obama is made of – whether he’s willing and able to take on the most formidable lobbying coalition he has faced so far on an issue that will define his presidency.

And make no mistake: A public option large enough to have bargaining leverage to drive down drug prices and private-insurance premiums is the defining issue of universal health care. It’s the only way to make health care affordable. It’s the only way to prevent Medicare and Medicaid from eating up future federal budgets. An ersatz public option – whether Kent Conrad’s non-profit cooperatives, Olympia Snowe’s “trigger,” or regulated state-run plans – won’t do squat.

The last president to successfully take on the giant health care lobbies was LBJ. He got Medicare and Medicaid enacted because he weighed into the details, twisted congressional arms, threatened and cajoled, drew lines in the sand, and went to war against the AMA and the other giant lobbyists standing in the way. The question now is how much LBJ is in Barack Obama.

If past is prologue, I have very little hope of a public option making it through this fight.  President Obama spends too much time and political capital trying to be bipartisan and concilliatory.  Now is not the time.

In my opinion, the President under-played his hand regarding health care for all Americans.  He should have gone in with, “Single payer is the only way to go, that’s what I want for this country,” and bargained down from there — or fought like hell ala LBJ.  Now the ideologues, big insurance, and corporate health care will spend billions to chip away at affordable health care for all — money that could be spent to actually fix the problem — if they really wanted to do so.  But they don’t, so they won’t.

President Obama will only get one chance to fix health care.  If he succeeds, he’ll be remembered for generations as one of the greatest, most successful presidents in this country.  If he fails, it will be one more feather in the cap of the Right Wing Corporate America, and we will pay the price, because no one will ever try to fix the health care mess again.

Some congressional Democrats are willing and able to stand up to this barrage. Many are not. They need cover from the White House.

The President can’t do this alone. You must weigh in and get everyone you know to weigh in, too. Bombard your senators and representatives. Organize and mobilize others. And let the White House know how strongly you feel. This is one of those battles that define a presidency. But more importantly, it’s one of those battles that define the state of American democracy.

This is the battle we need to win.  Our country has been slip-sliding into ill-health and ill-education since the 80s, and we absolutely must stop it, because our children are already paying the price.

The health care issue affects all of us (except those in the top 1%, I would guess), and while they have most of the money, we have more votes.  It’s time to flood our Senators and Representatives — and the White House — with phone calls and letters, reminding them that they don’t represent Big Pharma or Big Insurance — they represent US.

“Prolonged Detention” — WTF?

In the middle of an otherwise excellent speech, President Obama dropped this bomb:  Prolonged detention.

I guess there are bad guys at Gitmo whose cases have been so badly botched, that a criminal trial is impossible.  How we know these prisoners really are bad guys, I don’t know.  They have never been charged, tried, or adjudicated as ANYTHING, let alone terrorists.  But President Obama wants to set up a legal framework to make it all okay to keep certain detainees locked up indefinitely.

Imagine that.  America:  The land of the free, the home of the brave.  Now, we’re not only the country who tortures, we’re also the country who will lock up suspected terrorists FOREVER — because we just don’t know what else to do with some of the prisoners at Gitmo.

I am just stunned.  There is no way “prolonged detention” is justified.

What the hell is going on here…?

My email from President Obama

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

I received the following email today….and I took action to give my views on the Healthcare debate.  You can too.

Joanne –

The chance to finally reform our nation’s health care system is here. While Congress moves rapidly to produce a detailed plan, I have made it clear that real reform must uphold three core principles — it must reduce costs, guarantee choice, and ensure quality care for every American.

As we know, challenging the status quo will not be easy. Its defenders will claim our goals are too big, that we should once again settle for half measures and empty talk. Left unanswered, these voices of doubt might yet again derail the comprehensive reform we so badly need. That’s where you come in.

When our opponents spread fear and confusion about the changes we seek, your support for these core principles will show clarity and resolve. When the lobbyists for the status quo tell Congress to hold back, your personal story will give them the courage to press forward.

Join my call: Ask Congress to pass real health care reform in 2009.

After adding your name, please consider sharing your personal story about the importance of health care reform in your life and the lives of those you love.

I will be personally reviewing many of these signatures and stories. If you speak up now, your voice will make a difference.

Continue reading

The Peacemaker… President Barack Obama

During the plenary session of the G20, President Sarkozy of France and President Hu Jintao of the People’s Republic of China got into a heated disagreement regarding tax havens.  Upon hearing their loud voices, President Obama stepped between the two men and urged them to reach a consensus.

The senior adminstration official said that Mr. Obama pulled Mr. Sarkozy aside, took him to a corner, “and discussed possible alternatives,” the senior official said.

Once they arrived at one, President Obama “sent a message to the Chinese” that a counter-offer was on the table. The Chinese spent some time considering the offer. But they took a few minutes.

So Mr. Obama, with the assistance of translators, suggested that he and Mr. Hu have a conversation as well. They, too went to the corner to talk. After a few minutes, Mr. Obama called upon Mr. Sarkozy to join them.

“Translators and sherpas in tow, they reached an agreement,” the official said. “There was a multiple shaking of hands.”

If you would like more details, you can read the complete article here, at ABC News.

Negotiation and facilitation are skills that are needed by successful community organizers, like President Barack Obama.