The TPP is another HORRIBLE trade deal for the U.S., and I don’t understand why President Obama (and in the past, President Clinton) is pushing the damn thing — while simultaneously yammering on about how concerned he is about “jobs,” “hard-working Americans,” and the suffering of the “middle class.” Having the Republicans eager to work with the President on TPP ought to be our first giant red flag, the second is all the secrecy surrounding the issue.
To me, Robert Reich is the best guy to give an understandable thumbnail sketch of things like this — with pictures!
This is our daily open thread — Say NO to fast track!!
It’s that time of year again — the President will paint a sunny picture of the state of this nation, and will talk about things he’d like to do this year, even though he knows this Congress isn’t going to do anything thing but keep his veto pen busy. Fun times.
Who will heckle the President this year? Which SCOTUS members will be present and absent? How many times will the Dems pop up for applause, and how many times will the Repubs boo? Which Fox “News” pundit will trash the speech before it’s even given? How many members of Congress will be spending time on their phones, instead of giving the President the slightest bit of respect?
It’s open season, when live-blogging on TheZoo, on the Prez and Congress, which means everything is fair game: Clothes, ties, hair-dos, hugs, praising the POTUS for good stuff, and giving him hell for bad stuff. Knock yourselves out, Zoosters.
I’m not encouraging drinking games, but feel free to BYOB and party on. I’ll be abstaining from the evils of drink this evening, so I’ll make sure y’all are laying on your sides, and will turn out the lights when I leave. We don’t want a repeat of last year’s SOTU party — whatever might have happened…
President Barack Obama announced earlier in the week that he would later be announcing several reforms to the immigration system, largely because Republicans have been reluctant to pass anything in the House to address the issue. So, as he has said many times before in an ultimately failed effort to spur the House to pass the bill the Senate sent them, the president said that if Congress failed to act, he would. They didn’t, so he did, and now they’re totally freaking out. They’re claiming they now have grounds for impeachment (actually, some of them said this before he made the official announcement, based on nothing more than their own imagination about what the president would actually say) because the president is trying to ignite a civil war, and that citizens must resist “by any means necessary” any attempt to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants, and that it’s all part of a plot to not only guarantee millions of future Democratic voters, but to turn the United States into a Third World country and because now there will be all kinds of voter fraud (you just know it.) None of these fears are reality-based.
The calls for impeachment really crack me up because they were coming before the president’s announcement, and many were citing the president’s proposed amnesty for illegal immigrants as the primary charge against him. Former Florida Congressman (and current “Where Are They Now File” resident) Allen West told Newsmax, “It will be the president saying, ‘You know, I want to violate the Constitution and grant amnesty to people who are here illegally.'” Family Research Council President and Anal Sex Expert Tony Perkins said, in his very roundabout way, “What the president is about to do on amnesty is essentially tell, using his authority as the chief executive, the president, to the executive branch, Homeland Security, immigration, not to enforce the law, which is a violation of his oath to uphold the law.” Eagle Forum founder and former female Phyllis Schlafly thinks that amnesty by executive action constitutes a high crime or misdemeanor.
There are at least three things obviously wrong with these allegations. First, at the time each of these people made these remarks, the president had not actually announced his plan, and when he did, it didn’t include amnesty. The right wing is really afraid of that word – “amnesty.” They talk about it all the time as if granting it to millions of people whose only crime was in the way they entered the country would bring about the end of the United States of America. They talk about it it as if it’s the worst abuse of power a president could commit (including, apparently, lying us into a costly, unnecessary war). They talk about it as if it’s the most un-American thing a president could do. So their fears about amnesty are unfounded because the president wasn’t proposing any. Second, it is actually totally within the president’s constitutional authority to grant amnesty to millions of people who entered the country illegally. The president can grant amnesty to anyone he or she desires. The president can also selectively enforce the law and decide which laws won’t be as aggressively prosecuted as others, since there isn’t enough funding to enforce all the laws anyway. It doesn’t mean a succeeding president can’t prosecute if the statute of limitations hasn’t expired, so it isn’t the same as amnesty, which would deny prosecution later. By the way, the president’s oath says he will faithfully execute the office of president, not “uphold the law.” Executing the duties of the president sometimes involves deciding when to prosecute someone and when not to. Former President George Herbert Walker Bush granted amnesty to former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger for his criminal role in the previous administration’s plan to sell arms to terrorists in exchange for hostages. (A plan which, for the record, Bush later wrote in his memoirs that he was the only one who knew everything that was going on with the arms-for-hostages deal to raise money to illegally give to rebel fighters in Central America.) And third (speaking of Reagan), former President Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. Care to comment on that example of un-American activity by a president, Right Wing? If you like some facts to chew on, check out this great post at PoliticusUsa.
That’s just the crazy people talking about impeaching the president for executing a constitutional authority he actually has but didn’t actually use. Check out the link to see who thinks we’re headed for civil war, how the vote is getting rigged while simultaneously increasing voter fraud. And the good people at Think Progress (with whom I’ve had many exchanges over the years) have found other people going similarly crazy over Obama’s use of executive authority (which he is constitutionally required to do.) There’s a lot of sadly misinformed people out there, and some of them are members of the Legislative Branch in our Federal Government. I think you should be very concerned about that. You can start by looking at your own state legislatures, where many of these people got their start. To undo Republican gerrymandering, we have to take back the state legislatures by 2020, so we can control the drawing of Congressional District maps, which is the only way we’ll ever take back the House of Representatives. And we have to get rid of electronic voting, which can easily be rigged and manipulated, and very likely has in some key races in recent years. It is not secure, and it can easily change election results to anyone in power who wants to stay there. Paper ballots are the best way. They don’t take that long to count, and the results can easily be verified and re-counted as needed. Only then can we restore Democracy to America.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss crazy paranoid right wingers serving in our government, or any other topic you wish to discuss.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 →
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.
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.
I received the following email today….and I took action to give my views on the Healthcare debate. You can too.
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.
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.