Monthly Archive: January 2013

Jan 31 2013

Room 101

Please admit that we were right.

You see, that’s what all the hippie kicking comes down to.  The monumental ego of the predestined, God-ordained elite who can not possibly ever be wrong because they are successful and privileged and a just deity could not allow wickedness to go unpunished.

It logically follows the unsuccessful and under privileged are wicked and must be punished you see.

Part 3, Chapter 4

He had capitulated, that was agreed. In reality, as he saw now, he had been ready to capitulate long before he had taken the decision. From the moment when he was inside the Ministry of Love — and yes, even during those minutes when he and Julia had stood helpless while the iron voice from the telescreen told them what to do — he had grasped the frivolity, the shallowness of his attempt to set himself up against the power of the Party. He knew now that for seven years the Thought police had watched him like a beetle under a magnifying glass. There was no physical act, no word spoken aloud, that they had not noticed, no train of thought that they had not been able to infer. Even the speck of whitish dust on the cover of his diary they had carefully replaced. They had played sound-tracks to him, shown him photographs. Some of them were photographs of Julia and himself. Yes, even … He could not fight against the Party any longer. Besides, the Party was in the right. It must be so; how could the immortal, collective brain be mistaken? By what external standard could you check its judgements? Sanity was statistical. It was merely a question of learning to think as they thought. Only!

The pencil felt thick and awkward in his fingers. He began to write down the thoughts that came into his head. He wrote first in large clumsy capitals:

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

Then almost without a pause he wrote beneath it:

TWO AND TWO MAKE FIVE

But then there came a sort of check. His mind, as though shying away from something, seemed unable to concentrate. He knew that he knew what came next, but for the moment he could not recall it. When he did recall it, it was only by consciously reasoning out what it must be: it did not come of its own accord. He wrote:

GOD IS POWER

He accepted everything. The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford were guilty of the crimes they were charged with. He had never seen the photograph that disproved their guilt. It had never existed, he had invented it. He remembered remembering contrary things, but those were false memories, products of self deception. How easy it all was! Only surrender, and everything else followed. It was like swimming against a current that swept you backwards however hard you struggled, and then suddenly deciding to turn round and go with the current instead of opposing it. Nothing had changed except your own attitude: the predestined thing happened in any case. He hardly knew why he had ever rebelled. Everything was easy, accept!

Anything could be true. The so-called laws of Nature were nonsense. The law of gravity was nonsense. ‘If I wished,’ O’Brien had said, ‘I could float off this floor like a soap bubble.’ Winston worked it out. ‘If he thinks he floats off the floor, and if I simultaneously think I see him do it, then the thing happens.’ Suddenly, like a lump of submerged wreckage breaking the surface of water, the thought burst into his mind: ‘It doesn’t really happen. We imagine it. It is hallucination.’ He pushed the thought under instantly. The fallacy was obvious. It presupposed that somewhere or other, outside oneself, there was a ‘real’ world where ‘real’ things happened. But how could there be such a world? What knowledge have we of anything, save through our own minds? All happenings are in the mind. Whatever happens in all minds, truly happens.

And yet two and two make four and nothing more regardless how much you newspeak five (or orange for that matter).

The emperor is butt naked and is and always has been monumentally and monstrously wrong about-

  • Iraq
  • Torture
  • Star Chamber Trials
  • Spying on Citizens without warrants
  • Execution without trials
  • A horrendous litany of War Crimes including Wars of Aggression and deliberate targeting of civilians and first responders
  • Economics in general and theft and corruption in particular

to name but a few.

You may censor me, break me, or kill me and yet as Eddington observed- “if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”

Jan 31 2013

“Torturers Get Their Scalp”

CIA’s Torturers Get Their Scalp

by Marcy Wheeler, emptywheel

With the news that John Kiriakou will head to prison for 30 months, it’s worth remembering how he got sent there.

It started when CIA officers claimed that when Gitmo defense attorneys provided photos of their clients torturers to them-having independently discovered their identity-the torturers were put at risk. DOJ didn’t believe it was a security risk; CIA disagreed and went to John Brennan. And after Patrick Fitzgerald was brought in to mediate between DOJ and CIA, the prosecution of John Kiriakou resulted. [..]

What happened with Kiriakou’s sentencing today is many things. But it started as-and is still fundamentally a result of-an effort on the part of CIA to ensure that none of its torturers ever be held accountable for their acts, to ensure that the subjects of their torture never gain any legal foothold to hold them accountable.

The CIA has succeeded in making an object lesson of a man who betrayed their omerta.

Ex-CIA Agent, Whistleblower John Kiriakou Sentenced to Prison While Torturers He Exposed Walk Free

Former CIA agent John Kiriakou speaks out just days after he was sentenced to 30 months in prison, becoming the first CIA official to face jail time for any reason relating to the U.S. torture program. Under a plea deal, Kiriakou admitted to a single count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by revealing the identity of a covert officer to a freelance reporter, who did not publish it. Supporters say Kiriakou is being unfairly targeted for having been the first CIA official to publicly confirm and detail the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding. Kiriakou joins us to discuss his story from Washington, D.C., along with his attorney, Jesselyn Radack, director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project. “This … was not a case about leaking; this was a case about torture. And I believe I’m going to prison because I blew the whistle on torture,” Kiriakou says. “My oath was to the Constitution. … And to me, torture is unconstitutional.”



Transcript can be read here.

Whistleblower John Kiriakou: For Embracing Torture, John Brennan a “Terrible Choice to Lead the CIA”

Days after he was sentenced to 30 months in prison, John Kiriakou – the first CIA official to be jailed for any reason relating to the torture program – denounces President Obama’s appointment of John Brennan to head the CIA. “I’ve known John Brennan since 1990,” Kiriakou says. “I worked directly for John Brennan twice. I think that he is a terrible choice to lead the CIA. I think that it’s time for the CIA to move beyond the ugliness of the post-September 11th regime, and we need someone who is going to respect the Constitution and to not be bogged down by a legacy of torture.”



Transcript can be read here.

Jan 31 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Robert Reich: Why Consumers are Bummed Out

The Conference Board reported Tuesday that the preliminary January figure for consumer confidence in the United States fell to its lowest level in more than a year.

The last time consumers were this bummed out was October 2011, when there was widespread talk of a double-dip recession.

But this time business news is buoyant. The stock market is bullish. The housing market seems to have rebounded a bit.

So why are consumers so glum?

Because they’re deeply worried about their jobs and their incomes — as they have every right to be.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: The New Politics of Immigration

Think back to the battle over health care reform. Can you imagine Republicans, upon hearing that President Obama was about to offer his own proposals, would want to rush ahead of him to put their own marker down-and take positions close to his?

That’s the comparison to keep in mind to understand the extraordinary transformation of Beltway politics on immigration reform. Until Obama was re-elected, party competition translated into Republican efforts to block virtually everything the president wanted to accomplish. On immigration, at least, the parties are now competing to share credit for doing something big. It’s wonderful to behold.

Glenn Greenwald: Obama’s Non-Closing of Gitmo

The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage reported yesterday that the State Department “reassigned Daniel Fried, the special envoy for closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and will not replace him”. That move obviously confirms what has long been assumed: that the camp will remain open indefinitely and Obama’s flamboyant first-day-in-office vow will go unfulfilled. Dozens of the current camp detainees have long been cleared by Pentagon reviews for release – including Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a 36-year-old Yemeni who died at the camp in September after almost 11 years in a cage despite never having been charged with a crime. Like so many of his fellow detainees, his efforts to secure his release were vigorously (and successfully) thwarted by the Obama administration.

Perfectly symbolizing the trajectory of the Obama presidency, this close-Guantánamo envoy will now “become the department’s coordinator for sanctions policy”. Marcy Wheeler summarizes the shift this way: “Rather than Close Gitmo, We’ll Just Intercept More Medical Goods for Iran”. She notes that this reflects “how we’ve changed our human rights priorities”. Several days ago, Savage described how the Obama DOJ is ignoring its own military prosecutors’ views in order to charge GITMO detainees in its military commissions with crimes that were not even recognized as violations of the laws of war.

Jared Bernstein: The Economics of Immigration

Dylan Matthews, a major-general in supreme-commander Ezra Klein’s Wonkbook army, has an interesting piece with some nice graphs up on the economics of immigration. It cites research that paints quite a sunny picture of the impacts on our economy and domestic workers.

I agree with much of what’s in Dylan’s piece. I’m particularly interested in the impact of immigrant flows on macroeconomic growth. Economists are well aware that slowing labor force growth is a factor in slower growth predictions in the future, but faster immigrant flows can improve that outlook.

But what about the near term impact of immigrant competition in a job market that’s already too weak? Here I think Dylan’s piece is too sunny. Let me explain.

Ari Belber: Why Graph Search Could Be Facebook’s Largest Privacy Invasion Ever

Here is one iron law of the Internet: a social network’s emphasis on monetizing its product is directly proportional to its users’ loss of privacy.

At one extreme there are networks like Craigslist and Wikipedia, which pursue relatively few profits and enable nearly absolute anonymity and privacy. At the other end of the spectrum is Facebook, a $68 billion company that is constantly seeking ways to monetize its users and their personal data.

Facebook’s latest program, Graph Search, may be the company’s largest privacy infraction ever.

Robert Borosage: Smart Talk on the Next Austerity Disaster

The United States is in the midst of the most protracted unemployment crisis in modern history, and for vast segments of the population, the recession has never ended. Wages are still sinking; more than 20 million people are in need of full-time work. Yet, the national debate is fixated on fixing the debt rather than fixing the economy.

This is “austerity” economics, which demands cuts in government spending in the belief that this will reduce government deficits, even as it costs jobs and imposes hardships on people. [..]

Worse, the austerity debate is now focused on whacking at the basic pillars of family security – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The cuts under discussion – slowing the inflation adjustment for Social Security, raising the eligibility age for Medicare or the retirement age for Social Security – would harm the most vulnerable in our society.

Jan 31 2013

An obviously great idea!

FAA 787 Inspections Reveal Checks Were Left to Boeing

By Alan Levin, Bloomberg News

Jan 30, 2013 8:00 PM ET

The Federal Aviation Administration has operated that way for many years, even as government audits have found those efforts were sometimes poorly overseen and led to errors. The agency in 2005 began allowing Boeing and other manufacturers to pick the engineers, who previously were chosen by the FAA.

“I think everyone recognizes there is an inherent conflict there,” Jim Hall, former chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, said in an interview.



“It’s hard for the public to accept the concept for someone else to make a finding for the government,” he (John McGraw, a former FAA deputy safety director) said. “But this has been done since the start of the FAA. This is really just an extension of that, with better oversight than they had back then.”



The Transportation Safety Board of Canada pointed to engineering certification as a possible factor in the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off Nova Scotia on Sept. 2, 1998, that killed all 229 aboard.

Engineers at an aircraft maintenance company who were acting on the FAA’s behalf signed off on an entertainment system that may have started a fire that brought down the plane, the Canadian safety board found. The engineers lacked sufficient knowledge of the Boeing MD-11’s power grid to provide that certification, the board found.

I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming in terror like his passengers.

Jan 31 2013

On This Day In History January 31

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 31 is the 31st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 334 days remaining until the end of the year (335 in leap years).

On this day in 1865, The United States Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, abolishing slavery, submitting it to the states for ratification.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially abolished and continues to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. It was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, passed by the House on January 31, 1865, and adopted on December 6, 1865. On December 18, Secretary of State William H. Seward, in a proclamation, declared it to have been adopted. It was the first of the Reconstruction Amendments.

President Lincoln was concerned that the Emancipation Proclamation, which outlawed slavery in the ten Confederate states still in rebellion in 1863, would be seen as a temporary war measure, since it was based on his war powers and did not abolish slavery in the border states.

Text

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation

History

The first twelve amendments were adopted within fifteen years of the Constitution’s adoption. The first ten (the Bill of Rights) were adopted in 1791, the Eleventh Amendment in 1795 and the Twelfth Amendment in 1804. When the Thirteenth Amendment was proposed there had been no new amendments adopted in more than sixty years.

During the secession crisis, but prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the majority of slavery-related bills had protected slavery. The United States had ceased slave importation and intervened militarily against the Atlantic slave trade, but had made few proposals to abolish domestic slavery, and only a small number to abolish the domestic slave trade. Representative John Quincy Adams had made a proposal in 1839, but there were no new proposals until December 14, 1863, when a bill to support an amendment to abolish slavery throughout the entire United States was introduced by Representative James Mitchell Ashley (Republican, Ohio). This was soon followed by a similar proposal made by Representative James F. Wilson(Republican, Iowa).

Eventually the Congress and the public began to take notice and a number of additional legislative proposals were brought forward. On January 11, 1864, Senator John B. Henderson of Missouri submitted a joint resolution for a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. The abolition of slavery had historically been associated with Republicans, but Henderson was one of the War Democrats. The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Lyman Trumbull (Republican, Illinois), became involved in merging different proposals for an amendment. On February 8 of that year, another Republican, Senator Charles Sumner (Radical Republican, Massachusetts), submitted a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery as well as guarantee equality. As the number of proposals and the extent of their scope began to grow, the Senate Judiciary Committee presented the Senate with an amendment proposal combining the drafts of Ashley, Wilson and Henderson.

Originally the amendment was co-authored and sponsored by Representatives James Mitchell Ashley (Republican, Ohio) and James F. Wilson (Republican, Iowa) and Senator John B. Henderson (Democrat, Missouri).

While the Senate did pass the amendment on April 8, 1864, by a vote of 38 to 6, the House declined to do so. After it was reintroduced by Representative James Mitchell Ashley, President Lincoln took an active role in working for its passage through the House by ensuring the amendment was added to the Republican Party platform for the upcoming Presidential elections. His efforts came to fruition when the House passed the bill on January 31, 1865, by a vote of 119 to 56. The Thirteenth Amendment’s archival copy bears an apparent Presidential signature, under the usual ones of the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, after the words “Approved February 1, 1865”.

The Thirteenth Amendment completed the abolition of slavery, which had begun with the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

Shortly after the amendment’s adoption, selective enforcement of certain laws, such as laws against vagrancy, allowed blacks to continue to be subjected to involuntary servitude in some cases. See also Black Codes.

The Thirteenth Amendment was followed by the Fourteenth Amendment (civil rights in the states), in 1868, and the Fifteenth Amendment (which bans racial voting restrictions), in 1870.

Jan 31 2013

Shut Up About Austerity

The U.S. economy contracted slightly in the fourth quarter of last year, shrinking by 0.1 percent. The main factor that is being blamed is cuts in government spending. The report, as Pat Garofalo at Think Progress notes, might have been worse but if the House Republicans let the sequester kick in, as they seem want to do, the US economy is in for another deeper dip:

According to Macroeconomic Advisers, the sequester will knock 0.7 percent off of GDP growth this year. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that the sequester will kill one million jobs. [..]

Of course, scrapping the sequester – which includes equal cuts from defense spending and non-defense discretionary spending – does not mean the government simply has to plow that money back into the Pentagon. Domestic spending is headed toward historic lows. The country has a huge infrastructure gap that needs to be filled. And the American Jobs Act, which Republicans filibustered, would have significantly boosted growth according to several independent analyses.

Journalist and author, David Cay Johnston, a specialist in economics and tax issues, discusses why the Republicans keep pushing spending cuts.

Meanwhile, as Suzie Madrak at Crooks and Liars observed, hell may have just froze over at the conservative think tank, American Enterprise Institute where conservative economist John H. Mankin just told the deficit hawks, in so many words, to “shut up about austerity”.

Japan’s lessons for America’s budget warriors

by  John H. Makin, American Enterprise Institute

Lessons for the United States

Congress, take note. Although American deficits do need to be reduced and debt accumulation does need to be slowed and eventually reversed, cries of imminent disaster from “unsustainable” deficits and a supposed bond market collapse will not accomplish this goal. Persistently rising bond prices in Japan and the United States have undercut the “sky-is-falling” rationale for deficit reduction. [..]

If fiscal austerity is applied too rapidly, US growth will drop and the debt-to-GDP ratio will rise, boosting the nation’s debt burden. If the Fed tries to stem the rise with too much money printing, inflation could rise and drive up interest rates, exacerbating the US debt burden. [..]

Congress and the president need to avoid excessive austerity with respect to changes in fiscal policy this year. Over the past four years, on average, the fiscal boost applied to the American economy has been worth about 3 percent of GDP. This year, with tax increases and sequestration, fiscal drag will be about 1.5 percent of GDP. [..]

The lessons from Europe and Japan are that austerity, per se, is not the way to move to a sustainable fiscal stance. Rather, the US economy needs a combination of tax reform to boost growth and legislation enacted now to stabilize the future growth of outlays on entitlement programs.

Economist Paul Krugman, at his NYT blog, Conscience of a Liberal, talks about “incestuous amplification” which happens when “a closed group of people repeat the same things to each other – and when accepting the group’s preconceptions itself becomes a necessary ticket to being in the in-group“.

Which brings me to the fiscal debate, characterized by the particular form of incestuous amplification Greg Sargent calls the Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop. I’ve already blogged about my Morning Joe appearance and Scarborough’s reaction, which was to insist that almost no mainstream economists share my view that deficit fear is vastly overblown. As Joe Weisenthal points out, the reality is that among those who have expressed views very similar to mine are the chief economist of Goldman Sachs; the former Treasury secretary and head of the National Economic Council; the former deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve; and the economics editor of the Financial Times. The point isn’t that these people are necessarily right (although they are), it is that Scarborough’s attempt at argument through authority is easily refuted by even a casual stroll through recent economic punditry.

Will AEI’s resident economics scholar, John Mankin’s warnings be heeded? Or will the “incestuous amplification” continue?

Jan 30 2013

We need to have a little meeting

Monitor Outside Gitmo Tribunal Has Power to Censor Proceedings Without Judge’s Knowledge

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Tuesday January 29, 2013 12:32 pm

The Guantanamo war court was deciding whether to go into a closed session yesterday. David Nevin, who is representing 9/11 suspect, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was speaking in court about the decision to argue some of a motion involving evidence of CIA black prison sites. The audio feed went off for three minutes and court was off-record for about three minutes.

Judge Col. James Pohl noted, “The 40-second delay was initiated, not by me. I’m curious as to why.” Nevin had simply been reading the caption to an unclassified motion. “If you don’t feel we can discuss this now, let me know, but I’m just trying to figure out.” The government wanted to explain what happened to the judge in a secret session.



Nevin addressed the court, “I would like to know who has the permission to turn that light on and off, who is listening to this, who is controlling these proceedings, or controlling that aspect of these proceedings.” He added, “I was under the impression that the [court security officer] was, commanded that light in this process.”

Cheryl Bormann, the defense counsel for Walid bin Attash (9/11 suspect), wished to state for the record that Nevin has been repeating the name of a defense motion but she decline to say it for fear of setting off the censor again. Navy Commander Walter Ruiz, who is representing Mustafa al-Hawsawi (9/11 suspect), told the judge, “The main concern is that moving forward from this point forward we know there is another body or party who is in control of this proceeding in turning that light on and off.”

“Before we proceed any further,” he added, “We can only assume that maybe they are monitoring additional communications, perhaps when we are at counsel table. We know we have green lights that have the ability to record. We think this is an answer and question we have to have precedent to proceeding with this commission.”

Military Claims to Have Released Portion of Gitmo Tribunal Proceedings That Was Censored

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Wednesday January 30, 2013 10:36 am

What was said in the exchange should appear in the transcript, but it appears something was said in that minute before the feed was restored that the government does not want to add into the transcript.

The military now claims that the transcript was “restored,” but if it was recording discussion of the censorship, that should be in the public record and not merely summarized. The decision to censor was startling for not just the press but also the judge, as it showed that some outside body has a person who is able to interfere in proceedings whenever they choose without notifying the judge prior to censoring the proceedings.

This person-an original classification authority (OCA), as the government revealed-likely works in cooperation with the CIA and is tasked with ensuring that even the tiniest amount of information on the CIA’s Rendition, Detainee & Interrogation (RDI) program is not heard by the press. The episode shows the OCA may censor unclassified language. There are details on the RDI program in the public record.

If Mohammed or another 9/11 suspect describes their treatment in CIA custody and that happened to be in the CIA Inspector General report, will the OCA be interfering again? The whole entire episode raises serious questions about the military commission’s claimed commitment to transparency and fairness.

All That’s Wrong With the Guantanamo Trials

By Andrew Cohen, Esquire

at 4:11PM January 30th, 2013

(W)hat makes it such an important moment in the sorry history of the Guantanamo tribunals– was that even the presiding judge, Army Col. James Pohl, didn’t know who had blocked the feed on Monday– or why. He had lost control over his own courtroom. Later that day, in open court, he said: “If some external body is turning the commission off based on their own views of what things ought to be, with no reasonable explanation, then we are going to have a little meeting about who turns that light on or off.” That was on Monday. On Tuesday, after conducting an investigation into the episode, Judge Pohl declared that the feed should not have been turned off-the defense attorney had merely mentioned “the caption in a particular appellate exhibit that is unclassified”– but the judge did not disclose to the public who turned off the feed or why. Later, we learned that the feed was disrupted by the “original classification authority,” most likely the CIA.

The idea that a trial judge has control over his courtroom is about as sacrosanct a notion in American law as you can find. And even though military judges traditionally have had to serve conflicting masters (the law, their superior officers, etc.) the idea that a litigant would have the power to control the courtroom without the judge’s knowledge or consent goes to the heart of the problem with our current tribunals. A trial judge who does not have the authority to control his own courtroom, who is subject to the whims of the very officials whose charges against the detainees must be fairly weighed, cannot be the sort of independent judge which the Constitution requires and which justice demands. It’s not Judge Pohl’s fault. By Congress, by the Pentagon, by the Obama Administration, by the CIA, he’s been dealt a hand no truly independent judge could play. That’s just another big reason why these tribunals are doomed to fail, in the court of world opinion if not before the United States Supreme Court, no matter how many convictions they ultimately gin up.

Jan 30 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Can the Rising Progressive Tide Lift All Ships?

The growing progressive coalition that helped elect President Obama has emerged at the end of a failed and exhausted conservative era. The media now chronicle the flailings of Republican leaders slowly awakening to the weaknesses of a stale, pale and predominantly male party in today’s America.

But the central challenge to this progressive coalition is not dispatching the old but rather defining what comes next. Will it be able to address the central challenge facing America at this time and reclaim the American Dream from an extreme and corrosive economic inequality?

Renee Parsons: Failed Filibuster Reform Threatens Legislative Agenda

Despite Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (Nev) repeated pronouncements that the Republican stranglehold on the Senate’s filibuster could no longer be tolerated, that is exactly the final outcome of recent reform efforts. With the success of important Obama legislative initiatives like depending on a Democratic Senate for enactment, what was Harry Reid thinking? Reid’s stunning flip in favor of retaining the most egregious elements of the Republican filibuster clearly jeopardizes the President’s legislative agenda. [..]

Even as Republicans remain mired in a disconnect from political reality and despite reports of a bi-partisan agreement on an immigration reform ‘blueprint’, there is little reason to expect that the party of Lincoln will not continue to effectively stonewall every reasonable legislative initiative addressing the country’s most critical problems. And as Senate Democrats continue to stumble into an era of lost principles, there will be no one to blame but themselves.

Amy Dean: Immigration Reform Must Include Workers’ Rights

At this moment, various plans to reform America’s broken immigration system are working their way through Congressional debate. On Monday, a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers unveiled a plan that includes what they call a “tough but fair” path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Last Friday, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with President Obama to discuss the issue, and this caucus’ input will be influential in shaping any final legislation. [..]

For the Democrats, the challenge will be to avoid simply jumping at the first deal offered by newly converted conservatives. Instead, for the first time in decades, promoters of reform have the opportunity to hold America to its promise of being a land of liberty and justice for all.

Jessica Valenti: Why Ending the Ban on Women in Combat Is Good for All Women

Responding to the news that the Pentagon will lift the ban on women in combat, lawyer and former Marine Ryan Smith made an impassioned argument in The Wall Street Journal for why this new policy is such a bad idea: “It is humiliating enough to relieve yourself in front of your male comrades; one can only imagine the humiliation of being forced to relieve yourself in front of the opposite sex.” And here I thought those in combat would have bigger concerns than who will see you go number two.

However silly, Smith’s argument epitomizes why lifting the ban on women in combat is so important-and about so much more than military policy. The arguments against women on the frontlines have always been more about about reinforcing traditional gender norms and holding onto an outdated and sexist model of what a woman should be like, rather than military protocol.

Jody Williams: Keep Dirty Oil Out of New England

From north to south and east to west, people across the United States and Canada are increasingly coming together to fight against the expansion of the Alberta tar sands and efforts to move the highly toxic bitumen – tar sands “oil” – through pipelines to the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. From US ports the bitumen would be shipped primarily to China. [..]

Global warming and the obvious changes to our weather patterns cannot sustain more exploitation of fossil fuels. And tar sands expansion is among the worst threats. After the oil fields of Saudia Arabia, the full development of Alberta tar sands will create the world’s second largest potential source of global warming gases. I saw for myself the impact of the tar sands on the environment and people of Western Canada.

Mairead Maguire: Stand Up for Julian Assange

Last month, on December 13th, 2012, I visited Julian Assange, Australian founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, in the Ecuadorian embassy, in Knightsbridge, London.

It’s been seven months now since Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy and was given political asylum. He entered the embassy after the British Courts shamefully refused his appeal against extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning about sexual molestation (no criminal charges have been made against him). Julian Assange has said he is willing to answer questions in the U.K. relating to accusations against him, or alternatively, to go to Sweden, provided that the Swedish government guarantee he will not be extradited to the U.S. where plans are being made to try him for conspiracy to commit espionage. The Swedish Government refuses to give such assurances. [..]

Unlike most political prisoners, he has no idea how long his virtual imprisonment in the embassy will last–6 more months or 6 years. The diplomatic standoff continues. This is indeed cruel, inhumane and mental torture. His only crime was to tell the truth and bring transparency to the illegal acts of the U.S. Government and its allies around the world.

Jan 30 2013

On This Day In History January 30

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 30 is the 30th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 335 days remaining until the end of the year (336 in leap years).

On this day in 1969, The Beatles’ last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records in London. The impromptu concert is broken up by the police.

A din erupted in the sky above London’s staid garment district. Gray-suited businessmen, their expressions ranging from amused curiosity to disgust, gathered alongside miniskirted teenagers to stare up at the roof of the Georgian building at 3 Savile Row. As camera crews swirled around, whispered conjecture solidified into confirmed fact: The Beatles, who hadn’t performed live since August 1966, were playing an unannounced concert on their office roof. Crowds gathered on scaffolding, behind windows, and on neighboring rooftops to watch the four men who had revolutionized pop culture play again. But what only the pessimistic among them could have guessed-what the Beatles themselves could not yet even decide for sure-was that this was to be their last public performance ever. . . . . .

When the world beyond London’s garment district finally got to see the Beatles’ last concert, it was with the knowledge, unshared by the original, live audience, that it was the band’s swan song. On Abbey Road Paul had sung grandly about “the end,” but it was John’s closing words on the roof that made the more fitting epitaph for the group that had struggled out of working-class Liverpool to rewrite pop history: “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.”

Jan 30 2013

Grover Norquist is Winning Thanks to a Debt Ceiling Crisis Every Few Months

That’s right. I don’t know in what world some people are living in, but they should pay attention. Yes they should actually pay attention to what Grover Norquist is saying and how much these stupid debt ceiling crisis I predicted are playing into his hands. (h/t Addison)

Norquist: Republicans Should Hold Federal Government Hostage Every Month

And so this constant state of crisis and delayed/short term appropriations are going to be official soon.

House passes short-term debt limit deal

The Republican-led House today passed a bill to “suspend” the nation’s debt limit until May, which if passed by the Senate and signed into law, would stave off for a few months the risk of letting the U.S. government default on its loans.

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House Democrats, meanwhile, grumbled that the short-term bill amounts to political gimmickry that keeps Washington in crisis mode.

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“The premise here is pretty simple,” House Speaker John Boehner said on the House floor. “It says there should be no long-term increase in the debt limit until there’s a long term plan to deal with the fiscal crisis that faces our country. Every hardworking taxpayer in America knows that they have to do a budget. Every hardworking taxpayer understands that you can’t continue to spend money that you don’t have.”

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House Democrats also complained that the bill prolonged the debate over the debt limit rather than solving it.

“The good news is that our Republican colleagues finally realized that America should pay its bills and dropped their condition that that be matched by cuts,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said in a news conference. “The bad news is they’ve decided that America only needs to pay its bills for three more months.”

Yes, even when that 3 month suspension becomes a raise only every few months more down the line it won’t be close to normal standard procedure as some have tried to claim. This is true for a number of reasons; past raises of debt ceilings were never crisis showdowns and always were routine until Obama put them on the table as something to be negotiated. So given the completely different context comparing past debt ceiling raises to now I needn’t go any further, but I will.  What happened in 2011 was unprecedented and we are still dealing with the fallout right here and right now. It almost happened to former President Bill Clinton in the 90s but even Jonathan Chait admits Clinton was much more politically savvy in dealing with it than Obama so it was averted.  

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