Daily Archive: 06/12/2013

Jun 12 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.

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Laura Murphy and Michelle Richardson: Roll Back the Surveillance State

Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the government to obtain ‘any tangible thing’ relevant to an investigation. According to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, this authority has been used to collect all phone records in the U.S., even those of law-abiding citizens who have no connection to crime or terrorism whatsoever. The administration and a few members of Congress have confirmed and defended this practice as necessary to protect national security.

But there’s no reason to believe that the government’s collection efforts stop there. Last year, there were 212 of these Section 215 orders so the full extent of the NSA’s surveillance is still within the agency’s black box. Some news reports say that these programs include financial data and email records too. This is entirely possible given the breadth of Section 215. The program’s advocates claim that records do not implicate privacy and that the collection of “metadata” does not infringe on anyone’s rights.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Victoria Brittain; Guilty Until Proven Innocent

How to Pre-Convict and Pre-Punish an American Muslim

A four-month hunger strike, mass force-feedings, and widespread media coverage have at last brought Guantanamo, the notorious offshore prison set up by the Bush administration early in 2002, back into American consciousness. Prominent voices are finally calling on President Obama to close it down and send home scores of prisoners who, years ago, were cleared of wrongdoing.

Still unnoticed and out of the news, however, is a comparable situation in the U.S. itself, involving a pattern of controversial terrorism trials that result in devastating prison sentences involving the harshest forms of solitary confinement.  This growing body of prisoners is made up of Muslim men, including some formerly well-known and respected American citizens.

Jessica Valenti: Abortion and Magical Thinking

Anti-choicers think what they believe determines how abortion restrictions are enforced. They’re dangerously wrong.

It takes a special kind of willful ignorance to oppose legal abortion these days. In fact,
being disconnected from reality has become the most definitive characteristic of the anti-choice movement. Pregnancy from rape? The body can “shut that whole thing down.” Birth control? Just another kind of abortifacient. Then there are the made-up “post-abortion syndromes” and unsubstantiated links between abortion and breast cancer. But no kind of anti-choice rhetoric is more dangerous than the fantasy that making abortion illegal will not hurt women.

Letitia Miranda: AT&T’s Deregulation Campaign

As the company moves to Internet-based telephone service, it’s looking to shed regulatory obligations that benefit low-income Americans.

Since 2010, AT&T has been waging a deregulation campaign in several states across the country while aiming to move its traditional, wired telephone services to Internet Protocol (IP)-based services, which transmit voice communications digitally. With the help of corporate “bill mill” the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and support from companies like AT&T, state legislators have introduced a series of “model” bills aimed at preventing regulation of IP-based services in more than thirty states across the country, from Idaho to Georgia, Texas to New Hampshire. As the country moves to an IP-based telephone network, AT&T wants to completely retire its wired services and shed critical regulatory obligations that currently apply to legacy services. Now AT&T has taken that mission to the federal level.

Katrina vanden Heuvel; The third Koch ‘brother’ hits North Carolina

There’s something rotten in the state of North Carolina – and it smells like money. Specifically, Art Pope’s money.

In fact, Pope and his cash are responsible for North Carolina’s recent meteoric rise as the poster child for regressive, conservative politics. [..]

Republican donors know that this strategy produces a high return on investment. For just a few million dollars, not only can they affect state policies, but they also can control electoral laws and redraw districts – rigging the deck before it even gets to Washington.

With money to burn, Pope and his cronies are on their way to turning state after state into regressive backwaters while using their bucks to drown out the voices of anyone who disagrees with them. It all happens right under our noses because state legislature races almost never make the cover of The Post or the headlines on CNN.

Leslie Savan: Media Yawn at Barbara Buono, the Only Dem Willing to Take On Chris Christie

State Senator Barbara Buono may be the only New Jersey Dem with the cojones to run for governor against the formidably popular Chris Christie, but she gets no respect from the media. And given the electoral chaos Christie’s whipped up with a $24 million special election to replace the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, she’ll probably be getting even less. [..]

The Beltway media have been so enthralled with Christie since he embraced Obama and barked at Fox News after Hurricane Sandy that they seem to wonder why Buono even bothers to challenge him when powerful players, like Newark mayor Cory Booker and state Senate president Stephen Sweeney, backed down. An emblematic interview came in April when Chris Matthews interrupted Buono fourteen times, mostly to ask about Christie, as the chyron at the bottom of the screen read “DAWN QUIXOTE.”

Anna Lappé: Hey, Non-GMO Activist: Monsanto’s CEO Thinks You’re an Elitist

On May 25, 2013, tens of thousands of people in 36 countries participated in a global “March Against Monsanto.” But according to Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, those who protest against agricultural genetic engineering — including the farmers, students, academics, and more who turned out in March — are “elitists,” fomenting distrust of technology that could save the lives of millions of hungry people.

On May 25, 2013, tens of thousands of people in 36 countries participated in a global “March Against Monsanto.” But according to Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, those who protest against agricultural genetic engineering — including the farmers, students, academics, and more who turned out in March — are “elitists,” fomenting distrust of technology that could save the lives of millions of hungry people.

Jun 12 2013

When You Support George W. Bush’s Policies, like Obama, I Get to Call You a Republican

Worse than a Republican; I get to call you a fawning sellout with even less principles than the Republican security soccer moms of 2004 that we all remember before. They really believed back then, and still do, that giving up their rights was worth a sense of (fake) security. And you know what? They were more principled than anyone who writes diaries excusing neoconservative policies from the Obama administration that were unacceptable to them when they came from the George W. Bush administration.

Period. End of story. Why? The RW soccer moms didn’t pretend to be outraged about this stuff during the Bush years. They have consistently supported it. So since that is an undeniable fact, I have to ask some of you how it feels to have even less principles than Republican voters who excused and supported some of the worst war crimes in history? How does it feel to enable a Justice Department that has now de facto codified some of the worst war crimes and financial crimes in history? How does it feel now that it is now exposed that, like Republican voters, you need a BS war on terror to feel safe?

How does it feel to repeat the same BS that cretins from the right did in the 2004 election to support their chosen leader? You know that fear mongering bit about “having nothing to hide so then having nothing to worry about?” That came from the RNC, and now that garbage is being recycled by people “who consider themselves Democrats or progressives based mostly on their feelings and nothing more. This similar zeitgeist all started during the run up to the Iraq war after 9/11 when the Patriot Act was passed when almost no one read the Bill in Congress.

Unlike apparently many people who didn’t really mean it, I was actually horrified by what went on during those years, and yet those same policies continue under President Obama. I’m also horrified that some of the same people who call themselves Democrats are not horrified anymore.

Jun 12 2013

On This Day In History June 12

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.

Click on image to enlarge

June 12 is the 163rd day of the year (164th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 202 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1776, Virginia adopts George Mason’s Declaration of Rights

The assembled slaveholders of Virginia promised to “the good people of VIRGINIA and their posterity” the equal right to life, liberty and property, with the critical condition that the “people” were white men. These same white men were guaranteed that “all power” would be “vested in, and consequently derived from” them. Should a government fail to represent their common interest, a majority of the same held the right to “reform, alter or abolish” the government.

Drafting and adoption

The Declaration was adopted unanimously by the Fifth Virginia Convention at Williamsburg, Virginia on June 12, 1776 as a separate document from the Constitution of Virginia which was later adopted on June 29, 1776. In 1830, the Declaration of Rights was incorporated within the Virginia State Constitution as Article I, but even before that Virginia’s Declaration of Rights stated that it was ‘”the basis and foundation of government” in Virginia.  A slightly updated version may still be seen in Virginia’s Constitution, making it legally in effect to this day.

It was initially drafted by George Mason circa May 20, 1776; James Madison assisted him with the section on religious freedom. It was later amended by Thomas Ludwell Lee and the Convention to add a section on the right to uniform government (Section 14). Patrick Henry persuaded the Convention to delete a section that would have prohibited bills of attander, arguing that ordinary laws could be ineffective against some terrifying offenders.

Mason based his initial draft on the rights of citizens described in earlier works such as the English Bill of Rights (1689), and the Declaration can be considered the first modern Constitutional protection of individual rights for citizens of North America. It rejected the notion of privileged political classes or hereditary offices such as the members of Parliament and House of Lords described in the English Bill of Rights.

The Declaration consists of sixteen articles on the subject of which rights “pertain to [the people of Virginia]…as the basis and foundation of Government.” In addition to affirming the inherent nature of natural rights to life, liberty, and property, the Declaration both describes a view of Government as the servant of the people, and enumerates various restrictions on governmental power. Thus, the document is unusual in that it not only prescribes legal rights, but it also describes moral principles upon which a government should be run.

Influence

The Virginia Declaration of Rights heavily influenced later documents. Thomas Jefferson is thought to have drawn on it when he drafted the United States Declaration of Independence one month later (July 1776). James Madison was also influenced by the Declaration while drafting the Bill of Rights (completed September 1787, approved 1789), as was the Marquis de Lafayette in voting the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789).

The importance of the Virginia Declaration of Rights is that it was the first constitutional protection of individual rights, rather than protecting just members of Parliament or consisting of simple laws that can be changed as easily as passed.

Jun 12 2013

Minor Meta

So tonight I updated the Blog Roll and it was a pain in the ass getting the new one to appear in the right order on the proper part of the page.

There are a few tweaks that still need to be done, but the main reason I’m posting is to apologize for the Twitter feed crash.

I don’t know what happened, the only thing I did was move it in the process of getting the Blog Roll in the correct place.

Anyway, you’ve really no choice at this point but to indulge me while I fix it and I hope it will be up soon.  I still like Soapblox.  We can do almost anything except auto-refreshing (peeder) comments and you just have to get used to the slower pace.

Other than that if you have suggestions how we can improve our service to you, our readers and contributors (other than to write better and more often), feel free to opine below.

Jun 12 2013

The Company You Keep

Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist, active in sculpture, installation, architecture, curating, photography, film, and social, political and cultural criticism.  …  As a political activist, he has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government’s stance on democracy and human rights. He has investigated government corruption and cover-ups, in particular the Sichuan schools corruption scandal following the collapse of so-called “tofu-skin schools” in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In 2011, following his arrest at Beijing airport on 3 April, he was held for over two months without any official charges being filed; officials alluded to their allegations of “economic crimes” (tax evasion).

NSA surveillance: The US is behaving like China

Ai Weiwei, The Guardian

Tuesday 11 June 2013 09.30 EDT

In the Soviet Union before, in China today, and even in the US, officials always think what they do is necessary, and firmly believe they do what is best for the state and the people. But the lesson that people should learn from history is the need to limit state power.

If a government is elected by the people, and is genuinely working for the people, they should not give in to these temptations.

During my detention in China I was watched 24 hours a day. The light was always on. There were two guards on two-hour shifts standing next to me – even watching when I swallowed a pill; I had to open mouth so they could see my throat. You have to take a shower in front of them; they watch you while you brush your teeth, in the name of making sure you’re not hurting yourself. They had three surveillance cameras to make sure the guards would not communicate with me.

But the guards whispered to me. They told stories about themselves. There is always humanity and privacy, even under the most restrictive conditions.

To limit power is to protect society. It is not only about protecting individuals’ rights but making power healthier.

Civilisation is built on that trust and everyone must fight to defend it, and to protect our vulnerable aspects – our inner feelings, our families. We must not hand over our rights to other people. No state power should be given that kind of trust. Not China. Not the US.

Jun 12 2013

Around the Blogosphere

 photo Winter_solstice.gifThe main purpose our blogging is to communicate our ideas, opinions, and stories both fact and fiction. The best part about the the blogs is information that we might not find in our local news, even if we read it online. Sharing that information is important, especially if it educates, sparks conversation and new ideas. We have all found places that are our favorites that we read everyday, not everyone’s are the same. The Internet is a vast place. Unlike Punting the Pundits which focuses on opinion pieces mostly from the mainstream media and the larger news web sites, “Around the Blogosphere” will focus more on the medium to smaller blogs and articles written by some of the anonymous and not so anonymous writers and links to some of the smaller pieces that don’t make it to “Pundits” by Krugman, Baker, etc.

We encourage you to share your finds with us. It is important that we all stay as well informed as we can.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

This is an Open Thread.

While most of the traditional MSM is focused the Obama administration’s use of Stasi tactics to fight the never ending was on terror, the internet bloggers provide us with other distractions. I usual have some pearls of wisdom from Paul Krugman but his blogging day ended early with the evacuation of the entire Princeton campus because of a bomb threat that turned out to be false. Someone upset with their grades?

There was this great article in the New York Times’ Opinionator by Nobel Economist Joseph E. Stiglitz:

Apparently, the TSA has no respect for Wookies when they confiscated Chewbacca’s lightsaber, John Aravosis at Americablog has the scoop

Over at Corrente, lambert, Rainbow Girl and Hippicaria are starting a new series with facts about “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (PPACA), better known as Obamacare:

At Dependable Renegade, watertiger has game she’d like to play called “”Who Said This?”

“I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people…There are certain things that are appropriate for me to know that is not appropriate for the bad guys to know.”

You might find the answer a bit of a surprise.

You can catch up with the Bradley Manning trial with Kevin Gosztola at FDL’s The Dissenter:

There are a couple of good posts by Jon Walker at FDL Action on the negotiations over the immigration reform bill:

Also at MyFDL:

At the FDL News Desk, DSWright keeps us informed:

At Yves Smith‘s place, naked capitalism:

Atrios at Eschaton and Charles Pierce at Esquire’s Poitics Blog think that the blatant lying by DNI James Clapper is a good reason to fire the guy

A “joke” from our friend Ecchidne of the Snakes:

 photo CIAandFriends_zpsf15c0f43.png

Click on image to enlarge

Jun 12 2013

The small percentage that make phone calls or use the Internet.

Jun 12 2013

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

America is a wonderful place where everyone is caring, competent, conscientious and above average.

America’s law enforcement agencies have never gotten the wrong guy.

A mistaken identity arrest occurs almost every day, said policing experts and officials at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

America’s courts have never convicted the wrong person, and certainly no innocent person has ever gone to jail in America.

Freddie Peacock of Rochester, New York, was convicted of rape in 1976. Last week he became the 250th person to be exonerated by DNA testing since 1989. According to a new report by the Innocence Project, those 250 prisoners served 3,160 years between them; 17 spent time on death row. Remarkably, 67 percent of them were convicted after 2000-a decade after the onset of modern DNA testing. The glaring question here is, How many more are there?

 

Why, our American anti-terrorist infrastructure is virtually infallible in choosing whom to single out for investigation and actions which challenge their rights to participate in our society.

The meeting had all the hallmarks of an ordinary Congressional hearing. There was Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, discussing the problems faced by ordinary citizens mistakenly placed on terrorist watch lists. Then, to the astonishment of the crowd attending a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, Mr. Kennedy offered himself up as Exhibit A.

Between March 1 and April 6, airline agents tried to block Mr. Kennedy from boarding airplanes on five occasions because his name resembled an alias used by a suspected terrorist who had been barred from flying on airlines in the United States, his aides and government officials said.

Instead of acknowledging the craggy-faced, silver-haired septuagenarian as the Congressional leader whose face has flashed across the nation’s television sets for decades, the airline agents acted as if they had stumbled across a fanatic who might blow up an American airplane. Mr. Kennedy said they refused to give him his ticket.

“He said, ‘We can’t give it to you,’ ” Mr. Kennedy said, describing an encounter with an airline agent to the rapt audience. ” ‘You can’t buy a ticket to go on the airline to Boston.’ I said, ‘Well, why not?’ He said, ‘We can’t tell you.’ “

Individuals working for law enforcement have never abused their authority and knowingly sought to obtain punishment or leverage over another person for political reasons.

Hoping to prove the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was under the influence of Communists, the FBI kept the civil rights leader under constant surveillance.

The agency’s hidden tape recorders turned up almost nothing about communism.

But they did reveal embarrassing details about King’s sex life — details the FBI was able to use against him.

The almost fanatical zeal with which the FBI pursued King is disclosed in tens of thousands of FBI memos from the 1960s. …

When King learned he would be the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the FBI decided to take its harassment of King one step further, sending him an insulting and threatening note anonymously. A draft was found in the FBI files years later. In it the FBI wrote, “You are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that.” The letter went on to say, “The American public … will know you for what you are — an evil, abnormal beast,” and “Satan could not do more.”

The letter’s threat was ominous, if not specific: “King you are done.” Some have theorized the intent of the letter was to drive King to commit suicide in order to avoid personal embarrassment. “King, there is only one thing left for you to do,” the letter concluded. “You know what it is … You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

Individuals working for law enforcement have never abused their access to digital materials for any reason.

Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia. …

“These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones,” said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA’s Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003.

She said US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and “collected on” as they called their offices or homes in the United States. …

Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of “cuts” that were available on each operator’s computer.

“Hey, check this out,” Faulk says he would be told, “there’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this call, it’s really funny, go check it out.

America has never prosecuted Americans under the Espionage Act for political reasons.

The impassioned speeches of labor organizer, Socialist leader and five-time presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs were nothing short of evangelical in tone and effect. (He once called socialism “merely Christianity in action.”) Debs inspired groups large and small, and his remarkable charisma is what most concerned the powers that were. …

According to historian Ernest Freeberg, it was precisely Debs’ virtuosity that forced America to grapple with the limits of dissent. In 1918, Debs was convicted under the recently minted Espionage Act for questioning America’s entry into World War I. …

“People should go ahead and obey the law, keep their mouths shut, and let the government run the war.” Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. dismissed criticism of the court’s unanimous ruling against Debs as “a lot of jaw about free speech.”

Don’t worry. Be happy.

Average American citizens have never been targeted inappropriately by the government using authorities intended to combat terrorism

Documents released today by the American Civil Liberties Union reveal new details of Pentagon surveillance of Americans opposed to the Iraq war, including Quakers and student groups. The documents show that the Pentagon was keeping tabs on non-violent protesters by collecting information and storing it in a military anti-terrorism database.

President Obama’s got your back.

President Obama would never allow average American citizens going about their business of participating in American politics to be targeted as terrorist enemies.  

A Department of Homeland Security division produced daily briefings on “peaceful activist demonstrations” during the height of the Occupy Wall Street protests, documents released Tuesday revealed.

The 252 pages of documents were obtained in a March 14 letter from DHS by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which in November 2011 launched a campaign to unearth public records that would show whether the federal government was spying on Occupy Wall Street. FBI records obtained by the group in December showed that the bureau investigated Occupy as a potential “domestic terrorism” threat.

“Taken together, the two sets of documents paint a disturbing picture of federal law enforcement agencies using their vast power in a systematic effort to surveil and disrupt peaceful demonstrations,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said in a statement. “The federal agencies’ actions were not because Occupy represented a ‘terrorist threat’ or a ‘criminal threat,’ but rather because it posed a significant grassroots political challenge to the status quo.”

Jun 12 2013

Chronic Tonic: At This Point, I’d Be Happy With Dentures

Originally posted at Voices on the Square

Let’s talk about teeth. My teeth are just falling out. Kind of randomly. Has been a bit bothersome, but until the past month, didn’t bug me all that much; it was livable.

Ya see, my teeth have always been bad. I had my first cavities in grade school. Yeah, that’s plural. I had quite a few. And when I was around 9ish, a dentist said I had too many teeth for my jaw and I had a few permanent molars pulled. In hindsight, as bad a move as that might have been for a dentist to tell my ma, I have to say I agree – I just do not have that much jaw space – not even for the teeth I have left.

From 5th through 8th grade, I had the curse that is braces. I had crooked teeth and 4 years of painful braces and head gear – the whole 9 yards – and my teeth looked pretty good. Of course, over the ensuing years my teeth fought to return to their normal state and now, yeah, the braces did a little good but my teeth are still crooked, though thankfully, mostly just the bottom.

I mentioned the cavities – my enamel is thin and weak – it breaks and wears out easily. I cannot tell you how many root canals I’ve had, nor fillings, nor fillings that have fallen out, nor root canals that have failed and crowns that have broken off. Nor how many teeth I have broken. And I am the girl who used to floss religiously and always brushed her teeth. It’s really disheartening. I did everything right.

Which brings me to my gripe tonight. My upper right jaw is decimated. Out of the 4 molars that are in it, 3 of them are half teeth with fillings that are gone and the rear one is sans crown now. Thank gawd it’s on the side and not in front. Now, each time a tooth would break or a filling would fall out, I would spend a few days with my mouth in pain and then the pain would subside. Nothing has broken recently, but for some reason, for the past couple weeks, I have been in incredible pain. Not sustained, but frequent and in the same place. I’m wondering what happened and I’m eating advil. I also can’t do narcotics, but I have tramadol, but I’m almost out of that too. I’m really trying to practice some kind of mind control.

So I ask: Why on the Deity’s green earth is dental care not considered part of health care? Seriously, can anyone tell me why? Cuz I can go to the ER and get more tramadol, but I would need more money than my car is worth to get my damn teeth fixed cuz that’s not health care. Or even all pulled and dentures put in, which is what I would consider at this point. Last time I had a filling fall out and a tooth break, it cost me 3 grand to fix. Who has that kind of spare cash hanging around these days? So here I am, in pain and missing teeth, and the only thing I can actually do about it is get more pain pills. Fucked up that is.

So there ends my lovely toothache rant. The floor is yours.