Daily Archive: 09/09/2011

Sep 09 2011

Civil Liberties, National Security & 9/11

How the public’s attitude toward civil liberties and national security have changes in the last ten years since 9/11. It’s not what you would think. We have evolved, our politicians haven’t.

Public opinion surprises

by Glenn Greenwald

The most common claim to justify endless civil liberties erosions in the name of security — and to defend politicians who endorse those erosions — is that Americans don’t care about those rights and are happy to sacrifice them.  The principal problem with this claim is that it is false, as a new Pew Research poll demonstrates:

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It was only in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 that a majority of Americans was prepared to sacrifice civil liberties in the name of Terrorism.  But this game-playing with public opinion — falsely claiming that the public is indifferent to civil liberties in order to justify assaults on them — is common.  To this day, if you criticize President Obama for shielding Bush officials from investigations, you’ll be met with the claim that doing so was politically necessary, even though poll after poll found in the wake of Obama’s inauguration that large majorities wanted those inquiries.  Similarly, when The New York Times revealed that the Bush administration was illegally spying on the communications of Americans without the warrants required by law, Beltway pundits such as Joe Klein in unison “warned” Democrats that Americans were in favor of such measures and it would be politically suicidal to object, even though polls repeatedly showed the opposit.  The same happened when Beltway pundits repeatedly insisted that Americans opposed Congressional investigations into the U.S. Attorneys scandal even when polls showed huge majorities wanting them.

Post-September 11, NSA ‘enemies’ include us

by James Bramford

Somewhere between Sept. 11 and today, the enemy morphed from a handful of terrorists to the American population at large, leaving us nowhere to run and no place to hide.

Within weeks of the attacks, the giant ears of the National Security Agency, always pointed outward toward potential enemies, turned inward on the American public itself. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, established 23 years before to ensure that only suspected foreign agents and terrorists were targeted by the NSA, would be bypassed. Telecom companies, required by law to keep the computerized phone records of their customers confidential unless presented with a warrant, would secretly turn them over in bulk to the NSA without ever asking for a warrant.

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Despite his hollow campaign protests, President Barack Obama has greatly expanded what President George W. Bush began. And through amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Congress largely ratified the secret Bush program.

Why does safer mean less free?

by Jeffrey Rosen

After Sept. 11, we’ve been told repeatedly, “Everything changed.” When it comes to the legal balance between liberty and security, however, the truism is at least partly true.

There’s no question that the legal dynamics of privacy and security were transformed by a series of laws and technologies that, in some cases, made us less free but no more safe. Many of these legal responses – the PATRIOT Act, for example – had been proposed years, even decades, earlier but passed only in the wave of fear after the terrorist attacks.

In particular, three of the post-Sept. 11 legal reactions – involving terrorist detentions, domestic surveillance and airport security – have made us a different nation than we could have imagined 10 years ago.

Two administrations, Republican and Democratic, have now asserted the right to detain indefinitely suspected terrorists without trial, to seize the private information of any citizen on the government’s say-so and to subject innocent citizens to virtual strip searches at the airport even when less invasive security technologies are available.

It’s far too extreme to say that, with these legal changes, America has morphed into something unrecognizable – becoming, say, Chile as a result. In fact, things could have been worse – and many of our European allies made similarly unfortunate decisions. But with more leadership, from both the president and Congress, we could have been freer without becoming less safe.

A Call to Courage: Reclaiming Our Liberties Ten Years After 9/11

Ten years after 9/11, the ACLU joins all Americans in remembering the unspeakable losses suffered on that tragic day. The 10th anniversary of 9/11 provides an opportunity to reflect on the turbulent decade behind us, and to recommit ourselves to values that define our nation, including justice, due process, and the rule of law.

   Torture: Just as the public debate over the legality, morality, and efficacy of torture was warped by fabrication and evasion, so, too, were the legal and political debates about the consequences of the Bush administration’s lawbreaking. Apart from the token prosecutions of Abu Ghraib’s “bad apples,” virtually every individual with any involvement in the torture program was able to deflect responsibility elsewhere. The military and intelligence officials who carried out the torture were simply following orders; the high government officials who authorized the torture were relying on the advice of lawyers; the lawyers were “only lawyers,” not policymakers. This had been the aim of the conspiracy: to create an impenetrable circle of impunity, with everyone culpable but no one accountable.

   Indefinite detainment: President Obama’s pledge to close Guantanamo was undermined by his own May 2009 announcement of a policy enshrining at Guantanamo the principle of indefinite military detention without charge or trial….The real danger of the Guantanamo indefinite detention principle is that its underlying rationale has no definable limits.

   Targeted assassinations: No national security policy raises a graver threat to human rights and the international rule of law than targeted killing….Under the targeted killing program begun by the Bush administration and vastly expanded by the Obama administration, the government now compiles secret “kill lists” of its targets, and at least some of those targets remain on those lists for months at a time.

   Surveillance: The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has used excessive secrecy to hide possibly unconstitutional surveillance….Hobbled by executive claims of secrecy, Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have nevertheless warned their colleagues that the government is operating under a “reinterpretation” of the Patriot Act that is so broad that the public will be stunned and angered by its scope, and that the executive branch is engaging in dragnet surveillance in which “innocent Americans are getting swept up.”

   Profiling: No area of American Muslim civil society was left untouched by discriminatory and illegitimate government action during the Bush years….To an alarming extent, the Obama administration has continued to embrace profiling as official government policy….There are increasing reports that the FBI is using Attorney General Ashcroft’s loosened profiling standards, together with broader authority to use paid informants, to conduct surveillance of American Muslims in case they might engage in wrongdoing.

   Data mining: Nothing exemplifies the risks our national surveillance society poses to our privacy rights better than government “data mining.”….The range and number of these programs is breathtaking and their names Orwellian. Programs such as eGuardian, “Eagle Eyes,” “Patriot Reports,” and “See Something, Say Something” are now run by agencies including the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security….Without effective oversight, security agencies are now also engaged in a “land grab,” rushing into the legal vacuum to expand their monitoring powers far beyond anything seen in our history. Each of the over 300 million cell phones in the United States, for example, reveals its lcation to the mobile network carrier with ever-increasing accuracy, whenever it is turned on, and the Justice Department is aggressively using cell phones to monitor people’s location, claiming that it does not need a warrant.

Our choice is not between safety and freedom; in fact it is our fundamental values that are the very foundation of our strength and security.

Sep 09 2011

This Week In The Dream Antilles

Today, September 9, should be a National Holiday.  Your Bloguero is well aware that it isn’t.  Not yet.  And your Bloguero also knows that you, dear reader, don’t yet know why today should be a NH.  Your Bloguero will explain.  Eventually.  Your Bloguero knows that some day justice will be served and today will be celebrated as a NH.  After all, today is Otis Redding’s birthday.  Had he not died at age 26 (in 1967) there is no question whatsoever that he would have been recognized as the absolute King of Soul Music.  The pinnacle.  The apex.  The zenith.  And that his birthday would, of course, have to be a NH.  At least among people with ears and souls.

Why all this raving?  You need to listen to Otis Redding.  And if you listen to only one song all the way through, let it be this one.   In your Bloguero’s judgment, this 1968 recording is among Otis Redding’s most remarkable recordings:

No, it doesn’t have an exciting video with it.  That’s because it’s pre-MTV, pre-Youtube.  It’s a 53 year old recording, though you won’t believe that if you listen to it.

One of the joys of being your Bloguero is playing songs as wonderful as this.  In fact, playing it over and over again is rewarding, too.  It becomes a kind of mental floss that caresses the heart while it sweeps out all of the contamination and toxicity of the past week. Cataloguing the past week’s  bumper crop of awfulness is something your Bloguero will eschew.  Suffice it to say that replacing all of that with this song is a step in the right direction, a step toward hope.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now, it is not actually a digest of essays posted in the past week at The Dream Antilles. For that you have to visit The Dream Antilles. Please leave a comment so that your Bloguero will know that you stopped by. Or click the Encouragement Jar.  Your Bloguero likes to know you’ve visited.

cross posted from The Dream Antilles  

Sep 09 2011

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”.

New York Times Editorial: The Jobs Speech

With more than 14 million people out of work and all Americans fearing a double-dip recession, President Obama stood face to face Thursday night with a Congress that has perversely resisted lifting a finger to help. Some Republicans refused to even sit and listen. But those Americans who did heard him unveil an ambitious proposal – more robust and far-reaching than expected – that may be the first crucial step in reigniting the economy.

Perhaps as important, they heard a president who was lately passive but now newly energized, who passionately contrasted his vision of a government that plays its part in tough times with the Republicans’ vision of a government starved of the means to do so.

Paul Krugman: Setting Their Hair on Fire

First things first: I was favorably surprised by the new Obama jobs plan, which is significantly bolder and better than I expected. It’s not nearly as bold as the plan I’d want in an ideal world. But if it actually became law, it would probably make a significant dent in unemployment.

Of course, it isn’t likely to become law, thanks to G.O.P. opposition. Nor is anything else likely to happen that will do much to help the 14 million Americans out of work. And that is both a tragedy and an outrage.

Before I get to the Obama plan, let me talk about the other important economic speech of the week, which was given by Charles Evans, the president of the Federal Reserve of Chicago. Mr. Evans said, forthrightly, what some of us have been hoping to hear from Fed officials for years now.

John Nichols: Obama’s Speech Delivered, But Can He Fight?

Obama Has Steered the Debate Back Toward Jobs; Now, He Must Go Out and Win It

Barack Obama delivered a credible if uninspired jobs speech Thursday night.

He communicated that the United States cannot meet the challenges of an unemployment crisis with an austerity agenda that owes more to Herbert Hoover than Franklin Roosevelt. But he muddied the message with too much debt and deficit talk.

He signaled to organized labor and progressives that he at least understands the point of a “go big” response to the challenge-even as his instinctive caution erred against going big enough.

In fact, his rhetoric was good deal better than the specifics of his plan.

Wendy Mink: The Payroll Tax Holiday: Talk about a Ponzi Scheme!

Is President Obama trying to kill Social Security without explicitly saying so?  He put Social Security “on the table” for consideration by his Deficit Commission — even though Social Security has not contributed to creating or sustaining the deficit/debt in the first place.  He kept Social Security on the table when he made a deal to delegate deficit reduction authority over entitlements to an undemocratic Super Committee.  Now, in a speech reportedly about jobs, he proposed to extend and increase the ill-considered FICA tax cut he embraced last December — a tax cut that directly undermines the financial integrity of Social Security.

According to the White House Fact Sheet on “The American Jobs Act” the FICA tax holiday for workers will be increased to a 50% reduction, lowering it to 3.1%.  Under the 2010 tax deal, the payroll tax for workers was reduced from 6.2% to 4.2%.  In addition to expanding the tax cut for workers, the President proposes to extend the FICA tax holiday to employers by cutting in half the employer’s share of the payroll tax through the first $5 million in payroll.

Eugene Robinson: Recognize That It’s Over

The war our enemies began on Sept. 11, 2001, is long over. Perhaps now, after 10 years of anxiety and self-doubt, we can acknowledge our victory and begin the postwar renewal and reconciliation that the nation so desperately needs.

There never was a “war on terrorism.” It wasn’t “terrorism” that crashed airliners into buildings on that brilliant Tuesday morning. The attacks were carried out by a 19-member assault team from al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization then being sheltered by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. There most definitely was a war against al-Qaeda, and we won.

Joe Conason: Texas Medicaid’s Vast and Dangerous Wastefulness

Both as governor of Texas and as the leading Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry has established himself as a harsh critic of federal programs and, in particular, as a “state’s rights” advocate who accuses Washington of gross ineptitude and waste in providing services such as health care for the poor and elderly.

In his 2010 book “Fed Up” and in his campaign speeches, Perry has often asserted that the states, simply left to do the job without federal interference, could perform far better. The theme is highly popular, like Perry himself, in tea party circles.

Sep 09 2011

Hands Off Medicare & Social Security

Memo to the President and the Super Committee: Hands off of our social safety nets

From Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft:

The SuperCommittee Henchmen meet today. Raising medicare eligibility to age 67 is on the table for discussions. The Democrats have submitted a memo with various proposed changes and a discussion of each. Here’s the memo(pdf). Raising the eligibility age appears on page 7.

   President Obama proposed raising the Medicare eligibility age as part of the debt-ceiling agreement, but Democrats are hardly united behind the policy.

The Democrats note that it’s not going to be a money saver — it’s just going to shift who pays the money

Once again in his speech before Congress, President Obama kept the door open for cuts to the social safety net, calling for “reform” but saying that “modest reforms” to Medicare and Medicaid won’t mean cuts for “current beneficiaries.” To the presidents ardent supporters, it’s always “but, but, he didn’t say that”. Well maybe not last night, but he has over the summer:

To the chagrin of many in his party, this summer Mr. Obama proposed changes in Medicare and Social Security that once would have been unthinkable for a Democratic president during his unsuccessful talks with the House speaker, John A. Boehner, for a “grand bargain” on cutting deficits. In return for the Republicans’ agreement to raise taxes after 2012 for the wealthy, Mr. Obama indicated that his party would support slowly increasing the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 from 65 and changing the formula for cost-of-living increases in Social Security to a less generous one that some economists consider more accurate.

It is never about what this president says as it is about what he doesn’t say, as Ms. Merritt says in her article today about the president’s speech, “Obviously, that excludes those of us on the precipe of eligibility” and tax cuts be damned:

I could care less about a $1,500 tax break when it’s going to be funded by delaying Medicare eligibility. For a paltry $1,500, he’s ensuring I will have to continue to pay $15,000 a year in insurance premiums and deductibles for an extra two years (65 to 67), even though I held up my end of the bargain and paid my required share in medicare and social security taxes for 45 years. And these are the premiums for healthy people — they are age driven. For those two years alone, he’s offering me $3,000. but costing me $30,000. What a deal. And it’s not an entitlement he’s denying, it’s money I’ve already paid in which the Government always told me I could count on receiving back in the form of Medicare at age 65.

And what if we get disabled between 65 and 67? Disability policies end at 65 (probably because that’s when people start receiving Medicare)and even though some policies can be extended, the premiums for doing so this late in the game are so exorbitant, it makes little sense. If we become sick or disabled and unable to work at age 65, and we have no Medicare or disability insurance, how do we survive? On social security? That’s a laugh. I’d rather Obama asked me to donate $1,500. to someone already needy and left Medicare alone. I would have been glad to do it.

Ouch.

To add insult to injury, President Obama has also called for the Super Committee to cut more than the $1.5 trillion from the budget than it was tasked to do. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signed on to President Obama’s call to cut more than the $1.5 trillion that the committee has been tasked to do:

“Yes, I want them to go bigger than that,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday when asked whether he thought the group should shoot for more than $1.5 trillion in savings. “I’m not going to set a number, but I’d like it to be more than the minimum.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said at his weekly pen-and-pad briefing that he, too, would like the committee to act with the “courage and conviction to adopt essentially the plan, the premise and the proposals” of the previous deficit-reduction commissions. He also noted that he had spoken with all of the supercommittee members except for Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

So how does anyone think that goal will be achieved? The private contract bloated military budget? By increasing revenues through tax reform and letting the Obama/Bush tax cuts expire?

Dream on

Sep 09 2011

Obama’s Plan: Cut the Safety Net

So now we’ve heard Barry’s big “jobs speech” and it turns out to be the exact opposite of what is needed to rescue the crumbling nation.  No surprise there.

Obama’s so-called “jobs plan” is huge cuts in the payroll tax that are designed to manufacture a real future shortfall in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which will then be used as the rationale for imposing deep cuts on, or even the elimination of, all three programs.  Corporate tax cuts will drain even more revenue from the treasury, which will make extending unemployment insurance for the unemployed who currently qualify, not to mention infrastructure repair, highly unlikely.

Sep 09 2011

On This Day In History September 9

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.

September 9 is the 252nd day of the year (253rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 113 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1776, Congress renames the nation “United States of America”.

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress formally declares the name of the new nation to be the “United States” of America. This replaced the term “United Colonies,” which had been in general use.

In the Congressional declaration dated September 9, 1776, the delegates wrote, “That in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words ‘United Colonies’ have been used, the stile be altered for the future to the “United States.”

The Lee Resolution, also known as the resolution of independence, was an act of the Second Continental Congress declaring the United Colonies to be independent of the British Empire. First proposed on June 7, 1776, by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, after receiving instructions from the Virginia Convention and its President, Edmund Pendleton  (in fact Lee used, almost verbatim, the language from the instructions in his resolution). Voting on the resolution was delayed for several weeks while support for independence was consolidated. On June 11, a Committee of Five  was appointed to prepare a document to explain the reasons for independence. The resolution was finally approved on July 2, 1776, and news of its adoption was published that evening in the Pennsylvania Evening Post and the next day in the Pennsylvania Gazette. The text of the document formally announcing this action, the United States Declaration of Independence, was approved on July 4.

Sep 09 2011

Countdown with Keith Olbermann: Worst Persons 9.7.2011

Countdown with Keith Olbermann 09-07-2011 – Worst Persons

Sep 09 2011

Tailgating

Hmm…

According to Zap2it, of the 5 major broadcast networks, only ABC is going to carry the Presidential Address on Jobs in front of a Joint Session of Congress.  Even MSNBC is saying that they’re going with a Tweety repeat.  Don’t blink, you might miss it.

The rest?  Entertainment Tonight, Jeopardy, and Wheel of Fortune.  In short, Local Programming.

I’ll allow you to ponder for a moment what that says about prospects for Electoral Victory in 2012.

NBC is going to be showing Football Night in America without Keith Olbermann and if you don’t care to watch that and are as television addicted as I, here is some other programming to accompany your Season Opening Kickoff party.

It’s the Hypnotoad-

“Television is a vast wasteland”

hypnotoad

It should be a fun game, Saints v. Packers– a repeat of last year’s Super Bowl.  If you want, you can discuss that below too.

Sep 09 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 37 stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Libya’s new PM warns toughest battles lie ahead

By Andrew Beatty, AFP

2 hrs 36 mins ago

Libya’s new de facto premier on Thursday used his first major address in Tripoli to warn that liberation was not yet complete and the hardest battles were yet to come.

Speaking in the capital for the first time since Moamer Kadhafi’s ouster, Mahmud Jibril laid out the stark challenges ahead for a nation reborn in the fire of a seven-month-long civil war.

If Libyans were expecting a triumphalist address two weeks after Kadhafi’s fall from power they would have been chastened.