07/28/2013 archive

Anti-Capitalist MeetUp: Surveillance Corps Capture Congress, Courts, Exec. by Justina

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Wired.com, in a July 26, 2013 piece by David Cravats, details that not-very-surprising fact that those congressional representatives who received the largest political donations from defense contractors voted last week, 217 to 205, to oppose cuts to NSA’s phone-spying dragnet budget.   Those who opposed the cuts, and thus the “Amash amendment” received 122% more defense contractor funds than those who voted against it, with one Democratic exception of Representative Dennis Moran of Virginia.

An analysis done by the Berkeley non-profit, MapLight for Wired showed that Defense contractor donations averaged $41,635 from the pot, whereas House members who voted to repeal authority averaged $18,765 for the previous two year period.

The only really surprising fact is how very little the defense contractors had to pony-up to buy their contractor-collusive representative over the two year period:  $12.97 million.

In contrast to the billions of dollars these big corporations make each year from their defense contracts in the surveillance industry, the going price for representatives is trifling low.  (Of course, undoubtedly some representatives with committee assignments critical to surveillance budget issues do undoubtedly get lucrative extra perks in the form of post-term jobs, many as lobbyists, should they leave Congress, but still the cost of doing business with friendly congressional representatives is  virtually a rounding error in their corporate budgets.  

Rant of the Week: Stephen Colbert, The Word: Color Bind

The Word – Color-bind

President Obama takes the first step in racial dialogue by discussing how it feels to be in a room full of white people who are scared of him.

   COLBERT: Nation, it’s time we Caucasian Americans accept that when it comes to furthering the racial dialog, the ball is in our court, even though having the ball on a court has never been our strong suit. President Obama had taken the first step by frankly discussing, as a black man, how it feels to be in a room full of white people who are scared of him.

   Now I believe it’s my turn to be honest about the white experience… black people are scary. And, folks, that’s not just me saying that. I mean, just ask the TV. […]

   That’s not prejudice. That’s just math. Okay? So, if in 2011, out of 42 million African Americans, 4149 were arrested for murder, which means we can reasonably be scared of .009% of African Americans. Now, it doesn’t sound like a lot, until… until you consider… until you consider that we don’t know which nine one thousandth of one percent. So, to be safe, we have to be scared of all of them.

   This is the same reason I assume all Arabs are terrorists and all Irishmen are leprechauns. […]

   Now that I’ve done this, in the dialog of racial understanding, white people have done our part. Okay? We have shown the courage to admit we’re terrified, but it’s a two way street black people.

   Which is why, right now, I would like to address all of my African American viewers. Folks, it is your responsibility to change how white people feel about you and according to President Obama, there’s a simple way you can do it. […]

   So the answer’s obvious. Black people need to become Senators.

h/t Heather at Crooks and Liars  

On This Day In History July 28

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.

July 28 is the 209th day of the year (210th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 156 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1868, following its ratification by the necessary three-quarters of U.S. states, the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing to African Americans citizenship and all its privileges, is officially adopted into the U.S. Constitution.


In the decades after its adoption, the equal protection clause was cited by a number of African American activists who argued that racial segregation denied them the equal protection of law. However, in 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that states could constitutionally provide segregated facilities for African Americans, so long as they were equal to those afforded white persons. The Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which announced federal toleration of the so-called “separate but equal” doctrine, was eventually used to justify segregating all public facilities, including railroad cars, restaurants, hospitals, and schools. However, “colored” facilities were never equal to their white counterparts, and African Americans suffered through decades of debilitating discrimination in the South and elsewhere. In 1954, Plessy v. Ferguson was finally struck down by the Supreme Court in its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

The Fourteenth Amendment (Amendment XIV) to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 29, 1868 as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.

Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), which held that blacks could not be citizens of the United States.

Its Due Process Clause prohibits state and local governments from depriving people (individual and corporate) of life, liberty, or property without certain steps being taken. This clause has been used to make most of the Bill of Rights applicable to the states, as well as to recognize substantive rights and procedural rights.

Its Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction. This clause later became the basis for Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court decision which precipitated the dismantling of racial segregation in the United States.

The there is that pertinent and pesky Article 4:

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Validity of public debt

Section 4 confirmed the legitimacy of all United States public debt appropriated by the Congress. It also confirmed that neither the United States nor any state would pay for the loss of slaves or debts that had been incurred by the Confederacy. For example, several English and French banks had lent money to the South during the war. In Perry v. United States (1935), the Supreme Court ruled that under Section 4 voiding a United States government bond “went beyond the congressional power.” Section 4 has been cited (during the debate in July of 2011 over whether to raise the U.S. debt ceiling) by some legal experts and Democratic members in the U.S. House Democratic caucus, as giving current President Barack Obama the authority to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling if the Congress does not appear to be able to pass an agreement by Tuesday, August 2, 2011. The White House Press Office and President Obama have said that it will not be resorted to, though Democratic members of the House that support the move are formally petitioning him to do so “for the sake of the country’s fiscal stability.” A final resolution to the crisis has not yet been decided upon.

Obama: Killing Children Is Above The Law

The government has killed a 16-year-old American boy. Shouldn’t it at least have to explain why?  

~Nasser al-Awlaki~

Nasser al-Awlaki: “My Grandson Was Killed by His Own Government”

by Jim White, emptywheel

While the nation grieves over the senseless death of Trayvon Martin and the missed opportunity to hold his killer responsible for that death, there is another senseless death of an American teenager of color where an attempt is continuing, after previous failures, to hold accountable those responsible for the lawless way in which this life was arbitrarily ended.

Exactly one year ago today, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit (pdf) on behalf of Nasser al-Awlaki (father of Anwar al-Awlaki and grandfather of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki) and Sarah Khan (wife of Samir Khan). The defendants in the case are former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Commander of Special Operations Command William McRaven, Commander of Joint Special Operations Command Joseph Votel and former CIA Head David Petraeus. The complaint cites violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments as well as violation of the Bill of Attainder Clause in the targeted killings of Anwar al-Awlaki, Abdulrahaman al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. [..]

Given what is known about the role of Barack Obama in these killings and his personal authorization of the “kill list” in his Terror Tuesday meetings, I find it perplexing that he is not also a defendant in this case.

The complaint seeks damages in an amount to be determined at the trial and any other relief the court deems just and proper.

Coincident with the filing of the complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia a year ago, the video above was released.

Sadly, we can state with confidence that even before the proceedings open the government will argue that it does not have to explain why it killed Abdulrahman. Because terror. Even more sadly, it is quite likely that the court will side with this senseless and lawless argument. Because terror.

What has our country become?

US government argues drone strikes are above the law

by David Sirota, Salon

A new lawsuit challenges whether counterterrorist officials should be allowed to operate without fear of litigation

Court cases are often cures for insomnia, but every so often a lawsuit is an eye-opening journey through the looking glass. One of those is suddenly upon us – and we should be thankful because it finally provides an unfiltered look at our government.

You may not know about this case, but you should. Called Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta, it illustrates the extremism driving the policies being made in the public’s name. [..]

But perhaps the most important thing to know about this case is what the government is arguing about the law itself. In defending the administration, Hauck asserted that such suits should not be permitted because they “don’t want these counterterrorism officials distracted by the threat of litigation.”

The radical message is obvious: Yes, the government now claims that America should not want public officials to have to consider the constraints of the law.

If this harrowing doctrine sounds familiar, that’s because the sentiment behind it has been creeping into our political dialogue for years. [..]

Consider, though, what’s more dangerous: a government that has to momentarily think about following the law when using violence or a government that gets to use such violence without having to think at all?

Government officials pretend they have the only answer to that question. But Nasser Al-Aulaqi’s dead grandson suggests there is a far more accurate answer than the one those officials are offering.


Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis 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

The Sunday Talking Heads:

Up with Steve Kornacki: Joining Steve Kornacki on Sunday’s show will be: Ana Marie Cox, political columnist, The Guardian; Josh Barro, politics editor, Business Insider; Jamelle Bouie, staff writer at The American Prospect; and Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC host “Melissa Harris-Perry.”

This Week with George Stephanopolis: Guests on “This Week” are: crisis management expert Judy Smith; Treasury Secretary Jack Lew; Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA); Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap.

The roundtable guests are ABC’s George Will; Editor and Publisher of The Nation and Washington Post columnist Katrina vanden Heuvel; Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan; and former Lead Auto Adviser and Counselor to the Treasury Secretary Steven Rattner.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Mr. Schieffer’s guest are chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI); Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO); Bob Nightengale of USA Today and Bill Rhoden of The New York Times.

The panel guests are Dee Dee Myers of Vanity Fair; David Gergen of Harvard University; and Michael Gerson of The Washington Post.

Meet the Press with David Gregory: On this Sunday’s MTP the guests are Treasury Secretary Jack Lew; City Council Speaker Christine Quinn; and House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI).

Guests at the roundtable are NBC Senior Political Analyst David Axelrod; Host of CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” Maria Bartiromo; GOP strategist Mike Murphy; and former Democratic Congressman from Tennessee, Harold Ford.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Ms Crowley’s guests are Treasury Secretary Jack Lew;  Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA); and Rep. Peter King (R-NY).

Her panel guest are Radio Talk Show host Chris Plante and CNN Political Commentators Paul Begala, Cornell Belcher, and Ana Navarro.

Formula One 2013: Hungaroring

Java.  We hateses it.  I think I have it cranking enough to do the timing and scoring thing, but you never know and it’s come at the expense of a more detailed exposition.

Mediums and Softs.  Hamilton on the pole which has rotated between Red Bull and Mercedes.  Grosjean and Ricciardo unexpectedly high, Webber didn’t even bother with Q3.  At the halfway point Alonso and Räikkönen hunting Vettel, Hamilton a rather sad 4th.  Mercedes and Scuderia Marlboro duking it out for second, McLaren looking lost in 6th behind Force India.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

‘Homosexual propaganda’ law signals latest Russian crackdown

By Albina Kovalyova, Producer, NBC News

 A new law banning “homosexual propaganda” in Russia is raising concerns about the state of human rights in a country already notorious for silencing dissent.

The legislation is vague but its intent is clear: It is now “illegal to spread information about non-traditional sexual behavior” to minors (under 18), and there are hefty fines for those who disobey. Foreigners are also subject to fines and can be deported.

Anti-homosexual crackdowns are nothing new in Russia: In 1933 the Soviet regime imposed a law banning sexual relations between men – punishable by a five-year prison term. Although it was lifted after the fall of the Soviet Union, homophobia still runs deep.

Sunday’s Headlines:

220 million children who don’t exist: A birth certificate is a passport to a better life – so why can’t we all have one?

Netanyahu agrees to free 104 Palestinians

Tsvangirai says Mugabe must be given ‘dignified exit’

Save Caribbean snorkeling and ‘eat a lion,’ conservationists say.

Kim Philby, the Observer connection and the establishment world of spies

What We Now Know

In this week’s segment of “What We Now Know,” Up host Steve Kornacki and his guests Lizz Winstead, author, “Lizz Free or Die;” Michael Steele, MSNBC Political Analyst, former RNC Chairman; Democratic Strategist Basil Smikle, Jr.; and Lynn Vavreck, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science discuss what they have learned this week.

Honest Tea Finds Most And Least Honest Cities With Unmanned Kiosks

For the past few years, Honest Tea has been conducting a social experiment to figure out which cities were the most (or least) honest. The company places unmanned tea kiosks around the country, and asks people to deposit a dollar for each beverage, using the honor system. Through digital tracking, Honest Tea monitors who is actually paying for the beverages and who isn’t. Last year, Honest Tea found that Chicago was the most honest and New York was the least honest, but this year, results have varied a bit.

Defeated Congressman Taps Campaign Cash to Hire ‘Hula Monsters’ for Party

by Shane Goldmacher

Pete Stark books a Hawaiian-themed band to perform for a backyard party.

What’s a defeated 20-term member of Congress with some leftover campaign cash to do? Throw a party, of course.

More than six months after he was ousted by California voters, Democratic former Rep. Pete Stark hired The Hula Monsters, a Hawaiian-shirt clad band that plays a blend of swing, honky-tonk and more, to perform for a backyard party, according to campaign spending records and an interview with a band member.

Federal politicians aren’t supposed to use campaign accounts for personal benefit – only legitimate political purposes. Messages left for Stark’s accountant and former campaign manager about the spending were not returned. [..]

As of June 30, Stark still had $67,550 cash on hand in his account. The treasurer keeping the books is his wife, Deborah Stark.