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Aug 03 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”.

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Ana Marie Cox: Why Have So Many Liberals Been Silent about NSA Spying?

Tea Party candidates on the right have been able to generate excitement among GOP base voters with their calls to end the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program. Senator Rand Paul appears to have staked his entire potential presidential campaign on a brash defense of personal privacy (except when it comes to abortion). Libertarian-leaning Republicans in the House have been unapologetic in their criticism of the program, their own energy magnified by near-unanimous support from conservative talk radio and bloggers.

Those advocates of civil liberties (some of them quite new to the cause) have a convenient explanation for why Democrats have been less vocal and slower to criticize the collection of metadata from everyday American citizens: slavish devotion to President Obama, whatever policies he might champion.

 

Ira Chernus: [Why Do We Have an Espionage Act? Why Do We Have an Espionage Act?]

Military justice is to justice as military music is to music. In a civilian court, anyone accused of a crime has the right to trial by a jury of their peers. In the military, a soldier accused of a very serious crime can be tried without any jury at all. In a civilian court, the judge explains the decision as soon as it’s handed down. In the military, the judge just announces the decision and passes sentence.

In Bradley Manning’s case, Judge Denise Lind did say “she would issue findings later that would explain her ruling on each of the charges.” We don’t know how long “later” may be. All we know now is that Judge Lind does not think Manning was aiding the enemy.

Which raises an interesting question: If you take classified documents, but you don’t do it to help some enemy, apparently you haven’t done any harm to the United States. So why is it a crime? Why does it count as “spying” at all? I always thought “spying” meant one side stealing secrets from the other side.

Marcy Wheeler: James Cole: “Of Course We’d Like Records of People Buying” Pressure Cookers

Now that the Suffolk cops have revealed they investigated Michele Catalano’s family because of a tip from her husband’s former employer about his Google searches and not FBI or NSA analysis of Google data themselves, a lot of people are suggesting it would be crazy to imagine that the Feds might have found Catalano via online searches.

Which is funny. Because just a day before this story broke, this exchange happened in the Senate between Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy and Deputy Attorney General James Cole. (after 1:45, though just before this exchange Leahy asks whether DOJ could use Section 215 to obtain URLs and bookmarks, among other records, which Cole didn’t deny)

   Leahy: But if our phone records are relevant, why wouldn’t our credit card records? Wouldn’t you like to know if somebody’s buying, um, what is the fertilizer used in bombs?

   Cole: I may not need to collect everybody’s credit card records in order to do that.

   [snip]

   If somebody’s buying things that could be used to make bombs of course we would like to know that but we may not need to do it in this fashion.

John Nichols: Bankrupting Democracy in Detroit

The citizens of one of our largest cities are being shut out of the decisions that will affect their future.

After decades of deindustrialization compounded by state and federal neglect, Detroit has been placed on a crash course that could see it in bankruptcy before year’s end. Yet instead of running away from this challenge, legislators, a former police chief and a former county prosecutor are all competing in an August 6 primary and a November 5 general election to choose a new mayor. The timing couldn’t be better for voters to weigh in on the city’s tough choices and set priorities-and to choose leaders to implement them. There is just one problem: the winner of the election will not have the authority to govern.

Michael German: Let’s Be Very Clear, Edward Snowden is a Whistleblower

My American Civil Liberties Union colleagues and I have been extremely busy since the Guardian and the Washington Post published leaked classified documents exposing the scope of the government’s secret interpretations of the Patriot Act and the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allow the FBI and NSA to spy on hundreds of millions of innocent Americans. We haven’t written much about the alleged leaker of this information, Edward Snowden, however, mainly because we took his advice to focus on what the NSA and FBI were doing, rather than on what he did or didn’t do. (See exceptions here and here).

But I did want to clear up a question that seems to keep coming up: whether Snowden is a whistleblower. It is actually not a hard question to answer. The Whistleblower Protection Act protects “any disclosure” that a covered employee reasonably believes evidences “any violation of any law, rule, or regulation,” or “gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, and abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.”

Amy Traub; Fast Food Shouldn’t Mean Low Wages

The idea is simple: people who get up and go to work every day in one of the world’s richest countries should not have to live in poverty.

That’s why, across the country and throughout the week, low-wage fast food and retail employees walked out on strike, calling for $15 an hour and respect for their right to organize a union.  Claudette Wilson and her co-workers walked out from a Burger King in Detroit, joined by other fast food workers. Andrew Little and his fellow employees went on strike from Victoria’s Secret and other stores and restaurants in Chicago. In St. Louis, members of the United Mine Workers joined employees of Jack in the Box and Hardee’s among other fast food franchises in solidarity. And Terrance Wise hit the picket lines in Kansas City on strike from his part-time jobs at Pizza Hut and Burger King. Workers were striking in Flint and Milwaukee as well. Here in New York, I and some Demos colleagues had a chance to join a rally in support of workers at the McDonalds in Union Square.