Daily Archive: 04/04/2014

Apr 04 2014

Obama Signs Law To Get Money Out Of Politics!!!

Mirable Dictu! President Barack Obama has joined hands with Republican Eric Cantor to get money out of politics!

Even cooler, they’ve agreed to give the money to support research for illnesses that hurt children.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

Um… remember that little checkbox on your tax form that lets you give $3 to support presidential candidates?  The one that enabled public funding of presidential campaigns?

Obama just dismantled that with a stroke of his pen.

Obama signs ban on public funding of presidential campaigns into law

A ban on public funding of presidential conventions was quietly signed into law by Barack Obama on Thursday in a move that could further increase the dependency of US political parties on wealthy donors.

A day after the supreme court removed aggregate limits on how much wealthy individuals can spend supporting candidates, the White House agreed to enact legislation dismantling what was left of an alternative public financing model set up after the Watergate scandal.

US taxpayers could previously elect to earmark $3 (pdf) each year to help support presidential candidates, primaries and conventions in a bid to reduce their reliance on donors, but the amount spent has dwindled in recent years as parties increasingly ignore the subsidies on offer because they require agreeing to some limits on overall spending.

Now the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has proposed scrapping the last actively used part of the subsidy system, which provided an $18m grant to support each party convention in 2012, and use the money to fund national research into childhood diseases instead.

Despite opposition from some Democrats, including House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who regard it a political stunt, the bill called the The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act was signed into law in a ceremony at the White House on Thursday afternoon.

Apr 04 2014

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

The New York Times Editorial Board: Europe Moves Ahead on Internet Rules

American government officials and corporate executives are fond of reminding the world that the United States created the Internet. But right now Europe is taking the lead in protecting what makes the Internet great: its openness.

On Thursday, the European Parliament voted for rules that would restrict Internet service providers from blocking or slowing down services like Skype and Netflix on their networks.

These rules, which still need the approval of European governments before they can be enacted, stand in stark contrast to the situation in the United States. Congress has refused to enact strong anti-blocking rules and courts have twice struck down the Federal Communications Commission regulations in this area.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: McCutcheon, the Majority, and the Challenge of Our Time

The Supreme Court’s McCutcheon ruling will be remembered as a decisive battle in a determined and wealthy minority’s war against the popular will. It is not the first such battle, nor will it be the last. And the people will continue to lose — unless and until the rules of engagement are changed.

One compelling way to look at this ruling is by contrasting its immediate and long-term effects with the American people’s aspirations for their government. They are at cross purposes. Even before this ruling, 64 percent of those polled believed that our country’s economic rules unfairly favor the rich. This ruling will rig the game even further. [..]

Previous generations rose to the urgency of their moments: to end slavery, to give women the vote, to rebuild after the Great Depression, to establish civil rights and end wars. Today’s ruling points us to the defining struggle of today’s generation — a struggle for democracy itself. This defeat could ultimately lead to victory — if we respond to the urgency of the moment.

Manfred Nowak: Beyond the Senate report: torture never ‘works’ the way torturers tell you it does

Declassifying the CIA’s Bush-era atrocities will prove what we already knew. Now comes the part we must never forget

Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee will finally vote on whether to make public a disputed report on years of torture conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency. They should vote to declassify this landmark document, as much for what it will remind us as that which we can never know.

Even if only parts of the 6,300-page investigation would ever see the light of the day (and under CIA supervision at that), it would reportedly provide valuable evidence that waterboarding and other methods applied by the Bush administration provided no key information in the hunt of Osama bin Laden – indeed, that America’s so-called enhanced interrogation techniques “yielded little, if any, significant intelligence” at all. [..]

It is about time we knew that Bush-era torture didn’t work as well as we were told. But it is also time we had a more rational discourse on the practice and “legitimacy” of torture.

Sadhbh Walshe: The heir, the judge and the homeless mom: America’s prison bias for the 1%

A DuPont trust-fund creep gets probation. A black woman looking for a job cries in jail for a week. Something’s wrong here

In 2009, when Robert H Richard IV, an unemployed heir to the DuPont family fortune, pled guilty to fourth-degree rape of his three-year-old daughter, a judge spared him a justifiable sentence – indeed, only put Richard on probation – because she figured this 1-percenter would “not fare well” in a prison setting. [..]

Far too often, we give far too little consideration to the consequences of a prison term on the life a poor defendant. At least the public is starting to pay attention to cases like that of Shanesha Taylor, who has been charged with felony child abuse in Scottsdale, Arizona, because she left her two small children alone in a car for a little over an hour to attend a job interview. Taylor was taken straight to jail, where she languished for over a week. Her children were put in the custody of Child Protective Services, where they remain. Obviously leaving two small children unattended in a car was an ill-advised thing to do, but under the circumstances Taylor may simply have exercised the least bad option available to her. [..]

n its devastating report, the Sentencing Project lists 10 concrete measures that would help eliminate some of the more obvious inequalities in the system, from scaling back the war on drugs to eliminating mandatory minimum sentences to abolishing the death penalty. But until we recognize that bias permeates the system at every level – however unconscious or unintended – meaningful change will elude us.

John Soltz: The Military-Civilian Divide on Gun Laws, and Ft. Hood

With news that another shooting tragedy has hit Ft. Hood, my heart is breaking for the families of those who were wounded and killed by a gunman who is said to have purchased a gun, off-base, brought it on to the base, and unleashed carnage. While many details are still unknown, it is too early to talk about what may have triggered this incident and what, specifically, could have stopped it. [..]

The Department of Defense would be wise to do a feasibility study on whether we could search all people coming into base, especially if civilian laws don’t get much stronger on guns. It may cost us a ton of money to conduct such searches, but until the civilian world figures out its issue with easy access to guns, protecting our troops would be worth every cent.

In the end, we’ll soon know all the details about this latest tragic shooting, and may know more about Ivan Lopez’s situation. But, generally speaking, until civilian law matches military law on guns, we unfortunately must brace ourselves for the possibility of more of these tragedies.

Mark Rufallo and Wenonah Hauter: Fracking Exports Will Leave U.S. Communities in the Dark

Last month, thirty Senate Democrats — members of the “climate caucus” — stayed Up All Night on the Senate floor to speak out about climate change. This was an important moment to highlight the most critical environmental issue of our time. What was not mentioned however, was the massive threat to our planet posed by exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) extracted through the increasingly controversial process known as “fracking.” Yet legislation authored by one of their own — Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) and a House bill by Congressman Cory Gardner (R-CO), would tear down barriers to the export of LNG, potentially spurring a massive increase in fracking, exacerbating the problems the senators spoke out against.

Ever since the crisis in Ukraine erupted, the oil and gas industry and its friends in Congress have been pushing exports of gas. While many justifications have been offered to explain this push for LNG exports, in reality, this has nothing to do with lofty foreign policy objectives and everything to do with the oil and gas industry using a crisis to ram its agenda through Congress — shock doctrine style. It calls to mind the Bush Administration’s use of the tragedies of September 11 to justify invading Iraq, and the Obama administration’s use of the mortgage crisis to bail out the financial sector.

Apr 04 2014

Part of Torture Report To Be Released, Someday

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted on Thursday. by 11 – 3, to declassify portions of a study into the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of torture on detainees suspected of being involved in terrorism.

CIA officers subjected some terrorism suspects the agency held after the Sept. 11 attacks to interrogation methods that were not approved by either the Justice Department or their own headquarters and illegally detained 26 of the 119 in CIA custody, the Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded in its still-secret report, McClatchy has learned.

The spy agency program’s reliance on brutal techniques _ much more abusive than previously known _ and its failure to gather valuable information from the detainees harmed the U.S.’s credibility, according to the committee’s findings in its scathing 6,300-page report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention program.

The agency also repeatedly misled the Justice Department while stymieing Congress’ and the White House’s efforts to oversee the secret and now-defunct program, McClatchy has learned.

In all, the committee came to 20 conclusions about the CIA’s harsh interrogation tactics after spending six years and $40 million evaluating the controversial program, which began during the Bush administration. [..]

The finding that 26 detainees were held without legal authorization and the confirmation that the CIA in some cases went beyond the techniques approved by the Justice Department might fuel legal challenges.

The committee may have approved the partial release but have deferred to the president to decide just what will be made public and when.

It’s unclear, however, precisely how the declassification process will unfold. The White House could directly oversee what should be released, given the tensions between the committee and the CIA over the report. Or the White House could cede even more control to the CIA, which could mean more details will be kept under wraps. [..]

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said the administration’s position “remains that the executive summary and the findings and conclusions of the final RDI (Rendition Detention and Interrogation) report should be declassified, with any appropriate redactions necessary to protect national security.”

She said she wouldn’t speculate on a timeframe for declassifying something the White House hasn’t yet received. Some expect the process to take months. [..]

Last week, Brennan indicated the agency’s direct involvement, saying that the “CIA will carry out the review expeditiously” once the committee sends it to the executive branch. [..]

The White House has been more involved than publicly acknowledged, however. For five years, the White House has been withholding more than 9,000 top-secret documents sought by the committee for its investigation, even though Obama hasn’t exercised a claim of executive privilege, McClatchy has reported.

Let’s be very clear what this is report reveals and some of the facts.

These are not state secrets. The report is an extensive investigation into the illegal activities of the CIA post 9/11. These are crimes against the state and humanity that the current Justice Department has refused to prosecute. Torture is a war crime.

The Senate does not need the President of the United States to make them public.

These are the facts about the CIA’s torture program and the executive branch cover up that has done more to disgrace this country and undermine the credibility, integrity, the laws and Constitution. Do no forget that as the Senate and the President continue this macabre dance to cover up these crimes.  

While I agree with Marcy Wheeler and others that those who voted to release that portion of the report deserves credit and is a step in the right direction,I will be greatly surprised if any part of the 6300 pages sees the light of day. Nor will any of those who authorized, justified, ordered or committed the crimes of torturing countless prisoners ever be brought to justice. The days of courageous acts like Senator Mike Gravel are long gone. The cover up will continue. That will be one of the blackest marks on the country, ever.

Apr 04 2014

The Breakfast Club: 4-4-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Apr 04 2014

On This Day In History April 4

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.

April 4 is the 94th day of the year (95th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 271 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1949,the NATO pact signed

The United States and 11 other nations establish the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a mutual defense pact aimed at containing possible Soviet aggression against Western Europe. NATO stood as the main U.S.-led military alliance against the Soviet Union throughout the duration of the Cold War.

Relations between the United States and the Soviet Union began to deteriorate rapidly in 1948. There were heated disagreements over the postwar status of Germany, with the Americans insisting on German recovery and eventual rearmament and the Soviets steadfastly opposing such actions. In June 1948, the Soviets blocked all ground travel to the American occupation zone in West Berlin, and only a massive U.S. airlift of food and other necessities sustained the population of the zone until the Soviets relented and lifted the blockade in May 1949. In January 1949, President Harry S. Truman warned in his State of the Union Address that the forces of democracy and communism were locked in a dangerous struggle, and he called for a defensive alliance of nations in the North Atlantic-U.S military in Korea.NATO was the result. In April 1949, representatives from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal joined the United States in signing the NATO agreement. The signatories agreed, “An armed attack against one or more of them… shall be considered an attack against them all.” President Truman welcomed the organization as “a shield against aggression.”