Daily Archive: 04/23/2014

Apr 23 2014

Targeted Assassinations, Executive Overreach and Impeachment

In an article posted here by our friend and editor, Edger, reported that a federal court panel ruled on Monday the  U.S. government must publicly disclose secret papers describing its legal justification for using drones to kill citizens suspected of terrorism overseas, because President Barack Obama and senior government officials have publicly commented on the subject.

The 2nd US circuit court of appeals in New York ruled in a Freedom of Information Act case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and two reporters for the New York Times. In 2011, they sought any documents in which Department of Justice lawyers had discussed the highly classified “targeted-killing” program.

The requests came after a September 2011 drone strike in Yemen killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader who had been born in the United States, and another US citizen, Samir Khan, and after an October 2011 strike killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, Awlaki’s teenage son and also a US citizen. Some legal scholars and human rights activists complained that it was illegal for the US to kill American citizens away from the battlefield without a trial. [..]

In January 2013, US district court judge Colleen McMahon ruled that she had no authority to order the documents disclosed, although she chided the Obama administration for refusing to release them.

In an opinion written by 2nd circuit judge Jon Newman, a three-judge panel noted that after McMahon ruled, senior government officials spoke about the subject. The panel rejected the government’s claim that the court could not consider official disclosures made after McMahon’s ruling, including a 16-page Justice Department white paper on the subject and public comments by Obama in May in which he acknowledged his role in the Awlaki killing, saying he had “authorized the strike that took him out”.

Most certainly, the Obama administration will appeal this ruling.

Earlier this month, Constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein addressed a panel discussion on government secrecy and overreach at Yale Law School that was arranged by activist and former presidential candidate, Ralph Nader.  He spoke directly about President Barack Obama’s dangerous level of executive power and the lack of congressional oversight.

“And what about Congress? That’s not an impeachable offense, to lie under oath and mislead the American people?!” he asked, referring to testimony by Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. “No. He’s still serving. We have as our Director of National Intelligence, who’s entrusted with secrets about us, a known perjurer, remains in office, untarnished, public reputation there. Where’s all the newspapers calling for his resignation? Silence.”

Clapper confirmed in a letter sent last week to Senator Wyden that U.S. persons have been targeted by the surveillance program – something he had earlier and categorically denied.

Fein, who also worked under the acting attorney general in the early 1970s to write a paper outlining a rationale for impeachment of President Richard Nixon, says Obama is exercising a dangerous level of executive power without adequate checks. “This president has authority to kill anyone on the planet, to play prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, if he decides, in secret, that the target of the Predator drone – could be another instrument of death, doesn’t have to be a Predator drone – is an imminent threat to U.S. national security.” Fein added the process “is not subject to review by Congress, it’s not subject to review by courts, it’s not subject to review by the American people. It is limitless.”

We apparently still have judges and courts that are willing to rein in the administration, now if we only had the congress we had in the 1970’s.

Apr 23 2014

What the Wealthy Don’t Want You to Know

In an article for Huffington Post, economist Dean Baker explains the basic point of Thomas Piketty’s best selling book, “Capital for the 21st Century,” which has the economic world buzzing.

Piketty’s basic point on this issue is almost too simple for economists to understand: If the rate of return on wealth (r) is greater than the rate of growth (g), then wealth is likely to become ever more concentrated.

To stem the growth of the wealth gap, Piketty suggests a “Global Wealth Tax” which in today’s global political climate isn’t likely to happen. So what can be done? Baker offers some solutions:

A new I.M.F. analysis found the value of the implicit government insurance provided to too big to fail banks was $50 billion a year in the United States and $300 billion a year in the euro zone. The euro zone figure is more than 20 percent of after-tax corporate profits in the area. Much of this subsidy ends up as corporate profits or income to top banking executives.

In addition to this subsidy we also have the fact that finance is hugely under-taxed, a view shared by the I.M.F. It recommends a modest value-added tax of 0.2 percent of GDP (at $35 billion a year). We could also do a more robust financial transactions tax like Japan had in place in its boom years which raised more than 1.0 percent of GDP ($170 billion a year).

In this vein, serious progressives should be trying to stop plans to privatize Fannie and Freddie and replace them with a government subsidized private system. Undoubtedly we will see many Washington types praising Piketty as they watch Congress pass this giant new handout to the one percent.

The pharmaceutical industry also benefits from enormous rents through government granted patent monopolies. We spend more than $380 billion (2.2 percent of GDP) a year on drugs. We would spend 10 to 20 percent of this amount in a free market. We would not only have cheaper drugs, but likely better medicine if we funded research upfront instead of through patent monopolies since it would eliminate incentives to lie about research findings and conceal them from other researchers.

There are also substantial rents resulting from monopoly power in major sectors like telecommunications and air travel. We also give away public resources in areas like broadcast frequencies and airport landing slots. And we don’t charge the fossil fuel industry for destroying the environment. A carbon tax that roughly compensated for the damages could raise between $80 to $170 billion a year (0.5 to 1.0 percent of GDP). [..]

In addition to the rent reducing measures listed above, there are redistributionist measures that we should support, such as higher minimum wages, mandated sick days and family leave, and more balanced labor laws that again allow workers the right to organize. Such measures should help to raise wages at the expense of a lower rate of return to wealth.

In an interview with Bill Moyers, Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, talks about Piketty’s “magnificent” new book and what the 1% don’t want us to know.

Apr 23 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.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Valerie Strauss: A New Setback for Racial Justice in College Admissions

By upholding Michigan’s ban on the use of racial preferences in college and university admissions, the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday dealt a new blow to racial justice.

Technically the court ruled that Michigan’s Proposal 2, a 2006 ballot initiative that led to a state constitutional ban on race-conscious college admissions, is constitutional (a decision that overruled a lower court). The ballot initiative, challenged by a coalition of organizations supporting affirmative action barred students from lobbying schools to consider race as a factor in admissions. Of course athletes, donors and alumni are not banned from lobbying for special admissions access. That’s why Mark Rosenbaum, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who argued the case, said in a statement:

   “This case is ultimately about whether students of color in Michigan are allowed to compete on the same playing field as all other students. Today, the Supreme Court said they are not.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Elizabeth Warren’s Needed Call for Student Loan Reform

As commencement season approaches, graduating students will soon hear words of wisdom from speakers offering experience, advice and inspiration. One thing they’re not likely to hear about is the $1.08 trillion elephant on the quad – our nation’s student debt crisis. [..]

Enter Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who intuitively understands the urgency and scale of the crisis. Indeed, Warren is not just a longtime student of bankruptcy in the United States, but someone who understands what it means for a family to be at risk of losing everything. As she writes in her new book, “A Fighting Chance,” out today, the rules are such that a sudden event – divorce, illness, unemployment – can pull the rug out from under anyone. “A turn here, a turn there, and my life might have been very different, too,” she writes.

Zoƫ Carpenter: Why the Campaign Against Keystone XL Still Matters

A few years ago, it would have seemed implausible that a group of Midwestern ranchers and Native Americans would gather on the National Mall in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, as they did on Tuesday. Not because the union is so unlikely, but because the pipeline’s approval seemed all but certain.

“We bring you pickles from the heartland,” said a farmer in a red baseball cap, extending a jar to a Native American elder. At his feet lay other gifts-jewelry, blankets and more homemade preserves-exchanged between members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, a coalition of ranchers, farmers and Native American tribes leading a weeklong protest against the Keystone pipeline.

Jessica Valente: The female ‘confidence gap’ is a sham

Women’s lack of confidence could be just a keen understanding of just how little society values them

Despite an ongoing, glaring lack of equality for women in culture and in policy, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s new book, The Confidence Code, argues that what’s truly holding women back is their own self-doubt. In fact, Kay and Shipman dismiss the importance of institutional barriers upfront, writing in the introduction that, while there’s truth behind concerns about sexism, the “more profound” issue is women’s “lack of self-belief”. Think Lean In meets The Secret.

Yet, in just the past year, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a woman can be fired if her boss finds her attractive, a New York court decided that unpaid interns can’t sue for sexual harassment, and the Paycheck Fairness Act was defeated by Republicans who claimed women actually prefer lower-paying jobs.

So you’ll have to excuse my guffaw when I hear what American women really need is more “confidence.” It seems to me our insecurity is well-earned!

Leslie Savan: This Is My Brain on Paper Towels

‘ve been using paper towels a lot-a lot-more often lately, and every time I do, I feel a spark of guilt. It’s wasteful, bad for the environment, I know, but I’ve been sick lately, so I need it. I figure that paper is more sanitary than the cloth towel that’s been sitting out for days. (I can understand the woman with sick kids who said on the radio, “Thank god for paper towels.”) [..]

Corporations depend on our rationalizations: it absolves them of doing anything wrong and it creates guilt-free consumers. That’s why they run all the ads that tell us, “What, you worry?” Falling back on wasteful or toxic products not only has its perverse pleasures, but it can seem “natural,” especially if those products are featured in ads with wild animals and awe-inspiring landscapes.

So of course it’s better not to go with the corporate flow. But if you sometimes do, mop up the excess with old rags.

Michelle Chen: Where Have All the Green Jobs Gone?

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is in, reminding us once again that time is running out for governments and industry to decarbonize the economy: within a generation, policymakers must tighten emissions regulations, shift to clean energy sources, promote greener manufacturing and adapt technologies to reverse climate trends and mitigate the ecological impacts. Yet, while the assessment focuses on policy solutions, it leaves open questions about the labor element of climate policy: At the end of the day, the work of transforming how we produce and consume takes human hands. Where are the workers? [..]

oday, the green has begun to wilt. Although the green technology and energy sectors are still expanding, the administration has offered little beyond the short-lived stimulus package and short-term tax breaks for renewable-energy development and corporate-friendly “public-private partnerships.”The drop in political enthusiasm for green jobs is in part the result of sustained conservative attacks coupled with continuing economic stagnation. Yet the fading of the green agenda’s populist buzz also reflects more profound social challenges in the transition to a cleaner, more sustainable economy.

Apr 23 2014

Good News?

Keystone decision delayed yet again

By ANDREW RESTUCCIA and DARREN GOODE, Politico

4/19/14 12:18 AM EDT

The State Department declined to specify how long the delay will last, saying only that it needs to extend its review because of an ongoing dispute in front of the Nebraska Supreme Court that could affect the project’s route inside the state. “We are moving ahead very diligently with all the other aspects that are necessary for the national interest determination,” a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call.



“It’s disappointing President Obama doesn’t have the courage to reject Keystone XL right now, but this is clearly another win for pipeline opponents,” said Jamie Henn, spokesman for the climate activist group 350.org, which staged mass sit-ins outside the White House to protest the project. “We’re going to keep up the pressure on the President to make the right call.”



The latest delay stems from a ruling in February in which a Nebraska court, reacting to a suit by landowners, threw out a state law that had given Gov. Dave Heineman the right to approve the pipeline route.

If the Nebraska Supreme Court upholds that decision – and state lawmakers refuse to intervene – the route decision will fall into the hands of the state’s Public Service Commission. That elected body would have seven months to a year to decide after TransCanada files an application.

Apr 23 2014

The Breakfast Club: 4-23-2014

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 23 2014

On This Day In History April 23

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 23 is the 113th day of the year (114th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 252 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1564, William Shakespeare born.

According to tradition, the great English dramatist and poet William Shakespeare is born in Stratford-on-Avon on April 23, 1564. It is impossible to be certain the exact day on which he was born, but church records show that he was baptized on April 26, and three days was a customary amount of time to wait before baptizing a newborn. Shakespeare’s date of death is conclusively known, however: it was April 23, 1616. He was 52 years old and had retired to Stratford three years before.

Shakespeare’s father was probably a common tradesman. He became an alderman and bailiff in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Shakespeare was baptized in the town on April 26, 1564. At age 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, and the couple had a daughter in 1583 and twins in 1585. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died 11 years later, and Anne Shakespeare outlived her husband, dying in 1623. Nothing is known of the period between the birth of the twins and Shakespeare’s emergence as a playwright in London in the early 1590s, but unfounded stories have him stealing deer, joining a group of traveling players, becoming a schoolteacher, or serving as a soldier in the Low Countries.

Sometime later, Shakespeare set off for London to become an actor and by 1592 was well established in London’s theatrical world as both a performer and a playwright. The first reference to Shakespeare as a London playwright came in 1592, when a fellow dramatist, Robert Greene, wrote derogatorily of him on his deathbed. His earliest plays, including The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew, were written in the early 1590s. Later in the decade, he wrote tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet (1594-1595) and comedies including The Merchant of Venice (1596-1597). His greatest tragedies were written after 1600, including Hamlet (1600-01), Othello (1604-05), King Lear (1605-06), and Macbeth (1605-1606).

Shakespeare died in Stratford-on-Avon on April 23, 1616. Today, nearly 400 years later, his plays are performed and read more often and in more nations than ever before. In a million words written over 20 years, he captured the full range of human emotions and conflicts with a precision that remains sharp today. As his great contemporary

   

Apr 23 2014

TDS/TCR (J’Accuse!)

TDS TCR

Apocalypse Cow

Extreme Measures

The first commandment of Fight Church is you do not talk about Fight Church.

The second commandment of Fight Church is you DO NOT talk about Fight Church.

Welcome to Fight Church.  Long past time I moved this franchise anyway.