Daily Archive: 05/09/2014

May 09 2014

Obama Court Nominee OK’d Targeted Assassinations

This week Senator Rand Paul has threatened to filibuster President Barack Obama’s nominee to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. The nomination of David Barron, who was a Justice Department lawyer at the start of the administration and is now a Harvard Law School professor was the author of the contentious memo that authorized the assassination of an American citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki.  

(M)embers of both parties say they are disturbed by Mr. Barron’s authorship of legal memos that justified the United States’ killing of an American citizen overseas with a drone.

The American Civil Liberties Union wrote to all 100 senators on Monday urging them to put off a vote on Mr. Barron’s confirmation until the White House allowed them to read all of his writings on the drone program. [..]

The A.C.L.U.’s objections, along with the announcement by Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, that he would use his power to slow down the confirmation unless the administration released one of the legal memos written by Mr. Barron, raised fresh questions on Capitol Hill on Monday about whether the nomination would survive. [..]

Two Democrats who are up for re-election in states where Republicans have a political edge – Mark Begich of Alaska and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana – are said to be unsure if they will vote yes on Mr. Barron.

A court has ordered the administration to release some of Mr. Barron’s legal work as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. But White House lawyers have not done so while they weigh whether to appeal. Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat who is in a tight race, said Monday that he would vote no unless the White House released what the court ordered.

Republicans are not alone in their objections of this nominee. Democrats, who are up for reelection and those who have questioned the administration’s legal right to assassinated American citizens without due process and the drone program, have expressed doubts about voting to confirm Mr. Barron

But with so many Democrats concerned about the administration’s drone policy, sufficient support for Barron is uncertain. Senate leaders have yet to set a vote on his nomination to join the appeals court with jurisdiction over federal cases in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico. He faces opposition from a mix of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans concerned with his involvement in establishing the administration’s drone policy.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Intelligence Committee and a frequent critic of Obama’s counterterrorism policies, said Thursday that “the public has a right to know” the administration’s justification for drone strikes on American citizens.

“To me, the central question has always been on intelligence matters,” Wyden told reporters. “There is a difference between secret operations. They have to be kept secret, because otherwise Americans can die and be hurt. But the rules and the underlying policies — those ought to be public.”

Other Democrats, including Sens. Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Mark Udall (Colo.), have also expressed concern about Barron’s work and this week called for the public release of Barron’s memos.

Marcy Wheeler of emptywheel, writing for The Week, weighs in on why Sen. Paul’s threat of filibuster should be taken seriously

Eleven years ago, the Senate confirmed Jay Bybee to a lifetime appointment on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. At the time, almost no senators knew about – much less had reviewed the contents of – a set of memos authorizing torture that Bybee had signed when he was head of the OLC in 2002. Paul is trying to prevent similarly rewarding Barron before senators can review the legal arguments he made authorizing another troubling executive branch action: killing an American citizen with no due process.

Barron, who is currently a Harvard Law School professor, served as the acting head of the OLC from 2009 until 2010. The office provides legal advice to executive branch agencies that can provide (usually secret) legal sanction for controversial positions.

A July 16, 2010, memo written by Barron authorizing the drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the extremist Yemeni-American cleric, is one such opinion. Awlaki died in a CIA drone strike (along with Samir Khan, another American citizen who had become an extremist propagandist) on Sept. 30, 2011. [..]

Eventually, at least 31 members of Congress made at least 23 attempts to obtain the memo permitting the executive branch to kill an American citizen with no due process. Most of Congress still hasn’t seen it. [..]

Paul may have the courts on his side. He invoked an April 21 decision by New York’s 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that the government must release a redacted version of the memo to the ACLU and two New York Times reporters who had sued in 2011 to enforce a Freedom of Information Act request for the memo. The court order makes it easier to for Paul to call for a public release, rather than just a release to Congress. [..]

Four years ago, David Barron opened a Pandora’s box, giving presidents an inadequately limited authority to kill Americans outside all normal judicial process. As Paul notes in his letter, it would simply be “irresponsible” for the Senate to confirm his nomination without discovering what the memo could reveal about his views on due process, civil liberties, and international law. In a letter to all 100 senators, the ACLU echoed this language, recalling the precedent of Jay Bybee. “No senator can meaningfully carry out his or her constitutional obligation to provide ‘advice and consent’ on this nomination to a lifetime position as a federal appellate judge without being able to read Mr. Barron’s most important and consequential legal writing.”

The Senate took such an irresponsible step in 2003 with Jay Bybee. It can avoid that mistake here.

Instead of appointing those who justify torture, rendition and assassinations to hight courts, we should be looking into their criminal culpability in the crimes that they are justifying in their legal briefs. Yet those briefs and memos remain classified as our representatives are asked to appoint these people to high positions for life.

May 09 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

New York Times Editorial: Center Ring at the Republican Circus

The hottest competition in Washington this week is among House Republicans vying for a seat on the Benghazi kangaroo court, also known as the Select House Committee to Inflate a Tragedy Into a Scandal. Half the House has asked to “serve” on the committee, which is understandable since it’s the perfect opportunity to avoid any real work while waving frantically to right-wing voters stomping their feet in the grandstand.

They won’t pass a serious jobs bill, or raise the minimum wage, or reform immigration, but House Republicans think they can earn their pay for the rest of the year by exposing nonexistent malfeasance on the part of the Obama administration. On Thursday, they voted to create a committee to spend “such sums as may be necessary” to conduct an investigation of the 2012 attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya. [..]

Democrats who are now debating whether to participate in the committee shouldn’t hesitate to skip it. Their presence would only lend legitimacy to a farce.

Paul Krugman: Now That’s Rich

Institutional Investor’s latest “rich list” in its Alpha magazine, its survey of the 25 highest-paid hedge fund managers, is out – and it turns out that these guys make a lot of money. Surprise!

Yet before we dismiss the report as nothing new, let’s think about what it means that these 25 men (yes, they’re all men) made a combined $21 billion in 2013. In particular, let’s think about how their good fortune refutes several popular myths about income inequality in America. [..]

America has a long tradition of imposing high taxes on big incomes and large fortunes, designed to limit the concentration of economic power as well as raising revenue. These days, however, suggestions that we revive that tradition face angry claims that taxing the rich is destructive and immoral – destructive because it discourages job creators from doing their thing, immoral because people have a right to keep what they earn.

But such claims rest crucially on myths about who the rich really are and how they make their money. Next time you hear someone declaiming about how cruel it is to persecute the rich, think about the hedge fund guys, and ask yourself if it would really be a terrible thing if they paid more in taxes.

Ellen Brown: Why Jerry Brown’s Rainy Day Fund Is a Bad Idea

Governor Jerry Brown is aggressively pushing a California state constitutional amendment requiring budget surpluses to be used to pay down municipal debt and create an emergency “rainy day” fund, in anticipation of the next economic crisis.

On the face of it, it is a sensible idea. As long as Wall Street controls America’s finances and our economy, another catastrophic bust is a good bet.

But a rainy day fund takes money off the table, setting aside funds we need now to reverse the damage done by Wall Street’s last collapse. The brutal cuts of 2008 and 2009 shrank the middle class and gave California the highest poverty rate in the country.

The costs of Wall Street gambling are being thrust on its primary victims. We are given the draconian choice of restoring much-needed services or maintaining austerity conditions in order to pay Wall Street the next time it brings down the economy.

Twiggy Garcia: Tony Blair Should Be Prosecuted for War Crimes – Not Just Judged by History

Blair is ‘eel-like’ – but if the Chilcot inquiry is published soon, he might not wriggle off the hook

Boris Johnson’s sympathy isn’t worth much; his sentiments during his LBC interview this week were touching, but he does not have the conviction to back the campaign to see Tony Blair face justice for his crimes. Johnson does, however, offer an insight into Blair’s character which I have experienced first-hand – that Blair is slippery. The London mayor described him as “eel-like” and a “very adept and agile lawyer”. A prosecution for war crimes in Johnson’s words was “not going to happen”.

Currently a prosecution depends on one of two factors: its status before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or its status in domestic law. The ICC calls itself “an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes”. In all honesty I have no faith in the ICC bringing a conviction against Blair. The ICC has been accused of bias, and as being a tool of western imperialism, only punishing leaders from small states while ignoring crimes committed by richer and more powerful states. This sentiment has been expressed particularly by African leaders due to the disproportionate focus on their nations.

Amy Goodman: Solitary Confinement Is Not the Answer

There has been much attention, and rightly so, on the CIA’s extensive use of torture, which the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is said to have documented in its still-classified 6,000-page report. The use of torture is not limited to the CIA, however. It is all too common across the United States. Solitary confinement is torture, and it is used routinely in jails, prisons and immigration detention facilities here at home. Grass-roots movements that have been pressuring for change are beginning to yield significant results. The coalitions include prisoners, their families, a broad swath of legal and social-justice groups and, increasingly, prison guards and officials themselves. [..]

Most importantly, it’s torture. It’s time to put an end to solitary confinement.

Dan Gillmor: The best way to protest net neutrality’s end is with an Internet-wide slowdown

It’s time to take a page from the SOPA protests and show Americans what a slower Internet would really look like

The head of the Federal Communications Commission, former cable and wireless industry lobbyist Tom Wheeler, may have a battle on his hands over his proposal to create two standards of Internet service and end net neutrality. This is welcome news for anyone who believes in an open Internet.

Now is the time to ratchet up the pressure.

So what’s happened since Wheeler first floated his plan to move toward a two-tiered Internet – where companies would pay Internet service providers for special “fast lanes” to get to you and me? Quite a bit.

May 09 2014

The Breakfast Club: 5-9-2014 by psychodrew

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.

 photo BeerBreakfast_web_zps646fca37.png

This Day in History

May 09 2014

On This Day In History May 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.

Click on images to enlarge

May 9 is the 129th day of the year (130th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 236 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1860, James Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, is born in Scotland.

Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM (9 May 1860 – 19 June 1937) was a Scottish author and dramatist, best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan. The child of a family of small-town weavers, he was educated in Scotland. He moved to London, where he developed a career as a novelist and playwright. There he met the Llewelyn Davies boys who inspired him in writing about a baby boy who has magical adventures in Kensington Gardens (included in The ), then to write Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, a “fairy play” about this ageless boy and an ordinary girl named Wendy who have adventures in the fantasy setting of Neverland. This play quickly overshadowed his previous work and although he continued to write successfully, it became his best-known work, credited with popularising the name Wendy, which was very uncommon previously. Barrie unofficially adopted the Davies boys following the deaths of their parents. Before his death, he gave the rights to the Peter Pan works to Great Ormond Street Hospital, which continues to benefit from them.

Peter Pan

The classic Peter Pan starring Mary Martin. This is the 1960 version for NBC. Has been very limited in its showing. The DVD is long out of print and expensive to own.

May 09 2014

Boko Haram Attack Kills Hundreds in Nigeria

More chaos out of Nigeria wrought by the terrorist group, Boko Haram.

From Al-Jazeera:

Boko Haram attack kills hundreds in Nigeria

Officials estimate the death toll at 300 in town left unguarded during attempts to rescue missing schoolgirls.

A Boko Haram attack has killed hundreds in Nigeria’s northeast, multiple sources have said, as police offered $300,000 for information leading to the rescue of more than 200 schoolgirls held hostage by the armed group.

The latest attack reported on Wednesday targeted the town of Gamboru Ngala on the border with Cameroon, where gunmen earlier this week razed scores of buildings and fired on civilians as they tried to flee.

Area Senator Ahmed Zanna put the death toll at 300, in an account supported by numerous residents.

Zanna said the town had been left unguarded because soldiers based there had been redeployed north towards Lake Chad in an effort to rescue more than 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram on April 14.

The mass abduction has sparked global outrage and offers of help from the United States, Britain, France and China.

Nigeria’s response to the kidnappings has been widely criticised, including by activists and parents of the hostages who say the military’s search operation has been inept so far.

 photo bokoharam.jpg

May 09 2014

TDS/TCR (Sugar and Spice)

TDS TCR

Mutant Republicans

Past Master

For the rest of the festivities and the 3 part Web Exclusive Extended Interview and pean to centrist Third Way Fix the Debt Versailles Villager Washington Consensus politics with Peter Schuck, join me below the fold.

More hidden mysteries below.