Daily Archive: 01/07/2015

Jan 07 2015

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville-Poor Poor Pitiful Me

Yeah, I know it’s what some people think. If I say: I am disabled, I have a son on the autism spectrum and my family lives with my parents so that I can care for my mom, who has dementia, it sounds grim, and if I’m honest, sometimes it is. Sometimes.

Being stuck in the house for long stretches, potty duty, phone calls from school, fibro flares, the entirety of the situation of seven of us living here together, and having to get along, well…that fucks with my head a little, but it’s not my world. I can’t allow that. I can’t stay miserable. I can achieve it, just can’t sustain it.

Jan 07 2015

Nous Sommes Charlie Hebdo

This morning’s attack on the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France that killed ten journalists and two police officers was an attack on freedom of the press and free speech everywhere.

So from today, we are “Charlie Hebdo.”

Jan 07 2015

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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Antonin Scalia: Torture’s Not Torture Unless He Says It Is

Perhaps, as Justice Scalia told a Swiss university audience earlier this month, it is indeed “very facile” for Americans to declare that “torture is terrible.” The justice posited to his listeners a classic ticking-time-bomb scenario-this one involving “a person that you know for sure knows the location of a nuclear bomb that has been planted in Los Angeles and will kill millions of people”-and asked, “You think it’s clear that you cannot use extreme measures to get that information out of that person?” Now, I didn’t see that episode of 24, but I have read my Bill of Rights, and I’m far more inclined to align myself here with James Madison than with Jack Bauer-or with Antonin Scalia.

Psychopaths, sadists, and Scalia notwithstanding, no one really asks the asinine question, “Is torture terrible?” because it’s already been answered. Torture, George Washington told his troops in 1775, brings “shame, disgrace, and ruin” to the country; earlier this month, Sen. John McCain called the CIA’s enhanced interrogation tactics “shameful and unnecessary” and decried their employment. The UN expressly banned torture in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and twice underlined the position in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted in 1966) and Convention Against Torture (adopted in 1984). Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions (1949) prohibits “violence of life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture,” as well as “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” Finally, torture is illegal in the United States under federal law. [..]

It is a travesty that we must countenance a Supreme Court justice who holds such contempt for both domestic and international law-and for human dignity and decency as well. There is no justice in torture, and we cannot tolerate a justice who is for torture.

Zoë Carpenter: White House Threatens to Veto Keystone XL Legislation

President Obama will not sign legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the White House said Tuesday. The veto threat came as Republicans assumed the majority in both chambers of Congress, having promised to make green-lighting the tar sands project their first priority.

“There is already a well-established process in place to consider whether or not infrastructure project like this are in the best interest of the country,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

The veto threat isn’t altogether surprising. The White House has said repeatedly that the president is committed to the review pending in the State Department, which is held up by an ongoing court case in Nebraska. Obama has also spoken skeptically in recent weeks about claims that the project would spur economic growth and contribute to domestic energy security. [..]

Obama’s commitment to the review process means we can expect the drama to carry on at least until the Nebraska Supreme Court case is decided. And even if Obama vetoes Congress’ KXL bill on the grounds that it undercuts his authority, it’s possible that he would approve the project itself later on. Activists are continuing to demonstrate against the pipeline this week, aware that the fight is very much still on.

Katie Halper: Eric Garner’s family respects slain officers more than NYPD who turn their backs

Too many police leaders and politicians have responded to the recent tragic double murder of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos by blaming Barack Obama, Bill de Blasio, and peaceful police brutality protestors. At the same time, they refuse to acknowledge, let alone condemn, the police violence and brutality that have claimed the lives of countless people, including Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

This New Year’s, a good resolution for these professional pugilists would be to learn from the very families who have lost their loved ones to police brutality. The families of Michael Brown and, Eric Garner, in particular, would be good to study. While grieving their own losses, they have been able to extend condolences and sympathy to the grieving families of officers Lui and Ramos. And they have condemned violence in any form.  [..]

The double police murder of December 20 requires no fancy detective work to get to the obvious facts. Ismaaiyl Brinsley wasn’t from New York, wasn’t part of the Black Lives Matter movement (anti-violent from the start), had shot his girlfriend earlier in the day, and had a history of mental illness which included suicide attempts.

Winonah Hauter: For the Planet and Future Generations, New Congress May Be Most Dangerous Yet

The swearing-in of the 114th Congress this week spells trouble for our food, water and environment, and for all those who seek to champion healthy, safe communities for our families. We may be looking at the most hostile Congress ever in terms of protecting the environment.

Here are a few examples of what we could face over the next few years:

James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a notorious climate change denier and an unabashed champion for the fossil fuel industry, will likely chair the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Expect the committee to intensify its bullying of environmentalists, especially in light of the game-changing decision by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking.

We’ll also see attacks on the credibility of groups that do environmental work – in fact, we already have, and it will only get worse.

Lauren Carlsen: Obama Has Nothing to Gain by Propping Up Mexico’s Government

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is traveling to Washington, seeking to bolster his support in the United States as it rapidly unravels in his own country. But President Barack Obama has much to lose by propping up the faltering Mexican leader. [..]

If Obama gives Peña Nieto the expected pat on the back, it will be a stab in the back to the Mexican movement for justice and transparency. Obama and Congress should instead announce their full support for a thorough investigation of the disappearances and the suspension of all police and military aid to Mexico. Congress must also immediately stop funding Plan Mexico – the drug war aid package formally known as the Merida Initiative that has appropriated about $2.4 billion to Mexico – and look closely and responsibly at what U.S. aid to Mexican security forces is actually supporting: namely, human rights abuses.

Our government should respect our own stated principles and laws on human rights and democracy, as well as Mexicans’ efforts to save their nation from the abyss into which it’s fallen.

President Obama must no longer lend U.S. political and economic support to an authoritarian system in crisis.

Nozomi Hayase: The Battle of Our Time: Breaking the Spell of the Corporate State

In late 2010, political activist John Perry Barlow tweeted: “The first serious info-war is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops.” In the last four years, new insurgencies have arisen from cyberspace to participate in the battle against government corruption and secrecy. From Snowden’s disclosure of NSA mass surveillance to the release of the CIA torture report evidencing war crimes and murder of innocent people, a crisis of legitimacy and moral depravity of authority are becoming increasingly undeniable. All of this reveals an invisible force of governance working to control the thought and perceptions of the greater population for nefarious ends.

In his 2006 seminal writing “Conspiracy as Governance,” WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange noted how the secrecy regime works as “a system of interacting organs, a beast with arteries and veins whose blood may be thickened and slowed until it falls…” As was seen in the recent secret economic treaties like TPP and TISA exposed by WikiLeaks, systems of national governance have evolved into a global network that undermines the sovereignty of countries and the rights of people and puts corporate profit above all else.

Jan 07 2015

TBC: Morning Musing 1.7.15

I have 2 for you this morning on Climate Change.

The first is a big rundown with a lot of great links about the dire situation we find ourselves in with regards to the changing climate. It’s so much more than what the title says:

As Climate Disruption Advances, 26 Percent of Mammals Face Extinction

In this month’s Climate Disruption Dispatch, we look at how ACD is progressing rapidly on every front – and how even some diehard climate deniers are starting to recognize the dire danger we face.

Jump!

Jan 07 2015

On This Day In History January 7

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.

January 7 is the seventh day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 358 days remaining until the end of the year (359 in leap years).

On this day in 1789, the first US presidential election is held.  The United States presidential election of 1789 was the first presidential election in the United States of America. The election took place following the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788. In this election, George Washington was elected for the first of his two terms as President of the United States, and John Adams became the first Vice President of the United States.

Before this election, the United States had no chief executive. Under the previous system-the Articles of Confederation-the national government was headed by the Confederation Congress, which had a ceremonial presiding officer and several executive departments, but no independent executive branch.

In this election, the enormously popular Washington essentially ran unopposed. The only real issue to be decided was who would be chosen as vice president. Under the system then in place, each elector cast two votes; if a person received a vote from a majority of the electors, that person became president, and the runner-up became vice president. All 69 electors cast one vote each for Washington. Their other votes were divided among eleven other candidates; John Adams received the most, becoming vice president. The Twelfth Amendment, ratified in 1804, would change this procedure, requiring each elector to cast distinct votes for president and vice president.

In the absence of conventions, there was no formal nomination process. The framers of the Constitution had presumed that Washington would be the first president, and once he agreed to come out of retirement to accept the office, there was no opposition to him. Individual states chose their electors, who voted all together for Washington when they met.

Electors used their second vote to cast a scattering of votes, many voting for someone besides Adams with Alexander Hamilton less out of opposition to him than to prevent Adams from matching Washington’s total.

Only ten states out of the original thirteen cast electoral votes in this election. North Carolina and Rhode Island were ineligible to participate as they had not yet ratified the United States Constitution. New York failed to appoint its allotment of eight electors because of a deadlock in the state legislature.

Jan 07 2015

CIA Secrecy and Drone Strikes Affect on US Foreign Policy

From torture and black sites to continued drone strikes on sovereign countries, the CIA has been secretly undermining US foreign policy around the world but mostly in the Middle East and Near Asia.

MSNBC’s host Rachel Maddow discusses how the CIA making deals for black site torture facilities undercut the State Department calling for open disclosure about the prisoners that were being held in those countries.

She is joined by Philip Zelikow, counselor to the State Department from 2005 to 2007, to discuss the conflict between the CIA and State Department.

It isn’t just the secret dealing to cover up the crime of torture that is damaging foreign policy, drone strikes that allegedly target Al Qaeda and ISIS leaders have angered the governments of the countries that have been attacked. The effectiveness of these strikes are dubious since there is no evidence of their effectiveness. What is certain is that the strikes have killed more civilians than terrorists and made Americans less safe.

Scott Horton, human rights attorney and contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine, joined Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman to the US secret foreign policy of drone sites and torture black sites.

At least nine Pakistanis were killed Sunday in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan, the first reported drone strike of 2015. News accounts of the strike are based on unnamed Pakistani government and security officials. The Obama administration has said nothing so far. For years, the United States did not even publicly acknowledge the existence of the drone strikes. The drone program is just one example of the national security state’s reliance on secret operations. The recent Senate Intelligence Committee report revealed another example: the shadowy network of overseas CIA black sites where the United States held and tortured prisoners. The report also noted the CIA shrouded itself in a cloak of secrecy keeping policymakers largely in the dark about the brutality of its detainee interrogations. The agency reportedly deceived the White House, the National Security Council, the Justice Department and Congress about the efficacy of its controversial interrogation techniques



Full transcript can be read here

Jan 07 2015

The Opening Day of the Reign of the Morons

Opening Day: The Republican Controlled Congress Has Arrived

By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire’s Politics Blog

And the Reign Of Morons dawns. Many in the Beltway are beside themselves which, I guess, is easier than talking to some of the new unmoored members of our national legislature — and speaking of unmoored members, congrats to my new friend, United States Senator Joni Ernst. And all of you sweaty people waiting on hold in your cars for Mark Levin or Laura Ingraham, dream big. Anything is possible. Of course, the overall narrative is that we are in for a period of sensible conservative governance which, while it may collide from time to time with a Democratic president who declines to become whit…er…turn into Mitt Romney despite the clear verdict of a third of the voting populace, can prove that our new congressional leadership can “govern” while keeping its toes out of the oatmeal. This is why I saw Dana Bash this morning, talking to new Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York, who looks more like a member of the largely mythical Not Insane caucus than does, say, Jody Hice, the guy from Georgia who believes Islam is not a religion, or Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, who believes that gay people are after him (Not bloody likely, Glenn), or Mark Walker, the North Carolinian who wants to start a new Mexican war, this time with…frickin’ laser beams. Better to bring out Zeldin as the face of the freshman follies. He did, after all, get elected from a “blue state.” Of course, Zeldin is a good little GOP squirrel who knows where all the nuts are buried. [..]

It will be interesting to see if this constructed narrative of Responsible Conservative Government holds true through the first time the president vetoes something on the new Congress’s wish list. In fact, the person for whom I would have sympathy, if I felt any sympathy for him at all, is not Boehner but Mitch McConnell, whose new senatorial majority is studded with jumped-up loons from the fringes of Republican state goverrnments, like my new friend Joni, and which also still contains both Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, with their national ambitions and their utterly self-involved attitude toward their jobs. This is a harder wrangle for McConnell, who still isn’t altogether popular, than the one Boehner faces. And, of course, it should be said that the Democratic party is positioned quite well to make the lives of both Boehner and McConnell utterly miserable, but very likely won’t do it, because Joe Manchin (D-Anthracite). If there really is rising populist power in the Democratic party, then here’s a chance to prove it. Screw with these people every way you can. Make the even more radical Republican state governments more furious at the “Washington establishment” than it already is. Monkeywrench the whole business and explain in simple terms to the country why you’re doing it. This has to start in the White House. The rest of the country needs to be protected from the hazardous material for which a third of it voted.

And first up on the agenda is the Keystone XL Pipeline but apparently not without a fight from the Democrats and the White House. Once more from Charlie

Well, give them credit. They started off the way they said they would. The first issue of the new Congress is indeed our old friend, the Keystone XL pipeline, the continent-spanning death funnel that will bring the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel from the environmental moonscape of northern Alberta to the refineries on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and thence to the world. And, it seems, they’ve picked the fight they wanted to fight.

   White House press secretary Josh Earnest says he does not expect Obama would sign any Keystone legislation that reaches his desk. The spokesman says there is a “well-established” review process that is being run by the State Department that should not be undermined by legislation. Earnest also says the pipeline’s route through Nebraska also must be resolved.

Now, let us take to heart the advice of Mr. Winston Wolf. The White House veto threat is not a categorical threat to the pipeline’s construction. The president is saying that the bill in question is premature, that it is short-cutting established procedure that already is underway, and that it is an improper federal infringement upon the function of the state judiciary of Nebraska. The president has not eliminated any of his options. [..]

So, good for the White House. It said the right thing today. (Win The Morning!) If the president vetoes this faith-based legislation, good for him, too. But, in that case, the story will be White House Wins First Showdown (!) There will still be the State Department report, and the Nebraska Supreme Court, and nobody’s really out of the woods yet because the pipeline is inherently dangerous, the fuel that it will carry is inherently poisonous, the company seeking to build (and to profit by) the pipeline is inherently dishonest. Some things don’t change. You can paint pretty flowers on the death-funnel, but it’s still a death-funnel.

With the price of oil dropping like a stone, Keystone XL may not be cost effective for its Canadian owners or its foreign customers.