Tag Archive: Rand Paul

Aug 17 2014

Rand Paul must want somebody’s vote

Responding to the recent outrages in Ferguson, Missouri, Rand Paul wrote the words that in most respects look like what you would hope that a Democratic candidate for the office would put forth:

There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement.

Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies-where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement. …

When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury-national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture-we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them. …

Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth.

This, by the way, is what the “inevitable” Democratic candidate for President in 2016 had to say:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Just in case Ms. Clinton decides to say something, here’s a google search on Hillary Clinton + Ferguson, Mo. and here’s on on Hillary Clinton + militarization of police (which also, as of this writing turns up bupkis) to boot.

Rand Paul’s statement is pretty good for a Republican. Sure, it seems politically calculated; you might even think that Rand Paul is willing to play that dirty, dirty trick of calibrating his positions on issues to coincide with what the public wants (rather than what they’ll put up with because the other choice is so reprehensible). His statement falls far short of what one might hope for, though. In describing and assessing the root cause of the problem, Rand pulls out his favorite bugaboo, “Big Government” as the root cause of the problem.  

The root cause of the problem in Ferguson is individual and institutional racism. This racism is empowered and exacerbated by “Big Government” which puts the wrong tools and training in the hands of a group of people who are demonstrably incapable of conforming their behavior to the norms expected of a local police organization:

You can argue about the looting and the brick-throwing. You can argue about what constitutes a race “riot” these days – and why the hell we are seeing teargas every other evening in the suburbs, or Jim Crow-reminiscent police dogs in the year 2014. There are a lot of things worth arguing about now that the world’s eyes are focused on Ferguson, Missouri, a town where two-thirds of the population is black and 50 of the 53 police offers are white, where one of those officers gunned down an unarmed black kid in broad daylight.

But here is something that makes no sense, that is inarguable: Ferguson (population: 21,135) has about 40 robberies per year, a couple of homicides, almost no arson cases and a crime rate only a bit higher than the national average. Indeed, the town’s crime rate was going down as of two years ago, when the last major data is available. Ditto in neighboring St Louis. …

On Saturday night, as people took to the streets to protest the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the Ferguson Police Department, the chief of which reportedly displays a confederate flag in his home, had this at his disposal:

What is happening in Ferguson is exactly what opponents of the rise in military-style policing across America have long feared: when the feds arm white local cops with weapons of war and their superiors encourage them not to just play dress-up but to use their new war toys, it is inevitable that ordinary citizens – especially citizens of color – will get treated as the enemy. As we’ve seen in Ferguson, when military might comes to Main Street, “hands-up, don’t shoot” quickly turns into a quasi-declaration of war on a grieving community.

The government’s and some local police forces’ response to the Occupy movement also demonstrated why police militarization is a clear and present danger to society and democracy absent a specific racist motivation.

It would be nice to hear any candidate for the Presidency deal with these issues demonstrating insight, speaking in a forthright manner absent hedging and political calculation and putting forward a credible plan to address the problem.

Oct 02 2013

The Five Minute Rule

Over at Esquire’s Politics Blog, resident curmudgeon, Charles Pierce reminds us of his “five minute rule” with this little snippet:

If you listen to Crazy Uncle Liberty (!), Senator Aqua Buddha, or their disciples for five minutes, you find yourself nodding in agreement with almost everything they say. At precisely the 5:01 mark, however, the person to whom you’re listening will say something that detaches the entire conversation from the plane of physical reality and sends it sailing off into the ether.

As an example of the stupid that abounds, he presented a link to this video at a Rand Paul supporter’s web site.

I suppose those who signed the petition didn’t see the tee shirt. Sheesh.

The Affordable Care Act is a very flawed bill that lines the pockets of insurance companies by forcing people to purchase junk insurance that even if the premiums are low, the high out of pocket deductibles and co-pays make care unaffordable. Nor are the insured guaranteed access the treatment and medications they may need, since the bean counters can deny permission and referrals. These are facts that the government and media aren’t telling you

The only reason the right wing is trying to defund/repeal this law, which they can’t, is because they have nothing left to draw attention to themselves and try to scare people into believing that President Barack Obama is a socialist, even though has given the right wing and corporations nearly everything they’ve wanted, including the ACA. The war on the 99% continues from both sides of the aisle.

Mar 14 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster Ain’t Reformed

Here we are again, talking about filibuster reform. Despite the insistence of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), it ain’t fixed by any stretch of your imagination. It wasn’t Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and his 13 hour filibuster of CIA Director John Brennan’s nomination that set this off but the blocking of a qualified appointments by using the same cloture tactic that has been applied to stop nearly everything productive out of the Senate. The Democratic leadership has no one to blame but themselves and now they are scrambling to fix this disaster.

Top Democrats Badly Blew It on the Filibuster

by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Huffington Post

Supposedly, the saving grace in all this is that in 2014 and beyond, Democrats might lose their majority in the Senate to the GOP and then they’ll need the filibuster as their weapon to hold the GOP in check from riding roughshod over the Obama administration in getting its legislative initiatives through. But this is all guesswork and sophistry in trying to predict the future. The reality is that in the two years that the Democrats hold their Senate majority until January 2015 there will be countless numbers of presidential nominations that need to be approved, and crucial legislation from budget bills to immigration reform proposals that the Obama administration and Democrats will be pushing. And even if the GOP does take majority control of the Senate in January 2015, there’s absolutely no guarantee that it won’t simply rewrite the rules to do what Reid didn’t do, and that’s sharply limit how and when the filibuster can be used. The loser would still be the Democrats, because that’s who the GOP would target. [..]

In the meantime, the filibuster with all of its terrifying potential to delay or style effective legislation and the confirmation of Obama nominees that have been trapped in limbo for months, even years, remains in full play. Here’s a final stat to drive home just how terrifying and damaging it has been. Since 2007, according to the Senate Historical Office, Democrats have had to end Republican filibusters more than 360 times. That is a record. With Obama in the White House for three more years, the GOP, thanks to the failure of top Democrat’s to do something about it, may even break that record.

Senate Dems Weigh Consequences For GOP Filibusters Of Key Nominees

by Brain Beutler, Talking Points Memo

Senate Democratic leaders have engaged in preliminary discussions about how to address Republican procedural obstruction, according to a senior Democratic aide, reflecting an awareness that key administration and judicial vacancies might never be filled, and that a watered-down rules reform deal the parties struck early this Congress has failed. [..]

The source said conversations are still too preliminary for Democrats to lay out publicly potential avenues of recourse just yet. And the last thing leaders want is to create the expectation that they will change the filibuster rules in the middle of the current Senate session. But they are occurring in the wake of a series of GOP filibusters of top nominees, including a cabinet secretary (Chuck Hagel), the CIA director (John Brennan), and a federal judicial nominee (Caitlin Halligan) whom Republicans have effectively blocked from confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for years.

Elizabeth Warren Slams Republicans For Filibustering Consumer Protection Agency Chief

by Sahil Kapur, Talking Points Memo

“From the way I see how other agencies are treated, I see nothing here but a filibuster threat against Director Cordray as an attempt to weaken the consumer agency,” she said at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the CFPB nomination. “I think the delay in getting him confirmed is bad for consumers, it’s bad for small banks, it’s bad for credit unions, it’s bad for anyone trying to offer an honest product in an honest market.

“The American people,” Warren said, “deserve a Congress that worries less about helping big banks and more about helping regular people who have been cheated on mortgages, on credit cards, on student loans, on credit records.” [..]

“What I want to know is why, since the 1800s, have there been agencies all over Washington with a single director, including the OCC, but unlike the consumer agency, no one in the U.S. Senate has held up confirmation of their directors demanding that the agency be redesigned,” Warren said.

“What I want to know is why every banking regulator since the Civil War has been funded outside the appropriations process but unlike the consumer agency no one in the United States Senate has held up confirmation of their directors demanding that that agency or those agencies be redesigned.”

Now the president decides to get involved.

Obama To Senate Dems: We Need Solution To GOP’s Confirmation Filibusters

by Brian Beutler, Talking Points Memo

n a closed door lunch meeting with Senate Democrats on Tuesday, President Obama expressed his frustration with Republican slow-walking and filibustering of key nominees, and urged them to address the issue, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide. [.]

The White House official said Obama “made it clear that it was a priority – particularly with judges and asked for more help identifying nominees and getting them passed.”

Though some of his supporters complain the administration has been slow to name people to fill judicial vacancies, Republicans have blocked or slow-walked the confirmation many of the people he has nominated.

Pres. Obama may may have another motivation to push for filibuster reform with the threats from Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to filibuster any cuts to entitlements.

Mar 12 2013

Mind blowing. First the Rand Paul filibuster; now a speech at CPAC for breaking up TBTF banks

Within one week Republicans are going to grab the national spotlight on two huge issues that should be the realm of the party who stands up for the little guy.  That party used to be the Democratic party.  How can they let this happen?

On Friday, at the CPAC convention, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher is going to call for breaking up the big banks in the wake of a failed Dodd-Frank bill.

This is mind blowing. First a Republican, Rand Paul, filibusters to get answers about the targeted killing program and now at CPAC, a speech calling for breaking up the TBTF banks.  Where are the Democrats??  The last thing we heard from the party was that the executives can’t be held criminally liable, via Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer.

End “Too Big to Fail” Once and for All

In advance of his speech on Friday to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher writes with Harvey Rosenblum about the failure of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law to adequately address financial institutions that are “too big to fail.”

[…]

“Third, we recommend that the largest financial holding companies be restructured so that every one of their corporate entities is subject to a speedy bankruptcy process, and in the case of banking entities themselves, that they be of a size that is ‘too small to save.'”

[Emphasis added]

Mar 11 2013

The Shame of the Democrats and Progressives

The shame of the Democrats and the so-called progressives is that it was a Tea Party Republican, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who stood up for civil liberties and the ever expanding executive power with his thirteen hour filibuster. In his article at The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald shreds the progressive Democratic myths and distortions about Sen. Paul’s filibuster and its importance.

In Glenn’s first point, he notes the lack of any empathy for the those whose rights are most abused and dismissed with an “it’s not me; it’s them” attitude.

(1) Progressives and their “empathy gap”

The US government’s continuous killing, due-process-free imprisonment, and other rights abuses under the War on Terror banner has affected one group far more than any other: Muslims and, increasingly, American Muslims. Politically, this has been the key fact enabling this to endure. Put simply, if you’re not Muslim, it’s very easy to dismiss, minimize or mock these issues because you can easily tell yourself that they don’t affect you or your family and therefore there is no reason to care. And since the vast, vast majority of Democratic politicians and progressive media commentators are not Muslim, one continuously sees this mentality shaping reaction to these issues. [..]

For a political faction that loves to depict itself as the champions of “empathy”, and which reflexively accuses others of having their political beliefs shaped by self-interest, this is an ironic fact indeed. It’s also the central dynamic driving the politics of these issues: the US government and media collaborate to keep the victims of these abuses largely invisible, so we rarely have to confront them, and on those rare occasions when we do, we can easily tell ourselves (false though the assurance is) that these abuses do not affect us and our families and it’s therefore only “paranoia” that can explain why someone might care so much about them.

Second, what Sen. Paul’s critics missed, or just blithely ignored, was that this was about the president’s claim to have the authority to assassinate an American citizen on American soil, or for that matter, anywhere else.

(2) Whether domestic assassinations are imminent is irrelevant to the debate

To focus on that attack is an absurd strawman, a deliberate distraction from the real issues, a total irrelevancy. That’s true for two primary reasons.

First, the reason this question matters so much – can the President target US citizens for assassination without due process on US soil? – is because it demonstrates just how radical the Obama administration’s theories of executive power are. Once you embrace the premises of everything they do in this area – we are a Nation at War; the entire globe is the battlefield; the president is vested with the unchecked power to use force against anyone he accuses of involvement with Terrorism – then there is no cogent, coherent way to say that the president lacks the power to assassinate even US citizens on US soil. That conclusion is the necessary, logical outcome of the premises that have been embraced. That’s why it is so vital to ask that. [..]

Second, presidents change, and so do circumstances. The belief that Barack Obama – despite his record – is too kind, too good, too magnanimous, too responsible to target US citizens for assassination on US soil is entirely irrelevant. At some point, there will be another president, even a Republican one, who will inherit the theories he embraces. Moreover, circumstances can change rapidly, so that – just as happened with 9/11 – what seems unthinkable quickly becomes not only possible but normalized.

In his third and final point, debunks the argument that this was over Holder’s first letter to Sen Paul, not that his second was any more satisfactory.

(3) Holder did not disclaim the power to assassinate on US soil

Indeed, the whole point of the Paul filibuster was to ask whether the Obama administration believes that it has the power to target a US citizen for assassination on US soil the way it did to Anwar Awlaki in Yemen. The Awlaki assassination was justified on the ground that Awlaki was a “combatant”, that he was “engaged in combat”, even though he was killed not while making bombs or shooting at anyone but after he had left a cafe where he had breakfast. If the Obama administration believes that Awlaki was “engaged in combat” at the time he was killed – and it clearly does – then Holder’s letter is meaningless at best, and menacing at worst, because that standard is so broad as to vest the president with exactly the power his supporters now insist he disclaimed.

The phrase “engaged in combat” has come to mean little more than: anyone the President accuses, in secrecy and with no due process, of supporting a Terrorist group. Indeed, radically broad definitions of “enemy combatant” have been at the heart of every War on Terror policy, from Guantanamo to CIA black sites to torture. [..]

At best, Holder’s letter begs the question: what do you mean when you accuse someone of being “engaged in combat”? And what are the exact limits of your power to target US citizens for execution without due process? That these questions even need to be asked underscores how urgently needed Paul’s filibuster was, and how much more serious pushback is still merited. But the primary obstacle to this effort has been, and remains, that the Democrats who spent all that time parading around as champions of these political values are now at the head of the line leading the war against them.

This is not a country of secret laws and courts. It is incumbent on the Congress to do its Constitutional duty to question the Executive Branch and hold it in check when it over steps its Constitutional authority.

That this president has expressed the belief that he has the authority to assassinate Americans without due process, and in fact has, should be abhorrent to every American no matter which side of the aisle you favor.  

Mar 08 2013

Eric Holder’s Bad Week

Between having to admit that it was too big to prosecute (TBTP) the Too Big To Fail (TBTF) banks, his testimony on the legality of targeted assassinations and having to clarify lethal drone attacks on Americans in America after Rand Paul’s thirteen hour filibuster, Attorney General Eric Holder has not has a good week.

In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, AG Holder responded to Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley’s concern that the “mentality of too-big-to-jail in the financial sector” was leading to the spread of terrorism (re:HSBC) with this:

HOLDER: The concern that you have raised is one that I, frankly, share. And I’m not talking about HSBC now. That (inaudible) be appropriate.

But I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.

Never mind laundering money for terrorist activity and giving it a pass, it’s all about protecting the world’s 1%. The Federal Reserve just keeps handing them $83 billion in handouts every year while Obama negotiates away Social Security and Medicare benefits at fancy dinners in Washington posh hotels with Republicans.

If they’re TBTP, then it time to break them up

Then came Kentucky’s Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s pique over Mr. Holder’s failure to answer three inquiries regarding armed drone attacks on Americans on American soil. Sen Paul’s 13 hour filibuster which at times bizarre (you try talking for that long and not sound a little weird) causing Mr. Holder to back off on his assertion that the president can do just that. In his second letter, Mr. Holder told Sen. Paul that the president would not have the authority to order a drone to kill an American citizen on U.S. soil who was “not engaged in combat.”. How nice, he can’t use drones. But AG holder can take solace, the author of the Bush administration legal memos justifying the use of torture, John Yoo, thinks thinks “President Obama is really getting too much grief over targeted killing“:

“I admire libertarians but I think Rand Paul’s filibuster in many ways is very much what libertarians do, they make these very symbolic gestures, standing for some extreme position,” said Yoo, now a UC Berkeley law professor, who once suggested it was okay for the president to order a child’s testicles be crushed. Referring to Paul’s marathon filibuster, an attempt to force the Obama administration to clarify its views on the use of military force against terror suspects in the United States, Yoo said “It sort of reminds me of young kids when they first read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged and they suddenly think that federal taxation equals slavery and they’re not going to pay any federal taxes anymore.” Yoo’s statements were made on a conference call Thursday held by the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal organization.

Now that’s an endorsement you can take to a war crimes trial.

It is unconstitutional to target a group or an individual without due process under Article I, Section 10, Clause 1 of the Constitution which bans bills of attainder, and the Fifth Amendment.

So long as this president has a list of people he thinks can be targeted for assassination without due process, by armed drone or any other means, there are should to be questions and not just from a handful of Tea Party Libertarians. As for AG Holder, if he can’t prosecute banks or uphold the Constitution, then he should be fired, resign or impeached.

 

Mar 06 2013

Holder: The President Can Kill You

I’m not a fan of Rand Paul, the Tea Party backed Republican Senator from Kentucky but I have to give him credit for pushing for an answer to his question “whether the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil.” Sen. Paul sent three letters to CIA director nominee John Brennan and finally got his answer from Brennan and from Attorney General Eric Holder. The answer, in so many words, yes, he can and on American soil without due process.

Holder Letter photo c9584ea7_o_zps9cc6a2ca.png

Click on image to enlarge

The Obama administration has asserted that it believes that “under an extraordinary circumstance,” it has the power to assassinate an American citizen on American soil using lethal force.

…It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001…

Sen. Paul was appalled at Mr. Holder’s response,  “The U.S. Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening – it is an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”

At FDL’s The Dissenter, Kevin Gosztola had his observation about the letter:

Though Holder noted the country’s “long history of using the criminal justice system to incapacitate individuals located” in America “who pose a threat to the United States” and he contended “the use of military force” would be rejected “where well-established law enforcement authorities in the country provide the best means for incapacitating the terrorist threat,” the mere fact that his answer was a yes is outrageous. However, it fits the framework for fighting a permanent global “War on Terrorism” without any geographical limitations, which the Obama administration has maintained it has the authority to wage.

Guardian writer Glenn Greenwald, speaking at the Freedom to Connect conference, said today, “There is a theoretical framework being built that posits that the US Government has unlimited power, when it comes to any kind of threats it perceives, to take whatever action against them that it wants without any constraints or limitations of any kind.

Paul had to send three letters to Brennan and the question had to be raised by someone in a Google+ chat with the president before the Obama administration would give something resembling an appropriate answer because, as Greenwald suggested saying “yes” would “illustrate the real radicalism that the government has embraced in terms of how it uses its own power.” If they said “no,” it would “jeopardize this critical theoretical foundation that they very carefully have constructed that says there are no cognizable constraints on how US government power can be asserted.”

As it turns out, Holder, the Justice Department and the wider Obama administration opted to not jeopardize the framework.

What Charles Pierce said

This is that into which we have rendered ourselves. As a democracy, we now debate only what kind of monsters we may decide we have to be.

Nov 29 2012

A Step in the Right Direction: Ending Indefinite Detention for US Citizens

Shortly after President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act on December 21, 2011 a group of journalists and activist joined Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Chris Hedges in a lawsuit against the Obama administration asserting that the law violated free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In September U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest had blocked the disputed statute from the National Defense Authorization Act, essentially declaring it unconstitutional. That ruling was overturned in October by a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It is worth noting that all of those judges were appointed by Barack Obama.

But who would have thought that Hedges and company would have an ally  in Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who along with several other senators from both sides of the aisle, filed an amendment to the current military spending bill that would bar detentions of citizens and green card-holders:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who helped write that amendment, declared Wednesday that it is not good enough, and recalled seeing Japanese Americans jailed in horse stalls at a racetrack when she was a girl.

“I believe that the time has come now to end this legal ambiguity, and state clearly, once and for all, that the AUMF or other authorities do not authorize such indefinite detention of Americans apprehended in the U.S.,” Feinstein said.

“The federal government experimented with indefinite detention of U.S. citizens during World War II, a mistake we now recognize as a betrayal of our core values,” she said. “Let’s not repeat it.” [..]

Paul, who adheres to many libertarian positions, noted that the federal government’s “fusion centers” — which are supposed to facilitate the flow of anti-terrorism information — already make recommendations that many people would find objectionable, and if carried to their logical conclusions, could provide basis for jailing just about anyone.

Paul pointed to a report from a center in Missouri: “From this fusion center comes a document that says beware of people who have bumper stickers supporting third party candidates,” Paul said. “Beware of people who believe in stricter immigration laws. Beware of people who support the right to life. They might be terrorists.

“This is an official document,” paul added. “Do we want to give up the right to trial by jury when we’re being told that somebody who keeps food in their basement might be a terrorist?”

The problem that many opponents of the indefinite detention provisions see with it is that it is especially vague, saying only that the military can grab anyone who provides “substantial support” to Al Qaeda or “associated forces.” Those terms are not defined by the law, which is being challenged in the federal courts.

Although President Obama signed the bill he had promised that he would never use it who is to say that he won’t change his mind or another president will use it to silence dissent. Considering the number of promises this president has already broken and his close friendship with Cass Sunstein, who would love nothing more that to criminalize decent, the senate needs to approve this amendment to protect the our constitutional rights.