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This is an Open Thread
Dec 15 2011
Our regular featured content-
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This is an Open Thread
Dec 15 2011
Crossposted from Antemedius
The White House on Wednesday said that Obama – after a week or so of making empty threats to try to pre-emptively defuse any tentative whimpering thoughts of opposition among the peasants to it – has changed his mind and now announces that he will not veto the controversial 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The president’s spokesman Carney Barker said lawmakers who crafted a compromise version from rival Senate and House versions of the legislation had addressed his reluctance about growing a pair and publicly taking ownership of the tough rules on detainees contained in Sections 1031 and 1032 of the act.
Sections 1031 and 1032 authorize the U.S. President to at his whim indefinitely detain and tie to their bedposts anyone anywhere he in his sole discretion decides to label as “enemy combatants” anywhere in the world without charge or trial forever, and have them be held in military custody stripped of all constitutional rights such as habeas corpus, the right to an attorney, the right to face their accusers, and other ridiculous rights and freedoms that he knows people in other parts of the world hate them for having.
Civil liberties advocates and others were furious at lawmakers for the broad scope of the provisions, which allows U.S. citizens on U.S. soil to be indefinitely detained without trial. Now the gloves are off and he can just grab anyone anytime off the street who happens – even without obvious reason – to excite him.
“Constitution be damned, we’re dealing with republicans badmouthing him in public all over town every chance they get like they think he’s their boyfriend” said Press Secretary Carney Barker, who also noted that “Unlike previous president Bush who kept his Dick in an office down the hall, Obama has been whispering sweet nothings and been publicly Dick-less since he was elected, but no longer. Being in bed with republicans has been making his head throb for three long years, and now he’s finally standing up!”.
Obama chief complaint had been that the goddamn piece of paper might continue to handcuff him as badly as another goddamn piece of paper so far has, keeping him as weak and powerless as he has been the past three years since his inauguration, but his handlers have finally convinced him that you just can’t go putting restrictions on the unitary executive, after all, or republicans might continue to bipartisanly call him “weak on national security”.
Dec 15 2011
The following link is to a scathing article on the extremely archaic, brutal and inhumane conditions under which the workers at Amazon.com’s warehouses are regularly subject to, as well as being forced to work at an unattainable and unsustainable pace, often with disastrous results. This link might be of interest. Read it and weep, gnash your teeth, or knock your socks off! I decided right then and there, although I’d heard something about Amazon.com’s ultra-abusive labor policies, to stop buying things from Amazon unless or until they change their labor policies.
Dec 15 2011
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
How ironic that on this very day, Congress and President Barack Obama are about to approve a bill that will essentially violate at least 5 of these amendments and more.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
December 15 is the 349th day of the year (350th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 16 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day 1791, Virginia becomes the last state to ratify the Bill of Rights, making the first ten amendments to the Constitution law and completing the revolutionary reforms begun by the Declaration of Independence. Before the Massachusetts ratifying convention would accept the Constitution, which they finally did in February 1788, the document’s Federalist supporters had to promise to create a Bill of Rights to be amended to the Constitution immediately upon the creation of a new government under the document.
After the Constitution was ratified in 1789, the 1st United States Congress met in Federal Hall in New York City. Most of the delegates agreed that a “bill of rights” was needed and most of them agreed on the rights they believed should be enumerated.
Madison, at the head of the Virginia delegation of the 1st Congress, had originally opposed a Bill of Rights but hoped to pre-empt a second Constitutional Convention that might have undone the difficult compromises of 1787: a second convention would open the entire Constitution to reconsideration and could undermine the work he and so many others had done in establishing the structure of the United States Government. Writing to Jefferson, he stated, “The friends of the Constitution…wish the revisal to be carried no farther than to supply additional guards for liberty…and are fixed in opposition to the risk of another Convention….It is equally certain that there are others who urge a second Convention with the insidious hope of throwing all things into Confusion, and of subverting the fabric just established, if not the Union itself.”
Madison based much of the Bill of Rights on George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), which itself had been written with Madison’s input. He carefully considered the state amendment recommendations as well. He looked for recommendations shared by many states to avoid controversy and reduce opposition to the ratification of the future amendments. Additionally, Madison’s work on the Bill of Rights reflected centuries of English law and philosophy, further modified by the principles of the American Revolution.
Dec 15 2011
Welcome to the new America. With the “last minute” changes to the National Defense Authorization Act, the White House Press Sectary announced that President Obama will sign it contrary to his earlier threat to veto the bill. The bill would deny suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens seized within the nation’s borders, the right to trial and subject them to indefinite detention.:
We have been clear that “any bill that challenges or constrains the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation would prompt the President’s senior advisers to recommend a veto.” After intensive engagement by senior administration officials and the President himself, the Administration has succeeded in prompting the authors of the detainee provisions to make several important changes, including the removal of problematic provisions. While we remain concerned about the uncertainty that this law will create for our counterterrorism professionals, the most recent changes give the President additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength. This legislation authorizes critical funding for military personnel overseas, and its passage sends an important signal that Congress supports our efforts as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan lead while ensuring that our military can meet the challenges of the 21st century.
As a result of these changes, we have concluded that the language does not challenge or constrain the President’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the American people, and the President’s senior advisors will not recommend a veto. However, if in the process of implementing this law we determine that it will negatively impact our counterterrorism professionals and undercut our commitment to the rule of law, we expect that the authors of these provisions will work quickly and tirelessly to correct these problems.
- The Senate has prevailed on the question of AUMF reaffirmation. The House bill, recall, would have contained a general reaffirmation of the AUMF, whereas the Senate language would only have reaffirmed that the existing AUMF authorized detention operations. The conference report has adopted the Senate approach. (See Sec. 1021.)
- A watered-down version of the Senate’s mandatory detention provision remains in the bill. (See Sec. 1022.) On the quickest of reads, it seems to apply only to those who are “members of” or “part of” (not supporters of) Al Qaeda and those associated forces that act in coordination with it or at Al Qaeda’s direction, not to the Taliban. It does not extend to citizens and applies to permanent resident aliens only for conduct in the United States to whatever extent the Constitution permits. And it contains the following new disclaimer: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the existing criminal enforcement and national security authorities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other domestic law enforcement agency with regard to a covered person, regardless of whether such covered person is held in military custody.” To put it simply, what has emerged is mush.
- The conferees have adopted the Senate’s approach to codifying the Guantanamo review process. (See Sec. 1023.) The House had laid out detailed procedures to replace those in President Obama’s executive order. The Senate, by contrast, had merely required the promulgation of procedures that tweaked aspects of the executive order around the edges. The final bill, with very minor adjustments, looks like the Senate version.
- The Senate’s requirement for new procedures for status determinations for “long-term detention” has survived-with slight tweaks. (See Sec. 1024.) The House got inserted language that clarifies that these procedures-which include counsel and a hearing before a military judge-are not required for detainees who have access to habeas. And the definition of “long term detention” is left to the Defense Department. So the provision, depending on how the executive branch implements it, could be important or could apply to a null-set of detainees.
- The House bill’s requirement that the administration create a national security protocol governing detainee interactions with the outside world has survived-but with an important change. (See Sec. 1025.) The House version required a national security protocol for each detainee. The conference report, by contrast, requires a single national security protocol governing the Guantanamo population at large.
- The conference report unsurprisingly contains language forbidding the expenditure of fiscal year 2012 money building detention facilities in the United States to house Guantanamo detainees. (See Sec. 1026.)
- It also contains language forbidding the use of fiscal year 2012 money to bring Guantanamo detainees to the United States-including for trial. (See Sec. 1027.)
- It also contains the Senate version of the overseas transfer restrictions for Guantanamo detainees. (See Sec. 1028.)
- The House’s requirement for consultation between prosecutors and the Pentagon before initiating a terrorist prosecution has survived for foreign Al Qaeda figures and detainees abroad. (See Sec. 1029.)
- It also contains the uncontroversial clarification of the right to plead guilty in military commission capital trials. (See Sec. 1030.)
- The House’s prohibition of civilian trials is gone.
Dec 15 2011
Extractionism: taking money from others without creating anything of value; anything that produces economic growth or improves our lives.
MSNBC talk show host, Dylan Ratigan has a new book, Greedy Bastards, coming out in January and has been promoting the premise of the book, how the banks have shaken down taxpayers, in a series of on-line pod casts. He recently interviewed Yves Smith, author of ECONned and proprietress of naked capitalism, gave Dylan an education of how the banks have been extracting capital for themselves and why investors are afraid to take them to court for fear the government will retaliate.
Under an extractionist system, we find lose value at a faster rate over time, while we need to be creating it. Instead of giving people incentives to make good deals where both sides can benefit, extractionist systems rewards those who take and take some more, and give nothing in return. Sadly, extractionism has crept its way into every aspect of our economy – it’s everywhere, from trade to taxes to banking.
Let’s take a look at banking as an example. As Yves Smith explains, financial firms do provide valuable services to our economy, like establishing stable and reliable methods of payment for goods and services, and selling bonds and stocks to help raise new money to fund big projects. There are more than that, of course, but those are two basic examples of valuable services that our banking and financial sector provides.
Now, let’s look at how they can also be extractive – almost always going back the lack of transparency in the financial markets.
Yves identifies two main extractive techniques of our financial industry. The first is charging too much for goods or services. “Even fairly sophisticated customers can’t know what the prices are of many of the products, so it’s difficult for them to do side-to-side comparisons,” says Yves.
The second method is producing products that are so complicated – like in the swaps market – that clients can’t see hidden risk in them. “This has unfortunately become extremely common now that we have a lot more use of derivatives. Many of the formulas that are used they are disclosed by they are extremely complicated, and then on top of that, the risk models that are commonly used for evaluating the risk actually understate the risk,” says Yves.
In the interview Yves makes suggestions how this can be fixed:
1. A small tax on all financial transactions. 2. Give financial institutions a bigger financial responsibility when they knowingly recommending bad products or dubious strategies. 3. We need increased political pressure for an effective and robust Securities and Exchange Commission. 4. More inspection of what the banks are doing in their over-the-counter businesses.
The full interview transcript is here.
Yes, we do need a Constitutional amendment to get money out of politics so this can be stopped.
h/t Yves Smith @ naked capitalism
Dec 15 2011
Immigration Officials Picking Up US Citizens for Deportation
By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake
Wednesday December 14, 2011 7:00 am
The Obama Administration swears that their deportation program has only captured criminals and sent them back to their home countries. Recently acquired data shows that to be false. Now we’re learning that not only non-criminals have been caught up in the immigration net. So have American citizens.
There are few hard statistics on the number of American citizens held for deportation, but obviously when you get more aggressive about deporting people – as the Obama Administration has, with a record 1.1 million deportations during his tenure – you’re going to get a higher number of incidents like this. And these are wrongful arrests, illegal actions being taken by immigration authorities. It’s far more than just the cost of doing business.
The cases profiled here involved individuals charged on misdemeanors. But we know that represents a minority of those deported. So the likelihood is high that there have been cases of American citizens not convicted of a crime somehow falling into the immigration net and getting scheduled for deportation. In fact, a few of them probably were deported, though ICE claims that they cancel any deportation orders if the individual claims citizenship.
And this, from an ACLU lawyer, is correct: “It’s sort of like the canary in the mine. If those who have the full due process rights of U.S. citizens are being detained, it tells us a lot about potentially unlawful people who do not have those protections.” Exactly.
Florida’s Politicians (But Not Its Residents) Love Private Prisons
By: WhyIHateCCA, Firedog Lake
Wednesday December 14, 2011 10:45 am
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz represents Southwest Ranches, Florida, which has been at the epicenter of a debate over a proposed immigration detention facility. Residents of the town have consistently demonstrated their opposition to the facility, which they feel was designed and planned without much public knowledge of the proceedings.
Basically, they think they have been fleeced by CCA, who hopes to build the facility on land it already owns, into having a detention center that they fear will lower property values and present a risk to public safety.
Unfortunately, they’ve got a pretty poor representative in Ms. Wasserman, who’s basically taking a “lesser of available evils” approach. She initially called a town hall meeting to allow residents to voice their opposition and learn more about the project. After more than 250 people showed up to let CCA and the town council know they didn’t want a private prison, Wasserman, who had called the meeting, decided she would support the project. She now thinks it’s a good idea and that the town should move forward, saying she thinks “it is going to be far better to have that ICE detention center there than to have any other facility that would have a much more negative impact on residents there.” Other than a lead paint producing puppy mill, I can’t really imagine what would be worse for a community than a privately operated, for-profit human rights violations incubator. But there’s no chance she could have been partially swayed by the nearly $20 million CCA has spent lobbying the federal government over the past decade. Right?
Unfortunately for the residents of Southwest Ranches, Wasserman isn’t alone in ignoring her constituents interests and supporting a company with a long track record of failing to live up to its contracts. The mayor of Southwest Ranches just basically told his constituents to pound sand, because the deal is done. CCA owns the land, and has for a decade, so he says there’s really nothing residents can do to stop the construction at this point.
After FBI Director Testimony, Veto of Defense Authorization Bill Appears Likely
By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake
Wednesday December 14, 2011 11:32 am
Mueller made the comments despite changes to the bill that attempted to give the Administration several loopholes to bypass indefinite military detention on a case-by-case basis. So coming after the conference committee report, it looks like the White House counter-terrorism advisers will recommend a veto. It’s highly unlikely to believe that Mueller was freelancing here.
As we’ve discussed, this does not reflect a White House uncomfortable with statutory indefinite military detention. The Administration opposes the bill because it would put too MANY constraints on their counter-terrorism activities. They would prefer to exist in a legal gray area, without binding rules on indefinite detention. In this case, Mueller appears upset that the military would get first crack at these terrorist suspects rather than the FBI. So there is no nobility here. But the result could be the one civil liberties defenders advocate: a veto of the NDAA.
Let’s just review where we’re at, then. The government could shut down on Friday. The parties are far apart on a bill to avoid the expiration of a payroll tax reduction and extended unemployment benefits, both of which would create a fiscal drag of up to 1% of GDP. Doctors will see a 27% cut in their reimbursement rate for Medicare on January 1 if nothing is done. And the one area where the parties agree, this defense authorization bill, is likely to draw a Presidential veto.
It’s such a wonder why Americans hold no faith in their government.
Record High Anti-Incumbent Sentiment Toward Congress
by Frank Newport, Gallup
December 9, 2011
PRINCETON, NJ — About three-quarters of registered voters (76%) say most members of Congress do not deserve re-election, the highest such percentage Gallup has measured in its 19-year history of asking this question. The 20% who say most members deserve to be re-elected is also a record low, by one percentage point.
A substantial majority of Republican (75%), independent (82%), and Democratic (68%) voters agree that most members of Congress do not deserve re-election — a sign of rare consensus about the legislative body in which both parties currently hold a leadership stake.
How this antipathy toward Congress plays out in next year’s congressional elections remains to be seen. Americans were not as negative last October, before the 2010 midterm elections, yet voters flipped 63 seats from Democratic to Republican control and gave the House to the GOP in the process. This was the largest seat gain by any party since 1948.
More evidence that "independents" don’t "swing"
Monday, December 12, 2011
“(I)ndependent” voters don’t shift party allegiance from election to election, so much as stay home out of apathy and to punish their preferred party for not doing its job.
Pollsters looking to see how to “win back” so-called “independent” voters will often do focus groups with people who crossed party lines from one election to another–say, those who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 but then voted for Republicans in 2010. They then analyze the data they get from those people to tell Dem politicians like President Obama what they must do to “win back” those independents.
But this is the wrong way of going about it. Sure, those “switcher” voters are out there. But they’re dwarfed in number by the people who hold an allegiance to the Democratic Party and progressive principles in general, and may have voted in the big presidential election of 2008, but failed to turn out to vote in 2010. That’s a much bigger cohort–and not only is it bigger in size, it’s more winnable and courting it doesn’t create resentment and anger within the Party base.
Smart Democratic consultants would do well to do focus groups with Dem voters from 2008 who stayed home in the midterms, and aren’t sure whether they’re likely to come out in 2012. See what is driving their anger and apathy, and what they want in terms of policy and message. And then insofar as decisions are made based on focus groups and polls, tailor the message to those people. My suspicion? You’ll find a lot of those very sorts of people at Occupy protests around the country.
President Will Not Veto Defense Authorization Bill, Despite Detention Provisions
By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake
Wednesday December 14, 2011 1:32 pm
After its FBI Director told Congress that the revisions to the defense authorization bill did not satisfy his concerns with the bill, the White House issued a statement of Administration policy saying that they would not veto the bill, despite an earlier threat.
(T)he changes do offer a variety of possible loopholes for the executive branch to carry out counter-terrorism policy as they see fit. Military custody is no longer “required” in the bill, and FBI policies are nominally preserved, though in a strange way that would seem to be impossible to implement. The President has a few extra pieces of discretion to take terrorist suspects out of military custody and into an interrogation process outside military purview. In addition, federal courts could still be used for terrorism cases.
Remember that the White House has little problem with indefinite military detention. They just want to be able to dictate when it gets used and on whom. So they obviously see enough flexibility here to carry out unconstrained intelligence gathering and detention policies.
Dec 15 2011
Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River. It was a redneck sort of place, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.
When I was around four or five years old, around 1961 or 1962, I begged my parents to get a cat for me. I have always been more of a cat person than a dog person, but I really have nothing against dogs. Cats and I just understand each other than dogs and I do. That is while were still living in North Little Rock.
My grandmum had been ill with a thyroid condition that required surgery, so my parents hired a very nice black lady by the name of Sadie to look after us during the day until my grandmum recovered from her surgery. It just so happened that Sadie new someone who had a couple of kittens to give away, so we drove over to their house one Saturday and got Lucy.