May 24, 2012 archive

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And don’t you dare ever say so!

Warrantless spying fight

Obama officials demand full, reform-free renewal of the once-controversial power to eavesdrop without warrants

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Thursday, May 24, 2012 09:37 AM EDT

In 2006, The New York Times’ James Risen and Eric Lichtblau won the Pulitzer Prize for their December, 2005 article revealing that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on the electronic communications of Americans without the warrants required by the FISA law (headline: “Officials Say U.S. Wiretaps Exceeded Law”). Even though multiple federal judges eventually ruled the program illegal, that scandal generated no accountability of any kind for two reasons:

(1) federal courts ultimately accepted the arguments of the Bush and Obama DOJs that the legality of Bush’s domestic spying program should not be judicially reviewed; and

(2) the Democratic-led Congress, in 2008, enacted the Bush-designed FISA Amendments Act, which not only retroactively immunized the nation’s telecom giants for their illegal participation in that spying program and thus terminated pending lawsuits, but worse, also legalized the vast bulk of the Bush spying program by vesting vast new powers in the U.S. Government to eavesdrop without warrants (in his memoir, President Bush gleefully recounted that the 2008 eavesdropping bill supported by the Democrats gave him more than he ever expected).

It was then-Sen. Obama’s vote in favor of the FISA Amendments Act that caused the first serious Election Year rift between him and his own supporters. Obama’s vote in favor of the bill was so controversial for two independent reasons:

(1) when he was seeking the Democratic nomination only a few months earlier and needed the support of the progressive base, Obama unequivocally vowed to filibuster “any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies,” only to turn around once he had secured the nomination and not only vote against a filibuster of that bill but then vote in favor of the bill itself; and

(2) the bill itself legalized vast new powers of warrantless eavesdropping: powers which the Democratic Party (and Obama) had spent years denouncing (as Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin put it at the time: “Through the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, Congress has legitimated many of the same things people are now complaining about”).

When Obama announced his reversal, his defenders insisted he was only doing it so that he could win the election and then use his power as President to stop warrantless eavesdropping abuses, while Obama himself claimed he voted for the FISA bill “with the firm intention – once I’m sworn in as President – to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.”

The only positive aspect of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 was that Congress imposed a four-year sunset provision on the new warrantless eavesdropping powers it authorized. That sunset provision is set to expire and – surprise, surprise – the Obama administration, just like it did for the Patriot Act, is demanding its full-scale renewal without a single change or reform.

Of course he’ll be better and more courageous and “progressive” when he never has to face voters again.


Sinkin’ in the Bathtub was the very first Warner Bros. theatrical cartoon short as well as the very first of the Looney Tunes series.

Sinkin’ In The Bathtub

The White House Appoints “Death Sentence Czar”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Meet the new “Death Sentence Czar” appointed by President Barack Obama to choose who will be targeted for assassination by unmanned drone without due process

WASHINGTON-White House counter-terror chief John Brennan has seized the lead in choosing which terrorists will be targeted for drone attacks or raids, establishing a new procedure for both military and CIA targets.

The effort concentrates power over the use of lethal U.S. force outside war zones within one small team at the White House.

The process, which is about a month old, means Brennan’s staff consults with the State Department and other agencies as to who should go on the target list, making the Pentagon’s role less relevant, according to two current and three former U.S. officials aware of the evolution in how the government goes after terrorists.

John Brennan,a top CIA aide to George Tenet during the Bush Administration, was President Obama’s choice for CIA Director. He voluntarily withdrew his name because of the controversy over his support of the Bush policies of the torture of terrorist detainees and the governments extraordinary rendition program. Instead the president appointed Brennan as his counter-terrorism chief and now has put him in charge of killing accused terrorists around the world.

Glenn Greenwald reports that Brennan has been caught lying on a number of occasions about the circumstances surrounding some high profile cases.

{..}including falsely telling the world that Osama bin Laden “engaged in a firefight” with U.S. forces entering his house and “used his wife as a human shield,” and then outright lying when he claimed about the prior year of drone attacks in Pakistan: “there hasn’t been a single collateral death.” Given his history, it is unsurprising that Brennan has been at the heart of many of the administration’s most radical acts, including claiming the power to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA without due process and the more general policy of secretly targeting people for death by drone.

Brennan will be the sole arbiter of who to recommend to President Obama to target for assassination. No evidence presented in court, no judge, no jury, no chance for the victim to defend himself and in total secrecy It has now become extremely easy to have someone killed, all this under the guise of “Change” with the blessing of the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

What is even more disconcerting is the loyalists to this President who defend or conveniently ignore all of the things they decried just a short 4 years ago: Torture, the Patriot Act, warrant-less eavesdropping, rendition, Guantanamo, indefinite detention. All of this is now acceptable under this president. Dick Cheney must be so proud.

N.B. Greenwald provides links to two amazing exchanges by Charles Davis that demonstrate the twisted logic used by Obama fanatics to either justify or ignore Obama’s policies.  

On This Day In History May 24

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

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.

May 24 is the 144th day of the year (145th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 221 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1775, John Hancock is elected president of the Second Continental Congress.

ohn Hancock is best known for his large signature on the Declaration of Independence, which he jested the British could read without spectacles. He was serving as president of Congress upon the declaration’s adoption on July 4, 1776, and, as such, was the first member of the Congress to sign the historic document.

John Hancock graduated from Harvard University in 1754 at age 17 and, with the help of a large inherited fortune, established himself as Boston’s leading merchant. The British customs raid on one of Hancock’s ships, the sloop Liberty, in 1768 incited riots so severe that the British army fled the city of Boston to its barracks in Boston Harbor. Boston merchants promptly agreed to a non-importation agreement to protest the British action. Two years later, it was a scuffle between Patriot protestors and British soldiers on Hancock’s wharf that set the stage for the Boston Massacre.

Hancock’s involvement with Samuel Adams and his radical group, the Sons of Liberty, won the wealthy merchant the dubious distinction of being one of only two Patriots-the other being Sam Adams-that the Redcoats marching to Lexington in April 1775 to confiscate Patriot arms were ordered to arrest. When British General Thomas Gage offered amnesty to the colonists holding Boston under siege, he excluded the same two men from his offer.

President of Congress

With the war underway, Hancock made his way to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia with the other Massachusetts delegates. On May 24, 1775, he was unanimously elected President of the Continental Congress, succeeding Peyton Randolph after Henry Middleton declined the nomination. Hancock was a good choice for president for several reasons. He was experienced, having often presided over legislative bodies and town meetings in Massachusetts. His wealth and social standing inspired the confidence of moderate delegates, while his association with Boston radicals made him acceptable to other radicals. His position was somewhat ambiguous, because the role of the president was not fully defined, and it was not clear if Randolph had resigned or was on a leave of absence. Like other presidents of Congress, Hancock’s authority was limited to that of a presiding officer. He also had to handle a great deal of official correspondence, and he found it necessary to hire clerks at his own expense to help with the paperwork.

Signing the Declaration

Hancock was president of Congress when the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. He is primarily remembered by Americans for his large, flamboyant signature on the Declaration, so much so that “John Hancock” became, in the United States, an informal synonym for signature. According to legend, Hancock signed his name largely and clearly so that King George could read it without his spectacles, but this fanciful story did not appear until many years later.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning


My Little Town 20120523: My Dad the Salesman

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 rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

Dad was a born salesman.  He could sell anything to anyone just about.  It took him some time to find that calling.  Before sales he pumped gasoline, worked odd jobs, trained as a jewellery designer and maker, and even tried farming.  He hated farming.

But it was sales that Dad was the very best.  Different people have different talents for different things.  I did some direct sales at summer jobs at a paint store and at a small engine repair shop and lawnmower store, but in those jobs the customers came to you.  Dad went to the customers.

I Wanna Go Back To Dixie

Well, what I like to do on formal occasions like this is to take some of the various types of songs that we all know and presumably love, and, as it were, to kick them when they’re down.

I find if you take the various popular song forms to their logical extremes, you can arrive at almost anything from the ridiculous to the obscene, or — as they say in New York — sophisticated.

I’d like to illustrate with several hundred examples for you this evening, first of all, the southern type song about the wonders of the American South. but it’s always seemed to me that most of these songs don’t go far enough. the following song, on the other hand, goes too far. It’s called I Wanna Go Back To Dixie.

I wanna go back to Dixie,

Take me back to dear ol’ Dixie,

That’s the only li’l ol’ place for li’l ol’ me.

Ol’ times there are not forgotten,

Whuppin’ slaves and sellin’ cotton,

And waitin’ for the Robert E. Lee.

(It was never there on time.)

I’ll go back to the Swanee,

Where Pellagra makes you scrawny,

And the Jasmine and the tear gas smell just fine.

I really am a-fixin’

To go back where there’s no mixin’

Down below that Mason-Dixon line.

Oh, poll tax, how I love ya, how I love ya,

My dear old poll tax.

Won’tcha come with me to alabammy,

Back to the arms of my dear ol’ mammy,

Her cookin’s lousy and her hands are clammy,

But what the hell, it’s home.

Yes, for paradise the southland is my nominee.

Jes’ give me a ham hock and a grit of hominy.

I want to start relaxin’

Down in Birmingham or Jackson

When we’re having fun why no one interferes

I wanna talk with southern gentlemen

And put my white sheet on again,

I ain’t seen one good lynchin’ in years.

The land of the boll weevil,

Where the laws are medieval,

Is callin’ me to come and nevermore roam.

I wanna go back to the southland,

That “y’all” and “shet-ma-mouth” land,

Be it ever so decadent,

There’s no place like home.