July 2013 archive
Jul 30 2013
Jul 30 2013
Before last week’s vote on the Amash/Conyer Amendment, that would have stripped financing for the NSA program of unfettered surveillance, the American people were already shifting in how they viewed these programs. Over the weekend Pew conducted another poll showing that the shift is even more stark.
“Overall, 47% say their greater concern about government anti-terrorism policies is that they have gone too far in restricting the average person’s civil liberties, while 35% say they are more concerned that policies have not gone far enough to protect the country. This is the first time in Pew Research polling that more have expressed concern over civil liberties than protection from terrorism since the question was first asked in 2004.”
Major opinion shifts, in the US and Congress, on NSA surveillance and privacy
by Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian
Pew finds that, for the first time since 9/11, Americans are now more worried about civil liberties abuses than terrorism
Perhaps more amazingly still, this shift has infected the US Congress. Following up on last week’s momentous House vote – in which 55% of Democrats and 45% of Republicans defied the White House and their own leadership to vote for the Amash/Conyers amendment to ban the NSA’s bulk phone records collection program – the New York Times has an article this morning which it summarizes on its front page this way:
Click on image to enlarge
The article describes how opposition to the NSA, which the paper says was recently confined to the Congressional “fringes”, has now “built a momentum that even critics say may be unstoppable, drawing support from Republican and Democratic leaders, attracting moderates in both parties and pulling in some of the most respected voices on national security in the House.” [..]
The strategy for the NSA and its Washington defenders for managing these changes is now clear: advocate their own largely meaningless reform to placate this growing sentiment while doing nothing to actually rein in the NSA’s power. “Backers of sweeping surveillance powers now say they recognize that changes are likely, and they are taking steps to make sure they maintain control over the extent of any revisions,” says the NYT.
The primary problem enabling out-of-control NSA spying has long been the Intelligence Committees in both houses of Congress. That’s an ironic twist given that those were the committees created in the wake of the mid-1970s Church Committee to provide rigorous oversight, as a response to the recognition that Executive Branch’s surveillance powers were being radically abused – and would inevitably be abused in the future – without robust transparency and accountability. [..]
The largest changes toward demanding civil liberties protections have occurred among liberal Democrats, Tea Party Republicans, independents and liberal/moderate Republicans. Only self-identified “moderate/conservative Democrats” – the Obama base – remains steadfast and steady in defense of NSA surveillance. The least divided, most-pro-NSA caucus in the House for last week’s vote was the corporatist Blue Dog Democrat caucus, which overwhelmingly voted to protect the NSA’s bulk spying on Americans.
As I’ve repeatedly said, the only ones defending the NSA at this point are the party loyalists and institutional authoritarians in both parties. That’s enough for the moment to control Washington outcomes – as epitomized by the unholy trinity that saved the NSA in the House last week: Pelosi, John Bohener and the Obama White House – but it is clearly not enough to stem the rapidly changing tide of public opinion.
On Sunday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), one of the harshest critics of the NSA and the FISA court, was a guest on C-Span’s Newsmankers. He called the FISA court “anachronistic” and stated that he is most likely to support overhaul of the secretive court. He was particularly alarmed by the way that the Patriot Act was being interpreted by the federal government in its fight against terrorism.
Jul 29 2013
Our regular featured content-
These featured articles-
- Anti-Capitalist MeetUp: Surveillance Corps Capture Congress, Courts, Exec. by Justina by Anti-Capitalist Meetup
- Sunday Train: Traveling to Our Death and The Fatal Santiago Train Derailment by Bruce McF
- Wyden: FISA Court is an Anachronism by TheMomCat
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Write more and often. This is an Open Thread.
Jul 29 2013
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
July 29 is the 210th day of the year (211th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 155 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1858, the Harris Treaty was signed between the United States and Japan was signed at the Ryosen-ji in Shimoda. Also known as the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, it opened the ports of Edo and four other Japanese cities to American trade and granted extraterritoriality to foreigners, among other stipulations.
The treaty followed the 1854 Convention of Kanagawa, which granted coaling rights for U.S. ships and allowed for a U.S. Consul in Shimoda. Although Commodore Matthew Perry secured fuel for U.S. ships and protection, he left the important matter of trading rights to Townsend Harris, another U.S. envoy who negotiated with the Tokugawa Shogunate; the treaty is therefore often referred to as the Harris Treaty. It took two years to break down Japanese resistance, but with the threat of looming British demands for similar privileges, the Tokugawa government eventually capitulated.
Treaties of Amity and Commerce between Japan and Holland, England, France, Russia and the United States, 1858.
The most important points were:
* exchange of diplomatic agents
* Edo, Kobe, Nagasaki, Niigata, and Yokohama‘s opening to foreign trade as ports
* ability of United States citizens to live and trade in those ports
* a system of phttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraterritoriality extraterritoriality] that provided for the subjugation of foreign residents to the laws of their own consular courts instead of the Japanese law system
* fixed low import-export duties, subject to international control
The agreement served as a model for similar treaties signed by Japan with other foreign countries in the ensuing weeks. These Unequal Treaties curtailed Japanese sovereignty for the first time in its history; more importantly, it revealed Japan’s growing weakness, and was seen by the West as a pretext for possible colonisation of Japan. The recovery of national status and strength became an overarching priority for the Japanese, with the treaty’s domestic consequences being the end of Bakufu (Shogun) control and the establishment of a new imperial government.
Jul 29 2013
The government has killed a 16-year-old American boy. Shouldn’t it at least have to explain why?
by Jim White, emptywheel
While the nation grieves over the senseless death of Trayvon Martin and the missed opportunity to hold his killer responsible for that death, there is another senseless death of an American teenager of color where an attempt is continuing, after previous failures, to hold accountable those responsible for the lawless way in which this life was arbitrarily ended.
Exactly one year ago today, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit (pdf) on behalf of Nasser al-Awlaki (father of Anwar al-Awlaki and grandfather of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki) and Sarah Khan (wife of Samir Khan). The defendants in the case are former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Commander of Special Operations Command William McRaven, Commander of Joint Special Operations Command Joseph Votel and former CIA Head David Petraeus. The complaint cites violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments as well as violation of the Bill of Attainder Clause in the targeted killings of Anwar al-Awlaki, Abdulrahaman al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. [..]
Given what is known about the role of Barack Obama in these killings and his personal authorization of the “kill list” in his Terror Tuesday meetings, I find it perplexing that he is not also a defendant in this case.
The complaint seeks damages in an amount to be determined at the trial and any other relief the court deems just and proper.
Coincident with the filing of the complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia a year ago, the video above was released.
Sadly, we can state with confidence that even before the proceedings open the government will argue that it does not have to explain why it killed Abdulrahman. Because terror. Even more sadly, it is quite likely that the court will side with this senseless and lawless argument. Because terror.
What has our country become?
by David Sirota, Salon
A new lawsuit challenges whether counterterrorist officials should be allowed to operate without fear of litigation
Court cases are often cures for insomnia, but every so often a lawsuit is an eye-opening journey through the looking glass. One of those is suddenly upon us – and we should be thankful because it finally provides an unfiltered look at our government.
You may not know about this case, but you should. Called Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta, it illustrates the extremism driving the policies being made in the public’s name. [..]
But perhaps the most important thing to know about this case is what the government is arguing about the law itself. In defending the administration, Hauck asserted that such suits should not be permitted because they “don’t want these counterterrorism officials distracted by the threat of litigation.”
The radical message is obvious: Yes, the government now claims that America should not want public officials to have to consider the constraints of the law.
If this harrowing doctrine sounds familiar, that’s because the sentiment behind it has been creeping into our political dialogue for years. [..]
Consider, though, what’s more dangerous: a government that has to momentarily think about following the law when using violence or a government that gets to use such violence without having to think at all?
Government officials pretend they have the only answer to that question. But Nasser Al-Aulaqi’s dead grandson suggests there is a far more accurate answer than the one those officials are offering.
Jul 29 2013
Taxi to the Dark Side is a 2007 documentary film directed by American filmmaker Alex Gibney, and produced by Eva Orner and Susannah Shipman, which won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It focuses on the killing of an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar, beaten to death by American soldiers while being held in extrajudicial detention at the Parwan Detention Facility.
Taxi to the Dark Side examines the USA’s policy on torture and interrogation in general, specifically the CIA’s use of torture and their research into sensory deprivation. The film includes opposition to the use of torture from its political and military opponents, as well as the defense of such methods; attempts by Congress to uphold the standards of the Geneva Convention forbidding torture; and popularization of the use of torture techniques in shows such as 24.
It is part of the Why Democracy? series, which consists of ten documentary films from around the world questioning and examining contemporary democracy. As part of the series, Taxi to the Dark Side was broadcast in over 30 different countries around the world from October 8-18, 2007.
Jul 29 2013
Temple Grandin, the autistic professor, said non-visual learners could not possibly think like cows, as she could, and therefore were horribly handicapped in seeing the real world. Temple built her success largely on methods and means of handling livestock humanely and productively.
On the other hand visual learners were unable to receive the mysterious signals that normal people communicated to each other through some incomprehensible mechanism and had to rely on extensive learned memory banks to have any clue to a mysterious, illogical world of emotion.
Humpty Dumpty had it right, Alice.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
– Through the Looking Glass
A table set up on a sidewalk had copies of the Bill of Rights that passersby were asked to read.
“Propaganda by Karl Marx,” was the typical judgment.
In an earlier day, a tract condemning “rampant heterosexualism” found nearly unanimous agreement. I suspect us bent “straights” have made progress of a kind along with the none-bents but I know of no tests.
I somehow doubt cows think much like an Einstein or a Temple Grandin. Even they know a warmth of emotion prohibited to autistics but they also have a logic that escapes the herd of true believers fired up by words that somehow have an opposite meaning from their original intent – words like capitalism, socialism, democracy, race and – worst of all – the words of founders of the major religions of the day.
Jul 28 2013
Wired.com, in a July 26, 2013 piece by David Cravats, details that not-very-surprising fact that those congressional representatives who received the largest political donations from defense contractors voted last week, 217 to 205, to oppose cuts to NSA’s phone-spying dragnet budget. Those who opposed the cuts, and thus the “Amash amendment” received 122% more defense contractor funds than those who voted against it, with one Democratic exception of Representative Dennis Moran of Virginia.
An analysis done by the Berkeley non-profit, MapLight for Wired showed that Defense contractor donations averaged $41,635 from the pot, whereas House members who voted to repeal authority averaged $18,765 for the previous two year period.
The only really surprising fact is how very little the defense contractors had to pony-up to buy their contractor-collusive representative over the two year period: $12.97 million.
In contrast to the billions of dollars these big corporations make each year from their defense contracts in the surveillance industry, the going price for representatives is trifling low. (Of course, undoubtedly some representatives with committee assignments critical to surveillance budget issues do undoubtedly get lucrative extra perks in the form of post-term jobs, many as lobbyists, should they leave Congress, but still the cost of doing business with friendly congressional representatives is virtually a rounding error in their corporate budgets.