Category Archives: Government

CISPA: Your Privacy At Severe Risk Of Government‑Corporate Surveillance

Following up on the earlier CISPA post, Anjali Dalal of AlterNet has a concentrated summary of CISPA and all the last-minute amendments applied last Thursday evening before the bill was passed unexpectedly by the House. Many of the amendments appear to have been inserted (and others deleted) in defiance of reservations expressed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology, all of whom were at least in theory invited to “participate” in amending the bill. Here’s Dalal:

Learning their lesson from SOPA, the House decided to invite civil liberties constituencies to the table so as to avoid having to witness another implosion of a major legislative goal. As a result, a number of amendments were introduced that began to address some of the most egregious parts of the bill, and, in response, some members of the civil liberties community decided to withhold further, vocal opposition. Then, on Thursday evening, it all fell apart. As Josh Smith at the National Journal described, the CISPA that was passed by the House on Thursday didn’t reflect this negotiation: …

Ah, the grand Republican tradition, let everyone have their say and then pass whatever they damned well please. “We listened to you!” they will doubtless protest. Yes, fuck them dead, they did. An overwhelming number of the amendments ultimately incorporated were Republican, while most Democratic amendments were omitted by the Republican-dominated House Rules Committee.

The linked AlterNet article discusses quite a few amendments. All I can say on a quick reading is that the words “warrantless” and “immunity” appear often, allowing warrantless searches by corporations (!) to be reported to government agencies with immunity for the corporations involved. These GOP guys ‘n’ gals really, really don’t like the “no search without a warrant” principle, and they really, really do like subcontracting legitimately government-only activities to private corporations.

Do you get the feeling that that pompous, ritualistic reading of the Constitution at the opening of the last House session was totally lost on the members of one party, and maybe some of the other party’s members as well?

Does anybody know the status of Obama’s original threat to veto this bill if it crosses his desk? Has he caved yet?

GOP House Prepares To Whack Medicare, Bust Budget Deal, Possibly Trigger Another Government Shutdown

Their raw hubris is astonishing beyond words. How they think a government shutdown on Oct. 1 will advance their election prospects is utterly beyond my ability to understand. But it appears Boehner is wholly under the sway of the Tea Party now, a tweaked Paul Ryan budget is riding high, and in the House, the inmates have taken charge of the asylum. Sahil Kapur of TPM tells us all about it.

The State Of The Nation

Please read William Rivers Pitt’s piece, Let the Million Flowers Bloom. Allow yourself a short span to fathom the list of activities Pitt compiles, things being done by government entities at literally all levels. Then read it again.

It doesn’t take a conspiracy-oriented mind to believe that we in America are headed straight to Hell, based on a simple list of well-established facts. While I believe there are some conspiracies, I am very disinclined to believe they are typically perpetrated by our governments; I find it more than distasteful to imagine that municipalities are organizing against our well-being. But facts are facts, and Pitt has spent years establishing a reputation for getting his facts right. His facts on NYC’s treatment of the Occupy movement are almost certainly right. Who would you rather believe? Michael Bloomberg? And how far behind can the rest of us be, if they’re collecting retinal scans of peaceful protesters?

Pitt says that GeeDubya Bush is finally getting his wish expressed in his attempt at a “Total Information Awareness” program. The technology to do such a thing has been available for a decade at least, and if it is now a mission of the No Such Agency to establish such a database, it will almost certainly happen. As a first step in preparing ourselves, we might want to contemplate how we will live in an era in which individual privacy is effectively nonexistent.

After you’ve figured that out for yourself, maybe we’ll be lucky enough to have some time to contemplate what comes next. Or maybe not. If I were in my 20s or 30s, I might seriously consider emigrating. And if that’s not an option for you…

Welcome to America! Enjoy your stay!

Republican Obama Appointee To NLRB Leaked Insider Info To Former Members Now In Private Sector

Oh my goodness gracious! Where is my fainting couch? Hand me the smelling salts! Who could ever have suspected that a Republican appointee would engage in unethical behavior? [/snark]

Obama is a fool, at best, to indulge his predilection for appointing Republicans… no Republican president would ever appoint a Democrat to anything at all. It is just one more reason why I shall not vote to re-elect the man.

AFTERTHOUGHT: did Republicans thank Obama for the recess appointment of one of their own? Don’t make me laugh… they used the revelation of unethical behavior to fault Obama for using a (perfectly legal) recess appointment. Ingratitude, thy name is Republican. [/snark]

Obama’s War On Journalism And Journalists

No, I’m not talking about the annoying behavior all presidents and their administrations engage in… treating some journalists as favorites, granting access in exchange for sometimes fawning favorable articles and columns. No, I mean nothing so innocuous as that. I mean deliberate efforts to punish journalists by imprisonment and torture for committing acts of… journalism.

Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye found out the hard way about this policy. Imprisoned in Yemen in retribution for some things he published about the current government, he was set to be released… until President Obama phoned to request that he NOT be released, apparently because he published full accounts of US military involvement in Yemen including the killing of dozens of civilians in drone attacks. Obama now regards Abdulelah Haider Shaye as an Al Qaeda member, even though he often reported on Al Qaeda for several major American news organizations.

So Abdulelah Haider Shaye sits in prison at Obama’s behest, with no immediate prospect of being released. This is how things are done now in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” What kind of bravery does it demonstrate when a president arranges the jailing of a journalist critical of him?

If you have 45 minutes to spare, please watch Jeremy Scahill appearing on Democracy Now. If not, please read Glenn Greenwald.

I will not tell you who you should or should not vote for in November, and yes, I do believe that in aspects other than civil liberties, Obama would be preferable to any of the Republican candidates. (That’s hardly a ringing endorsement, or indeed an endorsement of any sort.) But civil liberties is, for me, a go/no‑go issue. I shall not vote for the man, because I consider him to have engaged in extrajudicial assassinations of American citizens without due process.

(H/T Glenn Greenwald, whose post is well worth reading.)

Medical Honesty In The US: Fracked By State Governments

You all know the long list of recent state laws attempting effectively to destroy a woman’s right to choose abortion, or to obtain contraceptives, or even to hear honest medical advice about the consequences of various options. If you don’t, please view the Planned Parenthood site. Yes, they do still exist, despite Mitt Romney’s stated intention to “get rid of” them. The short version: various state governments have legislated almost literal hoops a woman must jump through to exercise her constitutionally protected right of abortion, including a waiting period, a government-specified text that the doctor must read to the woman word-for-word (a document which, in Texas, contains blatant medical falsehoods), and/or a physically invasive transvaginal ultrasound procedure which the woman must have and the doctor must describe to her even if she refuses to look at it. As I said above, you already knew all about that.

But did you know that in Pennsylvania, there’s a new state law “forbidding health care professionals from sharing information they learn about certain chemicals and procedures used in high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing”?

So “awl bidness” profits, like the avoidance of abortion, somehow justify legally compulsory blatant violations of medical ethics.

Welcome to 21st-century America. Female serfs line up to the left for your burqas; male serfs to the right for your oil-drilling equipment. Dissent will not be tolerated. Medical care will be provided, or not, at our discretion and to our written specifications. Always remember: war is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength. Now get to work…

Obama’s Government Cracks Down

… on whistleblowers and on those who leak information to the press and media that may be uncomplimentary to the administration. Chris Hedges tells you what has happened, and what in all likelihood will happen next. I’ll offer just one short quotation:

We have very little space left to maneuver. The iron doors of the corporate state are slamming shut. And a conviction of Bradley Manning, or any of the five others charged by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act of 1917 with passing government secrets to the press, would effectively terminate public knowledge of the internal workings of the corporate state.

What we live under cannot be called democracy. What we will live under if the Supreme Court upholds the use of the Espionage Act to punish those who expose war crimes and state lies will be a species of corporate fascism. And this closed society is, perhaps, only a few weeks or months away.

If you’re a journalist with both the ability and a need to leak unpleasant facts about the Obama government, you’d better have your passport updated and an escape route planned. Obama’s behavior to date makes it clear he has no intention of tolerating uncomplimentary leaks at all, and is either about to try (e.g., Bradley Manning) or seeks to arrest and try anyone who commits the unpardonable sin (in Obama’s opinion) of leaking to the press.

I doubt this is going to get any better no matter who becomes president next year, but I’m damned surely not going to vote for Obama again. Fascism is unacceptable from a Democrat or a Republican; I don’t care which does the deed.

Another Bipartisan ‘Grand Bargain’?

The mind recoils. But apparently it’s in the works, probably to be sprung on us after the elections. According to David Dayen, The Hill (see below for link) says that, in Dayen’s words, “Republicans have joined a bipartisan working group that is preparing a document on deficit reduction.” Yes, of course, some Democrats… with full White House support… are rumored to be ready and willing to cut “Medicare and other social programs” (Dayen).

Not surprisingly, this is apparently in part the work of Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House minority whipped. Whip, I mean… yeah, whipped. Damn, I did it again! I wonder why that keeps coming out…

Then there’s this, which Dayen quotes from The Hill:

The core House group of roughly 10 negotiators is derived from a larger Gang of 100 lawmakers led by Reps. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Health Shuler (D-N.C.), who urged the debt supercommittee to strike a grand bargain last year.

And it’s all being negotiated… and apparently already drafted… in secret. That seems to be the pattern of legislation lately: we peasants don’t get to see the action. Sometimes we get to see it after it’s in place as law; sometimes not even that. Sometimes it’s implemented in trials held in ordinary courts at law; sometimes it’s litigated in secret courts. (I have no reason to believe this particular law will be secret, only the process of legislating it.) I never thought I’d live to see the day. But it’s here: we not only do not control our government, we aren’t even witnesses to it.

I’ve never been a fan of “bipartisanship” … why have parties, if they don’t oppose each other? But even if “bipartisanship” is something I have to accept as today’s reality… why all the secretiveness? If the shit is about to hit the fan, can’t we be given at least a minimal opportunity to duck?

Greece: A Brief Update

As my earlier post, The Last Colony, scrolls off the main page, our regular commenter on Greek affairs, L’Enfant de la Haute Mer, continues to keep us up to date on conditions and events in Greece. Two of her recent links to articles struck me as particularly relevant. First, an article in The Nation, Greece in Meltdown, by Maria Margaronis:

For decades, Greeks have had a relationship of antagonistic symbiosis with the state, resenting its inefficiency and petty bureaucracy while relying on the big party machines to keep them comfortable. … “[Now,] The whole political system has been discredited,” [former truck driver Nikolaos Koumbariotis] said. “At this moment, no one believes in anything. No one has any faith that there could be some sort of representation that could solve our problems.”

… But it’s also because Greek democracy has been suspended for some time. Both main parties have split under the pressure of the impossible choice—default or deeper austerity—extorted from Greece by its lenders; on February 12 each expelled some twenty members of Parliament for voting against the terms of the new loan deal, a 700-page document they were given one day to read. …

(Americans know about huge bills which legislators are given only a day or two to read… can you spell “PATRIOT Act,” children? Of course, that is the single law most destructive of American democracy in all of American history, and in more rational times with a less radical Supreme Court, it would be overturned as unconstitutional. Instead, it has become the basis of more infringements of civil liberties, e.g., the Military Commissions Act, and more draconian unitary executive policies from administrations of both major parties.)

The other link of note is to a YouTube video of an interview of Costas Douzinas, professor of law at Birkbeck University, London. The uploader of this video provides one brief transcription conveying the flavor of Prof. Douzinas’s commentary:

You can push people out of the way until they leave the country if they can or they live off the rubbish bins. At the moment we have 22 per cent unemployment, 50 per cent unemployment among the youth, and a huge increase in homelessness, which may result in a proportional increase in suicide

We in America think we live in hard times, and no doubt we do. But our suffering is nowhere nearly as bad as Greek suffering… and while our democracy is threatened, theirs is apparently completely gone.

Robert Reich: Fear The Loony Right

Actually what he says is that the rest of us should not gloat at the position the Republican Party finds itself in. It’s not just that all the surviving GOP presidential candidates are full-blown, bat-shit crazy nut-jobs, but that nut-jobs currently control a house of Congress and will still do so after elections, and that in a non-parliamentary system, in which a party of nut-jobs cannot simply be absorbed into a governing coalition of saner parties, the minority party in American democracy has seriously frightening disruptive and even destructive powers:

A party of birthers, creationists, theocrats, climate-change deniers, nativists, gay-bashers, anti-abortionists, media paranoids, anti-intellectuals, and out-of-touch country clubbers cannot govern America.

In parliamentary systems of government, small groups representing loony fringes can be absorbed relatively harmlessly into adult governing coalitions.

But here, as we’re seeing, a loony fringe can take over an entire party — and that party will inevitably take over some part of our federal, state, and local governments.

As such, the loony right is a clear and present danger.

Clear and present danger… yes, they are. I’m sure most of you will, as will I, do everything you can to slow their rise to power. For me, though, the presidency is a real dilemma. I cannot vote for a multiple murderer who ignores the Bill of Rights when he finds it inconvenient. And I cannot ever, ever vote for a GOPer (perish the thought!). I am too old to vote, in what may be my last election, for the lesser evil. But I won’t discourage you if you want to vote for him. (I hate this position!)

AFTERTHOUGHT: Glenn Greenwald interviews Russ Feingold, who manages a real song-and-dance to continue his support for President Obama and, to my dismay, for Obama’s continuation of many of Bush’s probably unconstitutional antiterrorism practices. Please read the transcript; the audio is godawful.