Category Archives: Rights/Liberties

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?

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Christmas Eve?

TPM’s Nick R. Martin:

Longtime white supremacist and border vigilante JT Ready saw himself as part of a war that few others would fight. He amassed weapons. He donned a uniform. He formed his own brigade of volunteers to walk alongside him as he hunted what he described as “narco terrorists” flowing across the Arizona-Mexico border.

On Wednesday, reports out of Arizona said Ready died, not at the hands of drug runners, but with his own gun during a mad rampage inside a suburban home just east of Phoenix. Along the way, the reports said, he took the lives of four other people, including a toddler.

The Arizona Republic reported the victims were Ready’s girlfriend, her daughter, the daughter’s boyfriend and the daughter’s 18-month-old baby. Ready still somehow managed to use the event to blame immigrants even after his death. A posting on his Facebook page appeared hours after the massacre took place.

(Link to Ready’s Facebook page removed. Some things are just too grotesque to link to. If you want to see it… I don’t… the original article has the link.)

To Nutcase Rightwing Asswipe members, it’s just another day; it’s part of what guns are for.

To those of us concerned with the ease of obtaining high-capacity automatic firearms, concealed-carry permits without a serious background check, a waiting period and at least a cursory psychological stability exam by a professional shrink, we’re like kids on Christmas Eve who just learned that there’s no sanity clause.

Sorry; I couldn’t help myself.

I am honestly glad this guy is gone and that it was done by his own hand. I regret terribly, grieving for the innocent dead, that four other people including a toddler had to perish along with him. Surely there must have been some way in law of preventing this tragedy without infringing on legitimate… by which I mean sane… gun owners’ rights. Being certifiably psycho should be a legal disqualification for gun ownership. No other constitutionally protected right Americans enjoy is unregulated in law; firearm ownership should be regulated along with the rest of our rights.

(NOTE: Commenting on this post will be restricted to my regular visitors. All other comments will be deleted unread.)

Bad News For Planned Parenthood In Texas

Remember a couple of days ago when Planned Parenthood of Texas was handed a favorable ruling saying that preventing them from receiving state funds was unconstitutional? Remember how Mad Kane said those rulings are usually overturned?

Well, it’s not quite that bad, but it’s bad enough. Here’s the word, from Melaney A. Linton, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, in an email:

The good news we received on Monday afternoon was short-lived.  Judge Lee Yeakel agreed with Planned Parenthood and stopped the state’s unconstitutional rule that excluded Planned Parenthood health centers from providing care to women enrolled in the WHP.

Then the bad news was delivered at the stroke of midnight when Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith granted the state their request for an emergency hold on the injunction.  This “emergency” hold meant that the state’s unconstitutional rule could go into effect and Planned Parenthood health centers would be excluded from the WHP. 

Just when we thought the political games couldn’t get any worse for low-income Texas women, they did.

I wish I believed in a Hell for the bastards to rot in.

Greece: People Are Eating Out Of Dumpsters

L’Enfant de la Haute Mer has the story (please use Google Translate if you don’t read Greek).

This has happened in the United States within my lifetime, notably in the era of the “sainted” Ronald Reagan. I’ve seen it myself. Every grocery store dumpster had its regulars; it was presumably their main source of food.

It should never have happened in the United States. It should never again be allowed to happen in the United States. And it should not be allowed to happen in Greece or any other Eurozone country. Allowing people to starve in a setting of great wealth (which the Eurozone is) is simply wrong.

Tennessee Bans Discussing ‘Gateway Sexual Activity’

Every time I think I’ve seen the outer extremes of pseudo-Christian prudishness on the part of Republican-dominated legislatures, I am taken aback by the latest offering. From TPM’s David Taintor:

You’ve heard of gateway drugs — smoking marijuana supposedly leads to harder, more addictive substances. But what about “gateway sexual activity”: the hand-holding, lip-locking and light-grazes that can lead to … other things?

The Tennessee Legislature on Friday sent a bill to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk that, according to the Tennessean, would require sex-ed classes to “exclusively and emphatically” promote abstinence and ban teachers and outside groups from promoting “gateway sexual activity.”

The bill defines “gateway sexual activity” as: “sexual conduct encouraging an individual to engage in a non-abstinent behavior.” The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jim Gotto, said the bill wouldn’t address things as innocuous as holding hands, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. But critics of the legislation say the offending behavior is not clearly defined. Gotto did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.

According to the News Sentinel, groups like Planned Parenthood and others who provide sex education information in schools could face a $500 fine. …

Gateway Sexual Activity
Brandenburg Gate

I’d say the Tennessee legislature is involved in more than a gateway sexual activity: they’re fucking nuts!

Laws like this should be anathema to a free society. Many of us think that kids should freely discuss sex: they’re going to discuss it anyway; what possible purpose is served by banning it? And they may as well learn something from the discussions, and from people who actually know something, such as teachers, counselors and yes, Planned Parenthood advisers. The “appropriate” limits of sexual expression are none of the legislature’s goddamned business. Parents should teach their kids according to their own lights. I, for example, would teach my kids every biological fact about sex, every social reality of bearing a child when the couple is unable to care for it, and yes, every means of contraception and every alternative to actually fucking. And I would also mention gay sex, on the outside chance that they were born gay, unbeknownst to me. They should know. Your kids will learn it, from you or from other kids or from radical fundamentalist nut‑jobs: the choice of source is yours, but they will, with certainty, learn it. Do your duty. Teach your kids age-appropriate sex-related facts and social context: it’s the human thing to do.

And tell your state legislature to fuck off!

Breaking From Juanita Jean: Texas Cannot Exclude Planned Parenthood – It’s Unconstitutional

I’ll just quote this wonderful woman’s post up to a point. It’s hard to know when to stop, because Juanita Jean is so wonderful…

Holy Writ Writer! God Loves Planned Parenthood.

April 30, 2012

Breaking News. Good news. Texas cannot exclude Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program. It’s un-freekin-constitutional.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge on Monday stopped Texas from preventing Planned Parenthood from getting state funds through the Women’s Health Program.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin ruled there is sufficient evidence that a law banning Planned Parenthood from the program is unconstitutional. He imposed an injunction against enforcing it until he can hear full arguments.

This surprises exactly no one, outside of the fundamentalist-evangelical-plus-Catholic right wing of the GOP. Then again, those folks are surprised when they wake up in the morning and find that the rest of us have not been transported bodily to Hell overnight for our wicked ways…

CISPA Passes House On Hurried-Up Vote After Surprise Changes Effectively Eviscerating Fourth Amendment Online

Remember Dan Quayle? Remember how we laughed at him? In our brave new world under our new overlords (whom I, for one, do NOT welcome), Quayle has had the last laugh. Here is Leigh Beaden of TechDirt on the sudden passage of CISPA, and the same author on the Quayle amendment to CISPA.

If this bill becomes law (for what it’s worth, Obama has issued a veto threat), companies that partner with DoD and NSA agencies can gather information on American citizens online without a warrant and with no application of the Fourth Amendment, just by listing certain keywords in their justification for the acquisition. It’s easier for me simply to hand you off to the ACLU for their initial impressions of the bill as passed in the House yesterday:

The House of Representatives just passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a dangerously overbroad bill that would allow companies to share our private and sensitive information with the government without a warrant and without proper oversight. CISPA gives companies the authority to share that information with the National Security Agency or other elements of the Department of Defense, who could keep it forever. The Obama administration issued a veto threat on CISPA earlier this week.

In a statement that we issued just after the House vote, ACLU legislative counsel Michelle Richardson stated, “CISPA goes too far for little reason. Cybersecurity does not have to mean abdication of Americans’ online privacy. As we’ve seen repeatedly, once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back. We encourage the Senate to let this horrible bill fade into obscurity.”

Obscurity indeed… either that’s where the bill will go, or where your privacy will go; we can’t have both.

It seems to me that we must have had “Americans” in our midst for several decades just waiting for an opportunity to repudiate the Bill of Rights and turn our form of government into something most of us would regard as totalitarian. The “global war on terror” seems to have provided that opportunity, and these un‑Americans have whipped out their swords and begun whacking away at the freedoms listed in our fundamental document. Personally, I expect the worst. If you feel otherwise, please let me know. If you “welcome our new overlords,” please fuck yourself with a corkscrew.

(H/T Avedon.)

AFTERTHOUGHT: the wiki is also worth reading, especially the quotes from the bill’s opponents outside of Congress.

The Show Trial Of Bradley Manning

I still do not see any difference between what Bradley Manning is alleged to have done and what Daniel Ellsberg did in the case of the Pentagon Papers. But Manning, presuming he goes to trial as scheduled on Sept. 21, is charged with every crime in the book, with a penalty measurable in decades. And his pretrial hearing (link is to Kevin Gosztola’s Day 2 notes) reveals a lot about the government’s motivations.

Here is what is apparent to this point:

  • The judge denied a defense motion to dismiss the charges with prejudice.
  • The judge denied a defense motion to consolidate multiple charges related to each single act into one charge each, thereby increasing the possible penalties from (according to defense) 10 years upward to 20 years.
  • The judge denied a defense request for any files resulting from CID investigations and presented to the grand jury, but simultaneously stated that “government has had access to one or more files that must be disclosed to the defense” and  “government has a duty to investigate and disclose exculpatory information to the defense.” (How those two statements are compatible with the judge’s denial is beyond my comprehension.)
  • Unsurprisingly, the judge denied a request to release grand jury proceedings to the defense.

There will be more of the pretrial hearing and there will be a trial. The result, with certainty, will be “guilty” on all charges, and the maximum penalty assessed. No adjustment for time served… remember, Bradley Manning has been in jail for over a year already, and subjected to deliberately degrading treatment even when (as was the case for much of that time) he had not even been charged yet. But there will be no adjustment for that deliberately delayed… hence denied… justice.

And this will all take place as I have predicted for one reason:

President Barack Obama.

Only the president has the raw power to meddle in this trial behind the scenes. Apparently he also believes he has a reason to do so.

This is Obama’s personal message to anyone who discloses anything about his administration, however innocuous or incriminating, properly or improperly classified, public business (as, e.g., the Pentagon Papers most certainly were) or not public business: fuck with Barry Obama and your life as you knew it is at an end.

Have a nice day!

UPDATE Wed. after close of hearing for the day: It gets worse, as Gosztola addresses in a separate post. If the government follows its apparent course here in its pursuit of other whistleblower prosecutions, it could essentially deny First Amendment speech rights on the internet altogether to serving members of the military, threatening any service member who posts to the internet with a charge of “aiding the enemy.” Whatever you think of Bradley Manning, ask yourself if you want all speech by a service member on the publicly available internet criminalized with a charge that can carry the death penalty. Un-American, you say? I can’t argue with you there!

UPDATE Wed. evening about 7:30PM CT: I wrote this in reply to a comment by M of MandT, but I think it deserves promotion to this blog post:

Our House contains (that I can remember) two bathrooms for humans, one Clever Cat® litter box for cats, two stand fans, one ceiling fan and four tabletop fans, not counting the ones built into the A/C system. Based on my experience with all of the above, I believe I can state unequivocally that with the beginning of legal proceedings against Bradley Manning, the shit has hit the fan. Just where it will be flung remains to be seen.

One Nation, Under Surveillance – Part (Oh, Whatever…)

Kevin Gosztola of FDL’s The Dissenter reviews the latest illegal unconstitutional un-American warrantless federal government surveillance efforts directed at quite literally all American citizens. Are you an American? Do you live here? Do you live somewhere else? Do you ever converse with another American, by phone or by email? Then you are, with certainty, spied upon by your government. And while it was plenty bad during GeeDubya Bush’s presidency, it has gotten even worse during Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Please read the article. It is clear that neither Congress nor the president has even the least bit of a problem with NSA surveillance of American citizens. When a former NSA agent, William Binney, turned whistleblower on the agency’s alleged illegal surveillance activities against American citizens, he found the FBI literally at his door:

And then, on July 26, 2007, about twelve FBI agents raided his home with their guns drawn. Binney was in the shower. His son answered the door. They pushed past him and, when they found him in the bathroom, pointed a gun at his head to make sure he was “duly intimidated.” Diane Roark, Kirk Wiebe and Ed Loomis were also raided that same day too. This was intimidation and retribution for filing a Defense Department Inspector General complaint against the NSA.

Any questions? Please note that this was during the Bush 43 administration. But Gosztola has more recent examples as well: American journalists harassed at US border crossings, others who had contact with Julian Assange assaulted (what else can you call it) by ICE agents, etc., ad nauseam. This is not reactive protection against terrorism; it is proactive intimidation of US citizens who… well, their primary offense is that they say or do things our government doesn’t like. That’s apparently a crime these days.

For the record of the genuine bastard SOBs out there reading this: yes, I am a “carrrrd-carrying member”GHWB of the ACLU. No, damn you to hell, you may not see the card. I want to see my lawyer immediately. I have nothing to say to you. Here’s a pen I often carry, like the one you’ve seen journalists hold… but I’ll give it to you to keep; you may take it and stick it…

ASIDE: I learned something from this article: one of the journalists mentioned carrying a laptop with no hard drive. Too cool! Keep your data in several places in the cloud, and the relevant links and passwords in your head… let the motherfuckers search all they want. Of course, we’re not far from the point at which government agents will feel free to torture travelers… maybe you should have a small hard drive with a few dozen of your favorite recipes on it, and an email from your mother…

NYPD, National Park Service Threaten Occupy Wall Street

According to Kevin Gosztola of FDL’s The Dissenter, as of about 5PM ET yesterday, the superintendent of the National Park Service (!) had signed an order against Occupy Wall Street, who had moved to the steps of Federal Hall on Wall Street when they were ordered to vacate a “sleepful protest” on the sidewalks of Wall Street.

According to the updated headline, the Park Service has since relented; no details are posted. But one thing that hasn’t changed is a simple fact: if the National Park Service is ordering Occupy Wall Street out of places, then the Obama administration supports NYPD’s attempts to disband OWS. When the Obama administration and NYPD are on the same side of an Occupy-related matter, when they label one of their indisputably peaceable events an “unlawful assembly,” this cannot be good news for free speech and free assembly in America. This order… even if rescinded later… clearly indicates an intent by our current government to filter free speech based on its content. That is unacceptable under the First Amendment.

Do any of you still think we ought to vote for this guy? Yeah, I know; some of you do. What will it take to change your minds?