Thursday Mashup (5/1/14)

May 1, 2014

voter id

  • Wonder if Voter ID is starting to “crash and burn,” people? We can only hope (here)…

    In a clear-cut victory for Wisconsin voters, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman came down on the side of foes of the state’s strict photo voter ID law Tuesday.

    In the 90-page decision, Adelman takes note of difficulties low-income citizens have in getting an ID, the cost of obtaining background documents to get an ID—such as a birth certificate—the cost of transportation to the DMV and work time lost…

    Of course, Gov. Hosni Mubarak Walker will probably appeal the ruling (and Repug Attorney General candidate Brad Schimel is trying to fundraise off the ruling as noted here).

    Not that we have anything to brag about on this subject in our beloved commonwealth of PA, of course, where Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett has spent in excess of $2 million in state funds to defend voter ID (here) even though the PA Commonwealth Court recently affirmed its decision overturning it (here).

    But wait, there’s more…

  • A federal court ruled the same way about Texas’s voter ID law, one of the most restrictive in the nation (here), but the ruling was invalidated when The Supremes gutted the Voting Rights Act (yep, some nice “ROI” from The High Court of Hangin’ Judge JR to “the party of Lincoln” on that one).
  • As noted here, Judge Tim Fox of the Pulaski County Circuit Court recently struck down Arkansas’s voter ID law, quite rightly saying that it “illegally adds a requirement” voters must fulfill before going to the polls.
  • And in case anyone still had any doubt about this, conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly pointed out here that North Carolina’s law in particular was aimed at minorities (yeah I know, duuuh, though, as noted here – in a surprising development – that state’s voter ID law could actually help with voter registration in that state).
  • Here and here are links to the voter ID issue and how it is playing out across all 50 states. And as noted here, the Voting Rights Act Amendment (VRAA), introduced in the Senate by Dem Pat Leahy and in the House by Repug James Sensenbrenner, could address the voter ID issue in a bit of a favorable manner also (but good luck seeing that passed in the U.S. House as it is currently constituted; another reason to vote early and often this fall).

    david-koch-and-charles-g.-007_0
    And lest we forget, Chuck and Dave are all too happy to see voter ID enshrined all over this country (here).

  • Next, this tells us the following…

    RICHMOND — Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell has landed a job as a part-time visiting professor of government at Liberty University’s Helms School of Government, the school announced Monday.

    McDonnell (R) will serve as a guest lecturer in other professors’ government classes at the Helms School, named for former senator Jesse Helms, a Republican from North Carolina.

    Any idea on McDonnell’s “course load”? These come to mind immediately for yours truly…

  • Influence Peddling 101 – How to Receive Money, Golf Fees, Other Equipment and Luxury Plane Flights to Resorts While Alleging That No Conflict of Interest Exists
  • Returning Obstetrics to the Middle Ages – Classroom Theory and Practical Working Exercises in Administering Fetal Ultrasounds, Plunging Virginia To The Same Depths As 23 Other States Advocating The Same Barbaric Procedure
  • Male-Only Human Sexuality – The Evils of (Pro) Contraception Legalization
  • And just as a reminder, the story also tells us the following…

    McDonnell left office in January and soon after was indicted with his wife, Maureen, on federal corruption charges related to about $165,000 in luxury gifts and loans that a businessman lavished on Virginia’s first family.

    The McDonnells, who have pleaded not guilty, were in financial distress when they accepted the largess of dietary supplement maker Jonnie R. Williams Sr., and their money woes have grown as they mount a legal defense in the case, scheduled to go to trial in July. Supporters have launched a fund to pay legal bills.

    The part-time position at the Lynchburg University is not likely to bring McDonnell the big bucks he could have counted on absent the scandal. Moore declined to disclose what Liberty will pay McDonnell, once regarded as a credible contender for president in 2016.

    Also, how apropos for “vaginal ultrasound” Bob to end up at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, where approval was revoked for a Democratic Party organization on campus here (wonder if I’ll get an Email blast about a Bias Alert! from Drudge and his pals – not holding my breath on that one), and where Glenn Beck, of all people, once gave a commencement address (here).

    And the cherry on the icing on the proverbial cake is the fact that McDonnell will now reside at the Helms School of Government, named after a noted racist, anti-immigrant homophobe and chauvinist (who, along with the rest of his party, ignored the al Qaeda threat in the ’90s, as noted here – Clinton stumbled a bit on that score also, but at least he did something).

    How much do you want to bet that (assuming a Dem wins in 2016) McDonnell ends up taking a shot at the 2020 Repug presidential nomination (and no, I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence either)?

  • Continuing, I give you the latest in Repug Party hijinks over the environment (which has presented us with particularly extreme weather lately)…

    Republican lawmakers pushed back at Environmental Protection Agency Chief Gina McCarthy after she assailed critics for charging the agency with using “secret science” to support its regulations.

    Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said McCarthy is “ignoring the big picture” in her defense of the agency.

    Vitter and a majority of Republicans have continued to berate the EPA for its proposed carbon emissions limits on power plants, which they say are backed up by faulty science.

    “It is inexcusable for EPA to justify billions of dollar of economically significant regulations on science that is kept hidden from independent reanalysis and congressional oversight,” Vitter said in a statement on Monday.

    Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) echoed Vitter’s sentiment.

    “It’s disappointing that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy continues to try to justify her agency’s use of secret science,” Smith said in a statement. “Relying on undisclosed data is not good science and not good policy.”

    OK, so “secret science” is the latest wingnut catchphrase (poll tested and approved by Frank Luntz, no doubt). Which is particularly amusing to me because, as noted here, the “science” to support EPA regulation doesn’t look very “secret” to yours truly.

    And of course Smith would protest, he who, though he routinely ignores sound climate science, once held a hearing on aliens (and no, I’m not talking about immigrants) here. And what can you say about “Diaper Dave,” who cheered the last government shutdown because it temporarily put the brakes on EPA’s ability to enforce regulations to protect our water and monitor coal and gas-fired power plants (here)?

  • Further, it looks like Joke Line is back to heap more ridicule (here)…

    Time magazine columnist Joe Klein called CNN “an embarrassment to our profession,” surprising a New York City audience on Sunday by declaring Fox News “the only option” for straight news at 6 p.m.

    “I come home, and I turn on CNN at 6 o’clock at night — because that’s something I kind of do in preparation for the 6:30 network news, to see what Wolf [Blitzer] is being really hyperbolic about — and he’s talking about the plane!” Klein lamented.

    “It is such an embarrassment to our profession that CNN has gone in the toilet the way it has,” he continued. “You know, I miss being able to turn on a straight newscast. And it turns out, the only place you can go to get one, at 6 o’clock at night, is Fox.”

    “The other option is to go to MSBNC and see the Reverend Al Sharpton, who I still consider to be a major criminal,” Klein quipped, prompting audience applause. “I mean, the guy can have a job on network TV, on an NBC cable network, and he still hasn’t apologized for Tawana Brawley? Gimme a break.”

    I cannot fathom why Klein would defend a network that was once responsible for this.

    That being said, he actually has a point about CNN and its endless coverage on Flight 370, which, horribly, I’m sure is at the ocean floor somewhere. At this point, I cannot imagine where else it could be; if it had been hijacked somehow, we surely would have heard at this point.

    And not for a second am I going to defend Al Sharpton over the Tawana Brawley stuff; I don’t know if Sharpton ever apologized for it either. However, making the leap from shameless self-promoter at the expense of a young girl who apparently didn’t know better to a “major criminal” staggers the imagination. And there’s a reason why I include his videos at the site I link to from here, and that is because I find his commentary to be fundamentally sound and factually correct. When Klein or anyone else has a factual criticism to offer (and I’ll admit that MSNBC overall flubbed some of the Trayvon Martin stuff), then I’ll definitely give it a fair hearing.

    Also, when it comes to whether or not our supposedly elite journalists are doing their jobs, how does Klein account for this (and who knew besides me that Megyn Kelly of Fix Noise, for example, was a corporate attorney as opposed to a journalist, and she’s on the network Joe loves in bleeping prime time).

    Klein’s call for an “apology” is funny, though, when you consider that, to my knowledge, he never apologized for this.

  • Finally, Mikey the Beloved is back with another opinion column for the benefit of his PR factory (here)…

    Increasing and securing our investment in infrastructure is an investment in our country’s future. I am pleased to have worked across the aisle with Congressman John Delaney in supporting the Partnership to Build America Act (HR 2084). The bill will restore solvency to the Highway Trust Fund by revenues from repatriated earnings as a funding mechanism while the debate continues around ensuring long term solvency of the Fund. These efforts have merit, particularly if combined with other fiscally prudent ways of increasing infrastructure investment.

    The first question I have is why it took so damn long for Mikey or anyone else in his party (and the same goes for Delaney, to be fair) to say anything about HR 2084, seeing as how it was introduced about a year ago (here…and yes, I know the answer is that this is an election year).

    However, the more you look into this particular piece of legislation, the more problems you discover as far as I’m concerned. The bill establishes a government corporation headed by a board of trustees, appointed by the president (yeah, as if that will be OK with this Congress – the Teahadists are probably writing hate-filled blog posts and working on their misspelled signs even as I write this, and the bill hasn’t even come up for a vote yet).

    Also…

    The bill also “establish(es) the American Infrastructure Fund, to provide bond guarantees and make loans to States, local governments, and non-profit infrastructure providers for investments in certain infrastructure projects, and to provide equity investments in such projects, and for other purposes.”

    So it looks like the states will be responsible for funding infrastructure projects with minimal (at best) federal oversight (and yes, I realize that, since we’re talking about a Republican congress, they don’t want the federal government to be a “player” in this stuff at all, damn the consequences).

    Here is my concern: suppose the infrastructure projects blow up and the financial obligations cannot be satisfied. Is this yet another “bubble to bust” boondoggle where taxpayers will be called upon again to bail out the Fund if the infrastructure projects are cancelled because of, say, cost overruns (and another well-done Matt Taibbi comment on this whole potential mess will be written someday)?

    And did I mention that, according to Govtrack, the bill has about a 3 percent chance of being enacted anyway? More on the bill is here.

    Meanwhile (from here)…

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration sent a four-year, $302 billion transportation plan to Congress Tuesday, hoping to jump-start a national debate on how to repair and replace the nation’s aging infrastructure while accommodating the needs of a growing population.

    Action is urgently needed because the federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to run dry by late August, said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Unless Congress acts to shore up the fund, transportation aid to states will be held up and workers laid off at construction sites across the country.

    President Barack Obama has emphasized infrastructure spending throughout his presidency as a means to spur job growth and increase economic competitiveness, but the bill is the first detailed, long-term transportation bill his administration has sent to Congress.

    There isn’t much time for Congress to act before the trust fund can no longer meet its obligations, especially in the hyper-partisan atmosphere of an election year. Many transportation insiders predict Congress will wind up doing what it has done repeatedly over the past five years — dip into the general treasury for enough money for to keep programs going a few weeks or a few months, at which point the exercise will have to be repeated all over again.

    But keeping highway and transit aid constantly teetering on the edge of insolvency discourages state and local officials from moving ahead with bigger and more important projects that take many years to build. In 2012, Congress finally pieced together a series of one-time tax changes and spending cuts to programs unrelated to transportation in order to keep the trust fund solvent for about two years. Now, the money is nearly gone.

    So instead of passing the Obama bill, it looks like Mikey and his pals (including Delaney, who apparently isn’t much of a progressive, though he’s definitely an improvement over the odious Repug Roscoe Bartlett, who formerly held the seat) are cooking up this new scam that could come back and bite us one day. All just so they can say that they didn’t raise taxes or fees, or something (if doing this right means paying a few cents more a gallon for gas, for example, to me, that makes a hell of a lot more sense than this idiotic funding mechanism).

    All of this and much more is a reason to support Kevin Strouse for Congress (to help, click here).


  • Friday Mashup (9/6/13)

    September 7, 2013

  • I give you the following from the Bucks County Courier Times earlier in the week:

    Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick used the national Republican Weekly Address on Saturday to criticize President Barack Obama’s policies for health care and energy.

    “Nearly five years into the Obama presidency, the workers who drive our economy see nothing but roadblocks coming out of Washington,” Fitzpatrick said in the Labor Day weekend speech.

    The 8th District Republican, who recorded the talk Thursday in Philadelphia, has been critical of Obama’s Affordable Care Act in visits to several area chambers of commerce in recent months.

    No word on whether or not Mikey the Beloved has spoken to actual non-Chamber of Commerce residents of PA-08 for their feedback on the Affordable Care Act, by the way (I’ll address his comment about the ACA and the alleged increase in premiums shortly…and in the matter of the Keystone XL pipeline which Mikey also supports, I give you the following from here and here).

    I wonder if it’s supposed to be a bit of a backhanded compliment to Mikey that he was asked to give the Repug response to Obama’s weekly address on what probably is the day when people are least likely to pay attention to it because it’s the last unofficial weekend of summer (and by the way, to respond to “roadblock Mikey” properly, click here).

  • And keeping with the theme of the health care law, I give you the following from here (looks like The Weakly Standard needs a copy editor)…

    A local report from Green Bay, Wisconsin says that health care premiuns (sic) could increase up to 125 percent because of Obamacare:

    Half a million Wisconsinites will soon have to open up their pocket books for health care coverage,” says a local anchor. “And new estimates show, it may be costly. … The state’s office of the commissioner of insurance released estimates of how premium rates for individuals will be changing under the Affordable Care Act.”

    In response, I give you the following from here

    (A Rand Corporation) Analysis suggests that comparisons of average premiums with and without the Affordable Care Act may overstate the potential for premium increases. Sweeping statements about the effects of the Affordable Care Act on premiums should be interpreted very carefully because the law has complex effects that differ depending on individuals’ age and smoking status, the actuarial value of the plan chose, individuals” eligibility for federal tax credits, and state implementation decisions. Once we adjust for age, actuarial value, and tobacco use, nongroup premiums are estimated to remain unchanged at the national level and in many states. Further, after accounting for tax credits, average out-of-pocket premium spending in the nongroup market is estimated to decline or remain unchanged in all states considered and in in the nation overall. [RAND Corporation, Accessed 9/4/13]

    In addition, this may be the most definitive post I’ve seen yet on supposed rate increases under HCR (with further “food for thought” here).

  • Next, I know I’m a little late with this Labor Day-related commentary also based on this from The Philadelphia Inquirer, but here it is anyway…

    Organized labor is so powerful in Philadelphia that people in this town might not realize unions are in real trouble nationally. Labor Day is a good time to reflect on that reality.

    Just a few days ago, union picketers made the local TV news by blasting the amplified sound of a baby’s recorded cries during daily protests of nonunion work at a hotel, disturbing guests and a Center City neighborhood. Weeks earlier, a strike at the Pennsylvania Convention Center threatened a major convention.

    Meanwhile, the political clout of labor leaders such as electricians boss John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty can be calculated by the number of Philadelphia officials who all but genuflect in the presence of a man who controls a significant source of campaign contributions.

    Far be it for me to leap to the defense of “Johnny Doc,” but to say that the Inky is “painting with a broad brush” here is an understatement (a bit surprised that the Inky didn’t also blame the Teamsters for blowing up the inflatable rat that they often do in an effort to shame companies that hire non-union workers; as far as I’m concerned, that’s free speech and I have no problem with it).

    I would only point out once more the contributions of the union movement to workers of all sectors of our economy, some of which are noted here. And I would say that the video noted here shows pretty well that the decline in union membership and the rise of income inequality pretty much go hand in hand.

    The Inquirer points out that the downward trend in union membership began in 1983, which is two years after perhaps the most catastrophic anti-union event perpetrated by our government, and that was the firing of the air traffic controllers as part of the showdown with PATCO (their union at the time) by The Sainted Ronnie R, as noted here, the reverberations of which we are still feeling today.

  • Continuing, I give you some genuine hilarity from Erick (“Son of Erick”) Erickson of Fix Noise here, in response to Number 44 on Syria…

    George W. Bush, getting congressional approval for military operations seven days after the September 11th attack was not bending the arc of history, but John Harwood will probably spend the next week of reporting telling us all exactly how arc bending Barack Obama is.

    Sooo…is “Son of Erick” actually beating on John Harwood for supposedly carrying the water, as they say, of President Obama? And not doing the same for Former President Nutball? Really???

    As noted here, Harwood said the following about Number 43…

    …the 9/11 attacks gave (Bush) enough standing eventually to take the nation to war against Iraq.

    Oh, and as noted here, Harwood also once criticized Obama when Number 44 decided to “move…out from behind speechmaking lecterns.” And as far as Harwood supposedly sucking up to Obama goes, I also give you this.

    And is Erickson referring to the same Harwood who once claimed that Dubya was “doggedly advancing conservative goals on taxes and national security” here? Oh, but according to “Son of Erick,” Harwood should have claimed that Dubya was “bending the arc of history,” or something.

    And as we know, Erickson is always a model for prudence and discretion in his “reporting” of the news stories that touch our lives on a daily basis. Right?

    Gosh, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear Erickson is taking hallucinogenic drugs (and no, I won’t stop linking to that until Harwood apologizes, something I’m sure he’ll never do).

  • Further, I give you the following from former Repug U.S. House Rep Pete Hoekstra, also on the Syria crisis (here)…

    Why did partisanship disrupt our foreign policy unity? Was it due to political opportunism or genuine policy differences?

    We may never know.

    Actually, I think we know right now – as noted here, Hoekstra and Former PA Senator Man-On-Dog tried to circulate a discredited claim about Saddam Hussein’s WMD. Also, as noted here, Hoekstra opined in April 2009 that the reaction of the Obama Administration to the ”enhanced interrogation” methods of our prior ruling cabal “are demonstrating how little President Barack Obama and some Democratic members of Congress understand the dire threats to our nation,” which was particularly stupid on Hoekstra’s part because all Obama wanted to do basically was to “turn the page.”

    (By the way, the same prior post from yours truly notes the truly wretched “sock puppetry” of Hoekstra in the matter of feeding the bogus claim to Time’s Joe Klein that the version of the FISA bill from the Democrats required warrants for every foreign terrorist’s call and that the bill thus gave the same rights to foreign terrorists as American citizens…yes, the Dems eventually caved on FISA, to their shame, but that doesn’t make the Hoekstra/Klein episode any less galling.)

    As noted here, Rachel Maddow basically said that everyone from Bushco should just go away when it comes to opining on Syria, since they were so catastrophically wrong on Iraq (I would argue that that extends to all other foreign policy issues also). Based on this bit of wankery from Hoekstra, I think that goes for him too.

  • Finally, I should note that BP ran a full-page ad in the Murdoch Street Journal on Thursday with quotes from Tom Donahue of the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers whining about how BP has already paid $10 billion in damages and blaming those dastardly trial lawyers once again – typical.

    In response, I give you the following:

  • This tells us a bit about the lawsuits currently pending against BP, including Florida joining a four-state suit.
  • This tells us that, maybe and just perhaps, the reason why those dastardly trial lawyers are involved is because BP is suing the EPA (so I guess the government isn’t entitled to represent itself?).
  • This basically tells us that accusing settlement victims of “taking money they don’t deserve” isn’t exactly going to “win hearts and minds” either (and the Journal ad cites the “U.S.” Chamber, but doesn’t note that BP is a member).
  • This tells us that the gulf oil spill’s settlement administrator has said that BP’s claims of fraud are “spurious” and “unfounded.”
  • Oh, and by the way, BP wants to “halt the Deepwater Horizon claims process” altogether, as noted here.


    That makes them the scum of the earth as far as I’m concerned.


  • Spy The Beloved Country – 2013 Edition

    June 19, 2013


    Still catching up on some stuff a bit – the following appeared last week in the Murdoch Street Journal (here)…

    Once again, the tanks-have-rolled left and the black-helicopters right have joined together in howls of protest. They were set off by last week’s revelations that the U.S. government has been collecting data that disclose the fact, but not the content, of electronic communications within the country, as well as some content data outside the U.S. that does not focus on American citizens. Once again, the outrage of the left-right coalition is misdirected.

    Libertarian Republicans and liberal—progressive, if you prefer—Democrats see the specter of George Orwell’s “1984” in what they claim is pervasive and unlawful government spying. These same groups summoned “1984” in 2001 after passage of the Patriot Act, in 2008 after renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and many times in between and since.

    Oh, by the way, the author of this “trust your leaders,” feel-good pabulum on behalf of the “one percent” is Michael Mukasey, former Bushco attorney general. And for Mukasey to blame liberals for invoking “1984” is darkly humorous when you consider that he once said the following from here

    “I think one would have to concede that the USA Patriot Act has an awkward, even Orwellian, name, which is one of those Washington acronyms derived by calling the law ‘Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Interrupt and Obstruct Terrorism.’ You get the impression they started with the acronym first, and then offered a $50 savings bond to whoever could come up with a name to fit. Without offering my view on any case or controversy, current or future, I think that that awkward name may very well be the worst thing about the statute.”

    (The end of this post contains a link to a prior post from yours truly where Mukasey definitely supports the Patriot Act, by the way.)

    Continuing…

    Regrettably, those best positioned to defend such surveillance programs are least likely to do so out of obvious security concerns. Without getting into detail here, intelligence agencies, with court authorization, have been collecting data in an effort that is neither pervasive nor unlawful. As to the data culled within the U.S., the purpose is to permit analysts to map relationships between and among Islamist fanatics.

    For example, it would be helpful to know who communicated with the Tsarnaev brothers, who those people were in touch with, and whether there are overlapping circles that would reveal others bent on killing and maiming Americans—sort of a terrorist Venn diagram. Once these relationships are disclosed, information can be developed that would allow a court to give permission to monitor the content of communications.

    In response, this tells us the following (#2 on the list)…

    NSA Deputy Director John Inglis said that 22 NSA officials are authorized to approve requests to query an agency database that contains the cellphone metadata of American citizens. (Metadata includes the numbers of incoming and outgoing calls, the date and time the calls took place, and their duration.) Deputy AG Cole also said that all queries of this database must be documented and can be subject to audits. Cole also said that the NSA does not have to get separate Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) approval for each query; instead, the agency merely has to file a monthly report with the court on how many times the database was queried, and how many of those searches targeted the phone records of Americans.

    This, to me, is another holdover from the rancid Bushco regime. There appears to be, more or less, retroactive judicial review going on here. If the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is going to be notified after surveillance has taken place, what the hell is the point of having “judicial review” at all?

    And yes, I know this utterly awful state of affairs was codified into law by a Democratic congress in 2008, one of the most cowardly acts I have ever seen.

    Continuing…

    As to monitoring content abroad, the utility is obvious. At least one conspiracy—headed by Najibullah Zazi and intended to maim and kill New York City subway riders—was disclosed through such monitoring and headed off. Zazi, arrested in 2009, pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

    An opposing point of view on that claim is here, by the way.

    Continuing…

    Because intelligence does not arrive in orderly chronological ranks, and getting useful data is an incremental process that often requires matching information gathered in the past with more current data, storing the information is essential. But, say the critics, information in the hands of “the government” can be misused—just look at the IRS. The IRS, as it happens, has a history of misusing information for political purposes.

    That’s absolutely right, and Mukasey would know, having worked for the administration that was responsible for this.

    Continuing…

    To be sure, there have been transgressions within intelligence agencies, but these have involved the pursuit of an intelligence mission, not a political objective.

    Not according to William Binney, former head of the National Security Agency’s global digital data gathering program (here), noted from here.

    Continuing…

    Consider also that in a post-9/11 world all of those agencies live in dread of a similar attack. That ghastly prospect itself provides incentive for analysts to focus on the intelligence task at hand and not on political or recreational use of information.

    Translated from Mukasey: Don’t question the NSA spying program, or else the terrorists have already won.

    Continuing…

    Some wallow in the idea that they are being watched, their civil liberties endangered, simply because a handful of electrons they generated were among the vast billions being reviewed in a high-stakes antiterrorism effort. Of course, many are motivated politically or ideologically to oppose robust intelligence-gathering aimed at fending off Islamist terrorism. Criticism from that quarter can be left to lie where it fell.

    Speaking of “endangered civil liberties” (from the Source Watch post noted above)…

    As a judge, in October 2001 Mukasey “dismissed concerns by a 21-year old Jordanian immigrant that he had been beaten while in U.S. custody, leaving bruises that were hidden beneath his orange prison jumpsuit.”[9] “‘As far as the claim that he was beaten, I will tell you that he looks fine to me,’ said Judge Mukasey.”[10]

    Continuing…

    Nor do these programs violate the law. Start with the Constitution. The applicable provisions lie in two clauses in the Fourth Amendment. The first bars “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The second provides that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause” established by affidavit, and it requires that warrants describe with particularity what or who is to be seized, and from where.

    Notice that the first clause does not forbid warrantless searches, only unreasonable ones.

    Wow, talk about some legalese hair-splitting! In Mukasey’s legally compromised (IMHO) worldview, a “warrantless” search actually isn’t “unreasonable.”

    Continuing…

    And the second simply creates a warrant requirement that is read, with some exceptions, to bar evidence at trial if it is obtained without a valid warrant. The first clause has been read to protect the content of communications in which the speaker has a reasonable expectation of privacy—telephone conversations being an obvious example. It does not protect the fact of communications.

    As far as the “fact” of communications is concerned (here)…

    The National Security Agency has at times mistakenly intercepted the private email messages and phone calls of Americans who had no link to terrorism, requiring Justice Department officials to report the errors to a secret national security court and destroy the data, according to two former U.S. intelligence officials.

    At least some of the phone calls and emails were pulled from among the hundreds of millions stored by telecommunications companies as part of an NSA surveillance program. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, Thursday night publicly acknowledged what he called “a sensitive intelligence collection program” after its existence was disclosed by the Guardian newspaper.

    Yes, it’s commendable that the mistaken intercepts were reported and the data destroyed (or so the story says), but suppose that didn’t happen? Suppose that, in the data mining process, it was falsely recorded that yours truly called an overseas number to book some travel arrangement (not likely, I’ll admit), but the phone number was transposed by accident, and instead, it was interpreted that I called someone with links to the Muslim Brotherhood instead? What about the “fact” of that communication?

    There’s other stuff I could get into on what Mukasey said, but I think this sums things up. To me, the real takeaway comes from here (turning to Mother Jones once again)…

    The problem is that this kind of indefinite data collection makes abuse far more likely in the future. Someday there will be a different president in the White House, there will be a different head of NSA, and there will be different professionals running the program. What will they do with all that data the next time something happens that makes America crazy for a few years? I don’t know, but I do know that if they don’t have the data in the first place they can’t abuse it.

    the future is what we should be talking about. Even if NSA’s programs haven’t been abused yet, that doesn’t mean they’re okay. Likewise, even if they haven’t produced any great benefits yet, that doesn’t mean they’re stupid and useless. It’s the future that matters.

    Oh, and as long as we’re talking about Mukasey, let’s not forget this little episode, where Dem Congressman Jim Moran said that anyone opposing a civilian trial for Khalid Sheik Mohammed was “un-American” (worse), but Mukasey responded by saying that Moran should seek counseling from Maj. Nidal Hassan (worst!) – also, here is the link to the post on the Patriot Act I noted above, pointing out that Mukasey supported Section 215 of the Act, which basically invalidates the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution.

    Despite the whole “nothing to see here, move along” narrative Mukasey is trying to inflict here, I should note that this tells us that a majority of those polled want those knuckleheads in Congress (and I’m thinking mainly, but not totally, of the House when I say that) to do their jobs and hold hearings on the whole surveillance issue (which should have taken place during Bushco, but better late than never I know…and I know doing that in the House is problematic because of the likely Repug grandstanding, but it still needs to happen). I mean, I think that would be the prudent thing to do so if, say, one day, I’m driving to work and I see or hear a drone flying overhead, at least I’ll have some idea of who sent it there and what’s going on with the damn thing (and hopefully that explanation will be the truth).

    The people of this country want answers on this issue in particular. And they deserve them, including me.


    Saving A Life By A Slender Legal Thread

    August 19, 2009

    scaliagesture03302006While many of us are rightly gratified by the news that Troy Davis has been granted a new trial, I think it is important to consider how long a shot his appeal to the Supreme Court truly was (as the New York Times tells us in an editorial here today, Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of an off-duty Savannah police officer and had resided on Georgia’s death row ever since; many witnesses have since recanted their testimony, according to Amnesty International).

    The Times’ editorial also points out the frightening extent to which Antonin “Red Queen” Scalia and Clarence Thomas felt “considerable doubt” that Davis’ claim was “constitutionally cognizable” (and by the way, kudos to Prof. Alan Dershowitz for claiming here that Scalia’s remarks are an “outrage against his church,” which would be the Roman Catholic one, by the way…not sure exactly what it says about those in the hierarchy of my faith that that needs to be pointed out a Jew, and I use that term towards Dershowitz with all due respect).

    As the Times tells us, the supposed legal rationale for Scalia and Thomas’ dissent in the Davis case was the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which the two claimed “prevent(ed) the courts from intervening on behalf of a death row inmate who claims to have proof of his own innocence” (fortunately, Justice John Paul Stevens explained in a separate opinion that Scalia and Thomas were wrong).

    And Elaine Cassel of Counterpunch tells us here that…

    The Antiterrorism Act of 1996 was a response to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. (Authors David) Cole and (James X.) Dempsey describe the Act as a massive assault on First Amendment rights of speech, assembly, and petition, and a deeper entrenchment of the “guilt by association” tradition active in the FBI.

    As noted above, the Act removed barriers to FBI investigation of activities protected under the First Amendment. It also removed some restrictions on the famous FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court–where federal judges sit in secret to consider, and mostly approve, Justice Department requests for widespread surveillance of “terrorists,” including pen registers and “trap-and-trace” surveillance, methods that can capture income and outgoing telephone calls. The law also opened the door for the Immigration and Naturalization Service to deport mostly Muslim citizens. The deportations were based on largely secret evidence, and no overt acts needed to be alleged.

    And this tells us that the 1996 Act “was introduced as part of Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, passed with broad bipartisan support by Congress.”

    More fool them, including President Clinton for signing it into law.

    Finally, bmaz of firedoglake makes the following points here about the Supreme Court verdict that granted Davis a new trial…

    Scalia is right, this particular form of relief is exceedingly rare (that is the only thing he is right about here). What is even more shocking is that it got done in this case, with this court, at this time. While Davis’ family and attorneys maintained their optimism relief would be granted, scant few other folks experienced in these things did including, quite frankly, me. Sonia Sotomayor did not participate, so the majority had to find five votes somewhere, and this is a real head scratcher. The majority opinion was unsigned, but an attached concurring opinion was noted as “Justice Stevens, with whom Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer join, concurring”. Thomas, predictably, tagged along with Nino on the dissent. That would appear to mean the majority found two more votes for Davis among Kennedy, Alito and Roberts. Now that is shocking.

    At the very least, I hope this prods Congress into reviewing the ’96 Act reinstituting the legal protections that were foolishly gutted in the panicked wake of the ‘90s terrorist attacks (all of this occurred before 9/11, of course).

    However, since this Congress is primarily the bunch that gutted FISA last year, I’m definitely not holding out much hope.


    “Spy The Beloved Country,” Obama Style

    June 4, 2009

    This, followed by what Keith Olbermann and Jonathan Turley discuss in this April video…

    …ultimately led to this.

    Update 6/5/09: And this sure as hell doesn’t help either – lots going on at the moment to try and kill Graham/Lieberman fortunately (action info is here).


    Snarlin’ Arlen’s ’90s Retro Rehash

    January 7, 2009

    senator-arlen-specter-smIt seems that our Senator from Pennsylvania is intent on dragging out the confirmation hearing of Attorney General Designate Eric Holder well into the spring, based on this New York Times story today, which tells us that…

    Mr. Specter raised questions about Mr. Holder’s role as deputy attorney general on a range of issues that included an investigation into the 1993 federal siege in Waco, Tex., that left David Koresh and about 80 of his Branch Davidian followers dead, and an espionage investigation involving a nuclear scientist, Wen Ho Lee.

    But he saved his sharpest criticism for Mr. Holder’s role as deputy attorney general in three controversies in Mr. Clinton’s second term: Mr. Clinton’s pardon of (fugitive financier Marc) Rich in 2001, the president’s decision in 1999 to grant clemency to 16 members of a Puerto Rican militant nationalist group, and the Justice Department’s rejection in 1997 of an independent counsel to examine accusations of campaign finance abuse by Vice President Al Gore and the White House. In each case, Mr. Specter said, Mr. Holder appeared to go against the advice of career professionals at the Justice Department.

    Geez, Arlen, you mean you’re NOT going to try and find a way to blame Holder for returning Elian Gonzalez to Cuba also? You’re slipping!

    And after this is concluded, I’m sure Specter also will press for hearings into the “real” death of Kurt Cobain, as well as the “murder” of Vince Foster.

    To say that all of this is pointless is an understatement; the only one of these “controversies” that I care remotely about is the Rich fiasco, which I posted about here.

    And I’ll be curious to see exactly how far Specter goes with his little inquisition on Holder; as Bob Geiger notes here, Our Man Arlen did a lot of yapping about former Bushco AG Abu Gonzales, but didn’t do a whole hell of a lot to try and persuade the Repug Senate “leadership” at the time that Gonzales should go (and Chris Durang of HuffPo notes here that Specter didn’t even put Gonzales under oath when he testified; let’s see if he tries that little trick when Holder visits “the Hill”).

    Also in the matter of Specter on a separate issue (FISA), we have a clip from Jack Cafferty here which states in fairly blunt language how our senator buckled on the surveillance issue the same way he did on Gonzales.

    Finally, I’d like to remind Specter and the Repugs that, in 2001 when the Dems were the minority party, they chose not to filibuster the confirmation of John Ashcroft as Attorney General even though the Repugs didn’t have the now-traditional “60 votes needed for passage” (here). Though I don’t expect the Repugs to return the favor on Holder if he gets less than 60 now that they’re the minority party, I just thought I’d remind them anyway.

    I sincerely hope Chris Matthews is paying attention to all this (still can’t quite get used to him as the party standard bearer against Specter, but there you are).

    Update 1: Looks like Grassley wants to play with Arlen too on the Holder nomination based on this (and kudos to Leahy for using Ass-Croft to slap them down).

    Update 2: Also looks like Matthews is out (oh noes!!! – I think; hmmm…).

    Update 3 1/8/09: What BarbinMD sez here…

    Update 4 1/12/09: More of Arlen’s particular brand of hypocrisy here (h/t Atrios)


    Honoring A Legal Giant

    January 6, 2009

    g_bell_84785062-b285-44f3-a12c-9089f1bf265enewsaporg_t350
    I’m not surprised that the Philadelphia Inquirer chose to magnify the misstep of former Carter Administration Attorney General Griffin Bell to the exclusion of all else in their writeup about Bell’s passing today.

    As the Inky tells us, Bell fired Philadelphia’s U.S. Attorney David Marston in 1978 at the urging of local Democratic congressman Joshua Eilberg and Wilkes Barre congressman Daniel Flood. Investigations by Marston led to corruption charges against both of them.

    However, as the Inquirer tells us…

    Despite the controversy, Marston was replaced by Peter Vaira, a career Justice Department lawyer who continued with aggressive investigation of corrupt politicians.

    Marston went on to a successful law practice after unsuccessful runs for governor and mayor in 1978 and 1979. He is still a practicing lawyer in Philadelphia.

    Firing Marston was a mistake, but at least he was replaced by a professional of comparable caliber.

    And I would ask that you keep this in mind when you read something as humorous as this U.S. News and World Report article that attempts to draw a parallel between former Dubya AG Abu Gonzales and his firing of U.S. Attorneys who refused to prosecute Democrats for allegations of “voter fraud” while they ran for re-election, and Bell’s firing of Marston.

    I want to point out, though, that no discussion of Griffin Bell is complete without acknowledging that, as Wikipedia tells us here, he “led the effort to pass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978,” which…

    …resulted from extensive investigations by Senate Committees into the legality of domestic intelligence activities. These investigations were led separately by Sam Ervin and Frank Church in 1978 as a response to President Richard Nixon’s usage of federal resources to spy on political and activist groups, which violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[4]

    Ah yes, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; I vaguely remember it. Maybe I’ll dust off one of my college law books and read about it just to refresh my memory (based on this).

    Also…

    The Carter administration, advised by Bell, greatly increased the number of women and minorities serving on the federal bench. Bell recruited an Eighth Circuit judge, Wade McCree, an African American, to serve as Solicitor General of the United States, and Drew S. Days, III, an African American lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund he had admired in oral arguments before him, to head the Civil Rights Division.

    So remember his misstep in the Marston case if you wish, but also recall that Griffin Bell was a prominent figure in our history who respected and honored the rule of law, truly understood our constitutional separation of powers, and sought to represent those for whom justice was deferred, but not denied.

    What a pity that, despite his many years, he did not live to see FISA restored to the law he originally supported after its evisceration by a congress of rampantly corporatist Republicans and spineless, equally co-opted Democrats.


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