Archive for category Civil liberties Infringement

Grover Norquist Absent at ALEC Debate

I don’t know if he got a note from his mother or not, but Grover Norquist was scheduled to be on the “Diane Rehm Show” on Thursday to defend ALEC. If he chickened out, it looks bad because the panel would have been stacked by 2.5 in his favor – two and a half because the American journalist for the Washington Post is only allowed to give lies and truth equal consideration.

It was a hard order for Norquist, because Google had announced it was not going to give funds to ALEC, a week earlier on the Rehm peogram, after an online petition promted the mega-corporation to reconsider it’s association with that organization. Thanks Google!

I’m not so sure it was a bad thing the panel was stacked in favor of ALEC. It would have looked bad to finish off a wounded animal on a forum devoted to friendly, but incisive, discussion.

You have to hand it to the new chief executive officer of ALEC; She didn’t call in sick and proceeded to praise ALEC for passing tons of legislation. All of the legislation that ALEC has passed is pro-business/anti-worker-voter, but heck!

And thanks to NPR and KUER for giving us information instead of just football. There is a place for everything though, and every Wedensday they feature a great sports commentator in the morning who always makes me laugh.

Listen or read the program here. Two important callers involved in this story near the end of the show.

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the UN, NATO, and the trip-wire

I’m so sorry to write this missive as a lead article (for 15 minutes) but I don’t remember how to find the comments and respond to them. The lonely little side-bar response to my article I’ve not seen, except for half a sentence. It seemed to be saying that the old days are gone now, and so we need NATO and the JN. I agree. With NATO, it is the trip-wire provision that we go to war, automatically if any NATO nation is attacked, regardless of who the attacker is. This takes not only the United States Congress, but the president, as Commander in Chief, from the decision to go to war. I support both the UN and, if handled correctly, NATO. But President J. Reuben Clark and I oppose the automatic going to war. Just like the fools, the ancient general staffs of all sides in WW I. No one wanted that war. There was no Adolph Hitler in that war that destroyed the entire 20th century. Better to have shot the general staffs, who came to deserve exactly that. What President Clark called for, and I, are what the United States has always done, before NATO. That is, to have treaties of peace and friendship with our allies and then, should hostilities commence, such treaties would call for all parties to go to war, or not, as their constitutions provide. In this way, we don’t declare war against a nation, and surely all the people, have not yet been born. How, pray tell, do we justify going to war against, and for, people not, or no longer, live on earth. With a few caveats, ditto for the UN. No provision of law allows the UN to overreach Congress in the decision for war or peace. For anyone interested, read my book with the late Francis Wormuth, To Cain the Dog of War. It is by odds the best book ever written on the way we go to war. Every single war we’ve ever fought, including our wars against the Indian tribes, is there analyzed. Francis did not live to see this book in print. I worked two years after his death to finish it. And I updated it 4 or 5 times, alone. I still put my dear friend’s name first, because I am honored to be linked, now, forever. Something like Mormon marriage through time and eternity. ed firmage xoxo

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The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox

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Surrender Your Constitutional Rights: Visit Texas

This amazing dash cam video and subsequent video of court proceedings well confirms the long tradition of utter lawlessness  in the state of Texas.

“I verbally objected to an unconstitutional search of my vehicle in Electra, Texas. Police officers Matt Wood and Gary Ellis maliciously responded by issuing me two false citations. I got a copy of the dashboard-camera video at the pretrial hearing. It showed all. City attorney Todd Greenwood demanded I give my copy of the evidence back, and tried to have me arrested when I refused.

Todd Greenwood then compared rural Texas to the movie Deliverance, and warned me “What’s written down in the Constitution is one thing, and the real practice is another.”

 

Texas Sucks!

You can help:

We petition the Obama administration to: Peacefully grant the State of Texas to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government. Sign it!

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What madness is being unleashed in Russia?

The news stories coming out of Russia are depressing and heart-breaking.

John Aravosis at Americablog has been all over it.  First, Russia adopted a draconian anti-gay law.

It is now literally illegal in Russia to say that you are gay.  It is illegal to kiss your partner in public – say, after you win a gold medal.  It is illegal for a gay athlete to wear the rainbow flag.  Or even to acknowledge during an interview that they are gay – or for the foreign press to acknowledge it – unless they mention that gay sexual orientation in a negative way . . .

Then there’s the seemingly officially-sanctioned violence against gay, bisexual and trans people in Russia.  It’s been made clear for years now that Russian government will turn a blind eye towards anti-gay violence, and many have alleged that the Russian government is actually behind such violence.  Will gay Olympic athletes and gay Olympic fans be targeted for violence while in Russia?  No one knows.

In recent weeks, the situation in Russia has taken a turn for the horrific.  Buzzfeed published a series of photos of anti-gay violence in Russia.  Then the story broke about Russian neo-nazi skinheads arranging dates with gay teens then beating, abusing, and torturing them.

Oddly enough their idea of fighting pedophiles targets exclusively male teenagers who respond to the same-sex personal ads and show up for a date. Captured victims are bullied and often tortured while being recorded on video. These self-proclaimed “crime fighters” perform their actions under the broad day light, often outside and clearly visible to general public that indifferently passes by or even commend them. Video recordings of bullying and tortures are freely distributed on the Internet in order to out LGBT teens to their respective schools, parents and friends. Many victims were driven to suicides, the rest are deeply traumatized.

In an interview with the NY Times, Harvey Fierstein said:

Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook. Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered? Although Mr. Putin may think he can control his creation, history proves he cannot: his condemnations are permission to commit violence against gays and lesbians. In May a young gay man was murdered in the city of Volgograd. He was beaten, his body violated with beer bottles, his clothing set on fire, his head crushed with a rock. This is most likely just the beginning….

The Winter Olympics will be in Russia next year.  The IOC’s response has been pathetic.  They claim they’ve received assurances that glbt athletes and tourists visiting the games will be safe.  I’m sure the skinhead thugs are going to check who’s Russian and who’s not before they fag-bash.

Russia seems to be sliding backwards into the Dark Ages.  I don’t think this is going to end well.

 

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The US Needs to Start Unraveling the Homeland Security Mess

A good place to start is repealing the disaster that is the Patriot Act.

However, a proposal before Congress right now would limit the scope of the NSA’s information gathering.

The amendment [pdf] basically defunds the NSA’s dragnet collection of every bit of metadata on all phone records as well as other bulk records that have not yet been revealed. The amendment still would allow the NSA to collect information under the original intent—and understanding—of the law, that is information actually related to actual investigations.

Of course NSA supporters are pushing back, including, unfortunately, the Obama administration.  Like too many people in positions of power, the administration and the President seem to in the grip of fear about terrorism and have convinced themselves that any means necessary to keep us “safe” (what that means) are acceptable.  They are mistaken.  Such an attitude only feeds a creeping tendency toward authoritarianism in our culture, one which seems to be growing stronger because too few people in elected office see it as a threat.  We see it in the militarization of police forces, in spying on Americans, in the absurd theatre that is the TSA striptease in airports.  It is fueled by fear and it fuels fear.  I believe it is dangerous.

 

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The Mind Your Own Business Act

I love the fact that Alan Grayson was able to get back into congress along with Elizabeth Warren. NOW when I get the old, “they’re all the same” refrain, I can say, “well not exactly”.

Alan names his amendment to H.R. 1960 the, “The Mind Your Own Business Act”. When was the last time you heard somebody in congress come up with a plan that didn’t have an Orwellian name? Republicans are always so proud of people on their side who just come right out and say what they think. It’s usually crazy as hell, but they say it anyway. Alan shoots from the hip too, but it sparks something in your brain that says: this really makes sense. Also, for years, Republicans were prohibited from disagreeing with anything a Republican in the hierarchy said. Grayson can say he disagrees with Obama’s stance, because he’s a Democrat. That’s my hope.

MSNBC is supposed to be “the liberal channel”, so why is the host of this segment trying to “get something” on Grayson for insinuating the Nazi’s would have loved to have a “Total Information Awareness” type of system that is going in to full gear, very soon. Grayson answers a question with a question, but it’s a good one, which the host, basically, answers by saying, ‘I’m the one asking the questions here’.

The question Grayson asks is,

How do you feel about the fact that the Government is keeping a record of every single phone call that you make?

I’m totally perplexed at the media coverage Edward Snowden is getting at this late date. He’s not the only whistle-blower on this matter. We have known for many years the government had planned to collect, and has been collecting as much information about every one of us as they could. Now that they are close to having the ability to get EVERYTHING, we get polls that tell us Americans WANT to have all their private information collected to…

AND I’M REALLY GETTING TIRED OF HEARING THIS…

Keep us safe.

If the government is serious about keeping me safe, they’d stop spending so much money on secret surveillance, prisons and war. What I really need to keep me “safe” is single payer healthcare and “food security”.

I think Grayson’s best quote in the video is this:

Martin, you are completely missing the point. The point is that we’re taking measures that are not correlated in any sense with our safety, and even if they were it would be beneath our dignity as human beings. That’s what this is all about. All right, listen. You could always make people safer by taking extreme measures. If, for instance, we lowered the speed limit to 10 miles per hour, people would be safer. If we outlawed knives and forks, people would be safer. If we made everybody fly on the airlines naked, people would be safer. None of those things corresponds to my sense of human dignity, and I think I’m not the only one who feels that way….

If you’d like to support congressman Grayson’s amendment, you can sign up here.

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Edward Snowden, NSA Whistleblower: ‘We Hack Everyone Everywhere’

Boundless Informant heatmap

Glenn Greenwald posted an interview with Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history.

Q: Why did you decide to become a whistleblower?

A: “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.

“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”

Q: What do the leaked documents reveal?

A: “That the NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America. I believe that when [senator Ron] Wyden and [senator Mark] Udall asked about the scale of this, they [the NSA] said it did not have the tools to provide an answer. We do have the tools and I have maps showing where people have been scrutinized most. We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians.”

Q: What about the Obama administration’s protests about hacking by China?

A: “We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world. We are not at war with these countries.”

Q: Is it possible to put security in place to protect against state surveillance?

A: “You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place.”

Thanks to this courageous man, we are now getting some official acknowledgement and confirmation of the continuous, widespread warrantless surveillance of Americans (not to mention the rest of the world) by the National Security Agency (NSA). To be continued.

More info:
Revealed: The NSA’s powerful tool for cataloguing global surveillance data

UPDATE: ‘I DID ANSWER YOUR QUESTION!’ Mika Brzezinski plays dumb to defend White House talking points.

UPDATE: Greenwald Says ‘There’s A Lot More Coming’

UPDATE: ACLU Suing Obama Administration Over Phone Call Surveillance

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‘Papers Please’ Now Can Be Enforced in Arizona

Thanks to our partisan right-wing Supreme Court, Arizona’s un-American “Papers Please” law is now going to take effect despite being ruled unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton signed the formal order this afternoon dissolving the injunction she issued more than two years ago blocking the state from enforcing key provisions of the 2010 law.

Police can now demand to see proof of citizenship or legal residence. You will be arrested and taken to jail if your “papers” are not in order. If you visit Arizona, bring a passport. Or better yet, don’t visit Arizona!

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An Epidemic of Hostility Toward Religion or an Epidemic Christian Cry-babies?

The Family Research Council (a group the SPLC identified as a hate group for its ongoing use of lies, distortions and untruths about glbt persons) and Liberty Institute, another right wing organization, recently released a study which they claim documents more than 600 instances of hostility toward religious liberty:

Liberty Institute attorney Justin Butterfield tells OneNewsNow what his group hopes to accomplish with the study’s findings.

“We want to raise awareness of the issue. A lot of people think that hostility because of people’s religious beliefs and attacks on religious liberty are things that happen elsewhere in the world, not in the United States,” he notes. “We just want to show that it actually happens with increasing and alarming regularity here in the United States.”

Liberty Institute President Kelly Shackelford and FRC President Tony Perkins are presenting the study before the Republican Party Convention platform committee to raise that awareness.

I’ve been very skeptical about claims made by the religious right concerning discrimination against and bigotry towards Christians.  However, this report is based on an audacious claim – 600+ incidents of hostility towards religion?  Documented and published?  As a matter of due diligence I figured I owed it to myself to check out the report.  I downloaded the report.  It’s 135 breezy pages long consisting of short summaries of instances the authors identify as hostility to religion and citations (either the case information or links to online news reports).  The report is helpfully broken down in sections based on what type of hostility the authors deemed to have occurred (i.e. public expressions of faith, in schools, workplaces, about monuments and public displays, etc.)

I picked a few cases at random. Read the rest of this entry »

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So Called, “Voter Fraud” Could Be a Win For Republicans

Rep. Steve King (R-IA)

Voter ID coverage is raging across our corporate, public and liberal information organizations like a tsunami. ALEC got caught pimping ID laws which will successfully disenfranchise Utahn’s and others across the country who have been voting for decades, even though there is no reason to believe that more then a handful of democratic voters have been trying to vote illegally.

Just ask Pennsylvania [emphasis mine]:

As the Justice Department investigates Pennsylvania’s voter ID law on the federal level, a coalition of civil rights groups is gearing up for a state trial starting Wednesday examining whether the law is allowable under Pennsylvania’s constitution.

In that case, Pennsylvania might have handed those groups and their clients (including 93-year-old Viviette Applewhite) a bit of an advantage: They’ve formally acknowledged that there’s been no reported in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and there isn’t likely to be in November.

Or Texas (from TPM):

When Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division appears before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) will likely press him for using a Democratic-leaning firm to analyze data in the Texas voter ID case.

Smith wrote a letter earlier this month which stated that DOJ choosing the “left-leaning” Catalist to review Texas’ voter ID data was “a disturbing misuse of taxpayer dollars and undermines the credibility of the Department’s challenge to the law.”

Chairman Lamar goes on [emphasis mine]:

“Imagine the outrage if a Republican administration intervened to block a New York City election law on the basis of data provided by a firm run by Karl Rove,” Smith wrote.

As it turns out, Smith doesn’t really have to imagine much: The expert Texas used to defend their law used to work for Karl Rove.

University of Texas Professor Daron Shaw, who testified that Texas’ voter ID law “will not have an impact on turnout,” worked for both of President George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, the RNC, Fox News’ election desk and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who signed the voter ID bill into law.

Well, Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez did, indeed, appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday and The Chairman opened the hearing by saying he reserved the right to end the hearing at any time. He probably should have done that before the hearing began because the Republican dudes didn’t come out looking too good.

I turned on the TV, just in time to see Representative Steve King make a total ass out of himself – something he’s really good at – by interrupting Perez, just as Perez starts to reiterate what everybody should know about the absence of voter fraud in the US. You can see the exchange starting at about 48 minutes in on this C-Span video, but the whole video is incredible.

The Chairman thinks that any true American plurality would obviously vote Republican, if only given the chance, for once. Funny thing; I thought they’d been telling us we were a divided country. I don’t know why Mr. King is worried about ACORN. It no longer exists because the Republican party got rid of it months ago with almost complete backing from the Democrats.

All this nonsense aside – and in reference to the title of this post; my real fear is that all this voter ID hoopla will help the Republicans take over the country. When the exit polls mysteriously flip at the midnight hour – literally -, the “conservatives” won’t have to thank the soccer moms, NASCAR dads, or the religious masses; they only need say they “won” because of the oh-so-clever voter ID laws they pushed through. Let’s face it, they haven’t exactly been hiding the fact these laws are out there and, in fact, the Governor of Florida, recently, shoved voter disenfranchisement in our faces. These guys are good, aren’t they?

Since the corporate voting machines are NEVER brought up ANYWHERE or ANYTIME by ANYBODY, and have been proven to be hackable, the Republicans can, once again, claim to be the “winners” they always are. Let’s face it, they got everything they wanted, even when the Democrats had all three branches of government after the 2006 midterms [please refer to mia-culpa below].

My hope is that the small-d democrats can hack the machines using only names like Mickey Mouse, George Jetson, Lassie ect… and win the house, senate, and the White House. Maybe we could then, FINALLY, have a debate about, and get rid of these pieces of garbage and have a multi-party system that makes sense.

Update: Seems as though Rep. Lamar Smith must have become ill or had some other pressing concern which forced me to edit my post. As all these opulent white men look the same to me, I didn’t catch it until after I completed the post. The man, henceforth, referred to as The Chairman in the post is actually Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), I think.

Mia-Culpa: Damn staff! Of course the Democrats only held the three branches after 2008. They’ll never see a job in this precinct again!

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Damn voter fraud

Fun news for the voter fraud teams tomorrow:

Tomorrow, Judge Robert Simpson will hear the case the ACLU has brought on behalf of Viviette Applewhite and others against the state of Pennsylvania for its new voter ID law. That case should be significantly bolstered by the admission from the state itself that there is no history of in-person voter fraud in the state. Essentially it’s a law in search of a problem.

Wait, why would anyone push for a law that solves a problem that doesn’t exist?

“I don’t want everybody to vote. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
—Conservative leader Paul Weyrich

Nope, that can’t be it. Despite the way various parts of the GOP are fined every election cycle for interfering with votes, and the near constant stories such as “GOP phone bank calls registered Dems and reminds them to vote… The day after the election” I am sure it is only because they love justice, America, and apple pie that these laws are drafted.

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