Archive for category National Politics
It certainly took long enough. The new 577-page torture report from The Constitution Project’s bipartisan commission concluded (emphasis added):
The question as to whether U.S. forces and agents engaged in torture has been complicated by the existence of two vocal camps in the public debate. This has been particularly vexing for traditional journalists who are trained and accustomed to recording the arguments of both sides in a dispute without declaring one right and the other wrong. The public may simply perceive that there is no right side, as there are two equally fervent views held views on a subject, with substantially credentialed people on both sides. In this case, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that among those who insist that the United States did not engage in torture are figures who served at the highest levels of government, including Vice President Dick Cheney.
But this Task Force is not bound by this convention.
The members, coming from a wide political spectrum, believe that arguments that the nation did not engage in torture and that much of what occurred should be defined as something less than torture are not credible.
Now that a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel has reached the conclusion that President George W. Bush and his top advisers bear “ultimate responsibility” for authorizing torture in violation of domestic and international law, the question becomes what should the American people and their government do.
The logical answer would seem to be: prosecute Bush and his cronies (or turn them over to an international tribunal if the U.S. legal system can’t do the job). After all, everyone, including President Barack Obama and possibly even Bush himself, would agree with the principle that “no man is above the law.”
Interestingly enough, Section 3286 of the USA PATRIOT Act effectively abolished the statute of limitations for torture.
The U.N. Convention Against Torture, signed by President Reagan in 1988, compels all signatories who discover credible allegations that government officials have participated or been complicit in torture to “submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution” (Art. 7(1)).
The disgrace of the American torture regime falls on Bush officials and secondarily the media and political institutions that acquiesced to it, but the full-scale protection of those war crimes (and the denial of justice to their victims) falls squarely on the Obama administration.
As it’s written, CISPA won’t protect us from cyber attacks, but it will violate our 4th Amendment right to privacy.
- It lets the government spy on you without a warrant. (read more)
- It makes it so you can’t even find out about it after the fact. (read more)
- It makes it so companies can’t be sued when they do illegal things with your data. (read more)
- It allows corporations to cyber-attack each other and individuals outside of the law. (read more)
We’ve had to listen to a lot of wailing from the Gun Lobby about imagined attacks on the Bill of Rights. This is what a real one looks like.
Tucson shooting survivor Patricia Maisch spoke for 90 percent of Americans today. After the Republicans stopped a weak firearm background check bill with a silent filibuster that required a 60-vote super-majority, she called out “Shame on you!” from the Senate gallery. The bill failed despite the support of 54 senators. Only four Republicans voted to break the filibuster (Utah senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee voted to kill the bill).
President Obama commented on the absurdity of this vote:
I’m going to speak plainly and honestly about what’s happened here because the American people are trying to figure out how can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen. We had a Democrat and a Republican -– both gun owners, both fierce defenders of our Second Amendment, with “A” grades from the NRA — come together and worked together to write a common-sense compromise on background checks. And I want to thank Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey for their courage in doing that. That was not easy given their traditional strong support for Second Amendment rights.
As they said, nobody could honestly claim that the package they put together infringed on our Second Amendment rights. All it did was extend the same background check rules that already apply to guns purchased from a dealer to guns purchased at gun shows or over the Internet.
Broadcast and cable networks interrupted regular programming to bring viewers Obama’s remarks, except for the Faux News Channel.
Four Democratic senators voted against the baby-step background check bill, but the filibuster was 100 percent Republican – so they get the blame. Must be used to wearing the black hats by now, anyway.
Gabrielle Giffords: A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip
I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear…
UPDATE: Gun Violence Victims Detained, Put Through Background Check For Yelling ‘Shame On You’ At Senators. Imagine that, a background check.
First, Reinhart and Rogoff excluded the post-war years for certain countries that enjoyed robust economic growth despite debt levels well over 90 percent. They also chose a skewed method of weighting the data: for example, New Zealand’s single year of terrible growth while over the 90 percent threshold wound up counting just as much as Britain’s 19 years of healthy growth. And they even incorrectly input at least one Excel spreadsheet formula, wrongly excluding several countries form their calculations.
In short, the central argument in support of austerity — cited by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, the New York Times’ David Brooks, and multiple times by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) — is now defunct. No one disputes that a country should avoid a big build-up in debt over the long-term. But every concrete signal we’re getting from the American economy — our high unemployment, our low inflation, our extraordinarily low interest rates, and our negative real interest rates — are a signal that more debt spending in the short term to fight the depression is perfectly appropriate. Thanks to the austerity drive that was heavily influenced by Reinhart and Rogoff’s study, American lawmakers ignored those signals (and plenty of others) and cut spending, delivering the most destructive fiscal policy we’ve had in any recession since at least 1980.
Why do we take these people seriously again?
Paul Krugman tries to understand the right-wing Glenn Beck gold craze:
So how can we rationalize the modern goldbug position? Basically, it depends on the claim that runaway inflation is just around the corner.
Why have so many people found this claim persuasive? John Maynard Keynes famously dismissed the gold standard as a “barbarous relic,” noting the absurdity of yoking the fortunes of a modern industrial society to the supply of a decorative metal. But he also acknowledged that “gold has become part of the apparatus of conservatism and is one of the matters which we cannot expect to see handled without prejudice.”
And so it remains to this day. Conservative-minded people tend to support a gold standard — and to buy gold — because they’re very easily persuaded that “fiat money,” money created on a discretionary basis in an attempt to stabilize the economy, is really just part of the larger plot to take away their hard-earned wealth and give it to you-know-who.
But the runaway inflation that was supposed to follow reckless money-printing — inflation that the usual suspects have been declaring imminent for four years and more — keeps not happening.
New York Times: Gold, Long a Secure Investment, Loses Its Luster
I actually thought they would wait until next year. Nope, the day after the Obama administration issued a budget proposal calling for cuts to Social Security, veterans’ benefits and other programs a key Republican leader previewed next year’s campaign commercials against Democratic candidates.
On CNN, National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) cynically condemned President Obama’s adoption of so-called “chained CPI” as “kind of a shocking attack on seniors.” Because he is head of the NRCC, Walden’s job is to plot strategy to elect more Republicans to Congress.
Remember when the Republicans hypocritically ran and won in 2010 as the saviors of Medicare? Well, the Democrats seem to be letting them get away with basically the same thing AGAIN.
Progressives tried to warn the President that instead of welcoming the adoption of so-called “chained CPI” (a Republican idea!), the GOP would continue to deny him a budget deal and attack him for proposing to cut Social Security. Well, QED.
There have been 3,364 gun deaths since the Sandy Hook elementary school mass shooting last December. That’s a second 9/11 attack. Or put it another way, more Americans die from being shot in our country every year than the total fatalities from ten years of war in Afghanistan.
Jim Wallis tries to reason logically with the Gun Lobby. I wish him luck…
There are many law abiding and responsible gun owners in this country. And I understand that those who play by the rules might feel like they are being punished for the wrongdoing of others. But no legislation being considered would end gun ownership as we know it. What it would do is begin to make owning a gun look a little more like owning a car. In that process we can make it more expensive and more legally punishing for criminals to get guns and make our streets and our schools safer for all. The gun laws on the table are just common sense; they bring us back to the common good.
The vast majority of gun owners understand and support the need for gun safety legislation. But the Gun Lobby is different. They insist on re-opening settled issues (e.g. background checks), and on claiming their constitutional rights would be violated by a ban on continued sales of military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The latest national survey from Quinnipiac University confirmed something that’s been widely evident in the months since the massacre in Newtown, Conn.: Support for universal background checks is pretty much, well, universal. According to the poll, 91 percent of American voters support background checks for all gun buyers, while a mere 8 percent said they are opposed. The poll also showed 88 percent of gun owners in favor of universal background checks…
Today two things happened:
(1) President Obama eloquently made the case for gun safety legislation that is overwhelmingly popular with the American people.
(2) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that he would not allow any such legislation to be debated or voted on in the U.S. Senate.
UPDATE: RUNNING AWAY: Backers Of Gun Filibuster Duck Interview Requests. Cowardly is the only way to describe this.
The Obama administration’s latest budget, which will be introduced on Wednesday, is expected to include cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other earned benefit and social safety net programs. The proposal is a pre-compromise designed to placate the 1 Percent, who are not happy about having to pay back the Trust Fund after “borrowing” from it to provide tax cuts for the rich. “The president has no mandate to cut these benefits, and progressives will do everything possible to stop him,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
Now is a good time to review the facts about Social Security, which some may have forgotten. From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (see link for more info):
Fact #1: Social Security is more than just a retirement program. It provides important life insurance and disability insurance protection as well.
In June 2012, 56 million people, or about one in every six U.S. residents, collected Social Security benefits. While three-quarters of them received benefits as retirees or elderly widow(er)s, another 11 million (19 percent) received disability insurance benefits, and 2 million (4 percent) received benefits as young survivors of deceased workers.
Fact #2: Social Security provides a guaranteed, progressive benefit that keeps up with increases in the cost of living.
Social Security benefits are progressive: they represent a higher proportion of a worker’s previous earnings for workers at lower earnings levels.
…In recent years, fewer employers have offered defined-benefit pension plans, which guarantee a certain benefit level upon retirement, and more have offered defined-contribution plans, which pay a benefit based on a worker’s contributions and the rate of return they earn. Thus, for most workers, Social Security will be their only source of guaranteed retirement income that is not subject to investment risk or financial market fluctuations.
Once someone starts receiving Social Security, his or her benefits automatically increase each year to keep pace with inflation, helping to ensure that people do not fall into poverty as they age. In contrast, most private pensions and annuities are not adjusted for inflation or are only partly adjusted.
Joe Romm of Think Progress points out that, among the other things they are completely wrong about, the political opponents of climate science also think that we can go backwards by cutting carbon emissions.
This notion that we can reverse climate change by cutting emissions is one of the most commonly held myths — and one of the most dangerous, as explained in this 2007 MIT study, “Understanding Public Complacency About Climate Change: Adults’ mental models of climate change violate conservation of matter.”
…The fact is that, as RealClimate has explained, we would need “an immediate cut of around 60 to 70% globally and continued further cuts over time” merely to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of CO2 – and that would still leave us with a radiative imbalance that would lead to “an additional 0.3 to 0.8ºC warming over the 21st Century.” And that assumes no major carbon cycle feedbacks kick in, which seems highly unlikely.
We’d have to drop total global emissions to zero now and for the rest of the century just to lower concentrations enough to stop temperatures from rising. Again, even in this implausible scenario, we still aren’t talking about reversing climate change, just stopping it — or, more technically, stopping the temperature rise…
We all need to understand that it’s too late to prevent global warming, and that climate change is happening now. It’s irreversible (except over thousands of years). All we can do at this point is try to minimize the amount of warming, and develop plans to cope with the effects of climate change on our economy and way of life. But our political system thrives on myths, and the truth is still getting shouted down.
UPDATE: Rush Limbaugh is claiming contrary to basic physics that “carbon in the atmosphere may actually be making things cooler, not warmer.”
Media Matters gives us the short version: Liz Cheney: Get Over 2012 And Start Embracing Romneyism. Of course, it was President George W. Bush who originally said “We ought to make the pie higher.”
Cheney’s Wall Street Journal op-ed on Thursday un-apologetically recycles just about everything that voters rejected in 2012, and claims, without evidence, that “President Obama is the most radical man ever to occupy the Oval Office.”
This is from someone who was part of the Worst Administration Ever, that brought about truly radical right-wing policies from massive tax cuts for the rich to the torture of detainees and an outright war of aggression in Iraq. The Bush administration came close to wiping out the American middle class when the collapse of the financial sector caused U.S. households to lose about $16.4 trillion of net worth.
Jonathan Chait: Liz Cheney Is Even More Bonkers Than We Suspected
Even after four years of bug-eyed right-wing paranoia, Cheney’s op-ed stands out for its utter dearth of the slightest whiff of perspective or factual grounding.
This stuff is getting old. We had legitimate criticisms of the Bush administration’s actual radicalism, and Republicans dismissed it all as “Bush derangement syndrome.” Now prominent Republicans won’t stop ranting about their imaginary “radical” President Obama despite the fact he’s been center-right all along, even to the point of implementing Republican policies. At last year’s GOP convention Clint Eastwood presented a prime-time portrayal of the right-wing, yelling at an empty chair.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus budget promises to create 7 million new jobs in one year, and includes $4.4 trillion in deficit reduction and $112 billion in infrastructure investment. That beats any other budget proposal in Washington, by far – including the Obama administration’s yet-to-be-released budget. And it won’t cut Medicare benefits to pay for more tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.
[T]alk of a fiscal crisis has subsided. Yet the deficit scolds haven’t given up on their determination to bully the nation into slashing Social Security and Medicare. So they have a new line: We must bring down the deficit right away because it’s “generational warfare,” imposing a crippling burden on the next generation. …
…Yet there is, as I said, a lot of truth to the charge that we’re cheating our children. How? By neglecting public investment and failing to provide jobs.