* THREE MYTHS ABOUT THE DETENTION BILL
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon
Condemnation of President Obama is intense, and growing, as a result of his announced intent to sign into law the indefinite detention bill embedded in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). These denunciations come not only from the nation’s leading civil liberties and human rights groups, but also from the pro-Obama New York Times Editorial Page, which today has a scathing Editorial describing Obama’s stance as “a complete political cave-in, one that reinforces the impression of a fumbling presidency” and lamenting that “the bill has so many other objectionable aspects that we can’t go into them all,” as well as from vocal Obama supporters such as Andrew Sullivan, who wrote yesterday that this episode is “another sign that his campaign pledge to be vigilant about civil liberties in the war on terror was a lie.” In damage control mode, White-House-allied groups are now trying to ride to the rescue with attacks on the ACLU and dismissive belittling of the bill’s dangers.
For that reason, it is very worthwhile to briefly examine — and debunk — the three principal myths being spread by supporters of this bill, and to do so very simply: by citing the relevant provisions of the bill, as well as the relevant passages of the original 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), so that everyone can judge for themselves what this bill actually includes (this is all above and beyond the evidence I assembled in writing about this bill yesterday):
Myth # 1: This bill does not codify indefinite detention
Myth #2: The bill does not expand the scope of the War on Terror as defined by the 2001 AUMF
Myth #3: U.S. citizens are exempted from this new bill
* ANONYMOUS ATTACKING CREATORS OF INDEFINITE DETENTION BILL
With President Obama read to sign away the freedoms of Americans by inking his name to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, opponents are already going after the lawmakers that made the legislation possible.
The act, abbreviated as NDAA FY2012, managed to make its way through Congress with overwhelming support in recent days, despite legislation that allows for Americans to be detained indefinitely and tortured by authorities for the mere suspicion of committing “a belligerent act.” The Obama administration originally decreed that they would veto the bill, only for the White House to announce a change of heart on Wednesday this week.
With the passing of the act almost certain at this point, hackers aligned to the massive collective Anonymous are taking a stab at staking out the politicians that helped put the bill in the president’s hands.
On Wednesday, Internet hacktivists gathered on the Web to find a way to take on the lawmakers, who have allowed for this detrimental legislation to make it all the way to the Oval Office desk. Upon discussion of routes to take to show their opposition to the overwhelming number of politicians who voted in favor of NDAA, Anonymous members agreed to begin with Senator Robert J Portman, a Republican lawmaker from the state of Ohio.
By Thursday morning, an Anonymous operative released personal information pertaining to the lawmaker, and revealed that not only was Sen. Portman among the politicians to vote “aye” on the legislation, but it has also been revealed that the senator had good reason to do so.
According to a OpenCongress.org, Sen. Portman received $272,853 from special interest groups that have shown support for NDAA.
“Robert J. Portman, we plan to make an example of you,” writes an Anonymous operative. The hacktivist has also released personal data including the senator’s home address, phone number and social networking accounts in an attempt to further an infiltration from the Internet to show the opposition to the bill that colossally impacts the constitutional rights of Americans.
According to the information posted by the operative, the nearly $300,000 in special interest monies lobbied at Portman could have helped him purchase around $1.7 million in real estate in Ohio.
The next lawmaker to receive anywhere near as much as Sen. Portman is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada and third-ranked official in Congress, who pulled in more than $100,000 less than his Ohio counterpart with $172,635.
Among the supporters of NDAA are California-based manufacturer Surefire, L.L.C., who won a $23 million contract from the Department of Defense three months ago. Also contributing to the cause (and the lawmakers who voted ‘yes’) are Honeywell (who secured a $93 million deal with the Pentagon last May and a $24 million contract this year) and Bluewater Defense, a longtime DoD-ally that produces, among other garments, fire resistant combat uniforms.
When the military storms down your door for suspicion of “belligerent” acts, you can thank Bluewater and Senator Portman for the lovely flame-proof attire the soldiers will be donned in as they haul you off to Gitmo. […]
* OBAMA: A DISASTER FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES
He may prove the most disastrous president in our history in terms of civil liberties.
By Jonathan Turley, LATimes
With the 2012 presidential election before us, the country is again caught up in debating national security issues, our ongoing wars and the threat of terrorism. There is one related subject, however, that is rarely mentioned: civil liberties.
Protecting individual rights and liberties — apart from the right to be tax-free — seems barely relevant to candidates or voters. One man is primarily responsible for the disappearance of civil liberties from the national debate, and he is Barack Obama. While many are reluctant to admit it, Obama has proved a disaster not just for specific civil liberties but the civil liberties cause in the United States.
Civil libertarians have long had a dysfunctional relationship with the Democratic Party, which treats them as a captive voting bloc with nowhere else to turn in elections. Not even this history, however, prepared civil libertarians for Obama. After the George W. Bush years, they were ready to fight to regain ground lost after Sept. 11. Historically, this country has tended to correct periods of heightened police powers with a pendulum swing back toward greater individual rights. Many were questioning the extreme measures taken by the Bush administration, especially after the disclosure of abuses and illegalities. Candidate Obama capitalized on this swing and portrayed himself as the champion of civil liberties.
However, President Obama not only retained the controversial Bush policies, he expanded on them. The earliest, and most startling, move came quickly. Soon after his election, various military and political figures reported that Obama reportedly promised Bush officials in private that no one would be investigated or prosecuted for torture. In his first year, Obama made good on that promise, announcing that no CIA employee would be prosecuted for torture. Later, his administration refused to prosecute any of the Bush officials responsible for ordering or justifying the program and embraced the “just following orders” defense for other officials, the very defense rejected by the United States at the Nuremberg trials after World War II.
Obama failed to close Guantanamo Bay as promised. He continued warrantless surveillance and military tribunals that denied defendants basic rights. He asserted the right to kill U.S. citizens he views as terrorists. His administration has fought to block dozens of public-interest lawsuits challenging privacy violations and presidential abuses. […]
* THE SOUND OF ONE PRESIDENT CAVING
By Andrew Rosenthal, NYTimes
[…] The White House says there have been sufficient changes in the military detention provisions for the president to sign the bill. Not that I can see.
The final version still seems to require the military custody of suspected Qaeda operatives—but now the executive can make exceptions to that requirement. (The previous versions only allowed a waiver when the secretary of defense, the attorney general and the head of national intelligence all agreed.) It’s not clear to me how effective this waiver would be in practice, and it seems positively dangerous to leave this decision up to whoever might sit in the White House in future years. Remember, we got into this mess because a president thought he had the power to ignore the constitution and international law.
The bill no longer explicitly bans the use of civilian courts to prosecute Qaeda suspects, but it does authorize indefinite detention—not just for suspected members of Al Qaeda but also its allies. And who can say what that means? So among other terribly depressing consequences, the bill makes it virtually impossible to ever close Guantanamo Bay. (For more detailed information, see the Lawfare blog, which has been covering the NDAA closely, or read Charlie Savage in the Times.)
Most broadly, the bill continues the work President George W. Bush started. Mr. Bush and his supporters exploited the nation’s fear and insecurity after the Sept. 11 attacks (and Democrats’ insecurity about national security) to ram through several unnecessary bills, including the Patriot Act and a dangerous expansion of the government’s ability to spy on Americans’ international communications without judicial supervision. Now, Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress have proven that they’re equally willing to curtail civil liberties, and, in the process, further damage America’s global reputation as a defender of human rights.
I think it’s barely possible that Mr. Obama would sign a waiver of military detention when warranted. But it’s impossible to imagine a Republican successor doing that. And that’s the big point. This is supposed to be a nation of laws, not a nation of men we just really hope will make good decisions. I wish Mr. Obama saw that more clearly.
* IRAQI GIRL TELLS OF U.S. ATTACK IN HADITHA
By Information Clearing House
Ten-year-old Iman Walid witnessed the killing of seven members of her family in an attack by American marines last November. The interview with Iman was filmed exclusively for ITV News by Ali Hamdani, our Iraqi video diarist.
READ and VIDEO @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article13452.htm
* WHY DO PEOPLE DEFEND UNJUST, INEPT AND CORRUPT SYSTEMS?
Why do we stick up for a system or institution we live in — a government, company, or marriage — even when anyone else can see it is failing miserably? Why do we resist change even when the system is corrupt or unjust? A new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, illuminates the conditions under which we’re motivated to defend the status quo — a process called “system justification.”
System justification isn’t the same as acquiescence, explains Aaron C. Kay, a psychologist at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, who co-authored the paper with University of Waterloo graduate student Justin Friesen. “It’s pro-active. When someone comes to justify the status quo, they also come to see it as what should be.”
Reviewing laboratory and cross-national studies, the paper illuminates four situations that foster system justification: system threat, system dependence, system inescapability, and low personal control.
When we’re threatened we defend ourselves — and our systems. Before 9/11, for instance, President George W. Bush was sinking in the polls. But as soon as the planes hit the World Trade Center, the president’s approval ratings soared. So did support for Congress and the police. During Hurricane Katrina, America witnessed FEMA’s spectacular failure to rescue the hurricane’s victims. Yet many people blamed those victims for their fate rather than admitting the agency flunked and supporting ideas for fixing it. In times of crisis, say the authors, we want to believe the system works.
We also defend systems we rely on. In one experiment, students made to feel dependent on their university defended a school funding policy — but disapproved of the same policy if it came from the government, which they didn’t perceive as affecting them closely. However, if they felt dependent on the government, they liked the policy originating from it, but not from the school.
When we feel we can’t escape a system, we adapt. That includes feeling okay about things we might otherwise consider undesirable. The authors note one study in which participants were told that men’s salaries in their country are 20% higher than women’s. Rather than implicate an unfair system, those who felt they couldn’t emigrate chalked up the wage gap to innate differences between the sexes. “You’d think that when people are stuck with a system, they’d want to change it more,” says Kay. But in fact, the more stuck they are, the more likely are they to explain away its shortcomings. Finally, a related phenomenon: The less control people feel over their own lives, the more they endorse systems and leaders that offer a sense of order.
The research on system justification can enlighten those who are frustrated when people don’t rise up in what would seem their own best interests. Says Kay: “If you want to understand how to get social change to happen, you need to understand the conditions that make people resist change and what makes them open to acknowledging that change might be a necessity.” […]
* U.S. DETERMINED TO PUNISH BRADLEY MANNING
By Marcel Rosenbach and Gregor Peter Schmitz, Spiegel Online International
For some, Bradley Manning is a hero. Others feel that the US soldier, who is accused of providing secret documents to WikiLeaks, is a traitor and a threat to American security. The military proceedings against him, which begin Friday, are likely to end in a guilty verdict.
Daniel Ellsberg knows a few things about heroes. In fact, many Americans see him as a hero. When he was working for a key think tank associated with the United States military, Ellsberg photocopied the so-called Pentagon Papers, 7,000 pages of top secret analysis and documents that revealed that American politicians knew all too well how hopeless the situation in Vietnam was. When the New York Times published the secret documents in 1971, it opened the eyes of Ellsberg’s fellow Americans once and for all to the details of a disastrous war.
But when Ellsberg, now 80 and white-haired but still energetic, talks about heroes, he is no longer thinking about the past. Today he says that Bradley Manning, the presumed source of the classified documents about American military officials and diplomats published by WikiLeaks last year, is “unreservedly a hero.” There are so many things Manning’s actions uncovered, says Ellsberg, as he begins to rattle them off. Could the Arab Spring have materialized without the WikiLeaks reports on the corruption of Arab potentates? And would anyone have been talking about war crimes committed by American soldiers in Iraq without the documents on detainee abuse?
Ellsberg is convinced that like him, Private Manning, who was only 22 at the time, wrote history and, just as in Ellsberg’s case, the powerful are now intent on punishing Manning for what he did. Former US President Richard Nixon once threatened to throw Ellsberg into prison. But to the country’s highest courts, the truth was more important than government secrecy, and Ellsberg and the Times emerged unscathed. The man who had exposed the government’s secrets about Vietnam became the prototype of the whistleblower. […]
* HOW WE ALL PAY FOR THE HUGE TAX PRIVILEGES GRANTED TO RELIGION — IT’S TIME TO TAX THE CHURCH
By Adam Lee, AlterNet
[…] Why don’t we consider taxing the churches?
|Not all churches or all ministers are rich, but some of them are very rich indeed. And that’s no surprise, because society subsidizes them through a constellation of generous tax breaks that aren’t available to any other institution, even non-profits. For example, religious organizations can opt out of Social Security and Medicare withholding. Religious employers are exempt from unemployment taxes, and in some states, from sales tax. Religious ministers — and no other profession; the law specifies that only “ministers of the gospel” are eligible for this benefit — can receive part of their salary as a “housing allowance” on which they pay no taxes. (Compounding the absurdity, they can then turn around and double-dip, deducting their mortgage interest from their taxes, even when their mortgage is being paid with tax-free money in the first place.) And, of course, churches are exempt from property tax and from federal income tax.We’re all paying for the special privileges afforded to religion. Your taxes and mine have to be higher to make up the revenue shortfall that the government isn’t taking in because these huge, wealthy churches don’t pay their own way. By some estimates, the property tax exemption alone removes $100 billion in property from U.S. tax rolls. (And it’s not just the big churches where that exemption bites: According to authors like Sikivu Hutchinson, the proliferation of small storefront churches is a major contributor to poverty and societal dysfunction in poor communities, since these churches remove valuable commercial property from the tax base and ensure that local governments remain cash-strapped and unable to provide basic services.) Just about the only restriction that churches have to abide by in return is that they can’t endorse political candidates — and even this trivial, easily evaded prohibition is routinely and flagrantly violated by the religious right.
Combined with a near-total lack of government scrutiny, the privileges granted to religion have enabled megachurch ministers to live fantastically luxurious lifestyles. An investigation by Sen. Chuck Grassley in 2009 gave a rare public glimpse of how powerful preachers spend the cash they rake in from their flocks: jewelry, luxury clothing, cosmetic surgery, offshore bank accounts, multimillion-dollar lakefront mansions, a fleet of private jets, flights to Hawaii and Fiji, and most famously in the case of Joyce Meyer, a $23,000 marble-topped commode. Meyer’s ministry alone is estimated to have an annual take of around $124 million.
Most of these Elmer Gantry-types preach a theology called the “prosperity gospel.” The basic idea of this is that God wants to shower you with riches, but only if you first “plant a seed of faith” by giving your church as much money as you possibly can, trusting that God will repay you tenfold. (The typical ask is for 10 percent of your annual income — gross, not net; people who tithe based on their net income hate the baby Jesus.) Naturally, this idea has made some churches very, very rich, while making a large number of poor, desperate people even poorer.
One might think this scam would only work for so long before people start to realize that giving all their money away isn’t making them rich. But the pastors who preach it have a very convenient and clever rationalization: when supernatural wealth fails to materialize, they tell their followers that it must be their own fault, that they’re harboring some secret sin that’s preventing God from fulfilling his promises.
But beyond the prosperity gospel, we’re now witnessing a new and even more brazen idea spreading among the American religious right: that the poor should accept their lot without complaint, and that calling for a stronger social safety net or advocating higher taxes on the rich is committing the sin of envy. For example, here’s Watergate felon Chuck Colson, who’s found a profitable after-prison career as a born-again right-wing pundit, denouncing the poor for wanting a better life for themselves:
Despite this, many people insist on soaking the well-off because… what they want is to see their better-off neighbors knocked down a peg. That’s how envy works.
Thomas Aquinas defined envy as “sorrow for another’s good.” It is the opposite of pity. And it is one of the defining sins of our times.
(I would guess that by Colson’s standard, some of the authors of the Bible would also be committing the sin of envy with their denunciations of the rich.) […]
* ELECTION INTEGRITY’S VICTORIA COLLIER SPEAKS UP
By Joan Brunwasser, OpEdNews
[…] You say that “the machines that count our votes ” are controlled by a small cartel of corporations that manufacturer them and program their software. Their owners, stockholders and key staff share, not only extensive criminal histories, but alliances with the right-wing.” That’s a pretty important and provocative statement. Can you expand on it a little for our readers? Despite any number of investigations by Black Box Voting’s Bev Harris, Brad “Bradblog” Friedman, Marc Crispin Miller and others, this is not widely known or understood. If it’s true that our elections have, in fact, been hijacked by highly partisan individuals, why haven’t alarm bells been going off all over the place – in the press and among our politicians, leaders and the general public?
Currently I’m compiling the best of the Election Integrity work together onto one webpage: http://www.votescam.org/the_evidence. This will narrow the field of research for people new to the issue, and show what an amazing body of evidence we have that our votes are regularly stolen through centralized computerized rigging.
So, with the caveat that people who care need to start exploring that body of evidence themselves, I will point to some highlights about the crooks who manufacture our vote counting machines.
Lynn Landes explains on her website that there is no government oversight of our elections, or the elections equipment industry:
There are no government standards or restrictions on who can sell and service voting machines and systems. Foreigners, convicted criminals, office holders, political candidates, and news media organizations can and do own these companies. . . Many voting machine companies appear to share managers, investors, and equipment which raises questions of conflict-of-interest and monopolistic practices.
The two biggest corporations, Diebold and ES&S, were originally owned by two Russian brothers, Todd and Bob Urosevich. They took over other manufacturers until they were the major election equipment suppliers. In 2009, Diebold was sold to ES&S. Currently, the only other company of any significance is based in Canada.
In Chapter 8 of Black Box Voting, Bev Harris delves more deeply into the right-wing, religious, military, media, and big energy connections of the ownership, key personnel, and stockholders of the manufacturers — and the charges against them of bid-rigging, anti-trust evasion, kick-backs, money laundering, bribery, embezzling, price-fixing, stock scams, defrauding the government, tax fraud, computer fraud, and cocaine trafficking.
These criminals are the people building our election equipment. Their machines count our votes in secret, completely unobservable within their “proprietary” software. Can you imagine anything more insane?
Both Diebold and ES&S have also been caught installing uncertified software in their machines. Former Diebold bank machine auditor Stephen Spoonamore admits that Christian fundamentalists were, at one point, most of the people who programmed the Diebold and ES&S voting machines. And lest we forget, Diebold’s CEO Wally O’Dell infamously promised to “deliver” the 2004 Ohio results to George W. Bush.
And it’s not just the manufacturers who are crooked — it’s also the companies that certify their machines.
Harris writes, “You would expect that a company that certifies our voting machines would not have its owners running for office. You would also expect that no one who owns the certification company would be under criminal investigation. You’d be disappointed.”
I’ll let the readers enjoy the rest of Chapter 8 themselves. I think you all get the picture. […]
* SOMEONE’S POLLING NEW HAMPSHIRE TO SEE WHETHER REPUBLICAN VOTERS ARE INTERESTED IN JEB BUSH
By Susie Madrak, Crooks and Liars
I wonder who’s behind this? Via Cannonfire, some very intriguing news:
Someone has paid for a poll designed to see if there is any enthusiasm for a Jeb Bush run against Barack Obama in 2012.
After all, it would be too late for Bush to enter the race, right? Everyone has been told that the field is set. And indeed, in several primary states qualifying has closed. But New Hampshire allows voters to write-in any name they choose. And most party caucuses either don’t have a ballot or have a pretty open write-in policy. Don’t forget, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. won a surprise write-in victory in New Hampshire without ever declaring himself a candidate for President in 1964.
There is still time. In fact, if Jeb was interested in seeking the party’s nomination, this might be his smoothest path to victory.
I can see why some in the GOP leadership might be intrigued by this idea. The base simply does not care for Romney. Newt probably can’t win in the general. Ron Paul is a sincere libertarian — no TARP for him, thank you — and thus will never be allowed to get near the nomination. […]