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HR 1966 has cleared the House and now faces the Senate as S.909, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (officially, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act). The bill is expected to sail through the Senate as it did in the House. It will provide federal assistance to the states, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes, and for “other purposes.” It creates special protective status based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.
S.909 is a direct violation of the First Amendment. It allows the federal government to prosecute people involved in “hate speech” transmitted over television, radio, and the internet. The House version of the bill states:
Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce [radio, TV, internet] any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both. (HR 1966, SEC 3, Sec. 881a)Read more.
Any agreement on cyberspace presents special difficulties because the matter touches on issues like censorship of the Internet, sovereignty and rogue actors who might not be subject to a treaty.
The United States and Russia are locked in a fundamental dispute over how to counter the growing threat of cyberwar attacks that could wreak havoc on computer systems and the Internet.
Both nations agree that cyberspace is an emerging battleground. The two sides are expected to address the subject when President Obama visits Russia next week and at the General Assembly of the United Nations in November, according to a senior State Department official.
But there the agreement ends. Read more.
I want my money back.
I gave $20 a week for seven months, plus $60 every once in a while for a t-shirt and sticker. I gave of my modest purse joyfully. Once I add that all up, it makes a grand total of... $106 billion?! Wait a minute, I thought I was supporting change I could believe in, not more of the same bloodshed and war!
Betrayal is a part of life. After awhile, you just come to expect it. Yet, the initial shock always hits you as a surprise. Alas, the nature of betrayal. Humans are vulnerable to being betrayed because underneath our husky shells, our pain and hardened hearts, we are soft and trustful creatures. We want to believe in people.
I'm not that young, so I possess some cynicism. But I'm not that old either, so I manage some idealism. Sure, I am used to being betrayed by my government. But I thought my days of calling the White House in tears were over. To think that Barack Obama preyed on this naive hope in me and millions like me is unforgivable. Read more.
President Obama signed the $106 billion war-spending bill into law Friday, but not without taking a page from his predecessor and ignoring a few elements in the legislation.
Obama included a five-paragraph signing statement with the bill, including a final paragraph that outlined his objections to at least four areas of the bill.
President George W. Bush was heavily criticized for his use of signing statements, declaring he'd ignore some elements of legislation by invoking presidential prerogative. Read more.
FBI compounds mystery with secret justification of gag order
The FBI continues its secrecy binge by filing a classified justification of its use of a gag order on an ISP in the ongoing Doe v. Holder battle.
By Jon Stokes | Arstechnica
When the FBI uses a national security letter (NSL) to force the cooperation of an ISP or phone company in the surveillance of a suspect, the agency typically slaps a gag order on the service provider to prevent it from revealing the existence of the NSL. Civil liberties groups have successfully challenged the DOJ on these gag orders in the ongoing Doe v. Holder, and last month the Obama administration decided not to appeal a federal court ruling that the FBI must justify these gag orders by meeting a relatively high First Amendment standard.
The implication of the court's ruling was that the FBI would finally have to justify the gag order that it had placed on the John Doe in the Doe v. Holder case, so that the plaintiff could talk about the NSL. The FBI has now cooperated, and has given the court a justification of the gag order, in secret.
The classified declaration that justifies the gag order can't even be seen by Doe's attorneys at the ACLU. In a statement, the ACLU elaborated on the move: "The government did not even file a redacted version of its secret affidavit or even an unclassified summary of what the secret affidavit says. Basically, the government is asking us just to trust that the gag is justified." Read more.
The first Black president has racked up some impressive victories. Barack Obama has quarantined single-payer healthcare advocates, crushed dissent against the war in Congress, and transferred more money to the finance capital class than at any time in planetary history. Not bad for just five months in office. "At some point in the near future Barack Obama will become inextricably associated in the public mind with Big Capital – and deservedly so." The 'Obama Effect' has led to the near-total collapse of the Left."
As of this writing, the Progressives for Obama website still exists, a relic of Left delusion that should have died of embarrassment months ago. Barack Obama has, indeed, grown in the presidency – but not into the FDR-like figure of his leftish supporters’ imaginations. Nor has his presence in the Oval Office served to spur Blacks and progressives to dramatic action, creating the “push” that Left Obamites had predicted would allow their champion to act on his more “liberal” instincts. Quite the contrary. The “Obama Effect” has led to the near-total collapse of the Left– both its white and Black wings – and made the nation safe for rule by finance capital and militarists.
The military, finance capital and healthcare corporations (insurers are a branch of finance capital) are winning every important battle because, on fundamental issues, President Obama is on their side. It is he who crushed the anti-war bloc in the US. House; who silenced and marginalized single payer advocates, while fawning over health profiteers; who engineered the greatest transfer of wealth in human history to bankers, leaving them free to once again ruin themselves and the rest of us.
So let us give President Obama his due. He not only smashed the Left opposition, he humiliated them. Read more.
Daytona Beach, FL - On Thursday evening, June 25th, 2009, at the CODEPINK of East Central Florida weekly antiwar demonstration, members of the Central Florida chapter of Veterans For Peace, the Florida chapter of Military Families Speak Out, and the Orlando chapter of WeAreChange Florida took to the streets in Daytona Beach to participate in the National Torture Accountability Action Day.
The action in Daytona Beach coincided with similar events taking place in cities and towns all across the United States, along with an all-day rally in Washington, DC sponsored by AfterDowningStreet.org and many other peace and social justice groups in the AfterDowningStreet.org Coalition, as a public call from the people of America for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate the U.S. government's practice of illegal torture. See photos under the fold.
Ever since President Obama proposed holding terrorism detainees without trial, the debate over preventive detention has been growing. Now, NPR has the first look at a detailed legislative proposal to hold detainees indefinitely. The document comes from two experts outside of government, and it is already being discussed in the Obama administration.
In a speech last month at the National Archives, President Obama opened the door to the possibility that some terrorism detainees will neither be tried nor released.
"If and when we determine the United States must hold individuals to keep them from carrying out an act of war," he said, "we will do so within a system that involves judicial and congressional oversight."
Attorney General Eric Holder was not much more specific last week when he testified before a Senate committee that a preventive detention program "would be some kind of review with regard to the initial determination [that the detainee should be held], and then a periodic review with regard to whether or not that person should continue to be detained."
Although the controversy has been hazy until now, it is about to come into sharp focus. Read more.
In an act of nonviolent Civil Resistance, 11 activists participated in a “Die In” in front of the U.S. Justice, in Washington, D.C., on the afternoon of Thursday, June 25, 2009.
The protesters were demanding a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to urge him to appoint a “Special Prosecutor for Torture.” Their purpose: To hold accountable to the supremacy of the Law, certain members of the Bush-Cheney Gang, including ex-President George W. Bush, Jr. and V.P. Dick Cheney, who are suspected of authorizing torture on numerous detainees, in violation of the Geneva Convention, International Law, the Nuremberg Principles and the U.S. Constitution.
National Coalition To File Formal Complaints And Call For Dismissal Of The Lawyer Architects of Detainee Torture Programs
National Coalition to file formal complaints and call for dismissal of ‘Torture Architect’ and current top CIA lawyer, John Rizzo, and other current and former CIA counsel | Press Release
Washington, D.C. – On Monday, June 29th at 9:30AM in the Murrow Room of the National Press Club, ( Map ) three prominent D.C. lawyers, including a former Associate Deputy Attorney General under President Reagan, will discuss the legal case against the lawyer architects of a program of torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees held in the custody of the U.S. government since shortly after the 9/11 attacks.
The sponsoring coalition, Velvet Revolution, has called for the disbarment of over a dozen lawyers filing formal complaints in five states as part of a national campaign described at disbartorturelawyers.com.
US-AFGHANISTAN: Airstrike Report Belies "Blame Taliban" Line
Analysis by Gareth Porter* | IPS News
The version of the official military investigation into the disastrous May 4 airstrike in Farah province made public last week by the Central Command was carefully edited to save the U.S. command in Afghanistan the embarrassment of having to admit that earlier claims blaming the massive civilian deaths on the "Taliban" were fraudulent.
By covering up the most damaging facts surrounding the incident, the rewritten public version of report succeeded in avoiding media stories on the contradiction between the report and the previous arguments made by the U.S. command.
The declassified "executive summary" of the report on the bombing issued last Friday admitted that mistakes had been made in the use of airpower in that incident. However, it omitted key details which would have revealed the self-serving character of the U.S. command’s previous claims blaming the "Taliban" – the term used for all insurgents fighting U.S. forces - for the civilian deaths from the airstrikes.
The report reasserted the previous claim by the U.S. command that only about 26 civilians had been killed in the U.S. bombing on that day, despite well-documented reports by the government and by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission that between 97 and 147 people were killed. Read more.
Now We See You, Now We Don’t
by Kathy Kelly | June 25, 2009 | Voices for Creative Nonviolence
In early June, 2009, I was in the Shah Mansoor displaced persons camp in Pakistan, listening to one resident detail the carnage which had spurred his and his family’s flight there a mere 15 days earlier. Their city, Mingora, had come under massive aerial bombardment. He recalled harried efforts to bury corpses found on the roadside even as he and his neighbors tried to organize their families to flee the area.
“They were killing us in that way, there,” my friend said. Then, gesturing to the rows of tents stretching as far as the eye could see, he added, “Now, in this way, here.”
The people in the tent encampment suffered very harsh conditions. They were sleeping on the ground without mats, they lacked water for bathing, the tents were unbearably hot, and they had no idea whether their homes and shops in Mingora were still standing. But, the suffering they faced had only just begun.
When approaching Iran, the Republican Party line and the Hugo Chavez line are running in opposite directions -- but parallel. The leadership of GOP reaction and the leadership of Bolivarian revolution have bought into the convenient delusion that long-suffering Iranian people require assistance from the U.S. government to resist the regime in Tehran.
Inside Iran, advocates for reform and human rights have long pleaded for the U.S. government to keep out of Iranian affairs. After the CIA organized the coup that overthrew Iran’s democracy in 1953, Washington kept the Shah in power for a quarter century. When I was in Tehran four years ago, during the election that made Mahmoud Ahmadinejad president, what human rights activists most wanted President Bush to do was shut up.
But Bush played to the same kind of peanut gallery that is now applauding the likes of Sen. John McCain. The Bush White House denigrated the 2005 election just before the balloting began -- to the delight of the hardest-line Iranian fundamentalists. The ultra-righteous Bush rhetoric gave a significant boost to Ahmadinejad’s campaign.
Denunciations and threats from Washington are the last thing that Iran’s reform advocates want. And Iranians certainly don’t need encouragement from Uncle Sam to do what they can to bring about democratic change. Read more.
Ron Paul: International Bailout Brings Us Closer to Economic Collapse International Bailout Brings Us Closer to Economic Collapse
By Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) | InfoWars | Submitted by Phil Restino | Central Florida Veterans For Peace
Last week Congress passed the war supplemental appropriations bill. In an affront to all those who thought they voted for a peace candidate, the current president will be sending another $106 billion we don’t have to continue the bloodshed in Afghanistan and Iraq, without a hint of a plan to bring our troops home.
Many of my colleagues who voted with me as I opposed every war supplemental request under the previous administration seem to have changed their tune. I maintain that a vote to fund the war is a vote in favor of the war. Congress exercises its constitutional prerogatives through the power of the purse, and as long as Congress continues to enable these dangerous interventions abroad, there is no end in sight, that is until we face total economic collapse.
From their spending habits, an economic collapse seems to be the goal of Congress and this administration. Washington spends with impunity domestically, bailing out and nationalizing everything they can get their hands on, and the foreign aid and IMF funding in this bill can rightly be called an international bailout! Read more.
Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space wrote the following to the Times Record in Brunswick, Maine.
The national media made a big deal about President Obama killing a fly. His "I got the sucker" was even compared to a similar moment by honest Abe Lincoln.
But sadly little time in the national media is spent describing the tragic consequences to hundreds of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan who have been killed by United States unmanned aerial vehicles, or "drones" as they are popularly called.
Since 1997, every June 26 has been formally recognized as the International Day of Support for Victims of Torture. Political leaders around the globe take the occasion to proclaim their opposition to barbarism.
On June 26, 2003, President George W. Bush proudly declared: “The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment.”
This was one of the most fraudulent assertions since 1936, when the new Soviet constitution guaranteed Soviet citizens complete freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. But this “perfect constitution” did nothing to prevent Stalin from sending millions of people to their deaths in the Gulag and in front of firing squads.
Similarly, Bush’s anti-torture proclamation did nothing to stop his administration from formalizing perhaps the most brutal abuses in modern American history. Top Bush administration officials created twisted rationales to authorize simulated drowning, “walling” (throwing detainees up against a wall, repeated ad nauseam), sleep deprivation (as long as it did not last more than 11 days), head slappings, and other methods to shatter people’s will and resistance.
The fact that the Bush administration engaged in torture in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo, and secret prison sites around the world is now no longer in dispute. Unfortunately, the Obama administration is rapidly become complicit in Bush torture crimes. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
When it comes to reforming America’s disastrous health care “system,” there are two issues that need to be considered: access and cost.
The so-called reform proposals being offered by the Obama White House, the House and the Senate, are failing on both counts, and deserve to die.
No progressives should allow themselves to be suckered into promoting one or the other.
Obama's Financial Reform Proposal: A Stealth Scheme for Global Monetary Control
By Stephen Lendman
When politicians plan reform, it's wise to be skeptical and hold on to your wallets. So fixing the economy by bailing out Wall Street is wrecking it, and Obama's proposed health care reform taxes more, provides less, places profits above human need, avoids the most vital solutions, and leaves a broken system in place.
Now there's "Financial Regulatory Reform, A New Foundation: Rebuilding Financial Supervision and Regulation" - announced June 17 with Obama saying he'll send Congress a plan to create new government agencies, give the private banking cartel Federal Reserve more power, and address five major problems needing regulatory and legislative measures to fix.
Addressing business executives in the White House East Room, he said:
By Linda Milazzo
As a critic of media, in particular of cable/satellite "news," I'm troubled by American corporate-media, specifically CNN's near non-stop coverage of the turmoil in Iran. Not because the story isn't important. It's critically important and warrants the personal coverage it's getting from the Iranian people as they bypass corporate channels to tell their stories on facebook, youtube, flickr and twitter.
Thanks to Iran's tech-savvy society, old-time corporate media is now relegated to the position of new-media aggregator, whoring its visibility to co-opt the Iranian people's new-media messages to America and the world. Old-media, and specifically CNN, are learning the difficult lesson that with or without their vast resources and state of the art studios, the Iranians' stories will be told. And they'll be told to tens of millions more viewers than cable and satellite programs tend to reach.
By Dave Lindorff
Reports are starting to appear suggesting that laid-off or underemployed Americans, and the long-term unemployed, are losing patience with the Obama administration’s and Congress’ economic stimulus plan, which thus far has not done anything to arrest the growth of unemployment, now at close to 20 percent of the US workforce, at least as unemployment used to honestly be counted in the 1970s and early 1980s.
While millions of jobs have been lost since the beginning of this year alone, the number of jobs that have been created as a result of the Obama administration’s signature $780-billion stimulus spending package is under 150,000—a far cry from the 3.5 million that were promised when the bill was being put before Congress.
Instead this is what many Americans actually believe:
He's your president, not your boyfriend:
By Michael Doyle, McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is morphing into George W. Bush, as administration attorneys repeatedly adopt the executive-authority and national-security rationales that their Republican predecessors preferred.
In courtroom battles and freedom-of-information fights from Washington, D.C., to California, Obama's legal arguments repeatedly mirror Bush's: White House turf is to be protected, secrets must be retained and dire warnings are wielded as weapons.
"It's putting up a veritable wall around the White House, and it's so at odds with Obama's campaign commitment to more open government," said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a legal watchdog group.
Certainly, some differences exist.
And Now a Word from the McClatchy Columnist Who Would Go the Way of Froomkin Faster Than Froomkin If He Worked at WaPo
Obama's promise of a new beginning now hollow
By Joseph L. Galloway, McClatchy Newspapers
Who stole our change?
Who hijacked a popular uprising that was going to put a stop to business as usual in Washington, D.C.?
What happened to Barack Obama on his way to the White House?
The Republicans have been so busy trying to paint President Obama as a socialist, as a radical, as a Marxist, as a Muslim, as the Devil, that they haven't even noticed that he has become one of them.
What a difference a year can make. A year ago Barack Obama was on the campaign trail, promising an American electorate disheartened and disgusted by eight years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney that he was going to change everything if he was elected President.
Tired of waving the national security flag, Obama administration lawyers are apparently trying another tactic to get the courts to back Bush administration arguments which never worked to prevent the release of critical documents. Forget Qaeda or North Korea, late night hosts who tell jokes are why the government should retain its secrets.
"A federal judge yesterday sharply questioned an assertion by the Obama administration that former Vice President Richard B. Cheney’s statements to a special prosecutor about the Valerie Plame case must be kept secret, partly so they do not become fodder for Cheney’s political enemies or late-night commentary on The Daily Show," R. Jeffrey Smith reports for The Washington Post. Read more.
Study: 19 Ambassador Nominees Bundled $4.8 Million for President's Campaign, Inauguration
By Jake Tapper | Political Punch | ABCNews.com
If all goes according to plan, Colorado businessman Vinai Thummalapally will soon be moving to a Central American tourist paradise to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Belize.
Thummalapally was President Obama's roommate at Occidental College in 1979. As Barbara and Vinai Thummalapally described it to the Colorado Springs Gazette, they "used to party with (the president) in college. He was the guy who'd drink a few beers, maybe take a toke, stay up until 4 a.m. then excuse himself to crank out an 'A' paper due that morning. ... He was Barry, the mellow guy in the leather jacket, dragging on a cigarette." Read more.
U.S. Fortifies Hawaii’s Defenses Against North Korean Arms
By Thom Shanker | NYTimes
efense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced Thursday that he had ordered the military to deploy missile interceptors and radar to protect Hawaii from a North Korean long-range rocket.
The defense secretary’s disclosure came as Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the military’s commitment to “vigorously enforce” the latest United Nations Security Council resolution on North Korea’s nuclear program. But he declined to confirm reports provided by other Pentagon officials that the military was tracking a North Korean freighter suspected of carrying banned materials. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
The Obama administration and the Congressional Democrats are finally hitting the inevitable wall that was bound to confront them because of the president’s congenital inability to be a bold leader, and because of the party’s toxic decades-old decision to betray its working class New Deal base in favor of wholesale corporate whoredom.
The wall is health care reform, which both Barack Obama and the Democratic Party had hoped would be the ticket for them to ride to victory in the 2010 Congressional elections and the 2012 presidential election.
But you cannot achieve the twin goals of reducing health care costs and providing access to health care to 50 million uninsured people, while leaving the profit centers of the current system—doctors, hospitals and the health insurance industry—in charge and in a position to continue to reap profits.
Legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas made an exclusive appearance on the Ron Reagan Show to talk about presidents past and present, Iran, health care, and other topics. She likes most of Obama's work thus far, but thinks his positions on Iraq and Afghanistan are larded with Dubya. LISTEN HERE.