Archive for May 27th, 2011

May 27, 2011

Leading Up To HP 7 Part II

by thefulllidvmg

TDW:

With less than 50 days to go until HP7 part II hits theaters, YouTuber Genrocks of Filmography 2010 fame employs her unique editing skills to take a pensieve look back at a decade of Harry Potter films in a special retrospective featuring clips from all eight films set to a mashup of dredg and John Williams’ “Hedwig’s Theme.”

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May 27, 2011

Floating Chicago

by thefulllidvmg
May 27, 2011

The PATRIOT Act Stays Alive, Ctd

by thefulllidvmg

Obama signed the extensions while he was in France. I can imagine the old timers complaining that the “founding fathers” did not intend for the POTUS to sign laws via autopen:

Look at the relevant section of Article I, Section 7:

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated,

Was the bill “presented” to the President? Well, according to the media reports he reviewed it so most likely a copy was transmitted to him in Europe.

Did he “sign” it? Is signing via electronic device from thousands of miles away what the Founders had in mind? Probably not, but they probably also didn’t have ball point pens in mind either. It isn’t the means of signing that’s the issue but the manner and, in this case, the cause for concern should be that at a document is “signed” by the President without him actually being in the room, or the country. It may be Constitutional, but I hope they turn the machine off at night so someone isn’t granting pardons under the rug.

May 27, 2011

Questions For Obama

by thefulllidvmg

Ezra Klein has a few scathing ones for our POTUS:

1. You have repeatedly lauded the economy of the Clinton years, yet in a time of high and mounting deficits, you want to make most of the Bush tax cuts permanent. Economically speaking, what makes you believe the Clinton-era tax rates are too high?

4. The main differences between your budget and the Simpson-Bowles report is that your budget raises less in taxes and cuts less in defense spending. Why were those decisions made?

5. You’ve talked frequently about the need to “win the future” through new investments and initiatives. But unlike the budgets proposed by the House Progressives or Andy Stern or EPI, Demos and the Century Foundation, there’s nothing in your budget that specifically commits to any such investments, nor any particular funding source dedicated to them. If these investments are so important, why not build them into your budget? Why accept the framework that this discussion should be entirely about cuts?

May 27, 2011

More on the 1967 Borders

by thefulllidvmg

A long, detailed explanation that may be helpful.

May 27, 2011

The Many Nuances of the Arab Spring

by thefulllidvmg

Jeffrey Goldberg at TheAtlantic has a fine piece in this month’s issue on the many shades of the Arab Spring revolutions and how America fits into that mix. It is worth a full read but I will give my thoughts:

Throughout his piece, Goldberg delves into the matchstick nation that started the Arab Spring: Tunisia. He also explores the nuanced group, The Muslim Brotherhood, and how he is unsure whether they are good for the future of many Arab nations post-Arab Spring.

Ben Ali’s (former leader of Tunisia) wife, Leïla Trabelsi, an arriviste hairdresser who would dispatch government airplanes to Saint-Tropez for shopping trips, carried herself as if she were the uncrowned queen of Carthage. Her daughter and son-in-law maintained a mansion of extraordinary size and tackiness on the Mediterranean, whose grounds included a very Uday Hussein–esque enclosure for a pet tiger named Pasha. On at least one occasion they sent a government aircraft to Europe to fetch their favorite frozen yogurt. Before they fled to Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali and his wife reportedly looted the Central Bank, taking as much as a ton and a half of gold bullion. All told, the family may have stolen billions of dollars from the treasury. Thirty percent of young people in Tunisia are unemployed.

One of the main threads in this piece is the careful picking and choosing of who America sides and supports and who it leaves behind. I wondered about this in a previous post but Goldberg does a good job exploring these tough questions:

And of course, American diplomats understood that there was utility for the United States in maintaining close relations with Ben Ali. Like Mubarak (and even the late-stage Qaddafi, who enjoyed a several-year period of détente with the U.S.), Ben Ali was a foe of Islamic radicalism, and his intelligence services provided not-inconsequential help in the American campaign against al-Qaeda. “Whenever we raised issues of political freedom or corruption, the answers were always the stock answers: ‘We’re threatened by the Islamist party, we’re facing extremists, you Americans don’t understand that we’re your only true friends.’”

Of course, various American administrations, embracing the “realist” notion that stability in Middle East countries brought about through repression could be maintained in perpetuity, accepted Ben Ali’s self-interested analysis of his centrality to the struggle against terrorism, even though Tunisia has the most secular of North Africa’s populations, and one of the most highly educated.

The Jordanian monarchy represents the sort of regime the United States finds itself defending. It is not the most difficult regime in the Middle East to defend—throughout the early stages of the Arab revolt, Bahrain’s royal family, engaged in the often violent suppression of the country’s Shia majority, was the problem child of the American monarchy-maintenance program—but Jordan is still governed in a manner inconsistent with the spirit of Tahrir Square, a spirit appropriated by President Obama and Secretary Clinton whenever they speak of the Arab desire for democracy.

Hillary Clinton, as one would expect, doesn’t think much of the charge that the administration is engaged in a sustained campaign of hypocrisy. As the administration’s point person on the entire set of issues roiling the Middle East, she is perceived in dramatically divergent ways. In Cairo, many democracy activists believe she was overly coddling of Mubarak; at the same time, she is the object of an intense lobbying campaign by leaders of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, who fear, according to ambassadors and foreign ministers I have spoken with, that she has become some sort of moralizing neoconservative. One Gulf official I spoke with asked me earnestly if Paul Wolfowitz, the leading neoconservative theoretician of the previous presidency, was now serving as her adviser. I mentioned to Clinton that she is seen in some quarters as a kind of wild-eyed Wolfowitz. “Oh, no, not that!” she said. “Call me wild-eyed, but not that.”

When I asked her how she squares the inconsistency—working to build democracies in some countries while keeping incompetent monarchs on their thrones in others—she rejected its very existence.

“I wouldn’t accept the premise,” she said. “I think we believe in the same values and principles, full stop. We believe that countries should empower their people. We believe that people should have certain universal rights. We believe that there are certain economic systems that work better for the vast majority of people than other systems. I think we’re very consistent.”

The U.S. needs to work with the monarchies to help them stay ahead of the unrest brewing in their kingdoms, Clinton said, but even if they don’t take American advice—and she was adamant (and the record does, in fact, show) that Hosni Mubarak was offered a great deal of advice that he consistently ignored—the administration will live with what she refuses to see as inconsistencies.

“We live in the real world, and there are lots of countries that we deal with because we have interests in common, we have certain security issues that we are both looking at,” she said. “Obviously, in the Middle East, Iran is an overwhelming challenge to all of us. We do business with a lot of countries whose economic systems or political systems are not ones we would design or choose to live under. We encourage consistently, both publicly and privately, reform and the protection of human rights. But we don’t walk away from dealing with China because we think they have a deplorable human-rights record. We don’t walk away from Saudi Arabia.”

I noted that the Chinese seem frightened by the possibility that the forces unleashed by the suicide of a Tunisian peddler could reach Tiananmen Square. “They’re worried,” she said. “They’re trying to stop history, which is a fool’s errand. They cannot do it, but they’re going to hold it off as long as possible.”

If it is true, to cite one of President Obama’s favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotations, that the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice; and if it is true that history will sooner or later catch up with the Chinese Communist Party, then why isn’t it also true that history will soon catch up with a collection of superannuated desert monarchs? The answer came, elliptically, when I asked Clinton whether she would be sad to see the disappearance of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Not long ago, Clinton had been criticized for suggesting that Assad himself might be a “reformer,” though she acknowledges that Assad is anti-American in some very consequential ways (and not only in his service to Iran). “Depends on what replaces it,” she said, her answer combining disdain for Assad with a realpolitik understanding that some things out there are, despite the promise of the Arab Spring, potentially more dangerous to U.S. interests than certain dictatorships. For people who have known only dictatorship and who yearn for democracy, this is a hard swallow.

Striking this balance—understanding when the United States absolutely must support leaders it dislikes intensely—will remain the key foreign-policy challenge for the Obama administration, and perhaps its successors, in the coming years.


Now, on to the Muslim Brotherhood. I at first wasn’t down on them. I thought the revolution in Egypt that ousted Mubarak was good. However, I am having seconds thoughts:

The Muslim Brotherhood is a global organization with autonomous branches, some more radical than others (the terrorist group Hamas, in Gaza, is a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, for instance). There is a diversity of opinion, but those who affiliate with the Brotherhood believe, generally, in the primacy of Muslim law; in the supremacy of Islam; and in the idea that women and men should play their traditional roles in society. They also tend to believe that the West (and Israel, the country they consider a Western outpost in the Middle East) seeks, through conspiracy, to undermine their way of life. American analysts are spending a great deal of time studying the Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere (the Brotherhood’s Jordan branch, the Islamic Action Front, is that country’s most potent opposition political force), and there is some debate, in and out of administration circles, about the true views of the organization, especially in Egypt. Since the Arab revolution began, the Muslim Brotherhood has shown signs of fracturing along ideological lines, but its leaders have proved somewhat adept at playing politics, particularly that aspect of politics in which hard questions are ducked.

It is worth remembering, particularly at a time when the Muslim Brotherhood is attempting to soften its image, that the group’s essential platform remains unchanged. The Muslim Brotherhood’s avowed creed is “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Quran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

I asked Clinton whether she worried about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology, particularly as it related to the future of women in the Arab Middle East. “Well, I think we don’t know enough yet to understand exactly what they’re morphing into. For me, the jury is out,” she said. “There are some Islamist elements that are coming to the surface in Egypt that I think, on just the face of it—they’re coming out of jails, coming out of the shadows—are inimical to a democracy, to the kind of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience that was the aspiration of Tahrir Square.”

This was, if anything, an even more measured answer than one expects from Clinton. But in this fluid period, when there is a reasonable chance—not a large one, but still a reasonable one—that the Muslim Brotherhood might splinter, or perhaps even find itself in vigorous competition with more-secular-minded parties, Clinton and Obama recognize that the Brotherhood could turn harsh American criticism into a campaign advantage, particularly among more rural, poorly educated, and traditionalist voters.

Finally, neo-conservative nation building under the frame of democracy seems to be the outlook of America towards the world. I never would have thought Hillary Clinton to buy into this, but then again it might not be a bad policy in some ways:

“What I want to see is the freedom to choose,” Clinton said. “My model would be our own country. Women are able to dress as they choose in accordance with their own personal desires, and I would like to see this available for women everywhere, so that there is no compulsion.” The Obama administration has maintained a flexible, even positive, attitude about the hijab (unlike the French government, which sees covered women, and particularly fully veiled women, as a threat to the country’s national security, and to its cultural identity). In a speech delivered in Cairo in 2009, President Obama, in the course of attempting to reset America’s relations with the Muslim world, even boasted of America’s tolerance for the hijab:

 Freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union … That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

This particular assertion in the Cairo speech was not met with joy by some Middle Eastern women’s-rights activists I spoke with at the time, women who believed that the U.S. should do nothing to celebrate the hijab—something that many Muslim women hope to shed when they come to America.

When Clinton talked to me about the hijab, however, she made clear that an attempt to pressure women in any way to cover themselves—anything on “the continuum of compulsion”—would represent a red line for her. “When people start to say that there are certain things that women should not be permitted to do, and the only way we can stop them is pass laws, like you can’t drive in Saudi Arabia, or you can’t vote … that’s a red line, and that infringes on the rights of women. Therefore I am against it. Any society in the 21st century that is looking toward modernization, and certainly [any society] claiming to be democratic, needs to protect the right to make these choices.”

This was a blunt message, delivered, quite obviously, in the direction of conservative religious forces; the secretary of state, correctly, sees the forced imposition of the hijab as a proxy for the ascendance of fundamentalist Islamism. So I asked her about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and of parties espousing ideologies similar to that of the Brotherhood. As winter turned to spring, it was becoming clear in Egypt that the Brotherhood, whose strength was downplayed by most Western commentators during the early days of the revolt in Egypt, was emerging as a power broker of surpassing importance.

On my most recent visit to the Middle East, I traveled from country to country asking essentially the same question of many different people: How could the United States best serve the interests of democracy and stability? Not a single person I spoke with believed that America was in decline; to a person, everyone agreed that American power was potent. Salafists believed it was potent and malevolent; secular democracy activists believed it could be marshaled benevolently. The most eloquent answer came from Ali Salem, a free-thinking Egyptian playwright whose plays and essays were periodically banned by the ancien régime. I met Salem in a café in the Mohandessin neighborhood of Cairo, on the west bank of the Nile. While we talked, various cartoonists, columnists, and Libyan resistance leaders joined us. Salem is an unusual figure, even among democracy activists in Cairo—he is frankly Americaphilic, in part because he was brought to the United States as a young man through a State Department visitors program. He was bursting with ideas about the roles the U.S. could play in the Middle East—in education, in agriculture, but mainly in teaching leaders about how power corrupts, and about building political systems that resist that corruption. “I believe you have a great thing,” he said. “The great thing is, you have a president for four or eight years, and then out. If you are an enemy of the minister of culture and he bans your plays, you will be banned for only four or eight years. The beautiful idea is to limit the damage one human being can do to another. It’s a beautiful idea. Do you know how beautiful it is?”

This all does come with an ironic contradiction (thanks to Joe Lieberman and John McCain for the example):

En route to Tunis, I had stopped off in Jordan, where I paid a visit to the royal palace. Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman had passed through a few weeks earlier, to see King Abdullah II. Their visit, I quickly learned, was simultaneously a source of bemusement and irritation for the Jordanian government. The two senators, of course, advocate an assertive foreign policy, and both are associated with neoconservative striving for robust and quick democratization of the Middle East. “They came in and said that Jordan should open up its political space for more parties, and be more aggressive about democratization within the parameters of a constitutional monarchy,” a senior Jordanian official told me. “And then they said, ‘But whatever you do, don’t allow the Muslim Brotherhood to gain more power.’ So they want us to be open and closed at the same time.”

May 27, 2011

Some Reading For The Rapture That Wasn’t

by thefulllidvmg

Hearts and Minds has some great ones. Money quote (but there are so many to pick when reading their stuff!):

I think we have regrets about the weekend End fiasco because, as Gabe Lyons nicely put it on Good Morning America, this stuff distracts us from our real purpose and work, from being busy serving God and neighbor.  Some evangelicals (although actually fewer than you might think, I’d say) have allowed end-times speculations, bizarre interpretation of Daniel and Revelation, and weird methods of counting of numbers and names in the Bible to determine who the anti-Christ might be, to distract them from serious missional engagement.  I hate to sound snide about it–and I pray that I do not–but sometimes when well-meaning customers come in the story asking for books of “prophecy” (like is American in the ends times, a la John Haggee, say) I direct them to Haggai commentaries.  Spend some time with Amos or Habakkuk, I sometimes suggest, if you want prophecy. Eugene Peterson’s wonderful and slightly revised Run With the Horses(IVP; $15.00) is a fabulously rich and easy-to-read set of meditations on Jeremiah.   God’s prophets spoke into their times, calling for social reform and holiness and justice and cultural repentance, they didn’t just invite people to try to predict the future. How can we help folks get that?

May 27, 2011

Long Read of the Day

by thefulllidvmg

OutdoorLife magazine has an exclusive interview with Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

May 27, 2011

America, Israel, and God’s Hand

by thefulllidvmg

“You take away the money from Israel? No. That’s something we can’t do. Do I like foreign aid? Sometimes, but not every time. Don’t like giving money to our enemies, but I love giving money to Israel. And so there’s a picture there that people realize that, we stop helping Israel, we lose God’s hand and we’re in big time trouble,” – Congressman Dan Webster (R-FL).

Mind you, we give $2.4 billion per year to Israel. Some necessary background info for the newly informed:

Webster’s religious argument for assisting Israel echos the belief of Christian Zioniststhat Israel will play a central role in the apocalyptic end-times. One interpretation of the Bible, held by a large portion of Christian evangelicals, is that the return of Jesusrequires that Jews control the “Holy Land.” Over the last two decades, both Israeli lobbyists and right-wing Christians have harnessed this growing belief to build support for Israeli government actions and for unchecked taxpayer assistance to the Israeli military.

May 27, 2011

The Ed Schultz Quote

by thefulllidvmg

“President Obama is going to be visiting Joplin, Mo., on Sunday but you know what they’re talking about, like this right-wing slut, what’s her name? Laura Ingraham? Yeah, she’s a talk slut. You see, she was, back in the day, praising President Reagan when he was drinking a beer overseas. But now that Obama’s doing it, they’re working him over,” - Ed Schultz. MSNBC suspends him.

Update: Schultz says he’s sorry, in a “rare, deeply sincere apology from the realm of mainstream media.”

H/T: The Dish

May 27, 2011

Libraries Crumble

by thefulllidvmg

Charles Simic laments:

All across the United States, large and small cities are closing public libraries or curtailing their hours of operations. Detroit, I read a few days ago, may close all of its branches and Denver half of its own: decisions that will undoubtedly put hundreds of its employees out of work. When you count the families all over this country who don’t have computers or can’t afford Internet connections and rely on the ones in libraries to look for jobs, the consequences will be even more dire. People everywhere are unhappy about these closings, and so are mayors making the hard decisions. But with roads and streets left in disrepair, teachers, policemen and firemen being laid off, and politicians in both parties pledging never to raise taxes, no matter what happens to our quality of life, the outlook is bleak. “The greatest nation on earth,” as we still call ourselves, no longer has the political will to arrest its visible and precipitous decline and save the institutions on which the workings of our democracy depend.

I see this when I am at the library in York. Scores of grown adults and kids do not have computers at home and rely strongly on their 2 hours allotted to them a day to look for jobs, work on schoolwork, and yes a fair amount of time set aside to watch YouTube videos.

Once I started to enjoy reading, libraries became my new toy store. Free books, so many services and resources at your fingertips (secondary language services, such as Rosetta Stone, are there to use and others are available to check out) and more all there and paid for by our tax dollars.

Simic makes a few more points worth noting:

This was just the start. Over the years I thoroughly explored many libraries, big and small, discovering numerous writers and individual books I never knew existed, a number of them completely unknown, forgotten, and still very much worth reading. No class I attended at the university could ever match that. Even libraries in overseas army bases and in small, impoverished factory towns in New England had their treasures, like long-out of print works of avant-garde literature and hard-boiled detective stories of near-genius.

Wherever I found a library, I immediately felt at home. Empty or full, it pleased me just as much. A boy and a girl doing their homework and flirting; an old woman in obvious need of a pair of glasses squinting at a dog-eared issue of The New Yorker; a prematurely gray-haired man writing furiously on a yellow pad surrounded by pages of notes and several open books with some kind of graphs in them; and, the oddest among the lot, a balding elderly man in an elegant blue pinstripe suit with a carefully tied red bow tie, holding up and perusing a slim, antique-looking volume with black covers that could have been poetry, a religious tract, or something having to do with the occult. It’s the certainty that such mysteries lie in wait beyond its doors that still draws me to every library I come across.

Pictured: a library established by Andrew Carnegie.

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May 27, 2011

Beware of Metaphors

by thefulllidvmg

Metaphors and imagery can be great tools for communicating. They also can be abused by pundits and invective slingers. Here is a stunning story on this when related to crime. A study: “the researchers asked 482 students to read one of two reports about crime in the City of Addison. Later, they had to suggest solutions for the problem. In the first report, crime was described as a “wild beast preying on the city” and “lurking in neighborhoods”.

The outcomes?

After reading these words, 75% of the students put forward solutions that involved enforcement or punishment, such as building more jails or even calling in the military for help. Only 25% suggested social reforms such as fixing the economy, improving education or providing better health care. The second report was exactly the same, except it described crime as a “virus infecting the city” and “plaguing” communities. After reading this version, only 56% opted for great law enforcement, while 44% suggested social reforms.

However, they found that the harsh wording didn’t necessarily derive draconian ideas for solutions or thoughts:

The researchers also discovered that the words themselves do not wield much influence without the right context. When Thibodeau and Boroditsky asked participants to come up with synonyms for either “beast” or “virus”before reading identical crime reports, they provided similar solutions for solving the city’s problems. In other words, the metaphors only worked if they framed the story. If, however, they appeared at the end of the report, they didn’t have any discernable effect. It seems that when it comes to the potency of metaphor, context is king.

May 27, 2011

If the Drug War Killed a U.S. Soldier, Would You Oppose It?

by thefulllidvmg

Well, it did:

As the SWAT team forced its way into his home, [Jose] Guerena, a former Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq, armed himself with his AR-15 rifle and told his wife and son to hide in a closet. As the officers entered, Guerena confronted them from the far end of a long, dark hallway. The police opened fire, releasing more than 70 rounds in about 7 seconds, at least 60 of which struck Guerena. He was pronounced dead a little over an hour later.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department initially claimed (PDF) Guerena fired his weapon at the SWAT team. They now acknowledge that not only did he not fire, the safety on his gun was still activated when he was killed. Guerena had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.

This is insane. Herman Cain offers no clear, original, or seemingly plausible solutions to this war. Are there any?

May 27, 2011

Obama, Netanyahu, and 2012

by thefulllidvmg

Obama’s non-original stance on Israel/Palestine has sent shockwaves through the wingnut regions of America. This may not seem that big of a deal to the rationally minded, but this may hurt Obama’s 2012 campaign:

Billionaire financier Haim Saban told CNBC last night that Obama hasn’t done enough to show support for Israel. He also said that he has no plans to contribute to the president’s campaign …

There have been reports that Obama is losing Jewish support after his clash with Prime Minister Netanyahu last week, but this development is the most significant so far. If a key donor like Saban has decided to break with the president, then there are likely others who will follow suit.

Steve Rosen, director of the Washington office of the Middle East Forum, and a former AIPAC official, said that this is part of a trend of Democrats rejecting Obama’s policy toward Israel. “It’s not happening in isolation. It’s happening in a context in which Harry Reid broke with the president in the last two days,” Rosen told me. “I think that Saban is another step in that direction.”

May 27, 2011

Darth Vader Salsa Trombone Entertainment

by thefulllidvmg

This is epic:

Just another day at the Andrew Jackson Senior Center in Bronx, NY

May 27, 2011

Picture of the Day

by thefulllidvmg

Pictured: The path of a powerful tornado is seen in Joplin, Missouri, Tuesday, May 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

May 27, 2011

Gary Johnson Meets GOP Unreason

by thefulllidvmg

Sigh:

As governor, Mr Johnson showed that a non-ideological, pragmatic libertarianism can work as a governing philosophy. But neither full-blooded libertarians nor allegedly liberty-loving tea-party enthusiasts really care much about governing. Libertarians, accustomed to dwelling on the margins of American politics, participate in elections without hope of electoral success, if they participate at all. For them, presidential campaigns offer at best an occasion to preach the libertarian gospel to the wary public, and the more table-pounding the better.

Another sigh:

Johnson’s style – relaxed, calm, patient – is ill-suited to the times. His principles and beliefs challenge conservatives and liberals alike while offering nothing to the nationalist rassentiment that pervades the Republican party these days. Ron Paul’s movement is, fundamentally, based on emotion; Johnson makes the mistake of trying to appeal to reason. That won’t work this year.

Gary Johnson by far is not the perfect candidate in my eyes but he looks better to me than Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Hermain Cain, and Ron Paul. The again, those aforementioned have just about the same chance (not much) of winning the nomination.

May 27, 2011

Awesome People Together tumblr

by thefulllidvmg

A pretty cool tumblr theme.

Pictured: Charles Bukowski and Mickey Rourke

May 27, 2011

America’s Moral Acceptance of Same-Sex Marriage

by thefulllidvmg

And this is why many fundamentalists say we are doomed as a country. Money quote:

Americans are somewhat less likely to consider gay or lesbian relations to be morally acceptable than to say they should be legal. However, the 56% who consider gay or lesbian relations morally acceptable is the highest Gallup has measured since this question was first asked in 2001.

May 27, 2011

The PATRIOT Act Stays Alive

by thefulllidvmg

This was a bill that was anathema to the Democratic party. It now has bipartisan support. Crazy. Some are even calling this secret bill more secret than we even know.


This law has its objectors. One to mention is Senator Rand Paul. He is basically met with this rhetoric about patriotism: 

Paul and the other dissenting Senators better give up their objections and submit to quick Patriot Act passageor else they’ll have blood on their hands from the Terrorist attack they will cause.  That, of course, was the classic Bush/Cheney tactic for years to pressure Democrats into supporting every civil-liberties-destroying measure the Bush White House demanded (including, of course, the original Patriot Act itself), and now we have the Democrats — ensconced in power — using it just as brazenly and shamelessly (recall how Bush’s DNI, Michael McConnell, warned Congressional Democrats in 2007 that unless they quickly passed without changes the new FISA bill the Bush White House was demanding, a Terrorist attack would likely occur at the Congress in a matter of “days, not weeks”; McConnell then told The New Yorker: “If we don’t update FISA, the nation is significantly at risk”). Feinstein learned well.

Greenwald challenges the myth that there is no bipartisanship in Congress.

So when they were out of power, the Democrats reviled the Patriot Act and constantly complained about fear-mongering tactics and exploitation of the Terrorist threat being used to stifle civil liberties and privacy concerns.  Now that they’re in power and a Democratic administration is arguing for extension of the Patriot Act, they use fear-mongering tactics and exploitation of the Terrorist threat to stifle civil liberties and privacy concerns (“If somebody wants to take on their shoulders not having provisions in place which are necessary to protect the United States at this time, that’s a big, big weight to bear,” warned Feinstein).  And they’re joined in those efforts by the vast majority of the GOP caucus.  Remember, though:  there is no bipartisanship in Washington, the parties are constantly at each other’s throats, and they don’t agree on anything significant, and thus can’t get anything done.  If only that were true.

I would add bipartisan support for Israel to that short list.

Herman Cain’s take on security issues here and Julian Sanchez explains that much of the PATRIOT act would continue on even if parts of it expired.

Conor Friedersdorf explains why this matters to us and brings Barack Obama into the mix:

Contrary to the misleading reassurances of PATRIOT Act apologists, some provisions of the legislation aren’t merely likely to be abused by law enforcement in the future — they’ve already led to civil liberties violations, many of them documented circa 2009 by the Justice Department. Through National Security Letters, for example, law enforcement is permitted to obtain sensitive information from the banks, phone companies and Internet service providers of any American citizen. The FBI doesn’t need a warrant to request this private data, and the target of the snooping needn’t even be suspected of any connection with terrorism! More than 6,000 Americans were spied on in this manner during 2009 (the most recent year data is available), and the federal government has itself documented flagrant FBI abuses. All that’s missing is a desire to fix the problem. There are plenty of other objectionable PATRIOT ACT sections too: the “lone wolf” provision, roving wiretapsSection 215 notices. All are worthy of study, especially since now the American people won’t learn more about them through a Congressional debate.

President Obama’s support for this latest re-authorization matters because it bears on a central promise of his candidacy. During Election 2008, he made it seem as though a vote for him would signify and end to the Bush Administration’s excesses in the war on terrorism: its tendency to needlessly sacrifice civil liberties even when less intrusive measures were sufficient, its disdain for checks and balances on executive authority, its habit of using scare tactics to insist that national security legislation be passed quickly and without a debate. Hope. Change. Those were the slogans. They weren’t about getting Osama bin Laden, nice as that was.

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