Good Morning Conflucians!! It’s Monday again.
It sounds kind of funny to call this a slow news day with everything that is going on. Of course the earthquake in Chile is still big news. Troops in Chile are trying to prevent thirsty or starving people from “looting” grocery stores in order to survive. According to the BBC story, Chile’s president is appealing for international help to feed people, but God forbid they should get any of the food that is sitting around in Chilean grocery stores.
I guess the reason it feels like a slow news day to me is that, while there are lots of depressing and even dramatic events happening around the country and the world, the people who should be making changes happen in Washington, D.C. are doing nothing except make things worse.
Last Thursday, President Obama gave his trademark “sneaky middle finger” to Republicans at his fake “health care summit.”
Or was that just his way of letting all of us ordinary Americans know what he thinks of us?
Also on Thursday, Congress reauthorized the Patriot Act, extending some provisions that were set to expire. President Obama signed the bill into law on Saturday night when his cowardly act would be least likely to be noticed. From the ACLU website:
The House today passed a one-year extension of three expiring Patriot Act provisions without making much-needed changes to the overly broad surveillance bill. The provisions of the Patriot Act which were extended – the John Doe roving wiretap provision, Section 215 or the “library records” provision and the never before used “lone wolf” provision – all lack proper privacy safeguards. The Senate passed the extension by voice vote late last night.
“Congress refuses to make reforming the Patriot Act a priority and continues to punt this crucial issue down the road,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Once again, we have missed an opportunity to put the proper civil liberties and privacy protections into this bill. Congress should respect the rule of law and should have taken this opportunity to better protect the privacy and freedom of innocent Americans. We shouldn’t have to live under these unconstitutional provisions for another year.”
And a more to the point piece at the ACLU Blog of Rights provides a list of some of the provisions that have been extended:
Both the House and Senate had bills that would have improved the Patriot Act. The Senate bill even had the support of the White House. But instead of passing the much-needed reforms, Congress:
•Reauthorized Section 206, the “roving wiretap” provision that allows the FBI to wiretap a phone without having to provide the target’s name or even phone number. And unlike other law enforcement agencies, the FBI doesn’t even have to get permission to tap the specific phone before they tap it. The House bill would have required the government to name either the person or the place it wanted to tap.
•Reauthorized Section 6001, a.k.a. the “lone wolf” provision. Section 6001 authorizes the government to get secret surveillance orders against individuals who are not associated with any international terrorist group or foreign nation. This handy-dandy tool in the FBI’s arsenal isn’t so handy—according to the Justice Department, it’s never been used.
•Reauthorized Section 215, a.k.a. the “library provision”: Section 215 lowers the bar on the standard of proof needed to get a court order to access private info. Before Patriot, “specific and articulable facts” showing that the target of surveillance was the agent of a foreign power was required. After Patriot, Section 215 allows the FBI to only claim that the items or information sought is relevant to an investigation. That means the person being surveilled doesn’t necessarily have to be the target of the investigation or even be suspected of involvement in terrorism. (It’s called the Fourth Amendment, Congress. Read it sometime.)
In addition to the above expiring provisions that were reauthorized, sorely needed reform to the National Security Letter statute was also kicked to the curb. Under the original Patriot Act, the government can collect the records of innocent people whenever it deems them “relevant” to an investigation – without any oversight by an impartial court.
If the Patriot Act hadn’t been approved for another year, Sunday would have looked much different.
Sunday could have meant the government was no longer given permission to wiretap the phones of Americans and seize their records and property.
But since the bill was approved by Congressional Democrats earlier this week and signed into law by President Obama on Saturday, this Sunday is just another Sunday for Americans living with the Patriot Act.
From Alternet: Patriot Act 2010: As it Was Written, So it Shall Be Done
Back in 2005, then-Senator Barack Obama had this to say opposing The Patriot Act when it came up then for reauthorization: “We do not have to settle for a Patriot Act that sacrifices our liberties or our safety. We can have one that secures both.”
Throughout his entire presidential campaign, Obama often railed against the Act, criticizing it giving authorization for the Bush administration to secretly spy on U.S. citizens, illegally and unconstitutionally and with little or no judicial or congressional oversight.
He pledged that he would institute “robust” checks and balances if he got elected, explicitly promising to overturn its unconstitutional sneak-and-peek provisions toward citizens not even suspected of a crime. “Warrantless surveillance of American citizens, in defiance of FISA, is unlawful and unconstitutional,” he said.
Guess what Obots? Obama lied and you fell for it.
Yesterday some TC’ers were watching and commenting on George Soros’ interview on CNN. Here’s a summary of Soros’ pontifications at the Wall Street Journal this morning:
Billionaire investor George Soros, who helped U.S. President Barack Obama raise money for his presidential campaign in 2008, said Sunday he wasn’t happy with Mr. Obama’s handling of the financial crisis.
Mr. Soros said the government should have taken over U.S. banks instead of bailing them out, a move he suggested would have been more popular with Americans.
“The solution that he found to the financial crisis, which was to effectively bail out the banks and allow them to earn their way out of the hole, was, in my opinion, not the right solution,” Mr. Soros said in an interview with CNN. “He should have compulsorily replaced the capital that was lost.”
But, Soros points out, it won’t stop him from making money as usual–it’s just us ordinary folks that are screwed. Ho-hum….
Ordinary folks like Richard Jones.
Chicago Sun-Times: Unemployment benefits for many expire today
Richard Jones of Brookfield spent four months in Louisiana helping communities rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Now, he needs a little help himself, but a lone U.S. senator is blocking the way.
Jones, 29, is among the 15,000 Illinoisans whose unemployment benefits expire today because of a filibuster by U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) Bunning is using Senate rules to block a vote to fund extended benefits for people nationwide who have exhausted the basic 26 weeks of coverage.
Even with an unemployment check, it has been hard to make ends meet, said Jones, a former trucking supervisor jobless since January 2009. “All my savings is gone,” he said. “If I hurt myself, I can’t even go to the doctor.”
Jones has a bachelor’s degree in urban planning, which he put to use working with a private contractor on post-Katrina rebuilding in 2005. Nowadays, he said, he has a hard time getting callbacks despite an incessant job hunt.
But who cares, right? As long as Goldman Sachs is happy, all’s right with the world.
Meanwhile, from Raw Story, Senator John Kyl (R-Arizona) defends Senator Bunning’s FU to desperate unemployed Americans.
“All Senator Bunning was saying quite correctly is it ought to be paid for,” Sen. Jon Kyl told Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
And, Raw Story reports, Senator Bunning (often rumored to be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease) responded to critics.
Republican Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) on Thursday night expressed his opposition to renewing unemployment benefits on the Senate floor with an unusually harsh message for its backers: “Tough shit.”
It’s a nightmare. But what is being done about it? Nothing much.
Look at the mess. Evictions – I’m a child of Great Depression furniture-thrown-on-the-street – are skyrocketing. Mortgage holders are in a feeding frenzy on their hapless fellow citizens. Michelle Obama lectures us on obesity while one in eight Americans (and one in four children) are on federal food stamps. The human toll of long term, more-or-less permanent unemployment is yet to be counted as millions of Americans are pushed out of the middle class and become the “new poor” queueing up at food banks for the first time in their lives.
Those who do vent and get angry are put down as crackpots, which they sometimes are. But the so-called left seems to have joined the mainstream (and even the radical) media in under- or mis- or never-reporting what’s actually happening in the lives of so many of us. Like Obama, Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic party establishment we’ve forfeited real gut language in favor of policy abstractions, the “issues” syndrome, that so easily hide an open wound. Joe Stack, who rammed his Piper Cherokee into the IRS building in Austin, Texas, murdering an IRS worker and injuring many, was one maladjusted injustice collector. But his online 3000-word suicide note, a long-repressed scream of protest, has the virtue of unminced words we are never likely to hear from anyone in Washington or a state capitol. “When the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die.”
Finally, I enjoyed this piece on the recent Killer Whale attack, also at Counterpunch.
Call him, just for now, Spartacus. He was two years old when the slavers captured him in 1982 and hauled him off to Oak Bay, near the town of Victoria, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, in the far Canadian west. And there he met his fellow slaves, Nootka and Haida. Day after day, in slave school they learned their tricks. Day after day, they did their act for the paying customers. And then, on February 20, 1991, in the tank operated by Sealand of the Pacific, the three struck back at their captors.
Okay, not Spartacus, but an orca whale – Tillikum, the one who drowned 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau last Wednesday in the Shamu tank, at SeaWorld, Orlando, after grabbing her by her ponytail. Tillikum was caught off Iceland. Nootka and Haida, both females, were seized in the Pacific. In fact, Nootka was the third orca by that name to be bought by Sealand. The first two died within a year of their capture. At that time, enslaved orcas had a life expectancy in captivity of anywhere from one to four years. These days they do a bit better. In wild waters, orcas live to be anywhere from 30 to 60.
Free the Killer Whales!
So what are you reading this morning?
Despite all the bad news, HAVE A MARVELOUS MONDAY!!!!!