Before their recess for the July 4th holiday, the U.S. House rejected what has, for decades, been largely a no-brainer for the United States Congress: the federal farm subsidies bill.
This year, however, with a Congress as dysfunctional as it has ever been, even that legislative "gimme" has been stymied, for now, by the far Right Republican caucus hoping to slash even more of the food stamp benefits included the bill, and by progressive Democrats furious about cuts to the federal food assistance program that the GOP-controlled House already managed to write into it.
Before the break, the bill was defeated by a 195 to 234 vote margin in what served as a humiliating embarrassment for House Speaker John Boehner. But the $939 billion bill --- which includes both subsidies to farmers (mostly to "Big Ag") and federal food stamp program appropriations --- will soon be coming back, whether Boehner likes it or not.
And, before its return, the hypocrisy embedded in the "Tea Party" caucus' opposition to the bill needs to be highlighted. That hypocrisy is almost certainly best exemplified by one Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN).
Even the ordinarily staid New York Times was taken aback by the level of Fincher's hypocrisy that emerged when he quoted the Bible as justification for slashing food stamp benefits for the poor. He claims that assistance, somehow, amount to theft.
But the facts of Fincher's argument are even more embarrassing than that. The Times notes that Fincher himself has "collected nearly $3.5 million in subsidies from 1999 to 2012" in federal support for his 3,000 acre family farm.
"In 2012 alone, the data shows, Mr. Fincher received about $70,000 in direct payments, money that is given to farmers and farmland owners, even if they do not grow crops."
Even more remarkably, his argument in favor of cutting $20 billion in food stamps came during a debate over the bill in a U.S. House sub-committee which voted to increase subsidies to farmers by $9 billion in the wake of last year's record drought. That, of course, was before the reality of his own reliance on federal funding for his family farm was brought to light by the media...
"The TPP is nicknamed 'NAFTA on steroids.'", Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) wrote in a recent email to supporters, explaining what he saw after being allowed to review some of the text of the new, extremely broad, and very classified trade agreement being hammered out behind close doors. "Now that I've read it, I can see why," he added.
His email suggests just how far down the secrecy rabbit hole our nation has traveled, not just in our massive classified surveillance state, parts of which are presently being revealed by former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden, but even in our so-called "free trade agreements" being negotiated, supposedly, on our behalf.
As Grayson warned after reviewing part of the new agreement last month: "There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret...This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests"...
Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these people?! Via TPM...
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Lawyers for the sponsors of California’s same-sex marriage ban have filed an emergency motion asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule the federal appeals court that on Friday freed the state to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Attorneys with the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom said they submitted the petition on Saturday to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who handles motions dealing with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Senior Counsel Austin Nimocks says a three-judge 9th Circuit panel acted prematurely and unfairly when it lifted the hold on same-sex marriages it had put in place while a challenge to the ban made its way through the courts.
Nimocks says the Supreme Court’s consideration of the case is not done yet because his clients still have 22 days to ask the justices to reconsider their decision holding that Proposition 8’s backers did not have legal authority to defend the ban.
Once again, in case this is still not clear to opponents of marriage equality: Just because same-sex marriage is now allowed in CA, it is not now, nor will it ever be mandatory here, or anywhere else. So you're cool.
Two additional things strike me in regard to the above, at the moment. 1) The group trying to block gay couples who love each other from marrying each other in California is from Arizona?! 2) Their organization is called "Alliance Defending Freedom"?! Really? Proving once again that irony is not just merely dead, it's really most sincerely dead.
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UPDATE: Justice Kennedy, who sided with the Supreme Court majority decision that allowed marriage equality to return to CA this week, rejects the Alliance Hating Freedom's request "with no additional comment", according to AP. But the Prop 8 supporters say they plan to "continue their efforts to halt gay marriage by filing their request with another Supreme Court justice."
"Some countries are willing to stand up to the United States right now," Michael Ratner told Amy Goodman earlier this week, as he heaped praise upon Ecuador, the nation which previously granted political asylum to Ratner's client, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Ecuador has defied the U.S. by saying it will consider NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's request for political asylum.
It is likely that Ecuador is already furnishing Snowden with some level of diplomatic protection. AP reports that, according to WikiLeaks, Snowden was being "escorted by diplomats and legal advisers" during his travels from Hong Kong to Russia last weekend. It seems likely that Snowden was met at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport by Ecuadorian diplomats. A black BMW with diplomatic license plates assigned to the Ecuadorian Embassy was reportedly, waiting at the airport last Sunday in advance of Snowden's arrival.
Ecuador is not the only nation that is unwilling to cooperate, for differing reasons, with an apparently vengeful U.S. government which has sought to make an example of Snowden by charging him with espionage. Some, like Hong Kong, have a longstanding commitment to free speech and the right to due process. Others, like Russia, have an interest in closer political and economic ties to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) --- a group of socialist and social democratic Latin American and Caribbean nations that includes three potential Snowden destinations, Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador.
In all cases, there appears to be a growing revulsion towards the overreach of the NSA's increasingly privatized, "Big Brother"-like intrusions and a growing recognition that the United States has long-since abandoned its mantle as a beacon of democracy and a nation devoted to "equal justice under the law"...
And somehow we managed to fit in a few phone calls and a thought or two on Wendy Davis' stand in TX late last night and the state Republicans attempt to fraudulently pass a radical anti-abortion bill anyway. We got all of that into an incredibly fast moving single show, which follows for you below. Enjoy!
A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court handed down two 5-4 decisions today, both of which can be seen as positive, if narrow, decisions favoring equal rights.
One SCOTUS decision had the effect of reinstating a 2010 U.S. District Court ruling that California's Proposition 8, banning marriage equality in the state, was unconstitutional. The other decision established that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutionally violated the constitutional rights of same-sex couples who have been married in a state which recognizes the right of same-sex couples to marry.
However, by ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry [PDF] (hereinafter the "Prop 8 case") that the proponents of Prop 8 --- a voter approved ballot initiative --- lacked standing to appeal U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's 136-page decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger and by limiting its decision in United States v. Windsor [PDF] (the "DOMA case") to the constitutional rights of same-sex couples who have been married in a state which recognizes the right of same sex-couples, the court left open to future adjudication of two vitally important questions:
Do same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in states which have not formally recognized the right to do so?
Must states, which do not permit same-sex couples to marry, recognize the marital rights of those same-sex couples who have chosen to marry in other states where it is permitted?
Those questions remain, even as today's Supreme Court decisions provide an important pair of victories that move the United States two steps closer to the day when sexual preference will no longer be seen as a measure of an individual's or a couple's character...
Extraordinary. Texas Republican legislators are now, officially, the champions of vote fraud.
After Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis' nearly 13 hour standing filibuster of SB5, a draconian abortion restriction bill supported by the state's Republican Gov. Rick Perry, Republicans decided to throw the rule of law out the window, and hold a roll call vote on the bill after midnight, when the special session was officially over, according to state law.
Nonetheless, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst fraudulently announced that the bill, which had supposedly passed at 12:01am, had actually passed at 11:59pm the night before, when the state Senate would still have been legally in session. Making matters even worse, the Republicans then went back and changed the official TX Senate web page to reflect their blatant fraud.
Here's a screenshot from the TX Senate webpage BEFORE the fraud...
...And here's a screenshot AFTER the Republicans' attempt to defraud the people of Texas...
According to some quick research by James Carter IV, however, it looks as though TX legislators may be playing with a felony according to the state penal code in their apparent attempt to "knowingly make a false entry in, or false alteration of, a governmental record".
It's hardly the first time there's been massive vote fraud inside the Texas Statehouse, even as the Republicans there have been attempting, for years, to enact draconian polling place Photo ID restrictions for everyone else, under the fraudulent guise of combating "voter fraud". Take a look at the video below, which we originally ran in 2007, showing blatant voter fraud by members of the TX legislature...
In a remarkable display of judicial overreach, activism and legislating from the bench, the five Republican-appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justices, in a narrow 5-4 ruling today [PDF] have, in the words of dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, "demolished" the center-piece of the nation's beloved 48-year old Voting Rights Act, ignored the court's own repeated rulings, overridden a repeated and unambiguous mandate by the U.S. Congress (most recently, as led by two Republican chambers and signed by a Republican President), and made an absolute joke of the no-uncertain-terms directive of the U.S. Constitution's 15th Amendment.
In short, the nature of today's SCOTUS ruling, effectively gutting the central provision of what is arguably the most important Constitutionally-mandated and successful civil rights legislation in the nation's history, encompasses everything that the Republican Party has, in recent years, pretended to abhor when it comes to the judiciary --- everything, that is, but the partisan politics of its historic reach...
That said, given this "Catch Me If You Can" international chase, this may be one (very brief) moment, in which I can (for now) forgive the mainstream corporate media for their breathless worldwide, man-of-mystery manhunt coverage. Snowden's Run is, after all, just one helluva good thriller story.
The New York Times' David Carr described it this way: "[A]s Edward J. Snowden made his way across the globe with a disintegrating passport and newly emerged allies, Twitter was there, serving up a new kind of chase coverage, with breathless updates from hovering digital observers speculating about the fleeing leaker’s next move. All day Sunday, it was like watching a spy movie unfold in pixels, except it was all very real and no one knows how it ends."
What is impossible to forgive, however, is another sideline distraction to the substance of Edward Snowden's disclosures that happened on Sunday, though it's a disturbingly important one that needs more light amidst the other, thrilling, if less important distractions. This part of the story came via the national embarrassment otherwise known as NBC's Meet the Press with David Gregory, when the titular host suggested that Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who helped break many of the Snowden disclosures, had "aided and abetted" the former NSA contractor, and should, therefore, be "charged with a crime" himself.
Gregory's friendly help to the U.S. Government's surging War on Journalism was echoed again today, by yet another supposed journalist, when Andrew Ross Sorkin, a financial columnist for the national embarrassment otherwise known as the New York Times, offered (also on live television) that he would "almost arrest" Greenwald in addition to Snowden...
I had the pleasure of guest hosting for Ed Schultz today on his radio show.
It was my first time hosting for Big Eddie, after being a guest on his show at various times over many years. We had much fun today in the bargain! My thanks to him and his crew for so generously and helpfully welcoming me aboard. My thanks also to the folks at my radio home base, KPFK/Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles, for helping us pull it all off at very short notice.
I hope you'll have fun as well, listening to the show, if you missed it live today. The entire program is archived below (sans commercials!)
My guests included three great, independent, progressive journalists (four, if you include Desi Doyen, who also joined us, as usual):
DAVID DAYEN, formerly of Firedoglake.com on his new, disturbing article in the New Republic on how mortgage service providers are strong-arming the victims of the Moore, OK tornado (and other recent natural disasters).
PLUS! A whole bunch of other stuff, a lot of calls, and plenty of thoughts (and occasional rants) on the surveillance state and the politics of it all. As one very generous emailer wrote me after the show: "You cut right through this unfortunate 'where does that leave the President?' talk." --- Well, good! That was my hope!
The audio archives of today's show follow below. Enjoy!
In a ruling hailed by voting rights advocates today, Arizona's requirement that newly registered voters submit proof of citizenship with their registration has been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision. Justice Antonin Scalia authored the opinion for the majority, while Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.
The court rejected provisions of Proposition 200, a ballot measure approved by AZ voters in 2004, which mandated that state election officials reject all applications to register to vote that did not include documentary proof of citizenship. Those documents, however, are not currently required by the Federal Form for voter registration, as approved by the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) pursuant to provisions of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).
Today's ruling in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona [PDF], is grounded upon the plenary power given to Congress by the Elections Clause (Art. I §4 of the U.S. Constitution) empowering Congress to preempt state regulations governing the "Times, Places and Manner" of holding federal elections. The court found that the NVRA mandate that states "accept and use" the Federal Form for voter registration takes precedence, and that Prop 200 is invalid because it conflicts with the Congressional intent that the NVRA help ease the ability of citizens to register to vote.
Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia observed that if a state could "demand of Federal Form applicants every additional piece of information the State requires…the Federal Form ceases to perform any meaningful function, and would be a feeble means of 'increas[ing] the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for Federal office.'"
This does not close the door on the issue altogether, however. Justice Scalia noted that, pursuant to the NVRA, any state can ask that "the EAC alter the Federal Form to include information the State deems necessary to determine eligibility." If the EAC then rejects such a request, the state "may challenge the EAC's rejection of that request [in court]"...
Earlier this week, CNN's Anderson Cooper interviewed The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald about the baseless claim made by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), on Fox "News", that Greenwald was "threatening to disclose" the identities of covert American CIA operatives.
Cooper and Greenwald then discussed the claim that American national security has been harmed by the disclosures made by Snowden, and why both citizens and journalists should never merely accept, at face value, such claims from public officials...
ANDERSON COOPER: King also says that you should be prosecuted because of what you've already published, saying it puts American lives at risk…When Wikileaks released huge amounts of information…a lot of people said, you know, "They had blood on their hands. Julian Assange has had blood on his hands." But then U.S. officials privately admitted to people in Congress and even publicly that even though the revelations were embarrassing, were a problem, that they couldn’t name anyone who really had lost their lives because of it. So now, when people are saying that you have put American lives at risk, do you believe that at all?
GLENN GREENWALD: No. And Anderson, that point that you just made, in my opinion, is really the crucial point, for anybody listening, to take away. Every single time the American government has things that they’ve done in secret exposed or revealed to the world and they're embarrassed by it, the tactic that they use is to try and scare people into believing that they have to overlook what they have done --- they have to trust American officials to exercise power in the dark, lest they be attacked; that their security and safety depend upon placing this value in political officials. And I really think it’s the supreme obligation of every journalist and every citizen when they hear an American official say --- 'this story about us jeopardizes national security' --- to demand specifics; to ask, what exactly it is that has jeopardized national security.
King's blatant lies about Greenwald ought to underscore his point that such officials are not to be merely trusted.
Video of Anderson Cooper's 6/12/2013 interview of Glenn Greenwald follows below...
There's a reason I argued we are now living on Planet Partisan the other day. In what is now, apparently, our continuing series on partisans attempting to justify their all-new positions on the massive, secret, US national security surveillance state by completely ignoring and/or reversing their very strong previously held positions, we first had...
EXCLUSIVE: Legendary 'Pentagon Papers' whistleblower offers frank comment on the NSA whistleblower; the dangers of our privatized surveillance state; the failure of Congressional oversight; and journalists 'discrediting their professions'...
"I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America," Church said, "and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
On Wednesday, during a fascinating interview on The BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio, Ellsberg said directly, in the wake of Snowden's disclosures: "We're in the abyss. What he feared has come to pass."
The Guardian has asserted that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden "will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning," do it seemed the perfect time to chat with Ellsberg about all of this.
He offered a number of thoughts about Snowden himself, from one of the few people in the world who may have real insight into what the 29-year old leaker must be thinking and dealing with right about now, and why he may have chosen to both leave the country and then come out publicly. He describes Snowden as "a patriotic American, and to call him a traitor reveals a real misunderstanding of our founding documents."
"What he has revealed, of course, is documentary evidence of a broadly, blatantly unconstitutional program here which negates the Fourth Amendment," Ellsberg said. "And if it continues in this way, I think it makes democracy essentially impossible or meaningless."
As usual, Ellsberg pulled no punches in his comments on the dangers of our privatized surveillance state; the failure of our Congressional intelligence oversight committees (which he describes as "fraudulent" and "totally broken"); and on those who have been critical of Snowden and of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist from The Guardian who has broken most of the scoops on Snowden's leaked documents.
He said that folks like attorney Jeffrey Toobin at the New Yorker and author Thomas Friedman at New York Times and Senator Dianne Feinstein "are being very strongly discredited," by their attacks on Snowden. "The criticisms they're making, I think, are very discreditable to them in their profession," he says.
And, while answering to my request for a response to Josh Marshall's recent piece at TPM, in which Marshall weights his own conscience on this matter and frankly revealing his natural tendency to support the government over whistleblowers in cases like this, Ellsberg was particularly pointed. "Marshall has a lot to be said for him as a blogger," he said, before adding: "I think what he said there is stupid and mistaken and does not do him credit." He went on to describe some of Marshall's comments as "slander" against Snowden.
One other point that merits highlight here for now, before I let ya listen below. The difference between Ellsberg's circumstances and those in play today.
Ellsberg noted that after leaking top secret Defense Department documents to the New York Times in 1971, detailing how the Johnson Administration had lied the nation into the Vietnam War, President Nixon, at the time, ordered a break-in of his psychiatrist's office and discussed having Ellsberg "eliminated".
"All the things that were done to me then," he noted chillingly, "including a CIA profile on me, a burglary of my former psychiatrist's office in order to get information to blackmail me with, all of those things were illegal, as one might think that they ought to be."
"They're legal now, since 9/11, with the PATRIOT Act, which on that very basis alone should be repealed. In other words, this is a case right now with Snowden that shows very dramatically the dangers of that PATRIOT Act, used as it is. So the fact is, that all these things are legal. And even the one of possibly eliminating him"...
Several days ago, I posted a video showing the stark differences between the positions on massive surveillance programs by candidate Barack Obama in 2007 and President Barack Obama in 2013.
And now, since we're nothing if not "fair and balanced", here is a short video of Sean Hannity of Fox "News" repeatedly lauding massive NSA surveillance programs during the George W. Bush Administration...and then decrying the very same programs as "tyranny" and a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution now that Obama is doing it.
With all due respect to Hannity --- and I have none --- his over the top hypocrisy then versus now trumps even Obama's, hands down. Not to mention the small detail that the programs, as carried out under Bush were, at the time, illegal, while under Obama they have been made "legal". (Or so we are told. There is so much secrecy around them, of course, it is virtually impossible for the public to know either way.) Enjoy!...