Amped Status's List: Government & Politics
Feb 27, 15
"The effort to win an amendment is gaining ground faster than anyone could have anticipated. In 2010, four US senators supported an amendment. In 2012, the number grew to 26. In 2014, following the McCutcheon decision, Senate leadership brought the Democracy for All constitutional amendment – establishing that We the People, operating through Congress and the state legislatures, have the authority to regulate campaign spending – to the floor for a vote. Fifty-four senators voted in favor. Not yet enough to prevail – winning a constitutional amendment requires a two thirds vote in each house, followed by ratification in three quarters of the states — but a showing of support that even a year previous was unimaginable.
We know exactly why the amendment came to the floor and why it won so many votes: Senators were responding to the demand from the grassroots. As the movement continues to gain power and support – as we quiet the skeptics and chip away at the established Republican Party opposition to reform – we’ll take the next step forward. The day is not long off when we win the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution."
Feb 27, 15
"This post explains the liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution – and provides a scorecard on the extent of the loss of each right. (This is an updated version of an essay we wrote in February. Unfortunately, a lot of information has come out since then.)
The 1st Amendment protects speech, religion, assembly and the press:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The Supreme Court has also interpreted the First Amendment as protecting freedom of association.
However, the government is arresting those speaking out … and violently crushing peaceful assemblies which attempt to petition the government for redress."
Feb 25, 15
"Located in a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side is where, according to the Guardian, one can find the domestic equivalent of a CIA "black site" - an illegal, off-the-books interrogation compound used by Chicago special police units, one which renders "Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside"; a place whose former occupants say is where you end up when you are "disappeared"; a place which confirms that when it comes to the eternal "who is better - us or them" debate, there really is no difference: "It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It’s a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what’s happened to you.” It's a Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib rolled into one. In short: it is a place where the US constitution and basic human rights have absolutely no access.
And it may be located in a building just down your street."
Feb 25, 15
"Secret interrogation facility reveals aspects of war on terror in US
‘They disappeared us’: protester details 17-hour shackling without basic rights
Accounts describe police brutality, missing 15-year-old and one man’s death"
Feb 25, 15
"The vast majority of US judges are elected, forcing many judges to pander to the electorate and accept campaign money in order to keep their jobs. This seems slightly troubling…"
Jul 22, 14
"With an otherwise awful Hobby Lobby ruling, right-wing judges just said I don't have to pay for warfare! Here's why"
Jul 10, 14
"Niemöller wrote a brilliant poem – First They Came – about the manner in which Germans allowed Nazi abuses by failing to protest the abuse of “others” … first gypsies, gays, communists, and Jews, then Catholics … and eventually everyone."
After learning that the NSA and FBI have targeted him for exhaustive surveillance, prominent Muslim-American attorney told Glenn Greenwald:
All Americans should be outraged and concerned by the surveillance. “Because if it is Muslim Americans today, it is going to be them next” ….
Jul 10, 14
"The reality, however, is exactly the opposite of what Obama is asserting. For example, on 23 January 2014, Pew’s people-press.org reported their poll finding that when asked “what would do more to reduce poverty?” 54% favored “Raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations to expand programs for the poor,” which is the progressive position, and only 35% favored “Lowering taxes on the wealthy and corporations to encourage investment and economic growth,” which is the conservative position. In the partisan breakdown of those numbers there, Pew reported that among Democratic voters, 75% favored the progressive position on this matter, and only 17% favored the conservative position on it. This means that in Democratic Presidential primaries, a candidate like Elizabeth Warren, who favors and campaigns on the progressive position, will increase her support during her campaign if she runs on it, whereas a candidate like Hillary Clinton, who favors and campaigns on the conservative position, will lose her support during her campaign if she runs on it (instead of away from it). So: the progressive position is the winning position on this matter in Democratic primaries. As for the general election, that overall finding of 54% versus 35% would mean an overwhelming win of the Democratic Presidential nominee (if it’s a progressive one) against the Republican nominee, in the general election, regarding that key issue. In other words: on this central political issue, the progressive position will not only sweep the Democratic primaries, but it will also be devastating against the Republican nominee in the general election. Yet nonetheless, the diehard conservative Obama (who is progressive only in his lying rhetoric) opposes it. That Wall Street “Democrat” opposes it."...
Here’s an extreme case: On 6 May 2014, CNBC bannered “CNBC survey shows millionaires want higher taxes to fix inequality,” and reported that their survey of “514 people with investable assets of $1 million or more” (not merely millionaires but people with over a million in “investable assets” alone), 64% included among their policy-prescriptions “to lessen the inequality of wealth in the United States,” “Higher taxes for the wealthy.” Furthermore: “Among those who say inequality is a problem, 78 percent of Democrats support higher taxes on the wealthy, and 77 percent back a higher minimum wage. That compares with 31 percent and 38 percent, respectively, for Republicans.” In other words: even in a Democratic candidate’s fundraising among Democratic Party donors, the progressive position will do better for a Democratic Party candidate than the conservative position on this issue will. There is simply no advantage for an honest Democrat to go the way Obama does....
This presents the obvious question: Why do candidates such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton tend to win the nomination of the Democratic Party? The answer to that question is extremely complex, but what it comes down to is that, behind the scenes, the most powerful conservative American oligarchs, such as Rupert Murdoch, extremely wealthy Republicans, have actually provided vital assistance, sub-rosa, to candidates such as Hillary Clinton in America’s Democratic Party, and to candidates like Tony Blair in Britain’s Labour Party. This happens in such candidates’ party primaries, not in the general election (when those same donors are doing everything they can to crush the conservative Democrat whose nomination they had secretly assisted)....
Jul 10, 14
"As Bloomberg reports,
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government asks representative of U.S. security services at embassy in Berlin to leave Germany.
• Expulsion tied to investigations into U.S. espionage activity in Germany, Federal Chancellery says in e-mailed statement.
• “The government takes these activities very seriously,” Germany’s Federal Chancellery says in e-mailed statement.
• Trustful cooperation with U.S. “indispensable” to Germany, though must be reciprocated
As DPA adds,
The chief US Central Intelligence Agency officer in Germany is to be expelled in a sign of Berlin's anger at two cases of possible US espionage uncovered in the past week, a senior German legislator said Thursday.
Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to confirm the impending move, which would be an act of diplomatic hostility unprecedented in the seven decades the two nations have been the closest of allies.
"I am not going to speculate," she told reporters. "When we have a sufficient factual basis ... we will decide what can be done. I can't offer more precise information than that." The intention to ask the head of the CIA's Germany station to leave was disclosed by Clemens Binninger, chief of the German parliament's intelligence committee, after his group received a confidential briefing from intelligence officials in Berlin."
Jul 10, 14
"Merging of private business and government. Fascism.
Representative Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, said today he was concerned that industry members in such a joint group could improperly get involved in pre-emptive strikes against a person or state planning an assault on the U.S.
Or they could get involved in strikes against U.S. citizens they find undesirable or problematic.
“This could in effect make the banks part of what would begin to look like a war council,” Grayson said in an e-mail. “Congress needs to keep an eye on what something like this could mean.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee plans today to take up a bipartisan bill — sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, and Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican - – aimed at improving private-sector cyber-defenses. The bill includes rules that would insulate banks from liability arising from sharing information for cybersecurity, addressing a point financial institutions have raised in the past.
Naturally, Dianne Feinstein, one of Congress’ most dangerous and authoritarian members is behind this travesty.
As I said in the beginning, this is one of the worst ideas of all-time. Two of the most powerful, out of control and corrupt segments of American society, Wall Street and the intelligence community, want to formally merge in order to better protect their power structure in a “public-private partnership.” As I noted on twitter the other day:
Jul 10, 14
"- More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America have been caught trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border since October, twice as many as a year earlier. Thousands more have been detained with parents or other adults.
- Without government action, the Obama administration projects more than 150,000 unaccompanied children under the age of 18 could be fleeing their Central American homelands for the United States next year."
Jul 09, 14
"Edward Snowden submitting to prosecution in the United States would be like Alice going into the courtroom in Wonderland. Alice stood before the King and Queen of Hearts who served as the judges. Knaves were chained on the ground before them. The jurors, Alice realizes are ‘stupid things.’ The first witness against her was the Mad Hatter who is as mad as the culture he represents. The guinea pigs who protest are immediately “suppressed” by having the mouths tied up and being put into a bag and sat on by the King so their protests cannot be heard. The most important evidence in the trial was secret, a poem for which the author is unknown and concludes:
For this must ever be a secret,
Kept from all the rest,
Between yourself and me.
Alice realized the court room; with the icons of a justice system – a judge, jury, witnesses – was really a sham that mocks a legitimate legal process. To confirm her realization the King said after the meaningless secret poetry evidence, that it was “the most important piece of evidence” and “Let the jury consider their verdict.” The Queen retorts “No, no! Sentence first; verdict afterwards.”
Last week former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined with the current Secretary of State John Kerry in urging Edward Snowden to come home and face prosecution.
Clinton told The Guardian that he should “return knowing he would be held accountable and also able to present a defense.” When asked about whether he could really present a defense, Clinton said:
“In any case that I’m aware of as a former lawyer, he has a right to mount a defense. And he certainly has a right to launch both a legal defense and a public defense, which can of course affect the legal defense.”
In fact, under current US law Snowden would face a criminal process with virtually no defense, a pre-ordained outcome and he would be silenced during the process. The law he would be charged under, the Espionage Act, provides for no real defense and the due process afforded would be inadequate resulting in an unfair trial and lengthy sentence.
On June 14th federal prosecutors in Alexandria, VA filed espionage charges against Edward Snowden. Snowden became the eighth person to be charged under the 1917 Espionage Act during the Obama presidency, more than double all previous presidents combined. "
Jul 09, 14
"A 19-year veteran of the CIA claims he was fired for trying to make hundreds of once-secret documents public. Jeffrey Scudder shares his story about how his career unraveled. (Theresa Poulson/The Washington Post)
His CIA career included assignments in Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq, but the most perilous posting for Jeffrey Scudder turned out to be a two-year stint in a sleepy office that looks after the agency’s historical files.It was there that Scudder discovered a stack of articles, hundreds of histories of long-dormant conflicts and operations that he concluded were still being stored in secret years after they should have been shared with the public. To get them released, Scudder submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act — a step that any citizen can take, but one that is highly unusual for a CIA employee. Four years later, the CIA has released some of those articles and withheld others. It also has forced Scudder out.His request set in motion a harrowing sequence. He was confronted by supervisors and accused of mishandling classified information while assembling his FOIA request. His house was raided by the FBI and his family’s computers seized. Stripped of his job and his security clearance, Scudder said he agreed to retire last year after being told that if he refused, he risked losing much of his pension.In an interview, Scudder, 51, cast his ordeal as a struggle against “mindless” bureaucracy, but acknowledged that it was hard to see any winners in a case that derailed his CIA career, produced no criminal charges from the FBI, and ended with no guarantee that many of the articles he sought will be in the public domain anytime soon."
Jul 09, 14
"Over the past six months, we have conducted an intense national research project among likely voters of all parties, and we are releasing the results now, for Independence Day, 2014.
The battle lines of the new political order are emerging. When presented with the proposition that “the real struggle for America is not between Democrats and Republicans but mainstream America and the ruling political elites,” over 66% of voters agree.
What we’ve found is that the old “conservative vs. liberal” political discussion is being tuned out by the vast majority of voters. These voters aren’t liberal or conservative. They are unified in frustration with the corruption of the political ruling class: incumbent politicians, lobbyists, the elite media, big business, big banks, big unions, and big special interests ."...
American voters strongly believe that corruption and crony capitalism are among the most important issues facing our nation — almost equal to jobs and the economy. Political alienation has existed for decades, but it now envelops over three-fifths of all voters.
These are the numbers that precede a political upheaval.
This is not a Democratic movement or a Republican movement. It is an effort to give voice to the vast majority of Americans who are ready to rumble and rebel:
Eighty-six percent of all voters believe political leaders are more interested in protecting their power than in doing what’s right for the American people.
Eighty-three percent believe the country is run by an alliance of incumbent politicians, media pundits, lobbyists, and other interests for their own gain.
Further, 79% believe that powerful interests from Wall Street banks to corporations, unions, and PACs use campaign and lobbying money to rig the system to serve themselves and that they loot the national treasury at the expense of every American.
And what do they want to do about this?
Despite the importance of traditional issues like an anemic economy, poor job growth, a failed education system, and a tax system that works for no one, 74% of all voters recognize this simple reality: it is necessary to fix our broken political system first, before anything can be done to solve other important political issues.
Ninety-two percent say we must recruit and support for public office more ordinary citizens and fewer professional politicians. Not surprising when you consider that 81% believe both political parties do what’s in it for them rather than fix our nation’s problems. The voters understand that what needs fixing is the political class.
All of this is occurring in a context in which voters believe that the American dream is fading, and in which two-thirds believe their children will not have a future better than our present....
In our research we presented this position:
“Candidate Smith says our broken political system is failing all of us. Special interests and lobbyists control the politicians and the politicians keep getting elected because they divide us against each other and make single issue promises to buy our support. We need new leaders from mainstream America . . . who will take on the political elites and special interests and put the American people in charge again.”
After delivering this description, we presented Smith’s non-partisan “reform first” and “issue principles” platform. The very voters who have been divided and distracted for years by single-issue politics voted for the Smith comprehensive reform program with near unanimity. Despite all the conventional wisdom about how hopelessly divided America is, the larger truth is that an overwhelming majority of Americans unify around alienation, the issue platform of Smith and the “reform first” package. This is a movement that unites rather than divides.
In our massive research project, upon hearing the Smith platform, the favorability of Candidate Smith skyrocketed, as did Smith’s vote support at every level. While the political elites have purposely divided our nation, Smith unites, winning with men and women, every age group, every education and income demographic, and wins whether running as a Democrat, Independent, or Republican. A large majority of voters endorsed the notion that the real ideology of this country is “American common sense.”
Seventy-five percent or more say they would support this candidate for Congress; and two-thirds or more say they would support this candidate for president.
Stunningly, in a head-to-head-to-head contest with Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie, Smith won by 55% to 24% to 12%. Of course, the voters don’t know the candidate as a personality, but within the context of alienation and contempt the Smith platform becomes enormously compelling to them.
Jul 09, 14
"“A Not So Divided America,” contradicts the conventional wisdom that the political gridlock between Democrats and Republicans in Congress arises from deep disagreements over policy among the general public. The study was a joint project of Voice Of the People and the Program for Public Consultation (PPC), affiliated with the University of Maryland.
“Clearly, the gridlock in Congress is not driven by the people,” said PPC Director Steven Kull, who led the study. “Although some research has shown partisan polarization in response to broad ideological slogans, on specific questions about what government should do, the study found hardly any difference between red and blue districts.”
The study analyzed questions from dozens of surveys from numerous sources including the National Election Studies, Pew, major media outlets, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs as well as the Program for Public Consultation. Responses were analyzed based on whether the respondents lived in red or blue districts or states.
On only four percent of the questions (14 out of 388) did a majority or plurality of those living in red congressional districts/states disagree with the majority or plurality in the blue districts/states.
For a large majority of questions – 69 percent – (266 of 388), there were no statistically significant differences between the views in the red districts/states and the blue districts/states.
For 23 percent (90 of 388), there were statistically significant differences in the size of the majority or plurality, but the dominant position in the red and blue districts/states was the same.
“The fact is, Americans are more united than divided,” said Richard Parsons, executive director, Voice Of the People. “Giving the people a greater voice would help break the gridlock in Washington.”...
The full study can be found at:
The report’s appendix with the actual survey questions anaylzed can be found at:
Jul 09, 14
"As Michael Hardt points out in his essay Jefferson and Democracy, Jefferson felt that people could not govern themselves (could not self-govern) without having some degree of material self-sufficiency. This is why, in his version of the Virginia state constitution, 50 acres of land were to be given to all (white men) who did not already own 50 acres (an amount deemed sufficient to enable the one who possessed it to be free from the coercion of others). Of course, this land wasn’t to be divided in an egalitarian manner; it was to be appropriated from Native Americans. So, quite a few racist and sexist, anti-egalitarian ideas reside in Jefferson’s thought beside this other deeply egalitarian notion that all people should have some basic degree of autonomy, and must enjoy a basic, prerequisite material basis, for a democratic society to function.
Despite its anti-egalitarian shortcomings, and its promulgation of the adolescent ideology of the individual, Jefferson’s thought points to the notion that democracy requires a certain infrastructure – that beyond its form, and beyond the abstract content of certain rights, an actual democracy requires a concrete content. That is, in addition to the rule of law, courts, a free press, etc., political rights cannot be actualized – cannot manifest – absent a material basis of some sort.
Certain basic conditions need to be present for a democratic society to arise: security from hunger, security from lack of shelter, conditions that precede and support political rights must exist. And these conditions, or preconditions, this infrastructure of democracy – like the rights they’re actually inseparable from – must also be inalienable – as inalienable as those prerequisite 50 acres, unconditionally."...
Still, though, we need to elaborate the idea of an actually democratic society. What constitutes this? How much, for instance, should be inalienable? What conditions need to be created, and which need to be eliminated? Would an actually democratic society, for example, allow poverty to persist? Or, rather, would an actually democratic society work to eliminate poverty altogether? Martin Luther King, Jr., for his part, in his 1967 book Where Do We Go from Here, argued that a basic income law should be instituted in order to eradicate poverty....
Insofar as this relates to the question of a basic income law, a basic income law could be a step toward an actually democratic society, but by itself a basic income law is insufficient – especially when one considers its libertarian and free-market associations, and the fact that mere economic power is a poor substitute for actual political-economic power. Indeed, rather than a basic income law, actual democratization can be said to require something like a basic infrastructure of an actually democratic society law, one in which the infrastructure of actual democracy – not just political rights as such but that which precede and support political rights (conditions such as housing, nutrition, a healthy environment, transportation, communications, education, leisure, the nullification of coercive power and its attendant institutions, not to mention what some, like Henri Lefebvre, have referred to as the right to the city, among other things) - those conditions that are an actually democratic society’s preconditions, should not only be decommodified and inalienable, but should be recognized as that which an actually just, actually democratic society has an actual obligation to produce for itself; not in exchange for anything, or for profit, but for its own sake.
Jul 09, 14
"Who is the true patriot, Hillary Clinton or Edward Snowden? The question comes up because Clinton has gone all out in attacking Snowden as a means of burnishing her hawkish credentials, eliciting Glenn Greenwald’s comment that she is “like a neocon, practically.”
On Friday in England, Clinton boasted that two years ago she had favored a proposal by a top British General to train 100,000 “moderate” rebels to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria, but Obama had turned her down. The American Thatcher? In that same interview with the Guardian she also managed to get in yet another shot against Snowden for taking refuge in Russia “apparently under Putin’s protection,” unless, she taunted, “he wishes to return knowing he would be held accountable.”
Accountable for telling the truth that Clinton concealed during her tenure as secretary of state in the Obama Administration? Did she approve of the systematic spying on the American people as well as of others around the world, including the leaders of Germany and Brazil, or did she first learn of all this from the Snowden revelations?
On Saturday, a carefully vetted four-month investigation by the Washington Post based on material made available by Snowden revealed that while Clinton was in the government, the NSA had collected a vast trove of often intimate Internet correspondence and photos of innocent Americans, including many users of Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other leading Internet companies. "
Jul 09, 14
"According to a Public Campaign analysis, in the 2012 elections just 1,219 people in America even came close to the aggregate limits the Court struck down. That is four people out of every million.
This was a decision not for the 1 percent but for the top half of the 0.001 percent."
Jul 09, 14
"The NSA collects and stores the full content of extremely sensitive photographs, emails, chat transcripts, and other documents belong to Americans, itself a violation of the Constitution—but even if you disagree that it's illegal, there's no disputing the fact that the NSA has been proven incapable of safeguarding that data. There is not the chance the data could leak at sometime in the future. It has already been taken and given to reporters. The necessary reform is clear. Unable to safeguard this sensitive data, the NSA shouldn't be allowed to collect and store it."
Jul 08, 14
"The overwhelming majority of individuals who have had their emails and other private communications intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) have not been singled out for surveillance as suspected terrorists, according to a report in Sunday’s Washington Post. This includes tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of US citizens who were monitored without a warrant or any semblance of judicial oversight.
The report, based on documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, concerns not just metadata, but the actual content of communications. The revelations expose the lies not only of US intelligence officials, but also President Barack Obama, who has repeatedly assured the public that the NSA is “not allowed” to access the content of communications, and that “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls.”
The Post analysis is based on a review of 160,000 emails and instant messages, more than 5,000 private photos, and 7,900 documents extracted from 11,000 Internet accounts by the NSA during surveillance operations lasting between 2009 and 2012. It is only one part of a vast dragnet of illegal spy programs run by the agency and its counterparts internationally.
The Post reports that 9 out of 10 affected account holders had their communications collected “incidentally” in the course of surveillance."...
The surveilled communications, the Post said, were characterized by a “startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality,” and included “stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes.”...
The latest revelations make clear that whatever the treatment of the president’s correspondence, communications sent by the general population and completely unrelated to anything resembling terrorism are being retained by the NSA, in large quantities and for indefinite duration.
The Post article itself points to the complicity of the media in covering up and excusing the crimes of the surveillance state. The authors reveal that the content of their article was reviewed by the CIA.