Category Archives: Political

Shared Post: Goal of Quantico Incident Was To Abuse Bradley Manning and Intimidate David House

Portrait of Bradley Manning by Stephen Pitt

I just wanted to say a quick thank-you to everyone today for your support when David House and I were being detained at Quantico.

I don’t think any of this had anything to do with me, or frankly the 42,000 petition signatures. The only thing I did was provide housing and transportation to David House, because he’s just out of college and Glenn Greenwald told him he could stay with me when he comes to visit Manning.

Everyone but David has stopped coming to see Bradley, and it takes a lot of courage to do what David is doing. It’s a very intimidating situation. So I try to support him by giving him a place to stay and driving him to the base when he comes to town. That’s really my only involvement.

There is no doubt in my mind that the primary objective of everything that happened today was to keep Bradley Manning from having the company of his only remaining visitor. The MPs told us they were ordered to do this, the brass showed up to make sure that they did, and they held us until 2:50 by repeatedly asking for information they already had whenever we asked to leave.

Visiting hours at the brig end at 3pm, and don’t begin again until the next weekend. It’s a half hour walk from the front gate to the brig, and although they have allowed David to walk before, they wouldn’t let him do it this time. They said he’d have to catch a cab and come back on the base, but they wouldn’t release him to do that until 2:50.

This was all about detaining David, not me. I would not be surprised to learn they were also punishing him for speaking out about Manning’s conditions. The State Department, the FBI and just about every three-letter government agency has been investigating David and the other Boston hackers since they began organizing support for Bradley Manning last summer, with one witch hunt after another attempting to implicate them in one of Adrian Lamo’s fabulist tales of a physical disk hand-off from Manning to Wikileaks.  The New York Times keeps printing that one, over and over again, with the Justice Department whispering in their ear and nothing but the word of the inconsistent Lamo for evidence.

David has been detained at the airport, his computer seized and held for months with no explanation. The McCarthy-esque actions of the security agencies has terrified all of these idealistic young people.  It is exceptionally admirable that David and others persist in supporting Bradley Manning despite it all.

The net effect of the MP’s actions today was to escalate the climate of threats and intimidation around David, a 23 year-old who just graduated from college, and cut Manning off from any personal contact with the one person who is still showing up to visit him after the government consciously scared everyone else off.

I am very happy that I went, and could be there to support David, because one of the first things the MPs said to us when we arrived — long before they asked for driver’s license, social security numbers,  registration, phone numbers, quizzed us about the addresses on our licenses, etc, etc, was that they had orders to do all of this. Which means they were planning to detain us long before we got there. They were going to use any excuse to keep David from visiting Manning, and try to intimidate him from coming back.

It was really heartening to David to hear of everyone’s support when we were being threatened with arrest, searched and detained for two hours.  What happened was not a surprise.  It’s  sad that this is what we have all come to expect when advocating for the civil rights of someone who has been identified as an “enemy of the state,” without benefit of a trial. But here we are.

It’s important to remember, however, that the true targets of today’s actions were Bradley Manning and David House.  What is happening to both of them should be of concern of everyone, so I hope people don’t lose sight of that.

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Originally found here.

Elena Kagan is the Wrong Choice For Supreme Court Justice

When I read that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was going to retire, I thought, “I hope President Obama nominates someone decently liberal to succeed him.” There’s been a short list of legitimate, potential nominees floating around ever since Sonia Sotomayor replaced David Souter. You’d think that if you were on the list back then, then you’d again be on the short list for this nomination. The two that met with Obama for this nomination that also met with him for the prior nomination were US Solictor General Elena Kagan and federal appellate judge Diane Wood.

John Paul Stevens, if you are unaware, is considered by many to be the leader of the liberal wing of the Supreme Court. Souter, in comparison, was a much more center-left Justice. Replacing Souter with Sotomayor, a woman with a center-left ideology herself, didn’t really change the ideological makeup of the Court. In order to, at the very least, maintain the status quo of the Supreme Court, you’d have to nominate someone with some fairly liberal views on things. Really, that shouldn’t be that hard to accomplish – the President is a Democrat, Democrats have majorities in the House and the Senate.

From all the reading I’ve done, the best person to maintain the balance of the Court would be Diane Wood as opposed to Elena Kagan. However, if you’ve caught the news at all, we now have Elena Kagan as President Obama’s Supreme Court Justice nominee. I just see so many problems with his choice.

Imagine if you will that it’s your job to nominate someone for a lifetime Supreme Court Justice appointment. How would you do it? What qualifications would you take into consideration?

Keep in mind that it’s not a requirement that you have judicial experience – judge, lawyer, etc. – to be nominated. Many Justices haven’t had any (see interesting list of such folks here), though all of our current Justices have.

Kagan is the current US Solictor General. Basically, that job entails representing the US in court cases in front of the Supreme Court. Prior to that she was Dean of Harvard Law School. Before that she was Associate White House Counsel under then-President Bill Clinton. Before that she did some clerking and blah blah blah.

Diane Wood is a federal judge on the US Court of Appeals. She’s been doing that for something around 15 years. Before that she worked at the Department of Justice doing anti-trust stuff. She did other stuff before that, but it was quite a while ago and I don’t feel like listing it.

Suffice it to say they’re both fairly intelligent people, I’d say that’s a given considering their prior/current careers. I’d probably look at any writings, speeches, or otherwise expressed opinions on key issues.

Kagan hasn’t published much, according to Paul Campos, just three scholarly articles, two shorter essays, two brief book reviews, and two other minor pieces.  I would call that not all that much.  The few other things we can determine about Kagan aren’t all that positive.  Kagan urged then-President Bill Clinton to ban late-term abortions and to deny Medicare funding to abortions in cases where a woman’s health was at risk.  During her tenure as Dean of Harvard, Kagan filled 29 positions at the University – 23 white males, 5 white females, and 1 asian-american female.  Though, draw what you will from Nate Silver’s statistical analysis of this hiring practice (also, he lists 31 positions, not 29, not sure which one is correct at the moment).  Also while Dean of Harvard she banned military recruiters from campus (good), but when the Department of Defense threatened to withhold funding from the University, she backed down (bad).  She supports expanding the power of the Executive, something I don’t really agree with.  She also supports indefinite detention of so-called enemy comabatants.

Some of these issues are bigger than others, but taken together, there’s certainly enough to question Kagan as a nominee.  Perhaps you would say, “Why don’t we just ask her what she thinks about X?”  I think that’s a pretty good idea actually.  You know who else thought that? Kagan.  In 1995 she argued that Supreme Court nominees should have to answer questions about pending cases and other specific issues.  You know who else thought that? Then-Senator Barack Obama.  He was referring to then-nominee Harriet Miers – who, like Kagan – didn’t have all that much experience.  Guess what Kagan is going to do though? Not answer questions, that’s what. Which is, you know, quite helpful.

All in all, I guess my biggest problem with Kagan is that there is just so much about her judicial philosophy that is unknown – and will remain that way until she is officially a Supreme Court Justice.  I find that troubling. To me, it seems like a big risk.  Yes, she could turn out to be a great Progressive Justice.  She could also not. We simply do not know.  Why risk it? I don’t get it.  Too many people are going to say, “President Obama nominated her, so I think she’s good to go.”  That’s fucking stupid.  President Obama has become such a centrist that it’s just sad.  Sad for those people, like myself, who didn’t think they were voting for a centrist.  So what kind of nominee do we get from a centrist president? A centrist nominee.  And that’s not what I think this country needs.

I sure hope I’m wrong about all this.

An Interesting Statistic

So I’m watching the documentary Bigger Stronger Faster* which is a movie about steroids.  Pretty good so far.  Anyways, the movie starts talking about steroids in baseball – remember Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds? I do.  After they hit all those home runs they were accused of taking steroids – which was pretty obvious when you simply looked at them.  After they were accused, they had to go in front of Congress.  The interesting statistic from the movie is that Congress held these debates about steroids for 8 days.  8 days was longer than they debated about health care, the levees that failed during Katrina, or ending the Iraq War.

Things I Hate About Barack Obama

I have pondered writing this post for quite a while.  Probably since the beginning of the health care debate.  Honestly, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if I wrote it before that.

Let me be clear, I like(d?) our current President.  It’s a love/hate thing, really.  Some days he does good things, some days bad things. And I voted for the guy.  Let me also be clear, I hated our last President as well. Comparatively, it’s quite clear that I hate former President Bush more, but still there is so much to dislike about both.

Since I’ve been thinking about this post for some time now, and given the inevitable offenses that are bound to occur in the future, I shall update this post in the future as the grievance transpires.  On with the list.  By the way, these are not in any sort of order, just whatever pops into my head at the time.

  1. Making people who voted for you think you weren’t a Centrist. Because if the last year, or so, is anything, it’s most certainly that you are not a Democratic President, let alone a Progressive one.
  2. The embrace of ridiculous Republican ideas.
  3. Believing now that Republicans have an agenda other than complete, 100% opposition to everything you do.  Naivete at it’s best?
  4. The fact that we’re still in two never-winnable wars on the other side of the globe.
  5. Guantanamo Bay is still open for business.
  6. The complete lack of prosecution of employed torturers, let alone acknowledgment thereof.
  7. The continuance of the multiple different types of Justice for accused Terrorists – Federal Courts, Military Commissions, Indefinite Detention Without Trial.
  8. For doing exactly what Alberto Gonzalez did when he was the head of the Department of Justice – politicizing the fuck out of it.  Exactly why are you even in the conversation of where a person should be tried in a Court of Law – Khalid Shaikh Mohammed trial in New York – or not.
  9. Numerous Health Care Issues – these also commingle with my Hate of Congress, but whatever:
    1. Lack of any balls whatsoever in saying what you wanted in the bill to begin with – and when you did it was shit, thus letting Congress fuck it all up.
    2. Lack of a Public Option
    3. Removal of the Drug reimportation provisions
    4. Back-room PhRMA deals
    5. Like 900 other things
  10. Approval of warrantless wire-tapping
  11. Reneging on your support of fillabustering any FISA bill that had Telecom Immunity in it
  12. Reversing the release of photos detailing detainee abuse
  13. Allowing expanded offshore drilling off the coast of Florida and Virginia

More stuff to come, but it’s bedtime for now.

Chris Matthews, Thou Art A Dick

I meant to post this yesterday because I found it to be too good not to: Chris Matthews has Alan Grayson on HardBall.  During the interview, Alan Grayson talks about using reconciliation to pass Health Care – weeks before others were talking about it.   Chris Matthews proceeds to be a huge holier-than-thou dick to Alan Grayson, believing he is crazy for even suggesting the use of reconciliation.

Thoughts On The Current Status Of Healthcare

As you know, I post a lot of political things here on this blog.  It’s what I’m interested in and I like writing down my thoughts and opinions.  Lately, one of the biggest things in US politics has been the healthcare debate.  There’s a lot to digest. Here are my thoughts.

The House of Representatives

The House passed it’s version of the health care bill back in November.  For the most part it’s a decent bill.  It’s got the public option.  According to the CBO, having the public option in the bill saves the most money and covers the most people.  The end of discussion on that.  Anything less than the public option in the bill will cover less people and cost more money.  Also, mind you, the public option is supported by the majority of the people – see any reputable poll on the subject. One particular problem with the House bill is that won’t cover abortions – via the Stupak amendment that did get passed.  If you believe in a woman’s right to choose, then this is a bad thing.

The Senate

Uh, the Senate.  The Senate is still trying to get a bill passed.  The problem in the Senate, as compared to the House, is that due to a filibuster threat from the Republicans, the Democrats need a filibuster-proof vote count of 60 to get the bill passed.  The good news is that the Senate has a filibuster-proof majority, but only by the smallest possible margin: 0.  The problem, therefore, is that if any one of those Senators decides, or rather threatens, to not vote for the bill, the whole thing falls apart.  That, if you aren’t aware, is what’s happening.  You have people like Joe Lieberman of Connecticut who are threatening to vote against the bill if it has a public option basically just to seem important and in general be a dick.  So, Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, is being a big pussy and getting rid of the public option in order to please a few Senators.  This is disheartening to progressives, such as myself.

A quick tangent. I mentioned that the Senate would need a majority to get this bill passed.  That’s not exactly true.  There are a few other options.  Namely, cloture and reconciliation.  Voting for cloture basically just means voting to end debate on a bill.  You can vote in favor of cloture and not in favor of the actual bill.  Reconciliation is immune to filibusters and therefore would only need a simple majority to pass – 51 or 50 (tie) + the Vice President’s tiebreaking vote.  There’s a lot more to it, but the point is, it’s possible to pass the bill with just 51 votes.  So far, the Senate has chosen not to go this route.  Though I don’t know why exactly.  Which sucks.

So now we’re not getting the public option in the Senate bill.  Instead, what we’re getting is, well, we’re not really sure yet.  That’s sort of in flux at the moment.  From what I’ve read, instead of the public option, the Senate bill will: allow people over 55 to enroll in Medicare, create something like what the members of Congress get for health coverage – the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, and would create a public option trigger that would go into effect if certain targets aren’t met.

Trigger’s are pointless.  There has never been a trigger put into place that wasn’t designed to never be pulled. A trigger has been an idea floating around for a while now.  Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s Chief of Staff, has been pushing for a trigger ever since the health care debate started.  Olympica Snowe, the liberalish Republican from Maine also pushed for the trigger.  Snowe’s plans for the trigger would save around 10-15 billion as compared to over 100 billion with the public option.  That’s not to say that this trigger is the same, could be a little better, could be a little worse.  Regardless, it’s not going to save as much as a public option.  Which, to me, is the point.  Whatever covers the most people and saves the most money – do that.

That all being said, the public option isn’t the entire health care bill.  There’s a lot of good stuff in there – a lot of reform.  Just not as much as there could be.  Or really, should be.  Does that mean that it should be scrapped altogether? Probably not.  But it’s still hard not to be disappointed.

One good thing from the Senate bill is that Ben Nelson’s Stupak-esque amendment was defeated – by way of a table vote.

All of that is to say that there’s still a lot to do.  The Senate has to pass their version of the bill.  Then it has to be merged with the House bill.  Then it has to be passed by both houses.  Then it has to be signed by the President.  So, suffice to say, still a lot to do.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) Has An Interesting Idea

So Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., has a very interesting idea – a bill that will withhold Federal health benefits from members of Congress until Health Legislation is passed.  What a novel idea. I wholly support it.

Via The Washington Independent

PS. I had to look up how to spell wholly, for some reason it just seems weird being spelled that way.