Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, September 30, 2011 9:56 pm

RIP: Anwar al-Awlaki. And impeach Barack Obama

Earlier today, at the order of the President of the United States, a missile launched from a U.S. drone killed U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamic cleric reputed to be one of the top terrorist recruiters in the world and a key figure in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

al-Awlaki had not been charged or convicted of any crime. This was an extrajudicial assassination. Moreover, IANAL, but according to people who are at the American Civil Liberties Union, the killing was ordered and carried out in violation of both U.S. and international law.

The targeted killing program violates both U.S. and international law. As we’ve seen today, this is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts. The government’s authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific, and imminent. It is a mistake to invest the President — any President — with the unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country.

The president’s behavior appears to be, on its face, a violation of al-Awlaki’s rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. (UPDATE: And the First Amendment, too, apparently; see SCOTUS majority opinion in Brandenburg v. Ohio.) As I just noted in another context, denying or conspiring to deny another citizen his civil rights is a felony. It was wrong when George W. Bush did it, and it’s wrong now. Accordingly, I renew my call of May 21, 2010, for President Obama to be impeached and removed from office. (UPDATE: I first called for Obama’s impeachment on 1/27/10 over this very case.)

I get that Anwar al-Awlaki was a bad actor. I get that. But he was also a U.S. citizen and, as such, unquestionably entitled to due process, which means charges, an indictment, and a jury trial if he wished to contest the charges.

When the president of the United States can singlehandedly order the assassination of a U.S. citizen without charge or trial, we’re not just on the slippery slope toward dictatorship, we’re in free fall.

If you think the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters are just a bunch of dirty hippies …

… then think again.

Bonus points for the visual reminder that it was a union crew that landed US Airways Flight 1549 safely in the Hudson River after both engines were disabled and evacuated the aircraft with no loss of life.

Thursday, September 29, 2011 10:19 pm

Memo to the mainstream media …

NO, BOTH SIDES DON’T DO IT.

Now pay attention.

The Hon. James R. Crow, Esq.

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 9:56 pm
Tags:

What Democrats once did to African Americans, Republicans are now trying to do to Democrats:

As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots. …

Republicans have long tried to drive Democratic voters away from the polls. “I don’t want everybody to vote,” the influential conservative activist Paul Weyrich told a gathering of evangelical leaders in 1980. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” But since the 2010 election, thanks to a conservative advocacy group founded by Weyrich, the GOP’s effort to disrupt voting rights has been more widespread and effective than ever. In a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party – 38 states introduced legislation this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.

All told, a dozen states have approved new obstacles to voting. Kansas and Alabama now require would-be voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering. Florida and Texas made it harder for groups like the League of Women Voters to register new voters. Maine repealed Election Day voter registration, which had been on the books since 1973. Five states – Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia – cut short their early voting periods. Florida and Iowa barred all ex-felons from the polls, disenfranchising thousands of previously eligible voters. And six states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures – Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – will require voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting ballots. More than 10 percent of U.S. citizens lack such identification, and the numbers are even higher among constituencies that traditionally lean Democratic – including 18 percent of young voters and 25 percent of African-Americans.

Taken together, such measures could significantly dampen the Democratic turnout next year – perhaps enough to shift the outcome in favor of the GOP. “One of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time,” Bill Clinton told a group of student activists in July. “Why is all of this going on? This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate” – a reference to the dominance of the Tea Party last year, compared to the millions of students and minorities who turned out for Obama. “There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today.”

This isn’t even close to legal, by the way. Indeed, it’s a serious felony:

§ 241. CONSPIRACY AGAINST RIGHTS

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or
If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured—
They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; …
And there’s a little warning for government officials, too:

§ 242. DEPRIVATION OF RIGHTS UNDER COLOR OF LAW

Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both;
An attorney general worthy of the title would be rounding up these folks right now. And the rest of us should be asking, quite loudly, why they hate America.

Police brutality: Shiny!

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 9:12 pm
Tags: ,

mistermix at Balloon Juice on Occupy Wall Street and distractions therefrom:

What’s interesting to me is how a protest designed to draw attention to the disparity in wealth between Wall Street millionaires and the rest of us, as well as the injustice of the bank bailout, has morphed into a conversation about police overreach. We’re like a big dysfunctional family that never deals with any of our problems, and when today’s problem gets us a little agitated, we latch on to one minor detail that’s related to some other festering sore in our collective psyche and use that to distract ourselves.

Now that we have our distraction, it’s time to burn someone at the stake. Instead of having a discussion about our tolerance and even celebration of brutal cops, para-military no-knock raids, and expensive, pointless security theater, we’re going to drill in on this one [jerk] who maced a few protesters and get him fired. Once that happens, we’ll go back to forgetting about the elephant in the room.

I hope he’s wrong. But he usually isn’t.

Also, if we’re going to pepper-spray protesters, Charles Pierce would like us to step into the Time Machine first.

Lawsuit rings the NCAA’s bell

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 6:08 am
Tags: , , , ,

It was bound to happen, and now it has: Two former college football players have filed a class-action suit against the NCAA, alleging that it hasn’t protected players against concussions and the brain injury that can result from them. Dozens of former pro players sued the NFL in July.

This is an area in which we don’t know a lot. But we’re learning more, and the more we learn, the worse the news gets.

Previously.

Previously.

 

 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 9:07 pm

Explain to me why we’re not invading Pakistan …

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 9:07 pm
Tags:

inasmuch as they’re killing our soldiers and all.

Note to the irony-impaired: No, I do not actually believe we should invade Pakistan, or drop missiles on it or anything else but get out of AfPak and bring our troops home.

Quote of the day

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 8:18 pm
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“… the last time these people were allowed to get this absolutely dug-in/[expletive]-you-crazy it took the entire Union Army to stop them from destroying this country. I wonder what it will take this time?

– Driftglass

Monday, September 26, 2011 9:02 pm

Quote of the day

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 9:02 pm
Tags: , , ,

From commenter gil mann at Roy Edroso’s Alicublog, in response to a George Will column wishing for the return of the Supreme Court’s 1905 Lochner decision, which overturned a New York law limiting bakeries’ work hours to 10 per day and 60 per week: “I keep waiting for the Washington Post to change the name of that section from ‘Opinions’ to ‘Modest Proposals.'”

Will long ago sold his soul to Satan, and these days he doesn’t even care who knows. Because Real Murkins work 90 hours a week.

Friday, September 23, 2011 8:31 pm

Susan Grigsby has a question for the 2012 presidential candidates

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 8:31 pm
Tags: ,

And a news media that was worth a damn would keep after the candidates until every single one was on record as having answered — and I mean a real answer, not a nonanswer, not an evasion, not a change of subject. Because this is a very basic question about what kind of country we’re going to be, and if you’re going to run the place, I want to know how you feel about it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011 9:30 pm

The wisdom of crowds and the U.S. Postal Service

Filed under: Cool! — Lex @ 9:30 pm
Tags: , , ,

People are complaining about the fact that the Postal Service loses money and is an Internet Age anachronism, even though the Constitution requires that the government provide, you know, postal service. Hmmm. What to do …

Elevated from Balloon Juice’s comments section:

Commentor MikeJ, via Cole’s earlier Netflix post:

Hmmm. Congress complaining that the Post Office isn’t a profit centre, even though it’s mandated in the constitution. Not enough broadband available. PO losing customers because nobody except junk mailers use it any more.

I say let the USPS lay fibre to the curb and [forget]  Comcast.

To which commentor Omnes Omnibus replied:

Win. Jobs… Broadband access… Constitutional mandate (arguably wrt this)… Screwing over cable companies… Yeah, I like it.

And commentor Judas Escargot added:

One could make an argument that fiber/copper fits the definition-in-spirit of a ‘Post Road.’

Hmmm. I particularly like the “[forget] Comcast” part.

UPDATE: Edited for clarity.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 8:47 pm

Spam filter

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 8:47 pm
Tags: , ,

So Yahoo!, the nation’s largest free email service with more than 90 million accounts, was blocking emails referring to the URL of the economic-activism group Occupy Wall Street. Yahoo! claims that this was an inadvertent error involving its spam-blocking software, because it would never mess with email traffic for the benefit of the wealthy and/or powerful.

Inasmuch as neither senders nor recipients knew about the problem because senders weren’t getting a warning message that what they sent was considered spam and the emails were just getting blocked rather than ending up in intended recipients’ spam folders, perhaps we ought to have a look in Yahoo!’s spam filters to see what else might be in there. You never know. It might be something important.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 8:54 pm

The coroner’s report: We didn’t fall …

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:54 pm
Tags: ,

… we were pushed.

Genius

Filed under: Cool! — Lex @ 8:48 pm
Tags: , , ,

Kevin Guskiewicz, who is leading research at UNC into the permanent, long-term brain damage caused by playing football, got a MacArthur “genius” grant today. Good for him.

Previously.

Thursday, September 15, 2011 7:05 pm

Why John Cole is better than The New York Times

John Cole was a Republican who supported invading Iraq in 2003.

Bill Keller is the editor of The New York Times, whose flawed reporting contributed significantly to the perception that the U.S. needed to invade Iraq.

Here is what Bill Keller says about his role in that fiasco:

Where does this leave me? The world is well rid of Saddam Hussein. But knowing as we now do the exaggeration of Hussein’s threat, the cost in Iraqi and American lives and the fact that none of this great splurge has bought us confidence in Iraq’s future or advanced the cause of freedom elsewhere — I think Operation Iraqi Freedom was a monumental blunder.

Whether it was wrong to support the invasion at the time is a harder call. [Emphasis added; see below -- Lex] I could not foresee that we would mishandle the war so badly, but I could see that there was no clear plan for — and at the highest levels, a shameful smugness about — what came after the invasion. I could not have known how bad the intelligence was, but I could see that the White House and the Pentagon were so eager to go that they were probably indifferent to any evidence that didn’t fit their scenario. I could see that they had embraced Chalabi, the exile cheerleader for war, despite considerable suspicion within the State Department and elsewhere that he was a charlatan. I could have seen, had I looked hard enough, that even by the more dire appraisals of Hussein’s capabilities he did not amount to what Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. called in a very different context “a clear and present danger.” But I wanted to be on the side of doing something, and standing by was not enough.

And here is what Cole — who, by the way, is no longer a Republican — says about what Bill Keller says:

What a bunch of mealy-mouthed bullshit, particularly the highlighted part. The war has been a complete and total disaster, and you don’t just get to grant yourself absolution by claiming it was a tough call. The simple fact of the matter is that warmongering cheerleaders like me and Keller got it wrong. The difference between me and Keller is I have the balls to admit I was wrong. Lots and lots of people with the exact same information we had got it right. Not only did they get it right, but they were chided and derided by folks like me, and in some cases were investigated by the CIA or had their covert cover blown.

So STFU, Keller. You were wrong then, as was I, and you haven’t learned a damned thing in the decade since other than the most important thing in our modern political and media environment is to never admit you were wrong.

For the record, I, too, supported the invasion, mainly because of the claims that Saddam had or was close to getting nuclear weapons and because I naively believed that the U.S. government wouldn’t lie us into a war again (remember the Gulf of Tonkin?). And I, too, was wrong. I apologize for that. I take a little comfort in the fact that I didn’t chide or deride those who disagreed with me, but not much.

And I think Cole’s larger point is crucial. Those who were right — about Iraq, about the housing bubble, about the widespread mortgage fraud — are still being chided and derided. Certainly they were not being given positions of responsibility and authority as a reward for their having been correct. Hell, they’re almost never even showing up on the Sunday-morning talk shows. Meanwhile, toads and worse like Doug Feith and John Yoo are rewarded for their wrongness. (Keller, for his part, should have lost his job over Judy Miller alone.)

Behavior like that is not how a great country stays great.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 11:47 pm

A general reminder: If you don’t like this blog …

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 11:47 pm

… then read something else, leave a comment, email me or come express your opinion to my face.

Those would be the grownup options.

(Lithograph: Ben Shahn)

“TONIGHT’S LOSER: Hypothetical sick 30-year-old. TONIGHT’S WINNER: Death. Good night.”

I didn’t watch the GOP presidential debate last night because I had to study. But apparently I missed something interesting.

Do you remember when then-Rep. Alan Grayson said this?

Do you remember how much grief he caught for it?

Well, last night, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, a very good question, one that, in this country, isn’t entirely hypothetical. Suppose some 30-year-old guy with no insurance lapses into a coma. Do we taxpayers let him die?

Several members of the crowd yelled, “Yeah!” and applauded.

Paul took the usual libertarian “And a pony!” tack of assuring us that in real life, no one like that would die, that volunteers and nonprofits would fill the role currently played by government. (Right.) Moreover, he claimed that government health care is the reason why U.S. health care is so expensive (although the facts quite clearly show otherwise).

But those buzzards in the crowd …

Afterward, Ryan Grim contacted Grayson to ask what he thought of what had happened. Grayson responded:

My speech was about the fact I had been listening to the Republicans for months, and they literally had no plan to help all those millions of people who can’t see a doctor when they’re sick. So I said, in sort of a wry manner, that their plan was “don’t get sick.” All I really wanted to do was just call attention to the stark absence of a Republican plan. But Fox, trying to take the heat off Joe Wilson and Sarah Palin I guess, transmogrified that into a charge that Republicans want to kill people.

What you saw tonight is something much more sinister than not having a healthcare plan. It’s sadism, pure and simple. It’s the same impulse that led people in the Coliseum to cheer when the lions ate the Christians. And that seems to be where we are heading – bread and circuses, without the bread. The world that Hobbes wrote about – “the war of all against all.”

Congratulations, folks. We’ve evolved from “We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union …” to, “I’ve got mine; f— you.”

Sunday, September 11, 2011 8:23 am

What we lost

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:23 am
Tags:

Fortunately, no one personally close to me died on 9/11. I have friends who were not so fortunate.

I plan to spend today doing homework, reflecting quietly and, if I’m lucky, watching the Panthers lose to Arizona. I have had no time to reflect on 9/11 up ’til now, and although I am oddly eager to read some 9/11 retrospectives, homework comes first.

So don’t look for anything new from me on this today. Some stuff  I’ve said about it in the past holds up pretty well, particularly this and some of this. If you want to skip the media orgy entirely but not ignore the occasion, then I cannot recommend highly enough Sarah Bunting’s “For thou art with us,”  an elegiac first-person account written just days after the attacks by a New Yorker who was in lower Manhattan that morning.

UPDATE: If you run across anything you think is really worthwhile, leave a link in the comments. Thanks.

Saturday, September 10, 2011 2:24 pm

If you don’t want to read about 9/11 this weekend …

… (and I would not blame you if you don’t), then spend time instead with this piece by Mike Lofgren, a recently retired GOP congressional staffer. His 28 years of service include 16 on the GOP staff of the House and Senate budget committees. In every important respect, what he says comports with what I observed in 25 years of professional Congress-watching, particularly since the rise of the Gingrichites in 1994. Key points (and keep in mind that this is a career GOP operative talking):

  • “To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.”
  • “This constant drizzle of “there the two parties go again!” stories out of the news bureaus, combined with the hazy confusion of low-information voters, means that the long-term Republican strategy of undermining confidence in our democratic institutions has reaped electoral dividends. The United States has nearly the lowest voter participation among Western democracies; this, again, is a consequence of the decline of trust in government institutions – if government is a racket and both parties are the same, why vote? And if the uninvolved middle declines to vote, it increases the electoral clout of a minority that is constantly being whipped into a lather by three hours daily of Rush Limbaugh or Fox News. There were only 44 million Republican voters in the 2010 mid-term elections, but they effectively canceled the political results of the election of President Obama by 69 million voters.”
  • “Ever since Republicans captured the majority in a number of state legislatures last November, they have systematically attempted to make it more difficult to vote: by onerous voter ID requirements (in Wisconsin, Republicans have legislated photo IDs while simultaneously shutting Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in Democratic constituencies while at the same time lengthening the hours of operation of DMV offices in GOP constituencies); by narrowing registration periods; and by residency requirements that may disenfranchise university students. This legislative assault is moving in a diametrically opposed direction to 200 years of American history, when the arrow of progress pointed toward more political participation by more citizens. Republicans are among the most shrill in self-righteously lecturing other countries about the wonders of democracy; exporting democracy (albeit at the barrel of a gun) to the Middle East was a signature policy of the Bush administration. But domestically, they don’t want those people voting.”
  • “Above all, they do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? – can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative “Obamacare” won out. Contrast that with the Republicans’ Patriot Act. You’re a patriot, aren’t you? Does anyone at the GED level have a clue what a Stimulus Bill is supposed to be? Why didn’t the White House call it the Jobs Bill and keep pounding on that theme?”
  • The GOP cares solely and exclusively about its rich contributors. [Emphasis in original -- Lex] The party has built a whole catechism on the protection and further enrichment of America’s plutocracy. Their caterwauling about deficit and debt is so much eyewash to con the public. Whatever else President Obama has accomplished (and many of his purported accomplishments are highly suspect), his $4-trillion deficit reduction package did perform the useful service of smoking out Republican hypocrisy. The GOP refused, because it could not abide so much as a one-tenth of one percent increase on the tax rates of the Walton family or the Koch brothers, much less a repeal of the carried interest rule that permits billionaire hedge fund managers to pay income tax at a lower effective rate than cops or nurses. Republicans finally settled on a deal that had far less deficit reduction – and even less spending reduction! – than Obama’s offer, because of their iron resolution to protect at all costs our society’s overclass.”
  • “If you think Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand-worshipping colleagues aren’t after your Social Security and Medicare, I am here to disabuse you of your naiveté.[5] They will move heaven and earth to force through tax cuts that will so starve the government of revenue that they will be “forced” to make “hard choices” – and that doesn’t mean repealing those very same tax cuts, it means cutting the benefits for which you worked.”

Go read the whole thing. The kicker is that this guy retired because he figures that given what the GOP plans to do to the federal retirement system, it was better for him to be a current retiree (and thus grandfathered in) than a future one.

Thursday, September 8, 2011 7:52 pm

The next time someone asks me why we shouldn’t just abandon all hope …

Filed under: Love,Y'all go read this — Lex @ 7:52 pm
Tags: , ,

… I’m pointing them to this.

Saturday, September 3, 2011 9:00 am

A thought from God on the 20th anniversary of the deadly chicken-plant fire in Hamlet, N.C.

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , ,

 

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