John McCain tries to put some backbone into Republicans

❝ Americans recoiled from the repugnant spectacle of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville to promote their un-American “blood and soil” ideology. There is nothing in their hate-driven racism that can match the strength of a nation conceived in liberty and comprising 323 million souls of different origins and opinions who are equal under the law.

❝ Most of us share Heather Heyer’s values, not the depravity of the man who took her life. We are the country that led the free world to victory over fascism and dispatched communism to the ash heap of history. We are the superpower that organized not an empire, but an international order of free, independent nations that has liberated more people from poverty and tyranny than anyone thought possible in the age of colonies and autocracies.

❝ Our shared values define us more than our differences. And acknowledging those shared values can see us through our challenges today if we have the wisdom to trust in them again.

❝ Congress will return from recess next week facing continued gridlock as we lurch from one self-created crisis to another. We are proving inadequate not only to our most difficult problems but also to routine duties. Our national political campaigns never stop. We seem convinced that majorities exist to impose their will with few concessions and that minorities exist to prevent the party in power from doing anything important.

That’s not how we were meant to govern. Our entire system of government — with its checks and balances, its bicameral Congress, its protections of the rights of the minority — was designed for compromise. It seldom works smoothly or speedily. It was never expected to.

It requires pragmatic problem-solving from even the most passionate partisans. It relies on compromise between opposing sides to protect the interests we share. We can fight like hell for our ideas to prevail. But we have to respect each other or at least respect the fact that we need each other.

❝ That has never been truer than today, when Congress must govern with a president who has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct.

We must respect his authority and constitutional responsibilities. We must, where we can, cooperate with him. But we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. We answer to the American people. We must be diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a check on his power. And we should value our identity as members of Congress more than our partisan affiliation.

There’s not much in politics when I agree with John McCain. His class loyalties do not lie with America’s working class. He does have an historical, sound understanding of our Constitution. That doesn’t require extra scholarship — only common sense and the ability to read beyond a 6th-grade level. Neither of which includes our fake president.

Still, click the link above and reflect upon the whole piece.

Middle of the road, traditional – and solid – defense of a Free Press

No comment. I’m not interested in changing this part of our Constitution – even if the TeaPublicans, neo-cons, Trumpkins and other proto-fascists appear to be headed in that direction. Truth-telling is still a good defense.

White House staff plays key role in deadly drone strikes — and faces no Congressional oversight


Click to enlargeNorthrop Grumman

The White House staff for national security, exempt from review by Congress, plays a substantial role in the process for killing suspected terrorists, according to a newly released document on drone strikes.

The 2013 document, known informally as the “playbook” for Barack Obama’s signature counterterrorism operations, was released on Saturday by the justice department as the result of court requests by the American Civil Liberties Union. The playbook provides the closest look to date at the bureaucratic machinery of global killing that Obama will pass on to Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

The document designates the National Security Council staff as a body of review over “all operational plans” for either killing or capturing terrorist subjects. Once representatives of various cabinet agencies and departments meet to discuss a specific plan, NSC attorneys provide legal input.

…While the NSC staff plays a role in nominating people for inclusion on the so-called “kill list”, it neither makes the nomination nor involves itself in carrying out a strike or raid.

Such plans include the length of time permissible for killing or capturing people in a designated place, the “strike and surveillance” assets to be used, the specific counter-terrorism objectives to be achieved, and a “near certainty” that civilians will neither be killed nor, for non-lethal action, injured while capturing a target. The NSC staff convenes meetings across agencies for nominating any named “high-value target” to the “kill list”, and passes on those considered validly marked for death to a meeting of cabinet deputies. It also receives written assessments of the results of each strike…

The US justice department released a public version of the three-year-old document…after the ACLU persuaded a federal judge in February to decide against the Obama administration’s argument for total secrecy…

Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU attorney who spearheaded the lawsuit for the playbook’s disclosure, noted the power of the NSC…“The Obama administration notably has taken the position that the NSC is not an agency and is therefore beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act.”

The NSC now has about 400 employees. None are approved by the Senate. They do not testify before Congress. Their records are automagically presumed to be privileged.

The Republican Party platform now rejects our Constitution as the law of the land

The Constitution, by its own terms, is the “supreme law of the land.” All judges are bound by the words of the Constitution, and all laws made by legislatures within the United States must yield to the Constitution’s provisions. This is the central insight of the American republic — the idea that the structure and limits of government are laid out in a written document, and that document is binding on all government actors subject to its terms.

The Republican Party’s 2016 Platform rejects this concept outright…

The GOP Platform’s section on constitutional law begins with a declaration of principles: “That God bestows certain inalienable rights on every individual, thus producing human equality; that government exists first and foremost to protect those inalienable rights; that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights; and that if God-given, natural, inalienable rights come in conflict with government, court, or human-granted rights God-given, natural, inalienable rights always prevail.”…

The GOP Platform claims that “the right of individuals to keep and bear arms” is “a natural inalienable right that predates the Constitution” — a statement that many modern democracies would find absolutely flabbergasting. Many libertarian natural rights theorists believe that there is a natural “right to contract” which trumps minimum wage laws and laws protecting the right to unionize, on the theory that a worker should be free to bind themselves to a contract which pays them very little money to work in deplorable conditions. Most human rights advocates believe that we all have a right to be free from torture. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump disagrees.

The GOP Platform makes several highly controversial claims about the nature of natural rights…Beyond the right to bear arms, the platform names the “right to devote resources to whatever cause or candidate one supports” (i.e. the right to spend money to influence elections), the right of private organizations to “set their own membership standards” free from anti-discrimination laws, and the “freedom of Americans to act in accordance with their religious beliefs” often when those beliefs call for defiance of the law, as examples of rights that are “not given to us by the government but are rights we inherently possess.”

Then comes the Platform’s single most radical line. In addition to claiming that the First Amendment protects natural rights to spend unlimited sums of money on elections and to engage in religiously motivated discrimination, the Platform includes this remarkable statement: “The government cannot use subsequent amendments to limit First Amendment rights.”…Nothing less than a repudiation of the idea that judges and lawmakers are bound by the Constitution’s written text.

…If Congress were to propose, and the states were to ratify, a constitutional amendment overruling the Supreme Court’s campaign finance decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the Republican Party’s position is that this amendment would be null and void. The text of the Constitution itself must yield to the natural rights theory laid out in the Republican Party’s 2016 Platform…

America has a written constitution in no small part because such a document is the only way to adjudicate disputes about the nature of our rights without simply leaving the decision up to whoever happens to hold power at any given moment.

And the Republican Party Platform would scrap this means of resolving such disputes, on the theory that it knows better than the Constitution.

Craptastic ideology written to satisfy the longings of know-nothings who still think 14th Century religious beliefs outweigh a secular constitution which keeps itself free from the religion du jour. In other words, the Republican Party has no problem with sharia – as long as it is written by segregationist Christians.

Supreme Court says any judge can OK search warrants for every computer in the country

The Supreme Court might have just given the FBI expanded hacking powers, opening the door for the feds to legally hack any computer in the country, and perhaps the world, with a single warrant authorized by a judge located anywhere in the United States.

The court approved a controversial change in in Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a procedural rule that regulates when and under what circumstances judges can issue warrants for searches and seizures.

Under the old language of Rule 41…judges could approve warrants authorizing hacking — or as the FBI calls it, network investigative technique, or NIT — only within their jurisdiction.

With the changes, first proposed by the Department of Justice in 2014, judges could now approve hacking operations that go beyond their local jurisdiction if the target’s location is unknown or is part of a network of infected computers, or botnets, under the control of criminals.

This change would be “the broadest expansion of extraterritorial surveillance power since the FBI’s inception,” according to Ahmed Ghappour, an computer crime law expert and professor at UC Hastings…

Privacy advocates, legal experts, and Google, have long opposed changing Rule 41 with this new language, and are now arguing that Congress should step in and amend or reject the rule change.

“The Department of Justice is quietly trying to grant themselves substantive authority to hack into computers and masking it as a bureaucratic update,” Amie Stepanovich, the U.S. policy manager at Access Now, a digital rights organization…

Congress now has until December 1 to weigh in, according to the US law governing the rulemaking process. If Congress doesn’t act, the rule will automatically come into effect.

Do I need to suggest you write, email or otherwise inform your Congress-critter to get off their rusty-dusty and do some work for ordinary citizens? Tell our elected officials to shutdown the free-form snooping our Constitutional government thinks it needs to make us safe.

True Believers want the Bible to be the official state book in Tennessee


Tennessee Senate committee meeting

Lawmakers voted to make the Bible the official Tennessee state book…

In a 19-8 vote on Monday, members of the State Senate passed HBO615, sponsored by Republican Steve Southerland, in an attempt to “[recognize] the Bible for its historical and cultural contributions to the state, rather than as government endorsement of religion,”…

Which is how you phrase this crap to make it sound like you actually think the Constitution of the United States defines how you govern.

In the real world, this means bible-thumping opportunist politicians figure they can screw a few more votes out of folks who believe that a 14th Century book compiled by a royal committee should tell our government how to run this country. Really.

Seventeen Republicans and two Democrats voted in favor of the bill — presented just days before candidate filing deadlines for this November’s congressional elections — with six Republicans and two Democrats opposed, primarily for concerns over its constitutionality. Five senators abstained.

…To Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the Tennessee ACLU, the bill is nothing more than a “thinly veiled effort to promote one religion over other religions [which] clearly violates both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions,”…

If the new bill is approved by Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee will become just the second state in the country to have an official state book of any kind (in 2003, Massachusetts deemed the 1941 tale “Make Way for the Ducklings” its official children’s book).

During the Civil War a significant portion of Tennessee refused to join the forces of slavery in their revolt against the Union. I wonder if there is the same level of honesty, civility and dedication to the US Constitution in today’s Tennessee government?