Tag Archives: impeachment

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Republicans May Impeach Trump

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Campaign Ad: Paul Ryan for President 2020.

Speaker Ryan speaks into the camera.

“Impeaching a president from my own party wasn’t an easy decision,” Ryan says, looking sober as footage of disgraced former president Donald Trump departing the White House for the last time appears.

“Sometimes principle” — he pauses for a half-beat — “comes before party.”

A full beat.

“Country always comes first.”

Narrator: “He stood tall when America needs him most. Ready to make the tough decisions when they matter most. Paul Ryan for President.”

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Trump-haters want Democrats to push for impeachment. Setting aside the Dems’ congenital cowardice and the arithmetic — a minority party can’t impeach anyone — the real danger to Trump is his nominal Republican allies.

On the surface, Congressional Republicans appear to have been shocked and awed by the president’s surprise victory and ideologically aligned with a Trump Administration whose hard-right cabinet is prepared to grant every item on the GOP’s wish list. But you don’t have to look hard to see that the pre-November split between the party’s old guard (Ryan, John McCain, Mitch McConnell) and the Trump insurgency remains.

The Donald struts the marbled corridors of the capital, his head held high like Caesar. Beneath their togas, the senators’ sharp knives await.

This is speculation, but I bet Republicans with presidential ambitions — Ryan, Rubio, Cruz, Paul — have already grokked that Trump’s days are numbered. Odds makers agree. Whoever takes credit for bringing down a feared and reviled leader will rid themselves of a rival and reap rewards up to and including the highest office in the land.

Barely one month after taking office, Trump’s approval ratings are tumbling into territory historically belonging to presidents mired in scandals and unpopular wars. Voters tell the latest Quinnipiac poll Trump is dishonest and doesn’t care about people like them. Trump’s numbers are within a rounding error of Richard Nixon’s during Watergate.

Right now, Donald Trump is constitutionally impeachable over his temperament and his brazen violations of the emoluments clause. But nothing will happen until he’s politically impeachable. Trump would have to commit a crime or mistake so colossal and irredeemable that mainstream voters of both parties would find him repugnant.

If I’m Ryan or Cruz or some other crafty GOPer, I’m thinking to myself: every president screws up eventually. But this guy Trump will definitely screw up big. Given his manic pace, his Waterloo will occur sooner rather than later.

Whatever form it takes — provoking a war, crashing the economy, corruption, one authoritarian move too far, conspiracy and obstruction of justice — the inevitable Trumpian disaster leaves House and Senate Republicans with a stark choice. Defend him or stand back silently, and Trump drags the Republican Party along with him as he flames out. Or they can throw him under the bus.

Remember, they never liked him in the first place.

Plan B is far more appealing. Becoming the party of impeachment at a time when impeachment is popular transforms crisis into opportunity, allowing Republicans to cleanse their Trump-era sins (trying to repeal the increasingly well-received Obamacare, paying for the Great Wall of Mexico with deficit spending, etc.) and seize the moral high ground in one swoop. Vice President Mike Pence takes the helm, steadies the ship, promotes their right-wing agenda with more grace than his former boss, and Ryan and his buddies prepare for 2020.

As for the Democrats, this scenario leaves the party even more damaged than it is today. If they leave the task of deposing a wounded Donald Trump to the Republicans, they’ll likely never recover.

Still seething over the DNC’s shabby treatment of Bernie Sanders, the progressive base would consider the party completely discredited and hopelessly moderate for failing to lead the charge against Trump. Swing voters, and not a few Democrats, will give Team Ryan credit for their integrity in taking down one of their own. I can imagine the Warren wing forming a new Progressive Party, leaving the Democrats at less than half its current level of support.

Dems could dodge this looming catastrophe by declaring all-out war against the president. For example, Democratic lawmakers could shut down Congress, and thus deny Trump his entire agenda, by denying a quorum — i.e., failing to show up until the president agrees to resign. There are many ways to obstruct. But creating a constitutional crisis would require balls — something in short supply among Congressional Democrats.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why Won’t Democrats Kick Trump While He’s Down?

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Trump is failing bigly. Why aren’t Democrats taking advantage of this amazing opportunity to rebuild their party?

Barely four weeks in office and the president has his first scandal. Flynngate has everything a president doesn’t want: a top national security official accused of treasonishness, messy investigations afoot, reinvigorated enemy journalists smelling blood.

At first glance, losing a Labor Secretary nominee might not seem to matter. All the other cabinet picks got through; Labor isn’t State. Still, Andrew Puzder’s withdrawal reveals staggering incompetence. Trump’s #1 issue was illegal immigration. Puzder hired an illegal immigrant; dude was a billionaire too cheap to pay her taxes. Seriously?

Trump’s first major policy move, the Muslim travel ban, ended in tears — within hours. So-called judges and their stupid “Constitution”!

Political journalists have a technical term for a cluster–k like this at such an early date in an Administration: a s–tshow.

So where are the Democrats?

The only thing more baffling than the Great Republican Unraveling is the failure of the Democrats to rise to the occasion exploit the situation. Yeah, conventional wisdom says to stand aside when your opponent is making a fool of himself. Right now, however, the Democrats’ failure to articulate an alternative vision — becoming a “party of outrage” doesn’t count — seems less like jujitsu than political malpractice.

He’s retired and deserves some rest after all those late-night droning sessions, but the Dems’ colossal cluelessness is epitomized by that video of Recently Former President Barack Obama kitesurfing — a sport most voters never heard of before — with Virgin mogul Richard Branson.

Given his fanatic dedication to detachedness, Obama as exiled leader of the anti-Trump resistance is probably too much to ask. Still, as John Oliver observed, “Just tone it down with the kitesurfing pictures.”

He continued: “America is on fire. I know that people accused him of being out of touch with the American people during his presidency. I’m not sure he’s ever been more out of touch than he is right now…You’re fiddling while Rome burns!”

Trumpism is collapsing with impressive rapidity. In a two-party system, citizens expect the party out of power to step up, say I-told-you-so, and explain how and why they can fix this s–tshow. So far? Nothing.

The cavalry isn’t merely not coming. It’s asleep.

It’s easy to see why. The Democratic Party still suffers from the division that cost it the 2016 election. All the party’s energy is with the progressive base who backed Bernie Sanders (henceforth, the Guy Who Would Have Won Had the DNC Not Cheated), now gathered around the awkward, oddly colorless Elizabeth Warren. But its leadership caste is still dominated by the Dems’ fading corporatist DLC-Third Way hacks who installed Hillary as nominee. What was needed in 2016 to defeat Trump is still needed to defeat him in 2017: Sanders or someone like him. But the ruling Clintonistas won’t give up centrism unless it’s pulled out of their cold, ideologically dead hands.

The refusal of the Democrats to pogo-dance on Trump’s grave is one of the biggest missed opportunities in recent political history. For example:

He who sees first, and says so, wins. Remember, Trump anticipated Rust Belt rage over NAFTA. Clinton didn’t. Now to 2017 or perhaps 2018: Trump will probably face a forced exit sooner rather than later. Pushing for Trump’s impeachment now would position Democrats as forward-looking thinkers who had it right before anyone else. Moral authority matters.

Oh, and if you don’t do it, the Republicans will steal the moral high ground by doing it themselves. Ryan 2020!

Co-opt the nascent left-wing Tea Party movement. Sanders-Warrenites are flooding Republican town hall meetings the way the O.G. Tea Party of the right did eight years ago to Democrats. Hey, DNC: those kickass activists can freelance, perhaps setting the stage for a left-right split of the party. That is, unless you do what the GOP when they faced their version of a populist insurrection. Let them inside. Let them lead.

Republicans let their Tea Party take over the party; now the party controls the government. Democrats should do the same.

Remember Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” for a “Republican Revolution”? Lay out a “Democratic Revolution” platform that explains to Americans what you stand for. Right now, most voters know that Democrats don’t like Trump, but not what Democrats are for. But remember Hillary’s lame $12/hour minimum wage, at a time when big cities already had $15? Don’t bother unless those platform planks go big. You might not get the $25/hour you ask for — but you’ll get people talking and thinking. Right now, the only thing anyone’s talking and thinking about is the orange monster in the White House.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

CORRECTION, March 1, 2017: I wrote above that Democrats can deny a quorum in either House of Congress. Actually, they cannot. The Constitution, in Article 1, Section 5, states that a majority of each constitutes a quorum to do business. 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Barack Obama Isn’t Half the Man of Richard Nixon

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Forty years ago, President Richard M. Nixon announced that he would resign effective the next day.

At the time, aside from a tiny minority of dead-enders and a few desultory Congressional Republicans, an exhausted nation had arrived at a consensus that Nixon had to go. Politics had become too toxic, distrust of government too profound, and – most of all – the seriousness of the president’s crimes couldn’t be ignored. Judicial sanction wasn’t in Nixon’s future — Jerry Ford’s controversial pardon ensured that — but the ultimate political punishment, impeachment, seemed like the absolute minimum sanction in order to send the message that no man, no matter how powerful, was above the law. Nixon’s resignation, Ford assured Americans and the media agreed, proved that the system works.

Looking back now at what felt like a national cataclysm, however, we probably ought to dig up Tricky Dicky’s bones and beg him to accept our big fat apology.

Students of the Watergate scandal that led to that surreal day in August 1974 — the third day, expunged from history for fear of a repeat performance, when great crowds surrounded the White House, demanding that Nixon depart— will recall that it wasn’t the botched 1972 break-in at Democratic national headquarters that did Nixon in, but the cover-up.

By today’s standards, however, Nixon’s efforts to protect his henchmen, including his screwing around with the FBI investigation that led to an article of impeachment for obstruction of justice, look positively penny-ante, more worthy of a traffic ticket than a high crime or misdemeanor. Obstruction of justice, scandalous and impeachable just 40 years ago, has become routine.

Case study: Obama’s cover-up of torture.

Much bigger crime.

Much longer cover-up.

Much less of a problem.

Five and a half years after taking office, President Obama finally admitted what informed citizens have known since 2002: the United States tortures.

Obama has been covering up Bush-era torture throughout his tenure. (Not the act of torture by Americans, which has been widely reported and has inspired best-selling books and hit movies, but the governmental admission that attracts widespread attention and eventually creates pressure for action.) And even now, after finally admitting that the U.S. ranks with Myanmar and North Korea when it comes to this most basic of human rights, Obama refuses to authorize a formal investigation and prosecution of America’s torturers.

Bush’s torturers shouldn’t be hard to find: many of them are still working for the U.S. government, either force-feeding hunger-striking POWs at Gitmo or working for one of the branches specially exempted from Obama’s “no torture” order.

“When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe – and I think any fair-minded person would believe – were torture, we crossed the line,” Obama told a press conference last week.

Better late than never. But not much better. Because, like so much of Obama’s rhetoric, they’re empty words.

Normally, when one crosses a line – is there a more clearly disgusting line than torture? – one faces consequences. Thanks to Obama, however, no one from the CIA, US military or other American government employee has ever suffered so much as a 1% pay cut as the result of drowning detainees, many of whom were released because they never committed any crime whatsoever, sodomizing kidnap victims with flashlights and other objects, subjecting people to extremes of heat, cold and sleep deprivation – not even for murdering detainees or driving them to suicide at American-run torture centers like Guantánamo concentration camp.

Though Obama had repeatedly promised throughout the 2008 presidential campaign that he would investigate war crimes under the George W. Bush administration and prosecute anyone found to have committed torture, soon after moving into the White House in 2009 Obama backtracked and infamously said that it was time to “look forward as opposed to looking backwards” – in other words, there would never be a serious investigation.

That promise, he kept.

“At the CIA,” Obama said in 2009, “you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got spend their all their time looking over their shoulders.”

The president didn’t explain why causing concern to torturers would be bad.

Lest there be any doubt about his intentions to kowtow to the national security police state, Obama even traveled to CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia to reassure nervous torturers that they would have nothing to fear from him. In 2011, Obama’s Justice Department officially exonerated “anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees” — i.e., pretty much every U.S. government torturer.

Even now, while Obama is supposedly admitting that torture happened, he uses hokey countrified verbal constructions to diminish the horror while making excuses for those who committed them: “I understand why it happened. I think it’s important, when we look back, to recall how afraid people were when the Twin Towers fell,” Obama said, as though there had been a universal demand for indiscriminate torture against teenage goatherds from Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. “It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job those folks had.”

The torturers, you see, were the victims.

Incredibly, Obama added the following nugget to last week’s some-folks-tortured-some-folks statement: “The character of our country has to be measured in part, not by what we do when things are easy, but what we do when things are hard.”

Richard Nixon covered up political dirty tricks and got impeached for it; Barack Obama is covering up torture and continues to authorize it with impunity.

It hardly seems fair. But when we measure Nixon’s character against that of Obama’s, we’ll take note of the one who finally did the right thing and resigned.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” out Sept. 2. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Is Rand Paul America’s #1 Liberal?

Libertarians Replace Democrats as Warriors Against Crazy Presidents

There once was a time (before the 1980s) when liberals were a powerful force against executive overreach. Democrats like George McGovern opposed wars of choice. Democrats like Frank Church exposed the CIA, which led to an executive order (by President Ronald Reagan!) that banned political assassinations. A Democratic Congress held impeachment hearings against Richard Nixon, in part because he violated the privacy rights of a few hundred Americans by tapping their phones. Millions of lefties marched against the Vietnam War — it didn’t matter that the president was a Democrat.

Things have changed.

A “liberal” president and his Democratic congressional and media allies aren’t fighting the good fight. They’re committing the worst crimes.

And so, following what Chris Hedges called “the death of the liberal class,” where the Hellfire missiles fly and in streets that ought to be full of protesters, naught but crickets, here’s what’s left:

The most liberal politician in America is a right-winger.

Rand Paul, who in May led a 13-hour filibuster in the Senate over Obama’s drone war, is the mainstream’s point man against dystopian killer air robots. This is the kind of thing that, had even a Democratic president like LBJ had been up to, would have had Democrats and the liberal media up in arms.

Even though an out-of-control White House is leaving open the option of using drones to blow up Americans on American soil (not that it’s OK in Pakistan), Democrats are nowhere to be found. At least 4,000 people — by law, all innocent since none were charged by a court — have been assassinated under Obama’s orders. Meanwhile, liberal politicians sit on their hands. Progressive media outlets scarcely mention these horrors, and when they do it’s in tepid tones that rarely call out Obama as the blood-soaked mass murderer he is.

Is Rand Paul so far right that, like Pat Buchanan back when, he comes all the way around the back to the left? Are Paul’s maverick stances just a marketing program to draw attention to himself, in preparation for 2016? Or is his brand of libertarianism genuine? Whatever the motivation, Paul has become the most, perhaps the only, establishment political figure expressing a progressive vision on a host of incredibly important issues…issues that have been abandoned by the state-sanctioned Left.

Paul, a right-wing Republican who believes Israel can do no wrong, is nevertheless he establishment’s most passionate defender of privacy rights. The libertarian scion has sponsored a bill that would prohibit the NSA from intercepting and storing Americans’ phone records. (Because the NSA charter limits its activities to foreign intelligence gathering, the phone tapping and other Orwellian programs revealed by Edward Snowden are illegal. The bill would ban the phone intercepts explicitly.)

Only four senators are backing this progressive legislation. Paul is the only Republican; most Democrats continue to defend Obama and his NSA, whose totalitarian approach to stealing our information — they take it all — makes East Germany’s “Lives of Others” Stasi look like nosy neighbors. Paul, a free-market purist, wants to overturn the vile Patriot Act, get rid of the useless TSA (“The American people shouldn’t be subjected to harassment, groping, and other public humiliation simply to board an airplane”), and states openly that proposals for Congressional oversight of the NSA — typical, lame sops to public disgust, and Congress was supposed to be doing that all along, weren’t they? — won’t be enough.

“The Constitution doesn’t allow for a single warrant to get a billion phone records,” says the senator from Kentucky. “They basically, I believe, are looking at all of the cell phone calls in America every day.”

The most liberal Democrats in the Senate? They’re collaborators with Obama’s Gestapo.

Dick Durbin sporadically issues some pretty, progressive-esque, pro-privacy noises about reining in the NSA, yet voted to renew the Patriot Act, which captures Americans but not terrorists. Al Franken is pro-fascist security state. “I can assure you that this isn’t about spying on the American people,” Franken said. Actually, that’s exactly what it’s about.

When George W. Bush was in power, “liberal” California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein railed against NSA spying on Americans, calling it an impeachable offense. Now that the president is a member of their party, Boxer is silent and Feinstein is the NSA’s PR flack.

On a lot of issues, Rand Paul’s stances are contemptible. Exhibit A: He opposed the Civil Rights Act as a violation of “state’s rights,” the clarion call of the segregationist Old South. Yet on many of the existential questions of our time, radical policies that have transformed the United States from a democratic republic to a terrifying authoritarian state that uses brute force to subjugate a vast global empire, Rand is on the side of the angels — far more so than the self-defined progressives who claim to value civil liberties while running interference for the insular, violent and repressive Obama Administration.

Rand stood tall against Obama’s fascist National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the federal government to kidnap U.S. citizens and throw them into prison forever without charging them with any crime. “His signature [on the NDAA] means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended,” said Anthony Romero of the ACLU of Obama.

Naturally, the Republican establishment is pissed off at Paul.

GOP columnist Charles Krauthammer slammed Paul as “politically radical” and “socially liberal.” (No comment on whether spying on every American, or assassinating innocent civilians, is “radical.”) Chris Christie, a top 2016 presidential contender, calls Paul’s suspicion of endless wars against Middle Eastern countries “dangerous.” (Unlike the wars?) John McCain calls him a “wacko bird” (takes one to know one) for opposing drones.

If you want evidence of the crisis of the two-party system, look no further than the strange new bedfellows of the age of Obama. Even before the Snowden leaks, 70% of Democrats and 77% of Republicans believed the NSA was violating their privacy. Both Democrats and Republicans who felt this way thought the NSA wasn’t justified: 51% and 52%, respectively.

Even in Congress, a “loose alliance of lawmakers” is allied against the leadership of their own parties” on issues like the NSA and Obama’s desire to attack Syria.

Though nascent, the libertarian-left attack against the liberal-conservative establishment is a big deal. This tendency, as Marxists call it, can develop in one of two directions. There might be a dramatic political realignment such as 1932, when FDR’s New Deal began to move African-Americans and white Southerners into the Democratic camp. Or — I think this is more likely — newly exposed fissures will open, showing that the real split is between oppressed and oppressor, not “liberal” Democrat and “conservative” Republican.

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. Go there to join the Ted Rall Subscription Service and receive all of Ted’s cartoons and columns by email.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: 10 Things You Don’t Know About How the NSA Spies on You

The Least Most Untruthful Analysis of Obama’s Orwellian Dystopia

Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian says “a lot more significant revelations” about America’s colossal Orwellian surveillance state are coming down the pike — courtesy of the thousands of pages of classified documents he obtained from Edward Snowden, the heroic former CIA contractor. That should be fun.

In the meantime, we’ve got a pair of doozies to digest: Verizon’s decision to turn over its the “metadata” — everything about every phone call (except the sound) to the NSA, and the PRISM program, under which the biggest Internet companies (Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, etc., pretty much all the top outfits except Twitter) let the NSA read our emails, see our photos, even watch our Skype chats.

Establishment politicians and their media mouthpieces are spinning faster than a server at the NSA’s new five zettabyte data farm in Utah, doing everything they can to obfuscate in the hope that we’ll forget this whole thing and climb back into our pods in The Matrix.

So let’s get some clarity on what’s really going on with 10 things you probably don’t know about the NSA scandals.

1. PRISM, not Verizon, is the bigger story.

Government-aligned mainstream media outlets like The New York Times and NPR focus more on Verizon because — though what the phone company did was egregious — it’s less indefensible. “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” Obama says. (When that’s what passes for reassurance, you’ve got a PR problem.) PRISM, they keep saying, is targeted at “foreigners” so Americans shouldn’t be angry about it. But…
2. PRISM really is directed at Americans.

“Unlike the call data collection program, this program focuses on mining the content of online communication, not just the metadata about them, and is potentially a much greater privacy intrusion,” notes Popular Mechanics.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified to Congress that the NSA does not collect “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” “Not wittingly.” As The New York Times said in an uncharacteristically bold post, this is a lie. Here’s what’s behind the Rumsfeldian logic of what Clapper describes as his “least most untruthful” testimony: “What I was thinking of,” explains Clapper, “is looking at the Dewey Decimal numbers of those books in the metaphorical library. To me the collection of U.S. persons’ data would mean taking the books off the shelf, opening it up and reading it.”

In other words, the NSA collects the search histories, emails, file transfer records and actual live chats of every American. They store them in a data farm. Whenever the NSA wants to look at them, they can. But according to Clapper, this isn’t “collecting.” It’s only “collecting” when they choose to read what they have.

I have bought several books. They’re on my shelf. I haven’t read them yet. Have I “collected” them? Of course.

I don’t want the NSA to read my sexts or look at my dirty pictures. The fact that they may not have gotten around to it yet — but have them sitting on their shelves — doesn’t make me feel better.

3. President Obama should be impeached over this.

Richard Nixon was. Or would have been, if he hadn’t resigned. Obama, his top officials and his political surrogates have repeatedly and knowingly lied to us when they said the NSA didn’t “routinely sweep up information about millions of Americans.” He should go now. So should others who knew about this.

4. PRISM and other NSA spy programs are not approved by courts or by Congress.

White House defenders say the surveillance — which is, remember, a comprehensive vacuuming up of the entire Internet, and of every phone call ever made — has been approved by the legislative and judicial branches, so there’s nothing to worry about. But that isn’t true. The “FISA court” is so secret that, until last week, no one had ever seen a document issued by it. It’s not a real court. It’s a useless rubber stamp panel that literally approves every surveillance request the government asks for. In 2012, that’s 1856 requests and 1856 approvals.

Very few members of Congress were aware of the Verizon or PRISM programs before reading about them in the media. Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a few select Friends of Barack, that’s it. That’s not Congressional oversight. Real oversight occurs in full session, in public, on C-SPAN.

5. There is no evidence that NSA spying keeps America safe. And so what if it did?

According to government officials, PRISM saved the New York City subways from being bombed in 2009. Actually, the alleged would-be terrorist was caught by old-fashioned detective work, not data-mining. There is zero evidence that the NSA has saved a single American from being blown up.

But so what if it did? In recent years, between 15 and 17 Americans a year died worldwide from terrorist attacks. You’re as likely to be crushed to death by your television set. It’s sad for the dozen and a half victims, of course. But terrorism is a low, low national priority. Or it should be. Terrorism isn’t enough of a danger to justify taking away the privacy rights of 320 million people.

6. This is not a post-9/11 thing.


We’re being told that PRISM and the latest Patriot Act-approved surveillance state excesses date back to post-9/11 “make us safe at any cost” paranoia. In fact, the NSA has been way up in your business long before that.

Back in December 1998 the French newsweekly Le Nouvel Observateur revealed the existence of a covert partnership between the NSA and 26 U.S. allies. “The power of the network, codenamed ECHELON, is astounding,” the BBC reported in 1999. “Every international telephone call, fax, e-mail, or radio transmission can be listened to by powerful computers capable of voice recognition. They home in on a long list of key words, or patterns of messages. They are looking for evidence of international crime, like terrorism…the system is so widespread all sorts of private communications, often of a sensitive commercial nature, are hoovered up and analyzed.” ECHELON dates back to the 1980s. PRISM picks up where ECHELON left off, adding the Internet to its bag of tricks.

7. Edward Snowden expects to be extradited.

U.S. state media wonders aloud, “puzzled” at whistleblower Snowden’s decision to go to Hong Kong, which routinely extradites criminal suspects to the United States. But Snowden’s explanation is crystal clear. All you have to do is listen. “People who think I made a mistake in picking HK as a location misunderstand my intentions,” he told a local newspaper. “I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality.” Snowden could go to Ecuador, or perhaps Venezuela or Iceland. He’s staying put because he wants to face trial in the U.S. And I doubt he’ll cop a plea when he does. He wants a political hearing so he can put the system on trial. In the meantime, he’ll use the time it’ll take Obama’s legal goons to process the extradition to talk to journalists. To explain himself. To make his case to the public. And, of course, to help shepherd those new revelations Greenwald mentioned.

8. Caught being evil — or collaborating with evil — Google and other tech companies are scared shitless.

And they should be. Consumers and businesses know now that when Big Brother comes calling, Big Tech doesn’t do what they should do — protect their customers’ privacy by calling their lawyers and fighting back. This could hurt their bottom lines. “Other countries will start routing around the U.S. information economy by developing, or even mandating, their own competing services,” speculates Popular Mechanics. Europe, worried about the U.S. exploiting the NSA for industrial espionage, began working on work-around systems that avoid U.S. Internet concerns.

9. 56% of Americans trust the government’s PRISM program, which the government repeatedly lied about. What people don’t know should worry them.

You’re not a terrorist. You don’t hang out with them. So why worry? Because the data collected by the NSA isn’t likely to stay locked up in Utah forever. Data wants to be free — and hackers have already proven they can access the NSA. Some want to sell it to private concerns. To insurance companies, so they can determine whether your buying habits make you a suitable risk. To banks. To security outfits, to run background checks for their clients. To marketers. Mining of Big Data can screw up your life — bad credit, can’t get a job — and you’ll never know what you hit you. Oh, and don’t forget: governments change. Nixon abused the IRS and FBI to attack political opponents. Innocuous census data that collected religious affiliations was used by the Nazis to round up Jews when they came to power.

10. In the long run, the end of privacy will liberate us.

Everyone (who isn’t boring) has a dirty secret. The way things are going, all those secrets will be as out as Dan Savage — and just as happy and self-assured. Blackmail — the nobody-talks-about-real-reason-PRISM-is-creepy — only works if most dirty secrets are hard to come by. But if everyone’s got a nude photo online, if everyone’s sexual deviations are searchable and indexed, the power of shame goes away as quickly as it does at a nudist colony. By the time the surveillance state plays out, we may look back at 2013 as the year when America began to move past Puritanism.

If we’re not in a gulag.

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in 2014 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Being, Nothingness and Anthony Weiner

Should Anthony Weiner Resign?

Should Anthony Weiner resign?

Aside from the obvious pleasure that we derive from wallowing in salacious revelations about the rich and powerful, this week’s Weiner sexting controversy provides a window into American morals. Namely: what is wrong, what is right, and what if anything should be done about it?

Let’s look at the sin first.

Weiner sent smutty photos, some with smutty captions, to some of his followers on Twitter. As far as we know he never met any of these women in person, much less had sex with them.

After the Congressman and once-possible-future mayor of the City of New York realized that he had mistakenly sent one of his crotch shots to the wrong addressee, he got too clever by half. Trying to get ahead of the story before it broke organically, he called a press conference and claimed that Evil Right Wingers had hacked his Twitter account. This lame story quickly fell apart, and here we are, with The New York Times editorial board officially decrying Weiner’s “profoundly squalid and offensive pattern of conduct,” language one would have liked to have seen used to describe, for example, torture. Or the bailouts for millionaire bank executives. Or lying us into war in Afghanistan. And Iraq. And Libya.

No victim, no sin. Who’s Weiner’s victim?

Not, apparently, the women to whom he tweeted his…tweet. As far as we know, they were willing adult participants.

Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin is the sole candidate for Victim.

You have the right to feel outraged on her behalf. Me, I’m wary. No one but a husband and wife (or two husbands or wives) knows what goes on between them.

For all we know, Huma might be evil. She may have done far worse. Maybe she doesn’t mind. Or thinks a guy is entitled to fantasies that don’t involve his wife. If she sticks around we’ll at least know that her hubby’s “profoundly squalid and offensive pattern of conduct” wasn’t worth divorce.

The way I see it, this is the Weiners’ business.

To ask whether Weiner should resign, then, goes to another question. Did he betray his constituents–those in Queens and, more broadly as a nationally-known Congressman, the American people?

No doubt, Weiner lied to we, the people. It’s hard to imagine now, but that used to be an impeachable offense. Dig up Richard Nixon and ask him.

Nowadays, however, the public seems to have abandoned the expectation that politicians tell the truth. President Obama, for example, included a clear call for a public option in his healthcare reform proposal during the 2008 presidential campaign. It’s still on his website. And yet: “I didn’t campaign on the public option,” he said in late 2009.

Weiner lied. But it wasn’t about policy or something important like war. Remember Libya? We were going to “move quickly to save [civilian] lives.” It was going to be “this limited action, limited both in time and scope.” That was March. Now we’re trying to kill Kadaffi.

And, to Weiner’s credit, he didn’t lie long. A week. When he ‘fessed up, he did it like a man: took questions from the press, accepted responsibility, volunteered dirty deeds we didn’t know about.

It’s certainly not “we DID find the WMDs,” à la Bush-Cheney. Who, remember, did not resign.

I would love to live in a country in which lying to the public was cause for resignation. It sure would make for a lot of vacancies in government.

But we don’t–and it seems weird to hold a sexter to a higher standard than a warmongering mass murderer.

Ultimately the public’s case against Weiner comes down to the one Edward G. Robinson snaps at the dastardly insurance salesman played by Fred MacMurray in “Double Indemnity”: “I picked you for the job, not because I think you’re so darn smart, but because I thought maybe you were a shade less dumb than the rest of the outfit. I guess I was all wet. You’re not smarter, Walter. You’re just a little taller.”

Weiner doesn’t even get to be tall.

The Times questioned Weiner’s “judgment and character, considering that he was once considered one of the savvier members of the House. Had it not occurred to him, in an era of unending sexual scandal, that repeatedly sending these kinds of photographs to strangers would eventually catch up with him? And that, if it did, his attempt to exploit his political celebrity for online sexual gratification would be considered reprehensible?”

Should Weiner resign? Only if not being sufficiently cold, cynical and calculating is just cause.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

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ITMFA – Libby Edition
posted by TheDon

The Bush Crime Family has now gamed the system so that Scooter won’t testify against his old boss Dick, and we’ll never hear the truth from Libby’s lying lips. For once he is following in dear old dad’s footsteps by using his presidential pardon powers to protect himself and his boss Dick.
This is another attack on the rule of law and the separation of powers by this oulaw regime. It’s time to take the gloves off and ITMFA. Now. This won’t be the last abuse of this power to protect his buddies, either. Watch for some rather broad pardons in January, 2009. GRRRRRRR.
So now what? Now there is no “ongoing investigation”, so it’s time for Congress to start up the hearings and subpeona the executive and find out who outed a CIA agent. If they don’t cooperate? ITMFA.
And where is the press? It’s time to start pressing the president again over who leaked, and why they still have security clearances. Press him on his claim that he would fire anyone connected. Push, people! Push!
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ITMFA – VP edition
posted by TheDon

The Sunday chuckleheads seemed endlessly amused by that whacky VP and his unconstitutional antics. We are not amused. When the phrase “Nixonian stonewalling” seems inadequate to describe an administration, and when the VP shows such contempt for congress that he doesn’t even try to justify his activities anymore, it’s time to act. My mother used to say “If you act like Nixon, I’m going to treat you like Nixon”, or something like that. It’s time to treat this administration like the outlaw enemies of the Constitution that they are, and I’m not just talking about Congress. The MIA stenographer press corps needs to step up to the plate and earn their constitutionally protected status.

I hear people that I respect making the argument that impeachment is only an option, and that it would be a distraction from the Democratic legislative agenda.

Defending the Constitution is NOT an optional exercise, it is an oath that every congresscritter swore. There is no longer any doubt that these people are an ongoing threat to our Constitution, and to the lives and freedoms of people around the world. Their sneering contempt for the legislative branch and the people they represent has to be answered with force, and the biggest power congress has is the power to impeach.

And I have to ask… WHAT Democratic legislative agenda? I know there is one, but not one which will ever pass with the current Senate or President. Nothing of substance will pass the Senate (or even reach the floor), and if something accidentally passes, President Numbnuts has finally found the veto pen.

These guys are stonewalling because it’s the only way to make it to January 2009 still in office. It’s time to stand up for the people and their Constitution. An impeachment can even be a proxy war-crimes trial. I think the public would cheer on any process to get these criminals out of office, even if it eventually fails in the Senate. But I think that any Senator who refuses to vote for conviction on the serious crimes commited by this administration will be tossed out.

ITMFA – and the VP he rode in on.

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