Saturday, July 27, 2013

Red State, Blue State, Surveillance State; Politicians United Against The People
Irony, Irony Everywhere

In describing how leading Democrats and Republicans lined up to oppose defunding the NSA's phone-tapping of US citizens this week, Glenn Greenwald writing in The Guardian makes the case that Democrats and Republicans agree on far more than they disagree on.

Joining President Obama and the NSA to oppose defunding NSA phone tapping were Michelle Bachmann (R), Nancy Pelosi (D), John Boehner (R), Steny Hoyer (D), Eric Cantor (R), Jan Shakowsky (D) and Peter King (R), which amounts to the House leadership of both parties and the leading fearmongering crusaders against Muslims in the US who all supposedly love terrorism.

Greenwald also points out other instances in which the president has relied on Republican support to push through his policies, and in which he has relied on the Republican "Roberts/Scalia/Thomas" faction in the US Supreme Court to save them.

But an emerging coalition of Liberal Democrats and Libertarian Republicans almost prevailed in Wednesday's vote on phone-tapping, and promises to keep trying to reign in the out of control Obama Administration and its spy agencies. For example, Rush Holt, a House Democrat from New Jersey, has introduced the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which, tellingly not to mention ironically, for its title borrows a phrase -- surveillance state -- heretofore used only by people whose views have been so marginalized that the phrase was only ever read in the kinds of things I read.

And borrowing a cliche I used the other day to describe the shift in congress against lockstep obedience to the Washington political/security-state establishment -- 205 House members voted to cut NSA phone tapping funding -- Greenwald says it represents a "sea change."

The Surveillance State Repeal act would repeal the legal framework used to justify domestic spying, which includes the USA Patriot Act. James Sensenbrenner, the Pennsylvania Republican house member who authored the original USA Patriot Act, during this week's debate said the NSA's phone tapping goes way beyond what the Patriot Act intended. Irony abounds. The president, and senate majority leader Harry Reid, who should be against a surveillance state, lobbied hard against any revisions to the Patriot Act last time it was renewed.

Ron Wyden, a good Democratic senator from Oregon, pointed out that there are two Patriot Acts, the one the public can read and the one the Obama Administration uses, which is based on secret interpretations issued by the secret FISA court.

Recall the recent New York Times article describing the FISA court as a "parallel Supreme Court." Today the Times ran an article on the secret court's history and emerging attempts to reform it. Almost all members of the current FISA court were appointed by Bush-appointed right wing Supreme Court chief justice and Obama ally John Roberts.

Remember that when Obamacare went before the Supreme Court Roberts cast the deciding vote that saved it, and that the program, which at its core is a mandate that forces millions of Americans to buy private health insurance, is in fact a huge gift to private insurance companies who by some accounts have bigger piles of our money than anybody else. Remember how during the drive to get it passed the president put the first of many knives to come in the backs of his progressive base when he wouldn't allow any consideration whatsoever of publicly funded health care, and even took the mainstream appeasing "public option" off the table. Irony, irony everywhere.

(Note: House Democrats Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan, although they have not advertised the fact and have yet to take any kind of public position on government spying on US citizens, were at least on the right side of Wednesday's vote to defund NSA phone tapping. Likewise our Democratic senators, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, are taking their customary "hide under your desk 'til its all over" approach to domestic spying, although in response to my email urging that he oppose domestic spying I did get an email from Udall that details his history of opposition to the Patriot Act and his co-sponsorship of a senate bill introduced by Wyden and Mark Udall of Colorado that like the House amendment that would have limited NSA phone tapping would require that, unlike now, any data collection be preceded by a "demonstrated link to terrorism or espionage." Tom Udall's email also included statements like -- "I find it deeply disturbing that the government has been engaged in the widespread collection of U.S. citizens' cell phone records and other data. The American people have a constitutional right to privacy and deserve more transparency from their government" -- which by virtue of the fact that he committs them to writing shows that his heart is in the right place on this issue. But it seems these poor folks feel like they need more political cover before they can come out from under their desks and lead on the domestic spying issue, so why not let's go ahead and give it to them.)


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