Posts tagged ‘Middle Eastern’

Obama's Total Failure

Forget about the economy -- libertarians expect Democrats to be horrible statists in economic matters.  But we hope to get some protection of civil liberties in exchange.  But Obama has been simply awful in this area as well -- prosecuting marijuana sellers that are legal under state law, claiming assassination powers, the drone war, wiretapping, failure to address gay marriage, etc.

Here is but one example - the Orwellian defense of warrantless wiretapping.  You can't sue us unless we tell you there is a wiretap, and we are not going to tell you.

As part of its concerted campaign to prosecute whistleblowers and to classify state secrets, the Obama administration has taken a position in Clapper that makes the Bush administration pro-secrecy campaign seem pale in comparison: namely, that no one can challenge warrantless surveillance unless the government tells you in advance that you’re being surveilled—which national security interests prevent it from doing. When Bush administration offered milder versions of the same arguments, the civil liberties community rose up in protest. Verrilli, for his part, was met by vigorous skepticism from the Supreme Court’s liberal justices.

It’s unfortunate enough that the administration asked the Court to hear the surveillance case in the first place, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had ruledthat the plaintiffs —lawyers and human rights and media organizations whose work requires them to communicate with clients, sources, and victims of human rights abroad—had legal standing to bring the case. Although they couldn’t be 100 percent sure that their telephone communications were being monitored, the appellate held that there was a “realistic danger” that their telephone communications were being monitored under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), passed by Congress to codify some of the worst excesses of the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. This led the journalists and lawyers to suffer tangible injuries—such as having to fly to the Middle East to communicate with clients rather than talking by telephone, for example, or being more circumspect in talking to Middle Eastern sources, as journalists such as Naomi Klein and Chris Hedges alleged.

In his Supreme Court brief and in the oral argument yesterday, however, Verrilli alleged that these harms were too speculative to create legal standing to challenge the law, since the lawyers and journalists couldn’t be sure they were being surveilled under the FAA rather than under some other warrantless wiretapping authority. Essentially, the Obama administration was arguing that targets of surveillance could only challenge the law after they knew they were being surveilled, though the government would never tell them they were being surveilled before bringing a case against them.

I am sure we would all like a ruling that we cannot be sued unless we give the plaintiff permission to do so, essentially what the Obama Administration is claiming here.

Update:  From the Washington Times:

Bloomberg News reported on October 17 that Attorney General Eric Holder “prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined, including law-and-order Republicans John Mitchell, Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft.” :

The Justice Department said that there are established avenues for government employees to follow if they want to report misdeeds. The agency “does not target whistle-blowers in leak cases or any other cases,” Dean Boyd, a department spokesman, said.“An individual in authorized possession of classified information has no authority or right to unilaterally determine that it should be made public or otherwise disclose it,” he said.

However, when leaks to the press benefit the administration, prosecutions from the Jusitce Department are absent. For example, AG Holder was not prosecuting anyone over who leaked information about the killing of Oasma bin Laden. The Justice Department has yet to charge anyone over leaking information regarding the U.S. involvement in cyberattacks on Iran as well as an al Qaida plan to blow up a U.S. bound airplane. In fact, the Justice Department ended up appointing one of two attorneys to the cyberattacks investigation who was an Obama donor.

Part of the problem is that if this (or any other) Administration has its way, information that embarrasses the Administration get's classified, on the dubious logic that embarrassing the Administration embarrasses America.  With this definition, all whistle-blowing becomes "espionage".

Update 2:  More on Wiretapping from the EFF

To the contrary, there’s no indication that the still-active warrantless wiretapping program—which includes a warrantless dragnet on millions of innocent Americans’ communications—has significantly changed from the day Obama took office. With regard to the FISA Amendments Act, the Obama Administration has actively opposed all proposed safeguards in Congress. All the while, his Administration has been even more aggressive than President Bush in trying to prevent warrantless wiretapping victims from having their day in court and hascontinued building the massive national security infrastructure needed to support it. ...

Some have suggested it’s possible when Obama said “safeguards” on the Daily Show, he is referring to some unspecified secret administrative rules he has put into place. Yet if these “safeguards” exist, they have been kept completely secret from the American public, and at the same, the administration is refusing to codify them into the law or create any visible chain of accountability if they are violated. But given the ample evidence of Constitutional violations since Obama took office (see: herehere, and here), these secret safeguards we don’t know exist are clearly inconsequential.

Manufacturing News to Fit the Narrative

OK, so the Eastern narrative on Arizona is that it is full of a bunch of wacked-out xenophobic conservatives.  And sure, we have our share.  But the NY Times delves into an issue that, living here, I had never even heard of

The massive dust storms that swept through central Arizona this month have stirred up not just clouds of sand but a debate over what to call them.

The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way.

“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?”

Presumably Yonts also uses some numeric system other than arabic numerals for his math as well.  Seriously, I could mine any community and find some wacko with some crazy idea.  Good journalists are supposed to have some kind of filter on these things to determine if they really are some pressing regional issue.  I live here and I have not heard one word about any such controversy.  But it fits the NY Times caricature of AZ, so they ran with it.

In fact, I think "haboob" has caught on pretty fast because it is a fun sounding name and it is something that is unique to AZ vs. other states.    After living on the Gulf Coast and in tornado alley and on the west coast, it is kind of nice to live in a place where the worst natural disaster you get is a dust tsunami that makes you have to go out and wash your car.

Mohammad Cartoons, Redux

Google is a private company and can have whatever rules it wants for taking down videos at YouTube.  However, I finally watched the banned "anti-Muslim" video and boy was it a letdown, more so even than finally seeing the Mohammad cartoons.  It's literally a 9-1/2 minute video of music playing over text quotes from the Koran.  Period.  No voice over, no criticism.  Just the Koran in its own words, so to speak.  As I said, Google can do as it pleases with its posting policies, but it really looks like an ass for banning a user over this.  Particularly if it is true that similar videos profiling other religions in similar ways did not trigger a ban.

I would like to help Google by suggesting terms of use that are consistent and easily understandable and appear to reflect their current policies:

No video may be posted on YouTube that might result in a Middle Eastern man showing up at our headquarters building with a couple of pounds of C-4 strapped to his chest.

Fortifying the Border

So we're going to build a wall and send an army to the border.

Maintaining a military to defend a group of people against outsiders who wish to use force against them is one of the core functions of government.  Even crazed libertarian anarcho-capitalists like myself concede it as a function of government.  If libertarians were to have their version of the ten commandments, the only phrase that would have to be on the stone is "Thou shalt not deal with thy neighbor through force or fraud."  The government maintains police and a military to handle the people who wish to violate this one commandment.

Throughout the years, countries have built armies and fortifications to defend against invaders who wanted to loot their lands, or steal their property, or impose their own version of racial or religious uniformity.  The US Army itself has fought for freedom, it has fought to restore democracy and individual rights, it has fought to stop genocides. 

Today, the US Army sallies forth again, to fight for and defend .... what? 

It fights to stop waves of Mexican immigrants that are dangerous because they ... want to freely exchange their labor with US Citizens?

It fights to protect Americans from ... competition for unskilled labor jobs?

It valiantly rides forth to make sure Americans never face the horror of ... interacting with someone with only broken English?

The soldiers racing to the borders are not fighting for me, because I am not in danger.  And neither is anyone around me here in Arizona -- no one from outside the border is threatening me with force or fraud (surprisingly frequent emailers sending me messages about Mexicans all being diseased criminals notwithstanding).  Its not like I live blithely ignorant of the border area in Kansas.  I life in Phoenix, and run businesses  right down on the border.  I don't feel a threat or danger.  In fact, the only danger I see is that the army may come down and drag families who are my friends out of their homes and out of the country (or into concentration camps, as one conservative writer longed for).

Immigration opponents are sometimes a little hazy about what danger they are trying to fix.  I agree there is a problem with the welfare state when it meets immigration, which I discussed here and proposed a solution for it here.  Democratic politicians still are confused on this particular problem, wanting some immigration solution but refusing to consider limiting access to the welfare state.   If the problem is infrastructure (police, prisons, schools, etc.) then it could be possible to provide national funds to border regions for this purpose, rather than for armies and walls (the Feds, after all, are handing out hundreds of billions to New Orleans).  And if the problem is too many people who don't look like us Anglo-Saxons, well, sorry  (If you don't think that this is the real issue for many anti-immigration folks, think about the recent scare headlines that soon a majority in the US may be Hispanic.  Can you imagine similar anxiety over the headline "majority of US may soon be of Canadian descent"?)

Update:  Nick Gillespie comments on the fact that Congress has given its official sanction to my speaking English.

Thank you, Middle Eastern 9/11 hijackers, for finally getting the point
through our thick skulls (forgive our slowness, but all too many of us are
descended from immigrants) that the greatest security threat to the United
States is the influx of Spanish speakers from across the border with Mexico.

Christ, it's bad enough that we have to eat foreign food, live in states
with Spanish-derived names, and answer that extra question about which
language to use at the ATM. (Thought experiment: How much is that extra
second or two of time slowing down the U.S. economy and driving down our
productivity, precisely at the moment when the Chinese are breathing down
our
necks like a bunch of post-industrial railroad coolies? You can be damn sure
that the Chinese government doesn't allow ATM users to pick their own
language.)

As I have written before, I have gotten more bizzaro emails on my pro-immigration stand than anything else I have written about.  Gillespie apparently has had the same experience.