June 26, 2013 archive

Jun 26

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Jun 26

SCOTUS: DOMA Struck Down; Dismisses Prop 8

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Equal Right to Marry photo imagesqtbnANd9GcQmD05y7D9pRuFTg2wtz_zpsbcb78269.jpg The Supreme Court ruled on two important cases for the LGBT community: Windsor v. U.S., addressing the Defense of Marriage Act, and Hollingsworth v. Perry, addressing California’s Proposition 8.

On DOMA, which was signed into law by Pres. Bill Clinton in 1996, the court ruled (pdf) that same-sex spouses legally married in a state may receive federal benefits. Justice Kennedy delivered the court’s opinion, and was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito all filed dissenting opinions. While the ruling is a victory on the federal level, the 5- 4 ruling does not effect a state’s right to ban same sex marriage.

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

The plaintiff who brought the case, Edie Windsor, 84, will now get her refund for the $363,000 in federal estate taxes she paid after her spouse, Thea Spyer, died in 2009.

In the Prop 8 case, that was argued before the court by attorneys, Theodore Olson and David Boies, the court decided, again by a 5 – 4 decision, that the opponents of same sex marriage have no standing to sue. The ruling allows gay couples in California to marry.

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”

Roberts was joined in his majority opinion by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan. Justice Anthony Kennedy filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor.

The judgement of the Ninth Circuit was vacated and the case remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

California voters added Proposition 8 to the state’s constitution in 2008 through a ballot initiative that reversed the state Supreme Court’s recognition of same-sex marriage earlier that year. Two same-sex couples challenged the ban in federal court, and by the time their suit reached the justices, two lower courts had declared it unconstitutional.

After the disappointing ruling yesterday striking down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, this is truly a great day for equal rights in the US.

Jun 26

More Video

The Last Word

Yellow Journalism

Assange on Manning

Jun 26

On This Day In History June 26

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 26 is the 177th day of the year (178th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 188 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1959, St. Lawrence Seaway opened.

In a ceremony presided over by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II, the St. Lawrence Seaway is officially opened, creating a navigational channel from the Atlantic Ocean to all the Great Lakes. The seaway, made up of a system of canals, locks, and dredged waterways, extends a distance of nearly 2,500 miles, from the Atlantic Ocean through the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Duluth, Minnesota, on Lake Superior.

History

The Saint Lawrence Seaway was preceded by a number of other canals. In 1871, locks on the Saint Lawrence allowed transit of vessels 186 ft (57 m) long, 44 ft 6 in (13.56 m) wide, and 9 ft (2.7 m) deep. The Welland Canal at that time allowed transit of vessels 142 ft (43 m) long, 26 ft (7.9 m) wide, and 10 ft (3.0 m) deep, but was generally too small to allow passage of larger ocean-going ships.

The first proposals for a binational comprehensive deep waterway along the St. Lawrence came in the 1890s. In the following decades the idea of a power project became inseparable from the seaway – in fact, the various governments involved believed that the deeper water created by the hydro project were necessary to make the seaway channels feasible. American proposals for development up to and including the First World War met with little interest from the Canadian federal government. But the two national government submitted St. Lawrence plans, and the Wooten-Bowden Report and the International Joint Commission both recommended the project in the early 1920s. Although the Liberal Mackenzkie King was reluctant to proceed, in part of because of opposition to the project in Quebec, in 1932 the two countries inked a treaty. This failed to receive the assent of Congress. Subsequent attempts to forge an agreement in the 1930s came to naught as the Ontario government of Mitchell Hepburn, along with Quebec, got in the way. By 1941, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister King made an executive agreement to build the joint hydro and navigation works, but this too failed to receive the assent of Congress. Proposals for the seaway were met with resistance from railway and port lobbyists in the United States.

In the post-1945 years, proposals to introduce tolls still could not induce the U.S. Congress to approve the project. Growing impatient, and with Ontario desperate for hydro-electricity, Canada began to consider “going it alone.” This seized the imagination of Canadians, engendering a groundswell of St. Lawrence nationalism. Fueled by this support, the Canadian Louis St. Laurent government decided over the course of 1951 and 1952 to construct the waterway alone, combined with a hydro project (which would prove to be the joint responsibility of Ontario and New York – as a power dam would change the water levels, it required bilateral cooperation). However, the Truman and Eisenhower administrations considered it a national security threat for Canada to alone control the deep waterway, and used various means – such as delaying and stalling the Federal Power Commission license for the power aspect – until Congress in early 1954 approved an American seaway role via the Wiley act. Canada, out of concern for the ramifications of the bilateral relationship, reluctantly acquiesced.

In the United States, Dr. N.R. Danelian (who was the Director of the 13 volume St. Lawrence Seaway Survey in the U.S. Department of Navigation (1932-1963)), worked with the U.S. Secretary of State on Canadian-United States issues regarding the Seaway and worked for over 15 years on passage of the Seaway Act. He later became President of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Association to further the interests of the Seaway development to benefit the American Heartland.

The seaway opened in 1959 and cost $638 million in Canadian dollars, $336.2 million of which was paid by the U.S. government.[1] Queen Elizabeth II and President Dwight D. Eisenhower formally opened the Seaway with a short cruise aboard Royal Yacht Britannia after addressing the crowds in St. Lambert, Quebec.

The seaway’s opening is often credited with making the Erie Canal obsolete, thus setting off the severe economic decline of several cities in Upstate New York.

Jun 26

On This Day In History June 26

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 26 is the 177th day of the year (178th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 188 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1959, St. Lawrence Seaway opened.

In a ceremony presided over by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II, the St. Lawrence Seaway is officially opened, creating a navigational channel from the Atlantic Ocean to all the Great Lakes. The seaway, made up of a system of canals, locks, and dredged waterways, extends a distance of nearly 2,500 miles, from the Atlantic Ocean through the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Duluth, Minnesota, on Lake Superior.

History

The Saint Lawrence Seaway was preceded by a number of other canals. In 1871, locks on the Saint Lawrence allowed transit of vessels 186 ft (57 m) long, 44 ft 6 in (13.56 m) wide, and 9 ft (2.7 m) deep. The Welland Canal at that time allowed transit of vessels 142 ft (43 m) long, 26 ft (7.9 m) wide, and 10 ft (3.0 m) deep, but was generally too small to allow passage of larger ocean-going ships.

The first proposals for a binational comprehensive deep waterway along the St. Lawrence came in the 1890s. In the following decades the idea of a power project became inseparable from the seaway – in fact, the various governments involved believed that the deeper water created by the hydro project were necessary to make the seaway channels feasible. American proposals for development up to and including the First World War met with little interest from the Canadian federal government. But the two national government submitted St. Lawrence plans, and the Wooten-Bowden Report and the International Joint Commission both recommended the project in the early 1920s. Although the Liberal Mackenzkie King was reluctant to proceed, in part of because of opposition to the project in Quebec, in 1932 the two countries inked a treaty. This failed to receive the assent of Congress. Subsequent attempts to forge an agreement in the 1930s came to naught as the Ontario government of Mitchell Hepburn, along with Quebec, got in the way. By 1941, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister King made an executive agreement to build the joint hydro and navigation works, but this too failed to receive the assent of Congress. Proposals for the seaway were met with resistance from railway and port lobbyists in the United States.

In the post-1945 years, proposals to introduce tolls still could not induce the U.S. Congress to approve the project. Growing impatient, and with Ontario desperate for hydro-electricity, Canada began to consider “going it alone.” This seized the imagination of Canadians, engendering a groundswell of St. Lawrence nationalism. Fueled by this support, the Canadian Louis St. Laurent government decided over the course of 1951 and 1952 to construct the waterway alone, combined with a hydro project (which would prove to be the joint responsibility of Ontario and New York – as a power dam would change the water levels, it required bilateral cooperation). However, the Truman and Eisenhower administrations considered it a national security threat for Canada to alone control the deep waterway, and used various means – such as delaying and stalling the Federal Power Commission license for the power aspect – until Congress in early 1954 approved an American seaway role via the Wiley act. Canada, out of concern for the ramifications of the bilateral relationship, reluctantly acquiesced.

In the United States, Dr. N.R. Danelian (who was the Director of the 13 volume St. Lawrence Seaway Survey in the U.S. Department of Navigation (1932-1963)), worked with the U.S. Secretary of State on Canadian-United States issues regarding the Seaway and worked for over 15 years on passage of the Seaway Act. He later became President of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Association to further the interests of the Seaway development to benefit the American Heartland.

The seaway opened in 1959 and cost $638 million in Canadian dollars, $336.2 million of which was paid by the U.S. government.[1] Queen Elizabeth II and President Dwight D. Eisenhower formally opened the Seaway with a short cruise aboard Royal Yacht Britannia after addressing the crowds in St. Lambert, Quebec.

The seaway’s opening is often credited with making the Erie Canal obsolete, thus setting off the severe economic decline of several cities in Upstate New York.

Jun 26

Cartnoon

Jun 26

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning


Seethrough 1

Jun 26

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning


Seethrough 1

Jun 26

Late Night Karaoke

Jun 26

Unaccountable

Does Robert Reich call for creation of a Third Party?

The Two Centers of Unaccountable Power in America, and Their Consequences

Robert Reich

Thursday, June 13, 2013

There are two great centers of unaccountable power in the American political-economic system today – places where decisions that significantly affect large numbers of Americans are made in secret, and are unchecked either by effective democratic oversight or by market competition.

One goes by the name of the “intelligence community” and its epicenter is the National Security Agency within the Defense Department. If we trusted that it reasonably balanced its snooping on Americans with our nation’s security needs, and that our elected representatives effectively oversaw that balance, there would be little cause for concern. We would not worry that the information so gathered might be misused to harass individuals, thereby chilling free speech or democratic debate, or that some future government might use it to intimidate critics and opponents. We would feel confident, in other words, that despite the scale and secrecy of the operation, our privacy, civil liberties, and democracy were nonetheless adequately protected.

But the NSA has so much power, and oversight of it is so thin, that we have every reason to be concerned. The fact that its technological reach is vast, its resources almost limitless, and its operations are shrouded in secrecy, make it difficult for a handful of elected representatives to effectively monitor even a tiny fraction of what it does. And every new revelation of its clandestine “requests” for companies to hand over information about our personal lives and communications further undermines our trust. To the contrary, the NSA seems to be literally out of control.

The second center of unaccountable power goes by the name of Wall Street and is centered in the largest banks there. If we trusted that market forces kept them in check and that they did not exercise inordinate influence over Congress and the executive branch, we would have no basis for concern. We wouldn’t worry that the Street’s financial power would be misused to fix markets, profit from insider information, or make irresponsible bets that imperiled the rest of us. We could be confident that despite the size and scope of the giant banks, our economy and everyone who depends on it were nonetheless adequately protected.



That neither Republicans nor Democrats have done much of anything to effectively rein in these two centers of unaccountable power suggests that, if there is ever to be a viable third party in America, it will may borne of the ill-fated consequences.

Jun 26

Complete Failure: Foreign Policy Edition

Extending a Hand Abroad, Obama Often Finds a Cold Shoulder

By MARK LANDLER and PETER BAKER, The New York Times

Published: June 18, 2013

Even his friends are not always so friendly. On Wednesday, for example, the president is to meet in Berlin with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who has invited him to deliver a speech at the Brandenburg Gate. But Ms. Merkel is also expected to press Mr. Obama about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, which offend privacy-minded Germans.

For all of his effort to cultivate personal ties with foreign counterparts over the last four and a half years – the informal “shirt-sleeves summit” with Mr. Xi was supposed to nurture a friendly rapport that White House aides acknowledge did not materialize – Mr. Obama has complicated relationships with some, and has bet on others who came to disappoint him.

“In Europe, especially, Obama was welcomed with open arms, and some people had unrealistic expectations about him,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a longtime senior American diplomat. Noting that Mr. Obama continued some unpopular policies like the use of drones, he said, “People don’t appreciate that American interests continue from administration to administration.”

White House officials said Mr. Obama’s meetings with Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin were productive, regardless of the atmospherics. One of the president’s most problematic relationships, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, has improved since he visited Jerusalem in March, with their differences over Iran’s nuclear program narrowing.

Still, for a naturally reserved president who has assiduously cultivated a handful of leaders, it has been a dispiriting stretch.

Gee, why do you think that is?

Could it be spying?

No Foreign Policy accomplishments for this president in his second term.

Jun 26

Some Lies About Warrantless Surveillance

Fisa court oversight: a look inside a secret and empty process

Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian

Tuesday 18 June 2013 19.36 EDT

Since we began began publishing stories about the NSA’s massive domestic spying apparatus, various NSA defenders – beginning with President Obama – have sought to assure the public that this is all done under robust judicial oversight. “When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” he proclaimed on June 7 when responding to our story about the bulk collection of telephone records, adding that the program is “fully overseen” by “the Fisa court, a court specially put together to evaluate classified programs to make sure that the executive branch, or government generally, is not abusing them”.



The GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, told CNN that the NSA “is not listening to Americans’ phone calls. If it did, it is illegal. It is breaking the law.” Talking points issued by the House GOP in defense of the NSA claimed that surveillance law only “allows the Government to acquire foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S.-persons (foreign, non-Americans) located outside the United States.”

The NSA’s media defenders have similarly stressed that the NSA’s eavesdropping and internet snooping requires warrants when it involves Americans. The Washington Post’s Charles Lane told his readers: “the government needs a court-issued warrant, based on probable cause, to listen in on phone calls.” The Post’s David Ignatius told Post readers that NSA internet surveillance “is overseen by judges who sit on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court” and is “lawful and controlled”. Tom Friedman told New York Times readers that before NSA analysts can invade the content of calls and emails, they “have to go to a judge to get a warrant to actually look at the content under guidelines set by Congress.”

This has become the most common theme for those defending NSA surveillance. But these claim are highly misleading, and in some cases outright false.



Under the FAA, which was just renewed last December for another five years, no warrants are needed for the NSA to eavesdrop on a wide array of calls, emails and online chats involving US citizens. Individualized warrants are required only when the target of the surveillance is a US person or the call is entirely domestic. But even under the law, no individualized warrant is needed to listen in on the calls or read the emails of Americans when they communicate with a foreign national whom the NSA has targeted for surveillance.

As a result, under the FAA, the NSA frequently eavesdrops on Americans’ calls and reads their emails without any individualized warrants – exactly that which NSA defenders, including Obama, are trying to make Americans believe does not take place.



Contrary to the claims by NSA defenders that the surveillance being conducted is legal, the Obama DOJ has repeatedly thwarted any efforts to obtain judicial rulings on whether this law is consistent with the Fourth Amendment or otherwise legal. Every time a lawsuit is brought contesting the legality of intercepting Americans’ communications without warrants, the Obama DOJ raises claims of secrecy, standing and immunity to prevent any such determination from being made.



The supposed safeguard under the FAA is that the NSA annually submits a document setting forth its general procedures for how it decides on whom it can eavesdrop without a warrant. The Fisa court then approves those general procedures. And then the NSA is empowered to issue “directives” to telephone and internet companies to obtain the communications for whomever the NSA decides – with no external (i.e. outside the executive branch) oversight – complies with the guidelines it submitted to the court.

In his interview with the president last night, Charlie Rose asked Obama about the oversight he claims exists: “Should this be transparent in some way?” Obama’s answer: “It is transparent. That’s why we set up the Fisa Court.” But as Politico’s Josh Gerstein noted about that exchange: Obama was “referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court – which carries out its work almost entirely in secret.” Indeed, that court’s orders are among the most closely held secrets in the US government. That Obama, when asked about transparency, has to cite a court that operates in complete secrecy demonstrates how little actual transparency there is to any this.



When it is time for the NSA to obtain Fisa court approval, the agency does not tell the court whose calls and emails it intends to intercept. It instead merely provides the general guidelines which it claims are used by its analysts to determine which individuals they can target, and the Fisa court judge then issues a simple order approving those guidelines. The court endorses a one-paragraph form order stating that the NSA’s process “‘contains all the required elements’ and that the revised NSA, FBI and CIA minimization procedures submitted with the amendment ‘are consistent with the requirements of [50 U.S.C. §1881a(e)] and with the fourth amendment to the Constitution of the United States'”. As but one typical example, the Guardian has obtained an August 19, 2010, Fisa court approval from Judge John Bates which does nothing more than recite the statutory language in approving the NSA’s guidelines.

Once the NSA has this court approval, it can then target anyone chosen by their analysts, and can even order telecoms and internet companies to turn over to them the emails, chats and calls of those they target. The Fisa court plays no role whatsoever in reviewing whether the procedures it approved are actually complied with when the NSA starts eavesdropping on calls and reading people’s emails.

The guidelines submitted by the NSA to the Fisa court demonstrate how much discretion the agency has in choosing who will be targeted. Those guidelines also make clear that, contrary to the repeated assurances from government officials and media figures, the communications of American citizens are – without any individualized warrant – included in what is surveilled.



The only oversight for monitoring whether there is abuse comes from the executive branch itself: from the DOJ and Director of National Intelligence, which conduct “periodic reviews … to evaluate the implementation of the procedure.” At a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday afternoon, deputy attorney general James Cole testified that every 30 days, the Fisa court is merely given an “aggregate number” of database searches on US domestic phone records.

Obama and other NSA defenders have repeatedly claimed that “nobody” is listening to Americans’ telephone calls without first obtaining warrants. This is simply false. There is no doubt that some of the communications intercepted by the NSA under this warrantless scheme set forth in FAA’s section 702 include those of US citizens. Indeed, as part of the Fisa court approval process, the NSA submits a separate document, also signed by Holder, which describes how communications of US persons are collected and what is done with them.



The decisions about who has their emails and telephone calls intercepted by the NSA is made by the NSA itself, not by the Fisa court, except where the NSA itself concludes the person is a US citizen and/or the communication is exclusively domestic. But even in such cases, the NSA often ends up intercepting those communications of Americans without individualized warrants, and all of this is left to the discretion of the NSA analysts with no real judicial oversight.

The top secret rules that allow NSA to use US data without a warrant

Glenn Greenwald and James Ball, The Guardian

Thursday 20 June 2013 18.59 EDT

Top secret documents submitted to the court that oversees surveillance by US intelligence agencies show the judges have signed off on broad orders which allow the NSA to make use of information “inadvertently” collected from domestic US communications without a warrant.



The documents show that even under authorities governing the collection of foreign intelligence from foreign targets, US communications can still be collected, retained and used.



The Fisa court’s oversight role has been referenced many times by Barack Obama and senior intelligence officials as they have sought to reassure the public about surveillance, but the procedures approved by the court have never before been publicly disclosed.



(T)he Fisa court-approved policies allow the NSA to:

• Keep data that could potentially contain details of US persons for up to five years;

• Retain and make use of “inadvertently acquired” domestic communications if they contain usable intelligence, information on criminal activity, threat of harm to people or property, are encrypted, or are believed to contain any information relevant to cybersecurity;

• Preserve “foreign intelligence information” contained within attorney-client communications;

• Access the content of communications gathered from “U.S. based machine[s]” or phone numbers in order to establish if targets are located in the US, for the purposes of ceasing further surveillance.

The broad scope of the court orders, and the nature of the procedures set out in the documents, appear to clash with assurances from President Obama and senior intelligence officials that the NSA could not access Americans’ call or email information without warrants.

The documents also show that discretion as to who is actually targeted under the NSA’s foreign surveillance powers lies directly with its own analysts, without recourse to courts or superiors – though a percentage of targeting decisions are reviewed by internal audit teams on a regular basis.



One such warrant seen by the Guardian shows that they do not contain detailed legal rulings or explanation. Instead, the one-paragraph order, signed by a Fisa court judge in 2010, declares that the procedures submitted by the attorney general on behalf of the NSA are consistent with US law and the fourth amendment.

Those procedures state that the “NSA determines whether a person is a non-United States person reasonably believed to be outside the United States in light of the totality of the circumstances based on the information available with respect to that person, including information concerning the communications facility or facilities used by that person”.

It includes information that the NSA analyst uses to make this determination – including IP addresses, statements made by the potential target, and other information in the NSA databases, which can include public information and data collected by other agencies.

Where the NSA has no specific information on a person’s location, analysts are free to presume they are overseas, the document continues.

“In the absence of specific information regarding whether a target is a United States person,” it states “a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States or whose location is not known will be presumed to be a non-United States person unless such person can be positively identified as a United States person.”

If it later appears that a target is in fact located in the US, analysts are permitted to look at the content of messages, or listen to phone calls, to establish if this is indeed the case.

Referring to steps taken to prevent intentional collection of telephone content of those inside the US, the document states: “NSA analysts may analyze content for indications that a foreign target has entered or intends to enter the United States. Such content analysis will be conducted according to analytic and intelligence requirements and priorities.”



The NSA is empowered to retain data for up to five years and the policy states “communications which may be retained include electronic communications acquired because of limitations on the NSA’s ability to filter communications”.

Even if upon examination a communication is found to be domestic – entirely within the US – the NSA can appeal to its director to keep what it has found if it contains “significant foreign intelligence information”, “evidence of a crime”, “technical data base information” (such as encrypted communications), or “information pertaining to a threat of serious harm to life or property”.

All boldface is my emphasis, italics and links are from the original.

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