Category Archive: Action

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Social Security at 80

80 years ago today President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act as a major part of his New Deal. Calls for its privatization started over 30 years ago under Pres. Gerald Ford. We must not let that happen. If anything, it should be expanded as Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) proposed.

Sen. Warren sent an e-mail today reminding us of the vital importance of this program to seniors, the disabled and dependent children:

80 years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law – and it was in large part thanks to a remarkable woman from Massachusetts: Frances Perkins.

Frances Perkins was FDR’s Secretary of Labor – the first woman in US history to hold a cabinet position. Coming out of the Great Depression, she was a chief architect of the New Deal, and we can thank her for the 40-hour workweek, the minimum wage, and unemployment insurance. She was also the head of the Committee on Economic Security, which created the blueprint for Social Security. God bless Frances Perkins.

FDR and Frances Perkins established Social Security because, as FDR said, “It [would] take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.” In other words, Social Security would be a win-win: good for our nation’s economy and good for the citizens of our nation.

They knew that Social Security was about economics, but it was also about our values. It’s about who we are as a people, and what kind of country we are determined to build. [..]

80 years later, we need Social Security more than ever. People are hitting their retirement years with less savings and more debt. Pensions are disappearing, being replaced by 401(k) plans that leave retirees at the mercy of the stock market. The squeeze on America’s middle class is now a squeeze on America’s retirees.

Social Security benefits are modest – just $1300 a month, on average – but two-thirds of America’s seniors rely on those checks for the majority of their income. For 15 million seniors, Social Security is all that stands between them and poverty.

Social Security is about independence and dignity. It’s no surprise that 79% of likely voters in last year’s election – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – support increasing Social Security benefits. Every person who represents you in Washington, and every person running for President in 2016, should be talking about protecting and expanding Social Security – not cutting it.  

FDR and Frances Perkins knew that you don’t get what you don’t fight for. So today, I’m fighting hard to make sure we don’t cut a dime of Social Security benefits. I’m fighting to protect and expand Social Security – and I hope you’ll fight alongside me.

Decades after Social Security was established, Frances Perkins told the Social Security Administration:

Social Security is so firmly embedded in the American psychology today that no politician, no political party, no political group could possibly destroy this Act and still maintain our democratic system. It is safe. It is safe forever, and for the everlasting benefit of the people of the United States.

Let’s fight to make good on Frances Perkins’ promise by protecting and expanding Social Security.

Thank you for being a part of this, and a special thanks to Frances Perkins – a tough woman with a vision. Happy birthday, Social Security!

Elizabeth

She asks us to sign her petition to protect and expand Social Security:

Two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their income in retirement, and for 15 million seniors – 15 million – this is the safety net that keeps them out of poverty. And yet, instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, some in Washington are actually fighting to cut benefits.

The absolute last thing we should do in 2015 – at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors to keep their heads above water – is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.

Join me today – on the 80th anniversary of Social Security – to take a stand: We believe in protecting and expanding Social Security so our seniors can retire with dignity.

We stand with Sen. Warren. Please sign her petition

GOP Push To Pass “Clean” Fast Track

Up Date: 6/18/2015 This morning the House passed Fast Track by 218-208, with 28 Democrats voting for it. It now must return to the Senate because it didn’t include Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) which failed to pass the House as a separate bill last week. The president has said that the would veto it if it did not include the TAA.

The bill was attached to HR 2146 Defending Public Safety Employees’ Retirement Act.

The push is on to get Fast Track passed. After the Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, killed the Trade Promotion Authority by voting against Trade Adjustment Assistance, the Republicans are bringing a “clean” bill to the floor. Well not quite “clean.” This is the latest from Huffington Post

To move a clean fast-track bill, the House Rules Committee attached the legislation Wednesday evening to a firefighter and police retirement bill sent over by the Senate.

Once the clean TPA bill is sent back to the Senate, it will be up to the upper chamber to handle TAA independently. [..]

The plan, according to Democratic and Republican sources, is that after the clean TPA bill is passed and sent to the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will then attach TAA to the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a separate trade bill involving African countries.

As Republicans revealed their strategy, House and Senate Democrats who had previously voted in favor of fast-track headed to the White House to meet with Obama about the path forward. The question will be whether Republican leaders and Obama can convince Senate Democrats to vote for fast-track on the promise that TAA will reach the president’s desk later. [..]

A Senate Democratic aide confirmed that there is no agreement among Republicans and pro-trade Democrats in the upper chamber about how to move forward once fast-track is sent their way. Talks are expected to continue tomorrow.

Stand by.  

Fast Track Ain’t Dead Yet

This past Friday the House of Representatives passed the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), aka Fast Track, by a slim margin of 219 – 211. It did so without the crucial Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill which failed, massively. The TAA is included in the Senate version of Fast Track and without it Fast Track is dead and so, in all likelihood, is the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP), its European version, Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services (TiSA) agreements.

In an unusual parliamentary maneuver, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) moved to reconsider the TAA in desperate hope that he can convince enough Democrats and Republicans to change their votes. That doesn’t appear to be possible as Joe Firestone, the managing director of New Economic Perspectives, explains:

Likelihood of Approval of TAA (and Consequently TPA/fast-track) In a Re-vote in the HouseLikelihood of Approval of TAA (and Consequently TPA/fast-track) In a Re-vote in the House

I’ve read every post-mortem on Friday’s TPA result I could find since Friday’s TAA vote. And while there’s a lot of speculation on what will happen if there is a re-vote of TAA on Tuesday, very little of the analysis seems to depart from an explanation of the actual roll call results of roll calls 361 and 362 by Party. [..]

Since, on Friday, the TAA was perceived as the key vote on both the TAA and the TPA, why was roll call 361 so decisively against both, while roll call 362, on the TPA alone was narrowly in favor of the TPA? In other words, why were these votes so at variance with each other? No post-mortem I’ve seen has really considered this carefully, and tried to explain it. But plainly, one’s explanation has to be the foundation for projecting how any re-vote in the House on the TAA/TPA is likely to come out. [..]

In short, even though the mainstream view of the maximum limit of Republican opposition to the TPA was 57, roll call 361 shows 158 Republican votes against it, an entirely unexpected result showing that the Republican leadership has lost touch with their members when it comes to gauging the extent of their resentment against leadership attempts to force trade adjustment benefits and a small tax increase down their throats for the sake of the interests of Wall Street and the multinationals. Republicans might generally support corporations and view small business as one of their important constituencies, but that doesn’t mean they love foreign multinationals and the lemon socialism they are bringing to the table.

On the Democratic side, the Party’s traditional support for trade adjustment assistance was overcome with 144 votes against, because Democrats realized that a vote for the TAA was a vote for the TPA, and the vast majority of them were against that passionately. Not just out of principle, but because 1) Democratic leadership was obviously divided on the issue with the Administration wanting it badly; 2) the formal leaders in the Houses were seemingly neutral, and many other influential Democrats, as well as the rank and file strongly against it; 3) the Democratic Party in the House was probably recognizing that the Administration had lost them the key election of 2010, and made them weaker in 2012 and 2014 then they otherwise would have been, with its insistence on passing and supporting a neo-liberal health care “reform” bill, bailing out the health care insurers, that couldn’t possibly begin to be effective until 2015; 4) the Administration had tried to lead them down a primrose path of more electoral failure with its failed “Grand Bargain” effort to cut the entitlements so important to Democratic constituencies and the identity of the Party; 5) the Administration’s determined effort to pass the potentially very unpopular package of the TPA, followed by the TPP, TTIP, and TiSA agreements would very likely also seriously erode their electoral support with their core constituencies; and 6) in the end, most of the Democratic members may have realized that there was no percentage in them voting against their own perceived interests for the sake of the President’s “legacy” and may, just perhaps, even gotten very angry over being asked to secure this legacy over their potentially very dead political bodies, in return for a TAA bill that would provide some $463 million in such assistance to be divided among a likely one million people and very possibly many more, that projections seemed to show would be put out of work by the contemplated trade agreements. Such Democrats might be forgiven for thinking that an attempt to buy them off with an average of $463 per unemployed person was not a very handsome offer from those wanting to pass the TPA and the subsequent likely trade agreements. [..]

Implications of the Explanations for a Re-vote

I think the explanations suggest that the likely result of any re-vote on the TAA will be similar to the first vote for a number of reasons. First, for Democrats, their will be resentment over the fact that the Republican leadership, with the obvious encouragement of the President isn’t respecting the decision taken by the House on Friday, and is trying to make them go on the record again in rejecting their TPA program. I think they will view this as adding insult to the injury that the Administration has done them by putting them in the position of having to vote on these trade issues in the face of their obvious desire to forget about NAFTA-like trade agreements that have already caused the Party so much grief in the past. [..]

With Pelosi, now publicly on the anti-TPA side and Clinton certainly tending toward that definite position, how many of the 40 Democrats who voted for TAA/TPA will stick with their position? What’s in it for them to support their lame duck president, while remaining in seeming disagreement with their most likely choice for the top of their ticket in 2016? Anyone for those 40 Democrats suddenly becoming 20, or even 5 or 6, come Tuesday?

And on the Republican side, with 158 of them in opposition to the TAA/TPA on Friday, and 54 of them still in opposition to the TPA even when they had a chance to vote on a clean TPA bill which was purely symbolic and did not require them to vote for the hated TAA “welfare,” how many of them do you suppose will now vote for TAA/TPA on the re-vote? They too, will be angry at Boehner and Ryan for making them vote again on the combined TAA/TPP.

So why would that initial 158 Republican votes in opposition suddenly be less than in the first TAA vote? And even if were, and that number fell to say 146 or so in opposition, which is the other side of the coin of Boehner’s statement that he doesn’t think he can produce more than 100 votes for the TAA in the re-vote, even if there still were 20 Democrats who remain in support of TAA, then we would still have 146 Republicans + 168 Democrats or so against the TAA on Tuesday, a vote of 314 against and, at most, 120 votes for.

At Salon, lapsed blogger David Dayen points out the hurdles the GOP leadership must jump to get this to the president’s desk. The options aren’t good:

   Pass TAA on a re-vote. Speaker John Boehner set this up for a vote next week, where they will try to persuade more Democrats and Republicans. Republican support topped out at 93 (votes started moving away from TAA once it was clear it wouldn’t pass), meaning that 124 Democrats would need to give their support. That’s a very tall order, especially now that it’s clearly the only thing standing between the President and his trade authority. Democratic groups, which demanded a no vote on TAA, will surely continue to whip the vote on their side.

   Pass a separate standalone fast track bill. Just the threat of this, leaving Democrats with the President’s trade authority in place and no TAA, might be enough to get TAA passed. But it shouldn’t be. Just because 219 members voted for fast track on a meaningless vote today doesn’t mean they would be there on a standalone vote. Also, there is no way the Senate would concur on a fast-track trade bill without TAA: that would lose too many Democratic votes to pass. So this seems like an idle threat. Mitch McConnell could pass fast track with a promise to pass TAA later, but he’s already done that gambit once, getting fast track forward with a promise of a vote on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. That promise has been broken, and there’s no reason for Senators to believe McConnell again.

   Make changes to TAA or fast track to get enough Democrats on board: This is what Pelosi was intimating, but it’s hard to see how that could plausibly occur. They would have to get any changes agreed to by the House and the Senate, which opens the process up to a lot of messiness. And even if all the issues with TAA were dispensed with – no paying for the assistance with Medicare cuts, no exemptions for public employees, etc. – the bill has now become the impediment to more corporate-written trade deals that set regulatory caps and facilitate job loss, and liberal Democrats know it. As Rep. Keith Ellison, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, told the Huffington Post, “You can’t take the politics out of politics.”

   Give Democrats something they want: Nancy Pelosi’s Dear Colleague letter makes this clear: “The prospects for passage (of fast track) will greatly increase with the passage of a robust highway bill.” This means that, if Republicans vote for more infrastructure spending, Pelosi would be likely to supply the votes for trade. But it’s not clear whether this is coming from Pelosi only, or if it would have buy-in from her caucus. She might be making a deal her caucus hasn’t empowered her to make. Plus, that would involve Republicans in the House and Senate agreeing to fund more infrastructure, and nobody knows where the money would come from.

Now add to the mix, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton finally addressed the issue:

“The president should listen to and work with his allies in Congress starting with Nancy Pelosi, who have expressed their concerns about the impact that a weak agreement would have on our workers to make sure we get the best strongest deal possible,” she said. “And if we don’t get it, there should be no deal.” [..]

Clinton said a final deal must protect American jobs, raise American workers’ wages and protect American national security interests.

“The president actually has this amazing opportunity now,” the Democratic presidential candidate said. “Let’s take the lemons and turn it into lemonade.”

Not as decisive as some would like but clear enough.

The fight to Stop Fast Track and these non-trade agreements is not over by a long shot. We need all hands on deck today and tomorrow before the vote.

There is no time to waste, do this NOW. Call and tell your representative to vote no on these bills.

Don’t Be Fooled! TAA & Other Trade Bills Will Cut Medicare and More

Up Date: TAA has failed to pass the House by a vote of 126 – 302.

The House will now vote on Fast Track.

Up Date: TPA (Fast Track) passed 219- 211.

In an unusual move, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made a motion to reconsider the TAA which was tabled for later consideration.

House now voting on the Customs Enforcement Bill.

Up Date: The Trade Enforcement and Customs Act passed 240 – 190.

The vote on the motion to reconsider TAA will take place on Monday June 15. Without it the TPA bill cannot move forward:

Technically, the vote was on a portion of the legislation to renew federal aid for workers who lose their jobs through imports.

A second roll call followed on the trade negotiating powers themselves, and the House approved that measure, 219-211. But under the rules in effect, the overall legislation, previously approved by the Senate, could not advance to the White House unless both halves were agreed to. That made votes something less than a permanent rejection of the legislation.

In complex maneuvers to get more Democrats to vote for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Trade Promotion Authority (TPA, aka Fast Track), Republicans pulled language from the TAA bill that would have cut $700 million from Medicare to offset the cost. Don’t Be Fooled! The Republicans just moved the cuts to another bill that will be attached to Fast Track. From Dave Johnson at Crooks and Liars:

A bill on customs and trade law enforcement is being “loaded up” with amendments that will be attached to the fast-track TPA law, after (and if) fast track passes. These include amendments that would forbid the U.S. from doing anything through the trade agreement to address climate change, restrict actions to fix immigration laws or allow more visas, require trade laws to expand markets for Alaskan seafood, as well as other items intended to “buy votes” for fast-track TPA from reluctant Democrats. The customs bill also tries to get Democratic votes by undoing a provision that cuts Medicare in order to “pay for” trade adjustment assistance for workers who will lose their jobs if TPP passes.

Democrats who vote for the customs bill are voting to approve the ideological amendments added by Republicans. Many Republicans may choose to vote against fast-track TPA if the customs bill does not include the ideological amendments.

In other words, the Medicare cuts are still in the TAA and Democrats must vote for the Customs Bill to change it.

Lori M. Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, explained to MSNBC host Michael Eric Dyson how these bills will hurt everything from climate change and emigration, to killing jobs and greases the path to passing the TPA. Also on the show discussing how very bad these bills are Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Jim Keady, director of Educating for Justice.

As Democracy for America puts it this is a trap

The Fast Track plan includes a trap: a $700 million cut to Medicare in order to pay for Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits and services for people who lose their jobs to foreign trade. Although Trade Adjustment Assistance and Fast Track are two separate bills, they’ve been linked by Republicans.

As the AFL-CIO and other allies are saying right now to House members, the bottom line is clear: A vote for the current Trade Adjustment Assistance bill and a vote for Fast Track is a vote to cut Medicare.

This is it. We need all hands on deck — and we need to take drastic action to win.

There are eight Democrats who are still undecided, whose votes could decide whether Medicare gets cut and whether Fast Track passes. Can you give these eight Representatives a call right now? Even if you’re not a constituent, they need to hear from you. It’s that important.

Oh, and in case you are wondering about what we mean we say “it’s a trap,” check out these Medicare attack ads that Republicans ran against Democrats in 2014 — a video made possible by our friends at the Communications Workers of America:

I don’t often agree with DFA these days but they are spot on exposing the GOP agenda.

More from Dave:

The TAA bill has passed the Senate. Senate Republicans cut TAA funding by 21 percent from current levels, excluded public-sector workers from receiving any assistance and required that Medicare be cut to pay for what remains. Yet several Democrats agreed and voted for the bill. Now with the bill before the House, House leadership is trying to lure Democratic votes for the TAA bill by changing the funding from Medicare cuts in the sub-Saharan Africa bill, while retaining the ability to use the recorded TAA vote to cut Medicare against them in the coming elections.

The AFL-CIO has come out against TAA. Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, has stated his opposition to the TAA bill. Many Democrats who support fast-track TPA will find it political difficult to continue to do so without assistance for the workers who will lose jobs as a result of their support. [..]

This is widely called a “trade” vote, but from what is known about the actual TPP agreement (it’s secret from the public) it is largely about things other than what would usually be understood as trade. For example, one provision called investor-state-dispute-settlement (ISDS) has been leaked to Wikileaks so it is known that it allows corporations to sue governments for laws and regulations that interfere with the corporation’s ability to collect current and “expected” profits.

Another leaked provision revives the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that Congress killed a few years ago. Yet another extends patents and copyrights far beyond what Congress has approved.

The Hill has been maintaining a “whip list” of who is for or against the fast-track bill. As of late Thursday, 118 Republicans and 20 Democrats were either declared or leaning “yes” votes. There were 44 Republicans and 135 Democrats declared or leaning “no.” That left 33 Democrats and 83 Republicans in the “undecided” column.

Especially the members who are undecided need to feel the heat from you to vote against fast track. If you have not made that call to your member of Congress, use our click-to-call tool to make that call now.

There is no time to waste, do this NOW. Call and tell your representative to vote no on these bills.

Why Free Trade Is Bad for America

President Barack Obama has asked congress to abrogate its constitutional responsibility to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) with little to no debate and no changes or amendments. At this time, the House does not have the votes to pass the fast track bill. He has met with resistance from his own party, going so far as to say that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was spreading misinformation and didn’t know what she was talking about, in other words, lying. In reality, it is the president who is lying to the American public to push a free trade bill, that appears to be worse than NAFTA which has nearly destroyed American manufacturing. Thanks to Wikileaks you can read some of the draft provisions here.

Sen. Warren has been a leader in the fight to stop the fast tracking of TPP, she is now joined by Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) to stop the TPP.

Watch This Democrat Make The Case For Why Obama’s New Free Trade Deal Would Be Awful For America

By Sam Levine, Huffington Post

After President Barack Obama accused critics of his proposed trade deal of being wrong on the facts, one member of Congress released a lengthy video explaining point-by-point why he believes free trade has hurt the United States and why a new deal would be even worse.

After facing vocal criticism from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other Democrats on his trade deal, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Obama accused the members of his own party of spreading misinformation. In a town hall last week, Obama challenged his critics, saying that he would be happy to debate them on the facts of the deal.

In a nine-minute video, which will be sent out to 1 million members of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee on Thursday morning, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) seems to try to meet that challenge.

Free Trade More Like Fake Trade

Americans are creating tens of millions of jobs in other countries with our purchasing power, and we are losing tens of millions of jobs in our country, because foreigners are not buying as much of our goods and services.

What are they doing? They’re buying our assets. So we lose twice. We lose the jobs, and we are moving further toward national bankruptcy. That is the end game.

Sign the petition to Stop the TPP at Treachery.com

John Oliver Takes on Surveillance Reform

The battle over citizens’ right to privacy and the government’s mass collection of private data that has nothing to do with protecting the country from terrorist attacks, is coming to a head on June 1. That’s when the Patriot Act’s section 215, the provision of the act that the NSA used to authorize its bulk telephone metadata collection program, must either be renewed by congress or it expires. The problem is the lack of interest by the American public. In an extended segment of his HBO program, “This Week Tonight,” John Oliver found a subject that might pique their interest, “dick pics.” He presented his idea to Edward Snowden in a one on one exclusive interview.

So why all the trouble? In theory, Snowden’s revelations are old, they have proven to be either inaccessible or not titillating enough for the American public, and Oliver already covered the issue himself on the show in an interview with former NSA chief General Keith Alexander less than a year ago.

As it turns out, Oliver wasn’t satisfied. Using the June 1 expiration of controversial sections of the Patriot Act as a peg, Oliver decided to revive the conversation anew by highlighting one specific aspect of the surveillance issue that a majority of Americans could relate to.

And Sunday’s final product is earning Oliver plaudits across the Internet. In the interview, Oliver accomplishes several feats. He’s not only funny (Snowden apparently misses eating Hot Pockets, the sodium vehicle of the American freezer section), but also incisive and tough. [..]

But most notably of all, Oliver might finally have pinpointed a way to make the debate about surveillance accessible to a wide audience. By honing on one aspect of the government surveillance, the capacity for intelligence agencies to access “dick pics,” he captures the attention and summons the outrage of numerous passersby in a filmed segment in Times Square. Many of those interviewed can’t properly identify Edward Snowden or don’t quite recall what he had done, but all recoil at the thought of government access to intimate photography.

Thanks to John’s interview and the above viral video, which at this posting has

4,723,977 views, the movement to end mass surveillance has new life.

Privacy advocates experienced a major setback in November when a surveillance reform bill, the FREEDOM Act, died in a Senate procedural vote. But now they’re back, and with a new, simple question for Americans – Can they see your junk?

Playing off Oliver’s hilarious skit, one privacy activist built cantheyseemydick.com, which breaks down how each NSA program could be used to access private communications. Despite its flippant tone, the website offers simple explanations of complex programs that are difficult to understand.

On a more serious note, a new coalition of privacy groups led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today launched the Fight 215 campaign calling for an end to the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

EFF activist Nadia Kayyali told TechCrunch the organizations launched the campaign today because of the impending deadline, but they were very excited about the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver skit and the attention it has already brought to surveillance reform.

With this campaign, the privacy advocates have taken a direct stance, end the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records. [..]

Even with the new public attention on surveillance reform, privacy advocates face an uphill battle in Congress. Although surveillance reform is an issue that does not fall squarely on party lines, reform efforts in the Democratic-controlled Senate last year were thwarted primarily by Republican votes. Now Republicans control both chambers of Congress.

As the June 1 deadline approaches, no one in Congress has laid out a comprehensive plan to address government surveillance this year. Kayyali attributes the lack of action on the Hill to uncertainty.

“I think a lot of people, including people who want to see good legislation passed, weren’t certain where to start from,” Kayyali said. “It’s hard to say what Congress is thinking.”

As members look to form that plan, Kayyali hopes the new campaign will send them a clear message.

EEF and thirty other civil liberties organizations have launched a call in campaign, Fight 215. They will help connect you to your representatives to tell them to end mass surveillance.

Call Congress Now

Urge them to end mass surveillance under the Patriot Act.

What to say

Hi,

I’m one of your constituents, and I’m calling to urge you to end the NSA’s unconstitutional mass surveillance under the Patriot Act.

NSA surveillance illegally invades my privacy, along with millions of other innocent people, without making me safer.

Ending phone record surveillance is the first step to reining in surveillance abuses by the NSA. The time to put pressure on congress is now.

 

Call on the Senate to Release the Torture Report

Is anyone surprised that the Obama administration is trying as hard as it can to stop the Senate CIA torture report from being released? It blatantly obvious that they do not want this report made public and are hoping that the incoming chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-SC), who is best buds with the intelligence community, will bury the report. The current stall is over the redaction of pseudonyms. The White House wants the aliases redacted arguing that it would expose the people they wish to protect. It is quite possible that if known, there people would face arrest and prosecution.

The fight between the White House and the Committee came to a head on Tuesday during the weekly briefing with the Senate Democrats and White House Chief of Staff and CIA Director John Brennan’s best bud, Denis McDonough:

“It was a vigorous, vigorous and open debate — one of the best and most thorough discussions I’ve been a part of while here,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who served as intelligence committee chair before Feinstein, was furious after the meeting, and accused the administration of deliberately stalling the report.

“It’s being slow-walked to death. They’re doing everything they can not to release it,” Rockefeller told HuffPost.

“It makes a lot of people who did really bad things look really bad, which is the only way not to repeat those mistakes in the future,” he continued. “The public has to know about it. They don’t want the public to know about it.”

As negotiations continue, Rockefeller said Democrats were thinking creatively about how to resolve the dispute. “We have ideas,” he said, adding that reading the report’s executive summary into the record on the Senate floor would probably meet with only limited success. “The question would be how much you could read before they grabbed you and hauled you off.” [..]

Rockefeller said the administration’s unwillingness to use aliases reflects a broader contempt for congressional oversight.

“The White House doesn’t want to release this. They don’t have to. And all we do is oversight, and they’ve never taken our oversight seriously,” he said. (He then added that he did allow for one exception, the Church Committee.) “Under Bush there was no oversight at all. Remember the phrase, ‘Congress has been briefed’? What that meant was that I and our chairman […] and two comparable people in the House had met with [former Vice President Dick] Cheney in his office for 45 minutes and given a little whirley birdie and a couple charts.”

“They had a specialty for being unforthcoming in our efforts at oversight,” he added, “and therefore there is no incentive for them to change their behavior.”

Time is running out. It’s clear that one or more of the senators will need to take some drastic action. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), who was defeated in the midterm elections, has said that he is considering reading the unredacted report into the Congressional Record on the Senate floor, a move that is protected by the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause.

It is time to release the torture report. Please sign the Act Blue petition to urge Sen. Udall to read the report into the congressional record.

Sign the petition: Enter the CIA torture report into the Congressional Record

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s “torture report” is expected to detail shocking abuse of prisoners at the hands of the CIA during the Bush administration, and even possible CIA lying to Congress.

But seven months after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted overwhelmingly to release the report to the American people, the White House is stonewalling Congress and demanding “redactions”-blacked-out sections and information-before making its contents public.

But there’s a way around that-and before the end of the year, we have a rare chance to make it happen.

Members of Congress have an absolute right to free speech, and a member could enter the report into the Congressional Record in its entirety-just as the Pentagon Papers were in 1971-without fear of prosecution.

That’s exactly what transparency advocates are calling on outgoing, staunchly anti-torture and pro-transparency Sen. Mark Udall to do.

Sign the petition to Sen. Mark Udall: If you enter the torture report into the Congressional Record, we’ll have your back.

Our Message to Sen. Mark Udall:

Before leaving office, please submit the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report to the Congressional Record. We know that you are considering undertaking this heroic and courageous act, and we and countless others will support you if you choose to do so.

We will deliver a copy of this petition and a list of signers to Sen. Mark Udall, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein and President Obama to make sure our message is heard.

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Visas for Translators: Even Kafka Wouldn’t Put His Name on This

HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver tackled an issue that has gotten little attention from the mainstream media, helping to save the Iraqis and Afghans that helped the United States in the wars it started in their countries. The audience may have laughed but much of this is heartbreaking and anger inducing, anger at the United States for being so inhumane and heartless.

Translators

Translators who have aided the U.S. Military in Afghanistan and Iraq are in great danger in their home countries, but red tape is making it impossible for many of them to leave. John Oliver interviews Mohammad, one translator who made it out.

For more info on efforts to assist U.S.-affiliated refugees in Iraq and Afghanistan see http://thelistproject.org/, and http://refugeerights.org/.

“To Be a Friend is Fatal: the Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind,”

For the American public, the war in Iraq is over, receding quickly from our memory.

But for tens of thousands of Iraqis who have risked their lives in the service of America, it continues at a perilous clip.  They continue to receive death threats from militants who view them as traitors.  Some have been assassinated since our withdrawal.

Sadly, the current policy of the United States towards these is simple: submit your application and wait.  If you can survive for two years (the current amount of time an Iraqi must wait for their first interview to be scheduled), we might consider resettling you.

Even worse, the Afghans who stood beside us for the past decade are now coming up against the unmoving bureaucracy of the U.S. Government, which is only processing a small number of cases each month.

The List Project has helped nearly 2,00 U.S.-affiliated Iraqis make it to safety over the years, but our work continues. We continue to rely on small donors for operational support: please consider a small donation if you’re able.

On September 3, 2013, Scribner published “To Be a Friend is Fatal: the Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind,” Kirk W. Johnson’s memoir about the List Project’s seven-year long struggle to protect thousands of Iraqis on the list.  The book centers around the lives of four Iraqis who stepped forward to help the United States, following them as they flee from Iraq and come up against the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the U.S. refugee resettlement program.

An execuive order could ease the process. We need to take care of the people who put their lives at risk to help the US, that includes their families.

Spinning Wheels of Death

Today is Internet Slowdown Day, a day of protest and action seeking to preserve “Net Neutrality”- the concept that no content is privileged in it’s delivery to your computer by censorship or commerce.  Our old friend d-day explains.

“Cable companies could make this page so slow, it will still be loading”

David Dayen, Salon

Wednesday, Sep 10, 2014 07:43 AM EST

(T)he spinning wheel is meant to dramatize what would happen if Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler, a former cable industry lobbyist, succeeds in creating an Internet “fast lane.” Under a proposal put out by the FCC in April, companies could pay Comcast or AT&T or Verizon to speed their preferred content to consumers more quickly. This paid prioritization would create a permanent digital divide, reducing competition and innovation on the Internet and discriminating between content for the first time.



Wheeler argued that the FCC would not allow telecoms to “divide haves and have-nots,” saying that under his strategy, the agency would police any abuse of the fast lane on a case-by-case basis. More important, the proposed rules offer a choice, between the Wheeler proposal and a plan that would reclassify broadband Internet as a common carrier service, like phone lines, giving the FCC stronger authority to ensure that no company could discriminate against any kind of content. “We look at reclassification as the only path forward for real net neutrality protections,” said Tim Karr, senior strategy director at Free Press, one of the organizations putting together the Internet Slowdown. “The issue is about our rights to control our Internet experience.”

The FCC’s public comment period for its new Internet rules closes Sept. 15. So during the Internet Slowdown – where the spinning wheel icon will be accompanied by text like “Cable companies could make this page so slow, it will still be loading” – users will be encouraged to sign a letter to the FCC backing reclassification and opposing Internet fast lanes, through an action website called Battle for the Net. The letter will also forward to congressional representatives and the White House. In addition, if users leave their contact information and ZIP code, they will receive a phone call connecting them to the office of their member of Congress, so they can register their personal support for net neutrality.

Even though 4 million people have already delivered comments to the FCC – “it’s the largest response on any rule making in their history,” Karr told Salon – with near-unanimous support for reclassification, the groups organizing the Internet Slowdown feel the issue could still benefit from increased public awareness. The participation of so many websites and advocacy groups ensures that tens of millions of people will see the message today that Internet content should remain free of discrimination. And it’s likely to be just the beginning. “This is an escalation, but it leaves room for further escalation,” said David Segal of Demand Progress, another organizer of the Slowdown.



For someone like me who worked his way into journalism from a personal blog, there would be no way to do what I do without the protections of an open Internet. In a country increasingly dependent on Internet use, people intuitively understand that controlling their daily Web experience will lead to disastrous outcomes. The forces fighting for the Internet are using old-fashioned methods – calls and letters, protests and mass collective action – to protect the most modern technological achievement. Do we still have a society where organizing against concentrated power matters? We’re about to find out.

Because of technical limitations (basically my own hazy understanding of the actual mechanics of our sites and the disastrous results of my last tinkering) we will not be displaying the official logo, but I don’t want you to get the impression that this is a cause that TMC and I and our sites, The Stars Hollow Gazette and DocuDharma do not fully support.

Please contact the FCC today and let them know in language that is polite but capable of no other interpretation or misunderstanding that you are against the Wheeler ‘Fast Lane’ proposal and in favor of regulating broadband Internet as a ‘Common Carrier’.

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