Donald Trump is in Europe again displaying his ignorance bigly. His first stop was in Poland where he was assured of a warm welcome by crowds bused in by the conservative government. He then proceeded to bash CNN, MSNBC, Barack Obama and America’s own intelligence agencies. He flew to Hamburg where he will meet for …
President Barack Obama concluded his meetings at the G-20 in Moscow where he sought support for bombing Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons by President Bashir al-Assad. Unable to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pres. Obama took his lobbying to the G-20 dinner.
Syria divides deepen during Putin’s G20 dinner
by Patrick Wintour, The Guardian
Leaders fail to reach agreement over military action as UN called on to fulfil its obligations while Russia maintains position
The majority of leaders at a summit dinner on Thursday evening in Peterhof, near Saint Petersburg, were not in favour of any punitive action unless it was agreed by the UN security council, although strong calls for the UN to live up to its responsibilities were made by the Americans, the Turkish, Canadians, French and British. [..]
During the dinner, Putin told Barack Obama and François Hollande that the chances of reviving peace talks soon after a punitive bombing strike would be minimal.
The Russian leader won the support of the Chinese, a long-term ally of Putin on Syria, but backing also came from the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, Argentina, Brazil and several European leaders, including Angela Merkel. One German diplomat said “Putin did not need to toughen his tone at the dinner. There were enough sceptics.”
At his press conference after the closing of the summit, Pres. Obama would not say if he would strike it congress did not give him the authorization. Two of the more conservative Democratic senators, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), have drafted a resolution in a move to appeal to those senators who are reluctant to either approve strikes or reject the use of force outright. The resolution, assuming that it was Assad who ordered the use of chemical weapons, would give President Bashar Assad’s regime a 45-day window to avoid a strike if it signs a chemical weapons ban.
President Obama’s major opposition lies in the House, where, if the vote on the Senate resolution were held today, it would fail.
Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) who is adamantly opposed to attacking Syria, appeared Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman and Juan González to discuss the US roll as the world’s police force and his website, DontAttackSyria.com, which is gathering signatures for a petition calling on Congress to deny permission to attack Syria
Transcript can be read here
“I am very disturbed by this general idea that every time we see something bad in the world, we should bomb it,” Grayson says. “The president has criticized that mindset, and now he has adopted it. It’s simply not our responsibility to act alone and punish this.”
Secretary of State John Kerry keeps repeating that drooping a few Tomahowk missiles on Syria is not a war. I suggest that Sec. Kerry not try to sell that to the Syrian civilians.
During his stop over in Stockholm, Sweden on the way to the G-20, President Barack Obama renewed his defense of unfettered surveillance
“I can give assurances to the publics in Europe and around the world that we’re not going around snooping at people’s emails or listening to their phone calls,” Obama said in response to a Swedish reporter’s question during a news conference with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt as he began a whirlwind, 24-hour trip to Sweden. “What we try to do is to target very specifically areas of concern.”
Still, the president acknowledged that questions about privacy were likely to trail him in Europe – a continent that is protective of privacy rights – for some time. The issue also bubbled up during his trip to Germany in June, shortly after newspapers published reports based on documents leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden.
Despite Obama’s assertions of a more narrow-scope effort, the Snowden-leaked documents show the NSA collects and stores all kinds of data traveling through the Internet, including emails, video chats and instant messages. Under one such classified program, known as Prism, the government can obtain secret court orders and gather mass amounts of data from major Internet companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook.
The ACLU is challenging the constitutionality of the intelligence agency’s action filing a complaint in the Southern District of New York against James Clapper in June. An up date on that lawsuit was posted today on their web site. (please note that the link contains an interesting but really annoying gif).
An impressive array of organizations and individuals filed amicus briefs yesterday in support of the ACLU’s constitutional challenge to the government’s collection of the call records of virtually everyone in the United States. The range of voices joining the protest against mass government surveillance-not to mention the bipartisan storm that has swept Congress since the recent NSA disclosures – is a real testament to the fact that the government’s dragnet surveillance practices are offensive to Americans from across the political spectrum.
Among the groups supporting our lawsuit are the National Rifle Association, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the PEN American Center. Philosophy Professor Michael Lynch submitted a brief arguing that privacy is fundamental to human dignity. Our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation submitted a brief on behalf of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), one of the authors of the Patriot Act. Rep. Sensenbrenner has decried the now-public call-records program as outside the scope of the law he authored.
Yes, you’re reading that right, the NRA and Rep. Sensenbrenner.
NSA surveillance: National Rifle Association backs ACLU challenge
by Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian
Anger at US government’s data trawling creates unlikely alliance in court between NRA and American Civil Liberties Union
The NRA, in an amicus brief in support of the ACLU, argues that the mass surveillance programme provides “the government not only with the means of identifying members and others who communicate with the NRA and other advocacy groups, but also with the means of identifying gun owners without their knowledge or consent”.
Original Patriot Act Author Says Call-Data Collection Exceeds Congressional Intent
San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed a brief on behalf of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the author of the original USA PATRIOT Act, in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the National Security Agency (NSA). In the brief, Sensenbrenner argues that Congress never intended the Patriot Act to permit the NSA’s collection of the records of every telephone call made to, from and within the United States. Sensenbrenner urges the court to deny the NSA’s motion to dismiss and grant the ACLU’s motion for a preliminary injunction, which would halt the program until the case is decided.
In another development today, hundreds of pages from NSA spying documents are to be released in response to an FOIA request by EFF:
In a major victory in one of EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits, the Justice Department conceded yesterday that it will release hundreds of pages of documents, including FISA court opinions, related to the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the law the NSA has relied upon for years to mass collect the phone records of millions of innocent Americans. [..]
While the government finally released a white paper detailing its expansive (and unconstitutional) interpretation of Section 215 last month, more important FISA court opinions adopting at least part of that interpretation have remained secret. The results of EFF’s FOIA lawsuit will finally lift the veil on the dubious legal underpinnings of NSA’s domestic phone surveillance program.
This victory for EFF comes on the heels of another FOIA success two weeks ago, when the Justice Department was also forced to release a 2011 FISA court opinion ruling some NSA surveillance unconstitutional.
Now to that gif. It is visualization demonstrating the staggering scope of the NSA’s surveillance. Click on the image to view.
Paul Krugman outlines a serious warning in his NYT Op-Ed Sunday :
Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline – on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.
We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost – to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs – will nonetheless be immense.
And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world – most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting – governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.
In the face of this grim picture, you might have expected policy makers to realize that they haven’t yet done enough to promote recovery. But no: over the last few months there has been a stunning resurgence of hard-money and balanced-budget orthodoxy.
It is [the] the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times. And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again.
The absolutism of the key tenets of neo-liberalism: privatisation, deregulation, balanced budgets have all been rejected by all but the most dogmatic. Apart from one that is: the primacy of free trade.
Despite the nationalization of banks, calls for increased regulation, and massive trillion dollar deficits amassed, the status of free trade remains “basically sacrosanct”, she writes. “‘Free trade is good’ continues to be presented as a totemic truth, ring-fenced from debate or interrogation.”
An examination of the G-20 communiqué (pdf) from this week’s meeting seems to confirm Hertz’s assertion.
The G-20 leaders stated: “We believe that the only sure foundation for sustainable globalisation and rising prosperity for all is an open world economy based on market principles, effective regulation, and strong global institutions.”
This diary is about the G20 summit and the economy, but really it’s about the larger implications of a society which cannot let go of its status quo assumptions in time to save itself. Here’s the false dilemma: either the current system must be saved, or the current system will fail. The idea that we could switch over to another system, through a set of radical changes, cannot even insinuate itself into the conversation, outside of (perhaps) a marginal section of the blogosphere. Yet this is what the world most needs. In light of this, I recommend that we (bloggers) attempt to overcome resistance to some basic premises of thinking about the current situation.
(crossposted at Big Orange)