In the USA...United Surveillance AmericaNSA chief knew of Snowden file destruction by Guardian in UK
Revelation contrasts markedly with White House efforts to distance itself from UK government pressure to destroy disks
theguardian.com, Friday 11 July 2014 11.10 BST
General Keith Alexander, the then director of the NSA, was briefed that the Guardian was prepared to make a largely symbolic act of destroying documents from Edward Snowden last July, new documents reveal.
The revelation that Alexander and Obama's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, were advised on the Guardian's destruction of several hard disks and laptops contrasts markedly with public White House statements that distanced the US from the decision.
White House and NSA emails obtained by Associated Press under freedom of information legislation demonstrate how pleased Alexander and his colleagues were with the developments. At times the correspondence takes a celebratory tone, with one official describing the anticipated destruction as "good news".
On 20 July 2013, three Guardian editors destroyed all copies of the its Snowden material held in London (video), under the supervision of two GCHQ staff following a period of intense political pressure in the UK.
Link to video: Revealed: the day Guardian destroyed Snowden hard drives under watchful eye of GCHQ
The decision to destroy the UK copies of the material was taken in a climate of advancing legal threats from Cabinet Office and intelligence officials. The Guardian and its publishing partners, which included the New York Times and the not-for-profit news organisation ProPublica, held other copies of the material in the US, and continued reporting revelations from the documents.
When the Guardian revealed it had destroyed several computers a month later in August, the White House spokesman Josh Earnest initially remarked it was hard to "evaluate the propriety of what they did based on incomplete knowledge of what happened" but said it would be hard to imagine the same events occurring in the US.
"That's very difficult to imagine a scenario in which that would be appropriate," he concluded.
However, heavily redacted email correspondence obtained by AP reporter Jack Gillum shows senior NSA officials celebrating the destruction of the material, even before it had occurred.
An email to Alexander from Rick Ledgett, now deputy director of the NSA, has the subject line "Guardian data being destroyed", and is dated 19 July, a day before the destruction of the files. Most is heavily redacted, but Ledgett remarks: "Good news, at least on this front."
A day later, hours after the material was destroyed, Alexander follows up with Ledgett, asking: "Can you confirm this actually occurred?"
Later that day, Clapper emails Alexander under the same subject line, saying: "Thanks Keith … appreciate the conversation today".
The remainder of the emails are redacted, including the subject lines in many cases, meaning it is unclear who from the British government briefed the senior NSA and White House staff on the destruction, or whether US officials had any input to the decision to encourage destruction of journalistic material.
A spokeswoman for the Guardian said the revelation of the US-UK correspondence on the destruction was disappointing.
"We're disappointed to learn that cross-Atlantic conversations were taking place at the very highest levels of government ahead of the bizarre destruction of journalistic material that took place in the Guardian's basement last July," she said. "What's perhaps most concerning is that the disclosure of these emails appears to contradict the White House's comments about these events last year, when they questioned the appropriateness of the UK government's intervention."
The NSA and GCHQ declined to respond to AP's requests for comment on the email exchange.
******************Five plaintiffs sue after being targeted in US 'suspicious activity' database
James Prigoff one of the people suing over 'McCarthy era' tactics after the FBI monitored him for photographing public art
Spencer Ackerman in New York
theguardian.com, Thursday 10 July 2014 21.05 BST
The man from the FBI left his card on James Prigoff's door in Sacramento. When Prigoff, a photographer, returned Agent Ayaz's call, he learned that he had attracted the attention of a terrorism investigator, all for attempting to frame an ideal image of a piece of public art on the other side of the country.
Months earlier, Prigoff had travelled to Boston to photograph the Rainbow Swash, a series of bright, colorful stripes painted on a 140-foot gas storage tank in Dorchester. But two private security guards became agitated and told him – incorrectly – that he was on private property. After some hassle, Prigoff opted to snap the shot from a suboptimal location, into the sunlight.
Now, in August 2004, Ayaz wanted to know if Prigoff had ever been to Boston. The agent had already knocked on his neighbor's door, seeking information. Prigoff explained his Rainbow Swash incident, the only thing that came to mind from Boston that he reasoned could have prompted Ayaz's contact. Nothing further happened. As it happens, the Rainbow Swash is readily visible on Google Images.
But the most likely reason that Ayaz, a federal agent in California attached to a joint terrorism task force, could have known about Prigoff or his Boston trip in the first place is the result of post-9/11 laws intended to help law enforcement connect the metaphorical dots ahead of a terrorist attack. The security guards filed what is known as a suspicious activity report, an account of observed behavior striking the observer as questionable.
Suspicious activity reports – over 35,000 of which have been generated as of 2013, according to the government – go from their locations into terrorism databases like the FBI's eGuardian. There, they are visible not only to federal agents but to state and local police around the country through the Department of Homeland Security's controversial fusion centers. Reports on people like Prigoff reside there for up to 30 years.
Generating them requires observers to have neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion of criminal activity – merely the law enforcement equivalent of the "see something, say something" vigilance mantra post-9/11.
"This is supposed to be a free country, where the government isn’t supposed to be tracking you if you’re not doing anything wrong. I lived through the McCarthy era, and I know how false accusations, surveillance, and keeping files on innocent people can destroy careers and lives. I am deeply troubled that the SAR program may be recreating that same climate of false accusation and fear today," Prigoff said in a statement.
Prigoff is one of five plaintiffs filing a lawsuit in California, represented in part by the ACLU, against attorney general Eric Holder and a Justice Department colleague. They seek a "permanent injunction" on the current lax standards of the suspicious activity reports and to end law-enforcement training on them. The standards "opens the door to and encourages religious profiling", reads the suit, filed on Thursday and shared with the Guardian.
According to a 2013 annual report from the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Report Initiative – comprising the FBI, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security – some 296,000 law enforcement personnel nationwide had been trained in the guidelines for the reports, which were said to include civil liberties protections.
But their utility for preventing terrorism is in question. A March 2013 Government Accountability Office study found that the Justice Department office in charge of managing the suspicious-activity initiative does not track "their role in deterring terrorist activities or the number of arrests or convictions achieved".
The standards undergirding a suspicious activity report are defined as: "Observed behavior reasonably indicative of preoperational planning related to terrorism or other criminal activity." The lawsuit filed Thursday notes that such a standard is well below that of reasonable suspicion, let alone probable cause.
Examples of such suspicious behavior at US hotels listed in a DHS-FBI bulletin from 2010 included: "Abandoning a room and leaving behind clothing, toiletries, or other items"; "Refusal of housekeeping services for extended periods"; and "Multiple visitors or deliveries to one individual or room."
The use of suspicious activity reports across the government is substantial. The 2013 annual report found that all 78 DHS fusion centers can contribute or share the reports; 21 of the fusion centers automatically share the reports with the FBI, according to the GAO. Training on a search tool to comb through them increased to the point where law enforcement and intelligence personnel have conducted over 76,400 searches.
One of those reports concerned Placentia, California, bio-tech worker Tariq Razak – or, as his suspicious activity report referred to him, "Close Cropped Beard … Male/Arab." (The repot was incorrect: Razak is of Pakistani descent.)
Razak visited the Santa Ana train depot in May 2011, where he had an appointment with the Orange County employment resource center, located in the station building. His mother, who was wearing a headscarf, accompanied him. After initially getting lost within the building, they ultimately finished their business and were on their way.
But not before they caught the attention of a security officer, Karina De La Rosa, who rode the elevator with Razak and his mother.
De La Rosa would later tell a Santa Ana police department's terrorism liaison officer that she grew suspicious when Razak "appeared to be observant of his surroundings and was constantly surveying all areas of the facility". He "meticulously" studied the "entry/exit points … where large groups of passengers gather". De La Rosa noticed him standing by the restroom, where "a female wearing a white burka head dress" [sic] would emerge. She watched as their 2007 Honda Accord drove away, northbound.
That description came from the suspicious activity report the terrorism liaison officer ultimately filed, which noted the make, model and license plate number of Razak's car and contained a detailed physical description of Razak himself. Razak's lawyer later sued for it.
De La Rosa would later say in the suspicious activity report on Razak that everything she did complied with the terrorism training she received.
"Karina said the behavior depicted by the male was similar to examples shown in her training raising her suspicion and making the decision to notify police," the report reads.
***************Obama administration warns money low to deal with migrant crisis
Friday, July 11, 2014 6:07 EDT
The Obama administration warned lawmakers on Thursday that U.S. border control agencies would run out of money and migrant children would run out of beds if Congress did not approve $3.7 billion in funds to address an influx of people from Central America.
Days after the White House put forward its request for emergency funding to address the humanitarian crisis at the southwest U.S. border, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson pressed the need for lawmakers to approve the request.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection would run out of funds by mid-August and mid-September, respectively, without the emergency cash, he said at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the request.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said her department would run out of beds in temporary housing facilities if the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border continued into August at the same rate seen in May and June.
More children would be held in detention centers or “holding pens” at the border for long periods of time, she said at the same hearing.
The warnings from the officials came as support appeared to be growing for legislation that would make it easier for the Obama administration to deport thousands of Central American children who have migrated illegally.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner expressed support for changes to immigration law that would let the United States deport children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as quickly as it does those from Mexico.
U.S. law allows Mexican minors to be sent back promptly, although there are some steps those children can take to try to remain in the United States. A 2008 victims trafficking law requires that children from countries not bordering the United States, including those in Central America, be given added legal protections before they are deported.
Regarding children from those countries, Boehner told reporters, “I think clearly we would probably want the language similar to what we have with Mexico.”
In a letter to congressional leaders last week, President Barack Obama proposed giving the Department of Homeland Security additional authority to process the return and removal of unaccompanied children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Obama, battling political pressure to halt the influx of child migrants along the Texas border with Mexico, asked Congress for the emergency funds earlier this week.
Many Democrats and immigration advocacy groups have strongly opposed changing the trafficking law, but congressional leaders indicated they might not block such legislation if it is tacked onto the spending bill. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday she would prefer the law be changed to give Mexican children the same protections as those from Central America. However, she said the issue should not stand in the way of quickly getting Obama the emergency funds he is seeking. Harry Reid, leader of the Democratic-controlled Senate, said he would not block an amendment to change the 2008 trafficking law, but would have to see what comes to the floor.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, said the administration could use a clause in the law that allows for exceptions under special circumstances to speed up the deportations without changing the law itself. More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors from the three countries have been caught trying to sneak over the border since October, double the number from the same period a year earlier. Both Democrats and Republicans have been pressing for changes to address the child migrant issue, but the money is not guaranteed.
“We’re not giving the president a blank check,” said Boehner, leader of the Republican-controlled House.
Boehner said the House should act on some sort of immigration legislation this month. He has formed a working group of lawmakers to study options.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, traveling with Obama in Texas, said the president was willing to negotiate on his request but noted it reflected the priorities Republicans have identified, including more immigration judges and additional border resources.
**************Republicans Embrace Bizarre Conspiracy That Obama Is Behind Immigrant Surge
By: Justin Baragona
Thursday, July, 10th, 2014, 3:45 pm
During the Thursday broadcast of his radio show, right-wing mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh discussed the possibility that President Obama is responsible for the surge of immigrants coming in from Central America in recent months. This is a conspiracy theory that has been gaining momentum in conservative circles over the past few days. Apparently, as this insane theory goes, the Obama Administration has convinced tens of thousands of young immigrants to storm the border. President Obama will then provide them with asylum and eventually turn them all into American citizens. In turn, all of these newly turned citizens will become dedicated Democratic voters, helping to widen the gap between Democrats and Republicans and turn the country into the Socialist hellscape that Obama has always planned. Or something like that.
Anyway, Limbaugh took his cue from The Washington Times and The Daily Caller. Both ran stories on Wednesday linking to the far-right website DMLDaily. The owner of the site, Dennis Michael Lynch, had posted two sets of photos on the site last week showing tennis shoes that had the phrase ‘Yes We Can’ and the likeness of Obama. Lynch stated that he received the photos from Border Patrol agents and that the shoes were on the feet of children who were detained at the border. He admits that he cannot authenticate the photos but that he trusts the agents.
DC and The Times ran with the story on Wednesday. Both of them posted the photos, seemingly as proof that these migrants were taking orders from Democratic operatives that the borders were open, and they just need to make their way to America. Basically, they have an open invite from the President. The Times even sent out a tweet Thursday morning with one of the photos.
Illegal immigrants showing up at border with ‘Yes we can’ #Obama shoes: report – http://t.co/ehaJjLSofu
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) July 10, 2014
These articles helped to feed into the narrative that had already been started by Texas Republicans, most notably Governor Rick Perry and Rep. Louie Gohmert. Therefore, by the time of his broadcast Thursday, the conspiracy theory was ripe for Limbaugh to put it on blast.
Below is an excerpt of his comments, via a transcript from The Rush Limbaugh Show:
RUSH: So, I must confess, I have been tempted to make a joke about something, but I held back. I held back because it involves the children. I’m talking about the children that are arriving unaccompanied all across the US Southern border. And the joke was going to be, “How long’s it gonna be before these kids start arriving with ‘I love Obama’ shirts?’” But I didn’t mention that because I thought people might think it’s a bit insensitive and not taking the situation seriously.
And, lo and behold, every time I either think about or actually make a joke about these people, it comes true! The kids are arriving wearing Obama “Yes, we can” tennis shoes. I have the photo. I have proof right here, ladies and gentlemen. Some of this is hilarious. It is something that you joke about, “They would never do this. They would never.” But they’re doing it!
You know, I told Snerdley this morning that I thought one of the fastest ways to shut this down would be if somebody were able to sneak across the border into Mexico and get themselves on these trains and the other forms of transportation that these kids are coming in on and pass out “I can’t wait to vote Republican” T-shirts and caps and have these kids arriving wearing that stuff. That would shut this down faster than anything you’ve ever seen. If it wouldn’t shut it down, we would be able to get pictures of border control agents ripping the clothing off of these kids and ripping their caps off.
A couple of things here. First off, we are’t even sure that these photos are authentic. They were basically just forwarded to a conservative commentator and filmmaker who has already made two films critical of immigration reform and he posted them on his website. Even with his disclaimer that the photos could not be authenticated, two media sources decided to push his story and try to get it into the mainstream. Besides being sloppy, it shows a complete lack of journalistic integrity. But, then again, integrity really isn’t a word you associate with The Daily Caller or The Washington Times.
However, even if these are authentic photos taken at detention centers at the border, all I have to say is — So what? What does it matter? These are poor kids escaping violent conditions and traveling hundreds or thousands of miles and will wear just about anything that they can get their hands on. We see pictures of two sets of shoes with Obama’s likeness on it. Ummm, ok. How many came across wearing shoes and shirts with other logos on them because they were readily available in their location due to charitable donations? I am sure many were wearing shirts representing sports teams. Does that mean those specific franchises were down in El Salvador or Honduras handing out apparel and telling kids to make it across the border in order to support their teams going forward?
**************In a Desperate Last Gasp John Boehner Will Sue Obama Over Obamacare
By: Jason Easley
Thursday, July, 10th, 2014, 6:29 pm
According to a resolution posted on the House Rules Committee website, John Boehner will be suing President Obama for not enforcing parts of the Affordable Care Act.
The resolution states:
Resolved, That the Speaker may initiate or intervene in one or more civil actions on behalf of the House of Representatives in a Federal court of competent jurisdiction to seek relief pursuant to sections 2201 and 2202 of title 28, United States Code, and to seek appropriate ancillary relief, including injunctive relief, regarding the failure of the President, the head of any department or agency, or any other officer or employee of the United States, to act in a manner consistent with that official’s duties under the Constitution and laws of the United States with respect to implementation of (including a failure to implement) any provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and title I and subtitle B of title II of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, including any amendment made by such provision.
The Rules Committee will be meeting to markup the bill on July 16. It is hard to believe that House Republicans are going to try to revive the Obamacare wars with this lawsuit. Republicans are going to argue that the president didn’t not have the legal authority to delay the employer mandate. They are going to claim that he went beyond his constitutional powers, even though his constitutional powers include implementing the laws that are passed by Congress.
The fact that Boehner has chosen to sue over Obamacare reveals that this is nothing more than a partisan stunt that is intended to fire up Republican voters. Legally, this is going to be a virtually impossible case for Republicans to win. There are decades of legal precedent granting presidents the discretion to impose reasonable delays on implementing laws.
Politically, Boehner is going to court to argue that employers with fifty or more full-time employees should be immediately required to provide them with health insurance. If this looks like a cynical gambit to get employers outraged over Obamacare, that’s because it is. Boehner is actually arguing for more Obamacare even though his stated goal is the repeal of the ACA.
The decision to sue over Obamacare now is more bad timing from the GOP. According to a new survey by The Commonwealth Fund, “73 percent of people who bought health plans and 87 percent of those who signed up for Medicaid said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their new health insurance. Seventy-four percent of newly insured Republicans liked their plans. Even 77 percent of people who had insurance before — including members of the much-publicized group whose plans got canceled last year — were happy with their new coverage.”
President Obama said the real reason why Boehner is suing is because Republicans don’t like him. The news that Boehner is suing over the ACA confirms that the president was correct.
This lawsuit is a last ditch attempt to turn public opinion against the ACA, a plea to fire up Republican voters, and a possible path to the impeachment of Obama. On all this counts, it is already a failure. Obamacare is getting more popular. Democrats are raising record sums of money off of the lawsuit threat, and Boehner and company will likely be laughed out of court.
House Republicans are the ultimate one-trick pony. Everything else that they have tried has failed, so they are running back to bashing Obamacare. The lawsuit is a desperate act by a desperate man who is leading a failed party to ruin. The ultimate sign of victory is when the sore losers have no choice, but to whine in court. Instead of leading to a Republican victory in November, the lawsuit is sowing the seeds of their own demise.
****************As His Lawsuit Disintegrates Boehner Falls Apart During A Woozy Tirade Against Obama
By: Sarah Jones
Thursday, July, 10th, 2014, 2:15 pm
The NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) is playing with social media today. Now comes Vine. You remember Vine? It was going to get modern Mitt elected in 2012.
So Republicans thought it would be a super idea to post this little sound bite of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) looking woozy and ragey at the same time, accusing President Obama of never taking responsibility for anything.
Speaker Boehner: When will President Obama take responsibility for something?
We hope he didn’t pop a vein, poor thing. Politics isn’t an easy business. Speaker Boehner is very upset that he can’t get his lawsuit to take off and after finding himself figuratively standing next to Sarah Palin, who then attacked him as being impotent, he’s got to be a bit embarrassed. This is naturally all Obama’s fault, for if Obama hadn’t won two elections, Boehner wouldn’t be trying to appease a foaming tea party base.
The full video is from Boehner’s office from his weekly press conference held on Thursdays, where the Speaker often stands improbably in front of a press wall with “JOBS” pasted all over it as if somehow that will make the Keystone Pipeline a jobs bill.
Indeed. Projection is a terrible thing to waste. Luckily, the Speaker has enough of it to maintain a steady stream of denial over his party’s vow to obstruct this President and refusal to do their jobs for going on 6 years now. And they criticize unions for being lazy.
So this is one way to sell a baseless lawsuit and hysterical, bitter demands for the President to be impeached over things that the Republican President actually did. For real.
But sometimes I wonder if Republicans really get social media; they clearly needed an empty chair for this whole ragey white man redux to work properly.
Anyway, I think you just saw the GOP NRCC’s 2014 strategy. They’re going to be pointing their fingers and wailing, “Barack did it, Mommy!” But on Vine, so it will be cool. Really, really cool. If they learned one lesson in 2012, it’s that people believe anything that’s on social media and this is why Mitt didn’t win. It had nothing to do with their policies or southern strategy or war against women.
Vine! ‘Cuz rage looks better in short, ready-to-be-mocked clips.
****************Obama Drops A Major Truth Bomb On The GOP: They’re Suing Because They Don’t Like Him
By: Jason Easley
Thursday, July, 10th, 2014, 5:07 pm
Things are going from bad to worse for the Republicans as President Obama is openly calling out John Boehner and the GOP for suing because they don’t like him.
The president said:
As long as Congress will not increase wages for workers, I will go and talk to every business in America if I have to. There’s no denying a simple truth: America deserves a raise, and if you work full-time in this country, you shouldn’t live in poverty. That’s something that we all believe.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. There are a number of Republicans, including a number in the Texas delegation, who are mad at me for taking these actions. They actually plan to sue me. Now, I don’t know which things they find most offensive — me helping to create jobs, or me raising wages, or me easing the student loan burdens, or me making sure women can find out whether they’re getting paid the same as men for doing the same job. I don’t know which of these actions really bug them.
The truth is, even with all the actions I’ve taken this year, I’m issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years. So it’s not clear how it is that Republicans didn’t seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did. Maybe it’s just me they don’t like. I don’t know. Maybe there’s some principle out there that I haven’t discerned, that I haven’t figure out. You hear some of them — “sue him,” “impeach him.” Really? Really? For what? You’re going to sue me for doing my job? Okay.
I mean, think about that. You’re going to use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job — while you don’t do your job.
There’s a great movie called “The Departed” — a little violent for kids. But there’s a scene in the movie where Mark Wahlberg — they’re on a stakeout and somehow the guy loses the guy that they’re tracking. And Wahlberg is all upset and yelling at the guy. And the guy looks up and he says, “Well, who are you?” And Wahlberg says, “I’m the guy doing my job. You must be the other guy.” Sometimes, I feel like saying to these guys, I’m the guy doing my job, you must be the other guy.
So rather than wage another political stunt that wastes time, wastes taxpayers’ money, I’ve got a better idea: Do something. If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, let’s team up. Let’s pass some bills. Let’s help America together.
When Obama starts quoting Marky Mark, it’s getting real.
The president is having a field day with the Republican threats to sue, and the demands for impeachment. Obama dropped a major truth bomb on Republicans by calling out the real reasons behind Boehner’s lawsuit. The Republicans want to sue the president because they don’t like him. George W. Bush pulled off the biggest executive power grab since Nixon, and nobody on the right side of the aisle tried to sue him.
President Obama has already turned the American people against this lawsuit before it has even been filed. Obama is trivializing their lawsuit, and highlighting why it is a complete waste of time and taxpayer resources. There was nothing but the truth in the president’s comments. Republicans are suing him because he is doing his job, and they don’t like him.
Boehner can’t explain the legal basis for his lawsuit against the president, but Obama can explain why the Speaker is doing what he is doing with a single sentence. This is another battle that Republicans have already lost before it began. Obama has already won in the court of public opinion and if House Republicans try to take him to federal court, they will lose.
Speaker Boehner has painted himself into a corner. The most likely outcome for Boehner is that the House passes his bill to speed up the process of suing the president while Harry Reid lets the bill die in the Senate and the Speaker never files a lawsuit because it would take too long to litigate.
Obama sarcastically mocked Boehner’s big political gambit for 2014, and he has left House Republicans reeling after another failed attempt to destroy his presidency.
*******************The Supreme Court’s Conservatives Are Abolishing Anti-Discrimination Laws
Thursday, July, 10th, 2014, 11:22 am
Although America was founded on the brilliant, but false, premise that all citizens are equal, it has taken the course of the nation’s history, a Civil War, and several hard-fought civil rights battles for most Americans to realize a semblance of equality. Obviously, most Americans either could not comprehend, or adamantly opposed, the idea that social equality means every citizen has the same status and equal rights under the law, or that true equality requires the absence of legally enforced boundaries and government enforced discrimination; precisely what the 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees all Americans.
One would think most Americans support the 14th Amendment’s prohibition of unequal treatment under the law unflinchingly. Unfortunately, the religious right is intent on abolishing the concept of equality and rejects the idea that no American, or government entity, has the right to abridge any other Americans’ right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now, they are using the Hobby Lobby decision to attempt to establish Christianity’s prohibition against gays as a government policy as a jumping off point in the rush to government by theocracy.
According to a noted constitutional lawyer, Edward Tabash, the High Court’s conservatives failed to reconcile the two religious clauses in the First Amendment and decided that by merely professing a religious objection, someone can establish their religion as law and over other Americans by constitutional fiat. Tabash explained the Establishment Clause as ensuring that believers and non-believers were equal before the law and that no branch of government can favor one religion over another religion, or no religion, and the free exercise clause ensured that because of someone’s religious views they can not suffer lesser rights. By butchering the Free Exercise clause, the Court gave Christians special constitutional rights over the law and other Americans that conflicted with the Establishment Clause. It is that new interpretation of the Establishment Clause that religious leaders are beginning to use to force the government to establish the Christian right’s objections against anti-discrimination laws such as the 14th Amendment’s as government policy. The conservative Court effectively gave fundamentalist Christians the right to establish their religion on the government and the people, and it is why an expanded consortium of faith leaders are demanding that President Obama use taxpayer funds to legally discriminate against gays in direct conflict with the 14th Amendment.
The newer, stronger, demand from religious leaders is that taxpayer-funded government contractors have religious freedom to hire only “people who share the employers’ faith.” The faith leaders, now including megachurch preacher Rick Warren and Catholic Charities CEO Rev. Larry Snyder, want the federal government to legally discriminate against gays according to Christian’s newfound religious liberty. The Vice President of the Human Rights Campaign disagreed with the Christians and said rightly that “Taxpayers’ dollars should not be used to discriminate,” and it was a valid statement before the Hobby Lobby ruling. Most federal contractors already have employment policies barring anti-gay workplace discrimination, but that was before the conservative Court rewrote the Establishment Clause to empower the Christian right’s supremacy over the law.
The idea of abolishing anti-discrimination laws, including the 14TH Amendment, began taking shape in earnest in 2009 when a confederation of Catholics, Southern Baptists, and evangelical fanatics devised a theocratic manifesto known as the Manhattan Declaration. This column has warned that the Declaration’s signatories, including Hobby Lobby’s legal team, were on a crusade to abolish anti-discrimination laws and establish Christian prerogatives as government policy, and on the heels of the Hobby Lobby decision, it is coming to pass. According to the theocratic manifesto, its purpose is to impose “a truly consistent ethic of love and life for all humans in all circumstances.” However a reading of the document informs a truly consistent ethic of hatred of equality, America as a secular nation, and anything not supported by the religious right.
For example, the Declaration’s signatories condemned hate crime laws, civil rights laws, and anti-discrimination laws as attacks on their religious liberty. They also claim that the concepts of “liberty, autonomy, and choice” are responsible for America’s demise into a secular nation, as well as religious persecution they suffer at the hands of that secular government; particularly with an African American man as President. Part and parcel of what they call persecution and tyranny against “Christians,” and what they vehemently condemn as an abomination against god’s authority over America, is divorce, marriage equality, promiscuity, television programming, single-parent families, women’s reproductive choice, the entertainment industry, and secular government they claim are gross violations of their First Amendment “freedom of religion” and affronts to their almighty and loving god. The document also claims current conscience laws, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, are under attack like their religious liberty and are inadequate to afford Christians the right to “render unto god what is god’s;” supremacy over the law and other Americans the High Court just granted them in Hobby Lobby.
It is likely why yesterday, in light of the Hobby Lobby ruling, Utah’s Mormon governor and attorney general are appealing directly to the Supreme Court to rule that the state’s Mormon majority can legally exercise religion to discriminate against gays who married the person they love. If any American truly believed the Hobby Lobby case and subsequent decision was solely about providing contraceptives in health plans, the push to force the government to use taxpayer funds to discriminate against gays and violate an obsolete 14th Amendment guarantee of equality under the law should disabuse them of that fallacy.
No American should think for a second that they are protected from the Court’s new interpretation of the Establishment Clause, or the Free Exercise Clause; including Christians opposed to evangelical fanaticism. President Obama, a Christian sworn to uphold the Constitution, is being besieged by Christian “friends of the White House” to defer to the Christian prerogative and use taxpayer funds to discriminate against gays. Even a cursory reading of the vile nine page Manhattan Declaration informs that no American, or segment of society, is safe from the religious right’s newfound “religious freedom.” The document is rife with condemnation of every segment of American society that does not conform with evangelical Christianity’s worldview and now that the Court gave them religious supremacy over every other American and redefined the Establishment Clause, no religion, secular institution, or government entity is safe from what is arguably an all-out-war on America as a secular nation.
Because the Court legalized freedom of religion as a tool for Christian domination, and established religious supremacy over the law and other Americans’ rights, this country faces the real prospect of living under a version of Christian Sharia Law. Republicans, whether they are religious or not, will take advantage of the conservative Christian’s religious fervor to garner electoral support and dutifully repay evangelicals when they propose new legislation in Congress and state legislatures. It is true the Hobby Lobby ruling will mobilize Democratic voters in November, but now that the religious right has been awarded the religious liberty they have lusted after for thirty years, they will turn out the vote to accomplish what the Founding Fathers never intended; America as a Christian nation. By eviscerating the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, the Supreme Court’s conservatives effectively nullified the Establishment Clause and hastened America’s march toward theocracy.
********************The intellectuals attacking Obama should have the president quaking in his boots
By Katie Halper
Thursday, July 10, 2014 9:47 EDT
I’ve always been able to look at politics and politicians objectively. For instance, I may not like what Mitch McConnell has to say, but I’m not going to pretend he’s not freaking hot. And this intellectual honesty has led me to believe that the President and those who support him should be worried. Very worried.
On June 25th, Speaker and Bronzer of the House John Boehner announced his plans to file a lawsuit against the President. And last week President Obama responded by saying, “So, sue me.” Yes, the President is a former professor of constitutional law. And John Boehner is very good at football and bar-tending. But perhaps the President shouldn’t be quite so flippant. Because Boehner isn’t the only one out to get Obama. And he’s certainly not the smartest.
As I looked at some of the countless Right Wing politicians who have attacked President Obama this week (so far), I found myself forced to admit that though I disagree with their positions, these critics are, like it or not, intellectual forces to be reckoned with. To dismiss their cerebral prowess would be as dishonest and dangerous as as denying the lipless good looks of Mitch McConnell. So, I urge the President to take these attacks seriously and respond appropriately. Let us look at these great critical thinkers, their history of intellectual acuity and their undeniably logical and reasoned attacks on our president.
1. Texas Governor Rick Perry: The Right of Hand-Shake Refusal
Though the White House invited Governor Perry to greet the President at the Houston Airport on Wednesday, Perry, refused. Why? Well, Rick may be a southern gentleman, but, as anyone who has ever heard him speak knows, the wonkish Perry prefers policy discussions and serious debate over small chat and niceties. Or, as Perry explained in a letter to the president,
I appreciate the offer to greet you at Austin-Bergstrom Airport, but a quick handshake on the tarmac will not allow for a thoughtful discussion regarding the humanitarian and national security crises enveloping the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. I would instead offer to meet with you at any time during your visit to Texas for a substantive meeting to discuss this critical issue.
Perry is so committed to “substantive” immigration talks, that, with sufficient advance warning, he would be willing to re-arrange his busy schedule of jogging, killing Coyotes and executing innocent people to meet with the President of the United States: “With the appropriate notice, I am willing to change my schedule to facilitate this request.”
Expertise: Secession Law, Texas History, Remembering two out three things.
President Obama is no match for Governor Perry and his encyclopedic knowledge the law and history. As you may recall, Perry once said, “when we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want.” And, he added, in the legalistic jargon in which he is so proficient, “we’re kind of thinking about that again.” It turns out that Perry was wrong about the whole “stand alone nation deal.” But there was no way he would have known that unless he had followed who had won the Civil War or had heard of the Supreme Court Case Texas v. White which held that the union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration, or revocation, except through revolution, or through consent of the States.” But both of those events occurred way before Perry was even a twinkle in his father’s racist eye. And he can hardly be expected to know anything about them.
Like many geniuses, Perry has a nearly photographic memory as he demonstrated during a Republican debate when he remembered not one but two of the three agencies he vowed to shut down if elected president: “I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education, and the — What’s the third one there? Let’s see.The third agency I would do away with…the…ahh…Education…ahh…Commerce, and, let’s see… can’t, the third one. I can’t.” But even intellectuals are able to make mistakes. The issue is how they explain them. And Perry’s explanation for his memory lapse was perfect: “Oops.”
2. Entertainer Sarah Palin: Impeach.
The commitment-phobic former Governor and perpetual entertainer Sarah Palin called for the impeachment of President Obama on Tuesday. Writing in the scholarly journal that is the website Breitbart, Palin explained that the “unsecured border crisis is the last straw” and that, “It’s time to impeach…” “President Obama’s rewarding of lawlessness,” Palin argued, “including his own, is the foundational problem here… It’s not going to get better, and in fact irreparable harm can be done in this lame-duck term as he continues to make up his own laws as he goes along.”
Expertise: All Newspapers Ever, Supreme Court History, theology and Intelligence.
It feels unnecessary to even bother discussing Palin’s intellectual strengths, since they are so obvious. But, just to be consistent and thorough, let us remember that she reads more newspapers than any other human being ever. When asked by Katie Couric what she read regularly to stay informed, Palin responded, “I’ve read most of them again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.” When Couric persisted and asked which publications Palin read “specifically,” the then Veep hopeful said, “Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.” When Couric pressed Palin to name a single one, she responded, “I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news.” Though the liberal media used this interview as an excuse to pick on Palin, anyone objective knows that the exchange merely proved what we already knew: 1) Palin reads so much that she can’t keep track of it, and 2) the gestapo-like tactics for which Katie Couric is so famous can throw anyone off their game. Or as Palin put it more charitably, “Katie’s purpose—shared by most media types—seemed to be to frame a ‘gotcha’ moment. And it worked.”
But as fellow eloquent sage George W. Bush once said, “fool me once, shame on, shame on you. Fool me, you can’t get fooled again.”
Thus, when Commandant Couric tried to trick Palin into naming a single Supreme Court Case with which she disagreed, Sarah knew to avoid the trick question, saying: “Well, I could think of — of any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a vice president, if I’m so privileged to serve, wouldn’t be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.”
I don’t have enough time or space to list all of Palin’s credentials, but I will say that she is also well versed in the history of Christianity and intelligence-fathering, as she revealed when she spoke at an NRA event and said, “waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”
3. Louis Gohmert: Defund White House to Stop Obama from Letting in Diseased Aliens who will Turn Texas into a Blue (and Diseased) State.
Lots of Republicans (who don’t own businesses or need landscaping or lawn-mowing) want to keep and/ or kick “illegals” out of this great country (that was stolen from others founded and founded illegally) so they can’t steal the jobs that U.S.-born citizens don’t do anyway. But Representative Louis Gohmert (R-TX) is especially astute when it comes to the socio-economic and political forces behind immigration policy. In fact, just Tuesday, Gohmert called on Congress to defund the White House, the Attorney General of the United States and, as it’s outlined in The Constitution, “anything that the president cares deeply about.” Why is bankrupting the entire country so imperative? Well, because Obama is allowing in dangerous foreign elements: “Our schools cannot handle this influx… Our health care systems can’t withstand this influx…. We don’t even know what all diseases they have.” I think we can cross Smallpox and Montezuma’s Revenge off the list. And it’s not just that The President is allowing this. He’s encouraging it so, as Gohmert figured out, Texas and the country (and probably the world!) vote Democrat: “In the end, they [Democrats] have said that they want to turn Texas blue, they want to turn America blue.” Obama’s plan is to admit “hundreds of thousands or millions of people” and “give them the ability to vote.” And the final part of the scheme is blackmail: Democrats would tell the invaders “If you want to keep getting the benefits, you have to vote, and President Obama’s lawyers are not going to allow them to ask for an ID, so go vote or you’re going to lose the benefits you’re getting now…. That drives people to vote and it will ensure that Republicans don’t ever get elected again.” Pretty brillz!
Expertise: Alien movement, Enfranchisement, Crustaceans, Photobombing.
Louis Gohmert’s grasp of the relationship between immigration and voting patterns comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with his opinion-based research on the subject. Just last year he explained that, counterintuitively, denying amnesty to “Hispanics” will actually attract them because it will “preserve a country that Hispanics will want to come to.” Gohmert’s insights into the way Hispanics think remind me of the the insights of Sherry Argov, author of Why Men Love Bitches. In fact, I’m now inspired to write my own book, Why Hispanics Love Rejection or Hispanics: They’re Just Like Men Who Love Bitches.
Like the others listed here, Gohmert is a renaissance man. He’s also well-versed in class-based dietary habits. For instance, he supports cutting off food-stamps– read food– because they they turn their recipients into obese king crab legs-consuming heartbreakers:
When I look into the eyes of constituents, who want to provide for their children … and they talk about standing in line, I’ve heard this story so many times … standing in line at a grocery store behind people with a food-stamp car—one individual said, I love crab legs. You know, the big king crab legs. I love those. But we haven’t been able to have those in who knows when. But I’m standing behind a guy who has those in his basket, and I’m looking longingly like, when can I ever make enough again where our family can have something like that, and sees the food-stamp card pulled out, and provided, he looks at the king crab legs and looks at the ground meat, and realizes because he does pay income tax, he doesn’t get more back than he pays in, he is actually helping pay for the king crab legs when he can’t pay for them for himself.
Take a minute to wipe away your tears. OK. Moving on. The last talent Gohmertian talent I wanted to highlight was his unique and unsung photobombing abilities, which requires major hand-eye coordination and stealth.
4. Iowa GOP Senate Candidate Joni Ernst: Castrate & Impeach
Finally, allow me to share one more woman whose intellect we and the president dismiss at our own peril. Her name is Joni Ernst and she is running for the Senate in Iowa. Sarah Palin may be in the spotlight this week for calling for Obama’s impeachment, but a recently discovered video reveals that Ernst was advocating for this six months ago, making her the intellectual trend-setter. Ernst complained that the President had “become a dictator” and needed to “face those repercussions…whether that’s removal from office, whether that’s impeachment.” She outlined exactly how the President has become a dictator, using the precise and clinical language of a Political Science professor: he “oversteps his bounds… when he’s appointing czars… So he has become a dictator…. He is running amok.”
Expertise: Swine Castration, Propaganda
Ernst is the least known of the four people I review here but perhaps the biggest threat. She brings to the table not merely a sharp mind, but a sharp knife. She is the only person that I’m aware of who is calling for impeachment and who has experience removing pig testicles. As she boasted in her campaign video, “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm.” She knows how to “cut pork” and “make ’em squeal.” This genius video, which features adorable and sympathetic pigs, is a brilliant way to reach that sociopathic, sadistic swing voter.