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Judge Strikes Down Indefinite Detention: Tell Obama To Stop Supporting This Wretched Law

10:18 pm in Uncategorized by David Segal


We just won the lawsuit against Obama et al over the indefinite detention provisions of the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. These provisions represented a blatant violation of due process and First Amendment rights, and plaintiffs argued that they were already having a chilling effect on journalists and activists.

The NDAA included a clause which afforded the military the power to detain civilians — even Americans — indefinitely, without charge or trial, if they are accused of certain anti-state crimes or are accused of “substantially supporting” those accused of said crimes or forces associated therewith.    If that sounds tortuous and nebulous it’s because it is: What the heck does “substantially support” or “associated force” even mean?

You can urge Obama not to appeal the ruling by clicking here.

In a sweeping 112-page ruling (which I’ve not yet read in full) Judge Katherine Forrest issued a permanent injunction against the use of such powers.  Here’s Reuters:

A federal judge made permanent on Wednesday her order blocking enforcement of a U.S. law’s provision that authorizes military detention for people deemed to have “substantially supported” al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces.”

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan had ruled in May in favor of non-profit groups and reporters whose work relates to conflicts in the Middle East and who said they feared being detained under a section of the law, signed by President Barack Obama in December.

Plaintiffs include Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Tangerine Bolen, and others; Demand Progress and RevolutionTruth members have raised around $20,000 to support the lawsuit and used it to pressure lawmakers to revoke the provions in question.  We lost a relatively narrow vote in the House a few months ago, and the Senate will take up amendments to end indefinite detention in coming weeks.

We’re hoping the Senate will actually take this finding of unconstitutionality to heart and explicitly revoke the codification of the indefinite detention authority when the NDAA gets a vote in coming weeks.

This ruling required great fortitude on the part of Judge Forrest: She was appointed by Obama just last year.  After initially expressing concerns about the provisions in question — because they infringed on certain executive power, not because of all of the reasons above — Obama has consistently supported and defended them.  He signed them into law under cloak of darkness on New Year’s Eve and has aggressively defended them in court.

This’ll probably get appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court — but you can click here to urge Obama to stop protecting this awful law.

Bin Laden Is Dead, But Will The Patriot Act Live On?

7:00 am in Uncategorized by David Segal

Osama Bin Laden is dead, but will the Patriot Act live on? The Patriot Act is up for renewal this month. This legislation was initially enacted as a supposedly temporary measure in the wake of 9-11, but portions of it have been made permanent, and the remaining provisions have been extended four times and are set to sunset on May 27th. With the death of Bin Laden, it’s time for Congress to re-institute pre-9-11 legal norms, when reverence for civil liberties was a priority for both Americans and their government.

A key debate is brewing as the vote grows near: The right-wing will argue that Bin Laden’s demise is evidence that the spying regime was justified. We believe it means that it’s time to fix the Patriot Act once and for all. We must erase bin Laden’s ugly legacy, not extend it: By ending the PATRIOT Act’s erosion of our civil liberties, we can protect the freedoms that make America worth fighting for.

Click here to sign our petition to Congress and President Obama, and urge them to fix the Patriot Act this month.

Progressives and Tea Party Republicans initially blocked a long-term Patriot Act extension in January, but a three month-extension was passed in February. During the interim, the House and Senate have held hearings on potential reforms to the expiring provisions. The authorities in question are:

1) Section 215 powers which make it easier for the government to seize records from people not accused or suspected of crimes.
2) Roving wiretaps which need not specify the devices or the individuals being targeted.
2) The “lone wolf” provision which reduces legal protections for certain individuals by applying the standards used when somebody is an agent of a foreign power.

These provisions were always unjustified, always an over-reach of the government’s authorities, initially enacted only because a terrorized citizenry was too fearful to prioritize defense of its constitutional rights. With Bin Laden’s passing it should be clear to all Americans: The era of the Patriot Act, of spying on Americans who aren’t suspected of crimes, of heavy-handed abuse of our dearly held civil liberties, must come to an end.

Will you click here to sign our petition urging Congress to fix the Patriot Act?

Nearly 75,000 Demand Progress members have urged Congress to fix the Patriot Act. In April 3,000 of them called the White House to urge President Obama to veto any bill that lacks sufficient reforms. Demand Progress aired an anti-Patriot Act ad on MSNBC, CNN, and FOX News earlier this year. Congress is hearing our calls, but we need to press forward this month if we’re going to win the fight.

Feds Raid Medical Marijuana Dispensaries: Tell Them To Back Off

12:39 pm in Uncategorized by David Segal

Insane news: The Feds have just raided medical marijuana dispensaries across Montana.  Armed agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, and ATF swept through at least 10 stores and greenhouses on Monday, detaining the workers there and seizing computers, plants, and other items.

According to one worker, “They came in, guns drawn, got us down on the ground and in cuffs as fast as they could.”

The raids represent a swift change in law enforcement policy: When Obama took office, Attorney General Eric Holder promised to end the Bush-era attacks on sellers of medicinal marijuana and medical marijuana patients.  Obama made the same promise on the campaign trail — repeatedly:

“I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users. It’s not a good use of our resources.” (August 21, 2007, event in Nashua, New Hampshire)

“I don’t think that should be a top priority of us, raiding people who are using … medical marijuana. With all the things we’ve got to worry about, and our Justice Department should be doing, that probably shouldn’t be a high priority.” (June 2, 2007, town hall meeting in Laconia, New Hampshire)

Now the Feds are even refusing to say why they conducted yesterday’s raids, and if and when they’ll be pressing any charges.  This shift in policy puts medical marijuana sellers and patients across America in jeopardy.  Will you tell Obama and Holder to keep their promises and end the raids?

Tell Obama: No New Nukes!

11:52 am in Uncategorized by David Segal

No new nuclear power plants have been built in the United States in decades — but now President Obama is seeking to change that.  Since taking office Obama’s insistently kowtowed to nuclear power interests, offering billions of dollars in loan guarantees to potential new projects.  Two reactors in Burke County, Georgia are set to go online in 2016 or 2017, backed by more than $8 billion in federal loan guarantees — and his 2012 budget includes another $36 billion.

Obama’s even tried to brand nuclear energy as integral to a “clean-energy” future.   The rest of the Democratic establishment agrees — questioned this weekend about his support for more nukes, prominent Sen. Chuck Schumer says he’s still “willing to look at nuclear.

Click here to tell Obama that his pro-nuke policies are insane.  They were ridiculous before the Japanese earth quake, and now only the most cynical politician shills for the nuclear industry could keep denying it.

There are very good reasons why new nuclear starts ground to a halt, and between the Japanese catastrophe and the push for public dollars to finance more nukes at home, all of those concerns are on display today:  The potential for great harm to people, severe degradation to the environment, and the cost to public coffers and ratepayers.

If we’re going to be backing new electricity projects with public dollars, they need to be clean, safe, and renewable.  We need to demand that Obama reverse course, kill the new funding for nukes, and steer it to green energy projects right away.

Click here to sign Demand Progress’s petition, and tell Obama: “No new nukes!”

FBI: Outlaw Skype?

12:08 pm in Uncategorized by David Segal

Skype, BlackBerry, and other Internet communications services are under attack.  The Obama administration and the FBI are pushing legislation that would ban online communications technologies like these unless their developers make it easy for the government to wiretap them. Here’s a New York Times article on last week’s Congressional hearing on the topic.

The F.B.I. has been quietly laying the groundwork for years for a push to require Internet-based communications services — like Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, BlackBerry and Skype — to design their systems with a built-in way to comply with wiretap orders. On Thursday, the bureau made its first full airing of the “going dark” problem.

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) requires telecom companies to make it possible for the government to wiretap their networks. Now Obama and law enforcement want to expand CALEA to cover all online communications technologies, including peer-to-peer and social networking apps.

Companies that want to avoid heavy-handed regulations, and those that actually care about our privacy rights, would have to leave the U.S. That would reduce our prominence as a technology leader, and encourage the government to devise ever more severe ways of blocking Americans from using the offending technologies.  Other companies would comply by creating back-doors that could lead to more privacy violations and make the Internet more vulnerable to attack: experts say wiretap-ready technologies would be much easier to hack.

An expansion of CALEA would be a tremendous blow to a free and open Internet. Lawmakers need to reject it: Will you click here and sign Demand Progress’s petition demanding that they do so?

Will We Finally Get a Seat at the Table? Help Pick a Replacement for Larry Summers

8:04 am in Uncategorized by David Segal

An elitist, technocratic mutli-millionaire who disdains dissent and made a fortune on Wall Street, Larry Summers typifies that which ails the Democratic Party. For the last two years he’s served as director of President Obama’s National Economic Council where he’s been in charge of coordinating the administration’s economic policy — its response to the economic collapse and foreclosure crisis, its position on financial reform, and more.

It’s tough for Summers to imagine a world without the mega-banks and mega-rich, and this has been reflected in the administration’s reluctance to adopt a populist posture as it contends with the bad economy and banking abuses. Summers has announced that he’s leaving the NEC to return to Harvard later this year — and we at Demand Progress thing it’s well past time for the rest of us to have a seat at the table.

Help us push Obama to pick a progressive NEC director by signing our petition and picking who you’d like to see get the job. (Keith Hennessey’s articles here and here lay-out exactly what the job is all about.)

The din of the squawks of the deficit hawks, carried to us on corporate-controlled airwaves, makes it easy to forget that there are countless progressive economists — Baker, Galbraith, Krugman, Stiglitz, and plenty of others — who toil away tirelessly and thanklessly, advocating for higher minimum wages, tighter financial regulation, fair trade agreements, and an economy that generally works for you and me.

While the finance wizards of Washington and Wall Street were laying a foundation for the economic collapse (and then shingling the roof and picking out the curtains) many of our progressive economist heroes saw the crisis coming and urged the institution of reforms that would have helped prevent it.

It’s far past time for these proven progressives — and the rest of us through their voices and good deeds — to have a say in the administration’s economic policy.

Larry’s Greatest Hits:

Just how out of touch is Summers? As Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, Summers praised the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and argued against regulation of derivatives. He later had the gall to assert that it was "outrageous" that AIG had been able to sell hundreds of billions of dollars of credit default swaps without being regulated.

In 2001 he became Harvard’s 27th president, but was eventually forced out after a flack with Cornel West (over whether his spoken-word album degraded Harvard) and suggesting that under-representation of women in high-level math and science jobs could be because of "different availability of aptitude at the high end." He went to work for a New York-based hedge fund, earning $5 million – plus $2.7 million in speaking fees in 2008 alone from Wall Street firms that had gotten bailout funds.

When right-wing economist Milton Friedman died, Summers wrote in the New York Times that "any honest Democrat will admit that we are now all Friedmanites." (Meaning progressives like us either aren’t really Democrats, or are a bunch of liars.)

And then… in 2009 he found comfort back in the White House, as director of President Obama’s National Economic Council, helping to oversee the very firms that had been so generous to him when he was down-and-out after leaving Harvard and blunting the administration’s response to the economic crisis.

Time for a New Direction:

As Summers departs, and as Republicans pick up seats in the House and Senate, it’s time for Obama to prove that he’ll stand up and fight back. He should appoint a progressive, populist, anti-corporatist economist to replace Summers. Somebody who saw the crisis coming — not somebody who helped make it possible. Someone who will push for jobs, financial regulation, foreclosure reform, and better living standards for all Americans.

Thankfully, there’s a bevy of economists who’ve been doing just that for decades, and who deserve the President’s attention at this critical juncture in our nation’s history.

Join us as we wonk out and make some progressive economists smile: Sign our petition urging Obama to pick a progressive to replace Summers. Then review our list of suggestions — complete with short bios and quotes that represent their ideas. Vote for your favorite, or nominate your own.