Archive for the ‘Freedom’ Category
May 16, 2013 BORDC
Over the next several weeks, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider Comprehensive Immigration Reform (S744), which would include a mandatory E-Verify system. E-Verify is an internet-based program accessed by employers when processing new hires. It compares information from an Employee’s Eligibility Verification Form I-9 to data from U.S. government records. The potential for E-Verify to become compulsory is quite controversial for several reasons – namely its disregard for personal privacy, the unnecessary obstacles it imposes to employment, and the fundamental change that it would signify in the relationship between U.S. government and U.S. citizen.
While allegedly created to target undocumented individuals, E-Verify would negatively affect documented U.S. citizens as well. Every job applicant would have to face an E-Verify background check, and unless the system is 100% accurate 100% of the time, these background checks will become a nightmare. Chris Calabrese, Senior Legislative Counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union explains:
When you make a giant list of everybody who’s able to work in the United States, that list has to be completely accurate, because if there are mistakes in it, the result is those mistakes – those mistaken people can’t work.
These citizens will be required to petition the government to correct the mistake, creating a bureaucratic nightmare that will likely stall their job hunting process by weeks (if not longer). Calabrese calls this the “prove yourself to work” system that will hurt ordinary citizens. This signifies a fundamental shift in relationship between government and populace – no longer are we innocent until proven guilty. We are now guilty until proven worthy of a job. Gone will be the days of applying for a job, waiting on a quick background check, and becoming employed – now all citizens will have to wait for I-9s to be verified against a massive list of personal information housed by the government.
Beyond undue obstacles to employment lies an even more frightening truth about E-Verify: the invasion of privacy. Shahid Buttar wrote in a previous article that Comprehensive Immigration Reform would likely become a Trojan Horse for larger government surveillance, and E-Verify is just one manifestation of that government surveillance. Involving the government in something as routine as application for employment unnecessarily involves political bureaucracy in one’s personal life. More disconcerting, though, is the fact that so much personal information would be available from a single database – a dream for identity thieves.
E-Verify is but one example of how the new programs proposed in Comprehensive Immigration Reform would affect all U.S. citizens, not merely a small percentage of undocumented individuals. Like Next Generation Initiative (NGI), which would track individuals from city to city, scan not just fingerprints but irises and scars to help track and identify individuals, E-Verify signifies a broadening state of surveillance. In an article about NGI’s expansion of biometric databases, Alternet wrote, “Advancements in the collection of biometric data are double-edged: there’s the treat of a massive government surveillance infrastructure working too well – e.g., surveillance state – and there are concerns about its weaknesses, especially in keeping data secure.” The same can be said for E-Verify; it would likely be the gateway to a growing surveillance state, and the information stored within E-Verify would be susceptible to hacking. While this country is in dire need of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, we must be wary of “enforcement-first” immigration policies like NGI and E-Verify, which will only infringe on the rights of American citizens.
Maybe this all seems self-evident to me because I worked with the CETA program in 1974 etc and saw many who had convinced themselves that sitting on the corner was what they wanted to do, instead sign up for subsidized training for real jobs that had a future. (Most had to sit on a waiting list for 6 months, then show up daily for another 6 months of training before job placement. And they did it.)
The Economist May 12th 2012 Hope springs a trap
An absence of optimism plays a large role in keeping people trapped in poverty
THE idea that an infusion of hope can make a big difference to the lives of wretchedly poor people sounds like something dreamed up by a well-meaning activist or a tub-thumping politician. Yet this was the central thrust of a lecture at Harvard University on May 3rd by Esther Duflo, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology known for her data-driven analysis of poverty. Ms Duflo argued that the effects of some anti-poverty programmes go beyond the direct impact of the resources they provide. These programmes also make it possible for the very poor to hope for more than mere survival.
She and her colleagues evaluated a programme in the Indian state of West Bengal, where Bandhan, an Indian microfinance institution, worked with people who lived in extreme penury. They were reckoned to be unable to handle the demands of repaying a loan. Instead, Bandhan gave each of them a small productive asset—a cow, a couple of goats or some chickens. It also provided a small stipend to reduce the temptation to eat or sell the asset immediately, as well as weekly training sessions to teach them how to tend to animals and manage their households. Bandhan hoped that there would be a small increase in income from selling the products of the farm animals provided, and that people would become more adept at managing their own finances.
The results were far more dramatic. Well after the financial help and hand-holding had stopped, the families of those who had been randomly chosen for the Bandhan programme were eating 15% more, earning 20% more each month and skipping fewer meals than people in a comparison group. They were also saving a lot. The effects were so large and persistent that they could not be attributed to the direct effects of the grants: people could not have sold enough milk, eggs or meat to explain the income gains. Nor were they simply selling the assets (although some did).
Republican Platform Panel Backs Blanket Ban on Abortion Bloomberg News 08/22/12
Republican drafters of their party’s 2012 platform reaffirmed support for a constitutional amendment banning abortion that would allow no exception for terminating pregnancies caused by rape.
“Today is a sad day for the rule of law and for those who believe that the courts should protect American citizens from torture by their own government,” said ACLU National Security Project Litigation Director Ben Wizner, who argued the appeal in court. “By dismissing this lawsuit, the appeals court handed the government a blank check to commit any abuse in the name of national security, even the brutal torture of a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil. This impunity is not only anathema to a democracy governed by laws, but contrary to history’s lesson that in times of fear our values are a strength, not a hindrance.”……………
Ron Paul is the only Presidential candidate in recent memory to speak up for freedom and the Constitution. Below Turley lists the incredible and increasing powers of the Executive to ignore the Bill of Rights, due process and the rule of law. These Stasi-like and draconian powers will not go unused.
Meanwhile we have two political parties united in their support of Corporate domination and citizen submission. Clearly only those who bow to these powers are (usually) allowed to run.
Jonathan Turley January 15, 2012
Below is today’s column in the Sunday Washington Post. The column addresses how the continued rollbacks on civil liberties in the United States conflicts with the view of the country as the land of the free. If we are going to adopt Chinese legal principles, we should at least have the integrity to adopt one Chinese proverb: “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.” We seem as a country to be in denial as to the implications of these laws and policies. Whether we are viewed as a free country with authoritarian inclinations or an authoritarian nation with free aspirations (or some other hybrid definition), we are clearly not what we once were.
Every year, the State Department issues reports on individual rights in other countries, monitoring the passage of restrictive laws and regulations around the world. Iran, for example, has been criticized for denying fair public trials and limiting privacy, while Russia has been taken to task for undermining due process. Other countries have been condemned for the use of secret evidence and torture.
Even as we pass judgment on countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own — the land of free. Yet, the laws and practices of the land should shake that confidence. In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most recent example of this was the National Defense Authorization Act, signed Dec. 31, which allows for the indefinite detention of citizens. At what point does the reduction of individual rights in our country change how we define ourselves?
While each new national security power Washington has embraced was controversial when enacted, they are often discussed in isolation. But they don’t operate in isolation. They form a mosaic of powers under which our country could be considered, at least in part, authoritarian. Americans often proclaim our nation as a symbol of freedom to the world while dismissing nations such as Cuba and China as categorically unfree. Yet, objectively, we may be only half right. Those countries do lack basic individual rights such as due process, placing them outside any reasonable definition of “free,” but the United States now has much more in common with such regimes than anyone may like to admit.
These countries also have constitutions that purport to guarantee freedoms and rights. But their governments have broad discretion in denying those rights and few real avenues for challenges by citizens — precisely the problem with the new laws in this country.
The list of powers acquired by the U.S. government since 9/11 puts us in rather troubling company……..read entire article
Amy Lee Huffington Post 10/10/11
Occupy Wall Street got some Slovenian philosopher star power on Sunday, as Marxist academic Slavoj Zizek joined the movement.
“We are not destroying anything,” he said. “We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself.”
Using the “Human Microphone” system, where protestors repeat back the words of the speaker so that others can hear, Zizek spoke for over an hour to the enthusiastic crowd, who whooped and cheered as he went on.
While in China, entertainment programming that depicts alternate reality and time travel has been banned, in the U.S., we have a different problem, according to Zizek.
“Here we don’t think of prohibition, because the ruling system has even oppressed our capacity to dream, ” he said. “Look at the movies that we see all the time — It’s easy to imagine the end of the world, an asteroid destroying a whole life, but you cannot imagine the end of capitalism. So what are we doing here?”
Zizek also advised the people to see the Tea Party as a sister movement — “They may be stupid, but don’t look at them as the enemy,” he said.
But he warned the protestors against succumbing to the excitement of the immediate events instead of keeping their eye on the prize: True social change.
Zizek is just the latest of the prominent figures who have come to lend their voice in Zuccotti Park, alongside activists like Michael Moore, writer Naomi Klein as well as actors including Mark Ruffalo, Susan Sarandon, and Roseanne Barr.
Also: Slavoj Zizek: The Delusion of Green Capitalism
And, before you ask, ‘paradise’ is in the eye of the beholder…….My idea of heaven right now is a fireplace and a good library book. (Boxes of books are heavy!)
Feel free to leave me links to any particularly interesting stuff!
Taibbi: “Orwellian” SEC May Have Been Hiding Big Wall Street Crimes
By Sarah Seltzer | AlterNet
By Naomi Klein / The Nation When you rob people of what little they have, in order to protect the interests of those who have more than anyone deserves, you should expect resistance.
By David Graeber
Anthropologist David Graeber argues that it is only with a general historical understanding of debt and its relationship to violence that we can begin to appreciate our emerging epoch. Here he begins to fill in our historical knowledge gap
By David DeGraw | Amped Status
Wardak government spokesman Shahidullah Shahid says Dr. Aqeela Hekmat and two of her family members were killed in their vehicle. Aqeela was the head of gynecology and maternal health for neighboring Ghazni province.
A year-long military-led investigation has concluded that U.S. taxpayer money has been indirectly funneled to the Taliban under a $2.16 billion transportation contract that the United States has funded in part to promote Afghan businesses.
By Glenn Greenwald
Al Qaeda is always to blame, even when it isn’t, even when it’s allegedly the work of a Nordic, Muslim-hating, right-wing European nationalist.
The United States has wasted some $34 billion on service contracts with the private sector in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a study being finalized for Congress.
The two rulings are just the latest from an an appeals court that has consistently sided with the Obama Administration in cases related to Guantanamo Bay detainees
The Pentagon which is fighting yesterday’s war, funding military operations that don’t address the fact that we are in the 21 century currency war. It has nothing to do with the land based war; it has nothing to do with missiles, rockets, and submarines. It is about the currency.
The youngsters were working in a field in Helmand province when they were hit by “stray bullets” from an Apache gunship which was targeting the Taliban.
One upshot of the debt-ceiling debate is that politicians might finally be ready to trim the outrageously bloated U.S. military budget. That’s the story, anyway, being told by the Washington Post