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Member since: Sat Jan 5, 2008, 08:45 PM
Number of posts: 53,061

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Kerry announces agreement for resuming Mideast peace talks

Source: CNN

CNN) -- The long-dormant Middle East peace efforts got new life on Friday.

An agreement has been reached that "establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between" Palestinians and Israel, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Amman, Jordan.

"This is a significant and welcome step forward," Kerry said.

This came as Kerry visited the Middle East this week and came up with a formula for reanimating peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian territories, a source close to the talks said.

He has been working intensely with the Palestinian side to get them on board.

Earlier Friday, in a meeting in Amman, Jordan, Kerry presented the plan to Palestinian chief peace negotiator Saeb Erakat in hopes that it will entice the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

Kerry arrived in Ramallah in the West Bank on Friday afternoon and began a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas for the third time during his current trip to the Middle East.

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/19/world/meast/mideast-kerry-visit/index.html

An alternative view from a “lackey butt-kissing shit”

DU is, obviously, in one of its high octane civil discussions and you can tell how heated it has become by how uncivil the discussion has become. If you are surprised by any of this then you haven’t been here very long or haven’t been paying attention.

There are dozens of threads bashing the President and his supporters here but this one is my favorite: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023030629
and it launched a vigorous discussion among GD hosts because I was fairly certain that it was whining about DU but a few said that as the particular “lackey butt-kissing shit” wasn’t identified it couldn’t be classified as whining about DU.

Now I found that to be rather tendentious sophistry because I think it was quite clear who the OP was referring to, they were referring to me.

It seems obvious that they are referring to DU supporters of the President, that on DU the most ardent supporters of the President visit the BOG. As the longest serving host at BOG if you were compiling a list of “lackey butt-kissing shit” you would have to put my name at the top of the list.

I don’t complain about being on that list, I embrace it. But alas, I am not whining about it I embrace it. And while I prefer Solidarity Democrats I will take cheerleader, kool aid drinker, fan boi, or lackey butt-kissing shit, with a smile as long as it is clear that I still support the President 100%.

Please refer to me as LBKS #1.

Its not the first nor I am sure the last time I am at the end of a vulgar epitaph. In the past when I was on the receiving end of such vulgar histrionics I turned the absurdity of it to expose the weakness of the attack. My favorites were being called a communist when I publicly denounced Agnew’s upcoming visit in 1972 in a meeting before WA Governor Dan Evans (he laughed) and called a Nazi by an Auschwitz survivor whose department in the IOM I was charged with evaluating and reforming.

While DU remains a unique place for a great deal of insightful discussion (see the well informed threads by some DUers who are following the Martin murder trial) sometimes elements of the discussion become so white hot that positions harden and little actual discussion results and there is no persuasion.

No one is going to be persuaded by this thread.

If you are reading it then there is a 99% likelihood that your mind has not simply been made up but set in concrete on the NSA related warrants. It happens on DU. I post this because I continue to hold DU in deep affection and want some people who are President Obama supporters to understand that you can continue to participate here without succumbing to the bashing and without returning the vitriol.

So I have been giving a pass to most of the NSA related threads but have now noticed a number of threads now have commented that the absence of threads supporting the administration is evidence that there is no argument and that the only possible position for a DU member is to consider the Obama administration as a major violator of the 4th Amendment and that it is one of the following: authoritarian, totalitarian, surveillance state, Stalinist, and a whole list of other completely absurd adjectives.

Before getting into the details lets establish that:

1) The government has for decades established various data bases for investigative purposes, some more benign than others. Voicing concern about those data bases doesn’t make you anti-Obama, paranoid, or ‘hair on fire’.

2) On January 20th 2017 President Obama will no longer be President and so even if you are a 100% supporter of the President, which I am, then it is still reasonable to be concerned about how those data bases are used and oversight maintained.

Now for the points that I consider relevant:

A) The Fourth Amendment and government data bases.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The government has, for some time, accumulated or has access to various elements of meta data that is used for law enforcement. Some are more benign than others.

If you make a cash transfer of even $ 100 through a bank it is now recorded and added to a financial data base. If you drive within 100 miles of the Southern US border you will pass through check points and your cars details will enter a data base. If you cross a US border your movements are added to a data base, and so on.

The government doesn’t use these data bases for surveillance, and they are not opening up a personal file on you. If they find a person of interest in a money laundering investigations they go through the data base and see if there is evidence that can add to the investigation and develop other leads.

Driving along the Southern Border you will approach various Border Patrol Checkpoints. Prior to reaching the checkpoints you will pass a set of cameras that are obvious and not hidden:

There is nothing secret about these operations and you can ask the Border Patrol Agent about them. They are creating a data base and use it as an investigative tool, which is different than surveillance or spying. For example if they receive a report of a vehicle that was involved in drug activity in Ohio they might, for example, go back and find that particular vehicle crossed the border and moved north of Laredo on 14 occasions and on each of those occasions there were two other vehicles that passed the same check point within 20 minutes of each other. That would provide a lead that could result in probable cause to search those other vehicles.

If you find the meta data base that the NSA is building to be intrusive and a violation of privacy then I wonder what you are thinking about the other data bases that the government is building without warrants or Congressional scrutiny on a daily basis. Last month my daughter sent me $ 100 cash gift by Western Union and because I passed a BP checkpoint I entered two data bases on the same trip. One of them had my license plate and kept track of my physical travel and the other had my social security number and kept track of my cash movements.

B) The government and the telephone.

As soon as the phone was invented wiretapping soon followed. You can find a time line of legal cases regarding wiretapping here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5061834
There is nothing illegal about a government agent listening to a public conversation in a restaurant, but listening in on that conversation through a wiretap without a warrant would be illegal. The phone has always triggered special concerns.

And here is the irony of the whole situation:

Wiretapping or listening to conversations per se must have become mostly useless for the government, for the simple reason that throw away phones are, as Tony Sopranao showed all of us a decade ago, ubiquitous.

A couple of years ago a business acquaintance came to me telling me about his new business and tried to recruit me. I told him that I considered the financial instruments highly unethical and almost certainly illegal and tried to persuade him not to proceed. He ignored my advice and I tried to avoid him as much as possible. Last year he called me and told me he had been arrested and wanted my advice on his legal strategy. I told him to end the call and met him for lunch and gave him a number to one of my ‘throwaway’ phones that I use because I do business in a number of area codes and have found it easier to contact clients when they see that it is the same area code. I told him that if he wanted to talk to me about legal issues as his case progressed he should buy a throw away phone and call me on one of mine. (He did later call me and was frustrated with his counsel who wanted an additional $ 50,000 but told him that not only was he going to walk but that the government was going to have to refund all of his legal fees. Based on what he had told me I told him that my advice was to do the right thing and tell his attorney to strike a deal with the prosecutor so that he could avoid prison and also help some of the victims recover some of their lost assets, which he eventually did. It was revealed that he did have a wire tap on his regular phone but none on his throw away)

My point is that anyone who knows that the government is actively after them should at this point in time have the common sense not to use their regular phone but one that is untraceable, and the same is true with throw away email accounts.

Obviously anyone connected to Al Queda has been trained not to have any substantial conversations on a phone line that they could be identified with.

So on a practical level what is the NSA doing?

Here is the case against the Administration:

We learned yesterday that the National Security Agency (NSA) obtained a top-secret court order that forces Verizon to hand telephone records of millions of US customers over to the government. Today, the Obama administration is defending the practice as a critical tool for preventing terrorist attacks.

The Guardian, which uncovered and published the secret court order, today detailed the White House's response.

The Guardian wrote:

The White House has sought to justify its surveillance of millions of Americans' phone records as anger grows over revelations that a secret court order gives the National Security Agency blanket authority to collect call data from a major phone carrier.
Politicians and civil liberties campaigners described the disclosures, revealed by the Guardian on Wednesday, as the most sweeping intrusion into private data they had ever seen by the US government.

But the Obama administration, while declining to comment on the specific order, said the practice was "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States."

The phone record collection doesn't target only suspected terrorists. The court order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forces Verizon to give the NSA "all call detail records or 'telephony' meta data created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls." The order, which covers a three-month period ending July 19, means the government is receiving data such as "phone numbers of both parties, the duration of the conversation, the time of the conversation, location data, telephone calling card numbers, and unique identifiers pertaining to the phones," as we noted yesterday.

Such call detail collection also occurred during the Bush administration. US officials say it is allowed under the Patriot Act passed in 2001.

An unnamed Obama administration official quoted by the Associated Press said that "[o]n its face, the order reprinted in the article does not allow the government to listen in on anyone's telephone calls." Call meta data can help the government identify the people making the phone calls, however.

"It allows counter-terrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States," the administration official quoted by The Guardian said.

So what is the value of these meta data records?

I believe that it is pretty similar to my example of the use of car movement data bases by the Border Patrol described above. Once they capture or identify a throwaway phone they want to be able to reverse the network and unravel all of the other throw away phones that were ever used and in doing so identify other people connected.

One of my problems with those that are raising concerns (and some of the concerns are, as noted, valid) is the outrageous hyperbole involved.

“the most sweeping intrusion into private data they had ever seen by the US government”


This isn’t even the most intrusive action they have into my private data in the last week.

Here would be my ranking:

1) Keeping track of my financial transactions.
2) Keeping track of my car movements
3) Keeping track of the same information that is on my phone bill.

C) Government abuses of the constitution including the 4th and 14th Amendments.

The strongest case for those that are concerned about the NSA data bases is to point to how this has been abused in the past.
It has been abused in the past. When the government abuses its authority it eventually leads to a ‘knock on the door’ and either your liberty or your property is taken or the government is used for corruption or to hide illegal deeds.

We have seen this time and again in Republican administrations. Under Nixon the government was caught out in a massive campaign of bugging and intimidation. Under Bush the administration was caught red handed trying to influence federal prosecutors and there were millions who lived in fear of the ‘knock on the door’ when the Bush administration had ICE go into Hispanic neighborhoods and arrest and deport thousands of law abiding undocumented workers.

As the soon to be Father-in-law of an undocumented worker we celebrate that these abuses have ended, even for undocumented workers. My future son-in-law was able to report to the government and the Obama administration provided a card authorizing him to work legally in the US even though the President cannot unilaterally regularize his immigration status. We not only don’t worry about the ‘knock on the door’ we can proceed through a Border Patrol check point without worry because we know that this administration will not abuse the law and the Constitution.

D) Authoritarian, Totalitarianism etc etc

The hyperbole referred to above has found a welcoming home at DU where a legitimate discussion of government data bases, oversight and efficacy has given way to an unbridled assault on language and history. We have all seen the comparisons to Stalinism, Authoritarianism, Totalitarianism and so on.

As pointed out when a government abuses its power there is a ‘knock on the door’.

I know. I have seen it. The federal government once ‘knocked on my door’. I was traveling back and forth between Thailand and the US in the ‘80s and when I was boarding a flight back to Thailand federal officers pulled me aside and asked where and why I was going. They were obviously profiling drug smugglers from travel data and being in my ‘20s fit a profile. I didn't consider it much of an
attack on my civil liberties because I was working with hundreds of thousands of people who were fleeing real totalitarian states and real attacks on civil liberties.

I also lived in countries where there were degrees of Authoritarian governments and you could get a ‘knock on the door’. All of them with less safe guards than we have:

Indonesia – too many ways to describe here but to suffice it to say that being labeled a communist after the attempted coup would get you in trouble.

Singapore – nothing really sinister but if you made comments about the Prime Minister that were not 100% based on fact then you would be buried in lawsuits and ruined.

Malaysia – Not a great deal but they famously ruined one Islamic reformer by arresting him on a trumped up Sodomy charges.

Thailand – Generally a more relaxed place except for Lesse Majeste charges. (By the way in Thailand the police are forbidden from executing search warrants except when there is sunlight.

I also visited Totalitarian countries like the People’s Republic of Vietnam where there was really no effort to conceal their action and when tens of thousands were forced from their homes to live in ‘new economic zones’.

China does a very effective job of intimidating its population by landing hard on a few high profile cases.

Russia, well Putin’s opponents and media critics just have a nasty habit of being murdered, rather like KGB opponents suffered when Putin was in the KGB.

So again while it might be useful to have a constructive discussion about limits and oversight it becomes more difficult when the terminology has reached such epic heights where this President is labeled with histrionic associations that aren’t even within the same universe.

I am still waiting for the first evidence of Obama’s government misusing the Constitution to ‘knock on the door’ and take someone’s liberty or property.

E) The embarrassing double standard at DU.

Some have taken to criticizing ‘cheerleaders’. ‘kool aid drinkers’, ‘fanbois’, or the above cited “lackey butt-kissing shit” based on the premise that we have one standard for Bush and another for Obama. These equivalencies remain way off base up until the moment that Obama is found to actually order agents to round up people accused of no crime or using federal agencies for political prosecutions.

There does exist a rather embarrassing double standard at DU however. This President is judged against a set of criteria that is not applied to others, especially when it comes to issues regarding respecting the constitution.

It is not uncommon, for example to see a poster proclaim,

“I am an FDR Democrat”

And then in the next phrase talk of

“Obama’s war on Civil Rights”

(Disclaimer on my support of FDR: He wasn’t simply the best President ever elected he was the best politician ever elected anywhere. He didn’t simply restore our government but he had to restore an entire economic system. In doing so he made a turn in shared benefit that Marx never predicted. If this were not enough he was a great Commander in Chief and he was right about Normandy when Churchill, who gets more press on military issues was 100% wrong.)

Now while I agree that Roosevelt was the best, there is no metric where you can embrace FDR and lambaste Obama on civil rights.

The reason is that under FDR there were ‘knocks on the door’. More than 140,000 legally established citizens and residents were taken from their homes and lost all of their property when FDR signed and executed Executive Order 9066.

These are not theoretical ‘invasions of privacy’ but real loss.


One of the ladies at my high school study hall, Mrs. Saki, went into one of these camps. It wasn’t just confinement they lost their farms, businesses and property.

It wasn’t simply a complete trashing of the Constitution, it was a particularly stupid one. The place where it was known to have a Japanese Spy ring (Hawaii) was not touched while those living in Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona. If you were living in Yakima Washington you were picked up, if you lived in Spokane you were safe.

This isn’t meant to disparage FDR (see disclaimer above) but simply to state an obvious fact; If your praising FDR as the greatest and have unbridled vitriol for Obama and give any weight to civil liberties then its pretty obvious that you are using two different standards.

So what accounts for the level of unrestrained vitriol against President Obama when it is such an obvious double standard? I do not think that any long term DUers would have such a double standard based on racial bias of any kind. That kind of bias would have seeped out long ago. I think that some DUers have an image of a combative partisan FDR based on a few partisan speeches and find President Obama’s patient persistent approach infuriating. The irony is that FDR also was a seducer. He wanted to start immediately with arming the allies, especially Great Britain. But he was patient and instead started with Lend/Lease rather than make waves. On almost all contentious issues he patiently waited until he was 100% sure he would be successful.

And then there is the rather banal “I must be a racist . . . “ construct (“I must be a racist because I care for the Constitution” etc).

This construct is a Republican/Reactionary construct that I have been hearing for decades “I must be a sexist if I believe that women make better mothers””I must be a racist because I don’t want to go to an Affirmative Action Doctor”. It is meant to mock serious charges of racism, sexism, homophobia and so on. Since when did it become acceptable to mock racism to make your case on DU?

Let’s just hope that never reoccurs.

F) Proudly continuing to support the President.

Rather than reproduce a familiar list of achievements I prefer to see his impact in the broad issues.

For the first time in modern history we have a President who campaigned as a candidate on raising taxes and increasing revenues to the Federal Government. Most of the expansion of the Federal Government in US history has occurred during or immediately after large military actions (Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam). During these times it was possible to expand the functions of government at the same time there was popular support for military action. This President has successfully achieved an expansion when winding down military action. He established, after 80 years, a federal mandate for the Federal Government to control the health care system AND got it passed by the court.

It is clear that some support the President but have serious concerns about the NSA warrants, which of course is a completely natural and common situation among progressives. It is also clear that for some there is an unbridled vitriol against this President and his supporters and the NSA issue has simply given license to express it, frequently in hyperbole and sometimes in crude vulgarities.

No President has delivered more real life benefit to my family. In fact this President has delivered more than all of the Presidents combined, here are some:

1) My cousins in the reserves are no longer facing deployments.
2) My friends and family that have an undocumented status no longer face a “knock on the door”.
3) People, like me, who have pre-existing conditions (diabetes) will soon be able to buy health insurance.
4) And many other smaller improvements like the savings of several hundreds of dollars a month because the banks can no longer charge bogus fees.

On the other side we have a party that is determined to:

1) Keep health care a privilege for the healthy and wealthy.
2) Try to prevent my AA relatives from voting.
3) Undermine my daughters reproductive rights and access to planned parenthood.

At the same time there are much more serious issues, in fact I would argue there are much more important privacy issues. I am much more concerned about how creepy the internet is (Google something and watch the ads follow you for months) becoming and how private companies with no oversight are accumulating info not into a meta data base but into a personal file.

But frankly there are 50 issues that I would put above that. There are the economic issues that millions of people who are struggling with and there are environmental issues that the whole world is facing. Many of these issues are discussed with passion and intelligence at DU, but there are dozens of others that never reach here: the millions in refugee camps, the increasing threat of Asian Brown Cloud which now covers vast areas of Asia, millions who die needlessly from Malaria. These are real people facing real loss of life and quality of life.

Where is the list of real people who have gotten a knock on the door as a result of use of the telephone meta data? None exist. It is a discussion about a hypothetical future abuse and future knock on the door. Fine. It is a legitimate discussion to have and the President has said so and he has invited a broader review as well


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Number two. I've stood [sic] up a privacy and civil liberties oversight board, made up of independent citizens including some fierce civil libertarians. I'll be meeting with them. And what I want to do is to set up and structure a national conversation, not only about these two programs, but also the general problem of data, big data sets, because this is not going to be restricted to government entities. (Charlie Rose Show, June 17, 2013)

So pick your vulgarity, and epitaph I continue to support, with pride the President. Call me a cheerleader, fanboi, kool aid drinker or a lackey butt-kissing shit just as long as everyone understands that means I support the President.

Put me at the head of the list. Just you don't dare call me a God Damned Flemish

Right under me please put people like Sen Al Franken


Liberal Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) emerged as a vocal defender of the National Security Agency on Tuesday, telling Minneapolis-based CBS affiliate WCCO that he was convinced the agency's actions did not constitute spying.
Last week, The Guardian published a bombshell report detailing how the U.S. government has been secretly collecting phone and Internet data. Edward Snowden, who came out as the NSA whistleblower responsible for the explosive leaks, is currently in hiding.
"I can assure you that this isn't about spying on the American people," said Franken, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I have a high level of confidence that this is used ... to protect us, and I know that it has been successful in preventing terrorism."

G) DU’s 'Renaissance'

Some people have argued that this division has led to a “Renaissance at DU”. I disagree. I think it has lead to more hardened positions and less collegial discussion and Sunday’s proxy war in the form of a “shout out” competition was to me a nadir rather than a pinnacle of quality DU discussion.

The trend line at Alexa doesn’t support the Renaissance theory as generally the number of people visiting appears to be lower. For me I have never believed in addition by subtraction. I think you add to your numbers by actually adding to your numbers:

The fact remains that if we were at a cocktail party long enough the people who post at this site from both sides would end up in the corner and be in about 95% agreement. Even in the issue of the role of the NSA there is likely wide agreement that we need better oversight, there are probable issues of efficacy, questions of budget and waste the need for transparency. The only way that the reactionary forces win is if we are divided.

And the final bottom line that every DUer agrees on is that if you want the President to sign more liberal friendly legislation there is only one way to get that done:

Elect a more liberal legislature.

If you think that opposition to the President is an open and shut case for liberals/Democrats that position isn't consistent with Gallup showing very little movement with 72% of those identifying themselves as Liberals supporting the President and 82% of Democrats doing the same.


If you believe it to be an issue that needs to be engaged in then I will make a suggestion:

Perhaps a less vitriolic and more substantive line of argument would be more effective.
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