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Who Decides To Use Military Force – Or, The Wind Up Monkey Needs To Go Back To Work

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from: speaker.gov

House Speaker John Boehner released a video yesterday of himself and a new toy wind up monkey, a gift given to him by his staff. In the video Mr. Boehner is playing with his cute granddaughters, very cute! But as you might guess, some politicians and the media are using the timing to make a point.

The coincidental timing of the video release on the same day President Obama announced that reconnaissance military flights have begun over Syria, make the month long vacation that Congress is on a crucial national issue, as the U.S. is at this very moment must decide whether to expand our military presence in the Middle East from just Iraq, to Syria, and perhaps elsewhere. In the video Mr. Boehner sounds like he’s making a joke to his staff when he says, “this is what I do all day.” (No one should criticize The Speaker for taking time to play with his granddaughters.)

Our leaders need to postpone their vacations to help make this decision. Will we restrict our involvement to air strikes, just in Iraq, or will we send additional military to Iraq, and send them to Syria, engaged in a war with the IS terrorist army, and to begin bombing over Syria and send more troops to Iraq.

Democrats and some in the media have tried to wound Mr. Boehner politically by making fun of the toy monkey video, in which he explains why his staff gave him the gift; because he feels like when he’s working long hours, his staff winds him up and sends him back to work. I don’t believe people are saying that the Speaker playing toys with his granddaughter is a problem. But the visual plays up the issue of whether Congress should be on vacation right at this moment, and should they authorize President Obama to continue military actions in the Middle East. Mr. Boehner and all of Congress needs to go back to Washington D.C., perhaps along with the monkey and Mr. Boehner’s family. At the very least the House and Senate should be debating this issue now, not a month from now.

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The stakes are high. Will IS (or ISIS) draw us into a full scale, long term military conflict and who will decide? Many have already called for a special emergency session of Congress, immediately or  very soon. To complicate matters, it sounds like House and Senate members both Republican and Democrat, who’ve been asked so far don’t seem to see the need for an emergency session. Some don’t think the President doesn’t need congressional approval at all. Still other of our elected officials are calling President Obama “weak” and says he lacks a clear strategy in the Middle East. I wonder how much of a grasp on the subject that many of those same people in Congress say they don’t want or need to be involved in.

The historical issue of how to apply the Constitution to a declaration of war is complicated and there has been disagreement ongoing for over 40 years, with Presidents both Democratic and Republican at various times, acting on their own and seeking Congressional authority. Democrats have started military actions without congressional approval. President Carter in Iran and President Clinton in Kosovo. Former President George Bush was given approval to declare war on Iraq, after the U.S. began the invasion. While many people think a President should not act alone and seek House and Senate approval, which President Obama has said he wants participation from our elected represents, to me somewhat incredibly, Republican leaders in Congress have been saying Mr. Obama should not only make the decision himself, some have said that he’s weak for not already having done so.

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In recent months that has been the predominant Republican stance not only in the Middle Eeast, but along our borders and dealing with immigration reform as well. At the same time, Mr. Boehner has filed a lawsuit against the President for making too many decisions on his own!!!

What if we’re about the launch into another long protracted war in the Middle East? We all must urge our elected officials in the strongest possible terms that we expect leadership in our military decisions, in deciding whether homeless illegal immigrants will be sent home or allowed to stay, whether to help the ongoing increase of states now accepting instead of illegally refusing to accept Medicaid money approved in the Affordable Care Act. Congress should return to work immediately as we decide whether to declare another war. The Monkey in the Room needs to stop playing those cymbals, and go back to work with Mr. Boehner.

 

Mark Gould

San Francisco Eviction March – April 13, 2014

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It could be said that housing activists, political street artists and big corporate technology companies are all fluent in the use of different tools to raise media and public attention. No cynicism intended; I’ve been wondering when the seemingly dormant political and social action establishment in San Francisco would emerge to leave its imprint on the ongoing developments concerning the lack of affordable housing in the city, the fallout on some tenants being forced out of  their quarters by the current frenzied demand ongoing during the grab for almost any rental property, at almost any price.

via Mission Local
Mission Local reports that an estimated group of 200 people walked to and protested against the conversion of a seven-unit rental apartment building on Guerrero St. that was bought and converted to a private residence, owned by a Google lawyer, Jack Halprin, two years ago. Several signs in the crowd read “Google, don’t be evil. Make Jack Halprin stop evicting teachers,”

 

Teachers Ask Google Why a Google Lawyer Is Evicting Tenants

 

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I don’t have an idea when or if the protests will continue, grow in numbers or get more media attention. I do know there are many forces for change in San Francisco who have had an important role to play in building the city’s future and have long made a difference in what happens during critical times in the city.

 

 

 

 

Acrobats and a GMuni Director Block Google Bus

Mission Local video April 1, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Ukraine: Technology for Transparent Elections

(via Global Voices - English Edition, by Tetyana Bohdanova)

On October 28, Ukrainians will elect their parliament. With the current president‘s main political opponent in jail, the upcoming elections come under increasing attention from the international community.

Amidst mounting allegations of the ruling party’s use of administrative resource during election campaign, the current Ukrainian government has pledged to keep the elections free and fair and accommodated over 3,700 international observers.

Ukraine’s Ministry of the Interior has decided to utilize crowdmapping and set up an Ushahidi-based map of registered violations [uk]. According to the officials, the aim of their initiative is to “help society form an objective opinion about the course of the 2012 election-related events” [uk].

To ensure electoral transparency and to check the government’s pledges for themselves, local election monitoring groups, too, have been using new technology.

The full article is published here ->

 

Global Voices: The World is Talking, Are You Listening?

China artist Ai Weiwei says travel a ‘human right’



China artist Ai Weiwei says travel a ‘human right’ (via AFP)

Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei has a metaphor for the travel ban that will prevent him attending the growing number of exhibitions of his work being held around the world as his renown increases. “I can swim, but not far,” Ai told AFP of the ban on leaving China imposed last week despite the…

Continue reading “China artist Ai Weiwei says travel a ‘human right’” »

EFF Sunshine Week: Forecast Looks Cloudy for PATRIOT Act Transparency



Sunshine Week: Forecast Looks Cloudy for PATRIOT Act Transparency (via EFF)

As we noted in an earlier post, EFF received the first batch of records from the DOJ in our FOIA lawsuit related to Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act yesterday. The government released approximately 300 pages of records to EFF, but (not surprisingly) none of those records shed any light on the information…

Continue reading “EFF Sunshine Week: Forecast Looks Cloudy for PATRIOT Act Transparency” »

FCC Announces Probe into BART Wireless Service Interruptions



FCC Studying Government Wireless Service Interruptions (via redOrbit)

In response to an August 2011 shutdown of wireless service by public transportation officials in San Francisco, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced plans to review whether or not they need to establish rules to govern when law enforcement and other public service agencies can…

Continue reading “FCC Announces Probe into BART Wireless Service Interruptions” »

BART to Consider Cell Phone Shutoff Enforcement Policy Tomorrow

The first American government run transit agency to shut off public cell phone usage and receive world-wide media attention for its actions is set to vote tomorrow on a long term enforcement policy that will govern how it can and cannot control cell and internet data mobile traffic.On August 11 BART shut off mobile phone in a number of Downtown San Francisco terminals after  a protest started over the death of a man shot by BART police officers. On October 27th the BART Board of Directors voted to come up with a long term(maft cell phone interruption policy. (video: Microsoft Silverlight required.)

 

BART states that it’s motivation is “providing safe, efficient and reliable public transit services. BART adds in the draft policy that it is fully committed to its long standing to allowing the exercise of First Amendment rights of  expression “in the areas where it can be done safely and without interference of the District’s primary mission.” In accordance with these principles, BART’s document says, “it shall be the policy of the (BART) district that the district may implement a temporary interruption of  operation of the System’s Cellular equipment only when it determines that there is strong evidence of imminent unlawful activity that threatens the safety of District passengers, employees and other members of the public, the destruction of District property or the substantial disruption of  public transit services.”

I’m not a lawyer and will not attempt to suggest all of  the legal areas potentially raised by such a policy if it were adopted. A couple of interesting things include how the language excludes a definition of who will have the authority to make these decisions, that the phrasing concerning what would amount to a disruption may be intentionally vague, and it is curious why BART did not include data networks also accessible from it’s transit system, such as the   internet, email, audio and video as well as voice over IP.

 

Several non-profit media, technology, telecommunications advocacy and public interest groups have joined in filing an Emergency Petition before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue a Declaratory Ruling in this case.

Public Knowledge, Broadband Institute of California, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Media Justice, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Media Access Project, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, National Hispanic Media Coalition, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative are all joining together suggesting that no local government including San Francisco  has the authority to suspend cell phone service and that BART may have violated the Communications Act of 1934 in its actions of August 11th.

Those interested in protecting freedom of speech everywhere will be watching to see how BART acts, and what, if anything the FCC will do in this matter. There may be legislative and court relief sought. This is not happening in Egypt, Iran or Libya. This is San Francisco, California, America.

 

BART Board Room
Kaiser Center 20th Street Mall
3rd Floor
344 20th Street
Oakland, CA

The meeting is open to the public.

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