Supreme Court strikes down Doma on historic day for gay rights in America

From The Guardian UK:

Justices rule Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional and clear way for same-sex marriage to be restored in California

in Washington, Wednesday 26 June 2013

A landmark supreme court ruling struck down a controversial federal law that discriminated against gay couples in the US, delivering a stunning victory on Wednesday to campaigners who fought for years to overturn it.

The court also dismissed a separate appeal against same-sex marriage laws in California, restoring the right to gay marriage in the largest US state and nearly doubling the number of Americans living in states where gay marriage would be legal.

Together, the two rulings mark the biggest advance in civil liberties for gay people in a generation, and come amid growing political and international recognition that same-sex couples deserve equal legal treatment.

As reporters sprinted from the chamber down the court steps to deliver the news of the rulings, a roar built up from the crowd that had been waiting outside since the night before.

The most significant legal breakthrough came in the decision led by Justice Anthony Kennedy to rule that the Defense of Marriage Act (Doma) was unconstitutional because it deprived citizens of “equal liberty” before the law.

Doma, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, previously barred married gay couples from a range of crucial legal rights including federal tax and estate tax exemptions, social security benefits, and the right to be notified of the death of next of kin. It also meant that the married partners of gay Americans were not recognised under the immigration system, leading to heartbreaking splits for couples of different nationalities.

But in a case brought by an 84-year-old resident of New York, Edith Windsor, who faced a $313,000 estate tax bill after the death of her partner of 40 years, lawyers successfully argued that Doma was an unconstitutional interference by Congress in the rights of states to determine marriage laws.

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Wendy Davis stands (literally) against the War on Women

From Daily Kos:

Laura Clawson
Wed Jun 26, 2013

People across the country tuned in, then tuned in some more, as Texas Republicans tried to put the next step in the War on Women into place on Tuesday, but were stopped by one woman and a crowd of her supporters. Republicans were trying to pass Senate Bill 5, an omnibus anti-abortion bill that would have shut down all but five abortion providers in the state. Hundreds of Texans had tried to testify against the same bill in the House, only to be shut down by Republicans. Then state Sen. Wendy Davis stood up for an epic talking filibuster.

If the state Senate did not vote on the bill on Tuesday, before a special session ended, it would be dead—for now. So Davis had to hold the floor for nearly 13 hours, until midnight. And, as word spread of what she was doing, she nearly succeeded. Texas operates on a three strikes and you’re out system, and, just after 10 PM Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ruled that she was off topic because she was talking about sonograms (and heaven knows those never enter into discussions about abortion). That made her third violation—her second one having been getting help to put on a back brace to enable her to keep standing.

Davis had to stop talking, and nearly two hours remained for the Senate to vote. But other Senate Democrats appealed and used parliamentary maneuvers to move the clock toward midnight. Then, in the final minutes, opponents of SB 5 in the gallery began cheering and shouting to drown out efforts to hold a vote:

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Abortion bill dies in Texas Senate after filibuster, crowd outburst

From Dallas Morning News:

25 June 2013

AUSTIN — A bill that would have given Texas one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country died amid chaos at the end of the special legislative session overnight.

After Republicans used strict interpretations of Senate rules to knock Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, off her marathon filibuster intended to block a vote on the measure before the midnight Tuesday deadline, abortion-rights advocates watching the session erupted in a loud protest.

After a delay of several minutes, it appeared senators voted 19-10 in favor of the bill, almost entirely along party lines. Democrats said the vote came too late, but Republicans declared victory on the matter.

Shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday, a very upset Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst finally came to the dais to address the press and chamber on the fate of Senate Bill 5 and the crowd that at times drowned out the proceedings.

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WikiLeaks’ support of Edward Snowden

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Edward Snowden

From William Blum:

By William Blum
June 26th, 2013

In the course of his professional life in the world of national security Edward Snowden must have gone through numerous probing interviews, lie detector examinations, and exceedingly detailed background checks, as well as filling out endless forms carefully designed to catch any kind of falsehood or inconsistency. The Washington Post (June 10) reported that “several officials said the CIA will now undoubtedly begin reviewing the process by which Snowden may have been hired, seeking to determine whether there were any missed signs that he might one day betray national secrets.”

Yes, there was a sign they missed – Edward Snowden had something inside him shaped like a conscience, just waiting for a cause.

It was the same with me. I went to work at the State Department, planning to become a Foreign Service Officer, with the best – the most patriotic – of intentions, going to do my best to slay the beast of the International Communist Conspiracy. But then the horror, on a daily basis, of what the United States was doing to the people of Vietnam was brought home to me in every form of media; it was making me sick at heart. My conscience had found its cause, and nothing that I could have been asked in a pre-employment interview would have alerted my interrogators of the possible danger I posed because I didn’t know of the danger myself. No questioning of my friends and relatives could have turned up the slightest hint of the radical anti-war activist I was to become. My friends and relatives were to be as surprised as I was to be. There was simply no way for the State Department security office to know that I should not be hired and given a Secret Clearance. 1

So what is a poor National Security State to do? Well, they might consider behaving themselves. Stop doing all the terrible things that grieve people like me and Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning and so many others. Stop the bombings, the invasions, the endless wars, the torture, the sanctions, the overthrows, the support of dictatorships, the unmitigated support of Israel; stop all the things that make the United States so hated, that create all the anti-American terrorists, that compel the National Security State – in pure self defense – to spy on the entire world.

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Snowden Coverage: If US Mass Media Were State-Controlled, Would They Look Any Different?

From Common Dreams:

by Jeff Cohen

The Edward Snowden leaks have revealed a U.S. corporate media system at war with independent journalism. Many of the same outlets—especially TV news—that missed the Wall Street meltdown and cheer-led the Iraq invasion have come to resemble state-controlled media outlets in their near-total identification with the government as it pursues the now 30-year-old whistleblower.

While an independent journalism system would be dissecting the impacts of NSA surveillance on privacy rights, and separating fact from fiction, U.S. news networks have obsessed on questions like:  How much damage has Snowden caused? How can he be brought to justice?

Unfazed by polls showing that half of the American rabble—I mean, public—believe Snowden did a good thing by leaking documentation of NSA spying, TV news panels have usually excluded anyone who speaks for these millions of Americans. Although TV hosts and most panelists are not government officials, some have a penchant for speaking of the government with the pronoun “We.”

After Snowden made it out of Hong Kong to Russia, New York Times journalist and CNBC talking head Andrew Ross Sorkin expressed his frustration: “We’ve screwed this up, to even let him get to Russia.”  By “we,” he meant the U.S. government.

Last time I checked, Sorkin was working for the Times and CNBC, not the CIA or FBI.

When a huge swath of the country is on the side of the guy-on-the-run and not the government, it’s much easier to see that there’s nothing “objective” or “neutral” about journalists who so closely identify with the spy agencies or Justice Department or White House.

The standard exclusion of dissenting views – panels often span from hawk (“he’s a traitor who needs to be jailed”) to dove (“he may have been well-intentioned but he needs to be jailed”) – offers yet another reason why young people, more libertarian in their views, have turned away from these outlets. Virtually no one speaks for them. While a TIME poll found 53 percent of respondents saying Snowden did “a good thing,” that was the sentiment of 70 percent of those age 18 to 34.

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Liberal icon Frank Church on the NSA

From The Guardian UK:

Almost 40 years ago, the Idaho Senator warned of the dangers of allowing the NSA to turn inward, Tuesday 25 June 2013

In the mid-1970s, the US Senate formed the Select Intelligence Committee to investigate reports of the widespread domestic surveillance abuses that had emerged in the wake of the Nixon scandals. The Committee was chaired by 4-term Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church who was, among other things, a former military intelligence officer and one of the Senate’s earliest opponents of the Vietnam War, as well as a former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Even among US Senators, virtually nothing was known at the time about the National Security Agency. The Beltway joke was that “NSA” stood for “no such agency”. Upon completing his investigation, Church was so shocked to learn what he had discovered – the massive and awesome spying capabilities constructed by the US government with no transparency or accountability – that he issued the following warning, as reported by the New York Times, using language strikingly stark for such a mainstream US politician when speaking about his own government:

“‘That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.’

“He added that if a dictator ever took over, the NSA ‘could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.'”

The conditional part of Church’s warning – “that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people” – is precisely what is happening, one might even say: is what has already happened. That seems well worth considering.

Three other brief points:

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