September 28, 2016

Wondering, on Wednesday (v65)

Well, well. well.  We're only a few months short of the end of the current administration, and today Congress decided to override an Obama veto.

The bill that Obama vetoed is the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism (JASTA), which
...grants an exception to the legal principle of sovereign immunity in cases of terrorism on US soil, clearing the way for lawsuits seeking damages from the Saudi government.
Obama's veto stemmed from concerns that American soldiers, companies or assets could be jeopardized should other countries follow our lead and pass similar legislation. He also expressed concern that JASTA would alienate allies,with whom we have long had the reciprocal sovereign immunity rules in place.

On the other side, families of the 9/11 victims have long fought for this legislation, and as this was the 15th anniversary - and an election year - hopes were high that the bill would pass and that, if Obama vetoed it, there was enough support to override the veto. He did, and there was.

It's hard to imagine the pain felt by families of the victims, but I can't help wondering whether we have opened a can of worms that we will not be able to close.

Drone strikes that killed civilians? Hospitals bombed accidentally? Sanctions that put innocent citizens in untenable situations? Armed occupation of someone else's country? Spying, or taking out bad guys on the sly like happens on TV shows all the time?  Yeah, all of these could be turned against us by someone who claimed terrorism or extremism or nose-where-it-doesn't-belong-sticking.

Tonight on the PBS NewsHour, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey echoed points he and former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton made in a column in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.
America has diplomats, military personnel and intelligence operatives serving in greater numbers in more places than any other country.  They -- and we -- are sheltered in that good work by sovereign immunity, which protects them from being hauled into court by those who oppose US policy and would use judicial proceedings to frustrate it, especially in countries where courts are puppets of the regimes. 
We have far more to lose than other nations from creating exceptions to sovereign immunity that others could use against us.  
Hope is not lost. There are a number of folks who want some changes made in the bill, and that could conceivably happen at some point after the election.

Having accomplished the veto override for what I'm sure were good intentions, Congress moved on to working on funding the government for a while longer.

Knowing how critical it is to get this done, I was a little surprised to see this opening paragraph in an article tonight in the International Business Times. (Full disclosure: the article came across my Twitter feed; I'm not a regular reader of the IBT).
As lawmakers frantically negotiate a last minute budget deal to avert a government shutdown, Republican lawmakers are attempting to use the standoff to help corporations hide their political spending. Any agreement to keep the government running, GOP leaders insist, just include a provision that blocks regulators from requiring companies to fully disclose their political spending to their own shareholders.
I am simply breathless with astonishment that we - and by we, I mean Senators who are beholden to the tens of millions of dollars in political contributions made by corporations - apparently cannot even comprehend funding the government of the United States of America without making sure this protection is sustained.

We've got Zika funding that needed to get done, and we have funding to help take care of the people who were poisoned by their government in Flint, and our number three priority, per the Republicans, is keeping transparency out of the political money game?

Do you wonder, as I do this Wednesday, what the hell these politicians are doing down there in DC? And do you wonder, will anyone remember this stuff come November?

Finally tonight, I'm wondering who will win the chance to punch Martin Shkreli in the face?
Shkreli said on Twitter this week that he would offer the chance to hit him to the highest bidder on eBay. After the eBay listing was removed he said those donating to a fundraiser would be entered in a raffle to punch him.
Or, maybe, have dinner with him - he's open to that as well.

What's the point? Well, ostensibly it's for charity, to provide for the son of Shkreli's PR guy; the dad died of cancer. If you're cynical, like I can be on Wednesdays, it's to make sure that your name stays in the public eye.

Pretend you win the raffle.  Punch, or dine? I wonder.