Week of 9 June 2013
German Constitutional Court To Rule
Most Americans remain uniformed about destructive nature of international conservatism. The German banking industry, much as the American financial sector, is operating contrary to the best interest of Germany and the world economy in general.
The European Central Bank (ECB) in the past year has recognized its responsibility to support the euro. ECB President Mario Draghi promised last year to do "whatever it takes" to save the euro, setting out the Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) scheme, whereby the ECB could buy up unlimited amounts of a country's debt if investors pulled out. Confidence has returned to the markets, even though the ECB has not needed to put its plan into action. The interest rates on government debt have fallen back from the unsustainable levels that forced several governments to take bailouts and threatened Italy with the same fate. The ECB program is credited with arresting the eurozone crisis.
However, last week at Germany's Constitutional Court, the Bundesbank's chief opposed the European Central Bank's buying of bonds to ease the pressure on eurozone countries. Bundesbank argued that the ECB policy was incompatible with a central bank's narrow role of controlling inflation.
"Secondary market bond purchases should not be used in my understanding in a European currency union to lower the solvency risk premiums of individual countries," he told the court, according to the Financial Times. "Because that, among other things, threatens to annul the disciplining role of market interest rates and undermine financial responsibility."
There are fears that a court ruling against ECB policy could reignite market panic. It will be several months before the German court renders their verdict.
Eurozone's rescue scheme challenged
The promise by the European Central Bank to do "whatever it takes" to save the euro is being challenged in Germany's top court.
It's more than a bad idea. It's a very stupid one.
Bad Idea, Mr. President
Intervention in Syria won’t help. It will prolong a civil war while destabilizing the region and endangering core U.S. interests.
"Family" and "fatherhood" means much more than conservative ideology would have us believe.
A Different Kind of Fatherhood
For the past 15 years, I’ve helped raise a thoughtful, spirited young woman who is not my biological or adopted daughter. So, am I a “real” father? I’ve wrestled with that question, and Father’s Day always brings it into sharp relief.
The Real American Exceptionalism
I know three people that are anxiously awaiting for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Their very lives may depend on it and it doesn't take much to see the benefits, really. Just a couple of open and empathetic eyes.
"A friend of mine has an adult child with cancer, a young man just old enough to be beyond the age of coverage under his parents’ health care plan. After nearly killing him, the dreaded Hodgkin’s lymphoma is in remission. But he’s still a pariah in the eyes of the insurance industry, which means they can deny him a policy that might save his life.
Not for long. In six months’ time, the heartless practice of refusing to let sick people buy affordable health insurance — private-sector death panels, the most odious kind of American exceptionalism — will be illegal from shore to shore.
“I can’t wait for Obamacare,” my friend gushed the other day. And she’s not alone. About one in 10 people with cancer in this country have been denied health coverage.
"...It’s a fascinating moment, akin to the dawn of Social Security or Medicare. Republicans in the last three years actually did the country a favor by wildly overstating the case against a middle-ground approach to getting the United States closer to universal health care. As in 1935 and in 1965, the ossified right is warning once again of an impending end to American life as we know it. Thankfully, they’re right."
If Obamacare works, the game will be over for those doomsayers who oppose the most significant change in American life in a generation’s time.
The Real Economics of Slavery and Exploitation of Industrial Capitalism
...it was the publication... of “Time on the Cross,” a two-volume study of slavery, written with Stanley L. Engerman, that propelled Professor Fogel into the critical spotlight and instant celebrity.
They contended that slavery had not been, as widely portrayed, an inefficient system destined for collapse, with slaves living in virtual concentration camps and worked to death.
Rather, after studying medical records, cotton yields and other data, the authors argued that slavery had been highly efficient in utilizing economies of scale and that plantation owners had regarded workers as economic assets whom they were inclined to treat at least as well as livestock. This tended to limit exploitation, Professor Fogel and his colleague found, declaring, in fact, that slave life in the South was generally better than that of industrial workers in the North.
Robert W. Fogel, Nobel-Winning Economist, Dies at 86
Mr. Fogel was widely known for work that aroused objections if not open hostility through his pioneering use of cliometrics, which applies economic theory and statistic methods to history.
Background of a Whistle Blower
“Great minds do not need a university to make them any more credible: they get what they need and quietly blaze their trails into history,” he wrote online at age 20. Mr. Snowden, who has taken refuge in Hong Kong, has studied Mandarin, was deeply interested in martial arts, claimed Buddhism as his religion and once mused that “China is definitely a good option career wise.”
After handing over the documents, he told The Guardian of his admiration for both Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is now on trial for providing 700,000 confidential documents to WikiLeaks, and Daniel Ellsberg, who disclosed the Pentagon Papers in 1971.
“Manning was a classic whistle-blower,” Mr. Snowden, 29, said of Private Manning, 25. “He was inspired by the public good.”
For role models, Mr. Snowden, an introspective man who spent his formative years in the rebellious technogeek counterculture, could look not only to the young Army private, lionized by a global following, but also to dissenters at his own agencies.
From the N.S.A., Mr. Snowden’s most recent employer, there was Thomas A. Drake, who since his 2010 leak prosecution has denounced the agency as Big Brother on the lecture circuit. From the C.I.A., Mr. Snowden’s previous employer, there was John Kiriakou, who rallied supporters with his assertion that his prison term for leaking was payback for speaking out about waterboarding.
For Snowden, a Life of Ambition, Despite the Drifting
From Edward J. Snowden’s friends and his own voluminous Web postings emerges a portrait of a talented young man who did not finish high school but bragged online that employers “fight over me.”
Traitor, My Ass
Up with Steve Kornacki and his guests clarified for me some of the details of the Edward Snowden leak. Since the NSA has obviously exceeded the parameters of the law (guidelines in the Patriot Act), I now am convinced that Snowden is a "whistle blower" and not a traitor. Snowden had nowhere else to turn other than the press. Senators Wyden and Udall were sworn not to pass along to the public the revelations made by Snowden. So much for Congressional watchdogs. Thanks go to Edward Snowden for permitting the public debate that Obama so disingenuously said that he wanted.
Hong Kong rallies in the rain for Edward Snowden. I haven't heard of any in the US yet. The time may be now.
When Will They Ever Learn?
In 1964 I made my way across the Turkish border into Greece. I was on foot and no cars or buses were on the road. I walked through two American armed armies bivouacked on their respective sides of the border. It was the Cypriot Crisis and the tanks, artillery and infantry were lined up and ready to be deployed. It was a graphic lesson in the folly of US arms shipments and military aid. Its lasted a lifetime.
Obama and the Clintons are all in the interventionist/nation building camp in foreign policy. They do little to distinguish themselves from McCain/Graham Republicans. Syria is a now purely a meaningless, tribal/religious proxy war with too many unknowns. Obama's inclination to stay out and contain the conflict was right. Now the interventionists have apparently won the day. Just watch the death toll rise. Outside forces will have to put boots on the ground to quell this conflict and peace keepers will have to put themselves in between combatants. Nation rebuilding will have to come later. The logic of intervention is reckless and stupid. Humanitarian... it is decidedly not. The weapons we send in will be turned on us and the international forces we must now organize. Just watch.
Libertarianism: Conservative "Intellectualism"
Libertarianism is less a sound political philosophy than a small, noisy political cult driven by weak logic and bad scholarship. They share the characteristic ignorance and laziness of conservatives but are so rigidly averse to any legitimate role for government that their beliefs amount to little more than utopian anarchism and deserve to be similarly ignored.
The question libertarians just can’t answer
If your approach is so great, why hasn’t any country anywhere in the world ever tried it?
The most powerful government in the world hunts him to put him in jail for the rest of his life. Pundits on the left and right slander him and attempt to diminish his character. But, in truth, America is now engaged in a discussion about what we want the nature of our country to be. Finally, we have the truth about what our national security state has become. All because of what Edward Snowden has revealed through Glenn Greanwald and The Guardian.
Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world's most secretive organisations – the NSA.
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions," but "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."
Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. "I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing."
He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. "I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me."
Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. "I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in." He added: "My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them."
He has had "a very comfortable life" that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. "I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."
Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations
The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA's history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows
Angry? I'm not angry. I am ashamed and repulsed by American callousness and indifference to the circumstances of ordinary people. I am embarrassed and insulted by the inability of American government to take simple action to do what is just and right for families. We have become what was a divided Germany or a Korea split by the 38th parallel... unable to respond appropriately to the agony of the separation and division of families. "Oh, say can you see?" The American Dream is being suffocated by zealots.
"We just cannot make angry white men fast enough."
Senator Linsey Graham (R-SC)
Census Benchmark for White Americans: More Deaths Than Births
The data, recorded for the first time in at least a century, showed further evidence that white Americans will become a minority within three decades.
Conservative Politicians Would Never Use This Proven Medical Approach in Public Policy
Physicians need a non-profit, curator-docent approach to improve doctor's clinical decision making skills. The nation’s $325 billion prescription-drug market offers an enormous incentive to develop and disseminate information lauding the presumed virtues of costly new medications, but there is much less muscle behind efforts to encourage the use of established, off-patent drugs, even when the weight of evidence and experience recommends them.
...Kaiser Permanente and the nation of Australia, have adopted this curator-docent approach, which has been shown to improve doctors’ clinical decision making.
Money driven, "free market" medicine doesn't work.
Healing the Overwhelmed Physician
Doctors also need help making sense of the latest medical studies.
Constitutional democracy as seen from the moderate right of the Republican Party.
Lindsey Graham Would Propose 'Censoring The Mail' If He Thought It Was Necessary
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) continued his impassioned defense of the National Security Agency's collection of phone and Internet data on Tuesday, suggesting that he would push for surveillance of postal correspondence if he thought it strengthened the nation's security. Addressing reporters on Capito...
Financial Goals and Public Policy
A net worth of a million dollars is now only a modest goal for retirement. It would provide about $40,000 a year in retirement and the probability is that the retiree would go through it before his/her death. $10,890 is the median financial net worth of American households of all ages today, including the value of their stocks, bonds, 401(k)’s and other investments. That figure excludes the value of a home. (With home equity included, the median net worth of an American family in 2013 is $60,678. Fact is that 9 out of 10 Americans will not have a sufficient nest egg to retire... ever.
I have an idea. Let's reduce the federal debt by reducing Social Security benefits and Medicare. That'll save a lot of money!
The $1 Million Nest Egg
Addressing some questions readers raised about the magic of $1 million as a retirement savings goal — an asset level out of reach for most Americans.
It's Legal. It's Constitutional. Trust Me.
For years the NSA has denied that it routinely sweeps up information on millions of Americans. Public statements and Congressional testimony have consistently minimized the extent to which information being collected and upon whom. All programs are "authorized by law and rigorously overseen by Congress and the courts." Turns out that the government has made it impossible to test legality it the courts and that FISA courts are merely little more than a rubber stamp and Congress... well, it's Congress. National defense, surveillance and security are sacrosanct.
N.S.A. Disclosures Put Awkward Light on Official Statements
The discovery that the National Security Agency routinely collects information on American citizens has left the Obama administration
The massive surveillance state that has been created and the data being kept doesn't particularly scare me. What does scare me is how the government tries to keep secret from the public what information it is capturing and keeping on all of us and how impossible it makes it to know about it so that standing in the judiciary system can't be established to make a constitutional challenge in court. We don't know if its unconstitutional, and that scares me. The other thing that scares me is that intrusive surveillance programs of this sort are, always sooner or later, abused. That's well established by American history. Conservatives should realize that, but it is increasingly obvious that they are much more willing to take a great big "Trust Me" card from the government than liberals are.
Sometimes conservatives love socialism. Sometimes they don't.
The Senate version of the farm bill, passed yesterday, cuts money for food stamps by $4 billion over the next decade. That sounds like a lot, until you see the House version calling for cuts five times that size -- with no cuts in subsidies for big agriculture.
The House bill is needlessly, almost comically, cruel, and for no particular reason except to move wealth from the poor to the rich.
Why the Farm Bill matters
Last year, the Senate approved a major piece of agricultural policy, commonly known as the
Freedom and Liberty... and no responsibility
The Santa Monica College shooter, John Zawahri was described by his neighbors as strange and a loner. People just knew he wasn't right in the head. It all had tones similar to Aurora, Tucson and Sandy Hook. John collected a military style assault weapon, assorted other guns and 1,300 rounds of ammunition and went hunting for innocent victims in Santa Monica. The NRA and it's fine patriotic and Second Amendment loving supporters have made certain that John could freely get the most sophisticated arms and huge quantities of ammunition to kill people.
"Nothing Burgers" For Sale
Ever been to a "White Castle?" The "burger" is so thin, it has to be blown onto a sweet role with an air gun.
Darrell Issa and House Republicans are serving up such transparent and unsubstantial stuff in the hearings on Benghazi and IRS "scandals" that their product just has to be called a "nothing burger." "Two bits" a bag.
We've Permitted Creation of A Massive National Security State. Is This Really Where We Want To Be?
Learn a lot in just a few minutes and listen carefully to the arguments about legality and constitutional issues. Obama has called for a public debate, but refuses to release even basic information about these programs.
Glenn Greenwald Takes MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski, to Task for Using NSA WH Talking Points 06102013
Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, who broke the stories on the NSA's phone and internet surveillanc
You've Got to Be Kidding
Some Republicans are feigning outrage of Obama's NSA going too far and breaching "civil liberties." Of course, last year they were calling for massive investigations into leaks that "endangered national security." So here we go again. Conservatives always love to try to have both ways.
Two Great Big Hints on Problems Related to US Secrecy
1. More that 1.4 million individuals have a Top Secret Security Clearance or higher.
2. Last year more than 15 million new documents were created and designated as Top Secret or higher.
Leaker Snowden's Employer Was Booz Allen
"As evidence of the company’s close relationship with government, the Obama administration’s chief intelligence official, James R. Clapper Jr., is a former Booz Allen executive. The official who held that post in the Bush administration, John M. McConnell, now works for Booz Allen."
“The national security apparatus has been more and more privatized and turned over to contractors,” said Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit group that studies federal government contracting. “This is something the public is largely unaware of, how more than a million private contractors are cleared to handle highly sensitive matters.”
Booz Allen Grew Rich on Government Contractswww.nytimes.com
Edward Snowden’s employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, has become one of the largest and most profitable corporations in the United States almost exclusively by serving a single client: the government.
Why the Economy Is Where It Is...
"For more than three years some of us have fought the policy elite’s damaging obsession with budget deficits, an obsession that led governments to cut investment when they should have been raising it, to destroy jobs when job creation should have been their priority. That fight seems largely won — in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like the sudden intellectual collapse of austerity economics as a policy doctrine."
"But while insiders no longer seem determined to worry about the wrong things, that’s not enough; they also need to start worrying about the right things — namely, the plight of the jobless and the immense continuing waste from a depressed economy. And that’s not happening. Instead, policy makers both here and in Europe seem gripped by a combination of complacency and fatalism, a sense that nothing need be done and nothing can be done. Call it the big shrug."
"Why isn’t reducing unemployment a major policy priority? One answer may be that inertia is a powerful force, and it’s hard to get policy changes absent the threat of disaster. ...Another answer is that the unemployed don’t have much of a political voice. Profits are sky-high, stocks are up, so things are O.K. for the people who matter, right?"
"A third answer is that while we aren’t hearing so much these days from the self-styled deficit hawks, the monetary hawks — economists, politicians and officials who keep warning that low interest rates will have dire consequences — have, if anything, gotten even more vociferous. It doesn’t seem to matter that the monetary hawks, like the fiscal hawks, have an impressive record of being wrong about everything (where’s that runaway inflation they promised?). They just keep coming back; the arguments change (now they’re warning about asset bubbles), but the policy demand — tighter money and higher interest rates — is always the same. And it’s hard to escape the sense that the Fed is being intimidated into inaction."
"The tragedy is that it’s all unnecessary."
The Big Shrug
Depression becomes the new normal.
You Can't Follow the Game Without a Program!
Okay, so Cory Booker is an attractive, intelligent and articulate guy. I love to hear him talk about issues. But as a Democrat, you should be aware of which part of the Democratic Party he represents. It's the Wall Street Big Bank side. He is dependent and obligated to the "donor class" to fund his campaigns. He is following the well tread footprints of Clinton and Obama. The question remains: Is it possible to change the game without changing the "system?"
Complacency On Display: May I Suggest a Wrench Is Not the Right Tool?
Here is a prime example of the topic in my previous post. Now the traditional role of an economist is to set out options for using scarce resources. If the economist is sensitive to the implications of morality in making a choice among those options, I believe that it is perfectly acceptable for the economist to advocate for an option or a set of options based on moral grounds.
Since it is generally acknowledged that income from Social Security alone falls below that necessary to sustain an individual life of someone 65 years or older, what is the compulsion to fix Social Security benefits at that inadequate level, especially when contributions to that program are not being made by those with incomes of more than $110,000?
To Fix Social Security, Use the Right Wrench
Switching to a new index for calculating Social Security benefits is a hot topic in Washington. But maybe we should consider a much different benchmark.
America Is Following: It's Not a Matter of Can't, It's a Matter of Won't
It would be a sad paradox if the European movement, conceived in the ruins of fascism and two world wars, and for decades democracy’s best advertisement to the Communist East, undermined its democratic achievements in pursuit of a perverse economic dogma.
Europe’s Social Contract, Lying in Pieces
As fringe parties gain power, liberal democracy is in jeopardy on the Continent.
It's interesting that western democracies are failing largely because the traditional parties of the left have not confronted exploitation and compassionless politics of the right with a robust argument for social democracy. The spores of european complacency have taken hold in the United States. Obama and the Democratic Party exude ambivalence toward confrontation. Radicalization of the ignorant and intolerant (Tea Party) does not come close to a solution. It's a deepening of the disease.
Death by Second Amendment: "A (not so) well regulated militia" Man
"...the killer fired at least 70 rounds inside the Santa Monica College library shortly before he was killed in an encounter with the police. Thirteen-hundred rounds could have been fired had the suspect not been neutralized.” The entire bloody spree took only 13 minutes, from the time police received those first 911 calls until the gunman was killed inside the library.
Police Call Santa Monica Gunman ‘Ready for Battle’
A man who killed four people in a shooting spree carried a large weapons cache, indicating he might have planned a much larger attack than he was able to carry out.
I wish I lived in a country where freedom of speech really meant something. That hasn't been America for a long, long time. It's the old "reality based world" versus the fraudulent "make things up as you go" crowd. That's been a complaint for years now and I find it so disheartening. It doesn't matter what the topic is. If it splits left and right, Democratic and Republican or liberal and conservative, one side takes time to lay out the facts and the other side just doesn't care. The political right, Republicans and conservatives are driven by their world view, by their belief in how they think things are and what it should be. If you don't accept their premises, you can't talk with them. All that can be done is to respond to their phony, half-baked talking points that they learn to recite from the "echo chamber": Fox News, talk radio and cock-a-mamie websites. Pick any topic, healthcare to immigration, deficits and the federal budget to what caused the great recession of 2008. It doesn't matter. All they have is their preconceived notions and an inability to entertain any serious conversation without resorting to "name calling." Too bad their "patriotism" and "faith" can't make room for a little more maturity and rationality. You think maybe it's just a phase?
Even if you are at or near retirement age and put away a million dollars in your retirement fund, the probability is that you will run through your savings before you die.
Why Many Retirees Could Outlive a $1 Million Nest Egg
The topsy-turvy world of the markets — particularly the ultralow yield of bonds — is upending what many people thought they knew about saving for retirement.
Week of 2 June 2013
We had just arrived in Tucson and got caught in the traffic a couple of blocks from the shopping center where Gabby and several others had been shot, so I feel a special connection being so close to the event that both took and changed so many lives. Happy birthday, Gabby.
Once again, a military style assault weapon was used in Santa Monica to maximize the death toll. The blood on the hands of the NRA and their supporters will not be washed off... and cut the absolute crap about the defending the Second Amendment.
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was nearly killed during a mass shooting two years ago, was born 43 years ago today in Tucson, Arizona. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Express your appreciation for her powerful advocacy for common sense gun safety via Americans for Responsible Solutions!
Breaking the Code
Ahh, that explains it. I've often wondered why Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania are the states where Republicans are most aggressive at pushing for voter suppression laws. It's because those are the states where the GOP dominates and Obama won by the smallest margins.
Florida by 1%
Ohio by 2%
Virginia by 3% and
Pennsylvania by 5%.
Minorities and the poor favored Obama and laws requiring photo ids, extraordinary proof of residency and a felon free record impact precisely those demographics most. Conservatives are generally intellectually dishonest and callous lying bigots but they are not dumb.
Spite doesn't quite describe what I've seen from conservatives on ObamaCare. It's less rational than spite. It's more an obsession, much as a dog obsessively wants to kill a cat. That's the level they're operating on... primitive and wanton.
The Spite Club
When you look closer at why some Republican-led states are choosing to opt out of a piece of ObamaCare, it seems the only explanation for it is sheer spite.
Still Short of the Mark
Weak tea and half-baked centrist measures like ObamaCare makes conservatives blanch. No wonder they'll never give up trying to destroy (re: save) Medicare and Medicaid. Puzzling they don't go after real government provided healthcare, the VA. Vets are just special. Something so sensible as "Medicare for All" is just too obvious a solution.
Healthcare-NOW! - 30 Million to Remain Uninsured Under Obamacare
Harvard and CUNY researchers say 4.9 million Texans and 3.7 million Californians will still be uninsured in 2016 A study released today on the Health Affairs
A Thought for Today
Skepticism and cynicism is the defining difference between liberals and conservatives when it comes to the role of government in contemporary life. Liberals believe that "good government" can be attained. Conservatives believe that is true only when government is "small enough to be drowned in a bathtub." Cynicism is a way of life for poor misguided souls.
Since 2009 between 300,000 and 400,000 federal, state and local government jobs have been lost and conservatives have forced a contraction of government spending at all levels. This just happened to be the opposite of what good economic policy called for and yet the US is still limping along ahead of other industrial economies. But things could have been so much better if only the GOP had taken and understood Econ 101.
Contrast: Liberals are More Skeptical (Vigilant?)
“I am barred by Senate rules from commenting on some of the details at this time,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who is among a handful of lawmakers who have raised concerns that the government is conducting surveillance that would “stun” most Americans.
“I believe that when law-abiding Americans call their friends, who they call, when they call, and where they call from is private information,” Wyden said in a statement. “Collecting this data about every single phone call that every American makes every day would be a massive invasion of Americans’ privacy.”
Conservative Tort Reform
In case you've forgotten, the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 immunized private companies that cooperate voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection.
Heard this one before? House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said the NSA phone records collection helped thwart a significant case of terrorism in the United States “within the last few years.”
Conservatives Tend to Give Unconditional Support the Surveillance State
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.
The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.
It is notable that you will hear the strongest defense of these intrusive surveillance programs coming from the most conservative members of the Congress, both Republican and Democratic. Lindsey Graham, for example, said today that he didn't care if the NSA had a record of his phone calls. Now that's really standing up for freedom and liberty.
U.S. intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program
U.S. intelligence has access to the servers of nine Internet companies as part of top-secret effort.
Scale of NSA Surveillance Exposed
The President of the United State takes an oath to "uphold and defend the constitution of the United States." When Barack Obama was elected president it was a reasonable expectation that as a professor in constitutional law, he would understand the need to be more sensitive to the over-reaching of the national security state than former President George W. Bush. Even though those expectations were supported by Obama's campaign rhetoric, the political right of both the Republican and Democratic parties have encouraged continued practices of the Bush administration and Obama has obliged.
Here is an invaluable article by a highly trusted source on NSA's "security surveillance state." Documents show that "for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing." Obama has clearly aligned himself with the political right regarding domestic spying powers.
NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily
Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama administration
U.S. Is Secretly Collecting Records of Verizon Calls
An Obama administration official said a highly classified court order “relates e...See More
In the last 48 hours it has become, oh so clear, how cowardly two prominent Republicans really are.
Marco Rubio has spearheaded negotiations for immigration legislation to be considered by the Senate, for which he has received the praise of Latino voters that generally favor Democrats by 40 plus percentage points. But day before yesterday Marco decided that he could not vote for his own bill unless more security provisions were offered as amendments. Clever Marco wants credit from Latinos for designing the bill and now he wants to placate Tea Party types by killing his own bill. Ah, such are the twisted ways of Republican presidential candidates.
Governor Chris Christie displayed the same sort of moral fortitude yesterday. He conveniently called for a special election for the Senate seat made vacant by Senator Lautenberg's death to take place not on general election day in November, but three weeks earlier. At the cost to New Jersey tax payers of 10 to 25 million dollars, Gov. Christie wants to avoid being on the same ballot with the very popular Democratic mayor, Cory Booker who is expected to run for that Senate seat. That might bring out too many Democratic voters and jeopardize Christie's election. Gov. Christie said he "didn't care about the money." But he couldn't find money in the budget last year to fund early voting so that more people could vote.
Christie and Rubio, bold GOP cowards both.
Issa's Convenient Omissions: Facts Don't Matter
Ron Fournier of the National Journal excoriated Issa’s penchant for cherry-picking evidence in a blistering piece on Monday. And that’s what the congressman has done with some of his allegations. Issa is right about the number of conferences and their expense between 2010 and 2012. There were 225 conferences with a total price tag of $48,631,799. What Issa doesn’t tell anyone is that spending on these IRS jamborees during that same period plummeted by 80 percent and that the number of conferences fell from 152 in 2010 to 24 in 2012.
Now, about those hotel rooms. Did IRS employees stay in presidential suites all over Anaheim? They sure did. But they didn’t pay “$1,500-$3,500 per night.” As the IG report clearly states, “[T]he hotels charged the IRS the Federal Government rate of $135 per night for all rooms (including suites) provided.”
Falsely accusing the IRS of not negotiating a lower room rate, Issa said on CNN that IRS employees at the Anaheim conference “ended up with free drinks, they ended up with tickets to games — basically kickbacks.” Never mind that it says on page 18 of the IG that the “free drinks” and food were part of the negotiated deal with the hotels.
And those baseball tickets? If you listen to Issa you’d swear that all 2,069 IRS employees at the Anaheim conference swarmed Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Nope. There were just 24 tickets to two Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim baseball games that were donated by the area hotels and the Anaheim Convention and Visitors Bureau. According to the IG report (page 19), they “were used as contest prizes.” Better still, “IRS management stated that they relied upon advice from IRS Chief Counsel personnel for the appropriate treatment of these tickets.”
‘Shameful’ conduct from Issa on the IRS
As with most things involving the House Oversight committee chairman, you have to separate fact from fiction.
Study, Study, Study
Funny, the ultra conservative GOP keeps producing analytical studies that are telling them they must change or die. But even their most promising reversal on immigration reform is facing strong Republican rejection. The overwhelming loss of the youth vote was the latest issue under study. College Republicans warned their party about its dire lack of appeal to young voters Monday, in another excruciatingly detailed report, warning that the GOP must change or die. Other areas such as race relations mainly with blacks and hispanics, women's issues and overt voter suppression are barely on their radar scope.
An interesting side note is that young voters don't consider elected officials to be the Republican Party's leaders. A focus group in Ohio selected Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Bill O'Reilly as the most iconic figures they identify with the GOP.
The Words That Young People Associate With Republicans Are 'Racist,' 'Rigid,' 'Closed-Minded'...
A brutal new report.
Shape-Shifter In Chief
The utter moral, ethical and intellectual bankruptcy of the political right has been on my list of "Most Despicable Things" since I was twenty-five years old. A principle preoccupation of mine has been with the absurdity and vacuous noise that comes from politically conservative provocateurs. Its almost always "noise with an absence of signal," petty and shallow from beginning to end. The hallmark of the right is transparent disingenuousness (laziness and intellectual carelessness is a close second). Their objective is primarily to win, to gain power by tearing down, diminishing and destroying political opposition. They are so successful in their persistency and ability to distract from what is really important, that seems enough to keep an old liberal fully occupied. But from time to time an introspective purge is necessary. The left is certainly not without problems. Serious problems.
A major difficulty in recent years has been this Barack Obama guy. Obama is almost universally seen as a "progressive," "a liberal Democrat." In my book he is not. And, unfortunately, he has also turned out to be, in too many ways, a phony. If I could place a number on a subjective judgement, I would say that Obama is 60% conservative, 20% moderate, 10% liberal and 10% vacillation. I have argued for some time that Barry is very much in tune with being the Democratic equivalent of an Eisenhower Republican.
That said, I refer you to a recent article by Glenn Greenwald and beyond that, you can figure it out for yourself.
Obama's terrorism speech: seeing what you want to see
Glenn Greenwald: Some eager-to-believe progressives heralded the speech as a momentous change, but Obama's actions are often quite different than his rhetoric
More than 2,000 Iraqis have died from sectarian violence in April and May, the highest numbers in the past several years. Sunni versus Shia and the failure of the Iraqi government to openly integrate and respect minorities is the root of the problem. Bringing democracy to violent and tribal cultures is "hard work" as "Dubya" said. Neo-conservatives along with John McCain and Lindsey Graham want greater US involvement in Syria with enforcement of "no-fly zones" and arms shipments to insurgents who we don't really know. When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?
Contemporary Conservatism As a Nihilistic-Insurgency
Let's take a quick look at the contemporary conservative movement in the US. Back in in sixties, when I was a conservative activist, the ideas from the Goldwater wing of the GOP brought were mostly positive in nature. We talked about patriotism and having pride in individual accomplishment and in an economic system that permitted so many to flourish and elements of business and government working together to promote the general well being in modern society, at the same time, yielding political and financial power to the lowest level. There was always a sense of what the government could and should do. That view is not anywhere in today's conservative Republican Party. Now the message is almost completely negative. "Government can do no good. Government cannot preserve and promote individual freedom. That is only the purview of the individual. Government is always antithetical to freedom and liberty." The conservative movement now simply wants to blow up anything touched by government.
Take the Consumer Protection Agency for instance. Even though legislation was passed by a majority in Congress, a conservative minority in the Senate is blocking all nominations to appoint a director and funding is being cut to weaken and destroy the agency and its intended functions. Republicans couldn't stop it from being created so they're doing the next most destructive thing.
A similar tactic is being used to nullify reform and regulate the demonstrably irresponsible financial industry through Dodd-Frank.
Republicans threatened to blow everything up by forcing the US government to default in the debt ceiling debate. That would not only impact the American economy but would very likely crash the world financial system. They also threatened to shut down the government if they didn't get their way on budget issues.
The same is true for the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. A half dozen red states are refusing to accept Medicaid expansion funding from the federal government and they're ignoring the procedures to widen insurance company competition for 30 million uninsured to have access to competitive private insurance plans taking advantage of lower premiums.
This so-called "conservative" movement is dominated by "tea party" types and "evangelical Christians" who do not believe in "cooperation" or "compromise," the foundational operating characteristics of a "representative democracy." To install and enshrine their ideals they are willing to dismantle and destroy everything that they're against. Conservative politicians and those who support them qualify as nihilistic insurgents and not legitimate political opposition.