Posts Tagged Government
GOVERNMENT TO RELEASE HUNDREDS OF DOCUMENTS RELATED TO NSA SURVEILLANCE
September 5, 2013
In response to a lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Department of Justice is preparing to release a trove of documents related to the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. The declassified documents will include previously secret opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The decision by the Justice Department to release the documents is the second legal victory in recent weeks for the EFF related to the National Security Agency’s intelligence collection programs. In August, the group won the that revealed that the court ruled that some of the NSA’s collection programs were illegal and unconstitutional. The newest decision will result in the release of hundreds of pages of documents related to the way the government has been interpreting Section 215, which is the measure upon which some of the NSA’s surveillance programs are based.
In a status report released Wednesday regarding the EFF’s suit against the Department of Justice, attorneys for the government said that they will release the documents by Sept. 10.
“Orders and opinions of the FISC issued from January 1, 2004, to June 6, 2011, that contain a significant legal interpretation of the government’s authority or use of its authority under Section 215; and responsive ‘significant documents, procedures, or legal analyses incorporated into FISC opinions or orders and treated as binding by the Department of Justice or the National Security Agency’,” the says.
It’s not clear at this point exactly what the documents to be released will contain or how much of the information will be redacted. But the decision by the government to release the documents counts as a major milestone in the lawsuit against the Justice Department over the use of Section 215.
“While we applaud the government for finally releasing the opinions, it is not simply a case of magnanimity. The Justice Department is releasing this information because a court has ordered it to do so in response to EFF’s FOIA lawsuit, which was filed on the tenth anniversary of the enactment of the Patriot Act—nearly two years ago,” said.
“For most of the duration of the lawsuit, the government fought tooth and nail to keep every page of its interpretations secret, even once be compelled to release the that their opinions consisted of. It was not until the start of the release of documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that the government’s position became untenable and the court ordered the government to begin the declassification review process.”
In another development related to the NSA’s intelligence-gathering capabilities and methods, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), the lead author of the PATRIOT Act, submitted an amicus brief in support of the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against the NSA over the agency’s methods.
“I stand by the Patriot Act and support the specific targeting of terrorists by our government, but the proper balance has not been struck between civil rights and American security,” said Sensenbrenner. “A large, intrusive government-however benevolent it claims to be-is not immune from the simple truth that centralized power threatens liberty. Americans are increasingly wary that Washington is violating the privacy rights guaranteed to us by the Fourth Amendment.”
- Hundreds of Pages of NSA Spying Documents to be Released As Result of EFF Lawsuit (eff.org)
- Government To Release Hundreds of Documents On NSA Spying (it.slashdot.org)
- EFF Lawsuit Forces NSA to Release Hundreds of Pages of Spying Documents (intellihub.com)
- EFF Lawsuit Forces NSA to Release Hundreds of Pages of Spying Documents (alternativenewsalert.com)
- Government to release more NSA surveillance documents in response to FOIA lawsuit (legalinsurrection.com)
- Edward Snowden’s Successes: Whistleblowing Works (antiwar.com)
- Govt to declassify some secret court opinions (charlotteobserver.com)
- The Government Releases Key Documents Showing NSA Privacy Violations (theatlanticwire.com)
- Govt to declassify some secret court opinions (chippewa.com)
- EFF Victory Results in Release of Secret Court Opinion Finding NSA Surveillance Unconstitutional (eff.org)
Is Constant Obstruction in Congress Putting Our Republic at Risk?
When legislatures stop functioning, executive branches tend to grab power in order to “save the Republic.”
March 6, 2013
When a government lacks the authority or the ability to govern effectively, to meet the urgent needs of its citizens, history has shown it will not long survive. There will be resistance, civil unrest, and if the government cannot respond, revolution.
Most Americans would say it can’t happen here. Our government has been relatively effective and stable for over 200 years. We are, however, the exception when compared to the 30 developing countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa that have established constitutions based on separation of powers
All of these countries have had frequent breakdowns by coup d’etat or revolution ending in despotism. Typically, these breakdowns begin with a legislative branch that fails to act or actively obstructs badly needed legislation. When this happens, the president may act to accomplish what he deems are much-needed policy objectives using his executive power. This may start as a genuine effort to preserve a functioning government, but it can easily evolve into an abuse of power, which descends into a usurpation of power and then the dissolution of the legislature and dictatorship.
We may be seeing the beginnings of such a pattern in the United States. The series of manufactured crises, from the debt ceiling debacle to the sequester are indicators of a failing system. Congress is certainly in trouble when root canals, head lice and cockroaches are viewed more favorably, according to a recent PPP poll. (To be fair, Congress did beat out gonorrhea, meth labs and North Korea, and the cockroaches had just a slim two-point advantage.) Overall, Congress had only a 9 percent favorable rating with 85 percent unfavorable.
While the poll provided great fodder for comedians, the disgust with Congress has much larger implications for all of us. In our government, the principle of separation of powers makes Congress a co-equal partner with the President in governing our nation. If Congress fails to function in its constitutional role to set policy, approve spending, raise taxes, advise and consent to presidential appointments, oversee the results of its actions and hold the executive accountable, our system of government is impaired. If the dysfunction lasts long enough, the republic itself could eventually fail, as has happened in all other systems with similar constitutions.
When the President and at least one house of the Congress are of different parties, it may be hard to accept that both have a responsibility for governing, not just for obstruction. The recently ended 112th Congress operated more like those third-world legislatures that led to the demise of their elected governments. They passed the fewest bills of any Congress since World War II. The House wasted time on futile gestures such as voting 33 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Their self-created “crisis” over the debt ceiling damaged the economic recovery, which was just gaining steam, and caused a drop in our credit rating. The 113th Congress appears to be following a similar path as the current refusal to deal with the sequester threatens to throw the economy back into recession.
The Senate minority has filibustered virtually every significant bill or presidential appointment. The House simply refuses to legislate at all. The federal bench was damaged due to the number of judicial appointments being delayed by holds or filibusters. The holds by individual senators and the filibusters were intended only to obstruct as no alternatives were put forward – when they ended, often large bipartisan majorities have approved appointees.
It is truly urgent that members of Congress take action to protect and preserve the institution. Changing the filibuster rule in the Senate, so that not everything requires 60 votes would have been a positive step, but key senators did not want to give up their individual power despite the damage being done to the institution by endless obstruction. This rule, which is not part of the original constitution, allows minority control of the Senate. When abused, the institution’s governing responsibilities cannot be exercised.
The Senate has so many arcane procedural rules, it has long required “unanimous consent” to move even the most routine business forward. This requires trust, reciprocity and collegiality – something that is missing from the Senate today. Every procedural step, every appointment, every bill is now subject to a filibuster. The business of the country is held hostage or sacrificed entirely to the whims of a single Senator or a disciplined minority.
The House has also given great power to a minority of its members. Since the 1990s, House Republicans have used a rule, created by former Speaker Dennis Hastert, that nothing would be brought to the floor for a vote unless a majority of the majority party supports it. This has allowed a small but vigorous minority within the majority to block needed action.
Thus in both houses, small, often uncompromising minorities can block the will of the majority preventing our government from dealing with the serious issues we confront. Meanwhile, the slow recovery and continuing high unemployment is caused by Congress’s refusal to take action on numerous jobs and infrastructure bills. The Congressional Budget Office makes this point in its report, “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023.”
The legislative gridlock has led to calls for the President to take more executive action to get things done. It was even suggested by a prominent journalist that the President ignore the sequester law and act on the basis of his role as Commander-in-Chief of the military — in other words, like a dictator. Here is Bob Woodward, speaking during the February 27 “Morning Joe” program:
“Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there saying, ‘Oh, by the way, I can’t do this because of some budget document?'” Woodward said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Or George W. Bush saying, ‘You know, I’m not gonna invade Iraq, because I can’t get the aircraft carriers I need?’ Or even Bill Clinton saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to attack Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters’ — as he did when Clinton was President — because of some budget document? Under the Constitution, the President is Commander-in-Chief and employs the force. And so we now have the President going out, because of this piece of paper and this agreement, I can’t do what I need to do to protect the country. That’s a kind of madness that I haven’t seen in a long time.”
Let’s be clear. This is a member of the elite media establishment telling the President that a law passed by Congress and signed by him can and should be ignored. This is how it begins.
The temptation of power is real, and so far we have been lucky to have had presidents who resisted that temptation. Now we have a President being excoriated for obeying the law, even though he has made clear he believes the actions required under the law are wrong and damaging to our country.
This President gives every indication that he will follow the Constitution and the laws as enacted by Congress, even though the actions (or inactions) of Congress are putting the country at risk. As the dysfunction continues, the damages mount, and the press and public call for action, can this President or some future President resist the temptation to ignore Congress and act on his own to “save the Republic?”
We should not count on executive restraint. It’s time for members of Congress to recognize their responsibility to govern. By refusing to talk to the President, to negotiate with the President – or with each other – or to allow votes on legislation, they are contributing to the disgust people feel toward their government, especially the Congress. It is strange how some members of Congress claim to revere the Constitution but hate the government it created.
The separation of powers was designed to prevent the abuse of power by safeguarding the interests of minorities. It has worked well to accomplish that goal, but the Founders did not anticipate the growing need of modern governments to provide effective policy leadership and implementation over a wide range of extremely complex issues. Minority rule rather than majority tyranny has too often prevented large majorities from acting. The result is gridlock and self-generated “crises” while important issues go unresolved. The separation of powers has thus far protected our liberties, but these will be small comfort if our democracy collapses in the face of problems it cannot or will not solve due to implacable minorities who block any attempt at solution.
- What did the RandPaulibuster tell us about filibuster reform? (washingtonpost.com)
- Filibuster Abuse (robertlindsay.wordpress.com)
- The Sequester as a Tea Party Plot | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- Filibusters (brainiac-conspiracy.typepad.com)
- Bipartisan Senate filibuster challenges Brennan CIA nomination (constitutioncampaign.org)
- No More Excuses: Soaring Market Latest Evidence of Need to Tax Wall Street | Alternet (robertlopez144.wordpress.com)
- Filibusted? (niallbarron.wordpress.com)
- Editorial: Filibuster on Hagel irresponsible (journalstar.com)
- Rand Paul and the Filibuster (lewrockwell.com)
- Sen. Jeff Merkley on the filibuster deal: ‘There are two pieces I’m excited about’ (washingtonpost.com)
Mo. State Rep. Wants To ‘Eliminate’ Daylight Saving Time By Adopting It Permanently | St. Louis Public Radio
Mo. State Rep. Wants To ‘Eliminate’ Daylight Saving Time By Adopting It Permanently
Legislation in the Missouri House would permanently adopt Daylight Saving Time as the new Standard Time, but only if 20 other states also agree to do so.
House Bill 340 would create a pact with other states to “eliminate” Daylight Saving Time by renaming it the new “Standard Time.” And once 20 or more states join the pact, they’ll spring forward one hour and permanently remain there. It’s sponsored by State Representative Delus Johnson (R, St. Joseph).
“The only question I had on this (is whether) children are gonna be at bus stops in the dark,” Johnson said. “The majority of accidents that have occurred at bus stops occur in the daytime between 3:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon.”
Johnson says having an extra hour of afternoon sunlight year-round would also spur more economic activity.
“In the fall, it’s going to incite more tourism – people are gonna be able to travel a little bit later in the day with sunlight,” Johnson said. “It’s gonna spur a little bit more economic development with that extra sunlight where people are out visiting (during) retail hours, and then when it’s been in effect for a year we’ll see the same effect the following spring when we still have sunlight earlier in the year, instead of having to change our clocks.”
The bill is scheduled for a House committee vote next week.
A reminder: Daylight Saving Time begins March 10th at 2:00 a.m.
- Remember to set clocks for daylight saving time (kfwbam.com)
- In case you missed it: Shaved heads, daylight saving time, and more (momentumblog.bcm.edu)
- Daylight Saving Time (techlearning.com)
- Spring into daylight science time (science.nbcnews.com)
- Daylight Saving Time (United States) 2013 Begins At 2:00 AM On Sunday, March 10 (theobamacrat.com)
- How To Adjust To The Shock of Daylight Savings Time 2013 (empowernetwork.com)
- Before You Spring Ahead This Weekend, Here’s Some Fun Facts On Daylight Saving Time (wncx.cbslocal.com)
- Lawmaker calls time on Daylight Savings (krqe.com)
- Spring Forward: Why do we change our clocks? (wgno.com)
- Four things you might not know about Daylight Saving Time (which starts this Sunday) (news.nationalpost.com)
Dumb Mitt Romney Quotes
Top 10 Dumbest Mitt Romney Quotes So Far
By Daniel Kurtzman, About.com Guide
See More About:
1. “Corporations are people, my friend… of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets. Human beings, my friend.” —Mitt Romney to a heckler at the Iowa State Fair who suggested that taxes should be raised on corporations as part of balancing the budget (August 2011)
2. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem.” –Mitt Romney, suggesting it would be a good idea to crack a window at 35,000 feet, Beverly Hills fundraiser, Sept. 22, 2012
3. “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” –Mitt Romney, using an unfortunate choice of words while advocating for consumer choice in health insurance plans (January 2012)
4. “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.” —Mitt Romney (January 2012)
5. “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. … My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” -Mitt Romney, in leaked comments from a fundraiser in May 2012
6. “My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico… and had he been born of, uh, Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this. But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. He lived there for a number of years. I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.” -Mitt Romney, in leaked comments from a Florida fundraiser, May 17 2012
7. “It’s hard to know just how well [the 2012 London Olympics] will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting. The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging.” –Mitt Romney, insulting Britain on the eve of the Olympics by suggesting the country is not ready, NBC News interview, July 25, 2012
8. “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.” —Mitt Romney, speaking about his Michigan roots during a rally in Commerce, Michigan, Aug. 24, 2012
9. “I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed.” —Mitt Romney, speaking in 2011 to unemployed people in Florida. Romney’s net worth is over $200 million.
10. “I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.” –Mitt Romney (January 2012)
“We use Ann sparingly right now so that people don’t get tired of her.” –Mitt Romney, referring to his wife while speaking to a room of wealthy donors in Florida, May 17, 2012
“We have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.” –Mitt Romney, talking about his plan for the Middle East in leaked comments from a Florida fundraiser, May 17 2012
“I think the best answer is as little as possible.” –Mitt Romney, when asked what he wears to bed at night, interview with ABC’s “LIVE! with Kelly and Michael,” Sept. 14, 2012
“The embassy in Cairo put out a statement after their grounds had been breached. … An apology for America’s values is never the right course. … The statement that came from the administration was — was a statement which is akin to apology and I think was a — a severe miscalculation.” –Mitt Romney, attempting to politicize the killings of American diplomats in Libya by falsely accusing President Obama of apologizing for America and getting the facts of the situation backwards (Sept. 12, 2012)
“Is $100,000 middle income?” -George Stephanopoulos
“No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.” -Mitt Romney, ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Sept. 14, 2012
“When you give a speech you don’t go through a laundry list, you talk about the things that you think are important.” –Mitt Romney, when asked about failing to mention the troops in his nomination speech at the Republican National Convention, Fox News interview (Sept. 7, 2012)
“Join me in welcoming the next president of the United States, Paul Ryan.” –Mitt Romney, committing a gaffe while introducing his running mate, Norfolk, Va., Aug. 11, 2012
“He [Obama] says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.” —Mitt Romney at a campaign event in Council Bluffs, Iowa, June 8, 2012
“I’ll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry’s come back.” –Mitt Romney, on the American auto industry, despite having written a New York Times op-ed in 2008 titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” in which he said if GM, Ford and Chrysler got a government bailout “you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye”
“[My wife] drives a couple of Cadillacs.” –Mitt Romney, campaigning for president in Michigan (February 2012)
“I’ll tell you what, ten-thousand bucks? $10,000 bet?” –Mitt Romney, attempting to make a wager with Rick Perry during a Republican presidential debate to settle a disagreement about health care (December 2011)
“PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air.” —Mitt Romney in 2007, responding to criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals following revelations that he had once put the family dog in a carrier and strapped it to the roof of his car during a 12-hour road trip
“I have some friends who are NASCAR team owners.” —Mitt Romney, after being asked whether he follows NASCAR racing (February 2012)
“There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip” –Mitt Romney, attempting to identify with the problems of average folk (January 2012)
“I’m not sure about these cookies. They don’t look like you made them. No, no. They came from the local 7/11 bakery, or whatever.” —Mitt Romney, visiting a local bakery while campaigning in Pittsburgh, PA, April 17, 2012 (The owner of the baker later told MSNBC he was offended by Romney’s remarks.)
“I like those fancy raincoats you bought. Really sprung for the big bucks.” —Mitt Romney to a group of NASCAR fans wearing plastic ponchos at the Daytona 500 (February 2012)
“We have a president, who I think is a nice guy, but he spent too much time at Harvard, perhaps.” —Mitt Romney, who has two Harvard degrees (April 5, 2012)
“I love this state. The trees are the right height.” —Mitt Romney, campaigning in Michigan (February 2012)
“I’m running for office for Pete’s sake, we can’t have illegals” –Mitt Romney, recalling his reaction when he learned that there were illegal aliens working the ground on his property, employed by a firm that he subsequently fired (October 2011)
“I get speaker’s fees from time to time, but not very much.” —Mitt Romney, who earned $374,000 in speaking fees in one year according to according to his personal financial disclosure (January 2012)
“It’s not worth moving heaven and earth, spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.” —Mitt Romney, speaking in 2007 about killing Osama bin Laden
“Who let the dogs out? Who, who.” –Mitt Romney, during an awkward photo op with a group of African Americans kids at a Martin Luther King Day parade (January 2008)
“I’m Wolf Blitzer and yes, that’s my real name.” —CNN’s Wolf Blitzer at the beginning of a November 2011 Republican presidential debate
“I’m Mitt Romney—and yes Wolf, that’s also my first name.” —Mitt Romney, getting his own name wrong (his first name is “Willard,” and his middle name is “Mitt”)
“I’m not familiar precisely with what I said, but I’ll stand by what I said, whatever it was.” —Mitt Romney (May 17, 2012)
Read more dumb Mitt Romney quotes…
~Compiled by Daniel Kurtzman
- Plane stupid Mitt Romney and other gormless gaffes by US politicians (mirror.co.uk)
- MICHAEL WALSH: Mitt Romney’s Gettysburg Moment. “Mitt Romney found himself in an unexpected place … (pjmedia.com)
- Someone Tell Mitt Romney Why Plane Windows Don’t Roll Down (manolith.com)
- Mitt Romney’s problems: Elite defection | The Economist (policyabcs.wordpress.com)
- “It’s Not About The Gaffes”: It’s What Mitt Romney Says When He’s Thinking (mykeystrokes.com)
- Dumbest Question EVAH Asked by a Reporter to Mitt Romney (shepherdspiehole.typepad.com)
- KEVIN BAKER – The Literary Art of W. Mitt Romney (harpers.org)
- Not a Gaffe, But The Real Romney (livingleft.wordpress.com)
- Mitt Romney’s Big Debate Challenge (themoderatevoice.com)
- Not a Gaffe (washingtonmonthly.com)
09/19/12 Auburn, Alabama – Cover the kids’ ears! Hide their eyes! Shuffle the weak and frail from the room! A politician running for president has uttered a heresy that brings into question the holy grail of democratic politics. Romney has failed to pretend as if the country is one big happy family that uses our glorious voting system to discover ever better ways of governing ourselves.
Which is to say that Romney made a gaffe.
You know the definition of a political gaffe: inadvertent and unscripted truth. That’s what the supposed scandal of Romney’s off-the-cuff comments amounts to. He told potential donors an unvarnished truth that everyone knows but which is not part of the official civic creed of the land of the free:
“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president, no matter what… All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what… These are people who pay no income tax.”
The implied model here is that modern democracy is a system that enables mass confiscation of wealth by some from others. And who can doubt it? In older monarchical systems, only a tiny elite was privileged to steal from everyone else, and if they stole too much, people would get angry and overthrow them.
Democracy solved the problem by granting everyone the privilege once reserved to elites. Now we can all steal from each other, and even from ourselves. This way, it is no longer clear who the enemy is. We don’t know whom to blame when things get bad. There is no one to overthrow but ourselves.
And things are indeed getting bad. As income falls, the household budget is ever more squeezed, we are living ever longer, and as the boomers retire, government benefits are soaring on autopilot.
Indeed, the 47% figure might be low. Other estimates put it closer to half. And it is rising. A smaller percentage of household income comes from wages than ever before. Food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, Social Security…Tthis stuff adds up and amounts to dependency.
He also helpfully noted that 47% do not pay income taxes. That doesn’t mean that they don’t pay tax. They are actually heavily taxed at the payroll level — a tax that pays into the very benefits that have made them dependent, a tax that has been more heavily raised under Republicans than Democrats. Everyone is taxed for every dollar earned and on the sale of nearly everything. But of course, neither party wants to talk about those taxes.
Also presumed in Romney’s talk: People vote their economic interest. Again, experience bears this out. If household economics don’t stack up, nothing else works. Politicians have limited time and money and need to get the biggest bang for their buck.
No, this is not writing off half the country, as the partisan pundits are saying. It is the mapping out of an electoral strategy based on the “median voter theorem.” This is the idea that elections are won not by the partisans or extremes on either side, but by the people in the middle. This is the business of politics. It is about finding and appealing to the interests of the median voter.
Shocking? If so, you have never bumped into a campaign consultant at a cocktail party. This is how they all talk and think. Indeed, this is how politics has worked for, oh, 200 or so years, and ever more so since the expansion of the franchise.
In the video, Romney goes on to say that his job is to appeal to the independent 5% who will turn the election in his direction. Notice that this outlook also “writes off” all the people that he already knows will vote for him. He is also giving himself a license to put their interests on the shelf as well, at least in rhetoric.
For this reason, anyone who dedicates himself or herself to getting Romney elected, as a means of protecting personal wealth from confiscation, will be sorely disappointed. Republicans as much as Democrats find ways to take what is yours.
And by the way, Obama thinks the same way. Obama will never convince voters who are already dedicated to Romney, and every single Obama adviser knows this. This is a fight for the remaining 5%. And what’s more, politics is business in another form. It is about giving and getting. Political parties represent interests, not ideas.
But oh, how precious is American political culture! We must not hear these things. We must never be permitted to hear what is true. Instead we have a Victorian sensibility about our civic religion. We sing the national anthem, say the pledge and reflect on 19th-century mythologies about our revered Founders, because, after all, we have the greatest system of government ever conceived, one so wonderful that it should be exported and imposed all over the world.
Or so we tell our youngsters. As adults, we should know the truth. Politics is a means of wealth redistribution. Electoral strategy is a race to the bottom. After all, it is emphatically not the case that Romney’s chosen constituents are free of dependency. Note that he is ramping up his imperial warmonger talk in recent days.
Every day, there is a new enemy that he accuses Obama of not slaying. And it’s not only about the military. It is about our trading partners. He has blasted the Obama administration for being soft on China.
What’s this about? It’s about reassuring his supportive pressure groups that he supports their interests. He will protect the American corporate class against foreign enemies who attempt to bypass the corporate oligarchs by selling cheap stuff to you and me. No, he won’t let that happen. And it is about reassuring the military-industrial complex that its subsidies will continue.
In fact, Romney represents a different class of dependents. Large banks. Financial institutions on the dole. Monied elites who live off cheap credit and infinite liquidity courtesy of the central bank.
Either way, the rest of us get looted. The election is about who controls that margin of loot that remains after the autopilot spending administered by the permanent class of bureaucrats is finished doling out its entitlements left and right.
In a way, I feel sorry for the bourgeoisie gathered in that small room to hear Romney’s talk. He wanted their money — a payment in exchange for his promise to protect their wealth from the grasping hoards. But he still wanted their money. Whether he will actually do this is another matter. And why should they have to pay at all?
There once was this idea called freedom. You keep what you earn. You don’t live off others. You mind your own business. Society works out its own problems without politicians, police, bureaucrats, and power elites running their lives.
Is what both Romney and Obama are doing a corruption of the idea of the political party? Ludwig von Mises, whose book Liberalism (a Laissez Faire Club selection) explains everything you need to know about democracy, says that this is precisely why political parties were founded. “All modern political parties and all modern party ideologies originated as a reaction on the part of special group interests fighting for a privileged status against liberalism.”
The best statement on this topic was framed by Frederic Bastiat: “The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.” In his book, The Law, Bastiat explains that the purpose of law is precisely to prevent the mutual looting that goes by the name democracy. But once property rights are no longer secure, political elites can plunder with impunity.
That’s why no truly independent minded person can depend on any political machine to protect his or her interests. To keep our liberty and property from their clutches is our job.
- The Truth Behind the Romney “Gaffe” (lfb.org)
- Editorial: Romney’s “47 percent” comment was no gaffe (denverpost.com)
- What Romney’s Big Gaffe Gets Right (thedailybeast.com)
- The Truth Behind the Romney “Gaffe” (businessinsider.com)
- Republican Contempt For The Working Class (themoderatevoice.com)
- Romney’s ‘gaffe’ a plus for him (americanthinker.com)
- Romney’s gaffes highlight faults in US system (telegraph.co.uk)
- Romney’s Remarks Reveal A Fatal Flaw Of Today’s Republican Party (businessinsider.com)
- Not a Gaffe, But the Real Romney (truthdig.com)
- More Mitt Romney Gaffe Goodness! (patheos.com)
Teaching People to Hate Their Own Govt. Is at the Core of the Project to Destroy the Middle Class | Alternet
TEA PARTY AND THE RIGHT
Teaching People to Hate Their Own Govt. Is at the Core of the Project to Destroy the Middle Class
How would you teach the middle class to hate their own government using a strategy that takes into consideration the political climate of the United States of thirty years ago?
August 21, 2012
The following is an excerpt from Dennis Marker’s new book15 Steps to Corporate Feudalism, published this year. In the text below, Marker shares one of the steps he sees as central to the destruction of the middle class since Ronald Reagan took over.
Your goal for this step is to figure out how to teach the middle class to hate their own government using a strategy that takes into consideration the political climate of the United States of thirty years ago.
Teaching the middle class to hate their government was an essential part of the plan to implement Corporate Feudalism. A middle class cannot exist without a strong government. This is because only a government has the power to stand up to the giant corporations of today’s world, or the powerful individuals and private armies of earlier times. It is the government that enforces the laws to protect the middle class from those who would like to become their economic rulers. That is why prior to the Industrial Revolution and the creation of the middle class all economies were run according to some version of the feudal system. If you want to put an end to the middle class and replace it with a feudal republic, you would need to change people’s perception of their government.
Obviously a government does not have to be on the side of its people, as can be seen by the existence of countless dictatorships and oligarchies throughout the world. Even the corporatocracy that currently exists in the United States falls far short of being on the side of its middle class. But US history shows that a government committed to serving its citizens can, in fact, help create and maintain a healthy middle class even in the face of powerful corporations whose only interest is maximizing their own power and profits.
It is like the story in old westerns of a big bad landowner who takes what he wants when he wants it, ruthlessly terrorizing a town without a strong sheriff. Any individual who tries to stop the landowner is beaten into submission or killed. The situation continues until the town finds a strong enough sheriff to regain control over the landowner and his gang. This is the Old West version of the feudal system. In westerns, the feudal lord comes first and the sheriff comes later. But in the United States of thirty years ago, the government was the strong sheriff keeping the late-twentieth-century feudal lords from taking what they wanted. As long as the government was supported by its citizens—particularly its middle class—no one could ride into town and steal what belonged to the people. But if the government were weakened or destroyed, a different situation would arise. The intent of the plan for Corporate Feudalism was to convince the middle class to fire their sheriff. And that’s just what happened.
Thirty years ago at the onset of the Reagan Revolution, the middle class basically appreciated and respected their government and believed that living in the United States was good for the middle class. They took their status for granted. The connection between what was good about the United States and its government was clear to the American public. For the most part, people believed the government was on their side and largely responsible for the high standard of living they enjoyed. Their government built the roads that made transportation easy. Their government made the laws and regulations that kept US workers safe at their jobs. Their government ensured that their food was safe. The labor strife that had empowered the middle class was now decades old, and the Vietnam War had ended, although not well. In many ways the United States of thirty years ago was a happy place, and most people understood their government’s role in keeping it that way. While there were problems, including the energy crisis, they seemed manageable. Not everyone was happy with everything the government did, of course, but there was general agreement that the US government was the best government anywhere.
Then the US government found itself in the crosshairs of the brand-new Reagan Revolution with no way to understand why it was under attack and no way to defend itself. For thirty years, it took blow after blow. Now, while still standing, that government is very different from what it was when Reagan took office. It is much weaker, no longer able to offer the protections or provide the services the middle class took for granted thirty years ago—the same kinds of services that many European democracies have continued to provide for their citizens during the period of US economic and social decline. And in its weakened state the US government has lost the support of the very citizens who depended on it the most, the middle class.
How did this happen? When Ronald Reagan got to Washington, he set out to convince the middle class that their government was their enemy, using his considerable powers of persuasion. The basic message of Reagan and the conservatives was that everyone would be better off if the federal government just disappeared. They were smart enough not to say this directly, however. Instead, they just landed one body blow after another without openly expressing their desire to destroy the government.
For example, Reagan attacked government workers, contending they were lazy, they wasted taxpayer money, and they involved themselves in issues they knew nothing about, like regulating large businesses and corporations. Within the first few years of Reagan’s election, the morale of the federal workforce plummeted as these employees saw their image shift from being considered public servants trying to make life in the United States better for everyone to being seen as lazy, despised bureaucrats wasting taxpayer money. Far from being a place where committed public servants worked to help the public, Washington, DC, became known as the place where crooks, thieves, and lazy workers stole taxpayer money for foolish purposes or their own personal benefit.
While federal workers had unions to protect their jobs, they did not have high-priced lobbyists and media consultants to safeguard their image. The unions representing federal workers came under the same harsh attack as the workers themselves, but the attacks went largely unanswered. The nation’s first movie star president had intentionally created this negative image of government workers, and he was convincing.
Following Reagan, other conservatives continued to lead the charge against the government, often using the same language the Reagan administration had employed. Few found language more effective than the Reagan one-liner, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” but they didn’t need to. The leap from John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” to Reagan’s cynical and supposedly frightening “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” had been successfully made.
In addition to waging a full-scale campaign against the government and its employees, the Reagan administration also implemented another practice that was equally destructive to the image of government—filling government positions with people who hated government, a practice that continues to this day. For those seeking to change the United States from a middle-class democracy to a corporate feudal republic, there are three major advantages to this practice. First, you give government jobs to your conservative friends and cronies. Second, you keep dedicated public servants who want to see government succeed out of government. Third, and most importantly, you have a cadre of conservative ideologues working inside the government to sabotage and destroy the government at every turn.
The advantages for conservatives of sabotaging and destroying the government are almost limitless. Looking at a few examples from George W. Bush’s administration shows why. Thirty years ago the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a government agency committed to protecting the public by monitoring the safety of toys and other products, made a positive difference in people’s lives. However, during George W. Bush’s administration conservatives who filled many of the civil service positions and all of the politically appointed slots did not believe the government should be in the business of helping to protect the public, and they did everything in their power to avoid carrying out their responsibilities. When Congress tried to give the CPSC more money to do a better job of regulating products imported from China, for example, the Bush-appointed agency head refused. She said they had plenty of money to do their job, although in reality they weren’t doing their job at all. Then reports started coming in about unsafe toys originating in China. People were outraged, as they should have been, and blamed the government. By failing to do their jobs, the conservatives were encouraging people to give up on their own government, which was exactly what conservatives wanted.
Thirty years ago, in an effort to make their point, conservatives often exaggerated the examples of government corruption and waste, but during George W. Bush’s administration scandals involving everything from toys to military contracting became the norm. And who were the perpetrators of most of these crimes against the United States and its taxpayers? They were government-hating conservatives working inside the government, placed there for this very reason. Each time one of these conservatives was caught in another scandal, the American public’s view of government deteriorated a little more. If you believe in a government that helps its citizens, this seems bad. But if you believe that the best government is no government this seems great, so the people who wanted to establish Corporate Feudalism couldn’t have been happier.
That was the plan used by Corporate Feudalists to convince millions of middle-class people to hate their own government. Did you think of a more effective way to accomplish this goal? Or do you believe the plan that was used was the most effective one available?
- The Conservative Psyche: How Ordinary People Come to Embrace Paul Ryan’s Cruelty | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- The Betrayal of the American Dream – A Once Vibrant Middle Class Is Now on the Brink | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- “Deregulation And Worker’s Bargaining Power”: New Insight Into The Decline Of The Middle Class (mykeystrokes.com)
- What a shrinking middle class portends for our future (blogs.ajc.com)
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- Obama Years Have Been Brutal For Middle Class – Income Minus $4,019 Downsizing Amertica (tarpon.wordpress.com)
- Shrinking Income for America’s Middle Class – Pew Research (247wallst.com)
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Banker to the Bankers Knows the Numbers Are Lying
The , which acts as a bank for the world’s central banks, should know fudged numbers when it sees them. What may come as a surprise is how openly it has been discussing the problem of bogus balance sheets at large financial companies.
“The financial sector needs to recognize losses and recapitalize,” the Basel, Switzerland-based institution said in its latest , released this week. “As we have urged in previous reports, banks must adjust balance sheets to accurately reflect the value of assets.” The implication is that many banks are showing inaccurate numbers now.
About Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil joined Bloomberg News as a columnist in 2007, and his columns on finance and accounting won Best in the Business awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in 2009 and 2010.
Unfortunately the BIS’s suggested approach is almost all carrot and no stick. “The challenge is to provide incentives for banks and other credit suppliers to recognize losses fully and write down debt,” the report said. “Supporting this process may well call for the use of public sector balance sheets.”
So there you have it. More than four years after the financial crisis began, it’s so widely accepted that many of the world’s banks are burying losses and overstating their asset values, even the is saying so — in writing. (The BIS’s includes Federal Reserve Chairman and , president of the .) It fully expects taxpayers to pick up the tab should the need arise, too.
In this respect, little has changed since the near-meltdown of 2008, especially in Europe. Spain has requested 100 billion euros ($125 billion) to rescue its ailing banks. , perhaps the next in line for a European Union bailout, is weighing plans to boost capital at some of the country’s lenders through sales of their bonds to the government.
Those bank rescues almost certainly won’t be the last. All but four of the 28 companies in the trade for less than half of their common shareholder equity, which tells you investors don’t believe the companies’ asset values. While it may be true that the accounting standards are weak, the bigger problem is they are often or .
Government bailouts might be easier for the world’s taxpayers to swallow if banks were required to be truthful about their finances, as part of their standard operating procedure. Nowhere in its report did the BIS discuss the role of , although the last time I checked it’s against the law in most developed countries to knowingly publish false financial statements. There have been few fraud prosecutions against executives from large financial institutions in recent years, in the U.S. or elsewhere, much to citizens’ outrage.
In the BIS’s eyes, it seems that it’s enough to merely encourage or incentivize banks to come clean about their losses, by dangling the prospect of additional taxpayer support before them. For example, on the subject of how to deal with overvalued : “One frequently used option is to set up an to buy up loans at attractive prices, i.e., slightly above current market valuations,” the BIS report said. “Alternatively, authorities can subsidize lenders or guarantee the restructured debt when lenders renegotiate loans.”
The BIS report got this much right: The lack of transparency and credibility in banks’ balance sheets fuels a vicious cycle. When investors can’t trust the books, lenders can’t raise capital and may have to fall back on their home countries’ governments for help. This further pressures sovereign finances, which in turn weakens the banks even more. The contagion spreads across borders. There is no clear end in sight.
“Prolonged unusually accommodative monetary conditions mask underlying balance sheet problems and reduce incentives to address them head-on,” the report said. “Similarly, large- scale asset purchases and unconditional liquidity support together with very low can undermine the perceived need to deal with banks’ impaired assets.”
At some point, the cycle will break, only nobody knows when. This you can count on: It will take more than subtle inducements to make banks fess up to all their losses. Prosecutors must have a role. There’s nothing like the threat of a courtroom trial to focus a bank executive’s mind. The risk just has to be real.
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- Central Bankers Seek More Action On Global Economy (npr.org)
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The greatest power the justices have is carved into the marble, Simon writes. | AP Photo
Once upon a time, in a place called America, there was a government with three equal branches. That America no longer exists.
One branch now rules American life.
It is the Supreme Court, and it consists of nine people elected by nobody. They rule for life. Their power is absolute.
To overrule them requires an amendment to the Constitution, a process so politically difficult, it is nigh on impossible. (The most recent amendment, the 27th, which deals with congressional salaries, took 203 years to ratify.)
Technically, the justices can be removed from office for high crimes and misdemeanors, but none ever has been.
There is no aspect of American life — from civil rights to sports, to guns, to religion, to sex — over which the justices have not exerted control.
There are no qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court.
Though the Constitution lists qualifications to become a president, a senator or a representative, none are listed for the high court. The justices need not be of a certain age or have been born in the United States or even be a citizen.
They do not have to be lawyers, though all have been. (Some, however, never went to law school.)
You could be a justice of the Supreme Court. I could. Justin Bieber, age 18 and a Canadian citizen, also could be, though Senate approval would not be likely.
The greatest power the justices have is carved into the marble of the Supreme Court Building and gilded in gold: “It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is.”
These are the words of John Marshall, the fourth U.S. chief justice, written in 1803. His decision established forever that the Supreme Court had the right to uphold or strike down laws passed by Congress.
Nowhere in the Constitution is the Supreme Court given this power. The Supreme Court took it in a 4-0 decision. (There were only six members on the court at the time and two were sick.)
The Supreme Court would, over its history, come up with some terrible decisions countenancing slavery, locking up Japanese-American citizens in camps, supporting “separate but equal” segregation and approving the forced sterilization of the mentally ill.
But these were anomalies. Overall, the court would help create a vibrant and free society where citizens could live under the rule of law, where nobody was above the law and where equal rights were promised to all.
For much of modern times, the court has been seen as being above politics. This was very important as a balance to its vast power. Even though justices were appointed by political presidents and approved by political senators, their own politics was to be suppressed.r
We realized they were human beings with political opinions, but we expected them to put those opinions aside.
And then came 2000 and the court’s 5-4 decision that made George W. Bush the president of the United States. The decision was nakedly political. “The case didn’t just scar the Court’s record,” Jeffrey Toobin wrote in The New Yorker, “it damaged the Court’s honor.”
Its honor has never fully recovered. Our current court is led by Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by Bush in 2005 after having worked on Bush’s behalf in Florida in 2000.
The signature of the Roberts Court, Toobin wrote, has been its eagerness to overturn the work of legislatures. This is hardly conservative doctrine but today, politics trumps even ideology. In, the court “gutted the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law” which amounted to “a boon for Republicans.”
“When the Obama health-care plan reaches the high court for review,” Toobin predicted 18 months ago, “one can expect a similar lack of humility from the purported conservatives.”
At this writing, I do not know how a majority of the justices will rule on Obama’s health care plan, which was passed into law by Congress. Two branches of government have spoken, but their speech is but a whisper compared with the shout of our high court.
The die was cast in 2000. And it would take the most dewy-eyed of optimists to expect the court’s decision to be anything other than political.
Justice John Paul Stevens, now retired, wrote in his dissent in in 2000: “Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”
That is a lot to lose. But we have lost it. And getting it back may be a long time in coming.
- How Right-Wingers on the Supreme Court Sold Our Democracy Down the River – Again | | AlterNet (mbcalyn.com)
- Obama’s Meddling Supreme Court Problem (themoderatevoice.com)
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Syrian Fighter Pilot Granted Asylum
JUNE 25, 2012
Defecting from the Assad regime, a Syrian air force colonel flew his Russian-made jet to Jordan, where he was granted asylum. What do you think?
The Jordanians are kings of getting free fighter jets.
For old times’ sake, I hope he took the chance to fire on some civilians before he left.
I hope he doesn’t get homesick for all of those Syrian things, you know, that Syria has.
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Romney Stares Uncomprehendingly At $1 Bill
POCATELLO, ID—A $1 bill somehow made its way into the hands of Mitt Romney during a campaign stop Thursday, reportedly causing the Republican presidential candidate a moment of uncomprehending fascination. “What am I looking at here? What is this?” said Romney, squinting at the bill as he turned it over and over in his hands. “It almost looks like money, but it’s missing the zeroes. Huh. Do people try to buy things with this?” Romney finally crumpled up the bill and threw it away, chuckling as he told reporters that “whoever thought that one up must be a real wiseacre.”
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