Latest Snowden Document Dated 2006; Why That Date Makes it Irrelevant

The New York Times reports today that the leaders of France and Germany have decided they want talks with the United States over the “spying” that they imagine the United States has been doing on them. The problem is, even the estimable reporters at the Times don’t seem to understand how this story has played out over the years, and no one seems to care to discover what this is all about. The key phrase that demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of this issue comes in this paragraph from the story:

Those worries could intensify with the publication in The Guardian on Friday of a report that as long ago as October 2006, the National Security Agency, the American agency Mr. Snowden once worked for, had monitored the telephone conversations of 35 world leaders. The assertion emerged in what the newspaper described as a classified document he had leaked. (Link to article in the original.)

The phrase “as long ago as October 2006” betrays a complete misunderstanding of this issue. The only way that something that happened in 2006 could be if it was still happening. For anyone to assume that anything that happened in 2006 was relevant to what is going on in 2013 means they are not aware of the history of NSA surveillance system, and the fact that it has changed completely since 2006.

PRISM, which is the computer system that collects and stores the data that so many are complaining about, didn’t even exist in 2006. That would have occurred under the “President’s Surveillance Program,” which was conducted by the Bush Administration without oversight by anyone, and without any legal constructs. It was discovered in 2005, which led to years of discussions and finally ended in early 2007, when the then-Democratic Congress let the authorization for that program expire. They then crafted the Protect America Act and passed it in August of that year, with the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 passing 11 months later. Both of those laws served to kill the old, secret Bush illegal surveillance program with something with many more controls and a lot more oversight. I remember a lot of press reports and liberal activism at the time, fighting to make sure that any surveillance program had very strict rules, and very strict oversight, to protect people. Continue reading

Greenwald Trying to Remain Relevant… Yeah, right

Glenn Greenwald struggles to remain relevant as he tries to figure out what to do, now that he’s been “separated” from his gig at the UK Guardian, where he enjoyed some cover (as a journalist?) for his conniption fits about “spying” and Edward Snowden. Now, he has no cover, so he’s taken to releasing his frustrations over Twitter, and simply making snide comments about others’ “stories.”

The latest Snowden revelations are that the NSA has been conducting the same activities in Europe as they in the United States, which is a different way of saying, they’re doing their job. Apparently, Snowden and Greewald believe that we should only employ psychic means for discovering and stopping potential terrorists, because they not only object to the NSA compiling data on Americans, they also object to the their compiling data on foreign soil.

The problem with the latest Snowden revelations is that, like the others before them, there’s nothing particularly revelatory there. They “reveal” that the US “spies” on Mexico. Well, no kidding. Ever hear of the Bush program “Fast and Furious”? What was that, except a spying program? And that’s really spying. Anonymous data about your number calling other numbers isn’t really “spying,” is it?

They also revealed that there is “massive spying” going on in France and Germany. In France, Snowden was able to confirm that the NSA had been collecting data on about 3 million phone calls a day. In a country with 66 million people and a strong economy, that really isn’t a lot. but it sounds like a lot, and that’s all that matters to Snowden and his followers. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel worried publicly that perhaps she was being “spied” upon. When I heard the news on the radio yesterday, it actually made me chuckle, because you know Germany never spies on anyone. Right? Continue reading

ACA Glitches Point Out (Once Again) *Republican* Incompetence

Let’s get real about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as “Obamacare.”  First of all, the only problem is with the website, and the website is not the only way to sign up. More than 500,000 new accounts have been set up so far, in a bit more than a half month, with the federal government having been shut down for two weeks. Besides, the reason the website is having problems is because the ACA a huge hit. And even worse for Republicans, it’s a hit with their constituents.

By the way, we on the left predicted these sorts of problems in red states. Too bad the Republicans running many of them (and a number of blue and purple states) seemed to have no clue.

If you live in a state with a GOP governor and legislature, and you’re having a hard time with Healthcare.gov, it’s not Obama’s fault. The reason you’re having problems is because the website is being overloaded. But while reporters breathlessly report the glitches, they largely fail to mention that the only people using the website are those folks who live in the 27 states that decided to thumb their nose at the ACA, and declined to participate. Those people who live in the 23 states who set up their own health care exchanges or formed partnerships  are largely having no problems. For existence, in my state of Colorado and my previous home state of Maryland, if I go to the main website and input a zip code, I’m taken to the state websites, where there seem to be no problems getting information or signing up.

People living in Republican-run states are crashing the system, because their lawmakers decided a while back to stick it to the first black President, and because they also reasoned that their constituents wouldn’t like the ACA when it rolled out, anyway. And they were wrong, as usual. Continue reading

Attack of the Extremists

If you follow politics to any extent and have for more than 20 years, then you have to realize that what has happened to the Republican Party is extraordinary. What has been happening to the country for the last three years is unlike anything a political junkie could have imagined even ten years ago. It’s almost as if they keep trying to prove how bad they can get.

The current incarnation of the Republican Party is the most extremist in the history of the United States. You can’t compare the most conservative Democrat to the current GOP, because there is no comparison to be made. There is no Democrat – even the Bluest of Blue Dogs – who isn’t better than just about any current Republican you can name. Even those who used to be somewhat reasonable have been cowed by the extremists that have taken over their party. They vote as a solid bloc on everything.

This month’s government shutdown, and the second threat of default in two years should certify the current GOP as the most radical in history. They don’t care about the people in this country. They don’t care about the economy. They sure as hell don’t care about the process, or the rules, or anything, except their preconceived notions, which are almost always wrong, and their ideology, which they hold as so sacred that they won’t even listen to anything else. Continue reading

Updated: Cut the Crap – This is ALL the Republicans’ Fault.

Make no mistake. What’s happening now, from the asinine sequester, to the government shutdown, to the threatened default is 100% the fault of the Republican Party. If you think otherwise, you aren’t really paying attention. Your first clue should be, this kind of thing never happened before. So, what’s different now? Two words; Tea Party. Ignorant people are running the show now, and this is what happens.

Yes, I am a partisan, and I have always leaned toward the Democratic Party. But when I was younger, I did vote for Republicans, if I thought they were the better candidate. But the GOP went bull goose loony about 20 years ago, and they have been sliding down that slippery slope for a long time, until we find ourselve in this current cesspool.

Some people think assessing blame on both sides seems “fair” on some level, but it’s not. The only thing truly fair is the truth. It’s not possible to correct a problem if you don’t acknowledge what is apparent, especially something as apparent as the current situation. There is no way you can assess even five percent blame to Democrats on any of this, except maybe the sequester. Everything else – the constant threats of shutdown and default, the incessant voting to kill a bill that passed nearly four years ago, and the refusal to pass anything that might be good for the country if it makes President Obama look good – is all courtesy of the Republican Party, folks.

This is the first government shutdown in about 18 years, and it was engineered by House Republicans, who are actually doing all of this for a political purpose, believe it or not. They are simultaneously trying to feed their Tea Party whacko “base” and trying to make as many voters upset with “the system” as possible, so they’ll stay home in 2014 and 2016. They want you pissed off. They want you upset and they want you to think everything is the two parties not getting along, because they know that such thoughts will make people stay home. It’s their main strategy for electoral success;their far right base will show up and vote obsessively for any Republican. The only way they can win is if everyone else decides to stay home.

Now shutdowns actually aren’t all that rare, and some have been caused by both parties. In fact, there have been 16 of them since 1976, and 14 of them were just impasses over the budget and lasted a weekend, at most. This marks the first one ever that is not budget-related. Democrats have agreed to a lot, in order to avert a shutdown, except one thing; a proposal to defund Obamacare. They agreed to leave the sequester cuts in place, they agreed to keep last year’s funding levels, and they have agreed to a ridiculously short funding framework. By passing the Congressional Resolution to keep funding the government until December, they actually agreed to every budget cut the Republican House has forced upon us for the last five years. But Republicans demanded that one last thing. They don’t negotiate, they make ransom demand.

Seriously, compare what Obama does with them and what they do to Obama, and you’ll know who negotiates and who doesn’t. Obama always makes a proposal, and asks what Republicans want. The current GOP has never asked what Obama or Democrats want. Think about it and you’ll know I’m right about that.

As for the debt ceiling, the truth is, it probably shouldn’t even exist, and it will probably be repealed the next time Republicans lose. But in the more than a century of its existence, it’s never even been a factor before. Now, all of a sudden, Republicans have decided to mess with the country’s credit rating, and make all of us suffer. And for what? To show how powerful they are? Never before, in the history of the oldest constitutional republic on earth, has anyone inside the government threatened the well-being of the country. EVER.

Ask yourself; during the six years hat George Bush sat in the White House the Republicans ran Congress, did you once see Democrats display the brinksmanship you’re seeing routinely these days? Have you EVER heard Democrats refer to the opposition as “the enemy”? For that matter, have you ever seen this level of disrespect shown toward the President of the United States coming from a Democrat who is serving in the government? For that matter, have you ever seen a major political party demonstrate such disdain for the democratic political process, EVER? The answer to all of the above is, no.

Republicans used to treat Democrats as the loyal opposition, and they treated the system with respect, albeit grudging at times. Now, that’s not the case. How many ways can the current Republican Party show you they don’t give a shit for anyone before you get the hint? They don’t care about the country; they only care about their party and political power. In 2001, after the terrorist attacks, Democrats supported the President and gave him what he said he needed, and they did so to a fault. I have no doubt that, if such an attack happened today, Republicans would bring an impeachment action and use the “unity” to repeal Obamacare.

The shutdown is bad. Default – even a short one – could be devastating. And one political party is causing all of it. Republican need to shed their far right wing and become sane again. They need to jettison the Tea Party and reach out to moderate voters, for the sake of the country. But that can’t happen until Republicans lose for a while.

We should help with that.

UPDATE: So, once again last night, the House saved us from a potential tragedy of their own making, by finally putting forth a clean Congressional Resolution, with two hours to go before default. The vote was 285-144, which means Speaker of the House John Boehner was lying to us when he claimed he didn’t have the votes.

But what’s striking is, 144 – that’s ONE HUNDRED FORTY-FOUR – Congresscritters voted to keep the government shut down and to let the country go into default. Fot those who are wondering, All ONE HUNDRED FORTY-FOUR who voted to ruin the country’s credit were REPUBLICANS. Not one Democrat voted against the measure. Not one Democrat voted to keep the country shut down. Not one Democrat thought it was a good idea to default on our debt.

Again, this is all about the current Republican Party.

Progressive Success Less About Replacing Republicans Than Replacing Their Ideology

The government shutdown continues, with a confrontation over the debt ceiling looming in about a week. And it’s all because of Republicans. No one else. There are no Democrats involved with this situation at all.

Why is this happening? Because Republicans don’t like democracy, and they don’t like the results of the democratic process. They want to wish the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) into the cornfield, which they can’t do. Even if they had managed to cow Democrats into accepting their ransom demand, which was to defund the ACA, it still would have gone forward. They were told this, and yet, they let the government shut down, anyway.

I’m sure everyone reading this already knows this. I’m not saying anything new here. But what I just said is important, because it points to the real problem with our politics currently. The problem is not with John Boehner, or Eric Cantor, or Paul Ryan, or Louis Gohmert or Rand Paul or Ted Cruz. The problem with previous Republican Congresses wasn’t Newt Gingrich or Tom DeLay or Trent Lott or Dennis Hastert or any of the other members of the Dick Armey at the time.

The problem is not individual party members, it’s their ideology. We have to stop going after individual Republicans, or small groups within the Republican Party, or even the Republican Party itself, for that matter, and start going after the ideology that makes them so reprehensible. Continue reading

Greenwald Thinks He’s Smart, But BBC (Actual) Journalist Pwns Him

As those who have followed me for a while know, I am not a fan of Glenn Greenwald. It’s not personal. I think he’s a rude, arrogant, self-important asshole, but that’s not why I’m not a fan. Over the years, I’d say about half of the great reporters I have met and/or known rate the same description. But I respect them because they are/were great journalists.

Greenwald isn’t fit to lick their boots. Therefore, when one sees a performance like this one on BBC Newsnight, in which he displays his unfathomable arrogance and scorn for the legitimate news profession, it’s hard not to see a petulant middle schooler trying to convince the science teacher that he IS right; that the moon is made of green cheese, and he’s tasted it.

What the hell has Greenwald done to make himself think he’s such a world-class journalist?

First, watch this performance. It’s 14 minutes, but there are funny parts, I promise. Continue reading

What is this Shutdown About, Really? Republican Nuttery, Of Course

Like the last time the Republican Party pulled this crap, this government shutdown is all about right wingers having a hissy fit nothing more.

If you read the news at all, then you keep reading that “Congress” couldn’t “reach a deal,” or that “Washington” is somehow irretrievably “broken.” That’s a cop-out from a press corps that is increasingly useless. This isn’t about Congress or Washington, it’s about the current incarnation of the Republican Party. No one else. This is not a combined effort; it’s all on the one political party that doesn’t believe government can work, setting out to prove it.

This is about a continuing resolution. A continuing resolution is a bill that simply continues to fund the government for a period of time at previous levels. You should know what they are, because we have been living under them for five years. Perhaps you’ve heard, but our government hasn’t operated under a budget for about four years (this will mark the fifth). Continue reading

Who In Their Right Mind Could Possibly Be Against Obamacare?

The first thing I’d like to note is, the number of people who are against The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known simply as the ACA or “Obamacare,” because of what’s actually in it, is actually pitifully small. But dammit, they’re loud, and frankly, I’m tired of hearing them. Forty-two times Republicans in the House of Representatives have voted to kill this law, even though Democrats in the Senate will never vote to repeal it and no one has the votes to override a certain presidential veto. They’re messing with you, Obama-haters – no one can repeal this law. If you haven’t figured that out after FORTY-TWO TIMES, no wonder you’re dumb enough to want to kill the ACA. Also, they’ll never defund it, because most of the changes the ACA makes are not dependent on government funding.

While Republicans of fond of claiming that Democrats passed it without reading it, but let’s get real here. Based on the “arguments” coming from their side, it’s clear they haven’t read it themselves. For example: Continue reading

Dear Republican “Base,” Why Do You Let Your Party Take You For Fools?

I really don’t understand why the people in red states continue to vote Republican, and do so habitually. Why do none of them take the time to realize that the Republican leadership is playing them for fools. Therefore, I am directing this to the Republicans who make up their party’s “base.”

Do you know why the Republican Party says the things they do to? It’s because you fall for it, that’s why. They’re trying to fleece you, and you let them! Actually, not only do you let them, you practically insist that they continue.

Look at the loudest voices on the Republican side. Do you really think people like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter and the like actually believe the crap they spout? They sure don’t live the way they demand you live. Limbaugh is a drug addict, who was doctor shopping and who used his maid to pick up thousands of oxycontin pills for him, so he could avoid getting caught. Then this right wing Republican icon went to the ACLU to help get him out of trouble. Obviously, I don’t have a probem with the ACLU, and have been a member for years, but Republicans supposedly hate them. He’s also been married four times and he was caught with lots of Viagra when he was coming home from a vacation to the Dominican Republic. Does this sound like a “family values conservative”? How about Ann Coulter? What about her lifestyle screams “conservative” to you? Continue reading

Another, More Lethal, Example of Lack of Contractor Oversight

I just heard a news story that made me sick to my stomach.

It seems that the contractor who hired the Navy Yard shooter (You know we don’t use names on this blog, because I won’t give killers publicity) as a computer professional, if he had known what he now knows at the time of his hiring. The owner of the contracting firm, The Experts, claims he relies on the military to perform the background check, although it’s uncertain whether that will help him or hurt him when the families of the victims sue him. Either way, whoever was supposed to do the background check missed a few things, such as an incident in 2004 in which he shot out a tire on a construction worker’s truck. Then, there was the time he shot his gun into the ceiling of his apartment in Fort Worth, Texas in 2010. If he had known these things at the beginning, he says he wouldn’t have hired the man.

This is the second time in several months that a contractor has been able to put someone into a secure position with a high security level at a secure government facility who probably shouldn’t have been there, and without a proper background check. Continue reading

Pacifists and Liberals ; When Do We Actually Stand Up For Those We Allegedly Care About?

Being a pacifist isn’t easy. Not easy at all.

A lot of self-described pacifists think it is easy. Essentially, the equation for many is, if it maims or kills, you don’t do it. Period. That’s easy, isn’t it?

There’s just one problem. It’s not pacifism.

Like everything else in life, being pro-peace is complicated. It’s a constant calculation, based on the circumstances  in each situation. It’s not a blanket belief that no one should ever do anything violent, but a calculation of which actions will bring us closer to peace, and save the most innocent lives? Unfortunately, sometimes, the necessary action may be a violent one. Sometimes, in the grand peace calculation, there is little choice but to act violently. It’s a sad but true fact of life.

If someone was threatening your family and your only chance to save them was to commit violence against the perpetrator, most people – even self-described pacifists – wouldn’t hesitate to commit that violent act. It’s a calculation; the value of your spouse and kids versus the value of someone who obviously doesn’t have your peaceful leanings. Sure, you might try to talk the guy out of killing your family, but at that moment when it becomes their lives versus your pacifism, your pacifism will take a back seat.

It works much the same on the world stage. I know it’s a silly hypothetical, but knowing what you know now, if you could back in time and kill Hitler and his key advisers, would you, as a pacifist, do so, knowing that you might be saving millions of lives? Or would you, as a pacifist, choose the peaceful route, and not kill him, and let history play out as it did? Continue reading

We Can’t Do Nothing About Chemical Weapons in Syria

I am not pro-war. I am very much anti-war. But as long as there are evil bastards in the world, there will continue to be wars. That means, we have to be vigilant about preventing war, and we have to be aggressive in stopping people who would start a war. Sometimes, as distasteful as it may seem, that means taking military action. If taking military action saves lives in the long run, that is a pacifist move. Killing Hitler and/or Stalin early on would have been a violent act, but it would have been a peaceful result that may have saved millions of lives. Peace is not an absolute, all-or-nothing proposition. Sometimes, it’s a choice.

What does the above paragraph have to do with Syria? Absolutely nothing. And that’s the point. That’s why I support President Obama’s motives and his likely approach to the relevant issue right now, which is not Assad, or Syrian rebels, but the use of chemical weapons. Continue reading

50 Years Ago Today – The Speech That Made People Act Needs Another Listen, More Action

Most people focus on the “I Have a Dream” portion of the speech, but there was more to it. Martin Luther King’s speech was probably the single-greatest speech on social justice ever made. It not only led to serious movement on civil rights for black people, it also had a lot to do with the impetus for Great Society reforms.

White people, especially, need to listen to this speech very closely – the entire thing – because there’s a message for you in there, as well. If some people are unequal, all people are unequal. It’s that simple. The social inequality that is felt by some people now may someday be turned around on others later. Equality is equality, regardless of the color of one’s skin, the country of one’s heritage, the gender or sexual orientation one is born with, or any other arbitrary criteria people can come up with.

All (people) are created equal; it is humans who create inequality. If you believe in God, and you believe in God-give rights, you can’t possibly believe that different people should have different rights. Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King implored us to stop treating people differently, and start treating everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve. It’s about time we did exactly that.

The Lionization of Snowden Demonstrates the Lethal Combination of Low Standards and High Ideals

I will never understand how anyone could consider Edward Snowden a “hero.” I hesitate to call him a “traitor,” but there is a lot of territory between “hero” and “traitor,” and I feel he occupies some territory in between, albeit not even close to “hero.” What has he done that’s “heroic” in any way? He joined a government agency with what seems to be an express purpose of stealing classified documents. Then, before he showed them to us, he high-tailed it to China. He claims to alternately have hundreds or thousands of documents, depending on the day, but he’s only shown us a handful so far. And in his initial introduction to us, he lied like a rug about who he was, how much money he made, how long he’d worked for the NSA and a host of other things. Now, this lover of liberty is in the freedom loving country of Russia, where he is being used as a pawn to poke the United States in the eye.

At this point, it’s impossible to dismiss the possibility that he shared his document-laden bounty with Chinese and/or Russian intelligence agencies. It’s possible he didn’t, but there’s no way to know for sure. How is it possible to think of someone like that as a hero? Shouldn’t heroism be unambiguous to people from the same country or culture?

And that’s another thing; Snowden refuses to submit to the justice system that he swears he’s trying to protect. That’s anything but heroic. Heroes fall on their sword and fight, rather than run away from the fight. If he is so absolutely sure of the cause he’s supposedly fighting for, then why is he not here, gathering followers and working to change the way the system works? Mandela and King spent time in jail. The patriots who founded this country risked life and liberty to create the United States. When protecting justice and civil rights, you have to face the threat, not run away from it. The Declaration of Independence was sent to King George III with the full knowledge that everyone who signed it would be branded a traitor. They didn’t run to France; they fought a war over a principle, that we have only recently started actually following. Continue reading