Thursday Mashup (4/3/14)

April 3, 2014
  • bill_oreilly6

    I know I’m a little behind on this, but better late than never – I give you Billo the Clown and his latest rant against Dem U.S. House Rep Barbara Lee (here…and of course, I’m going to overlook for now his cowardly language about Lee being a “race hustler,” whatever that is)…

    O’REILLY: Sure, so the right wing, all conservative Americans, we all use, all of us, not any exceptions, we all use, phrases that denigrate African Americans. Do I have that right Congressman? Do I have that right?

    Alright, let’s take a look at Miss Lee’s history. In 2011 she accused the entire Republican party of trying to deny black Americans the right to vote… the entire party. Also in 2011, she released a book that said the Bush administration Hurricane Katrina relief, because mainly blacks were involved. That is, they didn’t want to rescue the blacks, they wanted them to drown, according to this Congresswoman.

    When it comes to denying African Americans the right to vote, Billo is actually correct here – Lee did say that (here). And as noted here, she’s absolutely right (and when it comes to Republicans and race, there’s no apology from Billo or any of his pals for this).

    And when it comes to Katrina, I give you the following quote from Rep. Lee (here)…

    “If ever anyone doubted that there were two Americas, this disaster has made this division clear,” said Representative Barbara Lee, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. “The victims have largely been poor and black. The devastation from Hurricane Katrina only underscores the disastrous consequences of the Administration’s failure to take even the most basic steps to alleviate poverty in the United States.”

    I can’t find anything factual to dispute that (though the notion that Dubya and co. wanted blacks to drown, or something, was put out there by Spike Lee, among others, with Lee making that great documentary to show exactly what happened).

    Continuing with Billo…

    In 2013, she branded Congressman Steve King a racist. She did the same thing to Bill Bennett, President Reagan’s former Secretary of Education. And Miss Lee claims she’s not a race hustler? How about pinhead Congresswoman? You like that better?

    Again, I couldn’t find proof of that claim, but instead, I give you this concerning King and Lee…

    In 2005, King successfully marshaled opposition to naming an Oakland post office after former Oakland city councilwoman and activist Maudelle Shirek because he believed that Shirek was “un-American.” After Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee accused him of McCarthyism, he said, “If Barbara Lee would read the history of Joe McCarthy she would realize that he was a hero for America.”

    On the House floor, King blasted the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus as “separatist groups,” and suggested that a “very, very urban senator, Barack Obama” provided “slavery reparations” through the USDA Pigford II settlement with black farmers.

    During the presidential election, King maintained if Obama won that Al-Qaeda “would be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11 because they would declare victory in this war on terror.”

    Actually, though, Billo is right again about Bennett (shocking, I know), but that is because he said that, if you abort every black baby, the crime rate would go down (here – I hope the repugnance of that remark speaks for itself).

    I guess “racist” is in the eye of the beholder, huh?

    Continuing with Billo…

    Now this is a woman who is in the United States Congress, alright, who is flat out calling people with whom she disagrees, racists, whether they’re her colleagues, or me, or the entire Bush administration, or the entire Republican Party.

    And this woman has the gall, the nerve, to get up there, alright, and then throw out terms like welfare queen. When has the Republican Party ever used that term? When have I ever used that term. The answer is, never, alright?

    So not only is she a pinhead, a race hustler, she’s a liar. That’s who we have representing a California district… Barbara Lee.

    As a literal quote from a Republican politician, be it The Sainted Ronnie R or anyone else, it’s true that the term “welfare queen” cannot be sourced (I was unable to do it anyway). However, I would argue that the context behind the term is far more important than the actual term itself (more is here and here).

    I’ll tell you what – here is a link to about 378 posts from Media Matters that were the result of a search I conducted on the site for the terms “Bill O’Reilly” and “race.” And I’m sure more than a few of them will illustrate better than I can that he has no right to pontificate on that subject in particular.

  • Next, I thought it was a bit surprising to hear that Repug U.S. House Rep Mike Rogers is retiring for a job in right-wing radio, though it appears to be a pretty seamless fit of course (here).

    And with that in mind, I think we should recall the following about the now-departing MI-08 rep:

  • Here is some interesting stuff about Rogers, his wife, and the so-called Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, otherwise known as CIPSA (about how Kristi Rogers would stand to benefit – more here)…and when it comes to CIPSA, here is what you need to know (fortunately, after passing the House of course, it appears to be stuck in the Senate)…

    “It’s basically a privacy nightmare,” says Trevor Timm, a lawyer and activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “CISPA would allow companies to hand over private data to the government without a warrant, without anonymity, with no judicial review.”

  • Rogers said that those who oppose CIPSA are “teens in their basements,” or something, here (cute).
  • He said here that bombing Iran nuke sites wasn’t an act of war (oh, really?).
  • As noted here, Rogers didn’t share an intelligence notice from the White House in 2011 with fellow U.S. House members, leading to a vote to renew the Patriot Act in which at least 65 House members had “no way of knowing they were reauthorizing the ongoing creation of a database of the phone-based relationships of every American.”
  • He accused Edward Snowden of being a Russian spy here, with no proof whatsoever of course.
  • Rogers said here that the Obama Administration was “Mirandizing” terrorists on the battlefield, or something (yeah, remember that one?), which they weren’t of course, and so what if they were?
  • In conclusion, this tells us that Rogers infamously said, in essence, that you can’t have your privacy violated if you don’t know about it (ugh).

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Mike.

  • Further, in the Repugs’ latest effort to find another ideological hero, it looks like U.S. Senate primary candidate Ben Sasse (the “e” is silent, apparently) of Nebraska has emerged as the Teahadist favorite over more mainstream (I guess) Republican candidate Shane Osborn (here).

    (I should back up and note that both Sasse and Osborn are running to win the nomination as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in the contest to replace Mike Johanns, who is stepping down, with the campaign for November basically serving as a formality – I don’t want to imagine how pathetic it is to live in a place where the election is basically a choice between Republicans, and that is what we have here…love to be wrong.)

    So let’s find out more about Sasse, then, shall we?…

  • As noted here, he basically was for Medicare Part D under Dubya (where Sasse was assistant to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, who was no prize either) before he was against it.
  • Here, Sasse wanted to move the nation’s capital to Nebraska (huh?).
  • And OF COURSE he was supported by fellow Teahadist Mike Lee (here).
  • As noted here, Sasse said the reason why so many were uninsured wasn’t because of poverty, but “job loss” (he also supports health care reform that makes coverage “portable”…which basically means that, despite what he says, he actually supports the ACA).
  • And as noted from here

    But (Sasse) also repeatedly criticized the president for pushing forward a bill (the ACA) without regard to cost, and without having a serious discussion with the public about what a new entitlement would mean for the nation’s budget deficit.

    It still amazes me (though I guess it shouldn’t by now) how much Republicans absolutely refuse to accept the reality of the cost benefit towards reducing the deficit of the ACA (for starters, take a look at this).

  • Besides, as long as Sasse is going out about how bad the ACA supposedly is for his state…well, maybe he ought to look at this too (from here).

    ACA_Death_Toll_NE

    Update 5/1/14: Didn’t Dr. Dean say that Sasse was supposed to be reasonable or something (here)?

  • Continuing, I give you this from Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds, complaining about how the dreaded “MSM” supposedly hates Republicans (appropriate for April Fools’ Day)…

    California State senator (and, until last week, candidate for secretary of state) Leland Yee was well-known as an anti-gun activist. Then, last week, he was indicted for, yes, conspiring to smuggle guns and rocket launchers between mobsters and terrorists in exchange for massive bribes. Some highlights, as excerpted by San Francisco Magazine.

    Yee told an FBI agent that, in exchange for $2 million in cash, he’d fill a shopping list of weapons, which he took personal responsibility for delivering, according to the indictment. He also allegedly “masterminded” a complex scheme bring illegal weapons into the country, agreeing to “facilitate” a meeting with an illegal arms dealer to arrange for the weapons to be imported via Newark, N.J. In arranging all of this, the indictment said, Yee relied on connections with Filipino terrorist groups who could supply “heavy” weapons, including the Muslim terrorists of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Yee allegedly noted that the Muslim terrorists had no reservations about kidnapping, extortion and murder.

    This all sounds like news. You’ve got charges of huge bribes, rampant hypocrisy, illegal weapons and even a connection with foreign terrorists — and from a leading politician in an important state.

    But — and here’s the part Hollywood would miss — outside of local media like San Francisco magazine, the coverage was surprisingly muted. The New York Times buried the story as a one-paragraph Associated Press report on page A21, with the bland dog-bites-man headline, “California: State Senator Accused of Corruption.” This even though Yee was suspended, along with two others, from the California state senate in light of the indictment.

    L_Yee_HuffPo_0401
    Yeah, don’t you hate it when a story about Dem corruption is totally ignored like that?

    Just to compare and contrast, I did a Google search on “Leland Yee” and “guns” and generated about 11 million hits, which hardly qualifies as ignoring a story as far as I’m concerned (here).

    Then, I did a search for Chris Christie and the 9/11 artifacts he tried to give to NJ mayors to win endorsements in last year’s election (which is far worse in my opinion) and came back with about 1 million hits (here).

    But of course, Reynolds would have us believe that the media hates Republicans.

    Reynolds goes on some more in his screed for “America’s Fish Wrap” about how the Kermit Gosnell stuff supposedly wasn’t covered (Gosnell is the Philadelphia “doctor” who ran an abortion clinic and was convicted on 3 counts of first-degree murder and one count of manslaughter and sentenced to life in prison).

    Oh, please (as noted here, the NY Post, Rupert’s vanity rag, and the Murdoch Street Journal were late to the proverbial party on this, which means that conservatives forfeit the right to complain on this as far as I’m concerned).

    Of course, Reynolds has been a paid propagandist for the right his whole career, such as it is, including this hilarious moment when he predicted doom and gloom for Number 44 in 2010.

  • Finally, I don’t want to devote a lot of time to the latest from “Pastor” Gerson of the WaPo here, in which he reviews the films “Noah” and “God Is Not Dead,” thus giving himself the opportunity to flaunt some imagined moral bona fides once again (I thought this was a good response).

    As long as I’m on the subject, though, I want to take a minute or two and note that your humble narrator recently visited the nearby Regal Cinema in these parts with the teenaged one to watch “Noah” (Sunday, homework done, bored and couldn’t wait for some of the upcoming summer blockbusters, etc.).

    (And by the way, two adult tickets for a Sunday show were $24, and a medium popcorn and two “medium” drinks, with each “medium” cup holding about a half a gallon of soda, were $19. And that was less expensive than playing the concession games afterwards, including pinball, Alien Hunter, etc. Thankfully, he appears to have left that phase behind. Also, I’m going to get into the plot, which I think everybody knows at this point now anyway.)

    So the movie starts at about 8:30 after all the promotions and coming attractions, even though the advertised start time was 8:10 (I must admit, though, that the previews for “Spider-Man 2” and an upcoming movie on James Brown looked pretty cool). And of course, since we’re talking about a pic with Russell Crowe, there has to be a villain in the story. And it turns out to be someone named Tubal Cain, who kills Noah’s (Crowe’s) father when Noah is a boy.

    Well then, Noah grows up, and the next thing you know, he’s married to Jennifer Connelly and they have three boys (I am honestly concerned about her – every time I see her in a role, whether it’s “Dark City” or “The Day The Earth Stood Still,” she looks more and more gaunt; I hope she stocked up on some carbs after she finished making the picture). And they come across a little girl who they take in after a battle, and Connelly looks at her belly wound, and says “She’ll never have children,” which is kind of a miraculous diagnosis in a way I guess.

    Soon enough, they’re trying to escape the bad guys, and they end up journeying to this land where (as it turns out) giant rock people live, and they put Noah and his family into a pit. It turns out that these rock creatures are the “watchers” who were turned to stone by “the creator” when he flipped out after Adam and Eve took a bite of the apple (though the “watchers” were apparently punished for something else). Even though the watchers/rock things threaten mankind with destruction, Noah persuades them to help and they wreak havoc to protect him (I didn’t know somebody stuck “The Book of Michael Bay” into the middle of Genesis).

    And when Noah needs help to build the Ark after seeing visions of a huge flood in dreams, the creatures take care of that too (leave it to “Optimus Shale and the Autorocks” to fulfill Biblical prophecy…and no, I didn’t come up with that one).

    Also, about the little girl with the stab wound…she grows up to be Emma Watson, and Anthony Hopkins (Noah’s father) puts his hand on her wound and she miraculously becomes fertile again (didn’t even need Ron or Harry to wave their wands – tee hee). She also spends just about the entire movie crying also – maybe her agent didn’t get a good deal on the residuals.

    Because it’s a Biblical epic, you can count on a mega-battle scene as Tubal Cain and his minions try to storm the Ark (using spears forged in a fire pit – um, didn’t all of that technology come a few thousand years after this?). Also, I swear I saw one of the minions running around with a helmet and visor, kind of like the one that kept falling in front of Terry Jones’s face in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” And Noah ends up flipping out when he finds out that Ila, Noah’s stepdaughter (Watson) is pregnant, since Noah believes that God tells him that man must not repopulate the earth, and Noah thinks he has to kill Ila’s two infant daughters (Noah eventually relents and lets the babies live, getting so depressed because he thinks that he failed God that he ends up on a massive bender, drinking wine from seashells in a cave – “The Hangover, Part 4” maybe?).

    To sum up, I think that “Noah” is pretty good Hollywood-style entertainment (including some truly ground-breaking CGI stuff going on, though I wonder how that all will translate to the small screen on DVD). But as anything close to a literal interpretation of the Bible (and why would you be looking for that here anyway?), the movie, in my opinion, is all wet (sorry…couldn’t resist).

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    Friday Mashup (2/14/14)

    February 14, 2014
  • This story hits me where I live.

    If it had not been for the winter weather, I very well may have been involved in this disaster in the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I chose not to travel that route today).

    What matters most, of course, is immediate medical attention to the victims, which is currently underway of course. What matters beyond that is somehow allowing everyone trapped on the highway to get out as safely as possible (with their vehicles intact, or, short of that, with their vehicles salvaged somehow). And then, the roadway needs to be cleaned up to the fullest extent possible, of course.

    But at some future point, when everyone involved is OK (hopefully), I want SOMEBODY to ask this question (preferably a politician – put them to work doing something constructive):

    Why the hell is there STILL no light rail, mass transit alternative from Bucks County near the New Jersey/Trenton area to the western PA suburbs and Chester County in particular?

    Yes, I know – NIMBY. But as far as I’m concerned, that was never a good enough explanation. And it DEFINITELY isn’t a good enough explanation in light of this massive chain accident today.

    Commuter trains run near where we live (the R-3 West Trenton line in particular). It’s no big deal – you barely hear them (can’t say the same for the CSX freight trains, which are a whole other story). And they are clean, relatively speaking. There’s no reason why at least one commuter line cannot run from Bucks through Montgomery to Chester County (or even beyond). No, I don’t have any recent data on this, but I don’t know of a circumstance where a mass transit alternative was offered versus negotiating a congested thoroughfare, and that alternative was ignored.

    The time has long since passed for this discussion to be settled once and for all. If anything positive whatsoever can come of this horror today, then let this be it.

    Update 2/15/14: I apologize for being a bit unclear about something – when I’m talking about mass transit from Bucks to Chester counties, I mean that for both directions.

  • And as noted herewow, so Smerky has graduated to the higher (?) ranks of the pundit class now that he has been absorbed by “The Most Trusted Name in News.”

    I think this calls for a brief retrospective of some of his “highlights”:

  • As noted here, he once complained that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels felt that he had to drop out of consideration for the 2012 Repug presidential nomination because of too much scrutiny of Daniels’ personal life, even though our intrepid Philadelphia Inquirer columnist had no qualms about going after former Dem presidential candidate John Edwards.
  • He came out in defense of saner schedules and more rest for air traffic controllers, which is good, without noting of course that the Teahadists in the U.S. House sought to cut the budget of the FAA (here – third bullet).
  • He criticized the de facto discrimination against the jobless in hiring, though he basically said that there’s nothing that the federal government should be able to do about it (here – typical).
  • He once heckled Roger Waters of Pink Floyd for supporting the Palestinians here, and was actually quite proud of his behavior (Smerky, I mean).
  • He tried to mythologize The Sainted Ronnie R here (third bullet), criticizing Obama for criticizing the Supremes over Citizens United, saying Ronnie didn’t do that on Roe v. Wade (no, not much – he just created that stupid “Mexico City” policy to go with his criticism, that’s all).
  • He compared Arianna Huffington to a hooker outing a john here (nice).
  • I will admit that Smerky is cagey enough to know he has to take a page, as it were, from the book of someone like Joe Scarborough, who pretends to be sensible amidst spouting his full-on wingnuttery, particularly over the Clintons.

    So I guess congratulations are in order to Smerky for playing the typical corporate media game and ensconcing himself to an undeserved position of influence (though I guess he also deserves points for honesty based on this).

    And once again, I am compelled to ask the question…this is CNN?

  • Next (and speaking of wingnuttery), you can always rely on more bilious right-wing propaganda from Cal Thomas, and he delivers more of it here (from clownhall.com)…

    In 1976, Jimmy Carter promised never to lie to us, a promise that rested on a perception of his own virtue. Given his sad record, the country might have willingly exchanged veracity for competence.

    Interesting that Thomas would say that now even though he once complimented Carter on the former president’s “worship experience” here (and as noted here, he has a rather infamous track record at proclaiming “doom and gloom” over alleged “values” issue anyway).

  • Further, I give you the following from Repug U.S. House Rep Ted Poe via Fix Noise here

    (The) NSA argues that its employees only carry out the actions necessary to find terrorists and protect our country. They have even claimed that terrorist attacks have been prevented as a result of their actions.

    If this is true, those success stories should be made public. At a Judiciary Committee hearing last week, I asked Deputy Attorney General James Cole how many criminal cases have been filed as a result of this massive spying operation.

    His answer? Maybe one. And he wasn’t even 100% sure of that.

    That’s right, the NSA has launched one of the largest data collection programs in U.S. history that monitors who we call, how long we talk to them, who they called, and where our calls were made from, all in order to “maybe” catch one bad guy.

    In any event, the ends do not justify the means. NSA has trampled on the Fourth Amendment rights of millions of Americans.

    It’s funny in a way that Poe mentions the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution when you consider the following; as noted here, the USA Patriot Act…

    violates the Fourth Amendment, which says the government cannot conduct a search without obtaining a warrant and showing probable cause to believe that the person has committed or will commit a crime.

    Violates the Fourth Amendment by failing to provide notice – even after the fact – to persons whose privacy has been compromised. Notice is also a key element of due process, which is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

    Under the Patriot Act PR/TT orders issued by a judge are no longer valid only in that judge’s jurisdiction, but can be made valid anywhere in the United States. This “nationwide service” further marginalizes the role of the judiciary, because a judge cannot meaningfully monitor the extent to which his or her order is being used. In addition, this provision authorizes the equivalent of a blank warrant: the court issues the order, and the law enforcement agent fills in the places to be searched. That is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment’s explicit requirement that warrants be written “particularly describing the place to be searched.”

    And who voted to renew the Patriot Act three years ago? Why, Ted Poe, as noted here (other idiocy with Poe can be found here…he’s #39 on the list – Poe also opposed the census here; second bullet).

  • Continuing, I came across the following item that made my jaw drop (here)…

    Ask this question to almost anyone, and the resounding answer will be something like: “Yes! It is the American Way. ‘One person, one vote’ is the cornerstone of democracy.”

    True, but interesting in light of this from yet another elitist scumbag (but I digress)…

    Just how deep this sentiment runs can be seen in the recent protests against policies requiring all voters to first produce a photo ID. The protesters seem to feel that any restriction on the unimpeded access to voting undermines our very democracy.

    I support voter ID laws. Without them, a single person could theoretically cast many votes during one Election Day by going to different polling stations; the fraud potential is enormous. If there are people too poor to procure an ID, the small amount of money needed for this purpose should be provided, either by government or private charities.

    Even by the admittedly lame standards of The Daily Tucker, the stoo-pid with this one was thick enough that it could be cut only with a hack saw.

    The author of this column is someone named D.B. Ganz, who apparently wrote something called Uncommon Sense and is published at a site called The Blaze. Since he shows no apparent knowledge of how one votes in this country based on his commentary, please allow me to provide the following information.

    I reside in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (not news I guess considering what I said earlier about the Turnpike), so when I registered to vote, I did so at the Bucks County Court House in Doylestown. Of course, I could have picked up a voter registration application elsewhere or even online, completed it, and mailed it in (or pressed a button and sent it into cyberspace). On the application, it is necessary to enter your basic demographic information, including your address.

    I honestly don’t remember how I found out where my polling location was; I could easily have accessed the Board of Elections link from buckscounty.org and done a bit of searching to find out where it is, or I could have called someone (maybe we were notified by mail?). What matters is that, when I found out where my polling location was (and I go to vote on Election Day or Primary Day), I notify a worker and they check my information to see if I am in their book. I sign the book on the line next to my name and demographic information after checking my info; of course, they now ask me for a voter ID, which they don’t enforce yet (I can provide a driver’s license, so it’s no big deal, even though I object to voter ID in principle of course).

    Here is my point (took awhile to get there, I know) – I cannot just vote anywhere I want! I have to vote in the area where I live and where I am registered to do so (to prevent to supposed rampant “voter fraud” that the Repugs profess to hate). So that proves that Ganz doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    I actually grew a little curious about Ganz, so I read up on him and found another column where he said that supporting health care reform was “short sighted and cruel,” or something. Which I thought was a really curious observation, seeing that Ganz is, “a long-time student of ancient Jewish texts, primarily the Talmud,” and Israel has universal health care with an individual mandate, as noted here.

  • Finally, and in observance of the recent 205th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, former Bushie Glenn Hubbard tells us the following here

    What would a mobility-enhancing agenda for today propose? A dynamic economy requires support for innovation, market expansion, and entrepreneurial risk-taking. “I know of nothing so pleasant to the mind as the discovery of anything which is at once new and valuable,” Lincoln said. Higher federal spending on basic research, trade-promotion authority, and business-tax reform to reduce marginal tax rates on income from business investments are important.

    Republicans should not be timid here. Lincoln was not: He expanded land ownership (the Homestead Act of 1862), access to higher education (the Morrill Act of 1862, with support for land-grant colleges across the states), and the scale and scope of commerce and trade (the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, which supported the transcontinental railroad).

    Lincoln’s crusade for economic development was a lifetime political agenda. Just as the opportunity agenda he championed is much bolder than many conservatives appear willing to propose today, he was much less mired in emphasizing inequality than today’s Left. “I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good,” he said. “[But] while we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.”

    Fair enough (aside from the “ooga booga” nonsense about “today’s Left”), but let’s let the following also be known about our 16th president – as noted here, Lincoln definitely fought income inequality, particularly when it profited the banks (though he was once a lawyer for railroad companies also, which wasn’t in any way illegal I realize). And in opposition, Hubbard has called for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit – that’s nice, but that, along with food stamps, housing allowances, heating assistance and Medicaid, have turned into welfare for corporations, subsidized by the taxpayers of course, as noted here.

    And on the subject of labor and capital, please allow me to quote President Lincoln once more (here)…

    Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

    I would also like to point out the following about Lincoln (from “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, pg. 104)…

    Lincoln’s abhorrence to hurting another was born of more than simple compassion. He possessed extraordinary empathy – the gift or curse of putting himself in the place of another, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires. The philosopher Adam Smith described this faculty: “By the imagination we place ourselves in his situation…we enter as it were into his body and become in some measure him.” This capacity Smith saw as “the source of our fellow-feeling for the misery of others…by changing places in fancy with the sufferer…we come either to conceive or to be affected by what he feels.” In a world environed by cruelty and injustice, Lincoln’s remarkable empathy was inevitably a source of pain. His sensibilities were not only acute, they were raw. “With his wealth of sympathy, his conscience, and his unflinching sense of justice, he was predestined to sorrow,” observed Helen Nicolay, whose father would become Lincoln’s private secretary.

    Though Lincoln’s empathy was at the root of his melancholy, it would prove an enormous asset to his political career. “His crowning gift of political diagnosis,” suggested Nicolay, “was due to his sympathy…which gave him the power to forecast with uncanny accuracy what his opponents were likely to do.” She described how, after listening to his colleagues talk at a Whig Party caucus, Lincoln would cast off his shawl, rise from his chair, and say: “From your talk, I gather the Democrats will do so and so…I should do so and so to checkmate them.” He proceeded to outline all “the moves for days ahead; making them all so plain that his listeners wondered why they had not seen it that way themselves.” Such capacity to intuit the inner feelings and intentions of others would be manifest throughout his career.

    And based on this signature moment from Hubbard, I would say that he has a thing or two to learn in the empathy department.


  • Spy The Beloved Country – 2013 Edition

    June 19, 2013


    Still catching up on some stuff a bit – the following appeared last week in the Murdoch Street Journal (here)…

    Once again, the tanks-have-rolled left and the black-helicopters right have joined together in howls of protest. They were set off by last week’s revelations that the U.S. government has been collecting data that disclose the fact, but not the content, of electronic communications within the country, as well as some content data outside the U.S. that does not focus on American citizens. Once again, the outrage of the left-right coalition is misdirected.

    Libertarian Republicans and liberal—progressive, if you prefer—Democrats see the specter of George Orwell’s “1984” in what they claim is pervasive and unlawful government spying. These same groups summoned “1984” in 2001 after passage of the Patriot Act, in 2008 after renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and many times in between and since.

    Oh, by the way, the author of this “trust your leaders,” feel-good pabulum on behalf of the “one percent” is Michael Mukasey, former Bushco attorney general. And for Mukasey to blame liberals for invoking “1984” is darkly humorous when you consider that he once said the following from here

    “I think one would have to concede that the USA Patriot Act has an awkward, even Orwellian, name, which is one of those Washington acronyms derived by calling the law ‘Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Interrupt and Obstruct Terrorism.’ You get the impression they started with the acronym first, and then offered a $50 savings bond to whoever could come up with a name to fit. Without offering my view on any case or controversy, current or future, I think that that awkward name may very well be the worst thing about the statute.”

    (The end of this post contains a link to a prior post from yours truly where Mukasey definitely supports the Patriot Act, by the way.)

    Continuing…

    Regrettably, those best positioned to defend such surveillance programs are least likely to do so out of obvious security concerns. Without getting into detail here, intelligence agencies, with court authorization, have been collecting data in an effort that is neither pervasive nor unlawful. As to the data culled within the U.S., the purpose is to permit analysts to map relationships between and among Islamist fanatics.

    For example, it would be helpful to know who communicated with the Tsarnaev brothers, who those people were in touch with, and whether there are overlapping circles that would reveal others bent on killing and maiming Americans—sort of a terrorist Venn diagram. Once these relationships are disclosed, information can be developed that would allow a court to give permission to monitor the content of communications.

    In response, this tells us the following (#2 on the list)…

    NSA Deputy Director John Inglis said that 22 NSA officials are authorized to approve requests to query an agency database that contains the cellphone metadata of American citizens. (Metadata includes the numbers of incoming and outgoing calls, the date and time the calls took place, and their duration.) Deputy AG Cole also said that all queries of this database must be documented and can be subject to audits. Cole also said that the NSA does not have to get separate Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) approval for each query; instead, the agency merely has to file a monthly report with the court on how many times the database was queried, and how many of those searches targeted the phone records of Americans.

    This, to me, is another holdover from the rancid Bushco regime. There appears to be, more or less, retroactive judicial review going on here. If the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is going to be notified after surveillance has taken place, what the hell is the point of having “judicial review” at all?

    And yes, I know this utterly awful state of affairs was codified into law by a Democratic congress in 2008, one of the most cowardly acts I have ever seen.

    Continuing…

    As to monitoring content abroad, the utility is obvious. At least one conspiracy—headed by Najibullah Zazi and intended to maim and kill New York City subway riders—was disclosed through such monitoring and headed off. Zazi, arrested in 2009, pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

    An opposing point of view on that claim is here, by the way.

    Continuing…

    Because intelligence does not arrive in orderly chronological ranks, and getting useful data is an incremental process that often requires matching information gathered in the past with more current data, storing the information is essential. But, say the critics, information in the hands of “the government” can be misused—just look at the IRS. The IRS, as it happens, has a history of misusing information for political purposes.

    That’s absolutely right, and Mukasey would know, having worked for the administration that was responsible for this.

    Continuing…

    To be sure, there have been transgressions within intelligence agencies, but these have involved the pursuit of an intelligence mission, not a political objective.

    Not according to William Binney, former head of the National Security Agency’s global digital data gathering program (here), noted from here.

    Continuing…

    Consider also that in a post-9/11 world all of those agencies live in dread of a similar attack. That ghastly prospect itself provides incentive for analysts to focus on the intelligence task at hand and not on political or recreational use of information.

    Translated from Mukasey: Don’t question the NSA spying program, or else the terrorists have already won.

    Continuing…

    Some wallow in the idea that they are being watched, their civil liberties endangered, simply because a handful of electrons they generated were among the vast billions being reviewed in a high-stakes antiterrorism effort. Of course, many are motivated politically or ideologically to oppose robust intelligence-gathering aimed at fending off Islamist terrorism. Criticism from that quarter can be left to lie where it fell.

    Speaking of “endangered civil liberties” (from the Source Watch post noted above)…

    As a judge, in October 2001 Mukasey “dismissed concerns by a 21-year old Jordanian immigrant that he had been beaten while in U.S. custody, leaving bruises that were hidden beneath his orange prison jumpsuit.”[9] “‘As far as the claim that he was beaten, I will tell you that he looks fine to me,’ said Judge Mukasey.”[10]

    Continuing…

    Nor do these programs violate the law. Start with the Constitution. The applicable provisions lie in two clauses in the Fourth Amendment. The first bars “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The second provides that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause” established by affidavit, and it requires that warrants describe with particularity what or who is to be seized, and from where.

    Notice that the first clause does not forbid warrantless searches, only unreasonable ones.

    Wow, talk about some legalese hair-splitting! In Mukasey’s legally compromised (IMHO) worldview, a “warrantless” search actually isn’t “unreasonable.”

    Continuing…

    And the second simply creates a warrant requirement that is read, with some exceptions, to bar evidence at trial if it is obtained without a valid warrant. The first clause has been read to protect the content of communications in which the speaker has a reasonable expectation of privacy—telephone conversations being an obvious example. It does not protect the fact of communications.

    As far as the “fact” of communications is concerned (here)…

    The National Security Agency has at times mistakenly intercepted the private email messages and phone calls of Americans who had no link to terrorism, requiring Justice Department officials to report the errors to a secret national security court and destroy the data, according to two former U.S. intelligence officials.

    At least some of the phone calls and emails were pulled from among the hundreds of millions stored by telecommunications companies as part of an NSA surveillance program. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, Thursday night publicly acknowledged what he called “a sensitive intelligence collection program” after its existence was disclosed by the Guardian newspaper.

    Yes, it’s commendable that the mistaken intercepts were reported and the data destroyed (or so the story says), but suppose that didn’t happen? Suppose that, in the data mining process, it was falsely recorded that yours truly called an overseas number to book some travel arrangement (not likely, I’ll admit), but the phone number was transposed by accident, and instead, it was interpreted that I called someone with links to the Muslim Brotherhood instead? What about the “fact” of that communication?

    There’s other stuff I could get into on what Mukasey said, but I think this sums things up. To me, the real takeaway comes from here (turning to Mother Jones once again)…

    The problem is that this kind of indefinite data collection makes abuse far more likely in the future. Someday there will be a different president in the White House, there will be a different head of NSA, and there will be different professionals running the program. What will they do with all that data the next time something happens that makes America crazy for a few years? I don’t know, but I do know that if they don’t have the data in the first place they can’t abuse it.

    the future is what we should be talking about. Even if NSA’s programs haven’t been abused yet, that doesn’t mean they’re okay. Likewise, even if they haven’t produced any great benefits yet, that doesn’t mean they’re stupid and useless. It’s the future that matters.

    Oh, and as long as we’re talking about Mukasey, let’s not forget this little episode, where Dem Congressman Jim Moran said that anyone opposing a civilian trial for Khalid Sheik Mohammed was “un-American” (worse), but Mukasey responded by saying that Moran should seek counseling from Maj. Nidal Hassan (worst!) – also, here is the link to the post on the Patriot Act I noted above, pointing out that Mukasey supported Section 215 of the Act, which basically invalidates the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution.

    Despite the whole “nothing to see here, move along” narrative Mukasey is trying to inflict here, I should note that this tells us that a majority of those polled want those knuckleheads in Congress (and I’m thinking mainly, but not totally, of the House when I say that) to do their jobs and hold hearings on the whole surveillance issue (which should have taken place during Bushco, but better late than never I know…and I know doing that in the House is problematic because of the likely Repug grandstanding, but it still needs to happen). I mean, I think that would be the prudent thing to do so if, say, one day, I’m driving to work and I see or hear a drone flying overhead, at least I’ll have some idea of who sent it there and what’s going on with the damn thing (and hopefully that explanation will be the truth).

    The people of this country want answers on this issue in particular. And they deserve them, including me.


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