Category Archives: News

Government Shutdown Was Planned For Months


Government Shutdown Was Planned For Months By Ed Meese, Koch Bros.

From the article, “So, when you are told by Republicans that the shutdown is he fault of President Obama and Democrats, you can now say with certainty that this is untrue.”

Note the article’s source: FOX news

My comment:
The Union and Confederate soldiers would often get together in the evenings, and then resume hostilities the next morning.  Axis and Allied soldiers would cross the fields between the trenches to share a bottle overnight and then resume hostilities the next day.

One can be friends with a conservative, but one never forgets that they are also, always the enemy.  It is their stated intention to destroy the USA and all that she has come to stand for.  All that it was said she stood for from the moment she was founded, though it has taken a long time to even begin to approach those ideals.  And, even though there is a long way to go to achieve those ideals.  This latest manufactured “crisis” and the looming one in 9 days are just the latest examples of their attempts to do so.
This is what they have said they want, and this is what they have worked hard to accomplish.


The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is…


I have written before on the purpose that fairy tales served in our not too distant past before they were sanitized and Disneyfied.  In short, they were very useful for keeping children in line.  Fear.  Our first method of discipline as children is often fear.  It is typically the same method that many western religions use.  It is the reason that the phrase “god-fearing Christian” still exists in our lexicon.  (That, and it is baked into the Judeo-Christian religion at a fundamental level.)  As we grow and mature, we can develop into more complex and reasonable ways to discipline and learn.  Fear need not be the way we teach our children the difference between right and wrong, nor should it be the way we govern ourselves, or our society.

Decisions made on the basis of fear are almost always knee-jerk reactions, and more often than not, short of truly critical individually life threatening emergency situations, they are wrong.  Fight or flight responses are almost never appropriate for a society.

This is precisely what we do though.  We elect people more often than not based on fear.  Fear of “the other guy”.  Fear of what will happen if we act on the courage of our convictions.  Fear that “this election is too important to take a chance”.  Fear that we are “at war” with al Qaeda, on drugs, on poverty, on women, on ________ .

All too often, those we elect, and worse yet, those we do not elect, but that are in positions of extraordinary power, are more than happy to use this fear to manipulate and control the populace in the ways that they see fit.  In fairness, some of them are dong so because they sincerely believe that it is necessary.  They truly believe that “the world is a dangerous place” and that “the ends justifies the means”.  These are the people that I most feel sorry for.  They fail to understand that they are actually creating or exacerbating the problems that they are seeking to protect us against.

Yes, there are bad people in the world, and yes, we do have to take steps to protect ourselves against them.  We do not, however, have to go overboard with that.  We do not have to start sacrificing our liberties and our minds in that pursuit.  With complete honesty and not the least bit of hyperbole, it is these people, the ones that are supposed to be protecting us, that scare me far more than the al Qaedas, the M-13s, or the Somali pirates of the world.  I literally have no fear of walking through Chicago’s Auburn Gresham or Shanghai at 2:00 am (which I have done), but these people at the NSA, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the other nearly 1,300 other governmental organizations plus 2,000 private companies?  Yeah, they cause me a great deal of alarm.  Read those numbers again, and stop to think about that.  That is a security apparatus that is not transparent.  It is not even fully known how widely it stretches.  You will not find anyone, any where, who can eve tell you how much money is being spent on these operations.  You will find estimates, but no accurate totals.

And, it is, by its very nature based on fear.  What do animals that are fearful do?  Have you ever seen a cornered dog or cat?  One that is afraid?  That is a dangerous animal!

Then, there are the other types of people who are involved in this community.  Those are the people who should be removed from their positions, stripped of their wealth and prosecuted for a variety of crimes.  In many cases, crimes against humanity.  These are the people who have used fear to manipulate and control simply to enrich themselves and their friends.  They have used fear to maintain positions of power, wealth and prestige.  These people are rightfully called terrorists.  For they use terrorism, and the dictionary definition of terrorism is clear:

terrorism

1.   the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.

2.   the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.

3.   a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

Osama bin Laden was “on the run” for more than a decade after having been identified and claiming responsibility for the attacks on America on 9/11/2001.  During that time we launched three wars – The War on Terrorism, the War in Iraq, and the War in Afghanistan.  (Though the right has tried to revise history, the Bush cabal clearly made an effort to tie the War in Iraq to al Qaeda and sold it as part of the War on Terrorism.)  All three of these wars were to have two purposes.  First, to defeat al Qaeda, and by extension, any and all terrorists who would attack the US, and by extension, any Western interests anywhere around the world.  Second, to find and capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
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Fearing No Shots Across The Bow


It is very likely that in the next week, either on Monday or Thursday, the SCOTUS will release two important decisions relating to marriage equality in this country.  We are facing many crises of freedom right now, from Orwellian privacy invasion of individuals, to infringements on the press freedoms we like to believe exist in this country, to killing of American citizens without trial (or even charges), and so on, but much of America simply doesn’t care about those issues.

Marriage equality though, it seems some people still care about.  Enough that 30 states took the extraordinary steps over the last few years to actually prohibit same-gender marriages, and another 7 prohibit them by law.  Additionally, of course, we still have the “Defense of Marriage Act” on the books at the federal level.

I have written about this before, and I am not going to get deeply into the reasoning here.  (Cliff notes version: There is no moral or constitutional justification to deny a marriage to any consenting adult to any other consenting adult.  No religious authority should be required to give their sanction to it, but that is an entirely separate matter.)

What is of interest right now is that the right is, again, mouthing off about how they are above the law.  As is so often the case, they’re already screaming that no matter what the decision from the Supreme Court, they’re not going to be bound by it, unless they like it.

Now, let’s stop for a moment, because to a small degree, they have a fair point.  That is how a democracy, or even a representative republic, which we are supposed to be, is theoretically supposed to work.  If we do not like the laws, then we can work to change them.  So, that part would be reasonable.  However, what they’re saying is not, “If the decision is against us, then we must change the law.” which is essentially what many said following the ridiculous Citizens United decision.  (Not that it has led to a successful change, but that is still what many are saying today.)  No, what they are saying is quite flatly,

As Christians united together in defense of marriage, we pray that this will not happen. But, make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the true common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.

As I, and many others, are reading this, it is both a veiled threat of the kind that is common from the right, that alludes to a revolution, and a statement that “we” will not enforce your ruling.  It is true, as they point out in their letter, that the courts have no enforcement mechanism, but instead must rely on the executive branch for that.  If they are more than just talk this time around, we may be forced into a situation where we find out if more people are in support of what is right and the rule of law, which in this case are the same thing, or in support of hate and bigotry.

The rest of the letter is the same standard tripe that these people have been trotting out over and over again.  It lacks any more merit this time around than it had the last half a million times that it was paraded around.  It is full of fallacies and bigotry.  Half-truths and bald-faced lies.

I suspect that as with most utterances from the right, it is a lot of hot air.  They talk a lot and have almost no spine to actually back it up.  Except that lately, they seem to be starting to feast on themselves.  We will see what the SCOTUS rules, and then we will proceed from there.  Because yes, no matter how they rule, this issue will not be over.  I know that, and everyone should.  If the SCOTUS rules correctly in favor of equality, then the right will be weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth and then trying to find ways to overturn it.  If they do not, then the equal rights movement will continue to fight for ways to fix that error.  The Dred Scott decision had to be reversed, and it took time.  I hope this is not a similar situation, but if it is, we will eventually do it.

Because that is what is right and good.

This may well end up like Roe v Wade, though.  Producing another cause for the right to protest for the next half-century.  We may wind up with picket lines at weddings, and counter protestors in front of churches to protect the wedding party.  And, sadly, I wouldn’t put it past a few extremists on the right to start killing ministers and pastors performing weddings, because that is what history has shown us the right wing in this country is capable of producing, despite the vast majority of them being a bunch of blow-hards with no real intellects.  We already have too many in the LGBQT community that are suffering violence for no reason other than who they are, or more accurately, the insecurity and bigotry of who others are.


Apathetic After Shock


There has been a lot of talk recently, of course, about Edward Snowden and traitors.  There has been a great deal of public gnashing of teeth and wailing by our elected leaders over his release of the snazzy Micro$oft PowerPoint slideshow that was not meant for public consumption.  There was a really well done piece explaining how, under the definitions given in the US Constitution, Snowden has not committed treason.  Not going to talk about that today.  Not directly.

Instead, what I find bothersome is just how much acceptance there is about this from the vast majority of people.  I really shouldn’t be surprised, and I suppose I’m not really.  Still, I am disappointed.  When it broke, I had hoped that perhaps this would be sufficient to bring about a ground swell of anger and activity.  There was certainly an initial outburst of shock.  And, yet, very quickly since then …

There has been some small amount of noise at the fringes.  Reddit has been one place where a little activity has taken place.  The Daily Kos, EFF, and a lot of other organizations have quietly come out in opposition.  Note the key word being quietly.  These organizations sent out emails to their members.  I know.  I got some of them.  I certainly didn’t get all of them.  I’m not on all of their mailing lists.  There was some activity on the right.  Again, I know.  I saw some of it.  I heard about other, and I went looking to see if there was any in other places.  At the fringes, yes.  In the heart, in the mainstream?  No.  Not really.

stopwatching.us was set up to collect signatures.  I want to share with you a screen shot taken from that site on the morning of June 16, 2013.  It is a compilation that shows their “Selected Signatories.”  I’ve compiled the 4 categories that they have on four separate tabs – Organizations, Individuals, Businesses, and Members of US Congress – together for you to take in all at once.

Combined Selected Signatories

As of this morning, they have collected 178,350 signatures.  Please read that again.  That’s a sad number.

No one cares.  The majority of the country is so used to the intrusions of the PATRIOT Act, warrantless searches, surrendering our civil liberties in the name of security, and the concept that “If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear,”  that this kind of “revelation” is blasé.  No worries, mate.

According to one poll (as reliable as that may be), 54% of Americans think that Snowden did the right thing in exposing PRISM, but 53% still think he should be prosecuted.  A vast majority of people say they’re following the story closely.  My theory as to why?  Because to most people this is just the next episode in the Bourne Chronicles.  Most people are likely watching to see which scenario happens next.  Will he be subjected to “extraordinary rendition”?  Will he be found dead “by his own hand”?  Will he be mundanely arrested and extradited back to the US?  Will he become an “asset” of the Chinese or some other foreign government that would like access to the information he may still have not released yet?

They are not paying attention because they are interested in or concerned about the actual issues.  I see in both left of center and right of center blogs, as well as the main stream media the over-whelming theme of “Who cares?” about the program itself.  I actually read the words, “I am not sure I care if the government is reading my email or listening in on my phone calls as long as it keeps me safe.”  The majority of the coverage of this case is about who is Edward Snowden?  (My Google search for the term, “Who is edward snowden” returned 1,180,000,000 results)  What is Booz Allen Hamilton?  (A firm most of us had never heard of before.)  Should we be privatizing “national security”?  (A question that probably should have been asked 40 years ago, but which was answered as an inevitable part of the supply-side, conservative domination of the government over that time period.  What did y’all really expect?)  And, so on.  Very little about the intrusiveness of this program which in all likelihood has accomplished nothing in terms of actual security, despite claims to the contrary.
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Surprised? No. Outraged? Yes!


Let me begin with a question.  It is a simple question.  We’ll come back to the context in a moment.  In all seriousness.

Why are you surprised?  Or, perhaps, better, why would anyone be surprised?

The Guardian newspaper this week, using leaked documents, “revealed” the existence of “PRISM” – a broad program to collect “so-called meta data on your telephone calls.”  The article goes further to claim that the NSA also has direct backdoor access to the servers of major tech companies (Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple) which between them own the vast majority of all online communications between e-mail, video, and chat.

Again, why would anyone be surprised?  This is really not news.  The specifics of it might be new, but we have known about the existence of this program for years.  I don’t think the public knew the name of the program, or had seen that nifty logo.  The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court was set up in the mid-1970s.  The PATRIOT Act was approved by near unanimous consent (357 to 66 in the House and 98 to 1 in the Senate) and signed into law by George W Bush on 10/25/2001.  It was introduced on 10/23.  So, in less than 48 hours it went from concept to law.  It was then renewed in 2006, and again in 2011 by the current POTUS.  It is these two laws which provide the broad foundations for the program, however, there are many, many other laws which have been passed that have aided and abetted the development of these programs.

Again, why are you surprised?  In 1979, the Supreme Court upheld this kind of invasion of privacy.  They found in the Smith v Maryland case, that collecting, what was called at the time the “pen register” (that is the time equivalent of the meta data), was legal.  This is the modern, technologically equivalent program.  When it goes further into the courts, they will uphold it.

The NSA has been involved in this kind of snooping and has been caught at it before.  We know this.  It isn’t new.  In 2005, the EFF filed a lawsuit against AT&T for illegally cooperating with the NSA to facilitate these actions.  If you read this article, or remember from the time period, you will note that the defense from the administration is almost precisely the same.

In 2006, one of the sitting FISA judges quit the appointment and others urged congress to give the FISA court a direct role in overseeing the wiretapping program.

“The administration defends the eavesdropping program, saying it is only targeting communications to and from suspected terrorists, that government lawyers review the program every 45 days and that Congress authorized the president to track down 9/11 co-conspirators, thereby giving the president the ability to bypass wiretapping laws.”

In 2009, the director of the National Cybersecurity Center resigned, and blamed the NSA’s “pwer grab” as a threat to “our democratic process.

In 2001, William Binney resigned from the NSA  after more than 30 years, including time as director of the World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, and started blowing the whistle, warning about the size and scope of the NSA’s surveillance program.

This is not tin foil hat conspiracy theory territory.  This is you can only be surprised if you weren’t paying attention.  This is, “If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention” territory.

For most of the last 60 years there has been talk of Project ECHELON.  Not just in tin foil hat, conspiracist circles where we can laugh at it, but also in the halls of government, with official investigations.  There have been actual investigations and acknowledgements of its existence with accompanying refusals to discuss its full expanse.  Sound familiar?

Many in our governments, around the world, took Orwell’s 1984 not as a warning, but as a guidebook, just as many right wingers took Ayn Rand’s work not as a poorly written morality play, but as the writings of a prophetess.

Now, as I said, there is no reason that anyone should be surprised.  However, that does not mean that we should not be outraged, nor does it suggest that we should accept it.  I hope that this will be the moment that people will awake and arise.  I do not expect it, but I do hope for it.  Perhaps we will remember and live up to the words of at least one of the “Founding Fatherstm

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Liberal Media? Riiiighttt


“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”

– Ronald Reagan1

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’”

– George Orwell, 1984

How many times have you heard about the “liberal media”?  Probably so many times that most of you even believe it.  It would be amusing, if it wasn’t so sad.  These types of falsehoods that become “facts” are precisely part of the war of definitions that the right has used to drag the political center, and the country, further and further to the right over the years.

This myth, in its current form, originated from a single survey that was done many years ago.  1972, S. Robert Lichter et al in “The Media Elite: America’s New Powerbrokers” did a small survey of 238 journalists, and found that the majority of them did vote Democrat.  While this shouldn’t be surprising, particularly given that that study after study shows that there is an inverse relationship between education and conservatism, and as a rule, journalists tend to be fairly well educated.  (This is the truth behind why Republicans and conservatives are so opposed to education.  It is why people like Rick Santorum say, “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side”)

Did this survey find that the media was liberal?  No, not really.  Not even its authors claim so.  What it found was that the media was, in fact, not liberally biased, though many of the mid-level and below reporters did tend to vote Democrat.  (At that point, voting Democrat actually put one a bit left of center.)  The right wing though, and in particular (oh, the irony here), the right wing columnists in the media, took this survey, twisted it, as they are wont to do, and on the other end of their propaganda machine came out the turd that “The media is liberal”.  They have been decrying the media as such ever since.

The facts in front of us would convince any sane reasonable person to the contrary, but that is not what we are dealing with.  We are dealing with people who have largely been victims of a Milligramesque Experiment echo chamber.  “You will accept authority.”  You will accept that the media is liberal.”  “You will believe that everything that comes from the government is evil.”  “You will ignore the contradictions.”  “You will ignore the man behind the curtain.”  You will give me your dollars.”

Oh, and buy my book!  It’s called, “How to get rich by selling people a book called, How to get rich by selling a book called, How to get rich by …”  It’s only $19.99.  Order here.

One of the other interesting things to consider in this is that these low- and mid-level reporters really have very little control or influence over what they actually put in the papers or on the screens.  The people who are in control are the editors and the managers.  These people are the ones who are shown, in the same material referenced above, and multiple repeated surveys, to be most typically conservative.  Oh, wait.  Let’s pause here.  What we have here is pretty typical, isn’t it?  Those at the top are going to escape taking responsibility, while the right blames those at the bottom for their perceived issues?  It is the typical way that the right wing operates.

Let us look briefly at the consolidation of media.  I’m sure we’ve all seen the numbers, yes?  And, they are constantly changing.  Growing ever more consolidated.  When Ben Bagdikian introduced The Media Monopoly in 1983, he concluded that “50 men and women, chiefs of their corporations, control more than half the information and ideas that reach 220 million Americans, it is time for Americans to examine the institutions from which they receive their daily picture of the world.”  Today, 30 years later, the consolidation has grown to such a degree that we now have “more than 1500 newspapers, 1100 magazines, 9000 radio stations, 1500 TV stations, 2400 publishers, owned by only 3 corporations,” as the meme goes.  Using Bagdikian’s methodology, in 2009, this number had fallen from 50 to 15 controlling over 50% of the information and ideas dominating the American market, and:

Expanding the analysis to include emergent technologies like cable television, satellite radio and the Internet, the number of corporations dominating the American media remained at 20.

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The Boys Who Cried Wolf


Does anyone else remember fairy tales?  As I recall, they used to serve a very different purpose many, many moons ago.  You see, fairy tales used to be used to scare children into behaving.  The stories as originally preserved by the Grimm Brothers, for example, were “capricious and often cruel”.  National Geographic says it well, except they leave out a crucial detail, which I’ll come back to in a moment.

Once they saw how the tales bewitched young readers, the Grimms, and editors aplenty after them, started “fixing” things. Tales gradually got softer, sweeter, and primly moral. Yet all the polishing never rubbed away the solid heart of the stories, now read and loved in more than 160 languages.

So, what was left out?  The modern, as in the last 30 years or so, impact on the fairy tale.  What I will call, “the Disney effect”, when fairy tales became even more sanitized and Pollyanna-ish1.  When fairy tales lost their truly moral lessons, and simply became entertainment.

They’re baaaacck!!  At least one of them.  The boy who cried wolf.  Remember that one?  In a nutshell, a shepherd boy who didn’t want to be alone in the fields watching the sheep cries out, “Wolf!” and the town’s men come running to protect him, even though there is no wolf.  Eventually, though, he does this so many times, that they stop.  Then, when there really is a wolf, he cries and cries, and no one comes to his aid.  I am sure in the older version, the wolf not only drives off many of the town’s flock, but also kills him and many of the sheep.  In the modern version, the wolf just scares the little miscreant and scatters the flock, because everyone knows that wolves don’t actually kill sheep, right? uh huh.

This presidency has been one never ending stream of accusations and trumped up scandals.  It has been a series of boys crying wolf, and now that there might, actually be one that is legitimate, most of us who are not so easily worked up and manipulated by the right-wing press are so worn out from it, that we are having a hard time caring.  How sad is that?  You have managed to wear us out with your constant stream of made up malarkey that now that there is a hint of possible real scandal in the air, guess what?  Most of us that you need in order to actually pursue it, don’t care.  Way to go.  Guess it’s time for the wolf to dine.

Before we get to that, let’s recap a little, shall we?  (Not even a complete list.  Just a survey.)

We have had, and still have, questions regarding the POTUS’ place of birth.  This despite it having been established and verified and certified and re-certified.

We have seen attempts to tie him to terrorist organizations, domestic and foreign, from the time he began campaigning and still going today.

We heard about his “Apology Tour”, which when fact checked by more reliable sources, is shown to be either completely fallacious, misunderstood, or overly hyped, depending on which aspect of the “tour” to which you are referring.

For the last 8 months, we have been subjected to the far right-wing, led primarily by Fox news, of course, pushing an investigation into a supposed Benghazi cover-up and scandal.  The Republican party and conservative public has dutifully followed along, wasting much time and money on a non-story.  The rest of the main stream media has had almost no choice but to cover it as well, since this is what all the players are playing.  If they didn’t, it would be like a reporter sent to cover a concert and ignoring the entire first set.  With the latest disclosure being that someone, somewhere, very likely in a Republican congressional office actually changed the e-mails released by the White House in order to make them look more damning than they actually are.  Could it be any more obvious how desperate they are to focus on anything other than real issues?

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