In the USA...ACLU seeks to rein in NSA mass surveillance
By Karen McVeigh, The Guardian
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 20:25 EDT
The National Security Agency’s mass tracking and collection of Americans’ phone call data violates the constitution, has a chilling effect on first amendment rights and should be halted, accord to a court motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday.
In a detailed, legal critique of the NSA programme, the ACLU warned that such long-term surveillance “permits the government to assemble a richly detailed profile of every person living in the United States and to draw a comprehensive map of their associations with one another.”
The motion is part of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in June, one of several against the NSA following the Guardian’s disclosures via whistleblower Edward Snowden, of the agency’s mass surveillance of US citizens. Documents from Snowden revealed a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order directing Verizon to give the NSA all call detail records or “metadata” relating to every domestic and international call for three months, in a court direction that is renewed on an ongoing basis.
It “allows surveillance that is essentially indefinite”, the motion says.
The ACLU document is peppered with quotes from literary, academic and other sources, to illustrate the danger of mass surveillance by the government, including the writings of George Orwell and The Lives of Others, an award-winning movie about the monitoring of East Berlin by the Stazi by director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
In statements after the programme was disclosed, intelligence and government officials have stressed that the NSA does not collect the contents of US calls, only the “metadata”, such as the numbers called, the duration and timing of the calls. The information, they say, can only be interrogated if they suspect terrorism.
The legal motion argues that the NSA programme, which the agency says is used for counter-terrorism, has overstepped its bounds. Quoting Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, the author of the Patriot Act in 2001, it says the NSA has “scoop[ed] up the entire ocean to . . . catch a fish.”
The motion says: “The chilling effect of the mass call-tracking program is apparent: any person hoping to approach plaintiffs with proof of official misconduct would be understandably wary knowing that the government receives, almost in real-time, a record of every telephone call.”
The ACLU’s clients include prospective whistleblowers seeking legal counsel, and “government employees fearing reprisals for their political views”. Phone calls, even the mere fact that a call was made, from such clients are “particularly sensitive or confidential”, it said.
A declaration in support of the motion by Edward Felten, a professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton, warns that “even basic inspection” of the metadata on the calls made in the US each day allows the government to pry into the population’s most intimate secrets. They include, Felten wrote, the “rise and fall of intimate relationships” the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease or the identity of a prospective government whistleblower.
It can reveal, Felten wrote, “when we are awake and asleep; our religion, if a person regularly makes no calls on the Sabbath, or makes a large number of calls on Christmas Day; our work habits and our social aptitude; the number of friends we have; and even our civil and political affiliations”.
Calls to certain helplines, or support groups, for instance sexual assault, domestic violence or abortion clinics are all tracked by the NSA, the motion says.
The NSA’s mass collection of phone metadata was approved by the Fisa Court but the ACLU says that part of the basis for the court’s approval, a Supreme Court ruling called Smith vs Maryland 1979, involved narrow surveillance directed at a specific criminal suspect over a limited time period.
It argues that nothing in Smith “remotely suggests that the constitution allows the government’s mass collection of sensitive information about every single phone call made or received by residents of the United States over a period of seven years.”
It says that the Supreme Court has “repeatedly recognised” that the government’s surveillance and investigatory activities can infringe on associational rights protected by the first amendment.
The ACLU’s lawsuit, filed on 11 June 2013, names James Clapper, the director of intelligence; Keith Alexander, the NSA director; Chuck Hagel, the defence secretary; Eric Holder; the attorney general and Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It says that the NSA’s ongoing tracking of their phone calls exceeds statutory authority and violates the first and fourth amendments.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013
**************Outgoing U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warns of ‘major cyber event’
By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 15:42 EDT
Outgoing US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday warned of a “major cyber event” in the future that would have a “serious” impact on American society.
In what she described as “a kind of open letter to my successor,” Napolitano warned of terrorist threats, major weather events and the need to reinforce US border security.
“Our country will, for example, at some point, face a major cyber event that will have a serious effect on our lives, our economy, and the everyday functioning of our society,” she said.
The administration has yet to name a successor for Napolitano, who resigned in July and will leave office next month after more than four years as the head of the Department of Homeland Security.
Created after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the department plays a key role, not only in guarding borders and preventing terror attacks, but also in the response to natural disasters.
Napolitano warned of the “increasing likelihood of more weather-related events of a more severe nature as a result of climate change.”
Napolitano’s departure comes at a critical time, as Congress debates a major overhaul of the country’s immigration system that would offer a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Possible replacements include New York police chief Ray Kelly, former US Coast Guard commandant Thad Allen and William Bratton, a former Los Angeles police chief, New York police commissioner and Boston police commissioner.
Other possible candidates include former independent senator Joe Lieberman and senior Homeland Security officials John Pistole and Craig Fugate.
**************Obama administration asks court to force New York Times reporter to reveal source
By Ed Pilkington, The Guardian
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 20:18 EDT
The Obama administration is trying to dissuade federal judges from giving the New York Times reporter James Risen one last chance to avoid having to disclose his source in a criminal trial over the alleged leaking of US state secrets.
The Department of Justice has filed a legal argument with the US appeals court for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, in which it strongly opposes any further consideration of Risen’s petition. Risen’s lawyers have asked the court to convene a full session of the 15-member court to decide whether the journalist should be granted First Amendment protection that would spare him from having to reveal the identity of his source to whom he promised confidentiality.
A three-member panel of the same court last month issued a 2-1 majority ruling in which they found that reporters had no privilege that would safeguard the confidentiality of their sources in a criminal trial. The judgement leaves Risen, a prominent investigative reporter specialising in national security issues, facing the prospect of having to break his promise to his source or go to jail.
The legal crunch emerged from Risen’s 2006 book, State of War, in which the author reveals details of the CIA’s attempts to foil Iran’s nuclear programme. James Sterling, a former CIA employee, is being prosecuted under the Espionage Act for the criminal disclosure of the information – one of seven officials to face the severe charges under the Obama administration including Chelsea Manning who has been sentenced to 35 years in military jail as the WikiLeaks source.
In a 26-page filing, the US prosecutor Neil Macbride and his team argue that Risen has no grounds to be offered a full hearing of the appeals court because there is no such thing as a reporters’ privilege in a criminal trial. They insist that the New York Times journalist was the only eyewitness to the leaking crimes of which Sterling has been charged and under previous case law has no right to claim First Amendment protection.
“Risen’s eyewitness testimony is essential proof of the disputed identity of the perpetrator that cannot be duplicated or replaced by other evidence in the case,” MacBride writes.
The DoJ’s robust attempt to block any further legal discussion about Risen’s plight will add to the impression that the Obama administration is determined to stamp on official leaking regardless of its implications for press freedom – a syndrome that some critics have dubbed a “war on whistleblowing”. Risen’s lawyers argue that the hardline approach conflicts with the Justice Department’s own recent guidelines in which it talks of a need for balance between pursuing leakers while “safeguarding the essential role of a free press in fostering government accountability in an open society”.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013
August 27, 2013The Lasting Power of Dr. King’s Dream Speech
By MICHIKO KAKUTANI
It was late in the day and hot, and after a long march and an afternoon of speeches about federal legislation, unemployment and racial and social justice, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. finally stepped to the lectern, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, to address the crowd of 250,000 gathered on the National Mall.
He began slowly, with magisterial gravity, talking about what it was to be black in America in 1963 and the “shameful condition” of race relations a hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Unlike many of the day’s previous speakers, he did not talk about particular bills before Congress or the marchers’ demands. Instead, he situated the civil rights movement within the broader landscape of history — time past, present and future — and within the timeless vistas of Scripture.
Dr. King was about halfway through his prepared speech when Mahalia Jackson — who earlier that day had delivered a stirring rendition of the spiritual “I Been ’Buked and I Been Scorned” — shouted out to him from the speakers’ stand: “Tell ’em about the ‘Dream,’ Martin, tell ’em about the ‘Dream’!” She was referring to a riff he had delivered on earlier occasions, and Dr. King pushed the text of his remarks to the side and began an extraordinary improvisation on the dream theme that would become one of the most recognizable refrains in the world.
With his improvised riff, Dr. King took a leap into history, jumping from prose to poetry, from the podium to the pulpit. His voice arced into an emotional crescendo as he turned from a sobering assessment of current social injustices to a radiant vision of hope — of what America could be. “I have a dream,” he declared, “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”
Many in the crowd that afternoon, 50 years ago on Wednesday, had taken buses and trains from around the country. Many wore hats and their Sunday best — “People then,” the civil rights leader John Lewis would recall, “when they went out for a protest, they dressed up” — and the Red Cross was passing out ice cubes to help alleviate the sweltering August heat. But if people were tired after a long day, they were absolutely electrified by Dr. King. There was reverent silence when he began speaking, and when he started to talk about his dream, they called out, “Amen,” and, “Preach, Dr. King, preach,” offering, in the words of his adviser Clarence B. Jones, “every version of the encouragements you would hear in a Baptist church multiplied by tens of thousands.”
You could feel “the passion of the people flowing up to him,” James Baldwin, a skeptic of that day’s March on Washington, later wrote, and in that moment, “it almost seemed that we stood on a height, and could see our inheritance; perhaps we could make the kingdom real.”
Dr. King’s speech was not only the heart and emotional cornerstone of the March on Washington, but also a testament to the transformative powers of one man and the magic of his words. Fifty years later, it is a speech that can still move people to tears. Fifty years later, its most famous lines are recited by schoolchildren and sampled by musicians. Fifty years later, the four words “I have a dream” have become shorthand for Dr. King’s commitment to freedom, social justice and nonviolence, inspiring activists from Tiananmen Square to Soweto, Eastern Europe to the West Bank.
Why does Dr. King’s “Dream” speech exert such a potent hold on people around the world and across the generations? Part of its resonance resides in Dr. King’s moral imagination. Part of it resides in his masterly oratory and gift for connecting with his audience — be they on the Mall that day in the sun or watching the speech on television or, decades later, viewing it online. And part of it resides in his ability, developed over a lifetime, to convey the urgency of his arguments through language richly layered with biblical and historical meanings.
The son, grandson and great-grandson of Baptist ministers, Dr. King was comfortable with the black church’s oral tradition, and he knew how to read his audience and react to it; he would often work jazzlike improvisations around favorite sermonic riffs — like the “dream” sequence — cutting and pasting his own words and those of others. At the same time, the sonorous cadences and ringing, metaphor-rich language of the King James Bible came instinctively to him. Quotations from the Bible, along with its vivid imagery, suffused his writings, and he used them to put the sufferings of African-Americans in the context of Scripture — to give black audience members encouragement and hope, and white ones a visceral sense of identification.
In his “Dream” speech, Dr. King alludes to a famous passage from Galatians, when he speaks of “that day when all of God’s children — black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics — will be able to join hands.” As he did in many of his sermons, he also drew parallels between “the Negro” still an “exile in his own land” and the plight of the Israelites in Exodus, who, with God on their side, found deliverance from hardship and oppression, escaping slavery in Egypt to journey toward the Promised Land.
The entire March on Washington speech reverberates with biblical rhythms and parallels, and bristles with a panoply of references to other historical and literary texts that would have resonated with his listeners. In addition to allusions to the prophets Isaiah (“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low”) and Amos (“We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream”), there are echoes of the Declaration of Independence (“the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”); Shakespeare (“this sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent”); and popular songs like Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” (“Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York,” “Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California”).
Such references added amplification and depth of field to the speech, much the way T. S. Eliot’s myriad allusions in “The Waste Land” add layered meaning to that poem. Dr. King, who had a doctorate in theology and once contemplated a career in academia, was shaped by both his childhood in his father’s church and his later studies of disparate thinkers like Reinhold Niebuhr, Gandhi and Hegel. Along the way, he developed a gift for synthesizing assorted ideas and motifs and making them his own — a gift that enabled him to address many different audiences at once, while making ideas that some might find radical somehow familiar and accessible. It was a gift that in some ways mirrored his abilities as the leader of the civil rights movement, tasked with holding together often contentious factions (from more militant figures like Stokely Carmichael to more conservative ones like Roy Wilkins), while finding a way to balance the concerns of grass-roots activists with the need to forge a working alliance with the federal government.
At the same time, Dr. King was also able to nestle his arguments within a historical continuum, lending them the authority of tradition and the weight of association. For some, in his audience, the articulation of his dream for America would have evoked conscious or unconscious memories of Langston Hughes’s call in a 1935 poem to “let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed” and W. E. B. Du Bois’s description of the “wonderful America, which the founding fathers dreamed.” His final lines in the March on Washington speech come from a Negro spiritual reminding listeners of slaves’ sustaining faith in the possibility of liberation: “Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
For those less familiar with African-American music and literature, there were allusions with immediate, patriotic connotations. Much the way Lincoln redefined the founders’ vision of America in his Gettysburg Address by invoking the Declaration of Independence, so Dr. King in his “Dream” speech makes references to both the Gettysburg Address and the Declaration of Independence. These deliberate echoes helped universalize the moral underpinnings of the civil rights movement and emphasized that its goals were only as revolutionary as the founding fathers’ original vision of the United States. Dr. King’s dream for America’s “citizens of color” was no more, no less than the American Dream of a country where “all men are created equal.”
As for Dr. King’s quotation of “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” — an almost de facto national anthem, familiar even to children — it underscored civil rights workers’ patriotic belief in the project of reinventing America. For Dr. King, it might have elicited personal memories, too. The night his home was bombed during the bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., endangering the lives of his wife, Coretta, and their infant daughter, he calmed the crowd gathered in front of their house, saying, “I want you to love our enemies.” Some of his supporters reportedly broke into song, including hymns and “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.”
The March on Washington and Dr. King’s “Dream” speech would play an important role in helping pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the pivotal Selma to Montgomery march that he led in 1965 would provide momentum for the passage later that year of the Voting Rights Act. Though Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, his exhausting schedule (he had been giving hundreds of speeches a year) and his frustration with schisms in the civil rights movement and increasing violence in the country led to growing weariness and depression before his assassination in 1968.
The knowledge that Dr. King gave his life to the cause lends an added poignancy to the experience of hearing his speeches today. And so does being reminded now — in the second term of Barack Obama’s presidency — of the dire state of race relations in the early 1960s, when towns in the South still had separate schools, restaurants, hotels and bathrooms for blacks and whites, and discrimination in housing and employment was prevalent across the country. Only two and a half months before the “Dream” speech, Gov. George Wallace had stood in a doorway at the University of Alabama in an attempt to block two black students from trying to register; the next day the civil rights activist Medgar Evers was assassinated in front of his home in Jackson, Miss.
President Obama, who once wrote about his mother’s coming home “with books on the civil rights movement, the recordings of Mahalia Jackson, the speeches of Dr. King,” has described the leaders of the movement as “giants whose shoulders we stand on.” Some of his own speeches owe a clear debt to Dr. King’s ideas and words.
In his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address, which brought him to national attention, Mr. Obama channeled Dr. King’s vision of hope, speaking of coming “together as one American family.” In his 2008 speech about race, he talked, much as Dr. King had, of continuing “on the path of a more perfect union.” And in his 2007 speech commemorating the 1965 Selma march, he echoed Dr. King’s remarks about Exodus, describing Dr. King and the other civil rights leaders as members of the Moses generation who “pointed the way” and “took us 90 percent of the way there.” He and his contemporaries were their heirs, Mr. Obama said — they were members of the Joshua generation with the responsibility of finishing “the journey Moses had begun.”
Dr. King knew it would not be easy to “transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood” — difficulties that persist today with new debates over voter registration laws and the Trayvon Martin shooting. Dr. King probably did not foresee a black president celebrating the 50th anniversary of his speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and surely did not foresee a monument to himself just a short walk away. But he did dream of a future in which the country embarked on “the sunlit path of racial justice,” and he foresaw, with bittersweet prescience, that 1963, as he put it, was “not an end, but a beginning.”
August 27, 2013Medicaid Expansion Battle in Michigan Ends in Passage
By MONICA DAVEY
CHICAGO — The fierce struggle among Republicans over whether to make Medicaid available to more low-income people played out in Michigan on Tuesday as the Republican governor, Rick Snyder, narrowly succeeded in swaying enough conservative senators in the State Legislature to accept the expansion, which was part of President Obama’s health care law.
Mr. Snyder’s preferred bill — one he had lobbied for intensely for months — initially fell short by one vote, but the governor salvaged a deal hours later. The vote in the Republican-controlled Senate was 20 to 18, with only 8 Republicans in favor. The Michigan House, which had earlier approved a similar measure, will need to vote on the Senate version before Mr. Snyder can sign the bill.
“The Affordable Care Act has probably been one of the most divisive issues that our country has faced in the last few years, and many people do have strong opinions both for and against,” Mr. Snyder said after the vote. “I just ask that all Michiganders step back and look to say this isn’t about the Affordable Care Act. This is about one element that we control here in Michigan that we can make a difference in here in people’s lives.”
While the authors of the federal health care law intended to expand Medicaid, the federal and state health program for poor people, and at least initially pay for the expansion, the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states could opt out, setting up a struggle that has played out in the states largely along partisan lines.
Like Mr. Snyder, some Republican governors have found themselves at odds with their own party’s legislative caucuses in state capitals like Lansing that are dominated by Republicans.
In Arizona, which eventually approved an expansion, Gov. Jan Brewer found vehement opposition from some lawmakers. In Florida, legislators have resisted expansion, despite Gov. Rick Scott’s support. And in Ohio, Gov. John R. Kasich’s push for expansion has so far not been successful.
For months, the fight in Michigan, which has the nation’s 10-largest uninsured population, has been intense. Mr. Snyder, a former businessman in his first term, said the expansion would ultimately save money, control medical costs and help the state’s economy. That pitted him against more conservative members of his own party, and led some Tea Party leaders in the state to say he will lose support if he seeks re-election next year.
On the floor of the Michigan Senate on Tuesday, the debate was heated, though lawmakers said the discussions — particularly those within the Republican caucus — had been even more tense behind closed doors.
Advocates praised the measure as fiscally sensible for the state, given the promise of federal money, and crucial for hundreds of thousands of low-income residents without insurance.
Already, Medicaid covers more than 1.8 million people in the state, Michigan officials said, and the expansion would ultimately grant coverage to more than 400,000 others. People making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level — or about $15,500 a year for a single person — would newly be covered.
“It’s a benefit to every person in the state of Michigan,” said State Senator Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic leader, said on the floor. “It’s good public policy, and it makes good fiscal sense.”
Senator Roger Kahn, a Republican, told his colleagues, “This is not Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act.” Instead, he argued, the measure will reform the costs of medicine across the state and become what he described as “a national model” for other states.
But opponents said a Medicaid expansion would represent tacit approval of Mr. Obama’s health care law. They said it would encourage big government and be an irresponsible promise of spending by Michigan in the years ahead. Senator Mike Green, a Republican, described the plan as a promise of “federal funny money.”
And Senator Patrick J. Colbeck, another Republican opponent, said, “We’re spending money we do not have,” adding, “And we’re forcing decisions right now onto our youth.”
In June, the Michigan House approved the Medicaid expansion with support from Democrats and enough members from that chamber’s Republican majority. But the State Senate, where Republicans hold 26 of 38 seats, moved more slowly, with some conservative Republicans openly rejecting Mr. Snyder’s views, refusing to call a vote and proposing alternatives.
At one point, Mr. Snyder, who regularly promotes a gentle-sounding political philosophy of “relentless positive action,” flew home early from a trade mission to Israel and had uncharacteristically sharp words for the Senate, telling them to “take a vote, not a vacation.”
In recent days, the struggle intensified. The governor’s office took part in urgent, private conversations, lawmakers said, while advocates for and against the measure led demonstrations, ad campaigns and phone banks around Michigan.
“We firmly believe that a vote to support Medicaid expansion is a vote to support the president’s health care law,” said one opponent, Annie Patnaude, deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity-Michigan. Protesters on the other side of the issue appeared in Lansing on Tuesday, saying it was high time for a vote.
**************With Consumer Confidence Near a Five Year High, Boehner Threatens to Crash Economy
By: Sarah Jones
Aug. 27th, 2013
The AP announced Tuesday that Americans’ confidence is near a fiver year high on growing optimism. Oh, feeling sunny, eh? Not so fast, citizen.
Republicans are gearing up for yet another hostage taking moment, since elections don’t work for them. Republicans are threatening to crash the economy and stick the American taxpayers with another 18.9 billion dollar price tag. They don’t have a good reason for this — in fact, the reasons keep changing.
Republican lawmakers are threatening to crash the economy if ObamaCare isn’t defunded. But Speaker Boehner said Monday that he has new hostages. Boehner said that he can’t get the House to raise the debt ceiling unless changes are made to Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, farm programs and government pensions.
“I made up my mind that we weren’t going to kick the can down the road any more,” the Speaker said, as if the deficit wasn’t actually shrinking. “There is no reason for the government to run out of money. Our goal here is to stop Obamacare. Our goal here is to cut spending.”
Ah, but ObamaCare cuts the deficit. And in 2012 when Republicans were trying to repeal ObamaCare, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that “Republican legislation to repeal the overhaul — passed recently by the House — would itself boost the deficit by $109 billion from 2013 to 2022.” So add that $109 billion to the 18.9 billion they’re going to cost us by delaying raising the debt ceiling, and the Republican party is charging us billions of dollars for nothing — nothing but a seemingly endless tempter tantrum.
The debt ceiling represents money lawmakers already spent. In other words, Republicans are once again refusing to pay their own bills by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. That’s not exactly a conservative or fiscally responsible position.
Republicans like to pretend this is about “debt” and the “deficit”. It’s as if they don’t know that we all know that the defict is shrinking . You want to know which debt fear mongering Republican leaders did their part to increase the debt by 3.4 trillion dollars when the Republican Party was in charge?
According to data compiled by Bloomberg News in 2011, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell voted for, “Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts and Medicare prescription drug benefits. They also voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. These initiatives added $3.4 trillion to the nation’s accumulated debt and to its current annual budget deficit of $1.5 trillion.”
In June, the month we had a huge budget surplus and Dow rallied above its all-time closing high, Standard & Poor said the shrinking deficit improved the outlook for debt and so it boosted its outlook for the U.S. government. In other words, things were looking up. It was Standard and Poor that had lowered our credit rating after the Republicans’ last debt ceiling games.
Consumer confidence is up, so it’s time for Republican killjoys to stamp the sun out, crashing the economy again because they lost yet another election and they don’t know how to tell their base the truth about the campaign promises they made.
****************John Boehner Claims He Is Saving America by Destroying It
Aug. 27th, 2013
Politicians are wont to talk about things that exist in thought or ideas because they have no physical or concrete existence, and speaking about things in abstract allows them to delineate them from the people they effect. Concepts like freedom, law, policy, economics, and even religion are simply abstract ideas that can be beneficial or detrimental to human beings’ lives depending on how they are applied regardless they have no physical or concrete existence. Republicans are notorious for their buzzwords and catch-phrases to manipulate their sad ignorant supporters, but it is indisputable that they never speak to or about the people their abstractions effect. In fact, Republicans never speak about people at all much less in conjunction with their abstract concepts and it is likely because if they did their supporters would realize that each and every idea they have is deleterious to Americans.
Over the past few years Republicans used the concept of deficit and debt (accounting terms) to slash programs that have caused a great deal of harm to the American people and likely they will use them again in the coming months. Republicans have brought governance to a near-standstill over abstract concepts such as sanctity of life, scandals, 2nd amendment rights, sequester, religious liberty, and even “Obamacare” that have no physical or concrete existence even though Republicans refer to them as if they have physical properties of destruction or salvation depending on their application. Even though Republicans parrot abstractions ad nauseum, they have never ever spoken about the effects they have on people because it would inform their cruel and inhuman treatment of Americans they were elected to serve.
Over the past week, Republicans talked about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as if it is a real thing they claim is “something we believe will destroy the country,” and the sequester that John Boehner claims is a success and will save the country. However, they cannot bring themselves to talk about the benefits this thing (Obamacare) affords tens-of-millions of Americans, or the damage their beloved sequester is wreaking on the people because their minions would learn their only goal is hurting Americans if they kill Obamacare or keep the sequester in place for the next nine years. One thing Republicans have not said is how healthcare insurance reform (Obamacare) is going to destroy the country, or how indiscriminate cuts to food, housing, and education will save the country. If they say either one affects the nation’s debt, or deficit, even those are accounting terms with no physical existence. However, the people that are denied healthcare, food, and housing assistance do have physical existence and Republicans love harming the American people.
Republicans cannot talk about their intent for eliminating Obamacare or the sequester in human terms because they are cruel, barbaric, and lack human qualities of compassion and mercy. No Republican can tell any American how providing access to healthcare insurance for 30-million people or ending pre-existing conditions will destroy this country any more than the health law reducing the deficit and creating jobs will, but it doesn’t stop them from parroting the apocalyptic warning that “Obamacare will destroy the country.” John Boehner boasts about the sequester saving America but he cannot and will not explain how withholding food from seniors and children will preserve this country for even one day. Regardless, Republicans promote their inhumane policies in abstract terms primarily because their supporters are ignorant and as cruel and inhumane as Republicans and it explains their staunch support for legislation that is damaging Americans whether it is in Congress or red-state legislatures.
It is unclear why, or when, a segment of the population became enamored with physical and mental cruelty Republicans are bound and determined to impose on half the population. It is true that Republicans were successful convincing their supporters that abstract concepts like the Affordable Care Act will destroy America, but now that the health law’s benefits are manifest, teabaggers are as opposed to its benefits as they were in 2010 and it cannot be solely because of their racial animus toward President Obama. The sequester and food stamp cuts are taking food out of the mouths of working-poor Republican supporters and yet they are as opposed to repealing the sequester’s indiscriminate cuts as their representatives in Congress. As hard as it is to admit, a large segment of Americans are just inhumane by nature and it extends to every policy Republicans and their supporters champion and it has nothing to do with saving America and everything to do with hurting Americans.
Republicans laid waste to Americans immediately after taking control of the House in 2011 and they used misleading buzzwords to garner support from disgruntled Americans unable to comport a majority elected an African America President. Even though they used abstract concepts such as religious freedom, sanctity of life, and budget deficit, their intent was always the same; impose cruel and inhuman punishment on other Americans. John Boehner may have been the only Republican to openly admit the GOP’s resolve was punishing the people when he cavalierly said “so be it” at news Republican’s budget would kill 1.1 million jobs, and if GOP supporters possessed an ounce of humanity they would have railed on Republicans but they clamored for more. Unfortunately, they are still clamoring for more and they are willing to shut down the government and create a credit default to prove it.
There was a time in America that the people had a semblance of compassion for their fellow citizens, and one hopes the majority of Americans are appalled at the level of inhumanity typical of Republicans and their supporters. According to a poll, 42% of Americans self-identify as Republicans, and it implies that over 4 out of 10 Americans support the GOP’s cruel and inhumane treatment of other Americans. It is true that many Republican supporters fall victim to the GOP’s fear-mongering and claims that the Affordable Care Act will destroy America, but it does not explain the number of conservative Christians who support policies that cut food stamps, meals on wheels, or school lunch programs that likely affect their Christian brothers and sisters in poverty-ridden red states.
If nothing else, one wonders why GOP and teabag supporters never ask their politicians why they fail to boast their policies’ benefits to the people, or even mention the people at all, but it is possible their racial animus toward the President is too overwhelming, and that is a tragedy. However, Republicans know their supporters are prone to believe simple concepts like “Obamacare will destroy this country” or the “sequester will save America” and rally behind abstract ideas like religious freedom, sanctity of life, and 2nd amendment rights for the sole purpose of perpetuating Republican cruel and inhumane treatment of Americans.
*************President Obama Refuses to Be Terrorized by GOP Debt Ceiling Threats
By: Sarah Jones
Aug. 27th, 2013
Bad news for Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and the Republican leaders – President Obama won’t be falling for their debt ceiling threat this time around, just like he didn’t fall for it last time around.
Treasure Secretary Jack Lew was on CNBC Tuesday where he reiterated that not only will the President not negotiate over raising the debt limit, but, we do not need another self-inflicted wound (courtesy of the GOP). “I will reiterate. The President made clear he is not negotiating. Since ’70 to ’89, every congress has acted to pay the bills of the United States. This Congress needs to do the same. What we need in our economy is certainty. We don’t need another self-inflicted wound.”
CNBC’s John Harwood talked to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Tuesday, August 27th:
Transcript via CNBC with slight modifications:
LEW: John, the president has been very clear. We are not going to be negotiating over the debt limit.
HARWOOD: Both of those are total non-starters?
LEW: Congress has already authorized funding, committed us to make expenditures. We are now in the place where the only question is, will we pay the bills the united states has incurred? it is just the only way to do that is for Congress to act. For it to act quickly. What we need in our economy is certainty. We don’t need another self inflicted wound. We don’t need another crisis at the last minute. congress should come book and act.
HARWOOD: Is a clean debt limit with nothing attached to it the only kind the President will accept?
LEW: I will reiterate. The president made clear he is not negotiating. Since ’70 to ’89, every congress has acted to pay the bills of the United States. This Congress needs to do the same.
Lew’s tone is correct; he is talking to children and he needs to scold, shame and threaten them into doing their jobs.
Just yesterday the Speaker was threatening a “whale of a fight” over raising the debt ceiling. With consumer confidence heading toward a five year high, Boehner threatened to crash the economy if Republicans don’t get to rule as if they won 2012.
The Republican leader told a Boise lunch crowd, “But I’ll say this: It may be unfair but what I’m trying to do here is to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would produce if left to its own devices. We’re going to have a whale of a fight.”
Tough talk from the King of Caving.
In February, Boehner admitted to PBS Newshour that using the debt ceiling as a toy jeopardized the credit of the U.S. Government, “We got the debt limit out of the way so that we weren’t jeopardizing the full faith and credit of the United States government.”
So, the Republican leader knows what he’s doing and he’s going there anyway because Boehner really has no choice. He’s desperately trying to give the Tea caucus something to keep them from destroying the Republican party for the next decade with a government shutdown.
Obama told the GOP children “No” to using the debt ceiling as a toy in January:
It is interesting that the president preemptively struck down the Republican idea that they could take their losses on a fiscal cliff deal, but get it all back by throwing the nation into chaos over the debt ceiling.
The president has been stressing that it is going to be a different ballgame on the debt ceiling in 2013, and he started laying the groundwork for his efforts on that issue tonight.
What was striking was Obama’s tone. This wasn’t a president taking a victory lap. President Obama was more like a shark who smells blood in the water.
And he meant it. What did the big, bad House Republicans do then? Oh, they caved. Of course they caved. They had no choice.
The President also made sure the public knew that Congress tells him what to spend, and Congress is in charge of paying those bills (raising the debt ceiling):
“This is a matter of Congress authorizes spending. They order me to spend. They tell me, you need to fund our Defense Department at such- and-such a level, you need to send out Social Security checks, you need to make sure that you are paying to care for our veterans. They lay all this out for me, and — because they have the spending power. And so I am required by law to go ahead and pay these bills. Separately, they also have to authorize a raising of the debt ceiling in order to make sure that those bills are paid. And so what Congress can’t do is tell me to spend X and then say, “But we’re not going to give you the authority to go ahead and pay the bills.”
If you notice, Lew used the same tactic in this interview today: This is Congress’ job and they need to do it like every other Congress has. Naughty children.
The President smells Republican blood in the water and he’s coming in for the kill. They set themselves up for this one, by using the economy as a weapon of mass destruction again. Obama isn’t going to play and Speaker Boehner is going to be left hanging out to dry by himself, with no one to blame for caving yet again.
The modern day Republican party stands for economic uncertainty, chaos, refusal to pay its own bills, and radical nihilism. Not exactly big tent.
*************Republicans Self Destruct as Palin Joins Group That’s Targeting Mitch McConnell
By: Jason Easley
Aug. 27th, 2013
The Republican Obamacare meltdown continues as Sarah Palin has aligned herself with a conservative group that’s running radio ads targeting Mitch McConnell on ACA funding.
Palin put out a statement through the Senate Conservatives Fund:
Forced enrollment in Obama’s “Unaffordable Care Act” is weeks away. This beast must be stopped — by not funding it. Today, Todd and I joined with many of our fellow citizens to urge those in the U.S. Senate to not fund Obamacare.
We The People must continue to make our voices heard and hold those elected to serve this great nation accountable. Those in the Senate and those seeking to serve there must stand strong against this devastating program before it reveals its true face now recognized by both sides of the aisle as the bureaucratic and economic beast that will deny our families, our businesses, and our sick the ability to access health care.
The time for rhetoric and ceremonial votes in Congress is over. The time to take serious action to stop Obamacare is now. Join us in urging Senators — Don’t Fund Obamacare! Just remember – if you fund it, you own it!
Beyond Palin’s usual gibberish, what’s interesting is that she has aligned herself with a group that is currently running a radio ad in Kentucky that is targeting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Here’s the ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H9vQwoWjjI
The radio spot claims that McConnell is refusing to lead the fight to defund Obamacare, “Republicans in Congress can stop Obamacare by refusing to fund it, but Senator Mitch McConnell refuses to lead the fight. Mitch McConnell voted to give President Obama money to implement Obamacare earlier this year, and he’ll do it again if you don’t make your voice heard today. Obamacare is unaffordable, unworkable and it’s unfair. It will hurt Kentucky families. Many could lose their doctors. Others may be forced to pay higher premiums. Obamacare is a job killer, yet Mitch McConnell refuses to stop funding for this liberal train wreck.”
Putting aside for a second the fact that none of the claims made in the radio ad and Palin’s statement are actually true, Republican extremists like Palin and Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are trying to destroy their own party’s leaders.
Needless to say that when Republicans decided to campaign on Obamacare in 2014, this is not what they had in mind.
The Republican movement to defund the government unless Obamacare is repealed is the gift that keeps on giving to the Democratic Party. While conservatives and Republicans waste their money and resources fighting each other, Democrats can be out defending the law and its benefits to the American people. If Republicans insist on shutting down the government, Democrats can use this against them next year in the 2014 election.
The big story here isn’t that Palin joined the defund Obamacare or shutdown the government movement. The real story is that the Republican Party is in full self destruct mode.
We are watching the Republican Party tear itself apart over something (defunding Obamacare) that is never going to happen.
It’s Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz versus Mitch McConnell and other Senate incumbents, and winners next November will likely be Harry Reid and Barack Obama after Democrats keep control of the Senate.