In the USA...United Surveillance America..
The New York Times
September 28, 2013N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens
By JAMES RISEN and LAURA POITRAS
WASHINGTON — Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.
The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after N.S.A. officials lifted restrictions on the practice, according to documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.
The policy shift was intended to help the agency “discover and track” connections between intelligence targets overseas and people in the United States, according to an N.S.A. memorandum from January 2011. The agency was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said. Because of concerns about infringing on the privacy of American citizens, the computer analysis of such data had previously been permitted only for foreigners.
The agency can augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the documents. They do not indicate any restrictions on the use of such “enrichment” data, and several former senior Obama administration officials said the agency drew on it for both Americans and foreigners.
N.S.A. officials declined to say how many Americans have been caught up in the effort, including people involved in no wrongdoing. The documents do not describe what has resulted from the scrutiny, which links phone numbers and e-mails in a “contact chain” tied directly or indirectly to a person or organization overseas that is of foreign intelligence interest.
The new disclosures add to the growing body of knowledge in recent months about the N.S.A.’s access to and use of private information concerning Americans, prompting lawmakers in Washington to call for reining in the agency and President Obama to order an examination of its surveillance policies. Almost everything about the agency’s operations is hidden, and the decision to revise the limits concerning Americans was made in secret, without review by the nation’s intelligence court or any public debate. As far back as 2006, a Justice Department memo warned of the potential for the “misuse” of such information without adequate safeguards.
An agency spokeswoman, asked about the analyses of Americans’ data, said, “All data queries must include a foreign intelligence justification, period.”
“All of N.S.A.’s work has a foreign intelligence purpose,” the spokeswoman added. “Our activities are centered on counterterrorism, counterproliferation and cybersecurity.”
The legal underpinning of the policy change, she said, was a 1979 Supreme Court ruling that Americans could have no expectation of privacy about what numbers they had called. Based on that ruling, the Justice Department and the Pentagon decided that it was permissible to create contact chains using Americans’ “metadata,” which includes the timing, location and other details of calls and e-mails, but not their content. The agency is not required to seek warrants for the analyses from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
N.S.A. officials declined to identify which phone and e-mail databases are used to create the social network diagrams, and the documents provided by Mr. Snowden do not specify them. The agency did say that the large database of Americans’ domestic phone call records, which was revealed by Mr. Snowden in June and caused bipartisan alarm in Washington, was excluded. (N.S.A. officials have previously acknowledged that the agency has done limited analysis in that database, collected under provisions of the Patriot Act, exclusively for people who might be linked to terrorism suspects.)
But the agency has multiple collection programs and databases, the former officials said, adding that the social networking analyses relied on both domestic and international metadata. They spoke only on the condition of anonymity because the information was classified.
The concerns in the United States since Mr. Snowden’s revelations have largely focused on the scope of the agency’s collection of the private data of Americans and the potential for abuse. But the new documents provide a rare window into what the N.S.A. actually does with the information it gathers.
A series of agency PowerPoint presentations and memos describe how the N.S.A. has been able to develop software and other tools — one document cited a new generation of programs that “revolutionize” data collection and analysis — to unlock as many secrets about individuals as possible.
The spy agency, led by Gen. Keith B. Alexander, an unabashed advocate for more weapons in the hunt for information about the nation’s adversaries, clearly views its collections of metadata as one of its most powerful resources. N.S.A. analysts can exploit that information to develop a portrait of an individual, one that is perhaps more complete and predictive of behavior than could be obtained by listening to phone conversations or reading e-mails, experts say.
Phone and e-mail logs, for example, allow analysts to identify people’s friends and associates, detect where they were at a certain time, acquire clues to religious or political affiliations, and pick up sensitive information like regular calls to a psychiatrist’s office, late-night messages to an extramarital partner or exchanges with a fellow plotter.
“Metadata can be very revealing,” said Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University. “Knowing things like the number someone just dialed or the location of the person’s cellphone is going to allow them to assemble a picture of what someone is up to. It’s the digital equivalent of tailing a suspect.”
The N.S.A. had been pushing for more than a decade to obtain the rule change allowing the analysis of Americans’ phone and e-mail data. Intelligence officials had been frustrated that they had to stop when a contact chain hit a telephone number or e-mail address believed to be used by an American, even though it might yield valuable intelligence primarily concerning a foreigner who was overseas, according to documents previously disclosed by Mr. Snowden. N.S.A. officials also wanted to employ the agency’s advanced computer analysis tools to sift through its huge databases with much greater efficiency.
The agency had asked for the new power as early as 1999, the documents show, but had been initially rebuffed because it was not permitted under rules of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that were intended to protect the privacy of Americans.
A 2009 draft of an N.S.A. inspector general’s report suggests that contact chaining and analysis may have been done on Americans’ communications data under the Bush administration’s program of wiretapping without warrants, which began after the Sept. 11 attacks to detect terrorist activities and skirted the existing laws governing electronic surveillance.
In 2006, months after the wiretapping program was disclosed by The New York Times, the N.S.A.’s acting general counsel wrote a letter to a senior Justice Department official, which was also leaked by Mr. Snowden, formally asking for permission to perform the analysis on American phone and e-mail data. A Justice Department memo to the attorney general noted that the “misuse” of such information “could raise serious concerns,” and said the N.S.A. promised to impose safeguards, including regular audits, on the metadata program. In 2008, the Bush administration gave its approval.
A new policy that year, detailed in “Defense Supplemental Procedures Governing Communications Metadata Analysis,” authorized by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, said that since the Supreme Court had ruled that metadata was not constitutionally protected, N.S.A. analysts could use such information “without regard to the nationality or location of the communicants,” according to an internal N.S.A. description of the policy.
After that decision, which was previously reported by The Guardian, the N.S.A. performed the social network graphing in a pilot project for 1 ½ years “to great benefit,” according to the 2011 memo. It was put in place in November 2010 in “Sigint Management Directive 424” (sigint refers to signals intelligence).
In the 2011 memo explaining the shift, N.S.A. analysts were told that they could trace the contacts of Americans as long as they cited a foreign intelligence justification. That could include anything from ties to terrorism, weapons proliferation or international drug smuggling to spying on conversations of foreign politicians, business figures or activists.
Analysts were warned to follow existing “minimization rules,” which prohibit the N.S.A. from sharing with other agencies names and other details of Americans whose communications are collected, unless they are necessary to understand foreign intelligence reports or there is evidence of a crime. The agency is required to obtain a warrant from the intelligence court to target a “U.S. person” — a citizen or legal resident — for actual eavesdropping.
The N.S.A. documents show that one of the main tools used for chaining phone numbers and e-mail addresses has the code name Mainway. It is a repository into which vast amounts of data flow daily from the agency’s fiber-optic cables, corporate partners and foreign computer networks that have been hacked.
The documents show that significant amounts of information from the United States go into Mainway. An internal N.S.A. bulletin, for example, noted that in 2011 Mainway was taking in 700 million phone records per day. In August 2011, it began receiving an additional 1.1 billion cellphone records daily from an unnamed American service provider under Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, which allows for the collection of the data of Americans if at least one end of the communication is believed to be foreign.
The overall volume of metadata collected by the N.S.A. is reflected in the agency’s secret 2013 budget request to Congress. The budget document, disclosed by Mr. Snowden, shows that the agency is pouring money and manpower into creating a metadata repository capable of taking in 20 billion “record events” daily and making them available to N.S.A. analysts within 60 minutes.
The spending includes support for the “Enterprise Knowledge System,” which has a $394 million multiyear budget and is designed to “rapidly discover and correlate complex relationships and patterns across diverse data sources on a massive scale,” according to a 2008 document. The data is automatically computed to speed queries and discover new targets for surveillance.
A top-secret document titled “Better Person Centric Analysis” describes how the agency looks for 94 “entity types,” including phone numbers, e-mail addresses and IP addresses. In addition, the N.S.A. correlates 164 “relationship types” to build social networks and what the agency calls “community of interest” profiles, using queries like “travelsWith, hasFather, sentForumMessage, employs.”
A 2009 PowerPoint presentation provided more examples of data sources available in the “enrichment” process, including location-based services like GPS and TomTom, online social networks, billing records and bank codes for transactions in the United States and overseas.
At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday, General Alexander was asked if the agency ever collected or planned to collect bulk records about Americans’ locations based on cellphone tower data. He replied that it was not doing so as part of the call log program authorized by the Patriot Act, but said a fuller response would be classified.
If the N.S.A. does not immediately use the phone and e-mail logging data of an American, it can be stored for later use, at least under certain circumstances, according to several documents.
One 2011 memo, for example, said that after a court ruling narrowed the scope of the agency’s collection, the data in question was “being buffered for possible ingest” later. A year earlier, an internal briefing paper from the N.S.A. Office of Legal Counsel showed that the agency was allowed to collect and retain raw traffic, which includes both metadata and content, about “U.S. persons” for up to five years online and for an additional 10 years offline for “historical searches.”
James Risen reported from Washington and New York. Laura Poitras, a freelance journalist, reported from Berlin.
September 28, 2013U.S. Shutdown Nears as House Votes to Delay Health Law
By JONATHAN WEISMAN and JEREMY W. PETERS
WASHINGTON — The federal government on Sunday morning barreled toward its first shutdown in 17 years after the Republican-run House, choosing a hard line, voted to attach a one-year delay of President Obama’s health care law and a repeal of a tax to pay for it to legislation to keep the government running.
The votes, just past midnight, followed an often-angry debate, with members shouting one another down on the House floor. Democrats insisted that Republicans refused to accept their losses in 2012, were putting contempt for the president over the good of the country and would bear responsibility for a shutdown. Republicans said they had the public on their side and were acting to protect Americans from a harmful and unpopular law that had already proved a failure.
The House first voted 248-174 to repeal a tax on medical devices, then voted 231-192 to delay the law’s implementation by a year — just days before the uninsured begin enrolling in the law’s insurance exchanges. The delay included a provision favored by social conservatives that would allow employers and health care providers to opt out of mandatory contraception coverage.
But before the House had even voted, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, declared the House bill dead. Senate Democrats are planning to table the Republican measures when they convene on Monday, leaving the House just hours to pass a stand-alone spending bill free of any measures that undermine the health care law.
The House’s votes early Sunday all but assured that large parts of the government would be shuttered as of 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday. More than 800,000 federal workers deemed nonessential faced furloughs; millions more could be working without paychecks.
“The American people don’t want a government shutdown, and they don’t want Obamacare,” House Republican leaders said in a statement. “We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it’s up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown.”
A separate House Republican bill passed unanimously Sunday morning to ensure that military personnel continued to be paid in the event of a government shutdown, an acknowledgment that a shutdown is likely. En route to South Korea, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was unimpressed, excoriating his former Republican colleagues in Congress.
“This is an astoundingly irresponsible way to govern,” Mr. Hagel said, adding that a fully functioning military went beyond its uniformed forces to its civilian personnel. “If this continues, we will have a country that is ungovernable.”
Representative Darrell Issa, a powerful Republican committee chairman who is close to the leadership but has sided with those who want to gut the health care law, flashed anger when asked what would happen when the Senate rejected the House’s offer.
“How dare you presume a failure?” he snapped. “We continue to believe there’s an opportunity for sensible compromise, and I will not accept from anybody the assumption of failure.”
But Mr. Reid made it clear that failure was inevitable. “After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at Square 1,” he said. “We continue to be willing to debate these issues in a calm and rational atmosphere. But the American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists.”
The White House was just as blunt. “Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown,” the press secretary, Jay Carney, said in a written statement. The White House also said that the president would veto the House bill if approved by the Senate.
In fact, many House Republicans acknowledged that they expected the Senate to reject the House’s provisions, making a shutdown all but assured. House Republicans were warned repeatedly that Senate Democrats would not accept any changes to the health care law.
Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio faced a critical decision this weekend: Accept a bill passed by the Senate on Friday to keep the government financed and the health care law intact and risk a conservative revolt that could threaten his speakership, or make one more effort to undermine the president’s signature domestic initiative and hope that a shutdown would not do serious political harm to his party.
With no guarantee that Democrats would help him, he chose the shutdown option. The House’s unruly conservatives had more than enough votes to defeat a spending bill that would not do significant damage to the health care law, unless Democrats were willing to bail out the speaker. And Democrats showed little inclination to alleviate the Republicans’ intraparty warfare.
“The federal government has shut down 17 times before, sometimes when the Democrats were in control, sometimes with divided government,” said Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina. “What are we doing on our side of the aisle? We’re fighting for the American people.”
Veteran House Republicans say there is still one plausible way to avoid a shutdown. The Senate could take up the House spending bill, strip out the one-year health care delay and accept the 2.3-percent medical device tax repeal as a face-saving victory for Republicans. The tax, worth $30 billion over 10 years, has ardent opponents among Democrats as well. Its repeal would not prevent the law from going into effect. Consumers can begin signing up for insurance plans under the law beginning on Tuesday.
Mr. Reid has already said he would not accept even that measure as a condition to keep the government operating. Special parliamentary language in the House measure provided for rapid action Monday in the Senate that would once again most likely leave House Republican leaders with the option of approving a spending bill without policy prescriptions. But there was little indication they would accept it.
“By pandering to the Tea Party minority and trying to delay the benefits of health care reform for millions of seniors and families, House Republicans are now actively pushing for a completely unnecessary government shutdown,” said Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the Democrat who leads the Budget Committee.
As provocative as it was, the move by House Republicans was an expression of their most basic political goal since they took control in 2010: doing what they can to derail the biggest legislative achievement of Mr. Obama’s presidency.
As a debate inside the party raged over whether it was politically wise to demand delay or defunding of the act, many Republicans argued that they should fight as hard as they could because that is what their constituents were expecting. “This is exactly what the public wants,” Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota said.
The mood in the Capitol on Saturday, at least among Republicans, was downright giddy. When Republican leaders presented their plan in a closed-door meeting on Saturday, cheers and chants of “Vote, vote, vote!” went up. As members left the meeting, many wore beaming grins.
Representative John Culberson of Texas said that as he and his colleagues were clamoring for a vote, he shouted out his own encouragement. “I said, like 9/11, ‘Let’s roll!’ “ That the Senate would almost certainly reject the health care delay, he added, was not a concern. “Ulysses S. Grant used to say, ‘Boys, quit worrying about what Bobby Lee is doing. I want to know what we are doing.’ And that’s what the House is doing today, thank God.”
After the shutdowns of 1995 and 1996, Republicans were roundly blamed. Their approval ratings plunged, and President Bill Clinton sailed to re-election. This time they say they have a strategy that will shield them from political fallout, especially with the bill to keep money flowing to members of the military.
“If Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats would stop being so stubborn then no, of course the government won’t get shut down,” said Representative Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas.
Republicans readily acknowledged that the difficulty is what is next. If the Senate sends back a bill, it will most likely not have a yearlong delay. Then Mr. Boehner must decide whether to put that measure on the floor, which would anger his conservative members.
Jennifer Steinhauer contributed reporting.
September 28, 2013Last Shutdown a Lesson Lost on Capitol Hill
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
WASHINGTON — The ghosts of shutdowns past are lurking in the halls of the Capitol, influencing Congressional leaders as they look for a way out of the latest budget standoff and wonder who will take the fall. But there is one little problem: even those who lived through those government shutdowns have varied recollections, or none at all, about how and why they happened.
“I’ll buy you a Coke Zero if you can tell me what the government shutdown was about in ’95,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who was among the raucous House freshmen then. “What was the issue? Nobody remembers!”
Previous Congresses and administrations managed to find a way out of their own conflagrations. In fact, the last major shutdowns, in late 1995 and early 1996, paved the way for sweeping bipartisan compromises, including tax and budget changes that both Congressional Republicans and President Bill Clinton were pleased to call their own.
The entire exercise solidified a pattern of high-pressure, low-skill budget showdowns for the next generation, but a sinewy economy made it all seem O.K.
“It’s easy to look back and say it was all planned that way,” said Leon E. Panetta, Mr. Obama’s former defense secretary and Mr. Clinton’s chief of staff during the shutdowns. “But I have to tell you, it was a day-to-day crisis, and you never quite knew what the hell was going to happen.”
Whether those stuck in some Congressional fiscal jam in 2033 will study 2013 for lessons on how a divided Washington finally pulled back from the brink with a last-minute compromise or engaged in a meltdown that harmed the economy and ended careers is yet to be determined. But in many ways, Washington of today feels a lot like 1995-96, when the government shut down twice over the course of a month.
Then, as now, partisan rancor over federal spending burned hotly. Congressional Republicans complained bitterly about the Democratic president, jabbing at him for playing too much golf and opposing military action in a factionalized foreign land.
Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, then on a lower rung of leadership, was tormented by House freshmen who were trying to use spending agreements to undo social policy, lamenting that “you can’t bring about this much change without a lot of listening and hand-holding.”
Partisan divides over the role and scope of government are even deeper now, with the procedures of government thrown into such chaos that Republican senators took to the floor last week to offer something close to a comedy roast of one of their own, Ted Cruz of Texas. The lessons of the Clinton-era deadlock, which damaged the Republican Party while restoring a weakened president, may be elusive.
Unlike this Congress, both chambers then were ruled by one party, which worked in concert, at least in the beginning, to undermine a president who, unlike Mr. Obama, was up for re-election. Mr. Clinton engaged in daily castigations of Congress while keeping alive negotiations with his adversaries, two things Mr. Obama eschews.
Further, Mr. Clinton’s incipient opponent back then, Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, was the majority leader with a centrist agenda that is hard to find among current Senate Republicans. “It’s mind boggling,” Mr. Dole said of the current budget impasse. “The difference between then and now is the Senate said enough is enough.” (Also, no senator performed a fake filibuster as Mr. Cruz did last week. They were old-fashioned that way.)
An important structural difference exists as well: before the shutdowns of 1995-96, Congress had already passed numerous appropriations bills to finance main areas of government. Congress today has passed zero, the net result of an earmark ban (money to fix a bridge tends to be the best fixer for hurt feelings) and a divided opinion in the House and Senate over how much money the government is actually allowed to spend.
“This would be as complete a government shutdown as you can get,” said Stan Collender, a veteran federal budget expert.
Stalemates between Congress and the White House over spending have existed since the government began, but they became more severe during the 1970s, leading to an increased number of stopgap spending agreements. From that ensued increasingly protracted fights over how to fix those spending gaps, and the spending bills became proxies for other policy battles.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan, sparring with Democrats over spending, military aid to Nicaragua and other issues, initiated a shutdown of various cabinet-level agencies for a short period. President George Bush had his own fight with Congress over discretionary spending, which led to a shutdown in 1990.
In the 1996 fiscal year, which featured the two most infamous shutdowns in American history, the battle between Congress and Mr. Clinton centered principally around how to balance the budget, with a side fight over Medicare premiums that ultimately provoked the shutdown. Republicans wore lapel pins calling for a balanced budget.
The current fight over a doomed Republican plan to deprive Mr. Obama’s health care law of money, Mr. Graham said, “is about taking a legislative proposal, the signature issue of the president, and asking him to walk away from it. I just don’t see that as being the best tactic.”
In stark contrast to the current fight, the Republican game plan in the mid-1990s came from the top. The speaker at the time, Newt Gingrich, fresh off a popular campaign to take over the House, led the shutdown strategy, and his members largely rallied around it. Senate Republicans, while dubious about the politics, went along for the ride.
Today, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, is plagued by both his minority status and a primary challenge from the right. He has done little to bridge the gap between Republicans willing to fight to the end and those who want to move on. But the latest crop of Republican senators often seems impervious to pressure from their leaders.
It was Mr. Dole, with his presidential ambitions affirmed and his control of his conference secure, who pulled the plug on Mr. Gingrich and his revolutionaries.
Mr. Dole said his biggest regret was not moving sooner. “I think we could have ended it a day or two earlier,” he said, “because Clinton was eating our lunch.”
Jonathan Weisman contributed reporting.
************The Forgetful Elephant: A Quick History Lesson for Today’s GOP
By: Trevor LaFauci
Sep. 28th, 2013
Today, we have a major political party that believes the President of the United States is a tyrant and a dangerous man. This major political party also believes that the president is abusing his political power and is not properly working with Congress, which best represents the American people. They also believe that the government is overreaching and that this overreaching will ultimately lead to the demise of our great country.
This political party is doing everything it can to get the word out about these issues and concerns. Its backers have major influence in today’s media. This party is aided by its ties to the churches, who often implore their members to vote for this party. This party has a wide variety of supporters from all socio-economic backgrounds; however, its opponents have been successful in casting this political party as the party of the wealthy.
Despite all this, this major political party is being pulled about by the major social issues of its day. The broad coalition within this part is being torn apart and cannot seem to come to a consensus concerning major issues affecting today’s average American citizen. At a time where the economy is doing fairly well, many of the best and brightest minds of the political party are opting for other, more lucrative careers rather than getting into politics.
Such is life here in 1850′s America.
Yes, you read that correctly. The issues of the Republican Party circa 2013 are eerily reminiscent of the Whig Party, which became a major political party in the United States from the 1830s through the early part of the 1850s. The Whigs believed that “King” Andrew Jackson was a tyrant who was abusing the office of the presidency, much like today’s Republicans believe Barack Obama is doing. The Whigs of the 1830s and 1840s controlled the day’s media, largely thanks to the efforts of Horace Greeley at The New York Tribune. Today’s Republican Party has a massive media presence thanks to the Koch Brothers and Rupert Murdoch. The Whigs of the 1830s and 1840s were made up of people from all walks of life, but Democrats were able to successfully paint them as the party of the rich. The same idea holds true today with Democrats casting Republicans as the “party of the 1%”.
What caused the demise of the Whigs of the 1850s was the fact that they were unable to deal with the issue of slavery after the Compromise of 1850, which, oddly enough, was originally a Whig idea by Henry Clay from Kentucky. Northern Whigs wanted to see slavery abolished while southern Whigs, many of them slave owners, wanted to see the institution of slavery continue. Today’s Republican Party is unable to deal with the Affordable Care Act, originally a Republican idea from Mitt Romney and the Heritage Foundation. As we have seen this past week, Republicans remain sharply divided about what to do with the law. With the Whig party lost out on a central issue it had originally supported, its best and brightest members left the party. With today’s Republican Party speaking out against The Affordable Care Act, we’ve seen the best and brightest member of the party speak out against the law by quoting Dr. Seuss, Ashton Kutcher, and Ayn Rand.
So, what happened to our Whig friends?
Despite the Whig Party’s influence in local and state elections and its ability to elect both William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor to the nation’s highest office, the party eventually became too fractured to continue to be successful. When the fractured party ran General Winfield Scott in 1854, who ended up losing convincingly to Democrat Franklin Pierce, it was all over for the party. Ironically, many Whigs in the north regrouped and joined the a new party that called themselves the Republican Party. Chief among their ranks was a lawyer living in Illinois who had abandoned the party in the late 1840s. His name was Abraham Lincoln.
Republicans, are you seeing any pattern here yet?
Fortunately for Democrats, Republicans have never been too keen on picking up on these historical patterns. The truth is that today’s Republican Party is essentially the Whig Party reincarnated one-hundred and sixty years later. The are deeply, deeply fractured. We’ve seen that on full display this week via the antics of Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Bob Corker, and John McCain among others. What was once a loose alliance based on wanting to make Barack Obama a one-term president has become an all-out civil war among the rank and file of the GOP and the Tea Party wing. Having a national candidate get crushed in a national election and then experiencing very public in-fighting has not helped the Republicans in their efforts to rebrand their political party’s image.
And yet, as infuriating as it is to watch with Republicans toy with the idea of blowing up the global economy so that 12 million Americans have access to health insurance, it has brought to light just how rapidly the death rattle of the Republican Party is approaching. The Republican Party is the Whig Party of 1854. Their candidate just got shellacked in a national election. They are currently against an idea that their own people first brought forth and proposed. They have multiple factions competing for the future of the party. They have no visible leader and the country as a whole is losing interest
As much as liberals are enjoying the Hindenburg that is today’s Republican Party, what it ultimately means is that there is hope for the two party system to re-emerge in a way that is vital for our democracy. The Republican Party of the mid-1850s solved its issues on the Compromise of 1850 and eventually came out as strongly anti-slavery, a platform which eventually helped Abraham Lincoln become our nation’s sixteenth president and helped with the passage of the 13th amendment. Imagine a new political party in 2016 that is against the Affordable Care Act but that is actually against it because a single payer system would be even better for the American people.
It is that kind of new Republican Party that could actually bring pride back to the party of Lincoln.
*************Delusional House Republicans Laugh at Obama’s Promise to Veto Government Funding Bill
By: Jason EasleySep. 28th, 2013
Watch delusional House Republicans literally laugh at President Obama’s promise to veto their 44th attempt to get rid of the ACA.
When confronted with the prospect of a presidential veto of their pointless legislation during the meeting of the House Rules Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers joked about Obama setting a red line.
In the video clip, Rep. Jim McGovern tries to warn the Republicans on the House Rules Committee that the votes aren’t there, the Senate isn’t going to take this up, and if it got to President Obama he would veto it. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) asked, “He has threatened to veto?” Rep. McGovern (D-MA) replied, “He hasn’t threatened. He absolutely will veto.” Rogers replied, “He’s drawn a red line.” This brought about much laughter from the Republican side.
House Republicans would be wise to understand the lesson of the red line. Obama drew that red line on Syria, and then got exactly what he wanted.
Republicans are so delusional that they are laughing off the threat of a presidential veto. They really believe that they can bully Obama into killing his signature healthcare reform law. They don’t believe that the president will stand firm. The laughter and jokes from Republicans suggest that they are celebrating shutting the government down. House Republicans are trying to spin what they are doing as an effort to keep the government open, but it is the exact opposite.
House Republicans are giddily trying to shut the government down. Forty seven million Americans will no longer receive a paycheck if the government shuts down. Veterans will be hurt by limited or no access to veterans’ services. House Republicans don’t care that they are about to injure tens of millions of people. They are laughing while inflicting pain on millions of Americans.
House Republicans may not believe it, but President Obama would veto their bill so fast that their heads would spin. They think they hold all of the cards, when they hold none. House Republicans are committing an act of economic hostage taking with a joke and smile. They appear to cluelessly believe that this time their failed tactics will work. House Republicans are counting on their 44th try to be the one that finally gets rid of Obamacare.
You can’t fix stupid, and House Republicans are showing just how dumb they really are.
**************Harry Reid Tells Pointless House Republicans, ‘We will not be extorted by tea party anarchists.’
By: Jason Easley
Sep. 28th, 2013
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded to the news the House Republicans are going to vote against Obamacare for a 43rd time by saying, “The American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists.”
After House Republicans came out of their brainstorming session with the bright idea to keep trying to get rid of Obamacare, Reid said in a statement:
To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax. After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one: Republicans must decide whether to pass the Senate’s clean CR, or force a Republican government shutdown. Senate Democrats have shown that we are willing to debate and vote on a wide range of issues, including efforts to improve the Affordable Care Act. We continue to be willing to debate these issues in a calm and rational atmosphere. But the American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists.
Using the exact same language that the president used yesterday about being willing to debate anything was a nice touch, but Reid’s message is the same as it was yesterday, last week, last month, and last year. The ACA isn’t going anywhere.
Some Democrats have complained about the lack of leadership at the top of the party, but those complaints never had much merit. If you want to see what a party without leadership really looks like, check out what’s happening over on the Republican side of the street. Democrats aren’t going to give in. The entire House Republican premise is that if they just keep saying no, eventually Democrats will give in and give them what they want.
It seems lost on them that this approach has never worked. What happened each time that House Republicans have done this is that Democrats tell them to grow up, the pressure from the corporate interests and billionaires who fund Republican campaigns gets to be too much, and Boehner manages to cobble together just enough Republican support for Nancy Pelosi to pass a bill in the House that saves us all from disaster.
That’s how it always goes. So far, House Republicans are sticking to the script. They are going to continue to talk tough and pass something that won’t even be considered by the Senate. Democrats are saying no, and now we all will sit around and wait for the House Republicans to cave and pass a clean CR.
Democrats are unified. They have all the leadership, and they hold all of the cards. Once again, the country will be injured because House Republicans want no part of reality. Reid and Obama are leading, and Democrats should be proud to hear their leaders just say no.
*************Republican Voters Now See Ted Cruz as Their Leader
By: Keith Brekhus
Sep. 28th, 2013
A Public Policy Polling national poll released today finds that among Republican voters Ted Cruz is now the favorite GOP candidate for President in 2016. The same poll also found that by lopsided margins, Republican voters trust Ted Cruz more than either Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or House Speaker John Boehner.
While Cruz’s faux filibuster stunt was rebuked by fellow GOP Senators, it appears to have won him the hearts and minds of the tea-stained Republican electorate, dominated as it is by staunchly conservative voters. Cruz now leads the GOP field for President according to the PPP poll, garnering 20 percent to 17 percent for runner up Rand Paul. Christ Christie polls at 14 percent followed by Jeb Bush (11 percent), Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan (each at 10 percent). Republicans who identify themselves as “very conservative” support Cruz by a 34 to 17 percent margin over his nearest challenger, Rand Paul.
Perhaps more importantly, Republican voters trust Ted Cruz over Mitch McConnell by a gaudy 49 to 13 margin, and they trust Cruz over John Boehner by a 51 to 20 percent spread. It is clear that the Republican leadership in Congress is distrusted even by Republican voters and that Ted Cruz is earning popularity by challenging the GOP leadership. It is also clear that Republican primary voters have embraced Ted Cruz’s extreme views and his hard line politics and that they have little interest in compromise or effective governance. The shut it down mentality has become a popular position within the GOP voting base, meaning we can expect more brinkmanship legislative stunts by republican politicians trying to curry favor with the far right base that now makes up a major and influential portion of the GOP electorate.
In 2010, Republican leaders did all they could to fire up angry voters to attend town meetings and disrupt proceedings in opposition to the Affordable Care Act and other policies supported by Barack Obama and House Democrats. They helped served up heated rhetoric to gin up aroused conservative voters in order to get them to vote out liberal members of Congress. Of course their overblown rhetoric planted the seeds that helped form the modern Tea Party movement, and now that movement threatens to consume the very Republican leadership that helped create it.
Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have lost control of the Republican Party and handed its future to hardcore ideologues like Texas Senator Ted Cruz. While Cruz is increasingly popular with Republican voters, his appeal with Independents and Democrats is very thin. Republicans may like his uncompromising rhetoric and his arrogant in your face style, but in a national general election choosing Ted Cruz as the party’s nominee will be a recipe for political disaster. The GOP voters should be warned that they will lose if they go with Cruz. However, since they are not much interested in reality based reasoning, those warnings will almost certainly fall on deaf ears.
***************The Crazies Rally Around their Own, Ted Cruz
By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Sep. 29th, 2013
Ted CruzYou have to wonder at Republican reactions to Ted Cruz’s pseudo-filibuster prank this past week. We saw Bryan Fischer calling him a modern-day prophet Elijah, Karl Rove told Greta Van Susteren that it was “an extraordinary performance,” and Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel wrote a piece on World Net Daily that “Liberty Counsel’s got your flank” and revealed his belief that “Mr. Cruz emasculated, delightfully, Obama’s political yes-bots on both sides of the aisle.”
Rove thought Cruz “was cogent, he was thoughtful, he was funny, he was engaging, he was personal, he was personable.”
I think Cruz is barely cogent at the best of times but during his phony filibuster he displayed just how clueless he is by failing to understand a children’s book.
And we want this guy to have the nuclear football?
Yes, some Republicans are more than fed up with Cruz and his antics. But it is almost as if the worse Cruz gets the more other Republicans portray him as the second coming. But I guess even crazy folks need a hero. Matt Barber calls that first group RINOs. They can’t really be Republicans, after all, if they don’t share Cruz’s delusions.
In his search for an argument, Barber cited an article from Politico:
The Obamacare that consumers will finally be able to sign up for next week is a long way from the health plan President Barack Obama first pitched to the nation.
Millions of low-income Americans won’t receive coverage. Many workers at small businesses won’t get a choice of insurance plans right away. Large employers won’t need to provide insurance for another year. Far more states than expected won’t run their own insurance marketplaces. And a growing number of workers won’t get to keep their employer-provided coverage.
But Barber fails to mention that the reasons given for this in that same article are that the AFA was “the casualty of a divisive legislative fight, a surprise Supreme Court ruling, a complex implementation and an unrelenting political opposition.”
And gosh. Guess where most of that opposition came from?
Barber’s cry amounts to, “Look, we’ve gutted Obamacare! It sucks! Let’s get rid of it!” which is identical to the tea party cry of “Look, we’ve obstructed Obama’s presidency! He can’t run the country! Let’s impeach him!”
Barber also fails to mention something else the Politico article said:
More than 3.1 million young adults gained coverage because they could stay on their parents’ insurance; 17 million children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage; and insurers have been forced to issue more than $500 million in rebate checks to consumers because they failed to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care.
Barber and others continue to claim that Obamacare violates religious freedoms. Apparently their religion says people who don’t share their religion should fail to get adequate healthcare because of somebody else’s religious beliefs.
But Barber himself is one of our country’s biggest foes of religious freedom, expecting all non-Christians and even Christians who don’t share his beliefs, to follow his particular form of Christianity. He calls THAT religious freedom for the simple reason that it gives his type of so-called Christian the right to legislate their beliefs in violation of the First Amendment.
Obamacare has nothing to do with religion. It has everything to do with healthcare. Unlike Republicans, President Obama did not try to sneak in some anti-religious law into an agriculture bill. He Affordable Care Act is what it says it is: a health care act designed to provide affordable healthcare to millions of Americans.
And it is doing just that.
Matt Barber and his fellow religious bigots are welcome to their own beliefs, but they are not welcome to ours.
They are blind to ours; they have no right to expect everyone else to do the same. He doesn’t like his taxes going to things he doesn’t approve of (even when they actually don’t). I got news for him: I don’t like my taxes going to his religion (which they do).
How about our religious freedoms, Matt Barber. You seem t have forgotten them in your quest to aggrandize your own at the expense of ours.
**********Bill Maher Calls Ted Cruz The Miley Cyrus of Politics
By: Jason Easley
Sep. 28th, 2013
On Real Time, Bill Maher labeled Ted Cruz the Miley Cyrus of politics. Maher said, ‘I really think that a filibuster is the political version of twerking.’
Maher said, “I was thinking the other night. He reminds me of Miley Cyrus, Ted Cruz. Because he is not afraid to incur the wrath of even some of his fans for the greater good of drawing attention to himself. I really think that a filibuster is the political version of twerking. And for those people who say, Ted Cruz he hung himself, no. Just like Miley Cyrus, she came out the winner in that. Everybody said, oh, she ruined her career. She’s on the cover of Rolling Stone. Her records are outselling everyone else’s. I think Ted Cruz will be the winner too.”
Bill Maher has a bad habit of jumping on the hot Republican flavor of the moment and proclaiming them the new leader. He did it with Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry in 2012, and he is doing it with Cruz. There is one big difference between Cyrus and Cruz. Cyrus timed her publicity stunt to promote her new album. Cruz staged a publicity stunt years before the next election. Outside of the right, Cruz’s filibuster bounce has already faded.
Within the Republican Party leadership, Cruz is toast. While Rand Paul has been cutting deals with Mitch McConnell to open doors for him to the establishment in 2016, Ted Cruz is burning bridges. People talk about the power of the tea party, but the reality is that the Republican establishment controls the nominating process. Ask Rick Santorum how easy it is to win the Republican nomination without the money and support of the party establishment. 2012 was an example of the weakness of the tea party, and it will be even more difficult in 2016 because the RNC has rigged their nominating process to favor an establishment candidate.
Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are angling for the same 2016 voters. If Cruz and Paul both run, they could easily cancel each other out. This would leave someone like Chris Christie as the nominee. Cruz’s filibuster was an attempt to counter Rand Paul’s filibuster. Cruz and Paul need the same primary voters, and they are jockeying for position in the 2016 Republican field. Neither one of them would win a general election contest against Hillary Clinton, so it would be a dream come true for Democrats if Cruz and Paul end up being the top two choices for the Republican nomination.
Maher did have one thing right. Cruz and Miley Cyrus are both out for attention. They don’t care about anything else. The difference is that Miley is a former Disney kid who wants to show the world that she’s all grown up. Cruz is a United States Senator whose activities might collapse the entire economy. The VMA’s aren’t the Senate. Unlike twerking, what Ted Cruz is doing could harm millions of Americans.
September 28, 2013 07:00 PMTed Cruz for President in 2016?
By Susie Sampson
Ted Cruz is runnin' for president! How do I know? He spoke for 21 hours about...absolutely nothin'! But he got a whole lot of attention for it! Smart man. And his speech was scintillatin'...he talked about Dr. Seuss, reality tv, his hurt feet...what a hero! Plus, he showed Rand Paul what it means to reaaalllly care about Americans, right? Well, he spoke longer than Rand anyway so that's proof of somethin'. This will be an excitin' presidential season, that's for sure!
Click to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5jWoJqFMAg#t=69