A Christmas compromise tradition. Let's get creative!
Greg Sargent says the local media around he country are pounding on the expiration of Unemployment Insurance and that Republicans are feeling the pressure. He notes that GOP leaders we a little bit tepid in their defense of the expiration:
Will any of this matter to Republicans? It’s hard to say, since so many are cosseted away in such safe districts that tough headlines may not matter to them. But the public statements from GOP leaders on the extension have seemed tepid, suggesting their opposition isn’t really visceral. It seems like they’d love for this issue to go away. Boehner has said he’s willing to look at an extension if the White House offers a “plan,” which seems like he’s open to some kind of trade. Of course, conservatives who are already scorching GOP leaders over the deal will only get more outraged if they agree to a UI extension, making it that much harder.
Still, the coverage could get a lot worse, once the deadline looms and human interest stories multiply about folks facing the loss of benefits during the holiday season, at a time when reporters have little else to write about. I wouldn’t give up on Republicans agreeing to the extension just yet.
They will, at the very least, require that UI be paid for in some way. Ryan's entire pitch to his caucus is that this is still a deficit reduction budget that slashes spending in deliciously painful ways. It's possible they could agree to require the cuts beyond ten years as they did with some of the other spending restorations (which would probably be best since anything that goes out 10 years might as well not exist.) But it's probably a good idea to think about what pound of flesh these GOPers might demand --- and what the centrists and moderates might think is a fairly good idea as well. The whole point of these UI extension battles in the past few years has been to use the threat of throwing people out in the street to blackmail progressives into signing on to something awful. Now that the Bush tax cuts have been permanently dealt with it's not as obvious a ploy as it used to be.
So what do the New Dems and the conservatives really want these days that could conceivably fall under the heading of deficit reduction? Lord knows the Democrats can talk of little other than raising taxes these days (just don't call them tax n' spend liberals) so maybe a tax on the poor would be nice compromise. There must be something they can do to stick it to liberals for Christmas. Debtors prison? Mandatory, random drug testing for federal workers? Let's get creative!
The National Security Agency is secretly piggybacking on the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, using "cookies" and location data to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance.
The agency's internal presentation slides, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, show that when companies follow consumers on the Internet to better serve them advertising, the technique opens the door for similar tracking by the government. The slides also suggest that the agency is using these tracking techniques to help identify targets for offensive hacking operations.
For years, privacy advocates have raised concerns about the use of commercial tracking tools to identify and target consumers with advertisements. The online ad industry has said its practices are innocuous and benefit consumers by serving them ads that are more likely to be of interest to them.
The revelation that the NSA is piggybacking on these commercial technologies could shift that debate, handing privacy advocates a new argument for reining in commercial surveillance.
According to the documents, the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, are using the small tracking files or "cookies" that advertising networks place on computers to identify people browsing the Internet. The intelligence agencies have found particular use for a part of a Google-specific tracking mechanism known as the “PREF” cookie. These cookies typically don't contain personal information, such as someone's name or e-mail address, but they do contain numeric codes that enable Web sites to uniquely identify a person's browser.
In addition to tracking Web visits, this cookie allows NSA to single out an individual's communications among the sea of Internet data in order to send out software that can hack that person's computer. The slides say the cookies are used to "enable remote exploitation," although the specific attacks used by the NSA against targets are not addressed in these documents.
Nice imagery there.
I'm just glad the government always knows who's really naughty and who's really nice or a good citizen might worry about this. Unless you're searching Amazon for pressure cookers or something obviously nefarious like that, why would they care?
In the wake of the fact that Snowden had been named a top ten finalist for TIME's Man of the Year, I'm hearing that people are just sick of him and that nothing he's revealed has done anything important other than embarrassing diplomats overseas (which is actually the worst thing evah ...) This whole spying thing is just so totally boooooring. I'm sure they're all very much relieved TIME named a Catholic pope who's following the teachings of the Bible instead.
The good news is that unless the government decides to put you on its radar for some reason and unless you do some searches on the internet they consider to be suspicious or write some emails they might consider to be too radical I'm sure you have nothing to worry about. Keep calm and carry on.
Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania, said the debate [within the Democratic Party] is really between “economic populists” and “economic realists,” and he added that he doubts it will come to much.
“You can certainly do things to promote a fairer economic reality, but it can’t be the be-all and end-all of the government,” he said. “Wait and see how populist Bill de Blasio is when he actually has to govern.”
“Look at the turnout in New York,” he added. “It’s not like you had people pouring out of their homes to support the populist message…If Elizabeth Warren ran in the Democratic presidential primary, she gets 15-18 percent, tops.”
Then he took a big bite of Dacquoise cake from Patisserie Poupon and delicately licked his fingers.
Voters are angry. Very angry. And no wonder: Republicans are crazier than ever, while the ACA rollout hasn't exactly made Democrats a beacon of competence.
Still, voter anger is about much more than recent events. It's about the broader failure of elites in our society, and the gnawing sense that the middle class is disappearing even as the elites do very well in spite of their incompetence.
Those whose intuitions lean rightward blame this incompetence on government and academic elites, and suspect that the middle class is suffering because the less fortunate are coddled. That these people are deluded, ignorant and hateful doesn't reduce the passion of their conviction. Those whose intutions lean leftward put the blame where it belongs: on elites of most sectors of society, while understanding that the wage-earner class is suffering at the hands of the asset class.
What almost everyone knows, however, is that the comfortable centrists are getting it very wrong. When people are suffering they don't vote for the status quo. They vote for change that reflects their own suspicions about the way the world works. For some that may look like the Tea Party. For others that will look like a progressive over a corporate Democrat.
The Third Way is upset because they're scared and don't understand why they're losing their grip on politics. The comfortable Republican establishment has been similarly fretting about the Tea Party crowd. The comfortable corporatists of both parties have been shocked to learn that the middle class isn't about to go quietly into that good night.
When voters are angry, populism will rule. If the centrists want to remain relevant, they're going to need to figure out how to actually improve the fortunes of wage earners. Otherwise they're going to find themselves on the outside looking in, either at a far-right totalitarian government, or at a 2nd New Deal government under an Elizabeth Warren or similar. Personally, I'm all for the latter. But I also fear the former enough to hope that the comfortable centrist asset class sees the handwriting on the wall well enough to drop its austerity fetish, stop feeding quite so greedily at the trough, and actually set themselves to righting the balance of the economy for a change.
They won't, of course. But one can hope they at least have that degree of self-preservation.
So it looks like Capitol Hill may get to have a holiday this year:
The deal, which was negotiated over the past few weeks by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would set spending for the next fiscal year at $1.012 trillion and increase it to $1.014 trillion the year after that. Should their budget framework actually pass through Congress, it would represent an increase in federal spending by $45 billion in one year and $63 billion over the course of two years.
To pay for those increases, Murray and Ryan agreed to hike airline travel fees and require both federal workers and military personnel to contribute a greater portion of funds to their pensions, among other provisions.
The deal does not include an agreement to raise the nation's debt limit, which the Treasury has forecast will be hit between March and June.
I'll be very surprised if the military hawks don't have a meltdown over retiree pensions, but maybe they've worked it out. (Obviously, federal workers are just out of luck.)
No unemployment insurance extension which is really too bad. And despite what everyone's saying on TV about sequestration being lifted hi-hip hoorah, the fact is that they had to rob Peter to pay Paul. Paul Ryan that is:
The deal is very close to the halfway compromise Murray dangled at the start of the talks, coming in between the Senate's budget level of $1.058 trillion and the House's $967 billion. But to get Ryan to agree to undo some of the draconian, across-the-board sequestration cuts, Murray apparently had to find money elsewhere. The budget framework produces savings and non-tax revenue totaling $85 billion, $20 billion to $23 billion of which would be devoted to deficit reduction.
"As a conservative I think this is a step in the right direction," Ryan said. "What am I getting out of this? I'm getting more deficit reduction."
The $63 billion in sequestration relief would be split 50/50 between defense programs, which were set to take a greater hit in the next year, and domestic programs. Murray and Ryan's framework only eliminates a small portion of the roughly $180 billion in sequestration cuts set for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, but Congress itself would be granted greater power to administer the remainder of the cuts...
"While modest in scale, this agreement represents a positive step forward by replacing one-time spending cuts with permanent reforms to mandatory spending programs that will produce real, lasting savings," Boehner said in a statement.
Some conservative groups are kvetching about shifting the numbers around but Ryan seems very confident they won't raise a fuss.
Murray meanwhile is offering federal workers the most fatuous explanation ever: yes you've already given up your raises and didn't get paid for the furloughs and the shutdown, but if you don't agree to give up some of your pensions on top of all that our previous round of budgetary malpractice will remain in effect and it's even worse. See, we're looking out for you.
It's a tiny deal, which is always better than a big deal when you're dealing with these Republicans. But large spending cuts remain the bipartisan objective of the budget as far as the eye can see. At least they've taken their hands off the so-called entitlements for the time being.
Now it has to pass congress. And then we have the debt ceiling. Merry Christmas.
This piece by Amy Davidson in the New Yorker about the latest NSA revelations about the cell phone tracking is a must read. I particularly appreciate this:
What would Joseph McCarthy have done if he could have looked up who had been in a particular college dorm room on a day, twenty years before, when students were talking about socialism? What if people got used to the idea that the government could and would do this, and so picked up the pace and turned away when they saw people gathering to listen to a speaker, or reading a sign on a wall, and never heard or saw what was being said? (The freedom to assemble is linked, in the First Amendment, to the right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”) You would know that the government was taking attendance at your church. (This is one reason that the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles has brought suit against the N.S.A., with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.) You would think again before showing up at a talk by a lawyer representing someone the government has called a terrorist. If you were a reporter, or a source, you would wonder how you could safely meet. You might never at all.
I think it's already happening.
Certainly, Joe McCarthy already happened and could easily happen again. He had to rely on innuendo and intimidation. But someone else could easily think it's important to go back in time and look for information to make his case against someone he thinks is an enemy. We don't have to go back to McCarthy, do we?
A former senior C.I.A. official says that officials in the Bush White House sought damaging personal information on a prominent American critic of the Iraq war in order to discredit him.
Glenn L. Carle, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes an influential blog that criticized the war.
In an interview, Mr. Carle said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council told him in 2005 that White House officials wanted “to get” Professor Cole, and made clear that he wanted Mr. Carle to collect information about him, an effort Mr. Carle rebuffed. Months later, Mr. Carle said, he confronted a C.I.A. official after learning of another attempt to collect information about Professor Cole. Mr. Carle said he contended at the time that such actions would have been unlawful.
It is not clear whether the White House received any damaging material about Professor Cole or whether the C.I.A. or other intelligence agencies ever provided any information or spied on him. Mr. Carle said that a memorandum written by his supervisor included derogatory details about Professor Cole, but that it may have been deleted before reaching the White House. Mr. Carle also said he did not know the origins of that information or who at the White House had requested it.
The CIA officially denied this, of course. Does this sound like something that Dick Cheney and his henchmen might have done? You betcha.
Cole filed a lawsuit against the government right after this was revealed and I don't know how it was resolved. But there was this:
The lawsuit was filed just one week after Yale rejected a request from the Middle East Studies Association for an investigation into whether the Bush administration influenced Yale’s decision to reject Cole’s appointment in 2006.
MESA had already contacted then-Provost Andrew Hamilton in June 2006 to voice concerns that political pressure had prevented Cole’s appointment, but Hamilton replied ten days later that “an individual’s political views are never taken into account in making appointment decisions.” The organization renewed its efforts on Cole’s behalf after the New York Times reported June 15 that a former senior C.I.A. official claimed members of the Bush administration had attempted to discredit Cole.
Provost Peter Salovey said in a July 7 letter to MESA President Suad Joseph that there was “no evidence of inappropriate external interference or other impropriety” in Cole’s appointment decision, and that no one from the government or the Bush administration had contacted Salovey, Levin or the deans overseeing the appointment process.
Despite his assurances, the deliberations surrounding Cole’s appointment decision have long been questioned by Yale faculty members.
Cole was initially selected for a tenured professorship in modern Middle East studies by a University search committee and approved by both the Sociology and History Departments. But the Senior Appointments Committee, an interdepartmental body that reviews appointments to tenured positions, ultimately voted against offering Cole the job.
“The decision to not appoint Juan Cole was a political decision, whether you’re for Juan Cole or against Juan Cole,” said a professor in the History Department, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he previously received a threat for speaking in Cole’s favor. “[Professors] tried to portray this guy Juan Cole as an anti-Semite and an anti-American.”
I have little doubt that's exactly what happened. And I'm quite sure he's not the only one. He's just one we know about.
In the year since Swartz’s death, a number of other computer hacktivists and whistleblowers have become the targets of the wrath of prosecutors and judges, and they have either gone to jail or are facing decades in prison—in one case 105 years. In each instance, the general theme seems to be the same: these are people who were interested in freeing up knowledge for the social good. In Swartz’s case, the goal was to liberate publicly funded knowledge that had been captured and placed behind a paywall. In other cases, it was to gain and disseminate knowledge about the nefarious dealings between our government and unaccountable private intelligence contractors. And in still other cases, it was to expose the ways corporations and private intelligence firms run psychological operations against Americans.
Taken together, the lesson appears to be that computer hacking for social causes and computer hacking aimed at exposing the secrets of governing elites will not be tolerated. The state will come down on such people as hard as it can. “The same beast bit us both,” jailed hacktivist Jeremy Hammond told The Guardian, referring to himself and Swartz. In both cases, as in many others, the question is why?
I think we know the answer to that too. These are dissenters and whistleblowers. Right now we can probably assume that the government is using its traditional tools to shut these people down. They are not being completely run out of academia or denied trials. But you don't have to be paranoid to wonder whether the government might feel the need to tap into all that juicy information it's storing to shut down critics through other means. (Or even in the best case, accessing that information to build cases against them for a legitimate judicial purpose.)
The point is that governments, to a greater or lesser extent, always try to shut down dissent, whether it's through social pressure, legal means or something else. Even the good ones do it. Allowing them to have even more tools and even more power to do this is a recipe for abuse. You can already see it happening with the ridiculously long sentences for hacking. It is highly likely that at some point a US government is going to believe its justified in using the massive spying capacity it's building to quell what it quite logically believes is a threat. It's so fully baked into the cake of human nature and government power that our founders wrote a whole list of individual rights out on paper telling them they weren't allowed to do it.
Here are the choices conservatives have on inequality
by David Atkins
Conservative hack Glenn Reynolds has a column in USA Today in which he attacks the President's focus on income inequality, with the usual bleating about government dependency and what not. Mickey Kaus agrees.
Reynolds' main thrust is that the nation should be more focused on fixing unemployment than on fixing income inequality. Now, the obvious progressive case can be made that we could have full employment rather quickly if we were willing to let corporations pay people $3 an hour, then watch then starve on the street despite being employed full-time in the service of their wealthy paymasters.
But let's ignore that argument for a moment. After all, Reynolds is right that human beings do crave the dignity of work to a certain extent and that too much idleness can breed social malaise. Fair point. More than that, unemployment represents at a certain level a waste of human potential (assuming that we count homemakers as employed, which is an important digression but not what I want to focus on at the moment.)
If Reynolds and his conservative brethren really want to emphasize work over welfare, then a government jobs program should be right up their alley. Lack of productivity is eliminated, as is any potential social malaise. A government jobs program would help distressed communities and wealthy communities alike, and reduce income inequality as a side benefit, particularly if the wealthy and corporations provide more in tax revenue-which they can certainly afford to do given record profits, stock markets, and inequality figures.
One of the big divides among some of the left's more forward thinkers right now is whether we push for a basic guaranteed income, or a basic guaranteed jobs program. One or the other will be essential as mechanization, deskilling and outsourcing continue to ravage the middle classes of industrialized nations, reducing the natural employment rate on a yearly basis. A guaranteed income would be the more traditional progressive approach, but that does run the risk of creating large social and political problems. A guaranteed jobs program would be a somewhat more conservative approach, but it would also be more sustainable in the long run.
Methinks that Glenn Reynolds and his friends wouldn't favor that approach, however. They would consider a guaranteed job to be just as artificially constructed a "giveaway" as a guaranteed income. Much of the right-wing already considers a higher minimum wage to be "welfare", even though it's nothing of the sort.
The problem for the Right is that the middle classes of industrialized nations are not going to be dragged into a hell pit of full-time labor that still doesn't put food, shelter, education and healthcare on the table. Decent food, shelter, education and healthcare will still be available one way or another, because these things are human rights. They're certainly not going to be taken away while corporations and the wealthy are living higher on the hog than ever. Most people understand that teachers provide more value to society than Wall Street traders do; we're willing to watch the Wall Street trader make ten times as much money only so long as the teacher can still pay their bills.
So the passive income crowd and their conservative and third-way backers have basically three choices as the number of jobs dwindles and wages continue to decrease:
1) Create a society of the wealthy few with good jobs, the poor many with bad or no jobs, and a hefty basic income to make up for it, similar to wealthy petro-socialist states in the Middle East;
2) Reorient the economy toward providing everyone decent employment with a decent wage, removing the incentive from the asset class to kill jobs in order to leverage more profit; or
3) Hope that the middle class accepts its impoverishment under the thumb of a security state designed to protect the interests of the asset class, rather than engaging in violent and bloody revolution.
If I were wealthy I probably wouldn't take the third bet. It would be dangerous, and history says I would probably lose. But history also suggests that's exactly what David Koch, Glenn Reynolds and Mickey Kaus will attempt to do. I can't say I wish them good luck, because I don't.
From no less than Peter Orszag, former king of the deficit scolds:
Orszag cites a "little factoid": If Medicare costs continue to grow at the same rate per beneficiary as the average of the past five years, "there's no increase in Medicare as a share of GDP despite the coming retirement of Baby Boomers, the entire long-term fiscal gap in that program disappears and therefore most of the long-term fiscal gap facing the nation disappears."
Well, well, well isn't that something? After the years of overwrought fulminating this is what it comes to?
In fairness, Orszag has always believed that the answer to the projected long term deficits was cost controls in health care. Unfortunately, he was also playing Washington politics and put his name behind "deficit reduction" as a guiding principle, including the cutting of vital discretionary programs and Social Security benefits. Perhaps he really was just trying to placate people like Kent Conrad who was like a dog with a bone when it came to slashing government, but the result of that particular political strategy is a disaster.
By Democrats being so clever with this endless handwringing over "the deficit" (which they knew was mostly a rhetorical bludgeon the GOP picked up every time they wanted to justify destroying a new chunk of the New Deal and anything else they thought was helping the "wrong people" just a little bit too much) they ended up stepping on their own story and putting the long term budget into a suicidal spiral: austerity budgets as far as the eye can see. (If anyone thinks the GOP is going to suddenly relent on their jihad against government spending in light of lower deficits, I've got some cheap Fukishima real estate to sell them.)
This was political malpractice, in my book. And that's being generous. It's just as likely that most of these people agreed that the government was spending too much money on lazy people and what was needed was a good strong jolt of tough love to get this country moving. After all, most elites believe they all made it solely on the basis of their hard work and perseverance so why can't everyone else do the same? Whatever the motivation, the obsession with austerity is going to be very costly for a long time to come.
A year after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mother Jones has analyzed the subsequent deaths of 194 children ages 12 and under who were reported in news accounts to have died in gun accidents, homicides, and suicides. They are spread across 43 states, from inner cities to tiny rural towns.
Following Sandy Hook, the National Rifle Association and its allies argued that arming more adults is the solution to protecting children, be it from deranged mass shooters or from home invaders. But the data we collected stands as a stark rejoinder to that view:
127 of the children died from gunshots in their own homes, while dozens more died in the homes of friends, neighbors, and relatives.
72 of the young victims either pulled the trigger themselves or were shot dead by another kid.
In those 72 cases, only 4 adults have been held criminally liable.
At least 52 deaths involved a child handling a gun left unsecured.
Additional findings include:
60 children died at the hands of their own parents, 50 of them in homicides.
The average age of the victims was 6 years old.
More than two-thirds of the victims were boys, as were more than three-quarters of the kids who pulled the trigger.
The problem was worst over the past year in the South, which saw at least 92 child gun deaths, followed by the Midwest (44), the West (38), and the East (20).
That's chilling. And it may be understating the problem:
Our media-based analysis of child gun deaths also understates the problem, as numerous such killings likely never appear in the news. New research by two Boston surgeons drawing on pediatric records suggests that the real toll is higher: They've found about 500 deaths of children and teens per year, and an additional 7,500 hospitalizations from gunshot wounds.
"It's almost a routine problem in pediatric practice," says Dr. Judith Palfrey, a former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics who holds positions at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital. Palfrey herself (who is not involved with the above study) lost a 12-year-old patient she was close with to gun violence, she told me.
No other affluent society has this problem to such an extreme. According to a recent study by the Children's Defense Fund, the gun death rate for children and teens in the US is four times greater than in Canada, the country with the next highest rate, and 65 times greater than in Germany and Britain.
As I noted in the post below, we seem to have decided that children are collateral damage. I knew we thought that about those dusky foreigners, but it would appear we've decided that in the cause of what the American right wing defines as liberty, our own kids are disposable too. Their own kids are disposable too. How sick is that?
The New York Times published the first of a series of investigative pieces on the poor people on New York City yesterday. It's a harrowing tale and one that would make any decent person cringe in shame that such poverty, especially among children, could exist in the wealthiest city in the wealthiest country on the planet. It's right out of Charles Dickens.
Begin with the family at the center of this story. The mother, father and eight kids aren't really homeless at all. True, they live in housing meant for "homeless families." But their 540-square-foot unit gives them a solid roof over their heads, in addition to city-provided meals and services.
Yes, the family's housing has problems, including mice and reports of sexual assaults and other crimes. But the Times and Elliott, like much of the liberal establishment, seem to think it's the city's job to provide comfortable lives to outrageously irresponsible parents. In this case, that's a couple with a long history of drug problems and difficulty holding jobs.
Something's wrong with that picture.
If the city is at fault here, it might well be for having been too generous -- providing so much that neither the father nor mother seems much inclined to provide for their kids. That would be a story worth reading.
Here's a little story for these jerks:
Something very ugly has happened to American society in these last few years. It's not that there haven't always been people who thought the poor brought it on themselves. But agitating to throw these children into even worse circumstances was considered sociopathic. Which it is. Seriously, until fairly recently openly espousing this attitude toward the poor was very much frowned upon (in polite society at least.) We've reverted to a Victorian culture in which the wealthy, in order to justify their greed, gluttony and avarice, decided they no longer have to even pretend to care about anything but themselves. It's sick.
More of what you already knew: bad service jobs are replacing good skilled jobs
by David Atkins
We already knew it anecdotally, of course, but a new MIT study adds further weight to the notion that outsourcing and mechanization are turning previously well-paying skilled jobs into low-paying service jobs:
The widening chasm in the U.S. job market has brought many workers a long-term shift to low-skill service jobs, according to a study co-authored by an MIT economist.
The research, presented in a paper by MIT economist David Autor, along with economist David Dorn, helps add nuance to the nation’s job picture. While a widening gap between highly trained and less-trained members of the U.S. workforce has previously been noted, the current study shows in more detail how this transformation is happening in stores, restaurants, nursing homes, and other places staffed by service workers.
Specifically, workers in many types of middle-rank positions — such as skilled production-line workers and people in clerical or administrative jobs — have had to migrate into jobs as food-service workers, home health-care aides, child-care employees, and security guards, among other things.
“This polarization that we see is being driven by the movement of people out of middle-skill jobs and into services,” says Autor, a professor of economics at MIT. “The growth in service employment isn’t that large overall, but when you look at people with a noncollege education, it’s a very sharp increase, and it’s very concentrated in places that were initially specialized in the more middle-skill activities.”
It's not just that these jobs pay less, are less fulfilling, and have less room for advancement and mobility. It's also that their schedules are more haphazard, making life more difficult:
In Autor’s view, studies of this kind have clear implications for policymakers: The findings, he says, can “alert people to the changing opportunity set faced by contemporary workers. I think that is relevant to education policy and labor standards.”
For instance, he suggests, recognizing that an increasing number of workers are in the service sector might lead some policymakers to endorse regulations about hours and working standards that would help these parts of the American workforce.
“It seems like people in these jobs are treated almost gratuitously badly,” Autor says. “If you work in retail, it’s possible you won’t even know your hours until the beginning of the week. … Having uncertainty about your schedule from week to week, [when] you need to get your kids off to school, makes life that much tougher. … These jobs offer flexibility, but mostly to the employer.”
The United States, he adds, “is unusual in offering almost no standards in this type of work.” And while such standards would impose some costs on employers, Autor suggests that those trade-offs could be part of a larger debate about employment today.
Better labor protections for service workers would certainly help. Beyond that, though, it's just another sign that the global economic paradigm is irreparably broken. A paradigm shift in the social contract is needed if we are to avoid becoming a two-tiered society of the very rich and pampered, serviced by the hopeless and desperate poor.
I have often disagreed with Andrew Sullivan, but on this we certainly see eye to eye. He's talking about leadership, specifically in light of the death of Mandela and his greater meaning to the cause of freedom. He first talks about the popular notion in current political science that pooh-pooh's the the idea that leadership a matters very much, for good or ill. He quotes Stephen Dyson:
Tucker draws our attention to the dangers of the “great leader” view of politics: it promotes apathy and resignation as we wait for superheroes to appear and fix all of our problems. Yet there are also dangers in minimizing the role of leaders, and they go beyond missing important causes of major events, although this is a clear risk. In the explanations of historians, the reporting of journalists, and the political decisions of citizens, leaders often play the role of personifying abstract trends, ideas, and forces, and offering a human connection between politics and life. People learn, understand, and are motivated to take action by compelling narratives, and compelling narratives involve individual human beings. A worthy goal of science is to provide systematic, rigorous knowledge about issues of social importance. But science should also engage with the moral and empathetic possibilities that come from taking leaders seriously.
Alas, political science – a misnomer from the get-go (and I say that with a PhD in it) – is terrified of human nature, individual character, the unknowable biographical and psychological factors that bear down on any leader’s decisions, and anything that, effectively, cannot be quantified. But a huge amount of human behavior cannot be quantified. Which is why I often thought, as I sat through another stats class, that we’d do better to study Shakespeare than mere regressions to the mean.
I have no idea if political science is terrified of human nature but I do believe absolutely that human behavior cannot be quantified. Political science is a very useful addition to our store of knowledge but it hasn't even come close to the subtle, sophisticated understanding of humanity of say, the Bible or Shakespeare or Plato or Kant or even Stephen King.
And while it's true that waiting around for the man on the proverbial white horse can bredd apathy and allow way too much celebrity cultism in politics. But having expectations of leadership and demanding accountability from them is hugely important. It's fundamental to how human beings understand how the world works.
Setting the record straight on Mandela and the American Right
by David Atkins
Al Sharpton provides a breath of fresh air, pointing out that in South Africa America chose the wrong side, calling the ANC Marxists and terrorists:
One thing the left must do a better job of is not letting conservatives rewrite history. It would be great if progressive media outlets could spend more time regularly featuring the past statements of conservatives about Medicare, Social Security, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, etc., and comparing them to those of today. At the very least conservatives should not be allowed to appropriate the scorned progressive heroes of yesteryear. Their words should hang around their heads like millstones for generations.
A nasty little Google boy gets mad and says what he really thinks:
"Why don't you go to a city that can afford it? This is a city for the right people who can afford it. You can't afford it? You can leave. I'm sorry, get a better job. It's time for you to leave. "
I love San Francisco. I used to live there, went to school there. But people like this are ruining it, I'm afraid.
This attitude very much reflects the thinking of far more 1 percenters than you might imagine. On some level I think they know they don't deserve the outlandish sums they "earn" in these elite jobs and have to convince themselves that they are getting rich because they work so much harder and are simply more deserving than those who make less money. The only way they can successfully rationalize their good fortune is to attack the characters of those who aren't doing as well.
Today, numerous Philadelphia protesters from groups including Occupy Philly, Americans United for Change, Philadelphia AFL-CIO, Fight for Philly, SEIU PA State Council, Protect Your Care, Keystone Progress, Moveon.org, NCPSSM, Progress Now, and AFSCME demonstrated at the Wharton School for Business at the University of Pennsylvania after Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) canceled his speech there, apparently afraid of dissident audiences.
As the hundreds of protesters entered the Wharton School and chanted about economic justice, a number of students appeared on the balcony above. These students began chanting in unison, “Get a job! Get a job!”
While the students who jeered the protesters certainly do not necessarily represent all Wharton students, it’s important to understand the context of the elite status they likely either come from or graduate into. Wharton graduates much of the nation’s corporate elite, with the median starting salary for an MBA graduate being $145,000 — six times the poverty level for a family of four.
The school’s Board of Overseers is staffed with with multiple Goldman Sachs executives and high-ranking employees of a wide variety of financial firms. Meanwhile, it’s Graduate Executive Board is staffed with senior employees of Bank of America, Blackstone Financial Management, and PMC Bank. Wharton’s endowment is $888 million, greater than that of many large public universities. Essentially, the students jeering the protesters represented the future financial elite.
Newt Gingrich is losing his touch. He foolishly praised Mandela without explaining how Mandela would think of Obama the same way he thought of the apartheid government of South Africa and his followers went nuts.
...We are ruled by someone who is in effect the pharaoh and at the least a Muslim at heart who disdains the Judeo-Christian heritage and foundations upon which our nation was forged and who has rung up extreme national debt and loathes capitalism, instead seeing it his “duty” to redistribute wealth to “his” people for years of their slavery. President Barack Hussein Obama and his compromised if not corrupt enablers in Congress and in the judiciary, like a time warp, have thrust We the People back to 1776 and provoked our Second American Revolution. And, the current revolutionary climate is even more severe, since unlike the colonies, contemporary America is on the steep decline. Our resources, wealth, ethics, spirituality and liberties are being stifled by a socialistic choke hold on our economy and lives, where our “Muslim” president and the government, not God, is to be worshiped and obeyed – else authoritarian henchmen and thugs at the NSA and IRS will destroy you.
To seek redress for our grievances, as our forefathers attempted leading up to independence day on July 4, 1776, the Reclaim America Now Coalition gave notice in front of the White House on Nov.19 of this year that if the people’s freedoms were not restored by the day after Thanksgiving, the Second American Revolution would begin in earnest. True to the predictions of anyone living in our times, our grievances went unanswered by our illegitimate government usurpers, and now we must make good on our threats of non-violent, civil disobedience to attempt redress.
In this regard, as we mourn the death this week of Nelson Mandela, a great man who, like his American counterpart Martin Luther King, used civil disobedience successfully to bring freedom to his people and by definition all people (who are created equal with certain unalienable rights, as Jefferson put it), let us take Mandela’s achievement in liberating South Africa from bondage as a further example of what we can accomplish in freeing our own nation from the choking despotic governmental slavery of Obama and his pliant Democratic and Republican minions in Congress and the judiciary.
We will soon be announcing the date to convene the Third Continental Congress in Philadelphia early next year where, taking a page from the Founding Fathers, we will meet to plan the next steps of our Second American Revolution, with delegates from all 50 states.
We will also use the occasion to appoint committees to coordinate the revolution and to elect a government in waiting to take over on the day when our current corrupt leaders are forced by the citizenry to leave their thrones and freedom is restored to our shores.
Like our Founding Fathers in 1776, the time is now to risk all we have to save the nation from government tyrants before all is lost.
I mostly know Larry Klayman from the Great Clinton Panty Raid, in which he played a substantial role as the principle in Judicial Watch. He was pretty extreme but he wasn't nuts. He's nuts now.
On the other hand, I suppose I'm foolishly failing to take into account that he might just be doing this for the money. If so, these guys are having to work extremely hard these days to earn their Wingnut Welfare. This is nothing short of a humiliation ritual.
What if Big Brother is your crazy brother-in-law?
Everyone says the good news about the NSA spying is that they assure us that they have no interest in using all the information they're filing away about Americans. Unless we are a terrorist or know someone who is a terrorist or know someone who knows someone who might be a terrorist, (or might accidentally be overheard committing what someone might think is a crime) we have nothing to fear from all this surveillance.
The National Security Agency isn't the only government entity secretly collecting data from people's cellphones. Local police are increasingly scooping it up, too. Armed with new technologies, including mobile devices that tap into cellphone data in real time, dozens of local and state police agencies are capturing information about thousands of cellphone users at a time, whether they are targets of an investigation or not, according to public records obtained by USA TODAY and Gannett newspapers and TV stations.
The records, from more than 125 police agencies in 33 states, reveal: About one in four law-enforcement agencies have used a tactic known as a "tower dump," which gives police data about the identity, activity and location of any phone that connects to the targeted cellphone towers over a set span of time, usually an hour or two. A typical dump covers multiple towers, and wireless providers, and can net information from thousands of phones.
In most states, police can get many kinds of cellphone data without obtaining a warrant, which they'd need to search someone's house or car. Privacy advocates, legislators and courts are debating the legal standards with increasing intensity as technology — and the amount of sensitive information people entrust to their devices — evolves.
Many people aren't aware that a smartphone is an adept location-tracking device. It's constantly sending signals to nearby cell towers, even when it's not being used. And wireless carriers store data about your device, from where it's been to whom you've called and texted, some of it for years.
The power for police is alluring: a vast data net that can be a cutting-edge crime-fighting tool.
Last fall, in Colorado, a 10-year-old girl vanished while she walked to school. Volunteers scoured Westminster looking for Jessica Ridgeway.
Local police took a clandestine tack. They got a court order for data about every cellphone that connected to five providers' towers on the girl's route. Later, they asked for 15 more cellphone site data dumps.
Colorado authorities won't divulge how many people's data they obtained, but testimony in other cases indicates it was at least several thousand people's phones.
The court orders in the Colorado case show police got "cellular telephone numbers, including the date, time and duration of any calls," as well as numbers and location data for all phones that connected to the towers searched, whether calls were being made or not. Police and court records obtained by USA TODAY about cases across the country show that's standard for a tower dump.
The tower dump data helped police choose about 500 people who were asked to submit DNA samples. The broad cell-data sweep and DNA samples didn't solve the crime, though the information aided in the prosecution.
That pretty much says it all, doesn't it? They used this data to "ask" people to submit their DNA as they were under suspicion for a kidnapping based solely on their cell phone location. (Keep in mind that your DNA will likely be put in another permanent data base which they will then have as irrefutable evidence of your presence at a crime scene if it should ever turn up. Of course, since police never plant evidence you have nothing to worry about.)
But it's a little girl's life at stake, you say. Nobody should be reluctant to do whatever it takes to return her. Ok. But what about this?
A South Carolina sheriff ordered up four cell-data dumps from two towers in a 2011 investigation into a rash of car break-ins near Columbia, including the theft of Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott's collection of guns and rifles from his police-issued SUV, parked at his home.
"We were looking at someone who was breaking into a lot of vehicles and was not going to stop," the sheriff said. "So, we had to find out as much information as we could." The sheriff's office says it has used a tower dump in at least one prior case, to help solve a murder.
And if that didn't work I guess they planned to break down the doors of everyone in town without a warrant and search them for the missing items. Hey, they needed that information.
And they're collecting boatloads of it:
Law-enforcement records show police can use initial data from a tower dump to ask for another court order for more information, including addresses, billing records and logs of calls, texts and locations.
Cellphone data sweeps fit into a broadening effort by police to collect and mine information about people's activities and movements.
Police can harvest data about motorists by mining toll-road payments, red-light cameras and license-plate readers. Cities are installing cameras in public areas, some with facial-recognition capabilities, as well as Wi-Fi networks that can record the location and other details about any connecting device.
It is, unsurprisingly, being misused by local yahoos for their own purposes:
Some examples of documented misuse of cellphone data-gathering technology:
In Minnesota: State auditors found that 88 police officers in departments across the state misused their access to personal data in the state driver's license database to look up information on family, friends, girlfriends or others without proper authorization or relevance to any official investigation in 2012. And those were just the clear-cut cases. Auditors said that more than half of the law enforcement officers in the state made questionable queries of the database, which includes photos and an array of sensitive personal data.
In Florida: The state's Supreme Court is hearing a case in which a lower court found Broward County police overreached by conducting real-time tracking of the GPS location of a man's cellphone, using still-undisclosed techniques in collaboration with the cellphone carrier. The problem in that case: The police did so under authority of a court order that defense lawyers said authorized them to get only historical location data about his cellphone.
In Illinois: A suburban Chicago police officer responsible for overseeing access to the department's criminal history database used the system to look up his girlfriend's record. Similar cases have shown up in other states, resulting in cases involving harassment, stalking and identity theft, among others.
It isn't just Big Brother who's watching our every move. It's our crazy brother-in-law too. Just casually accepting this seems like a bad idea to me.
All that information is from a major USA Today and Gannet investigation that everyone should read. I get that most people don't see this as any big deal --- they've seen it used on Law and order and it caught "the bad guy." But in real life this adds up to the police having access to a whole lot of personal information without any probable cause or a warrant and that adds up to way more power in the hands of police. And they already have too much.
I don't know how they'll decide that this is not acceptable while nativity scenes (or whatever) are, but I'm sure they will:
In their zeal to tout their faith in the public square, conservatives in Oklahoma may have unwittingly opened the door to a wide range of religious groups, including satanists who are seeking to put their own statue next to a Ten Commandments monument on the Statehouse steps.
The Republican-controlled Legislature in this state known as the buckle of the Bible Belt authorized the privately funded Ten Commandments monument in 2009, and it was placed on the Capitol grounds last year despite criticism from legal experts who questioned its constitutionality. The Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking its removal.
But the New York-based Satanic Temple saw an opportunity. It notified the state's Capitol Preservation Commission that it wants to donate a monument and plans to submit one of several possible designs this month, said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the temple.
"We believe that all monuments should be in good taste and consistent with community standards," Greaves wrote in letter to state officials. "Our proposed monument, as an homage to the historic/literary Satan, will certainly abide by these guidelines."
Greaves said one potential design involves a pentagram, a satanic symbol, while another is meant to be an interactive display for children. He said he expects the monument, if approved by Oklahoma officials, would cost about $20,000.
Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, who spearheaded the push for the Ten Commandments monument and whose family helped pay the $10,000 for its construction, declined to comment on the Satanic Temple's effort, but Greaves credited Ritze for opening the door to the group's proposal.
"He's helping a satanic agenda grow more than any of us possibly could," Greaves said. "You don't walk around and see too many satanic temples around, but when you open the door to public spaces for us, that's when you're going to see us."
I once thought that this sort of action would illustrate to everyone why it is wrong for public spaces to feature religious monuments: you can't pick and choose which religions are acceptable. But now I realize that the people who care about this will have no problem doing just that. They are long past believing in free exercise of religion. They now believe that the Constitution is a collaboration between Jesus and George Washington and that freedom of religion applies only the Christianity (and maybe the Jews if they don't get too uppity.) I'm not sure how the Supreme Court would deal with this but I'd imagine they'll find a clever way out. There's just no way anyone's going to let Satan on the courthouse steps. Unless he comes in the guise of a politician ...
Ted Cruz Is A Man Of Great Virility And Stamina: Many “career establishment politicians are far too out of shape, old or overweight to even perform such a magnificent feat” as standing on the Senate floor and talking for over 21 hours. But not Ted Cruz!
Ted Cruz Can See The Future: Cruz spoke with “clairvoyant precision” about the “quickly approaching Obama Care disaster.
Cruz Is The Constitution’s Guardian: Ted Cruz is a “passionate fighter for limited government, economic growth, and the Constitution.
America Is A Christian Nation: American history is “replete with official references to the value and invocation of Divine guidance, including official Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, House and Senate chaplains, the national motto ‘In God We Trust,” the Pledge of Allegiance, [and] religious paintings in the National Gallery.” So hands off those government-sponsored Ten Commandments monuments!
Providing Health Care To People Who Can’t Afford It Is Worse Than War: Cruz’s failed stand against the Affordable Care Act “was so important because millions of citizens believe Obama Care is worse than any war. At least American soldiers have weapons with which to defend themselves.”
RAFAEL EDWARD CRUZ'S CONSERVATIVE baptism came at 13, when his parents enrolled him in an after-school program in Houston that was run by a local nonprofit called the Free Enterprise Education Center. Its founder was a retired natural gas executive (and onetime vaudeville performer) named Rolland Storey, a jovial septuagenarian whom one former student described as "a Santa Claus of Liberty."
Storey's foundation was part of a late-Cold War growth spurt in conservative youth outreach. (Around the same time in Michigan, an Amway-backed group called the Free Enterprise Institute formed a traveling puppet show to teach five-year-olds about the evils of income redistribution.) The goal was to groom a new generation of true believers in the glory of the free market.
Storey lavished his students with books by Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises, political theorist Frédéric Bastiat, and libertarian firebrand Murray Rothbard—and hammered home his teachings with a catechism called the Ten Pillars of Economic Wisdom. (Cruz was a fan of Pillar II: "Everything that government gives to you, it must first take from you.") Storey's favorite historian was W. Cleon Skousen, an FBI agent turned Mormon theologian who posited that Anglo-Saxons were descendants of the lost tribe of Israel. Skousen was also a patriarch of the Tenther movement—whose adherents view the 10th Amendment as a firewall against federal encroachment. (By Skousen's reading, national parks were unconstitutional.)
Cruz was a star pupil. "He was so far head and shoulders above all the other students—frankly, it just wasn't fair," says Winston Elliott III, who took over the program after Storey retired. When Storey organized a speech contest on free-market values, Cruz won—four years running. "It was almost as if you wished Ted might be sick one year so that another kid could win."
Cruz and other promising students were invited to join a traveling troupe called the Constitutional Corroborators. Storey hired a memorization guru from Boston to develop a mnemonic device for the powers specifically granted to Congress in the Constitution. "T-C-C-N-C-C-P-C-C," for instance, was shorthand for "taxes, credit, commerce, naturalization, coinage, counterfeiting, post office, copyright, courts." The Corroborators hit the national Rotary Club luncheon circuit, writing selected articles verbatim on easels. They'd close with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free…it expects what never was and never will be."
After their resounding defeat in the 2012 general election, many Republicans realized that they were facing a date with demographic destiny and needed to change course. Thus began the "rebranding" effort, which lasted all of a few months before the Republican base and the conservative media establishment slapped them down for suggesting that even a dollop of humanity be added to Republican policies.
Fast forward a year and another smashing electoral defeat in formerly red Virginia, and it looks like Republicans are finally beginning to see that....no, wait. Never mind. No change necessary. Full speed ahead, mates:
Virginia Republicans suffered a drubbing last month, losing all three statewide races (though a recount is impending in one). A year earlier, it was pretty much the same story as Mitt Romney got swamped and the party unexpectedly lost ground in the Senate.
But to hear GOP leaders in this once reliably red state tell it, this is no time to panic. No hint of discouragement is betrayed. Just as many party activists insisted after Romney’s loss, key figures here said that their shortcomings are cosmetic — that the problem is largely about campaign mechanics and how the conservative message is being delivered, not the message itself.
So if the Commonwealth, sure to again be a top battleground in 2016, is a microcosm for the broader Republican Party, the GOP faithful here weren’t showing much interest in the kind of soul-searching many in the GOP believe is necessary if they want to win big elections again.
“All these reports of our demise are premature,” said Bill Howell, speaker of the state House of Delegates. “The cycle swings, and we’ll be back.”
Gathering this weekend for the first time since crusading conservative Ken Cuccinelli’s narrower-than-expected 2.5-percentage-point defeat, a chorus of activists, elected officials and other party hands stressed that Cuccinelli’s ideology was not his undoing...
State party Chairman Pat Mullins accused the media of covering “war on women” attacks more aggressively than the problems with Obamacare.
“This year, our message couldn’t break through and we paid a price,” he said.
Mullins mocked post-election analysis that said Cuccinelli was too conservative for a changing state.
“This is false narrative by false prophets,” he said. “Republicans do not win when we are mini-Democrats or Democrat Lite.”
Eventually, no matter how much money the Kochs and the Waltons and their friends spend, demographic realities are going to destroy this incarnation of the GOP.
Women voters hate the GOP. Voters under 35 hate the GOP. Latino voters hate the GOP. Black voters hate the GOP. Asian voters hate the GOP. LGBT voters hate the GOP. Secular voters hate the GOP. Highly educated voters hate the GOP. Voters in densely populated areas hate the GOP. Nor is any of that likely to change soon.
All the GOP has left in terms of favorable demographics, are religious straight white men over 35 years old, mostly without college degrees, who don't live in big cities. Folks who started on third base, grew up in the economy the New Deal built, got good jobs without going into massive debt for their education, bought houses cheap, elected Reagan, cut taxes, trashed the place, watched their houses and stocks quadruple in value through no skill or effort of their own, destroyed the economic future of the Millennial generation, and then think they "built that" and hit a triple. The Fox News watching demographic is overwhelmingly white and over 70 years old.
Every single electoral cycle, the percentage of GOP-friendly demographics shrinks in the electorate. Not only did Obama clean Romney's clock in 2012, Democrats unexpectedly picked up Senate seats, and 1.5 million more Americans voted for Dem House candidates than GOP ones. The only reason the GOP holds the House is gerrymandering. Republicans have won the popular vote in presidential elections just once in the last six. 2016 won't be any different.
The only reason the GOP has a near-term prayer at all is that fewer Americans vote in midterms, which means that hateful, committed Fox News/Limbaugh rump base of whipped-up hysterical neo-Confederate Ayn Rand-loving voters can still make a difference to reverse some of the momentum from Presidential years. But not for long.
Eventually, this fever will break. It has to in order to preserve the balance of the two-party system. The only question is what that will look like.
News flash: the right has hardly given up. In fact, they've expanded their work to encompass not only the federal government but all 50 states:
Most of the "think tanks" involved in the proposals gathered by the State Policy Network are constituted as 501(c)(3) charities that are exempt from tax by the Internal Revenue Service. Though the groups are not involved in election campaigns, they are subject to strict restrictions on the amount of lobbying they are allowed to perform. Several of the grant bids contained in the Guardian documents propose the launch of "media campaigns" aimed at changing state laws and policies, or refer to "advancing model legislation" and "candidate briefings", in ways that arguably cross the line into lobbying.
The documents also cast light on the nexus of funding arrangements behind radical right-wing campaigns. The State Policy Network (SPN) has members in each of the 50 states and an annual warchest of $83 million drawn from major corporate donors that include the energy tycoons the Koch brothers, the tobacco company Philip Morris, food giant Kraft and the multinational drugs company GlaxoSmithKline.
SPN gathered the grant proposals from the 34 states on 29 July. Ranging in size from requests of $25,000 to $65,000, the plans were submitted for funding to the Searle Freedom Trust, a private foundation that in 2011 donated almost $15m to largely rightwing causes.
The proposals in the grant bids contained in the Guardian documents go beyond a commitment to free enterprise, however. They include:
• "reforms" to public employee pensions raised by SPN thinktanks in Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania
• tax elimination or reduction schemes in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, Nebraska, and New York
• an education voucher system to promote private and home schooling in Florida
• campaigns against worker and union rights in Delaware and Nevada
• opposition to Medicaid in Georgia, North Carolina, and Utah
This really is a matter of stupid amounts of money being devoted to a political ideology. This sort of coordinated, multi-pronged attack at several levels of government could not happen if it weren't for the multi-billionaires who are willing to use their discretionary mad money on political causes. When you're as rich as the Kochs, you can pretty much create a political industry from the ground up and fund it generously. Which is what they are doing.
I don't know what to do about this. It seems almost impossible to stop it, although the democratic process should be able to create some countervailing pressure. But it's hard to imagine that with the kind of resources they have behind them that they will not make at least some progress, in more than a few places, on enacting this agenda. And that's just horrible.
[O]nce you realize how long self-styled centrists have virtually defined their identity in terms of what they imagine is their courage in going after Social Security, you can see why the shifting tides — the rise of Democrats who no longer feel the need to keep the WaPo opinion page happy — are leaving them a bit unhinged.
Ain't it the truth? They're completely off balance. Which goes to show that this whole Overton Window thing is a really good idea just like the hippies always said.
In fact, if anyone's interested in doing some more of this kind of thing, here's an old moldering set of principles we could work from going forward:
It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens.
For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.
I have never understood why this can possibly be allowed under our constitution, but it is:
EARLIER this year Sarah Stillman wrote a first-rate piece in the New Yorker on the abuses of civil asset forfeiture—a practice wherein police seize and keep the property of people who have not been convicted of a crime. The piece opens with the story of Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson, who had their cash taken by authorities in the small town of Tenaha because they "fit the profile of drug couriers", even though no drugs were found in their car nor were they charged with any crime. Despite this, Ms Stillman writes, "The basic principle behind asset forfeiture is appealing. It enables authorities to confiscate cash or property obtained through illicit means, and, in many states, funnel the proceeds directly into the fight against crime."
Those two sentences are true only to the extent that the two key qualifiers in them are true. The first is "obtained through illicit means". That strongly implies not civil, but criminal asset forfeiture, referring to the seizure of property proven in a court of law to have been obtained through illicit means, not to the seizure of whatever property police can concoct a semi-plausible excuse to grab. The standards for civil asset forfeiture are far lower, as Ms Stillman andothershaveinfuriatinglydetailed. Police do not have to successfully prosecute someone, or even charge them with a crime, to seize their assets. The second is "funnel the proceeds directly into the fight against crime." Using a convicted trafficker's Escalade for stakeouts has a certain poetic justice.
Using forfeiture funds as the district attorney's (DA) office in Fulton County, which covers most of Atlanta, is alleged to have done, does not. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the sordid details: $5,600 on a Christmas party; $1,100 for flowers; $3,200 for "sirloin beef tip roast, roasted turkey breast and mini crab cakes with champagne sauce"; $8,200 on a security system for the home of Paul Howard, Fulton's DA; $4,800 for a holiday awards gala held at a "historic Midtown mansion". Mr Howard insists that he has done nothing wrong and that he has wide discretion in how he spends.
This convenient way of financing police agencies' "finer things" first came to my attention over 20 years ago when I first read about the Donald Scott case right here in Malibu:
Early on the morning of October 2, 1992, 31 officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, Border Patrol, National Guard and Park Service entered the Scott's 200-acre ranch. They planned to arrest Scott for allegedly running a 4,000-plant marijuana plantation. When deputies broke down the door to Scott's house, Scott's wife would later tell reporters, she screamed, "Don't shoot me. Don't kill me."That brought Scott staggering out of the bedroom, blurry-eyed from a cataract operation—holding a .38 caliber Colt snub-nosed revolver over his head. When he emerged at the top of the stairs, holding his gun over his head, the officers told him to lower the gun. As he did, they shot him to death. According to the official report, the gun was pointed at the officers when they shot him.
Later, the lead agent in the case, sheriff's deputy Gary Spencer and his partner John Cater posed for photographs smiling arm-in-arm outside Scott's cabin.
Despite a subsequent search of Scott's ranch using helicopters, dogs, searchers on foot, and a high-tech Jet Propulsion Laboratory device for detecting trace amounts of sinsemilla, no marijuana—or any other illegal drug—was found.
Scott's widow, the former Frances Plante, along with four of Scott's children from previous marriages, subsequently filed a $100 million wrongful death suit against the county and federal government. For eight years the case dragged on, requiring the services of 15 attorneys and some 30 volume binders to hold all the court documents. In January 2000, attorneys for Los Angeles County and the federal government agreed to settle with Scott's heirs and estate for $5 million, even though the sheriff's department still maintained its deputies had done nothing wrong.
Michael D. Bradbury, the District Attorney of Ventura County conducted an investigation into the raid and the aftermath, issuing a report on the events leading up to and on October 2, 1992. He concluded that asset forfeiture was a motive for the raid.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department issued their own report in response, clearing everyone involved of wrongdoing while California Attorney General Dan Lungren criticized District Attorney Bradbury. Sheriff Spencer sued D.A. Bradbury for defamation in response to the report. The court ruled in favor of Michael Bradbury and ordered Sheriff Spencer to pay $50,000 in Bradbury's legal bills.
I frankly don't care if they are using the money to buy new SWAT uniforms or pay for swanky parties at the Ritz-Carlton. Police agencies should not have the power to confiscate people's property without due process --- and that means the people in question must be convicted of a crime. It should happen under the aegis of the courts and the assets should not go directly to those who did the confiscating. This is a recipe for official thievery.
The incentives for the sort of misconduct in the examples cited above are obvious. And they are yet another symptom of a justice system that is corrupt and unaccountable. Perhaps it has always been this way, in one respect or another but there's just no excuse for allowing the police to run over the 4th Amendment in a tactical vehicle and then seize the spoils for themselves. Those are the actions of a mercenary army, not police agencies of a democratic republic.
You're not doing your daughters any favors with this stuff, daddies.
I'm sure the intention here is good humor and fatherly concern. It's natural to want to protect your children and I think fathers are especially protective of their little girls.
But this list is an awful lesson for both teen-age boys and teen-age girls. Girls aren't inanimate objects and daughters are not daddy's property. In fact, you could easily substitute "borrow my car" for "date my daughter" in that list and it would make perfect sense. They should be acknowledged as having equal agency in all this. And boys shouldn't be "negotiating" privileges with a girl's father. She's a person and if either boyfriend or daddy are going to be doing any negotiating, it should be with her.
It reminds me of the purity balls especially the princess/conquest thing which, again, reduces the girl in this picture to daddy's private property. It's antediluvian, patriarchal claptrap and modern men should know better. If you have those thoughts, keep them to yourselves and try to help create a world where your daughters don't have to fight to be seen as equal citizens.
Since there are obviously not enough jobs for all the unemployed to fill them, he can only be saying they need to immediately start their new careers as robbers and whores in order to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday he opposes extending unemployment benefits for workers, arguing that it would be a "disservice" to jobless individuals.
"I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they're paid for. If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers," he said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."
It's this twisted Randroid sanctimony that really gets to me. It's bad enough that this creep thinks the unemployed are parasites and moochers. But he has the brass balls to adopt a disgustingly unctuous "compassionate" tone to suggest that he's following Christian teachings by throwing them out on the street.
Several years ago, a senior officer in the CIA clandestine service attended a closed-door conference for overseas operatives. Speakers included case officers who were working in the manner Hollywood usually portrays spies — out on their own.
Most CIA officers abroad pose as U.S. diplomats. But those given what's called non-official cover are known as NOCs, pronounced "knocks," and they typically pose as business executives. At the forum, the NOCs spoke of their cover jobs, their false identities and measures taken to protect them. Few said much about gathering intelligence.
A colleague passed a caustic note to the senior officer. "Lots of business," it read. "Little espionage."
Twelve years after the CIA began a major push to get its operatives out of embassy cubicles and into foreign universities, businesses and other local perches to collect intelligence on terrorists and rogue nations, the effort has been a disappointment, current and former U.S. officials say. Along with other parts of the CIA, the budget of the so-called Global Deployment Initiative, which covers the NOC program, is now being cut.
"It was a colossal flop," a former senior CIA official said in sentiments echoed by a dozen former colleagues, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a classified program.
The CIA spent at least $3 billion on the program, and the number of specially trained spies grew from dozens to hundreds. The entire clandestine service is believed to total about 5,000 people.
But because of inexperience, bureaucratic hurdles, lack of language skills and other problems, only a few of the deep-cover officers recruited useful intelligence sources, several former officers said.
Apparently, the people of Iran (where most of this was focused) are watching Hollywood movies too and exposed most of these spies who were then brought back to the US.
This is unfortunate. Assuming any powerful nation will spy on other countries, this form of HUMINT is the traditional way it's done, with the use of people with knowledge of the relevant culture and politics using well honed skills to seek specific information on the ground. That's a form of intelligence gathering that relies on the heuristic abilities of human beings which, in my opinion, are a lot more nuanced and sophisticated than the NSA dragnet computer models can possibly be.
But that takes training and long term commitment and we don't really want to bother with that when we can spy on everyone in the world and draw conclusions from inferences based upon who knows who and where they drink their coffee. Let's just say the possibility of error is at least as great with this huge data collection as it is when relying on trained spies on the ground. And I would guess that the possibility of missing something more important is greater. Computer analysis is only as good as what it's programmed to analyze. Human beings on the ground would always have a subtler grasp on the reality of any threat.
But it didn't work out apparently. So we're going with this instead:
Aside from the obvious authoritarian concerns I really have to wonder if reliance on this fancy high tech intelligence gathering is going to end up making us less able to understand the complex nature of what it is we're supposed to be spying on: namely, human beings.
Maybe we should have a public-public partnership on health, not a public-private one?
by David Atkins
This is the sort of thing that happens when you do ill-advised public-private kludges instead of commonsense Medicare-style deals between the public and their government:
The California health exchange says it's been giving the names of tens of thousands of consumers to insurance agents without their permission or knowledge in an effort to hit deadlines for coverage.
The consumers in question had gone online to research insurance options but didn't ask to be contacted, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday (http://lat.ms/1jyABXS ).
Officials with Covered California, the exchange set up in response to the federal health law, said they began providing names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses if available this week in a pilot program. They said they thought it would help people meet a Dec. 23 deadline to have health insurance in place by Jan. 1.
The state doesn't know exactly how many people are affected by the information sharing. Social Security numbers, income and other information were not provided to the agents, exchange officials said.
The pilot program meets privacy laws and was cleared by the exchange's legal counsel, Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, told the Times.
But some insurance brokers and consumers weren't pleased with the state's initiative.
"I'm shocked and dumbfounded," said Sam Smith, an Encino insurance broker and president of the California Association of Health Underwriters, an industry group.
"These people would have a legitimate complaint," said Smith, who added he had been given two consumer names.
It's not the biggest deal in the world, but it is a problem. Privacy is at far greater risk when the government is forced to rely on private services that should be a one-stop efficient contract between the people and their elected government.