Thursday, December 19, 2013

How lies about 911 enabled NSA surveillance of American citizens.

Even as a federal judge ruled that the NSA mass data collection of Americans exposed by Edward Snowden is unconstitutional and a panel appointed by Obama released findings calling for the end of the NSA bulk data collection, and as congress prepares to vote on The Freedom Act which would eliminate the NSA's  intrusive mass surveillance, especially when it comes to American citizens, it is useful to remember how we got here.

 General Keith Alexander reminded us of that once again, when, in his most recent appearance before a senate oversight committee and for the upteenth time since the programs were exposed by Edward Snowden, he defended them by invoking the 911 attacks.

 Alexander has repeatedly, in every congressional hearing in which he has given testimony has tried to make the claim that the NSA bulk data collection of Americans phone calls and Internet activity was not in place prior to the 911 attacks and had they been the program would have prevented the 911 attack.

 The assertion is and has been a complete and well documented fabrication and a denial of all the facts surrounding the attacks and prior intelligence.

 Alexander is able to do this because the truth about the 911 attacks brought to light by the 911 Commission hearings were virtually buried because neither the news media nor Democrats, and certainly not Republicans wanted to make an issue of what amounted to the Bush administration ignoring valuable and specific intelligence that would have prevented the attacks in what might have been the worst case of gross negligence by government officials with regards to the national security of the United States in American history.

 Prior to the 911 attacks Bush, Rice and others in the Bush administration  had enough intelligence (without any of the current NSA programs) to have prevented the attacks. They were warned by intelligence officials repeatedly of a massive impending attack against the United States which they dismissed and ignored.

 Its been a dirty little open secret for 12 years, one that neither the news media, Democrats or Republicans have wanted to touch for different reasons preferring instead to perpetuate the lies and myths that there was nothing the Bush administration could have done to stop it.  The Bush administration tried to place the blame on intelligence failures And Alexander has sought to capitalize on those myths.

 The 911 Commission through documents and direct testimony showed that from the day Bush took office terrorism was rejected as a real threat against the United States.  they believed Clinton overstated the danger and their number one national security priority was getting out of the ABM treaty with Russia and reviving Star Wars.

 The Bush administration was so contemptuous of terrorism as a threat  that  during the 911 hearings the assistant director of the FBI testified to the Commission, that when he went to Attorney General John Ashcroft with issues related to Al-Qaeda he said Ashcroft told him, " don't ever come to me with anything related to terrorism again".

 This in spite of the fact that during Bush's transition period, Bush was told by the heads of every intelligence agency in the country as well as former president Bill Clinton and outgoing national security advisor Sandy Berger that Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were the biggest threat to U.S. national security in the world
  Bush and Rice dismissed it and in fact one of Bush's first decisions regarding terrorism when he took office was to demote Richard Clarke, the White House anti-terrorism chief for 20 years under Reagan, Bush 41 and Clinton,  from cabinet level status to sub cabinet status reducing his access to the president. Bush also dissolved what Clarke called the Meeting of the Principals, where on a daily basis, the heads of every government agency related to terrorism -- the Attorney General, Director of CIA, FBI, ATF, Immigration etc. would  have a meeting chaired by Clarke and share all the terrorist related intelligence received by each agency in the previous 24 hours.

 One of the biggest criticisms the 911 Commission had under Bush was a lack of sharing of intelligence between agencies. That was a direct result of Bush's decision to end what had been a top priority during the Clinton administration.

 Testimony and documents further showed that in July of 2001, CIA intercepts of Al-Qaeda traffic so concerned CIA Director George Tenant so much he sought an emergency meeting with then national security advisor Rice to discuss it.  Rice testified she didn't remember the meeting though White House logs showed it took place.

 From July on and with increasing frequency intercepts by the CIA that the United States was about to be hit with a major terrorist attack were so dire that Richard Clarke testified that in August of 2001 he and Tenant were " running around the White House like men with their hair on fire" trying to warn Bush and Rice of the impending attack.   One of the CIA translations of an Al-Qaeda intercept in August of 2001 was " the match has been lit".

 Another intercept in August of 2001 indicated that the U.S. was about to be hit with a major Al-Qaeda attack and that the attack, in the words of the CIA translator, was going to be "spectacular".

 The coup de grace, was the August 6,2001 Presidential Daily Briefing, a collection of reports from all the intelligence agencies in one briefing given to the president that represents what the intelligence agencies think is the most important for the president to have. This briefing was entitled  " Bin Laden Determined to Strike Within the United States".

 In this briefing  (which can be accessed online), Bush and Rice were told that not only that there was intelligence that  Al-Qaeda was going to attack within the United States, it presented intelligence  that Al-Qaeda cells were already in the United States, that they had been observed in New York City putting office buildings under surveillance, and, unbelievably told Bush and Rice that the plan to attack inside the United States was going to involve the hijacking of U.S. commercial airliners. And remember, this was within the same time frame that  Clarke and Tenant were  "running around the White House like men with their hair on fire"  armed with the CIA intercepts confirming an Al-Qaeda attack was imminent.

 Incomprehensibly, Bush and Rice did nothing and Bush went on vacation to Crawford.

 In her testimony before the 911 Commission when Rice was asked pointedly about having the intelligence that Al-Qaeda planned to hijack  commercial airliners as part of their attack on the U.S.  by committee counsel Richard Ben Veniste, her answer was " we had no idea they were going to use the planes as missiles".

 Like hijacking U.S. airliners and holding hostages or threatening the lives of hundreds if not thousands of passengers was something to be dismissed?

 It was during this testimony that Rice uttered her now famous line that became an overused Washington and news media cliche when she said "we couldn't connect the dots".

 To this day almost everyone in the news media and in politics who appropriated that metaphor, including General Alexander who invoked being able to "connect the dots" at least four times in his last congressional appearance, never fully understood the full meaning of Rice's remark.

 Rice is a highly educated person with a highly sophisticated vocabulary. She could have chosen any metaphor or combination of words to express the failure of the Bush administration to stop the attacks. But a case can be made that " we couldn't connect the dots" was an unintended confession on her part that, far from their being intelligence failures,  they simply dropped the ball.

 Connecting the dots is after all, a child's game. A series of dots is in front of you, each one with a number and all one has to do is draw a line from one dot to the other in consecutive order  to see the whole picture. Rice admitted that they couldn't do that. In fact they didn't even try.

One wonders what the future might have been had the news media or even Democrats  for that matter gone after the Bush administration for ignoring the intelligence they had in the 911 attacks with even half the ferocity they used in going after Anthony Weiner over his online sex chats.  There is a real possibility Bush and Cheney might not have  finished out their first term.  At the very least they would have lost to John Kerry in 2004 and the course of history would have been dramatically changed.  And it would have never led to the NSA bulk data collection and their intrusive surveillance into innocent American citizens because  it was only after the 911 attacks that the NSA got its marching orders from Bush and Cheney.

For a brief moment during Alexander's senate testimony,  senator Patrick Leahy addressed Alexander's attempts at misrepresenting the facts surrounding  911 as justification for the NSA programs  having not been in place prior to 911 when Leahy replied that at the time  "the FBI alone had enough information" so that"anyone with "half a brain" could have used that intelligence to have prevented  the 911 attacks. 

Leahy didn't press the point beyond that, dismissed Alexander's 911 assertions, and moved on to his next question. The congress, in its vote on the Freedom Act  in January, will have the final answer

NOTE: A Federal judge in New York, in a law suit filed by the ACLU issued a ruling contrary to the one issued by a federal judge in Washington, and found the NSA data collection legal. In a bizarre ruling which the ACLU is appealing, the judge seemed to ignore his sole purpose which was to rule on law and constitutionality and instead, his rulling was filled with his own personal opinions of the value of the program. What was notable, was that in that ruling, he too cited the 911 attacks and that the government did not have the data collection program in place at the time, again ignoring the facts that the Bush Administration had more than enough intelligence to stop the attacks at the time without the meta data collection and simply failed to act.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dishonest distortions of Obamacare from the New York Times editorial board.

As has already been documented here on previous occasions,  the New York Times editorial board, in a number of editorials praising Obamacare have either been badly out of touch with reality or instead choose simply to distort it. And they remind us again to consider the source -- a group of people whose medical insurance is taken care of by the New York Times Company and so will never have need of Obamacare while pontificating on how good it is for everyone else.

In it's most recent editorial in praise of Obamacare and its "success", this is how the editors of the NY Times chooses to frame the most recent set of facts: 

"At the current rate, more than a million people may (italics mine) select private health plans by Jan. 1, the earliest date the new policies can take effect. That’s fewer than the administration had originally hoped, but surprisingly robust given the start-up troubles."    

Characterizing the sign ups of more than a million "at the current rate" as "fewer" than the administration had hoped  is an understatement so preposterous as to reduce the editorial to a PR release.

What the administration had hoped for was 7 million sign ups by the end of the year.  Even with the glitches in the web site, calling one million sign ups out of a hoped for number of 7 million simply "fewer"  is not journalism. It's not even opinion anyone can respect. It is propagandizing, distorting facts, and in essence leaving out or sugar coating inconvenient facts that reveal just how badly Obamacare is doing.  As Warren Buffet predicted it would. And justifying Howard Dean's calling for Democrats to "junk" the bill that became Obamacare and pass the public option.

As for their editorializing that the sign ups are "suprisingly robust" that too is pure distortion. What the Times editorial fails to point out is that while boasting of 803,000 expanded Medicaid sign ups  out of the total 1.2 million sign ups at the Obamacare web site, Medicaid sign ups are in no way a reflection or barometer of success for Obamacare. And for three reasons.

 First and foremost,  for Obamacare to succeed at all, it is entirely dependent on signing up all 32 million uninsured into private healthcare insurance policies that they must buy -- not Medicaid enrollments.  The 365,000 non-Medicaid enrollments represents only 1% of the number needed to make Obamacare successful on its own terms. Which, even then, wouldnt produce real healthcare reform.

Medicaid enrollments, while expanding Medicaid eligibility to a more reasonable qualifying income (133% of the poverty line), will do nothing to make Obamacare successful. Only all of the 32 million uninsured purchasing health insurance can do that. And right now  the number of enrollments based on all applications filled out is less that 3%.And, as pointed out earlier only 1% of what's needed, based on the most recent figures of 365,000 plans purchased nationwide.

Based on every indication, signing up all 32 million uninsured is never going to happen. In fact Obama will be lucky to get 10% of that number, which would still be a disaster for Obamacare. And no surprise given the low end polices being offered by insurance companies  offering skimpy coverage for exorbitant premiums and high deductibles and co-pays, and offers very little government help by way of subsidies for people making $40,000 a year or more.  Based on what's been offered, it is almost a certainty that people who do not have health insurance now because they cant afford it will never buy into this mess. And the numbers show it.

Without the young, healthy uninsured putting their money into the pool to offset the costs for the elderly and chronically or catastrophically ill, insurance premiums will sky rocket in the future for those who already had insurance prior to Obamacare,  to pay for the mandates involving pre-existing conditions and eliminating the cap on coverage. And the vast majority of the 32 million will remain uninsured, adding to the cost of healthcare.

The second reason Medicaid sign ups do not contribute to any success of Obamacare is that Medicaid expansion would have been unnecessary under the public option, the healthcare plan a vast majority of Americans wanted, that Obama and the Democrats had the votes to pass, but which Obama sold out to the health insurance lobby in perhaps the most egregious sell out of a public policy and cave in by a publicly elected official to a lobbying group in American history.
 Under the public option,  those who are now qualifying for Medicaid would have gotten the same free healthcare coverage without expanding Medicaid while everyone else would have had the option for Medicare-like coverage for a fraction of what they're paying now, something that would have lowered health care costs,(something Obamacare doesn't even touch) and would have been a boon to business whose skyrocketing health care costs are paid for by consumers in the cost of goods and services. 

The third reason Medicaid expansion is no indication of success for Obamacare is that the same Medicaid expansion could have been passed as a standalone without Obamacare whose entire reason for being is to get the uninsured to buy insurance from the health insurance companies who are the ones who set the premiums and conditions. Given that less than 3% of people who do get to the web site and fill out applications sign up for insurance company polices once they see what's being offered, more access to the web site will not mean a higher percentage of enrollments. 

The NY Times editorial board have consistently been out of touch with the healthcare debate,as well as reality and the gross flaws and failures of Obamacare that go far beyond its web site as evidenced by a quotation from one of its past editorials which  cited that "the premiums being offered through Obamacare  may not be bargain basement prices, but it is like shopping at Filene's".

That's something sure to give comfort to a family of four in Mississippi with an income of $40,000 a year looking at premiums of $1,069 a month under Obamacare. Or the single person making $40,000 a year in New York City looking at  a silver plan, the next to cheapest plan on the exchanges, offering health insurance for $611 a month with a $6,000 deductible and 40% co-pay.

What the Times editorial board ought to do is tell the truth about the serious endemic failures of Obamacare, its almost certain demise and to tell the truth about Obama's cave in on the public option. And point out the price Democrats have paid and are still paying for going along with the Obama-Pelosi sell out,  and to start advocating for the public option, the healthcare reform that would have had none of the current and future problems of Obamacare and would have constituted real reform.  And they could start rallying Democrats to promise to pass the public option if they gain control of the House in 2014.  Because if they don't , and can't get out from under Obamacare as they need to, they could get wiped out of congress in 2014 just like they did in 2010. And for the same reason -- Obamacare instead of the public option.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Obama's Iran Deal: If you like your nuclear reactor you can keep it.

With all of the embarrassing, fumbling and high profile problems of the Obamacare web site and the stark failures of Obamacare as a policy so far,(less than 2% of those setting up accounts are enrolling)   some may think comparing the glaring flaws and gitches with Obamacare and its implementation to the nuclear agreement with Iran  is overly simplistic, a cheap shot or even a low blow.  It isn't.

 The two have very real similarities and threaten to have very similar outcomes, failed outcomes that were predictable and are both very much the product of Obama's  flawed approach and thinking when it comes to important issues and solving problems often sacrificing something real just to have a deal an adversary can accept.  Which is why both have become equally worrisome  and have about the same chance of succeeding and accomplishing what they promised.

 Just as the Obamacare roll out and web site was fraught with problems and glitches from the beginning,  the Iran agreement  is hardly two weeks old but from the very beginning started to fray. And for much the same reasons.

 And as was the case with Obamacare, the nuclear deal shows a lack of planning, a lack of foresight, miscalculations, imprecise language and most  important of all does not solve the problem it was supposed to solve.

 The ink hadn't even  dried on the nuclear agreement before  Iran claimed the deal said one thing and the Obama administration claimed it said the opposite.

 Iran's foreign minister said the deal explicitly gave Iran the right to enrich uranium. Kerry said it didn't. Iran's foreign minister said the agreement explicitly removed the threat of military force by United States against Iran. Kerry said it didn't.

Iran said the deal specifically allows them to continue to operate their heavy water reactors (which are needed only to enrich uranium to weapons grade level). The White House says it doesn't.  And Iran's foreign ministry put out a statement saying that the outline of the specifics of the deal posted by Obama on the White House web site "are not true".  To call this getting off to a rocky start is something of a gross understatement.

There is already ample evidence that the Iran deal, like Obamacare, is rife with misjudgments,  lack of foresight, but most of all, like Obamacare, is a capitulation and compromise to an adversary who was the sole source of the problem when no capitulation or compromise was necessary.

 Just as it had been the insurance companies and their Draconian practices of high premiums, caps on coverage and denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions which had been the core problem, only to see Obama drop the public option which had overwhelming support and which solved those problems simply to make a deal that the insurance companies were pleased with,  it has been Iran and their belligerence and military threats to wipe their adversaries "off the face of the earth" that has made their nuclear enrichment program and it's potential military use the sole source of the problem.

 And like  Obamacare,   Obama's  Iran deal does nothing to solve the problem. Which is solely to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

 Just as Obamacare does nothing to lower the cost of healthcare and favors insurance companies by letting them offer policies to the uninsured at prices they themselves choose,  the Iran agreement, even as a preliminary one, favors Iran, reduces leverage by easing sanctions and does nothing to stop Iran's weapons grade nuclear program.

 And like Obamacare, which was Obama's substitute for the public option, for many the Iran deal represents a wasted opportunity.

 But unlike Obamacare, opposition to the Iran deal has been led by Democrats, been very vocal, even fierce in its opposition, and has bipartisan support.

 Democratic senator Chuck Schumer said he was "disappointed" with the deal. Republican congressman and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Peter King called it "a serious strategic mistake".  Republican congressman and House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers said it was "a serious mistake". Democratic senator Robert Menedez is calling for tougher sanctions in spite of the deal and is drafting a senate bill to do just that over Obama's objections.   Republican senator Lindsay Graham doesn't like the deal either. Neither does Israel or Saudi Arabia. So it's no wonder that Iran sees it as a "win" and made a point of saying how "pleased" it was with the deal.

 You don't have to be an expert on nuclear proliferation or geopolitics to understand the ramifications of Iran saying how "pleased"  it is. Just like Karen Ignagni, the chief Washington lobbyist for the health insurance industry said how "pleased" she was that Obama dropped the public option for Obamacare.   When the adversaries and source of the problem are "pleased" its a pretty good indication the deal  isn't what it should be and someone is getting screwed. And it's not the adversary.

 Given the issues and the leverage the sanctions provided with Iran, there should have been no agreement that would cause the Iranian government to be "pleased". Iran caused the problem themselves. They were the ones making threats. They are responsible for the sanctions against them.  Iran's choices should have been, shut down the centrifuges and heavy water reactor used to enrich weapons grade uranium  in return for easing sanctions or face more sanctions. The deal should have been either or. They can't have both. Except for now, based on this deal,  they do.

 That Obama has tried to defend the deal by saying its the product of "clear eyed principled diplomacy" when there is complete disagreement between the principals as to what the agreement actually says, is enough to prove it's anything but clear eyed and principled.

 And a close look at Obama's statement bears that out. Obama, who seems to spend a lot of time trying to craft language that gives him a way out in case of failure, has said that the deal will "help prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon".

 The problem is "will help prevent" is very different from "will prevent" which  is the only thing that matters. And the only thing that "will prevent" Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is for Iran to shut down it's centrifuges and heavy water reactors. And this agreement doesn't do that. In fact, it looks more and more like  Obama's deal with Iran is "if you like your nuclear reactor you can keep it".

There are already bipartisan bills in the senate, sponsored by Democrats Robert Menedez and Chuck Schumer and with strong Republican support, that take the agenda away from Obama and slap Iran with even tighter sanctions in spite of Obama's deal, both recognizing history and refusing to repeat it as well as recognizing Einstein's definition of insanity of doing the same things over again and expecting different results.

Had Democrats did the same in 2009 when Obama was caving in to the health insurance lobby, taken the agenda away and passed the public option which they had the votes to pass instead of falling into line behind Pelosi, they wouldn't be dealing with the policy and political disaster that is Obamacare today and will be in the future. They won't do the same with Iran.

NOTE: Democratic senator Robert Menedez and Republican senator Mark Kirk announced they are about to introduce legislation that would limit Obama's ability to waive sanctions and automatically reimpose sanctions on Iran in six months if Iran renegs on the deal.

Tellingly, Iran has said that such legislation will "kill the deal" just completed even if the legislation wouldn't take effect for six months and only if Iran attempted deception.

If Iran is threatening to kill the deal because of legislation that would hold them accountable for any deception regarding their nuclear program, it only serves to re-enforce what's wrong with the deal.  And if that's the case, maybe its better to kill the deal now rather than continue the deception and put Obama in a position of  waffling over another red line six months from now.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

In JFK remembrances two historians explode the myth of Obama as inspirational.

No one intended it. It wasn't said to make a political point. It was said by two different accomplished presidential historians in two different  venues at two different times. But their message was the same. Obama is neither the inspirational leader that those who supported him in and out of the news media tried to convince themselves and others he was (and some still do) nor is he a president of any accomplishment.

When Obama ran for the Democratic nomination and later for president, many promoted Obama's speeches as examples of "soaring rhetoric" when, to anyone who was really paying attention, his speeches  said  little or nothing but used so many $20 words, people who couldn't think for themselves pretended they were meaningful and that they understood
While true profound ideas are expressed simply and with 10c words that express priceless ideas ( "do unto others as you would have others do unto you", "we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal" " I dream of a day when people will be judged by the content of their character not the color of their skin")  Obama used $20 words and meandering syntax to do what $20 words and meandering syntax are often meant to do -- cover up the fact that they are saying nothing real or of any value.

Robert Dallek the noted presidential historian in an op-ed piece in the New York Times, in assessing Kennedy's presidency and his ability to inspire wrote:  "compared with other recent presidents whose stumbles and failures have assaulted the national self-esteem, memories of Kennedy continue to give the country faith that its best days are still ahead".
Stumbles and failures that assault the national esteem are pretty harsh words. But given the presidencies of both Bush and Obama, those words are accurate.

Historian Douglas Brinkley,  in a television interview after listening to a reading of some of Kennedy's speeches at the Dallas memorial  event said: "We're looking for an inspirational leader like we had with Kennedy and now when we need one the most we can't find one."
About as harsh a criticism of Obama and what his "brand" was supposed to be as one can get. Though his brand, to anyone who was paying attention during the Democratic primary was more shady used car salesman than anything presidential.

Obviously Obama was not the only recent president Dallek was referring to since it's clear that both Bush and Obama share the honors.

Eight years of the George W. Bush presidency which included ignoring ample warnings of the 911 attacks which could have been prevented, the unnecessary war in Iraq  which was the result of intentional deception, the fiasco that was Katrina and the worst economic collapse since the depression, didn't make anyone feel warm and fuzzy about the Bush years.
But it was the Obama candidacy, and the Obama presidency to those who believed the empty rhetoric, that was supposed to be one of  inspiration. At least that's what the press and the slightly less than half of the Democratic party that made up Obama's supporters were trying to sell during the primaries.

Though there is no denying the symbolism of electing to the presidency a man who wouldn't have been able to get a cup of coffee at a southern lunch counter 50 years ago, aside from that, national inspiration was supposed to be Obama's biggest selling point. As both historians point, it doesn't exist.And never did.

Though neither historian had the intention of  exposing Obama as being far from the inspirational leader he and so many of his supporters pretended,  in a moment of total candor and honesty, and moved by the power and true inspiration of Kennedy's speeches like his speech on the value of the arts and how a country  that made the world a better place is more likely to be remembered for its art, literature and poetry than for its wars, and the Kennedy speech that defined the commitment and inspiration to go to the moon, the need to open new lines of communication with the Soviet Union to avoid nuclear war by recognizing the humanity of the people of each country, and his inauguration speech calling for sacrifice, the comparisons to what the country had then and what the country has now and what the country has been missing, for the last 13 years was too stark to ignore.

Since  both historians spoke spontaneously from the heart, its likely that what the political game show hosts on television like to refer to as "Obama's legacy" has already started to be written. And so far, once one gets past the obvious issue of race and what Obama's election meant on that score, it's not very pretty.

At a time when these historians and the country were once again appreciating Kennedy's inspirational words,  ideas and leadership, it's revealing of the state the country is in now that the words from Obama that people are quoting the most are:
 "If you like your health insurance you can keep it".


As if to underscore the point and how pointless comparing those two presidents are, in a minor but humorous, yet also telling episode that seems to repeat itself regularly, Obama is now backtracking and reversing a claim in 2011 that he never met or knew an uncle from Kenya who claimed Obama had stayed with him during a dispute the uncle was having with Immigration over being deported.

 Now we are told Obama admits that he does know the dear uncle, that he did in fact live with him when he began attending Harvard and gee, the whole thing was just some misunderstanding because, according to Jay Carney no one had actually asked Obama back in 2011 if he knew his uncle and simply put out the statement that he didnt on their own.

In essence saying to the uncle "ask not what the White House can do for you but what you can do for the White House". Meaning Obama says he is staying out of the dispute between his new found uncle and Immigration.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What's Been Overlooked About Oswald for the Last 50 Years.

No crime in history has undergone the scrutiny of the Kennedy assassination. And no assassin, accused assassin or would be assassin ( depending on your point of view) has undergone more scrutiny than Lee Harvey Oswald. Yet for all the books written, all the studies done,all the articles written, all the forensic experiments and re-enactments created to help find the truth,  there are two glaring facts about Oswald and the assassination that has never before been mentioned much less undergone the same kind of scrutiny.

The original conclusion of the Warren Report, as everyone knows,  was that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, as a lone nut assassin, killed president John F. Kennedy. But something doesn't fit, something that doesn't necessarily point to innocence, but it does debunk the idea of Oswald as a "lone nut assassin".

History is littered with lone nut assassins. It's never been a one of a kind occurrence. Going back to John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's assassin, Charles Guiteau the assassin of president James Garfield in 1881, the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand, the  assassination of Ghandi,  attempted assassinations of  FDR, Pope John, two attempts on Gerald Ford by Squeaky From and Sarah Jane Moore, president Reagan by John Hinkley, John Lennon by John David Chapman,  Robert Kennedy by Sirhan, George Wallace by Arthur Bremer,  all of them were considered "lone nut assassins" and all shared at least one common trait and most shared two. Neither of them applied to Oswald.

First, except for John Wilkes Booth,  none tried to escape. In fact their method of  assassination or attempted assassination ensured they couldn't escape since they carried out their assassinations in a crowd in front of hundreds or even thousands of witnesses.And that also  includes Booth who carried out his assassination in a crowded theater.

None, except for Booth, even contemplated escape.  And except for Booth all were apprehended on the spot. In fact, in the case of Chapman, he actually remained at the scene and waited for the police to arrive to arrest him. And what better example of the profile of the lone nut assassin than Jack Ruby himself who shot and killed Oswald in a crowd, in front of TV cameras and in a police station no less,  packed with cops and reporters with no hope,possibility or even a contemplation of escape.

And though Booth did plan his escape, Booth let it be known that he was the assassin by leaping to the stage, waving his gun, and shouting the words "sic semper tyrannis ", Latin for "thus be to tyrants". It was an act for which Booth made a point of taking credit.

Which brings us to the second characteristic shared by all of the worlds previously known "lone nut assassins" except for Oswald.  None ever denied or even attempted to deny or even wanted  to deny, their crime.

And in all cases, including Booth's they all willingly gave their bizarre or twisted motives,  whether it was Chapman's accusing Lennon of "being a phony" after reading Catcher in the Rye, or Hinkley's desire to impress Jodi Foster, or the political motives behind the assassinations of Lincoln,  the Archduke Ferdinand, William McKinley,and James Garfield, or the attempts on the life of Gerald Ford by the bizarre  Squeaky From and Sarah Jane Moore. Even James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King confessed to the killing ( though he was never categorized as a "the lone nut assassin" and in fact many still believe he was a hired killer).? Even Ruby gave his motive for killing Oswald.  They all had their reasons and all freely expressed them. Except for Lee Harvey Oswald.

And the irony of that, if irony is what it is, is that  no one was more politically motivated or carried more political baggage than Oswald.

Oswald had defected to the Soviet Union, had learned Russian and married a Russian. He was also suspected of being a double agent by the Soviets. He returned to the United States and while living in Dallas had gone to Mexico and tried to gain entrance to the Soviet embassy in Mexico who refused him.  And he was well  known in New Orleans for his support of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. He was an avowed Marxist and anyone who has heard his radio interviews explaining his political positions about Marxism and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee will hear Oswald as articulate and with well thought out,  firmly held positions. His was not the rambling incoherent ravings of a mad man. He had  firm, radical political beliefs and he knew how to express them.  And he expressed them without fear even though his views were completely incompatible with America and America's ideals.

It is hard to imagine that Oswald, given his political background, his motives,  and his demonstrable ability in handling radio interviews, his ability to communicate and his lack of fear of espousing his unpopular political views, that with the eyes and ears of the entire world  focused only on him,  knowing every word he uttered before the cameras would be taken down, shown, broadcast and repeated all over the world, not just for that time but for all time, that in this moment when he had the opportunity to espouse his radical Marxist philosophy and sympathy for Cuba to the world, and that these were the political views that motivated him to carry out the assassination, all that came out of his mouth was " No sir, I didn't shoot anybody" and in response to " did you shoot the president", said, " no, I didn't know anything about that until a reporter asked me about it".

He also said " I'm just a patsy". Not exactly the kind of grandiose statement one might expect from a highly motivated and deranged radical political  presidential assassin.   He also complained that he wasn't allowed to take a shower, that a police officer hit him and requested that "someone come forward to give me legal assistance".

Not the actions, statements or behavior of any of the well documented "lone nut assassins" of the past.

Which, again, is not to say that Oswald is innocent.  His actions are proof enough that he was no innocent bystander. He knew something.  But  it is to say that the facts are the facts. And they don't add up. Lone nut assassins do not try and escape. Lone nut assassins do not deny their crime.

The Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone nut assassin and after decades of  scrutiny and re-examination of physical evidence and without any better of an explanation,  this is now the accepted truth.  Yet all of Oswald's  actions, statements and behavior post assassination, from leaving the scene and trying to escape without an escape plan, to denying any role in the assassination,  is completely out of step with the well established profile of the lone nut assassin since 1865.

Given Oswald's well documented radical political and anti-American views,that he assassinated president Kennedy motivated by those views and then didn't take the opportunity to disseminate those views to a waiting world wide audience or to use those views to justify his actions still needs to be explained.
It will have to be up to others to try to explain it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

How Obamacare broke it's promise to America but tried to keep it to the health insurance companies.

In spite of everything being said in the media, Obama's broken promise wasn't "if you like your health plan you can keep it".  The mainstream news media proving again to be inept and incompetent, still haven't realized Obama made that statement in town hall meetings promoting the public option in June, July and August of 2009, not about Obamacare which didnt even exist at the time.

 It was never a promise to being with. It was a statement Obama made to rebut Republican disinformation that the public option was " a government take over of health care". In response Obama tried (weakly) to make the point that the public option was just that -- an option being offered that people could take or leave. It was going to be a choice on the insurance exchanges. No one would be forced to enroll in the public option.  In his words at the time, the public option was something they could choose instead of their current insurance but if they liked their current health plan they could keep it (Obama could have said, " if you like your health insurance there is something sincerely wrong with you since you are being price gouged, dropped,  excluded if you have a pre-existing condition, your benefits are capped, you are forced to pay high deductibles and are generally getting screwed". He could have said that but he didnt.)

 What's interesting about the current media storm over this "promise", if not actually amusing, is that with Obamacare unraveling more each day, not just with the web site but with predictably anemic enrollments as it was destined to with sticker shock rates for limited coverage for the previously uninsured (yes I know, somewhere in Kankakee Illinois there is a woman who got a good deal - spare me the link to DailyKos) Obama has decided he would rather take all this hell from the news media, Republicans and some Democrats about a "broken promise" he never originally made about Obamacare rather than remind people  that he had first said it about the public option and replaced it to appease the health insurance industry who in the end was instrumental in writing Obamacare as admitted by Karen Ignani, chief lobbyist for the health insurance industry in the Frontline documentary, "Obama's Deal".

And he also probably doesn't want to remind people that none of the problems plaguing Obamacare now would have ever happened under the public option. There would have been no cancellation of policies because there would have been no mandate that insurance companies do anything to improve their policies. All of those mandates and a lot more were already incorporated in the public option. Insurance companies could either change their policies on their own, voluntarily in order to compete, or risk losing customers to the public option which was going to offer much more comprehensive coverage and no exclusions at a fraction of the price. Exactly what Republicans , always the defenders of big business wanted to prevent.

 At the time poll after poll showed that more people wanted the public option than wanted Obama to be president. The last polls taken in February of 2010 after all the misinformation and lies Republicans were allowed to get away without media rebuttal,  ("death panels" and "pulling the plug on grandma" to name two) all showed 58% wanted the public option. Obama was elected with 54% of the vote. And still Obama caved in and congressional Democrats stupidly went along.

Which is why, unless Democrats do the right thing now and start doing it soon,  they will be in big trouble in 2014. As much trouble as they were in 2010 when they were wiped out of congress because of their failure to deliver on the public option when they had the votes. And the right thing is to start telling the truth -- that what they really wanted to pass was the public option (true), that they had the votes but that Obama capitulated to the health insurance industry and that it was a mistake to go along.  And the real fix is to do what should have been done in the first place and replace Obamacare with genuine healthcare reform with the public option, which would provide low cost comprehensive health care to everyone who wanted it while lowering health care costs ( something Obamacare doesnt even touch) and at the same time according to the CBO, lowering the deficit by $160 billion. There would have been many other economic benefits as well to individuals as well as business.

So  Obama's real broken promise had nothing to do with canceled policies. It was dropping the public option in what amounted to the biggest bait and switch in the history of  government policy. And Obama doesn't want to remind anyone of any of this.

Ironically, or maybe not so ironically,  Obama is now breaking his promise to the health insurance industry too, trying to undo the mandate for minimum standards for coverage that insurance companies must offer.   He wants insurance companies to allow holders of the old policies with the old coverage to keep them to get out from under the political heat. The insurance companies have said that could  be a disaster and could destabilize the markets since their current premiums and coverages have all been based on those policies being changed with new premiums to go with them.

In other words Obamacare is a mess on every front, getting worse, and unraveling by the minute and it cant be saved. Nor should it. When those who blindly endorse it compare it what was before, they are missing the point. Obamacare needs to be compared to the public option and what could have been, not what went before which included absurdities like $75 for an asprin if you were hospitalized.

When the web site does get up and running and the enrollments continue to be so small as to completely destroy the concept (all 32 million uninsured have to buy in or Obamacare doesn't work) , this mess of a healthcare law will finally sink under its own weight.The question will be how soon will Democrats use the lifeboats and do they have anyone who knows how to navigate them. Pelosi doesn't, and based on history there arent too many Democratic strategists who know either.

 Nancy Pelosi, who in 2008 said that Obama "had the judgement to be president from day one"  deserves a lot of the blame. She had once said that the public option that was "the centerpiece of healthcare reform". In the end, she caved to Obama's cave in, forcing Democrats opposed to Obamacare into voting for something they didnt like. Compare that to how Tea Party conservatives in the House refuse to vote for anything they feel is at odds with their agenda even if it means opposing their own Speaker.

 Pelosi led Democrats over the cliff in the 2010 elections  by  betraying her own conscience and the promises Democrats made, and predicably, Democrats were wiped out  in 2010 because of it by not passing the public option.

 What happened in 2010 could happen in 2014 unless Democrats do the right thing, find some strategists that know how,  support the public option as the only real fix, and keep their promise to the American people to have the healthcare reform they should have passed in the first place. And keep up the attack on Republicans for not wanting any. They can't continue to support Obamacare, a policy even Howard Dean had called "junk". Even if it means throwing Obama and Obamacare under the bus. Better late than never.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dianne Feinstein's Snowden hypocrisy.

Edward Snowden's disclosures has exposed more than just abuses by the NSA. It's exposed abuses and the worst kind of hypocrisy among those in the U.S. government whose responsibility was to conduct oversight of the NSA and it's activities and none had more congressional responsibility and is guilty of more hypocrisy than Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the senate Intelligence Committee.

 Feinstein, who had supported and defended everything the NSA was doing after the initial revelations by Edward Snowden appeared in The Guardian was one of the first to call Snowden a traitor for his disclosures. Recently she became suddenly "outraged" after learning,  via another of Snowden's disclosures,  that her friend, German Chancellor Angela Merkle had had her phone tapped by the NSA since 2002.

 Feinstein had no such reaction when similar disclosures were made about Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff , and more to the point, had no such reaction to the disclosures that hundreds of millions of communications of innocent American citizens were being warehoused by the NSA right under the nose of Feinstein's alleged oversight.   Making Feinstein's outrage not just selective but personal.

 So now, in spite of having called Snowden a traitor,  she has said she is going to conduct an extensive review of NSA activities by her Intelligence Committee (an oxymoron if there ever was one)  in addition to publicly  supporting president Obama's decision for a complete review of NSA activities all as the result of the disclosures provided by Edward Snowden.

 Yet despite her own decision to review NSA activities, despite her support of Obama's review of NSA activities, despite Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner's new legislation to end the activities Snowden revealed,  despite the uniting of such disparate political entities as the ACLU and the National Rifle Association who are banding together to ensure  the legislation Sensenbrenner has drafted passes, despite all this, when Feinstein was asked on a political talk show last week if Snowden should receive clemency instead of being charged with espionage, her answer was a firm "no."

 Her reason?

  "He was trusted; he stripped our system; he had an opportunity – if what he was (sic) a whistle-blower – to pick up the phone and call the House intelligence committee, the Senate intelligence committee, and say I have some information but “that didn't happen.”

 Maybe it didn't happen because Snowden saw James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence commit perjury in front of a senate intelligence subcommittee without apparent fear of consequences to cover up the very issues Snowden was concerned about. Not exactly the kind of thing that would inspire confidence in Snowden or anyone else to go through channels and certainly not to Feinstein, who, in the words of Democratic congressman Alan Grayson, exercised "more overlook than oversight".

Feinstein ignores the effect that Clapper committing perjury would have on someone who felt the NSA was committing abuses and overstepping the bounds of the constitution and it's own mandate, and preposterously Feinstein says Snowden should be prosecuted for not going through channels or going to her.

 Feinstein, Clapper and Alexander have already proved that going through channels would not only have been useless it probably have subjected Snowden to punishment and at the very least his job. The only reason anything is getting done to correct the abuses is not because of anything Feinstein would have done, but only because Snowden went to The Guardian and not Feinstein.

Feinstein is also oblivious to the  case of of NSA employee  Thomas Drake who did try to go through channels to expose egregious wastes of money by the NSA (over $1 billion) , had his concerns ignored by higher ups and finally went to the Baltimore Sun to turn over the information he had. He was prosecuted for espionage by Obama's justice department, (Obama has prosecuted twice the number of Americans for espionage than the entire number of espionage prosecutions since the law's inception in 1917)  then after turning down 2 plea deals offered by the government, finally accepted a 3rd, to plead guilty to a misdemeanor of unauthorized access to a government computer which  showed how weak the government's espionage case was.  But not before the government ruined him financially and cost him his job and put him through hell which also caused his marriage to fall apart.  And Feinstein thinks Snowden should have subjected himself to that? For nothing? So that Feinstein could defend the very abuses Snowden revealed which the congress is now going to change only because he went to The Guardian and not her ( nor any American news outlet it should be pointed out).

And while talking about Snowden and prosecution, what about James Clapper? Feinstein, like Obama, like Lindsay Graham and others,  only pays lip service to the idea that the United States is a country of laws not people, insisting Snowden should be prosecuted for his unauthorized disclosures of the abuses James Clapper lied about under oath to hide from congress and for which Clapper has seen no consequences. Showing that that there is a Palace Guard mentality at the White House where laws only apply to some people.

Feinstein says Snowden had other choices besides giving the documents to the Guardian, then chooses to  ignore the fact that Clapper had other choices too besides committing perjury. Clapper had the questions he was going to be asked a day in advance and could have asked to be questioned in closed or executive session if he didn't want the answers made public and could have told the truth.  But he didn't. He didnt want the oversight committee to know the truth.  Instead he chose to commit perjury, which seems to be perfectly okay with Feinstein's idea of justice and accountablility.

Clapper's perjury also raises other serious questions.  In an article published in The Guardian and quoted elsewhere, former Wyden communications director, Jennifer Hoelzer who herself at one time had a top secret security clearance,  said she believes that Clapper's decision to lie under oath to congress was not made by him alone. " I am highly skeptical that Clapper's decision to lie was made unilaterally".

The implications of that, if true, are extremely serious since there are only two other people above Clapper in the government  of any consequence he could have discussed his future perjury with, one of whom would be Susan Rice, the National Security advisor, and one other person who could have made Clapper comfortable that he would never be prosecuted for the perjury or face consequences. And could guarantee it.  Which  opens up a whole other can of worms.

Feinstein said of Snowden when asked about clemency,  “He’s done this enormous disservice to our country and I think the answer is no clemency.”

Given the changes  congress is going to make because of Snowden's disclosures, the apologies Obama  has been forced to make because of Snowden's disclosures,  the reviews of NSA activities that Feinstein herself said she is going to undertake because of Snowden's disclosures, and that Snowden  is considered a hero by a majority of people in and out of congress and around the world, perhaps it is Dianne Feinstein, along with others like her, who will have been seen to have done an enormous disservice to the country. And there is a good chance that when all is said and done and history is written,  for Feinstein and those who think like her, there will be no clemency and no forgiveness.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Why Obama didnt break his Obamacare promise and why he won't set the record straight.

Though Obamacare is, as Howard Dean once called it, a piece of junk next to what could have been which was the government public option, the media and political storm being created over  Obama's promise that "if you like your plan you can keep it" as being a broken promise since many people are seeing their current policies canceled, has been the source of a lot of finger wagging by the news media and Republicans accusing Obama of "breaking his promise", a promise he made as far back as 2009.  And just to prove it they keep replaying segements of Obama's speeches at town hall meetings on health care back in 2009.

 The news media, who amusingly think they "have something", and who think they are playing "gotcha"are proving once again how useless they all are as journalists. Because they all have it all wrong.

What CNN,  everyone in the White House press corps, Republicans on the attack  and Democrats on the run have either not taken the time to figure out, or not taken so much as a minute to research or in the case of many in the American news media, are too lazy or incompetent to know, is that the "the promise" Obama made back in 2009 when he said, "If you like your health plan you can keep it" had absolutely nothing -- repeat --  nothing -- repeat again - nothing --   to do with Obamacare. It was a promise and a point he was making with respect to the public option, something he eventually ditched in a cave-in to the health insurance lobby.

With CNN prematurely patting themselves on the back by showing Obama's speeches at town hall meetings saying that if people want to keep their current health insurance they can, no one was journalistically capable of remembering that when all those speeches were made in June, July and August of 2009, Obama was pitching the public option, not Obamacare. Obamacare, at the time he made those statements, didn't even exist.

When Brianna Keilar gave a White House report on CNN that Obama had made that promise "as Obamacare was being rolled out and was making its way through congress" she managed to get every single word in her sentence wrong. It was as if Keilar, Wolf Blitzer and everyone else at CNN suddenly had short term memory loss, or maybe its simply a matter of they never pay attention to their own reporting since it is an absolute fact that there was no such thing as Obamacare in 2009 when Obama made those promises. There was no bill making its way through congress as Keilar reported. There was  no bill at all.  Obama was talking about the public option and trying to make the case for it. That there was not a single editor or member of management at  CNN who knew Keilar's report, along with all the other reporting CNN was doing was factually wrong and that the clips they were showing of Obama in June,July and August of 2009 making that promise all related to the public option, is more eye witness testimony that CNN and its lack of standards and competency (along with everyone else's)  unravels from the top down.

 It wasn't until the end of August of 2009 that the New York Times reported that Obama had made a backroom deal with the health insurance lobby to drop the public option in place of what is now known as Obamacare,  something Obama never acknowledged publicly and the rest of the news media at the time were, as usual too incompetent to ask about. But he did change his banner at town hall meetings from "Healthcare Reform" to "Health Insurance Reform" and hoped no one would notice. No one did.

Prior to that end of August White House meeting, in every clip CNN has been showing almost nonstop, and in every town hall meeting Obama conducted, he was trying to rebut Republican attacks on the public option as  being socialism and a government take over of healthcare. Which is the sole reason Obama kept saying repeatedly, " if you like your current plan, you can keep it. " He was, at the time, trying to assure people that no one was going to be forced to sign up for the government run public health care option. It had nothing to do with anything called Obamacare which at the time didnt exist.

So why hasn't Obama set the record straight? Simple.  If you were in Obama's shoes right now given the horror show that's been the web site, and even worse the horror show of what's on the web site when people get there, including news of infinitesimally small enrollments compared to applications, high premiums and high  out-of-pockets and deductibles, and now having to deal with policies being canceled, would you want to remind people that you ditched the public option for this? Would you want to remind everyone that the promise you made in 2009 about people not having their insurance canceled would have stood up under the public option?

Would you want to remind people that you caved in to the health insurance lobby and dropped the public option which also resulted in Democrats in the House suffering the worst election defeat of any party in 80 years? Would you want to deal with people starting to compare Obamacare with what they could have had with the public option and why they don't have it?

 That Obama thinks it would actually be worse to remind people that the promise he made in 2009 was, at the time,  for the public option and not Obamacare and that he made no such promise with Obamacare,  that he would rather take all this heat from the news media who can't remember as far as back as 2009,  a Republican party on an "I told you so" attack, and Democrats backpeddaling like crazy,  tells you all you need to know about what Obama thinks about the decision he made by dropping the public option for Obamacare, a law written almost in its entirety by the health insurance industry, and what amounted to one of the worst instances of a political and policy bait and switch in history.