Thursday, June 27, 2013

Government attacks on Snowden give good reason not to believe them.


There has been a lot more PR coming from members of congress and government officials defending the massive NSA collection of Americans phone records and Internet communications while attacking Edward Snowden, and very little in the way of facts or truth regarding either.

After testifying in front of a House oversight committee who could have used a seeing eye dog to conduct oversight,  General Keith Alexander was able to provide no proof that NSA collections were solely or even principally responsible for preventing any terrorist attacks. He claimed the NSA massive records collectons helped prevent 50, which were then whittled down to 10 inside the United States, and, as written about here previously, the two most high profile and significant of the ten,  one a plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange and another an attack  on the NY subway system hasn't been  substantiated or confirmed  by either New York Mayor Bloomberg or NY police commissioner Ray Kelly making both claims highly dubious if not outright deceptive or even untrue. One would think that any program that prevented a bombing of the NY Stock Exchange and an attack on the New York subway system would be loudly endorsed and defended by Mayor Bloomberg. He's said nothing.

Then on Sunday, General Alexander on ABC News again made the still unsubstantiated claim that Snowden's revelations did "irreversible damage" to the United States. The last time a government official made that claim it was Rep. Peter King and when pressed to be specific about the damage said, " Now Al-Qaeda knows we're monitoring them".

Peter King added to the lack of credibility when he said " Snowden is a traitor. He is a defector. He is not a hero".

For the record in terms of the actual statute that defines treason, Snowden is not a traitor. He is also not a defector. He hasn't defected to any country so if they want to call him names they'll have to find something else.President Obama has called him a "hacker". He isn't that either.  But when you have the president calling him a hacker and members of congress calling him a traitor you have what's called a disconnect.

 General Alexander also couldn't get specific about the "irreversible damage" to the United States caused by Snowden's leaks. There is no proof  yet that exposing this program to American citizens did any damage to the United States.  The closest they have been able to come is the claim that terrorists are now changing the way they communicate. But that, as irreversible damage has also been contradicted.  Until there is more proof, what it damaged was the government and its credibility. Alexander also said, "this is not an individual who in my opinion was acting with noble intent".

The statement is preposterous and further damages Alexander's credibility because all he  knows regarding Snowden's intent and motives is what Snowden has stated  and  misguided or not, Snowden said he was motivated by conscience. And so far all of his actions and all the evidence support that.

There is a mountain of circumstantial evidence that supports what Snowden claims are his motives and no evidence whatsoever in support of Alexander's claims.  As for the "damage" claim that terrorists will now change the way they communicate  Alexander  said that terrorists will now probably not use their real phone numbers when communicating with each other.   But experts have also said that even petty criminals know enough to use disposable pay as you go cell phones when they communicate so what's next?  Telling us that because of Snowden's disclosures terrorists are now blocking their caller I. D. ? If they want to be believed they are going to have to do better than that.

Alexander's as well as others' claim of "irreversible damage" has been contradicted in an Associated Press article which quotes M.E. "Spike" Bowman, described as a former intelligence officer and deputy counsel at the FBI who said the NSA would catch up with any attempts by terrorists to change how they communicate because there are only so many ways terrorists can communicate. Bowman said, " I have every confidence in their ( the NSA) ability to regain access (to terrorist communications)".

 So much for irreversible damage.

So far the government has done a terrible job justifying the program and a terrible job  justifying their attacks on Snowden. And they keep putting their foot in their mouths doing it. Especially Democratic senator Chuck Schumer who must be living on another planet if he thought his attempts at trying to intimidate Putin by "warning " him was going to get Putin to cave in and hand over Snowden.

 If what Snowden did in disclosing the program was so terrible why is president Obama saying there should be a national conversation about Snowden's disclosures? We should have a national conversation about what? Treason?  Defecting? Irreversible damage? Or the program itself?

If the government can't get its act together in defending the program, if all they can manage is a PR onslaught against one man, then why should anyone think they can be trusted with massive amounts of information on American citizens? The answer is they shouldn't be.

And keep in mind James Clapper, the Director of Intelligence committed perjury with impunity in front of a congressional oversight committee seemingly with no fear of reprisals.

In terms of damage to the United States, what kind of damage will it to do to our system of government and the idea that this is a nation of laws not men if Clapper faces no consequences for perjury? They say Snowden had other avenues he could have persued to register his concerns, that he could have gone in house, through proper channels. Clapper had other avenues also besides perjury. He could have requested a closed or executive session. But his intent was to keep the program secret even from congress. Even if it meant lying about it.

James Clapper willingly committed perjury, broke the law, and did it to keep the NSA collection program secret.  So, if Clapper isnt held accountable, why not ask what other laws intelligence officials might be willing to break if they felt they were justified? And remember, Clapper was given the questions  he was going to be asked in advance,before his appearance. He knew what he was going to be asked.  He had every opportunity to request a closed session. His intention was to lie.And he did.

As for Snowden having other avenues, seeing Clapper, the Director of Intelligence commit perjury in March in front of a congressional oversight committee over the very program Snowden was concerned about wouldn't exactly inspire him to go through channels.  It probably would have gotten him in almost as much trouble as he is in now. Peter King, Dianne Feinstein and others criticizing Snowden for going to the Guardian should see Snowden's disclosures as a result of Clapper reaping what he sowed when he committed perjury.

 Something  that seems to get overlooked is that the "F" in  FISA is supposed to stand for "Foreign". More and more, in terms of the American people and their privacy and the honest of government officials it looks like  it's starting to stand for something else.



Sunday, June 23, 2013

44% of American parents would rather their daughters have cancer than have sex.

 Human papilomavirus is the most  common sexually transmitted disease.  It is  also the number one cause of cervical cancer in the world.  A recent New York Times article reported that the vaccine which prevents the virus and has proved to be spectacularly effective world wide has resulted in a 50% drop in cases of the virus among teenage girls in the United States.

Why just a 50%  drop in the United States if the vaccine is so effective? Because 44% of  American parents refuse to get their  daughters vaccinated because they are afraid it will lead to them having sex.

Obviously it is parents who have a distorted and damaging and perhaps unrealistic view of sex filled with false beliefs along with a bizarre view of morality that is behind the 44% who won't vaccinate their daughters because of their fears that it would lead to sex.

Whether it is a segment of adults with a distorted view of sex or some other bizarre reason, these American parents are deciding not to give their children, daughters in particular what is at it's most basic, an anti-cancer vaccine, because the virus that causes the cancer is contracted through sex. Which, it seems, in the minds of these parents,  is worse than having cancer. Which says a lot about what their own crazy ideas about sex might be. And how irrational people can be.

The vaccine requires 3 doses for maximum  protection but  while about half the teenage girls in the United States have had some form of the vaccine, only 33% of girls in the U.S. have had the three doses. Outside the U.S. in countries like Denmark and Britain 80% of girls have had the 3 dose vaccination.

The estimate is, at it's current levels in the United States, the vaccine will prevent about 45, 000 cases of cervical cancer  and 14,000 deaths among teenage girls 13 and younger over their lifetimes.  The number of people in the U.S..infected with HPV is staggering - the estimate is 79 million men and women. The virus causes 19,000 cancers a year in women and 8,000 in men. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer for women caused by the virus, throat cancer for men. Recently Michael Douglas revealed his throat cancer was caused by getting the virus by performing oral sex on someone who was infected . The revelation brought a lot of snickers and laughs in some and disbelief in others. It's no joke.

Doctors say children, boys as well as girls,  should receive the vaccine long before they can be exposed to the virus, at ages under 13 years before they are likely to be sexually active.  But there is still the 44% of American parents resistant to giving their children the vaccine simply because of its relationship to sex and that the cancer it prevents (cervical and throat)  is caused by a sexually transmitted disease.

Which also says something about how sex is treated in the United States on many levels, politically as well as in the media, in both cases on a level that is less than adolescent and more pandering to false beliefs and  myths than reality  as opposed to other countries around the world which takes a more mature and realistic and honest approach to sex and suggests that when it comes to sex  it might be a good idea for a lot of people to grow up so that tens of thousands of children can do the same.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why NSA claims of foiled terrorist plots should be met with skepticism.

During a hearing held by the House intelligence committee the director of the NSA General Keith Alexander was bombarded with powder puff questions by House committee members who saw their mission as bolstering the NSA against criticism and discrediting Edward Snowden, the NSA whistle blower who apologists try and put down as everything from a high school drop out to ignorantly ( as far as the law and definition is concerned) a traitor.

During the questioning Alexander made claims regarding the success of the NSA spying program with regards to foiled terrorist plots that are at best dubious.

First, the over all claim was that the NSA collecting phone records and Internet communications of hundreds of millions of Americans over the last few years foiled 50 terrorist plots. Of those 50 it turns out only 10 were in the United States. And while Alexander offered no details on how these  10 were foiled by the NSA collection of everyone's phone records, at least two should be met with extreme skepticism. And those two happen to be the most significant.

Alexander and other witnesses claimed that a plot to blow up the New York Stock Exchange and an attack on the New York subway system was foiled by these mass collections of phone records. Both claims are doubtful.

It's indisputable that New York is probably the number one terrorist target in America, the place where terrorists would most like to hit. They haven't since Sept 11, 2001.

Credit for New York City not having had one single terrorist attack since 911 goes to Ray Kelly, New York City police commissioner, the NYPD anti-terrorism task force, Mayor Bloomberg,  and the New York office of the FBI.

The fact that there has been no successful terrorist attack on New York City in the 12 years since Sept 11, and that this predates the NSA domestic collection of Americans phone records by nine years, reality flies in the face of the NSA claims.  And that this fact was never brought up by members of the committee made them sound more like actors in an NSA promotional video than members of congress doing oversight.

The second reason to doubt NSA claims is that since they were made neither New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, nor commissioner Ray Kelly have said a word supporting the claims that it was the NSA secret collection of American's phone records that were responsible for preventing those attacks.

Given the national and international controversy over Snowden's disclosures and Obama himself trying to justify the program and calling for dialogue, had those programs been directly responsible for foiling two major attacks on New York City, Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly surely would have publicly confirmed it. And supported it.  They haven't.

Their silence speaks louder than Rep. Peter King, Dianne Feinstein, Mike Rogers, Obama and others who have defended the program as essential to keeping Americans safe.  And speaks louder than General Alexander and witnesses trying to justify the program while at the same time admitting that no one can point to single plot that was foiled exclusively because of the NSA collection of  phone records and internet communications.of hundreds of millions of Americans.

Add Obama's preposterous statement to Charlie Rose in a PBS interview when asked if it wouldn't be better to have more transparency in the process to which Obama replied," We have transparency. That's what the FISA court is for", there is all the more reason to question the validity of the program. The FISA court is a top secret classified proceeding where there is no public transparency at all. They operate in complete secrecy. Which is why the FISA order which Snowden gave to the Guardian authorizing the mass phone record collection is marked " Top Secret".

That there is more than a little reason to question the entire program and the efficiency of the congress to exercise proper oversight came when a witness defending the program made the point that even if collecting phone records and internet communications of hundreds of millions of Americans saved even one life, it was worth it.

Everyone on the committee agreed that a program that saves the life of even one American is worth it. These are the same people who are on the record as opposing background checks for people who want to buy a gun.









Monday, June 17, 2013

Tea Party trades in tea for whine at IRS scrutiny hearing.

Lost amid all the revelations surrounding the mass NSA collection of Americans phone records was a collection of conservative Tea Party groups who testified at the House hearing on what amounts to the IRS simply doing their jobs in trying as best they could to keep conservative groups from doing what they do best and most often -- try to get around the law or break it without being caught.

Listening to these people testify made it clear why the IRS was paying special attention to them. And why they should have.

These people traded in their tea for whine and complained bitterly about the IRS scrutinizing them about the very things the law said they were not allowed to do -- and they just couldn't understand why.

Every one of these conservatives were part of groups applying for tax exempt status as 501(c) 4 groups. In order to achieve that status, these groups had to assert they were NOT engaged in any political activity, yet there they were, whining and complaining about the IRS inquiring about their political activities, their political affiliations and whether or not they were active in any advocacy for any political candidate.

The fact that these Tea Party conservatives were either so completely ignorant of the law or that they thought it just didn't apply to them, was ample proof that the IRS was right to pay special attention to them not to mention the fact that conservatives, more than other political group exhibit a willingness to break the law, that far exceeds any other political group in the country.

One witness, Becky Gerritsen who was the head of a Tea Party group in Alabama was upset that in asking for tax exempt status based on being a 501(4) C group, the IRS had the gall to ask questions about their communications with legislators and voter education activities, ALL of which would disqualify Gerritsen's group from being eligible for tax exempt status.Yet in her mind, this was unfair scrutiny.

The president of Coalition for Life, an anti abortion group in Iowa  felt victimized that the IRS made her agree in writing that her group would not picket Planned Parenthood or any other abortion provider. The reason is obvious -- doing so would put her group outside the law of what a 501(4) c group can do and would nullify her group from being granted tax exempt status which sticks the tax bill for their activities on the American tax payer, something Tea Party members rail against if tax payer money is any way spent on anything related to abortion but have no problem doing when it comes to their own anti-abortion activities.

Trying to make that point, Jim McDermott, a Democrat who uncharacteristically was sticking with the facts and refusing to go along with another of Obama's PR motivated  cave-ins, pointed out to the group:

"None of your organizations (was) kept from organizing or silenced. We are talking about whether or not the American public will subsidize your work. Each of your groups is highly political."

 Which, as highly political, would make them ineligible for tax exempt status something that seemed to go over their heads.  Which also didnt faze Republican Paul Ryan, described as  a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement and who received applause from the audience when he accused McDermott of blaming the conservative groups for the abuse they received.

"People were singled out because of their beliefs," Ryan said.

Ryan was right. They were singled out because of their beliefs. The same beliefs that have been expressed many times before by other conservatives  like Tom Delay and Duke Cunningham  who are now doing time in federal prison -- and possibly Michelle Bachmann who announced she is not running for re-election to the House a day after it was revealed she is being investigated for campaign financing fraud --  the belief that the law doesn't apply to them.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Obama mocked over confirmation of Syrian use of chemical weapons.

A White House statement  released on Thursday stating that "a red line had been crossed" and that Syria had used chemical weapons which will now prompt some US aid to the Syrian rebels was met with a certain amount of derision by those who had long ago wanted Obama to live up to his promise and whose point was, it's about time.

John McCain who had been pushing for the U.S. to send arms to the Syrian rebels for months said he welcomed the decision by Obama at the same time pointing out that the White House statement that Syria had used chemical weapons as if it were news was something the rest of the world had known weeks ago.

Christianne Amanpour, called on by CNN to comment on the White House statement declaring that Syria had used chemical weapons could barely keep from laughing and had to fight a very strong smirk in talking about the White House statement, saying  about the same thing -- that  just about every government on the planet including France, Great Britain,and  Israel, had confirmed weeks ago that Syria had used chemical weapons so this is nothing new and the question now hanging in the air along with Syria's sarin gas was whether Obama's decision to finally take action and back up his promise was too little too late to help the rebels.

The New York Times is reporting that Obama "had to be dragged into the decision by his advisors and even Bill Clinton".

The Times also pointed out that the president, who at times seems almost comical in his efforts to avoid actually doing anything, left it to Ben Rhodes, his deputy national security advisor to make the announcement while he hosted a gay pride event in the East Room. Obama also sent Rhodes out on Friday to talk about the decision while Obama hosted a Fathers Day luncheon.

The Times also quoted Emile Hokayem an analyst for the International Institute of Strategic Studies who said:

“The White House underestimated the potency of this struggle and its profound implications for the region and its own interests, and then found itself lacking space, strategic clarity and momentum to do anything meaningful.”

Obama only reluctantly decided he had to do something to keep some vestige of credibility given his previous pronouncment about red lines. But from the beginning his red line was really a rose colored one. It was a pledge that, like many other promises he has made, he never intended to keep or thought he would have to and had to have his arm twisted to keep it now. 

If Obama holds true to form, whatever he does as a consequence of his "red line" being crossed, of his saying at the time "and I mean what I say" ( if he really meant what he said he wouldn't have to say he means it)  it will be to do as little as possible instead of something decisive and will inevitably make both sides, those supporting weapons being sent and those who don't,  unhappy. And as in other Obama policy decisions, create the worst of all worlds.  And make some wonder if Obama's red lines are really a different primary color.




Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Clapper perjury should ring a warning bell.

Its been shown all over the news media:  last year, NSA Director James Clapper was asked point blank by senator Ron Wyden of Oregon testifying in front of a senate committee if the United States was collecting information wholesale on American citizens ("tens of millions or hundreds of millions of Americans" was the way it was asked).  Clapper answered "no". Then added, "not wittingly" as if it could ever be in the realm of possibility that the NSA could gather information on hundreds of millions of Americans by accident.

Clapper today  tries to defend what is nothing less than out and out perjury in front of a congressional committee by saying he answered in "the least untruthful manner possible".

That's not good enough. Clapper's answer was completely untruthful.
From the beginning of the creation of the country it's been a point made over and over  by the Founders and those who followed that this is a country of laws not men. And the 14th amendment to the constitution says all laws must be applied equally to everyone.

Clapper lied to the senate committee, a congressional committee that represents the citizens of the United States. It is not good enough to say there were secret national security issues involved that could not or should not be made public. There are  remedies for that. Its called Executive Session.

Congress often goes into Executive session or closed session when having certain witnesses testify about national security matters that in the national interest are best kept from the public at large. But not from members of congress. Clapper could have found some way to say that if they wanted to ask question regarding intelligence gathering of any kind by the NSA since one question can lead to another, its best to ask those questions in executive session.

Clapper didn't. Clapper decided right then and there that the best course of action was to lie, to perjure himself before the people's representatives,a committee that had legal oversight over what Clapper and the NSA was doing,  rather than  do what he was required to do by law which was tell the truth.

The irony and the hypocrisy is that Clapper, who broke U.S. laws by lying to congress now has his defenders in congress and in the news media who are the same people attacking Snowden for breaking U.S. laws and calling him a traitor for breaking those laws.

We are now hearing people like Jeff Toobin, Peter King, Dianne Feinstein and others in and out of the news media call Snowden a criminal because he took an oath and violated it.  But so did Clapper. Which makes him as much of a law breaker as Snowden.

The argument against Snowden made by many including King and Toobin was that Snowden had other avenues without having to go to the press, things like going to the Inspector General and/or members of congress. But Clapper had other avenues too besides committing perjury. He could have asked for an executive or closed session.

It should become a question of national debate as much as the surveillence program itself as to whether the country wants to accept the hypocrisy of Rep. Peter King and others who share his opinion, who said of Clapper's perjury in an interview with Anderson Cooper, "he was in an unwinnable position answering the question". Didn't Snowden think he was in an unwinnable position in his feeling that the NSA  surveillance went over the line? And wasn't Snowden aware that the head of the agency at the heart of his concerns had openly committed perjury to a congressional committee with impunity and seemingly without concern for personal consequences on the very question and issue Snowden was concerned about? What kind of confidence would that give Snowden that his concerns would be taken seriously? And as pointed out before, Clapper had other avenues open to him besides perjury. As chair of a congressional committee King knows that better than anyone.
King's answer is the kind of thing that erodes trust in those in government and Anderson Cooper letting him off the hook in his interview is why so many people don't trust or respect  the news media.

 These same people pontificating about what Snowden should have done instead of going to the press,  ( it should be noted that congress has passed laws that specifically do NOT give whistle blower protetion to a non-government employee like Snowden),   have nothing to say about what Clapper should have done when questioned under oath. Like request executive session instead of choosing perjury. 

In the end, by his perjury Clapper probably reaped what he sowed by Snowden going to the press ( and the foreign press at that) rather than go through channels.

If Clapper isn't indicted for perjury, if the laws are not going to apply to him the same way they'd be applied to anyone else lying to congress, then it all becomes a mockery of the law, which in some ways, is the issue involving  the Obama administration  and the NSA in the first place over the wide net gathering of information on every citizen. Even more than that, Clapper's perjury gives people more reason than ever not to trust that people like Clapper, the person in charge of the NSA wont violate other laws in the future as well.

Its not enough to say Clapper's lie was well intentioned. Snowden's disclosures were, as far as he was concerned, well intentioned also. Snowden has been called a criminal by Peter King and others because he took an oath and then violated that oath. So did Clapper. Clapper took an oath to tell the truth and perjured himself to a congressional oversight committee whose function was to make sure government agencies and the president himself does not go beyond the bounds of the law or the constitution. A  case can be made that as far as Americans' freedoms are concerned, what Clapper did was a far worse  crime than anything Snowden did. In fact that there is no evidence that anything Snowden revealed has damaged the country at all. 

 Senator Dianne Feinstein sounding like a member of the Nixon Administration called what Snowden did treason,  as did John Boehner, the kind of over reaching, almost preposterous statement that seems to coincide with the over reaching NSA collection of information of which she approves.  Re Mike Rogers added his name to the ignorance. It shows once again that we have members of congress who don't have a clue as to what the law really is and who just throw words around for political effect with the same recklessness with which they accuse Snowden since treason has a very specific and narrow definition which is something only applied to someone aiding an enemy with whom the United States is at war. That we have members of congress who are also known as lawmakers who have no idea what the law actually is is verges on the political slapstick. And it is starting to look like Snowden has exposed more than what the NSA was doing -- it's exposing ignorance and hypocrisy in congress and in the media.

Rep. Peter King sounded like he just woke up from a ten year sleep when asked what damage Snowden's disclosures caused. He said, incredibly, "now Al-Qaeda knows we are spying on them and monitoring their phone calls."

Really? Now they know?  Like they didn't know this for the last 12 years? 

The only people who didn't know what the NSA was doing with their phone records were the barbers and tailors and lawyers and cab drivers and farmers and social workers and teachers and clearly many members of congress  in places like Iowa, New York, California, Nebraska, and Mississippi,  not Al-Qaeda. They knew.

All this is not to say Clapper is a bad man. Or evil. It is to say he broke the law. And Clapper needs to be held accountable for that like any other citizen. Otherwise the entire rule of law, and the laws that supposedly underpin the activities of the NSA in the first place and any trust in these government officials to follow the law will lose all credibility. If they haven't already.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Jeff Toobin goes off the deep end in attacks on Snowden over NSA revelations.

Listening to Jeff Toobin offer his opinions about Edward Snowden and his disclosures about NSA gathering of information on American citizens, he sounded more like Pat Buchanan attacking Daniel Ellsberg than anything resembling an objective journalist.

In fact there was not one word out of Toobin's mouth, not one, intellectually, philosophically or morally,  that could not be applied to Daniel Ellsberg's taking the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times during the height of the  Viet Nam war. Except based on Toobin's attempts at logic, to follow his thinking, one can easily argue that what  Ellsberg did was much worse than Snowden, since at the time, the country was very much in a real war in Viet Nam.

What makes Toobin's assessment so intellectually and philosophically dishonest is that if he were asked if everything he said about Snowden also applied to Daniel Ellsberg and did Ellsberg deserve to go to prison as a traitor, everyone knows Toobin would back off that in a nano second and sound more like Ralph Kramden stuttering "homina homina homina"  than anyone giving a thoughtful opinion worth considering. Meaning, in blunt terms, Toobin's opinions are worthless because they don't stand up to any kind of historical scrutiny or Toobin's hysterical scrutiny since at their core they  are intellectually and philosophically dishonest.  Because it is a virtual certainty  Toobin wouldn't be willing to apply anything he had to say about Snowden to Daniel Ellsberg and wouldn't, at least publicly anyway, sympathize with president Nixon and the Nixon administration and join them in calling Ellsberg a traitor.

In fact Toobin knows it would probably destroy his credibility and his public career as a commentator if he kept his argument and opinions consistent and honest and showed  sympathy and empathy for Nixon and the Nixon administration's rage over Ellsberg's release of the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times which in the end led to the Nixon abuses called Watergate.

There is not a hairs breadth difference between anything Toobin had to say about Edward Snowden and what he did, and Daniel Ellsberg and what he did. Especially on the issue of morality which was one of Toobin's arguments when he called what Snowden did "immoral" ( as an aside, Ellsberg has called Snowden's leak more important that his release of the Pentagon Papers and "the most significant leak in American history).

If Toobin wants to say Nixon was right and Ellsberg was a criminal and a traitor in providing the truth to the American people about the Viet Nam war, if Toobin wants to say Ellsberg too was a traitor giving aid and comfort to the North Vietnamese along with a gold mine of propaganda material while undermining the morale of U.S. troops and American support for the war at home by releasing the top secret report which proved that everyone, both government and military officials, were lying about Viet Nam both to the public and to each other, and that Ellsberg , like Snowden,was a no good treasonous "narcissist", if Toobin wants to point out that Ellsberg , like Snowden, had "other avenues to go to" other than the New York Times,  then let him say so. If not,  then let him shut up. Hopefully for a long time.

 Unless Toobin is willing to make the same argument about Ellsberg and use the same criteria  he did with Snowden,  there is no reason to take anything Toobin has to say about anything as credible again.






Monday, June 10, 2013

New York Times story on JFK takes presidential slap at Obama.

On Saturday the New York Times ran a front page story that featured a look back at two televised speeches made by President John Kennedy that carried the headline " When a President's Words Led to Action".

The story outlined two speeches Kennedy made both on civil rights and the Soviet Union and were called "two of the finest presidential speeches of the 20th century" then went on to add that both "also had immediate results".

The story and the headline is an unmistakable, and well deserved slap at President Obama who, not just as president but throughout his entire political life has always been long on words, most times very long on words, with no action and nothing ever backed up with any results. Or conviction for that matter. 

After 4 1/2 years as president and endless speeches there are still no tangible results to show for anything Obama promised or pledged immediate or otherwise. And for those who want to point to Obamacare kicking in next year, the substitute Obama gave the country after selling out the public option to the health insurance lobby, that is headed for disaster but that's another story.

As for the Times article,the opening sentence is clearly a slap at Obama when it states:  "These days it's hard to imagine any presidential speech changing history".

These days it is. Most of Obama's sycophants in the press and many of his supporters during the Democratic primaries were supporting him for the sake of symbolism,  as if that was a legitimate reason to choose a president. Instead they got cymbalism -- noise designed to get your attention and not much else.

A few paragraphs down the veiled slap at Obama continued when the writer said, " These two speeches (by Kennedy) had something in common that oratory now often misses. They both led quickly and directly to important changes".

The reference to what oratory now misses is also an unmistakable slap at Obama's  mostly empty speeches which in the end accomplish nothing. It was also a slap at  many in the news media who in 2008 swooned over what they called Obama's "soaring rhetoric" as some still do today even  as it becomes apparent that  Obama's supposed soaring oratory has never soared much higher than knee level to anyone really paying attention. And never had anything behind it.

The article went on to quote from the two historic Kennedy speeches back in 1963 as if to remind people what oratory, especially oratory that signified the kind of singular leadership only a president can provide but which was also extremely risky politically, was really like. And  more than words, was also backed up by action.

In the first, Kenney spoke of the need to ratchet down the tensions and threat of  nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union when he said in his speech:

“In the final analysis our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

This was true soaring rhetoric. Like the  great orators like Thomas Jefferson or Martin Luther King,  Kennedy used 10 cent  words that everyone could understand,  to communicate priceless ideas instead of $10 words to communicate empty ideas with nothing behind them.

A week later in a speech on civil rights Kennedy said, “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution,”

He went on to say, “The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.”

This was in 1963 before there was a Civil Rights Act and at a time when Democrats were in the majority in the segregated Jim Crow south.

 Both speeches took on  incredible personal and political risks.

 The speech seeking to ratchet down tensions and the potential for nuclear war with the Soviet Union defied the hawks in the United States and Kennedy's own generals who favored increased escalation. It also defied the right wing at a time when the favored political attack was "soft on communism".

The speech on civil rights was equally courageous at the time and threatened to undermine not only Kennedy's own re-election but his party's control of congress since they dominated the south.

By contrast, Obama takes no political risks, shies away from, and ultimately  caves in to opposition even when they are both in the minority and run contrary to his publicly expressed beliefs, beliefs he almost always denies he ever had after he capitulates,  as in " I never campaigned for the public option".

Most recently Obama made yet another speech about the need to close Gitmo, something he promised he would do in his first year as president during his  presidential campaign five years ago and still has done nothing but talk.  Five years after his promise it is still  all talk and dithering and no action. Even with some prominent Republicans like John McCain and Colin Powell supporting it.

After Sandy Hook Obama made more speeches about gun control, but showed again there was no leadership to go with his words.

While Kennedy made speeches taking strong positions on two of the most contentious and politically risky issues of the day,  and then backed it up with action in spite of fierce opposition, Obama fell flat on his face on simple background checks, an issue that 91%  of the country supported. And simply because, it seems, he had no idea on how to approach the opposition and no powers of persuasion to either make them see it his way, or use his office to arm twist and force the issue his way.

Instead Obama used the same excuse he's been using since he was elected for why he hasn't gotten something done -- that, in his words, everything is hard.

No it isn't hard. For Obama  it may be hard.  But everything is not hard. Especially when you are elected with the biggest congressional majority of any president in 60 years as was the case in 2008, a majority Obama squandered.

The reality is George W. Bush passed more than twice as many bills, including all his damaging tax cuts, with a 52 vote Republican majority in the senate than Obama has been able to do with first a 60 -40 majority and now a 55-45 majority.

The slap at Obama from the New York Times with veiled comparisons which point out the differences between Obama's words coupled with no deeds compared to Kennedy's words coupled with history making deeds was unmistakable. It might be the reason we have not seen nor heard from Obama publicly for more than two days. Which in some ways, is itself historic.









Friday, June 7, 2013

Obama nominates crony and political hack to be ambassador to the U.N.

In a move that is pure Washington D.C. and exemplifies political hackery at it's worst,  president Obama named one of his most loyal stooges and a political hack who doesn't have the integrity of a shady used car salesman to be the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Amid growing disgust over Obama's previously secret  and now revealed program  to gather the phone records of tens of millions of Americans, the very practice he criticized when George W. Bush was doing it, he named Samantha Power who's claim to fame was calling Hillary Clinton " a monster" during the 2008 Ohio primary and who was one of Obama's most loyal supporters, to replace Susan Rice as ambassador to the U.N.

Back in 2008, during the Ohio primary Powers had said of Clinton:  "We fucked up in Ohio. In Ohio they are obsessed and Hillary is going to town on it because she knows Ohio's the only place she could win. She is a monster too. She is stooping to anything".

She also said the amount of "deceit" Clinton was putting forward was "really unattractive". Which is ironic because when it comes to deceit, there are few who wouldn't say  Barrack Obama was in a class by himself even before the revelations of Obama's government surveillance of American citizens.

When Powers' remarks became public in 2008 she apologized by  saying they "do not reflect my feelings about Senator Clinton whose leadership and public service I have long admired" . This shows, that like Obama, Powers has no integrity and like Obama no courage and no convictions, backing off and reversing herself as soon as her comments became a political liability. Just what America needs at the U.N.

All of her remarks, both her original attacks and her attempt at apology stamp her as the lowest kind of political hack and what's worse,  an uninformed hack at that, whose judgement and powers of observation don't rise to the level of a drunken sailor on a Saturday night.

Every statement Powers had made during that primary was not just dumb and  factually inaccurate it was ignorant and delusional and filled with political hackery.

Powers: "Ohio's the only place she ( Clinton) could win."

Fact: Clinton not only won in a  landslide over Obama in Ohio, she beat him by landslide numbers in 13 of the 15 biggest states in the country as well as beating him in a 14th but by less than landslide numbers ( political scientists call a landslide winning by 10 points or more). The only big state Obama won in the 2008 primaries was Illinois. Had Democrats used the same winner take all delegate formula that's used in the national election and by Republicans in their primaries  Clinton would have landslided Obama for the nomination by more than 1,000 delegates. As it is the primaries ended with Obama beating Clinton by just 60 odd delegates and neither had the 2/3 majority needed to get the nomination.

Powers: She ( Clinton) is stooping to anything. The amount of deceit she is putting forth is really unattractive".

Fact: Barrack Obama was caught red handed telling one of the most egregious, underhanded, deceitful, exploitive,  uncaring political lies in the history of American presidential politics,  stooping to such depths that had the press not been caught up in the "first black president " hype, it wouldn't have just ended his candidacy it might have ended his political career. It would have done just that with any other politician.

It was in Ohio in 2008 where unemployment even before the economic crisis was sky high, with the state having lost more than 270,000 manufacturing jobs that Obama blamed the job loss on NAFTA, a treaty signed by Bill Clinton and so by proxy, was trying to make Ohioans blame Hillary Clinton. called Obama's charge an outright political lie and  that NAFTA had nothing to do with Ohio's job losses but that lie was nothing compared with what was to come.

In a speech right before the primary , Obama looked the unemployed in Ohio in the eye and promised that if he became president he would get rid of NAFTA, the source, according to his first lie, of all their  unemployment problems.  But at the same time he was telling that to the people of Ohio he sent Austan Goolsbee to the Canadian Embassy in Chicago to tell them to ignore what Obama was saying pubicly about getting rid of NAFTA, that he has no intention of getting rid of it, and that what he's saying in Ohio about NAFTA is only for political purposes. Even Richard Nixon would have been too embarrassed to stoop to such levels.

When news of Goolsbee's visit and it's purpose leaked,  Obama lied and pretended he didn't even know who Goolsbee was. When it was proved he worked for Obama's campaign Obama lied again and said, well even if he worked for the campaign Goolsbee never went to the embassy. When logs showed that was a lie,  Obama lied again and said, well okay, he might have gone to the embassy but it was on his own for his own reasons and not as Obama's representative and had nothing to do with the campaign. When logs proved that too was a lie, Obama lied once again and said, well maybe we sent him there on behalf of the campaign but we never told him to say that.

Someone at the Canadian embassy obviously got so fed up with Obama's lying and deceit  they leaked the minutes of the meeting with Goolsbee to the Associated Press which clearly showed Goolsbee telling those at the embassy to ignore what Obama was saying publicly in Ohio about NAFTA, that he wont get rid of it and that what he is saying is just for political purposes.

That is how low both Obama and Powers, not Clinton,  were willing to go, that is how deceitful  and dishonest and "unattractive"  both Powers and Obama were willing to be to try and win an election which they lost in landslide numbers in Ohio anyway, and how low and deceitful and dishonest Powers was willing to be in support of Obama and his blatantly dishonest tactics.  And now, in an example of Washington D.C. one hand-washes-the-other politics,  Obama is rewarding Powers and her own deceit on his behalf by nominating her for ambassador to the U.N.
As the saying goes, it takes one to know one.
But senate Democrats should refuse to rubber stamp this kind of political hackery and reject Powers nomination and insist that Obama nominate someone who has a lot more integrity than Powers.  And, for that matter,  more integrity than Obama.