I have often disagreed with Andrew Sullivan, but on this we certainly see eye to eye. He's talking about leadership, specifically in light of the death of Mandela and his greater meaning to the cause of freedom. He first talks about the popular notion in current political science that pooh-pooh's the the idea that leadership a matters very much, for good or ill. He quotes Stephen Dyson:
Tucker draws our attention to the dangers of the “great leader” view of politics: it promotes apathy and resignation as we wait for superheroes to appear and fix all of our problems. Yet there are also dangers in minimizing the role of leaders, and they go beyond missing important causes of major events, although this is a clear risk. In the explanations of historians, the reporting of journalists, and the political decisions of citizens, leaders often play the role of personifying abstract trends, ideas, and forces, and offering a human connection between politics and life. People learn, understand, and are motivated to take action by compelling narratives, and compelling narratives involve individual human beings. A worthy goal of science is to provide systematic, rigorous knowledge about issues of social importance. But science should also engage with the moral and empathetic possibilities that come from taking leaders seriously.
Alas, political science – a misnomer from the get-go (and I say that with a PhD in it) – is terrified of human nature, individual character, the unknowable biographical and psychological factors that bear down on any leader’s decisions, and anything that, effectively, cannot be quantified. But a huge amount of human behavior cannot be quantified. Which is why I often thought, as I sat through another stats class, that we’d do better to study Shakespeare than mere regressions to the mean.
I have no idea if political science is terrified of human nature but I do believe absolutely that human behavior cannot be quantified. Political science is a very useful addition to our store of knowledge but it hasn't even come close to the subtle, sophisticated understanding of humanity of say, the Bible or Shakespeare or Plato or Kant or even Stephen King.
And while it's true that waiting around for the man on the proverbial white horse can bredd apathy and allow way too much celebrity cultism in politics. But having expectations of leadership and demanding accountability from them is hugely important. It's fundamental to how human beings understand how the world works.
Setting the record straight on Mandela and the American Right
by David Atkins
Al Sharpton provides a breath of fresh air, pointing out that in South Africa America chose the wrong side, calling the ANC Marxists and terrorists:
One thing the left must do a better job of is not letting conservatives rewrite history. It would be great if progressive media outlets could spend more time regularly featuring the past statements of conservatives about Medicare, Social Security, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, etc., and comparing them to those of today. At the very least conservatives should not be allowed to appropriate the scorned progressive heroes of yesteryear. Their words should hang around their heads like millstones for generations.
A nasty little Google boy gets mad and says what he really thinks:
"Why don't you go to a city that can afford it? This is a city for the right people who can afford it. You can't afford it? You can leave. I'm sorry, get a better job. It's time for you to leave. "
I love San Francisco. I used to live there, went to school there. But people like this are ruining it, I'm afraid.
This attitude very much reflects the thinking of far more 1 percenters than you might imagine. On some level I think they know they don't deserve the outlandish sums they "earn" in these elite jobs and have to convince themselves that they are getting rich because they work so much harder and are simply more deserving than those who make less money. The only way they can successfully rationalize their good fortune is to attack the characters of those who aren't doing as well.
Today, numerous Philadelphia protesters from groups including Occupy Philly, Americans United for Change, Philadelphia AFL-CIO, Fight for Philly, SEIU PA State Council, Protect Your Care, Keystone Progress, Moveon.org, NCPSSM, Progress Now, and AFSCME demonstrated at the Wharton School for Business at the University of Pennsylvania after Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) canceled his speech there, apparently afraid of dissident audiences.
As the hundreds of protesters entered the Wharton School and chanted about economic justice, a number of students appeared on the balcony above. These students began chanting in unison, “Get a job! Get a job!”
While the students who jeered the protesters certainly do not necessarily represent all Wharton students, it’s important to understand the context of the elite status they likely either come from or graduate into. Wharton graduates much of the nation’s corporate elite, with the median starting salary for an MBA graduate being $145,000 — six times the poverty level for a family of four.
The school’s Board of Overseers is staffed with with multiple Goldman Sachs executives and high-ranking employees of a wide variety of financial firms. Meanwhile, it’s Graduate Executive Board is staffed with senior employees of Bank of America, Blackstone Financial Management, and PMC Bank. Wharton’s endowment is $888 million, greater than that of many large public universities. Essentially, the students jeering the protesters represented the future financial elite.
Newt Gingrich is losing his touch. He foolishly praised Mandela without explaining how Mandela would think of Obama the same way he thought of the apartheid government of South Africa and his followers went nuts.
...We are ruled by someone who is in effect the pharaoh and at the least a Muslim at heart who disdains the Judeo-Christian heritage and foundations upon which our nation was forged and who has rung up extreme national debt and loathes capitalism, instead seeing it his “duty” to redistribute wealth to “his” people for years of their slavery. President Barack Hussein Obama and his compromised if not corrupt enablers in Congress and in the judiciary, like a time warp, have thrust We the People back to 1776 and provoked our Second American Revolution. And, the current revolutionary climate is even more severe, since unlike the colonies, contemporary America is on the steep decline. Our resources, wealth, ethics, spirituality and liberties are being stifled by a socialistic choke hold on our economy and lives, where our “Muslim” president and the government, not God, is to be worshiped and obeyed – else authoritarian henchmen and thugs at the NSA and IRS will destroy you.
To seek redress for our grievances, as our forefathers attempted leading up to independence day on July 4, 1776, the Reclaim America Now Coalition gave notice in front of the White House on Nov.19 of this year that if the people’s freedoms were not restored by the day after Thanksgiving, the Second American Revolution would begin in earnest. True to the predictions of anyone living in our times, our grievances went unanswered by our illegitimate government usurpers, and now we must make good on our threats of non-violent, civil disobedience to attempt redress.
In this regard, as we mourn the death this week of Nelson Mandela, a great man who, like his American counterpart Martin Luther King, used civil disobedience successfully to bring freedom to his people and by definition all people (who are created equal with certain unalienable rights, as Jefferson put it), let us take Mandela’s achievement in liberating South Africa from bondage as a further example of what we can accomplish in freeing our own nation from the choking despotic governmental slavery of Obama and his pliant Democratic and Republican minions in Congress and the judiciary.
We will soon be announcing the date to convene the Third Continental Congress in Philadelphia early next year where, taking a page from the Founding Fathers, we will meet to plan the next steps of our Second American Revolution, with delegates from all 50 states.
We will also use the occasion to appoint committees to coordinate the revolution and to elect a government in waiting to take over on the day when our current corrupt leaders are forced by the citizenry to leave their thrones and freedom is restored to our shores.
Like our Founding Fathers in 1776, the time is now to risk all we have to save the nation from government tyrants before all is lost.
I mostly know Larry Klayman from the Great Clinton Panty Raid, in which he played a substantial role as the principle in Judicial Watch. He was pretty extreme but he wasn't nuts. He's nuts now.
On the other hand, I suppose I'm foolishly failing to take into account that he might just be doing this for the money. If so, these guys are having to work extremely hard these days to earn their Wingnut Welfare. This is nothing short of a humiliation ritual.
What if Big Brother is your crazy brother-in-law?
Everyone says the good news about the NSA spying is that they assure us that they have no interest in using all the information they're filing away about Americans. Unless we are a terrorist or know someone who is a terrorist or know someone who knows someone who might be a terrorist, (or might accidentally be overheard committing what someone might think is a crime) we have nothing to fear from all this surveillance.
The National Security Agency isn't the only government entity secretly collecting data from people's cellphones. Local police are increasingly scooping it up, too. Armed with new technologies, including mobile devices that tap into cellphone data in real time, dozens of local and state police agencies are capturing information about thousands of cellphone users at a time, whether they are targets of an investigation or not, according to public records obtained by USA TODAY and Gannett newspapers and TV stations.
The records, from more than 125 police agencies in 33 states, reveal: About one in four law-enforcement agencies have used a tactic known as a "tower dump," which gives police data about the identity, activity and location of any phone that connects to the targeted cellphone towers over a set span of time, usually an hour or two. A typical dump covers multiple towers, and wireless providers, and can net information from thousands of phones.
In most states, police can get many kinds of cellphone data without obtaining a warrant, which they'd need to search someone's house or car. Privacy advocates, legislators and courts are debating the legal standards with increasing intensity as technology — and the amount of sensitive information people entrust to their devices — evolves.
Many people aren't aware that a smartphone is an adept location-tracking device. It's constantly sending signals to nearby cell towers, even when it's not being used. And wireless carriers store data about your device, from where it's been to whom you've called and texted, some of it for years.
The power for police is alluring: a vast data net that can be a cutting-edge crime-fighting tool.
Last fall, in Colorado, a 10-year-old girl vanished while she walked to school. Volunteers scoured Westminster looking for Jessica Ridgeway.
Local police took a clandestine tack. They got a court order for data about every cellphone that connected to five providers' towers on the girl's route. Later, they asked for 15 more cellphone site data dumps.
Colorado authorities won't divulge how many people's data they obtained, but testimony in other cases indicates it was at least several thousand people's phones.
The court orders in the Colorado case show police got "cellular telephone numbers, including the date, time and duration of any calls," as well as numbers and location data for all phones that connected to the towers searched, whether calls were being made or not. Police and court records obtained by USA TODAY about cases across the country show that's standard for a tower dump.
The tower dump data helped police choose about 500 people who were asked to submit DNA samples. The broad cell-data sweep and DNA samples didn't solve the crime, though the information aided in the prosecution.
That pretty much says it all, doesn't it? They used this data to "ask" people to submit their DNA as they were under suspicion for a kidnapping based solely on their cell phone location. (Keep in mind that your DNA will likely be put in another permanent data base which they will then have as irrefutable evidence of your presence at a crime scene if it should ever turn up. Of course, since police never plant evidence you have nothing to worry about.)
But it's a little girl's life at stake, you say. Nobody should be reluctant to do whatever it takes to return her. Ok. But what about this?
A South Carolina sheriff ordered up four cell-data dumps from two towers in a 2011 investigation into a rash of car break-ins near Columbia, including the theft of Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott's collection of guns and rifles from his police-issued SUV, parked at his home.
"We were looking at someone who was breaking into a lot of vehicles and was not going to stop," the sheriff said. "So, we had to find out as much information as we could." The sheriff's office says it has used a tower dump in at least one prior case, to help solve a murder.
And if that didn't work I guess they planned to break down the doors of everyone in town without a warrant and search them for the missing items. Hey, they needed that information.
And they're collecting boatloads of it:
Law-enforcement records show police can use initial data from a tower dump to ask for another court order for more information, including addresses, billing records and logs of calls, texts and locations.
Cellphone data sweeps fit into a broadening effort by police to collect and mine information about people's activities and movements.
Police can harvest data about motorists by mining toll-road payments, red-light cameras and license-plate readers. Cities are installing cameras in public areas, some with facial-recognition capabilities, as well as Wi-Fi networks that can record the location and other details about any connecting device.
It is, unsurprisingly, being misused by local yahoos for their own purposes:
Some examples of documented misuse of cellphone data-gathering technology:
In Minnesota: State auditors found that 88 police officers in departments across the state misused their access to personal data in the state driver's license database to look up information on family, friends, girlfriends or others without proper authorization or relevance to any official investigation in 2012. And those were just the clear-cut cases. Auditors said that more than half of the law enforcement officers in the state made questionable queries of the database, which includes photos and an array of sensitive personal data.
In Florida: The state's Supreme Court is hearing a case in which a lower court found Broward County police overreached by conducting real-time tracking of the GPS location of a man's cellphone, using still-undisclosed techniques in collaboration with the cellphone carrier. The problem in that case: The police did so under authority of a court order that defense lawyers said authorized them to get only historical location data about his cellphone.
In Illinois: A suburban Chicago police officer responsible for overseeing access to the department's criminal history database used the system to look up his girlfriend's record. Similar cases have shown up in other states, resulting in cases involving harassment, stalking and identity theft, among others.
It isn't just Big Brother who's watching our every move. It's our crazy brother-in-law too. Just casually accepting this seems like a bad idea to me.
All that information is from a major USA Today and Gannet investigation that everyone should read. I get that most people don't see this as any big deal --- they've seen it used on Law and order and it caught "the bad guy." But in real life this adds up to the police having access to a whole lot of personal information without any probable cause or a warrant and that adds up to way more power in the hands of police. And they already have too much.
I don't know how they'll decide that this is not acceptable while nativity scenes (or whatever) are, but I'm sure they will:
In their zeal to tout their faith in the public square, conservatives in Oklahoma may have unwittingly opened the door to a wide range of religious groups, including satanists who are seeking to put their own statue next to a Ten Commandments monument on the Statehouse steps.
The Republican-controlled Legislature in this state known as the buckle of the Bible Belt authorized the privately funded Ten Commandments monument in 2009, and it was placed on the Capitol grounds last year despite criticism from legal experts who questioned its constitutionality. The Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking its removal.
But the New York-based Satanic Temple saw an opportunity. It notified the state's Capitol Preservation Commission that it wants to donate a monument and plans to submit one of several possible designs this month, said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the temple.
"We believe that all monuments should be in good taste and consistent with community standards," Greaves wrote in letter to state officials. "Our proposed monument, as an homage to the historic/literary Satan, will certainly abide by these guidelines."
Greaves said one potential design involves a pentagram, a satanic symbol, while another is meant to be an interactive display for children. He said he expects the monument, if approved by Oklahoma officials, would cost about $20,000.
Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, who spearheaded the push for the Ten Commandments monument and whose family helped pay the $10,000 for its construction, declined to comment on the Satanic Temple's effort, but Greaves credited Ritze for opening the door to the group's proposal.
"He's helping a satanic agenda grow more than any of us possibly could," Greaves said. "You don't walk around and see too many satanic temples around, but when you open the door to public spaces for us, that's when you're going to see us."
I once thought that this sort of action would illustrate to everyone why it is wrong for public spaces to feature religious monuments: you can't pick and choose which religions are acceptable. But now I realize that the people who care about this will have no problem doing just that. They are long past believing in free exercise of religion. They now believe that the Constitution is a collaboration between Jesus and George Washington and that freedom of religion applies only the Christianity (and maybe the Jews if they don't get too uppity.) I'm not sure how the Supreme Court would deal with this but I'd imagine they'll find a clever way out. There's just no way anyone's going to let Satan on the courthouse steps. Unless he comes in the guise of a politician ...
Ted Cruz Is A Man Of Great Virility And Stamina: Many “career establishment politicians are far too out of shape, old or overweight to even perform such a magnificent feat” as standing on the Senate floor and talking for over 21 hours. But not Ted Cruz!
Ted Cruz Can See The Future: Cruz spoke with “clairvoyant precision” about the “quickly approaching Obama Care disaster.
Cruz Is The Constitution’s Guardian: Ted Cruz is a “passionate fighter for limited government, economic growth, and the Constitution.
America Is A Christian Nation: American history is “replete with official references to the value and invocation of Divine guidance, including official Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, House and Senate chaplains, the national motto ‘In God We Trust,” the Pledge of Allegiance, [and] religious paintings in the National Gallery.” So hands off those government-sponsored Ten Commandments monuments!
Providing Health Care To People Who Can’t Afford It Is Worse Than War: Cruz’s failed stand against the Affordable Care Act “was so important because millions of citizens believe Obama Care is worse than any war. At least American soldiers have weapons with which to defend themselves.”
RAFAEL EDWARD CRUZ'S CONSERVATIVE baptism came at 13, when his parents enrolled him in an after-school program in Houston that was run by a local nonprofit called the Free Enterprise Education Center. Its founder was a retired natural gas executive (and onetime vaudeville performer) named Rolland Storey, a jovial septuagenarian whom one former student described as "a Santa Claus of Liberty."
Storey's foundation was part of a late-Cold War growth spurt in conservative youth outreach. (Around the same time in Michigan, an Amway-backed group called the Free Enterprise Institute formed a traveling puppet show to teach five-year-olds about the evils of income redistribution.) The goal was to groom a new generation of true believers in the glory of the free market.
Storey lavished his students with books by Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises, political theorist Frédéric Bastiat, and libertarian firebrand Murray Rothbard—and hammered home his teachings with a catechism called the Ten Pillars of Economic Wisdom. (Cruz was a fan of Pillar II: "Everything that government gives to you, it must first take from you.") Storey's favorite historian was W. Cleon Skousen, an FBI agent turned Mormon theologian who posited that Anglo-Saxons were descendants of the lost tribe of Israel. Skousen was also a patriarch of the Tenther movement—whose adherents view the 10th Amendment as a firewall against federal encroachment. (By Skousen's reading, national parks were unconstitutional.)
Cruz was a star pupil. "He was so far head and shoulders above all the other students—frankly, it just wasn't fair," says Winston Elliott III, who took over the program after Storey retired. When Storey organized a speech contest on free-market values, Cruz won—four years running. "It was almost as if you wished Ted might be sick one year so that another kid could win."
Cruz and other promising students were invited to join a traveling troupe called the Constitutional Corroborators. Storey hired a memorization guru from Boston to develop a mnemonic device for the powers specifically granted to Congress in the Constitution. "T-C-C-N-C-C-P-C-C," for instance, was shorthand for "taxes, credit, commerce, naturalization, coinage, counterfeiting, post office, copyright, courts." The Corroborators hit the national Rotary Club luncheon circuit, writing selected articles verbatim on easels. They'd close with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free…it expects what never was and never will be."
After their resounding defeat in the 2012 general election, many Republicans realized that they were facing a date with demographic destiny and needed to change course. Thus began the "rebranding" effort, which lasted all of a few months before the Republican base and the conservative media establishment slapped them down for suggesting that even a dollop of humanity be added to Republican policies.
Fast forward a year and another smashing electoral defeat in formerly red Virginia, and it looks like Republicans are finally beginning to see that....no, wait. Never mind. No change necessary. Full speed ahead, mates:
Virginia Republicans suffered a drubbing last month, losing all three statewide races (though a recount is impending in one). A year earlier, it was pretty much the same story as Mitt Romney got swamped and the party unexpectedly lost ground in the Senate.
But to hear GOP leaders in this once reliably red state tell it, this is no time to panic. No hint of discouragement is betrayed. Just as many party activists insisted after Romney’s loss, key figures here said that their shortcomings are cosmetic — that the problem is largely about campaign mechanics and how the conservative message is being delivered, not the message itself.
So if the Commonwealth, sure to again be a top battleground in 2016, is a microcosm for the broader Republican Party, the GOP faithful here weren’t showing much interest in the kind of soul-searching many in the GOP believe is necessary if they want to win big elections again.
“All these reports of our demise are premature,” said Bill Howell, speaker of the state House of Delegates. “The cycle swings, and we’ll be back.”
Gathering this weekend for the first time since crusading conservative Ken Cuccinelli’s narrower-than-expected 2.5-percentage-point defeat, a chorus of activists, elected officials and other party hands stressed that Cuccinelli’s ideology was not his undoing...
State party Chairman Pat Mullins accused the media of covering “war on women” attacks more aggressively than the problems with Obamacare.
“This year, our message couldn’t break through and we paid a price,” he said.
Mullins mocked post-election analysis that said Cuccinelli was too conservative for a changing state.
“This is false narrative by false prophets,” he said. “Republicans do not win when we are mini-Democrats or Democrat Lite.”
Eventually, no matter how much money the Kochs and the Waltons and their friends spend, demographic realities are going to destroy this incarnation of the GOP.
Women voters hate the GOP. Voters under 35 hate the GOP. Latino voters hate the GOP. Black voters hate the GOP. Asian voters hate the GOP. LGBT voters hate the GOP. Secular voters hate the GOP. Highly educated voters hate the GOP. Voters in densely populated areas hate the GOP. Nor is any of that likely to change soon.
All the GOP has left in terms of favorable demographics, are religious straight white men over 35 years old, mostly without college degrees, who don't live in big cities. Folks who started on third base, grew up in the economy the New Deal built, got good jobs without going into massive debt for their education, bought houses cheap, elected Reagan, cut taxes, trashed the place, watched their houses and stocks quadruple in value through no skill or effort of their own, destroyed the economic future of the Millennial generation, and then think they "built that" and hit a triple. The Fox News watching demographic is overwhelmingly white and over 70 years old.
Every single electoral cycle, the percentage of GOP-friendly demographics shrinks in the electorate. Not only did Obama clean Romney's clock in 2012, Democrats unexpectedly picked up Senate seats, and 1.5 million more Americans voted for Dem House candidates than GOP ones. The only reason the GOP holds the House is gerrymandering. Republicans have won the popular vote in presidential elections just once in the last six. 2016 won't be any different.
The only reason the GOP has a near-term prayer at all is that fewer Americans vote in midterms, which means that hateful, committed Fox News/Limbaugh rump base of whipped-up hysterical neo-Confederate Ayn Rand-loving voters can still make a difference to reverse some of the momentum from Presidential years. But not for long.
Eventually, this fever will break. It has to in order to preserve the balance of the two-party system. The only question is what that will look like.
News flash: the right has hardly given up. In fact, they've expanded their work to encompass not only the federal government but all 50 states:
Most of the "think tanks" involved in the proposals gathered by the State Policy Network are constituted as 501(c)(3) charities that are exempt from tax by the Internal Revenue Service. Though the groups are not involved in election campaigns, they are subject to strict restrictions on the amount of lobbying they are allowed to perform. Several of the grant bids contained in the Guardian documents propose the launch of "media campaigns" aimed at changing state laws and policies, or refer to "advancing model legislation" and "candidate briefings", in ways that arguably cross the line into lobbying.
The documents also cast light on the nexus of funding arrangements behind radical right-wing campaigns. The State Policy Network (SPN) has members in each of the 50 states and an annual warchest of $83 million drawn from major corporate donors that include the energy tycoons the Koch brothers, the tobacco company Philip Morris, food giant Kraft and the multinational drugs company GlaxoSmithKline.
SPN gathered the grant proposals from the 34 states on 29 July. Ranging in size from requests of $25,000 to $65,000, the plans were submitted for funding to the Searle Freedom Trust, a private foundation that in 2011 donated almost $15m to largely rightwing causes.
The proposals in the grant bids contained in the Guardian documents go beyond a commitment to free enterprise, however. They include:
• "reforms" to public employee pensions raised by SPN thinktanks in Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania
• tax elimination or reduction schemes in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, Nebraska, and New York
• an education voucher system to promote private and home schooling in Florida
• campaigns against worker and union rights in Delaware and Nevada
• opposition to Medicaid in Georgia, North Carolina, and Utah
This really is a matter of stupid amounts of money being devoted to a political ideology. This sort of coordinated, multi-pronged attack at several levels of government could not happen if it weren't for the multi-billionaires who are willing to use their discretionary mad money on political causes. When you're as rich as the Kochs, you can pretty much create a political industry from the ground up and fund it generously. Which is what they are doing.
I don't know what to do about this. It seems almost impossible to stop it, although the democratic process should be able to create some countervailing pressure. But it's hard to imagine that with the kind of resources they have behind them that they will not make at least some progress, in more than a few places, on enacting this agenda. And that's just horrible.
[O]nce you realize how long self-styled centrists have virtually defined their identity in terms of what they imagine is their courage in going after Social Security, you can see why the shifting tides — the rise of Democrats who no longer feel the need to keep the WaPo opinion page happy — are leaving them a bit unhinged.
Ain't it the truth? They're completely off balance. Which goes to show that this whole Overton Window thing is a really good idea just like the hippies always said.
In fact, if anyone's interested in doing some more of this kind of thing, here's an old moldering set of principles we could work from going forward:
It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens.
For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.
I have never understood why this can possibly be allowed under our constitution, but it is:
EARLIER this year Sarah Stillman wrote a first-rate piece in the New Yorker on the abuses of civil asset forfeiture—a practice wherein police seize and keep the property of people who have not been convicted of a crime. The piece opens with the story of Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson, who had their cash taken by authorities in the small town of Tenaha because they "fit the profile of drug couriers", even though no drugs were found in their car nor were they charged with any crime. Despite this, Ms Stillman writes, "The basic principle behind asset forfeiture is appealing. It enables authorities to confiscate cash or property obtained through illicit means, and, in many states, funnel the proceeds directly into the fight against crime."
Those two sentences are true only to the extent that the two key qualifiers in them are true. The first is "obtained through illicit means". That strongly implies not civil, but criminal asset forfeiture, referring to the seizure of property proven in a court of law to have been obtained through illicit means, not to the seizure of whatever property police can concoct a semi-plausible excuse to grab. The standards for civil asset forfeiture are far lower, as Ms Stillman andothershaveinfuriatinglydetailed. Police do not have to successfully prosecute someone, or even charge them with a crime, to seize their assets. The second is "funnel the proceeds directly into the fight against crime." Using a convicted trafficker's Escalade for stakeouts has a certain poetic justice.
Using forfeiture funds as the district attorney's (DA) office in Fulton County, which covers most of Atlanta, is alleged to have done, does not. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the sordid details: $5,600 on a Christmas party; $1,100 for flowers; $3,200 for "sirloin beef tip roast, roasted turkey breast and mini crab cakes with champagne sauce"; $8,200 on a security system for the home of Paul Howard, Fulton's DA; $4,800 for a holiday awards gala held at a "historic Midtown mansion". Mr Howard insists that he has done nothing wrong and that he has wide discretion in how he spends.
This convenient way of financing police agencies' "finer things" first came to my attention over 20 years ago when I first read about the Donald Scott case right here in Malibu:
Early on the morning of October 2, 1992, 31 officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, Border Patrol, National Guard and Park Service entered the Scott's 200-acre ranch. They planned to arrest Scott for allegedly running a 4,000-plant marijuana plantation. When deputies broke down the door to Scott's house, Scott's wife would later tell reporters, she screamed, "Don't shoot me. Don't kill me."That brought Scott staggering out of the bedroom, blurry-eyed from a cataract operation—holding a .38 caliber Colt snub-nosed revolver over his head. When he emerged at the top of the stairs, holding his gun over his head, the officers told him to lower the gun. As he did, they shot him to death. According to the official report, the gun was pointed at the officers when they shot him.
Later, the lead agent in the case, sheriff's deputy Gary Spencer and his partner John Cater posed for photographs smiling arm-in-arm outside Scott's cabin.
Despite a subsequent search of Scott's ranch using helicopters, dogs, searchers on foot, and a high-tech Jet Propulsion Laboratory device for detecting trace amounts of sinsemilla, no marijuana—or any other illegal drug—was found.
Scott's widow, the former Frances Plante, along with four of Scott's children from previous marriages, subsequently filed a $100 million wrongful death suit against the county and federal government. For eight years the case dragged on, requiring the services of 15 attorneys and some 30 volume binders to hold all the court documents. In January 2000, attorneys for Los Angeles County and the federal government agreed to settle with Scott's heirs and estate for $5 million, even though the sheriff's department still maintained its deputies had done nothing wrong.
Michael D. Bradbury, the District Attorney of Ventura County conducted an investigation into the raid and the aftermath, issuing a report on the events leading up to and on October 2, 1992. He concluded that asset forfeiture was a motive for the raid.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department issued their own report in response, clearing everyone involved of wrongdoing while California Attorney General Dan Lungren criticized District Attorney Bradbury. Sheriff Spencer sued D.A. Bradbury for defamation in response to the report. The court ruled in favor of Michael Bradbury and ordered Sheriff Spencer to pay $50,000 in Bradbury's legal bills.
I frankly don't care if they are using the money to buy new SWAT uniforms or pay for swanky parties at the Ritz-Carlton. Police agencies should not have the power to confiscate people's property without due process --- and that means the people in question must be convicted of a crime. It should happen under the aegis of the courts and the assets should not go directly to those who did the confiscating. This is a recipe for official thievery.
The incentives for the sort of misconduct in the examples cited above are obvious. And they are yet another symptom of a justice system that is corrupt and unaccountable. Perhaps it has always been this way, in one respect or another but there's just no excuse for allowing the police to run over the 4th Amendment in a tactical vehicle and then seize the spoils for themselves. Those are the actions of a mercenary army, not police agencies of a democratic republic.
You're not doing your daughters any favors with this stuff, daddies.
I'm sure the intention here is good humor and fatherly concern. It's natural to want to protect your children and I think fathers are especially protective of their little girls.
But this list is an awful lesson for both teen-age boys and teen-age girls. Girls aren't inanimate objects and daughters are not daddy's property. In fact, you could easily substitute "borrow my car" for "date my daughter" in that list and it would make perfect sense. They should be acknowledged as having equal agency in all this. And boys shouldn't be "negotiating" privileges with a girl's father. She's a person and if either boyfriend or daddy are going to be doing any negotiating, it should be with her.
It reminds me of the purity balls especially the princess/conquest thing which, again, reduces the girl in this picture to daddy's private property. It's antediluvian, patriarchal claptrap and modern men should know better. If you have those thoughts, keep them to yourselves and try to help create a world where your daughters don't have to fight to be seen as equal citizens.
Since there are obviously not enough jobs for all the unemployed to fill them, he can only be saying they need to immediately start their new careers as robbers and whores in order to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday he opposes extending unemployment benefits for workers, arguing that it would be a "disservice" to jobless individuals.
"I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they're paid for. If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers," he said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."
It's this twisted Randroid sanctimony that really gets to me. It's bad enough that this creep thinks the unemployed are parasites and moochers. But he has the brass balls to adopt a disgustingly unctuous "compassionate" tone to suggest that he's following Christian teachings by throwing them out on the street.
Several years ago, a senior officer in the CIA clandestine service attended a closed-door conference for overseas operatives. Speakers included case officers who were working in the manner Hollywood usually portrays spies — out on their own.
Most CIA officers abroad pose as U.S. diplomats. But those given what's called non-official cover are known as NOCs, pronounced "knocks," and they typically pose as business executives. At the forum, the NOCs spoke of their cover jobs, their false identities and measures taken to protect them. Few said much about gathering intelligence.
A colleague passed a caustic note to the senior officer. "Lots of business," it read. "Little espionage."
Twelve years after the CIA began a major push to get its operatives out of embassy cubicles and into foreign universities, businesses and other local perches to collect intelligence on terrorists and rogue nations, the effort has been a disappointment, current and former U.S. officials say. Along with other parts of the CIA, the budget of the so-called Global Deployment Initiative, which covers the NOC program, is now being cut.
"It was a colossal flop," a former senior CIA official said in sentiments echoed by a dozen former colleagues, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a classified program.
The CIA spent at least $3 billion on the program, and the number of specially trained spies grew from dozens to hundreds. The entire clandestine service is believed to total about 5,000 people.
But because of inexperience, bureaucratic hurdles, lack of language skills and other problems, only a few of the deep-cover officers recruited useful intelligence sources, several former officers said.
Apparently, the people of Iran (where most of this was focused) are watching Hollywood movies too and exposed most of these spies who were then brought back to the US.
This is unfortunate. Assuming any powerful nation will spy on other countries, this form of HUMINT is the traditional way it's done, with the use of people with knowledge of the relevant culture and politics using well honed skills to seek specific information on the ground. That's a form of intelligence gathering that relies on the heuristic abilities of human beings which, in my opinion, are a lot more nuanced and sophisticated than the NSA dragnet computer models can possibly be.
But that takes training and long term commitment and we don't really want to bother with that when we can spy on everyone in the world and draw conclusions from inferences based upon who knows who and where they drink their coffee. Let's just say the possibility of error is at least as great with this huge data collection as it is when relying on trained spies on the ground. And I would guess that the possibility of missing something more important is greater. Computer analysis is only as good as what it's programmed to analyze. Human beings on the ground would always have a subtler grasp on the reality of any threat.
But it didn't work out apparently. So we're going with this instead:
Aside from the obvious authoritarian concerns I really have to wonder if reliance on this fancy high tech intelligence gathering is going to end up making us less able to understand the complex nature of what it is we're supposed to be spying on: namely, human beings.
Maybe we should have a public-public partnership on health, not a public-private one?
by David Atkins
This is the sort of thing that happens when you do ill-advised public-private kludges instead of commonsense Medicare-style deals between the public and their government:
The California health exchange says it's been giving the names of tens of thousands of consumers to insurance agents without their permission or knowledge in an effort to hit deadlines for coverage.
The consumers in question had gone online to research insurance options but didn't ask to be contacted, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday (http://lat.ms/1jyABXS ).
Officials with Covered California, the exchange set up in response to the federal health law, said they began providing names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses if available this week in a pilot program. They said they thought it would help people meet a Dec. 23 deadline to have health insurance in place by Jan. 1.
The state doesn't know exactly how many people are affected by the information sharing. Social Security numbers, income and other information were not provided to the agents, exchange officials said.
The pilot program meets privacy laws and was cleared by the exchange's legal counsel, Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, told the Times.
But some insurance brokers and consumers weren't pleased with the state's initiative.
"I'm shocked and dumbfounded," said Sam Smith, an Encino insurance broker and president of the California Association of Health Underwriters, an industry group.
"These people would have a legitimate complaint," said Smith, who added he had been given two consumer names.
It's not the biggest deal in the world, but it is a problem. Privacy is at far greater risk when the government is forced to rely on private services that should be a one-stop efficient contract between the people and their elected government.
While obscured in public memory by the (relatively) more "recent" 1993 Branch Davidian siege in Waco, the eerily similar demise of the Philadelphia-based MOVE organization 8 years earlier was no less tragic on a human level, nor any less disconcerting in its ominous socio-political implications. In an enlightening new documentary called Let the Fire Burn, director Jason Osder has parsed a trove of archival "live-at-the-scene" TV reports, deposition videos, law enforcement surveillance footage, and other sundry "found" footage (much of it previously unseen by the general public) and created a tight narrative that plays like an edge-of-your-seat political thriller.
Depending upon whom you might ask, MOVE was an "organization", a "religious cult", a "radical group", or all of the above. The biggest question in my mind (and one the film doesn't necessarily delve into) is whether it was another example of psychotic entelechy. So what is "psychotic entelechy", exactly? Well, according to Stan A. Lindsay, the author of Psychotic Entelechy: The Dangers of Spiritual Gifts Theology, it would be
...the tendency of some individuals to be so desirous of fulfilling or bringing to perfection the implications of their terminologies that they engage in very hazardous or damaging actions.
In the context of Lindsay's book, he is expanding on some of the ideas laid down by literary theorist Kenneth Burke and applying them to possibly explain the self-destructive traits shared by the charismatic leaders of modern-day cults like The People's Temple, Order of the Solar Tradition, Heaven's Gate, and The Branch Davidians. He ponders whether all the tragic deaths that resulted should be labeled as "suicides, murders, or accidents". Whether MOVE belongs on that list is perhaps debatable, but in Osder's film, you do get the sense that leader John Africa (an adapted surname that all followers used) was a charismatic person. He founded the group in 1972, based on an odd hodge-podge of tenets borrowed from Rastafarianism, Black Nationalism and green politics; with a Luddite view of technology (think ELF meets the Panthers...by way of the Amish). Toss in some vaguely egalitarian philosophies about communal living, and I think you're there.
The group, which shared a town house, largely kept itself to itself (at least at first) but started to draw the attention of Philadelphia law enforcement when a number of their neighbors began expressing concern to the authorities about sanitation issues (the group built compost piles around their building using refuse and human excrement) and the distressing appearance of possible malnutrition amongst the children of the commune (some of the footage in the film would seem to bear out the latter claim). The city engaged in a year-long bureaucratic standoff with MOVE over their refusal to vacate, culminating in an attempted forced removal turned-gun battle with police in 1978 that left one officer dead. Nine MOVE members were convicted of 3rd-degree murder and jailed.
The remaining members of MOVE relocated their HQ, but it didn’t take long to wear out their welcome with the new neighbors (John Africa’s strange, rambling political harangues, delivered via loudspeakers mounted outside the MOVE house certainly didn’t help). Africa and his followers began to develop a siege mentality, shuttering up all the windows and constructing a makeshift pillbox style bunker on the roof. Naturally, these actions only served to ratchet up the tension and goad local law enforcement. On May 13, 1985 it all came to a head when a heavily armed contingent of cops moved in, ostensibly to arrest MOVE members on a number of indictments. Anyone who remembers the shocking news footage knows that the day did not end well. Gunfire was exchanged after tear gas and high-pressure water hoses failed to end the standoff, so authorities decided to take a little shortcut and drop a satchel of C-4 onto the roof of the building. 11 MOVE members (including 5 children) died in the resulting inferno, which consumed 61 homes.
Putting aside any debate or speculation for a moment over whether or not John Africa and his disciples were deranged criminals, or whether or not the group’s actions were self-consciously provocative or politically convoluted, one simple fact remains and bears repeating: “Someone” decided that it was a perfectly acceptable action plan, in the middle of a dense residential neighborhood (located in the City of Brotherly Love, no less) to drop a bomb on a building with children inside it. Even more appalling is the callous indifference and casual racism displayed by some of the officials and police who are seen in the film testifying before the Mayor’s investigative commission (the sole ray of light, one compassionate officer who braved crossfire to help a young boy escape the burning building, was chastised by fellow officers afterward as a “nigger lover” for his trouble).
Let the Fire Burn is not only an essential document of a true American tragedy, but a cautionary tale and vital reminder of how far we still have to go in purging the vestiges of institutional racism in this country (1985 was not really that long ago). In a weird bit of Kismet, I saw this film the day before Nelson Mandela’s passing, which has of course prompted a stream of retrospectives on the history of Apartheid on the nightly news. Did you know that in 1985, there was a raging debate over whether we should impose sanctions on South Africa? (*sigh*) Sometimes…you can’t see the forest for the trees.
Think of it as the CIA’s plunge into Hollywood -- or into the absurd. As recent revelations have made clear, that Agency’s moves couldn’t be have been more far-fetched or more real. In its post-9/11 global shadow war, it has employed both private contractors and some of the world’s most notorious prisoners in ways that leave the latest episode of the Bourne films in the dust: hired gunmen trained to kill as well as former inmates who cashed in on the notoriety of having worn an orange jumpsuit in the world's most infamous jail.
The first group of undercover agents were recruited by private companies from the Army Special Forces and the Navy SEALs and then repurposed to the CIA at handsome salaries averaging around $140,000 a year; the second crew was recruited from the prison cells at Guantanamo Bay and paid out of a secret multimillion dollar slush fund called “the Pledge.”
Last month, the Associated Press revealed that the CIA had selected a few dozen men from among the hundreds of terror suspects being held at Guantanamo and trained them to be double agents at a cluster of eight cottages in a program dubbed "Penny Lane." (Yes, indeed, the name was taken from the Beatles song, as was "Strawberry Fields," a Guantanamo program that involved torturing “high-value” detainees.) These men were then returned to what the Bush administration liked to call the “global battlefield,” where their mission was to befriend members of al-Qaeda and supply targeting information for the Agency’s drone assassination program.
Such a secret double-agent program, while colorful and remarkably unsuccessful, should have surprised no one. After all, plea bargaining or persuading criminals to snitch on their associates -- a tactic frowned upon by international legal experts -- is widely used in the U.S. police and legal system. Over the last year or so, however, a trickle of information about the other secret program has come to light and it opens an astonishing new window into the privatization of U.S. intelligence.
In July 2010, at his confirmation hearings for the post of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper explained the use of private contractors in the intelligence community: "In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War... we were under a congressional mandate to reduce the community by on the order of 20%... Then 9/11 occurred... With the gusher... of funding that has accrued particularly from supplemental or overseas contingency operations funding, which, of course, is one year at a time, it is very difficult to hire government employees one year at a time. So the obvious outlet for that has been the growth of contractors." (read on ...)
That's obviously a feature not a bug. In fact, there are a lot of people who feel this "dynamic" form of outsourcing makes good sense since defense costs are obviously volatile in a time of war. Except, of course, they aren't are they? They just keep going up. And the "wars" just keep keeping on.
Clapper very conveniently blames the necessity of private contracting on the fact that the government pulled back intelligence funding in the aftermath of the Cold War. But think about that. We know now that the cold war was hyped unmercifully and the level of overkill had been massive for decades. The pullback in funding was hardly precipitous and spending never came back down to a reasonable level. The idea that they were hurting for resources is absolute nonsense.
The real problem then, for this sector, was that there existed official entities with whom we could mutually agree that the "war", such as it was, had ended and precipitate some small shrinking of spending on defense. And that's not going to be possible with the war on terror, is it? Again, feature not bug. They won't make that mistake again.
Some people knew how this would go a long time ago:
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Still true. Unfortunately, those who try to inform the people are labeled traitors.
. digby 12/07/2013 04:00:00 PM
A correction from us now. On Wednesday during a discussion on our roundtable about Vice President Biden I tried to make the point that despite his substantive work, the media perhaps too often focuses on his gaffes. In doing so, I did him and you the exact same ill service by not providing the proper context for a quick sound bite we aired. The vice president had been attending an event in Japan aimed at highlighting efforts to reduce the percentage of Japanese women, currently at 60 percent, who quit their jobs after the birth of their first child. An important context for you to have known before we showed you the vice president asking some female workers there how their husbands like them working full-time. Again, we were trying to make the point that the VP perhaps deserved a more fair shake but then I inadvertently, ironically, perhaps even hypocritically, did the same thing. I regret the error and apologize to the vice president and to you, the viewer.
On December 3. Biden visited the Toyko headquarters of the Japanese company DeNA. According to the Wall Street Journal, that firm "is known for encouraging its female employees to continue working through motherhood," and Biden was there to "meet with its female employees to chat about achieving a work-life balance in a country where 60% of women don't return to work after giving birth." As part of that dialogue, Biden asked a group of five young female employees, "Do your husbands like you working full time?" Illustrating the vulnerability of journalists working in the current media environment, numerous media outlets ripped Biden's comments from their context and presented them as a sexist gaffe.
That dishonest framing reached CNN the same day, when Crossfire's Gingrich tried to use them to diffuse criticism of the GOP's toxic rhetoric on women. He commented: "Democrats like to complain about a Republican war on women. That was before Vice President Joe Biden started his current tour of Japan. Today, while touring a Japanese game company, he walked up to a group of women and asked them, 'Do your husbands like you working full-time?'" Gingrich used Biden's comments to ask, "How do you explain Biden's inability to stay in touch with reality?"
So the first thing out of the box after President Obama's big speech on inequality is a big push for "fast-tracking" a new international trade deal called the Trans Pacific Pact (TPP.) It almost makes you want to laugh it's so predictable. So, it's time to get up to speed on this deal and Dave Johnson has done the research for you, with charts, graphs, links and a short primer on what it all means and what you can do.
I had an interesting conversation the other night with someone who was recently in the administration who tells me that the bipartisan consensus on these trade deals in Washington is so entrenched (indeed, has been so entrenched ever since the logjam was broken around NAFTA) that it's impossible to imagine that this won't ultimately go through. We don't know that for sure, of course. New coalitions and strangely self-defeating obstructionism seems to be the rule in the congress these days, so maybe the Tea Partiers will find a way to save the day. But assuming this is destined to pass in some form, it's still vitally important that "fast track" authority is denied so that the people can look at this thing and have a say in how it's structured. These fast track agreements are completely undemocratic and the trade pacts should allow the people to have input into the details. I know that's inconvenient for the One Percenters, but it's the way our system is supposed to work. As Dave writes, there are ways to improve these deals:
A trade agreement doesn’t have to be bad. A real “trade’ agreement could lift the world’s economy, instead of making exploitation of labor and the environment into a competitive advantage. (“Shut up our we’ll move your job out of the country, too.”) But with all of the stakeholders at the table, we could work out a way around the low wages and lack of environmental protections in some countries. (Make it a trade violation to say “Shut up our we’ll move your job out of the country, too.” Make it a trade violation to lower costs by allowing pollution. Make it a trade violation to block union organizing or deny unemployment benefits or do other things that push wages down. Make it a trade violation to have a continuing trade surplus.)
Click on the link above to see what you can do to help make that happen.
I've noticed over the last few years that it's fairly common to pooh-pooh the concept of privacy. "It's dead already", who needs it, if you've got nothing to hide, etc. In this Facebook world in which people eagerly share every thought that passes through their minds, it almost seems quaint. But it isn't. Privacy is fundamental to being a human being.
This interview with Glenn Greenwald is fascinating for any number of reasons and you should read the whole thing, but I was especially taken with his philosophical approach to this subject considering how important his reporting and analysis on the NSA revelations have been. He said:
I think it's interesting because a lot of times people have difficulty understanding why privacy's important...and so what I try to do is look at human behavior, and what I find, I think, is that the quest for privacy is very pervasive. We do all kinds of things to ensure that we can have a realm in which we can engage in conduct without other people's judgmental eyes being cast upon us.
And if you look at how tyrannies have used surveillance in the past, they don't use surveillance in support of their tyranny in the sense that every single person is being watched at all times, because that just logistically hasn't been able to be done. Even now it can't be done -- I mean, the government can collect everybody's e-mails and calls, but they don't have the resources to monitor them all. But what's important about a surveillance state is that it creates the recognition that your behavior is susceptible to being watched at any time. What that does is radically alter your behavior, because if we can act without other people watching us, we can test all kinds of boundaries, we can explore all kinds of creativity, we can transgress pretty much every limit that we want because nobody's going to know that we're doing it. That's why privacy is so vital to human freedom.
But if we know we're being watched all the time, then we're going to engage in behavior that is acceptable to other people, meaning we're going to conform to orthodoxies and norms. And that's the real menace of a ubiquitous surveillance state: It breeds conformity; it breeds a kind of obedient citizenry, on both a societal and an individual level. That's why tyrannies love surveillance, but it's also why surveillance literally erodes a huge part of what it means to be a free individual.
The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a single watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether they are being watched or not. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behavior constantly. The name is also a reference to Panoptes from Greek mythology; he was a giant with a hundred eyes and thus was known to be a very effective watchman.
The design consists of a circular structure with an “inspection house” at its centre, from which the manager or staff of the institution are able to watch the inmates, who are stationed around the perimeter. Bentham conceived the basic plan as being equally applicable to hospitals, schools, sanatoriums, daycares, and asylums, but he devoted most of his efforts to developing a design for a Panopticon prison, and it is his prison which is most widely understood by the term.
Bentham himself described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.” Elsewhere, he described the Panopticon prison as “a mill for grinding rogues honest”.
Ubiquitous government surveillance, whether or not they are actually watching your every move, is by definition a form of authoritarianism. People adjust their behavior even if they don't know they are doing it. It automatically impinges on our basic human freedom.
People used to automatically understand this. I'm not sure when or how that changed but one thing is clear: all this handwringing about "trust in government" is overwrought. Most people seem to think it's just fine if the government has access to information about all of their communications, contacts and movements. And that can only mean they believe the government would never use it against them. And maybe it won't, But somewhere, in that back of all of our minds now, we know that they could. And that automatically changes us, even if we don't know it.
Multiple Democrats on Capitol Hill are worried that House Democratic leaders are close to joining with House GOP leaders to support a bipartisan measure that could undermine the White House’s efforts to reach a long term deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program, I’m told by sources involved in discussions.
The worry is that Dem Rep. Steny Hoyer, the number two House Dem, may join with GOP Rep. Eric Cantor on a resolution or bill that will either criticize the current temporary deal with Iran, or call for a new round of sanctions, or set as U.S. policy some strict parameters on a final deal with Iran, such as opposition to any continued uranium enrichment, House Democratic aides say. House Dems and outside foreign policy observers have communicated such worries to Hoyer’s office, sources add.
Hoyer’s office confirmed to me that Cantor had produced a bill and shared it with him, but declined to discuss details. “Cantor has a bill, and it’s being reviewed by our office,” Hoyer spokesperson Stephanie Young said. “No decisions have been made.” Spokespeople for Cantor didn’t respond.
Any resolution or bill along these lines that has the support of any House Dem leaders would increase the pressure on Senate Democrats to pass a measure of their own, which the White House opposes. And some fear that a measure in the House itself — even if the Senate didn’t act — could have an adverse impact on international talks.
According to reports in the Hill and National Journal, Cantor and House GOP leaders are looking for a way to express opposition to, and put obstacles in the way of, the deal the Obama administration is pursuing. But now that a bill has been produced, and could be joined by Hoyer, that significantly ratchets up worries that Congress could very well act in a way that scuttles hopes for a long term deal.
Those wary of a possible Hoyer-Cantor measure point out that the two have previously collaborated on measures relating to U.S. policy in the middle east.
I've seen some discussions of this saying that, contrary to some assertions in Sargents piece, the congress playing bad cop gives the administration more leverage in a bigger deal. And that might make some sense if it weren't obvious that the Senate could easily derail any deal for real.
Opposition to peace is one thing that always has strong bipartisan support. This is not a good sign.
This story has been out there for a few days now, but it's so outrageous that it bears repeating: Americans aren't just subsidizing the low wages of WalMart and fast food chains by having to publicly assist their hardworking but underpaid employees. We're also subsidizing the banks as well who, despite being outrageously profitable and subsidized in a variety of other ways, are vastly underpaying their tellers:
Almost a third of the country’s half-million bank tellers rely on some form of public assistance to get by, according to a report due out Wednesday.
Researchers say taxpayers are doling out nearly $900 million a year to supplement the wages of bank tellers, which amounts to a public subsidy for multibillion-dollar banks. The workers collect $105 million in food stamps, $250 million through the earned income tax credit and $534 million by way of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to the University of California at Berkeley’s Labor Center.
The center provided the data to the Committee for Better Banks, a coalition of labor advocacy groups that published the broader study, to be released Wednesday, on the conditions of bank workers in the heart of the financial industry, New York. In the that state alone, 39 percent of tellers and their family members are enrolled in some form of public assistance program, the data show.
“This is the wealthiest and most powerful industry in the world, and it’s substantially subsidized by our tax dollars, money that we could be spending on child care or pre-K,” said Deborah Axt, co-executive director at Make the Road New York, one of four coalition members.
Profits at the nation’s banks topped $141.3 billion last year, with the median chief executive pay hovering around $552,000, according to SNL Financial. In contrast, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the median annual income of a bank teller at $24,100, or $11.59 an hour.
The government shouldn't be giving billionaire bankers a single dime in exemptions or subsidies without demanding that they pay all their employees a decent living wage. It's an outrage.
Very Serious Republicans: "I know you are but what am I?"
Brad Plumer gives us an update on the budget negotiations which are apparently continuing through the week-end. They are reportedly getting to a compromise that would raise the cap on sequestration a little bit, to be paid for down the road because both parties are afraid of deficits. The little bit of restored money will go equally to discretionary programs and defense in the amount of roughly one trillion dollars.
For perspective, you can see that the goalposts have moved so much that "winning" is now actually below Paul Ryan's original budget.
That worked out well.
But House Republicans could still balk. They want sequestration to be kept in place come hell or high water. And you just won't believe this:
On Friday, 18 House conservatives sent a letter to John Boehner demanding only a "clean" continuing resolution bill that would fund the government at the lower $967 billion level next year and keep sequestration in place (albeit with more flexibility for federal agencies). "The Budget Control Act is the law of the land," they wrote. "Our Democrat colleagues are now threatening to shut the government down in order to change that. We should not permit that to happen."
Chutzpah doesn't even begin to describe that. Any right winger who can use the argument that it's the "law of the land" and accuse the Democrats of threatening to "shut down the government" to change it are such immature imbeciles that they should not be allowed to hold office. This is basically what they're doing: