Monday, September 16, 2013
"... in March  that James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, told a Senate committee that the N.S.A. did not collect data on millions of Americans. Mr. Snowden’s records forced Mr. Clapper to backtrack, admitting his statement was false. "
So the Director of National Intelligence lied to Congress! When this happens, isn't it usual for the liar to resign or be forced to resign?
In 2013 NSA requested $10.45 billion dollars from Congress, according to the top-secret budget leaked by Edward Snowden.
And what can we expect from our tax money? Falsehood, evasions, half-truths, three-quarter lies, omissions...only last week the government released documents showed that in 2010 a FISA judge told NSA that it had exceeded its authority by spying on all phone calls in the U.S.A. Their own judge! The agency's bland reply was that the managers of the system didn't operate it properly. Well! Let's first fire those managers and then their bosses - I'm sure that we can find someone to operate the system correctly.
Promises Are Like Piecrusts... Detroit, 2013
Promises are like piecrusts, made to be broken.
Often attributed to V. I. Lenin
The city of Detroit declared bankruptcy on Friday, July 19, 2013, at 4:06 p.m. Central Daylight Time. The special referee and the governor said that the city could not meet its obligations and that the amount of debt, some 18 billion dollars, had become unsustainable. Both of them tried to strike a positive note saying that this was a new start for the city, a new sunrise, a new effort. However, buried in the self-congratulatory speeches was the brutal fact that the city pensions, the promises that Detroit made to its workers, had become an unsecured debt, i.e. the pensions were worthless or skeletal, to use a death metaphor. However, it was also clear that some debt would get some money, that owed to bondholders and banks. Let it be noted that these individuals and institutions have the ability to socialize their losses through the American tax system. Declaring their loss on their taxes means they pay less taxes and we, the taxpayers, make up that shortfall. However, this method of recouping losses is not available to pensioners - they simply lose.
The ability to dump pension obligations by bankruptcy is a fairly new phenomenon, beginning, I believe, in the 1990's. I can think of Continental Airlines, Enron, Amerian Airlines, as companies that evaded their pension responsibilities with this financial device. Then cities such as Stockton, CA. and Central Falls, R.I. declared bankruptcy. And now Detroit, once the heart of industrial America, the home of the American automobile, the city that wheeled the world, has reneged. Next stop: a state will declare bankruptcy to free itself from promised pension and health benefits.
The larger question remains unasked: Why now? The Fox News pundits and others carefully outline the scale of benefits, calling them insupportable - the damned Democrats and Socialists made promises they couldn't keep - Fox News byline. However, unmentioned is the fact that these benefits have been sustainable for at least the last twenty-five or more years. So something must have happened. What?
The pension funds invested in the American stock market, which crashed in 2008, and their investments, then so safe, have not recovered. So the cities and counties, think Orange County, CA, couldn't maintain their level of promised benefit. So they borrowed. The investments have not recovered their level of yield and now the pension funds are in trouble.
Quite a feat for the bankers, yet they continue to oppose any meaningful reform, i.e. a higher level of reserves. This means that when they take risks, more of THEIR money would be at risk, instead of depositors.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
A geologist at Gulf Oil, M. King Hubbert, developed this theory in 1956: this is the point at which petroleum extraction would reach its peak and then begin to decline. He predicted that the United States, then the world's largest oil producer, would reach its maximum in 1970. This happened. As a result the seventies were a period of high volatility in oil prices. He also predicted that the rest of the world would reach peak oil around 2005. Since 2005 we also have had high volatility in oil prices, cf. summer, 2010, $4.50/gal.
Recently, Op-ed pundits and others have speculated that the United States will again become an oil exporter, having enough for its own needs, due to fracking and conservation (you don't hear that word much anymore, do you?). However, if true, this only postpones the problem of oil scarcity, it kicks the can down the road.
Perhaps today we should be thinking about mass transit, conservation, and other sources of energy.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
It was Dick Cheney, graduate of the Richard M. Nixon School of Honest and Responsible Government, who floated the idea of Total Information Awareness back in 2001. The American people didn't like it then, and they don't like it now. However, Dick Cheney went underground and executed the idea. His chief-of-staff, Dick Addington, drew up the rationale and Michael Hayden, later head of the CIA, carried it out.
Richard Cheney is the author of the violations of the Fourth Amendment which now so exercise the American people.
Have you seen him lately on the talk shows, defending his egregious behavior? The seeds he planted have produced the police state that he thought was necessary, even during the days of the unlamented Richard Nixon.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath and affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
Don't you think this should be required reading for James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, and General Alexander, head of the National Security Agency?
Eugene Robinson, in The Washington Post (7.4.13), detailed some of the egregious violations of the Fourth Amendment. Our government has collected information about billions of our phone calls, and perhaps, has recorded some or all of them. He asks the right question: under what authority was this information compiled? The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is supposed to oversee this operation, but its proceedings and rulings are secret. So we don't know. We do know that the government has requested more than 30,000 surveillance warrants and the court has refused only 11. Check my math, but that's .037%.
That's right: .037%
So we don't know what information is being collected, for what purpose, and for how long. In essence, then, this is a lawless operation since the people, i.e. us, are not permitted to know any of these purposes or even whether the information is being or has been collected. It's a blank check to a Star Chamber court, completely and irrevocably antithetical to the Constitution and the American experience.
Policemen, and secret policemen, always want more information in order to "protect" their society from threats, both internal and external. In fact, the best way to protect us would be to put us in a dark cell, completely protected
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Just what was it about President Obama and his speech in Berlin that so bothered George F. Will, reactionary wordsmith of the Right? Was it the President's demeanor? Was it the mention of arms control? The President said that we cannot ignore the intolerance and extremism that provides the fuel for terrorism. George's sneer was that terrorists create intolerance and extremism - basically Obama is too dumb to understand this crucial distinction. The next insulting sneer was that Obama was ignorant of Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs. As if he could be. Remember when the Right insisted that a President shouldn't be criticised while on foreign soil? But that during the tenure of the Toxic Texan, not the unprincipled usurper, elected twice now. Which does remind me, has anyone heard of Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan lately?
This president seems to get under George's white, white skin. I looked at his article again and decided that the old hot buttons of the Cold War, so beloved by the Right, no longer produce the same frisson of angst and terror. The President mentioned arms control - that means cuts in the military, spelling financial hardship for arms makers and investors. The President is looking at the reasons why terrorists flourish in some venues across the globe. Again, for George, apostasy! He thinks that Americans have a God-given right to kill terrorists and anyone , really, who disagrees with our unquestionably generous policies. And then Obama talked about the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs. Yes, they are dangerous, but the central question is why these two countries, certainly not very properous or advanced, should devote so much of their Gross National Product to the production of nuclear bombs. Might these projects have something to do with fear? In the past has the United States threatened either or both countries? Does anyone remember Mohammad Mossadegh or the Korean War? Yes, George wants a no-nonsense, heavily armed America that brooks no opposition to its sway, you know, just like Ronald Reagan. Talking with opponents, considering long term solutions to problems, looking unblinkingly at the mistakes we've made - not for George.
I think that these considerations sparked George's tantrum. He was the one who hit the wall in Berlin, not President Obama.