Category Archives: Domestic Spying

What’s Going on with the Patriot Act?

I’m somewhat confused as to what the Senate is or is not doing with the Patriot Act. Thankfully, Steve Benen is on the case.

This admittedly gets a little messy. There’s a bipartisan House bill – the so-called “U.S.A. Freedom Act” – which Senate Republicans blocked last week, largely because McConnell had an alternative plan that would have simply extended the status quo.
But McConnell’s strategy failed miserably. By the time Senate Republican decided the House bill wasn’t so bad after all, there wasn’t time to pass it before last night’s deadline – at least not without Rand Paul’s cooperation, which he wasn’t prepared to offer.
It’s worth clarifying a couple of things. For example, Paul said he was targeting surveillance programs started by President Obama, which is plainly untrue – at issue are measures put in place by the Bush/Cheney administration, and supported for years by Paul’s party. The Kentucky Republican also suggested over the weekend that the entirety of the Patriot Act was on the line, and that’s not quite right, either.
At issue, rather, are three important provisions within the broader law: (1) Section 215, which has served as the basis for the NSA metadata program; (2) a “lone wolf” provision related to surveillance of terrorist suspects unaffiliated with a larger group; and (3) roving wiretaps.
Perhaps the most important question, however, is what happens now.

Continue reading What’s Going on with the Patriot Act?

News Roundup: Egypt, Edward Snowden, Arizona firefighters

Protests in Egypt

I’m not sure what’s going on in Egypt, but there are big protests and rallies once again. It appears that the Egyptian population has grown tired of the Muslim brotherhood and President Mohammed Morsi. The military appears to be stepping in and demanding that the government meet the needs of the people. This is going to be interesting. I wonder how conservatives will spin this as somehow being Obama’s fault.

It appears that Edward Snowden is still in Russia. It also appears that he has applied for asylum in Russia. You cannot tell me that this guy is not somewhere between a rock and a hard place. I’m guessing that Edward Snowden had the original plan. It appears that plan has fallen apart. It appeared that at first he was worried about the NSA spying on Americans. Okay. That is probably a legitimate concern. Then, he decided to talk with China about the NSA spying on China, the European Union, and other countries. This I don’t understand. The fact that we spy on other countries isn’t a revelation. As a matter fact, the fact that other countries spy on us isn’t a revelation either. This is what national intelligence agencies do. At best Edward Snowden is misguided. At worst, he appears to be someone who thinks he is smarter than he really is. He is really in deep kimchi.

Yesterday, 19 firefighters were killed in Arizona. These firefighters were fighting a forest fire which suddenly changed course. This represents the largest loss of life in a single day in over 50 years. My prayers go out to the family and friends.

No Sign of Inflation

There is no hint of inflation. Remember, several years ago when conservatives were all up in arms over the multiple stimulation packages that injected money into the economy in order to try to save the economy? Conservatives yelled that we were going to have runaway inflation. Not only have we not seen anything that resembles runaway inflation, inflation has been stagnant. On one hand, this can be looked at as a good thing. Consumer prices are really not rising significantly. On the other hand, this is a very bad thing. Wages are also stagnant. With stagnant wages that means our buying power is also stagnant.

In Texas, there is a huge rally in support women’s rights. As you recall, Gov. Rick Perry has called another special session in order to try to curb a women’s right to choose.

This continues to be the most unpredictable Wimbledon in recent memory. Serena Williams, five-time Wimbledon champion, has been bounced out in the fourth round.

News Roundup – Aaron Hernandez, Edward Snowden, The Voting Rights Act

I wish I were able to find something intelligent and thoughtful to say about Aaron Hernandez. To those of who you don’t follow football, or even sports for that matter, Aaron Hernandez is the All-Star tight end for the New England Patriots. Two years ago, it could be argued that Aaron Hernandez, along with his partner, fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski, revolutionized the NFL. Most of the time, when a team comes out with two tight ends, they’re showing you their running formation. Both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are relatively fast. They run good routes and they have good hands. Suddenly, teams don’t know if the Patriots were going to run the ball or pass the ball. Injuries to both tight ends really hurt the New England Patriots last year. Right now, I have nothing intelligent to say about the fact that Aaron Hernandez appears to be embroiled in a murder investigation. All I know is that if I were a 23-year-old football star earning millions of dollars to play a game, I would do everything I could to make sure that I could play that game as long as I possibly could.

Oh my goodness, could we give it a rest!!! Every time I turn on the radio or TV somebody’s talking about Edward Snowden (here, here, here, here there’s more). Where is he? Why did he leave Hong Kong? Why is he in Moscow? Why didn’t he make his plane? I don’t care. Seriously. I really don’t care. Between today and yesterday, I was listing to progressive radio and I heard callers, on one hand, praise Edward Snowden as one of the greatest Americans since George Washington. On the other hand, another caller was badmouthing him for giving secrets to the Russians. People, get a grip. Right now, all we know is that Edward Sowden was smart enough to get a job working for some company that was contracted by the NSA. We also know that he’s taken some sort of technology. He is told us that our government has the ability to spy on us with little or no provocation. That is it. I’m sorry, I don’t know if he’s a good guy or a bad guy. I wish I knew. I wish I could get caught up in this frenzy and either erect a statue to Snowden in my front yard or to start burning effigies of him. I don’t know. Do you? (By the way, don’t listen to the mainstream media. They don’t know either.)

When I first moved to North Carolina back in 2005, I was surprised at how easy it was to vote. I didn’t need to give a pint of blood. I really didn’t even need my voter registration card. I went in and I gave them my name. They looked me up and asked me to verify my address and that was it. I was ready to vote. I did not have to vote on a specific day. I had several days, actually a couple weeks in which I could vote. It was easy. That is thanks to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now, like the Andy Griffith Show, those days are gone. Today, the conservative justices on the Supreme Court earned their pay. It has been 50 years since the Voting Rights Act passed and conservatives have been plotting to kill it ever since. So, today, instead of killing the whole Voting Rights Act, they decided to simply gut the middle of it. Andrew Koppelman wrote, “The Supreme Court has a long history of declaring that the problem of racism in the United States has been solved. It did that in a series of decisions just after the Civil War, striking down civil-rights and anti-lynching laws and paving the way for decades of racial segregation. And today it has just done it again.” I agree with him 100%. He goes on to say, “The fact that things have gotten better hardly means that the act is no longer necessary. It may just mean that it is operating successfully. Ginsburg writes: “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” Still more, “When it struck down the lynch laws in the 1880s, the court lectured Congress on the need to rewrite its statutes to comport with previously unheard-of constitutional limitations. No rewriting occurred. There was no more Federal civil-rights legislation until 1957.”  Professor Koppelman is correct. He knocks it out of the park. To be honest, I don’t see any easy fixes. I don’t see Congress rushing to the rescue because there are enough conservatives in the House to prevent any meaningful legislation to pass. Our best bet is to take back the House in 2014. I’m not sure how we can do that if the ballot box is stuffed against us.