Double the Minimum Wage! (A Fanciful Notion)

5 Aug

“WHAT DO WE WANT? MORE PAY! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW! WHAT DO WE WANT? MORE PAY! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW!”

President Obama’s bully and bullying buddies, the public sector unions, are most recently using fast food restaurant workers of McDonald’s and Wendy’s, etc., as the latest version of Lenin’s useful idiots to go “on strike” to demand doubling the minimum wage.

Well, and to unionize, too (always at least a secondary motive of unions in all that they do), but that’s probably just because public sector unions, recently at only about 13% of their old membership strength, have more recently fallen to about only 11% — and their decline continues — as it should in this modern day of all sorts of government agencies and laws to ensure fairness to workers. Unions, once and historically necessary to get fair pay for workers and to improve working conditions and safety, like my dad’s railroad union back in the day, are actually an unnecessary anachronism today.

And, it’s not exactly doubling the minimum wage anyway, because it seems some of the unionists and protestors may be as math challenged as Obama when he gives almost any speech but especially one on his economy, its anemic “recovery” and the “path forward” but with no plan to get there. You see, one of the chants is, “We can’t survive on $7.25!” And they want the minimum wage increased to $15.00 per hour. So, let’s see, $7.25 times 2, carry the 1 and subtract the zero, and that’s $14.50, not $15.00. But I’m just being picky and precise, one of my more annoying qualities to many of the ideological and liberal Left who like nifty chants more than real facts and figures.

Another picky point, since many of these protests are taking place in right-to-work states and/or states which have “at will” hiring and firing practices (under which you can be fired for cause, or no cause at all), how can non-unionized workers “strike”? Seems to me they’re just asking to be fired for not showing up for work.

Now, let me state right here, as a matter of personal principle, I don’t object to there being some kind of minimum wage, as a kind of safety net to prevent predatory employers from extracting work from unwitting people for sweat shop pay. But also, as an economic principle, I think that the more you increase the minimum wage, the more you interfere with free market determination of what pay there should be for which jobs. And if we’re going to theoretically but logically extend the idea of an ever-increasing minimum wage, we should also conversely support a maximum wage, so, for example, Hollyweird celebs and pro athletes are capped at, say, $5 million per movie or per year. Beyonce? Jay Z? Anyone? Didn’t think so.

However, what’s being lost in all this furor over a minimum wage increase, and what coverage of it there is in the liberal, lapdog media, is that most of the McDonald’s and Wendy’s you see are small businesses operated by franchisees who have already spent thousands of dollars for their franchise rights and who are usually operating on single digit profit margins. That’s nine percent or less, again for those of you who are math challenged, out of which they must pay their franchise fees, operating costs, insurance costs, employee payroll, local, state and federal taxes and then hope there’s enough left to take home to their own families.

And those are some of the same small businesses which even Obama admits are the real energizing engines of our economy. The same small businesses which are already cutting back on hiring or converting positions from full-time to part-tme in droves because of the uncertainty about ObamaCare overall, much less more recently about which parts of it Obama is or is not going to implement, and how, and when, and on whom. The same small businesses which are already struggling just to survive in Obama’s pernicious, protracted and puny economic “recovery.” Yeah, THOSE small businesses.

Besides, the jobs we’re talking about are what are described as “entry level,” “low skill,” or “bottom rung” jobs. They’re not SUPPOSED to be jobs you live off of for any extended period of time or have as a “career.” They’re jobs which teenagers used to refer to as “summer jobs” to earn extra pocket money. Now, they’re jobs which at least get your foot in the door and sustain you for a while, so if you work hard, you can advance to better paying jobs by climbing up the organizational ladder. And, in this anemic Obama economy, with historically record numbers of Americans out of work, record numbers having given up even looking for work and/or record numbers on food stamps, many people are thankful to have ANY job.

And, another besides, in the real world, our dysfunctional, diametrically opposed, gridlocked and grumpy Congress are soon leaving, if not already gone, for their August break (I must say “August break” to distinguish it from all the others they take), so good luck thinking you’re going to get any legislative action on increasing the minimum wage any time soon anyway.

So, do you want to work for that $7.25 per hour and HAVE a job, or do you want to force your already financially stressed boss to FIRE you so the next in the long line of people who are waiting for your job can get your slot — and be glad to have it — and you then only get $0.00 per hour? Hmmm, $7.25 per hour or $0.00 per hour? Think about it. Maybe you should appreciate the position of that small business owner who gave YOU a job, instead of giving it to somebody ELSE, you greedy ingrate.

Oh, and do you want fries with that?

Remember Richard Reid, the Shoe Bomber?

31 Jul

Well, if you fly much, you should. He’s the reason the TSA to this day has you take off your shoes when going through airport security.

He’s the guy who got on a plane with a bomb built into his shoe and tried to light it but failed. He was the Englishman and Muslim convert Richard Reid and that was way back in December 2001.

Now, over 11 years later, did you know when his trial was finally over? Did you know how he was sentenced? Did you see/hear any of the judge’s comments on TV or radio? Did you know Reid was sentenced to over 100 years and is currently in a super max prison, where he will spend the rest of his useless life? Didn’t think so! Not really a “news story” for our liberal, lapdog media.

But everyone should hear what the judge in his case had to say. Here, with credit to the Republicans Conservative Organization website, is the ruling by Judge William Young, US District Court.

Prior to sentencing, the judge asked the defendant if he had anything to say. After admitting his guilt to the court for the record, Reid also admitted his ‘allegiance to Osama bin Laden, to Islam, and to the religion of Allah,’ defiantly stating, ‘I think I will not apologize for my actions,’ and told the court ‘I am at war with your country.’

Judge Young then delivered the statement quoted below:

“Mr. Richard C. Reid, hearken now to the sentence the Court imposes upon you.

On counts 1, 5 and 6 the Court sentences you to life in prison in the custody of the United States Attorney General. On counts 2, 3, 4 and 7, the Court sentences you to 20 years in prison on each count, the sentence on each count to run consecutively. (That’s 80 years.)

On count 8 the Court sentences you to the mandatory 30 years, again to be served consecutively to the 80 years just imposed. The Court imposes upon you for each of the eight counts a fine of $250,000, that’s an aggregate fine of $2 million. The Court accepts the government’s recommendation with respect to restitution and orders restitution in the amount of $298.17 to Andre Bousquet and $5,784 to American Airlines.

The Court imposes upon you an $800 special assessment. The Court imposes upon you, five years supervised release simply because the law requires it. But the life sentences are real life sentences, so I need go no further.

This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes. It is a fair and just sentence. It is a righteous sentence.

Now, let me explain this to you. We are not afraid of you or any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is too much war talk here and I say that to everyone with the utmost respect. Here in this court, we deal with individuals as individuals and care for individuals as individuals. As human beings, we reach out for justice.

You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier, gives you far too much stature. Whether the officers of government do it, or your attorney does it, or if you think you are a soldier, you are not. You are a terrorist. And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not meet with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.

So war talk is way out of line in this court. You are a big fellow. But you are not that big. You’re no warrior. I’ve known warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal that is guilty of multiple attempted murders. In a very real sense, State Trooper Santiago had it right when you first were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and the TV crews were, and he said: ‘You’re no big deal. ‘

You ARE no big deal.

What your able counsel and what the equally able United States attorneys have grappled with and what I have, as honestly as I know how, tried to grapple with, is why you did something so horrific. What was it that led you here to this courtroom today?

I have listened respectfully to what you have to say. And I ask you to search your heart and ask yourself what sort of unfathomable hate led you to do what you are guilty, and admit you are guilty, of doing. And, I have an answer for you. It may not satisfy you, but as I search this entire record, it comes as close to understanding as I know.

It seems to me, you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose. Here, in this society, the very wind carries freedom. It carries it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom, so that everyone can see, truly see, that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discretely. It is for freedom’s sake that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf, have filed appeals, will go on in their representation of you before other judges.

We Americans are all about freedom. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the measure of our own liberties. Make no mistake, though. It is yet true that we will bear any burden; pay any price, to preserve our freedoms. Look around this courtroom. Mark it well. The world is not going to long remember what you or I say here. The day after tomorrow, it will be forgotten, but this, however, will long endure.

Here in this courtroom and courtrooms all across America , the American people will gather to see that justice, individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice, is in fact being done. The very President of the United States through his officers, will have to come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on which specific matters can be judged and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.

See that flag, Mr. Reid? That’s the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag stands for freedom. And it always will.

Mr. Custody Officer. Stand him down.”

Well said, Judge. Well said! US Supreme Court nominee anyone?

SCOTUS, Affirmative Action and the VRA

16 Jul

My gosh, it’s almost like lions and tigers and bears, oh my, with some on the Left. That, or the end of the world as we know it. Hyperbole not only abounds but also goes into warp speed. Chicken Little runs rampant and the sky is truly falling. First, liberals were disappointed on affirmative action and then more or less devastated on voting rights.

On affirmative action, an issue on which the Obama Administration and other liberals were hoping to score a clear victory of sustainment, the high court instead recently just punted the issue back down to a lower court for further review. MSN News reports:

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has sent back a Texas case on race-based college admissions to a lower court for another look. The court’s 7/1 decision leaves unsettled many of the basic questions about the continued use of race as a factor in college admissions. The compromise ruling throws out the decision by the New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the Texas admission plan. Justice Kennedy said the appeals court did not test the Texas plan under the most exacting level of judicial review. He said such a test is required by the court’s 2003 decision upholding affirmative action in higher education.

The case involves Abigail Fisher, a white Texan who sued the university after she was denied a spot in 2008. She has since received her undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University. The challenge to the Texas plan gained traction in part because the makeup of the court has changed since the justices ruled in 2003 on affirmative action in higher education. Then, Justice Sandra O’Connor wrote the majority opinion that held that colleges and universities can use race in their quest for diverse student bodies. O’Connor retired in 2006, and her replacement, Justice Samuel Alito, has shown himself to be more skeptical of considerations of race in education.

In short, universities can still consider affirmative action applicants — they just have to apply more stringent criteria in doing so and can’t do it “just for diversity” alone. They must means test applicants “…under the most exacting level of judicial review.”

On voting rights, with its recent 5/4 decision to RETURN to some states their inherent rights which the 1965 Voter Rights Act (VRA) took away from some Southern states which had historically suppressed the black vote, the SCOTUS is slowly moving us into the 21st Century and of course liberals, who ACT like they’re progressives while actually PREFERRING that people in their base stay stuck on the Democratic dependency plantation of the past, don’t like it.

In recent years, we’ve had two black Secretaries of State, a black UN ambassador, a Hispanic and a black Attorney General and a black (well, halfway and half-assed at least) president, just to mention a few. Affirmative action and Section 4 of the VRA aren’t needed any more. And of course the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons of the Left are predicting Armageddon because they foresee their cash contributions will dry up — and well they should — from blacks who think civil rights is still stuck back in the ’60s. Heck, Al and Jesse may have to finally get real jobs.

Some other alarmists on the Left, like Fox News’ The Five’s resident liberal, the avuncular Bob Beckel, say that even if things have changed in the last 48 years and these states should get back the rights which were taken from them, albeit arguably and justifiably at the time, some counties in those same states are “pockets” of black voter suppression to this day and should be subject to federal, congressional oversight, or some form of federal “formula” to ensure they stay on the straight and narrow.

Well, some counties may arguably still be that way, but if the states have progressed so that some of those same Southern states now have more registered black voters than white voters, why can’t the states monitor their own counties?

And, contrarily, what about those counties in liberal states, most notoriously in the Northeast and Mid-West, who are “pockets” of over 100% voter turnout (a statistical impossibility), to include multiple votes by the same person, votes by dead people and cartoon characters and votes suddenly “found” in car trunks? Can it not be argued they also should be subject to federal, congressional oversight, or some form of federal “formula” to ensure they stay on the straight and narrow? You betcha! Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Despite all of the liberal hoopla, in and out of the misled and misleading meeed-ya, Eric Withholding Holder’s Department of INjustice can still sue states which it thinks are enacting laws intended to suppress the black, or other minority, vote. They just can no longer rely on the VRA doctrine of pre-clearance which up to now has required certain states to prove what they weren’t doing, rather than the DOJ now having to prove that they, just like any other states, are doing something wrong. Seems right to me. Innocent until proven guilty, burden of proof on the prosecutor and all that, right?

The bottom line is that affirmative action isn’t dead yet but may be appropriately wounded and only lives to be ever more strictly and narrowly applied and further adjudicated by the SCOTUS on another day, and voting rights were just brought into modern times as they should have been.

And Texas passed its voter ID law, which had previously been denied by the DOJ under the pre-clearance doctrine, within SIX HOURS of the SCOTUS decision. Talk about Texans being cocked and ready! And more states are expected to follow suit with their own voter ID laws, so stick that in your eye, liberals, or progressives, or whatever you’re calling yourselves most recently. Maybe the days of dead people and cartoon characters voting and suddenly “found” votes are coming to an end.

So, go back to sleep, Chicken Little. The sky is not really failing, although it may have just gotten a little more “cloudy with a chance of rain” for liberals. And, from my conservative perspective, I consider that a good thing.

NSA Leaker Snowden: The Bigger Picture

14 Jul

The Obama Amateur Hour Administration continues chasing its tail to catch Edward Snowden, alleged leaker of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) national security secrets, so Obama finally declared, probably in frustration, that he had more important things to do than be concerned with a 29-year-old hacker. Really?

Well, yeah, Mr. Prez-Boy, we “feel your pain” and understand your efforts to downplay this whole thing, but the guy did reveal a HUGE national security “secret” and that’s kind of important, even if you’ve proven yourself once again inept and impotent to do anything about it, as with so many other things.

And, in another instance of the Obama Admin’s left hand not knowing (or apparently not caring) what its right hand is doing (otherwise known as contrary or contradictory actions), how do you square that you’re dismissing as “just a hacker” someone who your Attorney General Eric “The Arrogant” Holder’s Department of INjustice is saying is a traitor and leaker of national security secrets extraordinaire and your own NSA director has testified before Congress has done irreparable harm to our national security methods and interests? Evidently, part of the mental disorder of ideological liberalism also includes large elements of incongruity and cognitive dissonance as well.

Russia’s Putin is saying Snowden is not actually IN Russia and that’s why they “can’t” do anything. And the Russkies will probably continue saying Snowden is there but not there until he’s suddenly somewhere else.

First, he was going to Cuba and lots of lame lamestream media types wasted their news agencies’ money booking seats on a flight on which they could only take pictures of the empty seat Snowden might have sat in, had he been on that flight, which he was not. He was still IN Russia but not technically IN Russia, as I mentioned before. Then, Snowden was going to Ecuador. And now, most recently, he’s supposed to be going to Venezuela for asylum. I’m sure Snowden will be treated well in Venezuela, even though Chavez is thankfully still dead, and the climate there is very nice, I hear.

But let’s face it, the Chinese and now the Russians are having great fun with this whole thing at the expense of the reputation of the US and our feckless prez-boy who leads from behind and keeps drawing lines in the sand and then doing little or nothing to enforce them.

All the while the very capable Chinese and Russian intel services are, with or without Snowden’s complicity, accessing whatever he has on the alleged four laptops full of classified US intel he’s carrying. Snowden, Obama, nor anyone else should be naive about that.

The fact is, other world leaders who may be our trade partners but are certainly not really our friends are making hay over our having a prez who they know is weak and indecisive. Reagan, along with Gorbachev, ended the Cold War and Bush I, Clinton and Bush II maintained that, but Obama’s failed, so-called “reset” policy with Russia in particular and feckless foreign policy in general are fast and furiously frittering all that away.

China, who wants to be a superpower, and Russia, who used to be a superpower, are enjoying themselves at the expense of the US, who used to be more of a superpower than it is now, after four-and-a-half years under Obama.

But the bigger picture about Snowden and the NSA is not what has seemingly been most debated in the social and other media, to wit, is Snowden a traitor or a hero, but two other, bigger things.

The first of these is the question of how a former high school dropout and 29-year-old former CIA, then NSA contract employee had sufficient classified clearance and access to know what he claims to know — and to have misappropriated it? That would indicate to me, someone who used to have a Cosmic Top Secret Atomal clearance (I know, I’m not making this up and I didn’t totally understand it either), a glaring need to tighten up our classified info access standards. Maybe not just anyone or everyone should be cleared to have access to our most sensitive classified info, ya think?

And, the second thing is, whether it was patriotic or not, whether he’s a hero or a traitor, whether he could have done it a better way or not, Snowden’s revelations have served the public interest in revealing the extent of the NSA’s spying on Americans and, more recently, our allies, and is as well truly telling about the Orwellian world we now live in — little to no expectation of privacy anywhere, at any time, in any way.

And those of you who thought CBS’s show Person of Interest about “the machine” was mere fiction might now need to rethink that, too. Feeling your freedoms being frittered away much?

Egypt — Revolution or Coup? And Who Cares?

6 Jul

It’s estimated that 33 million Egyptians all across their country filled Egyptian streets everywhere over a period of days to demand an end to the Morsi-Muslim Brotherhood government, which promised moderate reforms but instead began installing an Islamic state, which the Egyptian people obviously did not want, while doing little or nothing to enhance Egypt’s economic expectations as promised. (Sort of like all the promises President Obama has made to the American people and not fulfilled.)

Imagine that — 33 MILLION! Such a massive uprising is clearly a revolution and not merely a coup, but why is this distinction so important and why should we care what the Egyptians do anyway?

There is a US law which prohibits our sending or continuing foreign aid to a country in which a democratically elected leader has been deposed by a military coup. And Morsi was democratically elected, albeit based on lies, because the Egyptian people wanted a democratic government and economic improvement — not an Islamic state.

Obama may have alluded to this law when he initially tried to save his stooge Morsi and the Muslime (not a typo) Brotherhood by threatening the Egyptian army that if they deposed them, he would cut off the army’s US funding. However, since then, perhaps cooler (and more “brilliant”) heads have prevailed among Obama’s Amateur Hour Administration and they have carefully avoided calling it a coup.

As I have stated, what’s happening in Egypt is clearly not just a case of the military strong-arming an elected leader out of office a la South American style. That is a coup. But when you have the massive and sustained uprising of the people as evidenced in Egypt, that is a revolution.

Frankly, I would like to see a comparable and revolutionary demonstration here in DC against the inept and corrupt Obama regime. Since the Congress seemingly won’t act to rein Obama in, that may be our only way of getting rid of him and his crooked crew of cronies. And if you read many of the signs used by the Egyptian demonstrators, they have Obama’s number and have called him out, just as many Africans demonstrated against his visit to various parts of that continent on his recent $60-100 million dollar trip — something low-info, sheeple voters here in the US have disgustingly failed to realize or do — TWICE. But, I digress.

But why should we keep funding the Egyptian army? Why don’t we just do as some have suggested and stop all foreign aid to everybody? Because US foreign aid is one of the most potent leveraging agents on the world stage. Money does talk. And because the Egyptian army are the only stabilizing force in the largest and most strategically located country in the ME (think Suez Canal and being bordered by Libya to the West, the Sudan to the South, and the Gaza Strip and Israel to the East), and leverage with the Egyptian army gives us leverage with Egypt.

The Egyptian people have clearly shown what they don’t want — Obama’s stooge Morsi, the Muslime Brotherhood or an Islamic state, and those are all good things for us and the rest of the West. But we should maintain funding because it is in our own self-interest to give the Egyptian people time for their army to provide the stability necessary for them to figure out what kind of democracy they do want, as that brand of democracy could then spread from Egypt throughout the region. And that would be good for us, good for them and good all around.

The US has a chance to play a pivotal role in what’s happening now and helping to bring about a good outcome (and Obama has an opportunity to make a presidential legacy move which might obviate all the feckless foreign policy faux pas of his administration so far), that is, unless Obama finds some “leading from behind” way to muck it up (at which he has shown an amazing aptitude), (1) like he missed supporting the Iranian uprising in 2009, (2) not timely intervening in Syria when we could still tell who the real freedom fighters were and before the horrendous killing of over 100,000 people, or (3) when we should have realized the weaknesses we left in Libya after toppling Gaddafi and done something about them long before the tragic Benghazi attack, instead of pretending for Obama’s reelection purposes that all was well and Libya was such a success story.

We should help ensure that Egyptian democracy is truly a success story. Obama was on the wrong track in sponsoring and supporting Morsi and the Muslime Brotherhood, and some may argue he did so for ideological, Muslim appeasement and American apologetic reasons, but he needs to be practical now, not ideological, not idealistic, not petty, petulant or persnickity over his chosen ones being rejected.

If Obama is practical and proactively seizes this moment to help Egypt become some kind of Middle Eastern true democracy, he may have a foreign policy legacy worth mentioning instead of forgetting, like that other worst president of ours ever — before Obama, that is.

Obama’s Scandal?

25 Jun

I’m working on a couple of articles for my blog but in the meantime, here’s something to think about by my FaceBook friend John Hanmer, republished here with full permission and attribution:

THE SCANDAL …

Bob: “Did you hear about the Obama administration scandal?”

Jim: “You mean the Mexican gun running?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “You mean SEAL Team 6 Extortion 17?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “You mean the State Dept. lying about Benghazi?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “You mean the voter fraud?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “You mean the military not getting their votes counted?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “You mean that 3 or 4 of Obama’s friends were mysteriously murdered when they came forward with claims he was gay?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “You mean the president demoralizing and breaking down the military?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “You mean the Boston Bombing?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “You mean the president wanting to kill Americans with drones without the benefit of the law?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “Giving 123 Technologies $300 Million and right after it declared bankruptcy it was sold to the Chinese?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “You mean the president arming the Muslim Brotherhood?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “The IRS targeting conservatives?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “The DOJ spying on the press?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “Sebelius shaking down health insurance executives?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “Giving SOLYNDRA $500 MILLION DOLLARS and right after they declared bankruptcy the Chinese bought it?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “The NSA monitoring our phone calls, e-mails and everything else?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “The president’s ordering the release of nearly 10,000 illegal immigrants from jails and prisons and falsely blaming the sequester?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “The president’s threat to impose gun control by Executive Order in order to bypass Congress?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “The president’s repeated violation of the law requiring him to submit a budget no later than the first Monday in February?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “The 2012 vote where 115% of all registered voters in some counties voted 100% for Obama?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “The president’s unconstitutional recess appointments in an attempt to circumvent the Senate’s advise-and-consent role?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “The State Department interfering with an Inspector General investigation on departmental sexual misconduct?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “HHS employees being given insider information on Medicare Advantage?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “Clinton, the IRS, Clapper and Holder all lying to Congress?”
Bob: “No, the other one.”

Jim: “I give up! Oh wait, I think I got it! You mean that 65 million low-information voters stuck us again with the most corrupt administration in American history?”
Bob: “THAT’S THE ONE!”

The NSA (National Snooping Agency)

10 Jun

First, a little background.

The National Security Agency (NSA), preceded by the Armed Forces Security Agency, was formed in 1952 and is a cryptologic intelligence agency of the US Department of Defense responsible for the collection and analysis of foreign communications and foreign signals intelligence, as well as protecting US government communications and information systems, which involves information security and cryptanalysis/cryptography.

The NSA is directed by at least a lieutenant general or vice admiral. The NSA is a key component of the US Intelligence Community, which is headed by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The Central Security Service is a co-located agency created to coordinate intelligence activities and cooperation between the NSA and other US military cryptanalysis agencies. The Director of the NSA serves as the Commander of the United States Cyber Command and Chief of the Central Security Service.

By law, the NSA’s intelligence gathering is limited to foreign communications, although domestic incidents such as the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy have occurred. (Source: Wikipedia. Emphases added.)

The NSA domestic warrantless surveillance controversy referred to above (AKA “Warrantless Wiretapping”) concerns surveillance of persons within the US during the collection of foreign intelligence by the NSA as part of President Bush’s war on terror.

Under this program, referred to by the Bush Administration as the “terrorist surveillance program,” part of the broader President’s Surveillance Program, the NSA was authorized by executive order to monitor, without search warrants, the phone calls, Internet activity (Web, e-mail, etc.), text messaging, and other communications involving any party believed by the NSA to be outside the US, even if the other end of the communication was inside the US.

Liberal critics, however, claimed that it was an effort to attempt to silence critics of the Bush Administration. Under public pressure, the Bush Administration ceased the warrantless wiretapping program in January 2007 and returned review of surveillance to the FISA court. Subsequently, in 2008 Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which relaxed some of the original FISA court requirements.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) is a US federal court, was established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 and is commonly referred to as the FISA court. The FISA court oversees requests for surveillance warrants against suspected foreign intelligence agents inside the US by federal law enforcement agencies, primarily the FBI.

During the Obama Administration, the NSA has officially continued operating under the new FISA guidelines. However, in April 2009 officials at the Department of Justice (DOJ) acknowledged that the NSA had engaged in “overcollection” of domestic communications in excess of the FISA court’s authority but claimed that the acts were unintentional and had since been rectified.

Well, seemingly not, because we now have the latest Obama Administration scandal (so many to keep up with) that the NSA is data mining what’s called the “meta” data (or data of the data) of millions of Americans’ phone calls.

That means, if you are to believe your government any more at all, that they are merely collecting and storing all of our phone calls, from what number to what number and for what duration. This is supposed to give the NSA supercomputers data to crunch in looking for patterns and does not include them listening in on our phone calls. To do that, for example, they would supposedly have to identify a pattern and use it as a basis to go back to a federal judge to obtain a warrant for a wire tap to actually start monitoring the content of someone’s phone conversations.

But we have President Obama recently reassuring us that our phone calls, that is, at least their content, are not being monitored and that 100% security cannot be attained while maintaining 100% of liberties. Well, first of all, I worked in the Army as a security specialist of all sorts for over 20 years and there is no such thing as 100% security — ever. Any security system you can devise, someone with enough time, resources and determination can overcome. Maybe Obama should also have remembered Ben Franklin’s “Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety.”

But, then, this is the same guy (1) who assured us Benghazi was caused by an Internet video, (2) who called the Fort Hood massacre “workplace violence,” (3) who recently addressed college students and told them to ignore anyone who said tyranny was just around the corner, (4) who didn’t know anything about anything about his DOJ targeting journalists, about his DOJ seizing hundreds of AP reporters’ phone records, or about his IRS targeting conservative groups seeking tax exempt status (both in the run-up to his reelection and still continuing), and (5) who seems to have to read a newspaper on a Friday afternoon to find out what’s going on in his own administration. So, do you really feel reassured by anything Obama says at this point? I know I don’t.

And, of course, there are various “congressionals” (I sometimes just lump them all together under the one heading) — from both chambers of Congress and both sides of the aisle — who are posturing and pontificating, saying there are checks and balances, that this is all necessary to protect us, that there is “congressional oversight” to ensure everything is all right, and blah, blah, blah. Well, Congress supposedly has congressional oversight of every agency of the federal government, for example, the DOJ, the IRS, the DHS, etc., etc. So, how’s that “congressional oversight” been working out for ya lately, there, John or Jane Q. Public?

In other words, we didn’t know anything about Obama’s DOJ seizing AP reporters’ records until there was a leak and then we did. We didn’t know anything about Obama’s IRS targeting conservative groups until there was a leak and then we did. We didn’t know anything about Obama’s DOJ targeting Fox News reporters until there was a leak and then we did.

And we likewise didn’t know anything about the NSA switching from pin-point fly fishing to huge dragnet fishing until there was a leak either. So much for congressional oversight discovering anything ahead of time.

In fact, Obama’s very own DNI James Clapper, the head of the whole US intel community, may also be in hot water for lying to Congress, because when testifying before Congress and asked if the NSA was collecting any info by any means on American citizens, Clapper said “no” and that if it happened at all, it would be inadvertent and unintentional. Square that as best you can with what we’ve learned recently about the NSA’s broad dragnetting of the phone records of millions of Americans. Which all begs the question: What else is there that we don’t know about — yet, from this supposedly but laughably most transparent administration in our history?

By the way, and I say this merely by way of extra reassurance, the Attorney General, you know, Eric “Withholding” Holder, can unilaterally grant such warrantless wire taps himself on an emergency basis but must have it approved by a federal court judge within 72 hours. Uhhh-huh.

So, we’re supposed to rely on the same AG who (1) either committed perjury and/or at least misled Congress in testimony (both felonies) when he said he knew nothing and would not take part in targeting or prosecuting journalists for receiving classified information , or (2) he committed fraud upon a federal court (also a felony) in falsifying an affidavit for a warrant which claimed that Fox News reporter James Rosen had violated the Espionage Act, was at least an aider and abettor, and a flight risk, to obtain access to Rosen’s (and his parents’) phone, email and other communications, then Holder subsequently claimed he had no intention to ever prosecute Rosen for such offenses in the first place.

Well, you can’t have it both ways this time, Mr. Attorney General. Either you falsely claimed before Congress not to know anything about the Rosen case, when it was subsequently shown that you had personally signed the affidavit and held at least one staff meeting on how to proceed, or you provided false information to a federal court to obtain the warrant in the first place, never intending to really investigate or prosecute, thus committing a fraud upon the court — all felonies.

Oh, and don’t forget, this is the same AG who (1) refused to prosecute a slam dunk case of voter intimidation against the Philadelphia Black Panthers but who sued Arizona for basically passing a state law which contained the same immigration policies as already contained in federal law, who (2) has sued more states over state civil and voter rights legislation than any other AG in history, who (3) ensured the underwear bomber was quickly Mirandized although he was not a citizen, who (4) at one point wanted our troops to Mirandize terrorist combatants on the battlefield, who (5) wanted to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) to NY to be tried in a federal court, with all the Constitutional protections of a citizen, until liberal members of Congress yelled NIMBY, who (6) stonewalled and stonewalled on Fast & Furious, who (7) tried to sue Boeing for wanting to build a nonunion plant in NC, who…

Well, I could go on, but I think I’ve digressed over Holder enough for you see the point that this is the same AG we’re supposed to trust will inform a federal court within 72 hours after using his unilateral power to apply an emergency wire tap on someone. Yeah, uh-huh, THAT Attorney General.

The New York Times reported in 2009 that the NSA was intercepting communications of American citizens, although the DOJ believed that the NSA had corrected its errors. Attorney General Eric “The Arrogant” Holder subsequently resumed the wiretapping according to his understanding of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008, but without explaining to any federal court judge what had occurred to make any difference in once again continuing to do what DOJ and NSA had previously said they shouldn’t be doing. Huh? (And if you have to read that twice for the absurdity of it to sink in, I’ll wait.)

The NSA also reportedly uses its computing capability to analyze “transactional” data that it regularly acquires from other government agencies, which gather it under their own jurisdictional authorities. As part of this effort, the NSA now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches, as well as bank transfers, credit card transactions and travel and telephone records, according to current and former intelligence officials interviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

And just this month, the NSA’s PRISM electronic surveillance and data mining program was revealed by the Washington Post. The extent of information to which they had access includes email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP chats such as Skype, file transfers, etc., which they can gain from direct access to servers on Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, AOL and others. Of course, Google, Facebook, etc., have since claimed they know nothing of any NSA data mining using their platforms.

But, and I know this sounds a little conspiracy theorist-y, isn’t that what an organization which has a secret, classified agreement with the government to provide access to its customers’ info would almost have to say?

The Guardian (UK) revealed the identity of the whistleblower responsible for unveiling the NSA’s massive data mining programs. Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old defense consultant who has worked at the NSA for four years, says, “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong.” Well, I’ll reserve judgment for now on whether Snowden did anything “wrong” or not, as he certainly has at least violated whatever classification disclosure document he signed as a pre-condition to his access to classified information and could, and perhaps should, be prosecuted for that. Most of us who have had classified security clearances, especially top secret or above, are familiar with, “I can’t tell you about it and, if I do tell you about it, I’ll have to kill you.” On the other hand, he has also rendered a public service by letting us know the nefariousness of Obama’s NSA. So, I’ll let others debate if he’s hero or traitor. Right now, all sorts of allegations are flying around of “what if” undercover operatives and techniques were compromised by Snowden’s actions, but it will take time to see if that’s really truth versus conjecture.

The Guardian also released an interview with Snowden. Here are some of the highlights:

On his decision to become a whistleblower: “When you’re in positions of privileged access like a systems administrator for the sort of intelligence community agencies, you’re exposed to a lot more information on a broader scale than the average employee and because of that you see things that may be disturbing … Over time that awareness of wrongdoing sort of builds up and you feel compelled to talk about [it]. And the more you talk about [it], the more you’re ignored. The more you’re told it’s not a problem, until eventually you realize that these things need to be determined by the public and not by somebody who was simply hired by the government.”

On the targeting of American citizens: “NSA and [the] intelligence community in general is focused on getting intelligence wherever it can by any means possible … Originally we saw that focus very narrowly tailored as foreign intelligence gathered overseas. Now, increasingly, we see that it’s happening domestically and to do that [the NSA] targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default. It collects them in its system … simply because that’s the easiest, most efficient and most valuable way to achieve these ends. So while they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government or someone they suspect of terrorism, they’re collecting your communications to do so.”

On why you should care about NSA’s programs: “Because even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded. And the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude to where it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call. And then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with. And attack you on that basis to sort to derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.”

So, let’s recap: We have the FOREIGN Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, modified by the FOREIGN Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008, both authorizing and governing the FOREIGN Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), otherwise commonly known as the FOREIGN Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, court, which oversees requests for surveillance warrants against suspected FOREIGN intelligence agents inside the US by federal law enforcement agencies, primarily the FBI — which , by the way, reports to none other than that AG in whom we’re all supposed to have so much “trust.”

Plus, the NSA’s originating charter declares that by law the NSA’s intelligence gathering is limited to FOREIGN communications. And all this, despite some alleged “51 percent connectivity to terrorist” formula which the intel community sometimes uses to justify domestic spying.

Maybe I’m just not too smart but with all this FOREIGN this and that, where does the NSA have any authority to massively collect DOMESTIC communications on millions and millions of Americans who haven’t done anything wrong, with no warrant, no permission, no howdy-do, no nothing, except it’s just easier for them to do it that way? To me, if you want to spy domestically, present probable cause to a judge and get a frickin’ warrant to spy on a particular person or group! You know, go through that “bothersome” Fourth Amendment stuff in our stuffy old Constitution.

What the government does, especially when it infringes on our individual rights, should not be EASY. It should be HARD. The convenience of the government should never be an excuse to abridge individual freedoms.

And you thought that CBS show Person of Interest about “the machine” was all just fiction. Welcome to Obama’s Orwellian America. Feeling Big Bothered, er, Big Brothered, enough yet?

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