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News & Opinion


Update: Greenwald today on the Amash-Conyers amendment.

Democratic establishment unmasked: prime defenders of NSA bulk spying
NYT: "The Obama administration made common cause with the House Republican leadership"

One of the worst myths Democratic partisans love to tell themselves - and everyone else - is that the GOP refuses to support President Obama no matter what he does. Like its close cousin - the massively deceitful inside-DC grievance that the two parties refuse to cooperate on anything - it's hard to overstate how false this Democratic myth is. When it comes to foreign policy, war, assassinations, drones, surveillance, secrecy, and civil liberties, President Obama's most stalwart, enthusiastic defenders are often found among the most radical precincts of the Republican Party.

The rabidly pro-war and anti-Muslim GOP former Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King, has repeatedly lavished Obama with all sorts of praise and support for his policies in those areas. The Obama White House frequently needs, and receives, large amounts of GOP Congressional support to have its measures enacted or bills its dislikes defeated. The Obama DOJ often prevails before the US Supreme Court solely because the Roberts/Scalia/Thomas faction adopts its view while the Ginsburg/Sotomayor/Breyer faction rejects it [...]

Using Orwellian language so extreme as to be darkly hilarious, this was the first line of the White House's statement opposing the amendment: "In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens" (i.e.: we welcome the debate that has been exclusively enabled by that vile traitor, the same debate we've spent years trying to prevent with rampant abuse of our secrecy powers that has kept even the most basic facts about our spying activities concealed from the American people).
[...]
Even more notable than the Obama White House's defense of the NSA's bulk domestic spying was the behavior of the House Democratic leadership. Not only did they all vote against de-funding the NSA bulk domestic spying program - that includes liberal icon House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who voted to protect the NSA's program - but Pelosi's deputy, Steny Hoyer, whipped against the bill by channeling the warped language and mentality of Dick Cheney.
[...]
Meanwhile, Amash led the debate against the NSA program and repeatedly assigned time to many of the House's most iconic liberals to condemn in the harshest terms the NSA program defended by the Obama White House.

Sirota on Chris Hayes show last night.

I've also got two diaries from last evening on the Amash-Conyers amendment. One of them is a liveblog and one a list of Democrats who voted against the amendment, with some commentary.  The liveblog diary has a whole lot of tweets that I probably would have included in this morning's diary but since I already have them there, I don't see a reason to reproduce them here.

House Defeats Effort to Rein In N.S.A. Data Gathering

[This NYT article has a companion analysis of the voting results with an interesting map of the country and the votes which can be found at this link: House Vote 412 - Rejects Limits on N.S.A. Data Collection ]

The 205-to-217 vote was far closer than expected and came after a brief but impassioned debate over citizens’ right to privacy and the steps the government must take to protect national security. It was a rare instance in which a classified intelligence program was openly discussed on the House floor, and disagreements over the  program led to some unusual coalitions.

Conservative Republicans leery of what they see as Obama administration abuses of power teamed up with liberal Democrats long opposed to intrusive intelligence programs. The Obama administration made common cause with the House Republican leadership to try to block it.
[...]
At the very least, the section of the Patriot Act in question will be allowed to expire in 2015, he said. “It’s going to end — now or later,” Mr. Nadler said. “The only question is when and on what terms.”
[...]
“This is only the beginning,” Mr. Conyers vowed after the vote. The fight will shift to the Senate, where two longtime Democratic critics of N.S.A. surveillance, Mark Udall of Colorado and Ron Wyden of Oregon, immediately took up the cause.

Spencer Ackerman. It sounds like Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence committee, is a bit jealous of Amash's popularity.
NSA surveillance: narrow defeat for amendment to restrict data collection
First major challenge to NSA's bulk collection of phone records defeated by only 217 votes to 205 in House of Representatives

Despite a concerted lobbying effort by the White House and senior intelligence figures, the attempt to rein in the NSA failed by only 12 votes. The final vote was 205 in favor and 217 against, exposing deep restiveness in Congress over the wisdom and constitutionality of the bulk surveillance on Americans less than two months after the Guardian exposed it, thanks to leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden. A shift of seven votes would have changed the outcome.
[...]
The principal author of the effort, Michigan Republican Justin Amash, said he introduced his amendment to the annual Defense Department appropriations bill to "defend the fourth amendment, to defend the privacy of each and every American."

In opposition, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, Mike Rogers of Michigan, asked: "Have we forgotten what happened on September 11?" Swiping at Amash, who was supported by an online campaign, he asked: "Are we so small we can only look at how many Facebook likes we have?"
[...]
There were some unlikely alliances: the Democratic minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, voted against the amendment with Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party Republican. John Boehner, the House speaker, found himself in the rare position of being on the same side as President Obama.

On C-SPAN, callers from all of the partisan phone lines were in solidarity in favor of the Amash-Conyers amendment.  The C-SPAN host, having no calls in favor of it, was reduced to reading excerpts from the Wall Street Journal article and the infamous statement from the White House.  In the upcoming legislation, Nancy Pelosi has expressed support for reforms to the FISA court in advance, so you can be pretty sure that it will be a bill that doesn't change the status quo very much.
House vote reflects growing revolt over NSA surveillance
Six weeks ago, only a few in Congress were ready to challenge the government on surveillance – but opposition has grown

The House vote to block NSA funding for one of its data collection programmes is the biggest manifestation yet of a revolt that has steadily grown over the last two months.
[...]
The very fact that the vote was to be held enraged the Wall Street Journal, which, in an editorial, wrote: "Few things are more dangerous than Congress in heat, and so it is this week as a libertarian-left wing coalition in the House of Representatives is rushing to neuter one of the National Security Agency's anti- terror surveillance programs."

It added: "The last thing Congress should do is kill a program in a rush to honor the reckless claims of Mr Snowden and his apologists."

Congress is due to begin a five-week recess at the start of August, and much of the momentum will go out off the issue, at least on the Hill. But there will be more hearings in in the autumn, and more votes. Proposed reform of the Patriot Act, which authorises much of the surveillance, has already been introduced. [...] Changes are also proposed to reform the ultra-secret Fisa court, [...]

David Dayen, at Salon.  The backlash at the news that Summers is at the top of Obama's short list for Fed chairman has a lot of people in an uproar, and I mean a LOT.  Not that it will change Obama's mind at all, normally, but under the circumstances and given the recent bad publicity for the administration, maybe it will have some impact.
Larry Summers will destroy the economy (again)
Obama’s leading candidate to run the Fed is an ignoramus with the worst track record in America on regulating banks

Multiple sources confirm to Salon that the White House is leaning toward choosing Larry Summers to replace Ben Bernanke as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, a prospect which has made many liberals apoplectic. Previously, the biggest booster of Summers appeared to be Summers himself, as he was waging a one-man campaign for the position. But over the past week, he has won the backing of influential players at the White House with the ear of the President, many of whom are his personal friends and colleagues.

Summers would get the nod over the previous favorite, Fed vice chair Janet Yellen, in part because top-level officials have stressed to the President that Yellen is somehow “not strong enough” for the job, and would subsequently lack the confidence of financial markets. This gender-coded whisper campaign against the woman who would become the first female Fed chair in history is in line with an undercurrent of sexism about the selection — and the fact that Summers has an unfortunate history on this, from infamous comments he made while President of Harvard University (alleging there exist “innate” scientific aptitude difficulties for women) just amplifies the potential problem for the White House with its liberal base.

But the gender issue, important as it is, may be more of a cover for what sources see as an ideological preference inside the White House for Summers over Yellen, one that could not only reverberate into catastrophe for the Administration politically, but may spell danger for millions of unemployed, under-employed and low-wage Americans, whose interests would again be held subservient to that of the financial system.

The Fed’s biggest preoccupations at the moment are 1) whether to continue monetary stimulus to prop up an economy that remains ailing, and 2) whether to implement financial regulations from the Dodd-Frank Act in a way that is adversarial or friendly to Wall Street.

Felix Salmon.
Don’t send Summers to the Fed

The upshot, from doing all that reading, is pretty clear. The arguments for Yellen are very strong; the arguments against Summers are strong; the arguments for Summers are weak; and the arguments against Yellen are all but nonexistent. (While there are lots of people who think that Summers should not be Fed chair, there’s pretty much no one who feels the same way about Yellen.)

As a result, if Obama picks Summers, it won’t be on the merits; instead, it will be on the grounds that Obama likes Summers, and is in awe of his intelligence. (Summers is, to put it mildly, not good at charming those he considers to be his inferiors, but he’s surprisingly excellent at cultivating people with real power.)

What’s more, the move would be a calculated snub to bien pensant opinion. Never mind the utter shambles that Summers made of Harvard, or the way he treated Cornel West, or his tone-deaf speech about women’s aptitude, or the pollution memo, or the Shleifer affair, or the way he shut down Brooksley Born at the CFTC, or his role in repealing Glass-Steagall, or his generally toxic combination of ego and temper — so long as POTUS likes Larry, and/or so long as Summers is good at working key Obama advisors like Geithner, Lew, and Rubin, that’s all that matters.

Wait, Larry Summers Is Now the Favorite for the Fed?
Can we at least talk it over first?

My own view is that Summers is too fond of big shots—he’s always wanted to be part of the most exclusive club that will have him (which helps explain his close relationship with Rubin and Greenspan). In my book, I describe the pleasure he took from attending dinners with top Wall Street executives as a Treasury official in the 1990s.**  

I understand Obama’s attraction to Summers. Like one of his illustrious predecessors--also a fan of Harvard professors--the president tends to believe that “You can’t beat brains.” But whatever Summers’ intellectual gifts, he has some dangerous blind spots for a Fed chairman, who must be in constant contact with financial elites and must strain to resist their self-serving pronouncements. Janet Yellen has demonstrated this sort of independent-mindedness. With Summers, it’s at best an open question. If you’re Barack Obama, why would you take that kind of risk with one of the most important appointments of your presidency?

Naomi Klein.

Why We Should Banish Larry Summers From Public Life

The criticisms of President Obama's chief economic adviser are well known. He's too close to Wall Street. And he's a frightful bully, of both people and countries. Still, we're told we shouldn't care about such minor infractions. Why? Because Summers is brilliant, and the world needs his big brain.

And this brings us to a central and often overlooked cause of the global financial crisis: Brain Bubbles. This is the process wherein the intelligence of an inarguably intelligent person is inflated and valued beyond all reason, creating a dangerous accumulation of unhedged risk. Larry Summers is the biggest Brain Bubble we've got.

Brain Bubbles start with an innocuous "whiz kid" moniker in undergrad, which later escalates to "wunderkind." Next comes the requisite foray as an economic adviser to a small crisis-wracked country, where the kid is declared a "savior." By 30, our Bubble Boy is tenured and officially a "genius." By 40, he's a "guru," by 50 an "oracle." After a few drinks: "messiah."

The superhuman powers bestowed upon these men -- and yes, they are all men -- shield them from the scrutiny that might have prevented the current crisis. Alan Greenspan's Brain Bubble allowed him to put the economy at great risk: When he made no sense, people assumed that it was their own fault. Brain Bubbles also formed the key argument Greenspan and Summers used to explain why lawmakers couldn't regulate the derivatives market: The wizards on Wall Street were too brilliant, their models too complex, for mere mortals to understand.

Yves Smith.
Why Larry Summers Should Not Be Permitted to Run Anything More Important than a Dog Pound

In early 2012, Summers was lobbying hard to become the head of the World Bank and didn’t get the nod. The fact that he is now under consideration for a bigger job should set alarm bells off. While Paul Krugman weighs in on both, concluding that Yellen would be the better pick, he’s still far kinder to Summers than the Harvard economist deserves.

The big problem with Summers is not his record on deregulation (although that’s bad enough) or his foot-in-mouth remarks about women in math, or for suggesting that African countries would make for good toxic waste dumps. No, it’s his appalling record the one time he was in a leadership position, as president of Harvard. Summers was unquestionably the worst leader in Harvard’s history.

This is such wonderful news. Jeremy Scahill deserves a lot of credit for this, in my opinion. In all of his talks around the nation, he has spoken out for his friend, Abdulelah Haider Shaye.  He also dedicated his book and movie to journalists who have been jailed or killed for their journalism.  The U.S. media, on the other hand, who gladly used his material in the past, did not lift a finger to help him after Obama intervened to keep him in jail, and he had been jailed for political reasons to begin with.  He is still restricted in his movements though. I hope he's able to change that.  Scahill is on DemocracyNow! this morning talking about this subject.
Yemeni Journalist Who Obama Kept in Prison Is Free

Shaye was apparently given a presidential pardon that requires him to remain in Sanaa for two years. This means he would be prohibited from traveling to many of the areas where US drone strikes have taken place while he was in prison or where they will take place over the next two years.
[...]
Craig acknowledged that Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi deserved credit for keeping his word and releasing Shaye. She also praised the organization, Index on Censorship, in the United Kingdom for calling attention to “Shaye’s long-running story” and the threat his imprisonment posed to freedom of expression.

Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni youth activist and writer who testified before Congress this year on the impact of US drone operations in his country, reacted, “After FOUR years of jailing him by order from Barack Obama, Yemeni government releases journalist Abdulelah Shaea.” He also said, “Only Barack Obama can compete with Yemen’s dictators (throughout history) in jailing journalists and killing civilians in Yemen,” and, “What a great Iftar Shaea’s kids might be having today; having their father back with them after 4 years in prison.”

To listen to the members of the Armed Services committee last week, after one day of furlough had recently been implemented, and sequester cuts have been in place for awhile, you'd think that everyone in the defense industry and federal employees were starving and begging for alms on the street. But no, it hasn't even touched the greatly enriched military-industrial complex, which has been absolutely booming since Bush took office, and was hardly hurting before that either. But the "defense" spending has doubled since Bush took office, and Obama hasn't cut it much.  They fully expect those sequester cuts to go away after a budget is passed in a couple of months and don't forget that the White House, despite all their complaining about the sequester, deliberately designed the sequester to force Democrats to cut "entitlements programs" and to implement his grand bargain, and to flatten the tax code, a conservative's wet dream. But to hear them lament the sequester, you'd think it was forced on them, not the other way around.  The sequester has had some time to cause some pain, as designed, and the "reforms" that the White House and the conservatives want will be offered as a relief to the sequester.

Defense firms weathering budget cuts more easily than expected

Big defense contractors are weathering the federal budget sequester far more easily than they projected, in part because they have gradually eliminated jobs over the past few years in anticipation of spending cuts.

Bethesda-based Lockheed Mar­tin, the world’s largest defense contractor, reported Tuesday that its profit rose 10 percent, to $859 million, during the second quarter even as revenue dipped slightly. Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, two other large contractors, are scheduled to report results Wednesday.
[...]
Defense contractors “overhyped the immediacy of the sequester impacts, and I think that blew some if not all of their credibility,” said Todd Harrison, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “And the truth is there are going to be impacts; they’re just not immediate.”

Oops. You can just imagine the show's producers' reactions as this happened.
TV Traffic Reporter Accidentally Draws Penis



Action



PETITION WRITTEN BY DANIEL ELLSBERG, THE WHISTLEBLOWER BEHIND THE PENTAGON PAPERS

We need a new Church Committee that is fully empowered to investigate the abuses of the NSA and make public its findings, and that is charged with recommending new laws to ensure the U.S. government does not violate our constitutional rights.




Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest


The Evening Blues

Is the NYT worried about competing with the Guardian?



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