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I'm really torn on this.  Pallone and Holt should join forces if they want to have any chance of defeating Cory Booker in this primary and there are only a few weeks left.  Lautenberg's family endorsed Pallone.  Holt is staying in there, apparently.  He's got some great ideas on surveillance.  Greenwald wants to support him.  He's only got a small percent of the vote.  Both Pallone and Holt are long serving Congress members who have been waiting to run for this seat.  Booker, who I personally think is going to hate the Senate job and seems much more like an executive type of guy, did not want to wait to run for governor after Christie.  So it looks like we're going to end up with the candidate who will be well loved by the oligarchy instead of one of the two best members of Congress who have served us for a decade.  It's a really bad thing for New Jersey.  Also, Booker seems most likely to use the Senate seat as a political springboard more than out of any real desire to serve NJ in the Senate.  But he's got the most well known statewide name which, in a fast election like this, might be the biggest factor.  There has hardly even been a campaign.

In any case, here's Rush Holt on surveillance.  Holt is a scientist. A rocket scientist.  Maybe, since Booker has big $$, Wall Street's guy, will most likely walk away with this, Holt could primary Hillary Clinton.  I think the country is ready for a scientist in the White House.  Nerds are now cool (thank FSM).  Warren/Holt, Holt/Warren 2016?  Yeah, now I've succumbed to the stupid years too early 2016 talk, but it's hard not to sometimes I guess.  I hope we learn, this time around, that the movements pressuring the candidates and the electeds are just as important, if not more important, than the person who gets elected.  We failed on that last time, big time.

Rush Holt (via Glenn Greenwald post at the Guardian)

(8) I'm going to write more about this next week, but Rep. Rush Holt is running for the New Jersey Senate seat that became vacant when Democrat Frank Lautenberg died. The special election is on August 13. Holt has long been one of the best members of Congress: a genuine stalwart on civil liberties and privacy and vehement opponent of the crony capitalism that governs DC. A physicist by profession, he's incredibly smart, independent, and unique. Here was Holt on the House floor in 2008 expressing his vehement opposition to the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, the bill enacted with a bipartisan majority (including the support of President Obama) that legalized much of the massive surveillance state that now plagues us:

US Spying and Resistance in Latin America

The shadow of 20th century dictatorships hangs over much of Latin America, orienting the region’s democratic processes and struggles for justice. Brazil’s Rousseff and Uruguayan President José Mujica are among today’s various Latin American presidents who were active in the social movements fighting against brutal US-backed dictatorships in their respective countries.

Rousseff was jailed for her activism from 1970-1972, and Mujica was shot by the police six times, tortured and imprisoned for 14 years, including being confined to the bottom of a well for over two years. Under the leadership of Nestor and Cristina Kirchner, Argentina has sought justice for the some 30,000 people disappeared during that nation’s dictatorship. Needless to say, the legacy of US-backed coups, right-wing spying networks, and police states looms large in Latin American politics and recent memory.

So when Snowden’s leaked documents pointed to contemporary spying, it harkened back to Washington’s Cold War allies who, through coordinated efforts like Operation Condor, collaborated regionally to monitor dissidents and supposed communists, intercepting mail and spying on phone communications as a part of their continental nightmare.

But the Cold War is over, and from Argentina to Venezuela leftist politics have dominated the region’s landscape over the past decade, labor and indigenous movements have been on the rise, and a decidedly anti-imperialist stance has been common on campaign platforms and political policy.

The Grand Scam: Spinning Egypt’s Military Coup

Strange Bedfellows: The Unholy Trinity of Gulf Sheikhdoms, the Fulool, and Egypt’s Secular Opposition

On April 22, 2011, UAE Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed brought his intelligence and security chiefs to meet with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and his security officials to discuss the ramifications of the Arab Spring. Bin Zayed warned that unless the GCC countries developed a proactive policy to preempt the wave of popular uprisings sweeping the Arab World at the time, none of the region’s monarchs would survive. Three weeks later in an emergency summit meeting in Riyadh he delivered the same message to all the GCC heads of state. While Qatar remained indifferent to his message, the other five countries were receptive. Bin Zayed and Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the Saudi intelligence chief, were tasked with submitting an effective plan to counter the Arab Spring phenomenon in the region. Subsequently, King Abdullah solicited and received the help of King Abdullah II of Jordan to join this effort while Qatar was excluded from all future meetings.

For decades, the UAE had been very close to Mubarak and his cronies. Billions of dollars of ill-gotten fortunes looted from the country were deposited in banks in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. After the overthrow of Mubarak, dozens of security officials and corrupt businessmen quietly left Egypt and relocated to the UAE. When Mubarak’s last Prime Minister, Ahmad Shafiq lost the presidential elections to Morsi in June 2012, he also moved to the UAE. By the fall of 2012, it became evident that the UAE hosted a web of individuals who were plotting the overthrow of Morsi and the MB.

Within a few weeks of the formation of the new government, Shafiq supporter and spokesman for his political party Mohammad Abu Hamid, announced on August 21, 2012, fifteen demands culminating in the goal of toppling the “Muslim Brotherhood or Ikhwan Government.” He warned against the “ikhwanization” of the state, i.e. the appointments of MB members in crucial state positions, and blamed them for the lack of basic services to the public. Abu Hamid also called for subsequent mass protests in Tahrir Square as he accused Morsi of power grab, dictatorship, and judicial interference, long before the president issued his hapless constitutional decree three months later. He further demanded the banning of the MB and its political affiliate, as well as the arrest of its leaders, who he accused of treason. All of his demands would subsequently become the talking points of every opposition party and anti-Morsi media outlet.

I'm not exactly holding my breath because the party leadership hasn't gotten their hands on this stuff yet, but if they move fast, they might just get something done.  And then the Senate will be in quite a pickle.
Mood shifting, Congress may move to limit NSA spying

WASHINGTON — Congress is growing increasingly wary of controversial National Security Agency domestic surveillance programs, a concern likely to erupt during legislative debate _ and perhaps prod legislative action _ as early as next week.

Skepticism has been slowly building since last month’s disclosures that the super-secret NSA conducted programs that collected Americans’ telephone data. Dozens of lawmakers are introducing measures to make those programs less secret, and there’s talk of denying funding and refusing to continue authority for the snooping.
The House of Representatives could debate one of the first major bids for change soon. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., is trying to add a provision to the defense spending bill, due for House consideration next week, that would end the NSA’s mass collection of Americans’ telephone records. It’s unclear whether House leaders will allow the measure to be considered.

Other legislation could also start moving. Larsen is pushing a measure to require tech companies to publicly disclose the type and volume of data they have to turn over to the federal government. Several tech firms and civil liberties groups are seeking permission to do so.

Other bipartisan efforts are in the works. Thirty-two House members, led by Amash and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., are backing a plan to restrict Washington’s ability to collect data under the Patriot Act on people not connected to an ongoing investigation. Also active is a push to require the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which rules on government surveillance requests, to be more transparent.

It looks like Angela Merkel is in quite a pickle too, and her election is coming up fast.  All that wrangling and selling out she did in the name of staying in power, only to have some pesky whistleblowers mess it all up at the last minute. I bet Angela is pissed.  I'm anxious to hear from our friends in Germany about how this is playing out there.

'Prolific Partner': German Intelligence Used NSA Spy Program
Angela Merkel and her ministers claim they first learned about the US government's comprehensive spying programs from press reports. But SPIEGEL has learned that German intelligence services themselves use one of the NSA's most valuable tools.

Germany's foreign intelligence service, the BND, and its domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), used a spying program of the American National Security Agency (NSA). This is evident in secret documents from the US intelligence service that have been seen by SPIEGEL journalists. The documents show that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution was equipped with a program called XKeyScore intended to "expand their ability to support NSA as we jointly prosecute CT (counterterrorism) targets." The BND is tasked with instructing the domestic intelligence agency on how to use the program, the documents say.
'Eagerness and Desire'

Furthermore, the documents show that the cooperation of the German intelligence agencies with the NSA has recently intensified. Reference is made to the "eagerness and desire" of BND head Gerhard Schindler. "The BND has been working to influence the German government to relax interpretation of the privacy laws to provide greater opportunities of intelligence sharing," the NSA noted in January. Over the course of 2012, German partners had shown a "willingness to take risks and to pursue new opportunities for cooperation with the US."

Not All White House Reporters Are Pushovers

Of course that attack was reprehensible. But Thomas had asked whether President Bush deplored the taking of "all innocent lives in the world." And Fleischer didn't want to go there.
But Helen Thomas, an 82-year-old journalist who has been covering the White House for several decades, was not to be deterred by the flack's sleight-of-tongue maneuver. "My follow-up is," she persisted, "why does he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?"
On a dime, Fleischer spun paternal and nationalistic. "Helen, the question is how to protect Americans, and our allies and friends —"
What Fleischer had just called "the question" was actually his question. He had no use for hers.
Thomas responded: "They're not attacking you. Have they [the Iraqis] laid the glove on you or on the United States ... in 11 years?"

Remembering Pioneering Journalist and National Press Club Member Helen Thomas

The passing of longtime UPI journalist Helen Thomas is a sad day for all journalists and especially for women who have followed in her pioneering footsteps. Helen was not only one of the first women to cover the White House, she was among the small group of women who were the first to join the National Press Club in 1971. While that happened way too late, I and others who followed her appreciate the determination she showed in knocking down the barrier that had kept women in the balcony at the Press Club.

The shining beacon on the hill scolds Russia on civil rights and corruption.
Obama May Cancel Moscow Trip as Tensions Build Over Leaker

WASHINGTON — President Obama may cancel a scheduled trip to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin in September as the standoff over the fate of Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor seeking asylum there, takes its toll on already strained relations between the United States and Russia, officials said Thursday.

Canceling the meeting in Moscow would be seen as a direct slap at Mr. Putin, who is known to value such high-level visits as a validation of Russian prestige. While the White House may be using the meeting as leverage to win cooperation as it seeks the return to the United States of Mr. Snowden, who is now staying at a Moscow airport, the reconsideration also reflects a broader concern that the two countries are far apart on issues like Syria, Iran, arms control and missile defense.

The conviction on Thursday of Aleksei A. Navalny, a prominent leader of the opposition to Mr. Putin, on embezzlement charges further underscored the deepening divide between the two countries as the White House pronounced itself “deeply disappointed” at what it called a trend of “suppressing dissent and civil society in Russia.” The verdict and five-year sentence came a week after the posthumous conviction of Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer investigating official corruption who was arrested and died in custody.

“We call on the Russian government to cease its campaign of pressure against individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption, and to ensure that the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of all of its citizens, including the freedoms of speech and assembly, are protected and respected,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary.

I watched some of Samantha Power's confirmation hearing.  Everyone should watch it.  She and Susan Rice have a lot in common.  I don't see a lot of change coming to that position. But she's also pushing, big time, for intervention Syria.  Also, news to me, seems to be advocating for a position on the UN Security Council for Israel.  In any case, at some point, go to C-SPAN and watch/listen to the hearing because just reading the transcript doesn't give you the full sense of Samantha Power, and the liberal elite who dominate the conversation in Washington.  

I am still mulling over my thoughts on it, but I think she is a significant representative of who we really are as a party, or how we are represented, and all I can say is that I think it's scary and it also strikes me as an outdated, out of touch, and dangerous attitude that she gives us a window to because she is so outspoken.  Also, when watching, notice how she makes sure to show how she is aware of the budget constraints, economic hardship of many Americans, and uses it as kind of a footnote but still pushes for military intervention which could drag us into another multi-trillion dollar quagmire.  It's just something she ticks off her list, as in, oh I better make sure that I show how I'm aware of how terribly the little people are doing as I advocate for more war. Such the humanitarian. She never touches on the problem of the jihadists and exiles who are slated to take control, who can't get along, who have also taken part in the slaughter of innocent civilians.  Such the humanitarian Samantha Power is.  And now such the diplomat too!  FSM help us with her at the UN.

Power remarks cause Venezuela to end efforts to improve US ties
Foreign ministry releases statement in response to UN envoy nominee's promise to stand up to 'repressive regimes'

During a Senate conformation hearing this week, Power promised to stand up against "repressive regimes" and said that meant "contesting the crackdown on civil society being carried out in countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela".

The foreign ministry in Caracas said her comments were "interventionist", and that the UN had often recognized Venezuela's "solid system of constitutional guarantees" that ensured its citizens' fundamental rights. "By contrast, the whole world is constantly expressing its concern over repressive practices carried out by the United States," the ministry said.

"They include the violation of human rights at the illegal prison in Guantánamo, the killing of civilians by drones, and the lamentable persecution unleashed against Edward Snowden."



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.

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