…this is what it looks like:
Via Zero Hedge.
From the New York Times last week:
U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement
…Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States — about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images…
…postal workers record information from the outside of letters and parcels before they are delivered. (Opening the mail would require a warrant.) … It enables the Postal Service to retrace the path of mail at the request of law enforcement. No one disputes that it is sweeping.
“In the past, mail covers were used when [ed: ordered after] you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime,” said Mark D. Rasch, who started a computer crimes unit in the fraud section of the criminal division of the Justice Department and worked on several fraud cases using mail covers. “Now it seems to be, ‘Let’s record everyone’s mail so in the future we might go back and see who you were communicating with.’ Essentially you’ve added mail covers on millions of Americans.”
So, pro or con? A reasonable trade-off of privacy for security, or another example of America Gone Horribly Wrong?
I lean to the latter view. As the NSA surveillance revelations hit, I said:
Can you imagine one of the Framers [of the Constitution] saying the following? “Having the Post Office collect data for the President on every letter that every person sends isn’t unconstitutional because the Fourth Amendment only protects the content of letters and not information on the sender and recipient, the weight of the letters (or number of pages), etc.” – I can’t.
Having said that, I do have a tad more confidence that the Post Office isn’t illegally opening and reading letters, than I do that the NSA somehow isn’t illegally reading/listening to any e-mails and phone calls they feel like.
UPDATE: From Bruce’s Twitter stream, more in the “America Gone Wrong” category:
They’re 15 anti-Obama signs/banners, that seem to be placed prominently among the protestors. Now, I don’t know what that means for the protestors’ (or the Egyptians’) overall feelings about Obama. But if you can find a countervailing link – say, 15 pro-Obama banners from the protestors, or current Egyptian poll results where they love him – please post it in the comments.
UPDATE: From Cairo’s Tora prison, Ousted Mubarak says Mursi should resign to ‘save lives’.
UPDATE: Obama against Egyptian street protestors? The key phrases in his otherwise flowery statement about his love of Egyptian democracy:
I now call on the Egyptian military…to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the government of Egypt.
In other words: Obama may cut off aid to Egypt if the Egyptian military dares to crack down on the Islamo-fascists within their midst, the Muslim Brotherhood. From Wiki’s description of them:
The Brotherhood’s stated goal is to instill the Qur’an and Sunnah as the “sole reference point for …ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community … and state.”The movement is known for engaging in political violence, claiming responsibility for the installment of Hamas, a U.S. designated terrorist organization…Muslim Brotherhood members are suspected to have assassinated political opponents like Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha…
But, not to fear: Obama left himself room to wriggle in the other direction. He can still say that he only wanted to avoid “arbitrary” arrests (as opposed to, say, arrests necessary to prevent a civil war) and that he only called for a “review” of U.S. aid.
UPDATE: Did you know that Obama was getting ready to deploy U.S. troops to support Morsi against the Egyptian street protestors? (KCEN-TV report, via The New American.) I had missed it.
Perhaps that is part of what precipitated the Egyptian military’s move against Morsi. That, and Morsi’s plans to intervene in Syria for “the rebels”, the Syrian al Qaeda bunch that Obama also supports.
UPDATE: CNN acknowledges that the Egyptian protests were anti-Obama. (Via Zero Hedge.) So, we cynics were wrong on that point: the U.S. official media has indeed admitted it.
Take a gander at this screen capture. Interesting juxtaposition between ad and article, no?
Question for the day: does his perpetual campaigning help compromise the Democrat’ “Reputation for Integrity”?
And please tell me how did Mr. Obama acquired such a reputation? Through his actions? (What specific actions helped him earn it?)
What’s going on? ‘Syriasly.’ I understand where Iran and Hezbollah are in this: they’re Assad allies and want their interests preserved. But:
The Left seems to be all over the map on this.
For years, Obama has maintained an overall approval rating above 50% as many Americans have refused to dislike him, despite majorities being against his policies and giving him lots of disapproval on key issues.
RTWT. “The drop in Obama’s support is fueled by a dramatic 17-point decline over the past month among people under 30…” “The number of Americans who think he is honest has dropped nine points over the past month, to 49%.”
UPDATE: We know he’s in trouble…because he’s lost Germany:
several hundred leftists staged a colorful demonstration on Monday afternoon in Berlin…with a poster showing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. uttering his famous line, “I have a dream.” Underneath was Obama saying, “I have a drone.”
What now, are we supposed to believe that even German leftists must be motivated by racism? Oh wait…sorry.
In a Gallup tracking poll released Tuesday, former-President George W. Bush currently stands with a favorability rating of 49%, compared to 46% who see the 43rd president unfavorably. Meanwhile, another Gallup poll shows President Obama with only a 47% approval rating, with 44% disapproving.
John Nolte from Breitbart explains why:
After all, Obama fooled everyone when he ran as the anti-Bush in 2008.
Everyone thought Obama meant he would be less hawkish than his predecessor. But as we have seen, Obama apparently has no problem killing American citizens via remote control with drones or greatly expanding on Bush’s surveillance state. This, even though Obama told us he had pretty much won the War on Terror.
President Obama just gave a speech, wherein he addressed the NSA surveillance revelations. From CNN:
Sweeping up Americans’ telephone records and monitoring Internet activity from overseas are “modest encroachments on privacy” that can help U.S. intelligence analysts disrupt terror activity, President Barack Obama said Friday.
“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” he reassured Americans…
And from Yahoo!:
“I came in with a healthy skepticism about these programs,” Obama said…”My team evaluated them. We scrubbed them thoroughly. We actually expanded some of the oversight, increased some of the safeguards.”
Isn’t that reassuring? Obama says he means well!
Dan has posed the question, Is revelation of phone data gathering “scandal” a (kind of) distraction?
With respect, my answer is: Perhaps. Maybe the Obama crew staged the NSA revelations, to divert attention from their main scandals.
But, if true, wouldn’t it mean they’re getting desperate? (Telling the media “Don’t cover that scandal, cover *this* one.”) As a fan of truth coming to light, I’m pleased. And don’t worry, the other scandals are still under investigation and have plenty of revelations to come. There will be plenty of oxygen for them.
So, getting back to the NSA revelations…I’m worried by some of the commentary I’ve seen.
Dan quotes law professor John Yoo as saying that this “data collecting isn’t unconstitutional because the Fourth Amendment only protects the content of phone calls and not information on the dialed numbers, length of the calls, etc.” And Yoo may well be right, as regards the state of the law today.
But that doesn’t necessarily make it right. Here is the text of the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The right to be secure in your “papers”. Now, the Framers (of the Constitution) said “papers” in part because they couldn’t conceive of phone calls. In their day, people communicated over distances by paper letters. Can you imagine one of the Framers saying the following?
Having the Post Office collect data for the President on every letter that every person sends isn’t unconstitutional because the Fourth Amendment only protects the content of letters and not information on the sender and recipient, the weight of the letters (or number of pages), etc.
I can’t. In other words, I don’t find it terribly reassuring to be told that they don’t actually open the
letters phone calls and read listen to them.
Finally, I would remind people that the NSA is traditionally much closer to the White House than the other security agencies, which is why I put “for the President” in the above mock-up. I do support counter-terrorism, but… Color me skeptical. I have concerns on this.
Michelle Malkin has a must-read post on NSA phone surveillance of Americans (a subject that I touched upon in an earlier footnote).
She starts by reminding about the NSA phone surveillance of the Bush administration:
The Bush NSA’s special collections program grew in early 2002 after the CIA started capturing top Qaeda operatives overseas, including Abu Zubaydah. The CIA seized the terrorists’ computers, cellphones and personal phone directories. NSA surveillance was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible. As a result of Bush NSA work,the terrorist plot involving convicted al Qaeda operative Iyman Faris was uncovered — possibly saving untold lives…
Normally, the government obtains court orders to monitor such information from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. But the window of opportunity to exploit the names, numbers, and addresses of those associated with the top terrorist leaders was obviously small…
So the Bush administration had the NSA track Americans’ overseas phone calls, insofar as captured terrorist phone numbers might show up. But the Obama administration? Not so
much…err, so little:
The new Obama order covers not only phone calls overseas with the specific goal of counterterrorism surveillance, but all domestic calls by Verizon customers over at least a three-month period.
[Malkin now links/quotes an article at Politico:] Trevor Timm, a digital rights analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called the order “shockingly broad.” …The “top secret” order issued in April by a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court at the request of the FBI instructs the telecommunications giant Verizon to provide the NSA with daily reports of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”
I’m willing to preserve our counter-terrorism efforts. And I don’t know much about the legal ins/outs of all this. But, all domestic calls by Verizon customers? Sheesh! This surely goes beyond the Bush NSA surveillance that the public debated in 2005-6.
So, it’s worth discussing the rightness (or wrongness) of the broadened surveillance. The more so if (note IF) the War on Terror is over, as some international observers thought Obama to be implying in his speech last week.
By way of counterpoint, Senator Feinstein implies that the broadened phone surveillance did start under Bush, in 2007. But that still wouldn’t make it right. Or make it anything that the public has approved, because we haven’t learned about the broadened efforts (or been able to debate them) until now.
As always, please feel free to post whatever more you know about this issue, in the comments.
“[E]ven among Obama voters,” writes Heather Long in Friday’s Guardian, reflecting on a variety of factors, including the number of scandals coming to light, “there should be genuine disappointment. This not the President Obama we voted for, not even close.”
She talks about the excitement and exhilaration people felt in 2008 when Obama was elected:
It was mostly young people marching – from varied backgrounds. Many of these parades ended up in front of the White House where chants of “goodbye Bush” (or some variation thereof) began. It was the same slogan heard as Barack Obama was sworn in as president in January 2009 and Bush flew away in a helicopter.
There was a belief, especially among voters in their 20s and 30s, that Obama was going to be different. That his promises to “change the culture in Washington” were real. That his administration wouldn’t be beholden to lobbyists and conduct executive power grabs.
Interesting how part of their celebration relates to the departure of the much (and usually wrongly) maligned immediate past President of the United States.
What evidence, beyond the candidate’s rhetoric, did they have that Barack Obama was an agent of change?
They were clearly not aware, as many conservatives reported in 2008, that the great Democratic hope had always been a loyal foot soldier in the Chicago Democratic machine. In his twelve years as an elected official based in that city, Barack Obama failed to challenged its authority — as he failed to root out corrupt practices and cronyism that defined its government.
His record, as we have pointed out repeatedly, was at odds with his rhetoric.
We (that is, conservative and libertarian bloggers and pundits) told you that back in 2008. We told you that you were voting for an image crafted by political consultants and projected onto a charismatic Chicago politician with a mellifluous speaking voice. But, you were so eager to see George W. Bush replaced that you trusted the words of man who delighted in maligning that Republican, but about whom you knew very little. And are only now seeing as he is today — and was back then.
As the scandals engulfing the Obama Administration have proliferated and “gotten legs” this week, many of the conservatives I know or whom I hear on the radio have started drawing comparisons with what happened under Nixon, bringing up the word “impeachment,” and hoping that as it becomes evident that these activities were not accidents but part of a coordinated strategy, Obama will eventually resign, or at least some of those who hold key posts of power in this administration–such as Eric Holder–will resign and that the Administration will be hopelessly tainted as the truth becomes known.
I hear that talk, and I think, it would be nice, but I can’t see it happening. Maybe Holder will resign. Maybe.
I can imagine the press starting to subject the Obama Administration to a little more scrutiny in the future, but “a little more” than none is still only a little bit of scrutiny, hardly enough to make a significant difference in public opinion. While the outrage surrounding all of this may be enough for the Republicans to hold the House and to gain control in the Senate in 2014, there will still be formidable problems, and we’ll still have a very divided country. The low-information voters in the electorate will still be willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt because most of them are either unwilling to see him for the cynical, partisan character he is, or they are unable to do so.
It is possible that after a year or two of scandals and after the outrage that is sure to follow the full implementation of Obamacare, Obama will end his second term with even lower approval ratings than George W. Bush ended his, but at this point, I think that’s about the most we can hope for, that, and maybe Holder’s resignation. I’m not even sure any of this will derail the immigration bill, which is looking more and more like the next legislative disaster coming down the pike.
I’m not trying to be pessimistic, merely practical. In the lead-up to the election in November, I knew that what happened with the administration’s lies about Benghazi was an outrage, but after the election, it seemed evident to me that Obama, Hillary, and the entire administration were going to get away without any consequences. The American voters had failed to demand answers and accountability and had just re-elected Obama.
Now that the scandals are starting to illustrate the kinds of things conservatives have been saying about Obama for years and years now, some liberals are upset with Obama, but others are busy trying to find more ways to blame conservatives for making an issue of the problems. In one of the most ironic defenses of Obama I have encountered so far, David Axelrod offered the “incompetence” excuse, namely, that the government is just too big for Obama to really know what’s going on, an excuse we are sure to hear echoed in the days ahead. Forgive me if I can’t forget that in November the American electorate rejected a man who was renowned for his management skills and his ability to lead large organizations successfully, all so they could re-elect the “community organizer.”
So what do our readers think? Am I just being pessimistic about all this? Is the investigation of these scandals likely to have real and significant consequences for our government, or are they a lot of talk that will amount to nothing, or at least nothing much?
Remember back in the days when Barack Obama was promising a new kind of politics, that his supporters promised he would, through sheer force of his personality, transform the partisan divides which polarized our discourse and usher in a new age of civility. The Democrat, many claimed, had a “both a first-class intellect and a first-class temperament.”
He would rise above petty bickering and, in his own words, help “break [that] pattern in Washington where everybody is always looking for somebody else to blame.”
Only problem Obama didn’t have much of a record acting in the way he had promised to. And four years and three months as president have shown him to be quite the opposite of the transcendent leader he promised to be. He, for example, blames others for his failures, whines about the problems he has to face, and questions the motives of his ideological adversaries.
Nowhere is this more manifest than in his public speeches and press conferences. And he showed his peevish streak in his press conference earlier this week when he refused to take responsibility for his failure to compromise with Congress, responding to a question about his clout with Congress by saying that the questioner seemed “ to suggest that somehow these folks over there have no responsibilities and that my job is to somehow get them to behave. That’s their job.”
Yea, but, did this guy who wasn’t supposed to transcend political differences and want to break the blame-game that pervades in the nation’s capital reach out to Congress and try to avoid the sequester (which the journalist mentioned in his question)? Couldn’t he, with his “first-class temperament” have managed to prod congressional leaders often at loggerheads to hammer out a compromise.
As James Taranto, in commenting on Tuesday’s press conference his Best of the Web column yesterday, put it:
. . . governing or legislating is more complicated. It requires both compromise and persuasion–the ability to yield to your adversaries and to make them feel it is in their interest to yield to you. It also requires a practical sense of both how your ideas will go over politically, how to make them go over favorably, and how they will actually work in practice.
Obama is sorely lacking in all these skills–which even his detractors must acknowledge makes his re-election an impressive feat.
To a very large extent then, Barack Obama lacks the very skills he purported to have in his bid for the White House, the very skills which would supposedly set him apart from the polarizing politics that needed changing. (more…)
In a previous post, I wrote about Obamacare Schadenfreude, that feeling of amusement when some ardent supporters of Obamacare realize that that monstrous piece of legislation will have negative consequences for them or for causes about which they claim to care. I was reminded of that post again yesterday when I heard that one of the authors of Obamacare, Max Baucus (D-Montana), complained that the implementation of Obamacare was going to be a “huge train-wreck coming down.”
Likewise, a little over a week ago, Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) complained about the incomprehensible complexity of the law: “‘I believe that the Affordable Care Act is probably the most complex piece of legislation ever passed by the United States Congress,’ he said, as quoted in the Washington Examiner. ‘Tax reform obviously has been huge, too, but up to this point it is just beyond comprehension.’” My response to both Senators is simply to respond: well, isn’t that just too bad.
Today, though, I’d rather write about another Obama-era affliction which I’ve been suffering with since late January 2009. It is something akin to depression, and it is brought on or exacerbated by the daily outrages resulting from this administration’s policies.
Sometimes it boils up to anger which gives me more energy, but at other times I feel listless and unmotivated or even hopeless. At times, I get by just focusing on the routines and necessary activities of my daily life, but sometimes even those feel like a burden. Writing about the issues can be therapeutic, though there are many times when I’d rather not think about them at all.
So what to call this condition? “Obamalaise” came to mind, but I think others have used that to describe the lingering weakness in our economy.
I also thought of “Obama Weltschmerz.” That conveys the angst and depression, and I like the fact that, like Obamacare Schadenfreude, it uses a German word. As I see it, the use of a German word helps to communicate my sense that Obama’s America feels like it’s headed towards the sort of economic collapse which characterized Weimar Germany.
Maybe that’s too dark. “Obamanomie” communicates a sense of impending social instability and alienation. That might get at the matter a little better, though it’s perhaps even more depressing to think about.
In any case, I know I’m not the only one suffering with this condition. I suspect many of our readers are, too. What would you call it?
Easy: As I’ve suggested before, Obama always wants to empower the State.
Howard Husock at Forbes writes about the Obama administration’s continuing attack on private charity. The attack is boringly technical because, naturally, the administration does not want people riled up:
The Administration has, since 2009, pushed unsuccessfully to allow only 28 cents on a dollar donated to charity to be deducted—even though the top tax rate for the wealthy donors who make most use of the deduction has been 35 percent. In the budget released today, the President again proposes to cap the charitable deduction at 28 percent—despite the fact that the top rate on the highest earners has increased to 39.6 percent.
So, a bunch of rich people wouldn’t see as much tax benefit from their charitable donations. “Who cares?”, says the lefty. Well, you should care, because:
When one taxes something more, of course, one gets less of it—and it’s likely that the current $168 billion in itemized charitable giving would decline…The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that the reduction in giving could be as high as $9 billion a year.
Husock’s piece is worth reading in full, for its good information. But I don’t think he quite grasps Obama’s motive.
The average private charity helps people better than government does. Usually, private charities are closer to the problem and spend money more efficiently. Leftists quietly hate the competition, in that they would rather see an expanded government program.
When the Left wants to take over (or destroy) something that private actors have been doing relatively well, the Left will propose some governmental program or rule change which seems small, technical, boring and even halfway reasonable, but which makes it harder for the private version to survive, and which sets a precedent for deeper changes to come. The slippery-slope approach.
That is why Obama keeps trying to get this tax change. If he can get this ‘reasonable’ change that only hurts rich people, he will have his bad precedent in place (for further steps to reduce or kill the charitable deduction).
In addition, he will have hurt private charities’ budgets, which means they will do less to help people, which means they will be a little bit less important in our society. I believe Obama prefers that, deep down. Because he always proposes the thing whose effects will make people more, rather than less, dependent on government.
Remember the ‘sequester’ spending cuts? Per Obama a month or two ago, they were supposed to be The Apocalypse. His administration even rolled out Janet Napolitano to try to fan public fears of terrorist attack (notwithstanding that her budget is still higher this year, after the sequester cuts).
It’s been a month since the cuts kicked in, and it turns out that the reality is ho-hum. The paltry cuts have mostly had small, manageable impacts.
Except, of course, that school kids still can’t go on White House tours. Obama’s administration has held the tours hostage, even refusing patriotic donations that could have restored them. “Nice guy.”
UPDATE: Defense is hit with $41B in cuts, which will cause civilian Defense Dept. employees to be furloughed 14 days this year. Top Defense officials try to help a little, by returning part of their own salaries. Clearly, they aren’t part of the White House.
Just some tasty red meat:
The interview touches on the key issue of Paul’s recent filibuster. In my own words: If the government can execute American citizens, on American soil, pre-emptively (without an active crime or combat situation and without due process), simply by designating them ‘terrorists’ first… well, who’s a terrorist? Please note that:
With such examples, we see that the Obama – Big Government – Big Banking nexus is indeed prone to labeling its domestic ideological opponents as ‘terrorists’.
Fortunately and as we know, the Obama administration did answer Paul’s filibuster with a clarification of the limits on domestic drone strikes.
[^^I can't recall Biden's GOP counterparts - Vice President Cheney, or VP candidates Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan - ever saying that their domestic, non-violent political opponents were terrorists. If you think any of them did, I invite you to find a solid reference and post it in the comments. Quotes about Bill Ayers won't count, since Ayers was actually violent for awhile.]
UPDATE: Rand is on a roll. “For liberty to expand, government must shrink.” Link is timed to that line, but watch the whole thing.
Rand Paul’s filibuster ended yesterday, after 13 hours. Neither Bruce nor I were clear on how to turn off GP’s post that was counting it, so…it’s gone. We executed it (so to speak). But where did America end up?
I think that means: according to the Senate, if Obama decides that you are a “suspected terrorist”, he could execute you and your family in a drone strike on your home. At least, the question is open. Obama’s America, Forward!
UPDATE (from the comments): heliotrope informs us that Senator Paul has just received a letter from Attorney General Holder, writing that the president does NOT “have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on an American soil.” That’s better.
I’ve not blogged or read political articles for the last 3 weeks, for several reasons. One reason was that I got a little overwhelmed by (disgust at) the sheer volume of the Obama administration’s negligence and dishonesty, on issue after issue. You just can’t blog it all.
Well “I’m back”, presently scanning the last few days’ news on HotAir. There it is again! The sheer volume of Obama negligence and/or dishonesty. Any of these could make a blog post.
What, only four items? Here’s a bonus: What happens to your city, when Democrats run it for generations?
UPDATE: An Obama advisor allows, in tortured fashion, that the “sequester” cuts were their idea. So why have the Obama crew recently been pretending the opposite?
“I had a young reporter asking tough, important questions of an Obama Cabinet secretary,” says one DC veteran. “She was doing her job, and they were trying to bully her. In an e-mail, they called her the vilest names — bitch, c–t, a–hole.”…
UPDATE: WaPo upgrades one of Obama’s sequester lies from two Pinocchios (run-of-the-mill political lie) to four (indisputable, big lie).