Obama to announce overhaul to NSA program

This should be really interesting….:

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama will announce on Friday a major overhaul of a controversial National Security Agency program that collects vast amounts of basic telephone call data on foreigners and Americans, a senior Obama administration official said.

In an 11 a.m. (1600 GMT) speech at the Justice Department, Obama will say he is ordering a transition that will significantly change the handling of what is known as the telephone “metadata” program from the way the NSA currently handles it.

Obama’s move is aimed at restoring Americans’ confidence in U.S. intelligence practices and caps months of reviews by the White House in the wake of damaging disclosures about U.S. surveillance tactics from former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden

via Exclusive: Obama to announce overhaul to controversial NSA program | Reuters.

This is the part of President Obama’s job that I would not do, even if they offered me a million dollars a day to do it. Doing the balancing act between national security and privacy is not an easy task. On one hand, you have the people who want to protect America from terrorist attacks; on the other, you have those who want to keep the privacy of Americans safe.

The article goes on to say what Obama has in store. I highly recommend that you go read it. Because needless to say; this is going to make many people, on both sides of the argument, very unhappy.

 

If Harry Reid goes with the nuclear option, the Dems will be finished

That’s right folks, if Harry Reid is serious about pulling an overreach of this magnitude; the Democrats will face a setback that would last a very long time.

The Story:

Senator Harry Reid appears set to go nuclear — before Thanksgiving.

With Senate Republicans blocking a third Obama nomination to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide tells me Reid is now all but certain to move to change the Senate rules by simple majority — doing away with the filibuster on executive and judicial nominations, with the exception of the Supreme Court – as early as this week.

At a presser today, Reid told reporters he was taking another look at rules reform, but didn’t give a timeline. The senior leadership aide goes further, saying it’s hard to envision circumstances under which Reid doesn’t act.

“Reid has become personally invested in the idea that Dems have no choice other than to change the rules if the Senate is going to remain a viable and functioning institution,” the aide says. That’s a long journey from where Reid was only 10 months ago, when he agreed to a toothless filibuster reform deal out of a real reluctance to change the rules by simple majority. Asked to explain the evolution, the aide said: “It’s been a long process. But this is the only thing we can do to keep the Senate performing its basic duties.”

Asked if Reid would drop the threat to go nuclear if Republicans green-lighted one or two of Obama’s judicial nominations, the aide said: “I don’t think that’s going to fly.”

via Harry Reid is set to go nuclear. – Greg Sargent / The Plum Line

Well, I can tell you this; if Reid thinks that this “will fly” with the American people, he is wrong and the Democrats will pay the price for this one. If you think that the Republican Party will not exploit this little boneheaded move for political purposes; you are crazy. This will be seen by many as a power grab by the Conservative movement; and they will use it against the Democrats in 2014 and 2016.

Not only that; what happens if the Democrats lose the majority in both houses of Congress? Then, the Republicans will use that relaxed power to stack the courts with people who, of course, the Democrats will not like and then you would have state Christian statism in a horrible form; and you have to know the Democrats will not like that one bit. Now, if I were a partisan type, I would think this would be awesome. However, I believe in divided Government and I happen to believe that one party acts as a check and balance to the other. It keeps one party from holding a monopoly on Government.

It all goes back to that airplane analogy that I like to use: If a plane flies in circles; whether clockwise or counterclockwise, it does not really go anywhere and sooner or later, it will crash. However, if that same plane flies level, it always gets where it is going.  The same goes for the Government; a Government that is controlled by one party, is doomed to failure and will eventually crash. However, a Nation with divided Government always gets where it is going.

Hopefully, Harry Reid has more sense than to pull a stunt like this one.

Others, mostly Democrats; your mileage may vary: The Moderate VoiceTalking Points MemoPoliticusUSABooman TribuneBalloon Juice,Lawyers, Guns & MoneyA plain blog about politicsDaily KosNational ReviewThe Reality-Based Community and Hullabaloo (Via Memeorandum)

Updated with Video: Republicans and Democrats on the hill stand against the Trans Pacific Partnership

Update: Here is video on the subject regarding a leak by Wikileaks on the text of this monstrous thing: (H/T Democracy Now)

For once there is something that the President is trying to get accomplished, that the Democrats and Republicans in Congress are actually standing against. For once, this is a very good thing.

This comes via Mother Jones:

The Obama administration is nearing the end of negotiations on the biggest free trade deal in US history, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The stakes are high: The pact affects the United States and 11 other countries, domestic policy areas ranging from intellectual property rights to product safety and environmental regulations, and $26 trillion in annual economic output. But in order to secure the deal, President Barack Obama says he wants Congress to grant him permission to sign the final trade agreement, which Congress has not yet seen, without congressional input. A coalition of about 174 conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats in the House signaled this week they would likely vote against giving those trade powers to the president.

The US trade representative Michael Froman and Obama want to finalize the TPP by the end of the year and are pushing Congress to pass legislation soon that grants the president something called fast-track authority, which would allow him to sign the final trade agreement without Congress making any amendments to the pact. If Obama gets what he wants, Congress may not even be able to read the final version of the massive trade deal in its entirety until after lawmakers have signed away their rights to influence it. At that point, the two chambers will only be allowed an up-or-down vote to implement the international pact into domestic law. The administration says fast-track authority will assure other countries that the deal the United States has committed to after three years of negotiations won’t be dismantled by American lawmakers who dislike some of the provisions. No major trade agreement has been finalized without it.

[...]

Many conservative Republicans—usually fans of free trade—feel the same way. “For two hundred years of our nation’s history, Congress led our nation’s trade policy,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and 22 Republicans in the House wrote in a letter sent to the president Tuesday. “However, recent presidents have seized Congress’ constitutional trade authority and also ‘diplomatically legislated’…using…’Fast Track.’”

“Conservatives have shown themselves to instinctively oppose anything coming out of the Obama White House. So their opposition is not surprising,” Adam Hersh, a trade expert at the liberal Center for American Progress, says in an email. But he adds that the Democratic opposition is new. “We’re seeing the culmination of dissatisfaction with persistent poor trading outcomes for the US economy” such as job outsourcing, he says, and the feeling that Congress has been “kept in the dark.

Rod Dreher, of whom I owe the hat tip to for reporting this story on his blog says:

Trust him? No. It’s not about Obama personally; Congress gave fast-track authority to Bill Clinton, and to George W. Bush. But the House Democrats who oppose this — and the overwhelming majority of the opponents are Dems — say. Establishment Republicans tend to support fast-track authority, but some Tea Partiers are standing with the Dems.

[....]

I’m willing to hear the counterarguments, but in general, I’m not in favor of giving this or any president the authority to approve something so enormous and consequential without Congress even seeing it. I could be wrong, but it seems that we’ve had enough trusting political and business elites always to operate in the best interests of the American people.

I feel the same way; this is not about Obama personally. However, it is about policies that undermine the sovereignty of the United States of America and literally it is about policies that put the screws to the American worker. We have enough “free trade” deals in this Country as it is; and they are quite literally draining this Country of its GDP. People want to know why there are no jobs in this Country? This is why! Because crony capitalists and the political elites who protect them; would rather manufacture products overseas on the cheap, instead of giving an American worker a living wage.

This is something that we have to stop and reverse at all costs, if we are ever going to be able to put America back as the manufacturing mecca that it once was.

From the “You gotta be kidding me” file: House just voted on 2 bills that would undercut new financial regulations

This one somehow snuck past me.

I happen to read on Populist Jim Hightower’s website about this one here and I went and looked it up and sure enough; there it was in black and white:

The story:

WASHINGTON –– To Wall Street, this town might seem like enemy territory. But even as federal regulators and prosecutors extract multibillion-dollar penalties from the nation’s biggest banks, Wall Street can rely on at least one ally here: the House of Representatives.

The House is scheduled to vote on two bills this week that would undercut new financial regulations and hand Wall Street a victory. The legislation has garnered broad bipartisan support in the House, even after lawmakers learned that Citigroup lobbyists helped write one of the bills, which would exempt a wide array of derivatives trading from new regulation.

The bills are part of a broader campaign in the House, among Republicans and business-friendly Democrats, to roll back elements of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the most comprehensive regulatory overhaul since the Depression. Of 10 recent bills that alter Dodd-Frank or other financial regulation, six have passed the House this year. This week, if the House approves Citigroup’s legislation and another bill that would delay heightened standards for firms that offer investment advice to retirees, the tally would rise to eight.

Both the Treasury Department and consumer groups have urged lawmakers to reject the bills, warning that they could leave the nation vulnerable again to excessive financial risk taking. The House proposals stand little chance of becoming law, having received a much chillier reception in the Senate and at the White Ho

via House, Set to Vote on 2 Bills, Is Seen as an Ally of Wall St. – NYTimes.com.

You believe those greedy bastards? Jim Hightower is not amused and rightly so:

Audio:

Partial Quote:

On the day before Halloween, the ethically-challenged members of our lobbyist-haunted House of Representatives did a perverse imitation of “Profiles in Courage,” turning that body into “Profiles in Spinelessness.”

In particular, they cravenly caved in to an outrageous and dangerous demand by Wall Street whiners. Such financial powerhouses as Citigroup just hate having their profiteering recklessness restrained by the regulatory reforms passed after their 2008 financial meltdown. Even though the shockwaves from that Wall Street collapse continue to devastate America’s middle class, the banking elite have completely recovered – including recovering their swaggering arrogance and ability to sway money-hungry congress critters with rich campaign donations. — Read the rest at Jim Hightower’s site

I am shocked that more Conservatives are not swinging from the trees on this one here! To their credit, there are some Democrat Party house members that are opposed to this bill and rightly so. This is the same idiotic crap that brought down the stock market and killed our economy; thank goodness there is some semblance of sanity up on the hill.

Sure enough the Bill passed the house, But it is not expected to make it through the Senate and the White House has said that they would veto the thing, if it made it to the President’s desk. Which in this instance is a very good thing. However, this is not the point. What is the point is this: Those same bastards who caused the great meltdown of 2008, are now lobbying our Government to put things back as they were, so that this sort of thing could happy again. That my friends is enough to make an economic populist, like myself, to want to bite a nail in two! :mad:

The people that caused the Wall Street meltdown and downturn in our economy ought to be brought up on treason charges, and lined up against a wall and shot! :mad: But, instead, they are trying to buy their way back to lawlessness. This my friends, is an outrage.

Christian persecution in Central Asia

The persecution of Baptist Christians is happening in Central Asia.

The Associated Baptist Press reports:

A Baptist pastor in Kazakhstan faces up to a year in prison after refusing to pay a fine equivalent to about two months’ average salary for conducting worship without government permission, the international news service Forum 18 reported Oct. 30.

Police opened a criminal case Oct. 28 against Pastor Pavel Leonov, who was fined in March following a Feb. 28 raid on his congregation in Ayagoz in the region of East Kazakhstan.

Leonov’s church is part of the Council of Churches Baptists, which has a policy of civil disobedience by refusing to pay fines imposed for meeting for worship without the compulsory state registration.

In August he told the court he could not pay the fine because he thinks he did nothing wrong and is the sole breadwinner for his wife and five children and was sentenced to 24 hours in jail.

Forum 18 says Leonov is one of more than 100 people from various faiths in Kazakhstan fined so far this year for offenses such as leading or participating in religious meetings without state permission, sharing their faith with others without being personally registered as missionaries or distributing religious literature away from licensed venues.

This Country’s policy of requiring Church’s to pay fees to have Church licenses, is nothing more than a Communist-like attempt to control what sort of religion is taught. This is nothing more than straight up persecution of Churches. Now, I know what I wrote about the gun issue in the previous posting, that is an American issue and I do believe in abiding by American laws. However, I do have an issue with Government regulations that infringe on basic human rights; whether here in America or abroad.

I ask that all my readers pray for this man and his family; that God would give this man favor in the eyes of this Government. Praying

I have always said, that Christian, and in this case Baptist; Missionaries were the true and real Christians. The difference between an typical America Christian and the missionaries abroad, is that the Missionaries actually put their faith into action. I have always said, that if I ever had it to do over again, that I would have stayed in the Baptist Church and that I would have went overseas to be a missionary. They have my respect, and I always have believed that the secret to a prosperous Church that is thriving and making a difference; is the support of missionaries. Churches that do not support them, often die very quickly, or become cesspools of false doctrine.

May the Lord Jesus Christ richly bless these Missionaries and all missionaries around the World, who are boldly proclaiming the true Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Good News for Seniors: Sen. Bernie Sanders Will Be On Budget Conference Committee

I think this is a good thing. Because I do not like the idea of the Republicans attempting to tinker with Social Security and Medicare.

Via The Huffington Post:

In what can only be seen as good news for people who like traditional earned-benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare, here’s one name that appears on the list of Senate conferees in the upcoming Paul Ryan-Patty Murray budget talks — Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. This ensures that beneficiaries of these programs will, at the very least, have one strong, supportive voice in the room who won’t go down in a squishy heap of “grand bargaining.” (I’m sure Paul Ryan is thrilled.)

Statement via Sen. Bernie Sanders Official website:

Sen. Bernie Sanders was appointed to a Senate and House budget conference committee to create a long-term budget plan by Dec. 13 to avert another government shutdown. A member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders said he looks forward to developing an alternative to the stopgap, sequestration-level budget that Congress approved late Wednesday as part of an agreement to reopen the government. “I am excited about being a member of the budget conference committee and I look forward to working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to end the absurdity of sequestration and to develop a budget which works for all Americans. In my view, it is imperative that this new budget helps us create the millions of jobs we desperately need and does not balance the budget on the backs of working people, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor,” Sanders said.

The conference committee was assigned to try to reconcile differences between separate budgets passed earlier this year by the Senate and the House.

[…]

The Senate budget protects Medicare while the House version would end Medicare as we know it by providing coupons for private health insurance. Unlike the House budget, the Senate resolution does not repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would prevent more than 20 million Americans from getting health insurance. The House version would eliminate grants for up to 1 million college students while the Senate plan protects Pell grants. The House version would kick up to 24 million Americans off of Medicaid while the Senate budget would protect their benefits. The Senate budget calls for new revenue while the House version would provide trillions of dollars in tax breaks mainly for the wealthiest Americans and profitable corporations offset by increased taxes on the middle class.

Progressive Blog Corrent has the full list:

House Democrats:

Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.)
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.)
Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.)

From Senate Democratic Caucus:

Sen. Patty Murray (Ore.)
Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.)
Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)
Sen. Mark Warner (Va.)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (Ore.)
Sen. Chris Coons (Del.)
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.)
Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.)
Sen. Angus King (Maine)

In case anyone cares, here’s the list of Republicans:

House Republicans:

Paul Ryan (Wis.)
Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.)
Rep. Tom Price (Ga.)
Rep. Diane Black (Tenn.)

Senate Republicans:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.)
Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa)
Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.)
Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.)
Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio)
Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.)
Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.)
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.)
Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.)

The reason why I say that Bernie Sanders is good addition to the group is this; Bernie Sanders is an independent populist type. He is not a Obama loyalist, and he will not be afraid to stand up to the Obama Democrats.

I have always said on this blog, that the solution to America’s debt problem is not the ripping out of Social Security or Medicare. The solution is to get rid of the so-called “Free Trade” deals and the pork barrel spending, which both parties partake in. Furthermore, tariffs for all imports would pay down our debt and fund the social safety net.

Either way, it is good to see someone like Bernie Sanders fighting for the seniors and the disabled in this Country; like my aunt, who is developmentally disabled.

Hmmmmm: NSA Director Alexander Admits He Lied about Phone Surveillance Stopping 54 Terror Plots

Looks like the Obama administration is continuing with the same stuff that the Bush administration did.

Quote:

The head of the National Security Agency (NSA) admitted before a congressional committee this week that he lied back in June when he claimed the agency’s phone surveillance program had thwarted 54 terrorist “plots or events.”

NSA Director Keith Alexander gave out the erroneous number while the Obama administration was defending its domestic spying operations exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. He said surveillance data collected that led to 53 of those 54 plots had provided the initial tips to “unravel the threat stream.”

But Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Wednesday during a hearing on the continued oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that the administration was pushing incomplete or inaccurate statements about the bulk collection of phone records from communications providers.

“For example, we’ve heard over and over again that 54 terrorist plots have been thwarted by the use of (this program),” Leahy said. “That’s plainly wrong,” adding: “These weren’t all plots and they weren’t all thwarted.”

Alexander admitted that only 13 of the 54 cases were connected to the United States. He also told the committee that only one or two suspected plots were identified as a result of bulk phone record collection.

via Controversies – NSA Director Alexander Admits He Lied about Phone Surveillance Stopping 54 Terror Plots – AllGov – News.

New lies for old. There is no difference anymore. Hence why I am not voting Republican come 2016, unless something changes drastically on that side of the fence; and I know darned well I am not voting for a Democrat, ever again. :mad:

Video: Republicans are turning on Ted Cruz

As I wrote on here before twice, the Republican picked the wrong game to play here and now, they’re paying for it. Not to mention that the Republicans have been utter hypocrites on the entire Obamacare issue.

The Story:

A Republican congressman said Monday that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is largely responsible for the first government shutdown since 1996.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that while he believes many individuals are at fault, including President Barack Obama, he said Cruz and others who bought into the quixotic campaign to defund the Affordable Care Act “took a lot of folks into the ditch.”

“But if I had to cast blame anywhere, I would say it was Sen. Cruz and those who insisted upon this tactic that we all knew was not going to succeed,” Dent said. “What he did essentially, Sen. Cruz, basically, he took a lot of folks into the ditch. Now that we’re in the ditch, you can’t get out of the ditch, the senator has no plan to get out of the ditch, those of us who do have a plan to get out of the ditch and will vote to get out of the ditch will then be criticized by those who put us in the ditch in the first place.”

Dent said that he will continue to urge House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to bring a “clean” continuing resolution — one that includes no language to undermine the health care law — to a vote.

via GOP Rep Blames Cruz For Shutdown: ‘He Took A Lot Of Folks Into The Ditch’ (VIDEO).

This is why the GOP needs to wise up about this shut down

Because we are going to lose businesses. Government shutdowns hurt everyone, not just those in Government employment.

The Story:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Business leaders have failed to persuade their traditional Republican allies in Congress to avert a government shutdown. And they fear that bigger problems lie ahead.

That’s driving business leaders to take sides with a Democratic president whose health care and regulatory agenda they have vigorously opposed.

President Barack Obama is embracing the business outreach. On Wednesday, Obama is set to host chief executives from the nation’s 19 biggest financial firms.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to Congress signed by about 250 business groups urging no shutdown and warning against a debt ceiling crisis.

The partial closing of the government and the looming confrontation over the nation’s borrowing limit highlight the remarkable drop in the business community’s influence among House Republicans.

via Associated Press.

This is why I sort of thought that this shutdown was a bad idea. What the Tea Party Reps in the house forget is that the Republican Party’s biggest constituents are business owners; big and small. This could hurt the GOP in a huge way. Now, while I think that Obamacare was a bad idea; I happen to know that the GOP lost the battle, it is now law, affirmed by the supreme court.  So, why not play the long game, and try to actually win elections in 2014, and 2016 — including the White House? Then, once that happens, try to tweak the Affordable care act to make it a bit less intrusive and get rid of the mandate.

What the Republicans are doing now in the house is basically going to undermine any attempts to win any sort of an election come 2014 and 2016. In other words, the Republicans in the house are playing the wrong game for the situation. However, the truth is that Harry Reid could bring up what the house sent, for a vote;  which wouldn’t pass. But he is playing political games and keeping the government shut down to make a point. This will work against the Democrats in senate and the house and will play against whomever is running in 2016.

Simply put, this is an game of political brinkmanship, which is putting a good deal of people, like my friend John; out of work. It is not like the shutdown is going to stop Government totally, that is a farce. Simply Put, the Governmental employees who ARE out of work, should not be punished, because of the idiot divide, between the House and the Senate; it just does not make any sense and it is going to hurt those who actually campaigned to serve their Country as public servants.

In other words: Let’s cut the stupid stuff and get back to work.