Nel's New Day

May 7, 2015

Really Big Deals! Alberta, NSA Surveillance, Arizona

U.S. conservatives have waged war for years against the president to allow the Keystone XL Pipeline across the country, moving oil from Alberta to Texas where it would be shipped out of the country to benefit wealthy people like the Koch brothers. After winning the Congress in last fall’s election, the GOP passed approval for the pipeline in both chambers; the president has still not taken any action.

Just a few months after this grand success, Albert overwhelmingly voted in the party that plans to force the gas and oil industries to pay their fair share of taxes and royalty payments and phase out coal power. It also plans to cut back pipeline projects. For almost one-half century, Big Oil and the Tories (oxymoronically called the Progressive Conservative Party) had been in charge. The election took the number of New Democratic Party (NDP) seats in Alberta’s legislature from four to 53 of the 87-seat legislature while the Conservatives (blue in the following chart) fell from 70 seats to third place with 10 seats, following the rightest Wildrose Party that took 21 seats.

chart-alberta-2015-election-resultsDave Weigel of Bloomberg, explained the tremendous change in the Canadian province known as “the Texas of Canada.”

“Imagine if Democrats took not only Texas Governor, but supermajority control of [the] Legislature and all state offices. That’s what [Alberta’s election] is like in Canada.”

As for the pipeline, premier-elect Rachel Notley pledged to stop lobbying Congress for its construction because poorly-regulated production of tar sands oil has made Alberta the biggest producer of climate-changing gases in Canada. Most of the oil coming from Alberta, 78 percent of Canada’s oil, comes from the extraction of dirty tar sands oil, which releases much larger amounts of greenhouse emissions than the regular production of oil. Unlike regular oil, the thick mixture of sand, water, clay and bitumen is extracted from the ground by “non-conventional” methods that are more carbon-intensive. Companies get the oil by digging up the tar sand and heating it with water or injecting steam underground. Making the steam requires a great deal of extra energy. Alberta’s extraction of tar sands produces more greenhouse gasses than transportation throughout Canada because of extremely weak regulations.

Alberta’s current premier, Jim Prentice, is immediately resigning and quitting his legislative seat. In this position for less than eight months, he called a snap election to get a mandate in a tax-raising budget after the drastic drop in oil prices caused a $7-billion hole in government finances. Prentice’s budget raised taxes and fees for everyone except corporations and ran a $5-billion deficit. When his female opponent challenged him for not raising corporate taxes, Prentice responded, “Math is difficult.” The election was a year earlier than necessary, but Prentice hoped to get a four-year term with what he perceived as weakened opposition.

The Conservative Party’s loss in Alberta may damage the re-election of Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Conservative member in that position for the past nine years. Harper came out of the oil industry and lives in Alberta.

Investors, who had ignored the polls warning them of the shift in the political weather, are stunned, and Canada’s main stock index fell sharply on the day after the election because of large losses among energy companies.

The new controlling party may increase oil royalties, at this time between 25 and 40 percent of the companies’ profits. Texas charges 25 percent, one-fourth more than any other state in the U.S. while Norway charges about 80 percent of profits. The NDP plans at the least to make the royalty process more transparent and also raise the corporate tax rate from 10 percent to 12 percent. Between 2011 and 2014, Alberta’s oil-sands production increased from 1.5 million barrels per day to 2 million barrels per day. It could double to 4.3 million barrels per day by 2023 although the recent oil price crash may change that prediction. An increase in royalties would only affect future projects because operation is far less than upfront investment in oil sands projects.

Referring to the election, one commentator said, “Pigs do fly.”

Pigs flew as well in the United States today. For the first time ever, a court has ruled against the NSA massive surveillance. A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York unanimously rejected the National Security Agency’s program on collecting and storing bulk information on telephone calls by overturning an earlier ruling that the surveillance could not be subject to judicial review. According to Josh Gerstein, the panel ruled that “allowing the government to gather data in a blanket fashion was not consistent with the statute used to carry out the program: Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.”

Currently, NSA is gathering and storing all data to search later if it sees a need, an act that the panel found to be illegal. The judges used the clause that “the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation” to make its ruling against the NSA because there was no discussion of relevance in the collected data. They explained that Congress did have the opportunity to authorize “such a far-reaching and unprecedented program … unambiguously.” This may not happen because the House wants to replace the bulk record collection with “a new program that would preserve the ability to analyze links between callers to hunt for terrorists but keep the bulk records in the hands of phone companies.” Last year, the House passed a bill to disallow the bulk collection, but the Senate refused to take it up. GOP Senators continue to prefer the status quo.

Today’s decision didn’t strike down the NSA program; instead it sent the problem back to a lower court. The ruling also didn’t end the collection while Congress debates the issue. The provision under discussion expires on June 1. With no decision by then, NSA has no justification after that for its actions. Without a law from Congress, the legal dispute about the constitutionality of NSA’s collection/storage will continue.

The ruling also covertly warned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who wants to allow the massive database collection by merely re-authorizing an unmodified Section 215:

“There will be time then to address appellants’ constitutional issues…. We hold that the text of section 215 cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program.”

Without Edward Snowden’s leaks about the NSA database, the U.S. public would have no knowledge about NSA’s surveillance. In 2013, Snowden leaked a court order to Verizon to produce “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’’ relating to Verizon communications within the United States or between the United States and abroad.” The federal government has not opposed the claim that “all significant service providers in the United States are subject to similar orders.” The Circuit Court used the phrase that “the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation” to make its ruling against the NSA because there was no discussion of relevance in the collected data.

One final piece of good news—an Arizona judge has ruled that Dreamers, the Latino youth in the United States because of DACA, are in this country lawfully because federal law, not state law, determines the legality. A 2012 executive order created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for young people who had been brought to the United States illegally as children. According to the court decision, DACA residents in Arizona are to pay in-state tuition for the Maricopa County Community Colleges instead of out-of-state tuition which can be almost four times as much as the in-state costs. Arizona community colleges lost 15,000 enrollees when DACA students couldn’t afford to pay $355 per credit. The current attorney general, Mark Brnovich, is considering whether to appeal, and the decision affects only Maricopa County, covering much of Phoenix, but the Maricopa County Judge started a movement that may have great repercussions.

 

Advertisements

March 17, 2015

Clinton Not Alone with Private Emails

Filed under: Surveillance — trp2011 @ 9:01 PM
Tags: , , ,

The war of the senatorial 47 percent signing a mutinous letter to Iran last week was accompanied by the war of the emails. First came the news that Hillary Clinton, while Secretary of State, used her private server for emails rather than the government server. By today, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had called on Clinton to turn over her email server to a “neutral third party” for review. He also attacked her for not signing a “separation statement,” a recommendation for State Department staff to acknowledge that they have submitted all appropriate records to proper officials.

State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, stated that there was no record of Clinton signing such a statement and that she had not violated any rule by not doing so. Psaki added that there is no record of Clinton’s immediate predecessors signing the form.

It is expected that two House panels will provide “rigorous oversight”–the Select Committee on Benghazi, chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). Gowdy has issued a subpoena for emails related to the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic outpost that killed four U.S. citizens and agreed to the March 27 deadline for the emails.

Oversight committees into Clinton’s email might want to take a good look at the email addresses for Gowdy and Jaffetz, two men who also deal with sensitive information. Chaffetz’s business card lists a Gmail address, and Gowdy uses his own domain, treygowdy.com. AlterNet asked Gowdy’s office how the representative separates work through his personal domain and through his congressional work as well as where his personal email server is stored. More than two days after both the office and Gowdy campaign manager George Ramsey were contacted, AlterNet received no response to the questions. David Brock of The Record also received no response to these questions.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush isn’t the only GOP presidential wannabe to complain about Clinton’s email situation, but he may be the most vulnerable. Bush claimed:

“For security purposes, you need to be behind a firewall that recognizes the world for what it is, and it’s a dangerous world, and security would mean that you couldn’t have a private server. It’s a little baffling, to be honest with you, that didn’t come up in Secretary Clinton’s thought process.”

The media has largely ignored the fact that Bush used his private e-mail account as Florida governor to discuss security and military issues such as troop deployments to the Middle East and the protection of nuclear plants. Required to turn over records pertaining to official business “at the expiration of his or her term of office,” Bush waited more than seven years to meet these obligations. The search for a Clinton email “scandal” may eventually bring its similarity to Bush’s inactions to public notice because he did exactly what Clinton has done. Bush and his team examined the emails to determine the ones that should be released and the ones that should be kept private.

Perhaps they should have kept a few more emails private. Among the 275,000 e-mails Bush released, some of them showed a pattern of favors for donors. Although that doesn’t come as a shock in politics, the electronic trail doesn’t give a positive spin on Bush’s actions. An example is Bush emails is this one from GOP-donor William “Bill” Becker, Florida citrus grower: “Many thanks for an expedited and wonderful appointment.” People for the American Way, Every Voice, Public Citizen, Demos, the Brennan Center, and Common Cause jointly issued the statement:

“The emails reveal what most voters already know: Elected officials grant special favors and access to big donors that everyday voters can only dream about.”

As Jeb Bush started his meetings with major donors last December, the wealthy were telling him what they want in exchange for support and fundraising. These donors have a history from the 1999 meetings with George W. Bush with CEOs before his campaign was “officially” launched. At that time, a GOP lobbyist for Silicon Valley tech firms said that they were “educating” W. on the issues. Their “education” led to bundling millions of dollars for W., and the lobbyist became a liaison to the tech sector after Bush’s appointment to president in 2000.

States are fighting the same battle of the private emails:

  • Although the most recent issue came up in Oregon, the state Supreme Court in California is reviewing a lower court’s ruling that public officials’ communications on private accounts are not subject to the state’s public records law.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that the records on former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter are not public, prompting a dissenting opinion from two justices who said the court gave public officials a path to conceal public business “for the price of a monthly cellphone plan.”
  • The emails of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin weren’t released for three years after the request. She used three different accounts and regularly communicated with top aides who also used their own personal accounts.
  • Gov. Rick Scott of Florida has repeatedly fought with public record advocates, media organizations, and others over whether he has followed the state’s transparency law, one of the broadest in the country. Although denying that he used private accounts for state business, emails found after his re-election last November show that email exchanges with top aides and others included topics such as vetoes, the state budget, and his speeches. Florida law allows private email accounts but requires the emails be turned over if requested. Scott is currently being sued for flouting the law and ignoring public record requests.
  • Another Florida politician, GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, deleted emails from his private account while serving in state government at the same time that he used this personal account for business related to his official duties.
  • Kansas has a bill would require disclosure of official emails from private accounts in response to the budget director for GOP Gov. Sam Brownback using a private email account at least twice in December to circulate a summary of budget proposals being considered by the administration. Two lobbyists with ties to the governor were in the group receiving the emails, weeks before lawmakers saw details of the governor’s budget proposals.
  • In New Mexico, GOP Gov. Susana Martinez has been sued by news organizations seeking access to her work and travel schedules, cellphone calls, and expenses of her security detail. A state district judge ruled last month that Martinez’s personal and political calendars are not public records because the documents were maintained by Martinez on her personal devices.
  • While calling Clinton’s use of a private email address an “outrage,” Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker is in the midst of a controversy surrounding his use of a private email address.
  • In New Jersey, GOP Gov. Chris Christie’s administration communicated through private emails and was chastised by lawyers hired by his team to investigate the lane closing at the George Washington Bridge.
  • Both Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry conducted official business from their private email accounts and have not released the emails for public scrutiny.

The GOP attack on Clinton’s emails managed to draw attention from another important progressive position. She was at the UN to celebrate the effects of the 1995 U.N. Women’s Conference for the grassroots empowerment of women. The attack on Clinton at that specific event was a parallel to Fox network’s reporting on President Obama’s speech in Selma about the during struggle for voting rights: the entire conservative focus was how George W. Bush’s was supposedly cropped out of official White House photographs. Jeb Bush was governor of Florida during the voting debacle in a state that actually voted for W. Bush’s opponent but was given to W. by Republican judges.

The controversy about Hillary Clinton’s emails is not irrelevant. Neither is the massive hypocrisy that has emerged from the criticism. The Bush/Cheney White House lost millions of important emails, Mitt Romney spend a great deal of time to hide his public emails during his most recent presidential campaign, and previous Secretaries of State send emails that the public will most likely never see. A “fair and balanced” media would highlight those issues with the same fervor that it has with the Clinton emails.

January 8, 2015

George Orwell, an Optimist

Filed under: Income inequality,Surveillance — trp2011 @ 8:57 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

The year before George Orwell died in 1950, he published his classic novel 1984. It is a dark story of a country in perpetual war, ever-present government surveillance, and public manipulation under the control of the Inner Party elite which comprised 2 percent of the population. Big Brother, described as a highly personable quasi-divine Party leader, may not have even existed. The Party “seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power.” Winston Smith, the novel’s protagonist, works for the Ministry of Truth which creates propaganda and historical revisionism through rewriting newspaper articles. Other ministries are Peace (perpetual war), Plenty (economic affairs–rationing and starvation), and Love (law and order–torture and brainwashing

“George Orwell was an optimist,” as Marjorie Cohn quoted Mikko Hypponen in her article, “Beyond Orwell’s Worst Nightmare.”

The National Security Agency (NSA) collects metadata on billions of our phone calls and 200 million of our text messages every day so that our government would read the content of our emails, file transfers, and live chats from the social media we use. In discussing NSA reforms, President Obama talked about Paul Revere’s patrolling the streets at night in the 18th century his the Sons of Liberty, “reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early Patriots.” This weak effort justify NSA’s spying ignored the fact that patrolling streets is not monitoring people’s private communications.

Left out of this argument about the U.S. spying is how the nation’s founding fathers responded to the British searches before the American Revolution. The British used the same “general warrants,” authorizing blanket searches without any individualized suspicion or specificity of what the colonial authorities were seeking, similar to what happens today. In a petition to King George III, Congress protested this unlimited power of search and seizure and charged that they used their power “to break open and enter houses, without the authority of any civil magistrate founded on legal information.” That was the reason for the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures—preventing the United States from becoming another police state.

Almost 200 years later, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ran his COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence program to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit and otherwise neutralize” political and activist groups. In the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s, the U.S. government, under the guise of eliminating communism, used widespread illegal surveillance to threaten and silence anyone with unorthodox political views. The FBI’s “red-baiting” blackmailed, jailed, blacklisted, and fired thousands of U.S. citizens.

In the 1960s, the FBI’s program, “Racial Matters,” targeted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to prevent him from registering black voters in the South. Again the claim of communist activities allowed the FBI to wiretap King’s phones in attempts to discredit him. Their goal was to drive him to divorce and possibly suicide.

An attempt to justify today’s extreme surveillance programs is that it is targeting real threats. Yet an independent federal privacy watchdog, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, has found “no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.” The NSA spying program covers everyone—Mexico, Latin America, the United Nations, the European Union Parliament, European leaders—even Angela Merkel’s cellphone. The only reason that anyone knows part of the extent of this surveillance comes from the disclosures by Edward Snowden, an exiled man threatened with decades of prison.

Reforms to the spying program include the requirement that NSA obtain approval from a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before it gets access to the phone records of an individual. Yet this court is secret, and its judges are appointed by the highly conservative Chief Justice John Roberts. Almost no executive branch wiretapping requests have been turned down since the court’s inception in 1978. President Obama has not said that surveillance without judicial warrants or individual suspicion should be stopped.

The Doublethink of 1984 shows the thinking of today’s Congress:

“The keyword here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink. Doublethink is basically the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

The purpose of unwinnable, perpetual war is to consume labor and commodities. Because the country’s economy cannot support equality a high standard of life for all, the “proles” are kept poor and uneducated so that won’t realize what the government is doing. In that way there is no danger of rebellion. These people live with hunger, disease and filth in ruined cities and towns while the top two percent have clean and comfortable homes in areas separated from their poor. Their pantries are well-stocked with foodstuffs such as wine, coffee, and sugar that are denied to the general populace.

Inner Party member O’Brien describes the Party’s vision to the protagonist of 1984:

“There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this, Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”

Leaders of the Inner Party use a culture of fear to control the masses.

“War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” Read 1984 for yourself.

AGR Daily 60 Second News Bites

Transformational News In 60 Seconds; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur ("The thing itself speaks")

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

GLBT News

Official news outlet for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of ALA

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: