Nel's New Day

February 2, 2018

Memo Day Arrives

Filed under: Russia — trp2011 @ 10:40 PM
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The Memo is out! For weeks, Fox’s Sean Hannity has been calling on Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to release a document that would destroy the Robert Mueller investigation into the Russia’s collusion to win the presidential election for DDT. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who got his spin for the memo from the White House, pushed the release of misleading, inaccurate information to protect DDT with the vote of his GOP members of the Intelligence Committee, who also unanimously denied the Democrats to release any information. After the memo was approved, Nunes changed the memo because he gave it to DDT, and the White House could then make more changes, also not approved by the committee, before permitting its release.

Both DDT’s FBI director, Christopher Wray, and National Intelligence director, Dan Coats, warned DDT that the memo’s information was inaccurate and compromised classified information. DDT didn’t even read the document before he agreed to its release.

The memo accuses the FBI and DOJ of abusing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when he it obtained a warrant to surveil an adviser for DDT’s campaign because the reason was misleading. The FBI and DOJ first applied for a warrant on October 21, 2016 to surveil Carter Page. A renewal was required every 90 days. Three signers of a warrant—James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and Sally Yates—have been fired; two, Dana Boente and Rod Rosenstein, remain in the government. Rod Rosenstein may be fired because he might not be willing to fire Robert Mueller.

Nunes claimed that Christopher Steele, paid to prepare a dossier on DDT, told a senior DOJ official that he wanted to be sure that DDT didn’t get elected with no evidence of any bias against Page, the subject of the warrant. The memo also claims that no warrant would have been obtained without the Steele dossier, but there is no evidence about this except private testimony that others claim has been “mischaracterized.” The FBI had considered Page might be a target of Russian intelligence long before he became involved with DDT after Page met a Russian spy in 2013.

The document’s conclusion concentrates on the text messages between two FBI employees that, according to the memo, illustrated “a clear bias against Trump and in favor of [Hillary] Clinton, whom Strzok had also investigated.” Yet other Peter Strzok text messages are equally critical of Clinton, and he co-drafted the letter about publicizing the text messages related to Clinton 11 days before the election, an action that may have elected DDT. With no evidence, Nunes’ memo blames the employees for leaking information to the media.

The released document had only one surprise, that George Papadopoulos was responsible for initiating the FBI investigation after he bragged to an Australian diplomat over drinks in London that the Russians have dirt on Hillary Clinton before the hack on the DNC emails became public. Concerned about the Russian involvement, the diplomat warned the FBI. Papadopoulos is testifying to Robert Mueller.

In the past, Nunes demonstrated strong support for greater surveillance, voting for the expansion of the National Security Agency’s warrantless program and helping block others who wanted to restrict the agency from spying on U.S. citizens. He also rejected a suggestion to release the FBI/DOJ request for the warrant, redacted for classified information and privacy, to show what information was used in the court affidavit.

From his ranch in Arizona, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) issued a statement about Nunes’ release of the memo:

“In 2016, the Russian government engaged in an elaborate plot to interfere in an American election and undermine our democracy. Russia employed the same tactics it has used to influence elections around the world, from France and Germany to Ukraine, Montenegro and beyond. The latest attacks against the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests ― no party’s, no President’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the lens of politics and manufacturing political sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

Nunes apparently jobbed out the writing of his memo. His aides wrote the document, and he didn’t even see the warrant. Only one Democrat and one Republican, plus staff, are permitted to see these warrants. Nunes assigned the task to Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC). Therefore, Nunes cannot know whether his own document is accurate. The day after Nunes announced the release of the memo, Gowdy abruptly announced that he would not be running for re-election. Swept in with the 2010 Tea Party epidemic, Gowdy became famous with his incessant grilling of Hillary Clinton over four deaths at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi (Libya) in 2012.  One of the almost dozen “interviews” lasted about eleven hours and revealed no new information. By 2016, Gowdy admitted that Clinton was not responsible. Gowdy’s other persecution of Clinton was her private email server although he himself used private email instead of a government server. He said he wants to return to the justice system, and the 4th Circuit Court has a vacancy. may have his eye on an appointment for the 4th Circuit Court. Over 40 House GOP members of the 115th Congress are already not running in this year’s election.

Nunes has used his power to cover for DDT by refusing to investigate Russian interference. He is controlling the Republicans in the House: even House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) won’t disagree with his unethical actions and claims “malfeasance” in the FBI. Nunes also announced his release of the memo when DDT said that he would not follow a law by Congress requiring new sanctions on Russia when DDT’s CIA director, Mike Pompeo, has “every expectation that they will continue” trying to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections.

The GOP promised that Nunes’ memo would be “worse than Watergate.” Watchers of Sean Hannity and Fox will have an entirely different perspective of the memo than the rest of the world. And DDT will be delighted because he gets all his advice from Fox. He told friends that the release of the memo would allow him to argue FBI prejudice against him. Most people, however, as saying, “That’s it?” The memo.

Russia This Week:

DDT backed off on his guarantee because lawyers are afraid that he’ll lie to them. Seventy-one percent of people in the U.S. agree that he should agree to an interview with Mueller, and 82 percent of them want it under oath—93 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Republicans.

Mark Corallo, DDT’s legal team spokesman who resigned last summer from concern that he might be exposed to obstruction, agreed to meet with Robert Mueller. His testimony involves Hope Hicks, communications director, who loves DDT “like a father,” who said in front of DDT with no lawyer present that the emails written by Donald Trump Jr. leading up to the Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer “will never get out.” Corallo notified the legal team about the conversation and took notes as well as sharing his concerns with Steve Bannon. DDT had insisted that the statement maintain that Jr.’s meeting was about Russian adoptions. Jr. insisted on the addition of the word “primarily” about the meeting subject.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asked DDT for help before his testimony at the House Judiciary Committee to keep Rep. Devin Nunes from getting “sensitive documents.” In this December visit, DDT asked about the direction of the investigation and whether Rosenstein was “on my team,” similar to questions he posed to James Comey before he fired him and then Andrew McCabe who is also gone. DDT also proposed questions to the committee for Rod Rosenstein, including whether Rosenstein picked Mueller as investigator because Mueller wasn’t chosen for FBI director.

No Sanctions against Russia:

  • July 2017: Congress imposed new sanctions on Russia for election meddling with a deadline. Senate passed the bill by 98-2. DDT signed the bill with a note of protest and an angry tweet. He then missed all the deadlines.
  • October 2017: DDT disbanded the sanctions office.
  • January 29, 2018: Deadline for sanctions. Otherwise, DDT will flout Congress and violate the law. DDT announced he won’t be following the law.  At the same time, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats met with two top Russian spy chiefs. Reuters found out by reading Russian media.

Andrew McCabe was “removed” from the FBI.

This week DDT gave his State of the Union speech, Nunes released his memo, Nunes’ opponent for the House raised $100,000 in one day, and the Dow Jones dropped over 1,000 points.

December 18, 2015

Bipartisanship: Both Parties Hate the Omnibus Bill

Congress has decided to keep the government open for the next few months by passing the $1.8 trillion spending and tax bills, spreading holiday cheer and dismay throughout the country. After the House passed the tax bill yesterday by 318 to 109, it passed the spending bill today by 316 to 113 with four Democrats and one Republican not voting. Only 150 of the 247 Republicans voted in favor of it, destroying the Hastert Rule that demands any bills must have GOP support.

The Senate sent the bill to President Barack Obama with a 65-33 vote with six Democrats and independent Bernie Sanders voting no. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) were the only senators not voting. Rubio said during an interview in Muscatine (IA) that he would slow down the bill if not just stopping it while the Senate agreed to a time limit and moved forward.

The president signed the bill into law today.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who voted no, said that the GOP vote was a favor to the new speaker. This bill will send Tea Party constituents into full revolution for the next election. Democrats voted for the bill in spite of the removal of the ban on exporting oil and the absence of a bankruptcy provision for fiscally stressed Puerto Rico. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) got commitments to address the Puerto Rico issues early next year. Meanwhile, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has blamed any problems in the ominibus on the former speaker, who resigned because he couldn’t handle the House.

It was a true bipartisan effort because no one is happy with the result. Democrats did get a permanent renewal for a health plan for 9/11 First Responders that expired October 1 because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to put a vote on the floor. Comedian Jon Stewart, lately of The Daily Show, shamed Republicans and the nation by taking 9/11 First Responders to senate offices. Republicans also got several tax cuts although the bill had no new restrictions on Syrian refugees coming to the U.S.—a recent obsession for the GOP.

Also missing in the omnibus bill was “defunding” Planned Parenthood, a misnomer because PP simply gets paid for its services to Medicaid patients. Early next year Congress plans to use an alternative budget procedure called reconciliation to advance Senate  legislation on a simple majority vote in its continued effort to exchange $390 million to PP for $235 million for community health centers. Many of these give women false information about pregnancy and abortion except in California where the law bans this. President Obama pledged to veto any bill defunding Planned Parenthood. The omnibus bill also failed to defund the Title X family planning or teen pregancy prevention programs or allow employers to block their employees from receiving insurance coverage for abortion.

The deficit hawks went AWOL: the proposed spending bill adds $78 billion a year for the next ten years. Republicans pretend that permanently extended business tax credits don’t add anything to the deficit because they reflect current government spending. Fear of terrorism may also have made the hawks more cooperative, but they will most likely return in full force this next year. It would be nice to think that deficit hawks had figured out that the deficit has fallen sharply in recent years and is now down below 3 percent of GDP, but it doesn’t seem likely.

Across-the-board “sequester” cuts are mostly gone with this bill, and the package has about $700 billion in tax cuts—none of them paid for as the GOP has insisted in the past. Most of the cuts are those set to expire, such as R&D credit for businesses and anti-poverty cuts such as the expanded child tax credit and earned income tax credit. Others are taxes from the Affordable Care Act on insurance companies and medical device manufacturers that are delayed for a year. The two-year delay of the “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health insurance plans levying a 40 percent tax on the most expensive health insurance plans  allows unions to negotiate larger benefits packages instead of higher wages. The tax would not have taken effect until 2018; now it is delayed until 2020. Renewable energy producers received extensions of tax credits for wind and solar that are phased out over five years.

Here’s a chart of the tax cuts:

Taxes Omnibus Bill

Policy riders can be the most controversial items on a spending bill, these these are some of the bad ones that stuck to the final version:

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission cannot require publicly traded corporations to disclose their political spending, making the “dark money” allowed by Citizens United even darker. When the Supreme Court allowed almost unlimited campaigning expenditures because corporations are “people,” it endorsed disclosure of public spending. Congress followed a different path.

Country-of-origin labels for pork and beef have been eliminated; people in the U.S. no longer know the source of their meat.

The four-decade limit on exporting crude oil produced in America has been eliminated. Big Oil can now create fuel shortages in the U.S. by shipping their product to countries that will pay more for oil.

Restrictions on overseas coal financing are limited.

The IRS is prevented from modernizing its vague, outdated rules for political activity by nonprofits, allowing more dark money into elections from groups such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the billionaire Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity.

The president cannot issue an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending, including donations to nonprofit groups engaged in elections, as a condition of submitting a bid. Contractors can still be required to disclose their donations after they have secured their contract.

Personal privacy took a hit in the “cybersecurity” rider that allows businesses to share information with far less restrictions.

On the positive side, producers of genetically engineered salmon are required to develop guidelines and implement a program for the mandatory labeling of its product. The bill also does nothing to block states from creating their own mandatory labeling laws.

The best news is what was stripped from the final version of the omnibus bill:

Makers of cigars and electronic cigarettes will have to apply retroactively for approval of any products sold after February 2007.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law can still force retirement investment advisers to act solely to the benefit of their clients.

The Clean Power Plan rules to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants are still in effect as is President Obama’s promise to end federal funds to the global Green Climate Fund, created by the recent Paris agreement.

The Justice Department can still track buyers of multiple long guns although the GOP blocked funding of other research into gun violence.

A pointless rider in the bill: “None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to maintain or establish a computer network unless such network blocks the viewing, downloading, and exchanging of pornography.” The GOP must be trying to protect members of its own party.

The dumbest part of the new spending bill? The Republicans defunded Acorn—again!

“SEC.522 [p. 1,016 of the 2,009-page bill]: None of the funds made available under this or any other Act, or any prior Appropriations Act, may be provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, allied organizations, or successors.”

The anti-poverty group officially closed over five years ago, it has no “affiliates” or “subsidiaries,” but the GOP continues to defund it.

November 22, 2015

‘Religious Freedom,’ Safety from GOP Point of View

Seven GOP presidential candidates gathered last week at the “presidential family forum,” hosted in Iowa by the far-right fundamentalist Christian group called The Family Leader.

Republican presidential candidates, from left, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, moderator Frank Luntz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum stand on stage during the Presidential Family Forum, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

From left: Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, moderator Frank Luntz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

When seven contenders were asked who they would first call after hearing about a terrorist attack, Fiorina and Huckabee said they’d fall to their knees and pray. Messages from GOP presidential candidates, including these seven, don’t fit the positions that Jesus espoused.

Donald Trump’s first wanted to put surveillance on mosques but moved on to agreeing that Muslims should be forced to wear identifying marks because of their Islam religion. He’s disagreed that he said this, but there’s video of the interview. This morning he doubled down on his call to keep Syrians out of the United States and added that he would torture Syrian refugees.

Marco Rubio goes beyond Trump: “it’s about closing down any place—whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an internet site—any place where radicals are being inspired.” He said on the Fox network this morning that the attacks on Paris were a “positive development.”

John Kasich, sometimes considered a more reasonable GOP presidential candidate, wants a new government agency to push Judeo-Christian values throughout the world—specifically in China, Iran, Russia, and the Middle East. He said:

“I will consolidate [U.S. Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting] into a new agency that has a clear mandate to promote the core Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share.”

Questions about his approach:

  • Will he use public money for this endeavor, contrary to the constitution’s First Amendment?
  • Why is Iran not included in the Middle East?
  • Does he want to get rid of all other religions in China with Muslims only 1.7 percent of its population?

A day later, public opinion “softened” his approach to assigning Voice of America to spread his “Judeo-Christian Western values.” Kasich tried to walk back his Christian-only views on this morning’s Meet the Press by saying that the “Western ethic” is “about life … about equality of women … about the freedom of religion.” First, these are not necessarily the ethics of the U.S.; and second,  he assumes that only the Judeo-Christian world has these values.” When he says “they don’t want to negotiate,” he could be referring to the U.S. Congress instead of Muslims.

Ben Carson joined Trump this morning in calling for torturing Syrian refugees. Carson’s advisor, retired US Army Maj. Gen. Robert Dees, also promotes the creation of a Christian active duty military that will “indoctrinate” the people in the United States. In a 2007 video, Dees said:

“We’re in twenty different countries around the world, recognizing that if you could possibly impact the military, you can possibly impact that whole nation for Jesus Christ and for democracy and for proper morality and values-based institutions.”

After Carson compared Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs,” he called on a gigantic database on everyone in the U.S. According to Carson, Syrian refugees should be left where they are because of his human brain’s “big frontal lobes, as opposed to other animals, because we can engage in rational thought processing.” Still looking for an answer to the problem, he explained that his brain allowed him to “extract information from the past, present, process it, and project it into a plan” while “animals, on the other hand, have big brain stems and rudimentary things because they react.”

Carson’s answer to the Israel/Palestine problem is to leave the Israelis where they are in Palestinian territory and “just slip [the Palestinian territory] into Egypt.” Chris Matthews broke up reading the quote on MSNBC’s Hardball, and Trevor Noah used the clip for part of his takedown of the hapless candidate. While Trump keeps approximately one-third of the GOP support in various polls, Carson has slipped to third in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Mike Huckabee uses food analogies in comparing refugees to “tainted milk,” Chipotle’s problem with E.coli, huge bags of peanuts with ten poisoned ones, etc. He also can’t imagine anyone other than extremist Muslims targeting innocent civilians. Yet in the decade after the 9/11 attacks, Christian terrorists have averaged 337 attacks in the U.S. per year, killing at least 254 people. The death toll increased after the release of the study in 2012. During the same time, an average of nine U.S. Muslims were involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots in the U.S. The 20 plots carried out in fewer than 14 years had 50 fatalities.

A few extremist Christian terrorist actions in the U.S.:

The Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church Shooting: On July 27, 2008, devout Christian Jim David Adkisson killed two children and wounded seven other.

Christian Terrorism against Doctors Who Perform Abortions:  Dr. Richard Gunn was killed in 1993, Drs. John Britton and James Barrett were killed in 1994, Dr. Barnett Sleipan was killed in a home in 1998, Dr. George Tiller was shot dead in his church in 2009, and many other doctors were wounded by Christian terrorists in the U.S. because of religious beliefs–17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, 13 wounded, 100 butyric acid attacks, 373 physical invasions, 41 bombings, 655 anthrax threats, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers since 1977. All these were by extremist Christian terrorists on U.S. soil.

The 1995 Oklahoma City Bombings: Member of the Seventh-Day Adventist splinter group Branch Davidians, Timothy McVeigh, killed 168 people when he detonated a fertilizer bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Another 648 were wounded.

Ku Klux Klan: For the past 150 years, the terrorist extremist Christian groups has terrorized people in the name of Protestantism and racism against blacks, Jews, immigrants, LGBTs, and Catholics. Only two weeks ago, Frazier Glenn Cross, the leader of the Carolina Knights of the KKK, was sentenced to death by lethal injection for murdering a 14-year-old girl and two seniors outside the Overland Park Jewish Community Center in Kansas City. He said, “Jews are destroying the white race” but didn’t realize until afterwards that none of his victims was Jewish.

The Massacre at Zion Emmanuel AME Church (Charleston, SC): An extremist Christian white man killed nine black worshippers.

Ted Cruz is willing to take in Syrian refugees as long as they are proved to be Christians. Without the refugee program, the United States would not have Cruz because his father, Rafael Cruz, was granted asylum in the U.S., but the elder Cruz wants radical Christianity imposed on the entire United States while eliminating atheists and LGBT people. Cruz  also asked for more “tolerance for civilian casualties” in President Obama’s airstrikes (aka let’s kill more innocent people) and joined Huckabee in ignorance about extremist Christian killings in the United States.

Jeb Bush, like Cruz, can’t find any Christian terrorists but couldn’t find words when he was asked how to prove that the refugees are Christians. He finally said, “You know, you err on the side of caution.”

Rand Paul introduced a bill to stop refugees from 34 “high-risk” countries and an amendment to a housing and transportation funding bill barring federally-funded social welfare assistance for any refugees from those same “high-risk” nations. Libertarian policy experts oppose discrimination against people from specific countries. Paul’s office calls it a “careful balance of libertarian principles,” meaning that any non-libertarian view is a “balance.”

Rick Santorum opposes bringing Syrian refugees to the United States. Instead, he wants them put into resettlement camps somewhere in the Middle East. Trump made the same suggestion.

Carly Fiorina just keeps doing what she does best—lying. “The vast majority of these refugees are young, able-bodied men looking for work,” she said, perhaps hoping that the media wouldn’t pick up on her false statement. According to a UN database of 4 million registered Syrian refugees, most of them are children under 18. Geoffrey Mock, a Syrian country specialist for Amnesty International USA, said, “The priorities go to torture survivors, people with serious medical conditions, children and teens on their own, and women and children at risk.” Of the 10,000 refugees who President Obama proposes to bring to the U.S., only 22 percent are “young able-bodied men”—2,200.

Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s almost-gone governor and the latest GOP presidential candidate dropout, told Fox that his state will ban Syrian refugees and that he’s “ordered the state police to track the ones that are already in Louisiana.” Doug Cain, spokesman for the state police, said that this statement isn’t true. He added, “We are just keeping an open line of communication with federal authorities to make sure everyone is safely settled.”

At the close of the religious gathering in Iowa, Cruz made a prophetic statement:

“If conservatives come together and stand as one, it’s game over.”

Cruz was correct in a very twisted way: the United States may be entering a darker period than even during George W. Bush’s reign—unlimited torture, surveillance by profiling, banning refugees, religious discrimination and forced Christianity, concentration camps, and World War III.

October 26, 2013

Surveillance Violates U.S. Constitution

Today is the 12 anniversary of the PATRIOT Act. This unbelievably broad surveillance law has been renewed twice since its 2001 inception with almost no protest from Congress. A little over two years ago, Congress passed a four-year extension of provisions set to expire on June 1, 2015. Since Edward Snowden leaked information, people—including those in a number of foreign countries—are discovering how the surveillance superstructure works and how it destroys civil liberties.

As it now stands, the government has the authority to spy on people inside the United States without any knowledge of wrongdoing.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorizes the government to obtain “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation, even if there is no indication that the “thing” pertains to suspected terrorists or terrorist activities. This provision is in direct opposition to the U.S. Constitution’s protection against search and seizure requiring the government to show probable cause before infringing on a person’s privacy.

Section 206 of the Patriot Act, aka “roving John Doe wiretap” provision, gives government permission to obtain intelligence surveillance orders that fail to identify either the person or the facility to be tapped. Again, this provision violates protection against search and seizure that requires the government to be specific about what it wants to search or seize.

Section 6001 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, or the so-called “Lone Wolf” provision, permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-U.S. persons who are not affiliated with a foreign organization. Granted only in secret courts, this authorization violates the limits of government surveillance within the nation’s borders.

Another part of the Patriot Act is the use of national security letters (NSLs) that permit the government to obtain the communication, financial, and credit records of anyone deemed relevant to a terrorism investigation even if that person is not suspected of unlawful behavior. Tens of thousands of these letters issued every year are used to collect information on people two and three times removed from a terrorism suspect. Nondisclosure requirements in NSLs also prevent a court from determining whether the gag is necessary to protect national security.

Thousands of protesters gathered outside the U.S. Capitol today and in other U.S. cities to protest the NSA Internet data gathering program. Organized by Stop Watching Us, the group wants changes in the government spying on innocent people. The organization has also released a video featuring Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, Phil Donahue, U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., David Segal of Demand Progress, and others.

At least one author of the original 2001 Patriot Act has decided enough is enough—especially after the report that NSA may be surveilling people in 35 countries, including the cell phone of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) plans to introduce legislation next week to curb the National Security Agency’s surveillance powers. He hopes to have 60 House co-sponsors for the bill, called the USA Freedom Act. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) plans to introduce companion legislation at the same time. Sensenbrenner claims that Congress never authorized such massive data collection on people who have no record of wrongdoing.

The proposed legislation would tighten record gathering only on U.S. phone calls, however, making Merkel still at risk. In addition, it would create a special advocate’s office to argue stronger privacy protections before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret court established by Congress, and appeal its decisions. According to current law, the court hears only arguments in favor of surveillance. If the bill passes, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board would have subpoena power to investigate privacy and national security issues. Companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook would be able to reveal more statistics about the information they must turn over to the government.

Leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are expected to oppose the bill. In the past they have claimed that all the collection is vital to stopping terrorist attacks. “I will do everything I can to prevent this [phone data] program from being canceled,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said.

The argument that NSA surveillance has stopped more than 50 terrorist attacks is bogus. The original wording was that NSA’s intelligence had “contributed to the understanding of terrorism activities.” No thwarting. NSA refuses to release records to prove any of their claims. Officials have released information about only one of these cases: a San Diego man sent $8,500 to Somalia to support the militant group Al Shabab. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has long argued that the federal government is abusing its surveillance and claimed that NSA could have gotten a court order to get phone records for the convicted San Diego man.

Members of Congress received the complete list from NASA about the over 50 cases, but it remains classified. After reading the list, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) still questions the agency’s figures. He said, “That’s plainly wrong …. These weren’t all plots and they weren’t all thwarted.” Yet GOP Reps. Lynn Westmoreland (GA), Brad Wenstrup (OH), Joe Heck (NV), Mike Rogers (MI), and James Lankford (OK) continue to support NSA’s false reporting. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) followed their lead.

NSA claimed that their surveillance helped thwart a plot to attack a Danish newspaper, but an examination of the event concluded that a tip from British intelligence led authorities to the perpetrator. NSA claimed that its surveillance led to a supposed plot to attack the New York Stock Exchange in 2010, but no one was charged in relationship to that attack.

My partner thinks that the surveillance will make us safer, but, as she pointed out, she was taught to hide under her desk in grade school if there was danger of an atomic bomb. She grew up being taught to be afraid, the same tactic that conservatives use in contemporary times.

I told her about a senior National Security Council staffer who tweeted anti-admininstration messages for over two years before he could be found. Jofi Joseph, 40, a key member of the White House team negotiating on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, unleashed a barrage of over 2,000 caustic tweets about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and top NSC officials, especially Ben Rhodes, who he accused of dodging questions about Benghazi. The fired man’s wife, Carolyn Leddy, is on the Republican side of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It took two years to find the source of the tweets.

NSA spends billions of dollars to discover very little and sometimes destroy people’s lives as it did to Brandon Mayfield, a Portland (OR) lawyer. Members of the agency secretly broke into his house, tapped his phone, and accused him of being part of bombing in the 2004 Madrid train bombing on the basis of a faxed fingerprint and his children’s Spanish lessons on his computer. That plus the fact that he had become a Muslim. They finally admitted that he had nothing to do with the act of terror.

This article sounds like science fiction, but it has fact for support. Within the next few years, household appliances can be used to spy on everyone. Advertisers propose putting cameras into television to get reactions to TV ads or what shows make people fall asleep. Last year Computer Security firm ReVuln proved that it could hack Samsung’s newest televisions to access users’ settings, install malware on the TVs and any connected devices, and harvest all personal data stored on the machine as well as switching on the camera embedded in the TV and watch viewers watching the set. Google and Verizon are two companies developing cable boxes with built-in video cameras and motion sensors.

Former CIA Director David Petraeus believes that such appliances as dishwashers, clothes dryers, toasters, clock radios, and remote controls will soon gather intelligence. Even now these appliances connect to the Internet. Criminals will also find this information useful as well as technology that allows spies to monitor lights and heating/AC thermostats. Home security systems wirelessly connected to phones and tablets can easily be hacked, allowing burglars to keep tabs on homes.

Last year, the U.S. military disclosed an app, PlaceRaider, that uses a smartphone’s camera, geo-location data, and accelerometer to create a 3D map of the phone’s surroundings. Tablets and computers have all the same tools as smartphones and more. They hold all a person’s secrets, making these available to anyone who knows the technology.

A year ago White Hat hacker Barnaby Jack proved he could kill a diabetic person from 300 feet away by ordering an insulin pump to deliver fatal doses of insulin; this summer he said he could hack pacemakers and implanted defibrillators.

NSA doesn’t want people to have safeguards because they can also be blocked by these. The nation needs to stop wasting taxpayer money and follow the constitution, and Congress needs to stop making unconstitutional laws after they have terrified people in the United States.

September 28, 2013

News Hiding among GOP Shutting Down the Government

The news media has been fixated about the possibility of the U.S. government shutting down with a sideways glance at the first conversation between a U.S. president and an Iranian president in 34 years. The latest comes from The Hill which reports that the House voted to move more quickly on the Continuing Resolution that the Senate sent back to them yesterday. (The article reports that “just a handful of Republicans and Democrats” voted against changing the rule: that “handful” is actually 191 votes—44 percent of the members.)

Rapid voting won’t help because the GOP is adding two amendments to the Senate’s version of the CR, one delaying Obamacare for one year and the other repealing the 2.7 percent tax on medical devices in Obamacare. Another addition is a “conscience clause,” meaning that anyone, for example pharmacists, could refuse preventative care for women. This evening they’re just sitting around delaying the vote. It’s gone beyond ideological to thumbing their noses at women’s rights.

One governor who wants Obamacare is Kentucky’s Steve Beshear who wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled “My State Needs Obamacare. Now.”  Pointing out that Kentucky is among the sickest, most unhealthy state in the nation, he credits the Medicaid expansion and Kynect health exchange for providing affordable coverage to more than 600,000 Kentuckians, creating 17,000 jobs, and saving the state $800 million. He writes to his GOP senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and others:

“So, to those more worried about political power than Kentucky’s families, I say, ‘Get over it.’ Get over it … and get out of the way so I can help my people. Here in Kentucky, we cannot afford to waste another day or another life.”

Here’s other news that hasn’t receive attention because of the concentration on Ted Cruz’s and the Tea Party’s games:

The best news is that 32-year-old Marissa Alexander will receive a new trial after serving of her 20-year prison sentence in Florida. Over three years ago, her husband  broke through a locked door into the bathroom where she was hiding, grabbed her by the neck, and shoved her to the floor. She escaped into the garage but couldn’t escape. When she returned  into the house with a gun, her husband said, “Bitch, I’ll kill you.” She fired the gun into the ceiling. The jury took 12 minutes to refuse her claims of self-defense. Firing a gun during a felony gives a mandatory 20-year sentence in Florida.

A state appellate panel reversed the conviction because the court had instructed the jury that she had to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The “stand your ground” law puts the burden of proof on the prosecutor. That’s the reason that the jury failed to award George Zimmerman a guilty verdict for killing Trayvon Martin. The appellate court also stated that Alexander didn’t have to prove she had been injured by her husband because he was not hurt in the shooting.

Alexander, who had no criminal record, had never been arrested, and she had a restraining order against her husband. She was prosecuted by Angela Corey, the same prosecutor in the Zimmerman case.

The next time that conservatives snarl about the current president having used illegal drugs in the past, think about their hypocrisy. According to an advocacy group trying to legalize marijuana, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), at least 100 million “successful Americans” have used marijuana and “even more” think it should be legal. These include such high-profile conservatives as presidential wannabes Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum as well as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and George W. Bush.

The same conservatives who want a “War on Drugs” also think that federal surveillance is important for their safety. A new audit of the Department of Justice finds that the statistics of terrorism have been overstated (aka falsified). In 2009, figures for terrorist convictions were inflated by 13 percent; in the next year, that rate of exaggeration doubled to 26 percent. The Department of Justice branch responsible for these figures, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA), gave the reason as human error and “shoddy recordkeeping”—counting terrorists twice or counting those with dismissed charges as convictions. Convictions for non-terrorist crimes such as bank robbery, drug dealing, and animal fighting were also incorrectly classified as terrorist convictions. The insistence that NSA’s surveillance program disrupted 50 terrorist plots is equally false.

By not paying taxes, giant corporations have the money to sue countries around the world. Philip Morris has lawsuits against the Australian government to overturn public health laws aimed at reducing teenage smoking. Chevron has hired 2,000 lawyers in an attempt to avoid paying Ecuador $19 billion in damages due for the horrific oil spills they inflicted. Bayer is suing Europe to overturn their ban on bee-killing pesticide—all while investing millions with Monsanto to defeat an effort to label GM foods in the U.S.

While going through my email requests for petition-signers, I came across this gem. The National Football League (NFL), a $9 billion a year industry, is tax-exempt because it claims to be a non-profit organization. The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, makes almost $30 million a year, more than the heads of Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart; the NFL controls more than $50 billion in contracts with television networks. Taxpayers fund stadiums where NFL teams play. The Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association aren’t tax-free: the NFL should have to pay taxes.

Allen West, famous for his sexist language while he was a one-term U.S. GOP representative from Florida, has left his job at Pajamas Media. There are two versions about why. West said he resigned. Others said that he was fired after he told a female staffer to “shut up” and called her a “Jewish American princess.” West described it as “an exchange.”

In closing most of its women’s clinics in Texas, legislators used the falsehood that the reason was women’s safety. Texas Tribune has now officially debunked that lie with a review of state inspection records for 36 clinics that provided abortions. Although auditors found 19 regulatory violations they claimed were risks to patient safety at six of the clinics not ambulatory surgical centers, none was severe enough to warrant financial penalties. The facilities’ corrective actions were sufficient to protect the patients. In the past five years, the Texas Medical Board took action for just three doctors who performed abortions, all for administrative infractions. During the past 15 years, however, the maternal mortality rate for Texas has quadrupled.

The tiniest blip on the radar is probably the most dangerous news for people in the U.S. and the world. Secret negotiations for the proposed “free trade” agreement among over 12 countries, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to be concluded in October, will destroy the U.S.’s ability to make laws protecting the country. A drastic consequence is the dissolution of our internet freedoms. Provisions in this agreement, according to leaks, deal with intellectual property, including online copyright enforcement, anti-circumvention measures, and Internet intermediary liability. If passed, the TPP provisions will infringe on privacy, freedom of expression, and innovation on the Internet.

Specific risks would include blocking deaf and blind people from existing uses of the Internet; forcing service providers to collect and hand over your private data without privacy safeguards; kicking entire families off the Internet for minor copyright infringements; giving media conglomerates more power to fine you for Internet use and remove online content—including entire websites; and creating a parallel legal system of international tribunals that will undermine national sovereignty and allow conglomerates to sue countries for laws that infringe on their profits.

After individuals and organizations began protesting TPP, the negotiations went farther underground with no meeting announcements from the U.S. Trade Rep. There may have been one in September in Mexico City during which countries resistant to U.S. demands to sign onto the standards may have been strong-armed into doing so. .

Congress members in Peru have presented a motion to demand a thorough and public debate on current TPP proposals and for trade delegates to give a comprehensive report on the ongoing negotiations. Chilean Senators recently called for a public debate on TPP, requesting the President to provide “timely and accurate” information on the affects of the agreement on their country. In New Zealand, a Parliamentary member is demanding answers from the Prime Minister about the secrecy of the agreement and how its provisions could undermine consumer protection laws. Canadian Member of Parliament Don Davies has called on the Prime Minister to give Parliamentary Member access to the TPP, especially in light of documents revealing how a small group of industry associations have had special access to Canada’s negotiating position. The Malaysian Cabinet released a statement saying that it would not be bound by a fixed timeline on TPP and calling for more transparency in the process.

At this point, the timeline for TPP’s conclusion is ambiguous. The U.S. Trade Rep Michael Froman continues to claim that the U.S. will not force countries to rush a deal by any particular deadline, while also stating that the Obama administration has placed top priority on concluding the TPP before the end of the year.

My favorite: Two weeks ago when First Lady Michelle Obama teamed up with Partnership for a Healthier America to encourage people to drink more water, Rush Limbaugh did his usual attack against her: “This is really absurd.  Drink more water?  It’s none of their business.  Why do they care?  You drink when you’re thirsty.” Hopefully, no one looks at Limbaugh as an example of someone in good health. At this point, one way to kill off conservatives would be for Michelle Obama to recommend breathing. Meanwhile, I’m trying to drink more water. It’s my personal protest against the right-wing conservatives.

June 17, 2013

U.S. People Need to Examine NSA Spying

As people in the U.S. were still reeling from Edward Snowden’s first revelation that the National Security Agency has collected massive data on U.S. people and trying to justify these actions for safety sake, they discovered that things are much worse than they thought. Initially, the NSA said they didn’t examine the content of communications with warrants, we found out they had lied.

The heavy-duty spying began just after 9/11 when Microsoft cheerfully and competently supplied the feds with whatever they wanted. Company insiders called it “Hoovering” after J. Edgar Hoover, the first FBI director who collected mountains of dirt on countless Americans.

Early in his first term, George W. Bush authorized the NSA to monitor the fiber optic cables that enter and leave the U.S. Shut down in 2007, the program was immediately replaced by the Protect America Act which allowed unlimited warrantless wiretapping if the NSA explained what it was doing to a secret court in Washington. Then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) voted against this act. That act started PRISM.

Bush’s new program collects Internet information with names, addresses, conversation histories, and entire archives of email inboxes as well as video chats and bank transactions—all at the speed of light. Another program collects all information about telephone communications by demanding records from Verizon Business Services and other large U.S. phone companies, including Bell South and AT&T, since May 24, 2006. The government isn’t required to identify any targets or places if a federal judge secretly approves. This information can be permanently retained as long as it belongs to someone in the U.S.

Google and Facebook deny that they provide very much information. Yahoo went to court and lost in a classified ruling in 2008. Despite their denials, they are making deliveries to the government. How much they do is secret.

Originally, the NSA said that they just examined records of numbers, senders, recipients, and addresses. But Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) discovered in a classified briefing to the House Judiciary Committee that “an analysist,” presumably a low-ranking employee, can decide whether they access the contents of a telephone call, making the surveillance much broader than previously thought. With its estimated annual budget of $10, the agency doesn’t even need the blessing of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court; the attorney general and director of national intelligence can give approval as long as NASA follows the court’s requirements and procedures.

Those who oppose any kind of gun control are incensed at any possible abridgement of their privacy in that area, yet most of the U.S. public seem unconcerned about government employees reading their emails and listening into their telephone calls. Instead, many of them have become outraged that someone warned them about the surveillance program.

The media, no matter its political leanings, joined in the attacks on Edward Snowden when he announced what the NSA is doing. Rather than debating the appropriateness of his release of this information, the media trashed his personal character, starting out with a focus on his being “a high school dropout” and having a girlfriend who is a “pole dancer.”

CBS’s Bob Schieffer may have used the kindest description, saying that Snowden is “no hero” like Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr. because he ran off and hid in China. He did say that Snowden is “a narcissistic young man who has decided he is smarter than the rest of us.” (If Snowden knows about NSA’s actions, then he’s certainly smarter than I am!)

The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin called him a “grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison” and a “naïve nincompoop.”  Tom Brokaw dismissed him as a “military washout.” The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen dubbed Snowden a “cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood.” Fox went farther overboard when Ralph Peters advocated assassinating Snowden. As he supports the PATRIOT Act and blames the president for an intrusive government, Bill O’Reilly wants Snowden arrested. Somewhat agreeing with O’Reilly, Sean Hannity thought seven years ago that surveillance was just peachy but now believes the president is acting as Big Brother.

While these elitists spend air time and paper sliming the person who revealed NSA’s unconstitutional actions, the media has largely ignored the private contractor who the government hired to spy on the U.S. people. As James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, calls Edward Snowden a traitor to the public interest and the country, Clapper’s former employer, Booze Allen Hamilton needs closer scrutiny.

In February 2012, the U.S. Air Force suspended Booz Allen from seeking government contracts because Joselito Meneses, a former deputy chief of information technology for the Air Force, gave Booz Allen a hard drive with confidential information about a competitor’s contracting on the first day that he went to work for the company. Two months later, Booz Allen fired Meneses and paid the Air Force $65,000. He wasn’t the only former Air Force officer to be hired as an executive for the company.

Booz Allen admitted to overbilling the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) by inflating monthly hours of employees and submitting excessive billings. Four years ago, the company repaid the government $325,000 to settle the charges. A company whistleblower revealed this information to the government. Three years earlier, Booz Allen was also caught overbilling. Its share of a $15 million settlement under the False Claims Act was $3.3 million.

Ralph Shrader, Booze Allen’s chair, CEO, and president, came to the company in 1974 after working at two telecommunications companies: Western Union, where he was national director of advanced systems planning; and RCA, where he served in the company’s government communications system division. In the 1970s, those two companies participated in a secret surveillance program, Minaret, agreeing to give NSA all U.S. telephone calls and telegrams. This and other spying programs led to Congressional hearings to study government intelligence activities.

Over a million private contractors are cleared to handle highly sensitive government matters. Frequently, they even perform the country’s national security clearances. Almost half the 25,000 Booze Allen employees have top secret security clearances, and 98 percent of the company’s income came from the government last year.

When the news first broke about the massive collections of date on people in the United States, conservative pundit Bill Kristol said that the GOP should not consider this a scandal like other ones such as the IRS.

Kristol said:

“They’re not allowed to go into that data until they have a warrant signed off on by a judge. That is totally different from the IRS abuses, which I think are very serious, and I think it’s very important for conservatives and Republicans to make that distinction.”

I wonder what he and the other conservatives think now that that they’ve discovered that the NSA is looking at anyone’s technological communications with no need for warrants. I also wonder if the left and right mix of senators—including Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)—still think that mining every technological piece of information about the people in the United States is just fine.  If they do, their constituents may disagree.

prism 1

prism 2One humorous aside to the PRISM program: NSA failed to get permission for use of a copyrighted photograph by Adam Hart-Davis for its logo. That may be part of their philosophy that they are above the law.

 

 

June 15, 2013

GOP Legislators Won’t Do Their Job

All month the media has bombarded people with sound bites about the National Security Agency surveillance. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) tried to make citizens aware of this for two years; Edward Snowden managed to do it in two minutes. Quick to blame President Obama—again—several GOP legislators in Congress have bitterly complained about being left out of the loop.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, organized briefings to better inform the senators. The most recent was last Thursday afternoon with NSA Director Keith Alexander, the FBI, Justice Department, FISA Court, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who denied in a Senate committee hearing only three months ago that there was no surveillance of the U.S. people. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) recessed the Senate for an hour so that everyone could attend this important briefing. Over half the senators left early on Thursday to catch their planes home. Only 47 of them attended the briefing.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) claimed that the administration is abusing the law through the NSA surveillance activities and expressed surprise at the extent of the surveillance, probably because he failed to attend any of the hearings during the last three years about NSA’s activities. Even more hypocritical, he has called himself the “author of the PATRIOT Act,” the law that makes all this surveillance legal and helped renew it in 2011.

Section 215 of his PATRIOT Act approves an FBI request for NSA to view millions of records from Verizon customers. It also allows the FBI to obtain any records from libraries without court orders. In a Connecticut case, FBI agents demanded “any and all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person or entity” that had used computers between 4 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. on February 15, 2005, in any of the 27 libraries whose computer systems were managed by the Library Connection, a nonprofit co-op of library databases. If the librarian told anyone about the letter that the FBI gave him, he could go to jail for five years. No court order was necessary.

Because he discussed the letter with three other librarians, all four of them were bound by the gag order, according to their attorney. They challenged the letter’s constitutionality and the gag order but couldn’t even attend the hearings because government lawyers declared that their presence posed a threat to national security. A year later when the PATRIOT Act was renewed, a federal court ruled that the letter was indeed unconstitutional, but the government appealed the ruling.

Congressional legislators have also decided that it’s not their job to answer questions about Obamacare. They respond to such concerns from their constituents as Medicare, Social Security, and immigration, but they don’t like Obamacare so they won’t bother to provide any assistance. Some said they would flat-out refuse to give any answers while others, such as Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) said he would refer them to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said, “We know how to forward a phone call.”

House leaders have organized a group known as HOAP—the House ObamaCare Accountability Project—to organize a messaging strategy against the law that will trickle down to constituents. August recess will probably provide the kick-off for this sabotage when some Congressional members may hold town halls.

A recent poll about Obamacare found “a majority [54 percent] of Americans still oppose the nation’s new health care measure, three years after it became law.” Sound bites ignore the section of the poll showing that more than one-fourth of those who oppose think it doesn’t go far enough. Adding the 44 percent of those who support the law and the 16 percent of those who think it doesn’t go far enough means that people against it are actually in the minority of 35 percent. Half the people polled are unfamiliar with the law. All they know is what far-right conservatives and media have told them.

In looking at polls about the unpopularity of Congress, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) claims that Congress has always been unpopular. He’s wrong. Forty years ago, confidence in Congress was 42 percent, a far cry from today’s 10 percent.

confidence in congress

 

Steve Benen wrote, “I tend to think 10% confidence is a little on the high end. Indeed, I’m wondering what those satisfied folks are thinking.” The 112th Congress was the worst seen since the 1700s, and the GOP obstructionism is making the 113th Congress just as bad only six months into its two-year session. It can become much worse as the GOP threatens to intentionally crash the economy this fall in the next debt-ceiling crisis.

The solution to improving the Congress would be for the GOP to pass the immigration reform bill, stop the deliberately harmful sequester, reduce gun violence ever so slightly, perhaps debate a bill or two that could create jobs, and rein in Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) from his incessant manufactured “scandals.”

Conservatives, however, are sure to follow this recent advice from the Heritage Foundation, formerly a think tank and now a policy-making group:

“We urge you to avoid bringing any legislation to the House Floor that could expose or highlight major schisms within the conference. Legislation such as the Internet sales tax or the farm bill which contains nearly $800 billion in food stamp spending, would give the press a reason to shift their attention away from the failures of the Obama administration.”

[Note: The $800 billion covers ten years; using that amount makes it look much larger.]

Charlie Cook followed that up with a National Journal piece late Thursday:

“Republicans would be much wiser to pursue a third option: Dig up as much damaging information as they can about the Obama administration and leak it to reporters they know will write tough stories that won’t be traced back to the source. That way, the public won’t see the GOP as being obsessed with attacking the other side and playing gotcha at the expense of the big issues facing the country—the ones voters really care about.

“Meanwhile, everyone in Washington will watch polls for signs of blood in the water, indications that the controversies or scandals—depending upon your perspective—are taking a political toll on Obama’s job-approval numbers.”

Meanwhile, 70 GOP representatives, led by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), have set out to lower Congress’s popularity, and the Tea Party is cheering them on. Their goal is to make Boehner follow the “Hastert rule”: only bills with majority GOP support are allowed on the House floor.

There actually is no “Hastert Rule.” Its author, GOP strategist John Feehery, said that it is “situational advice, never a hard-and-fast rule.” He sees insistence on this “rule” as counterproductive for conservatives, encouraging ideological rigidity and eliminating any compromise with Democrats, meaning that Boehner must work with the opposing political party to pass any bills other than renaming post offices.

After Issa’s letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), scolding him for demanding the release of full transcripts of the IRS investigation, the Democrats on Issa’s House Oversight Committee responded. They set Monday as the deadline for Isssa to explain why he refuses to release these transcripts of witness testimony or they will release the transcripts themselves. Issa’s problem is that the transcripts will most likely indicate no evidence of White House involvement in the process of selecting IRS audits.

Issa is most likely looking forward to the August town hall meetings where he has total control. Recess will make little difference in the Congressional level of activity; it just means that they cannot do any harm.

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