Cross posted from In the (K)now blog
In all that has been written about the impossibly bad choices facing the US in Iraq, too little has reminded America and the world of how we got to this impasse and why.
The utterly outrageous op-ed in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal by the one most wrong about most things to do with Iraq – at the most enormous cost in blood and treasure – dares to call President Obama “blithely unaware.”
Dick Cheney is wrong again. But, perhaps inadvertently, he has performed a valuable public service in reminding everyone of the disastrous historical mistakes and outright falsehoods that put the US in its current position.
Cross posted from In the (K)now blog
With all the hype surrounding Hillary Clinton’s new book rollout this week, it may seem her victory in 2016 is increasingly inevitable.
But the punditocracy is overlooking a significant concurrent development that could turn the conventional wisdom on its ear.
The same week as the headlines trumpeted the military precision of the Clinton machine, the White House embraced student loan reform – an idea first proposed over a year ago by freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
If there is any meaningful threat to Clinton’s inevitability, this is where it lies: the Senator from Massachusetts already has an organic national constituency begging her to run.
Cross posted from In the (K)now blog
George Orwell could scarcely have imagined that his sci-fi novel, set in 1984, would come true a mere 30 years later.
But according to a Federal Trade Commission report on “big data” released this week, it apparently has.
In Data Brokers: A call for transparency and accountability, the government watchdog lays out in frightening detail how much is being collected about all of us and the uses to which it is being and could be put.
The FTC unanimously calls for legislation to give consumers the right to learn about the existence and activities of data brokers and give them access to their data.
“The need for consumer protections in this area has never been greater,” the report concludes.
While the recommendations of a presidential panel on government spying have been mostly welcomed, the 300-page report itself does nothing to restore faith in the privacy of electronic communications.
In fact, the report could be seen as doing just the opposite. It is a confession that the revelations of Edward Snowden are accurate, and that everyone for years has been monitored on a massive scale unprecedented in its scope and size.
We analyzed this aspect of the widely reported recommendations today in
Report further erodes faith in electronic privacy
The key question is now coming into focus: when will the erosion of trust be reversed, before it does lasting harm to freedom of expression and the high-tech economy so dependent on the trust of those who use it?
While the president should win praise for releasing the report long before its planned date, the pressure is now ratcheting up for something to be done.
Reform is urgently needed. The longer it is delayed, the more trust will erode. US technology companies are correctly fearful of the impact on their businesses and the economy.
But the real impetus is the constitutional protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment. One doesn’t have to be a legal scholar to conclude they have been ignored and violated as never before.
The most difficult task for untrained news consumers is to see what is not there.
It is not an easy thing to learn. But Obamacare provides an example.
For more than six weeks, the story about problems with the federal web site created to enroll in health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act dominated the front pages – and the entire news cycle.
Now it is gone.
We analyze this development today in
Healthcare website woes vanish from the news
It may be a tad too early to declare victory – unforeseen problems may yet arise – but this was a completely foreseeable development.
With the president’s entire legacy at stake, all the resources of the federal government were harnessed. It would have been a fool’s errand to wager they would not succeed.
We have not heard the end of the Obamacare rollout disaster by any means yet. It is bound to haunt us at least through the next election cycle.
But the narrative has surely changed, just as predicted.
A secret trade deal being negotiated among 12 Pacific Rim nations including the United States rose to a prominent place in the public eye with a mysterious editorial in The New York Times on Wednesday.
The Trans Pacific Partnership is something every American needs to know about. Yet media coverage has been scant – even in The New York Times itself.
We analyzed it and researched the history today in
Trans Pacific Partnership on fast track to approval without public input (with video)
If agreement is reached as the Obama administration hopes before the end of the year, it could be a gift to the richest American corporations at the expense of everyone else.
Negotiations are proceeding largely out of sight and without participation by anyone except huge, multi-national corporate giants.
But details are available, if one looks hard enough, and they are frightening in their potential consequences.
The editorial in The New York Times on Wednesday was headlined:
A Pacific Trade Deal
But it is mysterious because The Times has done virtually no reporting on the topic on the past 12 months. Inquiring minds want to know where did it get its facts from?
The very secrecy shrouding the talks must make everyone suspicious that something nefarious is taking place that is not in the public interest.
And it is, indeed, as various experts have pointed out.
It is time for a robust debate on the issue.
It was a development that seemed to come out of nowhere, when a federal ban on discrimination in employment against LGBT folk suddenly gathered momentum on Monday.
The 61-30 vote in the Senate to open debate on ENDA is long overdue but most welcome.
We analyzed the history of the bill today in
The time has come to ban bigotry
The history of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act goes back almost two decades. The latest version, introduced by former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank in 2011, has languished in obscurity until this week.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner immediately said he opposes the law, but history is not on his side.
He will face enormous pressure to bring ENDA to a vote, not the least from his own party. More than a few Republicans voted with all the Democrats in 2010 to repeal the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. History could repeat itself.
And several Republicans voted for a previous version of the bill in 2007 according to the Center for American Progress which has the most detailed account in
A History of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act written in 2011 by Jerome Hunt.
Poll after poll has shown increasing majorities in favor of equal rights under the law for all in the LGBT community. Gay marriage is now legal in 14 states, with Hawaii likely to be the 15th.
The House of Representatives may be like a troglodyte, but Boehner is unlikely to be successful forever.
History is on the side of equal protection for all. It may have to wait until 2015, but it will inevitably arrive.
In a major development in the government spying scandal, it was revealed Wednesday that not just chancellors and prime ministers are targeted by the NSA.
The Washington Post reported that massive data streams are diverted off-shore from Google and Yahoo into government data warehouses.
We analyzed the reports today in
Now it’s personal for almost every internet user
Hundreds of millions of people use one or both of the online giants for email. Even if you don’t, email you receive from or send to a Google or Yahoo address could end up in the government’s files.
Are we ready to say, Enough is Enough?
The details can be found in The Washington Post blockbuster
NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say.
As the spying scandal unravels, it comes closer to home for each and every user of the internet, no matter where one is located on the map.
There can be no doubt that online privacy is vanishing, if it has not already disappeared.
Getting the genii back in the bottle now is going to be almost impossible. But it is time to make a start; the only ones who have the power to do so are in the US Congress, but you would be forgiven if you doubt its ability to get anything at all done.
It should begin with repeal of the USA PATRIOT Act.
THE PUSH BY President Obama for comprehensive immigration reform got a boost on Tuesday when a large group descended on the Capitol to lobby Republicans on the issue.
Viewed in tactical terms, this could be seen as a stroke of genius by the president and his Democratic allies.
The GOP is riven with internal divisions on immigration. It’s well documented by the Pew Research Center, and has been widely reported.
We analyzed it this morning in
Coalition of conservatives, liberals pushes for action
Just as it splintered over the government shutdown, the Republican Party could suffer another humiliating defeat as its warring factions splinter on immigration proposals under consideration.
On Tuesday a huge group descended on the Capitol to advance the president’s agenda.
We learn the details in The New York Times online story
G.O.P. Urged to Act on Immigration by Coalition of Its Allies
Ashley Parker reports:
“On Tuesday, the group of more than 600 leaders from roughly 40 states descended on the Capitol for meetings with nearly 150 Republican lawmakers.”
The issue was brought front and center by the president in remarks Oct. 24 in the East Room at The White House.
“This is not just an idea whose time has come; this is an idea whose time has been around for years now,” Obama said. “And this is the moment when we should be able to finally get the job done.”
But in the process of moving forward, there is likely to be serious strain within the GOP. It could quite easily be a re-run of the acrimonious internecine warfare that erupted in the aftermath of the government shutdown.
The revelations about the extent of US government spying on individuals and officials throughout the world keep coming.
The latest embarrassment came Monday in the French newspaper Le Monde, where Glenn Greeenwald revealed massive monitoring of French citizens and government officials.
This prompted a phone call by President Obama to the president of France.
We analyzed it today in:
SPYING SCANDAL: Revelations in France add to US woes
Meanwhile, the European Union is moving aggressively to curtail intrusions into personal privacy.
The New York Times reported this on Tuesday in
Rules Shielding Online Data From N.S.A. and Other Prying Eyes Advance in Europe.
James Kanter wrote:
“A panel of European Union lawmakers on Monday night backed a measure that could require American companies like Google and Yahoo to seek clearance from European officials before complying with United States warrants seeking private data,”
The European Union is way ahead of America in recognizing the right to privacy – and doing something about protecting it.
Concerned Americans should take a cue from our European allies and begin to seriously discuss effective measures to put a cap on how, when and why the government can intercept the communications we hitherto thought were private.
There are undeniably problems with the rollout part of the Affordable Care Act reforms.
Indeed one part of the system is struggling: the federal insurance exchange web site is groaning under the weight of its popularity.
But there is time to fix it, and officials are working ’round the clock to do so.
We analyzed the progress this morning in:
New healthcare system flawed but can be fixed
It may be embarrassing to the president, but it is nowhere near the ‘disaster’ so many are claiming.
Politico reported details of the technical fixes in
Tech ‘surge’ to repair Obamacare websites
Here’s the money quote:
“The Obama administration Sunday said it’s called on “the best and brightest” tech experts from both government and the private sector to help fix the troubled website at the root of the Obamacare enrollment problems.”
In a delicious irony the GOP’s ridiculous government shutdown and attempt to overturn the law (which failed) had obscured the problems from public view.
We noted this in
Shutdown, debt-ceiling crises obscure really serious problems.
The president gave a different perspective on Monday. His most important point:
“For the vast majority of Americans… you don’t need to sign up for coverage through a website at all,” Obama said. “You've already got coverage. What the Affordable Care Act does for you is to provide you with new benefits and protections that have been in place for some time. You may not know it, but you're already benefiting from these provisions in the law.”
That’s what the Tea Party does not want anyone to know. They would rather focus on the so-called “disaster.”
In fact, the problems are a sign of Obamacare’s success, not its failure. The demand for health insurance has been so great it overwhelmed the system.
There can be no better evidence that the program – even if flawed – is vitally needed by the American people. They are voting with their keyboards.
The news over the weekend for those who want to see the U.S. government actually function, was nothing short of stunning.
Headline after headline told of an outbreak of internecine warfare within the Republican Party – which brought the government to its knees for the first two weeks of October.
“Civil war” was the term most commonly used.
We analyzed it in detail today in
GOP’s internal struggle is good news for 2014
There can be no doubt a struggle has erupted for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.
For those who are NOT conservatives, this is the best possible outcome.
It may mean the Democrats romp to victory in the mid-term elections in 2014, and continue to occupy the White house in 2016.
We first reported on this possibility Oct. 3 in
Showdown over shutdown could split the Republican Party
It reached a crescendo in The New York Times on Sunday with the front page story Fiscal Crisis Sounds the Charge in G.O.P.’s ‘Civil War.’
The money quote:
“It’s civil war in the G.O.P.,” said Richard Viguerie, a veteran conservative warrior who helped invent the political direct mail business.”
A Republican civil war can only be good for the country. While they are preoccupied with their internal struggle, the electorate can watch from the sidelines and vote for the Democrats in 2014.