Will He Or Won’t He? John McCain, 77, Ambivalent On Whether He’ll Seek 6th Senate Term

Saying he doesn’t want to end up as “one of those old guys that should’ve shoved off,” Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Hollywood industry website The Wrap last week that his current term might be his last.

That caused a minor sensation on the Internet. Jaded conservatives weary of McCain’s cross-party liberalism took to political blogs to commemorate the news with comments that were equal parts jubilant and vindictive.

So McCain, currently serving his fifth Senate term, got back out on Twitter to clear things up.

 

The Wrap’s Tim Molloy had overheard McCain’s “last term” comment in a moment of candor while interviewing the Senator at a launch party for — wait for it — Pivot TV, a new network featuring daughter Meghan in a show called “Raising McCain,” an “investigative series.”

While talking with McCain (the Senator) about whether there’ll ever be a place in this world for a la carte cable pricing, Molloy paused as McCain greeted two well-wishers who doted on him for his support of President Barack Obama. From Molloy’s interview transcript (the interviewer’s words are in bold):

What about the idea that a show like a “Breaking Bad” or a “Mad Men” would never exist without bundling?

I think they would exist. I think that, look at [shows] now that are strictly over the internet.

[At this point two supporters of President Obama cut in to thank McCain for being on "our president's side for once in your life." McCain tells them, "The president and I, he's in his last term, I'm probably in mine, the relationship we have had over the past three years is quite good. Quite good."]

Is this really your last term?

Nah, I don’t know. I was trying to make a point. I have to decide in about two years so I don’t have to make a decision. I don’t want to be one of these old guys that should’ve shoved off.

I had a conversation the other day with Barry Diller. And his whole point is, technology is going to overtake all of us. When young people are… not watching television, but gettin’ their information, their entertainment and their news through other means, then there’s bound to be this kind of — you can’t restrict it to just cable. So it’s changing and it continues to change and that’s a good thing.

Clearly, Molloy caught McCain off his pleasant “banter-about-the-television-business” script when he made the smart, instantaneous decision to take ownership of something he’d overheard as a third party and question McCain about it directly. It’s interesting that McCain’s on-record response lacked the candor of his comments to the Obama supporters.

But at this stage in his career in politics, who really knows what John McCain is thinking?

FISA Court Puts Government On Timeline To Declassify Past NSA Spy Authorizations

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) – the secretive court whose purpose is to hear one-sided requests from Federal law enforcement to conduct undisclosed spy operations against Americans and foreigners – ordered the government Friday to make a case for why its cloak-and-dagger operations shouldn’t be declassified.

Giving the government until Oct. 4 to pick and choose examples of past FISC cases that demonstrate why Section 215 of the Patriot Act forms a Constitutional basis to keep dragnet surveillance on citizens a secret, the court essentially placed the burden of proof back on the government – something the court has rarely done in all its years of rubber-stamping the Feds’ warrant requests.

The ruling comes on a motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Access Information Clinic. Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorizes the government to obtain “any tangible things” to aid in counterintelligence operations and terror investigations. It’s the part of the Patriot Act most frequently invoked by the Department of Justice in requesting broad and secret search warrants on behalf of the FBI, NSA and other Federal enforcement offices.

“We are pleased that the surveillance court has recognized the importance of transparency to the ongoing public debate about the NSA’s spying,” said Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “For too long, the NSA’s sweeping surveillance of Americans has been shrouded in unjustified secrecy. Today’s ruling is an overdue rebuke of that practice. Secret law has no place in our democracy.”

‘Treason’ And ‘Jail’ Deter Tech Leaders From Sharing NSA Spy Requests With Public

Leaders at several major tech companies, including handlers of social media and Internet services, criticized the U.S. government this week for its ironfisted treatment of companies that repeatedly have requested permission to publicly reveal the scale of the National Security Agency’s court-sanctioned surveillance measures.

Speaking in San Francisco at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference — a major event that brings together industry innovators and potential investors — Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said the government’s approach to deterrence has been simple.

“Releasing classified information is treason, and you are incarcerated,” said Mayer.

That response came during a public Q&A, when someone asked Mayer why tech companies have been complaining in general terms about the NSA, but won’t release any information that reveals the nature the government’s demands. Yahoo has gone before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in the past, suing in 2007 for permission to publish information about NSA spy requests. But predictably, the government prevailed.

“When you lose and you don’t comply, it’s treason,” Mayer said.

Yahoo and Facebook have filed fresh lawsuits in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks, arguing that being muzzled by the NSA — with the entire world watching — isn’t just unConstitutional; it’s killing their business.

“Yahoo has been unable to engage fully in the debate about whether the government has properly used its powers, because the government has placed a prior restraint on Yahoo’s speech,” Yahoo argues in its filing. “Yahoo’s inability to respond to news reports has harmed its reputation and has undermined its business not only in the United States but worldwide. Yahoo cannot respond to such reports with mere generalities.”

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg resorted to generalities in his public comments at the Disrupt conference, but reinforced the Yahoo CEO’s assertion that the government is hurting American business and eroding faith in U.S. tech, even as it forces companies to keep quiet about its warrantless, illegal surveillance practices. “Frankly, I think the government blew it,” he said.

“The morning after this [Snowden scandal] started breaking, a bunch of people were asking them [the government] what they thought,” he said. “[They said] ‘don’t worry, we’re not spying on any Americans.’”

“Wonderful, that’s really helpful for companies trying to work with people around the world. Thanks for going out there and being clear. I think that was really bad.”

Poverty In America: Cellphones, TVs, Refrigerators And Microwave Ovens

Living below the poverty line in the United States means having just about the same access to creature comforts and basic household necessities as everybody else.

That’s the report from the Census Bureau, which has published new information on living conditions in the United States taken from data collected through 2011.

According to the data, being poor means you’re less likely to have a computer, dishwasher or deep freeze. But it also means you’re about as likely as the snob hill crowd to have a cellphone, air conditioning, television and some kind of DVR device.

According to the report, titled “Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States: 2011,” 80.9 percent of people living below the poverty line have cellphones, while 83.4 percent have air conditioning. Television, a necessity of life, is in 96.1 percent of poverty-level households, and 83.2 percent have a “video cassette recorder” or digital television recording device.

In each case, the percentage of people above the poverty line who own these same things isn’t much higher — because it can’t be.

Here are some other percentages that run down the things that poverty-stricken Americans own. The number in parentheses is provided for comparison. That’s the percentage of Americans living above the poverty line who own the same stuff.

  • Refrigerators: 97.8 (99.5)
  • Clothes washers: 68.7 (88.1)
  • Clothes dryers: 65.3 (86.6)
  • Dishwashers: 44.9 (73.5)
  • Food freezers: 26.2 (37.5)
  • Stoves: 96.6 (98.9)
  • Microwaves: 93.2 (97.4)

Maybe “poverty” is a word that talking heads and the American elected class should retire from domestic discourse to be reserved, instead, as a descriptor of how poor people live in the developing world. Poverty across the world is a condition; poverty in America is nearly always a choice.

Republicans In Tempe-Mesa Legislative District Rebuke McCain On Obama Nominations

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been formally rebuked by Arizona Republicans in the State’s 26th Legislative District for helping to green-light several of President Barack Obama’s controversial nominations for key leadership roles at Federal agencies.

The District 26 Republicans approved the wholly symbolic resolution on Tuesday by a 24-13 vote, accusing him of capitulating to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) by “giving him everything he asked for.”

Here’s the full resolution:

McCain rebuke

Colorado Recall Votes Send A Signal To The Elected Class: Representation Matters

On Tuesday, both of the Colorado State Senators who faced a voter recall — a culmination of massive public backlash over their support of new, unConstitutional gun control legislation — lost their jobs.

Senate President John Morse, a Democrat, was ousted by a slim margin, 9,094 to 8,751 (50.9 percent to 49 percent). Fellow Democratic Senator Angela Giron received 19,355 recall votes (56 percent), compared with 15,201 votes (43.9 percent) to retain her.

Democratic leaders (or in Morse’s case, former leaders) quickly demonstrated they’d learned absolutely nothing from the grassroots-bred ouster, going full extrovert in their post-recall public comments. Every factor leading up to the recall’s successful outcome was flawed except the actions of the two Senators themselves; every recall proponent was just a misguided obstructionist fool, upending a well-tuned process that was supposed to empower Morse, the State Legislature and Governor John Hickenlooper to help save people from themselves.

“The loss of this Senate seat is purely symbolic… You’re not judged by how you got knocked down, but rather by how you got back up,” said a very Howard Dean-like Morse in his teeth-clinching, staccato-paced concession speech. “Our last [legislative] session was phenomenal!”

“I’m a little perplexed,” said Giron, as she conceded. “This is what I know: I know that I have not one iota of regret from what I voted on… This is only going to make us stronger and better. We will win in the end, because we are on the right side.”

Then there’s Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who took to the Internet Wednesday to declare the whole recall effort a sham.

Why? Because mail-in ballots hadn’t been allowed for the special election.

“The recall elections in Colorado were defined by the vast array of obstacles that special interests threw in the way of voters for the purpose of reversing the will of the legislature and the people,” offered Wasserman Schultz, taking a page from Barack Obama’s playbook. “This was voter suppression, pure and simple.”

The races drew a lot of money from out of State, both from the National Rifle Association and the gun control lobbying group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG). Most of the ridicule over outside influence, in the aftermath, was targeted at MAIG — a personal endeavor of New York City’s billionaire liberal mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who has a track record of advocating for expanded government controls — rather than the NRA, which has a long history of advocating for the 2nd Amendment rights of individuals.

In late August, Giron herself told New Republic the political stakes were extremely high for Bloomberg, who continues to use MAIG as a funnel for campaign funds in support of gun control-minded liberals in State and Congressional-level races Nationwide.

“For Mayors Against Illegal Guns, if they lose even one of these seats, they might as well fold it up. And they understand that,” she said.

Bloomberg had donated at least $350,000 to the losing side in the Colorado recall.

Recall supporter Laura Carno told CBS Denver that the Morse recall sends a clear signal to elected leaders, both in Colorado and nationwide, with visionary legislative schemes that alienate voters: “It is a message to elected officials: You need to pay attention to what your constituents say — not the Vice President, and not Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York — and that’s who he’s been listening to, and not his constituents.”

Morse will be replaced by Republican Bernie Herpin. George Rivera, also a Republican, will replace Giron. The two swing seats will not affect the Democratic majority in the Colorado Legislature.

Ocean Of Bikers Drowns Out Muslim Protesters In Competing Rallies On Sept. 11

The quickly-organized “2 Million Bikers To D.C.” rally didn’t deliver anywhere near that many patriotic motorcycle enthusiasts to a Sept. 11 rally in the Nation’s capital city.

But the event did turn out tens of thousands of bikers, who vastly outnumbered the two dozen or so supporters of the competing “Million American March Against Fear” (formerly the “Million Muslim March”), a controversial program organized by the American Muslim Political Action Committee.

Here are a couple of pictures from the motorcycle rally:

 

And here’s one from the Muslim rally:

BT5SHGYIMAAWLpx.jpg_large[1]

Sept. 11, Obama And Casualties Of America’s 12-Year War; Rand No Fan Of Obama’s Syria Plan; Eminent Domain For Homeowner Bailout; Google Loses Wiretap Appeal; FrankenEggs Hit Grocery Stores – Wednesday Morning News Roundup 9-11-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.

Twelve years ago today, nineteen al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four U.S. commercial airliners and flew them into the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. In the war that Congress authorized against al-Qaida only three days after that attack, the vast majority of the U.S. casualties have occurred in the last four and a half years during the presidency of Barack Obama. Source: CNS News… 

In comments that immediately followed President Barack Obama’s speech on Syria Tuesday evening, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) remained thoroughly unconvinced that a U.S. military strike against Syria would do any good, arguing Obama still has not laid out any “compelling American interest” for intervention.” Paul also thought, regarding the possible new deal being worked out, that it “looks like President Obama’s been out-maneuvered here by Putin.” Source: Mediaite…

Leaders in the city of Richmond, Calif. approved a plan this morning for the city to become the first in the nation to acquire mortgages with negative equity in a bid to keep local residents in their homes. The city can now invoke eminent domain if trusts for more than 620 underwater mortgages reject offers to buy the loans at deep discounts pegged to their properties’ current appraised prices. Source: Reuters… 

A federal appeals court decided Tuesday that Google Inc. can be held liable for violating a federal wiretap law when it collected personal information from Wi-Fi networks while obtaining photographs for its Street View feature. Source: The Los Angeles Times… 

A radical “artificial egg” backed by Paypal billionaire Peter Thiel and Bill Gates goes on sale in US supermarkets for the first time today. Made from plants, it can replace eggs in everything from cakes to mayonnaise – without a chicken ever coming close to the production process. “We want to take animals out of the equation,” said Josh Tetrick, founder of ‘Beyond Eggs.’ Source: Daily Mail… 

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

Election-Year Intel Reveals Obama’s ‘Decimated’ Al-Qaida Was Actually Retrenching, Expanding

In May, President Barack Obama said al-Qaida was so thoroughly vanquished that the time had come for the United States to rethink its model for counterterrorism. But a new  Washington Times report shows a stark contrast between what Obama has been telling Americans about al-Qaida and what his intelligence team has been telling him.

The deceit extends at least as far back as the late-2012 election season. While Obama was telling voters that al-Qaida was decimated and on the run, his staff was telling him that al-Qaida offshoots in the field had been quickly changing tactics to accommodate American counterterrorism efforts. In fact, offshoots of the organization have been extending al-Qaida’s reach into Africa even as “core” al-Qaida — the central leadership group formerly headed by Osama bin Laden — retrenched under bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

House Intelligence Committee member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) told The Times he believes, just as U.S. intelligence officials believe, that the President’s focus only on al-Qaida’s “core” neglects the bigger picture.

Like the intelligence community last year, Mr. Ruppersberger draws a distinction between al Qaeda central in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the offshoots gaining strength in Africa.

“It is important to define what we mean when we are talking about al Qaeda,” Mr. Ruppersberger told The Times. “Core al Qaeda is the original organization, headed then by Osama bin Laden and now by [Ayman] al-Zawahri, that orchestrated 9/11 and has a safe haven in the FATA in Pakistan.

“That group has been weakened, but is adaptive and resilient,” he said. “Thus, its strength level fluctuates.”

More sources spoke on condition of anonymity, telling the newspaper Obama began correcting his characterization of al-Qaida as a weakened terror group only after he’d won re-election.

“Intelligence that the president wove into a May 23 speech at the National Defense University was, in fact, well-known among analysts at America’s major spy agencies nearly a year earlier,” according to the anonymous sources.

In particular, the murderous Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, had indicated to the U.S. intelligence community that the reach of al-Qaida in the post-bin Laden era had already begun to manifest in ways that demonstrated a heavier reliance on satellite operations with guerrilla-like, quasi-autonomous power structures than on the older, top-heavy hierarchy. Those satellites could take their cues from the top of the al-Qaida food chain — but not necessarily their marching orders.

That, according to The Times, is exactly how the Benghazi attack played out, with al-Zawahiri releasing a video through the Internet calling for attacks on Americans in Libya in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike against a high-level al-Qaida member in Pakistan.

“Despite being briefed on it privately, Mr. Obama and his surrogates resisted portraying the attack as having been carried out, or even inspired by, al Qaeda,” the story observes. “To the contrary, Mr. Obama — then in the throes of daily campaigning for re-election — appeared only to ramp up his narrative that the al Qaeda threat was diminished.

“On the day after the Benghazi attack, which occurred on the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11, Mr. Obama told an audience in Las Vegas that ‘al Qaeda is on the path to defeat and bin Laden is dead’ — a talking point the president hammered again the next day in Golden, Colo., and in back-to-back speeches Sept. 17 in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio.”

If the Obama Administration’s bizarre real-time narrative of Benghazi tragedy, coupled with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s patronizing spin on events after the fact, has always left you wondering what the President was trying to conceal, the answer is starting to come into focus.

Obama was trying to distort the truth about al-Qaida — and its definitive role in murdering members of the U.S. diplomatic mission (including our ambassador to Libya) — until the final vote had been counted in the 2012 Presidential race.

Obama’s Approval Rating At All-Time Low

If there’s a poll out there with the words “President Barack Obama” in it, there’s a good chance it’s attended by words like “only,” “plummets,” “dips,” “sinks,” “dives” and “free fall.”

A poll released late Monday by FOX News shows Americans’ regard for Obama has reached an all-time low, with only (see? there’s that word) 40 percent of those surveyed expressing approval for the President in his still-young second term. Meanwhile, 54 percent of 900 registered American voters who responded to the phone poll, conducted from Sept. 6-8, said they disapprove of Obama.

The polling period occurred at a time of fresh, new embarrassments for the President, whose determination to find a pretense for a military strike against Syria has heightened Americans’ incredulity toward the commander in chief and diminished their esteem of America’s international reputation.

If publications outside the United States offer any reliable insight, that reputation has indeed taken a massive hit under Obama.

Newspapers in the free-press part of the world had already been hammering the Obama Administration for hypocritically propagating the very same Big Brother machine that Obama, as a Senator and Presidential candidate, once castigated. But British papers like The Guardian and The Telegraph have seized on Obama’s myopic, unpopular and mercenary positioning of America as the world’s moral arbiter, condemning the Obama White House — once hailed by liberals and optimists as a do-over for reviled American interventionist policy — for admirably living up to the misdeeds of its former occupants.

“Obama’s failure to be honest about his nation’s record of destroying international norms and undermining international law, his myth-making about the role of the US in world affairs, and his one-sided interventions in the Middle East, all render the crisis in Syria even harder to resolve,” The Guardian’s George Monbiot wrote Monday.

“Until there is some candour about past crimes and current injustices, until there is an effort to address the inequalities over which the US presides, everything it attempts — even if it doesn’t involve guns and bombs — will stoke the cynicism and anger the president says he wants to quench… During his first inauguration speech Barack Obama promised to ‘set aside childish things’. We all knew what he meant. He hasn’t done it.”

Washington-based foreign affairs analyst Nile Gardiner was more colorful, if less elegant, in reacting to the FOX News poll on a blog post for The Telegraph:

Having casually drawn a red line in the sand on the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, Obama’s own credibility — not that of the United States — is on the line.

… Against a backdrop of plummeting public approval, and surging Congressional opposition, it is hard to see how the president is going to turn his Syria debacle around. The American people increasingly see him as a weak leader, one that has actually lowered America’s standing in the world instead of raising it. Frankly, President Bush’s record is looking better by the day, as a flailing Obama struggles to stand tall on the world stage while tripping over his own shoelaces at home. At least, with Obama’s predecessor in the White House, the United States was backed by its allies and feared by its enemies. The same cannot be said today.

See the full FOX News poll here.

Taking Credit For Political Defeat And International Embarrassment, Obama Set To Give A Speech Like No Other

“It will be a White House address in which a president argues for an endeavor he is abandoning. It will be a president appealing for public support for an action he intends not to take.

“We’ve never had a presidential speech like that!”

So goes the pith of Peggy Noonan’s anticipatory online article for The Wall Street Journal, published only hours before President Barack Obama is to deliver a Syria address to an incredulous American public and scoffing international audience.

Noonan ripped Obama’s ridiculous, unswerving trudge toward this moment – a moment when he’s expected to absurdly take ownership and credit for distancing himself from a hawkish plan that was always his idea, and his alone. To bomb Syria, beset by a civil conflict that presents the U.S. and its hapless, dwindling allies no clear enemy, no clear good guy, no clear pretense for attacking and no clear exit strategy.

Here’s Noonan on Obama’s humiliating foray into – and quick retreat from – statecraft, Middle-East style:

The president will keep the possibility of force on the table, but really he’s lunging for a lifeline he was lucky to be thrown.

Why is he backing off? Because he knows he doesn’t have the American people and isn’t going to get them. The polls, embarrassingly, show the more people hear the less they support it. The president’s problem with his own base was probably startling to him, and sobering. He knows he was going to lose Congress, not only the House but very possibly—likely, I’d say—the Senate. The momentum was all against him. And he never solved—it was not solvable—his own Goldilocks problem: A strike too small is an embarrassment, a strike too big could topple the Assad regime and leave Obama responsible for a complete and cutthroat civil war involving terrorists, foreign operatives, nihilists, jihadists, underemployed young men, and some really nice, smart people. Obama didn’t want to own that, or the fires that could engulf the region once Syria went up.

His plan was never good. The choices were never good. In any case he was going to lose either in terms of domestic prestige, the foreign result or both. Likely both.

… A serious foreign-policy intellectual said recently that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s problem is that he’s a Russian leader in search of a Nixon, a U.S. president he can really negotiate with, a stone player who can talk grand strategy and the needs of his nation, someone with whom he can thrash it through and work it out. Instead he has Obama, a self-besotted charismatic who can’t tell the difference between showbiz and strategy, and who enjoys unburdening himself of moral insights to his peers.

This isn’t posted on some alternative conservative-media blog with only a few thousand – or a few hundred thousand – readers. It’s in The Wall Street Journal. Obama, who already didn’t have an exit strategy for an actual military conflict, now doesn’t have a graceful exit strategy from his own short-sighted, solipsistic ideas.

“An important thing,” concludes Noonan:

The president will be tempted, in his embarrassment, to show a certain dry and contemplative distance from Putin. The Obama White House should go lightly here: Putin could always, in his pique, decide to make things worse, not better. It would be good for Obama to show graciousness and appreciation. Yes, this will leave Putin looking and feeling good. But that’s not the worst thing that ever happened. And Putin has played this pretty well.

Humility from Barack Obama? That would indeed be a “change.”

But don’t hold your breath.

 

Strange Bedfellows: Boehner Serves Obama While Cornel West Ponders The I-Word

When you need a well-placed, influential ambassador to help sell your illegal war dreams to the puppets who can nominally make or break your scheme, where do you turn?

Why, to the leader of your party opposition — where else?

In a rundown of President Barack Obama’s oligarchy-sourced campaign to secure House votes for war against Syria, National Review on Monday revealed a curious fact about House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). In public, Boehner is trying his best to appear as though he’s putting no pressure on House Republicans so that they can vote their “conscience” on whether to go to war. But behind the scenes, he’s hawking it up:

“There’s no whip list since this is a conscience vote, and the speaker is acting accordingly,” says an aide familiar with Boehner’s strategy. “He’s going to come back this week and spend a lot of time listening to his members.”

But Boehner’s reluctance to say much publicly doesn’t mean he’s absent from the discussion. His first vote in Congress, after being elected in 1990, was to authorize the Gulf War, and he has long been a hawk. Sources close to him say he’ll try to bolster GOP support without strong-arming anyone. Case in point: His staff is advising White House chief of staff Denis McDonough about what the president needs to say on Tuesday to win Republican votes.

So the Speaker of the Republican-controlled House — a recalcitrant group that’s offered more Constitutional opposition to Obama policies than can be found in any other structural check on Presidential power — is basically writing the President’s script on how best to woo his hated political rivals into supporting his mad, bad, idiotic war.

Obama’s disastrous second term has bred an environment in which strange bedfellows have begun to set aside ideological differences on finer policy points, all for the sake of uniting over bigger causes — like keeping what’s left of our Constitution from turning to ash. Liberals and conservatives in possession of a conscience have united to condemn Obama’s defense of unConstitutional search and seizure, his discriminatory targeting of political opponents through apolitical government agencies and his cowardly evasiveness on whether it’s OK to murder U.S. citizens without due process.

Add to that list Obama’s ardor to plunge the United States into yet another baseless and deceitful war.

Americans of all political persuasions are asking “Cui bono?” (who benefits?) from a strike on Syria? Al-Qaida? The Saudis? Everyone who considers Iran our greatest Mideast threat?

As Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) pointed out in an open letter to Obama Saturday, the entire Syria narrative appears to have been spun from the beginning, with “intelligence” indicating egregious human rights violations  being draped to fit the President’s war policy like so much window dressing.

But whoever benefits, it’s clear that nearly all the American voices preaching for war (or, in Boehner’s case, quietly praying) are coming from the few who have self-interest — and not national interests — at heart. Everybody else loses.

Liberal Princeton philosophy professor Cornel West, who’s been walking back his support almost from the moment he first got out the vote for Obama in 2008, told radio host Tavis Smiley on Sunday that Obama should be impeached if he attempts to strike Syria without Congressional approval.

“It doesn’t make sense to commit more war crimes,” West said. “You would think in some ways [it would be] grounds for impeachment.”

Though many would cheer Obama’s impeachment for any reason, we must hope West’s hypothetical scenario remains grounded in the world of make-believe. War in Syria is wrong, even if Obama’s career were the chief casualty.

Obama Administration Secretly Got NSA Restrictions Lifted in 2011

This is one of those stories that would have been sensational, had it come immediately on the heels of Edwards Snowden’s bombshell revelation about the extent of the National Security Agency’s reach into the digital lives of ordinary Americans. Instead, it’s likely to get lost in the white noise of President Barack Obama’s many second-term, Constitution-shredding scandals.

Over the weekend, The Washington Post revealed that, in 2011, the Obama Administration secretly won permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to overturn restrictions on the NSA’s power to search and store the digital communications of all Americans without first obtaining a warrant. FISC is the secret court whose sole purpose is to vet extraordinary surveillance requests from Federal law enforcement agencies.

Neither the 2011 reversal nor the original ban intended to limit the scope of NSA phone searches was publicized. The Post reported:

What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban — at the government’s request — on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.

Together the permission to search and to keep data longer [six years instead of five] expanded the NSA’s authority in significant ways without public debate or any specific authority from Congress. The administration’s assurances rely on legalistic definitions of the term “target” that can be at odds with ordinary English usage. The enlarged authority is part of a fundamental shift in the government’s approach to surveillance: collecting first, and protecting Americans’ privacy later.

Those same powers had been explicitly blocked, at the government’s request, during the Administration of George W. Bush.

But the Obama Adminstration sought — and received — a reversal from the court. National Intelligence General Counsel Robert S. Litt told The Post the government explicitly requested the ban be dropped so that the government, which has all but forsaken spying on obvious targets (like Islamist jihadi extremists in the United States), could move quickly to intercept a domestic terror threat.

Denied Sept. 11 Event Permit, ‘2 Million Biker Ride In DC’ Defiantly Gathers Steam

Organizers of Wednesday’s “2 Million Biker Ride In DC” took to the Internet over the weekend to report they’d been denied an event permit to ride on Washington, D.C. – even as a planned “Million Muslim March” was given the green light for a symbolic Sept. 11 demonstration.

Then they took to the Internet to report they’d only been galvanized by that denial.

By Monday afternoon, bikers from across the country were posting photos of motorcycle caravans already en route to the Capital.

maine bikers

 

The Washington, D.C. rally was conceived as a retort to what many patriotic bikers viewed as an overt insult by the American Muslim Political Action Committee, which targeted the 12th anniversary of the World Trade Center attack for its “Million Muslim” event. The march is intended to urge President Barack Obama to make good on his early campaign promises of a more “transparent” government – particularly where Islamists’ roles in the attacks are concerned.

bikers file

Tomorrow’s Recall Vote For Gun Control-Supporting Colorado Senators Draws Strong Early Turnout

Tomorrow’s the day when two Colorado State Senators will find out whether their support of new, controversial gun laws adopted earlier this year will put a major damper on their own political careers. Early voting patterns suggest Tuesday’s turnout for a recall vote of Senator Angela Giron and Senate President John Morse will likely rival that of a Presidential election.

Morse and Giron, both Democrats, are facing voter-initiated recall elections aiming to remove them from office following their support of a trio of reactionary gun control laws that went into effect in July. Those laws, passed rapidly in the aftermath of last December’s sensationally violent school shooting in Connecticut, restrict the size of ammo magazines, strengthen a ban on so-called “assault” weapons and put the cost of mandatory background checks on would-be gun buyers.

Massive voter backlash, outrage from in-State gun manufacturers and organized opposition from county sheriffs culminated in the recall effort, which emanates from a broad cross section of residents who feel the State’s policies have begun to feel too great an influence from liberal sensibilities in and around Denver, its urban hub.

Early voting began late last week and will end tomorrow. The Denver Post published an article Saturday headlined “Sen. John Morse recall: Republicans dominate,” signaling a possible indication of the outcome.

Morse’s district, which lies entirely within El Paso County and centers on the City of Colorado Springs, is home to a mere 26 percent of Republican registered voters. But, of the 9,485 people who’d voted last week, 41.36 percent were registered Republicans.

“Democrats have a lot of votes to make up if they want to keep Morse in office,” observed the newspaper.

Rand Paul Explains Why Senate Should Vote ‘No’ On War With Syria

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) authored a guest column in Wednesday’s “Ideas” blog on the Time magazine website, forcefully arguing against President Barack Obama’s newfound love of interventionist Mideast policy and drawing sharp distinctions between the proposed Syria strikes and the post-9/11 Afghan war.

Expanding on former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s assertion that, for the U.S., “war should be the politics of last resort,” Paul offered an  unequivocal corollary: “America should only go to war to win.”

As The Washington Post observed Tuesday, Paul has garnered the necessary clout, both in the public eye and within the Senate, to push a discussion of the GOP’s longstanding hawkish stance on military intervention toward a new, far more limited paradigm; one a close Paul ally described as “a resurgent realist foreign policy.”

Syria fails to pass any of the tests Paul ascribes as necessary requisites for Washington to even consider a military strike: threatened American interests, threats against the interests of American allies, a clear path to victory, an exhaustion of nonmilitary, political options, and a clear understanding of our enmities and alliances on the ground.

War should occur only when America is attacked, when it is threatened or when American interests are attacked or threatened. I don’t think the situation in Syria passes that test. Even the State Department argues that “there’s no military solution here that’s good for the Syrian people, and that the best path forward is a political solution.”

The U.S. should not fight a war to save face. I will not vote to send young men and women to sacrifice life and limb for stalemate. I will not vote to send our nation’s best and brightest to fight for anything less than victory. If American interests are at stake, then our goal should not be stalemate.

If American interests are at stake, then it is incumbent upon those advocating for military action to convince Congress and the American people of that threat. Too often, the debate begins and ends with an assertion that our national interest is at stake without any evidence of that assertion. The burden of proof lies with those who wish to engage in war.

Of course, Paul goes on to raise far more questions than the Obama Administration has even publicly countenanced: are we on the same side as Islamic rebels? What will our involvement do to Syrian-Israeli tensions? Are we fighting for the spread of democracy or Islamic theocracy? What happens to the Christian minority – nowadays one of the first casualties of any destabilized Middle Eastern state?

“The President and his Administration have not provided good answers to any of these questions,” he writes. “Those who seek military action have an obligation to publicly address these concerns before dragging our soldiers into another Middle Eastern war. Shooting first and aiming later has not worked for us in the past, and it should not be our game plan now.”

Paul said late Wednesday he would not filibuster a Senate vote on whether to authorize war against Syria, evidently to avoid taking a stance that could be viewed as an obstruction of Congress’ Constitutional power to deliberate and vote on a declaration of war. But he’s made it clear that any such vote should happen quickly – and that he plans to lead the “no” movement from the front.

Court Rules White House Visitor Log Exempt From Freedom Of Information Requests

A three-judge panel for the Washington, D.C. Judicial Circuit has issued a summary judgment that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) does not apply to requests for Secret Service logs that track recent visitors to the White House.

Ruling Friday on a motion filed by nonprofit advocacy group Judicial Watch, Judge Merrick Garland opined that Congress had never intended FOIA to the movements of the President, because it “could substantially affect the President’s ability to meet confidentially with foreign leaders, agency officials, or members of the public,” and “could render FOIA a potentially serious congressional intrusion into the conduct of the president’s daily operations.”

The White House voluntarily disclosed the scheduled comings and goings of former IRS Commissioner Douglas Schulman after the IRS-Tea Party targeting scandal broke earlier this year, but more recently has refused to confirm whether IRS chief counsel (and political appointee) William Wilkins had visited the White House in April of 2012, only days before helping shape the discriminatory guidelines that have since come to define the scandal. Visitor logs from 2012 indicate that he did.

The Washington, D.C. Circuit ruled that records of White House visits fall not under FOIA, but the more-secretive Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978. The ruling came after the Secret Service denied a  Judicial Watch request for “all official visitors logs and/or other records concerning visits made to the White House” over the course of seven months, according to a Courthouse News report.

The Secret Service maintained that the White House’s voluntary disclosure policy would eventually kick in, making visitor records available 90 to 120 days after the visits had taken place. But Judicial Watch motioned for a court to force the Secret Service to comply under FOIA, which the D.C. Court denied.

Homeownership Among American Blacks Lowest In 18 Years

Homeownership among American black families has contracted to its lowest point in 18 years, according to a Tuesday report by Bloomberg. The new information comes at a time when the decline in homeownership for the general population has stabilized and, in some demographics, is on a slight rebound.

According to the report, “18 years of economic progress” for blacks in the U.S. “has vanished, with a rebound in housing slipping further out of reach and the unemployment rate almost twice that of whites.”

Bloomberg doesn’t blame the Obama Administration for that recent reversal, but Breitbart’s John Nolte does.

“Had Obama enacted proven economic policies after becoming president, the economy and housing market would have already rebounded and beyond. But Obama chose big government policies, and now we find ourselves in the middle of a so-called recovery that only our pathetic and subservient media could spin as ‘good enough,’” writes Nolte.

“[A]fter a half-century of a War on Poverty and five years of a black man as president, the gap between white and black in every important economic area is still just as wide as it was trillions and trillions of taxpayer dollars ago.”

From the Bloomberg report:

The homeownership rate for blacks fell from 50 percent during the housing bubble to 43 percent in the second quarter, the lowest since 1995. The rate for whites stopped falling two years ago, settling at about 73 percent, only 3 percentage points below the 2004 peak, according to the Census Bureau.

In late August, the Pew Research Center released a report that showed poverty among black Americans, which had fallen steadily since the Civil Rights era, had begun inching higher again over the past decade.

The poverty rate among black Americans now stands at 28 percent, compared with 10 percent among whites, while black unemployment rate stands at 12.6% — nearly double the 6.6 percent unemployment rate among whites.

 

The Islamist Extremists Kerry Calls ‘Moderates’; Obama’s House Problem On Syria; The EPA’s Clean-Water Cops; Unemployment Up; Viking Bicyclists From Hell – Thursday Morning News Roundup 9-5-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.

 

  • Secretary of State John Kerry’s public assertions that moderate Syrian opposition groups are growing in influence appear to be at odds with estimates by U.S. and European intelligence sources and nongovernmental experts, who say Islamic extremists remain by far the fiercest and best-organized rebel elements. Source: Reuters… 

 

  • As members of Congress consider President Obama’s request to authorize military force in Syria, following evidence that President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons killed over 1,400 people, a ThinkProgress analysis of the public statements of 400 Representatives found that 200 lawmakers have either decisively ruled out supporting the measure or say they are unlikely to back it. Just 49 of the 400 members of the House of Representatives said they will definitely or likely vote in favor or the resolution. Source: ThinkProgress…

 

  • When agents with the Alaska Environmental Crimes Task Force surged out of the wilderness around the remote community of Chicken wearing body armor and jackets emblazoned with POLICE in big, bold letters, local placer miners didn’t quite know what to think. Did it really take eight armed men and a squad-size display of paramilitary force to check for dirty water? The EPA has refused to publicly explain why it used armed officers as part of what it called a “multi-jurisdictional” investigation of possible Clean Water Act violations in the area. Source: Alaska Dispatch… 

 

  • A Gallup measurement of the unadjusted unemployment rate for the U.S. workforce was 8.7% in August, up from 7.8% in July and from 8.1% in August 2012. The U.S. workforce participation rate in August was 66.4%, a decline from 67.7% in July, and down from 68.1% in August 2012. The seasonally adjusted U.S. unemployment rate for August was 8.6%, up from 7.4% in July. Source: Gallup… 

 

  • The NYPD says thugs are beating and mugging bike riders on a popular Manhattan bike path, stringing up ropes to clothesline the unsuspecting bikers, beating them with brass knuckles and then making off with their pricey rides. Investigators said they think the attackers could be targeting people with high-end bikes. Source: CBS New York… 

 

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Newspaper: Voter ID Laws Have Positive Effect, If Any, On Minority Turnout

On Tuesday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published the results of its investigation into how mandatory voter identification has affected the frequency with which different demographic groups go to the polls in Georgia since the voter ID law went into effect there five years ago.

The results don’t offer much statistical comfort for Attorney General Eric Holder and others who’ve made a Federal case — literally — over the Supreme Court’s historic ruling this summer to strike down part of the civil rights-era Voting Rights Act, an outdated law that unfairly leashed several States’ powers to draw their own voting districts.

While requiring voters to present a valid form of State-issued photo identification failed to catch a single documented case of voter fraud in five years, it also didn’t stymie the will of non-white voters in Georgia to play an active part in the process of self-government.

The AJC found that, in the State’s new era of voter ID, minorities are actually turning out to vote at a faster rate than the population of their demographic is growing.

“Turnout among black and Hispanic voters increased from 2006 to 2010, dramatically outpacing population growth for those groups over the same period,” writes reporter Shannon McCaffrey:

Elections data reviewed by the AJC show that participation among black voters rose by 44 percent from 2006 — before the law was implemented — to 2010. For Hispanics, the increase for the same period was 67 percent. Turnout among whites rose 12 percent.

It was expected that African American turnout would spike in 2008, when Barack Obama became the first person of color to win the presidency. And it did rise to historic highs in Georgia.

Black participation fell in 2010, as it did for all demographic groups. Still, a far greater share of black voters turned out in 2010 than in 2006, showing that Obama was not the only factor driving turnout.

Critics of laws in Georgia, Pennsylvania and other States requiring voters to demonstrate proof of identity at the polling place have argued that minorities and poor people will be excluded from de facto voter eligibility because many don’t currently possess any of the forms of ID required under the law.

“Over thirty states considered laws that would require voters to present government-issued photo ID in order to vote,” complains the well-intentioned American Civil Liberties Union. “Studies suggest that up to 11 percent of American citizens lack such ID, and would be required to navigate the administrative burdens to obtain it or forego the right to vote entirely.”

It doesn’t take a study to “suggest,” however, that everyone who legally operates a motor vehicle in the United States has some form of valid driver’s license, and that –rich or poor, citizen or expat — each of them was, at least once, “required to navigate the administrative burdens to obtain it.” Requiring voter ID is no more restrictive than that; in fact, it’s far more permissive.

In Georgia, any eligible voter who doesn’t have one of the several passable forms of qualifying identification (a passport, a military or government employee ID, a State college or university student ID, a driver’s license — even an expired one) can apply for a free — yes, free — Georgia Voter Identification Card at their local registrar or department of motor vehicles. Applicants have to show proof they’re registered voters, and the list of documents that identifies them and verifies them as citizens and residents is intentionally broad.

“If you look at the numbers, they clearly show that critics of this law were wrong,” Hans von Spakovsky, a former legal counsel to the Justice Department’s civil rights division who now works for the conservative Heritage Foundation, told the AJC. “Their argument has always been it would depress turnout, but it didn’t happen — quite the opposite.”

Northern California County Votes To Secede From State; Nothing Happens

The Republican-leaning rural county of Siskiyou, California has taken the first step toward seceding from the State.

County supervisors in Siskiyou, which lies in extreme Northern California along the Oregon border, voted 4-1Tuesday to secede, citing a strong dissatisfaction with the near absence of home rule. Ed Valenzuela, Chairman of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors, cast the lone vote not to secede, saying the people had elected him to operate within the existing political structure.

The vote comes in response to pressure from residents who have complained that their interests are not represented in Sacramento, and that the legislature will continue to neglect their concerns over local resources – chiefly water – that are exploited to benefit the more populous areas of the State.

While the vote has no legal teeth, it does reflect a strong secessionist spirit that, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, predates World War II. Residents and some county leaders are encouraging neighboring Oregon and California counties to join the secession movement in the hope of realizing a decades-old dream of establishing a new U.S. State – the “State of Jefferson,” named in honor of the Nation’s third President.

“I haven’t had one contact in regard to this issue that’s in opposition,” county supervisor Michael Kobseff told the Chronicle.

The road to secession is likely to remain untraveled, however, since both the California Legislature and the U.S. Congress would have to recognize secession and the creation of a new State.