sixteen seconds at swamis

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Hits and Misses

Couple interesting articles to peruse: Ezra Klein's Did you know John Roberts is also chief justice of the NSA’s surveillance state? and Eric Lichtblau's In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of N.S.A.
NSA I.G. Draft Report.

Learned a new word I have seen several times in the last week. Arrogate. I thought that someone had misspelled abrogate. I was wrong.

Arrogate - ar·ro·gate  
Take or claim (something) for oneself without justification.
usurp - appropriate - assume

Another country has offered Edward Snowden asylum today. By my count that makes five, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Berkeley. BTW, appears I was right. He did write the last disputed memo. I can see why the South and Central Americans are pissed, besides the heavy hand we have shown them in the past and the little incident with the plane this week. We treat them with this patrician eurocentric disdain. Red headed step children. Quite patronizing. Now they are going to stick it in our eye.

The woman that secures the health insurance for my company and family came by the gallery the other day. Said that chances are that I will have to buy insurance from the exchange next year. United Healthcare, the largest insurer working in the state announced this week that it is leaving the state, joining Aetna.  

I do not pretend to understand all the ins and outs of the Affordable Care Act but it seems that it was very poorly conceived and crafted. I think that the net effect is going to prove very expensive for me. Thanks, Barack.

I was talking to a Republican friend the other day and we got to talking about the good things that we can credit this administration for. Or we tried to, I was pretty stumped. I am your basic social liberal, fiscal realist and didn't think it would be so hard to extol his virtues. Let's look at the list, shall we? Maybe I can grade him. 0 to 10. After all he did promise a lot during his campaign speeches. Marvelous campaigner.

Civil Rights and the Patriot Act - Expanded it, helped institute the total surveillance state. Thought that we were getting the second coming of William Brennan, turns out he's channeling Dick Cheney
Grade - 0
Get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan - Took a while in Iraq, Afghanistan ongoing - 3
Respect States Rights on Medical Marijuana - 0
Environmental - caved on Mountaintop coal removal, Air pollutants, hasn't ruled on Keystone yet - 3 - (incomplete)
Transparency and Whistleblowers - 1
Justice Department was a total joke, see DOMA, Fast and Furious, Aaron Swartz, etc. - 0
Foreign Policy - never met an islamic fundamentalist he didn't think he could do business with, as long as he wasn't blasting them with drone missiles - 2.5
Let Goldman Sachs and the mortgage banks run roughshod - 0
Failed and pretty much worthless homeowner bailout program - 1
toothless SEC - 1

I could go on and on but will spare you. Bad grades across the board. This guy is failing. He hasn't accomplished diddlysquat. He has squandered a great opportunity. Real good at one move, the total capitulation gambit. His only salvation is that the other guy would be probably worse. In fact, I think that there is only one thing that he has done that saves his ass and would probably cause me to cast my vote the same way if I was presented a reset; he nominated Kagan and Sotomayor to the Supreme Court bench. The most important achievement in his legacy is that we get a couple decent judges to counter the pissy old federalist block.

I know that the opposition has blocked him at every turn, it certainly hasn't been easy. But much of his troubles are of his own making, he has problems talking to people in his own party. The aloof, decider in chief. We need one more liberal justice so that Kennedy doesn't continue to make every key decision for the Catholic wing. Hope I don't have to hold my nose again next time, just to stave off the right wing theocracy. Would Hillary be any better? Couldn't be any worse but still a typical politician.

All this talk about the NSA keeping us safe. I keep thinking about the memo Richard Clarke sent Condi Rice about being on guard for terrorists flying planes into our skyscrapers in August of 2001. We couldn't even react to the most simple intelligence but we can institute the widest intelligence grab in history and that's going to be effective and make us safer. Right. Box cutters and pressure cookers. We go high tech, the enemy goes low tech. Are we really this stupid?

I wouldn't have such a problem with FISA if it was really about terrorism. But it's not. I have posted the graphs too many times. 87% of the Patriot Act FISA requests are about prosecuting the drug war. And the drug war is largely revolving around a pretty benign substance, weed.

The inadvertent criminal catch provision to the NSA snooping, as defrocked NSA analyst points out, the water carrying for the FBI, is the sleight of hand move that pisses many of us off. The Bill of Rights is hereby suspended until further notice. Your rights are heretofore going to be decided by a secret court of ex Republican prosecutors turned judges under the direction of John Roberts. Have a nice day.

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