June 2013


Once again I have to do a little Oregon bragging about my Senator Ron Wyden.  He’s been concerned about the shadier side of our War on Terror–including drone strikes and intelligence collection–for a long time now.  You could say he was into this stuff before it was hip to do so.

Well, Sen. Wyden is not backing down, and he has now teamed up with Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado to write a letter to the NSA, accusing the agency of presenting information on its website–information about the extent of surveillance on Americans–which is “inaccurate”.  Among other things, the letter states:

“We were disappointed to see that this factsheet contains an inaccurate statement about how the section 702 authority has been interpreted by the US government…In our judgment, this inaccuracy is significant, as it portrays protections for Americans’ privacy as being significantly stronger than they actually are.”

The Senators do not specify exactly which part of the website factsheet is inaccurate, as this is classified information, but they do add a classified attachment to the letter for review by the NSA. 

Sen. Wyden, who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been dropping hints about his worries for a while now, even while he could not publically discuss the problems with the NSA.  It’s nice to watch him continue fighting, but it’s sad to say that the tide in Congress is very much against him.

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Ha!  Edward Snowden is still at the Moscow airport, and Vladimir Putin is defending himself from American charges that he is helping hide a criminal.  Putin says that Mr. Snowden’s arrival was “a complete surprise for us”.

This would all be very nice except that the Guardian reported a few days earlier that Russia offered to consider a political asylum request for Snowden as soon as he fled the U.S., even though Snowden had not submitted any such request to them.  They immediately volunteered themselves as a possible location for him…but now Putin is completely surprised by this turn of events!  Perhaps he is just amazed that anyone would actually take him at his word?

I see that Edward Snowden is about to leave Russia, and that’s really too bad, because I had a great idea for a swap.

Since welcoming Snowden, Russian leaders have made some hilarious statements about how much they love dissidents.  And here is Dmitri Trenin, the director of Carnegie Moscow Center, adding to the hilarity:  “Russia is turning into a haven — virtually, intellectually and physically — for those who have an ax to grind with the West, who are whistle-blowers or have problems with Western authorities.”

Let’s leave aside how strange it feels, as an Eastern European person, to hear that Russia enjoys the presence of whistle-blowers–oh really??  But fine, let the Russians keep Snowden.  What’s the point of dragging him back here?  Sounds like all the secrets have already been spilled, the damage has been done.  Let him hide out in Moscow if that’s what he wants to do.

But in exchange, can we have the Pussy Riot girls?  If I remember correctly, two of those women are still languishing in one of Russia’s miserable labor camps, all because they dared criticize the church and state in their own country.  Some human rights achievement.  With their punk rebellious attitude, they would fit in perfectly in a place like NYC or San Francisco.  And here, we may spy on our own citizens, but we are not quite so crude about persecuting them.

So whaddya say, Putin?

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I love the name of this protest against the G8–“They Owe Us”.  Because as the protesters also ask, “Whose Debt?”  It’s nice to see somebody still remembers those huge bailouts.

Because–at the risk of getting accused of being one of those class warfare people–isn’t it just a little ironic that the powerful of the world are discussing the weak outlook for the global economy at a posh resort with a sprawling golf course?  Yeah, the outlook for the rest of us out here *is* weak, thanks for remembering that.

And by the way, the general manager of the resort is hoping that President Obama will get in some golf while he’s there.  We certainly wouldn’t want our leaders to go without their golf time…

The NSA scandal has messed everything up.  I’m accustomed to all the usual suspects supporting each other on their respective sides of the battle, but alliances are splitting up on both the left and right, and my political spidey sense is going out of whack.

Now Rand Paul is getting ready to file a civil suit against the NSA, and he will find support for this action from both the ACLU and–if it gets to the Supreme Court–from a sympathetic Sonia Sotomayor.  This has to be the first time I have ever seen an article from a Cato Institute author praising Justice Sotomayor for anything she’s done.  Sen. Paul disagrees with fellow Republicans like Rubio and McConnell about this, but does agree with Michael Moore.

Even worse, I find myself agreeing with Rand Paul and disagreeing with President Obama in this situation.  Time for cats and dogs to start mating, and the Apocalypse to happen.

Here’s a great example of why the IRS scandal has opened up a huge can of tax-exempt worms.  One of the groups complaining about getting extra scrutiny is the Citizen Awareness Project of Colorado.

Well, here is what this same group was doing back in October of 2012:

Less than three weeks before Election Day, a new mystery group dropped nearly $1 million on an anti-Obama expenditure, according to records. Citizen Awareness Project appears to be a nonprofit organization. It reported the independent expenditure opposing President Barack Obama Thursday, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission.

The group helped make marketing materials for the Heritage Foundation, among other things.  Why *should* an organization like this be tax exempt, when it is so clearly political?  I don’t want groups whose main purpose is to support either liberal or conservative candidates to receive a tax exemption.  The main goal of a tax exempt nonprofit is supposed to be social welfare.  According to the above article, the treasurer of Citizen Awareness Project is a law clerk who specializes in election law.  This is not a group focusing on social welfare of any sort.

For an extra helping of what can only be viewed as strange sarcasm at this point, there are plenty of conservative postings from 2011 and 2012 complaining about the tax exempt status of Occupy Wall Street.  Yeah, it does seem ironic now, doesn’t it?

I think neither side should be able to get away with taking advantage of tax loopholes.  I’ve gotten used to the fact that we all have to live in the middle of a big, dirty political fight…but at least make the participants pay some taxes!

Just as I suspected, Sen. Saxby Chambliss is a big proponent of abstinence-only education in his home state of Georgia.  Back in 2007, he praised its success and emphasized that it will “educate our young people about consequences and accountability, and encourage them to make the right decisions…”

As a reminder, this is the same guy who just said this about sexual assaults in the military:

“The young folks that are coming into each of your services are anywhere from 17 to 22-23. Gee whiz—the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur.”

So again, if he thinks that the young people in the military cannot control their hormones, what makes him think that they will be able to do so in high school, and what makes him think that abstinence education will work?  Gee whiz–the hormone level is just as high for the kids in the school.  How about acknowledging that an abstract idea of chastity won’t do much to stop the hormones in either place?