Archive for August 2013

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On Friday, as President Obama gave a press conference announcing his willingness to consider reforms to the National Security Agency’s bulk-collection programs, his administration released two unclassified “white papers” that Obama hailed as steps at transparency. One was a legal analysis of the bulk phone records program; the other was a generic description of the NSA’s foreign-directed surveillance activities.

Neither document provided much in the way of new information for the programs: a significant amount of the legal analysis about the bulk phone records program echoed congressional testimony by NSA and Justice Department officials, especially a lengthy July speech from Robert S Litt, the top lawyer in the intelligence community. Nor was either document a dispassionate recitation of facts: both presented the administration’s case for why Americans should be “comfortable” – as Obama put it today – with bulk collection of their data.

Still, the documents shed light on controversial legal theories that are likely to be tested in court in the weeks and months ahead.

The Obama administration justifies the bulk phone records collection program under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the government to acquire “tangible things” that are “relevant” to an investigation. Since the Guardian disclosed the existence of the bulk phone records program, thanks to the ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, legal scholars have puzzled over how the phone numbers dialed, lengths of calls and times of calls of millions of Americans unsuspected of terrorism or espionage meet that standard.

The administration’s answer has several components. It argues in the white paper, “‘relevance’ is a broad standard”, which can include the “reasonable grounds to believe” that when all the data is collected, “when queried and analyzed consistent with the [surveillance] Court-approved standards, will produce information pertinent to FBI investigations of international terrorism.” To do this requires “the collection and storage of a large volume of telephony metadata.” That is – information about your phone calls.

It further argues that a “tangible thing” can include a phone number or the length of a phone call, and contends that the legislative history of the Patriot Act indicates that Congress always intended that to be the case, despite the incorporeality of phone data, particularly when compared to say, a medical record or a receipt. “There is little question that in enacting Section 215 in 2001 and then amending it in 2006, Congress understood that among the things that the FBI would need to acquire to conduct terrorism investigations were documents and records stored in electronic form,” the administration writes.

Finally comes a problem that was brought up by several members of the House Judiciary Committee during a raucous July hearing. The collection of the bulk phone data comes prior, logically, to any specific investigation. So how can the administration argue the bulk phone records collection is pertinent to any particular inquiry?

“Unlike ordinary criminal investigations,” the administration replies, “the sort of national security investigations with which Section 215 is concerned often have a remarkable breadth – spanning long periods of time, multiple geographic regions, and numerous individuals, whose identities are often unknown to the intelligence community at the outset.

“The investigative tools needed to combat those threats,” it continues, “must be deployed on a correspondingly broad scale.”

Put differently: “If you’re looking for the needle in the haystack, you have to have the entire haystack to look through,” as deputy attorney general James Cole testified in July.


Posted August 10, 2013 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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Radio Show 24 Thursday August 8, 2013 9-10pm Eastern US Time WBKM.ORG   Leave a comment



I just got back from Radio show 24 on Internet only WBKM.ORG. It was such a pleasant sunny day today, I was in the mood to play songs I love.

Song before: Take A Chance With Me – Roxy Music



From our small city to the great big world, these are the sounds of Burlington. It’s a beautiful summer day and I’m going to play some songs I love.

1.) Summertime – Peg Tassey and the Velvet Ovum Band

2.) Papertrain – David L. Jarvis Band

3.) Until the Day I Die – Slingshot Dakota

4.) Hawk Space B.1.0.0.Z – The Fatal Flaws

Listening to the Flaws makes me think of how happy Sasha always looked playing drums. That was an homage to Hawkwind, and I just got tickets to see the old English space rockers in Montreal in October. I love the driving positive lyric of Until. Dave can write pop songs with ease and precision. I got to see Peg at the Precipice and I hope all those rock bands Friday night inspired her. Next is another song I love, and the next song from Swale’s A Small Arrival.

5.) If You Get Lost – Swale

6.) Presence – Satori Bob

7.) You’re Safe With Us – Lendway

I always feel safe when Lendway are playing. They are so good and their songs are wonderful. I love the driving guitar in Presence and the lyric about comparing what people want to hear and what truths a poet can find. I love the way Swale can take something sad, like being lost, and give hope with beauty.

Well, if it’s songs that I love, you know some of them are going to rock. Doll Fight! is playing one last time, and I love this song.

8.) Morning Again – Doll Fight!

9.) Lunacy – Cave Bees

10.) Burn – The Dirty Blondes

11.) It’s Real Again – Zola Turn

I love a lot of Zola songs, but that one always gets me going. Don’t mess with the Blondes. If you do, they will hunt you down, and they are in shape. I love a lot of Bees songs, but that one just a bit more. I’m going to miss Doll Fight! This next song is one of my absolute favorites.

12.) A New Kind Of Blue – The Cush

13.) Trading Bullets – Fire The Cannons

14.) One More Grave – The Contratian

The guitar in that song makes my heart soar. The eponymous Cannons song always rocks me hard. I love Blue. I hope you enjoyed checking out the music of our town. Let’s do it again next week, shall we?



Song After: Innocent Party – Fish

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John Oliver “But, perhaps a surprise contender for most draconian voting rights legislation came from a little father north.”

Alex Wagner (MSNBC) “Last week North Carolina passed one of the most restrictive voter suppression bills in the nation.  A bill that slashes in half the state’s early voting period, that eliminates same day voter registration, that requires voters to show a government issued photo ID.”

Oliver “And it doesn’t stop there.  It also places voting booths on buoys that are only accessible by yacht. Now, the thing that occurs to me in all of this legislation is what problems are you trying to solve?  Why are you doing this?”

Reporter “Your state elections board said that they have only had one documented case of voter impersonation fraud in 2012.  You say…”

State Sen Phil Berger (R-NC) “The important thing is enhancing confidence in elections.  This is something that is about making sure that when people show up to vote, they are who they say they are.”

Oliver “OK, stop there.  “Cause as I believe has been established, The problem isn’t people showing up to vote and not being who they say they are, it’s person, as in one, singular, one guy, out of four and a half million people who voted in the last election.  You could have gotten the same results by just passing a bill that said Dave can’t vote.  He knows why.  So, if that’s not really the reason then let’s try this again.  Why are you doing this?”

Reporter “According to North Carolina’s board of elections, a third of voters here without a photo ID are African-

Oliver “And there it is.  It goes to show it’s true, always bet on black.”

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Fareed Zakaria:
But, first, here’s my take. The hottest political book of the summer, “This Town” by Mark Leibovich, is being read in Washington with equal parts embarrassment and delight.

It is a vivid, detailed picture of the country’s ruling elite, filled with tales of ruthless networking, fake friendships and a sensationalist media. But beneath the juicy anecdotes is a depressing message about corruption and dysfunction.

If you are trying to understand why Washington works so badly for the rest of the country, the book explains that it works extremely well for its most important citizens; the lobbyists.

The permanent government of the United States is no longer defined by party or a branch of government, but by a profession comfortably encamped around the federal coffers.

The result, according to many measures, is that Washington has become the wealthiest city in the United States.

Leibovich describes a city in which money has trumped power as the ultimate currency. Lobbyists today hold the keys to what everyone in government, senator or staffer, is secretly searching for, a post- government source of income. He cites an Atlantic magazine report that in 1974, only 3 percent of retiring members of Congress became lobbyist. Today, that number is 42 percent for members of the House and 50 percent for senators.

The result is bad legislation. Look at any bill today and it is a gargantuan document filled with thousands of giveaways. The act that created the Federal Reserve in 1913 was only 31 pages long.

The 1933 Glass-Steagall legislation that regulated banking was only 37 pages long. The current version, the 2010 Dodd-Frank bill, is 849 pages plus thousands of additional pages of rules.

The Affordable Care Act is more than 2,000 pages. Bills have become so vast because they are qualified by provisions and exemptions and exceptions put in by the very industry being targeted; a process that academics call “regulatory capture.”

The entire political system creates incentives for venality. Consider just one factor, and there are many, the role of money, which has expanded dramatically over the past four decades.

Harvard University’s Lawrence Lessig has pointed out that Congressmen now spend three of every five workdays raising money. They also vote with extreme attention to their donors’ interests.

Lessig cites studies that demonstrate that donors get a big bang for their campaign bucks, sometimes with returns on their “investment” that would make a venture capital firm proud.

Now, taking money out of politics is a mammoth challenge. So perhaps the best one could hope for instead is to limit instead what Congress can sell.

In other words, enact a thorough reform of the tax code, ridding it of the thousands of special exemptions, credits, and deductions, which are, of course, institutionalized, legalized corruption.

The most depressing aspect of “This Town,” by Mark Leibovich, is how utterly routine all the influence-peddling has become. In 1990 Ramsay MacMullen, the great Yale historian of Rome, published a book that took on the central question of his field. Why did the greatest empire in the history of the world collapse in the fifth century?

The root cause, he explained, was political corruption, which had become systemic in the late Roman Empire. What was once immoral had become accepted as standard practice and what was once illegal was now celebrated as the new normal.

Many decades from now, a historian looking at where America lost its way could use “This Town” as a primary source.


Posted August 5, 2013 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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Greg Sargent “Is there any bill funding the government — at any level of spending — that Republicans alone can pass out of the House at this point?

Congress has gone home for recess after a series of botched votes that are cause for deep pessimism about the future. The basic problem here is not hard to divine. The Senate GOP filibuster of the transportation bill yesterday, and the House GOP decision to yank its version of the same the day before that, confirm that Republicans may not be able to pass a spending bill at sequester levels, even as they won’t support one at higher spending levels, either.

As multiple reports detail this morning — Lori Montgomery’s piece gets the framing exactly right –  the bill that spends at sequester levels alienates moderate Republicans who balk at specific spending cuts. Meanwhile, Republicans can’t accept higher spending levels because … the goal of keeping spending as low as possible has become a moral crusade, a higher calling, that can never be questioned, even if they are not willing or able to say how they would accomplish this.

If this sounds crazy, that’s because it is. But this craziness has a cause. Republican leaders have nurtured it for years, and now they are stuck in a trap of their own creation.”


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Bill Mahr “The Republicans in Congress voted to repeal Obamacare for the fortieth time today.  It’s really, now, less a governing philosophy, and it’s more like Charlie Manson applying for parole.  Forty times, really?  Forty times they have voted to repeal Obamacare, which kind of raises the question, can you file a restraining order against 232 people?”

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John Oliver “So, that is the case for a higher wage.  What is the case against?”

Fox Reporter #1 “Only in America can our politicians bemoan a liveable wage, forgetting a lot of folks would be grateful for any wage.”

Fox Reporter #2 “People are not in poverty because they’re making minimum wage.”

CNBC Reporter “What we’re talking about is rewarding mediocrity.”

Fox Reporter #3 “The first step on a ladder, is not supposed to be comfortable.  You’re not supposed to be hanging out there.  If you double the salary, you turn that rung into a hammock.”

Oliver “Exactly!  You remove the incentive.  If you raise the minimum wage, people will never stop working in the fast food industry.  They’ll get so comfortable in those hot kitchens, and in their acrylic uniforms, relaxing in that grease fog, smelling of processed meat no matter how many showers they take. It’s luxury, that’s his point.”—fast-food—minimum-wage