Remember that pesky scandal where it was revealed the NSA collects metadata on U.S. citizens? Remember how many people (from both sides of the aisle) blew it off as nothing we should worry about; that it was a vital part of our national security efforts?
Now we learn from the former head of the NSA that the United States uses metadata to decide who to kill. Not in the United States (yet), but definitely overseas.
This is disturbing enough. I thought we actually had, you know, SPIES and such operating throughout the world, intercepting communications, reading letters, etc. Now the NSA is revealing that we don’t actually bother to read what’s in the communications… we will actually kill someone just for communicating with other people.
What’s wrong with that? Some people will ask this question. Unfortunately, Republicans will be among them. There’s a lot wrong with this. Right off the top of my head, I can think of a HUGE problem with this. Want to eliminate someone you can’t get to? How about having a bunch of your Al Qaeda buddies to call him a bunch of times. Eventually the United States will classify him as a major terrorist based on his metadata and off him for you!
Another problem: metadata is “data about data”. Which means the United States is killing people not on evidence, but on “evidence about evidence”. I really hope that I don’t have to explain why this is concerning.
Most worrisome about this article, though, is this single statement by former NSA chief Michael Hayden regarding the domestic collection of metadata:
“It’s really important to understand the program in its entirety. Not the potentiality of the program, but how the program is actually conducted.” (emphasis added)
Hayden is asking us to NOT look at the potential of the program. This is a de facto admission that the potentiality of the program is something we would find “distasteful” to put it lightly. Furthermore, within the context of the overall article, I’d like to know exactly what Hayden means when he says “potentiality of the program.” You would think it is unlikely he means the government may start killing civilians on U.S. soil based on metadata, but who knows?
At the very least, we should be concerned about targeted political character assassinations, using metadata to poison someone’s reputation, or blackmail someone. But metadata could eventually become grounds for granting search warrants, which means search and seizure of private property based on evidence of evidence. Or for things like IRS audits. Metadata could easily become a tool in the government’s bag of bully tricks.
The potentiality of the program concerns the hell out of me. I hope it concerns you too.
At least Obama did something (after enormous pressure) and “officially” abandoned the program. Small consolation considering the potential for “unofficial” collection, and that private entities will maintain the metadata and the government will basically have access to that whenever they want.
Before the two best teams in the NFL squared off against one another, two political titans entered their own arena to do battle. Here are my five takeaways from the Obama / O’Reilly Super Bowl interview.
1. The entire Obama administration is technologically naive
O’Reilly pressed Obama on the botched Obamacare rollout. Obama repeated multiple times:
“I don’t think anybody anticipated the degree of problems”
Really? Nobody in the entire administration anticipated these problems? I find this incredibly difficult to believe. I work in the web industry. I develop web applications used by hundreds of thousands and even millions of people. I can tell you from personal experience that if my deadline was approaching and the product was not ready, I would be in regular communications with the client discussing crisis mode options.
CGI Federal has taken a lot of heat for the botched rollout. Some of that they deserve, no doubt. But I suspect the #1 problem was a terrible set of specifications delivered from the government. Poor specifications leads to poor product. I also suspect that the middlemen within the Administration did not possess enough tech knowledge to comprehend the extent of the disastrous rollout.
“[Nobody] anticipated the degree of problems.” Obama’s own words. I expected more from the supposedly “most tech-savvy administration in history.”
2. Holding people accountable is now officially meaningless
O’Reilly challenged Obama on Kathleen Sebelius’ continued employment. O’Reilly clearly believes she failed and she should go. I happen to agree. However, Obama’s reassures us:
I promise you that we hold everybody up and down the line accountable.
Okay, but what does this mean? Obama has told us before that he holds people accountable. Other than General Stanley McChrystal, who has Obama actually fired? Only a select few have even resigned.
In the Obama administration, you can oversee the Fast and Furious scandal, lie about the cause of the attack in Benghazi, lie to Congress about the government’s data-collection policies, and even botch the rollout of the President’s signature legislation and your job is secure. But dare to mock Joe Biden and you’re fired!
The following is a conversation with a welfare mother who called in to a radio show. If you haven’t heard it, you must listen. The woman describes how she can smoke marijuana, sit around doing nothing all day, and the checks come every month. Words cannot adequately describe, you must hear it for yourself.
UPDATE: A reader discovered a source saying this was false. Not exactly a hoax, but apparently the woman called back again and said she had been on welfare, but was off it, and was incensed others didn’t do the same. Also that she invented the original story to raise awareness. Now I am left wondering if the retraction is true, or merely the result of worrying that some government official would come after her now that she embarrassed the system. A person who has been on welfare and successfully gotten off it could surely come up with better ways to raise awareness for the PROS and CONS of welfare than by concocting a story which only highlights the CONS of the system.
If any body else finds more to this story, let me know.
Video after the jump because it auto-plays.
A week or so ago, President Obama made headlines by declaring he’s “got a pen” and “got a telephone” and calling 2014 a year of action! My first thought was, “Gee, Batman must be jealous of your high tech gadgets Mr. President.” My second thought was that Obama was actually threatening to bypass the Constitutional role of Congress by acting unilaterally wherever possible.
In case there was any doubt about the President’s commitment to Executive action, the White House has doubled down on its promise to circumvent Congress.
As President Obama rolls out his poorly-named “Promise Zones” (sounds like something a male adolescent would come up with to name a body part), progressives around the nation are simultaneously pushing for higher minimum wage — places like New York, Detroit, and SeaTac have recently had protests and/or legislation passed over higher minimum wage, just to name a few. And the U.S. Senate has mentioned a “$10-ish” federal minimum wage. By the way, it’s not just progressive liberals pushing for it — in Washington state, a self-described Republican is pushing for $15/hour minimum wage. The article calls him a “conservative”, but we all recognize his progressive ideology.
“Income inequality” is shaping up to be the big 2014 liberal campaign platform. The progressives want to re-frame the debate as a humanitarian rather than an economic one. Democrats hope they can ride this horse to victory, and probably even keep riding it through 2016. Never mind the fact that they are essentially admitting to buying votes.
In any free market system, the cost of labor is an input which impacts the final price of goods sold and services rendered. By artificially inflating minimum wage, Democrats promise us a better life for those at the bottom of the wage scale, but the tradeoff a higher cost to produce goods and services. This increase in cost will work its way into the economy in one of three main ways:
- Higher prices for consumers to obtain a good or service (essentially a hidden tax on consumption)
- Less innovation and production and employment growth, due to more business resources being allocated to existing labor
- Lost jobs due to companies moving production overseas, or in the case of business that can’t move overseas, more automation or just plain lower quality of service
Additionally, when minimum wage goes up, it tends to drive all wages up across the board. This exacerbates the above outcomes across the entire economy.
When fast-food workers in 100+ cities went on strike a few weeks ago, they probably never thought their jobs were replaceable. After all, how do you make food without humans? May I present to you, the robot that makes nearly 400 burgers an hour:
On August 2nd the House released an investigative report on Solyndra, the failed solar energy company, which shows beyond a doubt the Obama administration abused taxpayer dollars for political gain.
Solyndra received a $535 million loan, straight from our pocket, as part of Obama’s “green jobs” strategy. Indeed, Solyndra was considered one of the jewels in Obama’s green recovery crown. When Obama visited the plant in 2010, he highlighted Solyndra as an example of the “right thing to do for the economy,” claiming the plant would employ at least 1,000 high paying jobs.
As is so often the case with lofty oratory, the reality never lived up to the rhetoric.
First, the Obama administration pressured federal reviewers to sign off on Solyndra despite misgivings about the viability of the company and of the government’s loan model. Emails released by the investigators show the Office of Management and Budget responding to White House requests by saying “We would prefer to have sufficient time to do our due diligence reviews.” The loan was ultimately approved, clearly under political duress as an OMB staffer remarked “given the time pressure we are under to sign off on Solyndra, we don’t have time to change the model.”
Solyndra’s CEO at the time hailed the “Bank of Washington” for coming to their aid.
It quickly became clear that Solyndra was in peril as it began to miss payments on the loan. A government analysis warned that the company would run out of money in September of 2011 and recommended that the government simply cut its losses. Instead, the government chose to restructure the loan, ultimately wasting MORE of our tax dollars than if they had simply allowed Solyndra to fail.
The investigators released emails which clearly indicate the decision to restructure the loan – which inexplicably put taxpayers LAST to recoup losses – was made for political reasons. One government analyst remarked that a Solyndra failure “would likely be very embarrassing for DOE and the Administration.” Another commented that she was “vastly confused by DOE’s decision to negotiate away their senior position in this transaction.”
The final insult came when White House Chief of Staff Jack Yew, perhaps sensing that Solyndra was beyond saving, decided to wash his hands of any further involvement in the Solyndra restructuring. Let me say that again to be sure it sinks in:
Despite the administration’s self-proclaimed “quite active interest” in securing the loan for Solyndra, just months before it failed, the White House distanced itself from any further decision making.
No doubt so that when it finally failed, they could blame it on OMB / DOE / Bush (which is exactly what they tried to do).
Still undetermined is exactly what role Obama bundler Robert Kaiser played in securing Solyndra’s loan in the first place. Emails show Kaiser “advised associates” on how to secure federal assistance for Solyndra. As it turns out, Kaiser’s family also had a “substantial” financial stake in Solyndra. Coincidence?
This is an example of Chicago Politics at its finest. We have a choice in 2012. Are you voting for four more years of cronyism and abuse of our wallets? “Bank of Washington” my ass… it’s the Bank of We the People. I say we shut the damn doors. #ABO2012
Here in the U.S. we have a long tradition of secret ballots, and we feel like our political preference is generally a private matter unless we choose to reveal it to those with whom we interact. Unfortunately, we couldn’t be more wrong about these assumptions.
I first discovered the ugly truth about our political privacy purely on accident while researching the history of campaign finance laws. I’ve always known that campaigns and political organizations are required to disclose their contributors. What I didn’t know is that the entirety of that disclosed information is public record and easily obtainable by anyone with access to the Internet.
Let me introduce you to one of the most potentially dangerous tools on the Internet: The Federal Election Commission’s financial disclosure database. Curious about the political affiliations of your neighbors? How about the businesses you frequent? Just punch in your zip code and prepare to be shocked. Anyone who has contributed $200 or more will be shown with their name, employer, and you can even click through to the filing form to see their home address.
The danger is not so much the fact that the information is collected, or even that it is made public. The danger is in the level of accessibility. Imagine a world where anyone could open up a “Political Contributors” app on their iPhone and, with GPS technology, call up a summary of contributions by party for each nearby address. Imagine if Yelp included a “political affiliation” tag for each business, or a tally of how many employees contributed to each party.
Federal law currently prohibits the use of disclosure records for commercial purposes or to solicit contributions, but the rules on use are kind of wishy-washy. I see a whole lot of loopholes. Plus, it is not clear to me exactly how the FEC would determine that anybody was breaking the law.
The implications are serious. Politically-motivated vandalism could become commonplace, especially as we trend towards greater political division. Local boycotts could become as easy as logging in to an app on your mobile phone. People could even stage protests at businesses who employ too many contributors to a particular party.
Some will say I’m just being paranoid. I concede the possibility. However, you may recall that theft and vandalism already occurs due to campaign signs. For every one person who displays a sign in their yard, there are probably 5 more who have contributed but don’t want their political ideology plastered on their front door. Imagine if it was in the palm of everyone’s hand.
The technology is much closer than many may realize. Just a few days ago, the Obama campaign released an app that shows you nearby Democrat households. Still think I’m paranoid?
As technology improves, the lines of political privacy will continue to blur. Combine this with a growing push for ever-greater disclosure requirements and we’re headed for a dangerous “brown shirt army” situation.
This is not a partisan topic. This should concern everyone. The technology is in its infancy — we can barely imagine the potential in years to come. Entrenched interests on both sides of the aisle will seek to use it to their own advantage, which will ultimately be detrimental to the privacy and freedoms of all of us.
I used to believe that campaign contribution disclosure was generally a good thing. After all, I like to know who guys like George Soros are supporting. Now I’m not so sure.
During my research, I found that one of this nation’s original campaign finance laws (the Tillman Act) was actually created by a notoriously racist Democrat with the purpose of browbeating anti-slavery Republican corporations. As I thought about it, I realized that our current disclosure laws are right on the cusp of allowing the same type of abuse Tillman envisioned. As technology advances, political privacy is going to continue to disappear, unless disclosure laws are repealed or reformed.
What say you?
With the Olympics on everyone’s television, what better way to highlight the true idiocy of Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment than with a brand new meme.
Hey Missy Franklin, Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas and all the other gold medalists… in the spirit of President Obama’s theory on human success… you didn’t win that! Somebody else made that happen! After all, you couldn’t possibly have been successful without the roads and bridges that allowed you to reach the pool and the gym! The focus, the training, the countless hours of dedication… that nice but it’s barely a footnote to the contribution of the government!
No rational person would agree with the paragraph above. And yet, millions of dutifully ignorant Obama supporters see nothing wrong with the application of the same theory towards business owners. It’s madness.
Not everyone can be an gold medalist. Can we agree that these exceptional men and women are indeed born with a natural affinity for their sport? Is it OK to acknowledge that nature does play a role in the creation of an Olympic athlete?
Not everyone can be a business owner either. It takes a certain kind of person to be successful in business, and it takes an awful lot of focus and dedication. Well beyond the level of “hard work” that most non-business-owners — including President Obama — assume is necessary.
The great thing about a truly FREE country is that we don’t all have to be superstar athletes or exceptionally wealthy business owners to be successful. But in that same vein, we should not castigate those folks simply because their success is different than ours, or because we feel inadequate by comparison, or “cheated” by the system. No, we should be celebrating the success of American entrepreneurial exceptionalism the same way we celebrate our phenomenal athletes.
I count myself among the people who avoid flying at all costs. Between the porno-scanning cancer boxes and the invasive pat downs, flying is simply not a desirable option for me. Beyond that, the entire strategy of the TSA is reactive when it should be proactive, and I think it should be the civic duty of each of us to do what we can to expose this agency’s abuse of power and try to restore some sanity to our travel procedures.
But lately, the TSA seems to truly be crossing the Rubicon. I’ve noticed a disturbing trend of harassment towards those with special needs and disabilities. There’s the “aggressive” pat-down of a 7-year-old child with Cerebral Palsey, the disabled man whose urostomy bag was spilled by careless/cruel TSA agents… twice, and the special needs man who was harassed for having to wear a diaper by agents in Detroit.
Today I read about TSA agents in Louisville who called at least one person a “F*!@#ng Deafie” and stole the candy he had purchased right there in the airport.
Says the man:
While I was going through the TSA, some of them started laughing in my direction. I thought it might’ve been someone behind me, but I found out otherwise.
One of them asked why they were laughing, and one of them came up to me, pointed at my shirt, laughed at me and said, “F*!@#ng deafie”. The Louisville TSA called me a “f*!@#ng deafie” and laughed at me because I was deaf, and they expected wouldn’t say anything back (or wouldn’t hear them). Make no bones about it — she was facing me and I read her lips. There was no mistake. I would later find out that they had called at least 4 other individuals the same thing.
(profanity edited by me)
The man’s account speaks for itself and honestly needs no further analysis.
I do, however, have one question for the liberals among us: is this really the kind of agency you want handling our healthcare???