Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: Senate

Leahy Offers Weak Bill to Curb NSA Eavesdropping on Americans

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, July 30, 2014:

English: Official photo of Senator Patrick Lea...

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

On Tuesday, Senator Patrick Leahy (shown, D-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced his version of the USA Freedom Act intended to strengthen a similar bill passed by the House last May. It’s scarcely an improvement and likely won’t be taken up before November, if at all in this congress.

But Leahy was optimistic nonetheless, saying that his bill, if enacted, “would represent the most significant reform of government surveillance authorities since … the USA Patriot Act 13 years ago.” That was easy for this hard-left Democrat to say, as there has been no reform of the unconstitutional Patriot Act since it was passed. In fact, without revelations provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, even these modest “reforms” would never have been presented. Without Snowden, the NSA would have continued collecting every last piece of communications data it could and storing it for future reference at one or more of its vast collection facilities around the country. Since the bill was presented so late in this Congress, it is virtually certain no action will be taken on it.

The House bill that was passed back in May was so full of loopholes and modifications by last minute amendments as to make the effort essentially ludicrous. Although offered jointly in October 2013 by Leahy and his House counterpart, Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin (the author of the Patriot Act), only the House bill ever saw the light of day. At the time, Sensenbrenner expressed great hopes for his bill:

Following 9/11, the USA Patriot Act … has helped keep Americans safe by ensuring information is shared among those responsible for defending our country and by enhancing the tools the intelligence community needs to identify and track terrorists.

But somewhere along the way, the balance between security and privacy was lost…. Washington must regain Americans’ trust in their government. The USA Freedom Act [I am offering] is an essential first step.

That first step was more like a stumble. Under the bill, according to The Guardian, “the government will still be able to collect phone data on Americans, pending a judge’s individualized order based on ‘reasonable articulable suspicion’ — the standard preferred by the NSA (National Security Agency) — of wrongdoing.” This is a far cry from the “probable cause” requirement demanded in the Fourth Amendment, but that’s only the beginning.

The bill purports to modify Section 715 of the Patriot Act while saying nothing about Section 702, which allows worldwide surveillance by the NSA. The bill allows for the continuous collection of Americans’ telephone records, according to the Open Technology Institute. Most grievously, the bill extended the Patriot Act until December of 2017.

Once the House passed its USA Freedom Act, 303 to 121, those opposed, including Republicans Darrell Issa, Ted Poe, and Raul Labrador and Democrat Zoe Lofgren expressed their disappointment with it. Said Lofgren, “[This] bill will actually not end bulk collection, regrettably.” It shifts collection responsibilities from the NSA to the telephone companies to which the NSA has virtually unlimited access, so it’s a cosmetic change only. The bill requires the NSA to get permission from the FISA Court, but FISA is not known for having a high regard for the freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights.

When Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) saw what the House had wrought, he said he was “gravely concerned that the changes that have been made to the House version of this bill have watered it down so far that it fails to protect Americans from suspicionless mass surveillance.”

Not surprisingly, the White House endorsed the watered-down version of the bill:

The Administration strongly supports … the USA Freedom Act…. The Administration applauds and appreciates the strong bipartisan effort that led to the formulation of this bill, which heeds the President’s call on this important issue.

The bill ensures our intelligence and law enforcement professionals have the authorities they need to protect the Nation, while further ensuring that individuals’ privacy is appropriately protected.

Especially grievous is the power that continues to be granted to the so-called FISA “court.” This is the secret court that first came to light when Edward Snowden in 2013 leaked a top-secret order issued by the court requiring a subsidiary of Verizon to provide a daily, on-going feed of all call detail records — including those for domestic calls — to the NSA. As Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at Stanford Law School, explained,

The Administration and the intelligence community believe they can do whatever they want, regardless of the laws Congress passes, so long as they can convince one of the judges appointed to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to agree. This isn’t the rule of law. This is a coup d’etat.

Leahy’s bill allegedly will tighten up the House bill somewhat, creating a “special advocate” for liberty at the FISA courts, and limiting the NSA from vacuuming up data from an entire zip code or all the records from a communications service provider. It also declassifies some of those FISA court orders which have remained sealed and protected from public view. In its tentative support for Leahy’s new offering, Nadia Kayyall of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), said,

The legislation may not completely end suspicionless surveillance … it allows the NSA to get a second set of records (a second “hop”) with an undefined “direct connection” to the first specific selection term.

Because the “direct connection” standard is vague, the government may seek to construe that phrase to mean less than reasonable suspicion.

Translation: The NSA, under Leahy’s new stronger, tighter, more restrictive language, may continue to do whatever it pleases in collecting and storing for later use all private communications from Americans.

Leahy’s bill will probably never see the light of day in this congress and will have to be reintroduced in the next session if anything is to be done to rein in the NSA’s collection of data. In the meantime, the NSA’s vacuuming of innocent Americans’ private communication continues unabated.

 

 

Obama: A Law unto Himself

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, July 2, 2014:

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Events of recent months have clearly revealed Barack Obama for what he is: a revolutionary progressive determined to change the United States into a fascist system of controls over every aspect of a citizen’s life. In spite of a recent series of events that would have humiliated and shamed a less committed totalitarian into silence and withdrawal, Obama instead has pressed on with his agenda.

On Saturday, in his weekly press conference, Obama announced that he was taking things into his own hands:

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Study: All Jobs Growth Since 2000 Went to Immigrants

This article was first published at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, June 30, 2014: 

 

Immigrants just arrived from Foreign Countries...

Immigrants just arrived from Foreign Countries–Immigrant Building, Ellis Island, New York Harbor.

With the release of the report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) last week, Director of Research Steven Camarota drove the final nail into the coffin of immigration reform for this year, saying:

Government data show that since 2000 all of the net gain in the number of working-age (16 to 65) people holding a job has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal).

This is remarkable given that native-born Americans accounted for two-thirds of the growth in the total working-age population.… There were still fewer working-age natives holding a job in the first quarter of 2014 than in 2000, while the number of immigrants with a job was 5.7 million above the 2000 level.

All of the net increase in employment went to immigrants in the last 14 years.

 This effectively obliterates the assumptions underlying the immigration reform bill SB 744, which was promoted by a bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans (called by some observers the “Gang of Eight”) and passed by the Senate, 68-32, a year ago last week. That bill was based on several key assumptions: 1) that there is a labor shortage in the country, 2) that there are some jobs only immigrants want, and 3) that higher levels of immigration would stimulate the economy so that everyone, native-born or immigrant, would find more work.

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The Media Ignored the Real Hero of the Las Vegas Shootings

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, June 11, 2014: 

 

Old English Sheepdog-Nana

Old English Sheepdog-Nana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The media coverage of the murderous attacks on policemen and Las Vegas Walmart shoppers on Sunday predictably ignored the actions of one individual who confronted one of the attackers, giving the police time to neutralize the threats before they became horrendous. His name: Joseph Robert Wilcox.

Largely ignored in USA Today’s reporting of the event, and ignored entirely by the Los Angeles Times, Wilcox’s role in ending the attack before it got out of hand was nearly invisible. USA Today referred to Wilcox as

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Oklahoma is the next state to Affirm gold and silver as Legal Tender

1907 Double Eagle, Liberty Head, Obverse

1907 Double Eagle, Liberty Head, Obverse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Wednesday, June 4, Oklahoma joined Utah, Texas and Louisiana in affirming that gold and silver coins are (as they always have been under the Constitution) legal tender in the payment of debts in the state. On the surface this seems almost silly: affirming a right that already exists in Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution. But it is much more than that.

 

Senate Bill 862 which Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed into law this week says:

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Large Employers face huge fines for not Complying with ObamaCare rules

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A just-discovered ruling by a writer at the New York Times earlier this week threatens to upend various employer-sponsored health plans and ultimately cost employees more for coverage they likely won’t be using. The ruling by the Internal Revenue Service back in September negates an option that many employers with more than 50 employees were considering: canceling their plans and just reimbursing their employees with funds to go buy their own coverage on the ObamaCare exchanges.

This option, according to the IRS, would cost employers $100 per day for each employee

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Obama Picks Another Leftist for Housing Secretary

English: Cropped picture of Julian Castro at a...

Julian Castro at a UTSA event. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Determined to stuff every nook and cranny of his administration with hard-core leftists, news leaked on Saturday that the President will nominate San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (no relation, at least by birth, to Fidel) as the next head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He’s a perfect fit.

During a reshuffling of his cabinet, the president is moving Sylvia Burwell from his Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and moving current HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to take her place. That leaves the HUD spot open for Castro. The official announcement is expected soon.

What makes the appointment especially important is

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Faux Republican Conservative Ben Sasse wins in Nebraska

Nebraska, Our Nation's Capital

Nebraska, Our Nation’s Capital (Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

The winner of the Nebraska Republican primary on Tuesday was Midland University President Ben Sasse, and Tea Partiers rejoiced. Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, was delighted to learn of Sasse’s victory, exulting that he would add to the influence of other Tea Party favorites (i.e., Ted Cruz and Rand Paul) already in Washington:

They’ve got reinforcements coming in January. This is a win not just for Ben Sasse but for fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets.

She probably hadn’t read Dean Clancy’s musings on whether Sasse is the real deal, or not. Early in February, Clancy, Vice President for Public Policy at FreedomWorks, posted a blog entitled

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Michigan Senator wants to close “Tax Inversion” Loophole

United States Senate election in Michigan, 2002

United States Senate election in Michigan, 2002 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The recent bid by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to acquire British-based drug maker AstraZeneca has given the senior senator from Michigan, Carl Levin, just the opening he has been seeking: to offer his bill prevent such “tax inversions” from taking place. Said Levin:

It’s become increasingly clear that a loophole in our tax laws allowing these inversions threatens to devastate federal tax receipts.

We have to close that loophole.

If the deal between Pfizer and AstraZeneca (currently in doubt) actually takes place, the tax inversion would allow Pfizer to consider Great Britain as

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Another Investigation Confirms Harry Reid’s Long History of Corruption

Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Senator from ...

Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Senator from Nevada and Majority Leader of the United States Senate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The seemingly impervious Teflon-proof senior Senator from Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has been forced to respond to charges made in a two-part investigation into his self-dealings at RealClearPolitics published last week. The initial investigation was filled with corruption charges and responses from Reid’s PR people in a failed attempt to deflect them. In the past such charges were simply ignored and passed off. Reid was willing to let time pass and memories fade. Not this time, apparently.

Adam 0’Neal led off with

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HHS Sebelius resigns, to be Replaced by Budget Director Burwell

Official portrait of United States Health and ...

Few noticed but at last week’s Rose Garden announcement by the president that his administration’s signature healthcare initiative had exceeded his 7 million signups goal by the end of March, he failed to mention Kathleen Sebelius’ name even though she was sitting right in front of him. On Thursday Sebelius made it official: she was leaving her post as head of Health and Human Services.

More than a month earlier

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Truth Stranger than Fiction: Anti-gun Senator Arrested for gun Trafficking

English: Leland Yee, Member of the California ...

Leland Yee, Member of the California State Senate from the 8th district (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This article was first published at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, March 28, 2014:

The headlines are right out of a John Grisham or Tom Clancy novel, only these authors couldn’t have come up with anything like this:

“Senator Charged with Trafficking in Sweeping FBI Probe”

“Senator Released on $500,000 bond, Stripped of Passport”

“Senator’s Arrest casts Light on Corruption case”

“Senator Indicted on Corruption Charges”

In California on Wednesday, the FBI arrested State Senator Leland Yee on seven counts of political corruption and gun trafficking, along with 25 other individuals involved in the schemes. Also snared was Lee’s campaign finance manager, Keith Jackson, and Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, the head of a notorious and vicious Chinese criminal syndicate that

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Anti-Gun California State Senator Charged with Gun Trafficking

English: Leland Yee, Member of the California ...

Leland Yee, Member of the California State Senate from the 8th district (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a move that surprised nearly everyone who knew him, California State Senator Leland Yee was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday on felony charges ranging from gun trafficking to soliciting illegal campaign contributions in exchange for political favors. At about the time he was released on a $500,000 bond the State Senate’s President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg called for Yee to resign or else be suspended. Steinberg also

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Preliminary Polls Show Chances Improving for Repubicans to take back the Senate in November

Alan Abramowitz introducing former foster yout...

Alan Abramowitz (Photo credit: flguardian2)

Despite the elections being seven months away – a virtual lifetime in politics – pollsters are coming out of the woodwork to offer their statistical opinions on the outcome in November.  Most of them agree that control of the Senate, now firmly in Democrat hands, is

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First Senate Rejection of an Obama Appointee

For the first time since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed the rules – installing the “nuclear option” back in November so that Obama’s appointments would find even easier approval in the Democrat-controlled Senate – on Wednesday the Senate rejected one of his nominees. The vote was 47-52 with seven reluctant Democrat senators, some of whom are facing reelection challengers in November, voting against their party and their president. The nominee, Debo Adegbile, was just too radical for them and

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$100 Billion in Improper Welfare Payments Uncovered

News that the federal government spends $100 billion improperly caused barely a ripple in light of its enormous budget and the continuous flow of revelations of such waste and corruption that have provided journalists with full-time careers in tracking them down and writing about them.

$100 billion is less than 3 percent of the federal government’s annual budget and most observers are probably happy that it isn’t any worse than that. Two such journos at National Review uncovered

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More Hidden Costs of Obamacare Coming to Light

The latest tally shows that Obamacare enrollments are just over 2 million, falling far short of the estimated 3.3 million expected to sign up by January 1st, and putting into serious doubt the goal of 7 million by the end of March.

At first blush, it’s the premiums. Many are learning to their dismay that

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1.3 million Lose Federal Unemployment Benefits, Another 2 million to Follow

Because the budget deal signed into law last week didn’t extend federal unemployment benefits, some 1.3 million people won’t be getting their $1,166 monthly checks, starting in January. By June another 1.9 million will be cut off.

Keynesians are sputtering nonsense about the need to extend benefits. President Obama called it an

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Senator Tom Coburn’s “Holier-than-Thou” release of his 2013 “Wastebook”

In Tuesday’s press release Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) announced the publication of his annual “Wastebook” which highlights Congress’ “most egregious spending” while at the same time distancing himself from the big spenders and earmarkers in Congress who provided fodder for his book:

While politicians in Washington spent much of 2013 complaining about sequestration’s impact on domestic programs and our national defense, we still managed to provide benefits to the Fort Hood shooter, study romance novels, help the State Department buy Facebook fans and even help NASA study Congress…

What’s lacking is the common sense and courage in Washington to make those choices – and passage of fiscally-responsible bills – possible.

Coburn then provided some teasers out of the 100 examples in his Wastebook:

The Popular Romance Project has received nearly $1 million from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) since 2010 to “explore the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs and internet fan fiction…

The military has destroyed more than 170 million pounds worth of useable vehicles and other military equipment [in Afghanistan] … rather than sell it or ship it back home…

In January, 2013, Congress passed a bill to provide $60.4 billion for [victims of] Hurricane Sandy. However, instead of rushing aid to the people who need it most, state-level officials … spent [$65 million of it] on tourism-related TV ads…

Since NASA is no longer conducting space flights, they have plenty of time and money to fund … the “Green Ninja” in which a man dressed in a Green Ninja costume teaches children about global warming.

While promoting his book recently on CBS News, Coburn tried to distance himself from any responsibility for such “egregious spending” by asking rhetorically: “Where was the adult in the room when this was going on?” Interviewer Nancy Cordes then asked if any of his previous editions of Wastebook had made any impact or had reduced or eliminated any of the more outrageous examples of waste:

Cordes: Have you ever gotten any traction in Congress, where members say “We’re actually going to get rid of this?”

Coburn: No. They don’t pay attention to it. It’s hard work to get rid of junk, it’s hard work to do oversight, it’s hard word to hold agencies accountable. And so what they would rather do is look good at home, get re-elected, and continue to spend money, and that’s Republican and Democrat alike.

What Cordes failed to ask at that moment would have been the perfect follow-on question:

How does your effort, then, and your voting record, separate you from them? Doesn’t this Wastebook of yours cost a lot of taxpayer money? Isn’t this part of your attempt to look good at home while providing cover for your own votes for some of these projects? Isn’t this part of your attempt to continue to get reelected?

Unfortunately there is no record of Cordes asking, or of Coburn’s response. But in July 2007 when Coburn criticized pork-barrel spending by Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson that would benefit Nelson’s son’s employer with millions of dollars of taxpayer money, newspapers in both Nebraska and Oklahoma noted that Coburn himself failed to criticize similar earmarks that he voted for that benefited his own state of Oklahoma.

In May, 2012 Coburn voted for H.R. 2072, to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank with increased lending limits backed by taxpayer monies from $100 billion to $140 billion. According to analysts assessing his vote, the federal government has no constitutional authority to risk taxpayers’ money “to provide loans the private sector considers too risky to provide.” Those analysts added:

Indeed, U.S. government-backed export financing is a form of corporate welfare, and if the Ex-Im Bank goes bust (as happened to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae), the taxpayers will get stuck holding the bag.

Perhaps Coburn can be forgiven for not knowing that such wasteful spending is part of a plan to reduce America’s influence in the world, first clearly laid out when Coburn was just 10 years old, in 1958 in Indianapolis, Indiana. At a meeting in December, candy maker Robert Welch spoke for three days to some friends about the direction the country was headed, claiming it was part of a plan to “surrender American sovereignty, piece-by-piece and step-by-step, to various international organizations…”. Part one of that plan was:

Greatly expanded government spending for every conceivable means of getting rid of ever larger sums of American money as wastefully as possible.

Other parts included:

Higher and then much higher taxes…

An increasingly unbalanced budget despite the higher taxes…

Greatly increased socialistic controls over every operation of our economy and every activity of our daily lives. This is to be accompanied naturally and automatically by a correspondingly huge increase in the size of our bureaucracy and in both the cost and reach of our domestic government.

Coburn’s report illustrates the success of that plan to which he himself is contributing. The man has feet of clay. He not only is the author of Wastebook but a contributor to it as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Ryan is a pragmatist after all

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, December 13th, 2013:

The old saying, “The measure of a man is the size of the thing that gets his goat” certainly applies now to the erstwhile conservative Republican from Wisconsin, Rep. Paul Ryan. Working in closed-door sessions with liberal Democrats over the past two weeks, Ryan has finally revealed the size of his goat:

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Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.