No End in Sight for Surveillance Police State

No End in Sight for Surveillance Police State

 

On Tuesday the House of Representatives gutted the so-called USA Freedom Act designed to curb surveillance abuse by the NSA.

The version that emerged from Rules Committee is substantially different than the version approved by the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees two weeks ago. The watered down and weakened version is the result of the Obama administration leaning on House leaders behind closed doors.

“The USA FREEDOM Act had previously passed through two committees before being secretly watered down behind closed doors,” notes Amie Stepanovich, Senior Policy Counsel at Access, a digital rights organization. “The version we fear could now be negotiated in secret and introduced on the House floor may not move us forward on NSA reform.”

“Before this bill becomes law, Congress must make clear – either through amendments to the bill, through statements in the legislative record, or both – that mass collection of innocent people’s records isn’t allowed,” the New America Foundation writes in a statement.

“The Leadership of the House is demonstrating that it wants to end the debate about surveillance, rather than end bulk collection,” said Harley Geiger, Senior Counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology. “As amended, the bill may not prevent collection of data on a very large scale in a manner that infringes upon the privacy of Americans with no connection to a crime or terrorism. This is quite disappointing given the consensus by the public, Congress, the President, and two independent review groups that ending bulk collection is necessary.”

The gutting of the USA Freedom Act was virtually ignored by the establishment media – and for good reason: the national security state needs all-encompassing surveillance to retain its hold on power.

A document released by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals the real reason the national security state has built and continues to build an unprecedented surveillance grid. “It revealed that the agency has been monitoring the online activities of individuals it believes express ‘radical’ ideas and who have a ‘radicalizing’ influence on others,” writes Glenn Greenwald for The Guardian.

Because the NSA targets “broad categories of people,” it is capable and willing to conduct surveillance on “anyone anywhere, including in the US, whose ideas the government finds threatening,” Greenwald notes.

Obama and the establishment media routinely criticize the panopticon surveillance state, but such criticism is less than worthless. The Obama administration, as noted above, has worked behind closed doors to make sure any legislation designed to rollback NSA violations of the Constitution and the privacy of the American people is seriously weakened.


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Twenty states throw support behind lawsuit aimed at overturning Obamacare

Washington Times:

Twenty states have signed onto a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act on the grounds that it violated the Origination Clause by starting in the Senate instead of the House.

 

The brief, filed May 15 by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and endorsed by another 19 attorneys general, comes in support of a lawsuit filed by Dr. Steven Hotze of Houston, Texas, now before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

 

The Hotze case is one of two lawsuits seeking to overturn the ACA on the grounds that the bill originated in the Senate. The Constitution requires all bills for raising revenue to originate in the House.

Both lawsuits lost their first rounds in federal district court, but they’ve since been gaining momentum. The other lawsuit, filed by Iowa artist Matthew Sissel and backed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, is awaiting a decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals after oral argument was heard May 8.Scissors-32x32.png

Koch Brothers Exposed: The Chilling New Documentary Republicans Don’t Want You to See

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Koch Brothers Exposed: The Chilling New Documentary Republicans Don’t Want You to See

There is a chilling new documentary about the billionaire brothers, David and Charles Koch, that some Republicans do not want you to see. On Monday, Republican Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan tried to block an event at the Capitol unveiling the film, “Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition.” Miller claimed the documentary could violate House rules and “cross the line into partisan politics.” She unsuccessfully argued that showing the documentary was an inappropriate use of taxpayer-funded facilities. On Tuesday evening, the film event proceeded as planned. The updated documentary shows how the Koch brothers have used their vast fortunes to oppose government programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, as well as obstruct efforts to raise the minimum wage, tackle climate change and expand voting rights. We are joined by the film’s director, Robert Greenwald, founder and president of Brave New Films.

 

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: There’s a chilling new documentary about the billionaire Koch brothers that some Republicans don’t want you to see. On Monday, Republican Representative Candice Miller of Michigan tried to block an event at the Capitol unveiling the film, Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition. Miller claimed the documentary could violate House rules and “cross the line into partisan politics.” She unsuccessfully argued that showing the documentary was an inappropriate use of taxpayer-funded facilities. On Tuesday evening, the film event proceeded as planned. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont all attended and spoke at the congressional press briefing where parts of the film were aired. This is the trailer for Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition.

UNIDENTIFIED: The Koch brothers are the poster boys for the top 1 percent. Their money, their power fuel the growing inequality in America.

JIM HIGHTOWER: The name Koch has become a four-letter word. Day in and day out, we see the Kochs using their billions to purchase politicians and policy, taking a terrible toll on democracy.

SEN. HARRY REID: Koch brothers, they are bound and determined to do away with government.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Stomping on poor people.

STEPHEN COLBERT: Billionaire industrialist Charles Koch said he wants to eliminate the minimum wage.

ERICA JACKSON: I think the fact that the Koch brothers are trying to take away minimum wage is ridiculous. I don’t see how a dollar could affect them. And I couldn’t imagine anybody making that much even being concerned with somebody making minimum wage. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

JIM HIGHTOWER: The most important thing is not that they have wealth. It’s that they’re using their immense fortune to run roughshod over the American people and grab more wealth for themselves. The Kochs have set the stage by building an ever-growing right-wing presence called Kochtopus. Through this vast network, scripts are written.

GOV. RICK PERRY: We instituted a photo ID requirement for every voter.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Actors are cast.

REP. JOE BARTON: Regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act is wrong and should not be allowed to stand.

JIM HIGHTOWER: And the show is played out on a national stage. But if the curtain is pulled back, we discover that the production is all under the direction of the Koch brothers.

AMY GOODMAN: Part of the trailer of the documentary, Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition. Charles and David Koch have funneled millions of dollars to conservative candidates and causes over the last four decades, also worked tirelessly to open the floodgates for money in politics. The Koch brothers’ net worth tops $100 billion, and they’re currently tied for fourth on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans.

For more, we’re going to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by the director of the new film, Koch Brothers Exposed. Robert Greenwald is the founder and president of Brave New Films.

So, Robert, tell us what happened on Capitol Hill. What was this controversy over your film?

ROBERT GREENWALD: Well, the controversy is really another example of how the Kochs work, which is they try to change the conversation. The Koch lawyer put out a statement. Immediately, then candidates who receive money from the Kochs picked up the statement and carried their water, in an effort to really stop free speech and prevent the public airing of the clips from the film. Of course, it can’t happen today, because millions of people are going to see the full film for free on the Internet, but it was really an effort to remove the—move the conversation, so that we weren’t talking about the fundamental issue, which is the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent, but there was some silly argument about could it be shown or could it not be shown—diversion, diversion and diversion.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Robert Greenwald, your film notes that each Koch brother makes $1.8 million every hour. It would take a minimum-wage worker 76 years to make that much money. I want to turn to a new clip in your updated film, Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition. This is Erica Jackson, a minimum-wage worker.

ERICA JACKSON: Being on minimum wage, it’s really hard getting by. I live on—my house is through Section 8, but—because I can’t afford to find anything extra or anything better. It’s really hard trying to get by.

I think the fact that the Koch brothers are trying to take away minimum wage is ridiculous.

I’m just filling out the forms that, well, my public assistance, they require in order to get assistance with anything. If minimum wage was just raised a dollar or two, I wouldn’t need public assistance.

Thirteen million a day sounds wonderful. And I couldn’t imagine anybody making that much even being concerned with somebody making minimum wage. It just doesn’t make sense to me how they could even consider taking it away or lowering it. If anything, I’d think they’d be giving back and helping us.

AMY GOODMAN: And in this clip of Koch Brothers Exposed, we see how the Koch brothers—this is Charles and David Koch; there are actually four—but how Charles and David Koch have attacked labor unions.

SCOTT HAGERSTROM: Really, what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees so they don’t have the resources to fight these battles.

LEE SAUNDERS: This is a coordinated effort, where you have ALEC and Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers and their allies spending millions and millions and millions of dollars to fight unions and to take this country backwards.

RANDI WEINGARTEN: The Koch brothers want to eliminate the ability for working folk to have power at either the ballot box or the bargaining table, so they try to eliminate trade unions.

LEE SAUNDERS: The Koch brothers not only want to destroy unions, but they want to destroy the lives of working people across this country.

RANDI WEINGARTEN: They do not want to have safety regulations. They do not want workers to be able to negotiate wages and benefits.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a clip of Robert Greenwald’s new film, Koch Brothers Exposed, the 2014 edition. Robert, explain why you’ve made a new film. You had Koch Brothers Exposed, but you’ve just updated it.

ROBERT GREENWALD: The reason really was Citizens United, both the fact of Citizens United, the way the Koch brothers played a role in changing the law because they hadn’t liked it, so now they helped bring about Citizens United, and, of course, what we’re seeing now, which is just extraordinary, the sums of money, the literally hundreds of millions of dollars, spent in so many different ways.

Look, we have an amazing team of researchers. They’ve spent—they’ve literally been working 18, 20 hours a day trying to get the numbers, get the facts. So in addition to what’s public, there’s so much money that they hide. There’s the so-called Koch Bank. There are trusts set up. And we’re still tearing out our hair about how much more money that we’re not even knowing about.

So the film was an effort to talk about that and to bring up the new information—as you showed, the minimum wage clip, to update some of the information about how the Kochs give money to colleges with strings attached and the Catholic professors objecting to the money being given to Catholic University, to bring up some of the victories, where in North Carolina the local school board finally threw the Koch candidates out and brought—turned back their efforts to resegregate the schools. So there are some victories in all of this.

But most importantly, Amy, this is a tool. And the film is free. We wanted people to be able to see it for free, thanks to over 2,000 small donors, many people in your audience, and we want people to be able to take clips and sections of the film and forward it on, send the environmental clip on or send the union clip on or send the minimum wage clip.

AMY GOODMAN: You mention the environmental clip, Robert. Keystone XL—how does Charles and David Koch fit into this controversy, this battle that’s raging between the White House and many environmentalists around whether to approve the Keystone XL?

ROBERT GREENWALD: Well, the Kochs will be major beneficiaries if that is approved. They make an enormous amount of their money from oil. And if Keystone is approved, they will increase their profit, who knows how much. So they—and they get involved in every level, so it’s a good question. They get involved in funding the candidates. They get involved—who would—they get involved in funding attack ads. They get involved in think tank papers that would help justify Keystone. So it’s all across the board. They’re smart enough so they just don’t do it in any one way.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Greenwald, I want to thank you for being with us, founder and president of Brave New Films, producer, director and activist, just released an updated version of his documentary, Koch Brothers Exposed. It’s the 2014 edition. When we come back, Daniel Schulman joins us, out with a brand new book, Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty. Stay with us.

Global Warming is Melting and Burning the Planet

Both fire and ice are telling the same story: Climate change is here. Now.

– Jon Queally, staff writer

‘We’ve created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different.’ (Public domain)The world is hot.

The world is melting.

The world is burning.

This is what climate change looks like.

According to new data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Tuesday, April 2014 tied the one in 2010 as the hottest April since records began.

Also this week, new studies and surveys of scientific findings focused on climate change show that from historic flooding in the Balkans, to ‘unprecedented‘ wildfires in southern California, melting ice sheets in Antarctica to deteriorating glaciers in Greenland—the fast-pace of global warming is pushing the planet further and further into a loop of climate extremes.

It’s what author and climate campaigner Bill McKibben describes as the planet “Eaarth” in his book of the same name when he wrote: “Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen. We’ve created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth.”

On Monday of this week, the Associated Press reported how “in the past three months, at least three different studies and reports have warned that wildfires are getting bigger, that man-made climate change is to blame, and it’s only going to get worse with more fires starting earlier in the year.”

According to AP:

Since 1984, the area burned by the West’s largest wildfires — those of more than 1,000 acres — have increased by about 87,700 acres a year, according to an April study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. And the areas where fire has been increasing the most are areas where drought has been worsening and “that certainly points to climate being a major contributor,” study main author Philip Dennison of the University of Utah said Friday.

The top five years with the most acres burned have all happened in the last decade, according to federal records. From 2010-2013, about 6.4 million acres a year burned on average; in the 1980s it was 2.9 million acres a year.

Meanwhile, what doesn’t easily burn—namely the world’s polar ice sheets and glaciers—are melting at alarming rates due to what experts criticize as modern society’s fossil fuel gluttony.

In the New York Times on Wednesday, journalist Kenneth Chang explores the implications of recent studies that warn of massive melting of major ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland as well as the world’s mightiest mountain glaciers. Chang writes:

Centuries from now, a large swath of the West Antarctic ice sheet is likely to be gone, its hundreds of trillions of tons of ice melted, causing a four-foot rise in already swollen seas.

Scientists reported last week that the scenario may be inevitable, with new research concluding that some giant glaciers had passed the point of no return, possibly setting off a chain reaction that could doom the rest of the ice sheet.

For many, the research signaled that changes in the earth’s climate have already reached a tipping point, even if global warming halted immediately.

“We as people see it as closing doors and limiting our future choices,” said Richard Alley, a professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University. “Most of us personally like to keep those choices open.”

But these glaciers are just the latest signs that the thawing of earth’s icy regions is accelerating. While some glaciers are holding steady or even growing slightly, most are shrinking, and scientists believe they will continue to melt until greenhouse gas emissions are reined in.

“It’s possibly the best evidence of real global impact of warming,” said Theodore A. Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Combined with the recent publication of two milestone reports on the climate—both the UN’s IPCC Fifth Assessment Report on Climate and the U.S. National Climate Assessment—the collective scientific warning about the dangers of climate change have never been more stark or urgent.

New England poet Robert Frost was famous for examining how individuals may prefer the world to “end in fire” or “in ice.” If today’s scientists are to be believed, however, it appears that when it comes to the end of this world—at least as we’ve come to know it—everyone will have their preferences met.