The Big Think

December 16, 2014

Edward Snowden: The Untold Story

Filed under: Politics,Technology — jasony @ 1:05 pm

Absolutely worth the read:

Edward Snowden: The Untold Story | WIRED: “Snowden and his colleagues had discussed the routine deception around the breadth of the NSA’s spying many times, so it wasn’t surprising to him when they had little reaction to Clapper’s testimony. ‘It was more of just acceptance,’ he says, calling it ‘the banality of evil’—a reference to Hannah Arendt’s study of bureaucrats in Nazi Germany.

‘It’s like the boiling frog,’ Snowden tells me. ‘You get exposed to a little bit of evil, a little bit of rule-breaking, a little bit of dishonesty, a little bit of deceptiveness, a little bit of disservice to the public interest, and you can brush it off, you can come to justify it. But if you do that, it creates a slippery slope that just increases over time, and by the time you’ve been in 15 years, 20 years, 25 years, you’ve seen it all and it doesn’t shock you. And so you see it as normal. And that’s the problem, that’s what the Clapper event was all about. He saw deceiving the American people as what he does, as his job, as something completely ordinary. And he was right that he wouldn’t be punished for it, because he was revealed as having lied under oath and he didn’t even get a slap on the wrist for it. It says a lot about the system and a lot about our leaders.’ Snowden decided it was time to hop out of the water before he too was boiled alive.”

The rest of this excellent interview details even more appalling behavior that the secret organizations commit.

People say Snowden betrayed his oath to his country. I believe it’s more like he betrayed his oath to the government, and the government is the one that betrayed the country. Betraying his oath to a betrayer is simply proof that he’s back on the right side.

I’m pretty much coming to the conclusion that I’m glad he did what he did.

December 10, 2014

Fault Lines

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:31 am

Fault Lines:

“In each of these stories, two deep and consequential fault lines are evident. These fault lines aren’t about the usual left-right or elite-populist divides. They’re not solely about race or gender. They’re more fundamental — and more dangerous to the nation.

First, the once-honored and vital role of objective journalism in our society is at a crisis point. Members of the media know how reckless, sloppy, and partisan many in their field have become, but like a gambler going all-in, they keep tempting Americans to call their bluff.

The media wonders why a growing number of Americans no longer trust what they see in the news, but it’s not a mystery. The media’s customers have been burned over and over by bias, and by reporters with an agenda or an axe to grind. They’ve searched for news and information, only to be forced to piece it together on their own when the Official Media decides they’re going to ignore a story. Importantly, they’re exhausted by the constant lectures (disguised as news stories) that they’re ignorant racists, fatties, and hayseeds living in Free Market Jesus Paradise and killing the planet with their SUVs and their Walmart fashion sense.

Many reporters and editors loathe how aware people have become of the journalistic process…

…The left’s desire for separate legal and social standards is a mortal danger to this country. The moment we have two standards is the moment we’ve abandoned the constitutional and moral grounding of this country. So far, conservatives have largely just grunted, “no” and hoped the madness will pass. It seems unlikely, and the reason traces back to the media’s problem: the political fantasy of the Left is being granted legitimacy by a media unwilling to stop picking sides and playing favorites.

The fault lines in the Republic are real. On one side, the social justice warriors are screaming for the end of a nation where one standard applies to all. On the other, it seems their cheerleaders and enablers are willing to play along until the earthquake comes.”

I’ll say it again- fix the media and you fix the country.

Broken Badges

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:13 am

Applying ‘Broken Windows’ to the Police: “‘If tolerating broken windows leads to more broken windows and escalating crime,’ he asks, ‘what impact does tolerating police misconduct have?’ “

Interesting perspective. You can certainly argue that opposing this idea is tantamount to accepting the escalation of police misconduct. Good for the goose and all…

December 9, 2014

Worse than racism

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:55 pm

Worse than racism:

“The truly terrifying thing about Eric Garner’s death is that I don’t think the cops in that video hated anybody. They were just doing their job. And their job included strangling a man to death for having sold ‘loosies’ – untaxed cigarettes. Something he wasn’t doing when he was killed [!!]; he had just broken up a fight that the police came to investigate.

Garner had just broken up a fight. The police hassled him, based on his record as a (gasp!) vendor of untaxed cigarettes, and when he protested the force of law came down on him and snuffed him.

In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville wrote a book called Democracy In America that has been justly celebrated for its perception about the young American republic ever since. In it, he warned of the dangers of what he called ‘soft despotism’ – that ‘covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules’, all justified in soothing ways to achieve worthy objectives. Such as discouraging people from smoking by heavily taxing cigarettes.

Eric Garner died in a New York minute because ‘soft despotism’ turned hard enough to kill him in cold blood. There was no anger there, no hate; the police simply failed to grasp the moral disproportion between the ‘crimes’ he wasn’t even committing at the time and their use of force. And an investigating grand jury did no better.

Violent racists, as evil as they are, generally understand on some level that they’re doing wrong. That understanding is written all over the excuses they make. These cops didn’t need an excuse. They were doing their job. They were enforcing the law. The casual, dispassionate, machinelike brutality with which Garner was strangled reveals a moral vacuum more frightening than mere racism could ever be.”

Grubered

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 5:51 pm

Ten Stories NBC Nightly News Aired Instead of Covering Gruber Scandal:

“Below are ten stories that, unlike the Gruber videos, were deemed worthy of coverage by NBC Nightly News during the past month. With Gruber himself set to answer questions at a congressional hearing later today, NBC has a fresh opportunity tonight to fix the glaring omission of the past 30 days — the question is, will they once again pretend the Gruber story doesn’t exist?”

Don’t hold your breath. We have a very close family member who considers (him/her)self up-to-date because they “watch the news”. This individual had no idea who Jonathan Gruber was.

Fix the media and you fix the country.

I’m with Stupid

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:47 am

Hilarious, pointed, and on-target.

Jonathan Gruber to face hostile House panel, tea party ‘I’m with Stupid’ T-shirts – Washington Times:

“A tea party group said its members will greet Jonathan Gruber, the man at the center of Obamacare’s troubled public image, with T-shirts reading ‘I’m with Stupid’ when he shows up to defend himself Tuesday before what’s likely to be a hostile congressional panel…

The T-shirts, which were produced by Tea Party Patriots, are another symbol of how controversial Mr. Gruber has become as he prepares to face the House oversight committee.

‘With all that’s going on in the Capitol, we didn’t want Mr. Gruber’s curtain call to go unnoticed,’ said Jenny Beth Martin, Tea Party Patriots co-founder. ‘We commemorated his appearance, and in the spirit of the Season, we’d like to offer the Obamacare architect a dozen. He can use them as stocking stuffers for the economically unsophisticated.’”

Too bad we won’t see pics in the media.

December 6, 2014

Convene

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 3:10 pm

If you think everything in the political world is hunky dory and our country is in fine shape on a great path then move along. Otherwise, this is worth a watch regardless of your particular party.

December 5, 2014

Unexpectedly

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 7:43 am

Healthcare.gov average premiums increasing in 2015: “Obama officials say the average prices for healthcare coverage on Healthcare.gov will increase in 2015, the Associated Press reported Thursday.”

Remember:

“…a healthcare plan that will save the average family $2500 on their premiums”

—Barack Obama, 2011

“if you had a law that said healthy people are going to pay in — if you made it explicit that healthy people pay in sick people get money it would not have passed. Okay.

Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically call it the stupidity of the American voter, or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical in getting the thing to pass”

—Jonathan Gruber

December 1, 2014

Hopey Changey

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:56 am

Instapundit: “Gallup: Under ObamaCare, Record Numbers Of Americans Foregoing Medical Care Because Of Cost. ‘One in three Americans has put off seeking medical treatment in 2014 due to high costs, according to Gallup — the highest percentage since Gallup began asking the question in 2001. Thirty-three percent of Americans have delayed medical treatment for themselves or their families because of the costs they’d have to pay, according to the survey. Obamacare, of course, had promised that it would help make health care more affordable for everyone, but the number of people who can’t afford a trip to the doctor has actually risen three points since 2013, before most Obamacare provisions took effect.’”

Crickets from the people who supported it.

November 26, 2014

Admission Against Interest

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:31 pm

Self Grubering:

“Barack Obama has spent the past several days insisting that his changes in enforcement of immigration law and regulation is entirely constitutional, since it doesn’t actually change or conflict with statute. It only took a heckler in a crowd last night to get Obama to brag that he ‘changed the law’ — a process which the supposed Constitutional law scholar would know is impossible without Congress:

‘Don’t just start yelling, young ladies,’ Obama said as multiple women stood up to demand that Obama stop deporting people.

‘I let you holler,’ he said as they continued shouting. ‘You’ve got to listen to me too.’

Obama said that the protesters were right about a lot of illegal immigrants getting deported but that he was acting to change it.

‘What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,’ Obama said.

Just to be clear, executive action — whether through formal EOs or other kinds of directives — cannot ‘change the law.’ They can only act as guidelines on how to act within the law. Any change to statute has to originate in Congress through passage of a bill, and then signed by the President to take effect. This, in fact, is exactly what Republicans have accused Obama of attempting — a change in statute by executive edict, a move that would be unconstitutional and illegitimate.

If he admitted it in public, and then confirmed his admission with further emphasis (thereby denying the “I was misinterpreted/I misspoke” defense, then I don’t see how anyone can insist that the President’s actions were legal.

If Bush had done this Progressives would have shred the sky and torn down the sun. Now?

The silence of his supporters is deafening.

November 25, 2014

Discretion

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:54 am

I, Barack: Immigration Order a Sorry Day for America’s Republic | RedFlagNews.com: “The President’s rationale is ‘prosecutorial discretion,’ but he is stretching that legal concept beyond normal understanding. The executive branch does have discretion about whom to prosecute. But this typically extends to individual cases, or to setting priorities due to limited resources such as prosecuting cocaine but not marijuana use.

Mr. Obama claims he is using his discretion to focus on such high deportation priorities as criminals, but he is going much further and is issuing an order exempting from deportation entire classes of people—as many as five million. Justice’s OLC memo claims there is no such categorical exemption, and that immigration officials can still deport someone if they want to, but the memo offers no measures by which to make that ‘complex judgment.’ In practice it will almost never happen.”

A “line item veto” is a process by which the Chief Executive can selectively cross out specific provisions of a law before signing it, thereby passing a gutted or diminished version of what Congress intended. The 1998 Clinton v. City of New York Supreme Court case struck down this practice:

the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the line-item veto as granted in the Line Item Veto Act of 1996 violated the Presentment Clause of the United States Constitution because it impermissibly gave the President of the United States the power to unilaterally amend or repeal parts of statutes that had been duly passed by the United States Congress. The decision of the Court, in a six-to-three majority, was delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens.

One wonders just how the White House legal council maneuvered around this legal ruling. If it’s unconstitutional for a President to unilaterally amend or repeal parts of a statute via a line item veto, it’s reasonable to assume that the Court will find it similarly illegal to do so using executive orders. Otherwise (as has been commonly stated) there is effectively no limit to Executive powers, and Congress can go home.

November 24, 2014

You Don’t Say?

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:39 am

Attkisson: Faith In Government Has Declined: “Having participated in politics and journalism from the front lines of our nation’s capital for many years, Sharyl Attkisson, the veteran former CBS correspondent, worries that when our government can get away with lies, a ‘climate of distrust in America’ spreads.

Speaking about the Benghazi terrorist attack that happened on Sept. 11, 2012, Attkisson discusses the pattern the Obama administration has followed. ‘The story that we got after [Benghazi] first happened is so drastically different in almost every aspect from the truth that came out in subsequent months, slowly over time.’

Attkisson believes, based on her experience from the inside of the mainstream media, that this was designed as ‘part of a strategy.’

‘The public hears bits of truth dribbled out in little bits where they couldn’t quite put it together in one outrageous ball,’ she said. ‘Had they known what had happened and what had gone wrong, it could have affected the election, and they really didn’t want that to happen.’…

…When mainstream journalists stop providing a critical check and balance on the White House — either due to ideology or pressure — the victim, according to Attkisson is ‘the public.’

‘They are getting a really skewed picture of what is happening in government and the news,’ she claims. ‘They are getting narrow slices of propaganda,’ she added, admitting that America is starting to resemble regimes who manage the news for their citizens.”

Fix the media and you fix the country.

November 22, 2014

You’ve Been Grubered!

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:32 am

If You Like Your Obamacare Health Plan, You Can Keep It, If HHS Doesn’t Pick a New One For You:

“Department of Health and Human Services announced that it is considering changing Obamacare’s auto-renewal rules so that, within the health law’s exchanges, instead of being automatically renewed into your current health plan, you’d be moved into the lowest cost plan from the same service tier.

From the attached fact sheet: 

Under current rules, consumers who do not take action during the openenrollment window are re-enrolled in the same plan they were in the previous year, even if that plan experienced significant premium increases. We are considering alternative options for re-enrollment, under which consumers who take no action might be defaulted into a lower cost plan rather than their current plan.”

It’s not just auto-reenrollment. It’s auto-reassignment, at least for those who pick that option. Basically, if you like your plan, but don’t go out of your way to intentionally re-enroll, the kind and wise folks at HHS or state health exchanges might just pick a new plan—perhaps with different doctors, clinics, cost structures, and benefit options—for you. And if you want to switch back? Good luck once open enrollment is closed. There’s always next year.

A hassle? Maybe. But have faith: They know what’s best.

At this point it’s clear the people Gruber was talking about were the folks who kept insisting that this whole house of cards would work. The smartest among them are slowly coming around. Unfortunately, most of them have taken to the hip new belief that the President can make laws on his own. Because BushReagan!

Let’s hope they get educated before too much damage is done.

Quoth

Filed under: Politics,Quoth — jasony @ 7:42 am

“With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order — that’s just not the case.

“The problem is [interesting phrasing, that, btw], is that I’m the President of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.”

“…essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So that’s not an option.”

“[I]f, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws. That’s part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws.

“…I never have a green light [to push the limits of executive power]. I’m bound by the Constitution; I’m bound by separation of powers. There are some things we can’t do.

“And what I’m proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve. … It is not simply a matter of us just saying we’re going to violate the law. That’s not our tradition [correction: that’s not our law. Subtle difference there. Laws are iron, traditions are smoke]. The great thing about this country is we have this wonderful process of democracy, and sometimes it is messy, and sometimes it is hard, but ultimately, justice and truth win out.”

The “Constitutional Scholar” Barack Obama.

Update: Bonus quote from 2008!

“The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m president of the United States of America.”

November 21, 2014

Blast from the Past

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:06 am

Howie Carr: :

“Pop quiz time. Who said the following?

Number one: ‘There’s no denying that many blacks share the same anxieties as many whites about the wave of illegal immigration flooding our Southern border — a sense that what’s happening now is fundamentally different from what has gone on before. Not all of these fears are irrational.’

Number two: ‘Taxpayers simply cannot continue to sustain new populations the size of San Diego or the state of Nevada every year.’

Number three: ‘If this huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefits to the economy … it also threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans and put strains on an already over-burdened safety net.’

Number four: ‘Americans have sat freely around a bountiful dinner table. The table is becoming overcrowded. People are squeezing in and elbowing each other to get what they want. Unless changes are made, our dinner table eventually will collapse, and no one will have security and opportunity.’

Number five: ‘Native-born Americans suspect that it is they, and not the immigrant, who are being forced to adapt.’

The answers are: Barack Obama, numbers 1, 3 and 5. Harry Reid, 2 and 4.

But that was then (in Barack’s case 2006, in Reid’s 1994) and this is now. And these illegal aliens are willing to do the work that Americans will no longer do — namely, vote Democrat. Even in Oregon, voters on Nov. 4 approved a ballot question nixing drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens, 2-1.

So a new electorate must be imported. And damn the consequences, which are already disastrous, if you believe the Democrats’ own public statements.

It doesn’t matter. The Constitution doesn’t give Obama the right to unilaterally enact legislation he can’t get through Congress. It specifically forbids it. He’s said as much himself, publicly, more than 20 times.”

“The New York Times gleefully endorsed this calamity yesterday, with this caveat: “Details have not been announced, but it seems …”

I guess Obama will have to issue the executive order to see what’s in it. What could possibly go wrong — right, Nancy Pelosi?”

Quoth

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:48 am

Instapundit: “‘The growing impression that politicians don’t play straight with their constituents is completely toxic, particularly to Democrats, who actually want to use government to improve people’s lives. It’s one thing to downplay unpalatable choices made in the law; it’s another to never disclose the consequences of legislation until it’s too late for anyone to react. Combine that with the moustache-twirling of a Jonathan Gruber, saying that the idiots should be happy for what they got, and you have basically every conservative stereotype about liberal elites confirmed.’”

I have a hard time mustering up any pity: they did it to themselves.

November 13, 2014

Fool Me Once (well, not even then)

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:16 am

Ron Fournier, admitted Obamacare cheerleader:

[Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber] called you stupid. He admitted that the White House lied to you. Its officials lied to all of us—Republicans, Democrats, and independents; rich and poor; white and brown; men and women.

Liberals should be the angriest. Not only were they personally deceived, but the administration’s dishonest approach to health care reform has helped make Obamacare unpopular while undermining the public’s faith in an activist government. A double blow to progressives.

I’ve been making this point on social media for a couple of days now. When Gruber talks about “stupid” Americans who were fooled, by definition he is not talking about conservatives. Or independents who opposed Obamacare. We were never fooled. The “stupid” ones are those who believed in Obamacare — according to Jonathan Gruber, the man paid about $400,000 to design Obamacare.

So yes, liberals ought to be the angriest. Democrats ought to be enraged. They lost their majorities because of Obamacare. They ought to be calling out for Gruber to explain himself. Instead, they have either gone silent are they are defending him.

Which makes them stupid again, no? They’re defending someone who insulted them and whose deception cost them their power. They just don’t realize it.

Fournier isn’t defending the lies.

And so even I have to admit, as a supporter, that Obamacare was built and sold on a foundation of lies. No way around it, unless you’re willing to accept a political system that colors its lies—the reds, the whites, and the blues.

Those of us saying from the beginning that the numbers didn’t add up were not fooled, and are not in the “stupid” category now. But enough with the name calling already. It’s acknowledged that the ACA has been an expensive fiasco (our health insurance has gone up by 40% this year alone). Let’s stop defending the past and go back to the drawing board, bipartisanlike, and fix it for the future.

November 12, 2014

Quoth

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 12:31 pm

Obamacare’s Foundation of Lies – NationalJournal.com:

“A lie is apolitical, or at least it should be. If there is one thing that unites clear-headed Americans, it’s a belief that our leaders must be transparent and honest.

And yet, there seem to be two types of lies in our political discourse: Those that hurt ‘my party’ and ‘my policies'; and those that don’t. We condemn the former and forgive the latter—cheapening the bond of trust that enables a society to progress….

…”It’s hard to know what might have happened if the truth had won the day,” writes Post columnist Kathleen Parker. “But we do know that truth squandered is trust lost.”

And so even I have to admit, as a supporter, that Obamacare was built and sold on a foundation of lies. No way around it, unless you’re willing to accept a political system that colors its lies—the reds, the whites, and the blues.”

Give the people the truth, straight-up, and let us decide. Saying “we have to sign it to find out what’s in it” is the most irresponsible form of “leadership”.

And silence in the face of these sorts of revelations is tantamount to support.

UPDATE: And a third video has arisen. Jonathan Gruber, speaking in 2012 about the proposed tax on Cadillac plans:

“It’s a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter,” Gruber said to the University of Rhode Island.

He was speaking about the Cadillac tax and how it came to be when the “second hero arose” in John Kerry, who said “we’re gonna tax those evil insurance companies.”

By doing so, the general public mistook the removal of a tax break, and thought they were getting a tax increase.

“You just can’t get through, it’s just politically impossible,” Gruber continued in his speech.
The purpose of the Cadillac tax, Gruber claims, was to force the “overinsured” people to cut back from their benefits and, in doing so, save about $250 billion.

Again: if you support this, fine. If you oppose this, fine. But (and here’s my point): don’t lie to us to get it through. Especially if you admit later that telling the American voter the truth would have prevented it from passing. I honestly do not see how even supporters of the ACA/Obamacare could be comfortable with this sort of precedent being set. Is it ends-justify-the-means thinking, or shortsightedness? That they think this kind of political obfuscation won’t possibly come back to bite them in the backside when they’re in the minority?

Those of us who tend to see things farther ahead are very uncomfortable about the precedents being set right now. And ultimately, that is why I keep going on and on about this. Not the ACA in particular (bad though that has turned out to be), but the growing habit of a government “of the people” is increasingly giving way to technocrats who do things behind our back and without out understanding. This. Is. Not. Good.

November 11, 2014

“IF IN DOUBT…TAKE IT!”

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:34 pm

“IF IN DOUBT…TAKE IT!” Behind Closed Doors, Government Officials Make Shocking Comments About Civil Forfeiture:

“‘Just think what you could do as the legal department. We could be czars. We could own the city. We could be in the real estate business. We could become Houston, Texas, no zoning. Whatever, who knows. But it’s amazing that is going on.’”

The percentage of these cases that are actually crime related is shrinking versus the percentage that are against normal, helpless citizens with no recourse. These people should be in jail, not hiding behind a badge or law degree. It’s despicable.

Bonus quote:

Dick Morris: But if the jury finds that there was [no drug dealing], and finds that the person is innocent, and you forfeited the house, you don’t give it back. You keep the money.

Beth Grossman: Well, first of all, people are not found innocent, they are found not guilty, because the common law cannot achieve—

Dick Morris: That is hysterical. You’re saying that it’s okay to seize the house because they’re found not guilty? Rather than innocent? Are you really saying that?

November 10, 2014

In Their Own Words

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:17 am

Obamacare/ACA architect Jonathan Gruber:

“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure that CBO [the Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes the bill dies…if you had a law that said that healthy people would pay in and sick people would get money it would not have passed. Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage and basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for getting the thing to pass…

I wish we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

“My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”

— Barack Obama

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