Whistleblower who revealed NSA wiretapping activities speaks out from hiding in Hong Kong: "you are not even aware of what is possible."
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on June 16th, 2013)
In a scene like a nightmare, the US government confirmed on Thursday night the existence of a mass-scale federal wiretapping project called Prism. The confirmation from the feds came after an anonymous whistleblower leaked the relevant documents. What the materials disclosed was horrifying.
For years now, Prism has been utilized by the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor internet and telephone communications between the US and foreign nationals. And, according to the Prism PowerPoint slide, the data it can collect is essentially unlimited. For just 20 million a year, the agency is able to monitor "email, chat (video, voice), videos, photos, stored data, VoIP [internet phone calls], file transfers, video conferencing, notifications of target activity – logins etc, online social networking details" and a mysterious category called "special requests.”
Major companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Youtube, Skype, Google, and Yahoo are involved, although it is not yet known whether they participated knowingly or involuntarily.
Earlier this week, it also was revealed that the NSA has been collecting telephone data and phone records from millions of US Verizon customers under a classified court order. The order directs Verizon Business Network Services to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” the “following tangible things”:
“All call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”
To add insult to injury, the order forbids Verizon from revealing this fact to anyone, including, obviously, their own customers. There is also nothing is the order telling the NSA when this information must be destroyed.
Amy Davidson of The New Yorker, writes,
“The government seems to have a list of all the people that Verizon customers called and who called them; how long they spoke; and, perhaps—depending on how precise the cell-phone-tower information in the metadata is, where they were on a given day…And the customers of other providers shouldn’t be reassured: it is likely that this order is simply one of a type—the one that fell off the truck.”
This starkly alarming data leak discloses only the latest incident in a string of deceitful and abhorrent acts perpetrated by the current administration. But it is one of the most significant, as it reveals the tip of the wide iceberg of federal espionage that fetters the freedom of the every American citizen.
Today, the 29-year-old NSA whistleblower responsible for the leak has come forward. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” said Edward Snowden, who is a former technical assistant for the CIA and has been working with the NSA for four years now.
In an interview with The Guardian this morning, he explained his decision to disclose the explosive information,
"The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards…You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place…I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under."
Snowden, who says he’s had a comfortable life with a salary of around $200,000, a home in Hawaii with his girlfriend and a loving family, chose three weeks ago to leave his former existence behind. Perhaps forever.
“I am willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building," he said.
After copying the last set of pertinent documents for the leak, Snowden boarded a plane for Hong Kong and took up residence in a hotel, where he is still residing. His lifestyle may seem paranoid to some, but Snowden understands the capabilities of the government that is hunting him. He used to be one of them. Having observed the Obama’s administration’s aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, he realizes that his situation is precarious at best. He also had some comments to make about President Obama’s marked policy shift on personal liberties, saying,
“A lot of people in 2008 voted for Obama. I did not vote for him. I voted for a third party. But I believed in Obama's promises. I was going to disclose it [but waited because of his election]. He continued with the policies of his predecessor."
Snowden says he fully expects the US government to do everything in its power to seek him out and punish him for the remainder of his life, however long that may prove to be.
"I am not afraid,” he says, “because this is the choice I've made."
Snowden’s biggest fear is that the revelation of his identity will distract attention from the issues at hand. "I don't want public attention,” he said, “because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing."
As sequester woes shut down White House tours, $4 million in taxpayer money goes to study alcoholism, obesity in lesbians
(posted by Bryana Johnson on March 22, 2013)
Last week, some disturbance was caused by news that the National Health Institute has awarded $1.5 million for a study to determine why 75% of lesbians are obese, compared to only 50% of heterosexual women. The issue is being called a matter of “public health importance,” and the grant reads,
“Obesity is one of the most critical public health issues affecting the U.S. today. Racial and socioeconomic disparities in the determinants, distribution, and consequences of obesity are receiving increasing attention. However, one area that is only beginning to be recognized is the striking interplay of gender and sexual orientation in obesity disparities. It is now well-established that women of minority sexual orientation are disproportionately affected by the obesity epidemic.”
This study is one of those really crucial programs that is reportedly being threatened by the infamous and hyper-inflated sequester catastrophe. Yesterday, we learned about another one. Apparently, there’s not just an obesity epidemic among lesbian women, but also a plague of alcoholism.
Since 2009, the University of Illinois has been receiving federal grants for a study called, “Cumulative Stress and Hazardous Drinking in a Community of Adult Lesbians.” A description of the grant states,
“Studies using both probability and nonprobability samples provide ample evidence of lesbians' vulnerability to hazardous drinking. However, very little is known about the factors that increase lesbians' risk for hazardous drinking. We propose to build on and extend our study of sexual identity and drinking…to model effects of cumulative stress on hazardous drinking among lesbians.”
Doesn’t this make it a little more difficult to take our elected officials seriously when they babble on about how the teeniest funding cuts constitute the end of life as we know it?
Last month I contacted my congressman’s office to apply for a White House tour later this year. After providing detailed information for all of the members of my party, I was informed that I would hear back from the office regarding the status of my submission in about a month. However, I received a follow up e-mail well before the month was out, and it wasn’t the news I was waiting for.
“I wanted to update you regarding your Washington, DC tour request,” wrote my congressman’s tour coordinator. “Our office has received word today from the White House that:
‘Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform you that White House Tours will be canceled effective Saturday, March 9, 2013 until further notice. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reschedule affected tours.’ ”
Not surprisingly, a number of our US senators and congressmen were incensed by the news that White House tours have been discontinued, reportedly due to funding cuts occasioned by sequestration. Especially since sequestration isn’t really a spending “cut,” after all, but only a reduction in the rate of spending increase.
Kansas Senator Jerry Moran stated, “Cancelling White House tours is an unnecessary and unfair way for the Department of Homeland Security to meet its budget-cutting obligations.”
Is it really, though? What is it that makes one program special and another frivolous? Isn’t everyone just pursuing their own interests and working overtime to milk the federal cash cow?
Huffington Post’s Sam Stein seemed to insinuate as much in his column Thursday, entitled, “White House Tours Obsess GOP Lawmakers Despite Sequestration Hits Back Home.” Examining the complaints of Republican lawmakers following the announcement that the tours had been suspended, he points to the supposedly more serious cuts occurring in the legislators’ home states, as though to chide them for not showing enough concern for their own constituents.
The question is, at a time when our nation is over $16 trillion in debt, should we really be avoiding spending decreases like a plague, and expecting every government official to be fighting to keep as much of the available funding in his own state?
Or should we hope for a common sense response that finds lawmakers stepping up to the plate and laying their lucrative but useless and meddlesome projects on the chopping block? Would it be too much to hope that frivolous programs and studies and foreign aid might give way to a concern like allowing the American people to visit their own national monuments and federal buildings?
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul may have said it best when he wrote on his facebook page, “We supposedly can't find $17,000 a week for school kids to tour the White House, but somehow still have $250 million for Egypt.
And for studies to determine why lesbians get drunk and fat. I’m sure they’ll all be very appreciative.
(For those who are under the impression that this misappropriation of our money is a pair of isolated incidents, a quick look at Senator Coburn’s 2012 Wastebook might be enough to peel the scales from their eyes.)
Why has the Mexico Permanent Commission voted to ask the US Senate for a registry of guns in border states?
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on Feb 21, 2013)
— In the wake of a tense national clash regarding the issue of gun control, Mexico has taken an action sure to fan the flames of controversy. In January, the Mexico Permanent Commission reportedly voted to formally ask the United States Senate for a registry of all commercialized firearms in the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
According to Informador, the proposition was introduced by Senator Marcela Guerra, who stated he introduced the resolution in hopes that it would make it easier to trace guns used in violent crimes. InsightCrime explains,
“Close to 60,000 people were killed during the six-year presidency of Felipe Calderon, who left office in December. The US Southwest is a significant source of weaponry for Mexico's criminal organizations, who typically purchase firearms from US gun stores via a middleman or ‘straw buyer.’ ”
Given these facts, it might not seem surprising that the Mexican government is interested in taking action to curb the acquisition of weapons by violent criminals on their side of the border. However, given the recent history of government-initiated gun trafficking on our side, neither is it surprising to hear the comments of enraged gun-owners who feel that the Mexican request is absurd.
“It’s an infringement, on its highest level,” said one Arizona gun-owner interviewed by KPHO TV.
“My first reaction is, I don’t like it,” said another. “In light of what happened, with, you know, all the weapons, the assault weapons, that went over there.”
He was referring to the national ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms) gun-walking scandal, Fast And Furious, in which US government agents allowed guns to pass into the possession of suspected gun smugglers in order to track them up to high-level Mexican crime rings.
Over 2,000 weapons unfortunately did end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartel members, but rather than leading to any arrests or information, the guns were somehow lost. They are in the process of being recovered, of course. Each time another innocent like US border agent Brian Terry or Mexican beauty queen Maria Gamez, is victimized, we discover the final landing place of another Fast and Furious weapon. The price, however, for the failed operation, has been high. With an estimated 150 deaths, some say too high.
Not surprisingly, law-abiding gun-owners are balking at the idea of being tracked as a potential threat to Mexican lives when their own government is responsible for causing so much of the problem. If there needs to be action taken on the issue of gun-smuggling, they say, start with the smugglers! They don’t feel that’s them.
And under the administration of a President who persists in treating gun ownership like a malicious cancer in American public life, they’re not sure they feel comfortable having their names entered into a national registry of cancerous cells, which is periodically being delivered to foreign governments. Who can blame them?
Obama waives sanctions on four of six nations that use child soldiers in their armed forces, including Libya and South Sudan
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on October 5th, 2012)
“When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world. Now, as a nation, we’ve long rejected such cruelty.”
President Obama uttered these stirring words at the annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York last week. He was making reference to the appalling practice of recruiting young children to serve in military action, a practice that has long been prevalent in various African and Middle Eastern countries. From the infamous Joseph Kony of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army to the Libyan youths recruited by both sides in the recent rebellion in Libya, to middle-school aged boys conscripted into the Free Syrian Army, the plight of child soldiers has gained widespread attention over the past few years, with humanitarian organizations working hard to keep the issue in the public eye.
In 2008, Senators Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., introduced the Child Soldier Prevention Act, (CSPA) a bill to restrict the US government’s military support of nations that fail to stop recruiting child soldiers into their armed forces. This bill passed both houses of Congress unanimously and was signed into law by former President Bush, making it a federal crime to recruit or use soldiers under the age of 15. The law also gave the US authority to “prosecute, deport or deny entry to individuals who have knowingly recruited children as soldiers.” Needless to say, international human rights organizations applauded the bill enthusiastically.
On Sunday afternoon, President Obama signed a Presidential memorandum waiving the sanctions that the CSPA imposes on the nations of Libya, Yemen and South Sudan, and partially waiving the sanctions imposed on the Congo, thus authorizing the US to sell weapons to four nations that would not be eligible to receive military aid from the US under the CSPA. Four of only six nations on the State Department's list of foreign governments that recruit and use child soldiers. That’s two-thirds.
President Obama states in the memo,
I hereby determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Libya, South Sudan, and Yemen; and further determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive in part the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to allow for continued provision of International Military Education and Training funds and nonlethal Excess Defense Articles, and the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of U.S. origin defense articles; and I hereby waive such provisions accordingly.
Jesse Eaves, a senior policy advisor for child protection at World Vision, expressed disappointment over this action by the President, saying, “At a time when Congress is locked in one of the most difficult budget battles I’ve ever seen, it is shameful that a portion of federal funding continues to help support governments who are abusing children. At its core, this is a missed opportunity to show leadership on this issue and protect thousands of vulnerable children around the world. Frankly, we expected more from our nation’s leaders.”
Given his statement earlier this week hotly condemning child soldiery and branding it “slavery,” it does seem odd to find the President taking this action which seems to betray his own ideals. Unfortunately unbeknownst to many, this is in fact the third straight year that President Obama has granted waivers to countries using child soldiers. When Obama granted the waivers in 2010, his administration explained that they were a one-time deal, but when he again granted them in 2011, humanitarian organizations were incensed. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry tried to pass new legislation requiring Obama to notify Congress before issuing the waivers again, and called the decision an "assault on human dignity.”
Every now and then, some absurdity enacted behind closed doors in Washington is uncovered which should leave the people of the US with the uncanny feeling that all is not as it appears to be on the surface of things. Some actions are simply too inexplicable – or point to horrible and frightening explanations. Some decisions on the part of our leaders and lawmakers make it all too obvious that what they are saying is not what they are doing and that what they are doing cannot be explained by what they are saying.
We like to think of America as a nation dedicated to ideals. Liberty, justice, freedom. Unfortunately, the bitter truth is that the majority of our nation’s leaders allow pragmatism to eclipse their ideals on most occasions when the two come into conflict. Principles are only good until they get in the way of allowing the US to take action. If Libya is working to overthrow Gadhafi and our leaders don’t like Gadhafi, they are going to back his attackers regardless of whether they employ child soldiers or not.
Rand Paul’s lonely foreign aid filibuster on the Senate Floor last week showed us that most of our supposedly conservative senators cannot necessarily be expected to vote for foreign aid restrictions to Islamic countries that disrespect our ambassadors and our flag. President Obama’s disturbing memo of Sunday shows us that US weapons sales for controversial rebellions in Islamic countries are more important than curbing our own national bankruptcy and more important than putting an end to the nightmare of child soldiery. And that is an assault on human dignity.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus
The RNC Power Grab:
Ignoring GOP injustices makes 'us' as bad as 'them.'
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on September 03, 2012)
In which historian David Barton gets a lesson in honesty and we all benefit
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 26, 2012)
Moveon.org has come out with a fairly ridiculous ad that claims to expose the evil GOP strategy to oust President Obama from the White House. The way they see it, this master plan is a sinister three-pronged plot. The conspiratorial triad has the following elements:
1. Sabotage the economy and blame it on Obama
2. Use rich people’s money to spread lies about Obama
3. Suppress minority voters using Voter ID laws
The video is rife with errors, with one actor calling Republican Mitch McConnell the “Senate Majority Leader” suggesting that Republicans actually have the majority in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Democratic Harry Reid is, in fact, the Senate Majority Leader. The actors point out that conservative organizations have donated more money than liberal organizations, omitting to mention that the Obama campaign is oustpending the Romney campaign by a significant margin in almost all of the key states. The two actors go on to state that there is a massive, racist design on the part of Republicans to disenfranchise minority voters by instating photo ID laws.
The flagrant deception displayed in the clip is sickening and many readers over at The Blaze have complained that they weren’t even able to sit through the full 4.25 minutes of asinine drivel. By descending to this level of intellectual dishonesty, moveon.org has sunk into the primordial slime, doing further damage to their reputation even with many democrats and liberal voters. In the culture wars, liars often prove a massive disadvantage for the causes they attempt to champion.
Conservatives and evangelical Christians have had to deal with a controversy of their own this week, and maybe a liar too, as Wallbuilders founder David Barton’s newest book has been pulled by his publisher, Thomas Nelson, due to historical errors that were found to render it unsellable. Barton, who has been a hero to Christian evangelicals for years, is known for his claims that the Founding Fathers wanted America to be a Christian nation and that the majority of them were “orthodox, evangelical” believers. Recently, however, a significant number of mainstream Christian scholars have begun to question the validity of his claims, with Christian college professor Warren Throckmorton going so far as to write a book debunking Barton’s views.
One of David Barton’s main areas of interest is the spiritual life of America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson. Barton approaches this undeniably enigmatic subject with confidence, asserting that Jefferson was “orthodox” for most of his life, that he fought against the institution of slavery, that he used federal funds to promote Christian missions to the Indians, that he didn’t believe in a “wall of separation” between church and state but in a Republic that would actively promote Christianity. He likewise suggests that Jefferson’s sexual morality was unimpeachable, that he didn’t really edit out the miraculous stories of the New Testament and that he founded the Virginia Bible Society. Throckmorton and others such as Michael Coulter, John Fea and Jay Richards, a senior fellow at the creationist Discovery Institute, insist the documents show otherwise, with considerable evidence to back them up.
Barton’s Wallbuilders group has been a polarizing force for years, dividing the nation’s historical enthusiasts into two camps: those who swear by the supposedly Jeffersonian ideal of a separated church and state, and those who are of Barton’s persuasion, namely that revisionist historians have edited Jefferson’s evangelical beliefs out of the textbooks. Unfortunately, this divide leaves out a third very plausible and very reasonable possibility, which is that Jefferson was a product of his times, heavily influenced by the enlightenment deism of the age, slightly racist as most Europeans were, and a staunch believer in freedom of religious expression. It is asking a lot to expect this 18th century thinker to measure up to either the contemporary ideals of either conservatives or liberals. Those ideals didn’t even exist yet.
While Jefferson certainly doesn’t fit Barton’s ideal of an evangelical Christian statesman who wanted a biblically-based government, neither can he serve as a poster boy for the secular, liberal vision. His statements about responsibility, fiscal sanity, traditional morality, and even God are too numerous to overlook. Indeed, they make up a great portion of Jefferson’s oft-quoted writings. Let’s take a look at a few which seem to soundly rebuff the contemporary liberal ideal.
“ I think, myself, that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.” (A bit of a blow to the welfare state and the Life of Julia)
From Notes on the State of Virginia: “Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.” (Putting him squarely in the anti-Bloomberg opposition and against proponents of government healthcare)
“ I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”
“The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.”
Regardless of where you stand on the big Jefferson Question, the recent Barton saga delivers a critical exhortation that all idealists and public policy advocates would do well to heed. Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And as a flawed mortal, you will likely need God’s help to do it.
Career politicians and mercenary public figures may be able to get away with shocking deceptions, but idealists who play at the mind wars for the sheer love of the things they espouse have no business twisting the truth even a little. We have not waded into battle, into these culture wars, for money or for fame, for public notice or for personal advancement. What do we have left on our side if we lose the truth?
Why public education is intrinsically unjust
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 7, 2012)
In March of last year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told Congress that an estimated 82 percent of America's schools would fail to meet education goals set by No Child Left Behind that year. “We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair and flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk,” Duncan said. This statement is tragically amusing against the backdrop of the failure of American public schools to measure up to national standards time and again.
On the 2009 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Reading Test, one out of three fourth grade students scored "below basic". More than 67 percent of all US fourth graders scored "below proficient," meaning they are not reading at grade level. That means that well over half of America’s fourth grade students are failing in the field of learning that is the most important.
Unfortunately, these figures don’t seem to right themselves by high school. The same test showed that around 26 percent of eighth graders and 27 percent of twelfth graders scored below the "basic" level, and only 32 percent of eighth graders and 38 percent of twelfth graders are at or above grade level. In 2007, 69 percent of eighth grade students scored “below proficient” in writing.
However, although these damning numbers are prompting a creeping national distrust of the public education system, the case against government education does not rest on the discouraging nature of our test scores, or even on the demonstrable failure of the system, but on principles as lovely and as old as our country’s founding.
In the 1786 Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson wrote,
“ To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.”
Jefferson was referring to a law in Virginia which required Protestants to pay taxes to support the clergymen of the Church of England. The act he was drafting would liberate the people of Virginia from this seemingly absurd obligation, and acknowledge their right to choose which religious teachers they wished to support. Elsewhere in the document, Jefferson asserts that,
“the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time.”
This same “impious presumption” which Jefferson so hotly condemned is at work today in public schools which are not only deplorably deficient but also shockingly arrogant and assuming.
It is impossible to educate children without imparting values, opinions and beliefs to them in some way or another. A young child’s mind is largely devoid of context, so that a teacher has no choice but to provide the persuasions of his or her own mind to fill the gaps in the child’s mind. As every truly educated person knows, there are at least two sides to practically every assertion save those regarding numbers and mathematics and some evident scientific laws. It is beyond naïve to suppose that teachers, even should they desire to do so, can present all sides of an issue objectively and give them equal weight in the consciousness of every child entrusted to their instruction.
What does this lack of objectivity mean for us, the taxpayers, who fund our local schools whether we want to or not? It may mean that we’re being compelled to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which we disbelieve. If it doesn’t, it means someone else is. There’s no way around that in a diverse society which welcomes people of all creeds, cultures and nationalities.
In the eons before the current multicultural era, the trouble of taking and giving offense was a far lesser one. In days before technology had knitted the globe together into one vast mass of symbiotic organisms, societies shared more common values because people were forced by the geography of the planet to remain in more or less one general location. Government education systems, although still problematic and potentially dangerous, rarely created the issues they create today, because people accepted that the prevailing popular opinions of a nation would be reflected in the education system provided by the state.
In this present age, we can no longer be governed by this system of the past, because the circumstances of the world have changed. Ideas are no longer geographically-bound, but travel the circumference of globe in seconds. So divided is the nation that on many issues of national significance, it is no longer possible to determine what the prevailing popular opinion is. A system that worked, albeit imperfectly, 150 years ago, will no longer serve for this bitterly contending country.
It is time for America to embrace the education option of the future: private institutions that will allow families to choose the best fit for their children and that will not rob one ideological group in order to give to the other. The political correctness mania that pervades our government and our schools should come to an end, and the stifling “orthodoxy” of the establishment should no longer be forced on our children. Thomas Jefferson would be proud.
Why the GOP must do a fast about-face or face disaster in November...
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on July 31, 2012)
Despite their spirited outward demeanor and cheerful speculation, is the Grand Old Party beginning to realize that they made a mistake in anointing Mitt Romney to lead the assault on socialism and Barack Obama? For their sake, let’s hope so. Because the only way for the Republicans to avoid the trap they’ve set for themselves is to understand the magnitude of their error and start back-pedaling as fast as they can.
The case against the GOP’s selection of Romney to carry the banner of conservatism on to the White House is easy to make. Our first premise is obviously that Romney is not a conservative. He is, in fact, a self-proclaimed “moderate” who “holds progressive views.” Needless to say, this makes his suitability for the afore-mentioned position rather dubious from the get-go.
Those few folks who are willing to look ridiculous by asserting that Romney is no longer left-leaning and that his opportunely-timed conversion to limited government and family values is genuine will be quickly hushed by a little research. Take, for example, these excerpts from an open letter signed by notable conservative leaders such as the Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s Michael Farris and Kelly Shackelford of the Liberty Institute.
“Romney changed his position on over thirty key issues as he prepared to run for President four years ago. We all expect a politician to change their mind on one or two issues over the course of their career, but when someone changes their mind on EVERY foundational issue of importance to conservatives, we must be skeptical. Indeed, it is hard to accept Romney’s conversion on so many issues as authentic….
…As Governor, Romney implemented an Executive Order that created a vast ‘diversity’ agency to make sure those of all races and ‘sexual orientations’ be hired throughout state government. Romney [also] issued a state proclamation honoring ‘Gay/Straight Youth Pride March’…
…Romney’s administration gave funds to Planned Parenthood. In November 2006, Romney’s economic development agency approved a $5 billion tax-exempt bond to be used by Planned Parenthood to build an abortion clinic in Worchester…
…For thirty years Mitt Romney was a strong advocate of abortion. His wife, Ann, contributed money to Planned Parenthood in 1994 at a PP event both her and her husband attended, but she was filmed during the 2008 campaign claiming, ‘I’ve always been pro-life…’ ”
Another video shows Ann Romney insisting that pro-abortion women have no need to worry about her husband due to his commitment to the abortion issue. (Once you’ve watched the 22-second clip, ask yourself if this is the voice of a pro-life woman!) To make matters worse for Romney’s record, even in the wake of his pro-life “conversion” experience in 2004, he continued to fund embryonic stem cell research and was recorded in 2005 stating “I am absolutely committed to my promise to maintaining the status quo with regards to laws relating to abortion and choice and so far I’ve been able to successfully do that.” In 2006, Romney introduced RomneyCare, which covers abortion and makes it easy for people to obtain a state-funded abortion for as low as $50.
The Cato Institute reported that in his first year as Governor, Romney “proposed $140 [million] in business tax hikes through the closing of ‘loopholes’ in the tax code,” and according to job creation experts Andrew Sum and Joseph McLaughlin of Northeastern University, manufacturing employment during the Romney years “declined by 14%, the third worse record in the country. Sum and McLaughlin also wrote that ‘from 2001 to 2006, Massachusetts ranked 49th in the nation in job creation…’
Having put to rest the myth that Romney is or ever has been “severely conservative,” as he now claims to be, it’s time to take a look at what that means for the GOP. The short answer is trouble.
Last December, former senator Bob Dole endorsed Mitt Romney. Let’s run that tape:
“The time has now come for us to decide who among [the Republican candidates] can defeat Barack Obama in 2012. I’ve made my decision, and I believe our best hope lies in Governor Mitt Romney. I’ve run for president myself and –”
Alright, stop. Stop it right there.
Let’s see what we remember about Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign. One thing really stands out in my mind. He lost, and he lost big.
It was a rough year for Republicans. They were trying to take down President Bill Clinton, who was running for re-election, and they thought they had a clear lead over him. In 1994, a poll asked Americans to choose between Bill Clinton and " the Republican Party's candidate for President." Result? Clinton got 43% of the vote. The ghost Republican beat him with 50%. “Anyone can beat Clinton,” was the popular refrain, which has become so infamous today.
The Republicans nominated Bob Dole, an uninspiring moderate who did nothing to fan the flames of conviction. Dole didn’t understand that a huge portion of the Republican base was staunchly conservative and willing to take a stand for it at the polling place – even if it was going to hurt them. He failed to excite his base, and a third party candidate, Ross Perot, came in and snagged all of the votes his moderate stances didn’t bring in. Dole was a massive failure, and he gave us four more years of Clinton. His endorsement of Romney is anything but reassuring.
Fast-forward to 2008: the Republican Party’s next big loss. Faced with the alarming prospect of Obama as POTUS, the Republicans nominated another moderate, John McCain. McCain, just like Dole before him, did not succeed in capturing the enthusiasm of his base. Indeed, many Republicans were disgusted with him, and it wasn’t until his selection of conservative Sarah Palin for his running mate that his poll numbers began to climb. Palin ensured that the race would at least be competitive. McCain still lost.
This myth that moderates have the best chance to beat popular Democrats is just that: a myth. History clearly shows that Republicans do poorly when they nominate candidates who don’t pull in impassioned voters. Voters with strong opinions who care about real issues and will fight for them. Moderate voters by their very nature are a bad group to rely on in an election. Because their stances are less radical, they are less likely to be a virulent crowd and less likely to give sacrificially or inspire enthusiasm. While conservatives and liberals are people who feel strongly about ideas, moderates are people who delight in the muddy waters of the “middle ground”, and who, in large part, make decisions pragmatically rather than relying on principles.
The Republican Party ignores at their peril the fact that their candidate is a poor one. Their best hope for a comeback in November is to breathe life into their party by welcoming a staunch conservative darling into their ranks in the position of Vice President. If they fail to do this, I doubt if even Obama’s own alarming radicalism will keep him out of the White House for another four years. The question is, does the GOP want to hoist the banner of conservatism (and win) or slide back into moderate positions (and lose)?
New report indicates Planned Parenthood ignoring Hyde Amendment, charging taxpayers for hundreds of thousands of abortion services
(Posted by Bryana Joy on February 20, 2012)
If you're concerned about the $330 million in taxpayer funding which Planned Parenthood currently receives each year, chances are you’re all-too-familiar by now with the Hyde Amendment: a legislative provision that’s supposed to bar federal funds from going to pay for abortions. My guess is that it’s been flung at you time and again if you’ve dared to suggest that your government shouldn’t be giving your money to the largest abortion-provider in the US when you are personally opposed to abortion.
The Hyde Amendment, of course , is utterly bogus, and it does nothing to protect pro-life people’s consciences and keep their money away from abortion. It does, however, stand as a legal assertion of the fact that it is unjust and immoral to force people who are staunch opponents of abortion to pay for them. For this reason, the Hyde Amendment is something that pro-life people should look on with fondness – if frustration – perhaps as a mother looks on a three-year-old child who wants to “help Mommy cook supper” but only succeeds in breaking dishes and burning herself on the stove. Unfortunately, a new report released by the Alliance Defense Fund suggests that Planned Parenthood is not content to use your money for graphic sex-education resources, birth control, and STI testing, but is determined to force you to pay for abortions as well.
The report, which found upwards of $99 million in waste or possible fraud, included evidence of illegal taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion-related procedures. LifeSiteNews reports that the 10 known audits which took place in California, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington state, uncovered numerous instances of financially questionable practices such as wrongly billing Medicaid for medications provided as part of an abortion in violation of the Hyde Amendment, overbilling for prescription drugs, dispensing prescription drugs – including oral contraceptives – without a prescription, double-billing, charging for medically unnecessary services, falsely claiming services were provided for family planning, and unsigned or missing documentation. The ADF report identified 12 types of potential fraud, and stated in one place that,
“ In New York alone during one four year period, it appeared that hundreds of thousands of abortion-related claims were billed illegally to Medicaid.”
Just last week, the Lufkin Daily News reported that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast is a defendant in a federal lawsuit after a former Lufkin clinic employee alleged a fraudulent multi-million-dollar billing scheme. The complaint names Karen Reynolds as the whistle-blower in allegations brought against her former employer of 10 years, Planned Parenthood.
According to Reynolds’ complaint, filed in October 2011, she was instructed by the organization to maximize billing revenue by fraudulently charging Medicaid and the Women’s Health Program for unwarranted services, services not covered by Medicaid, and services with patients did not receive. She says Planned Parenthood also falsified patient records, and claims these procedures were employed in in all 12 Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast locations across Texas and Louisiana.
The Lufkin Daily News has more disturbing details:
“An example given in the suit is Medicaid being billed for birth control counseling. The suit states almost all Women’s Health Program and Medicaid patients were handed a bag of at least two birth control devices despite the fact the items were not needed or requested by the patient. Pursuant to corporate policy and instructions from clinical directors, after merely handing the patient a bag of condoms and vaginal film on the way out the door, clinic employees then entered billing codes to be submitted to the government at an average billed cost of $57.85.”
In her complaint , Reynolds quotes a clinic memo as stating, “If the client [getting an abortion] is getting on birth control make this the focus of the visit and put a note in the chief complaints that the client had a surgical or medical abortion ‘x’ weeks ago.”
A former employee who was chief financial officer of Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles, P. Victor Gonzalez, claimed in a 2010 lawsuit that PPLA paid “$225,695.65 for Ortho Tri-Cyclen birth control pills, yet billed the government $918,084 – for a profit of $692,388.35.”
Steven Aden, vice president for human life issues and senior council at ADF, told LifeSiteNews,
"Americans deserve to know if their hard-earned tax money is being funneled to groups that are misusing it. Planned Parenthood has to play by the same rules as everyone else. It is not entitled to a dime of taxpayer funds, especially if it is committing Medicaid fraud."
It’s a good day to remember some words of Thomas Jefferson’s, which perhaps indicate that the statesmen who founded this great nation in turmoil and trials are spinning around and around in their graves this week:
"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical. "(Originally posted at The Washington Times Communities)
New Hampshire Governor Lynch
Shocking disregard for justice: sting video raises concern about voter fraud, New Hampshire Attorney General sues…….James O’Keefe!
(Posted by Bryana Joy on January 25th, 2012)
In July of 2011, New Hampshire governor John Lynch vetoed a bill that would have required New Hampshire voters to show photo ID before entering the polls. “Voter turnout in New Hampshire is among the highest in the nation, election after election. There is no voter fraud problem in New Hampshire,” said Governor Lynch in a statement last summer. “We already have strong election laws that are effective in regulating our elections.” Not surprisingly, the governor was outraged last week when a watchdog group, Project Veritas, organized an undercover sting operation to test the veracity of his reassurances. What they found was appalling, if not unexpected.
The incidents, which were recorded on hidden cameras, involved actors entering multiple polling places and obtaining ballots using the names of deceased voters. Some of these late voters had been dead for well over a year. When the actors explained that they had forgotten to bring any ID with them, they were told by poll workers that New Hampshire law didn’t require them to show ID. In each case, the actors, feigning shock, said they would feel more comfortable if they went out to their vehicles to get their ID. According to Project Veritas, none of the actors cast a vote with the ballots they had acquired during the sting.
Furthermore, in an official statement about the investigative videos, Project Veritas explained,
“not a single one of our citizen journalists broke any laws or misrepresented themselves in any way to election officials or anyone else while filming this report. They simply inquired to poll workers if a certain individual’s name was present on the voter list, and were then offered a ballot with no further questions…..
Shockingly, rather than owning that, in light of the expose, measures should be taken to make the system in New Hampshire more effective, Governor Lynch has condemned the sting operation altogether and is calling for Project Veritas to be prosecuted for obtaining ballots under false pretenses.
"I think it is outrageous that we have out-of-staters coming into New Hampshire, [said the governor] coming into our polling places and misrepresenting themselves to the election officials, and I hope that they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, if in fact they're found guilty of some criminal act."
Joining the governor in this blatant refusal to acknowledge the facts are Keith Olbermann, Ryan Reilly and MSNBC’s Al Sharpton. Sharpton’s coverage bears the heading, “James O’Keefe has another run-in with the law,” and over the course of the bitterly partisan six-minute session of commentary, Sharpton calls O’Keefe “the professional smear artist who was behind the fake ACORN scam,” and adds that O’Keefe “sent his cohorts out to fraudulently collect ballots in New Hampshire.”
“…James O’Keefe has struck again, exposing the non-existent problem of voter fraud in New Hampshire. The conservative filmmaker and others working on behalf of Project Veritas are now facing a criminal investigation by [New Hampshire’s] attorney general. There is every indication that O’Keefe and his colleagues committed voter fraud at primary polling locations Tuesday night.”
So, wait. Let me get this straight – citizen journalists conduct a sting operation for the purpose of raising concern about voter fraud and when they release the tapes they are the ones who get charged with voter fraud?
“ Has voter fraud ever been a problem in New Hampshire?” Olbermann asks of Ryan Reilly in an interview devoted almost solely to discrediting Project Veritas.
“ You know, it really – there’s no evidence that it has,” responds Reilly. “Specifically in-person voter – impersonation fraud hasn’t been an issue, nor has it been across the country.”
Project Veritas’ actors were given a similar story by Ryk Bullock, the New Hampshire Ward Moderator whom they consulted for the purpose of expressing their concerns about the possibility of voter fraud. When asked whether fraudulent impersonation could occur, Bullock explained,
“It could, it could…[But] I’ve been here 43 years and, to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never had it happen. In theory, it could happen…”
But it doesn’t happen, they assure us. It can, of course, as there aren’t sufficient safeguards to prevent it (as demonstrated by the recent sting). But it won’t.
Should we find this nonchalance reassuring, or should it cause us to become doubtful about the integrity of the officials and media moguls who continue to drill us in the unconstitutionality of photo ID laws? When we stop to consider, we will realize that every vote cast fraudulently cancels out the vote of some conscientious citizen who took care to register legally and provide the required information in order to be able to perform his or her civic duties. The argument that such votes will not be cast even though they can be is absurd. It’s like arguing that we shouldn’t have lifeguards at public pools where no one is ever known to have drowned, or suggesting that we abolish fire departments in areas that have never been ravaged by forest fires.
Voting legally is a fairly painless process. I recently registered to vote in Texas, and it could hardly have been easier. I signed up online to receive the simple registration form, which was mailed to me. After filling it out, I dropped it in my mailbox. I didn’t even have to pay for postage. Under pending photo ID laws, voters will be able to flash any form of government-issued photographic identification at the polls. This could be a drivers’ license, passport, gun permit card, or any ID card issued by your local DMV office. Registered voters who do not possess photo ID will be provided with the necessary ID by The Department of Safety and Homeland Security at no charge. As photo ID is already required for the purchase of tobacco or alcohol products, vehicle rentals and banking transactions, it is safe to assume that most citizens of legal voting age will already be in possession of such ID. The only residents who might have difficulty in obtaining photographic identification are – well, non-citizens. And they aren’t allowed to vote anyway.
So, what is all of the fuss really about? That’s a good question. Perhaps Keith Olbermann answers it best himself,
“The right wing’s fixation with voter fraud is largely used as a justification for passing restrictive ballot access measure designed to suppress voter turnout among people who tend to vote for Democrats.” Exactly who are these “people who tend to vote for Democrats”? People who can’t obtain photo ID? Wait, that means they’re probably ----- yep, you got it. Illegal.
Will new photo ID laws cause some hassle for those legal citizens who don’t already possess the necessary identification and are forced to get a lift down to their local DMV office? Yes. But as Thomas Sowell reminds us, “There are no solutions….there are only tradeoffs.” Inconveniencing a miniscule percentage of the population in order to protect the votes of millions of legal Americans sounds like a pretty good tradeoff to me.