Member since: Sat Sep 9, 2006, 02:59 PM
Number of posts: 3,927
Number of posts: 3,927
A new and highly aggressive multi-million-dollar anti-Obama ad campaign has started airing on television stations in eight key political swing states—but for now at least, the funders are staying hidden in the shadows.
The ads in question have a distinctly oily aura, which is unsurprising, perhaps since the group sponsoring them has been funded in the past by major fossil-fuel companies. The group defines itself as a non-partisan nonprofit, but exemplifies the growing role that secret money is playing in the 2012 Presidential campaign. Technically, the ads have been produced and aired by the Washington-based American Energy Alliance, a 501c-4 social-welfare organization under the Internal Revenue Service’s tax code, whose activities, under the law, have to be largely non-political. This group shares office space and personnel with a sister organization, the Institute for Energy Research, a 501c-3, whose tax status is typically reserved for charities. Its activities have to be strictly non-partisan and non-political. Both groups hide the identities of their funders. All that Benjamin Cole, director of communications for both groups would say is that the ads are funded by “individuals, foundations, and corporations.”
Cole claims these ads aren't election related at all. Yeah, right.
He acknowledges, however, that the ads will directly blame Obama for recent increases in gas prices, despite the fact that even such conservative and libertarian voices such as Cato Institute scholars and Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal have protested that this is specious.
So who is behind the advertising campaign to push the line that Obama is to blame? Bill Burton, senior strategist at the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA believes that it comes from a familiar source. “The Koch brothers and other oil barons are using profits from high gas prices to fund false political attacks benefitting Governor Romney,” he says.
Read the rest of Jane Mayer's post at The New Yorker blog.
All courtesy the ReTHUGlican SCOTUS/Citizens United and the Koch brothers, et al.
Posted by tpsbmam | Sat Mar 31, 2012, 01:54 PM (5 replies)
The first is that it's corrupt. This bank has systematically defrauded almost everyone with whom it has a significant business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, homeowners, shareholders, depositors, and the state. It is a giant, raging hurricane of theft and fraud, spinning its way through America and leaving a massive trail of wiped-out retirees and foreclosed-upon families in its wake.
The second is that all of us, as taxpayers, are keeping that hurricane raging. Bank of America is not just a private company that systematically steals from American citizens: it's a de facto ward of the state that depends heavily upon public support to stay in business. In fact, without the continued generosity of us taxpayers, and the extraordinary indulgence of our regulators and elected officials, this company long ago would have been swallowed up by scandal, mismanagement, prosecution and litigation, and gone out of business. It would have been liquidated and its component parts sold off, perhaps into a series of smaller regional businesses that would have more respect for the law, and be more responsive to their customers.
But Bank of America hasn't gone out of business, for the simple reason that our government has decided to make it the poster child for the "Too Big To Fail" concept. Because it is considered a "systemically important institution" whose collapse would have a major, Lehman-Brothers-style impact on the economy, two consecutive presidential administrations have taken extraordinary measures to keep Bank of America in business, despite a staggering recent legacy of corruption schemes, many of which were simply overlooked by regulators.
This is why the question of whether or not Bank of America should remain on public life support is so critical to all Americans, and not just those millions who have the misfortune to be customers of the bank, or own shares in the firm, or hold mortgages serviced by the company. This gigantic financial institution is the ultimate symbol of a new kind of corruption at the highest levels of American society: a tendency to marry the near-limitless power of the federal government with increasingly concentrated, increasingly unaccountable private financial interests.
Those are just the 1st 4 paragraphs of a great piece.
Posted by tpsbmam | Thu Mar 29, 2012, 12:40 PM (26 replies)
Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.
In the process—and for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.
He explains that the agency could have installed its tapping gear at the nation’s cable landing stations—the more than two dozen sites on the periphery of the US where fiber-optic cables come ashore. If it had taken that route, the NSA would have been able to limit its eavesdropping to just international communications, which at the time was all that was allowed under US law. Instead it chose to put the wiretapping rooms at key junction points throughout the country—large, windowless buildings known as switches—thus gaining access to not just international communications but also to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the US. The network of intercept stations goes far beyond the single room in an AT&T building in San Francisco exposed by a whistle-blower in 2006. “I think there’s 10 to 20 of them,” Binney says. “That’s not just San Francisco; they have them in the middle of the country and also on the East Coast.”
Binney left the NSA in late 2001, shortly after the agency launched its warrantless-wiretapping program. “They violated the Constitution setting it up,” he says bluntly. “But they didn’t care. They were going to do it anyway, and they were going to crucify anyone who stood in the way. When they started violating the Constitution, I couldn’t stay.” Binney says Stellar Wind was far larger than has been publicly disclosed and included not just eavesdropping on domestic phone calls but the inspection of domestic email. At the outset the program recorded 320 million calls a day, he says, which represented about 73 to 80 percent of the total volume of the agency’s worldwide intercepts. The haul only grew from there. According to Binney—who has maintained close contact with agency employees until a few years ago—the taps in the secret rooms dotting the country are actually powered by highly sophisticated software programs that conduct “deep packet inspection,” examining Internet traffic as it passes through the 10-gigabit-per-second cables at the speed of light.
This Wired article is a must read, IMO. It was next to impossible to pick the 4 most horrifying paragraphs in this LONG article.
The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say):
Posted by tpsbmam | Wed Mar 21, 2012, 02:06 PM (29 replies)
Reed Abelson at Economix points us to a startling study on the effects of the Great Recession on health insurance. You can see similar trends in the Census data, but for whatever reason this survey — carried out by a highly reputable group — is even stronger. Here’s the key picture:
The chart is from the National Institute for Health Care Reform.
What this says is that the system that has provided workable insurance coverage to many (but not enough) Americans is coming apart at the seams. And this in turn means that if health reform goes down, we’re going to be looking at a wave of misery spreading across the land.
Kevin Drum/Mother Jones
Over the past decade, the number of Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance has dropped from about 70% down to nearly 50%. Note that this is for the non-elderly only, so it's not due to the aging of society or the growth of Medicare. This is working-age people only.
Most Americans simply have no clue how bizarre it is that we rely on employers to provide health insurance for most people. We've all grown up in this sytem, so it seems completely normal. But it's not. It happened through a weird combination of historical accidents, and it makes no sense. Why should an airplane manufacturer also be in the healthcare business? Why should you lose your health insurance if you get laid off? Why should your choice of doctor be limited by your employer's choice of insurance carrier? (And why should it change whenever your employer decides to change carriers?) Why should your boss be allowed to dock your paycheck if you don't get the medical "counseling" he deems necessary? (Yes, this is real. And it's rapidly making its way to a corporation near you.)
It. Makes. No. Sense. And dozens of countries around the world have shown that there are better, less expensive, more universal ways of providing medical care. It is truly a mystery that we still put up with the archaic, Rube Goldberg mess that passes for health insurance in this country. If the red trendline I added to the NIHCR chart turns out to be accurate, maybe we won't for too much longer.
(The study -- Great Recession Accelerated Long-Term Decline of Employer Health Coverage -- is in PDF format.)
Posted by tpsbmam | Sun Mar 18, 2012, 07:35 PM (6 replies)
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