Intelligence Report Regarding Russian Interference in Election

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Denouncing NSA Surveillance Isn’t Enough—We Need the Power to Stop It

— by Norman Solomon

For more than a month, outrage has been profuse in response to news about NSA surveillance and other evidence that all three branches of the U.S. government are turning Uncle Sam into Big Brother.

Now what?

Continuing to expose and denounce the assaults on civil liberties is essential. So is supporting Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers—past, present and future. But those vital efforts are far from sufficient.

At the core of the surveillance state is the hollowness of its democratic pretenses. Only with authentic democracy can we save ourselves from devastating evisceration of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

imageFor a moment, walk a mile in the iron-heeled shoes of the military-industrial-digital complex. Its leaders don’t like clarity about what they’re doing, and they certainly don’t like being exposed or denounced—but right now the surveillance state is in no danger of losing what it needs to keep going: power.

The huge digi-tech firms and the government have become mutual tools for gaining humungous profits and tightening political control. The partnerships are deeply enmeshed in military and surveillance realms, whether cruise missiles and drones or vast metadata records and capacities to squirrel away trillions of emails.

The enormous corporate leverage over government policies doesn’t change the fact that the nexus of the surveillance state—and the only organization with enough potential torque to reverse its anti-democratic trajectory—is government itself.

The necessity is to subdue the corporate-military forces that have so extensively hijacked the government. To do that, we’ll need to accomplish what progressives are currently ill-positioned for: democratic mobilization to challenge the surveillance state’s hold on power.

These days, progressives are way too deferential and nice to elected Democrats who should be confronted for their active or passive complicity with abysmal policies of the Obama White House. An example is Al Franken, senator from Minnesota, who declared his support for the NSA surveillance program last month: “I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people.”

The right-wing Tea Party types realized years ago what progressive activists and groups are much less likely to face—that namby-pamby “lobbying” gets much weaker results than identifying crucial issues and making clear a willingness to mount primary challenges.

Progressives should be turning up the heat and building electoral capacities. But right now, many Democrats in Congress are cakewalking toward re-election in progressive districts where they should be on the defensive for their anemic “opposition” to—or outright support for—NSA surveillance.

Meanwhile, such officials with national profiles should encounter progressive pushback wherever they go. A step in that direction will happen just north of the Golden Gate Bridge this weekend, when House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi appears as guest of honor to raise money for the party (up to $32,400 per couple) at a Marin County reception. There will also be a different kind of reception that Pelosi hadn’t been counting on—a picket line challenging her steadfast support for NSA surveillance.

In the first days of this week, upwards of 20,000 people responded to a RootsAction.org action alert by sending their senators and representative an email urging an end to the "Insider Threat Program"—the creepily Orwellian concoction that, as McClatchy news service revealed last month, “requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.”

Messages to Congress members, vocal protests and many other forms of public outcry are important—but they should lay the groundwork for much stronger actions to wrest control of the government away from the military-industrial-digital complex. That may seem impossible, but it’s certainly imperative: if we’re going to prevent the destruction of civil liberties. In the long run, denunciations of the surveillance state will mean little unless we can build the political capacity to end it.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License (Photo Credit: David Burnett/Contact Press Images)

Norman Solomon

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State".

Under the Reading Lamp — 4/27/2012

Why Your Prius Will Bankrupt Our Highways

Gas taxes have funded our roads for decades. But our fuel-efficient cars and tax-allergic Congress are leading to an infrastructure break-down. Since back in the Eisenhower era, the federal government has maintained a Highway Trust Fund, paid for mostly by taxes on fuel, that helps cover the repair and construction of our country’s roads, bridges, and mass transit. The idea was that drivers themselves should bear some of the cost of the roads they used. Unfortunately, Congress hasn’t raised the gas tax since 1993. Since then, inflation has eaten away at least a third of its value.

Could New Argument Against SB1070 Prove Law Is Unconstitutional?

Yana Kunichoff, Truthout: “Margaret Hu, an assistant professor at Duke University, argues that by making laws like SB1070, Arizona ‘represents an attempt to control the terms of what federal resources and officers must be appropriated to accommodate a myriad of state immigration enforcement programs.’ While it’s unconstitutional for the federal government to do this under the ‘anti-commandeering principle,’ Hu argues that it should be unconstitutional for states to do it as well. She calls the attempt by Arizona to use federal resources for its enforcement goal ‘reverse-commandeering.'”


Budget Control Act Military Cuts Will Cover the Social Security Shortfall

Robert Naiman, Truthout: “But if you look at the claims advanced on behalf of cutting Social Security benefits, a common theme is the claim that ‘the country can’t afford’ the Social Security benefits that we have been promised. That claim has nothing to do with the method of financing. Well, if the country can’t afford to pay the Social Security benefits that we were promised, then the country can’t afford to maintain current levels of military spending, and the level of military cuts in the sequester must stand. Because the two things are the same size.”

Disabled People Protest to Preserve Their Benefits

Rose Aguilar, Truthout: “We should all be outraged over how people with disabilities are treated in a country with so much wealth. For many of these activists, just leaving the house is a chore. But if they don’t travel to the nation’s capitol to speak out and raise awareness, who will? They could lose their in-home supportive services; they could lose the right to stay in their homes. And that’s why, year after year, they make the trek, knowing they might be arrested and won’t get much media attention unless a celebrity joins them.”

Romney’s Magical Capitalism

NationalMemo_300x250_1EJ Dionne:  Mitt Romney has a utopian view of what an unfettered, lightly taxed market economy can achieve. He would never put it this way, of course, but his approach looks forward by looking backward to the late 19th century, when government let market forces rip and a conservative Supreme Court swept aside as unconstitutional almost every effort to write rules for the economic game. This magical capitalism is the centerpiece of Romney’s campaign, and it may prove to be his undoing.

Are States’ Rights More Important Than Human Rights?

Dekker Dreyer, Op-Ed: “Two modern examples of States’ Rights being used as an attack on ethnic minorities are the numerous citizenship checkpoints which dot the interior of South-Western states and Arizona’s identification check laws enacted in 2010 which allows police officers to demand proof of citizenship from any person at any time. When my wife and I were stopped on a recent drive through New Mexico so that we could have our citizenship checked our hearts sank for every person living in that state who doesn’t “look” American.”

Gov. Rick Scott’s Drug Testing Regime for State Employees Declared Unconstitutional

Ian Millhiser, News Report: “It’s important to note that these drug-testing laws are not just unconstitutional, they are also completely unnecessary. Only one percent of Florida workers who took drug tests tested positive, and only two percent of state welfare recipients subject to Scott’s other drug testing law failed their drug tests. Yet, while these tests are both unconstitutional and a solution in search of a problem, there is still some risking that they could be upheld by an increasingly partisan Supreme Court.”

Is CISPA SOPA 2.0? We Explain the Cybersecurity Bill

Megha Rajagopalan, News Analysis: “The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, up for debate in the House of Representatives today, has privacy activists, tech companies, security wonks and the Obama administration all jousting about what it means – not only for security but Internet privacy and intellectual property. Backers expect CISPA to pass, unlike SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act that melted down amid controversy earlier this year. Here’s a rundown on the debate and what CISPA could mean for Internet users.”

When Half a Million Americans Died and Nobody Noticed

Alexander Cockburn, Op-Ed: “In September 2004, Merck, one of America’s largest pharmaceutical companies, issued a sudden recall of Vioxx, its anti-pain medication widely used to treat arthritis-related ailments. There was a fair amount of news coverage after the recall, but it was pretty slim considering the alleged 55,000 death toll. A big class-action lawsuit dragged its way through the courts for years, eventually being settled for $4.85 billion in 2007.”

Is There Room for Accountability in a Society Plagued by Everyday Corruption?

Shelly Bernal, Op-Ed: “Our political system is structured in such a way as to include money and influence as vital and integral components of the election process. Any elected official on local or national levels is required to accept money to pay for activities that will get him/her elected. The average winner of a U.S. House race in 2008 spent about $1.4 Million. The Senate? About $8 Million. I suspect that an untold number of promises must be made to motivate enough people to separate from that amount of money.”

Halfway Through the Lost Decade

Robert Scheer, Truthdig Op-Ed: “Without resurgence in housing value, consumer confidence will remain moribund and a woefully weak labor market will persist. Every time housing seems to be rebounding, the banks and the feds unload more of their toxic mortgages and prices edge lower. The only thing preventing a complete collapse, one that would plunge us into deep recession or worse, is the Fed’s extremely low interest rate, which Wednesday’s report reiterated will remain at near zero until late 2014.”

Millennium Scholarship gets no new aid from Nevada lawmakers

With the state in recession, legislators over the past two sessions have reduced funding for higher education and have had to find funds to keep the Millennium Scholarship solvent. Gov. Brian Sandoval has vowed not to make any additional cuts to education in 2013.

Killing the Messenger: The Downsizing and Death of the Postal Service

Dean Baker, Op-Ed: “If the Postal Service had a more reasonable prefunding requirement and were allowed to invest its pension in the same way as private companies, it would have run a profit over the last decade. This does not change the fact that the Post Service faces enormous challenges going forward. First class mail volume, the system’s bread and butter, has collapsed. Some of this is due to the recession, but most of it is clearly technological. It’s easier and cheaper to pay bills online.”

Senate Passes Postal Service Reform: Sanders Provisions Strengthen Bill

News Report: “The Senate bill would keep open more than 100 mail processing plants that were on the Postal Service chopping block. It also would prevent the closing of many of the more than 3,600 mostly rural post offices from being closed and would require additional reviews before a facility could be shuttered.”

Citizens Sue Iowa Plant Over Air Pollution

Chris Hamby, News Report: Grain Processing Corp. spokesperson Janet Sichterman said the company, known as GPC, hadn’t received a copy of the lawsuit and had no comment on it. As the Center documented, GPC reported releasing more acetaldehyde — a substance the Environmental Protection Agency considers a probable carcinogen — than almost any plant in the country in 2010. A state inspector has repeatedly noted a “blue haze” coming from some of the plant’s smokestacks that could indicate the presence of acetaldehyde.

Congressional Activity This Week

Here’s the new weekly update from POPVOX.


From our Hill sources — the week ahead includes consideration of these bills:

The House will consider several bills dealing with cybersecurity this week, while the Senate will spend much of the week on a bill to save the U.S. Postal Service.

Four cybersecurity bills in the House on Thurs, Fri

— The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protect Act (HR 3523), from Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI-8), which would allow the government to share information with companies to help protect their networks. This was the fourth-most discussed bill on POPVOX last week.

— The Federal Information Security Amendments Act (HR 4257), from Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA-49), is aimed at “improving the framework for securing information technology of federal government systems.”

— The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act (HR 2096), from Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX-10), is meant to foster coordinated research between federal agencies to help address cyber threats.

— The Advancing America’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Act (HR 3834), from Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX-4), would reauthorize the government’s NITRD cybersecurity program. Bills in the Senate

— The 21st Century Postal Service Act (S 1789) (number 8 on POPVOX last week), is a bipartisan bill that would allow the U.S. Postal Service restructure its retirement payments in a bid to keep the USPS fiscally sound. Starting on Tuesday, the Senate is expected to start voting on up to 39 amendments to the bill.

—  The Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on SJRes 36, a Republican resolution that disapproves of a 2010 ruling by the National Labor Relations Board meant to speed up union elections. —  The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (S 1925) should be debated later in the week.

— Highway funding: Also look for the House and Senate to start reconciling their differences over federal highway funding. Last week, the House passed an extension of highway programs through the end of the fiscal year, HR 4348. In March, the Senate approved a two-year extension, S 1813. Both bills have overwhelming negative comments on PopVox.

Also in the House this week

The early part of the week for the House will be filled with several non-controversial bills. On Tuesday, the House will consider six bills dealing with federal land use:

— To authorize the conveyance of two parcels of land in the Coconino National Forest (HR 1038)

— The Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act (HR 2050)

— To facilitate a land exchange in the Inyo National Forest (HR 2157)

— To release the U.S. interest in land conveyed to establish an airport in Minnesota (HR 2497)

— To modify the boundaries of the Cibola National Forest (HR 491)

— The Lowell National Historical Park Land Exchange Act (HR 2240)

And on Wednesday, the House will consider two others:

— The Small Business Credit Availability Act (HR 3336), which ensures the exclusion of small lenders from certain regulations of the Dodd-Frank Act

— The DATA Act (HR 2146), a bill aimed at increasing the transparency of federal spending

Other noteworthy bills

— The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, (HR 4089), the most-discussed bill on POPVOX last week, passed the House on April 17.

— The Paying a Fair Share Act (S 2230), the second-most discussed bill on POPVOX, failed to advance in the Senate last week. The bill would impose a minimum tax on all income above $1 million.

The Student Loan Forgiveness Act (HR 4170) sets up a program to ease the burden of student loans on students. This bill, the third-most discussed on POPVOX, is currently not being discussed in any of the committees to which it was referred.

(Find this on the POPVOX blog.)


Newly Introduced

WARNING!
The list of newly introduced bills is LONG, we’ve highlighted many of them at http://www.popvox.com/blog/2012/newly-introduced-bills-congress-week-april-16/ . (Keep in mind that these bills are so new that many don’t yet have bill text available online. So keep checking back.)


Recent Issue Spotlights

We developed Issue Spotlights to pull together bills by category, making it easier for individuals to find bills related to a particular issue. Spotlights have become popular among our users, and are often shared through email and listservs. (If you have an idea for an Issue Spotlight, please let me know.)

What about HR 4646 — the 1% tax on financial transactions?
“HR 4646” has consistently been a popular bill search term on POPVOX, even though no current bill numbered HR 4646 exists. Get the scoop.

The Research Works Act: The Research Works Act (HR 3699), which would prohibit Federal agencies from disseminating publicly-funded research without publisher consent, was withdrawn by its sponsors on Feb. 27, 2012. Learn why POPVOX users opposed the bill.

Vietnam Veterans Day
President Obama signed a proclamation declaring March 29 as “Vietnam Veterans Day.” The last American troops left Vietnam on March 29, 1973.

Estate Tax
According to the IRS, “the laws on Estate and Gift Taxes are considered to be some of the most complicated in the tax code.”

Personal Income Tax
Given Tax Day, it seemed fitting to do a spotlight on tax bills!