Washington Post: Libertarian Democrats: A movement in search of a leader

Lost amid all the hubbub about Rand Paul and Chris Christie’s war of words over NSA security programs and the rising strain of Republican libertarianism is this:

A similar divide is alive and well in the Democratic Party — arguably just as much in the GOP (if not more).

Several Democrats from this movement will meet at the White House this afternoon to discuss their concerns with President Obama and Republicans.

For evidence of the widespread uneasiness on the left, one need look no further than the vote in the House last week to defund the NSA’s phone record collection program. While much was made of the fact that nearly half of Republicans voted for the measure, it’s just as notable that 111 of 194 Democrats did the same.

In other words, well more than half the House Democratic conference voted to defund a surveillance program overseen by a president of their own party. That’s a pretty stunning fact that has gotten lost in the current debate.

So why hasn’t this issue played out on the Democratic side like it has on the Republican side (i.e. in full view)?

Put plainly: It’s a movement in search of a leader. There isn’t one big nationally known player on the left that is pushing this issue in a way that Paul is on the right.

For now, the de facto leaders of the left’s effort to rein in the Obama Administration’s surveillance programs are Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and, arguably, the journalist who has been working with Edward Snowden to reveal the programs, Glenn Greenwald. While these two have been pushing the issue hard, they aren’t exactly political figures with huge built-in constituencies.


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1787 Network: Is Detroit Our Starnesville?

Detroit reminds me of a quote from the Grail Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “He chose poorly.”  In the movie the evil bastard who “chose poorly” shrivels up and turns to ancient ruins because of his “enlightened” choice, so too has Detroit. Indy who didn’t choose poorly did not suffer the same fate.  Just like in the movie those who “chose wisely” don’t suffer the same fate, nor should they.

Detroit is the manifestation of those who “chose wisely” going Galt. It is precisely the condition and outcome that result from the reality of implementing the utopian ideas of so called progressives.  Detroit mirrors Starnesville, a car-manufacturing city that became a ghost town after experimenting with socialism. You can read about it in Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

The federal government and tax payers from the other 50 states should under no circumstances bail out Detroit. It should be allowed to go bankrupt.  The citizens of Detroit should be allowed to suffer the consequences of their choices: specifically their voting decisions.  It is the citizens of Detroit who are at fault for Detroit’s demise not the rest of the nation. Every single voter in Detroit who voted for politicians who expanded the government of Detroit is responsible.

Let’s hope Detroit isn’t the indicator that Starnesville was in the novel.  In Atlas Shrugged, the demise and failure of Starnesville was the harbinger of the collapse of the entire society.  Detroit and its current bankrupt condition is the direct result of who the people of Detroit elected.  Those who were disproportionately taxed and had to pay for the utopian ideas of the elected leaders, when it was obvious that their vote for responsible government and free enterprise were ineffective, voted with their feet; they moved.  The auto industry built plants in Kansas, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, etc. they quit building and expanding in Detroit. The empty wasteland of factories in Detroit is evidence of the reality of implementing enlightened ideas of the statist leftists.  The voters of these states, who elected people that created laws and an environment more inviting to auto manufactures than Detroit and Michigan did, are not responsible and should not have to bail out the voters who embraced the empty promises of Democrats.


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Roll Call: GOP Leaders Face Libertarian Revolt Over NSA, Egypt, Syria

House GOP leaders are scrambling to quell a quiet libertarian rebellion that threatens to block consideration of the Defense appropriations bill.

A small group of Republicans are holding the spending bill hostage until they get votes on several controversial amendments.

“We’ve conveyed to the whip team that we won’t vote for the rule if they don’t allow debate and votes,” Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said Friday. “We don’t need all the amendments to be allowed. We need at least one substantial amendment on three things: Egypt, Syria and NSA.”

Massie has two amendments before the Rules Committee: one that would defund military operations in Syria and one that would defund military operations in Egypt. Another leader in the Republican rebellion, Justin Amash of Michigan, has an amendment that would end funds for the National Security Agency’s blanket collection of telephone call records in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaking of the program.

Rules Committee member Rich Nugent, R-Fla., has a similar NSA amendment, but the libertarian lawmakers say it insufficiently addresses the issue.

GOP leaders have been coming off a string of impressive victories lately — from passing the farm bill without a single Democratic vote to navigating a No Child Left Behind rewrite. But the Rules Committee postponed their meeting Thursday on the Defense appropriations bill, and leaders are still figuring out if they have the votes to squash the Republican revolt.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has pleaded with lawmakers in the group to not shoot down the rule and, consequently, shoot Republicans in the foot.

According to an aide to one lawmaker in the group threatening to vote down the rule, leadership has used “every tool in the toolbox” to block the amendments. The aide said they have faced a number of procedural roadblocks, from leadership saying their amendments legislate on an appropriations bill to having their amendments submitted to the Congressional Budget Office for a score. The aide said it has been a “concerted effort.”

But the lawmakers have cleared the hurdles, they say, and they want votes. They are drafting a letter calling for the opportunity to vote on their amendments, and they are seeking signatories.

On Friday, Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who will be controlling the Defense appropriations rule on the floor for the Democrats, said the Republican Conference is “just chaos.”

“They can’t seem to get their act together. So they got a problem,” McGovern said. “The Republican leadership long ago lost the ability to lead.”

McGovern, who is also a Rules panel member, said Democrats were initially told the Rules Committee was delaying its Thursday meeting on the Defense appropriations bill “out of deference to us” so Democrats could vote in the ranking member of the Natural Resources election, even though no Democrat asked the committee to delay the hearing.

“And then they delayed for another hour, and then they delayed it indefinitely and never told us why,” McGovern said. “We all know why: It’s because of these NSA votes.”

The Rules Committee plans to mark up the rule for the Defense appropriations bill at 5 p.m. on July 22, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Friday that the House will consider the DOD appropriations bill next week.


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Yahoo News: NSA spying under fire: ‘You’ve got a problem’

Robert S. Litt, general counsel in the Office of Director of National Intelligence testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Wednesday, July 17, 2013. Six weeks after a leaked document exposed the scope of the government's monitoring of Americans' phone records, the House Judiciary Committee calls on key administration figures from the intelligence world to answer questions about the sweeping government surveillance of Americans in war on terrorism. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

In a heated confrontation over domestic spying, members of Congress said Wednesday they never intended to allow the National Security Agency to build a database of every phone call in America. And they threatened to curtail the government’s surveillance authority.

Top Obama administration officials countered that the once-secret program was legal and necessary to keep America safe. And they left open the possibility that they could build similar databases of people’s credit card transactions, hotel records and Internet searches.

The clash on Capitol Hill undercut President Barack Obama’s assurances that Congress had fully understood the dramatic expansion of government power it authorized repeatedly over the past decade.

The House Judiciary Committee hearing also represented perhaps the most public, substantive congressional debate on surveillance powers since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Previous debates have been largely theoretical and legalistic, with officials in the Bush and Obama administrations keeping the details hidden behind the cloak of classified information.

That changed last month when former government contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents to the Guardian newspaper revealing that the NSA collects every American’s phone records, knowing that the overwhelming majority of people have no ties to terrorism.

Civil rights groups have warned for years that the government would use the USA Patriot Act to conduct such wholesale data collection. The government denied it.

The Obama administration says it needs a library of everyone’s phone records so that when it finds a suspected terrorist, it can search its archives for the suspect’s calling habits. The administration says the database was authorized under a provision in the Patriot Act that Congress hurriedly passed after 9/11 and reauthorized in 2005 and 2010.

The sponsor of that bill, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said Wednesday that Congress meant only to allow seizures directly relevant to national security investigations. No one expected the government to obtain every phone record and store them in a huge database to search later.

As Deputy Attorney General James Cole explained why that was necessary, Sensenbrenner cut him off and reminded him that his surveillance authority expires in 2015.

“And unless you realize you’ve got a problem,” Sensenbrenner said, “that is not going to be renewed.”

He was followed by Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., who picked up where his colleague left off. The problem, he said, is that the administration considers “everything in the world” relevant to fighting terrorism.

Later, Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, asked whether the NSA could build similar databases of everyone’s Internet searches, hotel records and credit card transactions.

Robert S. Litt, general counsel in the Office of Director of National Intelligence, didn’t directly answer, saying it would depend on whether the government believed those records — like phone records — to be relevant to terrorism investigations.

After the phone surveillance became public, Obama assured Americans that Congress was well aware of what was going on.

“When it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program,” he said.

Whether lawmakers willingly kept themselves in the dark or were misled, it was apparent Wednesday that one of the key oversight bodies in Congress remained unclear about the scope of surveillance, more than a decade after it was authorized.

The Judiciary Committee’s senior Democrat, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, noted that the panel had “primary jurisdiction” over the surveillance laws that were the foundation for the NSA programs. Yet one lawmaker, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, said some members of Congress wouldn’t have known about the NSA surveillance without the sensational leaks: “Snowden, I don’t like him at all, but we would never have known what happened if he hadn’t told us.”

The NSA says it only looks at numbers as part of narrow terrorism investigations, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

For the first time, NSA deputy director John C. Inglis disclosed Wednesday that the agency sometimes conducts what’s known as three-hop analysis. That means the government can look at the phone data of a suspect terrorist, plus the data of all of his contacts, then all of those people’s contacts, and finally, all of those people’s contacts.

If the average person calls 40 unique people, three-hop analysis could allow the government to mine the records of 2.5 million Americans when investigating one suspected terrorist.

Rep Randy Forbes, R-Va., said such a huge database was ripe for government abuse. When Inglis said there was no evidence of that, Forbes interrupted:

“I said I wasn’t going to yell at you and I’m going to try not to. That’s exactly what the American people are worried about,” he said. “That’s what’s infuriating the American people. They’re understanding that if you collect that amount of data, people can get access to it in ways that can harm them.”

The government says it stores everybody’s phone records for five years. Cole explained that because the phone companies don’t keep records that long, the NSA had to build its own database.


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Video: Fourth of July Reflection, What if we actually had a sound (and constitutional) foreign policy?

On the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence for the GREATEST country in the world, let us reflect as to what our foreign policy should be going forward. What would the founding fathers have wanted? Does our current foreign policy follow the constitution? What does our current foreign policy do to our national debt? Does our foreign policy actually make us safer? Please keep those questions in mind when watching this video…..

The National Journal: Why the Obama Administration Can’t Win on Health Care

The Obama administration had been absorbing constant political attacks about the so-called job-killing nature of Obamacare, with its complex employer reporting requirements and fines for large companies that don’t offer their workers insurance. But when it announced Tuesday that it would delay implementation of the employer mandate to give businesses more time to prepare, the attack lines simply shifted from arguments about policy merit to those about the administration’s competence.

Republicans used the decision to amp up their calls for repealing the law, sounding as bullish as ever that the Affordable Care Act was inevitably flawed.

It shows that when it comes to the health care law—the president’s signature legislative accomplishment—the administration can’t win.

The White House appeased an angry business community with its decision to postpone a requirement that large employers offer their workers health insurance or pay a fine. The rule had angered even businesses that already insure their workers. It gave Republican opponents ammunition to attack the law, claiming it slowed economic growth. Its delay is likely to quiet some of those particular critiques, at least until after the 2014 election.

But the decision will still be politically useful to the health care law’s political foes, who are now painting the administration as incompetent. A flood of press releases Tuesday night described the law as “unworkable,” its implementation a “train wreck,” and the delay as evidence that all of Obamacare should be taken off the books. “This is a clear acknowledgment that the law is unworkable, and it underscores the need to repeal the law and replace it,” said House Speaker John Boehner in a statement.


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Wall Street Journal: Rand Paul Says He May Sue Over NSA Program

A Republican senator said Sunday that he plans to assemble a class action lawsuit against the federal government over a national security program that collects phone call data, saying he hopes the matter winds up before the Supreme Court.

Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.), who is considering a run for the White House in 2016, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he is considering asking major U.S. telecommunications firms to ask their customers to join a lawsuit.

“If we get a million people in a class-action suit, things might change,” Mr. Paul said.

Mr. Paul didn’t elaborate on the plan, and a spokeswoman for the senator wasn’t immediately available to comment.

The program has become a focus of public attention since a court order was leaked to The Guardian newspaper last week that authorized the National Security Agency to collect data of phone calls made by customers of Verizon Communications Inc. Many lawmakers and President Barack Obama have defended the program as important to efforts to find and track terrorists, while others have said the national-security gains don’t justify the imposition on privacy.


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Forbes: Democrats’ New Argument: It’s A Good Thing That Obamacare Doubles Individual Health Insurance Premiums

Well, it’s been an interesting week in health care land. For a while now, independent analysts—and conservative critics—have raised concerns that Obamacare will dramatically increase the cost of individually-purchased health insurance for healthier people. This would, of course, contradict President Obama’s promises that “if you like your plan, you can keep it” and that the cost of insurance would go down “by $2,500 per family per year.” What’s new is that liberal columnists, facing reality, are conceding that premiums will go up for most people in the individual market. But they’re justifying it by saying that “rate shock” will help a tiny minority of people who can’t get insurance today. If they had said that in 2009, would Obamacare have passed?

Last month, progressive pundits were trumpeting news out of California that the cost of health insurance under Obamacare in that state was surprisingly low. “Well, the California bids are in,” wrote Paul Krugman on May 27. “And the prices, it turns out, are surprisingly low…So yes, it does look as if there’s an Obamacare shock coming,” the shock that Obamacare will work just fine.

It turns out, however, that Krugman was uncritically regurgitating California’s misleading press release. In fact, the average 25 and 40-year-old will pay double under Obamacare what they would need to pay today, based on rates posted at eHealthInsurance.com (NASDAQ:EHTH). More specifically, for the typical 25-year-old male non-smoker, the average Obamacare “bronze” exchange plan in California will cost between 64 and 117 percent more than the cheapest five plans on eHealth. For 40-year-old male non-smokers, it’s between 73 and 146 percent more.


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The Inquisitr: John McCain Says Syrian Rebels Need Heavy Weapons

John McCain Says Syrian Rebels Need Heavy Weapons

Syrian  rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad and his regime need  heavy weapons, according to US Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who visited the  country in secret earlier this week.

McCain added that the rebels are in need of the weapons, along with  ammunition, in order to counter the regime’s tanks and aircraft. He warned that,  should they not received the weapons, it will impossible for the rebels to win  the country’s bloody civil war.

The world has been reluctant to arm the rebels, including the United States,  though they have been watching the conflict closely. Several Western countries,  including the US, have been supplying  rebel forces with humanitarian aid.

But McCain asserted that the opposition forces need more than first aid and food  supplies. He stated on Friday, “They just can’t fight tanks with  AK-47s.”

The Republican senator and former presidential candidate made a secret,  unannounced trip to Syria on Monday, traveling across the border through Kilis,  Turkey. He spent about two hours with rebel leaders. McCain has also been very  vocal in Congress about his support of arming the Syrian rebels.

McCain added that he arranged the trip with the help of Deputy Secretary of State  William Burns. He added that he spoke to Secretary of State John Kerry  before the trip, but never mentioned the secret trip to Syria. He explained, “It  wasn’t that I was hiding it from him; it just didn’t seem to come up. I thought  Burns was the right guy to go through. They were very important in the  trip.”

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/683372/john-mccain-says-syrian-rebels-need-heavy-weapons/#qcA9orBdU33ITv4O.99


The Liberty Report Take: So let’s get this straight, let’s borrow more money from China and add to our unsustainable National Debt where we soon won’t even be able to afford the interest payments so we can fund another country’s civil war.  We can then put our own troops on the ground as the aid and weapons won’t be enough so our sons and daughters can lose their lives defending another country and a new regime that probably won’t like us any better.  We can bomb their roads and bridges and then have our tax payers pay to fix them back up while ours are crumbling at home.  Great plan John…..

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Yahoo News: White House Defensive Over Benghazi Memo; Draft revised 12 times

President Barack Obama’s standoff with congressional Republicans over Benghazi escalated on Friday as the White House rebuffed House Speaker John Boehner’s demand that it turn over unclassified internal emails linked to the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attack.

Press secretary Jay Carney rejected the request and again accused Republicans of trying to milk the tragic death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans for political gain.

“They’re asking for emails that they’ve already seen, that they were able to review and take extensive notes on, apparently provide verbatim information to folks,” Carney told reporters.

His comments came hours after ABC News reported that talking points crafted by the administration to explain the attack to the public underwent extensive revisions at the State Department’s request and with copious White House oversight.

“The fact that the very people who’ve reviewed this and probably leaked it–generally speaking, not specifically–are asking for something they’ve already had access to I think demonstrates that this is what it was from the beginning in terms of Republican handling of it which is a highly political matter,” the spokesman said.

Carney noted that key Republicans had been given access to internal emails in which officials discussed the drafting of the talking points. Lawmakers were able “to review them, take notes, spend as much with with them as they liked,” Carney said. (The lawmakers were were not allowed to make copies or take the documents out, which is known as an “in camera” review. )

“There is a long precedent here for protecting internal deliberations. This is across administrations of both parties,” he said. House Republicans have hinted they may try to subpoena the emails if the administration does not cooperate.

“From the hours after the attack, beginning with the Republican nominee’s unfortunate press release, and then his statements the day after, there has been an effort to politicize a tragedy here, the deaths of four Americans,” Carney said, referring to Mitt Romney’s poorly received response to the attack.

“The administration wouldn’t allow our staff to keep any emails or make copies,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck told Yahoo News. “We believe the American public should be able to see the contents, and we continue to call on the president to live up to his promise of cooperation and release them publicly.”

Meanwhile, senior administration officials, briefing reporters at the White House on condition that they not be named or quoted, offered a detailed timeline of the administration’s efforts to draft the talking points, which the House Intelligence Committee had requested. And they sought to explain away one email from a senior State Department official, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who seemed to urge an edit to spare the department from attacks by congressional Republicans.

Much of the latest controversy has centered on a handful of meaningful changes to the original CIA-produced draft, which ABC reported underwent 12 revisions:

– The very first draft, from 11:15 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 14, refers to “the attacks in Benghazi.” And it asserts “we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qaida participated in the attack.” It suggests that the extremist group Ansar al-Sharia may be involved.

– By 4:42 p.m. on Friday, they are “demonstrations in Benghazi” that “evolved into a direct assault.” The al-Qaida reference is gone.

– A few edits later, at 8:59 p.m., “we do know” has become “there are indications that.” And Ansar al-Sharia is gone.

As is well known, the ultimate version linked the onslaught in Benghazi to Muslim anger at an Internet video denigrating Islam — which had sparked a violent demonstration and attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo. There was no such demonstration in Benghazi.

Nuland’s email in particular has drawn scrutiny. She objected to an early draft’s reference to CIA warnings in the months leading up to the attack on grounds that such language “could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either? Concerned …”

One senior administration official described Nuland’s concerns as consistent with worries expressed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which leads the ongoing investigation into the attack, and the Department of Justice. The official said Nuland also made the case that the administration should not suggest that Congress point to Ansar al-Sharia when administration officials were waiting to do so until the results of the investigation.

Another official said the FBI had objected to the “we do know that Islamic extremists” participated phrasing.

“I think the overriding concern of everyone involved in that circumstance is always to make sure that we’re not giving, to those who speak in public about these issues, information that cannot be confirmed, speculation about who was responsible, other things like warnings that may or may not be relevant to what we ultimately learn about what happened and why,” Carney said at his public briefing later.

The officials also insisted that Carney had not meant to mislead reporters when he contended that the White House had only made one “stylistic” change — altering the description of the ransacked facility from a “consulate” to a “diplomatic post.” They said he had been referring to the process that unfolded after the interagency debate on the talking points, once the deputy director of the CIA had drafted a would-be final draft on Saturday morning, September 15th. The documents obtained by ABC showed that the White House oversaw the early back-and-forth among the agencies concerned.

The officials also tackled another issue that has drawn scrutiny: Why, after lumping Benghazi in with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 as “acts of terror,” did the president and other top aides shy from calling it “terrorism”? The officials said that there was never any doubt that the attack was terrorism, but that they avoided the label because they were not certain who carried out the attack or whether it was spontaneous or pre-planned.


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