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      One of the most extraordinary threads I’ve read recently is Abigail Disney doing the math on how Disney corporation could raise the income of its bottom tier workers. I’m sure the math is complicated. And no one is complaining about pay at the middle and upper levels of the company. So let’s say you just […]
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Phillip Glass was bugged

His privacy deserved to be violated because he did this at Occupy Lincoln Center:

“When righteousness withers away and evil rules the land, we come into being, age after age, and take visible shape, and move, a man among men, for the protection of good, thrusting back evil and setting virtue on her seat again.”

–Bhagavad Gita

Of course, he repeats it three times.

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I wuz bugged

Security Expert: All Occupiers Phones were logged.

In light of news that every day the entirety of telecom giant Verizon’s call system records are handed over to the NSA, news that Occupy Wall Street protest attendees’ cellphones were logged should hardly come as a shock. It nonetheless bears noting that cellphone metadata of march and rally participants was likely specifically logged, as security expert Steven Ramdam recently noted. This means that individuals were directly targeted for their engagement with First Amendment-protected activity.

So, let me see if I have this right.  As a result of my coverage of Occupy events in New York City where I went to observe and cover the protests and marches for this blog and exercise my First Amendment Rights, my cell phone was put on a surveillance regime.  Not only that but the phone usually ends up in bed with me at night while I listen to various podcasts and books so I have been literally sleeping with the enemy and depending on what technology they’ve been using, they have been able to record everything that I did or didn’t do there.  Everything that happened in my house has probably been recorded for posterity and stored on a cloud server at the NSA.  I should probably warn the new owners of my old house…

Lovely.

Now, I can imagine a bunch of stupid whip kissers out there thinking that anyone who went to an Occupy event deserved this because nothing bad happens to you if you are obedient and pious.  But I’d like to know if 2nd Amendment assholes who threaten to shoot the shit out of anyone who threatens to take away their guns are similarly targeted and if not, why not.

Someone has some explaining to do, preferably in front of a Congressional committee.

Lest we forget who we are talking about, this picture was taken at the peak of the Occupation of Zuccotti Park in October 2011.  These are the people who were bugged.  We’re not talking about lice infested anarchists.  We’re talking about ordinary Americans who went to the park on a nice October day to check things out and talk to other like minded people about economics.  For this, we’re not entitled to privacy.  It just goes to show how powerful Occupy was to the ruling elite and their politicians.  More than ever, I’m glad I went.  I rocked the boat just by showing up.  How many Americans can say that they were considered dangerous enough to be bugged simply because they were there?  The rest of you can hold your manhoods cheap.

Come to think of it, that means Paul Krugman and his wife were probably bugged too but in their case, they’ve always been rabble rousers and trouble makers.

The Obvious Question

Oh my god, the posts are practically writing themselves today.  Here’s what Obama just said about the surveillance mess:

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Friday offered a robust defense of the government surveillance programs revealed this week, and sought to reassure the public that his administration has not become a Big Brother with eyes and ears throughout the world of online communications.

“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” Mr. Obama said, delivering a 14-minute answer to two questions about the surveillance programs at an event that was initially supposed to be devoted to the health care law. “That’s not what this program is about.”

So, here’s the question: If we are to believe that nobody is listening to our telephone calls, how would we actually *know* that??  Isn’t it the current policy to not let you have access to that information?  If I recall correctly, you need to go to court to find out if the telecomms have turned over your personal communications to government officials and that in many cases, this has been classified as “state secrets” so you can’t ever really be sure.  To have standing in court, you have to show you were harmed by the surveillance but if you only suspect harm and can’t prove you were surveilled, then you’ll never know the extent to which your communications have been monitored.  Jeez, does the Obama administration think we’re stupid??  Based on the previous two presidential election cycles, yeah, probably.

There are other obvious questions, such as, who decided that the surveillance was “legal” and whose definition are we using when we say it was “limited”?  Then there is the “what are you going to do with information that you accidentally dig up that indicates a citizen has been engaged in questionable activities”?   I’m talking about anything from setting up a secret rendezvous with your mistress, to scoring a dime of pot with your pizza delivery, to meeting up at the local Occupy event* (which isn’t illegal but with the batallions of police around the events, sure feels like you’re doing something wrong)?

The final question I have is will an ordinary citizen who gets ensnared for doing something non-terrorist in nature get the same kind of immunity as the bankers did for destroying the world’s economy?  Just askin’ because otherwise, I’m not sure I’m very sympathetic to any sort of surveillance activity.  If you can’t nail the bankers, who are the biggest domestic and global terrorists around, for anything, you shouldn’t be allowed to listen in on ordinary people doing ordinary human things.

Otherwise, it’s not fair or just, it doesn’t sound like equal access to the law, and the people in charge should be held accountable and/or impeached.

*RD’s Law: The power intrinsic to a legal citizen action is directly proportional to the magnitude of the police presence.

Krugman is unreasonably optimistic about Medicaid expansion and Obamacare

Decreasing the surplus population in Ireland through starvation and homelessness

He’s not the only one.  Digby is also cautiously optimistic about how things are going to go.  Both of them seem to think that the increase in premiums are only going to affect a small subset of people and everybody knew this from the start, had they been paying attention.  They seem to think the people most irked are going to be relatively well off younger people, like entrepreneurs who work for themselves.

But that’s not really true.  I’m not surprised that neither Digby or Krugman are seeing who are going to get slammed by Obamacare most severely because it has become almost a habit not to talk about them.  I’m referring to the millions of long term unemployed, many of whom are over 50, who are now forced to cobble together some kind of living as self-employed.  That affects just about everyone I know who was laid off since 2008.  To these people, the premiums are not just a nuisance.  They are extremely burdensome.  And if Lambert has been reading the tea leaves correctly, lumping these people into the Medicaid pot puts whatever estate they have left at risk.  So, to recap, Obamacare is putting an extra burden on these people who are now forced to a.) work for themselves, b.) pay all of the payroll tax by themselves and c.) pay for their own retirements.

Today, Krugman writes that the states that are opting out of the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare are going to create a backlash against Republicans.  Oh, if only I could believe it.  But I have always felt that the systemic exploitation that our current politicians have allowed to happen over the last 30 years has lead to a repeat of an Irish Potato Famine Scenario, not the beginning of a new Golden Age of rationality and righteous indignation.  The right wing noise machine is still strong and the people who get royally screwed by the Medicaid opt out will be portrayed as a bunch of fricking losers who can’t pull their weight in this new economy.  They will be spat upon by the people who are only a rung or two up the ladder who are simultaneously terrified it will happen to them and triumphantly crowing about their moral superiority.  Yeah, they will look like a bunch of stupid hicks to the rest of us but the message they will be getting is that the world is a random, chaotic, evil place and the only reason they’re surviving is because God favors them, or some such nonsense.  That will keep the whip kissers in line, keeping them from raising their hands against their masters, demanding better wages and benefits.  If they don’t remain obedient and passive, bad things will happen to them.

It’s not that much different than what happened to the starving Irish against their landlords who owned everything, took everything and rented the rest.  Back in the early 19th century, Irish workers had no rights and employers and landlords took full advantage of that.  Why would they not?  What laws were going to constrain them?  When the famine hit, the Irish couldn’t stand up for themselves and the rest of Great Britain acted like they brought it on themselves for being Irish and Catholic.  Some of the onlookers even argued that to help them would be wrong and go against God’s plan.  A lot of people died before the population dropped sufficiently and the potatoes developed some resistance.

Throwing the over 55’s into Medicaid and taking their property to pay for it is very reminiscent of the workhouse and relief rules the Irish had to contend with.  If you had a quarter acre of land, you were not too poor to support yourself.  In order to get any kind of relief at all, you had to give that up.  Then you were eligible for the workhouse where you might get some food in exchange for losing every other possession you had.  In the Medicaid opt-out states, you won’t even get relief.  You’ll just get access to the emergency room and bill collectors.  Back in the 1840s, most people looked upon this as wretched and bad but the ones who were not suffering put up with it.  Opting out of Medicaid is like the landlords pulling down the roofs of starving tenants.  It happened and people were both homeless and starving but no one stopped the billhooks.

So, I don’t expect that there will be much backlash against the loss of Medicaid funds in the bible belt states.  It’s still a plantation down there where labor is expected to be obedient and pious and if you end up poor and sick, it’s because you didn’t follow the rules or were insufficiently religious.  You’ll see.  The right wing media and some of the regular media, will continue to reinforce learned helplessness in the public and Americans will start to accept this hardship when the alternative, public options, Medicare for All, cost controls, etc, will start to seem like impossibilities.

In the meantime, the left’s willful ignorance and denial of just how bad Obamacare is going to be is doing them no credit.  It is BAD policy.  All of the potential problems that the left wants to minimize or deny could have been avoided had the policy been carefully crafted by a president who cared about average Americans and by a Congress who wasn’t rushed to make some really bad concessions.

As for Digby’s silly rationalization that so many lefties were duped by Obama back in 2008 but that she and a few of her friends were not but couldn’t find enough people who agreed with them, that’s incredibly offensive bullshit.  WE were here.  We still call ourselves “Democrats in Exile”.  We saw through Obama and knew what he was because we actually listened to what he was saying.  He was not a brilliant politician.  His campaign staff simply took advantage of demographic trends and realized that a lot of baby boomers would vote for an African American candidate over a woman because of the period of time when these voters came of age, in the Civil Rights Era.  That’s probably why the well off older baby boomers are still in love with Obama.  He completes them.  The campaign would stampede the rest with fear, vicious misogyny, outright lies about our intelligence and racism and blatant bullying of delegates.  Predictably, the activist Democrats acted like the herd animals the campaign psychologists thought they were.

But there was absolutely no truth to the lie that Digby and others are propagating that they couldn’t find like minded Democrats who felt the same way they did about what a fraud Obama was in 2008.  We were here and there were a lot of us.  We were simply defamed and called racists and Digby and her ilk went along with that characterization because they were cowards who were afraid of guilt by association.

If you don’t stand up against unfair propaganda and you allow the bad guys to weaken your side, you should not be surprised if you find that you too are eventually powerless.  I don’t expect that the left will every stop rationalizing about why they invited vampires into their house but I really wish they would start putting more of their energy into getting them out.  We don’t have time for silly self delusion.  Obamacare is almost upon us and about to take out the Democratic party and what remains of whatever defense we have left.

Addendum: It looks like Glenn Greenwald is public enemy number one for, you know, being doggedly persistent about civil liberties and stuff.  It goes without saying that we stand with Glenn against all the nastiness heading his way.

If only Glenn had stood with us five years ago when our hair was on fire when Obama bamboozled everyone, got Hillary to suspend her campaign and then voted for the telecomm immunity bill once he thought his nomination was secure.  But of course, we were only stupid, racist, women back then and people like Digby refused to acknowledge our legitimacy or, unbelievably, our existence.

So, even though Glenn was more than happy to jump on Obama’s bandwagon back when all the lights were flashing red, we are going to stick with him no matter what.  Because he happens to be right about the intrusion into our privacy and it is wrong to publicly harass and defame people who expose uncomfortable truths and wrongdoing.  Glenn is a human being and we do not approve of harassment investigations,  personal attacks or dehumanization of him or his family.  In this respect, we have been consistent with respect to Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.  It is acceptable and morally responsible to criticize unconstitutionality, poor policy and unethical behavior.  But we don’t get personal, racist or go after family members because that’s wrong.  You can check our archives.

By the way, guess who voted against the telecomm immunity bill back in 2008? Of course, the candidates were otherwise indistinguishable.  {{rolling eyes}}