Homeland Stupidity http://www.homelandstupidity.us Government is stupid. Discover a better way to organize society. Tue, 15 Apr 2014 02:34:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Debt Ceiling Deal: DC Wins, Americans Lose http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/10/21/debt-ceiling-deal-dc-wins-americans-lose/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/10/21/debt-ceiling-deal-dc-wins-americans-lose/#comments Mon, 21 Oct 2013 18:22:55 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=929 Washington, DC, Wall Street, and central bankers around the world rejoiced this week as Congress came to an agreement to end the government shutdown and lift the debt ceiling. The latest spending-and-debt deal was negotiated by Congressional leaders behind closed doors, and was rushed through Congress before most members had time to read it. Now that the bill is passed, we can see that it is a victory for the political class and special interests, but a defeat for the American people.

The debt ceiling deal increases spending above the levels set by the “sequester.” The sequester cuts were minuscule, and in many cases used the old DC trick of calling reductions in planned spending increases a cut. But even minuscule and phony cuts are unacceptable to the bipartisan welfare-warfare spending collation. The bill also does nothing to protect the American people from the Obamacare disaster.

As is common in bills drafted in secret and rushed into law, this bill contains special deals for certain powerful politicians. The bill even has a provision authorizing continued military aid to opponents of the Ugandan “Lord’s Resistance Army,” which was the subject of the widely-viewed “Kony 2012″ YouTube videos. Most of these unrelated provisions did not come to public attention until after the bill was passed and signed into law.

Members of Congress and the public were told the debt ceiling increase was necessary to prevent a government default and an economic crisis. This manufactured fear supposedly justified voting on legislation without allowing members time to even read it, much less to remove the special deals or even debate the wisdom of intervening in overseas military conflicts because of a YouTube video.

Congress should have ignored the hysterics. A failure to increase government’s borrowing authority would not lead to a default any more that an individual’s failure to get a credit card limit increase in would mean they would have to declare bankruptcy. Instead, the failure of either an individual or a government to obtain new borrowing authority would force the individual or the government to live within their means, and may even force them to finally reduce their spending. Most people would say it is irresponsible to give a spendthrift, debt-ridden individual a credit increase. Why then is it responsible to give an irresponsible spendthrift government an increase in borrowing authority?

Congress surrendered more power to the president in this bill. Instead of setting a new debt ceiling, it simply “suspended” the debt ceiling until February. This gives the administration a blank check to run up as much debt as it pleases from now until February 7th. Congress can “disapprove” the debt ceiling suspension, but only if it passes a resolution of disapproval by a two-thirds majority. How long before Congress totally abdicates its constitutional authority over spending by allowing the Treasury permanent and unlimited authority to borrow money without seeking Congressional approval?

Instead of seriously addressing the spending crisis, most in Congress would rather engage in last-minute brinksmanship and backroom deals instead of taking the necessary action to rein in spending. Congress will only take serious steps to reduce spending when either a critical mass of Americans pressures it to cut spending, or when investors and foreign countries stop buying US government debt. Hopefully, those of us who understand sound economics can convince enough of our fellow citizens to pressure Congress to make serious spending cuts before Congress’s reckless actions cause a total economic collapse.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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An Opening to Iran? http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/10/06/an-opening-to-iran/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/10/06/an-opening-to-iran/#comments Mon, 07 Oct 2013 02:27:52 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=925 Last week, for the first time since the 1979 Iranian revolution, the US president spoke with his Iranian counterpart. Their 15 minute telephone call was reported to open the door to further high-level discussions. This is a very important event.

I have been saying for years that we should just talk to the Iranians. After all, we talked to the Soviets when they actually had thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at us! The Iranians have none, according to our own intelligence services. I even suggested a few years ago that we should “offer friendship” to them. Unfortunately, so many so-called experts have a stake in keeping tensions high and pushing us to war. They did not want to hear what I was saying. It seems, though, this is beginning to change now with these recent events.

The phone call was one of the most important moves away from war and conflict in a long time. Taken with the Obama administration’s decision to hold off on bombing Syria, we should be encouraged.

It is also probably a good sign that this phone call has infuriated the neoconservatives at home, the pro-war faction in Israel, and the hard-liners in Iran. Now that a process of negotiation has begun, the chance of war has been significantly reduced. The US is very unlikely to bomb Iran while it is talking with them, and Israel is also unlikely to start a war while the US is at the negotiating table with the Iranian leadership.

But we should also remain very cautious. Obama’s war on Syria was only stopped because the American people finally stood up and said “enough.” The message was received loud and clear and it shocked the neocons pushing war. They were used to being in charge of foreign policy.

In a recent CNN poll, more than 75% of Americans favored negotiations with Iran. This is very good news, but those pushing for war will not give up that easily. Believe it or not, some Members of Congress have recently introduced legislation to authorize war on Iran — even as these first steps toward a peaceful resolution of our differences begin to bear fruit!

So no, they will not give up that easily. There are many in the president’s own Cabinet who do not want to see US/Iranian relations improve. Even the president himself seems unable to avoid provocative statements — such as his claim that the Iranians are only willing to talk because the sanctions have been so successful in bringing them to the table. That is a false and unnecessary boast, and if he continues in such a way he will destroy what progress has been made.

But we are in the majority now. There are more than three-quarters of us who do not want war on Iran. It is essential that we keep the pressure on the Administration to ignore the war demands in both political parties and among the so-called foreign policy experts. There will be much more war propaganda coming our way as the warmongers get more desperate. Americans must see this propaganda for what it is. They should educate themselves and become familiar with alternative news sources to gain the tools to counter the propaganda. We do have a better chance at peace, but this is no time to let down our guard!

Copyright © 2013, Ron Paul. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted provided full credit is given and a live link provided.

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A Grand Bargain for Liberty? http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/09/29/a-grand-bargain-for-liberty/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/09/29/a-grand-bargain-for-liberty/#comments Mon, 30 Sep 2013 00:28:21 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=920 As I write this, it appears that the federal government is about to shut down because the House and Senate cannot agree on whether to add language defunding or delaying Obamacare to the “Continuing Resolution.” Despite all the hand-wringing heard in DC, a short-term government shut down (which doesn’t actually shut down the government) will not cause the country to collapse.

And the American people would benefit if Obamacare was defeated or even delayed.

Obamacare saddles the American health care system with new spending and mandates which will raise the price and lower the quality of health care. Denying funds to this program may give Congress time to replace this bill with free-market reforms that put patients and physicians back in charge of health care. Defunding the bill before it becomes implemented can spare the American people from falling under the worst effects of this law.

As heartened as we should be by the fight against Obamacare, we should be equally disheartened by the fact that so few in DC are talking about making real cuts in federal spending. Even fewer are talking about reductions in the most logical place to reduce spending: the military-industrial complex. The US military budget constitutes almost 50 percent of the total worldwide military spending. Yet to listen to some in Congress, one would think that America was one canceled multi-million dollar helicopter contract away from being left totally defenseless.

What makes this military spending impossible to justify is that is does not benefit the American people. Instead, by fomenting resentment and hatred among the world population, our costly interventionist foreign policy makes our people less safe. Thus, reducing spending on militarism would not only help balance the budget, but would enhance our security.

Yet both the House and the Senate continuing resolutions not only fail to reduce military spending, they actually authorize $20 billion more in military spending than authorized by the “sequestration” created by the 2011 Budget Control Act. Most of the supposedly “draconian” sequestration cuts are not even cuts; instead, they are “reductions in the planned rate of spending.” This is where Congress increases spending but by less than originally planned—and yet they claim to cut spending.

Under sequestration, military spending increases by 18 percent instead of by 20 percent over the next ten years. Yet some so-called conservatives are so opposed to these phony cuts in military spending that they would support increased taxes and increased welfare “military” spending. This “grand bargain” would benefit the DC political class and the special interests, but it would be a disaster for the American people.

Instead of grand bargains of increased spending and taxes, those of us who support limited government and free markets should form a coalition with antiwar liberals to reduce spending on both the military industrial complex and domestic welfare programs. Instead of raising taxes on “the rich” we should also work to reduce all corporate subsidies. This “grand bargain” would truly be a win-win for the American people.

Sadly, even if a congressional coalition to cut both warfare and welfare spending was formed, it would be unlikely to carry the day as long as the Federal Reserve is willing to enable Congress’s debt addiction by monetizing the debt. But this cannot last forever. At some point the Fed’s policies will result in hyperinflation and an economic crisis that will force Congress to reduce spending. Hopefully, the growing number of Americans who are awaking to the dangers of our current path can convince Congress to reduce overseas militarism and begin an orderly drawdown of the welfare state before this crisis occurs.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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Internet Sales Tax Could Crush Small Businesses http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/09/23/internet-sales-tax-could-crush-small-businesses/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/09/23/internet-sales-tax-could-crush-small-businesses/#comments Tue, 24 Sep 2013 00:49:45 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=917 One unique aspect of my homeschool curriculum is that students can start and manage their own online business. Students will be responsible for deciding what products or services to offer, getting the business up and running, and marketing the business’s products. Students and their families will get to keep the profits made from the business. Hopefully, participants in this program will develop a business that can either provide them with a full-time career or a way to supplement their income.

Internet commerce is the most dynamic and rapidly growing sector of the American economy. Not surprisingly, the Internet is also relatively free of taxes and regulations, although many in Washington are working to change that. For example, earlier this year the Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act, more accurately referred to as the national Internet sales tax act. This bill, which passed the Senate earlier this year, would require Internet businesses to collect sales tax for all 10,000 American jurisdictions that assess sales taxes. Internet business would thus be subject to audits from 46 states, six territories, and over 500 Native American tribal nations.

Proponents of the bill deny it will hurt small business because the bill only applies to Internet business that make over a million dollars in out-of-state revenue. However, many small Internet businesses with over a million dollars in out-of-state revenues operate on extremely thin profit margins, so even the slightest increase in expenses could put them out of businesses.

Some businesses may even try to avoid increasing their sales so as to not have to comply with the Internet sales tax. It is amazing that some of the same conservatives who rightly worry over Obamacare’s effects on job creation and economic growth want to impose new taxes on the most dynamic sector of the economy.

Proponents of the law claim that there is software that can automatically apply sales taxes. However, anyone who has ever dealt with business software knows that no program is foolproof. Any mistakes made by the software, or even errors in installing it, could result in a small business being subject to expensive and time-consuming audits.

Some say that it is a legitimate exercise of Congress’s Commerce Clause power to give state governments the authority to force out-of-state businesses to collect sales taxes. But if that were the case, why shouldn’t state governments be able to force you to pay sales taxes where you physically cross state lines to make a purchase? The Commerce Clause was intended to facilitate the free flow of goods and services across state lines, not to help states impose new burdens on out of state businesses.

The main proponents of this bill are large retailers and established Internet business. Big business can more easily afford to comply with a national Internet sales tax. In many cases, they are large enough that they already have a “physical presence” in most states and thus already have to collect state sales taxes. These businesses are seeking to manipulate the political process to disadvantage their existing and future small competitors. The Internet sales tax is a bad idea for consumers, small Internet business, and perhaps most importantly, the next generation of online entrepreneurs.

For more information about the small business program well as all other aspects of the Homeschool curriculum please go here. And to purchase a copy of my new book, The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System please go here.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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Has The Tide Turned Against the Warmongers? http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/09/16/has-the-tide-turned-against-the-warmongers/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/09/16/has-the-tide-turned-against-the-warmongers/#comments Mon, 16 Sep 2013 06:06:34 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=913 Will the history books record these past couple of weeks as the point when the tide finally turned against our interventionist foreign policy?

We began September with the Obama administration on the verge of launching Tomahawk missiles at Syria. The missiles were needed, the administration claimed, to punish the Syrian government for using poison gas on its own people. There were reports that in addition to missiles, the administration was planning air strikes and possibly even more military action against Syria. The talks of a punishing “shot across the bow” to send a message to the Syrian government also escalated, as some discussed the need to degrade the Syrian military to help change the regime. They refused to rule out a US ground invasion of Syria.

Secretary of State John Kerry even invoked an old bogeyman that had worked so many times before. Assad was another Hitler, we were told, and failure to attack would equate to another Neville Chamberlain-like appeasement.

The administration released its evidence to back up the claim that the Syrian government was behind the gassing, and the president asked Congress to authorize him to use force against Syria. Polls showed that the American people had very little interest in getting involved in another war in the Middle East, and as the administration presented no solid evidence for its claim, public support eroded further. The media, as usual, was pushing war propaganda.

Then something incredible happened. It started in the British parliament, with a vote against participating in a US-led attack on Syria. The UK had always reliably backed the US when it came to war overseas, and the vote was a shock. Though the House and Senate leadership lined up behind the president’s decision to attack Syria, the people did not. Support among the rank and file members of the Senate and House began to evaporate, as thousands of Americans contacted their representatives to express outrage over the president’s plan. The vote looked to be lost in the House and uncertain in the Senate. Then even Senators began to feel the anger of the American people, and it looked like a devastating and historic loss for the president was coming.

The administration and its pro-war allies could not bear to lose a vote in Congress that would have likely shut the door completely on a US attack, so they called off the vote. At least for now. It would have been far better to have had the president’s request for war authorization debated and voted down in the House and Senate, but even without a no vote it is clear that a major shift has taken place. A Russian proposal to secure and dismantle the Syrian government’s chemical weapons was inspired, it seems, by John Kerry’s accidental suggestion that such a move could avert a US strike. Though the details have yet to be fully worked out, it seems the Russia plan, agreed to by the Syrian government, gives us hope that a US attack will be avoided.

The American people have spoken out against war. Many more are now asking what I have been asking for quite some time: why is it always our business when there is civil strife somewhere overseas? Why do we always have to be the ones to solve the world’s problems? It is a sea change and I am very encouraged. We have had a great victory for the cause of peace and liberty and let’s hope we can further build on it.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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The Homeschooling Revolution http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/09/08/the-homeschooling-revolution/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/09/08/the-homeschooling-revolution/#comments Mon, 09 Sep 2013 02:27:06 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=909 Opposing infringement on parental control of education and promoting alternatives to government-run schools is a vital task for the liberty movement. When government usurps a parent’s right to control their child’s education, it is inevitable that the child will be taught the values of government officials, rather than of the parents. The result is an education system with a built-in bias toward statism. Over time, government-controlled education can erode the people’s knowledge of, and appreciation for, the benefits of a free society.

This is why throughout my congressional career I fought against any legislation that infringed on a parent’s right to control their child’s education, especially any legislation that limited a parent’s right to homeschool. Many so-called education experts claim that parents who are not “government-certified” educators cannot provide their children with a quality education. However, the numerous studies showing that homeschooled children out-perform their publicly-educated peers in every academic category shows that most parents are more than capable of providing their children with an excellent education.

The Internet has made it easier than ever for parents to homeschool. Because of my interest in promoting alternatives to government-controlled education, this month I am launching my own homeschool curriculum. The Ron Paul Curriculum consists of a rigorous program of study in history, economics, mathematics, and the physical and natural sciences.

Older students will also have the opportunity to gain experience creating and running their own on-line business. Frequent written assignments will ensure that students have the maximum opportunity to develop strong communication skills.

Students and parents are invited to participate in on-line interactive forums. The goal of the forums is to maximize participation so the student is not a passive recipient of information conveyed by the teachers. Instead, the students are encouraged to actively engage with their fellow students so the students can learn from each other as well as from the program’s instructors.

Of course, many of the offerings, particularly in history and economics, reflect my belief and interest in the freedom philosophy. However, unlike the pro-statist curriculum used in government-run schools, the curriculum does not place promoting an ideological agenda ahead of ensuring that students receive a quality education. The economic curriculum will cover all significant schools of economic thought, but will emphasize the free-market “Austrian” school.

Parents interested in providing their children with a quality education that incorporates knowledge of the principles of liberty will find this program a good investment. The curriculum also does not shy away from addressing the crucial role religion played in the development of western civilization. However, the materials are drafted in way that any Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or atheist parent who wants their children to receive a top-notch education incorporating the history, philosophy, and economics of liberty, can feel comfortable using the curriculum.

I expected interest in my curriculum to grow over the years, as the young people who have recently become interested in the ideas of liberty marry and start their own families. These men and women will want to make sure their children’s education includes instruction in the ideas of liberty that was lacking in their government-provided-and-controlled education.

I am excited to be able to help provide the increasing number of parents interested in homeschooling with a quality curriculum that emphasizes the history and philosophy of liberty and free-market economics of the Austrian school. For more information on my homeschool curriculum please see here. And to order a copy of my new book The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System, see here.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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Will Congress Endorse Obama’s War Plans? Does it Matter? http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/09/01/will-congress-endorse-obamas-war-plans-does-it-matter/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/09/01/will-congress-endorse-obamas-war-plans-does-it-matter/#comments Sun, 01 Sep 2013 21:40:44 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=905 President Obama announced this weekend that he has decided to use military force against Syria and would seek authorization from Congress when it returned from its August break. Every Member ought to vote against this reckless and immoral use of the US military. But even if every single Member and Senator votes for another war, it will not make this terrible idea any better because some sort of nod is given to the Constitution along the way.

Besides, the president made it clear that Congressional authorization is superfluous, asserting falsely that he has the authority to act on his own with or without Congress. That Congress allows itself to be treated as window dressing by the imperial president is just astonishing.

The President on Saturday claimed that the alleged chemical attack in Syria on August 21 presented “a serious danger to our national security.” I disagree with the idea that every conflict, every dictator, and every insurgency everywhere in the world is somehow critical to our national security. That is the thinking of an empire, not a republic. It is the kind of thinking that this president shares with his predecessor and it is bankrupting us and destroying our liberties here at home.

According to recent media reports, the military does not have enough money to attack Syria and would have to go to Congress for a supplemental appropriation to carry out the strikes. It seems our empire is at the end of its financial rope. The limited strikes that the president has called for in Syria would cost the US in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey wrote to Congress last month that just the training of Syrian rebels and “limited” missile and air strikes would cost “in the billions” of dollars. We should clearly understand what another war will do to the US economy, not to mention the effects of additional unknown costs such as a spike in fuel costs as oil skyrockets.

I agree that any chemical attack, particularly one that kills civilians, is horrible and horrendous. All deaths in war and violence are terrible and should be condemned. But why are a few hundred killed by chemical attack any worse or more deserving of US bombs than the 100,000 already killed in the conflict? Why do these few hundred allegedly killed by Assad count any more than the estimated 1,000 Christians in Syria killed by US allies on the other side? Why is it any worse to be killed by poison gas than to have your head chopped off by the US allied radical Islamists, as has happened to a number of Christian priests and bishops in Syria?

For that matter, why are the few hundred civilians killed in Syria by a chemical weapon any worse than the 2000-3000 who have been killed by Obama’s drone strikes in Pakistan? Does it really make a difference whether a civilian is killed by poison gas or by drone missile or dull knife?

In “The Sociology of Imperialism,” Joseph Schumpeter wrote of the Roman Empire’s suicidal interventionism:

“There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were those of Rome’s allies; and if Rome had no allies, then allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive an interest — why, then it was the national honour that had been insulted.”

Sadly, this sounds like a summary of Obama’s speech over the weekend. We are rapidly headed for the same collapse as the Roman Empire if we continue down the president’s war path. What we desperately need is an overwhelming Congressional rejection of the president’s war authorization. Even a favorable vote, however, cannot change the fact that this is a self-destructive and immoral policy.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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Middle of the Road in Healthcare Leads to Socialism http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/25/middle-of-the-road-in-healthcare-leads-to-socialism/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/25/middle-of-the-road-in-healthcare-leads-to-socialism/#comments Sun, 25 Aug 2013 23:04:57 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=901 The ever-expanding role of government in healthcare provides an excellent example of Ludwig Von Mises’ warning that “The Middle of the Road Leads to Socialism.” Beginning in the 1940s, government policies distorted the health care market, causing prices to rise and denying many Americans access to quality care. Congress reacted to the problems caused by their prior interventions with new interventions, such as the HMO Act, ERISA, EMTLA, and various federal entitlement programs. Each new federal intervention not only failed to fix the problems it was supposedly created to solve, it created new problems, leading to calls for even more new federal interventions. This process culminated in 2010, when Congress passed Obamacare.

Contrary to the claims of some of its opponents, Obamacare is not socialized medicine. It is corporatized medicine. After all, the central feature of Obamacare is the mandate that all Americans buy health insurance from private health insurance companies. And, as with previous government interventions in the marketplace, Obamacare is not only failing to correct the problems caused by prior federal laws, it is creating new problems.

Consider the almost weekly stories about how Obamacare is causing health insurance premiums to rise, causing employees to lay off workers or reduce their workers’ hours, and causing doctors to leave the profession. Also, consider the problems the administration is already having administering the federal exchanges and other parts of the health care law.

I fully expect the implosion of Obamacare to continue, and the supporters of nationalized health care to use Obamacare’s failures to push for a Canadian-style “single payer” health care system. Unfortunately, some Obamacare opponents fail to see that the problem is not just Obamacare, but all government interference with health care. These Obamacare opponents advocate replacing Obamacare with “Obamacare lite.” But economic law teaches us that “Obamacare lite” will be no more successful than Obamacare.

In order to win the battle for health freedom, those who oppose nationalized health care must have the courage to advocate for a complete free market in health care. Enhanced individual tax credits and enhanced use of Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are just two polices that could help restore a free-market in health care by putting control over the health care dollar back in the hands of the people. A good place to start would be to repeal Obamacare’s restrictions on HSAs.

Long-term group insurance contracts could ensure that those with pre-existing conditions could obtain coverage. Under such a contract, individuals could pool resources to purchase a group policy that would cover any and all problems any member might develop over time. Businesses, churches, community organizations, and even fraternities and sororities could offer these types of contracts.

Negative outcomes insurance, where patients waive the right to sue for medical errors in exchange for guaranteed payouts to those harmed, could reduce the burden of malpractice litigation.

Other free-market health care reforms that could make the health care market more competitive and lower the cost of health care include allowing individuals to purchase insurance from across state lines, removing restrictions on physician-owned hospitals, and reducing the regulatory power of the Food and Drug Administration.

Some will say it is unrealistic to advocate replacing Obamacare with a pure free-market system, but in fact it is unrealistic to expect anything less than a true free-market to provide quality health care for Americans at all income levels. Continuing on the “middle of the road” in health care by mixing free-markets with government spending and regulations will only continue to take us on the road to socialized health care.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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Why The 2,776 NSA Violations Are No Big Deal http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/18/why-the-2776-nsa-violations-are-no-big-deal/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/18/why-the-2776-nsa-violations-are-no-big-deal/#comments Sun, 18 Aug 2013 17:00:49 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=897 Thanks to more documents leaked by Edward Snowden, this time to the Washington Post, we learned last week that a secret May 2012 internal audit by the NSA revealed 2,776 incidents of “unauthorized” collection of information on American citizens over the previous 12 months. They are routinely breaking their own rules and covering it up.

The Post article quotes an NSA spokesman assuring the paper that the NSA attempts to identify such problems “at the earliest possible moment.” But what happened to all those communications intercepted improperly in the meantime? The answer is, they were logged and stored anyway.

We also learned that the NSA routinely intercepts information from Americans while actually targeting foreigners, and that this is not even considered a violation. These intercepts are not deleted once discovered, even though they violate the government’s own standards. As the article reports, “once added to its databases, absent other restrictions, the communications of Americans may be searched freely.”

The Post article quotes an NSA official explaining that the thousands of unauthorized communications intercepts yearly are relatively insignificant. “You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day. You look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and when you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”

So although the numbers of Americans who have had their information intercepted in violation of NSA’s own rules seems large, it is actually minuscule compared to the huge volume of our communications they intercept in total!

Though it made for a sensational headline last week, the fact is these 2,776 “violations” over the course of one year are completely irrelevant. The millions and millions of “authorized” intercepts of our communications are all illegal — except for the very few carried out in pursuit of a validly-issued search warrant in accordance with the Fourth Amendment. That is the real story. Drawing our attention to the violations unfortunately sends the message that the “authorized” spying on us is nothing to be concerned about.

When information about the massive NSA domestic spying program began leaking earlier in the summer, Deputy Attorney General James Cole assured us of the many levels of safeguards to prevent the unauthorized collection, storage, and distribution of our communications. He promised to explain the NSA’s record “in as transparent a way as we possibly can.”

Yet two months later we only discover from more leaked documents the thousands of times communications were intercepted in violation of their own standards! It is hardly reassuring, therefore, when they promise us they will be more forthcoming in the future. No one believes them because they have lied and covered up continuously. The only time any light at all is shone on these criminal acts by the government is when a whistleblower comes forth with new and ever more disturbing information.

Americans are increasingly concerned over these violations of their privacy. Calls for reform grow. However, whenever Washington finds itself in a scandal, the government responds by naming a government panel made up of current and former government employees to investigate any mistakes the government might have made. The recommendations invariably are that even more government employees must be hired to provide an additional layer or two of oversight. That is supposed to reassure us that reforms have been made, while in fact it is just insiders covering up for those who have hired them to investigate.

Let us hope the American people will decide that such trickery is no longer acceptable. It is time to take a very serious look at the activities of the US intelligence community. The first step would be a dramatic reduction in appropriations to force a focus on those real, not imagined, threats to our national security. We should not be considered the enemy.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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Why Are We At War in Yemen? http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/11/why-are-we-at-war-in-yemen/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/11/why-are-we-at-war-in-yemen/#comments Sun, 11 Aug 2013 22:25:37 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=894 Most Americans are probably unaware that over the past two weeks the US has launched at least eight drone attacks in Yemen, in which dozens have been killed. It is the largest US escalation of attacks on Yemen in more than a decade. The US claims that everyone killed was a “suspected militant,” but Yemeni citizens have for a long time been outraged over the number of civilians killed in such strikes. The media has reported that of all those killed in these recent US strikes, only one of the dead was on the terrorist “most wanted” list.

This significant escalation of US attacks on Yemen coincides with Yemeni President Hadi’s meeting with President Obama in Washington earlier this month. Hadi was installed into power with the help of the US government after a 2011 coup against its long-time ruler, President Saleh. It is in his interest to have the US behind him, as his popularity is very low in Yemen and he faces the constant threat of another coup.

In Washington, President Obama praised the cooperation of President Hadi in fighting the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This was just before the US Administration announced that a huge unspecified threat was forcing the closure of nearly two dozen embassies in the area, including in Yemen. According to the Administration, the embassy closings were prompted by an NSA-intercepted conference call at which some 20 al-Qaeda leaders discussed attacking the West. Many remain skeptical about this dramatic claim, which was made just as some in Congress were urging greater scrutiny of NSA domestic spying programs.

The US has been involved in Yemen for some time, and the US presence in Yemen is much greater than we are led to believe. As the Wall Street Journal reported last week:

“At the heart of the U.S.-Yemeni cooperation is a joint command center in Yemen, where officials from the two countries evaluate intelligence gathered by America and other allies, such as Saudi Arabia, say U.S. and Yemeni officials. There, they decide when and how to launch missile strikes against the highly secretive list of alleged al Qaeda operatives approved by the White House for targeted killing, these people say.”

Far from solving the problem of extremists in Yemen, however, this US presence in the country seems to be creating more extremism. According to professor Gregory Johnson of Princeton University, an expert on Yemen, the civilian “collateral damage” from US drone strikes on al-Qaeda members actually attracts more al-Qaeda recruits:

“There are strikes that kill civilians. There are strikes that kill women and children. And when you kill people in Yemen, these are people who have families. They have clans. And they have tribes. And what we’re seeing is that the United States might target a particular individual because they see him as a member of al-Qaeda. But what’s happening on the ground is that he’s being defended as a tribesman.”

The US government is clearly at war in Yemen. It is claimed they are fighting al-Qaeda, but the drone strikes are creating as many or more al-Qaeda members as they are eliminating. Resentment over civilian casualties is building up the danger of blowback, which is a legitimate threat to us that is unfortunately largely ignored. Also, the US is sending mixed signals by attacking al-Qaeda in Yemen while supporting al-Qaeda linked rebels fighting in Syria.

This cycle of intervention producing problems that require more intervention to “solve” impoverishes us and makes us more, not less, vulnerable. Can anyone claim this old approach is successful? Has it produced one bit of stability in the region? Does it have one success story? There is an alternative. It is called non-interventionism. We should try it. First step would be pulling out of Yemen.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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