Daily Archive: 12/18/2013

Dec 18 2013

Equal Employment Regardless of Credit Score

In a press release, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren along with five other Senate Democrats announced the introduction of legislation to end the practice of some employers to require a job applicant to disclose their credit rating.

Senator Warren Introduces Legislation to Prohibit Employers from Requiring Credit Report Disclosure

Dec 17, 2013

Fact Sheet is Available Here (pdf)

Text of the Legislation is Available Here (pdf)

Washington, DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today introduced the Equal Employment for All Act with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). The legislation would prohibit employers from requiring potential employees to disclose their credit history as part of the job application process. It was previously thought that credit history may provide insight into an individual’s character, but research has shown that an individual’s credit rating has little to no correlation with his or her ability to be successful in the workplace.

“A bad credit rating is far more often the result of unexpected medical costs, unemployment, economic downturns, or other bad breaks than it is a reflection on an individual’s character or abilities,” Senator Warren said.  “Families have not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, and too many Americans are still searching for jobs. This is about basic fairness — let people compete on the merits, not on whether they already have enough money to pay all their bills.”

A study from the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year suggested that errors in credit reports are common and, in many cases, have been difficult to correct.  “It makes no sense to make it harder for people to get jobs because of a system of credit reporting that has no correlation with job performance and that can be riddled with inaccuracies,” Warren said. [..]

Senator Warren’s bill is based on H.R. 645, which was introduced by Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-9) in 2011.

Sen. Warren joins the host of MSNBC’s “All In” Chris Hayes to talk about her bill to stop employers from using an applicant’s credit score in the vetting process.

Take Action and sign the petition to support Equal Employment for All Act and end the practice of denying employment based on credit scores,

Dec 18 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Undeserved applause for Ryan-Murray budget deal

As a novelist once put it, President Calvin Coolidge “aspired to become the least president the country had ever had; he attained his desire.” Last week, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) managed to negotiate what may be considered “the least” budget the House has ever passed.

Yet ever since the deal was announced, Washington has been patting itself on the back for the deal, which – at least temporarily – halts a two-year war waged by GOP obstructionists that has paralyzed, and even shut down, the government. President Obama, even while acknowledging the deal’s shortcomings, said that its mere existence was “a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of shortsighted, crisis-driven decision making to get this done.” The Economist put it more plainly: “What is in the deal . . . is perhaps less important than the fact that there is one.”

Yet this excessive affection for dealmaking – any deal at all – obscures the truth: Simply doing something doesn’t mean that you’re doing the right thing.

Marcy Wheeler: President Obama’s NSA Review Group Is Typical Administration Whitewash

Notice how the White House moved quickly to thwart the only substantive NSA changes the review group was making

In case you missed it, on Thursday night, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times published leaked details from the recommendations from the review group on intelligence and communications technologies, a panel President Obama set up in August to review the NSA’s activities in response to the Edward Snowden leaks.

The stories described what they said were recommendations in the report as presented in draft form to White House advisors; the final report was due to the White House on Sunday. There were discrepancies in the reporting, which may have signaled the leaks were a public airing of disputes surrounding the review group (both articles noted the results were “still being finalized”). The biggest news item were reports about a recommendation that the director of the NSA (Dirnsa) and Cyber Command positions be split, with a civilian leading the former agency.

Before the final report was even delivered, the White House struck. On Friday, while insisting that the commission report was not yet final, national security council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden announced the White House had already decided the position would not be split. A dual-hatted general would continue to lead both. [..]

The Obama administration revealed two things on Friday: first, even a whitewash review group proved too disruptive for the White House and the military figures who won in last week’s pissing contest. Second, Obama has chosen to continue prioritizing attacks over keeping us safe.

Zoë Carpenter: The Internet Giants Oppose Surveillance-but Only When the Government Does it

Eight prominent Internet technology companies unveiled an open letter last week calling for reforms to the government surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden. “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual-rights that are enshrined in our constitution,” reads the letter, published on a website that lays out five principles for reform, including greater oversight and transparency, as well as an end to bulk data collection.

Executives from seven of the firms will meet with President Obama on Tuesday, in the shadow of a federal judge’s ruling that the collection of domestic phone records is “almost certainly” punconstitutional http://www.thenation.com/blog/… The opinion from US District Judge Richard Leon reinforces the impression that NSA overreach constitutes a primary threat to privacy and civil liberty. But some privacy advocates caution that even if the NSA’s programs are scaled back, surveillance infrastructure will persist in the private sector-thanks to the same companies now calling for reform, whose business models depend on the collection and sale of vast quantities of personal information.

“It’s one-stop shopping for the NSA,” warned Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a consumer privacy advocacy group. “What they’ve done is create a global commercial surveillance system that is engaged in the same kind of pervasive tracking and analysis [as the NSA].”

Ruth Rosen: The Republican War on Women: The Newly Invisible and Undeserving Poor

While the rest of the world debates America’s role in the Middle East or its use of drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the U.S. Congress is debating just how drastically it should cut food assistance to the 47 million Americans – one out of seven people –  who suffer from “food insecurity,” the popular euphemism for those who go hungry. [..]

For the most part, however, poor women remain invisible, even as the mothers who feed the children, teenagers, elderly and disable who live with them. They do not elicit compassion. If anything, they are ignored or regarded with contempt.

Whatever the reason, Americans are having a national debate about poor and needy Americans without addressing the very group whose poverty is the greatest. The result is that we are turning poor, single mothers, who are 85% of all single parents, into a newly invisible and undeserving group of recipients.

Republicans may view single mothers as sinful parasites who don’t deserve food assistance. But behind every hungry child, teenager and elderly person is a hungry mother who is exhausted from trying to keep her family together. Women who receive food assistance are neither invisible nor undeserving. They are working-class heroes who work hard often at several minimal wage jobs to keep their families nourished and together.

Sadhbh Walshe: ‘Condoms and porn don’t mix’ is a stupid and unhealthy belief

Let’s be honest: porn industry groups fight mandatory condom use because they care about profits, not their employees

One might think that when a person makes their living having sex with strangers, as porn industry performers do, using condoms would be a no-brainer. Yet despite the prevalence of STDs in the industry, the ill-conceived notion that condoms and porn don’t mix seems to have trumped common sense.

Apparently, the sight of a condom clad penis is a buzz kill for end users, and performers don’t want to wear them anyway. Or, at least, that’s what the Free Speech Coalition (FSC), the trade association for the adult entertainment industry, would like us to believe as it continues its fight against mandatory condom use. With another performer testing positive for HIV and the Los Angeles-based industry facing another moratorium in production, the time may have come for both the profiteers of porn and those who get their kicks from watching it to get over their condom phobia.

Bryce Covert: Twitter’s Blocking Flub Might Have Been Prevented If the Company Weren’t Dominated by Men

Last night, Twitter made a change to what happens when a user blocks another user. Originally, when users were blocked they could no longer see the other’s account and visa versa. But while the new policy still kept the feature that hid a blocked user’s tweets from the person who blocked them, it allowed the blocked user to see the other’s account if it was public. “If your account is public, blocking a user does not prevent that user from following you, interacting with your Tweets, or receiving your updates in their timeline,” the company stated. That meant that potential stalkers or harassers could retweet their victims’ tweets into their own stream, opening up the victims to potential blowback from a harasser’s followers.

After a wave of outrage against the policy change, Twitter later reversed course, saying, “We have decided to revert the change after receiving feedback from many users,” adding, “we never want to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe.” [..]

witter’s mistake seems like one it could have seen coming. Someone might have been able to put themselves in the shoes of those who experience harassment and stalking and realized that getting their tweets retweeted into an abuser’s stream opens victims up to even more abuse. It has also taken other big public mobilizations to get the company to make changes that could help users who are the targets of threats. Given that women are more likely to these targets, it might take having someone of that gender in the room to come to these realizations ahead of time. This is one of the many benefits of having a more diverse team: you get more diverse opinions, reactions, and ideas.

Dec 18 2013

On This Day In History December 18

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 18 is the 352nd day of the year (353rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 13 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1918, the House of Representatives passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, along with the Volstead Act, which defined “intoxicating liquors” excluding those used for religious purposes and sales throughout the U.S., established Prohibition in the United States. Its ratification was certified on January 16, 1919. It was repealed by the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933, the only instance of an amendment’s repeal. The Eighteenth Amendment was also unique in setting a time delay before it would take effect following ratification and in setting a time limit for its ratification by the states.

Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Section 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

The amendment and its enabling legislation did not ban the consumption of alcohol, but made it difficult to obtain it legally.

Following significant pressure on lawmakers from the temperance movement, the House of Representatives passed the amendment on December 18, 1917. It was certified as ratified on January 16, 1919, having been approved by 36 states. It went into effect one year after ratification, on January 17, 1920. Many state legislatures had already enacted statewide prohibition prior to the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment.

When Congress submitted this amendment to the states for ratification, it was the first time a proposed amendment contained a provision setting a deadline for its ratification. The validity of that clause of the amendment was challenged and reached the Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of such a deadline in Dillon v. Gloss (1921).

Because many Americans attempted to evade the restrictions of Prohibition, there was a considerable growth in violent and organized crime in the United States in response to public demand for illegal alcohol. The amendment was repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment on December 5, 1933. It remains the only constitutional amendment to be repealed in its entirety.

Dec 18 2013

The Drugging of America

The United States and New Zealand are currently the only countries in the world where the pharmaceutical industry is allowed to market and advertise prescription drugs. Direct to consumer advertising is one of two industry practices that have some under fire recently. The other is paying doctors to promote drugs.

One of the biggest market for drugs have been parents concerned about their children’s success in school. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is now “the second most frequent long-term diagnosis made in children, narrowly trailing asthma, according to a New York Times analysis of C.D.C. data.”

The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder

By Alan Schwarz, New York Times

The Number of Diagnoses Soared Amid a 20-Year Drug Marketing Campaign

After more than 50 years leading the fight to legitimize attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Keith Conners could be celebrating.

Severely hyperactive and impulsive children, once shunned as bad seeds, are now recognized as having a real neurological problem. Doctors and parents have largely accepted drugs like Adderall and Concerta to temper the traits of classic A.D.H.D., helping youngsters succeed in school and beyond.

But Dr. Conners did not feel triumphant this fall as he addressed a group of fellow A.D.H.D. specialists in Washington. He noted that recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the diagnosis had been made in 15 percent of high school-age children, and that the number of children on medication for the disorder had soared to 3.5 million from 600,000 in 1990. He questioned the rising rates of diagnosis and called them “a national disaster of dangerous proportions.”

“The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous,” Dr. Conners, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Duke University, said in a subsequent interview. “This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.

The rise of A.D.H.D. diagnoses and prescriptions for stimulants over the years coincided with a remarkably successful two-decade campaign by pharmaceutical companies to publicize the syndrome and promote the pills to doctors, educators and parents. With the children’s market booming, the industry is now employing similar marketing techniques as it focuses on adult A.D.H.D., which could become even more profitable. [..]

Like most psychiatric conditions, A.D.H.D. has no definitive test, and most experts in the field agree that its symptoms are open to interpretation by patients, parents and doctors. The American Psychiatric Association, which receives significant financing from drug companies, has gradually loosened the official criteria for the disorder to include common childhood behavior like “makes careless mistakes” or “often has difficulty waiting his or her turn.”

The idea that a pill might ease troubles and tension has proved seductive to worried parents, rushed doctors and others.

The Selling of ADHD: Diagnoses, Prescriptions Soar After 20-Year Marketing Effort by Big Pharma

Taken at face value, the latest figures on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) suggest a growing epidemic in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 15 percent of high school children are diagnosed with ADHD. The number of those on stimulant medication is at 3.5 million, up from 600,000 two decades ago. ADHD is now the second most common long-term diagnosis in children, narrowly trailing asthma.

But a new report in The New York Times questions whether these staggering figures reflect a medical reality or an over-medicated craze that has earned billions in profits for the pharmaceutical companies involved. Sales for ADHD drugs like Adderall and Concerta topped $9 billion in the United States last year, a more than 500 percent jump from a decade before. The radical spike in diagnoses has coincided with a 20-year marketing effort to promote stimulant prescriptions for children struggling in school, as well as for adults seeking to take control of their lives. The marketing effort has relied on studies and testimonials from a select group of doctors who have received massive speaking fees and funding grants from major pharmaceutical companies.

We are joined by four guests: Alan Schwarz, an award-winning reporter who wrote the New York Times piece, “The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder”; Jamison Monroe, a former teenage Adderall addict who now runs Newport Academy, a treatment center for teens suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues; Dr. Gabor Maté, a physician and best-selling author of four books, including “Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It”; and John Edwards, the father of a college student who committed suicide after he was prescribed Adderall and antidepressant medications at the Harvard University Health Services clinic.

One drug company, GlaxoSmithKline, a British owned company, has decided to stop paying doctors to promote their prescription drugs:

Andrew Witty, Glaxo’s chief executive, said in a telephone interview Monday that its proposed changes were unrelated to the investigation in China, and were part of a yearslong effort “to try and make sure we stay in step with how the world is changing,” he said. “We keep asking ourselves, are there different ways, more effective ways of operating than perhaps the ways we as an industry have been operating over the last 30, 40 years?”

For decades, pharmaceutical companies have paid doctors to speak on their behalf at conferences and other meetings of medical professionals, on the assumption that the doctors are most likely to value the advice of trusted peers.

But the practice has also been criticized by those who question whether it unduly influences the information doctors give each other and can lead them to prescribe drugs inappropriately to patients. All such payments by pharmaceutical companies are to be made public next year under requirements of the Obama administration’s health care law.

Under the plan, which Glaxo said would be completed worldwide by 2016, the company will no longer pay health care professionals to speak on its behalf about its products or the diseases they treat “to audiences who can prescribe or influence prescribing,” it said in a statement. It will also stop providing financial support directly to doctors to attend medical conferences, a practice that is prohibited in the United States through an industry-imposed ethics code but that still occurs in other countries. In China, the authorities have said Glaxo compensated doctors for travel to conferences and lectures that never took place.

Mr. Witty declined to comment on the investigation because he said it was still underway.

Dec 18 2013

The Rich Get Richer: Embrace the Suck

The Senate will pass the budget bill that was approved by the House last week. It passes the hurdle of cloture with a “bipartisan” vote of 67 – 33. The bill leaves a lump of coal in the stockings of 1.5 million Americans whose unemployment benefits expire the end of December and future career servicemen and women whose cost of living increases to their pensions will be cut. But the Pentagon will get their due and so will the 1%.

Ryan-Murray Budget Deal Passes Senate Hurdle

By DSWright, FDL News Desk

The truly horrendous Ryan-Murray budget has passed the Senate clearing the way to fully pass Congress this week. The deal restores war spending to astronomical levels while cutting federal pensions and raising airline fees. In other words, cash for defense contractors and groin kicks for the middle class. [..]

Why any Democrat would vote for such an awful reactionary budget is beyond comprehension. According to Nancy Pelosi Democrats had to “embrace the suck.” Otherwise things might not suck? [..]

We truly have the best government money can buy. The naked corruption on display in dumping oceans of cash into the Pentagon patronage den while attacking worker pensions and leaving the unemployed to rot is proof positive that we live in a deranged oligarchy where money is everything and the people are nothing.

“Makes Absolutely No Sense”: David Cay Johnston on Budget Deal That Helps Billionaires, Not the Poor

A bipartisan budget deal to avert another government shutdown comes before the Senate this week. The vast majority of House members from both parties approved the two-year budget agreement last week in a 332-to-94 vote. It is being hailed as a breakthrough compromise for Democrats and Republicans. The bill eases across-the-board spending cuts, replacing them with new airline fees and cuts to federal pensions. In a concession by Democrats, it does not extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people, which are set to expire this month. To discuss the deal, we are joined by David Cay Johnston, an investigative reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize while at The New York Times. He is currently a columnist for Tax Analysts and Al Jazeera, as well as a contributing editor at Newsweek.



Full transcript can be read here

Once again the vast majority are Scrooged.

Dec 18 2013

Q and A: Priceman

I have Joslyn Stevens's permission to repost this interview.

This week I conducted an interview with a progressive populist I follow on twitter, Priceman, whose annoying habit of using facts and common sense with a dose of in-your-face realness to prove his points tends to piss off democrats over at the “progressive” DailyKos. I feel it’s necessary to showcase often ignored voices representative of the people who speak truth to power and will continue to do so on a weekly basis.

The democratic blog DailyKos claims to be a reform blog open to all views but as we both know opposing views aren’t welcome. Are they doing their readers a disservice by promoting and defending a corporate Democratic Party that doesn’t represent working-class Americans and hasn’t for a long time?

A. Hi, Joslyn. It’s nice to talk to you. I have a lot to say on this topic. Not only are they doing their readers a disservice, they are making a laughing stock of the so called progressive blogosphere as a whole. Wanting “more and better Democrats” does not mean a whole lot when those who administer and run that site, coddle so called Democrats that are openly hostile to the programs that shaped the party’s platform in the first place, from the New Deal and Great Society. That site’s administrators play favorites there and try to hide it; President Obama and his enablers are who take precedence over everything else on Daily Kos.

I base this on the very poor job their site moderators do at that site, and the lack of self awareness that comes from denying it, which happens every time anyone looks into it. There are a number of good diarists that write there, but they do not receive equal treatment; posters whose sole mission is to protect their hero in the White House, are allowed to break the site rules and troll any posts not favorable to the Obama administration. And if anyone retaliates against them, only then does the site’s administration get involved in order to put them in their place while pretending to just enforce site rules, which are arbitrary, selective, and not clearly defined at all except in secret.

Sure, they might ban an obvious sockpuppet whose sole mission is to attack Glenn Greenwald, but that is low hanging fruit and does not hide the obvious bias at that Democratic gatekeeper site. The business model there relies on pretending that every problem in our society must be the fault of the Republicans, instead of both parties colluding together for the continuing grand austerity bargain happening now with the first step: the sequester. The White House wrote the sequester and put out there, but to mention that is blasphemous at Daily Kos like most other critiques of the President when it comes down to it. This is specifically true during election season; posters are banned for harshly criticizing the President.

I witnessed this first hand, and even I was warned in 2012 for doing so; I merely uprated a factual comment that in some ways there is little difference between Mitt Romney and President Obama. The 2012 Obama campaign went after Bain for outsourcing jobs, closing plants, and devastating US communities. Yet, now that the election is over, President Obama has appointed Jeff Zients, a former executive of Gov. Mitt Romney’s Bain & Company investment firm, as head of the National Economic Council.

To add insult to injury, on civil liberties issues, the owner of the Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, was asked how he feels about what Snowden revealed with regard to the 4th amendment being trashed by this administration continuing and expanding the Bush administration’s NSA war on terror abuses, and he said he honestly didn’t care. He said that worrying about spying was a very white privileged thing to do. However, anyone who has done even a modicum amount of research, knows that New York — pretty much the whole country, but especially New York — has changed after 9/11; it is now outfitted with a massive surveillance arsenal to more efficiently conduct racist policies like stop and frisk which does affect black people suffering from real white privilege in the real world.

This is similar to the drug war President Obama is continuing, which is also racist, since most incarcerations for drug possession are disproportionately black even though white people use the same amount or much more in many cases. Some on Daily Kos will try to deny this by saying the drug war is mostly a state issue and that you should just go yell at your local mayor and city council, and leave Obama alone. That would be fine if the Obama administration did not deploy for-profit prison lobbyists in their Justice Department like U.S Marshall, Stacia Hylton. The Prison Industrial complex lobbies all states to have access to the prisoners arrested for drug possession in whatever state they set up. This is coddled and supported at the federal level.

Not to mention all the broken promises from Eric Holder and the President about not raiding medical marijuana dispensaries. None of this is mentioned on Daily Kos when it comes to issues about race, and it’s perpetuating real racism which involves institutions like this and always has. So, this is not something Markos — and those that like him who scoff at what Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden have revealed — can ignore while claiming to care about real white privilege, real racism, and what’s going on in the real world on the federal level and at the state level aided and abetted by the drug warriors in the Obama administration at the federal level.

No, once Markos wrote a book about “Crashing the Gate” with regard to the political blogosphere he was instrumental in creating, along with Howard Dean’s campaign, in filling the void that the bought oligopoly — the mainstream media that failed and is still failing the public — left. However, now that a Democrat is in the white house, sites like Daily Kos are gatekeepers. They are not interested in crashing any gates. This is how they run the site and ultimately this is their business model.

I wrote there for a time, but I would now warn others that Daily Kos is not the site where intellectual debate is allowed on anything substantial. Only about how bad the other bought political party is. That is, instead of Democrats, with few exceptions, and Republicans working together to subvert representative Democracy. Oh, how mighty the once promising site has fallen and will continue to fall now that we know what the site’s true purpose is; shilling for the status quo as long as it has a (D). This, we all now know and can see.

There’s no reason to read anything on that site. It’s no different than what’s on MSNBC.

Dec 18 2013

Secretary of Peace

Some of you may have had the chance to interact with David Swanson on that other site where he is frequently disrespected because of his tendency to say inconvenient things about this Administration and the Democratic Party.

Well, he’s the real deal.

David Swanson’s books include: War Is A Lie (2010), When the World Outlawed War (2011), and The Military Industrial Complex at 50 (2012).  He is the host of Talk Nation Radio. He has been a journalist, activist, organizer, educator, and agitator.  Swanson helped plan the nonviolent occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington DC in 2011.  Swanson holds a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia.  He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including press secretary for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign, media coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as communications coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.  He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org.  Swanson also works on the communications committee of Veterans For Peace, of which he is an associate (non-veteran) member.  Swanson is Secretary of Peace in the Green Shadow Cabinet.

Transcript

Transcript

Transcript

Dec 18 2013

The Network of Cronkite and Murrow

NSA-Approved Propaganda: ’60 Minutes’ & the Revolving Door Journalism of John Miller

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Monday December 16, 2013 10:12 am

More than six months after stories on documents from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden began to appear, the NSA finally determined all the statements denying what had revealed or intended to clarify what the agency believed to be true and not true had not had the effect desired. Journalists continue to publish stories on the NSA, its capabilities, what information from Americans is being collected and how unchecked the agency’s powers happen to be. What has been revealed has had an impact on the public that has changed the way many Americans view the NSA. The agency may, as a result, have some of its surveillance powers curtailed.

It was time to call up John Miller of CBS’s “60 Minutes” program. As was stated in the two-part segment on the NSA, “Gen. Alexander agreed to talk to us because he believes the NSA has not told its story well.” So, the agency called up Miller to help “set the record straight” i.e. assist the NSA with its public relations issues.

Nobody quite represents the “revolving door” between journalism and government like Miller. “Full disclosure, I once worked in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence [ODNI] where I saw firsthand how secretly the NSA operates,” he said before the segment began.

More disclosure: Miller served as spokesperson for the New York Police Department in 1994. The “journalism bug bit him again,” according to Men’s Journal, so he left the NYPD and worked a network job for ABC News. He interviewed Osama bin Laden for ABC News in 1998 before going to work for the Los Angeles Police Department in 2003. He helped “establish the department’s counter-terrorism and criminal-intelligence bureau.” He also worked on the development of a “threat assessment system” called “Archangel” to protect “critical assets” in Los Angeles from terrorism.

He moved on to work as a public affairs officer for the FBI in 2005. Then, he worked for ODNI. When he grew tired of the bureaucracy at ODNI, he was hired by CBS as a senior correspondent in 2011.

Miller has engaged in some of the same kind of work as Alexander. He is unlikely to challenge those he interviews because they are the exact people he may want to work with after he gets tired of journalism again. This makes him someone with a huge glaring conflict of interest, but, for CBS News, that conflict of interest is a plus, and, when he produces segments for news programs like “60 Minutes,” the show does not see what he produces as propaganda because they value access more than investigating reporting that might actually hold officials accountable.

The Four Questions ’60 Minutes’ Forgot To Ask The NSA

By Lauren C. Williams, Think Progress

December 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm

  1. Why did Alexander and National Intelligence Director James Clapper tell Congress that NSA wasn’t collecting U.S. citizens’ personal data when it really was?
  2. Why were employees using NSA tactics to spy on their love interests?
  3. What can the NSA get from spying on Google and Yahoo that it can’t get directly?
  4. Does the NSA ever track people’s cell phone call locations and to what extent?

NSA goes on 60 Minutes: the definitive facts behind CBS’s flawed report

Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Monday 16 December 2013 13.56 EST

Our take on five things the spy agency would like the public to believe about its vast surveillance powers

  1. Surveillance is just about what you say and what you write
  2. Snowden and the NSA’s hiring boom
  3. The Chinese financial sector kill-switch
  4. NSA isn’t collecting data transiting between Google and Yahoo data centers, except when it is
  5. The NSA wasn’t trying to break the law that got broken

NSA ruling fallout hits White House

By JOSH GERSTEIN, Politico

12/16/13 11:45 PM EST

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon’s ruling that the NSA’s metadata program appears to violate the Fourth Amendment was issued just three days after a review group established by Obama delivered its report proposing more than 40 changes to the federal government’s surveillance programs.



The delay gives Leon’s decision time to resonate and gives surveillance skeptics more time to pressure Obama to endorse significant reforms after Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance practices.

The ruling also underscores the awkwardness of a president who won office in part by railing against the national security state established by President George W. Bush trying to defend much of that establishment while also maintaining his vow to restore civil liberties and bring an end to what seemed like a permanent war on terror.



Former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, a backer of the call-tracking program, also said the new court ruling could shift the balance in favor of more limits on the NSA’s work.

“The arguments of those interested in preserving the validity and legitimacy of arguments about how [Obama] ran could get a little stronger inside government,” Hayden said. “They may administratively change the program.”



While Monday’s ruling may shift the internal administration debate in favor of more reforms, there’s no expectation Obama will completely halt the bulk collection of calling data from U.S. carriers. But he might endorse stricter limits on how long the data can be kept or propose other ways of storing the data than having the NSA hold it.

Among the surveillance doubters who might now have more impact: former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, who’s set to begin work next month as a counselor to Obama. Podesta has been a longtime privacy advocate and has expressed sympathy with Leon’s conclusion that a 34-year-old Supreme Court precedent allowing police to trace a suspected criminals phone calls without a warrant does not authorize bulk collection of data on virtually every phone call made to, from or within the U.S.

“Our smartphones with built-in GPS technology track our locations and our phone companies and Internet providers collect metadata on every call we make and every person we email…..Court decisions from the pre-Internet days suggest that the information we give away voluntarily to these companies can be obtained fairly easily by the government,” Podesta told the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel in July. “That legal rule may have made sense in an age before Facebook and iPhones, but we need a serious examination of whether it still makes sense today.”

Podesta has also taken on the intelligence community before, singlehandedly waging a successful battle to defeat anti-leak legislation passed near the end of President Bill Clinton’s term in office. At Podesta’s urging, Clinton vetoed the intelligence bill containing the measure and it was later stripped out.



At a minimum, the decision undercuts one of the pro-surveillance camp’s best talking points: that every judge who has considered the NSA metadata program has upheld it.

“This is great,” Richardson said of Leon’s ruling. “One of the biggest things they’ve had going for them is to say the FISA Court has always signed off on this program…..It just can’t be overstated how important it is to have outside judges actually looking at these programs.”

All In with Chis Hayes

Dec 18 2013

Failure of the Elite

Our elites are inbred, gibbering, idiots.

Why Inequality Matters

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: December 15, 2013

The best argument for putting inequality on the back burner is the depressed state of the economy. Isn’t it more important to restore economic growth than to worry about how the gains from growth are distributed?

Well, no. First of all, even if you look only at the direct impact of rising inequality on middle-class Americans, it is indeed a very big deal. Beyond that, inequality probably played an important role in creating our economic mess, and has played a crucial role in our failure to clean it up.



It’s now widely accepted that rising household debt helped set the stage for our economic crisis; this debt surge coincided with rising inequality, and the two are probably related (although the case isn’t ironclad). After the crisis struck, the continuing shift of income away from the middle class toward a small elite was a drag on consumer demand, so that inequality is linked to both the economic crisis and the weakness of the recovery that followed.

In my view, however, the really crucial role of inequality in economic calamity has been political.

In the years before the crisis, there was a remarkable bipartisan consensus in Washington in favor of financial deregulation – a consensus justified by neither theory nor history. When crisis struck, there was a rush to rescue the banks. But as soon as that was done, a new consensus emerged, one that involved turning away from job creation and focusing on the alleged threat from budget deficits.

What do the pre- and postcrisis consensuses have in common? Both were economically destructive: Deregulation helped make the crisis possible, and the premature turn to fiscal austerity has done more than anything else to hobble recovery. Both consensuses, however, corresponded to the interests and prejudices of an economic elite whose political influence had surged along with its wealth.



Surveys of the very wealthy have, however, shown that they – unlike the general public – consider budget deficits a crucial issue and favor big cuts in safety-net programs. And sure enough, those elite priorities took over our policy discourse.

Which brings me to my final point. Underlying some of the backlash against inequality talk, I believe, is the desire of some pundits to depoliticize our economic discourse, to make it technocratic and nonpartisan. But that’s a pipe dream. Even on what may look like purely technocratic issues, class and inequality end up shaping – and distorting – the debate.

Dec 18 2013

Roadhouse Blues