House Republicans hold Big Brother Festival – call it a hearing

Michelle Bachmann is Big Brother in drag

The name of Tuesday’s hearing of the House Select Committee on Intelligence sounded more like the subtitle to a Stanley Kubrick film: “How Disclosed NSA Programs Protect Americans, and Why Disclosure Aids Our Adversaries.”

Chairman Mike Rogers’ (R-MI) clear goal was to give the members of the intelligence committee a chance to trumpet the value of the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program and chastise Edward Snowden, the former defense contractor who fled to Hong Kong with the intent of leaking secret documents.

“In recent years, these programs…have protected the U.S and our allies from terrorist threats…blah, blah, blah

Snowden has asserted that as a low-level analyst he had unfettered access to Americans’ private communication through connections with top technology companies established by the so-called PRISM program.

“If I target for example an email address, for example under FAA 702, and that email address sent something to you, Joe America, the analyst gets it,” Snowden wrote. “All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything. And it gets saved for a very long time – and can be extended further with waivers rather than warrants.”

He’s referring to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which according to the government “targeted acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning foreign targets located outside the United States under court oversight.” Snowden argues that where such actual oversight exists, it can be easily gamed.

Alexander flatly denied that such access exists…

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) took on Snowden directly, echoing Dick Cheney by calling him a “traitor…”

Chairman Rogers echoed Bachmann. “It is at times like these where our enemies within become almost as damaging as our enemies on the outside,” he said.

The only thing they left out – today – was the Red Menace from China. And homosexuals. Don’t forget homosexuals.

Rightwing politicians in America aren’t especially inventive or up-to-date. Their fears, the things that go boomp in the night and scare the Bejeebus out of them haven’t changed in centuries. So, just as Joe McCarthy attacked everyone from the State Department to President Eisenhower as either agents or dupes of a foreign power, the fallback position has always been that the homosexuals in positions of power are complicit with defiling the purity of our bodily fluids – and on and on.

Ted Cruz and the rest of the proto-fascist crowd, the Bachmans, the renamed phony Christian Coalition, have already started down that alley. Expect to hear it from the rest of the Republican Party as we approach the 2014 elections.

Republicans blocking Hurricane Sandy relief are contemptible

A Northeastern U.S. House Republican said amendments by GOP colleagues could kill $51 billion in Superstorm Sandy aid set for a vote Tuesday.

“We were told the bill was coming up as is,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who represents hard-hit central Long Island, told The Hill.

But instead, conservative House Republicans outside the Northeast submitted 92 amendments to the package to either cut spending they saw as non-essential or demand budget cuts in popular programs elsewhere to offset the Sandy package.

Congress has historically not offset disaster relief with spending cuts, and lawmakers from states hit by Sandy expressed outrage by proposals to do so now.

At least 15 of the 92 amendments would likely make it to the House floor Tuesday, King told The Hill, adding, “Some of them would kill the bill.”

Adding to King’s anger is that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, promised him Jan. 2 the disaster-relief measure would receive expedited treatment, King told The Hill.

Boehner made assurances to King and other Northeastern lawmakers after adjourning the previous Congress without taking up a $60.4 billion aid bill the Senate had passed to finance recovery efforts in the hurricane-battered states…

Sandy, which struck the Northeast Oct. 29, has been blamed for 131 deaths and $63 billion to more than $80 billion in damages.

It wiped out entire communities in coastal New York and New Jersey, paralyzed mass transit systems and left tens of thousands of people homeless. Power was cut to more than 8 million homes in 16 states and Washington, D.C.

These slimeballs don’t deserve their paychecks. They base their policies on hatred, bigotry, regional jealousy – every leftover ideological turd from the days of the Confederacy. They hate folks who accept civil liberties for all, they hate the educated, they fear representative republican government.

The anarchy of America’s rightwing is the least justifiable political current in American history. Responsible in the past for isolationism, the cancer of racism and sexism in American life. The only achievements of this backwards ideology in recent decades is the decline of American education and the widening gap in income between the super-rich and regular working class families.

What human beings would be proud of kicking their neighbors when they are down – instead of helping?

Washington is fixing the debt crisis – sort of

The Financial Times is one of those newspaper websites with a paywall. Not one of those I consider worth subscribing to. Since Altman’s Op-Ed piece is brief, I’ll include the whole unedited piece below:

I asked for coffee not hemlock
I asked for coffee not hemlock!

The last-second deal to avoid America’s fiscal cliff has been criticised by budget experts, the business community and the press. In the face of deficits still exceeding a breathtaking $1tn annually, they had hoped for a “grand bargain” – namely, a long-term, multitrillion-dollar package of revenue increases and spending cuts that would truly fix the debt problem. That did not happen. Instead, the deal is seen as too small and unbalanced, as it raises only modest amounts of revenue and cuts no spending. Outside Washington, no one has a good word for it.

Critics are transfixed by the bitter negotiations, however, and are missing the big picture. It may be happening in stages, but the US is making real progress towards reducing deficits and stabilising its debt. Indeed, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a Washington-based non-profit organisation, the federal debt to gross domestic product ratio – the critical measure of financial health – will be stable at about 73 per cent for the next decade. That is because annual deficits are now on track to be halved and, therefore, the debt level will not continue to grow faster than the economy. Yes, this ratio is still too high, but stabilising it will be a crucial achievement.

But with all the weeping over deficit and debt, how is this possible? The answer is that, in two months, a course for $3tn of deficit reduction over 10 years will be set. That is about three-quarters of the amount the much-praised bipartisan Simpson-Bowles presidential commission recommended in December 2010. And, using consensus assumptions on economic growth, it is enough to stabilise America’s debt ratio. Without it, the ratio would reach nearly 100 per cent, analogous to Italy’s. Yes, after 2022, it will worsen again – reflecting the ageing population and related health costs – and more fiscal tightening will be necessary. But 10 years is enough to find those additional solutions.

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House Republicans whine about reducing spending on healthcare and education – then add billions to military spending

Pentagon chief Leon Panetta warned lawmakers last month not to pick apart piece by piece the finely balanced 2013 defense budget he sent to Capitol Hill earlier this year.

But lawmakers in the Republican-led House of Representatives are doing exactly that.

The House Armed Services Committee began work on Wednesday on a defense policy bill that would authorize nearly $4 billion in spending above the amount Panetta requested in the Pentagon budget he had proposed…

While the House Armed Services Committee authorizes spending levels, it does not control actual funding. The panel that controls the purse strings – the House Appropriations Committee – is also looking to boost defense spending over the levels recommended by Panetta, by about $3.1 billion…

Both House panels would use the funds to stave off cutbacks proposed by the Pentagon. Where Panetta sought to delay or eliminate some weapons systems, lawmakers are trying to save them. Where Panetta sought to reduce the size of the armed forces over time, lawmakers are trying to slow the pace…

The proposed budget is about $45 billion less than what the Pentagon had planned, just a year ago, to spend during the 2013 fiscal year. To meet the new targets, Panetta and the military service chiefs intend to cut the size of the armed forces by about 103,000 troops, mainly soldiers and Marines…

This is a zero-sum game,” Panetta told a briefing last month. Because of the spending constraints approved by Obama and Congress, “any change in any one area of the budget and force structure will inevitably require offsetting changes elsewhere…”

The House panels are moving to block the proposed elimination of some of the Air Force transport aircraft. And they are seeking funds to modernize three Navy cruisers to stave off their retirement, saying the vessels are needed because of the Pentagon’s recent shift in strategic focus to the Pacific.

What are these clowns shoveling? Some of them are kissing military butts in their own districts – classic War Pork. Let’s fight a non-existent threat in the Asian Pacific so we can spend a couple hundred million dollars here and there instead of mothballing bloody useless cruisers.

Some are stoking their post-Congressional careers straight into the military-industrial creep-complex they’ve been voting contracts to for years.

When push comes to shove the programs these corporate flunkies will cut will be programs designed to aid ordinary American citizens: students, seniors, healthcare for all segments of the population. All to keep non-consumable hardware afloat on taxpayer dollars.

Cut the bloody Pentagon budget by serious amounts. Close down the hundreds of military bases we’re paying for around the globe. It’s costing us more than $100K per year for every member of the armed forces stationed outside our border. That’s for the troops not engaged in war. You can double and triple the numbers for Afghanistan.