Category Archives: PND Opinion

FISC assurances on spying leave too many questions unanswered

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation
by India McKinney

“Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray faced questions from the House Judiciary Committee about how his department is implementing one of the government’s most powerful surveillance tools. Despite repeated bipartisan requests, Director Wray refused to tell the Members of the Committee how many Americans have been impacted by Section 702, enacted as part of the FISA Amendments Act. This isn’t the first time the FBI has refused to answer to Congress. … Section 702 authorizes the acquisition of foreign intelligence information; however, because many Americans communicate with foreign persons outside the United States every day, our communications are also being captured and read without a warrant. How many Americans have had their communications ‘incidentally collected’ under Section 702? We don’t know. In fact, not even Congress knows. Although the House Judiciary Committee has sent several bipartisan letters to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence asking this exact question, ODNI has refused to respond.” (12/12/17)

Is the Republican tax plan intentionally sloppy?

Source: The New Republic
by David Dayen

“The Republican tax bill being negotiated this week is like a Sudoku puzzle: daunting to novices, but in the hands of an experienced master, a simple case of plugging in numbers. The opportunities for gaming the new rules will make tax lawyers unspeakably rich for the rest of time, finding endless opportunities to shelter, transform, or reassign income to lower their clients’ payments. And there’s another group poised to get in on the tax loophole fun: state governments that, in a few simple steps, can and probably will nullify the biggest sources of revenue in the bill. All of this fits with a longstanding conservative project: Starve the government of taxes, and use that as a rationale to slash social spending. This would achieve their goal of re-channeling government benefits from the working poor, who require safety net assistance, to oligarchic holders of dynastic wealth.” (12/12/17)

Religious bias is distorting American foreign policy

Source: The Atlantic
by Kori Schake

“Among the many odd elements of President Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. Embassy in Israel will move to Jerusalem is that it comes precipitously in advance of Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to region. The purpose of the trip was to show solidarity with the plight of Christians in the Middle East, yet Christian leaders — including the Coptic Pope — are refusing to meet with Pence. What those leaders understand, which the Trump administration seems not to, is that Christians in the Middle East have lived and will continue to live in societies where Muslim majorities determine political and social outcomes, and those outcomes become less tolerant when religious minorities are perceived to be the exclusive beneficiaries of U.S. policy.” (12/13/17)

How the US could provoke a new Korean War

by Geoffrey Fattig

“In April 2002, about a year before the invasion of Iraq, then-president George W. Bush told a group of assembled reporters that Saddam Hussein had to go. When asked how he would accomplish this, Bush replied cryptically, ‘Just wait and see.’ I was reminded of this quote when President Trump was asked about North Korea’s test launch of a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, reportedly able to strike anywhere in the United States. Trump’s response was simply, ‘We’ll handle it.’ Trump’s incendiary rhetoric about ‘fire and fury’ and ‘totally destroying’ North Korea have garnered much of the headlines. But perhaps because his grandest pronouncements — ‘build the wall,’ ‘repeal and replace,’ ‘lock her up’ — have all proven hollow, his subtler comments hinting toward war, such as when he termed a meeting of top generals in October as ‘the calm before the storm,’ seem far more alarming.” (12/13/17)

Here comes the next “defense” shakedown

Source: Garrison Center
by Thomas L Knapp

“‘Today with the signing of this defense bill,’ US president Donald Trump said as he affixed his signature to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act on December 12, ‘we accelerate the process of fully restoring America’s military might.’ Is Trump truly under the mistaken impression that US military might is ailing? Or is he mindlessly aping Ronald Reagan and hoping it brings in the re-election votes? Or perhaps something else entirely? The NDAA budgets nearly $700 billion for the US military next year. Despite its name, there’s precious little ‘defense’ involved.” (12/12/17)

Suspend Robert Mueller’s politically tainted investigation

Source: USA Today
by James S Robbins

“The FBI has historically had a well-earned reputation for competence and integrity. The American people deserve no less when it comes to extraordinary investigations that touch the highest levels of government. Justice demands that these matters be pursued with the utmost honesty, probity and impartiality. However, evidence is emerging that special counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as the Hillary Clinton email investigations, have been fatally compromised by naked politics. The central figure in both probes is FBI agent Peter Strzok. Strzok helped conduct the sweetheart interviews of Clinton, Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin in the email investigation, in which the latter two blatantly lied about their knowledge of the bootleg server. They were not charged. Strzok also changed then-FBI Director James Comey’s draft language on Clinton’s use of her illicit server from ‘grossly negligent’ to ‘extremely careless,’ which is the difference between criminal behavior and an unconscious error.” [editor’s note: Actually, the FBI has had a well-earned reputation for dishonesty, grandstanding, incompetence, and political gamesmanship almost from its birth. Just sayin’ … – TLK] (12/12/17)

Liberals hate being held to their own standards

Source: Town Hall
by Derek Hunter

“Aside from testosterone, the military, small businesses, the private sector, attractive women, private property, happily married heterosexuals, and people who refuse to conform to their Utopian-or-else drum circle mentality, there few things liberals hate more than being held to the rules they’ve set for others. When it happens, they generally react the same way — to scream like a teenage girl that they’re a victim. Liberals found some of their favorite fellow travelers on the business end of the Sword of Damocles they’ve been lording over the rest of us for years. Forgive me if I don’t give a damn.” (12/10/17)

Republicans declare war on higher education

Source: Our Future
Jeff Bryant

“The GOP’s tax rewrite hits higher education hard, but new legislation House Republicans are crafting will likely go even farther to worsen the damage. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the House education committee recently gave a preview to its new legislation, a long overdue reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Like recent tax bills passed by the GOP-controlled House and Senate, this proposed rewrite of HEA will have the effect of further constricting learning opportunities for students, adding to the costs students and families take on for education, and steering more public money for learning to private businesses.” (12/10/17)

Meet the European petrochemical giant trying to profit from the fracking of Pennsylvania

Source: In These Times
by Wenonah Hauter

“It seems that every week brings more bad news about the construction of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline. While Pennsylvania communities, water protectors and landowners fight to stop the project, a larger question remains: What is this massive, dangerous pipeline actually for? The one word answer might surprise you: plastics. The Mariner East 2 won’t carry ‘natural gas’ for heating your house or operating a stove. It will transport highly volatile liquids that will mostly be shipped overseas to be turned into plastics by a giant chemical corporation with a terrible environmental record. In other words, Sunoco and its parent company Energy Transfer Partners are putting Pennsylvania communities at risk (from the immediate negative impacts of fracking in the western parts of the state, to the long-term risks to families living near the 350-mile pipeline) in order to supply a giant corporation making plastic pellets, many of which wind up littering shorelines across Europe.” (12/12/17)

“It’s the grandparents stealing from the grandchildren”

Source: The Atlantic
by Eric B Schnurer

“One day in 1984, Kurt Vonnegut called. I was ditching my law school classes to work on the presidential campaign of Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate against Ronald Reagan, when one of those formerly-ubiquitous pink telephone messages was delivered to me saying that Vonnegut had called, asking to speak to one of Mondale’s speechwriters. All sorts of people called to talk to the speechwriters with all sorts of whacky suggestions; this certainly had to be the most interesting. I stared at the 212 phone number on the pink slip, picked up a phone, and dialed. A voice, so gravelly and deep that it seemed to lie at the outer edge of the human auditory range, rasped, ‘Hello.’ I introduced myself. There was a short pause, as if Vonnegut were fixing his gaze on me from the other end of the line, then he spoke. ‘It’s the grandparents stealing from the grandchildren.’ I waited for elaboration. After a long pause, however, he simply repeated, ‘It’s the grandparents stealing from the grandchildren. Got it?'”