Henry Ford was an Austrian School Economist at Heart

Former Clinton Administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Harvard educated economist Paul Roderick Gregory are not getting along right now. Reich fired the first shot in his piece “Higher wages can save America’s economy – and its democracy” on Salon.com to which Gregory immediately replied with a scathing critique and a failing letter grade.

Reich’s argument is that “for much of the past century, the basic bargain at the heart of America was that employers paid their workers enough to buy what American employers were selling.” He laid out the virtues of this agreement and drew the conclusion that given the current state of the economy, “the bargain has been broken”.

Henry Ford is the model that Reich believes modern day corporations should follow. Pay a wage that allows workers to buy the products they make is his battle cry. With an amazing feat of mental gymnastics, Reich blasted the wealthy for seeking the highest profits possible and made the wild claim that the middle-class are the true job creators “whose spending drives the economy and creates jobs.”

Gregory caught wind of this economic blasphemy and took to the task of grading Reich’s work. In his rebuttal piece: “Robert Reich’s F Minus in Economics: False Facts, False Theories” Gregory did not pull any punches.  He provided the logical counter-arguments to raising the minimum wage and explored the consequences of such policies.

First, he spiked the legend of Henry Ford in to the ground.

“Ford’s $5 wage to convert his workers into Model T customers is an urban legend that thinking economist dismiss as nonsense. Henry Ford’s employees would have had to buy forty cars each to absorb the half million Model T’s rolling off his assembly line in 1916.”

He then moved on to Ford’s true motivation for paying higher wages.

“Ford raised the wage to $5 because labor productivity was soaring, not because he wanted to create customers,” Gregory continued. “Wages were rising throughout the economy because of massive increases in productivity, not because Ford and other employers wanted to pay workers enough to buy their products.”

The back and forth between Reich and Gregory is the classical battle that plays out when a Keynesian economist (Reich) and an Austrian School economist (Gregory) clash over whether you can spend your way out of debt, and regulate your way to financial prosperity. Reich says yes, Gregory says no.

The subsequent exchanges between the two have degraded in to ad hominem attacks, but the principles are there if you dig a bit. Fortunately, I have a shovel handy.

Paying workers based on their ability to buy the products they produce is based in fantasy. The true value of labor, the cost of production, and current market conditions are foolishly left out of the thought process. A larger problem still is how to determine how much workers need. Should a person who makes a Ford get paid less than a worker making a Porsche because the Ford is cheaper to purchase? The workers in the Ford plant would likely answer with a resounding “NO!”

Moving on to the larger question of whether or not it is good fiscal policy to set a minimum wage, Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson” is a great resource that follows the Austrian School’s position and warns of the problems that occur when the government interferes with paychecks.

“You cannot make a man worth a given amount by making it illegal to offer him anything less. You merely deprive him of the right to earn the amount that his abilities and situation would permit him to earn, while you deprive the community even of the moderate services that he is capable of rendering,” wrote Hazlitt.

In other words, a minimum wage that is higher than the true value of the labor will lead to unemployment. Some, like Reich, would argue that raising prices and passing the costs of the higher wages to the consumer prevents unemployment, however; this is not the case.

When prices are artificially inflated – like what happens when wages are set to an arbitrary level by the government – consumers will buy less of the impacted product.  When consumers buy fewer products, companies make less money. Remember, the higher price covers mandated wages so profits are not increased. Less profit has historically led to…unemployment!

Worse yet, the unemployed workers turn to government programs that pay less than what the job they had paid them. This is a truly terrible deal for the former workers and very costly for tax payers. Not only have the former workers lost the satisfaction of providing for his family, they are receiving less than what they would have gotten had the wages not been impacted by government regulations.

It’s clearly a vicious cycle that unfolds when the government decides to interfere with the market. Detroit is an excellent example of these concepts playing out to their logical conclusions. Wages were inflated higher than the value of labor. This led to mass unemployment. The increased demand on public assistance programs led to higher taxes to cover the rising costs. Those with marketable skills left the city, which shrunk the pool of tax payers. Under the strain of diminished funding, Detroit crumbled and was eventually forced to file for bankruptcy. This once proud city – known for its production – is in mediation where creditors are working out how best to pick apart the assets of the city.

In the end, we must give both Reich and Gregory failing grades. While I agree with the Austrian School of economics that Gregory supports, he missed out on the opportunity to educate others why the government’s current fiscal policies are wrong-minded and detrimental to the economy. For those interested in learning more, you cannot go wrong with Hazlitt’s classic. For those who love economic nerd fights, this one seems like it might have legs.

Simplicity is Key for Congressman Massie

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Buried amongst the news of scandals and possible wars in the middle east was an interesting piece in The Independent on Congressman Thomas Massie. For those of you not familiar with Massie, he holds multiple engineering degrees from MIT, founded (and later sold) a tech company, and now lives on a farm in Kentucky where he and his family live “off the grid” in a home that he designed and built.

While talking to The Independent, Massie proposed that a simple way to radically change how congress works is to limit the size and topics in a piece of legislation. It’s a deceptively easy idea that would change the way congress works for the better.

“The only way to reform Washington is to get people to vote on single individual issues instead of putting them into one big giant bill and passing them,” Massie said. “You are never quite sure what your congressman is for or against if it is one big conglomeration.”

It seems too simple to ever actually happen, but this is exactly why we need more engineers and fewer lawyers in congress. Massie explained that lawyers are trained to take a position and then gather facts to support it. This is opposite of how problems are actually solved.

“Engineers are taught to collect facts and then come up with an answer based on the facts, Massie told Xconomy. “That’s the kind of thought process we need more of in government.”

Massie also talked about his belief that constituents can still have an influence on their government, whether calling congressional offices or visiting with their representatives during legislative breaks.

“They do listen in Washington, D.C., and 10 phone calls in one day can change their vote,” he said.

The short attention span in congress was also a hot topic:

When a batter hits the ball into the outfield, he asked, “Where do they all go? They all go to the outfield, the pitcher, the first baseman the catcher; they are all going after that ball.”

“That happens a lot of times in Congress. If you see something on the news, that is where all the congressmen go. It is somewhat frustrating to me. We have had a lot of scandals to investigate this summer. I’m on the oversight committee, so this is actually my job. I play outfield. I’m actually supposed to be there when these things come up, like Benghazi hearings, like the IRS hearings.

“It seems to me like the guys who are doing tax reform, they want to run to the outfield whenever there is a Benghazi hearing. They will show up and talk about it on the news. I wish people would sort of play their positions more in Congress. It would make it easier to get things done — and if we had a longer attention span,” Massie said.

Massie’s perspective is interesting for many reasons. He attacks problems with facts and principles, not predetermined goals. He’s also willing to pull back the curtain and explain how congress works today and how things can change for the better. It’s a level of transparency that too few representatives take the time to provide. As the nation continues to work through the countless scandals and persistent wars we will rely more and more on representative s like Massie to get to root of the problems facing the country and to hopefully solve them… assuming that congress can keep its collective eye on the ball.

The Shill Report Page 2: Episode 9 Additional Content

On episode 9 we discussed the launch of Al Jazeera America and what kind of impact the new network could have on the national news narrative and on how other networks present the news. We moved on to the 1st amendment crisis playing out in Britain as journalists do not seem to enjoy the same protections over the pond that we do domestically. From there we pivoted to the interesting case of Barrett Brown who is imprisoned for post a URL on a website. Finally, Jay Carney was on vacation this week, so we introduced a new game – BEAT THE TWEET. Congrats to Chris on finally winning!

We covered quite a bit last week, but there’s always more going on in the world of journalism. Read on to see what didn’t make it in to the pod, but is still fit for print.

You can find the latest episode here and past episodes on iTunes and WAL-Radio. The Shill Report also plays every Sunday night on Indiana Talks radio.

WHAT IS THE NEWS VALUE OF ANONYMOUS LETTER SAYING ‘EUTHANIZE’ AUTISTIC CHILD?

Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher questions whether or not the recent ‘letter’ news story is more outrage porn and less newsworthy. He makes a compelling point that if the media truly wishes to portray people with autism correctly they should start by dispelling the false information that they have allowed to spread.

“One of the ethical principles of journalism is to minimize harm, but all this story has done is to amplify the hurt, with nothing in return but the furrowed brows of news personalities. If the media wants to do some good here, they can start by correcting all the lies they’ve told about people with autism.”

LINK: http://www.mediaite.com/tv/what-is-the-news-value-of-anonymous-letter-saying-to-euthanize-autistic-child/

VICE GIVEN A VALUATION OF $1 BILLION WHILE THE WASHINGTON POST SOLD FOR $250 MILLION

Interesting plans for the future of Vice are in the works and if they can hit their targets this valuation *might* make sense. For now, it’s clearly out of line compared to recent sales, but things can and do change.

“I look at Tom, who built MTV, and essentially, we’re doing the same thing, just cheaper,” he adds. “I want to be the next CNN and the next ESPN and the next MTV, digitally, and I know that sounds grandiose, but when we do our Google channels and our Chinese channels, we’re going to be one of the largest networks in the world. We will get there.”

LINK: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2012/01/03/tom-frestons-1-billion-revenge-ex-viacom-chief-helps-vice-become-the-next-mtv/4/

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC) LIKENS AMERICAN MEDIA TO NAZI PROPAGANDISTS

Clyburn expressed his concerns about the media on “The Morning Briefing” – a program on Sirius XM’s POTUS channel.  The crux of his argument is that comments are typically taken out of context and twisted to hurt reputations. He was especially critical of right-wing bloggers who he says are not “media people”.

“The people of Germany believed Hitler’s foolishness that led to the Holocaust. They believed that stuff,” Clyburn said. “People will tend to believe what they hear through the media.”

LINK: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/318089-clyburn-likens-extreme-right-wing-media-to-nazi-propagandists

These are the kind of stories that Ryan Ripley (me), Chris Spangle, and Joe Ruiz break down on #TheShillReport.  We record weekly and can be heard on WAL Radio and the online radio station – Indiana Talks. We strive to review journalism and dig in to the stories of the week. We expand and explain the narrative and crack wise in the process. It’s a lesson in managing your media with the examples you are bombarded with every day. We like to say that the media breaks the news and we fix it.

If you would like to send in a story for us to possible use on the show, send a message to @werlibertarians on Twitter and use the #TheShillReport hashtag. You can also leave us a message on the We Are Libertarians FaceBook page.

The Shill Report Page 2: Episode 8 Additional Content

On episode 8 we invited Rob Kendall, author and host of the Rob Kendall Show, on to discuss writing a book, political activism, and working in radio. The conversation shifted to Libertarian candidates being included in debates nationwide, and then we tacked the declining ratings that David Gregory seems to have brought with him to “Meet the Press”. Finally, we played WAL’s favorite game:  JAY CARNEY SAID WHAT!?!!?  For those keeping score, Joe is up on Chris 2-0.

Read on to see what didn’t make it in to the pod, but is still fit for print.

You can find the latest episode here and past episodes on iTunes and WAL-Radio. The Shill Report also plays every Sunday night on Indiana Talks radio.

REASON: THE THIRD PARTY CATCH-22

Article from A. Barton Hinkle discussing the race for governor in Virginia and how the Libertarian candidate being left out of the media narrative is not only bad journalism, but also bad politics.  Below is excerpt:

“The article then moved on with its main theme: the “negative tone” of the fight between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli. It never pointed out that voters actually do have a third choice: Robert Sarvis, who is running for governor on the Libertarian ticket, will be on the ballot as well.”

The article also discusses the use of polling limits to exclude 3rd party candidates and debunks some of the more common defenses for that practice.

LINK: http://reason.com/archives/2013/08/14/the-third-party-catch-22

JAMES RISEN STORY RENEWS FEAR OF JOURNALISM BEING CRIMINALIZED

A court has ruled that journalist James Risen must reveal his source in open court in the criminal trial of former CIA official Jeffery Sterling. Sterling was indicted for leaking classified information to Risen for his book – State of War. The 4th circuit court of appeals has ruled that Risen could not claim 1st amendment protections and must testify.

The setting of these decisions has come in to question. These rulings have taken place in Maryland and Virginia — setting an unsettle precedent in two states that are also home to the NSA and CIA. Rosen has refused to co-operate and could face time behind bars. More stunning is the utter lack of interest from the mainstream media especially given the ramifications of this case for the entire industry.

LINK: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/10/james-risen-prison-journalism-criminalised?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

**RELATED**  

This story is contradictory to Eric Holders promise to not prosecute reporters… James Ball is watching the Risen story closely as he too has been investigated by the government for his involvement with WikiLeaks.  From the article:

“Such reassurances are false. What happens to WikiLeaks today happens to New York Times reporters tomorrow.

There are two reasons I can say this so starkly. The first is that we’ve had time to see it happen. In the last year, AP reporters learned their phone records had been secretly subpoenaed and analyzed in a bid to uncover their confidential sources. A Fox News reporter was surveilled. And veteran New York Times reporter James Risen faces jail for refusing to disclose a source.”

LINK: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/12/eric-holder-prosecute-reporters-fbi

EDWARD SNOWDEN Q&A with PETER MAASS

Peter Maass [New York Times] conducted an encrypted interview with Edward Snowden. Laura Poitras served as an intermediary. Some of the more interesting quotes:

ES: “After 9/11, many of the most important news outlets in America abdicated their role as a check to power — the journalistic responsibility to challenge the excesses of government — for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished in the market during a period of heightened nationalism. From a business perspective, this was the obvious strategy, but what benefited the institutions ended up costing the public dearly. The major outlets are still only beginning to recover from this cold period.”

ES: “I was surprised to realize that there were people in news organizations who didn’t recognize any unencrypted message sent over the Internet is being delivered to every intelligence service in the world. In the wake of this year’s disclosures, it should be clear that unencrypted journalist-source communication is unforgivably reckless.”

ES: “Laura [Poitras] and Glenn [Greenwald] are among the few who reported fearlessly on controversial topics throughout this period, even in the face of withering personal criticism, and resulted in Laura specifically becoming targeted by the very programs involved in the recent disclosures.”

LINK: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/magazine/snowden-maass-transcript.html?_r=0

 

These are the kind of stories that Ryan Ripley (me), Chris Spangle, and Joe Ruiz break down on #TheShillReport.  We record weekly and can be heard on WAL Radio and the online radio station – Indiana Talks. We strive to review journalism and dig in to the stories of the week. We expand and explain the narrative and crack wise in the process. It’s a lesson in managing your media with the examples you are bombarded with every day. We like to say that the media breaks the news and we fix it.

If you would like to send in a story for us to possible use on the show, send a message to @werlibertarians on Twitter and use the #TheShillReport hashtag. You can also leave us a message on the We Are Libertarians FaceBook page.

All Eyes on Amash: Show Me the Documents

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This piece is part of a weekly series in which WAL Contributor Ryan Ripley follows the moves of libertarian Republican Justin Amash.

Although Congress is on recess this month, there have been some fireworks between Congressman Justin Amash and the House Intelligence Committee. It all started with a FaceBook post from Amash that alleged that the House Intelligence Committee withheld important documentation from Congress about the NSA surveillance programs.

Less than two weeks ago, the Obama administration released previously classified documents regarding NSA’s bulk collection programs and indicated that two of these documents had been made available to all Members of Congress prior to the vote on reauthorization of the Patriot Act. I can now confirm that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence did NOT, in fact, make the 2011 document available to Representatives in Congress, meaning that the large class of Representatives elected in 2010 did not receive either of the now declassified documents detailing these programs.

The House Intelligence Committee responded to the allegation by reiterating that representatives were invited to classified briefings and had every opportunity to learn about these programs.

“Prior to voting on the PATRIOT Act reauthorization and the FAA reauthorization, Chairman Rogers hosted classified briefings to which all Members were invited to have their questions about these authorities answered,” said HPSCI spokesperson Susan Phalen.

However, questions about the withheld documents have gone unanswered by HPSCI Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) and the committee. While on recess, Amash returned to Michigan and held multiple town hall meetings with his constituents. In the first town hall he reiterated his charge against the House Intelligence Committee and explained that their offer to hold briefings in lieu of the documents was not enough.

“We would go to congressional briefings, and they’ll talk about the Patriot Act, for example, in pretty plain terms,” Amash said. “But they won’t tell you about the uses of the Patriot Act.”

During his second town hall meeting, Amash continued the discussion on the Patriot Act by announcing new legislation that he crafted with John Conyers (D-MI) called the Liberty Act. This legislation is designed to return the implementation of the Patriot Act back to its original intention and in line with the 4th amendment.

“What the Liberty Act would do would be to narrow the scope of the Patriot Act so that the government can only collect information that actually pertains to a person that is the subject of an investigation under the Patriot Act,” Amash said.

While on CNN’s The State of the Union host Candy Crowley asked Amash if he would try to pass his amendment again in light of the recent articles about the NSA privacy violations.

“The system’s not working,” said Amash. “Americans were told by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that there were zero privacy violations and we know that’s not true.”

The conversation shifted to Obamacare where Amash argued that increasing competition among insurance companies would drive down healthcare costs far more than Obamacare possibly could.

“You have to have a competitive marketplace, and you can’t have the regulations in place that mandate specific types of insurance policies are available and no other types of policies,” Amash said. “If you had that in any other industry, you’d see costs go up.

That’s a full schedule for being on recess. Watch the video below to see Congressman Amash’s interview with Candy Crowley where the topics include the NSA surveillance programs and Obamacare.

The Shill Report Page 2: Episode 7 Additional Content

On episode 7 we discussed the potential prime-time shake-ups at cable news outlets, the Bezos purchase of the Washington Post, CNN’s reach for relevance, and when to use inside information. Finally, we played WAL’s favorite game:  JAY CARNEY SAID WHAT!?!!?

Read on to see what didn’t make it in to the pod, but is still fit for print.

You can find the latest episode here and past episodes on iTunes and WAL-Radio. The Shill Report also plays every Sunday night on Indiana Talks radio.

ALEX WAGNER MOCKS RAND PAUL

MSNBC’s Alex Wagner called Rand Paul out for mounting one of the “right wing” presidential bids in modern history and mocked him for his assertion that the federal deficit is at a “staggering” trillion dollars. She was quick to point out that the CBO estimates that the deficit is *ONLY* at $640 billion.

While Rand Paul’s inevitable campaign ramps up, it certainly looks like MSNBC’s full court press on Senator Paul is already in full swing.

JONATHAN KARL PRESSES OBAMA ABOUT AL QAEDA

ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl questioned the president’s use of the work “decimated” when describing Al Qaeda during the NSA reform press conference last Friday. President walked back his previous language by stating that “core Al Qaeda is on its heels” and reiterated the threat that other global terrorist groups pose to America.

Here’s the question that caught our attention: “Now that we have seen this terror threat that resulted in embassies closed throughout the Arab world, much of Africa,” Karl asked, “do you still believe that Al Qaeda has been decimated?”

DONALD TRUMP WISHES HE COULD FIRE CHUCK TODD

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd rolled his eyes at the idea of Donald Trump considering a 2016 presidential run and pondered how long it would it be until Trump’s “sideshow” charade is over. Trump in response took to Twitter and had a mini-meltdown.

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These are the kind of stories that Ryan Ripley (me), Chris Spangle, and Joe Ruiz break down on #TheShillReport.  We record weekly and can be heard on WAL Radio and the online radio station – Indiana Talks. We strive to review journalism and dig in to the stories of the week. We expand and explain the narrative and crack wise in the process. It’s a lesson in managing your media with the examples you are bombarded with every day. We like to say that the media breaks the news and we fix it.

If you would like to send in a story for us to possible use on the show, send a message to @werlibertarians on Twitter and use the #TheShillReport hashtag. You can also leave us a message on the We Are Libertarians FaceBook page.

Ripley: House Intelligence Committee Blocking NSA Oversight?

The staunchest defenders of the NSA have insisted from day one that Congress was aware of the NSA surveillance programs and the representatives provide through oversight over these activities. President Obama sought to reassure the American people with such sentiments after the initial NSA stories first broke:  “These programs as subject to congressional oversight and congressional reauthorization and congressional debate,” the President explained. “And if there are members of Congress who feel differently, then they should speak up.”

Congressman Justin Amash has just spoken up.  Last night he provided proof that information about these programs has been withheld by the House Intelligence Committee.

 

AmashConfirmation

This is a cover letter addressed to Chairman Mike Rogers and ranking committee member Dutch Ruppersberger sent on February 2, 2011 by the Office of the Assistant Attorney General. The letter was sent along with documents that detail the bulk collection activities (phone records) authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act and Section 402 of FISA. The second paragraph clearly notes that the declassification and release of information was intended to give Congress information to perform oversight on the programs:

We believe that making this document available to all Members of Congress, as we did with a similar document in 2009, is an effective way to inform the legislative debate about the reauthorization of Section 215.

However, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers (R-MI) never bothered to release the information. According to a post on Amash’s FaceBook page, the documents declassified and released by the Office of the Assistant Attorney General were never made available to Congress:

“Less than two weeks ago, the Obama administration released previously classified documents regarding NSA’s bulk collection programs and indicated that two of these documents had been made available to all Members of Congress prior to the vote on reauthorization of the Patriot Act. I can now confirm that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence did NOT, in fact, make the 2011 document available to Representatives in Congress, meaning that the large class of Representatives elected in 2010 did not receive either of the now declassified documents detailing these programs.

This is not the first time the House Intelligence Committee has been criticized for a lack of transparency. The Guardian reported that Alan Grayson (D-FL) had similar issues with getting documentation from the committee.  Grayson requested information in June about FISA court opinions related to the collection of American telephone records and details about the PRISM program:

On June 19, Grayson wrote to the House Intelligence Committee requesting several documents relating to media accounts about the NSA. Included among them were FISA court opinions directing the collection of telephone records for Americans, as well as documents relating to the PRISM program.

But just over four weeks later, the Chairman of the Committee, GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, wrote to Grayson informing him that his requests had been denied by a Committee “voice vote”.

In response to his request being rejected, Grayson approached Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MA) who told Grayson that “he was unaware of any committee action on this matter.” After asking for the details of the “voice vote” Grayson received the following response:

Thanks for your inquiry. The full Committee attends Business Meetings. At our July 18, 2013 Business Meeting, there were seven Democrat Members and nine Republican Members in attendance. The transcript is classified.”

By hoarding information, the House Intelligence Committee has made it difficult for representatives on “the outside” to provide oversight to the NSA surveillance programs. Perhaps that is the point. They clearly want an iron grip on the NSA narrative, but withholding declassified documents and denying information on FISA and PRISM to representatives could bring that control to a halt. When people realize you are keeping information from them that they have a right to know, they typically want to know why.

This kind of behavior from the House Intelligence Committee begs the question:  By how large of a margin would the Amash amendment have passed had all 435 representatives known all of the facts? Hopefully we get an answer to this question in the not too distant future.

Ripley: Mark Zuckerberg Can Stop the NSA – Will He?

Mark Zuckerberg , Facebook

During this week’s episode of The Shill Report, Chris, Joe, and I talked about the abrupt shutdown of Lavabit. Ladar Levison explained the shutdown in a message on the company’s website: “I have been forced to make a difficult decision — to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.”

Lavabit is a cloud based service with approximately 350,000 customers that is known for providing secure email to their clients. Thought to be among the subscribers is NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Levison rejected a court order from the US government to conduct surveillance on its customers. Rather than comply with demands for user data as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, Verizon and many others have; Levinson shut the entire service down.

This led to an important question during the podcast: What would happen if Mark Zuckerberg shut down Facebook for 24 hours in protest of the NSA’s domestic spying program?

Can you imagine how long it would take for the Capitol Hill switchboards to melt down? Zuckerberg could spark a grassroots movement to stop the illegal surveillance of American citizens and restore the 4th amendment rights that our Constitution guarantees each and every one of us. That’s an amazing upside for only 24 hours of downtime.

While Zuckerberg has semantically denied that the NSA has direct access to the Facebook servers, the world knows that its Facebook data is consumed by the NSA. The leaked PRISM program documents outline how the data is seized. A recent story on XKEYSCORE confirmed that Facebook chats and messages – along with majority of anyone’s online activity – is also collected and indexed by the intelligence community.

To move the conversation forward, the We Are Libertarians team has created a Facebook event on the We Are Libertarian page that calls for Mark Zuckerberg to shut down Facebook for 24 hours in protest of the NSA domestic spying programs. Being compelled by law to comply with an illegal court order is no longer a defense that the tech giants can stand behind. If the little guy – like Lavabit – can do it, why can’t they?

Please share this event with your Facebook friends and help us spread the word that there ARE ways that the tech giants can protect our privacy.

The Shill Report Page 2: Episode 6 Additional Content

We Are Libertarians took a week off which gave episode 6 of the Shill Report  an opportunity to shine in front of the WAL listening audience. This week we discussed Chris’s man crush on Jake Tapper, the lack of coverage being thrown towards the Bradley Manning trial, and what citizen journalism means in a world where everyone can be a source of news.  Finally, we played WAL’s favorite game:  JAY CARNEY SAID WHAT!?!!?  Read on to see what didn’t make it in to the pod, but is still fit for print.

You can find the latest episode here and past episodes on iTunes and WAL-Radio. The Shill Report also plays every Sunday night on Indiana Talks radio.

TOMMY CHRISTOPHER ON RUSH/HANNITY

Tommy Christopher didn’t seem worried about the rumors that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity could be dropped by major radio broadcasters. In fact he seemed to have quite a distain for listeners of conservative talk radio. Cenk Uygur, on the other hand, could not hide his excitement over this possible development.

Christopher added during the interview:  “I don’t really share your glee in this, because it’s not as if there’s a shortage of young conservative a**holes.”

THE SAD STATE OF JOUNALISM

Thom Nickels participated on a journalism panel at Temple University and came back with a less than rosy outlook on his profession.

FROM THE ARTICLE:

“As a journalist you have to be incredibly flexible,” I told the panel.

This means you may have to work a part-time job. It also means that if there are no journalism jobs in the city you have to be prepared to move out and find a city where there are jobs. Journalism jobs are out there but they tend not to be in glamorous cities like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, but in places like Salt Lake City, Phoenix and New Mexico. Or even in Montana or South Dakota.

LINK: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thom-nickels/the-sad-state-of-journali_b_3673509.html

CNN REPORTER AMBUSHES CALIFORNIA HEALTH SECRETARY

Amid allegations that California’s drug rehab clinics have been defrauding the state government, CNN reporter Drew Griffin demanded answers from California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley. Griffin did not take no for an answer and eventually Dooley answered his questions.

These are the kind of stories that Ryan Ripley (me), Chris Spangle, and Joe Ruiz break down on #TheShillReport.  We record weekly and can be heard on WAL Radio and the online radio station – Indiana Talks. We strive to review journalism and dig in to the stories of the week. We expanded and explained the narrative and crack wise in the process. It’s a lesson in managing your media with the examples you are bombarded with every day. We like to say that the media breaks the news and we fix it.

If you would like to send in a story for us to possible use on the show, send a message to @werlibertarians on Twitter and use the #TheShillReport hashtag. You can also leave us a message on the We Are Libertarians FaceBook page.

All Eyes on Amash: Bigger Than Bieber?

amashslider

This piece is part of a weekly series in which WAL Contributor Ryan Ripley follows the moves of libertarian Republican Justin Amash.

“The American people have an expectation of privacy. If you go back to your district and talk to the American people as I’ve done, they will tell you that they expect this information to be kept private.”

–Justin Amash

Last week the story was about Congressman Amash’s attempt to pass an amendment that would have forced the federal government to specifically identify targets and produce probable cause before warrants could be issued to spy on American citizens under section 215 of the Patriot Act. While the amendment failed 205-217, the vote was surprising close and sparked a national debate that few could have predicted.

The question on the minds of many in Michigan is whether or not Amash will parlay his new found fame in to a Senatorial campaign. Politico reported that while he has not made any decisions, Amash downplayed the speculation that he’s interested in the open Senate seat currently held by retiring Senator Carl Levin (D-MI). He did say that a decision would have to be made by the fall.

“Otherwise it becomes a very difficult battle and it’s already a difficult battle, no matter what,” Amash said. “This is a Democratic state, still, and for a Republican to win a Senate race you have to have a very good year for Republicans, so…”

It may end up being a battle for Amash regardless of the office he decides to run for next. The Hill reported that his fellow Michigan representative, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, took a swipe at him and called efforts to halt the NSA gathering phone data “dangerous.”

“What you’re doing is taking away the one tool that we know will allow us the nexus between a foreign terrorist overseas talking to someone in the United States,” Rogers said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It has saved real lives; real folks have come home with their legs…because of this program.”

This argument made its way around the nightly news shows this past week and is indicative of the “security over liberty” position that establishment Republican lawmakers insist on making. Even New Jersey Governor Chris Christie jumped in to the fray and invoked 9/11 as he attacked the “strain of libertarianism” that he believes threatens the NSA surveillance programs.

“As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” Christie told Politico.

Amash was especially critical of this tactic when talking to Mike Wallace on Fox News Sunday. He clearly stated that the “security over liberty” line of thought is counter to the spirit and intention of the Fourth Amendment.

“It’s precisely because we live in this dangerous world that we need protections like the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The Framers of the Constitution put it in place precisely because they were worried that you would have national security justifications for violating people’s rights,” Amash explained.

During the interview with Wallace, Amash also confirmed his position that Edward Snowden is a whistleblower. His opinion was based largely on Snowden providing information that both Congress and the American people needed to know.

“He may be doing things overseas that we would find problematic, that we would find dangerous,” Amash said. “We’ll find those facts out over time, but as far as Congress is concerned, sure, he’s a whistleblower. He told us what we needed to know.”

The oversight problem was amplified this week by Glenn Greenwald’s recent piece in the Guardian that demonstrates how difficult it is for congressmen to get answers from the NSA about surveillance programs and the policies that they follow. Amash explained to the Washington Post that such gaps in knowledge make it nearly impossible for true congressional oversight to occur.

“Members of Congress were not really aware, on the whole, about what these programs were being used for — the extent to which they were being used,” Amash said. “Members of the intelligence community were told, but members who are rank-and-file members didn’t have the information.”

Following the revelation from the Guardian that the majority of our online activity is being captured under the XKEYGEN program, Amash discussed this program and other NSA activities with Anderson Cooper on CNN. Topics ranged from privacy to how different types of whistleblowers are treated. When Cooper asked whether or not Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to congress, Amash did not hold back.

“Yes, he did lie. He lied to Congress. He lied to the American people,” Amash continued. “I have called for him to step down, and I think he should face the same consequences any American would face who came to Congress and gave false testimony or did so in a court proceeding and any ordinary American might be facing prison time for that.”

On The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Congressman Amash and Jane Harman debated the constitutionality of how the NSA interprets and implements section 215 of the Patriot Act. Amash rejected the notion of meta-data and put the problem in to proper perspective.

“It would be no different if someone came in to your house and made copies of all of your documents and said ‘Hey don’t worry, we’re just collecting these documents. We’re not going to look at them. We just want to have copies of them in case we need them in the future.’ That’s a violation of the 4th Amendment.”

Wrapping up the week, Amash appeared at a liberty rally at George Mason University which was billed as “The Political Conference Where Justin Amash Is Bigger Than Bieber” by Time Magazine. That’s not a bad way to round out a week of arguing with the talking heads over the NSA. Having 300 college students show a frenzied appreciation of your work must be humbling and hopefully indicative of the rising acceptance of libertarian principles and the growing support for Congressman Amash and like-minded representatives in Washington.

The Shill Report Page 2: Episode 5 Additional Content

Episode 5 of The Shill Report was a podcasting first for the team– we invited a guest on the show. Casey Hendrickson gave us a behind the scenes look in to the life of a local talk radio show host, then we discussed the way the media covered the Amash amendment. Finally, we watch Jay Carney have a bad week and played WAL’s favorite game:  JAY CARNEY SAID WHAT!?!!?  It was a really fun episode that we hope you enjoy as well.

You can find the latest episode here and past episodes on iTunes and WAL-Radio. The Shill Report also plays every Sunday night on Indiana Talks radio.

RACHEL MADDOW SKEWERS WEINER’S “REDEMPTION TOUR”

Rachel Maddow is clearly irritated by the continuing Weiner scandal. She did not focus on his texting habits; instead she noted that his continual lying to the public and the media about how much he has changed.

“Part of the way he lied the second round of times is that he’s doing this sort of redemption tour in the press where he’s talking about what a changed man he is, and how he’s totally focused on his family, and he’s all about making apologies while he’s still continuing that behavior,” Maddow continued. “So the press was really used by Anthony Weiner in order to convey the second round of lying.”

Had we decided to use this clip in the show, I think the conversation would have taken some interesting turns. Does the press really get “used” in cases like this? Isn’t the mainstream media really just looking for stories with “sizzle” to sell copies and ads? If that is the case, it seems like this exactly the kind of story those types of news organizations crave.

 

HOW WOULD AL JAZERRA COVER THE ROYAL BABY?

Not minute by minute like CNN, FOX, and MSNBC…

Kate O’Brian – president of Al Jazeera America – was quoted in an interview with the Huffington Post as saying:

“We would certainly cover the Royal Baby. It’s an important story. It’s an interesting story, but we wouldn’t do it in a minute-by-minute, breathless, day-in-day-out way that we’ve seen some of the competitors out there doing,” she continued. “But we would do it in a way that we deem appropriate in terms of the news – the buffet of news that is out there every day.”

Thankfully there is a network news organization that understands the context of this story against the truly important news of the day.

 

TAMPONS – CONDOMS – SELFIES

Melissa Harris Perry decided to wear tampon earrings in protest of who knows what:

Glenn Beck retorted with condoms on his fingers to mock Perry:

And we still don’t know what the hell Geraldo was thinking…

These are the kind of stories that Ryan Ripley (me), Chris Spangle, and Joe Ruiz break down on #TheShillReport.  We record weekly and can be heard on WAL Radio and the online radio station – Indiana Talks. We strive to review journalism and dig in to the stories of the week. We expanded and explained the narrative and crack wise in the process. It’s a lesson in managing your media with the examples you are bombarded with every day. We like to say that the media breaks the news and we fix it.

If you would like to send in a story for us to possible use on the show, send a message to @werlibertarians on Twitter and use the #TheShillReport hashtag. You can also leave us a message on the We Are Libertarians FaceBook page.

Ripley: Pelosi Played Major Role in Defeat of Amash Amendment

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If you think the dynamic duo of the White House and Republican House leadership are to blame for the defeat of the Amash amendment, you could be mistaken. Foreign Policy Magazine recently published a story with confirmation from insiders, that Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) played a major role in stopping the Amash amendment from passing on Wednesday night. The bill that called for the defunding of the NSA’s ability to spy on innocent American citizens, was narrowly defeated (205-217) by 12 votes.

“Pelosi had meetings and made a plea to vote against the amendment and that had a much bigger effect on swing Democratic votes against the amendment than anything Alexander had to say,” said the source, keeping in mind concerted White House efforts to influence Congress by Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “Had Pelosi not been as forceful as she had been, it’s unlikely there would’ve been more Democrats for the amendment.”

Civil libertarians and the far left side of the Democratic Party are rightly irritated by this development. The Huffington Post reported that in response to their backlash, Pelosi spent most of the following day doing damage control for her “no” vote and vigilant efforts to kill the bill.

Pelosi was far less enthusiastic about her vote, suggesting that while she opposed the bill to stop the wholesale data collection, she isn’t comfortable with how the program is being handled.

“I don’t want anybody to misunderstand a vote against the Amash resolution yesterday,” Pelosi said, adding that she was putting together a letter with members who voted both for and against the amendment that will raise “concerns about how the metadata collection is conducted.”

Pelosi did not vote for the Patriot Act in 2005, nor did she vote in favor of the latest reauthorization of the bill. Her mixed message approach to surveillance has left her base unsure where she truly stands on the issue. This frustration turned to heckling after she made negative comments about Edward Snowden at a conference last month. Given these types of reactions to her comments, it should be no surprise to Pelosi that the laws that allow these surveillance activities to continue have become deeply unpopular with many of her constituents. This revelation begs the question: why did she work so hard to kill an amendment that her base supports? It’s a given that the Constitution is not important to her, perhaps she actually enjoys encounters with angry voters  – like the one below.

All Eyes on Amash: Taking on the NSA

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This piece is part of a weekly series in which WAL Contributor Ryan Ripley follows the moves of libertarian Republican Justin Amash.

Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) just had the biggest week of his political career. He took on the White House, the Intelligence Community, and establishment Republicans and almost won. By a narrow vote, the House rejected the Amash Amendment (205-217) that would have prevented funds from being used to illegally spy on innocent American citizens under the Patriot Act.

Initially, the House leadership sought to block the bill from reaching floor, fearing the ramifications of forcing members to vote on the very complicated issue of surveillance in America. Ultimately, Amash successfully argued to the Rules panel that he was only seeking to limit the NSA’s “blanket authority” to collect records and metadata under the Patriot Act.

“In order for funds to be used by the NSA, the court order would have to have a statement limiting the collection of records to those records that pertain to a person under investigation,” Amash explained to the panel. “If the court order doesn’t have that statement, the NSA doesn’t receive the funding to collect those records.”

With a vote eminent, the White House made an unusual move and spoke out against the Amash Amendment. “We oppose the current efforts in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. “This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.”

AmashWH

The White House also mobilized members of the administration in to action. Director of National Intelligence James “I forgot the Patriot Act” Clapper and NSA director Gen. Keith “Collect it All” Alexander called for emergency meetings with members of congress to lobby against the amendment. Ironically, the meetings were held at the “Top Secret” level, preventing the attendees from disclosing what was discussed.

Amash posed the question of liberty to the members and started something that has not happened in a very long time –a true bi-partisan debate on the house floor.

“We’re here today for a very simple reason – to defend the Fourth Amendment, to defend the privacy of each and every American,” Amash said. He then warned that those opposed to the amendment will use fear as their weapon and asked the key question, “Do we oppose the suspicionless collection of every American’s phone records?”

Speaking against the bill, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) invoked 9/11 and begged members to not revert our security level back to where it was on 9/10/2001. He also urged the House to ignore “Facebook likes” and vote for the “security” of the nation, apparently unaware that “likes” come from constituents.

Michelle Bachman (R-MN) likened the data collected by the NSA to what’s available in a phone book. If that’s the case then why doesn’t the NSA just check under ‘T’ for ‘Terrorist’ to catch the bad guys? Tom Cotton (R-AK) won the boogeyman award with his impassioned reminder to members that America is “at war” and that passing the Amendment would cost lives – which caused many to question “with whom?” and “where is the declaration of war from Congress?”

On the other side of the isle, Amash orchestrated an impressive line-up of bi-partisan supports including James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the creator of the Patriot Act. Sensenbrenner strongly supported the Amash amendment, saying that the current interpretation of the law is far from what it was meant to be.

Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) reminded the member that congressional oversight was seriously lacking on these matters. She pointed out that the last oversight report to Congress about activities under Section 215 of the Patriot Act was “eight sentences” long – apparently that is sufficient for those who wish to capture the information about billions of phone calls and emails every day.

Jerry Nadler (D-NY) encouraged members to stop the government from misusing Section 215 of the Patriot Act to engage in the dragnet collection of all of our phone records. “Congress did not grant the executive the authority to collect anything that it wants so long as it limits any subsequence search of that data.”

While the amendment did not pass, it did manage to draw together some unusual allies. Libertarian Republicans found themselves standing next to many House Democrats, while President Obama and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) found new allies in John Boehner (R-OH), Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to defeat the measure – strange bedfellows indeed.

Aside from exposing the new breed of Obama-Republicans currently occupying seats in the House, the Amash amendment has redefined the narrative about surveillance in the United States. When the White House opposed the amendment, President Obama claimed ownership of the practices at the NSA. The days of blaming former President Bush are over.

House members were also forced to reveal their position on the 4th Amendment of U.S. Constitution. We now know that there are 217 members of congress who are willing to violate the law and their oath of office. They made a false choice between security and liberty. Security is a myth, while liberty is a natural right guaranteed by the Constitution. Fortunately, this problem is an easy one for the voters to fix. After all, the mid-term elections are just around the corner.

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Watch the video below to see Congressman Amash lead the debate on national surveillance:

The Shill Report Page 2: Episode 4 Additional Content

Episode 4 of The Shill Report focused on the a terrorist making the cover of Rolling Stone, George Zimmerman’s attorney – Mark O’Mara – lashing out at the media, the possible long-term consequence of the Bradley Manning trial, and Jay Carney’s “intern-gate” fiasco.

You can find the latest episode of The Shill Report on iTunes, WAL-Radio, and IndianaTalks.com

We’re pretty proud of this episode, but it went a little long. There just wasn’t enough time to get to all of the great stories of the week. That’s why we created Page 2. Here’s the rest of the news that didn’t make the pod, but is certainly worth a look.

WASHINGTON POST BLOGGERS:

The Washington Post has struggled to find a conservative voice in the blogging world. In a recent article, Eric Alterman examines the Post’s history of trying to fill this complicated position and the unintended consequence of some interesting choices for the job.

It is no secret to anyone that conservatives have conducted a remarkably successful, decades-long campaign to undermine the practice of honest, aggressive journalism with trumped-up accusations of liberal bias. They have made massive investments of time and money in groups and individuals devoted to “working the refs,” and these have yielded significant ideological dividends—which, as might be predicted, have only encouraged them to keep it up.

http://www.thenation.com/article/168622/washington-posts-problem#

PIERS MORGAN DESTROYED BY LARRY ELDER:

Larry Elder took Morgan to task over his coddling of Rachel Jeantel and his “stupid” assessment of her character. Elder was relentless in his assault on Morgan and even went as far as to attack him for his bleed heart liberal positions. I can’t think of another instance where a show host allowed a filibuster like this to happen. It’s an explosive exchange that we simply did not have time to cover.

CHARLES BARKLEY AGREES WITH THE ZIMMERMAN VERDICT:

The “Round Mound of Rebound” went on CNBC’s Closing Bell and spoke with Maria Bartiromo about his views on the Zimmerman trail. Barkley agreed with the verdict and felt that both men should have walked away. He called out the media for not have a “clean heart” when reporting news like this. Barkley presented a well thought out and well delivered position on the case. If you miss the 24/7 coverage of the trail now that it’s over, then this is a “must watch” clip.

These are the kind of videos that Ryan Ripley (me), Chris Spangle, and Joe Ruiz break down on #The Shill Report.  We record weekly and can be heard on WAL Radio and the online radio station – Indiana Talks. We strive to review journalism and dig in to the stories of the week. We expanded and explained the narrative and crack wise in the process. It’s a lesson in managing your media with the example you are bombarded with every day. We like to say that the media breaks the news and we fix it.

If you would like to send in a story for us to possible use on the show, send a message to @werlibertarians on Twitter and use the #TheShillReport hashtag. You can also leave us a message on the We Are Libertarians FaceBook page.

The Shill Report Page 2: Episode 3 Additional Content

With 3 episodes up and available on iTunes and on the WAL-Radio site, The Shill Report is in full production. This past week we talked about the mainstream media pushing the Zimmerman trial 24/7 at the expense of real news and Chuck Todd’s sanity. Next up was former MSNBC staffer Jeff Cohen and his rant against his former employer for covering the Snowden scandal as if the station were state owned and operated like the Obama administration. We moved on to Chris Hayes and his rant against Rand Paul employing Jack Hunter. Finally, the civil war within the Washington Post was too much to pass up. The editorial board apparently wants the source of their papers published stories to go to jail. It’s a fun episode that you can listen too here.

However, that’s a lot of content for an hour long podcast.  Naturally, some news stories had to get cut. It would be a shame to let the research and commentary go to waste, so each week I’ll share the pieces that were left on the cutting room floor, but are still fit for print.

The announcement that the employee mandate under Obamacare has been delayed until 2015 sparked quite the controversy within the GOP. Many conservatives are hammering away at the healthcare law, calling for a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act. These renewed attacks have put the Democratic supporters on their heels…literally. GOP strategist Nicole Wallace ran in to a liberal buzz saw on the Morning Joe after being accused of politicizing the delay.

Later in the segment, former Obama advisor David Axelrod fielded softball questions from the panel and reaffirmed the good intentions and success of Obamacare. Nicole Wallace and Fortune editor asked if the decision to delay the mandate until after the midterm elections was politically motivated, however; Axelrod deflected the question and stuck to talking points.

Rachel Maddow and Freedom Coalition Chief Ralph Reed argued over DOMA on NBC’s Meet the Press. “Gay people exist,” Maddow said to Reed, “there’s nothing that we can do that make more or less of us exist…You just are arguing in favor of discrimination.”

Reed responded that by Maddow’s logic President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Former President Bill Clinton, Senator Harry Reid, and Senator Pat Leahy were all “bigots” for voting in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Raul Labrador (R-ID) and MSNBC host Alex Wagner went back and forth on how the Republican Party can best manage the immigration issue in the House of Representative. Labrador disagreed with the largely Democratic panels suggestion that the Republican’s “pander” to the Hispanic community by passing the flawed Senate immigration bill. Wagner too issue with being called out for using administration talking points and hilarity ensued.

These are the kind of videos that Ryan Ripley (me), Chris Spangle, and Joe Ruiz break down on #The Shill Report.  We record weekly and can be heard on WAL Radio site and the online radio station – Indiana Talks. We strive to review journalism and dig in to the stories of the week. We expand and explain the narratives of the week and crack wise in the process. It’s a lesson in managing your media using the examples you are bombarded with every day. We like to say that the media breaks the news and we fix it. Give it a listen, we think you’ll like it.

If you would like to send in a story for us to possible use on the show, send a message to @werlibertarians on Twitter and use the #TheShillReport hashtag. You can also leave us a message on the We Are Libertarians FaceBook page.

Ripley: All Eyes on Amash

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This piece is the first of a weekly series in which WAL Contributor Ryan Ripley will follow the moves of libertarian Republican Justin Amash.

After Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) retired it was unclear who would take up the mantle of liberty and assume the role of the defender of the Constitution in the House of Representatives. Michigan Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) is making a strong case that he is the man for the job. He has stuck to the principles of limited government and the non-interventionist position on foreign policy that earned Congressman Paul the respect and loyalty of libertarians and conservatives nationwide.

The 33-year old congressman from Grand Rapids, Michigan has caught the ire of establishment Republicans largely due to only voting along party lines 77 percent of the time. Former advisor to President George W. Bush and failed GOP king-maker Karl Rove went as far as to call Congressman Amash “the most liberal Republican” in Congress.

Congressman Amash took to social media to defend his voting record. In fact, if you want an explanation for every vote that Amash casts, you can find them on his Face Book page. It does not take long to realize from his comments that Amash will vote against any legislation that he believes to be unconstitutional – regardless of the party or representative advocating for the bill.

Here are some of his recent Facebook comments on an amendment to the Farm Bill:

“I voted yes on the Marino of PA Part B Amendment 41 to H R 1947, which repeals the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program, a federal program that provides grants to nonprofits to educate fleet operators and the public on the benefits of using biodiesel fuels instead of fossil fuels. We need a comprehensive approach to energy, and the federal government shouldn’t be favoring one industry over another. It failed 194-230.”

With his principled approach to legislating, it is not surprising that Amash enjoys a 100 percent rating from The Cato Institute, Freedom Works, and Club for Growth.

In a recent move that will further inflame Karl Rove and will likely cause John McCain to call him a “wacko bird,” Amash sent a tweet to his followers that explained his intentions to defund the NSA with amendments to the Department of Defense appropriation bill that is currently under consideration in the House.

“Most important bill this week: DoD Approps. We can defund #NSA’s unconstitutional spying on Americans-if House leaders allow amendments.” – Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) – July 15th

The amendment blocks funds from being used to “collect tangible things pursuant to an order under section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 if such things to no pertain to a person who is the subject to an investigation.”

Amash faces an uphill battle as some law makers seek to prevent such amendments from being considered. The Hill published parts of a letter written by Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) to his fellow congressmen about possible rule changes for H.R. 2397, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014.

“While this is not the traditional process for this bill, there are a number of sensitive and ongoing issues related to national security that are more appropriately handled through an orderly amendment process ensuring timely consideration of this important measure.”

Congressman Amash is not afraid to make waves as he continues to put liberty above ideology. His latest move to defund the NSA’s ability to spy on American citizens is just one of his many stands for civil liberties. He is the new conscience of the House of Representatives and is a person that all lovers of individual freedom and liberty should be following.

Watch the video below to learn more about Congressman Amash and his views on the current political landscape.

Ripley: Open Letter to Senator Dan Coats

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Senator Coats,

In your June 18th op-ed in the Wall Street Journal you urged your fellow congressmen to stop politicizing the NSA surveillance leaks – at least until they have all of the facts. You also spoke of the “trust deficit” that is growing and sought to correct the narrative surrounding the intelligence scandal.

“For the record, the government is not and cannot indiscriminately listen in on any American’s phone calls. It is not targeting the emails of innocent Americans. It is not indiscriminately collecting the content of their conversations and it is not tracking the location of innocent Americans through cell towers or their cell phones.”

A lot has happened since your opinion piece went to press. On June 20th, Glenn Greenwald released the story “The Top Secret Rules That Allow NSA to Use US Data Without a Warrant” where we learned that the FISA rules regulating the broad surveillance of American citizens do not provide complete protections.

The Guardian revealed: “Top secret documents submitted to the court that oversees surveillance by US intelligence agencies show the judges have signed off on broad orders which allow the NSA to make use of information “inadvertently” collected from domestic US communications without a warrant.”

FROM: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/20/fisa-court-nsa-without-warrant

Knowing that US intelligence agencies can use data “inadvertently” collected form domestic US communication is important due to the recent PRISM slides released by the Washington Post.

These slides clearly demonstrate the ability of the US intelligence community to access the emails and online information from at least 9 domestic internet sites and show that in some cases this surveillance is done in real-time and directly from the company’s servers.

FROM: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/prism-collection-documents/?hpid=z1

We also know that the United States government is sharing that data with the United Kingdom to circumvent UK law’s and data privacy regulations:

The Washington Post reported: “According to documents obtained by The Guardian, PRISM would appear to allow GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required in Britain to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos from an internet company based outside of the country.”

FROM: http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/us-intelligence-mining-data-from-nine-us-internet-companies-in-broad-secret-program/2013/06/06/3a0c0da8-cebf-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html

It is understandably difficult to oversee these programs. I’m sure that you recall the testimony of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. When Senator Ron Wyden asked, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Mr. Clapper replied, “No sir, not wittingly.”

Since then, Mr. Clapper has apologized for lying to Congress and attributed his “least untruthful” statement to his poor memory.

The Guardian reported: “In the full letter, Clapper attempted to explain the false testimony by saying that his recollection failed him. “I simply didn’t think of Section 215 of the Patriot Act,” he wrote to committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein on 21 June.”

FROM: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/02/james-clapper-senate-erroneous

Unfortunately, these recent releases conflict with your statements concerning the government’s ability to target emails and data of innocent Americans. The “trust deficit” is certainly growing, however, by now it is clear that it is the actions of the US intelligence community, not grandstanding congressmen that’s cause the trust issues.

In response to the new information provided by the Guardian and the Washington Post, I have three questions that I would appreciate answers to:

  1. Will you revise your statements from your June 18th op-ed in light of the leaked information from the press in order to significantly reduce the “trust deficit”?
  2. Will you call for the resignation of Director of US Intelligence James Clapper? Lying to congress is a serious offense, and forgetting the law that grants the majority of power for his organization to operate is unacceptable.
  3. Will you support legislation such as H.R. 2399 – LIBERT-E Act and bills like it that seek to prevent the mass collection of records of innocent Americans under section 501 of FISA and 215 of the USA Patriot Act?

Ripley: Tax Hikes for Fort Wayne

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This week the Fort Wayne City Council approved increasing the local option income tax (LOIT) from 1 percent to 1.35 percent. The LOIT is expected to raise $13.5 million in revenue for city projects and public safety. During the same meeting, the council also created a new property tax in the form of a Cumulative Capital Development Fund which raises $800,000 in year one and up to $2 million annually in subsequent years.

Both tax increases were adopted by the Republican controlled council by a vote of 6-2. Councilmen Mitch Harper (R-4th) and Russ Jehl (R-2 rd) voted against the measures.

Mayor Tom Henry praised the council for their leadership on investing in Fort Wayne’s future.

“Fort Wayne City Council tonight voted favorably on one of the most important initiatives in the history of the city of Fort Wayne,” Henry wrote in a prepared statement. “By investing in ourselves, we’re saying we’re committed to a great quality of life, tremendous neighborhoods, new jobs, and business growth.”

Yes, that quote is correct. The mayor of Fort Wayne called the passage of these tax increases “one of the most important initiatives in the history of the city of Fort Wayne.”

The city administration has struggled to come to terms with the implementation of the property tax caps that occurred in 2008. Since then, the city has “lost” $53 million in revenue. Instead of reducing their budget to reflect the impact of the tax caps, the city decided to deplete savings and other funds to maintain service and spending levels.

“This is not a huge tax increase, it’s catching up to what we lost,” Republican Councilman At-Large John Crawford said, “Just because we decreased property tax revenues doesn’t mean the cost of running the city went down.”

And that comment reveals a true problem: “… what we lost”. The city feels a disturbing sense of entitlement to the contents of our wallets. The effects of this wrong mindedness are poor spending habits and skewed fiscal values that typically lead to deficits and fiscal trouble.

Council President Tom Didier (R-3rd) preferred to think of the tax increases as “tax relief” to help justify the new rates. However, this explanation is a stretch.

A family with a household income of $20,000 and a home valued at $58,000 will see $10 in property tax relief and will pay an additional $60 in income tax. If you make $53,000 per year and have a home worth $105,000 the property tax relief is a whopping $1 with an additional $175 owed to the city in income taxes. Double the income and value of the home from the last example and property tax relief jumps to $4 per year with an additional $347 of income tax to pay.

Apparently, Mr. Didier believes that $1 in property tax relief in exchange for having to pay an additional $175 in income taxes is a good deal for residents. Perhaps this kind of thinking is what got the city in trouble in the first place? We’ll be sure not to spend the “relief” all in one place, Mr. Didier.

During council comments, Tom Smith (R-1st) supported the tax hikes due to the balanced nature of the plan. He felt that the combination of cutting employee benefits, increasing taxes, and the aforementioned property tax relief struck the right balance and would also increase revenue for other units of government in the area.

What Mr. Smith forgot is that for a budget plan to be truly balanced, spending cuts must be included as well. The two dissenting councilmen – Mr. Harper and Mr. Jehl – found many areas to cut and re-think as part of a balanced plan that did not include a tax increase. Unfortunately, their plan was reject by the Mayor’s administration and their fellow council members.

The blanket rejection has much to do with the impact of increased revenue (taxes) on the Community Economic Development Fund. Traditionally, this fund has struggled to keep pace with the $65 million backlog in road work needed in Fort Wayne and the increasing costs to maintain the park system. With the tax increases comes a surplus of funds – upwards of $30 million over the next four years. There is a danger here that Mr. Harper correctly pointed out.

“How do you expect the administration now to use pay-as-you-go when they have not over successive administrations,” Mr. Harper said. “There’s a temptation to use that for future bonding. The prudent thing would be to say let’s keep the revenue at an adequate level to take care of our needs, but not produce something that is a temptation for use of future bonding.”

I do not agree with Mayor Henry that these tax increases are “one of the most important initiatives in the history of the city of Fort Wayne.” There were far better options. Cutting the budget to a sustainable level is an important initiative. Reducing the massive bond debt that the city holds due to a lack of planning is an important initiative. Tackling the $60 million street backlog with legacy funds is an important initiative. Pursuing a plan that achieves all of these initiatives without raising income taxes IS an important initiative. Instead, the council took more money from our pockets and slashed city employee benefits to make up for shortfalls that were predictable and preventable.

During the next election cycle the voters have an important initiative: restore fiscal responsibility to their city’s government.

Ripley: Senator Coats & The Trust Deficit

Coats

Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal urging his fellow congressmen to stop politicizing the NSA surveillance leaks – at least until they have all of the facts. Coats, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, emphasized the strict oversight that the programs are subject to and the overall legality of the practices in place.

“These programs are legal, constitutional and used only under the strict oversight of all three branches of the government, including a highly scrutinized judicial process,” said Coats. “I can attest that few issues garner more of our attention than the oversight of these programs.”

Senator Coats also noted the “trust deficit” that Americans have towards their government due to the slew of scandals circulating in the media and sought to reaffirm that protections built into the system that protect the civil liberties of American citizens.

“For the record, the government is not and cannot indiscriminately listen in on any American’s phone calls. It is not targeting the emails of innocent Americans. It is not indiscriminately collecting the content of their conversations and it is not tracking the location of innocent Americans through cell towers or their cell phones.”

 

The “trust deficit” is a growing problem, as Senator Coats pointed out. Unfortunately for him, his op-ed made it a little bit larger.

The Guardian released the FISA court rules that allow the NSA to use the data of American citizens without a warrant. The two documents – Procedures used by the NSA to target non-US persons and Procedures used by NSA to minimize data collected from US persons – contradict the Senator’s claims.

“Top secret documents submitted to the court that oversees surveillance by US intelligence agencies show the judges have signed off on broad orders which allow the NSA to make use of information “inadvertently” collected from domestic US communications without a warrant,” the Guardian reported.

A key loop-hole is determining the location of a targeted person.

“In the absence of specific information regarding whether a target is a United States person,” the documents state “a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States or whose location is not known will be presumed to be a non-United States person unless such person can be positively identified as a United States person.”

We also learned from the Guardian that the broad orders and question of location put a majority of the authority in surveillance directly in the hands of the analysts involved with the case, and not the FISA court. If it is learned that a subject is located in the US, the analysts can still inspect emails and messages and can listen to phone calls to verify the person’s location – without a warrant.

During his testimony at a recent House Intelligence Committee hearing, Deputy Attorney General James Cole confirmed that probable cause – in some cases – is determined by the analyst and not the FISA court. He explained the strict guidelines for targeting an American for surveillance, but noted “we do not have to get separate court approval for each query.” Again, no warrants.

As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Coats has NSA oversight responsibilities and knows about these rules. Why would he decide to not disclose these broad rules and special cases?

Speaking of oversight, how can we rely on congress to conduct their oversight duties when officials can lie directly to them without consequence? Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, was asked at a March Senate hearing, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No sir,” Mr. Clapper replied. “Not wittingly.”

Later Mr. Clapper acknowledged that he gave the “least untruthful” answer possible in light of the documents released by Edward Snowden to the Guardian. This exchange raises the serious concern of whether congress is truly able to provide oversight and preserve our constitutional rights if their questions do not have to be answered in the “most truthful” way possible.

Unsatisfied with FISA rules and the effectiveness of congressional oversight, Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) – colleagues of Senator Coats on the Senate Intelligence Committee – are working with members of congress to re-open the Patriot Act to restore privacy rights to the American people.

“The recent disclosures of government surveillance activities have highlighted the gap between the government’s interpretation of the PATRIOT Act and the public’s understanding,” Wyden said. “This gap has allowed the government to create secret programs that violate the civil liberties of law-abiding Americans who have absolutely no ties to terrorism or espionage.”

Senator Coats closed his op-ed with the prediction that support for the NSA programs will grow “as sensationalism and fear are replaced with fact.” But even his own colleagues – who get the same intelligence briefings he does – are appalled by the actions of the NSA and are seeking legislative remedies to the blatant violations of the 4th Amendment. Coats is clearly on the wrong side of the argument. The ACLU has concluded that the rules that supposedly protect Americans’ privacy are weak and riddled with exceptions. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has drawn the same conclusion based on the documents released by the Guardian.

Glenn Greenwald (Guardian reporter) has demonstrated that the United States government can and does listen to phone call of American citizens without a warrant. If Senator Coats truly wants to reduce the “trust deficit” he should retract his op-ed, assume that Snowden has given up the entire story to the Guardian, and revise his statements. Only once the truth is told can there be an honest debate about surveillance in America.

Ripley: Secret Government Programs Are NEVER Transparent

inigo-montoya

“Transparent” is the word President Obama used to defend the NSA surveillance programs that allow the federal government to spy on American citizens. The President insists that the massive data collection is being done with “checks and balances” and that Congress has been briefed every step of the way.

“It is transparent,” President Obama told Charlie Rose in an interview on PBS. “You’ve got a federal court with independent federal judges overseeing the entire program. And you’ve got Congress overseeing the program, not just the intelligence committee and not just the judiciary committee – but all of Congress had available to it before the last re-authorization exactly how this program works.”

The federal court that the President cited is a secret court authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The decisions of the court are classified as are the warrants that it approves. In the case of Verizon, the company was not allowed to disclose the existence of the warrant or communicate about it unless executing the terms of the order or seeking legal counsel.

The President wants us to believe that the FISA court is acting in an oversight capacity, but it looks more like a rubber stamp.  The Wall Street Journal reported that the FISA court has only declined 11 out of over 33,900 surveillance requests made by the federal government over the past 33 years.

And then we have congress. Last week less than half of the Senate attended an intelligence briefing with James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and other officials – The Hill reported. Instead, many Senators opted to catch the early flight back to their districts.

“The truth is that members always come in at the end of the game, and as a result they take as gospel the assessments that they receive from the intelligence community,” Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Hill.

Even when Congress is paying attention, it has proven difficult for representatives to share information with the public. Ron Wyden (D-OR) pushed for a letter from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to be made public that revealed “on at least one occasion” the FISA Court found that “minimization procedures” used by the government while collecting intelligence were “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment” as reported by Wired Magazine.

Following this release, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a Freedom of Information Act request the details behind the FISA court’s ruling. The Justice Department attempted to block the request by claiming that such documents top-secret.  The EFF sued and a FISA court judge rejected the Justice Department’s argument that releasing the opinion would violate FISA court rules and allowed the EFF to continue with their lawsuit.

“The FISA court has made clear that there is nothing in its own rules that prohibits disclosure of the 2011 opinion we’re seeking. So we go back to district court and continue our fight under FOIA, having removed DOJ’s argument that it has no discretion to release FISA material,” David Sobel, a lawyer for EFF, told Mother Jones.

Secret courts that issue secret orders – overseen in secret hearings by representatives sworn to secrecy – are not transparent. If they were, we would not have needed whistle blower Edward Snowden to tell us that the government is spying on us in the first place. Nor would the EFF need to fight in court to get the details about the government violating the 4th Amendment rights of millions of Americans. Someone should get the President a dictionary. He keeps using the word “transparent”, but it does not mean what he thinks it means.