Who Will Call Obama for Us?

Obamaphone

Would you like to call President Obama and demand that he stop tapping your phone?

Some people have done just that.

According to a New York Times article, German Chancellor Angela Merkel dialed up the president and angrily demanded assurance that he was not tapping her cell phone. French President Francois Hollande summoned the American Ambassador and expressed “extreme approbation” over NSA spying on French citizens.

It’s too bad we the people don’t have someone to make a similar call to the president for us.

Oh wait.

We do have someone.

We have our elected representatives in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. The only trouble is that they’re in the bag on the plans to spy on us, right along with the Orwellian press.

So … does that mean we don’t have anyone to speak out for us?

Yes. It does.

From the New York Times:

BERLIN — The diplomatic fallout from the documents harvested by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden intensified on Wednesday, with one of the United States’ closest allies, Germany, announcing that its leader had angrily called President Obama seeking reassurance that her cellphone was not the target of an American intelligence tap.
Washington hastily pledged that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, leader of Europe’s most powerful economy, was not the target of current surveillance and would not be in the future, while conspicuously saying nothing about the past. After a similar furor with France, the call was the second time in 48 hours that the president found himself on the phone with a close European ally to argue that the unceasing revelations of invasive American intelligence gathering should not undermine decades of hard-won trans-Atlantic trust.
Both episodes illustrated the diplomatic challenge to the United States posed by the cache of documents that Mr. Snowden handed to the journalist Glenn Greenwald. Last week, Mr. Greenwald concluded a deal with the eBay founder Pierre Omidyar to build a new media platform that aims in part to publicize other revelations from the data Mr. Greenwald now possesses.The damage to core American relationships continues to mount.
Last month, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil postponed a state visit to the United States after Brazilian news media reports — fed by material from Mr. Greenwald — that the N.S.A. had intercepted messages from Ms. Rousseff, her aides and the state oil company, Petrobras. Recently, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which has said it has a stack of Snowden documents, suggested that United States intelligence had gained access to communications to and from President Felipe Calderón of Mexico when he was still in office.

National Organization for Marriage Sues the IRS for Disclosure of Tax Returns

IRS

If the government starts breaking its own laws to give out information from our tax returns for the purpose of allowing a favored group to punish their enemies, we are all in trouble.

In March 2012, the Human Rights Campaign, which is a gay rights organization that supports gay marriage, publish the National Organization for Marriage’s 2008 tax returns.

That, my friends, is clear evidence that somebody somewhere committed a felony. Yet, no one has charges have been brought and if there’s an investigation, it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

When the Human Rights Campaign published this list of donors, it laid these people open to harassment and reprisals of all sorts.

As I said earlier, when the government starts violating its own laws for the purpose of allowing a favored group to punish their enemies, we are all in trouble.

From The National Catholic Register:

National Organization for Marriage Sues IRS for Disclosure of Tax Returns (2085)

The lawyer for the organization says the measure is ‘in order to discover who committed these felonies against us and then hopefully get them prosecuted as a deterrent to future abuse by IRS officials.’

WASHINGTON — In March 2012, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s leading homosexual-rights group, posted the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) confidential 2008 tax returns, including the names of donors.

The disclosure of tax returns without permission is a felony, and NOM quickly cited evidence that allegedly pointed to an Internal Revenue Service official as the likely source of the confidential data.

But a year and a half later, after repeated inquiries elicited no satisfactory response from the IRS, NOM has filed a lawsuit demanding answers and damages.

“Our confidential tax returns were disclosed to the Human Rights Campaign, which posted our confidential list of donors (Schedule B of the tax return) on its website as part of its effort to harass and intimidate our donors into silence,” said John Eastman, NOM’s chairman and law professor at Chapman University School of Law, explaining the group’s decision to file the lawsuit on Oct. 3.

“Computer forensics discovered that the document had originated from within the IRS. Disclosure of a confidential tax return is a serious felony, yet no charges have been brought.”

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/the-national-organization-for-marriage-sues-the-irs-for-disclosure-of-tax-r?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-10-18%2014:22:01#ixzz2i6cJl7kz

Isn’t that Illegal?

16th amendment

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

That is the 16th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Our government managed to rattle along without an income tax until this amendment was ratified in 1913. It’s ironic that this particular amendment was placed in the Bill of Rights, since it has become a method of limiting many of the other rights that Americans enjoy.

For instance, our system of jurisprudence is based on the notion that the individual citizen is regarded as innocent until proven guilty. What that means in practice is that the government actually has to prove that someone has broken the law before it can deprive that person of life, liberty or property.

However, the income tax laws turn this completely on its head. The government does not have to prove anything as regards income tax violations. It merely makes the charge and the individual citizen is tasked with proving their innocence. That is what income tax audits are all about. The government is operating on the idea that you are guilty of income tax evasion until and unless you can prove yourself innocent. The topper is that the government can be as invasive and onerous as it wants in these audits.

I know from personal experience that even a one-page tax form concerning employment with regular documented salaries can turn into an audit that costs the tax payer thousands of dollars and ties them up for many months. In other words, the government can audit an individual or a small business into bankruptcy, even if the business or the individual actually can prove that their taxes are clean and the government’s charges are bogus.

The powers granted to the government through its enforcement of the 16th Amendment are draconian enough without the application of political vendettas and personal malice. That’s why there are laws which are supposed to protect us from that sort of thing.

However, as our government veers away from the people, there is less to keep it in check. I’m not sure why a people that blandly accepts the idea that their government is reading their emails and listening in on their phone calls would be surprised to learn that this same government is also abusing the power inherent in the tax codes.

Maybe they’re not surprised.

Maybe it’s just that we the people have been battered so much by these repeating crises that we’ve become somewhat response damaged. Or perhaps we’re getting weary of voting the crooks out of office and then getting another set of crooks just as bad.

How many times have the voters of this country risen up and tossed the bums out?

And how much good has it done us?

That’s because the bums are replaceable by other bums, all of whom are owned and controlled by the same special interests. We can replace the puppets, but we don’t touch the puppet masters.

Maybe this is why there has been so little reaction to the news that the Obama administration exchanged information about people’s tax files with the IRS.

Or maybe people don’t understand that this is probably an illegal activity.

Or maybe people are just too tired to respond.

Which is it, I wonder? Are we losing hope in our ability to make our government respond to us?

Again, I am not sure. What I do know is that each succeeding administration tops the previous one in running over the American people.

From The Daily Caller:

Top Internal Revenue Service Obamacare official Sarah Hall Ingram discussed confidential taxpayer information with senior Obama White House officials, according to 2012 emails obtained by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and provided to The Daily Caller.

Lois Lerner, then head of the IRS Tax Exempt Organizations division, also received an email alongside White House officials that contained confidential information.

Ingram attempted to counsel the White House on a lawsuit from religious organizations opposing Obamacare’s contraception mandate. Email exchanges involving Ingram and White House officials — including White House health policy advisor Ellen Montz and deputy assistant to the president for health policy Jeanne Lambrew — contained confidential taxpayer information, according to Oversight.

The emails provided to Oversight investigators by the IRS had numerous redactions with the signifier “6103.”

Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code forbids a federal employee from “disclos[ing] any return or return information obtained by him in any manner in connection with his service as such an officer or an employee.”

Federal employees who illegally disclose confidential taxpayer information could face five years in prison.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/10/09/white-house-irs-exchanged-confidential-taxpayer-info/#ixzz2hXi90qoD

Shutdown News


A few tidbits of news on the shutdown. Caveat: These lists are almost certainly incomplete since the situation is constantly changing.

Which Lawmakers are Giving up Their Pay During the Shutdown

What’s Affected by the Shutdown? 

While We’re Living with This Shutdown, the Big Brains in Congress are Already Planning the Next One

The Real Reason for the Shutdown: They Hate Each Other

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Republicans Blaming the Democrats

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President Obama Blaming the Republicans

Government Shuts Down

Overthecliff

When the buffalo fight in the swamp, the frogs lose.

The morons in Washington have managed to bring the government to a standstill. I don’t know if they’ll turn around and do some quick maneuver to stop the free fall or not. I do know that people I represent, people who have bills to pay and families to support, have already been given notice that their jobs are forfeit because of this.

I knew from jump street that the Affordable Care Act was a goldmine for Planned Parenthood. It was right there in the language of the bill. I am also absolutely opposed to the HHS Mandate. At the same time, I know that the President is correct when he says the economy is fragile (at best) and that the credit rating of this debtor nation is at stake. Think what happens when your credit card company raises your interest rate and multiply that by the national debt.

I haven’t written about this before now because I am conflicted.

All I know for sure is that I love this country and I believe that the people we have put in office — of both parties — are doing damage to my country. I honestly question if they care about this country or the American people. It appears that the only thing they want to do with the power we have given them is play political games, serve their various special interests and try to hype things in an unending quest for power and dominance over the other political party.

I’m going to let you good people discuss this as thoroughly as you wish. Just be kind to one another in the process. Good people can look at the same situation and come away with different ideas. That is part of our strength, because different ideas lead to better decisions.

When the buffalo fight in the swamp, the frogs lose.

In this case, the frogs are the American people.

We deserve better than this.

From The Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—After three years of ducking crises with last-minute deals, Congress finally ran out of ways to patch over its differences. Unable to meet a midnight Monday deadline for funding the government, lawmakers allowed it to shut down.

The White House ordered federal agencies to suspend a vast array of activities shortly before midnight, after a day of frantic legislative volleying left Senate Democrats and House Republicans at an impasse over government spending and the 2010 federal health-care law. The next steps to resolve the stalemate remained unclear.

Markets that have slipped recently face a test on Tuesday morning of how they will view the developments, given that a larger deadline for Congress—over the need to raise the nation’s borrowing limit—is less than a month away.

Many federal workers reporting to their agencies Tuesday morning will undertake a half-day of shutdown preparations before more than 800,000 employees in the government’s workforce of about 2.9 million are sent home. While essential functions such as law enforcement and air-traffic control will continue, a large array of federal activities, among them Internal Revenue Service audits and surveillance for flu outbreaks, will be suspended.

President’s Full Statement on Government Shutdown

President Obama made this statement today on the impending government shutdown. I believe, based on this statement and what I have read, that both sides are misrepresenting one another’s motives.

However, I do think that this whole adventure into brinksmanship is harming the country. I also do not think that the welfare of the American people is a motivating factor in it.

Here’s the statement.

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The Prez Who Hates the Bill of Rights and His Senatorial Minions Write a Little Law

The HHS Mandate. (First Amendment)

Surveilling the American people. (Fourth Amendment)

Gun control. (Second Amendment) 

Those pesky amendments keep getting in the way of better government. 

Thankfully, we have a Congress (who we trust soooo much) who, as everyone knows, always puts the needs of the American people ahead of any special interests, to take care of those little tripping-up points in the Constitution. These are the folks who sat on their thumbs while the administration pushed through a quasi law attacking religious freedom called the HHS Mandate. They are the ones who want to find some loophole to allow them to do away with the right to bear arms. 

Their latest little move is to rescind the legal protections of the free press to protect their sources. They are doing this by “defining” who is the “press” and doing it to their advantage. What they’re doing is limiting First Amendment protections to the “legitimate” (i.e., the corporate) press.

As anyone with half a brain knows, the corporate press is not free. They are owned. And they function more and more as a propaganda tool for the government, which also appears to be owned. 

It follows and it’s easy to follow that if the corporate press is the only legitimate press, then there is no free press. 

Slam dunk and done. First Amendment, (both parts) tamed and brought to heel. 

To put a cherry on top this rescission of the First Amendment, our Senators want to make the Attorney General of the United States the person who gets to decide which press is “legitimate” and worthy of First Amendment protections. 

Now, let’s think for a moment. Who appoints the Attorney General of the United States? 

The President of the United States. 

And who confirms this appointment?

The Senate of the United States.

Mr Fox, here’s your gun. You’re now in charge of the henhouse. 

From Breitbart:

An amendment is moving through the Senate Judiciary Committee that would essentially allow the government to determine who is a journalist for purposes of legal protection of sources. For purposes of protecting a source, a “journalist” under law would be anyone who: 

  • Works or worked for “an entity or service that disseminates news or information by means of newspaper; nonfiction book; wire service; news agency; news website, mobile application or other news or information service…news program; magazine or other periodical…or through television or radio broadcast…” These people would have to have the “primary intent to investigate events and procure material in order to disseminate to the public news or information.” Opinion journalists might not be covered.
  • Bloggers and citizen journalists – citizens who commit acts of journalists without working for such an outlet – would not be covered, unless it was determined that “at the inception of the process of gathering the news or information sought, had the primary intent to investigate issues or events and procure material in order to disseminate to the public news or information.” In other words, the government – the Department of Justice – would now determine whether primary intent was news distribution or political concerns.
  • Those explicitly excluded from protection include those “whose principal function, as demonstrated by the totality of such person or entity’s work, is to publish primary source documents that have been disclosed to such person or entity without authorization.” Glenn Greenwald, please contact your lawyer.

 

 

Breaking: US, Russia Reach Deal to Destroy Syria’s Chemical Weapons by 2014

The people spoke, and for once the government listened.

It seems that the US and Russia have brokered a deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons by 2014.

Presumably, this is the way to avoid America going to war in Syria.

One question I have: Where is Syria in all this?

The United States and Russia brokered this “deal.” That’s interesting. But it’s even more interesting that the two 800 pound gorillas did all this “brokering” on their own.

I am glad beyond glad that we’ve side-stepped this particular war. However, I feel just as strongly now as I did before about the things I’ve written concerning our self-destructive spiral of over-emphasis on “defense” to the exclusion of building our economy here at home. We have got to take a look at ourselves. Or we will perish.

From Haaretz:

After days of intense negotiations, the United States and Russia reached agreement Saturday on a framework to secure and destroy Syria‘s chemical weapons by mid-2014 and impose UN penalties if the Assad government fails to comply.

The deal, announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, includes what Kerry called “a shared assessment” of the weapons stockpile, and a timetable and measures for Syrian President Bashar Assad to follow so that the full inventory can be identified and seized.

The U.S. and Russia agreed to immediately press for a UN Security Council resolution that enshrines the chemical weapons agreement under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which can authorize both the use of force and nonmilitary measures.

President Barack Obama made clear that “if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act.”

Russia, which already has rejected three resolutions on Syria, would be sure to veto a UN move toward military action, and U.S.¬ officials said they did not contemplate seeking such an authorization.

From Russia With Love (or maybe not)

Putin

Frank Weathers has the story. 

It seems that President Vladimir Putin is breaking new ice for Russian heads of state. He is now an op-ed author for the New York Times. Frank has nothing but praise for President Putin’s prose. I, on the other hand, look at it a bit differently. 

President Putin wrote an op-ed piece in which he discussed America’s recent foreign policy. He accurately said that we’ve gotten into too many random military encounters lately, and that we are turning too often to force in our international engagements. 

He also said that America’s way of dealing with other countries has become a matter of “relying on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us.’” I think he may have been talking about things like the obvious bullying that President Obama engaged in to coerce foreign nations to refuse sanctuary to whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

It is interesting indeed that this particular strategy backfired with President Putin, who, alone of all the heads of state in the world, took Mr Snowden in. President Obama was so miffed by this that he canceled a pre-G20 meeting with the Russian President, an action that, honestly folks, sounded personal and grade school to me. 

President Putin goes on in his op-ed to remark about something that is quite serious: Nuclear proliferation. He evidently sees this growing push to develop the bomb by impoverished countries who cannot feed their own people as a defensive measure on their part. He is right again when he says, “If you have the bomb, they can’t touch you.” 

In other words, nobody talks about randomly lobbing Tomahawk missiles at nations who have the bomb, no matter how egregious we find their behavior in other matters. 

This raises an important question: Is America’s international policy, with its bully-boy tactics and constant deployment of force against small nations who can’t fight back, actually pushing smaller nations to follow a policy of developing nuclear weapons? 

That is a discussion for another day, but it is certainly one worth having. 

Obama

Having said all this, there is one thing I want Public Catholic readers to understand about President Putin’s op-ed piece. That one thing is that President Putin is using the op-ed to side-step our president and lobby the American people directly. 

I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. 

After all, he’s not paying a bunch of lobbyists to slime their way around the Capitol greasing campaign accounts and non-campaign pacs with their donations in order to convince our elected officials to vote against us. He is going out there in the court of public opinion and making his case in a straight-forward and direct way. We know where he’s coming from and what he’s saying. We do not have to listen to hours of lies from bought and paid for cable news talking heads interviewing bought and paid for think-tankers and bought and paid for politicians while they try to propagandize us. 

We don’t have to sort through what President Putin is saying to decide what he really thinks. It’s all there, for the reading. 

But we should be aware and never forget that he ain’t us. 

He is the President of Russia and the interests he’s promoting are the interests of Russia. That doesn’t make what he’s saying wrong, and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to him. Quite the contrary. That makes what he’s saying important and worthy of our thoughtful analysis. 

Odd as this sounds, I have a higher opinion of his motives than I do our cable news people. He, at least, is working for his country. 

Don’t Stop Praying, But We May Be Out of the War-Making Woods

Way out

I don’t think there are any lambs in this particular gathering, but it appears as if the lions may decide to, if not lie down together, at least make war another day.

Presidents Putin of Russia, Rouhani of Iran and Assad of Syria have been talking about a proposal to remove chemical weapons from Syria to Russia for several days now. I first read about this before the weekend, but didn’t write about it because the sources were publications inside Russia that I didn’t know anything about.

Haaretz, an Israeli news outlet, has also been running stories about it. The proposal became quasi official yesterday and today the New York Times wrote that President Obama has “tentatively embraced” the idea.

I expect that the war-promoting members of the press (which is a substantial portion of the press) will react to this with an analysis that President Obama has been “weak” and went to Congress “looking for a way out,” etc. I want to say, in anticipation of that, that if this compromise works, a good portion of the reason why is that this president made the decision to involve the American people, through their representatives, in this debate.

I’ve been critical of this attempt to take this country into another unnecessary war from the outset. I expect that I am going to be equally critical of the inevitable future attempts to do the same thing. Our press has become a powerful lobby for armed intervention all over the globe. There is one cable news network in particular that never stops agitating for war. The place where they want this country to use armed force changes, but the demand that we do it is almost constant.

I am not a pacifist. I believe in self-defense.

I am most definitely a patriot. From the soles of my feet to the hair of my head, I am an American.

I believe without equivocation that if we do not take an honest and critical look at this situation, we are dooming ourselves. I’ll write more about this, but we are spending ourselves into bankruptcy to finance a war machine that is out of touch with reality. Then, we are being sold on wars and “military actions” one right after the other to use it and justify it.

War has become our major industry.

This cannot go on if we are to survive. We need an economy that is based on manufacturing the goods and services of the people of this country, not an economy that is based on manufacturing weapons.

As I said in the title of this post, Don’t stop Praying.

We are not out of the woods on this yet.

And the peacemakers in this situation are hardly peaceable people.

But it looks as if there is a real possibility that we will be able to avoid firing Tomahawk missiles at the people of Syria. There may even be a possibility that we can let them work out their own civil war without shedding American blood.

We need to continue praying for peace, and for our Christian brothers and sisters who are so very vulnerable in this war. I’ve read that President Assad has treated the Christian minority in Syria with tolerance and that the rebels have targeted Christian villages for attacks and attempts at forced conversions to Islam. Again, this information has come largely from the Russian press and the Russians have a stake in this war, so I’ve been slow to write about it.

But, the Christians in Syria who have contacted me have said much the same thing.

I am grateful to the Holy Father for his powerful leadership in this matter. I am also grateful to President Obama for making the decision to allow Congress to vote on it.

I hope that is a precedent-setting move that future presidents will take seriously.

Don’t stop praying. It appears to be working.


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