Category Archives: Government–Federal

The Case Against Hillary: a Compendium of 175 Articles, 2005-2016

For those of you who want to immediately begin digging, please do proceed.

This compendium consists of 175 articles from 2005-2016 taken from independent news websites, blogs, and other sources and focuses on Hillary Clinton’s record as Secretary of State (2009-2013) and as a Presidential Primary candidate in 2008 and 2016. Her Senate record (2001-2009), though also important, is barely covered, but you can search her Senate votes and sponsorships online. In addition, the twitter feed Defeat the DINOcrats includes some graphics about Clinton’s votes on major legislation.

Topics covered include the economy, trade, politics, foreign affairs, diversity, justice, ethics, the environment, health insurance, and others.

Many of the news and opinion sources for this compendium rely on reader contributions to bring us the kind of insightful and independent reporting and commentary that isn’t available in the mainstream corporate media, so please consider giving to them. These organizations include
Alternet
Truthdig
Truthout
Democracy Now!
Pro Publica
Foreign Policy in Focus
The Nation, and
OtherWords.

LINKS
Compendium: https://theciviccenter.wordpress.com/cpdm00000045
This page: https://theciviccenter.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/00000045, http://wp.me/s1XWDT-00000045

Just got polled

A few minutes ago, I responded to a telephone survey about my preferences for the upcoming Congressional and Presidential elections. In the questions about my preference for President, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and Hillary Clinton were mentioned, but Bernie Sanders (running in the Democratic Primary), Jill Stein*, and any possible Libertarian candidate weren’t presented as choices. Likewise, the choices for party preferences did not include the Green and the Libertarian parties.

The questions mostly concerned national security, and many of the choices given did not fit my positions on this issue. The one open question in the poll asked me to state my greatest concern about national security. My response was “endless war”. Many of the multiple-choice questions were long and complex as were the choices given.

I did ask for the name of the firm, Central Marketing of New York, NY.

* Dr. Jill Stein is one of five candidates for President in the Green Party.

The Political Sleuth’s Guide to the Clinton E-mails

LINK to Guide (HTML): The Political Sleuth’s Guide to the Clinton E-mails

In one of the highlights of the October 13 Democratic Presidential Primary Debate, Senator and candidate Bernie Sanders denounced the media’s obsession over Hillary Clinton’s e-mails from her time as Secretary of State. Although I agree with Sanders that economic and other issues are much more important than the e-mails, I believe that the e-mails are worth scrutiny because of what can potentially be learned about U.S. foreign policy under Barack Obama, the inner workings of the State Department, and the people involved.

The Guide includes a list of key State Dept. personnel, tips for searching and sharing, relevant FOIA and classification information, and links to recommended readings. These resources have helped me in my research, and I think that you’ll find them helpful also.

My own research on the e-mails has focused on Israeli-Palestininian relations and the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, using the search terms “Hillary Gaza” and “Hillary Afghanistan”, respectively. I have found items worth tweeting but nothing that I would consider newsworthy or damaging. I have so far avoided tweeting about the Benghazi-related e-mails because I don’t want to be identified with the seemingly partisan House Select Committee on Benghazi. In my research, however, I have found a 2009 letter to Secretary Clinton from the Project on Government Oversight expressing their concern about embassy security in light of an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. I don’t know how Clinton responded to this letter, but I think that embassy security could have been improved at a time when Democrats controlled both the White House and Congress.

By the way, this is my first post about foreign affairs, a subject that I originally didn’t intend to cover on this blog. However, my opposition to Hillary Clinton led me into it.

Would you have voted for John Ashcroft?

Attorneys General: Elected vs. Appointed

I recently replied to a tweet about D.C.’s electing an attorney general by contending that election entails almost as many pitfalls as appointment does. Someone from the District of Columbia then asked me to explain my point, and I promised that I would do so. The result is this paper (PDF) about the advantages and disadvantages of electing or appointing an attorney general. Although I strongly favor the Federal nomination-confirmation method of selecting executive-branch officers, my paper does not argue strongly in favor of appointment because I did not find any compelling reasons to prefer one over the other. Instead, I present my best and worst reasons to appoint or elect an attorney general as follows.

Best Reason Worst Reason
Appoint Deliberative selection process, though often influenced by politics Turnover, especially because of reassignments to other positions
Elect Stability, though not guaranteed Influence of campaign contributions

To expound on the matter of stability, I had wanted to compare average tenures of attorneys general in select appointment states to the averages in comparable election states, but the data required was not readily available. Neither Wyoming nor New Hampshire, both appointment states, list past attorneys general on their websites, although New Jersey does. A resource that might have this data is Powers And Duties Of The Attorneys General, 3rd ed. (Emily Myers, Editor), published by the National Association of Attorneys General.

Update on Higher Education

Last September, I posted a letter that I sent to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about President Obama’s proposals for higher education. About two months later, I received a reply not from Duncan himself but from Ms. Lynn Mahaffie, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning, and Innovation in the Office of Postsecondary Education. Her letter briefly describes initiatives to reform student financial aid, which I believe will be helpful but irrelevant to the root problem of limiting the student’s burden of the cost of college. Regarding costs, the letter says that the administration

“shares your desire to make college more affordable” and acknowledges that “you are correct in assering that states . . . must do more to keep higher education costs within reach of low-income and middle-class families.”

However, the reply letter offers no effective alternative to my proposal for making college affordable. Ironically, cost-cutting measures by colleges and universities are characterized as “innovative” although they “force students and families to shoulder the burden through higher tuition.” The rest of the letter only reiterates the administration’s talking points rather than addressing my criticisms of its proposals.

Obama’s higher education plan, like the Affordable Care Act and the meager minimum-wage proposal, is an expression of the President’s timidity in addressing economic stagnation.

Who’s really targeting your privacy?

On the TV show “Jeopardy” recently, host Alex Trebek asked contestant Mark Lowenthal of the Intelligence and Security Academy a question about NSA surveillance during the break on the show when the host briefly chats with the contestants. Prof. Lowenthal replied by saying that he is more concerned about non-governmental collection of our personal information. This concern was expressed also by Prof. William Nolte of the Univ. of Maryland Cybersecurity Center during a forum (video) broadcast on C-SPAN earlier this month.

The most recent example of a non-governmental breach of our privacy is the theft of customers’ credit card data from Target and other major retailers. Almost as bad is the breach of applicants’ privacy when an employer is hiring. When taking applications for an open position, employers seem to want to know everything about applicants except how well they can do the job. (I have written more about this issue in my previous post.) I suppose that the firm or agency that performed the pre-employment background check on Edward Snowden collected more information about him than the NSA collects during its routine surveillance of U.S. citizens.

Regardless of how we view Snowden’s action, we could probably agree that it re-ignited the conversation about NSA surveillance that began during the Bush administration. Because that administration attempted to quell dissent through targeted IRS audits and other means1, NSA surveillance seemed more threatening then than it does today. The Obama administration has not attempted to quell dissent, as far as I know.2

In my view, NSA surveillance is threatening mostly when it is done in an unconstitutional manner or coupled with violations of our civil liberties or with official campaigns against dissent. What the NSA wants to know about you, I believe, is less significant than what data thieves and corporations want.

1. Wolf, Naomi. The End of America Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2007
2. To those who still believe that the IRS unfairly targeted Tea-Party groups, I suggest reading this previous post of mine.

The best and worst of 2013

Last night I watched The Last Word Holiday Special, which featured host Lawrence O’Donnell and a panel of MSNBC regulars giving their best and worst of 2013. The participants included Alex Wagner, Joy Reid, Kristal Ball, Nia-Malika Henderson, Jonathan Capehart, Josh Barro, and Thomas Roberts, and some of them may have posted their choices on their Twitter sites.

This morning, I shared my choices on Twitter. You can share yours by going to The Last Word on Twitter or by commenting on this post.

To my handful of followers, and anyone else reading this blog, Happy New Year!

Voting for Change

I listened to President Obama’s speech at Knox College this afternoon and heard him recount the policies that led to our current economic stagnation and then reiterate his ideas for stimulating growth in employment and earnings. He also reminded the audience of how Congressional Republicans have been an obstacle to his economic agenda but seemed to believe that they would somehow change their minds. What needs to change instead is the makeup of Congress, and that is possible only through voting. In his speech, Obama missed an opportunity to emphasize that change begins in the voting booth. The primacy of voting over all other forms of civic engagement is a theme that I emphasized in my inaugural post and in a recent one.

Conflict of Disinterest

Congress is apparently not concerned about conflicts of interest, according to a report by Lawrence O’Donnell and Sarah Muller on MSNBC-TV’s “The Last Word”. The report tells how Rep. Stephen Fincher (R) of Tennessee, a farmer who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, gives himself large farm subsidies while proposing to cut food stamps and quotes the New Testament to “justify” his position.

Remember those who had to work

For the first time in seven years, I do not have to work on Memorial Day. My former employer, a retailer, opened on Memorial Day probably because their big-box competitors did also or because the owners put profits over patriotism. Indeed, Memorial Day has been degraded to a three-day weekend of mattress sales and beach outings. The incentives to shop and take trips outweigh the incentives to actually celebrate Memorial Day, except for those who participate in wreath-layings and other activities dedicated this holiday.

These incentives can be diminished by legislation. First, Congress could fix Memorial Day to its original date, May 29. Second, Congress could require that retailers, and perhaps some other types of establishments, pay double or triple wages on Memorial Day. That could diminish the profitability of opening on Memorial Day and therefore force businesses to close on that day. States could do their part by doubling their sales taxes for that day.

Memorial Day was established to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice–their lives. Compared to this, giving up shopping or business for just one day every year is little more than a temporary inconvenience.