John Kerry concedes Obama’s spy team ‘reached too far’

31049_large_jp-nsa2-superJumboSecretary of State John Kerry surprised many reporters, as well as intelligence, law enforcement and military officials, when he conceded on Friday that some of the U.S. surveillance has gone “too far.” The Obama administration has come under intense criticism from many world leaders including some heads of state from NATO allies, according to Josh Hollander, a former intelligence-division police detective.

Responding to increased questioning by major news organizations, Secretary Kerry admitted that at times the technological surveillance by the super-secret National Security Agency (NSA) “have reached too far.”

However, Kerry quickly alluded to the Obama claim of ignorance when he added, “There is no question that the president and I have actually learned of some things that had been happening, in many ways, on an automatic pilot because the technology is there,” Kerry was quoted as saying.

John Kerry, who replaced Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, found himself confronting reports that the U.S. spies had eavesdropped on cell phone calls by world leaders, including Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. In Merkel’s case, there are allegations that her office telephone was also “bugged” by U.S. spies and that the NSA collected data on tens of millions of phone calls in European countries.

In a direct contrast to statements he made while he served as a Senator during the Bush administration, Kerry actually defended the NSA’s operations during the Obama administration, claiming that U.S. surveillance programs are an “effective counterterrorism tool” that has prevented Islamic and domestic terrorists from bombing buildings, hijacking or bombing passenger airliners, assassinating leaders, and murdering people since the NSA was able to “learn ahead time of the [terrorists'] plans.”

President Barack Obama and members of his administration are being pressured by the international community since June after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed the spy agency’s massive surveillance program which monitors worldwide phone calls and Internet communications as part of the U.S. counterterrorism strategy.

The Obama White House promised it will conduct a full investigation of its global intelligence-gathering operations, but many expect a continuation of most of the intelligence operations in spite of criticism, said Josh Hollander.

Innocent people held at gunpoint during CA search

Innocent person held at gunpointPolice officers blocked access to homes and held innocent people driving down the street at gunpoint last week during a search for a suspect who allegedly shot a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer in Roseville, California.

The suspect ran on foot and entered a nearby house shortly before the homeowners escaped out of a side door.  With helicopters circling overhead and frequent exchanges of gunfire between officers and the suspect in the usually quiet neighborhood, the community quickly turned into chaotic martial law as state police quickly took over the area.

At least 15 homes were immediately evacuated during the incident, Boston-style, and some residents waited more than 24-hours before they were able to return to their homes.  Drivers were stopped at gunpoint during the search for the suspect and forced to answer questions posed by police while staring down the barrel of a high-powered rifle.

All injured officers involved in the shooting were treated at a local hospital.  Four officers were released and two remain in stable condition with jaw and leg wounds.

Debt: The New Religion

When our nation is faced with a presumed “crisis”, the government immediately jumps into spending mode.  The prevailing wisdom cites that the more the government spends, the more quickly our nation emerges once again as the shining superpower of the world.  However, what do the numbers prove about how “super” or power truly is?

First, before we proceed onward, a graph that everyone who cares about being an informed voter should take a look at. It depicts the amount of debt we have as a percentage of our national economy as measured by the Gross Domestic Product or GDP.  The graph starts with the aftermath of the Revolutionary war and covers through 2011.  This was posted last year by Quartz (source) and is a site not known for a conservative slant.  It shows, clearly, that when the nation is faced with a crisis, the national debt skyrockets as the government spends money.

One more time to let that sink in: when the nation is faced with a crisis, the government spends money. Simple enough logic and we’re easily able to see why. During war the government spends, after wars spending starts to curtail as we repair the damage done.  History clearly shows that even after World War II, spending declines in a trend that isn’t any different in slope (though greater in magnitude) than previous events. However, there’s two major anomalies to this graph.

First, we notice that spending stops its downward trend in 1980 and begins to climb despite the absence of war or a “crisis” The second is an increase in spending before World War II – The Great Depression.  These two sharp increases do not equate to any large scale conflict.  They also do not ‘trend downwards’ afterwards; instead, they seem to act more like spending floors which keep the average level of spending much higher than in previous generations.

In other words, when government spending increases, it rarely returns back to its original level.  Without a doubt, our obsession with keeping a massive debt started in the 1930′s and has continued today without ever falling back below World War I levels. Another graph is quite revealing:

Every year since 1936, the United States government has spent more relative to its GDP than it did during World War I.

That means, as cited by the Congressional Budget Office from which these graphs are derived, we are poised to spend more money on daily government operations then we did in World War II – during “crisis mode”. 

As a percentage of our GDP, we’re currently spending a hair over 35%, and if the spending trend continues past 2030, our nation will spend over 100% just for daily operation of our government.  Remember, these are not some conservative blogger’s opinion – this is from the Congressional Budget Office.

Spain, Greece, Italy, France and other countries now face 25% unemployment, and they all share something in common: their government spending as a percentage of GDP was far too high for their free markets to bear. Currently, according to the CATO Institute, Spain’s “government spending as a share of GDP leapt 2.3 percentage points to 41.5% in just one year.” (source)  That’s not much higher than we are currently spending. 

Not only is government spending a threat to free market economies, the graph below depicts the dramatic increase in the rate of total accumulated debt:

Currently held federal debt (source: Wikipedia)

These numbers look worse when you see the total amount of debt we’ve accumulated has tripled in just twelve years. Worse, the occurrence of negative real interest rates (whereby the inflation rate is greater than the interest rate of the debt) prevents the debt from ballooning even more. So in theory, we should have a very low debt due to reasonable temporary spending during periods where borrowing money was cheaper than interest paid on it — but we don’t. We simply have a slightly smaller mountain of debt despite all free market forces at work.

Why not spend reasonably and leave ourselves extra slack for when a true crisis emerges? Simply put, we have accepted the Religion of Debt in America. We accept it for ourselves when we buy cars or gadgets that we cannot afford. We accept it when we are told home ownership is the American dream. We accept it when we attend expensive colleges and universities. And, we accept it when it comes to our government.

Common rhetoric about anarchists, communists, socialists, and crony capitalists all serve to distract from the one truth: no one in government has any interest in reducing our spending to pre-World War I levels.  Not Republicans, not Democrats.  Instead, both are big government and argue over whose government gets to spend the dollars.

If we can balance the budget or (gasp) create a small surplus, the national debt will begin to erode itself naturally. Through both fiscal responsibility and natural market forces (such as negative real interest rates) we can get back to a modest, manageable debt and stop wasting so many taxpayer dollars on interest payments or government pork projects.

Want further proof that debt is the religion of the US?

Gallup poll on the power of the federal government today (source)

That’s right. The same folks who claimed the government was too powerful when President Bush was in power now find themselves wanting more power.  It is important to note, both government spending and power of the federal government has only increased since 2003.

Our nation is so consumed with debating the rationale of spending and flexing the powerful arm of the federal government that nobody asks whether nor not we should. The question needs to be “should we?” instead of “how should we?”, and every election, millions of voters are tricked into blindly pulling the R or D lever.  If you vote for ‘the lesser evil’ or for a single party a majority of the time, you need to get out of the voting booth. You’re the problem.

It’s time to wake up, kill the rhetoric, and disassociate yourself from a party. 

Please, you’re killing us all with your religion.

Can legalizing pot ease our national debt?

potLibertarians have long supported the legalization of marijuana and putting an end to the expensive War on Drugs program on constitutional grounds, arguing the federal government has no business regulating drug use.  But, the legalization of marijuana has an attractive side benefit as well – it would flood government coffers with billions in additional revenue.

According to a Cato Institute study, legalizing marijuana will result in an additional $8.7 billion in yearly federal and state tax revenue.  In a time of excessive national debt and threats of a credit default, the prudent and expeditious dismantling of drug prohibitions is a wise choice.

Not only will government revenue increase, spending will decrease.  The study found that eliminating drug control will reduce government expenditures by more than $40 billion every year.

Several states have already legalized marijuana, including Washington and Colorado.  Nearly twenty other states have medical marijuana allowances as part of their laws and several additional states are looking to follow suit – for good reason.

The Libertarian party is correct that the federal government has no business regulating drugs.  The trillion dollar failure stands as a prime example of what happens when government involves itself in matters of the people.  Prohibition failed before, and it is failing again.  Further, it costs the American taxpayer dearly to maintain the failure.  What does the United States have to show for our expensive War on Drugs?  Larger prisons.  Huge drug cartels.  Complex underground drug transportation networks that get innocent people killed every day.

The War on Drugs denies the most basic human right of all people to control their own bodies in ways they see fit.  Did you know that over 100,000 die every year from drugs?  But, there is a catch!  These are not illegal drugs.  These are prescription drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  More than 100,000 deaths yearly from FDA-approved drugs.

How many do you think die from marijuana?  You might be surprised to find out that deaths are extremely rare from marijuana consumption.

The fact of the matter is hemp is actually quite useful as a natural, environmentally-friendly resource.  Hemp can be made into a variety of products that Americans use every day, like paper and plastic, and even clothing.  It is also an incredibly effective medicine and far cheaper for most Americans than swallowing a bunch of expensive pharmaceutical drugs – drugs that might kill them.

Drug legalization lowers costs of drugs, easing related drug crimes and reducing the effectiveness of large and deadly drug cartels.  Drug sales are taxed and therefore a legitimate business, raising enormous amounts of revenue for our cash-strapped government.  Our prison population will ease, leaving more room for true criminals – those who cheat, steal and murder.  Local police departments will free up to investigate more important crimes that directly involve our safety…not to mention respond to accidents and 911 calls more quickly.

Stop our harebrained and foolhardy adherence to a failed system of prohibition.  It saves Americans money.  It restores the Constitution.  It implements sanity.