Paul Ryan Spending Cuts Face Backlash From Moderate Republicans
By ANDREW TAYLOR 08/12/13 03:11 AM ET EDT
WASHINGTON — Midway between the 2012 and 2014 election campaigns, moderate Republican conservatives are beginning to foment a revolt of their own – a backlash to anti-spending tea party shrillness as budget cuts begin to significantly shrink defense and domestic programs.
Tea party forces may have dominated the House GOP’s approach to the budget so far, but pragmatists in the party have served notice they won’t stand idly by for indiscriminate spending cuts to politically popular community development grants, education programs and even Amtrak.
Voting in the spring for the tea party budget developed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who was Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate last year, was one thing. But as long as a Democrat occupies the White House, Ryan’s budget is little more than a nonbinding wish list – cutting Medicaid, Medicare and food stamps and slashing budgets for domestic agencies funded annually through appropriations bills.
Many tenured Republicans, particularly members of the House Appropriations Committee, have viewed Ryan’s sweeping cuts as unworkable all along. When more than $4 billion in entirely new cuts came to the House floor in the form of an actual bill for funding transportation and housing programs, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, confronted shaky support from less ardently conservative Republicans and decided to pull the $44 billion package on July 31.
That sparked a frustrated outburst from the committee chairman, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky. He called for abandoning the Ryan budget and starting bipartisan negotiations that would provide appropriators with “a realistic spending level to fund the government in a responsible – and attainable – way.”
“Attainable” is code for something that can pass the Senate and get signed by President Barack Obama. That’s rarely a recipe for tea party fun.
It seems that the Presidential hopes of an Ayn Rand 1% utopia are being dashed for Paul Ryan. As the Republican Party does that math, some of them have finally figured out that 1% of the votes is not a sustainable strategy? Ryan Budget’s draconian cuts to programs that help keep the American Middle Class strong would spell doom as those in the Middle Class figure out that they are the ones being targeted and screwed by the GOP.
The self-serving 1% who continue to pour money into campaigns have not figured out that “Tivo” is their worst enemy. Costly TV ads did not work in the Presidential Campaign of 2012 as technology allowed those tech savvy Americans to just cut out the ads. The Primaries and Debates seem to have made a comeback and that is surely why Reince Priebus is trying to game the cable networks who will carry the Republican Primary Debates.
Paul Ryan’s budget aims to usher in an 18th Century America in a 21st Century world to undo the 20th Century gains that the Roosevelt Administration implemented to end the Great Depression. Programs that worked to strengthen the American Middle Class. As Pope Francis re-directs the Catholic Church to focus on social issues (world hunger, injustice, the poor, racism and tolerance) and lighten the Church’s tone on the divisive issue of homosexuality; Evangelicals push for immigration reform; the backlash of Reagan’s War on Drugs; the push back on Bush’s surveillance state; Women’s reaction nationwide on issues that affect their pay and health; acceptance of marriage equality; and the abject failure of free market and trickle down solutions to help bring prosperity to the middle class are only serving to brand Paul Ryan and his budget persona non grata. The shiny youthful and creative image of Paul Ryan the young boy wonder is showing his age and beginning to tarnish.
If the Republican Party is to remain relevant, they need to start coming up with ideas that help a majority of Americans prosper instead of catering to those rich in wealth but poor in votes, 1% of the voting public to be exact. The future of the Republican Party hangs in the balance, continued bleeding of support with women, minorities and Millennials is not sustainable for a national political party. Even Senior citizens seem to be turning on the GOP. “Just 28 percent of voters 65 and older had a favorable view of the Republican Party in a national survey conducted last month by the Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, versus 40 percent who had a positive view of the Democrats. That’s a reversal from a poll Greenberg conducted in early 2011, when 43 percent of seniors saw Republicans favorably and 37 percent saw Democrats that way.” according to an article in the National Journal.
The 1% is spending billions of dollars to keep White Middle Class men from voting their interest, cynically creating strategies to keep the Middle Class White Males angry at everyone else but the 1% that has systematically extracted their wealth through Wall Street graft; busted Unions that provide pensions, healthcare benefits and job security; the outsourcing of good paying American jobs to third world countries to line the pockets of the investor class at the expense of the American Middle Class. Cutting governments programs designed to help keep the Middle Class strong and viable like student loans, Medicare, Social Security, Veterans Benefits and the Social Safety net to cut taxes further for the very rich.
The Republicans in Congress have waged war on the institutions that keep our Country strong and provide stability to the markets. The short-term profit taking strategies of Wall Street create a continued stream of bubbles that burst, the system rigged so that the wealthy win even when the market crashes, as they support government guarantees for their reckless gambles at the expense of the middle class tax payers and their 401K retirement plans.
It is time for the American Middle Class to fight back, enough is enough, “We the People” must unite regardless of race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious belief, age and focus on the economic interest of a “MAJORITY” of Americans. Just remember Corporate American has lobbyist fighting for them in Washington, Wall Street fights for the Investors, CEO’s fight for the Executives and Marketing, the Board of Directors fight for the CEO’s….Stop and think who is fighting for me?
Regardless of your race or ethnicity, when you sit down at the kitchen table to pay your bills, ponder these questions. How does stopping gay people from getting married help me provide for my family? How does English only legislation help me pay for braces for my teenager? How does overturning Roe vs. Wade provide me with job security? How does voting 40 times to repeal Obamacare help me get affordable health insurance for my wife with cancer? How do tax cuts for the 1% help me pay my mortgage or rent? How does prayer in school help my children get a good ACADEMIC education so that they have a better life then I did? How does busting Unions provide me with a living wage? How does reducing funding for food assistance help me feed my family? How does shutting down the government help me send my kids to college? Ask yourself these questions America don’t let Republican talking points lead you down the path of destruction…Throw the TEA PARTY into the metaphoric Boston Harbor!
By John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke WASHINGTON | Mon Aug 5, 2013 3:25pm EDT
(Reuters) – A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.
“I have never heard of anything like this at all,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.
“It is one thing to create special rules for national security,” Gertner said. “Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.”
THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS DIVISION
The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.
Today, much of the SOD’s work is classified, and officials asked that its precise location in Virginia not be revealed. The documents reviewed by Reuters are marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive,” a government categorization that is meant to keep them confidential.
“Remember that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function,” a document presented to agents reads. The document specifically directs agents to omit the SOD’s involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony. Agents are instructed to then use “normal investigative techniques to recreate the information provided by SOD.”
A spokesman with the Department of Justice, which oversees the DEA, declined to comment.
But two senior DEA officials defended the program, and said trying to “recreate” an investigative trail is not only legal but a technique that is used almost daily.
A former federal agent in the northeastern United States who received such tips from SOD described the process. “You’d be told only, ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.’ And so we’d alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it,” the agent said.
After an arrest was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip, the former agent said. The training document reviewed by Reuters refers to this process as “parallel construction.”
The two senior DEA officials, who spoke on behalf of the agency but only on condition of anonymity, said the process is kept secret to protect sources and investigative methods. “Parallel construction is a law enforcement technique we use every day,” one official said. “It’s decades old, a bedrock concept.”
A dozen current or former federal agents interviewed by Reuters confirmed they had used parallel construction during their careers. Most defended the practice; some said they understood why those outside law enforcement might be concerned.
“It’s just like laundering money – you work it backwards to make it clean,” said Finn Selander, a DEA agent from 1991 to 2008 and now a member of a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which advocates legalizing and regulating narcotics.
Some defense lawyers and former prosecutors said that using “parallel construction” may be legal to establish probable cause for an arrest. But they said employing the practice as a means of disguising how an investigation began may violate pretrial discovery rules by burying evidence that could prove useful to criminal defendants.
A QUESTION OF CONSTITUTIONALITY
“That’s outrageous,” said Tampa attorney James Felman, a vice chairman of the criminal justice section of the American Bar Association. “It strikes me as indefensible.”
Lawrence Lustberg, a New Jersey defense lawyer, said any systematic government effort to conceal the circumstances under which cases begin “would not only be alarming but pretty blatantly unconstitutional.”
Lustberg and others said the government’s use of the SOD program skirts established court procedures by which judges privately examine sensitive information, such as an informant’s identity or classified evidence, to determine whether the information is relevant to the defense.
“You can’t game the system,” said former federal prosecutor Henry E. Hockeimer Jr. “You can’t create this subterfuge. These are drug crimes, not national security cases. If you don’t draw the line here, where do you draw it?”
Some lawyers say there can be legitimate reasons for not revealing sources. Robert Spelke, a former prosecutor who spent seven years as a senior DEA lawyer, said some sources are classified. But he also said there are few reasons why unclassified evidence should be concealed at trial.
“It’s a balancing act, and they’ve doing it this way for years,” Spelke said. “Do I think it’s a good way to do it? No, because now that I’m a defense lawyer, I see how difficult it is to challenge.”
CONCEALING A TIP
One current federal prosecutor learned how agents were using SOD tips after a drug agent misled him, the prosecutor told Reuters. In a Florida drug case he was handling, the prosecutor said, a DEA agent told him the investigation of a U.S. citizen began with a tip from an informant. When the prosecutor pressed for more information, he said, a DEA supervisor intervened and revealed that the tip had actually come through the SOD and from an NSA intercept.
“I was pissed,” the prosecutor said. “Lying about where the information came from is a bad start if you’re trying to comply with the law because it can lead to all kinds of problems with discovery and candor to the court.” The prosecutor never filed charges in the case because he lost confidence in the investigation, he said.
A senior DEA official said he was not aware of the case but said the agent should not have misled the prosecutor. How often such misdirection occurs is unknown, even to the government; the DEA official said the agency does not track what happens with tips after the SOD sends them to agents in the field.
The SOD’s role providing information to agents isn’t itself a secret. It is briefly mentioned by the DEA in budget documents, albeit without any reference to how that information is used or represented when cases go to court.
The DEA has long publicly touted the SOD’s role in multi-jurisdictional and international investigations, connecting agents in separate cities who may be unwittingly investigating the same target and making sure undercover agents don’t accidentally try to arrest each other.
SOD’S BIG SUCCESSES
The unit also played a major role in a 2008 DEA sting in Thailand against Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout; he was sentenced in 2011 to 25 years in prison on charges of conspiring to sell weapons to the Colombian rebel group FARC. The SOD also recently coordinated Project Synergy, a crackdown against manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of synthetic designer drugs that spanned 35 states and resulted in 227 arrests.
Since its inception, the SOD’s mandate has expanded to include narco-terrorism, organized crime and gangs. A DEA spokesman declined to comment on the unit’s annual budget. A recent LinkedIn posting on the personal page of a senior SOD official estimated it to be $125 million.
Today, the SOD offers at least three services to federal, state and local law enforcement agents: coordinating international investigations such as the Bout case; distributing tips from overseas NSA intercepts, informants, foreign law enforcement partners and domestic wiretaps; and circulating tips from a massive database known as DICE.
The DICE database contains about 1 billion records, the senior DEA officials said. The majority of the records consist of phone log and Internet data gathered legally by the DEA through subpoenas, arrests and search warrants nationwide. Records are kept for about a year and then purged, the DEA officials said.
About 10,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agents have access to the DICE database, records show. They can query it to try to link otherwise disparate clues. Recently, one of the DEA officials said, DICE linked a man who tried to smuggle $100,000 over the U.S. southwest border to a major drug case on the East Coast.
“We use it to connect the dots,” the official said.
“AN AMAZING TOOL”
Wiretap tips forwarded by the SOD usually come from foreign governments, U.S. intelligence agencies or court-authorized domestic phone recordings. Because warrantless eavesdropping on Americans is illegal, tips from intelligence agencies are generally not forwarded to the SOD until a caller’s citizenship can be verified, according to one senior law enforcement official and one former U.S. military intelligence analyst.
“They do a pretty good job of screening, but it can be a struggle to know for sure whether the person on a wiretap is American,” the senior law enforcement official said.
Tips from domestic wiretaps typically occur when agents use information gleaned from a court-ordered wiretap in one case to start a second investigation.
As a practical matter, law enforcement agents said they usually don’t worry that SOD’s involvement will be exposed in court. That’s because most drug-trafficking defendants plead guilty before trial and therefore never request to see the evidence against them. If cases did go to trial, current and former agents said, charges were sometimes dropped to avoid the risk of exposing SOD involvement.
Current and former federal agents said SOD tips aren’t always helpful – one estimated their accuracy at 60 percent. But current and former agents said tips have enabled them to catch drug smugglers who might have gotten away.
“It was an amazing tool,” said one recently retired federal agent. “Our big fear was that it wouldn’t stay secret.”
DEA officials said that the SOD process has been reviewed internally. They declined to provide Reuters with a copy of their most recent review.
(Edited by Blake Morrison)
Is the GOP “Intellectually Exhausted”?
- Outsourcing of high Paying Jobs
- Stagnant wages
- A “Living Wage”
- Rising College Tuitions/access to higher education for the Middle Class
- Job security
- Income inequality
- Rising suburban poverty rates
- Hunger in America
- Crumbling American Cities
- Aging, dangerous and crumbing infrastructure
- Middle Class mobility and opportunities
- 30,000 Americans dying from gun violence
- Voting rights
- Social justice
- Race relations
- Income disparity between Men and Women
- Women’s right to control her own body
- Women’s health
- The failed War on Drugs
- Broken immigration system
- Climate Change
- The Environment
- Mass imprisonment of American Citizens
- Online Privacy
- NSA spying of American Citizens
Do the Republicans have “NEW” and “FRESH” ideas to address these pressing American issues?
During the past few years more and more employers are using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, My Space and LinkedIn to vet prospective candidates for positions in their organizations. According to an article in the Social Media Examiner there are now more than 800 million active Facebook users, with over 200 million added in 2011. There are over 300 million Twitter accounts and over 80% of Americans use a social media network.
In another survey taken by DLA Piper a global law firm, “For Employee’s that us Social Media for Personal use”; 39% had “friended” a colleague or business contact on Facebook or LinkedIn; 14% had posted a status update or “tweeted” about their work; 22% had posted a status update or “tweeted” about a colleague; 28% had posted photo’s of colleagues and business activities and 1% had disclosed confidential business information.
In that same DLA Piper survey, research found that 21% of employers had taken disciplinary action because of information an employee had posted about a co-worker; 25% had taken disciplinary action because of information an employee has posted about workplace business activities; 31% had taken disciplinary action because of information an employee had posted about the organization and finally 30% had taken disciplinary action because of the level or amount of social media used by the employee on work time. The survey also found some disturbing information, only 14% of U.S. companies reported having a written social media policy that regulated the us of social media inside and outside the workplace; which can also be interpreted as 86% of companies are taking disciplinary actions on employees without a clearly written HR policy, clearly creating a liability for the organization.
In one recent employer action, (Rayburn, 2012) New Journal in Delaware rescinded an offer to reporter Khristopher J. Brooks after he announced his new position with the journal via a mock press release on his “Tumblr” account.
Did the newspaper overreact to what was a candidate’s excitement of his new appointment with the News Journal? Should this have only merited a reprimand and request for it to be taken down? Did the Journal act fairly in taking back their offer of employment and did they communicate their expectations and policies to the candidates during the interview process?
This is certainly a grey area in the recruitment process, and clearly spells out the need for a comprehensive and clearly written policy on the use of social media in the hiring procedures. It also points out the apparent lack of awareness, understanding, uniformity and consensus on the subject of social media protocols in the recruitment and hiring practice for both the candidates and the employers.
According to Career Builder (Forty-five percent, 2009), “Last year alone, two percent of employers said in their 2009 survey that polled managers and human resource personnel that they terminated workers for content posted on these social media sites, and one percent of workers were terminated due to videos they posted on media sharing sites like “YOUTUBE”.
An employee’s problems regarding the discovery of embarrassing or questionable material on social media sites are many and well-publicized, but the employers are also on dangerous ground when seeking to vet possible applicants using today’s social media networks; employers do not have immunity from the law when they rummage through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, E-Mails, Blogs and Web-pages of the applicants. In fact, the likelihood that an employer may run afoul of anti-discrimination and privacy laws when they take a peek at photo’s or tweets or recent blog posts is troubling at best and creates substantial financial liability at its worse.
According to G L. Dayton Esq., (G.L.Dayton, personal communication, May 20, 2012), “My first apprehension when it comes t employers pulling up Facebook accounts, Twitter feeds, E-Mails and personal Blogs is for the prospective employees’ privacy. Intrusion upon a party’s seclusion or solitude is a tort, and such a cause of action might arise in the instance of an employer looking around online and digging up information on a prospective candidate.” Dayton adds, “The employer may argue that the employee has “NO” expectation of privacy for material posted online, but the violation of privacy is certainly an issue the employer needs to be aware of when developing a social media policy for their organization.”
In the past couple of years employers have begun the practice of asking prospective candidates for their Facebook sign-in passwords and some employers are even asking for E-Mail passwords. “This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends,” wrote Erin Egan, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer on the company’s privacy blog. “It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability.”
An employer’s investigation of potential candidates’ social network sites may provide the basis for claims under employment discrimination statutes. Several examples come to mind; one of the first things employers look for upon successfully locating a prospective candidates’ Facebook page is pictures. Facebook allows users to upload a large amount of pictures and arrange them into albums. From these pictures, as well as the default “Profile Picture” that is displayed with every user’s name (unless privacy settings are modified) and on every user’s main page, an applicant’s race or ethnicity is immediately apparent. Facebook also has an information input field for religious affiliation, and many users include that as part of their profile. As the employer combs through the pictures he might see a prospective candidate at the Gay Pride Festival, holding up an Obama/Biden 2012 poster, a Catholic Baptism, a racially mixed couple, Bat Mitzha or a 50th Birthday Party. Disqualifying a candidate for any of these pictures would be considered discriminatory and increase the liability of the organization. That may comfort the user’s of Facebook, but proving discrimination is difficult at best and there is no Federal Legislation that protect online privacy.
With employers pushing the boundaries in technology, these action potentially create new pressures and questions for job seekers. Ethical questions are posed of employers requesting a job applicant’s private, social media passwords and log-ins to check a candidates background. “In order to prevail on the facts, an employee must allege an intentional intrusion (physical or otherwise) on his or her solitude or seclusion, private affairs or concerns, which would be highly offensive to the reasonably prudent person” says Dayton.
One could argue that asking for a “private” password to your social media page or E-mail password would be highly offensive and intrusive to the reasonably prudent person.
In the opening pages to President Barack Obama’s “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” the President says, “”Americans have always cherished our privacy. From the birth of our republic, we assured ourselves protection against unlawful intrusion into our homes and our personal papers. At the same time, we set up a postal system to enable citizens all over the new nation to engage in commerce and political discourse. Soon after, Congress made it a crime to invade the privacy of the mails. And later we extended privacy protections to new modes of communications such as the telephone, the computer, and eventually email.”
According to the California Constitution, article 1, section 1; All people are by nature free, independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness and “PRIVACY’
The current conversation regarding the privacy of the American Citizen goes far beyond “NATIONAL SECURITY” concerns, but is crucial and has an impact on the everyday lives of the American Citizen and to the liability and workings of American business…It is a conversation Americans must take seriously and not just passively disregard…If for any other reason it could affect your livelihood.