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What’s More Important: Security or Freedom?

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The Big Question the National Security State isn’t Asking

What’s More Important: Security or Freedom?

So National Security Agency Director Keith B. Alexander, who, along with his boss, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., thinks that “if you can collect it, you should collect it,” now is asking whether it might not be such a good idea in the case of spying on the citizens of US allies like Germany, France, Spain et al.

“What’s more important,” the chief spook reportedly asked, following revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that the NSA has been spying on the electronic communications and phone conversations of millions of people in European other countries around the world. “Partnering with countries may be more important than collecting on them.”

This unusual moment of reflection came before the later disclosure that the Alexander’s super spying outfit was also tapping the cell phones of the leaders of America’s major allies, including France and Germany, not to mention Brazil.

Caught with his electronic pants down, Alexander, who is also a four-star active-duty general, is suddenly acknowledging that spying might have a downside.

In this case, the downside he is acknowledging is a diplomatic one: if you spy on the people — and the leaders — of a friendly state, violating a basic trust that had been taken for granted, you risk losing that trust and losing a long-time friend. Alliances can founder over such abuses of trust.

What Alexander and his truth-challenged boss Clapper are not considering, though, is whether there is also a bigger question: Isn’t maintaining democratic freedoms and the trust of the American people more important than collecting every possible datum of information about them, and monitoring their every move and every communication?”

The answer, of course, is obvious, which is why Alexander and Clapper are not asking it.

People in Europe are growing increasingly incensed that the US is “hoovering up” their communications, storing them, and picking through them with mega computers that hunt for key words. But people in the US are growing increasingly angry that the NSA is doing the same thing here at home.

And just as this outrageous international electronic eavesdropping is destroying America’s image abroad and threatening long-held alliances, it is destroying American democracy, and public faith in the Bill of Rights, right here at home.

Not that Alexander and Clapper care. They don’t answer to the American people. They work for the US government, and the government these days — the president, the Congress and the Supreme Court — is clearly not “of, by and for” the people. It is of, by and for the corporations and the elite, and that oligarchic power elite, having stolen the country blind over the past several decades, is getting worried that the public is starting to wake up to, and grow restive about it.

The ruling elite wants an all-seeing NSA to keep the public in check, and to enable it to spot, and then to crush, any outbreak of rebellion, as was done so effectively to the Occupy Movement in the autumn of 2011.

It’s probably fair to say that the crushing of Occupy was the first battle of the second American revolution. Looking back someday, it will also probably be recognized as the trial run of the NSA security net.

We can’t expect much from Congress at this point. These are the same pathetic and fearful “representatives of the people” who gave a shameless standing ovation recently to the Secret Service and Capitol Police thugs who “protected them” by gunning down an unarmed and mentally disturbed young mother who had panicked, driving her car erratically in the vicinity of the White House and the Capitol building.

The people of New York City just told New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg what they thought of his paramilitary NYPD response to the Occupy Movement and his years of coddling the wealthy in that pre-eminent American metropolis, replacing him with a progressive new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who has vowed to attack the city’s huge income divide, starting with a surtax on incomes of $500,000 or more to help pay for cancelled public kindergarden programs, and who has said he wants to put a stop to the police department’s widely loathed stop-and-frisk program, which has effectively criminalized a whole generation of young blacks and latinos.

The rest of the country may be just behind New Yorkers.

A good start would be demanding the sacking of Alexander and Clapper, two men whose fascistic policies and philosophies are antithetical to freedom and democracy. That should be followed by a national campaign to oust any and all politicians who do not stand four-square for a robust defense of all the articles of the Bill of Rights.

Gen. Alexander may not be asking, “What’s more important: defending freedom or collecting information on all the nation’s citizens?” but the American people already know the answer.

It has to be defending freedom.

Original Post found here: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/11/13/whats-more-important-security-or-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=whats-more-important-security-or-freedom

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Come back! HealthCare.gov invites 275,000 to try again

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HealthCare.gov website experiencing outage.

If at first you don’t succeed at Obamacare, try, try, try again.

The federal government on Tuesday began inviting about 275,000 people who had trouble creating accounts on the tech-troubled Obamacare site HealthCare.govafter it launched to “try again” after a series of ongoing software fixes.

But the government doesn’t want all of those folks coming back all at once: Email notices to them are being sent out in “waves” so that HealthCare.gov isn’t overwhelmed, again, by a flood of people, an official said.

“We want to make sure we are inviting individuals back into the system and their experience will be a positive one,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid spokeswoman Julie Bataille told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.

(Read moreYoung women with pricey taste on Kentucky’s Obamacare exchange)

Bataille said the technical upgrades being made on HealthCare.gov have left the system “stable” this week, “with users moving more quickly through it with fewer users errors.”

HealthCare.gov was effectively crippled right after it launched Oct. 1 by a host of software problems that left it unable to enroll many people in Obamacare insurance, and also created serious problems with the quality of data being sent to insurers about the relatively few people who managed to create an account and shop for coverage.

Federal officials later this week are expected to release, for the first time, enrollment data for the 36 states for which HealthCare.gov is handling enrollment.

“Obama should honor his health-care promise” –  Pres. Clinton
President Bill Clinton says he personally believes President Barack Obama should honor his promise that people who have and like their insurance can keep it.

That number is expected to be very low. The Wall Street Journal on Monday reported that enrollment to date is likely to be less than 50,000, while The Washington Posthas said it is closer to 40,000. Those numbers are about 10 times less than a prior government estimate that 500,000 people would enroll in the month of October alone, and the government’s stated goal of enrolling 7 million people in Obamacare insurance by next spring.

Another stark contrast was provided by New York’s own, state run-health health insurance marketplace, which on Tuesday said it has enrolled more than 48,000 people in insurance. While nearly half of those people will be covered by Medicaid, the rest signed up for the same type of privately issued insurance that is being sold on HealthCare.gov.

Bataille would not confirm the media-reported enrollment numbers for HealthCare.gov site, but did say initial enrollment is likely to be “low.”

She also confirmed a Washington Post story that said the enrollment figure reported by the government will include anyone who has created an account and actually selected an insurance plan. Some people who have not yet paid premiums for their selected plan will be included in that enrollment total, which Bataille said reflects the fact that people have until Dec. 15 to make their first payment to ensure that coverage kicks in Jan. 1.

Bataille said she did not know if the enrollment data will be broken out demographically to reflect the age of the enrollees.

(Read moreBill Clinton says Obama should ‘honor’ health-care pledge)

There is intense interest in the question of the age of the people enrolling in Obamacare insurance because insurers need a fairly large number of younger, healthier people to sign up for coverage to offset the costs incurred from paying out benefits to older, sicker enrollees.

Over the weekend, the team of private contractors and government workers trying to fix HealthCare.gov tackled a variety of hardware and software issues, according to Bataille.

The team added “two, large-scale data storage units” and made a series of software fixes “that addressed dozens of outstanding issues,” she said.

“The site is getting better each week, and by the end of November will be working smoothly for the vast majority of users,” Bataille said.

The end of November is a key target, because of the Dec. 15 deadline to enroll in coverage beginning Jan. 1. However, open enrollment in Obamacare continues through March 31, the deadline for nearly all Americans to obtain some form of health coverage or face a tax penalty.

(Watch: Shutdown HealthCare.gov, and get it fixed: expert)

Despite Bataille’s prediction, the White House is engaged in a series of ongoing discussions about what to do if the Nov. 30 deadline is not reached. The options reportedly on the table include extending the open enrollment period, which is strongly opposed by the insurance industry, and raising the income maximums for qualifying for government subsidies to buy coverage.

Original Post Herehttp://www.cnbc.com/id/101192239

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Poll: Can Congress go lower? Yes!

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The U.S. Capitol is pictured. | Reuters

Congressional approval is at just 9 percent, even lower than during the shutdown. | Rueters

Congress’ approval rating has sunk to another all-time low, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

The Gallup poll shows Congressional approval at just 9 percent, down from 11 percent during the government shutdown in October. This represents the lowest rating since Gallup first began asking the question 39 years ago.

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The previous all-time low for Congress was 10 percent, recorded in 2012.

The poll shows a rare instance of bipartisan consensus among the two political parties; Republicans give Congress a 9 percent approval rating, compared to 10 percent among Democrats. Only 8 percent of independents approve of Congress’ job performance in the new poll.

The survey of 1,039 adults was conducted between Nov. 7 and Nov. 10 and has a margin of error ofplus-or-minus 4 percentage points.

Original Post Herehttp://www.politico.com/story/2013/11/congress-approval-rating-99743.html#ixzz2kWlmM4GF

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Cost-benefit analysis and state secrecy

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Foiled plots and bathtub falls