Monday, September 23, 2013



That's the cover of Cher's new album.  It comes out tomorrow.  (You can probably download it after midnight.)  It's called Closer To The Truth and is her first studio album in twelve years.

My review  "Kat's Korner: Cher's Closer To Perfection" went up yesterday.

Cher was on CBS This Morning Sunday and you can read about it here or read the CBS transcript here.  Here's Cher talking about The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

Mason: I read somewhere where you --

Cher: I hate this! (laughs) This is what happens when you're around for a hundred years. You're just gonna keep going, 'And you said this.' 'And in 1910, you said this.' (laughs)

Mason: Do you think you should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Cher: You know, **** them. (laughs)

Mason: Thank you.

Cher: Those are my feelings. Somebody said something, I went, 'You know, I don't need to be in a Hall to rock, so I don't ...' you know, whatever!

Mason: I think there's a lot of people that have wanted to say that. You're the first one who ever has said it publicly. (laughs) Do you think you should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Cher: Yeah. Sonny and Cher should definitely. I could be in there by myself, but I mean we pushed an envelope that nobody even knew was pushable. I mean, we were banned from every television show because of the way we looked and because of how no one understood what we were.
People forget it was a time where, you know, Steve and Eydie Gorme were doing one thing, and The Beatles had nice little hairdos and little round collars. Hippies wouldn't be in for a long time. And Sonny and I were wearing Eskimo boots and elephant bells.

Mason: Whose idea was that, by the way?

Cher: Well, it was mine. I had two friends, Bridget and Colleen, and they were making these things. And we got together -- we had a basement apartment in our house, a garage apartment -- we would just sew all the time.

And no matter what I put Sonny in, he'd just do it. He just loved it. Just thought it was the most fun thing in the world. He would wear anything. He just was having the best time.

Cher was performing on NBC's Today and also spoke with Hoda and Kathy Lee.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, September 23, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, for the third day in a row a funeral in Baghdad is bombed, the KRG held elections Saturday, the US State Dept and White House appear to have missed that news, controversial IRS official Lois Lerner retires, Barack's illegal spying continues, and more.

Kristin Deasy (Global Post) reports, "Even a bomb couldn't stop a little Iraqi boy from being born on Monday, one life saved even as the nation loses dozens to extremist attacks on a near-daily basis."  AFP explains a woman was in an ambulance en route to the hospital when a roadside bomb exploded leaving the woman injured and claiming 2 other lives.

That was only one of the incidents of violence today.  Before we go to the rest of today's violence, let's note Saturday and Sunday. 

 Saturday saw the bombing of a Shi'ite funeral in Baghdad (Sadr City). Today, Steve Inskeep (NPR's Morning Edition -- link is text and audio) noted that the "attack on a Shiite Muslim funeral in Iraq killed more than 100 people." Sunday,  AP reported a Sunni funeral in Baghdad was attacked by a suicide bomber who took his own life and that of 16 other Iraqis while leaving thirty-five injured.  And AP claims to have a photo essay. Claims.  Click here for AP's website with that story.  You can find it at ABC and at various newspaper websites as well. They all say photos but none of them have photos.  I figured it was some error.  It's AP's error.  They forgot to publish -- at their own website -- the photos they mention in the headline and in the final paragraph of their report.  ("Here's a gallery of photos from the last 48 hours of violence in Kenya, Pakistan and Iraq:" Where?  Where's the gallery?)

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued the following statement:

Baghdad, 22 September 2013 – The Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (DSRSG), Mr. Gyorgy Busztin, condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack that killed and injured dozens of mourners gathered in a funeral tent in Baghdad. كوردی

 “Violence in all forms must be condemned, but I am particularly appalled by the increasing number of vicious attacks against those already bereaved,” DSRSG Busztin said. 

The UN Envoy repeated his urgent call to the Iraqi authorities to do their utmost to halt the infernal cycle of violence. 

“Retaliation can only bring more violence and it is the responsibility of all leaders to take strong action not to let violence escalate further,” Mr. Busztin added in a pressing appeal for restraint.

As we noted Sunday, "Retaliation?  Saturday saw the bombing of a Shi'ite funeral in Baghdad (Sadr City).  Today, it was a Baghdad Sunni funeral.  It may have had nothing to do with Saturday's bombing; however, it may have been a response (or retaliation) bombing. "  Does today make it any clearer?  AFP reports, "Two bombs targeting Sunni mourners in Baghdad killed at least 16 people on Monday, officials said, the third attack on a funeral in the Iraqi capital."  EFE explains, "The explosion occurred in the Azamiyah neighborhood, which, like the al-Dura district where another funeral bombing took place Sunday, is predominantly Sunni."    Press TV notes, "It is the third attack against Iraqi funerals in Baghdad over the past three days.Trend News Agency adds, "According to United Nations estimates, 1,057 people were killed in July, the deadliest month in more than five years in Iraq, while at least 916 civilians were killed in August."

The Baghdad funeral and the bomb that hit the ambulance in Mosul weren't the only examples of violence in Iraq today.  NINA notes a Ramadi suicide car bomber claimed the lives of 3 police officers and left four more injured, a bombing at a Baghdad family park left 3 people dead and eight more injured, a bombing at a Baghdad outdoor café left 2 people dead and ten more injured, 1 person was shot dead and another was injured when the two were leaving a grove in Abu Karmah village,  a Mosul bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers, and late last night 1 farmer was shot dead in Baiji.

I was asked by a State Dept friend if we could note this State Dept press release:

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 23, 2013
Secretary of State John Kerry announced Monday the provision of $10 million in funding for a new U.S. initiative, Safe from the Start, to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies worldwide. Secretary Kerry emphasized that in the face of conflict and disaster, we should strive to protect women and girls from sexual assault and other violence.
Safe from the Start’s initial commitment of $10 million will allow the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and other humanitarian agencies and organizations to hire specialized staff, launch new programs, and develop innovative methods to protect women and girls at the onset of emergencies around the world. The United States will also coordinate with other donors and stakeholders to develop a framework for action and accountability to ensure efforts to address gender-based violence are routinely prioritized as a life-saving intervention along with other vital humanitarian assistance.
This initiative builds on the framework established by the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally. It will be led by the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance.
As part of the unveiling of the initiative, PRM Assistant Secretary Anne Richard and USAID Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg will host a roundtable briefing on Tuesday the 24th with non-governmental and international organization representatives to urge others to make specific commitments as part of the Safe from the Start framework.
For media inquiries, please contact State/PRM Public Affairs Advisor Dan Langenkamp at, 202-453-9939.

That's an important announcement.  We're happy to note it.  But it's not about Iraq, is it?

KUNA notes the France's Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the attacks and noting "deep concern with the spiral of violence which has hit all the population in Iraq."  Petra notes the kingdom of Jordan has condemned the attack:

Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Mohammed Momani reiterated Jordan's position, which rejects all acts of terrorism and violence, regardless of the motives and sources. He also deplored the targeting of innocent civilians in such attacks.
Momani, who is also the government spokesman, expressed the Kingdom's solidarity with the peoples of Iraq, Pakistan and Kenya in facing terrorism.

Where was the State Dept's statement on the violence Saturday, Sunday or today? No where to be found.  The US Embassy in Iraq did issue a statement.  A statement.  Singular.  They issued a statement on Saturday's violence.  Here it is:

September 22, 2013

The U.S. Embassy in Iraq strongly condemns the suicide attack targeting mourners at a funeral tent in Baghdad on September 21, which killed over 70 people and injured dozens of others, among them women and children.  The U.S. Embassy extends its most sincere condolences to the families of the victims of this cowardly attack.  The United States will continue to support the Government and the people of Iraq in combating the common enemy of terrorism.

Help me out here.  It only matters when Shi'ite funerals are attacked?

Is that the message the US Embassy meant to send because that's the message they sent.

Is that really how the US Embassy in Iraq plans to demonstrate that the United States government is there for Iraq and cares about the well being of all the Iraqi people?  By condemning one bombing on a Shi'ite funeral while staying silent on two days of consecutive bombings on two Sunni funerals?

It's appalling.  It's not diplomacy, it's not improving the image of the US government in Iraq.  Right now, every Iraqi aware of it is left with the impression that the US Embassy only condemns and decries bombings on Shi'ite funerals and, most importantly, that the US government doesn't give a damn what happens to Sunnis.

If their goal was to further anger an already aggrieved people, then the US Embassy in Baghdad is a whopping success.   If their goal was diplomacy, they have failed.

Of course, the US State Dept and White House have said nothing on the violence but they still haven't made time to even issue a statement congratulating the KRG on Saturday's elections.  Prashant Rao went to the KRG to cover the elections for AFP.  His latest Tweet on the election:

  • Last night, supporters of Kurdish President Massud Barzani packed Arbil's streets after elections the previous day:

  • While the State Dept and White House remain silent,  UNAMI issued their statement on Saturday:

    Erbil, 21 September 2013 - The Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (DSRSG), Mr. Gyorgy Busztin, welcomes the smooth conduct of the Parliamentary Elections in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. كوردى
    “I want to congratulate the people of the Kurdistan region for their participation and their contribution to the democratic process,” DSRSG said, adding that he was particularly pleased with the high turnout and the peaceful and non-violent nature of the polling. 

    Mr. Busztin commended the professionalism of IHEC in carrying out the elections after visiting a number of polling centres in Erbil and welcomed the work of the High Electoral Security Committee (HESC) in assuring safe conditions for voting. 

    “Today’s orderly polling is an encouraging sign for the long overdue upcoming Governorate Council Elections on 21 November,” he concluded.

    Saturday, 1,129 candidates competed for 111 seats and over a million people voted in Erbil, Sulaimaniya and Dahuk.  The voting took place without serious incident.

    KRG Prime Minister Nechervan Barzani and his wife Nabila Barzani (pictured below) were among the first to vote in Erbil Saturday morning.  Saturday,  Jamal Hashim and Liang Youchang (Xinhua) quoted   Nechirvan Barzani stating, "Today is a historic day for the Kurdish people and we have taken another step in the region to promote democracy.  The people of Kurdistan are the only winners in these elections."  Sunday, KRG President Massoud Barzani issued a statement  congratulating the KRG citizens on their participation in Saturday's vote and the peaceful process which he hailed as a victory for the region and for the people.  He called for peace and harmony as well as respect for the official results which the Independent High Electoral Commission is supposed to announce shortly.

    Let's note some other voices.  Here's a collection of Tweets on the election from the last 3 hours:

  • The so called independent high electoral commission has just announced that count must stop. After PUK had ballots for hours.

  • PUK violence. Armed supporters of PUK firing tonight across Green zone. 6 injured. 1 dead.

  • Number of victims rising, it hits 6 injures.

  • election center: KDP: 34-35 seats. : 29-30 seats. : 14-15. Yakgrtu: 9-10. Komal: 6-7.

  • IHEC via NRT: We are not aware of armed men entering vote counting stations... This is contrary to what reporters are saying.

  • Where's that "dimokrasi" they were talking about before the elections?

  • Who do you believe now? Siting any source, now, is a bias!

  • PUK and Gorran loyalists are about to go head to head in Slemani... Both sides need to calm down..

  • PUK & Gorran need to release immediate statements and calm their supporters. This nonsense in needs to stop.

  • PUK Election Team urges their supporters to remain calm and wait on IHEC's decision in regards to PUK's formal complaints

  • Barzani asks KDP to refrain from making statements on potential coalition partners, until the Executive meet.

  • Love our media outlets in , everyone is reporting different things, and all adding fuel to the fire.

  • This is not the action of our peshmerga armed forces but a self serving group within the PUK

  • In "The KRG elections" Sunday, Jim and I discussed the elections:

    Jim: Right.  But to me the more interesting thing was the KDP's success.

    C.I.: Why is that?

    Jim: The press has said repeatedly that Massoud Barzani has overstepped his bounds, that he's unpopular, etc.  And you've argued differently for two years now.  If you were wrong, KDP wouldn't be in the lead.

    C.I.: I don't know where the nonsense on Barzani got started.  He's very popular.  The press has always insisted that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is popular. He's also a Kurd -- like Barzani -- and he heads what had been the other dominant party, the Patriotic Union Kurdistan.

    Jim: That's right.  Going into this election, it was a two party race.  The PUK and the KDP were the dominant political parties in the KRG -- like the Democrats and the Republicans in the US.  With the results of Saturday's elections, that has now changed.

    C.I.: Right.  Gorran is now one of the two dominant parties.

    Jim: But back to Barzani.  The press, Joel Wing and so many others kept insisting that Barzani was passe, over, loathed, etc.  But his party got the most votes.

    C.I.: Well, first of all, he's the head of the party.  Voters voted for the party.  I don't know that you can extrapolate that he's very popular just from the results of this election.  But I do think that if he was as unpopular as many in the press have tried to pretend.  If he were, I would argue, he would have dragged the KDP down and they would not have won the most votes.

    This is Rudaw's count/projection for the votes:

    KDP 38.7 % | 726,876 
    Gorran 23.26 % | 436,825 
    PUK 16.84 % | 316,248 
    Yekgrtu 10.1 % | 189,638 
    Komall 6.52 % | 122,500 
    Other 4.59 % | 86,199

     Ma'ad Fayad (Asharq Al-Awsat) reports today:

    The Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced that approximately 73.9 percent of the autonomous region’s population turned out to vote, with Duhok recording the highest turnout at 76 percent. Approximately 2.88 million people were eligible to vote.
    The UN secretary-general’s special representative for Iraq, George Boston, praised Kurdistan’s high voter turnout.
    Meanwhile, exit polls showed that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by KRG president Massoud Barzani, will likely secure the most votes. They are followed by Nawshirwan Mustafa’s Gorran Party (Movement for Change), and then the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani.

    World Bulletin notes the consensus that exit polling is accurate:

    According to the report, political observers agreed with the exit polls, expecting the KRG to win between 42 and 45 seats in the parliament. They also expected the KRG to secure the Erbil and Duhok constituencies.

    Nawshirwan Mustafa, the leader of the opposition Gorran (Movement for Change), expressed hope that the elections would be a good start to a new political phase in Kurdistan. He expressed his hope of building a new and fair democratic system in Kurdistan, adding, “I hope the elections pass quietly and that their results come to fulfil all people’s expectations.”

    Rudaw adds:

    With final results from Saturday’s parliamentary elections in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region still to come, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has accepted defeat.
    “Though we still have to wait to see the final results of the election, we are made anxious by the initial results,” read a statement that followed a meeting Sunday of the PUK’s political bureau.
    “The early results conflict with the PUK’s history of struggle, yet we accept the results,” the party said after the meeting, which was headed by deputy secretary general Kosrat Rasul.
    The results so far show that the PUK is behind Gorran by around a quarter million votes in Sulaimani.

    Turning to the US where so many scandals plague the White House these days.  There is the ongoing IRS scandal and the big news today on it is that the woman who pleaded the Fifth Amendment rather than testify about how she did her job duties has resigned.  Dana Bash, Kevin Bohn and Deidre Walsh (CNN) quote an IRS statement declaring Lois Lerner has retired and the reporters note:

    Lerner drew fierce criticism from Republicans shortly after she admitted at an American Bar Association conference and later in a phone conference with reporters that the IRS had focused on groups with the names "tea party" and "patriot" in their titles. Over the summer, however, more investigations revealed that the IRS had also looked closely at groups that used the word "progressive."

    The reporters are incorrect that targeting of 'progressive' groups emerged over the summer.  From the first hearing in the spring, it was publicly known that progressive groups invoking the Bill of Rights were among those targeted.  By the second hearing, if you didn't know that progressives were also targeted, you really weren't paying attention. Also incorrect is press spin that Lerner disclosed the problems.  No, Lerner staged a disclosure.  She planted a friend in the audience and instructed the friend to ask the question.  This was deceitful and a sign of Lois Lerner's true nature.

    Patrick Temple-West, Kim Dixon, Kevin Drawbaugh and Xavier Briand (Reuters) quote US Senator Orrin Hatch stating, "Just because Lois Lerner is retiring from the IRS does not mean the investigation is over."  Saturday, the Salt Lake Tribune published a column by Hatch which included:

    Who conceived the idea to target groups with conservative-sounding names for extra scrutiny as the IRS processed their applications? How could that have been considered an appropriate option?
    Why did targeting resume a few months after a senior manager shut it down?
    And, perhaps most importantly, when did the commissioner and general counsel of the IRS, both of whom are not career civil servants, learn of the practice, and to what extent did they — or others in the Obama Administration — know about it or direct it?
    We still don’t know the answers to any of these critical questions.

    Before news of Lerner's retirement broke, Newsbusters (media watchdog for the right-wing) e-mailed to note Geoffrey Dickens'  "[Update: September 23] Censored! IRS Scandal Being Buried by Big Three Networks" which opens:

      The Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) networks have colluded with the Obama administration to censor the latest IRS scandal news. The latest: On September 19 USA Today reported the following: “Even after the IRS approved political advocacy groups for tax-exempt status, auditors in Dallas tracked those groups ‘for potential future action,’ the acting IRS commissioner said Wednesday. Daniel Werfel’s comments to a congressional subcommittee were the first acknowledgement that IRS auditors in a separate unit in another city were also involved in scrutinizing political groups. The Dallas unit tracked groups that were referred by the IRS office in Cincinnati that reviews tax-exemption applications.”
    The article by Gregory Korte went on to report: “Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., who chairs an oversight subcommittee investigating the tax agency, said the involvement of auditors in Dallas represents ‘a new branch of the investigation.’ Specifically, Boustany said he wants to know whether former Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner used agents in the examinations office in Dallas to ‘target right-leaning groups’ even after their applications were approved. ‘If you take Cincinnati and Dallas, it triangulates back up to Lois Lerner,’ Boustany said after the hearing.”

    Boustany said documents obtained by the committee show 46 groups granted tax exemptions in mid-2012 ‘were flagged for IRS surveillance by Washington, D.C.’ Of those, 38 were right-leaning groups, and seven were left-leaning.” ABC, CBS and NBC have yet to report this story.

    It would be nice, as a leftist, to be able to say that my side has been as interested in the story as the right-wing has.  Not so.  First, the left outlets collectively dismissed the stories as news of the targeting of conservative groups emerged.  Then, when the issue of targeting left groups came up, they did not use it to express outrage.  They instead ridiculously argued that this proved no bias.

    The 'bias' was in the targeting.  Targeting one side or both sides does not erase the fact that the IRS is not supposed to target.  The IRS is not supposed to exist to prevent or hinder political speech or action.  When the story first broke, before the first hearing was held, the left outlets should have grasped that the IRS was overstepping its bounds and putting political speech at risk in this country.  Instead of addressing the issue, they wanted to play right versus left.

    This same stupidity was not reflected in the general public.  Polling has consistently demonstrated public disgust with the IRS over these actions.  (In fairness, US Senators of both sides -- and independent Bernie Sanders -- took the problem more seriously than did their House colleagues in the Democratic Party.)

    Before we move further, let's note a few things.  I'm noting Peter Hart's latest FAIR TV episode.  FAIR is a media watchdog on the left.  Peter Hart's a news analyst  (and a telegenic face).  Pay attention to his critique of White House mouth piece Stephanie Cutter.  Those who need text can click here for the commentary at FAIR's blog.

    I'm noting an e-mail to the public account:

    I am stopping research for a second, though, to send you a quick note. I wanted to be sure you were aware that you’re linking to the old homepage for the Autism Society of America, which used to be: The new link to replace it with is: And, I found it on this page of your site: I figure you’d want to update that site so that it’s accessible once again from your own.

    I thought I’d share a few excellent resources I found while pulling together information for my article. These guides are full of great information, and I think would be invaluable to your visitors. Please review and feel free to post any that you find beneficial.

    Keeping Your Autistic Kids Safe: A Family Resource Guide

    Guide to Improving Gastrointestinal Symptoms among Children with Autism Spectrum

    Parent’s Guide to Toilet Training Children with Autism Spectrum

    I hope my information is helpful to you. Thank you in advance for any suggestions or resources you have to share!

    To be very clear, if a website changes their address after any of us write and post -- Ruth or any of us -- we're not going into previous posts and entries to change the address.  This site, The Common Ills, has 11202 posts.  If we posted no new content ever again, we would have time to fix every link that has changed since we published.  But that's not our job.  We move forward, not backwards.  If a website we link to changes their web address, they're welcome to e-mail and we'll note it as I've done above.  Ruth is not going to pull up an April 2009 post and changing a web address.  That's not her job, that's not her obligation.  She didn't move the organization and it's really silly to show up in 2013 and think that anyone would say, "Oh, yes, let me go back four years because your address has changed."

    In the real world, if a reader uses a link and it does not work, they will try to find a workable link on their own.  In the real world, no one wants to entertain your request.  Will you next go to the San Francisco Chronicle with a physical address change and demand that they change all microfiche and digital copies?  Lots of luck with that.  Also note, autism is one of the issues I work on in my offline life, otherwise the e-mail would have been treated with full on scorn by me here.

    David DeGraw notes:

    Comedian Lee Camp was inspired enough by our latest commentary on the state of our economy to feature it in his new Moment of Clarity video. Check it out here: Do You Have Any Idea What $50 TRILLION Looks Like?!

    $50 TRILLION needs to become the new 99%. If the propagandized masses understood how much $50 trillion is, and how just a mere fraction of that staggering amount of wealth could be used to evolve society, for the benefit of everyone, we would have a full-blown societal evolution right now... [Read More]

    Media Channel notes:

    We wanted to know what a globally respected economist thinks about the current state of the economy and why the most powerful financial media outlets can't seem to get it right. So, who better to discuss these ongoing disasters and the lousy coverage they receive than Richard D. Wolff, Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University.
    Prof. Wolff has spent his career challenging the false claims of the high priests of capital by exposing the underlying machinations of their ideology and the interests they truly serve. His website,, is an excellent resource for anyone looking to educate themselves about possible alternatives to the economic orthodoxy that continues to devastate our planet. To find out even more about the practical solutions Prof. Wolff advocates, visit Democracy at Work.

    We are very proud to bring you this special two-part interview with Prof. Wolff on the new Mediachannel,org and hope you find the conversation insightful. Both parts are now available on our
    homepage or here and here on YouTube.

    Over the weekend, Noam Sheizaf (Haaretz) published an interview with Glenn Greenwald on the topic of the illegal US spying.  Excerpt.

    What is the most significant information you received from Snowden?

    “The cardinal point is that part of the goal of the NSA is to completely eliminate privacy everywhere in the world. Its goal is to make every piece of human communication that is done by electronic means vulnerable to monitoring and surveillance − to collect, store and analyze every message transmitted by people via the telephone or the Internet.

    “All the specific revelations are only examples of this: the fact that they collected the telephone records of all American citizens, that they detail every phone call made by every American citizen; the Prism and XKeyscore programs, which show how they can collect billions of pieces of communication every day and store and analyze the things you say, who you say them to, which websites you visit and so on. Those are the means. The essence is the vast, sealed system of surveillance which is conducted in absolute secrecy.”

    What’s the problem with that?

    “If those with power are capable of monitoring everything we do or say, that means we are very limited in what we can do or say against them. That’s the reason that every tyranny has always used surveillance as a tool to preserve its power. The second problem is that it’s a tool of intimidation. If the population knows that it is always being watched, people will have far less motivation to act, because they will feel vulnerable and threatened. The result is a kind of political paralysis among the public.

    “The third and perhaps most important thing is that human behavior changes very fundamentally when there is no private space. People who know they are being observed behave in a manner that is far more restrained, narrow and fossilized. They become a lot less free, a lot less willing to test boundaries. Supervision and surveillance encourage conformity in people and eliminate something very essential in the human experience, in human nature: the freedom to do things when we know that no one is looking.”

    Ed Snowden is an American citizen and whistle-blower who had been employed by the CIA and by the NSA before leaving government employment for the more lucrative world of contracting.  At the time he blew the whistle, he was working for Booz Allen Hamilton doing NSA work.  Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) had the first scoop (and many that followed) on Snowden's revelations that the US government was spying on American citizens, keeping the data on every phone call made in the United States (and in Europe as well) while also spying on internet use via PRISM and Tempora.  US Senator Bernie Sanders decried the fact that a "secret court order" had been used to collect information on American citizens "whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing."  Sanders went on to say, "That is not what democracy is about.  That is not what freedom is about. [. . .] While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans."  The immediate response of the White House, as Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) reported,  was to insist that there was nothing unusual and to get creaky and compromised Senator Dianne Feinstein to insist, in her best Third Reich voice, "People want to keep the homeland safe."  The spin included statements from Barack himself.   Anita Kumar (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Obama described the uproar this week over the programs as “hype” and sought to ensure Americans that Big Brother is not watching their every move."  Josh Richman (San Jose Mercury News) quoted Barack insisting that "we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about."  Apparently not feeling the gratitude, the New York Times editorial board weighed in on the White House efforts at spin, noting that "the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights."  Former US President Jimmy Carter told CNN, "I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial."

    The more Barack attempted to defend the spying, the more ridiculous he came off.  Mike Masnick (TechDirt) reviewed Barack's appearance on The Charlie Rose Show and observed of the 'explanations' offered, "None of that actually explains why this program is necessary. If there's a phone number that the NSA or the FBI gets that is of interest, then they should be able to get a warrant or a court order and request information on that number from the telcos. None of that means they should be able to hoover up everything."  As US House Rep John Conyers noted, "But I maintain that the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable search and seizure to mean that this mega data collected in such a super aggregated fashion can amount to a Fourth Amendment violation before you do anything else.  You've already violated the law, as far as I am concerned."  Barack couldn't deal with that reality but did insist, in the middle of June, that this was an opportunity for "a national conversation."  He's always calling for that because, when it doesn't happen, he can blame the nation.  It's so much easier to call for "a national conversation" than for he himself to get honest with the American people. And if Barack really believes this has kicked off "a national conversation" then demonizing Ed Snowden is a really strange way to say "thank you."

    Yesterday, the Associated Press reported on the review panel Barack created which was supposed to be independent.  However:

    the review panel has effectively been operating as an arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA and all other U.S. spy efforts.
    The panel's advisers work in offices on loan from the DNI. Interview requests and press statements from the review panel are carefully coordinated through the DNI's press office. James Clapper, the intelligence director, exempted the panel from U.S. rules that require federal committees to conduct their business and their meetings in ways the public can observe. Its final report, when it's issued, will be submitted for White House approval before the public can read it.

    Kevin Gosztola (Firedoglake) points out, "Not only did the public get a 'high-level group' of people who should not be considered 'outside experts,' but the public got a group that has been conducting a review with a focus on 'moving forward, not looking back,' the mantra of President Barack Obama for excusing abuses of executive power and one that expressly benefits those responsible for unchecked policies or programs."