Obamanation

Obama Administration’s Backdoor Wiretap Bills Threaten Political and Privacy Rights

 

(Antifascist Calling)   “cybersecurity,” the new all-purpose bogeyman to increase the secret state’s already-formidable reach, the Obama administration and their congressional allies are crafting legislation that will open new backdoors for even more intrusive government surveillance: portals into our lives that will neverbe shut.

As Antifascist Calling has frequently warned, with the endless “War on Terror” as a backdrop the federal government, most notably the 16 agencies that comprise the so-called “Intelligence Community” (IC), have been constructing vast centralized databases that scoop-up and store all things digital–from financial and medical records to the totality of our electronic communications online–and do so without benefit of a warrant or probable cause.

The shredding of constitutional protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment, granted to the Executive Branch by congressional passage of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) after the 9/11 attacks, followed shortly thereafter by the oxymoronic USA Patriot Act set the stage for today’s depredations.

Under provisions of multiple bills under consideration by the House and Senate, federal officials will be given broad authority over private networks that will almost certainly hand security officials wide latitude over what is euphemistically called “information-sharing” amongst corporate and government securocrats.

As The Washington Post reported in February, the National Security Agency “has pushed repeatedly over the past year to expand its role in protecting private-sector computer networks from cyberattacks” but has allegedly “been rebuffed by the White House, largely because of privacy concerns.”

“The most contentious issue,” Post reporter Ellen Nakashima wrote, “was a legislative proposal last year that would have required hundreds of companies that provide such critical services as electricity generation to allow their Internet traffic to be continuously scanned using computer threat data provided by the spy agency. The companies would have been expected to turn over evidence of potential cyberattacks to the government.”

Both the White House and Justice Department have argued, according to the Post, that the “proposal would permit unprecedented government monitoring of routine civilian Internet activity.”

National Security Agency chief General Keith Alexander, the dual-hatted commander of NSA and U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), the Pentagon satrapy that wages offensive cyberwar, was warned to “restrain his public comments after speeches in which he argued that more expansive legal authority was necessary to defend the nation against cyberattacks.”

While we can take White House “objections” with a proverbial grain of salt, they do reveal however that NSA, the largest and most well-funded of the secret state’s intel shops will use their formidable surveillance assets to increase their power while undermining civilian control over the military in cahoots with shadowy security corporations who do their bidding. (Readers are well-advised to peruse The Surveillance Catalog posted byThe Wall Street Journal as part of their excellent What They Know series for insight into the burgeoning Surveillance-Industrial Complex).

As investigative journalist James Bamford pointed out recently in Wired Magazine, “the exponential growth in the amount of intelligence data being produced every day by the eavesdropping sensors of the NSA and other intelligence agencies” is “truly staggering.”

In a follow-up piece for Wired, Bamford informed us that when questioned by Congress, Alexander stonewalled a congressional subcommittee when asked whether NSA “has the capability of monitoring the communications of Americans, he never denies it–he simply says, time and again, that NSA can’t do it ‘in the United States.’ In other words it can monitor those communications from satellites in space, undersea cables, or from one of its partner countries, such as Canada or Britain, all of which it has done in the past.”

Call it Echelon on steroids, the massive, secret surveillance program first exposed by journalists Duncan Campbell and Nicky Hager.

And with the eavesdropping agency angling for increased authority to monitor the electronic communications of Americans, the latest front in the secret state’s ongoing war against privacy is “cybersecurity” and “infrastructure protection.”

‘Information Sharing’ or Blanket Surveillance?

Among the four bills currently competing for attention, the most egregious threat to civil liberties is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (CISPA, H.R. 3523).

Introduced by Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), the bill amends the National Security Act of 1947, adding language concerning so-called “cyber threat intelligence and information sharing.”

“Cyber threat intelligence” is described as “information in the possession of an element of the intelligence community directly pertaining to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or network of a government or private entity, including information pertaining to the protection of a system or network from: (1) efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy such system or network; or (2) theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.”

In keeping with other “openness” mandates of our Transparency Administration™ the Rogers bill will require the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to establish procedures that permit IC elements to “share cyber threat intelligence with private-sector entities, and (2) encourage the sharing of such intelligence.”

These measures however, will not protect the public at large from attacks by groups of organized cyber criminals since such intelligence is only “shared with certified entities or a person with an appropriate security clearance,” gatekeepers empowered by the state who ensure that access to information is “consistent with the need to protect U.S. national security, and used in a manner that protects such intelligence from unauthorized disclosure.”

In other words, should “cleared” cyber spooks be directed by their corporate or government masters to install state-approved malware on private networks as we discovered last year as a result of the HBGary hack by Anonymous, it would be a crime punishable by years in a federal gulag if official lawbreaking were disclosed.

The bill authorizes “a cybersecurity provider (a non-governmental entity that provides goods or services intended to be used for cybersecurity purposes),” i.e., an outsourced contractor from any one of thousands of spooky “cybersecurity” firms, to use “cybersecurity systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information in order to protect the rights and property of the protected entity; and share cyber threat information with any other entity designated by the protected entity, including the federal government.”

Furthermore, the legislation aims to regulate “the use and protection of shared information, including prohibiting the use of such information to gain a competitive advantage and, if shared with the federal government, exempts such information from public disclosure.”

And should the public object to the government or private entities trolling through their personal data in the interest of “keeping us safe” well, there’s an app for that too! The bill “prohibits a civil or criminal cause of action against a protected entity, a self-protected entity (an entity that provides goods or services for cybersecurity purposes to itself), or a cybersecurity provider acting in good faith under the above circumstances.”

One no longer need wait until constitutional violations are uncovered, the Rogers bill comes with a get-out-of-jail-free card already in place for state-approved scofflaws.

Additionally, the bill also “preempts any state statute that restricts or otherwise regulates an activity authorized by the Act.” In other words, in states like California where residents have “an inalienable right to privacy” under Article 1, Section 1 of the State Constitution, the Rogers bill would be abolish that right and effectively “legalize” unaccountable snooping by the federal government or other “self-protected,” i.e., private entities deputized to do so by the secret state.

Social Media Spying

How would this play out in the real world? As Government Computer News reported, hyped-up threats of an impending “cyber-armageddon” have spawned a host of new actors constellating America’s Surveillance-Industrial Complex: the social media analyst.

“Companies and government agencies alike are using tools to sweep the Internet–blogs, websites, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter feeds–to find out what people are saying about, well, just about anything.”

Indeed, as researchers Jerry Brito and Tate Watkins pointed out last year in Loving the Cyber Bomb?, “An industrial complex reminiscent of the Cold War’s may be emerging in cybersecurity today.”

Brito and Watkins averred that “the military-industrial complex was born out of exaggerated Soviet threats, a defense industry closely allied with the military and Department of Defense, and politicians striving to bring pork and jobs home to constituents. A similar cyber-industrial complex may be emerging today, and its players call for government involvement that may be superfluous and definitely allows for rent seeking and pork barreling.”

Enter social media analysis and the private firms out to make a buck–at our expense.

“Not surprisingly,” GCN’s Patrick Marshall wrote, “intelligence agencies have already been looking at social media as a source of information. The Homeland Security Department has been analyzing traffic on social networks for at least the past three years.”

While DHS claims it does not routinely monitor Facebook or Twitter, and only responds when it receives a “tip,” such assertions are demonstrably false.

Ginger McCall, the director of the Electronic Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Open Government Program told GCN that the department is “explicitly monitoring for criticism of the government, for reports that reflect adversely on the agency, for public reaction to policy proposals.”

But DHS isn’t the only agency monitoring social media sites such as Facebook and Google+.

As Antifascist Calling reported back in 2009, according to New Scientist the National Security Agency “is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks.”

Not to be outdone, the CIA’s venture capital investment arm,In-Q-Tel, has poured millions of dollars into Visible Technologies, a Bellevue, Washington-based firm specializing in “integrated marketing, social servicing, digital experience management, and consumer intelligence.”

According to In-Q-Tel “Visible Technologies has developed TruCast®, which takes an innovative and holistic approach to social media management. TruCast has been architected as an enterprise-level solution that provides the ability to track, analyze, and respond to social media from a single, Web-based platform.”

Along similar lines, the CIA has heavily invested in Recorded Future, a firm which “extracts time and event information from the web. The company offers users new ways to analyze the past, present, and the predicted future.”

The firm’s defense and intelligence analytics division promises to “help analysts understand trends in big data, and foresee what may happen in the future. Groundbreaking algorithms extract temporal and predictive signals from unstructured text. Recorded Future organizes this information, delineates results over interactive timelines, visualizes past trends, and maps future events–all while providing traceability back to sources. From OSINT to classified data, Recorded Future offers innovative, massively scalable solutions.”

As Government Computer News pointed out, in January the FBI “put out a request for vendors to provide information about available technologies for monitoring and analyzing social media.” Accordingly, the Bureau is seeking the ability to:

• Detect specific, credible threats or monitor adversarial situations.
• Geospatially locate bad actors or groups and analyze their movements, vulnerabilities, limitations, and possible adverse actions.
• Predict likely developments in the situation or future actions taken by bad actors (by conducting trend, pattern, association, and timeline analysis).
• Detect instances of deception in intent or action by bad actors for the explicit purpose of misleading law enforcement.
• Develop domain assessments for the area of interest (more so for routine scenarios and special events).

So much for privacy in our Orwellian New World Order!

Backdoor Official Secrets Act

Social media “harvesting” by private firms hot-wired into the state’s Surveillance-Industrial Complex will be protected from challenges under provisions of CISPA.

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) pointed out, “a company that protects itself or other companies against ‘cybersecurity threats’ can ‘use cybersecurity systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information to protect the rights and property’ of the company under threat. But because ‘us[ing] cybersecurity systems’ is incredibly vague, it could be interpreted to mean monitoring email, filtering content, or even blocking access to sites. A company acting on a ‘cybersecurity threat’ would be able to bypass all existing laws, including laws prohibiting telcos from routinely monitoring communications, so long as it acted in ‘good faith’.”

And as EFF’s Rainey Reitman and Lee Tien aver, the “broad language” concerning what constitutes a cybersecurity “threat,” is an invitation for the secret state and their private “partners” to include “theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.”

“Yes,” Reitman and Tien wrote, “intellectual property. It’s a little piece of SOPA wrapped up in a bill that’s supposedly designed to facilitate detection of and defense against cybersecurity threats. The language is so vague that an ISP could use it to monitor communications of subscribers for potential infringement of intellectual property. An ISP could even interpret this bill as allowing them to block accounts believed to be infringing, block access to websites like The Pirate Bay believed to carry infringing content, or take other measures provided they claimed it was motivated by cybersecurity concerns.”

More troubling, “the government and Internet companies could use this language to block sites like WikiLeaks and NewYorkTimes.com, both of which have published classified information.”

Should CISPA pass muster it could serve as the basis for establishing an American “Official Secrets Act.” In the United Kingdom, the Act has been used against whistleblowers to prohibit disclosure of government crimes. But it does more than that. The state can also issue restrictive “D-Notices” that “advise” editors not to publish material on subjects deemed sensitive to the “national security.”

EFF warns that “online publishers like WikiLeaks are currently afforded protection under the First Amendment; receiving and publishing classified documents from a whistleblower is a common journalistic practice. While there’s uncertainty about whether the Espionage Act could be brought to bear against WikiLeaks, it is difficult to imagine a situation where the Espionage Act would apply to WikiLeaks without equally applying to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and in fact everyone who reads about the cablegate releases.”

And with the Obama regime’s crusade to prosecute and punish whistleblowers, as the recent indictment of former CIA officerJohn Kiriakou for alleged violations of the Espionage Act and the Intelligence Identities Protection Act for disclosing information on the CIA’s torture programs, we have yet another sterling example of administration “transparency”! While Kiriakou faces 30 years in prison, the former head of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who was responsible for the destruction of 92 torture videotapes held by the Agency, was not charged by the government and was given a free pass by the Justice Department.

As the World Socialist Web Site points out: “More fundamentally, the prosecution of Kiriakou is part of a policy of state secrecy and repression that pervades the US government under Obama, who came into office promising ‘the most transparent administration in history.’”

Critic Bill Van Auken observed that Kiriakou’s prosecution “marks the sixth government whistleblower to be charged by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act, twice as many such prosecutions as have been brought by all preceding administrations combined. Prominent among them is Private Bradley Manning, who is alleged to have leaked documents exposing US war crimes to WikiLeaks. He has been held under conditions tantamount to torture and faces a possible death penalty.”

“In all of these cases,” the World Socialist Web Site noted, “the World War I-era Espionage Act is being used to punish not spying on behalf of a foreign government, but exposing the US government’s own crimes to the American people. The utter lawlessness of US foreign policy goes hand in hand with the collapse of democracy at home.”

The current crop of “cybersecurity” bills are sure to hasten that collapse.

Under Rogers’ legislation, “the government would have new, powerful tools to go after WikiLeaks,” or anyone else who challenges the lies of the U.S. government by publishing classified information that contradicts the dominant narrative.

“By claiming that WikiLeaks constituted ‘cyber threat intelligence’ (aka ‘theft or misappropriation of private or government information’),” EFF avers, “the government may be empowering itself and other companies to monitor and block the site. This means that the previous tactics used to silence WikiLeaks–including a financial blockade and shutting down their accounts with online service providers–could be supplemented by very direct means. The government could proclaim that WikiLeaks constitutes a cybersecurity threat and have new, broad powers to filter and block communication with the journalistic website.”

Since January, Obama has signed legislation (NDAA) granting the Executive Branch authority to condemn alleged “enemy combatants,” including U.S. citizens detained in America, indefinite military detention without charges or trials, and with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asserting that the president has the “right” to assassinate American citizens anywhere on earth, it clear to anyone who hasn’t drunk the Hope and Change™ Kool-Aid, that the architecture of an American police state is now in place.

http://antifascist-calling.blogspot.co.nz/2012/04/obama-administrations-backdoor-wiretap.html

Postman Says Ayers’ Parents put ‘Foreign Student’ Obama Through School

(INFOWARS)   A retired postal worker who delivered mail to Tom and Mary Ayers in a Chicago suburb in the late 1980s and early 1990s and claims to have met Obama in front of the Ayers home. Corsi is the author of numerous books, including The Late Great U.S.A.: The Coming Merger With Mexico and Canada and Where’s the Birth Certificate?: The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to be President.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CD7JBVnMOGk

Obama Justice Department under deadline to answer court over Obama’s health law comments

 

(FOXNEWS)   The Obama Justice Department has roughly 24 hours to explain to a federal appeals court whether the administration believes judges have the power to overturn federal laws — in the latest escalation between the two branches of government over the federal health care overhaul.

A three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to explain by Thursday at noon whether the administration believes judges have that authority. The challenge came after President Obama cautioned the Supreme Court against overturning the health care law and warned that such an act would be “unprecedented.”

One justice in particular chided the administration for what he said was being perceived as a “challenge” to judicial authority — referring directly to Obama’s latest comments about the Supreme Court case.

The testy exchange played out during a hearing over a separate ObamaCare challenge. It marked a new phase in the budding turf war between the executive and judicial branches.

“Does the Department of Justice recognize that federal courts have the authority in appropriate circumstances to strike federal statutes because of one or more constitutional infirmities?” Judge Jerry Smith asked at the hearing.

Justice Department attorney Dana Lydia Kaersvang answered “yes” to that question.

A source inside the courtroom, speaking to Fox News afterward, described the questioning by Smith as pointed.

Smith also made clear during that exchange that he was “referring to statements by the president in the past few days to the effect … that it is somehow inappropriate for what he termed unelected judges to strike acts of Congress.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5-5wjAQJhM

“That has troubled a number of people who have read it as somehow a challenge to the federal courts or to their authority,” Smith said. “And that’s not a small matter.”

Smith ordered a response from the department within 48 hours. The related letter from the court, obtained by Fox News, instructed the Justice Department to provide an explanation of “no less than three pages, single spaced” by noon on Thursday.

All three judges on the panel are Republican appointees.

The Justice Department had no comment when asked about the exchange.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, though, told Fox News that there’s no dispute from the administration regarding the courts’ authority to strike down laws.

“Of course we believe that the Supreme Court has, and the courts have, as their duty and responsibility the ability of striking down laws as unconstitutional,” Carney said Tuesday.

However, he said the president was specifically referring to “the precedent under the Commerce Clause” regarding a legislature’s ability to address “challenges to our national economy.”

The most significant Supreme Court case hinges on the question of whether the individual mandate to buy health insurance violates the Commerce Clause. The administration argues it does not.

Though Carney said the president did not misspeak when he discussed the case on Monday, Obama was not quite so specific.

“I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,” Obama said on Monday. “And I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step.”

Obama reiterated his stance on Tuesday, saying the court has traditionally shown “deference” to Congress and that “the burden is on those who would overturn a law like this.”

Carney said that Obama was expressing the point that on national economic challenges, “there should be due deference paid as a matter of precedent to our democratically elected officials.”

 http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/04/04/justice-department-under-deadline-to-answer-court-over-obamas-health-law/#ixzz1r5EECmsX

Fear, speculation in Iran over military strike

(BobTuskin.com)

The threat of military strikes on Iran has upturned the quiet and comfortable lives once enjoyed by many Iranians, ushering in a new era of struggle and fear.

Like many Iranians, Maryam Sofi says the West and Iran are locked in a dangerous game. “I don’t think we can know just yet if war will break out, but I am concerned for my family and my country,” says university teacher Sofi, 42, a mother of two.

“I cannot sleep at night, thinking about destruction and bloodshed if Israel and America attack Iran.”

The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities if diplomacy fails to resolve a dispute over a program they suspect is aimed at developing atomic weapons.

In Washington on Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States was considering all options on Iran and would work with allies to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Read More

Man Gets Secret Service Visit For Anti-Obama Sign

(11 ALIVE)   A west Georgia business owner is stirring up controversy with signs he posted on his company’s trucks, for all to see as the trucks roll up and down roads, highways and interstates:

“New Company Policy: We are not hiring until Obama is gone.”

“Can’t afford it,” explained the employer, Bill Looman, Tuesday evening. “I’ve got people that I want to hire now, but I just can’t afford it. And I don’t foresee that I’ll be able to afford it unless some things change in D.C.”

Looman’s company is U.S. Cranes, LLC.  He said he put up the signs, and first posted pictures of the signs on his personal Facebook page, six months ago, and he said he received mostly positive reaction from people, “about 20-to-one positive.”

But for some reason, one of the photos went viral on the Internet on Monday.

And the reaction has been so intense, pro and con, he’s had to have his phones disconnected because of the non-stop calls, and he’s had to temporarily shut down his company’s website because of all the traffic crashing the system.

Looman made it clear, talking with 11Alive’s Jon Shirek, that he is not refusing to hire to make some political point; it’s that he doesn’t believe he can hire anyone, because of the economy. And he blames the Obama administration.

“The way the economy’s running, and the way my business has been hampered by the economy, and the policies of the people in power, I felt that it was necessary to voice my opinion, and predict that I wouldn’t be able to do any hiring,” he said.

Looman did receive some unexpected attention not long after he put up his signs and Facebook photos. He said someone, and he thinks he knows who it was, reported him to the FBI as a threat to national security. He said the accusation filtered its way through the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and finally the Secret Service. Agents interviewed him.

“The Secret Service left here, they were in a good mood and laughing,” Looman said. “I got the feeling they thought it was kind of ridiculous, and a waste of their time.”

So Bill Looman is keeping the signs up, and the photos up — stirring up a lot of debate.

“I just spent 10 years in the Marine Corps protecting the rights of people… the First Amendment, and the Second Amendment and the [rest of the] Bill of Rights,” he said. “Lord knows they’re calling me at 2 in the morning, all night long, and voicing their opinion. And I respect their right to do that. I’m getting a reaction, a lot of it’s negative, now. But a lot of people are waking up.”

http://www.11alive.com/news/article/214228/3/Company-Policy-We-are-not-hiring-until-Obama-is-gone

Rand Paul says green ‘radicals’ have taken over Obama’s policies

(THE HILL)   President Obama has allowed environmental extremists to take over White House policy, according to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Environmental groups have frequently battled the Obama administration and launched a protest Sunday at the White House gates, but Paul insisted the president has allowed them to take over government.

“My concern is that the president has allowed radicals to take over the administration, has allowed environmental extremists to take over policy — and as a consequence we are losing jobs,” the Tea Party favorite said in a floor speech.

Paul went on to accuse Democrats of engaging in the sort of “hysteria we don’t want to drive policy.”

“[I] am afraid what has happened is we have opened up the White House and this administration to environmental extremists, the kind of people who say, ‘Well the polar bears are drowning,’” he said.

Paul’s floor comments come ahead of a Senate vote on controversial legislation the senator has proposed to roll back an Environmental Protection Agency regulation that penalizes states for allowing air pollution to drift into bordering states. In his speech Paul argued that air quality has improved drastically during the last decade without the onerous rule, which is expected to cost energy producers billions of dollars to reach compliance.

At one point Paul questioned the American Lung Associations’ (ALA) conclusion that pollution is behind a rise in asthma and suggested the $5 million in funding it takes from the EPA each year might be bending the results of its studies.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) demanded an apology from Paul for the ALA assertion.

“I think the senator owes an apology to the ALA for making it sound like they are for air pollution rules because they are getting some sort of payoff,” she said, her voice rising. “It’s an outrage, a complete outrage.”

Boxer said the rule Paul seeks to wipe out prevents early deaths, asthma attacks and lost work and school days.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), however, argued the EPA is grossly overstating the health effects of pollution.

“Are we to believe that 10 percent of all United States deaths are attributable to pollution from power plants?” Sessions asked. “[I]t’s clear that the EPA … they’re playing fast and loose, and they’re manipulating data, it seems to me, pretty clearly.”

Paul’s resolution is not expected to win approval.

http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/192867-sen-rand-paul-radicals-have-taken-over-the-white-house-

Obama Has Declared Record-Breaking 89 Disasters So Far in 2011

(ABC)   From Hurricane Irene, which soaked the entire East Coast in August, to the Midwest tornadoes, which wrought havoc from Wisconsin to Texas, 2011 has seen more billion-dollar natural disasters than any year on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

And as America’s hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and wildfires set records this year, so too has President Obama in his response to them.

During the first 10 months of this year President Obama declared 89 major disasters, more than the record 81 declarations that he made in all of 2010.

And Obama has declared more disasters — 229 — in the first three years of his presidency than almost any other president signed in their full four-year terms. Only President George W. Bush declared more, having signed 238 disaster declarations in his second term, from 2005 to 2009.

But while the sheer number of bad weather events played a big role in the uptick in presidential disaster declarations, Obama’s record-setting year may have something to do with politics as well.

“There’s no question about it that the increase in the number of disaster declarations is outstripping what we would expect to see, given what we observe in terms of weather,” said Robert Hartwig, the president and economist at the Insurance Information Institute. “There’s a lot of political pressure on the president and Congress to show they are responsive to these sorts of disasters that occur.”

While the president aimed to authorize swift and sweeping aid to disaster victims, Congress was entrenched in partisan battles over how to foot the bill. When Republicans demanded that additional appropriations for a cash-strapped FEMA  be offset by spending cuts, the government was almost shut down over disaster relief funding.

Such budget showdowns have become commonplace in Congress, but a similarly slow response to natural disasters by the president has been met with far more pointed and politically damaging criticism.  Former President Bush learned that the hard way after what was seen as a botched initial response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Ever since that time we’ve seen FEMA try to act more responsively and we’ve seen presidents more engaged in the issues going on with respect to disasters,” Hartwig said.

Mark Merritt, who served as deputy chief of staff at FEMA during the Clinton Administration, said Obama’s record-breaking number of declarations has less to do with politics and more to do with demographics.

People are moving to high-risk areas like beaches and flood plains, more bad weather events are occurring and the country’s infrastructure is “crumbling,” he said.

“It’s not being used any more as a political tool today than it has over the past 18 years,”  said Merritt, who is now the president of the crisis management consulting firm Witt Associates. “Everybody can say there’s a little bit of politics involved, and I won’t deny that, but I don’t think it’s a political tool that politicians use to win reelections.”

Politics aside, Obama’s higher-than-ever number of disaster declarations may also have a lot to do with the broad scale of this year’s disasters, which led to more declarations of catastrophes because each state affected by the disaster gets its own declaration.

For example, Hurricane Andrew, which hit Florida in 1992, cost upwards of $40 billion in damage, but resulted in only one disaster declaration because the damage was almost entirely confined to one state.

Hurricane Irene, on the other hand, pummeled much of the East Coast this summer, causing the president to make 9 disaster declarations, one for each state affected. Although there were 8 more declarations for Irene than for Andrew, the Irene caused about $7 billion in damage, a fraction of the damage caused by Andrew (up to $42 billion in today’s dollars).

Each presidential disaster declaration makes the federal government — specifically FEMA — responsible for at least 75 percent of the recovery costs, relieving cash-strapped state and local governments of the billions in damages caused by this year’s hurricanes, floods and tornadoes.

Richard Salkowe, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Florida who studies federal disaster declarations and denials, argued that the trend toward more declarations stems from local governments becoming more aware of the availability of federal funds.

“The local governments and state governments have become more aware of the process and more efficient in using it,” Salkowe said. “I’d say yeah, there are more states that have overwhelming needs, and that may have lead to the Obama administration declaring more disaster areas.”

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/10/obama-has-declared-record-breaking-89-disasters-so-far-in-2011/

Big Budget Pro-Obama Military Film On Its Way

(The Ulsterman Report)   Reports now circulating of an Obama administration working in conjunction with Hollywood producers to release a movie about the Osama Bin Laden mission just weeks before the 2012 election.

 

When a sitting president cannot utilize the economy as a means of getting re-elected, things tend to get a wee bit worrisome for the campaign team.  For Barack Obama, this worry has led to a still sympathetic Hollywood community willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a film whose intent is to show President Obama as a fearless anti-terrorism warrior who bravely led our special forces into battle to kill Osama Bin Laden.

Hyperbole you say?  Sadly, no.

Producers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal are this very moment working diligently to bring the killing of Bin Laden to the Big Screen – with a currently scheduled release date a mere three weeks before voters decide if they want to give Barack Obama a second term.  Coincidence?  Not quite.  The Obama administration has been working hand in hand with Bigelow and Boal in forming the soon-to-be released White House approved portrayal of the Bin Laden raid.  Mark Boal in particular has reportedly been given an all-access pass to Washington D.C. and even the Pentagon – a situation that has elicited more than a bit of off-the-record grumblings from top military officials.

Besides sharing a slew of far left Big Government ideals, why else is Hollywood so protective of an Obama presidency?  Ah, just a bit of investigative peek-a-boo reveals what is perhaps the real motivations for Hollywood’s willingness to deploy a big budget production to try and convince voters Barack Obama is not a detached wimp who so often appears utterly uncomfortable in the presence of the military.

In 2009 President Obama and his fellow Democrats provided Hollywood studios with a quarter BILLION dollar tax break.  These same studios had just recorded all-time record profits, but not a word of resentment came from Barack Obama against that fact.  No, he instead signed into law a massive tax break for his far left Hollywood pals.  Now it appears Hollywood is set to pay Obama back with a pre-2012 election film that will be using the military as pro-Obama propaganda props, while working overtime to portray Barack Obama as the bravest Commander in Chief badass in the history of America.

Read more: http://socyberty.com/history/the-ulsterman-report-big-budget-pro-obama-military-film-on-its-way/#ixzz1UWfw736a

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