Sunday, July 7, 2013

Pure Monty Python: Figures Show Full-Time Employment Decline (To Be MSM-Ignored Massively) and Fascism Rules U.S.:  In Secret, Supreme Courters Vastly Broaden N.S.A. Power



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. . . 110,000 more than May reported that they had taken part time work voluntarily, bringing their total to 19,044,000 and hence the total number of part time jobs in the economy to 27,270,000, an all time high . . . note that the establishment survey does not distinguish between full and part time job creation . . .

What Did These Idiots Think Would Happen If We Hired Contractors To Handle Spying?
Federal Judge: Only Powered-Off Cell Phones Deserve Privacy Protections ACLU.
“The entire point of the Fourth Amendment was to ban this kind of general warrant” – Marcy Wheeler interviewed Corrente

JR, my friendly news name-dropper (event-dropper, actually) has provided a splendid amalgamation of links on this sunny Sunday morn to what has just happened economically, proving once again that I am not paranoid about the disappearance of full-time jobs and the fortuitous timing of Obama's advocacy and implementation of the Heritage Foundation's profound idea about how to extract money from the poorly- and un-employed for devastatingly inadequate health insurance (also known as the "Pay for Noncoverage Policy"). Reading his weekly missive has become my favorite way of remembering that so much more happens (even when they don't announce it formally) than what is reported on the nightly news shows. He capsulizes it better than almost anyone anywhere.

The few paragraphs that follow may be boring to you (economic data sometimes are), but I guarantee that if you read them, you'll have a much better idea of why your country's (not to mention your own) job prospects are dimming.

I believe these data reveal with a stark clarity why the multimillionaires (90%) in Congress didn't feel the effort to lessen the pain of those at the bottom of the money pyramid was worth another day away from the country club. (And, yes, the rich won't be paying for your access to health care.)

Oh, and I apologize for the length of this essay, but, as usual, the good stuff (?) starts immediately after the shaming graphs. (No, they are not hard to read . . . just to take.)

in a move that surprised even White House insiders, the administration announced on Tuesday that they would delay until 2015 implementation of a key part of Obamacare known as the employer mandate; this is the requirement of the law that companies with 50 or more full-time employees (defined in the law as those working 30 or more hours a week) provide affordable coverage for their workers or face fines of $2000 or more per employee . . .seen by the left as a capitulation to business interests and on the right as a cynical ploy to postpone a difficult program until after the 2014 midterm elections, this mandate has often been blamed for reluctance of businesses to hire and for providing an incentive for even major employers such as Walmart to replace full time employees with part time workers . . . recognizing that the employer mandate provides such perverse incentives has led even establishment liberal Ezra Klein at the WaPo to call for its repeal . . . other major parts of obamacare are faltering as well; with the Supreme court overturning the mandatory Medicaid expansion, less than half of the states have agreed to expand access to Medicaid to include those below 133% of the official poverty level, and several states are struggling to set up even a bare bones health care exchange by the October 1st deadline...

this all occurred while obama & his wife were travelling in Africa, where he announced his Power Africa initiative, wherein he pledged $7 billion from the Export-Import Bank and other agencies to help countries around the continent upgrade their grids to provide access to electricity for their citizens, a program expected to be worth billions to GE . . . meanwhile the Senate passed an immigration reform bill that would provide an eventual path to citizenship to some of the estimated 11 million immigrants now living in the country and provide the border patrol with six airborne radar systems @ $9.3 million each, 15 Black Hawk helicopters @ more than $17 million apiece, and eight light enforcement helicopters @ $3 million each and 17 UH-1N helicopters from Bell, an enticement for Senators representing defense manufactures who've been seeing cuts from sequestered programs...however, one thing Congress didnt manage to do before they left town for their holiday recess was pass a student loan fix; without their action, interest rates on subsidized loans from the federal government jumped from 3.4% to 6.8% as of July 1st...

FRED Graph

on its face, the headline increase of a seasonally adjusted 195,000 new jobs reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its June Employment Situation Summary was a respectable monthly increase and better than expected, and with the revisions of April's payroll jobs from 149,000 to 199,000 and May's from 175,000 to 195,000, this report represents 265,000 net new jobs compared to last month's report, adding up to give us the best first half of private job creation since the Clinton administration...however, as we'll see, the jobs that have been added for the most part aren't the types that would typically support a decent middle class lifestyle, and almost twice as many new jobs were only part time, strongly suggesting that full time jobs had actually declined in June...


considering the large revisions, we'd do well to start our look at the establishment survey with a reminder that the 90% confidence interval for this survey is on the order of +/- 90,000 jobs, and that the average change from the initial estimate to the 3rd review has been averaging 46,000, so none of the numbers in this report are cast in concrete...of the seasonally adjusted net new jobs created in June, all but 8,000 were in service providing industries, with more than half in leisure and hospitality and retail; of the 75,000 new jobs in leisure and hospitality, 51,700 were in restaurants and bars, and 18,900 were in amusements, gambling and similar recreation...

the 37,100 jobs in retail trades  were widespread across the sector, with 8,500 in building material supply stores, 8,300 in car and parts dealers, 8,100 in sporting goods, book & music stores, and 7,300 in food and beverage stores...an additional 53,000 net new jobs were added in professional & business services, of which 18,500 were in employment services, 10,800 were in services to buildings, and 9,500 were temporary help...there were also 23,500 new jobs in health care and social assistance, 12,600 of which were in ambulatory care, while there were 10,600 less jobs in education...wholesale trade added 11,300 jobs, while there were 5,100 fewer transportation and warehousing jobs...meanwhile, financial services, which includes real estate, added 7,000 jobs, while governments shed 7,000 employees and 5,000 jobs were lost in information industries...in addition, 13,000 jobs were added in construction and 6,000 were lost in manufacturing...
 our FRED bar graph above shows the net change in payroll jobs monthly since the beginning of 2008; the FRED bar graph below shows monthly job gains in selected sectors since the beginning of 2012 (click either to enlarge); the change in manufacturing employment is shown in blue below; the change in construction employment is shown in red, the change in retail employment is indicated by the green bars, while the change in government payrolls in shown is yellow...

jobs in the education and health services establishment survey sector are indicated by purple; and as we've seen monthly, most of those have been in ambulatory care and nursing homes; lastly, in bright blue we have new jobs created monthly in hospitality and leisure, and, to get a sense of how many of those are waitress and bartender jobs, which just hit a new all time high of 10,339,800 workers,.we've added a bright green bar showing those numbers from the household survey data...these aren't directly comparable monthly to the other graphed metrics, but should approximately equal the establishment data over time...at any rate, it's fairly clear that many of the new jobs over the past three months are in that category, a thought you should keep in mind when we check the increase in part-time jobs in the household survey...
FRED Graph
the establishment survey also provides seasonally adjusted data on average weekly hours by industry sector and average hourly and weekly earnings by industry sector...in aggregate, the average workweek for all private payroll employees was at 34.5 hours in June, the same as April and May; the average workweek for nonsupervisory employees was also unchanged at 33.7 hours...meanwhile, the manufacturing workweek increased by 0.1 hour to 40.9 hours, and overtime was unchanged at 3.3 hours..the average hourly earnings on all private nonfarm payrolls rose by 10 cents to $24.01, the best jump this year...for production and nonsupervisory employees, the average hourly increase was 5 cents to $20.14....

FRED Graph

the household survey, data for which is extrapolated from a survey of just 60,000 households, has a large margin of error; the 90% confidence interval for the monthly change in unemployment is roughly +/- 300,000, and for the monthly change in the unemployment rate it's about +/- 0.2 percentage points...this means that when BLS reports that the unemployment rate for June was 7.6%, it means that there's a one in ten chance that it's actually either less than 7.4% or greater than 7.8%; obviously, that's not something you want to base your monetary policy on...

with that understanding as our caveat, the June household survey showed that those of us employed increased by 160,000 to 144,058,000 and those of us counted as unemployed rose by 17,000 to 11,777,000, resulting in a 177,000 increase in the civilian labor force; since the working age noninstitutional population rose by 189,000 to 245,552,000 by BLS reckoning, that leaves 12,000 more of us not in the labor force in June...both of the metrics from this survey we consider to be definitive increased by 0.1%; the labor force participation rate, shown in red on our FRED graph, rose from 63.4% to 63.5% while the employment to population ratio, shown in blue, rose from 58.6% to 58.7%…

among major demographic groupings, BLS notes that the unemployment rate for adult women rose 0.3% to 6.8% in June, and all other groupings were statistically "little changed" (recall that margin of error); we'll note that the jobless rate for adult men is indicated 0.2% lower than May at 7.0%, the unemployment rate for blacks is shown 0.2% lower at 13.7%, while the jobless rate for teenagers fell from 24.5% to 24.0%...the number of those counted as unemployed for more than half a year was at 4,328,000, 29,000 less than in May; that's down from 5,336,000 a year ago, but there is no way to tell how many got jobs and how many just quit looking and hence are no longer counted...the roughly 3.8 million of them who are still eligible for federal emergency rations will have their checks cut by an average of $43 to $246 as a result of the sequester...

the number who were working part time in June who wanted full time work increased by a seasonally adjusted 322,000 to 8,226,000; that resulted in a jump in the broad U-6 unemployment rate in from 13.8% in April to 14.3% in June...it's known that several restaurant chains are cutting worker's hours to below 30 to avoid the obamacare employer mandate, so it's possible that some of that kind of manipulation accounts for both the big jump in involuntary part time and the large increase in waitress type jobs we saw in the establishment survey...in addition, 110,000 more than May reported that they had taken part time work voluntarily, bringing their total to 19,044,000 and hence the total number of part time jobs in the economy to 27,270,000, an all time high...note that the establishment survey does not distinguish between full and part time job creation, and that an individual who hold two part time jobs is only counted as employed once in the household survey, so there will always be a mismatch in job counts between the surveys...the household survey notes 6,990,000 multiple jobholders, which is now 4.8% of all those employed...

among those of us who arent in the labor force, and hence not counted as unemployed, 7,152,000 reported they still wanted a job; 2,582,000 of those are considered "marginally attached to the labor force" because they've looked for work during the last 12 months, but not during the 30 day window referenced by the June household survey...of those, 1,027,000 are considered "discouraged workers" because they reported that they're not looking for work because they believe there are no jobs available for them....the number of these so-called discouraged workers rose by 206,000 from the 821,000 in that category a year ago..

other than the employment situation, the key economic release of the past week was on our International Trade in Goods and Services for May (pdf) from the Census bureau, which showed that our trade deficit grew by 12.1% as our exports slumped and our imports jumped from the levels of April...seasonally adjusted May exports of $187.1 billion, $0.5 billion less than revised April exports of $187.6 billion, combined with May imports of  $232.1 billion, $4.4 billion more than April imports of $227.7 billion, resulted in a May goods and services deficit of $45.0 billion, up from $40.1 billion in April...our seasonally adjusted trade deficit in goods increased by $5.0 billion as exports of goods decreased $0.9 billion to $130.3 billion and imports of goods increased $4.2 billion to $193.7 billion, while our trade surplus in services increased by $0.2 billion as exports of services increased by $0.4 billion to $56.8 billion, and imports of services increased $0.2 billion to $38.4 billion...on an unadjusted basis, our goods deficit was at $64,887 billion in May, a bit more than the $63,400 billion seasonally adjusted amount...

the change in imports of goods from April to May reflected increases of imports in all end use categories...imports of industrial supplies and materials rose $1.05 billion to $57.184 billion on a $713 million increase of crude oil and $682 million of other petroleum products, while imports of natural gas fell $250 million; this despite the fact that oil prices averaged $96.84 in May, down from $97.82 in April, and down from $108.06 a year ago; imports of consumer goods rose $1.03 billion on a $1,890 jump in cell phone imports, while imports of pharmaceuticals fell $967 million and TV & video equipment imports fell $181 million; automotive vehicles, parts, and engines accounted for another $788 million increase in imports, while imports of foods, feeds and beverages rose $370 million to $9.919 billion on increases of $178 million of fish and shellfish, $111 million in fresh fruits and juices, and $98 million of green coffee beans, while imports of meat products fell $111 million...in addition, imports of capital goods rose $347 million to $45.694 billion on $269 million more computer accessories, $211 million more in imported civilian aircraft, and a $198 million increase in imported semiconductors, offset by declining imports of $225 million of telecommunications equipment and $261 million less in civilian aircraft engines...in addition, imports of other goods not included in an end use category rose $0.5 billion.

FRED Graph
changes in exports of goods from April to May included
a $1.2 billion decrease in exports of consumer goods to $13.06 billion, led by a $757 million decrease in exports of jewelry and a $512 million decrease in exports of gem diamonds, partially offset by a $97 million increase in exports of pharmaceuticals; a $0.9 billion decrease in exports of industrial supplies and materials, led by a $1,130 million decrease in exports of non-monetary gold and a $229 million decrease in exports of organic chemicals, partially offset by a $439 increase in exports of fuel oil, and a $0.1 billion decrease in exports of and foods, feeds, and beverages, including $72 million less wheat exports, $66 million less oil & oilseeds exports, and a $65 million decrease in exports of soybeans, which was partially offset by a $69 million increase in exports of dairy products and eggs...end use categories that saw exports increase included an $0.8 billion in capital goods exports, where exports of civilian aircraft rose $1,365 million to $5,115 million and exports of telecommunication equipment fell $373 million to $3,160 million, and exports of autos engines and parts rose $320 million to $13.06 billion...in addition, exports of other goods not otherwise categorized rose $172 million to $5.015 billion...

An Economic Primer for Spies - Peter Boone & Simon Johnson - Listening in on BlackBerry communications by world leaders at a Group of 20 summit meeting, as the British did in April 2009, does not seem like a great way to build international trust and economic cooperation. Writing up the operation in PowerPoint and bragging about it in writing – such documents always leak — was pure Monty Python.  This week, disclosures suggest the American intelligence services may be up to broadly similar tricks – with reports that the United States has bugged the communications of European diplomats stationed in Washington. The Europeans are America’s allies, but also its competitors in important markets around the world. The goal seems to involve capturing some kind of economic secrets. Most such espionage is a complete waste of time – and a good way to undermine relationships between countries.


To help spies – and everyone else listening in on our phone calls – prioritize their use of scarce resources and do something constructive with their time, we offer this brief primer on where the intelligence services should focus their attention in the economic realm.
U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement - Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: a handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home.  “Show all mail to supv” — supervisor — “for copying prior to going out on the street,” read the card. It included Mr. Pickering’s name, address and the type of mail that needed to be monitored. The word “confidential” was highlighted in green.  “It was a bit of a shock to see it,” said Mr. Pickering, who with his wife owns a small bookstore in Buffalo. More than a decade ago, he was a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental group labeled eco-terrorists by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Postal officials subsequently confirmed they were indeed tracking Mr. Pickering’s mail but told him nothing else.  As the world focuses on the high-tech spying of the National Security Agency, the misplaced card offers a rare glimpse inside the seemingly low-tech but prevalent snooping of the United States Postal Service.

Veil lifted on France’s ‘Big Brother’ Network - France operates an “immense” surveillance system of telephone, email and internet traffic similar to the US operation revealed last month by whistleblower Edward Snowden, Le Monde newspaper reported on Thursday. Like the systems apparently operated by the National Security Agency in the US, the DGSE surveillance covers the identity, place, date, duration and “weight” of telephone calls, but not the content.  Similarly, the “metadata” of text messages, faxes, emails and “all internet activity” on networks run by companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo are collected, Le Monde said. President François Hollande reacted sharply to Mr Snowden’s allegations that the NSA had spied on EU and European offices, including the French embassy in Washington.He said such activities were “unacceptable” and should “cease immediately”. Paris insisted it does not spy on its allies, but Mr Hollande’s outburst raised some sceptical eyebrows among the diplomatic community in the French capital. Le Monde said the DGSE system was conducted with “complete discretion, at the margins of legality and outside all serious control”.

 The NSA is recording and storing one billion cellphone calls per day.


  • Wow on the diversion of the Bolivian President's flight so his plane could be searched for Edward Snowden.  Suddenly Julian Assange doesn't sound so paranoid any more.  I think we are all getting an object lesson here in how the world really works, and it's not pretty at all.




  • Glenn Greenwald's speech on meeting Snowden worth reading in full. Buzzfeed’s Snowden and Greenwald Smears Under Fire DSWright, Firedoglake




  • Big Brother is Watching You Watch

    New slides on NSA program released WaPo. “PRISM case notation format reflects the availability, confirmed by The Post’s reporting, of real-time surveillance as well as stored content.”Speaking on NSA stories, Snowden and journalism Glenn Greenwald, Guardian.
    NSA – Recording One Billion Phonecalls Per Day Moon of Alabama (partial transcript of Greenwald talk)
    Attacks from America: NSA Spied on European Union Offices Der Spiegel
    Ecuador in talks with Russia and US over CIA whistleblower Voice of Russia
    OMIGOD James Clapper Has Our Gun Purchase Records emptywheel
    Secret snooping keeps us vulnerable Interfluidity
    I’ll Be Watching You: NSA Surveillance and the Male Gaze The New Inquiry
     #PRISM : let’s have a look at the big picture Reflets (SW). Power corrupts. PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.
    Growing Alarm: German Prosecutors To Review Allegations of US Spying Der Spiegel
    New NSA leaks show how US is bugging its European allies Guardian
    ‘This Week’ Transcript: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange ABC News
    Snowden makes multiple asylum requests Financial Times
    Snowden Sends a Communique from Moscow MsExPat, Corrente. Some important pieces re Snowden’s predicament, along with Edward Snowden’s Moscow stopover became end of the line … for now Guardian

    “The entire point of the Fourth Amendment was to ban this kind of general warrant” – Marcy Wheeler interviewed Corrente
    ‘Total Surveillance’ Officially Brushed Off In Germany Wolf Richter.
    Statement from Edward Snowden in Moscow (martha r)
    So who, exactly, re-routed Evo Morales’s plane? MsExPat, Corrente. My bet is Nato did it. I’m told this story is getting more prominent play in Europe than the Morsi ouster
    Morales’ flight over Europe, minute by disputed minute Washington Post. Classic. Someone, or several someones, tried muddying the record (don’t tell me this doesn’t happen, I’ve been a bit player on some stories where I’ve seen this done deliberately).
    France apology in Bolivia jet row BBC 
    U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement New York Times
    Circumventing Invasive Internet Surveillance with Carrier Pigeons laetus in praesens (Deontos)
    NSA Wiretapping Public Service Announcement Real News (Inverness)
    Ecuador says it found a hidden microphone at its London embassy Reuters (furzy mouse)
    Mastercard and Visa Start Banning VPN Providers TorrentFreak. You know this has to be in response to official pressure… 
    Al-Qaeda sought to benefit from WikiLeaks documents, prosecutors say and The Guardian: Small British paper makes big impact with NSA stories Washington Post (furzy mouse). OMG, WaPo trying increasing desperate strategies to discredit the Guardian and Snowden. Guardian “a small paper”?
    Hints surface that NSA building massive, pervasive surveillance McClatchy

    Parliament to launch in-depth inquiry into US surveillance programmes EU
    European firms ‘could quit US internet providers over NSA scandal’ Guardian. Ed Harrison saw this coming early on.
    Bolivia Warns U.S. Embassy Closure on Snowden Diversion Bloomberg
    South American leftist leaders rally for Bolivia in Snowden saga Reuters
    Snowden citizenship bill rejected by Icelandic Parliament, 33 against, 24 for, 5 abstained, 1 absent reddit (martha r)
    Federal Judge: Only Powered-Off Cell Phones Deserve Privacy Protections ACLU. Note this decision precedes the Snowden revelations.
    James Clapper, EU play-acting, and political priorities Glenn Greenwald


    Nicaragua, Venezuela presidents say they are willing to grant asylum to Snowden Associated Press
    US sends Government an arrest warrant for Snowden Irish Times (p78)


    THE NSA COMES RECRUITING Mob and Multitude (Patricia)

    Edward Snowden is a whistleblower, not a spy – but do our leaders care? Guardian
    What Did These Idiots Think Would Happen If We Hired Contractors To Handle Spying? masaccio, Firedoglake (Carol B)


    NSA leaks: UK blocks crucial espionage talks between US and Europe Guardian. This confirms suspicions that the EU would cave. A big mechanism for the faux legality of these programs is to do what amounts to reg arbitrage, to run things you can’t do via your home country’s rules through a partner in a more permissive regime.
    Occupy Oakland protesters awarded $1m over police violence during arrests Guardian

    As a final word on the new part-time employment USAObamacareworld, we can consult:

    Zerohedge: Obamacare Strikes: Part-Time Jobs Surge To All Time High; Full-Time Jobs Plunge By 240,000

    If you're still wondering about the Congress' seeming unconcern for, if not outright abuse of, students who need reasonably priced loans . . . I'd have to ask "Why?" as it's becoming more and more clear every day that the future education level required will only be "Did you find everything you were looking for?" often asked by the cashiers who have the real jobs,  defined by the  part-time work available at Wal-Mart or MacDonalds (Costco, if you're upper class).

    Fascism In Cairo Cheered By The Americans Who Always Cheer Fascism
    On a more international affairs note,  be sure to also consider what the fascists who actually run this country (well, they stole it fair and square) think about the overturning of Egypt's last democratic election. Even the Wall Street Journal published an article recently on the desire for a Pinochet-type regime there to get the neoliberal policies flowing (and the hiring of all those great international companies to run the place).

    You just can't make this stuff up.

    On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial entitled "After the Coup in Cairo". Its final paragraph contained these words:

    Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile's Augusto Pinochet, who took over power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy.
    Presumably, this means that those who speak for the Wall Street Journal – the editorial was unsigned – think Egypt should think itself lucky if its ruling generals now preside over a 17-year reign of terror. I also take it the WSJ means us to associate two governments removed by generals – the one led by Salvador Allende in Chile and the one led by Mohamed Morsi in Egypt. Islamist, socialist … elected, legitimate … who cares?
    Presumably, the WSJ thinks the Egyptians now have 17 years in which to think themselves lucky when any who dissent are tortured with electricity, raped, thrown from planes or – if they're really lucky – just shot. That's what happened in Chile after 1973, causing the deaths of between 1,000 and 3,000 people. Around 30,000 were tortured.
    Presumably, the WSJ hopes a general in the mold of Pinochet (or generals, as they didn't break the mold when they made him) will preside over all this with the assistance of Britain and America. Perhaps he (or they) will return the favour by helping one of them win a small war.
    Presumably, eventually, the Egyptian general or generals – and we should let them have a junta if they want one, so long as it isn't like that beastly example in Argentina – will willingly relinquish power. After all, democracy cannot "midwife" itself. Presumably, the WSJ is sure a transition to elected government will follow, as it did in Chile. (Although, in 15 years' time the Argentinian writer Ariel Dorfman's words will, presumably, ring as true as they do now: "Saying Pinochet brought democracy to Chile is like saying Margaret Thatcher brought socialism to Britain." More of her later.
    Such quibbles notwithstanding, I'm presuming the WSJ envisages that the Egyptian general or generals will then be allowed to retire, unmolested. Possibly to Wentworth, where the golf's good. But if any molestation does occur, perhaps by some uppity human rights lawyer, they will receive further assistance from the governing classes of Britain and America. He or they will then retire and, unlike his or their victims, die a free man – or men – in bed.

    Or maybe you can. David Brooks does every time he "writes" a column.

    Islamists might be determined enough to run effective opposition movements and committed enough to provide street-level social services. But they lack the mental equipment to govern. – David Brooks, 2013

    To expand on Read’s point, Brooks’s argument that democracy is a mere “process” that should be disregarded when it produces disagreeable substantive results is quite remarkable. Let’s consider the (largely accurate, as far as I can tell) bill of charges against Morsi — hostility to the rights of women, civil liberties violations, rank incompetence, divisiveness, disastrous misuses of the violent power of the state. So Brooks would have thought that a military coup against the second Bush administration was perfectly OK, then? (Particularly since the election of Bush was pretty shaky on the “process” metric as well.) At what point do the bad (by whose standard?) substantive results of democratic elections trump democratic procedures? Brooks lacks a clear answer, but I suspect it has something to do with the percentage of the electorate that consists of white people.

    Even if we want to talk pragmatism rather than democratic theory, support for the coup is also incredibly short-sighted. Authoritarian regimes don’t exactly have a stellar record of protecting the rights of women or religious minorities either, and informing Islamists that elections they win won’t count doesn’t seem like a recipe for either political stability or more liberal regimes in the long run.


    More on the, ah, empirical problems with Brooks’s argument:

    Algeria is a very strange example to cite of how Islamist governments are always bad, since Algeria has never had an Islamist government. The army canceled elections in 1992 when it looked like the Islamic Salvation Front was going to win, leading to a bloody civil war.

    So Brooks is really citing Turkey and Iran as his evidence that Islamist parties always and everywhere are bad news, and therefore the Egyptian coup was justified. But how much are even these two examples worth, really?

    [...]

    But Brooks doesn’t really know anything about Turkey or Iran, any more than he knows about Applebee’s. He’s just trying to make the point, consistent with his conservative ideology, that democracy is all right so long as the wrong sort of people don’t get elected.

    And how about that Roberts' court opinion that cut out the heart of the Civil Rights linchpin?

    When you’re cutting out the heart of what is probably the most important civil rights statute ever passed by the United States Congress and your opinion fails even to identify the constitutional provision the statute allegedly violates, it’s a permanent stain on the institution.

    Just in case you haven't activated your New York Times digital subscription yet . . .


    July 6, 2013

    In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of N.S.A.


    By Eric Lichtblau

    WASHINGTON — In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say.

    The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny, according to current and former officials familiar with the court’s classified decisions. 

    The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said.

    Last month, a former National Security Agency contractor, Edward J. Snowden, leaked a classified order from the FISA court, which authorized the collection of all phone-tracing data from Verizon business customers. But the court’s still-secret decisions go far beyond any single surveillance order, the officials said.

    “We’ve seen a growing body of law from the court,” a former intelligence official said. “What you have is a common law that develops where the court is issuing orders involving particular types of surveillance, particular types of targets.”

    In one of the court’s most important decisions, the judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the “special needs” doctrine and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures, the officials said.

    The special needs doctrine was originally established in 1989 by the Supreme Court in a ruling allowing the drug testing of railway workers, finding that a minimal intrusion on privacy was justified by the government’s need to combat an overriding public danger. Applying that concept more broadly, the FISA judges have ruled that the N.S.A.’s collection and examination of Americans’ communications data to track possible terrorists does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, the officials said.

    That legal interpretation is significant, several outside legal experts said, because it uses a relatively narrow area of the law — used to justify airport screenings, for instance, or drunken-driving checkpoints — and applies it much more broadly, in secret, to the wholesale collection of communications in pursuit of terrorism suspects. “It seems like a legal stretch,” William C. Banks, a national security law expert at Syracuse University, said in response to a description of the decision. “It’s another way of tilting the scales toward the government in its access to all this data.”

    While President Obama and his intelligence advisers have spoken of the surveillance programs leaked by Mr. Snowden mainly in terms of combating terrorism, the court has also interpreted the law in ways that extend into other national security concerns. In one recent case, for instance, intelligence officials were able to get access to an e-mail attachment sent within the United States because they said they were worried that the e-mail contained a schematic drawing or a diagram possibly connected to Iran’s nuclear program.

    In the past, that probably would have required a court warrant because the suspicious e-mail involved American communications. In this case, however, a little-noticed provision in a 2008 law, expanding the definition of “foreign intelligence” to include “weapons of mass destruction,” was used to justify access to the message.

    The court’s use of that language has allowed intelligence officials to get wider access to data and communications that they believe may be linked to nuclear proliferation, the officials said. They added that other secret findings had eased access to data on espionage, cyberattacks and other possible threats connected to foreign intelligence.

    “The definition of ‘foreign intelligence’ is very broad,” another former intelligence official said in an interview. “An espionage target, a nuclear proliferation target, that all falls within FISA, and the court has signed off on that.”

    The official, like a half-dozen other current and former national security officials, discussed the court’s rulings and the general trends they have established on the condition of anonymity because they are classified. Judges on the FISA court refused to comment on the scope and volume of their decisions.

    Unlike the Supreme Court, the FISA court hears from only one side in the case — the government — and its findings are almost never made public. A Court of Review is empaneled to hear appeals, but that is known to have happened only a handful of times in the court’s history, and no case has ever been taken to the Supreme Court. In fact, it is not clear in all circumstances whether Internet and phone companies that are turning over the reams of data even have the right to appear before the FISA court.

    Created by Congress in 1978 as a check against wiretapping abuses by the government, the court meets in a secure, nondescript room in the federal courthouse in Washington. All of the current 11 judges, who serve seven-year terms, were appointed to the special court by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and 10 of them were nominated to the bench by Republican presidents. Most hail from districts outside the capital and come in rotating shifts to hear surveillance applications; a single judge signs most surveillance orders, which totaled nearly 1,800 last year. None of the requests from the intelligence agencies was denied, according to the court.

    Beyond broader legal rulings, the judges have had to resolve questions about newer types of technology, like video conferencing, and how and when the government can get access to them, the officials said.

    The judges have also had to intervene repeatedly when private Internet and phone companies, which provide much of the data to the N.S.A., have raised concerns that the government is overreaching in its demands for records or when the government itself reports that it has inadvertently collected more data than was authorized, the officials said. In such cases, the court has repeatedly ordered the N.S.A. to destroy the Internet or phone data that was improperly collected, the officials said.

    The officials said one central concept connects a number of the court’s opinions. The judges have concluded that the mere collection of enormous volumes of “metadata” — facts like the time of phone calls and the numbers dialed, but not the content of conversations — does not violate the Fourth Amendment, as long as the government establishes a valid reason under national security regulations before taking the next step of actually examining the contents of an American’s communications.

    This concept is rooted partly in the “special needs” provision the court has embraced. “The basic idea is that it’s O.K. to create this huge pond of data,” a third official said, “but you have to establish a reason to stick your pole in the water and start fishing.”

    Under the new procedures passed by Congress in 2008 in the FISA Amendments Act, even the collection of metadata must be considered “relevant” to a terrorism investigation or other intelligence activities.

    The court has indicated that while individual pieces of data may not appear “relevant” to a terrorism investigation, the total picture that the bits of data create may in fact be relevant, according to the officials with knowledge of the decisions.

    Geoffrey R. Stone, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago, said he was troubled by the idea that the court is creating a significant body of law without hearing from anyone outside the government, forgoing the adversarial system that is a staple of the American justice system. “That whole notion is missing in this process,” he said.

    The FISA judges have bristled at criticism that they are a rubber stamp for the government, occasionally speaking out to say they apply rigor in their scrutiny of government requests. Most of the surveillance operations involve the N.S.A., an eavesdropping behemoth that has listening posts around the world. Its role in gathering intelligence within the United States has grown enormously since the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Soon after, President George W. Bush, under a secret wiretapping program that circumvented the FISA court, authorized the N.S.A. to collect metadata and in some cases listen in on foreign calls to or from the United States. After a heated debate, the essential elements of the Bush program were put into law by Congress in 2007, but with greater involvement by the FISA court.

    Even before the leaks by Mr. Snowden, members of Congress and civil liberties advocates had been pressing for declassifying and publicly releasing court decisions, perhaps in summary form.

    Reggie B. Walton, the FISA court’s presiding judge, wrote in March that he recognized the “potential benefit of better informing the public” about the court’s decisions. But, he said, there are “serious obstacles” to doing so because of the potential for misunderstanding caused by omitting classified details.

    Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the N.S.A. director, was noncommital when he was pressed at a Senate hearing in June to put out some version of the court’s decisions.

    While he pledged to try to make more decisions public, he said, “I don’t want to jeopardize the security of Americans by making a mistake in saying, ‘Yes, we’re going to do all that.’

    And why is it always the Times that breaks these big stories? Is it because (finally) everybody already knows?

    And they are "the paper of record."


    2 comments:

    rjs said...

    thanks for posting that, suzan; there's angles on that jobs report that no one else is covering, so the more who see it, the better...

    naked capitalism has been carrying my coverage of some other reports, but they opted out on that because they already had posted a conventional take...

    Suzan said...

    And thus making room for me to post it.

    I read your missives everywhere and always think "Where does he get the time?"

    Salute!