The President of Half Measures

Once again President Obama strives mightily for a Participation Award.

From Free Press.Net:

After months of deliberation, President Obama has announced a proposal to end the NSA’s warrantless collection of millions of phone records.1 Under this proposal, these records would stay with the phone companies, and the NSA would need to get a special court order to collect “metadata” about our calls.

Woo Hoo!  Months of deliberation to determine the phone company actually owns the records it creates of your phone data. How mighty is our President!

But does he Win, Place, or Show? Nah,but he was in the race…

The president’s proposal wouldn’t do anything to address the many other ways the NSA and other agencies spy on millions of people in the U.S. and around the world — by tracking our Web searches, reading our emails, even serving National Security Letters that make it illegal for people to speak out.

And what about all those other bills in Congress that want to wrap up the NSA with plastic wrap? Well, …

The FISA Transparency and Modernization Act — which Reps. Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger introduced this week — bolsters some of the NSA’s worst practices, including the accessing of phone records without a warrant.2 And Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s so-called FISA Improvements Act would “make permanent a loophole permitting the NSA to search for Americans’ identifying information without a warrant.

And what about Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill to “modernize” FISA?

Section 6 of Feinstein’s bill blesses what her committee colleague Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat and civil libertarian, has called the “backdoor search provision,” which the Guardian revealed thanks to a leak by Edward Snowden.

The section permits intelligence agencies to search “the contents of communications” collected primarily overseas for identifying information on US citizens, resident aliens and people inside the US, provided that the “purpose of the query is to obtain foreign intelligence information or information necessary to understand foreign intelligence information or to assess its importance.”

Section 6 bills itself as a “restriction,” but it would not stop the NSA from performing the warrantless search, merely requiring intelligence agencies to log their queries and make them “available for review” to Congress, the Fisa court, the Justice Department and inspectors general inside the executive branch.

Additionally, the report on Section 6 explicitly states that the provision “does not limit the authority of law enforcement agencies to conduct queries of data acquired pursuant to Section 702 of Fisa for law enforcement purposes.”

One thing that we all can agree on is that as soon as Congress puts the word “Modernization” in the title, it is a guarantee that somebody wants to enshrine into law something that is an advantage to him or her.

What will you and I do to protect our privacy?

Going Local?

Readership is low partly because of apathy and partly because I am out of time to write enough posts to cause my readers to return. I am very busy in other areas right now and I use my discretionary time poorly.

I ponder whether I should abandon blogging about national politics and simply go local. I think that I have no power, influence, or strings to pull over national politics. ‘If you build it they will come’ is followed by ” ..and then they leave and go about the rest of their lives…”

Other bloggers have taken in part time writers to augment or supplant their own blogging. That is not likely to happen here.

Like a bad flannel shirt I hate to get rid of because some day I may use it for a rag, this blog exists because I can’t get rid of it.

I may abandon blogging entirely. We’ll see.


Did Obama’s presidency kill political blogs?

Remember seven short years ago when political blogs were the rage? I was an acolyte of national and local political blogs. The struggle between ‘good and evil’ political parties was in full swing. It is not that one party was good or the other evil but that each party sought to be considered good and have the other one thought evil.

Those of us who saw the ascendancy of the Bush II presidency saw the establishment of a police state after 9/11. Many people (not me) voted for Obama because they hoped for a change. Now they have learned that both political parties pursue the same agenda: control the most members of the population and grant special favors to the people who paid for them to be in office.

While President Obama continues to offer his hand and smile  to his constituency for good ratings, he has only demonstrated that IN EVERY SINGLE EVENT THAT HE INSERTED HIMSELF, THE EVENT TURNED OUT AGAINST HIM. From his involvement in the Olympics to his Evita-like tour of Europe, from beer summits to back yard barbeques, from Guantanamo to Benghazi, from Obamacare to immigration reform, in every instance, President Obama’s involvement has been the kiss of death for the side that he supports. The National Healthcare Plan that bears his imprimatur is so bad that it forces people to purchase it. That’s the Obama Way.

The President of Lost Causes has caused many of us political bloggers to hunker down and simply wait for another president who has enough competence for the fight of good vs evil to mean something. Do you know what it is like when adults in a room are having adult conversations and children walk in and all the adults shut up and wait for children to leave the room before re-engaging in their conversation? That is what we all are doing now. President Obama is the reason that both sides have taken a break.

Political blogs have lost their salt. Mine included. I surmise that not a single political blog in Wisconsin has increased its readership since President Obama took office. Have we bloggers lost our opinions? Unlikely. But we know that those we thought were listening and would do something are not actually capable of doing anything. And now we are stumped.

We have learned that Republican Family values comes with the force of law and Republican National Defense comes with a trillion dollars of debt. We have learned that Democrat Societal Improvement values comes with the force of law and a trillion dollars of debt while Democrat National Defense comes with weak foreign policy and loss of face.

We have the Republican Scylla on one side and the Democrat Charybdis on the other. Many of us are waiting for a new captain to chart a course between the two. Then we can once again debate which course is best for our Ship of State. (Will we have Odysseus as captain next time?)

President Obama has not killed political blogging but we are all waiting for him to leave the room so we can go back to political blogging as we once did. We wish to go back to the point where both sides have competent monsters and where we add our opinions to the argument before choices are made about which monsters should have which chains and about how close we can come to each before disaster is inevitable.

And where, oh where, is that pesky Fourth Estate that keeps a steady rudder on our ship? Having dinner and concerts in the park. Eric Snowden and Glenn Greenwald have done more to reform the police state than President Obama or the Fourth Estate. The Fourth Estate was corrupted and adulterated through a series of maneuvers that turned the news into entertainment and then later hooked them on the drug “political access” with social invitations to Bilderberg conventions, White House dinners, and military ride-alongs.

A Ship of State with an incompetent captain, no rudder, a silent crew, and Scylla and Charybdis ahead.

May God help us all.

More opposition to taking away local control

Wisconsin Towns Association (WTA) voted Monday to oppose SB 634 that seeks to take local control away from small towns and villages.Please contact your state senator and send him/her an email today. The Wisconsin legislature is trying to ran this bill thru just like they tried the last one a few weeks ago. Your email will help prevent this from being forced through. Tell your Senator that you oppose SB634 and that small towns should retain local control over nonmetallic mining operations.

Here are just a few of the problems with SB634 per the WTA:

While Sec. 1 through 9 of SB 632 and AB 816 provide language to codify the doctrine of “diminishing assets for non-metallic mining,” the bill expands the doctrine beyond “single ownership” of a parcel to contiguous land “under common ownership or control” of the person who owns the land or controls the land on which mining was occurring, to include “leasehold interests.” This language is of great concern to people living in the proximity of industrial sand mines in Wisconsin, because unlike the traditional gravel pits on 40 acre parcels or adjoining 40s, industrial sand mines are in the hundreds of acres even exceeding 2,000 acres in some cases. It is our belief that the diminishing asset rule created by the court cases did not contemplate the use of leasehold interests for the size of industrial sand minds that exist today, that would be allowed to be “grandfathered in” under the diminishing asset rule as written by these bills.

Section 10 on page 7 and 8 of the bills would still allow towns and villages to adopt licensing ordinances but these ordinances would apply only to nonmetallic operations that begin operation after the adoption of the ordinance. Pre-existing nonmetallic operations would not be subject to new ordinances. The biggest concern about this section is that if a town or village adopted a licensing ordinance, they would not be able to amend that ordinance as it applies to any new operations that started after the original ordinance was in place. This is of concern in relation to industrial sand mining because as new technology and health impacts may be identified, if the original ordinance does not address these new issues the ordinance can not be amended to apply to existing nonmetallic operations. We believe there needs to be recognition that if new technology and health concerns arise in the future that local governments should be allowed to amend their ordinances to incorporate reasonable regulations that will protect public health and safety.

In Section 10 at lines 12 through 23 of SB 632 and AB 816 these bills would apply the diminishing asset protections to “off-site nometallic mineral processing facilities” and “off-site transportation facilities related to nonmetallic mining.” This is a vast expansion of the court doctrine that originally decided upon facts of a gravel pit on two forty acre parcels. The expansion of “off-site facilities” goes beyond what is necessary to protect nonmetallic mining in this state. In addition, according to Legislative Counsel’s comments, lines 22 and 23 of page 8 of the bills will require that any existing ordinances of “off-site facilities” must have been written separately from the nonmetallic mining ordinances that may have been written in the past. This is a new standard which has not been contemplated until this bill was introduced. This will dramatically limit towns, villages, and cities in regulating existing “off-site facilities.”  Lines 18 to 21 on page 8 even extend these protections to “off-site facilities” at the time the application for such a site is submitted. Many of these “off-site facilities” have never been contemplated by local governments, thus these bills will in effect limit any new ordinances or amendments to regulate these “off-site facilities.”

On page 10 of SB 632 and AB 816 at Sec. 17, lines 10 through 12, there is language to give registered nonmetallic reserves the same grandfathering protections as the court doctrine of diminishing assets. While registration of nonmetallic mining has been in the law since 1997, these bills will give such protections to possible nonmetallic mining sites that may not open for nearly 20 years out. By that time, again, new technology and health impacts may warrant updated ordinances, which these bills prevent for even the sites that only have been registered, but not even opened. Also the word “prevent” on line 11 on page 10, could be problematic, because it appears to allow new ordinances to apply to registered nonmetallic reserves that have not yet opened, but it will raise the question whether a licensing ordinance “prevents” the operator from operating on the registered land. Some companies have already said that limitations in some ordinances such as hours of operation, birm requirements, blasting requirements will “prevent” the site from operating economically to the optimum. The term “prevent” will invite litigation on whether a company is prevented from operating or only being regulated to protect public health and safety.

SB 632 and AB 816 in our opinion go beyond what the court doctrine enunciated in the earlier court of appeals decisions intended. The expansion of the doctrine to licensing ordinances and “off-site facilities” is beyond what the courts would hold as it applies to industrial sand mining as is occurring in Wisconsin at this time. These bills are not needed to protect the nonmetallic mining industry, in particular the industrial sand mines of the state. No existing ordinances have prevented any industrial sand mines from operating once approved.  We ask the legislature not pass SB 632 and AB 816.

Call or write your state senator today. Go HERE.

Thanks for taking action on this important issue.

Reasonable Citizen

The Pledge of Allegiance

How often do you say the Pledge of Allegiance? I say it at least once a month but usually more often. It is part of the culture when working in small town government.

Many of us know that the Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Christian socialist in the late 1800s  and that the words “under God” were added in 1954 through a Joint Resolution of Congress. There is a great history about the Pledge and well worth reading.

What I did not know are the groups that have objected to the Pledge from the beginning. The Jehovah Witnesses thought it was idolatrous to salute the flag and pledge allegiance. The Unitarians accept the Pledge prior to 1954 but not since the words “under God” were added. And, of course, the atheists object to anything that recognizes – or acknowledges – a higher power than themselves.

Of interest though is this:

A bill, H.R. 2389, was introduced in Congress in 2005 which, if enacted into law, would have stripped the Supreme Court and most federal courts of the power to consider any legal challenges to government requiring or promoting of the Pledge of Allegiance. H.R. 2389 was passed by the House of Representatives in July 2006, but failed after the Senate did not take up the bill. This action is viewed in general as court stripping by Congress over the Judiciary. Even if a similar bill is enacted, its practical effect may not be clear: proponents of the bill have argued that it is a valid exercise of Congress’s power to regulate the jurisdiction of the federal courts under Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution, but opponents question whether Congress has the authority to prevent the Supreme Court from hearing claims based on the Bill of Rights (since amendments postdate the original text of the Constitution and may thus implicitly limit the scope of Article III, Section 2). Judges and legal analysts have voiced concerns that Congress can strip or remove from the judicial branch the ability to determine if legislation is constitutional.[32]

Because of the Pledge of Allegiance, some wanted to take away the Constitutional right of the Supreme Court to make any ruling about the Pledge. That has to be the highest order of irony around.

You don’t have to say the Pledge of Allegiance if you don’t want to. It is a free country. But if you do say the Pledge then say it loud, with pride, and emphasize every word of it. I only want people who believe in the Pledge (and believe in this country) to actually say it. It has more power coming from believers than from those coerced into saying it. If others do not believe it, then let them be silent. I don’t want to hear what they have to say anyway.

Reasonable Citizen

The Battle for Local Control of Sand Mine Regulation is underway…

Wisconsin Sen. Vinehout speaks out about Wisconsin Senate Bill 632. This is the second attempt to strip power from local communities and control what happens through lobbyists in Madison….-Reasonable Citizen

Sand Mine Bill Strips Local Powers, Community’s Ability to Say “No”

Should communities be able to prevent development of sand mines? Can communities set rules if sand mine operations are inadequate to protect nearby residents?

A new “communities cannot say no to sand mines” bill is making its way through the Legislature. The bill introduced by Senator Tiffany, chair of the Senate Mining committee, appears on the fast track. It could be up for final passage in both houses less than two weeks after it was unveiled.

The bill freezes in place the public health, safety and welfare protections for a community as they relate to existing sand mines. If this bill becomes law, the locals wouldn’t be able to write and enforce a new ordinance on any permitted mine during the life of that permit – as long as 25 years.

Much can happen in 25 years.

Local people who have written ordinances say it appears nearly all local ordinances would be invalid under this bill. That’s because the bill also requires ordinances relating to approval of sand mines be split apart from ordinances relating to the trucking of sand from the mine and processing of sand.

Most existing ordinances address the regulation of the actual mine as well as sand processing and transportation.

The combination of freezing in place rules affecting existing sand mines andinvalidating most local ordinances will throw sand mine regulation into legal chaos. The bill creates a huge legal gray area on exactly which ordinance the sand mines would have to follow – the one made invalid by the bill or the new one rewritten to comply with the bill, or none at all.

Finally, this bill sets up a back-door process by which mine owners can avoid new restrictions and open a mine anywhere as long as they register the mineral deposit with local officials.

Changing a little known part of the statute written when comprehensive planning was put in place, this bill would stop a local community from saying ‘no’ to a mine owner who registered his mineral deposit.

Owners or those leasing property where a mine might be developed would be able to register that property with the town or county and have the existing rules for sand mines “locked in” at the time of registration for a period of up to 20 years. In addition locals could do nothing to prevent the mines’ operation.

Many residents from the Town of Dover in Buffalo County wrote me saying the bill seeks to get around recent actions. One landowner explained (and I paraphrase) in the last 10 months Dover officials held more than a dozen public meetings including a community forum attended by a quarter of the town’s population. Last July, in a unanimous vote, town officials recommended the county deny a permit for a 400-acre mine. In October, town officials adopted Village Powers. In January 2014, town officials adopted a Comprehensive Land Use Plan. In February, they adopted a sand mine ordinance resembling that of the Town of Cooks Valley.

While the Town of Dover was doing this work, the four owners of the mine quietly registered their mineral deposits with the county Register of Deeds. A Dover resident wrote: If Senator Tiffany’s bill is passed, it would make all of the work that our town did to protect itself of no avail. Thousands of dollars have been spent by the town, as well as by landowners, so the voice of the town’s people may be heard.  Where do you find democracy speaking and being respected in this bill?

If this bill passes, Dover and other local communities can never say ‘No’.

Just because an underground mineral deposit exists does not mean humans should extract it – at the expense of all of the wealth that exists above ground.

This bill is far more dangerous than its earlier cousin. It will set precedence for every other mineral deposit in Wisconsin. Do we want sand mining next to Lake Delton?

Industrial mining has its place. But it is a place that must be determined by the people who live in that neighborhood. Taking away the community’s ability to say ‘no’ is taking away local control.

The Attack on Local Control Continues

Well, just when you thought you might win, you learn that the Frac Sand Borg are simply changing to come against you in a different way.

SB 349 was withdrawn and is dead. It took all local control away from municipalities to regulate the environment surrounding frac sand mines and processing plants.

Now we have SB 632 and its kissing cousin AB 816 which seek to create loopholes in frac sand ordinances by allowing landowners to register their land in advance and if local ordinances are not in place one year prior to registration, then the ordinances are invalid against the frac sand companies.

What a chess game this is turning out to be. Obviously, the frac sand companies have learned that towns (and other municipalities) will craft ordinances when they hear that test drillings have occurred. To prevent this move by small towns, the frac sand companies seek to circumvent this through state law that allows a property owner to simply register his land in advance. This prevents towns from enacting last minute regulation to control the environmental impacts on their towns.

Of course, every town should have done something already but they haven’t. This SB632 slaps those slow towns across the face and says “Ha! You were too slow. Now you have to live with our impact on the environment whether you like it or not because this farmer, land owner, what ever has pre-registered with the state.

I hear that soon there will be a 4,000 acre sand mining operation in place and then we will all learn belatedly the real results of large sand mines in operation.

Local control is under attack again. C’mon Wisconsin, fight back.Stoddard_Testimony_in_Opposition_to_SB_632__Ab_816_2-27-14-1