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Member since: Sat Dec 6, 2003, 05:15 AM
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There was no internet in 1979. The government was not doing massive

surveillance in 1979. Smith v. Maryland has only very limited, very marginal relevance to the program we are discussing now.

It will probably take a long time and quite a few decisions, but eventually, the Supreme Court will realize that this massive surveillance is incompatible with the Constitution on a number of grounds.

Not only does it deprive individual Americans of their innate right to express themselves freely with each other, but it elevates the executive branch of our government far above the others by giving the executive the authority to collect the metadata on anyone serving in the other branches as well as anyone running for office for the legislature. Thus the separation of powers is jeopardized, actually nonexistent when the executive can spy on the members of the other branches of government. So we have a constitutional crisis. A lot of people don't understand that, but that is where we are. Smith v. Maryland has nothing to do with the current situation. It dealt only with the Fourth Amendment issues and its use in convicting a criminal. It did not concern collecting information on law abiding citizens with absolutely no reason to do it other than that it is possible o do it.

In Smith v. Maryland, Thurgood Marshall dissented saying among other things:

The use of pen registers, I believe, constitutes such an extensive intrusion. To hold otherwise ignores the vital role telephonic communication plays in our personal and professional relationships, see Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. at 389 U. S. 352, as well as the First and Fourth Amendment interests implicated by unfettered official surveillance. Privacy in placing calls is of value not only to those engaged in criminal activity. The prospect of unregulated governmental monitoring will undoubtedly prove disturbing even to those with nothing illicit to hide. Many individuals, including members of unpopular political organizations or journalists with confidential sources, may legitimately wish to avoid disclosure of their personal contacts. See NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U. S. 449, 357 U. S. 463 (1958); Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U. S. 665, 408 U. S. 695 (1972); id. at 408 U. S. 728-734 (STEWART, J., dissenting). Permitting governmental access to telephone records on less than probable cause may thus impede certain forms of political affiliation and journalistic endeavor that are the hallmark of a truly free society. Particularly given the Government's previous reliance on warrantless telephonic surveillance to trace reporters' sources and monitor protected political activity, [Footnote 3/2] I am unwilling to insulate use of pen registers from independent judicial review.

. . . .

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. STEWART, J., post, p. 442 U. S. 746, and MARSHALL, J., post, p. 442 U. S. 748, filed dissenting opinions, in which BRENNAN, J., joined. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.


About Thurgood Marshall:


He was a liberal and one of the most distinguished and best Supreme Court Justices in the history of our nation.

It is not uncommon that the Supreme Court confronting new facts turns to a dissent in a former case for guidance in issuing an opinion. And the Thurgood Marshall dissent in Smith v. Maryland is an excellent dissent, well reasoned.

The facts in this massive surveillance system that permits analysis all the metadata to create a picture, a sketch of someone under surveillance and their connections are very different from those in Smith v. Maryland in which a suspect's telephone records were obtained without a subpoena. In Smith v. Maryland, the police were examining the records of a specific person without a warrant. They were not just willy-nilly examining all connections of most of the communications of masses of people. They did not have the computer capacity to handle that much information.

So I would not count on Smith v. Maryland's precedent. The facts are very different. Smith v. Maryland might carry the day in some decisions for a few years, but if we continue to have anything resembling our current constitutional government, Smith v. Maryland will eventually be overturned, I think, at least with regard to this massive surveillance.

In addition to everything I have already explained, the authorities who are collecting this so-called metadata have the ability to make a lot more sense of it by using computers than they did in 1979. I would also like to point out that in 1979, the government was not collecting the metadata of members of Congress or of members of the judicial branch of government.

This new surveillance does not just raise 4th Amendment issues but also raises 1st Amendment and other human rights issues as well as separation of powers issues. Thurgood Marshall -- as usual a visionary who saw much further than his contemporaries on the court.

Sorry if I am rambling. It is getting late.

The police crackdown on the Occupiers was pretty horrible.

The executive has a reach into the metadata of everyone in every branch of government as well as every activist in every party, everyone with a political opinion or a complaint.
Wall Street colluded to fix interest rates and just about everything else and no one has been prosecuted.
Lenders committed fraud in order to foreclose on homeowners who had been goaded into mortgages that cost more than the houses that were their security, but no lenders were prosecuted, not to speak of anyway.
We have seen fraud upon fraud, no indictments.

And meanwhile, our government is spying on all our metadata, knows who we call, when, who we e-mail, when and all our financial relationships, all our family and friends and just how often we are in contact with them.

But it's all cool because only a few people have been arrested or beaten by the police. Only a few have lost their jobs. Only a small percentage of homeowners lost their homes. Only a small proportion of Americans declared bankruptcy. So it's all cool with the government snooping on our private business.

"We think we are free."


"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

"This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

. . . .
. . . "The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your ‘little men,’ your baker and so on; I speak of my colleagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the ‘national enemies,’ without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?

"To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

. . . .

But, the fact that a court order requires Verizon to maintain

all records which means they are available for mass subpoenaing by the government is not in question.

I think that the Obama administration needs to be far more "transparent" (his word, his promise) than it is being.

And this is in addition to the fact that ordinary, harmless grandmothers like me are being put through a wringer when we try to go visit our families and pass through airports. If the intrusion on our privacy were not enough, the money spent on this while our bridges and schools deteriorate is deplorable.

I could but a ten-foot fence around my house. But I have other priorities. That is the question. What are the priorities of our government? What are our priorities?

That's the question.

National security means more than just sifting through our e-mails and phone calls. It means repairing our bridges, our schools, making public spaces available for democratic assembles.

The real question is what kind of nation are we? One in which we huddle in fear in our cocoons, in our homes, while homeless people are left to starve on our streets so that we can "fight" terrorism with a massive fear campaign?

Or are we to be a compassionate, enlightened nation that is to be a beacon of freedom, liberty and and equality for all the world?

We are at a crossroad here. We have to choose.

Do you want to spend the rest of your life cowering in fear that you might say the wrong thing in an e-mail or to a neighbor? Or do you want to live free as Americans always have.

These NSA programs suggest to me that we are becoming a nation of suspicious cowards. Why? We have so much to be proud of.

And contrary to what conservatives think, I have lived outside the US for years. Americans are respected and loved. Sometimes ridiculed. Sometimes questioned. But respected and loved. Let's don't change who we are because of a few fanatical terrorists. Please. We must remain a nation of FREE PATRIOTS, not become a nation of cowering ninnies.

I posted this in response to someone who said that taxes should not be raised to require

those who work hard and accumulate money and run businesses to pay for those who don't work.

It's about what protects the right to property.

I would like to remind all DUers that, contrary to the teachings of the right-wing and corporations, the right to private property is not "natural." The right to private property exists by force. If someone steals something from you, you can only get it back by persuasion or by force.

Who or what enforces property rights in our country? The police who are controlled by the government.

In feudal societies, a hierarchical structure of nobility and everybody else controls the government and owns the property. The nobility enforces its own property rights.

Our government is democratic meaning that the people as a whole control it (supposedly). Thus, it is the people as a whole through the government that enforce property rights. Any property you think you own, you own only because the government is willing to enforce your right to that property.

Corporations understand this. That is why they work so hard to control the government. A system in which corporations and businesses control the government and its enforcement capacity including its police power and military, is called "fascist." The NAZIs were a form of fascism.

So, when you work for something and think you own it, ask yourself how you will enforce your ownership rights.

The answer is that you will support a government that enforces your ownership rights and protects them on your behalf.

We think we own businesses and build them and create them. But we can only do that if the government protects our right to own, build and create them.

The Republicans and conservatives in general want to use the government to protect the property and other rights of the rich -- of those who have won the biggest prizes in the game to acquire property.

In feudal societies, the rich, the owners, wisely provided work, shelter and food to those in need. They claimed to do it as a religious obligation. They did it because they feared going to Hell if they didn't. Hell for the rich is no property rights. If the rich fail to take care of the poor, the rich will lose their property rights. That is because when the rich fail to take care of the poor, fail to share, the poor take from the rich. But the only way the rich can enforce their rights is through brute force. The rich, even in a feudal society, need enough physical support from the poor and middle class to be able to enforce their property rights.

So next time that someone tells you that they don't want to pay higher taxes to support people who don't work, ask him whether paying higher taxes to support the poor and the jobless is really such a high price to pay for domestic tranquility that secures the majority of his property rights.

That's what it boils down to. You refuse to share with others; you run a huge risk of losing what you have. The survival of the fittest bit that so appeals to libertarians is not so appealing when you think that a society in which only the "fittest" can survive becomes very brutal very quickly. Ayn Rand is a fraud. She never understood social interaction. I have wondered whether perhaps she was extremely autistic.

Property exists in our democratic society because of a social agreement among us to enforce an individual's right to property. That is part of what our Constitution is about.

. . . .

The Koch brothers want to control the government because they claim a lot of property rights that they want the government to protect.

Here is an example of how the government protects and enforces property rights:

During the foreclosure crisis, the banks went to court and got orders permitting them to foreclose on mortgage debtors in default. The sheriff or other official

(As an aside, the irony was that the banks had used an unofficial, extralegal method for recording their interests in the properties, so the entire foreclosure process in many cases, although enforced by the courts, quite probably did not comply with the rules that enable the government to enforce the banks' claims to the property. I find that very ironic. The banks broke the law, but sought to rely on the courts that enforce the law to help them out when borrowers defaulted. Typical right-wing, short-sighed, illogical view of life and society and property and how things work.)

That's the way our country developed. Land was cheap. Some of it was simply homesteaded.

The government gave it or sold it for very little to people who were willing to farm it. Government divided the land, maintained a system of records so that people could buy and sell and establish their ownership of the land. The government is sovereign, has the right of eminent domain and can take the land back when it wants if it pays fair value.

The railroads were a public/private partnership. The government gave much of the land, and the private investors built the railroads.

The federal parks that Theodore Roosevelt established on public land across America are the basis for an infrastructure of tourist and travel businesses. People come from around the world to see Yellowstone and other great American parks. The parks are infrastructure. Government investment in those parks inspired many people to start businesses in travel, sports equipment and all kinds of associated businesses. Many individuals and companies profit from the infrastructure that the government saved and keeps safe and enjoyable.

Across America, in our parks, our schools, in our public buildings, on our bridges, we use infrastructure that was built by the Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression. We are a richer country because of those investments.

During the Eisenhower era, the government funded and built a highway system that stretches across the country and connects us all. That infrastructure facilitated trade and, like the railroads, brought the country together. Ask trucking businesses whether government spending on infrastructure helped them start their businesses. The answer is obvious.

Our government investments in early computers and in space exploration led to the internet, to new ways to transmit communications and all kinds of private businesses.

Entrepreneurs feed off the discoveries at universities especially the sciences and humanities. Pharmaceutical companies rely on a lot of basic research done in American public universities and by the NIH.

You might be surprised at how many musicians who make lots of money for the corporations that distribute their records learned to play instruments or sing in school music programs. (Pre-Reagan, there was a lot more music in the schools than there is now.) Same for art. Kids discover their talents in schools, and then they use those talents that they discovered at school in their businesses.

The expression, "use it or lose it" applies to the talents of people as well as their muscles and minds. As a society right now, thanks to austerity and the recession that preceded it, we are not using our skills and our abilities and so we are losing them. We really are. That is why the government needs to step in and spend what it must to keep people using their skills and abilities. Because otherwise those skills and abilities will be lost.

And what destroys creativity, what prevents people from starting businesses is partly the hopelessness of the bad economy but also the sense of inadequacy, of not having the skills and abilities they need to succeed in a business. People also, as others have said, are not starting businesses because demand is weak.

You can't start a small business no matter how good your product or services if your customers can't afford to pay you. People who don't have jobs can't afford to spend money to keep new businesses going.

Government spending on infrastructure and education and job creation in infrastructure and education is probably the only way that we can get our economy moving at this time.

We also need to improve our trade balance by putting the brakes on out-of-control imports.

Libertarians see human interaction as two-dimensional when in fact there are many

dimensions to human interaction.

One of those dimensions is the set of social rules that governs how we interact. Government is the expression of those social rules. That's all it is.

Language is a rule. We all agree on what words mean. That makes human communication possible. Different societies have different languages, but all languages have rules. (Chomsky was a linguist. He attempted to identify the universal rules of language. Maybe that is why his views on government and society are so interesting.)

The minute you agree on language, you agree to be governed by that language. There is no escaping that linguistic government.

The minute you agree with others to speak a language that is mutually understood, you have implicitly agreed to an entire series of rules that eventually become government in one form or another.

Whether you are enslaved by the government that controls your society or are freed by it, you are governed and are a part of government, in the form that organizes your social interactions and therefore your society. Like it or not, admit it or not, you cannot communicate without the agreements that comprise language, and you cannot exchange goods or live with other humans without some set of agreements that constitute government. You can call it something else, but you have to have government if you are going to interact with others.

The libertarian utopia could only exist in the extreme version of Rousseau's society of misanthropes who live entirely without contact with other human beings. A true libertarian is a wild man with no language. Which is a funny thought because most people I have known who thought of themselves as libertarians were pretty egotistical. They were always among the first to want the approval of other human beings, among the first to want to tell others what to do, among the first to start advocating for imposing social rules on others.

Libertarians think they want to live in a society without rules. So do two-year-olds. The cure for libertarians might be to teach a class of two-year-olds for 24 hours a day. They would soon understand why we create governments to impose and enforce social rules.

So, just how much money are those lazy seniors getting from their Social Security?

What is the maximum monthly Social Security retirement benefit?

The maximum benefit depends on the age a worker chooses to retire. For example, for a worker retiring at age 66 in 2012, the amount is $2,513. This figure is based on earnings at the maximum taxable amount for every year after age 21.


That is $30,156 per year.

That seems like a lot compared to the $15,080 you earn working 2080 hours (40 per week) at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for a year.

But that $15,080 per year sounds pretty good to the average Social Security recipient who was receiving $14,760 per year as of January 2012 -- even less than our friend earning a minimum wage.


And at least $100 per month or $1,200 of that $14,760 is taken out of the Social Security benefit to pay for Medicare before that senior ever gets his money. That brings the basic Social Security/Medicare benefit down to $13,560 per year.

The poverty guideline for one person is $11,490.


So, Social Security keeps the average single senior just $2070 above the poverty guideline limit. Keep your husband or wife alive, hon, because if you lose him or her, it's tough sledding ahead.

Some seniors pay much more for their basic Medicare than $100 per month. I know someone who is retired, on Medicare and has to pay $300 per month for her Medicare based on the health insurance company that her former employer chose for her.

Our co-pays for Medicare vary from $5.00 to hundreds of dollars depending on what procedures we have done and where we have them done. I am enrolled with Kaiser. It's probably the cheapest or at least one of the very least expensive Medicare plans. To go basic Medicare in L.A. is complicated because you have to pick doctors, specialists, etc.

To be so lucky as to receive $30,156 per year from Social Security, you would have to have earned pretty much the maximum salary or wage subject to Social Security taxes for many years. And most people don't do that.

Remember, the very rich, people like Romney or Pete Peterson, don't take much, if any of their millions in income that is subject to Social Security taxes. They receive capital gains and other forms of income besides, only approximately the first $110,000 of wages or earned income is subject to the payroll or Social Security taxes.

So the very rich are not benefiting or losing that much from Social Security or payroll taxes. Many of them don't pay much at all into it. I cannot understand why they are even concerned about it.


There is really a lot of misinformation about Social Security out there.

I am posting this on my DU journal so that I and others can refer to it in the future.

For minimum wage link:


Email this page

What is the average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker?

The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker was about $1,230 at the beginning of 2012. This amount changes monthly based upon the total amount of all benefits paid and the total number of people receiving benefits.


You got it. I would never support a budget or a president who would

propose a budget or a member of Congress who would vote for a budget that contained the chained CPI or any measure that would cut Social Security benefits.

Fact is that if you get Social Security benefits and have an income of over $80,000 per year, you probably don't keep much if anything of your Social Security benefits. You probably pay taxes of that amount to the federal government. (And maybe even more in taxes than that.)

If you make more than $40,000 per year and receive Social Security, you also pay more in taxes than your rate would normally be on Social Security.

Everyone else on Social Security is receiving an average or below-average income and thus should not have a benefit cut.

Cutting Social Security is the equivalent of giving an employee a permanent pay cut -- that cannot be changed. A lower pay that can never be raised.

I totally and unequivocally will not support any budget or anyone who proposes a budget with cuts to Social Security.

Don't make people prove they are poor.

Some seniors did not pay enough into the Social Security system to qualify for benefits that exceed the poverty level. At this time, those seniors qualify for things like food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid which are PAID OUT OF THE GENERAL FUND and which raise them above the poverty line in most cases.

It sounds wonderful, absolutely benevolent, to propose that the lowest Social Security benefits be raised. Great idea. But that is not the idea. The idea is to TRANSFER the cost of paying for the extra and very essential benefits to these very poor seniors TO THE SOCIAL SECURITY FUND and then cutting the earned benefits of those who paid into the fund and receive slightly higher benefits.

Are "some people" getting rich from Social Security? Are they living "high off the trough?"

Here is a fact:

What is the maximum monthly Social Security retirement benefit?

The maximum benefit depends on the age a worker chooses to retire. For example, for a worker retiring at age 66 in 2012, the amount is $2,513. This figure is based on earnings at the maximum taxable amount for every year after age 21.


That is $30,156 per year.

Granted 2080 hours at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per year totals only $15,080 per year. But to get $30,156 per year you would have to have earned pretty much the maximum salary of wage subject to Social Security taxes for a number of years. But the average Social Security recipient received $14,760 per year -- slightly less than minimum wage. At least $100 of that $14,760 probably went to pay for Medicare for that senior. Some seniors pay much more. I know someone who is retired, on Medicare and has to pay $300 per month for her Medicare based on the health insurance company that her former employer chose to go with.

There is really a lot of misinformation about Social Security out there.

I am posting this on my DU diary or blog so that I and others can refer to it in the future.

For minimum wage link:


Email this page

What is the average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker?

The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker was about $1,230 at the beginning of 2012. This amount changes monthly based upon the total amount of all benefits paid and the total number of people receiving benefits.


Thanks. It's a game to distract Americans from the real issues of imports and their impact

on jobs and as a result impact on wages and ultimately on tax revenues.

It's a daisy chain of bad policies that lead to financial ruin.
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