Cat Tracks October 29
U.S. spying programs
It’s one thing to spy on your enemies, but spying on your friends is a good way to make them all enemies. Spain joined France, Germany, Brazil and Mexico on Monday in complaints against the Obama administration’s surveillance programs when they summoned the U.S. ambassador to Spain to explain reports that the National Security Agency was listening in on officials’ phone calls.
Is there anyone the NSA isn’t spying on? Edward Snowden, the former contractor for the NSA, released classified documents detailing how the agency collects information on American citizens, we now know they spy on some of our closest allies and we can assume they spy on our enemies.
The NSA has denied that President Obama knew of the foreign surveillance programs, but the blame will still rightfully fall on his administration.
No one expected the new healthcare exchanges that went into effect at the beginning of the month to go off without a hitch, but it’s fair to say the problems with the HealthCare.gov website are more serious that a few hitches. It flat out doesn’t work for many of the people attempting to enroll, and without young and healthy people enrolling in the healthcare exchanges, the program is sure to fail.
The Department of Health and Human Services has promised a “tech surge” where it will bring in the “best and brightest” programmers to solve the problems with the website. That’s all they can really do at this point, but it still begs the question: Why wasn’t the A-team working on this before the site launched?
The Obama administration dodged a political bullet on this one: A CNN/ORC International poll from September showed that although about 80 percent of Americans thought Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons against its own people, a strong majority didn’t want the American military to get involved.
Currently, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international group responsible for overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, is in the process of inspecting about 50 chemical weapons storage sites throughout the country. This is unlikely to limit the number of civilians killed, but it is a step in the right direction toward bringing both sides to the table to negotiate a truce.
This will be out of the public eye until December or so when we approach the brink of our next financial crisis. Congress has promised to work on a budget in the meantime to avoid the need to cut it close on another credit default, but I would really like to play poker with someone who believes Congress will follow through on its promises.
A Pew Research Center study shows that the 113th Congress is on track to be one of the least productive in history, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has turned on the news in the last year.
It would be nice to think that these things will all work themselves out, but with Tea Party extremists on one side and a president who has repeatedly failed to reach out to moderate Republicans — or even members of his own party for that matter — on the other side, I’m not holding my breath.