Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. It's not like we needed any more proof, but documents released by Edward Snowden show that the NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times every year. According to an internal NSA audit obtained by the Washington Post, there were nearly 3,000 incidents of unauthorized collection, storage, access to, or distribution of legally protected communications between 2011 and 2012 alone. Allegedly, most of the incidents were unintended. But, according to the Washington post, many were "failures of due diligence," and others were outright violations of standard NSA operating procedure. Some of the most egregious violations included disobeying a court order, and using unauthorized data from more than 3,000 Americans and legal residents. A senior NSA official spoke to the Washington Post anonymously, and said, "We're a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times, we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line." Since news of the NSA spying programs broke, Americans have been told repeatedly by NSA supporters that our privacy has not been violated – Not once! However, these documents prove that is simply not true. In addition, NSA officials deliberately left out many details of these violations in reports submitted to congressional intelligence committees, the Justice Department, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Last year, former NSA Director Keith Alexander said, "We don't hold data on U.S. citizens", however newly-revealed NSA auditing guidelines don't require the agency to spell out if, when, or how many Americans were spied on. Without Edward Snowden, this information would have been kept from the public and even from the majority of our national leaders. This report shows that nobody is watching the watchers, and despite all claims to the contrary, the watchers are, in fact, watching us.
In screwed news... These days, just because you make more than the minimum wage, it doesn't mean you have enough to get by. New data from the Center for Housing Policy shows that even so-called "white collar" employees can't afford the rent prices in many major cities. Examples from the data include a receptionist, a bank teller, and an urban planner – none of whom get paid enough to cover the cost of the average rent in places like Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles. These jobs are what most people would consider "middle class," yet the median salary of workers in these industries is too low to qualify for a one bedroom apartment in metropolitan areas, let alone a two bedroom for a small family. At $30,000 dollars a year or less, these salaries just don't cover today's expenses. And, they certainly don't provide enough income to pay off the college loans that these positions now require. It's not just fast-food employees and low-wage workers that need a raise, most of our middle class does as well. After accounting for inflation, workers today make less than they did in 1968. We may be the richest country in the world, but our workforce isn't sharing in any of that wealth.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The White House is getting a little more green. President Obama announced back in 2010 that he would put solar panels back on the White House, and they are finally getting installed. President Jimmy Carter first installed solar panels back in the 1970's, but Ronald Reagan called them a "joke" and took them down. Bill McKibben, the leader of 350.org, said, "No one should ever have taken down the panels...but it's very good to know that once again the country's most powerful address will be drawing some of that power from the sun." According to a White House official, the panels are "part of an energy retrofit that will improve the overall energy efficiency of the building." It's not clear how much power these new panels will provide, but they will help demonstrate that older buildings can be energy efficient. Our nation still has a long way to go to make the switch to green energy, but our Commander in Chief is taking another small step towards a cleaner future.
North Carolina's new voter suppression laws are being called the most deplorable in our nation, and we're finding out that they're even worse than we thought. According to a new report from The State newspaper, the new voter suppression laws will make it nearly impossible for college students to vote. In addition to drastically cutting early voting hours, and rejecting college ID's to vote, the new bill will force 9,300 voters to use one small precinct, that only has 35 parking spots. Many of those 9,300 voters are college students, who previously voted on-campus . Those college polling places have now been eliminated. College students have a tendency to vote Democratic, so North Carolina Republicans want to keep them away from the polls. Several lawsuits have been filed to block these voter suppression laws, and students in North Carolina are hoping those legal efforts succeed.
And finally... A 911 operator in Kent, Washington saved the wedding of one very thankful woman. A soon-to-be-bride was packing up her car on her way to get married. She loaded in her wedding dress, went inside to get a few more things, but when she came back, her dress was gone. So, she called 911 to report the theft. Candice, the 911 operator who took the call, was married just 18 months before, asked the caller when the wedding was scheduled, and the frantic woman sadly said "today." So, with the approval of her supervisor, Candice offered the woman her wedding dress, and she gratefully accepted. Her supervisor said, "Candice is an extraordinary person. She had something someone else needed, and she made it happen." She definitely saved one woman's special day, and fulfilled the "something borrowed" tradition in a totally unique way.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, August 16, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.