But it is by no means a sure thing that Florida voters will even get the chance to vote on it next year. The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments against putting it on the ballot earlier this month from Attorney General Pam Bondi, who said the because of how the amendment is presented, its true scope and effect remain hidden. The Court has until next April to decide on that.
It was exactly nine years ago yesterday, December 16, 2005, when the New York Times revealed that George W. Bush had secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying.
As we've learned since then (thanks mostly to Edward Snowden), the surveillance begun under President Bush has only escalated under President Obama and hasn't slowed down at all, despite concerns from civil libertarians, members of Congress, world leaders and others.
But that may end now. Yesterday a federal judge ruled that the NSA's daily collection of virtually all Americans’ phone records is almost certainly unconstitutional.
“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,” said Richard Leon, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. “Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment."
This is the first time a judge has ruled against the NSA in their surveillance campaign. Then again, it hasn't exactly been a fair legal fight, has it? The previous courts who have ruled in favor of the NSA (the FISA court) have only had to hear the government's side of those cases.
By the way, the ruling comes the day after CBS' 60 Minutes lost some more credibility as our finest news program, giving NSA officials a broad platform to tell "their side" of the story, in a report that has been maligned by national security reporters from across the country.
In other news: The Tampa Bay Times this morning endorsed Kathleen Peters in the CD13 Republican race for Congress that takes place next month. The endorsement comes after a Washington political website reported that Peters and her husband were late in paying their taxes 10 times in 15 years. But what caught our attention to the story was the comment made by Peters' spokesperson.
And a second report on what would happen if the transit agencies of Hillsborough County (HART) and Pinellas County (PSTA) were to merge is being prepared right now, bringing out familiar criticisms and concerns from HART board members who think the whole idea is a big mistake.
I know it seems like ancient history to remind Americans about the 16-day government shutdown back in October, but how about this statistic: According to an initial analysis from Standard & Poor's, that shutdown took a $24 billion chunk out of the U.S. economy. That's something that House Speaker John Boehner and others in House Republican leadership certainly haven't forgotten. Nor have they forgotten the horrific public polling that blamed them for what is now generally considered a debacle that should never have occurred.
But Rick Scott disagreed. That's why in February he announced that he wanted the state to take the feds money. In that regard, he was like several other Republican governors throughout the country who faced resistance to buying into the ACA. But unlike Arizona's Jan Brewer, Ohio's John Kasich and Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett, Scott failed to lift a finger in advocating that his legislature support it this past spring. That's not a criticism, per se. That's simply a fact.
In approving the ballot language last night, Pinellas legislators again demonstrated how much they've learned from Hillsborough's failure in 2010. For one thing, the Hillsborough board didn't approve such language for their ballot measure until May of that year, a little less than six months before voters would go to the polls. Pinellas registered voters won't cast a ballot on the measure for nearly 11 more months.
But is there seriously any doubt that the Person of the Year in terms of making news and an impact on the world is NSA leaker Edward Snowden? As a Honolulu-based employee of Booz Allen Hamilton doing contract work for the NSA, Snowden became disaffected about how the U.S. was using (and in his mind, abusing) surveillance tactics in the need for security. The data he then accessed and distributed through some thumb drives still are having repercussions, nearly half a year after Glenn Greenwald posted his first stories for The Guardian on the NSA.
Congrats to the Tampa Bay Bucs, the best worst team in the game. Led by stud linebacker Lavonte David, they cruised over the miserable Buffalo Bills in a dragged out sloppy as all-all heck game in ridiculously warm December weather yesterday, prevailing 27-6. Now the Bucs host my favorite team, the still-alive-for-a-Super Bowl San Francisco 49ers next Sunday at Raymond James at 1:00 p.m. The Niners manned up and squeezed by the best team in the NFL this season, Seattle, 19-17, in the last regular Sunday season game at Candlestick Park yesterday (though those who took the Seahawks and the 2.5 points cleaned up).
I was attending San Francisco State University in 1985 when shantytowns were created on the campus, a form of continuing anti-apartheid protests that rocked college campuses across the country opposing the U.S's support of the racist policies of the South African government. I'm not even sure why it took until that year for the resistance to break out in America, but it did in a big way, and it was an electrifying moment for our generation, many of whom were looking for a cause greater than themselves.
Full divestment was the term used back then, and slowly but surely, university systems began divesting their investment portfolios that included stock in companies that did business with the P. W. Botha-led government.
But that won't be happening. Or probably not. The freshman U.S. Senator from Massachusetts announced yesterday that she has no intention for running for higher office, at least not until she finishes up her first term, which isn't for five more years.
But as every article reporting on this development adds, a guy by the name of Barack Obama said the same thing early into his one and only term as Senator.