Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cuba Libre!

It's about damned time.
President Obama on Wednesday ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century as he vowed to “cut loose the shackles of the past” and sweep aside one of the last vestiges of the Cold War.


“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” Mr. Obama said in a nationally televised statement from the White House.

”Begin to.” Well, at least it’s a step in the right direction. Not to mention, he needed something so that history can give him a good point.
Republicans, along with a senior Democrat, quickly characterized the rapprochement with the Castro family as appeasement of the hemisphere’s leading dictatorship.
They would, wouldn’t they?
Republican lawmakers who will take control of the Senate as well as the House next month made clear they would resist lifting the 54-year-old trade embargo.
God love ‘em.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Our Faux Democracy Trundles On

Jeb Bush yesterday strongly suggested he was running for President in 2016. If he wins the GOP nomination, it is highly likely that his opponent for the presidency would be Hillary Clinton.

Having someone who is the brother of one former president and the son of another run against the wife of still another former president would be sweetly illustrative of all sorts of degraded and illusory aspects of American life, from meritocracy to class mobility. That one of those two families exploited its vast wealth to obtain political power, while the other exploited its political power to obtain vast wealth, makes it more illustrative still: of the virtually complete merger between political and economic power, of the fundamentally oligarchical framework that drives American political life.

  The Intercept
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Who We Are - Part 2

Update Regarding Attacks in Response to Torture Report

If They'd Only Get Educated

At the mean, white families with less than a high school education have $161.5k of wealth, which is higher than every black and hispanic family, except those with college degrees. Black families with college degrees have a mean wealth of $162.8k, which is effectively the same as the mean wealth of white families with less than a high school education.


Friday, December 19, 2014

What's Up with the Movies?

Sony reached out to the administration to ask them to review the film, a comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogan that depicts the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. One leaked scene shows Kim Jong Un's head exploding, though it is not clear what version made it into the final version of the movie.

The FBI and Justice Department are currently investigating a major cyber attack on Sony Pictures that is likely the work of North Korea, after the country said the film's portrayal of their leader was an "act of war."

Today Sony canceled the premiere of “The Interview” and its entire Christmas-Day release of the movie because of fears that terrorists might attack theaters showing the film.

The actions show just how much power the attackers behind the Sony hack have amassed in a short time. But who exactly are they?

I know! I know! North Korea! Right?
First off, we have to say that attribution in breaches is difficult. Assertions about who is behind any attack should be treated with a hefty dose of skepticism. Skilled hackers use proxy machines and false IP addresses to cover their tracks or plant false clues inside their malware to throw investigators off their trail. When hackers are identified and apprehended, it’s generally because they’ve made mistakes or because a cohort got arrested and turned informant.


It’s easy for attackers to plant false flags that point to North Korea or another nation as the culprit. And even when an attack appears to be nation-state, it can be difficult to know if the hackers are mercenaries acting alone or with state sponsorship.


Nation-state attacks aren’t generally as noisy, or announce themselves with an image of a blazing skeleton posted to infected computers, as occurred in the Sony hack. Nor do they use a catchy nom-de-hack like Guardians of Peace to identify themselves.


“It is not clear how the United States came to its determination that the North Korean regime played a central role in the Sony attacks.” The public evidence pointing at the Hermit Kingdom is flimsy.

Other theories of attribution focus on hacktivists—motivated by ideology, politics or something else—or disgruntled insiders who stole the data on their own or assisted outsiders in gaining access to it. Recently, the finger has pointed at China.
OK. But we can still blame North Korea.
First of all, Sony and the FBI have announced that they’ve found no evidence so far to tie North Korea to the attack. New reports, however, indicate that intelligence officials who are not permitted to speak on the record have concluded that the North Koreans are behind the hack. But they have provided no evidence to support this.


[There is no mention] in an email sent to Sony by the hackers, found in documents they leaked, [...] of North Korea or the film. The email was sent to Sony executives on Nov. 21, a few days before the hack went public.


[The email was signed] by “God’sApstls,” a reference that also appeared in one of the malicious files used in the Sony hack.
OK, maybe some God Nuts are after the Hollywood film industry? I’m confused. You better read the whole Wired article if you want to figure anything out yourself.
Three movie theaters say Paramount Pictures has ordered them not to show Team America: World Police one day after Sony Pictures surrendered to cyberterrorists and pulled The Interview. The famous Alamo Drafthouse in Texas, Capitol Theater in Cleveland, and Plaza Atlanta in Atlanta said they would screen the movie instead of The Interview, but Paramount has ordered them to stop.

  Daily Beast

President Barack Obama said in a Wednesday interview that the cyber attack is "very serious." But, he added, people should not be afraid to go to theaters.

"My recommendation would be that people go to the movies," he said in the ABC interview.

Aha! Proof he’s working with the enemy!
"We cannot have a society in which some dictator in some place can start imposing censorship in the United States," Obama said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"I wish they'd spoken to me first," Obama said of Sony. "I would have told them: Do not get into the pattern in which you are intimidated."

Well, he should know about that.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Surveillance State - Part Whatever

In just a few days, the Army will launch the first of two massive blimps over Maryland, the last gasp of an 18-year-long $2.8-billion Army project intended to use giant airships to defend against cruise missiles.

And while the blimps may never stave off a barrage of enemy missiles, their ability to spot and track cars, trucks and boats hundreds of miles away is raising serious privacy concerns.

The project is called JLENS – or “Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System.” And you couldn’t come up with a better metaphor for wildly inflated defense contracts, a ponderous Pentagon bureaucracy, and the U.S. surveillance leviathan all in one.


At one point, there were supposed to be nearly three dozen blimps. But after a series of operational failures and massive cost overruns, the program was dramatically scaled back to the two existing prototypes that the Army plans to keep flying continuously above the Aberdeen Proving Ground for three years, except for maintenance and foul weather.

  Dan Froomkin: First Look
So, say, if a country wanted to launch warheads at Washington, they should do it on a day when the weather is bad over the east coast.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thom Hartman Talks with Ray McGovern

Wherein, among other important points, Ray relates a story (which I had heard before but forgotten) about someo people in a group setting asking Barack Obama why he wasn't carrying out certain of his campaign promises, and Obama answered by asking them if they didn't remember what happened to Dr. King.  Clearly, things have gone terribly wrong in this country.  (Although, I don't think Ray's assessment of Obama being afraid of the CIA goes far enough - he's not just afraid of them, he has made a demon's deal where he himself gets to be the guy who prioritizes the kill list.)

Part 1

Part 2

Watching videos and reading statements made by the supporters of our torture regimes of late, including the heart-sickening polls showing that the majority of Americans polled condone torture, I keep going back to people like Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald, and a few others, but particularly to Ray McGovern, to avoid falling into a state of total despair.


A Bosnian immigrant has been charged with making a false police report after claiming three black teenagers threatened to kill her in the Bevo Mill neighborhood because of her ethnicity.

Police said Monday that a surveillance video from a nearby business shows Seherzada Dzanic, 26, of the 4400 block of Gannett Street, just get out of her car and lie in the street shortly before a passing driver found her Dec. 5.

At the time, Dzanic told police three black men in their late teens to early 20s had walked in front of her vehicle about 5:25 a.m. along the 4600 block of Lansdowne Avenue. She said one of them pulled a gun on her when she tried to pass them, then opened her passenger door and went through her purse.

  St Louis Today
You think they could have checked this out before making the public statement?
Dotson said, “It doesn’t help the current climate when people use race as the basis to report crime; it further divides our community.” He added, “It’s important to send a strong message that when people manipulate the system, there are consequences.”

Assistant Circuit Attorney Ed Postawko agreed, saying, “That was a good seven to 10 days that could have been spent investigating real crimes.”
And I can’t help but wonder why it took them “seven to 10 days” to investigate if they had a camera rolling on the scene.
Meanwhile, St. Louis County police are investigating a report from a Bosnian woman, 34, that two black men tried to rob her and called her a “(expletive) Bosnian (expletive)” about 10 p.m. Sunday along the 3900 block of Lemay Ferry Road in South County. She told police she tossed them her wallet before one of them punched her in the stomach.

Officer Shawn McGuire said the woman said one of the men threw her wallet back before running off.
And wasn’t that nice of them?  Not to mention very convenient for her story.

No Doubt

Cartoonist:  Jen Sorensen

Feel free to pull this out whenever you need it.

If I had to place a bet, I'd say it's still happening on our behalf somewhere.