Sunday, June 30, 2013

And Sometimes, Mockery Is the Best Response

 

Sometimes It Really Is the Most Appropriate Response

This Could Be Part of the Problem

Or, if you are the US government, this may be the goal.
[January 8, 2009] A long-awaited federal study finds that an estimated 32 million adults in the USA — about one in seven — are saddled with such low literacy skills that it would be tough for them to read anything more challenging than a children's picture book or to understand a medication's side effects listed on a pill bottle.

[...]

Overall, the study finds, the nation hasn't made a dent in its adult-literacy problem: From 1992 to 2003, it shows, the USA added about 23 million adults to its population; in that period, an estimated 3.6 million more joined the ranks of adults with low literacy skills.

How low? It would be a challenge to read this newspaper article or deconstruct a fuel bill.

"They really cannot read … paragraphs (or) sentences that are connected," says Sheida White, a researcher at the U.S. Education Department.

  USA Today

A Very Good Point

And I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere else. Nor did I think of it.
I started thinking about this earlier this month, when Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA's illegal domestic spying operation. I was struck by how many people describing something that's not much more than a bulked-up non disclosure agreement spoke of some sacred secrecy "oath." The meme has really taken hold -- Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan is now explicitly demanding that CIA employees "Honor The Oath," thereby implying that a secrecy agreement is of significance equal to a CIA employee's (actual) oath to protect and defend the Constitution. Doubtless many journalists will uncritically regurgitate Brennan's terminology, never pausing to consider whether there even is such a secrecy "oath," or whether it should be treated as remotely important as an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.

  Barry Eisler
I’ll have to remember that next time – and there WILL be a next time – I hear that oath claim.

Furthermore…
And then I read about Obama's Insider Threat Program, his policy for getting all government employees to inform on each other and equating all leaks with aiding and abetting enemies. [Think] how insane and Stazi-like this initiative really is. It almost reads like a parody. But it isn't. It's the behavior of a paranoid government that has become psychologically obsessed with the value of the secrets it hoards. And what's at least as disturbing as the program itself is how little attention it's gotten in the press or among the public. Again, too many Americans have come to accept that massive secrecy isn't just normal, but in fact desirable.

[...]

We have to remember that the government wants us to believe that secrecy is a paramount value, that secrecy is a fundamental source of our society's strength, that maintaining it is a vital obligation subject to sacred oaths and requiring that we inform on each other if we suspect someone has deviated.

[...]

Our addiction [to secrecy] has made us lose sight of what really makes us strong: the Constitution; and just and sane policies; and our commitment to being a good nation instead of a priapic obsession with being a Great one. East Germany relied on secrecy for its strength. So did Communist Russia. Do want to use those states as role models?

[...]

By the way, the army calls its enforced ignorance campaign [of blocking online access to the Guardian] "Network Hygiene." I really thought Disposition Matrix for an assassination program was about as good as it could get, but Network Hygiene is providing some solid competition.

[...]

Note to self: when you have to come up with nomenclature that sounds not just Orwellian, but like a parody of Orwell, to try to justify what you're doing, it's not a good sign. You might want to take a step back and ask why you're trying so hard to obfuscate. It's almost like your conscience is trying to tell you something.
*Smiley face*

But here's a point that I have thought of - many times - since the screaming memes have been at work smearing Glenn Greenwald:

Glenn Greenwald could be an axe murderer whose favorite hobby is bludgeoning baby seals -- and it would have zero bearing on the accuracy, relevance, or importance of what he's reported.

  Barry Eisler
And that goes for Ed Snowden, too.

A New Medical Disorder: GDS

If [Jonathan] Chait were the only one whose priorities and judgment were being distorted by personal antipathy for [Glenn] Greenwald, it would hardly be worth noting. But I've now seen this kind of thing from (in no particular order of importance) David Gregory, Joy Reid, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Edward Epstein, Alan "Torture Warrants" Dershowitz, and many others. Irrelevant questions; questions about things that have already been repeatedly asked and answered and are easily findable with a rudimentary Google search; a focus on bullshit and gossip instead of a discussion about how the government has been illegally spying on the American people. It's enough to make me wonder whether there might be a Greenwald Derangement Syndrome at work. If so, it seems pretty virulent: it causes journalists (and others) to experience swollen egos and shrunken reason; to place the personal above the professional and the petty above the profound; and most insidiously of all, to become blind to the very behaviors that should alert them they've taken ill. It's a little late for GDS to make it into the new DSM V, but maybe it'll get an entry in Wikipedia. Certainly there are enough people who are showing symptoms.

  Barry Eisler

The Washington Post Publishes More Slides

The article indicates that the FBI has equipment on "private company property to retrieve matching information from a participating company [...] and pass it without further review to the NSA." Here's the slide showing which companies came on board and when:



And I'm still waiting for any of those calling for Glenn Greenwald's head to call for heads at the Washington Post. Hell might freeze over.

As Always....There's More

We already knew that the US was spying on diplomats in the United Nations. You KNOW we're spying on EVERYONE, everywhere. Now you're getting the proof.
The United States has bugged European Union offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, according to secret documents cited in a German magazine, the latest in a series of exposures of alleged US spy programmes.

Der Spiegel quoted from a September 2010 "top secret" US National Security Agency (NSA) document that it said whistleblower Edward Snowden had taken with him, and the magazine's journalists had seen in part.

[...]

The document explicitly called the EU a "target".

The NSA also targeted telecommunications at the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, home to the European Council, the collective of EU national governments, according to the magazine.

[...]

In reactions published on the magazine's website, European Parliament chief Martin Schulz said more information was needed, but if the spying allegations proved correct, "it's a huge scandal".

"On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the US authorities with regard to these allegations," he said in an emailed statement.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told Der Spiegel: "If these reports are true, it's disgusting."

"The United States would be better off monitoring its secret services rather than its allies. We must get a guarantee from the very highest level now that this stops immediately."

  alJazeera
At this point, if you would take a guarantee from the US government, you’re a fool.
US officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
No, I guess not. They’re too busy hunting down Edward Snowden.

One Big, Rotten Bamboozle - Plenty Players

So you say you don’t believe in conspiracies.
[The primary function of financial ratings companies] is to help define what's safe to buy, and what isn't. A triple-A rating is to the financial world what the USDA seal of approval is to a meat-eater, or virginity is to a Catholic. It's supposed to be sacrosanct, inviolable: According to Moody's own reports, AAA investments "should survive the equivalent of the U.S. Great Depression."

[...]

Thanks to a mountain of evidence gathered for a pair of major lawsuits by the San Diego-based law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, documents that for the most part have never been seen by the general public, we now know that the nation's two top ratings companies, Moody's and S&P, have for many years been shameless tools for the banks, willing to give just about anything a high rating in exchange for cash.

In incriminating e-mail after incriminating e-mail, executives and analysts from these companies are caught admitting their entire business model is crooked.

"Lord help our fucking scam . . . this has to be the stupidest place I have worked at," writes one Standard & Poor's executive. "As you know, I had difficulties explaining 'HOW' we got to those numbers since there is no science behind it," confesses a high-ranking S&P analyst. "If we are just going to make it up in order to rate deals, then quants [quantitative analysts] are of precious little value," complains another senior S&P man. "Let's hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of card[s] falters," ruminates one more.

[...]

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission published a case study in 2011 of Moody's in particular and discovered that between 2000 and 2007, the agency gave nearly 45,000 mortgage-backed securities AAA ratings. One year Moody's doled out AAA ratings to 30 mortgage-backed securities every day, 83 percent of which were ultimately downgraded. "This crisis could not have happened without the rating agencies," the commission concluded.

[...]

[The emails] also lay out in detail the evolution of the industrywide fraud that led to implosion of the world economy – how banks, hedge funds, mortgage lenders and ratings agencies, working at an extraordinary level of cooperation, teamed up to disguise and then sell near-worthless loans as AAA securities.

  Matt Taibbi

About Glenn Greenwald's Speech

Glenn Greenwald tells his audience (in the video I posted here) that there are more documents yet to be written about in his series of Guardian articles on the Edward Snowden leaks, one of which talks of a billion cell phone calls captured.

He also says that from his and Edward Snowden’s point of view, the unacceptable is not that the government is collecting massive amounts of information on its own citizens, but that it is doing so in secret. In fact, I think that’s where the government made its mistake. I think they should have been open about it, because I don’t think enough Americans object, as long as the NSA will tell them that it’s keeping them safe from Muslim terrorists. And now that it is known, if anything comes of it, I think it will be that either 1) the American people will sanction it, or 2) the issue will go to courts which will call it unconstitutional, Congress will have to strike some of it (not all) and make stricter rules about what can and cannot be collected, and the whole thing will go even further underground. But it won’t stop.

Some years ago, when Congress “put an end” to the Total Information Awareness program, I scoffed at the idea that it would stop functioning, and people called me paranoid. As Stephen Colbert has said about the PRISM leaks, the good news is, I’m not. The most serious threat to the American people is from their supposed guardians to whom they give up their rights in exchange for a phantom security. Sometimes I read posts and articles where the author laments that with one thing or another, we may be lost. We were lost before 9/11. It just took that day to show us.

It's Sunday

Pope Francis has set up a commission to review the secretive and scandal-dogged Vatican bank in a bid to personally oversee a “greater harmonisation” between its activities and the wider Roman Catholic church.

  Raw Story
I am entering this post on Thursday, June 26, but having it post-dated to run on Sunday (since it’s a religious topic). I do hope that Pope Francis hasn’t been “martyred” before then.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Yeah, Tell Me Again How Fearsome We Are?

Hong Kong's justice secretary, Rimsky Yuen, explained on Tuesday that there had been discrepancies in the documentation filed by US authorities.

He said Hong Kong immigration records listed Snowden's middle name as Joseph, but the US government used the name James in some documents.

Yuen said US authorities had also not provided his passport number.

  Guardian
Seriously?

Glenn Greenwald Speaks About Ed Snowden, the NSA, Journalism, and Courage

At the 10:00 mark.



Poor quality video, but an important and inspiring message.

Misinterpreting. Riiiiiiiight.

A bipartisan group of 26 US senators has written to intelligence chiefs to complain that the administration is relying on a "secret body of law" to collect massive amounts of data on US citizens.

The senators accuse officials of making misleading statements and demand that the director of national intelligence James Clapper answer a series of specific questions on the scale of domestic surveillance as well as the legal justification for it.

In their strongly-worded letter to Clapper, the senators said they believed the government may be misinterpreting existing legislation to justify the sweeping collection of telephone and internet data revealed by the Guardian.

[...]

The letter was organised by Oregan Democrat Ron Wyden, a member of the intelligence committee, but includes four Republican senators: Mark Kirk, Mike Lee, Lisa Murkowski and Dean Heller.

  Guardian
The list of senators who signed the letter is at the end of that article if you care to know who isn’t afraid of the NSA (yet). Had this happened during W’s reign, there would have been no Republicans, those staunch defenders of civil liberties and tireless warriors against government intrusion into private affairs. But can we assume that the Democrats who didn’t sign know that the NSA “has something on them?”

Now, here’s what needs to be drilled home to all those Republican voters out there to get this thing halted:
"The Patriot Act's 'business records' authority can be used to give the government access to private financial, medical, consumer and firearm sales records, among others," said a press statement.
The government doesn’t need a national firearms registration list. The NSA already has all the records they need. Oh, but wait, I’m being overly optimistic. The rabble would only want that part about collecting firearms sales records stricken.

Finally, let us not forget that James Clapper lies to Congress when asked by them about the program. So I’m not sure what good it’s going to do to get him up there again.

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

Ruh-Roh

The plan to spirit the surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden to sanctuary in Latin America appears to be unravelling amid tension between Ecuador’s government and Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.

President Rafael Correa halted an effort to help Snowden leave Russia amid concern Assange was usurping the role of the Ecuadoran government, according to leaked diplomatic correspondence published on Friday.

Amid signs Quito was cooling with Snowden and irritated with Assange, Correa declared invalid a temporary travel document which could have helped extract Snowden from his reported location in Moscow.

In a message attributed to Assange sent to Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, and other top officials, the WikiLeaks founder apologised “if we have unwittingly [caused] Ecuador discomfort in the Snowden matter.” The note continued: “There is a fog of war due to the rapid nature of events. If similar events arise you can be assured that they do not originate in any lack of respect or concern for Ecuador or its government.”

At a press conference the president declared the travel document invalid and said Ecuador would not consider an asylum request unless Snowden reached Ecuadorean territory.

  Guardian

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Edward Snowden Leaks

Alan Rusbridger and Janine Gibson clearly show why the Guardian was the right place for Snowden to entrust the documents he took from the NSA.

They Hate Us (for Our Freedoms) and They're Spreading Their Hate to Other Countries

The world has been growing increasingly sick of Washington for a long time. The bullying, the constant stream of lies, the gratuitous wars and destruction have destroyed the image hyped by Washington of the US as a “light unto the world.” The world sees the US as a plague upon the world.

Following Snowden’s revelations, Germany’s most important magazine, Der Spiegal, had the headline: “Obama’s Soft Totalitarianism: Europe Must Protect Itself From America.” The first sentence of the article asks: “Is Barack Obama a friend? Revelations about his government’s vast spying program call that into doubt. The European Union must protect the Continent from America’s reach for omnipotence.”

Der Spiegal continues: “We are being watched. All the time and everywhere. And it is the Americans who are doing the watching. On Tuesday, the head of the largest and most all-encompassing surveillance system ever invented is coming for a visit. If Barack Obama is our friend then we really don’t need to be terribly worried about our enemies.”

[...]

China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that Snowden’s revelations had placed “Washington in a really awkward situation. They demonstrate that the United States, which has long been trying to play innocent as a victim of cyber attacks, has turned out to be the biggest villain in our age.”

[...]

Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino responded to Washington’s threats with a statement that the Ecuadorian government puts human rights above Washington’s interests. Foreign Minister Patino said that Snowden served humanity by revealing that the Washington Stasi was violating the rights of “every citizen in the world.”

  Paul Craig Roberts – former Asst Secty of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan
Obama’s speech [recently in Germany] was delivered to a relatively small, specially selected audience of invitees. Even so, Obama spoke from behind bullet proof glass.

  Paul Craig Roberts

Jesus H Christ

The Army admitted Thursday to not only restricting access to The Guardian news website at the Presidio of Monterey, as reported in Thursday's Herald, but Armywide.

  Monterey Herald
I find that kind of thing stunningly ridiculous. These articles are being talked about and quoted EVERYwhere.  And all Army personnel except those in combat or boot camp have homes they go to and spouses that work outside the Army.  They have social network accounts and email.  They are going to know everything that the Guardian prints. Preventing linking directly to the Guardian's website is just an exercise in a very stupid form of censorship.
Sources at the Presidio said Jose Campos, the post's information assurance security officer, sent an email to employees early Thursday saying The Guardian's website was blocked by Army Cyber Command "in order to prevent an unauthorized disclosure of classified information."
Disclosure to whom? For the love of Pete, the disclosure is not being stopped because Army Cyber Command blocks a website to Army computers. Who is this Army Cyber Commander? Besides a certifiable idiot?
[Gordon Van Vleet, an Arizona-based spokesman for the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, or NETCOM] said the department does not determine what sites its personnel can choose to see on the DOD system, but "relies on automated filters that restrict access based on content concerns or malware threats."

He said it would not block "websites from the American public in general, and to do so would violate our highest-held principle of upholding and defending the Constitution and respecting civil liberties and privacy."
The Army doesn't control the American public's access to the internet.  So, they'll not be blocking anything from us.  And I’m pretty sure they couldn’t get away with it if they did have control over it, or their high principle of defending the Constitution and respecting civil liberties and privacy might find itself dimmed beyond notice.

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

Meanwhile, In Other Leak Prosecutions

One of the highest ranking military officers in the US is under investigation for allegedly leaking top secret information about a cyber attack on Iran's nuclear programme, according to reports.

NBC news channel reported on Thursday that retired General James Cartwright, a former second-highest-ranking officer, was under investigation for leaking information on a covert computer virus, called Stuxnet.

The virus was used in 2010 to temporarily disable 1,000 centrifuges used for enriching uranium by Iran's nuclear facilities.

[...]

President Barack Obama responded to the article sternly: "My attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks. These are criminal acts when they release information like this."

  alJazeera
Yes, we noticed. But, of course, the leak of information on the Bin Laden capture operation – that’s not one of “these kind.”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Animal Farm

Amnesty International has issued a statement criticizing the Obama Administration’s prosecution of Edward Snowden. While the media has largely yielded to demands from the White House not to call Snowden a “whistleblower,” Amnesty International views him in this light and specifically objects to the use of the Espionage Act by the Obama Administration in this case.

[...]

Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International stated that “No one should be charged under any law for disclosing information of human rights violations by the US government. Such disclosures are protected under the rights to information and freedom of expression.” The organization further stated that “[h]is forced transfer to the USA would put him at great risk of human rights violations and must be challenged.”

  Jonathan Turley
When National Intelligence Director James Clapper appeared before the Senate, he was asked directly, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper responded, “No, sir. … Not wittingly.”

We now know that was a lie. Moreover, many of the senators who heard that testimony knew it was a lie because they admitted later to knowing about the NSA program to gather data on every citizen. Later, Clapper said that his testimony was “the least untruthful” statement he could make. Yet, of course, that would still make it an untrue statement — which most people call a lie and lawyers call perjury. Indeed, when Roger Clemens was prosecuted for untrue statements before Congress, he was not told of the option to tell the least untrue statement on steroid use.

Where are all of our law and order advocates in the face of the admission that Clapper lied to the Senate and the public? The Justice Department routinely prosecutes people for relatively small misrepresentations in testimony. This was a whopper. A premeditated, knowing lie. Yet, Holder has not even ordered an investigation into the possible perjury. Ironically, the attorney general himself recently gave testimony that was widely viewed as false on the surveillance of journalists and the treatment of journalist investigation as a criminal conspiracy.

Even when the governing elite is caught violating the same law as Snowden, it is considered a minor transgression. Snowden is alleged to have stolen government classified documents and removed them from secure locations. Prosecutors will likely seek a lengthy sentence for that act alone.

But in 2005, Samuel “Sandy” Berger, a former White House national security adviser to Bill Clinton, faced that same charge after he intentionally removed and destroyed copies of a classified document. Not only that but Berger then lied to investigators — a separate crime regularly prosecuted by the Justice Department. Yet, no one called for his long incarceration. Instead, he was allowed to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor with no jail time. That’s right, not a day. Just a fine and a three-year suspension of his security clearance. In other words, the deal allowed Berger to walk and even allowed him to reacquire a clearance after just three years.

  Jonathan Turley

William Binney and the Program

William Binney — one of the best mathematicians and code breakers in National Security Agency (NSA) history — worked for America's premier covert intelligence gathering organization for 32 years before resigning in late 2001 because he "could not stay after the NSA began purposefully violating the Constitution."

Binney claims that the NSA took one of the programs he built, known as ThinThread, and started using the program and members of his team to spy on virtually every U.S. citizen under the code-name Stellar Wind.

[...]

On July 2 Binney, along with two other former NSA employees, agreed to provide evidence in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's lawsuit (Jewel vs. NSA) that alleges the U.S. government operates an illegal mass surveillance program.

Given the latest leaks, that testimony looks rock solid.

  Business Insider
Here’s a post of mine from just about one year ago:
[NSA whistleblower William] Binney, who resigned from the NSA in 2001 over its domestic surveillance program, had just delivered a keynote speech in which he revealed what [journalist Geoff] Shively called “evidence which we have not seen until this point.”

“They’re pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country … and assembling that information,” Binney explained. “So government is accumulating that kind of information about every individual person and it’s a very dangerous process.” He estimated that something like 1.6 billion logs have been processed since 2001.
  Raw Story
And here’s another one from a month later that links a video of Binney talking about the program. Worth another look in light of the Snowden revelations. Both he and the documentary filmmaker were repeatedly harassed and intimidated by federal agents.

What Am I Missing?

"NSA was authorized to acquire telephony and internet metadata for communications with at least one communicant outside the United States or for which no communicant was known to be a citizen of the United States," the draft report states.

  Glenn Greenwald
Look at that last part: “or for which no communicant was known to be a citizen of the United States.” Isn’t that just about anyone and everyone? If I send an email to my next door neighbor, there is nothing in its metadata that tells you my citizenship status. Therefore, you can say that neither of us – me or my neighbor – involved in the email transaction is known to be a citizen of the US, and therefore, fair game. Right?

Double Good On Tammy Duckworth

Double-amputee, Congresswoman, and Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth takes down a worthless POS...

Ecuador to the US: You Can't Fire Me. I Quit.

Oh, and, before I leave…
Snowden, 30, is believed to be at Moscow's international airport.

"The petitioner is not in Ecuadorean territory as the law requires [to process a request for asylum]," government official Betty Tola said at an early morning news conference in Ecuador.

Bristling at suggestions Quito was weighing the pros and cons of Snowden's case in terms of its own interests, officials also said Ecuador would not base its decision on its desire to renew the Andean Trade Preferences Act with Washington.

"Ecuador gives up, unilaterally and irrevocably, the said customs benefits," said another official, Fernando Alvarado.

"What's more, Ecuador offers the United States economic aid of $23 million annually, similar to what we received with the trade benefits, with the intention of providing education about human rights," Alvarado added.

"Ecuador does not accept pressure or threats from anyone, nor does it trade with principles or submit them to mercantile interests, however important those may be."

  Reuters
Good on Ecuador.

Reminding me once again of the 2002 coup in Venezuela when the coup leaders tried to crash the Cuban embassy. The ambassador there replied: “We have resisted the greatest power on the planet for over 40 years and did not let them into our embassy. We will not let you.”

Americans supposedly love it when someone stands up to a bully.

To Be Expected

Now, they're digging deep into Glenn Greenwald's history.

You have to ask:  why aren't they doing the same to the Washington Post journalist who reported on the NSA's PRISM program?  But, then, you know the answer.

Good Old American Justice

In 2007, a court-martial at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base north of San Diego sentenced [Sergeant Lawrence] Hutchins to 15 years in military prison after finding him guilty of unpremeditated murder, larceny and other crimes.

[...]

Witnesses had testified that Hutchins and another marine shot Awad and placed an AK-47 and a shovel next to the corpse to suggest he had been planting a bomb.

Earlier, Awad had been bound and gagged at another location, according to a finding by a lower court of appeal for the military.

[...]

Three judges on the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces on Wednesday found […] Hutchins gave a statement to a US Navy investigator while in custody that should have been ruled inadmissible.

The court ruled that it "was an error for the military judge to admit the statement made by Hutchins," which was used at his court-martial.

"Therefore, notwithstanding the other evidence of Hutchins' guilt, there is a reasonable likelihood that the statement contributed to the verdict," the court said.

  alJazeera
Apparently his right to remain silent was violated. And that brings me back to another interesting piece of work from the Supreme Republicans.
If you want to invoke your constitutional right to remain silent, you’d better not be silent.

That’s the circular logic of a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that simply remaining silent is not enough to protect American citizens from self-incrimination. Though it’s received scant media attention, the decision has serious implications for criminal prosecutions, legal experts say.

[...]

In January 1993, Genovevo Salinas was brought in for police questioning about the murder of two brothers. Police found shotgun shell casings at the scene, and Salinas -- who was not arrested and not read his Miranda rights -- agreed to let police inspect his shotgun. When police asked if the shells would match his shotgun, Salinas did not answer the question. He stayed silent, looked down at the floor, shuffled his feet and bit his bottom lip.

[...]

The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, where in a 5-4 decision last week, the court found that Salinas’ self-incrimination privilege had not been violated, mainly because he never flat-out said, “I’m invoking my right to remain silent.” This despite the fact that Salinas was not under arrest at the time of questioning, and was therefore not read his Miranda rights.

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

See If This Makes Sense to You

After the dramatic events culminating in the failure of an anti-abortion bill in Texas, according to NPR this morning, Governor Rick Perry is asking for another go at it. But that's not the part that I question. What I question is the bill's provisions as outlined on NPR. It would close all abortion clinics in Texas except for those in the largest cities. How do you justify that one? Abortion is legal, but only in the big city? It's like fireworks, in reverse. All it would do, effectively, is prevent poor women outside the few major cities getting an abortion. It certainly isn't going to hinder women with money enough to get to a large city. So, that must be the intent. What other? It would also make a certain sense if the Republicans wanted to reduce the number of poor people, who they see as a drain on the economy. But they don't want that. They don't want poor people to have abortions. And they don't want to feed poor people. And they don't want to educate them. And they don't want to provide them living wages if they can find a job. So, the only thing I can conclude is that they want more poor people who have little choice but to 1) steal what they need, in which case, there will be a Republican court system to ensure they are locked up in a privatized prison that enriches a Republican, or 2) enlist in the armed forces where they can be used to slaughter people in other countries. Where I think they are being short-sighted is in the approaching reality they are creating that could end in riots in the American streets. Do they really think that poor Americans who have no choice in life but to join the armed forces are going to turn on their own families when given the order? Really, they learn nothing from looking at the world's history. Or maybe they don't look. When it comes to having armed forces who are willing to turn on their own families, they're going to need Republicans. ...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Busted

The Texas legislature had to "take back" that fraudulent move; and thus, the anti-abortion bill failed.

DOMA

Okay, this is probably par for the course, but it appears that Obama has instructed the DOJ not to defend DOMA.  Eric Holder has just stated, "The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases."

I am happy for gay folks, but isn't it interesting that the President can decide unilaterally that something is unconstitutional?  I guess we can just follow the laws we want.  If we're president. And, the par for the course part:  it's still the law.

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

UPDATE: As it should be, although they should strike the whole damn thing.
In a 5-4 ruling in United States v. Windsor, the court struck down a provision of the 17-year-old Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that denies federal benefits -- like Social Security benefits or the ability to file joint tax returns -- to same-sex couples legally married.

  CBS

The XL Is Only on Hold

President Obama said Tuesday he will approve the Keystone XL pipeline only if it does not substantially increase greenhouse gas emissions — a surprise announcement ambiguous enough to leave both sides in the fight thinking they’d heard good news.

[...]

Keystone’s foes said they were heartened because they do not believe there is any way the pipeline will pass Obama’s test.

  The Hill
Really? He’s not going to block that pipeline. There are other good reasons to block it (leaky pipes over the nation’s water supplies, super toxic crude, final product to go overseas anyway, etc.), and he hasn’t raised any objection to those. He just hasn’t blessed it yet because that would cause him a great deal of grief that he really doesn’t need right now with all the other troubles.
“The net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project can go forward.” [Obama]

Republicans backing TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline, which would bring oil sands crude from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries, pointed to a draft State Department analysis in March that concluded the project would have little effect on how quickly oil sands production increases.

The consulting firm ClearView Energy Partners, in a note, said Obama “left the door open to a final approval.”

“The State Department could determine on its own that GHG [greenhouse gas] impacts do not ‘significantly’ exacerbate the nation’s GHG emissions levels or are sufficiently modest relative to other reductions,” ClearView wrote.

“Attaining the vague notion of insignificance might require action from project sponsors – voluntary or otherwise – but seems well within the realm of reason given the State Department starting point,” the company said.
.

And This Is How We Do Things Down Here in Texas

Unfortunately [...] with the U.S. Supreme Court having gutted the Voting Rights Act earlier today, it looks as though Texas will now be able to get away with restricting everyone else's access to legally vote. The state Attorney General announced just after today's ruling that he would now be implementing the state's polling place Photo ID law "immediately", despite the fact that it was rejected last year by both the Dept. of Justice and by a federal court after being found in violation of the Voting Rights Act. The law was rejected after the state's own data revealed that registered Hispanic voters were as much as 120% more likely to be lacking state issued Photo ID as non-Hispanic voters.

But, apparently, it's only voters --- specifically, minority voters --- who must be prevented from committing "voter fraud" (though there is no evidence they are committing any at the polling place), even as Republican legislators are welcome to defraud the system to their heart's content in the Lone Star state.

[...]

After Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis' nearly 13 hour standing filibuster of SB5, a draconian abortion restriction bill supported by the state's Republican Gov. Rick Perry, Republicans decided to throw the rule of law out the window, and hold a roll call vote on the bill after midnight, when the special session was officially over, according to state law.

Nonetheless, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst fraudulently announced that the bill, which had supposedly passed at 12:01am, had actually passed at 11:59pm the night before, when the state Senate would still have been legally in session. Making matters even worse, the Republicans then went back and changed the official TX Senate web page to reflect their blatant fraud.

  BradBlog
UPDATE:
A bill that opponents claimed would virtually ban abortion in Texas failed to pass late Tuesday after lawmakers missed a deadline by just minutes.

  NBC
Stay on top of 'em folks.

What About the Reporter?

In case you haven't been following along, in addition to the completely predictable attempts to smear Ed Snowden as a traitor (not to mention a good-for-nothing publicity hound), they've also been accusing Glenn Greenwald, who reported on the documents Snowden delivered to him, of the same.  Interestingly enough, there don't seem to be any calls to arrest or any smearing of the Washington Post reporter to whom Snowden gave documents and who reported on the PRISM program the same day that Greenwald did.  Of course, that reporter is a Washington insider, while Greenwald is not only an outsider, but a very vocal opponent of government intrusion on civil liberties.  In a nutshell, here's a short post on the matter, in defense of Greenwald, and putting the lie to claims that he most likely put Snowden up to getting the documents.  I haven't been posting anything about those claims, or the smearing going on about Snowden and his personal life, because they are not only predictable and false, they are not the issue we need to be spending our time on.  The government's turn to a police state is.  Killing the messenger doesn't change the message, it only distracts from it.  Which is the point, of course.

NSA Still Trying to Buffalo the Public About Surveillance

On Monday, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) wrote to the head of the [NSA] alleging that one of [two documents posted on the NSA website] was misleading and inaccurate. The senators claimed, without elaborating, that a fact sheet “contains an inaccurate statement about how the section 702 authority has been interpreted by the U.S. government.”

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander responded to the two lawmakers Tuesday, and while he didn't admit inaccuracy, he said the documents could have been clearer.

"After reviewing your letter, I agree that the fact sheet that the National Security Agency posted on its website on 18 June 2013 could have more precisely described the requirements for collection under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act," Alexander said in a letter of his own.

[...]

“Given the intense interest from the media, the public, and Congress, we believe the precision of the source document (the statute) is the best possible representation of applicable authorities,” NSA spokesperson Judith Emmel said in a statement.

  Politico
” Could have more precisely described.. .” In other words, could have been accurate, but wasn’t.

The documents were removed from the internet, but if you want to look at them, there are links in the Politico article.

Social Conservative Morals

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

American Irony

In a bumbling international manhunt for an apparent magician because he dared to expose the government's secret total information awareness policies that violate Americans' privacy, which violation the government denies:
U.S. officials said privacy laws prevent them from describing the status of any individual’s passport.

  Raw Story
So, does whoever “leaked” to US media that the government has revoked Snowden’s passport get charged?

On the day that Satan ice skates to work.

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

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?

Details of the US whistleblower Edward Snowden's current whereabouts remain unclear, a day after he was reported to have left Moscow for Havana, apparently en route to Ecuador.

Ricardo Patino, the foreign minister of Ecuador, where Snowden is seeking asylum to evade being arrested by the United States for leaking classified details about its spying programme, said on Tuesday that the country knew nothing about his whereabouts or what documents he might be using to travel.

The Russian foreign minister added to the confusion further during the day, insisting that Snowden had not crossed into Russia. Earlier reports suggested that Snowden took a flight out of Moscow on Monday, having arrived there from Hong Kong the previous day.

[...]

China said on Tuesday [...] that the United States' accusations of Beijing facilitating Snowden's departure from Hong Kong were "groundless and unacceptable".

  alJazeera
Why do they hate us?

The U.S. government can't find a man they claim is a traitor and a fugitive from justice, but by golly they can find you and me and every other American who uses a cell phone or non-anonymized internet connection.  But, shhhh.  That's a secret.  Between you and me.
 
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Monday, June 24, 2013

When Is Honesty Not the Best Policy?

Edward Snowden secured a job with a US government contractor for one reason alone - to obtain evidence of Washington's cyberspying networks, the South China Morning Post can reveal.

For the first time, Snowden has admitted he sought a position at Booz Allen Hamilton so he could collect proof about the US National Security Agency's secret surveillance programmes ahead of planned leaks to the media.

"My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked," he told the Post on June 12. "That is why I accepted that position about three months ago."

  
Dude.

I can make an argument in Snowden’s favor if you believe this is the type of thing that needs to be done, considering what has become of our country, but I certainly hope he’s gotten himself into a very certain asylum in whatever country he’s in now, because that will absolutely hang him in an American court these days.

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

How Rich (Do We Really Want to Catch Ed Snowden?)


US whistleblower Edward Snowden "has most likely already left Russia", Russian news agency Interfax has quoted a source familiar with the matter as saying.

[...]

Meanwhile, the White House asked the Russian government to "look at all options available" to send Snowden back to the US to face espionage charges. The call has not received a positive reponse.

“It does appear that Americans missed a bit of a trick. Because if they had put Edward Snowden on the Interpol wanted list, then the Russians would have no options but to arrest him,” Al Jazeera’s Peter Sharp said, reporting from Moscow.

  al Jazeera
Really? Could the Russians not have thought of some way to let him slip through the cracks, so to speak? Or does the US actually NOT want him in their hands? Could it be that a trial would be worse for the government than just having the opportunity to demonize him and say he’s lying without having to prove it?
Al Jazeera's Sharp said that Snowden did not have a legal passport as it was revoked by the US, adding that he had been using Ecuadorian documents to travel.
Hmmmm. Asked Hong Kong to extradite him, revoked his passport, but didn’t put him on the Interpol wanted list. Don’t know just what that says. Perhaps it does simply indicate bumbling. Perhaps.
Regarding Snowden's asylum request, Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patino said: "We will make a decision... we are analysing it."

"It [the request] has to do with freedom of expression and the security of citizens around the world. We always act by principle not in our own interest. There are some governments who act more on their own interests, we do not," he added during an official visit to Vietnam.

Just what are you trying to say?

And, just in case….
MOSCOW (Reuters) – There was no sign that former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden was onboard a Russian plane bound for Cuba as it prepared to take off on Monday, a Reuters correspondent on the plane said.

A flight attendant said Snowden was not on the plane and the seat he had been expected to occupy was taken by another passenger.

  Raw Story
Snowden, 29, has kept out of sight in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport as Ecuador says it considers his request for asylum.

His decision to fly to Russia, which like China challenges U.S. dominance of global diplomacy, is another embarrassment to President Barack Obama who has tried to “reset” ties with Moscow and build a partnership with Beijing.

The White House said it expected the Russian government to send Snowden back to the United States and lodged “strong objections” to Hong Kong and China for letting him go.

[...]

The Russian government ignored the appeal and President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary denied any knowledge of Snowden’s movements.

  Raw Story
The White House didn’t REALLY expect those governments to cooperate, did they?
Edward Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong to Moscow and plans to seek political asylum in a third country have hurt his chances of avoiding prison, lawmakers said Sunday.

  The Hill
It’ pretty hard to hurt your chances when they’re nil to begin with.

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


UPDATE: 6/29/13
Hong Kong's justice secretary, Rimsky Yuen, explained on Tuesday that there had been discrepancies in the documentation filed by US authorities.

He said Hong Kong immigration records listed Snowden's middle name as Joseph, but the US government used the name James in some documents.

Yuen said US authorities had also not provided his passport number.

  Guardian
Seriously?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

We Just Don't

McClatchy Newspapers published a detailed report alleging that a U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed not only suspected militants, but also a ten-year-old boy named Abdulaziz Huraydan. If true, the boy's killing sets a grisly new milestone. This is the first reported civilian death from a drone strike since President Obama's May 23 speech on counter-terrorism, in which he told us that the U.S. would only strike if there was a "near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured." A week after Obama's speech, Secretary of State John Kerry publicly stated, "We do not fire when we know there are children or collateral … we just don't."

[...]

It appears that the boy was the younger brother of a suspected al Qaida militant, and that the strike targeted the car they were traveling in.

[...]

Absent Baron's report, there would be virtually no public record of ten-year-old Abdulaziz's alleged killing by the United States. Numerous major outlets did not cover the strike at all. (They have also largely failed to report allegations of other strikes in Yemen since Obama's speech.) Those that did cover the June 9 strike, including the Associated Press and Reuters, made no mention of the child, although Baron and journalist Iona Craig had reported -- via twitter -- early allegations of the child's death on the very day of the strike.

[...]

Notably, John Brennan, during his nomination to be CIA Director, stated that if there was a mistake and the wrong person was killed, we "need to acknowledge it publicly."

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

You Might Well Ask (Re: Co-Worker Spies, Previous Post)

 
From a Charlie Pierce post.  Charlie finally appears to have stopped making snide remarks about Ed Snowden.

Co-Worker Spies

Remind you of German Stasi and Russian KGB yet?
President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program [launched in October 2011], is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments.

[...]

[M] illions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them.

[...]

Some non-intelligence agencies already are urging employees to watch their co-workers for “indicators” that include stress, divorce and financial problems.

[...]

The Department of Education, meanwhile, informs employees that co-workers going through “certain life experiences . . . might turn a trusted user into an insider threat.” Those experiences, the department says in a computer training manual, include “stress, divorce, financial problems” or “frustrations with co-workers or the organization.”

An online tutorial titled “Treason 101” teaches Department of Agriculture and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employees to recognize the psychological profile of spies.

A Defense Security Service online pamphlet lists a wide range of “reportable” suspicious behaviors, including working outside of normal duty hours. While conceding that not every behavior “represents a spy in our midst,” the pamphlet adds that “every situation needs to be examined to determine whether our nation’s secrets are at risk.”

[...]

“It’s about people’s profiles, their approach to work, how they interact with management. Are they cheery? Are they looking at Salon.com or The Onion during their lunch break? This is about ‘The Stepford Wives,’” said a second senior Pentagon official, referring to online publications and a 1975 movie about robotically docile housewives. The official said he wanted to remain anonymous to avoid being punished for criticizing the program.

[...]

“It was just a matter of time before the Department of Agriculture or the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) started implementing, ‘Hey, let’s get people to snitch on their friends.’ The only thing they haven’t done here is reward it,” said Kel McClanahan, a Washington lawyer who specializes in national security law. “I’m waiting for the time when you turn in a friend and you get a $50 reward.”

  McClatchy
And yet, even with the program in place, there was Edward Snowden. Bless him.

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

Don't Be So Quick to Call Me a Conspiracy Theorist

Remember when I asked if Mercedes was building shoddy cars these days? Here's Michael Hastings' last email:

The LA Times reported that Hastings was researching a story about a privacy lawsuit brought by Jill Kelley, the Florida socialite who took center stage in the Petraeus cheating scandal, against the Department of Defense and the FBI. According to a person close to Kelley, the paper said, Hastings had plans to meet a representative of hers to discuss the case next week.

  HuffPo
 


In a rare move, the FBI issued a statement denying that Hastings was under investigation. The Los Angeles Police Department also said it had found no evidence of any foul play in his death.

  HuffPo
And he can’t argue now.

UPDATE

Ed Snowden Has Left the Building

Edward Snowden reportedly landed in Moscow on Sunday after Hong Kong let the former US intelligence technician leave its territory, despite Washington's efforts to extradite him to face espionage charges.

The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said Snowden was heading for a "democratic nation" which it did not name.

  alJazeera
But we’re guessing Iceland, aren’t we? I mean, he mentioned it in his interviews with Glenn Greenwald, and then there was a report that a wealthy man in Iceland had a private plane ready and awaiting the Icelandic government’s acceptance of Snowden.
Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, wrote on Twitter on Sunday that Snowden had applied for asylum in his country. WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange is currently living in Ecuador's embassy in London as he fights extradition to Sweden on sex assault charges.

The Ecuadorean ambassador in Moscow was also reported to be preparing to meet Snowden in the Russian capital.
Or Ecuador.
"Snowden today voluntarily left Hong Kong for a third country through legal and normal means," a Hong Kong government spokesman said in a press statement earlier.
Making the authorities in Hong Kong and China both relieved, I imagine.
The statement added that Hong Kong had "not obtained adequate information" to handle a provisional arrest warrant for Snowden issued by the US.
Oooh. Slightly dicey move, but probably won’t garner even any real saber rattling. And, besides, it should have been expected. Considering what Snowden told them about just how friendly the US really is toward them.
The government statement said Hong Kong had written to the US "requesting clarification" of earlier reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies.
The South China Morning Post reported on Sunday that Snowden had left Hong Kong on a commercial flight to Moscow. From there, he is expected to travel to Cuba and then Venezuela, a Russian airline source said.

  Raw Story
Oh, SNAP!
Update (12:55 p.m. ET): AFP reports that Snowden has requested asylum from the government of Ecuador.
Or Ecuador.

Hong Kong Government statement

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Inching Through the Courts (Updated)

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC, ruled Wednesday that it has no objection to the release of a 2011 opinion of the court, which found that some of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs under the FISA Amendments Act, were unconstitutional.

[...]

On Friday, the Department of Justice, or DoJ, had argued that the court’s opinion must remain secret and its release of the opinion would contradict the FISC's own rules on disclosure of classified documents, according to NBC News.

[...]

The nation’s most secretive court, as it has been called in the media, said that the 86-page classified opinion can be made public if a district court orders it.

[...]

[The] NSA’s PRISM program, which has sparked public outrage over Internet users’ privacy rights, is based on the same sections that the FISC found was circumvented by the security agency.

[...]

EFF attorney Mark Rumold welcomed the court’s ruling and said it is the first victory for a non-governmental party in the FISC.

"It's important to know that while this is a victory, it is a pretty modest one," he said. "It's the FISC realizing that the Department (of Justice) was making crazy arguments, and they quickly got rid of it. Now we have to go right back to the district court."

  IBTimes
Oh, and Greenwald says he’s working on further stories – implied to be related to the information provided him by Snowden.

UPDATE:
 
We're America.  We're special.


Moving on Snowden

Confirming a report in the Washington Post newspaper, the US official said that a sealed criminal complaint had been lodged with a federal court in the US state of Virginia and a provisional arrest warrant had also been issued.

Snowden was charged with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorised person, the document said.

[...]

Meanwhile, an Icelandic businessman linked to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said on Thursday he had readied a private plane in China to fly Snowden to Iceland if Iceland's government would grant asylum.

  al Jazeera
NPR this morning is spreading the rumor that Snowden is in police custody in Hong Kong. We shall see.
[D]uring the Obama presidency, there are now seven [Espionage Act prosecutions]: more than double the number under all prior US presidents combined. How can anyone justify that?

[...]

In what conceivable sense are Snowden's actions "espionage"? He could have - but chose not - sold the information he had to a foreign intelligence service for vast sums of money, or covertly passed it to one of America's enemies, or worked at the direction of a foreign government. That is espionage. He did none of those things.

[...]

[The] irony is obvious: the same people who are building a ubiquitous surveillance system to spy on everyone in the world, including their own citizens, are now accusing the person who exposed it of "espionage". It seems clear that the people who are actually bringing "injury to the United States" are those who are waging war on basic tenets of transparency and secretly constructing a mass and often illegal and unconstitutional surveillance apparatus aimed at American citizens - and those who are lying to the American people and its Congress about what they're doing - rather than those who are devoted to informing the American people that this is being done.

[...]

The Obama administration leaks classified information continuously. They do it to glorify the President, or manipulate public opinion, or even to help produce a pre-election propaganda film about the Osama bin Laden raid. The Obama administration does not hate unauthorized leaks of classified information. They are more responsible for such leaks than anyone.

What they hate are leaks that embarrass them or expose their wrongdoing. Those are the only kinds of leaks that are prosecuted. It's a completely one-sided and manipulative abuse of secrecy laws.

  Glenn Greenwald

What a delicious dilemma this all provides for Republicans in Congress. They thought that they wanted nothing more than to get rid of Barack Obama. And now that they have a possible chance to impeach on the grounds Snowden has provided, they can’t, because they find themselves on his side.
“I think it’s very surprising to accuse someone of espionage who hasn’t worked for a foreign government, who didn’t covertly pass information to an adversary [or] enemy of the United States, who didn’t sell any top secret information,” [Glenn] Greenwald told Hayes, arguing that Snowden “simply went to newspapers, asked newspapers to very carefully vet the information to make sure that the only thing being published are things that informed his fellow citizens but doesn’t harm national security. That is not espionage in any real sense of the word.”

[...]

“I don’t think you’ll find very many people who argue that he should not be charged with any sort of criminal offense,” Greenwald responded. “I think when he did what he set out to do that he understood that it was in violation of the law. He felt like it was a noble act, justified under basic theories of civil disobedience, and that he expected to be charged with a crime.”

[...]

“[The Espionage Act] is a 1917 statute enacted under Woodrow Wilson to criminalize opposition to World War I,” Greenwald continued. “It has been used very, very sparingly throughout American history until the Obama administration, which has embraced it with extreme vigor as a means of punishing and prosecuting whistleblowers, and so in that regard, I think it’s unsurprising.”

[...]

“If this administration were equitable and consistent in trying to punish people who leak classified information, you could look at this act and say, ‘I think it’s excessive but at least it’s consistent,’” Greenwald continued, saying various administration officials were not prosecuted despite leaking top-secret or classified information that made the White House look good.

  Raw Story



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

Get Out Much?

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has expressed regret to a professor of Indian descent after he appeared to jokingly ask if the academic was a member of the Taliban.

[...]

After discussing prospects for talks with the Taliban insurgency at the event and waiting for another question, Hagel pointed to the back of the hall, and said: "OK, so who has a - way up in the back there. You're not a member of the Taliban are you?"

  
The guy should have asked Hagel how Hagel got permission to leave his cave.
Hagel's spokesman said on Friday that the off-hand remark, which came after a speech by Hagel at the University of Nebraska on Wednesday, was not meant to refer to anyone in the audience or to the professor's heritage.
Oh, no. Of course not. How could anyone have thought it?

Hagel only asked the guy directly if he were a member of the Taliban. How can that not be meant to refer to him? Oh, by ME, you don’t mean ME, you mean some Talib in Afghanistan.
Hagel's apparent attempt at humour appeared to fall flat, judging by the long pause that followed, according to a video of the event broadcast by the Pentagon channel.

"This was an off the cuff remark not directed at anyone in particular in the audience, and he recognises that even though it was a joke that it was perhaps off-key," press secretary George Little told reporters on Friday.
Perhaps.
"I would emphasise it was completely unintentional and not directed at anyone in particular."
Yeah. Yeah. We got it. In fact, so did the professor. Especially after a phone call from Hagel.
"I was able to ask a question, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing his answer. Before I rose to ask a question, there was apparently some confusion that did not involve me," his statement said.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The NSA Is Keeping Our Records for a Very Good Reason

A pair of classified government documents [...] signed by Attorney General Eric Holder and posted by the Guardian on Thursday show that NSA analysts are able to listen to Americans' intercepted phone calls without asking a judge for a warrant first.

[...]

Analysts are expected to exercise "reasonable judgment" in determining which data to use, according to the documents, and "inadvertently acquired communications of or concerning a United States person may be retained no longer than five years." The documents also refer to "content repositories" that contain records of devices' "previous Internet activity," and say the NSA keeps records of Americans' "electronic communications accounts/addresses/identifiers" in an apparent effort to avoid targeting them in future eavesdropping efforts.

  CNET
Emphasis mine.

On Sunday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a carefully-worded statement in response to a CNET article and other reports questioning when intelligence analysts can listen to domestic phone calls. Clapper said: "The statement that a single analyst can eavesdrop on domestic communications without proper legal authorization is incorrect and was not briefed to Congress."
Clapper's statement was viewed as a denial, but it wasn't. Today's disclosures reveal why: Because the Justice Department granted intelligence analysts "proper legal authorization" in advance through the Holder regulations.
This interpretation of  “proper legal authorization” sounds a lot like the “due process” the administration claims is given to people on the president’s kill list.

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

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Say It Isn't So

 
James Gandolfini has died.

Although I never saw Sopranos - his most famous role - and I would never watch Zero Dark Thirty, I love James Gandolfini.  In my opinion, he is one of the best, if not, in fact, THE best actor ever on film. 

My personal favorite (and I haven't seen all his performances - maybe half) is his role in In the Loop - a superb and funny movie even without him.  He was good in Fallen, Crimson Tide and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, along with Denzel Washington (another top drawer - but certainly not better - actor).  The Mexican - he was just great.  Killing Them Softly - awesome.  Romance and Cigarettes - unbelievable.

I am so sorry that he won't be making any more movies.  Really, I can't think of any actor whose loss I'd be sorrier for.  I'm going to have to have a Gandolfini movie fest this weekend.  All by myself.

Aw, dammit.

RIP, Mr. Gandolfini.  You have certainly earned it from your stellar career. 



Maybe We're Finally Free of the Threat of a President Gingrich

Another campaign worker for 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has pleaded guilty to election fraud charges and perjury in Virginia.

On Tuesday, according to WVIR, Charlottesville, VA's NBC affiliate, 28-year old Adam Ward pleaded guilty to 36 counts related to submitting forged signatures in the failed attempt by the Gingrich campaign to qualify for the state's 2012 GOP Presidential Primary ballot.

  Brad Blog

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mr. Obama Is Having a Really Bad Month

The US was scrambling to salvage a plan to open peace talks with the Taliban on Wednesday amid a diplomatic row between Washington and the Afghan president Hamid Karzai over how the process was announced.

[...]

Earlier on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported president Karzai would not now continue peace talks with the Taliban unless the US stepped out of the negotiations. He also suspended talks with the US about handing over security to Afghan forces, citing the Taliban naming of its office as one of Kabul's concerns.

[...]

Repeated phone calls by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, appeared not to have mollified Karzai, who accused the Obama administration of duplicity.

  UK Guardian
Karzai’s a little late to that party.
The Taliban also claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the Bagram air base that killed four Americans on the same day that the tentative deal about talks was announced.

Yeah, That's More Like It

 
 
 
 
 

The Good News: You're Not Paranoid - Part 2

FBI Director Robert Mueller told senators the agency uses drones infrequently for surveillance in the U.S., and only in regards to specific investigations. “Our footprint is very small,” Mueller said in testimony. “We have very few and have limited use.”

  The Hill
Trust us. Where have we heard that before?
Mueller said the FBI was in “the initial stages” of developing privacy guidelines for how the agency balances civil liberty concerns with security threats.
Nice. Up until now….just whatever strikes their fancy???

Michael Hastings Is Dead

The coroner’s office had yet to identify the victim, but both Rolling Stone and BuzzFeed, where Hastings worked most recently, reported that it was him.

The solo-vehicle crash happened near the intersection of Highland and Melrose avenues around 4:15 a.m., according to the LAPD.

Hastings’ Mercedes-Benz slammed into a tree and caught fire.

“I was just coming northbound on Highland and I seen a car going really fast, and all of a sudden I seen it jackknife,” said Luis Cortez, who witnessed the wreck.

“I just seen parts fly everywhere and I slammed on my brakes and stopped and tried to call 911,” Cortez added.

The engine of the vehicle was found in a yard about 100 feet away.

The driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Coroner’s officials said the body was too badly burned to make an immediate identification.

[...]

Friends said that, because of the nature of Hastings’ work, he often led a very paranoid lifestyle.

“A lot of his friends were worried that he was in a very agitated state, yes. No question, people were concerned,” said Cenk Uygur, host of “The Young Turks.”

“He was incredibly tense and very worried and was concerned that the government was looking in on his material,” he said.

“I don’t know what his state of mind was at 4:30 in the morning, but I do know what his state of mind was in general, and it was a nervous wreck.”

  KTLA
Hastings gained national attention in 2010 after exposing inflammatory comments made by Gen. Stanley McChrystal about President Barack Obama and the civilian leadership of the military.

Rolling Stone, which employed Hastings as a contributing editor, praised him Tuesday as a “fearless journalist” who sought out hard stories and refused to “cozy up to power.”

  Raw Story
Besides Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, most Democrats abandoned their civil liberty positions during the age of Obama. With a new leak investigation looming, the Democrat leadership are now being forced to confront all the secrets they’ve tried to hide.

For most bigwig Democrats in Washington, D.C., the last 48 hours has delivered news of the worst kind — a flood of new information that has washed away any lingering doubts about where President Obama and his party stand on civil liberties, full stop.

Glenn Greenwald’s exposure of the NSA’s massive domestic spy program has revealed the entire caste of current Democratic leaders as a gang of civil liberty opportunists, whose true passion, it seems, was in trolling George W. Bush for eight years on matters of national security.

[...]

[The] two notable exception to this rule are Senator Ron Wyden, from Oregon, and Sen. Mark Udall from Colorado, who had seemed to be fighting a largely lonely, frustrating battle against Obama’s national security state.

[...]

The state of affairs, in other words, is so grave that two sitting Senators went as close as they could to violating their unconstitutional security oaths in order to warn the country of information that otherwise would not have been declassified until April of 2038, according to the Verizon court order obtained by Greenwald.

[...]

Outside of Washington, D.C., the frustration that Wyden and Udall have felt has been exponentially magnified. Transparency supporters, whistleblowers, and investigative reporters, especially those writers who have aggressively pursued the connections between the corporate defense industry and federal and local authorities involved in domestic surveillance, have been viciously attacked by the Obama administration and its allies in the FBI and DOJ.

[...]

Perhaps more information will soon be forthcoming.

  Michael Hastings’ last article
"He was alone in a brand new Mercedes."

"It sounded like a bomb. It woke me up. My whole house shook."

Are they making Mercedes Benzes shoddy these days?  Just asking. 

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/journalist-michael-hastings-killed-car-crash-article-1.1376574

UPDATE: 6/23 - Don't be so quick to call me a conspiracy theorist.

UPDATE:  8/17 - Follow-up