Friday, January 31, 2014

Drip, Drip, Drip

A top secret document retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and obtained by CBC News shows that Canada's electronic spy agency used information from the free internet service at a major Canadian airport to track the wireless devices of thousands of ordinary airline passengers for days after they left the terminal.

[...]

CSEC chief John Forster recently stated: "I can tell you that we do not target Canadians at home or abroad in our foreign intelligence activities, nor do we target anyone in Canada.

"In fact, it's prohibited by law. Protecting the privacy of Canadians is our most important principle."

  CBC
At this point, I think it is safe to say that at least all "Five Eyes" countries are spying intensely - and  illegally - on their own citizens, as well as conspiring with each other to spy on the entire world.

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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Some People Saw This Coming

"Snowden claims that he’s won and that his mission is accomplished," [Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper said, according to a transcript from the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, posted by the Washington Post. "If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed, to prevent even more damage to U.S. security."

So who, exactly, are Snowden’s “accomplices?”

Guardian national security editor Spencer Ackerman, among others, questioned on Twitter whether Clapper was referring to journalists.

HuffPost put the question to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which didn't rule out that journalists could be considered "accomplices."

  HuffPo
In response to media inquiries about what Clapper meant when he referred to "accomplices", a spokesman for the DNI's office, Shawn Turner, is saying this:

"anyone who is assisting Edward Snowden [to] further harm our nation through the unauthorized disclosure of stolen documents." (Turner declined to be more specific when asked if that included journalists.)

Turner may be reluctant to admit it, but that essentially dispels all doubt - if there was any - that Clapper was publicly accusing journalists who publish Snowden documents of being "accomplices" in his "crimes".

  Glenn Greenwald
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales raised the possibility yesterday that New York Times journalists could be prosecuted for publishing classified information based on the outcome of the criminal investigation underway into leaks to the Times of data about the National Security Agency's surveillance of terrorist-related calls between the United States and abroad.

"We are engaged now in an investigation about what would be the appropriate course of action in that particular case, so I'm not going to talk about it specifically," he said on ABC's "This Week."

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

Drip, Drip, Drip

The National Security Agency monitored the communications of other governments ahead of and during the 2009 United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, according to the latest document from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

[...]

Posted on an internal NSA website on Dec. 7, 2009, the first day of the Copenhagen summit, it states that "analysts here at NSA, as well as our Second Party partners, will continue to provide policymakers with unique, timely, and valuable insights into key countries' preparations and goals for the conference, as well as the deliberations within countries on climate change policies and negotiation strategies."

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

Monday, January 27, 2014

Drip, Drip, Drip

The National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have been developing capabilities to take advantage of "leaky" smartphone apps, such as the wildly popular Angry Birds game, that transmit users' private information across the internet, according to top secret documents.

The data pouring onto communication networks from the new generation of iPhone and Android apps ranges from phone model and screen size to personal details such as age, gender and location. Some apps, the documents state, can share users' most sensitive information such as sexual orientation – and one app recorded in the material even sends specific sexual preferences such as whether or not the user may be a swinger.

[...]

Depending on what profile information a user had supplied, the documents suggested, the agency would be able to collect almost every key detail of a user's life: including home country, current location (through geolocation), age, gender, zip code, martial status – options included "single", "married", "divorced", "swinger" and more – income, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education level, and number of children.

The agencies also made use of their mobile interception capabilities to collect location information in bulk, from Google and other mapping apps. One basic effort by GCHQ and the NSA was to build a database geolocating every mobile phone mast in the world.

[...]

So successful was this effort that one 2008 document noted that "[i]t effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a GCHQ system."

  Guardian
Documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden and obtained by NBC News detail how British cyber spies demonstrated a pilot program to their U.S. partners in 2012 in which they were able to monitor YouTube in real time and collect addresses from the billions of videos watched daily, as well as some user information, for analysis. At the time the documents were printed, they were also able to spy on Facebook and Twitter.

[...]

Representatives of Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, said they hadn’t given the British government permission to access data and were unaware the collection had occurred. A source close to Google who asked not to be identified when discussing company policy said the company was “shocked” to learn the U.K. could have been “grabbing” its data.

  NBC
Shocked.

Wikileaks and Julian Assange

If you get Netflix, they are currently streaming two films about Julian Assange.  While the acting is good in Underground: The Julian Assange Story, a film about his early hacking days, there is so little that stands up to facts, that it should carry a big warning: THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION.

On the other hand, We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks is a documentary, which I recommend for anyone interested in the Bradley Manning/Wikileaks story to watch.  It is very well done and quite thorough, considering all the information it needed to tie together.

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

Perhaps "Promise" Wasn't the Best Choice from the Obama Administration

President Barack Obama on announced on Jan. 9 the first five "Promise Zones," part of a White House initiative to combat income inequality and spur mobility in areas that have been slow to recover economically.

[...]

Within the next three years, a total of 20 zones will be selected to receive assistance.

  alJazeera
[...] President Barack Obama unveiled his new “Promise Zones” initiative. Touted as a comprehensive strategy to uplift impoverished places, the concept was set to debut in five sites, located in Los Angeles, San Antonio, Philadelphia, southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The announcement offered no new funding; the only direct benefits are tax exemptions, yet to be passed by Congress, and five AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers assigned to each site. The new zones will be prioritized for competitive funding in other federal grant programs and will receive technical assistance to boost local interagency coordination and private involvement. It is not much — especially compared with the 1964 rollout of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty — particularly at a time when low-income housing funds have suffered a heavy hit from the sequester and when social support needed to sustain residents of distressed areas has dwindled.

[...]

The zone choices are controversial. L.A.'s is in the city’s central section, where gentrification and displacement are already occurring, and does not include long-distressed areas in south L.A., such as Watts and Compton. Rural Kentucky, of all the distressed rural districts and deserving areas across the country, seems a somewhat random choice, but Kentucky Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell both attended the announcement, perhaps boosting the chances of bipartisan support.

[...]

HUD's description of stakeholders in designated Choice Neighborhoods — it lists “public housing authorities, cities, schools, police, business owners, nonprofits, and private developers” — does not include the people who actually live there. This patronizing posture has been a flaw in poverty programming for nearly 50 years. [...] But they are the ones who know their own problems, and their energy and compliance are critical to success. Obama, a former community organizer, should know that.

[...]

In a poisonous atmosphere of fiscal austerity, anti-Obama madness and disparagement of poor people, we should perhaps be grateful for any attention to this problem. However, bad policies and programs can sometimes harm more than help. Promise Zones seemingly promise little and may provide one more example of how, without adequate funding and genuine partnerships with the real stakeholders, the government cannot effectively help the poor.

  alJazeera
No but contractors can make a bundle.

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

What Used To Be the Middle Class

Both federal and state-level lawmakers have targeted the rise of food stamp use as a sign of increasing public “dependency” on the government, and have looked for ways to restrict access to food stamps, despite the continuing weakness of the job market. For example, Georgia’s legislature will debate drug testing for poor people as a condition for receipt of SNAP benefits, despite a similar measure in Florida catching virtually no one, costing millions and ultimately being ruled unconstitutional three weeks ago by a federal judge. Another similar drug testing policy in Utah yielded only 12 positive results in a year.

[...]

[T]he Associated Press reported Sunday that working-age people have now passed children and the elderly as the majority of recipients for households relying on food stamps.

The program now covers one in seven Americans, with the fastest growth in use among workers with some college training, the AP reported.

[...]

“Some of the change is the result of changing demographics, such as a trend toward having fewer children, but the slow economic recovery is also playing a role, with high unemployment, stagnant wages and an increasing gulf between low-wage and high-skill jobs,” the AP reported. “It’s a sign the safety net has stretched to cover what used to be the middle class.”

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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Absence of News Is Better Than Fox News

Although this could say more about the type of audience each has than the quality of their news; i.e.  are people who listen to NPR more interested and inclined to find out what's going on than those who watch Fox? Or is that two sides of the same coin?



Source

Other studies with the same conclusion:  http://www.salon.com/2012/04/10/foxs_misinformation_effect/
...but hey, watch what you want...you will anyway.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Diplomatic Purchase

President Barack Obama's pick for ambassador to Norway [George Tsunis] seems to be spicing up the diplomatic relationship by sticking his foot in his mouth before even getting to the post.

[...]

"What do you think the appeal of the Progress Party was, according to the Norwegian voters?" asked Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Jan. 16.

"That is a very seminal question," Tsunis said. "Generally Norway has, and is very proud of being a very open, transparent, Democratic, parliamentary government. One of the byproducts of being such an open society and placing such a value on free speech is you get some fringe elements that have a microphone that spew their hatred and although I will tell you that Norway has been very quick to denounce them -- "

McCain interrupted, pointing out that the Progress Party is part of the center-right coalition government in Norway, with seven ministers.

"I stand corrected, and would like to leave my answer that it's a very, very open society," Tsunis responded.

[...]

In last week's hearing, Tsunis also referred to Norway's "president," despite the fact that the country is a constitutional monarchy.

Tsunis has been a top fundraiser for President Barack Obama and the Democratic party. Tsunis, the CEO of Chartwell Hotels, bundled over $500,000 for Obama's 2012 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He also donated $300,000 to Democratic-leaning super PACs in 2012, according to FEC records. .

[...]

One European politics expert, Jytte Klausen of Brandeis University, said that it was not unusual for a nominee for ambassador to be ignorant about the country's politics.

  Huffington Post
Which is, sadly, probably true.

We Don't Need No Steenkeen Workers

Flashback to presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2007. Here he said he wouldn’t wait “ten years” to raise the minimum wage. He said he’d raise it “to keep pace every single year”.



Let's see how he's doing:



Check out this interesting chart of the history of the minimum wage: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0774473.html

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

P.S.  "Ten years"?  How long did he plan on being in office?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

From the Snowden Q&A

http://www.freesnowden.is/asksnowden.html

Thank You, Mr. Snowden

On behalf of the grandmothers in Missouri.
When we’re sophisticated enough to be able to break into any device in the world we want to (up to and including Angela Merkel’s phone, if reports are to be believed), there’s no excuse to wasting our time collecting the call records of grandmothers in Missouri.

  Edward Snowden Q&A

Here's One I Missed

I did not know there was a story out there that Snowden had stolen co-workers' passwords...



If you're online now (2:40 Central), and want to check in to the live Q&A with Edward Snowden, click here: http://www.freesnowden.is/asksnowden.html

FYI

http://freesnowden.is/_2476.html

http://freesnowden.is/_2476.html

NSA Core Values

http://www.nsa.gov/public_info/speeches_testimonies/nsa_videos/core_values.shtml

The Deputy Director may want to update this revision.

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

Situation Ethics

In yet another example of African American moral and political deterioration in the Age of Obama, a new Pew Research poll shows Blacks are more in favor of NSA spying on Americans than are whites or Hispanics. Moreover, the data indicate that Blacks are probably more likely to favor prosecution of Edward Snowden for his NSA spying revelations, than are other ethnic groups.

[...]

In conventional political terms, African Americans – who are subjected to hyper-surveillance like no other group in the U.S. – are most heavily represented on the far Right on this issue, steadfast with “their” president.

[...]

In conventional political terms, African Americans – who are subjected to hyper-surveillance like no other group in the U.S. – are most heavily represented on the far Right on this issue, steadfast with “their” president

[...]

Put another way, Black majorities appear prepared to take even the most right-wing positions if they perceive it to be in defense of the First Black President.

[...]

Democrats are substantially more likely than Republicans to favor criminal prosecution of Edward Snowden, according to the Pew poll. Sixty-two percent of Democrats, versus 54 percent of Republicans, want to throw the book at Snowden..

  Black Agenda Report
What I’m learning is that people have no personal standards.

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

What Ethics?

America’s professional association of psychologists has quietly declined to rebuke one of its members, a retired US army reserve officer, for his role in one of the most brutal interrogations known to have to taken place at Guantánamo Bay, the Guardian has learned.

The decision not to pursue any disciplinary measure against John Leso, a former army reserve major, is the latest case in which someone involved in the post-9/11 torture of detainees has faced no legal or even professional consequences.

[...]

“With Leso, the evidence of his participation is so explicit and so incontrovertible, the APA had to go to great lengths to dismiss it,” said Steven Reisner, a New York clinical psychologist who unsuccessfully ran for the APA presidency last year. “The precedent is that APA is not going to hold any psychologist accountable in any circumstance.”

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

Oh, Bother

An independent executive branch board has concluded that the National Security Agency’s long-running program to collect billions of Americans’ phone records is illegal and should end.

In a strongly worded report to be issued Thursday, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) said that the statute upon which the program was based, Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, “does not provide an adequate basis to support this program.”

[...]

The board had shared its conclusions with Obama in the days leading up to his speech.

  WaPo
Which he chose to ignore.
“We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation,” said the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

[...]

“At its core, the approach boils down to the proposition that essentially all telephone records are relevant to essentially all international terrorism investigations,” the report said. This approach, it said, “at minimum, is in deep tension with the statutory requirement that items obtained through a Section 215 order be sought for ‘an investigation,’ not for the purpose of enhancing the government’s counterterrorism capabilities generally.”

The board, which was established at the urging of the 9/11 commission, was not unanimous on the issue of ending bulk collection. Two members concluded that the program, if modified to include additional privacy protections, should continue. The two were Rachel L. Brand and Elisebeth Collins Cook, who served in the Justice Department in the George W. Bush administration. The three members who urged an end to the program are Chairman David Medine, a former Federal Trade Commission official in the Clinton administration; James X. Dempsey, a public policy expert with the privacy group, the Center for Democracy & Technology; and Patricia M. Wald, a retired federal appeals court judge named to the bench by President Jimmy Carter.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

But Government Regulation Is a Bad Thing, Right?

A second chemical was mixed in with the previously identified MCMH crude that leaked from a storage tank at Freedom Industries chemical company earlier this month and tainted drinking water in a large swathe of West Virginia.

[...]

The chemical spill into the Elk River prompted authorities to impose a ban Jan. 9 on drinking, bathing or even touching water from taps.

Those bans were lifted Jan. 19, but residents this week were still reporting symptoms such as rashes or nausea after coming into contact with the water.

[...]

"It was Freedom's responsibility to let people know there was another chemical in the tank and they did not," Amy Goodwin, the director of communications for Gov. Tomblin, told Al Jazeera.

"At this point there is very limited trust in any of the information that is being provided by Freedom, but the second we found out about it, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health and Human Resources, the National Guard, and the Office of Homeland Security went out and did testing within the system," Goodwin said.

  
And this is why the EPA is a farce. They let companies do their own testing and providing safety data. It’s like letting the financial institutions provide their own company worth analyses. Only with the industrial sector, instead of bankrupting people, they destroy their health.

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

Monday, January 20, 2014

He's Getting Too Much Public Support


Must do something about that.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) — chairpersons of the House and Senate committees, respectively — each opined as to a secret Snowden-Russia relationship during appearances on the political talk show circuit this weekend.

  RT
Bipartisan.
"I believe there's a reason he ended up in the hands - the loving arms - of an FSB agent in Moscow,” Rep. Rogers said during a Meet the Press appearance that aired on Sunday “I don't think that's a coincidence," he said.
Asshole. Seriously.

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

Friday, January 17, 2014

Indeed



I'm curious how long it took to get them all so perfectly and uniformly draped.

"Reform" Check



Click to enlarge.

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

Pretty Words

“The president’s speech outlined several developments which we welcome. Increased transparency for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, improved checks and balances at the FISA court through the creation of a panel of advocates, and increased privacy protections for non-U.S. citizens abroad – the first such assertion by a U.S. president – are all necessary and welcome reforms.

“However, the president’s decision not to end bulk collection and retention of all Americans’ data remains highly troubling. The president outlined a process to study the issue further and appears open to alternatives. But the president should end – not mend – the government’s collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans’ data. When the government collects and stores every American’s phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an ‘unreasonable search’ that violates the Constitution. The president’s own review panel recommended that bulk data collection be ended, and the president should accept that recommendation in its entirety.”

A new chart comparing the ACLU’s proposals, President Obama’s announcement, and the USA FREEDOM Act (a bipartisan bill currently pending in Congress) is at: aclu.org/national-security/where-does-president-stand-nsa-reform ACLU Action is demanding an end to dragnet surveillance at: aclu.org/endsurveillance

  ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero
“Anytime you assemble a massive database of sensitive information, you make everyone less secure,” Alex Abdo, an attorney with the ACLU, argues. “We are fundamentally less secure when we have our sensitive information aggregated, whether by government or by companies forced to keep it for the government. Until further notice, bulk surveillance is in place.”

The basic situation is this: Obama did not back away from the core principle that this bulk collection is necessary to keep Americans safe. As he put it, the goal will be to “establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.” The key word there being “preserve.”

[...]

For Obama, the debate should be about how to collect this metadata in a way that maximizes public confidence that privacy rights are protected. For civil libertarians, the debate should be over whether to collect that metadata at all — the bulk collection itself is an abuse, one that is not central to keeping the nation safe, despite Obama’s protestation otherwise.

[...]

He outlined a number of reforms that will increase transparency into collection of metadata and the legal rationale for it. He called for the creation of a panel of outsiders that will represent the public before the FISA court, meaning that it won’t be hearing only the government’s arguments.

  WaPo
And that is indeed a step above the situation as it has existed where only the government’s representatives could argue at the court. But we can expect the people on that panel to be appointed, not elected. “Outsiders” remains to be seen – how far outside and with what connections?
He said a court order will now be required before the government can get access to that data.
How nice for the government. The fact that the data is collected and stored by anyone leaves the situation exactly as is. It is private, unwarranted data that is stored somewhere giving access to people who have no business having it. Not to mention…how hard is it for the government to get a court order?
Obama repeatedly said that the public’s confidence that their privacy is being safeguarded is a paramount goal.
And that is the bottom line and the reason for any action at all. The public has lost confidence. Restore the public’s confidence, and you can do what you want.

ProPublica refutes four of Obama’s assurances to the public:
1. There have been no abuses.
2. At least 50 terrorist threats have been averted.
3. The NSA does not do any domestic spying.
4. Snowden failed to take advantage of whistleblower protections.

All wrong. So why would you believe him now?

Some Might Prefer to Look Backward

Others, maybe not so much...



Celebraties youth photos:  http://www.boredpanda.org/celebrities-when-they-were-young/

Drip, Drip, Drip

The National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents.

The untargeted collection and storage of SMS messages – including their contacts – is revealed in a joint investigation between the Guardian and the UK’s Channel 4 News based on material provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

[...]

An agency presentation from 2011 – subtitled “SMS Text Messages: A Goldmine to Exploit” – reveals the program collected an average of 194 million text messages a day in April of that year. In addition to storing the messages themselves, a further program known as “Prefer” conducted automated analysis on the untargeted communications.

The Prefer program uses automated text messages such as missed call alerts or texts sent with international roaming charges to extract information, which the agency describes as “content-derived metadata”, and explains that “such gems are not in current metadata stores and would enhance current analytics”.

[...]

The agency was also able to extract geolocation data from more than 76,000 text messages a day, including from “requests by people for route info” and “setting up meetings”. Other travel information was obtained from itinerary texts sent by travel companies, even including cancellations and delays to travel plans.

[...]

Communications from US phone numbers, the documents suggest, were removed (or “minimized”) from the database – but those of other countries, including the UK, were retained.

  Guardian

It Wasn't Just Target

[In]nvestigators have confirmed fears that Target was not the only victim of the attack, but have refrained from identifying the other companies that suffered during the Christmas sales craze.

According to Reuters’ source, at least three other well-known national retailers have suffered an attack from the same virus.

On Thursday, luxury retailer Neiman Marcus Group said that it also suffered a theft of clients’ personal data during the holiday shopping period, without mentioning, though, whether its case was somehow related to Target's.

  RT
And the others may not be willing to admit it.

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

BFD

A senior White House administration official told the agency that Obama will on Friday call for an end to the National Security Agency’s collection of phone data from millions of US citizens “in a highly-anticipated speech” at the Justice Department.

It was not immediately clear what body, if any, will overtake the control of the phone data. According to the official, the US president will ask the attorney general, intelligence community and Congress to make that determination.

  RT
So he’s saying what? It’s wrong for the NSA to collect the data, but it’s not wrong that the data be collected?

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

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Anti-Data Mining Campaign

https://thedaywefightback.org/

Bowe Bergdahl Update

A video of America's only current prisoner of war has been handed to the US government, showing he is still alive more than four years after he went missing, according to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

The video footage, which reportedly shows a frail Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl referencing the 5 December death of Nelson Mandela, is the first to surface in nearly three years.

It has not been made public, but an unnamed defence official confirmed its authenticity to Stars and Stripes, a paper partly funded by the US military.

[...]

The US government has been trying for several years to negotiate his release through a prisoner exchange, which would free several high-profile detainees from the Guantánamo Bay prison, but has had little success in the stop-start efforts.

  Guardian

TPP

WikiLeaks published a leaked draft of the environment chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Wednesday, and environmental groups are lining up to take a swing.

[...]

The chapter is intended to deal with issues like overfishing, trade of wood products, wildlife crime, and illegal logging. But most of the measures in the chapter are voluntary, rather than binding, and do not include penalties or criminal sanctions for violations.

[...]

The leaked document from November is only a draft, but if the trade pact's final environmental chapter looks like it, it would make the Obama administration's environmental trade record "worse than George W. Bush’s," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

  HuffPo
He’s making a record for out-Georging George....but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Drip, Drip, Drip

Silent Circle – an encryption firm that has made it its mission to defy NSA snooping – is releasing what it says will be the world’s most secure smartphone.

  RT
It’s called the Blackphone. And it will no doubt cost you a pretty penny. But, kudos to companies taking on the task.
Silent Circle was one of the biggest providers of encrypted email in the world in the past several years, but pre-emptively shut down its services in August last year ahead of an expected broad surveillance request by the FBI.

[...]

[Silent Circle and Lavabit (who also shut down rather than turn over information)] who style themselves after the Rebel Alliance who fought the Death Star in Star Wars, subsequently joined forces to develop Dark Mail, a new purportedly super-secure email service that is expected to be unveiled later this year.

[...]

The security of communication also depends not only on what device is used by the owner of the super-secure phone, but also, the location of the device he is communicating with.

[...]

[W]hile it is obvious that these phones will offer a superior level of protection when it comes to being tracked by business rivals or family members, it is not clear whether they are sufficient to escape the long reach of the NSA.
My guess is not.
In the latest of the revelations surrounding U.S. surveillance, The New York Times reports the National Security Agency has planted spying software in close to 100,000 computers around the world. The software allows for monitoring those machines and the creation of a new digital pathway to launch cyber-attacks on others. It works even if computers are not connected to the Internet by using a covert channel of radio frequencies. Reported targets since 2008 include the Chinese and Russian military, Mexican police and drug cartels, European Union trade institutions, and U.S. allies including Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan.

  Democracy Now!
The NSA calls use of the infiltration software and radio technology - all part of a program known as Quantum - “active defense” against cyber-attacks, though it has condemned use of similar software by Chinese attackers against American companies or government agencies.

[...]

The Chinese Army has been the most frequent target of Quantum.

[...]

While not commenting on the scope of the program, the NSA said Quantum is not comparable to actions by the Chinese.

  RT
Of course not. ...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Net Neutrality Decision

Three judges in D.C. just killed Net Neutrality.

This could be the end of the Internet as we know it. But it doesn't have to be.

The big news: A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down the Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet Order. This decision means that companies like AT&T, Time Warner Cable and Verizon — which brought the lawsuit — are now free to block or slow down any website, application or service they like.

These companies will rush to change the Web and line their own pockets at our expense — creating new tolls for app makers, expensive price tiers for popular sites, and fast lanes open only to the few content providers that can afford them.

[...]

[T]he biggest broadband providers will race to turn the open and vibrant Web into something that looks like cable TV — where they pick and choose the channels for you. They'll establish fast lanes for the few giant companies that can afford to pay exorbitant tolls and reserve the slow lanes for everyone else.

  Free Press
"AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast will be able to deliver some sites and services more quickly and reliably than others for any reason," telecommunications lawyer Marvin Ammori [...] observed even before the ruling came down. "Whim. Envy. Ignorance. Competition. Vengeance. Whatever. Or, no reason at all."

The telecom companies claim their chief interest is in providing better service to all customers, but that's unadulterated flimflam. We know this because regulators already have had to make superhuman efforts to keep the big ISPs from degrading certain services for their own benefit--Comcast, for example, was caught in 2007 throttling traffic from BitTorrent, a video service that competed with its own on-demand video.

[...]

This wouldn't be as much of a threat to the open Internet if there were genuine competition among providers, so you could take your business elsewhere if your ISP was turning the public Web into its own private garden. In the U.S., there's no practical competition. The vast majority of households essentially have a single broadband option, their local cable provider. Verizon and AT&T provide Internet service, too, but for most customers they're slower than the cable service. Some neighborhoods get telephone fiber services, but Verizon and AT&T have ceased the rollout of their FiOs and U-verse services--if you don't have it now, you're not getting it.

Who deserves the blame for this wretched combination of monopolization and profiteering by ever-larger cable and phone companies? The FCC, that's who. The agency's dereliction dates back to 2002, when under Chairman Michael Powell it reclassified cable modem services as "information services" rather than "telecommunications services," eliminating its own authority to regulate them broadly. Powell, by the way, is now the chief lobbyist in Washington for the cable TV industry, so the payoff wasn't long in coming.

[...]

The court did leave it up to the FCC or Congress to refashion a net neutrality regime. The new FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, has made noises favoring net neutrality, but he also sounds like someone who's not so committed to the principle.

[...]

The only course is for public pressure to overcome industry pressure. That's a tough road, but there's no alternative. Do you want your Internet to look like your cable TV service, where you have no control over what comes into your house or what you pay for it? Then stay silent. If not, start writing letters and emails to your elected representatives and the FCC now. It's the only hope to save the free, open Internet.

  LATimes
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is mulling whether to continue the litigation. His options include asking the court to rehear it with the same three judges or with a larger, en banc panel, or going directly to the Supreme Court.

  Wired
Comcast is one of the companies that will be playing by the Open Internet rules through 2018, despite Tuesday's ruling.

  NPR


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

Monday, January 13, 2014

Uh-Oh

Just days after dismissing two top advisers for their roles in the George Washington Bridge scandal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie faced questions over the use of Superstorm Sandy relief funds.

CNN has learned that federal officials are investigating whether Christie improperly used some of that money to produce tourism ads that starred him and his family.

[...]

Pallone wrote that he was concerned about the bidding process for the firm awarded the marketing plan; the winning firm is charging the state about $2 million more than the next lowest bidder.

The winning bid of $4.7 million featured Christie and his family in the advertisements while the losing $2.5 million proposal did not feature the Christies.

  CNN

Another Report on the NSA Data Mining Programs

An analysis of 225 terrorism cases inside the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has concluded that the bulk collection of phone records by the National Security Agency “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.”

In the majority of cases, traditional law enforcement and investigative methods provided the tip or evidence to initiate the case, according to the study by the New America Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit group.

  WaPo
Yeah, what do they know? Probably some liberal Islamist group.
The study, to be released Monday, corroborates the findings of a White House-appointed review group, which said last month that the NSA counterterrorism program “was not essential to preventing attacks” and that much of the evidence it did turn up “could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional [court] orders.”
Yeah? What do they know?
Senior administration officials have defended the program as one tool that complements others in building a more complete picture of a terrorist plot or network. And they say it has been valuable in knocking down rumors of a plot and in determining that potential threats against the United States are nonexistent. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. calls that the “peace of mind” metric.
See there? It’s able to determine that potential threats are nonexistent. Peace of mind.
“Although we might be safer if the government had ready access to a massive storehouse of information about every detail of our lives, the impact of such a program on the quality of life and on individual freedom would simply be too great,” the group’s report said.
OK, thanks, but apparently, we have NOT been safer. The Boston bombers didn’t seem to have any trouble getting their explosives set. Not to mention, we were already safe enough, had the agencies with the necessary information pre-9/11 been willing to share it.

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

"How can anyone say we are protecting our liberty and freedom by taking it away?"

Peter Van Buren takes on and answers the top ten justifications for NSA data mining.

Warren at Work for the People

Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a bill with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that aims to make government settlements with corporations more transparent and fair.

[...]

When banks and other corporations are accused of breaking the law, the government often settles cases instead of going to trial.

[...]

Warren's bill would discourage tax-deductible settlements by forcing federal agencies to explain why certain settlements are confidential, and to publicly disclose the terms of non-confidential agreements so that taxpayers can see how much settlement tax-deductibility is costing them.

  Mother Jones
Of course, there is no telling what the end results of a trial might have been.  I'm sure it would cost the taxpayers to take these cases to trial.  But maybe the taxpayers need better lawyers who can win these kinds of cases and collect large penalties, rather than settling them and collecting only half of the settlement.

And, should the public care enough to do anything about it, here are some examples of tax write-offs in recent settlements:

Company Violation Settlement Tax Write Off
JPMorgan selling dicy financial products $13 billion $4 billion
BP Gulf oil spill disaster $20 billion $10 billion
HSBC money laundering $1.9 billion $700 million
Exxon Alaska oil spill $1.1 billion $576 million
Marsh & McLennan bid-rigging $850 million $298 million

Black Face

When the details of the deal began to emerge, it became obvious that the agreement was yet another frontal assault on the working class and the poor that has characterized state policies over the last three decades. For the millions of people knocked to their knees by the economic crisis created by the robber barons of finance capital, the neoliberal fiscal priorities of the budget obliterated any hope that they would get relief from the insecurities and fears of living in an economy that seems aligned against them.

Not only was there no plan to use the power of the state to create or stimulate jobs, but the Christmas gift to the 1.3 million long-term unemployed left out of the deal was the elimination of their unemployment benefits on December 28.

The deal does not raise real revenue by closing tax loopholes for wealthy. It does not restore food stamps cuts for the 47 million receiving this assistance or cuts to Medicare and other vital public services like special education programs, Head Start and nearly $2 billion slashed from housing aid.

And because the deal lacks mechanisms for raising revenues, it places the burden for funding the deal squarely on the backs of working people by requiring federal workers to take another hit on their wages and benefits. This hit to federal workers is in addition to the increase in taxes that all workers experienced in January 2013 when the payroll tax cut was rescinded while the $4 trillion in Bush tax cuts for the wealthy were allowed to continue for another decade.

Furthermore, while poll after poll demonstrated that the public was no longer in favor of costly military adventures around the world and wanted to see a reduction in military expenditures, Congressional representatives still increased military spending by $20 billion.

[...]

Obama, the quintessential neoliberal technocrat, calls these kinds of agreements “compromises.” But [...] the interests of working people and the poor are the interests usually compromised in those agreements.

  Black Agenda Report
And perhaps now we are beginning to see why America was allowed to have a black president. A (half) black man who came pretty much out of nowhere, known nationally by only a few voters before his meteoric,sudden rise to power. If you take away material support from the impoverished black masses, you are going to have to placate them with something else.

The interesting years are coming up when Obama is no longer in the White House. But, no matter. What can those masses really do? Militarized police with tanks and drones are in place, privacy has been replaced with full-scale surveillance and data collection, torture has been justified and sanctioned at the highest levels, and executive power now includes the right to assassinate American citizens.

America's First "Black" President

Barack Obama has used up his people-friendly rhetoric over the past five years, and is now repeating promises he’s already made and broken: to raise the minimum wage, strengthen worker rights, establish truly universal health care, and fight for the common man and woman. Obama’s new rhetorical target is gross income inequalities – a catastrophe that has worsened on his watch.

President Obama, the Grand Facilitator of the greatest consolidation of financial wealth in human history, began his sixth year in office declaring that income inequality is “the defining challenge of our time.” The Grand Bargainer who saved George Bush’s bank bailout and presided over the (ongoing) infusion of tens of trillions of dollars into Wall Street accounts, and who bragged less than two years ago that, “Since I’ve been president, federal spending has actually risen at the lowest pace in nearly 60 years,” now calls for government action to reverse the momentum of his own policies. The Great Pretender, who in 2008 called for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011, and then did absolutely nothing to effectuate it when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, now proposes to raise the bar to $10 an hour in order to embarrass Republicans in an election year. The Daring Debt Buster who, on his own initiative, has frozen federal workers’ wages since 2010, and worked hand in glove with Republicans to gut social programs in the name of fiscal restraint, laments “growing inequality and lack of upward mobility” among the masses.

The chief executive who lifted not a finger to pass “card check,” the Employee Free Choice Act of 2009, that might have given organized labor a fighting chance to survive, now pretends to be a born again champion of collective bargaining and yearns for the days when “you knew that a blue-collar job would let you buy a home, and a car, maybe a vacation once in a while, health care, a reliable pension.”

  Black Agenda Report
Seriously, who is buying his shit any more?
By 2009, according to economist Pamela Brown, white household wealth was 19 times that of Black households, “and is probably even greater now” – compared to a ratio of 12 to 1 in 1984 and down to 7 to 1 in 1995. The collapse of Black economic fortunes has been catastrophic, yet Obama offers only tax cuts for corporations, streamlined business regulations, undoing of sequestration, more rhetoric about ending off-shoring of jobs, and stronger application of antidiscrimination laws.

The president wants us to forget that he was the one who proposed sequestration in the first place, in an effort to force a Grand Bargain with Republicans; that his economic advisors are secretly meeting with hundreds of corporate lobbyists to shape a jobs-destroying Trans Pacific Partnership that is “like NAFTA on steroids,” and then fast-track it through Congress; and that Obama has nominated two Republican prospective judges from Georgia to federal courts, one of whom fought to keep the Confederate banner in the state flag, while the other was the lead lawyer in defense of Georgia’s Voter ID law. The Obama administration has many priorities, but nondiscrimination is not one of them.
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Good Luck, Lady

According to a CNN report, the woman who revealed that 10 percent of the student-athletes at the University of North Carolina are reading below a third-grade level has been the subject of multiple death threats.

Worse still, Mary Willingham told CNN, UNC has refused to support the findings of a study it asked her to conduct. According to Willingham, when CNN asked her for data about the scholastic aptitude of student-athletes, she provided the network with information that UNC had collected.

“It’s in their system,” she said. “They have all the data and more. It belongs to them, and they paid a lot of money for it.”

UNC claimed otherwise, writing in a statement that “[u]niversity officials can’t comment on the statistical claims mentioned in the story because they have not seen the data.”

[...]

UNC also claimed that “[s]uch analysis is not part of [Willingham's] job duties at the university,” but she provided CNN with emails she exchanged with university officials demonstrating that she had approval both to conduct her research and share her findings.

The university said it plans to meet with Willingham to “discuss” her findings.

[...]

University police said that they are “looking into it and making effort to reach out and investigate the nature of the threats.”

  Raw Story
Do they think we don't know what goes on?  Hiding "proof" doesn't change it.  I guess it keeps the lawsuits at bay.

When I was at University of Missouri, I took a basic horticulture course whose professor told us that the less academically capable athletes were in his class because it was considered an easy course, and that, on top of that, the university dictated that the professor give the test answers to them prior to every exam.  

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

Christie in 2016

Republican strategist Karl Rove asserted on Sunday that New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) handling of the George Washington Bridge Scandal showed he had the right qualities to be president of the United States.

[...]

“I think he did himself a lot of good,” Rove said of Christie’s reaction to the scandal. “I think he did himself some good by contrasting with the normal, routine way of handing these things, which is to be evasive, to sort of trim on the edges.”

“You’ll notice we haven’t been hearing a lot from the Clinton camp about this,” he added. “Contrast both with Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton’s handling of Benghazi.”

  Raw Story
I guess we know who was slated to be the Republican presidential candidate in 2016. Or still is. And we know who his strategist is. Surely they didn’t leave any evidence that incriminates Christie personally in the fiasco.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Downhill and Backwards

As West Virginians were learning Thursday of a devastating chemical spill in the Elk River that has rendered water undrinkable for 300,000 people, the US House of Representatives was busy gutting federal hazardous-waste cleanup law.

The House passed the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act that would ultimately eliminate requirements for the Environmental Protection Agency to review and update hazardous-waste disposal regulations in a timely manner, and make it more difficult for the government to compel companies that deal with toxic substances to carry proper insurance for cleanups, pushing the cost on to taxpayers.

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

Why We Don't Need NSA Bulk Data Collection

[T]he lack-of-enough-intelligence argument is dead wrong. Feinstein’s next dubious premise – that bulk collection is needed to prevent another 9/11 – is unproven and highly unlikely (not to mention its implications for the privacy protections of the Fourth Amendment).

[...]

NSA itself had enough information to prevent 9/11, but chose to sit on it rather than share it with the FBI or CIA. We know; we were there. We were witness to the many bureaucratic indignities that made NSA at least as culpable for pre-9/11 failures as are other U.S. intelligence agencies.

[...]

It is not difficult to connect NSA’s collect-everything approach with one principal finding of the Review Group you appointed to look into NSA programs; namely, that exactly zero terrorist plots have been prevented by NSA’s bulk trawling for telephone call records.

[...]

What passes for a process for collection and analysis at NSA appears to be highly inefficient and ineffective. How else does one explain missing the bombers of Boston, Times Square, and the underwear bomber over Detroit?

[...]

The flood of revelations now in the public domain frees us to address facts and events formerly hidden behind a convenient, cover-up classification regime. We feel bound by the solemn oath we took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, to make truths known to you that you may find as unconscionable as we do.

  Consortium News
That’s highly doubtful.

These are excerpts from a letter to the President from former NSA professionals William Binney, Thomas Drake, Edward Loomis, and Kirk Wiebe. Of course, they are also whistle blowers who have been prosecuted by the Obama administration, so I’m pretty sure the President has no interest in what they have to say.
Mr. President, we have given up hope that your palace guard will let us in. Our chances of reaching you seem far better via this Memorandum, the 28th of its kind issued since early 2003, prepared at the behest of the Steering Group of our Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). If this gets past your in-box protectors, we encourage you to pay more heed to it than your predecessor did to VIPS’ warnings in the months before the attack on Iraq.
I think they’re giving him too much credit. If he doesn’t know what they’re trying to tell him, he’s the only person in the country. Or maybe they’re just pretending that they think he doesn’t know.
Let us be clear. Candor dictates that we state up front that the more skeptical among us suspect that you are not as isolated from the truth about NSA activities as it might seem. That notwithstanding, for purposes of this Memorandum we choose to adopt a broader view and assume you would welcome help from former insiders who chose to leave rather than become complicit in NSA abuses.
The letter further describes the, by now, well publicized case of the program William Binney, et al., developed while in the NSA for legal collection of data on specific targets that was tossed aside in favor of privately contracted programs. In part:
THINTHREAD was developed precisely to unite data associated with terrorists/criminals from all databases. An analyst was able to do one simple query on participants on a targeted activity and get access to all related content – be it from computer, phone, or pager.

[...]

[S]ince THINTHREAD was developed in-house at NSA, it cost about $3 million to build and to make operational at three sites. Members of Congress, however, had political incentive (the imperative to appear to be doing something against terrorism) and financial interest (no need to spell that out) in throwing billions at NSA.

[...]

In 2000, as THINTHREAD was beginning to show promise, the head of the NSA Transformation Office (NTO) asked the creators of THINTHREAD (Loomis, Binney, and Wiebe) what they could do with $1.2 billion. We told him that, with that amount of funding, we could upgrade every one of our field installations that had access to foreign Internet sources, as well as upgrade collection equipment to access greater bandwidths available on fiber. But for the equipment, maintenance, and other costs for THINTHREAD, we only needed about $300 million.

Director Hayden reacted swiftly on learning of this. He removed the NTO chief, replacing him with a senior vice president of Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), which became one of the leading contractors for a replacement project called TRAILBLAZER. TRAILBLAZER was originally budgeted for $3.8 billion, but after burning away most of that money, it had to be jettisoned in 2006.

No functioning components had been produced, much less delivered; Gen. Hayden had been forced to confess to the Senate Intelligence Committee that TRAILBLAZER was vastly over budget as well as well behind schedule. And our (Binney/Loomis/Wiebe) complaint to the Department of Defense Inspector General had generated a highly critical report on TRAILBLAZER, which was also a factor in its termination. SAIC, though, continued to serve as one of NSA’s major prime development contractors and remains so to this day.

[...]

This particularly unconscionable (Hayden-SAIC-Congress) corruption is a case study in how the drive for big money and the power can squander big taxpayer bucks, chip away at our constitutional protections – and, more important, as we shall explain below – play a crucial role in the worst intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor – 9/11.

[...]

You will hear the usual denials. With all due respect, we think caution is indicated in thinking about taking them at face value. We would encourage you to get ahead of the curve this time.
This is not the president to do that. I don’t foresee a president in the next term who would do that, either. Our country is on the road to Hell and picking up speed.

You can read the rest of the letter/report yourself, which includes the fact that the NSA had pre-9/11 intelligence on the planners of the attack and “a critical long-term analytic report unraveling the entire heart of al-Qaeda and associated movements,” all of which was not shared outside the NSA; that whistleblower accounts to the Joint Congressional Inquiry on 9/11 and the Defense Department Inspector General were ignored; and why it is a lie when Washington insiders claim that had the NSA total data collection program been in effect before 9/11 it might have prevented the attacks on that day.

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

Friday, January 10, 2014

SOP

House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers and his Democractic counterpart Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger published a press release today touting a classified Defense Department report alleging that Edward Snowden’s leaks—and by proxy, stories published by news organizations—threaten national security and “are likely to have lethal consequences for our troops in the field.”

[...]

No specific examples are given, and you will notice virtually every sentence includes the word “could”—meaning real damage hasn’t actually occurred, and they are just saying it potentially could happen. And of course, the actual report is secret.

  Press Freedom Foundation
And of course, this is the standard cookie cutter response the government issues to every embarrassing leak.

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

"Let Them Eat Cake" Is Not a Good Election Year Slogan

Senator Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat who is up for re-election, is admonishing Republicans back home as “irresponsible and cold-hearted” for slashing unemployment benefits. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, says that her party’s thinking is “stale and old and doesn’t really address the magnitude of the problem.”

Poverty is suddenly the subject of bipartisan embrace.

President Obama will highlight income disparity in his State of the Union address this month, part of a broader effort by Democrats to push a populist theme for their midterm campaigns against Republicans.

  NYT
Things must be finally bad enough that both parties see an advantage in taking up poverty as an election year issue.

Hmmmm….
Pew Research Center reported in December that the 113th Congress (2013 to 2014) was the least productive Congress in its first year. Gallup reported in November that the 113th was the least popular Congress of all-time, with a 9 percent approval rating.

[...]

The most unproductive and least popular US Congress in history can count on another distinction: For the first time ever, most members of the Legislative Branch are millionaires.

[...]

Net worth for Republicans and Democrats went up 10.3 percent and 11.6 percent, respectively.

[...]

The Center for Responsive Politics found that investing in the stock market, after declining for several years with congressional members, is again on the rise

[...]

Financial powers like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, among others, make up most of the top 10 congressional investments.

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

Meanwhile, Down Under, It's Very Hot

While the US is stricken by freezing cold, Australia is suffering a record heat with temperatures approaching 50C (122F) in some parts of the country and leaving thousands of animals dead.

A wave of stifling heat began around Christmas and continues to move counterclockwise across Australia's north and into the south. The latest scorcher comes on the heel of Australia’s hottest year on record.

  RT
With the heat index at times soaring above 49 degrees Celsius in Brazil on Wednesday, keepers at a Rio de Janeiro zoo are giving their animals ice blocks.

  RT

Thursday, January 9, 2014

GOP Goal: No More Stupid Candidates

[W]ith George W. Bush, Rove basically gave us the political version of Married With Children, an ongoing self-parody routine where couch-potato America tuned in week after week to cheer on the nitwit hero as he and his brood took on a world of self-serious snobs and their silly "civilized" conventions (like, say, international law). It was political junk food and American voters ate it up, although the people on the business end of our endless bombings and waterboarding sessions and other atrocities were less stoked about the show.

[...]

Rove and his crew openly laughed at the idea that they had to be consistent, or make sense, or do the right thing. Remember their naked mocking of the "reality-based community," and the boasting about how "we create our own reality"? Who did we think they were supposed to be, boy scouts? This was Washington! They were about winning, not governing.

[...]

If you spend years letting your voters think Saddam Hussein was an agent of al-Qaeda, that passing a national health care program will result in the formation of Stalinist "death panels," or that Barack Obama is secretly a foreigner, you’re going to end up with some loopy candidates prone to saying crazy things that will turn off voting majorities, which in turn will make it hard to the deliver policy objectives you actually care about for your big-money donors.

The Republican establishment is only just figuring this out. Hence [a] new $50 million initiative, which [...] will involve the Chamber [of Commerce] working with party leaders in “an aggressive effort to groom and support more centrist Republican candidates.”

[...]

The news came in the Wall Street Journal, where the Chamber of Commerce disclosed that it will be teaming up with Republican establishment leaders to spend $50 million in an effort to stem the tide of “fools” who have overwhelmed Republican ballots in recent seasons. Check out the language Chamber strategist Scott Reed used in announcing the new campaign:

Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates… That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket.

[...]

And way back in March of last year, Karl Rove himself, speaking on behalf of his Crossroads SuperPAC, told Fox News Sunday that "our goal is to avoid having stupid candidates." Rove’s group is reportedly also involved in this new $50 million effort.

[...]

The Chamber's announcement was met with howls of outrage from Tea Party-friendly voices, who naturally took immediate offense to the prospect of boycotting "fools" from the political process.

[...]

Fifty million dollars is enough money to fund half a dozen or more Senate campaigns. That the big-business donors who traditionally have funded the Republican Party believe they need to make that kind of monster investment just to keep “fools” from getting on the ballot of a party they basically control is an incredible reflection of the state of things on that side of the political aisle.

  Matt Taibbi
No stupid candidates, eh?  Any of that $50 million going toward doubling down on Christie triage?   We may be seeing a whole slate of faces we've never seen before between now and 2016. 

EU Investigation of NSA/GCHQ

Mass surveillance programmes used by the US and Britain to spy on people in Europe have been condemned in the "strongest possible terms" by the first parliamentary inquiry into the disclosures, which has demanded an end to the vast, systematic and indiscriminate collection of personal data by intelligence agencies.

The inquiry by the European parliament's civil liberties committee says the activities of America's National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart, GCHQ, appear to be illegal and that their operations have "profoundly shaken" the trust between countries that considered themselves allies.

[...]

Though Snowden is still in Russia, MEPs are expected to take evidence from him via video-link in the coming weeks, as the European parliament continues to assess the damage from the disclosures. Committee MEPs voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to have Snowden testify, defying warnings from key US congressmen that giving the "felon" a public platform would wreck the European parliament's reputation and hamper co-operation with Washington.

  Guardian
Well, they got that half right. Well, maybe one-quarter right…it won’t hamper co-operation WITH Washington, but rather, BY Washington.

Snowden Effects

Just before Christmas, Barton Gellman of the Washington Post wrote a somewhat lengthy, very informative, article summing up the pertinent points regarding the Snowden leaks and their effects.  

Just a few quick excerpts follow, but if you haven’t read the article, I recommend it.
Some news accounts have quoted U.S. government officials as saying [Edward] Snowden has arranged for the automated release of sensitive documents if he is arrested or harmed.

[...]

If Snowden were fool enough to rig a “dead man’s switch,” confidants said, he would be inviting anyone who wants the documents to kill him.

Asked about such a mechanism in the Moscow interview, Snowden made a face and declined to reply. Later, he sent an encrypted message. “That sounds more like a suicide switch,” he wrote. “It wouldn’t make sense.”

[...]

Beginning in October 2012, he said, he brought his misgivings to two superiors in the NSA’s Technology Directorate and two more in the NSA Threat Operations Center’s regional base in Hawaii. For each of them, and 15 other co-workers, Snowden said he opened a data query tool called BOUNDLESSINFORMANT, which used color-coded “heat maps” to depict the volume of data ingested by NSA taps.

His colleagues were often “astonished to learn we are collecting more in the United States on Americans than we are on Russians in Russia,” he said. Many of them were troubled, he said, and several said they did not want to know any more.

[...]

Asked about those conversations, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines sent a prepared statement to The Post: “After extensive investigation, including interviews with his former NSA supervisors and co-workers, we have not found any evidence to support Mr. Snowden’s contention that he brought these matters to anyone’s attention.”

  WaPo
No, I bet not.
Snowden recounted another set of conversations that he said took place three years earlier, when he was sent by the NSA’s Technology Directorate to support operations at a listening post in Japan. As a system administrator, he had full access to security and auditing controls. He said he saw serious flaws with information security.

“I actually recommended they move to two-man control for administrative access back in 2009,” he said, first to his supervisor in Japan and then to the directorate’s chief of operations in the Pacific. “Sure, a whistleblower could use these things, but so could a spy.”

That precaution, which requires a second set of credentials to perform risky operations such as copying files onto a removable drive, has been among the principal security responses to the Snowden affair.

Vines, the NSA spokeswoman, said there was no record of those conversations, either.
No, of course not.
“I don’t care whether you’re the pope or Osama bin Laden,” [Edward Snowden] said. “As long as there’s an individualized, articulable, probable cause for targeting these people as legitimate foreign intelligence, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s imposing a ridiculous burden by asking for probable cause. Because, you have to understand, when you have access to the tools the NSA does, probable cause falls out of trees.”
And, no matter what ensues from this point, the bottom line is always:
In private, U.S. intelligence officials still maintain that spying among friends is routine for all concerned, but they are giving greater weight to the risk of getting caught.
They won’t stop. They’ll just go deeper so as not to get caught.

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

The Old Switcheroo

The Times notes that in the absence of Congressional action on climate management, President Obama has focused on executive action. That includes, notably, a new EPA regulation that will eventually shut down the worst-polluting coal fired power plants in the US while preventing the construction of new ones.

That’s all well and good but we’ve frequently noted that as US coal consumption declines, US coal exports have gone up, so as a matter of global emissions the EPA action simply shifts the problem overseas.

  Raw Story
Isn’t that handy? And you can bet Obama will use the shutting down of the "worst-polluting" plants as a selling point on his resume.

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

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Heavy Hand of a Heavy Man (Updated)

New Jersey Senate Majority leader Loretta Weinberg, who represents Fort Lee in the state Senate and has been a leading Democrat on the investigation into lane closures last year on the George Washington Bridge, said the new revelations concerning the closures were “worse than I imagined.”

[...]

New emails emerged Wednesday morning that revealed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, instructed a Port Authority official appointed by Christie to create “traffic problems” in Fort Lee. The Democratic mayor there had declined to endorse Christie for reelection.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” she emailed David Wildstein, a high school friend of the governor.

[...]

Weinberg also suggested there might be national security implications to the closure, as the George Washington Bridge is a main thoroughfare linking New Jersey and New York, and said Christie now has to explain his previous assertions that his administration had nothing to do with the closures.

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

UPDATE: (seen at Dependable Renegade)

I have a feeling that Bridget Anne Kelly will be handing out her resume soon.  Of course, a selling point in politics will be that she is willing to do the dirty work and take the blame.  

Last September, a week of epic traffic jams snarled traffic over the bridge, leaving people stranded in their cars for hours. The closing of toll booths on the bridge was in fact a political action taken by Christie’s administration as retribution when Ft. Lee’s Democratic mayor declined to endorse Christie’s re-election bid.

The “Maddow Show” reported on this story weeks ago, but now emails are coming to light which reveal that Christie’s closest aides handed down the orders to tie up traffic, even as Christie himself maintains that his aides misled him.

“Traffic jams are not news,” [Rachel] Maddow said. “Traffic jams caused by poorly organized ‘traffic studies’ are not even really big news stories. But if the state of New Jersey is being run in such a way that control of interstate assets is being manipulated on purpose to punish specific towns and even specific individuals for political reasons, then that really is news.”

“That is public corruption,” she said, and it’s why, no matter how much he wants to be, “Chris Christie will never be president.”

  Raw Story

Really, Rachel? I thought public corruption (as she defines it) was an essential part of getting to be president.



FURTHER UPDATE (1/9):
“I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team,” Christie said at a Thursday morning press conference. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the conduct that they exhibited is completely unacceptable and showed an inappropriate respect for the role of government.”

Christie said he had fired his deputy chief of staff Bridget Ann Kelly for her role in instigating closures on the George Washington Bridge as an act of political retribution for the Democratic mayor Fort Lee, N.J., refusing to endorse Christie’s re-election bid.

  The HIll