Friday, February 28, 2014


Idaho on Friday became the first state in two years to pass a bill aimed at stopping filming at farms and dairy producers. The bill, which animal rights activists often refer to as an “ag gag” bill, was created in response to undercover animal rights activists exposing animal abuse at one of Idaho’s largest dairy operations 2012.

It's the American way. Do it in the dark.

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

That Was Quick

The world's largest bitcoin exchange filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan on Friday, saying it had lost about $420 million worth of its customers' bitcoins because of a "weakness" in its system.

Mark Karpeles, the French CEO of Mt. Gox, bowed in contrition at a press conference at the Tokyo District Court and said he was "sorry."

He’s sorry. What else do you want?

Columbia, Missouri, Makes It to al Jazeera

So there.
The True/False Film Fest, a documentary-focused program that started this year’s run on Thursday, has become one of the most respected film festivals in the country, if not internationally. Yet most people outside the film community and Columbia, Mo., where the festival takes place, have never heard of it.

When it started 11 years ago, the festival sold about 4,000 tickets. This year, T/F nearly sold out of its 50,000 tickets more than two weeks before it opened.


Robert Greene, premiering his new film “Actress” at this year’s True/False, called the event a “perfect storm.” The timing is good because it’s held after Sundance and before South by Southwest. The selection includes smaller, quirky movies as well as known names. And it’s held in an affordable, charming college town with a nationally known journalism school.

“All the directors go there, big films, small films, the ones who just won Sundance,” said Greene, who is premiering a film here for the third time.


While You're Figuring Your Taxes...

The report, conducted by public advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), focuses on the 288 companies in the Fortune 500 that registered consistent profit every year from 2008 to 2012. Those 288 profitable corporations paid an “effective federal income tax rate of just 19.4 percent over the five-year period — far less than the statutory 35 percent tax rate,” CTJ states.

One-third, or 93, of the analyzed companies paid an effective tax rate below 10 percent in that timespan, CTJ found.

Twenty-six of the most powerful American corporations – such as Boeing, General Electric, and Verizon – paid no federal income tax from 2008 to 2012.
Zip, zilch, nada.

The sectors with the lowest effective corporate tax rates over the five-year period were utilities (2.9 percent), industrial machinery (4.3 percent), telecommunications (9.8 percent), oil, gas and pipelines (14.4 percent), transportation (16.4 percent), aerospace and defense (16.7 percent) and financial (18.8 percent),” CTJ reported.


“Of those corporations in our sample with significant offshore profits, two thirds paid higher corporate tax rates to foreign governments where they operate than they paid in the U.S. on their U.S. profits,” according to CTJ.
So much for the argument that we need to keep corporate tax rates low so corporations will keep their business in the US.
The non-profit group says this lax taxation climate among the most powerful US corporations comes amid an aggressive push by lobby and trade groups on Capitol Hill “to reduce the federal corporate income tax rate, based on the claim that our corporate tax is uncompetitively high compared to other developed nations.”
Apparently not.
Companies have already disputed CTJ’s report, saying that the study only looks at federal income taxes while ignoring other tax burdens they face, such as on the state and local level. In addition, the companies say low effective rates are part of congressional attempts to offer tax relief to corporate America in order to create larger economic opportunity.
How’s that working out for us? Oh. You mean larger economic opportunity for corporations.

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

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Drip, Drip, Drip

Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.


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

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Drip, Drip, Drip

One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.
And here it is: Glenn Greenwald at the Interept: How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations
Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums.


Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.


Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg has been arrested in the UK along with two other men and a woman. The four are being held on suspicion of Syria-related terrorist charges in central England, according to police.

Begg was detained on suspicion of “attending a terrorist training camp and facilitating terrorism overseas,” according to West Midlands police.


Police said that the arrests didn’t necessarily mean the suspects were guilty of any crime.

“We would take this opportunity to remind you of the requirement to report responsibly, that this is an arrest, not a charge, and that our naming does not imply any guilt,” police said.

In 2001 Begg and his family left for Afghanistan, where he says he worked on aid projects until the US bombing, when he took his wife and three children to Pakistan. He was released from Guantánamo in 2005 without charge, and returned to Britain.

Begg was one of several British men who sued the British government for damages over their detention in Guantánamo. The government settled the case.


In January Begg condemned Britain's approach to Syria and the alleged criminalising of those who go out to fight there. He wrote: "It is not hard to understand why Muslims would want to go out to Syria to help. Scores of them go every month on humanitarian aid missions and face endless questioning at ports by British police under schedule 7 anti-terrorism powers. It is also understandable why people want to go out and fight for what they believe is a just cause, even if the wisdom of them doing so can be questioned."


Begg had written about meeting MI5 in October 2012 to discuss his trips to Syria and said he believed the UK's domestic security agency had no objection.

He wrote about visiting Syria that year and said he was researching "several leads regarding British and American complicity in rendition and torture in Syria". He was stripped of his UK passport after visiting Syria.

Begg said he was stopped by police at Heathrow airport in 2013 and told that his passport was being confiscated as it was "not in the public interest" for him to travel.

A Home Office order given to him at that time stated that he had been assessed as being involved in terrorist activity because of an earlier visit to Syria.

Begg wrote that the removal of his passport was politically motivated: "I am certain that the only reason I am being continually harassed – something that began long before any visit to Syria – is because Cageprisoners and I are at the forefront of investigations and assertions based on hard evidence that British governments, past and present, have been wilfully complicit in torture."

  The Guardian

Monday, February 24, 2014

About James Clapper

[James Clapper] has medals on his chest and an important national security state position. It is simply outrageous that some people suggest that he has no right to commit felonies, and it’s infuriating that his adult son has to hear some people (almost none in the media) suggest that his criminal conduct should have the same consequences as when ordinary citizens commit less serious crimes. That’s the refusal to accept any personal responsibility, the view of powerful U.S. officials that they are and must be entirely above the law, the obsessive self-regard, that more than anything else has destroyed Washington’s political culture.
That comes from Glenn Greenwald’s latest article at The Intercept where he makes numerous good points about and critiques the latest from Mr. Clapper. Check it out.

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

Also, he has this update on the article:
Yesterday, the German paper Bild am Sonntag reported that after President Obama ordered the NSA to cease its eavesdropping on the communications of Chancellor Angela Merkel, they responded by increasing their surveillance of her closest ministers and advisers. Aside from providing yet another illustration of the out-of-control entitlement that drives the U.S. Surveillance State, note that the report is based on “a high-ranking NSA employee in Germany”, which means that this is yet another NSA source to come forward to disclose the agency’s once-secret acts.

Where Have All the Bankers Gone?

A popular myth persists that there were wholesale suicides after the 1929 Great Crash. Centre-left economic historian, JK Galbraith, skewered this theory when he analyzed the statistics in the wake of the Wall Street Crash, which preceded the great depression.

Nearly a century later, a remarkable uptick in banker suicides has raised questions with at least 6 suspicious deaths in recent weeks. Two men jumped from the top of JP Morgan skyscrapers alone (one each in London and Hong Kong).


Pending toxicology reports on a third JPMorgan death, and even if we dismiss the death of a Tata motors MD in Thailand, a remarkable number of dubious deaths/suicides have occurred in recent weeks, alongside some unexplained disappearances.

Hate to see them go.

And about that myth - wholesale suicides?  Hey, six in a few weeks seems like a pretty big deal. 
There are many things wrong with contemporary finance which need fixing (especially those dubious links with government), but the premature demise of fellow humans is not something to celebrate here.
Well, excuuuuuuuuse me.  Who's celebrating?  I just don't feel all that sorry.
Ultimately, all banks have a surfeit of candidates at the top and many talented personnel are squeezed out. Stress driving insecurity builds alongside a gradual realization that outside the (perversely) competitive but cosseting investment bank environment, many managers simply cannot envisage coping. In a world where the taper terror and a decade of dismal government have led us to the brink of ongoing crisis, it is easy to see why sadly, some are driven to take their lives.
Okay. So where does that leave the unexplained disappearances? Did those bankers take the money and run?  Were they "removed" from the possibility of spilling the beans?
However, with the euro crisis festering, emerging markets in chaos and no clear understanding of western economic resilience to thing ought to be clear: Bankers have never been more insecure.
Gee, I feel bad for them.
Yet another dark cloud is looming over global banks as officials examine their behavior in the massive foreign exchange market, threatening to deal a new blow to earnings and reputations.

Regulators in the U.S., Europe and Asia are in the early stages of investigating whether traders at the world's top banks manipulated foreign exchange benchmarks to profit at the expense of their clients.

Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500), Citigroup (C, Fortune 500), JP Morgan (JPM, Fortune 500), Deutsche Bank (DB), Barclays (BCS), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), UBS (UBS) and HSBC (HBCYF) are among the firms in their sights.

  Money, Nov. 2013
More than 20 traders across Wall Street have either been put on leave, suspended or fired since the foreign exchange investigations were formally announced in October.

  Reuters, Feb 5, 2014
And what are they keeping from us this time? All that’s gone before could well have just been the beginning cracks.

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

Fifty-Five US States?

A wealthy US investor got the go-ahead for his campaign to carve up California into six separate states, according to the Secretary of State's Office. Critics call the plan just another scheme for the wealthy to hoard tax dollars.

Well, really. Why else would the man bother?
[Tim] Draper, who has made a fortune investing in internet startups, like Skype and Hotmail, believes that California is simply too populated and diverse to adequately address the demands of its residents.
And he’s no doubt right. Six may be overkill.  Six states seems like it would indeed cut off a good portion of the state’s citizens from the wealthy tax bases of a only a few areas. On the other hand, there’s probably not a state in the union that couldn’t be divided into at least two, considering demands of its residents. 
In a recent interview, the managing partner for Draper Fisher Jurvetson said California’s poorest regions “are not happy” because the system is “not working for them.”

“So if they had their own state, I believe all of those states would become wealthier. And I believe by managing their own state, they will become much more successful,” Draper told Time.
He doesn’t believe either of those things. But if he can convince them of it, he can keep all Silicon Valley money in Silicon Valley. If he can get its companies to stop hiding their money overseas.
The top 10 corporate tax avoiders happen to be tech companies:

1. Microsoft, $76.4 billion
2. IBM, $44.4 billion
3. Cisco Systems, $41.3 billion
4. Apple, $40.4 billion
5. Hewlett-Packard, $33.4 billion
6. Google, $33.3 billion
7. Oracle, $26.2 billion
8. Dell, $19.0 billion
9. Intel, $17.5 billion
10. Qualcomm, $16.4 billion
Source: Bloomberg, August 2013
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

So This Is Why the Ukranian President Went on the Lam

The new Ukrainian authorities have put missing President Yanukovich on the wanted list on suspicion of involvement in mass killings during the riots in Kiev.


The arrest warrant was issued on Monday.


The Deep State

There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.


The conventional wisdom has it that partisan gridlock and dysfunction have become the new normal. That is certainly the case [... but] it is also imperative to acknowledge the limits of this critique as it applies to the American governmental system.


Despite this apparent impotence [of a government in gridlock], President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented — at least since the McCarthy era — witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, this power is characterized by massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity whatsoever without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, such as arranging the forced landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory.


During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya. [...] At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence. Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields. [...] They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life.


As a congressional staff member for 28 years specializing in national security and possessing a top secret security clearance, I was at least on the fringes of the world I am describing, if neither totally in it by virtue of full membership nor of it by psychological disposition. But, like virtually every employed person, I became, to some extent, assimilated into the culture of the institution I worked for, and only by slow degrees, starting before the invasion of Iraq, did I begin fundamentally to question the reasons of state that motivate the people who are, to quote George W. Bush, “the deciders.”

  Mike Lofgren
Continue reading “The Deep State” essay at Bill Moyers.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Bitter End to Private Green

Steven Dale Green, 28, of Midland, Texas, was found unresponsive in his cell last week at the federal penitentiary in Tucson, Ariz., said Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman John Stahley. Green's death was not announced until Tuesday because prison staff was off for the long Presidents' Day weekend, Stahley said.

Stahley said Green's death is being investigated as a suicide.


Green and his fellow soldiers were stationed for several weeks at a traffic checkpoint near Mahmudiya in an area known as the "Triangle of Death" when, after an afternoon of card playing, sex talk and drinking, he and four other soldiers hatched a plan to go to the al-Janabi home, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, and rape the family's 14-year-old daughter, Abeer.

Green shot and killed the teen's mother, father and sister, then followed two other soldiers in raping the girl before shooting her in the face. Her body was set on fire in an attempt to obscure the crime.


Three other soldiers — Jesse Spielman, Paul Cortez and James Barker — are serving lengthy sentences in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for their roles in the attack. Each is eligible for parole in 2015. The fifth soldier, Bryan Howard, stayed behind at the checkpoint and later pleaded guilty to being an accessory. He served 27 months in Fort Leavenworth.


In multiple interviews with The Associated Press from prison, he frequently expressed regret at taking part in the attack and frustration that he was tried and convicted in the civilian system, which did not afford him parole, while the others involved went through the military justice system and have a chance to be released from prison.

"I was punished out of proportion to everybody else," Green said in October. "I'm not a victim, but I haven't been treated fairly. Not even remotely close. That's all I ever asked for was to be treated the same. They just won't do it. I don't know why."

Well, maybe not out of proportion to the girl you raped and murdered, and her family you killed. Nor out of proportion to and Pfcs Thomas Tucker and Kristian Menchaca, who were captured by members of the girl’s community, tortured and killed in retaliation.

Green had already been discharged (for a “personality disorder”) when the crime came to light, which is why he got a civilian trial and the others a military trial. He was also granted a “moral character waiver” to enlist in the first place.

If the military could have kept it covered up, none of the soldiers would have been busted.

Not in MY Back Yard!

Exxon and its subsidiary XTO make loads of money from natural gas production, and [Exxon CEO Rex ] Tillerson doesn't like it when others complain about the potentially negative consequences. He's bitched over the years that fracking regulations have hindered natural gas production so much that the government has "has become an obstacle to getting anything done."


Just a few days after the Weather Channel published a damning, in-depth report documenting how natural gas drilling is wreaking havoc on Texas' air quality, a group of wealthy property owners outside Dallas are dealing with another dark side of the energy boom: a really ugly water tower.

Residents of Bartonville are concerned about the tower for a number of reasons and are fighting the project in court. One issue, they say in the lawsuit, is that the tower "will sell water to oil and gas explorers for fracking shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards."

And, as the Wall Street Journal just uncovered, one of those angry homeowners trying to stop the tower and its fracking-related business is none other than Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson.

  Dallas Observer
[Rex] Tillerson—ExxonMobile CEO and proud proponent of fracking as a key to both America’s and his company’s great energy future—has joined a lawsuit seeking to shut down a fracking project near Mr. and Mrs. Tillerson’s Texas ranch.


The Wall Street Journal, says it all quite nicely—

“BARTONVILLE, Texas—One evening last November, a tall, white-haired man turned up at a Town Council meeting to protest construction of a water tower near his home in this wealthy community outside Dallas.

The man was Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp.

He and his neighbors had filed suit to block the tower, saying it is illegal and would create “a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,” in part because it would provide water for use in hydraulic fracturing."


In my mind, Tillerson now stands tall not only as a giant of the natural gas and oil industry but has managed to scale the loftiest of heights where he shall breathe that rarest of air inhaled only by a very special breed—corporate giants who will gladly profit from your misfortune and misery so long as what they peddle to you does not impinge on their own fine quality of life.

You think Exxon will boot Tillerson?

But wait. There’s more.
Making this even more deliciously enjoyable is the name of the lead plaintiffs in the case.

That would be Mr. and Mrs. Dick Armey…as in former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey who is also the former Chairman of FreedomWorks. [...]

FreedomWorks is, of course, the well financed (thanks to the Koch Brothers) Tea Party organization that has been been a vocal and avid proponent of fracking.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Further John Kiriakou Update

Since my post regarding a possible break for whistleblower John Kiriakou, I have not found anything that confirms it. I've seen numerous updates on his situation, but none even so much as mention it, and all of which seem to say he is still being harassed by prison officials and staff. I'll keep an eye out for anything new.

Comcast-Time Warner Merger Threat

We live in the age of decreasing choice and virtual corporate monopolies. Washington is as shackled by and beholden to business interests as it has ever been. Now Comcast and Time-Warner are attempting to merge.

As if your cable choices weren’t limited enough. 
[Michael] Copps was a commissioner on the FCC from 2001 to 2011, one of the longest-serving commissioners in the agency’s history. Now he leads the Media and Democracy Reform Initiative at Common Cause. “This is the whole shooting match,” he said. “It’s broadband. It’s broadcast. It’s content. It’s distribution. It’s the medium and the message. It’s telecom, and it’s media, too.” Back in 2011, when Comcast sought regulatory approval of its proposed acquisition of NBC Universal (NBCU), Copps was the sole “no” vote out of the five FCC commissioners.

Copps is not the only former FCC commissioner with an opinion on the merger. Meredith Attwell Baker served briefly there, from 2009 to 2011. President Barack Obama appointed Baker, a Republican, to maintain the traditional party balance on the FCC. Baker was a big supporter of the Comcast-NBCU merger. It surprised many, however, when she abruptly resigned her FCC commission seat to go work for—you guessed it—Comcast. She was named senior vice president for governmental affairs for NBCU, just four months after voting to approve the merger.


As for the regulators, the news website Republic Report revealed that the head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, William Baer, was a lawyer representing NBC during the merger with Comcast, and Maureen Ohlhausen, a commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission, provided legal counsel for Comcast before joining the commission. If you wonder how President Obama feels about the issue, look at who he appointed to be the new chairperson of the FCC: Tom Wheeler, who was for years a top lobbyist for both the cable and wireless industries.


A leading organization on media policy in the U.S., Free Press, issued a statement following the announcement of the proposed merger. Craig Aaron, the group’s president, said: “No one woke up this morning wishing their cable company was bigger or had more control over what they could watch or download. But that—along with higher bills—is the reality they’ll face tomorrow unless the Department of Justice and the FCC do their jobs and block this merger.”

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

A (Baby) Step in the Right Direction

After meeting certain requirements, the Tulalip, along with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, now have the judicial authority to try non-Indians for certain domestic violence-related cases under a pilot program of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Congress passed its reauthorization last year, and by March 2015, the tribal provision will take effect for all U.S. tribes.


In 1978, the Supreme Court denied tribal courts the inherent right to prosecute any non-Indian living or working on the reservation.

Over the years, the inability to prosecute these kinds of crimes has led to what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently described as “a public safety crisis in Indian Country.”


Recent statistics show one in three Native American women will be raped or violently assaulted in their lifetime. And the most recent data on record indicates more than 60 percent of all Indian victims report their attacker as being white.

Yet, when it comes to responding to these kinds of violent crimes from Indian Country — offenses that tribal courts have been prevented from legally prosecuting —federal agencies have reportedly declined to investigate more than half.

There are still some glaring loopholes.
As the pilot program gets underway, there will undoubtedly be challenges in testing the limits of the tribal courts. The provision allows tribes to bring cases against non-Natives only for domestic violence, so-called “dating violence” as termed by the Department of Justice, and violations of protection orders.


For example, offenses occurring between two non-Indians on the reservation cannot be prosecuted. As such, a white father living with his Indian wife on the reservation who violently or sexually assaults their child, a “non-Indian” due to lineage restrictions, can hypothetically evade prosecution.

The tribal courts are also barred from prosecuting crimes “between two strangers,” even in cases of sexual assaults.
Which, I would assume, covers a not insignificant number of attack cases.

Score for Los Federales: Got Shorty

The head of the biggest, baddest, Mexican drug cartel, Joaquin  "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman has been captured. Not in a bloody battle – so the movie will have to take license – but quietly from a hotel in Mazatlan.
The head of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel – who was widely considered the world's most powerful drug lord – was captured overnight by U.S. and Mexican authorities at a hotel in Mazatlan, Mexico, ending a bloody and decades-long career that terrorized large swaths of the country.

Maybe ended HIS bloody career, but it won’t have ended bloody terrorization of the country by drug cartels. Something needs to be done about US drug policies for that to happen.
Guzman's capture ended a long and storied manhunt. He was rumored to live everywhere from Argentina to Guatemala since he slipped out in 2001 from prison in a laundry truck – a spectacular feat that fed his larger-than-life persona.
That’ll be good in the movie.  (They'll want to throw in this part about a gunfight a couple weeks ago in Guatemala in which it was rumored that El Chapo had been killed.)
Guzman's success and infamy surpassed those of Colombia's Pablo Escobar, who was gunned down by police in 1993 after waging a decade-long reign of terror in the South American country, killing hundreds of police, judges, journalists and politicians.
Now THAT will be a movie with no need for license.  Oh, wait.  There are already a number of those.
His arrest comes on the heels of the takedown of several top Sinaloa operatives in the past few months, and at least 10 mid-level cartel members in the past week.

The son of Sinaloa's co-leader and Guzman's partner, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, was arrested in November after entering Arizona, where he had an appointment with U.S. immigration authorities to arrange legal status for his wife.
What? No wonder the cartel came on bad times. How smart was that?
The following month, Zambada's main lieutenant was killed as Mexican helicopter gunships sprayed bullets at his mansion in the Gulf of California resort of Puerto Penasco in a four-hour gunbattle.
That’ll be good in the movie.
Days later, police in the Netherlands arrested Zambada's flamboyant top enforcer as he arrived in Amsterdam.


At one point, [Guzman’s] fortune grew to more than $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine, which listed him among the "World's Most Powerful People" and ranked him above the presidents of France and Venezuela.

In 2013, the financial magazine took Guzman off the list, saying it was likely security expenses had cut into his trove.
I thought Forbes was a respected publication. I don’t know how you determine a power ranking when you include people from every facet of the spectrum, but let’s say we can assume Forbes has this rated correctly. How do you get away with presuming something has eaten into someone’s treasury enough to knock him down your list? Perhaps I should actually read the Forbes article. Maybe alJazeera’s writer is not doing it justice. After all – are we talking about money or power? They do go hand in hand;  however, I don’t think they’re entirely interchangeable. But I digress.

I don’t keep up with cartel goings on, so I cannot tell you which cartel will now take over El Chapo’s business. But one of them will.  Unless he's got a tough and read underboss somewhere down the chain of command.  That will be good in the movie.

Meanwhile: Ukraine

I have only been glancing at the ongoing news about the protests and riots in the Ukraine, but now, after much bloodshed and turmoil, the President has fled, and I have a few comments for what appears to be the current situation.
The whereabouts and status of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich were unclear on Sunday, after he left the capital and his archrival, Yulia Tymoshenko, was freed from prison and returned to Kiev to address a massive, adoring crowd.


The country's parliament, in a special session Sunday, voted overwhelmingly to temporarily hand the president's powers to speaker Oleksandr Turchinov.


Ukraine's newly emboldened legislature voted Sunday to hand the president's powers to the parliament speaker, a Tymoshenko ally.
This apparently sparked the President’s decision to flee.* Not very encouraging for the idea of a new democratic regime if the old guy fears for his life.
The parliament also planned to ban Yanukovich's Party of Regions, as well as the Communist Party, and disband the riot police who were responsible for much of the violence in recent days.
Not very encouraging for the idea of a new democratic regime if one of the first acts of the parliament is to ban certain parties.
Britain warned Russia on Sunday against intervening in Ukraine's "complex" crisis, saying London wanted to contribute to an international economic program aimed at shoring up the "desperately difficult" situation of the Ukrainian economy.
Britain has warned Russia against intervening because Britain wants to be the one doing that? A bit cheeky, no?
The White House on Saturday urged Ukraine to quickly form a unity government.

"We have consistently advocated a de-escalation of violence, constitutional change, a coalition government, and early elections, and today's developments could move us closer to that goal," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a news release. "The unshakeable principle guiding events must be that the people of Ukraine determine their own future."
While Britain intervenes. And, as everyone knows, the U.S. is the world’s champion of allowing other countries to determine their own future.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has so far remained silent on the latest developments.
We shall be waiting.

The new Ukrainian authorities have put missing President Yanukovich on the wanted list on suspicion of involvement in mass killings during the riots in Kiev.


The arrest warrant was issued on Monday.


It's Sunday

Missouri's House Bill 1472, introduced in the House of Representatives on January 16, 2013, is the third antiscience bill of the year, following Virginia's HB 207 and Oklahoma's SB 1765. If enacted, the bill would require "[a]ny school district or charter school which provides instruction relating to the theory of evolution by natural selection" to have "a policy on parental notification and a mechanism where a parent can choose to remove the student from any part of the district's or school's instruction on evolution."


The sponsors of HB 1472 are Rick Brattin (R-District 55) and Andy Koenig (R-District 99). Both have a history of sponsoring antievolution legislation in Missouri. In 2012, [they co-sponsored a bill] which would have required equal time for "intelligent design" in public schools, including introductory courses at colleges and universities.


NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch commented, "House Bill 1472 would eviscerate the teaching of biology in Missouri." […He] added, "Evolution inextricably pervades the biological sciences; it therefore pervades, or at any rate ought to pervade, biology education at the K–12 level. There simply is no alternative to learning about it; there is no substitute activity. A teacher who tries to present biology without mentioning evolution is like a director trying to produce Hamlet without casting the prince."

  National Center for Science Education
A new piece of legislation introduced by Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford [Alabama]would require teachers to read a prayer every day. However, this bill has an interesting twist: it would have the teachers pick a prayer given in Congress.


Hurst insists that “If Congress can open with a prayer, and the state of Alabama Legislature can, I don’t see why schools can’t.”


There is a pending case dealing with legislative prayer before the Court and this controversy will only remind justices that the legislative prayer cases may collide with school prayer cases unless it draws a clear line in the constitutional sand.

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

Friday, February 21, 2014

Muslims and Reporters Under Attack in the US

The NYPD’s clandestine spying on daily life in Muslim communities in the region — with no probable cause, and nothing to show for it — was exposed in a Pulitzer-Prize winning series of stories by the AP. The stories described infiltration and surveillance of at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools, and two Muslim student associations in New Jersey alone.


In his ruling Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martini simultaneously demonstrated the willingness of the judiciary to give law enforcement alarming latitude in the name of fighting terror, greenlighted the targeting of Muslims based solely on their religious beliefs, and blamed the media for upsetting people by telling them what their government was doing.


“In addition to willfully ignoring the harm that our innocent clients suffered from the NYPD’s illegal spying program, by upholding the NYPD’s blunderbuss Muslim surveillance practices, the court’s decision gives legal sanction to the targeted discrimination of Muslims anywhere and everywhere in this country, without limitation, for no other reason than their religion,” Center for Constitutional Rights legal director Baher Azmy said in a statement. “It is a troubling and dangerous decision.”

“The fight is not over by any means. The surveillance program violates the Constitution, and we are confident that this decision will not hold up to review upon appeal,” Glenn Katon, legal director of Muslim Advocates, said in a statement.

  The Intercept
It’s shameful they even have to go as far as an appeal. Hopefully, they will win at that level. But maybe it would be best to take this all the way to the Supreme Court. On the other hand, even they are questionable these days.

The article gives a little information about Judge Martini in this case:
Martini, a one-term Republican congressman from New Jersey, was appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush in 2002. Previous critiques of his judicial conduct have been unusually blunt and public, including repeated rebukes at the appellate level and the local U.S. attorney’s describing him in court filings as “misguided” and “irrational.”

Nevertheless, Martini is still on the bench (it’s very hard to unseat a federal judge). And his ruling was perhaps the most extreme example yet of what is becoming the nearly standard reaction by the modern American political and law-enforcement elite’s reaction to exposure of secret conduct that merits public scrutiny: trying to shoot the messenger.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Perhaps He Wasn't in a Free Speech Zone

[Morris Davis was] the chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo and showed enormous courage in October 2007 when he resigned from that position and left the Air Force. Davis stated he would not use evidence obtained through torture. When a torture advocate was named his boss, Davis quit rather than face the inevitable order to reverse his position.

Morris Davis then got fired from his research job at the Library of Congress for writing an article in the Wall Street Journal about the evils of justice perverted at Guantanamo, and a similar letter to the editor of the Washington Post. (The irony of being fired for exercising free speech while employed at Thomas Jefferson’s library evidently escaped his bosses.) With the help of the ACLU, Davis demanded his job back. On January 8, 2010, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Library of Congress on his behalf. In March 2011 a federal court ruled against the Obama Administration’s objections that the suit could go forward.

Moving “forward” is however a somewhat awkward term to use in regards to this case. In the past two years, forward has meant very little in terms of actual justice done. At about the same time in 2011 that Colonel Davis notified the government that he was going to be called as a defense witness for Bradley Manning, the Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss Davis’ lawsuit against the government, actually seeking to make him pay the government’s court.


Despite DOJ’s clumsy efforts, the good news is that at a hearing about a month ago a federal judge denied the government’s stalling motion and the case is moving “forward” again. However, DOJ is again seeking to stall things with multiple delaying motions that require multiple responses, and the motions alone won’t be heard by a court until August. After that comes a lengthy discovery period that will likely take the case to the four year mark. Colonel Davis hopes he’ll get to trial before the five year point. [...] Still, it is hard for him to rationalize the amount of time and effort his own government is spending to limit the free speech rights of federal employees.


If you were to write the history of the last decade in Washington, it might well be a story of how, issue by issue, the government freed itself from legal and constitutional bounds when it came to torture, the assassination of U.S. citizens, the holding of prisoners without trial or access to a court of law, the illegal surveillance of American citizens, and so on. In the process, it has entrenched itself in a comfortable shadowland of ever more impenetrable secrecy, while going after any whistleblower who might shine a light in. All that stands in counter to the government’s actions is the First Amendment, exactly as the Founders designed it to be.

  Peter Van Buren
And that is also under attack in various and nefarious ways.

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

There seems to be some contention about whether Davis was improperly dismissed.  See the updated comments at the end of this Van Buren article.  At any rate, the seemingly interminable delays being implemented in response to his lawsuit speak for themselves.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

You Made Us Do It

The government is considering enlarging the National Security Agency's controversial collection of Americans' phone records—an unintended consequence of lawsuits seeking to stop the surveillance program, according to officials.

A number of government lawyers involved in lawsuits over the NSA phone-records program believe federal-court rules on preserving evidence related to lawsuits require the agency to stop routinely destroying older phone records, according to people familiar with the discussions. As a result, the government would expand the database beyond its original intent, at least while the lawsuits are active.

No final decision has been made to preserve the data, officials said, and one official said that even if a decision is made to retain the information, it would be held only for the purpose of litigation and not be subject to searches.

Trust us. We’re from the government.

Fukushima: Still Leaking

The operator of Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant said on Thursday that 100 metric tons of highly contaminated water had leaked out of a tank, the worst incident since last August, when a series of radioactive water leaks sparked international alarm.

Tokyo Electric Power Company told reporters the latest leak was unlikely to have reached the ocean.


Rinse, Repeat

Attempting "regime change" in Venezuela.


Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper has changed his story once again on why he gave a false answer in testimony before Congress while under oath. In a friendly interview with The Daily Beast Clapper changed his explanation from his previous statement that what he said was the “least untruthful” answer he could provide to now claiming he “misunderstood” the question he was being asked.

Oh, right. The question he’d been given previous to his testimony so he’d have time to think about it? The question he asked for clarification on when it was asked? That question?

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

strikingly similar.  weird.

They'll Just Go Around

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande will review plans to build up a trustworthy data protection network in Europe. The challenge is to avoid data passing through the US after revelations of mass NSA spying in Germany and France.

Suppose the White House can’t uninvite Hollande to the already touted first state dinner of the year.
Earlier, France learned from reports in Le Monde that the NSA has also been recording dozens of millions of French phone calls, including those of the French authorities.


In the wake of the revelations about US global spying activities, the German government has made it mandatory for ministers to use encryption on their phones to secure their communications against intrusion. Berlin has also prohibited the use of iPhones for official business, as they are not compatible with encryption.
Really? Apple better get that fixed or they’ll be losing a large portion of their consumer base. And why did they design a phone in the first place with that omission? Very interesting.
France and Germany have been seeking bilateral talks with the United States to discuss the issue of the snooping, with Merkel’s government pressing for a “no spying” agreement with Washington. Negotiations on an anti-spying agreement began in August 2013, but the US has been reluctant to sign such a deal, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported in mid-January, citing a Federal Intelligence Service (BND) employee as saying: "We're getting nothing."
We’re number one. We can do what we want, and too bad if you don’t like it.

Red Alert! Red Alert!

Remember that hokum? Color-coded terrorist threat.

So anyway, the government is having trouble shaking off those Snowden leaks.  So let's try the fear tactic again.  It might work.  (I just hope we don't get to the point where they have to create something.  Again?)
The US Department of Homeland Security warned airlines Wednesday that flights from overseas traveling into the United States could carry passengers who are hiding explosives in their shoes, according to a new report.

Multiple sources told NBC News that “very recent intelligence” found credible threats indicating that passenger jets could be targeted by airline customers who attempt to hide bombs in shoes.

Couldn’t they even come up with something new?
“It’s a reminder that we are under constant threat and an advisory to airlines to be on their A game,” said one anonymous official.

The warning is unrelated to any security threats against the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, NBC reported.
And if I’m not off my game, unrelated to ANY actual threats.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

First Look Snags Matt Taibbi

First Look Media, the news organization created by Pierre Omidyar, today announced that acclaimed journalist and New York Times best-selling author Matt Taibbi will launch First Look’s second digital magazine. Taibbi will help assemble a top-notch team of journalists and bring his trademark combination of reporting, analysis, humor and outrage to the ongoing financial crisis – and to the political machinery that makes it possible. The magazine will launch later this year. Taibbi comes to First Look from Rolling Stone.

  Business Wire
First Look is the organization that just launched The Intercept with Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill, and others.  This second publication, headed up by Matt Taibbi, will focus on financial and political corruption.  Should have plenty of material.
Whether busting Goldman Sachs for market manipulation or revealing the hidden roots of the student loan crisis, Taibbi has exposed and explained the most complicated financial scandals of the day.


The name and launch date of his digital magazine will be announced in the coming months.
Taibbi's farewell to Rolling Stone.

Intimidation Fail

The NSA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are abandoning their protests against a line of mugs, hats and shirts that mock official government insignia, settling a lawsuit filed by the consumer interest group Public Citizen on behalf of Dan McCall, a Minnesota activist who sold products poking fun at the government.


In 2011, the NSA and the DHS sent cease and desist letters to Zazzle, which printed McCall’s designs, claiming that the images violated special legal protections for the agencies' official seals.


Last October, Public Citizen sued both agencies on McCall’s behalf. They claimed that his hats and bumper stickers were not likely to be confused as official government merchandise and that the First Amendment protected the right to use the seals to criticize the NSA and DHS.

As result of Tuesday's settlement, Public Citizen is dropping its suit. Within a week, the NSA and DHS will send letters to Zazzle and McCall saying that they understand the designs were meant as parody and were not banned under federal law. The NSA also encouraged Zazzle to “reexamine” its content in light of the settlement.

The NSA and DHS agreed to pay $500 for McCall’s legal fees.

  The Hill
”Reexamine its content in light of the settlement”? WTF? Zazzle via McCall won. Perhaps the NSA should reexamine its intimidation tactics in light of the settlement.

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

A Little Help from Her Friends

Of course Rupert Murdoch is not on trial for his news agency's phone hacking crimes, but one of his chief executives, Rebekah Brooks, is. And somebody decided it was time to bring another name into the mix: Tony Blair. 

According to emails between Brooks and James Murdoch, once the hacking scandal came to light, Tony advised Brooks (by phone - surely the NSA will have the call data) to chill and take sleeping pills, to launch their own investigation of themselves which would, of course, have the aim to clear them of wrongdoing (it always works for government), and to use him as an advisor, but keep that on the hush-hush.

Oops to that last part.

Chevron Damage Control: An Apology and a Pizza

A Chevron well in the preparation stages for hydraulic fracturing exploded last Tuesday 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, Penn., causing a fire that lasted for four days and left one Chevron contractor unaccounted for and another one injured.


An image of a coupon from Chevron offering free pizza to residents near last week’s disaster was posted online Monday, prompting outrage, mockery and disbelief among activists and the Internet commentariat.


“The Chevron Guarantee: Our well won’t explode...or your pizza is free,” read one of many sarcastic tweets directed at Chevron on Tuesday.

The coupon was handed out along with a letter apologizing for the blowout to about 100 residents near the gas well, local media reported.


“How [...] stupid do they think people are?” said Gloria Forouzan, a leader with Pittsburgh-based anti-fracking group Marcellus Protest. “What (fracking companies) are doing in terms of PR is insidious. They advertise, and they advertise heavily, and for that, (people) are basically willing to lie down and let the companies walk all over them.”

John Kuis, who lives about half a mile from the drilling site, can still hear sounds “as loud as a jet engine in my driveway,” as Chevron tries to cap gas leaking from the well. He said Chevron didn’t inform him of the incident until five days after it happened, when they handed out the pizza coupon.

He’s not sure he’ll use the coupon, but said he still considers the company a good neighbor.

“I guess they were just trying to be nice,” he said.
But wait. Chevron has more to offer.
The pizza isn’t the only relationship-mending effort Chevron is undertaking after the fire. The company will also donate grants ranging between $1,000 and $7,500 to fire departments that operate in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale region, where much of the state’s fracking takes place.
I started to comment, but I think I’ll just let that sit there and sink in.

British Courts Rule Against Miranda and for UK Gov't

(UPDATED below.)

What a surprise, eh?
A British lower court has ruled that London police acted lawfully in employing an anti-terror statute to detain and interrogate David Miranda for nearly nine hours at Heathrow Airport last summer, even while recognizing that the detention was “an indirect interference with press freedom.”


In a decision released Wednesday morning, three judges on London’s High Court of Justice ruled that while Miranda’s detention was “an indirect interference with press freedom” it was justified and legitimate due to “very pressing” issues of national security.


Miranda said his suit will continue. “I will appeal this ruling, and keep appealing until the end, not because I care about what the British government calls me, but because the values of press freedom that are at stake are too important to do anything but fight until the end,” he said in a statement to The Intercept.

  The Intercept
I hope he’s got deep pockets. “The end” won’t be any different.

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


Glenn Greenwald responds.
Equating journalism with terrorism has a long and storied tradition. Indeed, as Jonathan Schwarz has documented, the U.S. Government has frequently denounced nations for doing exactly this. Just last April, Under Secretary of State Tara Sonenshine dramatically informed the public that many repressive, terrible nations actually “misuse terrorism laws to prosecute and imprison journalists.” When visiting Ethiopia in 2012, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns publicly disclosed that in meetings with that nation’s officials, the United States “express[ed] our concern that the application of anti-terrorism laws can sometimes undermine freedom of expression and independent media.” The same year, the State Department reported that Burundi was prosecuting a journalist under terrorism laws.


The monarchy has no constitutional guarantee of a free press. The UK government routinely threatens newspapers with all sorts of sanctions for national security reporting it dislikes. Its Official Secrets Act makes it incredibly easy to prosecute journalists and others for disclosing anything which political officials want to keep secret.

  The Intercept
He then goes on, rather unprofessionally to sneer at the British government’s system of royalty and lordships. Taunting the bear. I’ll refrain from quoting those parts.
It is not difficult to apprehend the reason the UK government is so desperate to criminalize this reporting. The GCHQ itself made the reason clear in a once-secret memo previously reported by the Guardian. The British agency “has repeatedly warned it fears a ‘damaging public debate’ on the scale of its activities because it could lead to legal challenges against its mass-surveillance programmes.”
In other words, the national security the UK (and the US) is worried about has nothing to do with terrorism or invasion. It’s worried about its own citizenry revolting against police state tactics.

As Greenwald points out, the UK has no guarantee of press freedom. Journalists there are in a little different position than here, at least in theory. And while our press may have a constitutional guarantee of freedom, in practice, they are finding that to be under assault.

Undaunted and Unbowed by Snowden Revelations

Big Brother continues big data mining projects.
The US Department of Homeland Security is hoping to find a private company that is technologically capable of providing a system that will track license plates across the nation, according to a new report.

A government proposal noticed by various media outlets including The Washington Post on Tuesday shows that DHS is trying to gain the ability to sift through large amounts of data collected from roadside surveillance cameras and law enforcement license plate readers.

The justification given on the document in question is that the database will be able to identify and track immigrants who entered the United States illegally and are on the run from authorities.

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

There's an App for That

Okay, not an app, but an educational/instructional pamphlet for activists.  It begins:
Federal law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have a dark history of targeting radical and progressive movements. Some of the dirty tricks they use against these movements include: infiltration of organizations to discredit and disrupt their operations; campaigns of misinformation and false stories in the media; forgery of correspondence; fabrication of evidence; and the use of grand jury subpoenas to intimidate activists. Today’s activist must know and understand the threat posed by federal law enforcement agents and their tactics as well as several key security practices that offer the best protection.
You can read the pamphlet here.

Drip, Drip, Drip

One classified document from Government Communications Headquarters, Britain’s top spy agency, shows that GCHQ used its surveillance system to secretly monitor visitors to a WikiLeaks site. By exploiting its ability to tap into the fiber-optic cables that make up the backbone of the Internet, the agency confided to allies in 2012, it was able to collect the IP addresses of visitors in real time, as well as the search terms that visitors used to reach the site from search engines like Google.


The agency logged data showing hundreds of users from around the world, including the United States, as they were visiting a WikiLeaks site –contradicting claims by American officials that a deal between the U.K. and the U.S. prevents each country from spying on the other’s citizens.


In a statement to The Intercept, [Wikileaks founder Julian] Assange condemned what he called “the reckless and unlawful behavior of the National Security Agency” and GCHQ’s “extensive hostile monitoring of a popular publisher’s website and its readers.”

“News that the NSA planned these operations at the level of its Office of the General Counsel is especially troubling,” Assange said. “Today, we call on the White House to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the extent of the NSA’s criminal activity against the media, including WikiLeaks, its staff, its associates and its supporters.”

  The Intercept
And also, today, White House personnel are LOLing each other in response. The NSA is NOT reading those texts, of course, but it has noted an uptick in texting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

If they treat internet activity like they are treating phone activity, theoretically, you could be on the NSA’s target list by virtue of that two hops business. YWA has (albeit some years past) read and linked to Wikileaks articles. And you have read YWA. Two hops. And Bob’s your uncle.

Okay. No fair. That’s fear-mongering. The NSA probably doesn’t have any record of you and your metadata ANYwhere in its system. No. Really. Just ask your president. (Besides, you have nothing to fear because you are not doing anything wrong.)
According to the document – which quotes a response by the NSA’s Office of General Counsel and the oversight and compliance office of its Threat Operations Center – discovering that an American has been selected for surveillance must be mentioned in a quarterly report, “but it’s nothing to worry about.”
Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in surveillance issues, says the revelations shed a disturbing light on the NSA’s willingness to sweep up American citizens in its surveillance net.

“All the reassurances Americans heard that the broad authorities of the FISA Amendments Act could only be used to ‘target’ foreigners seem a bit more hollow,” Sanchez says, “when you realize that the ‘foreign target’ can be an entire Web site or online forum used by thousands if not millions of Americans.”
Well, not so much nowadays. Thousands, maybe.
“How could targeting an entire website’s user base be necessary or proportionate?” says Gus Hosein, executive director of the London-based human rights group Privacy International. “These are innocent people who are turned into suspects based on their reading habits. Surely becoming a target of a state’s intelligence and security apparatus should require more than a mere click on a link. [...] The fact that ministers are ordering the monitoring of political interests of Internet users shows a systemic failure in the rule of law.”
Welcome to Stasiland.

And, btw, we might be forgiven for suspecting that The Intercept is under similar secret monitoring.

Scottish Students Elect Snowden

Intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden has been elected to the post of student rector at Glasgow University.


The rector is the students' elected representative. Mr Snowden succeeds the Liberal Democrat's former leader Charles Kennedy.


Previous rectors at the university include Winnie Mandela and Mordechai Vanunu.


Among the post-holder's key duties are to attend the university court, which administers resources, work with the students' representative council, and to bring student concerns to the attention of university management.

How’s that going to work? I don’t think Glasgow is in Russia. Skype, perhaps. I guess if Winnie Mandela could do it, Ed Snowden can. It’s a three-year post. Hopefully he will have a permanent home somewhere soon.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ray Nagin in the News Again

NEW ORLEANS — C. Ray Nagin, a former corporate executive who became mayor in 2002 pledging to modernize city government and instead became an emblem of government dysfunction in the months and years after Hurricane Katrina, was found guilty in federal court on Wednesday on 20 counts of bribery and fraud.

The verdict marks a dubious milestone in a city long associated with an ethically loose style of politics: It makes Mr. Nagin the first New Orleans mayor to be charged, tried and convicted of corruption.

But no doubt NOT the first New Orleans mayor to engage in same.
He was found guilty of all but one of 21 counts, including bribery, wire fraud and filing false tax returns. Sentencing has been set for June 11, Mr. Nagin’s 58th birthday. Mr. Nagin could face 20 years in prison by federal sentencing guidelines.


In one case involving a contractor’s $10,000 payment to Mr. Nagin’s sons, the jury agreed with Mr. Nagin. But they sided with the government on the rest — a total of illicit proceeds that the government put at half a million dollars.
All politicians should check in with Mssrs. Cheney and Bush to learn how to get those dollars "legally".
He told reporters he maintained his innocence, and his lawyer, Robert Jenkins, said Mr. Nagin intended to appeal.
Yeah, good luck. I understand there are a number of businessmen who engaged in the bribery who have already testified in their own cases.
A cable TV executive with no prior governing experience, [...] Mr. Nagin was elected in 2002 as an outsider dismissive of the old political machines.
Where have we seen that before? An Irish neighbor when I lived in Seattle gave me perhaps the best advice a voter could get: Start with the knowledge that all politicians are corrupt; then deal with that.

Interfering - I Mean, Spreading Freedom - in Ukraine

Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, a rabid Russophobe and neoconservative warmonger, told the National Press Club last December that the US has “invested” $5 billion in organizing a network to achieve US goals in Ukraine in order to give “Ukraine the future it deserves.”

Nuland is the Obama regime official who was caught red-handed naming the members of the Ukrainian government Washington intends to impose on the Ukrainian people once the paid protesters have unseated the current elected and independent government.

What Nuland means by Ukraine’s future under EU overlordship is for Ukraine to be looted like Latvia and Greece and to be used by Washington as a staging ground for US missile bases against Russia.

  Paul Craig Roberts (former Reagan treasury official)
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Another Record for Obama

While Obama entered office promising to limit the practice, the State Department’s professional association says the rate of political appointees [for ambassadorships] reached an unprecedented level of 53 percent, once Obama began serving his second term in January 2013.


Under previous administrations, Republican and Democrat alike, that rate fluctuated between 27 and 38 percent.

Which is bad enough.  It seems like an ambassador ought to be an expert on the country to which he or she is appointed.  But what do I know?

The big-donor ambassadors are good enough, though, aren’t they?
Obama former ambassador to Luxemburg, Cynthia Stroum [wealthy venture capitalist and bundler for Obama coffers], left the diplomatic mission in disarray.

In February 2011, she was forced to step down from the post after a scathing State Department report said she brought “major elements of Embassy Luxembourg to a state of dysfunction.”


Following Stroum’s dismissal, the State Department decided to stop issuing such de facto reports on ambassadors.

During Obama's first term, other political appointees in Malta, [...] Kenya and the Bahamas were also forced to step down over management issues, the UK’s Independent newspaper reports.


George Tsunis, CEO of Chartwell Hotels, who raised about $1.3 million for Obama and the Democratic Party, raised more than a few eyebrows at his hearing to be confirmed as ambassador to Norway.

Having admitted he’d never actually visited the country, he then went on to refer to Prime Minister Erna Solberg as president of the country and suggested that the conservative Progress Party, which is part of the ruling coalition, was a “fringe element” that “spewed hatred.”


Noah Bryson Mamet, who was picked to be US ambassador to Argentina, shocked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month by admitting he had never actually been to the country and could not speak Spanish.


Obama’s pick for US envoy to Hungary, Colleen Bell, fared no better. Having served as a producer for the TV soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful, Bell was unable to answer fundamental questions regarding US strategic interests in Hungary.


Writing for Politico, James Bruno, a retired Foreign Service officer, noted the clear bilateral experience gap.

“For the purposes of comparison, Norway’s ambassador to the Washington is a 31-year Foreign Ministry veteran. Hungary’s ambassador is an economist who worked at the International Monetary Fund for 27 years,” he said.

Bruno said you can chalk up the resume imbalance to one simple fact: “The United States is the only industrialized country to award diplomatic posts as political spoils, often to wealthy campaign contributors in an outmoded system that rivals the patronage practices of banana republics, dictatorships and two-bit monarchies.”
I think that’s us. ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Homeland Security at Heathrow

Big Brother is alive and well. 

Ed Snowden co-counsel Jesselyn Radack was harrassed at Heathrow this weekend.
As she was going through customs, she was led to a separate room by a Heathrow Border Force agent who showed no interest in her documents, but seemed intent on asking her a series of questions that appeared aimed at emotional intimidation.

She was on her way to the Ecuadorian embassy where a meeting of the Sam Adams whistleblowers group was to take place.
”Who will you be seeing?” asked the agent. She replied with the name of the group, giving him a list of members – all prominent figures in rights advocacy and whistleblowing: “Ray McGovern, Annie Machon, Thomas Drake, Craig Murray,” she replied, adding that she is also a member.

Once the agent had realized the meeting was to be held at the Ecuadorian Embassy, he went on to ask her if it was with Julian Assange. “Yes,” she replied.

“Why have you gone to Russia twice in three months?” the customs agent then asked in a seemingly unrelated follow-up question, to which Radack she replied that it was her client, Edward Snowden.

More bizarre still: “Who is Edward Snowden?” Radack answered truthfully that he was a whistleblower, which was followed by a no less bizarre “Who is Bradley Manning?” with Radack answering once more – “a whistleblower.”

“Where is he?” the agent asked of the jailed leaker, now known as Chelsea Manning. Radack replied – “in jail”. “So he’s a criminal?”, he retorted. “He’s a political prisoner,” came the reply from Radack.


As it turned out, she was on the so-called “inhibited persons list” – a category created by the Department of Homeland Security implying that a TSA agent has the authority not to grant that person passenger a border pass and/or allow them into the next area.
Slightly different from the "no-fly" list. 
Another lawyer – Jennifer Robinson, who has also represented Snowden – appeared on the “inhibited passenger” list in April 2012. The categorization was then very fresh, having been invented only in March 2012, and pertains, among other things, to an agreement with the United Kingdom to agree to “new rules that required airlines to provide the Department of Homeland Security with details of passengers even if they weren’t traveling to the United States..."
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

It's Sunday

A Kentucky [Jamie Coots ] preacher and reality TV star, whose sermons involved handling of deadly snakes, has died from a snake bite


[Coots’] faith included the conviction that God would protect any true believer from snake venom, so he refused medical aid.

Now, now. Don’t be snide. God just needed him in heaven.

Drip, Drip, Drip

[A] document provided by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposes NSA activity in monitoring an American law firm at a time when it was representing the Indonesian government during its trade talks with counterparts from the US.


[T]he document did not specify which trade case was being monitored by Australian intelligence through the so-called Five Eyes network .


The intelligence report Australia offered to share could contain “information covered by attorney-client privilege,” the spying agency warned the NSA liaison office in Canberra. Upon receiving guidelines from NSA general counsel’s office, the Australian agency has been encouraged to continue their surveillance of the talks “providing highly useful intelligence for interested US customers.”

Obviously, attorney-client privilege extends only to the walls of the NSA, and not within them.
US intelligence officials have repeatedly claimed the NSA is not targeting American citizens and businesses without a warrant and not using its Five Eyes international network as a loophole.
And we are never allowed to challenge their claims. State secrets. National security.
The Australian Defense Force public affairs office maintains that all intelligence is collected under strict legal guidelines and is vital for supporting national interests, echoing the US officials’ narrative. Meanwhile, the NSA when reached by the New York times about the new leaks “declined to answer questions.”
The NYT article.
During a joint press conference with French President Francois Hollande, Obama was asked whether his selection of France for the first state visit of his second term as president signalled a post-spying agreement with America’s European ally.


The US government “will continue to gather information about the intentions” of foreign governments, Obama said. Yet he also promised the NSA “will not monitor the communications of heads of state” atop the ranks of allied partners unless there are compelling national security purposes at stake.


“Following the revelations that appeared due to Snowden, we clarified things, Mr. Obama and myself, we clarified things. And then this was in the past,” Hollande added. “Mutual trust has been restored.”

Hollande’s restored faith in the Franco-American alliance comes just in time for Tuesday night’s state dinner at the White House. Included on the guest list for Tuesday’s banquet honoring Hollande is NSA Director Keith Alexander.


There has been no indication to date that Hollande was the target of any NSA spying.

So the French aren’t cheese eating monkeys any more? Merkel and Roussef weren’t good choices for a state dinner at this time. Let’s see what new revelations come from the Snowden documents now.
Federal regulators are beginning to scrutinize retailers that secretly track the movements of customers in their stores.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is holding an event this week to explore the growing use of commercial surveillance, which often happens without customers' knowledge.

  The Hill
Because that is just wrong. When someone other than the government is doing it.

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