Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Interview re: Gitmo and Torture

Ex-FBI agent who went to Guantánamo, Jim Clemente, is interveiwed by RT:


And, While We're on the Subject...

In a piece of turgid so-called journalism, Business Insider states “demand for The Interview has been shooting up among North Koreans. People are willing to pay almost $50 a copy of the movie…” The web site’s sole source for this information is an anti-Kim propaganda site, Free North Korea Radio, an online radio network run by North Korean defectors.


Why publish such transparent crap? Because people want to believe it is true, and the media gives the people what they will pay for.


As for the idea that there is any demand for The Interview, let alone a “shooting demand,” within North Korea, one wonders how people there might even have heard of the film. Aren’t we bombarded with constant tales about how information into the country is so tightly controlled, and of how the internet is available to a tiny handful of super-loyal people unlikely to be a fertile audience for an anti-Kim film full of adolescent jokes? And who’s got fifty bucks laying around in North Korea for a movie that if owned could send you to a labor camp for the rest of your life? Do you think the film is available on Betamax or LaserDisc or whatever 1980s format North Korea uses?


In the post-Cold War, post-9/11 world where the U.S. flounders for purpose and staggers like an aged fighter who went into the ring one too many times, Americans want black and white villains. They want a nation-state, ruled by a Bond villain, to fight, and if they can’t have one they’ll allow one to be created. Remember how Saddam was portrayed pre-2003 invasion of Iraq?

  We Meant Well
Sadly, yes.

It’s always safest to pick on someone who can’t do us any harm in order to beat our chests and pump our fists in the air. USA! USA!

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

"A Staged Confrontation"

WTF UK?  You support it, but regret to abstain?
“We voted against this resolution not because we are comfortable with the status quo. We voted against it because ... peace must come from hard compromises that occur at the negotiating table,” the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said.

I have to wonder...why would Palestine being granted statehood make peace negotiations with Israel any more difficult?  Could it be that Israel's occupation and constant bombardment of Palestine, if it were an actual state, elicit more pushback from the rest of the world?
Palestinian officials and other observers had thought Nigeria would back a Jordanian-tabled resolution, thereby delivering a nine-vote majority on the council which would have required a US veto to be blocked. Washington had been working strenuously to avoid having to use its veto.


One Palestinian source involved in the negotiations told the Guardian: “Even half an hour before the vote, Nigeria indicated it was committed to voting for the resolution.”


The apparent change by Nigeria, which is a rotating member of the council, came after both the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the US secretary of state, John Kerry, phoned the country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, to ask him not to support the resolution.

Goodluck Jonathan.
Before the vote, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said the Palestinians could return to the security council, which, from Thursday, will have five new members who are viewed as more sympathetic to their cause.
Good luck, Palestine.

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

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"An Act of Patriotism"

The stupid. It burns.
At the Austin Alamo Drafthouse [...] a few, proud moviegoers stood before the [Sony] film [The Interview] ran to sing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”, and posted the effort to YouTube. The brave representative of that band of brothers and female virtual brothers, risking near-certain death at the hands of any North Korean sleeper agents in Austin, reminded the audience that beer is better in a democracy. The sing-along ended with chants of “USA! USA!”

The owner of the Alamo Drafthouse said “It’s more than watching a silly Seth Rogen buddy comedy. Today it’s really, in a small way, it is sort of an act of patriotism to come and watch this movie this week.”

In Atlanta, similar selfless acts were seen as the sold-out crowd sang along to Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” before the screening of Sony Pictures’ ode to free speech and assassination. “The movie, and the singing,” said the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, “served as a statement from many theatergoers that a foreign power would not dictate what forms of entertainment Americans could or could not enjoy.”

  We Meant Well
Ranks right up there with freedom fries.
The true patriotic exercise of free speech is not masking a business decision as a principled stand. It is not recycling some old jingoistic songs in front of a sympathetic group of beer drinkers. You want courage? Say something unpopular against the government. Blow the whistle at great personal risk on a wrong that needs to be exposed. March in protest at risk of a police beating or arrest.

US vs North Korea

Researchers from the firm Norse told Security Ledger, an independent security news website, that they believe that a group of six individuals orchestrated the hack, including at least one former employee who was laid off in company-wide restructuring in May.

The latest allegations add to growing skepticism over the FBI’s assertion — reiterated by President Barack Obama — that linked North Korea to the attack, which the country has denied.

We’re not giving up yet, though. Now, we imagine that while someone else may have performed the attack, North Korea paid them.
U.S. investigators believe that North Korea likely hired hackers from outside the country to help with last month's massive cyberattack against Sony Pictures, an official close to the investigation said on Monday.

As North Korea lacks the capability to conduct some elements of the sophisticated campaign by itself, the official said, U.S. investigators are looking at the possibility that Pyongyang "contracted out" some of the cyber work. The official was not authorized to speak on the record about the investigation.

And, yet…
The tools to hack the company are well known and in the public domain. The company, Sony, had lousy internal network security and had been hacked before. The hackers probably had some inside knowledge. They used servers in Bolivia, China and South Korea to infiltrate. There is zero public evidence in the known that the hack was state sponsored.

But the U.S. is claiming that the event is a "national security matter". Who's national security? Japan's? Canada's? Why? A private Japanese entertainment(!) company left the doors open and had some equipment vandalized and some of its private property stolen. Why, again, is that of U.S. "national interest"? Why would the U.S. even consider some "proportional response"?

  Moon of Alabama
I have no answer to that. But I’m sure there is one.

Another Academic Denial of Free Speech

When it comes to Israel, apparently even our institutes of "higher" learning are unwilling to allow truth telling.  (Recall the U of Ill recent dust-up.)
Chris Hedges was invited to speak at the University of Pennsylvania. Then he likened Israel to ISIS, and got disinvited.


Hedges’s banning is a reminder that none of the rules apply when it comes to Israel. Americans are allowed to mock and satirize any country we like– or even make a movie about assassinating a foreign dictator, and the president will stand up for you against efforts to suppress it– but don’t touch a hair on Israel’s chinny chin chin

What he said:
"Its quest for an ethnically pure Sunni state mirrors the quest for a Jewish state eventually carved out of Palestine in 1948. Its tactics are much like those of the Jewish guerrillas who used violence, terrorism, foreign fighters, clandestine arms shipments and foreign money, along with horrific ethnic cleansing and the massacre of hundreds of Arab civilians, to create Israel. Antagonistic ISIS and Israeli states, infected by religious fundamentalism, would be irreconcilable neighbors. This is a recipe for apocalyptic warfare. We provided the ingredients."

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

Monday, December 29, 2014

Internet Security and the NSA

When Christmas approaches, the spies of the Five Eyes intelligence services can look forward to a break from the arduous daily work of spying. In addition to their usual job -- attempting to crack encryption all around the world -- they play a game called the "Kryptos Kristmas Kwiz," which involves solving challenging numerical and alphabetical puzzles. The proud winners of the competition are awarded "Kryptos" mugs.

The number of Internet users concerned about privacy online has risen dramatically since the first Snowden revelations. But people who consciously use strong end-to-end encryption to protect their data still represent a minority of the Internet-using population. There are a number of reasons for this: Some believe encryption is too complicated to use. Or they think the intelligence agency experts are already so many steps ahead of them that they can crack any encryption program.
Not to mention the fact that if you are using a virtually uncrackable encryption program, the NSA that in itself will be a red flag for the NSA to start paying very close attention to you.
An NSA presentation for a conference that took place that year lists the encryption programs the Americans failed to crack.


Monitoring a document's path through the Internet is classified as "trivial." Recording Facebook chats is considered a "minor" task, while the level of difficulty involved in decrypting emails sent through Moscow-based Internet service provider "" is considered "moderate." Still, all three of those classifications don't appear to pose any significant problems for the NSA.

Things first become troublesome at the fourth level. The presentation states that the NSA encounters "major" problems in its attempts to decrypt messages sent through heavily encrypted email service providers like Zoho or in monitoring users of the Tor network*, which was developed for surfing the web anonymously. Tor, otherwise known as The Onion Router, is free and open source software that allows users to surf the web through a network of more than 6,000 linked volunteer computers. The software automatically encrypts data in a way that ensures that no single computer in the network has all of a user's information.


The NSA also has "major" problems with Truecrypt, a program for encrypting files on computers. Truecrypt's developers stopped their work on the program last May, prompting speculation about pressures from government agencies. A protocol called Off-the-Record (OTR) for encrypting instant messaging in an end-to-end encryption process also seems to cause the NSA major problems. Both are programs whose source code can be viewed, modified, shared and used by anyone. Experts agree it is far more difficult for intelligence agencies to manipulate open source software programs than many of the closed systems developed by companies like Apple and Microsoft.
No doubt.
Things become "catastrophic" for the NSA at level five - when, for example, a subject uses a combination of Tor, another anonymization service, the instant messaging system CSpace and a system for Internet telephony (voice over IP) called ZRTP. This type of combination results in a "near-total loss/lack of insight to target communications, presence," the NSA document states.

ZRTP, which is used to securely encrypt conversations and text chats on mobile phones, is used in free and open source programs like RedPhone and Signal.


[Also,] PGP is more than 20 years old, but apparently it remains too robust for the NSA spies to crack.


Given its use outside the United States, the US government launched an investigation into [PGP’s developer, Phil] Zimmermann during the 1990s for allegedly violating the Arms Export Control Act. Prosecutors argued that making encryption software of such complexity available abroad was illegal. Zimmermann responded by publishing the source code as a book, an act that was constitutionally protected as free speech.
The Spiegel article also cites supposedly secure communication protocols that aren’t: Skype, VPNs (virtual private networks), TLS, SSL, SSH and HTTPS.

So, now can we declare Spiegel a terrorist organization for revealing this information?

 ..but hey, do what you will anyway.

 Oh, by the way, Facebook is indexing all your posts.

Drip, Drip, Drip

Some more Snowden documents, along with others previously unreported, have made their way into print.
[D]ocuments show that the deadly [Afghanistan killing] missions were not just viewed as a last resort to prevent attacks, but were in fact part of everyday life in the guerilla war in Afghanistan.

[A secret NATO list], which included up to 750 people at times, proves for the first time that NATO didn't just target the Taliban leadership, but also eliminated mid- and lower-level members of the group on a large scale.


[T]he kill lists raise legal and moral questions that extend far beyond Afghanistan. Can a democracy be allowed to kill its enemies in a targeted manner when the objective is not to prevent an imminent attack? And does the goal of eliminating as many Taliban as possible justify killing innocent bystanders?

Of course, legal and moral are very different issues, and it depends on who you’re asking, doesn’t it? We know that attorney John Yoo declared torture to be legal, and I doubt if anyone was asking him whether it’s moral. So, the answer to both questions about the kill list, is going to vary. If you’re asking me…the answer to both is an unequivocal ‘no’.

And now, with these documents, we know just how many civilians are considered weight enough to call in a headquarters chief when putting a name on the NATO kill list: eleven. Up to 10, don’t bother headquarters. Just kill ‘em. And, even at that, “civilian” is defined rather loosely:
Bodyguards, drivers and male attendants were viewed as enemy combatants, whether or not they actually were. Only women, children and the elderly were treated as civilians.

Fooled You Once Twice Again

President Barack Obama said on Sunday the longest war in American history was coming to a responsible conclusion.

Obama was welcoming the end of US combat operations in Afghanistan, which was marked with a ceremony in Kabul.

Obama, who is on vacation in Hawaii, said in a statement that the international effort in Afghanistan had devastated al-Qaida’s core leadership, brought justice to Osama bin Laden and disrupted terrorist plots. He said US troops and diplomats had helped Afghans reclaim their communities and move toward democracy.


Barack Obama has extended the combat role for US troops in Afghanistan for another year, in a classified order he signed in recent weeks, the New York Times reported Friday.


The new order also allows for air support -- from US jets, bombers and drones -- for Afghan combat missions.


Previously, the president had said US-led NATO combat operations would finish at the end of this year.

The NATO follow up mission, to take over on January 1 with 9,800 US troops and about 3,000 soldiers from Germany, Italy and other member nations, was to focus on supporting Afghan forces as they take on the Taliban, in parallel with US counter-terrorism operations.

But in a strategic shift, the New York Times said, Obama signed an order authorizing US troops through 2015

"A strategic shift" must be what we're calling bullshit these days.

The war is over.  Long live the war.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Sony - FBI Embarrassment

Yet another cyber security expert's analysis of why a North Korean attack on Sony is implausible. 

I haven't yet read anything suggesting this whole thing is another FBI (or other agency) operation meant to frighten the public into giving up yet more privacy rights and internet freedom, but it smells like a possibility to me.

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

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Is Sony Part of the American Government Now?

According to people briefed on the matter, Sony had in recent days asked the White House for help in lining up a single technology partner — Apple, which operates iTunes — but the tech company was not interested, at least not on a speedy time table. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

I guess if you’re cozy with the CIA, you’re cozy with the White House.

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

Seriously, Why There?

The FBI has warned local authorities of a threat that Islamic State militants would blow up the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge spanning the Mississippi River, an agency spokesman said on Tuesday.

The bridge is a major route connecting Tennessee and Arkansas. The Federal Bureau of Investigation passed the threat on to local police in a bulletin out of an "abundance of caution," spokesman Chris Allen said.

"This is an unsubstantiated, anonymous threat," he said, adding that there was no useful intelligence arising from it.


The television station quoted the FBI warning as saying that according to an anonymous tipster, Islamic State had instructed a person in Memphis "to blow up the Memphis-Arkansas bridge on an unknown date, activating ISIS terror cells in the United States."   Yahoo
And in that location, I'd sooner guess anti-government yokels than ISIS.

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

First, the Education

The NY Police Murders

Mayor Bill DeBlasio, who got flack from the New York police union, says, "When a police officer is murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society."  As opposed to when an unarmed black man is killed, I suppose.

Click the picture above to access the NPR video report with Graham Weatherspoon, a retired detective with the New York City Police Department who was policing in the 70s when New York police "were being killed at the rate of no less than one a month," and Steven Thrasher, a weekly columnist for the Guardian US.

"Post-Racial" America

(Click the picture for a larger view.)

Don't set store by polls, but given face value, it seems that we only see racism as a problem when some incident gets national media coverage. It's not as though until that moment, racism doesn't exist.

In fact, here's your racism right here:
Nonwhites (22%) are more than twice as likely as whites (9%) to view racial issues as the nation's largest problem.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Speaking of Sony and the CIA

According to uncovered emails, a high-ranking CIA agent visited the Los Angeles headquarters of Sony Pictures Entertainment weeks ago, before the company realized its entire computer system had been compromised by hackers the FBI links to North Korea.

Radar will not identify the name of the CIA operative because of national security considerations, but the document indicates the agent was hosted at Sony’s Culver City headquarters by the company’s security chief.

  Radar Online
Makes the speculation about who really hacked Sony even more interesting.

Frivolous Horace Shit

Attorneys representing a Kansas man filed a civil suit in District Court on Friday last week in which they allege that Snowden, movie director Laura Poitras and others involved in making “Citizenfour” intentionally violated federal law by profiting off of the disclosure of state secrets.

“This is an action on behalf of the American people to seek prompt imposition of the Supreme Court’s essential financial remedy – a constructive trust – to redress unjust enrichment by ensuring that ill-gotten gains are disgorged,” begins the civil action complaint.


According to the suit, Snowden and the film’s production team ran afoul of a 1979 Supreme Court decision in which the nation’s top justices agreed by a 6-3 vote that First Amendment rights don’t protect Americans from instances in which their speech breaches any “constructive trust” existing between the government and an agent privy to its inner workings. In the case of Citizenfour, the plaintiff — Horace B. Williams, a former secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation and a retired Navy officer who once held a security clearance — says Snowden broke his agreement with the US government because he and the film crew will make a “covet financial gain for their misconduct,” namely discussing classified documents in a manner that makes them available to potential audiences of “foreign enemies.”


Meanwhile, no fewer than two other films concerning the NSA leaker are currently in the works. Last month, The Guardian confirmed that actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt has accepted the role of Snowden in a forthcoming feature being directed by veteran filmmaker Oliver Stone.

Looking forward to it.

And wondering about Glenn Greenwald's (possibly defunct) deal with Sony to make a Snowden movie is coming along in light of the latest Sony scandal, including talk that Sony is cozy with the CIA.

Meanwhile In Cop Shootings

A white former Milwaukee police officer who fatally shot a black man in a downtown park in April won’t face criminal charges, the county’s top prosecutor said on Monday.

The Milwaukee County district attorney, John Chisholm, said in an emailed press release that Christopher Manney will not be charged because he shot Dontre Hamilton in self-defense.


Manney shot 31-year-old Hamilton on 30 April after responding to a call for a welfare check on a man sleeping in the park. Manney said Hamilton resisted when he tried to frisk him. The two exchanged punches before Hamilton got a hold of Manney’s baton and hit him on the neck with it, the former officer has said. Manney then opened fire, hitting Hamilton 14 times.

Hamilton’s family said he suffered from schizophrenia and had recently stopped taking his medication.

Police chief Edward Flynn fired Manney in October, saying Manney instigated the fight with an inappropriate pat-down. The chief said Manney correctly identified Hamilton as mentally ill but ignored his training and department policy, and treated him as a criminal.


Hamilton’s death preceded those of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City, but the case hasn’t attracted as much attention despite frequent, mostly peaceful protests.

  The Guardian
That’s why it’s not getting any attention.
Manney has appealed against his firing and applied for disability, saying the shootings in Milwaukee and Ferguson have cost him sleep and made it difficult for him to think clearly.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

RIP Joe Cocker

If it hadn't been for Ringo Starr, we wouldn't know what the real lyrics are; but if it hadn't been for Joe Cocker, we wouldn't know it could sound good.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


10 Ways to make it work.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Latest on the Barrett Brown Case

In 2009, Barrett [Brown] founded Project PM, “dedicated to investigating private government contractors working in the secretive fields of cybersecurity, intelligence, and surveillance.” He was particularly instrumental in using documents obtained by the hacktivist collective Anonymous to expose secret collaboration between the government and various contractors. The covert factions Barrett’s work threatened are powerful, and fought back. Two years ago, Barrett was arrested and threatened with 100 years in prison—yes, you read that correctly—allegedly for threatening an FBI agent, concealing evidence, and linking to a website that contained stolen credit card numbers. The allegations themselves are sufficiently preposterous, and the threatened sentence sufficiently draconian, to make it clear that Barrett [...] is in fact being persecuted as an example to anyone else who would dare challenge America’s Deep State.

Eventually, Barrett signed a plea deal on three of the lesser charges against him, the other charges were dropped, and the threatened sentence reduced from over a hundred to eight and a half years. His sentencing hearing has been repeatedly scheduled and then delayed, and is currently set for December 16.

  Barry Eisler at BoingBoing
Brown’s hearing was on December 16, but the judge moved sentencing to January 22.

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

Cuban Prisoner Exchange

In a reported prisoner exchange, Cuba has released Alan Gross, a subcontractor for U.S. Agency for International Development, after five years in prison, while the United States is freeing the three remaining members of the Cuban Five — Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labañino.


Alan Gross was arrested in 2009 on suspicion of being a U.S. spy after handing out equipment to Cuban opposition groups. The Cuban Five were arrested in the United States in 1998 and convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage. The Cuban intelligence officers say they were not spying on the United States, but rather trying to monitor violent right-wing Cuban exile groups responsible for attacks inside Cuba. Both President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro are scheduled to make statements today on U.S.-Cuban relations.

  Democracy Now!
The exchange of three Cubans who have been imprisoned here since 1998 for one CIA agent is an interesting exchange. And actually, I'm surprised the deal hadn't been made before Gross had to spend five years in jail. That must be a good story.

And another one must be this.
Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons.

Why doesn't Democracy Now! mention the other guy? They usually have the whole story.

We want Cuba to stay like it is? Actually, I can't be wincing at Jeremy Scahill's thoughts, when my first reaction was: "Oh, too bad. Now they'll have new cars there."

The Rendering Continues

A CIA prisoner whose treatment set the torture template in the agency’s notorious Salt Pit jail outside Kabul, and another known as a “ghost prisoner” – held in such secrecy that for years even his name was classified information – have disappeared into Afghanistan’s prison system, where they are once more at risk of torture.

The US military handed the two men to the Afghan government earlier this month, along with several other unidentified foreign captives who are believed to be citizens of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, when they closed a notorious jail on Bagram airbase.


“There isn’t any evidence against them, they were not captured in Afghanistan, and they were not part of the conflict in Afghanistan,” said Foster, the lawyer.


United Nations reports raised such serious concerns in recent years that Nato forces twice halted all prisoner transfers. Despite government promises of a crackdown since then, there have been credible reports that torture has persisted under some commanders.


“The fact that you are holding people without identities makes it hard to protect them,” said Kate Clark, of the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

  The Guardian

It's Sunday

I had no idea you could purchase followers for your Instagram account. (I don't have one.)


 So, it turns out that Instagram has deleted all these accounts:
[Some users were] praising the effort to crack down on spam, while others were “in mourning” over the loss of millions of followers overnight. One ordinary user, who calls himself “chiragchirag78” lost 99.99 percent of his flock (3.6 million followers) on Friday.

Instagram's own account on the site lost 18.9 million followers overnight.

Meanwhile, according to figures assembled by developer Zach Allia, the biggest celebrity victim was rapper Akon, who lost more than half his followers. Justin Bieber's account went down by 3.5 million, Kim Kardashian 1.3 million and Beyonce 832,000 followers.

And do you know what they are calling this move?

 "Instagram rapture."

Appropriate name for the removal of fake, paid-for followers.

I Wouldn't Be a Bit Surprised

Not only that,  We are a country that is obsessed with a very unhealthy and aggressive attitude toward sexuality (particularly with homo-sexuality), and a love of violence (particularly punishing violence), and a worshipful reverence for power.  I don't think the media or ISIS have done that to us.

UPDATE:  See what I mean?
Torture Game 3 is the most up-to-date version of the popular bloody game (rated 8/10!) where you use different tools to torture the victim. You can cut the hands off the victim using a chainsaw saw, you can use a pistol or a shotgun to blow holes in the body, you can even break the body parts apart from the body itself.

My favorite: using the Spike tool to tear off flesh.

The variety of torture tools that can be found on the right side of the “action border panel” is robust. Why, there’s something for everyone. The most popular tools include ropes, a knife, a shotgun, a razor and of course the chainsaw. While the game loads with a generic male victim’s image, the designers explain you can upload any picture — even your own! — and torture a man or woman you hate.

The game designers promise “this game is a good way how to spend several minutes after a difficult day.”

The game runs under Adobe Flash, so you need that on your computer, but otherwise no download is necessary; the game runs right in your browser. There is no cost, no ads, no sign up. Just hit the link and torture. And it is all nice and legal, just like in real life.

I wish to God this was satire, but it is not. We are a sick, sick people.

  Peter Van Buren
And don't forget all the games where you can torture and rape women.

It's Sunday

No surprise here...


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cuba Libre!

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


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

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

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

Our Faux Democracy Trundles On

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

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

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

Who We Are - Part 2

Update Regarding Attacks in Response to Torture Report

If They'd Only Get Educated

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


Friday, December 19, 2014

What's Up with the Movies?

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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

  Daily Beast

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

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

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

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

Well, he should know about that.

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

UPDATE 12/20/2014:
“My gut instinct was, ‘Oh no, is it the North Koreans?…For two seconds it was the North Koreans, and then the younger guys in our office who know way more about computers were, like, ‘No way. You’d have to know Sony’s network, it has to be somebody on the inside,” [Evan Goldberg, co-director of the controversial film “The Interview”] said.

These comments were made over a week ago and went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media. However, Goldberg isn’t the only one who thinks that the hack was an inside job.

This week, computer security expert Vinny Troia told Fox News “America’s Newsroom” that there was much more evidence for an inside job than there was for a cyber attack from North Korea.

  The AntiMedia

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Surveillance State - Part Whatever

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

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

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


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

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thom Hartman Talks with Ray McGovern

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

Part 1

Part 2

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

No Doubt

Cartoonist:  Jen Sorensen

Feel free to pull this out whenever you need it.

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

Monday, December 15, 2014


The US has an ambassador for war crimes???!!!

Well, if not us, who? We're at least as skilled and knowledgeable as anyone else.

You can't make this shit up.
The U.S. State Department has concluded that up to 10 European citizens have been tortured and killed while in the custody of the Syrian regime and that evidence of their deaths could be used for war crimes prosecutions against Bashar al-Assad in several European countries.

The new claim, made by the State Department’s ambassador at large for war crimes, Stephen Rapp, in an interview with me, is based on a newly completed FBI analysis of 27,000 photographs smuggled out of Syria by the former military photographer known as “Caesar.” The photos show evidence of the torture and murder of over 11,000 civilians in custody.


While it’s unlikely that multilateral organizations such as the United Nations or the International Criminal Court will pursue cases against Assad in the near term, due to opposition by Assad’s allies including Russia, legal cases against the regime could be brought in individual countries whose citizens were victims of torture and murder.


For Caesar and his support team, the hope is that European countries will see their citizens’ murders as further evidence that the West must reject any notion of allowing the Assad regime to remain in power or being a de facto partner with the West against extremist groups such as the Islamic State.
This is not – repeat NOT – an Onion article, although it reads like one.
“It’s incredibly important for the international community to treat the fact that Europeans were tortured to death by the Assad regime with the same seriousness that they treated the fact that two American journalists were beheaded for going inside Syria and covering the suffering of the Syrian people,” said Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, an American nongovernmental group that runs State Department programs inside Syria.
Let me guess, aka the CIA.
The New York Times reported that months after Caesar appeared in Washington and met with top White House officials, there has been little action to follow up on his revelations. The people helping Caesar think the Obama administration has been slow to follow up on the evidence.
I imagine they have more than one reason for that.
Rapp promised that the State Department will continue to fight for the evidence to be verified, exposed and then used to hold Assad and other regime figures accountable.

And Lucrative, To Boot

Over a decade ago, [Matthew]Zirbel, then a junior CIA officer, was in charge of the Salt Pit, a “black site” in Afghanistan referred to in the recent Senate torture report as “Cobalt,” where detainees were routinely brutalized and which one visitor described as a “dungeon.” A delegation from the Federal Bureau of Prisons was “WOW’ed” by the Salt Pit’s sensory deprivation techniques, and a CIA interrogator said that prisoners there “literally looked like [dogs] that had been kenneled,” according to the report.


Rahman, an Afghan, was rendered to the Salt Pit in the fall of 2002 after being apprehended in Pakistan. At that time the torture center was being run by a man referred to as “CIA Officer 1” in the Senate report. News outlets have not named him in covering the report but he has previously been identified as Zirbel, after the government accidentally included his name in a report that had been declassified.

  The Intercept
Perhaps he can sue.
Zirbel was on his first foreign tour for the CIA and colleagues, according to the Senate report, had recommended that he not be allowed access to classified material due to his “lack of honesty, judgment, and maturity,” according to the Senate report. A Senate aide who briefed reporters about Zirbel said the CIA officer had “issues” in his background.
Backing up to Gul Rahman, Zirbel oversaw his punishment for being “uncooperative” whereby the detainee froze to death in a cell.
The Senate report identifies Rahman as one of 26 detainees who did not meet the “standard for detention”; Footnote 32 calls his a case of “mistaken identity.”


[A] limited probe of the torture program by the Department of Justice recommended that Rahman’s death be the subject of a full criminal investigation. Attorney General Eric Holder, who was busy not prosecuting Wall Street firms for collapsing the global economy, eventually closed the case.


Seven years after his orders led to Rahman’s death, Zirbel, who has been described as unfit for CIA employment, was working for one U.S. government agency or another in Saudi Arabia. In 2009, U.S. Customs records show that Zirbel shipped 26 containers of “House Hold Goods & Personal Effect” from the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah to a home in Great Falls.

Several news accounts in 2010 said that Zirbel — whom the stories described but did not name — was still working for the agency.


Public records show he owns several properties, including the house in Great Falls, which he bought in 2006 for $1.3 million and still owns. The house sits on five wooded acres and is apparently being rented for $4,500 per month, so Zirbel lives elsewhere.


Incidentally, Zirbel’s estate in Virginia is about 200 miles southeast of Loretto, Pennsylvania. That’s where CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, the only person ever sentenced to prison time over the torture program, is currently shacked up at a federal correctional institute.

As for the CIA’s response to Zirbel’s activities at the Salt Pit:
“The Agency could have and should have brought in a more experienced officer to assume these responsibilities,” the CIA response said.
I’m sure that would have made all the difference in the world.

This Is "Who We Are"

Dick Cheney gave an unflinching defense of he CIA's post-9/11 torture program on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, dismissing criticisms of the program's forced rectal feedings, waterboarding and a death.


"I'd do it again in a minute," said Cheney. He also spoke repeatedly of how the program was justified to get the "bastards" who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks.


"I'm more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent," Cheney said.  HuffPo

Sometimes I have a hard time wrapping my head around this.  That, and the fact that it wouldn't even matter if the tortured did get to be heard from.


I am tired of listening to our officials say things that are simply and obviously in direct contradiction with what we actually do. Enough is enough. It is time to stop pretending we are something that we are not.

President Obama claimed that some of the actions that were taken (note past tense), were contrary to our values. What seems to be lost on the President is that values are not something one professes; values are established through one's actions.


No longer should these individuals [who are responsible for the torture program] be given a soapbox to stand on to profess that they did nothing wrong or that what they did was necessary.

The only box those responsible for torture should be given is the witness box. Our professed values and our legal obligations require that those responsible for the torture program be prosecuted and, if guilty, punished. The United Nations Convention against Torture requires the prosecution of individuals for torture when there is sufficient evidence for doing so. Clearly, there is no shortage of evidence.


It is not surprising that the drone strike program kills innocent people. Just as the interrogation methods (torture) used by the Bush administration were immoral and illegal, so too are the methods President Obama employs in his drone strike program. The Obama administration has repeatedly attacked first responders and rescuers when they converge on the scene of an initial attack. Those attending funerals have also been attacked. President Obama has personally authorized the use of "signature" strikes, which are strikes launched without first determining whether the person(s) "deserved" to die. In the process, President Obama has violated international humanitarian law and human rights law, and has arbitrarily killed hundreds, if not thousands, of innocents.

These are our values because our values are defined not by what we say, but by what we do. American exceptionalism, a favored claim of President Obama's, has nothing to do with our "willingness to openly confront our past." It is a catchall justification for our immoral and illegal actions around the world.

  Jeff Bachman: HuffPo

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Very Enlightening "Debate" on Torture

In two short segments in an appropriately named venue (The Heat), ex-CIA officer Ray McGovern and former House Intelligence Committee Chair, Congressman Pete Hoekstra "discuss" the Senate Torture Report.

In part 1, Hoekstra literally says that some members of Congress were fully informed of and agreed to the use of the torture techniques revealed in the report, and in part 2, he essentially claims that it was wrong to release the report, because now other countries will not be willing to assist us in torture.
Near the end of the second segment, McGovern, who has hitherto been calm and civil, finally has all he can stomach, and takes Hoekstra to task for knowing about the torture, and beyond not doing anything about it, condoning it.

And, no, Hoekstra is not ashamed of what he's done. (In case you wondered.)


UPDATE: 12/16
Ray McGovern explication of the "debate" (text, no video)

Bythe Way

Have you heard any reports of the violence that would break out around the world if we released that torture report?  Me neither.

We are one of a handful of countries whose citizens were not already fully aware of the depravity of the CIA and US foreign policies.

Accountability/Reform Farce

Before subjecting a detainee to interrogation, a 2002 cable notes, C.I.A. officers sought assurances that he would “remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life.” Permanent, extrajudicial disappearance was apparently preferable to letting the prisoner ever tell what had been done to him. That logic may explain why no “high value detainee” subjected to the most extreme tactics and still in U.S. custody in Guantánamo has yet been given an open trial.

  New Yorker
And never will.
In June of 2003, the Vice-President’s counsel asked the C.I.A’.s general counsel if the agency was videotaping its waterboarding sessions. His answer was no. That was technically true, since it was not videotaping them at the time. But it had done so previously, and it had the tapes. The C.I.A. used the same evasion on Senate overseers. A day after a senator proposed a commission to look into detainee matters, the tapes were destroyed. Similar deceptions on many levels are so rife in the report that a reader can’t help but wonder if agency officials didn’t simply regard their cloak of state secrecy as a license to circumvent accountability.
And why shouldn’t they? There’s been no accountability for our foreign policy and war crimes since…well, since the United States of America were founded and produced a military.
It remains to be seen, though, whether the report will spur lasting reform.
Pipe me up another dream, son.
“Nothing predicts future behavior as much as past impunity.” [ -- Darius Rejali, professor of political science at Reed College and expert on torture regimes]

He'd have liked to have done it personally. In fact, I suppose, we don't know that he didn't.

Ferguson-Born Protests Continue

Thousands of Americans took to the streets on Saturday in Washington, New York, and several other cities to protest recent grand jury decisions regarding the deaths of black men at the hands of police officers.


More than 20 people were arrested in Boston on Saturday, as hundreds gathered around the Massachusetts state capitol amid a heavy police presence. Largely peaceful protests took place in Chicago and Oakland.

  The Guardian

New War, Same as the Old War

And, on cue, the Brits creep back in.
UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has announced that hundreds of British troops will be sent to Iraq next month to train local Kurdish and Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State.


The small deployment, which Fallon said will be in the small hundreds, is necessary because the war with ISIS has entered a new phase.

Would that new phase be the one where they have an arsenal gained from capturing oil refineries plus large numbers of US and British equipment?
“The challenge now is that the airstrikes have changed ISIL’s patterns. They are not using large formations out in the open any more. They are increasingly tucked away in towns and villages. That means they have got to be routed out by ground troops,” he said.
That, too.

The Twisted World of Torture: Physician Assistance

That quote is from James Mitchell, alleged "architect" of the US torture procedures.

I wouldn't bet on it.

[I]n early 2003, an agency medical officer observed to a colleague that their role of providing an “institutional conscience and the limiting factor” for the program had clearly changed.

Medical personnel, the officer wrote in an e-mail, were becoming “the ones who are dedicated to maximizing the benefit in a safe manner and keeping everyone’s butt out of trouble.”


In March 2003, the OMS completed draft guidelines for EITs, including waterboarding. Risks, it said, were “directly related to the number of exposures and may well accelerate as exposures increase.” It recommended an upper limit of “perhaps 20 in a week.”


CIA medical doctors, as well as psychologists, were intimately involved in virtually every interrogation session to a far greater extent than was previously known.


In some cases, they warned that interrogation sessions, both planned and underway, risked exceeding guidelines they had compiled. But in most instances documented, medical personnel appear to be enablers — advising that shackles be loosened to avoid extreme edema while a detainee was subjected to prolonged standing or stress positions; covering a wound in plastic during water dousing; and administering “rectal feeding” and “rectal rehydration,” which one medical official described as an apparently effective way to “clear a person’s head” and get him to talk.


Abu Zubaida “seems very resistant to the water board,” [a] medical officer wrote. “Longest time with the cloth over his face so far has been 17 seconds. This is sure to increase shortly. NO useful information so far. . . . He did vomit a couple of times during the water board with some beans and rice. It’s been 10 hours since he ate so this is surprising and disturbing. We plan to only feed Ensure for a while now.”


The CIA use of techniques such as “rectal feeding” were previously unknown, said Miles, who also serves on the board of the Center for Victims of Torture. “There is no such thing as rectal feeding. It can’t physiologically be done; the colon does not have a lining on it that can absorb nutrients. . . . This thing is not any kind of medical procedure, it’s purely an instrument of causing extreme pain.”


Asked about the OMS, a CIA spokesman said that “CIA’s medical personnel are dedicated intelligence officers committed to upholding the highest standards of their health profession.”

During one of the 183 waterboarding sessions with KSM, the CIA reported that the medical officer present was “not concerned about regurgitated gastric acid damaging KSM’s esophagus,” because his gastric contents were so diluted by water. Later, the medical officer reported that KSM was “ingesting and aspiration a LOT of water” and that with “the new technique we are basically doing a series of near drownings.”

“I am going the extra mile to try to handle this in a non-confrontational manner,” the medical officer later reported of his interactions with interrogators.
What a champ.

And they were paid handsomely for it.
At one point [in the Senate torture report], an OMS official complains about a conflict of interest among psychologists working on the program — contractors rather than CIA staff — who were both administering the techniques and assessing their effectiveness, “at a daily compensation reported to be $1800/day, or four times that of interrogators who could not use the technique.”

Income Inequality - Graphic

And if a frog had wings, he wouldn't bump his butt on the ground hopping.

I'm sure the top 1% are more deserving.

American Civilian Victim of US Foreign Policy

Shakir Hamoodi, a Columbia [Missouri] business owner imprisoned for sending money to his family in Iraq in violation of U.S. sanctions, was released Tuesday from the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan., to serve the remainder of his sentence in a halfway house and on home arrest.

Hamoodi, a nuclear scientist once employed by the University of Missouri and owner of World Harvest Foods, was sentenced in 2012 to three years in federal prison for sending more than $200,000 to family, friends and charities from 1991 to 2003. Investigators found no evidence he was aiding the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein through his contributions, which he told the court were to provide for basic needs of family members.


“My uncle was a surgeon [in Iraq] who made $2 a month and could not even buy a box of eggs,” said Owais Abdul-Kafi, Hamoodi’s son, in an interview Friday. “They were suffering and starving.”

  Columbia Tribune
I’m very happy for Mr. Hamoodi and his family, but I am much more disgusted with the US “justice” system and all who participated (indirectly, that being the entire voting-age citizenry of the US) in the outrage of this treatment of a decent and caring man.

I first met Mr. Hamoodi in his import store where I bought wonderful cheeses, and then on an early protest march against the Iraq invasion where he begged us all to try to understand what our bombs would do to innocent people, including his family in Iraq. All who engaged in the wrath of the 9/11ers, and those who participated in his trial and conviction are a disgrace to humanity.

And, to add insult to injury…
Hamoodi, 62, is at Reality House in Columbia and has a final release date of April 7, 2015. Federal release rules require him to seek work until his final release but he is not allowed to work at his business.


Prior to his sentencing, friends and supporters urged that Hamoodi be put on probation. Since his incarceration, petitions seeking a commutation have been presented to the U.S. Department of Justice and the White House with no results.

“We are very thankful for the community of Columbia,” Abdul-Kafi wrote. “They have stood with our family through this whole process.”


“He is a classic good man,” [Columbia attorney Craig] Van Matre said. “He is compassionate. He is intelligent. He is caring. He’s a leader of the Muslim community and he is charitable to the extreme. He is an adherent to the best aspects of the Muslim religion and he just didn’t deserve this.”
No, he did not. He does not.

h/t Jean

It's Sunday

In his weekly address at the Vatican late last month, Pope Francis issued a remarkable statement that’s sure to come as welcome news to anyone who’s ever lost a beloved pet. According to Francis, the promise of an afterlife applies not only to believers, but to all animals as well.

"The Holy Scriptures teach us that the realization of this wonderful plan covers all that is around us, and that came out of the thought and the heart of God," Pope Francis said, as quoted by Italian news site Resapubblica.

The Pope then went on to say that “heaven is open to all creatures, and there [they] will be vested with the joy and love of God, without limits.”

  The Dodo
“Heaven is by favor; if it were by merit your dog would go in and you would stay out." -- Mark Twain

 Complete quote: “Heaven is by favor; if it were by merit your dog would go in and you would stay out. Of all the creatures ever made (man) is the most detestable. Of the entire brood, he is the only one... that possesses malice. He is the only creature that inflicts pain for sport, knowing it to be pain.”

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Tree Grows in Yemen

Appropo of everything....check out these pictures of ancient trees.  Here's just one, from Yemen:

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

The People's Representatives at Work

The campaign to rein in the surveillance of Americans by the National Security Agency (NSA) has become even more difficult. Instead, Congress has used a set of provisions to expand the agency’s data-gathering power.


In a bill now headed for President Barack Obama’s desk, Congress gave the agency what civil liberties advocates argue is an unprecedented authority to collect and store data belonging to American citizens.

Additionally, the omnibus spending bill passed by the House on Thursday – intended to keep the government running through most of next year – was stripped of the amendment banning the NSA from conducting ‘backdoor’ surveillance on Americans and insisting that tech companies redesign their products to make them more surveillance-friendly.


The death of the Massie-Lofgren amendment would cap a bad year for legislative NSA reform. The USA Freedom Act, which would have ended the NSA's automatic dragnet collection of US phone records, passed the House in May after being weakened at the behest of hawkish members and the Obama administration, but then fell two votes short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster in the Senate.

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