Thursday, March 31, 2016

The FBI is asking businesses and software security experts for emergency assistance in its investigation into a pernicious new type of "ransomware" virus used by hackers for extortion.


Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts a victim's data so they cannot gain access to it on their computers, then offers to unlock the system in exchange for payment.


The plea asked recipients to immediately contact the FBI's CYWATCH cyber center if they find evidence that they have been attacked or have other information that might help in its investigation.


The FBI provided a list of technical indicators to help companies determine if they were victims of such an attack.

Wouldn't you know that when you couldn't get into your data and you got a message demanding payment?
The sectors hardest hit by ransomware include industries that rely on computer access for performing critical functions, such as healthcare and law enforcement.
Apparently, in the last two months, this has happened to four single hospitals and one hospital chain.

WTF is wrong with people?

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sex, Nudity and Smoking

There is a curious class action lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco that seeks an order to force movie studios to use a minimum of an R rating for movies depicting the smoking of tobacco. The lawsuit cites various movies like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug as warranting an R rating. Not all that gruesome decapitations and gouging mind you. It is the fact that characters like Gandalf smoke.   Jonathan Turley
...but hey, do what you will anyway.


Russia is playing a “constructive” role in Syria's ceasefire, the Pentagon said, having noted “developments” on the ground. It encouraged Moscow to “continue to focus” on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), while persuading Assad to stop the war.

“It is clear that they have focused more of their military attention on ISIL, we think that’s a good thing,” Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook said during a briefing in Washington DC. “They said initially that was their primary goal, was to go after ISIL in Syria and they are doing so now.”

Have I woken up in an alternate universe?

It Won't Hurt Him a Bit

Donald Trump has backtracked on his much ballyhooed pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee as he deals with swirling controversy after his campaign manager was charged with assaulting a reporter.

In a television town hall in Milwaukee with CNN on Tuesday night, Trump insisted he had been “treated very unfairly” by the Republican National Committee and the establishment and revoked the commitment he signed in September. Although the Republican frontrunner previously hinted that he might do so, saying the RNC was “in default”, he had never explicitly revoked his commitment until Tuesday.

He was always going to back away from that pledge. He was just waiting for the right event.
The statement came as Trump stood by Corey Lewandowski, his embattled campaign manager, who was captured on tape forcibly grabbing a reporter for the right-wing website Breitbart after a press conference. Trump suggested that the reporter, who had been screened by the secret service in order to be allowed in the candidate’s vicinity, may have been carrying a bomb.
And these are the people who are trying to get the right to carry guns at the Republican convention.
On domestic policy, Trump challenged conservative orthodoxy by stating education and healthcare were two of the three key functions of the federal government along with security.
Now THAT might hurt him. But only a little. And only temporarily. If at all.
Trump was not the only candidate to leave the door open to not backing the GOP nominee in November. Ted Cruz who pledged in March to support the party’s nominee regardless, said of Trump: “I am not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and my family and I think our wife and kids should be off limits.”


This was echoed by Kasich, appearing after Trump, who said: “I gotta see what happens. If the nominee’s somebody who’s hurting the country I can’t stand behind them.” The Ohio governor had also previously pledged to support the party’s eventual nominee.
So much for pledges. I wonder if Trump expects those fools at his rally who pledged to vote for him before they were allowed inside to honor theirs.

And, speaking of Trump rallies - here's the latest:
“A 15-year-[old] girl from Janesville was pepper sprayed in the crowd by a non-law enforcement person. A 19-year-old woman from Madison received second hand spray as well. Both individuals received medical attention at local hospitals,” the Janesville Police Department said in a statement.

“A male in the [crowd] groped the 15-year-[old] girl, when she pushed him away; another person in the [crowd] sprayed her. We are currently looking for two suspects, one for the sexual assault and one for the pepper spray,” the department continued.


The incident on Tuesday was recorded in a video posted by Wisconsin State Journal reporter Molly Beck. The footage shows the girl shouting, “You f**king touched me” to a person in the crowd. A second voice can be heard saying, “I never touched her.”

The 15-year-old appeared to be holding a sign accusing Trump of supporting white supremacy. She is standing next to a person holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign. Others in the crowd could be heard chanting “All Lives Matter.”


It came just one day after six protesters were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, obstructing an officer, and trespassing after they refused to leave the Holiday Inn Express lobby, police said.

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

The 2016 Sham

We seem to have to have a sham every four years.
[T]wo candidates with the worst favorability ratings in over a generation are poised to be the final options for the most consequential job in the entire world. How did we get here?


Whoever the news media say is important early on typically becomes the most important. This leads to a feedback loop that anoints the “frontrunner” in the “invisible primary.”


The “invisible primary" is broadly defined as a candidate's ability to raise money, win over party leaders and generate media coverage all before any campaigning—to say nothing of voting—takes place. Clinton, as a former first lady, senator and high-profile secretary of state, won this primary hands down.


By focusing on funds raised, the invisible primary heavily favors [money in politics], and by racking up superdelegates, it heavily favors the [establishment politics] -- all in a process that is, by design, undemocratic. The psychological effect of Clinton’s delegate lead was seen in delegate totals the media echoed all throughout February and March that gave the reader the impression Clinton was up seven to one rather than even or slightly ahead [of Bernie Sanders].


Sanders’ insurgent candidacy ignited small donors to help propel him to comparable totals. The media coverage followed this, whereas in Clinton’s case it largely preceded it.


In our postmodern media-saturated society, so long as your brand remained in the news and people talked about you, you would end up the big winner. [...] Just as with absolute numbers, the positive or negative nature of the media coverage is of no importance. What is important is the distance from 0 -- or irrelevance -- one is at any given time.


According to a study by the New York Times, Donald Trump has received over $1.8 billion worth of “free media.” By contrast, Clinton has received $746 million and Sanders $321 million.


Another study that focused solely on network coverage showed Sanders receiving 6 percent of the coverage Trump did on network news in 2015, and 16.5 percent that of Clinton. This is a very difficult hill to climb for any candidate. [...] Most people, especially the older voters Clinton wins by high margins, still get their information from the talking heads who occupy our nightly news broadcasts.


Bias is always difficult to discern, but there are a few examples. [...] One of the more obvious cases was when Clinton began to push back against Sanders for his support of single payer.


The Washington Post ran three separate pieces bashing Sanders’ proposal in as many days while Vox and the Huffington Post quickly followed suit. [...] Another example, which went viral, was after the Flint debate when the Washington Post ran 16 negative articles about Sanders in 16 hours.


Alternative outlets (including this one) such as Salon, the Intercept and FAIR attempted to offset some of that bias, but the inertia of the inevitability narrative was ultimately too great to combat.

And I think this author (Adam Johnson, whom I respect and follow) is ignoring a huge fact here: alternative outlets (such as Alternet) garner a minuscule share of the public viewer/readership.
In the hours after the Brussels attack [...] that left 31 dead and more than 200 injured, NBC, ABC and Fox News all had Trump on their morning programs.


This bizarre series of episodes was corporate media’s Trump coverage essentialized—a combination of disgust and actual serious deference to a man who, objectively, has no idea what he is talking about.
But then, neither do his supporters, so that couldn't possibly hurt him in the polls.

This isn't the first article I've seen that lays the major blame for Trump's success onto campaign media coverage. But I'm not sure that actually accounts for it. It encourages and reinforces it, of course. But the fact is, like Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Trump has been widely public in entertainment media for years. Americans are notoriously ignorant politically but ravenous entertainment junkies.  I might add here that Trump supporters/ultra-conservative voters are wildly illogical and contradictory in their own judgments, Red State hatred of "Hollywood" politics coupled with hero worship of Reagan, Schwarzenegger, Heston, and the like, being just one instance.
The result is two polarizing candidates and an increasingly cynical public heading into what will be one of the more unpredictable, and perfunctory elections in modern history.
Yee-hah! Spectacle Democracy - American style.

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

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


For the Love of Pete - Was It Not Inevitable?

Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border, highlighting how little control U.S. intelligence officers and military planners have over the groups they have financed and trained in the bitter five-year-old civil war.

The fighting has intensified over the last two months, as CIA-armed units and Pentagon-armed ones have repeatedly shot at each other while maneuvering through contested territory on the northern outskirts of Aleppo, U.S. officials and rebel leaders have confirmed.


President Obama this month authorized a new Pentagon plan to train and arm Syrian rebel fighters, relaunching a program that was suspended in the fall after a string of embarrassing setbacks which included recruits being ambushed and handing over much of their U.S.-issued ammunition and trucks to an Al Qaeda affiliate.

Amid the setbacks, the Pentagon late last year deployed about 50 special operations forces to Kurdish-held areas in northeastern Syria to better coordinate with local militias and help ensure U.S.-backed rebel groups aren't fighting one another. But such skirmishes have become routine.


“It is an enormous challenge,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who described the clashes between U.S.-supported groups as “a fairly new phenomenon.”

“It is part of the three-dimensional chess that is the Syrian battlefield,” he said.

  LA Times

Are we now officially a Banana Republic?

This close.

When pretty much all your country manufactures is armaments, it does make sense.

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

A Fine One to Talk

Obama spoke to some political journalists.
“It’s not because around the world people have not seen crazy politics. It is that they understand America is the place where you can’t afford completely crazy politics,” he said.

Yeah, nobody cares whether other countries have crazy politics. They're unimportant in the grand scheme. Only America matters.
He said the media landscape has changed since his first presidential campaign in 2008, when “there was a price if you said one thing and then did something completely different”.
It apparently didn't matter in 2008, because he was re-elected in 2012. He should have gone back a little further.
“The number one question I’m getting as I travel around the world or talk to world leaders right now is, what is happening in America about our politics?” Obama said, describing international alarm over whether the United States will continue to function effectively.
Well, if by "effectively" you mean create a mess of the world's political and environmental structures, then, yes. I don't think you need to worry.

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

The last person in the world who should be lecturing journalists on how to do journalism is President Barack Obama.


What makes Obama’s speech so unstomachable is the way he praises reporters at an award ceremony by calling their work “indispensable,” “incredible,” “worth honoring” and essential to democracy while simultaneously blocking honest press queries with all the formidable energies of his office.


Under his administration, the U.S. government has set a new record for withholding Freedom of Information Act requests.Obama’s “Insider Threat Program” has turned employees across the government—from the Peace Corps to the Social Security Administration to the Department of Agriculture—into information-squelching snitches.


AP Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee has decried the “day-to-day intimidation of sources” by the Obama administration, judging it worse than the Bush administration on that score.


As ProPublica has reported, at the same time the Obama administration has been paying lip service to protecting whistleblowers, it has pursued national security leaks to the press with a vehemence unmatched by any previous administration, using the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who leak to journalists more times than all previous administrations combined.


Obama’s White House has perfected the [in-house media shop], with a 14-member operation called the White House Office of Digital Strategy that bypasses the press corps with tweets, YouTube videos, Facebook postings and more.

You’d expect this sort of contradictory behavior from Trump, whom Obama savaged (by implication) repeatedly in the speech. At one point, Obama complains about an unnamed politician (I think you can guess who) receiving billions in free media, and bemoans the fact that no “serious accountability” comes with it. But hasn’t Obama been doing the same grift from a different location for the past seven to arrange the same deal for himself?


Shame on Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications for allowing Obama—a documented opponent of the press—to pontificate on journalistic practice.


The deeper you study Obama’s relationship with the press, the more you want to ask what business he has giving out a press award. Was Trump himself busy that night?


Monday, March 28, 2016

Shocking! The FBI Lied

The Justice Department said Monday that it had found a way to unlock an iPhone without help from Apple, allowing the agency to withdraw its legal effort to compel the company to assist in a mass-shooting investigation.

Seriously, I'm guessing they couldn't find enough dummies in Congress or the courts to believe their shit in the first place. Why on earth did they think they could bamboozle Apple's own tech gurus?

And you thought Glenn Greenwald had no sense of humor.

NOW What Are We Giving Away to Israel?

And one other's not very secret if The Times of Israel is publishing it.

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

Running Scared?

Hillary Clinton's chief campaign strategist laid into Bernie Sanders' camp on Monday for its insistence upon a debate before the April 19 primary in New York, remarking that the Vermont senator has reneged on his promise to avoid running a negative campaign and therefore does not get to dictate the terms of any future debates.


"Let’s see the tone of the campaign he wants to run before we get to any other questions.”

Say what?

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

Otherwise Known As Superdelegates

"War on Drugs"

Heroin deaths have nearly tripled over the last five years, according to the DEA. It’s cheaper now, and more potent than anything law enforcement encountered two decades ago.


Republicans are, predictably, hesitant about appropriating more funding. However, by an almost unanimous vote, the Senate approved legislation earlier this month designed to fight the heroin epidemic and encourage the use of naloxone—a drug used to reverse overdoses. The House will take up the measure soon.


President Richard Nixon, according to a new article in Harper’s magazine, used drug policy as a political strategy—to neutralize his political foes, specifically “the anti-war left and black people.”

His domestic policy advisor John Ehrlichman, who spent 18 months in prison for his part in the Watergate scandal, outlined a scheme by which our policies to combat illicit drug abuse “could disrupt those communities.”

“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman reportedly told journalist Dan Baum in 1994.

“We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”


Mass incarceration, driven by laws sweeping through the states and the 1994 federal crime bill signed by President Bill Clinton, was—in part—a result of inequities in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine that were codified in mandatory sentencing rules.

One was used in the “streets” and the other in the “suites.” One would get you jail time. The other would more frequently result in probation and mandatory treatment. Despite a handful of reforms advanced by the Obama administration, the disparities in policing, prosecution and sentencing continue to saturate our criminal justice system.


But the scourge is not contained to distressed urban neighborhoods. Like crystal meth, heroin and fentanyl addiction is now almost exclusive to white America and it is far from invisible.


“Between 2006 and 2013, the number of first-time heroin users nearly doubled, and about 90 percent of these first-time users were white.”

In predominantly white New Hampshire, Massachusetts, West Virginia, and Oklahoma, drug deaths associated with opioids have skyrocketed with incidences of death “reaching levels similar to the HIV epidemic at its peak.”

  Daily Beast
Interesting, isn't it, how the growing change in attitude and approach to the drug issue coincides with the change in color of its users?

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

How Appropriate

Obama went to Cuba an appeared on a comedy show.

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

But We Don't Do That

It is not publicly known how many people, overwhelmingly but not exclusively men, were caught in the CIA’s web of so-called “extraordinary renditions”, extra-judicial transfers of detainees to foreign countries, many of which practiced even more brutal forms of torture than the US came to adopt. Human rights groups over the years have identified at least 50 people the CIA rendered, going back to Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Not publicly known in this country anyway.
It is also unclear how many of those rendition targets the CIA photographed naked.


The Senate investigation revealed that the CIA “routinely” stripped its own detainees nude, although Justice Department officials did not formally approve the practice until 2005. Often the nudity occurred in tandem with other torture techniques, such as shackling and frigid conditions, leading in at least one case to a detainee’s death.
So, yeah. Legal. Problem solved.
Stripping the victims of clothing was considered necessary to document their physical condition while in CIA custody, distinguishing them at that point from what they would subsequently experience in foreign custody – despite the public diplomatic assurances against torture that the US demonstrably collected from countries with a record of torturing detainees.


[Dr Vincent Iacopino, the medical director of Physicians for Human Rights] has not seen the nude photographs but raised grave concerns. “It’s cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment at a minimum and may constitute torture,” he said.


“Photographing or videotaping detainees in US custody unrelated to the processing of prisoners or the management of detention facilities can constitute a violation of the laws of war, including the Geneva conventions, in some cases,” said Nathaniel Raymond, a researcher at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and an expert on detainee abuse.

“Any evidence that the CIA or any other US government agency intentionally photographed naked detainees should be investigated by law enforcement as a potential violation of domestic and international law.”
Sure. But let's talk about sending people to countries where we can be reasonably certain they are going to be brutally tortured. No one  has been held accountable for that, which is surely a violation of pretty much everything, much less for the many cases of  torture - and murder - that went on in American prisoner camps (with the exception of a few morally bankrupt scapegoats).  So I'm guessing naked photographing won't get anyone into much trouble.

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

Israeli Ambassador Re-appointed

Brazil may be in political and economic turmoil, but they still held together to reject having a settlement leader foisted on them.
Israel has withdrawn the nomination of Dani Dayan, a former West Bank settlement leader, as ambassador to Brazil, ending a seven-month standoff with Brasilia, which refused to accept his credentials.


Dozens of former Brazilian diplomats and social movements signed letters supporting the Brazilian government's decision, saying that Israel's attempt to send Dayan, who himself lives in an illegal West Bank settlement, to Brazil was an affront considering the country's position on the Israeli occupation.


Dayan is one of the most vocal advocates of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Good on Brazil.

So, where do you think Israel sent him instead?

 You guessed it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday that Dayan would instead be appointed consul-general in New York.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Oh, My

First, there was Ruth Baby Ginsburg...

Now, Babies for Bernie...

What Are They Trying to Say?

More propaganda from the nation's top media...

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

Propaganda 101

Can't have Assad's troops defeating IS.

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

Bernie Cleaned Hillary's Clock Saturday

And, did I mention that a few days earlier, he also cleaned her clock in Idaho?

I bet there's a serious huddle in the Hillary camp.

When I look at the list of states yet to hold primaries, I don't see a lot more possibility for the Bern, but you never know. California has a boat load of delegates, and I have no sense of how they might go.

And, just to keep flagging the issue...
Superdelegates are notable members of the Democratic Party [...] and can give their votes to any candidate at the Democratic National Convention in July. They often pledge support for candidates earlier in the process.

After superdelegates were factored in, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders finished with virtually the same number of delegates in New Hampshire even though Sanders beat Clinton by 22 percentage points.

“The reason the party designed the system that way is because they wanted to have some built-in filter” on who gets the nomination, [University of Houston political science professor Brandon] Rottinghaus said. “But the percentage of superdelegates out of the total is pretty low, so although they do have outside influence and they’re not elected, it is simply a fail-safe tool for the party to make sure that they don’t nominate someone who can’t handle the job.”

Rottinghaus said superdelegates have not made a big impact in recent presidential elections.

Superdelegates can always change their mind. In 2008, some superdelegates initially endorsed Clinton but jumped ship and headed to Barack Obama’s side before the convention.

“They are bound only by their own conscience and their own reputation,” Rottinghaus said.

  Dallas News
Rottinghaus - sounds like the Democratic Party itself.

As for the Republicans, things were much closer.  In Alaska:  Cruz 36.4%, Trump 33.5%.  Each picked up 14 delegates.  In Hawaii: Cruz 32.7% (7 delegates), Trump 42.4% (11).  Rubio, who has dropped out, picked up 1 delegate, and Kasich, who's still in, didn't get any.  In Idaho's primary, Cruz pulled away from Trump: 20 delegates to 12 (45.4% to 28.1%).  The state of Washington holds their Republican caucus on May 24.

It's Sunday

It's also Easter.
I like the comments on this post. Especially the exchange between the guy who refuses to let the God Botherer spoil his fun.

(Here's actually most likely why the Portland audience went wild:  Put a bird on it - from the show Portlandia.)

It doesn't take long...

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Cornel West Changes His Tune

At Bernie Sander's initial entry as a presidential candidate, Dr. Cornel West spoke with doubt about Bernie's true intentions. He's certainly changed his story to now a super supporter.


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

Nader's Take

Ralph Nader has an article supporting Bernie Sanders' decision to run as a Democrat. He lists the ways in which the Democratic party officialdom and partisans harrassed and blocked his third party bid in 2000. (Brutal. Illegal, in some cases. You'll have to read the whole article for those points.)
Historically, many major reform movements (abolition, women’s suffrage, labor) have come out of smaller parties that never won national elections, starting with the anti-slavery Liberty Party in 1840. Several different parties for women’s suffrage followed. Then came parties representing farmers’ struggles against railroads and banks, a movement that peaked in 1892 with the Populist Party. Labor parties — which fought for fair labor standards, the right to organize and progressive taxation — rose to prominence in the 20th century, along with the Socialist Party of America, formed in 1901. But when the Communist Party got on the national ballot after World War I, it drew widespread venom, and the two major parties began to raise barriers to ballot access and undertake other efforts to prevent these small parties from competing in elections.


While any Democrat or Republican who wins their party’s nomination is guaranteed a place on general-election ballots nationwide, smaller parties must, in many states, petition election officials to be listed. And that is a delicate process, easy for the major parties to disrupt. Their operatives have a number of tools at their disposal to knock third-party candidates off the ballot, render their campaigns broke, and harass and ostracize them.


By running as a Democrat, Sanders declined to become a complete political masochist, and he avoided exposing his campaign to immediate annihilation by partisan hacks. Because if he had run as an independent, he would have faced only one question daily in the media, as I did: “Do you see yourself as a spoiler?”


Given another chance, I still wouldn’t run as a Democrat; I continue to disagree with the party’s platform and direction. Sanders is different, though: However he’s appeared on Vermont ballots in the past, he’s really a progressive Democrat. He has caucused with the party in Congress for decades, even if its corporatist core has abandoned his New Deal priorities.


Collecting nearly $150 million so far at an average donation of $27 is already a historic breakthrough for future honest candidates to emulate. In the longer run, proving that outsiders to cash-register politics can compete in the same manner may be one of the two most important legacies of the Sanders campaign.


2016 Voters Guide

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

What Happened to the Democrats?

Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi argues that the McGovern loss in 1972 changed the Democrats' course.
The chief moral argument of the Clinton revolution was not about striving for an end to the war or poverty or racism or inequality, but keeping the far worse Republicans out of power.

The new Democratic version of idealism came in a package called "transactional politics." It was about getting the best deal possible given the political realities, which we were led to believe were hopelessly stacked against the hopes and dreams of the young.


Hillary voted for the [Iraq] invasion for the same reason many other mainstream Democrats did: They didn't want to be tagged as McGovernite peaceniks.


In fact, it was during Bill Clinton's presidency that D.C. pundits first began complaining about a thing they called "purity." [...] Sometimes you had to budge a little for the sake of progress.


The implication is that even when young people believe in the right things, they often don't realize what it takes to get things done.

But I think they do understand. Young people have repudiated the campaign of Hillary Clinton in overwhelming and historic fashion, with Bernie Sanders winning under-30 voters by consistently absurd margins, as high as 80 to 85 percent in many states. He has done less well with young African-American voters, but even there he's seen some gains as time has gone on.


For young voters, the foundational issues of our age have been the Iraq invasion, the financial crisis, free trade, mass incarceration, domestic surveillance, police brutality, debt and income inequality, among others.

And to one degree or another, the modern Democratic Party, often including Hillary Clinton personally, has been on the wrong side of virtually all of these issues.


This pattern, of modern Democrats bending so far back to preserve what they believe is their claim on the middle that they end up plainly in the wrong, has continually repeated itself.


[Hillary Clinton] has been playing the inside game for so long, she seems to have become lost in it. She behaves like a person who often doesn't know what the truth is, but instead merely reaches for what is the best answer in that moment, not realizing the difference.


My worry is that Democrats like Hillary have been saying, "The Republicans are worse!" for so long that they've begun to believe it excuses everything.


[Young people are] voting for Sanders because his idea of an entirely voter-funded electoral "revolution" that bars corporate money is, no matter what its objective chances of success, the only practical road left to break what they perceive to be an inexorable pattern of corruption.

  Rolling Stone
Let's hope they don't give up by the time the oldsters are out of the game.

Next question: What can they do about Superdelegates?

Speaking of Terrorist Attacks...

I doubt this will interrupt your Brussels news, but...
A suicide bomber has blown himself up at a football stadium south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, killing at least 30 people and injuring 95 others.


Some Are More Equal Than Others

FOR DAYS NOW, American cable news has broadcast non-stop coverage of the horrific attack in Brussels. Viewers repeatedly heard from witnesses and from the wounded. Video was shown in a loop of the terror and panic when the bombs exploded.


[T]hat is how it should be: That’s news. And it’s important to understand on a visceral level the human cost from this type of violence.


A little more than a week ago, as Mohammed Ali Kalfood reported in The Intercept, “Fighter jets from a Saudi-led [U.S. and U.K.-supported] coalition bombed a market in Mastaba, in Yemen’s northern province of Hajjah. The latest count indicates that about 120 people were killed, including more than 20 children, and 80 were wounded in the strikes.


You’ll almost never hear any of those victims’ names on CNN, NPR, or most other large U.S. media outlets. No famous American TV correspondents will be sent to the places where those people have their lives ended by the bombs of the U.S. and its allies. [...] [B]ut, even in those rare cases where such attacks are covered at all, everything will be avoided that would cause you to have any visceral or emotional connection to the victims.

  Glenn Greenwald
Wouldn't happen anyway. Their skin is dark and they wear robes and stuff.
Perhaps you think there are good — or at least understandable — reasons to explain this discrepancy in coverage. Maybe you believe humans naturally pay more attention to, and empathize more with, the suffering of those they regard as more similar to them. Or you may want to argue that victims in cities commonly visited by American elites (Paris, Brussels, London, Madrid) are somehow more newsworthy than those in places rarely visited (Mastaba, in Yemen’s northern province of Hajjah). Or perhaps you’re sympathetic to the claim that it’s easier for CNN or NBC News to send on-air correspondents to glittery Western European capitals than to Waziristan or Kunduz. Undoubtedly, many believe that the West’s violence is morally superior because it only kills civilians by accident and not on purpose.

But regardless of the rationale for this media discrepancy, the distortive impact is the same: By endlessly focusing on and dramatizing Western victims of violence while ignoring the victims of the West’s own violence, the impression is continually bolstered that only They, but not We, engage in violence that kills innocent people.
Well, there is that. But mostly, they're heathens. We're good.

They started it.

As a result, when the trains of London and Madrid were attacked in 2004 and 2005 as retaliation for those countries’ participation in the invasion of Iraq, that causal connection (which even British intelligence acknowledged) was virtually never discussed because Western media outlets ensured it was unknown. The same was true of attempted attacks on the U.S.: in Times Square, the New York City subway system, an airliner over Detroit, all motivated by rage over Western violence. In the absence of any media discussion of those victims and motives, these attacks were was simply denounced as senseless, indiscriminate slaughter without any cause, and people were thus deprived of the ability to understand why they happened.
We already know why. They hate our freedoms.
As even a Rumsfeld-commissioned study found in 2004, it is in large part because of widespread anger among Muslims over ongoing Western violence and interference in that part of the world.
No. Not possible. TV news didn't say that.
It is always morally unjustified to deliberately target civilians with violence (see the update here on that point). Nor does it prove that the bombing of ISIS in Iraq and Syria is unjustified or should cease. The point, instead, is that the war framework in which much of this violence takes place — one side that declares itself at war and uses violence as part of that war is inevitably attacked by the other side that it targets — is completely suppressed by one-sided media coverage that prefers a self-flattering, tribalistic cartoon narrative.


Having media outlets perpetrate self-pleasing and tribal-affirming — but utterly false — narratives is the very definition of propaganda.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, March 25, 2016

We Did It Again! USA! USA!

March 25, 2016:

October 15, 2015:
Lt. Gen. [Michael] Flynn, who since leaving the DIA has become an outspoken critic of the Obama administration, charges that the White House relies heavily on drone strikes for reasons of expediency, rather than effectiveness. “We’ve tended to say, drop another bomb via a drone and put out a headline that ‘we killed Abu Bag of Doughnuts’ and it makes us all feel good for 24 hours,” Flynn said. “And you know what? It doesn’t matter. It just made them a martyr, it just created a new reason to fight us even harder.”

  The Intercept

That's from a 2005 Moon of Alabama post in which a long list of examples are provided from actual US reports ranging from April 2003 through June 2005.

More Restrictions Needed

[T]he Brussels attack is now the fourth straight attack, after Boston, the Charlie Hebdo massacre and then the Paris attacks, where siblings, brothers, were at the heart of the planning. And just like in those three previous attacks  [...] , the attacks were carried out by people who live in the same communities, who live very close to one another, and who almost certainly met in person in order to plan them. And yet, the exploitive mindset of Western politicians is to say, every time there’s a successful attack carried out, it means we need to wage war on encryption, we need greater surveillance, we need more police in these communities. But the reality is, if people are meeting in person, if you’re talking about siblings and cousins and family members and people who go to the same mosques, who are meeting in person to plan the attacks, none of that will actually help detect the attack.


And so I think, more than saying we need more intelligence and more surveillance and wage war on encryption and more bombing campaigns, we need to be asking whether there are things that we can be doing that reduce the incentive for people to want to kill us—and in the process, kill themselves.

  Glenn Greenwald
They hate our freedoms?
[The terrorists'] goal isn’t just to make us engage in military adventures that weaken us economically. It’s also, as ISIS has said, to drive a wedge between Western Muslims and the Western societies in which they live [...] and to feel so alienated by their own countries that they’re driven into the arms of extremism. [...] [T]he best friend of ISIS seems to be Western politicians, like you hear Ted Cruz, like you hear from Donald Trump, who, essentially, every time there’s one of these attacks, want to declare Muslims or Islam the actual culprit, which does nothing but serve to exacerbate the very wedge that ISIS is trying to drive into the heart of these Muslim populations in Western societies.


[When Donald Trump] comes out and says, "I want to do waterboarding and worse,"  [...]  we all act so shocked. [...] The U.S. government did exactly what Donald Trump is advocating as recently as seven or eight years ago.


He speaks like ordinary people speak when talking about politics at their dining room table, which is one of the reasons for his appeal.


And the reason why that’s still part of the debate is because the current administration, under President Obama, made the choice not to prosecute any of the people who implemented those techniques  [...] , despite the fact that we’re parties to treaties requiring their criminal prosecution. And when he did that, he turned torture into nothing more than just a standard partisan political debate. And that’s why people like Donald Trump are able to stand up without much repercussion and advocate that we use those techniques.


Ted Cruz is this true evangelical believer who seems to be really eager to promote [an] extremist religious agenda. You have him constantly expressing animosity toward Islam and  [...]  Muslims in a way that’s  [...]  redolent of almost a religious-type war. He holds himself out as this constitutional scholar and small-government conservative and yet advocates some of the most extremely unconstitutional measures you could possibly imagine, like targeting American communities filled with Muslims with additional police patrolling and monitoring and surveillance and scrutinizing.

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

Meanwhile in Brazil

It is a little odd that such extreme levels of political instability have received relatively little attention, given that Brazil is the fifth most populous country in the world, it’s the eighth largest economy, and whatever happens there will have reverberations for all sorts of markets and countries, including the United States. The situation in Brazil is actually fairly complicated, much more so than the small amount of media attention devoted to it in the U.S. has suggested.


[I]t is the case that the Brazilian political class and [the] highest levels of its economic class are rife with very radical corruption. That has been true for a really long time. [...] Remember, Brazil is a very young democracy. It only exited military dictatorship in 1985. And so you finally have the maturation of [the] institutions applying the rule of law. And so, for the first time, political and economic elites are being held accountable for very serious political and economic corruption. The corruption is pervasive in essentially every influential political faction in Brazil, including all of its political parties.


[T]here’s been a—what has been, until recently, an impressive judicial investigation that has resulted in the arrest and prosecution of some of the country’s richest and most powerful figures—something that you would never see in the United States—billionaires being hauled off to jail for bribery and money laundering and tax evasion and corruption, and sentenced to many years in prison. And virtually every political opponent of President Rousseff is implicated by this corruption, and many of the people in her party are, as well.


President Rousseff herself is [...] one of the only significant politicians in Brazil not to be implicated in any sort of corruption scheme with the objective of personal enrichment. Everyone around her, virtually, including those trying to bring her government down and accuse her of corruption and impeach her, is implicated.


[A]t the same time as you have this massive corruption investigation, you also have an extremely severe economic recession, as the result of lowering gas prices and contraction in China and a variety of other factors. [...] [Until 2008-2010, millions] of people were being lifted out of poverty. And what this recession has done has been essentially to reverse all of that and to reimpose huge amounts of suffering, borne primarily by Brazil’s lower and working classes. And so there’s an enormous amount of discontent and anger towards President Rousseff and towards her Workers’ Party.


[W]hat you [...] see is this young democracy in Brazil that is now being threatened as a result of this [threatened impeachment- an] opportunistic and exploitative attack on the part of the country’s richest media outlets and richest factions to essentially undo the result of four consecutive democratic elections by trying to remove a democratically elected president—she was just re-elected in 2014—on totally fictitious grounds of pretext.


[T]he more they’ve investigated, the more people have turned state’s evidence, the more corruption has been discovered, to the point where even if you now do impeach Dilma, it’s almost impossible to envision somebody who could take her place who isn’t far more implicated in that corruption than she is.


You can’t really understand Latin American politics, in general, and the ongoing instabilities and difficulties that almost every country in South America is still plagued by without talking about the central role that the United States has continuously played for decades in trying to control that part of the hemisphere.

In Brazil, like in so many countries, they had a democratically elected government in early 1960s, which the United States disliked because it was a left-wing government—not a communist government, but a left-wing government—that was devoted to the distribution of wealth for the social welfare, for opposing United States’ capitalistic interests and attempts to interfere in Brazil. And the Brazilian military, in 1964, staged a coup [supported by the US] that overthrew that democratically elected government, and proceeded to impose on Brazil a really brutal military dictatorship that served the interests of the United States, was allied to the United States for the next 21 years.

  Glenn Greenwald
We'll be back.

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

Back in Iraq

The Pentagon is facing increasing questions about the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, following the death of Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin and the revelations of a newly disclosed U.S. base in northern Iraq. Unnamed Pentagon officials told The Washington Post that there are currently about 5,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq—a far higher number than previously reported. The U.S. troop level in Iraq is supposed to be officially capped at 3,870.

  Democracy Now!
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Gala Fundraiser for Hillary

For two seats at the head table with Clinton, George Clooney and his wife, attorney Amal Clooney, at an April 15 fundraiser, a couple must contribute or raise a whopping $353,400 — a huge ticket price for a hard-dollar fundraiser.

The Bay Area fundraiser, hosted at the home of venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, is one of two events starring the Clooneys. On April 16, Clinton and the Clooneys will reunite at the Clooney Los Angeles mansion, where tickets cost $33,400 per person to dine at the table with one of Hollywood’s most glamorous couples.

Both events raise money for the Hillary Victory Fund.

Never mind the cost. Why is George Clooney raising money for war hawk Hillary Clinton?
Clinton’s campaign is also running a contest to allow at least one supporter to attend the star-studded dinner for free.

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

Thursday, March 24, 2016

AI Learns from Humans

Or, should I say, subhumans?
Microsoft launched a smart chat bot Wednesday called “Tay.” It looks like a photograph of a teenage girl rendered on a broken computer monitor, and it can communicate with people via Twitter, Kik and GroupMe. It’s supposed to talk like a millennial teenage girl.

Less than 24 hours after the program was launched, Tay reportedly began to spew racist, genocidal and misogynistic messages to users.


“Hitler was right I hate the jews [sic],” Tay reportedly tweeted at one user, as you can see above. Another post said feminists “should all die and burn in hell.” To be clear, Tay learned these phrases from humans on the Internet. As Microsoft puts it on Tay’s website, “The more you chat with Tay the smarter she gets, so the experience can be more personalized for you.” Trolls taught Tay these words and phrases, and then Tay repeated that stuff to other people.


“Unfortunately, within the first 24 hours of coming online, we became aware of a coordinated effort by some users to abuse Tay’s commenting skills to have Tay respond in inappropriate ways,” a Microsoft spokesman told The Huffington Post in an email.

“As a result, we have taken Tay offline and are making adjustments,” he added.


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

Take Corporate Money Out of Politics

What would you get?
[A] U.S. PIRG report examines how 2016 presidential candidates would fare under a campaign financing system similar to that of New York City, which matches small donations to local candidates with additional public money at a six-to-one ratio. For example, if someone gives $10 to a candidate for the New York City Council, the city provides an additional $60, so the candidate receives $70 total [with an individual contribution cap of $200].


The U.S. PIRG report also demonstrates that a small-donor matching funds system would overwhelm the financial impact of super PACs.


The U.S. PIRG report acknowledges it does not take into account how both candidates and potential small contributors would change their behavior under a small-donor matching system. The report notes that New York City has seen both an increased number of small donors and increased diversity in where donors live.

  The Intercept

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

Looking Back on Libya

Five years on, it’s still not a matter of public record when exactly Western powers decided to topple Qaddafi. [...] [L]et’s briefly review what the Obama administration proclaimed and compare that with what actually happened.


On March 28, 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the nation: “The task that I assigned our forces [is] to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger and to establish a no-fly zone.… Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”


From the Defense Department, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen informed David Gregory of Meet the Press, “The goals of this campaign right now again are limited, and it isn’t about seeing him go.” Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates echoed the administration line: “Regime change is a very complicated business. It sometimes takes a long time. Sometimes it can happen very fast, but it was never part of the military mission.” (Emphasis added.)

Now, contrast Gates’s assertion in 2011 with what he told the New York Times last month:

“I can’t recall any specific decision that said, ‘Well, let’s just take him out,’” Mr. Gates said. Publicly, he said, “the fiction was maintained” that the goal was limited to disabling Colonel Qaddafi’s command and control.


Given that decapitation strikes against Qaddafi were employed early and often, there almost certainly was a decision by the civilian heads of government of the NATO coalition to “take him out” from the very beginning of the intervention. On March 20, 2011, just hours into the intervention, Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from a British submarine stationed in the Mediterranean Sea struck an administrative building in Qaddafi’s Bab al-Azizia compound, less than 50 yards away from the dictator’s residence.


When it was then pointed out that it was Qaddafi’s personal residence that had been attacked, [Vice Adm. William Gortney, director of the Joint Staff, said] “Yeah. But, no, we’re not targeting his residence. We’re there to set the conditions and enforce the United Nations Security Council resolution. That’s what we’re doing right now and limiting it to that.”

In fact, not only was the Western coalition not limiting its missions to the remit of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, but it also actively chose not to enforce them.


The threat posed by the Libyan regime’s military and paramilitary forces to civilian-populated areas was diminished by NATO airstrikes and rebel ground movements within the first 10 days. Afterward, NATO began providing direct close-air support for advancing rebel forces by attacking government troops that were actually in retreat and had abandoned their vehicles. Fittingly, on Oct. 20, 2011, it was a U.S. Predator drone and French fighter aircraft that attacked a convoy of regime loyalists trying to flee Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte. The dictator was injured in the attack, captured alive, and then extrajudicially murdered by rebel forces.


The conclusion is clear: While we should listen to what U.S. and Western officials claim are their military objectives, all that matters is what they authorize their militaries to actually do.

  Foreign Policy

What's the Matter with Kansas?

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

Kristmas in the Kremlin!

Clinton took Trump to task for his insistence that the US should be less involved, or at least invest less money, in Nato.

“If Mr Trump gets his way it will be like Christmas in the Kremlin,” Clinton said. “Turning our back on our alliances or turning our alliance into a protection racket would reverse decades of bipartisan American leadership and would send a dangerous signal to friend and foe alike.”

Red bait much, Hillary?

Jeezus Krist.

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

Bernie Interview

"[People] worry very much about the future of their children, who have a lower standard of living than they do... And then they're seeing almost all the income and wealth going to the top 1%.   And no matter whether you're a progressive or a conservative, you think that sucks."

~ Bernie Sanders

He also dropped Elizabeth Warren's name twice.  (Once when Cenk asked him if he won would Hillary be liberal enough to get a seat in his cabinet.  He said, "There are other people I would probably go to first.")  A Sanders/Warren ticket would be good.

But then...there's Congress.

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How Often Did You See This on Your TV?

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

Terror Experts on TV


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

More Primary Results

Why don't they like Hillary in Idaho?

Delegate toll to date:

And, remember, Democrats, it doesn't matter who you vote for.  There are Superdelegates.

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

Coincidence or Psychic Phenomenon?

Mason Wells, 19, was injured with Richard Norby, 66, and Joseph Empey, 20, fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when two bombs exploded in Zaventem airport on Tuesday morning.


Wells “has burns to his hands and legs and some to his face,” Lloyd Coleman told the paper. “Most of the damage is around his foot and ankle. A heel took the most damage, and the doctors are repairing it, but the family doesn’t know how bad the injury is.”


In a strange twist of fate Wells, from Utah, had a similarly close call three years ago while in Boston accompanying his mother who was running the marathon.


NBC News, quoting Wells’s family, said he was also in Paris, although in a different part of the city, in November when the French capital was rocked by a series of attacks.

“This is his third terrorist attack,” his father Chad Wells told ABC News.

I'm not sure you want to admit that. Especially in those words. Expect a visit from the feds.

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


I still can't believe they made him try.  He probably can't either.

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Concerned Student 1950

The Intercept has published a short doc on race relations at the University of Missouri on their Field of Vision site.

Take a Hike

I absolutely agree they need to go, but why would Hillary be the one to tell them?
[Hillary] should come right out and ask for the resignations of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Democratic National Committee Chair — and Florida congresswoman — Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In one masterstroke, she could separate herself from two of the most prominent of all corporate Democratic elitists.

  Bill Moyers
Why would she do that? She herself is one "of the most prominent of all corporate Democratic elitists."
As Democratic National Committee chair [Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz] has opened the floodgates for Big Money, brought lobbyists into the inner circle and oiled all the moving parts of the revolving door that twirls between government service and cushy jobs in the world of corporate influence.

She has played games with the party’s voter database, been accused of restricting the number of Democratic candidate debates and scheduling them at odd days and times to favor Hillary Clinton, and recently told CNN’s Jake Tapper that super delegates — strongly establishment and pro-Clinton — are necessary at the party’s convention so deserving incumbent officials and party leaders don’t have to run for delegate slots “against grassroots activists.”
And, then there's Rahm.
Rahm Emanuel first came to prominence as head of the finance committee for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, browbeating ever-increasing amounts of money out of fat cat donors, and following Clinton into the White House as a senior adviser attuned to the wishes and profits of organized wealth. Few pushed harder for NAFTA, a treaty that would cost a million or more working people their livelihood, or for the “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” crime bill which Clinton later admitted was a mistake. After alienating most of Washington with his arrogance and bluster Emanuel left in 1998 and went into investment banking in Chicago, making more than $16 million in less than three years.
Yeah, and eventually Obama appointed him Chief of Staff. You can't tell me Obama didn't know who Rahm Emanuel was when he did that.

Now, he's Chicago's shame.
Remember that shocking dashcam video of a black 17-year-old named Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by a Chicago policeman while he was walking away?


Only after [Emanuel's] re-election [as mayor] was the cover-up of the murder revealed.


The  [...]  murder is just one of the scandals on Emanuel’s watch: crime and abuse by police run rampant, the city’s public schools are a disaster, the transit system’s a mess. Yet while Emanuel has devoted little of his schedule to meeting with community leaders, [historian Rick] Pearlstein reminds us that he did, however, “spend enormous blocks of time with the rich businessmen, including Republicans, who had showered him with cash…” Now many of them have deserted him, including one of his richest Republican — yes, Republican — contributors, multimillionaire Bruce Rauner, who became governor of Illinois.
There's a top layer to the Democratic party that harkens back to the old days of elite rule by hook and by crook, and mostly by money.  Hillary is a top player.

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

And He Really Wants You to Know He Doesn't Have Small Hands

The Washington Post interviewed Donald Trump. And this is just a taste:
Washington Post: If you could substantially reduce the risk of harm to [American] ground troops, would you use a battlefield nuclear weapon to take out Isis?

Trump: I don’t want to use, I don’t want to start the process of nuclear. Remember the one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counterpuncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first. I spent, by the way he spent $18m worth of negative ads on me. That’s putting … WP: This is about Isis. You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against Isis?

Trump: I’ll tell you one thing, this is a very good-looking group of people here. Could I just go around so I know who the hell I’m talking to?


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