Daily Archive: 07/03/2012

Jul 03 2012

The Surveillance State of America

NSA EagleIn 2005 while George W. Bush still sat in the Oval Office, James Bamford penned this article for the New York Times Week in Review titled The Agency That Could Be Big Brother. Mr. Bamford, the author of “Puzzle Palace” and “Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency“, wrote about the National Security Agency which was created in absolute secrecy in 1952 by President Harry S. Truman. This agency is now the largest of the security agencies surpassing the CIA and other spy organizations. And it is still growing. The agency now has sites all over the US and around the globe and we have no idea what their budget is or for that matter what they are doing with all that information. In 2005, controversy over whether the Pres. Bush broke the law when he secretly ordered the N.S.A. to bypass a special court (FISA) and conduct warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens had provoked some Democrats to call for his impeachment. Now today, Pres. Barack Obama, a Democrat, expands the NSA’a power and there is not silence, but support from the Democrats. We don’t even know how much is spent by the NSA since their budget is classified. Heh, Congress doesn’t know either. But I digress.

Columnist David Sirota wrote in the Seattle Times that the NSA now claims that “it can’t tell Congress about its activities violating the privacy of Americans because doing so might violate Americans’ privacy”.

In a letter to senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., the agency wrote: “(A) review of the sort suggested would itself violate the privacy of U.S. persons.” [..]

So why would the NSA nonetheless refuse to provide one? Most likely because such an estimate would be a number so big as to become a political problem for the national-security establishment.

According to the nonpartisan Electronic Frontier Foundation, “The U.S. government, with assistance from major telecommunications carriers including AT&T, has engaged in a massive program of illegal dragnet surveillance of domestic communications and communications records of millions of ordinary Americans since at least 2001.”

That’s right, millions – and that’s merely what happened with one of many programs over the last decade.

Moving forward, Wired notes that the NSA is building the “Utah Data Center” – “a project of immense secrecy” designed “to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks.”

Appearing at the Socialism 2012 conference in Chicago, Salon.com contributing editor and civil rights lawyer, Glenn Greenwald gave a speech on Challenging the Surveillance State. Glen suggests that if you can’t watch all four videos the last one about the harms from ubiquitous surveillance is the most important one. He also points out FDL’s Kevin Gosztola’s excellent commentary and summation of the speech.

Jul 03 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial: Rigged Rates, Rigged Markets

Marcus Agius, the chairman of Barclays, resigned on Monday, saying “the buck stops with me.” His was the first departure since the British bank agreed last week to pay $450 million to settle findings that, from 2005 to 2009, it had tried to rig benchmark interest rates to benefit its own bottom line. [..]

The rates in question – the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and the Euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor – are used to determine the borrowing rates for consumers and companies, including some $10 trillion in mortgages, student loans and credit cards. The rates are also linked to an estimated $700 trillion market in derivatives, which banks buy and sell on a daily basis. If these rates are rigged, markets are rigged – against bank customers, like everyday borrowers, and against parties on the other side of a bank’s derivatives deals, like pension funds.

Robert Kuttner: Mitigating Merkel’s Mischief

If Europe continues its steady march to financial depression and collapse of the Euro, no politician will be more to blame than German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Last week, Merkel repeated the same pattern that has characterized her behavior since the sovereign debt crisis began — resisting sensible reforms until the costs of delay became overwhelming, and then reversing course 180 degrees only after the damage was far greater than necessary. [..]

Merkel, characteristically, still opposes any respite for the suffering Greeks. It is up to the rest of Europe to isolate her again so that she can reverse course citing changed circumstances. Nor is Merkel willing to seriously rein in the financial speculation against government bonds that turns moderate budgetary problems into dire crisis. This, too, will take the resolve of wiser leaders.

Robert Reich: Mitt Romney and the New Gilded Age

The election of 2012 raises two perplexing questions. The first is how the GOP could put up someone for president who so brazenly epitomizes the excesses of casino capitalism that have nearly destroyed the economy and overwhelmed our democracy. The second is why the Democrats have failed to point this out. [..]

Part of the answer, surely, is that elected Democrats are still almost as beholden to the wealthy for campaign funds as the Republicans, and don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. Wall Street can give most of its largesse to Romney this year and still have enough left over to tame many influential Democrats (look at the outcry from some of them when the White House took on Bain Capital).

Dean Baker: A Wall Street Gambling Tax: The Remedy to Inequality

As the presidential election builds up steam, the Washington elites in both parties are actively scheming to find ways to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits for retired workers. The media have widely reported on efforts to slip through a version of the deficit reduction plan developed by Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson. Since the vast majority of voters across the political spectrum reject cuts to these programs, the Washington insiders hope to spring this one on us after the election, when the public will have no say.

That is the sort of anti-democratic behavior we expect from elites who naturally want to protect their own interests. Of course, the rest of us are more concerned about the well-being of the country as a whole rather than preserving the wealth of the richest 1 percent.

Mark Weisbrot: For Mexicans, It Was the Economy, Stupid

IF ever there were an election preordained as a result of economic performance, it would be Mexico’s election on Sunday. The ruling National Action Party, or PAN, was destined to lose because it had presided over profound economic failure for 11 years. Almost any government in world would have lost under such circumstances.

Commentators, focused on the six-year-old drug war, have largely neglected to note the depth of Mexico’s economic problems. Let’s start with the basics: Since 2000, when the PAN was first elected, income per person in Mexico has grown by just 0.9 percent annually. This is terrible for a developing country, and less than half the rate of growth of the Latin American region during this period – which was itself not stellar. If we just look at per capita growth since the last election, in 2006, Mexico finishes dead last of all the countries in Latin America.

George Zornick: Tea Party Govs Say ‘No’ to Medicaid Expansion

Nearly 1 million Floridians will be denied access to Medicaid they would have otherwise received under the Affordable Care Act if Governor Rick Scott gets his way. The Supreme Court ruling last week on the law made it easier for states to opt out of an expansion, and Sunday night the governor’s office e-mailed a statement from Scott that “since Florida is legally allowed to opt out, that’s the right decision for our citizens.” [..]

But now hospitals in South Carolina and Florida are looking at a rate reduction without the corresponding increase in Medicaid coverage.

Hospital lobbies are always powerful in state politics, and could yet convince state legislators to buck the ideological governors and support an expansion. Combine the big industry money with a powerful narrative about denying coverage to hundreds of thousands of people, plus the diminishing returns of rallying against Obamacare-particularly after the fall elections-and by 2014 it’s possible Florida, South Carolina and other states will end up participating. They’re just going to make a lot of noise first.

Jul 03 2012

The 1st Amendemnt v United States Government

The past Sunday constitutional lawyer and contributing editor at Salon.com Glenn Greenwald appeared with Chris Hayes on MSNBC’s “Up with Chis Hayes”to discuss the history of anonymous speech in politics and debate whether spending money is an exercise of free speech. The other guests on the panel are Maria Hinojosa, anchor of NPR’s Latino USA and president of Futuro Media Group; Rep. Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont and member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee; and Heather McGhee, vice president of policy and research at the progressive think tank Demos.

Glenn also penned a scathing piece on Sen. Diane Feinstein’s (D-CA) attack on our First Amendment rights using, oh noes!, Terror! as an excuse. Glenn makes the point that Feinstein’s outrage over Julian Assange and Wikileaks is tantamount to an attack of freedom of the press.

Dianne Feinstein targets press freedom

The supreme Senate defender of state secrecy and the Surveillance State, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, yesterday issued a statement to Australia’s largest newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, demanding (once again) the prosecution of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. To see how hostile Feinstein is to basic press freedoms, permit me to change “Assange” each time it appears in her statement to “The New York Times“:

   The head of the US Senate’s powerful intelligence oversight committee has renewed calls for [The New York Times] to be prosecuted for espionage. . . .

   “I believe [The New York Times] has knowingly obtained and disseminated classified information which could cause injury to the United States,” the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein, said in a written statement provided to the Herald. “[It] has caused serious harm to US national security, and [] should be prosecuted accordingly.”

As EFF’s Trevor Timm noted, there is no sense in which Feinstein’s denunciation applies to WikiLeaks but not to The New York Times (and, for that matter, senior Obama officials). Indeed, unlike WikiLeaks, which has never done so, The New York Times has repeatedly published Top Secret information. That’s why the prosecution that Feinstein demands for WikiLeaks would be the gravest threat to press freedom and basic transparency in decades. Feinstein’s decades-long record in the Senate strongly suggest that she would perceive these severe threats to press freedom as a benefit rather than drawback to her prosecution designs.

Under Sen. Feinstein’s premise we should have prosecuted Woodward and Bernstein and every other reporter who has exposed government wrong doing. I wonder is she would like to take on Dick Cheney for outing a CIA agent to get us into a war based on a lie, the consequences of which we will never know.  

Jul 03 2012

Everyone is looking for an edge

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.

Stockton

Jul 03 2012

On This Day In History July 3

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

July 3 is the 184th day of the year (185th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 181 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1863, Battle of Gettysburg ends

On the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s last attempt at breaking the Union line ends in disastrous failure, bringing the most decisive battle of the American Civil War to an end.

Third day of battle

General Lee wished to renew the attack on Friday, July 3, using the same basic plan as the previous day: Longstreet would attack the Federal left, while Ewell attacked Culp’s Hill. However, before Longstreet was ready, Union XII Corps troops started a dawn artillery bombardment against the Confederates on Culp’s Hill in an effort to regain a portion of their lost works. The Confederates attacked, and the second fight for Culp’s Hill ended around 11 a.m., after some seven hours of bitter combat.

Lee was forced to change his plans. Longstreet would command Pickett’s Virginia division of his own First Corps, plus six brigades from Hill’s Corps, in an attack on the Federal II Corps position at the right center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Prior to the attack, all the artillery the Confederacy could bring to bear on the Federal positions would bombard and weaken the enemy’s line.

Around 1 p.m., from 150 to 170 Confederate guns began an artillery bombardment that was probably the largest of the war. In order to save valuable ammunition for the infantry attack that they knew would follow, the Army of the Potomac’s artillery, under the command of Brig. Gen. Henry Jackson Hunt, at first did not return the enemy’s fire. After waiting about 15 minutes, about 80 Federal cannons added to the din. The Army of Northern Virginia was critically low on artillery ammunition, and the cannonade did not significantly affect the Union position. Around 3 p.m., the cannon fire subsided, and 12,500 Southern soldiers stepped from the ridgeline and advanced the three-quarters of a mile (1,200 m) to Cemetery Ridge in what is known to history as “Pickett’s Charge”. As the Confederates approached, there was fierce flanking artillery fire from Union positions on Cemetery Hill and north of Little Round Top, and musket and canister fire from Hancock’s II Corps. In the Union center, the commander of artillery had held fire during the Confederate bombardment, leading Southern commanders to believe the Northern cannon batteries had been knocked out. However, they opened fire on the Confederate infantry during their approach with devastating results. Nearly one half of the attackers did not return to their own lines. Although the Federal line wavered and broke temporarily at a jog called the “Angle” in a low stone fence, just north of a patch of vegetation called the Copse of Trees, reinforcements rushed into the breach, and the Confederate attack was repulsed. The farthest advance of Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead’s brigade of Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s division at the Angle is referred to as the “High-water mark of the Confederacy”, arguably representing the closest the South ever came to its goal of achieving independence from the Union via military victory.

There were two significant cavalry engagements on July 3. Stuart was sent to guard the Confederate left flank and was to be prepared to exploit any success the infantry might achieve on Cemetery Hill by flanking the Federal right and hitting their trains and lines of communications. Three miles (5 km) east of Gettysburg, in what is now called “East Cavalry Field” (not shown on the accompanying map, but between the York and Hanover Roads), Stuart’s forces collided with Federal cavalry: Brig. Gen. David McMurtrie Gregg’s division and Brig. Gen. Custer’s brigade. A lengthy mounted battle, including hand-to-hand sabre combat, ensued. Custer’s charge, leading the 1st Michigan Cavalry, blunted the attack by Wade Hampton’s brigade, blocking Stuart from achieving his objectives in the Federal rear. Meanwhile, after hearing news of the day’s victory, Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick launched a cavalry attack against the infantry positions of Longstreet’s Corps southwest of Big Round Top. Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth protested against the futility of such a move but obeyed orders. Farnsworth was killed in the attack, and his brigade suffered significant losses.

Jul 03 2012

2012 Le Tour – Stage 3

Orchies / Boulogne-sur-Mer (123 miles)

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

No retirements so far though some riders are dealing with injuries.  The problem is that once you stop, you stop.

The Mad Manx racked up another stage win.

Probably not today though, Jean-François Pescheux the official site handicapper thinks it is highly unlikely that there will be any Sprinters around at the finish what with the 4 category 4 and 2 category 3 climbs.  There will be a mid stage point award.

In the General Classification there isn’t much movement of the top ten.  As I was working on yesterday’s piece I realized that deltas after each stage were hard to locate unless you captured them at the time.  I’ve got the data for the Prologue and Stages so far and I’ll post them with the pretty tables as soon as I can get the formatting done.

General Classification

Place Rider Team Time/Delta
1 CANCELLARA Fabian RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 10:02:31
2 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING +00:07
3 CHAVANEL Sylvain OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP +00:07
4 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM +00:10
5 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald SKY PROCYCLING +00:11
6 MENCHOV Denis KATUSHA TEAM +00:13
7 GILBERT Philippe BMC RACING TEAM +00:13
8 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM +00:17
9 NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE +00:18
10 HESJEDAL Ryder GARMIN-SHARP-BARRACUDA +00:18

Coverage is customarily on Vs. (NBC Sports) starting at 8 am with repeats at 8 pm and midnight.  There will be some streaming evidently, but not all of it is free.

Sites of Interest-

The Stars Hollow Gazette Tags-

Pretty tables-