Daily Archive: 10/30/2013

Oct 30 2013

‘Plausible’ Deniability?

HHS chief: President didn’t know of Obamacare website woes beforehand

By Greg Botelho, CNN

updated 10:29 PM EDT, Wed October 23, 2013

President Barack Obama didn’t know of problems with the Affordable Care Act’s website — despite insurance companies’ complaints and the site’s crashing during a test run — until after its now well-documented abysmal launch, the nation’s health chief told CNN on Tuesday.

In an exclusive interview with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked when the President first learned about the considerable issues with the Obamacare website. Sebelius responded that it was in “the first couple of days” after the site went live October 1.

“But not before that?” Gupta followed up.

To which Sebelius replied, “No, sir.”

Spying Known at Top Levels, Officials Say

By MARK LANDLER and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, The New York Times

Published: October 29, 2013

The nation’s top spymaster said on Tuesday that the White House had long been aware in general terms of the National Security Agency’s overseas eavesdropping, stoutly defending the agency’s intelligence-gathering methods and suggesting possible divisions within the Obama administration.

The official, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that the N.S.A. had kept senior officials in the National Security Council informed of surveillance it was conducting in foreign countries. He did not specifically say whether President Obama was told of these spying efforts, but he appeared to challenge assertions in recent days that the White House had been in the dark about some of the agency’s practices.



The White House has faced criticism for the N.S.A.’s surveillance practices since the first revelations by a former agency contractor, Edward J. Snowden, in June. But in recent weeks it has struggled to quell a new diplomatic storm over reports that the agency monitored the cellphone of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany for more than a decade. White House officials said that the president did not know of that surveillance, but that he has told Ms. Merkel that the United States is not monitoring her phone now and would not in the future.

NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say

By Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani, Washinton Post

Wednesday, October 30, 12:19 PM

According to a top secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records – ranging from “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, to content such as text, audio and video.

The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, GCHQ. From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.



Outside U.S. territory, statutory restrictions on surveillance seldom apply and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has no jurisdiction. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein has acknowledged that Congress conducts little oversight of intelligence-gathering under the presidential authority of Executive Order 12333 , which defines the basic powers and responsibilities of the intelligence agencies.

John Schindler, a former NSA chief analyst and frequent defender who teaches at the Naval War College, said it was obvious why the agency would prefer to avoid restrictions where it can.

“Look, NSA has platoons of lawyers and their entire job is figuring out how to stay within the law and maximize collection by exploiting every loophole,” he said. “It’s fair to say the rules are less restrictive under Executive Order 12333 than they are under FISA.”



In 2011, when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court learned that the NSA was using similar methods to collect and analyze data streams – on a much smaller scale – from cables on U.S. territory, Judge John D. Bates ruled that the program was illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and inconsistent with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

Today, of course they deny everything, including that they said what they said yesterday or last week.

Even though it’s on video tape.

Who you going to believe?  Proven, admitted liars or your own lying eyes?

Oct 30 2013

‘Plausable’ Deniability?

HHS chief: President didn’t know of Obamacare website woes beforehand

By Greg Botelho, CNN

updated 10:29 PM EDT, Wed October 23, 2013

President Barack Obama didn’t know of problems with the Affordable Care Act’s website — despite insurance companies’ complaints and the site’s crashing during a test run — until after its now well-documented abysmal launch, the nation’s health chief told CNN on Tuesday.

In an exclusive interview with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked when the President first learned about the considerable issues with the Obamacare website. Sebelius responded that it was in “the first couple of days” after the site went live October 1.

“But not before that?” Gupta followed up.

To which Sebelius replied, “No, sir.”

Spying Known at Top Levels, Officials Say

By MARK LANDLER and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, The New York Times

Published: October 29, 2013

The nation’s top spymaster said on Tuesday that the White House had long been aware in general terms of the National Security Agency’s overseas eavesdropping, stoutly defending the agency’s intelligence-gathering methods and suggesting possible divisions within the Obama administration.

The official, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that the N.S.A. had kept senior officials in the National Security Council informed of surveillance it was conducting in foreign countries. He did not specifically say whether President Obama was told of these spying efforts, but he appeared to challenge assertions in recent days that the White House had been in the dark about some of the agency’s practices.



The White House has faced criticism for the N.S.A.’s surveillance practices since the first revelations by a former agency contractor, Edward J. Snowden, in June. But in recent weeks it has struggled to quell a new diplomatic storm over reports that the agency monitored the cellphone of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany for more than a decade. White House officials said that the president did not know of that surveillance, but that he has told Ms. Merkel that the United States is not monitoring her phone now and would not in the future.

NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say

By Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani, Washinton Post

Wednesday, October 30, 12:19 PM

According to a top secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records – ranging from “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, to content such as text, audio and video.

The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, GCHQ. From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.



Outside U.S. territory, statutory restrictions on surveillance seldom apply and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has no jurisdiction. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein has acknowledged that Congress conducts little oversight of intelligence-gathering under the presidential authority of Executive Order 12333 , which defines the basic powers and responsibilities of the intelligence agencies.

John Schindler, a former NSA chief analyst and frequent defender who teaches at the Naval War College, said it was obvious why the agency would prefer to avoid restrictions where it can.

“Look, NSA has platoons of lawyers and their entire job is figuring out how to stay within the law and maximize collection by exploiting every loophole,” he said. “It’s fair to say the rules are less restrictive under Executive Order 12333 than they are under FISA.”



In 2011, when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court learned that the NSA was using similar methods to collect and analyze data streams – on a much smaller scale – from cables on U.S. territory, Judge John D. Bates ruled that the program was illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and inconsistent with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

Today, of course they deny everything, including that they said what they said yesterday or last week.

Even though it’s on video tape.

Who you going to believe?  Proven, admitted liars or your own lying eyes?

Oct 30 2013

Admiral Zhao

Word up Aasif.

Fired by the way.  Barnum, Buncombe, Bastard.

Oct 30 2013

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 thea Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: JPMorgan settlement is justice, not a shakedown

Is JPMorgan Chase, the imperious mega-bank, a hapless victim of what a Post editorial dubbed “political persecution”? Is it the innocent target of a Justice Department “shakedown,” as the Wall Street Journal‘s editors charged, with Justice “confiscating” JPMorgan’s earnings “for no other reason than because they can and because they want to appease their left-wing populist allies”?

The announcement that JPMorgan’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, personally negotiated the announced $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department has set off howls in the press. The Post suggested that JPMorgan only made the same errors about housing prices that everyone else made. The government was charged with acting in bad faith, holding JPMorgan accountable for misdeeds committed by Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual before Dimon agreed to acquire them at the behest of the government. All in all, we’re supposed to see this deal as a miscarriage of justice.

Give me a break.

Jessica Valente: How to Write About Rape: Rules for Journalists

Feminists spend a lot of time taking journalists and media institutions to task for the way they cover rape-and for good reason. Victim-blaming runs rampant in headlines and news features, sexual assault is often misnamed or mischaracterized, and women’s behavior is treated with more scrutiny than rapists’ crimes. Media makers are smart, interesting people who-like all people-make mistakes. But even well-meaning missteps cause harm.  [..]

The United States does not have a rape problem-it has a rape epidemic. A woman in this country is raped every two minutes, 42 percent of victims are raped before they are 18 years old (pdf). One in three Native women report being raped, as do almost 19 percent of black women. Ninety-seven percent of rapists will never go to jail.

It’s our responsibility as journalists to ensure that we are covering stories of sexual assault with truthfulness, care, and in a way that does not make the country a safer place for rapists. We are not just media makers-we shape the culture as well. So let’s make it a culture that’s safer and more just for girls, women and all survivors of sexual assault.

Aura Bogado: Halloween Has Already Become a Horror Show

It’s not yet Halloween, and Julianne Hough is already apologizing for her decision to don blackface at Mike Meldman’s annual party. She attended the festivities with a group of friends who dressed up as the cast of Orange Is the New Black-with Hough as the character known as Crazy Eyes. Unfortunately, Hough wasn’t the only adult who made the choice to wear blackface this year.

I was disappointed, though not too surprised, when I saw that Hough wore blackface. Racist costumes are a sad staple of each year’s Halloween. I also wasn’t too surprised that someone reappropriated a character of color from Orange Is the New Black this Halloween. Although some have argued that the show provides its audience with a humanizing view of prison life and reveals the horrors of the prison industrial complex, many of us have also argued otherwise. The characters are often written as caricatures rather than anything else-and are easily digested as such. A Netflix series that leans on racist tropes becomes a problematic inspiration for someone who seems unable to heed numerous advisories against blackface. Let the nightmare begin.

Laura Flanders: Anyone for a Real Inform Act?

It was early and I hadn’t downed my coffee yet, but for a moment I thought I was reading something important in one of those tightly printed full-page ads that appear from time to time in the The New York Times.

Headlined “Enact the Inform Act,” the ad called on Congress and the president to pass a, quote, “bipartisan bill to reveal the full size and inter-generational consequences of our country’s fiscal imbalance.”

As I said, it was early but my mind was off. Finally, I thought to myself, someone is taking seriously our country’s teetering imbalance. [..]

But then, I hold the paper a little closer. The INFORM Act is not about any of those things. It’s about the deficit. The phony fiscal gap, not the flesh-and-blood one of inequality. The ad is signed by the 1 percent who want to do what? Cut taxes and shrink government. Who else can afford one of those one page ads?

Pity. Sometimes it’s good not to look too closely. Anyone interested in a genuine Inform Act?

Zoë Carpenter: Privacy Advocates Turn Up the Heat on the ‘Business-as-Usual Brigade’

On Saturday, thousands of people are expected to rally in Washington, DC, to protest the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs that, according to documents released by Edward Snowden, collect data from American citizens. Saturday’s rally comes at a key moment, as the Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to take up legislation to revise the NSA’s spying authority next week.

It’s clear that reform is needed-but less so that it will come out of the Intelligence Committee. Instead, committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein wants to make the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records permanent. In an op-ed published in USA Today on Monday, the California senator called the program “legal,” “effective in helping to prevent terrorist plots,” and claimed it was “not surveillance.” She argued that the metadata program should continue, and said her bill would “codify existing procedures into law.”

Bryce Covert: Don’t Be Fooled: Flexible Scheduling Is No Cure for the Workplace Gender Divide

The city of San Francisco just passed a little-noticed policy in an attempt to address the work and family conflict increasingly experienced by today’s workers: a “right-to-request” law that requires all employers to set up a process so that workers can negotiate flexible schedules. That means that starting January 1, city residents will be able to ask their employers about whether they can change their start and end times, telecommute or go part-time and the boss will have to prove “undue hardship” if he refuses. Vermont passed a similar statewide policy in May. These are the only places in the United States to take up such a law, although the UK, New Zealand and Australia have countrywide ones.

Supporters tout such laws as a way to help resolve the conflict of work and family for all. And for those who feel torn between these two worlds, this streamlined path to changing schedules will likely come as a relief. But if the goal of resolving the work/family conflict with policy is to level the playing field for mothers who work and to allow women to catch up to men, flexible scheduling, at least for now, falls short. It cures a symptom without touching the disease.

Oct 30 2013

On This Day In History October 30

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.

October 30 is the 303rd day of the year (304th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 62 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1938, Orson Welles scares the nation.

The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938 and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds.

The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated “news bulletins”, which suggested to many listeners that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress. Compounding the issue was the fact that the Mercury Theatre on the Air was a ‘sustaining show’ (it ran without commercial breaks), thus adding to the program’s quality of realism. Although there were sensationalist accounts in the press about a supposed panic in response to the broadcast, the precise extent of listener response has been debated. In the days following the adaptation, however, there was widespread outrage. The program’s news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast, but the episode secured Orson Welles’ fame.

Oct 30 2013

Dueling Privacy Bills

The definition of a Beltway Conventional Wisdom summary.

NSA chief denies collecting millions of phone records on European citizens

By Ellen Nakashima and William Branigin, Washington Post

Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 3:30 PM

On one hand, there is the approach taken by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman; Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), a former House Judiciary Committee chairman; and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. They would end the mass collection of phone data by requiring the government to prove to a court that it is seeking call records relevant to either an agent of a foreign power who is the subject of a terrorism investigation or someone with a link to that agent. Such a requirement would make bulk collection impossible, the proponents say.

The legislation also would require a warrant to deliberately search for the e-mail and phone call content of Americans that is collected as part of a surveillance program targeting foreigners located overseas.

“The government has not made its case that bulk collection of domestic phone records is an effective counterterrorism tool, especially in light of the intrusion on American privacy,” Leahy said at a hearing this month.



On the other hand, the approach taken by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, focuses on increasing transparency and privacy protections.

The intelligence committee leaders have not introduced their respective bills, but Feinstein has outlined the changes under consideration. They include limiting access to the call database; codifying the requirement that analysts have a “reasonable articulable suspicion” that a phone number is associated with terrorism to query the database; requiring that the FISA court promptly review each such determination; and limiting the retention period for phone records, now five years.



The Intelligence Committee’s bill, she said, would also expand the NSA’s authority to allow it to continue intercepting for three days the phone calls and e-mails of an overseas foreign target who had entered the United States. That would give the government a chance to go to the FISA court to seek a traditional individual warrant to continue the collection. If the warrant was denied, the intercepts would have to be deleted.

The bill would also require Senate confirmation of the NSA director and inspector general.



The proposal to end bulk collection, if it is allowed to reach the floor, could succeed in the House, where a similar effort failed by only 12 votes in July. At least eight lawmakers who voted against the July measure and two who did not vote on it are now in favor of Leahy and Sensenbrenner’s approach, congressional aides said.

“The public is justifiably concerned about the fact that everybody’s phone calls apparently have been snared in this – even people who have no relationship to terrorism,” Sensenbrenner said in an interview. “But what has come out since the end of July, I think, is going to tip the scales in favor of a significant NSA reform.”

Oct 30 2013

Samhain: The Thinning Of The Veil

Republished from October 30, 2011

Samhain is one of the eight festivals of the Wiccan/Pagan Wheel of the Years that is celebrated as the new year with the final harvest of the season. It is considered by most practitioners of the craft to be the most important of the eight Sabats and one of the four fire festivals, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh. Beginning at sundown on October 31 and continuing through the next day, fires are lit and kept burning to recognize the shortening of days and the coming of winter’s long cold nights.

Many of the traditions practiced in the US have come from Ireland, Scotland and Whales. The carving of gourds and pumpkins used as lanterns, the wearing of costumes and masks, dancing, poetry and songs, as well as some traditional foods and games can be traced back to medieval times and pre-Christian times.

Two Roman festivals became incorporated with Samhain – ‘Feralia’, when the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead, and ‘Pomona’, when the Roman goddess of fruit and trees was honoured. The Halloween tradition of bobbing for apples is thought to derive from the ancient links with the Roman fruit goddess, Pomona, and a Druidical rite associated with water.

It is also the time of the year that we reflect and honor our ancestors and especially those who have departed since last Samhain. According to Celtic lore, Samhain is a time when the boundaries between the world of the living and the world of the dead become thinner, allowing spirits and other supernatural entities to pass between the worlds to socialize with humans. The fires and the candles burning in western windows are believed to help guide the spirits of the departed to the Summerlands. Like all Wiccan festivals, Samhain celebrates Nature’s cycle of death and renewal, a time when the Celts acknowledged the beginning and ending of all things in life and nature. Samhain marked the end of harvest and the beginning of the New Celtic Year. The first month of the Celtic year was Samonios – ‘Seed Fall’.

The Catholic church attempted to replace the Pagan festival with All Saints’ or All Hallows’ day, followed by All Souls’ Day, on November 2nd. The eve became known as: All Saints’ Eve, All Hallows’ Eve, or Hallowe’en. All Saints’ Day is said to be the day when souls walked the Earth. In early Christian tradition souls were released from purgatory on All Hallow’s Eve for 48 hours.

We decorate our homes with candles, gourds and dried leaves. Meals are traditionally lots of veggies, fruit, nuts and breads served with wine, cider and hearty beer. We make a hearty stew that is served with a whole grained bread and deserts made with apples, carrots and pumpkin. One of the sweet breads that is traditionally served is barmbrack, an old Irish tradition. The bread is baked with various objects and was used as a sort of fortune-telling game. In the barmbrack were: a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a ring. Each item, when received in the slice, was supposed to carry a meaning to the person concerned: the pea, the person would not marry that year; the stick, “to beat one’s wife with”, would have an unhappy marriage or continually be in disputes; the cloth or rag, would have bad luck or be poor; the coin, would enjoy good fortune or be rich; and the ring, would be wed within the year. Today, the bread usually contains a ring and a coin.

What ever you believe or not, Samhain has meaning for us all since the Wheel turns for all of us. So light a fire or a candle and dance with us as the Veil Thins.

The Veil Is Getting

As I went out walking this fall afternoon,

I heard a wisper wispering.

I heard a wisper wispering,

Upon this fine fall day…

As I went out walking this fall afternoon,

I heard a laugh a’laughing.

I heard a laugh a’laughing,

Upon this fine fall day…

I heard this wisper and I wondered,

I heard this laugh and then I knew.

The time is getting near my friends,

The time that I hold dear my friends,

The veil is getting thin my friends,

And strange things will pass through.

Blessed be.

Oct 30 2013

New Media Economy, Supporting Lesbian Works & Crowdfunding Classic Yuri Anime

cross-posted from Voices on the Square

UPDATE: Now 166 backers, $10,140 funded of $13,000; 78% funded, 22% to go with 9 days remaining.

What in the Sam Hill is “Yuri Anime”, and what in the Sam Hill does it have to do with supporting Lesbian works?

Erica Friedman at Yuricon starts out an explanation of the term “yuri” by writing:

The term Yuri (百合) is used to refer to stories that contain romantic or sexual relationships between girls or women or, sometimes more generally, stories with a lesbian character.

Yuri is not a dominant niche in Japanese manga (ie, serialized graphic novels), but it does hold a place in the market, and sometimes this shows up in anime that are based on either a yuri manga, or a manga with a yuri side-stream.

Now, manga and anime are commercial media, and so Sturgeon’s Law applies: 90% of everything is crud. Indeed, we might say that what makes somebody a “fan” of a genre is an appreciation of not just the 10% of the genre that is good, but an appreciation of some of the 90% that is crud.

Every genre has its history. From what I understand, part of the history of yuri is the “tragic lesbian”. And the “Tragic Lesbian” features strongly in “Oniisama E”, aka Dear Brother, originally created as a manga by the manga-ka (manga artists) Riyoka Ikeda in 1975, and made into an anime by Tezuka Productions in 1991.

Now, I’m not a media reviewer, and you can read Okazu non-review for a non-review or skim the Wikipedia Oniisama_e… page if you need an extended introduction to this melodrama.

However, if you reside in North America, you can, instead, stream it starting with Episode One: The Magnificant One as Nanako Misonoo, a first year student, starts her life in High School and encounters the “stars” of the school, “Hana no Sainte-Juste (Rei), Kaoru-no-kimi (Kaoru), and Miya-sama (Fukiko)” (according to the Wikipedia machine ~ I want to avoid charges of plagiarizing from Wikipedia).

Now, to see that free stream, you’ll have to sign up for a membership at the AnimeSols.com site,

That is not a bootleg stream: that is a legitimate stream under permission of the rights owner.

But, how can a more than twenty-year-old anime series that has never had an English license be available with a legitimate, free streaming?

Well, that is a story about what the AnimeSols.com site is, and what its trying to accomplish.

Oct 30 2013

Midweek Movie