Daily Archive: 02/26/2014

Feb 26 2014

The Truth About the Pentagon’s New Budget

The Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the upcoming Pentagon budget would focus on the 21st century realities of warfare with more emphasis on targeted assassinations and cyberwarfare. It also cuts the strength of the Army to pre-World War Two levels relying more heavily on the National Guard.

   Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to shrink the United States Army to its smallest force since before the World War II buildup and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets in a new spending proposal that officials describe as the first Pentagon budget to aggressively push the military off the war footing adopted after the terror attacks of 2001 [..]

   The new American way of war will be underscored in Mr. Hagel’s budget, which protects money for Special Operations forces and cyberwarfare. And in an indication of the priority given to overseas military presence that does not require a land force, the proposal will – at least for one year – maintain the current number of aircraft carriers at 11.

The Guard and Reserves, which proved capable in their wartime deployments although costly to train to meet the standards of their full-time counterparts, would face smaller reductions. But the Guard would see its arsenal reshaped.

The Guard’s Apache attack helicopters would be transferred to the active-duty Army, which would transfer its Black Hawk helicopters to the Guard. The rationale is that Guard units have less peacetime need for the bristling array of weapons on the Apache and would put the Black Hawk – a workhorse transport helicopter – to use in domestic disaster relief.

The proposed budget would also eliminate the old U-2 spy plane in favor of unmanned drones and eliminate the entire fleet of Air Force A-10 attack aircraft. However, it does keep the allocations for the controversial F-35 warplane, which has been extremely expensive and has run into costly delays, that the Air Force says it doesn’t want.

There will be pain for the troops, too.

The fiscal 2015 budget also calls for slowing the growth of tax-free housing allowances for military personnel and would reduce the $1.4 billion direct subsidy provided to military commissaries, which would most likely make goods purchased at those commissaries more expensive for soldiers.

The budget also proposes an increase in health insurance deductibles and some co-pays for some military retirees and for some family members of active servicemen.

The savings on groceries will reduced, costing a military family as much as $3000 per year, and pay raises will be capped:

Besides paring back grocery savings, the Pentagon would also cap military pay raises at 1% in 2015 and trim housing subsidies for families who don’t live on bases. They will also no longer be reimbursed for rental insurance.

Families are likely to feel the sharpest pain every week when they shop for their grocery. By the end of the third year, the savings will be slashed by about two-thirds, a senior defense official acknowledged on Monday.

Currently, a family of four can save $4,500 a year at commissaries on average, according to the Defense Commissary Agency, which puts savings around 30% compared to retail grocery stores. Under the new proposal, the savings for a similar family would be closer to $1,500 a year or 10% of a grocery bill at other stores.

Despite these cuts and the claims, this hardly an austerity budget still exceeding the budgets of next ten military budgets in the world combined.

A better idea, as suggested by DSWright at FDL News Desk would be “to rethink 800 military bases and a $700 billion annual budget to defend against an enemy that no longer exists.” But the fear mongers will persist regardless:

Despite ‘historic’ cuts, the US will still have 450,000 active-duty soldiers

By Michael Cohen, The Guardian

The Pentagon is able to maintain a bloated and extravagant military force even when the US faces no actual security threats

Rather than a reflection of a changing global security environment, the growing and continued obsolescence of inter-state war and the country’s lack of interest in future military adventures, the cuts announced yesterday by Hagel are an indication of something else altogether: how tenaciously the Pentagon is able to maintain a bloated and extravagant military force even when the US faces no actual security threats.

Indeed, what was missing from yesterday’s headlines was some much needed context. For example, “smallest size since 1940” sounds, on the surface, like quite a step back. Did Neville Chamberlain rise from his grave and become president of the United States? Let’s put aside for a second that the size of the army in 1940 was about 270,000 and the Marine Corps stood at about 30,000 – a far cry from the proposed 180,000 today.

The truth is the military budget is still bloated with wasted tax dollars that could got to rebuilding the US infrastructure that would create jobs increasing economic growth and reducing income disparity.

Feb 26 2014

One by One They All Fall Down

A federal judge has ruled that the Texas law banning same sex marriage is unconstitutional:

Judge Orlando Garcia issued the preliminary injunction after two gay couples challenged a state constitutional amendment and a longstanding law. He said the couples are likely to win their case and the ban should be lifted, but said he would give the state time to appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals before do so.

“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” Garcia wrote. “These Texas laws deny plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex.”

The ruling is the latest in a series of victories for gay rights activists following similar decisions in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia.

But this was the first time a court in the conservative 5th Circuit has reached such a decision. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was expected to file an expedited appeal.

That was the good news. The bad news is that the ban will remain in effect until the issue is visited by the U.S. Supreme Court. Or not? I suppose that if SCOTUS refuses to review the case the ban would be lifted. Still, this is good news for marriage equality.

Texas Gay Marriage Ruling

Feb 26 2014

NRCC Bashing Democrats for Supporting Chained CPI

You can tell it’s an election year, all the hypocrisy comes out of the closet:

After spending weeks subjecting the public to unfounded and widely debunked claims that Obamacare contains a hidden “bailout” for private insurers, Republicans have undertaken a complete reversal, and are attacking Democrats for cutting corporate welfare for insurance companies by too much.

Specifically, they’re attacking the Affordable Care Act’s reduction in overpayments to carriers who participate in Medicare Advantage, reflected in lower payment rates for program providers, which were officially announced late last week. [..]

When confronted, they retreat from pretending to oppose the cuts on the merits, to claiming the real problem is that Democrats used the savings from the cuts to fund Obamacare. But this is a non sequitur. A diversion. The attacks specifically express outrage on behalf of seniors who, Republicans claim, will lose doctors or get stuck with higher premiums specifically as a result of the ACA’s Medicare Advantage cuts.

But remember, Republicans actually support the cuts. All of these supposedly horrible things would happen under their plan, too, regardless of how the savings are spent. So right away it’s clear that the attacks are straightforwardly deceitful.

While some the beltway deficit scolds mourn the death of “entitlement reforms,” the The National Republican Campaign Committee has begun attacking Democrats for supporting Simpson-Bowles:

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) tried a political ju-jitsu on Thursday as it sought to turn former state CFO Alex Sink’s attacks on David Jolly on Social Security against her. Sink, the Democratic candidate, takes on Republican Jolly and Libertarian Lucas Overby in a special congressional election for an open seat in Pinellas County on March 11.

On Thursday, the NRCC bashed Sink for saying she supported Simpson-Bowles.

What digby said:

I have never understood why Democrats who have to run for office are so wedded to the idea that they will be rewarded for being “the adults in the room” and doing the “hard stuff” like cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits but they do. You’d think they’d remember what happened to them in 2010 when the Republicans ran against the Medicare cuts in the health care reforms by portraying them as monsters turning old people into Soylent Green. But they didn’t.

The president may have decided to keep his proposal to cut benefits from his new budget, but it’s quite clear from the talking points that they still very much want to get “credit” for being willing to do it.

Supporting cuts the social safety net, especially in the state of Florida, is not going to fly very well with elderly voters. And, yes, they do vote. So why aren’t Democrats giving the people what they want, an expansion of Social Security and open Medicare to all?  

Feb 26 2014

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.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

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

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Stop the Democrats’ surrender to a blue slip

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: An archaic Senate policy is being used by a shameless Republican minority to obstruct the will of the president – and the people he was elected to represent.

You’d be forgiven for thinking I was referring to the filibuster, which has been the Republicans’ most effective and least democratic method of thwarting the will of the majority.

But no, this is another, more obscure and arguably more ridiculous procedural weapon called a “blue slip.” First instituted in 1917, the blue slip process has allowed individual senators to effectively veto a nominee for a circuit court judgeship who hails from their own state. This privilege has been used sparingly by some Judiciary Committee chairmen and more regularly by others. But in recent months, it has been taken to the extreme. [..]

Like the filibuster, this weapon is rooted in tradition, not the Constitution; it can simply be ignored by the chair of the Judiciary Committee. During George W. Bush’s administration, for instance, then-Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch decided that a negative blue slip would not hold up a nominee’s confirmation proceedings.

But because of current Chairman Patrick Leahy’s puzzling adherence to arcane practice, his desire to show courtesy – unreciprocated, of course – to the minority party and President Obama’s unwillingness to put a stop to it, the blue slip process is alive and well. Worse, it’s being used as a weighted bargaining chip, giving two Republican senators more influence over the judicial nomination process than the president himself.

ZoĆ« Carpenter: 20 Years Ago, an Army Veteran Reported a Sexual Assault. She’s Still Waiting for Justice.

When Brenda Hoster publicly accused the sergeant major of the Army of sexually assaulting her, it nearly destroyed her life. She thought it would be worth it.

“I felt like what I did was the right thing, the ethical thing, not just for me but for all military men and women,” Hoster, a retired sergeant major and public affairs specialist, said in one of two phone conversations. Her complaints against the Army’s top enlisted soldier were part of a wave of sex scandals that rocked the military in the 1990s. Today, Congress is still debating how to best reform the military justice system. [..]

But Congress has not yet voted on the most significant and controversial reform proposed-Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act, which would put military lawyers, rather than commanding officers, in charge of sexual assault prosecutions. Victims’ advocates, veterans and some active duty officers argue that forcing victims to report to commanders exposes them to conflicts of interest and retaliation, and disadvantages accused and accuser alike by putting legal decisions in the hands of officers without legal training. Fifty-four senators-including nine Republicans-support Gillibrand’s bill, which the chamber will take up some time in March. The military’s top brass and two key Democrats on the Armed Services Committee, chairman Carl Levin and Claire McCaskill, oppose the measure, saying it would undermine commanders’ ability to enforce order and discipline in the ranks.

Natalia Antonova: Only Ukraine’s People – Not Russia or the West – Can Take It Forward

Ukraine is in a mess. And the first steps must be taken not by politicians but by the people, who must honour life and prevent more violence

In Russia, the Sochi Olympics are over, the metaphoric fairy dust has settled, and the rapidly developing events in Ukraine are at the top of the news agenda. If you stick to watching state television, the picture being painted is a grim one. For the majority of TV commentators following the deadly violence on the streets and the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine is in free fall. Russian viewers are being warned that dangerous radicalism is spreading practically on their doorstep. [..]

The important thing, right now, is to honour human life – and prevent further violence. And while nothing is certain, I know the possibility is there. I’m a Russian-speaking native of Kiev, with both ethnic Russian and ethnic Ukrainian relatives who certainly manage to not kill each other at the dinner table, not to mention Russian-speaking and Ukrainian-speaking friends and acquaintances from different parts of the country who somehow manage to get along.

Lauren Carasik: The US Should Respect Venezuela’s Democracy

Simplistic end-of-Chavismo narrative callously dismisses Venezuela’s progress

Venezuela is facing a protracted political crisis. Images depicting its streets tell the tale: Student unrest coalesced into massive demonstrations around the country, triggering a violent crackdown on opposition leaders and protesters. The ensuing violence and destructive confrontations over the last several weeks have left at least 13 people dead and scores wounded, with casualties on both sides. Tensions remain high.

Headlines in the United States broadcast unchallenged narratives of widespread discontent with mounting economic woes and denounce the ensuing repression by an unpopular and discredited administration barely clinging to power. But the reality in Venezuela is far more complicated and nuanced than what the media and the U.S. government spin suggests. [..]

Venezuela, to be sure, is not a utopia. Like many of its Latin American neighbors, including close allies of the U.S., it must confront crime, impunity and corruption. The country’s economic troubles are causing real hardship and palpable anxiety, though they are inseparable from the global recession. Despite these challenges, Venezuela has registered tremendous gains in elevating millions of people out of grinding poverty and democratizing a postcolonial country – developments that predictably alienate the country’s elites. However imperfect, reducing Venezuela to a failed socialist experiment run by a repressive autocrat who should be overthrown is a callous dismissal of its laudable progress.

Ana Marie Cox: Who’s the true ‘top conservative on Twitter’ – and does it matter for 2016?

The GOP struggles with the social media generation, but a few are starting to figure it out, especially Governor Chris Christie

It’s no secret that the GOP has been playing catch-up to the massive social media machine built by Obama campaign for years. (The Romney campaign’s deficiencies in that regard were well-documented.) As the Republican party grapples with the large-scale demographic shifts ahead, we thought it might be revealing to see how the 2016 GOP frontrunners have approached the more granular social media. Social media interactions, after all, are much more like old-fashioned politicking than they are like “messaging”: too much polish works against you, humor is at a premium, and the real skill isn’t convincing people so much as working the crowd. So it makes sense to us to ask who’s winning the Twitter Primary.

There’s more to social media than Twitter, of course. But as the political class grows more and more desperate for metrics to measure a race that hasn’t even begun, it makes sense to turn to Twitter: that’s where the journalists hang out, so that’s where a candidate’s image will or won’t get the extra spit shine that only comes with being very good at this very new form retail politics.

Jill Filipovic: Kansas’ anti-gay bill: another attempt to force warped Christianity on others

Conservatives keep trying to use America’s religious freedom as a way to limit everyone else’s rights

Last week, the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill (pdf) that would have broadly legalized discrimination against gays and lesbians. Luckily, after national outrage, the bill was halted. But the fight isn’t over: the bill’s reliance on religious freedom to justify discrimination is a sign of right-wing efforts to come.

The Kansas bill didn’t become law because the forces behind it are losing. That’s cold comfort to gay Kansans who were just issued a very clear “you are not welcome here” message from their elected officials. The Republican party, whose members have yanked the welcome mat out from under the feet of too many groups, should perhaps consider whether a strategy of alienation is a winning one. After all, are there many strong supporters of this law in Kansas who weren’t already voting Republican? On the flip side, younger voters overwhelmingly support gay rights. And so do gay people – increasingly, so do their families and friends. A plan of aggressively antagonizing LGBT people is not a winning one.

Feb 26 2014

Living In A Surveillance State: A Primer

The news today on Government spying has been unrelentingly grim.  Here’s last night’s piece from Jason Jones on living in a Surveillance State.

Feb 26 2014

Destroying Reputations and Disrupting Activity

So earlier today we learned about a system of directed government Internet trolling designed to destroy the reputation of and disrupt the activities of any targeted organization or individual without any judicial process or oversight.

Here are some examples of how these techniques and programs were used against Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

The Real News Network

(Note: Michael Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is currently a legal adviser to Wikileaks and Julian Assange.)

Transcript

One was that Julian Assange was put on a list called “Manhunting”. [incompr.] say it again: “Manhunting”. And normally on that NSA list there’s people who the NSA, and perhaps and presumably the U.S. government as well, suspects are al-Qaeda terrorists or something like that. This list also had, interestingly enough, Palestinians on it. But it also had Julian Assange on it.

Now, the list is made up of people the U.S. wants to locate, prosecute, and/or kill. In the case of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, what they wanted to do was get WikiLeaks and Julian Assange prosecuted everywhere they could in the world. Again, this is 2010. This is right after WikiLeaks introduces what are called the Afghan war logs that indicated that thousands and thousands of civilians were killed in Afghanistan. Those war logs come out. Then the NSA documents come out that put Julian Assange on the “Manhunting” list.

And what the substance of it is is it says that we have to make an effort to get Julian Assange prosecuted everywhere in the world. And at that point they pointed to four, maybe five countries–the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, the U.S., Iceland. Those are the countries that are going to go after him in. And, obviously, there are other countries added as they go along. But this just demonstrates how the U.S. in one set of the documents say, we want to get this journalist if we can.



The second set has this odd name called ANTICRISIS GIRL. Who knows what that means. This interestingly is not an NSA program. This is a program from GCHQ, which is the British intelligence company that’s the corresponding intelligence agency in the U.K. And this is really a nasty piece of business. What the slides show [snip] GCHQ has a system of tapping into fiber optics [snip] from Snowden got before. But this one, they say, we have the ability any time anyone makes a search on their computer for WikiLeaks to find either the website of WikiLeaks or anything else about WikiLeaks, we can find out what computer is making that search, know the IP address from that–that’s the, you know, unique address on every computer–and ultimately find out whose computer that is. That’s everybody in the world who look for WikiLeaks.

Then what they say: we also have the capacity to go onto the WikiLeaks website, or to look at that website, and everybody who visits the WikiLeaks websites, search or not, according to WikiLeaks.org, you visit the website, we have an ability to track their IP addresses. So here you have not just the U.S. intelligence going after WikiLeaks, the NSA, but you have GCHQ as well, and, in this second case, going after anybody who has even an interest in WikiLeaks, even if it’s an interest against WikiLeaks, everybody who looks at WikiLeaks.



And the third program, the third program is what we can call the “malicious foreign actor”. I’ll say that again: “malicious foreign actor”. And there’s a document in here in which the NSA goes to their counsel in the NSA–people in the NSA go to the general counsel and say to the general counsel, we’d like your opinion. We want to classify WikiLeaks as a, quote, malicious foreign actor. It’s a term of art, but it’s interestingly a term of art that none of us who work in this area legally, who look around, you know, try and sue, stop the NSA, have ever heard that term about.

What it apparently means is that the NSA can do the broadest surveillance on that target. In this case, it would be WikiLeaks. They admitted in this document they already had Anonymous targeted like that, and now they were going to go after WikiLeaks like that. We don’t know whether it was approved or not. I suspect, considering what’s been going on with WikiLeaks and considering the documents that came out from WikiLeaks after these programs have been put into place, which include the Afghan war logs, as well as Cablegate, which is what really got the United States, apparently, very angry, that that program has been implemented and that WikiLeaks is more likely than not classified as a “malicious foreign actor”.

So you have those three programs used against, we believe, as an effort to destroy, utterly destroy a publisher and journalism, and destroy not just them but to track, really, and get at all of their supporters and everybody who–anybody who has any interest in WikiLeaks–a very, very nasty piece of business. And what’s important about it is not just to show how the U.S. government, in cahoots with the U.K. government, or together–what I call them is two wings of the same surveillance bird, two wings of the same surveillance bird. That’s these two countries.

Democracy Now

Transcript

Assange: We’ve heard a lot in the propaganda pushed on this issue by Clapper and others in the U.S. national security complex that, of course, this pervasive surveillance is justified by the need to stop U.S.-stop terrorist attacks being conducted on the United States and its allies. But we’ve seen example after example come out over the last few months showing the National Security Agency and its partners, GCHQ, engaged in economic espionage.

And here we have an example where the type of espionage being engaged in is spying on a publisher-WikiLeaks, the publishing organization, and a publisher-me, personally. And the other material that came out in relation to GCHQ was from 2012, and that shows that GCHQ was spying on our service and our readers, so not just the publisher as an organization, not just the publisher as a person, but also the readers of a publisher. And that’s clearly, I believe, not something that the United States population agrees with, let alone other people.



Ratner: Well, what I was really shocked by was the extent the U.S. and U.K. have gone through to try and get and destroy WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and their network of supporters. I mean, it’s astounding. And it’s been going on for years. And it also, as Julian pointed out, tells us why he is in the Ecuadorean embassy and why Ecuador has given him asylum. He has every reason to heavily fear what would happen to him in this country, in the United States, if he were to be ever taken here. So I think, for me, that’s a very, very critical point, justifies every reason why Ecuador gave him asylum.

And the document you’re addressing, Amy, what they call the manhunt timeline, which is extraordinary because it groups him among, you know, a whole bunch of people who the U.S. considers terrorists, it also, interestingly, groups them-groups them among Palestinians, which is pretty interesting in itself. But to have Julian on that list as a manhunt timeline, and it says prosecute him wherever you can get him, is pretty extraordinary. It doesn’t say you necessarily need a good reason to prosecute him; it just says, basically, prosecute him. And what it’s reminiscent, to me, is of the program that took place in this country in the ’60s and the ’70s, COINTELPRO, counterintelligence procedures, when the FBI said, “We have to basically destroy the black civil rights movement, the New Left and others, and prosecute them, get them however you can, get rid of them.” And so, the manhunt timeline, even its name is chilling. But that’s what it is. It’s an effort to try and get WikiLeaks and their personnel, wherever they are in the world.

And, of course, we’ve seen some of that. You’ve had people on this show. When people cross borders who are associates with WikiLeaks, they get stopped. They get surveilled all the time. We’ve seen-we’ve seen efforts to take-to basically destroy WikiLeaks by stealing their laptops on a trip that went from Sweden to Germany. We’ve seen efforts across the board, in country after country. Germany, they surveil conferences when WikiLeaks people speak there, everywhere. So, actually, this program is not just an abstraction. This program has been implemented. And the manhunt timeline, I think, is incredibly significant, considering that the manhunt is an effort to locate, find and destroy-in some cases, kill-kill people.

Feb 26 2014

On This Day In History February 26

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.

February 26 is the 57th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 308 days remaining until the end of the year (309 in leap years).

Two national parks preserved, 10 years apart. The two national parks were established in the United States 10 years apart, the Grand Canyon in 1919 and the Grand Tetons in 1929.

The Grand Canyon National Park

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon in 1903. An avid outdoorsman and staunch conservationist, he established the Grand Canyon Game Preserve on November 28, 1906. Livestock grazing was reduced, but predators such as mountain lions, eagles, and wolves were eradicated. Roosevelt added adjacent national forest lands and redesignated the preserve a U.S. National Monument on January 11, 1908. Opponents such as land and mining claim holders blocked efforts to reclassify the monument as a U.S. National Park for 11 years. Grand Canyon National Park was finally established as the 17th U.S. National Park by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on February 26, 1919.

Grand Teton National Park

In 1897 acting Yellowstone superintendent Colonel S.B.M. Young proposed expanding that park’s borders south to encompass the northern extent of Jackson Hole in order to protect migrating herds of elk. Next year, United States Geological Survey head Charles D. Walcott suggested that the Teton Range should be included as well. Stephen Mather, director of the newly-created National Park Service and his assistant Horace Albright sent a report to Secretary of the Interior Franklin Lane in 1917 stating much the same. Wyoming Representative Frank Mondell sponsored a bill that unanimously passed the United States House of Representatives in 1918 but was killed in the United States Senate when Idaho Senator [John Nugent feared that the expansion of Park Service jurisdiction would threaten sheep grazing permits. Public opposition to park expansion also mounted in and around Jackson Hole. Albright, in fact, was practically run out of Jackson, Wyoming, by angry townspeople in 1919 when he traveled there to speak in favor of park expansion.

Local attitudes started to change that same year when proposals to dam Jenny, Emma Matilda, and Two Ocean lakes surfaced. Then on July 26, 1923, local and Park Service representatives including Albright met in Maud Noble’s cabin to work on a plan to buy private lands to create a recreation area to preserve the “Old West” character of the valley. Albright was the only person who supported Park Service management; the others wanted traditional hunting, grazing, and dude-ranching activities to continue. In 1927 philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. founded the Snake River Land Company so he and others could buy land in the area incognito and have it held until the National Park Service could administer it. The company launched a campaign to purchase more than 35,000 acres for $1.4 million but faced 15 years of opposition by ranchers and a refusal by the Park Service to take the land.

In 1928, a Coordinating Commission on National Parks and Forests met with valley residents and reached an agreement for the establishment of a park. Wyoming Senator John Kendrick then introduced a bill to establish Grand Teton National Park. It was passed by both houses of the U.S. Congress and signed into law by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge on February 26, 1929. The 96,000 acres park was carved from Teton National Forest and included the Teton Range and six glacial lakes at its foot in Jackson Hole. Lobbying by cattlemen, however, meant that the original park borders did not include most of Jackson Hole (whose floor was used for grazing). Meanwhile the Park Service refused to accept the 35,000 acres held by the Snake River Company.

Discouraged by the stalemate, Rockefeller sent a letter to then U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt telling him that if the federal government did not accept the land that he intended to make some other disposition of it or to sell it in the market to any satisfactory buyers. Soon afterward on March 15, 1943 the president declared 221,000 acres (890 km2) of public land as Jackson Hole National Monument. Continued controversy over the Rockefeller gift still made it impossible for the monument to officially include that land, however.

Opposition to the monument by local residents immediately followed with criticism that the declaration was a violation of states’ rights and that it would destroy the local economy and tax base. Ranchers, led in part by famed actor Wallace Beery, drove 500 cattle across the newly created monument in a demonstration designed to provoke conflict. The Park Service did not respond to the stunt but the event brought national attention to the issue nonetheless. Wyoming Representative Frank A. Barrett introduced a bill to abolish the monument that passed both houses of Congress but was pocket vetoed by Roosevelt. U.S. Forest Service officials did not want to cede another large part of the Teton National Forest to the Park Service so they fought against transfer. One final act was to order forest rangers to gut the Jackson Lake Ranger Station before handing it over to park rangers. Residents in the area who supported the park and the monument were boycotted and harassed.

Other bills to abolish the monument were introduced between 1945 and 1947 but none passed. Increases in tourism money following the end of World War II has been cited as a cause of the change in local attitudes. A move to merge the monument into an enlarged park gained steam and by April, 1949, interested parties gathered in the Senate Appropriation Committee chambers to finalize a compromise. The Rockefeller lands were finally transferred from private to public ownership on December 16, 1949, when they were added to the monument. A bill merging most of Jackson Hole National Monument (except for its southern extent, which was added to the National Elk Refuge) into Grand Teton National Park was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on September 14, 1950. One concession in the law modified the Antiquities Act, limiting the future power of a president to proclaim National Monuments in Wyoming. The scenic highway that extends from the northern border of Grand Teton National Park to the southern entrance of Yellowstone National Park was named the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway to recognize Rockefeller’s contribution to protecting the area. In 2001, the Rockefellers donated their Jackson Hole retreat, the JY Ranch, to the national park for the establishment of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, dedicated on June 21, 2008.

Feb 26 2014

Government Trolling

Transcript

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

24 Feb 2014, 6:25 PM EST

No matter your views on Anonymous, “hacktivists” or garden-variety criminals, it is not difficult to see how dangerous it is to have secret government agencies being able to target any individuals they want – who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crimes – with these sorts of online, deception-based tactics of reputation destruction and disruption. There is a strong argument to make, as Jay Leiderman demonstrated in the Guardian in the context of the Paypal 14 hacktivist persecution, that the “denial of service” tactics used by hacktivists result in (at most) trivial damage (far less than the cyber-warfare tactics favored by the US and UK) and are far more akin to the type of political protest protected by the First Amendment.

The broader point is that, far beyond hacktivists, these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats. As Anonymous expert Gabriella Coleman of McGill University told me, “targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs, resulting in the stifling of legitimate dissent.” Pointing to this study she published, Professor Coleman vehemently contested the assertion that “there is anything terrorist/violent in their actions.”

Government plans to monitor and influence internet communications, and covertly infiltrate online communities in order to sow dissension and disseminate false information, have long been the source of speculation. Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, a close Obama adviser and the White House’s former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-“independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups.

Sunstein also proposed sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups” which spread what he views as false and damaging “conspiracy theories” about the government. Ironically, the very same Sunstein was recently named by Obama to serve as a member of the NSA review panel created by the White House, one that – while disputing key NSA claims – proceeded to propose many cosmetic reforms to the agency’s powers (most of which were ignored by the President who appointed them).

But these GCHQ documents are the first to prove that a major western government is using some of the most controversial techniques to disseminate deception online and harm the reputations of targets. Under the tactics they use, the state is deliberately spreading lies on the internet about whichever individuals it targets, including the use of what GCHQ itself calls “false flag operations” and emails to people’s families and friends. Who would possibly trust a government to exercise these powers at all, let alone do so in secret, with virtually no oversight, and outside of any cognizable legal framework?