05/27/2014 archive

Another Betrayal

What really bugs me is how little the D.C. elite seem to care about exposing themselves as bald faced liars and incompetant fools.

Today’s cases in point- it turns out Barack Obama and Joe Biden never had the least intention of removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan this year and instead are going to maintain a residual force of between 10 and 12 thousand (depending on NATO contributions).

Of course they make the same empty noises about needing to continue the “training mission”, but that’s not what it’s about at all.  It’s about providing a security force so we can continue our illegal and murderous drone strikes in Pakistan and our torture chambers at Bagram Air Field.

President Obama looks to keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan


5/27/14 12:26 PM EDT

President Barack Obama will announce Tuesday afternoon that he plans to keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after the end of the year to continue training Afghan forces and supporting operations against Al Qaeda, a senior administration official said.

The White House did not detail Monday how many non-U.S. troops might remain in Afghanistan, but American commanders have said they’ve endorsed a plan for as many as 12,000 total NATO troops. If that figure remains an official goal, the balance of the ultimate force would likely come from Europe.

Obama’s announcement, scheduled for the Rose Garden at 2:45 p.m., follows two days after the president made a surprise visit to Afghanistan to renew his pledge to end all combat operations by the end of the year and meet with commanders on the ground about steps forward.

American military commanders have said they would not support leaving behind a force in Afghanistan without a BSA, which would protect U.S. troops from being prosecuted in Afghan courts and set other important policy for their time there.

So there’s the lie exposed just 2 days after he said exactly the opposite.

Now the incompetance-

White House staff tried to ‘un-ring the bell’ after revealing CIA chief’s identity

Tom McCarthy, The Guardian

Monday 26 May 2014 13.24 EDT

The agent in question, listed as chief of station, would be a top manager of CIA activity in Afghanistan, including intelligence collection and a drone-warfare programme under which unmanned aerial vehicles mount cross-border attacks into Pakistan.

The name appeared on a list of attendees requested by White House officials for the president’s visit to Bagram air base to mark Memorial Day, the national day of tribute to fallen service members. The list of 15 people was drawn up by the military, written into a routine press report and sent to Washington. The Obama press office then sent the list, unredacted, to the larger group.

The mistake did not come to light until the reporter who had filed from Afghanistan, the veteran Washington Post correspondent Scott Wilson, looked more closely at what he had sent and noticed the name and title.

“I drew it to their attention before they had noticed what had happened,” Wilson said on Monday, hours after returning from the 33-hour trip overseas.

But wait!  There’s more!

Former CIA Director And Defense Secretary Says CIA Tried, But Failed, To Do Economic Espionage

by Mike Masnick, TechDirt

Tue, May 27th 2014 9:55am

US intelligence officials still seem to think that there’s some big distinction between the kind of intelligence work the US does versus the kind that other countries do. US officials time and time again claim that they don’t do “economic espionage” — even though it’s pretty clear that [they do it ], just through indirect means (i.e., while they don’t hand trade secrets over to companies, they’re certainly using economic information to impact policy and trade discussions).

Former Defense Secretary and CIA boss Robert Gates continued this sort of tone deaf line of thinking from US intelligence defenders by claiming that French intelligence downloads the contents of laptops from businessmen visiting Paris.

Throwing everyone else under the bus does nothing to make the US and the NSA’s activities any better, and it’s bizarre that intelligence officials seem to think they have the moral upper hand here. Almost no one sees it that way. They just look petty.

Even more bizarre: for all of Gates’ talk about how the US doesn’t do economic espionage… he then basically admits that he tried to do exactly that and failed.

(H)e says “this is something we don’t do” while admitting that he tried to do exactly that. He was just stymied by whoever was Commerce Secretary. If a more… permissive Commerce Secretary were in the job, it would be a very different story, now wouldn’t it? In fact, this is a pretty major admission. For all the talk of “we don’t do that,” what Gates really means is “we tried to do economic espionage, and we would do economic espionage, if we could.”

Do you feel any safer after Elliot Rodger’s killing spree?  Maybe if he had a obviously Muslim name?

Where was the NSA before the Isla Vista Mass Shooting?

By: Peter Van Buren, Firedog Lake

Tuesday May 27, 2014 7:47 am

He stabbed three men to death in his apartment and shot the others as he opened fire on bystanders on the crowded streets of Isla Vista, California. Rodger then killed himself. Three semi automatic handguns, along with 41 loaded ten-round magazines- all bought at local gun stores- were found in his car. There could have been many more dead.

So where was the NSA?

For the year since Edward Snowden revealed in detail the comprehensive spying on every aspect of American lives, we have been assured by the president and the NSA that every single one of those intrusions into our life was necessary to protect us. The now-former NSA chief said he knows of no better way his agency can help protect the U.S. than with spy programs that collect billions of phone and Internet records. “How do we connect the dots?” he said, referring to often-hidden links between people, events and what they do online. “There is no other way that we know of to connect the dots. Taking these programs off the table is absolutely not the thing to do.”

So where was the NSA?

Elliot Rodger posted on his social media, presumably monitored by the NSA, about suicide and killing people. His family asked police to visit Rodger’s residence. But when they showed up, Rodger simply told deputies it was a misunderstanding and that he was not going to hurt anyone or himself. No search was conducted.

Barely 24 hours before the killing spree, Rodger posted a video on YouTube, presumably monitored by the NSA, in which he sat behind the steering wheel of his black BMW and for seven minutes announced his plans for violence. The video has been leaked- see it here.

And finally this gem- GCHQ and the NSA has identified their hardware hacks (the chips they are replacing in your laptop so they can more easily spy on you) by their very specific and targeted destruction when the raided The Guardian’s offices.

GCHQ targeted input components in Guardian newspaper raid

By Graeme Burton, Computing

23 May 2014

The government had demanded that The Guardian destroy the documents, which it did. But that was not enough for the security services, and police were sent in to seize computing equipment.

Surprisingly, however, GCHQ were not just interested in hard drives nor did they destroy whole devices,” claims Privacy International, which has led an examination of the hardware that the security services targeted.

It continued: “During our investigation, we were surprised to learn that a few very specific components on devices, such as the keyboard, trackpad and monitor, were targeted along with apparently trivial chips on the main boards of laptops and desktops.”

Indeed, when the devices were returned to The Guardian, these chips had clearly been ripped out.

Coming at the same time that it was revealed that US security services have tampered with exports of networking equipment in order to plant bugs, the particular seizures of these devices indicates that they may have played a role in UK security services’ eavesdropping.

Excellent tradework you morons.

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

Jeremy Carp: Secret laws are a threat to American democracy

Last week, the Obama administration signaled that it would finally declassify a secret memo detailing its justification for using drones to kill U.S. citizens living abroad. The announcement came just hours before the Senate voted to confirm David Barron, the memo’s author, as President Barack Obama’s newest judicial appointee.

Earlier this month, a handful of senators to block Barron’s confirmation unless the memo was made public, once again calling into question the government’s reliance on undisclosed legal authorities, or “secret law,” to justify its covert and often controversial actions.

While the White House’s move to release the drone memo is a step forward in bringing transparency to the administration’s legal reasoning, it’s just one piece in a much larger puzzle. All three branches of government rely on the secret interpretation of law – a trend that should give all Americans cause for concern. [..]

Americans have a right to know that their publicly elected leaders are not playing by a hidden rulebook.  In a time of political gridlock and extreme partisanship, it’s not enough to ask the public to believe that their secret interpretations of law are in the public’s best interest. We need transparency to know that the rules on the books are not being undermined by another set of secret laws.

David Cay Johnston: The wages of low pay

On a recent evening during my book tour, a Seattle audience listened in shocked silence as a pediatrician spoke of treating a dangerously unhealthy child suffering from serious neglect.

Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, welcoming the crowd to a lecture I was about to give on inequality, said he asked the child’s mother question after question about basics every parent should know. Again and again the mother had no answers. She just did not know the condition and activities of her child.

As Kwan-Gett spoke, his voice rose in cold fury, his face flushed with anger at the callousness of this awful excuse for a parent. Finally, he said he asked the mother directly how she could be so uncaring.

Abruptly, the doctor’s voice turned soft as he recounted the mother’s response. She and her husband worked such long hours at such below-minimum-wage pay that they were always desperate for sleep. They were barely able to pay the rent. Their choice was between neglecting their child and living on the streets, where life is nasty, brutish and often short. [..]

The price we pay today for low wages is as big as it is easy not to notice. Unless we change our public policies, that price will explode as a significant number of children grow up without proper care and diet, and with no reason to believe their own initiative will make their lives any better.

In Seattle the local business and political leadership, while far from united, is about to take a major step toward ending stories like Kwan-Gett’s. Seattle is going to lead America in moving toward a livable minimum wage, one that makes sure everyone who works full time is not mired in poverty.

New York Times Editorial: A Cable Merger Too Far

There are good reasons the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission should block Comcast’s $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The merger will concentrate too much market power in the hands of one company, creating a telecommunications colossus the likes of which the country has not seen since 1984 when the government forced the breakup of the original AT&T telephone monopoly. [..]

By buying Time Warner Cable, Comcast would become a gatekeeper over what consumers watch, read and listen to. The company would have more power to compel Internet content companies like Netflix and Google, which owns YouTube, to pay Comcast for better access to its broadband network. Netflix, a dominant player in video streaming, has already signed such an agreement with the company. This could put start-ups and smaller companies without deep pockets at a competitive disadvantage.

Joe Nocera: What Did The Framers Really Mean?

Three days after the publication of Michael Waldman’s new book, “The Second Amendment: A Biography,” Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a killing spree, stabbing three people and then shooting another eight, killing four of them, including himself. This was only the latest mass shooting in recent memory, going back to Columbine.

In his rigorous, scholarly, but accessible book, Waldman notes such horrific events but doesn’t dwell on them. He is after something else. He wants to understand how it came to be that the Second Amendment, long assumed to mean one thing, has come to mean something else entirely. To put it another way: Why are we, as a society, willing to put up with mass shootings as the price we must pay for the right to carry a gun? [..]

The surprising discovery is that of all the amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights, the Second was probably the least debated. What we know is that the founders were deeply opposed to a standing army, which they viewed as the first step toward tyranny. Instead, their assumption was that the male citizenry would all belong to local militias. As Waldman writes, “They were not allowed to have a musket; they were required to. More than a right, being armed was a duty.”

Thus the unsurprising discovery: Virtually every reference to “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” – the second part of the Second Amendment – was in reference to military defense. Waldman notes the House debate over the Second Amendment in the summer of 1789: “Twelve congressmen joined the debate. None mentioned a private right to bear arms for self-defense, hunting or for any purpose other than joining the militia.”

Stephen W. Thrasher: States are falling for marriage equality. Which will be the last one standing?

History does not judge well the last people to end discrimination, and it’s getting more and more difficult to stop doing the right thing

States have been falling for marriage equality so fast this week it’s hard to come up with the right analogy to express the speed. How fast have they been falling – like dominoes, in a parlor game with the rather high stakes of American civil rights? Like flies, dying in a swarm over the rotting carcass of discrimination?

Or like tears dripping from the face of National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown, whom I watched bawl his head off two years ago in the galley of the New York Senate, during the vote that made same-sex marriage legal in the Empire State? [..]

When I started writing this article, Oregon was the 17th state to fall; in the middle of my draft, Pennsylvania became the 18th – the second in less than 24 hours, and the fourth federal decision for marriage equality (rendered by judges appointed by Democratic and Republican presidents) in just the last month.

And the beat, as Cher herself would say, goes on.

Andrew Leonard: The Internet as we know it is dying

How Facebook and Google are killing the classic Internet and reinventing it in their image

It was a week of rage, nostalgia and despair on the Internet.

Sure, you could say that about any week on the Internet. But last week delivered some prime material. Check out this gamer exploding in fury at the rumor that Google – “The King Midas of Shit!” – might buy the hugely popular streaming gamer site Twitch TV. Or this sad note from the founder of the venerable “community weblog” MetaFilter explaining why a Google-precipitated decline in advertising revenue had forced him to lay off three much beloved staffers. Or this diatribe from a Facebook manager, savaging the current ]state of the media https://www.facebook.com/mhuda…

All is not well on the Web. While the particulars of each outburst of consternation and anger vary significantly, a common theme connects them all: The relentless corporatization and centralization of control over Internet discourse is obviously not serving the public interest. The good stuff gets co-opted, bought out, or is reduced to begging for spare change on the virtual street corner. The best minds of our generation have been destroyed by web metrics, dragging themselves across a vast wasteland in search of the next clickbait headline. [..]

It’s a big mess. The last two lines of the Facebook rant are “It’s hard to tell who’s to blame. But someone should fix this shit.”

That’s easier said than done.

The Breakfast Club: 5-27-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

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