Thursday, January 23, 2014


Good news, everyone: The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has declared that
the National Security Agency’s program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only “minimal” benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down.
But in its report, the board lays out what may be the most detailed critique of the government’s once-secret legal theory behind the program: that a law known as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the F.B.I. to obtain business records deemed “relevant” to an investigation, can be legitimately interpreted as authorizing the N.S.A. to collect all calling records in the country.

The program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value,” the report said. “As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.”
I find it difficult to believe that any entity connected to this administration should demonstrate such rare rationality. Question: Why did Obama give his Big Speech on the surveillance state before this board released its findings?

Second question: Why is the Patriot Act still, like, a thing? Almost nobody likes it. Yet there it is.

The Right-Wing News response is not without interest:
Does anyone think Team Obama will shut the program down? Remember when the media and Democrats went apoplectic over the Bush admin listening to calls originating overseas between people who were not citizens of the USA, and referred to it as “domestic spying”? Yet most, not all, mind you, but most Dems aren’t showing the same anger over a programs that just scoops up data on most citizens calls and retaining them. And there is so much data that the program really doesn’t work.
Come off it. If a prominent liberal had expressed an exactly similar sentiment in 2004, Ann Coulter would have accused said liberal of taking a pay-off from Saddam or Bin Laden.

It was Bush who gave us the Patriot Act in the first place. Until very recently, pretty much all of the arguments against it came from lefties like me.

No one can fairly claim that the progressive blogosphere teems with NSA apologists. Obama's see-no-evil stance toward the Fort Meade gang has alienated his Democratic base. A brief glance at the comments published on sites like Daily Kos and Democratic Underground should prove my point.

On the other side of the aisle, most conservatives have not embraced the cause of privacy. Have you seen any right-wing bloggers lambaste Mike Rogers as gleefully as I have been known to wallop Dianne Feinstein? If Obama were to "shut the program down," he would receive a furious response from Michael Ledeen and the folks at National Review.

Those few conservatives who speak of an "NSA scandal" do so for reasons of partisan advantage, not out of any deep regard for our constitutional protections. Conservatives, not liberals, continue to call for Ed Snowden's head.

Speaking of which...

Ed Snowden, Russian spy: We've discussed this meme previously. What obvious, laughable disinformation!
Speaking from Moscow, where he is a fugitive from American justice, Snowden told The New Yorker, “This ‘Russian spy’ push is absurd.”
Snowden, in a rare interview that he conducted by encrypted means from Moscow, denied the allegations outright, stressing that he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.” He added, “It won’t stick…. Because it’s clearly false, and the American people are smarter than politicians think they are.”

If he were a Russian spy, Snowden asked, “Why Hong Kong?” And why, then, was he “stuck in the airport forever” when he reached Moscow? (He spent forty days in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo International Airport.) “Spies get treated better than that.”
The only people who could believe the latest propaganda line are rubes who have never read a single book about espionage. If Snowden worked for the Russians, they would have kept him in place as long as possible, they would have arranged for a clean exit if the need arose -- and no documents would have shown up in the Washington Post.

Snowden on the couch. Skydancing is one of the all-time great blogs, but this is garbage. The post quotes this piece of spy-flavored psychobabble by Dan Verton:
But when viewed through the prism of the last 25 years of insider espionage, the Edward Snowden we do know seems to fit the typical profile of the trusted insider struggling to overcome personal and professional shortcomings, and suffering from a warped sense of moral superiority.

More than a decade worth of studies into the psychological profiles of malicious insiders...
And so on. Christ, my dog can poop better than that, and she's sick again.

Verton's nonsense about Snowden is almost as bad as the inanity we heard about Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning. Remember when well-paid babblers in the media called Manning a narcissist with -- get this! -- an inability to show empathy? Of course, he got in trouble precisely because his rare gift for empathy led him to expose a massacre which the brass wanted to keep covered up. His self-sacrificing stance is the reason why he so many of his fellow citizens came to loathe him. Small people hate what they envy.

Americans have been programmed since birth to be self-centered hedonists, when not functioning as mindless robot killers or corporate drones. Manning broke free of that programming. So did Snowden. Snowden's evolution has been particularly astounding, since he, not long ago, was just another Randroid automaton with delusions of individuality.

If you don't agree with what Snowden or Manning did, fine. But don't justify that stance with psychobabble. This trend is, I think, new: When low and petty functionaries of the plutocracy snipe at their moral betters, they now do so under the guise of what they are pleased to call science.

The true cause of global warming. The Daily Beast writes:
Compared to other Photoshop jobs in women’s glossies (many of which Jezebel has singled out), these were so anti-climatic that we can’t help but roll our eyes when Coen calls them “insidious.”
Many years ago, when Photoshop 1.0 came out and I took it upon myself to learn the program, my first trick was to bestow ludicrously massive breasts on the image of a naked woman. Right then and there, I knew that Adobe would be the root cause of climax change.
Thank you Ed Snowden. This wouldn't have happened without you becoming a hated criminal for our sakes.

Maybe it is because of my video editing background, but it is completely logical to have to have access to ALL data so that it can be culled as necessary.

How can anyone disagree with that premise?

I would suggest the real problem is that no notice of investigation, even months after the fact, is ever provided to the person being investigated, and there being no ability to respond to reports about our character that probably exist for each person is the real problem.

I once brought in a damaged lens for repair. The "technician" didn't fix the problem, but I didn't notice that it was not properly fixed until I took the camera off site.

When I brought the camera back in, they would not actually repair it because I already took it off site even though it had the exact same problem as before with no signs of wear on the camera that would mean identical damage as the first time. The worst part was that they then created a report about me in which they accused me of being basically honest but every now and then not being honest. I only found out about these "notes" by accident and what ticked me off was their report did not allow for me to respond.

AM -- by any chance, were you dealing with Panavision? I used to know a very odd guy who worked there. In fact, if this happened to you twenty-to-fifteen years ago, he might have been the one who caused your problem!
This was JVC in Cypress, CA. Some of my friends with similar equipment got so upset with their repair division, they fired off letters complaining.

I did not, I tried to be civil whenever I had a problem they seemed incapable of repairing,. One video machine of mine they could not fix (separate from the camera lens mentioned above) resulted in my driving the equivalent of 1,500 miles in back and forth trips before I finally got the video machine correctly fixed. I would not ship it back because it weighed to much and could have been damaged or lost enroute.

When JVC tried to return the machine to me saying they could not find the problem, I said, keep your 6,000 dollar machine, I won't pick it up as is. This seemed to shock them and eventually an expert from Japan who arrived on a general visit actually diagnosed the problem.

i later figured out that they apparently DOA'd a similar machine so they could harvest the boards from it for other repairs.

I think they had put an intermittent defective board in my machine because a couple of years later I was down there when the exact same anomaly that my machine previously experienced before it was finally fixed suddenly appeared on a test machine they kept on hand. The video image would turn into a checkerboard pattern and crazy things would happen.

It was a one of a kind time base correction circuit board problem that had been installed in my machine and only when I finally gave up and said keep the machine did they actually take it out and put in a non-defective board.

As the mistakes of this reapair division increased, I surmise they had to start blaming their customers via the notes they kept on each customer as a way to save face.

I could see that happening with the NSA. They just start sprinkling in "notes" that cover their butts and the person being spied/written about never has a chance to respond to notes they never see.

Then what happens, those notes get transferred from agency to agency and the lie sticks because several agencies repeat the same crap coming from one source that had no room for rebuttal from the person the report is about.

Would be nice if some civil rights attorney out there attacked ALL report keeping of americans without their consent on the grounds that the person is not allowed to issue a rebuttal statement that would be affixed to the NSA report.
(part 1 of 2)

"If Snowden worked for the Russians, they would have kept him in place as long as possible," (how do you know they didn't?), "they would have arranged for a clean exit if the need arose" (there are many counter-examples, or at least when a clean exfiltration wasn't successfully effected).

Your view of the capabilities of the Russian intelligence service (or KGB as I call it) sounds outdated. They are well up to speed with changes in global communications technology and the modern world propaganda terrain. They are a player, all right. They are a formidable agency.

I reckon the KGB hold shares in both Wikileaks and Snowden. But just shares - I don't know how big. Not the full rights.

Have you looked into the story that Snowden stayed at the Russian consulate in Hong Kong? I was taking it as probably true, but I haven't checked its origin and would be open to the argument that it is a right-wing lie, should somebody wish to present one.

The story of the west and Syria is surely about to link up with story of the west and Russia.

When the west pulled back from attacking Syria before, that was shortly after Russia sent naval ships towards the Syrian coast. If the west is going to attack Syria now, what have they done about Russia?

Have they

a) bought them off by letting them have the winter Olympics? (but that was sealed before the pullback first time round)


b) got them into a position where they can't simultaneously defend the Olympics and defend the eastern Mediterranean from western aggression?

Or of course maybe it's

c) they want a wider-scale war.

If the Olympics get called off, does Russia lose money? Surely, yes. Got to ask who's got more invested in the Olympics - western or Russian interests. OK in the long term it's got to be the west, but who gives a shit about the long term? The Olympics look like a Russian weakness.

It matters in the home Russian market if the Russian government holds the Olympics - an obviously western institution - and at the same time stands back and lets the west attack Syria. That would appear to many minds as a westernisation step too far. Which might not be in the KGB game-plan.

So the west attack Syria and, at the same time, send loads of their athletes to the country that stopped them from doing so last time? Something would have to break.

The Olympics look like a big opportunity for both fundamentalist Islam and western imperialism. Perhaps the blowback interpretation of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism is a crock of crap.

The US have offered to send their military to help protect the Olympics.

"US jets and warships ready to help Russia with security at Sochi Olympics"

"Military forces in the Black Sea are available to combat terrorist threat to winter games, says Pentagon."

"The US military said on Monday that air and naval assets, including two ships in the Black Sea, would be made available to help Russia combat any possible terrorist attacks on the Sochi Winter Olympics."

"The Pentagon said US military commanders were "conducting prudent planning and preparations" should American support be required during
the Winter Olympics, which has been the target of threats by militant Islamist group.

Russia can't allow that. For the elite in Russia, it would be preferable to call the Olympics off than allow the US military in. Preferable to nuke the shit out of the entire Caucasus. (BTW Sochi is occupied Circassian territory.)

How can warships and aircraft protect the Olympics against a terrorist attack, e.g. from nearby Georgia, anyway? That last paragraph sounds like a threat to Russia: "if you interfere with our attack on Syria, we'll attack YOU, across the Black Sea"

(end of part 1)
(part 2 of 2)

After saying that US military commanders are "conducting prudent planning and preparations" should American support be required during the Winter Olympics, Pentagon propagandists have said that "The United States has offered its full support to the Russian government as it conducts security preparations for the Winter Olympics."

What's missing is how the Russian government RESPONDED to the US offer. Western newspaper readers aren't awake enough to ask that question.

If you offer military 'aid' to another country, and they say 'no thanks', and then you prepare to send 'aid' anyway, that's very close to preparing to ATTACK the other country.

"Reuters reported on Sunday that US military and intelligence officials have been studying contingency plans for evacuating Americans from the games in case of a crisis."

"But US officials have concluded there would be major obstacles to mounting a large-scale effort by the military or other US government resources to evacuate Americans from Sochi, said a source familiar with
Obama administration debates.

"The most formidable roadblock US officials have discussed regarding contingency plans for Sochi is that Russian authorities have historically been reluctant to allow foreign military forces, especially those of the United States, on Russian territory."

(!! I don't recall Russian tropps being allowed onto US territory either.)

The main message:

* the US might want to send their military into Russia
* Russia doesn't want them to
* that's an "obstacle", a "formidable roadblock"

As if the 'fiendish' Muslims could dominate the whole of the airspace along the Russian Black Sea coast, preventing evacuation flights, unless the US warships and aircraft are there! Whose fucking backyard is the Black Sea anyway?

The Snowden-works-for-Russia allegations are being revisited in order to ramp Russia itself as a big threat, in preparation for a western attack on Syria and probably also some planned anti-Russian fireworks during the Olympics, either at Sochi, in the Caucasus, or elsewhere.
b, I haven't even read the bulk of what you wrote -- yet -- but I have to respond vis-a-vis Snowden. He could have stayed much longer at Booz. He could have flown under the radar for quite a while, if his purport were to help a foreign government, as opposed to making the facts known to the public.

I think Putin was convincing when he described his reticence in dealing with Snowden initially. I think Snowden's exit was indescribably messy.

And I don't think a KGB agent would have worked through whatzisname, the TOR guy.

Nah, this whole "Snowden as KGB" meme has smear written all over it.

The same can be said about the way Greenwald has been treated. It's Jim Garrison all over again.
B: Okay, I read the rest. First and foremost, the Obama administration is not trying to ramp up a wider war with Syria -- at least not a war involving the US directly. That became clear the moment Obama left the decision to enter the conflict up to Congress (following the chemical attacks allegedly perpetrated by the pro-Assad forces). If Obama wanted direct involvement, he would have just gone in at that time.

I think you're misreading the Sochi thing -- I don't think that terror there will be used as cover for intervention in Syria.

But at the same time, I have to admit, there has been a lot of talk about terrorism there. WAY too much talk. It's all starting to get incredibly creepy.

Beyond that, I would take the US offer to help at face value.

I would also take at face value Russia's unwillingness to deal with our military on their soil.

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