Tuesday, May 27, 2014

There are a few things on what I generously call my mind

"The password is..." Ebay recently asked its users to change passwords due to a hack. We have a frustrating lack of details about that incident: Although Ebay downplays the notion that any accounts were compromised, we have no way of knowing exactly what happened. It must have been serious.

Avast, the antivirus people (they make a very good free protection suite), has had the same thing happen to them -- and fortunately, they have been more forthcoming about the details. Still, it's embarrassing to see a security firm compromised in this fashion.

You think there's a connection between the two attacks?

The American coup has now gifted Ukraine with a new president: Willy Wonka, a chocolatey-delicious billionaire who helped rape the country after the fall of the Soviet Union. Don't be surprised if he turns out to be a worse authoritarian than was the deposed Yanukovych.

Please note that the election in Crimea -- in which the Crimeans overwhelmingly said "Get us outta here!" -- is still labelled an annexation, as though Putin had simply marched in and said: "Nice place. I'll take it!" Meanwhile, the election of Willy Wonka (which seems to be a very shady, low turn-out affair) is being hailed as the most satisfactory exercise in democracy since the days of Pericles.

In fact, the eastern part of the country is in turmoil, with martial law in place and far-right thugs terrorizing the populace. Wonka has been declared the winner based purely on exit polls -- even though the margin of victory is slim, and a number of the voters were forced to exercise their franchise under the noses of the fascist Right Sector, which controls the National Guard.

A former citizen of the USSR named Vladimir Golstein says that our media's coverage of Ukraine has been as bad as (or worse than) anything he saw in the press during the bad old days of Communism.
One salient example of the western information blockade is the Odessa massacre of May 2, 2014. When not ignoring the story, the western press articulates a version of it, which is as biased as the Soviets' reports about their invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Likewise, in discussing Odessa, the Western press dutifully refers to "the clashes between pro Ukrainian and pro-Russians," without any explanation as to why several dozen unarmed citizen of Ukraine were burned alive in an Odessa building. Reading western reports, one gets the impression that pro-Putin "separatists" in their stupidity locked themselves into the building and set themselves on fire.
Golstein compares the situation to a scene in Gogol, in which a pompous mayor orders a woman to be whipped, and then tells an inspector that she "did the thrashing herself."

Greenwald: The poor guy has been getting quite a thrashing himself. Again. Of course, it's all crap. The attacks have come from "establishment liberals" like George Packer (who supported the Iraq war until the political winds shifted) and Michael Kinsley. Those of us who can recall what happened to Gary Webb and Jim Garrison will recognize the pattern. (Thomas Picketty also seems to be getting The Treatment, although I really shouldn't address that matter until I read his book.)

In the best tradition of "Any stick to beat a dog," the attacks have been self-contradictory.

First, the attackers say: Greenwald and Snowden have given us nothing we didn't already know. This is especially true of Greenwald's book, so please don't buy it. Nothing to see here, folks.

Second, the attackers say: How DARE these bastards reveal such incredibly important secrets? We should allow only members of Congress to see that stuff (sometimes)! You can trust them. They will protect us. (And never mind the fact that the NSA scoops up blackmail information on congressmen...)

Attack 1 and Attack 2 are irreconcilable, of course. People like Kinsley and Packer hope we won't notice the contradiction.

By the way, did you notice the propaganda flurry coming from haters who attacked Snowden on the grounds that he used -- get this! -- TOR? We're supposed to believe that only thieves and pedos would ever have TOR on their systems.

Fer chrissakes. I've played with TOR, mostly to see how the thing functions. I would use it all the time if it worked faster; alas, my broadband is slow enough as it is.

Greenwald has promised that the biggest, most important release of Snowdeniana will come last. We now have a hint as to what the grand finale will be: The naming of names -- as in, names of the people targeted by the spooks.
“One of the big questions when it comes to domestic spying is, ‘Who have been the NSA’s specific targets?’," he said.

“Are they political critics and dissidents and activists? Are they genuinely people we’d regard as terrorists?
I think we can guess what's coming...

By the way: I've already mentioned the fact that the NSA spies on the very congressfolk tasked with controlling the intelligence community. This is the kind of revelation that should have Americans up in arms -- yet too many of your fellow citizens prefer to imitate the sheep.

Do you think that this kind of eavesdropping explains why John Conyers seems to have lost his balls? We know what happened to his wife -- and while I would never excuse what she did, I do wonder if what she did is a whole lot different from what others have done.

Real reform: Instead of beating up the heroic Greenwald and Snowden, why don't we try to establish some genuine intelligence reform? The new House bill (wittily called "The USA Freedom Act") was a joke to begin with, and now it is being watered down still further -- by the White House.

The irreplaceable Marcy Wheeler believes that the bill (even in its original form) will actually make matters worse:
While I have concerns about unintended consequences of outsourcing holding the call data to the telecoms (see my skepticism that it ends bulk collection here and my concerns about high volume numbers here), there are a number of ways that USA Freedumber is worse than the status quo.

These are:

* The move to telecoms codifies changes in the chaining process that will almost certainly expand the universe of data being analyzed
* In three ways, the bill permits phone chaining for purposes outside of counterterrorism
* The bill weakens minimization procedures on upstream collection imposed by John Bates, making it easier for the government to collect domestic content domestically
* The bill guts the current controls on Pen Register authority, making it likely the government will resume its Internet dragnet
If you're not sure what all that means, head to the above link and read the rest of her piece. She expands on this argument in a more recent post...
Right now, we’re looking at a bill that outsources an expanded phone dragnet to the telecoms (with some advantages and some drawbacks), but along the way resets other programs to what they were before the FISC reined them in from 2009 to 2011. That’s the starting point. With a vote count that leaves us susceptible to further corruption of the bill along the way.

Edward Snowden risked his freedom to try to rein in the dragnet, and instead, as of right now it looks like Congress will expand it.
We'd be better off scrapping this bad bill. I hope Greenwald's revelation will spark something real.

Nigeria: The government says that they have located the abducted women. I don't know if this is true, and I don't know if they can mount a successful rescue. But it is certainly better to let the Nigerians handle such matters themselves than for DC to send in the military, as John McCain idiotically suggested. The presence of American soldiers in that region would have turned all parties against us, and probably would have swelled the ranks of Boko Haram.
You know, the raw data for the Crimea referendum was leaked. It shows a much lower turn-out and majority than the Russians claimed, but still a majority of the voters for independence or whatever they got.
thanks for the post. it is an excellent overview (with articles to read further as well) on many topics that interest me. james
I know *you* know this, Joe, but for readers who don't, you might want to point out Tor (it's now no longer considered an acronym: hence caps and lower-case) was originally a project of the U. S. Naval Research Labs and today (well, as of 2012) still received 80% of its funding from the U.S. government (DoD, State Department, NSF, and other departments). In my experience, folks who believe the 'terrorists and pedos' nonsense tend are often stunned to learn of Tor's true history and intent...
Excellent point maz, and joe may do well in also discussing some of Dave Emory's finer points on the Snowden/Greenwald milieu/affair described in multi-part detail at the 'for the record' link located in cannonfires sidebar.
Emory and I are practically on different planets when it comes to the Greenwald/Snowden thing.
If Ebay accounts are hacked into, won't the hackers be caught?
What are your thoughts about the leak of the CIA station chief's name?
Alessandro: One would hope so, but who knows?

Rob: I have none at present. How about you?
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