Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for the ‘wrong way to go about it’ Category

“… the lovechild of Franz Kafka and Monty Python…” –Charlotte Heath

Posted by Charles II on September 29, 2014

Jason Edwards Harrington, former airport security agent, writes in the Guardian that laughter is the only proper response to a “War on Terror” that has replaced “the Axis of Evil” with “The Network of Terror”:

It’s hard not to see the funny facets of a never-ending campaign against a nebulous enemy (Axis of Evil a decade ago, Network of Death today) in which you are issued a terror intelligence memorandum detailing the standard operating procedure for the confiscation of cupcakes. (“Cupcakes have got to have a reasonable level of icing to be allowed onto a plane,” one TSA manager advised us.)

My former co-workers and I are not the only ones who found some of this stuff funny. In 2012, the international relations scholar Charlotte Heath-Kelly argued in a paper in the European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research that the War on Terror can be viewed as the lovechild of Franz Kafka and Monty Python as much as that of any vice president and foreign minister.

Not so funny: the creation of terrorists due to incompetent policy, the waste of resources desperately needed to keep the US from decomposing into a Second World country, and the level of corruption required to keep a nation of 300 million terrified of maybe 30,000 bad guys.

One interesting link in Harrington’s story. Seems we may have bombed a group that doesn’t exist. Imran Khan, Al Jazeera:

A few days ago I began to see news reports quoting US ‎military and government officials talking up a group called Khorasan. This piqued my interest. In 14 years of covering this region this was a new name for me. Then the reports began to paint them as a shadowy super group of hardcore terrorists that are experimenting with technology and new, ever more fiendish ways of attacking civilians in the US. Then the group became the target of US airstrikes in Syria and suddenly the name was on every news outlet’s lips.

Except something, to me, wasn’t right.

I began to make some calls to contacts across the Middle East and South Asia. To say I drew a blank would be an understatement. Reactions ranged from a hearty laugh to confusion. The name was new.

Khorasan is almost certainly a term that the US government has coined

Posted in wrong way to go about it | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

“Putin is right” –former US Ambassador under Reagan

Posted by Charles II on September 3, 2014

DemocracyNow:

AMY GOODMAN: Ukraine and NATO have accused Russia of sending armored columns of troops into Ukraine, but Russia has denied its troops are involved in fighting on the ground. Over the past week, the Russian-backed rebels have made a number of advances in eastern Ukraine. On Monday, rebels took control of the airport in the city of Luhansk. Now they’re storming the airport in Donetsk, the biggest city under their control. On Tuesday, an Italian newspaper reported Putin had told outgoing European Commission President José Manuel Barroso that he could take Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, within two weeks, if he wanted to. The Kremlin said the remark was taken out of context.

Joining us now is Jack Matlock, served as U.S. ambassador to the former Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991, author of several books, including Superpower Illusions: How Myths and False Ideologies Led America Astray—And How to Return to Reality, as well as Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended.

Ambassador Matlock, we welcome you to Democracy Now! What do you think is most important to understand what’s happening in Ukraine today?

JACK MATLOCK: Well, I think one of the most important things to understand is that, practically speaking, the Ukrainians and the Russians have to agree on what would be an acceptable way to proceed within Ukraine. That is the fact of the matter. And one can, you know, talk all one wishes about how impermissible it is for Russia to intervene, but the fact is they are going to intervene until they are certain that there is no prospect of Ukraine becoming a member of NATO. And all of the threats by NATO and so on to sort of increase defenses elsewhere is simply provocative to the Russians. Now, I’m not saying that’s right, but I am saying that’s the way Russia is going to react. And frankly, this is all predictable. And those of us who helped negotiate the end of the Cold War almost unanimously said in the 1990s, “Do not expand NATO eastward. Find a different way to protect eastern Europe, a way that includes Russia. Otherwise, eventually there’s going to be a confrontation, because there is a red line, as far as any Russian government is concerned, when it comes to Ukraine and Georgia and other former republics of the Soviet Union.”

AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday—

JACK MATLOCK: I would say, with the exception of the three Baltic states. They were a special case.

AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for immediate negotiations on the statehood of southern and eastern Ukraine. On Monday, Putin blamed Kiev’s leadership for declining to participate in direct political talks with the separatists. This is what he said.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: [translated] What is the essence of the tragedy that is happening in Ukraine right now? I think the main reason for that is that the current Kiev leadership does not want to carry out a substantive political dialogue with the east of its country. And so, right now, in my opinion, a very important process, a process of direct talks, starts. We have been working on it for a long time, and we agreed upon that with President Poroshenko in Minsk. We start to have—or renew, to be precise—this sort of contact.

AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador Matlock, the significance of what President Putin is saying?

JACK MATLOCK: Well, it does seem to me that, practically speaking, there needs to be an understanding between Russia and the Ukrainians as to how to solve this problem. It is not going to be solved militarily. So the idea that we should be giving more help to the Ukrainian government in a military sense simply exacerbates the problem. And the basic problem is Ukraine is a deeply divided country. And as long as one side tries to impose its will on the other—and that is what has happened since February, the Ukrainian nationalists in the west have been trying to impose their will on the east, and the Russians aren’t going to permit that. And that is the fact of the matter. So, yes, there simply needs to be an agreement.

And most of the—I would say, the influence of the West in trying to help the Ukrainians by, I would say, defending them against the Russians tends to be provocative, because—you know, Putin is right: If he decided, he could take Kiev. Russia is a nuclear power. And Russia feels that we have ignored that, that we have insulted them time and time again, and that we are out to turn Ukraine into an American puppet that surrounds them. And, you know, with that sort of psychology, by resisting that, in Russian eyes, he has gained unprecedented popularity. So, it seems to me that we have to understand that, like it or not, the Ukrainians are going to have to make an agreement that’s acceptable to them, if they keep their unity.

AMY GOODMAN: What about NATO officials saying they plan to approve a NATO rapid reaction force that would, what, be a 4,000-member force that could be rapidly deployed to eastern Europe in response to what they called Russia’s aggressive behavior?

JACK MATLOCK: Well, I’m not aware of what that aggressive behavior in regard to the Baltic states is. And again, I think that’s unnecessary, and it tends to make the Russians even more demanding when it comes to Ukraine.

When Reagan’s ambassador to the USSR is telling us that US policy is over-aggressive, unrealistic, and counterproductive, we should listen.

Posted in wrong way to go about it | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

More wiretapping

Posted by Charles II on June 16, 2013

One of the things that ought to be noted in the NSA wiretapping scandal is that the level of mass surveillance we are engaged in is an irritant to our allies. In the past, they have accused us of misusing information for commercial advantage (see sec. 10.9 here and here). But simply the thought that an ally is watching everything one says or does is unnerving. It may be legal to wiretap non-Americans at will, but it’s not wise.

Ewen MacAskill, Nick Davies, Nick Hopkins, Julian Borger and James Ball. The Guardian:

Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Some delegates were tricked into using internet cafes which had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their email traffic.

This included:

• Setting up internet cafes where they used an email interception programme and key-logging software to spy on delegates’ use of computers;

• Penetrating the security on delegates’ BlackBerrys to monitor their email messages and phone calls;

• Supplying 45 analysts with a live round-the-clock summary of who was phoning who at the summit;

• Targeting the Turkish finance minister and possibly 15 others in his party;

A detailed report records the efforts of the NSA’s intercept specialists at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire to target and decode encrypted phone calls from London to Moscow which were made by the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, and other Russian delegates.

Incidentally, the goal of the wiretapping? Guardian editorial:

The aim – which appears to have been largely successful – was to improve the UK’s negotiating positions on the economic matters under discussion.

Plus ça change…

Posted in NSA eavesdropping, wiretapping, wrong way to go about it | 8 Comments »

Time to reassess. The Obama campaign to keep Plan B unavailable.

Posted by Charles II on May 7, 2013

Via Atrios, Irin Carmon at Salon

[District Court Judge Edward Korman] repeatedly slammed his hand down on the table for emphasis, interrupting the government counsel’s every other sentence with assertions like, “You’re just playing games here,” “You’re making an intellectually dishonest argument,” “You’re basically lying,” “This whole thing is a charade,” “I’m entitled to say this is a lot of nonsense, am I not?” and “Contrary to the baloney you were giving me …” He also accused the administration of hypocrisy for opposing voter ID laws but being engaged in the “suppression of the rights of women” with the ID requirement for the drug.

Judges saying things like this is unusual. The Department of Justice and the Obama Administration in general need to re-think how much they want to placate the right. On the Plan B story, at least, they simply look like fools.

Meanwhile, I’d like to buy Judge Korman a drink. After dealing with these liars, I’m sure he needs one.

Posted in Barack Obama, Justice Department, women's issues, wrong way to go about it | 3 Comments »

Free Shaker Aamer, or Minds and Bodies Broken Along With Obama Promises

Posted by Charles II on April 29, 2013

Shaker Aamer, British citizen judged innocent, but held anyway

Image from DemocracyNow 4/29/13

Victoria Brittain: … And those 86 people [held as prisoners in Guantanamo] included this British resident, Shaker Aamer, who—having been cleared as innocent, everybody expected him to be released. The British government has also asked for him. But President Obama has not managed to release him.

why don’t they want Shaker back? I mean, why don’t you people want to send Shaker back? One theory is that because he has been a leading figure in all the hunger strikes and a leading negotiator between the American authorities and the prisoners, he’s a person with tremendous personality and power. He was educated in the United States. He comes from Saudi Arabia. He lives in Britain and has a British family. So he covers all the bases.

He had been living in Afghanistan with his young family, like Moazzam Begg—in fact, in the same house. And they had been building girls’ schools and digging wells. And it was as charity workers that they were there. And that’s completely uncontested by anybody. So, after being sold, he was then tortured…. At that moment after the American bombing, there was a proliferation of different armed groups who picked up these different people as a money-making enterprise.

, I find it very hard to see how he [presidential spokesman Michael Williams] can say, “We don’t hold people indefinitely,” when these people, like—I’ll take the example of Shaker and perhaps of another man, Fouzi Al Awda, a Kuwaiti man. These are people who have been held for 11 years. These are people who, everybody knows, pose no threat whatsoever. The Kuwaiti government has been asking for Fouzi for—since the very, very beginning. The very first court case against President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, Fouzi Al Awda was the correspondent. They cannot possibly say that the British government is not able to assure them that Shaker does not pose any threat of any sort. The British government—William Hague, himself, the foreign secretary, has said it over and over again. So, I think there’s a bit of economical with the truth going on there.

But last year on this day, she [wife Zinnira Aamer] wrote this amazing long poem called “Heart of Gold.” And—

AMY GOODMAN: Can you read it?

VICTORIA BRITTAIN: I can read a little bit of it. And I think it gives you an idea of the sweetness of the personality.

You are the roof over my head,
You are the shadow that can’t be lead,
You are my voice when the silence breaks,
Your hand I seek, your hand I hold,
Cause you have a heart of gold.

You show me light in the dark,
And you guide me when I am lost,
Your happiness is all I ask,
But your story remains untold,
Cause you have a heart of gold.

You know, it’s a very hard—sorry. But, you know, Zinnira, when she wrote that, she was in one of her up phases, and she was so pleased with the crafting of it, and she worked so hard on it to make it perfect to send to him. And she sends him photographs of the children and little stories and letters that the children write. But over these years, she has had some very serious breakdowns. And sometimes I’ve been with her when she’s been talking about wanting to go to paradise, because she has these bad dreams. Sometimes she dreams that Shaker’s dead. Sometimes she dreams that Shaker is divorcing her. And you have to reassure her over and over again, “The voices—don’t listen to the voices. You have to push the voices away.” And sometimes she can, and sometimes she can’t. And she’s had some sad periods in mental hospitals, and she has periods when she simply packs the kids into the car and goes off to stay with her aged parents, and they look after her until she recovers.

And some of the time, you know, she’s a great mom. She runs her little house. She takes the kids to school. She does extra teaching after school. And she’s a wonderful, warm, outgoing mom, only concerned about her children.

your officials say they’re not held indefinitely. But, you know, if it’s not indefinite, it’s definite. So, aren’t they going to say 11 years is enough?

A British charity worker who poses no threat to anyone, picked up because some thugs wanted to make a few dollars, sold and tortured, held for 11 years, on hunger strike and being tortured by forced feedings, his wife and children suffering daily along with him.

The best guess is that Aamer is being held punitively because he has been an inspiration to other prisoners; presumably if they break him, they imagine other prisoners will be cowed… though what advantage this would be to the United States is unclear.

President Obama has the legal authority to release Aamer.

What is wrong with the United States of America, that we hold and torture innocent people?

Posted in crimes, Guantanamo, wrong way to go about it | 2 Comments »

China in a bull shop

Posted by Charles II on November 27, 2012

Once again on my China-is-not-a-benign-continental-power rant….from Jonathan Kaiman, The Guardian:

It took just one little map to create a regional diplomatic dispute.

The map, in China’s newly designed passport, claims ownership of the entire South China Sea – parts of which are also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia – as well as disputed areas on the China-India border and two Taiwanese tourist destinations.

The Philippines, Vietnam, India and Taiwan have all vehemently protested against the new microchip-equipped passport, which essentially forces neighbouring countries to validate China’s position on contested regions.

Vietnam and the Philippines lodged formal complaints last week with Chinese embassies in Hanoi and Manila, respectively. India’s external affairs minister, Salman Khursid, called the map “unacceptable”.

It’s as if the US did a map with the Jamaica, Iraq, and, oh, say, France as US territories. Would not make the locals happy. And would suggest that the US is even more arrogant than it actually is.

None of this would be of much moment if the US were stable or if the nations of the South China Sea had developed to the point of being capable of mutual self-defense. But China is behaving recklessly. Evidently the lessons of the generation that suffered in war to achieve national independence have been lost, and a narcissistic generation, grasping for power, has emerged. We should know. We have been there before.

Posted in abuse of power, China, impunity, wrong way to go about it | 18 Comments »

You knew it had to be something like this: comment spam

Posted by Charles II on September 7, 2012

Via Ritholtz, an article from Greg Stevens of Kernel Mag on comment spam.

Posted in computers and software, wrong way to go about it | Comments Off

Your tax dollars at work

Posted by Charles II on August 30, 2012

Allison Flood, The Guardian:

Ray Bradbury was investigated by the FBI during the 1950s, with government agents interviewing his peers and putting him under surveillance before concluding that despite being critical of the US government in his writing, the celebrated writer was never a member of the Communist party.

The 40-page cache of the late science fiction author’s FBI files was obtained by the Daily Beast following a Freedom of Information request, and shows the extent to which the FBI had Bradbury in its sights in 1959. “Raymond Douglas Bradbury, a freelance science fiction, television and motion picture scenario writer … has been described as being critical of the United States Government,” the FBI wrote on 8 June 1959, before laying out its issue with Bradbury’s classic collection of short stories, The Martian Chronicles. The stories “were connected by the repeated theme that earthmen are despoilers and not developers”, according to the FBI.

[An informant said] “the general aim of these science fiction writers is to frighten the people into a state of paralysis or psychological incompetence bordering on hysteria which would make it very possible to conduct a Third World War which the American people would seriously believe could not be won since their morals had been seriously destroyed”.

Look, there’s a pretty simple line that any police agency should follow. If something is a crime, it should be investigated. If it’s unpopular, leave it the f— alone. Criticizing the government or, for that matter, membership in any political organization is not a crime.

Posted in FBI, wrong way to go about it | 1 Comment »

Take action against CISPA

Posted by Charles II on April 26, 2012

Look: taking action is as easy as sending an e-mail. Just do it.

HR 3532 (CISPA) pretends to defend against intellectual property theft and other electronic crimes. In reality, it makes it possible for any corporation involved in the transmission of data to treat your communications as public information. Democratic amendments by Schakowsky and Lewis to sharpen the definitions and make it less obnoxious, will not even be allowed to come up for a vote. Michelle Richardson, ACLU:

Under this bill, if they share our private information, they get complete protection from liability. Consumers will no longer be able to assert their privacy rights that exist under current law and hold them accountable in court. They can’t be prosecuted by the government like they currently can for illegal wiretapping or sharing information. They’re getting FOIA exemptions, so that no one will ever know about these breaches or the things that they share with the government. They’re really walking away here with maximum flexibility to share our personal information with minimum accountability and no enforcement to make sure that they are not oversharing and infringing on our privacy.

Here is the text. Looking at it, the key problems I see is that companies are allowed to decide what constitutes a threat. So, if Fox News regards liberals as a threat to national security, they can send your IP and postings on their message boards to the NSA with the subject line Dangerous radical a threat to the American way of life. They are exempt from prosecution or even FOIA to expose it. It would greatly facilitate identity theft, since the NSA can be handed the financial records of any person that, say, your grocery store imagines to be suspicious. And since so many governmental functions are done by contractors, who knows who will be looking at it?

Very, very few Americans wants Chinese hackers to steal research conducted by the US aerospace industry or permit groups like Anonymous to bring down all financial transactions as a protest against a decision by the credit card companies they don’t like. But MBNA and Boeing are not the ones who face the real brunt of electronic crime. It’s liberal sites being hit by ddos attacks by conservatives, people suffering identity theft thanks to insecure ATMs, and everyone whose address book gets stolen by spammers. This legislation is almost certainly not going to help the American people, while it will enable the NSA to become something the Stasi only dreamed about.

EFF is all over this. Go read:

A FAQ on CISPA

Immunity = impunity for companies

Voices across the political spectrum oppose CISPA

And above all, take action

Posted in impunity, Internet, wrong way to go about it | 2 Comments »

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

Posted by Charles II on April 11, 2012

“How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” –John Kerry, before he joined the Dark Side.

Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis:

[Executive Summary]
Senior ranking US military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the US Congress and American people in regards to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognizable. This deception has damaged America’s credibility among both our allies and enemies, severely limiting our ability to reach a political solution to the war in Afghanistan. It has likely cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars Congress might not otherwise have appropriated had it known the truth, and our senior leaders’ behavior has almost certainly extended the duration of this war. The single greatest penalty our Nation has suffered, however, has been that we have lost the blood, limbs and lives of tens of thousands of American Service Members with little to no gain to our country as a consequence of this deception.

Final Takeaway: If there were only one thing I could ask you to take away from this rather lengthy brief, it would be this one page. Below you see charted over time, the rising violence from the end of 2005 through the first quarter 2011 (chart source: ANSO, 2011). All spin aside, you see regardless of who was in command, what strategy they used, or what claims they made, nothing impacted the rising arc of violence from 2005 through today. The one thing, however, that has never changed: the upward arc of violence, which continues its rise and is expected to continue at least through this summer.

You know, counterinsurgency is not actually that difficult. If people want you to help them suppress a violent faction, they will help you to do it. If they are not helping, it is a very good bet that they do not want your help.

Click for more
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Afghanistan, wrong way to go about it | 2 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: