Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

The latest abomination against the Constitution

Posted by Charles II on December 10, 2014

Nathan Freed Wessler, Al Jazeera (June 2014):

Cell site simulators, also known as “stingrays,” are devices that trick cellphones into reporting their locations and identifying information. They do so by mimicking cellphone towers and sending out electronic cues that allow the police to enlist cellphones as tracking devices, thus revealing people’s movements with great precision. The equipment also sends intrusive electronic signals through the walls of private homes and offices, learning information about the locations and identities of phones inside. Initially the domain of the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies, the use of stingrays has trickled down to federal, state and local law enforcement. In one Florida case, a police officer explained in court that he “quite literally stood in front of every door and window” with his stingray to track the phones inside a large apartment complex.

RT is reporting claims that this surveillance was used to monitor Chicago protesters of the killing of Eric Garner.

Linda Lye, ACLU:

The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation have filed an amicus brief in what will be the first case in the country to address the constitutional implications of a so-called “stingray,” a little known device that can be used to track a suspect’s location and engage in other types of surveillance. We argue that if the government wants to use invasive surveillance technology like this, it must explain the technology to the courts so they can perform their judicial oversight function as required by the Constitution.

The government in Rigmaiden’s case acknowledges that using the stingray was a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. So far so good. But then it claims that it got a “warrant” to authorize the search. The problem, however, is that the papers the government submitted to get the so-called “warrant” never told the judge that the government wanted to use a stingray (or IMSI catcher, or cell site emulator), what the device is, or how it works. In other words, the government hid from the judge the facts that stingrays collect information about third parties, that they can pinpoint targets even within their homes, and that some models capture content, not just location.

The Administration lying under oath?

Who could have imagined.

Using this sort of technology to suppress lawful protests is an abuse to add to the long train of abuses that the Constitution has endured lately.

Posted in civil liberties, protests | Leave a Comment »

Scotland’s Wind Power Alone Is Enough To Power All Its Homes

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 9, 2014

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Phantoms of the operatives

Posted by Charles II on December 8, 2014

John Pilger:

These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.

The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government.” It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.

The same is true of the Washington Post and the Guardian, both of which have played a critical role in conditioning their readers to accept a new and dangerous cold war. All three liberal newspapers have misrepresented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia – when, in fact, the fascist-led coup in Ukraine was the work of the United States, aided by Germany and NATO.

This inversion of reality is so pervasive that Washington’s military encirclement and intimidation of Russia is not contentious. It’s not even news, but suppressed behind a smear-and-scare campaign of the kind I grew up with during the first Cold War. Once again, the Evil Empire is coming to get us, led by another Stalin or, perversely, a new Hitler. Name your demon and let rip.

The suppression of the truth about Ukraine is one of the most complete news blackouts I can remember. The biggest Western military build-up in the Caucasus and Eastern Europe since World War Two is blacked out. Washington’s secret aid to Kiev and its neo-Nazi brigades responsible for war crimes against the population of eastern Ukraine is blacked out. Evidence that contradicts propaganda that Russia was responsible for the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner is blacked out.

I think Pilger overstates the case. Russia has dominated Ukraine and is now being challenged by the West. The intent is certainly to encircle and besiege Russia, but there are plenty of countries in Eastern Europe who feel threatened by Russia and regard the siege as a means by which they are defended. This is a contest of two empires, where neither has pure motives, and the actions of both are indefensible. The difference is that only Russians can do something about Russian imperialism, while only Americans can do something about American imperialism. And so Americans–and Britons, and Germans, and French and (like Pilger) Australians should indeed speak out against the actions of their governments.

Pilger thinks that journalists are no longer CIA operatives, as Carl Bernstein revealed in a previous era, just sycophants who print what they’re told to print by the government. I wonder.

In any case, many things that we think we know are just phantoms, produced by operatives.

Posted in Russia, Ukraine | 2 Comments »

Speaking Truth to Power

Posted by Charles II on December 6, 2014

Philip Agnew, The Guardian, on a meeting of African American leaders on the issue of racial disparities in police shootings:

We told President Obama that we were not the “People’s Spokespeople”. We told him that we had neither the power, positions, nor desires to stop the eruptions in the streets and that they would continue until a radical change happened in this country. We told him that we had no faith in anything, church or state. We told him that the country was on the brink and that nothing short of major capitulations at all levels of the government to the demands of the people could prevent it. Straight talk like that.

Posted in Barack Obama | 2 Comments »

Ukraine links

Posted by Charles II on December 6, 2014

Stephen Cohen on John Batchelor

Apparently Yanukovych didn’t steal the gold.

SDP German Foreign Minister distances himself from Merkel position

Top ministers in Ukrainian government are foreigners

US-born Natalie Jaresko became finance minister, Lithuania’s Aivaras Abromavicius economy minister and Aleksandre Kvitashvili – from Georgia – health minister. Hours before the vote in the parliament that installed them, all three were granted Ukrainian citizenship by President Petro Poroshenko.

The move is part of a fresh anti-corruption drive in Kiev.

That’s weird.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 6 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on December 5, 2014

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | Leave a Comment »

Another triumph for the State Department

Posted by Charles II on December 2, 2014

Juan Cole:

An Egyptian court on Saturday found found deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak and his former interior minister Habib Adly not guilty (or rather just dropped the charges) the killing of nearly 900 young protesters by police in January-February 2011.

Downtown Cairo and some provincial towns erupted in protests. Indeed, these were probably the largest protests since the crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood in August, 2013.

The progressive youth are weeping tears of helpless rage today, as one of the achievements of their revolution– making public officials accountable– has inexorably slipped away. Liberal parties like the Wafd are also upset. The Egyptian judiciary, once a trendsetter for the Arab world, is increasingly making itself a laughingstock.

Let’s review the tape.
Feb. 2011: Despite U.S. support for Mubarak, he resigns.
June 2012: After over a year of military rule (supported by the U.S.), the Muslim Brotherhood is elected.
Nov. 2012: Due to instability, Mohamed Morsi takes control. Protests against the Brotherhood begin.
July 2013: Using USAID money, Morsi is deposed by the military.
May 2014: Under elections held under martial law, military dictator, eh… leader… al Sisi is elected with 96.9% of the vote.

From Emad MacKay of Al Jazeera:

A main conduit for channeling the State Department’s democracy funds to Egypt has been the National Endowment for Democracy. Federal documents show NED, which in 2011 was authorised an annual budget of $118m by Congress, funneled at least $120,000 over several years to an exiled Egyptian police officer who has for years incited violence in his native country.

This appears to be in direct contradiction to its Congressional mandate, which clearly states NED is to engage only in “peaceful” political change overseas.

Colonel Omar Afifi Soliman – who served in Egypt’s elite investigative police unit, notorious for human rights abuses – began receiving NED funds in 2008 for at least four years.

During that time he and his followers targeted Mubarak’s government, and Soliman later followed the same tactics against the military rulers who briefly replaced him. Most recently Soliman set his sights on Morsi’s government.

However, in Egyptian media interviews, social media posts and YouTube videos, Soliman encouraged the violent overthrow of Egypt’s government, then led by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.

“Incapacitate them by smashing their knee bones first,” he instructed followers on Facebook in late June, as Morsi’s opponents prepared massive street rallies against the government. Egypt’s US-funded and trainedmilitary later used those demonstrations to justify its coup on July 3.

“Make a road bump with a broken palm tree to stop the buses going into Cairo, and drench the road around it with gas and diesel. When the bus slows down for the bump, set it all ablaze so it will burn down with all the passengers inside … God bless,” Soliman’s post read.

In late May he instructed, “Behead those who control power, water and gas utilities.”

As I wrote so long ago (here), Egypt has been a dictatorship for a long time, almost always under foreign influence. Whether under the military or the Muslim Brotherhood, the opportunity for real representative democracy to emerge has been nil to zero. A major reason for that failure is because we will not let Egypt make its mistakes, learn from them, and develop. We think we have to micromanage their affairs.

Posted in Arab Spring, dictatorship, Egypt, State Dept. | Leave a Comment »

How the US Media do Propaganda

Posted by Charles II on December 2, 2014

We often talk about how major media disseminate propaganda. But it has taken media researchers a good deal of effort to piece together exactly how it works. One way, of course, is by direct production of government propaganda, as in this piece from DemocracyNow:

Lawmakers are urging the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the Pentagon’s propaganda program to determine if the major TV networks or the Pentagon-backed analysts violated federal law. In April, the New York Times revealed the Pentagon recruited more than seventy-five retired military officers to appear on TV outlets as so-called military analysts ahead of the Iraq War. The so-called analysts were given classified Pentagon briefings, provided with Pentagon-approved talking points, given free trips to Iraq and other sites paid for by the Pentagon.

We spend hundreds of millions of dollars doing this in foreign countries, calling it something like democracy promotion . In other words, “clandestine and covert” operations, not subject to congressional oversight, to destabilize foreign governments. At least the CIA has some degree of oversight.

And we’re all familiar with how a rogue journalist like Judith Miller, operating within a system that rewards writing from a certain slant, can further the objectives of the government, as this editorial from the NYT concedes:

Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated. Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper. Accounts of Iraqi defectors were not always weighed against their strong desire to have Saddam Hussein ousted. Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.

The unanswered question, of course, being why the views of the editors so nicely aligned with those of the government. Now Robert Parry has done another step in the process of demonstrating how the system works by dissecting the elaborate, multi-layered system of hypocrisy that the New York Times employs in justifying US actions while calling for aggressive actions against other countries for the same things:

Outrage is the only appropriate response when an adversary breaks a rule but a shrug is okay when it’s “our side.” Plus, there must be perfect evidence to accuse “our side” of an offense but anything goes when it’s an adversary.

* U.S. destabilization of the Yanukovych government of Ukraine is democracy promotion while Russian complaints about the destabilization and the encirclement of Russia by NATA are unsubstantiated “conspiracy theories.”
* And speaking of conspiracy theories, rumors of Russian promotion of anti-fracking groups in Romania deserves a full article, even though the Times admits that “this belief that Russia is fueling the protests… has not yet been backed up by any clear proof.”
* Russian intervention in Crimea is an intolerable violation of international law (true), but American intervention to overthrow the Assad government is justifiable under international law (false).

Parry shows that hypocrisy is essential to propaganda. Cite one principle to justify one’s own actions and another to demonize the actions of the adversary. International law is just the Golden Rule writ large. Know your history and apply the Golden Rule to every situation in international dealings, and what constitutes propaganda will instantly be obvious.

Posted in media media whores media machine propaganda | 1 Comment »

Chalk Up Another One For Bluestem Prairie

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 1, 2014

The best blogger in Minnesota (and one of its five top journos, I don’t care what she says) has scored another scoop — and counted another coup:

A press release announcing resignation of Big Stone County Republican Chair Jack Whitley has been posted without comment on the Jeff Backer for MN House Facebook page. Clinton, MN., and Republican activist Brent Jacobson (pictured above) will serve as acting chair until the county unit elects a new chair in March 2015.

After Bluestem Prairie broke the story of Whitley’s extreme anti-Muslim status post on his personal Facebook page, Whitley faced what the Minnesota Daily called “near-universal condemnation” for calling for the mass murder of Muslims gathered at Mecca.

Sally Jo does things like this all the time. You should toss her a few coins, if you can.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Amy Brendmoen Just Cost Saint Paul $800,000

Posted by Phoenix Woman on November 30, 2014

I knew Ms. Brendmoen was bad news even before she rode into office on a tidal wave of money from groups that aren’t known for backing liberal or progressive candidates.

But not even I ever dreamed that she and her boyfriend Mike Hahm would illegally force the eviction of a good long-term tenant, Black Bear Crossings, from the Lake Como Pavilion — and cost the city of Saint Paul $800,000 when the tenant proved to know his rights.

Here’s the Strib’s take on the affair:

St. Paul’s parks director and a City Council member knew that a Como Park food vendor had years left on its contract with the city before another vendor could take its place.

Yet, along with other city officials, they chose to challenge the contract anyway — touching off a messy legal dispute that ended with the city paying the vendor $800,000, a near-record legal settlement.

What parks and recreation director Mike Hahm and Council Member Amy Brendmoen knew about the city’s contract with Black Bear Crossings is shown in e-mails and other papers obtained under the state Data Practices Act.

The documents — thousands of pages of court records, letters and e-mails — don’t spell out exactly what caused city officials to stop encouraging co-owner David Glass’ plans to renovate the cafe, and to demand instead that he produce the business’ accounting records in what he interpreted as a move to intimidate him.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press fills in the details:

In legal filings, Glass said that city finance planner Tom Russell and Parks and Rec operations manager Gary Korum had been “effusive in their praise” when they’d asked him to renew his lease for 10 years in 2009. He said they called the five-year lease with a five-year option to renew “a de facto” 10-year agreement.

An Oct. 11 letter from Glass’ attorney to the city attorney’s office spells out repeated instances in 2011 and 2012 in which Glass says that city officials — including Hahm — asked Glass to take over concessions at either the Como Golf Course or the Phalen Banquet Hall. Each time, Glass said no.

Then, in April 2013, council member Brendmoen visited Black Bear.

In public statements last year, Glass said Brendmoen offended him by asking seemingly challenging questions about the coffee shop’s American Indian decor.

The following month, city officials began making repeated requests for the coffee shop’s financial records. Glass responded by hiring an attorney. The records were handed over in August 2013, but officials said the paperwork was unclear and incomplete.

Brendmoen and Hahm, the city’s parks director, are now dating, leading Glass’ supporters to criticize their role in the decision to terminate his lease five years early. At least one council member, Dan Bostrom, has called for Hahm’s resignation over the handling of the case.

David Glass is now running for Amy Brendmoen’s job as the City Council representative from Ward Five. He’s got my vote, that’s for sure.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

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