Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Archive for August, 2013

Texas: Where The Oil Companies Destroy Roads And Won’t Pay To Fix Them

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 31, 2013

Submitted largely without comment, because res ipsa loquitor:

On the one hand, Gov. Rick Perry (R) believes Texas’ economy is amazing, and he’s managed to strike the perfect balance between meeting the public’s needs and keeping the private sector happy. Every other state, the governor assures us, should be following Texas’ lead — after all, thanks to the energy sector, the Lone Star State has plenty of money.

On the other hand, thanks to wear and tear from the oil companies, which have made themselves remarkably rich from Texas’ resources, Texas can no longer afford to pave many of its roads, and will instead transition from pavement to gravel.

The National Laboratory for Bad Government will kill Texas rather than risk inconvenicing a single oil baron.

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Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on August 30, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 4 Comments »

Recommended reading

Posted by Charles II on August 30, 2013

WaPo on the black budget here and here. Thank you, Ed Snowden, for finally letting us see how our money gets spent.

Also, Danielle Allen on the link between privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights–why one can be free unless one can have privacy– here. I diaried this on Daily Kos. The civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s would have been smashed if the government had had the powers it has now.

Posted in civil rights, NSA eavesdropping, privacy, wiretapping | 1 Comment »

On what basis are we rushing to war?

Posted by Charles II on August 28, 2013

Noah Schachtman of Foreign Policy, a neo-con lite source, is reporting that:

Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they’re certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime — and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.

But the intercept raises questions about culpability for the chemical massacre, even as it answers others: Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime?

American intelligence analysts are certain that chemical weapons were used on Aug. 21 — the captured phone calls, combined with local doctors’ accounts and video documentation of the tragedy — are considered proof positive. [Except they’re not. As we have reported, certain kinds of things called tear gas can cause neuro sysmptoms and even death].

Making the case even more conclusive were the images of the missiles that supposedly delivered the deadly attacks. If they were carrying conventional warheads, they would have likely been all but destroyed as they detonated. But several missiles in East Ghouta were found largely intact. “Why is there so much rocket left? There shouldn’t be so much rocket left,” the intelligence official told The Cable. The answer, the official and his colleagues concluded, was that the weapon was filled with nerve agent, not a conventional explosive.

So, there’s the case for war:
1) There were phone calls asking about the use of a chemical agent.
2) The Defense Ministry did not know that a chemical agent was used.
3) There were intact missile casings in the vicinity.

So far, nothing about a vital national interest or any indication that our intervention will help anything or anyone.

Or, for that matter, evidence that we are certain can actually survive the light of day.
_________________
Update: Harriet Sherwood of the Guardian on the provenance of the intercepts:

The bulk of evidence proving the Assad regime’s deployment of chemical weapons – which would provide legal grounds essential to justify any western military action – has been provided by Israeli military intelligence, the German magazine Focus has reported.

The 8200 unit of the Israeli Defence Forces, which specialises in electronic surveillance, intercepted a conversation between Syrian officials regarding the use of chemical weapons, an unnamed former Mossad official told Focus. The content of the conversation was relayed to the US, the ex-official said.

That will certainly reassure the doubters among us.

And now the Obama Admin makes it clear it has as little regard for international law as its predecessor. Karen deYoung, WaPo:

A closed-door meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, called to consider a British-drafted resolution authorizing the use of force to prevent any further use of chemical weapons in Syria, adjourned without action after Russia and China opposed the measure.

In response, U.S. officials made clear they considered such initiatives irrelevant to Obama’s decision on military action.

In a letter Wednesday to Obama, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) echoed concerns that numerous outside experts have raised about the administration’s assessment of potential post-attack scenarios.

“These considerations include the Assad regime potentially losing command and control of its stock of chemical weapons or terrorist organizations — especially those tied to al-Qaeda — gaining greater control of and maintaining territory,” Boehner wrote.

It’s a shame that no one has considered the possibility that Assad might have lost control of his stock of chemical weapons prior to the deaths.

Is your congressman against the rush to war? Surprisingly few Democrats have signed onto Republican Scott Rigell’s letter urging Obama to consult Congress. Beto O’Rourke, Zoe Lofgren, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, Rush Holt, William Enyart, Timothy Walz, Michael Capuano, Richard Nolan, Jim McDermott, Bruce Braley, Sam Farr, Anna Eshoo, Earl Blumenauer, Peter Welch, Jim Matheson, and Collin Peterson. Pahing Keith Ellison! I count 17 Dems out of more than 90 signatories. Paging Rosa DeLauro! Paging John Lewis! And several dozen more Democrats who claim to be for peace.

When Republicans are advocating sanity and Democrats are silent, you know something is seriously wrong.

BTW, anyone remember the rush to Iraq and the role of intercepts there?

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East | 16 Comments »

“Strong, Concrete Suspicions” Syrian Rebels Used Chemical Weapons Like Sarin

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 28, 2013

Back in May, UN official Carla del Ponte told Swiss television that there were “strong, concrete suspicions” that the Syrian rebels used a chemical weapon, sarin nerve gas, in their Saudi-backed fight to topple the Assad régime:

In an interview with Swiss-Italian TV on Sunday, Ms Del Ponte, who serves as a commissioner on the panel, said: “Our investigators have been in neighbouring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals.

“According to their report of last week, which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated.”

Sarin, a colourless, odourless liquid or gas which can cause respiratory arrest and death, is classed as a weapon of mass destruction and is banned under international law.

Ms Del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney-general and prosecutor with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), did not rule out the possibility that troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad might also have used chemical weapons, but said further investigation was needed.

“I was a little bit stupefied by the first indications we got… they were about the use of nerve gas by the opposition,” she said.

Bear this in mind when hearing about the latest rush to attack Syria.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

New York City goes Stasi. Will the US?

Posted by Charles II on August 26, 2013

This is not a new story, but new information has significantly changed its interpretation.

I wish it were an exaggeration to say that New York City has gone to a level of surveillance that compares with the Stasi. Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, writing in New York Magazine make that case:

The activities [Police Commissioner Ray] Kelly set in motion after 9/11 pushed deeply into the private lives of New Yorkers, surveilling Muslims in their mosques, their sporting fields, their businesses, their social clubs, even their homes in a way not seen in America since the FBI and CIA monitored antiwar activists during the Nixon administration. It was a proactive approach, but, in constitutional terms, a novel one.

To reinvent the Intelligence Division, Kelly called on David Cohen, a former senior CIA officer…

Cohen and [CIA operative Larry] Sanchez’s guiding idea was that if the NYPD had its own eyes and ears in the ethnic communities of the five boroughs, maybe things could be different. They needed to be in bookshops to spot the terrorist with his newly grown beard, or in restaurants to overhear friends ranting about America. If detectives infiltrated Muslim student groups, maybe they could identify young men seething with embryonic fanaticism.

Sanchez told colleagues that he had borrowed the idea from Israeli methods of controlling the military-occupied West Bank, the swath of land captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War.

[Judge Charles] Haight ruled: “For the purpose of detecting or preventing terrorist activities, the NYPD is authorized to visit any place and attend any event that is open to the public on the same terms and conditions as members of the public generally.”

To accomplish their goals, however, Cohen and Sanchez needed to go far beyond what the FBI could do. They needed to take a broad view of what was related to terrorist activity. As Sanchez would explain to Congress years later: “Part of our mission is to protect New York City citizens from becoming terrorists.

He [Cohen] recruited young Middle Eastern officers who spoke Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. They would be the ones raking the coals, looking for hot spots, and they became known as “rakers.”

The routine was almost always the same, whether they were visiting a restaurant, deli, barbershop, or travel agency. The two rakers would enter and casually chat with the owner. The first order of business was to determine his ethnicity and that of the patrons. This would determine which file the business would go into. A report on Pakistani locations, for instance, or one on Moroccans. Next, they’d do what the NYPD called “gauging sentiment.” Were the patrons observant Muslims? Did they wear traditionally ethnic clothes, like shalwar kameez? Were the women wearing hijabs?

If the Arabic news channel Al Jazeera was playing on the TV, the police would note it and observe how people were acting. Were they laughing, smiling, or cheering at reports of U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did they talk Middle Eastern politics? If the business sold extremist literature or CDs, the officers would buy one or two. Was the owner selling fake I.D.’s or untaxed cigarettes? Police would note it. If customers could rent time on a computer, police might pay for a session and look at the computer’s search history. Were people viewing jihadist videos or searching for bomb-making instructions? Who was speaking Urdu?

On their way out, the rakers would look at bulletin boards. Was a rally planned in the neighborhood? The rakers might attend. Was there a cricket league? The rakers might join. If someone advertised a room for rent, the cops would tear off a tab with the address or phone number. It could be a cheap apartment used by a terrorist.

Surveillance turned out to be habit-forming. Cohen and Sanchez’s efforts also reached beyond the Muslim community. Undercover officers traveled the country, keeping tabs on liberal protest groups like [environmental awareness group] Time’s Up and the Friends of Brad Will [which protested police murders in Oaxaca, Mexico]. Police infiltrated demonstrations and collected information about antiwar groups and those that marched against police brutality. Detectives monitored activist websites and copied the contents into police files, including one memo in 2008 for Kelly that reported the contents of a website about a group of women organizing a boycott to protest the police shooting of Sean Bell, an unarmed black man killed the morning before his wedding….

The Demographics Unit had thousands of dollars to spend on meals and expenses …

That’s when [Lt. Hector] Berdecia realized that, in the hunt for terrorists, his detectives gravitated toward the best food.

And now, the lawyers in the Handschu case [which reined in police infiltration of legitimate political activism] have returned to court, arguing that Kelly and Cohen, in their effort to keep the city safe, have crossed constitutional lines. Regardless of the outcome, the NYPD’s programs are likely to join waterboarding, secret prisons, and NSA wiretapping as emblems of post-9/11 America, when security justified many practices that would not have been tolerated before.

No successes in stopping terrorism; indeed, no information garnered about a potential actual terrorist. Many thousands of people monitored and files created. Surveillance extended even to plainly domestic and plainly legitimate activist groups: the restrictions of Handschu circumvented by an appeal to anti-terrorism. CIA operatives designing surveillance of Americans.

And Ray Kelly could become the head of Homeland Security.

Posted in CIA, Constitutional crisis, fascism, impunity, terrorism | 2 Comments »

Twin Cities Media Scooped Again: Sovereign Citizens Edition

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 25, 2013

I was just thinking the other day that if I had depended solely on the local mainstream media (what Sally Jo Sorensen over at Bluestem Prairie calls the “rocking chair media”) for my news of my own state, I never would have known that Rod Grams’ aide Peter Hong was called “Senator Hong” on Capitol Hill because he served as the otherwise helpless Grams’ minder and babysitter.

And now I find that, once again, our local mainstream talent has been scooped on a local story, this time by the New York Times:

MINNEAPOLIS — One of the first inklings Sheriff Richard Stanek had that something was wrong came with a call from the mortgage company handling his refinancing.

“It must be a mistake,” he said, when the loan officer told him that someone had placed liens totaling more than $25 million on his house and on other properties he owned.

But as Sheriff Stanek soon learned, the liens, legal claims on property to secure the payment of a debt, were just the earliest salvos in a war of paper, waged by a couple who had lost their home to foreclosure in 2009 — a tactic that, with the spread of an anti-government ideology known as the “sovereign citizen” movement, is being employed more frequently as a way to retaliate against perceived injustices.

Over the next three years, the couple, Thomas and Lisa Eilertson, filed more than $250 billion in liens, demands for compensatory damages and other claims against more than a dozen people, including the sheriff, county attorneys, the Hennepin County registrar of titles and other court officials.

Stanek finally got the liens undone, but not before they affected his credit rating.

This story would not have surprised the late great Karl Bremer, the proprietor of Ripple in Stillwater and one of the five best journalists in the state at the time he died last year. He not only had the Sovereign Citizens angle down cold, he showed that Bradley Dean “Bradlee Dean” Smith, the infamous toxic-rock hate preacher, Minnesota conservative fixture, and occasional ally of Minnesota Republican politicians, was and might still be a part of that movement: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Costs Of Solar Versus Costs Of Wars For Oil And Bank Bailouts

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 24, 2013

Putting it in perspective.

Click through to read. It’s well worth it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on Costs Of Solar Versus Costs Of Wars For Oil And Bank Bailouts

Is the U.K. Independent on the reservation?

Posted by Charles II on August 23, 2013

(crossposted with minor revisions at DK)

It’s an odd question, to be sure, but one in response to a very odd event. The Independent is a newspaper that I have traditionally regarded as off the reservation in the very best sense of the term. That is, I have always regarded them as a left-wing newspaper refusing to be marginalized and demanding that issues of importance to the left receive the same attention as those of interest to the rest of the corporate media.

But Glenn Greenwald has published a piece in The Guardian in which he says (to distill it down) that the Independent has published an article which could, perhaps, endanger lives based, according to The Independent, on “documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden” but which, according to Greenwald “clearly did not come from Snowden or any of the journalists with whom he has directly worked.”

For both of those statements to be true, the documents would have to have come from the government based on a list of the documents that Snowden obtained but has not published. They could, for example, have been based on documents supplied from the government based on the (apparently ineffectual) audit of Snowden’s actions or based on decrypts of the materials obtained from Miranda. Once in the public domain, the government could easily use them against Miranda to allege that the materials he has are being used to aid the enemies of Britain.

Greenwald quotes Snowden as saying that:

“It appears that the UK government is now seeking to create an appearance that the Guardian and Washington Post’s disclosures are harmful, and they are doing so by intentionally leaking harmful information to The Independent and attributing it to others.

The Independent’s Oliver Wright has said,

“For the record: The Independent was not leaked or ‘duped’ into publishing today’s front page story by the Government.”

He is receiving a torrent of well-deserved abuse for publishing dodgy material from dodgy sources for dodgy purposes.

______
The relevant phrases from the Independent are these. They either could serve to identify the site and therefore endanger the lives of personnel or provide information about sourcing for the article:

Britain runs a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies, The Independent has learnt.

The Independent is not revealing the precise location of the station but information on its activities was contained in the leaked documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden.

installation is regarded as particularly valuable by the British and Americans because it can access submarine cables passing through the region

Many of them came from an internal Wikipedia-style information site called GC-Wiki

The Independent understands that The Guardian agreed to the Government’s request not to publish any material contained in the Snowden documents that could damage national security.

A senior Whitehall source said: “We agreed with The Guardian that our discussions with them would remain confidential”.

It [the intercept station] is part of the surveillance and monitoring system, code-named “Tempora”,

Across three sites, communications – including telephone calls – are tracked both by satellite dishes and by tapping into underwater fibre-optic cables.

The Middle East station was set up under a warrant signed by the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband

Posted in government malfeasance, media, NSA eavesdropping, secrecy, truthiness, wiretapping | 1 Comment »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on August 23, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 4 Comments »

 
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