Rant. Muse. Eat. Sleep. Recycle.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Lest this falls off your radar
Here's a link to a copy of the actual Government Sentencing Memorandum: http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/docs/cunningham-rec/--posted by Kay
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
A little less talk, a little more action
I have an idea for some "political art" that might be worth participating in. Remember the 'flash mobs' or 'happenings' in which people would receive emails that told them to be at 'x' place at 'x' time and do something? I'm going to try and do that with this blog.
For example, I might suggest everyone available who reads this goes to Norm Coleman's office in St. Paul at 11:01 Wednesday December 11, form a large, solid circle, turn their back on his receptionist and leave without saying a word at 11:05. One person should say 'War in Iraq' as the group leaves.
I'm open to suggestions on this.
Monday, February 13, 2006
The team that's running the country
For all the conservatives out there who are standing on moral high ground -- a little more erosion occurred for you. Dick Cheney "accidentally" shot a man apparently while hunting and the guy is in intensive care.
What's the big deal, you might ask? Hunting accidents happen all the time. Well, interestingly enough, this hunting accident was about to disappear. A mini-cover up was apparently set to run its course until an enterprising reporter and a socially conscious landowner connected to make the news public.
What a difference a day makes -- Clinton hiding an extramarital blow job versus Cheney attempting to hide shooting someone. It's official, conservatives have no shame.
From the Daily Kos -
The more than 18-hour delay in news emerging that Dick Cheney, putative Vice President of the United States had shot a man, sending him to an intensive care unit with his wounds, grew even more curious late Sunday. E&P has learned that the official confirmation of the shooting came about only after a local reporter in Corpus Christi, Texas, received a tip from the owner of the property where the shooting occured and called Vice President Cheney's office for confirmation.
The confirmation was made but there was no indication whether Cheney's office, the White House, or anyone else intended to announce the shooting if the reporter, Jaime Powell of the Corpus Christ Caller-Times, had not received word from the ranch owner.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Big Brother will be watching because this post contains a couple of 'red flag' words
By Bill Wallace/PC World
Got an international e-mail pen pal or chat buddy? Belong to a mailing list that includes one person from outside the United States? Use a cell phone much? If you do, odds are good that Big Brother is watching you.
According to intelligence experts in the United States and Europe, a massive electronic intercept program called Project Echelon scans all Internet traffic, cell phone conversations, faxes, and long-distance telephone calls--virtually every type of electronic communication--looking for evidence of terrorist activity, military threats, and transnational crime.
The e-spying is being conducted by the secretive U.S. National Security Agency and its counterparts in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
"They are looking for thugs and drugs," says John Pike, expert on security and intelligence issues for the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C.
That pursuit may be worthwhile in theory--but most of what the spooks are scanning comes from you and me, not from terrorists, criminals, or other menaces to society.
How It Works
Echelon uses a filtering process to flag messages with keywords such as bomb, gun, and militia. But because little is known about Echelon, it remains unclear whether the system can differentiate between messages sent by criminals and those sent by law-abiding citizens. For example, a person in Chicago might innocently use two or more of the keywords in an e-mail to a friend in Japan while describing a Tom Clancy novel, or while discussing the latest NYPD Blue episode or even a news report about a recent terrorist act. What happens when Echelon picks up such a message? No one knows.
If you're a typical user, your chances of coming to the attention of a live person at the NSA--much less of being placed under more thorough surveillance as part of an investigation--are tiny. But nevertheless, the NSA has cast a very wide net to catch just a few suspicious goldfish. And the agency is invading your privacy to do it.
Project Echelon's equipment can process 1 million message inputs every 30 minutes, according to a series of reports commissioned by the Scientific and Technological Options Assessment program, a research wing of the European Parliament.
The STOA studies found that the system filters intercepted material so minutely that only 10 inputs out of 1 million are passed along for detailed analysis--which is likely a second level of software filtering; even fewer messages reach live analysts.
The system also reportedly uses voiceprint technology to search telephone communications for targeted speakers.
Echelon uses powerful search engines--called dictionaries--to ferret out keywords of interest to intelligence analysts. Only a handful of these keywords from the classified dictionaries have made their way into published reports about the program.
Who Watches the Watchers?
The possibility that innocent people may become Echelon targets or that the project's spying may exceed legal boundaries bothers privacy activists. They note that when an intelligence project operates in total secrecy, the public has no way of knowing whether or not the program is operating within the law.
"Anytime you have a law enforcement or intelligence agency that claims it is policing itself, I have a real problem with it," says Wayne Madsen, a specialist on U.S. intelligence operations for the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
"I would feel a lot more comfortable if there was an outside ombudsman who was independent who could go in and take a look," he adds.
Echelon is so hush-hush that the NSA will not even acknowledge the program's existence, much less discuss its targeting criteria or its civil liberties safeguards. Only two fragmentary documents have been released under the federal Freedom of Information Act; they consist of just seven highly censored pages. The STOA reports are more detailed but still leave many questions unanswered.
Partly because of STOA's reports, the American Civil Liberties Union petitioned the House Committee on Government Reform last year and asked for an investigation of Project Echelon. The ACLU wants to ensure that Echelon is operating in accordance with federal law and the U.S. Constitution.
"Echelon is a black box, and nobody outside the intelligence community knows what is inside it," says ACLU national director Barry Steinhardt.
For those concerned about potential abuses, the issue is simple: "What it comes down to is, somebody is reading your mail," says Pike, who serves as director of the Federation of American Scientists' Intelligence Project.
"If it is an international transaction, the National Security Agency is monitoring it," Pike adds. "The target is wide open: Essentially, it consists of anything that would be of interest to the U.S. government--and the rest of the English-speaking world." And no one is watching to see what they do with the information.
Here's Looking at You, Kid
News of Echelon comes at a time when privacy concerns loom for us all. Consumer organizations and electronic privacy groups were up in arms after Internet advertising firm DoubleClick purchased a direct marketer last year and announced plans to merge data gathered about consumers into a megadatabase. The information would include consumers' real names and addresses, as well as their Web surfing habits and facts about their purchases.
The uproar, along with several pending lawsuits, recently led DoubleClick to put its plan on hold. Meanwhile, the ACLU, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and others have filed briefs in federal court challenging a Federal Communications Commission order that would force the telecom industry to support extensive police surveillance capabilities in connection with a 1994 law. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for May.
We know that our employers can monitor our e-mail. And no one condones terrorism or crime (except terrorists and criminals). But aren't we still entitled to some level of privacy? Echelon leaves us with few alternatives. Pike says encrypting e-mail may offer some protection--as long as you aren't under suspicion in the first place.
Services such as Anonymizer and Zero Knowledge can provide you with an e-mail name no one can trace to you--a tactic that may lend you some cover. But such a solution is not practical for businesses, and it certainly does not offer a viable long-term option.
For now, watch what you say, and where you send it.
What "They" Are Watching
Looking for keywords such as militia, gun, bomb, Delta Force, and explosive, Project Echelon intercepts the following types of communications:
Internet traffic, including e-mail and chat-room gab
Most long-distance telephone conversations
Any electronic signals transmitted by communications satellites
Monday, February 06, 2006
Trust of politicians is not mandatory
How can you tell when a politician is lying? His lips are moving. Old joke, New School reality.
Olive and I are taken to task on these posts for demonizing conservatives and I have to admit, I enjoy it. It means I'm doing something right because several years back I woke up to find liberal was just a letter or two away from "pedophile" in the the brave new American lexicon. I think conservatives find it disconcerting nowadays when a liberal defends his or her beliefs.
For that, besides my family, I have to thank God for Richard Pryor. He had a bit that resonated with me as a youngster. Describing a situation where he had been unfaithful to his girlfriend and caught in en flagrante delicto, he said: "Who are you going to believe? Me, or your lying eyes?"
I can't speak for Olive, but my mission is to say conservatives have run amok. And, it's a two-tiered process. First tier: Conservative politicians have massaged their far right base and won all the contests there are to win. They haven't done that with anything new in the political arena. Politicians have lied, cheated, stolen and I would imagine, killed for their power. But, this batch has evolved into something different, something evil.
* When you say that you're going to go by the rule of law when rooting out terrorism and then kill innocent people with your remote missiles - that's evil.
* When you choose profits for your cronies over the environment, that's evil.
* When you make it nearly impossible for middle class people to participate in higher education, that's evil.
* When you go to war based on a tissue of lies... evil.
The second tier is that of conservative voters, I'm guessing most are moderate, but they are supporting these politicians out of some misguided spite, economic self-interest or single-issue, single-mindedness.
Voters and politicians in the current system are adversarial. Honest politicians are seen as idiots by their peers and have derogatory names tacked on. Money drives the machine and honest politicians will NEVER earn as much in donations because corporations and their specific, well-studied interests, can match every soccer mom's check, every environmentalist's money order and every high school senior's debit card donation -- and then treble it.
All we can do is hold on and hold politicians as accountable as possible. Track their moves as if they were deer in a federal forest. My problem with conservative voters is they believe in their politicians more than is healthy. I honestly believe that liberal voters have personal mandates to not accept the okey doke with the politicians they choose. I know the foibles of the Kennedys, Clintons, Byrds, Pelosis, Reids and on and on. There is a lot I don't like, but they don't scare me like conservative politicians who seem to think it's 1944 again and any war we undertake is victory lap waiting to happen.
You heard it here: a world war is not "winnable" and America is not invincible. If enough of the world gets sick of our politicians, we have a serious problem. A for-instance: our "allies" in Saudi Arabia are among the most devout Muslims in the Muslim world, and yet, we have invaded Iraq, have thrown the gauntlet at Iran and are counting Afghani Muslims among the casualties in our Afghanistan incursion. Hmmmmm. It looks like there might be a Middle East Marshall Plan going on. If they get skittish at our consistently anti-Muslim approach to war, they may cut the oil spigot. Then, we've GOT to go in and trade some blood for oil.
At that point, we are under close scrutiny of the Chinese, who are already starting to match our hunger for oil (and don't have to spend 10 years making nuclear bombs, because they already have them) and Russia, which has been neutered in all ways except nuclear.
Fact: The department of defense's definition of winning a nuclear war is based on keeping its top level MILITARY and POLITICAl leaders alive. A secondary equation is how many civilians survive. Star Wars doesn't work. If we attacked, a great many, if not most of us, would die.
My suggestion for conservatives who think, for example, that abortion is THE single issue of any campaign: You better open your eyes. Saving babies doesn't make a whole lot of sense if everybody's going to burn.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
My God, does anybody listen to the words coming out of their mouths?
I am dumbfounded that people in power can have such arrogant conversations in front of we hoi polloi. The following is a news article regarding the domestic spying program that Bush is defending as government's right (which, by the way, was in full swing under Pres. Clinton and I railed against it then, too.)
I am going to highlight the "naughty bits."
CIA Director Porter Goss said Thursday that the disclosure of George W. Bush’s
eavesdropping-without-warrants program and other once-secret projects had undermined U.S. intelligence-gathering abilities.
"The damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission," Goss told the Senate Intelligence Committee. He said a federal grand jury should be empaneled to determine "who is leaking this information." (BTW, how's that Dick Cheney investigation going?)
His testimony came after National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, who directs all intelligence activities, strongly defended the program, calling it crucial for protecting the nation against its most menacing threat.
"This was not about domestic surveillance," Negroponte said.
Leaders of the nation's intelligence agencies appeared before the panel in a rare public session to give a rundown on threats facing the world.
Negroponte called al-Qaida and associated terror groups the "top concern" of the U.S. intelligence community, followed closely by the nuclear activities of Iran and North Korea.
Committee Democrats sought to change the focus to Bush's decision to authorize the National Security Agency to eavesdrop — without first obtaining warrants — on communications to and from those in the United States and terror suspects abroad.
"Bush has not only confirmed the existence of the program, he has spoken at length about it repeatedly," while keeping Congress in the dark, said Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the panel's senior Democrat.
"The White House wants to have it both ways," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
Goss complained that leaks to the news media about the surveillance program and activities such as reported CIA secret prisons abroad had damaged his own agency's work.
"I use the words `very severe' intentionally. And I think the evidence will show that," Goss said.
He said not only have these revelations made it harder for the CIA to gather information, but they have made intelligence agencies in other countries mistrustful of their U.S. counterparts.
"I'm stunned to the quick when I get questions from my professional counterparts saying, `Mr. Goss, can't you Americans keep a secret?'" he said. (Apparently disclosing information to mere citizens is a cardinal sin.)
Goss cited a "disruption to our plans, things that we have under way." Some CIA sources and "assets" had been rendered "no longer viable or usable, or less effective by a large degree," he said.
"I also believe that there has been an erosion of the culture of secrecy and we're trying to reinstall that," Goss said. (!)... oh, and just for emphasis (!).
"I've called in the FBI, the Department of Justice. It is my aim and it is my hope that we will witness a grand jury investigation with reporters present, being asked to reveal who is leaking this information," he said.
Rockefeller suggested that the "leaks" Goss talked about most likely "came from the executive branch" of the government.
That brought a terse response from FBI Director Robert Mueller, who said, "It's not fair to point a finger as to the responsibility of the leak." (Though I agree with Mueller for a TOTALLY different reason than his, I'm sure, I've got to contrast his sentiment with Goss'in the second paragraph. Given Deep Throat's FBI connection, it sounds like the FBI might be the leak.