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In 1968, one of the most untelegenic (is there such a word?) candidates in politics, Richard Nixon, tried a new approach to campaigning that, although it did not totally shun and shut out the press, as some candidates do today, at least tried to mitigate the damage that could be caused by uncontrolled media appearances with a potentially hostile press.

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I had it written on a napkin somewhere, or at least I thought so.


World's shortest diary.  I'm posting from a tablet so cut me slack.

Quotes are in chronological order.

Cheney endorses simulated drowning

The use of a form of torture known as waterboarding to gain information is a "no-brainer", the US vice-president, Dick Cheney, told a radio interviewer, it was reported today.

..."Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" Mr Hennen asked.

"Well, it's a no-brainer for me," Mr Cheney replied. "But for a while there, I was criticised as being the vice president for torture. We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in."

Islamic State waterboards prisoners, new John Cantlie video reveals

ISLAMIC State hostages who disobeyed their captors were tortured, British hostage John Cantlie has revealed in a new propaganda video.

[...]Staring solemnly into the camera, Mr Cantlie explained how prisoners were generally “treated well” by IS.

They “read books, played recreational games and gave lectures” before they were slaughtered.

“It wasn’t a bad life,” he said. But those who “tried something stupid” were waterboarded, a technique that has been used on terror suspects by the CIA.

He said: “Some of us who tried to escape were waterboarded by our captors as Muslim prisoners are waterboarded by their American captors.”

Water is poured on to a cloth covering the prisoner’s face, causing a sensation of drowning. It can cause extreme pain, damage to the lungs and death...

The CIA Torture Details Are Appalling

A pair of Republican lawmakers, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), issued a joint statement on Monday criticizing the decision to release the report.

"We are concerned that this release could endanger the lives of Americans overseas, jeopardize US relations with foreign partners, potentially incite violence, create political problems for our allies, and be used as a recruitment tool for our enemies," Rubio and Risch said.

It seems a little late to be worrying about that now, dudes.  But hey, they are just dunking Americans in a little water, so no biggie.

In 1959, after two decades of work, Ayn Rand finally published her 1100 page novel, Atlas Shrugged.  It offered a speculative dystopic vision of an America gradually transformed into a socialist state that caves and crumbles because it has demonized and chased away its true engines of creativity and progress: Rich capitalists.

This diary is NOT about that book.  Oh no.  It's worth mentioning though because it might come up in the context of the rest of this diary which is about Fredrick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth's 1954 scifi novel, published five years earlier, the Space Merchants, which is the flip side of Atlas Shrugged and possibly the best critique of laissez-faire capitalism in fiction.  Rand's book ended with the capitalists coming back home and the new US Constitution written to preserve the unfettered right of business to do whatever the hell they wanted without regulations.  Pohl and Kornbluth's book, on the other hand, starts with exactly that kind of society and shows us where it can go.  

I would say the two novels make beautiful matching book ends for your bookshelf, but your shelf would probably tip over to the right and everything slide off, since Rand's 1100 book is much heavier than Pohl & Kornbluth's 180 page book.  ($17 hardcover at Amazon).

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I started to write a long reply to Vyan in his nice diary about all the safeguards against NSA abuse.  It got too long and I thought it too important to see it buried.  It was this part of his diary that stuck out like a sore thumb and made everything else he had said before less relevant.

Some may still argue that they [the NSA's own safeguards] aren't good enough, that simply the fact that the NSA has built this haystack of data is itself a violation of the 4th Amendment.  There are court cases making this argument right now, but another question I would ask them is : what would you have them do instead?
I'll save us all a lot of time and tell you that I, personally, suspect it will never be found to be in violation of the 4th amendment.  If it is, they'll find some tweak to make sure it is consistent in some way.  But that doesn't matter a whit to me, because even if it is totally, solidly, unimpeachably consistent with every article of the constitution, it's still unacceptable and, even if it should be proven constitutional, that merely shows that our constitution is too weak to stand up to the abuse of its spirit we inflict upon it.  

That's one reason I don't get involved in constitutionality arguments about this.  They're red herrings.  I don't care if it's constitutional.

To many of us, this isn't about the Fourth Amendment, or even about strictness or laxity of NSA safeguards.  It's all about that damned haystack.  NSA whistle blower William Binney described that haystack a different way in Wired:

Sitting in a restaurant not far from NSA headquarters, the place where he spent nearly 40 years of his life, Binney held his thumb and forefinger close together. “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state,” he says.
We're arguing about what use this haystack is going to be put use to.  Vyan's diary, and Dana Priest's article, emphasize the good will nature of "safeguards" in place that structure how that haystack of information is used.  Binney says that haystack is a turnkey totalitarian state.
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In one of the proudest moments in US History, the US Attorney has sent a letter to Russia, asking them to turn over Edward Snowden to the US.  In the letter, Attorney General Eric Holder reassures them that if they turn over whistleblower Edward Snowden to the US.

1) We will not kill him, and

2) We will not torture him.  

In fact, Holder goes so far as to explain why that can't happen by saying, "Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States.'

That sound you hear is the whole world snickering.

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There was an opinion piece on CNN yesterday by former NSA chief, Ret. General Michael v. Hayden.  In it he bristles with outrage over Edward Snowden, comparing him to Benedict Arnold.  

Before we go further, let's remember and be clear who Hayden was.  Hayden was director of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005.  In 2006, President George W. Bush nominated and got him confirmed to the post of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  He served there from 2006 until February 2009.  After that, he went to work for the private Chertoff Group, Michael Chertoff's revolving door lobbying business.

I point all that out just so we can stay clear about who Hayden is.  Hayden was there in the most sensitive key positions through all the worst years of George W. Bush's crimes against humanity.  I use that phrase, crimes against humanity, not as hyperbole, but because that's what it is called when states methodically torture prisoners in their custody.  There are international treaties that define these things, whether or not we choose to prosecute them ourselves.  

So Michael Hayden is a man for whom keeping government secrets isn't just a professional thing.  He almost certainly has some personal skin in the game.

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Thu Jun 27, 2013 at 07:00 AM PDT

Ecuador to US: Go f*** yourself.

by Dumbo

There has been a lot of talk lately about how we (meaning, the surveillance state we call our government) might be able to put pressure on Ecuador to keep them from accepting Snowden.  This pressure was supposed to come from the upcoming renewal of the Andean Trade Preferences Act.  Voiding it might mean fewer exports directly to the US by Ecuador.

Ecuador's reply (from Reuters today):

"Ecuador gives up, unilaterally and irrevocably, the said customs benefits," said another official, Fernando Alvarado.

"What's more, Ecuador offers the United States economic aid of $23 million annually, similar to what we received with the trade benefits, with the intention of providing education about human rights," Alvarado added.

"Ecuador does not accept pressure or threats from anyone, nor does it trade with principles or submit them to mercantile interests, however important those may be."

This must go under the "Nobody could have possibly foreseen it" category of government fuckups.  Like, who could have seen that all these jackass threats might backfire and piss off the Ecuadorians?  That it might be more important to them not to lose face after days of CNN talking about them as if they are cheaply bought?  Or that they might actually be more disturbed by the fact that the US proudly and arrogantly reserves the right to spy on ALL of the communications and cell phone data of their citizens than by the prospect of losing preferential treatment?
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Here we have one of the most beautiful of Romantic overtures ever composed, and it was dedicated to A CAVE.

Fingal's Cave on the island of Staffa, one of the Hebrides Islands, off the west coast of Scotland.  Actual photograph.

Quite a beautiful and mysterious sea cave, too, and a beautiful seascape.  My clip art problems were easily solved when I chose this piece to cover.  Fingal's Cave is also notorious for its turbulent and dangerous waters.  As we should all know by now, turbulent waters was a favorite theme of the Romantics, sometimes irritatingly so.  I couldn't find, with my cursory search, any storm photos that could match the violence of the many Romantic period paintings of the Fingal's Cave seacoast.  I liked this painting by Thomas Moran.

More below the squiggle, including the music.

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Nobody else that I know of has diaried this, so, hell, I'll do it.  It started out as a simple comment, so I'll try to keep this simple.

Stick a fork in it.  THIS IS YOUR PROOF that the Republican tea party lunatic fringe is in trouble.  Somebody should do a diary about this.  [And, tada, I have.]

Watch this all the way through.  Then you'll want to get some popcorn and watch it again, I bet.  This is Zeb Colter of the "We the People!" movement and his acolyte, WWE professional wrestler Jack Swagger:

Let's review what this is.  The Tea Party is now so ludicrous that they are being parodied by PROFESSIONAL WRESTLERS.  And let's not forget the WWE is co-owned by a former Republican candidate, Linda McMahon.

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What do limericks and music have in common?  No, that's not a joke with a punchline.

I suppose this is, though:

There once was a man from Nantucket
Took a pig in a thicket to **
The pig said with a gasp
Get away from my **
Come around to the front and I'll **

Personally, I find it funnier with the asterisks.  It lets you use your imagination.

Does music have semantic meaning?  Does it convey a message with some meaning.  I took formal languages in college (computer sci). We studied grammars and syntax and Chomsky and all that but never got into the deeper realms of linguistics, so bear with me if I get some jargon wrong as I waste your time by comparing the syntax and semantics of limericks and music.

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Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 01:26 PM PST


by Dumbo

I just heard this on CNN.  One of the possible picks to replace Petraeus is former Rep. Jane Harman (D-BluedogNeoconNutcase).

I really had thought, hoped, prayed, that I would never have to hear her name again.

Aren't there any REAL Democrats qualified for this job?  Ones who aren't complicit in war crimes?  And if there aren't, can't we at least consider picking some competent Republican who wasn't totally in bed with the Bush Whitehouse?

Oh man.  This totally puts the kibosh on my post-election-victory buzz.

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