OK




Good Morning!




IMG_1184 - Copy

IMG_1187 - Copy

IMG_1186 - Copy
Morning glories in the sky. Photo by: joanneleon. September, 2013.



Tunes



Arctic Monkeys - Do I Wanna Know?



News & Opinion


They didn't even try to challenge it.  And this move by the FISA court is really interesting.

FISA Court: Congress, Phone Companies Could Have Challenged NSA’s Bulk Data Collection (But Didn’t)

The secret surveillance court, which authorizes requests for bulk data collection by the National Security Agency under the “business records” provision of the PATRIOT Act, has released a court opinion and order related to a recent request for “certain business records of specified telephone service providers.” The disclosure is, for the most part, unprecedented.

Intelligence agency leaders have scratched their heads and displayed bewilderment when asked if Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinions could be made public in some form. They have claimed classified information is so intertwined in opinions that they could not be redacted and released. While this disclosure is not a signal that FISC judges are going to begin to regularly release their opinions to the public voluntarily, it does show that it can be done and there should be no tolerance for excuses that only serve intelligence agencies preference for secrecy.
[...]
What is remarkable about the rest of the opinion is that it appears to have been written to challenge perceptions of the court as government collaborators. The court appears to have wanted to clear its name and make the case that they have not been derelict in their duty by rubber stamping surveillance; in fact, if anyone has been derelict and rubber stamped surveillance it is the Congress or the telephone companies.
[...]
“To date, no holder of records who has received an Order to produce bulk telephony metadata has challenged the legality of such an Order,” FISC judge Claire V. Eagan wrote. “Indeed, no recipient of any Section 215 Order has challenged the legality of such an Order, despite the explicit statutory mechanism for doing so.”

Interesting. From emptywheel.
How Mike Rogers’ Excessive Secrecy in 2011 Might Kill the Dragnet

The FISA Court just released an August 29, 2013 opinion that reaffirms the court’s prior support for the Section 215 dragnet.

But as I have shown, because of Mike Rogers’ actions, a very large block of Congresspersons — the 93 freshmen legislators elected in 2010, save the 7 who were on the Intelligence or Judiciary Committees — appear to have had no such opportunity to learn about the program. Indeed, 65 members who voted in favor of PATRIOT reauthorization appear to have had no way of learning about the dragnet. Furthermore, we have documentary evidence that then FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni (who was informed about abuses in the program on January 23, 2009), and then FBI Director Robert Mueller (who had to write a brief responding those abuses in August 2009) lied about whether there had been abuses in response to a question clearly designed to learn about the secret use of Section 215 during a May 13, 2011 hearing purportedly designed to replace the letter the Administration sent.

This opinion relies on a claim that has now been proven false (and actually had been by the time the opinion was written).

Judge Claire Eagan seems to know she’s basing her argument on false claims, because in a footnote she invokes the presumption of regularity.

I don't know how much I trust the source here, Michael Morrell.  There will be a lot of people who want to undermine the diplomatic solution in Syria.  They also cite "Syria experts" and if those experts are anything like O'Bagy (it was revealed the other day that not only does she not have a PhD, she was never even in a PhD program) then a big grain of salt is called for. Shane Harris is a good journalist though, as far as I know.  So I'm taking this as a valid piece of information to consider.
Former CIA Deputy: No Way Will Assad Give Up His Nerve Gas

The Obama administration's plan to get rid of Syria's chemical weapons depends on President Bashar al-Assad letting international inspectors into his country -- and standing by as they destroy the deadly agents in his arsenal.

But former high-ranking U.S. intelligence officials -- as well as Syria experts -- doubt that Assad has any intention of doing this. And in his tacit agreement to the daunting weapons-removal plan, which was brokered by the United States and Russia and will take months if not years to complete, they detect a deliberate strategy.

"I think this is the Syrians playing for time," Michael Morell, the recently-retired deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told Foreign Policy. "I do not believe that they would seriously consider giving up their chemical weapons."

I don't know where these numbers came from and as with all information on the Syrian civil war and the proxy war, take it with a grain of salt. If it's anywhere near accurate, then the 100K numbers are being used in a deceitful way by many in the media and the govt.
Mutual Interests Could Aid U.S.-Iran Détente

WASHINGTON, Sep 17 2013 (IPS) - In the wake of a renewed diplomatic push on the Iranian nuclear front, shared interests in Iran’s backyard could pave the way for Washington and Tehran to work toward overcoming decades of hostility.

“I think that if Iran and the United States are able to overcome their differences regarding Iran’s nuclear programme, if there begins to be some progress in that regard, then I do see opportunities for dialogue and cooperation on a broader range of issues, including my issues, which is to say Afghanistan,” Ambassador James F. Dobbins, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told IPS at a briefing here Monday.

This summer’s election of Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric with centrist and reformist backing as well as close ties to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has been followed by signals that Iran may be positioning itself to agree to a deal over its controversial nuclear programme.

Rouhani’s appointment of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to oversee Iran’s nuclear dossier has been received positively here by leading foreign policy elites who consider Zarif a worthy negotiating partner.

Memo to Washington: The Occupy Movement Lives

Today, September 17, marks the second anniversary of the Occupy movement. When that movement is mentioned at all in Washington, which is rarely, the tone is dismissive. It didn’t have coherent goals, someone may say. The movement needed an electoral strategy, someone else will add. No wonder it didn’t last.

Today, September 17, marks the second anniversary of the Occupy movement. When that movement is mentioned at all in Washington, which is rarely, the tone is dismissive. It didn’t have coherent goals, someone may say. The movement needed an electoral strategy, someone else will add. No wonder it didn’t last.

Occupy was the product of a deep-seated yearning for economic justice, equality of opportunity, and a return to the kind of economy that lifted people out of poverty and spawned a large and prosperous middle class. It was the fruit of widespread and intense anger at Wall Street and corporate America, and against those in the political class who helped them hijack the economy.

If you don’t believe that last part, just ask Larry Summers.

This week the administration is reacting to another anniversary. It’s been five years since the economic crisis began. Unfortunately, the White House hasn’t gotten the message yet. Its report on the government response to the 2008 crisis, issued this week, consists almost entirely of triumphal pronouncements that will ring false to millions of suffering Americans. There is only one small paragraph in the entire 49-page document devoted to the theme of “there is still work to do.” ...

The White House hasn’t learned the lesson of the Occupy movement: The American people want an economy that works for everyone. The public understands that the “1 percent” have been diverting our nation’s wealth from the “99 percent” – both terms that Occupy placed in the national lexicon. And people know that too little has been done to redress the imbalance.

A bit more than a week old from the War Nerd at nsfwcorp.
The Saudi Dirty Dozen and Jihadi as Risk Disposal

While the U.S. ditzes around on Syria, the Saudis have been a little more creative, in their own inimitable way.

Until now, the Saudis’ public involvement in Syria consisted of throwing great flipping wodges of cash to the nastiest jihadi groups trying to carve out an Emirate in NE Syria, like ISIS, and paying the airfares of every unemployable Chechen of military age to make the heavily-armed Hajj to eastern Syria. But that hasn’t really done the job. Like I said long ago, the lines in Syria have been remarkably static, because the locals mostly want to secure their own neighborhood and don’t have much heart to push into anyone else’s.

Well, it seems some Saudi bureaucrats looked at the stalemate in Syria and came up with a way to think outside the box—and by "box" I mean "death row cell." According to a story filed by A.I.N.A., an Iraqi Assyrian PR agency, the Saudi Ministry of Interior came up with a brand-new plague to inflict on Syria in 2012: "Let’s fly a bunch of death-row inmates over there and give them automatic weapons!"

An excellent interview with Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman. I really want to read their new book.  Lots of info in there on how they infiltrate activist groups along with the info on widespread surveillance and infiltration of Muslim groups.
From Mosques to Soccer Leagues: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spy Unit Targeting Muslims, Activists

A New Raw Deal: Corporations to Profit While Workers, Planet Pay the Price

Trade representatives of nearly 50 countries, led by the United States and the members of the European Union, have since last year been engaged in initial discussions on a framework for what is being called the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). This week, officials meeting in Geneva are marking the beginning of the substantive next phase of talks, with governments now offering their views on individual aspects of any eventual agreement.

“The TISA negotiations largely follow the corporate agenda of using ‘trade’ agreements to bind countries to an agenda of extreme liberalisation and deregulation in order to ensure greater corporate profits at the expense of workers, farmers, consumers and the environment,” an open letter from the groups, addressed to trade ministers both involved in the TISA negotiations and those not participating, states. ...

Sources within some of the negotiating countries say this could mean 90 percent of all services, according to Public Services International (PSI), a trade-union federation in over 140 countries. That means nearly all aspects of a society’s economy could suddenly be required to be deregulated and opened to foreign competition.

“We believe this deal is about transferring public services into the hands of private and foreign corporations motivated only by profit,” PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli said Monday.

“This will undermine people’s rights and affordable access to vital public services such as healthcare, water and sanitation, energy, education, social services and pensions, and exploit common goods and natural resources.”

House bill would cut $4B a year from food stamps

The House is expected to consider a bill this week that would cut food stamps by an estimated $4 billion annually and allow states to put broad new work requirements in place for recipients.

The legislation also would end government waivers that have allowed able-bodied adults who don't have dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely. ...

One in seven Americans use food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the cost of the program has more than doubled in the past five years.

It is unclear whether the Republican leaders have enough votes for passage. Democrats have lined up solidly in opposition, and some moderate Republicans have indicated they may not be able to stomach the cuts.

With two huge coastlines (three really), it's criminal that we're not doing more with tidal and wave energy.
Wave power funded for commercialization

EDINBURGH, Scotland, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- A Scottish decision to dole out funds to support marine energy will help accelerate the commercialization of a wave power device, an executive said.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing announced Monday the government gave its consent to projects designed for wave and tidal energy. Scotland aims to get all of its electricity through renewable energy resources by 2020.

Ewing's government said Aquamarine Power Ltd. and Pelamis Wave Power will share a $20.7 million marine renewables commercialization fund.

Richard Yemm, the chief executive officer at Pelamis, said the funds for commercialization support 15 years of development experience.

"The awards will allow us to accelerate the design and deployment of an enhanced variant of the Pelamis P2 machines currently under test [at the European Marine Energy Center] in Orkney, Scotland," he said in a statement Monday.

Big Oil’s Big Lies About Alternative Energy

Since the Gulf oil disaster in 2010, BP has spent hundreds of millions of ad dollars to cleanse its image as a dirty-energy giant. In the company’s latest TV ad, wind turbines whirl in the sun as a voiceover touts the number of American jobs created by BP and promises, “We’re working to fuel America for generations to come.” There’s just one problem: BP’s commitment to wind energy is virtually nonexistent.

In April, BP announced that it is selling off its entire $3.1 billion U.S. wind energy business – including 16 farms spread across nine states – as “part of a continuing effort to become a more focused oil and gas company,” according to a company spokesperson. Indeed, though it famously rebranded itself “Beyond Petroleum” in 2000, BP also exited the solar energy business back in 2011. Today, its alternative energy investments are limited to biofuels and a lone wind farm in the Netherlands.

And BP is far from alone. You wouldn’t know it from their advertising, but the world’s major oil companies have either entirely divested from alternative energy or significantly reduced their investments in favor of doubling down on ever-more risky and destructive sources of oil and natural gas.

NY Review of Books.
They’re Taking Over!
Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean

From the Arctic to the equator and on to the Antarctic, jellyfish plagues (or blooms, as they’re technically known) are on the increase. Even sober scientists are now talking of the jellification of the oceans. And the term is more than a mere turn of phrase. Off southern Africa, jellyfish have become so abundant that they have formed a sort of curtain of death, “a stingy-slimy killing field,” as Gershwin puts it, that covers over 30,000 square miles. The curtain is formed of jelly extruded by the creatures, and it includes stinging cells. The region once supported a fabulously rich fishery yielding a million tons annually of fish, mainly anchovies. In 2006 the total fish biomass was estimated at just 3.9 million tons, while the jellyfish biomass was 13 million tons. So great is their density that jellyfish are now blocking vacuum pumps used by local diamond miners to suck up sediments from the sea floor.

Anniversary present for Wall Street banks: A financial speculation tax

As we mark the fifth anniversary of the Wall Street bailouts, it is clear that little has changed in the way they do business. They are still engaging in the same sorts of market manipulation and tax gaming as they did before the crisis.

The weak conditions on the bailout money had no lasting effect in areas like executive compensation. The industry itself is more concentrated than ever as the big banks used the crisis to merge with other banks, making them even bigger. And the Dodd-Frank reforms have been watered down to the extent that many are now pointless.  ...

This brings us back to the problem of dealing with an out-of-control financial sector. The efforts to do finely-focused fixes in Dodd-Frank largely went nowhere. This calls for a different approach: regulating the industry with a sledge hammer known as a financial speculation tax.

The idea is simple and old. We can place a small tax on financial transactions to discourage rapid turnover. Eleven countries in the European Union are planning to impose a tax of 0.1 percent on stock trades and 0.01 percent on most derivative transactions. Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Peter DeFazio have proposed a tax of 0.03 percent on both types of transactions. Representative Keith Ellison has proposed a somewhat higher tax.

Greek Workers Rise for Week of Anti-Austerity Strikes

Greek government to enforce more public sector cuts in exchange for Troika 'rescue loan'

A week of public sector strikes in Greece began with a bang on Monday morning as thousands of public school teachers, university professors, and other public sector employees walked off the job in protest of the latest set of austerity measures in the poverty stricken country.

"No to extended leave, redundancies and mandatory transfers," read a sign outside a high school in Athens. At the heart of the strikes this week is the Greek government's "redeployment plan," in which civil servants will be moved involuntarily into other jobs, face salary cuts, or lose employment altogether—a measure designed to shrink the state sector. More than 40,000 workers will be affected over the next two years.

In exchange for the next installment of EU-IMF so-called rescue loans, Greek leaders will "redeploy" 12,500 civil servants by the end of September.

Thousands of workers, including school guards, teachers and public hospital doctors marched through the streets of Athens to parliament, chanting "Let's kick the government, the EU and the IMF out!" Reuters reports.

10 Arrests in 87 Minutes: The Anatomy of the NYPD’s Protest Dispersal Process

On the eve of the second anniversary of the Occupy movement, two video activists, have released a 10 minute short film providing perhaps the most detailed civilian account to date of the NYPD’s process of crowd dispersion during mass mobilizations. The video, shot on September 17th, 2012, during Occupy Wall Street’s first anniversary celebration action, details 10 arrests that took place over the span of 87 minutes. While at first glance many of the individual arrests appear to be arbitrary, careful analysis from the videographers illustrates a larger picture wherein the NYPD’s actions are calculated and designed to derail the protestors ability to effectively assemble.

“On the eve of the second anniversary of OWS it bears remembering that the occupations didn’t simply fizzle and dissipate,” says Paul Sullivan, who videotaped the police response, “this video, shot last year on the morning of the first anniversary, not only reminds us of how difficult it is to protest when the NYPD is determined to shut you down, but also how the NYPD continues to supress civil liberties in order to stamp out the movement.”

The Origins of Our Police State

Under a series of Supreme Court rulings we have lost the rights to protect ourselves from random searches, home invasions, warrantless wiretapping and eavesdropping and physical abuse. Police units in poor neighborhoods function as armed gangs. The pressure to meet departmental arrest quotas—the prerequisite for lavish federal aid in the “war on drugs”—results in police routinely seizing people at will and charging them with a laundry list of crimes, often without just cause. Because many of these crimes carry long mandatory sentences it is easy to intimidate defendants into “pleading out” on lesser offenses. The police and the defendants know that the collapsed court system, in which the poor get only a few minutes with a public attorney, means there is little chance the abused can challenge the system. And there is also a large pool of willing informants who, to reduce their own sentences, will tell a court anything demanded of them by the police.

The tyranny of law enforcement in poor communities is a window into our emerging police state. These thuggish tactics are now being used against activists and dissidents. And as the nation unravels, as social unrest spreads, the naked face of police repression will become commonplace. Totalitarian systems always seek license to engage in this kind of behavior by first targeting a demonized minority. Such systems demand that the police, to combat the “lawlessness” of the demonized minority, be, in essence, emancipated from the constraints of the law. The unrestricted and arbitrary subjugation of one despised group, stripped of equality before the law, conditions the police to employ these tactics against the wider society. ...

Our failure to defend the rights of the poor in the name of law and order, our demonization of young black men, our acceptance that they can be stripped of the power to protect themselves from police abuse or find equality before the law, mean that their fate will soon become ours.

Wyden, Udall Statement on Intelligence Officials Lack of Understanding of Bulk Collection Program

Documents declassified last week clearly show that court orders authorizing the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records were consistently violated by the NSA. These documents also show that the government repeatedly made serious misrepresentations to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when seeking authorization to conduct this bulk collection. The intelligence community’s defense was that these violations were occurring because no one had a full grasp of how the bulk collection program actually worked.  

"If the assertion that ineptitude and not malice was the cause of these ongoing violations is taken at face value, it is perfectly reasonable for Congress and the American people to question whether a program that no one fully understood was an effective defense of American security at all. The fact that this program was allowed to operate this way raises serious concerns about the potential for blind spots in the NSA’s surveillance programs.  It also supports our position that bulk collection ought to be ended.

"The government’s misrepresentations inevitably led to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court being consistently misinformed as it made binding rulings on the meaning of U.S. surveillance law.  This underscores our concern that intelligence agencies’ assessments and descriptions about particular collection programs — even significant ones — are not always accurate. It is up to Congress, the courts and the public to ask the tough questions and require intelligence officials to back their assertions up with actual evidence. It is not enough to simply defer to these officials’ conclusions without challenging them.

Barrett Brown Can't Talk About Why the Government Wants to Jail Him for a Century

In the US government's campaign against journalists, Barrett Brown is one of the lesser-known victims.  And now even less will be forthcoming about his story, as the Texas-based writer, satirist and Internet activist is under a federal court gag order, forbidden to talk about his case or the charges that could land him in prison for more than 100 years. ...

In his September 4 ruling for a gag-order, U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay sided with a prosecution motion arguing that a gag should be imposed because Brown was trying to use the media to…defend himself:

Assistant U.S. Attorney Candina S. Heath told Lindsay that Brown has tried to manipulate the media from behind bars for his benefit.

She called as a witness an FBI agent who had listened to jail recordings of Brown's conversations with journalists and others about the publicity he sought.

In her motion, Heath said the government believes Brown's attorney "coordinates and/or approves of his use of the media." She also said most of the publicity about Brown has contained false information and "gross fabrications," according to the motion.

If trying to get a hearing in the media for one side or the other in a trial is grounds for a gag, it's a wonder that any case escapes silencing. Moreover, it's passing strange that a federal judge would gag a journalist, effectively declaring the court a First Amendment-free zone– particularly in a case where the nature and practice of journalism is the core issue.  No doubt many other government institutions–whether it's the IRS, the CIA or the EPA–think that many discussions of their operations contain "gross fabrications," but it's absurd to think they should therefore have the right to prevent citizens from talking about them.  Why, then, should the courts–supposed to be the guardians of the Bill of Rights–be given that power?
Edward Snowden Goes Unrecognized In Russia While Awaiting Family Visit

National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is expecting a visit from his parents and potentially his grandparents, his lawyer told Kremlin news channel RT. ...

Snowden is living in a secret location under private guard but is free to move around the country since receiving temporary asylum in August, Kucherena added. “He takes walks, he can travel. He travels,” Kucherena said. “No one has recognized him so far.”

Brazil's President Rousseff Cancels US Visit Over NSA Spying

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff has canceled her trip to the U.S. over spying by the National Security Agency. ...

Rousseff had a 20-minute phone conversation with President Obama on Monday to discuss the revelations that the NSA had spied on Latin American citizens including the presidents of Brazil and Mexico, but Rousseff was unsatisfied with Obama's explanations for the surveillance, the Brazilian newspaper reported.

The official statement called the "illegal practices" of the NSA an "assault on national sovereignty and individuals' rights." ...

In a further sign of spying backlash, Rousseff is pushing legislative measures for her country to "divorce itself from the U.S.-centric Internet" by storing Internet data from Facebook and Google locally to keep it out of the reach of the NSA's prying eyes.

UN Syria Report Confirms Chemical Weapons Used, Culprit Still Not Known

Israel Prefers That Al-Qaeda Rules Syria

Even Assad's defeat by al Qaeda-aligned rebels would be preferable to Damascus's current alliance with Israel's arch-foe Iran, Ambassador Michael Oren said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post. ...

Though old enemies, a stable stand-off has endured between the two countries during Assad's rule and at times Israel had pursued peace talks with him in hope of divorcing Syria from Tehran and Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah guerrillas in neighboring Lebanon.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had long avoided openly calling for the Syrian president's fall. Some Israeli officials now worry that radical Sunni Islamist insurgents fighting Assad will eventually turn their guns on the Jewish state.

But with Assad under U.S.-led condemnation for his forces' alleged chemical attack on a rebel district of Damascus on August 21, Oren said Israel's message was that he must go.

"We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren't backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran," Oren said in the interview, excerpted on Tuesday before its full publication on Friday.

War Dividend: US arms firms ready to cash in if Syria attacked



Action





Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest


The Evening Blues





More Tunes



Arctic Monkeys A Certain Romance

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.