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Scilla siberica
Scilla siberica.  Scott Arboretum.  March, 2013.  Photo by joanneleon.

Scilla siberica
Scilla siberica.  Scott Arboretum.  March, 2013.  Photo by joanneleon.

Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick

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A Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood

Less than 24 hours later, a missile tore through the compound, severing Mr. Muhammad’s left leg and killing him and several others, including two boys, ages 10 and 16. A Pakistani military spokesman was quick to claim responsibility for the attack, saying that Pakistani forces had fired at the compound.

That was a lie.

Mr. Muhammad and his followers had been killed by the C.I.A., the first time it had deployed a Predator drone in Pakistan to carry out a “targeted killing.” The target was not a top operative of Al Qaeda, but a Pakistani ally of the Taliban who led a tribal rebellion and was marked by Pakistan as an enemy of the state. In a secret deal, the C.I.A. had agreed to kill him in exchange for access to airspace it had long sought so it could use drones to hunt down its own enemies.

That back-room bargain, described in detail for the first time in interviews with more than a dozen officials in Pakistan and the United States, is critical to understanding the origins of a covert drone war that began under the Bush administration, was embraced and expanded by President Obama, and is now the subject of fierce debate. The deal, a month after a blistering internal report about abuses in the C.I.A.’s network of secret prisons, paved the way for the C.I.A. to change its focus from capturing terrorists to killing them, and helped transform an agency that began as a cold war espionage service into a paramilitary organization.

Lambert Strether does a pretty thorough analysis here that goes beyond this excerpt. The video is one that I'm not sure I've seen before, but it doesn't take long (1:15 minute mark) before Obama says that globalization has changed all the rules, and the baby boomer retirement will present problems.  So this is a project he was working on long before he even decided to run for president, which rules out any of the apologia about how he's naive. He is just plowing forward with a plan that was set in place a long time ago.  He's known for plowing forward with plans, regardless of whether they still fit the situation or not, regardless of how things around him change.
Obama at the Hamilton Project, 2006: “This is not a bloodless process.”

There’s been a sort of contest among the skeptics and hippies for the “Who Called Their Shot on Obama First” title, which I believe Adolph Reed holds (Village Voice, 1996), with Bruce Dixon (2007) also holding an honored place; both writers knew Obama in Chicago, which helped. However, along with Ken Silverstein from Harpers, left blogger A Tiny Revolution called his shot in 2006 (hat tip, Gaius Publius (hat tip jawbone)), based on Obama’s appearance at the first meeting of Bob Rubin’s The Hamilton Project, where he was the only Senator to appear. Here’s the video:

Bad Policy: President Obama's Budget Cuts Social Security and Medicare

Not only do the majority of America's workers across the political spectrum oppose benefit cuts to the social insurance system, this is bad policy that will slow economic recovery even further.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the "chained" CPI is wrong-headed policy.

Millions of Americans remain out of work and the job market is especially devastating for young people.  Young people ages 20-24 are facing 13.3% unemployment rates. Without the prospect of good jobs in their early and crucial earning years, these young people will bear the cost of these proposed cuts in Social Security.
More from Lambert.
ObamaCare Clusterfuck: How health care co-ops got Shock Doctrine-ed out of the picture

Interesting article from Non-Profit Quarterly:

Several provisions of the fiscal-cliff bill removed critical funding and underpinnings of the ACA, perhaps none more significant than what it did to the nonprofit cooperatives. The fiscal-cliff bill eliminated funding that might have gone to new nonprofit health-insurance cooperatives.[...]
Zombie Worse-than-SOPA CISPA bill is back again.  Terra Terra CyberTerra.  
CISPA Explainer #4: Is There Anything Besides Information-Sharing Hidden in CISPA?

We've written extensively about CISPA over the last year, but since the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is set to mark the bill up next week, and the full House to vote on it the week after that, we're dissecting its shortcomings. Information sharing isn't offensive per se; it's really a question of what can be shared, with whom, and what can they do with it. Previously, we've discussed what information can be shared, with whom it can be shared with, and what corporations and government agencies can do with it after it's shared. Today we discuss if there's anything else in CISPA that you have to worry about.

Is there anything besides information-sharing hidden in CISPA?

Of course there is.

CISPA is based on the premise that companies should share cyber threat information they come across in the course of everyday business. But CISPA goes beyond mere sharing and allows companies to conduct even more surveillance of records and communications in the search for cyber threats. Even worse, CISPA gives companies complete immunity for "decisions made" based on information discovered through these new monitoring activities or through information shared under CISPA. In other words, CISPA doesn't just grant immunity for broad information-sharing, it grants immunity for literally anything companies choose to do in response to the information gleaned from its CISPA powers.

Surprise, surprise: House committee to amend CISPA in secret, again
Summary: As is with most cases, "classified information" — the alternative buzzword for "national security" — is cited as the reason why the controversial "privacy killer" CISPA will be amended in secret. But it's OK; it's only people's privacy at risk here.

As was the case last year when members of the committee amended the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) the first time around — the bill, dubbed a "privacy killer" by online activists and privacy groups, will once again be amended in a veil of secrecy.

According to the committee's spokesperson Susan Phalen (via The Hill), these secret hearings are not uncommon and "sometimes they'll need to bounce into classified information and go closed for a period of time to talk."
It comes as more than two dozen civil liberties groups said in a joint letter to committee members [PDF] earlier this week that: "The public has a right to know how Congress is conducting the people’s business, particularly when such important wide-ranging policies are at stake."

CISPA: Say sayonara to your privacy
For those who aren't in the loop, the bill is designed to remove legal barriers preventing companies and firms from sharing information — including personal citizen data from social networking sites and other Web services — with the U.S. government, under the principle that it may help prevent cyber-attacks.

This means a company like Facebook, Twitter, Google or any other Web or technology giant, such as your cell service provider, would be legally able to hand over vast amounts of data to the U.S. government and its law enforcement — for whatever purpose they deem necessary — and face no legal reprisals.

The Outskirts of Hope: How Ohio’s Debtors' Prisons are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities

They are unconstitutional. They are against state law. And yet, debtors’ prisons – jailing people because they are too poor to pay their court fines – are common across Ohio, according to a report released today by the ACLU of Ohio.

I first met John Bundren and Samantha Reed about six months ago. They have a daughter, Allie, who is now nine months old. They’re both in their early 20s. Samantha never graduated high school, and worked as a maid until Allie’s birth. John has only been able to get seasonal work picking vegetables or as a performer at a haunted house during Halloween.

During John’s teens, he struggled with alcohol addiction, and received multiple convictions for drinking under age and public intoxication. His court fines and costs totaled nearly $3,000. Samantha also had a misdemeanor conviction and has a few hundred dollars in fines.

When I met with the couple, they recounted how they often had to decide whether to make payments on their fines or buy diapers for Allie. With no jobs, they had to scrimp and save to pay anything, and oftentimes they had to make the heartbreaking decision which of their fines they would pay on in a given month. John chose to pay on Samantha’s fines before his own, so she could avoid jail and take care of Allie. They have had to make that choice four times, with John serving a total of 41 days in jail simply because he could not afford to pay their fines.

Between childcare and serving jail time, neither of them has been able to get a permanent job. The last time I met with them, they were staying in a friend’s apartment. They shared a tiny room, with Allie’s crib in the corner and seat covers and pillows on the floor where John and Samantha sleep.

Despite all these problems, they remain optimistic. Samantha says, "I want to get my GED. I plan to take the test again when I have a stable place to live."

"My plan for our family is to start fresh," she added. "Get [John] a job, start working more with Allie, get a car and a license and some insurance. To be comfortable; not have to worry as much."

Tax Lobby Builds Ties to Chairman of Finance Panel

No other lawmaker on Capitol Hill has such a sizable constellation of former aides working as tax lobbyists, representing blue-chip clients that include telecommunications businesses, oil companies, retailers and financial firms, according to an analysis by LegiStorm, an online database that tracks Congressional staff members and lobbying. At least 28 aides who have worked for Mr. Baucus, Democrat of Montana, since he became the committee chairman in 2001 have lobbied on tax issues during the Obama administration — more than any other current member of Congress, according to the analysis of lobbying filings performed for The New York Times.

“K Street is literally littered with former Baucus staffers,” said Jade West, an executive at a wholesalers’ trade association that relies on a former finance panel aide, Mary Burke Baker. “It opens doors that allow you to make the case.”

Like Ms. Baker, many of those lobbyists have already saved their clients millions — in some cases, billions — of dollars after Mr. Baucus backed their requests to extend certain corporate tax perks, provisions that were adopted as part of the so-called fiscal cliff legislation in January. Baucus aides who later became lobbyists helped financial firms save $11.2 billion in tax deferments and helped secure a $222 million tax benefit that is shared with the liquor industry.

Drone protest aimed at Boeing headquarters

Protesters rallied outside Boeing headquarters Saturday, carrying signs and calling on the company to stop making war drones.

This year the Navy is asking for designs for a new drone, and Boeing is expected to propose its design called the Phantom Ray.

100 march in Minneapolis anti-war, anti-drone demonstration

“The reality of the situation is that there is a lot of collateral damage, and it’s turning people against us,” protester Riley Hunter, 20, the student body president-elect of Augsburg College in Minneapolis, said about drone strikes. “Sometimes we are killing people we are not trying to.”


April Days of Action Against Drones

APRIL DAYS OF ACTION 2013 – A National Uprising to Stop Drone Spying and Killing

April 4 – 6: Drone Manufacturing

Organizers around the country are encouraged to identify drone manufacturing facilities in their regions and organize demonstrations, teach-ins and other actions calling for an end to drone attacks and an end to the manufacture of weaponized and surveillance drones.  Coordinator – Joe Scarry –

April 16- 18: Drone Research/Training

Organizers around the country are encouraged to identify colleges and universities in their regions doing drone research and/or training of drone pilots and to call for an end to research and training related to drone warfare.  Coordinator – Marge Van Cleef –

April 27 – 28: Drone Bases

Organizers around the country will be encouraged to organize protests at drone bases in their regions. People will be encouraged also to participate in demonstrations planned during this period at the Reaper drone base at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, NY.
Coordinator – Dave Soumis –

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

Jethro Tull - Cross Eyed Mary
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