This is not a surprise, although the corroboration of what already seemed pretty evident is welcome. The crowd in Washington – both NSA and its political enablers- barely pretend that their mass collection of data has anything to do with terrorism. Given the shortage of linguists in such languages and Arabic and Farsi, as the NY Times reported a few weeks ago, NSA staff cannot even understand what supposed terrorists are saying unless they happen to speak English. And of course, any serious terrorists will not be using their own laptops or phones listed under their own names. They can always pick up a variety of anonymous prepaid throwaway devices so that even if their conversations are picked up, they will remain invisible. A half-hearted attempt by Senators Schumer and Cornyn in 2010 to require IDs and a database for such prepaids went nowhere, probably because of opposition from Verizon, AT&T and other prepaid providers. (See A Huge Gap in Our Security)
valatius commented on the diary post Over Easy: Capitalist Withdrawal and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) by yellowsnapdragon.
George Monbiot is writing about the other free trade deal between Europe and the US- a mirror image of the Trans Pacific deal. The Europeans have been stalling on the deal since discovering that the NSA has been spying on them and Kerry is busy trying to get them to cave in. German and other [...]
valatius commented on the blog post Kerry Gives Assad A Week To Turn Over All Chemical Weapons Or Face Attack
It is possible that Obama can be forced to accept peace. Of course, Kerry was not serious in proposing that Syria place his chemical arms under international control, as the NY Times reports today: Mr. Kerry’s own spokeswoman described as a rhetorical exercise rather than a proposal.
But the fact that Russia and the Ban Ki Moon are taking it seriously could box Obama into a corner. This makes it all the more imperative that his war authorization proposal be defeated.
valatius commented on the blog post Congressional Vote on #Syria Whip Count, Sept 9 – Launching Our New Senate Whip Count Page
You can move republican Chris Gibson (NY-20) from undecided to a firm no on the war authorization vote, based on a statement on his website.
valatius commented on the diary post Obama Will Launch a Huge Propaganda Blitz — and May Attack Syria Even If He Loses the Vote in Congress by Norman Solomon.
I would not overestimate Obamas desire to go to war. In the case of Syria, he talked himself into a corner with that red line comment and then did not want to appear weak when poison gas was detected. In fairness, any US president will be intent on maintaining the authority and powers of the [...]
valatius commented on the diary post War With Syria: Where Do Your Congressional Representatives Stand? by Jane Hamsher.
Chris Gibson, Republican from NY-20, says he is opposed to war. He has also supported the Amash amendment to rein in the NSA.
valatius commented on the diary post Lying About Syria, and the Lying Liars Who Lie About the Lying by David Swanson.
When the Western powers went to war with Ottoman Turkey in 1914, Syria did not exist as a distinct nation or as a people. If anything, Syria, Palestine and Jordan were considered as more or less one big Arabic-speaking area that was up for grabs. Churchills original plan was to install a member of the [...]
I also thought that Martin Luther Kings response reflected the uneasiness of so many in the movement with the openly socialist and gay Bayard Rustin. The estrangement increased in succeeding years the only welcome he found was from the UFT where I used to see him from time to time. In 1968 that teachers union, led by one time socialist Al Shanker, fought a bitter battle against community control of the New York City schools. Rustin sided with Shanker and since the communities in question were largely black, he was further estranged from the civil rights activists. For those interested in this sad period of Rustins life, this essay by Daniel Pearlstein may be of interest.
Shanker and his successor Sandy Feldman were consciously socialist (she had a portrait of Eugene V. Debs in her office) but after the racial conflicts of 1968, their socialism assumed a distinctly rightwing form. They sponsored a quasi-party, Social Democrats USA, to reflect their ideology and installed Rustin as its leader in an office in their building on lower Park Avenue. This odd little party drew in such rightwing Democrats as Reagans UN ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick and other early neocon types.
E.F., I dont find your arguments against the Tsarnaev brothers guilt to be convincing. That type of bomb is certainly easy enough to make and the idea that such devices would be part of some mysterious drill does not seem very credible. I have enjoyed some of your other posts, but this series appears to [...]
valatius commented on the blog post Mass Consumption Created and Killed the Middle Class
Very good essay, but it also might be interesting to think about about the role of inflation in this sorry history. The rise of the middle class after WWII was accompanied by a steady but manageable inflation as wages and prices both kept going up. Then came the huge deficit spending of the Viet Nam War, immediately followed by the first of several oil crises.
When inflation peaked at 15% in January 1980,the election of Reagan was pretty much assured and when he took office, the prime rate had been pushed up to 20.5%, based on the theory that choking off credit will kill inflation. Well, it nearly killed off Reagan administration but he was saved by the effect of shifting manufacturing overseas while pumping money back into the economy via more deficit spending. (aka Morning in America) And for the next 40 years, prices turned out to be remarkably stable, although at the price of dismantling the American middle class.
People could afford to work at Walmart because they could afford to buy the foreign-made products for sale in Walmart. Food prices were kept down as agri-business found new ways to produce food cheaply. (keeping all those chickens and pigs locked up indoors does produce cheaper chicken and ham)True, gasoline prices moved upward over the years but thanks to imports and the new food supply system, this did not lead to huge numbers of Americans going hungry or unclothed. The advent of the computer also cut all kinds of prices, as more white and blue collar jobs were eliminated and efficiency increased.
Inflation now runs about 1.5 to 2% which is below the level of stirring any mass unrest. Meanwhile government programs, like food stamps and school lunches, provide some cushion to people who have to work at the Walmart level. And the mass growth of cheap electronic entertainment, not to mention the variety of legal and illegal drugs available, keep the ever-poorer American working class pretty docile. And for those who act up, we have the worlds highest incarceration rate, followed closely by that other workers paradise, Cuba.
It is probable, I think, that this kind of slow but steady decline can be managed for the foreseeable future. The ultra-wealthy .001% need not fear mobs with pitchforks arriving at their mansions any time soon, unless of course sudden climate shifts or a new 2008 style financial panic throws everything into chaos.
valatius commented on the blog post Ender’s Game: Orson Scott Card Gets Even Crazier, More Hateful
Among Orson Scott Cards other credits is that he authored a new script for the annual Hill Cumorah pageant which celebrates the visions of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. As a Mormon, science fiction and fantasy comes naturally to Orson.
Early Mormons, by the way, were not such homophobes as their latter day descendants and did have a ceremony celebrating male couples.
Any assessment of the Viet Nam War should include the recent book Kill Anything That Moves by Nick Turse. His theme is that that the American military visited upon South Vietnam an endless slaughter,day after day, month after month that was neither accidental nor unforeseeable. He makes a sharp distinction between combat vets like Chuck Hagel [...]
After five years as AG, Holder suddenly realizes that mandatory minimums are a problem? Women, in particular, have been hard hit by mandatory minimum policy re drugs and often end up in jail due to an involvement with the wrong man. And the Obama people love to celebrate women’s rights in the abstract but preside over a federal prison system that is abusing women even as Holder gives his speech.
Take the example of Danbury Womens Prison, which was the model for the prison int he popular series Orange Is The New Black. The federal Bureau of Prisons has decided to move all 1100+ women from Danbury to a new prison in Aliceville, Alabama – a places so remote there is not even bus service. Why? Because Senator Richard Shelby pressured the BOP to build this $250 million site in his state and now it sits empty.
So, to keep Shelby from looking like he is wasting public money, the women are already being moved, so far from family, children and loved ones that many will never receive another visit. Not to mention they will lose effective contact with their lawyers. Driven to despair by such isolation, many women may act out and be given additional sentences.
So far, northeastern Senators have questioned the decision but the women are already being sent away and the process is due to be complete by December. The decision can be reversed, given enough pressure, and I urge people to contact the white house, their senators and congress people.
valatius commented on the blog post California Prison Officials Demonize Prisoners by Claiming Hunger Strike a Part of Gang Conspiracy
Six months ago you could read this in the Los Angeles Times:
A combative Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday declared that the prison crisis is over in California and demanded an end to years of intervention by federal judges and expensive edicts designed to reduce crowding and improve inmate healthcare.
The buck stops in Sacramento on this one.
The point that you make under thesis 1 describes many Americans and possibly citizens of other countries as well, i.e. “Those who are indifferent to this issue because they do not believe they “have done anything wrong.” What such people fail to realize is that totalitarianism remains an every present possibility in modern societies, and [...]
valatius commented on the blog post WSJ Editorial Board Member Furious With “All Powerful Bike Lobby”
As a longtime biker, I think this is a good program but I wonder how many New Yorkers will be unable to use it because they do not have credit cards. Undocumented people and the lowest paid and non-working poor could benefit the most from such low-cost transportation but they are also the ones least likely to have credit cards. Making the bikes free would not work in NYC nay more than it has other places.
Anybody know if any thought has been given as to how people without credit cards could provide a security deposit?
I would say that any attempt to uncover governmental secrets falls under the first amendment and is more likely to have a positive result than not. Just take the example of the Presidential Daily Brief of August 6, 2001, headlined Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US . There is nothing more top secret than intelligence info [...]
valatius commented on the diary post Bishops Tap Veteran of Islamophobic, Homophobic Legal Shop as Top Flack by RH Reality Check.
The Thomas More Law Center is a product of Tom Monaghan, the ultraright Dominos pizza millionaire. When I was in Florida last year, I stopped by Donaghues all-Catholic village of Ave Maria , a bizarre little place that would have warmed the heart of Francisco Franco. Monaghans little utopia resembles other gated communities where wealthy white folks [...]
valatius commented on the diary post Syrian rebels to reject U.S./Russia-sponsored peace talks? by fairleft.
If Assad had been overthrown two years ago, there might have been a chance for representative government along the lines of Egypt. But that war now resembles the Spanish Civil War. In 1936 democratic forces heroically resisted fascism. But within a couple years the Soviets had taken control of the battered Republican side and imposed [...]
valatius commented on the diary post Korea: US Cancels Irrelevant ICBM Test But Maintains Provocative “Defense” by E. F. Beall.
I am wondering if it isn’t time for Japan to seriously re-arm, develop its own nuclear force, and assume major responsibility for its immediate region. Perhaps South Korea,too, needs its own nuclear deterrent. Since 1945, the US has assured the defense of Japan, which inevitably includes South Korea, and that made sense when the world [...]
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