24 October 2014

This is a Huge and Well Deserved F%$# You to the CIA and the NSA

It's well deserved too.

You see the Federal Trade (FTC) commission has hired hired Ashkan Soltan as their new Chief Technical Officer.

The reason that this is a giant f%$# you to the US state security apparatus is because (wait for it) he helped the Washington Post do its news stories on the Snowden affair:
The Federal Trade Commission has hired privacy and technology expert Ashkan Soltani to serve as the commission’s chief technology officer. But security experts and former senior U.S. intelligence officials are questioning the FTC’s decision, given Soltani’s very public role as a consultant for The Washington Post, where he co-authored multiple articles based on classified documents stolen from the National Security Agency by former contractor Edward Snowden.

The FTC said in a press release that Soltani will join FTC in November and will replace Latanya Sweeney, who is returning to Harvard University, where she founded and directs the school’s Data Privacy Lab. His job will be to advise the commission on evolving technology and policy issues, a role similar to one he held previously at the FTC before leaving government to become an independent consultant.
Needless to say, Michael Hayden and His Evil Minions heads are exploding:
The news has elicited wails from NSA’s mail mouthpieces, Stewart Baker and Michael Hayden.
“I’m not trying to demonize this fella, but he’s been working through criminally exposed documents and making decisions about making those documents public,” said Michael Hayden, a former NSA director who also served as CIA director from 2006 to 2009. In a telephone interview with FedScoop, Hayden said he wasn’t surprised by the lack of concern about Soltani’s participation in the Post’s Snowden stories. “I have no good answer for that.”

[snip]

Stewart Baker, a former NSA general counsel, said, while he’s not familiar with the role Soltani would play at the FTC, there are still problems with his appointment. “I don’t think anyone who justified or exploited Snowden’s breach of confidentiality obligations should be trusted to serve in government,” Baker said.

I find Hayden’s wails especially disgusting, given the way — it is now clear — the government spent so much effort covering up how he extended the illegal wiretap program in March 2004. I mean, I’m not trying to demonize the fella, but he’s a criminal, and yet he’s complaining about the press reporting on abuses?

………

At FTC, Soltani will be in a role where he can directly influence the kind of regulatory pressure placed on data collectors to protect user privacy. He understands — probably far more than we know from the WaPo stories — how NSA is capitalizing on already collected data. Which means he may be able to influence how much remains available to the spooks.
I do not expect Soltani to actually get the job.

It's clear that Obama is very much in the pocket of the US state security apparatus, and he will find a way to stop this.

But still, it is very well deserved push-back against the what can only be described as the forces of evil in America's shadow government.

There May be Hope for Us as a Civilization

TLC has canceled Here Comes Honey Boo Boo:
Cable television network TLC on Friday said it has canceled "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," the popular cable reality series, about a rural Georgia family and their precocious beauty pageant daughter.

TLC, owned by Discovery Communications Inc, did not explain why it was canceling the show but said in a statement that "supporting the health and welfare of these remarkable children is our only priority. TLC is faithfully committed to the children's ongoing comfort and well-being."
Hopefully this is the first of many cancellations or reality TV.

Also, I really hope that Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson doesn't end up too screwed up as an adult.

It Appears that Our Canadian Terrorists Weren't

Terrorists, I mean.  They were Canadians.

What they were was seriously mentally ill, and rather unsurprisingly, they were attracted to the batsh%$ insane world view of ISIS an their ilk.

The one that shot up the parliament?  He attempted to rob McDonalds with a pointed stick because he wanted to go to jail:
Ottawa shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau attempted to confess to a historical armed robbery that the RCMP believed didn’t happen, then attempted an armed robbery at a McDonald’s to go to jail, court recordings provided to CTV News show.

It was all part of a bizarre plan by the man who attacked Parliament Hill to get to jail to atone for his sins and get clean from a crack addiction, the audio recordings show.

“Perfect, perfect,” a Zehaf-Bibeau says with a French accent on the tapes, when he is finally allowed to be incarcerated. “The RCMP are investigating.”

Zehaf-Bibeau visited the Burnaby detachment of the RCMP to claim he had committed an armed robbery in Quebec 10 years ago, but an officer could find no evidence of the crime. Instead, the RCMP arrested Zehaf Bibeau under the B.C.’s Mental Health Act, and released him the next day.

Zehaf-Bibeau then attempted to rob a Vancouver McDonald’s with a pointed stick, the recording reveals.

His grin unnerved the McDonald’s clerk, who asked if the man was serious. Zehaf-Bibeau said, “Yes, hand over the money, homeboy.”

The McDonald’s clerk refused, telling Zihaf-Bibeau that he had already phoned the police.

“Beat it,” the clerk said.

Zehaf-Bibeau walked out of the McDonald’s, and dropped his stick on the pavement to wait for police to arrive.


At a Dec. 19, 2011 bail hearing, Zehaf-Bibeau told the court that he didn’t want to be on the outside.

“I wanted to come to jail,” he said. “The RCMP couldn’t do the work fast enough."

“I warned them that if you can’t keep me in I will do something right now to put me in.”
And the guy who ran down the soldiers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, near Montreal the day before? 

Just as nuts:


The tragic death on Monday of Canadian Forces Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, run over by a recently “radicalized” 25-year-old from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, was not an act of terror as much as it was an indictment of our ineffectiveness in dealing with mental illness.

Martin Couture-Rouleau, who up until two years ago was a normal pseudo-Catholic Québécois kid, a recent father struggling to keep his new pressure-washing business afloat, changed seemingly overnight into someone obsessed with the illuminati and conspiracy theories, one friend told La Presse.

It was in that period he converted to Islam and underwent such a significant personality change that it was his own father who reported him to the RCMP as a possible threat. Put on a federal watch list, he was prevented from carrying out his plan to travel to Turkey when he was arrested last summer and had his passport taken away.

His alienation from family and friends became even more pronounced in the past year. “People turned away from him, thinking he was crazy,” a friend told La Presse. His wife had also recently taken steps to gain sole custody of their child because of the changes in Couture-Rouleau’s behaviour.

Sûreté du Québec officers had even met with Couture-Rouleau and his imam just two weeks ago to try to turn him away from the radical thoughts he had been muttering about to friends and on his social networks. Although that’s the kind of talk that can get you put on watch lists, rambling about God and punishment and hell and paradise isn’t a crime, or else our jails would be full of preachers and pundits of every stripe.
No terrorism.  No ties to anyone outside of Canada.

The real concern is not terrorism.  It is how Canada's mental health system failed, and how it can be fixed.

23 October 2014

Why Republicans will take the Senate in November

Because when the populace is in a state of abject pants soiling terror, people are more likely to vote conservative, and between Isis, Ebola, and the shootings in Ottawa, when juxtaposed with the hysterical coverage of our national press, leaves me unable to reach any other conclusion.

So, I expect Democrats to lose the Senate, and I expect Obama to use it as an excuse to try and privatize Social Security, which he has been itching to do since his election in 2008.

I hope that it fails because the Republicans are unwilling to give him a win.

You Know, the Whole Hamlet Thing Didn't Work for Adlai Stevenson………

Elizabeth Warren is not being not quite so categorical in her denial of a 2016 Presidential run:
Senator Elizabeth Warren gave an interview to People magazine for this week’s issue and was asked for roughly the thousandth time if she planned to run for president. But her answer to this query was different than all the others:
But is the freshman senator from Massachusetts herself on board with a run for the White House? Warren wrinkles her nose.

“I don’t think so,” she tells PEOPLE in an interview conducted at Warren’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, home for this week’s issue. “If there’s any lesson I’ve learned in the last five years, it’s don’t be so sure about what lies ahead. There are amazing doors that could open.”

She just doesn’t see the door of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue being one of them. Not yet, anyway. “Right now,” Warren says, “I’m focused on figuring out what else I can do from this spot” in the U.S. Senate.
As a veteran Warren-watcher, I can say with certainty this is more ambiguous than she’s ever been on the subject. “I don’t think so,” “amazing doors that could open,” and “right now” are the traditional vernacular of a someone flirting with a campaign—-and someone who wants you to know it.

In the past, Warren has been much more unequivocal. (Examples: “I’m not running for president, and I plan to serve out my term,” and “I am not running for president. Do you want to put an exclamation point at the end of that?”)
I understand how tempting it is to play a "will she or won't she" game, it creates a buzz, and it can get one's ego stroked, but you need to be either in or out.


I'd love to see someone from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, as opposed to the current  front runner, Hillary Clinton, but jerking around potential supporters is never winning


Either get serious, and start an exploratory committee, or remain adamant about staying out.

Decent Unemployment News

Claims rose, but the 4 week moving average is at a 14 year low.

Of course, the labor force participation rate still sucks.

This is not The Onion

Following years of misconduct, and a federal consent degree, members of the Seattle police force have brought a lawsuit to protect their constitutional right to police brutality:
Over the past year, the Seattle police department has revised its policies on when police can use force, as part of a settlement with the Justice Department over findings that officers used frequent excessive, unconstitutional force on suspects.

But some 125 Seattle police officers responded by filing a lawsuit challenging the new rules. In their view, the new policies infringe on their rights to use as much force as they deem necessary in self-protection. They represent about ten percent of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild membership. The police union itself declined to endorse the lawsuit.

This week, a federal judge summarily rejected all of their claims, finding that they were without constitutional merit, and that she would have been surprised if such allegations of excessive force by officers did not lead to stricter standards.

The officers claimed the policies infringed on their rights under their Second Amendment and under the Fourth, claiming a self-defense right to use force. Chief U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman pointed out that the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms — not the right to use them — and that the officers “grossly misconstrued” the Fourth Amendment when they claimed that it protects them, and not individuals who would be the subjects of police force or seizures.
Seriously, there is something profoundly wrong with those officers, and the fact that they carry firearms and have the power of arrest makes me want to stay away from Seattle, and vacation someplace safer, like Kabul.

Obama is Hoping to Lose the Senate

Dan Froomkin is claiming that Obama is running out the clock, because he is expecting the Democrats to lose the Senate, and the Republicans will not vote to release the document:
Continued White House foot-dragging on the declassification of a much-anticipated Senate torture report is raising concerns that the administration is holding out until Republicans take over the chamber and kill the report themselves.

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s intelligence committee sent a 480-page executive summary of its extensive report on the CIA’s abuse of detainees to the White House for declassification more than six months ago.

In August, the White House, working closely with the CIA, sent back redactions that Feinstein and other Senate Democrats said rendered the summary unintelligible and unsupported.

Since then, the wrangling has continued behind closed doors, with projected release dates repeatedly falling by the wayside. The Huffington Post reported this week that White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, a close ally of CIA Director John Brennan, is personally leading the negotiations, suggesting keen interest in their progress — or lack thereof — on the part of Brennan and President Obama.

Human-rights lawyer Scott Horton, who interviewed a wide range of intelligence and administration officials for his upcoming book, “Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Foreign Policy,” told The Intercept that the White House and the CIA are hoping a Republican Senate will, in their words, “put an end to this nonsense.”
(emphasis mine)

Seriously.  This is despicable.

Barack Obama in general, and CIA Director John Brennan have no intention of letting this report see the light of day.

This is why the Senate Intel Committee should declassify the document on their own using Senate Resolution 400, which allows them to release the document with a simple majority vote.

It's something to consider for the lame duck session.  Because if they don't do this, or read the report in the well of the Senate, or leak it to Glenn Greenwald, there is a whole bunch of stuff that is both evil and stupid will get buried, and we will do it all again the next time.

History Repeats Itself, First as Tragedy, then as Farce.

After having seized defeat from the jaws of victory in her race against Scott Brown for Senate in 2007, it looks like Martha Coakley is about to turn over the Governor's Mansion to the Republicans:
National Democrats are haunted by memories of Martha Coakley's unforced stumbles and missteps in 2010, which cost them a U.S. Senate seat in one of the country's bluest states.

Four laters later, the Massachusetts attorney general might be about to blow another major contest: The race to succeed Deval Patrick as governor.

With two weeks left to go, a new poll by WBUR, which tracks the race weekly, found Coakley trailing for the first time against Republican Charlie Baker, a former health care CEO who served as secretary of finance and health under Gov. William Weld in the 1990s.

It's still a close contest: Baker has 43 percent while Coakley has 42 percent, well inside the poll's 4.4 percent margin of error.

But the troubling sign for Coakley is that Baker appears to be gaining steam down the stretch after consistently trailing throughout the campaign.
I was a bit alarmed when Coakley got the nomination, seeing as how she had run the worst campaign this side of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002.

I've always had this suspicion that the Democratic Party establishment in Massachusetts discovered that they preferred having Speaker of the state House, and the President of the state Senate as the most senior Democrats in the state, and as such, they have subtly worked to make Republicans governor.

It's what I call the Iron Rule of Organizations, where people will work for power within an organization at the expense the power of that organization.

22 October 2014

Justice Delayed………

The 4 Blackwater mercenaries whose shooting spree killed 14 people in Baghdad's Nisour Square have been found guilty of murder and other charges:
A federal jury in Washington convicted four Blackwater Worldwide guards Wednesday in the fatal shooting of 14 unarmed Iraqis, seven years after the American security contractors fired machine guns and grenades into a Baghdad traffic circle in one of the most ignominious chapters of the Iraq war.

The guilty verdicts on murder, manslaughter and gun charges marked a sweeping victory for prosecutors, who argued in an 11-week trial that the defendants fired recklessly and out of control in a botched security operation after one of them falsely claimed to believe the driver of an approaching vehicle was a car bomber. Jurors rejected the guards’ claims that they were acting in self-defense and were the target of incoming AK-47 gunfire.

Overall, defendants were charged with the deaths of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of 17 others at Baghdad’s Nisour Square shortly after noon Sept. 16, 2007. None of the victims was an insurgent.

“This verdict is a resounding affirmation of the commitment of the American people to the rule of law, even in times of war,” said Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. attorney for the District, whose office prosecuted the case. “I pray that this verdict will bring some sense of comfort to the survivors of that massacre.”
Fundamentally, the most depressing thing is the counterpoint at the end of the article, which notes that the Haditha Massacre, which involved US troops, was covered up by the military chain of command.

As the old saying goes, "Military justice is to justice as military music is to music."

Get Ready to Eat Tainted Meat from China

The WTO has just ruled that country of origin labels on meat are a violation of trade agreements:
Today’s ruling by a World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance panel against U.S. country-of-origin meat labeling (COOL) policies sets up a no-win dynamic, and the Obama administration should appeal the ruling, Public Citizen said.

If the administration were to weaken COOL, U.S. consumers would lose access to critical information about where their meat comes from at a time when consumer interest in such information is at an all-time high and opposition would only grow to the administration’s beleaguered trade agenda. If the administration again were to seek to comply with the WTO by strengthening COOL, then Mexico and Canada – the two countries that challenged the policy – likely would continue their case, even though cattle imports from Canada have increased since the 2013 strengthening of the policy.

The ruling further complicates the Obama administration’s stalled efforts to obtain Fast Track trade authority for two major agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. Both of these pacts would expose the United States to more such challenges against U.S. consumer, environmental and other policies.
What Public Citizen does not get is that, "More such challenges against U.S. consumer, environmental and other policies," is a feature, not a bug.

It is a goal of the neoliberal policy makers who create such deals to create a regulation free world.

They see it as leading to the Garden of Eden.

Me, I think that it's more likely to lead to Lord of the Flies.

That's Mighty White of Them………

A top National Security Agency official will no longer be moonlighting part-time with a private consulting firm run by former NSA chief Keith Alexander. The end of that arrangement comes days after the NSA said this particular work situation was "under internal review" due to potential conflicts of interest.

The private company at issue— IronNet Cybersecurity—was founded by Alexander, who ran the spy agency from August 2005 until March 2014. IronNet Cybersecurity offers protection services to banks for up to $1 million per month. Patrick Dowd, the NSA's current chief technology officer, had been working with Alexander's private venture for up to 20 hours per week.
20 hours a week?  For the chief f%$#ing technology officer for the f%$#ing National f%$#ing Security Agency?

Tell me that this isn't about using his connections to benefit his new firm.

And then there is the fact that while still heading the NSA, Keith Alexander, the NSA white washed his wide ranging, and highly suspicious tech investments:
New financial disclosure documents released this month by the National Security Agency (NSA) show that Keith Alexander, who served as its director from August 2005 until March 2014, had thousands of dollars of investments during his tenure in a handful of technology firms.

Each year disclosed has a checked box next to this statement: "Reported financial interests or affiliations are unrelated to assigned or prospective duties, and no conflicts appear to exist."

Alexander repeatedly made the public case that the American public is at "greater risk" from a terrorist attack in the wake of the Snowden disclosures. Statements such as those could have a positive impact on the companies he was invested in, which could have eventually helped his personal bottom line.

The NSA did not immediately respond to Ars’ requests for further comment.

The documents were obtained and published Friday by Vice News as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent lawsuit against the NSA brought by Vice News reporter Jason Leopold.
BTW, here is the money quote from the Vice article:
That said, Alexander's interest in surveillance was not limited to his tenure as NSA director. He also invested in firms that are on the cutting edge of surveillance technology.

For example, Alexander invested as much as $15,000 in: Pericom Semiconductor, a company that has designed technology for the closed-circuit television and video surveillance markets; RF Micro Devices designs, which manufactures high-performance radio frequency technology that is also used for surveillance; and as much as $50,000 in Synchronoss Technologies, a cloud storage firm that provides a cloud platform to mobile phone carriers (the NSA has been accused of hacking into cloud storage providers).
Like I said, mighty white of the NSA to give the good General a pass on all of this.

And did I forget to mention this last bit? Since leaving the NSA earlier this year, Alexander has filed at least 9 patents on computer security, that is a something north of 1 patent a month, and the NSA has dutifully signed off of their being unrelated to his work at the NSA:
In an interview Monday with former National Security Agency Director General Keith Alexander, Foreign Policy's Shane Harris learned that Alexander plans to file “at least” nine patent applications—“and possibly more"—pertaining to technology for detecting network intruders.

Alexander left his government post in early 2014 and went on to co-found a private company, IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., with unnamed business partners. Alexander said that these business partners helped him create the “unique” method for detecting hackers that he plans to patent. Of course, Alexander himself had unparalleled access to classified security operations from 2005, when he took charge of the NSA, to 2014, when he retired.

Since starting IronNet, Alexander has been peddling his consulting services to major corporations, especially those in the financial industry, and has quoted fees of up to $1 million per month. That astronomical number drew at least one federal representative to suggest that Alexander might be disclosing or misusing classified information.

Presumably, Alexander's expensive consulting will include access to IronNet's future patented technology, which will cover “a system to detect so-called advanced persistent threats, or hackers who clandestinely burrow into a computer network in order to steal secrets or damage the network itself,” Foreign Policy reported. Alexander specified to the magazine that IronNet's technology is unique because it uses “behavioral models” to anticipate a hacker's next moves.
You know, if I didn't know better, I would swear that this whole dysfunctional security-industrial complex thing would sound like an awful like like our dysfunctional military-industrial complex, where increasingly large sums of money seem to result in nothing more than massive remuneration for retired generals.

Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has not Made me a Moman.*

You know the reasons.
  • He's assertive, she's a bitch.
  • I get paid more for the same work.
  • He's a playa, she's a slut.
  • He's cool, and she's an ice queen.
Finally, and most importantly, I'll never have to deal with the mountain of bullsh%$ that has been sliding toward Renee Zellweger.

Seriously.

What the f%$# is wrong with people?

*This is actually part of the traditional morning prayers for Jewish males. The Hebrew is, "בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֶלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁלֹּא עָשַֽׂנִי אִשָּׁה."

What the Hell?!?!?

There has been what appears to be a terrorist attack on the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa:
A masked gunman killed a soldier standing guard at Canada’s war memorial Wednesday, then stormed Parliament in an attack that was stopped cold when he was shot to death by the ceremonial sergeant-at-arms. Canada’s prime minister called it the country’s second terrorist attack in three days.

“We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed in an address to the nation.

Unfolding just before 10 a.m., while lawmakers were meeting in caucus rooms, the assault rocked Parliament over and over with the boom of gunfire, led MPs to barricade doors with chairs and sent people streaming from the building in fear. Harper was addressing a caucus when the attack began outside the door, but he safely escaped.

Investigators offered little information about the gunman, identified as 32-year-old petty criminal Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. But Harper said: “In the days to come we will learn about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had.”

Canada was already on alert at the time because of a deadly hit-and-run assault Monday against two Canadian soldiers by a man Harper described as an “ISIL-inspired terrorist.” ISIL, or Islamic State, has called for reprisals against Canada and other Western countries that have joined the U.S.-led air campaign against the extremist group in Iraq and Syria.
Needless to say, I expect to see Canada's own "Zombie Eyed Granny Starver", PM Stephen Harper, to milk this for all the electoral advantage that it is worth.

I expect him to start taking some sort of actions that are unpalatable to the opposition in the name of security, much as Bush did with the founding of DHS.

21 October 2014

This is the Best Idea that I have Heard all Day

The canvassing board in Michigan has just certified the language for a petition to prevent hospitals to overcharge the uninsured:
The Board of State Canvassers on Monday unanimously approved the form a statewide ballot initiative petition that aims to prohibit a health care provider from charging a higher price to some for medical goods or services.

A group called Stop Overcharging is backing the "citizen initiated" legislation, which would limit a hospital or provider to charging somebody any more than 150 percent of the lowest amount the provider had accepted as payment in full.

The example they give is if somebody was charged $2,000 for an MRI but the provider accepted $600 as payment in full, the provider couldn't force an uninsured person or auto accident victim to pay more than $900.

It's something that has come up in the discussion of no-fault reforms. The petition is designed to incite action from the state legislature on that topic.

"We would hope that they would, we would wish that they would, but we're preparing if they wouldn't," said Rocky Raczkowski, a former state lawmaker who is heading up the petition drive.

………

The Board of State Canvassers unanimously approved the petition as to form, meaning it meets state guidelines and can be circulated.

The group can start collecting signatures after the Nov. 4 election, and Raczkowski said they plan to move quickly. Asked if paid circulators would be circulating the petitions, he said the group was still examining its options.
There is some political baggage along with this, it seems to be associated with insurance "Reforms" that favor the auto insurance industry, but the idea that part of the healthcare delivery problem in the USA is the price of healthcare appears to be gaining currency, and this is a good thing.

The idea that, for example, the cost of an identical service can vary by over an order of magnitude at the same hospital in the is much, if not most of the problem here.

The New York Times revealed something very similar recently, when it discovered that many hospitals employed ER physicians who were out of network, who then price gouged patients, since they were not covered by any agreement with insurance carriers:
When Jennifer Hopper raced to the emergency room after her husband, Craig, took a baseball in the face, she made sure they went to a hospital in their insurance network in Texas. So when they got a $937 bill from the emergency room doctor, she called the insurer, assuming it was in error.

But the bill was correct: UnitedHealthcare, the insurance company, had paid its customary fee of $151.02 and expected the Hoppers to pay the remaining $785.98, because the doctor at Seton Northwest Hospital in Austin did not participate in their network.

“It never occurred to me that the first line of defense, the person you have to see in an in-network emergency room, could be out of the network,” said Ms. Hopper, who has spent months fighting the bill. “In-network means we just get the building? I thought the doctor came with the E.R.”

Patients have no choice about which physician they see when they go to an emergency room, even if they have the presence of mind to visit a hospital that is in their insurance network. In the piles of forms that patients sign in those chaotic first moments is often an acknowledgment that they understand some providers may be out of network.
Note that this sort of shenanigans is why ER doctors income has gone up in recent years.

ER's are going Wall Street, and the only people who win in this game are the worst among us.