Jun 29, 2013

1984 vs 2013

Frankly, I see the modern day as more of a mixture of Orwell and Huxley. Some of it designed, some of accidental. The difference is Orwell was writing about England falling into Communism, whereas Huxley was writing about the US falling into Hedonism. 

Pound for pound, the dystopian sci fi prediction that got it right was Brave New World. The power structure isn't a boot to the face, it's people wandering through their day on anti anxiety drugs being encouraged to enjoy themselves like mindless cattle.

Thoughtworks for your brain. Discuss.

Jun 28, 2013

That Explains It...

Wondering why there's a character assassination against Snowden? Patriot, Traitor or Whistleblower or someone who wanted to get the hell out of dodge and experience jet setting bunker hiding lifestyle of Salman Rushdie?

Clearly, he didn't think that through.

The national debate should be focused on PRISM and how due to the Patriot Act it’s perfectly ok to violate the Constructional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. He has acted against the government - that makes him a traitor, however those actions are as a whistleblower to the people of the United States. Sadly, these two are separated... and by how much is shown in this very instance.

Patriotism is not blind faith in the government. Patriotism is virtue, love for the republic, and means to question government and to put the republic before personal interests and desires. Without virtue, there can be no republic (democracy).

But, instead the public debate is about how a fat diabetic Southern Woman is being ostracized for saying a naughty word that we all know she said.

Pass the bread, I'm heading to the circus.

Jun 27, 2013

Can't be a coincidence?

Is the Fed just trolling us... or is this another instance of "in plain sight".

Kind of like how Goldman Sachs is just Gold Sacks.

Jun 22, 2013

90's Video on How To Annoy Your Friends

A bizarre low-budget Christian tutorial on effective evangelism from the ’90s

For a related video, click here)

Does Chuck Hagel Have Footin Mouth Disease?

Chief Hagel Expresses Regret Over Taliban Joke

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has expressed regret to an Indian-born college professor for jokingly asking, "you're not a member of the Taliban, are you?" seconds before the professor rose to ask a question.

Hagel's spokesman said the joke was not directed at anyone in particular, and the defense secretary called the professor, Robin Gandhi, to tell him as much hours after the Wednesday event at the University of Nebraska, where Hagel gave a speech and took questions from the audience.

The remarks have drawn considerable media attention, particularly given the announcement this week that the United States and the Taliban intend to hold talks after nearly 12 years of war in Afghanistan.

Hagel "expressed regret for any trouble that this caused the professor," spokesman George Little told reporters.

Read more 

Look, in this politically correct world, this is serious. However, for me, this is comedy gold. How can the Defense Secretary get away with making such a racist, and ill timed joke? Hey, let's just say it fell flat. But a joke's a joke. Even if it duds. His next set he'll open with the Hillary joke and close with the dick jokes.

Jun 21, 2013

In the Spy Game, Nothing is as it seems...

UK taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world's communications

GCHQ secretly tap global fibre-optic network for private data in scheme bigger than Prism, leaked documents show.

A British spy agency taps the network of cables that carry the world’s internet and telephone communications to secretly collect vast streams of private information, documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden has revealed.

The GCHQ agency scoops as much as it can from Facebook posts, email messages, internet histories and calls while tapping into the global fibre-optic network with little legal oversight, according to a report from the Guardian newspaper.

The activities are detailed in two documents leaked to the newspaper by Snowden, the former NSA and CIA worker who revealed America was spying on millions of foreigners and US nationals without their knowledge under the Prism scheme. The GCHQ scheme is billed as wider-ranging than Prism, with less legal oversight.

Read more ....

So, apparently the GCHQ shares this data with the NSA. And that's, I'm guessing - from US sources. Let's put this in context - when the NSA stoneface stares into the camera and states they do not indiscriminately monitor US citizens, they're telling the truth. But the end of the sentence is that they let someone else do it and then get the data from them.

The GCHQ Revelations

Is that a giant eyeball? Oh, come on!
If you need some scary reading material to keep you up at night, let me recommend the story in the Guardian today from Henry Porter. It's about the GCHQ Revelations - and about how who controls the internet will (or does) control everyone.

If you think loss of privacy is a price worth paying for security, ask what a totally monitored future would look like.

'This is for everyone" was the message that flashed around the Olympic Stadium, as Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British inventor of the world wide web, was revealed hunched over a computer in the London 2012 opening ceremony. With Edward Snowden's latest dramatic leak that the British GCHQ and the US's NSA are executing a plan – codenamed MTI, or Mastering the Internet – to collect a significant amount of the world's communications, that generous slogan, which applied as much to the web as the spirit of the Games, now has a rather sinister undertone. The web is for everyone and so, we learn, is surveillance.

Britain and the US have boasted of their democratic virtues for generations and they also gave the internet to the world – the Americans providing the network and the British the idea. But now the two countries are rapidly perfecting a surveillance system that will allow them to capture and analyse a large quantity of international traffic consisting of emails, texts, phone calls, internet searches, chat, photographs, blogposts, videos and the many uses of Google.

Read more ....

It is a sober analysis on what the future may hold. Read it all!

Jun 15, 2013

Meme Roundup

Been a while, and I've been slacking in the Week in Review, pretty much since the election - so here's a big pile of hilarious cartoons and internet memes that sum up the last couple weeks in the news. That'll make up for the lack of content... surely?


Not to be undone - I'm closing with this one:

Jun 14, 2013

Don't Step on the Lord!

As if waiting for your airplane at the stupid Phoenix airport wasn't lousy enough - there's at least something entertaining going on there - 
Christ has returned!  Or, at least an 'image' of him... 

on the ceramic tile... 

Near a damned security checkpoint. 

In terminal 3. 

The apparition has already attracted many visitors, even some who spend their whole day making sure no one steps on it. 

Think about that for a moment. 

Jun 13, 2013

Was He Campaigning Against Himself?

Well he didn’t really lie. He said no more “illegal” wiretaps so they made them legal.
See how it works?

Besides, the It's Bush's Fault® defensive screen works here as well as anywhere else it's been tried.

Why are IRS Agents training with AR-15's?

Typically, an IRS Agent will hit you with a million paper cuts.

Now they're training to hit you with lead? No, not from a pencil, an AR-15. No, that's not the form for you need to file for farm losses. (And frankly, you shouldn't claim losses on your dead tomato plant you got at the supermarket)

Rep. Jeff Duncan is asking this too. He's chair of the House Homeland Security oversight subcommittee.
“When I left there, it’s been bugging me for weeks now, why IRS agents are training with a semi-automatic rifle AR-15, which has stand-off capability,” Duncan told POLITICO. “Are Americans that much of a target that you need that kind of capability?”
Okay, sure, he recognizes that the IRS has an enforcement division - but what's the correct level of firepower necessary for tax enforcement?
“I think Americans raise eyebrows when you tell them that IRS agents are training with a type of weapon that has stand-off capability. It’s not like they’re carrying a sidearm and they knock on someone’s door and say, ‘You’re evading your taxes,’” Duncan said.  We’ll ask the questions and hopefully they can justify it. And if not, we’ll bring them in front of the committee for a hearing and ask the questions on the record,” he said.
In a statement, the IRS defended the training.

“As law enforcement officials, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agents are equipped similarly to other federal, state and local law enforcement organizations. Special Agents receive training on the appropriate and safe use of assigned weapons. IRS Criminal Investigation has internal controls and oversight in place to ensure all law enforcement tools, including weapons are used appropriately,” the IRS said.

How I Make Facebook Posts Now

Why, yes, it is a TAD ironic... Google and Facebook are data mines, and everyone complaining about the NSA on those data mines just kind of makes me cringe and chuckle simultaneously  If you were to see that, you'd think I was having a seizure. 

To those folks that are complaining - I just have to ask, where the hell have you been the last 12 years? What is it you think the NSA does, anyway?

A Plan I Can Get Behind

Jun 10, 2013

What Does It Cost to Spy on Everyone? 80 Billion

If you're not angry about your government tracking you, and keeping tabs on who you're talking to and where you're standing when you're talking to them... how about this...?

The US spends at least $80 Billion a year on intelligence alone, which is more than the defense budgets of all but a handful of countries.

There are about 854,000 US civil servants, military personnel and private contractors who go to the office every day to work in high-security Intelligence Work. Washington Post’s 2011 “Top Secret America” report. Up to 55,000 of these work for the National Security Agency, the vast eavesdropping centre that collects “metadata” on billions of US domestic telephone calls. Most are data analysts. They're in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC, and they wipe their brow as they crunch America’s vast data-intelligence complex. We've come a long way from a tapped phone in the Cold War.

Today algorithmic search engines can sift through billions of phone records a minute. 

Remember when Ike warned, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

“The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

The CIA and FBI were tapping phones left and right: J. Edgar even tapped JFK's line. It took Watergate and the Church committee hearings, to put down legislation on these two agencies - and even banned foreign assassinations. Court orders would be required to tap anyone’s phone. The Fourth Amendment, which guarantees citizens freedom from arbitrary government search and seizure, was updated to the age of the telephone. And there the laws remained until the terror attacks of 9/11. But, note, that's for the telephone. A land line. You still have one of those?

Then the all-too-fast-passed 2001 Patriot Act blew it all to hell. But it's okay, we need to be safe. Right? The quick to answer response was "Post 9/11!" and then spying wasn't just a necessary evil – spying could even save the entire world! 

“After 9/11, when we decided to attack violent extremism, we did what we so often do in this country,” said Dennis Blair, the former Director of National Intelligence. “The attitude was, if it is worth doing, it is probably worth overdoing.”

And boy howdy, did they. Need a refresher? How about you check out Frontline's SPYING ON THE HOME FRONT? And that aired before the NSA story exploded. (Poor choice of words there perhaps? I'm still trying to be an AP writer... I mean, why not? They're already tapping my phone and email.)

So the quick overview - if you haven't the time to watch a documentary right now... from 2001 and 2006, the NSA tapped thousands of US phones without a court order. Remember when the New York Times’ 2006 went bonkers about “warrantless wiretapping?” That caused an amendment to the Patriot Act - that required it to first get a judge’s approval. Nobody thought it could cover the “metadata” of billions of calls. See the loophole? Google and Verizon are apparently branches of the government.

Okay, theoretically if you matched a person's phone records - to the bad guys they're talking to, with how often they chat - then matched that with social security numbers, and their Facebook page or something - you'd have the bad guy. But in practice, there are legal constraints on what government analysts can do with the data. I guess it's more like your grocery store MegaSaver card? The same apparently applies to the email data that the NSA taps directly from nine internet companies, including Microsoft and Google – the so called Prism programme. No such limits exist on the FBI, which can monitor anyone it likes without a court approval by issuing so-called “national security letters”. 

No one, apparently, including those in charge of the US government’s dozens of different counter-intelligence operations, has a full grasp of its extent or implications. It's supposed to be impossible for any government official to read all the intelligence reports each agency produces every day from the billions of pieces of data caught in its dragnet Webb (get it?). Given how hard it was for the Internal Revenue Service, with some 106,000 employees, to monitor what a few agents were doing in a regional office in Ohio (Cough, cough)  it is almost reassuring that none of this data is adequately monitored. Much every other surveillance camera you walk past every day.

But that isn't going to stop this from getting any larger. 

Maybe, just maybe, the discussion of Liberty over the looming threat of a handful of terrorists will start. Maybe folks will read their service agreements a tad bit closer to see what exactly they're giving up to get that free cell phone and email account? Perhaps folks will demand their Congress Critter to repeal the Patriot Act? But then reality hits - and folks will just post a meme they saw on Blasphemes to their Facebook account. A couple of their friends will "Like" the cartoon, and they will have fought the good fight against tyranny.

All those "likes" will be noted by the 80 billion dollar juggernaut of Post 9/11 security theater complex servers. To be called up if you're ever caught throwing a cigarette butt on the ground. In Illinois, that's a $1,500 fine.

PS - I wonder what else we could do with 80 billion tax dollars? 

Ron Paul's Surveillance Warning

And this was in 1994... although it looks like 1984.

Libertarians all too often are dismissed as conspiracy theorists. Too bad we're right way too often.

Maybe it's time to re-examine the Bill of Rights, and its errosion over the past 40 years? I, for one, am getting a little tired of saying "told you so."

Related: NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, donated to Ron Paul's 2012 campaign

Also related: Rand Paul: I'll Challenge NSA in Supreme Court

Jun 6, 2013

No, You're Not Paranoid... They Really Are Keeping Tabs On US.

NSA Collecting Phone Records Of Millions Of Verizon Customers, Daily

A top secret court order (top secret doesn't seem to have the same ring to it when you find out about it) requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under the Obama Administration. 

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian (UK Newspaper), requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

So that's us normal people - which are all apparently capable of turning terrorist at any second.

If the IRS political arm suppressing Tea Party People wasn't sexy, the Benghazi BrewHa-Ha was a smoldering yawn-fest, and AP scandals were boring you to tears, and yeah, they are... This one has some real meat to it. And if you think this ends with Verizon, guess what? AT&T Sprint and T-Mobile couldn't be reached for comment -- and it's not because their networks all dropped the call.

Here's why there's some meat to
this scandal: Verizon was choke held to give out the "meta data" following the Boston Bombing. But rather than taking, say, Boston area customer's data, they took all of it. All of it. And guess what? It's all totally legal thanks to the Patriot Act of 2001. I'm kind of shocked they don't have all the phone calls since the dang bill passed, actually. What's a little 4th and 5th amendment? Just a minor speed bump to leap over. But why is this scandal the one that people start caring about? Just look at your Facebook feed this morning (yes, the dripping irony of that could only be funnier if I said your google+ account...)

Plus, Mr. Obama - he HAD to know this one was happening - and approve of it. A sign off, if you will. Will it hurt him? Nah. This one slides easily into the Bush's Fault® canned response.

BTW - the government knows who you called and where you were when you called them. If you didn't already know this - all of your calls (and your GPS coordinates ) are being monitored and stored by the your U.S. government. You know, for your own good. 
You'd think with all this data, the government would be much better at the war on terrorism?

Thank goodness the British newspaper The Guardian for doing their job - Lord knows the American press isn't up to the task. And double plus good to the 
unknown patriot who exposed this U.S. government Verizon spy program.  Unknown, until they pour over all that metadata, that is.

Jun 5, 2013

Loose Lips Sink Seal Team 6

Leon Panetta Revealed Classified SEAL Unit Info

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta is the bonehead who revealed the name of the Navy SEAL unit that carried out the Osama Bin Laden raid and named the unit’s ground commander at a 2011 ceremony attended by Zero Dark Thirty filmmaker Mark Boal, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report obtained by a watchdog group.

Panetta also disclosed information - classified information - information that was designated as “top secret” and “secret” during his presentation at the CIA awards ceremony, says the draft IG report published Wednesday by the Project on Government Oversight.

The report does not make clear whether Panetta was aware that Boal was present at the ceremony, held under a tent at the CIA complex on June 24, 2011. “Approximately 1300” people from the military and the intelligence community were on hand for the event, according to a CIA press release issued the following week.

Read more ....

(Ahem...)  but when Valerie Plame was revealed to be a CIA employee it was yelling and hollering and wall to wall coverage from the press for months! Treason, they screamed! However, naming the unit that killed Osama Bin Laden? Every soldier in SEAL Team 6 a marked man by Al Qaeda hit squads? Meh. So little press, that I have to report it

Jun 4, 2013

Just Got Home from Illinois, Oh Boy!

Fitch Ratings downgraded Illinois’ credit rating to “A-” from “A” after the General Assembly failed to move forward on pension reform before the end of the spring legislative session.

In its statement announcing the downgrade, Fitch called Illinois’ pension liability “unsustainable” and said it was concerned about the state being able to deal with its “numerous fiscal challenges.” It's a nice way to say, they're corrupt and also lazy. Don't give them any more money.
This downgrade is the 12th Illinois has experienced under Gov. Pat Quinn and comes shortly after a threat by Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade Illinois’ credit rating if it did not make significant progress on the pension crisis. And it didn't.

And meanwhile, the day before, the Illinois Republicans announced they're going to start an American Idol style campaign to vet their candidates in the state. 


I mean, sure, there are quite a few districts where the resident Democrat runs unopposed. Like Lou Lang and Ira Silverstein.
The Chicago Republican Party is kicking off a new effort to attract candidates citywide, and part of it involves an "American Idol-style”" vetting process.

WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports the party will first run a set of Internet ads seeking potential GOP candidates for state legislative races in next year's election.

Spokesman Chris Cleveland said people who apply to run as Republican candidates and fill out surveys will be asked to engage in an “American Idol-style” vetting process, which will include standing before a selection panel to present a speech about themselves and their views.

"The committee’s mandate is to select credible candidates who adhere to core Republican values. There will be no litmus tests," the party said in a news release.
With such a lack of actual democracy, in a state where the ruling party continues to not lift a finger to pass pension reform - the competition is resorting to a karaoke contest for their next set of candidates? I think that'll work out about as well for them as they deserve. And for that I mean that Illinois will continue to backslide in stature until it hits Alabama.