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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 01/02/2011 - 01/09/2011
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Saturday, January 08, 2011

Extremely disturbing [UPDATE] [UPDATE II]

Congresswoman, 6 Others, Killed By Gunman

a very bad feeling in my tummy...
Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic congresswoman from Arizona, was shot and killed today at a public event outside a grocery store.

According to Darci Slaten, University Medical Center public affairs officer, Gifford's death has not been confirmed.

"She is alive and in surgery right now," Slaten said.


Giffords was among at least 10 people wounded, and the hospital said her outlook was "optimistic" and that she was responding to commands from doctors despite having a bullet go through her head.

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The only reason we know about the Wikileaks Twitter subpoena is because it was ordered unsealed [UPDATE]

which begs the question...


And the key question now is this: did other Internet and social network companies (Google, Facebook, etc.) receive similar Orders and then quietly comply? It's difficult to imagine why the DOJ would want information only from Twitter; if anything, given the limited information it has about users, Twitter would seem one of the least fruitful avenues to pursue. But if other companies did receive and quietly comply with these orders, it will be a long time before we know, if we ever do, given the prohibition in these orders on disclosing even its existence to anyone.

i think there's only one logical answer to glenn's question... since the twitter subpoena was issued on december 14 and ordered to be kept sealed (it "barred the company from notifying anyone, including the users, of the existence of the Order") and, only at twitter's request, was ordered unsealed on january 5, it seems entirely likely that those other companies have received the same order but have not chosen to request that their orders be unsealed... as glenn points out, "had Twitter not so requested, it would have been compelled to turn over this information without the knowledge of its users"...

also, given that the twitter subpoena includes "a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee [of Iceland's Parliament] and the NATO parliamentary assembly" (Birgitta Jónsdóttir) it appears that our government has gotten itself into some seriously deep shit on this matter to say nothing of dramatically escalating its war against transparency...

p.s. on reflection, i'm somewhat puzzled at why the government is even bothering with a subpoena when i'm reasonably positive that massive government "sniffer" programs routinely capture in real time any and all data transmissions of any and all services that utilize public networks... could it be that they only want to make the appearance of a legitimate legal effort...? then, otoh, "making an appearance" would suggest that secrecy wouldn't have been mandated for the order... is there something about accessing twitter data in particular that makes a subpoena necessary...?


from the guardian...
WikiLeaks has demanded that Google and Facebook reveal the contents of any US subpoenas they may have received after it emerged that a court in Virginia had ordered Twitter to secretly hand over details of accounts on the micro-blogging site by five figures associated with the group, including Julian Assange.

Amid strong evidence that a US grand jury has begun a wide-ranging trawl for details of what networks and accounts WikiLeaks used to communicate with Bradley Manning, the US serviceman accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of sensitive government cables, some of those named in the subpoena said they would fight disclosure.


The specific clause of the Patriot act used to acquire the subpoena is one that the FBI has described as necessary for "obtaining such records [that] will make the process of identifying computer criminals and tracing their internet communications faster and easier".

The subpoena itself is an unusual one known as a 2703(d). Recently a federal appeals court ruled this kind of order was insufficient to order the disclosure of the contents of communication. Significantly, however, that ruling is binding in neither Virginia – where the Twitter subpoena was issued – nor San Francisco where Twitter is based.


Gonggrijp [Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp ... (is one of the) "producers" of the first significant leak from the US cables cache: a video of an Apache helicopter attack that killed civilians and journalists in Baghdad] praised Twitter for notifying him and others that the US had subpoenaed his details. "It appears that Twitter, as a matter of policy, does the right thing in wanting to inform their users when one of these comes in," Gonggrijp said. "Heaven knows how many places have received similar subpoenas and just quietly submitted all they had on me."

i'm glad they're trying to force this stuff out in the open...

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Friday, January 07, 2011

Glenn: Getting exercised about Bill Daley's empowerment is like going to the beach and being angry that it's full of sand

in yesterday's odds & ends post, i commented on how "obama continues to show his true colors"... glenn expands on that thought...

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An "angry individual" with a "grudge" who sends packages that burst into flames isn't a terrorist?

Terrorism Not Suspected in Md. Burning Packages

Two mail packages caused some kind of incendiary reaction when opened, burning the fingers of two employees in separate incidents at two state office buildings in Maryland at almost the same time Thursday afternoon. Officials say there is no apparent connection to any domestic terror group and that the mailings appear to be from an angry individual who has a specific grudge against the Maryland State Government.

and if the individual who sent the packages was a muslim...?

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Odds & ends, Thursday, 6 January [UPDATE]

in the "something a tad bit different" post from a couple of days ago, i opted to begin serving up occasional interesting stuff that i run across in the course of any given day that doesn't necessarily merit a full-fledged, dedicated post... i've decided that "odds & ends" is as good a title as any for such miscellaneous links...

without further ado...

sustainability = frugality = sustainability

glenn greenwald: a u.s. citizen arrested without charge, tortured and then put on the no-fly list while traveling outside the country "underscores the rapidly expanding powers the U.S. Government and law enforcement agents within the country are seizing without a shred of due process"...

if i run across more odds and ends later, i'll update...


yesterday's post
about what a truly representative deficit commission might look like is echoed by laura flanders who points out that those most affected by the issues of the day mysteriously never get to join the debate...

meanwhile, obama continues to show his true colors...

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The media feeds us information about what's good for our super-rich elites but not what's good for us

more confirmation of what those of us who have been paying attention already know... and, yes, confirmation is indeed the real value of things like this which helps ease the burden of suspecting that i'm really a paranoid, closet, conspiracy-theorist nutcase...

Former Assistant Secretary of Housing under George H.W. Bush Catherine Austin Fitts blows the whistle on how the financial terrorists have deliberately imploded the US economy and transferred gargantuan amounts of wealth offshore as a means of sacrificing the American middle class. Fitts documents how trillions of dollars went missing from government coffers in the 90's and how she was personally targeted for exposing the fraud.

Fitts explains how every dollar of debt issued to service every war, building project, and government program since the American Revolution up to around 2 years ago - around $12 trillion - has been doubled again in just the last 18 months alone with the bank bailouts. "We're literally witnessing the leveraged buyout of a country and that's why I call it a financial coup d'état, and that's what the bailout is for," states Fitts.

Massive amounts of financial capital have been sucked out the United States and moved abroad, explains Fitts, ensuring that corporations have become more powerful than governments, changing the very structure of governance on the planet and ensuring we are ruled by private corporations. Pension and social security funds have also been stolen and moved offshore, leading to the end of fiscal responsibility and sovereignty as we know it.

Fitts explained how when she was in government she tried to encourage the creation of small businesses, new jobs and new skills to compete in a globalized world otherwise the American middle class was toast, only to be forced out by the feds using dirty tricks. The elite instead wanted Americans to take on more credit card, mortgage and auto debt that corporations and insurers knew they couldn't afford, while quietly moving their jobs abroad in the meantime.

i really like the community-based approach... making community the basis for personal financial transactions would quickly return us to the fundamental principle of the common good, a principle that can and should serve as the real essence and strength of the human spirit...

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Who would be on a deficit commission if we lived in a real democracy...?

we can only dream...
Here is the real deficit commission that you would expect to see if we were a democracy instead of a plutocracy: It would have 100 members:

# 98 of the 100 members would make less than $250,000 a year.
# 50 of the members would come from households in which the total income of all wage-earners is less than $50,221.
# 17% of the commission members would be un- or underemployed, and would be wondering why they are on a deficit commission instead of a jobs commission.
# 19 people on the commission would receive some form of Social Security benefits, 12 of those as retirees. And on this deficit commission they get to talk when the ones making over $250K propose cutting Social Security.
# 43 of the commission members would have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement. 27 of those less than $1,000.
# The commission would include the right proportion of factory and construction workers, and people who work in a kitchen, and waiting tables, and teaching, and nursing, and installing tires, and all the other things that people do except, apparently, those on DC elite commissions. (People who do manual labor get an extra vote each on what the retirement age should be.)
# Include people who are on active duty in the military – the people who said they don’t need that expensive plane, but couldn’t get body armor.
# 60 members would not have college degrees.
# 13 members would be receiving food stamps.

simply because such stuff is my life's work, i have to smack myself on the forehead when i think about organizing the work of a 100-member commission but i do like the idea of a truly representative commission trying to address ANY national issues of significance...

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Very Wealthy Man

tom tomorrow...


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Something a tad bit different [UPDATE]

probably like many of you, i read multiple articles and blog posts from multiple sources on a daily basis... however, as i'm sure you've noticed, i average only 1-2 posts a day on this blog and occasionally skip days altogether, a distinct departure from the first 4+ years of the blog when i tended to concentrate more on volume than quality... now, generally speaking, the only posts that make it on the blog concern things that strike a particular chord with me, usually because certain items tend to fit into the massive mental picture puzzle i'm trying to assemble in a seemingly endless quest to figure out what the hell is REALLY going on...


the "tad bit different" something i'm initiating here is to post links to things i've come across in my day's reading that i think might be worthwhile to share with others but don't quite grab me enough to bother putting up a dedicated post... i'm not going to do anything as mundane as trying to highlight the day's news (there's plenty of outlets for that), just the things i think might add depth and meaning to the larger picture which, as i admitted above, i continue to struggle to piece together... also, i'm not going to promise to do this every day either... some days there just might not be anything notable going on ("notable" from MY perspective, that is), some days there might be too MUCH going on and i might be drowning in gloom, and other days i just might not feel like working that hard...

so, for starters...

the always-thinking and usually spot-on glenn greenwald looks at more of our so-called news media's subservience to the propaganda of our government and its controlling elites and, in a separate post, exposes more of the blatant hypocrisy of our leaders in dealing with "terrorists"...

if i come across more during the day, i might be moved to post updates...


nothing new in the fact that our government pathologically lies to its citizens but worth reading nonetheless...

p.s. thanks to faithful reader, mettle, for his repeated votes of confidence (see comments)...

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After lobotomizing private sector unions and reducing American workers to slaves, public employees are next on the chopping block

it's the perfect set-up and the nyt is the perfect forum for showcasing it...

now that workers in the private sector have been demoted to being the slaves of our super-rich elites by having any collective power they might have wielded effectively neutralized by corporations, politicians and the judiciary working in tandem (remember bankruptcy as a union-busting technique?), the next logical targets are public employees who have so far been spared the ravages of our capitalist overlords... the beauty part is that support for emasculating public employees and their unions will come from those same private sector workers who will unthinkingly buy the argument that public employees should be required to make the same "sacrifices" they are being "called on" to make...

what an enormous load of grade "a" shit...

State officials from both parties are wrestling with ways to curb the salaries and pensions of government employees, which typically make up a significant percentage of state budgets. On Wednesday, for example, New York’s new Democratic governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, is expected to call for a one-year salary freeze for state workers, a move that would save $200 million to $400 million and challenge labor’s traditional clout in Albany.

But in some cases — mostly in states with Republican governors and Republican statehouse majorities — officials are seeking more far-reaching, structural changes that would weaken the bargaining power and political influence of unions, including private sector ones.

For example, Republican lawmakers in Indiana, Maine, Missouri and seven other states plan to introduce legislation that would bar private sector unions from forcing workers they represent to pay dues or fees, reducing the flow of funds into union treasuries. In Ohio, the new Republican governor, following the precedent of many other states, wants to ban strikes by public school teachers.

Some new governors, most notably Scott Walker of Wisconsin, are even threatening to take away government workers’ right to form unions and bargain contracts.

“We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots,” Mr. Walker, a Republican, said in a speech. “The bottom line is that we are going to look at every legal means we have to try to put that balance more on the side of taxpayers."

that last paragraph is the vile core of the set-up... is there anyone in our pathetic journalistic elite who can call b.s. on this stinking example of oligarchic manipulation...?

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Monday, January 03, 2011

Recognizing Palestine vs. recognizing Kosovo

noam chomsky...
International lawyer John Whitbeck estimates that 80-90 percent of the world’s population live in states that recognize Palestine, while 10-20 percent recognize the Republic of Kosovo. The U.S. recognizes Kosovo but not Palestine. Accordingly, as Whitbeck writes in Counterpunch, media “act as though Kosovo’s independence were an accomplished fact while Palestine’s independence is only an aspiration which can never be realized without Israeli-American consent,” reflecting the normal workings of power in the international arena.

i know both kosovars and palestinians and they are all very good people who absolutely deserve the twin rights of citizenship and self-determination...

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Bush, Obama, McCain - what's the difference...? It's all manipulation by oligarchy...

chris hedges...
Obama, like Bush and McCain, funds and backs our unending and unwinnable wars. He does nothing to halt the accumulation of the largest deficits in human history. The drones murder thousands of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as they did under Bush and would have done under McCain. The private military contractors, along with the predatory banks and investment houses, suck trillions out of the U.S. Treasury as efficiently under Obama. Civil liberties, including habeas corpus, have not been restored. The public option is dead. The continuation of the Bush tax cuts, adding some $900 billion to the deficit, along with the reduction of individual contributions to Social Security, furthers a debt peonage that will be the excuse to privatize Social Security, slash social services and break the back of public service unions. Obama does not intercede as tens of millions of impoverished Americans face foreclosures and bankruptcies. The Democrats provide better cover. But the corporate assault is the same.

in the article excerpted above, hedges is writing about a recent discussion he had with ralph nader... here's nader talking about the current assault on public employee unions that was the topic of my previous post...
And now wait till you see what they will do to the public employee unions. Part of it is their own fault. They are going to be crushed. Everybody is ganging up on them. You have new class warfare. It is non-unionized lower income and middle class taking it out on the unionized middle-income public employees. It is a classic example of oligarchic manipulation.

nader also points out how our super-rich elites have managed to virtually mute the justified outrage of liberals and progressives at what's happening to our country...
The banishment from the corporate media, Nader argues, has been one of the major contributors to the demoralization and weakening of the left. Protests by the left, which get little national or local coverage, have steadily dwindled in strength across the country. The first protest gets little or no coverage and this leads to movements, as well as the voices of activists, being diminished and finally suffocated.

nader makes what is, imho, an implied but arguable point, namely that protests require media coverage to be effective... while that may to a large extent be true, it seems to me that to not engage in protest and resistance because it won't make the news is just one more way we allow ourselves to be cowed into submission...

nader goes on to conclude with a thought that has been lurking in the back of my own mind for several years...

“The black swan question is whether something will erupt that is rare, extreme and unpredictable,” Nader said. “It is amazing that it hasn’t happened in any pockets of the country. How much more can the oppressed take before they revolt? And can they revolt without organizers? These are the two important questions. You have got to have organizers, and as of now we don’t.”

i think nader's belief in the need for "organizers" reflects his own history more than objective fact... however, i do see the real possibility for a "black swan"... in fact, i see a "black swan" event as more of an inevitability than a mere possibility...

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Welcome to the next pogrom - public employees

you can always tell when our super-rich elites have issued the latest instructions for talking points to their political and media puppets... it seems the catfood commission didn't do its job of trashing what's left of a social contract that's already shot full of holes... with unions in the private sector barely holding on in icu, next up are public employee unions... setting the stage is the quintessential stage-setter, george will, who never fails to shill for the super-rich elite agenda...
George Will joined a chorus of conservatives Sunday blaming unions for New York City's lackluster performance in the wake of a recent snow storm.

"In New York City, the issue is tangled up with the question -- and it's an open question -- whether the public employees union, to make a job action point, sabotaged street collection," Will told ABC's Jake Tapper.

"I believe -- and this is entirely tangled up with the state bankruptcy -- that the issue of public employees in their dominance of blue states, is going to be the biggest issue in this country for the next several years," he added.

but why don't we take a look behind the scenes...

from truthout...

The stage is set and the main actors in Congress and in the corporate establishment are ready to perform after rehearsing behind closed doors for the coming assault on organized labor's most powerful sector: public workers.

The final preparations were smoothed out in Obama's tax "compromise" with the Republicans, which gave details of the drama's first act. The tax plan purposely did not include a critical element for state funding, called the Build America Bonds program (BAB), which allows recession-sunk states to easily borrow money from the federal government. In the face of enormous deficits, the states would be left to drown. Reuters blogger James Pethokoukis explains:

Congressional Republicans [and Democrats] appear to be quietly but methodically executing a plan that would a) avoid a federal bailout of spendthrift states and b) cripple public employee unions by pushing cash-strapped states such as California and Illinois to declare bankruptcy. This may be the biggest political battle in Washington, my Capitol Hill sources tell me, of 2011.

Public employee unions would be crippled by bankruptcy because union contracts are notoriously easy to shred in the court system, where "nonpartisan" judges always decide against unions.

To further ensure that states will become bankrupt, yet another law was recently proposed that, if approved, will keep money out of states' pockets by making it harder for states to sell public bonds. This law demands that states use overly strict accounting methods when reporting their debts to public workers' retirement accounts, so that the state's "credit worthiness" will shrivel. (Reagan used the same trick to destroy the pensions offered for private-sector workers.)

Two birds are killed with one stone: public employees will find their pensions under further attack, while states will be refused credit because of the new accounting methods. The New York Times explains:

The bill gives local governments a choice: they can report [pension obligations] the way the [Congressional] members want them to report, or they can give up the ability to issue tax-exempt bonds. That is, of course, no choice at all.


In the end, I suspect ways will be found to abrogate some pension promises. But even if that does not happen, the trend away from defined-benefit pensions is likely to affect most younger public employees, as it already has their counterparts in the private sector. The retirement safety net will thus become a little more frayed.

In summary, pensions for state workers are on the cutting board, to be replaced by the 401(k) scam, while state bankruptcy will "abrogate" [abolish] union contracts. But as it stands now, states cannot legally declare bankruptcy. This minor obstacle is being handled quickly for showtime, as Pethokoukis explains:

Some Republicans hope the shock of the newly revealed [state] debt totals will grease the way towards explicitly permitting states to declare bankruptcy. Indeed, legislation amending federal bankruptcy law is currently being prepared by congressional Republicans.

The current Congress and President Obama are intentionally creating a nationwide anti-union atmosphere. The Democrats' silence over the above issues is, in fact, a signal of approval. In the same way that Obama announced a federal pay freeze for federal workers, federal actions towards labor quickly set the tone for how states deal with labor. Right-wing forces are consequently given the green light, and Democratic and Republican state representatives will do their best to implement their own anti-labor laws to ingratiate themselves to the feds in the hopes of promotion. The feds act as a music conductor and the states respond as an orchestra.

you can only imagine how much our greedy elites covet public employee pension plans... they drool over them in the same way they drool over social security and they're not going to quit until they've vacuumed up every last cent from the bottom of the pockets of the last working-class citizen left standing...

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One step closer to the Panopticon - reality intrudes on optimism

as much as i would like to pursue a thread of optimism in this new year and as much as i'd like to keep the ugliness of current reality at bay, i guess i'm not genetically equipped to stick my head in the sand...

when i was last in afghanistan, i noted a surveillance dirigible hovering over kabul that i hadn't seen in any of my previous visits... my afghan friends told me that it had been there for just a few months but, despite being a new arrival on the kabul scene, they had been a common sight over u.s. military bases around the country for a couple of years... here's a photo i took of it a year ago september...


the local wisdom was that it was loaded with surveillance equipment and that our emails were probably being scrutinized on a regular basis... while we all chuckled at that possibility, i, for one, had little doubt that was the case...

interestingly enough, the previous june and july, after i had bought my rv and parked it in an rv park close to my son's house, i became acquainted with an air force officer and his family whose rv was parked across from mine... he was on his way to train to fly unmanned drones and ultimately to be stationed at an air force base in the southwest... as appalled as i am at the whole concept of death and destruction no matter what form it takes and particularly when it's delivered remotely by a pilot comfortably ensconced 10,000 miles away, i was nonetheless able to suppress my feelings, maintain a cordial relationship and learn a little bit about what he was going to be doing... as a result, he's kept me on his general info mailing list and i found out that he recently started flying the next generation drone, the mq9 reaper (see my previous post here)...


in today's wapo, i see that yet another next generation drone, the "gorgon stare," has been announced...
This winter, the Air Force is set to deploy to Afghanistan what it says is a revolutionary airborne surveillance system called Gorgon Stare, which will be able to transmit live video images of physical movement across an entire town.

The system, made up of nine video cameras mounted on a remotely piloted aircraft, can transmit live images to soldiers on the ground or to analysts tracking enemy movements. It can send up to 65 different images to different users; by contrast, Air Force drones today shoot video from a single camera over a "soda straw" area the size of a building or two.

i have no doubt this rapid high-tech evolution will continue and, as with all defense and war-spurred innovations, will soon be commonplace tools for domestic use... just one step closer to the panopticon...
The Panopticon is a type of prison building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in 1785. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the incarcerated being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect has called the "sentiment of an invisible omniscience."

Bentham himself described the Panopticon as "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example."

great news for the new year, eh what...?

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All you need is a garden

maintaining the thread of hopefulness inspired by a new year, here's a follow-on to yesterday's post...

in this video clip, geoff lawton highlights a demonstration permaculture project his organization undertook near the dead sea in jordan... having traveled a bit in southern jordan, i can attest to the extreme aridity of the region that lawton describes...
Permaculture in Action - Greening the Desert - Geoff Lawton's Ground Breaking implementation of Permaculture in The Dead Sea Valley. This video illustrates how Permaculture design techniques can restore a Salt Ridden Degraded Landscape to a flourishing and diverse Oasis. For more information about Geoff and his Permaculture work please visit;

and here's a little bit of background on the project... (note: the background comprises the first two minutes of the clip and the rest repeats the video above...)

once again, thanks to next world tv...

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