Spied-on Congresscritters suddenly discover the value of privacy

Posted on: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 10:37 By: Tom Swiss

While some Democratic partisans have been misrepresenting the NSA's findings to claim that Netanyahu bribed Republican members of Congress, the real story here is the NSA spying on Congress -- and the sudden conversion of former fans of spying into defenders of privacy, now that they find themselves the targets. Hypocrisy is indeed the greatest luxury.

Spying on Congress and Israel: NSA Cheerleaders Discover Value of Privacy Only When Their Own Is Violated (The Intercept)

In January 2014, I debated Rep. Hoekstra about NSA spying and he could not have been more mocking and dismissive of the privacy concerns I was invoking. “Spying is a matter of fact,” he scoffed. As Andrew Krietz, the journalist who covered that debate, reported, Hoekstra “laughs at foreign governments who are shocked they’ve been spied on because they, too, gather information” — referring to anger from German and Brazilian leaders. As TechDirt noted, “Hoekstra attacked a bill called the RESTORE Act, that would have granted a tiny bit more oversight over situations where (you guessed it) the NSA was collecting information on Americans.”

But all that, of course, was before Hoekstra knew that he and his Israeli friends were swept up in the spying of which he was so fond. Now that he knows that it is his privacy and those of his comrades that has been invaded, he is no longer cavalier about it. In fact, he’s so furious that this long-time NSA cheerleader is actually calling for the criminal prosecution of the NSA and Obama officials for the crime of spying on him and his friends.

This pattern — whereby political officials who are vehement supporters of the Surveillance State transform overnight into crusading privacy advocates once they learn that they themselves have been spied on — is one that has repeated itself over and over.

A sympathetic backgrounder on the Malheur NWR protest

Posted on: Sun, 01/03/2016 - 13:00 By: Tom Swiss

I have near zero sympathy for ranchers; their business is built on exploiting public land -- land that belongs to all of us, not just to residents of one state. It's built on externalizing costs and is incompatible with ecological sustainability. Animal agriculture is going to have to go extinct the same way coal mining is, that's just the fact.

And this backgrounder is from an obviously far-right web site, take the details with salt. And the comments section is the usual hive of scum and villainy.

On the other hand, even when people's way of making a living is destructive to the ecosystem, you can't take it away without transitional plans. And I have little tolerance for overreach by federal bureaucracies or for the constant aggressive expansion of federal power into the lives of citizens. Once you understand the evils of our national drug policy -- and I mean "evils" quite literally, there are few things in this world to which that term is more accurately applied -- you never look at government power and criminal justice the same way again.

The very important takeaway here is this: two men, almost certainly over-charged as is the standard federal practice these days, already did their time as convicted and sentenced. The feds, in apparent violation of the double jeopardy and cruel and unusual punishment clauses, have decided they need to be put back in jail for more time on those same charges.

That authoritarian overreach justifies some disruptive protesting, so long as no aggressive violence is used. It is of a piece with broader concerns about criminal justice reform. It's a shame that just as this far-right website doesn't grasp that, and has a whole section dedicated to slandering and vilifying African-American victims of state violence, many progressives and folks on what's left of the American left will not get the point either.

Full Story on What's Going on In Oregon - Militia Take Over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge In Protest to Hammond Family Persecution... (The Last Refuge)

By the 1970’s nearly all the ranches adjacent to the Blitzen Valley were purchased by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and added to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge covers over 187,000 acres and stretches over 45 miles long and 37 miles wide. The expansion of the refuge grew and surrounds to the Hammond’s ranch. Being approached many times by the FWS, the Hammonds refused to sell. Other ranchers also choose not to sell.

...

(a4) By the 1990’s the Hammonds were one of the very few ranchers that still owned private property adjacent to the refuge....

Man robs bank to get healthcare in jail

Posted on: Fri, 01/01/2016 - 11:51 By: Tom Swiss

This is the low our healthcare system and social safety net have reached: a man finds himself so desperate for care he throws away his freedom and risks his life (he could easily have been shot) to get behind bars where he can get his basic survival needs met.

Old man wanted more than money in Branson bank robbery (Springfield News-Leader)

Cyrus turned himself in to police a few days after the robbery and pleaded guilty on Nov. 10.

Cyrus gave an emotional speech in the courtroom after pleading guilty, saying he has bad feet and is losing his hearing. He told the judge he recently lost his job and was turned away by a Veterans Affairs hospital.

Cyrus said he woke up the morning of the robbery in his trailer at the Yacht Club Mobile Home Park in Hollister with roaches crawling all over his body.

...

Two hours later, Cyrus paid his rent in cash, put a "for sale" sign in his truck and left town. He would later come back to Branson and turn himself in.

...

Hendricks said he could only think of one explanation when he heard Cyrus had been arrested for robbing a bank.

"The very first instinct that I got after he did it is that he wants to get popped so that he can go to jail, because the jail will take care of him," Hendricks said. "It makes you wonder what's wrong with our system."

North Pole hits melting temps in winter, 50 degrees above normal

Posted on: Wed, 12/30/2015 - 20:42 By: Tom Swiss

Sorry kids, no more toys at Christmas, Santa's workshop done fell into the sea because of climate change.

Freak storm pushes North Pole 50 degrees above normal to melting point (Washington Post)

“Consider the average winter temperature there is around 20 degrees below zero,” wrote the Capital Weather Gang’s Jason Samenow on Monday. A temperature around the freezing mark signifies a departure from normal of over 50 degrees, and close to typical mid-summer temperatures in this region.

In other words, the area around the North Pole was about as warm as Chicago on Wednesday, and quite a few degrees warmer than much of the Midwest.

1950s US plans to nuke Soviet civilians revealed
Tom Swiss Wed, 12/23/2015 - 12:43

As an 80s kid, I grew up with the possibility of nuclear armageddon in thirty minutes or less always in the background, but my parents generation had to possibility of a version that might take hours or days to play out via bomber. And both our generations grew up with the idea that the USSR was paranoid and aggressive, that the US was just responding to the Soviet threat...it wasn't until later that I figured out that it was mostly the other way around. (Times Russian or Soviet troops have invaded the US: 0. Times US troops have invaded Russia: 1. Nuclear attacks by USSR to intimate US: 0. Nuclear attacks by US to intimate USSR: 2.)

1950s U.S. Nuclear Target List Offers Chilling Insight (www.nytimes.com)

For the first time, the National Archives and Records Administration has released a detailed list of the United States’ potential targets for atomic bombers in the event of war with the Soviet Union, showing the number and the variety of targets on its territory, as well as in Eastern Europe and China.

It lists many targets for “systematic destruction” in major cities, including 179 in Moscow (like “Agricultural Equipment” and “Transformers, Heavy”), 145 in Leningrad and 91 in East Berlin. The targets are referred to as DGZs or “designated ground zeros.” While many are industrial facilities, government buildings and the like, one for each city is simply designated “Population.”

ISIS isn't the worst terrorist group
Tom Swiss Tue, 12/22/2015 - 22:58

All the campaign talk about ISIS...and they're not top of the threat list. But we don't care about Nigeria as much as we do about the Middle East, for oily reasons.

The World’s Deadliest Terrorist Group (The Atlantic)

The 2015 Global Terrorism Index, published by the Institute for Economics & Peace, found that Boko Haram, the Nigerian jihadist group, was responsible for 6,644 deaths in 2014, compared with 6,073 at the hands of ISIS. Boko Haram, which was founded in 2002 as an Islamist movement against Western education and morphed into an armed insurgency in 2009, has rapidly expanded its scope and ambitions over the past two years, achieving international notoriety in the spring of 2014 by kidnapping more than 200 schoolgirls. Much like ISIS, the organization controls territory in Nigeria (although it has lost some of it over the past year) and has declared a caliphate in that territory.

Hitler has only got one ball. And cushy treatment in jail

Posted on: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 11:07 By: Tom Swiss

Newly published prison records show that Hitler and fellow Nazis got special treatment in prison after the "Beer Hall Putsch"...and also seem to confirm an old joke/rumor about Adolph's genitals.

Records show Hitler enjoyed special treatment in prison (Yahoo News)

Fleischmann's 552-page book also appears to confirm a British WWII-era joke about Hitler. A doctor who examined Hitler on his arrival in Landsberg recorded that the Nazi leader was "healthy, strong" but suffered from an undescended right testicle, also known as unilateral cryptorchidism. The congenital condition can increase the chances of infertility.

Clinton polling behind Rubio, even with Carson, Trump, Cruz

Posted on: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 21:48 By: Tom Swiss

The error for the poll is given as 2.8%, but the results are given to whole numbers; taking it as 3% Clinton is in a statistical dead head with Trump and Cruz. And Clinton's positives are not going to increase, while Rubio and Cruz have room to make converts among independents. Yet the Democratic leadership seems bound and determined to climb on board this sinking ship.

General Election Presidential Matches Close; America Pulling for Spartans

Obama misses how Dems abandoned working class in 1970s

Posted on: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 21:12 By: Tom Swiss

What Obama, and the Democrats in general, seem to be missing here is that there is a reason that these working class folks (mostly white) have such anxiety and even resentment towards the Democrats. Once upon a time the Dems were the party of the "working man" but they abandoned that to play identity politics starting around the 1970s.

And it's a shame, because of course the oppression of the working class is of a piece with racism, sexism, and homophobia; but the patrician "limousine liberals" who fund the Democratic machine aren't disposed to look too deeply into economic inequality or to question capitalism. Thus the party's rightward drift on matters of economics even as it pulls for minority rights (usually properly, but sometimes falling into the trap if authoritarian progressivism: "hate speech" laws, political correctness, and the like). And so the white working class is ripe pickings for a flim-flam by the owning class -- i.e., the Republican Party as we know it today.

Obama Accuses Trump of Exploiting Working-Class Fears (www.nytimes.com)

President Obama said in a radio interview that began airing on Monday that Donald J. Trump, a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, was exploiting the resentment and anxieties of working-class men to boost his campaign. Mr. Obama also argued that some of the scorn directed at him personally stemmed from the fact that he is the first African-American to hold the White House.

Cop privilege is real, a matter of contract

Posted on: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:43 By: Tom Swiss

I've posted before about the idea of "police privilege", how the system gives special rights to police in a way that's in direct contraction to the "Peelean principles" that are supposed to be at the heart of the profession. This is a good look at how these privileges are actually written into contracts. Seems to me someone ought to bring federal lawsuits under the equal protection clause for this nonsense; a cop accused of a crime should get the same treatment as anyone else. (Which in most cases means we should give the accused better treatment more than treating cops accused of crimes worse.)

9 ways police have more protections than you do when they're arrested (Mother Jones)

Earlier this month, four activists affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement launched Check the Police, a database of police union contracts from departments in 50 cities. After scrutinizing the documents, the project's creators identified four key provisions by which the contracts shield officers from accountability, or receive rights and courtesies not available to most civilian suspects. These common provisions stipulate:

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