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Longwood Gardens.  February, 2013.  Photo by joanneleon.

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DSWright of FDL and DailyKos got Aaron Swartz' FBI file via FOIA.  You can get a person's FBI file after they are deceased.  Two pages were not released.  Go on over to DSWright's blog post to see the actual pages and his post.

Aaron Swartz’s FBI File

When I heard the news of Aaron Swartz’s suicide I was deeply saddened or more accurately profoundly irritated. Why had the government – or should I say U.S Attorney Carmen Ortiz – wasted so much time and resources destroying someone over such an inconsequential act? Downloading too many free articles warranted this kind of crackdown? How out of control was the State these days?

Then I remembered a macabre fact – upon death every American’s FBI file becomes unclassified with certain exceptions. So I figured what the hell, I printed out a copy of Swartz’s New York Times obituary filled out a few forms and sent the documents to our friends at the bureau.

I was fully prepared to get a letter saying no such file existed, after all Swartz was not really a criminal. Instead I received 21 pages out of a 23 page file the FBI had put together on one Aaron H. Swartz.

The Guardian picked up the story. It's strange that a name was redacted from a publicly available NYT article.  It seems like a mistake of some kind.  Whether it means anything or not is still a question.
Aaron Swartz files reveal how FBI tracked internet activist
Firedoglake blogger Daniel Wright publishes once-classified FBI documents that show extent of agency's investigation into Swartz

Wright was given 21 of 23 declassified documents, thanks to a rule that declassifies FBI files on the deceased. Wright said that he was told the other two pages of documents were not provided because of Freedom of Inorfamtion subsections concerning privacy, "sources and methods," and that can "put someone's life in danger."
Information from a New York Times article about his Pacer hack was also included in the files, though strangely, since the article can still be read online, the name of the article's other subject, Carl Malamud, was blocked out.

Jeff Masters.  Scares the heck out of me and other than doing what conservation we can and applying pressure via writing and protest, what does an individual do about something like this? Clearly, the oil and gas industry sees it as more of an opportunity than a problem, and they have too much influence over our governments.
Arctic sea ice volume now one-fifth its 1979 level

The stunning loss of Arctic sea ice extent in recent years is undeniable--satellite measurements have conclusively shown that half of the Arctic sea ice went missing in September 2012, compared to the average September during 1979 - 2000. But the extent of ice cover is not the best measure of how the fire raging in Earth's attic is affecting sea ice--the total volume of the ice is more important. But up until 2010, we didn't have the measurements needed to say how the total volume of ice in the Arctic might be changing. Scientists relied on the University of Washington PIOMAS model, which suggested that the loss of Arctic sea ice volume during September might be approaching 75% - 80%. The model results were widely criticized by climate change skeptics as being unrealistic. However, in April 2010, a new satellite called Cryostat-2 was launched, which can measure ice volume by beaming pulses of microwave energy off of the ice. With two years of data to Cryosat-2 data to analyze, the results of the PIOMAS model have now been confirmed by a study published on-line in February 2013 in Geophysical Research Letters. In a University of Washington news release, co-author Axel Schweiger said, "people had argued that 75 to 80 percent ice volume loss was too aggressive. What this new paper shows is that our ice loss estimates may have been too conservative, and that the recent decline is possibly more rapid."

UN Urges Against Folly of Arctic Race for Resources
'What we are seeing is that the melting of ice is prompting a rush for exactly the fossil fuel resources that fueled the melt in the first place.'

As part of their annual review, the UN says that melting of the world's Arctic waters should not be an excuse to encourage a race to exploit the mineral and energy resources that such melting have made accessible, and urged international caution to avoid damage to the fragile Arctic environment.


What's worse, however, is that the melting is being seen as an opening to previously inaccessible natural resources by oil and gas companies. The UN report says that increased human activity—such as drilling and the infrastructure needed to support such operations—would threaten the already fragile ecosystems and wildlife in those regions.


As part of their campaign, Greenpeace urges the creation of a "global sanctuary around the North Pole" and a complete and enforceable ban on offshore drilling and other "destructive industries" in the Arctic.

Just one of many ways (one of the more quantifiable ones) that oil and gas companies don't pay their fair share and the price of oil and gas does not include societal costs.  With all of the billions pouring into the tar sands project, this is disgusting. Greed greed greed.  Take take take.

Fort McMurray could cut school week down to just four days

CALGARY — Facing a multi-million-dollar deficit, the Fort McMurray Public School Board will decide Tuesday whether to add a twist to the school week. While maintaining the same number of annual instructional hours per year, it may be ready to try shrinking the school week to just four days.
Fort McMurray isn’t quite like other school districts, said Kim Jenkins, the superintendent of the Catholic board; parents are often managing shift-work in the oil sands industry. That’s why the Catholic school district also runs daycares between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

[In the comment section, most people are trashing the schools, teachers, too many administrators, govt. etc.  But then this person gets to the point:]

Eric • 15 hours ago
the richest, most employed area in Canada can't get enough money to run schools. I think the word fail was invented for that exact case. Alberta is a Disaster and our politicians our clueless.
Col. Pat Lang.
Droning on...

IMO the next big step in UCAV development has to be in-flight refueling.  This should be a fairly easy "fix."  With that done, these droning beasties could wander the world for a long, long time just hanging around waiting for the flight suited techno wimps depicted in "The Bourne Legacy" to send the machines to their appointment with destiny.  You can imagine one of these heros saying to another that with just a few more "missions" in the bag he will qualify for the drone pilot medal.
Few really are unhappy with surveillance drones.  It is the killer drones that are worrisome.  If John Torquemada Brennan, known to his friends as "torky," has his way, a systematised targeting package loaded with logic and rules will serve up lists of candidates for designation to civil servants and rear echelon military types who will narrow the lists for approval by their political bosses.

A nod will then suffice for upload of that list to the flying circus.  

Expose of troubling Christie ties wins major journalism prize

Chris Christie is a saint. At least I read that somewhere recently.


But if you dig deeper, Christie is often just as unsavory as all the rest of our elected officials. Remember these things that were more or less swept under the rug when he was first elected in 2009? Today, arguably the second-most prestigious prizes in journalism, the George Polk Awards, were announced -- and one of the winners was the New York Times for exposing a scandal in New Jersey, an affair that reflects very badly on the Christie administration.

Remember those videos that somebody (Carter's grandson, I think) leaked first at DailyKos but the troll hunters troll rated him into oblivion and got him banned, and then he went to David Corn with the video?  Corn won a prestigious award for that expose.
2 Reports on Chinese Rulers’ Wealth Are Among 2012 Polk Award Winners

David Corn of Mother Jones magazine won for political coverage after he uncovered the now-infamous video of Mitt Romney telling donors that there were 47 percent of Americans who were “dependent upon government” and would support the re-election of President Obama “no matter what.”
A team from McClatchy Newspapers won the award for war reporting for a series of articles about the civil war in Syria.


Sam Dolnick of The Times won the award for justice reporting for his series detailing widespread abuses at New Jersey’s privatized halfway houses, “Unlocked.” Mr. Dolnick’s 10-month investigation revealed close ties between Gov. Chris Christie and one of the companies that runs the houses. After the articles exposed how the institutions created a parallel correctional system where gang activity was rampant, drug use widespread and security lax, Mr. Christie ordered inspections, fines against some of the operators were levied and 14 reform bills were introduced in the State Legislature.

Goldman Sachs Has The Perfect Response For Anyone Who Talks About 'Currency Wars'

In a note to clients this morning, Goldman Sachs analyst Kamakshya Trivedi says the evidence points to a much more basic phenomenon: these countries are simply trying to boost stagnant economies via monetary easing.
The title of Trivedi's report is perfect: Currency Wars? No, Just Monetary Easing.
It's true that monetary easing in developed economies is causing currency depreciation. However, to characterize global policymakers as engulfed in a "currency war" is missing the point about what these countries are trying to do.

Glenn pokes a hornet's nest of American exceptionalism in response to something tweeted by @charlescwcooke, a National Review writer, causes cognitive dissonance (which causes pain, discomfort) and predictably, instead of questioning their beliefs of exceptionalism, folks from the foreign policy community go after Glenn in response.  
The premises and purposes of American exceptionalism
That the US is objectively "the greatest country ever to exist" is as irrational as it is destructive, yet it maintains the status of orthodoxy

This declaration always genuinely fascinates me. Note how it's insufficient to claim the mere mantle of Greatest Country on the Planet. It's way beyond that: the Greatest Country Ever to Exist in All of Human History (why not The Greatest Ever in All of the Solar Systems?). The very notion that this distinction could be objectively or even meaningfully measured is absurd. But the desire to believe it is so strong, the need to proclaim one's own unprecedented superiority so compelling, that it's hardly controversial to say it despite how nonsensical it is. The opposite is true: it has been vested with the status of orthodoxy.
But if you extend the claim to the Greatest Country that Has Ever Existed in All of Human History, then the probability is minute: that you will happen to be born not only into the greatest country on earth, but will be born at the precise historical time when the greatest of all the countries ever to exist is thriving. It's similar to winning the lottery: something so mathematically improbable that while our intense desire to believe it may lead us on an emotional level wildly to overestimate its likelihood, our rational faculties should tell us that it is unlikely in the extreme and therefore to doubt seriously that it will happen.
This is more than just an intellectual exercise. This belief in America's unparalleled greatness has immense impact. It is not hyperbole to say that the sentiment expressed by Cooke is the overarching belief system of the US political and media class, the primary premise shaping political discourse. Politicians of all types routinely recite the same claim, and Cooke's tweet was quickly re-tweeted by a variety of commentators and self-proclaimed foreign policy experts from across the spectrum.
This eagerness to declare oneself exempt from the rules to which others are bound, on the grounds of one's own objective superiority, is always the animating sentiment behind nationalistic criminality. Here's what Orwell said about that in Notes on Nationalism:

"All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them."
Preserving this warped morality, this nationalistic prerogative, is, far and away, the primary objective of America's foreign policy community, composed of its political offices, media outlets, and (especially) think tanks.
I believe that a lot of our legislation today is written by think tanks.  In addition to being more like lobbyists now, it's almost like a shadow Congress, and carries more prestige than lobbying.  Where do these giant bombs of legislation come from?  Are the staffers really writing them?  Do the people voting on them even read them or are they primarily focused on PR, kabuki, direction from party leaders and fund raising with some constituent serving and committee time mixed in?  There are some representatives who don't fit that mold, but how about the majority of them?  In some cases, legislation seems to appear out of thin air.  Like the PATRIOT Act and more recently, the fiscal cliff bill.  Congress just left town for a ten day recess and the sequestration mess has to be dealt with by March 1.  Who is writing the bill that will appear out of thin air to make the defense cuts go away?  Read the article for more info on the money pouring into think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and Center for American Progress (the Dem party think tank which btw, funds ThinkProgress.  Check out the new buzz word: "high impact philanthropy".
The Great Think-Tank Bubble
Think tank salaries are looking more and more like lobbyist salaries. That's no surprise.

Jim DeMint’s decision last December to leave the Senate to become president of the Heritage Foundation produced a mix of shock and hand-wringing in political circles. The shock involved some possibly quaint thinking about political power: DeMint was abandoning the lofty heights of the Senate—“long considered the pinnacle of power and influence in American politics,” as The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza put it—to immerse himself in the world of policy research.

The hand-wringing, on the other hand, involved some even more quaint notions about the think tanks at the heart of Washington’s ideas industry. DeMint was not a “serious scholar,” wrote the Post’s conservative blogger, Jennifer Rubin. By making him its leader, she said, Heritage “becomes a political instrument in service of extremism, not a well-respected think tank and source of scholarship.”

Both reactions, though, leave out a crucial component: money. DeMint, who reported virtually no assets on congressional disclosure forms, stood to get a significant raise by moving to Heritage. [...] Once upon a time, the only way for a pol to cash in like that was to leave elected office in order to become a lobbyist—a nice living, but one that carries with it a stigma that would likely kill any future ambitions for high office. [...]

The problem with that wholesome image—and the anachronistic thing about Rubin's lament over Heritage's potential loss of intellectual virginity—is that think-tanking and lobbying have come to look more and more alike. Just like lobbyists, think tanks can frame policy debates and generate political pressure—for the right price.
Nowadays if donors don’t like the results they get, they are increasingly inclined to move their money to more compliant think tanks, or to more expressly political operations. “Think tanks are competing with consulting firms, law firms, Super PACS, lobbyists and advocacy groups,” says James McGann, director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. “That puts pressure on think tanks to be more responsive to donors.” The new buzz term among private and public donors is “high impact philanthropy,” McCann says.

This comes from a think tank that is very influential with the Obama administration.

It is taken for granted in Washington that Saudi Arabia will inevitably pursue nuclear weapons if Tehran succeeds in its quest for the bomb. However, CNAS Senior Fellow Colin Kahl, Visiting Fellow Melissa G. Dalton and Research Associate Matthew Irvine argue in their new report Atomic Kingdom: If Iran Builds the Bomb, Will Saudi Arabia Be Next? that the prospects for Saudi reactive proliferation are lower than the conventional wisdom suggests.

Thieves Pull Off $67 Million Diamond Heist On Tarmac Of Brussels Airport

Heavily armed robbers made off with as much as $67 million worth of diamonds in a massive heist at Brussels airport, the global dealers syndicate in Antwerp told AFP on Tuesday.
Monday night's robbery was "one of the biggest" ever, a spokeswoman for the Antwerp World Diamond Centre said, adding that the diamonds were "rough stones" being transported from Antwerp to Zurich.

When Wars Come Home

The US spends more money on the military than the next ten countries together. It also has the highest level of domestic gun violence in the developed world. Highly militarized societies cannot compartmentalize foreign from domestic violence. They cannot prevent wars - and guns - from coming home.
US analysts tend to focus on the growing separation of the military and its values from the larger society. The liberal MSNBC cable television host Rachel Maddow, argues in her book Drift that American civilians have little connection with soldiers or military culture, making it easier for them to detach from the grim realities of war. Civilians and soldiers are living in separate cultural universes. Neoconservatives such as pundits Robert Kagan and Max Boot agree that Americans are focused on their own lives at home and have little engagement with the military values and threats that support US wars.
But the assumption that the military is increasingly walled off from civil society needs to be re-examined. True, the lack of a draft and the rise of a volunteer military distance young people from war today unlike during the Vietnam War. Even without a draft, though, ideas, values and profits emerging from the war sector flood civilian society, a torrent that a draft would only increase.

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

Evening Blues
In 2010, A Man Was Brutally Assaulted by the Philadephia Police. Today He Was Acquitted.
Budget sequester or no, Pentagon still will spend like a drunken sailor to fight 20th century wars
TRIGGER WARNING: Reading this post will give you nightmares
NYTimes should be embarrassed. Almost certainly isn't ...
DC’s quest to silence Elizabeth Warren
Not New and Certainly Not Improved: Bowles-Simpson: V. 2.0

Blue Oyster Cult - Godzilla
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