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Photos by: joanneleon. September, 2013.


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And I thought our TV journalists were horrific.  This woman is shameless.

NEWSNIGHT: Glenn Greenwald full interview on Snowden, NSA, GCHQ and spying

I'm stunned by what happened yesterday and by the way the story evolved and the cable news chirons changed as I watched it, and the way the phrasing of things evolved.  I wonder if there will be a real discussion about the way a 34-year old dental hygienist with a baby in a carseat in the back of her car became a high level threat to the capital of the United States and was shot dead on the street, and of course, what the War on Terror has done to this country.  Just one small example: As I was watching CNN, the chiron changed from saying that the driver was "fired upon" to the driver "exhanged fire" with the police.  And that's just one detail.
Car Chase, White House to Capitol, Has Fatal End

WASHINGTON — A woman with a young child was shot to death after turning her vehicle into a weapon on Thursday afternoon, ramming her way through barriers at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

By the time the chase ended, dozens of shots had been fired and two officers were injured. The child was unharmed.

Coming a little more than two weeks after the Washington Navy Yard shooting, the episode unnerved a city already feeling the tensions between the White House and Congressional Republicans that have ground the federal government to a halt and kept thousands of people home from work.

The Capitol was locked down for a half-hour during the chase and shooting. Afterward, House Republicans and Democrats took to the floor to praise the response of the Capitol Police.

Key Senator wants to ban bulk surveillance, leading to Democratic showdown
Powerful House members also support a package of surveillance reforms.

Leahy's suggestions mirror reforms in a bill introduced last week by committed reformers like Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Rand Paul (R-KY). But the Wyden-Udall-Paul bill, spearheaded by two longtime NSA critics, wouldn't necessarily have gone far.

However, Leahy—the chairman of the judiciary committee—is clearly in a powerful position from which to move such a bill forward. In the Senate, it's going to be a serious Democrat-on-Democrat battle, since the chairman of the Senate's top intelligence committee, Diane Feinstein (D-CA), has made it clear she will fight such a bill.

At a hearing yesterday, Feinstein said the bulk data collection could prevent another event like the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“I will do everything I can to prevent this program from being canceled out…to destroy it is to make this nation more vulnerable," said Feinstein, according to a Politico report on the hearing.

SOFA Unlikely Due to Karzai’s Objection to Death Squads

The US has set the end of this month as its artificial deadline for signing a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA, also Bilateral Security Agreement, or BSA) with Afghanistan to govern the presence of US troops inside Afghanistan after the scheduled end of NATO operations at the end of 2014. The driving force behind this push to have the SOFA in place so far ahead of the end of next year was to prevent a repeat of the embarrassment that the US suffered when it was unable to get the terms it wanted–specifically, full criminal immunity for US troops–in Iraq and wound up withdrawing all troops instead of leaving a force behind after the stated end of military operations.

The news today out of Afghanistan does not bode well for the US to meet its deadline. Although the issue of criminal immunity still seems likely to me to be just as big a barrier in Afghanistan as it was in Iraq, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has raised a different concern that the US seems quite unlikely to address in the way he wants.

Afghans baulk at U.S. push for operations after 2014: spokesman

(Reuters) - A U.S. bid to run unilateral counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan after 2014 is threatening to derail a security pact between the two countries, an Afghan spokesman said, underlining Afghanistan's tenuous ties with its main backer.
[...]
But two issues have emerged as potential "deal breakers", President Hamid Karzai's spokesman, Aimal Faizi, told reporters late on Tuesday.

One is a U.S. desire to run independent counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan after 2014, Faizi said. The other was a U.S. refusal to agree to a wide-reaching promise to protect Afghanistan from foreign aggression.
[...]
The collapse of a similar pact between the United States and Iraq in 2011, sparked partly by Iraq's refusal to provide legal immunity to U.S. soldiers serving there, led to the United States pulling most of its troops out.

Glen Ford.
The Shutdown Game
What’s at stake in the partial “shutdown” of government? Certainly not Obamacare, which was never in danger. It’s all an exercise in drawing fake lines in the sandbox, so that the bipartisan business of gutting entitlement programs can recommence. Next stop: Grand Bargain junction.

The government shutdown battle is more like a Civil War reenactment than the real thing. A face-saving bargain will soon be struck, returning 825,000 furloughed federal employees to their jobs at wages that have been frozen for the past two years – not by the Republicans, but on President Obama’s orders. The clock has been stuck with both hands on “austerity” since Obama came fully out of the closet as a GOP fellow-traveler following the 2010 midterm elections. From that moment on, Republican-imposed gridlock has been the only barrier to Obama’s long-sought Grand Bargain to eviscerate entitlement programs. When the current theatrics are over, Obamacare will remain intact and the president will be back on his ever-rightward stride. The GOP will take Obama up on his offer, earlier this year, to cut Social Security and will probably be offered other bits and pieces of the social safety net in the interest of “shared sacrifice” and domestic peace.

In the interim, while the reenactors haul their cannons around the cow pasture, waiting for the rich people who call themselves “markets” to signal an end to the charade, rest assured that national security is sacrosanct.

“When the current theatrics are over, Obamacare will remain intact and the president will be back on his ever-rightward stride.”

"Dramatic, Painful" Government Shutdown Disproportionately Impacts Working Poor, People of Color

'Congress acts completely in betrayal of US people'

Has GOP Already Defeated Obamacare? State Opt-Outs Leave Millions of Poor Without Insurance

I can't excerpt this very well, but you should read it. All of it. Gauis Publius uses numerous excerpts to lay out what's happening.  He lays out the Republican strategy and the Dems response.  He concludes that the Ryan budget is the ultimate goal while pretending it's Obamacare and that the Dems defend, Obamacare, and will stand strong on that and some other issues that are not primarily economic but will cave on the grand bargain.  It's the same as it ever was.  The 1% vs. the 99% and we, the 99%, have no one (with a few exceptions) representing or fighting for us.  Bottom line, Obamacare is a red herring. They've already gutted it at the state level for the poorest by refusing to fund Medicaid expansion.  The Dems will stand strong for Obamacare to make the base feel that they still represent the 99%.  But in the backrooms something very different is going on.  Read the whole article here.  
Republicans wanted the shutdown all along, and Dems have already lost the negotiations

The Republicans, all of them, have wanted a standoff like this since the 2012 election; they just couldn’t agree on how to stage it.

You read that right. They looked like they were dithering and dathering, lurching hither and yon, because they couldn’t agree on what to hold as the hostage and how to stage the battle. Would the hostage be Obamacare? The Ryan budget? The sequester cuts? Deeper cuts than that? Reinstate the Bush tax cuts?

[...]

I’ll resist answering that last question, and offer another. I know that the free-market, Catfood-for-Grannie Democrats are opposed to the Ryan budget — but how opposed? They’re both starving the government. It’s just that one will strangle it as well.

Are you ready for Social Security cuts or Catfood CPI or Medicare retirement age changes or Medicare means testing or any of the other wet-dream benefit cuts Obama and Boehner both want to be thrown in to this negotiation as well? Could happen.

The only thing preventing more strangle-the-government budget cuts is all-or-nothing Republican tactics

And that’s your bottom line. Whom do you want to root for? What do you want the outcome to be? A government shutdown that ends in fatal-to-many budget and health care cuts, or a government shutdown that ends in crippling-to-many (and fatal to some) benefit cuts?

DRASTICALLY thin provider networks on Obamacare Exchange plans

The past couple of days I’ve heard constant talk of the deals people are getting on the Obamacare Exchanges, (when the servers are up, of course). $120/month premiums, $500 or less deductibles. All of this sounds like a great triumph of liberal social policy. And if that were the whole story, I would definitely agree.

However, buried in the slimy underbelly of all of it is the new paradigm shift that has been defacto, if not purposefully engineered by the law. That is, the plans on the Exchanges offer *drastically* thin provider networks. I know Lambert has talked about this, but I am not sure that he understood how bad it really is. I know I didn’t, and I have a degree in cynicism (aka Political Science). People may see this in the abstract and think, oh well, a few doctors will be left out. But what is happening nationwide and in my Seattle area is that the highest quality and most major research, teaching and cancer hospitals, as well as a large portion of the top doctors in areas are being left out of the in-network provider list in Exchange plans. As I’ve said, this is a paradigm shift in how health insurance works in our country. People think they are getting the same kinds of plans on the Exchanges that they’ve always gotten through work or the individual markets. They. Are. Not.

NSA Chief: Phone Surveillance Foiled ‘One, Perhaps Two’ Plots
Obama Claim of '54' Foiled Plots 'Wildly Misleading'

When the scandals surrounding the NSA collection of Americans’ telephone data emerged, the administration defended it with repeated claims that they had disrupted 54 terrorist plots thanks to their constant spying on your telephone calls.

But they “weren’t all plots and they weren’t all foiled,”

That’s the punchline today from a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, at which chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D – VT) pushed heavily for details and revealed that the claims were wildly misleading, at best.

Leahy first got NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander to admit that of the 54 putative plots, only 13 had anything to do with the United States, and on additional questioning he conceded that the program had only actually foiled one, or “perhaps two” plots from the surveillance.

I offer some context before reading the story below, because normally I wouldn't excerpt something that I suspect has spin and basically possibly an ulterior motive, but  even with that, I'm including it because I think it's important.  It was published in one of the blog sections of ForeignPolicy.com, because, while there is some good information in the post (by Elias Groll and Katelyn Fossett who I've no knowledge of but will make a mental note of the names now), there's also a familiar spin in this.  I include the story here anyway because the topic they are discussing is a really important one and really an issue of the day.

I think it's interesting that, given the complex issues surrounding this story, and they are complex in more than one way, these journalist choose to make a "Wikileaks family feud" the focus of the story.  If I had written this story, I would have focused on secrecy and the complexity of publishing national security and highly technical and complex stories based on whistleblower material, all of it done with rather large teams of people who come from two different but merging worlds of old and new media, and all of it done under the shadow of the military and intelligence regimes of a superpower and its allies.  And these two journalists did include some good nuance on those things but only incidentally, really.  Anyway, I think it's still worth reading, though it's clear that Jacob Appelbaum and some others aren't happy about it.  His back and forth on Twitter here shows that and also in that thread are some interesting things about the funding of the Tor project. I don't claim to know much about the "Wikileaks" team or the Tor project but I think it's something we should all pay attention to anyway.

There are a  few tweets below (and perhaps go look at the Twitter timelines of the people involved later to get the full context) that set the stage and I'll include those before the story.  Also, I think it's important to keep other things in mind while reading this, such as the fact that Assange is a target in a still open investigation where a grand jury has been in place for years and it seems pretty clear, especially after watching Chelsea Manning's prosecution team, that he's the big fish they're after.  There have been at least two hit piece movies made, one of them a "documentary" and the other, a big name spy genre type thriller that will be released in a couple of weeks.  A third movie that was supposed to be produced by the same company that produced "Zero Dark Thirty" (a production company named Annapurna Pictures, owned by billionaire and defense contractor Larry Ellison's daughter, Megan Ellison, and with the involvement of ZDT's screenwriter Mark Boal) that has been either canceled or put on hold.   Ellison bought the rights to Bill Keller's bizarre story about Assange, “The Boy Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” and in general, Keller, editor of the NY Times for years, made a complete fool of himself with the way he covered Assange over a period of a few years.

So both of the movies were based on Assange hit pieces (one by his former partner/employee and the other by Bill Keller who infamously despises Assange) even though there's a pretty large amount of writing about Assange and Wikileaks that is more objective.  And this article does the same -- jumps on a "feud" just as the "Fifth Estate" movie makes a "feud" central to its story.  I think the real meat of the story should have been the evolution of journalism, a world where key democratic governments have become more and more cloaked in secrecy, and the efforts of traditional and nontraditional journalists to work in this environment.  They're pioneers and they're doing really important work which, I believe, is game changer kind of work.  

Whether there is a propaganda campaign of some sort designed to influence public opinion about the whistleblowers and the journalist and media organizations who publish their material, I don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me.  Or whether this is more of a thing where establishment leaning journalists, used to being insiders, plugged in, cool kids, who are actually outsiders with respect to the new media/whistleblowers scene, and some resentment, perhaps, is coming through... I don't know that either. Those are just some things to consider, and I don't think I've done a good job of explaining why here, but hopefully have at least thrown out some things I think are relevant and a bit of insight from my perspective.


A WikiLeaks Family Feud Erupts on Twitter

The journalists pushing the Snowden story forward now find themselves in a strange place. Given his central role in helping Snowden attain asylum in Moscow and his position as a founding member of what might be called transparency movement, Assange remains a central figure, especially in light of the revelations about the NSA. He retains the ability to make news and has access to Snowden -- about as hot a commodity possible in the world of Internet activism. At the same time, the journalists reporting on the Snowden documents have largely disavowed Assange's methods. At once, they are both indebted to his work and hesitant to be associated with him. Greenwald, who for years publicly trumpeted WikiLeaks' cause, now believes that Assange's methods are downright "dumb."

That sense of disillusionment is rampant among the journalists working on the Snowden story. In a May essay for the Daily Beast, Ball, the journalist whom Appelbaum attacked Thursday, described WikiLeaks as "an organization crumbling under pressure, crossing ethical boundaries, and placing people needlessly in danger." Assange, Ball believes, has become twisted by the experience of running WikiLeaks. "Julian Assange has become everything he originally, rightly, despised," Ball wrote.

Appelbaum, however, remains something of an evangelist for WikiLeaks and illustrates the deep divide between establishment journalists and digital activists, a division sometimes referred to as the difference between the fourth and fifth estate. (The forthcoming Assange biopic with Benedict Cumberbatch in the starring role is title "The Fifth Estate.") Whereas mainstream outlets are content to report on the general outlines of government activity and disclose only parts of the documents they have obtained, members of the so-called fifth estate want them to go further and release documents in their entirety. Concessions to government requests not to release certain information that might damage national security are, in Appelbaum's words, censorship.

Just a bit more about that Wikileaks feud article.  I think the differences and the supposed "feud" and disagreements around the whole Tor, Guardian, Wikileaks, Manning docs, Snowden docs -- the whole thing -- I think those are good.  I think it shows that passionate people are working on really difficult and unprecedented things, breaking new ground, taking risks, etc.  It really leaves a bad taste in my mouth when other journalists seem to take delight in their difficulties and arguments.  They could choose to be part of it, to do what they can to make a positive difference at a time when there is a big opportunity to do so. Or they can stay on the sidelines and sneer and work against their own best (long term) interests.


Action



Stop Watching Us.

The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs.



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