Sunday, June 30, 2013

This is Nick Hanauer. I've expressed this sentiment on the web log a few times, maybe not as succinctly. Nick Hanauer talked about this in one of those TED Talks, a syndicated program that's broadcast over KANW, one of our public radio stations here in Albuquerque, but his talk was held back by the TED Talk people, wasn't aired because it was too "controversial." KPFA, the Pacifica Radio station in Berkeley, CA, then broadcast it. That's where I heard it, on a podcast.

Demand creates jobs. Our demand. No business person would hire a bunch of people, have them make a bunch of stuff, then hope he could sell it. They need orders first. People coming into stores and wanting the stuff. Then they hire people. They're not foolish with their money.

Why don't elected Democrats say this? Why do let the lie stand that "job creators" create jobs? Why do they help perpetuate it?

Probably for the same reason they won't stand up and say, "President Obama will cut Social Security over my dead body."

Probably because it's easier not to think about the consequences of their actions. Easier to send out emails and make fine sounding speeches that don't commit themselves to anything, make pronouncements about how they're fighting for the middle class. Easier to stay in good standing with who they really serve. Be accepted by the political establishment they are a part of, and the elites from that part of American society that doles out the things we need in this country to feel good about ourselves, to feel a measure of self esteem, feel like we're successful. The part that doles out our titles, our houses, our cars, our name in the paper, our standing, our status, our idea of who we are. Based not on what we know but on what we feel, what we've absorbed, what we want.

It's that part of ourselves, that we let get in there, that's nurtured by our desires and our fears, that we don't have the "balls", as a guy I know puts it, to stand up to, to struggle and fight against, to overcome.

Update II

Der Spiegel further reports that the US taps a half billion German phone calls, emails and texts a month, considers Germany "a third class partner," spies on it at the level it spies on China, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. US also heavily taps France's communications. It's reported the German people are very angry about this owing to their memories of the Stasi secret police and the Nazis.

I wonder what affect if any this will have on the US-German economic relations. Since the economic crises began the US has been trying to get Chancellor Angela Merkel to relent in her insistence on the Eurozone adhering to austerity economics. Representing the Eurozone's biggest economy and its biggest banks, Merkel had singlehandedly been stifling European economic growth, which in turn adversely effects the US economy.


The German magazine Der Spiegel is reporting that a document leaked by Edward Snowden reveals massive NSA spying on European Union offices. Phone calls and emails were intercepted, offices were bugged, internal documents were stolen from computers.

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said that if the report was correct, it would have a "severe impact" on relations between the EU and the United States, reports Reuters.

Snowden said there'd be more. US congress members acknowledge there's more.  Perhaps by now the NSA has retraced Snowden's electronic footprints and knows how much more. Maybe that's why President Obama has stopped attacking Snowden publicly and wishes the story would "just go away."

Then there's this from a Facebook page called I Acknowledge Class Warfare Exists.


Saturday, June 29, 2013


I'm always criticizing New Mexico's Democratic federal congressional delegation for not using the podium they've been given to inform and mobilize the working people they were elected to serve and to increase public support for policies in working peoples' interests by engaging conservatism in the war of ideas. A few people, like Bernie Sanders, a Socialist senator from tiny Vermont, have become nationally known figures by doing so, and are listened to, respected and loved by many around the country despite being made light of at times by the corporate media and political establishment.

One has to wonder whether the reticence of New Mexico's DC Democrats to be like Bernie has more to do with their need for official respect, or whether they really do believe in conservatism but are playing it coy just to get elected.

The one possible exception, first term 1st District congress member Michelle Grisham, is off and on. Sometimes you hear the same witheringly banal political jargon the rest of them use to communicate with their constituents, which always includes "standing up for the middle class," the sole purpose of which is to suggest they're on your side while leaving them free to vote any way they please on anything they please. I promote her when she does something noteworthy and surprising, as I do at the end of the post below, but she's no Bernie Sanders and no Elizabeth Warren. This might be because she is new to the position and feeling her way or it may not. We can help her along and influence her.

Once in awhile you'll see something like her use of the term "European-style austerity" to describe sequestration, which was in an otherwise pretty banal fundraising email I received this morning. Leftists use the term "austerity" when talking about what the corporate media usually calls "reform." It's Neoliberalism on steroids, and the intent of calling it "reform" is to divert attention from it's harmfulness. It's reaching for me to think this means she has a point of view like mine or that I can expect to hear more like this. The audience of the fundraising appeal is less the general public and more die hard Democrats. But at least she's heard of the word austerity. She could have used another word but didn't. What else is there to be hopeful about? Please tell me.



Snowden 1, Obama 0 

New Mexico's two senators, Democrats Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, are among 26 senators who have signed a "strongly worded" letter wanting more information about secret spying on US citizens, and saying that President Obama is justifying domestic spying using secret interpretations of the Patriot Act that amount to a body of secret law. (US corporate media is largely silent about this. Look in The Guardian or Leftist alternative media.)

 Meanwhile, a US representative in on NSA briefings of congress, Democrat Loretta Sanchez, says what Edward Snowden revealed about domestic spying is "only the tip of the iceburg," and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange says Snowden has much more, and highly detailed, information about NSA spying and more releases are likely.

The senators' letter, and President Obama's decision to call off his highly public pursuit of Snowden, come as US public support for Snowden remains strong despite two weeks of his being hammered and labeled a traitor by the administration, congressional leaders and the media. Americans don't like being spied on by their own government and don't want to be, and the relenting attacks on Snowden didn't change their mind about that or his whistleblowing.

Black Agenda Report graphic
Russia and China have alternately scorned and ridiculed administration threats about their harboring of Snowden and Russian President Vladmir Putin has humorously told the president to buzz off. Little Ecuador one-upped threats to end favorable trade relations with it if it gave Snowden asylum by ending them itself, and for good measure President Rafael Correa offered to pay for human rights training to help the US avoid "espionage, torture, extrajudicial killings and other acts that denigrate humanity."

Marc Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research attributes Obama's decision to call off his attack on Snowen to the administration's realization that it will be better off if the NSA spying story just "goes away."

"It was quite an amazing, if implicit, admission of defeat," Weisbrot writes.
Rafael Correa

Weisbrot also points out "how our government has traditionally used domestic surveillance to oppose, infiltrate, disrupt, and discredit (sometimes through violent provocations) opposition political movements. In 2011, the Boston police, federally-funded Boston Regional Intelligence Center (note: one of the "fusion centers" I wrote about earlier), and FBI appear to have been so fixated on peaceful activists like the Occupy movement, Code Pink, and Veterans for Peace that they seem to have missed the real terrorists that bombed the Boston marathon, despite having the intelligence on one of them dumped in the FBI’s lap."
"There are tens of millions of Americans who already understand very well that the “war on terror” has been used as a pretext to erode our civil liberties at home and commit terrible crimes abroad. Snowden’s courageous whistle-blowing and Glenn Greenwald’s relentless efforts to inform the public have brought more people into the realm of questioning the whole rotten framework that justifies these abuses and atrocities. Who is our government protecting anyway, when they invade other countries and create new enemies every week by drone-bombing civilians in places like Pakistan or Yemen? Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist."

In Other News

The president, meanwhile, has been met in South Africa by protestors critical of US complicity in Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and who view his Africa trip as a mission to steal the continent's resources.

And first term New Mexico congress member Michelle Grisham, who is quickly becoming the leader of New Mexico's do-nothing Democratic delegation to Washington, or, if you will, the only one who doesn't spend their time hiding in their office, has introduced a bill that would put an end to "dark money," the secret campaign contributions allowed under current election and IRS law.

Grisham has already made news by criticizing the outsourcing of state jobs at UNM Hospital and by spending a week living on the meager food budget of a food stamp recipient.

In a related matter, I found it interesting that our two aforementioned senators released statements applauding the immigration bill passed this week by the senate, which many immigration rights advocates are calling a travesty, without saying how they voted on it.

Which, for the record, was:

      Heinrich (D-NM), Yea
      Udall (D-NM), Yea


Read more here:

Log Books And Capitalism

Some new logging rules take effect Sunday night at midnight, the most draconian being a rule that requires you to take a half hour break after the first eight hours of your work day. Drivers are complaining that it will cut down on the number of hours they can log, i.e. the amount of money they can make, and trucking companies are complaining it will cut into their productivity. They are both right, but just as worse is that the new rule is a further refinement of the US Department of Transportation's attempt to manage driver's schedules according to pseudo science and a complete disregard for the realities of Capitalism.

It all began a few years back when the DOT instituted a major fiddling with the log book rules intended to get drivers on a 24 hour "circadian" schedule. They want drivers to have a regular awake-asleep cycle, and are trying to force this on us with logging rules.

The problem is, Capitalism, with its insatiable need for the products trucks deliver, doesn't care about drivers' awake-asleep cycle. Capitalists want trucks to show up when it's convenient for them, basically when it's cheapest. Sometimes you make a pickup at 7 a.m. and deliver it the next day at 7 a.m., but then, as often as not, you'll sit and wait until 4 p.m. to make your next pickup, then drive a couple days and deliver that at 4 a.m.

That's because of how Capitalism works. Many businesses are on daytime hours, but many are not. Take grocery warehouses. US consumers spend a major percentage of their wages on groceries, which means a major percentage of what trucks haul are groceries. The big grocery chains like Smith's, Safeway, Wal Mart, all have big regional warehouses, and they are kept stocked by over the road semis. The warehouses are busy places designed to handle a couple hundred semi loads a day.

If you pick up a load of Georgia Pacific's Brawny paper towels in Minnesota, or Bush's Baked Beans in Tennessee, or Dole bananas at the port of New Orleans, or some kind of produce from California, no matter when it's picked up, the grocery warehouse wants it delivered at between midnight and 4 a.m., and you'll have an appointment sometime during that time.

At your appointed time you back into a dock, and as soon as you're unloaded, one of the grocery chain's trucks is waiting to back into the same dock, and the warehouse people begin loading his truck so he can deliver things to one of the chain's individual stores.

They do it this way so one warehouse crew can handle both inbound and outbound loads -- their crew of fork truck drivers, pickers and checkers (pickers = people who get stores' loads ready, checkers = people who count everything coming in and going out of the warehouse). The same crew can unload the incoming bulk groceries and then load the orders going to the stores, and, they can do both at one set of docks.

And Wal Mart warehouses, for example, have inbound and outbound trucks coming and going around the clock.

DOT wasn't thinking about Wal Mart or grocery warehouses when they tried to get everyone on a 24 hour schedule. To follow their theory, all the trucks will have to unload and load at 7 a.m. The grocery store chains and Wal Mart will have to install another set of docks in all of their warehouses, at a cost of millions, and hire another crew of fork truck drivers, pickers and checkers for every warehouse at a cost of millions. 

The randomness that requires a driver, after delivering to a food warehouse at 3 a.m., to take a load that delivers at 7 a.m. at a factory that makes furniture, and after that, at a warehouse for industrial supplies that delivers at 10 p.m., then another grocery warehouse load, is built into trucking companies' dispatch systems, so they can efficiently allocate their trucks to the varied demands of Capitalism. As a driver you get used to it or get another job.

Log rules used to allow you to stop and take a nap if you got tired. New logging rules, which are an attempt to make sure you don't get out of a 24 hour circadian cycle, make you keep going. You have to keep driving if you're tired. The log rules force you to.

If the new rules remain in place, the trucking industry will have to significantly change and Capitalism will have to restrict itself to a set schedule. Consumers will have to pay twice as much for groceries, and for all kinds of other things, too, as trucking companies are forced to expand their fleets and hire more drivers. The new rules have already created a shortage of drivers, so driver's wages will have to increase substantially. Capitalism can't countenance any of this, and I imagine the whole economy will come tumbling down eventually if the new rules remain in place.

Eventually, the DOT will have to back down, I think, when the consequences of the new regulations are more widely known and are blamed on the DOT. Capitalism will force its logic onto the DOT. The impetus won't come from drivers, who as a group are anti union, anti organizing, or from the trucking industry, which because of similar ideological leanings has left itself in a position where everyone tries to underbid each other, basically having to fight over the scraps that are tossed to it. When Wal Mart sales decline because of it, it will change, or when there are riots in front of Smith's stores, it will change.

Meanwhile these newest log rules will affect me in certain ways. I meet a truck in Holbrook every night, which is coming from Phoenix with freight for the company I contract with. I leave Albuquerque at 8 p.m., and leave Holbrook at 3 a.m., seven hours after I have gone "on duty" according to my log book. The new rules state that I have to take a half hour break before 8 hours is up. That means I will have to take a 30-minute break before I return to Albuquerque.

But if I don't get back to Albuquerque at 7 a.m. with the medical supplies I have on board, a crew of delivery van drivers sits and waits, and pharmacies don't get things they need when they need them. The company I contract with has contracts that require it to makes its deliveries by 10 a.m., so its contracts, likewise mine, could be put in jeopardy.

So I will have to leave Albuquerque earlier -- i.e. get less sleep -- so I can get to Holbrook earlier so I can take the half hour break there, or I can cheat on my log book. If the Phoenix truck gets to Holbrook at the same time as I do, instead of having to sit for a half hour before I start back to Albuquerque so I have the required break logged, I can change my log book to show that I left Albuquerque earlier and got to Holbrook earlier.

Drivers are becoming more wary about cheating on their log books. It's not just the cost of a ticket any more. It's not even the points on your license, although most insurance companies won't insure you now if you have more than two tickets. It's some other new things. One is that the federal DOT now keeps track of everyone's record, of driver's individual records and of companies' overall records. This will affect how closely you're monitored by law enforcement, and your ability to work. Another is that you can be tracked across the country now. If you go past a weigh station in one state at a certain time, they might know in another state what time it was. They have that ability now. They don't always make use of it, but they can, and if you've changed your log book, they might well know.

Awhile back I wrote a web log entry about weigh stations. These are places where kind, helpful, good looking public servants not only weigh your truck to see if you're overweight, but where they also from time to time check your paperwork, your bills, your permits, all of it, to make sure it's all in accordance with the myriad of legal requirements affecting trucking and shipping.

Including your log book. In that web log entry I wrote about the dread that comes over a truck driver as he approaches a weigh station, because of all the potential tickets he can get, the potential delays, the possibility of getting "shut down," of your new DOT safety rating being affected. I mentioned in my web post that I put my seat belt on when I get close to a weight station, because you can get a ticket for that, too.

The Arizona weigh station on I-40, which I pass by every night, always closes at 11p.m., so it's never open when I get there and I can just sail on by. But immediately after I wrote that web log entry, that very night, the Arizona weigh station was open late. They were just checking everyone's registration and weight. When mine were OK I was let go with a smile. This went on for exactly one week, then the Arizona weigh station was closed again at 11 p.m., and I haven't had to stop there since.

So no, I'm not going to cheat on my log book. I never have. I never will. God bless America.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday, 27 June 2013 13:19

With Immigration Bill Headed to House, President Can Take Clear Steps to Advance Reform and Relieve Suffering for Immigrants: Suspend Deportations

Los Angeles - In response to the Senate vote on immigration reform, Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network released the following statement:
"We are deeply disappointed with the unnecessary concessions made by Senate Democrats that have bent to the fears of xenophobes and weakened the reform that so many have struggled for. If undocumented day laborers can stand up to a Sheriff like Arpaio, the leaders in the beltway should be able to find at least a fraction of that same courage.
As the bill moves to the House of Representatives we will ready ourselves for an onslaught of racists that are determined to deny immigrants of our rights and convert the country into Arizona. 
Though the prospects for the bill face multiple dimensions of uncertainty in the House, it is clear that some intend to make it more a tool of punishment than progress.  That is why the President must take concrete action to advance a positive bill and relieve the suffering of immigrants.  His deferred action program is proof that administrative action can both grant relief and move politics in the right direction.  The idea that such incremental progress must be postponed for a legislative strategy should've been put to rest long ago.
The best step the President can take to help pass immigration reform is to instruct his Secretary of Homeland Security to end the Secure Communities deportation quota program and to enact a suspension of deportations as the debate in Congress continues."

(blogger's note: President Obama has deported record numbers of undocumented immigrants.)


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On a radio show I heard on the way out to Holbrook last night, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a lawyer with the Partnership for Civil Justice, was putting the NSA spying program in the context of the massive spying on, and infiltration of activist groups -- Occupy, environmental groups, etc. -- uncovered through Freedom of Information requests, and the recent change in Department of Defense policy that allows the military to quell domestic civil disturbances without presidential authorization. She talked about the US government's awareness of and planning for the potential for large-scale social unrest as living standards decline and hope fades, and the fact that today's young people are aware that they face a future without the promise their parents' generation had.

They aren't just collecting the data Edward Snowden talks about for a rainy day, and the government isn't upset about Snowden's revelations for nothing. Post 9-11 hysteria saw the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, which established "Fushion Centers" around the country to facilitate information sharing among the various federal and local law enforcement agencies. These centers are staffed by agents of these law enforcement arms and have access to, and feed information into the secret government databases we've been hearing about. They were supposed to be for preventing terrorism, but FOI documents show that they devote much of their effort to spying on American activist groups -- environmentalists, Occupy, etc. -- as shown in a report by the Center for Media and Democracy, summarized in this article in In These Times, which links to the report.

The Bill of Rights, The Constitution's prohibition against secret courts, it's explicit protection of privacy, all of it was set up because we know there are flaws in human nature. We know. And yet incrementally we are letting those safeguards go. As they go, we can expect the flaws in human nature to re-exert themselves.



Monday, June 24, 2013

Congressional Oversight. Yea Right.

Screen capture from The Guardian's live blogging of the day's Edward Snowden developments.

Posted on Facebook by Dutch Revolution, an Occupy style group. In the Netherlands, immigrants have been attacked and killed by neo Nazi groups, and neo Nazis like Geert Wilders have been elected to parliament.

Domestic Spying

Next to a guest column by a former National Security Agency employee who calls whistleblower Edward Snowden "a thief, a coward and a traitor," the Albuquerque Journal in today's print edition published this comment by political cartoonist Christopher Weyant.

Snowden, in his initial revelations to The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, said he hoped the story wouldn't be about himself but about the US government's policy of spying on its own citizens. Yet to many on all sides of the issue the story is about Snowden. Is he a traitor or a hero? Will he get away? How dare he? I've been posting updates that portray Snowden's moving about as a flight to freedom, a flight that others, like US Secretary of state John Kerry, who this morning called Snowden a "traitor," portray as Snowden's flight from "justice." Articles about Snowden's maneuvering have been the most often posted news articles for more than 24 hours now, according to Google, sometimes topping 2,000 per hour.

Whatever you think about Snowden, there are two stories here -- Snowden, and what he has been revealing. The US government does spy on its own citizens. If you think that's alright, OK. But it does, and it does many things it didn't used to do, using terrorism as the excuse,  or reason, depending on whether you agree with it or not, whether you think it's worth giving up your privacy and certain civil liberties or not, whether you think there's any real danger to US citizens from terrorists or not. 

Writer Walter Brasch catalogs many of the things the government is doing, that it didn't used to do, in a blog post that's being reprinted here and there. Besides what the NSA is doing -- sweeping up the digital record of everything we say and do and storing it -- the government has several programs set up that collect personal information on Americans and feed it into big data bases. These data bases are where things like the famous "no fly list" comes from. Any information you give out, like that which goes on your drivers license, or that you hand over to airlines, such as your eye color or your meal preferences, is building up in these data bases.

The danger of all this, of course, is not that the government has this information on you, but the potential uses it can be put to. The no fly lists, Brasch points out, somehow included several hundred people who simply opposed George W Bush and Dick Cheney politically.

This is what the NSA story should be about, not Edward Snowden. We like to think that America can never become a police state -- not here, we like to believe. But we believe that because of the safeguards the founders put into the Bill of Rights, and the cautionary decisions that have been made by courts and legislators ever since. We feel that "right" and truth will pretty much always win out, because we've always had open courts and open arrest records, not secret courts, like the courts approving the decisions to spy on Americans, and the secret arrests now possible under US law.

Snowden, whether you like him or not, knew he faced a US government that has already declared him a traitor. He knew the congressional oversight committees formed in the 1970s to prevent intelligence agency abuse were entirely ignorant of Bush Administration wiretapping, and now spend their time defending the intelligence agencies and their budgets not overseeing them. He knew about Bradley Manning, who was held in solitary confinement in what the UN Special Rappoteur called conditions of torture and is now undergoing what amounts to a show trial, where the military judge has categorically denied every defense motion to present evidence. 

Safeguards like the Bill of Rights, that are steadily being eroded by things like the Patriot Act and by legal opinions written by Bush and Obama justice department lawyers, that we aren't even allowed to see, are why Americans believe we can't become a police state, not because American rulers are somehow more virtuous or wise than other rulers or are automatically only interested in our best interests, or because Americans are somehow inherently incapable of doing things to each other that other human beings somewhere else routinely do.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Update: WikiLeaks has modified its statement (original in my last post) about Edward Hayden's flight from Hong Kong slightly to say Snowden is seeking asylum in Ecuador. Press reports have Snowden still at the Moscow airport.

The corporate media is alternately engaging in second guessing the Obama Administration's tactics, saying they allowed Snowden to escape Hong Kong, and blaming Hong Kong, Russia, and other countries for their lack of cooperation.

US politicians like Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and many others, embarrassed by letting Hayden slip through their fingers, continue to blame Hayden for how far America's once-proud guarantees of civil liberties have been eroded by the US president and congress.
WikiLeaks Statement on Edward Snowden's Exit From Hong Kong
Sunday June 23, 1300 BST

Mr Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who exposed evidence of a global surveillance regime conducted by US and UK intelligence agencies, has left Hong Kong legally. He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks.

Mr Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Mr Snowden arrives at his final destination his request will be formally processed.

Former Spanish Judge Mr Baltasar Garzon, legal director of Wikileaks and lawyer for Julian Assange has made the following statement:

"The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person. What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange - for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest - is an assault against the people".

(Blogger's Note: Baltasar Garzon first gained notoriety in 1988 when as a Spanish judge, using the legal concept of universal jurisdiction, he issued an arrest warrant for Auguston Pinochet, who had murdered and replaced Chile's elected Socialist President Salavadore Allende in a CIA backed coup and ruled Chile under a 17-year brutal dictatorship. In that case, US ally Britain refused to extradite Pinochet and he died before receiving justice. Among other such cases Garzon has investigated or prosecuted are the deaths of the many Spanish citizens killed during Spain's Franco dictatorship. In 2010 Garzon was disbarred by Spain's conservative judiciary, which is still dominated by Franco loyalists. He was then recruited by Julian Assange to head the WikiLeaks legal team.)

Sunday 5:27 a.m.

As I write this, Edward Hayden is over Russian air space with Wikileaks legal advisors, final destination unknown, and President Obama is pacing the Oval Office in his pajamas with a phone in each hand I would imagine.

I write this to say that if you have listened carefully to what Hayden has said, and few in the media have -- they quickly turned to the president and the intelligence services to get their instructions -- you'll recall that he said there would be more revelations, and big ones. Well, the first has emerged. The NSA has been keeping information it collects on us, not destroying it in many cases, despite what the president and the spy chiefs and our compliant congress and lapdog media have been telling us, and despite what the law says. The small amount of coverage of this has been drowned out by the worried speculation about whether China would interfere with America's right to bring Hayden back here to be hanged and shot and dismembered and then tortured and interrogated and put on trial.

Most of the little that's been said about the NSA keeping data focuses on them using an exception to the law to keep encrypted data until it can be unencrypted, but that's just one of many excuses they can and do use to keep the data permanently.

Stay tuned. And if you believe one word of what the government says about all this, you're probably in for some more surprises. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Chill Settles Over America

The sources journalists rely on for information are becoming silent, Associated Press President Gary Pruitt told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

"Some of our longtime trusted sources have become nervous and anxious about talking to us, even on stories that aren't about national security," Pruitt said.

I thought about this as I read New Mexico political blogger Joe Monahan today speculate about what isn't known about bid rigging here, about the Martinez Administration only releasing information it feels like releasing, and about the local paper, the Albuquerque Journal, repeatedly censoring any news that might harm its political agenda or its friends in high places.

Pruitt surmises that the chilling affect he's talking about has to do with recent revelations that the Obama Administration listens in on a massive amount of AP reporters' phone calls, but others have been forecasting the arrival of the chilling affect for some time now.

The Obama Administration has gone after whistleblowers with a vengeance, prosecuting twice as many under the Espionage Act as all previous administrations combined. That's only six people, well, seven now, counting the charges filed this week against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. That might not sound like many, but what they are charged with -- espionage -- is so harsh and so dramatic that reporters and their sources, seeing what happens when the weight of the US government comes down on these people, and careers and marriages and lives are ruined, are now clamming up.

The East German Stasi is sometimes called the worst of the secret police in the Soviet Union. They had implanted so much fear in the people that the people believed you could talk to no one. How far are we from that? In the last post I wrote about how, when the government can ignore our civil rights and basic liberties, anyone with the power to do it can do the same. And just as the Obama Administration, with the approval of a compliant congress, can go after anyone who tells the truth, Governor Martinez doesn't have to tell the truth and can ruin the reputation of anyone who does, and knows she will get away with it.

Everything about your life is being recorded by the government as you read this, and if you say something about it, you don't, really, know what will happen. Edward Snowden knows. Bradley Manning knows. Thomas Drake does. Shamai Leibowitz does. Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, Jeffrey Sterling and John Kiriakou all know.

We know we have a government that tortures people, and wants us to know it. We have a president who doesn't believe in due process, who can order the murder of anyone with a missile fired from an anonymous, silent drone, and wants us to know it. A president who moved swiftly to end the Occupy protests, who has his FBI engaged in a massive program of spying and infiltration of Occupy and any group that questions the government. Our congress has passed and the president has signed a defense authorization bill that lets the military imprison anyone, for as long as they want, and never let them see a judge or a lawyer or even say they are in prison. You, me, anyone.

The chill is upon us, and America's secret police are watching you.


Friday, June 21, 2013

You Think It's Just The NSA?

So you think a little government spying on your private communications will be the extent of it? You don't think anyone with any authority at all doesn't see what the government is doing and won't feel free to exert more authority than they think they have already?

Extra-judicial management at NALS-owned Tierra Pointe Apts
Here at the soon to be fashionable Tierra Pointe Apartments on Los Volcanes, which is owned by Nevins Adams Lewbel Schell (NALS Apartment Homes) of Santa Barbara, CA, someone parked in a handicapped space Wednesday morning and their car was booted. No questions. No asking to see if they had a permit that might have been delayed or lost. No judge, no jury. They were just denied the use of their car, which is what theft is.

Have a medical emergency? Tough luck. Need to go to a job interview? Go to hell. Pay us 75 bucks and we'll see about finding who has the key after we get out of a meeting, unless of course it's after the office closes. Then it will be the next day.
I was driving back from Holbrook this week and actually heard a national public radio propaganda piece that chirped about how all this surveillance boosts the economy. Your stock portfolio is swollen because of it, buddy, by all the contracts all these private companies get to write spying software and install the millions, now, of cameras that follow you everywhere, and write the facial recognition software which means that they now track you from surveillance system to surveillance system. You have a 24 hour tail. But no problem. You're safe. You were never in danger, but you're safe.

The corporate media is a cheerful part of the government's propaganda campaign to put us back to sleep. Don't worry about giving up the civil liberties that made America America, the role model of the earth and the envy of everyone else. And if the government thinks it has leeway to do as it pleases, to err on the side of itself, and the media just cheers them on, do you think the Big Brother mentality won't spread? Do you think the authoritarian impulse that leads government to take powers unto itself won't lead everyone who has any kind of authority to do the same?

Here at the soon to be locked down Tierra Pointe apartments, the owners are already taking the law into their own hands, have already taken what authority they think they have and gone far beyond what it says in the law. If you do something management doen't like you get a notice on your door that you're in violation of your lease. This has happened to me twice. I work nights, sleep days. I bought a couple free standing air conditioners. There's a plastic panel that the hot air vent fits into. You close the sliding window on the panel. They saw that and put a notice on my door that I was in violation of my lease. There's nothing in my lease I'm remotely in violation of. I put some sheets up to block out the daylight, inside the venetian blinds, so that I could, you know, sleep. They put a notice on my door. You're in violation of your lease.  I was not. There's a clause in the lease, any new rules become part of the lease, but there's been no rules about sheets or air conditioners issued in the five years I've lived here, and there's no list of rules that we've been given or that you can view, except as it exists in the fetid authoritarian impulse that drives someone's sense of grandeur, that will only swell further now.

A guy in the office, a good guy, told me the owners come in now and then to do a "walkaround," and that's probably when I got my notices. He said to go ahead and use my air conditioners, and I've learned to sleep, after a fashion, without the sheets. These examples demonstrate the power a property owner has, and power is vested in all kinds of ways in our society. Civilization amounts to a set of rules by which we live together without resort to power. The power comes from our mutual agreement to the rules. But suddenly that agreement's been tossed out the window. If someone has power and abuses it, and gets away with it, what can you do now? What am I going to do, sue Nevins Adams Lewbel Schell, I, who works 13 hour days minimum, often several more, lives paycheck to paycheck, always pays his rent early, never asks them to come and fix anything, picks up litter, sweeps the sidewalk, whose rent payments entirely finance this investment and everyone's salary here? 

Their newest authority grab is, as I say, the use of "boots" to deny you the use of your personal vehicle when they judge it appropriate. No due process, no questions before it's put on. It's theft. I have a friend who repossesses heavy equipment over in Dallas for Clark Equipment Company. If a construction company gets behind on their payments for a front end loader, Eddie just breaks breaks into the company's equipment yard in the middle of the night and drives off with the front end loader or whatever it is. No due process. No asking if the check didn't get delivered, no asking if arrangements can be made until the construction company gets their money for the job they're working on.

Here in Albuquerque, if you look at a cop crosseyed he can take out his gun and kill you. Period. Nothing will ever happen to him. He will make up a story about seeing you reach for a gun, and the DA will assist him in the coverup. It's done all the time, in Albuquerque and everywhere.

You think it's just the NSA?

The founding fathers, despite their many flaws, knew the effects of government taking unto itself too much authority, knew how it starts and how it spreads. They had lived it. We haven't, but we're about to.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Edward Snowden Q&A

User avatar for GlennGreenwald Guardian staff
Let's begin with these:
1) Why did you choose Hong Kong to go to and then tell them about US hacking on their research facilities and universities?
2) How many sets of the documents you disclosed did you make, and how many different people have them? If anything happens to you, do they still exist?
1) First, the US Government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime. That's not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it.
Second, let's be clear: I did not reveal any US operations against legitimate military targets. I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals, and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target. Not only that, when NSA makes a technical mistake during an exploitation operation, critical systems crash. Congress hasn't declared war on the countries - the majority of them are our allies - but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people. And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we're not even fighting? So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own Police? No, the public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the "consent of the governed" is meaningless.
2) All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.
User avatar for ewenmacaskill Guardian staff
I should have asked you this when I saw you but never got round to it........Why did you just not fly direct to Iceland if that is your preferred country for asylum?
Leaving the US was an incredible risk, as NSA employees must declare their foreign travel 30 days in advance and are monitored. There was a distinct possibility I would be interdicted en route, so I had to travel with no advance booking to a country with the cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained. Hong Kong provided that. Iceland could be pushed harder, quicker, before the public could have a chance to make their feelings known, and I would not put that past the current US administration.
You have said HERE that you admire both Ellsberg and Manning, but have argued that there is one important distinction between yourself and the army private...

"I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest," he said. "There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn't turn over, because harming people isn't my goal. Transparency is."
Are you suggesting that Manning indiscriminately dumped secrets into the hands of Wikileaks and that he intended to harm people?
No, I'm not. Wikileaks is a legitimate journalistic outlet and they carefully redacted all of their releases in accordance with a judgment of public interest. The unredacted release of cables was due to the failure of a partner journalist to control a passphrase. However, I understand that many media outlets used the argument that "documents were dumped" to smear Manning, and want to make it clear that it is not a valid assertion here.
Did you lie about your salary? What is the issue there? Why did you tell Glenn Greenwald that your salary was $200,000 a year, when it was only $122,000 (according to the firm that fired you.)
I was debriefed by Glenn and his peers over a number of days, and not all of those conversations were recorded. The statement I made about earnings was that $200,000 was my "career high" salary. I had to take pay cuts in the course of pursuing specific work. Booz was not the most I've been paid.
Why did you wait to release the documents if you said you wanted to tell the world about the NSA programs since before Obama became president?
Obama's campaign promises and election gave me faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems he outlined in his quest for votes. Many Americans felt similarly. Unfortunately, shortly after assuming power, he closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge.
1) Define in as much detail as you can what "direct access" means.
2) Can analysts listen to content of domestic calls without a warrant?
1) More detail on how direct NSA's accesses are is coming, but in general, the reality is this: if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want. Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on - it's all the same. The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time. Additionally, audits are cursory, incomplete, and easily fooled by fake justifications. For at least GCHQ, the number of audited queries is only 5% of those performed.
1) Define in as much detail as you can what "direct access" means.
2) Can analysts listen to content of domestic calls without a warrant?
2) NSA likes to use "domestic" as a weasel word here for a number of reasons. The reality is that due to the FISA Amendments Act and its section 702 authorities, Americans’ communications are collected and viewed on a daily basis on the certification of an analyst rather than a warrant. They excuse this as "incidental" collection, but at the end of the day, someone at NSA still has the content of your communications. Even in the event of "warranted" intercept, it's important to understand the intelligence community doesn't always deal with what you would consider a "real" warrant like a Police department would have to, the "warrant" is more of a templated form they fill out and send to a reliable judge with a rubber stamp.
Glenn Greenwald follow up: When you say "someone at NSA still has the content of your communications" - what do you mean? Do you mean they have a record of it, or the actual content?
Both. If I target for example an email address, for example under FAA 702, and that email address sent something to you, Joe America, the analyst gets it. All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything. And it gets saved for a very long time - and can be extended further with waivers rather than warrants.
What are your thoughts on Google's and Facebook's denials? Do you think that they're honestly in the dark about PRISM, or do you think they're compelled to lie?
Perhaps this is a better question to a lawyer like Greenwald, but: If you're presented with a secret order that you're forbidding to reveal the existence of, what will they actually do if you simply refuse to comply (without revealing the order)?
Their denials went through several revisions as it become more and more clear they were misleading and included identical, specific language across companies. As a result of these disclosures and the clout of these companies, we're finally beginning to see more transparency and better details about these programs for the first time since their inception.
They are legally compelled to comply and maintain their silence in regard to specifics of the program, but that does not comply them from ethical obligation. If for example Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple refused to provide this cooperation with the Intelligence Community, what do you think the government would do? Shut them down?
Ed Snowden, I thank you for your brave service to our country.
Some skepticism exists about certain of your claims, including this:
I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you, or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President if I had a personal email.
Do you stand by that, and if so, could you elaborate?
Yes, I stand by it. US Persons do enjoy limited policy protections (and again, it's important to understand that policy protection is no protection - policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens) and one very weak technical protection - a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points. The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the "widest allowable aperture," and can be stripped out at any time. Even with the filter, US comms get ingested, and even more so as soon as they leave the border. Your protected communications shouldn't stop being protected communications just because of the IP they're tagged with.
More fundamentally, the "US Persons" protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it's only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal."
User avatar for Spencer Ackerman Guardian staff
Edward, there is rampant speculation, outpacing facts, that you have or will provide classified US information to the Chinese or other governments in exchange for asylum. Have/will you?
This is a predictable smear that I anticipated before going public, as the US media has a knee-jerk "RED CHINA!" reaction to anything involving HK or the PRC, and is intended to distract from the issue of US government misconduct. Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.
US officials say terrorists already altering TTPs because of your leaks, & calling you traitor. Respond? #AskSnowden
— Kimberly Dozier (@KimberlyDozier) June 17, 2013
US officials say this every time there's a public discussion that could limit their authority. US officials also provide misleading or directly false assertions about the value of these programs, as they did just recently with the Zazi case, which court documents clearly show was not unveiled by PRISM.
Journalists should ask a specific question: since these programs began operation shortly after September 11th, how many terrorist attacks were prevented SOLELY by information derived from this suspicionless surveillance that could not be gained via any other source? Then ask how many individual communications were ingested to acheive that, and ask yourself if it was worth it. Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we've been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it.
Further, it's important to bear in mind I'm being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.
Is encrypting my email any good at defeating the NSA survelielance? Id my data protected by standard encryption?
Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on. Unfortunately, endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it.
Do you believe that the treatment of Binney, Drake and others influenced your path? Do you feel the "system works" so to speak? #AskSnowden
— Jacob Appelbaum (@ioerror) June 17, 2013
Binney, Drake, Kiriakou, and Manning are all examples of how overly-harsh responses to public-interest whistle-blowing only escalate the scale, scope, and skill involved in future disclosures. Citizens with a conscience are not going to ignore wrong-doing simply because they'll be destroyed for it: the conscience forbids it. Instead, these draconian responses simply build better whistleblowers. If the Obama administration responds with an even harsher hand against me, they can be assured that they'll soon find themselves facing an equally harsh public response.
This disclosure provides Obama an opportunity to appeal for a return to sanity, constitutional policy, and the rule of law rather than men. He still has plenty of time to go down in history as the President who looked into the abyss and stepped back, rather than leaping forward into it. I would advise he personally call for a special committee to review these interception programs, repudiate the dangerous "State Secrets" privilege, and, upon preparing to leave office, begin a tradition for all Presidents forthwith to demonstrate their respect for the law by appointing a special investigator to review the policies of their years in office for any wrongdoing. There can be no faith in government if our highest offices are excused from scrutiny - they should be setting the example of transparency.
What would you say to others who are in a position to leak classified information that could improve public understanding of the intelligence apparatus of the USA and its effect on civil liberties?
What evidence do you have that refutes the assertion that the NSA is unable to listen to the content of telephone calls without an explicit and defined court order from FISC?
This country is worth dying for.
My question: given the enormity of what you are facing now in terms of repercussions, can you describe the exact moment when you knew you absolutely were going to do this, no matter the fallout, and what it now feels like to be living in a post-revelation world? Or was it a series of moments that culminated in action? I think it might help other people contemplating becoming whistleblowers if they knew what the ah-ha moment was like. Again, thanks for your courage and heroism.
I imagine everyone's experience is different, but for me, there was no single moment. It was seeing a continuing litany of lies from senior officials to Congress - and therefore the American people - and the realization that that Congress, specifically the Gang of Eight, wholly supported the lies that compelled me to act. Seeing someone in the position of James Clapper - the Director of National Intelligence - baldly lying to the public without repercussion is the evidence of a subverted democracy. The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed.
Follow-up from the Guardian's Spencer Ackerman:
Regarding whether you have secretly given classified information to the Chinese government, some are saying you didn't answer clearly - can you give a flat no?
No. I have had no contact with the Chinese government. Just like with the Guardian and the Washington Post, I only work with journalists.
So far are things going the way you thought they would regarding a public debate? – tikkamasala
Initially I was very encouraged. Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history.
Final question from Glenn Greenwald:
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks to everyone for their support, and remember that just because you are not the target of a surveillance program does not make it okay. The US Person / foreigner distinction is not a reasonable substitute for individualized suspicion, and is only applied to improve support for the program. This is the precise reason that NSA provides Congress with a special immunity to its surveillance.