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Liberal Outrage

How to cover political races

Yesterday during my daily obsessive searching the news for Bernie Sanders articles, i noticed a bunch of headlines along the lines of Bernie Sanders' Supreme Court litmus test: Overturn Citizens United. Odd, i thought. That's been his position since he announced. Why is it getting headlines now? The answer seems to be that he's doing better in the polls and he mentioned it in his speech to Chicago university yesterday (as he always does). But it's still odd to see it reported as "news". Not that i mind articles getting Sanders' positions out, at all.

Today, David Weigel, the political reporter at the Washington Post assigned to Bernie's campaign (who i have no complaints about), notices the same thing, but explains what's going on. When you have consistent policies and a consistent stump speech, there really isn't any new "news" to report about a candidate, except the horserace "he's up, he's down in the polls" stuff. This is really a problem for any candidate. Every supporter complains that their candidate gets bad coverage, whether it's no coverage, or just coverage exclusively about gaffs, scandals, and horse race stuff. What we really want is to see our candidates' issues getting publicized. And i think that's a public service of real value that the media should provide. But unless someone flip-flops, it's not really "news" once the candidate has already come out with a platform (although, as Weigel points out, Sanders has been rolling out new proposals since his campaign got started, to little media interest).

For websites, that's not really a problem. They should have sections devoted to the issues of each candidate. But for the daily news format (televison and newspapers), it's a little odd to just have an article out about something the candidate has been saying for months. On the other hand, people that weren't paying any attention at all to Bernie Sanders in June may be interested now in reading in their morning paper what his positions are. And again in February before the primary season actually starts and people really start paying attention. So even though it had me scratching my head, maybe this approach is the right one.

By fnord12 | September 29, 2015, 1:36 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The World Will Be Watching and So Will NSA!

A super long article that boils down to the NSA got the Greek government to secretly agree to the installation of bugging malware on their phone systems ostensibly to protect against "terrorism" during the 2004 Olympics in Athens. When the Olympics were over, the NSA didn't remove their equipment and also turned it back on so that they could listen in on Greek government officials. To hush it up, they may have also been responsible for the death of a Vodafone employee.

A decade later, Costas' death is caught up in an investigation into what now appears to have been a U.S. covert operation in Greece. Last February, Greek authorities took the extraordinary step of issuing an international arrest warrant for a CIA official the Greeks believe was a key figure in the operation while based in Athens. Unnoticed by the U.S. press, the warrant was a nearly unprecedented action by an allied country. The intelligence official, identified as William George Basil, was accused of espionage and eavesdropping. But by then he had already left the country, and the U.S. government, as it has done for the past 10 years, continues to stonewall Greek authorities on the agency's involvement.
According to a former senior U.S. intelligence official involved with the operation, there was close cooperation between NSA and the Greek government. "The Greeks identified terrorist nets, so NSA put these devices in there and they told the Greeks, OK, when it's done we'll turn it off," said the source. "They put them in the Athens communications system, with the knowledge and approval of the Greek government. This was to help with security during the Olympics."

The Olympic Games ran smoothly -- there were no serious terrorist threats and Greece had its best medal tally in more than a century. On August 29, 16 days after the games began, closing ceremonies were held at the Athens Olympic Stadium. As 70,000 people watched, Greek performers displayed traditional dances, a symbolic lantern was lit with the Olympic Flame, and Dr. Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympics Committee, gave a short speech and then officially closed the games.

Two weeks later, the Paralympics ended, and at that point, keeping their promise to the Greek government, the NSA employees should have quietly disconnected their hardware and deleted their software from the local telecommunications systems, packed up their bugging equipment, and boarded a plane for Fort Meade. The problem was, they didn't. Instead, they secretly kept the spying operation active, but instead of terrorists, they targeted top Greek officials. According to the former U.S. intelligence official involved with the operation, the NSA began conducting the operation secretly, without the approval or authorization of the CIA chief of station in Athens, the U.S. ambassador, or the Greek government.

"We had a huge problem right after the Greek Olympics," the source said. "They [NSA] said when the Olympics is over, we'll turn it off and take it away. And after the Olympics they turned it off but they didn't take it away and they turned it back on and the Greeks discovered it. They triangulated some signals, anonymous signals, and it all pointed back to the embassy."

At that point, the source said, someone from the Greek government called Richard Eric Pound, the CIA chief of station at the embassy in Athens and the person officially responsible for all intelligence operations in the country. Pound had arrived in May 2004, replacing Michael F. Walker, the agency's former deputy director of the paramilitary Special Activities Division, as chief of station in Athens. Describing himself as "a small town boy from Indiana who set off to see the world," Pound had joined the agency in 1976. Hefty and mustachioed, he was a veteran of the agency's backwater posts in Africa.

Pound, according to the source, knew nothing about the operation having been turned back on, so he called his boss at CIA headquarters to ask about it. "He says, 'What in God's name is this all about?'" said the source (Pound declined to speak to The Intercept). Pound's boss then immediately called his NSA counterpart. "Oh, yeah, we were going to tell you about that," the NSA official told Pound's CIA boss, according to the source. "They didn't take it out and they turned it back on."

When the eavesdropping was made public, the Greek citizens were obviously not happy. However, Greece and the U.S. governments wanted to maintain good relations and staged some public lunches to show that.

For some, however, the cozy relations only seemed to increase the anger. In May, a Greek terrorist organization, "Revolutionary Struggle," attempted to assassinate Voulgarakis with a remote-controlled bomb. Pointing to the wiretapping scandal and weakening Greek sovereignty as a key reason for the attack, the group said it opposed state-sponsored "terrorism of mass surveillance." At the U.S. Embassy, the deputy chief of mission sent a classified cable to Washington, released by WikiLeaks, with a warning. "This group is to be taken seriously," he said. "While there is no mention thus far of targeting foreign 'capitalist-imperialists,' it would not be a leap of faith for RS to focus its attention on the U.S. presence in Greece." Ten months later, the group fired a rocket at the embassy.

After 10 years, an arrest warrant has been issued for the CIA agent linked to the operation.

It is extremely unlikely the Obama administration will ever allow Basil, or any other intelligence official, to be extradited. Nor is it likely that Basil will return to Greece voluntarily with an arrest warrant waiting for him.
As for the NSA, a classified review of the Greek Olympics asked the now ironic question, "After this year's gold medal performance, what comes next?" Next will certainly be the Olympics scheduled for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, next summer. According to a previously published top-secret NSA slide, the agency has already planted malware throughout the country's telecommunications system. And, if history is any guide, in the weeks leading up to the start of the games, teams from the SCS, SSO, TAO, and other organizations will arrive once again to begin 24/7 eavesdropping. And as in Greece, they may just happen to leave some of their monitoring equipment behind.

By min | September 29, 2015, 9:36 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Accepting Gifts from Lobbyists is Freedom of Speech

It's a banner day for me and the Intercept.


In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Republican Kentucky state Sen. John Schickel, along with two Libertarian political candidates, are suing to overturn state ethics laws, claiming that the campaign contribution limit of $1,000 and a ban on gifts from lobbyists and their employers are a violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

The lawsuit notes that lobbyists and the employers of lobbyists are prohibited by Kentucky law from inviting legislators to parties, offering gifts, or paying for food for legislators. "This infringes on the legislator's, lobbyist's, and employer of lobbyist's right to freedom of association, and freedom of speech," Schickel claims in the suit.

Happy Friday. If you're lucky, fnord12 will post some cute animal pictures later today.

By min | September 25, 2015, 9:23 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

From Torture in Gitmo to Torture in a Moroccan Prison

I just can't imagine why anyone would be angry with the United States.

Two more prisoners have left Guantanamo Bay in the last week, a sign of the Obama administration's piecemeal efforts to empty the prison before the end of his presidency.

But one of those men, a 47-year-old named Younous Chekkouri, has not received a warm welcome in his native Morocco. On arrival he was detained by Moroccan authorities and now may face terrorism-related charges. Last night, Chekkouri's lawyers learned he had been moved to Salé prison, a facility that has been singled out by human rights groups for torture of detainees.


In federal habeas corpus proceedings, the government ended up withdrawing many of its claims against Chekkouri, and in 2010, an interagency review recommended him for transfer out of Guantanamo. But much of the material from the habeas proceedings is still secret, under seal in the District Court in Washington D.C.

"What my client is now potentially facing is some kind of Groundhog Day from hell," said Crider. "He faces a 'trial' in Morocco on the basis of the selfsame allegations that, when tested in federal court in his Gitmo habeas case, collapsed."

In an emergency motion filed today, Reprieve asked the federal district court to order the government to immediately release three pleadings and produce another seven by October 1st. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment on the motion.


By min | September 25, 2015, 9:18 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

You Can Try to Put Cops on Wall St.

But they'll just find a way to replace them with their own people.

We just saw Elizabeth Warren on Colbert's new show. One of her solutions to keeping big business and the super wealthy in check is regulatory agencies that watch over them. It doesn't work so well if the people in charge of regulating things don't really want the watchdogs doing a good job.


The battle over an obscure yet important regulatory agency heated up on Wednesday as the progressive activist organization Credo demanded that SEC Chair Mary Jo White recuse herself from selecting the next head of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB).

The oversight board was created after the Enron debacle, and charged with policing the big accounting firms whose audits are supposed to keep public companies honest. Its current chair, James Doty, has turned into one of the most persistent regulatory reformers in Washington.

White is considering ousting Doty in favor of someone more amenable to corporate sensibilities. White's husband, John White, a partner with the corporate law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore, sits on the PCAOB's Standing Advisory Group. And Credo says that he and his Wall Street clients may be influencing her decision-making.

The PCAOB regulates auditors, who are supposed to independently assess whether public companies are delivering accurate financial information to investors -- or cooking their books. Timely auditing can ferret out financial fraud, protecting investors and the broader economy.

But just four firms -- Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG -- control virtually all the auditing of public companies in the United States. And they often have lucrative business consulting relationships with the firms they audit. With only self-policing, auditors have every incentive to put their future profits ahead of the truth.

After Enron -- when its auditor, the now-defunct Arthur Andersen firm, was convicted and driven out of business for shredding audit documents -- Congress believed that the watchmen had to be watched as well. They passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which inaugurated the PCAOB, a non-profit corporation that sets auditing standards. Its five-member board gets appointed by the five SEC commissioners.

The worst part is this article says the SEC's Chief Accountant office is constantly undermining the PCAOB out of petty jealousy. Grow up. Do your job.

Here's a link to Credo's petition for those interested in signing it.

By min | September 25, 2015, 8:16 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link

Past Time to Get Off Facebook?


It's well established that joining a social network means trading privacy for information. Your Facebook friends, for example, get to see that picture of you looking like you might be stoned, and you get to "like" their posts celebrating the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado. Or, perhaps you simply post about your 50th birthday party or celebrating Ramadan. Potential employers get to see all that stuff too, depending on your privacy settings, and there is evidence that some of them discriminate on the basis of age and against Muslims. Facebook, meanwhile, gets to target ads at you.

What's not as well appreciated, but becoming increasingly clear, is that users of social networks in general, and of social networking kingpin Facebook in particular, are ill-equipped to evaluate the price they're paying in this trade -- to determine just how much privacy they'll lose over time in exchange for status updates from their friends, and what that loss will eventually mean for themselves and their loved ones.


Facebook's data hoard is being mined in ever more inventive ways. To take just a few examples: information uploaded to Facebook was sought by the Manhattan DA in a recent social security fraud case; Facebook earlier this year announced research on new techniques for performing facial recognition on partial digital images; and the company last month defended a patent acquired while purchasing a company that could be used to evaluate a person's loan application based on the credit of his or her friends.

I started off on FB to manage the band's page. Then friends and family found me so now that the band's defunct, i'm on it so that i can pretend to keep in touch with said friends and family without actually doing so. I don't post pictures of myself, but i have been tagged, so i might as well have put them up.

Fnord12's always admonishing me for being paranoid about posting pics of us on the blog and such. "What are they going to do with your picture?", he says to me. Apparently, they're going to use it to decide if I qualify for a loan. O.o

In today's world of social media, blogging, and the internet, it's pretty much impossible not to have an online presence, so i should prolly not waste energy being paranoid because, really, what can you do? Even if you avoid social media, your friends are on it, posting pictures you're in. And email. How can we live without email, even though i know right now Microsoft is prolly mining everything it can from my account (NO! i'm not using your stupid cloud services for saving photos! stop telling me about them every time i log in!!!).

I vacillate between being completely paranoid and considering encryptying everything to being too lazy to actually implement anything the Electronic Frontier Foundation might suggest to "protect my data". Mostly, i swing to the "too lazy" side. It's just in my nature.

But, while i might not be able to give up email or this blog, i do think FB is a horrible hell hole that sucks you in and devours your time and energy, so mebbe i should quit it altogether. Find some other way to pretend i care what's going on in the lives of people i don't see on a daily/weekly basis, bring back the tradition of mailing of Christmas cards that include the obligatory write-up of "what happened in the last year that i can complain about". Who doesn't love getting those?

Of course, people can always leave Facebook. But you don't even have to be on Facebook to be on Facebook. When I entered Doctorow's name into Facebook's search engine, I got a page that included a neatly formatted teaser link to his Wikipedia entry, plus a section titled, "Photos of my friends and Cory Doctorow." He turns up in two pictures, uploaded and tagged by people who I'm friends with on the platform. At the bottom it reads, "This Page is automatically generated based on what Facebook users are interested in, and not affiliated with or endorsed by anyone associated with the topic."

By min | September 18, 2015, 9:24 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

Pays for itself and everything else

Sorry if i'm beating a dead horse. But this is the economist that the Wall Street Journal cited in their scary 'Bernie's plan would cost $18 trillion dollars' article, $15 trillion of which was for a single payer system (which wasn't actually Bernie's proposal, but never mind that for now):

The Journal correctly puts the additional federal spending for health care under HR 676 (a single payer health plan) at $15 trillion over ten years. It neglects to add, however, that by spending these vast sums, we would, as a country, save nearly $5 trillion over ten years in reduced administrative waste, lower pharmaceutical and device prices, and by lowering the rate of medical inflation.

By fnord12 | September 16, 2015, 3:05 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Golden Dawn on the Rise

This could be really bad.

Four short weeks of campaigning before a snap poll called by the leftist leader and former prime minister Alexis Tsipras have gone surprisingly well. In successive opinion surveys, the virulently anti-immigrant, antisemitic, anti-EU party has emerged as Greece's third-biggest political force - the sole certainty in an election that has defied expectation in almost every other way.

Under the banner of being "the only nationalist choice", the far-rightists have persistently polled between 5.5% and 7%. Tsipras's Syriza has been shown to be neck and neck with its main challenger, the conservative New Democracy, quashing hopes of an easy victory.


Touring Kos and other Aegean islands most affected by the influx, Golden Dawn MPs brazenly played on locals' fears. "Elections are approaching," Ilias Kasidiaris, the party's swastika-tattooed spokesman, told residents. "Kos has a choice. If [inhabitants] choose to vote Syriza it will turn into Pakistan. If they choose Golden Dawn and Golden Dawn governs the land, then Kos will become Greece again. And that is our goal."

Michaloliakos, who like other party leaders was released from prison after serving the pre-trial maximum of 18 months, is accused of overseeing offences that range from money laundering to murder and armed attack. The hearing began this year. The accused deny the charges.

By min | September 16, 2015, 11:09 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Everybody wins

Bernie Sanders must have crossed some kind of threshold and suddenly he's getting media attention beyond "hey, here's this kooky guy that can't win". This is good. We get to talk policy. The latest is from the Washington Post's Editorial Board and at first glance it seems to be criticizing Bernie from the left:

Bernie Sanders isn't as progressive as you think.

If you read the article, you'll see their complaint is that the programs that he's proposing would be available to all people, not just the poor. And they're absolutely wrong about this. It's actually interesting that they chose to use the world "progressive". Labels mean different things to different people, but one distinction i've seen between liberals and progressives is that liberals want programs that help the poor, and progressives want programs that benefit everyone. Both are good. But the reason the latter are "progressive" is that they actually move the country forward. Programs for the poor are easy to cut; they don't have a strong and vocal base of support. Programs that benefit everyone become a "third rail"; untouchable. Compare Medicaid to Medicare, or welfare to Social Security. Medicaid struggles for funding. Bill Clinton was able to dismantle welfare. But try to mess with Medicare and Social Security and everyone will scream.

With the things Bernie is proposing, it's about becoming a different society. Public university should be available to everyone. Simple. That's very different than going through some kind of means-testing to prove you're poor enough to get subsidies to go to school. Means-testing is humiliating, bureaucratic, it requires additional administrators to be paid, and it would be so easy to start cutting the subsidies the next time someone wanted to give rich people a tax cut.

Since they wrote this editorial, i am sure the Washington Post Editorial Board is very concerned about the wealthy getting too many benefits. But we can satisfy them by balancing it out with increased taxes on upper income brackets. Everybody wins!

By fnord12 | September 15, 2015, 6:15 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link

More on that $18 trillion

A good write-up from the Washington Post's Paul Waldman.

By fnord12 | September 15, 2015, 2:05 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

"Correcting" the record

A Super PAC called Correct The Record, supposedly designed to push back on right wing lies against Hillary Clinton, has instead decided to attack Bernie Sanders. They sent an email to Huffington Post trying to convince them to put out an article tying Sanders to some of the more controversial statements made by the UK Labor Party's Jeremy Corbyn. But HuffPo never promised that they were off the record or anything, so instead of publishing their proposed article, they published an article exposing Correct The Record.

I don't even think that Corbyn's statements are bad (ooh, he thought Osama Bin Laden should be brought to trial, what a fifth columnist just like those traitors at Nuremberg!). But the point is that a Hillary group had pivoted from "correcting" the record to distorting it, and (i guess the good news) they are realizing they have to take Bernie seriously and targeting him instead of the Republicans. And that they can't win on the merits. (Correct The Record, which is owned by the same people that run Media Matters, has a contact form here. Just in case you had something to say.)

Separately, if you hear from the Wall Street Journal that Bernie Sander's proposals will cost $18 trillion dollars, realize that $15 trillion of that is for converting to Single Payer, and they calculated the cost over 10 years (so it would be $1.5 trillion a year) and, most importantly, the study that they got the numbers from (which wasn't Sanders' proposal specifically) also explains how it would mostly pay for itself (PDF) with no new taxes.

By fnord12 | September 15, 2015, 7:41 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

First Amendment Rights for Corporations

If you want the government to protect you, become a corporation. It's better than being people.

A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a decision on Tuesday supporting a deeply cherished belief of many huge corporations: that the First Amendment shields them from government requirements to provide information about their products.

The case involved a provision in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform act ordering corporations to disclose their use of "conflict minerals" from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The DRC is rich in minerals used in cell phones, laptops and many other gadgets, and demand for them has helped fuel what's been called "Africa's World War."

In finding for the National Association of Manufacturers, the D.C. Circuit judges declared that to be unconstitutional compelled speech.

Yeah. We wouldn't want people to be able to make informed decisions about their purchases or anything. It shouldn't matter if other people were harmed by the manufacturing of these products. It only matters if corporate sales are dinged by people knowing about it. Thanks, government.

What's most noticeable about the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals conflict minerals decision -- written by George H.W. Bush appointee Raymond Randolph and joined by Reagan appointee David Sentelle -- is that it reads less like a dispassionate legal treatise and more like an extremely long, nicely typeset right-wing blog post.

For instance, Reynolds muses, "If the government required labels on all internal combustion engines stating that 'USE OF THIS PRODUCT CONTRIBUTES TO GLOBAL WARMING' would that be fact or opinion?" Of course, that would be a fact, but to Reynolds it's merely "the opinion of many scientists."

But best of all are his quotations from both 1984 and Darkness at Noon -- perhaps the two most famous anti-totalitarian novels ever written. The citations don't make much sense wedged into the decision, but the implication is clear: Forcing Apple to tell you whether there's tantalum from Congo in your iPad is the kind of thing Joseph Stalin would do.


The ruling is yet more evidence that the current extremist ideology of corporate America and its judicial allies is not going to moderate itself.

They have a specific future in mind for us -- one in which the Constitution protects all huge corporations and no actual humans -- and they're doing everything they possibly can to make it happen.

By min | September 1, 2015, 9:05 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

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