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Mon, 30 Jan 2023
The World for People who Think

Puppet Masters

War Whore

Who benefits from U.S. wars?

The latest objective estimate for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is between $3.7 trillion and $4.4 trillion, according to the research project "Costs of War" by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. Prominent American economist Joseph E. Stiglitz put the total cost to the United States of the Iraq war at $3 trillion dollars in 2008. In September 2010 he said that our estimate "was if anything too low." The United States is to spend more than $6 billion in Iraq in 2012 even though its forces are to withdraw from the country by the end of this year.

Comment: No wonder PressTV, Iran's international news channel, is prevented from broadcasting in the US and EU.

Snakes in Suits

House rebukes Obama, challenges deportation policy

© Gregory Bull
Men recently deported from Arizona wait in line to be registered with Mexican authorities at the border in Nogales, Mexico, on April 28, 2010
The House voted Thursday to overturn all of President Obama's non-deportation policies, in a vote freighted with meaning as Congress warily eyes a broader immigration debate later over the next few months.

It was one of several rebukes the House issued to Mr. Obama's immigration policies as the chamber debates a homeland security funding bill. The House also voted to preserve a program that lets local police help enforce immigration laws, rejecting the president's effort to defund it.

The votes signal that the House will continue to be a major hurdle for Mr. Obama, who wants to see Congress pass a bill legalizing the 11 million illegal immigrants now in the country. The deportation policy vote shows House lawmakers - and Republicans in particular - are still focused on enforcement.

The 224-201 vote broke chiefly along party lines and would undo what Republicans refer to as Mr. Obama's administrative "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.

Bad Guys

IRS workers say supervisors directed targeting

© SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
The Internal Revenue Service building is shown in Washington, D.C.
Two Internal Revenue Service agents working in the agency's Cincinnati office say higher-ups in Washington directed the targeting of conservative political groups when they applied for tax-exempt status, a contention that directly contradicts claims made by the agency since the scandal erupted last month.

The Cincinnati agents didn't provide proof that senior IRS officials in Washington ordered the targeting. But one of the agents said her work processing the applications was closely supervised by a Washington lawyer in the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, according to a transcript of her interview with congressional investigators.

Her interview suggests a long trail of emails that could support her claim.


Rand Paul: Obama administration needs 'remedial education' on the Constitution

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had some harsh words Thursday for the Obama administration collecting phone records of millions of Americans.

Speaking with Yahoo! News, Paul said, "I think it would be remedial education for those who are doing this. They need to go back and read the Constitution, read the Fourth Amendment, and understand that our records are private."

OLIVIER KNOX, YAHOO! NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So overnight, sir, we learned that the National Security Agency, with the blessing of a court order, has been collecting the Verizon phone records of millions of Americans. What's your reaction to that?

SENATOR RAND PAUL (R-KENTUCKY): I'm appalled. I'm absolutely opposed to the government sifting and sorting through millions of innocent people's records. I'm not opposed to them going to a judge and getting an order for an individual who you have probable cause to believe that they've been involved with a crime. So one thing it's a great invasion of our privacy, but it's also I don't think good police work. Better police work would be tracking down individuals who have come here from other countries, that are traveling in and out, that are associating with terrorists and going and looking at an individual's records with a judge's warrant. But I think when you look at millions of people's records, you get distracted.

It's sort of like the TSA at the airport. Because we treat everyone as a potential terrorist, we're wasting time with twelve-year-old kids and seventy five-year-old grandmothers. They're trying to get away from that, but it's been twelve years and they're still doing it. So it's the same thing here. We're sifting through too many people's records. It's a violation of the Bill of Rights. We need to have a better and a more thorough understanding of the Fourth Amendment.


On whistleblowers and government threats of investigation

© Michael Reynolds/EPA
James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, who called the Guardian's revelations 'reprehensible'.
No healthy democracy can endure when the most consequential acts of those in power remain secret and unaccountable

We followed Wednesday's story about the NSA's bulk telephone record-gathering with one yesterday about the agency's direct access to the servers of the world's largest internet companies. I don't have time at the moment to address all of the fallout because - to borrow someone else's phrase - I'm Looking Forward to future revelations that are coming (and coming shortly), not Looking Backward to ones that have already come.

But I do want to make two points. One is about whistleblowers, and the other is about threats of investigations emanating from Washington:

1) Ever since the Nixon administration broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychoanalyst's office, the tactic of the US government has been to attack and demonize whistleblowers as a means of distracting attention from their own exposed wrongdoing and destroying the credibility of the messenger so that everyone tunes out the message. That attempt will undoubtedly be made here.

I'll say more about all that shortly, but for now: as these whistleblowing acts becoming increasingly demonized ("reprehensible", declared Director of National Intelligence James Clapper yesterday), please just spend a moment considering the options available to someone with access to numerous Top Secret documents.

Eye 1

So much for hope and change! Obama civil-liberties record indistinguishable from Bush

Phone Surveillance Cited as Latest Failure by President to Uphold Rights; Others Say Tactic Is Crucial in Fighting Terrorism

The disclosure of a broad government effort to collect phone records of millions of U.S. consumers has rekindled a debate about President Barack Obama's commitment to civil liberties, with some lawmakers and advocacy groups saying he has broken a campaign pledge to combat terrorism in ways that protect basic freedoms.

Mr. Obama's record on civil liberties was already drawing renewed scrutiny over reports that his administration has investigated journalists as part of criminal leak cases, his increased use of drones and other matters.

As a candidate in 2008, Mr. Obama took aim at then-President George W. Bush's assertion of certain executive powers in fighting terrorism. Once in the White House, he did away with some of the tools used by Mr. Bush's administration while keeping others intact.

In certain respects, the counterterrorism tactics of the two presidents seem indistinguishable, some civil-liberties advocates say.

Eye 1

Meet Google, the hungry beast

Meet Google. The noun that became a verb. The world's favourite search engine, and the company whose motto is "Don't be evil..."

Eye 1

Google to enlist NSA 'to help it ward off cyberattacks'

The world's largest Internet search company and the world's most powerful electronic surveillance organization are teaming up in the name of cybersecurity.

Under an agreement that is still being finalized, the National Security Agency would help Google analyze a major corporate espionage attack that the firm said originated in China and targeted its computer networks, according to cybersecurity experts familiar with the matter. The objective is to better defend Google -- and its users -- from future attack.

Google and the NSA declined to comment on the partnership. But sources with knowledge of the arrangement, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the alliance is being designed to allow the two organizations to share critical information without violating Google's policies or laws that protect the privacy of Americans' online communications. The sources said the deal does not mean the NSA will be viewing users' searches or e-mail accounts or that Google will be sharing proprietary data.

Bad Guys

Cyberattacks: Washington is hyping the threat to justify regulating the Internet

© unknown
Networks have been under attack -- and successfully handled by operators -- as long as they've been around. Be wary of calls for more government supervision of the Internet.

We marched into Baghdad on flimsy evidence and we might be about to make the same mistake in cyberspace.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a steady drumbeat of alarmist rhetoric about potential threats online. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this month, chairman Carl Levin said that "cyberweapons and cyberattacks potentially can be devastating, approaching weapons of mass destruction in their effects."

The increased consternation began with the suspected Chinese breach of Google's servers earlier this year. Since then, press accounts, congressional pronouncements, and security industry talk have increasingly sown panic about an amorphous cyberthreat.


Conspiracy theorist-in-chief Alex Jones 'owns' BBC Sunday Politics show

The annual conference of the secretive Bilderberg Group is meeting near Watford, with some leading political and business leaders from the US and Europe.

American "shock jock" Alex Jones joined Times columnist David Aaronovitch to discuss it - and ended up disrupting the show in spectacular fashion.

Presenter Andrew Neil described him as "the worst person" that he had ever interviewed.

Comment: Wow. Just wow.

At least Aaronovitch, hardly a paragon of virtue himself, got in a half-decent point: why indeed is AJ not only still alive, his business is thriving and he's appearing on the BBC, Fox News and Piers Morgan's show with increasing and alarming regularity?

Alex Jones: The Pied Piper of Extremism Who Brands "Truth-Seeking" as Mental Illness