Posts in Category: Politics

About PRISM, Edward Snowden and the NSA

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around what I think about all of the revelations about PRISM and the Verizon phone orders. Anyone who has read this blog for a long time (all two of you), knows how I reacted when Bush did it, sans warrant, and if you read me back in 2007 and 2008, my reaction was more angry, and indiscriminate about where I focused my anger.

Those were the days when we weren’t blasting out our locations with pictures and updating statuses every 30 seconds in a public venue. There was no Foursquare, Twitter was still the province of geeks and edge cases, and Facebook was that place where college kids could hang out with their classmates.

Simply put, today’s Internet leaves you numb to the thought that a) anyone gives a shit what you do and say online; and b) if they do give a shit, it’s only because they profit from it. Those days about worrying about ad cookies? Forget it. That’s just a tiny, less profitable corner of the Internet. Your internet provider knows exactly what you do online if they’re interested, and there’s not a damn thing anyone can really do about it.

Corporate vs. Government Tracking

It is one thing to know that your actions online might turn a profit for some large corporation. Likewise, it’s one thing to know that your supermarket knows who you boycott and who you don’t, what you eat and whether you’re dieting, if you have kids or your kids have moved out, how many males and females live in your house, and whether you live a green lifestyle or are a conspicuous consumer.

It is entirely another to know that you could say or do or write something that triggered a keyword that puts you right under the spotlight of the FBI or the NSA. Yes, there are warrants. Yes, those warrants are obtained via a court of law. And yes, that court basically rubber stamps requests without much in the way of questions.

Divide and Conquer: A Cautionary Tale

Lee Fang’s new book “The Machine” is a must-read for anyone who wants a firm grasp on politics on and off line. I’ve already reviewed it on Crooks and Liars so I won’t rehash that here. 

One of the most compelling chapters in his book concerns the right-wing tactic of dividing the left. Using the public option in the health care debate as an example, Lee goes through the steps taken to make sure the left was battered and divided at the end.

During the financial reform debate, a group emerged called “Stop Too Big To Fail”. They ran ads against the Dodd-Frank legislation, set up a Facebook group, issued press releases, and wrote blog posts on Daily Kos and FireDogLake promoting the idea that the Dodd-Frank legislation didn’t go far enough so it should simply be killed outright.  

Lee writes in his “K Street” chapter:

The group attacked the bill from the left, running $1.6 million worth of ads in Nevada, Virginia and Missouri asking constituents to call Democratic senators and tell them to “vote against this phony ‘financial reform.’ Support real reform, stop ‘too big too fail.'”


Instead of calling for stricter amendments, the ads simply called for killing the bill….

Complaints that the bill did not do enough to deal with the problem of overly large banking institutions caused great concern for liberals who appeared to have been won over by the Stop Too Big to Fail campaign.” 

Finally, Daily Kos and FDL posters called out the bloggers promoting STBTF on the sites. It was later revealed that the two bloggers were Robert Johnson and Jim Conran, front group lobbyists with large corporate clients all over the country. Conran was paid by Mercury Insurance Group in California to put together a campaign to try and push through a ballot measure to weaken regulations on auto insurers in the state. Other projects include pimping Splenda, and a group called “Consumers for Cable Choice.”

They succeeded, too, on the Dodd-Frank legislation. I still hear sighs about how the banks got away with murder without any attention given to how that goal was accomplished. Johnson and Conran were part of an effort conducted by DCI Group managing director Oliver Wolf. DCI’s most recent high profile campaign was the Pete Peterson “Fix the Debt” campaign.

The Stop Too Big to Fail campaign is but one of many run by K Street lobbyists, the Chamber of Commerce, and right wing operatives. It’s not paranoid to question a campaign that mushrooms from nowhere, suddenly gains a large following and a group of amazingly loyal followers who will not hesitate to shove people out of the way who ask questions. 

These campaigns succeed because they present themselves as someone on our side. Someone who agrees with us but goes out of their way to do harm to meaningful efforts to get some meaningful legislation, however imperfect, through Congress.

I see it online,  I see it on the blogs, I see it in the media, and I see it on social media, particularly Twitter. Characteristics include constant negativity with no affirmative suggestions or ideas for how to fix what they’re complaining about, a near-constant and strident stream of anti-government messages wrapped in the issue of the day. Recent examples include tweets calling the president a traitor for putting chained CPI on the table. He’s not a traitor. He’s just not doing what he said he would do, and what he is doing is bad, bad policy. Positive pressure isn’t calling him a traitor, it’s calling for action to be heard on why we disagree. Respectfully. 

I’m sure there are campaigns afoot now over the gun legislation being debated in the Senate, the immigration bills being prepared for introduction into Congress and of course, the budget. I’m not saying every left-side critic is an astroturf lobbyist by any stretch. But watch for the ad campaigns and see how they dovetail with messaging from so-called lefties.

Beware, and be aware.

It’s Not OK When Liberals Commit Crimes. Stop Defending It.

Here’s something that just drives me crazy. Liberals (rightly) criticize misogynists and other miscreants on the right when there’s a reason, like when they say really stupid things. But when liberals do really stupid things and then, with full knowledge that the stupid thing they did could actually do harm to someone else’s business model there are responses like the one below, like we’re all stupid or something. 

via OsborneInk:

Just in case you didn’t figure this out, Bill Talley is trying to tell us that some form of malware is responsible for the child porn images — printed and electronic — that police found during a search of his home.  Or failing that, the other excuse is that somehow crooked policemen planted the printed images in his house and on his hard drive. 

I think we call that defending the indefensible

Here are some things I know from the Julie Amero case and similar cases where pornography landed on a hard drive as a consequence of malware: Child porn does not print itself because malware is installed on a machine, and it doesn’t make its way to DVDs because malware is installed on a machine.

Here’s something else I know: If there was any possible defense for having such images in his possession, he and his attorneys would have hired some good forensic examiners to show how that malware loaded, printed, and looked at those images.

The fact that the printed and stored child porn belonged to a self-proclaimed liberal matters not at all. Not in the least. In fact, liberal values are not libertine values, so most liberals think of the exploited children before their own sexual gratification. 

Mr Talley fought the search that yielded the images and drugs on the basis that the entry to his condo complex was a poisoned search because he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the common areas by virtue of the entry code required to get in. The courts disagreed. Mr. Talley did not ever fight the characterization of it as child pornography nor did he suggest that he thought the subjects in the images were over the age of 18. 

It doesn’t matter what one’s personal views are on exploitation of children this way. What matters is that such exploitation is against the law and in fact, Mr. Talley has entered a guilty plea to three counts against him and is awaiting sentencing.

Don’t defend that. Don’t ever defend that. Whether liberal or conservative. Exploiting children and contributing to an already-toxic human trafficking problem is not something anyone should defend. Ever. Nor should anyone assume Talley is some kind of a victim because the truth about these charges was brought into the open.

If you’re not intellectually honest enough to deal with the ugly truth about someone on your side of the wall, then do me a favor and step back out of the political discourse, because you just do harm to those who are willing to step up and stand for what’s right, regardless of political affiliation.

Update #1: Since I have been attacked by Mr. Talley for my “ignorance” of the law and whether a fact is a fact until it’s gone to trial, I will simply post the particulars here. 

This is the current case status: