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Friday, August 16, 2013

Egypt: Radicalization could win

Egyptian families mourn slain relatives
Egyptian families in anguish over slain relatives. Originally posted by ibn3omar, on, August 15, 2013
"...eyewitnesses and reporters say troops were firing indiscriminately at the crowd, including with snipers who picked-off unarmed civilians at an alarming rate." - GlobalPost story about the Egyptian military's Wednesday massacres against Islamists, in Cairo
The Muslim Brotherhood and their backers say they will sacrifice themselves to preserve the integrity of their fledgling democracy, and the abrogated presidency of Mohammed Morsi. "As soon as he left the house with a Koran in his hand," a brother of a killed Islamist told reporters, "he was ready to become a martyr."

The New York Times tells the story of snipers firing at crowds of panicked protesters, an old man yelling, "We only meet one death. Let it be martyrdom."

There is even an ongoing "live list" of "massacre martyrs," being promoted by members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that history is repeating itself as tragedy in Egypt," said Mohammed Ayoob, a University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University, and Adjunct Scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

If 'stop and frisk' is wrong for the NYPD, it's wrong for the NSA

"While a person’s race may be important if it fits the description of a particular crime suspect, it is impermissible to subject all members of a racially defined group to heightened police enforcement because some members of that group are criminals... "The Equal Protection Clause does not permit the police to target a racially defined group as a whole because of the misdeeds of some of its members." - U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, of the Southern District of New York, in her ruling against the NYPD's use of "Stop and Frisk"
It's rare that so many news stories converge around so many similar themes at the same time - abuse of power and invasion of privacy. Given Judge Scheindlin's ruling, Monday, it is likely that Chief Justice John Roberts will not be selecting her to preside over a FISA court any time soon. The spirit of her ruling against the NYPD's policy of "Stop and Frisk," because it targeted individuals who were specifically black and Hispanic, suggests that she would have a similar opinion of the National Security Agency's dragnet approach to collecting what it calls "telephony metadata" of millions of innocent Americans who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE>>>

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Leaders come and go, but it’s always up to us – a Nixonian lesson

"To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.

"Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office."

- President Richard M. Nixon, in his resignation address to the people of the United States, August 8, 1974
Nixonresignation speech

No politician, least of all, the president, leaves office with a positive legacy, until the people find agreement that it is so. The good old boys can pat each other on the back and give each other medals, as was done in the Bush 43 administration, or claim they act in the best interest of their oaths to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," as this administration and its Congressional supporters claim they do. The final word, though, is for the voters to decide whose service we laud, and whose we condemn, before it gets left to history.

By definition, in order to lead, one must have a compelling message, with an understandable plan, addressing important issues in a way that enrolls others to follow. So hungry are we for this kind of leadership, that we transfer our desire to be led to pop-culture heroes, like rock gods and movie stars, who tend to disappoint us because we bestow upon them a mantle, for which the never asked, and shake from their shoulders like an unwelcome chill.

Political leaders, however, are happy to acknowledge that we have high expectations of their service, and are not afraid to indulge us in any quality we want to assume they endorse, if it helps them gain a following, whether they actually have a stated commitment to our pet cause, or not. President Obama, for example, did not hide his disdain for the actions of the Bush administration, when it came to the warrantless acquisition of telephone data, during his tenure in the U.S. Senate, or when he was running for his current office, in 2008.

Then we hear phrases like the one President Obama uttered, Tuesday night, during his appearance on the Tonight Show, with Jay Leno. "We don't have a domestic spying program," he said, adding, "What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an e-mail address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat."


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Snowden shines a light on methods; White House tosses us a bone on phones

"These types of programs allow us to collect the information that enables us to perform our missions successfully – to defend the nation and to protect US and allied troops abroad." - National Security Agency statement to The Guardian, on the phone and internet surveillance programs
The dribble of revelations coming from Edward Snowden, via Glenn Greenwald of The (UK) Guardian, poured out a little flood of information, Wednesday, that looks into the nuts and bolts of the process the National Security Agency goes through to monitor our emails and phone calls. Complete with screen-grabs from the user interfaces of the software the secretive agency uses, the revelation refers to an intelligence monitoring system called XKeyscore.

XKeyscore frame grab
From The Guardian

You may remember that one of the first things Snowden said, in that video interview taped for the Guardian, two months ago, was a reference to being able to find out everything he needed to know, even about President Obama, if all he had was a valid email address. "Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector, anywhere," he said. "...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 e-mail."

According to Greenwald's latest article, that is precisely one of the tools XKeyscore makes available to the NSA.