Thursday, August 22, 2013

Given its track record on veracity, I'm more concerned its an NSA trojan horse

From Tech Crunch:
The U.S. office of National Intelligence launched a new site today to promote government transparency in the wake of the months-long scandals surrounding the National Security Agency’s surveillance tactics.
During the Iraq War the DoD contracted with a firm to distribute games and social media applications to cell phones in the Middle East. Once these programs were downloaded the DoD was able to track the user.

Frankly, given the Intelligence Community's and this administrations record of lying and dissimulation on spying on Americans, I'm more concerned this is another trojan horse, instead of an attempt to stop spying on Americans.

And lets not forget what this program is all about: The  fruits of the information gleaned from spying on Americans is used to assassinate suspected terrorists. Spying on Americans is the find and fix of "find, fix and finish."


Friday, August 16, 2013

Oil Production in the US. Game Over for the New Luddites

This from Mark Perry's Carpe Diem blog at AEI

It's all coming from private lands. The All of the Above strategy pursued by the current administration doesn't seem to have filtered down to Federal lands.

This from the EIA

The Greens talk about Game Over if the Keystone XL pipeline is built. It probably doesn't matter too much. There is an ocean of oil and gas in North America and hydraulic fracturing is making that available. The result is lower prices for consumers, lower carbon emissions (yes, lower carbon emissions) and plenty of well-paying jobs. Just not for out-of-touch East and West Coast liberals.


The RomneyCare Success Story: A Preview of ObamaCare

The ObamaCare supporters love to say ObamaCare is based on RomneyCare.

From the Massachusetts Center for Health Information and Analysis,

Big Surprise: Government Caught Lying Again about NSA. The NSA IS violating rules regarding metadata program

The best strategy for Obama and the defenders of the NSA program is to shut up. Because every time they open their mouths, a lie spills out.

"The President said that no abuse was ongoing:
What you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused. Now part of the reason they’re not abused is because they’re — these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC.
Well, that’s not true either. The Post’s report is utterly damning. A few excerpts for flavor:
They [infractions that broke the law] range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls. [...] In one instance, the NSA decided that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. [...]
Despite the quadrupling of the NSA’s oversight staff after a series of significant violations in 2009, the rate of infractions increased throughout 2011 and early 2012. [...]
James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has acknowledged that the court found the NSA in breach of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, but the Obama administration has fought a Freedom of Information lawsuit that seeks the opinion.
Generally, the NSA reveals nothing in public about its errors and infractions.
It gets worse. The Post spoke to members of the government close to the situation who stated that the above figures only count infractions recorded at the NSA’s headquarters, and other Washington facilities. So, the tally and examples do not take into account the abuses of the private data of United States citizens by other parts of the NSA."

 The government claims it is collecting our phone and Internet meta data in order to track down terrorists. The government has no evidence we are terrorists. It uses this metadata, they say, to track down suspected terrorists. Then it kills those suspected terrorists. Some times those suspected terrorists have been US citizens.

The government acts as if meta data is this rather anonymous class of information. This is a falsehood. Meta data contains a treasure trove of information. Go to iPhoto and look at the data in a photo. It can have GPS data, time the picture was taken, the camera. If you've added information regarding who was in the photo, that is meta data. If you've added a title, that is meta data. This data can be linked to other photo meta data and a clear picture can emerge, without the actual photo. Meta data tells a lot.

The government claims there are no abuses of this program. This is false.

The government claims this is only used to track down terrorists. This is false.

These NSA programs are atrocities and should be shut down completely.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Obama Calls on DNI Chief Clapper to Protect NSA and Targeted Assassination Program

Wait a minute. What? From The Christian Science Monitor:

Today, Obama ordered Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to name an outside panel to review the United State's global collection of signals intelligence - meaning its efforts to target phone calls, internet messages, and various forms of electronic communication.
 So the "outside" review of the NSA will be a panel appointed by the most "inside" guy you can pick, Jim Clapper. Just to remind everyone. This is Jim Clapper:

Back at an open congressional hearing on March 12, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper replied, “No sir … not wittingly.”
Clapper later described his answer as the "least untruthful."

First we were spied on. There we were lied to that we were spied on. Then we were told there would be changes. Now the changes are in the hands of the people who spied and lied to us.

And remember. The purpose of the NSA collection program is very simple: assassination of SUSPECTED terrorists. And if that means US citizens so be it.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Citizens United

The McCain-Feingold campaign finance law prevented
"a broadcast, cable, or satellite communication that mentioned a candidate within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary, and prohibited such expenditures by corporations and unions."
It is ironic the broadcast at issue in Citizen's United was a documentary "Hilary: The Movie" funded by a conservative group, Citizen's United.

As we know, the Supreme Court struck down McCain-Feingold and democracy at that instant died. President Obama used the next State of the Union speech to lecture the Supreme Court on the dire consequences of the repeal of McCain-Feingold. All sorts of horribles, according to those opposed to the Citizens United, ensued.

But it's funny that those who were so upset by the Supreme Court's decision have been completely silent on the news that NBC is planning to run a mini-series on Hilary Clinton before the 2016 election. Is this because suddenly the Left has embraced the Supreme Court's decision or because their objection to Citizen's United was more an objection to their political opponent's speech?

I'd guess the latter. Speech is good. Whether you like it or not.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Press Corps Fails To Ask Any NSA Questions At Obama's NSA Press Conference

TechCrunch Press Corps Fails To Ask Any NSA Questions At Obama's NSA Press Conference


The White House Press Corps just completely botched the one opportunity we had to learn details about the National Security Agency's spying program, and the rationale for sweeping government surveillance. During the hour-long press conference President Obama held specifically to answer questions about the NSA, not a single journalist asked him details about the NSA. As a result, we learned precisely zero information from something slated to be critically informative.

What did they ask about ?

  • Republicans trying to reverse Obamacare: CHECK!
  • Speculation about presidential economic appointees: CHECK!
  • Obama's relationship with Putin: CHECK!

(Full transcript from the Washington Post here)

The Press Corps, dominated by TV broadcasters dependent on ratings from the gossipy machinations of politics, just ditched its obligation to inform the American people.

Let's review:

Today, President Obama held a last-minute press conference to announce 4 vague reforms to the intelligence community. We have more details here, but essentially, it boils down to  1) a new independent NSA review board that will publish recommendations on protecting civil liberties 2) a new website detailing the surveillance activities 3) changes to the Patriot Act authorizing the spying, and 4) a new public advocate to argue cases in the secret court that grants the NSA spying requests.

After the announcements, Obama opened himself up to questions. Because no one asked any details about the NSA, Here's what we still don't know:

1). Do foreign governments swap information with one another to skirt spying laws? British spy agencies reportedly tap the undersea cables used to carry Internet data and share it with the NSA. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) may forbid American agencies from collecting information on domestic targets, but we have no idea whether Britain's equivalent, the GCHQ, is listening in on American phone calls abroad or watching their Internet behavior (then sharing it with US agents).

I will continue to work to see bulk collection under Sec. 215 of Patriot Act ended. I've seen zero evidence it is needed.—
Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) August 09, 2013

2). Have the NSA programs ever actually stopped an attack? A new NSA report [PDF] released today defending its practices notes that surveillance practices helped stop Najibullah Zazi from bombing the New York City Subway. But, as Ben Smith from BuzzFeed argues, it's likely the first tip came from local police officers, who discovered evidence from a hard-drive of a co-conspirator, collected during the course of normal policy work. Will this new agency have to prove that the programs have ever been useful?

Senator Ron Wyden, who has seen the intelligence reports, likewise does not think they've been effective.

"As far as we can see, all of the useful information that it has provided appears to have also been available through other collection methods," he wrote in a letter.

Pres Obama says no abuse when gov't unconstitutionally collects everyone's phone records & searches web activities w/o warrant or suspicion.—
Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) August 09, 2013

3). Why is it OK to monitor activity, even if it's not read? The NSA reportedly keeps data for 5 years. More importantly, it looks at the communications of anyone who is "3 hops" from a suspect (a friend of a friend of a friend). The average person is 3 degrees away from millions of people, which effectively allows the NSA to spy on anyone adult they want. Simply holding the data may be ripe for abuse.

In fairness, Chuck Todd of MSNBC did ask about whistleblower Edward Snowden. Obama replied, "No, I do not think Mr. Snowden is a patriot." It's an important question, if only symbolically, since the U.S. will be seeking legal action regardless of how Obama talks about Snowden.

This was the Press' opportunity to hold Obama's feet to the fire and get specifics. Instead, we got to rehash some old debates and speculate about the future. I hate to criticize a fellow journalist. Within their respective fields, the White House Press Corps is quite knowledgeable.

But, broadcast reporters and their incessant need to perpetuate political entertainment television failed the American people today. Today, I'm ashamed of the press. We all should be.

Sent with Reeder

Obama Announces Web Site for NSA Transparency

President Obama in his press conference announced he will:

1). “Pursue appropriate reforms” around section 215 of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the NSA to conduct surveillance. 
2). Create a public advocate to argue in front of the secret court that grants the NSA authority to target suspects (both foreign and domestic). This advocate would argue for more privacy. 
3). Create a website detailing what the NSA does–and does not–collect on Americans and foreigners. 
4). Create an independent agency that reviews cybersecurity processes and produces timely reports. One is supposed to be out by the end of the year
The website detailing how the NSA is spying on me gives me great comfort that I am being spied upon.

The President is not taking this seriously.


Government Harassment to Maintain Its Ability to Spy on Americans

Email encrypted email service Lavabit has shut down

The highly encrypted email service reportedly used by NSA leaker Edward Snowden has gone offline - and its administratoclaims the company is legally barred from explaining why.
Yesterday it was joined by Silent Circle,
Silent Circle, a secure email service that provides customers with an encrypted way of sending messages, announced Thursday that it is shutting down only hours after a company offering a similar product said the same
Their crimes? They offered an encrypted email service that not even they could decipher, potentially putting them in violation of laws that supposedly gives the NSA sweeping authority to capture meta data on phone calls, read our texts and emails and track the websites we visit. It's not enough for the NSA to capture unencrypted communications, it is flexing its muscle to stop communications between parties who want to remain private.

Why does the US public put up with this? Is is certainly possible the public is willing to trade off the supposed security these programs bring versus the invasion of privacy.

It could also be because the American public has been lied to about the efficacy of these programs and the extent these programs violate their privacy. Lied to by The President, the Vice-President, James Clapper, head of DNI, Michael Hayden former head of NSA and CIA, Dianne Feinstein, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Nancy Pelosi, Keith Alexander, current head of the NSA and many many others.  Lied to.


The New York Times And I Agree With You


From the Times editorial board today:

"Apparently no espionage tool that Congress gives the National Security Agency is big enough or intrusive enough to satisfy the agency’s inexhaustible appetite for delving into the communications of Americans. Time and again, the N.S.A. has pushed past the limits that lawmakers thought they had imposed to prevent it from invading basic privacy, as guaranteed by the Constitution."

The editorial goes on to claim that the NSA has repeatedly violated both the letter of the law and the dictates of the Constitution with regard to a citizen's right to privacy.

This whole unlimited snooping business is egregious. As day follows night, it will lead to abuse. Innocent citizens will be damaged, and lives ruined.

So why are the American people, and their elected representatives in Congress, unalarmed about this? One facile explanation is that in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, expectations of  privacy have changed. I'm not sure I buy such an explanation, given that older folks remain untethered, or even minimally affected, by social media. It seems more likely that in the absence of an immediate threat, it's harder for us to see what the spying fuss is all about. We're just not very good at recognizing real trouble (like climate change, let's say) until it's upon us. The politicians, sensing the public's complacency, are only too happy to go along.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bubble, What Bubble?


Is there any reason why we should listen to any of the so called experts on this list again?


I'm a Doctor and I Know Nothing About Aflliction


Not really, anyway.

For better or worse, a common route to success in an academic career is becoming an expert in something obscure. In academic medicine that usually means mastering the ins and outs of a disease so uncommon that almost no one ever gets it, and that most doctors wouldn't have a clue as how to recognize or treat. As an example. the part of the US where you grew up has given its name to a rare tick borne infection, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, that produces an incidence of 6 cases/million. For the math challenged among our readers that means that the country sees about 1800 cases annually. In the aggravating way medicine works, the disease is much more common in a band that extends east-west from North Carolina to Oklahoma than it is in the Rockies.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I wouldn't recognize it if a patient entered my office with a sign on his back that said "I have Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever" or the dermatologic equivalent thereof.

In my case the rare disease expertise involves a family of inherited muscle disorders called the muscular dystrophies, most of which affect the heart with varying degrees of severity,  Muscular dystrophies are single gene disorders. The most disabling and deadly and among them, Duchenne's muscular dystrophy, is carried on the X chromosome, and so is passed from unaffected mothers to maximally afflicted sons. Duchenne's patients endure an inxorable course of increasing muscle weakness, fractures and resultant infirmity. The ordinary physical pleasures of childhood are denied these boys; walking without assistance commonly becomes impossible by the age of five or so. Because the body's largest and most powerful muscles, the quadriceps, are affected first, Ducheene patients learn to raise themselves to a standing position by walking their arms up their torsos in a maneuver called Gower's sign.

By their teen years Duchenne's patients are usually wheelchair bound. They require an astonishing (and expensive) amount of day-to-day care. As their respiratory muscles weaken they cannot clear their  phlegm in the way you and I do without thinking every time we cough. Pneumonia,thus common, weakens them further. The most essential muscle, the heart, declines relentlessly, leading to heart failure and death late in their teens or early twenties. 

These boys are my patients. In conjunction with other doctors with related expertise, I see them once a month at a nearby rehabilitation hospital. They arrive with a caretaker, usually mom or dad, or both. Affected brothers will come for their appointments together. I listen, offer what I can from my my doctor's bag of medicines and devices, and bear witness.  

While it once would not have been so, at this point in my career it is deeply pleasurable to be their doctor. These boys surely provide more for me than I provide to them. They have after all, an incurable disease that has robbed them of much, and soon will rob them of life itself. The success of the treatment I provide is modest at best. Placed in their wheelchairs, unable even to shake my hand, they are the embodiment of dignity, and their parents are the essence of devotion. The love these parents have for their children lies beyond hope or expectation, or volition, well beyond my ability to comprehend it. Try as I might, I cannot penetrate what's it's like to live in their skin. Still, they remind me by their presence, once a month, to keep on trying.


Who is Misrepresenting the NSA Collection Programs?

Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and CIA on Fox News Sunday, August 4, 2013

HAYDEN: There are several there I think the intelligence community is looking at right now, Chris, and to make Americans more comfortable about the programs. 
I've got to add, Chris, it doesn't make Americans more comfortable about the program to misrepresent it. This does not authorize the collection of content, period.
The New York Times, August 8th, 2013: "N.S.A. Said to Search Content of Messages to and From U.S."
WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance, according to intelligence officials.

Who is misrepresenting these programs to the American people?


Obama: The NSA is NOT looking at your emails. NYTimes: The NSA is looking at your emails.

June 7, 2013, "Transcript: Obama’s Remarks on NSA Controversy," from the Wall Street Journal:

Now, with respect to the Internet and emails, this does not apply to U.S. citizens, and it does not apply to people living in the United States. And again, in this instance, not only is Congress fully apprised of it, but what is also true is that the FISA Court has to authorize it.
August 8, 2013, "N.S.A. Said to Search Content of Messages to and From U.S." from the NY Times

WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance, according to intelligence officials. 

 If I send an email that "mentions" a foreigner under surveillance, am I then placed under surveillance and are those three hops from me under surveillance? If I mention a foreigner under surveillance, not a terrorist, but a foreigner under surveillance, in this blog, does anyone who reads this blog get placed under surveillance and all those three hops away?

Americans are being spied upon. Without a warrant. Every day. And in a bipartisan atrocity, it is supported by Republicans and Democrats.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Football on Your Phone. Awesome

Are you three hops from a terrorist? The NSA wants to know.

From, "How Obama Can Say “We Don’t Have A Domestic Spying Program” Without Lying," 

While the NSA is supposed to focus on foreign suspects, they can monitor any individual who corresponds (is “connected”) with terrorists. According to the NSA, surveillance programs sweep American communications up to 3 ‘hops’ from any suspect (a friend of a friend of a friend is 3 ‘hops’ in a network). 
Most Americans are three degrees away from hundreds of thousands or even millions of other citizens. If I have 100 friends, and they each have 100 friends, I’m 2 degrees from 10,100 people (assuming there’s no overlapping friendships).
The NSA and the administration and the apologists in Congress (McCain, King, Feinstein etc.) have consistently been proven to be shading the truth at best and lying at worst about the intrusiveness of the NSA's activities.


Thomas Sowell on "Busybody Politics"

Full story is here.

ObamaCare is perhaps the ultimate in busybody politics. People who have never even run a drugstore, much less a hospital, blithely prescribe what must be done by the entire medical system, from doctors to hospitals to producers of pharmaceutical drugs to health insurance companies.
Well said.

See also F. Hayek's Nobel Prize Lecture, "The Pretence of Knowledge." which includes this:

While in the physical sciences it is generally assumed, probably with good reason, that any important factor which determines the observed events will itself be directly observable and measurable, in the study of such complex phenomena as the market, which depend on the actions of many individuals, all the circumstances which will determine the outcome of a process, for reasons which I shall explain later, will hardly ever be fully known or measurable.