Archive for November 23rd, 2011
This particular story worked out well (save for the alleged criminal), but then one realizes that some Nameless Security Agency doubtless strips off much the same stuff and more on you whenever you are anywhere on the Internet—only it already has all that because it now slurps up everything that is communicated via telecom links anywhere in the US, thanks to George W. Bush and the subsequent Patriot Act.
One assumes that they’re drowning in data until he recalls the incredible advances in pattern-finding software and data-mining technologies and AI in general—doubtless funded by Not Saying Anyhow.
The world is becoming an odd place. Perhaps the Facebook and self-documenting approach (already a few create digital records of their every waking action and words is right: all that is, in effect, known anyway, and the best approach is to make it known yourself, by your decision and under your control, because doing that is oddly liberating and has the practical benefit of keeping one conscious that all that information is in fact available to the government already. It reminds us that we now have no privacy from government eyes—at least in our telecommunications, CCTV not having caught on here. Yet. But aren’t those satellite imaging capabilities something?
With my pills, I have a one-week dispenser, with morning and evening compartments for each day, so I can see at a glance whether I’ve taken my pills for the morning/evening or not.
The eyedrops sit on the bathroom counter, and I had some problems remembering, especially the two that are three times a day (with 5 minutes between drops): did I take the noon drops already? Or am I thinking of the morning dose or yesterday’s noon dose? They all run together.
So I used a dry-erase marker to write a little daily matrix on the mirror, eye-drop brands across the top, three rows (morning, noon, evening), and I write an X in the appropriate square when I take the eyedrops. Works like a charm: no more forgetting or getting confused.
UPDATE: A bonus feature: at the end of the day, the little matrix has an X in each square. So the next day I indicate that I’ve used the eyedrops by rubbing out the X, so at the end of the day the matrix will once more have empty squares—then I do the X again: a toggle matrix. :)
Congress gave us a wonderful Thanksgiving present when we got word that the supercommittee “superheroes” were hanging up their capes. While many in the media were pushing the story of a dysfunctional Congress that could not get anything done, the exact opposite was true. The supercommittee was about finding a backdoor way to cut social security and Medicare, and create enough cover that Congress could get away with it.
It is important to remember the basic facts about the budget and the economy. Contrary to the conventional wisdom in Washington, it is easy to show (by looking at the website of the Congressional Budget Office) that we do not have a chronic deficit problem. In 2007, prior to the collapse of the housing bubble and the resulting economic downturn, the deficit was just 1.2% of GDP.
The deficit was projected to remain near this level for the immediate future, even if the Bush tax cuts did not expire, as originally scheduled in 2011. If the tax cuts were allowed to expire, then the budget was projected to turn to surplus.
All this changed when the collapse of the housing bubble wrecked the economy. The story is simple, the housing bubble generated over $1tn in annual demand by stimulating record levels of construction and causing a home equity-driven consumption boom. This demand disappeared when the bubble burst. This is what created the large deficits that we are now seeing.
The $1tn-plus deficits are replacing lost private-sector demand. Those who want lower deficits now also want higher unemployment. They may not know this, but that is the reality – since employers are not going to hire people because the government has cut its spending or fired government employees. The world does not work that way.
While this is the reality, the supercommittee was about turning reality on its head. Instead of the problem being a Congress that is too corrupt and/or incompetent to rein in the sort of Wall Street excesses that wrecked the economy, we were told that the problem was a Congress that could not deal with the budget deficit.
To address this invented problem, the supercommittee created an end-run around the normal congressional process. This was a long-held dream of the people financed by investment banker Peter Peterson. Their strategy was derived from the conclusion that it would not be possible to make major cuts to social security and Medicare through the normal congressional process because these programs are too popular. . .
Very good column listing several directions for investigation regarding the Kennedy Assassination. Quite fascinating to those of us who remember where we were when we heard the knews. (I had just stepped inside a record store on Iowa Avenue in Iowa City, where people were listening to the radio.)
Interesting juxtaposition of statements from the same source, pointed out by Glenn Greenwald:
Anonymous U.S. officials this morning are announcing in The Washington Post that they have effectively defeated what they call “the organization that brought us 9/11″ — Al Qaeda — by rendering it “operationally ineffective.” Specifically, “the leadership ranks of the main al-Qaeda terrorist network have been reduced to just two figures whose demise would mean the group’s defeat, U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence officials said.” And: “asked what exists of al-Qaeda’s leadership group beyond the top two positions, the official said: ‘Not very much’.”
You might think this means that the vastly expanded National Security and Surveillance States justified in the name of 9/11, as well as the slew of wars and other aggressive deployments which it spawned, can now be reversed and wound down. After all, the stated purpose of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) which provided legal cover to all of this was expressed in the very first line: “To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.” The purpose of this authorized force was equally clear and limited: “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons [the President] determinesplanned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”
Now, the group which the U.S. government has always said was the one that “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001″ is, according to this same government, “operationally ineffective.” So what does that mean in terms of policy? Absolutely nothing:
U.S. officials stressed that al-Qaeda’s influence extends far beyond its operational reach, meaning that the terrorist group will remain a major security threat for years.
Not just a threat — but a major security threat — “for years” to come. In fact, it turns out that the version of Al Qaeda that the U.S. just spent the last decade “defeating” on the ground that it perpetrated 9/11 does not even really matter: “U.S. counterterrorism officials now assess al-Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen as a significantly greater threat.” Even in Pakistan, where the “effectively inoperable” group is based, the CIA refuses even to reduce its activities: “letting up now could allow them to regenerate,” an anonymous official decreed. And if that’s not enough to keep your fear levels sufficiently high to support (or at least acquiesce to) more militarism, there is always this: “The arrest this week of an alleged al-Qaeda sympathizer in New Yorkunderscored the group’s ability to inspire ‘lone wolf’ attacks.”
That last bit about the “lone wolf” refers to . . .
Continue reading. Apparently there is much money still to be made from the Global War On Terrorism.
The Supercommittee has had a superfailure, thanks in large part to Senator John Kyl. Now the automatic cuts in Medicare and the military will occur, as agreed to—but of course few Senators or Representatives feel the least bit bound by their agreements, and the fight to repudiate their previous vote has begun. In the meantime, the military seems to know what will happen because they have done NOTHING to plan for the cuts. Elisabeth Bumiller reports in the NY Times:
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has painted such an apocalyptic vision of America’s national security under $500 billion in automatic defense budget cuts that Pentagon officials said Tuesday they were pushing back at Congress — and not even planning for the spending reductions, which are to take effect in January 2013. But independent military budget analysts described the cuts, which would bring the Pentagon base budget back to 2007 levels, as agonizing but manageable.
The analysts, who have close ties to the Pentagon, expressed amazement that a department that plans for every contingency was not planning for this one. They laid out the possibility of cutbacks to most weapons programs, a further reduction in the size of the Army, large layoffs among the Defense Department’s 700,000 civilian employees and reduced military training time — such as on aircraft like the F-22 advanced jet fighter, which flies at Mach 2 and costs $18,000 an hour to operate, mostly because of the price of fuel.
Other possibilities include . . .
Continue reading. I don’t think our military in general approaches known situations with a “no need to plan, we’ll work it out as we go along” mentality, so their lack of planning in this arena suggests that they know something (or, more unsettling, that they simply didn’t plan).
It looks as though a US informant may have been playing the agencies that thought he was theirs. Sebastian Rotella reports at ProPublica:
During a meeting overseas last summer, a senior U.S. official and Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of Pakistan’s armed forces, discussed a threat that has strained the troubled U.S.-Pakistani relationship since the 2008 Mumbai attacks: the Lashkar-i-Taiba militant group.
The senior U.S. official expressed concern that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a terrorist chief arrested for the brutal attacks in India, was still directing Lashkar operations while in custody, according to a U.S. government memo viewed by ProPublica. Gen. Kayani responded that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), had told prison authorities to better control Lakhvi’s access to the outside world, the memo says. But Kayani rejected a U.S. request that authorities take away the cell phone Lakhvi was using in jail, according to the memo to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the National Security Council.
The meeting was emblematic of the lack of progress three years after Lashkar and the ISI allegedly teamed up to kill 166 people in Mumbai, the most sophisticated and spectacular terror strike since the September 11 attacks. The U.S. government filed unprecedented charges against an ISI officer in the deaths of six Americans. Yet, Pakistani authorities have not arrested him or other accused masterminds. The failure to crack down on the jailed Lakhvi, whose trial has stalled, raises fears of new attacks on India and the West, counterterror officials say.
“Lakhvi is still the military chief of Lashkar,” a U.S. counterterror official said in an interview. “He is in custody but has not been replaced. And he still has access and ability to be the military chief. Don’t assume a Western view of what custody is.”
In the United States, stubborn questions persist about the case’s star witness, David Coleman Headley, a confessed Lashkar operative and ISI spy. The Pakistani-American’s testimony at a trial in Chicago this year revealed the ISI’s role in the Mumbai attacks and a plot against Denmark. It was the strongest public evidence to date of ISI complicity in terrorism.
But the trial shed little light on Headley’s past as a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informant and the failure of U.S. agencies to pursue repeated warnings over seven years that could have stopped his lethal odyssey sooner — and perhaps prevented the Mumbai attack.
U.S. officials say Headley simply slipped through the cracks. If that is true, his story is a trail of bureaucratic dysfunction. But if his ties to the U.S. government were more extensive than disclosed — as widely believed in India — an operative may have gone rogue with tragic results. Both scenarios reveal the kind of breakdowns that the government has spent billions to correct since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Obama administration has not discussed results of an internal review of the case conducted last year, or disclosed whether any officials have been held accountable.
During an interview in Delhi, former Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai asserted that U.S. authorities know more about Headley than they have publicly stated. Several senior Indian security officials said they believe that U.S. warnings provided to India before the Mumbai attacks came partly from knowledge of Headley’s activities. They believe he remained a U.S. operative.
“David Coleman Headley, in my opinion, was a double agent,” said Pillai, who served in the top security post until this past summer. “He was working for both the U.S. and for Lashkar and the ISI.”
The CIA, FBI and DEA deny such allegations.
An investigation by ProPublica and FRONTLINE during the past year did not find proof that Headley was working as a U.S. agent at the time of the attacks. But it did reveal new contradictions between the official version of events, Headley’s sworn testimony and detailed accounts of officials and others involved in the case. The reporting also turned up previously undisclosed opportunities for U.S. agencies to identify Headley as a terrorist threat, and new details about already-reported warnings.U.S. and foreign officials say . . .
Continue reading. Links to full story:
A really fine shave today. In cleaning up the bathroom, I found a sample of Creed’s Green Irish Tweed cologne, so decided on a complete GIT shave. The Vie-Long horsehair brush did the usual superb horsehair job in quickly creating a creamy lather—and Creed shaving soap seems inclined in this direction in any case: a great sense of luxury in this lather.
Three passes of the Edwin Jagger Lined Chatsworth with the Merkur-made head, holding a previously used Swedish Gillette blade. Very nice feel to the whole shave.
Enough of the cologne remained for a big splash. Maybe Xmas will see a bottle of this under the tree, who knows? :)