Member since: Tue Jul 10, 2012, 05:40 AM
Number of posts: 639
Number of posts: 639
I write a blog of dark humor - Goblinbooks.com
As this NSA surveillance scandal unfolds, people are following Edward Snowden's apparent attempts to evade extradition. However, I think we're losing sight of the other fugitive from justice - James Clapper. After committing the criminal offense of lying to Congress back in March, Clapper vanished into the federally administered tribal areas around Washington, DC. He is thought to be somewhere near McLean, Virginia, and continuing his role as Director of National Intelligence. Will he be caught and brought to justice?
Now legally, it seems like it should be a more straightforward matter for American authorities to seize Clapper. Unlike Ecuador, where Snowden is seeking asylum, Northern Virginia is technically a part of the United States. The same is true of other areas in and around the "Beltway zone" where Clapper could be hiding. These areas have US administrators at the federal and state level - they even use our currency. In fact, since 9/11 American funding has absolutely flooded the local economy there in an effort to buy us influence.
But as with many other US allies, we're not always sure of their loyalties. These are intensely secretive people. Simply put, we don't trust each other. They don't share our values: They don't believe in transparency or accountable governments. It's never been part of their culture, and they resent our attempts to impose our system on them. And the fact that we give them so much money creates a strange cognitive dissonance that makes these people really hard to communicate with. Here you'll find someone whose entire lifestyle is based on getting money from the US Treasury, and he will nonetheless refers to himself, seriously, as "a small-government conservative."
What complicates matters is that, because of the idiosyncratic way they use language, they don't think James Clapper actually lied. One of their local media sites, ABC News, recently posted this article, and I think the title alone tells us what we're dealing with: "Did Intel Dir. James Clapper Lie To Congress? It's Complicated." The basic point of the article is that Clapper found himself faced with a simple question that required him to lie, but he really, really wanted to answer another, more complicated question that would have allowed him to evade the truth without actually lying.
"How is that not lying?" you're asking. "How does that complicate things?" Believe me, when you've lived in this place long enough, you'll get it.
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Posted by paulbibeau | Mon Jun 24, 2013, 11:18 AM (12 replies)
I was put on this earth to do a few things: To love my wife and children; To laugh hard at the ridiculously evil; And to make delicious GIFs of Glenn Beck.
I couldn't do it of course, without the tireless work of Right Wing Watch. And I couldn't do it without Glenn himself, a true artist who works almost exclusively in a medium of his own devising - some strange blend of Hallmark Special schmaltz and apocalyptic paranoia that is so utterly American it makes me feel like I'm being waterboarded in a megachurch.
Look at the latest sample of the man's oeuvre. The majestic sweep of the arms like the wings of some delicate bird from the Tropic of Crazy. And that last moment at the end - the teensiest little hip thrust that announces "I hear voices, and I dress like TJ Maxx threw up, but in my world of scared older white people, I radiate the sexual power of a rock god ." You might spend time on the internet watching the crack-smoking mayor or the bigoted guy in an Elmo suit.
But Glenn Beck will not be ignored.
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Posted by paulbibeau | Sun Jun 23, 2013, 12:01 PM (2 replies)
Right now Syria is a human rights disaster. The country is filled with the most appalling violence, which is spilling over its borders and destabilizing the region. The Syrian government is brutal, corrupt, embattled, and it's filled with people who hate Americans. A patchwork of jihadist groups have taken advantage of the chaos to do terrible things to their fellow citizens... and obtain the kind of training which would make them a threat to the entire world.
So basically, it already looks exactly like it would after a US attempt at nation-building.
Our work's been done for us, guys! Can we just skip to the part where we go home?
No one's saying the president can't lie to Congress about it, or we can't have politicians acting feckless and ignorant. Look, POTUS can give a few speeches about freedom, and maybe get a resolution passed on cruddy intelligence. We'll do all of that, if you people want. We could even have some subcommittee meetings, and get everyone to yell at each other. Really - I mean it. Go nuts.
You want a parade for the thing? You want a couple movies, maybe give a general some job as a CNN analyst? I am totally down with all of that.
Let's do everything - I mean, everything - to pretend we absolutely shipped thousands of our finest, bravest 20 year-olds into some country we know nothing about and got them killed for reasons no honest person will be able to explain in a year. But the only part I want to leave out is the part where we end all their lives. Can we just please, for once in this stupid nation's history, leave that part out?
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Posted by paulbibeau | Tue Jun 18, 2013, 02:38 PM (8 replies)
In a free country, debate about our policies is crucial. We understand that in the US intelligence community. The American public have the right to question their government and demand answers. But as we discuss NSA surveillance programs, I want to make one thing perfectly clear to you: These efforts are necessary to our security, and they are working. They're the main reason the NSA has managed to stop or cover up countless terrorist attacks in the years since 9/11.
Other law enforcement techniques have played a role, sure. I'm not saying there's no way we would have stopped the second New York subway attack without gathering phone data. Or even have been able to suppress the existence of the first one without Prism. We're pretty determined. But I am telling you it would be difficult. The odds would be greater.
Do you want that? Do you really want to make it more likely that an al-Qaeda operative could successfully kill thousands of people without us stopping him or at least relocating all the witnesses to a facility in Utah? It seems right to stand up for freedom, but you need to think about the real-world choices here. Lives, and also professional reputations, are at stake.
These groups are not going to just go away. They're right here, planning to strike. Especially since last year's invasion of Syria (You'll hear more about it soon, but the short version is that things got out of hand, and now some other groups in that part of the world are feeling grumpy about the US. They particularly dislike port cities -- go figure.)
We have a job to prevent Americans from being injured, killed, or panicked with information by our enemies around the world. We can't do this without every citizen pitching in.
In some cases doing your part is as simple as closing your eyes.
READ THIS, ABOUT THE MONSTER SITTING NEXT TO YOU
Posted by paulbibeau | Tue Jun 18, 2013, 01:46 PM (11 replies)
The icy rain spots the sill, where a single upper window sits open in the station. A sparrow flies in out of the night. Startled by the warmth and light, he flies to the other side, lined with other windows, all of them closed.
Travelers below come from their trains. They don’t hear the desperate wet thing, sick with cold, scratching at the glass. By morning it’s dead, and B.D. the janitor climbs his ladder and collects it in a pan.
He idly spots the single vertical crack in the window. Facing the center of the pane, he can see how it lines up almost exactly with the tree across the street, the gas station two blocks further, and a brick tower far away.
He wipes the glass clean, and he doesn’t have reason to go back. Three weeks after, following another storm, he doesn’t see the spot where the lightning burned the tree down to a stump. He doesn’t think of the story in the paper later that year about how the gas station has been razed after the terrible accident. And as the first year passes he barely notices the dim roar one morning. A controlled implosion brings down that abandoned apartment where someone shouldn’t have played in the stairwell.
No one sees the crack, which now marks a clear line to the bay -- the gray water beneath the empty sky.
Posted by paulbibeau | Tue Jun 18, 2013, 07:28 AM (0 replies)
Or he's a traitor. A narcissist, maybe. He might be unbalanced, a political extremist, a misanthrope. And now he's about to help the Chinese government.
No matter what the truth, it's obvious we shouldn't believe what he says. Maybe we're even at war with guys like him.
Here's my problem with this line of argument: Only a few weeks ago Edward Snowden was a trusted intelligence professional with years of experience. And the people in the government and media who are maligning him now? Back then - back in that ancient, innocent world of mid-May, 2013 - these people wanted me to let Snowden have access to my private data so he could help fight al-Qaeda.
Have I got all this right? Okay, two questions...
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Posted by paulbibeau | Thu Jun 13, 2013, 02:23 PM (2 replies)
Dear Jordan, the financial lawyer who met the redhead reading House of Leaves on the C near Washington Square:
You need to let it go. The data behind this judgment is pretty solid. Let me walk you through it.
Look, the number "Julie" gave you last Tuesday at approximately 8:30 am EST was off by one digit. By itself this would not be conclusive. It happens, right? But then, later in the day, you got a hunch and called several permutations of the number. That was smart, Jordan. Very smart. You reached a few disconnected lines, a gas station, a hospital, and the voicemail of a "Steve" (He's a nice guy, actually. The kind who seems like a bro at first, but he's really not. And you have some interests in common! But let's return...) Anyway, that last number you called was in fact Julie's. Your feeling that her machine's message sounded familiar was confirmed by the best voice matching technology in the world. But here's the problem: She was home, man.
I know Julie said she was busy lately. And I know you thought she might have been in the bathroom or sleeping or something. But our photographic analysis of the building's architectural footprint combined with thermal and acoustic imaging indicates conclusively that when you called Julie was next to the phone listening to your message. She was reclining on the couch watching a Discovery Channel show about exotic pets which attack their owners, and she deleted you within three seconds of your hang-up. Also, she'd seen this episode before. Ouch.
Don't take it personally, Jordan. I know you've been on three first dates within the past month with no follow-through - obviously that can really damage a guy's confidence. But you'll find someone. Steve has a great sister, and she's also into rafting. Did you know that?
The fact is Julie was not being completely honest, when she said she'd "just gotten out of a complicated thing."...
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Posted by paulbibeau | Tue Jun 11, 2013, 09:40 AM (2 replies)
An article in the New York Times about how Barack Obama won the 2012 election through a revolution in collecting data about voters includes this quote:
With so much more time to prepare, Mr. Obama’s polling and “analytics” department collected so much information about the electorate that it knew far more about which sorts of voters were going to turn out — and where — than the Romney campaign and most public pollsters.
A piece on CNN said something similar:
But from the beginning, campaign manager Jim Messina had promised a totally different, metric-driven kind of campaign in which politics was the goal but political instincts might not be the means.
"We are going to measure every single thing in this campaign," he said after taking the job. He hired an analytics department five times as large as that of the 2008 operation...
Let's (sort of) switch subjects. An article in Popular Mechanics described how the data collected by the NSA can be used:
There are two basic ways to approach the data. First is a supervised learning approach, where you start with a target variable you are trying to predict for (in this case, you could isolate for a high-risk versus non-high-risk communication) and then separate the data by that variable. The second method, which is more useful for this type of request, is unsupervised learning, in which there's no target variable. You're simply searching for interesting patterns of behavior that occur in unexpected ways. This type of analysis can be used to create social networks of people of interest.
Now, back to the Times piece:
Culling never-before-used data about viewing habits, and combining it with more personal information about the voters the campaign was trying to reach and persuade than was ever before available, the system allowed Mr. Obama’s team to direct advertising with a previously unheard-of level of efficiency, strategists from both sides agree.
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Posted by paulbibeau | Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:34 AM (21 replies)
My fellow Americans:
Like many of you I was shocked and saddened to read the newspaper and learn about the intrusive surveillance on millions of... Ha! Just kidding there.
Anyway, I didn't intend to get like this. Honest I didn't. It's just at some point in in my first term I kinda realized you folks weren't really putting any pressure on me to dismantle the hideous security state we had. It was weird. I mean, we got flack from a few Kucinich types and the sort of people who sell gold on the internet. But who gives a fuck, right?
Then one day a really awful thought occurred to me: I wonder how far we could really take this? Sure, the guys who think I'm a Kenyan would oppose me. But at what point would middle America get mad? How close could we get to a third Bush term before your average Democrat grew a pair?
At first it was just the drones. We intensified the program, blew up a couple civilians... nothing big. And then we changed the rules so we could kill someone without even knowing who they were. Jesus, I thought everyone would stop that. Hillary and I were giggling about it in the Oval. I mean, it was insane. But you guys just... just let us keep going.
What the hell were you people thinking?
It became like a little game: Holder and Brennan were making noises like maybe we'll target people in the US. It's a global war, we said. We can go anywhere and do anything, and you just have to trust us. I mean, they did it during the last administration, but didn't everyone want something different? Wasn't I the guy who ran on a promise of changing all that? Then the atrocities started trickling in, and soon we just leaked the AP story ourselves.
Yes, we leaked that. And the reason is that this game is turning kind of weird. I mean, I get a nasty thrill humiliating all of you - God help me, I do. But I'm also beginning to feel desperate. Part of me wants to see how truly horribly we can act, but another part wants people in the country to stop me somehow. I want to see if there are enough people willing to show the kind of spine you expect of grownup citizens in a free republic. Ugh, it's just like when I get careless, because I want Michelle to catch me smoking.
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Posted by paulbibeau | Fri Jun 7, 2013, 11:24 AM (0 replies)
My fellow Americans: I wanted to be honest about why I'm not running for reelection. The truth is I'm tired. Tired of all of it. When I started this job I thought I'd found the purest form of kink possible, something that would never ever get boring. But it's time to admit it: It just doesn't ring Michele's joy-buzzer the way it used to.
Like a lot of you I started out pretty vanilla - one of those "safe, sane, consensual" BDSM clubs that advertise at a women's rec center and teach chubby middle-aged couples how to use a spreader bar. God I'm amazed I used to think that was daring! Anyway I wandered out of that pretty quickly: I toyed with different kinds of risk-aware stuff: a lot of humiliation and fear play. Then I did some suffocation, some punishment shaving, a little fire cupping... and a few kidnapping scenarios that got deep into some dark territory. But nothing, absolutely nothing, got my rocks off like being a socially conservative Republican. I thought the thrill would last forever. I really did.
Do you know what it's like to pass a law that straps a chastity belt around millions of people you don't even know? Or to start talking smack about how some random Muslim person might be part of a terrorist fifth column - and there's no way to prove he or she isn't of course, so they just have to live in a nightmare of paranoia you created? I choked out a whole roomful of sorority girls once and locked them in a storage unit. But what I did in Congress over these past few years was a thousand times more intense. I think rightwing politicians are exploring the last really shocking and unpredictable kind of dominance work in the whole world...
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Posted by paulbibeau | Tue Jun 4, 2013, 12:48 PM (6 replies)