Tools for the job

Mob

The situation in Nevada between Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management is, at least for the moment, at a lull. On that issue, regardless of Bundy’s own general views on politics*, I’m inclined to side with him based on my view that commonly held property and “government property” are not the same thing, the latter being a myth. If the complaint towards him comes from the feds and not the other ranchers in the area — that is, the claimed violation is of authority and not shared access — it is bunk.

There is additional background already out there about the land itself, though at the moment that’s not what brought me to talk about this. In the process of other responses to this case being posted, a larger issue has been touched by those siding against Bundy in a way I find highly contradictory. Over at Salon.com, prog columnist Elias Isquith, who accepts the government’s case against Bundy, nonetheless takes the pivoting tactic of suggesting of the rancher’s general politics He’s Got A Point. First noting a video that drew attention, he muses about the tactic used to guard against government agents on the scene:

What drew these fine gentlemen to Bundy’s cause? The video of a federal official using a stun-gun on one of the rancher’s adult children surely didn’t help. But police brutality and abuse of power is a normal occurrence in America today, and you don’t see a dozen armed and stone-faced guys show up to the rescue every time someone in the Bronx makes a “furtive movement” and suddenly finds themselves slammed against a brick wall with a police baton jammed into the small of their back. So that’s not it, not really.

Considering the most likely targets of such abuse in NYC are also the most heavily scrutinized in enforcement of “gun control”, as well as the response to past similar attempts at armed resistance to police abuse in urban areas, the rarity of this scenario didn’t exactly emerge from a vacuum. We do however nowadays have the likes of CopBlock, albeit armed with cameras instead of shotguns. Response by the police to this development has been predictable: people attempting to film cops have been threatened, robbed & assaulted even when the letter of the law states people have a right to do so. So much for The Law…

So, if the animating principle behind those that went to that ranch in Nevada and made federal agents back away isn’t reaction to police abuse, what is? I don’t profess to know, but Elias expresses it as simple ideology signifying, that they take up similar worldview as Bundy (which Elias describes as “anti-government libertarian populism”) and say so with their presence. Citing a Gallup poll about distrust of the government in the U.S., he goes into a bit of a tailspin:

[...] one of the reasons this intensifying mistrust is so worrisome is that it’s so obviously justified. Indeed, anyone who’s lived through the past 15 years of American politics — with the secret spying, the secret incarcerations, the secret torture, the secret drone strikes, and the secret indifference to the economic fortunes of the 99 percent — and still trusts their government wouldn’t just be naïve. They’d be a fool.

Only the past fifteen years? Seriously? The only real difference is we find out about things faster today, largely because of technology. As for the dominance of concentrated wealth and immobility of the elite — they’re called “the ruling class” for a reason after all — a time when this was not the case is somewhere with Sasquatch and the Easter Bunny. A few people of means hold control because a few people of means held control before. It’s what they did, it’s what they do.

Following that part is mention of the much talked about Princeton study concluding that the U.S. is an oligarchy, and an anecdote from Elizabeth Warren, the Great Prog Hope. On the first, frankly I find it depressing that such is considered so oddball of a view that it’s thought to need scholarly confirmation for safe airing. Just a sign of how deeply propaganda penetrates when you start young, formalities mistaken for meaning with no regard for what is in front of your eyes. The latter… let’s just cut the crap, she is an insider because she got inside, the fact that she’s in the U.S. Senate and not off in an activist group having her phone tapped & computer bugged marks just how unafraid the elite are of her.

These sentiments sum up to a stance, describable as Angry Progressivism, that doesn’t add up in my mind at all. Consider the depth of the problem as Elias himself admits it: Representative government is a myth, the poor mean squat, the authorities run rampant, the common people are under the foot of oligarchy and a pervasive surveillance state, and empire falsely claimed as our will screams along with no breaks… does this sound like something that can be solved in a voting booth to you?

If the fear with embracing a systemic critique and no longer assuming legitimacy is There Will Be Chaos, I say look around you. The order is chaos.

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Mars demands sacrifice!

Earlier today at a news conference in Brussels, Barack Obama lamented the “diminished” military budgets of other members of NATO, invoking the situation in Ukraine as reminder that “freedom is not free”. This turn of phrase, typically used for domestic sloganeering to the glory of militarism, here is being effectively re-purposed to state an addendum to the usual war cries that arguably further poisons an already toxic view of the world: Empire as Favor, the mighty eagle soaring to carry the slacker deadbeats of Earth above the snake pits they blissfully ignore.

As insulting as this formulation is on face value alone, it leaves open a question that pulls the rug out from under its logic. The statement of U.S. military spending as a thankless burden implies possibility of threat to cease carrying it should the slackers refuse to carry their fair share, does that possibility present itself? With the only argument in D.C. being how much to raise the military budget, rather than whether to do it at all (or, FSM Forbid, actually cut it), the mere thought is laughable. The burden of course in reality lies on the U.S. public in being expected to pay for this in the first place, as well as the populations overseas tending to receive “our” generous gifts in the form of fire raining down on their neighbors, but such talk is UnSerious in the halls of congress.  One cannot claim to be Atlas and close off all possibility of shrugging.

To further muddy the waters, the insistence on global dominance by the U.S. itself in a way actually explains the current balance of military spending by NATO members. Consider the scope of their expected goals, largely basic invasion defense & the occasional logistic aid vs seeking to be able to fight multiple conflicts at once anywhere on the planet. Empire simply costs way more than the basics. Past and ongoing attempts to stretch the defensive concerns of Europe by waving in the general direction of Iran fall apart with slightest attempt to find reason for Iran to do such, and lately decent chunks of the continent have had internal issues involving conflict between a single flawed monetary policy and scattershot fiscal policy far more immediately pressing than future phantoms.

Speaking of claiming threats of beasts on the borders, Obama’s nod towards Ukraine* and what Russia is currently doing there gives a throwback flair: “The Soviets Shall Rise Again!”, with Putin dressed in the Eastern European analog to Confederate garb. Yet, there lays quite obvious reason why his excursions have been so limited: Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty claims attack on one member as attack on all, & calls for backup. Which would mean the U.S. Which would likely mean WW3, possibly even the end of the world. Which even Vladimir Putin is not dumb enough to trigger. In other words, Crimea was a target at least in part because no one is expected to nor wants to actually fight over it. Another part of that has been the expansion post-Cold War of NATO into the former Soviet Bloc, an action which when you think about it makes no sense considering the original point of NATO to begin with. The fear at the birth of NATO was of Soviets invading the West for conquest & resources, yet the first — and to date only – invocation of Article 5 was by the U.S. in response to (largely Saudi-backed) multinational radical Islamists attacking due to blowback from previous American intervention. It seems to me that the response has outlived its challenge so long that it struggles to scream at the slightest thing “see, told ya so!” when Russia is if anything demonstrating its weakness in Ukraine.

Surely there is some incentive to Barack Obama making the complaint that he did that makes sense, if the ones spoken of do not. Call it cynical, but I can’t help but wonder who the governments of those NATO countries, if inspired to pay for “freedom”, would be buying all those Freedom Bombs from…

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Compound Stupidity

So I hear next week the health care “reform” law is going back before the Supreme Court. This time it’s due to claims of religious exemption by employers — Hobby Lobby being the largest party to this — to a mandate for insurance policies to cover contraception. What follows is what I think of all that, point by point:

  • A moment of history: the employer based insurance system is a relic created by an old quirk in New Deal era state/corporate collaboration. Wages for a time were capped, so to get around that benefits in non-wage forms were offered. This calcified over time into an expectation, then into a form of indirect control (workers don’t exert as much mobility if they’re constantly afraid they’ll lose something in the process). Rather than obliterate this piece of boss-empowering nonsense, the “reform” formalized it by way of mandate. For something so cheered in the shriveled pragprog corners, it sure whiffed right past consideration that it’d be weaponized against labor via culture war crap…
  • Due to the system described above, IMO the insurance portion should be seen as additional compensation, basically deferred payment. Try to imagine with a straight face your employer setting rules on what you can and cannot spend your paycheck on & the logic problem shows itself. Since such restrictions on money aren’t feasible, then this marks the insurance benefit as a lesser class of compensation & suggests a direct method to get around it if the U.S. labor movement would only seize it: screw the benefit, demand the wages that would’ve covered it.
  • As the article describes, the point of the legal corporation is to be an entity separate from those that run it. The increasing commonality of claiming strong bonds between one person’s religious beliefs & how the corporation deals with its workers smacks of having ones cake & eating it too: is the company just a profit seeking beast or is it Your Special Baby? Pick one.
  • While we’re at it, let’s remember that corporate status itself as we know it is a government grant of privilege. That is, with its legal benefits in the form of liability limit and sharper division between capital and labor, it is not a structure inherent to market order that’d exist in lieu of the state. Technically, the terms of such can be rewritten, and in this case it was rewritten as a semi-ameliorative matter to a consequence of its existence (selling ones labor to large corporations being the enforced economic norm). Their argument effectively being that it is an injustice to add qualifying terms to a state benefit is quite curious when you consider the types politically on their side are the same ones screaming for food stamp recipients to be drug tested…

In short, we have within a Rube Goldbergian law that enshrines a ridiculous & archaic system a hypocritical conflict from a creature chafing against the rules of its creator. Rather than endure such bickering over control of our lives while we stand helplessly at the sidelines, the goal of labor in this country should be to make this entire damn mess irrelevant.

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Culture as Straitjacket

Belle Knox on her previous job

Ruth Marcus, opinion columnist for the Washington Post, has heard about Belle Knox, the Duke student that took up a career in pornography to pay her way through college. Upon doing so, she promptly wrote a scathing piece about the cost of higher education, credentialism as an ineffective response to increasing struggle in the U.S. economy, and how the indignity of the kind of low-wage labor Belle was in prior to taking up sex work itself undermines the “dignity of work” sewage spilling forth from conservative corners.

Actually, I’m kidding, she did no such thing.  Instead she wrote a faintpiece about What Our Culture Is Coming To due to a woman having the nerve to not only like sex but enter a profession based on it. In the course of the column, Ruth basically denies Belle being an adult, calls rejection of slut-shaming “faux-feminist” (cuz apparently embrace of ones body & sexuality by a woman is anti-woman?), and laments “hookup culture” as if casual sex & sex work — note the inclusion of the term “work” there — are the exact same thread. All this, while completely whiffing, perhaps even sneering at, a line of argument that would fit into cultural critique while having the added benefit of being correct: if in order to make a remotely decent living as adults we are expected to start our adult life going deeply into debt for credentials, the value of which are plummeting due to basic supply and demand, with us throwing a fit when some take up ways to exit the debt cycle deemed distasteful while the economics we expect everyone to follow actually suggest it’s a great idea, what does THAT say about our culture??

The remark at the top, which Ms Knox provided in an interview after being identified about comparing her past employment experience with her porn work, Ruth uses as the “punchline” to her cultural scold talk about confusing “relative merits” of sex work to waitressing. To this I would like to remind Ruth that with any employment there is a tangible quality to measure, which we in the real world call “money”, and on that measure I find it difficult to imagine even the best waitress touching with tips what the average adult film actress can make. Maybe in Vegas some get close, maybe.

While we’re on the subject of pluses v minuses of porn and waiting tables, the column also contains reference to a common practice in pornography that probably made the author blush when typing it, and which I’m somewhat surprised the Washington Post let remain in description. Of course, what she completely ignores is the aspect of consent: if one lets a sexual partner express their satisfaction in such manner, then that is what they deemed themselves to be okay with, so the view of 3rd parties going “eww, that’s degrading!” is irrelevant. For the record, I am actually not a fan of the practice myself*, but I’d have to imagine due to the consent aspect it beats the routine misogyny and groping that many waitresses across the country endure for $2.13 + tips. Yet she’s expected to continue the latter for the duration of her college life?

For as much as Ruth Marcus detests the choice Belle Knox has made, her ignorance of the context of that choice emerges from a worldview that Ruth has internalized which defines sexuality as inherently offensive and holds that women must be effectively sexless to be “respectable”, the act only considered in hushed tones, behind closed doors, and only for the fulfillment of men. That erasing the agency of women is not seen as an insult while women reclaiming said agency is frowned upon is a sign of just how far we have to go as a society, regardless of how enlightened we claim to be. In trying to point at what she calls sign of a cultural abyss, Ruth Marcus effectively points at herself.

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The state as Ouroboros?

The CIA does, and has done, many things: manipulate foreign governments, overthrow regimes the rulers of the U.S. don’t like, kidnap people, torture people & assassinate people.

You know, the usual.

It also spies on the US congress, a prospect that supposedly has Dianne Feinstein *furious*, as she’s claiming the example of it to go public recently — in this case, their breaking into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee during their toothless “investigation” of the CIA’s torture program (if you think anyone is getting prosecuted for that, you’re on another planet) — is a violation of the 4th Amendment. It is clear just how rich such a charge is while everyone from the NSA (with the aid of the same tech companies that feigned disgust and surprise when their complicity in mass surveillance was revealed, remember) to the FBI to even local cops regularly make a mockery of the very concept of there being any real “check” on surveillance, that much is obvious. Feinstein and anyone else among the spy state’s cheerleaders crying foul are just crying over poked privilege, their suffering just a taste of the hell they regularly unleash on us all rendered that much more bitter by them not being The Little People for whom there are no rights, only orders. That entire cast of characters can erupt in a fireball for all I care.

Lately when I have had time to think about the way the world has been going — that is, when I haven’t been preoccupied with my own condition in a collapsing economy — I’ve found myself asking a lot about the motivations of those ruining it all at various levels. I don’t claim to have reached very deeply, but on this latest absurdity I’m having a spark of sorts. Consider how dL has described the state as its own agency, as an entity that contrary to the gruel of “representation” we are fed growing up has interests of its own and acts to fulfill them: here we have, at least in public, what at first looks like a divergence between arms of the state, a conflict between the Senate and the CIA.

The CIA’s stance thus far is a claim that the Senate obtained documents they were not supposed to actually have and they are trying to figure out how they got there (insinuation of an internal leaker, basically). With what the role of the Intelligence Committee is supposed to be on paper, this claim outs it as mere theater with the slightest application of logic: if they are to operate as a check on the actions of the intelligence & surveillance arm of the state, then how can anything pertaining to them be rightfully withheld? Either they’re to watch them, meaning they get everything, or they’re decoration, period.  Keeping that in mind, recall that there is a reason the theatrical aspects of politics occur beyond mere ego, and ask what the incentive here could be. Suppose the CIA saw what they thought was a risk to the overall power structure in the form of those stray documents, fearing someone may liberate them from those computers and thus route around the network damage that is bureaucracy & unconcerned elites?  They may indeed see themselves as an inverted check of sorts, a check for upholding power rather than countering or balancing it, and act for what they interpret as the good of the whole system. Meanwhile, the reaction of their “victims” (HAH!) in the Senate serves to redirect attention on the issue of surveillance to Them Poor Old Politicians rather than a pervasive global dragnet in the service of empire abroad and stifling of dissent at home. People see this playing out, next hear about some minor cosmetic reform, and breathe a sigh of relief, all the while nothing changes.

Maybe we’re not thinking off the wall enough when it comes to rhetorical comparison of the state. Not snake, not octopus, nor dragon, but perhaps a mad scientist hybrid of an octopus and some form of the big jungle cats: the fanged cephalopod is not eating itself, but merely grooming.

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Reality Intrudes

Demos writer Matt Bruenig and Cato Unbound editor Jason Kuznicki have been rhetorically at each others throats for a long time. Between blogging & comments and even Twitter it has long been clear those two think very lowly of each other. There’s net beef all over the place though, so why am I even remotely paying attention here? Well, this is because the roots of their war of words are in such heady things as definitions of justice, property rights, the very structure of society — argument over Vacuous Pop Star A vs Vacuous Pop Star B this ain’t.

In the latest chapter of their fight, Matt makes a claim about the Non-Aggression Principle to the effect that it either a) requires a world where there is no such thing as ownership of anything, or b) is nonsensical. Jason took that on and it has resulted in ongoing argument in the comments section at Matt’s personal site (2nd link). While reading through it I noticed what I’d say is a key issue sitting between them unobserved and obscuring, like a force field or an invisible elephant. Consider the following quotes from their comment exchanges (bold mine)…

Matt’s defense of taxation:

[...]People say I am violating the NAP when I tax even when they know that my theory of entitlement dictates that the amount being taxed does not belong to the person.[...]

Jason’s remark on first use theory of property:

First use theory for the ownership-free world. And consensual transfer with restitution thereafter.

That would describe an optimally just world, in my opinion.

Now, we clearly don’t live in such a world (Native Americans, slaves, etc, etc…), so the next steps afterward are to explain why we should do private, individual property and free markets anyway. [...]

When Matt Bruenig states that his theory of entitlement says what one is taxed by the state “does not belong” to them, why is that? An assumption is being made here about property that to me reads as if in part its recognition or even existence in the first place inherently creates a debt. This looks in one sense like typical “social contract” talk for which I have the patience of a squirrel on cocaine, but could also come from an argument that the debt is meant as compensation for prior takings (sure it’s largely going to war profiteers instead, but lets humor the progressive for the moment). The latter view lifts away from Dem Land and shifts to a (very) crude Georgist/Tuckerite synthesis: the care & feeding of monopoly capital costs money, and that money should be obtained from the ones benefiting from it. Why Matt defends the currently existing tax system while it doesn’t fulfill either the synthesis function or the “social contract” function, I have no idea…

Jason, meanwhile, upholds the usefulness of the Non-Aggression Principle and his view of property rights… while admitting that the actually existing property system is built on aggression. That is, centuries of dispossession of those deemed lesser for the benefit of the ruling class, centuries of some people’s property rights meaning jack squat and an operational theory of property that begins and ends at “GIMME!” is baked in.  To me, such an admission carries within it implications for his view of taxation that make the question more complex than he lets on:

Yes, takings by force, including taxation, violate the Non-Aggression Principle. At the same time, there are and have been throughout economic history people who owe their wealth to massive and ongoing violations of it in the first place… Sowhuddowedonow?

Tl;dr take: Jason Kuznicki effectively handed Matt the justification that Matt himself whiffs on, while Matt’s implied view of justice actually suggests something even more Wacky Libertarian than Jason offers if followed to logical conclusion. We already live in the take whatever world, some are just way better at taking than others.

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A Mere Simulation of Justice

If you’ve noticed a spike in red-baiting from the Right lately, it’s because they’ve discovered the existence of Jesse Myerson, who recently wrote of economic reform proposals he felt “millenials” should push for. Contrary to the howls about Soviet gulags and the like, what Jesse promotes therein sounds once you get past his own snark about them like a couple familiar tropes of the Social Democrat, teamed with a few positions of broader pedigree than most realize. The idea of a basic income guarantee, for example, was fairly recently the (favorable) subject of a book by right-wing author & pundit Charles Murray, while the land value tax brings back Georgism and the observation of economic rents in land ownership.

While the emphasis is on these proposals not being as alien as they ended up portrayed thanks to the American Right’s tendency to call anything to the left of Atilla the Hun Commie Marxist, there is a feature I particularly notice of the whole that has implications for something far more radical. Consider the state of the economy at the moment: virtually no one is recovering beyond stock brokers & CEOs, employment is so scarce that the unemployment rate falsifies itself downward by people dropping out in despair, wages have been stagnant forever. That in this environment consumption drags is so obvious a toddler could figure it out.

The stubbornness of capitalism is even being acknowledged by high-finance flacks — witness Larry Summers basically saying nothing beyond a state-crafted bubble could possibly burn through all the surplus capital laying around.

Now, think back to how the structure of the economy was built to this point: artificial scarcity. The crushing of labor. Hoarding of natural resources. The monopoly privilege grants of “intellectual property”. The banking cartel demonstrated by the actions of the Federal Reserve & the rotating door between the supposed “regulators” of high finance & the worst actors of such. Keep that in mind & glance at Myerson’s reform proposals: job guarantee, basic income, taxing land value. What he is basically seeking is to replicate a facsimile of conditions within the current system of capitalism that would’ve been the case already had the initial impositions of privilege via state collusion never taken place. Without the enforcement of artificial scarcity & restraints that inflate capital necessity, there would be way more openings for small scale entrepreneurship and the assumption that all must work for someone else or starve would go away, while surplus value would reach the rest of us as water from a popped balloon rather than any “trickle” — with that thus, more stable financial lives for the rest of us come forth.

The comrades of capital look askew at people like Jesse and fear they come to bury them, when really they increasingly look like their last shot at salvation. If their brains could grasp that, they’d shift from red-baiting to hoping people take heed of his suggestions and not Kevin’s.

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“Your data was askin’ for it”

Today, a belated gift for the surveillance state: the dismissal of ACLU v Clapper by a federal district judge, declaring the NSA’s bulk communications records collection to be “legal”. The grounds cited for this ruling speak to the depths of the problem with any expectation of meaningful “reform” or “restraint” from the government, showing that the only Check is on us pawns:

-First off, judge Will Pauley did as any propagandist would do and waved the bloody flag of 9/11 several times, putting the lie to the concept of the impartial judiciary we are taught to assume. He then made a connection between that clearly successful attack & attacks later thwarted that has long been proven false:

“This blunt tool only works because it collects everything,” Pauley wrote. “Technology allowed al Qaeda to operate decentralized and plot international terrorist attacks remotely. The bulk telephony metadata collection program represents the government’s counter-punch.”

To date, there has been no aborted attack the stopping of which could be traced to the bulk collection program. None. It’s either been bystanders noticing or the feds creating the plot themselves to entrap people they later arrest, doing everything short of handing the hapless wannabes actual explosives. Oh, and there was also that attack in Boston that actually occurred…

Portrayed as all that stand between Us and Them, pervasive surveillance seeks to be accepted as the unquestionable price of everyday life. By throwing up the specter of 9/11, Pauley casts resistance to such as not merely a disagreement, but as face value insanity, suicidal even. This despite the question being not “Is It Useful”, but whether or not it violates the Constitution.

-About the broad scope of information the program takes in, Pauley’s reply is “yeah, but…”:

While acknowledging that the program “vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from, or within the United States,” he said its constitutionality “is ultimately a question of reasonableness.”

Pauley added that he found no evidence that the government had used bulk telephony metadata for any reason other than to investigate and disrupt terrorist attacks.

There are reports of multiple advocacy groups being stymied by this program, the feeding of NSA data to domestic law enforcement (primarily to aid the War on Drugs…), and even NSA employees spying on ex-lovers for the hell of it. Will Pauley must not get out much.

-Lastly, he approvingly cites Smith v. Maryland from 1979 (read: before the internet or smartphones even existed), which said that since phone companies had your phone records there was no expectation of privacy. Even back then there should’ve been some semblance of thought at the implication there: for the most part, these companies are how people have come to communicate across distances. Telephone companies, tech companies, & ISPs serve as gatekeepers to much of the world, and require some data simply to accept the contract & let your connections onboard. If this is combined with the idea that information once given for purpose of communication itself is freely available to the government for any reason they can make up, then you do not own yourself if you are on the internet or the phone for any reason. The people of the digital age are effectively being slut-shamed by the government* — “you shouldn’t have been so open with your data!”, when the choice was for it to be shared only for the purpose of connection, not for anything else. Taken to its logical conclusion, what was thought of as a sphere of liberty becomes a cage, as any expression of dissent, use of anonymity or combination of both is grounds for your placement under the microscope of the government.

Don’t like it?  I guess we all retreat to the trees & caves then, so much for modernity…

No. Either this wicked idea of facilitation of access by our current range of providers being equivalent to total submission to state surveillance must be strangled to its much deserved death, or we must seek to build another way. A way that keeps our data away from the agents of the state, that does not allow treatment of all as suspects, that does not equate access with submission.

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The Confident Watchers

The latest news story about the U.S.’s global dragnet looks on face value as if it’d be a bombshell revelation, at least for people who don’t understand how cell phones work. The fact that it’s easy to track someone with their cell phone & it is routinely done is itself not a shock, as it’s even a common trope of cop shows on TV, though the mass and persistence should be troubling anyway as its scope belies any plausible claims of restraint for PR purposes. Yet at the same time this shows a general idea we already by now know to be true: that the state will attempt to know everything, & goes to great lengths for such. I’m at the point where my question is what we do about it.

So no, the general thrust of that Washington Post article doesn’t raise an eyebrow for me. What does that is a couple details within it that likely are being breezed by:

One senior collection manager, speaking on condition of anonymity but with permission from the NSA, said “we are getting vast volumes” of location data from around the world by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks globally and that serve U.S. cellphones as well as foreign ones. Additionally, data is often collected from the tens of millions of Americans who travel abroad with their cellphones every year.

In scale, scope and potential impact on privacy, the efforts to collect and analyze location data may be unsurpassed among the NSA surveillance programs that have been disclosed since June. Analysts can find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose hidden relationships among individuals using them. [emphasis mine]

The gesture of the NSA releasing their own to remark like this shows how little they think of any prospects for curbing mass surveillance. It is as if this “senior collection manager”, upon hearing that there was supposed to be a conversation about it all said “I got your conversation right here” whilst grabbing his crotch.

There was also a reminder that they have co-conspirators:

According to top-secret briefing slides, the NSA pulls in location data around the world from 10 major “sigads,” or signals intelligence activity designators.

A sigad known as STORMBREW, for example, relies on two unnamed corporate partners described only as ARTIFICE and WOLFPOINT. According to an NSA site inventory, the companies administer the NSA’s “physical systems,” or interception equipment, and “NSA asks nicely for tasking/updates.”

May the unnamed be named, across the whole system. Also, if some kind technically inclined souls could do some things I will not explicitly spell out on this page that’d be nice too.

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Exit Sign

It hasn’t come up much recently, but there are still U.S. troops in Afghanistan. For some reason or other. Negotiations with the Afghan government for dragging that along even further are (thankfully) running aground:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has rejected a provision of a U.S.-Afghan security pact, putting the entire deal in jeopardy just days before the country’s elite gather to debate it, a senior Afghan official and a Western diplomat said.

The question of whether foreign troops will be able to search Afghan homes after NATO’s combat mission ends next year has long been a sticking point of an agreement setting out the terms under which remaining U.S. forces will operate there.

So the World’s Policeman may be blocked from continuing to act like cops on the ground there, ending an operation rendered irrelevant at best. Interesting how someone who got their position because of the war is showing such…independence. I wonder why?

The United States is concerned that as campaigning intensifies for Afghanistan’s presidential election next April, it will be increasingly difficult to broker a security pact.

“They want a window left open to go into Afghan homes, but the president does not accept that – not unilaterally and not joint,” the Afghan official said, referring to house raids by U.S. troops either on their own or with Afghan forces. (emphasis mine)

Gotta shore up that base!

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