Sunday, June 07, 2015

PNN - I can see for miles

PNN - I can see for miles

Rick Spisak News Director
Luis Cuevas Executive Director Progressive Push
Adam Weissman:
Trade Justice Metro New York / Justice for Animals & Climate

A quick summary of America's current position in the Middle East is simple to understand and easy to follow. Try this. We are allied with our declared enemy Iran, against the Islamic State, which grew from the chaos created by our earlier decision to invade Iraq, which was based on lies. We are trying to overthrow Assad in Syria, which has us fighting side-by-side with jihadist groups financed by Saudi Arabia, whom we are supporting against the Houthis in Yemen, the bitter rivals of al-Qaeda -- the perpetrators of 9/11. Meanwhile, our best friend Israel, is siding with al-Qaeda in Syria, and our other best friend Turkey, is helping ISIS. All makes perfect sense doesn't it?
Joseph Clifford

2. Dean Baker Center for Economic Policy Research
As Congress gets ready to vote on whether to “fast-track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), its proponents are making weaker and more far-fetched arguments for the deal. And they keep getting their facts wrong and their logic twisted.
This hit parade of failed arguments should convince any fence sitters that this is a bad deal. After all, you don’t have to make up nonsense to sell a good product.
Topping the list of failed arguments was a condescending USA Today editorial from early May.
It admonished unions who oppose the TPP because they worry it will cost manufacturing jobs. The newspaper’s editors summarily dismissed this idea, blaming the huge manufacturing job losses in recent years — amid a doubling of manufacturing output — on productivity growth, not imports.
The editorial rested its case on Commerce Department data that doesn’t actually measure manufacturing output. The correct data showed a sharp slowdown in the growth of manufacturing compared with the prior decade, when the trade deficit was not exploding.
USA Today eventually acknowledged the error, but left the text and the criticism in the editorial unchanged. Remarkably, the headline of the editorial referred to the opposition to the TPP as a “fact-free uproar.”
Another big swing and a miss came from Bill Daley, the former Commerce chief and J.P. Morgan executive who also briefly served as chief of staff in the Obama administration.
Daley wrote a New York Times op-ed pushing the TPP by arguing for the virtues of trade. The piece was chock full of errors and misleading comments. The biggest whopper: a claim that the United States ranks near the bottom in its ratio of exports to GDP because of trade barriers in other countries that supposedly restrict our exports.
But the main reason the United States has a low ratio of exports to GDP is that it’s a big country. This means that Illinois and Ohio, for example, provide a large market for items produced in Indiana. On the other hand, if the Netherlands seeks a large market for its products, it must export.
Another issue is that the TPP hasn’t been made available to the public as Congress prepares to vote. TPP supporters say it doesn’t matter, since lawmakers can see the draft text any time they like. That’s nice, but they must review the jargon-filled text without bringing along staff. Nor are they allowed to discuss the text with others.
As Senator Sherrod Brown pointed out, President George W. Bush made the draft text for the Free Trade Area of the Americas — an international accord that Congress didn’t approve — public before asking Congress to vote on fast-track authority. Apparently, President Barack Obama isn’t willing to do this. He’s even attacking TPP critics, like Senator Elizabeth Warren, for suggesting that he should.
Obama also dismissed Warren’s concern that the TPP and other fast-tracked trade deals could jeopardize our ability to regulate Wall Street. Obama dismissed this as the hypothetical musings of a former law professor. He looked rather foolish the next week when the Canadian finance minister argued that new U.S. financial regulations violated NAFTA.
The reality is that the TPP has little to do with trade. It’s a deal crafted by big business for big business.
While all of its specifics are not known, it’s clear that the TPP would put in place a business-friendly regulatory structure in the United States and elsewhere.
No amount of lipstick can make this pig pretty. The folks who keep trying are making themselves look very foolish in the process.

Documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show warrantless surveillance was expanded by President Barack Obama’s administration to target “malicious cyber activity.”
After Congress legalized the warrantless wiretapping with the FISA Amendments Act in 2008, non-US citizens could be targeted abroad. The administration developed a new policy for cybersecurity and took steps that would make the difference between a spy and criminal nearly non-existent.
According to a report from the New York Times and ProPublica, the White House National Security Council decided in May 2009 that “reliance on legal authorities that make theoretical distinctions between armed attacks, terrorism and criminal activity may prove impractical.”
The NSA proposed that the government use the warrantless surveillance program for cybersecurity about the same time.
In May and July 2012, the Justice Department signed off on searches of “cybersignatures” and Internet addresses. The approval was tied to previously granted authority to spy on foreign governments obtained from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. However, the NSA soon grew frustrated with the limits this imposed on them.
“That limit meant the NSA had to have some evidence for believing that the hackers were working for a specific foreign power,” the report indicates. “That rule, the NSA soon complained, left a ‘huge collection gap against cyberthreats to the nation’ because it is often hard to know exactly who is behind an intrusion, according to an agency newsletter. Different computer intruders can use the same piece of malware, take steps to hide their location or pretend to be someone else.”
Before the year was over, the NSA pressed the secret surveillance court for permission to use the warrantless wiretapping program for “cybersecurity purposes.”
As this happened, the FBI’s authority to target Internet data and use it for its criminal and “national security” investigations expanded.

norman solomon
This is cross-posted with permission from
The morning after final passage of the USA Freedom Act, while some foes of mass surveillance were celebrating, Thomas Drake sounded decidedly glum. The new law, he told me, is “a new spy program.” It restarts some of the worst aspects of the Patriot Act and further codifies systematic violations of Fourth Amendment rights.
Later on Wednesday, here in Oslo as part of a “Stand Up For Truth” tour, Drake warned at a public forum that “national security” has become “the new state religion.” Meanwhile, his Twitter messages were calling the USA Freedom Act an “itty-bitty step” — and a “stop/restart kabuki shell game” that “starts w/ restarting bulk collection of phone records.”
That downbeat appraisal of the USA Freedom Act should give pause to its celebrants. Drake is a former senior executive of the National Security Agency — and a whistleblower who endured prosecution and faced decades in prison for daring to speak truthfully about NSA activities. He ran afoul of vindictive authorities because he refused to go along with the NSA’s massive surveillance program after 9/11.
Drake understands how the NSA operates from the highest strategic levels. He notes a telling fact that has gone virtually unacknowledged by anti-surveillance boosters of the USA Freedom Act: “NSA approved.” So, of course, did the top purveyor of mendacious claims about the U.S. government’s surveillance programs — President Obama — who eagerly signed the “USA Freedom” bill into law just hours after the Senate passed it.
Another astute assessment came from CREDO, saying that Congress had just created “sweeping new authorities for the government to conduct unconstitutional mass surveillance of Americans.”
As it happened, the president signed the USA Freedom Act into law while four U.S. “national security” whistleblowers — Drake as well as Coleen Rowley (FBI), Jesselyn Radack (Justice Department) and Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers) — were partway through a “Stand Up For Truth” speaking tour from London to Oslo to Stockholm toBerlin. Traveling as part of the tour, I’ve been struck by the intensity of interest from audiences in the countries we’ve already visited — Great Britain and Norway — where governments have moved to worsen repressive policies for mass surveillance.
Right now, many people in Europe and elsewhere who care about civil liberties and want true press freedom are looking at the United States: to understand what an aroused citizenry might be able to accomplish, seeking to roll back a dangerous accumulation of power by an ostensibly democratic government. Let’s not unwittingly deceive them — or ourselves — about how much ground the U.S. surveillance state has lost so far.
Image used with permission from (left to right): Whistleblowers Kirk Wiebe (NSA), Coleen Rowley (FBI), Raymond McGovern (CIA), Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon), William Binney (NSA), Jesselyn Radack (Justice Department), and Thomas Drake (NSA)
5. Expanding Surveillance
Without public notice or debate, the Obama administration has expanded the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance of Americans' international Internet traffic to search for evidence of malicious computer hacking, according to classified NSA documents.
In mid-2012, Justice Department lawyers wrote two secret memos permitting the spy agency to begin hunting on Internet cables, without a warrant and on American soil, for data linked to computer intrusions originating abroad - including traffic that flows to suspicious Internet addresses or contains malware, the documents show.

6. TPP - new release
1. Governments must ensure their chosen measure is not more burdensome than necessary to ensure the quality of the service.
'least-burdensome’ means   that   decisions   start   by   considering   no   regulation   or   self-regulation, then co-regulation that relies on private mechanisms, disclosure and external monitoring, with an active regulator as the last resort.

7. Its a Sinker
They sure know how to engineer those DEEP WELLS
Three more tendons designed to link Chevron Corp's Big Foot deepwater oil project to the Gulf of Mexico seabed have sunk, escalating concerns about how long it will take for the project to start.

The No. 2 U.S. oil company said on Saturday that a total of nine tendons, which look like a long series of interlocking metal pipes and tether platforms to seabeds, rested on the seabed after failing to float.
Six had sunk earlier in the week.
No oil has leaked at the site, which was months away from a planned initial startup for late 2015. That timeline has been pushed back indefinitely.
The tendons, which range in diameter from 24 to 32 inches (61 to 81 cm), are designed to be buoyant and stay in place until the Big Foot platform is moved atop them and connected. Four tendons were engineered to connect to each of the platform's corners.
It is not yet known if the tendons that sank can be salvaged.
Chevron expects the site, 225 miles south of New Orleans in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, to produce 75,000 barrels of oil and 25 million cubic feet of natural gas per day once it opens.
The San Ramon, California-based company said it had set up a command center in Houston to respond to the situation and that a U.S. Coast Guard representative was onsite.
Four remote-operated vehicle robots, which are equipped with cameras, have been deployed to the site, alongside 13 ships.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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