Sunday, April 30, 2017

PNN - The Particular is the Universal

PNN NOTES: 4/30/17

1. @POTUS on getting things done in government:

"It's a very rough system. It's an archaic system...
It's really a bad thing for the country."

Donald Trump doesn’t like the whole concept of government of, by and for the people,
the idea that political power derives from the will of the people rather than
gods or kings or priests or…dare we say, political strongmen, real and imagined.
Archaic means “old-fashioned” and “obsolete” and “out of date” and, perhaps wistfully
here for would-be dictator Donald Trump, “no longer used.”
You know, because we have this whole thing about three co-equal branches of government and checks and balances that prevent the president from ruling like a king
or a Putinesque banana republican dictator.
It’s inefficient, he says. In other words, he’s frustrated that he can’t do
anything he damn well pleases without appeal to all those pesky and inconvenient laws. He can’t try to rule by fiat without somebody saying “un-Constitutional!”

Of course, Trump doesn’t want any of that, having to work with people and persuade
them with intelligible arguments (foot-stomping tantrums don’t count).
He wants people to just do what he says because he’s “kind of a smart guy”
and he’s the only guy who can fix it. Just ask him. Why does he have to bother
with all these lesser beings who just get in the way of his brilliance?
If Trump’s tears were just excuse-making it would be bad enough. Sure, he
needs to explain why he hasn’t done anything in his first hundred days
(cutting back on the golf game might seem an obvious solution) but the
real problem here is that Donald Trump honestly thinks his word should be law.
Even though it is the word of a guy who hasn’t made the slightest attempt
to learn a single thing while he’s been in office and leaves it at every
opportunity to play.
His executive orders and his reaction to judicial oversight as mandated
by the United States Constitution verifies his dictatorial leanings.
Judges are unelected, he says. What right do they have to “set policy”
in reality, of course, to question his judgment?
Trump is used to ruling like a king in the corporate world.
A government isn’t like that, outside a monarchy or a dictatorship.
Trump thinks it’s inefficient. What it is safe. It protects us
from people like, well…Donald Trump.
The Constitution was set forth to protect us from dictators and kings.
And as Trump’s frustrated and whiny rants have shown, it is a protection
we very badly need.


Commission’s Rule on Privacy of Customers of Broadband Services
S.J.Res. 34 – Disapproving the Federal Communications Commission’s
Rule on Privacy of Customers of Broadband Services
(Sen. Flake, R-AZ, and 24 cosponsors)
The Administration strongly supports House passage of S.J.Res. 34,
which would nullify the Federal Communications Commission’s
final rule titled "Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband
and Other Telecommunication Services," 81 Fed. Reg. 87274
(December 2, 2016). The rule applies the privacy requirements
of the Communications Act of 1934 to broadband
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other telecommunications
carriers. In particular, the rule requires ISPs to obtain
affirmative "opt-in" consent from consumers to use and
share certain information, including app usage and web browsing
history. It also allows ISPs to use and share other information,
including e-mail addresses and service tier information,
unless a customer "opts-out." In doing so, the rule departs
from the technology-neutral framework for online privacy
administered by the Federal Trade Commission. This results
in rules that apply very different regulatory regimes
based on the identity of the online actor.
If S.J.Res. 34 were presented to the President, his
advisors would recommend that he sign the bill into law.

3. ICE Data Shows Half of Immigrants Arrested in Raids Had Traffic Convictions or No Record

About half of the 675 immigrants picked up in roundups across the United States in the days after President Trump took office either had no criminal convictions or had committed traffic offenses, mostly drunken driving, as their most serious crimes, according to data obtained by The Washington Post.
Records provided by congressional aides Friday offered the most detailed look yet at the backgrounds of the individuals rounded up and targeted for deportation in early February by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents assigned to regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York.
Two people had been convicted of homicide, 80 had been convicted of assault, and 57 had convictions for “dangerous drugs.” Many of the most serious criminals were given top billing in ICE news statements about the operation.
The largest single group — 163 immigrants convicted of traffic offenses — was mentioned only briefly. Over 90 percent of those cases involved drunken driving, ICE said Friday. Of those taken into custody in the raids, 177 had no criminal convictions at all, though 66 had charges pending, largely immigration or traffic offenses.
The raids were part of a nationwide immigration roundup dubbed Operation Cross Check, which accounts for a small portion of the 21,362 immigrants the Trump administration took into custody for deportation proceedings from January through mid-March.

The two-month total represents a 32 percent increase in deportation arrests over the same period last year. Most are criminals, administration officials have said. But 5,441 were not criminals, double the number of undocumented immigrants arrested for deportation a year earlier. The administration has released a detailed breakdown of the criminal records only of the raids in early February.
Trump has said that public safety threats are his top priority. Shortly after he was elected, he vowed to first deport serious criminals from the United States.
But critics say immigration agents instead have also targeted students, parents of U.S. citizens who do not have serious criminal records and minor offenders.
That makes me so angry,” said Kica Matos, a spokeswoman for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, which is organizing demonstrations Monday to protest Trump’s immigration policies. She said that many of the DUI convictions are years-old and that the data “confirms our worst fears, which is that this administration is really trying to deport as many as possible regardless of whether they have a criminal record.”
President Barack Obama also deported thousands of people who never committed crimes, but toward the end of his administration, he imposed strict new rules that prioritized the arrest of criminals.
The Trump administration has said the current president also wants to prioritize deporting criminals. But officials add that anyone in the United States illegally could be detained and deported.
As Secretary Kelly has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” said ICE spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea, referring to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly. “All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
ICE arrested immigrants across the United States in February as part of Operation Cross Check, an initiative that seeks to detain immigrants that also occurred during the Obama administration.
Jessica M. Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors limits on immigration, said ICE is properly enforcing immigration laws by arresting criminals and people in the United States without papers.
Those are legitimate reasons to remove people,” she said. “ICE officers are no longer operating under the restraints imposed by the Obama administration. They’re not forced to look the other way when they encounter people who are removable.”
Congressional aides said the information from ICE follows months of frustration from lawmakers that the agency is not responding fast enough to requests for information.
After initially being supportive of Kelly, many Democrats have turned on him, believing he is being less than forthcoming about his sprawling department’s moves to implement Trump’s immigration policy.
Kelly, a retired Marine general, shot back at congressional critics last week in a speech at George Washington University.
If lawmakers do not like the laws they’ve passed and we are charged to enforce, then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws,’’ Kelly said. “Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.’’
That kind of approach “wasn’t a constructive way to deal with Congress,” House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said in an interview Friday. Democrats, he said, are frustrated by Trump’s immigration policies but are unable to change laws because they don’t currently control Congress.
That kind of language ought to be jettisoned,” Hoyer said.

4. THE NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY on Friday suddenly announced it is curtailing one of its major surveillance programs.

Under pressure from the secret court that oversees its practices, the NSA said its “upstream” program would no longer grab communications directly from the U.S. internet backbone “about” specific foreign targets — only communication to and from those targets.

This is a major change, essentially abandoning a bulk surveillance program that captured vast amounts of communications of innocent Americans – and turning instead to a still extensive but more targeted approach.

This change ends a practice that could result in Americans’ communications being collected without a warrant merely for mentioning a foreign target,” Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement. “For years, I’ve repeatedly raised concerns that this amounted to an end run around the Fourth Amendment. This transparency should be commended. To permanently protect Americans’ rights, I intend to introduce legislation banning this kind of collection in the future.”

The “upstream” surveillance program is one of two controversial programs authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is scheduled to expire in December unless it is reauthorized by Congress. It was among several programs whose existence was a secret until being revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Until now, upstream was examining every Internet communication that traveled on the huge telecommunication cables going in and out of the U.S., searching through every word, grabbing sometimes very big chunks of data that included even a single mention of a specific target, and then putting everything into a database for NSA analysts to look through.

Communications between people, including Americans, was being captured and examined not because they were suspected of anything, but because of what they were saying. And the program wasn’t even efficient at limiting it to that.

The NSA statement on Friday said the move came “after a comprehensive review of mission needs, current technological constraints, United States person privacy interests, and certain difficulties in implementation.”

But reading between the lines, it wasn’t voluntary.

In a companion statement, the NSA acknowledged that it had failed to follow the rules the FISA court established for “about” collection in 2011: “NSA discovered several inadvertent compliance lapses,” is how they put it.

NSA self-reported the incidents to both Congress and the FISC, as it is required to do. Following these reports, the FISC issued two extensions as NSA worked to fix the problems before the government submitted a new application for continued Section 702 certification. The FISC recently approved the changes after an extensive review.”

In other words, after giving the NSA two extensions, the court refused to reauthorize the wider program until it stopped “about” searches entirely.

That is less surprising considering that the 2011 FISC decision establishing the new rules came after a judge was shocked to learn that the 702 program wasn’t just snatching communications to and from targets, but was in fact looking through everything. Judge John Bates wrote at the time:

Based upon the government’s descriptions of the proposed collection, the Court understood that the acquisition of Internet communications under Section 702 would be limited to discrete “to/from” communications between or among individual account users and to “about” communications falling within [redacted] specific categories that had been first described to the Court in prior proceedings.

The independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board concluded in its 2014 reportthat “certain aspects of the Section 702 program push the program close to the line of constitutional reasonableness.” One of those aspects: “the use of ‘about’ collection to acquire Internet communications that are neither to nor from the target of surveillance.”

Laura K. Donahue, the director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University – and now an amicus for the FISC – wrote in a seminal 2015 law review articlethat the “about” collection “significantly expands the volume of Internet intercepts under Section 702.” She noted that “to obtain ‘about’ communications, because of how the Internet is constructed, the NSA must monitor large amounts of data” and was “not just considering envelope information (for example, messages in which the selector is sending, receiving, or copied on the communication) but the actual content of messages.”

And she said it was clearly unconstitutional. “While the targeting procedures and the interception of information to or from non-U.S. persons located outside the United States meet the Fourth Amendment’s standard of reasonableness, when looked at in relation to Section 702, the inclusion of communications ‘about’ targets or selectors and the knowing interception of entirely domestic conversations shift the program outside constitutional bounds.”

Privacy activists expressed delight over the change Friday, although they retained their mistrust of the NSA and their demand that Congress refuse to reauthorize Section 702 as is.

The NSA should never have been vacuuming up all of these communications, many of which involved Americans, without a warrant. While we welcome the voluntary stopping of this practice, it’s clear that Section 702 must be reformed so that the government cannot collect this information in the future,” said Michelle Richardson, Deputy Director of the Freedom, Security, and Technology Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, in a statement.

As a baseline, this makes a statutory ban on ‘about’ collection much more feasible. It becomes much harder for the NSA to justify the necessity of something they’re not doing,” said Jake Laperruque, senior counsel at the Constitution Project.

The change does not affect the other major program that operates under Section 702, called Prism. That program warrantlessly harvests communications to and from foreign targets from major Internet companies like Facebook and Google. But like upstream, Prism “incidentally” sweeps up innocent Americans’ communications as well. Those are then entered into a master database that a Justice Department lawyer once described as the “FBI’s ‘Google’ of its lawfully acquired information.” Critics call those “backdoor searches” of warrantless surveillance.

Wyden and other members of Congress have been trying to understand the scope of 702 surveillance for years, but the government has refused to provide even a ballpark figure.

Security fences surround the National Security Agency’s Utah data collection center in Bluffdale, Utah near Salt Lake City on April 12, 2017.

5. Civilians holding the Oligarchs accountable


Twenty-five years ago, a California jury failed to convict four cops accused of savagely beating a black man. What sounds today like an all-too-common story was anything but back then. The verdict triggered massive unrest and, within a week, parts of Los Angeles had gone up in smoke and 55 people had died. So what made this case of police brutality different? The beating of Rodney King was caught on tape.

Fast-forward to this month, when a passenger on a United Airlines flight was asked to give up his seat to make room for a crew member who had to get to Louisville. The man refused and was subsequently bloodied and dragged off the plane. This event was also caught on tape. Within hours, the video had been seen by millions and had become a PR nightmare for United. Within a few days, airlines had begun making changes to how they “bumped” passengers.

In both cases, seeing an injustice committed was much more powerful than reading about it. Without the videos, high-priced attorneys protecting the ruling class could have spun both of these events into something completely different — if they had made the news at all.

This is an important lesson to keep in mind.

There is no doubt that the lives of Americans have never been more exposed than at this very moment. Using the pretext of “national security,” the government constantly assaults and chips away at privacy protections that had been established throughout the course of US history.

In many cases, those in power don’t even bother to change the laws — which would more often than not turn out to be unconstitutional. It’s much easier to give agencies such as the NSA carte blanche.

At the same time, lawmakers are opening the doors to allow their corporate paymasters to collect unprecedented amounts of information about their customers and then use that data as they see fit.

Last week, for example, it was revealed that the NSA identified holes in Microsoft’s Windows software and then exploited these vulnerabilities instead of warning the company and its customers. Earlier in April, President Donald Trump signed legislationthat voided privacy rules preventing Internet service providers from selling the browsing history of their customers without their consent.

In fact, unless you have taken extraordinary steps, either the government or at least one corporation (and probably both) know that you are reading this article right now.

There is a bit of a silver lining. Just as new technologies have allowed those in power to invade your privacy and gobble up massive amounts of data about your life, they also give you the means to expose them. You can turn the tables by keeping an eye on the powerful.

Bad cops don’t want you to record them. A huge corporation does not want you to be there with a camera when it violates a customer in order to save a few bucks or pays hired hands to clear out protesters. Lawmakers don’t want you to ask them difficult questions while putting a microphone or camera in their faces.

And none of these people — all of whom want to exert their authority over your life in some way — wants you to put this video online and make it available to a wide audience.

So please do both these things. In the American oligarchy, it’s one of the few ways to keep the powerful accountable.

6. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from OPED News

What could you be thinking of in transporting high level radioactive waste, the most toxic substance in the universe, across many miles in many states?

What could you be thinking of in wanting to bury this high level radioactive waste in low income communities? This is not environmental justice, in fact - just the opposite. Bury it in your own yards instead of theirs.

What could you be thinking of in wanting to bury this high level radioactive waste in communities of color? This is White Supremacy. Bury it in your own yards instead of theirs.

What could you thinking of in calling this burial "temporary"? Another lie, and we've got plenty [borrowing from Holly Near] from you already.

What could you be thinking of in allowing nuclear power plants anywhere at any time since radioactive waste lasts millions of years? See the film "Containment" with people you love. Will you want your children to see this film, to know this, will you tell them?

What could you be thinking of in allowing nuclear power plants anywhere at any time, since there is no way to get rid of this high level radioactive waste? Again, see the film "Containment" with people you love. Will you want your children to see this film, to know this, will you tell them?

What could you be thinking of in allowing nuclear power plants to be built in the first place?

What could you be thinking of in relicensing old nuclear power plants?

What could you be thinking of in allowing nuclear power plants to exist - causing leukemia and other cancers not only seven generations out, but into eternity - affecting fetuses, our children, grandchildren, their children - into eternity? Will you tell your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great grandchildren this?

What could you be thinking of in not caring that "Children are 10 to 20 times more vulnerable to the carcinogenic effects of radiation than adults?" [Dr. Helen Caldicott] Will you tell your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces nephews this?

What could you be thinking of in not caring that girls are more sensitive to radiation than boys? [Dr. Helen Caldicott] Will you tell your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews this? Read and see the film on Hulu "The Handmaid's Tale" and watch it with the women you love in your lives.

What could you be thinking of in not caring that women are more sensitive to radiation then men? [Dr. Helen Caldicott] Will you tell this to the women in your lives? Read and see the film on Hulu "The Handmaid's Tale" and watch it with the women you love in your lives. Margaret Atwood, the author, sends the least valued women in this cautionary tale - elders, other women who cannot bear children - to clean up the radioactive waste and they die there while they are cleaning.

What could you be thinking of in not caring that fetuses are thousands of times more sensitive, more prone to cancer than adults? [Dr. Helen Caldicott] Will you tell this to the women in your lives?  "The Handmaid's Tale" again is your required assignment and to watch with the women in your lives.

What could you be thinking of in allowing more nuclear power plants to be built when in 2014 Dr. Ian Fairlie warned us that "There's a very close association between increased childhood leukemias and proximity to NPP's [nuclear power plants]." Will you tell your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews this?

How are you going to answer this question when you are asked - Mommy, daddy, grandmother, nana, granny, grandpa, auntie, uncle - why did you not close all nuclear power plants when you knew how dangerous they are because people all over the country were telling you this and even some very few officials. What will you say to them?

You are on the wrong side of history and you will not be absolved.

7. Foxes in Our Henhouse

In early 2007, a group of Morgan Stanley bankers bundled a group of subprime mortgage instruments into a package they hoped to sell to investors. The only problem was, they couldn't come up with a name for the package of mortgage-backed derivatives, which they all knew were doomed.
The bankers decided to play around with potential names. In a series of emails back and forth, they suggested possibilities. "Jon is voting for 'Hitman,'" wrote one. "How about 'Nuclear Holocaust 2007-1?'" wrote another, adding a few more possible names: Shitbag, Mike Tyson's Punchout and Fludderfish.
Eventually they stopped with the comedy jokes, gave the pile of "nuclear" assets a more respectable name – "Stack" – and sold the $500 million Collateralized Debt Obligation with a straight face to the China Development Industrial Bank. Within three years, the bank was suing a series of parties, including Morgan Stanley, to recover losses from the toxic fund.
The name on the original registration document for Stack? Craig S. Phillips, then president of Morgan Stanley's ABS (Asset-Backed Securities) division. Phillips may not have written the emails in question, but he was the boss of this sordid episode, and it was his name on the comedy-free document that was presented to Chinese investors.
This is just another detail in the emerging absurd narrative that is Donald Trump naming Phillips, of all people, to head up the effort to reform the Government-Sponsored Entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
As ace investigative reporter Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times noted in a piece back on April 7th, Phillips headed a division that sold billions of dollars of mortgage-backed investments to Fannie and Freddie. Many of those investments were as bad as the ones his unit sold to the Chinese. In fact, as Morgenson noted, Phillips became a named defendant in a lawsuit filed by the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA), which essentially charged, as the Chinese did, that Morgan Stanley knowingly sold Fannie and Freddie a pile of crap.
Morgan Stanley ended up having to pay $625 million apiece to Fannie and Freddie to settle securities fraud charges in that case.
Phillips worked in an area of investment banking that was highly lucrative and highly predatory. The basic scam in the subprime world in particular was buying up mortgages from people who couldn't possibly afford them, making those bad mortgages into securities, and then turning around and hawking those same mortgages to unsuspecting institutional dopes like the Chinese and Fannie and Freddie.
Phillips had a critical role in this activity. As Morgan Stanley's ABS chief, he was among other things responsible for liaising with fly-by-night subprime mortgage lenders like New Century, who fanned into low-income neighborhoods and handed out subprime mortgages to anyone with a pulse.
In a 2012 suit, a group of Detroit-based borrowers accused Morgan Stanley of discriminatory practices, claiming the bank helped New Century target minority areas with predatory loans. One Morgan Stanley due diligence officer, Pamela Barrow, joked in an email about how to go after borrowers.
"We should call all their mommas," Barrow wrote. "Betcha that would get some of them good old boys to pay that house bill."
Phillips was named in the suit and quoted in the complaint. He said that New Century was "extremely open to our advice and involvement in all elements of their operation."
The worst actors in the financial crisis worked in this shady world involving the creation of subprime-backed securities.
Of those bad actors, there is a subset of still-worse actors, who not only sold these toxic investments to institutional investors like pension funds and Fannie and Freddie, but helped get a generation of home borrowers – often minorities and the poor – into deadly mortgages that ended up wiping out their equity.
Phillips, who helped Fannie and Freddie into substantial losses and worked with predatory firms like New Century, belongs in this second category. As Beavis and Butthead would put it, Phillips comes from the "ass of the ass."
Donald Trump, then, has essentially picked one of the last people on earth who should be allowed to help reshape the mortgage markets. This is like putting a guy who sold thousand-dollar magazine subscriptions to your grandmother on the telephone in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the A.A.R.P.
More foxes for more henhouses. Welcome to the Trump era. 

8. TRUMP the Snake Charmer

He read the lyrics to a 1960s song about a woman who took in a snake that which bit her after she nursed it in her bosom to explain why the United States should block immigration. It was a hit of the campaign trail, as he noted. 

"You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in!" he said, imitating the snake, his voice rising to a climax.

9.  comment from Naked Capitalism
  1. IIRC, the DNC bylaws explicitly stated that the DNC was to be neutral until a candidate won the primary. Gabbard stated this when she resigned to endorse Sanders.
    The DNC has an uphill climb to remove itself from that point as this bylaw is in writing, was used or enforced, and was clearly violated by their own admission in testimony and in their emails. Now I’m not an attorney, but on its face this is a strong case for fraud if I’ve ever seen one.

11. Net Neutrality under Attack

The term “net neutrality” was coined by Tim Wu (interviewed at NC here when he was a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York). In fact, Wu wrote the FAQ (which you should read in its entirety):

Network neutrality is best defined as a network design principle. The idea is that a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, sites, and platforms equally. This allows the network to carry every form of information and support every kind of application.

That’s more than a little wonky, so let’s give an English translation.

From the Google:

The principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

And if you think about how you “surf the web,” treating “all content, sites, and platforms equally” (“access to all content and applications regardless of the source “) pretty much describes how your Internet works; you can click seamlessly from a small blog like Naked Capitalism to an enormous website like Google’s search page to YouTube or Vimeo for video to satellite imagery from NASA to a Bear Cam in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Who could be against that?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

PNN - Missing the Mark

PNN - Miss'n the MARK
PNN features a very very special show. Its about getting it right, exactly there.
    We see so much misdirection today, we see so much SPIN, and faux news - even our White House spokes model Mr. Spicer is spinning
    so fast he'll change direction three or four times during one press conference he can't even get his words out.

PNN focuses on some TRUTH.


    We have the Queen of Florida Political Media our Senior Political Commentator Ms. Brook Hines who shines not only at PNN
    but also hangs her lantern of truth at the highly respected Florida Squeeze
    We also are proud to present Senator Bernie Sanders recent speech given at the JL Knight Center in Miami in full.
    Recorded by our News Director RW Spisak.

    This week's special guest is Professor Wendy Lynne Lee, Human Rights Activist and Anti-Fracking Activist who addresses some of todays news.

    A must hear show - Live Sunday 7pm Eastern / 4pm Pacific.
    or anytime - (HINT: Its a Webcast - Always available.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality

While it's true that there are a variety of subsidiary issues that fall under the rubric of net neutrality, I have selected a small selection to illustrate its power and impact with just a few crucial threads.

Paramount to me is a concern that arose back when the internet was very young.

The path that this very fresh very exotic communications medium would take as this network, that had started as a research and university tool funded and expanded by ARPANET to serve military needs as well was not initially home to commerce. When the question arose, as to whether commerce should provide a third leg adding to academia and military a commercial thread many of us could see a long way down that road and while we knew there would be benefits.
We knew with the launching of corporate media on the web with narrow commercial interests, (at that point the text only internet) might add a richer experience the capacity to convey their messages adding graphics... then sound... then animation... and eventually ultimately video.

Since many of us were media enthusiasts these "out there on the horizon" ((from a mid-eighties)) text only, vantage point, seemed a near impossible dream.

However some of us recognized the thirst and power that commercial investment would bring and we realized with the revolutionary zeal of new converts that the egalitarian nature of the web that we loved, its facility to allow anyone conversant with a simple easy to understand language, could for the first time publish to the entire world on an equal footing with any other mortal, constrained only by our imagination and vision. No mediating publisher to limit our voice.

However, while we loved, how our beloved medium would be enhanced with these investments, we knew unless carefully nurtured and with business interests constrained, it would be a devil's bargain.

What if along with corporate investment gatekeepers came not only graphics, sound, and video but ads, and promotions, billboards and the screech of salesmen. What if speeds were not universal, and along with these data highways came tollways which would invariably evolve to divide the users into the digital haves and have-nots.

How would the troubadour of tomorrow compete with the Disney's, and the 20th Century Foxes, or the Time/Life or Universals. Maybe in some future hybridization, could even determine whose content was delivered in a timely manner, and whose information would be delivered over a digital "cobblestone" byway.

I voted to include ".Com" as part of the upper tier of domains. Hoping that the harvest of rich media would convince people of its criticality its importance, so that part of that egalitarian vision of the "web" could be preserved.

We have held on with fingertips while the threat of a "two-tier" internet still looms or more accurately an "N-Tier" Internet where multiple speeds and delivery systems will ultimately evolve into one level of service for the poor cyber-citizens (dial up or worse) and high-speed cable or even fiber delivered GIGABITS PER SECOND for the economically empowered upper class and the "corporate" citizens.

Even more critical is some subtle thorns in the NON- NEUTRAL SCHEMA - where content delivery monoliths like (Time/Life or Warner or Paramount-NBC-UNIVERSAL - can hyperspeed deliver their proprietary content... and drag their "digital feet" when delivering less commercially significant (to them) content like "Netflix, or Hulu" or especially on the political side "Green Party" (slow) content and "REPUBLICAN CONTENT" (( FAST)) no roadblocks for corporate content.

One last point, another even subtle threat grows along with the loss of net neutrality- you may have already noticed. When a search for "lawn mowers" produces ads on the next website you visit. The more sinister aspect of this tracking is revealed when Facebook released results of their internal "testing" when they provided "upbeat" news items to one group, and "sad" news items to emotionally "color" the emotions to others of their users (experimental-subjects) - I leave the potential of this kind of unregulated social engineering to your "private" conjecture.

One last point, since we have recently been made aware of the omnipresence of domestic and foreign surveillance of our complete cyber experience- the capability of NON- NEUTRAL AGENTS to mediate not only your personal cyber experience but your commercial and even social experience of not just your life online - but your unmediated offline life as well.

RW Spisak


Sunday, March 26, 2017

PNN - The Unwealth of Nations

1. Grahams Crumbled Crackers
“Judge Gorsuch was one of the finest people, I think, President Trump could’ve chosen," he said. "I am going to enthusiastically support him, and if the Democrats try to filibuster him, they will be making a huge mistake.”
As the crowd began to boo, Graham tried to list off his reasons for supporting Gorsuch. But as they continued to boo, Graham said that the crowd was not persuading him and that if they don't believe Gorsuch is qualified then they're "not listening."
“To everybody that boos Judge Gorsuch, you’re not persuading me at all,” he said. “As a matter of fact, if you can’t understand that he is a qualified nominee, then you’re not listening. If you don’t understand that elections matter, then you don’t understand America.”
"If you think only liberals only can get their nominees and conservatives can't, then you don't understand American," he said. "I don't think that the Constitution was written so that you get everything you want and I get nothing."
Graham has been a vocal supporter of Gorsuch, even threatening to use the "nuclear option" if Democrats choose to filibuster him. But at the town hall, he said a filibuster would "turn the country upside down."
Yet as he ducked senators' questions, a multi-million dollar campaign backing Gorsuch's nomination was underway. It includes TV ads, over a million postcards and organizing events at mega-churches, among other outreach efforts. The campaign is targeting Democratic senators up for reelection in 2018 in states that Trump carried, since they're more likely to vote for Gorsuch's nomination.
While Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage in the Senate, Gorsuch's nomination will need 60 votes to overcome a pledged Democratic filibuster. That is, unless Republicans change the rules and allow a simple majority to cut off debate on Supreme Court nominations (known as the "nuclear option").
Judicial Crisis Network
Helping lead this effort is a little-known group, the Judicial Crisis Network, which pledged to spend at least $10 million to back Gorsuch's nomination. This 'dark money' group doesn't list its donors, but appears to be tied into the network led by oil barons Charles and David Koch.
Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic senator from Rhode Island, asked Gorsuch if he knew who was behind the effort.
"Senator," he replied, "I could speculate based on what I've read and what I've heard, but I don't know individuals who are contributing. I don't know that."
"He probably knows who he owes the favor to," The New Yorker's Jane Mayer told Democracy Now.
"The thing about dark money is, often the person who it's benefiting knows; it's just the public that's not allowed to know," said Mayer, who wrote the must-read book Dark Money.
Once on the divided Supreme Court, Gorsuch could be the deciding vote in decisions effecting the wealthy interests who supported his nomination. But with his backers' identity hidden, the public will be in the dark about his potential conflicts of interest.
Merrick Garland
Prior to backing Gorsuch, the Judicial Crisis Network spent $7 million in 2016 to (successfully) thwart President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, from even getting a confirmation hearing. Now Trump has tapped Gorsuch for the seat Garland was nominated to fill, which has been vacant since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year. Curious what the Judicial Crisis Network saw in Gorsuch that it didn't see in Garland, Whitehouse put the question to Gorsuch.
Whether glyphosate, the active ingredient of a popular herbicide, causes cancer has been the subject of heated debate. About a year ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) briefly published information on its website indicating that glyphosate was not carcinogenic, but deleted it after less than a week.
That left enough time for Monsanto, which uses glyphosate in its popular weed-killing product Roundup, to tout the findings of the study on its website. It also prompted U.S. Right to Know, a food safety advocacy group, to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to find out how the EPA arrived at this conclusion.
But the agency, which is obligated to respond to such a FOIA request in a timely manner, has been dragging its feet. This has caused U.S. Right to Know, together with the Public Citizen Litigation Group, to sue for access to the documents. The delay in responding has led to speculation that the agency is intentionally dragging their feet on this particular issue.
“I file a lot of FOIAs [with the] EPA; I consider them, typically, to be pretty good,” Carey Gillam, research director of U.S. Right to Know, told WhoWhatWhy. “Better than the other federal agencies in terms of timeliness and responsiveness. They don’t redact things nearly as heavily as the FDA generally. But on this response, trying to get these documents [about glyphosate], they have been very reticent to respond.”
Gillam said that the EPA’s standards for responding to FOIA’s in general have been eroding over the last couple of years. Overall, the Obama administration had a checkered record on complying with such requests.
In this case, however, the subject matter itself could be at the root of the delay.
“I think there have been so many red flags raised over the years, even from the 1980’s,” she said, “and when we try to get information out of the EPA about it, it’s very difficult to do so. And it’s become more difficult over the last year or two since [this issue] became really controversial [and the court cases began].”
Gilliam is referring to an archived report from 1985 where the EPA classified glyphosate as a class C carcinogen, indicating a lack of studies in humans and animals to confirm the links with cancer. This finding was reversed in 1991. Herbicides are routinely investigated by the EPA in 15-year rotations. The latest reregistration investigation into glyphosate resulted in the 2015 report that prompted the FOIA.
Because Monsanto’s Roundup is so widely used, the carcinogenicity of glyphosate is of crucial importance. The debate has heated up since the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015 labeled the chemical a probable human carcinogen.
It appears, however, that EPA’s experts reached a different conclusion.
An internal memorandum titled “GLYPHOSATE: Report of the Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC)” was posted on the agency’s website on April 29, 2016, along with a separate report on atrazine, another investigated herbicide. That report concluded that glyphosate was “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,” but it vanished from the EPA website days later.
Last week, the European Chemicals Agency also concluded that glyphosate should not be classified as a carcinogen.
While the EPA report was available online, Monsanto had copied the document and referenced it in a lawsuit filed by workers in the agricultural sector who claim that Roundup gave them cancer.
Coincidentally or not, Jess Rowland, the chair of CARC and an EPA deputy division director, resigned shortly after.
On May 12, 2016, less than two weeks after the document was withdrawn, U.S. Right to Know submitted a FOIA request to access the EPA’s records “referring or relating to the CARC report on glyphosate” from January 1, 2015. It also requested access to its records of communication between Monsanto and the EPA “that discuss or relate to glyphosate.”
Under FOIA, the agency had 20 days to comply with the request. According to the lawsuit, the EPA stated in a May 26, 2016, letter “that it had initiated a search for responsive records that ‘could take up to 2-3 weeks to complete.’” However, when the lawsuit was submitted earlier this month, it had been over 205 days since the request and the EPA had neither submitted any documents nor made a determination on the request.
Gillam noted that the delay could simply be part of a troubling trend.
“Freedom of Information has been a real problem in the United States of late,” she told WhoWhatWhy. “This certainly isn’t an isolated incident by any means — the US federal agencies have been failing to comply with FOIA, repeatedly, for several years. In the last few years, particularly.”
The EPA received over 10,000 FOIA requests in the last fiscal year. Granted requests took on average 163 days and up to 2011 days to process. By comparison, the average processing time for granting requests in 2012 was 44 days, with the maximum of 851 days.
The agency has not responded to a request for comment.
Because of the ongoing litigation, which was triggered by the 2015 IARC report, it would appear that the delay is helping Monsanto.
Earlier this month, presiding Judge Vince Chhabria of the San Francisco federal court unsealed files from both Monsanto and the EPA.
One email from Monsanto executive William F. Heydens, as detailed by The New York Times, suggested that the company did some ghostwriting for the agency. Another email from Monsanto executive Dan Jenkins claims that Jess Rowland, the EPA official who left last year, had told him, in reference to the agency’s review: “If I can kill this, I deserve a medal.”
Monsanto refutes the New York Times story on this new information, claiming that the article had “cherry picked data,” made “misleading claims,” and “overlooked the benefits of GMOs for farmers in the developing world.”
“The allegation that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans is inconsistent with decades of comprehensive safety review by the leading regulatory authorities around the world,” Daphne Dorsey, a Monsanto spokesperson, told WhoWhatWhy.
For now, the activists are still willing to give the EPA the benefit of the doubt.
“Maybe they’re just overwhelmed but maybe there’s something else there,” Gillam said. “But legally, they are required to make this information public and to be responsive to the Freedom of Information Act and they haven’t been so we’re trying to hold them responsible.”

Sunday, March 12, 2017

PNN - Stands with FIST



PNN brings you a powerful show featuring our Senior Political Commentator Brook Hines, whose work has empowered progressives across America.
We also welcome Mindi Slavin Fettermen founder and director of INNER TRUTH PROJECT

The Inner Truth Project believes every woman and man should have the opportunity to feel safe and free from shame while speaking their truth. We exist because there is no shame in living through any type of sexual abuse, violence or rape or in bravely sharing the truth about those experiences to build strength, hope and health. This project will offer opportunities to speak out, gather and unite... the community in creative ways. ( ) + ( )
We also are very happy to present Denis Campbell former WhiteHouse correspondent, Producer and Co-Host of the 3Muckrakers podcast on iTunes and Publisher of the U.K. Progressive - ( )
Solidarity & Peace
TUNE IN 7pm Eastern / 4pm Pacific


The Deep State, Donald Trump and Us
By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News
12 March 17

One of the things that most observers don’t understand is that the CIA will do anything – anything – to survive. All CIA officers are taught to lie. They lie all the time, about everything, to everybody. And they justify it by trying to convince themselves that they are doing it in the national interest, for national security. From my very first day in the CIA, it was drilled into me, as it is into every other employee, that “the primary mission is to protect the Agency.” That was the mantra. Couple that with the CIA’s ability to intercept and take over virtually any communications device, and you have a Frankenstein monster. Is it really hard to believe that such an organization would resist a president who challenged it? Is it hard to believe that it would do so surreptitiously? I don’t think so.

We can say pretty much the same things about the NSA. Thanks to Ed Snowden, and despite NSA protestations to the contrary, that agency has been spying on American citizens at least since the September 11 attacks. Again, is it so hard to believe that if NSA officials didn’t like a new president or his politics that they would spy on that new president, whom they may believe was a threat to their continued work?
And then there’s the FBI, an organization that has the power to utterly ruin anybody it wants just by initiating an investigation or leaking that somebody is a “person of interest,” whatever that means. The FBI is or can be the deep state’s secret police. After the Hoover years, COINTELPRO, spying on American peace and civil rights activists, are we just supposed to let them go about their business without wondering if, perhaps, they are part of a movement to undermine our democracy?

Even that bastion of conservatism, The Wall Street Journal, said on Friday that James Comey, the FBI’s director, has to go. The Journal editorial board said, “Mr. Comey seems to regard himself as the last independent man in Washington, whose duty is to stand his ground amid undeserved slings from the Democrats and arrows from the Republicans. And especially so now amid the controversy over allegations of Russian intervention in the 2016 election. Something larger is at stake here than Mr. Comey completing his tenure. The decisions he made as director during the election damaged the credibility of the FBI in the eyes of the American public. The bureau’s institutional integrity needs to be repaired. He should step down now so that the nation does not have to wait 6-1/2 years to begin the process of getting unstuck from the Comey years.”

This is not a traditional conservative/liberal, Republican/Democrat issue. Again, it’s possible to believe one side while not necessarily liking him or it and vice versa. James Carafano of the conservative Heritage Foundation probably encapsulated it best. He told the Times, “Just because you see things like leaks and interference and obstruction doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a deep state. That’s something we’ve seen before, historically, and it’s nothing new. What would be different is if there were folks from the previous administration that were consciously orchestrating, in a serious way, inside opposition to the president. It’s hard to know: is this Trump using some strong political rhetoric or an actual thing?”
Notes for PNN

BANNON = Cromwell in the court of the Tudors
“Darkness is good,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “Dick Cheney, Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”
Steven K. Bannon, quotes from the Hollywood Reporter.
“What we need to do is bitch-slap the Republican Party.”
But before he gets gluttonous with power, Bannon should remember what happened to his historical doppelgänger. Henry turned on him. Thomas Cromwell was executed in 1540, without trial, and his severed head was displayed on a spike on London Bridge.

That veil of secrecy has quickly emerged as the hallmark for this shadowy administration.
It's important to note that while President Trump's ongoing war on the press has received most of the attention this year as he threatens journalists and restricts their access, there are plenty of indications that the rampant secrecy and disdain for transparency is widespread. "The retreat from the press has taken place administration-wide," Politico noted.

Monday 3/6
    Tillerson, along with Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, held an event with journalists to announce the administration's latest attempt to restrict travel to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries. But none of the men responded to press questions about the controversial initiative.

The next day, NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell was escorted from a photo-op with Tillerson and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin after trying to ask several questions. The questions were "met with silence."

This, of course, comes after the White House's radical move to banish several major news outlets from a press "gaggle," likely because the administration was unhappy with what the organizations were reporting. What followed was a highly unusual, weeklong blackout in terms of televised press briefings from White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

On Tuesday, bureau chiefs for major news organizations held a conference call
to discuss the fact that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not going to allow the press to travel with him on his plane during an upcoming trip to Asia. According to, which reported on the call, not allowing reporters on Tillerson's government plane would be would be "very unusual, if not unprecedented, certainly in recent annals, with substantial access given by recent Secretaries of State, including John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice."

Their letter, which was printed in full by Poynter, is below:

Dear Mr. Hammond and Ms. Peterlin,

We are the Washington bureau chiefs and editors of major print, wire, television and radio news organizations. We are writing to request a meeting with both of you as soon as possible to discuss press access to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and coverage of American foreign policy going forward.
We were deeply concerned to hear that Secretary Tillerson plans to travel to Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo to hold key meetings about some of the most important foreign policy issues for the United States without any traveling press.

Not only does this situation leave the public narrative of the meetings up to the Chinese foreign ministry as well as Korea's and Japan's, but it gives the American people no window whatsoever into the views and actions of the nation's leaders. And the offer to help those reporters who want to travel unilaterally is wholly unrealistic, given the commercial flight schedules, visa issues and no guarantee of access once they are there.

But the issues go beyond just the March 14-19 trip and affect the day-to-day coverage of the nation's top diplomat and U.S. relations with the rest of the world.
Please let us know when a small group of us could come by to see if we can work out an arrangement that suits all of us.

Thank you,

Wendy Benjaminson
Acting Washington Bureau Chief
The Associated Press
Bryan Boughton
Fox News Channel
Washington Bureau Chief
Elisabeth Bumiller
Washington Bureau Chief
New York Times
Edith Chapin
Executive Editor
Paul Danahar
BBC Americas Bureaux Chief
Sam Feist
CNN Washington Bureau Chief
Peter Finn
National Security Editor
The Washington Post
Keith Johnson
Acting Managing Editor, News
Foreign Policy
Weston Kosova
Washington Bureau Chief
David Lauter
Washington Bureau Chief
Los Angeles Times/Chicago Tribune
Yolanda Lopez
Central News Director
David Millikin
North America bureau chief

Sunday, February 12, 2017

PNN - Spirited Poets / Passionate Poets

PNN News Brief

1. WONDERFUL NEWS - ROGG has been canceled
Collier County unanimously votes to rescind ROGG and remove from their maps!!!!

1a. Protests erupt across the country - in the streets of thousands of American Cities
1b. It seems not only do Americans disagree with TRUMPIAN EDICTS on Women's Rights
Americans are getting Impatient to discover how the republican control of GOVERNMENT will help the CITIES, JOBS, The Environment, and Health Care for Americans


are called upon to PRODUCE THE BODY.
Exactly WHAT IS THEIR better Health Plan? ..... That's not crickets -

3. At republican town halls across AMERICA - Voters are asking REPUBLICANS what's the PLAN?
And a young girl dared to ask her CONGRESSMAN - Did he believe in SCIENCE????????
of course NOT ONLY did her refuse to ANSWER - He asserted that SHE WAS A MIDGET ACTOR on a PAYROLL - Paid to ask him Intimidating  QUESTIONS - that would embarrass him. Imagine asking him:
Did he believe in SCIENCE???????? 
HOW WOULD HE KNOW - No one gave him the answer to that one - It wasn't on his talking points

4. A NEW SALES CAMPAIGN to SELL TRUMPIAN PRODUCTS from the WHITE HOUSE LAWN was rolled out this week to mixed results!


5. Mitch McConnell - got his wish,
When he ordered the Senate's lil' woman (Senator Warren) , to SIT DOWN AND TAKE HER SEAT - there is a TIME & PLACE for Everything, even reading that letter from Coretta Scott King - So his constituents came to his house last night to READ IT him, as he got ready for bed in his Superman Pajamas

6. In our special report - FROM: OUT of the Closets and Under the Rocks - WHERE EACH WEEK, Republicans REVEAL THEMSELVES for the REPREHENSIBLE CREATURES THEY REALLY ARE - In this week's Episode.

A Republican County Official weighed in with this THOUGHTFUL REMARK -
"With all these damn protestors its about time for ANOTHER KENT STATE FIRING SQUAD  - AMMY RIGHT?" 
He was forced to resign,  He hadn't used the  PRODUCT PLACEMENT COUPON   He'd been Given


7.  A Leaked copy of a draft executive order titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” obtained by The Investigative Fund and The Nation, reveals sweeping plans by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination. - JUST IN TIME for the Crusades 2.0
TRUMPEAN OFFICIALS REMIND Americans almost daily :
Its not a MUSLIN BAND - Its too stretchy

WHENEVER ADVERTISEMENTS are produced by SPOKESMODELS on the GROUNDS of the WHITEHOUSE, or in the ROSE GARDEN  at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or High Atop the Lincoln Bedroom -

Its IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER - Even when they announce that this AD is to Promote a TRUMP PRODUCT or SERVICE  - it is to be UNDERSTOOD, that this is specifically NOT PROFITING from their GOVERNMENT POSITION - Not a Conflict of Interest,  AND by definition does not CONFLICT with the EMOLUMENT CLAUSE.
And finally, the Ad that is Announced is EXACTLY and precisely not an AD.


9. Former CIA Analyst Sues Defense Department to Vindicate NSA Whistleblowers
IN 2010, THOMAS DRAKE, a former senior employee at the National Security Agency, was charged with espionage for speaking to a reporter from the Baltimore Sun about a bloated, dysfunctional intelligence program he believed would violate Americans’ privacy. The case against him eventually fell apart, and he pled guilty to a single misdemeanor, but his career in the NSA was over.

Though Drake was largely vindicated, the central question he raised about technology and privacy has never been resolved. Almost seven years have passed now, but Pat Eddington, a former CIA analyst, is still trying to prove that Drake was right.

While working for Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., Eddington had the unique opportunity to comb through still-classified documents that outline the history of two competing NSA programs known as ThinThread and Trailblazer. He’s seen an unredacted version of the Pentagon inspector general’s 2004 audit of the NSA’s failures during that time, and has filed Freedom of Information Act requests.

In January, Eddington decided to take those efforts a step further by suing the Department of Defense to obtain the material, he tells The Intercept. “Those documents completely vindicate” those who advocated for ThinThread at personal risk, says Eddington.

The controversy dates back to 1996, when Ed Loomis, then a computer systems designer for the NSA, along with his team worked to move the NSA’s collection capabilities from the analog to the digital world. The shift would allow the NSA to scoop up internet packets, stringing them together into legible communications, and automating a process to instantly decide which communications were most interesting, while masking anything from Americans. The prototype, called GrandMaster, would need to ingest vast amounts of data, but only spit out what was most valuable, deleting or encrypting everything else.
Then in the fall of 2001, four passenger airliners were hijacked by terrorists as part of a suicide plot against Washington, D.C., and New York City. The U.S. intelligence community faced a disturbing wakeup call: its vast collection systems had failed to prevent the attacks.
Yet, in response, the NSA simply started collecting more data.

The NSA sent out a bid to multiple defense contractors, seeking a program that could collect and analyze communications from phones and the internet. Science Applications Internal Corporation, or SAIC, won the contract, known as Trailblazer. Meanwhile, internally, NSA employees were developing a similar, less costly alternative called ThinThread, a follow-on to GrandMaster. ThinThread would collect online communications, sort them, and mask data belonging to Americans.
Those involved in ThinThread argue that their approach was better than a collect-it-all approach taken by NSA.
“Bulk collection kills people,” says Bill Binney, a former NSA analyst, who rose to be a senior technical official with a dream of automating the agency’s espionage. “You collect everything, dump it on the analyst, and they can’t see the threat coming, can’t stop it,” he says.
Binney built a back-end system — a processor that would draw on data collected by ThinThread, analyze it, look at whether or not the traffic was involves American citizens, and pass on what was valuable for foreign intelligence.
“Bulk acquisition doesn’t work,” agrees Kirk Wiebe, a former NSA senior analyst, who was trying to help convince NSA of ThinThread’s value at the time.
The analysts are drowning in data, and Binney and Wiebe believe ThinThread would have solved the problem by helping the NSA sort through the deluge automatically while protecting privacy using encryption.
But Binney and Wiebe say advocates of ThinThread hit every possible bureaucratic roadblock on the way, sitting in dozens of meetings with lawyers and lawmakers. In the meantime, Gen. Michael Hayden, the director of the NSA at the time, said he decided to fund an outside contract for a larger effort, focused on gathering all communications, not just those over the internet, as ThinThread was designed to do.

Additionally, while ThinThread masked American communications, Hayden’s legal and technical advisors were concerned the collection itself would be a problem. Some of Hayden’s senior officials at the NSA came from SAIC, the company that won contract to design a proof of concept for Trailblazer.

“A tiny group of people at NSA had developed a capability for next to no money at all to give the government an unprecedented level of access to any number of foreign terrorists,” Eddington says. “Instead that system was shut down in favor of an SAIC boondoggle that cost taxpayers, by my last count, close to a billion dollars.”

He argues the contract, and the “incestuous” relationship between the NSA chief and the contractor never received the scrutiny it deserved. “It was clearly an ethical problem,” Loomis said.

Ultimately, however, the NSA went with Trailblazer. Hayden rejected the ThinThread proposal because the intelligence community’s lawyers were concerned it wouldn’t work on a global scale, and that it would vacuum up too much American data. Hayden has continued dismissing concerns years later as the grumblings of disgruntled employees. Hayden told PBS Frontline ThinThread “was not the answer to the problems we were facing, with regard to the volume, variety and velocity of modern communications.”

In 2002, Wiebe, Binney, Loomis, Drake, and Diane Roark, a Republican staffer on the House Intelligence Committee who had been advocating for ThinThread, united to complain to the Defense Department’s inspector general, arguing that ThinThread, while still a prototype, would be the best surveillance system. The oversight body completed its report in 2004, which included major concerns about Trailblazer.

“We talked about going for the nuclear option,” Wiebe said, referring to discussions at the time about contacting the press.

But Drake went it alone, however, never telling his colleagues what he planned to do. Stories about the disagreements started showing up in news headlines based on leaks. The Bush administration in 2007 sent the FBI after the whistleblowers, raiding each of the whistleblowers’ homes who raised complaints to the Pentagon inspector general. Drake faced espionage charges after speaking to a reporter from the Baltimore Sun about the alleged mismanagement and waste in the NSA.

Though Drake wasn’t sent to prison, he lost his career in government, and now works at an Apple store. The question of whether ThinThread would have provided a better capability than Trailblazer was never resolved.

While ThinThread never made it to production, some of the analytic elements, minus the privacy protections, made it into Fort Meade as part of a massive surveillance program now known as Stellar Wind.

But there may be a way to settle the debate. The watchdog agency tasked with oversight of the Department of Defense completed a full investigation into the battle between ThinThread and the Trailblazer. The Pentagon inspector general published a heavily redacted version of that investigation in 2011; that report is now the only public record available, aside from the account of the whistleblowers who exposed it.

Despite everything that’s come out about its surveillance programs, the NSA still won’t release the full ThinThread investigation. “I don’t really know what they’re trying to hide,” said Loomis.

Loomis says he thinks those redactions were more for the sake of Hayden’s reputation than protecting real classified information. He eventually documented the saga in a self-published book called “NSA’s Transformation: An Executive Branch Black Eye.”

Drake told The Intercept in an email that efforts to uncover the Pentagon inspector general’s ThinThread investigation were a large part of his defense. Since then, the Office of Special Counsel concluded last March that the Department of Justice may have destroyed evidence that might have helped exonerate him.

In the meantime, however, hope is fading that the entire story of ThinThread will emerge from behind the government door of secrecy. “We’ve been trying for 15 or 16 years now to bring the U.S. government the technical solution to save lives, but they fight us left and right,” said Wiebe.

Eddington says the ThinThread controversy demonstrates the lack of oversight of the intelligence community. “The mentality that gave us this system is still in place,” he says. “We could see this become de facto permanent,” he said.

10. Last fall, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rubberstamped Monsanto’s newest formulation of the herbicide dicamba for use on the corporation’s genetically engineered (GE), dicamba-resistant soybean and cotton seeds. Expecting that this approval will lead to a dramatic increase in use of the herbicide dicamba, PAN and partners just filed a federal lawsuit challenging the agency's decision to risk farmer livelihoods, community health and the environment.

The original version of dicamba, which is still on the market, has been around for over 45 years and is responsible for the third highest number of drift-related crop damage incidents in the U.S. Monsanto claims that its new formulation, ”XtendiMax," is less likely to drift from the fields where it's applied — although there is no guarantee that this newer, more expensive formulation will be used in place of the older, cheaper option.

Drift damage
Last season, the first planting of Monsanto's new GE seeds resulted in unprecedented drift damage from dicamba across the country. Even before EPA had approved the new formulation of dicamba, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allowed Monsanto’s corresponding “Xtend” dicamba-resistant soybean seeds onto the market in 2015. It was technically illegal to apply the old formulation of the herbicide on the new GE seeds, but growers did it anyway — looking for the increased yields Monsanto promised with the Xtend seed line.

Across 10 states, farmers reported that the increased dicamba spray caused widespread damage to thousands of acres of neighboring non-GE crops. And last fall, a dispute between an Arkansas farmer and a Missouri farmer even resulted in a fatal shooting.
In addition to crop damage and impacts on rural communities, conservationists are deeply concerned about dicamba drift damaging biodiversity, as the herbicide threatens plants that provide nectar for pollinators and habitat for animals. Additionally, it is frequently detected in surface water.
A short-sighted tool
Monsanto’s new, supposedly less drift-prone version of dicamba is not likely to be an effective tool in the long run. We know from watching the use of glyphosate  —  the main ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp  —  that the strategy of stacking seeds with herbicide resistance is deeply flawed and hard to control. Thanks to widespread planting of RoundUp Ready seeds, an epidemic of glyphosate-resistant "superweeds" now plagues farmers. Weeds develop herbicide resistance quickly.

Jason Norsworthy, a weed expert at the University of Arkansas, recently conducted a study to test how quickly pigweed — the main weed of concern in soybean fields — develops resistance to dicamba. He found that after just three generations of heavy dicamba exposure, pigweeds were no longer susceptible to the herbicide. With increased use of dicamba on Monsanto’s GE crops, a new generation of superweeds is just around the corner.