Take your pick. You can’t be both and atheist and a conscientious objector

From HuffPo:

Margaret Doughty, an atheist and permanent U.S. resident for more than 30 years, was told by immigration authorities this month that she has until Friday to officially join a church that forbids violence or her application for naturalized citizenship will be rejected

Doughty stated on her application for citizenship that she could not pledge to bear arms to defend the U.S. due to her moral objection to war.  In response, U.S. Immigration Services told her she couldn’t claim conscientious objector status unless she was a member in good standing of a nonviolent religious organization.  They said a note “on official church stationary [sic]” would do the trick and she needed to have it by her hearing on Friday (June 21).

The idea that you could only morally oppose war if you believe in God is an insult to anyone with an IQ greater than their hat size.  That the U.S. government could suggest such a thing is, well, not that surprising.  It’s not like these kinds of policies (or any other government policies, for that matter) are invented by America’s most gifted citizens.

Oh, and one more thing.  The woman is 64.  Even if she lives to be 100, it is very unlikely that anyone in the U.S. will be asked to participate in a war to defend the U.S.  The U.S. military  hasn’t been involved in a defensive operation in a very very long time.

Instead of investigating, Internal Affairs officer protects fellow cops

From reason.com:

In five years as the head of the New Brunswick Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit, Sgt. Richard Rowe managed to thwart 81 investigations according to a grand jury indictment. The former New Jersey cop is accused of falsifying, hiding, removing, and destroying files related to the investigations.

Apparently, Rowe’s world came tumbling down when he covered up for two officers who shot and killed an unarmed man under suspicious circumstances.  After a public up-roar ensued, it was discovered that the two cops Rowe protected had been “investigated” by IA nine times before the shooting, none of which resulted in any finding of fault.  As usually happens in cases like this, city and police officials will eventually act when public pressure makes it impossible to continue looking the other way.

Cops set up roadblocks to stop motorists and ask them to “voluntarily” provide blood and spit

No, you didn’t misread that.   From CNN:

The roadblocks went up on a Friday at several points in two Alabama towns, about 40 miles on either side of Birmingham.

For the next two days, off-duty sheriff’s deputies in St. Clair County, to the east, and Bibb County, to the southwest, flagged down motorists and steered them toward federal highway safety researchers. The researchers asked them a few questions about drinking and drug use and asked them for breath, saliva and blood samples — offering them $10 for saliva and $50 to give blood.

This is actually part of a federal “study” being conducted by the  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that has been “going on for decades”, but these police state tactics are apparently drawing more fire as a result of recent revelations of the NSA’s vast domestic spying operations.  I wonder how far I would get if I started pulling people over to conduct a study to find out how people feel about being stopped by uniformed cops asking for samples of blood and spit.  When a cop is wearing a uniform, he should be conducting official law enforcement business and not using the suggestion of police authority to intimidate people into “voluntarily” doing anything.

Also in the news today was an admission before Congress by FBI director, Robert Mueller, that the FBI uses drones in domestic surveillance operations, quickly adding that they are very seldom used, as if that is supposed to be reassuring given the bald faced lies coming out of intelligence officials and politicians about NSA spying. The FBI later issued a statement.

“As the Director stated, we have used surveillance aircraft in very limited circumstances to support operations where there was a specific operational need. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) allow us to learn critical information that otherwise would be difficult to obtain without introducing serious risk to law enforcement personnel. As an example, the FBI utilized a UAV at the crisis site during the Jimmy Lee Dykes hostage barricade situation in Alabama earlier this year.”

It should be noted that ICE, DEA, and BATF also use drones domestically.

The federal government’s use of technology for monitoring citizens living in the “land of the free” is making George Orwell’s vision of Big Brother seem quaint.  And this is supposed to make us feel safe?

The FBI is just like almost all police departments

After the FBI killed a Chechen man during questioning in connection with the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing, an FBI spokesman said: “The F.B.I. takes very seriously any shooting incidents involving our agents, and as such we have an effective, time-tested process for addressing them internally.”

From The New York Times:

But if such internal investigations are time-tested, their outcomes are also predictable: from 1993 to early 2011, F.B.I. agents fatally shot about 70 “subjects” and wounded about 80 others — and every one of those episodes was deemed justified, according to interviews and internal F.B.I. records obtained by The New York Times through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Imagine that.  A law enforcement agency that investigates itself and then routinely gives itself a clean bill of health.  Sound familiar?

But, of course, we’re talking about the FBI here, not some sleazy little rinky-dink  department like the NYPD, LAPD or any number of other PDs that regularly clear themselves of wrong doing.  The FBI has a reputation for excellence, right?

Well, not really.  Shoddy and tainted work was uncovered in their their world famous crime lab, possibly affecting hundreds of cases beginning in the 1990s.  Even after the problems were exposed, the FBI did a terrible job of investigating the mess and notifying those who might have been victimized by their junk science, contaminated evidence, and corrupt practices.

Just more proof that law enforcement agencies, because they lack effective oversight, also often lack integrity.

Google’s plan to eradicate child porn from the web

The Telegraph reports that Google plans to create a global database (databases seem to be in the news a lot these days) of child abuse images which will be shared with its competitors that will permit the images to be deleted from the internet en mass.  To identify what images constitute child porn, Google will rely on child protections organizations such as the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).   While no one else seems to be able to define child porn in a way that doesn’t infringe on constitutionally protected speech, the IWF apparently knows it when it sees it.  Of course, a lot of people knew this 1999 Calvin Klein billboard proposed for Times Square was child porn, too.

Presumably, since the IWF declares pictures to be child porn before any court judges them to be, their determination of the age of the people depicted in the images is based on how old they look rather than on how old they are.  Child porn that doesn’t involve children hardly constitutes abuse of children anymore than porn with women in white dresses constitutes abuse of nurses.

IWF is not without controversy in terms of its precision in identifying what it calls illegal content.   Back in 2008, the IWF attempted to censor a Wikipedia article which turned out to be a “false positive” which is a polite way saying, “we accidentally declare some content to be illegal when it isn’t — too bad for you when some service provider bans it based on our say-so”.

Almost all early attempts by the U.S. to control internet content were based on restricting child porn.  Some of those attempts were thrown out in court.  Other aspects, such as today’s onerous record-keeping requirements that target legitimate adult pornography industry, survived.  More recent mechanisms to control internet content come from a government partnership with the entertainment industry to protect copyrights.  Once screening technology is in place, it can effectively be used to censor any content.

But, it should be remembered that Google is a private company and not the government, so they have the right to do what they want with data that passes through their systems.  And, as we have recently learned, Google will work with the government if asked.  The IWF already works closely with law enforcement agencies.   If they start targeting people instead of pictures, a “false positive” can destroy someone’s life.   On just the mere accusation of child porn, you won’t have a friend in the world regardless of your innocence or guilt.

If you think it’s paranoid to believe that innocent people can be sent to prison for false accusations of child sex crimes, read up on the Satanic Ritual Abuse cases that started in the 1980s.  A lot of people went to prison.  Eventually many were exonerated, but only after their lives were destroyed.  I’d give you statistics, but apparently the definition of Satanic Ritual Abuse is different depending on who you talk to.  Imagine that.

NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, takes questions from the public

The Guardian sponsored a Q&A session with Edward Snowden, the man responsible for teh stunning revelations of the U.S. government’s unconstitutional abuses of power under the NSA’s electronic surveillance programs.Watch movie online

After reading through it, I have to say this guy comes across as thoughtful, highly articulate, and confident that he is doing the right thing.  Compared to the name-calling, smear-mongering, politicians who have been frantically denouncing him this guy definitely occupies the high ground.  There will eventually be a movie about this guy and it will be interested to see how idiots like Peter King and Dianne Feinstein are portrayed.

I recommend reading through the Q&A session at the Guardian.  It’s not likely his answers will be persuasive to the masses of mindless Obama loyalists who complained incessantly Bush’s abuse of power only to condone it now that it’s their guy is doing it, but he might strike a cord with those who still have a healthy skepticism of government.

Britain monitored calls and email of G20 summit attendees in 2009

The British counterpart to the NSA is the GCHQ. I gather from the article that both agencies were part of this operation.  From the Guardian:

Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Some delegates were tricked into using internet cafes which had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their email traffic.

Government apologists, in brushing off recent revelations of NSA spying repeatedly point out that all nations do it, so the fact that the U.S. is doing it should come as no surprise.  They then go into the awfulness of Snowden’s leaks and how damaging it is to national security.  It would appear that Britain’s scruples aren’t anymore high minded than those of the U.S.   Neither Britain nor the U.S. are at war with any of the G20.

One document refers to a tactic which was “used a lot in recent UK conference, eg G20”. The tactic, which is identified by an internal codeword which the Guardian is not revealing, is defined in an internal glossary as “active collection against an email account that acquires mail messages without removing them from the remote server”. A PowerPoint slide explains that this means “reading people’s email before/as they do”.

Furthermore, by logging keystrokes at the fake internet cafes, Britain was able to secure login information permitting future intelligence gathering on those accounts.

The September meeting of finance ministers was also the subject of a new technique to provide a live report on any telephone call made by delegates and to display all of the activity on a graphic which was projected on to the 15-sq-metre video wall of GCHQ’s operations centre as well as on to the screens of 45 specialist analysts who were monitoring the delegates.

“For the first time, analysts had a live picture of who was talking to who that updated constantly and automatically,” according to an internal review.

And analysts were able to forward that intelligence to British representatives in near real time, giving them a decided advantage in negotiations. The newly released data apparently indicates that then PM Gordon Brown sanctioned the spying.

This latest revelation ought to make quite the splash as the UK is preparing to host, on Monday, the G8, all of whom attended the G20 meeting in 2009.

It is likely to lead to some tension among visiting delegates who will want the prime minister to explain whether they were targets in 2009 and whether the exercise is to be repeated this week.


Yikes! WMDs! Atack, attack, ATTACK!!!

The CIA, the same agency that erroneously claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) which led to the U.S. invasion and nearly decade-long occupation of Iraq is now claiming that Syria has crossed Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons.  According to CNN, “the intelligence community” estimates that chemical weapons account for as many as 100-150 of the approximately 90,000 deaths since the rebellion began.

If the CIA can be believed, Assad called Obama’s bluff and now the U.S. is getting ready to embark on a new chapter in the epic struggle to make even more enemies in the Arab world while providing a stimulus package to the U.S. Military Industrial Complex.  Obama certainly can’t back out now, not that he would want to, because it would make him look like a sissy idiot.

So, here we are again with a big story about WMDs and just in time to displace all those headlines about embarrassing revelations of domestic spying by the NSA.  It’s probably just coincidence…

With luck, the thing in Syria will be over by the time Iran crosses their red line.

“Mommy, he’s killing the kittens!”

kittenLast Monday, after a woman called police and complained about cats living in a nearby woodpile, Bob Accorti, the Humane Officer for the North Ridgeville, Ohio Police Department showed up.  Officer Accorti listened as the woman explained the problem and then got a gun out of his truck and  telling the woman the animal shelters were full and the kittens would be going to “kitty heaven”.   He then shot all five of the 8-10 week old kittens in plain view of the family.

Apparently there was some public backlash:

The North Ridgeville Police Department said it was forced to take down its Facebook page for hours on Monday due to “overwhelming abuse.”

In response to a demand from the SPCA that Accorti be fired, Police Chief Mike Freeman released a statement clearing  his department of any wrongdoing.

Presumably, the family didn’t own any dogs or I’m sure they would also be part of the story…

NSA director promises more details on surveillance

From the New York Times:

“We have pledged to be as transparent as possible,” he said after emerging from a classified briefing with House members. “I think it’s important that you have that information. But we don’t want to risk American lives in doing that. So what we’re being is very deliberate in this process so that we don’t end up causing a terrorist attack by giving out too much information.”

I think the director of the NSA is a little confused.  Providing details on NSA surveillance of Americans does not cause terrorist attacks.  I’m no expert, but my guess is that the terrorist threat stems more from our military involvement in a number of middle eastern countries, including a couple of invasions, multiple wars, trade sanctions (which themselves would constitute an act of war were they directed at any western country), support for despotic and corrupt governments, the stationing of huge numbers of troops there, and the continued killing of innocent people (including children) with drone attacks.  Apparently Muslims have a very low tolerance for that kind of thing and it makes them want to retaliate.

But, repeatedly telling people that the truth constitutes a security risk while all of the above makes us safer may just be a big enough lie that most people will believe it.

As Joseph Goebbels used to say…

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”