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Posts from — August 2013

Good News?

The ABC has an article on a project that could be very good news: World-first pilot plant to turn carbon dioxide into rock

A research pilot plant in Newcastle will trial world-first technology that turns carbon emissions into bricks and pavers for the construction industry.

The mineral carbonation technology copies and accelerates the earth’s own way of sinking carbon.

The University of Newcastle, chemical giant Orica and carbon innovation company GreenMag Group have spent six years researching how to permanently and safely dispose of carbon dioxide.

This would reduce greenhouse gases in two ways – by directly pulling it out of the exhaust of power plants, and eliminating what would have been generated making bricks and paving stones. Because it would produce a useful product that can be sold to cover costs, it would give an incentive to power companies to act more responsibly.

There’s a lot of research still to go, but the effort seems to be in right direction.

August 24, 2013   3 Comments

Phones Update

I have located a replacement for the medical alert system. The 5Star is a small, cellular device that amounts to a single number cell phone with GPS tracking. They only charge $15/month for the monitoring service which is one third of what my Mother was paying for the landline system. The GPS locator is used to direct assistance to your location. It isn’t a full-featured cell phone, like the Snapfon, but it works in this area.

The Consumer Cellular system will also work, if The Phone Company ever gives up my Mother’s telephone number. That’s all I’m waiting for on that front.

The extra handset for her wireless system arrived, and getting it recognized by the base was not the simple procedure that the included manual indicated it would be. I finally worked it out after a visit to the Panasonic web site. It really is a great system, but there are so many options that it is difficult to figure out how to do things.

August 24, 2013   Comments Off on Phones Update

LoveINT ‽

The Wall Street Journal continues its reporting on NSA with NSA Officers Sometimes Spy on Love Interests.

NSA Chief Compliance Officer John DeLong emphasized in a conference call with reporters last week that ‘It was rare … didn’t happen often … just a few bad apples … it’s just a flesh wound …’ [not a real quote]

It was so rare that they took the time and energy to create a name for it: LoveINT.

Every time they say things didn’t happen, you know that they will come to grips with the reality that Snowden may have a PowerPoint slide that shows it was happening, so they announce they ‘misspoke’ and offer a little truth that will be more defensible it the slide shows up. This is a glacier of bad karma that is creeping over the entire effort.

Until these guys make Senator Ron Wyden happy, there is no point in thinking that we have seen the end of the bad news about this program.

August 23, 2013   4 Comments

Doubling Down On Ignorance

In reaction to Charlie Pierce’s piece, Jeffrey Toobin wrote a response that Charlie posted. It included this gem:

Let’s start with the easy stuff – about the Nazis. Snowden leaked the classified information because, he said, he believes in the principle “declared at Nuremberg.” I wrote that Snowden’s invocation of Nuremberg was grotesque because it compared those who worked for the government and chose not to leak this material to the Good Germans who were Only Following Orders. You write, “Snowden here is not remotely comparing anyone at the NSA to the Nazis.” Of course he is. “Nuremberg,” as you surely know, means one thing in this country: Nazis. You attempt the subtle distinction that the Nuremberg principle was only established after World War II. Nice try. Any reasonable reading of what Snowden wrote shows that he meant he alone had the fortitude to strike out against the banality of evil.

If Mr. Toobin had been through basic training for the US military, as both Mr. Snowden and I have, he would know exactly what the reference meant: “I was only following orders” is not an acceptable excuse in the US military, and you will be prosecuted if you follow illegal orders.

The Nuremberg Principles are incorporated in the laws on war, and the laws of the United States, especially the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Mr. Toobin might be shocked that the number of people who actually know what the Nuremberg Principles are, is probably limited to historians and members of the US military. The principles are constantly in play in the proceedings of the International Criminal Court, and in US military courts-martial.

Mr. Toobin is the one with the Nazi fixation, not Edward Snowden. Edward Snowden felt what the government was doing was in violation of the Constitution and the laws of the United States, and he acted to expose it. We now have a de-classified FISA court opinion that says he was correct in his judgment.

August 23, 2013   2 Comments

Friday Cat Blogging

Excise Trap

Friday Cat Blogging


[Editor: This is not an invitation to rub his tummy. This is an invitation to getting shredded.]

Friday Ark

August 23, 2013   8 Comments


So the rain is not good for buried telephones lines. My lines are alright, but I’m having to find a replacement for my Mother’s system.

I felt optimistic for several days as I located what I thought was the perfect solution, but I’m beginning to suspect there is no simple solution.

Through Consumer Cellular I found a device that is a cell phone, but it plugs into the wall, so you don’t have to watch the battery level, and you can plug your existing landline phones into it. This meant that my Mother could continue to use the wireless handsets she has spread all over her house, and not have to worry about carrying a cell phone. It is really a nice concept.

I also found a nice replacement for her med-alert system. Snapfon makes a nice, simple cell phone that includes an emergency button that connects to a 7/24 monitoring service and switches to speaker phone mode.

Then the phones arrived and it turns out they both use the AT&T network. I determined that the Snapfon definitely won’t work with it, because the local network requires at least a 3G level phone and the Snapfon is only 2G. I’m afraid I’m going to run into the same thing with the Consumer Cellular phone because it is also designed strictly to make phone calls. The irony on the Consumer Cellular phone is that is branded AT&T.

August 22, 2013   4 Comments

The Press Is Waking Up

Apparently Murdoch is really annoyed with the detention of David Miranda by the UK, as well as all of the spying on people, while he is losing big bucks over the spying that his newspapers have done.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting on the NSA story using their own sources, which corroborates many of the points in The Guardian‘s coverage. One of the things the WSJ is reporting really gets to me: NSA doesn’t know what Snowden took. Apparently they don’t have audit trails or logging that reflects what system administrators are doing. If they don’t have that rather basic level of management in place, they really can’t claim that the data they are hoovering up is secure, nor can they claim it isn’t being routinely abused. They just don’t know, and have no way of finding out in the system they created.

CBS reports NSA gathered thousands of Americans’ emails, FISA court records show, but the ‘records’ are really judgments by the court that NSA was acting in violation of the Fourth Amendment for at least three years, and misled the court as to exactly what it was doing. This gives me real confidence in the system of ‘checks and balances’. 😈

Kevin Gosztola adds a bit of background on the Toobin-Greenwald issue: Jeffrey Toobin Preaches on Sanctity of Government Secrets Despite Once Stealing Classified Documents. Well, Toobin did it for a good reason – to help sell the book he was writing, not some silly reason like exposing government misdeeds.

The actions taken by the UK government against The Guardian have helped to shift the focus away from personalities towards the real story – your government is using terrorism as an excuse to violate your civil rights and Constitutional protections.

August 21, 2013   5 Comments

Manning Sentenced

Digby posted on the 35-year sentence, but went further and compared it to that of mass murderer William Calley, convicted for the Mi Lai massacre:

Sentenced to life imprisonment, Calley spent only three days in the stockade at Fort Benning before President Nixon ordered his release to house arrest. Three years later he was a free man, paroled by the Secretary of the Army.

Bradley Manning spent more time in confinement before his court martial, than William Calley spent after being convicted of mass murder.

One of the first things that came out of what Bradley Manning leaked was a video of American forces killing unarmed civilians, including two employees of Reuters. The US government apparently feels it is a misdemeanor to kill civilians, but a major felony to tell people about it.

August 21, 2013   7 Comments

They Still Don’t Get It

Charlie Pierce comments on Jeffrey Toobin, and his defense of the detention of David Miranda.

Mr Toobin is another graduate of Havard Law School who has something of an odd conception of Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. Mr Pierce is correct in noting that Toobin obviously doesn’t understand the meaning of the ‘Nuremberg Defense’ [“I was just following orders”] that Edward Snowden referenced, and if he thinks it doesn’t apply in the US, he needs to talk to those soldiers who were convicted of their actions while guards at Abu Ghraib prison.

Julian Borger reports in The Guardian that in addition to detaining Miranda the UK government forced the destruction of computer equipment at The Guardian headquarters.

Update: The BBC reports that destruction was the result of orders from the Prime Minister:

Meanwhile, it has emerged Prime Minister David Cameron ordered Britain’s top civil servant, Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, to contact the Guardian about material it had obtained from Mr Snowden.

The discussions resulted in the newspaper destroying a number of computer hard drives in July, under the supervision of intelligence experts from GCHQ.

Alan Rusbridger, Editor-In-Chief of The Guardian wrote about this and the pressure that was being applied to the paper over this story. He views it as an attack on the press using terrorism as the excuse.

It isn’t just the ‘traditional’ press that is being affected. The BBC reports that the Groklaw news website abandoned over US surveillance:

An award-winning legal news website has stopped work, saying it cannot operate under current US surveillance policies.

Pamela Jones, Groklaw’s founder, cited the alleged US practice of screening emails from abroad and storing messages “enciphered or otherwise thought to contain secret meaning” for five years.

Groklaw had promised its sources anonymity, but said it could not now ensure contributors would stay secret.

Apparently only the government is allowed to have secrets anymore.

August 20, 2013   Comments Off on They Still Don’t Get It

Sixty Years Ago

BBC reports that CIA documents acknowledge its role in Iran’s 1953 coup:

The CIA has released documents which for the first time formally acknowledge its key role in the 1953 coup which ousted Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadeq.

That monument to US arrogance was conceived by Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, and executed by his brother, Allen Dulles, who was the Director of the CIA. Naturally they sucked the UK into their insanity.

The Dulles Duo had no regard for democracy or national sovereignty when it came to their crusade against the ‘godless terrorists of Communism’. [Well, and control of oil, of course :twisted:]

The CIA has issued blanket denials of any involvement in the Iranian coup for 60 years, but we are supposed to believe them about an Iranian nuclear weapons program … yeah, right.

And people who wonder why other countries hate the US should look at what the Dulles brothers got up to during the Eisenhower administration [1953-1961].

August 19, 2013   14 Comments

Sunday Not-So-Funnies

The police at Heathrow decided to play ‘silly buggers’ with David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald’s partner, as he was changing planes during a trip from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro. They detained him for 9 hours and confiscated all of his electronics under Schedule 7 of the UK 2000 Terrorism Law. That Schedule gives the police the right to detain anyone they feel like annoying for 9 hours without any access to a lawyer or their country’s embassy, and the person detained is required to answer all questions or be arrested for obstructing an investigation.

Greenwald responded to what he felt was an obvious attempt at intimidation by telling US-UK authorities to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine, because he’s angry, not afraid. He noted that even the Mafia exempted family members when they were going after someone.

Also angry are Brazilian authorities for the treatment of a Brazilian citizen by UK authorities. Based on the past responses of Brazil to actions taken by the US, I would recommend that UK citizens who are planning to go to or through Brazil to arrive 10 hours early for their flights.

South America was more than annoyed after what happened to Evo Morales, so this was a really stupid thing to do.

Jeff Jarvis writes about The White House credibility deficit, but I think it covers the UK as well – people no longer believe anything said by their officials, especially on the topic of terrorism, so access to officials is of no use to journalists.

August 18, 2013   4 Comments

Sunday Funnies

NewsBiscuit provides: British Intelligence launch subscription surveillance service, GCHQ+

(It’s more fun than watching Erin being depressed on its way to being a remnant low.)

August 18, 2013   Comments Off on Sunday Funnies


Marcy rounds up what is known about the Lavabit demand that convinced the owner to shut down. NBC adds the owner was threatened with arrest for doing it.

This seems to lead us to the probability that the government wanted to put a sniffer on the Lavabit server to hoover up everything, and Ladar Levison, the owner, felt that was just too much, and involved customers who weren’t accused of anything. Going along with the order would make a mockery of his agreement with his customers which would destroy his business.

Mr Levison said he has complied in the past with court orders concerning individual customers, something that is probably covered by his TOS, i.e. nothing illegal, but this was obviously an attempt to take everything, and Levison just didn’t feel it was right or proper.

It is very telling that an individual small business owner has a stronger sense of right and wrong than huge corporations with lawyers on staff, and more cash than the Treasury.

August 17, 2013   2 Comments

Interesting Reading

Charlie Stross puts forth a theory in his post, Snowden leaks: the real take-home, that is worth a look.

He is British so the language might be tricky if you aren’t used to reading it, but I personally find the basic hypothesis interesting: Generation Y has no innate understanding of loyalty to its employers because employers no longer have any loyalty to their workers. Essentially Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher created Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning.

As a Boomer I saw the process that Stross is talking about and watched it happen. In the military my Father had a better retirement package than was offered to me, and my package was overwhelmingly better than what anyone gets in today’s military.

WalMart was actually a pretty good job, when Sam Walton ran the company, but that died with him, as it died in almost all companies. Workers were no longer guaranteed anything more than a paycheck, so there was no reason to hang around, because you moved up by going somewhere else to work.

Using contractors for intel is insane, plain and simple. Contract employees have no incentive to stay around, and no more reason to honor a contract than that of the company that wrote it. Loyalty is a two-way street, and as the Boomers leave the workforce, the people who will replace them have no illusions about loyalty to their job.

August 17, 2013   23 Comments