Sunday, September 28, 2014

Khorasan, Tooth Fairy and Slender Man Plotting Imminent Attacks On Homeland!

Late last week, Associated Press' Ken Dilanian – the first to unveil the new Khorasan Product in mid-September – published a new story explaining that just days after bombing "Khorasan" targets in Syria, high-ranking U.S. officials seemingly backed off all their previous claims of an "imminent" threat from the group. Headlined "U.S. Officials Offer More Nuanced Take on Khorasan Threat," it noted that "several U.S. officials told reporters this week that the group was in the final stages of planning an attack on the West, leaving the impression that such an attack was about to happen." But now: Senior U.S. officials offered a more nuanced picture Thursday of the threat they believe is posed by an al-Qaida cell in Syria targeted in military strikes this week, even as they defended the decision to attack the militants. James Comey, the FBI director, and Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, each acknowledged that the U.S. did not have precise intelligence about where or when the cell, known as the Khorasan Group, would attempt to strike a Western target. . . . Kirby, briefing reporters at the Pentagon, said, "I don't know that we can pin that down to a day or month or week or six months….We can have this debate about whether it was valid to hit them or not, or whether it was too soon or too late…We hit them. And I don't think we need to throw up a dossier here to prove that these are bad dudes." Regarding claims that an attack was "imminent," Comey said: "I don't know exactly what that word means…'imminent'" — a rather consequential admission given that said imminence was used as the justification for launching military action in the first place. Even more remarkable, it turns out the very existence of an actual "Khorasan Group" was to some degree an invention of the American government. NBC's Engel, the day after he reported on the U.S. Government's claims about the group for Nightly News, seemed to have serious second thoughts about the group's existence, tweeting:

Lied to once again, with the eager assistance of the U.S. media. And can we stop using this nonsense word "homeland"?  Enough with the bullshit, "folks". 

Shared from the Digg iPhone app:
Late last week, Associated Press' Ken Dilanian – the first to unveil the new Khorasan Product in mid-September – published a new story explaining that just days after bombing "Khorasan" targets in Syria, high-ranking U.S. officials seemingly backed off all their previous claims of an "imminent" threat from the group. Headlined "U.S. Officials Offer More Nuanced Take on Khorasan Threat," it noted that "several U.S. officials told reporters this week that the group was in the final stages of planning an attack on the West, leaving the impression that such an attack was about to happen." But now: Senior U.S. officials offered a more nuanced picture Thursday of the threat they believe is posed by an al-Qaida cell in Syria targeted in military strikes this week, even as they defended the decision to attack the militants. James Comey, the FBI director, and Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, each acknowledged that the U.S. did not have precise intelligence about where or when the cell, known as the Khorasan Group, would attempt to strike a Western target. . . . Kirby, briefing reporters at the Pentagon, said, "I don't know that we can pin that down to a day or month or week or six months….We can have this debate about whether it was valid to hit them or not, or whether it was too soon or too late…We hit them. And I don't think we need to throw up a dossier here to prove that these are bad dudes." Regarding claims that an attack was "imminent," Comey said: "I don't know exactly what that word means…'imminent'" — a rather consequential admission given that said imminence was used as the justification for launching military action in the first place. Even more remarkable, it turns out the very existence of an actual "Khorasan Group" was to some degree an invention of the American government. NBC's Engel, the day after he reported on the U.S. Government's claims about the group for Nightly News, seemed to have serious second thoughts about the group's existence, tweeting:

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/28/u-s-officials-invented-terror-group-justify-bombing-syria/



Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Real Reason for The School Reform "Movement"

Applying Monsanto's tactics to educating children by @BloggersRUs

Money and control.  Take the money, break the union, take more money. Profit!
"Writing for the Nation Investigative Fund, Lee Fang details how venture capitalists and firms such as K12 Inc. view it as their mission to disrupt traditional public schools through vouchers applied to private schools, expanded charter schools, and the "next breakthrough in education technology.""

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2014/09/applying-monsantos-tactics-to-educating.html

- - -
Shared from the Digg iPhone app
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Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Regulatory Capture: NY Fed Edition

The reporter, Jake Bernstein, has obtained 46 hours of tape recordings, made secretly by a Federal Reserve employee, of conversations within the Fed, and between the Fed and Goldman Sachs. The Ray Rice video for the financial sector has arrived. First, a bit of background -- which you might get equally well from today's broadcast as well as from this article by ProPublica. After the 2008 financial crisis, the New York Fed, now the chief U.S. bank regulator, commissioned a study of itself. This study, which the Fed also intended to keep to itself, set out to understand why the Fed hadn't spotted the insane and destructive behavior inside the big banks, and stopped it before it got out of control. The "discussion draft" of the Fed's internal study, led by a Columbia Business School professor and former banker named David Beim, was sent to the Fed on Aug. 18, 2009. It's an extraordinary document. There is not space here to do it justice, but the gist is this: The Fed failed to regulate the banks because it did not encourage its employees to ask questions, to speak their minds or to point out problems. Just the opposite: The Fed encourages its employees to keep their heads down, to obey their managers and to appease the banks. That is, bank regulators failed to do their jobs properly not because they lacked the tools but because they were discouraged from using them.

It's always been obvious to interested observers.  But as the Ray Rice incident has shown, tape can force people to acknowledge what they didn't want to see. 

Shared from the Digg iPhone app:
The reporter, Jake Bernstein, has obtained 46 hours of tape recordings, made secretly by a Federal Reserve employee, of conversations within the Fed, and between the Fed and Goldman Sachs. The Ray Rice video for the financial sector has arrived. First, a bit of background -- which you might get equally well from today's broadcast as well as from this article by ProPublica. After the 2008 financial crisis, the New York Fed, now the chief U.S. bank regulator, commissioned a study of itself. This study, which the Fed also intended to keep to itself, set out to understand why the Fed hadn't spotted the insane and destructive behavior inside the big banks, and stopped it before it got out of control. The "discussion draft" of the Fed's internal study, led by a Columbia Business School professor and former banker named David Beim, was sent to the Fed on Aug. 18, 2009. It's an extraordinary document. There is not space here to do it justice, but the gist is this: The Fed failed to regulate the banks because it did not encourage its employees to ask questions, to speak their minds or to point out problems. Just the opposite: The Fed encourages its employees to keep their heads down, to obey their managers and to appease the banks. That is, bank regulators failed to do their jobs properly not because they lacked the tools but because they were discouraged from using them.

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-09-26/the-secret-goldman-sachs-tapes



Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Velazquez Demands Red Hook Post Office Intervention

In an odd bit of timing, I saw this letter from Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez after I tweeted about my own frustration with the postal service in 11231.  Yesterday I received a pile of mail from August, including time sensitive material such as checks, cards, and credit cards, and even unwanted time-sensitive material in the form of primary election mailers.  I called the bank two weeks ago to complain about a missing card.  It showed up yesterday - and it wasn't the bank's fault.

Our current mail carrier jams what he can into the box indiscriminately . . . including, frequently, mail for our neighbors.  And sometimes it's just left empty.  It's become clear that the culture of the Clinton Street Post Office is not conducive to good service.  It's bad enough that we don't have convenient access to a post office in Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill; to compound that with an "I don't give a shit" level of service is beyond the pale.  So I was happy to see a formal complaint raised by our Congresswoman. Something's got to give.

The full text of the letter:

September 24, 2014
The Honorable David Williams
Inspector General
United States Postal Service
1735 North Lynn Street
Arlington, VA 22209-2020
Dear Inspector General Williams:
I am writing you regarding the Red Hook Post Office located at 615 Clinton Street, Brooklyn, New York, which provides postal service to residents of Red Hook, Carroll Gardens and the Columbia Waterfront District.  Given recent problems at this location, I am asking that your office conduct an audit of the accuracy and timeliness of the mail delivery process at the Red Hook Post Office. 
Local residents have recently brought to my attention instances of inadequate service and unprofessional conduct, which when taken together denote a troubling pattern.  This includes mail delivered to wrong addresses, missing packages, parcels that were damaged and/or missing items, and weekdays without any mail delivery at all.  Often, consumers have faced challenges in seeking redress for these occurrences, which have only compounded these problems.  Reports of unprofessional treatment by staff have caused many residents to rely on other privately-operated delivery services.  Our residents need – and deserve – better from the United States Postal Service.
The excessive frequency and sheer volume of complaints regarding mail delivery related to the Red Hook Post Office dictate that immediate intervention is warranted.  Without such action, residents of Red Hook will be left without access to essential postal services as specified under federal law.  To this point, federal law (39 U.S.C. 403(b)(3)) states that “[i]t shall be the responsibility of the Postal Service to establish and maintain postal facilities of such character and in such locations, that postal patrons throughout the Nation will, consistent with reasonable economies of postal operations, have ready access to essential postal services.”  Under current conditions, many Red Hook residents do not have access to these services as required by law.  It is further (39 U.S.C. 403(b)(1)) stipulated that the Postal Service “maintain an efficient system of collection, sorting, and delivery of the mail nationwide.”  Given the widespread reports of mail delivery difficulties, it appears that the Red Hook Post Office is not operating efficiently.
Given these challenges, I am requesting that your office conduct an audit of the accuracy and timeliness of the mail delivery process at the Red Hook Post Office.  The Postal Service – and the Red Hook Post Office in particular – remain vital to our local residents and businesses.  With your assistance it can be restored as an asset to our community.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions about this matter.
Sincerely,
Nydia M. Velázquez
Member of Congress

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The F Express Back In The News (Recently)

I'm a little late to comment on this amNewYork piece, although I did speak with Dan Rivoli while he was drafting the article earlier this month.  This time a round a group of 14 elected officials has signed a joint letter calling on the MTA to add limited F express service in addition to current service levels.
The MTA is studying the issue and has said any express F service, last seen in 1987, would have to wait until rehabilitation and track work on the Culver Viaduct at the Smith-9th Street station is complete. That project is coming to a close, though the MTA did not have an expected end date as crews continue work on the 80-year-old structure spanning the Gowanus Canal.
"We think now is the time to rally around making sure that the F starts the process of representing fast service and not failed opportunity," Adams told amNewYork.
Officials said riders in the southern part of the line would get a faster ride to downtown and Manhattan, while people who use the popular local stops in DUMBO and Brownstone Brooklyn would see fewer delays and less crowding.
"I grew up on a local stop," Adams said. "I tell you, nothing is more troublesome than having to watch the trains go by when they're too full."
MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said there are operational challenges in implementing express service. For instance, there is less track space for trains between the Bergen and Jay street stops where the rails merge, he said.
"It's not as simple as just throwing on extra trains, because they all have to end up merging together," Lisberg said.
Another part of the study is to look at the demographics to find out how many riders would benefit from express F service and how riders at crowded local stops would be affected.
"The largest volumes are getting on at some of the stations closer in anyway," Lisberg said. "How much savings is there really? That's why we're doing the study, to find out."
This, of course, is something we've been asking for for many years.  Longtime readers will remember my petition to bring back the F Express from those distant days of 2007 when we still shared the sixth avenue trunk with the V train.  Of course, times have changed a bit.  The V has been replaced with a re-routed M train, and the G train has been extended out to Church Avenue.   As a local stop user myself (Carroll Street), I'll second what BP Adams said about the frustration of waiting for a packed train that you can't access.

There are legitimate questions about the implementation of express service, given the sharing of tracks with other lines, as well as the need to address potential noise and vibration issues related to the express tracks in Windsor Terrace.  So I eagerly await the feasibility study from the MTA.  

And definitely appreciate the renewed attention the F line has received from both elected officials and press interested in potential transit improvements. (Including the Bensonhurst Bean, which picked up the amNY story).  Pending study results from the MTA, perhaps the biggest obstacle to an F Express is money.  Which will bring us to our next post on the giant hole in the MTA's capital plan, and what's to be done about it.

Spying and Lying, For Freedom

This is disconcerting on multiple levels:

The FBI requires state and local police to keep quiet about the capabilities of a controversial type of surveillance gear that allows law enforcement to eavesdrop on cellphone calls and track individual people based on the signals emitted by their mobile devices, according to a bureau document released recently under a Freedom of Information Act request. 
. . . . 
The FCC last month began investigating reports of illegal use of IMSI catchers, by foreign intelligence services and criminals but has said it does not oversee the use of the surveillance gear by federal government agencies. Last week, the marketers of a device that’s designed to detect IMSI catchers reported finding 18 in the Washington area over two days of searching.
The locations, said the marketer of the GSMK CryptoPhone, included areas around the White House, the Capitol, the Russian Embassy and the cluster of defense contractors near Dulles International Airport. The CryptoPhone was not able to determine whether the IMSI catchers were being used by the federal government, local police or some other entity.
E-mails collected through a separate Freedom of Information Act request, by the ACLU, showed in June that the U.S. Marshals Service had asked police in Florida to not reveal that they had used IMSI catchers in determining the locations of criminal suspects. Instead, the police were instructed to say that they had learned the whereabouts of suspects using “a confidential source.”
Foreign countries know that we have this technology.  Criminals likely presume we do.  Once again the people who are deprived of this information are the voting public.  Because freedom!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

History Has A Well Known Liberal Bias

So the conservatives and tea-baggers would prefer that we serve up lies and omissions to students instead.  It's pathological.
Slavery?  What are you talking about?  Never happened.  Union busting?  McCarthyism?  COINTELPRO?  Segregation?  Japanese internment?  Criminalization of homosexuality?  Discrimination against women?  The Trail of Tears?  Iran-Contra?  Watergate?  Torture?  Domestic spying?  The School of the Americas?  Why you're talking gibberish, man.  Rubbish!

You know what?  You don't grow and improve as a country, or as a person by sweeping your faults under a rug and pretending they never existed.  We could stand to have a little more introspection and to have an honest and open conversation about both our history and our present.

Via Billmon's Twitter feed: