Friday, December 06, 2013

Sunday Satire: Bumper Stickers

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Snowden Docs Reveal NSA Collecting Data on a 'Planetary Scale'

Wednesday, December 4, 2013
    The National Security Agency is tracking location information on hundreds of millions of cellphones around the world every day, amounting to roughly 5 billion daily records, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, revealing that the agency makes "most efforts at communications security effectively futile."

As this latest revelation made possible by leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden shows, the collection of vast volumes of location data stands out among the agency's other surveillance programs, the Post reports:

In scale, scope and potential impact on privacy, the efforts to collect and analyze location data may be unsurpassed among the NSA surveillance programs that have been disclosed since June. Analysts can find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose hidden relationships among individuals using them.

According to the Post's reporting, the NSA scoops up the data — including "incidentally" picked up domestic cellphone data — in bulk "because its most powerful analytic tools — known collectively as CO-TRAVELER — allow it to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect."

Further, these location grabbing surveillance tools "require the methodical collection and storage of location data on what amounts to a planetary scale," the Post continues, and calls "the NSA’s capabilities to track location... staggering," and "indicate that the agency is able to render most efforts at communications security effectively futile."

So much data is being collected that the agency can't keep up with processing and storing it all, the paper reports, citing a 2012 internal NSA briefing.

"It is staggering that a location-tracking program on this scale could be implemented without any public debate, particularly given the substantial number of Americans having their movements recorded by the government," stated Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, following the Washington Post report.

"The paths that we travel every day can reveal an extraordinary amount about our political, professional, and intimate relationships. The dragnet surveillance of hundreds of millions of cell phones flouts our international obligation to respect the privacy of foreigners and Americans alike," Crump continued. "The government should be targeting its surveillance at those suspected of wrongdoing, not assembling massive associational databases that by their very nature record the movements of a huge number of innocent people

Originally published to Common Dreams on Wednesday,Dec. 4,2013

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

McDonald's To Workers:Sell Xmas Presents to Pay Bills

   We all know how cheap and stingy Wal-Mart is with their workers as we have all heard the story of their workers holding food drives to help out other workers.

  McDonald’s, everyones favorite fast-food joint, is not that much better as SemDem tells us.

A month ago McDonald's executives were raked over the coals for fighting tooth and nail to not raise their employees pay, despite record profits and outrageous executive salaries, for telling employees on their McResource Line that they were poor enough to apply for food stamps and possibly Medicaid.

I guess the first clue that you are not paying your employees enough is that your company even has a "resource line" for impoverished employees.  But to be fair, if I was  an overpaid, entitled executive making 8 million instead of 7 bucks,  I might be a little tone deaf too.

What I cannot understand is that after such an obvious PR fiasco, why on earth would executives decide to sign off on even MORE "helpful" advice to their poverty-stricken workers on that site? 

Yet that is exactly what they did, with helpful nuggets like:

"Sing away stress"

A clever way to stretch out food for your family...

"Breaking food into pieces often results in eating less and still feeling full"

...and quit your bitching...

"Quit Complaining
Stress hormone levels rise by 15% after 10 minutes of complaining" 

(We told you to get food stamps and sing!! What else do you want!?)

But this is my favorite. Did mommy splurge and buy her kid toys for Christmas?

" whatever it takes to dig out from your Holiday debt.  You may also want to consider returning some of your unopened purchases that may not seem as appealing as they did.  Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash."

Monday, December 02, 2013

Debunking Right-Wing Bullsh*t: The Vatican Embassy Is Closing

  Once again the Republican arm of the “ super-stupid “ are passing out another made up myth concerning President Obama. Sadly, once again the “ super-stupid “ believe it.

  By T. Steelman December 1, 2013

The Vatican embassy is being closed – oh noes! You may have seen something on this in the past few days. If what you saw came from the right, you are not getting the whole story. Of course, as is their wont, they are being selective about their information. So, once again it’s time to play… Debunk That BS!

First off, there is no “Vatican embassy”

There is no U.S. embassy in Vatican City. There are no embassies in Vatican City at all, actually. There is just no room for them. The whole of Vatican City is only 0.2 square mile. All embassies to the Vatican lie in the surrounding city of Rome. Ergo, no “Vatican embassy.”

What is happening is that the U.S. embassy is being moved. That necessarily requires the closing of the old location. The new location will combine the U.S. embassy to the Vatican with the one to Italy (seen above). It’s also closer to the Holy See. But the closing of the former site is all the information that the myth-laden screeds from the right are giving. So naturally, this truncated version of the facts is drawing the ire of the right.

The right created a controversy which grew in their echo chamber

It started with Jeb Bush:

Jeb Bush tweet about Vatican embassy

Derp, Jeb. Retribution? Way to project. However, this president is not a “retribution” kind of guy. If he were, we’d have known by now. Besides, President Obama has dealt with the complaints of the Catholics when it came to the birth control mandate in the ACA. Forcing employees to follow the religious beliefs of an employer is blatantly unconstitutional. The Supreme Court should uphold the rights of employees: we hope.

Several former diplomats have joined their voices with Jeb and the loony right. These are men who should know that there is no “Vatican embassy.” Primary among them is James Nicholson, who took the opportunity to bash the Obama Administration:

“It’s another manifestation of the antipathy of this administration both to Catholics and to the Vatican — and to Christians in the Middle East. This is a key post for intermediation in so many sovereignties but particularly in the Middle East. This is anything but a good time to diminish the stature of this post. To diminish the stature of this post is to diminish its influence.”

How on earth does moving the embassy “diminish the stature of this post”? Nothing else is changing. Not the staff, not the Ambassador, not the U.S. presence. There will be no reduction in staff or presence — got that, Mr. Nicholson? Oh, and Jeb? Your brother is the one who initiated this move — his administration purchased the buildings. So kindly, STFU.

Here’s the lowdown

Why is the “Vatican embassy” moving? The main reason is to save money. The old location cost us $1.4 million every year to lease and operate. The other reason is security. The new location is easier and cheaper to protect. You’d think with the current right-wing obsession with embassy safety — fake as it is — might make them stop and listen. Ha! Not bloody likely.

Other myths surrounding this move include that the Ambassador’s residence is moving (it’s not) and that the U.S. is the only country that will have a combined location. We’re not. The UK, Netherlands and Israel all have co-located embassies to Italy and Vatican City.

Yet again, we see the right-wing taking a small piece of information from a much larger story and using it to bad-mouth President Obama. This phone interview with a state department official dispels all of the “Vatican Embassy” BS. But those who want to blame any and everything on this president don’t want the facts. They would much rather pile on the faux outrage.

The Vatican itself has said that they are aware of the move and the reasons for it. And, while they say the situation is “not ideal,” it is “not the end of the world.” Indeed. Unless one is an American right-winger.       AddictingInfo

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