Thursday, July 4, 2013

When are you coming back?

We love democracy so much that we're supposed to cheer on a military coup. OK. Kinda makes you wish everyone would just shut up, doesn't it? The days are gone when I found Obama's Mr. Smoothie routine any less ominous than Bush's bluster. On the other hand, Athenae certainly has a way with words, doesn't she?

Monsanto buys world's largest mercenary army - the one formerly known as Blackwater: "A report by Jeremy Scahill in The Nation revealed that the largest mercenary army in the world, Blackwater (later called Xe Services and more recently 'Academi') clandestine intelligence services was sold to the multinational Monsanto. Blackwater was renamed in 2009 after becoming famous in the world with numerous reports of abuses in Iraq, including massacres of civilians. It remains the largest private contractor of the U.S. Department of State 'security services,' that practices state terrorism by giving the government the opportunity to deny it." [Update: Check comments below for clarification on this.]

"Making $7.75 an Hour, and Figuring There's Little to Lose by Speaking Out [...] Mention long odds to these workers and they lead you back to the mathematics. They bob along the poverty line in an impossibly expensive city. What's to lose? Ms. Simon, still dressed in the black KFC shirt with 'The Original Original' logo, shakes her head when asked if she's worried about annoying her employer. 'I have no lies to tell,' she says. 'This is just my life.'"

Digby asks, "What if the people running our secret programs are idiots? [...] "I have wondered since this whole thing began why nobody in the agency has lost his job or why Booz Allen has not been stripped of its agency contracts. Did nobody think that hiring hackers to hack might result in being hacked themselves? Is it even possible to truly guard against this? The article implies that they were shocked to find out that these highly skilled computer nerds might be smart enough to skirt whatever security they had in place. Which means these agencies and companies are being led by morons."

At Naked Capitalism:
Why Have Student Loans At All? Let's Get the Burdens of Debt off College Students' Backs - And Make Wall St. Pick Up the Tab
"Summer Rerun: Why Don't Americans Take More Vacations? Blame It on Independence Day" - I actually disagree with the conclusions of this piece. I think it's that our oligarchy has just slipped into power more cleverly, and anyway, most other countries are small enough that their leaders would have a lot more trouble staying away from the mobs with the pitchforks and torches. The fact that politicians and their scribes say Americans don't want good working conditions does not mean the American people don't want it. A majority even supports unions (and wants to be in one).

Watch Robert Greenwald's Koch Brothers Exposed in full, for free.

From the Democracy NOW! headlines: Pentagon Blocks Access to Guardian Website Articles on NSA
Edward Snowden's surveillance leaks were first published by The Guardian. The Pentagon has now confirmed it's blocking access to the Guardian website at U.S. military facilities around the world. The ban apparently covers Guardian articles related to NSA surveillance, not the entire website as a whole. It also extends to other news websites that report The Guardian's revelations.
" I guess this means the US military is now officially "the enemy" who must be blocked from getting this information.

Transcript from Democracy NOW!, Chris Hedges Defends Snowden's Heroism in the Face of a Growing Smear Campaign: "If there are no Snowdens, if there are no Mannings, if there are no Assanges, there will be no free press.""

I liked the blurb for Radley Balko's book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. It would actually make a more honest and informative blogpost on the subject than anything you will read in The New York Times.

Not sure about these other definitions, but Tom Englehardt is right that it's really a Global War on You (GWOY).

Apparently, the story "Key US-EU trade pact under threat after more NSA spying allegations" was not received with pleasure by the US government.

Have some banned book news and views.

Thomas Jefferson on religion ("As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurian.")

Oh, thank goodness: "The franchise model is slowly dying in London."

Little Girls Engineer Their Own Toys to Take Over the Pink Aisle In This Goldie Blox Ad.

Dave Langford reports: "The tiny publishing house Ansible Editions has assembled all the late Algis Budrys's more than 150 Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 'Books' columns in three volumes. He'd wanted this work to appear under a title that was some variation of Benchmarks, his award-winning 1985 collection of criticism from Galaxy. Thus AE began with Benchmarks Continued in late 2012, and finished the job with the simultaneous publication on 1 July 2013 of Benchmarks Revisited and Benchmarks Concluded. Buy now! Act without thinking! Or if you must think, see descriptions and preview links at"

Art by Debra Miriam Blake

The original photograph for this photoshop competition is rather wonderful all by itself.

At the bottom of this post full of entertaining links is the fan-made fake 50th anniversary special Doctor Who trailer - in 3D. Nicely done, go find your funny specs.

Spoilers for Game of Thrones. Or not.

Where to eat

Suddenly I had this urge to listen to Bloomfield play, and of course, that meant Super Session.

Martha and the Vandellas


  1. The Scahill story in question goes back to 2010, and depended upon a mistake by a Spanish-language journalist writing for La Journada. The reporter read (in English) that Total Intelligence (a Blackwater spin-off) had become the "intelligence arm" of Monsanto, and took that too literally to mean they'd been sold. Monsanto had actually hired Total Intelligence to spy on groups antithetical to Monsanto's aims.

    I think Blackwater/Xe/Academi has been sold, not to Monsanto, but, rather to a consortium of private investors with money fronted by one of the big banks.

    1. Here's a link.

      The truth of the matter is that Academi (Blackwater) was purchased by private investors, and the heavily sourced article written by Jeremy Scahill in The Nation actually says nothing about Monsanto buying Blackwater.

      What the articles does say, however, is that Monsanto and Blackwater are indeed working together to target anti-Monsanto activists and organizations.

      Known as far back as 2010, Blackwater’s client list included Monsanto, Chevron, Walt Disney and many more.

    2. I have somewhat mixed feeling about the Monsanto/Blackwater link.

      Monsanto is typical ruthless big business, following a strategy with GM crops which exploits the legal system to forces changes in how farmers can operate. Farmers planting seed they have produced themselves was commonplace. Plant breeders, while they might have some protections, had to compete against that by selling high-quality seed. (Farm saved seed gradually shifts, genetically: pollen from other varieties, for instance.)

      Monsanto, with GM Crops, applied patent law, and were able to pick out the commonplace trace contaminations of farm-saved seed, both pollen transfer and the seed spilled during harvest contaminating a later crop. They also sell the seed under contracts which put limits on what the farmer can do. He has to buy their branded, trademark-protected, glyphosate herbicide.

      On the other hand, the anti-GM protestors can be very ignorant of the tools available to farmers, and going out into the fields to destroy the "evil" crops is a hollow gesture when, some of the time, they destroy the wrong field.

      ("You can never get the GM plants out of a field!" Well, yes you can. You have glyphosate-tolerant oilseed rape (what Monsanto call Roundup-Ready), and there is spilled seed scattered across the field, so the next crop is something such as wheat. And you use one of the old, cheap, herbicides which kills OSR but not wheat: It's called crop rotation, and it helps reduce plant diseases too, and has been good farming in England since before the Romans came.)

      So I don't think much of either side, and because those protestors do go and damage crops, and mess up the scientific research into whether those crops are even worth growing, I can see why Monsanto want to spy on them.

      But hiring Blackwater? That's using a Gatling gun as a toenail clipper.

  2. Hedges does a fine job in that debate. Particularly liked this section:

    "Reporters live—our sort of daily fare is built, investigative reporters, off of people who, within systems of power, have a conscience to expose activities by the power elite which are criminal in origin or unconstitutional. And that’s precisely what he [Snowden] did. And he did it in the traditional way, which was going to a journalist, Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian, and having it vetted by that publication before it was put out to the public. Was it a criminal? Well, yes, but it was—I suppose, in a technical sense, it was criminal, but set against the larger crime that is being committed by the state. When you have a system by which criminals are in power, criminals on Wall Street who are able to carry out massive fraud with no kinds of repercussions or serious regulation or investigation, criminals who torture in our black sites, criminals who carry out targeted assassinations, criminals who lie to the American public to prosecute preemptive war, which under international law is illegal, if you are a strict legalist, as apparently Professor Stone is, what you’re in essence doing is protecting criminal activity. I would argue that in large sections of our government it’s the criminals who are in power."

  3. Did nobody think that hiring hackers to hack might result in being hacked themselves?

    Has anyone said that Snowden was a hacker before he became a spy? People get awfully sloppy with the terminology.

  4. RJ Eskow on what's the matter with California.

    But it’s beginning to look as if, at least where its base is concerned, the Democratic “Kansas” strategy is working. It seems that most of the party’s rank and file is happy to let this rightward economic shift continue, as long as its leaders say the right things about social issues.

    Nothing new to Sideshow readers but nice to see it in print.

  5. I tracked backwards and found you here. Did not know where else to post this but I wanted to thank you for posting "How to Defeat the Right in Three Minutes" by Conceptual Guerilla. Absolutely the best, easy to understand explanation I have ever read. Thank you, thank you!