Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pro-Israeli Bias in US Media

I was watching the news the other day (I cannot remember which news outlet, but it was one of the major networks) and I saw a brief clip of a partially damaged Israeli home and an American journalist interviewing the family, who was not injured in the attack. The woman, who I assume was the mother, commented how she wanted all of the Palestinians dead. I thought to myself, “You're getting your wish lady because nearly 650 Palestinians have been killed, a majority of them civilians, and over 4,000 wounded. While she complains about her home, she forgets about the 475 Palestinian homes that have been completely demolished, with over 26 homes being partially damaged.”

While I don't like to see any innocent people attacked, the fact of the matter is that Israel attacked Gaza over the alleged involvement of Hamas in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. Hamas denied any knowledge of these events, but the IDF began to arrest a number of the members of Hamas and killed a number of Palestinian civilians, which many noted was a form of “collective punishment.” In response to these unjustified attacks, Hamas sought to defend the Palestinians by firing rockets into Israel, which lead to this brutal invasion by Israel. Those are the facts. This family only has their own fanatical government to blame.

I also learned how ABC New's Diane Sawyer wrongly reported on massive destruction in Gaza, depicting some ghastly images of two people carrying what they can of their belongings surrounded by piles of smoldering rubble, and said these images were of Israel. ABC later retracted the statement.

It is this fact on the ground that the destruction of Palestine is a true war zone with the main group targeted being civilian. Democracy Now reported that Palestine's only power plant was bombed, resulting in massive power outages, Israel also attacked 46 schools, 56 mosques, and 7 hospitals.

Here is MSNBC's Rula Jebreal on Democracy Now on the US media's pro-Israeli bias. I hope this post helps to even out the narrative.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Israeli Terrorism In Gaza

It saddens me more than I can say to watch the horror that is the Israeli invasion upon Gaza - again. Two years later we're seeing the same disgusting attacks on civilians over a bogus justification. And once again Glenn Greenwald sheds much needed light on these catastrophes. These war crimes.

We also cannot forget the innocent American activist Rachel Corrie who was murdered by the Israeli occupation forces. Her parents sought justice for their brave daughter in the Israeli courts but they ruled against them. I have just read that they are trying again to get justice in the Israeli Supreme Court. I hope they do get some compensation, a true apology, and a recognition of wrong-doing on the part of Israeli soldiers.

And this is not the only example of the sadistic mindset of the Israelis towards the Palestinians and anyone who dare stand up for them. Last year an Israeli soldier posted a picture of him placing a Palestinian child in the cross hairs of his rifle.

How much longer until the international community at large puts real pressure on Israel to stop their brutality? It's a long shot but if people in the US pressured their government enough they may stop it from sending Israel their much needed support. Without US aid Israel is useless and they would not be able to be immune from international pressure. Then take Israel to The Hague and jail Neitenhahu and the rest of the war criminals for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Government Propaganda Goes High-Tech

The Intercept has written an excellent article about GCHQ “seeding” the internet with false facts and propaganda via online “tools:”

The “tools” have been assigned boastful code names. They include invasive methods for online surveillance, as well as some of the very techniques that the U.S. and U.K. have harshly prosecuted young online activists for employing, including “distributed denial of service” attacks and “call bombing.” But they also describe previously unknown tactics for manipulating and distorting online political discourse and disseminating state propaganda, as well as the apparent ability to actively monitor Skype users in real-time—raising further questions about the extent of Microsoft’s cooperation with spy agencies or potential vulnerabilities in its Skype’s encryption […]

Makes you wonder if the US govt. has any of the same capabilities or has engaged in the same or similar activities?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

From the Writers of Skeptic Ink Comes 13 Reasons To Doubt: A New E-Book!

Just recently released, this new e-book by the authors of Skeptic Ink offers readers a skeptical look at a variety of subjects. It is titled 13 Reasons To Doubt: Essays from the writers of Skeptic Ink Here is the book's description from

Extraordinary claims and extraordinary evidence.

The mainstream and social media feed our minds a diet of fringe science and outright pseudoscience. They relentlessly stream paranormal, supernatural, and otherwise extraordinary claims. Where do all these come from? They’re spread by shysters and charlatans, by corporate propagandists with cynical eyes on the bottom line, by priests and preachers of all kinds, by axe-grinding cranks and ideologues, and frequently by well-meaning dupes.

This may be a scientific age, but all too often, science, well-grounded scholarship, evidence, and logic are ignored—or even denied.

Scientific skepticism offers a corrective: skeptics defend science and reason, while demanding the evidence for extraordinary claims.

In this volume, we offer you thirteen ways to scientific skepticism: thirteen reasons to doubt extraordinary claims. The authors discuss groupthink and cognitive biases, science denialism, weird archeology, claims about religion and free will, and many other topics. Within these pages, there is something for anyone who wants to avoid biases and fallacies, cut through the masses of misinformation, and push back against fakers and propagandists.

All of the essays are excellent and well worth your time. Very thought-provoking reading.

I am told that other formats will become available at a later date (Paperback, Nook, Kobo, and iTunes).

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Innocent Americans Targeted by NSA/FBI Surveillance: Latest NSA Leaks

The Intercept has just come out with a new series of articles about the NSA and FBI surveilling hundreds of American citizens during the years of 2002-2008, five of which were Muslim Americans active in the protection of civil rights of Muslim Americans, who agreed to have their identities revealed. What is even more outrageous about this is the fact that after doing a web search for any mainstream media attention on this important story I found nothing within the first five pages of search results. Nothing from major news organizations such as Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC. I did find this article by The Nation, however.

This news upsets me greatly. Not only because the US government has been repeating its Constitutional violations of the fourth and first amendments of the 1960's but also because it forces me to recall the period in 2011 when I myself was being surveilled by an unknown government agency. I have three lines of pretty conclusive evidence that this was in fact the case.

I cannot recall in what order these events took place but one of the reasons I know I was being monitored was a listing in my blog's visitor logs. Normally these logs don't tell you too much about the person reading your blog but in this case the logs said the source of the computer connecting to my blog was located in the Office of the President of the United States. I do not recall what pages the logs said were viewed but I do recall very clearly where the computer was located. Was Obama himself or someone else in his office looking at my blog? It appears that way.

Second, I received an email by an alleged reader and fan of my blog. Nothing odd about this since I occasionally get emails of appreciation from readers, but this one was different. It began by expressing gratitude for my writing and then near the end of the very brief message seemed to hint at some kind of potentially violent plan of action by this individual, in which he asked me if I'd care to participate. The anonymous person said something to the effect that he was 'planning' something and asked me to join. The email did not mention violence explicitly but it seemed very nefarious in the way it was worded.

I immediately wrote a short email back saying thank you for being a reader and I told him that whatever he was planning that he 'better not hurt any innocent people' and left it at that. I never heard from that person again.

But this was not the most suspicious thing about the email. This is what the body of the text looked like:

------------------------------------Begin PGP Message--------------------------------------


------------------------------------End PGP Message-----------------------------------------

Why was this person sending me an encrypted email, I thought? And another thought flashed through my mind: 'in order to open encrypted emails don't I need some kind of program on my computer to open it? This looks awfully strange.' But I did not know much about encryption at that time and assumed that maybe it was some kind of encrypted message that opens automatically. But no, since the NSA revelations I have read up on encryption and this was just plain text typed into the body of the email to fool me. Most likely done by whatever government agency for the purpose of making me feel “safe” about divulging any desire to carry out acts of violence to this anonymous person.

Well, they were sorely disappointed since I did not give them what their stupid, entrapment-crazy asses wanted. I am just another in a long line of innocent victims persecuted for their political views. But what's even more amazing is the fact that I have never once advocated nor even hinted at employing any form of violence against any member of the government, or any innocent civilians. The only acts of violence I have ever condoned are legitimate acts of self-defense against unruly cops who beat innocent and non-resisting persons, which is a legitimate form of self-defense. Hell, even the Arizona statutes allow citizens to use force against a police officer who uses excessive force! (ARS 13-404: “The threat or use of physical force against another is not justified: To resist an arrest that the person knows or should know is being made by a peace officer or by a person acting in a peace officer's presence and at his direction, whether the arrest is lawful or unlawful, unless the physical force used by the peace officer exceeds that allowed by law” […])

Even more, I have never even advocated for the violence overthrow of the US government, let alone any government. In fact, I have stated quite plainly that I don't believe a violent overthrow is even possible, let alone that it should be attempted. And all of these musings are clearly protected under the first amendment since I never promoted senseless violence or the harming of any innocent person. But I suppose the word “anarchist” scares those in government. I suppose also that these idiots apparently don't know anything about history. The stories of violent anarchists is largely one of fabrication. Most anarchists have only advocated or preferred non-violence throughout history (though there are a few notable exceptions, which seems to have tarnished all anarchists ever since. See also: Anarchism, by George Woodcock, pages 16-17).

The final piece of evidence is that around the same time all of the above happened, I also noticed a not-so-inconspicuous white unmarked police car sitting outside of my home. It would just sit there for hours, then leave. Then I'd see it sitting there a little later. Then it would pull away, and after sitting for a while, it would leave again. Naively enough, a thought flashed through my mind that one of my neighbors might be under surveillance since I never imagined at the time that my first amendment rights would be so badly violated! I knew that I wasn't involved in anything illegal, nor did I have any association with anyone that would place me under suspicion. This is the United States of America where the Constitution protects political speech and descent, I thought. Needless to say, I did not know as much about history as I do now and how I wish I had started my blog via a proxy all those years ago to avoid this crap. But I can only plead naivety. Good thing I have learned much more since that time and have wised up.

There badly needs to be another Church Committee to look into all of these abuses (and notify all those who were wrongly surveilled). And most importantly, there needs to be some actual oversight this time so this doesn't happen again. Or better, yet, as I've advocated, restructure society so no one has unrestrained power over another and fight to ensure this principle remains the bedrock of society.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Two of the Latest NSA Stories

Via the Washington Post two new stories about the NSA have been revealed. The first, titled “In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are,” which reveals that “Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.”

The second, titled “Court gave NSA broad leeway in surveillance, documents show,” exposes how the (rubber-stamping) FISA court approved the NSA's ability to target every country in the world, with the exception of four of them. The Post writes,

Virtually no foreign government is off-limits for the National Security Agency, which has been authorized to intercept information “concerning” all but four countries, according to top-secret documents.

The United States has long had broad no-spying arrangements with those four countries — Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — in a group known collectively with the United States as the Five Eyes. But a classified 2010 legal certification and other documents indicate the NSA has been given a far more elastic authority than previously known, one that allows it to intercept through U.S. companies not just the communications of its overseas targets but any communications about its targets as well.

The certification — approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and included among a set of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — lists 193 countries that would be of valid interest for U.S. intelligence. The certification also permitted the agency to gather intelligence about entities including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The NSA is not necessarily targeting all the countries or organizations identified in the certification, the affidavits and an accompanying exhibit; it has only been given authority to do so. Still, the privacy implications are far-reaching, civil liberties advocates say, because of the wide spectrum of people who might be engaged in communication about foreign governments and entities and whose communications might be of interest to the United States.
“These documents show both the potential scope of the government’s surveillance activities and the exceedingly modest role the court plays in overseeing them,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, who had the documents described to him.

These stories demonstrate the unrestrained power and unjustified surveillance this group has been given. It still blows my mind how the bulk of the American people have seemingly forgotten about this affront on our freedom and privacy. I haven't seen any bills with any teeth so far that would stop this unethical and unconstitutional spying. Those that I have heard about seem to have been sucked into a black hole, never to be seen again. The so-called “reforms” touted by Obama (like pretty much almost every single one of his other polities he's implemented) is mere window dressing for the sheep to make it appear he's upholding up his pledge for “change we can believe in.” It seems to me, the only change has been for the worst. With the economy still in the tank (and rumors of another crash in 2016) I sometimes wish for the return of George W. Bush. At least people stood up to him and his insane policies, particularly his illegal wiretapping of American citizens. With his neglect of the Constitution with the murder of American citizens abroad and the murder of innocent Arabs oversees with drones I think I agree with the recent poll that named Obama the worst president since World War II.