Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bullshit alert: the non-existing grand bargain on immigration and DACA

The headline on the Telemundo web site says it all: "Trump announces agreement with Democrats on DACA."

The only problem is that Trump hasn't announced a damn thing. It was Pelosi and Schumer (the top House and Senate Democrats) who announced a no-details supposed deal after a cozy White House dinner with Herr Trump.
Two things:

  • Thing one: When there really is an agreement, both sides announce it jointly. And there are details that have been written down and signed by the parties.
  • Thing two: We've already seen this movie. And we know how it comes out: with the undocumented and their communities getting screwed.
It's time to stop playing Charley Brown
For 16 years the DREAM Act to legalize people brought to the United States as minors has been kicked around in Congress. It is the obvious legislative solution: DACA was a stop-gap measure because Obama had failed to get the DREAM Act approved in Congress and he wanted Latino votes in the 2012 election.
Since the Latino immigrant rights mega-marches of 2006, it's been rolled into various proposals for "comprehensive immigration reform,” supposedly a "grand bargain" that would grant legalization in exchange for "border security" (meaning militarization and repression).
And what has been the result? Nothing, nada, zip, zero.
Except millions of deportations, hundreds of thousands of families broken up, and God knows how many deaths in the badlands and deserts of the Southwest.
And except for the 2006 bill that extended the physical barriers along the and used to be called a fence but has now become a "wall," on account of Trump.
That's the law Trump is using as authorization for his "new" wall (mostly the old "fence" that is already there).
The 2006 law (supported by both Hillary Clinton and Obama) supposedly was a "down payment" to the racists. But it never, ever got the corresponding concession of legalization that had been promised.

Not in 2006. Not in the 2007-2008 Congress when the Democrats won both Houses. Not in 2009-2010 when the Democrats had control of both Houses, a super-majority in the Senate so they could do whatever they wanted, and Obama in the White House. Not in ...
Well, you get the picture. It reminds me of the "Peanuts" comic strip, where Lucy is always taking away the football just when Charley Brown is about to kick it.
It’s time to tell our Democrat “friends:“ been there, done that, and we’re not doing it anymore.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Thomson Reuters is helping ICE find immigrants targeted for deportation

The parent company of the Reuters News Agency has a hitherto little-known relationship providing private, personal information on immigrants targeted by the U.S. government's deportation machinery.

Data mercenaries own the Reuters News Agency
The relationship is revealed in a Request for Information from the government to private contractors that might be able to provide a "continuous monitoring and alert system" that handles: "FBI numbers; State Identification Numbers; real time jail booking data; credit history; insurance claims; phone number account information; wireless phone accounts; wire transfer data; driver’s license information; Vehicle Registration Information; property information; pay day loan information;  public court records; incarceration data; employment address data; Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) data; and employer records."

A Response to Questions document published in conjunction with the request says, "this service is currently being provided by Thomson Reuters Special Services, LLC." It also says that "CLEAR and other Thomson Reuters data services" are the ones being used now to "aggregate data from."

The Thomson Reuters web site describes CLEAR this way:

  • CLEAR is the next-generation online investigative platform designed specifically to meet unique needs of investigative customers....
  • CLEAR makes it easier to locate people, assets, businesses, affiliations, and other critical facts. With its vast collection of public and proprietary records, investigators are able to dive deep into their research and uncover hard to find data.

The details of the offer are a police state nightmare:

    Billions of cell phone, landline, TracFone, business, and VoIP records delivered in real-time ensure your phone searches bring back comprehensive results
    Real-time booking information from more than 2,200 facilities and from the most complete network of 90 million historical arrest records and intake photos
    Live access to more than 6 billion license plate scans from Vigilant Solutions® to make data driven connections to discover the “who” in an investigation
    See where the data came from, when it was supplied, and who supplied it 

The documents were brought to light by the Center for Investigative Reporting in an article detailing Immigration and Custom Enforcement's request for information on a program to outsource data collection on 500,000 people a month.

The current relationship with Thomson Reuters is revealed in very fine print toward the end of the Q&A document.

This relation by another division of the same company is an unacceptable conflict of interest for a news organization. It is receiving money (for whatever reason) from one side in a controversy it covers

And this isn't just any controversy, but one that affects many millions of people, an issue that was the signature theme of Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

As if that weren't bad enough, the Reuters news service has never disclosed the conflict.

And the relationship is the absolute worst, providing information on immigrants targeted by ICE.

This places the immigrant rights movement, Latino groups and progressive organizations in the very uncomfortable position of having to bar Reuters reporters and camera crews from their events.

Why? Because Reuters provides intelligence services to ICE (and as it turns out, other police agencies). You wouldn't welcome FBI and ICE agents with microphones and cameras to your events, would you? And if you discovered that one had snuck in, you'd tell them to leave.

It is not a question of the integrity of individual reporters or editors, or even the news division as a whole. The material Reuters gathers as a news organization --for example, video footage of a confrontation between undocumented activists and white supremacists-- belongs to the parent organization and there is no way a reporter could stop it from being handed to the cops, or even discover that this had been done surreptitiously.

I've been a journalist for four and a half decades and can't recall another case like this involving what has been generally considered a reputable news organization.

Journalists have ethical obligations, not just to confidential sources, but to people we come across in our coverage. We are allowed privileged access to all sorts of events and situations and the implicit commitment that comes from asking for that access is that it will be used for reporting and only for reporting. Right now there is no way a Reuters journalist can assume that commitment.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Press freedom in Mexico: record number of murders, no coverage

June 21, 7:00 PM -- Listening to NPR there was a very short item that caught my attention: the month of May saw the highest number of homicides in Mexico of any month in 20 years.

So preparing material for tomorrow's edition of "Hablemos con Teodoro," the 2-hour news and commentary show that I produce and second-fiddle host on, I did a Google news search in Spanish.

I found one (count 'em: 1), just one story -- on the web site of El Heraldo from the city of Saltillo in northern México, which is at the center of a metro area of 800,000 people.

The story was from XINHUA, the official press service of the People's Republic of China.

I did the same search in English and found stories in at least a dozen web sites, some from Reuters, others from AP.

The English-language stories made clear that they said it was the bloodiest May in 20 years because earlier figures were not available.

I suspect that simply means that figures from the pre-Internet era are not online, and this may well be the bloodiest May ever or at least going back many decades.

This is what happens when you have six journalists murdered so far this year, and more than 100 in this century, and hundreds of other attacks on the media, in addition to the spying that the New York Times revealed on Monday. And a grand total of three of these crimes have been solved. Three.

By tomorrow morning I'm sure, a few more outlets, perhaps many, will cover the story. But first there will be panicked conversations in the offices of editors and publishers:

"We have to have it -- it's too important to ignore.
"Agreed, but let's not be among the first -- the nail that sticks out is the one that gets hammered
"Perhaps Televisa will have it tonight ...

Of course, it will be different in those areas where newspapers and TV stations have announced they simply will not cover crime news, because to do so is suicide.

Friday, June 9, 2017

CNN bans not 'respectful' dissent, just the contempt Trump deserves

First it was Kathy Griffin. Now it's Reza Aslan. Coincidence that it was a woman and now someone of Persian heritage? If you really believe that, I want some of whatever it is you've been smoking. The issue is Trump and "respect" for the office of the presidency. Trump is beneath contempt, and so is "the office of the president" with him in it. But you can't express that and be on CNN. You can't treat Trump as the vulgar, lying, misogynist, racist, and authoritarian piece of shit he is and be on CNN. Tens of millions of people in the United States look at Trump just that way, but don't look for that point of view on CNN, nor on any other TV network, nor in any daily newspaper, nor in any "serious" web site devoted to news or analysis of current affairs. You can't say this guy is a flaming asshole. Even if you use nicer words or a pun. CNN says it's not censorship. They're open to all points of view. You can say you disagree with Trump, even that you think he is totally bonkers. Just don't call him an asshole, or hold up a decapitated plastic replica of his head dripping with blood, even though that represents exactly what he is doing to civilians in Syria and elsewhere, even children. You can disagree, but not disrespect. But after roughly a half century thinking and writing about politics and protests, if there's one thing I've learned is that tone and attitude are usually way more important than your "position" or "program." Because politics at bottom is not about policies but about different social forces and the interaction, jostling and clashes between them. Your stance expresses that much better than a position paper. The group that *respectfully* disagrees with the "our" president's executive order may be against Trump's muslim ban like I am. But if that is their real attitude, of respectful disagreement with "our" president, then they are at most frenemies. Attitude is what you are not allowed to express on CNN, or even appear on CNN if you've expressed it in another venue. The funny thing is that CNN is still fighting hard to become America's Pravda. I don't think they'll ever wake up to the fact that Trump already has Breitbart and the Daily Stormer.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Condemn Kathy Griffin? No way

CNN cut ties with Kathy Griffin because she disrespected The President. But I'm with her. Because you can't disrespect someone who is beneath contempt.

As for the bloody severed head ...
And no bloody jokes about our dear, great, respected and
beloved leader Comrade ... I mean President Donald Trump
Kathy Griffin's was just plastic.
But the real thing is what Trump endorsed with his love-fest in Saudi Arabia. They're about to execute by decapitation a young man tortured into confessing that he took part in an anti-government protest. Protesting is a capital offense. Even if you didn't do it.

We should not be aghast at Kathy Griffin, but at the bestial and barbaric House of Saud.

But even more we should be aghast at the United States, at ourselves. Just last Thursday and Friday, American bombs killed more than 100 civilians including at least 42 children, in the Syrian town of Mayadeen.

And like good Germans, we condemn Kathy Griffin.

And then we wonder where the depravity of the Portland white supremacist murderer comes from.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bullshit mountain: North Korea created the Wannacry virus?

In Arthur Penn's classic 1970 movie Little Big Man, Allardyce Merriweather tries to teach Dustin Hoffman's title character the honorable profession of snake oil salesman:
Listen to me, a two legged creature will believe anything, and the more preposterous the better: whales speak French at the bottom of the sea. The horses of Arabia have silver wings. Pygmies mate with elephants in darkest Africa. I have sold all those propositions. 
Well, I've got one that's even better: North Korea was behind's last Friday's computer virus attack.

Just think about the proposition: why would North Korea do that? To get a few thousand dollars in bitcoin? To piss off everyone in the world even more against them? Why???

But there's an even bigger problem. North Korea has neither the technology nor the culture that would allow it to develop a hacker attack team.

Hacking --first and foremost in its original meaning-- is a playful fascination with technology and how it can be shaped, shifted and re-used for other ends. It starts with neither science nor an art but an attitude. It has contempt for formalities, walls and barriers, it loves breaking rules, or even better, gaming them so they become irrelevant.

That culture developed on a large scale in the United States with the baby boom generation. The first product of the two Steves --Wozniak and Jobs-- who gave us Apple computer was a little box that allowed people to make free long-distance phone calls, at a time when the AT&T government imposed monopoly extorted you for the equivalent of $11 for a three minute call to a town 150 miles away. And yeah, it was illegal, a crime. The little box, I mean, not the monopoly.

But in addition to that sort of attitude, you need other things, an area where the technology is available to play with and where you have mentors to get you started. You had that especially in the Northern California and Boston areas in the 1960s and early 70s, which were also centers of the youth rebellion and counterculture, and where the personal computer and Internet were born.

Now consider North Korea's Internet prowess. 
  • Of the more than 4 billion Internet addresses, North Korea has laid claim to 1,024. 
  • Of the more than one billion web sites in the world, North Korea boasts 28. 
  • The Falkland Islands has a population of 2800. North Korea, 25 million, 9,000 times as many. The Falkland Islands has twice the Internet traffic that North Korea does.
Two things:
  • Thing one: North Korea doesn't have enough infrastructure so you could learn how to hack
  • Thing two: The North Korean government is so paranoid you'd end up in prison if you tried
And hacking --whether white hat or black-- is not something you study in college. It is creative, akin to an art form or smuggling whiskey in the 1920s.

Now, some stories say it was North Korea, but operating from China. But why would the government that runs the Great Firewall of China be interested in letting North Korea fuck up tens of thousands of its own computers? And perhaps set off another demented demand from Trump?

The scientific principle of Occam's razor says the simplest answer is usually the right one.

This attack was built on a virus that someone stole from the National Security Agency. (How could this happen? Because you need hackers to develop the viruses in the first place. And see what I said about hacker culture above.) 

The attack was (allegedly) offered for sale and (supposedly) delivered via the Internet in mid-April.

I don't think your need to write a Cold War spy thriller for this one.

Well ... except for "one more thing," as Steve Jobs used to say. 

The attack was incredibly easy to bring to a screeching halt.

Why would genuine black hat hacker-criminals put that kill switch into their code? That sounds to me like something that someone who had a different objective than collecting ransom money would do.
Suppose, for example, you were a spy agency. And suppose you wanted to plant some really nasty spying hack. Why not create a virus epidemic as cover and to distract people from what you are doing. But won't people suspect it is you? Not if the virus was already "stolen."

Sure, five million or fifty million people might be affected but you only want to make sure the five or fifty you have especially targeted get it. As for the rest, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Sorry about that, British hospital patients.

I'm not saying I'm certain that's what happened but it is a lot more credible than saying it was the work of a mighty army of North Korean hackers.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Ridiculous Trump scandal du jour: he gave the Russkies state secrets

Hyperventilating like they just ran a 4-minute mile, the gasbags on CNN, NPR, PBS, and the rest of the alphabet soup are aghast at what the Washington Post just revealed: Last Friday Trump gave the Russians information so secret that it has a "burn before reading" classification (or something like that).

The original version of the Trump-Putin plot 
The Washington Post, which broke the story, says the info revealed to Russia is that the Islamic State is planning to use a laptop bomb on an airplane. Worse, Trump mentioned a city.

Since the United States and the Brits banned the use of laptops on airplanes from certain cities in the Middle East, this was hardly a secret. It was chickenfeed. (For those unfamiliar with the concept, watch the insanely great Cold War spy thriller, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy featuring Alec Guinness as George Smiley).

Anyways, telling the Russian supposedly endangers out relations in getting info out of the country that ratted out the Islamic State. But does anyone seriously think that Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia or anyone else in the region that cooperates with and relies on the United States is going to sanction Trump?

Yesterday, Amy Goodman had Watergate-era congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman on Democracy Now accusing Trump of treason. Speaking about the firing of Comey, she said:
What was on his mind when he fired him? The Russian investigation.... And stopping that could mean that we have in place a president of the United States in cahoots with the Russian government at this very moment.
This is just one more variation on the Trump-Putin "collusion" that must be investigated. Collusion to do what? To "meddle." What was the meddling? No one can say.

  • Moscow gold didn't put trump in the White House because he spent much less than Hillary and has plenty of his own money. 
  • There's no accusation of voting machine rigging or ballot stuffing. 
  • The charge that Russia leaked stuff from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign is built on the assumption that the KGB are such idiots they'd rather leak to Assange than the New York Times or Washington Post. Almost certainly at least the DNC stuff came from a lone wolf insider. And at any rate, that was not "meddling" but a public service.
  • RT using its tremendous influence on American public opinion to get Trump elected is absurd, because it has no influence. And anyways, it's free speech.
  • Finally, Russia is engaged in its most sinister tactic, discrediting American "democracy." As if it needed any more discrediting than the last presidential election, crowned by having the guy who lost by three million votes is proclaimed the winner.

The truth is the Democrats have been trying to whip up a McCarthyite hysteria that Trump is a Russian stooge since before his inauguration, but have been unable to come up with a single concrete act of meddling or shred of proof.

And from everything we know about the Donald's personality and history, the idea that he is Putin's stooge is absurd.He may be an idiot, but he's nobody's fool.

On the other hand, the Democrat Nomenklatura has every interest in diverting attention away from their own catastrophic performance since 2010, crowned by their inability to beat the most unpopular presidential candidate since polling was invented.

They use this to cover up their craven obeisance to Wall Street and other big money who finance their campaigns and on behalf of whom they betray the interests of working people.

But what happened to Medicare for All? Fight for Fifteen? Free tuition to Public Colleges? An end to big money meddling in elections? Can't have that, say the Pelosis, Schumers and Clintons of this world. "We have to appeal to 'centrist' voters." And, oh yeah, expose Russian "meddling."