January 1, 2013
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 160,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
November 8, 2012
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: Americans just gave the sitting President their permission and mandate that endless wars, increased military spending, murders of both foreigners and Americans and complete surveillance of everyone on the planet is the right thing to do.]
Wired: November 6, 2012
Murder, Inc. [François Proulx/Flickr]
Robotic assassination campaigns directed from the Oval Office. Cyber espionage programs launched at the president’s behest. Surveillance on an industrial scale. The White House already has an incredible amount of power to monitor and take out individuals around the globe. But a new wave of technologies, just coming online, could give those powers a substantial upgrade. No matter who wins the election on Tuesday, the next president could have an unprecedented ability to monitor and end lives from the Oval Office.
The current crop of sensors, munitions, control algorithms, and data storage facilities have helped make the targeted killing of American adversaries an almost routine affair. Nearly 3,000 people have been slain in the past decade by American drones, for instance. The process will only get easier, as these tools of war become more compact, more powerful, and more precise. And they will: Moore’s Law applies in the military and intelligence realms almost as much as it does in the commercial sphere.
For decades, political scientists have wrung their hands about an “Imperial Presidency,” an executive branch with powers far beyond its original, Constitutional limits. This new hardware and software could make the old concerns look more outdated than horses and bayonets, to coin a phrase. Here are seven examples.
– Noah Shachtman
There’s a standard response to skeptics of the killer flying robots known as drones that goes something like this: Every time a drone fires its weapon, a human being within a chain of command (of other human beings) made that call. The robot never decides for itself who lives and who dies. All of that is true. It’s just that some technical advances, both current and on the horizon, are going to make it less true.
On one end of the spectrum is the Switchblade, AeroVironment’s mashup of drone and missile. Weighing under 6 pounds and transportable in a soldier’s backpack, the drone carries a function whereby an operator can pre-program its trajectory using GPS; When it reaches the target, it explodes, without its operator commanding it to. On the other end is the Navy’s experimental UCLASS, which by 2019 ought to yield an armed drone with a 62-foot wingspan that can take off and land from an aircraft carrier at the click of a mouse, its flight path selected earlier while Naval aviators go get a snack. The Navy has no plans to let the UCLASS release its weapons except at a human’s direction, but its autonomy goes beyond anything the military currently possesses.
All of this stands to change drone warfare — ironically, by changing human behavior. As humans get used to incremental expansions in drone autonomy, they’ll expect more functionality to come pre-baked. That might erode the currently-rigid edict that people must conduct the strikes; at a minimum, it will free human operators to focus more of their attention on conducting attacks. The first phase of that challenge has arrived: the Army confirmed this week that a unit in eastern Afghanistan is now using the Switchblade.
— Spencer Ackerman
Predator-class drones are today’s spy tools of choice; the military and CIA have hundreds of them keeping watch over Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Mexico, and elsewhere. But the Predators and the larger Reapers are imperfect eyes in the sky. They rely on cameras that offer, as the military cliche goes, a “soda straw” view of the battlefield — maybe a square kilometer, depending on how high the drone flies.
Tomorrow’s sensors, on the other hand, will be able to monitor an area 10 times larger with twice the resolution. The Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System (“Argus, for short) is a collection of 92 five-megapixel cameras. In a single day, it collects six petabytes of video — the equivalent of 79.8 years’ worth of HD video.
Argus and other “Wide Area Airborne Surveillance” systems have their limitations. Right now, the military doesn’t have the bandwidth to pull all that video off a drone in real time. Nor it does it have the analysts to watch all the footage; they’re barely keeping up with the soda straws. Plus, the camera bundles have had some problems sharing data with some of the military’s other spy systems.
But interest in the Wide Area Airborne Surveillance systems is growing — and not just among those looking to spy overseas. The Department of Homeland Security recently put out a call for a camera array that could keep tabs on 10 square kilometers at once, and tested out another WAAS sensor along the border. Meanwhile, Sierra Nevada Corporation, a well-traveled intelligence contractor, is marketing its so-called “Vigilant Stare” sensor (.pdf), which it says will watch “city-sized fields of regard” for domestic “counter-narcotics” and “civil unrest” missions. Keep your eyes peeled.
— Noah Shachtman
Massive Data Storage
The idea of the government watching your every move is frightening. But not as frightening as the government recording your every move in digital database that never gets full.
This nightmare data storage scenario is closer than you think. A study from the Brookings Institute says that it will soon be within the reach of the government — and other organizations — to keep a digital record everything that everyone in the country says or does, and the NSA is clearly on the cutting edge of large-scale data storage.
The agency is building a massive $2 billion data center in Utah — due to go live in September of next year — and taking a cue from Google, agency engineers have built a massive database platform specifically designed to juggle massive amounts of information.
According to a senior intelligence official cited in Wired’s recent feature story on the Utah data center, it will play an important role in new efforts within the agency to break the encryption used by governments, businesses, and individuals to mask their communications.
“This is more than just a data center,” said the official, who once worked on the Utah project. Another official cited in the story said that several years ago, the agency made an enormous breakthrough in its ability to crack modern encryption methods.
But equally important is the agency’s ability to rapidly process all the information collected in this and other data centers. In recent years, Google has developed new ways of overseeing petabytes of data — aka millions of gigabytes — using tens of thousands of ordinary computer servers. A platform called BigTable, for instance, underpins the index that lets you instantly search the entire web, which now more than 644 million active sites. WIth Accumulo, the NSA has mimicked BigTable’s ability to instantly make sense of such enormous amounts of data. The good news is that the NSA’s platform is also designed to provide separate security controls from each individual piece of data, but those controls aren’t in your hands. They’re in the hands of the NSA.
— Cade Metz
Tiny Bombs and Missiles
Unless you’re super strong or don’t mind back pain, you can’t carry a Hellfire missile. The weapon of choice for drone attacks weighs over 100 pounds, and that’s why it takes a 27-foot-long Predator to pack one. But that’s all about to change. Raytheon’s experimental Small Tactical Munition weighs nearly a tenth of a Hellfire. In May, rival Textron debuted a weapon that loiters in mid-air, BattleHawk, that weighs a mere 5 pounds.
Normally, a smaller bomb or missile just means a smaller smoking crater. But as the weapons get smaller, the number of robots that can carry them increases. The U.S. military has under 200 armed Predators and Reapers. It has thousands of smaller, unarmed spy drones like Pumas and Ravens. Those smaller drones get used by smaller units down on the military’s food chain, like battalions and companies; if they get armed, then drone strikes can become as routine as artillery barrages. That’s heavy.
— Spencer Ackerman
‘Tagging and Tracking’ Tech
Right before the Taliban executed him for allegedly spying for the Americans in April 2009, 19-year-old Pakistani Habibur Rehman said in a videotaped “confession” that he had been paid to plant tracking devices wrapped in cigarette paper inside Taliban and Al-Qaida safehouses. The devices emitted barely detectable radio signals that allegedly guided U.S. drone strikes.
The CIA has never copped to using such trackers, but U.S. Special Operations Command openly touts its relationship with manufacturers of “tagging, tracking and locating devices.” One of these firms, Herndon, Virginia-based Blackbird Technologies, has supplied tens of thousands of these trackers as part of a $450 million contract. The company’s 2-inch-wide devices hop between satellite, radio frequencies, CDMA and GSM cellular networks to report the locations of whatever they’re attached to.
If SOCOM has its way, these trackers will only be the start. The command has spent millions developing networks of tiny “unattended ground sensors” that can be scattered across a battlefield and spot targets for decades, if its makers are to be believed. SOCOM is also on the hunt for tiny, plantable audio and video recorders and optical and chemical “taggants” that can mark a person without him knowing it. The idea is for spies like Rehman (if that’s what he was) to more accurately track militants … and get away with it.
— David Axe and Noah Shachtman
Take the military’s current inventory of Tomahawk cruise missiles, which can scream toward their targets at speeds of more than 500 miles per hour. Not too shabby. But also positively slow compared to a new generation of experimental hypersonic weapons that may soon travel many times that speed — and which the Pentagon and the Obama administration dreams about one day lobbing at their enemies anywhere on the globe in less than an hour. And don’t count on the current president, or perhaps even the next one, on abandoning the project any time soon.
It’s called “Prompt Global Strike,” and the Defense Department has worked for a decade on how to field such radical weapons with a mix of trial and error. Among them include the shorter-range X-51A Waverider, a scramjet-powered cruise missile hurtled at up to six times the speed of sound. Even more radical is Darpa’s pizza-shaped glider named the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, and the Army’s pointy-shaped Advanced Hypersonic Weapon — designed to travel at Mach 20 and Mach 8, respectively. If any of these weapons or a variant is ever fielded, they could be used to assassinate a terrorist while on the move or blast a nuclear silo in the opening minutes of a war. Or inadvertently start World War III.
While the Waverider is launched from a plane and resembles a cruise missile (albeit one traveling intensely fast), the HTV-2 is launched using an intercontinental ballistic missile before separating and crashing back down to Earth. But as far as Russian and Chinese radars are concerned, the HTV-2 could very well be an ICBM potentially armed with a nuke and headed for Beijing or Moscow. The Pentagon has apparently considered this doomsday scenario, and has walked back the non-nuke ICBM plan — sort of — while touting a potential future strike weapon launched at the intermediate range from a submarine. But there’s also still plenty of testing to do, and a spotty record of failures for the Waverider and the HTV-2. Meanwhile, the Russians are freaked out enough to have started work on a hypersonic weapon of their own.
— Robert Beckhusen
The military can listen in on your phone calls, and can watch you from above. But it doesn’t have one thing — one intelligence-collection platform, as the jargon goes — that can do both at once. Instead, the various “ints” are collected and processed separately — and only brought together at the final moment by a team of analysts. It’s a gangly, bureaucratic process that often allows prey to slip through the nets of military hunters.
The exception to this is the Blue Devil program. It outfits a single Beechcraft King Air A90 turboprop plane with a wide area sensor, a traditional camera, and eavesdropping gear — all passing information from one to the other. The electronic ear might pick up a phone call, and tell the camera where to point. Or the wide area sensor might see a truck moving, and ask the eavesdropper to take a listen. Flying in Afghanistan since late 2010, the system has been “instrumental in identifying a number of high-value individuals and improvised explosive device emplacements,” according to the Air Force, which just handed out another $85 million contract to operate and upgrade the fleet of four Blue Devil planes.
There’s a second, more ambitious phase of the Blue Devil program, one that involved putting a lot more sensors onto an airship the size of a football field. But that mega-blimp upgrade never made it to the flight-testing phase, owing to a series of bureaucratic, financial and technical hurdles. But the idea of sensor fusion is not going anywhere. And, let’s be honest: If one of these surveillance arrays catches you in their web, neither are you.
Follow @dangerroom on Twitter.
November 8, 2012
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: Linh Dinh is one of my favourite American thinkers. His mantle has been worn by Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, A.J. Muste, Eugene V. Debs and other pacifist anarchist Americans. I find it only fitting that he was born in Saigon during the American war on Vietnam. He called for boycotting the US election as “a rigged referendum for a corrupt and murderous system”.]
OpEdNews: November 5, 2012
Kourosh Ziabari: You have called elections in the United States “a rigged referendum for this thoroughly corrupt and murderous system.” Would you please explain more about your idea? It has always been a question in my mind that why all the U.S. Presidents come from either the Democrat or Republican Party. Why are the alternative political parties in the United States always marginalized with trivial and insignificant impact on the political developments?
Linh Dinh : The two parties that dominate US politics, Democratic and Republican, both serve the military banking complex. Both of them sanction one war after another, protect the criminal banks and corporations, and side with Israel on every issue. When it comes to money and war, they differ not at all, but the Democrats are presented as being more sympathetic towards women, minorities and gay people, while the Republicans are painted as defenders of traditional values. In every election, however, these two parties will get roughly 98% of the votes, and Congress will be divided roughly 50/50 among them. This is convenient, since each party can blame the other for whatever ills the country, though they both have had a hand in ruining it. These two parties work together to advance the agenda of their sponsors, the banks and corporations, many of them military contractors, that really run this country. A gargantuan source of corruption, the Pentagon funnels huge amount of money to these companies, but American politicians have been bought off by these same companies, so of course they will make sure the US war budget remains obscenely large. For politicians who don’t toe the line, their private indiscretions, perversions or crimes can be aired out by the corporate media, as happened to Eliot Spitzer, for example, so American politicians are kept in check through both bribery and blackmail. With so much going to war, there’s little left for anything else, and that’s one reason the US is falling apart. Many Americans go along with this because US industries have been mostly gutted, except for weapon manufacturing. The US now accounts for 53% of arms sales worldwide. While posing as a peace maker, it is most nakedly a merchant of death.
Promoting endless war and enabling banking frauds, these political parties work together to wreak havoc on the world, and on the American populace itself, yet Americans keep voting for them. In many countries, there are easily half a dozen, or more, parties represented in parliament, but the American congress only has two, with one or two token “independents.” After 21 years, for example, the Green Party has managed to elect no senator, congressman or even a state governor. Its presidential candidate usually gets only 1% of the votes. Third party candidates, then, stand no chance because the corporate media will not pay them any attention. The US mainstream media are owned by only half a dozen corporations or so, and these are the same companies that benefit from Pentagon contracts, so of course the talking heads on TV will push a war agenda, all the while pretending to be objective. Fox News caters to Republicans, while CNN appeals more to Democrats, but they are both propaganda mouthpieces for the military banking complex. Neither one will raise questions about 9/11; the obviously staged death of Bin Laden, with its conveniently missing corpse; the Federal Reserve banking cartel; Israel’s serial crimes; or why Uncle Sam is using al-Qaeda terrorists to wage war against Syria, all the while pretending to fight al-Qaeda. No urgent issues are seriously examined on these TV channels, but they will each spend two weeks discussing Michael Jackson’s death.
Soldiers are inserted into televised sporting events and even music videos. When the media don’t push war, they tranquilize the populace with trivial nonsense. Your average American is overwhelmed by so much pointless noise broadcast nearly all day into his skull, he can hardly think straight, and of course his attention span is shot.
Many Americans still don’t know that their media is one big joke, and so is their democracy with its sham elections. Americans are kept satisfied by the relatively high standard of living that still exists here, but this wealth is illusory. This is the most indebted country on earth, and merchandises still flow here thanks to the reserved currency status of the US Dollar, as enforced by American guns pointing in all directions, but this unsustainable and indefensible situation is unraveling even as we speak. One day soon Americans will wake up to their true poverty.
I have always wondered why the United States wages so many wars and military expeditions around the world. It seems the U.S. foreign policy doesn’t work without intervention in the internal affairs of other countries and warmongering, and one who dares to criticize these hawkish policies will be easily banned from the mainstream media. Why is it so?
If you’re a gun dealer, all shootings are good for business. If you make bombs, then, no bombs are dropped in vain, whether on Serbian, Iraqi, Afghan or Libyan heads. If you make drones, the world shall be swarmed with drones, God willing. Simply put, the American ruling class loves war because that’s how it makes lots of money. Of course, what benefits the American ruling class impoverishes America, so as these war profiteers get richer and richer, the country and its ordinary people become poorer and poorer. Beyond this, the US uses its war machinery to get access to oil, natural gas and even opium, and to protect the US Dollar. Without its heavy military presence in the Persian Gulf, for example, many oil producing countries will accept other currencies for their oil, thus gutting the universal demand for the American Dollar. The American military, then, is used as worldwide threat to make sure this doesn’t happen, although it is starting to happen already, with many countries now trading in their own currencies, and bypassing the US Dollar.
There are several alternative progressive and anti-war publications in the U.S., and many prolific and high-ranking activists and authors write for them. However, the voice of anti-war, anti-imperialism community is usually unheard amongst the loud hullabaloo of the neoconservative elite. Do you agree?
The best and sanest American political analysts have no access to the mainstream media. Morons and liars appear regularly on television, but Paul Craig Roberts, F. William Engdahl, Chris Floyd, Michel Chossudovsky and John Michael Greer, for example, are never seen, and I mean never. America’s best political writers publish for free on the web, and have a tiny fraction of the audience of sycophants featured in the mainstream media.
I publish nearly all of my articles for free. In fact, I can barely give my articles away, and it’s not because of my flaws as a writer or thinker, I don’t think, but because of what I choose to write about. I’ve published a few times in theNew York Times and the Guardian [1, 2, 3, 4], supposedly open minded newspapers, but these places sidestep many of the most critical issues. They don’t welcome independent thinking, in fact, but delimit what’s acceptable to discuss. These and other supposedly liberal venues do as much harm as good because they block from the conversation issues that would really illuminate our predicaments. I used to publish regularly on Common Dreams, for example, and my articles always received many positive comments, but now Common Dreams won’t touch anything I write, because it’s election season, you see, and they must rally their readers behind Obama. Or take The Nation. You would think it has been chastened by its orgasmic jubilation towards Obama’s election in 2008, considering what has happened since, but, no, the Nation is again cheerleading for Obama. It’s shameful, really, the American acceptance of war crimes and tyranny. Of course, there are invaluable webzines where Americans can go to learn what’s really going on, places such as CounterPunch, Global Research, Information Clearing House and Dissident Voice, for example, but their audiences are tiny, I’m sorry to say, while well known and better funded “left” venues such as The Nation and Huffington Post are little more than petting zoos where liberals can go to lick and sniff each other, and feel all warm and fuzzy, inside and outside.
Half-assed critics of the US government serve a cathartic function for their half-assed audiences. They are no different from television clowns like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, since they allow the increasingly frustrated masses to vent and even to laugh, without solving anything. The American liberal is also prone to making feeble gestures, such as going on a one-afternoon march to show that he is anti-war, but comes election time he’ll vote for yet another war criminal, and Clinton was a war criminal too, let us not forget. To divert attention from his blow job scandal, he suddenly bombed Iraq, for example.
In one of your articles, “Lawless Police State,” you talked about the rising unemployment in the United States and the consequent layoff of the cops and police’s inattention to such crimes as extortion, embezzlement and burglary in some U.S. states. Is the situation really so horrendous and chaotic?
Yes, it is getting truly horrible in many cities, but other places are still relatively tranquil. Many neighborhoods of Philadelphia, where I live, are strictly off limit after dark, and avoided by most residents even during the day. There are no statistics about this, but there seems to be more unprovoked beatings by bored or angry youths. In September, six teenaged girls beat a mentally handicapped woman in Chester, a suburb of Philadelphia, for no apparent reason, while in August, three boys, with the oldest only ten-years-old, beat up a 51-year-old Philadelphia woman, and stole $20 from her. The same month, a 15-year-old high school student shot at two other students inside a crowded subway car, and a cop was robbed and killed after he has just gotten off work. For a while, there were all these flash mobs in Philly, where a huge number of young people would rush down a street, with some of them hitting and/or robbing strangers. Almost all of these flash mobbers were black, it must be said, but our black mayor has apparently solved this problem by imposing a curfew on certain busy streets, and increasing police patrol, but the underlying causes of so much anger and lawlessness remain, I’m sure, to explode into the open in some other ways, or at some other times. In Philadelphia and elsewhere, there is also the new phenomenon of flash mob burglary, where a group of people, usually teens, will swarm into a store and take whatever they want, most casually. As the economy falls apart–and trust me, there’s no recovery–Americans become more desperate or crazier, yet cops are being laid off everywhere, so yes, it is getting truly horrible in many places, but this is just the beginning. It will get much worse, I’m afraid.
Who are running the U.S. mainstream media? Some progressive thinkers hold this view that the majority of the U.S. media are in the hands of a small group of influential and rich Zionists who dictate their political will to these media. Do you agree? Is this why the criticism of Israel cannot take place in the American media smoothly and unrestrictedly?
The US mainstream media are owned and run by the military banking complex, by war profiteers and banksters, and that’s why the American mainstream media always obfuscate the many crimes committed by the ruling class. As for Zionist influences on American politics and media, it is clear that no American politician can rise to national prominence without declaring absolute fealty to Israel. When Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech to the American Congress in 2011, he received 29 standing ovations, such is the abject subservience of the American politician towards Israel. In the American mainstream media, then, every Israeli crime is ignored or explained away, then quickly forgotten. Americans don’t like to talk about divided loyalty, but it is an important factor in many people’s behavior. Just as many American blacks will vote for Obama primarily because he’s black, many American Jews cannot think straight when it comes to Israel. One must remember, however, that many of the harshest critics of Israel are also Jewish. On balance, Israel benefits greatly from the tremendous influence of American Zionists. Many of the most belligerent neoconservatives are Zionists, for example.
I want to cite a small, rather personal anecdote that can shed some light on this situation. For several years, I was a part-time professor of creative writing at Bard College. Joel Kovel was a professor of social studies, and the college president, then as now, was Leon Botstein. After Kovel published a book that was critical of Israel, he was terminated from Bard. Seeing a causal effect, Kovel charged that he was being fired for his political views. I knew neither man personally, but I wanted to engage others in a discussion over this, so I sent an email to a Bard listserv, but to my astonishment, no one responded. As a Bard professor, there is nothing to gain, and much to lose, by questioning the school president, it is clear. Botstein is best known as a conductor, of the Jerusalem Orchestra among others, but Kovel is also Jewish, so what you have here is a conflict between two Jewish men, and the stronger one won.
How do you see the situation of religious and racial minorities in the United States? As to what we have been hearing from the media, it’s clear and evident that Muslims are subject to discriminatory policies, and African Americans are also denied many social and civil liberties. What’s your take on that?
In my political writing, I’ve always stressed the common bonds that should unite Americans of all ethnicities and backgrounds. I’ve always said that Americans of any color should recognize that they have a common enemy in the military banking complex. American society is riven by serious divisions, however, so that there’s quite a bit of mistrust, if not outright hostility, between liberals and conservatives, urban and rural, black and white, or educated and uneducated, etc., and everyone has been led to view Muslims with suspicion, at best, if not outright hatred. These divisions benefit the ruling class, so they are often exacerbated in the mainstream media. The Obama presidency, then, was a brilliant move by this ruling class, actually. Propping up Obama, it has managed to pacify many blacks, intellectuals and liberals, all the while keeping their war and banking-fraud agenda intact. Having a black president also gives white racists a false target for their anger. They think all their problems would be solved if only America had a white president again. The fact that Obama happens to be half-black is only symbolically significant, however, and completely irrelevant in every other way. It’s interesting that’s he’s often depicted in the racist or conservative press as non-native, Socialist and a secret Muslim, even though he bombs half a dozen Muslim countries, protects banks and weakens unions. This caricature frightens white racists into voting for Romney, and since Romney is already a caricature of himself, he’s used to frighten liberals into voting, again, for Obama, but as I’ve already said so many times, they are on the same tag team, here to enrich the military banking complex while wrecking both the world and the USA. Romney is the right sock hand puppet, while Obama is the left.
The United States has been accusing Iran of developing nuclear weapons, while it’s said that it possesses 12,000 nuclear warheads. Isn’t this hypocritical? What do you think about the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. against Iran? These sanctions have restricted Iranians’ access to medicine, foodstuff and other humanitarian goods. Aren’t these sanctions contradicting the principles of human rights?
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have nuclear weapons, but Iran should have nuclear bombs to protect it against the US and Israel. Iran has been threatened by the US for several decades, and it is now surrounded by American troops stationing in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Bahrain, among other countries. As American troops besiege Iran, the US is also imposing a criminal sanction on the Iranian people, but the US doesn’t care about human rights, especially of a people it has demonized for a long time now.
Since 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government started a War on Terror, which more or less can be seen as a War on Islam. Where does this inexplicable animosity with the Muslims and Islamic nations stem from? Does the U.S. government really think that they are the Muslims who are the source of violence and terrorism in the world?
A war on Islam serves two primary purposes. The US demonizes Muslims to steal their oil and to protect Israel. In the US, Muslims are often portrayed as fanatical and insane, but Americans forget, not that they’re paying much attention to anything serious anyway, that the US has often funded and supported fanatical Muslims, as in precursors to the Taliban during their war against the Soviet, or al-Qaeda in its current war against Syria. The US supported and funded Bin Laden, for example, then turned him into this monster who somehow managed to pull off the 9/11 attacks, but there is literally no evidence of this, none that can stand scrutiny in an actual trial. They didn’t kill Bin Laden in Pakistan during that ridiculously staged raid, of which every published detail is a lie, but even if they had caught him, then or whenever, they wouldn’t have dared bring him to court, because they simply had no case against him. The accusation against Bin Laden as the mastermind of 9/11 has been conjured up entirely through the US corporate media, but Americans are so brainwashed, many still believe in this preposterous official narrative.
The image of a fanatical Islam hellbent on destroying the West is used to justify the open-ended American war against Muslim countries, but when this narrative doesn’t quite fit, as with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, then America will resort to the dictator narrative, as in we must save these people from their own rulers. The US hasn’t targeted Hussein or Asad because they were dictators, however, since the US has always supported dictators, including Hussein himself when he waged war against Iran. In fact, the CIA helped Saddam Hussein to gain power in the first place by staging a coup against Abd al-Karim Qasim. Qasim had to be killed because he had challenged the Anglo-American control of Iraqi oil. Of course, the CIA toppled Iran’s democratically-elected Mohammad Mosaddegh for a similar reason.
In any case, Uncle Sam loves a corrupt and brutal dictator, since he can usually be bribed into selling out his country to American interests, and his long reign allows American corporations to loot said country unmolested for decades at a time. A true democracy not only protects the people, but is unpredictable, but a dictator will guarantee “stability” for his foreign sponsors for as long as he’s in power, until he’s killed or deposed, as happened to the Shah.
So America will use the dictator narrative as an excuse to attack a country, but it should be pointed out that after the US invasion of Iraq, for example, hundred of thousands of Iraqis fled to Iran and Syria, among other places, and only a fraction have returned. In Syria, these Iraqis live as refugees and not as citizens, meaning they don’t have full rights, but they still prefer to stay in Syria, under Assad, than live in their homeland as “liberated” by America. Now the US is attacking Syria, and I’m afraid this war will only escalate after the US Election, refugees are streaming out of that country also. Declaring himself a harbinger of peace and angel of mercy, the death merchant kills and generates millions of refugees.
What do you think about the upcoming presidential elections in the U.S.? You had argued that it’s now time to boycotttheelections, because going to ballots is tantamount to giving legitimacy to a corrupt government. However, by the end of the day, a certain number of people will take part and a president will be elected. How do you see the future of U.S. in the wake of the upcoming elections? Will Obama be reelected?
I’m advocating for an election boycott as a way to delegitimize this fraudulent and criminal government, then a general strike to shut it down until clearly stated demands are met. These actions are only the first steps, but without them no progress can be made. For all the noise caused by the Occupy Movement, it never got beyond the sign waving stage. Its original aim, however, was to stop Wall Street from functioning, but by announcing their intention beforehand on the Internet, they gave authorities plenty of time to respond to this threat. The government sent hundreds of cops to protect the New York Stock Exchange, so what was meant as Occupy Wall Street became an occupation of Zuccotti Park, several blocks away, and this occupation of a small public space became the model nationwide, but you can occupy as many parks as you want, and the system will not change. At the very least, you must disrupt the system, as was the Occupiers’ original premise.
Many Occupiers talked about revolution, but a revolution is not camping in a city park and waving signs at passersby. One must become much more aggressive, and the first step in that direction is to reject these farcical elections. If you can’t even do that, then you won’t be able to do anything else. I mean, you can’t vote for a proven war criminal, then complain that he is a war criminal.
There are only a few who are openly advocating for an election boycott, but one should remember that only about half of eligible voters usually go to the polls anyway. Granted, some are merely apathetic, but others are so disgusted with this system, they would rather not vote.
As this country collapses economically and socially, the number of disillusioned and enraged Americans will swell, but the government is prepared to counter any unrest with a militarized police force, and laws that allow it to arrest and even kill anyone deemed an enemy of the state.
This election will be the last with American naivete about the true state of their government still relatively intact. After November 6th, promises will be broken, bombs will be dropped, heads will be cracked, and scales will fall from the eyes of even the most thick skulled among them.
Linh Dinh is tracking our deteriorating social scape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union . He is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a just released novel, Love Like Hate .
November 8, 2012
Activist Post: November 6, 2012
After all the hollow and uninspired elections that this country has suffered through over the past several decades, one might think that at some point long ago the American public would have finally struck a plateau of disenfranchisement; that we could sink no further into despondency, that there is a saturation limit to the corruption of our voting process.
Unfortunately, there has been no such luck. I have to say that in all honesty I have never seen more people gut jumbled and disgusted with our electoral system than I have in 2012. Sure, there is still a hyper-gullible segment of the populous that continues to play the game, but even those idiots are beginning to admit that the choices offered are dismal at best, catastrophic at worst. The fog of the false Left/Right paradigm is starting to lift, and all that lay in its wake is a hoard of lost wide-eyed flabbergasted followers without a coattail or a talking point to cling to. Sudanese refugees have a better chance of survival than these people do…
Even in the more obvious of fraudulent past elections there was at least an attempt by the establishment to present a pageant of conflicting ideologies (George W. Bush vs. John Kerry comes to mind). There has always been the Democrat who pretends to be anti-war, or the Republican who pretends to be small government, or the Democrat who pretends to defend our right to privacy, and the Republican who pretends to be pro-2nd Amendment. But in 2012, even the theater of rhetoric has disappeared. Both primary party candidates seem to be sharing the same intestinal tract and the same teleprompter, and now, the average American is asking a new set of questions. They do not wonder how these men will change things for the better. Not at all. Instead, they wonder which one will do LESS DAMAGE while in office. This is the terrible reality we have come to understand in our society today. It is a sad awakening, but a necessary one.
As you read this now, the new President of the United States is being “chosen” or has been chosen. Whoever the “winner” happens to be is ultimately irrelevant. They do not count. They are mascots. Middle management cronies running through the motions to distract the masses while enacting the policies of their superiors. They are fry cooks serving greasy overpriced democracy with no real sustenance. What does matter, though, is what comes next. I’m sorry to say that the idea that one man will do less damage than the other is a naïve sentiment. Democrat? Republican? Obama? Romney? The crimes and calamities wrought will be exactly the same. Take a look into my crystal ball and see the future. Here is how the winner will destroy America…
1) He Will Continue The Policy Of Dollar Devaluation
Neither candidate has expressed any interest through the election or even before it to protect the value of our currency, and both candidates have supported steps towards quantitative easing and fiat printing in order to delay an inevitable national debt crisis. Both Romney and Obama have sung the praises of Ben Bernanke (Romney changed his tune just in time for his campaign, but who’s buying that?) and the private Federal Reserve despite the consistent failures of that despotic institution to produce any tangible economic results with their Keynesian methods.
The dollar will see a vast devaluation during the term of this candidate and a loss of world reserve status, leading to stagflation (a combination of the worst elements of deflationary and inflationary crises in the same event). Skyrocketing prices and crumbling unemployment will be the highlights of his presidency, because he will never take measures to reign in or dismantle the primary root cause of the problem; the Federal Reserve itself.
2) He Will Continue Extreme Government Debt Spending
Neither candidate has offered a practical or operable solution to the $16 trillion official national debt problem we now face, let alone the tens of trillions of dollars in entitlement obligations that the Treasury Department never talks about. A nation can only live off food stamps and credit for so long before it implodes like a wet paper sack. And this is exactly what we have become; an entire culture of debt addicts and money hounds searching for our next fix of foreign or central bank cash. The fact is, both Obama and Romney would INCREASE spending while using fiat injections to buttress an ever weakening economy in the name of “stability”. The new president will claim that if spending cuts are initiated, it will send the U.S. financial system into a tailspin and a “return” to recession conditions. This will of course be a lie. We have not left recession/depression conditions since 2008.
3) He Will Support And Expand On Wars In The Middle East
There is no such thing as a mainstream “anti-war candidate” in 2012. Not even a fake one. Obama’s measures of state violence and complete lack of respect for the sovereign internal matters of foreign nations surpass the madness of George Bush Jr. He has even gone so far as to assert that his office has the right to assassinate American citizens without trial, evidence, or due process of the law. Not only has he asserted the right to this power, he has used it! Romney’s position, hilariously, is that Obama has not gone far enough! Either way, the winner in 2012 is going to leap like a vile locust into new countries and unleash a plague of laser guided death. The next president WILL be a war hungry president.
4) He Will Lock Down The Web And Limit Internet Speech
Both Romney and Obama have expressed a desire to establish cybersecurity measures which include vast new governmental authority over the functions and operations of the internet. The ultimate goal? To gain legal precedence for the right to dictate web content, up to and including the ability to label any website a subversive threat to national security or a recruitment tool for “extremists”.
With the establishment spreading completely baseless accusation of cyberthreats coming from every corner of the globe (but mostly from Iran) it would seem that they are conditioning the public for a future encounter with a cyber event, and telling them who to blame when it occurs. The problem is, the most prominent cyber security threats to the internet in the past few years have come not from the Middle East, or Russia, or China, but the U.S. and Israel (Stuxnet anyone?). Keep this in mind when our new president blames the next cyber attack on a convenient political target and then uses the event as an excuse to regulate the web.
5) He Will Erase American Civil Liberties
This president will find a reason, or he will create a reason to diminish Constitutional protections including our right to trial and due process. Both candidates have offered unflinching support for the National Defense Authorization Act and its provisions for indefinite detainment. Neither man has ventured any sincere concerns over the broad nature of the language involved in the labeling of “terrorists” and “extremists”. Literally anyone can now be categorized as an enemy combatant and a threat to national security for almost any reason, and this appears to be the way Obama and Romney like it. That is to say, they both want totalitarian powers, or at the very least, they have made no effort to turn them down.
It is important to note that there has never been a government in history that sought out such powers and did not actually use them. Only a fool would assume his favorite elitist candidate in 2012 will not utilize the extreme authorities now amassed for the executive branch over the past decade.
6) He Will Embrace A Globalist Dynamic And Abandon American Sovereignty
Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are surrounded by “advisers” who are also members of the Council On Foreign Relations, an institution which openly calls for the dissolution of American sovereignty on a regular basis and the creation of a centralized global system dominating the financial, social, and political life of every nation in the world. With the economic stability of the U.S. on the verge of oblivion, it is very likely that a historic crisis will ensue during the first term of the next president, and that he will in response suggest a new global system as the solution.
This system has already been created, in part, by the IMF and World Bank in concert with member governments and revolves around the issuance of a new world reserve currency (Special Drawing Rights) as the centerpiece. I can guarantee with absolute certainty that the next president, regardless of who he happens to be, will promote an IMF rescue package coupling the dollar to the SDR and turning over full economic control of America to an international body. He will make it sound rational, reasonable, and even advantageous, but in the end, he will be selling the globalist snakeoil he was conscripted to sell before his election campaign ever started.
In 2012, it will not be about voting. It will not be about “winning”. It will not even be about getting to the next election. It will be about survival. As big a joke as the 2012 elections have become even to the generally unaware, I am not laughing. I do not need to look at the promises of either candidate. I do not need to weigh their half-assed quick fix policies. All I have to do is look at the current downward trend and understand that the president, whoever he may be, will continue it. If anything is to truly change, it will be because we as Americans finally walk away from the game, enacting our own solutions and our own opposition instead of handing over our power to sniveling errand boys wrapped in flags and expensive suits and self-rightousness every four years. 2012 is going to be the beginning of upheaval and renewal, for better or for worse, and it is certain that the guy in the White House into 2013, Republican or Democrat, is going to be a part of the problem, nothing more…
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November 8, 2012
The Atlantic: September 3, 2012
November 6, 2012
Unfortunately for Gary, and for the rest of us humans, his vote was wasted. Not a single one of all the lofty ideals mentioned in Gary’s poem can be accomplished by voting no matter that they are all essential to our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.
Presidential election day always makes me more deeply ashamed to be an American. Instead of being a beacon of freedom and human rights, we’re just a tired, old sham dismantling the Constitution, whose rights were the one and only thing that made the US a different, and better, country. No more. America is now a caricature of its founding ideals. [CONTINUES BELOW]
Dissident Voice: November 5, 2012
I voted today. …
I voted for peace and justice and sanity
In an insane world of violence and injustice.
I voted for clear streams, rivers, and seas;
Bright stars in a cedar-scented night-sky;
Whale-songs heard in unpolluted oceans.
Not for the lesser of two evils,
But for the greatest good for the greatest number—
For nothing less, I voted.
I voted for climate-change victims;
And for those torn apart by war;
Against the Empire, and for the planet;
For the hungry and forgotten,
For the terrified and abused–
Against the military-industrial-media complex
And for the dream of MLK–
I voted for Iraqi mothers and Afghani;
In Pakistan and around the world—
Because each of them is my mother, also,
Weeping like Rachel for her lost children.
For Kathy Kelly and Rachel Corrie,
For Cindy Sheehan and Cynthia McKinney,
Jill Stein, Helen Caldicott and Medea B.–
For standing against madness and lies,
Opportunism and exploitation—
For all of them, I voted.
For brothers in exile I voted;
For the martyred, the betrayed, the abandoned—
Ishmael, Aguinaldo, Sandino and Guevara;
Tashtunka Witco, Tecumseh, Bradley Manning—
For this council of leaders, I voted.
Against slavery and wage-slavery;
Sexploitation, television and bad food;
The corruption of Art; mis-education;
The torture of humans and animals;
Our prison-work-complex and sham democracy;
Citizens United; the Electoral College;
And every meme kicked down the road
By glutinous politicians and their corporate masters—
Against all of this, I voted.
To pass from these Dark Ages
To a Renaissance of Reason,
To a New Age of Enlightenment–
That truths may be reclaimed;
For the wisdom to discern;
That children may be honored
With cleanliness and virtue,
With books and venerable teachers;
That all may be protected
From the ravenous and greedy—
To see the planet whole;
To know our place upon it;
To nurture and restore it;
To abide in moderation,
With compassionate humility;
That the arts might consecrate us—
For the best that lies within us;
For the fortitude to harness;
For the healing grace that’s needed.
For the courage to continue–
Frankly, I was pretty amazed at the close finals between a Mormon born in Mexico and a could-be black, President Al Jolson. Do you really have nothing better to think about than this phony reality TV?
These meat puppets spent six billion dollars advertising themselves to convince you to vote for them. Think about the good a responsible govt could do for all citizens with that enormous sum. Instead, it was spent to elect just another millionaire to commit further atrocities in our name. That money could have gone to your kids’ education.
Drugs. And why? Is somebody going to break into your house and still your flatscreen? If so, you live in the w-r-o-n-g neighbourhood, homes. Millions of people, mostly poor and of colour are in prison. This means they can’t ever vote…if there’s ever anybody better to choose than these bozos.
This election day, 7,225,800 Americans are in prison or parole, mostly people of colour. This means they can’t ever vote—big loss, eh?–…if there’s ever anybody better to choose than these bozos.
Foreclosure. You bought shit you didn’t have the money to pay for. That’s supposed to be the big American dream, isn’t it? But it’s really like playing Monopoly—sometimes you lose. Take a lesson from Occupy: “You are not a loan. You are not alone.” That’s your house. If little Iceland, pop. 300K, can tell the big banks to take a hike, so can you. Don’t leave, not matter what their threats. In America, you can’t be jailed for debt…not yet.
Terrorism. Yeah, where, exactly? All the terrorism plots in the US have been instigated by our FBI. Watch out when you cross the street—it’s way more dangerous.
Frankly, if you think this election is important, I don’t have much sympathy. Meat Loaf…and Fox News do..
Universal health care, even for poor people, caring for the elderly, free education for all with no student loans. All these initiatives which are fundamental to any democratic society could be paid for tomorrow…by deleting the US military.
How, exactly, does the military make you safer in your home?
President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1909 African expedition with his son Kermit brought back to the Smithsonian 5,013 mammals, 4,453 birds, and 2,322 reptiles and amphibians, according to Theodore Roosevelt the Naturalist [!!!] by Paul R. Cutright (1956).
Presidents of today hunt humans with drones. Just like animals in Africa in 1909, there are far too many of them to matter.
Tell me again why this election was important???
It’s high time to call bullshit on this whole system because it’s only reality TV. If you buy into their system, tough luck on you, Bubba.
Break out of the puzzle palace. The USA has stopped being so special.
I don’t buy into a lot of the far-out conspiracy theory. But if you don’t think both these guys have been cloned by aliens, they’ll likely abduct you in your sleep.
Sweet dreams, America.
Freedom Against Censorship[ Thailand (FACT)
November 6, 2012
Gary Johnson is not the only Libertarian candidate against US wars of aggression.
In my view, he’s the only one who’s not a crackpot.
Chance of winning: ZERO. But do you really want to vote for a Bozo against worse Bozos?!?
They’re all Bozos on this bus.
The only question remains is, do you want to lose your integrity by being a Bozo, or vote your conscience.
Vote for YOURSELF!
Gore Vidal on the US presidency:
“At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation, and prejudice. Of course George Bush and Dick Cheney have committed acts that would merit impeachment. In a proper country, they would be tried as traitors. You don’t lie to a country, get it into a war, waste a trillion dollars, kill a lot of people all because of your vanity and lust for oil and admiration for your corporate partners. If that isn’t treason, I don’t know what is.”
Et tu, Barry…
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
October 31, 2012
Thailand’s first blocklist was created by the Ministry of Information and Communication [sic] Technology in January 2004 during the Thaksin Shinawatra administration. It blocked 1,247 URLs by name.
Thailand’s first blocklist marked the first and only attempt at transparency by Thailand’s Internet censors. Every subsequent blocklist, the webpages blocked, the reasons for blocking and even the number of pages blocked is held in secret by Thai government.
Thailand’s first blocklist concentrated on the Patani United Liberation Organisation (PULO), a banned group of separatists from Thailand’s deep Muslim south. In subsequent years, we’ve seen how well that censorship strategy worked out. It created an enormous militant insurgency which has resulted in more than 5,000 murders.
Following Thailand’s military coup d’etat on September 19, 2006, the military’s fifth official order on its first day in power was to block the Internet. Under the coup regime, tens of thousands of webpages were blocked.
Most famously, Thailand ramped up its censorship with a complete block of popular video sharing site, YouTube, for seven months in 2007. It appeared Thai censors didn’t have the capacity to block individual videos.
Thailand was the first country to block YouTube, claiming a handful juvenile videos insulting Thailand’s monarchy were a ‘threat to national security’. Following this stand-off, Google, YouTube’s parent company, created a system of geolocational blocking which is now used to block YouTube videos in dozens of repressive regimes.
However, the coup government’s first legislative action was to promulgate the Computer Crimes Act 2007. In its first drafts, the CCA prescribed the death penalty for computer crimes; this was modified in the final law to ‘only’ 20 years in prison.
The CCA contains full censorship powers but also a provision that MICT must seek court orders for blocking. Revealing these court orders would also make blocking information public so all the court orders, paid for by Thai taxpayers, are sealed in secrecy.
An appointed Democrat administration followed the military junta. However, when mass demonstrations in 2010 threatened its power, the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration declared martial law decreeing a state of emergency. The Emergency Decree suspended all normal rule of law, as well as constitutional and international treaty protections for freedom of expression.
The Dems created two military agencies with Orwellian names and even acronyms. The Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES) and the Centre for the Administration of Public Order (CAPO) were given complete extralegal power to censor the Internet.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) was just one website to be censored early by the ‘emergency’.
FACT continues to publish leaked blocklists and court orders as well as providing instructions for circumvention of Thai censorship to readers. FACT teaches its readers how to pressure ISPs and govt censors to unblock URLs. FACT has also published censorship blocklists from 16 foreign countries.
However, research by Thailand’s iLaw Foundation revealed that MICT had quietly continued to use the CCA’s provisions for blocking the Internet using court orders. Thai government was ‘legally’ blocking webpages on a wholesale basis, submitting for court order thousands of URLs each time.
The new elected opposition government has continued the folly of its predecessors. It was further revealed that Thai government censorship was rising at a rate of 690 new pages blocked every single day.
Other than court-ordered censorship, Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act has only served one further purpose. Many of Thailand’s scores of political prisoners have been charged with lèse majesté using the CCA.
This has resulted in prison sentences up to 15 years using multiple charges. Charges have not only been brought against content creators but content providers, page designers, webmasters and other intermediaries, including those overseas who dared to visit ‘the land of smiles’.
Furthermore, Thai judges have decreed that hyperlinking to ‘offensive’ or ‘inappropriate’ content is just as criminal as publishing it. Unspecified delay in removing such commentary is also illegal. And so is clicking ‘Like’ on Facebook.
Thailand’s censorship has shown no signs of abating and almost none of the webpages blocked during the ‘emergency’ have been unblocked. In 2012, more than 90,000 Facebook pages were blocked. So are online pharmacies and gambling sites.
Many observers think Thai government censorship solely targets alleged lèse majesté. However, the fact is, we are not allowed the freedom of expression about anything guaranteed by our Constitution.
Meanwhile, Thai censorship that we know about continues to rise at a rate of 690 new blocked URLs every day. In fact, with complete secrecy by Thai censors, the real number is likely to be far higher.
The cost to society by creating a dumbed-down public not in possession of all the facts is impossible to quantify. The economic costs, however, can be. To block 690 web pages, Thai government spends THB 1.5 million (USD $50,000), or THB 2,174 (USD $71) per URL.
To date, Thailand has spent THB 2,173,913,043—more than two billion baht—(almost USD $71 million) to censor our Internet.
On December 28, 2011, Thailand was blocking 777,286 webpages. Today, November 1, 2012, Thailand blocks ONE MILLION URLs—Happy Halloween.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
Bangkok: October 31, 2555
Global Voices: July 13, 2012
If you use Internet in Tajikistan and participate in online discussions, beware the Big Brother that will be watching you soon. On July 12, 2012, the country’s authorities announced [ru] that they are planning to create an organization to monitor online publications and websites for “insulting” and “slanderous” content. Beg Zukhurov, the state telecommunications chief, said the new organization will recruit a group of volunteers, including from among local journalists. These volunteers will “track down and identify” individuals who publish materials and leave comments deemed insulting to the country’s leadership.
In fact, the authorities claim [ru] they have already identified a “small group of people who are engaged in this indecent behavior while hiding behind aliases and nicknames”. According to Zukhurov, these people “purposefully badmouth decent people” and they do it “for big money they receive from the enemies of the Tajik people”.
And what will happen to people caught leaving “indecent” comments that insult “decent” government officials? The Tajik telecommunications tsar said [ru] he did not know but speculated that such individuals might be “cured” and “put on the right track” by “relevant” agencies.
Tajikistan’s netizens have responded to the news with a flurry of angry comments left on news websites and social media platforms. Jasur Ashurov writes on Twitter:
Here comes the Big Brother that will watch us all in Tajikistan.
In an ICT-related public group on Facebook, Parvina Ibodova asks [ru]:
что это? зачем? на каких основаниях? кто уполномочил? кто будет определять наличие/отсутствие клеветы и/или оскорблений (а суды куда денем в таком случае??) ???
What is it? Why? Based on what? Who has authorized this? Who will decide whether there is insulting or slanderous content? And what are we going to do about the courts in this case???
Underneath a news report on Asia-Plus’s website, Nora writes [ru]:
аааа куда мы, люди? Что за фигня происходит с государством??? И какие нахрен добровольцы? Кто вам тут сидеть будет и все за бесплатно проверять? Опять же деньги с и без того бедствующего народа! Объясните мне, пожалуйста, зачем нам нужна конституция, когда, казалось бы чиновники- послы народа, наплевали на нее и на народ??? Да черт возьми, где мои права???
Where are we heading, folks? What the hell is happening with the state??? Which volunteers are they talking about? Who will monitor everything for free? This will require more money from the nation that is already poor! Could someone please explain to me why do we need the constitution when officials – formally the people’s ambassadors – do not give a damn about it and about the people??? Hell, where are my rights???
Under the same report, Tor asks [ru]:
А как же демократия и свобода слова? Или Господин Зухуров забыл про такие пункты в Конституции страны???
And what about democracy and the freedom of expression? Has Mr. Zukhurov forgotten that these things are provided for in the country Constitution???
Olga adds [ru]:
Это идиотизм, по другому назвать эту инициативу не могу. В этой стране все много хуже, чем я думала. Я имею право критиковать Рахмона, потому что он избранный нами президент, он не король а всего лишь чиновник. И подхалимы типа Бега Зухурова не имеют право указывать что и про кого мне думать. Банановая республика!
This is idiocy. I cannot find any other description for this initiative. Everything in this country is much worse than I thought. I have the right to criticize Rahmon [Tajikistan's leader] because he is the president we have elected; he is not a king, he is just a public official. And sycophants like Beg Zukhurov have no right to tell me what I should think about people. A banana republic!
Some netizens began sending around links to anonymity networks and proxy sites, suggesting that the authorities do not have the technical capacity to monitor all Internet activity in the country.
As Andrew Katkenov writes [ru]:
Ну и чушь полная, У нас своего контента очень мало, а кто им даст доступ из вне, даже если заблокируют, то только для таджикистана, но кому нужно тот найдет выход. В период когда блокировали фейс, статистика по Alexa показала что посещения с Таджикистана снизилась всего лишь на 15%
This is nonsense. We have very little of domestic content [in the Tajik segment of Internet]. Nobody will give them access to external websites. Even if they block [some resources], the block will be effective in Tajikistan only. And people will find a way [to overcome the local block]. When they were blocking Facebook, statistics showed that the number of visits to the website from Tajikistan dropped by 15 percent only.
Mavzuna Abdurahmanova believes [ru] that the initiative will lead the authorities to block Facebook where many Tajkistanis routinely criticize the authorities:
будем ждать, мне кажется первым закроют фейсбук, тут по высказываниям довольных граждан очень мало.
Let’s wait. I think Facebook will be the first to be shut down, [because] based on comments, there are not many satisfied citizens here.
The authorities blocked local access to Facebook for a short period in early March, after materials critical of the country’s president were shared on the website. Then, in June, the government shut down for several days the country’s main independent news website, Asia-Plus, because of reader comments considered insulting to senior government officials under a story it had published.
Interestingly, Beg Zukhurov’s comments about “subversive” and “indecent” Internet users seems to echo the rhetoric used by government officials in neighboring Uzbekistan. On July 10, Uzbekistan’s state television denounced social networks like Facebook and Russian-based Odnoklassniki [Classmates] as “dangerous weapons” used by the country’s “enemies” to brainwash Uzbek youth. The country’s nationals were encouraged to use “domestic” social networks such as the recently launched Youface.
Alexander Sodiqov has contributed to this post.
July 17, 2012
U.S. Pursuing a Middleman in Web Piracy
The New York Times: July 12, 2012
Richard O’Dwyer, an enterprising 24-year-old college student from northern England, has found himself in the middle of a fierce battle between two of America’s great exports: Hollywood and the Internet.
At issue is a Web site he started that helped visitors find American movies and television shows online. Although the site did not serve up pirated content, American authorities say it provided links to sites that did. The Obama administration is seeking to extradite Mr. O’Dwyer from Britain on criminal charges of copyright infringement. The possible punishment: 10 years in a United States prison.
The case is the government’s most far-reaching effort so far to crack down on foreigners suspected of breaking American laws. It is unusual because it goes after a middleman, who the authorities say made a fair amount of money by pointing people to pirated content. Mr. O’Dwyer’s backers say the prosecution goes too far, squelching his free-speech right to publish links to other Web sites.
Mr. O’Dwyer did not respond to requests for an interview, but his mother, Julia, a nurse with the state-run health service, described him as a somewhat reserved young man who grew up playing Super Mario games on his computer and became devoted to coding. He studies interactive media and animation at Sheffield Hallam University and, his mother said, long ago spent the money he had made from his Web site.
“He would take his mates to the cinema and pay for them,” she said.
No matter how Mr. O’Dwyer’s legal problems are resolved, the case against him reflects the complexities of wrestling with piracy in the digital age.
The entertainment industry lobbied Congress hard for the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, which was withdrawn this year after an online uproar led by Web companies and their consumers. Another bill on Capitol Hill would establish intellectual property attachés in American embassies. An international antipiracy treaty, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, was roundly rejected last week by the European Parliament.
In the last two years, the Obama administration has closed about 800 Web sites suspected of piracy, including those that stream new Hollywood films. In a widely publicized case, the Justice Department has sought to extradite the operators of Megaupload, a site that let users anonymously share movies and music, on criminal copyright infringement.
“There is a problem of copyright infringement on the Internet, and copyright owners have been struggling over how to deal with that,” said Mark A. Lemley, a Stanford law professor who has represented Internet companies like Google in intellectual property disputes. “The U.S. government is aggressively getting involved in turning what used to be civil lawsuits into criminal cases. The combination of that and reaching across the border is new.”
The extradition case against Mr. O’Dwyer has turned him into something of a cause célèbre. Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, is leading a crusade to save him, with an online petition that has gathered over 225,000 signatures worldwide in two weeks.
Still, the British home secretary, Theresa May, approved the extradition order in March and said Monday that she would let the order stand. Mr. O’Dwyer has appealed; a hearing in Britain is expected this fall.
His lawyer did not respond to requests for comment. The federal prosecutors in New York who are handling the case also declined to comment. The criminal complaint against Mr. O’Dwyer is sealed.
Mr. O’Dwyer’s story began in 2008 when he set up his Web site, TVShack.net, which allowed users to search for and link to other sites, including ones that the authorities say showed pirated movies and shows. Because the domain name was registered in the United States, it fell under the ambit of American law. The government shut down TVShack.net in summer 2010.
Mr. O’Dwyer was unbowed. TVShack.net had been growing in popularity, and it made about $230,000 from advertising over the course of two years, federal prosecutors say.
“America? They have nothing to do with me,” Mr. O’Dwyer’s mother said he had told her. He reopened his site as TVShack.cc, which he reckoned was beyond the reach of the United States.
A few months later came a knock on the door from the British police. A judge ruled that Mr. O’Dwyer would not be prosecuted in Britain. Instead, the United States would seek to extradite him.
His mother was stunned. “This is for fugitives and murderers and terrorists,” she recalled thinking. “Richard has never fled the scene of a crime. He has never left the U.K.!”
A judge released Mr. O’Dwyer on bail. On his mother’s orders, he shut down his site, which makes it difficult to tell how it operated.
At the heart of the O’Dwyer case is a question of what to do about Web sites that help users find unlicensed content.
According to British court documents examined by The New York Times, the Justice Department argues that Mr. O’Dwyer enabled Internet users to easily avail themselves of copyrighted material by providing links to third-party sites that contained thousands of pirated films and television programs.
Prosecutors say that on one day in 2010, his Web site contained links to seven films, described as the “most popular movies today,” that were still playing in theaters and had not been authorized for distribution on the Internet.
Mr. O’Dwyer, prosecutors suggest, was aware the material was copyrighted. They cite an announcement on TVShack that urged users to be patient with download times because they were “saving quite a lot of money (especially when putting several visits to the theater or seasons together).”
Ted Shapiro, the Motion Picture Association of America’s general counsel for Europe, said the fact that Mr. O’Dwyer had not stored illegal material on TVShack itself signaled that he knew how to evade the law.
“The fact that the U.S. government is willing to step up and protect content from the film industry and the copyright sector is an amazingly important thing,” Mr. Shapiro said. “We are talking about protecting things Americans are good at.”
Mr. O’Dwyer’s backers say his site was effectively a search engine. To prosecute him, they argue, would set a dangerous precedent — tantamount to holding one person accountable for the acts of another.
“Something that lets you find illegal content can also help you find legal content,” said Mitch Stoltz, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “When you go after intermediaries, you’re going to shut down legal and legitimate speech and commerce and innovation to get at what they perceive as illegal copyright violation.”
Peter Decherney, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who wrote the book “Hollywood’s Copyright Wars: From Edison to the Internet,” said the O’Dwyer case showed how difficult Hollywood has made it for people in other countries to consume American entertainment online.
Sites like Netflix, Hulu and iTunes have limited offerings overseas, if any. The demand for American entertainment drives a lucrative underground economy of pirated movies and television shows.
“In many other countries, unauthorized distribution is the only form of online distribution,” said Mr. Decherney, “and consumers will continue to make Robin Hoods out of anyone who can help them get to media online.”