Friday, January 30, 2015

Mitt Romney's Terrible Timing

For the third election cycle in a row, the former Massachusetts governor was in the right place at the wrong time.


Everyone's got a theory for why Mitt Romney never made it to the White House. Too stiff. Too rich. Bad staff. Too many flip-flops. Prejudice against Mormons. A failure to convey the real Mitt. But more than anything, Romney's problem might have been bad timing.

During a call with staffers Friday morning, Romney told them he wouldn't run for president in 2016, ending a period of intense speculation, as the prospect of a third Romney campaign went from improbable rumor to widely held expectation.

"After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee," he said, according to a prepared statement obtained by Hugh Hewitt. "I believe a Republican winning back the White House is essential for our country, and I will do whatever I can to make that happen."

Once again, it seems Romney has ended up in the right place at the wrong time. As I noted a couple weeks ago, when the Romney boomlet began, he ran in 2008 as a true conservative candidate. But after the disappointments of the George W. Bush's second term, a conservative former governor simply wasn't what his party wanted. If Romney had beaten John McCain in the GOP primary, he might have been perfectly poised to win the White House: With the economy collapsing, a turnaround whiz from the private sector could have appealed to many Americans. But it was too late for that. McCain floundered, and Barack Obama won.
The best time for Romney to run for president was probably in 2011, when President Obama's standing was still battered by the recession and the backlash to the Affordable Care Act. It was the right moment for a guy who could sell himself as a business leader with a track-record of fixing troubled enterprises. Unfortunately for him, the economy improved enough over the course of the following year to help Obama win reelection in November 2012 by a solid margin.

So why not 2016? Romney suggested in his statement that he believed he could win the nomination, but worried that he would lose the general election. "I am convinced that with the help of the people on this call, we could win the nomination," he said. "Our finance calls made it clear that we would have enough funding to be more than competitive. With few exceptions, our field political leadership is ready and enthusiastic about a new race. And the reaction of Republican voters across the country was both surprising and heartening."

Nevertheless, he added, "I do not want to make it more difficult for someone else to emerge who may have a better chance of becoming that president."

One could argue he's got that backwards. The natural pattern of presidential elections suggests that Democrats are the underdogs in the 2016 race—a party seldom holds on to the White House after two terms, and Nate Cohn notes that current economic models would suggest a Democratic popular vote of 48.5 percent. If Romney could have won the Republican nomination, he might have been able to realize his dream of becoming commander in chief.

But just as circumstances seemed to conspire to produce the perfect moment for Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush pulled the rug out from under him. In mid-December, Bush announced his decision to run, assuming the mantle of moderate, establishment candidate from Romney. Since then, some of the people who staffed Romney's campaign, and many of those who helped fund it, have attached themselves to a Bush campaign. On Thursday, operative David Kochel, who ran Romney's Iowa strategy in both previous campaigns, went to work for Bush in a presumptive campaign-manager role. NBC News even reports that some of the people invited to join Romney's Friday call were already committed to work for Bush.

Winning the nomination with Bush in the race would have been very challenging for Romney, despite his sanguine statement. Romney holds a commanding lead in RealClearPolitics' average for the Republican primaries, and a breathtaking 16-point edge on HuffPost Pollster's average. But as political watchers have noted, polling at this stage isn't a reliable gauge of very much. Given Romney's name-recognition and the fact that most people aren't tuned into the race—it's only January 2015, after all—it's only mildly surprising that he rose to the top. Many leading Republicans, including RNC Chair Reince Priebus, tried to throw cold water on the idea of third Romney campaign.

Watching presidential dreams die is always bittersweet, and it must feel especially poignant for Romney. He'd been effectively running for president since he announced that he wouldn't run for reelection as Massachusetts governor in December 2005—a nearly decade-long effort. In some ways, the roots of his candidacy stretched much further, back to his father George Romney's own unsuccessful 1968 campaign. And Romney's aides and family members truly believed in the cause. What others derided as constant reinvention, Mark Halperin notes, Romney's circle viewed as a single, consistent effort to show the American public that Mitt was the right man for the job—a principled, hardworking, competent, decent guy who would be great as president. Romney's aides bridled at the idea that he was "rebranding": Each of these different motifs was just a different way to try to get people to see the Real Mitt, who hadn't changed.

Toward the end of his statement, Romney encouraged those on the call to find a presidential campaign and work to restore Republican control of the White House. With an enormous, crowded field, they should have no trouble finding a spot to land. But for the true believers who thought all Romney needed to win over the American people was a stretch of good luck, that may be little consolation. Once again, Mitt Romney's timing just wasn't quite right.

Scientology Cultists Will Hate This Movie, So Be Sure To Watch It

By Karoli

Mark your calendars for March 16th and tune into HBO. You don't have to have a cable subscription to watch, now that HBO offers subscriptions delivered to your tablet or phone. And you will want to tune in, to see Alex Gibney's new film, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.
Huffington Post:
Even if you've read Lawrence Wright's book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief on which the film is based, Gibney's adaptation is an eye-opening and transformative experience. The difference between reading about Scientology's bizarre principles and seeing them up on-screen, spelled out in an easily digestible and visually exciting way is profound. The film is eerily entertaining and even funny at times, that is, until you catch yourself and remember how many lives have been ruined in the name of these far-fetched science fiction concepts.
As you might imagine, the Elron devotees are lining up a veritable parade of PR attacks on Gibney and his film:
The Church of Scientology took out advertisements in The New York Times on Jan. 16 comparing the documentary to Rolling Stone’s discredited story about campus rape—and now the Church is expanding its efforts online. A special report has been published on the Church’s Freedom website, and a new Twitter account, Freedom Media Ethics, is “taking a resolute stand against the broadcasting and publishing of false information.”
The Church claims Gibney only spoke to disgruntled former members—who they attempt to discredit one by one on the new site—and failed to allow itself to respond to the allegations in the film.
I'll bet those guys are the same ones who handle Republicans' public relations issues, too. I recognize that whole "attack the messenger" trope they're so famous for.

Personally, I cannot wait to see this. Alex Gibney is a stellar filmmaker, and it's about time this cult was shown for what it is -- a malevolent money machine.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sarah Palin’s Back And Dumber Than Ever

Sarah Palin recently gave a speech at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa. After her teleprompter feed went out, she inevitably entered an unstoppable state of rambling which made even less sense than the content of her ridiculous Internet channel.

Ring of Fire’s Mike Papantonio and Sam Seder discuss this.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Jon Stewart Skewers the GOP Geniuses Who Want to Be President

Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin - the future is looking bright for the GOP.

By AlterNet

On last night's Daily Show, Jon Stewart mocked the aspiring GOP presidential candidates - a.k.a. the Fox News Correspondent Auditions - who showed up at the Iowa Freedom Summit. From Sen. Ted Cruz's forced folksiness to Fmr. Gov. Mike Huckabee's perplexing demand that Americans engage in more "pig killing," the Summit's speakers gave Stewart more than enough comedy fodder. And then Rick Perry came on. And then Donald Trump.

"How can it get less electable than that?" Stewart wondered.

Cue Sarah Palin. Watch Stewart skewer Palin's insane speech below.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sarah Palin Had to Be Totally High

Iowa Republicans voiced scepticism on Monday over Sarah Palin’s claim to be contemplating a campaign for president in 2016, amid criticism of her unusual speech to a conservative rally in the state.

The former Alaska governor and vice-presidential nominee revived speculation about her future over the weekend by twice telling reporters that she was interested in running for the White House next year, before addressing the Freedom Summit in Des Moines.

However, her disjointed 33-minute speech – in which she described President Barack Obama as an “overgrown little boy who is acting kinda spoiled”, and declared “the man can only ride you when your back is bent” – received poor reviews even from some conservatives."* The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur breaks it down.

Posted By Rude One

As the Rude Pundit awaits the Snowpocalyptic Blizzkrieg (aka "Weather Channel Orgasm"), he figures this is the best time to approach some low-hanging fruit and just slap it right off the tree. Thankfully, such an easy target appeared like a bottle-brunette beacon when Sarah Palin spoke this past weekend at stupidly-named Iowa Freedom Summit. That sounds like an event where you get liberated from wheat or something, but it's actually a day of speeches by conservatives who want to suckle some teabags and get a blessing from nutzoid immigrant hater Rep. Steve King. Every 2016 loser from Donald Trump to Chris Christie gave a speech to the slavering white hordes who beg to be told their hatred and ignorance are virtues.

So, of course, the event climaxed with a speech from former Vice Presidential candidate and one-time demi-governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. And it was a beautiful thing because, while the speech was a barely coherent blurble of half-assed aphorisms and self-aggrandizement early on, it became something akin to a Klonopin-induced stream of consciousness ramble once her teleprompter stopped working. It was postmodern poetry at its most experimental, and, frankly, it wouldn't have been surprising if Palin had just stood there and cawed like a crow for ten minutes.

Check out some of this:

About posting a photo of her son, Trig, standing on their family dog: "These pictures, it was just scandalous that I would show our big, strapping Lab letting my little boy use her as a stepping stool to get to reach the kitchen sink. I took a picture and said, 'This is what turning a stumbling block into a stepping stone is about.' Who would have thought it would have become a scandal? They just went loco. They went absolutely crazy. This rest of the tinderbox of the world, everything that is going on in it, this was the most outrageous thing that had happened. Barking their tired old death threats against us. Get in line, weasels."

She went on (no, really, and at this point, Palin has gotten more mileage out of exploiting the photo than PETA, the Humane Society, and dog fetishists combined), "Yeah, they are howling to the press, 'Cruelty to animals, Sarah Palin.' Which surprised me, considering what it does, what Joni Ernst does to the those hogs. Not to mention what the President admitted doing to those innocent puppies...The media crucified us." She's like Jesus, that Sarah.

The speech was filled with self-pitying fuckery. Palin gets her picture taken at a gun show with a sign that says, "Fuck Michael Moore," but "we have taken a lot of heat over the last two days" for the image. Look, if you're gonna be a media whore, it shouldn't be surprising when someone says you'd suck Hannity's cock dry if it meant five more minutes of airtime.

But that was actually in the realm of understandable. Then shit got weird. Talking about the 2016 campaign, Palin babbled, "It is war. It is war for the future of our country, for the sovereignty and solvency of the United States of America. The other side, the far left, they see a need for change. It is by offering real change, again. Coronation, rinse, replay. Clinton, rinse, repeat. These leftists promoting these 'Ready for' campaigns. Ready for Hillary. Well, these hopey-changey DC businesses disguised as grassroots, don't you wonder what the White House thinks of them out there, prancing around, squealing they are ready for someone else? They have to admit it even."

You think that was nonsense? You think that was incomprehensible? Oh, wait. As the gears in her tiny, fucked-up mind started to break down, Palin's synapses misfired and she lost the ability to complete a thought. On the national debt (maybe? who can tell?), she rambled on, "From debt, when you are in a hole, you don't want to be in the first thing they stop digging. I don't know what is wrong with the leaders in this country who understand we are in a hole we don't want to be in and they keep digging. From debt to energy, proving the inherent links between American-made energy and prosperity, and energy insecurity to solutions like the tax that we need, to stop this unhealthy obsession that we are hearing about, even on our side of the aisle, the subjective income gap we are supposed to be obsessed with. We don't have to be obsessed with it." Seriously, was Palin high? 'Cause if she wasn't totally high and fucked up, then she has brain damage or her mind has been pickled by too much beer and bear meat.

The most hilarious part of this is that conservatives are saying that the speech wasn't "serious" and that watching it was "painful." Joe Scarborough called it a "tragedy" that she had fallen so far, apparently not understanding the difference between tragedy and comedy.

Really, motherfuckers? This was the speech that made you decide Palin was not going to be president one day? 'Cause, see, the rest of us knew she was a fraud and a puffed-up idiot, a wannabe player, and a power-mad gorgon from the start. We didn't need this babbling cartoon character, this monster with a gaping maw, gorging on fame and attention like a snake on a rat, to blither through one more parade of faux folksiness, like Hee-Haw was her Critique of Pure Reason.

If this is truly the nadir of her bottomed out career, the point where even the rubes turn on her (and don't be so sure, rubes being rubes), then her political tombstone should be filled with all the times she mocked President Obama for his use of a teleprompter, like he wasn't capable of off-the-cuff speaking. You could say she should apologize, but that presumes she feels shame.

EFF’s Game Plan for Ending Global Mass Surveillance

By Rainey Reitman

We have a problem when it comes to stopping mass surveillance. 

The entity that’s conducting the most extreme and far-reaching surveillance against most of the world’s communications—the National Security Agency—is bound by United States law.

That’s good news for Americans. U.S. law and the Constitution protect American citizens and legal residents from warrantless surveillance. That means we have a very strong legal case to challenge mass surveillance conducted domestically or that sweeps in Americans’ communications.

Similarly, the United States Congress is elected by American voters. That means Congressional representatives are beholden to the American people for their jobs, so public pressure from constituents can help influence future laws that might check some of the NSA’s most egregious practices.

But what about everyone else? What about the 96% of the world’s population who are citizens of other countries, living outside U.S. borders. They don't get a vote in Congress. And current American legal protections generally only protect citizens, legal residents, or those physically located within the United States. So what can EFF do to protect the billions of people outside the United States who are victims of the NSA’s spying?

For years, we’ve been working on a strategy to end mass surveillance of digital communications of innocent people worldwide. Today we’re laying out the plan, so you can understand how all the pieces fit together—that is, how U.S. advocacy and policy efforts connect to the international fight and vice versa. Decide for yourself where you can get involved to make the biggest difference.

This plan isn’t for the next two weeks or three months. It’s a multi-year battle that may need to be revised many times as we better understand the tools and authorities of entities engaged in mass surveillance and as more disclosures by whistle-blowers help shine light on surveillance abuses.

If you’d like an overview of how U.S. surveillance law works, check out our addendum.

Intro: Mass Surveillance by NSA, GCHQ and Others 

The National Security Agency is working to collect as much as possible about the digital lives of people worldwide. As the Washington Post reported, a former senior U.S. intelligence official characterized former NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander’s approach to surveillance as “Collect it all, tag it, store it… And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”

The NSA can’t do this alone. It relies on a network of international partners who help collect information worldwide, especially the intelligence agencies of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom (collectively known, along with the United States, as the “Five Eyes.”) In addition, the United States has relationships (including various levels of intelligence data sharing and assistance) with Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and potentially a number of other countries worldwide.

There are also other countries—like Russia, China, and others—engaging in surveillance of digital communications without sharing that data with the NSA. Some of those governments, including the U.S. government, are spending billions of dollars to develop spying capabilities that they use aggressively against innocent people around the world. Some of them may do so with even less oversight and even fewer legal restrictions.

Although whistle-blowers and journalists have focused attention on the staggering powers and ambitions of the likes of the NSA and GCHQ, we should never assume that other governments lack the desire to join them. Agencies everywhere are hungry for our data and working to expand their reach. Read about international surveillance law reform and fighting back through user-side encryption.

We focus here on the NSA because we know the most about its activities and we have the most legal and political tools for holding it to account. Of course, we need to know much more about surveillance practices of other agencies in the U.S. and abroad and expand our work together with our partners around the world to confront surveillance as a worldwide epidemic.

Mass surveillance is facilitated by technology companies, especially large ones. These companies often have insufficient or even sloppy security practices that make mass surveillance easier, and in some cases may be actively assisting the NSA in sweeping up data on hundreds of millions of people (for example, AT&T). In other cases, tech companies may be legally compelled to provide access to their servers to the NSA (or they may choose to fight that access). Read more about how tech companies can harden their systems against surveillance.

The NSA relies on several laws as well as a presidential order to justify its continued mass surveillance. Laws passed by Congress as well as orders from the U.S. President can curtail surveillance by the NSA, and the Supreme Court of the United States also has authority to put the brakes on surveillance.

The Game Plan

Given that the American legal system doesn’t adequately protect the rights of people overseas, what can we do in the immediate future to protect Internet users who may not be Americans?

Here’s the game plan for right now. Note that these are not consecutive steps; we’re working on them concurrently.

1.  Pressure technology companies to harden their systems against NSA surveillance
To date, there are unanswered questions about the degree to which U.S. technology companies are actively assisting the NSA.

In some cases, we know that tech companies are doing a lot to help the NSA get access to data. AT&T is a clear example of this. Thanks to whistle blower evidence, we know AT&T has a secret room at its Folsom Street facility in San Francisco where a fiber optic splitter creates a copy of the Internet traffic that passes through AT&T’s networks. That splitter routes data directly to the NSA.

Some companies have taken things a step further and deliberately weakened or sabotaged their own products to "enable" NSA spying. We don't know who's done this or what they've done, but the NSA documents make clear that it's happening. It's the height of betrayal of the public, and it could conceivably be taking place with the help even of some companies that are loudly complaining about government spying.

So what do we know about major tech companies, like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Microsoft? Here we have mixed reports. Documents provided by Edward Snowden and published in the Guardian and the Washington Post name nine U.S. companies—Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple—as participants in the NSA’s PRISM program. The documents indicate that the NSA has access to servers at each of these companies, and implies that these companies are complicit in the surveillance of their users.

The companies, in turn, have strongly denied these allegations, and have even formed a lobby group calling on governments to "limit surveillance to specific, known users for lawful purposes, and should not undertake bulk data collection of Internet communications."

While a start, that’s a far cry from the role companies could be playing. Tech companies also have the ability to harden their systems to make mass surveillance more difficult, and to roll out features that allow users to easily encrypt their communications so that they are so completely secure that even their service providers can’t read them. Perhaps most importantly, technology companies must categorically resist attempts to insert back doors into their hardware or software.

There's also an important legal issue that can't be ignored. Tech companies are in a unique position to know about surveillance requests that are kept secret from the press and the public. These companies may have the best chance to fight back on behalf of their users in court (as Yahoo has done).

What’s more, tech companies literally spend millions of dollars to lobby for laws in Washington and enjoy incredible access to and influence over U.S. lawmakers. Often, companies spend that money trying to derail potential regulation. Instead, these companies could be heavily prioritizing positive surveillance reform bills.

So how do we get tech companies to start fighting surveillance in court, hardening their systems against surveillance, pushing back against the administration, and lobbying for real reform? We’re focused on transparency—uncovering everything we can about the degree to which big tech companies are actively helping the government—and public pressure. That means highlighting ways that companies are fighting surveillance and calling out companies that fail to stand up for user privacy.  

It’s why we’re proud to support the Reset the Net campaign, designed to get companies big and small to take steps to protect user data. It's also why we're working to make what companies do and don't do in this area more visible. Campaigns like HTTPS Everywhere and our work on email transport encryption, as well as scorecards like Who Has Your Back are designed to poke and prod these companies to do more to protect all their users, and get them to publicly commit to steps that the public can objectively check.

We also need to cultivate a sense of responsibility on the part of all those who are building products to which the public entrusts its most sensitive and private data. The people who create our computing devices, network equipment, software environments, and so on, need to be very clear about their responsibility to the users who have chosen to trust them. They need to refuse to create backdoors and they need to fix any existing backdoors they become aware of. And they need to understand that they themselves, unfortunately, are going to be targets for governments that will try to penetrate, subvert, and coerce the technology world in order to expand their spying capabilities. They have a grave responsibility to users worldwide and we must use public pressure to ensure they live up to that responsibility.

2. Create a global movement that encourages user-side encryption

Getting tech giants to safeguard our digital lives and changing laws and policies might be slow going, but anybody could start using encryption in a matter of minutes. From encrypted chat to encrypted email, from secure web browsing to secure document transfers, encryption is a powerful way to make mass surveillance significantly more difficult.

However, encryption can be tricky, especially if you don’t have a team of engineers to walk you through it the way we do at EFF. With that in mind, we’ve created Surveillance Self Defense, an in-depth resource that explains encryption to folks who may want to safeguard their data but have little or no idea how to do it.

We’ve already translated the materials into Spanish and Arabic, and we’re working on even more translations.
We’ll continue to expand these materials and translate them into as many languages as possible, while also doing a public campaign to make sure as many people as possible read them.

Again, the more people worldwide understand the threat and the more they understand how to protect themselves—and just as importantly, what they should expect in the way of support from companies and governments—the more we can agitate for the changes we need online to fend off the dragnet collection of data.

3. Encourage the creation of secure communication tools that are easier to use

Many of the tools that are using security best practices are, frankly, hard to use for everyday people. The ones that are easiest to use often don’t adopt the security practices that make them resilient to surveillance.

We want to see this problem fixed so that people don’t have to trade usability for security. We’re rolling out a multi-stage Campaign for Secure and Usable Crypto, and we kicked it off with a Secure Messaging Scorecard. The Secure Messaging Scorecard is only looking at a few criteria for security, and the next phases of the project will home in on more challenging security and usability objectives.

The goal? Encouraging the development of new technologies that will be secure and easy for everyday people to use, while also pushing bigger companies to adopt security best practices.

4. Reform Executive Order 12333

Most people haven’t even heard of it, but Executive Order 12333 is the primary authority the NSA uses to engage in the surveillance of people outside the U.S. While Congress is considering much-needed reforms to the Patriot Act, there’s been almost no debate about Executive Order 12333.

This executive order was created by a stroke of the pen from President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

President Obama could undo the worst parts of this executive order just as easily, by issuing a presidential order banning mass surveillance of people regardless of their nationality.

We’ve already launched the first phase of our campaign to reform Executive Order 12333.

5. Develop guiding legal principles around surveillance and privacy with the help of scholars and legal experts worldwide

The campaign got started well before the Snowden leaks began. It began with a rigorous policy document called the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, which features 13 guiding principles about limiting surveillance. Written by academics and legal experts from across the globe, the principles have now been endorsed by over 417 NGO's and 350,000 individuals worldwide, and have been the basis for a pro-privacy resolution successfully passed by the United Nations.

The 13 Principles, as they're also known, are also meant to work both locally and globally. By giving politicians and activists the context for why mass surveillance is a violation of established international human rights law, they make it clear that legalizing mass surveillance—a path promoted by the Five Eyes countries—is the wrong way forward. The 13 Principles are our way of making sure that the global norm for human rights in the context of communication surveillance isn't the warped viewpoint of NSA and its four closest allies, but that of 50 years of human rights standards showing mass surveillance to be unnecessary and disproportionate.

6. Cultivate partners worldwide who can champion surveillance reform on the local level, and offer them support and promotion

Katitza Rodriguez, EFF’s International Rights Director, is rarely in our San Francisco office. That’s because the majority of her time is spent traveling from country to country, meeting with advocacy groups on the ground throughout Latin America and parts of Europe to fight for surveillance law reform. Katitza and the rest of EFF’s international team assist these groups in working to build country-specific plans to end mass surveillance at home and abroad.

The goal is to engage activists and lawyers worldwide who can use the 13 Principles and the legal analyses we’ve prepared to support them at the national level to fight against the on-going trend of increased surveillance powers. For example, we teamed up with activists in Australia, Mexico, and Paraguay to help fight data retention mandates in those countries, including speaking in the Paraguayan National Congress.

EFF is especially focused on countries that are known to share intelligence data with the United States and on trying to understand the politics of surveillance behind those data sharing agreements and surveillance law proposals.

We’ve been sharing with and learning from groups across the world a range of different tactics, strategies, and legal methods that can be helpful in uncovering and combating unchecked surveillance. Our partners are starting to develop their own national surveillance law strategies, working out a localized version of the Who Has Your Back campaign, evaluating strategic litigation, and educating the general public of the danger of mass surveillance.

In certain locales, these battles are politically and socially difficult, in particular in places where a culture of fear has permeated the society. We’ve seen anti-surveillance advocates wrongly painted as allies of pedophiles or terrorists. In at least one of the countries we’re working in, anonymity is forbidden in its constitution. For some of our partners, promoting a rational debate about checking government power abuses can risk their very freedom, with activists facing jail time or even more serious consequences for speaking out.

Establishing a bottom-up counter-surveillance law movement—even if it's one based on common sense and the entire history of modern democracies—isn't easy. It’s a titanic task that needs the involvement of advocates around the world with different tactics and strategies that are complementary. This is why we’ve also been working to make connections between activists in different countries, with case studies like the Counter-Surveillance Success Stories, and highlighting individuals who are proud to stand up and say "I Fight Surveillance." We’re also teaming up with partners, such as Panoptykon Foundation, to share the strategies and tactics they used in Europe with local groups in Latin America and vice-versa. We're working closely with groups in the Middle East and North Africa, such as 7iber and SMEX, to track, report on, and coordinate responses to state surveillance in these regions.

All of this has helped inform the work we've done in venues like the United Nations, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where EFF and our allies are helping—with great success—the legal minds there wrap their heads around this new age of state violations of the right to privacy and free expression.

Meanwhile, back in Washington...

7. Stop NSA overreach through impact litigation and new U.S. laws

Executive Order 12333 may be the presidential command that sets the agenda for mass surveillance, but U.S. law also plays a huge role. The NSA claims (often wrongly) that certain U.S. laws allow surveillance of all Internet users, with almost zero oversight of its spying on non-U.S. persons. There's the FISA Amendments Act, which the NSA believes allows it to spy on groups of people instead of with directed warrants and scoop up all of the Internet traffic it can, and grants it carte blanche to target anyone overseas on the grounds that they are potentially relevant to America's "foreign interests." And then there's the Patriot Act, which has been loosely interpreted by the NSA to permit the dragnet surveillance of phone records.
EFF Legal Team

Fighting these laws is the bread and butter of our domestic legal team. Our lawsuits, like Jewel v. NSA, aim to demonstrate that warrantless surveillance is illegal and unconstitutional. Our grassroots advocacy is dedicated to showing American lawmakers exactly how U.S. law is broken, what must be done to fix it, and the powerful movement of people working for change.

You can read more details about American law in our addendum below, but here's the upshot: we have to fix the law if we're to stop these secret agencies spying on the world. And we have to make sure that no new tricks are being planned.

That means chipping away at the culture of secrecy that lies at the heart of this mess.

8. Bring transparency to surveillance laws and practices

One of the greatest challenges we face in attempting to end mass surveillance is that we don’t know what we don’t know. Thanks to whistleblower evidence, statements by certain public officials, and years of aggressive litigation under the Freedom of Information Act, we’ve confirmed that the NSA is engaged in mass surveillance of our communications and that it is primarily relying on three legal authorities to justify this surveillance.

But what if the NSA is relying on seven other legal authorities? What if there are other forms of surveillance we have not yet heard about? What if the NSA is partnering with other entities (different countries or different branches of the U.S. government) to collect data in ways we can’t imagine?

It’s extremely difficult to reform the world of surveillance when we don’t have a full picture of what the government is doing and how it’s legally justifying those actions.

With that in mind, we are working to fight for more transparency by:
  • Working to reform the broken classification system, which keeps the government’s actions hidden from public oversight.
  • Using Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits to gain access to government documents that detail surveillance practices (and their legal justifications).
  • Helping allies, like Germany and Brazil, to put pressure on the United States to justify its surveillance practices.
  • Educating people about the value of whistleblowers and the important role they play in combating secrecy. This includes advocacy for organizations and platforms like Wikileaks that defend and promote the work of whistleblowers. It also includes highlighting the important contributions provided by whistleblowers like Mark Klein, Bill Binney, Thomas Drake, Edward Snowden, and others.
Global Solutions for a Global Problem

Mass surveillance affects people worldwide, reaching everywhere that the Internet reaches (and many places that it doesn’t!). But laws and court systems are divvied up by jurisdictional lines that don’t make sense for the Internet today. This means we need a range of tactics that include impact litigation, technological solutions, and policy changes both in the United States and across the globe.

This game plan is designed to give you insight into how U.S. laws and policies affect people worldwide, and how we can work to protect people outside of America’s borders.

We're up against more than just a few elements in the American administration here. We're up against a growing despondency about digital privacy, and we're up against the desire of spooks, autocrats, and corporations jockeying for intelligence contracts in every nation, all of whom want to shore up these surveillance powers for themselves. But we work side-by-side with hundreds of other organizations around the world and thousands of supporters in nearly every country. We have the amazing power of technology to protect privacy, organize opposition, and speak up against such damning violations of human rights.

We’re continuing to refine our plan, but we wanted to help our friends understand our thinking so you can understand how each of our smaller campaigns fit into the ultimate objective: secure, private communications for people worldwide.

It's what we’re doing to fight surveillance. But what can you do?

You can join your local digital rights organization, of which there are now hundreds, in almost every nation (and if there isn't one in yours, ask us for advice on starting one). You can pressure companies to increase your protection against government espionage and support companies that make a stand.

You can sign our petition about Executive Order 12333 and help spread the word to others. You can use encryption to protect yourself and raise the cost of mass surveillance, and you can teach your friends and colleagues to use it too. You can personally refuse to cooperate with surveillance and promote privacy protections inside institutions you're a part of. You can tell your friends and colleagues the real risks we are running and how we can turn this mess around.

And whether you're in the United States or not, you can support our plan by becoming a member of EFF.

Addendum: Laws & Presidential Orders We Need to Change

One of the best ways to end mass surveillance by the NSA is to change the United States law to make clear that warrantless surveillance is illegal. However, that’s a little challenging. The NSA is relying on a patchwork of different laws and executive orders to justify its surveillance powers.

Here are a few we know we need to change. Note that there are other parts of U.S. law that may need revision (including provisions such as the Pen Register Trap and Trace and National Security Letters), but this is where we're focusing our energies currently as the primary known authorities used to justify mass surveillance:

Section 215 of the Patriot Act, Known as the "Business Records" Section

Read the law

What it does: The section of the law basically says that the government can compel the production of any "tangible things" that are “relevant" to an investigation.

Why you should care: The NSA relies on this authority to collect, in bulk, the phone records of millions of Americans. There are suggestions it's also being used to collect other types of records, like financial records or credit card records, in bulk as well.

How we can stop it: There are a few ways to fix Section 215. One way is to pass a reform bill, such as the USA FREEDOM Act, which would make clear that using Section 215 to conduct bulk collection is illegal. The USA FREEDOM Act failed to pass in the Senate in 2014, which means it would need to be reintroduced in 2015.

However, there’s an even easier way to defeat this provision of the law. This controversial section of the Patriot Act expires every few years and must be reauthorized by Congress. It’s up for renewal in June 2015, which means Congress must successfully reauthorize the section or it will cease to be a law. We’re going to be mounting a huge campaign to call on Congress not to reauthorize the bill.

We also have three legal cases challenging surveillance conducted under Section 215: Jewel v NSA, Smith v Obama, and First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA.

Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act

Read the law
What it does: This section of law is designed to allow the NSA to conduct warrantless surveillance within the U.S. when the intended target is overseas.

Why you should care: The NSA relies on this law to support PRISM, which compels Internet service providers like Google, Apple, and Facebook to produce its users communications. The NSA's upstream surveillance—which includes tapping into fiber optic cables of AT&T and other telecommunications providers—also relies on this provision. Through these two surveillance options, the NSA "targets" subjects for surveillance. But even when the NSA is "targeting" specific foreign intelligence subjects overseas, they’re "incidentally" collecting communications on millions of people, including both Americans and innocent people abroad.

How we can stop it: Currently, there aren’t any reform bills that show promise. We’re working on educating the public and Congress about the Section 702 and the FISA Amendments Act. In 2017, this authority will be up for reauthorization. We’ll be planning a big campaign to demolish this invasive and oft-abused surveillance authority.

Executive Order 12333

Read the executive order

What it does: Executive orders are legally binding orders given by the President of the United States which direct how government agencies should operate. Executive Order 12333 covers "most of what the NSA does" and is "the primary authority under which the country’s intelligence agencies conduct the majority of their operations."

Why you should care: Executive Order 12333 is the primary authority the NSA uses to conduct its surveillance operations—including mass surveillance programs—overseas. Reforming mass surveillance requires reforming the NSA's authority under EO 12333.

How we can stop it: Executive Order 12333 was created by a presidential order, and so a presidential order could undo all of this damage. That’s why we’re pressuring President Obama to issue a new executive order affirming the privacy rights of people worldwide and ending mass surveillance.

The Funding Hack

While passing a bill through Congress is extremely challenging, another (somewhat more controversial) method of ending this surveillance is through the budget system. Every year, Congress must approve the defense budget. This frequently becomes a contentious battle with numerous amendments introduced and debated. We may see an amendment that tackles some form of surveillance.

Monday, January 26, 2015

John McCain: The Most Hypocritical, Opportunistic And Untrustworthy Senator

A career filled with scores of flip-flops continues.

By Steven Rosenfeld

Just days after he took the helm of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain, R-AZ, stood next to several hawkish Republican senators and attacked President Obama in typical McCain fashion.

He slammed the White House for releasing prisoners from the military’s Guantanamo Bay prison, even though McCain held that very position for a decade, from 2003 to 2013.

“The prison is a symbol of torture and justice delayed,” McCain said in November 2013, reading from a letter from 38 retired military officers on the Senate floor. “More than a decade after it opened, Guantánamo remains a recruiting poster for terrorists, which makes us all less safe.”

As late as mid-December, McCain had been saying he backed Obama’s effort to close the prison. But last week, McCain abruptly announced that he and other Senate hawks would be co-sponsoring a bill to bar the White House from releasing prisoners who have never been charged and the military had cleared for release.

“This administration never presented to the Congress of the United States a concrete or coherent plan,” McCain said, offering a thin rationale because he knew that congressional Republicans have been blocking Obama's efforts to close Gitmo for years.

This about-face was merely the latest example from McCain in a long career that has been marked by an astounding record of what pundits call flip-flops, the polite word for opportunism, hypocrisy and outright back-stabbing.  

“What the heck has happened to John McCain,”’s Sally Kohn wrote last July, in another high-profile example. “First he flip-flopped on immigration reform…Then he flip-flopped on legislation meant to address the dangers of climate change… And now we have Bowe Bergdahl.” McCain, who is granted too much deference because he endured years of captivity in the Vietnam War, was all for bringing the captured soldier home in a prisoner swap with the Taliban—until he wasn’t, which the Washington Post derided, earning him an “upside-down Pinocchio, constituting a flip-flop.”

Longtime McCain watchers are used to shaking their heads. Those covering his 2008 presidential campaign, which was mislabeled the “Straight Talk Express,” compiled lists of dozens and dozens of flip-flops that traced an ever-accelerating turn to the right.

“In theory, John McCain’s right-wing madness could come to an end on Tuesday, when he is expected to prevail over former Rep. J.D. Hayward in Arizona’s Senate primary,” wrote in 2010, when he beat a Tea Party challenger. “In fact, his transformation from aisle-crossing, party bucking maverick to cookie-cutter conservative has been years in the making.”

MotherJones focused on four issues illustrating McCain’s high-level hypocrisy: he was for comprehensive immigration reform before he wasn’t; he was an advocate for stricter gun controls before he wasn’t; he wanted to end the military’s ban on gay soldiers but then didn’t; and he backed a cap-and-trade system for climate change emissions before he changed his mind.

“His choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate was the final blow for some of his truest believers, who saw it as political pandering at its worst,” MoJo's Suzy Khimm wrote, referring to to his supposed political independent streak. “But the failed White House run was just the beginning of McCain’s transformation into an ideologue.” 

Today, with McCain chairing the Senate Armed Services Committee—which writes much of the Pentagon budget, and boosts his power and influence—McCain is poised to wreak real havoc. The day after the president’s State of the Union speech, he went after Obama’s claim that America has emerged from crisis. Of course, Obama was talking about the domestic economy, but McCain seemed to take it as an invitation to rechallenge the Democrat who stopped him from becoming president in 2008.

That year, Steven Benen, who is now with MSNBC, listed 61 flip-flops by McCain on almost every issue in an extensively documented AlterNet report. Of these, 18 concerned national security policy, foreign policy, and military policy—all areas that are touched by the Armed Services Committee.

On national security, McCain was against warrantless wiretapping until he was for it. He said Gitmo prisoners deserved some kind of trial, until he changed his mind. He opposed indefinite detention by the military until he didn’t. The Vietnam War prisoner of war who was tortured wanted to ban waterboarding—until he changed his mind. He slammed the White House’s use of military drones in Pakistan until decided to support it.

On foreign policy, McCain was for kicking Russia out of the G8 economic club until Obama pushed for that after war broke out in Ukraine. He supported normalization of relations with Cuba but now opposes it. He believed the U.S. should engage with Hamas and with Syria’s dictator, but no longer. He backed the Law of The Sea convention but now opposes it. He was against divestment from South Africa but now says backed it.

On military policy, he claimed that he was the “greatest critic” of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s Iraqi policy, until he reversed course a year later. He has been on both sides of the fence with a long-term U.S. troop presence in Iraq. Before the Iraq invasion, he predicted the war woud be short and easy, but now it is hard and unending. He said repeatedly lambasted Obama’s announcement of troop withdrawals, but then took credit that most troops would be home by the end of 2013. He opposed expanding veterans benefits in the GI Bill before he reversed course.

These examples have special salience because of McCain’s new Senate chairmanship. They are augmented by many others—remember him slamming Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s “wacko bird” efforts to derail Obamacare, before he favored its repeal? Or his flip-flops on reproductive choice (pro-Roe v. Wade before favoring repeal), or on the environment (against offshore drilling before being pro-drilling), or on tax cuts for the rich (opposing them before they passed under George W. Bush and then rejecting repeal).

This is a dizzying array of political about-faces. They more than suggest that McCain’s judgment is as opportunistic as it is unreliable. It is astounding that a senator who is this fickle is now one of America's top civilian military commanders.

The Associated Press reported that McCain said his new Senate role was to educate the chamber—of “which 46 of 100 members are in their first term, some with little foreign policy experience.” He plans to bring in a parade of hawks to testify at his committee.

“He’s an anarchist,” Glenn Beck, the right-wing talk show host said a year ago, after he changed his Obamacare stance. “I’d like to call him the good senator from Arizona, [but] I think he’s a lousy senator from Arizona – when the lousy senator from Arizona decides, ‘Oh, wait a minute. Now the political winds have changed, now he wants to jump on [whatever bandwagon presents itself].”

Whether the correct word describing McCain is opportunist, hypocrite, or anarchist—and perhaps with Beck, it takes one to know one—it’s clear that a newly empowered McCain is as unpredictable as he is dangerous. And now he has a Senate chairmanship podium and the power of the Pentagon purse at his disposal.

Mitt To The Future III

Saturday, January 24, 2015

"I don't give a fuck it's your house" - American Sniper's Failure

Posted By Rude One

The Rude Pundit pushed aside as many preconceived notions as he could when he watched American Sniper, the Clint Eastwood-directed, Oscar-nominated film about Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL who  chalked up the most kills of any sniper in the military during the Iraq war. As you may know, the film has become a political battlefield between some on the left who see it as glorifying the Iraq engagement and those on the right who see it as a celebration of the innate good of the American soldier.

And even while viewing it, the Rude Pundit thought the film had been treated unfairly by many of its critics. Sure, it offers few sympathetic Iraqis, but no one faulted Saving Private Ryan for not spending time with the nice Germans. As for the racist remarks by Bradley Cooper's Kyle and the other soldiers, well, sorry, if you want polite talk about the ostensible enemy, you probably shouldn't watch a war film. Also, Eastwood and writer Jason Hall weren't really under an obligation to hew closely to Kyle's story. It ain't a documentary.

So, really, truly, the Rude Pundit is coming at this from as open-minded a position as possible. (Does he have to list all his family members who are or were in the military?) And he thinks this:

American Sniper is a film about stupid people who were brainwashed into doing something stupid and it justifies their stupidity so that the stupid people watching can feel good about themselves. See, the one thing you can't separate out from the film is history. It tries to elide over history, but just because it isn't mentioned doesn't mean it isn't there. Because of that, the overwhelming feeling the Rude Pundit had was pity, not pride.

After a set-up where Kyle is about to shoot a child in Iraq, we get what can best be described as a psycho killer origin story. Kyle learns to hunt at an early age, something his father tells him he's good at. The father fills his sons with nonsense about their place in the pecking order of the universe. This hypermasculine bullshit plays out, as it does in Texas, with Kyle becoming a rodeo rider who joins the Navy to become a SEAL after he sees the U.S. embassy attacks in 1998. That leads to his brainwashing during his training (apparently, SEALs have to constantly be wet). In short order, he meets a woman, Taya, the World Trade Center attack happens, he gets married, and then he's sent to Iraq. We get no sense that the invasion of Iraq happened 18 months after 9/11. Then, boom, we're in Iraq and the tedious pattern of the film is set: shooting people in Iraq, coming home to weepy, concerned wife, rinse, repeat for four tours.

Ultimately, the film fails not because it doesn't present the Iraqis in a more complex way, but because it banks on our credulity. It treats us like we're fucking idiots who are willing to forget anything about the truth behind the invasion of Iraq. It counts on our fucking idiocy in order to convey its simplistic message that American soldiers are awesome and everyone else needs to shut the fuck up.

So we get scenes of Americans going house to house to find insurgents. They break down doors and rush in, grabbing anyone they can. When one Iraqi man protests that they are in his house, Kyle says, "I don't give a fuck it's your house." Then they berate and threaten the man until he gives up the name of a specific enemy torturer, "the Butcher." (Seriously, names in this film are dunderheaded. One soldier is, swear to Christ, "Biggles," like a fuckin' cat.) That family, the only "good" Iraqis we see, ends up having the father and a son brutally murdered. In another scene, the soldiers barge into an apartment and, more or less, take a family hostage so they can use the apartment for surveillance on some "Hajis." Of course, it turns out the father is hiding weapons. Of course, he ends up dead.

Through it all, all the people he shoots (and, truly, Bradley Cooper seems like he's acting in a different, much deeper film), all the scenes of him watching fellows soldiers get killed and wounded, all the psychological damage he does to his poor wife when he calls her during firefights, Kyle maintains a pathetic belief in the good of his mission and in the protection of his "brothers." It has an effect on him - he suffers from PTSD - but the film wants us to believe that it was necessary. So, in the end, American Sniper is the story of a dumb man who wrecked himself for a worthless cause and about all the young men (and it is all, mostly white, men in it) who were sacrificed for nothing.

It's not the film that tells us it's nothing. We know it was for nothing. We know that one of the great crimes of the new century is the invasion of Iraq for absolutely no rational, demonstrable reason. We know that all those "savages," as Kyle calls the Iraqis, that we killed were for nothing. We know that all those Americans who died lost their lives for nothing. Our military was protecting us from nothing. Our freedoms weren't at risk from Iraq.

And the lie many soldiers from Iraq cling to and the lie we tell ourselves, and the lie that so many have worked so hard to maintain, is that as long as we don't discuss that it was for nothing, as long as we pretend that the fact that soldiers fought when they were told to fight and, mostly, did so nobly, we don't have to face the truly gut-wrenching reality of our national complicity in the crime.

American Sniper
exists, then, to play to that lie, to silence anyone who would point it out. Shit, once Kyle goes to war, the movie is so devoid of any rationale for being in Iraq that no one mentions Saddam Hussein or weapons of mass destruction. Even George W. Bush isn't mentioned. The film fails, too, because all it's really saying is that, if you put some soldiers somewhere and tell them to do something, they will defend each other and do the job. The fact that the leaders of their country betrayed them in the most elemental way possible never enters the equation. So all we're left with is killing Iraqis because Iraqis are trying to kill us, fuck if we care whose house it is.

At some points, the Rude Pundit wondered if Eastwood was trying to frame it this way, but, when the credits roll, after Kyle's murder at the hands of a disturbed vet, we are treated to scenes of the motorcade heading to his funeral, the streets lined with people with signs and American flags.  No, then. We're supposed to feel proud that men like Kyle defend us.  We should instead feel intensely angry that they died in vain.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Top 10 PSP/PS Vita Homebrews of 2014

By Joel16

2015? And we’re still talking PSP's? Heck yeah! I mean why not? After all this site started as PSP Homebrew site. Anyways, today I will present to you 10 homebrews that are worth looking forward to from the year of 2014.

The production of PSP homebrews has drastically decreased compared to years of 2010-2012. Although this hasn’t stopped some developers from injecting their softwares into the PSP scene! Take note that this is entirely based on my opinion, feel free to state yours in the comments. Anyways without further ado:
Number 10: One Installer – Developer Davis9278
Thanks to the new lua interpreter by gdljjrod, this homebrew has made its way onto the PSP scene. One Installer is an application designed for downloading and managing PSP applications homebrew, plugins and themes, directly from the PSP, similar to PSP Installer by  spike_132000. The application has the option to install all contents directly into your memory stick.

Number 9: CyanogenMod PSP Beta – Developer Joel16
Not really a fan of putting my own projects in the front page, but from the very few homebrews released this year, I believe this deserves a spot. This homebrew’s aim is to be equivalent to iRshell (without its ir functions), designed similarly to the modern look of android’s custom rom, CyanogenMod. However it’s still in beta and only offers a few features as of now. These features include:  File Manager, Music Player, Gallery viewer, browser (PSP’s default netfront browser), and some recovery menu functions, all designed exactly like Android.

Number 8: Flappy Bird PSP – Developer Sandoron
The frustrating yet popular mobile game has been bought to the PSP thanks to developer Sandoron. You know the code! Avoid them green pipes and beat your highscore!

Number 7: ME/LME CFW – Developer RahimUS and Neuron
How would we play our homebrews and backups without this? I mean, well yeah we have other sources like Pro CFW, TN Hen and signed homebrews using OFW, but this CFW has proved its standards and is still being updated today. This CFW is the most updated, and includes almost all must-have CFW features.  This includes the time machine (for PSP’s with hack-able mobos only), leda for 1.50 homebrew support and also PRO Online! The one thing this CFW is missing is the permanent patch that allows permanent CFW access on PSP’s with firmwares over 6.20 and unhackable motherboards. Let’s hope Davee can achieve this, because with that this guy is complete!

Number 6: Nibbler PSP – Developer Insoft
Wish I could post more of Insoft’s homebrews for the year, but we needed more room for others J Nibbler is a remake of an old arcade game, where you navigate a snake through a maze, while collecting apples before making progress to the next level. It consists of a neat retro look and feel to it.

Number 5: Alice in: Pasta Crocket – Developer 240-185
This game was coded during “AC” party which was held near Paris at the month of April 2014.
You must destroy a lemon pie by smashing a ball into it. The lemon pie will send you lots of surprises and traps. It’s a pretty cool arcade-like game, definitely worth giving a try if you ask me.

Number 4: Zelda Navi’s Quest PSP Port – Developer Vincent Jouillat and suloku
Zelda – Navi’s Quest is a PSP port of the fourth game in the french homebrew tetralogy which was created by Vincent Jouillat. The current version is based on the 1.3 PC version and can be completed 100% on the PSP. Do note that his homebrew won’t be compatible with the old PSP 1000 (phat) due to memory problems.

Number 3: Minecraft PSP Edition – Developer woolio
This is the most recently updated Lamecraft mod which offers a plethora of features! This mod is only based on survival mode. Some of fascinating features it includes are: seed generating option, new terrain generator, biomes, crafting, shadows, fogs, and much more! Happy Crafting ;)

Number 2: RetroArch PSP – Developer aliaspider and RetroArch team
RetroArch is an open source, multi-platform frontend designed to be a fast, lightweight, and portable multi-system emulator. The emulator currently contains the following cores: gambatte, tempGBA, fceumm, fmsx, beetle-pce-fast, nxengine, prboom

Number 1: Nazi Zombis Portable – Developer Jukki and Ju[s]tice
NZP is a “remake” of call of duty’s game mode (zombie mode) aimed for PSP. This game lets you fight endless amount undead in a closed and limited area. You gain points from killing them, which you can then spend on purchasing weapons, and advancing further on the map. You can get some things to help you out, but eventually you will die. Your goal is to get to as further as you can through each round.