Month: February 2014

The Joys of Mass Transit

I’m taking the bus and Metro to work today.

I’m doing out to see how it goes.

If this works for me, our will  save some money, along with some wear and tear in my psyche.

There its a guy in the Metro car with me, and I cannot tell if he is having a conversation via a bluetooth equipped cell phone, our if he is mentally ill.

The joys of modem technology, neh?

[on edit]
No loss of signal underground, and the conversation continues, so, to paraphrase Cheap Trick, it’s those men inside his brain.

Posted via mobile.

Why the NSA is a Bigger Danger to Our Way of Life than is Al-Qaeda

We already have a part of our state security apparatus with a history of blackmail for their own benefit, specifically Hoover’s FBI, and now we discover that the NSA has collaborated with their British counterparts to intercept webcam pictures from millions of people:

Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.

Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy”.

If you don’t think this sort of stuff cannot be used against you, what happens if they decide that they to shut you up, and your little is stupid enough to sext their boy friend.

Something like 10% of the millions of documents are images of body parts that could get an FCC sanction.

And you wonder why former counter-terrorism Czar Richard Clarke is worrying that NSA actions might presage the establishment of a police state:

Revelations about NSA monitoring activities over the last year show the potential for a police state mechanism, according to the former U.S. cybersecurity czar, but there is still time to avoid the dire consequences.

At the 2014 Cloud Security Alliance Summit, unofficial RSA Conference opener Richard Clarke, chairman of Washington, D.C.-based Good Harbor Consulting LLC, spoke to a packed audience. The former cybersecurity advisor to President Barack Obama discussed his involvement in the December 2013 report reviewing the data collection and monitoring capabilities at the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Clarke said that the reaction to leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has perhaps been overblown, because he described the employees at the three-letter agencies as “incredibly intelligent people” who are focused on combating terrorism and punishing violations of human rights. As part of the review process, Clarke and his group were given what he called carte blanche security clearances to review all of the agencies’ intelligence-gathering capabilities.

Those employees are not currently listening to random phone calls and reading email, Clarke said, but that doesn’t mean U.S. citizens should ignore the agencies’ growing capabilities.

“In terms of collecting intelligence, they are very good. Far better than you could imagine,” Clarke said. “But they have created, with the growth of technologies, the potential for a police state.”

Clarke said such concerns are hardly new, pointing to the government committee headed by Sen. Frank Church in the 1970s. Church warned at the time that the technologies at intelligence agencies were developing at such an alarming rate that, if they were all turned on, the U.S. would never be able to turn them off, effectively creating a permanent police state in which the entire popular would be under constant surveillance.

Though such warnings seem dire, Clarke noted that the seemingly endless scope of current government surveillance activities stemmed largely from a lack of strict guidance from policy makers. He said a major aspect of the report to the White House was simply prompting the questions that were previously unasked: What are our intelligence agencies collecting? What should they be collecting? If we should be collecting data, how do we safeguard it? If we’re collecting data, how do we stay consistent with U.S. traditions of privacy and government oversight?

This is also why security expert Bruce Schneier is suggesting that the National Security Agency be broken up:

The NSA has become too big and too powerful. What was supposed to be a single agency with a dual mission — protecting the security of U.S. communications and eavesdropping on the communications of our enemies — has become unbalanced in the post-Cold War, all-terrorism-all-the-time era.

Putting the U.S. Cyber Command, the military’s cyberwar wing, in the same location and under the same commander, expanded the NSA’s power. The result is an agency that prioritizes intelligence gathering over security, and that’s increasingly putting us all at risk. It’s time we thought about breaking up the National Security Agency.

Broadly speaking, three types of NSA surveillance programs were exposed by the documents released by Edward Snowden. And while the media tends to lump them together, understanding their differences is critical to understanding how to divide up the NSA’s missions.

The organization is out of control, and its actions do not properly serve our security needs, and it increasingly sees its mission as simply expanding its reach and power.

The Supreme Court is to Take Up Software Patents

I messed this in December, when the Supreme Court agreed to rule on the validity of software patents:

Renewing its recent fascination with the kinds of inventions that can be patented, the Supreme Court on Friday agreed to clarify when an analytical method implemented by a computer or by a link on the Internet is eligible for monopoly protection. This was the only new case granted. The Court will be reviewing a widely splintered decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in the case of Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International (docket 13-298). The en banc Federal Circuit found the method at issue ineligible for a patent, but a majority could not agree on a standard for making such decisions.

The case will provide a new test of the Patent Act’s most basic provision — Section 101, which broadly outlines what kinds of inventions are patentable. One of the long-standing exceptions to the types of inventions mentioned in that section is that an abstract idea can never be patented. That issue arises frequently these days, especially with rapidly developing technology in computer software. The Justices have dealt with that issue several times in recent years.

Alice International, an Australian company that is half-owned by the National Australia Bank Ltd., obtained patent protection on a method invented by its founder, Ian Shepherd, for exchanging financial instruments, with the aim of assuring that, when two parties have agreed to an exchange of currency or other financial goods, they actually deliver on the deal. Because such agreements are often delayed at least a few days in implementation, there is a risk that one side won’t live up to the agreement. The invented program works out a settlement arrangement to determine which side is obliged to deliver. It generates instructions to the institutions involved to carry out their agreement.

Hopefully, this means that the Supreme Court is willing to overrule the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, aka “The Patent Court”, which has ignored Supreme Court precedent for years:

This spring, the Supreme Court will weigh in on the patentability of software for the first time in a generation. In the 1970s, the high court placed strict rules on software-related patents. But since then, a lower court has effectively overruled the Supreme Court’s precedents, allowing hundreds of thousands of legally dubious software patents to be approved.

The arguments in the software patent debate have barely changed since the 1970s, but the players in the debate have changed radically. In 1972, IBM was a leading software patent opponent. Today, Big Blue has become one of the concept’s biggest supporters. In 1991, Bill Gates warned that patents could bring the software industry to a “standstill.” Today, Microsoft is fighting to protect the tens of thousands of software patents in its portfolio.


During the 1970s, patent law was shaped by a Supreme Court that was skeptical of patents on software. Even its 1981 decision [which allowed for a computer controlled method of curing rubber involving a computer to constantly monitor temperature] emphasized that there were limits on software-related patents. In 1982, Congress made a seemingly innocuous change to the structure of the court system that had a profound impact on the legal status of software patents.

Most areas of the law are handled by generalist judges organized into a dozen geographically based appellate courts. But Congress, concerned that patent law had become too complex for generalist judges, created a new court called the Federal Circuit Appeals Court. The Federal Circuit was given jurisdiction over all patent appeals. And perhaps because its judges spend so much time rubbing elbows with patent attorneys, the new court would prove to have a strong pro-patent bias.

An important turning point came in a 1994 ruling involving a computer graphics technique called anti-aliasing. ………

Anti-aliasing was a technique which had been known for decades, but the patent court ignored precedent, and allowed the patent, and opened up the floodgates, which later extended to business models and financial constructs.

I think that it is likely that SCOTUS will issue significant restrictions, because, ever since the Blackberry case, pretty the only time that they take up a case like this, it is to slap down the maniacs in the Patent Court.

They need to come down on this bullsh%$ hard, because the jokers in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit are arrogant clueless extremists.

This is a Fabulous F%$# You to the Homophobes

The mayors of Boston and New York are boycotting their respective St. Patrick’s Day Parades because of the organizer’s homophobic policies:

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh is threatening to boycott the St. Patrick’s Day parade unless organizers allow a group of gay military veterans to march, joining New York’s mayor in protesting parade policies on gay groups.

Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants, said Thursday he’s been trying to broker a deal with the city’s parade organizers to allow a gay veterans group sponsored by MassEquality to march in this year’s parade. He said allowing gay groups to participate is long overdue.

“It’s 2014 — it’s far beyond the time where we should be even having this discussion because they’re veterans who fought for this country just like any other veteran,” Walsh said.

“I made a commitment during the campaign … that I would fight for equality and that’s what this is all about.”

But parade planners appeared unwilling to budge.

Lead parade organizer Philip Wuschke Jr. said gay people are not prohibited from marching with other groups. But he said organizers do not want the parade to turn into a demonstration for a particular group.

“The theme of the parade is St. Patrick’s Day. It is not a sexually oriented parade,” he said. “All we want to do is have a happy parade. The parade is a day of celebration, not demonstration.”

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will skip the nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan because participants are not allowed to carry signs or banners identifying themselves as gay.

“I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city,” de Blasio said during a press conference earlier this month. “But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade.”

Let the bigots stew in their own hate alone.

Somewhere Out There, J. Edgar Hoover is Laughing

Last night, Rachel Maddow had an update on the suspicious shooting of unarmed Ibragim Todashev in his own apartment while questioning him about his relationship with alleged Boston bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The FBI is still sitting on their report.

They are still forbidding the coroner from releasing his report.

They have detained, deported, or otherwise excluded everyone who knew Todashev, as Maddow details below.

The FBI is clearly engaged in an aggressive coverup, and the only thing that I can think of that they would feel necessary to cover up was that the Tsarnaev brothers were a part of a botched anti-terrorism sting that went very, very bad.

I guess that I am wearing my tinfoil hat today.

A Correction:

While still feel that the the government transition in the Ukraine will likely lead to an upsurge in anti-semitism.

The Ukraine has a long and inglorious tradition of virulent Jew hatred, and periods of social unrest lead to an upsurge in bigotry of all kinds.

That being said, Mark Ames, former editor in chief of the eXile, a former Moscow based English language tabloid, knows a LOT more about the former Soviet Union than I do.

One of the things that he knew was that Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, whom I quoted as advising that Jews leave Kiev, is a Chabad rabbi, and Chabad is really tight with the Kremlin.

So, I have to question the reliability of Reb Azman’s pronouncements.

Ames’ thesis is basically that the sh%$ is f%$#ed up and sh%$, and that teasing out alliances and philosophies is simply not a productivity, or as he sums up, “Everything you know about Ukraine is wrong“:


Everyone looking for a proxy side to support or oppose in the Ukraine political dynamic will be disappointed. Ukraine politics go by their own rules. Today’s neoliberal ultranationalist could be tomorrow’s Kremlin ally, and visa-versa. Just look at what happened to the Orange Revolution—nothing. To wit:

a) One Orange Revolution leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, wound up turning against her partner Viktor Yushchenko and allying with Yanukovych to strip Yushchenko of presidential powers; later, Tymoshenko allied with the Kremlin against Yushchenko; now she’s free from jail and the presumptive leader of the anti-Yanukovych forces.

b) The other Orange leader—the pro-EU, anti-Kremlin Viktor Yushchenko—wound up allying with pro-Kremlin Yanukovych to jail Yulia Tymoshenko.

c) John McCain has been the big driving force for regime change against Yanukovych, but McCain’s 2008 campaign chief’s lobby firm, Davis Manafort, managed Yanukovych’s political campaigns and his lobbying efforts in the US.

d) Anthony Podesta, brother of President Obama’s senior advisor John Podesta, is another Yanukovych lobbyist; John Podesta was the chief of Obama’s 2008 transition team.
4. Yanukovych was not fighting neoliberalism, the World Bank, or oligarchy — nor was he merely a tool of the Kremlin.

There’s another false meme going around that because the World Bank and IMF are moving in to “reform” Ukraine’s economy — for the umpteenth time — that somehow this means that this was a fight between pro-neoliberal and anti-neoliberal forces. It wasn’t.

Yanukovych enthusiastically cooperated with the IMF and pledged to adhere to their demands. Six months after Yanukovych was elected president, the headline read “International Monetary Fund approves $15 billion loan to Ukraine”. ………


The point is this: Ukraine is not Venezuela. This is not a profoundly political or class fight, as it is in Venezuela. Yanukovych represents one faction of oligarchs; the opposition, unwittingly or otherwise, ultimately fronts for other factions. Many of those oligarchs have close business ties with Russia, but assets and bank accounts—and mansions—in Europe. Both forces are happy to work with the neoliberal global institutions.

In Ukraine, there is no populist left politics, even though the country’s deepest problem is inequality and oligarchy. Memories of the Soviet Union play a big role in turning people off to populist-left politics there, for understandable reasons.

So Mark Ames thesis is that the political culture of the Ukraine is largely one of corrupt politicians and oligarchs grasping for advantage.

This does not mean that Jews in the Ukraine are not likely to see harassment, because (as Ames notes) the ultra-nationalist parties were at the lead of the most recent protests, and because the history of that part of the world.

I Wish that This Was True

In response to Georgia’s issuing a vanity plate featuring the Klu Klux Klan Confederate Battle Flag, John Perr comes up with a parody that is pure genius.

The only thing that could make this better would be if this were true:

The state of Georgia this week began offering a new version of its vehicle license plate featuring the Confederate battle flag. Sponsored by the Georgia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (to whom a portion of the purchase price and annual registration fees will go), the revised design has many people inside the state and out howling mad.

In response to the outcry, Georgia SCV commander Jack Bridwell asked, “What’s the big deal?” Echoing Bridwell’s explanation that “the design is just people trying to show who they are and trying to be proud of their heritage,” Sons of Confederate Veterans spokesman Ray McBerry invited other groups to do the same:

“We believe that all people ought to be able to celebrate their history and their heritage, and that includes Southerners. We did anticipate that there could be some folks who would not like that, but we encourage them to go and make application for their own specialty plates.”

Now, a little known organization is taking him up on the offer. The group, calling itself The American People, is sponsoring a license plate to mark the 150th anniversary of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea.

After capturing the South’s vital manufacturing center and rail hub at Atlanta, Sherman’s troops marched southeast to Savannah leaving a swath of ruin in their wake. Between November 15th and December 21st, 1864, Sherman more than accomplished his objective to “create havoc and destruction of all resources that would be beneficial to the enemy.” Sherman’s brilliant campaign (or what the Sons of Confederate Veterans brand “atrocities and war crimes“) hastened the end of the Confederacy and with it the enslavement of four million Americans.

Read the rest, it’s brilliant, and if you know anyone in Georgia, have them petition for a vanity plate.

This is f%$3ing brilliant!

I Don’t Think that I’ve Ever Seen Jon Stewart Angrier

John Stewart and Larry Wilmore tear into professional bigot Fox News Legal analyst Andrew Napolitano for rolling out standard grossly KKK/Sons of the Confederacy lies.

Notice that they are both smiling.

They are f5$#ing outraged, and the smiles never leave their faces, and Wilmore draws blood when he compares Napolitano’s differing attitudes on the Civil War and the Revolutionary war, “You know, there’s something not right when you feel the only black thing worth fighting for is tea,” but he drives a much deserved stake through the anti-tax libertarianism espoused by Napolitano, and Fox, when he says, “You think it’s immoral for the government to reach into your pocket, rip your money away from its warm home and claim it as its own property, money that used to enjoy unfettered freedom is now conscripted to do whatever its new owner tells it to. Now, I know this is going to be a leap, but you know that sadness and rage you feel about your money? Well, that’s the way some of us feel about people.”

It’s frightening that such a contemptible human being as Napolitano was once a judge.

Just watch.

The War on Drugs Goes from Dishonesty to Parody in Annapolis

The Annapolis police chief testified about the 37 people who died of marijuana overdoses on the first day of legalization in Colorado.

There is a small problem with this testimony, it never happened.  In fact the source of the story was the satirical website the Daily Current:

Testifying against bills proposed in Maryland to legalize and decriminalize marijuana, Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop cited a hoax story that claimed 37 people died the first day marijuana was legalized in Colorado.

“The first day of legalization, that’s when Colorado experienced 37 deaths that day from overdose on marijuana,” Pristoop said in testimony at Tuesday’s Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing. “I remember the first day it was decriminalized there were 37 deaths.”

But Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, who has proposed a bill that would legalize, regulate and tax the drug, immediately fact-checked Pristoop.

“Unless you have some other source for this, I’m afraid I’ve got to spoil the party here,” Raskin said. “Your assertion that 37 people died of a marijuana overdose in Colorado was a hoax on the DailyCurrant and the Comedy Central website.”

Our drug penal/enforcement industry is a waste of resources, and people like Michael Pristoop should find honest productive work.

And Ukraine Returns to Form………

I am not surprised that a prominent Ukrainian rabbi has called for Jews to flee Kiev.

He is that there have been credible threats against the Jewish community:

Ukrainian Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, called on Kiev’s Jews to leave the city and even the country if possible, fearing that the city’s Jews will be victimized in the chaos, Israeli daily Maariv reported Friday.

“I told my congregation to leave the city center or the city all together and if possible the country too,” Rabbi Azman told Maariv. “I don’t want to tempt fate,” he added, “but there are constant warnings concerning intentions to attack Jewish institutions.”

According to the paper’s report Azman closed the Jewish community’s schools but still holds three daily prayers. He said the Israeli embassy told members of the Jewish community to avoid leaving their homes.

It’s a fact that a significant number of of the protesters had ties to right wing nationalists, most notably the Svoboda party.

What’s more the history of the Ukraine, and Kiev in particular has been extremely antisemitic Even By the Standards of the Russian Empire and the Republics of the Former Soviet Union.

Seriously, the 200,000 or so Jews living in the Ukraine need to make arrangements for a quick exit.

I expect to see synagogues to burn.

No, This is Not the Onion

Jack Burkman, a long time right wing lobbyist is writing legislation to ban gays from the NFL:

“Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man,” Burkman said in a statement. “That’s a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?”

Of course, your son is already showering with gay men in gym class, at the health club, in the US military, in the NFL, and in the US Congress. The only difference is that in some of those places, your son is simply not aware of who the gay guy is. The NFL being more welcoming to gays won’t change the simple fact that just because you don’t know who’s gay, doesn’t mean the gay men aren’t already there.

Normally, I would say that kicker to this story is that his brother James is gay and out, and thinks that Jack is an asshole:

But this is not the kicker to this story.

The kicker to the story was that he was on the DC Madame’s phone list.

So, Jack was a ……… John. (He denies it ……… Yeah ……… Sure)

Best Comment Ever on the Comcast/Time Warner Cable Merger, With Taiwanese News Video

Telco Maven, and fellow medieval recreation afficianado, Harold Feld, gives us the best comment ever on the merger:


Not only that, he raises one of the famous (infamous?) Taiwanese CGI news animations.

Mr. Feld, you are a f%$#ing genius.

Former Bush Aide Matt Dowd Goes There

He compares the anti-gay right to Islamic Terrorists.

Of interest is his invocation of the history of religious justifications supporting slavery:

“This is one of those problems when people use religion as a way to sort of enforce discriminatory practices,” he continued. “People used religion back in the 1860s when they defended slavery. They used religion to defend slavery.”

“We’ve used religion to go to war. People have criticized Islam because they use religion to fight people and kill people. This is the problem with that [bill].”

That first bit seems to me to be a subtle slam at the Southern Baptists, whose genesis was a schism with the American Baptists over the morality of slavery. (The Southern Baptists were on the wrong side of the argument.)

I’m not quite sure what, if anything, was his intent in saying this, but I agree with Max Blumenthal’s analysis, which is that Dowd is primarily an opportunist, so I think that there is some sort of an angle on this.

Why Do I See the NSA Behind This Sh%$?

The Internet Engineering Task Force has proposed a way to speed up encrypted connections that works by removing the encryption for part of the journey. Rather unsurprisingly it looks like a way allow the NSA, FBI, etc. to crawl up your ass into your encrypted data:

A draft put forward at the Internet Engineering Task Force has drawn the ire of prominent privacy activist Lauren Weinstein as “one of the most alarming Internet proposals” he’s ever seen.

The document that’s upset Weinstein is this one, out of the HTTPBis Working Group and posted as an Internet Draft on 14 February 2014.

Entitled Explicit Trusted Proxy in HTTP/2.0, the standard proposes a mechanism by which an upstream provider – say an ISP – could get permission to snoop on decrypt user traffic for the purposes of caching.

Using proxies to cache traffic in the service provider network is unremarkable and uncontroversial: it’s been normal practice for a long time. The end user benefit is better performance; the service provider benefit is a reduction in traffic over their upstream transit network links.

From that point of view, encryption is a pain in the neck: the service provider can’t see into the encrypted traffic, which reduces the effectiveness of its caching strategy.

The Internet Draft has this to say:

“To distinguish between an HTTP2 connection meant to transport “https” URIs resources and an HTTP2 connection meant to transport “http” URIs resource, the draft proposes to ‘register a new value in the Application Layer Protocol negotiation (ALPN) Protocol IDs registry specific to signal the usage of HTTP2 to transport “http” URIs resources: h2clr.’”

In essence, to try and protect their ability to cache, the authors of the standard propose that providers seek their customers’ permission to decrypt their traffic (solely for the purposes of offering a better customer experience, naturally).

For some reason, Weinstein finds this proposal outrageous: “The proposal expects Internet users to provide ‘informed consent’ that they ‘trust’ intermediate sites (e.g. Verizon, AT&T, etc.) to decode their encrypted data, process it in some manner for ‘presumably’ innocent purposes, re-encrypt it, then pass the re-encrypted data along to its original destination,” he writes.

Considering that AT&T proposed this, and that AT&T’s record vis a vis illegal surveillance is pretty horrific, I do not see this as a positive proposal.

Best Resignation Letter Ever

Matt Taibbi writes a goodbye letter to Rolling Stone that should make his former bosses proud:

Today is my last day at Rolling Stone. As of this week, I’m leaving to work for First Look Media, the new organization that’s already home to reporters like Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras.

I’ll have plenty of time to talk about the new job elsewhere. But in this space, I just want to talk about Rolling Stone, and express my thanks. Today is a very bittersweet day for me. As excited as I am about the new opportunity, I’m sad to be leaving this company.

More than 15 years ago, Rolling Stone sent a reporter, Brian Preston, to do a story on the eXile, the biweekly English-language newspaper I was editing in Moscow at the time with Mark Ames. We abused the polite Canadian Preston terribly – I think we thought we were being hospitable – and he promptly went home and wrote a story about us that was painful, funny and somewhat embarrassingly accurate. Looking back at that story now, in fact, I’m surprised that Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana gave me a call years later, after I’d returned to the States.

I remember when Will called, because it was such an important moment in my life. I was on the American side of Niagara Falls, walking with friends, when my cell phone rang. Night had just fallen and when Will invited me to write a few things in advance of the 2004 presidential election, I nearly walked into the river just above the Falls.

At the time, I was having a hard time re-acclimating to life in America and was a mess personally. I was broke and having anxiety attacks. I specifically remember buying three cans of corned beef hash with the last dollars of available credit on my last credit card somewhere during that period. Anyway I botched several early assignments for the magazine, but Will was patient and eventually brought me on to write on a regular basis.

It was my first real job and it changed my life. Had Rolling Stone not given me a chance that year, God knows where I’d be – one of the ideas I was considering most seriously at the time was going to Ukraine to enroll in medical school, of all things.


No journalist has ever been luckier than me. Thank you, Rolling Stone.

Read the whole thing.

It’s funny and gracious, and everyone at Rolling Stone should be proud of what he said.

The Shock Doctrine Being Applied Again in Venezuela

And the major powers in Latin America are aware of this and stop it:

When is it considered legitimate to try and overthrow a democratically-elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the US government says it is. Not surprisingly, that’s not the way Latin American governments generally see it.

On Sunday, the Mercosur governments (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela) released a statement on the past week’s demonstrations in Venezuela. They described “the recent violent acts” in Venezuela as “attempts to destabilize the democratic order”. They made it abundantly clear where they stood.

The governments stated:

their firm commitment to the full observance of democratic institutions and, in this context, [they] reject the criminal actions of violent groups that want to spread intolerance and hatred in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as a political tool.

We may recall that when much larger demonstrations rocked Brazil last year, there were no statements from Mercosur or neighboring governments. That’s not because they didn’t love President Dilma Rousseff; it’s because these demonstrations did not seek to topple Brazil’s democratically-elected government.

The US has declared the Chavezista government to be our “Hitler of the week”:

An anonymous State Department spokesman was even clearer last week, when he responded to the protests by expressing concern about the government’s “weakening of democratic institutions in Venezuela”, and said that there was an obligation for “government institutions [to] respond effectively to the legitimate economic and social needs of its citizens”. He was joining the opposition’s efforts to de-legitimize the government, a vital part of any “regime change” strategy.

Of course we all know who the US government supports in Venezuela. They don’t really try to hide it: there’s $5m in the 2014 US federal budget for funding opposition activities inside Venezuela, and this is almost certainly the tip of the iceberg – adding to the hundreds of millions of dollars of overt support over the past 15 years.

You can go to C&L for a more explicit critique of US foreign policy and our media’s lapdog reporting:

Would it help your perspective if I reminded you Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, that Hugo Chavez nationalized the oil industry even more industries and that powerful interests have never stopped trying to take them back?

There’s an alternate version, one in which the usual suspects (World Bank, IMF) manipulate the currency, drive hyperinflation, cause food shortages and subsequent unrest. Add the former ruling class, once made wealthy by oil industry corruption, whose now-grown children still harbor resentment and anger over what their families lost (much like the members of the Cuban ruling class who fled after Castro) and are leading the opposition.

Netfa Freeman is even less circumspect.

And then you have the attempt to make the thoroughly corrupt Leopoldo Lopez a into a poster boy for a potential revolution.  Despite his role in the 2002 attempted coup, where it appears that he was knowingly involved in the sniping incident that was used as a justification:

Lopez played a key role instigating opposition demonstrators into taking an illegal march route towards the presidential palace, where snipers fired on protesters as part of the opposition’s plan to justify the coup.

See also here for Max Blumenthal’s take on Lopez.

Chavez was to a large degree a product of US Government meddling, but it appears that Obama and Kerry see the solution to any problems therein is more US government meddling.

This is not only wrong, but stupid.


Nitrogen, a Koosh Ball, and Too Much Free Time