The Shadow Factory

Talking with other bloggers we often get the sense we live in parallel worlds; where we see direct infringement on our Constitutional rights, other bloggers see a paternal government simply looking out for its citizens. 1

Surprisingly, these conversations don’t necessarily hew to party lines. Democrats are as quick to defend the White House’s intrusive surveillance practises as Republicans.

But on one point you might believe we would share some commonality – who should be handling said information gleaned by illegal wire-tapping. American Nazis, right? Certainly not foreign Nazis…

Maybe. But our government doesn’t see it that way.

James Bamford’s new  The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America  documents that at least two foreign companies are handling the data our government illegally collects from us.

  • Narus   – an Israeli concern processes data collected  by AT&T
  • Verint – another Israeli company processes information tapped by Verizon

Well, hell – it’s Israel, right? They are our allies. How bad could it be? 2

Wake up, people.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. That is, of course, when they don’t outright dismiss us as tin foil hat wearers. Which happens as often as not.
  2. Uh…pretty bad. two top Verint’s top two guys recently pled guilty to a handful of felony and fraud charges. Meanwhile Verint’s  founder and CEO is on the lam. He €™s hiding in Namibia, of all places. I don’t know about you but that gives me warm fuzzies all over – here, take our (illegally obtained) data!

I Hate L.A.

The dwarf had a brother.

Name of Chuck; Charles actually. Charles Sherwood Stratton.

I guess his parents thought it an homage. They would almost certainly have to have been related to the famous man.

“…gen…ge…”, Chuck tried to say.

“What’s that?”, I ask. The dwarf is nearly dead, his voice but a papery whisper.

“General Tom Thumb.” And he died.

Right. General Tom Thumb. Should have guessed – he was a lot harder to kill than his brother. Though, in point of fact, it was not me that killed Tom Thumb.

We had been eating manok pansuh ruas in the longhouse when Tom Thumb made a mistake. He took out a small digital camera and, under the guise of shooting a few snaps of the villagers, surreptitiously got a couple of pics of me. Which might have passed without even comment.

If it weren’t for the babies.

The Dyak are not as they once were. They are no longer take heads, for example; the government of Borneo slaughtered so many of them for it that they finally gave up the pastime. But they have some customs that, deep in the jungle away from the ever prying eyes of the government, they simply will not abandon.

Photographing a baby while in the longhouse means death. It’s that simple.

Several of the men stood and loosened their parangs from the sashes that function as belts for their dirty sea-pants. A couple of men had nyabors. All were waiting for the tuai rumah to nod his assent, which he would surely do.

Over my right shoulder Karl was nattering on the way he does..

“A lot of people beat up on me; my attitude is, you know, I know who I am. I’m not the myth that I’ve been developed into and there’s nothing I can do…I’m like Grendel and Beowulf.”

I half turned on the wood plank to look. In the high corner of the longhouse, at the open end facing the lagoon, a TV complete with a pair of rabbit ears [tin-foiled to better focus the rays, so there you, silly schizos], showed Turd Blossom’s smug and smiling face.

Someone off-camera mentioned the Congressional subpoena. Rove responded.

“It’s not between me and Congress. I’ve not asserted any personal privilege…this is between the White House and Congress…(it’s about) the ability of the president to receive advice from senior advisers and for those senior advisers not to be at the beck and call of Congress for testimony.”

Even these remote villagers knew Karl had diss’d Congress, didn’t even show up for his hearing. They laughed at the TV now.

I need to talk with Karl.

I stand over General Tom Thumb and watch as his blood pools on the ruai.

The villagers have gone back to eating, talking, and playing with the little ones. Thumb’s wallet bulges out of a denim covered chunk of meat that used to be attached to his legs. I lean over to delicately snag it; I’m not a big fan of gore. But the wallet is stuck and my tugs keep moving his ass further and further away from his torso and legs. It’s almost comical – a dwarf yo-yo. Finally the rawhide comes free.

I find one picture, perhaps from a vacation? The dwarf I killed in Ushuaia is there and he has his arm around General Tom Thumb, a big smile on his face. There’s a beach in the background, maybe Ushuaia, maybe Cannes. In the dwarf’s other hand is what looks to be a matchbook.

Tom Thumb owns a US driver’s license. Issued in Cali, L.A. to be specific. Damn it.

The villagers used their parangs on Tom Thumb so quickly – one second they’re laughing at Rove, the next blood rained like a sudden spring shower – I never saw any single blow, just the results: a hand dropped to the floor, an ear, then an arm.

It was over before either I or General Tom Thumb could comprehend it.

Whoo whoo!

Our burg’s main imaginary news organ, The Kansas City Star, yesterday inked an editorial lauding an ex-pat who had enough ‘sex appeal’ to cause pre-teen girls across America to rack up AT&T Mobile texting costs in such numbers that he “won” a “talent contest” on a ‘reality’ program the other evening.

WNBTv applauds the young man’s good fortune, even while we are dismayed at the event itself.

As we might have mentioned to one of our many, many, many, beaucoup plenty of e-friends over at The Pitch, we have not actually seen the show in question.

Nor have we watched any of the island shows: not the one where they can’t get off the island (‘tards all), not the one where they get voted off the island (fuckin’ Republicans), not even the one where Ginger and Mary Ann compete for our tissues (well, maybe we have peeked at that one.)

We do not watch nannies run amok, ‘designers’ rebooting ‘jeans’; hormonal teenagers hissing at each other in a “communal setting”(duh!); men and women ‘dating’ each other for the camera, or chefs using iron as though we were all anemic. Speaking of which, we do not view anemic/anorexic women ‘competing’ to become ‘models’. We do not watch people building other people houses (booooring!). We do not watch people swap spouses. 1

We do not like these ‘shows’. We do not like them. We do not like them here or there. We do not like them anywhere. Not in a box. Not with a fox. We do not like ‘reality’ shows.

We have no objection to relaxing, unwinding or otherwise loafing at the end of the day; hell, we’ve been known to enjoy a spliff or two in the evenings.

Nor do we believe that down-time should always be spent catching up on world events and arranging to do your share to ease the suffering that the great majority of mankind endures on a daily basis; one needs a break from that upon occasion. Nor do we object to television, per se, more than any other tool at our disposal – it is, as always, how one uses the tool that is telling.

Nor do we believe that one ought to pass their spare time in strenuous exercise in order to ultimately pass from a lingering affliction of Alzheimer’s instead of sudden acute myocardial infarction – how one chooses to take a dirt nap is their business. 2

We do not like ‘reality’ shows (and their semi-reality kissin’ cousins, e.g. don’t dress like a cunt and ’cause i said so) simply because they are stupid 3, or because they exacerbate the continued degradation of what barely passes for culture in this great land, or because they’re stupid. 4

Nor do we disdain ‘reality’ shows simply because every fat-head in the office feels the need to go on and on and on and on and on and on the next day all about the last episode of whatfuckingever and how brilliant, meaningful, wonderful, hot, anorexic, neurotic these ‘real’ people they’re never going to meet but somehow fucking identify with are. 5

We do not like ‘reality’ shows because somehow they have transformed minimally talented, spotlight-seeking, average joes and janes into America’s next cultural heroes, icons little boys and girls will grow up striving to emulate because mom and dad showed them how important they are by raptly watching these shows in a near-religious trance.

These ‘idols’ have achieved nigh near saint status, so much so that should one try to introduce a little reason into this obsession, one is likely to be pounced upon, Tigger-like, by serious minded defenders of the realm.

Thus is the sad state of our current cultural conversation today.

At WNBTv we feel that in order to avoid a future that makes Idiocracy look like a Shakespearian play, all writers, producers and directors of all ‘reality’ shows (including people who are even thinking of creating them) should be rounded up and sent to GTMO, where they can be not humiliated, tortured and Greek-punished until such time as the American-Iraqi games come to a conclusion, or for 10 years, whichever occurs first.

As a further somewhat radical idea WNBTv urges citizens everywhere to ocasionally turn the television off in order to have an actual conversation with another human. Yes, this might be scary, but start small; perhaps leave the TV set off for just a half hour to begin with. Then call a friend, or walk next door and talk with a neighbor. At first, it would be okay to talk about a TV show, but after a while branch out and have an actual conversation about an actual idea one of you had.

You can do it, America!

WNBTv - Good TV!

Show 5 footnotes

  1. We lived the ’60s, thank you very little.
  2. That’s in the Constitution…or should be.
  3. Though that’s ample reason.
  4. Did we mention stupid?
  5. Although, good fucking christ people; get a grip!

The US Government and You

What, you may well ask, is my government doing for me right now? 1 Well you may ask!

In anticipation of November’s general election your typical Federal worker is biding his time. That’s right – he’s cleaning his desk, finishing up old work and projects, leaving early to go golf and in general not doing much.

Fire the bastard!, you might say. Good idea, except for one small detail – there’s really no one left to fire him. Here’s how that works.

When a new President is elected he normally puts his ‘own’ people into important roles, such as “Cabinet Level Positions.” The current cabinet (sans cabinet level administrative positions like VP, Chief of Staff, Director of National Intelligence, etc etc etc) is comprised of the following:

Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of Homeland Security.

Each of these posts are WH appointees. They are appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the President. Which means Shrub can fire them at will. Which also means that Obama can, and most certainly will, fire all of them upon his arrival in the White House. 2

Each of these individuals head Departments that contain any number of Agencies and Offices. Those Agencies and Offices in turn employ up to hundreds of thousands of Feds and contractors. Let’s use the DOJ as an example. Click here and keep it open as we talk…ready? Okay.

Notice how many organizations fall under DOJ? Each of them has an Administrator, who appoints a Deputy Administrator who usually appoints an Assistant Deputy Administrator who recommends a CIO, CSO and CFO, who pick Associate CIOs, CSOs & CFOs for each Agency or Office, whom then appoint or suggest Directors for each Division in their area, who then hire Branch Chiefs who pick their Team Leads to manage the worker bees…

Fun isn’t it? At this exact moment every Fed of the position Director upward is busily sending out resumes to private practice in order to get a jump on the upcoming exodus.

Which means that in many, if not most cases, Federal policy is being set and implemented by brave/adventuresome/crazy GS-12/13s. These employees are not usually in supervisory positions and, even if they were, would tend not to discipline their fellow workers for the nominal salary of $50-70 K P/A (special rates excluded here).

Hence, what is occurring in Government at many, many, many levels right now is what is referred to as ‘In-House Annual’. Isn’t that special? What is more fun is that it will take the new White House Administration – no matter who wins- up to a year (after next January 20th) to firmly place all of their new people and get their policies up and running.

And that’s only if the incoming Administration is very, very effective.

A very few of you will find this comforting. More than a few will be jealous. A whole lot of you will be aghast. Fear not, common citizen – some of us are still hard at work!

For example…

If you were a bad guy trying to steal nuclear material in America, where would you look? That’s right – Berkeley, California.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, operated by the University of California for the US Department of Energy, would be an excellent place to look!

There, surrounded by multi-story steel-mesh fencing, a chain-gun land mined ‘no-mans’ area, sci-fi electronic security gear, armed guards and overhead cables to prevent a helicopter/sky-divers landing on the roof, sits something known as the “Superblock.” Inside the Superblock 3 reposes roughly 2,000 pounds of plutonium and weapons-grade uranium.

You do the math on how many nukes that would make.

Let’s say that some employees of the DOJ recently got off their collective duffs and simulated a terror attack against those defenses. Let’s say a commando team posing as terrorists attacked and penetrated the lab, quickly overpowering its defenses to reach its “objective” – a mock payload of fissile material. Way to go, Team! Hu-aaah!!!! Yea…wait, what?

It appears there are a number of serious security ‘shortcomings’ at Livermore. 4

Congressional staff from both parties were informed of the episode, and experts familiar with Livermore said the tests were…er…”an embarrassment” and that “immediate steps” were needed to correct what some called “the most dangerous security weaknesses ever found at the lab.”

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman 5 was informed, as well as “senior officials in the U.S. nuclear and national security apparatus.”

Someone will get right on that…

What about the Internetz, Google and your Government?

Well, aside from your US Government buying $3.5 million dollars worth of CISCO hardware…that wasn’t really CISCO hardware but Chinese knockoffs, things are really, really good!

The Air Force is proposing to build its own zombie network, so it can launch distributed denial of service attacks on foreign enemies! Yea, Go Team!

In its best idea since the gay bomb, the Air Force wants to deliberately install DDoS code on its unclassified computers, as well as civilian government machines. And suggests mounting botnet code on the Air Force’s high-speed intrusion-detection systems, allowing a quick response by directly linking our counterattack to the system that detects an incoming attack.

After that, the Air Force could add botnet code to all its desktop computers attached to the Nonsecret Internet Protocol Network (NIPRNet). Once the system reaches a level of maturity, it would add other .mil computers, then .gov machines.

Hmmmm… on its surface, this seems -at best- a Strangelovian ideas.

I mean – the Air Force seems to think that building a massively distributed computing system to, essentially, flood the Internets with more as a defensive measure is a great idea.

Uh..

What about all the, you know, other networks in-between the Air Force and the ‘enemy’?

On the other hand…

In’t this already 6 in place?

Didn’t the telco duopoly install direct fiber links into all those new top secret government communications hubs? 7 If so, what’s to stop the telcos from providing a mirror of all the data streams for, you know, ‘national defense’ or warrant-less surveillance reasons?

The entire world knows -and seemly cares less- that the telcos spread their legs to The Dark Lord and Shrub; why would they not have also provided the staging point needed to covertly alter routes & dynamically modify or delete content, to include initiating brand-new traffic on-demand?

I mean: how are YOU going to know, right?

From outside a telco the end result will look just the same. Inside, The Matrix.

DCS 1000/2000, Magic Lantern, Carnivore (and their recently distributed automated progeny) have already positioned the US to impersonate the entire Internetz with the flip of a switch, so the idea of recycling old 386 boxes into botnets is probably meant to make stupid people 8 believe that nothing really sophisticated will happen for a few more decades, so knock yourselves out! Let the cyber crime spree begin! That’s a damn good, sneaky idea… Wait.

They’re going to funnel it thriugh all those bogus CISCO switches, routers and firewalls from China, aren’t they?

Crap. Maybe next time…

Well, that’s that. That’s pretty much what your government is up to right now. There may be a bake sale later this summer, or the Armed Forces could implode, or maybe the elections will be suspended because of an ‘event’. Only time will tell.

Buy Bonds!

WNBTv - Good TV!

Show 8 footnotes

  1. Aside from sponsoring the long running Iraqi Games, the current Obama/Clinton Cage Match and supposedly sending you money, I mean.
  2. Or McCain, for that matter; but why depress ourselves needlessly?
  3. Building 332 to be exact.
  4. For example the hydraulic system -essential to operating a Gatling gun that protects the facility- flat out failed. No backup.
  5. Who took a break from brushing up his what? That’s right – resume!
  6. illegally
  7. Conveniently co-located on the other side of the drywall from major backbone switching hubs.
  8. Who are just searching for porn. Or writing blogs. Whatever: they aren’t paying attention.

Blog Wars…Not

David Perlmutter, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies & Research in the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications at the University of Kansas just completed taping a segment with Jon Stewart for an upcoming TDS.

As the blurb on the TDS site announces, author of Blog Wars, “analyzes how blogs have transformed the electoral landscape.”

There is not a definitive air date yet (or if there is I missed it; an assist, please?) but I’m sure if you Tivo the show for the next couple of nights you’ll catch Professor Perlmutter. Short of that, you can go to his site and actually READ his thoughts. Conversely, you can hit the TDS site er…daily…and look for the clip.

Professor Perlmutter was part of an open seminar on blogging vs traditional news hosted by and at KSHB 2 Saturdays ago.

In a related story, Christa Dubill -who also attended said seminar and blogs as part of her duties at KSHB- pens a post concerning KC’s Best Burger. In a blatant snub, X.O.‘s burger was nowhere on the list. 1 2

Happy viewing.

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UPDATE: The Pitch posted the interview -from last night- on their site later this morning.

 

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Perhaps Mrs. Dubill is unaware that X.O. is on speaking terms with IronMan and could have her thoroughly thrashed, eh? Or tkc, for that matter.
  2. Though I believe Warren has offered to take that little job firmly in hand.