Category Archives: Fundamentalism

Headlines of the day I: Spies, pols, and ‘security’


Today’s compendium of events in the wordl of spooks and enforcers begins with signs of the times, via The Guardian:

From Quebec to Spain, anti-protest laws are threatening true democracy

The clash between neoliberal austerity and popular democracy has produced a crisis of ‘ungovernability’ for authorities

From Deutsche Welle, the latest in cosmetic repairs:

US lawmakers in Berlin for NSA talks

German officials have urged the US to restore trust between the countries following allegations of spying by intelligence services. Berlin and Washington are currently working on a new agreement regarding espionage.

And while they’re there, they can take heart from the latest breaking news: It wasn’t just the NSA tapping Merkel’s mobile, reports TheLocal.de:

UK, China and Russia ‘tapped Merkel’s phone’

It was not just the US – Britain, Russia, China and North Korea were also tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, German security services believe, according to magazine reports.

From the Wall Street Journal, a resignation refused for political reasons:

Shaken NSA Grapples With an Overhaul

Agency’s Director Offered to Resign Last Summer in Wake of Snowden Leaks

Shortly after former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed himself in June as the source of leaked National Security Agency documents, the agency’s director, Gen. Keith Alexander, offered to resign, according to a senior U.S. official.

[O]fficials also didn’t think his resignation would solve the security problem and were concerned that letting him leave would wrongly hand Mr. Snowden a win, the former defense official said.

Techdirt covers a dirty little secret [at least to some]:

How The FBI Actually Does Much Of The NSA’s Spying, But Is Keeping That Quiet

from the like-they-don’t-have-a-history-of-abuses? dept

And Reuters covers low fears in high places:

Spies worry over “doomsday” cache stashed by ex-NSA contractor Snowden

British and U.S. intelligence officials say they are worried about a “doomsday” cache of highly classified, heavily encrypted material they believe former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has stored on a data cloud.

One source described the cache of still unpublished material as Snowden’s “insurance policy” against arrest or physical harm.

From McClatchy Washington Bureau, the latest hypocrisy for The Most Transparent Administration in History™:

Obama’s overhaul of spy programs so far cloaked in more secrecy

President Barack Obama has faced withering criticism around the globe for his secret spying programs. How has he responded? With more secrecy.

Obama has been gradually tweaking his vast government surveillance policies. But he is not disclosing those changes to the public. Has he stopped spying on friendly world leaders? He won’t say. Has he stopped eavesdropping on the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund? He won’t say.

Even the report by the group Obama created to review and recommend changes to his surveillance programs has been kept secret.

From Slate, metadata as supersnitch:

Taking the “Meh” out of Metadata

How the government can discover your health problems, political beliefs, and religious practices using just your metadata.

CNBC covers a flight considered:

Google mulled ditching US after NSA scandal

Google, the giant of the Internet, thought about moving its servers out of the U.S. after the NSA debacle, said Eric Schmidt, the company’s chairman, on Friday at the Paley International Council Summit in New York.

And The Guardian covers conflicting security claims:

Japan’s PM demands China revoke claim to air zone over disputed islands

China, Japan and US exchange increasingly testy accusations, as airlines say they will have to notify China of flight plans

More from the South China Morning Post:

Beijing’s air defence zone over East China Sea branded ‘dangerous act’ by Japan

Beijing’s declaration of an air defence zone in the East China Sea kick-started a diplomatic free-for-all yesterday.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers other Asia heat, ratcheting upwards:

US hints at more sanctions on North Korea after Iranian deal

Washington’s point man on North Korea on Monday hinted at more sanctions against Pyongyang over its atomic weapons programme in the wake of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

The Jakarta Globe covers ongoing blowback:

Lawyer Says Australian Diplomats May Face Removal

The Indonesian government can remove Australian diplomats from the country should the letter sent by Prime Minister Tony Abbott in response to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s request for clarity regarding the wiretapping issue fail to address the president’s concerns, an expert says.

Deutsche Welle brings the newest drone power:

Anger over US drones mounting, Pakistan builds own unmanned sky army

Pakistan has unveiled locally built drone aircraft capable of surveillance. The United States claims its drone strikes in the country are aimed at taking out high-profile al Qaeda and Taliban targets.

While the Washington Post covers drone power politicals in the black world:

CIA not ready to relinquish role in drone strikes

Six months after President Obama signaled his desire to shift responsibility for the missile attacks to the military, his plan for the lethal counterterrorism program remains a distant goal.

How to buy friends and influence people, via TheLocal.de:

German universities use Pentagon research cash

German universities are breaking ethics rules by taking millions of euros from the US military for research projects into munitions, environmentally-friendly explosives and drone software, critics claim.

At least 22 universities and research institutes have confirmed accepting more than €10 million in Pentagon research grants since 2000, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said on Monday.

From Spiegel, Old Father Hubbard’s German groupies get a reprieve:

Waning Numbers: Germany To Suspend Monitoring of Scientology

Germany’s domestic security agency has reportedly decided to suspend monitoring of the controversial Scientology organization in the country. The decision, part of wider reforms, has led to criticism by some states.

The agency is currently trying to focus its efforts towards counter-espionage in light of recent allegations that Germany’s allies, including the United States, have been spying on the country. This move comes after the considerable strengthening of BFV’s department dealing with right-wing extremists following the uncovering of the National Socialist Union neo-Nazi terror cell.

Back to Japan with the Mainichi and resistance to a key ingredient in the emerging national security state:

Top adviser to PM admits difficulty in external evaluation of special secrets

A top adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has admitted to the difficulty in the government designating information as special secrets to be evaluated by an independent third party, if the government-sponsored special state secrets bill is passed into law.

Yosuke Isozaki, special adviser to the prime minister who is in charge of the state secrets bill currently under Diet debate, expressed the view during an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun on Nov. 19, underscoring fears that the scope of the government’s designation of information as special secrets could be indefinitely expanded.

From the South China Morning Post, China’s own march in the same direction:

Will new security panel be US or Soviet flavoured?

Plenum resolution was typically vague on the role and structure of new intelligence panel

From Reuters, an intensifying Asian security crisis in a very familiar venue:

New conditions appear to push U.S., Afghanistan farther from striking security deal

From the London Telegraph, another legacy of the Crusade for Freedom™:

Afghanistan ‘plans to reintroduce public stoning as punishment for adultery’

Human Rights Watch calls on international donors to withhold funds if government presses ahead with controversial new law to bring back stoning

From the Bangkok Post, a security crisis in Southeast Asia:

Protesters storm key ministries

PM imposes ISA in city, parts of nearby provinces

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has imposed the Internal Security Act (ISA) across the capital and in nearby areas after protesters stormed key ministries in a bid to topple the government

Quartz has an interesting sidebar:

Bangkok’s unlikely embrace of drone journalism shows the extent of the government’s problems

From Independent.ie, security problems on familiar terrain:

Warning of surge in dissident activity after bomb explodes under shopping centre

NORTHERN Ireland’s top police officer has warned of a surge in dissident republican activity after a bomb partially exploded under a shopping centre.

From the London Daily Mail, creepy but justifiable?:

New York State Troopers given tall, unmarked SUVs to peer down and catch drivers who text

New York has given state police 32 of the SUVs, part of one of the nation’s most aggressive attacks on texting while driving.

What’s next? Tanks? Well, consider this from Business Insider:

The Spoils Of War: Sheriffs, Police Nationwide Getting Armored Vehicles Left Over From Iraq

Coming soon to your local sheriff: 18-ton, armor-protected military fighting vehicles with gun turrets and bulletproof glass that were once the U.S. answer to roadside bombs during the Iraq war.

The South China Morning Post has the latest on an embarrassed news service:

Bloomberg hits China roadblock over reporting of sensitive issues

Concern growing that journalism is being compromised to allow financial network to maintain business ties and appease Beijing

From TheLocal.no Big Brother watched, acted:

Police in Norway arrest racist tweeter

Police in Norway have arrested a man for making racist comments on the micro-blogging service Twitter under the account name “@Negerjeger”, or “Nigger hunter”.

The man, who is in his 20s, was arrested on Friday in the northern city of Tromsö after being tracked down by the NCIS, the Norwegian police’s serious crimes unit.

He was then released on Saturday after being charged with violating Norway’s racism law. He faces up to three years in prison if found guilty.

Meanwhile, India continues to struggle with impact of of a scandal involving what NSA staffers jestingly call “Loveint.” From the Times of India:

Gujarat snooping: Modi govt sets up panel to probe scandal

Under fire for using the state machinery to illegally snoop on a woman, the Gujarat government formed a two-member commission of inquiry to investigate the charge on Monday. The snooping was allegedly supervised in 2009 by then junior home minister Amit Shah at the behest of his ‘saheb’.

Computerworld covers corporate tracking:

LoJack system will allow parents, auto makers and insurance companies to track vehicles

Insurance companies, auto makers will also have tracking capabilities

And we close with a very important question, raised by The Guardian:

JSoc: Obama’s secret assassins

The president has a clandestine network targeting a ‘kill list’ justified by secret laws. How is that different than a death squad?

Chart of the day II: mulling suicide bombers


Fox News performed a fete of semantic legerdemain, transforming the suicide bomber into the homicide bomber. The term is inaccurate, because it encompasses, by the very definitions of the words, folks ranging from drone pilots, to order-giving generals, malcontents of all political types and degrees of mental anguish, and anyone else who kills another person by means of an explosive device.

No, suicide is definitely the right word. The bomber, deprived of drones, tanks, and missiles, uses him/herself as the delivery vehicle, with — for some Muslims — the belief that a sensual paradise awaits.

As the American navy neared the Japanese home islands, a new phenomenon arose, the Kamikaze, or Divine Wind — suicide bombers sitting in pilot’s seat, invoking the typhoons that saved Japan from Mongol invaders seven centuries earlier.

But the suicidal fighter is legendary in the West as well, starting the those 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. I also remember a comic book from childhood celebrating an American fighter/bomber pilot who refused to eject and remained at the controls of his disabled plane, steering it and its bomb payload into a Japanese cruiser. A real hero, that guy, right?

Recall, too, that all those who took up the Cross on those crusades that spread blood and gore across Europe and the Middle East were assured a straight ticket into heaven — a papal get-out-of-purgatory-free card — should they die in their endeavor to seize and hold that often-gore-drenched land they — and others — believed holy.

And all in the name of one who had taught his followers forgiveness and cheek-turning.

Recall also that during one crusade in France, a commander of the papal-sanctioned crusaders was legendarily said to have instructed his troops, when asked what to do to sort out the Albigensian heretics from the honest Catholics in a city just taken by siege, “Kill them all and let God sort them out.” Or, and more formally, according to Wikipedia,

Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. [Kill them. For the Lord know those that are His own.]

The bottom line: God would take care of those who died in His service, and to hell [literally] with the rest. If you happened to lose your head along the way, heaven awaits.

Consider also those American soldiers who’ve been honored posthumously for saving the lives of comrades by throwing themselves on grenades, a suicide by bombing of another sort.

Note also that most cultures honor warriors who knowingly gave their lives to save their comrades in honor of a cause.

Remember the Alamo!

And you can rest assured, occupants of German working class neighborhoods intentionally firebombed to disrupt military production certainly thought of the American and British pilots delivering the firestorms as homicide bombers. But target residential neighborhoods we did, using knowledge developed by bombing mockups of apartments built in deep isolation in the Utah desert.

Bombers suffered enormous casualty rates, and pilots who bailed out over Germany were often lynched as murderers [homicide bombers as it were] before police or troops could arrive. And instead of breaking working class morale, the bombing appeared to embitter them against the Americans and British. All of this was known to the bomber crews, along with the certainty that their chances of survival diminished with every mission [an interesting word in itself].

For today’s suicide bomber as for those ancient Spartans and so many others, believes their actions justified by their cause, even to the point of certain death.

And in most cases, the act is one of passionate sincerity, which can itself frighten those who don’t happen to espouse their own differing views with the same intensity.

Enough musings.

From Muslim Publics Share Concerns about Extremist Groups, Much Diminished Support for Suicide Bombing, a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project on a survey of 11 Muslim populations in countries “from South Asia to the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa.”:

BLOG Suicide

Charts of the day: Okay, we’re stumped


First, consider the results of a survey of American attitudes from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life:

BLOG Gay marriage

Next, consider this from Gallup, conducted a month after the Pew survey:

BLOG evolution

We leave the explanations to you, dear reader.

Quote of the day: If it’s rape, relax. God wills it


Anti-abortion Indiana Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock in a Tuesday night debate with Democratic opponent Joe Donnelly, via the BBC:

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realise that life is that gift from God.”

“And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”