I’m quite a bit behind schedule this morning. I’m still in Indiana with my Mom, and we had to have some workmen come by this morning. I’m also trying to get organized for my drive back to Boston over the weekend, so I’m somewhat tired and stressed out.
Anyway, I’m working on a post that I will put up either later today or when I get back home. For now, here’s a TGIF link dump/open thread.
Today’s top stories
The Sony Hack is getting lots of attention.
NYT editorial, Sony and Mr. Kim’s Thugs. Here’s the gist:
Corporations, even large ones like Sony, cannot stand up to a rogue state and shadowy hacker armies all by themselves. That’s why the Obama administration needs to take a strong stand on this and future attacks. Officials said on Thursday that they were considering a “proportional response.”
Retaliation by the Obama administration over this attack would risk escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and between North Korea and Japan, where Sony’s corporate parent is based. However, there are things the United States can do. Although there are already heavy sanctions on North Korea, there may be ways to inflict more economic pain.
Washington could seek an international panel to investigate the attack and demand condemnation by the United Nations Security Council. The United States also needs to work with Japan and South Korea, two other regular targets of North Korean hacking, to improve their defenses and develop common responses like imposing sanctions.
China, North Korea’s main ally and benefactor, remains the best check on the Kim regime; experts say most North Korean hackers are based in China. But China has its own history of hacking American government and industry computers and has resisted Washington’s requests for talks on how to handle hacking attacks and their aftermath.
The international community needs to speed up work on norms on what constitutes a cyberattack and what the response should be. If China and the United States are unable to work together in this critical area, the Internet will become a free-for-all and everyone will pay the price.
Jang Se-yul, who defected from North Korea seven years ago, told CNN that he thinks there are 1,800 cyberwarriors in the agency stationed around the world. But he says even the agents themselves don’t know how many others work for the secretive group, called Bureau 121, whose mission is to “conduct cyberattacks against overseas and enemy states.”
The South Korean government thinks Bureau 121 is the agency at the heart of numerous cyberattacks from North Korea against elements in foreign countries, a government official who requested to be anonymous told CNN on Thursday.
North Korea’s hacking capabilities have become a global talking point recently, after a massive hack of Sony Pictures — the studio behind “The Interview,” a comedy depicting the assassination of Pyongyang’s leader, Kim Jong Un. That was followed by warnings that the movie not be shown in theaters…
From Hollywood to Washington, the outrage is spreading over Sony Pictures’ decision to cancel a movie release following a cyber attack and threats from a group of North Korea-backed hackers.
Politicians urged Sony not to back down in the face of threats tied to the release of the controversial comedy “The Interview,” and then began lashing out when the studio made it clear it has no further plans to release the film, which depicts an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un….
FBI investigators tracked the hackers who broke into Sony’s servers, published private information and threatened moviegoers back to the North Korean regime, U.S. law enforcement officials told CNN on Wednesday. The North Korean regime slammed the movie this summer as “terrorism and a war action.”
And despite the hackers’ threat to attack movie theaters, the Department of Homeland Security has said “there is no credible intelligence” supporting an active plot against movie theaters.
EXCLUSIVE: As it begins to dawn on everyone in Hollywood the reality that Sony Pictures was the victim of a cyberterrorist act perpetrated by a hostile foreign nationon American soil, questions will be asked about how and why it happened, ending with Sony cancelling the theatrical release of the satirical comedy The Interviewbecause of its depiction of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. One of those issues will be this: Why didn’t anybody speak out while Sony Pictures chiefs Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton were embarrassed by emails served up by the media, bolstering the credibility of hackers for when they attached as a cover letter to Lynton’s emails a threat to blow up theaters if The Interview was released?
Read the interview with Clooney at the link.
The Daily Beast, Paramount Bans Showing ‘Team America’.
Three movie theaters say Paramount Pictures has ordered them not to show Team America: World Police one day after Sony Pictures surrendered to cyberterrorists and pulled The Interview. The famous Alamo Drafthouse in Texas, Capitol Theater in Cleveland, and Plaza Atlanta in Atlanta said they would screen the movie instead of The Interview, but Paramount has ordered them to stop. (No reason was apparently given and Paramount hasn’t spoken.)Team America of course features Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, as a singing marionette.
Apparently, both Team America: World Police and The Interview are chock full of racist memes about Asians.
North Korea Is Not Funny. Let’s be clear: The Interview isn’t a courageous act of defiance against a dictator, by Adrien Hong at The Atlantic.
In recent months, the uproar over The Interview, a comedy about assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has triggered an escalating set of reactions: retaliatory threats from North Korean officials; a sophisticated cyberattack on Sony Pictures, reportedly orchestrated by North Korea; a pledge by the hackers to physically attack theaters showing the film; and now, on Wednesday, Sony’s decision to cancel the movie’s December 25 release altogether, as movie-theater chains began backing out of screenings. The latest development is an act of craven self-censorship and appeasement—a troubling precedent by the Free World’s leading culture-makers. But rightful calls to defend freedom of expression and go ahead with the movie are also mixing with a far more dubious strain of thinking: that the film itself is a form of defiance against a dictatorial regime. It is not.
In The Interview, directed by the Canadian comics Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, a celebrity journalist (James Franco) and his producer (Rogen), tired of producing meaningless content, score a major scoop: an interview with Kim Jong Un (Randall Park). The CIA learns about the trip and recruits the two to kill the leader—a task that, judging from reports and leaked footage, someone eventually succeeds in doing.
This film is not an act of courage. It is not a stand against totalitarianism, concentration camps, mass starvation, or state-sponsored terror. It is, based on what we know of the movie so far, simply a comedy, made by a group of talented actors, writers, and directors, and intended, like most comedies, to make money and earn laughs. The movie would perhaps have been better off with a fictitious dictator and regime; instead, it appears to serve up the latest in a long line of cheap and sometimes racism-tinged jokes, stretching from Team America: World Police to ongoing sketches on Saturday Night Live.
It’s a thoughtful article. I need to go back and give it a careful read.
In other news . . .
Bloomberg View, Hillary Clinton Secretly Pushed Cuba Deal for Years, by Josh Rogin.
Although President Barack Obama is taking the credit for Wednesday’s historic deal to reverse decades of U.S. policy toward Cuba, when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, she was the main architect of the new policy and pushed far harder for a deal than the Obama White House.
From 2009 until her departure in early 2013, Clinton and her top aides took the lead on the sometimes public, often private interactions with the Cuban government. According to current and former White House and State Department officials and several Cuba policy experts who were involved in the discussions, Clinton was also the top advocate inside the government for ending travel and trade restrictions on Cuba and reversing 50 years of U.S. policy to isolate the Communist island nation. Repeatedly, she pressed the White House to move faster and faced opposition from cautious high-ranking White House officials.
After Obama announced the deal Wednesday, which included the release of aid contractor Alan Gross, Clinton issued a supportive statement distributed by the National Security Council press team. “As Secretary of State, I pushed for his release, stayed in touch with Alan’s wife Judy and their daughters, and called for a new direction in Cuba,” she said. “Despite good intentions, our decades-long policy of isolation has only strengthened the Castro regime’s grip on power.”
But according to the progs, Hillary is a triangulating warmonger. Hmmmmm . . .
A bipartisan, independent panel scrutinizing the U.S. Secret Service after a man with a small knife in his pocket jumped the perimeter fence and made it deep inside the White House is recommending sweeping changes at the agency.
The Secret Service’s “paramount mission” of protecting the president and other high-ranking officials “allows no tolerance for error,” and a “single miscue, or even a split-second delay, could have disastrous consequences for the nation and the world,” warns the panel’s final report, commissioned by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson after the September breach.
Read the recommendations at the link.
The New Yorker, The Unidentified Queen of Torture, by Jane Mayer.
The NBC News investigative reporter Matthew Cole has pieced together a remarkable story revealing that a single senior officer, who is still in a position of high authority over counterterrorism at the C.I.A.—a woman who he does not name—appears to have been a source of years’ worth of terrible judgment, with tragic consequences for the United States. Her story runs through the entire report. She dropped the ball when the C.I.A. was given information that might very well have prevented the 9/11 attacks; she gleefully participated in torture sessions afterward; she misinterpreted intelligence in such a way that it sent the C.I.A. on an absurd chase for Al Qaeda sleeper cells in Montana. And then she falsely told congressional overseers that the torture worked.
Had the Senate Intelligence Committee been permitted to use pseudonyms for the central characters in its report, as all previous congressional studies of intelligence failures, including the widely heralded Church Committee report in 1975, have done, it might not have taken a painstaking, and still somewhat cryptic, investigation after the fact in order for the American public to hold this senior official accountable. Many people who have worked with her over the years expressed shock to NBC that she has been entrusted with so much power. A former intelligence officer who worked directly with her is quoted by NBC, on background, as saying that she bears so much responsibility for so many intelligence failures that “she should be put on trial and put in jail for what she has done.”
Instead, however, she has been promoted to the rank of a general in the military, most recently working as the head of the C.I.A.’s global-jihad unit. In that perch, she oversees the targeting of terror suspects around the world. (She was also, in part, the model for the lead character in “Zero Dark Thirty.”)
According to sources in the law-enforcement community who I have interviewed over the years, and who I spoke to again this week, this woman—whose name the C.I.A. has asked the news media to withhold—had supervision over an underling at the agency who failed to share with the F.B.I. the news that two of the future 9/11 hijackers had entered the United States prior to the terrorist attacks. As I recount in my book “The Dark Side,” the C.I.A. got wind that one of these Al Qaeda operatives, Khalid al-Mihdhar, had obtained a multiple-entry visa into the United States eighteen months before 9/11. The agency also learned, months before the attacks, that another Al Qaeda operative, Nawaf al-Hazmi, had flown into Los Angeles. Yet the C.I.A. appears to have done nothing. It never alerted the F.B.I., which had the principle domestic authority for protecting the U.S. from terror attacks. Its agents had, in fact, been on the trail of at least one of the hijackers previously, but had no way of knowing that he had entered the United States. Nor did the C.I.A. alert the State Department, which kept a “TIPOFF” watch list for terror suspects.
Police Chief Art Acevedo suspended two officers in November for making jokes about rape victims. The Austin Police Association said at the time that the respective three-day and five-day suspensions were “fair and appropriate.” The incident took place after a local attorney had released a video in which the two Austin police officers are laughing and one of the officers comments: “Go ahead and call the cops. They can’t un-rape you.”
Recently, offensive comments were made to KUT’s reporter Joy Diaz, while she was covering a police-related story….
Just to set the scene, this reporter was at the police union’s building waiting to interview the head of the union. That’s when veteran officer [Andrew] Pietrowski approached me and started talking about the media fall-out over the video tape of NFL running back Ray Rice punching and knocking out his then-fiancé in a hotel elevator. Rice was suspended by the NFL and was released by his team.
Pietrowski says the event was blown out of proportion by the media. That’s when he explained.
“Now, stop and think about this. I don’t care who you are. You think about the women’s movement today, [women say] ‘Oh, we want to go [into] combat,’ and then, ‘We want equal pay, and we want this.’ You want to go fight in combat and sit in a foxhole? You go right ahead, but a man can’t hit you in public here? Bulls–t! You act like a whore, you get treated like one!”
Pietrowski retired from the force after learning that KUT planned to reveal his comments on the air.
S0 . . . . what else is happening? Please post links to the stories that interested you in the comment thread, and Happy Friday!
More news on the assault on the rights of US women and a case that may put Roe v. Wade back on the SCOTUS Docket. We’ve written of this one before; however, Newsweek has some extra analysis. Jennie McCormick was arrested for using RU-486 to terminate a pregnancy in her home state of Idaho. She got the pills from her sister and was reported to police by a friend. So, what exactly is her crime? Her pregnancy was a few weeks farther along than the one trimester.
McCormack, who thought she was about 12 weeks along, took the pills (the protocol involves two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol) the afternoon they arrived. The drugs are FDA-approved only for ending early-stage pregnancies; McCormack had no complications, but the pregnancy turned out to be more advanced than she thought—perhaps between 18 and 21 weeks, experts later speculated—and the size of the fetus scared her. She didn’t know what to do—“I was paralyzed,” she says—so she put it in a box on her porch, and, terrified, called a friend. That friend then called his sister, who reported McCormack to the police.
Although RU-486 is legal and the fetus was not yet “viable” (that is, old enough to live outside the uterus), Idaho has a 1972 law—never before enforced—making it a crime punishable by five years in prison for a woman to induce her own abortion. The day after police arrested McCormack, her mug shot appeared above the fold in the local newspaper. “It’s hard to imagine the humiliation and fear,” says her lawyer, Richard Hearn, who is also a physician.
The case was dropped weeks later due to lack of evidence. Without solid proof, such as the envelope in which the pills came, her confession wasn’t enough to sustain the case. But prosecutors retained the right to re-file charges. In response, Hearn got a federal injunction to prevent any woman from being prosecuted under the state’s anti-abortion statute by the district attorney. He also filed a class-action suit against the state, claiming the statute is unconstitutional. But all that took nine months to play out, and McCormack lurched into depression and became a virtual shut-in.
“You’d have to know the climate here,” says Hearn, “to fully imagine the amount of pressure Jennie is under, how hostile people can be, how isolated she is.” Next week, motions will be heard in federal court to certify the suit as a class action. Last week, the prosecutor filed a motion to have Hearn’s injunction lifted.
This is basically the new frontier of the back alley abortion. Approximately 20 percent of abortions now involve pills abortion drugs. They are 95% effective and many can be mail ordered over the internet. Restrictions on abortion providers and funding all over the country may increase the necessity of using abortion drugs. This could be a central case in the fight for women’s reproductive rights and our constitutional rights.
Last night North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died. His third son will replace him. Frontline has an interesting series of programs on Kim that you may want to watch.
Speaking of Tin Pot dictators, John Boehner and his house republicans have blocked the payroll tax cuts. Only tax cuts for billionaires seem to be acceptable to the minions of Grover Norquist.
In an interview on “Meet The Press” on NBC, John A. Boehner, the House speaker, said his members broadly opposed the two-month extension that passed the Senate 89 to 10 on Saturday, believing that it would be “just kicking the can down the road.”
“It’s time to just stop, do our work, resolve the differences, and extend this for one year,” Mr. Boehner said. “How can you have tax policy for two months?”
The surprising setback threatened the holiday plans of lawmakers and President Obama, deeply embarrassed Republican leaders in both chambers and raised the specter of a year-end tax increase that economists have warned could set back the already fragile economic recovery
The House is to take up the Senate bill — passed in a rare Saturday session — when members return to Capitol Hill on Monday night. House leaders expect the bill to fail and their members to then consider and perhaps vote on an amended version that same night.
Horrifying violence in Egypt extends to women protestors. Two women were photographed being brutally beaten and molested by Egyptian Security forces.
In a video broadcast on the internet, security forces dressed in riot gear are seen chasing a woman and beating her to the ground with metal bars before stripping her and kicking her repeatedly. One soldier stamps his foot hard on her chest.
Other images showed women beaten unconscious.
After being viciously beaten by the ten-strong mob, the woman lies helplessly on the ground as her shirt is ripped from her body and a man kicks her with full force in her exposed chest.
Moments earlier she had been struck countless times in the head and body with metal batons, not content with the brutal beating delivered by his fellow soldier, one man stamped on her head repeatedly.
She feebly tried to shield her head from the relentless blows with her hands.
But she was knocked unconscious in the shameful attack and left lying motionless as the military men mindlessly continued to beat her limp and half-naked body.
Before she was set upon by the guards, three men appeared to carry her as they tried to flee the approaching military.
But they were too slow and the soldiers caught up with them, capturing the women and knocking one of the men to the ground.
I’m just glad we didn’t share our armed drone technology with Mubarak.
For years, I have wondered why, for some people, enough is never enough. For example, what could have possibly motivated Jon Corzine — a respected former senator, governor and Wall Street big shot with hundreds of millions in the bank — to take the top job at MF Global Holdings Ltd (MF) in the first place?
He was 63 years old, six months away from getting remarried. He was one of the few remaining high-profile Wall Street Democrats around, and an avid supporter of President Barack Obama. He was routinely mentioned as a possible successor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, if Obama were to win a second term.
Why couldn’t Corzine just enjoy his fortune, perhaps set up an eponymous foundation to do good works, bide his time and then use his connections to become Treasury secretary? He already had a cushy perch at Princeton University, where he invited any number of finance types to teach his class while he basked in their reflective glory. Life was good. (Disclosure: I once taught the class, although the amount of glory reflected is debatable.)
There’s a fascinating set of articles on the CERN particle collider and the hunt for The Higgs boson particle at The Economist.
The announcement, by Fabiola Gianotti and Guido Tonelli—the heads, respectively, of two experiments at CERN known as ATLAS and CMS—was that both of their machines have seen phenomena which look like traces of the Higgs. They are traces, rather than actual bosons, because no Higgs will ever be seen directly. The best that can be hoped for are patterns of breakdown particles from Higgses that are, themselves, the results of head-on collisions between protons travelling in opposite directions around CERN’s giant accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Heavy objects like Higgs bosons can break down in several different ways, but each of these ways is predictable. Both ATLAS and CMS have seen a number of these predicted patterns often enough to pique interest, but not (yet) often enough to constitute proof that they came from Higgses, rather than being random fluctuations in the background of non-Higgs decays.
The crucial point, and the reason for the excitement, is that both ATLAS and CMS (which are located in different parts of the ring-shaped accelerator tunnel of the LHC) have come up with the same results. Both indicate that, if what they have seen really are Higgses, then the boson has a mass of about 125 giga-electron-volts (GeV), in the esoteric units which are used to measure how heavy subatomic particles are. That coincidence bolsters the suggestion that this is the real thing, rather than a few chance fluctuations.
Bradley Manning begins his 4th day of his preliminary hearing. The third day brought some interesting testimony on the atmosphere surrounding the sort of intelligence Manning saw.
However, the witnesses also said soldiers at the intelligence analysis center Manning worked at in Iraq routinely flouted the Army’s safeguards for classified information by playing music, movies and video games on computers that were part of the military’s secure network for classified information.
Some in the brigade even used a “password-crack program” to break into the administrator account and add software, a civilian computer contractor who handled Manning’s unit, Jason Milliman, testified.
“They thought they had full rights and were able to whatever they wanted to do,” said Milliman, who said he couldn’t stop the unauthorized practices because he had no authority over the soldiers.
Capt. Thomas Cherepko, who was in charge of the computer network at Manning’s base in eastern Iraq, said the presence of unauthorized programs on the classified computers was routine
Asked if the rules were “violated on a daily basis,” Cherepko said: “More or less, yes sir.”
Well, that should start things off today. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Have you notice the quality of discourse on issues has gone decidedly downhill since the candidates given ‘get home free passes’ by the media during the primary are what we now seem stuck with? As an economist, I’m still waiting for one of them to actually say something about economic policy other than the usual discourse on taxes and spending. As a citizen, I’m thinking about building a bomb shelter in my backyard.
I can only second this sentiment by the International Herald Tribune on what small details the two have offered up to date.
“McCain is placating economic conservatives in the Republican party by promising tax cuts that would lead to a fiscal nightmare. Obama is pandering to labor with protectionist threats that would endanger relations with important trading partners.”
The one thing I will point to is this telling Obama candidate-of-change sidebar:
“Obama is backtracking somewhat on Nafta, and if he wins, don’t be surprised if he gives a green light to Democratic congressional leaders to pass the Colombia trade pact in a lame-duck session.”
I’m completely buying this one since the FISA sell-out. Remember we already had the wink, wink, nudge, nudge moment with Goolsbee and the Canadian ambassador as a preview.
I’m just waiting to get my hands on the new issue of Forbes which supposedly has a side-by-side comparison. I’ve gleaned both of their sites, and believe me, they both supposedly have economic advisors. Now, if they’d just put forth coherent economic policies I could actually WRITE about.
I was hoping for a little more on the international side, given our foreign policy is in a deplorable state and this is McCain’s supposed forte. Both seem inadequate although there is a change in direction against Obama coming from, of all places, Europe. The WaPo, here to date a good member in standing of the Obama pep club has recently started this discussion:
“European officials are increasingly concerned that Sen. Barack Obama‘s campaign pledge to begin direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program without preconditions could potentially rupture U.S. relations with key European allies early in a potential Obama administration.”
Oh, great job guys!! Beat up on Senator Clinton for her pant suits and emasculating use of a microphone, THEN tell us that the hopie changie guy could potentially threaten our relations with allies. Way to go!
Meanwhile, Senator Obama has managed to be endorsed by every tinpot dictator remaining on the planet while garnering heavy criticism from even the European press for undermining the ongoing diplomacy on Iran and its nuclear weapons development. I have several things I want to share with you on this front. The first is an appalling Gaddafi video discussing the importance of an Obama presidency. Savage politics has an excellent blog providing a great analysis on this development. (http://savagepolitics.com/?p=797) so I’ll point you in that direction for more on him.
At last count, Fidel Castro, Kim Jon Il, Obama’s Kenyan cousin, Hamas, and Muammar al-Gaddafi are all giddy on Obama. Maybe they all have the same koolaid supplier as Obamba or maybe they see that some one so incredibly in over their head has to give them some kind of advantage. Castro did have one small bone to pick with Obama saying “When he was a candidate, he of course committed the error of yearning for “a democratic Cuba.” Well, I guess Wright, Ayers, Farahkhan, and Pflegle didn’t completely capture Obama’s attention for 20 years. Maybe he can take a few pointers from cousin Odingo who appears completely ready to embrace his cousin. This nugget is from the BBC.
“Barack Obama’s cousin Raila Odingo (a radical Muslim African Arab) planned and executed the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Kenya’s Rift Valley.”
Which leads me to a sidebar question: If Obama is supposedly a Black American, why is Odingo, his cousin doing ethnic cleansing on native Africans? This only makes sense if Odingo is ethnically an Arab which would implies that Obama isn’t actually a Black American but an Arab American. I frankly don’t care what his ethnicity actually is because I’ve had it with identity politics, but it brings up a larger question of why Obama would pose as an African American if he’s an Arab American?
Now, we have Bomb Bomb Iran McCain’s advisors doing the 9-11 re-shuffle. Charlie Black plays the wow, what if we get attacked again card and comes up with McCain wins. This is our war-hero candidate who is supposed THE ONE with foreign policy creds and shouldn’t need surrogates dropping 9-11 references. This happens after the we had found out that McCain’s strategest Peter Madigan was a lobbiest for, of all places, IRAN. McCain is using Bush’s play book a little too much for comfort.
“In an interview with the Atlantic in late May, McCain said that “Iran is hell-bent on the destruction of Israel, they’re hell-bent on driving us out of Iraq, they’re hell-bent on supporting terrorist organizations, and as serious as anything to American families, they’re sending explosive devices into Iraq that are killing American soldiers.” In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee this month, McCain again mocked Obama’s willingness to enter into dialogue with the Iranians, saying, “The idea that they now seek nuclear weapons because we refused to engage in presidential-level talks is a serious misreading of history.”
Again, if sanctions and saber-rattling were working so well, we’d have settled this issue already. McCain needs to voice some real options here or be defined as the third Bush term.
Can we find some kind of policy that doesn’t include threatening all out war or suggesting it’s okay for a President to talk to ANY of these jerks without preconditions? Is there any one in either of these campaigns that can get these guys a really quick lesson on diplomacy and international relations? Both of them seem to be clueless and we can’t seem to get the press to go after either of them at the same time on this.
Is this really the best leadership we can offer the world? Haven’t we done enough damage with 8 years of a president completely in over his head? Do we need four more years of cluelessness?