When I first started to write this post, I thought–I’d like to say how I feel about us going to war, but the NSA might be reading this.

But then I realized that the reality is far sadder than that.  The conspiracy theories aren’t true.  Sure, the NSA might be scanning for some keywords, but there isn’t anybody out there attentively reading what we have to say.  They aren’t hovering over our houses in black helicopters.  I don’t believe they’re using new technologies to read our minds, or electromagnetic frequencies to brainwash us.  I really don’t think that my opposition to the war in Syria will cause anyone to send a swarm of tiny robots to invade my body (although that might be kinda cool).

They have a far better strategy than that–they ignore us.  After all, we have places like this to vent, our cafes and bars where we can bitch over our drinks before we go back to our obedient daily lives.  Many Americans, both liberal and conservative, are opposed to a military intervention in Syria, but they don’t really care what we think.  The decision about whether we go over there–yea or nay–will be made by that small group of people debating it, without our influence.

Sometimes I wish the NSA *was* reading this.

Edward Snowden continues to say hilarious things about Russia as he hangs out in the transit section of the Moscow airport.  (Hey, it’s funnier to talk about than the depressing Trayvon Martin verdict).  He has now described Russia as “the first to stand against human rights violations”.  Gay people and political dissidents all over the country laughed, or would have laughed if they were not in labor camps or dead. 

This statement from Snowden made me scratch my head, until I realized that when Snowden is talking about “human rights”, he is thinking only of a very specific human:  himself.  He is so focused on his own situation that he cannot see some of the other “human rights” stuff which is happening in the country which has granted him refuge.  This may speak to a big ego on his part–which wouldn’t surprise me.  Or it may simply show that Snowden is frightened and exhausted, and is probably saying flattering things about Russia out of fear.  Meanwhile, Putin has described him as an unwanted Christmas present.  Ouch…the love here is clearly not a two-way street.

Now, here’s a human rights defender I can really get behind…the awesome mayor of Reykjavik, Jon Gnarr, who has proposed to end Reykjavik’s sister city arrangement with Moscow as a protest against Russia’s recently passed homophobic law against “gay propaganda”.  Needless to say, Mr. Gnarr is a big proponent of gay rights and has appeared in drag in Pride parades. 

Iceland’s Pirate Party has voted to offer Edward Snowden citizenship.  Should he ever get his ability to travel back, this would be a much better choice than Moscow.

 

So Rupert Murdoch has been caught (and secretly recorded) bitching to his employees about the corruption and phone hacking inquiry which he has been the target of.  To recap, News Corp is being investigated because the journalists working there were found to be hacking into people’s phones for story scoops, as well as paying off public officials.  But Murdoch is very upset that the cops have been going after his reporters.  After all, bribing officials is something that has been “going on a hundred years,” according to him.  Ah, News Corp…always holding up the highest standard of ethics.  It has gotten so bad, Rupie fumes, that “they’re going to put all newspapers out of business.”

Normally I’m sad about the impending death of newspapers, but in this case I’ll make an exception.  Here I thought that the hard copy newspaper was going out of business due to online competition and our shortening attention spans.  If Rupert Murdoch is trying to tell us that the newspaper companies are actually going kaput because they’re full of dishonest slimebags who give bribes, hey, good riddance.  But I have the feeling that it’s just this particular company, because, well…Rupert Murdoch.

Interesting, by the way, how I never heard the kind of uproar on right wing radio about this phone hacking scandal that I have about the recent NSA one.  Wasn’t this just as much of an invasion of privacy?  Clearly, this kind of thing is VERY BAD when the government does it, but only meh when a giant corporation does it.  Or is it just that Rupert doesn’t have an African last name?  For the record, I’m angered by both hacking scandals, but it’s always fascinating to see the talking heads apply their double standards.  If only Obama had been involved somehow….

As we continue to grapple with the dilemma of Prism and the NSA observing our lives (or perhaps not–I haven’t heard too much discussion of this lately), the problem of privacy vs. security continues world-wide.  Great Britain has now announced that it will opt out of over a hundred EU regulations, at least for the time being.  One of those new laws has to do with creating a single European DNA database.  On the surface, this sounds good–it will make chasing after criminals across the borders of EU countries easier.  On the other hand, here is yet more opportunity for possible abuse of power, and a single institution having access to a lot of information about its citizens.  Also–and this is what Britain is balking at–it means additional chipping away at the sovereignty of individual countries within the EU.  Especially in connection with something called the European Arrest Warrant, which would allow any EU country to demand the deportation of an accused criminal from a different member country.

Britain says it wants to consider its options before agreeing to these regulations, and I’m thinking it is probably wise to do so.

Once again I have to do a little Oregon bragging about my Senator Ron Wyden.  He’s been concerned about the shadier side of our War on Terror–including drone strikes and intelligence collection–for a long time now.  You could say he was into this stuff before it was hip to do so.

Well, Sen. Wyden is not backing down, and he has now teamed up with Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado to write a letter to the NSA, accusing the agency of presenting information on its website–information about the extent of surveillance on Americans–which is “inaccurate”.  Among other things, the letter states:

“We were disappointed to see that this factsheet contains an inaccurate statement about how the section 702 authority has been interpreted by the US government…In our judgment, this inaccuracy is significant, as it portrays protections for Americans’ privacy as being significantly stronger than they actually are.”

The Senators do not specify exactly which part of the website factsheet is inaccurate, as this is classified information, but they do add a classified attachment to the letter for review by the NSA. 

Sen. Wyden, who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been dropping hints about his worries for a while now, even while he could not publically discuss the problems with the NSA.  It’s nice to watch him continue fighting, but it’s sad to say that the tide in Congress is very much against him.

Ha!  Edward Snowden is still at the Moscow airport, and Vladimir Putin is defending himself from American charges that he is helping hide a criminal.  Putin says that Mr. Snowden’s arrival was “a complete surprise for us”.

This would all be very nice except that the Guardian reported a few days earlier that Russia offered to consider a political asylum request for Snowden as soon as he fled the U.S., even though Snowden had not submitted any such request to them.  They immediately volunteered themselves as a possible location for him…but now Putin is completely surprised by this turn of events!  Perhaps he is just amazed that anyone would actually take him at his word?

I see that Edward Snowden is about to leave Russia, and that’s really too bad, because I had a great idea for a swap.

Since welcoming Snowden, Russian leaders have made some hilarious statements about how much they love dissidents.  And here is Dmitri Trenin, the director of Carnegie Moscow Center, adding to the hilarity:  “Russia is turning into a haven — virtually, intellectually and physically — for those who have an ax to grind with the West, who are whistle-blowers or have problems with Western authorities.”

Let’s leave aside how strange it feels, as an Eastern European person, to hear that Russia enjoys the presence of whistle-blowers–oh really??  But fine, let the Russians keep Snowden.  What’s the point of dragging him back here?  Sounds like all the secrets have already been spilled, the damage has been done.  Let him hide out in Moscow if that’s what he wants to do.

But in exchange, can we have the Pussy Riot girls?  If I remember correctly, two of those women are still languishing in one of Russia’s miserable labor camps, all because they dared criticize the church and state in their own country.  Some human rights achievement.  With their punk rebellious attitude, they would fit in perfectly in a place like NYC or San Francisco.  And here, we may spy on our own citizens, but we are not quite so crude about persecuting them.

So whaddya say, Putin?

The NSA scandal has messed everything up.  I’m accustomed to all the usual suspects supporting each other on their respective sides of the battle, but alliances are splitting up on both the left and right, and my political spidey sense is going out of whack.

Now Rand Paul is getting ready to file a civil suit against the NSA, and he will find support for this action from both the ACLU and–if it gets to the Supreme Court–from a sympathetic Sonia Sotomayor.  This has to be the first time I have ever seen an article from a Cato Institute author praising Justice Sotomayor for anything she’s done.  Sen. Paul disagrees with fellow Republicans like Rubio and McConnell about this, but does agree with Michael Moore.

Even worse, I find myself agreeing with Rand Paul and disagreeing with President Obama in this situation.  Time for cats and dogs to start mating, and the Apocalypse to happen.