The creator of Star Wars is someone who's always been a hero to me. I don't have fits over Jar Jar Blinks, for example. I just don't like the character. That doesn't translate to, "Lucas raped me!" -- it does for some fans.
I love Lea, Luke and Han.
And CP30 and R2D2.
And all the rest. But the point is, those are great characters.
How many great characters do we expect one person to be able to create?
He never has to do anything again and I'll still be a fan.
About his personal life?
I know he was married to Marcia Lucas. She is an Academy Award nominated film editor. After they broke up in the early 80s, I knew he dated Linda Ronstadt for a bit.
And that's all I knew until today about his personal life. Mellody Hobson is the name of the woman and, yeah, I'll go there, she's a sister.
Good for George.
I had just assumed it was a White woman. That'll teach my Black ass a lesson. :D
She's very pretty and reminds me of the woman who's the boss on USA's Suits.
I hope the two of them are very happy together and have many years to share.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Starting with Barack Obama's War on the First Amendment. Last month, The War on the First Amendment's big revelations were, first, that the Justice Dept had secretly seized the phone records of a 167-year-old news institution, the Associated Press. Then came the revelation that the Justice Dept targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen. Clark S. Judge (US News and World Reports) observed, "It has been a bad few weeks for the First Amendment. The sinister commonality to the Internal Revenue Service and AP scandals and the James Rosen affair is that each appears to have been (strike "appears ": each was) an attempt to suppress a core American right." And that was only the beginning.
This month found the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald breaking the news about Barack's orders to monitor the phone calls of every American -- the details of the call -- who called who, length of time, etc. These used to be called "toll slips" in the pre-digital age and the government was required to get a warrant each time it wanted the "toll slips" for one phone line. Now it's blanket spying on everyone. Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) noted Senator Bernie Sanders calling out the program:
"The United States should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans," Sanders said. "That is not what democracy is about. That is not what freedom is about. Congress must address this issue and protect the constitutional rights of the American people."
And, as with AP in May, it was only the first shoe to drop. AP probably summed up the second shoe better than any other outlet reporting, "Separately, The Washington Post and The Guardian reported Thursday the existence of another program used by the NSA and FBI that scours the nation's main Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs to help analysts track a person's movements and contacts. It was not clear whether the program, called PRISM, targets known suspects or broadly collects data from other Americans."
And even more details have come out over the last few days. Tom Burghartdt (Dissident Voice) provides a thorough primer on those developments:
It now seems likely that NSA is hoovering up far more than the “telephony metadata” revealed by The Guardian’s publication of the secret FISA Court Order to Verizon Business Services.
Following-up on PRISM program reporting, The Washington Post disclosed June 15 that the Bush administration’s “warrantless wiretapping” program STELLAR WIND “was succeeded by four major lines of intelligence collection in the territorial United States, together capable of spanning the full range of modern telecommunications, according to the interviews and documents.”
“Two of the four collection programs, one each for telephony and the Internet,” Barton Gellman reported, “process trillions of ‘metadata’ records for storage and analysis in systems called MAINWAY and MARINA, respectively.”
According to the Post, “Metadata includes highly revealing information about the times, places, devices and participants in electronic communication, but not its contents. The bulk collection of telephone call records from Verizon Business Services, disclosed this month by the British newspaper the Guardian, is one source of raw intelligence for MAINWAY.”
Dropping a bombshell, although withholding supporting documents, Gellman reports that the “other two types of collection, which operate on a much smaller scale, are aimed at content. One of them intercepts telephone calls and routes the spoken words to a system called NUCLEON.”
The PRISM targeting and the spying on every American phone call were both exposed by whistle-blower Ed Snowden. And Ed Snowden was all over the news over the weekend.
Many people couldn't stop talking about him. Like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (here for video) who openly courted boos (and got them) as the Netroots Nation conference (largely a group of Democrats) as she called Ed Snowden a criminal. Nancy was there courting votes (something she doesn't bother to do in district 8 of California where she doesn't even hold town halls) and, Seema Mehta (Los Angeles Times) reports, things got a little sticky when Mark Perkel responded to her claims, "It's not a balance. It makes us less safe." For that, he was escorted out of this supposed meet-up. As he was pulled away by guards, he shouted, "It's unconstitutional! No secret courts! No secret law!"
I think the mistake Mark Perkel made was in not picking up a phone. These days, if you want to speak your mind or sound off, you have a better chance of being heard in full by the government via a private phone call the government listens in on than through public remarks at an open forum.
AP notes that there was vocal objection to Perkel being tossed out and quotes attendee Jana Thrift stating, "We're listening to our progressive leaders who are supposed to be on our side of the team saying it's OK for us to get targeted. It's crazy. I don' t know who Nancy Pelosi really is."
CNN quoted Nancy insisting of Snowden's whistle-blowing, "I know that some of you attribute heroic status to that action. But, again, you don't have the responsibility for the security of the United States. Those of us who do have to strike a different balance."
First off, it's not Nancy's country. The US belongs to all of its citizens and I know being a greedy huckster for money didn't allow Nancy the education she needed of the democratic experience but just because you bought a seat at the main table doesn't mean you're in charge of the event. All Americans are responsible for the country's security. What a stupid remark from Nancy. Remember it the next time she's trying to build support for some pet item. Tell her, "You have the responsibility for ___." Second, this is just about her covering her ass. She was briefed on all of this, she knew about the spying. She's culpable -- legally culpable -- so of course she's going to claim it was necessary -- what crook wouldn't?
She was culpable in 2009 as well. That's when waterboarding as a CIA practice had been taking place. As David Espo (AP) reported, Nancy's claim for 'innocence' that time was that the CIA lied to her. Bill Van Auken (WSWS) called out her lying as the words were flying out her mouth:
While Pelosi had given the impression that she knew nothing about this torture because the CIA failed to inform her in the 2002 briefing, it then emerged that she had been told about the active use of waterboarding in February 2003—just five months later—by her senior aide based on a subsequent briefing.
In her press conference, the House speaker claimed that at the 2002 briefing, the CIA reported that the Justice Department had issued memos arguing that waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” were legal, but were “not being employed.”
Pelosi went on to acknowledge that after she was informed that the CIA was torturing suspects in February 2003, she did nothing, leaving it to her successor as the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Congresswoman Jane Harman, to write a letter to the agency “raising concerns.”
Her entire story strains credulity. Even if what she says is true and the CIA did not inform her in 2002 that it was torturing Zubaydah, did she really believe that the agency’s briefers were describing methods of torture and Justice Department memos justifying them because the Bush administration did not intend to use them?
Pelosi advanced another alibi. “Like all members of Congress who are briefed on classified information,” she said. “I have signed oaths pledging not to disclose any of that information. This is an oath I have taken very seriously, and I’ve always abided by it.”
Like all members of Congress, she also took an oath of office “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” but clearly that pledge took a back seat to defending the secrets of an agency known throughout the world as Murder Inc. Her oath would not have stopped her from denouncing torture in 2003, if she had really opposed it.
Nancy didn't claim she was lied to this time. Which is a shame because she would have had a better chance of making that claim stick. Dropping back to yesterday's Meet The Press (NBC) where the first segment featured journalist Glenn Greenwald.
GREENWALD: Sure. I think the-- the key definition of a whistleblower is somebody who brings to light what political officials do in the dark that is either deceitful or illegal. And in this case, there is a New York Times article just this morning that describes that one of the revelations that he-- he-- he enabled that we reported is that the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, went before the U.S. Congress and lied outright when asked whether or not the NSA is collecting any form of data on millions of Americans. His response-- Director Clapper’s response was, “No, sir." As The New York Times said today, even Clapper has had to say that that statement was absolutely false. And the very first conversation I ever had with Mister Snowden, he showed me the folder in which he had placed the documents and labeled it, “NSA Lying to Congress,” that proved as we reported that the NSA is bulk collecting the phone records of millions of Americans indiscriminately, exactly what Clapper denied to the Congress was being done. As for illegality, The New York Times also said today that the bulk spying program exceeds the Patriot Act and there’s a FISA court opinion that says that the U.S. government, that the NSA engaged in unconstitutional and illegal spying on American citizens. That court opinion is secret, but he showed me documents discussing internally in the NSA what that court ruling is, and that should absolutely be public.
GREGORY: With regard to that specific FISA opinion, isn’t the case, based on people that I’ve talked to, that the FISA opinion based on the government’s request is that they said, well, you can get this but you can’t get that. That would actually go beyond the scope of what you’re allowed to do, which means that the request was changed or denied, which is the whole point the government makes, which is that there is actual judicial review here and not abuse. Isn’t this the kind of review and opinion that you would want to keep these programs in line?
MR. GREENWALD: I don’t know what government officials are-- are whispering to you, David, but I know that the documents that I have in my possession and that I have read from the NSA tell a much different story which is that there was an 80-page opinion from the FISA court that said that what the NSA is doing in spying on American citizens is a violation of both the Fourth Amendment and the bounds of the statute. And it specifically said that they are collecting bulk transmissions, multiple conversations from millions of Americans, not just people that are believed to be involved in terrorist organizations or working for a foreign agent, and that this is illegal. And the NSA then planned to try and accommodate that ruling. But I think the real issue, as journalists and as citizens is, why should we have to guess, how can we have a democracy in which a secret court rules that what the government is doing in spying on us is a violation of the constitution and the law and yet we sit here and don’t know what that ruling is because it’s all been concealed and all been secret. I think we need to have transparency and disclosure, and that’s why Mister Snowden stepped forward so that we could have that.
And then came, what was for some, a shocking moment. Toby Harnden (Times of London) Tweeted the following about the televised moment.
From NBC News' official transcript:
GREGORY: Final question before-- for you, but I’d like you to hang around. I just want to get Pete Williams in here as well. To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mister Greenwald, be charged with a crime?
MR. GREENWALD: I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies. The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea that I’ve aided and abetted him in anyway. The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the-- the e-mails and phone records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory that you just embraced, being a co-conspirator with felony-- in felonies for working with sources. If you want to embrace that theory, it means that every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information is a criminal, and it’s precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States. That’s why the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer said investigative reporting has come to a standstill, her word, as a result of the theories that you just referenced.
GREGORY: Well, the question of who’s a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you’re doing and of course anybody who’s watching this understands I was asking a question.
I've shared this story here before. I'll do it again now because it goes to an accurate point David Gregory made above: The question of who's a journalist may be up to a debate.
I agree. For example, I wouldn't have spent a very long time on the phone January 12, 2004 if a journalist had been doing the 'White House beat' on NBC's Today. But a journalist wasn't, David Gregory was. It was the day before Ron Suskind's The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill. And what did we learn that day from David Gregory?
What he hoped we would learn was that O'Neill was a thief who'd stolen government documents. And we would be outraged.
But no documents were stolen. And what we learned was that David Gregory will report on a book without even reading it's opening pages -- its there that its revealed that O'Neill requested and received from the White House his memos and writings on discs and that's what reproduced in the book. And we learned that David Gregory wasn't really a journalist. He was a dummy. A ventriloquist's dummy. He moved his lips and said what the White House wanted him to say. As America saw yesterday, that's still what David Gregory does and he's well paid for it. January 14, 2004, Today cleaned up David's mess by noting that O'Neill was given copies of the documents in the book -- given copies by the White House. David always thinks that story will be forgotten. Not while I'm around. (I had an advanced copy that I'd already read of Suskind's book and my mouth dropped watching Gregory lie. I was on the phone talking to everyone I knew at Today about how outrageous David's false charges were.)
Sunday was also when Ed Snowden left Hong Kong. Any GPS attempts other than that have failed for the press. Matt Berman (National Journal) offered, this morning, "If the Edward Snowden saga is a Michael Bay movie that we are all just living in, on Sunday morning it would have passed over the believability abyss. That's when Snowden, the NSA leaker turned America's Most Wanted poster-boy, took a plane out of Hong Kong, en route to Russia, where he landed around 9:15 a.m. EST. Snowden is reportedly headed from there to Havana, Cuba on Monday. Originally, it looked like he was going from there to Caracas, Venezuela. Now, it appears he's off to Ecuador."
Is he on a flight to Cuba? Reuters says no.
Hong Kong's Standard probably gets its right when they point out that he appears to have given the press the slip. And maybe that was the whole point?
A magician doesn't disappear by saying, "Look right here and you'll see how I pull off this trick." He or she misdirects and redirects. It was a point that arose last week on PRI's The World (link is audio and text):
Marco Werman: Frank Ahearn knows a thing or two about privacy. He’s made a career of finding people, collecting debts, serving papers, locating spouses who’ve skipped town. Reverse-engineered, this has also made Ahearn something of an expert on disappearing, and led him to a new career helping people drop off the grid. In fact, he’s written a book on it called, not surprisingly, How to Disappear. We tracked Frank Ahearn down in Portugal. It wasn’t too hard finding you, Frank. I’m sure you could make it hard if you wanted to. Give us first your disappearing act rating for Edward Snowden, the man who leaked the NSA surveillance business. How’s he done so far?
Frank Ahearn: Zero. He’s put–first, thanks for having me–he had a, he didn’t have a plan. He just picked up and split. And the problem is he’s looking to depend on a country to take him in, and you can’t always trust that country. I think if I was him, I would have just gone totally off the grid, disappeared for good.
Werman: So how do you actually make somebody disappear? How do you help them?
Ahearn: Well, the first question you always have to [answer] is how you going to make a living where you’re going, and once we can figure that part out. The best example is like the victim of a stalker who needs to leave because her ex is going to kill her or something like that. When you’re looking for somebody or looking to find someone you always look for the information they left behind so I kind of take that information and manipulate it, change her, deviate her name maybe on the utility company, you know, different forwarding addresses, different contact information, and then using online information for disinformation. You need to make sure that the person looking for them is looking in the wrong places. So they’re looking for the information you left behind, so for example I would have them open up a bank account and give me the debit card, and I would take that debit card, send it to a friend of mine in Toronto, and every Tuesday they’d go and buy stuff at the supermarket. Plus, I’ll have you apply for an apartment at a location online. It’s important to keep the predator looking.
In Hong Kong, James Pomfret and Greg Torode (Reuters) explain, Ed Snowden contemplated various actions:
But even as he worked with his team of lawyers, Snowden also was working another angle. He had made contact with the team from WikiLeaks, the loose-knit global group committed to disclosing secrets.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told reporters Monday that his organization paid for Snowden's lodging in Hong Kong and his flight out. Assange said that Snowden was "bound for Ecuador," via Russia and perhaps other countries as well.
At the White House today, Ed Snowden was the main topic in the press briefing Jay Carney offered:
Q And what kind of conversations are happening right now between the U.S. and Russia? I know there was a statement last night saying that you’ve asked the Russians to look at all options for trying to expel him. Are they receptive? Do they say that they are working towards that goal?
MR. CARNEY: I would say that we are obviously in conversations and that we are working with them or discussing with them -- or rather expecting them to look at the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged.
I would note that given our intensified cooperation with Russia after the Boston Marathon bombings and our history of working with Russia on law enforcement matters, including returning numerous high-level criminals back to Russia at the request of the Russian government, that we do expect the Russian government to look at all the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States.
Q But if they -- have they responded by saying, yes, we are --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t have details of conversations to read out to you. Obviously we’re monitoring the situation very closely and are in contact with Russia and other governments as appropriate.
Q And Snowden left Hong Kong. What type of influence do you think Beijing had in that decision?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, let me say that the request that was made complied with all of the requirements of the U.S.-Hong Kong Surrender Agreement. At no point in all of our discussions through Friday did the authorities in Hong Kong raise any issues regarding the sufficiency of the U.S.’s provisional arrest request. In light of this, we find their decision to be particularly troubling.
Since June 10, when we learned that Mr. Snowden was in Hong Kong, U.S. authorities have been in continual contact with their Hong Kong counterparts at the working and senior levels. Attorney General Eric Holder placed a phone call on June 19th with his counterpart, the Hong Kong Secretary for Justice, stressing the importance of the matter and urging Hong Kong to honor our request for Snowden’s arrest.
Snowden was also the main topic of the US State Dept press briefing. Why is that?
Isn't this "an ongoing investigation" by the Justice Dept? I seem to recall that when that happens, State goes silent. They can't address Iraq -- where they spend more money than any other US government agency -- but they can talk about a suspect in an ongoing investigation?
And in the silence, the big lies come out. Apparently tired of playing with his massive MOOBS (man boobs), Thomas E. Ricks decided to lie at Foreign Policy today. We don't have time for all of his crap so we'll just zoom in on one paragraph:
The April 2013 raid upon the protest site in Hawija incited the current wave of violence in Iraq. The demonstrators there were openly connected to the Baathist Naqshibandi insurgent group. When the government decided to go into the camp looking for the murderers of a soldier killed at a checkpoint just outside the site, the security forces used excessive force leading to dozens of deaths. This was just the event militants were looking for. They claimed Baghdad could not be trusted, and that the authorities were going to crack down on the activists using the military. The insurgents therefore said the only legitimate response was to defend themselves through armed action. Following Hawija there were attacks throughout the north, west, and central parts of Iraq by both militants and tribal groups.
No, it didn't. You're a stupid idiot, Thomas E. Ricks, a damned fool. April was already on the uptick -- a fact he seems highly ignorant of but he's ignorant of so damn much.
The April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija resulted from Nouri's federal forces storming in. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk) announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. AFP reported the death toll rose to 53. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).
Thomas E. Ricks is a huge idiot. He's just so alarmed by the May death toll! 'Oh, the horror, it's the highest it's been in five years! Oh! Oh!' What a stupid moron. Until the end of May, April was the highest in five years. We covered it in real time -- unlike Ricks. You can click here for Reuters reporting, at the start of May, that the United Nations determined April was the most violent month in five years (based on death toll).
By the way, let's go real slow because Thomas E. Ricks is real dumb. April has 30 days. Only 30. And the massacre took place on the 23rd. So, no, the violence wasn't really a response to the massacre. It's a cute little story that dumb whores like Thomas E. Ricks love to toss out there. It's just not at all true.
Let's go back to Tommy Ricks and MOOBS: "The demonstrators there were openly connected to the Baathist Naqshibandi insurgent group."
Really? How exactly did you figure that out? 8 children died, 11 were injured -- were they too connected -- openly! -- to an insurgent group.
No, they weren't you useless sack of s**t. And you forgot that Hawija's in Kirkuk. And you forgot that Nouri's forces had to be helicoptered in because the governor wouldn't grant the forces admission. That's on the record from the governor's mouth and I'm not providing a link -- because we covered it in real time. He doesn't know that members of Parliament went to Hawija the weekend before the massacre to attempt to help defuse the situation and also to provide medical supplies and food for the demonstrators taking part in the sit-in. By the way, isn't it cute how he calls it "a camp" when it was a sit-in. Kind of scares you to think what he'd do with the Civil Rights Movement in the US, doesn't it?
Ricks writes, "When the government decided to go into the camp looking for the murderers of a soldier killed at a checkpoint just outside the site, the security forces used excessive force leading to dozens of deaths." He has no damn clue. The protesters were attacked before that security force member was attacked. And isn't it cute the way 'journalist' Ricks treats as normal security forces attacking a sit-in but fails to note that you murder a journalist in Iraq and no one comes looking for you.
Go back, use the archives. We were noting the Friday before what was going on (Ricks isn't even aware that Hawija protesters were attacked on Friday -- or that a death took place). Saturday, I had nothing on the topic. Sunday, April 21st? We noted events being reported and we noted:
We're going to leave it with that. I had thought we'd go over the violence and any election commentary but we only finished at Third about 30 minutes ago and I had a friend at the State Dept who had called repeatedly, I didn't know, the cell phone was off. He informed me that the US was "closely following" developments in Hawija and figured I was as well. No, I'd been working on Third forever and a day. I told him give me 15 minutes to search Arabic social media and I'd call him back with what was being said. This will be big in Arabic social media but it's not yet. Most are unaware of what's going on and -- as usual -- you can't count on the western press to tell you a damn thing.
Hawija is a hot spot right now. And we're not going to distract from that with other things -- including the Falluja bombing that we can cover tomorrow.
And this is when it hits me why Thomas E. Ricks isn't a reporter anymore: He has nothing. All he ever had on Iraq was what this US military person told him. He's got nothing. The State Dept's in charge of Iraq now and Ricks has no contacts. Today, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes, "Iraq has been wracked with sectarian and political violence for months." Even that basic points is beyond Ricks.
AP notes Baghdad bombings this evening have left "at least 42 people" dead. Xinhua counts 9 Baghdad evening bombings and over 120 injured. AFP counts 10 Baghdad evening bombings and states they were all car bombings. Before the Baghdad bombings took place, violence was already slamming Iraq today. National Iraqi News Agency reports a Kirkuk roadside bombing left Commander Dawood Hazem Ahmed al-Jubouri wounded, a Mosul car bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left six people injured, a Khalis sticky bombing left one person injured, a bombing to the west of Kirkuk left one Iraqi soldier injured, and, quoting a police source, "The armed men, on foot, opened fire on the mayor (Mukhtar) of Hermat area west of Mosul, while he was heading to his home, killing him on the spot." Reuters adds that Col Gazi Ali Al Jubouri was killed today by a suicide bomber in an explosive vest -- two of his bodyguards. Deutsche Welle also notes a rumor, "In Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, a suicide bomber is believed to have detonated a belt rigged with explosives inside a university campus. It is not known if there were any casualties or injuries."
Prior to the evening violence, the biggest Iraq news today was about Citigroup preparing to enter Iraq. Stefania Bianchi (Bloomberg News) reports the banking giant plans to open three offices in Iraq including one in Baghdad (the other two in Erbil -- KRG -- and in Basra) according to Citigroup's Dennis Flannery. Who? Bianchi explains:
Flannery was the financial attache at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad for a year before joining New York-based Citigroup in March 2011. He has worked at the Inter-American Development Bank, the U.S. Treasury and the World Bank.
How nice, isn't it, that Flannery fronts the US invasion -- from State -- and then leaves to make a buck. How nice that the US paid for him to make business contacts that he could later utilize to enrich himself.
AP notes that while Flannery states the bank will be outside the Green Zone, Flannery delivered his news . . . from the Green Zone. Sital S. Patel (Marketwatch) explains, "The Central Bank of Iraq has granted permission for the new office and a formal ceremony will be hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad."
The news did little to boost Citigroup. As the market opened this morning, 1 share was worth 45.77 -- as the market closed, a share had fallen to 45.44.
The markets may or may not rally over the thought of pirating Iraq's natural resources, but one of the US' oldest peace organizations is attempting to rally the peace movement. War Resisters League isn't attempt to 'corner' the market on peace, they're attempting to expand the concepts of peace. They announce today:
bill van auken
national iraqi news agency
focus information agency