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Archive for August, 2013

The Black Budget, Revealed.

“The summary provides a detailed look at how the U.S. intelligence community has been reconfigured by the massive infusion of resources that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. The United States has spent more than $500 billion on intelligence during that period…The result is an espionage empire with resources and reach beyond those of any adversary, sustained even now by spending that rivals or exceeds the levels reached at the height of the Cold War.”

Thanks to info provided by Edward Snowden, the WaPo builds on their earlier Top Secret America coverage with a first-ever detailed summary of the “Black Budget.” “The document describes a constellation of spy agencies that track millions of individual surveillance targets and carry out operations that include hundreds of lethal strikes.”

Among the revelations here: “Spending by the CIA has surged past that of every other spy agency, with $14.7 billion in requested funding for 2013. The figure vastly exceeds outside estimates and is nearly 50 percent above that of the National Security Agency, which…has long been considered the behemoth of the community…The CIA’s dominant position will likely stun outside experts.”

Also of note: This multi-billion-dollar, post-9/11 technological terror we’ve constructed “remain[s] unable to provide critical information to the president on a range of national security threats..A chart outlining efforts to address key questions on biological and chemical weapons is particularly bleak…The intelligence community seems particularly daunted by the emergence of ‘home grown’ terrorists who plan attacks in the United States without direct support or instruction from abroad.”

In other words, what we have here is a resource-swallowing, clandestine intelligence-industrial bureaucracy that’s nonetheless incapable of actually doing what it’s ostensibly being funded to do. You can see why they’d want to keep this sort of thing secret.

Update: “Since 2007, we’ve known how much the total Black Budget is (before that, with some years excepted, we didn’t even know that), but not how much is spent on specific things. Now we know that too.” Eleven budget charts to help make sense of it all.

Holder: We Won’t Criticize It.

“The eight high-priority areas leave prosecutors bent on targeting marijuana businesses with a fair amount of leeway, especially the exception for ‘adverse public health consequences.’ And prosecutors have shown a willingness to aggressively interpret DOJ guidance in the past, as the many medical marijuana dispensary owners now behind bars can attest…But the official stressed that the guidance was not optional, and that prosecutors would no longer be allowed to use the sheer volume of sales or the for-profit status of an operation as triggers for prosecution, though these factors could still affect their prosecutorial decisions.”

In keeping with recent trends, and in what Ryan Grim bills as “a historic step back from its long-running drug war,” AG Eric Holder announces that DOJ will not actively challenge state marijuana decriminalization laws in Washington and Colorado. “A Justice Department official said that Holder told the governors…that the department would take a ‘trust but verify approach’ to the state laws. DOJ is reserving its right to file a preemption lawsuit at a later date, since the states’ regulation of marijuana is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.”

Really, given that Obama himself was a documented bogarter-of-joints — Bad Form, Mr. President — any other policy towards Washington and Colorado would be extraordinarily hypocritical, even for this administration. And with that out of the way, may I offer some handy advice to my fellow Democrats, if we want to get to serious about this whole winning-elections thing? Take a page from Karl Rove’s old gay marriage playbook and get medicinal marijuana and marijuana decriminalization initiatives on as many state ballots as possible in 2014 and beyond — particularly in the midterm elections when youth turnout is low. It’s the right thing to do, and it’ll even further accelerate the ticking clock working against the GOP.

My Money’s on Scorpion.


“What’s really great about these clips is the way they incorporate classic sprites from the game and put them in a real-world setting. It’s…pretty amazing that technology has advanced to the point where YouTube users can do this stuff without the backing of an entire studio.” An enterprising Youtube user films himself sparring against Mortal Kombat‘s fiercest fighters. Somebody needs to work on their combos.

Exterminate your Negativity.


“EXHALE! RELAXED! INHALE! CALM! EXHALE! RELAXED!” Dalek Relaxation. Somehow I don’t think this will put Wii Fit Yoga out of business.

Tech, Lies, and Videotape.

In a move that should take some of the recent heat off Ben Affleck, Marvel and Joss Whedon cast James Spader as Ultron, the villain of Avengers 2 (presumably in a mo-cap or voiceover capacity.) Erm…ok. Spader’s a solid actor, but I stand by my earlier description of him as the Brundlefly William Shatner — not exactly who first comes to mind to play a crazed robot. (Also, this would seem to quell the persistent rumor that Whedon’s Ultron would be Paul Bettany’s JARVIS gone rogue.)

Officer Murphy Gets His Due.

“Within 45 days of their Kickstarter and online fundraising campaign, the Imagination Station had raised just shy of $60,000. On their fifth day of fundraising, Walley received a call from Pete Hottelet, the founder of Omni Consumer Products (OCP) — a company named after the evil megacorporation at the center of the RoboCop universe.

Remember the Heroes: After some kerfuffle, Detroit — where Superman and Batman will soon be duking it out — is on the verge of getting its Kickstarter-funded Robocop statue. “‘Robocop has become a very suitable icon to represent Detroit, and deserves a place in this city’s history,’ their Facebook event page, started over two years ago, still reads. ‘As Detroit continues to redefine itself into the 21st century—please help to truly make this the coolest city on earth.'”

Jamie Dimon, meet the New Day Co-op.

“The hiring-as-bribery in China charges against the bank took a turn for the worse late last night after Dawn Kopecki of Bloomberg News reported the Justice Department and SEC’s investigation has ‘expanded to countries across Asia’ and JPMorgan has itself flagged 200 of its own hires for an internal investigation. What’s worse is that the review has uncovered an ‘internal spreadsheet that linked appointments to specific deals pursued by the bank.'”

N***a, is you takin’ notes on a criminal f**king conspiracy?Buzzfeed‘s Matthew Zeitlin explains what the banksters at J.P. Morgan could learn from Stringer Bell and the New Day-Co-Op. “[S]pelling out in a spreadsheet your exact intentions about hiring specific people for their parents’ help for specific deals is probably not considered best practices.”

From Old Ones to New Deal.

“The sketch on the right side of this page of notes, with its annotations (“body dark grey”; “all appendages not in use customarily folded down to body”; “leathery or rubbery”) represents Lovecraft working out the specifics of an Elder Thing’s anatomy. As Lovecraft’s narrator was a scientist, the description of the Things in the novella is dense and layered; here we can see the beginnings of that detail.”

Speaking of taking notes: In her house at S’late, Rebecca Onion points the way to H.P. Lovecraft’s handwritten notes for At the Mountains of Madness. “The writer, who had fallen on hard times, used a deconstructed envelope in an attempt to save paper.”

Also, I forget if I’ve blogged this before, but I found this interesting read while looking to briefly shoehorn Lovecraft into the dissertation: Lovecraft’s final years as a New Dealer:

As for the Republicans—how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical ‘American heritage’…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead.”

The Guns of August.

“The direction of events in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Iran should keep us awake at night. History is taking a dangerous turn…The region certainly cannot sustain two wars — Syria’s bloody insurgency and a near-civil war in Egypt — without wrecking established peace treaties and the normal mechanisms for defusing conflict.”

As armed US intervention in Syria seemingly passes the point of fait accompli — despite the fact that, as usual, any desirable outcome is unlikely, and blowback almost inevitable, from such a campaign — veteran Mideast correspondent Roger Boyes voices his concerns about the imploding Middle East. (Paywall-free summary here.) “In August 1914 there was a lot of grouse shooting going on. In August 2013, politicians prefer to read doorstopper biographies in Tuscany and Cornwall. Yet the spreading Middle East crisis, its multiple flashpoints, is every bit as ominous as the prelude to war in 1914.”

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