Archive for August, 2009

Amidst all the scrutiny that Washington is pouring out against the CIA, there are actually some rather positive reports that have come out of the released documents.

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-acclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was not very talkative during his initial interrogations in which the CIA just talked to him and asked questions. After these tactics failed, the interrogators turned to more controversial methods including waterboarding and sleep deprivation.

Following these methods Mohammed became one of the greatest sources of information about the Al Qaeda network. He suddenly, “seemed to relish the opportunity, sometimes for hours on end, to discuss the inner workings of Al Qaeda and the group’s plans, ideology and operatives,” and even used a chalkboard at times to illustrate his information.

While the methods that ended up being used are “controversial,” there is no doubt that the decision to use them after failed attempts of gentler techniques worked to unmask the inner workings of Al Qaeda, But now control of the operation is being placed in the hands of the White House.

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One moment you’re surfing the Internet – looking up a sports score, a recipe, doing homework – and the next it’s suddenly all gone. How could that happen? As part of the revamped version of the proposed Cybersecurity Act of 2009, President Obama would gain the ability to seize “Emergency Control” of the U.S. Internet and shut it down.

While terminology in the bill has changed since it was first proposed, as it stands the president can declare “a cybersecurity emergency” and exercise “amorphous powers.” Computer professionals are not pleased at what this could mean and companies that rely solely on e-commerce are concerned.

The bill also states that the government would create their own set of standards for security and would license “cybersecurity professionals” who would oversee the new measures. This puts the entire Internet industry in the United States at the mercy of the government.

Questions: What sort of “emergency” would constitute Obama shutting off the Internet in the U.S.? Why does the government feel compelled to take over computer security for private corporations? Given how much private business is now run on computers, isn’t this a bit too much control for the government to have?

From the world of private investigator Chase Michael DeBarlo:

“What’s wrong?”

Rock Rickman didn’t look at me to answer the question, but his grave expression soured further as he continued tapping on the keyboard. “I’ve been trying to dig up more information for you about Baxter for two straight days, but it’s been near impossible with all the latest security crackdowns.”

I frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Whenever some government Poindexter gets it in his craw that there could be some soft security somewhere he shuts down an entire grid. It completely screws up routing and I can’t reach half the country most of the time. If the information I was looking for you was located elsewhere then I might have a shot, but it’s usually not and even if it were it may try to take the same path through all the routers that are down.”

“So what are you telling me, Rock?”

“I’m sorry, but your case is going to take longer than you thought.”

I sighed. “Well, I guess it’s a good thing it’s not for a social studies assignment that’s due tomorrow morning, but my client is going to be pissed.”

Hold your breath. Seriously.

In a move that would bypass legislation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is on the verge of declaring carbon dioxide and five other emissions dangerous pollutants. Should this happen, the federal government would then be required to impose regulations on those emissions per the Clean Air Act.

Trapped under the umbrella of climate change, the current administration would be free to impose the emission regulations they want without legislation, but they are faced with a challenging dilemma. Humans expel carbon dioxide when they breathe. How does a government regulate that? Furthermore, methane, another emission on the dangerous pollutant list, is expelled by gassy cows. How is the government supposed to regulate that?

While those kinds of regulations may seem a bit far-fetched, what this EPA decision does do is free up the administration from having to pass “cap-and-trade” legislation and can implement it directly by using the Clean Air Act loophole. With cap-and-trade, President Obama has already promised that energy bills would sky-rocket.

Sort of makes me want to expel like a gassy cow.

Questions: How does a government regulate emissions of its own people and livestock? Is this just a loophole to get cap-and-trade passed via the Clean Air Act?

As part of the “rebuke” over the CIA for interrogation practices, the White House has ousted their power in this vital piece of the War on Terror. Interrogators from the FBI will be used instead and the entire operation will be overseen by the White House. Approved by president Barack Obama, the new High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) will be constructed of of experts from a number of intelligence and law enforcement agencies and will be headquartered at the FBI. The White House’s National Security Council will oversee the entire operation.

Questions: When it comes to checks and balances within our government, why is this functionality now being swept under the Executive Branch? If you’re a conspiracy theorist, does it concern you that this administration running the White House could go easy on interrogating some of their “cronies”?

From the world of private investigator Chase Michael DeBarlo:

I had no idea where I was. One moment I was searching the back alley of the storage facility and the next I was waking up bleary-eyed and tied to a chair in a musty room with a single hanging lightbulb that glowed dimly from the center of the cracked ceiling. The moment I stirred a dark figure from the far left corner sprung toward me and smacked me hard across the face. Something warm and wet trickled down my lip. I barely had time to notice when I was smacked hard again. This was followed by a pain that felt like lightning in the middle in my left hand. I screamed and bright little orbs of light clouded my vision.

I coughed and gasped for air. “Aren’t you at least supposed to ask me some questions first before you just start beating on me?”

A deep voice chuckled. “You think there’s rules here? There ain’t no rules here. You in the real world now, an’ in the real world you take your beatin’ first. Much more effective. If ya wanted some light questioning then you shoulda been caught by the government — not me.”

Something smashed across the right side of my head and the lights went out.

Petrobas: Major Brazillian oil company interested in offshore drilling.

George Soros: Major contributor to the Obama campaign with a financial interest in Petrobas.

Barack Obama: In the midst of U.S. financial turmoil agrees to give $2 billion dollars to Petrobas to explore offshore drilling after denouncing the practice.

The obvious: Conflict of interest. It’s a blatant payback to a campaign financial backer.

The questions: How does investing in Brazillian offshore oil break our country of oil dependency from other countries? If the administration spent so much time selling us on how “bad” offshore drilling is to our environment, why are they throwing $2 billion dollars at it? In our current economy, aren’t there so many other things for which we ought to consider spending $2 billion?

From the world of private investigator Chase Michael DeBarlo:

“Did you really think you were going to fool everyone, Hack?”

Hack Tucker, a gang leader in Fallsbury, slumped in front of me and spat at the ground. “I needed to pay him back, man. He’s the one that set me up with the hall to begin with. I owed hin.”

I shook my head. “But you didn’t really have the money to begin with. So you took whatever cash you had in your gambling den and gave it to Colino hoping no one else would notice? No wonder they tried to kill you when the money dried up.”

Hack shrugged. “I’m still alive and Colino will probably set me up again. It ain’t really that bad.”

I shook my head yet again. “Good luck regaining everyone’s trust.”