Entries tagged with “Fox News”.


Writing last week’s posting required a struggle against paranoia. The posting criticized the Obama Administration’s then-proposed air attack on Syria, and every time I Googled “Syria” or “al Qaeda” or “Iran” or “Assad” or “chemical weapons,” I wondered if I had just triggered National Security Administration (NSA) scrutiny of my Internet use, as well as my phone calls.

Whether the Obama Administration likes it or not, Edward Snowden (right) performed an invaluable service when he informed Americans about the vast amount of domestic spying — most of it without court authorization — being carried out by the NSA.

Snowden, who had worked for an NSA contractor, is paying for his good deed by having to take asylum in Russia to avoid federal prosecution in this country.

Like former President Jimmy Carter, I am grateful that Snowden blew the whistle on the US intelligence community’s illegally spying on millions of Americans under the supposed excuse of looking for terrorists, and I wish him well.

“In the weeks after 9/11, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct a range of surveillance activities inside the United States, which had been barred by law and agency policy for decades,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes on its website. The foundation has repeatedly filed court challenges to the government’s invasion of the public’s privacy.

“When the NSA’s spying program was first exposed by The New York Times in 2005, President Bush admitted to a small aspect of the program — what the administration labeled the ‘Terrorist Surveillance Program’ — in which the NSA monitored, without warrants, the communications of between 500 and 1000 people inside the US with suspected connections to al Qaeda.

“But other aspects of the Program were aimed not just at targeted individuals, but perhaps millions of innocent Americans never suspected of a crime,” the foundation adds.

“First, the government convinced the major telecommunications companies in the US, including AT&T, MCI, and Sprint, to hand over the ‘call-detail records’ of their customers. According to an investigation by USA Today, this included ‘customers’ names, street addresses, and other personal information.’ In addition, the government received ‘detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.’

“A person familiar with the matter told USA Today that the agency’s goal was ‘to create a database of every call ever made’ within the nation’s borders. All of this was done without a warrant or any judicial oversight.

“Second, the same telecommunications companies also allowed the NSA to install sophisticated communications surveillance equipment in secret rooms at key telecommunications facilities around the country. This equipment gave the NSA unfettered access to large streams of domestic and international communications in real time — what amounted to at least 1.7 billion emails a day, according to The Washington Post.

“The NSA could then data mine and analyze this traffic for suspicious key words, patterns and connections. Again, all of this was done without a warrant in violation of federal law and the Constitution.”

Jameel Jaffer, the American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director, said the pervasive spying on US citizens goes “beyond Orwellian.”

Before NSA’s widespread domestic spying was revealed, President Bush acknowledged the government was scrutinizing the international email and phone calls of Americans. As someone who communicates regularly with relatives in Canada and Guatemala, I probably was on the watch list early on.

But what really gave me the heebie jeebies was a comment on last week’s posting from someone — apparently in Australia — who provided the URL to a propagandist for the Syrian government. If the NSA wasn’t already spying on me, that was bound to do it, I reasoned but allowed the comment to go online anyhow.

Ho, hum, the naive will say, if I’m not doing anything wrong, why should I mind the government’s spying on me? First, it’s unconstitutional. Second, like most people I try to maintain some privacy. Third, the US government is increasingly causing trouble for journalists who criticize the administration.

Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye spent three years in prison because of a phone call from President Obama.

The Sept. 8 San Francisco Chronicle carried a worrisome account of a journalist in Yemen, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, whom a Yemini antiterrorism court in 2011 convicted of aiding al Qaeda. Shaye, who wrote freelance articles for The Washington Post and other US news media, had previously interviewed al Qaeda leaders.

In addition, The Chronicle reported, Shaye “broke the story that a 2009 missile strike on a village in south Yemen, which Yemen’s government said it launched as an attack on an al Qaeda training camp, was actually a US bombing and that most of the victims were women and children.”

Following Shaye’s conviction, Yemen’s then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh (right) was about to pardon Shaye and immediately release him from prison, The Chronicle added, when Saleh got a personal phone call from Obama who convinced him to to keep Shaye locked up for three years.

Nor is Shaye the only journalist targeted by the Obama Administration.

In the name of counter-terrorism, the Justice Department last year seized two months of the Associated Press’ phone records and “seized phone records from several Fox News lines — and labeled one correspondent a criminal ‘co-conspirator’ in its successful effort to seize his personal emails,” Fox News reported.

Describing a correspondent for ultra-conservative Fox News as a “co-conspirator” for having had contacts with a government source is chutzpah so extreme it boggles the mind. Of course, the more the NSA — which is part of the Defense Department — pushes the US toward becoming George Orwell’s 1984, the easier it is for Big Brother to harass reporters.

A coyote walked past Mitchell cabin five minutes ago, which brings up the question: what other critters are around at this time of the year? Summer will begin Friday, but on this hill some creatures still have quite a bit of spring in their step, as these photos from the past week illustrate.

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A female gray fox has become a daily visitor to Mitchell cabin.

Foxes are tricksters, as many cultures realize.

And the expression “crazy as a fox” has been around far longer than any of us have.

So it was no accident when Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp decided to call its off-the-wall reporting “Fox News.” ____________________________________________________________

Finding dinner ready on the picnic table.

This vixen shows up in late afternoon shortly after Lynn and I put out birdseed for our cage-free aviary, which at the moment includes: red-winged blackbirds, tri-color blackbirds, scrub jays, stellar jays, sparrows, finches, towhees, doves, crows, ravens, quail, ring-tailed pigeons, juncos, chickadees, and doves. We call their feeding time “the evening bird show.”

Foxes love birdseed as much as birds do, and I recently witnessed the vixen licking birdseed off my deck while a white-crowned sparrow just overhead pecked birdseed off the railing. _____________________________________________________________

By now the vixen sort of trusts Lynn and me. Here Lynn hands her a couple of slices of bread. It’s a friendly exchange. This particular fox’s table manners are surprisingly dainty — no snapping at the hand that feeds her. ____________________________________________________________

After receiving her bread, the vixen usually foxtrots off a short distance to eat, apparently preferring to do her chewing in private. ________________________________________________________________

A second fox, a male, visits us after dark.

However, that’s also the time when two or three raccoons show up to be hand fed their own slices of bread.

If the raccoons aren’t fed immediately, they often doze by the kitchen door, waiting to be noticed.

The fox and raccoons never fight, but they’re leery of each other.

The more-nimble fox, however, always finds a way to avoid confrontations with them. And I’ve sometimes watched while the quick gray fox jumps over the sleeping coon.

I learned a few years ago that I can get them to eat side by side by putting out two handfuls of peanuts in close proximity on the deck. The lure of honey-roasted peanuts is obviously stronger than their suspicion of each other, as this photo from last week demonstrates. ___________________________________________________________

One critter that no doubt is pleased we’re feeding the foxes is the jackrabbit that hangs out in my fields. I’m sure a hungry fox would be delighted to dine on hare — if it could catch one. But it would find it far easier to catch the jackrabbit’s slower-footed cousin, the cottontail rabbit.

Well, that’s our fair and balanced fox news for this week. Stay tuned for Sean Hannity’s harangue against these atheists in foxholes.

A German word, schadenfreude, is steadily becoming more common in English. It means finding pleasure in the misfortune of someone else, and it’s pronounced just like it’s spelled. In the aftermath of last week’s election, Democrats, many commentators, and most pollsters can’t be blamed for indulging in a bit of schadenfreude.

Fox News used to claim that most of the other news media have a “liberal” bias. In the wake of last week’s election, the new complaint from Fox is that most of the news media have a “mainstream” bias.

The schadenfreude isn’t all in reaction to Mitt Romney, the plutocrat, having lost to the more-egalitarian Barack Obama — although Democrats were certainly delighted by their victory. Interestingly, much of the schadenfreude is in reaction to the humiliation of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News. Unlike Romney, who conceded with grace, Fox News commentators have been apoplectic. Despite many polls to the contrary, they had insisted right up until the end that there was no way their man could lose.

(With Florida’s election results finally tallied, Obama as of Sunday evening had won the nationwide popular vote by a margin of almost 3.3 million votes out of 120 million cast. In the all-important Electoral College race, Obama trounced Romney 332 to 206.)

“It’s not a traditional America anymore,” Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly growled as the outcome became obvious, “and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff…. People think they are entitled to things.” O’Reilly refused to acknowledge that convincing voters a Republican has what it takes to be President is no Tea Party.

“Could it be that the Fox model has played out?” asked columnist Jon Carroll in Friday’s San Francisco Chronicle. “Could it be that the lack of civility and grace, the embrace of the most extreme candidates as long as they were Republicans, indeed the whole idea behind [Fox News president] Roger Ailes’ brainchild — a pimping station for the far right — may be politically bankrupt?

“Perhaps not financially bankrupt; it seems supported by its advertisers very nicely. It could go on for quite some time. The question is: Is it hurting the very people it is supposed to be helping? Does the existence of this high-profile echo chamber deafen candidates to what the electorate is actually saying?”

General David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell. Photo by Command Sgt. Major Marvin L. Hill.

Only two days after last Tuesday’s election, CIA chief David Petraeus admitted he’d had an extramarital affair with his biographer and promptly resigned, acknowledging he had used “extremely poor judgment.”

As news media worldwide were quick to report, Broadwell and Gen. Petraeus had formerly spent time together far away from home in Middle East war zones. This has led to a popular tweet, I am told by a friend with a Twitter account, “Having sex with your biographer is unquestionably more fun than having sex with your autobiographer.”

Before leaving the Middle East, we might note a headline CBS used for an online account of a gruesome crime. It sounds as if the testimony will be riveting.

Finally,  for those of you who refuse to believe that alligators and crocodiles live in sewers, such as New York City’s, here’s a crocodile caught after two years in a Gaza sewer. Al Jazeera photo.

“A crocodile that has been roaming the pipes of the sewer basins network in the besieged Gaza Strip has been captured, according to Brigadier General Mohammed Abu Sissi, a police officer,” Al Jazeera reported Nov. 5. Already there there had been word of the crocodile making forays out of the sewer long enough to snap up a couple of goats.

“‘We have been chasing the crocodile to catch it before it grows more and becomes a real threat for civilians. We have used all possibilities — including fishermen and civil defense men — to catch it alive. We could have sniped it, but we preferred to catch it alive and bring it back to the nearby zoo where it fled from,’ Abu Sissi said.”

Regarding the alligators in New York City’s sewers, most Americans have heard that the story is a classic urban legend. If so, how do skeptics explain all the alligators down there? I’ve lived in New York, and as everyone in the city knows, residents vacationed in Florida, brought small gators home as pets, got tired of them, and ultimately flushed them down the toilet.

Don’t believe it? In 1935 (this is true), an eight-foot alligator was captured in the sewer under East Harlem and pulled out of a manhole. Moreover, retired New York sewer official Teddy May in the 1950s (again this is true) told public utilities historian Harold Brunvand that he had actually seen one colony of alligators in the sewer system 20 years earlier and had his workers get rid of them.

Fox News is headquartered in New York City, and finding out how the alligators fared during Hurricane Sandy’s flooding of the sewers would seem like the perfect assignment for Bill O’Reilly.