Saturday, April 12, 2014

Rehabilitating An Awful President From Texas

A President from Texas who fumbled one of the bloodiest wars in US history, who got tens of thousands of US troops killed and hundreds of thousands of civilians slaughtered is now being furiously rehabilitated in order to help his party in 2016.

And no, I'm not talking about Dubya.  I'm talking about LBJ.  WaPo's Harold Meyerson:

Come August, we’ll have another semi-centennial moment, but it probably won’t be celebrated. Aug. 7 will mark the 50th anniversary of Congress passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which Johnson had requested to give him the authority to respond with military force to North Vietnamese attacks on U.S. ships (some of which, the U.S. government later concluded, hadn’t actually taken place). By 1965, Johnson was interpreting the resolution as carte blanche to send hundreds of thousands of American soldiers to Vietnam, 58,000 of whom died there

By Bushian standards, Johnson was pretty awful across the board.  Yes, he signed into law civil rights legislation, but the civil rights movement made him do it, kicking and screaming.  TNR's Michael Kazin has an even lower opinion of LBJ.

In 1965, as Johnson was pushing Congress to enact the Voting Rights Act and Medicare, he was also initiating the bombing of North Vietnam and signing the orders which eventually sent over 500,000 U.S. troops to occupy and fight to “pacify” the Southern half of that country. At the time, liberal Democrats who opposed the war condemned the hypocrisy of a President who could help millions of Americans win their rights and a degree of medical security while he oversaw the destruction of what he called “a raggedy ass little third rate country.” Fifty years later, powerful Democrats in search of a usable past would just prefer to ignore the contradiction.

They would also, it seems, like to forget the profound damage which Johnson’s conduct of the war did to the fortunes of liberalism back home. As every politician and journalist once knew, mass discontent about the debacle in Vietnam split the Democratic Party in two and convinced LBJ not to run for re-election in 1968. The party’s nominee, that flaming liberal Hubert Humphrey, then won less than 43 percent of the popular vote. It would be another 40 years before another unabashed liberal (uh, “progressive”) was elected president.

Johnson's Medicare and civil rights laws were a great contribution to America.  But  the damage he did contributed directly to Nixon and Reagan, and then Bushes Senior and Junior, and he had more blood on his hands than Dubya ever did.

Just a history lesson.  You can't talk about Johnson's accomplishments without mentioning his bloody, awful, immoral failures as both a President and human being.

Listen To My Heartbleed

A lot has been in the news about the Heartbleed secure website vulnerability problem, which has affected tens of thousands of websites and possibly compromised millions of passwords (Mashable has a good list of what passwords you should change now) but the story has taken a much darker turn as Bloomberg News is reporting that the NSA supposedly knew about the vulnerability two years ago, didn't tell anyone, and exploited the bug to gain information from websites.

The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.

Now, if this is true the NSA has a lot to answer for, but "two people familiar with the matter"?  No names?  Pretty big bombshell for anonymous sources, yes?  And as far as I can tell, nobody has independently verified this story yet.

Putting the Heartbleed bug in its arsenal, the NSA was able to obtain passwords and other basic data that are the building blocks of the sophisticated hacking operations at the core of its mission, but at a cost. Millions of ordinary users were left vulnerable to attack from other nations’ intelligence arms and criminal hackers.

Again, this represents a huge ethical problem if true, but that's a huge if right now.  It's not stopping people I read and respect from assuming this is now gospel truth because of course any story these days claiming the NSA has done X has to be true because the NSA is evil and you can'[t trust them.

And once again, if this story is true and if the NSA did know about this (or as some people have also speculated created the bug in the first place in order to open a nearly universal back door to secure websites) then heads need to roll.

Ironically, if this story is true, shouldn't Edward Snowden's vast treasure trove of stolen documents have contained this information?  This is a pretty damning accusation. Something like this would be at the top of the list for his stated goal of exposing unethical, damaging, and illegal practices by the NSA, yes?

This is a bug that affected millions of ordinary people. Right now, there's as much "proof" that Snowden knew about Heartbleed and said nothing as there is that the NSA knew the same and did nothing, i.e. total speculation.

Might want to keep that in mind.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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