Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for June 12th, 2013

Mammalian version of Velociraptor?

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Perhaps the cheetah, “really the all-around athlete, the all-around pursuit predator.”

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Science

In a crisis, certain things become clear

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Russ Baker at

President Obama, taking a smart political tack in the uproar following several explosive disclosures on NSA domestic spying practices, said he was all in favor of a vigorous public debate—that it would be a “healthy” thing. But calling for a public debate is one thing; actually doing anything to facilitate a truly open discussion, much less acting on what such a discussion might reveal, is quite another.

Today, the New York Times, in a news/analysis article, essentially declared that there was no hope for any kind of restraint of growing government spying on the public. Not if it is up to the people’s representatives.

The Times noted that secrecy rules will prevent robust and open discussion in Congress. It also pointed out that Republicans will mostly stay in line with their traditional allies in the intelligence services—and that Democrats will too, both because they will want to show they did the right thing in voting to authorize the Patriot Act and other relevant legislation, and because during this round, the leader is Obama, a Democrat.

But that’s just the beginning of the difficulties in the way of achieving reform of our incipient surveillance state. The Times goes on to say:

Nor is it clear that political pressure from either Congress or the public will be sufficient to prompt the administration to open the door wider on government surveillance.

When even an establishment-serving entity like the New York Times virtually concedes that there’s no hope for reform even when the vast majority might want it, this is a signal that something is deeply amiss in this society.

Congress Can’t, President Won’t, Which Means….

Of course, there is more to the story. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 1:35 pm

Tsunami of Snowden/NSA articles

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And a lot of the articles I see are quite thoughtful and solid. For example:

The NSA’s PR Offensive Is Not Going Well

The Other NSA Whistleblowers Hope This Time Is Different

Defenders of NSA Surveillance Web Omit Most of Mumbai Plotter’s Story

And trust me: they all amply repay the click.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 12:59 pm

At last: Unpaid interns recognized as being unpaid employees

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It’s high time for this ruling. Corporations have been deliberately increasing profits by simply not paying some of their employees. Rebecca Greenfield at Atlantic Wire:

The case of the unpaid American intern just got upended — again, and maybe for good: Just a month after one judge dismissed the class-action suit filed by free New York City media interns at Hearst Magazines, another has now granted the Hollywood coffee-fetchers who worked on Black Swan a precedent-setting win, ruling that the two production interns “worked as paid employees” and that Fox Searchlight should have to pay them as such. It’s a pivotal decision, says the attorney for the two young men who worked on the Oscar-winning film: “This is the first time a judge has held that interns as we know them today are employees entitled to wages and protections,” the lawyer, Juno Turner, told The Atlantic Wire in a phone interview Wednesday.

Indeed, it’s the first time a major U.S. court has . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Business, Law

At some point, finance will eat its own tail

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I can only shake my head at this post by Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

Once a month, at 10 am, the University of Michigan releases its consumer confidence index. But not everyone gets it at the same time. Thomson Reuters pays Michigan a million dollars a year for early access:

Five minutes before that, at 9:55 a.m., the data is distributed on a conference call for Thomson Reuters’ paying clients, who are given certain headline numbers.

But the contract carves out an even more elite group of clients, who subscribe to the “ultra-low latency distribution platform,” or high-speed data feed, offered by Thomson Reuters. Those most elite clients receive the information in a specialized format tailor-made for computer-driven algorithmic trading at 9:54:58.000, according to the terms of the contract. On occasion, they could get the data even earlier—the contract allows for a plus or minus 500 milliseconds margin of error.

Read the whole story for more, but in the meantime just sit back and be amazed at how high-speed trading has changed things. Getting early access to economic information has been important for centuries, and people have always been willing to pay for that early access. In the past, though, getting early access has always required either putting in extra work—for example, paying lookouts for early reports of ships coming into port—or else outright fraud—think Trading Places. But not anymore! This isn’t exactly something that either Michigan or Reuters advertises, but now you just have to pay a fee in order to guarantee that you can take all the ordinary schlubs to the cleaners.

This is a small example of the financialization of America that I posted about yesterday. It has no possible social value, and it doesn’t make credit markets more efficient in any way. It’s just a purely artificial way for the rich to hoover up economic rents, and it’s fully institutionalized and above board. Lovely, isn’t it?

And when you think about how it works, with the wealthiest able to pay the most to fleece suckers (the less-wealthy) and so on down the line, it looks like some kind of reverse-osmosis system that works automatically to push money uphill (i.e., in the direction of increasing wealth). So inequality grows.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Business, Technology

Pope Francis a shining ray of hope for the Catholic church

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But the Vatican must be berserk. I would be unsurprised if Pope Francis dies suddenly of an abrupt illness. It’s happened before—and no, I’m not thinking of John Paul I. Not particularly.

Mary Elizabeth Williams has a good column in Salon:

He’s only three months into the job, and Pope Francis has already more than distinguished himself as the pontiff most likely to go rogue. His latest oh-no-he-didn’tmove? The revelation this week that during a recent audience with the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious, the Argentine pope acknowledged, “In the Curia, there are holy people. But there is also a stream of corruption.” He then added, “The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there. We need to see what we can do.”

The news quickly became a bad case of the Mondays for Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, who earlier this year tamped down what he called “unverified, unverifiable, or completely false” reports in the Italian media about blackmailers within the church hierarchy — a group with “a worldly nature” and “united by sexual orientation.”Lombardi, by the way, is the guy who also believes we should be looking at the church’s truly prolific history of sex abuse in “the more general context of secularization” and says that marriage equality will lead to “freely chosen polygamy and, of course, not to discriminate, polyandry.” In other words, having Federico Lombardi be the man who now has to do image control for Pope Francis just isn’t going to stop being awesome any time soon. On Tuesday, he tersely issued the statement that “This was a private meeting held by the pope, and I will not comment on private meetings.” Private meetings in which your pope admits to what you called completely false. HA HA HA.

The pope’s cryptic statement about a “gay lobby” doesn’t do anything to explain what a “gay lobby” actually is, how it’s gay lobbying and what it’s gay lobbying for — or what the Vatican intends to do about what Francis calls the “difficult” work of reforming the genuinely corrupt aspects of the huge worldwide organization he recently became the leader of. But already his actions have revealed a Hillary-like determination to do it his way, protocol be damned.

Right off the bat, he . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Religion

Law in Georgia

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Amazing story by Clarence Walker in the Drug War Chronicle:

With a plot out of a Hollywood movie or a gripping Lifetime TV show, a mesmerizing drama of sex, power, frame-ups, planted drugs, and lies unfolded in real life in Georgia when two Murray County sheriff’s deputies recently pleaded guilty in federal court for their part in a scheme to send an innocent woman to prison. Now both deputies await sentencing on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury stemming from an FBI civil rights investigation into the odd goings-on Down South.

The woman in question, Angela Garmley, had filed a complaint with the Georgia Judicial Qualification Committee alleging that Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran solicited sex from her in return for legal favors in her pending divorce. Shortly after Garmley filed her complaint, she was arrested on August 14, 2012 in sleepy Chatsworth, Georgia, and charged with possession of methamphetamines.”My client was set up and framed with methamphetamine drugs by Judge Bryant Cochran, whom she had accused of soliciting her for sex in exchange for legal favors in a case she had in Cochran’s court,” attorney McCracken Poston told the Chronicle.

Poston, a former Georgia state representative from nearby Ringgold with a reputation as a crack attorney, is representing Garmley in a civil lawsuit against Murray County. And Garmley isn’t alone. Since this scandal broke, three women who worked in Cochran’s court have filed a separate lawsuit against the judge and the county claiming Cochran sexually harassed them while county officials negligently failed to protect their rights.

“The judge, two deputies, and a handyman named C.J. who is employed at Judge Cochran’s property conspired to plant the drugs on my client. And if the frame-up hadn’t been discovered my client would’ve been facing 25 to 30 years in prison,” Poston said, echoing the allegations made it the lawsuit.

Although Garmley’s drug charge was dismissed a week later at the request of investigators when the frame-up wax exposed, she is still suffering the consequences of her false arrest. Under Georgia law, it takes one year for the charge to be removed from Garmley’s record, and the arrest has already cost her.

“My client was denied a much higher paid job due to the felony drug charge on her record and what the judge and cops did to her. Nobody should have to suffer like that,” Poston said.

Lust and Privilege at the County Courthouse

According to Garmley’s lawsuit — and largely supported by the record in judicial proceedings so far — she went to the courthouse on April 9, 2012 in regard to an assault on her by three persons the previous day. When Garmley arrived at Cochran’s office, he requested that she meet with him alone, preventing her sister, who had been an eyewitness to the assault, from attending or providing a corroborating statement.

“While privately sitting in chambers with Cochran, I related details about the assault,” Garmley said in the lawsuit.

But Cochran was more interested in the state of her marriage, the suit alleges, whether or not she had cheated on her estranged husband, and whether the persons who assaulted her “have anything on her to hurt her divorce from Joe Garmley.” While shying away from particulars of the assault, Cochran made repeated comments about “how pretty” Garmley was and then veered into even more uncomfortable territory. . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more…

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Government, Law

An encouraging sign that Congress may be waking up

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A story in McClatchy:

Members of Congress on Tuesday expressed growing doubts about the way the country’s top-secret surveillance programs are managed, even as the top legislators from each party voiced confidence in the programs and showed little interest in a public discussion of the issue.

Emerging from an early evening closed-door briefing with officials from the National Security Agency, the Justice Department and the FBI, some members of the House of Representatives said they had more questions than answers about the surveillance programs that sweep up records from phone and Internet accounts belonging to millions of Americans.

“I think what really came out of it is that we need, as Congress, is to move forward and debate the issue,” said Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee. “It’s really a debate on how far we go with public safety, and protecting us from terrorist attacks, versus how far we go on the other side and what programs we use to deal with that issue. This is what we do in Congress.”

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said there “obviously” needs to be more congressional oversight on the telephone surveillance program, under which so-called metadata from cellphone records are surrendered to the FBI and the NSA on a daily basis.

“I did not know a billion records a day were coming under control of the executive branch,” Sherman said.

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said that several lawmakers were skeptical about what they were being told about the surveillance programs and the information being collected.

“A lot of skepticism, ironically, from folks that voted in favor of it in the first place,” he said.

The House briefing came hours after eight U.S. senators – six Democrats and two Republicans – introduced legislation that would require the U.S. attorney general to make public secret decisions of the court that grants permission for collection of such records. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has rejected only 11 such applications among the more than 30,000 cases it’s considered since it was founded in 1979. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 11:56 am

Chinese dissident points out that the US is behaving like China

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Ai Weiwei writes in the Guardian:

Even though we know governments do all kinds of things I was shocked by the information about the US surveillance operation, Prism. To me, it’s abusively using government powers to interfere in individuals’ privacy. This is an important moment for international society to reconsider and protect individual rights.

I lived in the United States for 12 years. This abuse of state power goes totally against my understanding of what it means to be a civilised society, and it will be shocking for me if American citizens allow this to continue. The US has a great tradition of individualism and privacy and has long been a centre for free thinking and creativity as a result.

In our experience in China, basically there is no privacy at all – that is why China is far behind the world in important respects: even though it has become so rich, it trails behind in terms of passion, imagination and creativity.

Of course, we live under different kinds of legal conditions – in the west and in developed nations there are other laws that can balance or restrain the use of information if the government has it. That is not the case in China, and individuals are completely naked as a result. Intrusions can completely ruin a person’s life, and I don’t think that could happen in western nations.

But still, if we talk about abusive interference in individuals’ rights, Prism does the same. It puts individuals in a very vulnerable position. Privacy is a basic human right, one of the very core values. There is no guarantee that China, the US or any other government will not use the information falsely or wrongly. I think especially that a nation like the US, which is technically advanced, should not take advantage of its power. It encourages other nations.

Before the information age the Chinese government could decide you were a counter-revolutionary just because a neighbour reported something they had overheard. Thousands, even millions of lives were ruined through the misuse of such information.

Today, through its technical abilities, the state can easily get into anybody’s bank account, private mail, conversations, and social media accounts. The internet and social media give us new possibilities of exploring ourselves.

But we have never exposed ourselves in this way before, and it makes us vulnerable if anyone chooses to use it against us. Any information or communication could put young people under the surveillance of the state. Very often, when oppressive states arrest people, they have that information in their hands. It can be used as a way of controlling you, to tell you: we know exactly what you’re thinking or doing. It can drive people to madness.

When human beings are scared and feel everything is exposed to the government, we will censor ourselves from free thinking. That’s dangerous for human development.

In the Soviet Union before, in China today, and even in the US, officials always think what they do is necessary, and firmly believe they do what is best for the state and the people. But the lesson that people should learn from history is the need to limit state power.

If a government is elected by the people, and is genuinely working for the people, they should not give in to these temptations.

During my detention in China I . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 11:53 am

David Brooks: The last Stalinist

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David Brooks seems to be pretty much an idiot, unable to develop or follow a cogent argument. In Salon Corey Robin has a good takedown of a recent Brooks column:

David Brooks disapproves of NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

Snowden’s actions, Brooks says, are a betrayal of virtually every commitment and connection Snowden has ever made: his oath to his country, his promise to his employer, his loyalty to his friends, and more.

But in one of those precious pirouettes of paradox that only he can perform, Brooks sees those betrayals as a symptom of a deeper pathology: Snowden’s inability to make commitments and connections.

According to The Washington Post, he has not been a regular presence around his mother’s house for years. When a neighbor in Hawaii tried to introduce himself, Snowden cut him off and made it clear he wanted no neighborly relationships. He went to work for Booz Allen Hamilton and the C.I.A., but he has separated himself from them, too.

Though thoughtful, morally engaged and deeply committed to his beliefs, he appears to be a product of one of the more unfortunate trends of the age: the atomization of society, the loosening of social bonds, the apparently growing share of young men in their 20s who are living technological existences in the fuzzy land between their childhood institutions and adult family commitments.

If you live a life unshaped by the mediating institutions of civil society, perhaps it makes sense to see the world a certain way: Life is not embedded in a series of gently gradated authoritative structures: family, neighborhood, religious group, state, nation and world. Instead, it’s just the solitary naked individual and the gigantic and menacing state.

This lens makes you more likely to share the distinct strands of libertarianism that are blossoming in this fragmenting age: the deep suspicion of authority, the strong belief that hierarchies and organizations are suspect, the fervent devotion to transparency, the assumption that individual preference should be supreme.

This is an old argument on the communitarian right and left: The loss of social bonds and connections turns men and women into the flotsam and jetsam of modern society, ready for any reckless adventure, no matter how malignant — treason, serial murder, totalitarianism.

It’s mostly bullshit, but there’s a certain logic to what Brooks is saying, albeit one he might not care to face up to.

In the long history of state tyranny, it is often those who are bound by close ties of personal connection to family and friends who are most likely to cooperate with the government: that is, not to “betray” their oaths to a repressive regime, not to oppose or challenge authoritarian rule. Precisely because those ties are levers that the regime can pull in order to engineer an individual’s collaboration and consent.

Take the Soviet Union under Stalin. Though there’s a venerable tradition in social thought that sees Soviet totalitarianism as the product of atomized individuals, one of the factors that made Stalinism possible was precisely that men and women were connected to each other, that they were in families and felt bound to protect each other. To protect each other by cooperating with rather than opposing Stalin.

Nikolai Bukharin’s confession in a 1938 show trial to an extraordinary career of counterrevolutionary crime, crimes he clearly did not commit, has long served as a touchstone of the manic self-liquidation that was supposed to be communism. It has inspired such treatments as Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon,” Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s “Humanism and Terror” and Godard’s “La Chinoise.” Yet contrary to the myth that Bukharin somehow chose to sacrifice himself for the sake of the cause, Bukharin was brutally interrogated for a year and he was repeatedly threatened with violence against his family. In the end, the possibility that a confession might save them, if not him, proved to be potent. (1)

Threats against family members were one of the most effective means for securing cooperation with the Soviet regime; in fact, many of those who refused to confess had no children. As I wrote in “Fear: The History of a Political Idea”: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 11:49 am

Posted in Government, NSA

“Stand your ground” law applies only to whites?

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Katie Halper in Salon writes:

A man in Florida shoots a man he finds having sex with his wife, killing him.  A woman in Florida shoots the wall to scare off an abusive husband, harming nobody. Guess which one was acquitted? Guess which one was convicted?

On March 10 of this year, around midnight, Ralph Wald, 70, of Brandon, Fla., got out of bed  to get a drink and found Walter Conley, 32, having sex with his wife, Johanna Lynn Flores, 41, in the living room. He immediately went back into his bedroom, grabbed his gun and shot Conley three times. Conley died. Wald claims that he thought Conley was a stranger who had broken in and was raping his wife – despite the fact that Conley lived next door, had been his wife’s roommate and lover, and had his wife’s name tattooed onto his neck and arm. During a 911 call, when the dispatcher asked Wald if the man he shot was dead, Wald responded, “I hope so!” Wald never used the word “rape” in later reports to police, opting instead for “fornicate.” And while the fact that the two were lovers doesn’t imply consent, Flores has never accused Conley of rape — nor do prosecutors buy that that’s what Wald actually thought was happening. They say that Wald, who suffers from erectile dysfunction, killed Conley in a jealous rage. Flores admits that she and Conley had sex regularly before and after her marriage to Wald. While testifying, Wald explained that his erectile dysfunction and his wife’s reluctance to have sex with him made them compatible: “In fact, she would joke a lot with me … that we were a perfect couple … She didn’t want to do it, and I couldn’t do it.” On May 30, after deliberating for two hours, a jury found Wald not guilty. After the verdict was announced, Wald continued to show no remorse: “If the same thing happened again, I would do the same thing.”

On Aug. 1, 2010, Marissa Alexander, a 31-year-old mother of three, with a master’s degree and no criminal record, was working for a payroll software company in Jacksonville. She was estranged from her abusive husband, Rico Gray, and had a restraining order against him. Thinking he was not at home, she went to their former house to get some belongings. The two got into an argument. Alexander says that Gray threatened her and she feared for her life. Gray corroborates Alexander’s story: “I was in a rage. I called her a whore and bitch and … I told her … if I can’t have you, nobody going to have you,” he said, in a deposition. When Alexander retreated into the bathroom, Gray tried to break the door. She ran into the garage, but couldn’t leave because it was locked.  She came back, he said, with a registered gun, which she legally owned, and yelled at him to leave.  Gray recalls, “I told her … I ain’t going nowhere, and so I started walking toward her … I was cursing and all that … and she shot in the air.” Even Gray understands why Alexander fired the warning shot: “If my kids wouldn’t have been there, I probably would have put my hand on her. Probably hit her. I got five baby mommas and I put my hands on every last one of them, except for one … I honestly think she just didn’t want me to put my hands on her anymore so she did what she feel like she have to do to make sure she wouldn’t get hurt, you know. You know, she did what she had to do.” And Gray admits Alexander was acting in self-defense, intending to scare and stop but not harm him: “The gun was never actually pointed at me … The fact is, you know … she never been violent toward me. I was always the one starting it.” Ultimately nobody was hurt. Nobody died. On May 12, 2012, it took a jury 12 minutes to find Alexander guilty of aggravated assault. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Both defendants used the defense of “stand your ground,” a Florida law that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 11:45 am

Posted in Law

Investing in Education Creates More Than Twice as Many Jobs as Military Spending

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Very interesting program and transcript, again from Real News Network:

Transcript here:

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore. And welcome to this week’s edition of The PERI Report.

Now joining us is Bob Pollin. He’s the founder and codirector of the PERI institute in Amherst, Massachusetts. His latest book is Back to Full Employment.

Thank you for joining us, Bob.


NOOR: So, Bob, the Labor Department just announced that productivity growth is going to be weaker than expected, and some are going to argue that this growth is temporary and that we need to focus on austerity measures. What’s your response?

POLLIN: My response is austerity was not the right program a month ago, it wasn’t the right program six months ago, and it certainly isn’t the right program today and into the future.

As we’ve talked about in a lot of previous instalments of this, we now know from our own research here in PERI that the single most important piece of research in support of the austerity agenda, by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard, was wrong. It’s just wrong as a piece of research, this notion that when government’s public debt exceeds 90 percent of the country’s GDP, that we are going to experience precipitous declines in economic growth. Our own paper showed that to be wrong, and so that the argument for austerity based on public debt coming up against that threshold is no longer valid.

Now, at the same time, we have other kinds of evidence in both Europe and the United States now that also weakens the argument for austerity. For example, we have the evidence from both the U.S. Social Security Trust Fund and the Medicare Trust Fund that the finances in both cases are not facing the kind of dire straits that have been described over and over and over again by the austerity hawks.

So, for example, in the case of U.S. Social Security, the security hawks have been arguing that Social Security is unsustainable. Even the Obama administration itself has proposed this provision to reduce the cost-of-living payments for Social Security through this so-called technical fix. What it really [incompr.] cuts in Social Security, most especially for the long-term aged in the population. So the arguments for that have weakened because we now know that the Social Security Trust Fund is more solvent than previous estimates. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 11:42 am

Former CIA Analyst: Snowden Did The Right Thing

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Very interesting program: video with transcript.

Transcript begins:

Ray McGovern is a retired CIA officer. McGovern was employed under seven US presidents for over 27 years, presenting the morning intelligence briefings at the White House under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. McGovern was born and raised in the Bronx, graduated summa cum laude from Fordham University, received an M.A. in Russian Studies from Fordham, a certificate in Theological Studies from Georgetown University, and graduated from Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program. McGovern now works for “Tell the Word,” a ministry of the inner-city/Washington Church of the Saviour, which sent him forth four weeks ago to join other Justice people on “The Audacity of Hope,” the U.S. Boat to Gaza.


JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.Twenty-nine-year-old Edward Snowden has come forward as the man responsible for the largest leak in NSA history.Now joining us is Ray McGovern. He was a CIA analyst for 27 years and prepared the president’s daily brief under the Nixon and Ford administrations from 1981 to 1985. Ray now works for Tell the World, a publishing extension of the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C.Thank you for joining us, Ray.


NOOR: So, Ray, what’s your reaction to the news that it’s 29-year-old Edward Snowden, an NSA analyst working for a private contractor making $200,000 a year, living in Hawaii with his girlfriend, is the man behind this, one of the greatest leaks in the NSA’s history?

MCGOVERN: Well, all I can say, really, is that this time today I’m feeling much more hopeful for our democracy that I was feeling this time yesterday. This morning I spent up at Fort Meade where Bradley Manning is being court-martialed for giving us the information necessary for our people to know what’s going on. Similarly, Snowden did the same thing.It’s so encouraging. It really is encouraging that a 29-year-old, or now Bradley Manning is 25, but he was 22 when he decided to–that it was his courage that would be necessary to follow his conscience and reveal those documents. It’s very, very encouraging to see that young people like that have been able to do some of the things that have been very difficult for people of my generation to do because we have been so hidebound behind secrecy strictures. And some, like myself, feel great remorse that we didn’t step up to the plate and do precisely the kinds of things that Snowden, Bradley Manning, and of course Daniel Ellsberg did in their day.

NOOR: Now, speaking of Daniel Ellsberg, in a piece in The Guardian today, Daniel Ellsberg, the man responsible for the Pentagon Papers leak to The New York Times, he says that this leak by Edward Snowden is the greatest leak in–is the most important leak in U.S. history. What’s your response to that?

MCGOVERN: Well, I think . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 11:31 am

Snowden did not commit treason and thus is not a traitor

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In fact, he was observing his oath to protect and defend the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Dylan Matthews writes in the Washington Post:

“I don’t look at this as being a whistleblower. I think it’s an act of treason.” — Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

“An act of treason.” — Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

“He’s a traitor.” – House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.).

Asked whether he agreed with Nelson’s description of Snowden’s leak as an act of treason, [Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby] Chambliss replied: “If it’s not, it’s pretty damn close.”

“This guy thinks he has a higher morality, that he can see clearer than other 299,999,999  of us, and therefore he can do what he wants. I say that is the worst form of treason.” — former U.N. ambassador John Bolton.

That’s just a handful of the accusations of treason that have been leveled against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden since his identity became public Sunday. Basically all of them misunderstand what the word “treason” means.

As Scott Bomboy of the National Constitution Center — a nonpartisan organization and museum in Philadelphia — notes, Article Three, Section Three of the Constitution defines treason as follows:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.”

Carlton Larson, a law professor at UC-Davis, explains that this sets up two avenues for treason prosecutions. One is the “aid and comfort” path, wherein somebody aiding a country waging war on the U.S. can be charged, and the other is the “levying war” path, wherein one is charged for actively waging war against the United States, or an individual state.

For example, John Brown, the abolitionist revolutionary who staged the raid on Harpers Ferry, was convicted of treason against the state of Virginia, not against the United States. Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson’s first vice president, was laterprosecuted by the Jefferson administration for treason for allegedly assembling forces to create an independent country in the center of North America, encompassing some Western states as well as Mexican territory. Both of those were “levying war” prosecutions.

It seems obvious that Snowden’s actions don’t qualify as levying war against the U.S. “All the levying war cases require an assemblage of men and force,” Larson explains. “I’ve never heard of a levying war prosecution that was just about releasing some documents.”

But that still leaves open the “aid and comfort” provision. Even that, however, has its limits. For example, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 11:16 am

Posted in Law, NSA

The Great Gatsby Curve

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Very interesting graphic. Watch it as it progresses.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 11:13 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

“Since it’s not working, don’t fix it”

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An interesting approach: the US military has a very serious problem with rapists being tacitly encouraged by a culture that ensures punishment of rapists, if any punished is meted out, is generally mild, and punishment of those raped is often severe. So Carl Levin decides that the current system is working fine?

Elspeth Reeve writes at the Atlantic Wire:

Senate Armed Services Committee chair Carl Levin has killed a proposal that would have taken away military commanders’ control in decidint whether to prosecute sexual assault cases and given it to an independent prosecutor. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand championed the reform as a way to increase reporting and prosecution of sexual assault in the military — noting that reporting of sexual assaults went up by 80 percent in Israel when its military adopted a similar rule. But in a Senate hearing earlier this month, several military commanders insisted that no major changes were necessary. Levin apparently agreed, eliminating the bipartisan proposal, which had 27 co-sponsors, from the Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday night, NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell and Alastair Jamieson report. Levin will likely opt for a weaker proposal, from Sen. Claire McCaskill, that prevents commanders from overturning a court martial conviction.

In the Senate hearing, Air Force Col. Jeannie Leavitt testified that senators should “allow a commander to command by allowing them to enforce the standards they set.” Marine Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary said, “Whether it’s an enemy on the battlefield or sexual assault in the barracks, good order and discipline is just as important.” While they wanted the responsibility to set those standards, they would not take responsibility for a military culture that failed to meet those standards an estimated 26,000 times last year. Levin sided with military commanders’ argument that if they just keep doing the same thing, something will change.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 11:12 am

Dan Drezner on trusting the state

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Dan Drezner has a good post at Foreign Policy:

Your humble blogger will be attending a ridiculously well-timed conference on “The Internet and International Politics” for the next few days, so blogging here will be light.

Before departing, however, I do feel compelled (much like last week) to blog about Edward Snowden, his NSA revelations, the scorn heaped upon him by much of the foreign policy community, and the furious pushback by other quarters against that scorn.  This time, however, I’m going to resist blogging about Snowden himself, since that A) distracts from the larger question of whether the NSA revelations are truly scandalous; and B) leads to some really bad psychoanalysis-cum-social commentary.

Thomas Friedman captures the sentiments of a lot of the foreign policy community with today’s column.  This passage in particular pretty much sums it up:

Yes, I worry about potential government abuse of privacy from a program designed to prevent another 9/11 — abuse that, so far, does not appear to have happened. But I worry even more about another 9/11. That is, I worry about something that’s already happened once — that was staggeringly costly — and that terrorists aspire to repeat.

I worry about that even more, not because I don’t care about civil liberties, but because what I cherish most about America is our open society, and I believe that if there is one more 9/11 — or worse, an attack involving nuclear material — it could lead to the end of the open society as we know it. If there were another 9/11, I fear that 99 percent of Americans would tell their members of Congress: “Do whatever you need to do to, privacy be damned, just make sure this does not happen again.”That is what I fear most.

That is why I’ll reluctantly, very reluctantly, trade off the government using data mining to look for suspicious patterns in phone numbers called and e-mail addresses — and then have to go to a judge to get a warrant to actually look at the content under guidelines set by Congress — to prevent a day where, out of fear, we give government a license to look at anyone, any e-mail, any phone call, anywhere, anytime.

You know what?  Friedman’s going to earn a lot of calumny for this column, but at least he’s straightforward about his cost-benefit analysis.  And it bears repeating that the revelations to date involve programs that have been signed off by the relevant branches of government.

That said, here’s what I worry about:

1)  Friedman allows that these surveillance programs are vulnerable to abuse but says that, “so far, [it] does not appear to have happened.”  Here’s my question:  how the f**k would Friedman know if abuse did occur?  We’re dealing with super-secret programs here.  Exactly what investigative or oversight body would detect such abuse?  What I worry about is that we have no idea whether national security bureaucracies abuse their privilege.

The last time I trusted intelligence bureaucracies and political leaders that the system was working was the run-up to the Iraq war.  Never again.

2)  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 11:04 am

Barry Eisler on the oath CIA employees take

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Barry Eisler makes a good point:

Memo To Authoritarians: The “Oath” is to the Constitution, Not to Secrecy

It’s been interesting to read pundits like David Brooks of the New York Times and Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo prattling about how whistleblower Edward Snowden violated his “oath” of secrecy.  I was in the CIA, and I can tell you there was no secrecy “oath,” just a contract.  The oath was to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.I find the misnomer revealing.  I don’t think Brooks, Marshall, and the many others like them are misusing the word “oath” in a deliberate attempt to mislead.  My guess instead is that their deference to government secrecy is so strong that they reflexively equate a contract to maintain secrecy — a nondisclosure agreement, really — with something as strong as, say, a sworn oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.  You know, like one the president takes.

In fact, I’d go further.  That these pundits aren’t even discussing the real oath CIA and other government employees take — the one to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic — suggests they don’t believe such oaths are important enough to bother mentioning.  Now, admittedly oaths to protect and defend the Constitution are all very pre-9/11, but shouldn’t an intelligent and honest pundit at least offer a nod of the head toward the fact that someone like Edward Snowden might have felt faced with two competing obligations — his secrecy contract, on the one hand, and his sworn oath to protect and defend the Constitution, on the other?

Of course, if deference to governmental secrecy prerogatives trumps all other values, then there’s no trade-off even to mention.

And look, even if you think that “oath” and “contract” are interchangeable terms (in which case you’d have to explain why Brooks, Marshall et al consistently use the former regarding secrecy while eschewing the latter, and why the drafters of the Constitution did the same with regard to oaths of office), you still have to explain why various pundits are so intent on referring to only one of the “oaths” while ignoring the other.

Here’s another way of looking at it. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 10:22 am

Posted in Government, NSA

Deinstitutionalization was a complex process

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And it had some benefits as well as obvious drawbacks. Harold Pollack gives a potted history in the Washington Post:

If you ask any social policy expert to describe a well-intentioned initiative that didn’t work out as planned, the word “deinstitutionalization” will probably appear in her response.

This conventional wisdom is vastly oversimplified. In a recent law review article,University of Michigan disability expert Samuel Bagenstos notes that the broad set of policies designed to move individuals with disabilities out of large institutions into family- or community-based settings was more complicated — and often more beneficial — than is now remembered.

On the whole, deinstitutionalization improved the lives of millions of Americans living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) — albeit with many exceptions.  These policies allowed people to live with proper support, on a human scale, within their own communities. Second, deinstitutionalization was far less successful in serving the needs of Americans suffering from severe mental illness (SMI) — again, with many exceptions.

Consider the life trajectories of two people affected by these policies. The first man, Vincent Perrone, is my brother-in-law (on the right). His intellectual disability arises from fragile X syndrome. For 38 years, my in-laws Janice and Greg Perrone cared for him, right up to the day Janice died. Then Vincent moved in with us. He now lives in a nearby group home.

Vincent’s pediatricians advised Janice and Greg to institutionalize him. My in-laws defied this advice. This was a brave and difficult thing to do. Had Vincent’s school-based services, sheltered workshop, and other supports been unavailable, he probably would have languished in the back ward of some state home. He’s more functional, much happier, and much better off in virtually every way because his parents chose a different path.

Of course, many people experience serious difficulties. I’ve written at length about these challenges. Some 730,000 people with intellectual disabilities live with a caregiver over the age of 60. Many of these individuals will outlive their caregivers. Much must be done to address this looming challenge. The variable quality and cost-effectiveness of community-based services, the institutional bias of Medicaid benefits for people with complex conditions, and the low pay and uneven training of the direct care workforce are major concerns.

Still, the historic progress is striking. The number of Americans with intellectual disabilities who live in large state institutions declined by 85 percent between 1965 and 2009, including a 98 percent decline in the institutionalized population of children and youth. People live on a more human scale, too. In 1977, the average number of persons per residential setting was 22.5. Now the average is about 2.5.

Beyond the benefits to specific individuals, the cumulative movement of hundreds of thousands of people out of institutions into their own communities changed America. Not long ago, people with intellectual disabilities were effectively barred from the public schools, workplaces, summer camps, and more. In a million ways large and small, people with intellectual disabilities were pushed to the margins. The implicit message that they needed to be protected from the rest of us — or that we needed protection from them — was incompatible with the dignity of equal citizenship. Segregation also encouraged ignorance and fear. Few people had the personal experience to offset inaccurate or freakish media images of intellectual disability.

I never met the second man, Paul Flannery, depicted below. . .

Continue reading. The article certainly helped me reconsider my own judgments, though clearly our mental-health facilities are sadly underfunded, but of course I understand that it’s very important in the eyes of many that the very wealthy not have to pay taxes.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 10:16 am

BBS with experiments

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SoTD 12 June 2013

More experiments. The Wife found a little dropper bottle for the cocamidopropyl betaine so that it is easier to add a drop or two. And I continued using my current Jlocke98 pre-shave.

The two drops of cocamidopropyl betaine seemed to indeed help the lather become somewhat thicker, but I need to try it more. Just for comparison, I rinsed out the brush and made for the second pass a lather from Creed’s Green Irish Tweed shaving soap, a truly top-drawer soap. The Creed’s lather seemed better (as well it should), but it was hard to tell with a single soaping. Tomorrow I’ll try a bit more cocamidopropyl betaine on a different soap (with a different brush).

Three passes with the Wilkinson Sticky holding a Feather blade and I have a smooth face with no nicks. A splash of Floris JF, and I’m ready for the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 10:00 am

Posted in Shaving

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