Later On

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

Archive for June 18th, 2013

China Air-Freight Handlers at Guangzhou Airport

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Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 4:22 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

A very good video clip about gay marriage

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It’s clear that some of those attacking gay marriage (and homosexuality in general) in the video are really frightened of it. The finding is that those in strong denial of their own homosexuality will express their fear of recognizing their sexual nature by expressing anger and hatred of those who cause those feelings to surface: namely, homosexuals who are out. Quite a few experiments have established that heterosexuals with strong homophobia are sexually aroused by gay porn, whereas heterosexuals without homophobia are not aroused by gay porn.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 4:19 pm

Why Cheney is the Traitor, and Why we Can’t Believe Obama on Safeguards

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Juan Cole has an excellent post at Informed Comment:

Dick Cheney on Monday called NSA leaker Edward Snowden a traitor, and Snowden shot back that given Cheney’s own lies about Iraq, it is an honor for any American to be accused of treason by the former vice president.

On Monday evening, Barack Obama came on Charlie Rose and insisted that the NSA would never misuse the telephone records it collects on all Americans because it would be illegal and that there are safeguards against that sort of thing. Obama did not say why he thinks the government has a right to see your telephone records given that you haven’t done anything wrong and the 4th Amendment hasn’t been abrogated. For the first time in his presidency, I felt as though Obama were looking me in the eyes and lying to me a la Cheney. I don’t know what his ulterior motives are in this, but that he has some seems obvious.

So for those who have forgotten, or for the youngsters who’ve come to consciousness since 2008, let us just review the lies of Dick Cheney and his colleagues in the Bush administration that cost so many American and Iraqi lives, and let us just contemplate whether we really just want to trust Obama that the US government wouldn’t act in illegal ways.

The Ultimate Bush & Co. Lies Compilation:

Read the comments to this one.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 3:57 pm

What is going on that the government (and Congress) so much wants us not to know?

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This article is astonishing. Brian Beutler for TPMDC:

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has taken the unusual step of actively blocking a former committee aide from talking to TPM about congressional oversight of the intelligence community. At issue isn’t classified sources and methods of intelligence gathering but general information about how the committee functions — and how it should function. The committee’s refusal to allow former general counsel Vicki Divoll to disclose unclassified information to a reporter was the first and only time it has sought to block her from making public comments, based on her experience as one of its most senior aides, since she left Capitol Hill in 2003.

The committee’s decision comes amid fallout from leaks of classified National Security Agency documents by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden. In light of the Snowden revelations about the country’s secret surveillance programs, TPM was reporting a story based on interviews with members of Congress and current and former aides about the successes and pitfalls of intelligence oversight on Capitol Hill. The goal was to answer some basic questions for readers: How does a classified process differ from public oversight? What challenges do the combination of government secrecy, classified briefings, and strict committee protocols present to legislators trying to control the nation’s sprawling intelligence apparatus?

Divoll served as a senior aide on the committee from 2000-2003, including two years as its general counsel. Before that, from 1995-2000 she was assistant general counsel for the Central Intelligence Agency, where she also served as deputy legal adviser to the agency’s Counterterrorism Center. After leaving the Senate, Divoll was a fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics and an adjunct professor at the Naval Academy. She has been regularly cited by reporters in news stories, penned op-eds on counterterrorism and civil liberties, and appeared on television.

The ground rules for the interview were that it would be conducted off the record, but only temporarily, to give Divoll an opportunity to review the accuracy of the quotes she provided, and that those would be placed back on the record.

While Divoll remains legally barred from disclosing classified information, she is also still subject to a non-disclosure agreement with the Senate Intelligence Committee that bars her from discussing committee-sensitive business. Out of an abundance of caution, Divoll also conferred with the committee on Friday about her interview with TPM. She anticipated that the committee would approve the interview, noting that in her post-government career, both the committee and the CIA had never done more than request minor tweaks when she brought them pieces of her writing for pre-publication review.

This, she believed, would be a similar process.

But for the first time in her career, the committee took the extraordinary step, on a bipartisan basis, of declaring the interview’s entire contents a violation of her non-disclosure agreement and effectively forbade her from putting any of it on the record.

“The committee has reviewed your submission … and objected to any publication of the information contained therein,” she was told.

Specifically the committee claimed the information she provided TPM was both “out of date” and “committee sensitive.”

Angered by the committee’s decision, Divoll sought Friday to have it reversed. The committee declined. TPM agreed to honor her request that we leave her comments off the record.

The fact that the Committee is so sensitive about disclosing not only sensitive national security information, but also the nature by which elected officials are allowed to oversee the intelligence community, is a testament to the extreme levels of secrecy tied to the entire process.

In an interview Monday afternoon, an SSCI spokesman explained and defended the committee’s decision. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 3:44 pm

Posted in Congress, NSA

When a society loses touch with reality

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Interesting post by James Kunstler:

Societies periodically go insane. Fallacious memes sweep through a frightened and confused populace and bad things happen, bad choices get made. Two bad ideas in particular infect the American thought-o-sphere these days: 1) that non-cheap oil can keep all the rackets of consumerism going; 2) that we can offset all the quandaries of non-cheap oil with accounting fraud and debt creation.

These ideas present themselves in the places of greatest authority and influence. The president says “we have a hundred years of shale gas.” The Wall Street Journal says that an inflating Dow Jones index stands for a growing economy. My recent favorite came out of the increasingly demented New York Times on Saturday: Even Pessimists Feel Optimistic About the American Economy. Quoting an econ professor named Tyler Cowen from George Mason University The Times said:

The recent surge in domestic oil and gas production signals “the start of a new era of cheap energy,” he said, while less expensive online education programs could open the door to millions of people who have been priced out of more traditional academics.

That was a two-fer of stupidities since A) it ought to be self-evident that $90-a-barrel oil is not cheap oil, and B) that because of A, there’s unlikely to be lucrative employment for people who learn double-entry book-keeping on their laptops. In fact, anyone who actually learns math over the Internet must conclude that $90-a-barrel oil will crash all the  supposedly normal operations of a consumer society, including the ability of oil-and-gas companies to get the capital investment necessary for further oil production.

None of these accredited morons seems to get the basic equation between available cheap energy — e.g. oil with a high energy-return-on-investment — and capital formation — the accumulation of wealth that can be deployed to produce more wealth-producing activity. That was only possible on the way up Hubbert’s curve. On the way down, alas, the relationship enters a Ponzi unwind of too many claims on excessive promises to pay. The net result is a society with a lower standard of living. Personally, I think it will go way lower, and way sooner than later.

The idea that on-line education is a sovereign tonic for economic vitality is just another gloss on the inane belief that technology can take the place of energy in the equation above. Tom Friedman, grand poobah, of The New York Times Op-Ed page is the cheerleader-in-chief for that meme, but it is accepted by virtually all authorities in business and politics, and their handmaidens in the academic chairs. As the American economy dissolves in an acid bath of capital scarcity and grievance, these idiots will be waiting for the next iPhone app that can power the electric grid — and thus all the new iPhones streaming out of the Apple factories of China into the hot little hands of nineteen-year-olds in Michigan taking “Macroeconomics” on the Kahn Academy website.

Speaking of China, The New York Times ran another humdinger over the weekend: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Business, Global warming, Government

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A new generation of dissenters

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Gary Younge writes in The Guardian this report, via AlterNet:

When Darrell Anderson, 22, joined the US military he knew there was going to be a war, and he wanted to fight it. “I thought I was going to free Iraqi people,” he told me. “I thought I was going to do a good thing.”

Until, that is, he realised precisely what he had to do. While on patrol in Baghdad, he thought: “What are we doing here? Are we looking for weapons of mass destruction? No. Are we helping the people? No, they hate us. What are we working towards, apart from just staying alive? If this was my neighbourhood and foreign soldiers were doing this then what would I be doing?” Within a few months, he says, “I was cocking my weapon at innocent civilians without any sympathy or humanity”. While home on leave he realised he was not going to be able to lead a normal life if he went back. His mum drove him to Canada, where I met him in 2006 at a picnic for war resisters in Fort Erie.

Anderson’s trajectory, from uncritical patriotism to conscious disaffection and finally to conscientious dissent, is a familiar one among a generation of Americans who came of political age after 9/11. Over time, efforts to balance the myth of American freedom on which they were raised, with the reality of American power that they have been called on to monitor or operate, causes a profound dislocation in their world view. Like a meat eater in an abattoir, they are forced to confront the brutality of the world they are implicated in and recoil at their role in it – occasionally in dramatic fashion.

It is from this generation that the most recent prominent whistleblowers have emerged: Edward Snowden, 29, the former National Security Agency contractor, now on the run after passing evidence of mass snooping to the GuardianBradley Manning, who at 22 gave classified diplomatic and military information to WikiLeaks and now faces a court martial; the late Aaron Swartz, who by 24 was a veteran hacker when he was arrested for illegally downloading academic articles from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later took his own life; and Jeremy Hammond, 28, who is facing federal criminal charges for allegedly publicising the internal files of a private spying agency.

Just as America’s military record abroad, complete with torture and “collateral damage”, has helped push a section of disaffected Muslim youth across the globe towards terrorism, so the violation of civil liberties and privatisation of information has driven a number of disillusioned Americans to law-breaking dissent at home.

In a 2008 book, The Way We’ll Be, US pollster John Zogby categorised this age cohort as . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 3:27 pm

Obama disappoints once again, crushingly

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Obama is not going to be treated kindly by history, I think. His frequent lies and broken promises and refusal to engage are an on-going disappointment. Now the scourge of whistleblowers defends domestic spying. Elspeth Reeve writes at the Atlantic Wire:

President Obama “goes further than he has before” in explaining “the balance between security and freedom,” the Charlie Rose Show tweeted to hype its 45-minute interview with Obama that airs Monday night. And while Obama does go into further detail than he has before, we’ve already heard most of these defenses. They are: 1) the programs only collect metadata — no wiretaps! 2) the programs are overseen by an independent “transparent” court and Congress, and 3) there haven’t been abuses, because abuses are against the law.

According to a partial transcript of the president’s PBS interview posted by BuzzFeed, Obama said the NSA’s program of grabbing all phone call metadata amounted to looking at “call pairs.” It was an echo of his “no one is listening to your phone calls” statement from two Fridays ago, when he first spoke out about a series of leaks. In today’s words, that’s: “You have my telephone number connecting with your telephone number. There are no names. There is no content in that database.” But as we’ve pointed out, with metadata, which includes geolocation, you don’t need content. The NSA can pinpoint stories in a building. That means if your friend calls you for 10 seconds from the street in front of your apartment, the NSA can conclude your buzzer is broken and you had to let her in. Obama conceded, but implied there hadn’t been abuses of that awesome big data power, because they’re against the law:

…What you’ll hear is people say, “Okay, we have no evidence that it has been abused so far.” And they say, “Let’s even grant that Obama’s not abusing it, that all these processes — DOJ is examining it. It’s being renewed periodically, et cetera — the very fact that there is all this data in bulk, it has the enormous potential for abuse,” because they’ll say, you know, “You can — when you start looking at metadata, even if you don’t know the names, you can match it up, if there’s a call to an oncologist, and there’s a call to a lawyer, and — you can pair that up and figure out maybe this person’s dying, and they’re writing their will, and you can yield all this information.” All of that is true. Except for the fact that for the government, under the program right now, to do that, it would be illegal. We would not be allowed to do that.

The executive branch has abused its surveillance power. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has ruled, on at least one occasion, that the information the government collected violated the Fourth Amendment. The non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation tried to find out what that violation was. But as The Atlantic Wire’s Philip Bump explained in May, the Justice Department claimed the secret court’s rules prevented that info from becoming public, while the court said the info was subject to a Freedom of Information Act request. In other words, “The judicial branch (FISC) says to ask the executive branch (DOJ). The executive branch says to ask the judicial.” When defending the agency, former NSA director Michael Hayden told The Daily Beast “he remembered a collector who was fired for trying to snoop on his ex-wife overseas.”

Further, Obama tells Rose, “…on this telephone program, you’ve got a federal court with independent federal judges overseeing the entire program. And you’ve got Congress overseeing the program.” But the FISC, which Obama called “transparent,” is a secret court. And Congress hasn’t been so great at providing oversight. Many in Congress claim not to know the things the NSA said it briefed them on. Only 47 senators showed up for an NSA briefing last week. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who wrote the Patriot Act, called the phone program an “abuse” even though such abuse appears to have been going on for about a decade.

As for the NSA’s collection of emails, . . .

Continue reading.

Please recall that the FISA court could be replaced by a rubber stamp.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 3:23 pm

Revealing what Big Pharma tries to hide

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Encouraging step reported in The Scientist by Dan Cossins:

he credibility of clinical trial data is undermined when pharmaceutical companies hide or distort unwelcome findings. In an attempt to tackle the problem, a group of researchers has this week (June 17) published a proposal in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) for an aggressive new approach: scientists and journals should themselves gather and print data that has come to light through other means, such as litigation or Freedom of Information Act requests.

Endorsed by both the BMJ and PLOS Medicine, the Restoring Invisible and Abandoned Trials (RIAT) initiative is the brainchild of Peter Doshi, a postdoc in comparative-effective research at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), who wanted to do something about the fact that only half of all clinical trials are published. Doshi and his colleagues have already gathered 178,000 pages of previously confidential trial data on several drugs that came into the public domain thanks to legal battles or the policies of the European Medicines Agency, which has been releasing trial data in response to requests since 2010.

If other researchers have access to similar amounts of data, Doshi and his colleagues have set out a plan of action for those willing to participate in RIAT. First, . . .

Continue reading.

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18 June 2013 at 3:18 pm

5 disturbing points from NSA chief’s testimony

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Joan McCarter at DailyKos, via Alternet:

The public portion of Tuesday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing with NSA chief Keith Alexander, along with other intelligence officials, has proven one thing: House oversight of intelligence activities is, if anything, less rigorous than the senate’s.

What we’ve learned:

1. NSA chief Alexander says that the top secret surveillance programs have foiled more than 50 terrorist plots since 9/11. But we don’t know yet from the first round of questioning whether any of those plots could have been foiled by legal, constitutional, regular intelligence. The officials have also not been asked about the assertion of security experts that the programs played a minor role. For example, in one of the key cases they highlight—would-be New York subway bomber Najibullah Zazi in 2009—old-fashioned intelligence led to his arrest.

2. No one among intelligence leadership thinks that the FISA court is just a rubber stamp. The fact that the court hasn’t rejected a single application, out of some 4,000, in the past two years didn’t come up.  [See, if the FISA court was just a rubber stamp, then it wouldn’t reject any applications…  aha. – LG]

3. There are around 1,000 system administrators, like Edward Snowden, who have access to the same information as him. The majority of them are contractors.
4. Not everything discussed so far has been useless. Some of it has been downright disturbing. For example, regarding PRISM, the Internet surveillance program:

Confirmed: NSA Analyst doesn’t need a separate court order to query database. Analysts can decide what is “reasonably suspicious.”  — @EFFLive

That means NSA analysts get to decide and act unilaterally to extract collected information. Also, this:

Confirmed, no court review of individual queries. Rest of the checks are inside the DOJ — this is not oversight! — @EFFLive

The FISA court that totally isn’t a rubber-stamp isn’t even rubber-stamping individual queries.

5. NSA chief Alexander says that he’s never seen an NSA analyst who has that authority do anything wrong. He has a short memory apparently having completely forgotten the time an analyst illegally rooted around in Bill Clinton’s email.

Thus far, the most significant revelation from this hearing is that we don’t need to worry because there is totally oversight, from a Congress that intelligence officials obviously feel no compunction about lying to and from a court that will give the NSA whatever it wants.

9:43 AM PT UPDATE: Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) did follow up with a question about how critical the programs were to those 50 cases. The upshot in answer to that:

So: 7 years of collecting every American’s records has “contributed” to maybe 10 investigations, no claim that contribution essential.  — @normative

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 3:12 pm

Techies who turn against Snowden

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Yves Smith writes a lengthy piece at

Some Silicon Valley figures, along with some Democratic party-aligned media outlets, have tried assailing Glenn Greenwald, and indirectly, Edward Snowden, by trying to discredit certain aspects of the Guardian account of NSA surveillance in the US. Greenwald, who has an appetite for trench warfare, deigned to rebut their efforts as of last Friday. But the tech pedants’ efforts to take down Greenwald and Snowden aren’t simply petty and disingenuous, they are ultimately destructive of the interests of American technology companies and American security.

Some of the tactics used have been a bizarre combination of focusing on minutiae and straw manning. For instance, one site, Little Green Footballs, claimed that though the Guardian had said Snowden had smuggled four “confidential” laptops out, he’d in fact used a thumb drive to carry documents out of Booz. Golly gee, that means you can’t trust ANY of the rest of the story!

However, the Guardian had simply said that Snowden had four laptops with him when he first met with their reporters. The piece was silent on how exactly he extracted the data. So, using Little Green Footballs’ own logic, you should not trust one iota anything Little Green Footballs has to say on this matter, either. We similarly have the range war over the “direct access to servers” language, when anyone who read the original Guardian story would recognize that the ‘direct access’ language tracked that of a PowerPoint slide on the PRISM program, a document whose authenticity has never been denied; the story wrote up the slides. Funny how people who would have laughed at Clinton’s famed “it depends what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” were eager to use the same stick to try to beat Greenwald.

Or as Lambert has said, “Shorter tech dudes on Greenwald: The NSA slides show the servers weren’t built my way, so the slides are wrong. Also, my boss would never lie to me.”*

This front of the PR war against Greenwald, the Guardian, and Snowden is using a tactic familiar to anyone who remembers the financial crisis: that the story is a technology story, ergo, only technologists are qualified to opine on it. But that rhetorical approach (“it’s all too complicated, you just need to believe what we tell you”) was seldom used by people who were acting in good faith to unravel what had happened. It was instead used mainly by incumbents and people who wanted to preserve their relationship with them to circle the wagons.

There was at least some underlying logic for this position during the market meltdown. It was, after all, a financial crisis. By contrast, the NSA scandal is not a technology story. It is at its heart a story about surveillance, the Constitution, and whether we really have any rule of law left in the US. Technology is only an enabler, folks, although, as we will discuss, this story does have important implications for major US technology players.

This clip from The Lives of Others (which is a wonderful and important movie) will hopefully serve as a reminder:

The modern society with the most intensive surveillance, East Germany, had the Trabant as its most noteworthy home grown product. Now the technology fans may argue that the selection above proves their point, that the Stasi used the best technology they had to bug the suspect’s apartment. But they forget that the Stasi depended first and foremost on spying, meaning the active cooperation of much of the population. And as this selection shows, the effectiveness of the installation of devices could have been sabotaged by the watchful neighbor had she not been cowed into silence.

Spying and surveillance do not depend on fancy electronic toys, but devices can be helpful. Japan in the Tokugawa era had mind-numbingly detailed sumptuary laws, which were used to maintain fine social distinctions. And they were enforced via neighbors spying on each other. This sort of intrusion was sufficiently troubling to elicit a warning from Adam Smith. He opposed having “kings and ministers…pretending to watch over the economy of private people and to restrain their expense” and advocated taxation as a less intrusive way to constrain consumption. Similarly, the use of espionage as a tool of the state considerably antedates the Industrial Revolution; for instance Francis Walsingham, a minister to Elizabeth I, had a large, organized a network of informants and snoops.

Via e-mail, Ed Harrison honed in on what is wrong with the tech company fixation: . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more, and it’s worth pondering.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 2:42 pm

The US remains a strongly racist nation

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Read this complete account. Amazing. I imagine the airline is going to have to pay a whopping settlement.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Some Bank of America executives should go to prison

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But they won’t. I’m sort of losing hope in the American justice system as it pivots toward protecting corporations and wealth and enforcing their dictates to deny help to anyone who is poor, disable, or otherwise marginalized. But, one more time: David Dayen reports in Salon:

Bank of America’s mortgage servicing unit systematically lied to homeowners, fraudulently denied loan modifications, and paid their staff bonuses for deliberately pushing people into foreclosure: Yes, these allegations were suspected by any homeowner who ever had to deal with the bank to try to get a loan modification – but now they come from six former employees and one contractor, whose sworn statementswere added last week to a civil lawsuit filed in federal court in Massachusetts.

“Bank of America’s practice is to string homeowners along with no apparent intention of providing the permanent loan modifications it promises,” said Erika Brown, one of the former employees. The damning evidence would spur a series of criminal investigations of BofA executives, if we still had a rule of law in this country for Wall Street banks.

The government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which gave banks cash incentives to modify loans under certain standards, was supposed to streamline the process and help up to 4 million struggling homeowners (to date, active permanent modifications number about 870,000). In reality, Bank of America used it as a tool, say these former employees, to squeeze as much money as possible out of struggling borrowers before eventually foreclosing on them. Borrowers were supposed to make three trial payments before the loan modification became permanent; in actuality, many borrowers would make payments for a year or more, only to find themselves rejected for a permanent modification, and then owing the difference between the trial modification and their original payment. Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner famously described HAMP as a means to “foam the runway” for the banks, spreading out foreclosures so banks could more readily absorb them.

These Bank of America employees offer the first glimpse into how they pulled it off. Employees, many of whom allege they were given no basic training on how to even use HAMP, were instructed to tell borrowers that documents were incomplete or missing when they were not, or that the file was “under review” when it hadn’t been accessed in months. Former loan-level representative Simone Gordon says flat-out in her affidavit that “we were told to lie to customers” about the receipt of documents and trial payments. She added that the bank would hold financial documents borrowers submitted for review for at least 30 days. “Once thirty days passed, Bank of America would consider many of these documents to be ‘stale’ and the homeowner would have to re-apply for a modification,” Gordon writes. Theresa Terrelonge, another ex-employee, said that the company would consistently tell homeowners to resubmit information, restarting the clock on the HAMP process.

Worse than this, Bank of America would simply throw out documents on a consistent basis. Former case management supervisor William Wilson alleged that, during bimonthly sessions called the “blitz,” case managers and underwriters would simply deny any file with financial documents that were more than 60 days old. “During a blitz, a single team would decline between 600 and 1,500 modification files at a time,” Wilson wrote. “I personally reviewed hundreds of files in which the computer systems showed that the homeowner had fulfilled a Trial Period Plan and was entitled to a permanent loan modification, but was nevertheless declined for a permanent modification during a blitz.” Employees were then instructed to make up a reason for the denial to submit to the Treasury Department, which monitored the program. Others say that bank employees falsified records in the computer system and removed documents from homeowner files to make it look like the borrower did not qualify for a permanent modification.

Senior managers provided carrots and sticks for employees to lie to customers and push them into foreclosure. Simone Gordon described meetings where managers created quotas for lower-level employees, and a bonus system for reaching those quotas. Employees “who placed ten or more accounts into foreclosure in a given month received a $500 bonus,” Gordon wrote. “Bank of America also gave employees gift cards to retail stores like Target or Bed Bath and Beyond as rewards for placing accounts into foreclosure.” Employees were closely monitored, and those who didn’t meet quotas, or who dared to give borrowers accurate information, were fired, as was anyone who “questioned the ethics … of declining loan modifications for false and fraudulent reasons,” according to William Wilson. . .

Continue reading. These senior managers should at the very least face prosecution for felonies.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 1:52 pm

Glenn Greenwald: As Obama Makes “False” Surveillance Claims, Snowden Risks Life to Spark NSA Debate

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Glenn Greenwald is interviewed on Democracy Now!:

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who broke the NSAsurveillance story earlier this month, joins us one day after both President Obama and whistleblower Edward Snowden gave extensive interviews on the surveillance programs Snowden exposed and Obama is now forced to defend. Speaking to PBS, Obama distinguished his surveillance efforts from those of the Bush administration and reaffirmed his insistence that no Americans’ phone calls or emails are being directly monitored without court orders. Greenwald calls Obama’s statements “outright false” for omitting the warrantless spying on phone calls between Americans and callers outside the United States. “It is true that the NSA can’t deliberately target U.S. citizens for [warrantless] surveillance, but it is also the case they are frequently engaged in surveillance of exactly that kind of invasive technique involving U.S. persons,” Greenwald says. After moderating Snowden’s online Q&A with Guardian readers, Greenwald says of the whistleblower: “I think what you see here is a person who was very disturbed by this massive surveillance apparatus built in the U.S. that spies not only on American citizens, but the world, with very little checks, very little oversight. He’s making clear his intention was to inform citizens even at the expense of his own liberty or even life.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AARON MATÉ: We turn now to the latest news in the NSAsurveillance scandal. On Monday, both President Obama and whistleblower Edward Snowden gave extensive interviews on the surveillance programs Snowden exposed and Obama is now being forced to defend. Speaking to Charlie Rose on PBS, Obama drew a line between his surveillance efforts and those of the Bush administration. He also reaffirmed his insistence that no Americans’ phone calls or emails are being directly monitored without court orders.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, theNSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and theNSA cannot target your emails.

CHARLIE ROSE: And have not.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And have not. They cannot and have not, by law and by rule, and—unless they—and usually it wouldn’t be “they,” it would be the FBI—go to a court and obtain a warrant and seek probable cause, the same way it’s always been, the same way, when we were growing up and were watching movies, you know, you want to go set up a wiretap, you’ve got to go to a judge, show probable cause.

AARON MATÉ: Obama’s comments came as new poll numbers showed his approval rating has dipped 8 percent since the NSA disclosures emerged nearly two weeks ago. The drop was even higher among young voters, whose support for Obama fell 17 points. In his interview with PBS, President Obama was also asked about the potential extradition of whistleblower Edward Snowden. Obama referred questions to federal prosecutors but said Snowden faces “criminal investigation—and possible extradition.”

AMY GOODMAN: Well, after going public as the source behind the NSA disclosures just over a week ago, Edward Snowden remerged on Monday after several days of quiet. In an online chatwith the British newspaper The Guardian, Snowden rejected what he called “smear” efforts to paint him as a spy for China, saying he’s had no contact with the Chinese government. He also defended his leaking of classified NSA documents, saying he deliberately chose not to reveal, quote, “any US operations against legitimate military targets,” unquote. He added, “I pointed out where the NSAhas hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressive criminal acts are wrong no matter the target,” he wrote.

Snowden indicated he remains in Hong Kong after arriving there last month, but wouldn’t confirm his exact location. He also stood by his controversial assertion that he has—as an NSA contractor, had the capability “to wiretap anyone” in the U.S. with a personal email address. In comments suggesting he may be concerned his life is in danger, Snowden said more leaks are on the way, no matter what happens to him. He said, quote, “All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped,” he wrote.

In the latest of Snowden’s disclosures, The Guardian of London reported on Sunday the U.S. and Britain spied on foreign diplomats at two international summits in London during 2009. Britain’sNSA counterpart, the GCHQ, established fake Internet cafés to spy on foreign delegates’ computer use, and the NSA shared information on the phone calls of Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev. The revelation came just as the G8 summit opened in Ireland, with President Obama in attendance and Britain again playing host.

All this comes as the Obama administration appears to be stepping up its effort to defend the surveillance program Snowen exposed. Before Obama’s interview with PBS Monday, the National Security Agency disclosed it investigated less than 300 phone records seized in the broad collection of metadata last year. The agency also said the monitoring has foiled terror plots in the U.S. and 20 other countries, and vowed to release details this week. The head of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, is appearing before the House Intelligence Committee today in a rare public hearing.

For more, we’re going to Glenn Greenwald, the columnist for The Guardian of London who broke the NSA surveillance story earlier this month and a number of others since, including Snowden coming forward as the NSA whistleblower. He’s back home in Brazil after returning from Hong Kong, where Edward Snowden is believed to remain. On Monday, Glenn Greenwald moderated Snowden’s online chat with The Guardian.

Well, welcome back to Democracy Now!, Glenn. A lot has been happening. To say the least, you have been very busy. Talk about first—you moderated the discussion yesterday. What most surprised you, or, I should say, what do you feel was most important about what Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, wrote yesterday and was asked?

GLENN GREENWALD: I think the key thing is that he continuously emphasizes that the caricature being made of him, that he’s some kind of a spy or setting out to destroy the United States, is completely inconsistent with his behavior. He could have released all sorts of extremely damaging, even crippling, documents, if that had been his intention. He could have sold those documents to foreign adversaries, if he wanted to enrich himself. None of those things were what he did. He instead very carefully vetted the documents that he turned over to us, and some to The Washington Post, and urged us that we then conduct our own review to make sure that the documents that end up being published are ones that are truly in the public interest. And I think what you see here is a person who was very disturbed by this massive surveillance apparatus built in the United States that spies not only on American citizens, but the world, with very little checks, very little oversight. And he’s making clear that his intention is to inform his fellow citizens, even at the expense of his own liberty or even life. And I think that comes through very clearly.

AARON MATÉ: Well, Glenn, during his Guardian online chat, Snowden was asked to respond to the recent comments of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Speaking on Fox News, Cheney called Snowden a traitor who may be a Chinese spy. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 1:27 pm

Sriracha taste test results

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Huy Fong is best US brand in this taste test.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 11:44 am

Posted in Food

Wrong ideas about grilling steaks

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Interesting article with some good suggestions.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 11:41 am

Outside the DC Beltway, Americans do not want to be involved in Syria

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I think many Americans have learned the hard lessons of Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan: land wars in distant countries cost too much in lives and treasure and do not deliver good results. The DC Establishment of Comfortable People Who Go to the Same Parties and Who Will Not Serve in Any War and Never Have do not agree. Kevin Drum writes at Mother Jones:

A new Pew poll tells a remarkable story: not only does the American public not want to get more involved in Syria, the American public doesn’t even want to send arms to the rebels. What’s more, this feeling is entirely bipartisan: Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all oppose arming the rebels by a margin of about 70-20. When was the last time that happened? It’s a sign of the strength of the Beltway consensus in favor of intervention that despite this, President Obama was feeling pressure from all sides to do exactly the opposite of what 70 percent of the public wants. The war gods are strong in America.


Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 9:34 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

If you pay people not to lie, they don’t lie as much

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A very interesting article by Cass Sunstein reporting on the differences in responses to survey questions when you pay people to give answers they consider correct: the Democrats and Republicans become much closer than when survey responders are simply asked the questions with no payments involved.

Somehow Sunstein overlooks what seems to me a staggeringly obvious question: Were the improvements in accuracy upon being promised payment the same for both Democrats and Republicans? or was there a significant difference in the amount of improvement when you compare Democrats and Republicans?

I sort of get a headache and the blind staggers when someone who is reputedly intelligent overlooks such an obvious question, especially since the data are right at hand. One explanation—the simplest—is that Sunstein is not nearly so smart as he’s presumed to be: the evidence here is clear.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 9:21 am

Upcoming dinner: I can’t wait

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I’m going to the East Coast in September to visit my kids and grandchildren, and one dinner is already planned:

Happy Spoon’ & Izakaya Appetizers – Oyster, Uni, Ikura, Ponzu Crème Fraîche, Lotus Root, Seaweed Salad, ‘Goma-ae’ with Sesame
‘Super X’ Lillet Blanc, Yuzu, House-made Falernum

Pabu Wing ‘Nagoya Style’ & Pork Spare Rib – Red Chili Glaze, Japanese Mayo
Narutotai Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu

Skewers Grilled Over Japanese Binchotan – Tsukune ‘Japanese Meatballs’, Negima, Skirt Steak, Sweet Garlic, Eringi Mushroom
Joseph Drouhin Chorey Les Beaune

Michael’s ‘Chicken Noodle’ Soup – Ramen Noodles, Rich Chicken Broth
Hitachino Nest White Ale

Nigiri Sushi Selection & Special Hand Roll – Bigeye Tuna, Wild Salmon, Yellowtail, Gulf Shrimp
Aoki Junmai Ginjo

Omakase Dessert Tasting – Green Tea-lemon Genoise, Rose Mochi Ice Cream, Mango Panna Cotta, Lemongrass Brown Butter Bon-bon

‘Ryo Ishikawa’ Iced Yuzu Green Tea

That sounds extremely tasty to me…

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 9:07 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

A classic shave with inexpensive tools

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SOTD 18 Jun 2013

Really basic equipment: the Ecotools Kabuki brush ($7.50 in cosmetics section of Walgreens or the like) and a Sodial razor ($2.30, including shipping, on Total outlay under $10 (excluding sales tax). And the shave is completely BBS.

Of course, I’m using good prep and a very good shaving soap indeed. Once again with the Jlocke98 pre-shave beard wash, then a particularly thick lather, a specialty of D.R. Harris, and three very nice passes with the Sodial, which holds a Personna Lab Blue blade, a very good blade for me.

A good splash of Arlington, and I’m ready to go.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 9:04 am

Posted in Shaving

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