Later On

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

Archive for June 29th, 2013

The Mob and Angela Clemente

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Alan Feuer writes in the NY Times of yet another instance of the FBI being out of control—that’s a very troubled agency, it seems to me:

At the end of February, a 300-page report, tersely titled, “New York Systemic Corruption,” was received for review by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General in Washington. In three bound volumes, it detailed a series of oft-made, and explosive, allegations: that in the 1990s, while trying to stem the Colombo family war, federal prosecutors and agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York knowingly allowed two moles in the mob to kill while they were on the government’s payroll.

But the dossier had not been sent to Washington by one of the defense attorneys or professional private detectives who have, for two decades now, been working on the legal cases related to the war, an internecine struggle from 1991 to 1993 that resulted in a dozen deaths and more than 80 convictions. It was sent from an unlikely, and mostly unknown, source: a 5-foot-4, single mother from New Jersey named Angela Clemente.

For nearly 15 years, Ms. Clemente, 48 and a self-professed “forensic analyst,” has waged an independent and improbable campaign to prove that the government turned a blind eye to as many as 39 murders committed in New York by turncoat gangsters it paid to work as informants.

Through interviews in the underworld and by prying loose documents from classified archives, her unusual citizen-sleuthing has taken her deep into the local version of the James (Whitey) Bulger case, which is now being tried in Boston. Not only into the annals of the New York mob, but also, in a strange, octopus-like fashion, into corollary inquiries into Islamic terrorism, the Kennedy assassination, even the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

“You have a real knack for investigation,” Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a former chairman of the House oversight committee, wrote to Ms. Clemente in 2007 after she helped lead the authorities to a stash of explosives in a Kansas house owned by Terry Nichols, one of the Oklahoma City bombers. “Your ability to get valuable information from sources unavailable to many of us in government is truly an asset to those seeking the truth.”

A onetime medical technician who in her 30s studied to become a paralegal, Ms. Clemente is not your typical gumshoe. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2013 at 3:44 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

The alternate history begins now. Bad news: we’re on the wrong branch.

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Josh Silver at AlterNet:

Observing New York state politics is like watching felons run a parole board. Last week, senate leadership killed a bill that would have cleaned up state government and created citizen-funded elections. It was a huge opportunity to stem corruption that has wracked the state. Thirty-two state officials have been in deep trouble [3] over the last few years, including (ironically) four former Senate majority or minority leaders. A 2012 study [4] gave New York a D grade, and ranked it 36th nationally in government integrity.

But this is more than just another case of jaw-dropping political dysfunction. What happened in Albany last week has major implications for national anti-corruption efforts that are central to making progress on the issues that you care about most, yet keep losing. Health care, climate change, education, financial oversight, military spending… the list goes on.

Every American who cares one whit about future generations should be obsessed with money in politics corruption. And for those of us who are, all eyes were on Albany. The Fair Elections Act was backed by serious funders and a skillful organizing campaign. But it was not enough: the latest in a long string of disappointments for public interest advocates. This one however should serve as a blaring wake up call for reformers that it is time to change the play.

The Albany effort had all of the ingredients of a winning campaign. In January, Governor Cuomo opened the legislative session with public financing as one of his top priorities. It received endorsements from celebrities like Alec Baldwin and Jason Alexander as well as the editorial boards of the New York Times and several other papers across New York. The state assembly easily passed the measure in May, but in the end, the momentum for change was stopped cold.

How could this happen? The hard lesson to take from Albany is that a deliberate legislative effort that works within a corrupt system — in the current political environment — cannot overcome the power of that corruption. The only way to get foxes (politicians) to put a lock on the henhouse (campaign money) is to change the political environment, and force politicians in the only place that works: the ballot box. And to do that, we must break with old habits, and forge a new strategy that: . . .

Continue reading. As I read the new strategy, I cannot help but think that the Internet and social media are going to play a big role if we do succeed in changing the rules of the game and start a new paradigm.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2013 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Election, Government

8 years a liberal embedded at Fox News

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An interview with the guy who wrote the book:

Joe Muto was just a young liberal guy who haphazardly fell into a career at Fox News. Eight years later, he departed in dramatic fashion after becoming, for a brief moment, Gawker.com’s anonymous “Liberal Fox Mole.”

A couple of misdemeanor charges later, Muto wrote a book about his experiences working for Bill O’Reilly.  An Atheist in the FOXhole: A Liberal’s Eight-Year Odyssey Inside the Heart of the Right-Wing Media [3] is an entertaining insider’s account of what it’s like behind the scenes at a Republican advocacy organization that also happens to be the top-rated cable news station in the United States. We caught up with Muto by phone last week.

Joshua Holland: Joe, you didn’t end up at Fox as part of some ideological crusade. How did a liberal end up working in the heart of darkness?

Joe Muto: That would have been an even more amazing story if I had started there and stayed there for eight years with the intent of doing this the whole time.

It was weird. I finished college and I was aimless as, I’m guessing, many exiting college seniors are. I just knew I wanted to be in New York. I wanted to do something in media and I sent out a flurry of resumes. My undistinguished GPA in an undistinguished major got me zero responses except for Fox News.

I was nervous about taking a job with them. I didn’t know if I would show up and they’d make me swear allegiance to a photo of Ronald Reagan in an occult ceremony or something like that. I had no idea what to expect but I actually had a buddy who had done an internship for them. He’s like, “Yes, it’s normal, whatever. Who cares?”

I thought, I’ll give it a few months and see what happens. If I can’t stand the place, I’ll bug out and get a job somewhere else, but it seems it’s a good way to start a career and to start in New York City—to get a foothold.

JH: After eight years, you figured you’d be happier working at Gawker, which many of us would be … so you became the Fox mole.

I wouldn’t say you were like James Bond in covering up your tracks. How did Fox figure out it was you after about 10 minutes?

JM: (Laughs) Ten minutes is being a little generous. It was about three minutes. It was not the stuff I was writing. The stuff I was writing, I was covering my tracks enough that it didn’t lead straight to me, but it was the video clips. Those stupid, inconsequential video clips. I had one clip of Newt Gingrich getting his hair done by his wife. I had another clip of Mitt Romney talking about his love for his dressage horses.

With those two clips, they were able to trace to me. They didn’t know—they didn’t have me completely there. They were like, We don’t know that you took these clips, but we can tell that you’re one of the only people in the company who looked at both of them.

JH: You faced a couple of charges for this. John Cook over at Gawker says that prosecuting you was an outrageous abuse of power. Your view?

JM: An outrageous abuse of power… I’m of a mixed mind about it. I had to plead to a couple of misdemeanor charges and I’m doing community service. They gave me 10 days of community service and 200 additional hours. The other people are all in there for drug charges, DUIs. One guy smashed a bottle in another guy’s face. I have a major inferiority complex because they were talking about all these amazing stuff they’ve done and I’m like, Yes, I leaked a video of Newt Gingrich getting trimmed by his wife.

In the end I just made stuff up and told people I was in a bar fight.

I do feel I maybe got a bit of a harsher penalty than would normally be warranted for someone like me who’s a first-time offender. At the same time, I did it. It’s not like I’m innocent. Maybe karmically, this is what I deserve.

JH: You got a book deal out of it. There’s always that.

JM: I did. Maybe I’m doing OK on balance. Not too shabby.

JH: Let’s talk about what it’s like working at Fox News. First, I was surprised that everyone in the building isn’t a true believer. I figured that many really believe that they’re fair and balanced and an antidote to the so-called liberal media, but it seems that a lot of your co-workers knew they were in a propaganda business? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2013 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Books, GOP, Media

Bringing the Secret Government more into the light

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Extremely interesting AlterNet piece by Max Blumenthal:

Since journalist Glenn Greenwald revealed the existence of the National Security Agency’s PRISM domestic surveillance program, he and his source, the whistleblower Edward Snowden, have come in for a series of ugly attacks. On June 26, the day that the New York Daily News published a straightforward smear piece [3] on Greenwald, the website Buzzfeed rolled out a remarkably similar article, [4] a lengthy profile that focused on Greenwald’s personal life and supposed eccentricities.

Both outlets attempted to make hay out of Greenwald’s involvement over a decade ago on the business end of a porn distribution company, an arcane detail that had little, if any, bearing on the domestic spying scandal he sparked. The coordinated nature of the smears prompted Reuters media columnist Jack Shafer to ask if an opposition research firm [5] was behind them. “I wonder who commissioned the file,” he mused on Twitter.

A day before the Greenwald attacks appeared, Buzzfeed published an anonymously sourced story [6] about the government of Ecuador, which had reportedly offered asylum to Snowden (Ecuador has just revoked a temporary travel document [7] issued to Snowden). Written by Rosie Gray and Adrian Carasquillo, the article relied on documents marked as “secret” that were passed to Buzzfeed by sources described as “activists who wished to call attention to the [Ecuadorian] government’s spying practices in the context of its new international role” as the possible future sanctuary of Snowden.

Gray and Carasquillo reported that Ecuador’s intelligence service had attempted to procure surveillance technology from two Israeli firms. Without firm proof that the system was ever put into use, the authors claimed the documents “suggest a commitment to domestic surveillance that rivals the practices by the United States’ National Security Agency.” (Buzzfeed has never published a critical report on the $3 billion in aid the US provides to Israel each year, which is used to buy equipment explicitly designed for repressing, spying on and killing occupied Palestinians).

Buzzfeed’s Ecuador expose supported a theme increasingly advanced [8] by Snowden’s critics — that the hero of civil libertarians and government transparency activists was, in fact, a self-interested hypocrite content to seek sanctuary from undemocratic regimes. Curiously, those who seized on the story had no problem with Buzzfeed’s reporters relying on leaked government documents marked as classified. For some Snowden detractors, the issue was apparently not his leaking, but which government his leaks embarrassed.

Questionable journalism ethics, evidence of smears

At first glance, Buzzfeed‘s Ecuador expose might have seemed like riveting material. Upon closer examination, however, the story turned out to be anything but the exclusive the website promoted it as. In fact, the news of Ecuador’s possible deal with Israeli surveillance firms was reported [9] hours before Buzzfeed’s piece appeared by Aleksander Boyd, a blogger and activist with close ties to right-wing elements in South America. “Rafael Correa’s Ecuadorian regime spies on its citizens in a way strikingly similar to what Snowden accuses the U.S. of doing,” claimed Boyd.

Later in the day, Boyd contacted Buzzfeed’s Gray through Twitter, complimenting her piece before commenting, [10] “Evidently Ecuadorian source leaked same info to you guys, seems I jumped the gun before you…” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2013 at 3:09 pm

Starting to understand the system template for cities

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Fascinating note in Science News by Rachel Ehrenberg:

The notion that cities are all alike borders on blasphemy. Residents of the world’s great metropolises, from New York to London to Tokyo, speak of their homes as of a first love or old friend. But decades of analyses hint that cities, mathematically speaking, might actually all be the same. Now for the first time, those observations have been tidily and elegantly drawn together into a formula that describes what a city is.

That new work is part of a growing field dedicated to the science of cities. The effort is a timely one: Roughly 75 percent of people in the developed world now live in urban environments. While much of the research is in its early days, eventually it may serve as a powerful, widely used tool for urban planners and policymakers.

The mathematical work is rooted in and reinforces the view “that cities grow from the bottom up,” says Michael Batty, who trained as an architect, planner and geographer and went on to found the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London. “The diversity of life [in cities] offers greater opportunities for mixing ideas.”

That diversity, which includes dismal poverty, squalid slums and crime juxtaposed with prosperous businesses, majestic parks and great art institutions, was much decried in the 19th century. In 1883, for example, textile designer and artist William Morris lamented England’s cities as “mere masses of sordidness, filth, and squalor, embroidered with patches of pompous and vulgar hideousness, no less revolting to the eye and the mind….”

Discomfort with the notion that cities grew from the bottom up went along with disdain for disorder and chaos, framing cities as a problem to be solved. This view prevailed into the 20th century and influenced postwar urban renewal projects across the United States. The resulting redevelopment forever changed parts of cities such as Pittsburgh and Boston, with mixed results.

In the last several decades, however, the view of cities as disordered systems has begun to change, Batty says. Patterns have emerged within the chaos. Researchers in economics, physics, complexity theory and statistical mechanics have observed that certain features of cities consistently vary with population size.

But the relationships aren’t direct and linear. As a city grows, some features, . . .

Continue reading.

It seems natural for humans to congregate in cities: we are a social animal, and the instant we had the resources to do it, we made cities and moved there: lots more happening than back in the pig sty.

So cities are truly natural developments, although we build them (they’re thus artificial as well): given the culture-creating/created animal that we turned out to be, we have no choice in the matter: that’s where evolution takes us.

But—and this is the point I am trying to make—because cities are natural, they are also highly complex—fractal, in a sense—and have critical internal systems and relationships that are subtle.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2013 at 3:03 pm

Terrific exchange: Informative and entertaining as hell

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I really enjoyed this.

It begins with an Erick Erickson column “Why America Hates Washington“. Read that.

Then read Paul Krugman’s response “Non-inflation Denial” (which, he asserts, Erickson displays). Krugman rather unsportingly relies on facts.

Then Politico asked Erickson what he thought about Krugman’s response. (Not much, it turns out; in fact Erickson doesn’t seem to think much about anything.)

Krugman reads the Politico piece and responds, pointing out Erickson’s descent into babbling nonsense.

And Krugman points to this interesting article by Josh Burro in Business Insider who points out the profound derpiness that possesses Erickson.

The sequence is quite enjoyable. (Possibly not for Erickson.)

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2013 at 2:07 pm

The difference between image and truth, romanticism and reality

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Fascinating account (including details of the battle and capture) by Brian Resnick of the National Journal:

Next week marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, but it appears, somehow, there is still some bad blood between a pair of Northern and Southern states.

Here’s the controversy: The Minnesota Historical Society has a Confederate flag in their possession, captured from a Virginia regiment during the last day of the battle. For the sake of the anniversary, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell asked Minnesota to loan it to them (McDonnell is the governor who had declared April 2010 “Confederate History Month” at the behest of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, but then apologized for not mentioning slavery in the proclamation). Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s response to the request is simple: No way.

As he told a crowd of reporters and Civil War reenactors earlier this week:

The governor of Virginia earlier this year requested that the flag be loaned, quote, unquote, to Virginia to commemorate — it doesn’t quite strike me as something they would want to commemorate, but we declined that invitation.

It was taken in a battle at the cost of the blood of all these Minnesotans. And I think it would be a sacrilege to return it to them. It was something that was earned through the incredible courage and valor men who gave their lives and risked their lives to obtain it. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s a closed subject.

Why the Resistance? The Abridged Story of the Virginia Flag

The Minnesota 1st Volunteer Infantry Regiment captured the flag on July 3, 1863, the last day of the battle. On July 2, the Minnesota 1st had suffered massive losses after being ordered to conduct a diversionary strike on the Confederates while the Union collected reinforcements. At the end of the day, only 47 out more than 250 Minnesotan men were still alive. One of those remaining was Private Marshall Sherman, pictured right (he actually sat out the battle).

The next day, Sherman along with the remaining members of the Minnesota 1st were in the the center of the Union lines when Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered an assault. “Pickett’s Charge,” as it is called, represents the furthest advance the South made into the North during the war.

It was a brutal, chaotic scene. “We just rushed in like wild beasts,” one Minnesotan fighter described. “Men swore and cursed and struggled and fought, grappled in hand-to-hand fight, threw stones, clubbed their muskets, kicked, yelled, and hurrahed.” The charge failed, leading to the Union victory at Gettysburg.

Amid the firefight, . . .

Continue reading.

I should remind people that Edward Snowden has been accused of treason for telling us what our government is doing, thus breaking the non-disclosure agreement and the law, but this Virginia “commemoration” was to honor men who had taken up arms against the United States of America: they fucking launched a war (by many actions against the US, but most directly by firing upon Fort Sumpter). Talk about terrorism! What we’ve faced from al Qaeda does not hold a candle to what the traitors of the South did in their pigheaded fight to retain slavery as an institution! That was the entire goal, as is evident from the articles of secession the various states published at the time: Georgia’s declaration of causes of secession begins:

The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic. This hostile policy of our confederates has been pursued with every circumstance of aggravation which could arouse the passions and excite the hatred of our people, and has placed the two sections of the Union for many years past in the condition of virtual civil war. . . .

Here are some others:

At any rate, Minnesota Gov. Dayton showed admirable restraint and we are reminded, if we need to be, that Virginia Gov. McDonnell is stupid as well as crooked.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2013 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Fetishizing secrecy

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A very interesting post from Barry Eisler:

Have you noticed recently that America has developed something of a secrecy fetish?

I’m not talking about the government specifically — secrecy at the expense of the citizenry creates a massive power asymmetry, and it’s natural therefore that any reasonably unscrupulous politician or bureaucrat (meaning almost all of them) would want to keep things secret from the people.  Metastasized secrecy within American’s national security state is neither new nor unknown to me.  What I’m talking about instead is a secrecy fetish among we, the people.
I started thinking about this earlier this month, when Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA’s illegal domestic spying operation.  I was struck by how many people describing something that’s not much more than a bulked-up non disclosure agreement spoke of some sacred secrecy “oath.”  The meme has really taken hold — Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan is now explicitly demanding that CIA employees “Honor The Oath,” thereby implying that a secrecy agreement is of significance equal to a CIA employee’s (actual) oath to protect and defend the Constitution.  Doubtless many journalists will uncritically regurgitate Brennan’s terminology, never pausing to consider whether there even is such a secrecy “oath,” or whether it should be treated as remotely important as an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.
And then I read about Obama’s Insider Threat Program, his policy for getting all government employees to inform on each other and equating all leaks with aiding and abetting enemies.  Here, see for yourself how insane and Stazi-like this initiative really is.  It almost reads like a parody.  But it isn’t.  It’s the behavior of a paranoid government that has become psychologically obsessed with the value of the secrets it hoards.  And what’s at least as disturbing as the program itself is how little attention it’s gotten in the press or among the public.  Again, too many Americans have come to accept that massive secrecy isn’t just normal, but in fact desirable.
It isn’t.  Secrecy is not one of the primary pillars of the strength of a democracy.  Fetishizing the importance of secrecy at the expense of a focus on the Constitution, the rule of law, and transparency is like thinking your overall health is determined more by how much coffee you can consume than it is by food, water, and exercise.
Secrecy is fundamentally antithetical to democracy and should be treated with great suspicion.  Small amounts are a necessary evil.  Beyond that, it is poison.  And we have become addicted to it.  Our addiction has made us lose sight of what really makes us strong:  the Constitution; and just and sane policies; and our commitment to being a good nation instead of a priapic obsession with being a Great one.  East Germany relied on secrecy for its strength.  So did Communist Russia.  Do want to use those states as role models?  Is it not obvious that America would be stronger with less secrecy, not with more?
You would think all this would be pretty obvious, and yet the army has now acknowledged that it is . . .

Continue reading.

Read the whole thing—for example, a little later in the piece he makes this vitally important point:

We have to remember that the government wants us to believe that secrecy is a paramount value, that secrecy is a fundamental source of our society’s strength, that maintaining it is a vital obligation subject to sacred oaths and requiring that we inform on each other if we suspect someone has deviated.  As I noted above, secrecy does give the government great power — power over the very citizenry secrecy enfeebles.  It’s important that we recognize the self-interest behind the government’s “Secrecy is Sacred!” sales job, and not buy into the government’s mindset.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2013 at 12:15 pm

FAQ: What You Need to Know About the NSA’s Surveillance Programs

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Jonathan Stray writes at ProPublica:

There have been a lot of news stories about NSA surveillance programs following the leaks of secret documents by Edward Snowden. But it seems the more we read, the less clear things are. We’ve put together a detailed snapshot of what’s known and what’s been reported where.

What information does the NSA collect and how?

We don’t know all of the different types of information the NSA collects, but several secret collection programs have been revealed:

A record of most calls made in the U.S., including the telephone number of the phones making and receiving the call, and how long the call lasted. This information is known as “metadata” and doesn’t include a recording of the actual call (but see below). This program was revealed through a leaked secret court order instructing Verizon to turn over all such information on a daily basis. Other phone companies, including AT&T and Sprint, also reportedly give their records to the NSA on a continual basis. All together, this is several billion calls per day.

Email, Facebook posts and instant messages for an unknown number of people, via PRISM, which involves the cooperation of at least nine different technology companies. Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others have denied that the NSA has “direct access” to their servers, saying they only release user information in response to a court order. Facebook has revealed that, in the last six months of 2012, they handed over the private data of between 18,000 and 19,000 users to law enforcement of all types — including local police and federal agencies, such as the FBI, Federal Marshals and the NSA.

Massive amounts of raw Internet traffic Much of the world’s Internet traffic passes through the U.S. even when the sender and receiver are both outside the country. A recently revealed presentation slide notes the U.S.’s central role in internet traffic and suggests domestic taps can be used to monitor foreign targets. A whistleblower claimed that he helped install a network tap in an AT&T facility in San Francisco on NSA orders in 2003. The tap sent the entire contents of high capacity fiber optic cables into a secret room filled with monitoring equipment. An unknown fraction of the intercepted data isstored in massive databases in case it is useful in the future.

Because there is no automatic way to separate domestic from international communications, this program also captures U.S. citizens’ internet activity, such asemails, social media posts, instant messages, the sites you visit and online purchases you make.

The contents of an unknown number of phone calls The details are sketchy, but there are several reports that the NSA records the audio contents of some phone calls. This reportedly happens “on a much smaller scale” than the programs above, afteranalysts select specific people as “targets.” There does not seem to be any public information about the collection of text messages, which would be much more practical to collect in bulk because of their smaller size.

The NSA has been prohibited from recording domestic communications since thepassage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act but at least two of these programs — phone records collection and Internet cable taps — involve huge volumes of Americans’ data.

Does the NSA record everything about everyone, all the time?

No. The NSA routinely obtains and stores as much as it can of certain types of information, such as the metadata from telephone calls made in the U.S. (but not their content) and some fraction of the massive amount of raw data flowing through major internet cables. It is also possible for the NSA to collect more detailed information on specific people, such as the actual audio of phone calls and the entire content of email accounts. NSA analysts can submit a request to obtain these types of more detailed information about specific people.

Watching a specific person like this is called “targeting” by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law which authorizes this type of individual surveillance. The NSA is allowed to record the conversations of non-Americans without a specific warrant for each person monitored, if at least one end of the conversation is outside of the U.S. It is also allowed to record the communications of Americans if they are outside the U.S. and the NSA first gets a warrant for each case. It’s not known exactly how many people the NSA is currently targeting.

How the NSA actually gets the data depends on the type of information requested. If the analyst wants someone’s private emails or social media posts, the NSA must request that specific data from companies such as Google and Facebook. For information that is already flowing through Internet cables that the NSA is monitoring, or the audio of phone calls, a targeting request instructs automatic systems to watch for the communications of a specific person and save them.

It’s important to note that the NSA probably has information about you even if you aren’t on this target list. If you have previously communicated with someone who has been targeted, then the NSA already has the content of any emails, instant messages, phone calls, etc. you exchanged with the targeted person. Also, your data is likely in bulk records such as phone metadata and internet traffic recordings. This is what makes these programs “mass surveillance,” as opposed to traditional wiretaps, which are authorized by individual, specific court orders.

What does phone call metadata information reveal, if it doesn’t include the content of the calls? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2013 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Daily life

Rick Perry: A profile in meanness

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I think his stupidity actually intensifies his meanness: he seems to be angry at everything because it’s so damned hard for him to understand, and that makes him mad. Just a guess, but take a look at Paul Waldman’s note at The American Prospect:

You already knew that Texas governor Rick Perry was, as they say down in the Lone Star state, dumb as a stump. But Perry has been working hard to convince Americans that he’s also mean as a scorpion (which they probably don’t say down there, but maybe they ought to). With the highest proportion of uninsured residents of any state in the union, Perry gleefully declined the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of Texans without access to medical care despite the fact that the federal government would have picked up nearly all of the tab. And now, he’s taking the nationwide Republican effort to destroy women’s reproductive rights into new realms of vindictiveness.

You no doubt heard about Texas state senator Wendy Davis’s heroic filibuster the other night, in which she prevented the legislature from passing a bill that would have banned all abortions after 20 weeks and led to the closure of 37 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics. The bad news was that despite all the attention Davis got, chances were that the Republican-dominated legislature would come back in its next session and pass the bill.

But Rick Perry isn’t going to let some uppity woman tell him what restrictions he can put on what women can do with their bodies. So he announced that he’ll be calling the legislature back for an emergency session to consider the bill. And he decided to put Wendy Davis in her place with some epic mansplaining: “She was the daughter of a single woman, she was a teenage mother herself,” he said about Davis. “She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate. It is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.”

And about pro-choice activists protesting the abortion restrictions, Perry said, “The louder they scream, the more we know we are getting something done.”

No war on women here! Now why don’t you ladies just hush up and let the menfolk do the legislating?

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2013 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

The No-Fly List: Orwellian or Kafkaesque?

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Good question from Kevin Drum of Mother Jones. He writes:

A few weeks ago, Rehan Motiwala tried to board a flight home to Los Angeles. Here’s what happened when he changed planes in Bangkok:

Airline staff in Bangkok refused to issue him a boarding pass for his connecting flight. U.S. and Thai officials told him that he could not travel but offered no explanation, leading him to believe he’d been placed on the U.S. government’s secret no-fly list.

After dozing on benches and wandering the airport terminal for four nights, Motiwala was told that a Justice Department official had arrived from the United States to question him. When he declined to answer questions without a lawyer present, U.S. officials left him in the custody of Thai authorities, who tossed him into a detention center in the bowels of Suvarnabhumi Airport.

….Motiwala, whose parents are of Pakistani origin, was not told why he might be on the list. A likely possibility, however, is his contact with Tablighi Jamaat, a conservative Muslim missionary movement based in South Asia.

Obviously Motiwala wasn’t on the no-fly list when he left the country last year, and obviously he was on the list when he tried to return. The lesson is pretty clear: be careful who you talk to, citizen. You really don’t want to get on our list, do you?

The basic outrage here is obvious: in a liberal democracy, no citizen should be subjected to this kind of treatment without due process. And the no-fly list not only doesn’t incorporate due process, it goes out of its way to be the most Orwellian possible denial of due process imaginable. You are on a list. Maybe. But we won’t tell you. How can I get off the list? Well, who says you’re on a list in the first place? But I can’t fly. Sorry, we can’t comment on that. Rinse and repeat. [The lack of transparency is what enables the Federal government to keep the list; if people saw the list —and why shouldn’t they? — things would get straightened out quickly. – LG]

And here’s what I don’t get: If authorities wanted to question Motiwala, they obviously knew where he was. All they had to do was wait for him to disembark at LAX and take him into custody. So what’s the point? I guess the LAX option doesn’t give them the leverage of throwing him into a rat-infested hellhole if he doesn’t cooperate. Welcome to America.

I think the explanation is simple: minor bureaucrats get pushed around a lot by the system and feel powerless, so when they get an opportunity to make things bad for someone and thus feel powerful, a certain personality type will seize that opportunity and run with it, feeling safe in their position of authority.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2013 at 11:34 am

A dying blade takes revenge

with 2 comments

SOTD 29 June 2013

Back to Stirling, working on the lather. I used my Vie-Long “Bombito” boar brush from BullgooseShaving.net this morning, and I used extra loading time and extra water. The lather lasted well, though still not so creamy as (e.g.) D.R. Harris. But I’ll keep working on it. I do love the fragrance of this particular version: Black Cumin and Orange. One of the strengths of artisanal soapmakers is that they can offer more intriguing fragrances than mainline products.

The aforementioned naughty blade was a Kai, and the razor is an Edwin Jagger head on a UFO handle. I could tell that the blade was near the end as I tried to finish, and on rinsing after the shave I discovered three little nicks on my upper lip. Some blades don’t simply get dull as they die, they also get nicky. If I shaved with few enough razors to track blade uses, I would replace Kai blades one shave earlier—i.e., if this was the fifth shave for this guy, I would now replace Kai blades after 4 shaves. (I did replace it after I finished with a Personna Platinum, a blade I don’t really know yet.)

Musgo Real is a fine aftershave, and My Nik Is Sealed took care of the nicks quite handily.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2013 at 11:29 am

Posted in Shaving

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