Later On

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

Archive for July 2nd, 2013

Dinner tonight

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We’re still meatless. It makes it easier that you can simply skip the whole aisle/section.

Greek eggplant with rice

Modified from Glorious One-Pot Meals

Layers from bottom in my 2.25-qt Staub round cocotte:

Olive oil
1/2 c white rice
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
allium: e.g., 1 med onion, or 2 large shallots, or 1 leek, or 1 bunch scallions: chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped small
4-5 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Small pitted black olives
1/4 c pine nuts
1 medium eggplant, diced
3-4 oz feta cheese, crumbled (I’m using a French goat-milk feta)
1 15-oz can garbanzos/chickpeas, drained and rinsed

She splits stuff up and does two layers. Not for me.

Pour-over will be something like:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
2 Tbsp red wine
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin

Shake well, pour over. 450ºF for 45 minutes.

I got to reading about Calrose rice, quite interesting in itself and I’m definitely buying some, but it also took me to the wide variety of interesting rices from Lundberg. I can’t wait to try a lot of those.

UPDATE: Extremely tasty. Definitely will make this again. For the allium, I chopped two good-sized spring shallots, including the green part. Cut pine nuts to 1/4 cup and half that (2 Tbsp) would probably be enough.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2013 at 5:01 pm

That didn’t take long: North Carolina moves immediately to restrict black voting

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Aviva Shen reports at ThinkProgress:

Just days after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, North Carolina is moving forward with a host of bills to roll back voting rights. Republican lawmakers are accelerating a new agenda to eliminate early voting, Sunday voting hours, and same-day registration provisions. GOP leaders also vowed to move quickly to pass a controversial voter ID law that would make it much harder for minorities, seniors, students, and low-income voters to cast their ballots.

The court’s conservative majority decreed last Tuesday that the formula used to identify states with a history of using election law to discriminate against minorities has “no logical relationship to the present day.” Many of the covered jurisdictions celebrated the decision by promptly advancing voting restrictions that disproportionately target minorities and low-income voters. Texas enacted their previously blocked voter ID law mere hours after the ruling.

North Carolina’s newly unfettered attack on voting rights has three main prongs:

  • Require ID at the polls. North Carolina’s voter ID bill could pose problems for 1 in 10 voters, according to an analysis by the State Board of Elections. About 613,000 North Carolinians lack the required government-issued ID. Nearly a third of these voters are black, while over half are registered Democrats.
  • Penalize college students for voting. Republicans are also pushing a bill to raise taxes on families with college students who choose to vote at school rather than at home, effectively discouraging college students from voting.
  • End early voting and same-day registration. Other states that restricted early voting, like Ohio and Florida, needlessly created mammoth lines on Election Day, forcing some voters to wait until 1 a.m. to cast a ballot. The backlash in Florida has been especially strong, prompting Gov. Rick Scott (R) to reverse his own voter suppression laws. In North Carolina, black voters make up 29 percent of early voters and 34 percent of voters who took advantage of same-day voter registration at the polls.

The Republican-dominated legislature and new Republican governor will likely do all they can to speed along these restrictions. However, polls show that North Carolinians overwhelmingly oppose these new voter suppression measures. “Moral Monday” protests are cropping up all over the state to challenge these bills and a slew of other draconian policies targeting the poor, women, minorities, and seniors.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2013 at 4:05 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Government, Law

Border Patrol requests armed drones

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What could go wrong with that? And if we can easily expand the definition of “terrorist” (much as we have already expanded to definition of “weapon of mass destruction” to include, e.g., powerful firecrackers, grenades, and so on), then only terrorists will be killed. (The Obama defines as “terrorist” any male older than 14 or so who is killed by a drone strike—that is the definition: military-age males killed by drones are deemed “terrorists.)

Man, this thing moves at a fast clip. Philip Bump reports at the Atlantic Wire:


Documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation
 from the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Patrol indicate that the agency is close to finalizing payload standards for its drone aircraft. Among the things the CBP might want to use in its unmanned aircraft: “non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize” targets.

In 2009, the agency announced that it had acquired its sixth Predator drone, stationed at an Army Airfield in Arizona. The agency trumpeted its successes:

Since 2004, CBP unmanned aircraft have flown more than 3,000 hours, directly contributing to 4,766 arrests and the seizure of 22,823 pounds of marijuana in support of the Department of Homeland Security’s border security mission.

fact sheet provided by the agency notes the current capabilities of the aircraft, including electro-optical/infrared sensors and “Surface Search Radar/Ground Moving Target Indicator.” The specific drone rolled out in 2009 was loaded with “the Raytheon MTS-B Multi-Spectral Targeting System (with electro-optical, infrared, laser designation, and laser illumination capabilities) and Synthetic Aperture Radar.” Raytheon describes the capabilities of the MTS-B: “provides long-range surveillance, high-altitude target acquisition, tracking, rangefinding, and laser designation for the HELLFIRE missile and for all tri-service and NATO laser-guided munitions.” You can see the surveillance systems at work in this video, shot at the Mexican border; obviously, the CBP drones aren’t HELLFIRE equipped.

But they may soon have weapons. The 2010 document released to the EFF under the Freedom of Information Act, titled “Concept of Operations for CBP’s Predator B Unmanned Aircraft System,” suggests that the FAA is mandating standards affecting the devices’ Communication, Navigation, Surveillance / Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) equipment, which could require upgrades. In a section titled “Far-Term CONOPS” (Concept of Operations), the document outlines future possible enhancements (emphasis added). . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2013 at 4:02 pm

Learning more about how NSA learns about us

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Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

Yesterday, Dana Liebelson pointed out “5 Intriguing New NSA Revelations From Edward Snowden.” Read it! But I want to focus on just two of these things, which are way more than merely intriguing.

1. PRISM provides real-time access to email and chat.

A couple of days ago, the Washington Post released four more slides from the PowerPoint deck that describes the PRISM program. One of them is on the right, and it explicitly says that PRISM provides NSA analysts with real-time notification of email events and chat logins. The Post rather mysteriously says nothing more about this except that it “reflects the availability, confirmed byThe Post’s reporting, of real-time surveillance as well as stored content.”

This is obviously important for its own sake, but also because it sheds some additional light on the contention that PRISM provides “direct access” to servers from Google, Microsoft, and others. If this stuff is truly available in real-time, then NSA really would have to have direct access. Alternatively, this slide could simply mean that PRISM retains records of events that were collected in real time by other NSA programs. But which is it?

2. All of your cellphone calls are being recorded.

This is from a speech that Glenn Greenwald gave last Friday: . . .

Continue reading.

Given that NSA knows, through its surveillance just about everything needed to expose major corruption and scandals, then I would bet that information is being used to excerpt pressure here and there. At any rate, the capability exists, and sooner or later it will be used. J. Edgar Hoover relied on that sort of information absolutely.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2013 at 3:48 pm

Groupthink—no, not that one

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“Groupthink” was coined to describe the reaction of the John F. Kennedy inner circle to the Cuban missile crisis, an event that has been closely studied by many. The result of what came to be called “groupthink” was the shutting down of any dissenting views on a course prematurely selected. The things that enabled and promoted groupthink have been closely studied and the books on it are quite interesting.

But I was talking about something else, a way of viewing the world that probably is to some degree universal but especially highly developed in authoritarians: in see the actual, real, living, organic entity is not the individual, but the group.

Consider how among authoritarians the primary virtue, but a long shot, is group loyalty. Loyalty is a primary virtue for all conservatives, but doesn’t make the top four for liberals. This is discussed at length in Jonathon Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. (I blogged about it previously—for example, here.) You can read a brief exposition in this excellent post.

Haight identifies “five distinct moral realms: harm/care, fairness, in-group loyalty, deference to authority, and purity/sanctity. The first two promote individual freedom and self-expression, and are beloved by liberals; the final three bind societies together, and are close to the hearts of social conservatives.” (I’m quoting from this post.)

So authoritarians—conservatives on steroids—really do see groups as primary. If you betray the group, you are are like a cell that has rebelled against the body. The word “cancer” pops up a lot when conservatives discuss dissenting individuals—which the conservatives see not as individuals, but as a group. What’s real is the group. The individuals can be replaced.

And this group-oriented outlook is why authoritarians automatically resort to group punishment: because (in their eyes) it makes little sense to punish an individual, who is just a representative of the group. It’s better to go to the source, the actual opponent: the group. So the group is punished, and weirdly, that creates a group. Those who were punished as a group, tend to respond as a group. In effect, the authoritarian tool of group punishment forges groups from individuals who previously may have had little interest in banding together. Marx saw it that way, with the proletariat treated like crap by capitalists until the proletariat were welded together and gained strength through solidarity.

It will be interesting to see whether the exploitation of the great number of our society will breathe new life into unions.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2013 at 3:00 pm

Libertarianism rooted in justifying slave ownership?

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Very interesting conceit—and it does make sense, in that a slave owner would seek to establish a government that let a man do anything he wanted so long as he paid for it.  Robert Parry talks about the darker aspects of Libertarianism at ConsortiumNews.com:

An inconvenient truth for “libertarians” is that their ideology of a minimalist U.S. government grew out of the South’s institution of human bondage, i.e. the contractual right of a white person to own a black person, and from the desire of slaveholders to keep the federal government small so it could never abolish slavery.

That is why many “libertarian” icons – the likes of Patrick Henry, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson and the later incarnation of James Madison – were slave owners who understood the link between the emergence of a strong national government and the threat to slavery.

More recently, “libertarian” political favorites, such as Ron and Rand Paul, have either opposed or criticized civil rights laws that, in their view, infringe on the rights of white businessmen to discriminate against blacks. And libertarian-oriented Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court and in legislatres across the country are gutting voting rights for black and brown Americans.But an even bigger crisis facing “libertarianism” now – and why the ideology is particularly dangerous – is the existential threat from global warming and the urgent need for collective government action on a worldwide scale to reduce human output of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping chemicals.

The “libertarian” response to the overwhelming scientific consensus on this life-threatening reality has been either to deny the facts or to propose implausible “free market” solutions that would barely dent the crisis. Some dismiss the threat in mocking tones as some kind of “statist” conspiracy. Typical were sarcastic comments by the Independent Institute’s Mary Theroux, writing: “The climate crisis is real, it’s here, and it’s time for absolute power for Obama!”

There’s also lots of sophistry and quibbling about the science. The preferred “libertarian” position adopts the pretense that the release of carbon dioxide by human activity contributes little or nothing to climate change.

Other “libertarians” accept the science but still can’t bring themselves to recognize that a coordinated government response is needed. Anti-government ideology trumps even the possible destruction of life on the planet, a very real possibility given the likelihood of mass dislocations of populations and the availability of nuclear weapons.

The “libertarians” are further hampered in their thinking about global warming by the fact that . . .

Continue reading.

And, speaking of inconvenient truth, read this amusing short column by Jonathan Chait about a conservative medical group that named their group after a progressive liberal doctor and politician.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2013 at 1:59 pm

Really worth watching: A civil discourse on how racist the US still remains

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Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2013 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Humans are cultural bowerbirds

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bowerbird-62

Last night I thought of the human resemblance to bowerbirds, the males of which build beautiful and intricate displays to attract a mate. I’ve several times mentioned that humans are a hybrid of animal and culture, and both are essential, and I’ve pointed out how culture shaped the animal by making certain traits more valuable—e.g., the ability to vocalize become ever more important to survival (and reproduction) after the invention of language. Indeed, much of what we think of as our identity, our selves, our essence is made up of language, along with a raft of non-language components: dress, stance, gestures and grimaces, social norms such as personal distance, and other things that we believe make us who we are: unique individuals, but individuals that have their origins in—read: are made from—cultural fragments. We may be unique, but it’s all sampling.

I was thinking about this last night and finally got up at 4:00 s.m. to jot down some notes—and yes, I did get back to sleep once it was written down and off my mind: culture is always evident, “intruding” because it is the very ocean in which we swim—we are unconscious of how omnipresent it is just as fish probably don’t notice the water unless it gets suddenly colder, or they hit a current, or something. We do notice when, e.g., a new show hits town or a new saying sweeps the country or an issue grips the nation. Culture then stands out loud and clear. But day-to-day, it’s hard to imagine anything we think or say or do that is a complete creation from cultural bits and pieces: memes, in the technical sense.

But how is that construction done? How does the human build his/her cultural bowernest? That’s what I was pondering. I was reflecting on this article on how we (along with songbirds) “babble” as practice needed to learn how to change syllables. So babbling is serious work: necessary practice to learn the key cultural meme of language. (Ability to make sounds we have as animals, an ability that other animals (e.g., songbirds) also have; language, in contrast, is a cultural invention, not something we gained from being animals—as evidence, observe the different languages spoken in different places: were language a part of our DNA, we would all speak the same language. (Recall the belief that babies raised hearing no speech would automatically default to speaking Hebrew. Turns out that’s untrue.) But since we speak different language, it’s clear that language does not come to us by nature, but is learned. Thus language definitely is something created by the animal, and a big step toward the animal being able to become a human. Indeed, there are some interesting theories that trace all languages on earth back to a remote common origin in southern Africa: it was so powerful and so basic that it was invented once only, and grew from there. Agriculture, in contrast, was invented independently at least three times and probably seven.)

So that’s how we work to acquire language, but how,  in practice, does an individual human form an identity by putting together a collection of memes: cultural fragments and pieces—the sampling I referred to above.

I had been watching The IT Crowd, the source of many ideas, both good and bad. Moss had been teaching visiting businessmen how to play Dungeons & Dragons, which turned out to be a big hit. I was thinking that for adolescents, who are working hard to assemble/find/create their adult selves, role-playing games provide a kind of “babbling” step: an ability to practice various personality constellations, see how they work both for oneself and as a way of interacting with others.

Then I realized that all the early games—Chutes & Ladders, checkers, chess, go, cribbage, rummy, bridge, whatever—are practice in learning how to obey rules and take turns (an important cultural lesson that must be taught), and later has to build upon the rules: use them as well as obey them. This is what chess and go are all about: sure, you follow the rules, but what can you do above and beyond that—using the rules, how far can you take it?

And thus adolescents try this look and that, different attitudes, modes of dress, and so on. It makes sense that creating a self would be difficult, but it is driven by a strong (animal) drive: to attract a mate. So the experiments continue, with the outcomes are analyzed (even if not consciously: it’s the adaptive unconscious in charge of this anyway: cf. Timothy Wilson’s Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious) and strategies and tactics improved.

I find the strong resemblances between a human’s sense of self and a bowerbird’s display to be remarkable.

UPDATE: To explore a different biological parallel: we have learned that our actual bodies encompass a variety of microbe populations: in our gut, on our skin (especially the feet), in our eyes, ears, throats, and so on, and to talk about the body without including these is like talking about the body without including, say, blood. That microbe population is now called the microbiome, and it totally affects our lives and our health.

The parallel, I’m thinking, is that while we are collecting and using  cultural memes to construct a self, others are using us as cultural memes, and these little spin-off memes, that no longer are in your possession, constitute your cultural microbiome—and it is equally important. Many consider reputation (that is, the memes of oneself as held by others) to be extremely important and central to their identity. So we throw off all these little cultural memes, which others can then use—I suppose the Guide to Gourmet Shaving falls into that category: a collection of memes I assembled and am identified with (to some extent).

UPDATE again: It occurs to me that this, of course, is the idea of a good education: provide the most nutritious cultural memes available for use as the identity is developed: just like serving  to a growing child the most nutritious and balanced diet that’s available, and for the same reason: maximum soundness and fitness. The “great books” program at St. John’s College is quite overtly one effort at a nutritious cultural smörgåsbord arranged for a balanced diet of those cultural memes needed by citizens of a free society. Interesting, to look at one’s education as having the goal of providing the best possible raw materials and environment for creation of a sound and wholesome identity.

UPDATE: In considering the picture that emerges, of a whirling vortex of memes that constitutes our “selves”—our identity—and seeing that those memes that make us who we are (in our unique combination and use of them—and in how those memes related to use affect not only our behavior, but also the behavior of others and in particular their behavior toward us, which naturally influences our perception of ourselves and thus our identity), I began to think that Nature really loves fractals and uses them constantly. And the fractalization can go in unexpected directions. Our identity does not have sharp boundaries, but is fractal to an amazing degree, with memes moving in, out, and through us. It’s almost as if the living entity consists of memes, with an animal foundation to power the mind that makes the memes.

UPDATE: Of course, meme development and selection is heavily influenced by aspects of our nature: for example, humans are social animals, so that aspect drives the dispersal and adoption of certain memes. We can throw well, a capability well exploited by memes (baseball, for example).

UPDATE: Certainly meme selection and evolution is shaped to some degree by our animal natures—memes that support our social nature, memes that play into our physical capabilities (agile hands, less agile feet, etc.), and so on—will be favored because of who/what we are. And clearly memes that provide a survival advantage for our animal selves will fare well: the first deliberately shaped sharp rock gave a small but important advantage to its wielder and to those who mimicked the invention, and so we evolved in the direction of more tool capability. And a meme that helps you get laid will not only be popular and widely mimicked, it quite naturally favors the selection of those who have/know it.

UPDATE: It struck me that memes are very much like viruses: like viruses, they cannot live on their own—a virus requires a plant or an animal to use for reproduction, and the virus exploits capabilities of the host for the virus’s own benefit (though viruses in some cases also convey a benefit to the host). And viruses evolve and change—and change their hosts (by, for example, killing off those with certain characteristics and thus skewing the population in a different direction). So memes can be viewed as viruses of the mind. And just as viruses that immediately kill their host do not themselves survive well, so also memes that destroy their hosts gradually alter the culture.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2013 at 1:34 pm

On trust and the NSA

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Kevin Drum has a relevant post at Mother Jones—note especially the second quotation:

What was Edward Snowden’s job when he worked for Booz Hamilton as a contractor to the NSA? Most of us have been under the impression that he was a systems administrator or network administrator. The initial Guardian story described him as a “former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.” The same story mentioned him talking about things that were comprehensible only to his “fellow communication specialists.” The Washington Post described him as a “tech specialist” and quoted several sources who were baffled that someone with his background had access to all the documents he had released.

But in the video interview that introduced him to the world, he actually said that he was an “infrastructure analyst” who had previously worked for the CIA as a systems administratorand telecommunications systems officer. Today, theNew York Times tells us that this job title is more revealing than it seems:

It is a title that officials have carefully avoided mentioning, perhaps for fear of inviting questions about the agency’s aggressive tactics:an infrastructure analyst at the N.S.A., like a burglar casing an apartment building, looks for new ways to break into Internet and telephone traffic around the world.

….A secret presidential directive on cyberactivities unveiled by Mr. Snowden — discussing the primary new task of the N.S.A. and its military counterpart, Cyber Command — makes clear that when the agency’s technicians probe for vulnerabilities to collect intelligence, they also study foreign communications and computer systems to identify potential targets for a future cyberwar.

Infrastructure analysts like Mr. Snowden, in other words, are not just looking for electronic back doors into Chinese computers or Iranian mobile networks to steal secrets. They have a new double purpose: building a target list in case American leaders in a future conflict want to wipe out the computers’ hard drives or shut down the phone system.

Stuart Staniford has suspected from the start that this might have been Snowden’s role. He wrote this three weeks ago:

I speculate that it is going to turn out that Snowden was an electronic intruder on the government payroll. Profiles describe him as secretive, fascinated with computers, and with knowledge of things like Tor (a peer-to-peer network for maintaining anonymity for computer communications). His last job was working at an NSA network threat detection center, suggesting knowledge of computer security. He had previously worked for the CIA, including overseas, suggesting a cyber-offense role….He may have had a lot of access — it’s very common for people working in computer threat detection to have access to platforms that see everything going on in the networks in order to look for potential threats. 

I asked Glenn Greenwald via Twitter if . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2013 at 12:49 pm

The Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Pulled

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Barry Eisler is active these days, and his work with the CIA gives him additional credibility:

A few months ago, I wrote a post called, “That Power of Accurate Observation Is Called Political By Those Who Have Not Got It.” The post was about critiques of my novels as being “political” because of some of their themes — such as depicting gays as human beings deserving of equal protection under the law; depicting the blow-back costs of US drone warfare; depicting the personal doubts of western spies about the efficacy of their means and the morality of their mission.  My conclusion:  of course my novels are political (they’re political thrillers, after all).  But what’s important to understand is that all novels are in various ways political. Choosing “not to be political” is like choosing “not to make a choice” — it’s a logical and practical impossibility.  Choosing not to make a choice is a choice.  And choosing not to be political is a profoundly political act.

Consider these quotations:

Sooner or later…one has to take sides — if one is to remain human.  — Graham Greene, The Quiet American

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.  — Desmond Tutu

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.  — Edmund Burke

The concept behind the quotes above seems axiomatic to me:  we cannot help but choose, and our choices are inherently political.  It’s important to understand this about novels, and at least as important to understand it about journalism.

Why journalism, you ask?  Aren’t reporters just objective reporters of the facts, reporting impartially without fear or favor, all the news that’s fit to print, fair and balanced and all that?

No, they are not.  It is impossible not to be political (or call it biased, or activist, or polemical, or whatever else dishonest and ignorant people would have you believe) in journalism.. Because even the journalistic decision that seems least obtrusive is in fact the most consequential:  that is, what topic to cover.  If you provide coverage to what whistleblower Edward Snowden’s girlfriend does for exercise and not to how Director of National Intelligence James Clapper perjured himself to Congress, then whether you’re aware of it or not you are making a political decision, because you are implying gossipy bullshit is more important than governmental lying (and yes, of course, prioritizing governmental lying over gossipy bullshit is also political — the point is, they both are).  If you obsess over the personality of another journalist instead of dedicating yourself to uncovering the truth about the NSA’s massive, illegal domestic spying operation, you are implicitly claiming (and explicitly trying to achieve) that people should focus on the former rather than on the latter — that what is best for society is that we focus on individual personalities rather than on governmental misdeeds.  I think such priorities are terrible, but that’s not really the point.  The point is, these are political priorities, and inherently, inescapably so.  Not even a computer could provide apolitical coverage.  Certainly no human can.

And it’s not just topics that are impossible to choose without making political decisions — it’s diction, too.  If you use phrases like “aid and abet” when you ask about a journalist’s activities, that is a political choice (and so again, obviously, is the decision to focus on the reporter rather than on what’s been reported).  When you choose whether to call someone a journalist, a reporter, an investigative reporter, a blogger, an activist, a polemicist… these are all inherently (albeit insidiously) political choices.  When news organizations use phrases like “harsh interrogation” to describe what they had previously described as “torture,” they are making political choices.  “Targeted killing” vs assassination… “detainee” vs prisoner… “detainment facility” vs gulag… “security fence” vs wall… even phrases we might not otherwise pause to consider, such as “oil spill” rather than geyser or eruption… all of these inescapably involve profoundly political choices.

Why is it so important to understand all this?

Because so many journalists are invested in . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2013 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Media, Politics

Falling out in the upper echelons: Chevron and the lobbying firm

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Steve Mufson reports in the Washington Post:

It’s a monumental battle of wills, money and egos.

The oil giant Chevron, the third-biggest U.S. company by revenue, has sued Patton Boggs, the nation’s premier legal and lobbying firm, for concealing and promoting fraudulent information in a case that was born in the jungles of the Amazon.

Chevron has also convinced a New York federal judge to allow it — despite protests from Patton Boggs about attorney-client privilege — to take the extraordinary step of examining thousands of pages of the law firm’s internal communications regarding its client, indigenous people from Ecuador’s Amazon who are suing Chevron.

The stakes in the related cases are enormous, in dollars and reputation. Chevron, which spends scores of millions of dollars a year on image advertising, is facing an $18.2 billion judgment handed down by an Ecuadoran court for health and environmental damages caused by hundreds of leaky pits filled with thick, gloppy toxic waste from oil drilling. The unlined pits, the plaintiffs say, were left by Texaco, a U.S. oil company that packed up and quit Ecuador in 1992. Chevron acquired Texaco — and this mess — in 2001.

Patton Boggs is one of Washington’s most storied law firms, known as much for its lobbying prowess as litigation skills, and whose normal haunts are the halls of Congress rather than the jungles or courts of Ecuador. In 2012, it earned $45.8 million in lobbying fees, nearly 50 percent more than the No. 2 firm. It began advising the Ecuadoran plaintiffs in early 2010. Now, it finds itself being sucked deeper into a costly, prolonged and possibly embarrassing morass. Former allies in the case have turned against it. The firm is no longer fighting for its clients alone, but for its own name.

If someone seriously suggests that [the] 50-year-old law firm of Patton Boggs would wreck, would risk its professional reputation for a group of Ecuadorans whose case we feel strongly about, that we would be involved in a broad fraud, I suggest whoever might believe that: I have a bridge in New York I might like to try to sell them,” Patton Boggs partner James E. Tyrrell Jr. said in a Washington district court last year.

Chevron’s lead attorney, Randy M. Mastro — former mob prosecutor, Rudy Giuliani protege and head of litigation at Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher — retorted: “Your Honor, Mr. Tyrrell asks the question, would Patton Boggs be risking their reputation on these Ecuadoran plaintiffs. . . . The answer, unfortunately, from their own documents, is yes. The answer is: A firm getting a contingency fee on $18.2 billion will do a lot of things that shock the conscience. And what they did here shocks the conscience.”

When Patton Boggs signed onto the Ecuador case in early 2010 at the suggestion of a hedge fund looking into financing the litigation, it wrote a memorandum titled “Invictus” — borrowing the title of a 19th-century poem that culminates with the famous lines “I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul.” In it, Patton Boggs outlined a strategy to pursue international Chevron assets to enforce the $18.2 billion judgment, “with the ultimate goal of effecting a swift and favorable settlement.”

But this case wasn’t like other sticky problems that Patton Boggs had solved by striking deals.. .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2013 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Business, Law

Deconstructing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

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Interesting post with video at Open Culture.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2013 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Music, Video

What a smooth face I have!

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SOTD 2 July 2013

What a great shave. I wet the horsehair brush before I showered, and after the shower worked up a terrific lather from the Barrister & Mann soap, whose label ran in the water and finally got lost, but I do like the soap, whichever one it is. I’m giving up on keeping track. If I can buy a soap in a labeled tub, great. If I can’t, it will be simply “soap”. I do think using labels printed with an ink that is not waterproof is not a good choice.

My pre-shave wash was with plain old MR GLO, and with the Gillette Executive I did three very comfortable but not very close passes—I think the Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade was at the end of its life. So when I finished, I switched out the old blade for a new Personna Blue Lab, relathered, and did a second ATG pass. Much better.

A small amount of jojoba oil made a very moisturizing aftershave. This would by dynamite as an aftershave for cold, dry winter weather.

Off to do errands.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2013 at 10:47 am

Posted in Shaving

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