Later On

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Archive for July 5th, 2013

Justice, Texas style

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Kristin Gwynne reports at AlterNet:

The nineteen-year-old jailed for making a “terrorist threat” after posting an obviously sarcastic comment on Facebook is now reportedly on suicide watch in jail, where he has been held on $500,000 bond [3] since February. Texas gamer Justin Carter was arrested after for a remark he made during a Facebook debate about the videogame “League Legends.”  “[S]omeone had said something to the effect of ‘Oh you’re insane, you’re crazy, you’re messed up in the head,’” Carter’s dad Jack told ABC affiliate KVUE [4], “To which [Justin] replied ‘Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head, I’m going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts,’ and the next two lines were ‘lol and jk’ [all sic].”

Carter struck a chord with a Facebook user concerned that he lived near an elementary school, and reported him to police. Now, the teenager is not only facing a third-degree felony and decade in prison, but is also dealing with the trauma of incarceration.

“Without getting into the really nasty details, he’s had concussions, black eyes, moved four times from base for his own protection,” Jack elaborated on Justin’s current condition in jail. “He’s been put in solitary confinement, nude, for days on end because he’s depressed. All of this is extremely traumatic to this kid. This is a horrible experience,” his dad told NPR [5].

“He’s very depressed, very scared, and … concerned that he’s not going to get out,” Carter’s father Jack told CNN [6], “He’s pretty much lost all hope.” Carter’s parents do not have the means to come up with half-a-million dollars to release their son.

Carter’s dad said he understands sensitivity to police shootings, but that the The Comal County District Attorney could have made a far less punitive call.  “I definitely see the need to investigate such claims, absolutely,” Jack Carter told CNN [7], “But, at some point during the investigation, there has to be some common sense.”

The circumstances of his arrest and incarceration are, indeed, extreme. “I have been practicing law for 10 years, I’ve represented murderers, terrorists, rapists. Anything you can think of. I have never seen a bond at $500,000,” Carter’s attorney, Don Flanary, who has been representing the teenager pro-bono, told NPR.

Consider our response to a few acts of terrorism that in total killed fewer Americans than died in the wars we launched using the pretext of the attacks. The US now lives in a constant state of terror (I’m talking about officially: look at NSA, the Border Patrol, TSA, locking teenagers up for months for casual trash talk). We have not only permitted but practically requested the destruction of our most important values, including rights and liberties explicitly guaranteed in the Constitution.

Looking back, those terrorist attacks succeeded to a degree I can’t imagine the terrorists could conceive—but maybe they did. Maybe they saw US vulnerabilities: its corruption and arrogance, its allegiances with dictators who were hated by their people—thus giving a large pool of US-haters to work from. Although 9/11 happened under Bush, the plot and planning were long in development, and 9/11 itself was but one of a series of attacks by al Qaeda. Indeed, in the transition from the Clinton to the Bush administration, Richard Clarke and others desperately tried to get Condoleezza Rice to understand the threat that al Qaeda presented to the US. She listened, said not a word, and left.

Tangent: The CIA even told Bush in a daily briefing in August that al Qaeda was about to attack—and Bush did nothing, save tell the briefer, “OK, son, you’ve covered your ass.” George W. Bush truly was not fit to be president of the United States. Another example: a big accomplishment in the early days was selling the press on the (false) story that the departing Clinton staffers had vandalized all the keyboards in the White House and Executive Office Building by removing the “W” keys. Completely false, but reported as complete fact: that incident reveals both the priorities of that administration and the extraordinary deference, gullibility, and incompetence of the Washington press corps: our watchdogs, God help us: rather than raise an alarm, they lick the boots of any intruder. /tangent

At any rate, the character of the US ruling class has been evident for some time. So I can imagine that the 9/11 plotters might have spent a lot of time thinking about what might happen, you know, after, and they may haved guessed one possible way the dominoes could fall would be to truly shock the institutions of the US and lead to their breakdown as fear and security concerns overrode everything. We’ll never know, but we do know that they apparently decided that what might happen as a result made it worth sacrificing their lives to achieve. Those guys had seen a lot of despotic societies and probably understood pretty well how they work, and they may have thought that the US, with the proper shove, was ripe for one.

Thus they may have thought they found a serious vulnerability in US society. Whatever they thought, they struck, and here we are, just over a decade later, watching as our society and government change character.

Perhaps most don’t see what’s happening to us because—“Look out! Terrorists! Over there!” Terrorism is a fantastic distraction because:

  • It keeps people fearful (always easy since they are easier then to manipulate)
  • It justifies spending hundreds of billions of dollars to staff and heavily arm the entire state security and enforcement apparatus: not just the military and the Federal agencies (FBI, CIA, NSA, Border Patrol, BATF) but also state and local police, who now have loads paramilitary gear, combat-style training, and are increasingly involved in “incidents”—can death squads be far behind?
  • It justifies creating (and arming) new security agencies: TSA is the prime example.
  • It justifies ignoring or overriding parts of the Constitution that limit government power, such as portions of the Bill of Rights.
  • It provides a ready distraction when people start to notice what’s happening: the “Watch out! Terrorists”

Indeed, the destruction to our society and our institutions is as if the terrorist had set off a neutron bomb that destroyed our rights and liberties. Once the bomb exploded (at the cost of their lives), our free society gradually imploded as liberties were removed and the government began to move seriously into a total-control situation:

  • full information on everyone – check
  • lots of new, tough state-armed enforcers
  • secret laws, secret courts, secret judgments, secret prisons, secret deaths
  • extreme and vindictive punishment on anyone who dissents—they might be terrorists
  • extreme and vindictive punishment for any whistleblowers, to shut them up as we move into Phase 2.

TL;DR: This is what is happening to the US, the first explosion you hear being 9/11. Things still look okay for a while, but…

Written by Leisureguy

5 July 2013 at 4:38 pm

Engraving music

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Sometime in the late 80’s I attended a Forth Interest Group presentation by a guy who had written a very small and compact Forth program (typical of Forth programs) to write musical notation. He used the printer port as input, and you could simply type in the music to have it displayed (and printed) perfectly formatted in musical notation. I’m struggling to remember… The note values (eighth note, quarter note, half note, etc.) were “sticky” because if you type one quarter note the next note is also highly likely to be a quarter note. If the note value changed, you keyed the change, and the program would assume that value until another change.

Getting the elliptical shape of the notes just right was a challenge, but the great thing about programming is that, once you do get it right, that solves it forever. The phrasing notations, the spacing and line-up with the lyrics—he had solved all that, using a microcomputer (a late 80’s microcomputer) and Forth. Several publishers were intensely interested, as you might imagine. As I recall, he started the program so he could format church music for his church. It was an astonishingly good and capable program.

But here’s how they did it before (and apparently after his program—wonder whatever became of that).

Written by Leisureguy

5 July 2013 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Music, Video

The criminal NSA

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A very intriguing op-ed in the NY Times on the criminality of the NSA. The Times notes,  “Jennifer Stisa Granick is the director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. Christopher Jon Sprigman is a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.” Their op-ed:

THE twin revelations that telecom carriers have been secretly giving the National Security Agency information about Americans’ phone calls, and that the N.S.A. has been capturing e-mail and other private communications from Internet companies as part of a secret program called Prism, have not enraged most Americans. Lulled, perhaps, by the Obama administration’s claims that these “modest encroachments on privacy” were approved by Congress and by federal judges, public opinion quickly migrated from shock to “meh.”

It didn’t help that Congressional watchdogs — with a few exceptions, like Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky — have accepted the White House’s claims of legality. The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia, have called the surveillance legal. So have liberal-leaning commentators like Hendrik Hertzberg and David Ignatius.

This view is wrong — and not only, or even mainly, because of the privacy issues raised by the American Civil Liberties Union and other critics. The two programs violate both the letter and the spirit of federal law. No statute explicitly authorizes mass surveillance. Through a series of legal contortions, the Obama administration has argued that Congress, since 9/11, intended to implicitly authorize mass surveillance. But this strategy mostly consists of wordplay, fear-mongering and a highly selective reading of the law. Americans deserve better from the White House — and from President Obama, who has seemingly forgotten the constitutional law he once taught.

The administration has defended each of the two secret programs. Let’s examine them in turn.

Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contract employee and whistle-blower, has provided evidence that the government has phone record metadata on all Verizon customers, and probably on every American, going back seven years. This metadata is extremely revealing; investigators mining it might be able to infer whether we have an illness or an addiction, what our religious affiliations and political activities are, and so on.

The law under which the government collected this data, Section 215 of the Patriot Act, allows the F.B.I. to obtain court orders demanding that a person or company produce “tangible things,” upon showing reasonable grounds that the things sought are “relevant” to an authorized foreign intelligence investigation. The F.B.I. does not need to demonstrate probable cause that a crime has been committed, or any connection to terrorism.

Even in the fearful time when the Patriot Act was enacted, in October 2001, lawmakers never contemplated that Section 215 would be used for phone metadata, or for mass surveillance of any sort. Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican and one of the architects of the Patriot Act, and a man not known as a civil libertarian, has said that “Congress intended to allow the intelligence communities to access targeted information for specific investigations.” The N.S.A.’s demand for information about every American’s phone calls isn’t “targeted” at all — it’s a dragnet. “How can every call that every American makes or receives be relevant to a specific investigation?” Mr. Sensenbrenner has asked. The answer is simple: It’s not.

The government claims that under Section 215 it may seize all of our phone call information now because it might conceivably be relevant to an investigation at some later date, even if there is no particular reason to believe that any but a tiny fraction of the data collected might possibly be suspicious. That is a shockingly flimsy argument — any data might be “relevant” to an investigation eventually, if by “eventually” you mean “sometime before the end of time.” If all data is “relevant,” it makes a mockery of the already shaky concept of relevance.

Let’s turn to Prism: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 July 2013 at 11:04 am

Mary Warnock on Godless Morality

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Interesting 2010 interview with Mary Warnock, a philosopher who became a life peer in 1985 as Baroness Warnock of Weeke.:

Which comes first, morality or religion? And what happens when religious dogma clashes with the morality it purports to uphold? The philosopher suggests some essential reading on the subject

Tell me about the David Hume and his Dialogues, and Natural History of Religion.

I think it’s a remarkable book. The Dialogues were published after he died, though the Natural History of Religion was published in 1757. There is a piece published in this collection from his Enquiry on Human Understanding which was first published in 1748, so it’s all more than 200 years ago, but his argument was largely that, supposing the then very fashionable view that the universe must have been created by a designer, God, supposing that were true, it wouldn’t tell you anything about the nature of that God, other than that he had created the universe. It wouldn’t allow you to infer that God was what Hume called provident, that he looked after his people and that he was interested in their well-being and that he made human beings in his own image. It would tell you nothing whatever about God except that he designed the universe. Hume thought it didn’t actually make much difference whether you believed that God did design the universe or whether you didn’t, because if you could say nothing about this God then it wasn’t a very interesting belief to hold. This is all extremely pertinent, I think, to the kinds of argument that Stephen Hawking is producing, in so far as I can understand them, that there is no reason to suppose that there’s a God who created the universe. I think people ought to read these pieces, the parts of Hume that are concerned with this, because it is actually an argument that is useful now, 200 and something years later.

I imagine that people who do believe in God aren’t looking for reasons to believe in God. For them it is more a question of faith, so they wouldn’t be interested in Hume’s arguments. 

Yes, and I think people take a great leap, actually, who say that God can be inferred from the marvels of the universe. People who say that immediately go on to say that that God who must have created the universe is interested in the moral laws of the universe as well as the natural laws. What they’re saying is that the God who laid down the natural laws by which the universe operates is the same God who laid down these moral laws by which we ought to conduct our lives. But actually the two things are completely separate.

Tell me about the Philip Pullman, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

I love this book. I have lent it to various people who haven’t loved it for various reasons. I found it absolutely gripping. It’s told like a child’s story, written in very simple language. There’s nothing in it that is the least bit difficult to understand. But it is a marvellous fantasy which is that there were twins born to the Virgin Mary and when the shepherds came to the stable it so happened that she was feeding one of the twins but the other one was lying unseen in the manger, so nobody knew that there were these twins, but in fact they grew up together. One of the twins was the Jesus whose story is told in the Gospel, of the revolutionary and humble moralist who wanted to break down the snobbishness and the ritual rubbish that had grown up around the Judaism of his day, but the other twin was extraordinarily ambitious and saw that if Jesus, his twin brother, would keep on performing miracles, then he could gain enormous power and a huge church could be born and the whole world could be covered with the power of this church. But I think this is an absolutely brilliant allegory of what’s happened to Christianity and particularly to the Roman Catholic church which became an empire just as this messianic twin thought that it could, whereas the humble Jesus was simply interested in preaching a gospel of loving your neighbour. He was a real true moralist and not a seeker after power. What is so ingenious in Pullman’s telling of this story is that he goes through all the miracles recorded in the gospels, like turning water into wine and he explains how they actually happened, why and how a lot of wine was found at the last minute and then the miracle-mongers, all the people who wanted these miracles to happen, created the legend of a miracle and latched that on to these ordinary events.

Is this a novel? 

Well, it’s like a novel. It’s told as a child’s story, but he knows the Gospels extremely well and he takes the central figure of Jesus of Nazareth and the things that he did very seriously. It’s incredibly readable. I sat down and read it in an afternoon and was absolutely delighted by it.

Richard Holloway, Godless Morality.

That is an amazing book, because it was written when he . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 July 2013 at 10:43 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Religion

Android phone owners: Beware!

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Read about this enormous gaping security flaw.

Written by Leisureguy

5 July 2013 at 10:38 am

Posted in Technology

Where we are in unearthing the secret government

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Glenn Greenwald has an excellent column in the Guardian:

The NSA revelations continue to expose far more than just the ongoing operations of that sprawling and unaccountable spying agency. Let’s examine what we have learned this week about the US political and media class and then certain EU leaders.

The first NSA story to be reported was our June 6 article which exposed the bulk, indiscriminate collection by the US Government of the telephone records of tens of millions of Americans. Ever since then, it has been undeniably clear that James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, outright lied to the US Senate – specifically to the Intelligence Committee, the body charged with oversight over surveillance programs – when he said “no, sir” in response to this question from Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

That Clapper fundamentally misled Congress is beyond dispute. The DNI himself has now been forced by our stories to admit that his statement was, in his words, “clearly erroneous” and to apologize. But he did this only once our front-page revelations forced him to do so: in other words, what he’s sorry about is that he got caught lying to the Senate. And as Salon’s David Sirota adeptly documented on Friday, Clapper is still spouting falsehoods as he apologizes and attempts to explain why he did it.

How is this not a huge scandal? Intentionally deceiving Congress is a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison for each offense. Reagan administration officials were convicted of misleading Congress as part of the Iran-contra scandal and other controversies, and sports stars have been prosecuted by the Obama DOJ based on allegations they have done so.

Beyond its criminality, lying to Congress destroys the pretense of oversight. Obviously, members of Congress cannot exercise any actual oversight over programs which are being concealed by deceitful national security officials.

In response to our first week of NSA stories, Wyden issued a statementdenouncing these misleading statements, explaining that the Senate’s oversight function “cannot be done responsibly if senators aren’t getting straight answers to direct questions”, and calling for “public hearings” to “address the recent disclosures,” arguing that “the American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives.” Those people who have been defending the NSA programs by claiming there is robust Congressional oversight should be leading the chorus against Clapper, given that his deceit prevents the very oversight they invoke to justify these programs.

But Clapper isn’t the only top national security official who has been proven by our NSA stories to be fundamentally misleading the public and the Congress about surveillance programs. As an outstanding Washington Post article by Greg Miller this week documented:

“[D]etails that have emerged from the exposure of hundreds of pages of previously classified NSA documents indicate that public assertions about these programs by senior US officials have also often been misleading, erroneous or simply false.”

Please re-read that sentence. It’s not just Clapper, but multiple “senior US officials”, whose statements have been proven false by our reporting and Edward Snowden’s disclosures. Indeed, the Guardian previously publishedtop secret documents disproving the claims of NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander that the agency is incapable of stating how many Americans are having their calls and emails invaded without warrants, as well as the oft-repeated claim from President Barack Obama that the NSA is not listening in on Americans’ calls without warrants. Both of those assertions, as our prior reporting and Miller’s article this week demonstrates, are indisputably false.

Beyond that, the NSA got caught spreading falsehoods even in its own public talking points about its surveillance programs, and were forced by our disclosures to quietly delete those inaccuracies. Wyden and another Democratic Senator, Mark Udall, wrote a letter to the NSA identifying multiple inaccuracies in their public claims about their domestic spying activities.

Defending the Obama administration, Paul Krugman pronounced that “the NSA stuff is a policy dispute, not the kind of scandal the right wing wants.” Really? In what conceivable sense is this not a serious scandal? If you, as an American citizen, let alone a journalist, don’t find it deeply objectionable when top national security officials systematically mislead your representatives in Congress about how the government is spying on you, and repeatedly lie publicly about resulting political controversies over that spying, what is objectionable? If having the NSA engage in secret, indiscriminate domestic spying that warps if not outright violates legal limitsisn’t a “scandal”, then what is?

For many media and political elites, the answer to that question seems clear: what’s truly objectionable to them is when powerless individuals blow the whistle on deceitful national security state officials. Hence the endless fixation on Edward Snowden’s tone and choice of asylum providers, the flamboyant denunciations of this “29-year-old hacker” for the crime of exposing what our government leaders are doing in the dark, and all sorts of mockery over the drama that resulted from the due-process-free revocation of his passport. This is what our media stars and progressive columnists, pundits and bloggers are obsessing over in the hope of distracting attention away from the surveillance misconduct of top-level Obama officials and their serial deceit about it.

What kind of journalist – or citizen – would focus more on Edward Snowden’s tonal oddities and travel drama than on the fact that top US officials have been deceitfully concealing a massive, worldwide spying apparatus being constructed with virtually no accountability or oversight? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 July 2013 at 8:37 am

Success with Stirling Shaving Soap! (And a BBS result)

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SOTD 5 July 2013

Thanks to Rod’s guidance (in a comment on this post), I have had a completely successful lather from Stirling soap. The trick is that this soap requires a mug or a high-walled tub: the early, sloppy lather should be worked back in. I still had a little spillage, but the net result was exactly what I was look for: a lather that was creamy rather than sudsy.

I’m sure the Omega Pro 48 was a help, but now that I know the trick, I would bet that any good brush will work. And I’m going to have to try this with Green Mountain Shaving Soap, which also for me tends to produce a rather sudsy lather.

With a great lather, the rest was easy. I did do a pre-shave beard wash, of course—the Jlock98 jojoba oil mix—and then the lather, taking my time. Three very smooth passes with the Eclipse Red Ring holding a new Personna Lab Blue blade, and my beard was BBS.

A good splash of Lavanda, and we begin the day.

Cooking note: The evening of the 3rd, I put 2 cups of dried garbanzo beans in water to soak. They soaked overnight, and the next morning I drained the water, added fresh, and put them in a 200ºF oven for the whole day. Man! are those tasty! And soft. Much better than canned (and much less sodium, I’m sure).

Today I make hummus. I mention this just so you’ll know that I have a life beyond shaving.

UPDATE: The mug is the Marvy hard-rubber mug, which is very nice. I meant to mention that.

Written by Leisureguy

5 July 2013 at 8:26 am

Posted in Shaving

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