Later On

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Archive for July 14th, 2013

Obama’s expanding surveillance universe

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From TomDispatch.com:

On the website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services there is a list of rights belonging to all Americans. Chief among them: Freedom to express yourself. Abdiwali Warsame must have taken them literally. Two days after he became a U.S. citizen, he created a rollicking news and opinion website covering his native Somalia.  It became popular with many Somalis and Somali-Americans, but also attracted attention from other quarters.  As Craig Whitlock recently revealed in the Washington Post, Warsame was, according to public records and interviews, soon “caught up in a shadowy Defense Department counterpropaganda operation.”

Warsame’s website became a clearinghouse for articles from various points of view (including his own fundamentalist Muslim beliefs), but with emphasis on strong opposition to U.S.-backed military interventions in Somalia, and the contention that al-Shabab militants are freedom fighters, not terrorists. This, in turn, attracted the attention of the U.S.-based Navanti Group, which was “working as a subcontractor for the Special Operations Command to help conduct ‘information operations to engage local populations and counter nefarious influences’ in Africa and Europe.”  As part of a sophisticated military effort aimed at manipulating news stories and social media around the world, Navanti compiled a dossier on Warsame, even though the military is legally barred from carrying out psychological operations at home.  (Navanti claimed it believed Warsame was based overseas; Whitlock’s reporting indicates otherwise.)  The military contractor eventually sent a copy of its files to the FBI, whose agents soon showed up on Warsame’s doorstep.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website says Americans are bound by “the shared values of freedom [and] liberty” and that “naturalized citizens are… an important part of our democracy.”  Today, this rings about as true as a thump on the side of an empty dumpster.  Abdiwali Warsame is just one of millions of people — Americans and foreigners — who have found themselves monitored in some way by the U.S. military over the years.

No one knows this long history of shadowy military surveillance better than TomDispatch regular Alfred McCoy, author of Policing America’s Empire, among other works.  For decades, McCoy has been shedding light on some of the darkest aspects of government malfeasance from drug trafficking to spying to torture.  Today, he offers a chilling tour of military surveillance efforts from the turn of the twentieth century to a near future even more dystopian than our present — a world in which we’re all liable to end up like Abdiwali Warsame. Nick Turse

Surveillance Blowback 
The Making of the U.S. Surveillance State, 1898-2020 
By Alfred W. McCoy

The American surveillance state is now an omnipresent reality, but its deep history is little known and its future little grasped.  Edward Snowden’s leaked documents reveal that, in a post-9/11 state of war, the National Security Agency (NSA) was able to create a surveillance system that could secretly monitor the private communications of almost every American in the name of fighting foreign terrorists. The technology used is state of the art; the impulse, it turns out, is nothing new. For well over a century, what might be called “surveillance blowback” from America’s wars has ensured the creation of an ever more massive and omnipresent internal security and surveillance apparatus.  Its future (though not ours) looks bright indeed.

In 1898, Washington occupied the Philippines and in the years that followed pacified its rebellious people, in part by fashioning the world’s first full-scale “surveillance state” in a colonial land.  The illiberal lessons learned there then migrated homeward, providing the basis for constructing America’s earliest internal security and surveillance apparatus during World War I.  A half-century later, as protests mounted during the Vietnam War, the FBI, building on the foundations of that old security structure, launched large-scale illegal counterintelligence operations to harass antiwar activists, while President Richard Nixon’s White House created its own surveillance apparatus to target its domestic enemies.

In the aftermath of those wars, however, reformers pushed back against secret surveillance.  Republican privacy advocates abolished much of President Woodrow Wilson’s security apparatus during the 1920s, and Democratic liberals in Congress created the FISA courts in the 1970s in an attempt to prevent any recurrence of President Nixon’s illegal domestic wiretapping.

Today, as Washington withdraws troops from the Greater Middle East, a sophisticated intelligence apparatus built for the pacification of Afghanistan and Iraq has come home to help create a twenty-first century surveillance state of unprecedented scope. But the past pattern that once checked the rise of a U.S. surveillance state seems to be breaking down.  Despite talk about ending the war on terror one day, President Obama has left the historic pattern of partisan reforms far behind. In what has become a permanent state of “wartime” at home, the Obama administration is building upon the surveillance systems created in the Bush years to maintain U.S. global dominion in peace or war through a strategic, ever-widening edge in information control.  The White House shows no sign — nor does Congress — of cutting back on construction of a powerful, global Panopticon that can surveil domestic dissidents, track terrorists, manipulate allied nations, monitor rival powers, counter hostile cyber strikes, launch preemptive cyberattacks, and protect domestic communications.

Writing for TomDispatch four years ago during Obama’s first months in office, I suggested that the War on Terror has “proven remarkably effective in building a technological template that could be just a few tweaks away from creating a domestic surveillance state — with omnipresent cameras, deep data-mining, nano-second biometric identification, and drone aircraft patrolling ‘the homeland.’”

That prediction has become our present reality — and with stunning speed. Americans now live under the Argus-eyed gaze of a digital surveillance state, while increasing numbers of surveillance drones fill American skies.  In addition, the NSA’s net now reaches far beyond our borders, sweeping up the personal messages of many millions of people worldwide and penetrating the confidential official communications of at least 30 allied nations. The past has indeed proven prologue. The future is now.

The Coming of the Information Revolution

The origins of this emerging global surveillance state date back over a century to “America’s first information revolution” for the management of textual, statistical, and analytical data — a set of innovations whose synergy created the technological capacity for mass surveillance.

Here’s a little litany of “progress” to ponder while on the road to today’s every-email-all-the-time version of surveillance: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 2:36 pm

Conversation with The Wife

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The Wife and I enjoy our conversations—at least I do, and I assume she does, since when she doesn’t enjoy something, I can now detect the signs—and today’s followed an intriguing sequence. Summarizing:

I mentioned a comment I had made about the somewhat rushed sainthood of John Paul II and John XXIII (who came up short in the miracles department to the tune of one). I commented that, looking on the bright side, with John Paul II canonization, pedophiles will now have a patron saint.

And then I realized that in fact it makes perfect sense: the Church has among its flock all sort of sinners, including (as we now all know) pedophiles by the score; and pedophiles, being human and Catholic, certainly deserve a patron saint of their own, one who will provide guidance and protection, much as John Paul II did in real life. If there’s a St. Dismas, why not a St. John Paul II?

But we fell to discussing the seeming haste: both the speed of canonization and the dropping of a requirement. It struck me that what we’re seeing is saint-inflation, akin to grade-inflation. Saints are going to become increasingly common. Mark my words, within a decade the Church will realize that order is needed, and it publish a hierarchy of saints (they tend to think in hierarchical terms, I believe), including at least two levels: regular, everyday saints (not quite enough miracles, too quickly canonized, too obvious, etc.) and premium saints: your St. Michael, St. Mark, St. Matthew, St. John (perhaps he would go into a super-premium category, along with St. Mary and St. Peter). But I immediately see we need a level just beneath Premium: saints such as St. George, St. Stephen, and the like. But then there are the really obscure saints—even after the Great Saint Cleanup, some still remain. Indeed, one level might be devoted to the purged saints: St. Christopher, for example. For some centuries people prayed to him and sought his protection in their travels—indeed, I would think at least a few miracles can be attributed to him (e.g., the many who survived the recent Asiana crash). Hmm. I see now that a hierarchy is not such a bad idea, and I can sort of see how it would work.

But in talking about saint-inflation, The Wife told me about an NPR segment she had heard on (true) heroes: specifically, acts of heroism officially recognized as such. And when you read what those recognized have done, your jaw drops. They really are heroes. But the society that makes the awards has to keep tightening the criteria: more and more applications easily surpass previous criteria, so just to control the inflow they jack up the criteria.

But is it really hero-inflation? When you read the accounts of what the nominees have done, you can readily see that they did indeed do something heroic. I would bet that the reason the number of applications is increasing is the Internet: people learn about things that they would otherwise never know. Indeed, how many reading this would ever read something I’ve written were it not for the Internet?

And heroism is certainly within the realm of human capability. It follows, therefore, that it’s probably a lot more common that we realized in pre-Internet days, and given the number of heroic things done in the absence of witnesses, even that number is probably just the tip of an iceberg. I don’t think we’re seeing hero-inflation, but rather more communication channels that are more easily accessed.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Only in America? or what?

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My God, what will we tell the children. Well, now we know: we’ll tell them how to shoot.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education, Guns

Well worth reading—and enjoyable, too, in its way

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What is intriguing is that such deep findings are easily communicated. Ayalur Krishnan writes in Salon:

Georg Cantor died in 1918 in a sanatorium in Halle, Germany. A pre-eminent mathematician, he had laid the foundation for the theory of infinite numbers in the 1870s. At the time, his ideas received hostile opposition from prominent mathematicians in Europe, chief among them Leopold Kronecker, once Cantor’s teacher. In his first known bout of depression, Cantor wrote 52 letters to the Swedish mathematician Gösta Mittag-Leffler, each of which mentioned Kronecker.

But it was not just rejection by Kronecker that pushed Cantor to depression; it was his inability to prove a particular mathematical conjecture he formulated in 1878, and was convinced was true, called the Continuum Hypothesis. But if he blamed himself, he did so needlessly. The debate over the conjecture is profoundly uncertain: in 1940 Kurt Gödel proved that the Continuum Hypothesis cannot be disproven (technically speaking, that the negation of the Hypothesis cannot be proven), and in 1963 Paul Cohen proved that it cannot be proven. Poor Cantor had chosen quite the mast to lash himself to.

How is it possible, though, for something to be provably neither provable nor disprovable? An exact answer would take many pages of definitions, lemmas, and proofs. But we can get a feeling for what this peculiar truth condition involves rather more quickly.

Cantor’s Continuum Hypothesis is a statement regarding sizes of infinity. To see how infinity can have more than one size, let’s first ask ourselves how the sizes of ordinary numbers are compared. Consider a collection of goats in a small forest. If there are six goats and six trees, and each goat is tethered to a different tree, then each goat and tree are uniquely paired. This pairing is called a “correspondence” between the goats and the trees. If, however, there are six goats and eight trees, we will not be able to set up such a correspondence: no matter how hard we try, there will be two trees that are goat-free.

Correspondences can be used to compare the sizes of much larger collections than six goats—including infinite collections. The rule is that, if a correspondence exists between two collections, then they have the same size. If not, then one must be bigger. For example, the collection of all natural numbers {1,2,3,4,…} contains the collection of all multiples of five {5,10,15,20,…}. At first glance, this seems to indicate that the collection of natural numbers is larger than the collection of multiples of five. But in fact they are equal in size: every natural number can be paired uniquely with a multiple of five such that no number in either collection remains unpaired. One such correspondence would involve the number 1 pairing with 5, 2 with 10, and so on.

If we repeat this exercise to compare “real” numbers (these include whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and irrational numbers) with natural numbers, we find that the collection of real numbers is larger. In other words, it can be proven that a correspondence cannot exist between the two collections.

The Continuum Hypothesis states that there is no infinite collection of real numbers larger than the collection of natural numbers, but smaller than the collection of all real numbers. Cantor was convinced, but could never quite prove it.

To see why, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Math

Training the public about the police

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Radley Balko points out interesting ways in which the TV reality shows of cops in action shapes both them and us: them, by showing how they are expected to act, and us, by indoctrinating us into thinking, “That’s just what cops do. I have to put with it, because that’s just the Cop Way,” and thus we expect and accept, an important attitude adjustment required for a police state.

Obviously, many police do not fit the aggressive/transgressive model, some by nature of their character and personality, others by a deliberate choice. But the existence of the oppressive cop is not to be doubted: just ask the legions who have been subjected to stop-and-frisk, much less the young man who’s the subject of Fruitvale Station.

Balko in Salon:

“There’s always a good time to use a Taser.”

So said Andrea, an attractive single mom and one of the four stars of the TLC reality show “The Police Women of Broward County,” which debuted in 2009. In the trailer that included the Taser quip, the video then cut to the show’s stars tackling suspects, slamming knees into kidneys, pointing guns, and generally kicking ass. Judging from other clips on the TLC website, some of which featured shots of the female officers in bikinis, it seemed that the network couldn’t make up its mind whether these women were sexpots with handcuffs or girl cops who were just as rough and tough as the boys. A poster ad campaign for the show only reinforced the identity crisis. One read: “Taser Time.” Another: “Cavity Search, Anyone?”

Pop culture has always had a big influence on police culture, sometimes reflecting prevailing sentiment and sometimes driving it. In his chronicle of the 1970s “How We Got Here,” conservative pundit David Frum argues that the decade’s parade of renegade cops who skirt the law but still abide by a familiar moral code (think Dirty Harry) reflected the prevailing opinion at the time that bad court decisions and criminal-coddling procedures were preventing well-meaning cops from getting the bad guys. Ed Burns, the former narcotics cop and co-creator of HBO’s “The Wire,” thinks the influence might have been the other way around. In a 2008 interview, Burns said that the Gene Hackman movie “The French Connection” had a big influence on the culture of drug cops. “In The French Connection, [detective] Popeye Doyle had this very cynical, harsh, rough, law-breaking type of drug style that sort of set the tone in how street narcotics guys work. Very flippant. What the movie didn’t pick up, and what you didn’t see, is all the intense surveillance and hard work that would go into a drug bust back then. But they put out the idea of this guy who cracks heads, especially in that scene they went and they shook the bar down. That became iconic. And that is the way the cops were afterward. I mean, you’d see white cops in black neighborhoods looking like Serpico, and they’re not undercover. It was just this mind-set that took over of how you’re supposed to dress and act and the way you’re supposed to be.”

“The French Connection,” it’s worth noting, came out in 1971. The series of botched ODALE raids in Collinsville and elsewhere began in 1973.

In the 1980s, the TV show “Miami Vice” nurtured the belief that south Florida was teeming with drug lords armed with more guns than most Third World armies, while “Hill Street Blues” offered the grittiest, most realistic portrayal of a big city police department yet aired on television. The show cast most of its cops in a sympathetic light, but, also took on issues like racism, corruption, and brutality.

For the better part of a generation, the Fox hit “Cops” was the only reality police show on TV. For twenty years, America watched as patient patrol officers broke up domestic disputes, arrested sunburned wife beaters, and chased petty drug offenders down darkened allies. Though the departments depicted in the show always had veto power over the footage that made it on the air, “Cops” generally did well to depict the monotonies of police work, be it walking a beat, calmly talking down a jealous husband, or driving a long, all-night neighborhood patrol in a squad car.

It was really the expansion of cable TV in the 1990s and 2000s that blew out the cop reality genre with shows that tended to emphasize confrontation and celebrate a culture of police militarism. A&E broke in first with “Dallas SWAT,” which sent a camera crew with the city’s elite paramilitary police unit to document drug raids and standoffs. The show’s success spawned “Detroit SWAT” and “Kansas City SWAT.” Court TV then jumped in with “Texas SWAT” and “SWAT U.S.A.”

Testosterone-infused Spike TV joined the mix in 2008 with “DEA.” Produced by jolly weatherman-cum-drug warrior Al Roker, the first season followed a group of federal agents, also in Detroit (the city’s crumbling badlands provide great backdrop for reality shows), as they planned and carried out drug raids. (It also produced an unintentionally hilarious moment when self-proclaimed pot smoker and legalization advocate Joe Rogan was forced to conduct a reverent, promotional interview with one of the show’s drug-agent stars while hosting one of Spike’s mixed martial arts events.)

The obvious criticism of such shows is their exploitation and general tackiness. Not that anyone expects much dignity from most of the cable networks, but you’d think, for example, that the Broward County Sheriff’s Department might object to the sexualization of its female officers, or to a national ad campaign insinuating that they’re sporting itchy Taser fingers.

But these shows may have a more sinister effect. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 1:20 pm

16 rules of Esperano grammar

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There was a bit of discussion about whether Esperanto grammar could indeed be represented in 16 rules. Although the consensus is, “Of course not,” I thought it might be worth taking a look at the 16 rules that Zamenhof himself used as a summary:

Esperanto is a constructed language intended to be used for neutral international communication. Esperanto is spoken around the world and has about 2 million speakers. There are 16 basic rules of Esperanto grammar, established by its founder, L.L. Zamenhof:

  1. There is no indefinite article (English a, an); there is only a definite articlela, alike for all genders, cases and numbers (English the). The use of the article is as in other languages. People for whom use of the article offers difficulties {e.g. speakers of Russian, Chinese, etc.) may at first elect not to use it at all.
  2. Nouns have the ending -o. To form the plural, add the ending -j. There are only two cases: nominative and accusative; the latter can be obtained from the nominative by adding the ending -n. The other cases are expressed with the aid of prepositions (genitive by de (English of), dative by al (English to), ablative by per (English by means of) or other prepositions, according to meaning).
  3. Adjectives end in -a. Cases and numbers are as for nouns. The comparative is made with the word pli (English more), the superlative with plej (English most); for the comparative the conjunction ol (English than) is used.
  4. The basic numerals (not declined) are: unu, du, tri, kvar, kvin, ses, sep, ok, naŭ, dek, cent, mil (English one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, hundred, thousand). Tens and hundreds are formed by simple juxtaposition of the numerals. To show ordinal numbers we add the adjective ending; for multiples, the suffix -obl; for fractions (actually, reciprocals), -on; for collectives, -op; for divisionals, the word (particle) po. Noun and adverb numerals can also be used.
  5. Personal pronounsmi, vi, li, ŝi, ĝi (for an object or animal), si, ni, vi, ili, oni (English I, you, he, she, it, oneself, we, you, they, they-one-people); the possessive pronouns are formed by addition of the adjective ending. Declension is as for nouns.
  6. The verb does not change for person or number. Forms of the verb: present time takes the ending -as; past time, -is; future time, -os; conditional mood, -us; command mood, -u; infinitive mood, -i. Participles (with adjectival or adverbial meaning): present active, -ant; past active, -int; future active, -ont; present passive, -at; past passive, -it; future passive, -ot. All forms of the passive are formed with the aid of the corresponding form of the verb esti (English to be) and the passive participle of the required verb; the preposition with the passive is de (English by).
  7. Adverbs can be formed from adjectives by changing the -a ending to an -e ending (like English -ly).
  8. All prepositions take the nominative.
  9. Every word is read as it is written.
  10. The accent always falls on the next-to-last syllable (vowel) [in a word: on the penult – LG]
  11. Compound words are formed by simple juxtaposition of words (the main word stands at the end); the grammatical endings are also viewed as independent words.
  12. When another negative word is present, the word ne (English no, not) is omitted.
  13. To show direction, words take the accusative ending.
  14. Every preposition has a definite and permanent meaning, but if we have to use a preposition and the direct meaning doesn’t tell us what preposition we should take, then we use the preposition je, which has no independent meaning. Instead of je the accusative without a preposition may be used.
  15. The so-called foreign words, i.e. those taken by the majority of languages from one source, are used in Esperanto without change, taking on only the orthography of this language; but for different words from a single root it is better to use without change only the basic word, and form the rest from this latter according to the rules of Esperanto.
  16. The final vowel of the noun and the article may be dropped and replaced by an apostrophe (without effect on stress).

For the rules with examples, see this page or, for particular rules:

1. Articles
2. Nouns
3. Adjectives
4. Numerals
5. Pronouns
6. Verbs
7. Adverbs
8. Prepositions
9. Pronunciation
10. Accent
11. Compound Words
12. Negatives
13. Direction
14. The Multipurpose Preposition
15. Borrowing Words
16. Elision

Some Postnotes1. Word Order
2. Transitivity
3. Progression of Tenses
4. Desambiguation with -N

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Esperanto

First human-powered helicopter to win the prize

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On June 13th, 2013, the AeroVelo Atlas Human-Powered Helicopter captured the long standing AHS Sikorsky Prize with a flight lasting 64.1 seconds and reaching an altitude of 3.3 metres. Visit http://www.aerovelo.com for more details.

The competition was initially opened in 1980, and over the course of the 33 years that followed, dozens of teams from around the world pushed the limits of existing technology in pursuit of this once-thought-to-be impossible goal. This video is a compilation of footage from the record flight, as well as previous test flights. For uncut videos and official documentation of the record flight visit http://www.aerovelo.com and the AeroVelo YouTube Channel.

Prize is worth $250,000, approximately, but of course they didn’t do it for the money.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Technology

US whites and African-Americans in charts

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Juan Cole has a good set of informative charts at Informed Comment. Take a look. One example from many:

chart-racial-wealth-gap-3-top

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 9:27 am

Posted in Daily life

When govenment services are cut: The child-abuse story

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child abuse

An op-ed in the NY Times by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz reveals that cutting back on government employees can make life miserable for the vulnerable: the government is their only ally:

DURING the Great Recession, child abuse and neglect appeared to decline. Incidents reported to local authorities dropped. “The doom-and-gloom predictions haven’t come true,” Richard Gelles, a child-welfare expert at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Associated Press in 2011.

The real story about child maltreatment during the recession is a grim one. I spent months studying this topic, using a number of different data sources, including Google search queries. I found that the Great Recession caused a significant increase in child abuse and neglect. But far fewer of these cases were reported to authorities, with much of the drop due to slashed budgets for teachers, nurses, doctors and child protective service workers.

Here’s what caused the initial optimism: from 2006 to 2009, the number of cases reported to child protective services decreased by 1 percent nationally. Remarkably, the biggest drops were in the states hardest hit by the recession. Nevada, despite an unemployment rate that rose as high as 13.3 percent, showed a 17.5 percent drop in reports of maltreatment of children.

The first clue that the official statistics were misleading comes from looking at the most extreme forms of abuse and neglect, which are least susceptible to reporting pressures: child-fatality rates. During the downturn, there was a comparative increase in these rates in states that were hardest hit by the recession. From 2006 to 2009, Nevada’s fatality rate from abuse or neglect rose 50 percent.

But child fatalities are, thankfully, rare. I also used a novel technique for studying child maltreatment: an analysis of anonymous, aggregate Google searches. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 9:20 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Living on an Acre

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Excellent book for those who want to live on a few acres:

Living on a few acres may be the ultimate American dream. But before you leave, best read this realistic advice produced by the US Department of Agriculture for the wave of young back-to-the-landers in the 1970s, updated and rewritten for 2010′s young homesteaders. Think of this as a wise uncle who’s seen a million folks try this and has a few words of caution — and encouragement — for you.

You’ll get an informed overview of the thousands of things you need to think about (water, sewage, markets, pests, machines, etc.), and the hundreds of options you have for using the land (flowers, a dude ranch, raising pets, a country B&B, speciality herbs, etc). It won’t tell you the right answers or how to do any of them. It serves more like a checklist of all the possibilities and drawbacks to help fit your dream to reality.

Most folks caught in the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 9:08 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Why the media ignore climate change

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Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 8:56 am

Posted in Global warming, Media, Video

Barry Eisler on choices made about the NSA story

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Good post by Barry Eisler:

There’s been a lot said already about MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry’s weird “Edward Snowden, Come On Home” letter — much of it in the comments on her website.  On Twitter, I noted how bizarre it was to hear someone non-satirically begging Snowden to help her stop talking about him (“So come on home, Ed. So we could talk about, you know, something else”).  Her recognition that in America we have more than 80,000 people held in solitary confinement, and that the government’s treatment of whistleblower Bradley Manning has been cruel and inhuman, coupled with her assurances that Snowden has nothing to worry about with regard to his own potential treatment by US authorities, was also strange.  And of course, most fundamentally, did Harris-Perry really believe Snowden might read this thing and think, “You know, she makes some really good points in there, maybe I should just surrender?”  Overall, the whole letter comes across as embarrassingly thoughtless and self-indulgent.

Reading Harris-Perry’s piece, I wondered what would cause someone who’s likely otherwise intelligent and thoughtful to write something so stupid.  And then I noticed what I think is the answer, right in the letter itself.

It’s contempt.

Read the letter.  Note how Harris-Perry calls someone she doesn’t know, whose first name to my knowledge has never been described in news reports as other than Edward (she identifies him as such herself), “Ed.”  Not just once, but six times throughout the short letter — “Ed.”  And not merely adopting a first-name basis with someone she doesn’t know, but unilaterally shortening his name to a nickname, too.  Note too the exclamation points, the ellipses, the “you know,” the overall tone.  The letter is just dripping with contempt.

I think it was this contempt that blinded Harris-Perry to the ridiculousness of her letter.  And it occurs to me that this is a good reason to treat contempt with great care.  It’s not just impolite to the other person.  It’s dangerous to you.  It gives you permission to dismiss facts and logic and context, all in the service of indulging the pleasure of feeling superior.

Contempt is a like a drug.  It feels good, but it impairs you.  It you want to ingest it, it’s best to do so only with great caution, and not while you’re operating heavy machinery like a public letter or a television appearance.  And it follows that courtesy isn’t something you offer only out of respect for the other person.  It’s also something you offer to help keep yourself honest — and smart.

Harris-Perry does one other thing in the letter that always strikes me as odd: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 8:34 am

Good article on the Zimmerman verdict

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Connor Simpson writes at the Atlantic Wire:

Late last night, the jury finally delivered a not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, acquitting him of all charges for shooting and killing the 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida in February, 2012. More than a year later, the shooter would go free after a long, drawn out legal battle and a national debate about racial profiling. The white man walked, causing a massive surge of anger, confusion, protests and, possibly, new legal battles.

The reaction Saturday night, shortly after 10 p.m. ET, when the six woman jury found Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder and acquitted him of manslaughter for killing Trayvon Martin, was swift, immediate, and one primarily of disgust for a broken justice system. Zimmerman’s lawyers and family got to go on television and dance on the dead black boy’s grave. Martin’s family thanked people for fighting for their son. There was a verdict, but no answers. Everyone from celerities toathletes expressed their outrage over what was seen as an extreme injustice.

But this verdict doesn’t necessarily spell the end of Zimmerman’s court career. There may be federal hate crime charges on the way, and civil trials. “What’s next for Zimmerman? Almost certainly a wrongful death civil action for money damages filed by the family of Trayvon Martin,” CBS’s Andrew Cohen, who also contributes to the Atlantic, said last night. “Wrongful death civil case against Zimmerman would have more lax evidentiary rules– and Zimmerman would have to testify under oath,” he added. And the NAACP were already putting the gears in motion to bring federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman immediately after the verdict came down. NAACP head Ben Jealous confirmed to CBS’s Charlie Kayes that he contacted Attorney General Eric Holder last night to discuss the possibility with the Department of Justice. A petition circulated by the group urging the DOJ to open a federal case against Zimmerman received over 100,000 signatures over a three hour span. This is not going away any time soon.

Spontaneous protests erupted all across the country. People gathered and instantly started to march against what people are seeing as a grave injustice. In Washington, hundreds of people of different races marched down U Street for hours with signs and chants to help guide them through the night. In Chicago, dozens marched through the city’s downtown core chanting “Justice for Trayvon!” after news of the verdict broke. In California, protests formed in four different cities, including Oakland and San Francisco. About 100 people in Oakland vandalized businesses and police cars in the immediate wake of the verdict. It was the only city that documented any protest-related violence in America last night.

For the most part, people heeded the words of civil rights advocate Jesse Jackson Sr. while voicing their extreme displeasure with Zimmerman going free. “Avoid violence, it will lead to more tragedies. Find a way for self construction not deconstruction in this time of despair,” he tweeted last night.

The anger was expressed on the opinion pages, too, as reactions came out at a steady pace through last night. “It is a complicated thing to be young, black, and male in America,” wrote Gawker’s Cord Jefferson, in one of the most touching pieces to come out in the last 24 hours: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 8:30 am

Posted in Daily life, Law

Corporations hate the First Amendment

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The First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Corporate State hates this law. All speech should be from the corporation or support the corporation or about nothing (cf. reality shows, celebrities, and the like). Serious sustained speech pointing out what is actually going on and why it is wrong must be suppressed. And if people do assemble, they present a good target for riot police and SWAT squads (with badges taped so the police cannot be identified).

From BillMoyers.com:

Muckrakers and activists have been working to expose the brutality of industrialized meat production since Upton Sinclair’s writing of The Jungle in 1906. But an ALEC model bill known as “The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act” would make it a crime to film at animal facilities — such as factory farms or slaughterhouses — with the intent to “defame the facility or its owner.” So-called “ag-gag” laws that appear inspired by the ALEC model have been passed in several states. This report, produced by Okapi Productions, LLC  and the Schumann Media Center, Inc. looks at the effect of these laws on both our food supply and our freedom of speech.

It’s perhaps worth noting that ALEC is also the source of the “Stand Your Ground” laws that allow someone who feels threatened to use deadly force without penalty: shoot someone, say you felt threatened, and Bob’s your uncle.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 8:07 am

Posted in Business, Food, Government, Law

We need more high-school English teachers in Congress

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Take a look:

GOP letter

Click to enlarge. The letter here was sent to John Boehner by a GOP Congressman.

Read full backstory in this post.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2013 at 7:28 am

Posted in Congress, Education

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