Later On

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

Archive for August 13th, 2013

Devastating on Rubio

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Man, read this post, which nicely eviscerates Rubio.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2013 at 11:49 am

Posted in Congress, GOP

America’s Descent Into Madness

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Interesting article by Henry Giroux:

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

– John le Carré

America is descending into madness. The stories it now tells are filled with cruelty, deceit, lies, and legitimate all manner of corruption and mayhem.  The mainstream media spins stories that are largely racist, violent, and irresponsible —stories that celebrate power and demonize victims, all the while camouflaging its pedagogical influence under the cheap veneer of entertainment.

Unethical grammars of violence now offer the only currency with any enduring value for mediating relationships, addressing problems, and offering instant pleasure. A predatory culture celebrates a narcissistic hyper-individualism that radiates a near sociopathic lack of interest in or compassion and responsibility for others.

Anti-public intellectuals dominate the screen and aural cultures urging us to shop more, indulge more, and make a virtue out of the pursuit of personal gain, all the while promoting a depoliticizing culture of consumerism.

Undermining life-affirming social solidarities and any viable notion of the public good, right-wing politicians trade in forms of idiocy and superstition that mesmerize the illiterate and render the thoughtful cynical and disengaged.

Military forces armed with the latest weapons from Afghanistan play out their hyper-militarized fantasies on the home front by forming robo SWAT teams who willfully beat youthful protesters and raid neighborhood poker games.

Congressional lobbyists for the big corporations and defense contractors create conditions in which war zones abroad can be recreated at home in order to provide endless consumer products, such as high tech weapons and surveillance tools for gated communities and for prisons alike.

The issue of who gets to define the future, own the nation’s wealth, shape the reach of state resources, control of the global flows of goods and humans, and invest in institutions that educate an engaged and socially responsible citizens has become largely invisible.

And yet these are precisely these issues that offer up new categories for defining how matters of representations, education, economic justice, and politics are to be defined and fought over.

The stories told by corporate liars and crooks do serious harm to the body politic, and the damage they cause together with the idiocy they reinforce are becoming more apparent as America descends into authoritarianism, accompanied by the pervasive fear and paranoia that sustains it.

The American public needs more than a show of outrage or endless demonstrations. It needs to develop a formative culture for producing a language of critique, possibility, and broad-based political change. Such a project is indispensable for developing an organized politics that speaks to a future that can provide sustainable jobs, decent health care, quality education, and communities of solidarity and support for young people.

At stake here is a politics and vision that informs ongoing educational and political struggles to awaken the inhabitants of neoliberal societies to their current reality and what it means to be educated not only to think outside of a savage market-driven commonsense but also to struggle for those values, hopes, modes of solidarity, power relations, and institutions that infuse democracy with a spirit of egalitarianism and economic and social justice.

For this reason, any collective struggle that matters has to embrace education as the center of politics and the source of an embryonic vision of the good life outside of the imperatives of predatory capitalism. As I have argued elsewhere, too many progressives are stuck in the apocalyptic discourse of foreclosure and disaster and need to develop what Stuart Hall calls a “sense of politics being educative, of politics changing the way people see things.”

This is a difficult task, but what we are seeing in cities that stretch from Chicago to Athens, and other dead zones of capitalism throughout the world is the beginning of a long struggle for the institutions, values, and infrastructures that make critical education and community the core of a robust, radical democracy.

This is a challenge for young people and all those invested in the promise of a democracy that extends not only the meaning of politics, but also a commitment to economic justice and democratic social change.

The stories we tell about ourselves as Americans no longer speak to the ideals of justice, equality, liberty, and democracy. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2013 at 11:10 am

Posted in Daily life

The story behind the Lavabit shutdown

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Democracy Now! has a video interview with the owner of Lavabit. A transcript is at the link, also this blurb:

Lavabit, an encrypted email service believed to have been used by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, has abruptly shut down. The move came amidst a legal fight that appeared to involve U.S. government attempts to win access to customer information. In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, we are joined by Lavabit owner Ladar Levison and his lawyer, Jesse Binnall. “Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it. I would like to, believe me,” Levison says. “I think if the American public knew what our government was doing, they wouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore.” In a message to his customers last week, Levison said: “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people, or walk away from nearly 10 years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.” Levison said he was barred from discussing the events over the past six weeks that led to his decision. Soon after, another secure email provider called Silent Circle also announced it was shutting down.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2013 at 11:03 am

Auditions for the next Great American Boogeyman now underway

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Digby writes at Hullabaloo:

Marcy Wheeler has been speculating for a very long time that the real purpose of all this NSA collection isn’t terrorism, it’s hacking.These comments last week from Michael Hayden lend a lot of credence to that theory in my eyes:

“If and when our government grabs Edward Snowden, and brings him back here to the United States for trial, what does this group do?” said retired air force general Michael Hayden, who from 1999 to 2009 ran the NSA and then the CIA, referring to “nihilists, anarchists, activists, Lulzsec, Anonymous, twentysomethings who haven’t talked to the opposite sex in five or six years”.

“They may want to come after the US government, but frankly, you know, the dot-mil stuff is about the hardest target in the United States,” Hayden said, using a shorthand for US military networks. “So if they can’t create great harm to dot-mil, who are they going after? Who for them are the World Trade Centers? The World Trade Centers, as they were for al-Qaida.”

That’s just a tiny bit overwrought for an allegedly serious expert, don’t you think? In fact, it sounds like the kind of thing we heard from various members of the Bush administration during the early days after 9/11. And it certainly indicates, as Wheeler has been speculating, that the government is stretching the terrorism laws to include hacking. They certainly are using the same histrionic language to describe it.

Under Hayden, the NSA began to collect, among other things, the phone records and internet data of Americans without warrants after 9/11, a drastic departure from its traditional mission of collecting foreign intelligence. A variety of technically sophisticated collection and analysis programs, codenamed Stellar Wind, were the genesis of several of the NSA efforts that Snowden disclosed to the Guardian and the Washington Post.

Hayden said that the loose coalition of hacker groups and activists were “less capable” of inflicting actual harm on either US networks or physical infrastructure, but they grow technologically more sophisticated. Echoing years of rhetoric that has described terrorists, Hayden added that their “demands may be unsatisfiable”.

I had a feeling that “terrorism” was growing a little stale as an all purpose boogeyman. It’s important to keep the paranoia fresh and exciting in this fast paced modern world.

Nonetheless it’s always rather startling to hear an esteemed national security expert talking like a member of the Soprano family in public. Perhaps the president should have a chat with some of these people since he’s so concerned about the fact that the public doesn’t have “confidence” in the efficacy and necessity of being spied upon. When the people who designed the programs sound like cheap thugs it tends to undermine their credibility just a little bit.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2013 at 11:00 am

Ex-Wyden Staffer on Secret Laws, Domestic Spying and Obama’s NSA Reforms

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Watch the video at Democracy Now!, which also has a transcript of the interview. The blurb:

As President Obama proposed a series of changes to reform the government’s surveillance policies and programs, we speak to Jennifer Hoelzer, the former deputy chief of staff for Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, a longtime critic of the Obama administration for using a secret interpretation of the USAPATRIOT Act to allow the NSA to conduct domestic surveillance. “Unfortunately Edward Snowden was the only means by which we have been able to have this debate,” Hoelzer says. “We, working for Senator Wyden, did everything to try to encourage the administration to bring these facts to light. We’re not talking about sources and methods, we’re not talking about sensitive materials, we’re talking about what they believed the law allows them to do.” Meanwhile, The Guardian newspaper has revealed the National Security Agency has a secret backdoor into its vast databases to search for email and phone calls of U.S. citizens without a warrant. According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, NSA operatives can hunt for individual Americans’ communications using their name or other identifying information.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2013 at 9:41 am

India, China Defy US Congress’ War on Iranian Oil

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Very interesting post on Iran and what’s going on with the oil. The post begins:

The US House of Representatives approved a bill at the beginning of this month aimed at completely closing off Iranian petroleum exports. Not since President Roosevelt told Japan in July 1941 that he was going to cut it off from American petroleum has the United States threatened to use oil to strangle a country so completely. And FDR’s threat caused the Japanese to decide to take Indonesia away from the Dutch, which required crippling the US Pacific Fleet at . . . Pearl Harbor.

The bill is intended as a slap in the face of the incoming president, Hassan Rouhani, who has pledged more cooperation with nuclear inspectors and says he will allay the anxieties of the West concerning Iranian enrichment. . .

It sounds very much as if the US is not really trying to engage diplomatically with Iran. Bad mistake.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2013 at 9:39 am

Saudi Arabia seems to be in turmoil

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This cannot be good. It looks as though another US-backed dictatorship is in trouble. The US seems to have thought that backing dictators was a sure thing, but it turns out to be a poor long-term solution.

The video is well worth watching. And some of the ways in which the government violates human rights (imprisoning people indefinitely with no charges, for example) are also what the US government does.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2013 at 9:31 am

Posted in Government

This is what the US has become

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From a report and profile in the NY Times Magazine:

These precautions might seem paranoid — Poitras describes them as “pretty extreme” — but the people she has interviewed for her film were targets of the sort of surveillance and seizure that she fears. William Binney, a former top N.S.A. official who publicly accused the agency of illegal surveillance, was at home one morning in 2007 when F.B.I. agents burst in and aimed their weapons at his wife, his son and himself. Binney was, at the moment the agent entered his bathroom and pointed a gun at his head, naked in the shower. His computers, disks and personal records were confiscated and have not yet been returned. Binney has not been charged with any crime.

Jacob Appelbaum, a privacy activist who was a volunteer with WikiLeaks, has also been filmed by Poitras. The government issued a secret order to Twitter for access to Appelbaum’s account data, which became public when Twitter fought the order. Though the company was forced to hand over the data, it was allowed to tell Appelbaum. Google and a small I.S.P. that Appelbaum used were also served with secret orders and fought to alert him. Like Binney, Appelbaum has not been charged with any crime.

Poitras endured the airport searches for years with little public complaint, lest her protests generate more suspicion and hostility from the government, but last year she reached a breaking point. While being interrogated at Newark after a flight from Britain, she was told she could not take notes. On the advice of lawyers, Poitras always recorded the names of border agents and the questions they asked and the material they copied or seized. But at Newark, an agent threatened to handcuff her if she continued writing. She was told that she was being barred from writing anything down because she might use her pen as a weapon.

“Then I asked for crayons,” Poitras recalled, “and he said no to crayons.”

She was taken into another room and interrogated by three agents — one was behind her, another asked the questions, the third was a supervisor. “It went on for maybe an hour and a half,” she said. “I was taking notes of their questions, or trying to, and they yelled at me. I said, ‘Show me the law where it says I can’t take notes.’ We were in a sense debating what they were trying to forbid me from doing. They said, ‘We are the ones asking the questions.’ It was a pretty aggressive, antagonistic encounter.”

Read the whole thing. The US is becoming something that could go extremely bad.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2013 at 9:09 am

Perfect smoothness with $16 razor

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SOTD 13 August 2013

Totally wonderful shave. Rose is a great fragrance, IMO—and a classic English fragrance. My Mühle synthetic (silverfiber) brush worked up a terrific lather from the Coate’s shaving cream, a gift from a WEdger: the lather was very thick, fragrant, protective, and slick. Three passes with the Maggard Razor holding a Kai blade, and a BBS results with no nicks, easily and comfortably achieved. A good splash of Bulgarian Rose from Saint Charles Shave, and I’m set for the day.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2013 at 8:13 am

Posted in Shaving

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