Later On

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

Archive for August 2014

What people in power do when people not in power are not around

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Just read the Author’s Note to Hack Attack, by Nick Davies. Here’s the beginning—you can continue reading via the “Look Inside” feature at the link. You have to scroll down past the dramatis personae and the TOC, but then you hit the Author’s Note, which begins:

Hack Attack: The Inside Story of How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch

This is the strangest story I’ve ever written.

In the beginning, it was next to nothing. Two men were arrested – a private investigator and a journalist from the News of the World. Both of them ended up in prison, but it was no big deal. The crime they had committed was minor. Their jail sentences were short. The only eye-catching thing about it at the time was that their crime was quite quirky: they had discovered that they could access other people’s voicemail messages and had spent months eavesdropping on three staff at Buckingham Palace. Even so, it was a small story, dead and gone from the public eye within a few days.

And yet, I ended up spending more than six years of my working life trying to unravel the bundle of corruption which lay hidden in the background. Soon there was a small group of us working together, discovering that we had stumbled into a fight with the press and the police and the government, all of them linked to an organisation which had been created by one man.

Rupert Murdoch is one of the most powerful people in the world. You could argue that he is, in fact, the most powerful. News Corp is amongst the biggest companies on the planet. Like all his commercial rivals, Murdoch has the financial power to hire or fire multiple thousands of people and the political power to worry governments by threatening to withdraw his capital and transfer it to a more co-operative nation. But, unlike his rivals in business, his power has another dimension. Because he owns newspapers and news channels, he has the ability to worry governments even more, to make them fear that without his favour they will find themselves attacked and destabilised and discredited. Certainly, a man who is both global business baron and multinational kingmaker has a special kind of power.

So the simple crime story turned out to be a story about the secret world of the power elite and their discreet alliances. This is not about conspiracy (not generally) but about the spontaneous recognition of power by power, the everyday occurrence of a natural exchange of assistance between those who occupy positions in society from which they can look down upon and mightily affect the everyday worlds of ordinary men and women. In this case, as often, that mutual favouritism took place amidst the persistent reek of falsehood – not the fevered plotting of Watergate lies, but the casual arrogance of a group of people who take it for granted that they have every right to run the country and, in doing so, to manipulate information, to conceal embarrassing truth, to try to fool all of the people all of the time.

A lot of writers say that they can’t do their job – they can’t produce the book or the film or the newspaper article – unless they can reach a point of such clarity about their project that they can reduce it to a single sentence. Waiting for a bus one day while I was drafting this book, I finally got there. This is a story about power and truth.

To be more precise, it is about the abuse of power and about the secrets and lies that protect it. In a tyranny, the ruling elite can abuse its power all day long, and anybody who complains about it will get a visit from the secret police. In an established democracy, abuse of power cannot afford to be visible. It needs concealment like a vampire needs the dark. As soon as a corporation or a trade union or a government or any arm of the state is seen to be breaking the rules, it can be attacked, potentially embarrassed, conceivably stopped. The secrets and lies are not an optional extra, they are central to the strategy.

In this case, the concealment had an extra layer, because . . .

Continue reading in the Look Inside feature.

Written by Leisureguy

31 August 2014 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Books, Government, Media

How the NSA helped Turkey kill Kurdish rebels (and also non-rebels)

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Laura Poitras et al. report at The Intercept:

On a December night in 2011, a terrible thing happened on Mount Cudi, near the Turkish-Iraqi border. One side described it as a massacre; the other called it an accident.

Several Turkish F-16 fighter jets bombed a caravan of villagers that night, apparently under the belief that they were guerilla fighters with the separatist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). The group was returning from northern Iraq and their mules were loaded down with fuel canisters and other cargo. They turned out to be smugglers, not PKK fighters. Some 34 people died in the attack.

An American Predator drone flying overhead had detected the group, prompting U.S. analysts to alert their Turkish partners.

The reconnaissance flight—which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2012—and its tragic consequences provided an important insight into the very tight working relationship between American and Turkish intelligence services in the fight against Kurdish separatists. Although the PKK is still considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, its image has been improved radically by its recent success in fighting ISIS in northern Iraq and Syria. PKK fighters—backed by U.S. airstrikes—are on the front lines against the jihadist movement there, and some in the West are now advocating arming the group and lifting its terrorist label.

Documents from the archive of U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden that Der Spiegel and The Intercept have seen show just how deeply involved America has become in Turkey’s fight against the Kurds. For a time, the NSA even delivered its Turkish partners with the mobile phone location data of PKK leaders on an hourly basis. The U.S. government also provided the Turks with information about PKK money flows, and the whereabouts of some of its leaders living in exile abroad.

At the same time, the Snowden documents also show that Turkey is one of the United States’ leading targets for spying. Documents show that the political leadership in Washington, D.C., has tasked the NSA with divining Turkey’s “leadership intention,” as well as monitoring its operations in 18 other key areas. This means that Germany’s foreign intelligence service, which drew criticism in recent weeks after it was revealed it had been spying on Turkey, isn’t the only secret service interested in keeping tabs on the government in Ankara.

Turkey’s strategic location at the junction of Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Middle East made the future NATO member state an important partner to Western intelligence agencies going back to the very beginning of the Cold War. The Snowden documents show that Turkey is the NSA’s oldest partner in Asia. Even before the NSA’s founding in 1952, the CIA had established a “Sigint,” or signals intelligence, partnership with Turkey dating back to the 1940s. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 August 2014 at 8:18 am

The future of Uber: Marx probably is right about that

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Read Andrew Leonard’s interesting article.

Written by Leisureguy

31 August 2014 at 7:56 am

Posted in Business

Maybe Marx saw causes more clearly than Keynes

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Very interesting column by Ismael Hossein-Zadeh in The Asia Times Online,  pointed out by my friend Jack in Amsterdam. As Jack says, Marx’s analysis seems spot-on, but it doesn’t follow that his prescriptions will work: as with any idea, it must be tried, and in this case, it didn’t pan out. But if the analysis is right, we need a better prescription. The article begins:

Many liberal economists envisioned a new dawn of Keynesianism in the 2008 financial meltdown. Nearly six years later, it is clear that the much-hoped-for Keynesian prescriptions are completely ignored. Why? Keynesian economists’ answer: “neoliberal ideology,” which they trace back to President Reagan.

This study argues, by contrast, that the transition from Keynesian to neoliberal economics has much deeper roots than pure ideology; that the transition started long before Reagan was elected President; that the Keynesian reliance on the ability of the government to re-regulate and revive the economy through policies of demand management rests on a hopeful perception that the state can control capitalism; and that, contrary to such wishful

perceptions, public policies are more than simply administrative or technical matters of choice – more importantly, they are class policies.

The study further argues that the Marxian theory of unemployment, based on his theory of the reserve army of labor, provides a much robust explanation of the protracted high levels of unemployment than the Keynesian view, which attributes the plague of unemployment to the “misguided policies of neoliberalism.” Likewise, the Marxian theory of subsistence or near-poverty wages provides a more cogent account of how or why such poverty levels of wages, as well as a generalized predominance of misery, can go hand-in-hand with high levels of profits and concentrated wealth than the Keynesian perceptions, which view high levels of employment and wages as necessary conditions for an expansionary economic cycle. [1]

Deeper than ‘Neoliberal ideology’
The questioning and the gradual abandonment of the Keynesian demand management strategies took place not simply because of purely ideological proclivities of “right-wing” Republicans or the personal preferences of Ronald Reagan, as many liberal and radical economists argue, but because of actual structural changes in economic or market conditions, both nationally and internationally. New Deal- Social Democratic policies were pursued in the aftermath of the Great Depression as long as the politically-awakened workers and other grassroots, as well as the favorable economic conditions of the time, rendered such policies effective. Those favorable conditions included the need to invest in and rebuild the devastated post-war economies around the world, the nearly unlimited demand for US manufactures, both at home and abroad, and the lack of competition for both US capital and labor.

These propitious circumstances, along with the pressure from below, allowed US workers to demand respectable wages and benefits while at the same time enjoying higher rates of employment. The high wages and the strong demand then served as a delightful stimulus that precipitated the long expansionary cycle of the immediate post-war period in the manner of a virtuous circle.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, both US capital and labor were no longer unrivaled in global markets. Furthermore, during the long cycle of the immediate post-war expansion US manufacturers had invested so much in fixed capital, or capacity building, that by the late 1960s their profit rates had begun to decline as the enormous amounts of the so-called “sunk costs,” mainly in the form of plant and equipment, had become too high. [2]

More than anything else, it was these important changes in the actual conditions of production, and the concomitant realignment of global markets, which occasioned the gradual reservations and the ultimate abandonment of the Keynesian economics. Contrary to the repeated claims of the liberal/Keynesian partisans, it was not Ronald Reagan’s ideas or schemes that lay behind the plans of dismantling the New Deal reforms; rather, it was the globalization, first, of capital and, then, of labor that rendered Keynesian-type economic policies no longer attractive to capitalist profitability, and brought forth Ronald Reagan and neoliberal austerity economics. [3] . . .

Continue reading.

And Jack offers this news story as an illustrative example of the situation we’re now in.

Written by Leisureguy

31 August 2014 at 7:17 am

Maybe at last we can see some of what was done in our name

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Not the CIA torture tapes, though: those were carefully destroyed. But these photos.

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2014 at 1:49 pm

A problem of ignorance: Number of police shootings, homicides

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We simply lack the data. Why? I suspect because police departments do not wish the public to know. Michael Wines describes the lack of reliable statistics regarding police shootings and killings in the NY Times.

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2014 at 11:55 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

How big telecom smothers city-run broadband

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Although corporations love to talk about free competition, they in general loathe competition and wish all their competitors would go away. Where they like competition is among their suppliers: they want competition there. Corporations particularly dislike government competition, since government can provide services without the requirement that they show a continually increasing profit. Alan Holmes reviews telecom efforts in an article at The Center for Public Integrity:

Janice Bowling, a 67-year-old grandmother and Republican state senator from rural Tennessee, thought it only made sense that the city of Tullahoma be able to offer its local high-speed Internet service to areas beyond the city limits.

After all, many of her rural constituents had slow service or did not have access to commercial providers, like AT&T Inc. and Charter Communications Inc.

But a 1999 Tennessee law prohibits cities that operate their own Internet networks from providing access outside the boundaries where they provide electrical service. Bowling wanted to change that and introduced a bill in February to allow them to expand.

She viewed the network, which offers speeds about 80 times faster than AT&T and 10 times faster than Charter in Tullahoma according to advertised services, as a utility, like electricity, that all Tennesseans need.

“We don’t quarrel with the fact that AT&T has shareholders that it has to answer to,” Bowling said with a drawl while sitting in the spacious wood-paneled den of her log-cabin-style home. “That’s fine, and I believe in capitalism and the free market. But when they won’t come in, then Tennesseans have an obligation to do it themselves.”

At a meeting three weeks after Bowling introduced Senate Bill 2562, the state’s three largest telecommunications companies — AT&T, Charter, and Comcast Corp. — tried to convince Republican leaders to relegate the measure to so-called “summer study,” a black hole that effectively kills a bill. Bowling, described as “feisty” by her constituents, initially beat back the effort and thought she’d get a vote.

That’s when Joelle Phillips, president of AT&T’s Tennessee operations, leaned toward her across the table in a conference room next to the House caucus leader’s office and said tersely, “Well, I’d hate for this to end up in litigation,” Bowling recalls.

The threat surprised Bowling, and apparently AT&T’s ominous warning reached her colleagues as well. Days later, support in the Tennessee House for Bowling’s bill dissolved. AT&T had won.

“I had no idea the force that would come against this, because it’s just so reasonable and so necessary,” Bowling said.

AT&T and Phillips didn’t respond to emails asking for comment.

A national fight

Tullahoma is just one battlefront in a nationwide war that the telecommunications giants are fighting against the spread of municipal broadband networks. For more than a decade, AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable Inc., and CenturyLink Inc. have spent millions of dollars to lobby state legislatures, influence state elections and buy research to try to stop the spread of public Internet services that often offer faster speeds at cheaper rates. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2014 at 8:14 am

Archiving video to the cloud in real-time to protect the files

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Police offers routinely seize cellphones and video equipment that captures their bad behavior. The key is to get the information into the cloud so that even if physical equipment is taken, the video itself is still available. This is discussed in a Democracy Now! program. The blurb:

Cases like Rodney King, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner and Michael Brown have helped fuel demands for police accountability. We are joined by a guest who has advice for the growing number of people filming police abuse with their smartphones and video cameras, particularly with respect to how to properly preserve such video. Yvonne Ng is senior archivist for WITNESS, a group that trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights. She co-authored their resource, “Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video.” Watch part two of this interview.

And, from the interview:

We provide resources on how to film, like how to film during a protest, but it’s just as important to think about what you’re going to do after you film, so that what you’ve done can make the most difference it can. So, that’s really where the archiving comes in. The point of archiving is to help ensure that your video is preserved, intact and is ready to be used when you need it.

So, there are a number of things that activists can do. And as you know, archiving can—when you get really into it, can get quite complex, but there’s a lot of very basic practices that anyone can do to ensure that their video survives intact and can be used. And we know that this is possible because we’ve worked with activists in Syria, who are facing enormous challenges—daily bombardment, insecurity, a lack of access to basic resources—and they have been able to successfully implement some of these practices.

Here’s the guide on how to do that that is discussed in the program. (You can also download the guide as a PDF, but take a look at the site.)

From the guide:

Who is this Guide for?

  • You are a human rights activist, a small or grassroots human rights organization, or media collective;
  • You are creating or collecting digital video to document human rights abuses or issues, and;
  • You want to make sure that the video documentation you have created or collected can be used for advocacy, as evidence, for education or historical memory – not just now but into the future….
  • But you are not sure where to begin, or you are stuck on a particular problem.

If this is you, then this Guide is for you.

Why Archive?

Ask yourself:

  • Do you want your videos to be available in the future?
  • Do you want your videos to serve as evidence of crimes or human rights abuses?
  • Do you want your videos to raise awareness and educate future generations?

If the answer is yes, it is important to begin thinking about archiving before it is too late.

Still not sure? Here is what might happen if you do not take steps to archive:

  • Your videos may be accidentally or deliberately deleted and lost forever.
  • Your videos may exist somewhere, but no one can find them.
  • Someone may find your videos, but no one can understand what they are about.
  • Your videos cannot be sufficiently authenticated or corroborated as evidence.
  • Your videos’ quality may become so degraded that no one can use them.
  • Your videos may be in a format that eventually no one can play.

What is Archiving?

Archiving is… a general term for the range of practices and decisions that support the long-term preservation, use, and accessibility of content with enduring value. In this Guide, our focus is on your digital videos.

Archiving is … an ongoing process that begins when a video is created and continues infinitely into the future.

Archiving is…a process that can be incorporated into your existing video workflows.

Archiving is … a way to ensure your videos remain authentic and intact, so you can use them as evidence.

Archiving is … a way to ensure your videos are available, findable and playable long into the future.

Archiving is NOT… a one-time action.

Archiving is NOT… putting your videos on a hard drive and leaving it on a shelf.

There’s much more at the link. The above is just an intro.

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2014 at 8:06 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Perfect BBS with Bacon—also Weber

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STOD 30 Aug 2014

Today’s shave exceptionally BBS, with no sign of a nick. Perhaps the RhysRazors Bacon did the trick. (It’s a special scent for August, and it’s but $5/tub for a good-sized puck.) I got a good lather with my Omega 20102 boar brush, though I did have to reload for the third pass. I tend to attribute this to user error, particularly on first use of a soap. We’ll see how it goes next time.

The bacon fragrance is strong and good. In fact, I’m now going to cook some bacon—perhaps a drawback of using this soap. The (very nice, IMO) UFO handle obscures the ingredients list, which reads:

Beef Tallow, Castor Oil, Stearic Acid, Potassium and Sodium Hydroxide, Shea Butter, Mango Butter, Coconut Oil, Glycerin, Water, Sodium Lactate, Bentonite Clay, and Fragrance and/or Essential Oils.

Hmm. Hadn’t noticed the Bentonite Clay. I’m beginning to suspect that clay may be at the root of some of my lathering problems: soaps with clay include Stirling, for example.

This particularly UFO handle is one of my favorites, and here you see it with the Weber Polished Head, which holds an Astra Superior Platinum blade. It was a VERY comfortable shave—the Weber is definitely in the mild-aggressive category—and I would say that Standard and Weber razors are pretty much on a par, so you could get equal performance with either: choose the one you like.

Three passes, a final rinse, dry, and then a good splash of D.R. Harris Pink Aftershave. It’s going to be a good weekend, I can tell.

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2014 at 7:53 am

Posted in Shaving

Of Pot and Percocet

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Marcus Bachhuber and Colleen Barry write in the NY Times:

PRESCRIPTION opioid painkillers like Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin have come under intense scrutiny in recent years because of the drastic rise in overdose deaths associated with their prolonged use. Meanwhile, access to medical marijuana has been expanding — 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized its broad medical use — and chronic or severe pain is by far the most common condition reported among people using it.

Could the availability of medical marijuana reduce the hazards of prescription painkillers? If enough people opt to treat pain with medical marijuana instead of prescription painkillers in states where this is legal, it stands to reason that states with medical marijuana laws might experience an overall decrease in opioid painkiller overdoses and deaths.

To find out if this has actually happened, we and our colleagues Brendan Saloner and Chinazo Cunningham studied opioid overdose deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2010. Our findings, which were published on Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that this unexpected benefit of medical marijuana laws does exist.

Pinpointing the effect of laws on health is notoriously difficult. For one thing, states that have passed medical marijuana laws are no doubt different in important ways from states that have not passed such laws. Differences in, say, social attitudes about drug use or overall health trends might affect rates of opioid painkiller deaths, independent of whether medical marijuana is legal.

Furthermore, from 1999 to 2010 (the period of time we studied), states implemented various measures in response to the threat of opioid painkiller overdoses, including central registries of controlled substance prescriptions, laws allowing pharmacists to request identification before filling a prescription and laws increasing oversight of pain management clinics. These measures, too, might affect rates of opioid painkiller deaths, regardless of the legality of medical marijuana.

We designed our study to allow us to compare state-level rates of opioid painkiller overdose deaths before and after the passage of medical marijuana laws, while controlling for these and other concurrent state and national trends. . . .

Continue reading.

If legalizing marijuana could save hundreds or even thousands of lives, isn’t it a moral imperative to take that step? Do those lives mean nothing?

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2014 at 4:59 pm

Posted in Drug laws

One amazing study of the impact of cultural memes: Baltimore kids growing up

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Quite an amazing article in the Washington Post by Emily Badger:

BALTIMORE — In the beginning, when they knew just where to find everyone, they pulled the children out of their classrooms.

They sat in any quiet corner of the schools they could claim: the sociologists from Johns Hopkins and, one at a time, the excitable first-graders. Monica Jaundoo, whose parents never made it past the eighth grade. Danté Washington, a boy with a temper and a dad who drank too much. Ed Klein, who came from a poor white part of town where his mother sold cocaine.

They talked with the sociologists about teachers and report cards, about growing up to become rock stars or police officers. For many of the children, this seldom happened in raucous classrooms or overwhelmed homes: a quiet, one-on-one conversation with an adult eager to hear just about them. “I have this special friend,” Jaundoo thought as a 6-year-old, “who’s only talking to me.”

Later, as the children grew and dispersed, some falling out of the school system and others leaving the city behind, the conversations took place in McDonald’s, in public libraries, in living rooms or lock-ups. The children — 790 of them, representative of the Baltimore public school system’s first-grade class in 1982 — grew harder to track as the patterns among them became clearer.

Over time, their lives were constrained — or cushioned — by the circumstances they were born into, by the employment and education prospects of their parents, by the addictions or job contacts that would become their economic inheritance. Johns Hopkins researchers Karl Alexander and Doris Entwisle watched as less than half of the group graduated high school on time. Before they turned 18, 40 percent of the black girls from low-income homes had given birth to their own babies. At the time of the final interviews, when the children were now adults of 28, more than 10 percent of the black men in the study were incarcerated. Twenty-six of the children, among those they could find at last count, were no longer living.

A mere 4 percent of the first-graders Alexander and Entwisle had classified as the “urban disadvantaged” had by the end of the study completed the college degree that’s become more valuable than ever in the modern economy. A related reality: Just 33 of 314 had left the low-income socioeconomic status of their parents for the middle class by age 28.

Today, the “kids” — as Alexander still calls them — are 37 or 38. Alexander, now 68, retired from Johns Hopkins this summer just as the final, encompassing book from the 25-year study was published. . .

Continue reading.

And by all means, read the whole thing: it’s not just about these kids, it’s about the cultural landscape of the city: who lives on the good cultural clusters, who on the marginal, and the devastating effects of a bad cultural cluster.

But of course it can be interrupted in a generation were there the will. But those who occupied privileged niches will be loath to change.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2014 at 2:05 pm

Will the US be dragged into a war with Russia?!

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Read this and think about where it’s going. This is happening now. Russia has officially invaded the Ukraine.

I hope we don’t just blunder into catastrophe à la the Great War.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2014 at 1:50 pm

Isn’t this reminiscent of some bungling East-European country in the Soviet days?

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This is just exactly the sort of incompetence and bureaucratic bumbling to protect one’s job at all costs that you see in the early Moscow detective novels by Martin Cruz Smith. It’s the exact same thing, only different language, different time, different country. A translation, of sorts.

And if the deaths in that prison are so bad, I hate to think what their lives are like.

UPDATE: Soviet-style bungling seems to be fairly common. I suppose most of the time the cover-ups work.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2014 at 1:44 pm

The US human rights record domestically: Poor

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Joanna Rothkopf reports in Salon:

The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has recently concluded its 85th Session during which time it considered seven state reports, including one on the United States.

The report praised many progressive steps the U.S. has taken to ensure equality, including the termination of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, the adoption of the Fair Sentencing Act and the adoption of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

However, the number of issues the report raises is pretty abominable. CERD expressed concern over the following problems:

  1. Lack of a national human rights institution
  2. Persistent racial profiling and illegal surveillance
  3. Prevalence and under-reporting of racist hate speech and hate crimes
  4. Disparate impact of environmental pollution in low income and minority communities
  5. Restrictive voter identification laws leading to unequal right to vote
  6. Criminalization of homelessness when homeless people are disproportionately minorities
  7. Discrimination and segregation in housing
  8. De facto racial segregation in education
  9. Unequal right to health and access to health care
  10. High number of gun-related deaths and “Stand Your Ground” laws, which disproportionately affect members of racial and ethnic minorities
  11. Excessive use of force by law enforcement officials
  12. Increasingly militarized approach to immigration law enforcement
  13. Violence against women occurs disproportionately more frequently for women from racial/ethnic minorities
  14. Criminal justice system disproportionately arrests, incarcerates and subjects to harsher sentences people from racial/ethnic minorities
  15. Youth from racial/ethnic minorities are disproportionately prosecuted as adults, incarcerated in adult prisons, and sentenced to life without parole
  16. Non-citizens are arbitrarily detained in Guantanamo Bay without equal access to the criminal justice system, while at risk of being subjected to torture
  17. Unequal access to legal aid
  18. Lacking rights of indigenous peoples (the report lists numerous different concerns)
  19. Absence of a National Action Plan to combat racial discrimination

In a press conference convened Friday, CERD committee vice chairman Noureddine Amir highlighted the death of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2014 at 1:34 pm

Two headlines asking (in effect), “Why not legalize marijuana now?”

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Why wait and let the toll rack up? Two headlines from NORML:

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
    Marijuana use by newly married couples is predictive of less frequent incidences of intimate partner violence perpetration, according to longitudinal data published online ahead of print in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Researchers reported: “[M]ore frequent marijuana use generally predicted less frequent IPV perpetration, for both men and women, over the first 9 years of marriage.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
    The enactment of medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, according to data published online today by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers reported, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws. … Although the exact mechanism is unclear, our results suggest a link between medical cannabis laws and lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality.”

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2014 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Health, Science

A meme to be stopped

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Stop that meme! Seriously. This quirk costs us all. And it can easily be interrupted because performance appraisals can be vetted and people retrained—“yes, this was the old way we did things here, but now we do things this way.” It will catch on because it can be monitored and reinforced. But that cultural shift is within the boundaries of the organization—it doesn’t transfer readily to other organizations. It’s not contagious, it seems.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2014 at 1:23 pm

You’d think, in a movie about journalism, they would have copy editors

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Second sentence in the prologue to Shattered Glass, a biopic of Stephen Glass:

In May of 1998, its staff was comprised of 15 writer/editors.

An egregious mistake that surely a copy-editor would have caught. And it reveals the writer’s relationship to the English language, always good to know. How did it get through: we’re talking about writers, here. Should be, “its staff comprises 15 writer/editors,” something every schoolchild should know.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2014 at 1:03 pm

Posted in Media, Movies & TV

Obama is giving CIA free rein to redact torture report

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Obama really seems to endorse torture—not by his words, but by his actions. First, he refused to take ANY steps against those who responsible for ordering and/or implementing a systematic system of torture by the CIA. Then he allowed all the videos of the interrogations during torture to be destroyed. And now he is giving the CIA free rein to redact and revise the Senate report as they see fit.

Obama will be judged harshly by history (as will Congress: it’s not just Obama who is at fault).

Ali Watkins and Marisa Taylor report for McClatchy:

The background of a key negotiator in the battle over a Senate report on the CIA’s use of interrogation techniques widely denounced as torture has sparked concerns about the Obama administration’s objectivity in handling the study’s public release.

Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is a former defense lawyer who represented several CIA officials in matters relating to the agency’s detention and interrogation program. Now he’s in a key position to determine what parts of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report will be made public.

Litt’s involvement doesn’t appear to be an ethics issue, at least by the legal definition. But experts say that while it may be acceptable on paper, his involvement in the review should have been a red flag.

“It does not cross the very low bar that the profession sets for an impermissible conflict of interest,” said Jack Marshall, the president and founder of ProEthics Ltd., a national ethics consulting and training company that has provided seminars to government lawyers, including those employed by the CIA. “But it is the kind of conflict of interest that should be avoided at all costs. The government has to be held to a higher standard.”

Litt, who’s now 64, was confirmed to his post by the U.S. Senate in 2009, contingent upon his agreement to recuse himself from situations that involved his former clients. He referred to the potential conflict in his responses to the Intelligence panel’s questions for the record, submitted during the course of his confirmation process.

“I represent several present and former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency in matters relating to the detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists,” Litt wrote to the committee in 2009. “By statute, under the rules of ethics and by virtue of my ethics agreement that has been provided to the committee, I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving these clients . . . including decisions about similarly situated individuals.”

Despite his 2009 testimony, though, Litt has found himself in the middle of a heated dispute over a program that, according to his testimony, involved several of his former clients.

Litt’s prior representations, however, didn’t seem to bother Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and who approved the arrangement. [This is a very bad sign: Dianne Feinstein is a great protector of the CIA in general and torture in particular. – LG]

“I spoke with Bob Litt about this matter and believe he will be fair, and negotiations thus far have shown that to be the case,” Feinstein said in a statement. “The DNI’s designated ethics official has reviewed the situation and determined there is no conflict that would necessitate a recusal.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed Feinstein’s approval and denied that Litt’s involvement violated his prior testimony. . .

Continue reading.

Litt should recuse himself, or (better) be assigned to another department entirely—say, the Civil Aeronautics Board.

The fact that Obama is allowing Litt to serve shows quite clearly that Obama is part of the cover-up effort (as does his refusal to investigate the allegations of torture).

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2014 at 11:39 am

What a good free press can do

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In the New Yorker Ken Auletta has an excellent review of journalist Nick Davies’s new book Hack Attack: The Inside Story of How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch:

When he’s investigating a story, Nick Davies, of the Guardian, has been known to barrage his subjects with phone calls, wait outside their homes or offices, and accost their friends with hard-to-duck questions. Davies, who is sixty-one, works from home, because, he says, “I don’t need a school prefect to stand over me.” He was the indispensible reporter in the revelation of the abuse of power and illegal phone hacking perpetrated by News of the World and the Sun, the London newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. In the midst of the scandal, before the official inquiries and trial juries confirmed the story, I separately asked two senior News Corp. executives, “How accurate was Nick Davies’s reporting?” Given the trouble that their company was in, I was ready for them to try to persuade me that Davies was an irresponsible sensationalist. Instead, each declared, “About ninety-five per cent accurate.”

Now Davies has produced a four-hundred-page ticktock of the scandal, called “Hack Attack: The Inside Story of How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch.” It’s not Davies’s style to rely on the he-said-she-said or on-one-hand, on-the-other-hand formulations. When he has compelling evidence, as he did against Scotland Yard, Davies is direct:

Something very worrying has been going on at Scotland Yard. We now know that in dealing with the phone-hacking affair at the News of the World, they cut short their original inquiry; suppressed evidence; misled the public and the press; concealed information and broke the law. Why?

Davies collects facts, one brick at a time. He tilts to the left, but he does not lose his balance. When it might be easy to assume that Scotland Yard officers were silent because they feared that the newspapers would expose their extramarital affairs, Davies writes that he found “absolutely no evidence” of this. For too many years, the story that Davies and the Guardian unearthed was ignored by much of the British press. Davies told of how reporters for News of the World routinely tapped phone messages, producing verbatim dialogue that could only have come from illegal intercepts, and yet Murdoch’s editors, whose job it is to monitor a reporter’s sources, professed their innocence.

“A monstering from Murdoch’s droogs is a terrible experience,” Davies writes, going on to describe how, after the former Labour minister Clare Short criticized the Suns daily Page 3 pictures of topless women (which jacked up newsstand sales), the editors launched a campaign to savage Short. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2014 at 11:21 am

“He reached for his waistband, so I shot him dead”

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“Reaching for his waistband” (a VERY odd thing for an unarmed man to do when faced by police with their guns drawn and trained on him) is replacing “made a furtive gesture.”

Radley Balko brings us a refreshing judicial opinion in this article. The closing paragraphs of the article:

Back in March I noted a recent series of police shootings in the San Diego area in which the cops also claimed an unarmed man was reaching for his waistband. A September 2011 investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that in half the cases in which police shot at someone they claimed was reaching for his waistband, the suspect was unarmed. (There was another incident in Long Beach, California, in April.) A 2013 Houston Chronicle investigation found multiple incidents there. There have been other recent “unarmed man reaches for his waistband” shootings in Pierce County, Washington; Pasadena, California; and Portland, Oregon. It’s also the story we heard from BART Officer Johannes Mehserle after he shot and killed Oscar Grant in an Oakland subway station.

I doubt that these cops are gunning people down in cold blood, then using the waistband excuse to justify their bloodlust. It’s likely more a product of inappropriate training. A few years ago, a guy who trains police in the use of lethal force told me that he had grown quite concerned about the direction that training has taken in recent years. He said that police departments are increasingly eschewing training that emphasizes deescalation and conflict resolution for classes that overly emphasize the dangers of the job, teach cops to view every citizen as a potential threat, and focus most of the training on how to justify their actions after the fact to avoid disciplinary action and lawsuits. Other police officials have since expressed similar concerns. This boilerplate language we sometimes see in police reports about unarmed suspects reaching for their waistbands or making “furtive gestures” suggests that this sort of training is having an impact.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2014 at 11:03 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

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