Later On

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

Archive for October 24th, 2014

Two NY Times columns worth reading—and one is by David Brooks!

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Paul Krugman points out the intense efforts by the GOP to prevent people from voting—focused, of course, on those groups likely to vote democratic—reflects the general feeling of the wealthy that poor people should have no say in the government. (Originally, as he points out, people had to own property (land) to vote in the US.) It’s a good column that ends with this:

The truth is that a lot of what’s going on in American politics is, at root, a fight between democracy and plutocracy. And it’s by no means clear which side will win.

And David Brooks seems to recognize the bad trends multiplying in the US. From his column:

If you get outside the partisan boxes, there’s a completely obvious agenda to create more middle-class, satisfying jobs. The federal government should borrow money at current interest rates to build infrastructure, including better bus networks so workers can get to distant jobs. The fact that the federal government has not passed major infrastructure legislation is mind-boggling, considering how much support there is from both parties.

That’s a surprising statement from Brooks, I would say.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 4:46 pm

Why Can Europe have Climate Targets but not the US? Corruption

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A good post by Juan Cole at Informed Comment:

The European Union climate summit has agreed to cut emissions by 40% by 2030, after hard bargaining by Poland and the UK failed to derail an agreement.

The 28 nations of the EU also agreed to improve energy efficiency by 27% over the next decade and a half, and to ensure a continent-wide proportion of at least 27% renewable energy market share.

In contrast, the production of carbon dioxide in the US increased in 2013, from roughly by 2.5 percent at a time when scientists are frantically signaling the need to significantly reduce that output. The US produces about 5.5 billion metric tons of CO2 a year. In 2014, the world crossed the symbolic barrier of 400 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, up from 270 in preindustrial times. Archeological examination of ice cores that show past atmospheric composition demonstrates that such high levels of CO2 in prehistoric times (then caused by volcanic activity rather than human) were correlated with higher sea levels and a third less land area, with megastorms, and with tropical climates throughout the planet.

US capitalism trumpets itself as efficient and agile, able better to deal with social and political crises than government policy because of the magic of the market. But the structures of markets are themselves produced by government policy, which plutocrats in the US have bought. In fact, US capitalism is acting like an ostrich, hiding from the biggest social and economic crisis — rapid human-caused global warming– that the human species has ever faced.

The Guardian notes that Tony Robson, the CEO of Knauf Insulation, complains that an increase of 27% in energy efficiency over 15 years is just about what people are doing anyway in Europe, where fuel prices are typically higher than in the US. So that isn’t exactly taking climate change as an emergency.

A goal of 27% renewables by 2030 is also not very ambitious. Renewables (including wind, solar and hydroelectric) have produced nearly 28% of Germany electricity this year, and German goals are far more ambitious than the EU overall. Renewables produced 42% of Spain’s electricity in 2013 and it reduced its carbon emissions by nearly a quarter.

Why are even center-right governments in Europe so much better at this than is the United States?

Europe is less politically corrupt. Although corporations play a big role in politics in Europe, private money is much less influential. In the US, we are to the point where it is all right for our politicians to be bought and sold sort of like slaves, and where 400 or so billionaires are the ones doing the buying and selling. If you are an American taxpayer and you think John Boehner represents you, you have another think coming. Big oil and big coal can just purchase speeches on the floor of the House that would be laughed off the stage in Europe, and European journalists are far more ready to ridicule flat-earth claims like climate change denialism.

Europe isn’t perfect. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 4:12 pm

Where Is the Investigation Into Financial Corruption at the NSA?

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It’s not only the police who have been corrupted by power: when you combine great power with total secrecy things can go very bad indeed. Conor Friedersdorf writes in the Atlantic:

Earlier this year, when Keith Alexander resigned as head of the National Security Agency, he began trying to cash in on expertise he’d gained while in government, pitching himself as a security consultant who could protect Wall Street banks and other large corporations from cyber-attacks by hackers or foreign governments. Early reports focused on the eye-popping price tag for his services: He reportedly asked for $1 million a month, later decreasing his rate to $600,000.

“I question how Mr. Alexander can provide any of the services he is offering unless he discloses or misuses classified information, including extremely sensitive sources and methods,” Representative Alan Grayson wrote in a letter to banking trade groups that retained him. “Without the classified information that he acquired in his former position, he literally would have nothing to offer to you.”

What, exactly, was he selling?

The explanation Alexander offered in an interview with Foreign Policy only raised more questions. In his telling, the value of his consulting services was explained by “a patented and ‘unique’ approach to detecting malicious hackers and cyber-intruders that the retired Army general said he has invented, along with his business partners at IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., the company he co-founded after leaving the government and retiring from military service in March.” He revealed his company’s plans to file at least nine patents “for a system to detect so-called advanced persistent threats, or hackers who clandestinely burrow into a computer network in order to steal secrets or damage the network.”

In government, Alexander had publicized and inveighed against just these sorts of threats, claiming that they were already responsible for the greatest transfer of wealth in human history. He oversaw a workforce that studied cyber-attacks and cyber-defenses, often drawing on highly classified or privileged information. So it struck many observers as suspicious that, immediately upon retiring, he suddenly had a dramatically better solution to a pressing national-security problem, one he never introduced while in government but planned to patent and sell. Had he withheld a valuable security solution to profit from it later? Were the novel approaches he intended to patent developed on the public dime? Alexander claimed that his part of the relevant work was done in his spare time, while other cyber-defense solutions were developed by his partner outside government.

No one could prove that those explanations were lies.

But they smelled fishy, especially because even as Alexander created the appearance of multiple improprieties as he entered the private sector, the NSA refused to release the statements of financial conflicts of interest that he’d filed as a federal employee. Indeed, the NSA refused to release the financial-conflict forms of any of its employees, despite the fact that they were required by public-records laws to do so. Their legal position was partly that releasing these records would harm national security. Investigative journalist Jason Leopold sued to challenge those claims. His victory—the NSA backed down before the case even went to court—showed both the legal indefensibility of withholding those public records and the blatant dishonesty of the claim that their release would harm national security: As you can see for yourself, contra the NSA’s assurances, nothing in the documents that the NSA has now turned over plausibly threatens national security.

What the documents do reveal, beyond the fact that NSA administrators are willing to mislead the public and the press, is that Alexander had even more potential conflicts of interest than were known publicly (though NSA lawyers declared them kosher). As Leopold reports: . . .

Continue reading.

Things may change: NSA reviewing official’s part-time private work

And note this story by Adam Roston at Buzzfeed:

One of the nation’s top spies is leaving her position at the National Security Agency (NSA), a spokesman confirmed Friday, amid growing disclosures of possible conflicts of interest at the secretive agency.

The shakeup comes just a month after BuzzFeed News began reporting on the financial interests of the official, Teresa Shea, and her husband.

Shea was the director of signals intelligence, or SIGINT, which involves intercepting and decoding electronic communications via phones, email, chat, Skype, and radio. It’s widely considered the most important mission of the NSA, and includes some of the most controversial programs disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden, including the mass domestic surveillance program.

The NSA provided a statement Friday that said Teresa Shea’s “transition” from the SIGINT director job was routine and “planned well before recent news articles.” The agency indicated she would remain employed, but did not provide specifics.

The Sheas did not respond to a message left at their home telephone number.

In September, BuzzFeed News reported that a SIGINT “contracting and consulting” company was registered at Shea’s house, even while she was the SIGINT director at NSA. The resident agent of the company, Telic Networks, was listed as James Shea, her husband.

Mr. Shea is also the vice president of a major SIGINT contractor that appears to do business with the NSA. The company, DRS Signals Solutions, is a subsidiary of DRS Technologies, which itself is a subsidiary of Italian-owned Finmeccanica SPA.

Last week BuzzFeed News also reported Shea herself had incorporated an “office and electronics” business at her house, and that the company owned a six-seat airplane and a condominium in the resort town of Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Over the past month, Teresa and James Shea haven’t returned phone calls, and the NSA has declined to comment about any specifics, beyond explaining how the agency tries to address conflict of interest issues in general, and to say that “the agency takes Federal ethics laws quite seriously.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 3:45 pm

War nomenclature: The Great War, the Greater War, …

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A mildly disturbing thought occurred to me, especially in the context of climate change, which will disrupt our food supply badly (and already is).

What we now call WWI was called at the time the Great War.

When WWII came along, it probably should have been called the Greater War.

And that leads into what will happen as global warming really kicks in (it’s accelerating) and widespread crop failures ensue. The next war, following the sequence, . . .

FWIW, California is a heavily agricultural state. Take a look at what’s happening:

drought

Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Food, Global warming

“The Police Are Still Out of Control I should know.” – Frank Serpico

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Frank Serpico has an interesting article in Politico:

In the opening scene of the 1973 movie “Serpico,” I am shot in the face—or to be more accurate, the character of Frank Serpico, played by Al Pacino, is shot in the face. Even today it’s very difficult for me to watch those scenes, which depict in a very realistic and terrifying way what actually happened to me on Feb. 3, 1971. I had recently been transferred to the Narcotics division of the New York City Police Department, and we were moving in on a drug dealer on the fourth floor of a walk-up tenement in a Hispanic section of Brooklyn. The police officer backing me up instructed me (since I spoke Spanish) to just get the apartment door open “and leave the rest to us.”

One officer was standing to my left on the landing no more than eight feet away, with his gun drawn; the other officer was to my right rear on the stairwell, also with his gun drawn. When the door opened, I pushed my way in and snapped the chain. The suspect slammed the door closed on me, wedging in my head and right shoulder and arm. I couldn’t move, but I aimed my snub-nose Smith & Wesson revolver at the perp (the movie version unfortunately goes a little Hollywood here, and has Pacino struggling and failing to raise a much-larger 9-millimeter automatic). From behind me no help came. At that moment my anger got the better of me. I made the almost fatal mistake of taking my eye off the perp and screaming to the officer on my left: “What the hell you waiting for? Give me a hand!” I turned back to face a gun blast in my face. I had cocked my weapon and fired back at him almost in the same instant, probably as reflex action, striking him. (He was later captured.)

When I regained consciousness, I was on my back in a pool of blood trying to assess the damage from the gunshot wound in my cheek. Was this a case of small entry, big exit, as often happens with bullets? Was the back of my head missing? I heard a voice saying, “Don’ worry, you be all right, you be all right,” and when I opened my eyes I saw an old Hispanic man looking down at me like Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan. My “backup” was nowhere in sight. They hadn’t even called for assistance—I never heard the famed “Code 1013,” meaning “Officer Down.” They didn’t call an ambulance either, I later learned; the old man did. One patrol car responded to investigate, and realizing I was a narcotics officer rushed me to a nearby hospital (one of the officers who drove me that night said, “If I knew it was him, I would have left him there to bleed to death,” I learned later).

The next time I saw my “back-up” officers was when one of them came to the hospital to bring me my watch. I said, “What the hell am I going to do with a watch? What I needed was a back-up. Where were you?” He said, “Fuck you,” and left. Both my “back-ups” were later awarded medals for saving my life.

I still don’t know exactly what happened on that day. There was never any real investigation. But years later, Patrick Murphy, who was police commissioner at the time, was giving a speech at one of my alma maters, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and I confronted him. I said, “My name is Frank Serpico, and I’ve been carrying a bullet in my head for over 35 years, and you, Mr. Murphy, are the man I hold responsible. You were the man who was brought as commissioner to take up the cause that I began — rooting out corruption. You could have protected me; instead you put me in harm’s way. What have you got to say?” He hung his head, and had no answer.

Even now, I do not know for certain why . . .

Continue reading.

The NYPD seems somewhat like the Mafia: they don’t hesitate to break or ignore the law, they have a code of omerta, and they hate with a violent hatred anyone who exposes NYPD misdeeds. And they no longer listen to the mayor: the NYPD does what it wants—another Mafia characteristic.

Later in the article:

Today the combination of an excess of deadly force and near-total lack of accountability is more dangerous than ever: Most cops today can pull out their weapons and fire without fear that anything will happen to them, even if they shoot someone wrongfully. All a police officer has to say is that he believes his life was in danger, and he’s typically absolved. What do you think that does to their psychology as they patrol the streets—this sense of invulnerability? The famous old saying still applies: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. (And we still don’t know how many of these incidents occur each year; even though Congress enacted the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act 20 years ago, requiring the Justice Department to produce an annual report on “the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers,” the reports were never issued.)

Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

CIA lying about stalling the report

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The CIA, doing everything it can to stop the Senate report—after already destroying all the video evidence of their torture of prisoners (and presumably of some of the innocents that mistakenly tortured). But they are lying about their stall, of course.

From Dan Froomkin’s column today:

Trapani [CIA spokesman] said, “CIA worked extensively to assist SSCI [Senate Select Committee on Inteligence] in completing this Study. CIA expects this report to be released, consistent with the SSCI vote. Anyone suggesting that we are trying to stall to January does not understand the basic facts of this matter.”

Either side in a negotiation can technically blame the other for holding up an agreement. But the CIA does have a bad track record here.

J. William Leonard, a former director of the Information Security Oversight Office, wrote recently:

As the official responsible for oversight of the system for classifying national security information during the Bush administration, I frequently did battle with the CIA over declassification. I found its negotiating posture to be consistent: start out with the most ridiculous position and eventually settle for one that is simply outrageous. My 40 years of experience in the world of government secrecy taught me that the CIA rarely if ever acts in good faith when it comes to transparency.

Leonard wrote that in this case, “The CIA even redacted information already made public by a 2009 Armed Services Committee Report on detainee abuse within the military.”

Obama promised that he would expedite the release of the report, but then Obama also promised “a world without nuclear weapons” and now he’s going to spend $1 trillion to upgrade the US nuclear arsenal. Obama apparently likes to make promises and apparently feels that, once a promise is made, no further action is required and he can do as he likes.

And so far as his actions and words go, Obama has never even heard of the Convention Against Torture, a treaty signed (by Ronald Reagan) and ratified. He has completely ignored it for 6 years.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 1:55 pm

Excellent news: Campaign finance reports are going to be processed quickly

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Nancy Scola writes at the Washington Post:

The U.S. Senate’s long resistanceto filing campaign finance reports on anything but paper occasionally turns into a hot political topic: At the moment, for example,Republicans are complaining that Democrats are intentionally swamping the system by submitting minutely-detailed reports to the Federal Election Commission.

The filing of Rep. Bruce Braley (D) alone, running for U.S. Senate in Iowa, is 26,000 pages long. The FEC takes each filing and sends it to a contractor, who types it in, character by character. The process can take weeks, if not months. Braley, meanwhile, goes before voters in 11 days.

By the next election cycle, it might not matter: Smart technology is being put in place to make Senate candidates’ finances public in near real-time.

California-based Captricity has just been awarded a $270,000, one-year contract to quickly extract all that data trapped on paper and push it onto the FEC Web site in, potentially, hours. How?

“We cheat,” says Kuang Chen, Captricity’s chief executive. “We use crowd-sourcing and machine-learning.” The 26-employee company grew out of Chen’s 2011 PhD thesis in computer science at the University of California at Berkeley.

Captricity works by “shredding” documents into small pieces, explains Chen. Those pieces are then uploaded to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Government, Technology

With a $10 million fine, the FCC is leaping into data security for the first time

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Brian Fung has some good news: companies that fail to protect their customers’ data will pay heavily.

That’s really the only way to do it. So long as companies suffer no financial penalties when they customer data are hacked, the companies will continue to avoid the expense of really good cybersecurity. Why pay the money if losing the data doesn’t cost them anything. (Companies are always trying to find ways to cut or otherwise avoid costs—like not paying for the environmental damage they cause. Corporate motto: Let someone else pay for it.)

Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Business, Government

Muck reads

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From Terry Parris, Jr., at ProPublica:

“It’s not just bullets you need to watch out for.”  For the public, gun ranges are the most common way of getting lead poisoning outside of the workplace. And with an estimated 40 million annual recreational shooters and 10,000 gun ranges in America, the risk of contamination, if left unchecked, is high.The Seattle Times, through a “first-of-its-kind” analysis of occupational lead-monitoring data, found that shooting-range owners repeatedly violated workplace safety laws and the agencies that are supposed to monitor lead poisoning have been slow to act.— The Seattle Times via @JimNeff4

Sick and vomiting residents. A chemical smell. A dead 18-month-old German shepherd. For years, state agencies ignored, dismissed and outright botched investigations into complaints by residents in southwestern Oregon about helicopters spraying weed killers near their homes. Last October, the state got so many complaints about a single incident that officials finally acted, fining a pilot $10,000 and revoking his spraying license for a year. — The Oregonian via @robwdavis

Tracking suspects in violent felonies, kidnappings, and you. This tracking device goes by names such as StingRay, Hailstorm, AmberJack and TriggerFish. It allows police to follow the cellphones of not only suspects but also anyone within range. A Charlotte Observer investigation, using heavily redacted documents, found that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are using this secretive surveillance system – and have been for eight years.  “It serves a legitimate purpose. I think the police don’t abuse it,” said a county judge who says he’s approved hundreds of surveillance requests. — The Charlotte Observer via @dougobserver

Prone restraints can be deadly for adults, too. Over the last 15 years, at least 24 developmentally disabled adults have died after being restrained, most of them residential facilities and group homes, according to 100 Reporters. Nine of those were ruled homicides, yet charges were filed in only one of those cases. According to one disability rights advocate, “prosecutors are reluctant to bring cases they fear they can’t win, relying heavily on staffers testifying against each other.” — 100 Reporters (Also read ProPublica’s coverage on schoolchildren being restrained and pinned down.)

What’s behind the deaths listed as “medical” on Rikers Island? Ninety-eight inmates have died at Rikers Island in the last five years. An Associated Press review of hundreds of documents showed that in 15 of those deaths, lack of care was cited as a factor, even as experts say “New York City is better equipped to deal with inmate health needs than perhaps anywhere else.” — The Associated Press via @JustinElliott

This cost saving measure is costing residents 20 percent or more in property taxes. Over the last 30 years, municipalities in Wisconsin cut costs by replacing their assessment offices with cheaper and more cursory outside contractors. The resulting sloppy work has cost residents 20 percent or more on property tax bills, a Journal Sentinel investigation found. “By them not policing assessors, they are screwing over millions of taxpayers across the state. It’s a huge disservice,” one assessor said. — Journal Sentinel via @Brizzyc

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 1:07 pm

The Zombie System: How Capitalism Has Gone Off the Rails

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Many of our social problems seem to stem from the hypercapitalistic meme of focusing solely on profits.  Michael Sauga takes a look at the situation in Der Spiegel:

A new buzzword is circulating in the world’s convention centers and auditoriums. It can be heard at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund. Bankers sprinkle it into the presentations; politicians use it leave an impression on discussion panels.

The buzzword is “inclusion” and it refers to a trait that Western industrialized nations seem to be on the verge of losing: the ability to allow as many layers of society as possible to benefit from economic advancement and participate in political life.

The term is now even being used at meetings of a more exclusive character, as was the case in London in May. Some 250 wealthy and extremely wealthy individuals, from Google Chairman Eric Schmidt to Unilever CEO Paul Polman, gathered in a venerable castle on the Thames River to lament the fact that in today’s capitalism, there is too little left over for the lower income classes. Former US President Bill Clinton found fault with the “uneven distribution of opportunity,” while IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde was critical of the numerous financial scandals. The hostess of the meeting, investor and bank heir Lynn Forester de Rothschild, said she was concerned about social cohesion, noting that citizens had “lost confidence in their governments.”

It isn’t necessary, of course, to attend the London conference on “inclusive capitalism” to realize that industrialized countries have a problem. When the Berlin Wall came down 25 years ago, the West’s liberal economic and social order seemed on the verge of an unstoppable march of triumph. Communism had failed, politicians worldwide were singing the praises of deregulated markets and US political scientist Francis Fukuyama was invoking the “end of history.”

Today, no one talks anymore about the beneficial effects of unimpeded capital movement. Today’s issue is “secular stagnation,” as former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers puts it. The American economy isn’t growing even half as quickly as did in the 1990s. Japan has become the sick man of Asia. And Europe is sinking into a recession that has begun to slow down the German export machine and threaten prosperity.

Capitalism in the 21st century is a capitalism of uncertainty, as became evident once again last week. All it took were a few disappointing US trade figures and suddenly markets plunged worldwide, from the American bond market to crude oil trading. It seemed only fitting that the turbulence also affected the bonds of the country that has long been seen as an indicator of jitters: Greece. The financial papers called it a “flash crash.”

Running Out of Ammunition

Politicians and business leaders everywhere are now calling for new growth initiatives, but the governments’ arsenals are empty. The billions spent on economic stimulus packages following the financial crisis have created mountains of debt in most industrialized countries and they now lack funds for new spending programs.

Central banks are also running out of ammunition. They have pushed interest rates close to zero and have spent hundreds of billions to buy government bonds. Yet the vast amounts of money they are pumping into the financial sector isn’t making its way into the economy.

Be it in Japan, Europe or the United States, companies are hardly investing in new machinery or factories anymore. Instead, prices are exploding on the global stock, real estate and bond markets, a dangerous boom driven by cheap money, not by sustainable growth. Experts with the Bank for International Settlements have already identified “worrisome signs” of an impending crash in many areas. In addition to creating new risks, the West’s crisis policy is also exacerbating conflicts in the industrialized nations themselves. While workers’ wages are stagnating and traditional savings accounts are yielding almost nothing, the wealthier classes — those that derive most of their income by allowing their money to work for them — are profiting handsomely.

According to the latest Global Wealth Report by the Boston Consulting Group, worldwide private wealth grew by about 15 percent last year, almost twice as fast as in the 12 months previous.

The data expose a dangerous malfunction in capitalism’s engine room. Banks, mutual funds and investment firms used to ensure that citizens’ savings were transformed into technical advances, growth and new jobs. Today they organize the redistribution of social wealth from the bottom to the top. The middle class has also been negatively affected: For years, many average earners have seen their prosperity shrinking instead of growing.

Harvard economist Larry Katz rails that US society has come to resemble a deformed and unstable apartment building: The penthouse at the top is getting bigger and bigger, the lower levels are overcrowded, the middle levels are full of empty apartments and the elevator has stopped working.

‘Wider and Wider’

It’s no wonder, then, that people can no longer get much out of the system. . .

Continue reading.

Given the incredibly low interest rates on government bonds, one obvious step is to spend heavily on (say) public infrastructure projects, particularly given (a) the rotten shape of US infrastructure, (b) the benefit to the economy of employing many workers to do the job, and (c) the overall economic benefit that good infrastructure delivers. This is not a time to worry about debt—when the economy improves—and when we raise the top marginal tax rate to 90%—we can pay the debt down.

As Paul Krugman, Nobel-prize-winning economist, frequently points out, for the government to cut spending in a time of reduced demand, thus further reducing demand, tumbles us right into recession. Germany doesn’t understand that.

But read the rest of the article—it goes to interesting places.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 12:19 pm

Senate report on the US torture program: Not enough, very late, and still no recognition of the legal requirements of the Convention Against Torture

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Dan Froomkin thinks that Obama may be trying to run out the clock—holding off on declassifying the Executive Summary of the Senate report on the CIA torture program (which ignores those who ordered the program, of course) until after the election, so that a GOP-controlled Senate can kill the report altogether. Obama is nothing if not loyal to the torturers and to the Establishment, a grave disappointment. His main motive seems to be to protect malefactors, something that became evident when he named John Brennan to head the CIA. Froomkin writes:

Continued White House foot-dragging on the declassification of a much-anticipated Senate torture report is raising concerns that the administration is holding out until Republicans take over the chamber and kill the report themselves.

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s intelligence committee sent a 480-page executive summary of its extensive report on the CIA’s abuse of detainees to the White House for declassification more than six months ago.

In August, the White House, working closely with the CIA, sent back redactions that Feinstein and other Senate Democrats said rendered the summary unintelligible and unsupported.

Since then, the wrangling has continued behind closed doors, with projected release dates repeatedly falling by the wayside.  The Huffington Post reported this week that White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, a close ally of CIA Director John Brennan, is personally leading the negotiations, suggesting keen interest in their progress — or lack thereof — on the part of  Brennan and President Obama.

Human-rights lawyer Scott Horton, who interviewed a wide range of intelligence and administration officials for his upcoming book,  Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Foreign Policy, told The Intercept that the White House and the CIA are hoping a Republican Senate will, in their words, “put an end to this nonsense.”

Stalling for time until after the midterm elections and the start of a Republican-majority session is the “battle plan,” Horton said. “I can tell you that Brennan has told people in the CIA that that’s his prescription for doing it.”

Republicans are widely expected to win control of the Senate Nov. 4.

Victoria Bassetti, a former Senate Judiciary Committee staffer, wrote this week that the administration is playing “stall ball” and that Senate staffers expect Republicans would “spike release of the report” should they take over the chamber.

Asked if the White House is slow-walking the negotiations on purpose, National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan replied: …

If you think she said, “Yes, that’s right: if we can just hold off a little longer, the report can be buried and the American people will be kept in the dark about what their government is doing.” — Just joking. Denial, obfuscation, stonewalling, and in general treating the public with contempt seems to be the order of business. But read the rest of the column—it’s worth reading.

McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay, Ali Watkins, and Marisa Taylor have a good report worth reading in its entirety. It begins:

A soon-to-be released Senate report on the CIA doesn’t assess the responsibility of former President George W. Bush or his top aides for any of the abuses of the agency’s detention and interrogation program, avoiding a full public accounting of one of the darkest chapters of the war on terror.

“This report is not about the White House. It’s not about the president. It’s not about criminal liability. It’s about the CIA’s actions or inactions,” said a person familiar with the document, who asked not to be further identified because the executive summary – the only part to that will be made public – still is in the final stages of declassification.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report also didn’t examine the responsibility of top Bush administration lawyers in crafting the legal framework that permitted the CIA to use simulated drowning called waterboarding and other interrogation methods widely described as torture, McClatchy has learned.

“It does not look at the Bush administration’s lawyers to see if they were trying to literally do an end run around justice and the law,” the person said.

As a result, the $40 million, five-year inquiry passed up what may be the final opportunity to render an official verdict on the culpability of Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior officials for the program, in which suspected terrorists were abducted, sent to secret overseas prisons, and subjected to the harsh interrogation techniques.

“If it’s the case that the report doesn’t really delve into the White House role, then that’s a pretty serious indictment of the report,” said Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program at the New York University Law School. “Ideally it should come to some sort of conclusions on whether there were legal violations and if so, who was responsible.”

At the same time, she said, the report still is critically important because it will give “the public facts even if it doesn’t come to these conclusions. The reason we have this factual accounting is not for prurient interest. It’s so we can avoid something like this ever happening again in the future.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 11:41 am

Very nice success story from eating Low Carb, High Fat

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Christoph800-650x550

From DietDoctor.com:

My experiences with LCHF… sorry for this long long email… ;)

I was overweight my whole life. At 12 years my weight was 92 kg (200 lbs) at 175 cm (5′ 8″). My life – full of useless diets – started back then. In August 2009 I was 18 and finally reached the top… I weighed 125.8 kg (277 lbs) at 187 cm (6′ 1″). My mom – she was a nurse at a hospital – was so worried about my weight because she had to deal with strokes and heart attacks every day at work. She had a small weight problem too, so we decided to change the situation together.

We started doing Weight Watchers. It was okay for me to eat all that whole-grains-stuff but I really felt hungry all the time. After 6 months I managed to lose 20 kg (44 lbs) and felt great but then it stopped. When I suddenly regained 2 kg (4.4 lbs) in one week I still remember the promise I gave my mom: “Don’t worry! I will get my dream-body!”

I still remember the evening when my brother came and told me: “… mama has died…”

One year passed. I wasn’t able to do any sports but tried to keep up with a “healthy” lifestyle. I ate lots of whole grains and almost no fats but I finally regained 15 kg (33 lbs). I was desperate… but in March 2011 I decided to give it another try. Again I started doing Weight Watchers and again weighed 102 kg (124.8 lbs) some months later. Then this strange plateau happened again. I didn’t lose any weight for months, on the contrary, I started regaining some weight again. At that time I rode my bicycle for about 16 hours a week (!!!) and ate around 1500 calories a day… I’m not lying! I swear it…

Finally, in January 2013 – my weight loss still didn’t continue – I made a radical decision and started eating every 2 days. I ate around 2000 calories on one day and nothing (only water and tea) on the second. Finally I could drop my weight down to 90 kg (198 lbs). When my weight loss again got stuck I decided to do exactly what the medical guidelines tell me to do. So at least 60% of my calories came from carbs (especially whole grains) and less than 30% from fats. My weight didn’t change and I started feeling horrible. I had those extreme cravings for chocolate and stuff like that. When I couldn’t resist it anymore I ate lots of donuts and pieces of cake… and I regained 3 kg (6.6 lbs) in one week…

That evening I decided to try the very opposite – even if it kills me – and googled the words “low carb”.
After a while I found this wonderful page called DietDoctor.com and it lead me to names like “Gary Taubes”, “Stephen Phinney”, “Robert Lustig” and yeah, of course, “Andreas Eenfeldt” etc….

I started doing Freeletics (it’s like Crossfit) but still was eating lots of carbs. I gained muscle – Weight Watchers lead to an enormous muscle loss – but I also gained fat… then I started LCHF. After 10 days of feeling horrible – I had quit smoking and this felt exactly the same way – I suddenly felt that energy inside of me. I ate 3000 calories a day and my weight dropped. I couldn’t believe it. I was eating 80 % of my calories from fat and almost no carbs (30 g a day)… so I stopped counting my calories and ate what I wanted to…

Now in October 2014 my weight is 79 kg (174 lbs) and my body-fat percentage dropped to 9 %. I’ve got a six pack! :) . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 11:19 am

Posted in Health, Low carb

Great lather today: Honeybee Soaps Coffee Mocha and Mr Pomp

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SOTD 24 Oct 2014

Really fine lather today—does badger make the difference? I’ll return to the Lilac tomorrow with the Mr Pomp brush shown and see.

Three passes with the Stealth holding a Personna Lab Blue blade, then a good splash of Krampert’s Finest Bay Rum Acadian Spice Aftershave, one of my faves.

Little to report: no experiments (other than the soap) and a good BBS result with no problem.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 8:57 am

Posted in Shaving

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