Later On

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

Archive for March 3rd, 2015

NSA’s website hacked to demonstrate a famous bug

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Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai reports at Motherboard:

A group of researchers only needed $104 and 8 hours of Amazon’s cloud computing power to hack the NSA’s website. And their feat was made possible by a bug that, ironically, was practically created by the NSA itself and its anti-encryption policies from 20 years ago.

The NSA’s site was just the guinea pig to demonstrate a newly-disclosed internet flaw called ​FREAK.

The bug, first ​disclosed on Monday by Akamai, allows an attacker to intercept a supposedly secure connection between people using Android or Apple devices and thousands, if not millions, of websites. This gives the hackers the chance to impersonate said website and steal confidential data like passwords and logins.

Now, as crypto expert Matthew Green correctly ​pointed out, this wasn’t really a “hack.” Mounting a man-in-the-middle attack against NSA.gov is not the same as hacking the NSA (as an always-appropriate XKCD cartoon illustrates).

cia

The researchers were actually just trying to make a point, and to show how dangerous this new bug is. But the choice of the target wasn’t random.

“In the current climate, it felt like the appropriate website to mount a man-in-the-middle attack on,” Karthikeyan Bhargavan, one of the lead researchers who discovered the bug, told Motherboard.

Bhargavan was obviously referring to

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 5:17 pm

Posted in NSA, Technology

Petraeus and whistleblowers: Unequal treatment before the law

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Contrast the classified materials Petraeus revealed with what Thomas Drake leaked, and the difference in how they were treated. Petraeus is handled with kid gloves and protected; Drake was pilloried. The US today does not believe in equal justice before the law; it believes in protecting the wealthy and powerful no matter what. Peter Maass reports for The Intercept:

David Petraeus, the former Army general and CIA director, admitted today that he gave highly-classified journals to his onetime lover and that he lied to the FBI about it. But he only has to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor that will not involve a jail sentence thanks to a deal with federal prosecutors. The deal is yet another example of a senior official treated leniently for the sorts of violations that lower-level officials are punished severely for.

According to the plea deal, Petraeus, while leading American forces in Afghanistan, maintained eight notebooks that he filled with highly-sensitive information about the identities of covert officers, military strategy, intelligence capabilities and his discussions with senior government officials, including President Obama. Rather than handing over these “Black Books,” as the plea agreement calls them, to the Department of Defense when he retired from the military in 2011 to head the CIA, Petraeus retained them at his home and lent them, for several days, to Paula Broadwell, his authorized biographer and girlfriend.

In October 2012, FBI agents interviewed Petraeus as part of an investigation into his affair with Broadwell — Petraeus would resign from the CIA the next month — and Petraeus told them he had not shared classified material with Broadwell. The plea deal notes that “these statements were false” and that Petraeus “then and there knew that he previously shared the Black Books with his biographer.” Lying to FBI agents is a federal crime for which people have received sentences of months or more than a year in jail.

Under his deal with prosecutors, Petraeus pleaded guilty to just one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified information, a misdemeanor that can be punishable by a year in jail, though the deal calls only for probation and a $40,000 fine. As The New York Times noted today, the deal “allows Mr. Petraeus to focus on his lucrative post-government career as a partner in a private equity firm and a worldwide speaker on national security issues.”

The deal has another effect: it all but confirms a two-tier justice system in which senior officials are slapped on the wrist for serious violations while lesser officials are harshly prosecuted for relatively minor infractions.

For instance, last year, after a five-year standoff with federal prosecutors, Stephen Kim, a former State Department official, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act when he discussed a classified report about North Korea with Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2009. Kim did not hand over a copy of the report — he just discussed it, and nothing else — and the report was subsequently described in court documents as a “nothing burger” in terms of its sensitivity. Kim is currently in prison on a 13-month sentence.

“The issue is not whether General Petraeus was dealt with too leniently,  because the pleadings indicate good reason for that result,” said Abbe Lowell, who is Kim’s lawyer. “The issue is whether others are dealt with far too severely for conduct that is no different. This underscores the random, disparate and often unfair application of the national security laws where higher-ups are treated better than lower-downs.”

In 2013, former CIA agent John Kiriakou pleaded guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by disclosing the name of a covert CIA officer to a freelance reporter; he was sentenced to 30 months in jail. Kiriakou’s felony conviction and considerable jail sentence — for leaking one name that was not published — stands in contrast to Petraeus pleading guilty to a misdemeanor without jail time for leaking multiple names as well as a range of other highly-sensitive information.

Kiriakou, released from prison earlier this year, told The Intercept in an emailed statement, “I don’t think General Petraeus should have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act, just as I don’t think I should have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act.  Yet only one of us was. Both Petraeus and I disclosed undercover identities (or confirmed one, in my case) that were never published. I spent two years in prison; he gets two years probation.”

The prosecution of Kiriakou, Kim and other leakers and whistleblowers has been particularly intense under the Obama Administration, which has filed more than twice as many leak cases under the Espionage Act as all previous administrations combined. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 4:19 pm

Does militarized training of police officers lead to more problems with the community

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Very interesting column by Radley Balko:

Here at The Watch, we’ve following the police problems and policing reform movement in Albuquerque pretty closely (see here, here and here.). Now, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) wants to put an end to federal training that she says is contributing to the culture problem in city law enforcement.

From KRQE:

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is calling for an immediate halt to training for officers of the beleaguered Albuquerque Police Department at a secluded Department of Energy facility southeast of town, calling the military- and nuclear-security-based instruction “inappropriate … for community police departments.”

The Albuquerque-based Democratic congresswoman’s request, made in a letter sent to the Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Wednesday, would end a decades-long relationship between the federal department and local police. Scores of APD officers — and some from other state and local agencies — have received and, in some cases, taught classes at the Energy Department’s National Training Center through the years.

Some of the training has ties America’s wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Other aspects of the courses taught at the training center, located in a place called Coyote Canyon, are geared toward the armed federal force that is responsible for guarding and transporting America’s nuclear weapons.

“I think, in general, we’ve created an environment where we’ve done away with the sort of day-to-day training that’s necessary, including crisis intervention, behavioral health training — the kinds of things that we know that both protect officers and the community — and moved away to a highly military, advanced SWAT team mentality,” Lujan Grisham said in an interview this week.”And that’s not appropriate, and it’s certainly not appropriate for APD under the current circumstances.”

Those circumstances include a long and troubled history of using excessive force and questionable deadly shootings. Last April, the U.S. Department of Justice concluded after an 18-month investigation that APD has an “aggressive culture that undervalues civilian safety” and “poses unacceptable risks to the Albuquerque community.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 3:42 pm

NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton struggles to think logically, and fails

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Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

At a news conference Monday, NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton blamed a slight uptick in violence in the city (45 homicides at this point last year, versus 54 this year) on marijuana.

“The seemingly innocent drug that’s been legalized around the country. In this city, people are killing each other over marijuana more so than anything that we had to deal with [in the] 80s and 90s with heroin and cocaine . . . In some instances, it’s a causal factor. But it’s an influence in almost everything that we do here.”

Hyperbole at its finest. Even if this year’s uptick holds through December (and it’s worth noting that we’re only dealing with eight weeks of data, here), New York would end the year with 383 murders. The city saw 2,245 murders in 1990.

I’m not exactly sure by what Rube Goldbergian chain of events Bratton thinks legalization in Colorado and Washington is causing homicides in New York City, but it’s clear that he thinks there’s a connection. Another NYPD official said the problem appears to be “ripoffs” — not turf battles, but attempted robberies gone wrong.

Of course, if we want a more direct examination of what effect legal pot might have on homicide, we can just look at the cities where it’s legal. Here’s what we know:

Homicides dropped 24 percent in Denver last year, the first full year of legalization in Colorado. Robberies were down 3 percent. Burglary was down 9.5 percent. The only crimes that increased significantly were larceny (a property crime, not a violent crime) and arson, which seems unlikely to be related to marijuana. Overall, violent crime dropped 0.7 percent, and property crime dropped 2 percent.

Homicides did increase slightly in Seattle (from 23 to 26), the largest city in the other state to legalize the drug. But it’s more difficult to draw conclusions there because the Washington law was quite a bit stricter than the Colorado law, and still left room for a thriving black market.

Of course, we only have a year’s worth of data from Colorado. But then, Bratton is drawing broad conclusions based on just eight weeks. . . .

Continue reading.

I presume Bill Bratton must favor legalization of marijuana, since that would pretty much end people killing each other over marijuana: those who wanted it could simply go to the store and buy some, much as they do beer. (Very few shootings to get a six-pack.)

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 3:37 pm

Uh-oh: Companies Are Stampeding to Buy Back Their Own Stock (Just Like Before the 2008 Crash)

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Interesting column in Wall Street on Parade by Pam Martens and Russ Martens. From the link:

. . . Yesterday, both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average posted record high closing levels with Nasdaq closing above 5,000 – within spitting distance of its old high set 15 years ago. (Yes, it’s been a long tough slog for investors in the Nasdaq index.) And, accompanying this seemingly bullish news for stock investors is a startling assessment this morning of what’s going on behind the scenes with share buybacks from Lu Wang and Oliver Renick at Bloomberg News. Here’s the bullet points of their story:

  • Stock buybacks and dividends are eating up “almost all the Standard & Poor’s 500’s earnings”;
  • Even with “earnings estimates deteriorating,” corporations have announced “an average of more than $5 billion in buybacks each day.”
  • “Companies in the S&P 500 have spent more than $2 trillion on their own stock since 2009”;
  • Companies could be overpaying for their stock. “The S&P 500 trades at 18.9 times earnings, compared with an average of 16.9 since 1936, data compiled by Bloomberg and S&P show.”

Buybacks in an overpriced market when corporate insiders stand to make tens of millions of dollars as their stock options move deeper into the money, is a serious cause for worry. Wall Street On Parade reported in July of last year that the largest Wall Street bank, JPMorgan Chase, had spent $18 billion buying back its shares from 2010 through 2013. According to a quarterly filing with the SEC at that time, the company said “the Firm’s Board of Directors has authorized the Firm to repurchase $6.5 billion of common equity between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015.”

Our thoughts back then are the same as today: . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Business

Behind Supreme Court’s Obamacare Case, A Secretive Society’s Hidden Hand

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Nina Martin reports at ProPublica:

The Supreme Court has no shortage of potentially precedent-shattering cases on its docket this term. But the one the justices are hearing tomorrow, King v. Burwell, could be the most consequential.

King focuses on the issue of whether low-income people who get insurance under the Affordable Care Act’s federal exchanges are entitled to tax subsidies. Much has been said (and written) about what could happen if the justices rule “no”: Millions of people in as many as 37 states could lose their health coverage. The political earthquake could be cataclysmic.

Yet, few reports have highlighted the role of the Federalist Society, the conservative law group whose ideas are at the intellectual heart of the King v. Burwell challenge. That’s not surprising, given that the group’s members have played a mostly behind-the-scenes part in King — and in many of the most significant conservative legal victories of the last 30 years.

In a new book, “Ideas with Consequences: The Federalist Society and the Conservative Counterrevolution,” Pomona College political scientist Amanda Hollis-Brusky channels her inner investigative journalist to trace the group’s influence on the courts, and especially, the Supreme Court.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q. What is the Federalist Society? What did it grow out of?

A. The Federalist Society was founded in 1982 by a small group of conservative and libertarian law students at Yale and the University of Chicago. Many of the founders had worked on the Reagan presidential campaign, and when they arrived in their elite law schools, they noticed a profound mismatch between the ideas that were achieving political ascendancy — about limited government and free markets and states’ rights — and a liberal orthodoxy that was embedded in almost all major legal institutions of the time.

Flash forward 30 years: The Federalist Society has matured into a self-professed “society of ideas” that claims 40,000 to 60,000 members. These include every Republican-appointed attorney general and solicitor general since the 1980s, dozens of federal judges, and four sitting U.S. Supreme Court justices: Antonin Scalia, who was one of the organization’s original mentors at the University of Chicago; Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and John Roberts.

Q. How does it operate?

A. The Federalist Society doesn’t exhibit its power in a way that is easily recognizable. It doesn’t bring court cases, or lobby, or publish position papers, or officially endorse political or judicial candidates. Instead, it trains and socializes its members through thousands of events every year. It promotes collaboration. Members are encouraged to draw on their training and networks as they go about their work as judges, policy makers, litigators and academics. In this way, the Federalist Society’s influence is one step removed from the policy process. Yet that influence is profound.

Q. The Federalist Society doesn’t even make public its membership rosters. How did you trace its impact on policy and the courts?

A. I used speaker agendas from Federalist Society national student conferences and lawyer conferences from 1982 to 2012 to construct a database of everyone who’s ever participated in one of these meetings: 1,190 individuals in all. These are the thought leaders — the Mick Jaggers of the movement. If you are invited to speak at a national conference, it signals true believership.

Then I tracked their movements: What Supreme Court cases were they participating in? Were they consistently promoting a certain kind of scholarship or set of beliefs?

I identified the key areas of law that have taken a significant conservative turn over the past 30 years. And by reviewing transcripts from meetings and conferences, I was able to show how those ideas were gestated within the Federalist Society network for decades before being accepted by the Supreme Court.

Q. What kind of ideas? . . .

Continue reading.

In general, secrecy is anathema to democracy, since secrecy is prima facie evidence that what is being kept secret is not in the public interest—if it were, secrecy would not be needed.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 12:38 pm

The hit song the day you were born—and the day you were conceived

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Try it out. Mine aren’t bad: Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and, 9 months earlier, Judy Garland and “Over the Rainbow.”

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 12:34 pm

Posted in Music

Governing off the books: It’s not just Hillary

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Matthew Braga writes at Motherboard:

Think Hillary Clinton was the first government employee ​to be caught using a personal email account to conduct official business​? Government employees have been doing this sort of thing for years.

Both the US and Canadian governments have information laws that require government correspondence to be logged, retained, and made available to the public through Freedom of Information or Access to Information laws, respectively. But both governments make skirting these requirements surprisingly easy, and in some cases, employees are only too happy to do so.

According to The New York Times, “Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.”

It’s not c​lear whether Clinton violated her record keeping obligations—her advisors maintain she complied with “the letter and spirit of the rules”—but it wouldn’t be the first time that government employees have been found to rely on personal accounts, or more ephemeral forms of messaging, for sensitive government communications.

Often, services such as BlackBerry Messenger, text messaging, and other instant messaging apps can be configured by government departments so that messages cannot be logged or accessed after a certain period of time.

Last March, for example, the state of Maine banne​d employees from using instant messages or text messages to conduct state business, after it was discovered that employees were being instructed to conduct sensitive business outside the eyes of record keepers.

According to the Portland Press Herald, “a former employee of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention told the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee that supervisors had told her to use texts because the messages couldn’t be obtained through a public records request.”

Then, in July, the Washington Times found myriad ot​her US federal government agencies lacked requirements for text messages and instant messages to be stored.

And in 2013, the Information Commissioner of Canada wrote an entire report on the threat that instant messaging posed to access to inform​ation requests. The office reviewed the practices of 11 institutions and various ministerial offices, and found that “instant messages, for the most part, are not backed up on servers, are automatically deleted after a set period of time and are, as a result, not recoverable.”

The government’s rationale? . . .

Continue reading.

The last thing on earth that some government officials want is for the public to find out what they’re doing. They really don’t want the public to know, since they are working on behalf of the public but against the public’s interest. Otherwise, they would be happy to be on the record.

Punishment for concealing government activity really should involve prison time. It’s the only way to get their attention and make them comply with laws and regulations.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 10:02 am

Posted in Government, Law

Waterspouts are terrifying

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Via Motherboard:

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 9:55 am

Posted in Daily life

We Give Up Our Data Too Cheaply

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Interesting post by Bruce Schneier, a cybersecurity expert who has recently published a book (Data and Goliath), from which the post is excerpted:

Our data has [sic] enormous value when we put it all together. Our movement records help with urban planning. Our financial records enable the police to detect and prevent money laundering. Our posts and tweets help researchers understand how we tick as a society. There are all sorts of creative and interesting uses for personal data, uses that give birth to new knowledge and make all of our lives better.

Our data is also valuable to each of us individually, to keep private or disclose as we want. And there’s the rub. Using data pits group interest against self-interest, the core tension humanity has been struggling with since we came into existence.

The government offers us this deal: if you let us have all of your data, we can protect you from crime and terrorism. It’s a rip-off. It doesn’t work. And it overemphasizes group security at the expense of individual security.

The bargain Google offers us is similar, and it’s similarly out of balance: if you let us have all of your data and give up your privacy, we will show you advertisements you want to see—and we’ll throw in free web search, e-mail, and all sorts of other services. Companies like Google and Facebook can only make that bargain when enough of us give up our privacy. The group can only benefit if enough individuals acquiesce.

Not all bargains pitting group interest against individual interest are such raw deals. The medical community is about to make a similar bargain with us: let us have all your health data, and we will use it to revolutionize healthcare and improve the lives of everyone. In this case, I think they have it right. I don’t think anyone can comprehend how much humanity will benefit from putting all of our health data in a single database and letting researchers access it. Certainly this data is incredibly personal, and is bound to find its way into unintended hands and be used for unintended purposes. But in this particular example, it seems obvious to me that the communal use of the data should take precedence. Others disagree.

Here’s another case that got the balance between group and individual interests right. Social-media researcher Reynol Junco analyzes the study habits of his students. Many textbooks are online, and the textbook websites collect an enormous amount of data about how—and how often—students interact with the course material. Junco augments that information with surveillance of what else his students do on their computers. This is incredibly invasive research, but its duration is limited and he is gaining new understanding about how both good and bad students study—and has developed interventions aimed at improving how students learn. Did the group benefit of this study outweigh the individual privacy interest of the subjects who took part in the study?

Junco’s subjects consented to being monitored, and his research was approved by a university ethics board—but what about experiments that corporations do on us? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 9:39 am

On Iran: Absence of Plan B

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Kevin Drum has an interesting note: No commentator who is opposed to Obama’s negotiations with Iran has any Plan B. More at the link, but that’s the essence. It’s like the GOP opposition to Obamacare: they don’t like it, but they don’t have an alternative to offer. The same with negotiating with Iran: they don’t like it, but they don’t have an alternative to offer. Childish, not to put too fine a point on it.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 9:35 am

Unfreedom of the press in the UK

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The UK has never placed a high value on actual freedom of the press. The government and people are content to let tabloids run amuck, digging up and publishing direct on private individuals (though the limits are loose, they do indeed exist, as Rupert Murdoch and minions discovered), but serious reporting on the British government and what it’s doing? Not allowed, really: the Official Secrets Act seems to be wielded often and without hesitation to stop the publication of stories that the government doesn’t want the public to see, ostensibly for purposes of “national security,” that magical catchall.

But now the UK government has come up with an even more powerful weapon than the Official Secrets Act: regulations to forbid the publication of any reports the government simply doesn’t like. Glenn Greenwald writes in The Intercept:

In 2001, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II used the occasion of the annual “Queen’s Speech” to unveil a new statutory proposal to regulate all media operating in her realm, one provision of which was the creation of the “Office of Communications” (Ofcom) to monitor and punish television outlets which exhibit “bias.” In 2008, the BBC heralded the Queen’s Speech as “one of the high points of the parliamentary calendar, unrivalled in its spectacle and tradition,” as the monarch “delivers the speech from the grand throne in the House of Lords.” The press monitor’s Twitter accountboasts: “We keep an eye on the UK’s telecoms, television, radio and postal industries to make sure they’re doing the best for all of us.”Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 9.16.02 AM

Ofcom has rarely punished establishment British media outlets for “bias” even though the British media is notoriously and slavishly loyal to the state and other British political and financial elites. Just last week, Guardian editor Seumus Milne noted: “as one academic study after another has demonstrated . . . . from the coverage of wars to economics, [the BBC] has a pro-government, elite and corporate anchor. The BBC is full of Conservatives and former New Labour apparatchiks with almost identical views about politics, business and the world.” Indeed, of all the countless media outlets around the world covering NSA reporting over the last 18 months, the BBC has easily been the worst: the most overtly biased in favor of mass surveillance and official claims. Ofcom’s authority over BBC is limited, but plenty of British media outlets — certainly most of its largest ones — are driven by these same biases.

During my first week writing at the Guardian, a long-time observer (and one-time member) of the British media warned me about the extreme group think bias of U.K. journalists, and I quoted that warning in the context of describing their extreme and deeply personal animus toward WikiLeaks: “Nothing delights British former lefties more than an opportunity to defend power while pretending it is a brave stance in defence of a left liberal principle.” Needless to say, none of that extreme, power-serving media bias — including the avalanche of deceit and lies much of the British media peddled to sell Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq — has ever provoked any punishment from Ofcom.

By rather stark contrast, Ofcom has repeatedly threatened the Russian-state television outlet RT with revocation of its license. Last November, that outlet launched a British-specific, London-based version of its network, but previously had been broadcasting its standard English-speaking programming in the U.K. At the time of its launch, the Guardian noted that RT “is facing six separate investigations by media regulator Ofcom.”

That investigative history included a finding last fall whereby the network was “threatened with statutory sanctions by [] Ofcom after the Kremlin-backed news channel breached broadcasting regulations on impartiality with its coverage of the Ukraine crisis.” RT executives were “summoned to a meeting with Ofcom after it was found guilty of breaching the code governing UK broadcasters” and told they could face revocation of their license if these breaches of “impartiality rules” continued.

Today, Ofcom announced a new “bias” investigation into RT. The offense this time, according to the Guardian, is the broadcasting of “anti-western comments in a late-night discussion on Ukraine.” Specifically, “the programme is understood to have featured a number of anti-Western views in the discussion between the presenter and three studio guests.”

Unfortunately, RT told the Intercept this morning that it was barred by Ofcom regulations even from commenting on this new investigation. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 9:17 am

Posted in Government, Media

What does Netanyahu hope to achieve through his address to Congress?

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James Fallows has some good observations (and links) in his Atlantic blog:

Why is Benjamin Netanyahu going ahead with his speech to Congress in a few hours’ time, despite complaints from all quarters about the damage it is causing? It’s a trickier question than it seems.

Was it simple tin ear on his side, and Ambassador Ron Dermer’s? The idea, as Netanyahu has preposterously claimed, that he “didn’t intend” any affront to the sitting U.S. president and was surprised by all the ruckus? Were they that ill-informed, naive, trapped in a bubble, or plain dumb?

I find that hard to believe, from a leader who prides himself on his U.S. connections and an ambassador born and raised in the U.S. and schooled by Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz. If Barack Obama addressed the Knesset and said he had a “moral obligation” to criticize Netanyahu’s policies, would he then say he “didn’t intend” any offense? Please.

Was it crass election-year politicking on Netanyahu’s part, based on the need to get through this month’s election in Israel and the faith that eventually things would sort themselves back out with the United States? All politicians know that if they don’t hold office their platforms don’t matter, and most convince themselves that what is good for them is good for their country. So maybe he rationalized that getting through this election was worth whatever bruised feelings it might cause.

On this I defer to the reporting of The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, here, here, and here about the tensions between Netanyahu’s electoral incentives and long-term U.S.-Israeli relations. From my point of view, this would be the most benign explanation. Countries act in their own self-interest, and so do politicians.

Was it because Netanyahu has been such a prescient, confirmed-by-realityjudge of real-world threats that he feels moral passion about making sure his views are heard?

Hardly. I can’t believe that he’s fooled even himself into thinking that his egging-on of war with Iraq looks good in retrospect. And for nearly two decadesNetanyahu has been arguing that Iran was on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. When you’re proven right, you trumpet that fact—and when you’re proven wrong, you usually have the sense to change the topic. Usually.

Was it because Netanyahu has a better plan that he wants Congress or the United States to adopt in dealing with Iran? No. His alternative plan for Iran is like the Republican critics’ alternative to the Obama healthcare or immigration plans. That is: It’s not a plan, it’s dislike of what Obama is doing. And if the current negotiations break down, Iran could move more quickly toward nuclear capacity than it is doing now—barring the fantasy of a preemptive military strike by Israel or the U.S. As Michael Tomasky put it in the Daily Beast: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 9:04 am

Fitjar Såpekokeri, Kent BK4, and an old Gillette

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SOTD 3 March 2015

The G.B. Kent BK4 really is a marvelous brush: big, puffy, soft knot that generates lather easily, holds a ton, and feels great on the face. The Fitjar Såpekokeri I have not used for a long time—and in fact the soap is no longer made due to various regulatory updates in the EU: for a small artisanal operation the new requirements were too much. But it was (and is) a nice soap. I have not used it for so long the puck quite visibly shrunk, due to water evaporating from it I imagine. And when I first started to lather the puck seemed to suck up a LOT of water before anything happened in the way of lather. But pretty quickly it seemed to wake up and I got a fine lather with the distinctive fragrance—which I cannot attempt to describe—that I associate with this soap.

The old Gillette (an old Aristocrat? Gillette used that name a lot.) I loaded with a SuperMax Titanium and set to work. It’s a very efficient razor, but also—and I now recall why it went to storage—not very comfortable; in fact, it’s downright uncomfortable. No nicks, fine result, but diminished pleasure in the shave. I fear it goes back into storage. Anyone know the model?

A splash of Annik Goutal’s Eau de Sud, and we begin a new day: the day that we set a new precedent: for the first time, thanks to an invitation from the Speaker of the House, a foreign head of state will address Congress to criticize the foreign policy of the sitting US President. This is quite an innovation, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out int he future.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 8:58 am

Posted in Shaving

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