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Archive for March 20th, 2015

The Real American Exceptionalism

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Alfred McCoy writes at TomDispatch.com:

“The sovereign is he who decides on the exception,” said conservative thinker Carl Schmitt in 1922, meaning that a nation’s leader can defy the law to serve the greater good. Though Schmitt’s service as Nazi Germany’s chief jurist and his unwavering support for Hitler from the night of the long knives to Kristallnacht and beyond damaged his reputation for decades, today his ideas have achieved unimagined influence. They have, in fact, shaped the neo-conservative view of presidential power that has become broadly bipartisan since 9/11. Indeed, Schmitt has influenced American politics directly through his intellectual protégé Leo Strauss who, as an émigré professor at the University of Chicago, trained Bush administration architects of the Iraq war Paul Wolfowitz and Abram Shulsky.

All that should be impressive enough for a discredited, long dead authoritarian thinker. But Schmitt’s dictum also became a philosophical foundation for the exercise of American global power in the quarter century that followed the end of the Cold War. Washington, more than any other power, created the modern international community of laws and treaties, yet it now reserves the right to defy those same laws with impunity. A sovereign ruler should, said Schmitt, discard laws in times of national emergency. So the United States, as the planet’s last superpower or, in Schmitt’s terms, its global sovereign, has in these years repeatedly ignored international law, following instead its own unwritten rules of the road for the exercise of world power.

Just as Schmitt’s sovereign preferred to rule in a state of endless exception without a constitution for his Reich, so Washington is now well into the second decade of an endless War on Terror that seems the sum of its exceptions to international law: endless incarceration, extrajudicial killing, pervasive surveillance, drone strikes in defiance of national boundaries, torture on demand, and immunity for all of the above on the grounds of state secrecy. Yet these many American exceptions are just surface manifestations of the ever-expanding clandestine dimension of the American state. Created at the cost of more than a trillion dollars since 9/11, the purpose of this vast apparatus is to control a covert domain that is fast becoming the main arena for geopolitical contestation in the twenty-first century.

This should be (but seldom is considered) a jarring, disconcerting path for a country that, more than any other, nurtured the idea of, and wrote the rules for, an international community of nations governed by the rule of law. At the First Hague Peace Conference in 1899, the U.S. delegate, Andrew Dickson White, the founder of Cornell University, pushed for the creation of a Permanent Court of Arbitration and persuaded Andrew Carnegie to build the monumental Peace Palace at The Hague as its home. At the Second Hague Conference in 1907, Secretary of State Elihu Root urged that future international conflicts be resolved by a court of professional jurists, an idea realized when the Permanent Court of International Justice was established in 1920.

After World War II, the U.S. used its triumph to help create the United Nations, push for the adoption of its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and ratify the Geneva Conventions for humanitarian treatment in war. If you throw in other American-backed initiatives like the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank, you pretty much have the entire infrastructure of what we now casually call “the international community.”

Breaking the Rules

Not only did the U.S. play a crucial role in writing the new rules for that community, but it almost immediately began breaking them. After all, despite the rise of the other superpower, the Soviet Union, Washington was by then the world sovereign and so could decide which should be the exceptions to its own rules, particularly to the foundational principle for all this global governance: sovereignty. As it struggled to dominate the hundred new nations that started appearing right after the war, each one invested with an inviolable sovereignty, Washington needed a new means of projecting power beyond conventional diplomacy or military force. As a result, CIA covert operations became its way of intervening within a new world order where you couldn’t or at least shouldn’t intervene openly.

All of the exceptions that really matter spring from America’s decision to join what former spy John Le Carré called that “squalid procession of vain fools, traitors… sadists, and drunkards,” and embrace espionage in a big way after World War II. Until the creation of the CIA in 1947, the United States had been an innocent abroad in the world of intelligence. When General John J. Pershing led two million American troops to Europe during World War I, the U.S. had the only army on either side of the battle lines without an intelligence service. Even though Washington built a substantial security apparatus during that war, it was quickly scaled back by Republican conservatives during the 1920s. For decades, the impulse to cut or constrain such secret agencies remained robustly bipartisan, as when President Harry Truman abolished the CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), right after World War II or when President Jimmy Carter fired 800 CIA covert operatives after the Vietnam War.

Yet by fits and starts, the covert domain inside the U.S. government has grown stealthily from the early twentieth century to this moment. It began with the formation of the FBI in 1908 and Military Intelligence in 1917. The Central Intelligence Agency followed after World War II along with most of the alphabet agencies that make up the present U.S. Intelligence Community, including the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and last but hardly least, in 2004, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Make no mistake: there is a clear correlation between state secrecy and the rule of law — as one grows, the other surely shrinks.

World Sovereign

America’s irrevocable entry into this covert netherworld came when . . .

Continue reading. About the author:

Alfred W. McCoy is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A TomDispatch regular, he is the author of Torture & Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation, among other works.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2015 at 4:15 pm

What about the flash-crash of the dollar on Wednesday?

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Pam Martens writes at Wall Street on Parade:

One would think we had asked for missile launch codes when we reached out to the futures exchanges to find out what caused the precipitous plunge in the U.S. Dollar’s futures contract at 4:04 P.M. Wednesday afternoon – long after the Federal Reserve’s market moving news had been digested by traders.

If currencies are now the new weapons of mass destruction – maybe we were asking for the equivalent of missile launch codes.

Our curiosity was piqued when the intrepid Eric Hunsader of market data firm, Nanex,published amazing charts showing a precipitous plunge in the U.S. Dollar just after the equity markets had closed in New York. Hunsader wrote:

“On March 18, 2015 between 4:02 and 4:09 PM Eastern Daylight Time, the U.S. Dollar flash crashed, losing over 3% of its value in just under 4 minutes, then gaining most of it back over the next 3 minutes.”

If that isn’t a Flash Crash, I don’t know what is. (Both Wall Street On Parade and Hunsader know a thing or two about Flash Crashes.) But no mainstream business media reported the event as a Flash Crash or even alluded to the 4-minute bungee jump and retracement in any  explicit terms.

The Wall Street Journal reported the next morning that “For a few minutes on Wednesday, the lack of dollar buyers caused a short-term freeze in electronic trading platforms, according to a New York-based trader at a major currency-dealing bank. ‘There was a lot of shouting on the desk, a lot of nervousness,’ the trader said…”

This morning, the Wall Street Journal is using stronger language, calling it a “wild ride” in currencies on Wednesday and quoting a currency trader who said it “was like a zoo,” with traders “struggling to fill orders” and “screaming and yelling for the fill.” (The “fill” means to have their currency order “filled,” that is, the transaction completed.)

One business writer who did quickly capture the magnitude of the plunge was Barron’s Chris Dieterich, who reported at 4:26 P.M. on Wednesday that the dollar “was down a whopping 3.6% versus the euro in recent trading, according to FactSet.”

There is no question that there is an extremely crowded trade in bullish bets on the U.S. Dollar by hedge funds around the world. In just the past year, the U.S. Dollar has gained 29 percent against the Euro on talk from the Fed of a strengthening U.S. economy and plans for an interest rate hike. But what made this move unusual was that the plunge didn’t happen right after the Fed’s FOMC statement release at 2 P.M., alluding to the potential for a delayed hike in interest rates, or during Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference at 2:30 P.M. It happened at 4:04 P.M. Eastern time.

We went to the source for clarification: the CME and ICE exchanges which trade currency futures. A courteous spokesperson for CME told us the following via email: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2015 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Business, Technology

Your health data are not guarded very well

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And why not? Because the companies housing the data have no reason to spend money on it: if the data are stolen, the company suffers no real loss or penalty. Why spend money to guard data if losing it costs them nothing?

Read this ProPublica article by Charles Ornstein:

It’s hard to keep track of even the biggest health data breaches, given how frequently they seem to be happening. Just Tuesday, health insurer Premera Blue Cross disclosed that hackers broke into its system and may have accessed the financial and medical records of some 11 million people. The intrusion began last May but wasn’t discovered until January and wasn’t shared publicly until this week.

Among the information that may have been taken about the insurers’ members and applicants: names, dates of birth, email addresses, street addresses, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, member identification numbers, bank account information, and claims information, which may include sensitive medical details.

Premera’s announcement comes weeks after another health insurer, Anthem Inc., announced that it too had been hacked—and that the records of nearly 80 million people were exposed.

The task of investigating medical data breaches falls to the Office for Civil Rights, a small agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its staff of about 200 investigates thousands of complaints every year, large and small. Last month, ProPublica reported how, as the number of breaches has increased, the office infrequently uses its authority to fine organizations and health providers that fail to safeguard patient records.

The office’s director, Jocelyn Samuels, spoke on Monday to health privacy and security experts gathered in Washington, D.C., for the National HIPAA Summit, named for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This 1996 federal law protects the privacy and security of patient records. Her speech preceded Premera’s public disclosure.

After her talk, Samuels sat down with ProPublica to talk about the current state of health privacy. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. To start off with, the Anthem breach is still at the top of mind for so many people. Does this change the landscape in terms of health data breaches?

A. We won’t know until after we have investigated what the causes of the Anthem breach are or were, or whether there are concerns about HIPAA compliance. But I think that it illustrates both the increasing risks that exist in the cybersecurity space and the need for covered entities [health providers and others subject to HIPAA’s requirements] to continue to update and evaluate their risk analyses to ensure that their risk management plans adequately anticipate all of the kinds of threats they may face.

Q. I received a breach letter from Anthem [informing me that my data was accessed] and I heard from a lot of people who did. One of the things that they say is, ‘I don’t even know what to make of this. What of mine was taken? Will it be used against me?’ How do you advise them what to do?

A. We will be evaluating the kinds of information that was compromised and the source of the breach and the harm that accrued to the different individuals. Those are all question that I think will inform the work that we do in this space and we will have further answers as we learn more.

Q. Since HIPAA was passed in 1996, how would you say the state of play has changed with respect to patient privacy and the security of records? . . .

Continue reading.

The Ornstein article includes an interesting sidebar:

Over 1,100 Health Data Breaches, but Few Fines

Since October 2009, health care organizations and their business partners reported 1,163 large-scale data breaches, each affecting at least 500 people, to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Of those, seven breaches have resulted in fines. Explore the app.

And definitely click that link to explore the app. The number of breaches is astonishing, but since the companies don’t have to pay anything, they don’t really bother to protect the data.

Also, Andrea Peterson reports for the Washington Post:

Last year, the fallout from a string of breaches at major retailers like Targetand Home Depot had consumers on edge. But 2015 is shaping up to be the year consumers should be taking a closer look at who is guarding their health information.

Data about more than 120 million people has been compromised in more than 1,100 separate breaches at organizations handling protected health data since 2009, according to Department of Health and Human Services data reviewed by The Washington Post.

“That’s a third of the U.S. population — this really should be a wake-up call,” said Deborah Peel, the executive director of Patient Privacy Rights.

The data may double-count some individuals if they had their information compromised in more than incident, but it still reflects a staggering number of times Americans have been affected by breaches at organizations trusted with sensitive health information. And the data does not yet reflect the hack of Premera, which announced this week that hackers may have accessed information, including medical data, on up to 11 million people.

[Read: Premera Blue Cross says data breach could affect 11 million people]

Most breaches of data from health organizations are small and don’t involve hackers breaking into a company’s computer system. Some involve a stolen laptop or the inappropriate disposal of paper records, for example — and not all necessarily involve medical information. But hacking-related incidents disclosed this year have dramatically driven up the number of people exposed by breaches in this sector.

When Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, announced in February that hackers broke into a database containing the personal information of nearly 80 million records related to consumers, that one incident more than doubled the number of people affected by breaches in the health industry since the agency started publicly reporting on the issue in 2009.

“We are certainly seeing a rise in the number of individuals affected by hacking/IT incidents,” Rachel Seeger, a spokesperson for HHS’s Office for Civil Rights, said in a statement. “These incidents have the potential to affect very large numbers of health care consumers, as evidenced by the recent Anthem and Premera breaches.”

And some cybersecurity experts warn this may only be the beginning. “We’re probably going to see a lot more of these happening in the coming few months,” said Dave Kennedy, the chief executive of TrustedSEC.

Health organizations are targets because they maintain troves of data with significant resale value in black markets, Kennedy said, and their security practices are often less sophisticated than other industries. Now that some major players in the market have come forward as victims of cyberattacks other organizations are likely to take a close look at their own networks — potentially uncovering other compromises, he said.

“The information that companies like Anthem and Premera had is more valuable than just payment card information held by retailers or financial institutions,” said Scott Vernick, who heads up the data security and privacy practice at law firm Fox Rothschild. Credit card information has a relatively short shelf life, with new cards issued on a regular basis, he explained. But a health organizations often have complete profiles of people including Social Security numbers and medical health information that is much more difficult if not impossible to change.

[Related: Yes, we’re still using dumb passwords. But not nearly as much as before.]

Some of the data can be used to pursue traditional financial crimes — like setting up fraudulent lines of credit, Kennedy said. But it can also be used for medical insurance fraud, like purchasing medical equipment for resale or obtaining pricey medical care for another person.

This type of scheme is often . . .

Continue reading.

Congress could do something about this except that Congress can’t seem to do anything.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2015 at 4:06 pm

Why does Louis Freeh get any respect?

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Jeffrey Toobin writes in the New Yorker:

Louis Freeh enjoys an exalted public reputation, though there may be reason to wonder why. As the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the nineteen-nineties, he ingratiated himself with congressional Republicans by conducting numerous investigations of the Clinton White House, which produced more news leaks than criminal convictions. The Central Intelligence Agency absorbed a great deal of blame for the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11, but those attacks took place on American soil, which the F.B.I. is also supposed to protect. Freeh has deftly turned, in recent years, to a profitable new career leading internal investigations of troubled institutions.

Now Freeh’s most high profile post-F.B.I. assignment is coming under new scrutiny. In 2011 and 2012, Freeh led the internal investigation of Pennsylvania State University following the disclosure that Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at the school, had been a serial child molester. The story has largely disappeared from the national media, but it remains big news in Pennsylvania. This week, Graham Spanier, the president of the university who lost his job in the scandal, filed a lawsuit against Freeh for defaming him in his report. (Spanier’s hundred-and-forty-three-page complaint is available online. I interviewed Spanier about the Sandusky case in 2012.)

Sandusky is serving a much-deserved sentence of thirty to sixty years; he is seventy-one, and so will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. Joe Paterno, who had been Penn State’s head coach for more than forty years, was fired, and died soon afterward. Spanier, who had become president of the university in 1995 and was widely admired, resigned. Spanier took the fall for, according to Freeh, failing to follow up on reports of Sandusky’s abuse. Freeh wrote that Spanier acted in “consistent disregard … for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims.” He also wrote that Spanier “empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus,” and that Spanier “repeatedly concealed … Sandusky’s child abuse.” Spanier’s lawsuit claims that this is false. (Freeh’s spokeswoman told me that Freeh would have no comment on Spanier’s lawsuit against him.) Spanier and two other university administrators have also been criminally charged with perjury, obstruction of justice, and other charges, but that case is snarled in pretrial proceedings.

Freeh’s case against Spanier focuses on two incidents that he failed to respond appropriately to: one, in 1998, and another, in 2001. In the first, a woman called the university police to report that Sandusky had showered with her eleven-year-old son. The police, as well as local social-services agencies, investigated the woman’s claim and closed the investigation after advising Sandusky not to take any more showers with children. (Though Spanier was made aware of the investigation, it’s not clear what Spanier knew about the incident.) Sandusky quit his university job in 1999, leaving to work at his children’s charity, the Second Mile, though he was given coach emeritus status and access to athletic facilities.

In the second matter, from 2001, a graduate assistant named Mike McQueary witnessed an incident in the locker-room shower between Sandusky and a young boy; he later testified that he thought the boy was being raped. He reported it in some form to Joe Paterno, the head coach at Penn State. The precise nature of how McQueary described what he saw to Paterno, and how Paterno described it to others, has long been open to dispute, but witnesses testified that Spanier was never told directly that what McQueary witnessed had been a sexual assault. Spanier said that he understood it as “horsing around in the shower.” In any event, Spanier signed off on a plan for Sandusky to be told not to bring children to the main campus any longer, and to inform the head of the Second Mile about the situation. It is difficult to square Spanier’s behavior and Freeh’s broad condemnation.

The Sandusky story set off an understandable, and immediate, storm of outrage. Many news reports condemned the university, especially Paterno and Spanier, for purportedly enabling a molester to operate in their midst. Freeh used his report to reinforce that initial impression. As it turned out, Freeh’s denunciations of Spanier were a lot clearer than his actual evidence against him. Indeed, in the years since, the story of the university’s behavior has turned out to be considerably more complex than it originally seemed. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2015 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Law, Law Enforcement

What happens when a government collapses and cuts loose from reality

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We’re finding out now: Paul Krugman talks about the GOP-controlled Congress (both houses) and the GOP budget proposal:

By now it’s a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks:one on spending, one on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.

You might be tempted to shrug this off, since these budgets will not, in fact, become law. Or you might say that this is what all politicians do. But it isn’t. The modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics. And that’s telling us something important about what has happened to half of our political spectrum.

So, about those budgets: both claim drastic reductions in federal spending. Some of those spending reductions are specified: There would be savage cuts in food stamps, similarly savage cuts in Medicaid over and above reversing the recent expansion, and an end to Obamacare’s health insurance subsidies. Rough estimates suggest that either plan would roughly double the number of Americans without health insurance. But both also claim more than a trillion dollars in further cuts to mandatory spending, which would almost surely have to come out of Medicare or Social Security. What form would these further cuts take? We get no hint.

Meanwhile, both budgets call for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, including the taxes that pay for the insurance subsidies. That’s $1 trillion of revenue. Yet both claim to have no effect on tax receipts; somehow, the federal government is supposed to make up for the lost Obamacare revenue. How, exactly? We are, again, given no hint.

And there’s more: The budgets also claim large reductions in spending on other programs. How would these be achieved? You know the answer.

It’s very important to realize that this isn’t normal political behavior. The George W. Bush administration was no slouch when it came to deceptive presentation of tax plans, but it was never this blatant. And the Obama administration has been remarkably scrupulous in its fiscal pronouncements.

O.K., I can already hear the snickering, but it’s the simple truth. Remember all the ridicule heaped on the spending projections in the Affordable Care Act? Actual spending is coming in well below expectations, and the Congressional Budget Office has marked its forecast for the next decade down by 20 percent. Remember the jeering when President Obama declared that he would cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term? Well, a sluggish economy delayed things, but only by a year. The deficit in calendar 2013 was less than half its 2009 level, and it has continued to fall.

So, no, outrageous fiscal mendacity is neither historically normal nor bipartisan. It’s a modern Republican thing. And the question we should ask is why.

One answer you sometimes hear is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2015 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

It’s a long road that has no turning: Sheriff Arpaio turns out to be a coward as well as a bully

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A very interesting story about the Maricopa County AZ (Phoenix) Sheriff.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2015 at 1:31 pm

A bank analyst points out a problem with a peaceful Middle East: Weapon sales will suffer

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Banks have narrow-gauge worries: no “big picture” for them. Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:

Could a deal to normalize Western relations with Iran and set limits on Iran’s development of nuclear technology lead to a more peaceful and less-weaponized Middle East?

That’s what supporters of the Iran negotiations certainly hope to achieve. But the prospect of stability has at least one financial analyst concerned about its impact on one of the world’s biggest defense contractors.

The possibility of an Iran nuclear deal depressing weapons sales was raised by Myles Walton, an analyst from Germany’s Deutsche Bank, during a Lockheed earnings call this past January 27th. Walton asked Marillyn Hewson, the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, if an Iran agreement could “impede what you see as progress in foreign military sales.” Financial industry analysts such as Walton use earnings calls as an opportunity to ask publicly-traded corporations like Lockheed about issues that might harm profitability.

Hewson replied that “that really isn’t coming up,” but stressed that “volatility all around the region” should continue to bring in new business. According to Hewson, “A lot of volatility, a lot of instability, a lot of things that are happening” in both the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region means both are “growth areas” for Lockheed Martin.

The Deutsche Bank-Lockheed exchange “underscores a longstanding truism of the weapons trade: war — or the threat of war — is good for the arms business,” says William Hartung, director of the Arms & Security Project at the Center for International Policy. Hartung observed that Hewson described the normalization of relations with Iran not as a positive development for the future, but as an “impediment.” “And Hewson’s response,” Hartung adds, “which in essence is ‘don’t worry, there’s plenty of instability to go around,’ shows the perverse incentive structure that is at the heart of the international arms market.”

Listen to the exchange here: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2015 at 11:49 am

Equal justice under the law: Not by the Obama Administration, that’s for sure

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Peter Maass points out a glaring discrepancy in sentencing for the same offense, thanks to Obama’s DoJ:

Lawyers for Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA official convicted earlier this year of leaking classified information to a New York Times reporter, have requested a reconsideration of his conviction because two former generals, David Petraeus and James Cartwright, have received far more lenient treatment for what they call similar offenses.

“The principal difference between Mr. Sterling and Generals Petraeus and Cartwright are their respective races and rank,” the new filing states. “Like General Cartwright, General Petraeus is a white, high ranking official … The government must explain why the justice meted out to white generals is so different from what Mr. Sterling faced.”

In January, Sterling was convicted by a jury on nine criminal counts, including violations of the Espionage Act, for leaking classified information to Times reporter James Risen about a CIA effort to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. Sterling is to be sentenced in April and faces a maximum sentence of decades in jail. In a statement after the verdict was announced, Attorney General Eric Holder called the guilty verdict a “just and appropriate outcome.”

But the government is coming under increasing criticism for its uneven prosecution of leakers.

Earlier this month, Petraeus, who led U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and was the director of the CIA, reached an agreement with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information when he gave his lover and authorized biographer, Paula Broadwell, eight notebooks filled with highly-classified information about military plans and secret programs, covert agent names, and confidential discussions he had with senior officials including President Obama. Petraeus, who resigned from the CIA when his affair with Broadwell was revealed, also admitted to lying to the FBI, but he was not charged for that. The plea agreement calls for two years probation and a $40,000 fine but no jail time.

No charges have been filed against Cartwright even though it has beenreported that federal prosecutors believe he leaked highly classified information to Times reporter David Sanger about a joint effort by the U.S. and Israel to cripple Iran’s nuclear centrifuges through a cyber-attack with a computer worm called Stuxnet. According to The Washington Post, the FBI has interviewed Cartwright on at least two occasions but has stopped short of indicting him.

“The charges faced by General Cartwright could not be more similar to what Mr. Sterling faced,” stated the five-page motion filed yesterday by Sterling’s lawyers, Edward MacMahon Jr. and Barry Pollack. “The only difference between the two cases—aside from the minor detail that the Stuxnet story was published by a different New York Times writer than Mr. Risen—is that General Cartwright is a white high-ranking official and Jeffrey Sterling is an African American man who became an outcast at the CIA following his publically-filed employment discrimination claim.” The motion described the case against Sterling as an instance of “selective prosecution.”

These cases are part of the Obama administration’s controversial crackdown on leakers and whistleblowers. The Department of Justice has used the draconian Espionage Act to charge more officials for leaking to journalists than all previous administrations combined. These prosecutions have targeted journalists as well as their government sources, with the FBI secretly obtaining phone records and emails of reporters from the Times, the Associated Press and Fox News. News organizations have accused the Obama Administration of violating First Amendment protections for a free press. . .

Continue reading.

Obama, a continuing disappointment.

I earlier blogged a similar contrast in sentencing between Gen. Petraeus’s lenient treatment and the 13-month prison sentence meted out to Stephen Kim—again, an offender who is not white and not powerful. Obama’s DoJ is more a DoI.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2015 at 11:44 am

New Muck Reads

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These are on-line at ProPublica:

Consumer groups say Anthem’s identity protection plan leaves nearly 80 million victims vulnerable (Orange County Register)

“When cyber criminals hacked into Anthem Inc. last December and stole the personal data of 78.8 million Americans, including 13.5 million Californians, the giant healthcare insurer notified victims it would ‘protect your identity for two years at no cost to you.’ What Anthem neglected to tell them is that the credit monitoring it offers is far from sufficient to counter the theft of Social Security numbers and medical IDs.”

California security firms stay in business after licenses are revoked (Reveal News)

“When Flores got his license to run Management Security Service Inc. in Compton, California, in 2001, he refined his law enforcement look. Wearing a police-like uniform, a badge and a gun, he began delivering eviction notices for property managers at low-income apartment complexes, according to court records… Management Security is among dozens of California security companies that continued operating after regulators discovered abuses of power or evidence of mismanagement or fraud, according to a Reveal analysis of disciplinary orders issued since 2000.”

Bonus Read: More questionable Wikipedia editing, this time from the San Diego PD (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Continue reading. More at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2015 at 11:33 am

Busy morning, but perfect shave with Frankenrazor: Wolfman Tech

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20 Mar 2015

What a great shave. The Oatmeal Stout by Shaver Heaven is another great shaving soap—these soaps are seriously good, and I’m going to get more, I can tell. Australians, you are lucky: Otoko Organics, Occam’s, and now Shaver Heaven. Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements carries them here. The fragrances PAA has in stock:

  • Vertiver and Neroli
  • Forbidden Forest
  • Hubba Hubba
  • Black Amber Lavender
  • Oatmeal Stout
  • Mayan Musk
  • Plum tea
  • Honey Ale
  • Ginger Snap
  • Spiced Mahogany
  • Cinnamon Rum

Fragrance descriptions here.

The Wet Shaving Products brush produced a really excellent lather immediately, and then I set to work with my Frankenrazor: a Gillette Tech head holding a Feather blade and riding on a Wolfman Razors handle.

Works like charm: feels good, shaves good, looks good. BBS in three comfortable passes.

A splash of Fine’s l’Orange Noir aftershave, and the day looks good.

UPDATE: Shave Heaven soaps also available at Shave Revolution and Italian Barber, but IB is out of stock with most of those I wanted—but still had Chocolate Delight.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2015 at 10:19 am

Posted in Shaving

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