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Archive for August 7th, 2015

What they try to hide: Jeb! Bush edition

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Digby writes:

Emptywheel posted an interesting little story about all the debate transcripts being clipped to leave out this exchange:

Kelly: Governor Bush, let’s start with you. Many Republicans have been outraged recently by a series of videos on Planned Parenthood. You now say that you support ending federal funding for this organization. However, until late 2014, right before you started your campaign, you sat on the board of a Bloomberg charity that quite publicly gave tens of millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood, while you were a Director. How could you not know about these well-publicized donations [a few boos] and if you did know, how could you help a charity so openly committed to abortion rights?

Bush: I joined the Bloomberg foundation because of Mike Bloomberg’s shared commitment for meaningful education reform. That’s why I was on it. We never had a debate about the budget. It was presented and we approved it. Not item by item. Here’s my record. As governor of the state of Florida, I defunded Planned Parenthood. [applause] I created a culture of life in our state. We were the only state to appropriate money for crisis pregnancy centers. We expanded dramatically the number of adoptions out of our foster care system. We created — we did parental notification laws. We ended partial birth abortion. We did all of this. And we were the first state to do a “choose life” license plate. Now 29 states have done it and tens of millions of dollars have gone to create a culture where more people, more babies are adopted.

Kelly: But did you know?

Bush: [pause] No. I didn’t know. But it doesn’t matter. I was working on this board because of the education. My record is clear. My record as a pro-life governor is not in dispute. I am completely pro-life and I believe that we should have a culture of life, it’s informed by my faith from beginning to end. [big applause] And I did this not just as it related to unborn babies, I did it at the end-of-life issues as well. This is something that goes way beyond politics. And I hope one day that we get to the point where we respect life, in its fullest form, across the board. [applause]

I know I heard this because I tweeted about the oblique reference to Schiavo in his “end-of-life comment.

This is bizarre. They have excised this entire passage. Why? Are they that worried that Bush is going to flame out prematurely?

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2015 at 5:26 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Why the Iran Deal’s Critics Will Probably Lose

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James Fallows has an excellent column, specific and detailed, on why the Iran deal will pass. And he includes an analysis of Netanyahu’s speech and position, which, to be honest, are idiotic. Netanyahu used the term “no brainer,” and indeed his proposal seems to have been created without giving it any thought whatsoever: a true no-brainer.

Well worth reading.

And read as well Fallows’s account of Obama’s explanation of why we should sign the Iran deal.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2015 at 3:09 pm

Alabama officer kept job after proposal to murder black man and hide evidence

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This one is worth reading: a cop offers to kill someone, and after that is known, he continues to be a member of the force—presumably because this sort of thing is more or less normal for Alabama cops. Jon Swaine reports in The Guardian:

A police officer in Alabama proposed murdering a black resident and creating bogus evidence to suggest the killing was in self-defence, the Guardian has learned.

Officer Troy Middlebrooks kept his job and continues to patrol Alexander City after authorities there paid the man $35,000 to avoid being publicly sued over the incident. Middlebrooks, a veteran of the US marines, said the man “needs a god damn bullet” and allegedly referred to him as “that nigger”, after becoming frustrated that the man was not punished more harshly over a prior run-in.

The payment was made to the black resident, Vincent Bias, after a secret recording of Middlebrooks’s remarks was played to the city’s police chiefs and the mayor. Elected city councillors said they were not consulted. A copy of the recording was obtained by the Guardian.

“This town is ridiculous,” Bias, 49, said in an interview. “The police here feel they can do what they want, and often they do.” Alexander City police chief Willie Robinson defended Middlebrooks. “He was just talking. He didn’t really mean that,” he said in an interview.

Within months of the recording, Middlebrooks was the first officer to respond to a controversial fatal shooting by a colleague of an unarmed black man in the city. He was closely involved in handling the scene and gave a key account of what happened to state investigators. His fellow officer was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing and both men continue to police the city of about 15,000 people about 55 miles north-east of Montgomery.

Middlebrooks, 33, made the threatening comments to Bias’s brother-in-law during a May 2013 encounter at his home, which Bias was visiting. Police came to the home after they discovered an unleashed dog.

A lawsuit from Bias that the city paid to settle before it reached court stated that while Bias remained inside the house and out of earshot, the officer remarked to Bias’s brother-in-law, who is white, that he was tired of “that nigger” being released from jail.

Middlebrooks had arrested Bias on drug charges earlier in the year and Bias had been released on bail after paying a bond, according to Bias and his attorneys.

Middlebrooks expressed his frustration. “Something’s going on with that fucking lawyer he knows, and that fucking … the judge or something,” he was recorded saying.

Middlebrooks allegedly said “the police were going to pull [Bias] aside on a routine traffic stop and [Bias] would get killed”. According to the lawsuit, which has since been filed to court in a separate ongoing case against the city, this prompted the brother-in-law to retrieve a voice recorder that Bias had been carrying around with him in an attempt to monitor alleged harassment by police, and then return to the conversation with the officer.

On the recording, Middlebrooks is heard suggesting Bias had been behaving threateningly towards his relatives. The officer said if he were in the same position, he would “fucking kill that motherfucker with whatever I had in that fucking house”.

“And before the police got here, I’d fucking put marks all over my shit and make it look like he was trying to fucking kill me. I god damn guarantee you,” Middlebrooks said. “What would it look like? Self fucking defence. Fuck that piece of shit. I’m a lot different from a lot of these other folks. I’ll fucking tell you what’s on my fucking mind.”

Middlebrooks also mocked the brother-in-law for allowing Bias to get the better of him. “That motherfucker right there needs a god damn bullet,” he said. “And you fucking know exactly what I’m talking about. The way he fucking talks to you? Like you’re a fucking child? Like he’s your … Are you his bitch or something? He talks to you like that.”

Robinson declined to make Middlebrooks available for an interview. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Audio at the link.


Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2015 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Psychologist helps government spy agency manipulate people on-line

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Andrew Fishman reports in The Intercept:

A British psychologist is receiving sharp criticism from some professional peers for providing expert advice to help the U.K. surveillance agency GCHQ manipulate people online.

The debate brings into focus the question of how or whether psychologists should offer their expertise to spy agencies engaged in deception and propaganda.

Dr. Mandeep K. Dhami, in a 2011 paper, provided the controversial GCHQ spy unit JTRIG with advice, research pointers, training recommendations, and thoughts on psychological issues, with the goal of improving the unit’s performance and effectiveness. JTRIG’s operations have been referred to as “dirty tricks,” and Dhami’s paper notes that the unit’s own staff characterize their work using “terms such as ‘discredit,’ promote ‘distrust,’ ‘dissuade,’ ‘deceive,’ ‘disrupt,’ ‘delay,’ ‘deny,’ ‘denigrate/degrade,’ and ‘deter.’” The unit’s targets go beyond terrorists and foreign militaries and include groups considered “domestic extremist[s],” criminals, online “hacktivists,” and even “entire countries.”

After publishing Dhami’s paper for the first time in June, The Intercept reached out to several of her fellow psychologists, including some whose work was referenced in the paper, about the document’s ethical implications.

One of the psychologists cited in the report criticized the paper and GCHQ’s ethics. Another psychologist condemned Dhami’s recommendations as “grossly unethical” and another called them an “egregious violation” of psychological ethics. But two other psychologists cited in the report did not express concern when contacted for reaction, and another psychologist, along with Dhami’s current employer, defended her work and her ethical standards.

A British law firm hired to represent Dhami maintained that any allegations of unethical conduct are “grossly defamatory and totally untrue.”

The divergent views on the paper highlight how the profession of psychology has yet to resolve key ethical concerns around consulting for government intelligence agencies. These issues take on added resonance in the context of the uproar currently roiling the American Psychological Association over the key role it played in the CIA torture program during the Bush administration. The APA’s Council of Representatives votedFriday to bar psychologists from taking part in national security interrogations or to advise on confinement conditions. . .

Continue reading.

There’s quite a bit more: it’s a lengthy article.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2015 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Government, NSA

The present situation of the Republican party

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Paul Krugman has an excellent column today, with a sound analysis of what the GOP has become. From the column:

. . . The point is that while media puff pieces have portrayed Mr. Trump’s rivals as serious men — Jeb the moderate, Rand the original thinker, Marco the face of a new generation — their supposed seriousness is all surface. Judge them by positions as opposed to image, and what you have is a lineup of cranks. And as I said, this is no accident.

It has long been obvious that the conventions of political reporting and political commentary make it almost impossible to say the obvious — namely, that one of our two major parties has gone off the deep end. Or as the political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein put it in their book “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,” the G.O.P. has become an “insurgent outlier … unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science.” It’s a party that has no room for rational positions on many major issues.

Or to put it another way, modern Republican politicians can’t be serious — not if they want to win primaries and have any future within the party. Crank economics, crank science, crank foreign policy are all necessary parts of a candidate’s resume.

Until now, however, leading Republicans have generally tried to preserve a facade of respectability, helping the news media to maintain the pretense that it was dealing with a normal political party. What distinguishes Mr. Trump is not so much his positions as it is his lack of interest in maintaining appearances. And it turns out that the party’s base, which demands extremist positions, also prefers those positions delivered straight. Why is anyone surprised?

Remember how Mr. Trump was supposed to implode after his attack on John McCain? Mr. McCain epitomizes the strategy of sounding moderate while taking extreme positions, and is much loved by the press corps, which puts him on TV all the time. But Republican voters, it turns out, couldn’t care less about him.

Can Mr. Trump actually win the nomination? I have no idea. But even if he is eventually pushed aside, pay no attention to all the analyses you will read declaring a return to normal politics. That’s not going to happen; normal politics left the G.O.P. a long time ago. At most, we’ll see a return to normal hypocrisy, the kind that cloaks radical policies and contempt for evidence in conventional-sounding rhetoric. And that won’t be an improvement.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2015 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Aspects of the US criminal justice system

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Radley Balko’s morning links:


  • Lawsuit alleges that cops are handcuffing 8-year-olds for things like “not following directions” — in other words, acting like 8-year-olds.
  • New book tackles the lack of scientific intelligence in the criminal justice system.
  • Alabama police officer remains on the force even after he was caught in a recording allegedly proposing to murder a black man and cover up the evidence.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2015 at 12:15 pm

All the “job-killing” things Obama did resulted in a recovery better than Bush’s

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The chart above is from this column by Paul Krugman. We have been repeatedly told by the GOP has Obamacare kills jobs, etc., but apparently it has not harmed the recovery. More info at the link. And do read the comments.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2015 at 11:20 am

The monumental Hoover Dam

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The use of the Platonic year was particularly interesting. Elmo Keep reports in Motherboard:

Building the Hoover Dam rerouted the most powerful river in North America. It claimed the lives of 96 workers, and the beloved site dog, Little Niggy, who is entombed by the walkway in the shade of the canyon wall. Diverting the Colorado destroyed the ecology of the region, threatening fragile native plant life and driving several species of fish nearly to extinction. The dam brought water to 8 million people and created more than 5000 jobs. It required 6.6 million metric tons of concrete, all made from the desert; enough, famously, to pave a two lane road coast to coast across the US. Inside the dam’s walls that concrete is still curing, and will be for another 60 years.

Erik, photojournalist, and I have come here to try and get the measure of this place. Nevada is the uncanny locus of disparate monuments all concerned with charting deep time, leaving messages for future generations of human beings to puzzle over the meaning of: a star map, a nuclear waste repository and a clock able to keep time for 10,000 years—all of them within a few hours drive of Las Vegas through the harsh desert.

Hoover Dam is theorized in some structural stress projections to stand for tens of thousands of years from now, and what could be its eventual undoing is mussels. The mollusks which grow in the dam’s grates will no longer be scraped away, and will multiply eventually to such density that the built up stress of the river will burst the dam’s wall. That is if the Colorado continues to flow. Otherwise erosion will take much longer to claim the structure, and possibly Oskar J.W. Hansen’s vision will be realized: future humans will find the dam 14,000 years from now, at the end of the current Platonic Year.

A Platonic Year lasts for roughly 26,000 years. It’s also known as the precession of the equinoxes, first written into the historical record in the second century BC by the Greek mathematician, Hipparchus, though there is evidence that earlier people also solved this complex equation. Earth rotates in three ways: 365 days around the sun, on its 24 hours axis and on its precessional axis. The duration of the last is the Platonic Year, where Earth is incrementally turning on a tilt pointing to its true north as the Sun’s gravity pulls on us, leaving our planet spinning like a very slow top along its orbit around the sun.

Now Earth’s true-north pole star is Polaris, in Ursula Minor, as it was at the completion of Hoover Dam. At the end of the current Platonic Year it will be Vega, in the constellation Lyra. Hansen included this information in an amazingly accurate astronomical clock, or celestial map, embedded in the terrazzo floor of the dam’s dedication monument. Hansen wanted any future humans who came across the dam to be able to know exactly when it was built.

He used the clock to mark major historical events of the last several thousand years including the birth of Christ and the building of the pyramids, events which he thought were equal to the engineering feat of men bringing water to a desert in the 1930s. He reasoned that though current languages could be dead in this future, any people who had survived that long would have advanced astronomy, math and physics in their arsenal of survival tactics. Despite this, the monument is written entirely in English, which is for the benefit of current visitors, not our descendents of millennia from now.

The Hoover Dam is staggering. It is frankly impossible, even standing right on top of it, squinting in the blinding sunlight down its vertiginous drop, to imagine how it was ever built by human beings; even as I watch old documentary footage on my laptop back in the hotel at night on Fremont Street, showing me that exact thing, I don’t believe it. I cannot square it in my mind. . .

Continue reading.

It’s a good article, and lengthy.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2015 at 11:18 am

Posted in Daily life

Going Bankrupt Like Trump Did Is for High Rollers, Not Homeowners

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Banks—and therefore their hirelings in Congress—do not want homeowners declaring bankruptcy, so they simply made it illegal. David Dayen reports in The Intercept:

Donald Trump took advantage of the nation’s bankruptcy laws four times in the last 24 years, and if ordinary Americans in this country were allowed to do the same, the country would be in markedly better shape economically, with a far stronger post-recession recovery.

Asked during Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate whether his four corporate bankruptcies were a black mark on his economic stewardship, Trump sounded a bit defensive. “I have never gone bankrupt,” he said, making a distinction between a personal and a corporate bankruptcy, and anyway it was only four times among “thousands” of deals.

But he said flatly: “I have used the laws of this country just like the greatest people that you read about every day in business have used the laws of this country, the chapter laws, to do a great job for my company, for myself, for my employees, for my family, et cetera.”

Trump is absolutely correct. Every lending contract in America has the potential for bankruptcy lurking in the background. Lenders – who as Trump said “aren’t babies” but “total killers” — are sophisticated enough to know about this option when they lend people money. In fact, they not only assume the risk of bankruptcy, but price it into the deal when they lend Donald Trump or anyone else money.

Morals do not enter into the equation. No lender thinks less of Donald Trump for the using the bankruptcy process. They simply take their losses and move on.

In fact, only one group gets hit with this stigma. Only one group of people in America are denied this fully legal, fully rational, fully American opportunity to wipe the slate clean, and decried as deadbeats for even thinking about it: The homeowner of a primary residence, who by law cannot get mortgage debt discharged in bankruptcy.

During the foreclosure crisis, banks and their allies savaged homeowners who “walked away” from mortgage debt. They equated defaulting on payments with failing the duties of citizenship. They warned of “strategic defaults” by conniving homeowners who would deliberately stiff lenders to get a loan modification.

In reality, the highest-profile strategic default of the foreclosure crisis came from the leaders of the Mortgage Bankers Association, a trade group for the lending industry, who walked away from their 10-story headquarters in Washington. Just a few months earlier, their spokesman argued that borrowers had to keep paying: “What about the message they will send to their family and their kids and their friends” if they defaulted, the spokesman asked. Indeed.

The Tea Party, the very movement whose energy Trump has tapped into so successfully, was founded on the principle of not having to “subsidize the loser’s mortgages.”

Businesspeople defaulting on each other never raised this kind of ire: only if ordinary people wanted to allocate losses in the greatest crisis since the Depression onto the banks who caused it did the rage emerge.

When Congress made an effort to change the bankruptcy laws, these same banks howled in protest. Members of the Obama administration, despite expressing support for the idea of allowing judges to modify primary mortgages during the 2008 campaign, decided to sit on their hands and let Senators drowning in bank cash kill the idea, leading Senator Dick Durbin to pronounce about Congress that the banks “frankly own the place.”

In fact, everyone would have benefited from relieving primary mortgage debt, the absence of which led to at least six million foreclosures. Economists Amir Sufi and Atif Mian have shown how the post-recession recovery was markedly slower because of thefailure to discharge debt, which depressed consumer spending. This huge policy mistake created an unnecessary drag on the economy and made miserable the lives of millions, all so banks didn’t have to bear some of the pain of the post-housing bubble fallout.

Millions of lives were ruined by that asymmetry. .  .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2015 at 11:13 am

Glasses That Confuse Facial Recognition Systems Are Coming to Japan

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The dystopian future of ubiquitous government surveillance of everyone (the premise of the series “Person of Interest,” viewable via Amazon streaming) is just around the corner, and of course countermeasures are being developed. Emiko Jozuka reports in Motherboard:

We might soon be living in a world where advertisers exploit facial recognition technology to target us with customized ads in streets. Or, according to the researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics (NII), where our photographs are snapped by surveillance or smartphone cameras equipped with facial recognition, and leaked onto public social networks for all to see.

But a new “privacy visor” created by NII researchers could help wearers protect their anonymity by blocking out any pesky facial recognition systems. The glasses will hit shelves in Japan in 2016, and are expected to cost around ¥30,000 ($240).

The tech behind the visor is pretty simple. It’s nothing like the previous version made by the same researchers, which consisted of 11 near-infrared flashing LEDs that blinded surveillance tech. . .

Continue reading.

Of course, popularity of the countermeasure will be important: if you’re the only person wearing them, you’ve pretty much identified yourself as a person of interest. But if 50% of more of those under observation are wearing them, then it would work: if everyone’s of interest, then no one’s of interest. (Apologies to W.S. Gilbert: in The Gondoliers, “When everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody.”)

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in Government, Technology

Gillette Tech delivers great shave—and a note on Stirling soaps

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SOTD 7 Aug 2015

In the foreground is another flat-bottom Tech I got recently, along with the handle of the same model I got earlier. Note the size difference between the handles: the handle without the head is noticeably smaller in diameter and doesn’t feel so good in the hand as the fatter handle on the razor, which is one reason I used a different handle when I shaved with the razor received earlier. The regular fat handle—the one holding the head in the photo—feels much better, and that’s the handle I used.

The Stirling brush performs extremely well, and for me the only drawback is that its size is larger than I prefer—but for those who like a big brush, this one is a bargain. I used Stirling Bonaparte soap, whose scent I like and whose lather I now love.

When I first started using Stirling soaps, I had lather problems, and it turns out they were due to my lather-making technique. It’s a very thirsty soap, and it requires a lot of water mixed in, but with the method of loading I was using—a dripping wet brush working briskly at the puck, held on its side over the sink—a lot of water was happening but not enough was worked into the lather.

Now I use a damp brush, add some water as I load, and this morning, with such a large brush, I did some palm lathering, mixing more water into the brush and lather. Even then, I twice added driblets of water to the brush and worked it in as I lathered my face prior to the first pass.

The result was an extremely good lather, a result I have consistently had with Stirling soaps once I learned the trick. I really rate his soaps quite highly (I’ve just ordered a couple more), and I need to move them up in my standard soap recommendations.

With a Rapira blade I got a full BBS result in three passes with absolutely no problem. The Tech is one of those extremely efficient and yet extremely comfortable razors, once you’ve found the right brand of blade. An altogether satisfying shave.

Once again I use Trade Winds aftershave from the sample Chiseled Face scent. The Wife also likes that fragrance.

And here we are, in the vestibule of the weekend.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2015 at 9:45 am

Posted in Shaving

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