Later On

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Archive for June 2016

CIA knew it had the wrong man, but kept him anyway

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Matthew Schofield reports for McClatchy about the incident:

By January of 2004, when German citizen Khaleed al Masri arrived at the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret prison in Afghanistan, agency officials were pretty sure he wasn’t a terrorist. They also knew he didn’t know any terrorists, or much about anything in the world of international terror.

In short, they suspected they’d nabbed the wrong man.

Still, the agency continued to imprison and interrogate him, according to a recently released internal CIA report on Masri’s arrest. The report claims that Masri suffered no physical abuse during his wrongful imprisonment, though it acknowledges that for months he was kept in a “small cell with some clothing, bedding and a bucket for his waste.” Masri says he was tortured, specifically that a medical examination against his will constituted sodomy.

The embarrassing, and horrifying, case of Masri is hardly new. It has been known for a decade as a colossal example of CIA error in the agency’s pursuit of terrorists during the administration of President George W. Bush.

But the recently released internal report makes it clear that the CIA’s failures in the Masri case were even more outrageous than previous accounts have suggested.

The report is heavily redacted – whole pages are blank – and the names of those involved have been removed. But enough is there to give a good understanding of what happened and what went wrong.

Adding to the sense of injustice: Even though the agency realized early on that Masri was the wrong man, it couldn’t figure out how to release him without having to acknowledge its mistake. [And, apparently, acknowledging that it made a mistake is one of the many things the agency cannot do. – LG] The agency eventually dumped him unceremoniously in Albania and essentially pretended his arrest and detention had never happened.

The release of the report, which is 90 pages long and was written in July 2007, came in June after a Freedom of Information Act suit by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Masri in his decade-long attempt to get an official apology from the United States.

Officials most responsible were promoted

Assembled by the CIA’s inspector general, the report provides the clearest official view to date into the dark, murky world of the Bush administration’s anti-terror rendition program. Beyond snatching an innocent man and holding him for five months, the report highlights a shocking lack of professionalism at America’s top spy agency. The Hollywood cliché of deeply devoted patriots doing their best to protect the United States appears, in this case, to have been replaced by a classic bureaucratic mess and individuals most intent on protecting their own careers.

The report notes that Masri was “questioned in English, which he spoke only poorly.”

None of the Americans involved in Masri’s detention has been held to account, notes Masri’s attorney, Jamil Dakwar, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program. Indeed, the two men most responsible for the errors were promoted [so they could continue to fuck things up. – LG]. Meanwhile, Dakwar said, Masri is haunted to this day by the psychological torture inflicted by his detention in the CIA’s secret Afghan holding center and by the stigma of having been snatched in a CIA anti-terror investigation.

The tale has important lessons for the country, where one of the two leading presidential candidates, Donald Trump, has promised to reinstate the use of torture against terrorism suspects and the Obama administration has declined to punish anyone for the excesses of the Bush-era rendition program.

“When you start a program shrouded in secrecy that pushes the line on human rights, nobody should be surprised that we see this result,” Dakwar said. He added that the presidential authority given for the program under which Masri was nabbed required the CIA “to satisfy a very low bar of proof. In this case, they admit they knew at the time that they didn’t reach even that bar.”

Detention due to ‘a series of breakdowns’

In the case of Masri, the inspector general’s report is sweeping in its condemnation of the failures that took place throughout the agency’s hierarchy, blaming the mishandling of his arrest and detention on “a series of breakdowns in tradecraft, process, management and oversight.”

The report lists the failures: “The lack of rigor in justifying action against an individual suspected of terrorist connections; the lack of understanding of the legal requirements of detention and rendition; the lack of guidance provided to officers making critical operations decisions with significant international implications; and the lack of management oversight.”

It offered a particularly harsh judgment of Alec Station, the CIA unit charged with tracking down Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States.

“ALEC Station exaggerated the nature of the data it possessed linking al Masri to terrorism. After the decision had been made to repatriate al Masri, implementation was marked by delay and bureaucratic infighting,” the report says.

The report notes that all agency attorneys interviewed agreed that Masri did not meet the legal standard for rendition and detention, which required that a suspect be deemed a threat. In Masri’s case, it was thought only that he “knows key information that could assist in the capture of other al Qaida operatives.”

Despite the fact that the CIA was unable to find any evidence tying Masri to an al Qaida operative in Sudan, which had been the initial suspicion, two agents “justified their commitment to his continued detention, despite the diminishing rationale, by insisting that they knew he was ‘bad.’ ” . . .

Continue reading.

It seems hard to have much respect for the CIA, particularly their ethics and morality, but also their competency.

Not to worry, though: the Obama Administration has been successful in denying Khaleed al Masri legal recourse (“state secrets” gets his case thrown out of court) and of course offers no apology for compensation. We’re the U.S.A. and we can do what we want!

This country has lost its way.

Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2016 at 5:54 pm

Prosecutors who love the death penalty (for others)

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Jordan Smith reports in The Intercept:

“Cowboy” Bob Macy was a legendary — and infamous — prosecutor in Oklahoma City. Elected the top law enforcer in his county five times, Macy, who died in 2011, was known for his wide-brimmed cowboy hat, his classic western bowtie, and carrying his gun in court. He was also known for his passionate advocacy in support of the death penalty. During his 21 years in office, Macy was personally responsible for sending 54 individuals to death row, an accomplishment that earned him the dubious distinction of deadliest prosecutor in America.

Also part of Macy’s legacy was the high rate of misconduct allegations levied against him — misconduct was alleged in 94 percent of the death cases he prosecuted and substantiated in one-third of them. Courts overturned nearly half of the death convictions Macy obtained; three of those defendants were ultimately exonerated.

The numbers paint a grim portrait of a prosecutor who once told members of a jury it was their “patriotic duty” to sentence a defendant to death. But Macy isn’t alone. He belongs to a small club of five so-called deadliest prosecutors identified in a new report released today by Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project. Together, the five prosecutors, only one of whom is still in office, secured 440 capital convictions — the equivalent of 15 percent of the nation’s current death row population.

In July 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gregg v. Georgia reauthorized the use of capital punishment, ushering in the modern death penalty era. The Gregg ruling offered a promise that the death penalty’s previously arbitrary and capricious nature, which contributed to the court’s 1972 decision in Furman v. Georgia to issue a moratorium on its use, could be reined in.

Forty years after Gregg, the FPP report demonstrates that the death penalty is largely driven by a small number of overzealous, often ethically tainted prosecutors in just a handful of jurisdictions across the United States — suggesting the ruling has failed to deliver on its promise.

Furman got rid of the death penalty because of the disparities [in its application], and one of the ostensible reasons for allowing reinstatement in 1976 was that states would make its use more routinized, or at least more objective,” Daniel Medwed, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law who studies the role prosecutors play in securing wrongful convictions, told The Intercept. “And what this report says is that the promise of Gregg is unfulfilled; that it was a failure.”

In addition to Macy, the FPP report examines two prosecutors who each personally secured more than 35 capital convictions, and two more whose offices secured a combined 309 death sentences under their leadership. All five had allegations of significant prosecutorial misconduct leveled against them in connection to these cases.

In Robeson County, North Carolina, Joe Britt obtained 38 death sentences from 1974 to 1988. Courts later determined that Britt had engaged in misconduct in 14 of those cases, and two defendants were eventually exonerated.

Donald Myers, the top prosecutor in Lexington, South Carolina, is the only sitting prosecutor among the five profiled in the report. Myers has won 39 capital convictions since he began serving in 1977; misconduct was uncovered in nearly half of those cases.

In the 19 years that Lynn Abraham, also known as “Queen Death,” oversaw the Philadelphia County district attorney’s office, prosecutors secured a staggering 108 death sentences — second only to the 201 obtained in Houston, Texas, under the 21-year leadership of Johnny Holmes. Harris County, where Houston is located, has long been the single largest supplier of inmates to Texas’s death row.

Taken together, the report states, the prosecutors’ records “demonstrate that the death penalty has been, and continues to be, a personality-driven system with very few safeguards against misconduct and frequent abuse of power, a fact that seriously undermines its legitimacy.” . . .

Continue reading.

And see also the Guardian article by Ed Pilkington, “America’s deadliest prosecutors: five lawyers, 440 death sentences.”

Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2016 at 12:46 pm

Where Are The Drone Casualty Figures the White House Promised Months Ago?

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Alex Emmons reports in The Intercept:

Despite months of repeated promises, the White House has yet to release its estimate of civilian casualties from the administration’s drone program – a delayed disclosure the New York Times Editorial Board described as “too little, too late.”

In March, Lisa Monaco, President Barack Obama chief counterterrorism adviser, announced that the White House would “in the coming weeks” release an “assessment of combatant and non-combatant casualties” from U.S. drone strikes since 2009. Monaco doubled down on the commitment in a second speech a few weeks later.

The figures are likely to show aggregate numbers of people killed by country in nations not recognized as battlefields – like Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya – according to the Washington Post. Death tolls in Iraq and Afghanistan will not be included.

The President is also expected to sign an executive order requiring the release of annual casualty figures going forward.

The list of civilian casualties figures could be as low as 100 people – nearly one tenth of what reports on the ground estimate, according to The Daily Beast.

Documents released by The Intercept last year provide one possible explanation for the discrepancy. The military posthumously labels its unknown drone victims as “Enemies Killed In Action,” unless there is evidence that proves the victim was not a “combatant.”

A spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council told The Intercept he had “no update on timing to offer.”

In the past year, the Obama administration has also started to publicly acknowledge strikes from its covert program. In March, the U.S. military was quick to take credit for killing 150 people in an airstrike in Somalia – claiming that they were all fighters with the Somali insurgent group, Al Shabaab. U.S. Central Command has also started issuing press releases about its strikes in Yemen, often months after they take place.

These disclosures come after a decade of silence on the U.S. drone program overseas in countries where the United States is not officially fighting. Since the first strike in Yemen in 2002, through the dramatic escalation of the drone program under President Obama, the White House has refused to acknowledge its hundreds of strikes away from recognized battlefields.

After it was reported that the White House put U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki on its kill list, the ACLU sued the Obama administration, challenging the administration’s right to kill Awlaki without due process. The Department of Justice responded by invoking the state secrets privilege, and the lawsuit was dismissed in 2012.

Even after Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged in 2013 that the U.S. had “specifically targeted and killed” Awlaki in a drone strike in Yemen, and had killed three other American citizens – including Awlaki’s 16 year old son – the CIA still refused to “confirm or deny” that it had basic information about the program.

In 2013, in order to “facilitate transparency and debate on this issue,” President Obama released new guidelines for the use of lethal force outside the of recognized zones of armed conflict. The guidelines require “near certainty that the terrorist target is present,” and “near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed.” But a 2015 report from the Open Society Foundation documents numerous civilian deaths in Yemen after the guidelines were issued, raising questions about the implementation of the guidelines, which remain secret.

In February, as part of a year-and-a-half long ACLU lawsuit, a federal judge ordered the government to release redacted versions of six documents that outline the legal basis for the drone program. Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director for the ACLU, in a blog post Monday, speculated that White House might be waiting to release the casualty statistics alongside those documents.

Jaffer also pointed out that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2016 at 8:51 am

The Life of the Parties: The Influence of Influence in Washington

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Thomas Frank, author most recently of Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? and before that of What’s the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, writes at

Although it’s difficult to remember those days eight years ago when Democrats seemed to represent something idealistic and hopeful and brave, let’s take a moment and try to recall the stand Barack Obama once took against lobbyists. Those were the days when the nation was learning that George W. Bush’s Washington was, essentially, just a big playground for those lobbyists and that every government operation had been opened to the power of money. Righteous disgust filled the air. “Special interests” were much denounced. And a certain inspiring senator from Illinois promised that, should he be elected president, his administration would contain no lobbyists at all. The revolving door between government and K Street, he assured us, would turn no more.

Instead, the nation got a lesson in all the other ways that “special interests” can get what they want — like simple class solidarity between the Ivy Leaguers who advise the president and the Ivy Leaguers who sell derivative securities to unsuspecting foreigners. As that inspiring young president filled his administration with Wall Street personnel, we learned that the revolving door still works, even if the people passing through it aren’t registered lobbyists.

But whatever became of lobbying itself, which once seemed to exemplify everything wrong with Washington, D.C.? Perhaps it won’t surprise you to learn that lobbying remains one of the nation’s persistently prosperous industries, and that, since 2011, it has been the focus of Influence, one of the daily email newsletters published by Politico, that great chronicler of the Obama years. Influence was to be, as its very first edition declared, “the must-read crib sheet for Washington’s influence class,” with news of developments on K Street done up in tones of sycophantic smugness. For my money, it is one of the quintessential journalistic artifacts of our time: the constantly unfolding tale of power-for-hire, told always with a discreet sympathy for the man on top.

Capitalizing on Influence

It is true that Americans are more cynical about Washington than ever. To gripe that “the system is rigged” is to utter the catchphrase of the year. But to read Influence every afternoon is to understand how little difference such attitudes make here in the nation’s capital. With each installment, the reader encounters a cast of contented and well-groomed knowledge workers, the sort of people for whom there are never enough suburban mansions or craft cocktails. One imagines them living together in a happy community of favors-for-hire where everyone knows everyone else, the restaurant greeters smile, the senators lie down with the contractors, and the sun shines brilliantly every day. This community’s labors in the influence trade have made the economy of the Washington metro area the envy of the world.

The newsletter describes every squeaking turn of the revolving door with a certain admiration.Influence is where you can read about all the smart former assistants to prominent members of Congress and the new K Street jobs they’ve landed. There are short but meaningful hiring notices — like the recent one announcing that the blue-ribbon lobby firm K&L Gates has snagged its fourth former congressional “member.” There are accounts of prizes that lobbyists give to one another and of rooftop parties for clients and ritual roll calls of Ivy League degrees to be acknowledged and respected. And wherever you look at Influence, it seems like people associated with this or that Podesta can be found registering new clients, holding fundraisers, and “bundling” cash for Hillary Clinton.

As with other entries in the Politico family of tip-sheets, Influence is itself sponsored from time to time — for one exciting week this month, by the Federation of American Hospitals (FAH), which announced to the newsletter’s readers that, for the last 50 years, the FAH “has had a seat at the table.” Appropriately enough for a publication whose beat is venality,Influence also took care to report on the FAH’s 50th anniversary party, thrown in an important room in the Capitol building, and carefully listed the many similarly important people who attended: the important lobbyists, the important members of Congress, and Nancy-Ann DeParle, the Obama administration’s important former healthcare czar and one of this city’s all-time revolving-door champions.

Describing parties like this is a standard theme in Influence, since the influence trade is by nature a happy one, a flattering one, a business eager to serve you up a bracing Negroni and encourage you to gorge yourself on fancy hors d’oeuvres. And so the newsletter tells us about the city’s many sponsored revelries — who gives them, who attends them, the establishment where the transaction takes place, and whose legislative agenda is advanced by the resulting exchange of booze and bonhomie.

The regular reader of Influence knows, for example, about the big reception scheduled to be hosted by Squire Patton Boggs, one of the most storied names in the influence-for-hire trade, at a certain office in Cleveland during the Republican Convention… about how current and former personnel of the Department of Homeland Security recently enjoyed a gathering thrown for them by a prestigious law firm… about a group called “PAC Pals” and the long list of staffers and lobbying types who attended their recent revelry… about how the Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the gang got together at a much-talked-about bar to sip artisanal cocktails.

There’s a poignant note to the story of former Congressional representative Melissa Bean — once the toast of New Democrats everywhere, now the “Midwest chair of JPMorgan” — who recently returned to D.C. to get together with her old staff. They had also moved on to boldface jobs in lobbying, television, and elsewhere. And there’s a note of the fabulous to the story of the Democratic member who has announced plans to throw a fundraiser at a Beyoncé concert. (“A pair of tickets go for $3,500 for PACs,” Influencenotes.)

Bittersweet is the flavor of the recent story about the closing of Johnny’s Half Shell, a Capitol Hill restaurant renowned for the countless fundraisers it has hosted over the years. On hearing the news of the restaurant’s imminent demise, Influence gave over its pixels to tales from Johnny’s glory days. One reader fondly recounted a tale in which Occupy protesters supposedly interrupted a Johnny’s fundraiser being enjoyed by Senator Lindsey Graham and a bunch of defense contractors. In classic D.C.-style, the story was meant to underscore the stouthearted stoicism of the men of power who reportedly did not flinch at the menacing antics of the lowly ones.

A Blissful Community of Money

Influence is typically written in an abbreviated, matter-of-fact style, but its brief items speak volumes about the realities of American politics. There is, for example, little here about the high-profile battle over how transgender Americans are to be granted access to public restrooms. However, the adventures of dark money in our capital are breathlessly recounted, as the eternal drama of plutocracy plays itself out and mysterious moneymen try to pass their desires off as bona fide democratic demands. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2016 at 8:33 am

Perfectly smooth with the RazoRock Old Type, and my Vie-Long badger+horse brush

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SOTD 2016-06-30

The Vie-Long brush is, I’m almost certain, a badger+horse mix. The slightly grey cast of the knot seems characteristic of such brushes that I’ve had. I do soak it for the horse content.

I got some samples of Route 66 soaps. I had thought they were small naked pucks, but the soap is packed into a small paper cup (which can be easily peeled off if you want). The Cavendish I tried this morning did not have much in the way of fragrance, at least not to my nose. The lather was reasonably good, but probably because of loading issues, I had to reload the brush for the third pass, and for that I used the tub of Mitchell’s Wool Fat soap that was on the counter.

The RazoRock Old Type seems to me an excellent razor, and the $15 price is a bargain. For me, this head shaves much better than (for example) the Edwin Jagger head, and EJ razors run around twice the price.

Three passes produced perfect smoothness with no nicks, and a splash of Phoenix Accoutrements Cavendish aftershave brought the fragrance I craved.


Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2016 at 8:01 am

Posted in Shaving

Man! What a column!

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Just read it. Cary Tennis. Advice column. Hard hitting. Well written.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2016 at 11:51 am

Posted in Daily life

Interesting choice of bank strategy

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Stay large and meet the requirements for systemically important banks, or go small and avoid those requirements (because if you do fail as a small player, no biggie).

Good post on this by Kevin Drum.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2016 at 11:10 am

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Bernie Sanders: Democrats Need to Wake Up

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My thought is that Bernie has continued the campaign because the campaign is (and has been) nothing more than a platform to try to wake people up: he recounts the facts of our existence, and then points out that to change the current system (which has created those facts), there must be a political revolution, hopefully not violent. He wants to get the new generation informed and engaged and set them on a long-term course of taking over the Democratic party ten or fifteen years from now by involving them now to initiate their engagement in the process. Volunteer work, then membership, then running for local office, and so on.

I think Bernie regards many if not most incumbent politicians and established party bosses and media companies to be too entrenched in and benefited by the current system to make any serious changes, since change could hurt them personally. So the only hope is a new generation with a different point of view and set of convictions.

The reason that it might work is that the gates of information are, with the Internet, flung wide. Back in the day in which the current system came to be, there were very few sources of information available to the public at large, either as consumers (few newspapers, few news/opinion programs) or as contributors (for most, a letter to the editor was the best thing on offer). But now, with the Internet in general (allowing small independent newspapers to gain circulation easily and quickly—cf. The Intercept—the 1% no longer are in control of the means by which reports and evidence and argument can be disseminated to the public at large.

For example, Bernie’s message would have been totally stifled back in the day. Perhaps you noted the poor—extraordinarily poor—coverage of Sanders by, say, the NY Times and the Washington Post. Compare that to the coverage given to Donald Trump, another sort of populist voice (but on the Right): he got yuge coverage.

But with the Internet, Bernie’s message did get out, and it got a significant response. Not a majority, but enough to show that he’s talking about issues that are serious for this country. People certainly were not coming out in droves to hear him and support him because of his charisma. It was the content, and that content was quite uncomfortable for, say, the publishers and owners of the NY Times and the Washington Post—and, indeed, for most of their opinionistas. Have you seen Thomas Friedman’s house? This is not a guy who is going to try to make big changes, I would say. Don’t rock the boat is more like it, and let sleeping dogs lie. The problem is that the sleeping dogs are coming awake, and now they can talk to each other. We’ve seen a very negative aspect of that in ISIS recruitment: the disaffected able to connect.

Connection of like minds can brings enough power for the group to become an actor at the level of nations, and that power can be used for constructive or destructive ends. I would say ISIS is going for destruction, and Bernie is sticking to constructive means as well as constructive goals.

He writes in the NY Times:

Surprise, surprise. Workers in Britain, many of whom have seen a decline in their standard of living while the very rich in their country have become much richer, have turned their backs on the European Union and a globalized economy that is failing them and their children.

And it’s not just the British who are suffering. That increasingly globalized economy, established and maintained by the world’s economic elite, is failing people everywhere. Incredibly, the wealthiest 62 people on this planet own as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population — around 3.6 billion people. The top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the whole of the bottom 99 percent. The very, very rich enjoy unimaginable luxury while billions of people endure abject poverty, unemployment, and inadequate health care, education, housing and drinking water.

Could this rejection of the current form of the global economy happen in the United States? You bet it could.

During my campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, I’ve visited 46 states. What I saw and heard on too many occasions were painful realities that the political and media establishment fail even to recognize.

In the last 15 years, nearly 60,000 factories in this country have closed, and more than 4.8 million well-paid manufacturing jobs have disappeared. Much of this is related to disastrous trade agreements that encourage corporations to move to low-wage countries.

Despite major increases in productivity, the median male worker in America today is making $726 dollars less than he did in 1973, while the median female worker is making $1,154 less than she did in 2007, after adjusting for inflation.

Nearly 47 million Americans live in poverty. An estimated 28 millionhave no health insurance, while many others are underinsured. Millions of people are struggling with outrageous levels of student debt. For perhaps the first time in modern history, our younger generation will probably have a lower standard of living than their parents. Frighteningly, millions of poorly educated Americans will have a shorter life span than the previous generation as they succumb to despair, drugs and alcohol.

Meanwhile, in our country the top one-tenth of 1 percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Fifty-eight percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. Wall Street and billionaires, through their “super PACs,” are able to buy elections. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2016 at 10:52 am

Chinese Cold Boiled Chicken

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I made this recipe and it’s very tasty. Ingredients:

  • 6 large bone-in chicken thighs
  • Salt
  • pepper
  • 1 two-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3 star anise
  • 4 scallions, 2 whole and 2 slivered
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced, optional
  • 2 tablespoons roasted sesame oil
  • Lime wedges, for serving

I did indeed use 6 large bone-in chicken thighs, which fit fine in my 10″ sauté pan. I did use a little more ginger than the recipe specified, and I never bother removing the (very thin) peel from ginger. I used 8 garlic cloves and 4 star anise, and I had no scallions at the time so just used a red onion I had on hand, sliced thickly.

After the thighs had cooled (i went and did other stuff, so it was probably an hour), I removed and discarded the skin, then picked all the meat off the bones, pulling it into bite-size pieces.

I was going to separate the fat, but there wasn’t all that much. I reduced the stock for 10 minutes as suggested, but next time will do 12-15 minutes.

It gelled fine overnight in the fridge, and this morning I scraped off the layer of congealed fat. Then in a bowl I put:

  • 4 slivered scallions—actually, more like chopped very thinly
  • 1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
  • no jalapeño, but only because I didn’t have it; a Serrano pepper would also work nicely, I think
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • juice of 3 limes

I mixed that well, then stirred into the chicken dish, disrupting the gel (but we’re not really going for a flawless aspic here) and distributing the dressing. To serve, spoon into a bowl. It eats like a thickened chilled meaty soup with relatively little liquid.

Worth trying. And it’s dead easy. Simmering is nothing, of course, and pulling the meat from the thighs is simple if messy. Making and stirring in what I think of as the dressing is trivial.

I imagine this is something to make again, particularly when the weather’s hot.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2016 at 10:23 am

Corporate Fraud Demands Criminal Time

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Amen, I say. Robert Tillman and Henry Pontell write in the NY Times:

We’re now getting an idea of just how expensive breaking the law can be. Ten years after Volkswagen executives first decided to cheat emissions tests on some of their diesel models, the company has agreed to pay almost $15 billion to settle claims in the United States.

Volkswagen still faces state and federal criminal investigations in the United States and more around the world; sales of VW cars have collapsed, and the company’s once-sterling reputation has been forever tarnished.

So given the result, why did company executives decide to cheat and what can that tell use about preventing corporate crime in the future?

These are not academic questions. The absence of reliable data makes it difficult to pin down the precise impact of corporate fraud. One recent analysis estimated the annual costs in the United States of just one kind of white-collar crime — corporate securities fraud — at $380 billion.

Fortunately, research on street crime gives us some ideas about corporate crime. There are two fundamental dimensions of deterrence: the certainty of punishment and the severity of punishment. Basically, will I be caught, and if so, how badly will I be punished?

Research on street criminals shows that the first dimension — certainty of apprehension — has a stronger deterrent effect. The more people think they will be arrested for a crime, the less likely they are to commit it.

VW’s decision to cheat was based in part on the assumption that the likelihood of getting caught was very low. Certainly, the company had little reason to fear discovery in the United States, where government regulators have been slow to react to suspected design defects, going back to the infamous exploding Ford Pintos of the 1970s.

And it was relatively easy to fool the Environmental Protection Agency emissions tests, which take place in a lab. The company’s deception was discovered only by chance when a nonprofit organization called the International Council on Clean Transportation gave a grant to researchers from West Virginia University to test emissions when the cars were on the road.

The second dimension of deterrence is severity of punishment. Here again, Volkswagen believed it had little to fear. As late as 2015, after United States authorities had begun to investigate, the company “was advised,” it explained to shareholders, that the record fine for emissions tampering was only $100 million.

But the likelihood of a long sentence or big fine is far less of a deterrent than the likelihood of being caught in the first place. On Wall Street, federal prosecutors have recently relied heavily on deferred prosecution agreements with financial firms like HSBC and Barclays. The companies agreed to stop their illegal conduct for a certain time, after which no criminal charges would be filed.

The deterrent value of these types of punishments, however, is highly questionable. A 2011 analysis by The New York Times found that many Wall Street firms charged with securities fraud in a 15-year period were “repeat offenders” that continued to break the rules even though they faced heavier penalties.

If we are serious about preventing corporate crime, we must change the corporate calculus. First, we need to increase the chances that white-collar criminals will be punished. One approach is an “enforcement pyramid” in which corporate infractions are met with graduated responses that start with education and end, if necessary, with prosecution.

Second, corporate executives must face the very real prospect of doing time in prison and not just pay fines. Judges have handed out very long sentences in well-publicized cases — Bernie Madoff and Jeff Skilling of Enron, for example. But these few severe penalties are not nearly as effective a deterrent as imposing relatively short prison sentences on a much larger number of white-collar defendants.

Third, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2016 at 9:47 am

The Age of Disintegration: Neoliberalism, Interventionism, the Resource Curse, and a Fragmenting World

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Patrick Cockburn writes at

We live in an age of disintegration. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Across the vast swath of territory between Pakistan and Nigeria, there are at least seven ongoing wars — in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and South Sudan. These conflicts are extraordinarily destructive. They are tearing apart the countries in which they are taking place in ways that make it doubtful they will ever recover. Cities like Aleppo in Syria, Ramadi in Iraq, Taiz in Yemen, and Benghazi in Libya have been partly or entirely reduced to ruins. There are also at least three other serious insurgencies: in southeast Turkey, where Kurdish guerrillas are fighting the Turkish army, in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula where a little-reported but ferocious guerrilla conflict is underway, and in northeast Nigeria and neighboring countries where Boko Haram continues to launch murderous attacks.

All of these have a number of things in common: they are endless and seem never to produce definitive winners or losers. (Afghanistan has effectively been at war since 1979, Somalia since 1991.) They involve the destruction or dismemberment of unified nations, their de facto partition amid mass population movements and upheavals — well publicized in the case of Syria and Iraq, less so in places like South Sudan where more than 2.4 million people have been displaced in recent years.

Add in one more similarity, no less crucial for being obvious: in most of these countries, where Islam is the dominant religion, extreme Salafi-Jihadi movements, including the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda, and the Taliban are essentially the only available vehicles for protest and rebellion. By now, they have completely replaced the socialist and nationalist movements that predominated in the twentieth century; these years have, that is, seen a remarkable reversion to religious, ethnic, and tribal identity, to movements that seek to establish their own exclusive territory by the persecution and expulsion of minorities.

In the process and under the pressure of outside military intervention, a vast region of the planet seems to be cracking open. Yet there is very little understanding of these processes in Washington. This was recently well illustrated by the protest of 51 State Department diplomats against President Obama’s Syrian policy and their suggestion that air strikes be launched targeting Syrian regime forces in the belief that President Bashar al-Assad would then abide by a ceasefire. The diplomats’ approach remains typically simpleminded in this most complex of conflicts, assuming as it does that the Syrian government’s barrel-bombing of civilians and other grim acts are the “root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region.”

It is as if the minds of these diplomats were still in the Cold War era, as if they were still fighting the Soviet Union and its allies. Against all the evidence of the last five years, there is an assumption that a barely extant moderate Syrian opposition would benefit from the fall of Assad, and a lack of understanding that the armed opposition in Syria is entirely dominated by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda clones.

Though the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is now widely admitted to have been a mistake (even by those who supported it at the time), no real lessons have been learned about why direct or indirect military interventions by the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East over the last quarter century have all only exacerbated violence and accelerated state failure.

A Mass Extinction of Independent States

The Islamic State, just celebrating its second anniversary, is the grotesque outcome of this era of chaos and conflict. That such a monstrous cult exists at all is a symptom of the deep dislocation societies throughout that region, ruled by corrupt and discredited elites, have suffered. Its rise — and that of various Taliban and al-Qaeda-style clones — is a measure of the weakness of its opponents.

The Iraqi army and security forces, for example, had 350,000 soldiers and 660,000 police on the books in June 2014 when a few thousand Islamic State fighters captured Mosul, the country’s second largest city, which they still hold. Today the Iraqi army, security services, and about 20,000 Shia paramilitaries backed by the massive firepower of the United States and allied air forces have fought their way into the city of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, against the resistance of IS fighters who may have numbered as few as 900. In Afghanistan, the resurgence of the Taliban, supposedly decisively defeated in 2001, came about less because of the popularity of that movement than the contempt with which Afghans came to regard their corrupt government in Kabul.

Everywhere nation states are enfeebled or collapsing, as authoritarian leaders battle for survival in the face of mounting external and internal pressures. This is hardly the way the region was expected to develop. Countries that had escaped from colonial rule in the second half of the twentieth century were supposed to become more, not less, unified as time passed.

Between 1950 and 1975, nationalist leaders came to power in much of the previously colonized world. They promised to achieve national self-determination by creating powerful independent states through the concentration of whatever political, military, and economic resources were at hand. Instead, over the decades, many of these regimes transmuted into police states controlled by small numbers of staggeringly wealthy families and a coterie of businessmen dependent on their connections to such leaders as Hosni Mubarak in Egypt or Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

In recent years, such countries were also opened up to the economic whirlwind of neoliberalism, which destroyed any crude social contract that existed between rulers and ruled. Take Syria. There, rural towns and villages that had once supported the Baathist regime of the al-Assad family because it provided jobs and kept the prices of necessities low were, after 2000, abandoned to market forces skewed in favor of those in power. These places would become the backbone of the post-2011 uprising. At the same time, institutions like the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that had done so much to enhance the wealth and power of regional oil producers in the 1970s have lost their capacity for united action.

The question for our moment: Why is a “mass extinction” of independent states taking place in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2016 at 9:36 am

Why the Private Prison Industry is About so Much More Than Prisons

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David Dayen reports at TPM:

Nowhere has the outsourcing of public functions to private companies been more systematic than in the criminal justice system. It’s so pervasive that the phrase we use to describe the industry – “private prison companies” – is far too limiting to accurately depict the situation.

Actual housing of convicts in prisons and jails is only one part–perhaps the smallest part–of the overall industry revenue stream. Private companies seek to pull profits from the moment someone is suspected of a crime to the final day they meet with a parole officer. Private industry transports prisoners, operates prison bank accounts, sells prescription drugs, prepares inmate food, and manages health care, prison phone and computer time. And that’s just the start. The money comes from the taxpayer, in state and federal contracts, and the suspects, inmates, and parolees themselves, in fees and add-ons. Those caught in the web represent what marketers would call the ultimate “captive audience”: there is no way to shop around for a better deal.

“We’ve created a system to squeeze everything we can out of people, the vast majority of whom are poor,” said Alex Friedmann, activist and publisher of Prison Legal News.

Corporate financial incentives to shuttle people into the criminal justice system may seem to conflict with intensifying bipartisan concerns around America’s role as the most incarcerated nation on earth. But private prison companies can prosper whether the incarceration rate expands or lowers, by controlling the other ends of the pipeline, from pre-trial supervision to post-prison re-entry. The greatest source of profits now comes from federal contracts to detain, transfer, and deport undocumented immigrants. The more toxic the immigration debate becomes, the more advantage for-profit corporations take.

Delivering poor services at a premium price is part of the marketing strategy, says Matt Nelson, managing director of the immigration rights group Presente. “They know that cutting costs, services and training for guards increases recidivism,” Nelson said. “They’re familiar that if you have horrible conditions, people stay in the system longer. They know that the younger you incarcerate, it’s more likely they will stay in the system. They keep customers coming back.”

The Walnut Street Prison in Philadelphia was the first state penitentiary in America. It was a private prison administered by local Quakers, who sought to rescue inmates from the chaotic misery of public jails. Despite good intentions, the Quakers invented the concept of solitary confinement, so prisoners could quietly reflect on their crimes.

In the 1820s prisons shifted to the Auburn system (named after a small prison in Auburn, New York), where inmates worked 10-hour days as a means to build values. Southern states expanded this into the convict lease system, renting inmates to private companies for hard labor like coal mining or railroad building. This was a way to extend slavery after emancipation: the majority of all convicts leased were African-American. And it was lucrative for the states: In 1898, nearly three-fourths of Alabama’s entire state revenue came from convict leasing.

But mortality rates were shockingly high, with secret graves often kept at workplace sites. Eventually, the dismal conditions, periodic rebellions, habitual violations of the contract terms by the companies, and resulting public discomfort pushed convict leasing out of favor. Alabama was the last state to formally ban the practice, in 1928.

Private companies seeking to exploit the criminal justice system for profit shifted to a model of winning contracts to run non-prison facilities previously administered by the state, like juvenile centers, probation operations, and even immigrant detention. The return to managing prisons sprung from simple supply and demand. “If you look at incarceration numbers in the United States,” said Alex Friedmann, “it trundles along at 200,000 [per year] until the late 1970s, then skyrockets on a trajectory similar to a jet plane taking off from an aircraft carrier.”There were a lot of reasons for this: the Reagan-era war on drugs, extended sentences as a backlash to increases in crime, the removal of the federal parole system in 1987. But spikes in the prison population led to a severe bed shortage, with dozens of states sued for overcrowding and substandard conditions.

Building on their lower-security operations, private companies offered to finance prison construction and then bid on contracts to bring prisoners into their own facilities. By owning the prison, the companies secured leverage, since governments cannot replace the contractor without finding another facility to send the inmates.

The Reagan administration welcomed this. The 1988 Report of the President’s Commission on Privatization suggested that contracting out prisons at the local, state, and federal level “could lead to improved, more efficient operation.” Conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundationstressed cost savings from free market competition. While government ran prisons at that time for around $40 per inmate per day, private prison companies could bid $25–$30.

But for a private prison company to meet that bid, operational costs had to be so low that “efficiency” quickly became mere corner-cutting. “There is good reason to think that… the challenge private prison contractors face — of running the prisons for less money than the state would otherwise pay without also bringing about a drop in the quality of prison conditions — cannot be met,” said Sharon Dolovich of UCLA School of Law in a Duke Law Journal study.

Competition withered quickly as well, narrowing to just two publicly traded companies: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Geo Group, formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation. By the mid-1990s, these two controlled 75 percent of the private prison market, and between 2012 and 2014, they earned $653 million and $434 million in profits, respectively. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2016 at 9:00 am

How Sony, Microsoft, and Other Gadget Makers Violate Federal Warranty Law

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Interesting report by Jason Koebler in Motherboard on how manufacturers try to weasel out of their legally imposed obligations even when it’s against the law—another example of companies willing to do absolutely anything to increase profits. The article begins:

There are big “no trespassing” signs affixed to most of our electronics.

If you own a gaming console, laptop, or computer, it’s likely you’ve seen one of these warnings in the form of a sticker placed over a screw or a seam: “Warranty void if removed.”

In addition, big manufacturers such as Sony, Microsoft, and Apple explicitly note or imply in their official agreements that their year-long manufacturer warranties—which entitle you to a replacement or repair if your device is defective—are void if consumers attempt to repair their gadgets or take them to a third party repair professional.

What almost no one knows is that these stickers and clauses are illegal under a federal law passed in 1975 called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

To be clear, federal law says you can open your electronics without voiding the warranty, regardless of what the language of that warranty says.

This counterintuitive fact has far-reaching implications as manufacturers have stepped up their attempts to monopolize the device repair market. . .

Continue reading.

One weakness of capitalism is the degree to which it undermines the law.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2016 at 8:28 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law

Van Yulay Bay of Roses with the Rockwell

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SOTD 2016-06-29

The Omega silvertip badger brush shown is quite good, but it’s not one of my big, puffy Omega badgers. This one is more a normal steady silvertip brush, and it did a fine job with the Van Yulay sample of Bay of Roses. The soap has an interesting rose fragrance, not so in your face and somewhat more complex than many rose-fragranced soaps. The vendor describes it:

The allspice, cloves, nutmeg and crisp pine needles of bay rum with beautiful roses added to the mix.

The lather was effective as well as fragrant, and with the Rockwell I got a good shave, though I seemed to work a little more at it. When I checked following the shave, I saw that I had been using the R1 baseplate instead of the R3 I assumed. I changed it to R4 for the next shave in any case.

A good splash of Saint Charles Shave’s Dark Rose aftershave, another more complex rose-based fragranced, and the day begins.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2016 at 8:14 am

Posted in Shaving

The last meal before chaos: Venezuelans are storming supermarkets and attacking trucks as food supplies dwindleVenezuelans are storming supermarkets and attacking trucks as food supplies dwindle

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If global warming causes widespread crop failures, we’ll set a lot of this.

— In the darkness the warehouse looks like any other, a metal-roofed hangar next to a clattering overpass, with homeless people sleeping nearby in the shadows.

But inside, workers quietly unload black plastic crates filled with merchandise so valuable that mobs have looted delivery vehicles, shot up the windshields of trucks and hurled a rock into one driver’s eye. Soldiers and police milling around the loading depots give this neighborhood the feel of a military garrison.

“It’s just cheese,” said Juan Urrea, a 29-year-old driver, as workers unloaded thousands of pounds of white Venezuelan queso from his delivery truck. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

The fight for food has begun in Venezuela. On any day, in cities across this increasingly desperate nation, crowds form to sack supermarkets. Protesters take to the streets to decry the skyrocketing prices and dwindling supplies of basic goods. The wealthy improvise, some shopping online for food that arrives from Miami. Middle-class families make do with less: coffee without milk, sardines instead of beef, two daily meals instead of three. The poor are stripping mangoes off the trees and struggling to survive.

“This is savagery,” said Pedro Zaraza, a car oil salesman, who watched a mob mass on Friday outside a supermarket, where it was eventually dispersed by the army. “The authorities are losing their grip.”

What has been a slow-motion crisis in Venezuela seems to be careening into a new, more dangerous phase. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 June 2016 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Government

Trump pwned by two women

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And Trump being who he is, that hurts. Josh Marshall explains it well. The concluding paragraphs:

. . . It is also why Elizabeth Warren – an unexpected Twitter street fighter – appears to have gotten so deeply under his skin. Trump isn’t just losing. He’s getting stomped by two women – in his world that is the ultimate, catastrophic indignity.

At some point in the not distant future, some reporter – probably a not altogether pleasant one – will ask Trump: “How does it feel to be losing so badly? Just on a personal level? Does it hurt? Do regret getting into this?” It won’t be pretty because Trump’s ego is fragile. From there I suspect you’ll see it cropping up in campaign attacks from every direction.

Written by Leisureguy

28 June 2016 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Fascinating article: “The Oracle of Arithmetic”

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By Erica Klarreich in Quanta:

In 2010, a startling rumor filtered through the number theory community and reached Jared Weinstein. Apparently, some graduate student at the University of Bonn in Germany had written a paper that redid “Harris-Taylor” — a 288-page book dedicated to a single impenetrable proof in number theory — in only 37 pages. The 22-year-old student, Peter Scholze, had found a way to sidestep one of the most complicated parts of the proof, which deals with a sweeping connection between number theory and geometry.

“It was just so stunning for someone so young to have done something so revolutionary,” said Weinstein, a 34-year-old number theorist now at Boston University. “It was extremely humbling.”

Mathematicians at the University of Bonn, who made Scholze a full professor just two years later, were already aware of his extraordinary mathematical mind. After he posted his Harris-Taylor paper, experts in number theory and geometry started to notice Scholze too.

Since that time, Scholze, now 28, has risen to eminence in the broader mathematics community. Prize citations have called him “already one of the most influential mathematicians in the world” and “a rare talent which only emerges every few decades.” He is spoken of as a heavy favorite for the Fields Medal, one of the highest honors in mathematics.

Scholze’s key innovation — a class of fractal structures he calls perfectoid spaces — is only a few years old, but it already has far-reaching ramifications in the field of arithmetic geometry, where number theory and geometry come together. Scholze’s work has a prescient quality, Weinstein said. “He can see the developments before they even begin.”

Many mathematicians react to Scholze with “a mixture of awe and fear and exhilaration,” said Bhargav Bhatt, a mathematician at the University of Michigan who has written joint papers with Scholze.

That’s not because of his personality, which colleagues uniformly describe as grounded and generous. “He never makes you feel that he’s, well, somehow so far above you,” said Eugen Hellmann, Scholze’s colleague at the University of Bonn.

Instead, it’s because of his unnerving ability to see deep into the nature of mathematical phenomena. Unlike many mathematicians, he often starts not with a particular problem he wants to solve, but with some elusive concept that he wants to understand for its own sake. But then, said Ana Caraiani, a number theorist at Princeton University who has collaborated with Scholze, the structures he creates “turn out to have applications in a million other directions that weren’t predicted at the time, just because they were the right objects to think about.”

Learning Arithmetic

Scholze started teaching himself college-level mathematics at the age of 14, while . . .

Continue reading.

The Archimedes of our age?

Written by Leisureguy

28 June 2016 at 11:24 am

Posted in Math

Mene, mene, tekel, upharsim: Mosquitoes Have Developed Resistance to Every One of Our Malaria-Fighting Tools

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Note that the article, foreboding as it is, is one of a series. And truly, take the impact of climate change (in spreading this mosquito that has evolved to resist all our tools by expanding the mosquito’s habitat, northward into the U.S., not to mention the upcoming famines) and add to that the growing list of systemic failure in our most fundamental institutions (about which I earlier blogged), the warning does seem not totally off the wall, as it were.

We unfortunately live in interesting times.

Written by Leisureguy

28 June 2016 at 11:16 am

A hacker for the NSA speaks up

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Peter Maass reports in The Intercept:

The message arrived at night and consisted of three words: “Good evening, sir!”

The sender was a hacker who had written a series of provocative memos at the National Security Agency. His secret memos had explained — with an earthy use of slang and emojis that was unusual for an operative of the largest eavesdropping organization in the world — how the NSA breaks into the digital accounts of people who manage computer networks, and how it tries to unmask people who use Tor to browse the web anonymously. Outlining some of the NSA’s most sensitive activities, the memos were leaked by Edward Snowden, and I had written about a few of them for The Intercept.

There is no Miss Manners for exchanging pleasantries with a man the government has trained to be the digital equivalent of a Navy SEAL. Though I had initiated the contact, I was wary of how he might respond. The hacker had publicly expressed a visceral dislike for Snowden and had accused The Intercept of jeopardizing lives by publishing classified information. One of his memos outlined the ways the NSA reroutes (or “shapes”) the internet traffic of entire countries, and another memo was titled “I Hunt Sysadmins.” I felt sure he could hack anyone’s computer, including mine.

Good evening sir!

The only NSA workers the Agency has permitted me to talk with are the ones in its public affairs office who tell me I cannot talk with anyone else. [Interesting use of a restrictive clause: the implication is that some workers in the NSA public affairs office would allow the writer to talk to someone else, but he’s not permitted to talk with them. – LG] Thanks to the documents leaked by Snowden, however, I have been able to write about a few characters at the NSA.

There was, for instance, a novelist-turned-linguist who penned an ethics column for the NSA’s in-house newsletter, and there was a mid-level manager who wrote an often zany advice column called “Ask Zelda!” But their classified writings, while revealing, could not tell me everything I wanted to know about the mindset of the men and women who spy on the world for the U.S. government.

I got lucky with the hacker, because he recently left the agency for the cybersecurity industry; it would be his choice to talk, not the NSA’s. Fortunately, speaking out is his second nature. While working for the NSA, he had publicly written about his religious beliefs, and he was active on social media. So I replied to his greeting and we began an exchange of cordial messages. He agreed to a video chat that turned into a three-hour discussion sprawling from the ethics of surveillance to the downsides of home improvements and the difficulty of securing your laptop. “I suppose why I talk is partially a personal compulsion to not necessarily reconcile two sides or different viewpoints but to just try to be honest about the way things are,” he told me. “Does that make sense?”

The hacker was at his home, wearing a dark hoodie that bore the name of one of his favorite heavy metal bands, Lamb of God. I agreed not to use his name in my story, so I’ll just refer to him as the Lamb. I could see a dime-store bubble-gum machine behind him, a cat-scratching tree, and attractive wood beams in the ceiling. But his home was not a tranquil place. Workmen were doing renovations, so the noise of a buzz saw and hammering intruded, his wife called him on the phone, and I could hear the sound of barking. “Sorry, my cats are taunting my dog,” he said, and later the animal in question, a black-and-white pit bull, jumped onto his lap and licked his face.

The Lamb wore a T-shirt under his hoodie and florid tattoos on his arms and smiled when I said, mostly in jest, that his unruly black beard made him look like a member of the Taliban, though without a turban. He looked very hacker, not very government.

When most of us think of hackers, we probably don’t think of governmenthackers. It might even seem odd that hackers would want to work for the NSA — and that the NSA would want to employ them. But the NSA employs legions of hackers, as do other agencies, including the FBI, CIA, DEA, DHS, and Department of Defense. Additionally, there are large numbers of hackers in the corporate world, working for military contractors like Booz Allen, SAIC, and Palantir. The reason is elegantly simple: You cannot hack the world without hackers.

In popular shows and movies such as “Mr. Robot” and “The Matrix,” hackers tend to be presented as unshaven geeks loosely connected to collectives like Anonymous, or to Romanian crime syndicates that steal credit cards by the millions, or they are teenagers who don’t realize their online mischief will get them into a boatload of trouble when Mom finds out.

The stereotypes differ in many ways but share a trait: They are transgressive anti-authoritarians with low regard for social norms and laws. You would not expect these people to work for The Man, but they do, in droves. If you could poll every hacker in the U.S. and ask whe­­­ther they practice their trade in dark basements or on official payrolls, a large number would likely admit to having pension plans. Who knows, it could be the majority.

This may qualify as one of the quietest triumphs for the U.S. government since 9/11: It has co-opted the skills and ideals of a group of outsiders whose anti-establishment tilt was expressed two decades ago by Matt Damon during a famous scene in Good Will Hunting. Damon, playing a math genius being recruited by the NSA, launches into a scathing riff about the agency serving the interests of government and corporate evil rather than ordinary people. Sure, he could break a code for the NSA and reveal the location of a rebel group in North Africa or the Middle East, but the result would be a U.S. bombing attack in which “1,500 people that I never met, never had a problem with, get killed.” He turns down the offer.

In recent years, two developments have helped make hacking for the government a lot more attractive than hacking for yourself. First, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 June 2016 at 9:40 am

Posted in NSA

Things like the Omega boar brushes, Meißner Tremonia Strong ‘n Scottish shaving soap, and the iKon X3 are why I love my morning shave

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SOTD 2016-06-28

A good shave is a great pleasure, and this morning I picked things I particularly enjoy. The Omega 20102 brush is by now well broken in and it is a pleasure. I like the Strong ‘n Scottish fragrance a lot and the lather even more. The 20102 has a fairly large knot, so in loading I did add a couple of driblets of water to get the knot fully loaded. Since Strong ‘n Scottish contains clay, I imagine that also contributes:

Stearic Acid, Cocos nucifera oil*, Whisky, Potassium Hydroxide, Orbignya Oleifera oil*, Aqua, Sodium Hydroxide, Lanolin, Glycerin, Red clay, Cedrus deodora oil, Talc, Citric Acid, Simmondsia chinensis oil*, Juniperus oxycedrus wood tar, Maris sal, Limonene, Linalool.

* Organic quality

The iKon X3 really is on the top tier of slants, at least for me, and I really like this UFO handle. I can see this being my only razor, if it should come to that. Three passes, completely comfortable feel (“did I forget to put a blade in it?” sort of feel), and absolutely smooth result with nary a nick.

A good splash of Hâttric and I have a very cheerful outlook for the day.

Written by Leisureguy

28 June 2016 at 9:27 am

Posted in Shaving

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