Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I could never disguise all my little white lies

So, President Constitutional Scholar gave a speech in which he assured the nation that there were no abuses by the NSA (something even the NSA admits isn't true), and we need to violate the Constitutional rights of every single American in order to defend the Constitution. (Marcy Wheeler provides the annotated speech here.)
- Interestingly, Bruce Schneier reported the day before that, "Today I Briefed Congress on the NSA: This morning I spent an hour in a closed room with six Members of Congress: Rep. Lofgren, Rep. Sensenbrenner, Rep. Scott, Rep. Goodlate, Rep Thompson, and Rep. Amash. No staffers, no public: just them. Lofgren asked me to brief her and a few Representatives on the NSA. She said that the NSA wasn't forthcoming about their activities, and they wanted me -- as someone with access to the Snowden documents -- to explain to them what the NSA was doing. Of course I'm not going to give details on the meeting, except to say that it was candid and interesting. And that it's extremely freaky that Congress has such a difficult time getting information out of the NSA that they have to ask me. I really want oversight to work better in this country." (Marcy Wheeler had some observations about that.)
- Even the conservative Washington Post has Barton Gellman getting into the weeds of problems with Obama's definition of "spying".
- Here's David Sirota's piece from Thursday, "NSA defenders' shameless 'national security' bait and switch ". I like to remind people as often as I can that Bush started the surveillance program in March of 2001. I wonder why Obama and people like him keep talking about how it was a reaction to 9/11, as if it were not already in place and failing to do what it is supposedly for. Maybe because preventing terrorism is not what it's for.

"Court Strikes Down FCC Open Internet Order: WASHINGTON -- On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet Order. In its decision, the court said that the FCC lacked the authority to implement and enforce its rules under the legal framework the agency put forth. The FCC's 2010 order was intended to prevent broadband Internet access providers from blocking or interfering with traffic on the Web. Instead of reversing a Bush-era FCC decision that weakened the FCC's authority over broadband, and establishing solid legal footing for its rules, former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski pushed for rules under the complicated legal framework the court rejected today."
- Shepard Smith Tells Anti-Net Neutrality Guest He "Sound[s] Like A Corporate Shill" "The Whole Internet Disagrees With You."
- Thom Hartmann, "The Internet Is Dead, Long Live the Internet!"

Ari Berman in The Nation, "Members of Congress Introduce a New Fix for the Voting Rights Act: Today Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and John Conyers (D-MI) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced legislation to strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision last June invalidating a critical section of the VRA. The legislation, known as 'The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014,' represents the first attempt by a bipartisan group in Congress to reinstate the vital protections of the VRA that the Supreme Court took away." This is not likely to go anywhere, weak tea though it is, but I was interested to see Sensenbrenner as one of the proposers. What I'm more interested in, however, is why all this legislation was ever about localities. There are certain actions that we have always known exist for the purposes of vote-suppression. They should be illegal everywhere. My VRA would always have listed them as felonies and any clever new methods we discover would automatically be added to them. (Isn't it odd that changing the polling place in a district without proper notification of the public isn't a recognized voter-suppression tactic and has not been outlawed?) And I'm sure you already know how I feel about any method of voting other than paper ballots hand-counted publicly on the night.

Yves Smith: "Yes Virginia, Obama and the Democrats Are Mussolini-Style Corporatists, Just Like the Republicans: Reader dSquib flagged a 'bizarre' article by Mike Konczal in the New Republic titled, 'Corporatism' is the Latest Hysterical Right-Wing Accusation: The secret history of a smear.' dSquib seemed quite perplexed that anyone would deem calling Obama a corporatist, which as we'll demonstrate is patently true, a smear."

Dave Johnson, "8 Phony GOP Solutions for Poverty That Will Only Bring More Economic Pain" - Dave missed a bet on Rubio's proposal to "remove the marriage penalties in safety net programs." Yes, there's a real marriage penalty, and it was introduced by conservatives to damage these programs - and poor families. It's part of that whole "truly needy" construct where the idea was supposed to be that a family with both parents present doesn't really need assistance and it's just that the lazy, shif'less father should get off the couch and get a job. Men moved out of the house so their wives and kids could get the benefits that were not available as long as the father was in the home. That was a huge sacrifice on their part in the hope it would afford help to their families, but of course the result was splintered families. If Rubio wants to get rid of this nasty bit of right-wing chicanery, I'm all for it. The only trouble is that there's precious little welfare left for those poor families to collect, since conservatives and "centrists" have been consistently conspiring together since LBJ left office to destroy War on Poverty programs. Having mostly succeeded, they are now going more directly after the New Deal.

Dean Baker take-down of "David Brooks' Primitive Defense of the Rich [...] Fans of arithmetic everywhere know that if the rich get more, and the economy is not growing faster, then everyone else gets less. (It might be primitive, but it's true.) And the economy has been growing very slowly for the last thirteen years and actually pretty slowly for the whole period in which inequality has been increasing."

Much as I dislike Dana Milbank, I sure nodded my head when I saw him saying, "Obama is off-message on the unemployed [...] On the House floor, 25 Democrats interrupted debate on a spending bill, coming forward one at a time to ask Republican leaders to take up an extension of unemployment benefits, which lapsed last month. The previous day, Senate Democrats had been doing their part to keep the issue prominent, provoking Republicans to block the legislation with a filibuster. This is exactly the sort of time when presidential leadership is most effective, when consistent use of the president's megaphone can focus national outrage and force holdouts to relent. But at the moment House Democrats were having their rebellion, Obama was giving a speech in Raleigh, N.C. - about wide bandgap semiconductors." Of course, there's a reason for this: Obama doesn't actually want to do anything for the unemployed.

Scary graph: Employment-Population Ratio

Photos: Rich people working very hard, poor people being lazy

1950s Capitalist Propaganda and Opportunistic Egalitarians

Wow, Jeremy Scahill's "Dirty Wars" has an Oscar Nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

Why artificial sweeteners make you fat

Can this really be not a gag?

Cartoon: Play Dead

The pool hall between two worlds - I don't know why the Flash didn't catch that drink before it spilled, though.

The Ramones with Kathy Lee & Regis
The Ramones on Letterman

The Beatles in comics

"50 Years Later: The Greatest Beatles Performance of All Time" - Just for the record, I could not only hear the Beatles really singing and playing even from way up in the stands at RFK Stadium, I could hear all of their mistakes. Anyone who doesn't think they were a great performing band is out of their minds.

"The Night Has a Thousand Eyes"


  1. The artificial sweeteners claim links back to a homeopathic pharmaceutical company. I'm agnostic on the issue, but wouldn't simply accept this company as a primary source.

    1. I have to agree. The claim that artificial sweeteners actually increase appetite and so make you eat more is not new; I heard it several years ago. (I recall one site that blared "ASPARTAME is MURDER!" illustrated with a picture of Adolph Hitler. Yes, seriously.) I don't know of any replicated research on the topic, although that doesn't mean there isn't any. But it does mean I'd want to see some before I accepted the claim.

      However, I was struck by the last line of the excerpt, which claimed that hypoglycemia can lead to diabetes. That seemed odd enough that I did some searching and after a reasonably extensive search couldn't find a single reference to it. All I found were references to managing hypoglycemia in people who already had diabetes, for who hypoglycemia from a mismanaged diet or insulin regimen is a real concern.

      So put me in the "You'll have to show me" camp.

    2. If there's homeopathy there, I am so not agnostic. The numbers go from a faintly plausible idea, that very small doses of poisons can encourage the body's counter-actions to the symptoms, into the realms of ludicrous arithmetic fantasy. The placebo effect is real, and in the days homeopathy got started, what amounts to pure water as the hook for that effect was an improvement on methods such as blood-letting.

      Times have changed. Idiots have not.

  2. "Much as I dislike Dana Milbank"

    You said it. Some time back I dubbed him Our Lord of Perpetual Smirk.

  3. There's so much that's wrong about the revamp of the 1984 movie idea, but the love story aspect isn't one of them. It's the structure which allows the audience to grasp the horror of what the state does. One can imagine being in love, and then you get the state breaking that love, torturing Winston Smith into betrayal of his lover. There's a certain rather dry intellectual distaste which can exist for the surveillance and the re-writing of history and the propaganda, but the emotional punch in the guts is in the love story.

    And there something faintly crept into some of the comments on that particular article. Winston isn't really in love? He just thinks he is? It's not a crazy question for a teacher to use. It tests the novel, but it shouldn't be an answer or explanation. You could go into the depths of philosophy, along the lines of silently falling trees, but the question should be, how do we know, as readers? Can we insert unreliable narrators without cause? If we cannot trust the story as told, what's the point of the book or film.

    (And you can tell stories with that feature, but it has to become apparent. Rashomon has the virtue of making the unreliability explicit: it's the whole point of the story and its structure. And Winston Smith changing how he thinks and believes is the whole point of Nineteen Eighty-Four. It doesn't work if we feel we cannot trust the narration.)

  4. I suppose to maintain the mood throughout the evening, Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree will be brought in as the second chairs.

  5. Re pool hall between worlds.
    There's a reason any half-decent place bans drinks on tables


  6. [PASTE]>>>>>This week on the VICE podcast, Reihan Salam moderates a debate regarding the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden...

    The guests today are Fred Kaplan, "War Stories" columnist for Slate and Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, who also serves as Snowden's chief legal advisor.

    Today's discussion was inspired by Kaplan's article "Why Snowden Won't (and Shouldn't) Get Clemency" on Slate:<<<<<[END PASTE]

    [3:42] Reihan Salam: Let's go back a little bit further. You also suggest that Edward Snowden actually came into this work, initially, intending to do some harm along these lines....

    Fred Kaplan: Well I didn't...

    Reihan Salam: ...He actually misled some of his colleagues.

    Fred Kaplan: I didn't say this, he told the South China Morning Press that he took the job as a Booz Allen contractor at an NSA facility in Hawaii because he knew from previous work that he had done in the NSA, as an NSA employee, that there was information there about all these things that he then leaked. He went there with the intent, with the intent purpose of taking the documents and leaving the country and providing them to the press and there's a story in Reuters by two reporters who have been very critical of the NSA and the British counterpart to the NSA reporting that one way he got this information was to mislead twenty to twenty-five of his fellow employees saying, "Hey, I need, can you give me your password and login information because I need it for this work that I am doing." He was a systems administrator. And, in fact, he used that information to broaden the scope of the kind of information that he used and these twenty to twenty-five co-workers were, in fact, fired.

    Ben Wizner: Can we stop right here, because that story is actually false. That story that was self-servingly leaked to these Reuters reporters is simply not true. Mr. Snowden has denied it, but not just Mr. Snowden, one of his...

    [5:12] Reihan Salam: Something leaked by the NSA?

    Ben Wizner: Absolutely. But one of his former co-workers reached out anonymously to Andy Greenberg at Forbes magazine and said that story was completely false, that the idea that twenty-five NSA workers would be duped into turning over their passwords was silly, that the access he had was in connection to his job, that he was a genius among geniuses, that he was a thoughtful employee, that he had a copy of the Constitution on his desk. I think you need to be really careful when you are presenting anonymously sourced stories that come from the NSA as facts about what Mr. Snowden did or didn't do.

    Fred Kaplan: I will stipulate, I don't know if it's true, but I'll stipulate that the story isn't true. My main point about what Snowden did is unaffected by it.<<<<<[END PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT]

    I'd say, after listening to it for an hour, Kaplan's logic is too infuriating to listen to for an hour but the interview is available on YouTube.

  7. Fred Kaplan: I will stipulate, I don't know if it's true, but I'll stipulate that the story isn't true. My main point about what Snowden did is unaffected by it

    Kaplan has been hanging out with Jonah Goldberg, and the doughy one is starting to rub off on him.