Monday, September 12, 2016

Billion-year-old carbon

Spencer Ackerman has a fascinating report in the Guardian, "Inside the fight to reveal the CIA's torture secrets" The first part of the inside story of the Senate investigation into torture, the crisis with the CIA it spurred and the man whose life would never be the same." He was part of the Senate investigation and he'd found a smoking gun. "There was one document in particular that proved it. Jones and his team had found it years before, placed mysteriously onto a shared computer network drive the Senate intelligence committee investigators were using in northern Virginia, not far from CIA headquarters. But they hadn't appreciated its full significance until the agency, in an attempt at refuting a report that was still far from publication, told Barack Obama's staff that the committee was pushing a hysterical interpretation of the agency's fateful post-9/11 embrace of torture. The document, prepared for Leon Panetta when he was CIA director, had reached the same conclusions about the torture program that Jones had. As long as Jones had it, he would be able to show that the agency knew full well how brutal the torture was; how ineffective its torturers considered it to be; and how thoroughly the CIA had covered all of that up. As long as Jones had the document, that is. Lurking in the back of his mind was the event that had led him to devote five years of ceaseless work, through nights and weekends: the CIA had already destroyed evidence of torture. It did that before the Senate had launched an investigation, and long before that investigation had turned acrimonious."
* Charlie Pierce says you should read it all. "This CIA Torture Story Is the Best Example of Our Post-9/11 Failings: Not that they'd listen to me or anything but, if I were the gang at the Pulitzer committee, I'd get a head start on putting Spencer Ackerman's name on the National Reporting plaque right now, just to save themselves the work next spring. Getting someone to talk on the record is the eternal jackpot of investigative reporting, and, in today's Guardian, Ackerman hits the Comstock Lode with Daniel Jones, who was the chief investigator for the Senate intelligence committee when that committee was looking into the practice of rendition and torture and the other extraconstitutional horrors perpetrated in our name by the late Avignon Presidency, and who also looked on in anger as the CIA worked overtime to ratfck the investigation and to bury its result. This is the first of a three-part series. I'd say that the extended weekend forecast calls for fury and outrage. [...] Nobody comes out of this report very well. Leon Panetta's reputation gets its bell rung pretty hard. John Brennan is exposed as somebody you wouldn't trust to park your car. And why, Mark Udall, why didn't you read the report into the Senate record after you lost re-election the way so many people begged you to do?

WaPo, "Inside the Republican creation of the North Carolina voting bill dubbed the 'monster' law" - I have no patience with the idea that it's okay to deprive American citizens of their right to vote as long as its purpose is merely to prevent people from voting for the other party, rather than to prevent black people from voting. It's still election-fixing and it should be a jailable offense.

"Distrust Of 2016'S Hackable Election Is A Media Landslide With Just One Solution: Hand-Counted Paper Ballots. ...] But the real threat to our election system comes from private for-profit corporations that register voters, control voter databases, then count and report the vote with secret proprietary software and zero transparency, accountability or recourse. After ignoring or attacking the reportage since Florida 2000 of Bev Harris, Greg Palast, and numerous others, the corporate media seems finally to be getting the message: under the current system, any American election---even the one for president---can be stripped and flipped by a tiny handful of electronic hackers working anywhere from the Kremlin to a party HQ to a state governor's office to a teenager's garage."

"Jeremy Corbyn media coverage deliberately biased against him, British public believes: Perception of unfairness extends beyond supporters of Labour leader."

It was obvious this was going to happen, but Brazil's Senate voted to permanently remove President Dilma Rousseff. Of course, they're a bunch of criminals who are far more corrupt than they've accused her of being, but never mind. I'm sure they're happy in Washington.

"This small Indiana county sends more people to prison than San Francisco and Durham, N.C., combined. Why? [...] If Mr. Gaddis had been caught 20 miles to the east, in Cincinnati, he would have received a maximum of six months in prison, court records show. In San Francisco or Brooklyn, he would probably have received drug treatment or probation, lawyers say. But Mr. Gaddis lived in Dearborn County, Ind., which sends more people to prison per capita than nearly any other county in the United States. After agreeing to a plea deal, he was sentenced to serve 12 years in prison."

"U.S. Denies Entry to Former British Ambassador Craig Murray: The U.S. government, for no stated reason, and after having approved his entry in the past, has denied Craig Murray the usual approval to enter the United States without a visa that is given to UK citizens. Craig Murray was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004."

"Hours Before Courtroom Showdown, Tribal Activists Shut Down Pipeline Construction: A federal judge is expected to rule later Tuesday on an emergency request for a restraining order filed in response to the holiday weekend desecration of sacred sites."

Wonkette, "God Spares Phyllis Schlafly Sight Of First Woman President."
* Corey Robin on Phyllis Schlafly, 1924-2016, quoting Catharine MacKinnon's words in debate with Schlafly: "Mrs. Schlafly tells us that being a woman has not gotten in her way. That she knows what she is saying because it happened to her. She could be one of the exceptional 7.8 percent, although who's to know? I do submit to you, though, that any man who had a law degree and had done graduate work in political science; had given testimony on a wide range of important subjects for decades; had done effective and brilliant political, policy, and organizational work within the party; had published widely, including nine books; was instrumental in stopping a major social initiative to amend the Constitution just short of victory dead in its tracks, and had a beautiful, accomplished family - any man like that would have a place in the current administration. Having raised six children, a qualification not many men can boast of (and if so probably with less good reason) did not make the difference. I would accept correction if I am wrong, and she may yet be appointed. She was widely reported to have wanted such a post, but I don't believe everything I read, especially about women. She certainly deserved a place in the Defense Department. Phyllis Schlafly is a qualified woman. I charge that the Reagan Administration has discriminated against Phyllis Schlafly on the basis of her sex."
* Los Angeles Times obituary for Schlafly, world's most famous anti-feminist.

"Four Ways Media Attack Organized Labor"

Thers chooses "the Worst University Administration Ever".

In our continuing coverage of the parade of Bad Dems the leadership has been foisting off on us, we see Blue Dogs and New Dems helping the GOP when "Friday House Conservatives Granted Private Equity Firms A License To Defraud Their Customers: OK, so now, what is this Investment Advisors Modernization Act of 2016? Modernization sounds good-- even progressive-- no? No, not in the Orwellian sense it's being used. Alan Grayson, who of course, voted against it, told us yesterday that "basically, the bill dictates to the SEC how to protect, or not to protect, investors. It repeals by statute investor-safety regulations that, in some cases, date back half a century."
* "Keep Track Of Who's Celebrating Victories By Wasserman Schultz And Patrick Murphy." Given how badly Murphy is polling against his Republican opposition, you'd think the Democratic Party would not be so happy.

"There's no such thing as a victimless billionaire" - A great line if ever I saw one, and the explanation for why the Kochs and their little friends are on the warpath to prevent people from voting, most notably by making claims of voter fraud. "Is there really a gigantic conspiracy of one million Democrats to vote twice, or is it a massive scheme to take away the votes of a million innocent people?" Innocent people whose names are on a list of people with similar names - names like Washington, Kim, and Garcia.

"U.S. Considers HSBC Charge That Could Upend 2012 Settlement: Prosecutors' fresh investigation of HSBC brings them closer to a step that has often been threatened but rarely taken -- tearing up a deferred-prosecution agreement if a company fails to walk the road of reform laid out by the Justice Department." This really should happen.

The Washington Post says, "A record number of Americans now dislike Hillary Clinton." Theories about how this has happened are mainly that: 1. The Republicans have been attacking her for 30 years; and 2. That mean old Bernie Sanders attacked her so viciously during the primaries. It's true that the Republicans have been attacking her for 30 years (they never forgave her for keeping her maiden name when she got married), but Sanders didn't attack Clinton, and if you want to see a vicious primary campaign, look no further than the Obama camp's antics in 2008, which were downright sickening. No, all Sanders did was disagree with Clinton's policies. And maybe some people just don't like them. But her popularity seems to be going down since the primaries ended, and, gosh, I wonder who is helping that? Could it be the "objective" media? After the NYT embarrassed themselves reporting a Trump speech in advance as being much like the sane pivot Trump's advance publicity said it would be (yes, stenography in the NYT, what a surprise) and it just plain wasn't, we now have an endless stream of false equivalence to beat the band. They can't bring themselves to call Trump what he is, but every innuendo about Clinton gets a big headline. The media just can't stop themselves - but it's all Bernie's fault that they've carried GOP water for 30 years.

On the other hand, watching Democratic partisans in the media in action inspired Matt Taibbi to say, "Why Vox's Matt Yglesias Should Go Back in Time and Unwrite Recent Column: A member of the press arguing against transparency?"
* And Marcy Wheeler on "The Misunderstandings of the Anti-Transparency Hillary-Exonerating Left"

"The Clinton Foundation's Problems Are Deeper Than You Think: But critics of the Clinton Foundation may want to think twice before casually paying tribute to the organization's tremendous good work. Most of the claims about the Foundation's efficacy have little basis in any actual reported facts. Instead, it is simply assumed that the organization has tremendous humanitarian accomplishments, without any serious inquiry into what these are. An examination of the actual available evidence, as opposed to the PR claims of the Foundation and its boosters, suggests the need for far greater skepticism about the organization's charitable acts in addition to its fundraising."

"The Unrelenting Pundit-Led Effort to Delegitimize All Negative Reporting About Hillary Clinton [...] That Donald Trump is an uber-nationalist, bigotry-exploiting demagogue and unstable extremist does not remotely entitle Hillary Clinton to waltz into the Oval Office free of aggressive journalistic scrutiny. Nor does Trump's extremism constitute a defense to anything that she's done. It is absolutely true that Trump has at least as many troublesome financial transactions and entangling relationships as the Clintons do: These donations to the Florida attorney general are among the most corrupt-appearing transactions yet documented. Even worse, Trump has shielded himself from much needed scrutiny by inexcusably refusing to release his tax returns, while much of the reporting about the Clintons is possible only because they have released theirs. All of that is important and should be highlighted. But none of it suggests that anything other than a bright journalistic light is appropriate for examining the Clintons' conduct. Yet there are prominent pundits and journalists who literally denounce every critical report about Clinton as unfair and deceitful, and band together to malign the reporters who scrutinize the Clintons' financial transactions. Those prominent voices combine with the million-dollar online army that supreme sleaze merchant David Brock has assembled to attack Clinton critics; as the Los Angeles Times reported in May: 'Clinton's well-heeled backers have opened a new frontier in digital campaigning, one that seems to have been inspired by some of the internet's worst instincts. Correct the Record, a Super PAC coordinating with Clinton's campaign, is spending some $1 million to find and confront social media users who post unflattering messages about the Democratic front-runner.'"

"Addictive painkiller profiteer donates $500k to fight cannabis legalization in Arizona: Insys Therapeutics, which profits off of a painkiller 50 times more potent than heroin, has donated $500,000 to a campaign opposing marijuana legalization in the US state of Arizona."

"The TSA is a waste of money that doesn't save lives and might actually cost them." On the bright side, it reminded me how much I prefer train travel.

People who claim to be "fiscally responsible" always seem to come up with ideas that cost more money than they pretend to be saving. "DWP fit-to-work assessments cost more money than they save, report reveals: Government will pay £1.6bn in next three years to private contractors who carry out controversial assessments The Government is spending more money assessing whether people are fit to work than it is saving in reductions to the benefits bill, a damning official report has revealed."

"This is Wrong and Bullshit and You Shouldn't Support It" - Brock Turner's slap on the hand for rape outrages a lot of people for a lot of reasons). John Cole: "But cheering armed mobs outside his house threatening castration and rape is illiberal, offensive, and obscene, not to mention unfair to his other neighbors."

Jared Bernstein is actually going easy here, but even he can see that the prez is talking bollocks: "The shortcomings of the Obama administration's latest pitch on the TPP."

"The human toll of America's public defender crisis: Years of drastic budget cuts have created bottomless caseloads for public defenders - the 'pack mules of the system' - and tipped the scales of justice against the poor. [...] In recent years the US has begun to reckon with its role as the world's biggest jailer, home to a manifestly unequal justice system that disproportionately punishes poor people of color. In diagnosing the causes of this problem much of the focus has centered on sentencing reform, but in a country where 95% of criminal cases are settled by plea deal, little attention has been given to the critical state of indigent defense. Around the US, defenders routinely report an increase in overburdening and underfunding, caused by a variety of structural, political and economic drivers."
* "For Louisiana's defenseless poor, it's one for all: Meet Rhonda Covington, the last line of defense for thousands in need of an attorney in a forgotten corner of rural Louisiana"

Barry Eisler at BoingBoing, "How To Be At War Forever."

Ian Welsh on the curious fact that J.K Rowling prefers Blairism to Corbynism, in two charts.

In the LAT, "Too poor to retire and too young to die" - What do you do when you're 79 and can't afford to quit working?

Having obsessed on the subject for 15 years, your Talking Dog did not let this anniversary go by without writing his "homily" for 9/11. He used the word homily, I wouldn't.
* Ray McGovern on what happened and what didn't happen and what it all must mean. There's a lot of information in this, and I recommend you listen to it all.
* Seeing all the various stories around commemorating 9/11, I couldn't help remembering how uninterested the Bush administration had been in security against terrorism. And Al Franken's chapter on Operation Ignore.

"Guac the Vote"

"Teaching 'grit' is bad for children, and bad for democracy [...] There is a time and place for grit. However, praising grit as such makes no sense because it can often lead to stupid or mean behavior. Duckworth's book is filled with gritty people doing things that they, perhaps, shouldn't."

"Warner Bros. Demands Copyright Takedown Of Its Own Websites." Gee, maybe these big entertainment industry types have gotten a bit carried away.

It is devoutly to be hoped that if even her worshippers have lost faith in Michelle Rhee, we will finally be rid of this national nightmare.

"All Ideas Are Second-Hand: Mark Twain's Magnificent Letter to Helen Keller About the Myth of Originality"

Charlie Stross, "Sometimes I don't know why I bother! The trouble with writing fiction is that, as a famous novelist once said, reality is under no compulsion to make sense or be plausible. Those of us who make stuff up are constantly under threat of having our best fictional creations one-upped by the implausibility of real events. I'm pretty much resigned to this happening, especially with the Laundry Files stories: at least space opera and fantasy aren't as prone to being derailed as fiction set in the near-present. But there's a subtle corollary to the impossibility of story-telling keeping up with reality, and that's the point that it is also pretty much impossible to invent protagonists who can keep up with reality."

Get your Then t-shirts here.

"These Ridiculous Propaganda Postcards Warn Men about the Dangers of Women's Rights from the Early 20th Century."

"The 10 Best Photographs Ever Taken Without Photoshop"

"25 Extremely Beautiful Minerals And Stones"

Maia recently took some lovely photos at an exhibition of glass sculptures.

Good Harvest performing "Woodstock"


  1. Since there are no other comments on this one, and not enough on other recent posts, let me say how much I appreciate this blog. The links you point to are usually interesting and often valuable. I especially appreciate being alerted to the article on the Clinton Foundation, which will be useful in answering the flood of propaganda Clinton partisans have been spewing out. Thanks, Avedon!

    1. Thanks, Duncan. Nice to hear from you again, it's been awhile.

      And yeah, foundations are a racket to start with and I've been disheartened to see how many people take for granted that because the Clintons claim it is doing all this useful work, it must be true. Especially since it's long been obvious that these "market solutions" to poverty simply skim money and enrich the rich rather than doing any real good to the purported beneficiaries.

    2. Ditto, many good links in this post. Who has time to comment after trying to read them all? Thank you.

  2. With all due deference to Taibbi's recent news consumer smackdown, here's the type of story people might find interesting and that someone with a useful message might be able to work with [LINK].

    1. What the left doesn't get is that "one and done" isn't an anti-corporate control of society campaign. To get anywhere you have to narrow your, er, focus and pound away on the change you want to make [LINK]. That's what the right did with their "less government, lower taxes" message.

  3. Perhaps I'm not qualified to comment, as an older voter who was never going to vote for a baby-bomber.

    But might it be that scolding the people who were insulted during the primary with the "Bernie voters are young white males who behave badly online" smear isn't the best way to seek their votes now?

    And I doubt that endorsements from the likes of John Negroponte and G,H.W. Bush are helping with that demographic, either.