Sunday, June 30, 2013

Edward Snowden is screwed

For guy who's smart enough to hack into the NSA's database, Ed Snowden was shockingly unprepared for the aftermath of publicly admitting his crime. For one thing, he clearly didn't think through his route to asylum thoroughly. It's like he believed he could just cleverly sneak aroung the globe until he found a comfortable home in self-imposed exile where he would live out his days as a folk hero or something. It's as if, in his head, he was living out a spy novel but Snowden's immediate reality is grim in ways that suggest an unhappy ending to his story.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa on Sunday said that the fate of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is in the hands of Russia, where he is currently staying, awaiting asylum from the South American country.

"This is the decision of Russian authorities," Correa told the Associated Press in an interview. "He doesn't have a passport. I don't know the Russian laws, I don't know if he can leave the airport, but I understand that he can't. At this moment he's under the care of the Russian authorities.

Correa said that Ecuadorian officials would only consider an asylum request if Snowden was able to make it to an embassy or their country.
The problem is without a valid passport, he may well be living in limbo in the holding area at the Moscow airport under Russian security for a long time, which as Steve M discovered is an unpleasant existence for those without the proper papers.

Equally surprising is how clueless Snowden appears to be about how the internets works in the age of Twitter. It seems he expected to drop his bombshell into the news cycle and still be able to maintain as he once put it, "a quiet life." Neither does it appear he understands the new business model of BigMedia which Bussfeed's Ben Smith described perfectly a few days ago in response to the debate over Snowden's morals and motives that's been raging on the internets for days on end. This is the new reality of the Beltway media:
...These seem like good questions for a philosophy class. They are terrible, boring, ones for reporters, and have more to do with the confusing new news environment than with the actual news.

Snowden’s flight is a great, classic international story. It is, as Glenn Greenwald tweeted today, a kind of global White Bronco moment. His roots in web culture; his ideology; his decision-making; these are all great stories. He’s a much more interesting figure than Mark Felt because, at least, he’s a new figure, not a familiar one.
You might think a computer wunderkind like Snowden would have understood and considered the 24/7 news beast's insatiable hunger for fresh meat in his dealings with the media. Apparently, you would be wrong. The kid really is screwed.

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Your moment of Zen

Lotus blossom waterfall, Bali. [photo via]

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Predatory capitalists

There's no real news this weekend so here's your long read. ProPublica posts an eye-opening piece, "The Expendables: How the temps who power corporate giants are getting crushed."
In cities all across the country, workers stand on street corners, line up in alleys or wait in a neon-lit beauty salon for rickety vans to whisk them off to warehouses miles away. Some vans are so packed that to get to work, people must squat on milk crates, sit on the laps of passengers they do not know or sometimes lie on the floor, the other workers’ feet on top of them.

This is not Mexico. It is not Guatemala or Honduras. This is Chicago, New Jersey, Boston.

The people here are not day laborers looking for an odd job from a passing contractor. They are regular employees of temp agencies working in the supply chain of many of America’s largest companies – Walmart, Macy’s, Nike, Frito-Lay. They make our frozen pizzas, sort the recycling from our trash, cut our vegetables and clean our imported fish. They unload clothing and toys made overseas and pack them to fill our store shelves. They are as important to the global economy as shipping containers and Asian garment workers.
Corporations have been using temps to cut costs for decades, but under the latest iteration of this business model, the plan appears to be to virtually cut full time hires to the barest minimum in order to exploit a desperate job market and effectively shift the social costs of their predatory capitalism onto the taxpayer.

Read it in full to see our future. They're stealthily turning us into a banana republic. Hard to see how this ends well for anyone except the owners and their CEOs.

[Big thanks to Batocchio for kindly linking in at Mike's Blog Round-up.]

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Talking 'bout our immigration

Still pretty much offline for the last few days so I'm late to the immigration bill. Was mildly surprised to see the Senate pull it off with a 68-32 vote. Obama is urging the House to pass it by the August recess.

Good luck with that. The new dynamic on Capitol Hill is Senate passes bills and they now go to Boehner's House of Dysfunction to die. The crackpot caucus isn't going to agree to do pass anything that doesn't piss off liberals and Boehner vows to uphold the Hastert rule for the bill. Last I heard they're going to try to write a new bill that can get the crackpots on board, but then he'll lose the Democratic votes and possibly even some from his own side. Hearing rumors there are a fair number of Republicans who are interested in passing something.

It's possible Boehner is just working the kabuki to buy time and eventually will bring something reasonable to the floor that can pass on a bipartisan vote, but by no means is that a given. The crackpots have been threatening to oust him if he does and for some reason he appears to want to keep his giant gavel.

Only thing that seems clear at the moment is it's going to be a long, hot, stupid summer on Capitol Hill.

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Your moment of Zen

Guerrilla knitting on Walton Street, Oxford. [photo via]

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Your moment of Zen

One of my favorite cities and favorite artists in the world. Mark Bode/Revolto mural in lovely downtown Northampton, MA. [Mark Bode photo]

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Your moment of Zen

A moment in the deep blue sea. [photo via]

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

RIch get richer, the poor get screwed

Another in long series of reminders that the wealth created by financial markets only raises the luxury yachts, leaving everyone else underwater in their wake.
The biggest gains in wealth are going to wealthy households that tend to save a big chunk of their incomes and spend a smaller proportion on basics such as food and clothing. "Those guys don't spend much," says economist Edward Wolff of New York University.

So Wolff looked at the net worth of the median U.S. household — those smack in the middle, where half of households earn more and half less. The median family's net worth is far more modest than the average: $61,000, Wolff estimates. That is $50,800, or 47 percent, short of where it was in 2007.
They make their wealth here, invest it overseas and hide it in offshore tax shelters. Their biggest investment is in buying politicians willing to enact their think tanks' policy prescriptions -- to only their own benefit. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of Americans are coping with devalued homes, diminished wages and benefits in a limping labor market and rising costs of living and the wealth holders want them to sacrifice more.

We are truly ruled by evil people.

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Women beat down GOP on Texas abortion bill

It's a very good day to be a liberal. The days long people's filibuster at the Texas statehouse culminated in an epic 11 hour filibuster on the Senate floor delivered by Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis.

Senator Davis was shooting for 13 hours but fell short when the Republicans successfully challenged her on procedural grounds, at which point the people in the gallery took over again and created enough noise to delay the vote until just past the mandated close of the special session.

Apparently hoping to take advantage of the confusion, Republicans tried to pull a fast bit of trickery and failed.
Initially, Republicans insisted the vote started before the midnight deadline and passed the bill that Democrats spent the day trying to kill. But after official computer records and printouts of the voting record showed the vote took place Wednesday, and then were changed to read Tuesday, senators retreated into a private meeting to reach a conclusion.
They concluded there were too many witnesses to get away with lying and the bill was deemed officially deceased. Chalk up a win for the forces of good and check out the numbers to fully appreciate how big a victory this was for women's rights.

Of course, this isn't the end of it. Hearing rumors Gov. Goodhair will call a second special session and Republicans are already working on redistricting Wendy Davis out of office, a revenge made so much simpler yesterday by the SCOTUS VRA decision.

Nonetheless, to have won even this temporary victory in Texas is inspiring. Between this and the ongoing Moral Monday protests in North Carolina, I haven't had this much hope for our future in a very long time.

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SCOTUS deals big blow to DOMA



Good day to be a liberal. I''m not one to drink the bitter tears of my opponents, but admit I'm enjoying the moment and wallowing in the joy exploding all over my internets. SCOTUS delivered two big victories for gay rights this morning.
The two cases, both decided on 5-4 votes, concerned the constitutionality of a key part of a federal law, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), that denied benefits to same-sex married couples, and a voter-approved California state law enacted in 2008, called Proposition 8, that banned gay marriage.
The Court struck down the use of the theocrats' strict definition of marriage as a criteria for federal benefits as unconstiutional and weaseled out of the PropH8 decision by denying standing to the plaintiffs, which allows the lower court decision that found California's gay marriage ban unconstitutional to stand.

Doubt this will be the end of it, nothing is forever in the law, but good to see the attack on equal rights thwarted for now. [photo via]

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Your moment of Zen

Happy Buddha via HoneyBearKelly. [photographer unknown]

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Are We Not Men?

By Capt. Fogg

Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not Men?


I'd hate to make anyone think I'm an optimist. I'm not even sure I care too much about the human race aside from a few individuals, but that's what pessimism is about -- a cosmic frame of reference that sees no permanence; that sees everything that is on the way up as inevitably on the way down.

Perhaps not caring gives a clearer vision.  If it doesn't matter in the end that voting rights are in peril, or at least under continuing assault, then the failure of the Texas legislature to pass a bill further restricting abortion rights despite a ten hour filibuster by Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, is less likely to be overshadowed. She might have gone on but was ruled to have drifted off topic amidst a chorus of boos and catcalls, and the bill was declared dead at 3 AM.

For those of us who still hope for sweeping reformation and the triumph of truth and justice for all,  it's a little and perhaps temporary victory over the animal meanness of human nature and as Dr Moreau learned, you can dress up the animal and teach it to walk on two legs, you can make it recite pledges and formulae, you can make up stories about divine origins, but the beast is still a beast and evolution is so slow.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Your moment of Zen

Gaudi's dragon fountain at Park Güell: Barcelona, Spain [Jon Atkinson photo]

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Moral Mondays

The crowd of protesters at the North Carolina Statehouse just keep growing to cheer on those who volunteer to go inside and get arrested. With the 120 people who got arrested tonight, the total now stands at 550 over the last eight weeks. [photo via and another photo]

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Snowden on the run

“He wanted a simple life.” ~Attorney Albert Ho
I'm at the point where I don't know what to make of of our hapless leaker. Edward Snowden's story keeps changing and with every new iteration he contradicts his earlier declarations. The only thing clearly true at the moment is he has fled Hong Kong. Certainly he didn't research the legal system there before he decided it was the perfect place to seek asylum.
Then began a two-hour conversation during which Mr. Snowden was deeply dismayed to learn that he could spend years in prison without access to a computer during litigation over whether he would be granted asylum here or surrendered to the United States, Mr. Ho said.
Mr. Ho who is, or was, his legal counsel in Hong Kong advises Snowden is a loner who had no real support system until he sought their counsel. Apparently it didn't occur to Snowden that he would certainly be charged with a serious crime and seeking asylum in a place closely connected to one of our greatest international rivals would be a big deal for both the US and his possible hosts. I imagine he was shocked to learn the Hong Kong government would be glad to get rid of him.

Meanwhile, the biggest news today is Snowden now says he got the Booz Allen job for the express purpose of stealing classified documents. Which also suggests he lied to Glenn Greenwald since Glenn specifically refuted that possibility in the beginning. So much for the principled civil rights activist who was moved to expose domestic surveillance out of horror when he realized its scope talking point.

At this point Snowden looks like little more than a clueless kid, a wannabe anarchist with delusions of grandeur and probably complicated self-esteem issues who desperately wanted attention. Which leaves me torn somewhere between scorn and pity for him.

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The good fight goes on in Texas


[Photo Credit: AP/Ricardo B. Brazziell via Think Progress]

As I said last night, the women's rights side has only a slim chance of victory in the fight against the Big Daddy Theocrats seeking to control their choice over their own bodies, but the protesters are still storming the Statehouse. The women are going to fight to the end despite the setbacks.
But around four in the morning, Republicans cut off the ongoing debate so they could finally force a vote, a decision that the Associated Press characterized as a “highly unusual and partisan move.” SB 5 won preliminary approval with a 97-33 vote. The bill still needs final approval from the House, and then it will head to a Senate vote before the special session comes to a close on midnight on Tuesday. There’s still a chance that it can be blocked if Senate Democrats successfully filibuster the vote on Tuesday.
Last I heard, the only reason there's even a chance the Dems could filibuster is because the protesters bought them another 12 hours of time by delaying the vote. So there's that.

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Flying Wallendas


I was offline for about 36 hours and returned to discover Nik Wallenda was doing a tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon. I was surprised to find a fair amount of mockery about it on the internets. Not to mention, nitpicking over the actual location of the walk. Does it really matter if Wallenda crossed above the Grand Canyon on Navajo land?

I remember when it was a BFD for a high wire walker to perform in the Big Top w/o a safety net. But nobody goes to the circus anymore. And an ever more jaded public demands greater thrills from its professional daredevils. Apparently risking certain death by walking a quarter mile on a wire suspended over a incredibly deep chasm just isn't impressive enough for some people.

It is for me. Wallendas have been aerial artists for generations. All praise to Nik Wallenda for keeping the family's legacy alive with this epic walk. [photo: Henrietta Wallenda - 1942]

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Your moment of Zen

Roaring 20s. [Helena Lam graphic]

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The People's Filibuster

The Republicans may yet ram through their Big Daddy Theocrat bills through but not without a fight. The wimmen are storming the Statehouse in Texas to defend their right to make their own choices without interference from vagina obsessed conservatives. [PPofGreaterTX photo]

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Your moment of Zen

Howard Tunnel: Heritage Rail-Trail Park, PA. [Kevin McKague photo, more at link]

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Your moment of Zen

A balancing act. [Artist unknown]

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Breaking: Jay Carney is good at his job

Which is more than can be said for Yahoo!'s hit piece on the PressSec. Sure slow news cycles breed some lame non-stories to feed the insatiable maw of the 24/7 media beast, but this interactive compilation of Carney's verbal tics is dumber than the most inane BuzzFeed list ever posted.

I'm down with Wonkette's critque. The interactive is pretty much just an excuse for unjustified mockery. It serves no useful informational purpose. A comparison between former PressSec "evasions" might have had some value, but not much. Every PressSec does this. It's in the job description. I would have found an interactive of how times the media elite asked the same damn question in one briefing after Carney has already answered it the first time much more enlightening.

I imagine this is supposed to taken as lighthearted mockery meant to while away the summer doldrums but there's an underlying meaness to these pieces that's vaguely disturbing. I watch these journos on the twitter, ever alert for the "phrase of the day" they can turn into a snark competition. What you rarely see is much focus on the substance of what Carney, or Obama, say about the policy.

The snark barely masks the media's dislike of this administration. It's hard not to think the media hates them because they're too good at their jobs. Neither Obama nor Carney often deliver easy soundbytes that can be quickly transformed into a click-baiting fauxtroversy. Makes the journos work harder. Which is not to say journos are lazy but they do love an easy narrative.

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Power to the people

Love this. Crackpot conservatives have been trying to railroad through a really odious anti-abortion bill. In response, people organized to block the vote by using the legal process.
Texas lawmakers are currently rushing an omnibus anti-abortion bill through a special session, after each of its provisions failed to advance separately during the regular legislative session. But not without being met with a fight. Over 700 Texans traveled to Austin on Thursday to testify against the anti-abortion measure before it could come to a vote in the House — and their “people’s filibuster” successfully prevented the legislation from advancing.
The Republican chairman of the House committee tried to shut down their testimony while 300 more people who signed up to speak were still waiting. The crowd prevented him from doing it. So far the vote has still not been taken up. The fight isn't over yet, and the people's filibuster may ultimately fail to block passage of the bill, but how great is it to see people battle the crackpots on their own ground rather than allow them to blithely force it through without any challenge at all?

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Your moment of Zen

By the sea. [graphic via]

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Farm bill fails in the House

Boehner blames the Democrats for not delivering the votes for him.
In a blow to House GOP leaders, the House on Thursday rejected a five-year farm bill.

Members voted down the $940 billion bill in a 195-234 vote that only won 24 Democratic votes. Most Democrats voted against the bill because it cut food stamp programs by more than $20 billion.
The 62 crackpot cons voted against it because it didn't cut food assistance enough. The crackpots think they might pass it if they make bigger cuts. In which case Boehner better have all the votes on his side because they'll likely lose the 8 Dems that voted for this abomination.

Still would be a horrible outcome, but let the damn GOPers own their own inhumane policy. No reason for a single Dem to help them do it.

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Steve King's Tea Party rally small but devoted



Crackpot Congressman Steve King was all ready to filibuster the hell out of all six hours of this Tea Party rally. But not to worry. The usual lunatics were there to help.
Crowds showed up in droves. One member of Congress after another showed up to give speeches. The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector dropped by to talk about his widely criticized study that the Senate’s immigration bill would cost $6 trillion (though there was no criticism from this crowd).

For King the outpouring of support from Tea Party groups and likeminded members of Congress was proof that his efforts to stall, and hopefully kill, the Senate’s immigration bill in the House were working. If party leaders had hoped King would sit this fight out, by day’s end on Wednesday he had made it abundantly clear he wasn’t going anywhere.
While visions of 2016 danced in his head....

Of course, no Tea Party party would be complete without a royal appearance by the Queen of the Crackpots, now facing the end of her reign.
Bachmann, feeling inspired, asked that all children under the age of 18 come up to the stage, and a woman attending the rally from North Carolina, Angela Murray, handed Bachmann her six-month-old, Terra.

“Say hello to Terra, and say hello to America’s future. I want to ask you something. Little baby Terra is looking at a very different future, when you look at what the politicians have promised … someone has to pay for those programs. The children that are here on this stage including baby Terra, this is their obligation. Is it compassionate to ask Baby Terra to potentially pay for all of this?” she said.
And thus inspired the crowd of hundreds busted out into a tearful rendition of God Bless America.

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Your moment of Zen

Sunflowers remind me of driving through Spain. [photo via]

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Please proceed GOP

In case you had any remaining doubts, this should clear them up. The crackpot cons are clearly running the asylum.
House Republicans flexed their cultural and conservative muscles Tuesday, passing the most restrictive abortion measure in years. They also advanced legislation to crack down on immigrants living illegally in the country, even as senators pursue a plan that would offer those same millions a shot at citizenship.

The actions reflect a roiling debate among Republicans over why they lost two elections to President Barack Obama, and how best to rebuild a winning formula.
They really do create their own reality.
Many Republicans in Congress and elsewhere think the party’s establishment erred in concluding the GOP must embrace “comprehensive immigration reform” to attract Hispanic voters. And they dismiss the notion that Republicans should soft-pedal their opposition to abortion, a subject on which they say public opinion is moving their way.

But Fleming, a former Navy and family physician, said there’s no political or policy harm in trying to restrict abortion.
For sure. Check the unskewed polling. Us lil' wimmin, we loves it when Big Daddy GOPers get all up in policing our vaginas. And cognitive dissonance? They eat that shit for breakfast.
“The pathology report of the death of the Republican Party is grossly overstated,” Wilbur said. Republicans must do better jobs of messaging and finding voters, but they should not overreact to Romney’s relatively narrow loss to Obama, he said. Obama won 51 percent of the popular vote to Romney’s 47 percent but defeated the Republican by a wide margin in the Electoral College, 332-206.

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FBI drones spying on America

More great news on the domestic surveillance front. FBI director Robert Mueller told a Senate hearing today the FBI owns several of their very own drones
“Does the FBI use drones for surveillance on US soil?” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Mr Mueller during an oversight hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Yes,” Mueller responded bluntly, adding that the FBI’s operation of drones is “very seldom.”
Mueller adds they're "generally used in a particular incident where you need the capability.” Wonder what he means by "generally." Implies that maybe they're occasionally used in "other" capacities. And this would be the same FBI that hasn't found an single instance of unjustified shootings in their internal review of 150 shooting incidents between 1993 to early 2011, 70 of which ended in death. And that one innocent guy who got his face shot off? Still justified. But they did give him $1.3 million in damages, so there's that.

Of course, this isn't limited to the feds. Don't have the numbers, but relying on memory, there has to be at least thousands of innocent victims across America who have been killed in botched local law enforcement raids. They almost never get charged with any kind of misconduct or negligence either. Every profession covers for its own. LEOs every more than most.

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Maine governor gags the press

Maine's crackpot governor has an odd view of freedom of the press. If the local media questions his policies and priorities, LePage isn't going to talk to them at all.
AUGUSTA – Gov. Paul LePage's administration will no longer comment in stories published by the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel, his spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Bennett said MaineToday Media, the newspapers' parent company, "had made it clear that it opposed this administration."

She would not elaborate, saying that responses from the administration could be gleaned from reports by The Associated Press or through document requests using the Freedom of Access Act.
Think Progress has more about LePage's corporate coddling agenda. One has to believe Maine voters were simply swept up in Tea Party fever when they put this nutjob into office in 2010. He barely squeaked into office then. After four years of his bizarre excuse for governance, one can only hope they come to their senses and kick the kook out in 2014.

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Your moment of Zen

A rescued rose. [photo from Maeve's garden]

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mitch McConnell threatens Harry Reid

In a facedown between the two old geezers who both have held on to their seats of power for far too long, Mitch McConnell warns Harry Reid about the consequences of shutting down the GOP's obstruction function.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday starkly warned Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) not to eliminate the filibuster on presidential nominations, threatening to end the 60-vote threshold for everything, including bills, if he becomes the majority leader.

“There not a doubt in my mind that if the majority breaks the rules of the Senate to change the rules of the Senate with regard to nominations, the next majority will do it for everything,” McConnell said on the floor.
As if that's not exactly what McConnell would do on the very first day if the electorate is stupid enough to put these crackpot cretins back into the majority. Harry's only and obvious response should be, screw that noise you pompous windbag. Harry should do exactly that to the GOPers now, so at least the Senate can pass some useful policy before the electorate loses it mind again.

Sadly, I doubt Harry Reid, Man of Infinite Indecision, has the balls to do it.

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The kings of click-bait journalism

New Republic posts an interview with Politico's head honchos John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei that illuminates their business model. It's an interesting piece if you have a high tolerance for smug pricks, but this is the graf that explains why Charlie Pierce dubbed their rag, "Tiger Beat on the Potomac."

JH: We have an obligation to be interesting. We don’t think of ourselves as the electric company or the water company: Well, we have a responsibility ...”2 That was a mindset in a previous generation of journalists. That mindset might have even been legitimate. There really were only a handful of establishments reporting on this stuff and making judgments on its relative importance. People were looking to editors to say, “Tell me what I should think about.” We are in an era where everyone is his or her own editor and will decide what they care about. If we are boring, ... there is no market for that. Nor is there a public calling to be boring.
In other words, informing the public isn't their job. Informing the public with actual facts presented in context is a loser's game. Won't get a Drudge link with real news. All the money is in useless insider gossip and creating fake controversies. For this crapola we give them special protections under rule of law. And they expect a Pulitzer for it too, which isn't as unlikely as it should be since I think one of them sits on the damn prize committee.

I could mock this at great length but, as usual, Charlie Pierce's scathing takedown of the gruesome twosome already says it all.

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Your moment of Zen

Green elephants. [photo via]

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Obamacare must die

For the GOP's hardcore crackpot caucus there is only one overriding mission. They must kill Obamacare by any means possible and they don't care who gets hurt in the process. So this presents an interesting test for the more practical establishment GOPers.

It's inevitable a law as complicated as the ACA is going to need some tweaking. Only as the provisions go into effect will the unintended consequences resulting from the massive partisan horse trading be revealed. One such problem is the law leaves self-insured religious organizations in the lurch.
Months of outreach to Republican Senate offices by religious leaders have yielded no official GOP support to an appeal from a broad coalition of religious denominations to ensure that church-sponsored health plans can participate in the ACA’s health insurance exchanges. Worse yet, from a partisan Republican point of view, two Democratic senators, Mark Pryor and Chris Coons, were the first responders to this call, introducing legislation late last week. Pryor is widely viewed as the GOP’s number one senatorial target in 2014.

Without the requested “fix,” as many as one million clergy members and church employees now enrolled in church-sponsored health plans could soon face the choice of leaving these plans (designed to meet their unique needs, such as the frequent reassignment of clergy across state lines) or losing access to the tax subsidies provided by the ACA to help lower-to-middle income Americans purchase insurance.
I'd guess this will affect red state fundie churches even more than more liberal denominations. So the question is what are the Republicans going to do? Clearly the crackpot cons, considering they rejected a rather brilliant ploy to sabotage Obamacare simply because it would look like they were helping it succeed aren't going to agree to an actual fix. I imagine they believe they can raise some rage among the conservative congregations by allowing the inadvertent exclusion to stand.

Maybe they're right. It's not like their voters, who largely rely on Fox News, are going to be told Democrats are trying to fix the problem. How this plays out will depend largely on whether the rest of BigMedia focuses on the facts or goes for the click-bait and simply reports the controversy without the context.

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Eavesdropping for fun and profit



As I said in my earlier post, private contractors with the ability to hack surveillance programs might be tempted to hack someone for personal reasons. One might be potential blackmail, but it's just as likely to be just for fun. Via Atrios, this piece from 2008 reminds us in Iraq, NSA personnel were hacking calls for amusement.
Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer.

"Hey, check this out," Faulk says he would be told, "there's good phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call, it's really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, 'Wow, this was crazy'," Faulk told ABC News.
People love gossip and now it's so emminently tweetable. The twitter is rife with reported snatches of conversation caught while eavesdropping in public spaces. The temptation to listen to private conversations is just as strong.

My second real job was an a telephone operator for a telecom. In those days they still used these old plug in switchboards. We had the ability to listen in. I was too much a goody two shoes to do it myself, but many of the operators listened in on the collect calls the guys at the high priced prep school were making. The guys never knew. [photo via]

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Snowden isn't lying, he's bragging

Been processing this story for a while now and reviewing the sum of Snowden's leaks so far. The more Snowden talks the less credible he seems, particularly when he has to revise the dramatic details of his life as Edward Snowden, international spy.

Looking at his language carefully, he's not so much telling us what the government is doing. He's describing what he can do, as a paid outside agent of the government. Or at least he could have done if he had stayed undercover. Meanwhile as Snowden makes the story about himself, an important point is being lost. Namely, Snowden is not the only young ambitious superhacker in the ranks of possibly hundreds of thousands of private contract workers. Guessing a not small number would be tempted to sell intel for money rather than expose it as an act of social conscience or in a bid for internet fame.

Also as important as the civil rights violations within the surveillance state are, it's equally scandalous that our government is spending billions subcontracting our national intelligence to private, for profit corporations. I doubt public service is the first priority of these megacorps who hire young hackers with sporadic work histories and no academic credentials to oversee these confidential programs. So when Snowden tells you "the government" is spying on you what he really means is some 29 year old hacker like himself is really the one spying and they don't actually work for the government directly. The potential for some rogue IT kid to conduct a personal vendetta seems rather large to me. Maybe we could talk about that too.

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Your moment of Zen

He said, she said and the sun don't care. [Photo credit via Saffron606]

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Jan Brewer, crazy but not stupid

No news because, Father's Day weekend, but didn't get around to posting this earlier and it's still worth mentioning. She's been a poster girl for crackpot conservatism, but apparently Jan Brewer understands the value of free money and figured out the economics of keeping uninsured people out of the ER is cost effective for the state's finances.
After a marathon session that lasted until nearly 4 in the morning on Thursday, the Arizona House approved a plan backed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer to expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act by providing health insurance coverage to an additional 350,000 low-income Arizonans.

The 33-27 vote followed 9 hours of debate and fiery pleas by conservative Republicans who wanted to kill the expansion and break the bipartisan coalition that ultimately pushed it to victory, according to the Arizona Republic.

“I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut,” Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko told the paper. “And I feel like I’ve been betrayed.”
Because, nothing matters more than screwing Obama and pissing off liberals, no matter how lamebrained the policy or how much it costs. Gotta give Brewer credit for standing up to the constituency that pretty much put her in office in the first place. She forced the crazed cons to do the right thing.
In Arizona this week, black is white, up is down, left is right and Gov. Jan Brewer is getting praised by gay Democrats and slammed by Tea Party conservatives.

But this conservative edifice has come crashing down since she announced in her State of the State address this year, to the shock of everyone, that Arizona would accept Obamacare and expand its Medicaid coverage whether her Republican allies in the state liked it or not. Needless to say, they did not like it. But Brewer’s newfound love of Obamacare was so strong that she vowed to veto every single bill the Legislature sent to her office until they caved on Obamacare.
Ironically Democrats and our President could take a lesson from Brewer here. She won that fight because she didn't back down. Have to respect that kind of political courage. It's too rare.

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Click-bait journalism means never having to admit you screwed up

So last night CNet's Declan McCullugh posted a story with the red siren hed, "NSA admits listening to U.S. phone calls without warrants — National Security Agency." You'll be shocked to learn, by this morning Declan's sloppy click-baiting turned out to be pretty much false, apparently based on his misinterpretation of a stray comment by Congressman Jerrold Nadler at some hearing.

Congressman Nadler corrected the misreporting today. [Transcript of the full convo at the link.] As The Atlantic notes in their piece the NSA click-baiting is even bigger than just this one point.
Seeing the full conversation reveals a slightly different picture than McCullugh was trying push forward. The FBI director testified that PRISM mostly works exactly like we've been told in the weeks since this scandal broke. An unclassified document obtained by Reuters claimed NSA officials looked at raw information for fewer than 300 telephone numbers in 2012. On Saturday, the Associated Press reported any domestic phone information collected by PRISM is stored in a secure server that requires a special warrant to access, supporting Mueller's testimony.
None of this is to say we should take the government's word for anything without a speck of skepticism either, but's it equally clear we can no longer trust the media to give us the real story either. As long as boosting traffic is the prime objective of the new journalistic order, we are mostly without reliable sources for actual facts.

The worst part is Declan's false info is still spreading. The twitter tells me his inaccurate version has 54K likes on Facebook and it's still spreading. Boing Boing picked it up this afternoon. And while Declan did correct some of the disinfo in the piece, he merely changed the headline slightly, disguising but not really refuting his original sensational claims, added a bit to the body of the piece, and then buried his admission of guilt at the very end of the post.

This is a big problem because, the majority of readers don't get past the headline and a very few make it all to the end of any given post of any length. All that gets passed through the social media is the sensational -- and false -- claims. Great for generating hysteria. Horrible for finding solutions to the surveillance state.

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Your second moment of Zen

A Lady Liberty, photo taken in 1925. [via]

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Your moment of Zen

Happy Dad's Day if it fits your circumstances. For me, it's different now. Second year since my Pop died. Still miss him just as much as the first day he left but you make peace with the absence over time.

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Light posting

Visiting friends. Internet access is spotty. So posting will be sporadic at best for the next few days.
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Your moment of Zen

St. John's wort in flower. [via]

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Your moment of Zen

A bamboo bridge. Location unknown. [via]

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Your moment of Zen

Go ask Alice, when she was just small...

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Glenn Beck again

By Capt. Fogg

"We are going to be greatly divided as a nation in the next ten days and you are going to witness things in American history that have never been witnessed before" Said Glenn Beck yesterday despite his recent claim that his vocal cords no longer worked. I was hoping that might have been the one true thing ever to escape his mouth.

It's true -- you're going to witness the last half of June, 2013 -- a historical first.  I'm pretty sure you're going to witness another spell of embarrassment for Glenn Beck too, not that he'll necessarily notice or acknowledge it.  There's a document, he says, that will "take down pretty much the whole power structure, pretty much everything" and he's going to announce it sometime today.

Those who remember back to last April, a set which obviously doesn't include his fans, might speculate that this new revelation will be as spurious and idiotic as his earthshaking revelation of a connection between Saudi Arabia and the Boston Marathon bombing.  Is anyone still waiting for an admission of error or a hint of humble retraction?

Of course to those folks who follow Beck in the way people used to mock dancing bears or court jesters, this is nothing new.  Students of buffoonery  and the charlatans who move their card tables and shells from one corner to the next in search of fresh idiots may not even notice this latest tantrum, but the clock is ticking Mr. Beck and there's not much time before the waitress brings you another plate of crow.  Do us a favor -- take a bite.

UPDATE:

Well days have gone by now and no whistles have been blowing and Beck has only some mumbling about immigration which is hardly the stuff of unprecedented division much less something to "take down the power structure."  

Do his faithful listeners remember as far back as a day or two or are they just so choked up on each new day's revelation that they don't care about yesterday?

So, want so fries with that crow Glenn?  Can I supersize it?

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Darrell Issa's reckless and dangerous transcripts

Shorter Darrell Issa: I couldn't possibly release the full transcripts because (a) NSA scandal is sucking up all of the news cycles and (b) they would prove my IRS scandal is a partisan scam.
WASHINGTON -- One week after he released partial transcripts of interviews with IRS officials involved in the scandal surrounding the targeting of conservative groups, the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said releasing the full transcripts would be "reckless" and "irresponsible."
Get that? Releasing hand picked excerpts to media is fine. The full transcripts to put the excerpts in context, dangerous. By which he means it's dangerous to Issa's now ruined plan to keep his fakery alive all summer. Ranking Democratic on the committee, Elijah Cummings, called Issa out.

Shorter Cummings: Cut the bullshit Issa. You got nothing. Release the transcripts and end the hearings or I'll release the damn transcripts myself.

Issa is of course, appalled that his good friend across the aisle would utter such a coarse challenge.
"Your decision to publicly announce that the investigation should wrap up was irresponsible, but not surprising," said Issa, in a letter to Cummings. "However, your push to release entire transcripts from witness interviews while the investigation remains active was reckless and threatened to undermine the integrity of the Committee’s investigation."
Cummings is not alone. Apparently even Republicans are grumbling in private. Amusing development in light of the current media meme -- transparency in government. Steve Benen adds more context.

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Your moment of Zen

A fairy ring. [source unknown]

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

All your government surveillance is privatized

As I said in the previous post, we're having the wrong arguments about domestic surveillance. All the chatter is about Snowden and Obama and Bush. What's being lost in the noise is talking about the policy. The bigger scandal than the surveillance is that the surveillance is being contracted out to private corporations. Take for instance Snowden's last employer from whence he apparently hacked his documents, Booz Allen Hamilton.
The company employs about 25,000 people, almost half of whom hold top secret security clearances, providing “access to information that would cause ‘exceptionally grave damage’ to national security if disclosed to the public,” according to a company securities filing.

In January, Booz Allen announced that it was starting work on a new contract worth perhaps as much as $5.6 billion over five years to provide intelligence analysis services to the Defense Department. Under the deal, Booz Allen employees are being assigned to help military and national security policy makers, the company said…
Think Progress points out Booz Allen Hamilton is just one of many contractors.
According to a 2013 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, a total of 483,263 contractors held Top Secret clearances in 2012, the highest level one can obtain, with another 582,524 holding them at the Confidential and Secret levels.
Think about that for a moment. How many more young and possibly delusional computer geeks might there be lurking in corporate cubicles with no accountability to the taxpayer at all? Some of those guys might be accessing your personal internet communications, not because they have to, but because they can.

Beyond that, it's not even cost effective. It's a myth that the private sector can deliver public services at a lesser cost. Private industry is profit driven, above all else. Atrios is right when he says "the security/surveillance state industry is just a giant grift, a big scam there to enrich certain communities in Northern Virginia."

Of course surveillance is just one area of government being run by and enriching private industry. Military contractors like whatever Blackwater is being called right now for foreign security forces and Halliburton for military support services are also sucking billions out of our national treasury for services the government could provide at a much lesser cost. It's not just the grift, it's the graft. These corporations are cheating us and even if they get caught cooking the books, or outright stealing, nothing happens to them. They still get paid and they get their contracts renewed forever. That's at the heart of the "small government" scam.

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We're having the wrong argument about domestic surveillance

I'm about done with Edward Snowden barring any new corrected information but let's review for a moment the earliest reports about Snowden's revelations:

Snowden:
"All my options are bad," he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory. "Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners.

They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets," he said. "We have got a CIA station just up the road - the consulate here in Hong Kong - and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be." Having watched the Obama administration prosecute whistleblowers at a historically unprecedented rate, he fully expects the US government to attempt to use all its weight to punish him. "I am not afraid," he said calmly, "because this is the choice I've made."
Charlie Pierce:
I am sorry, but this is the stuff of bad airport spy fiction. ("Rendered"? The Triads? Please.) The most likely outcome? China decides to extradite him because it has higher priority issues on which it needs to deal with the United States than the future of Edward Snowden. Which, I suspect, is when he and his sponsors will discover that Hong Kong's "spirited committment to free speech and the right of political dissent' -- which may be the funniest line to emerge from this whole saga -- is not what they believe it to be. But there are issues beyond Edward Snowden, and whatever comes next, and these are issues worthy of an open and national debate, and they should be examined in the light of day.
Read the whole thing. Charlie is right. We having the wrong arguments because too many people are uncritically buying the media hype and the fights are all about who's to blame. We didn't suddenly turn into a surveillance society overnight. The government has been spying on us in various ways our entire lives. That's surely not acceptable but let's not forget the Obama admin has not broken any laws. You want to get mad, then target the people who made all this stuff legal -- Congress.

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Your moment of Zen

Creativity is greater than negativity. [artist unknown]

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Snowden's long game on leaking

Here's a curious side note on Snowden's epic leaks. He contacted this documentary film maker in January, Interestingly "she is filming the story behind the story — including her co-author on the Guardian story and former Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald — for her forthcoming documentary on whistle-blowers and leaks."

We now know Snowden ultimately contacted a slew of media people by the time he produced any hard evidence. Now they're fighting over credit for the scoop. It also apparently took him a long time to come up with the documents.
We were contacted, we didn’t know what he was up to, and at some point he came forward with documents.
Think Progress has more on Snowden's actual work history. He changed jobs a lot. He was just an IT guy, not an intelligence officer. He was an accomplished computer geek and made a ton of money privately contracting out his skills. But he clearly didn't have “the authorities to wiretap anyone," it appears he simply had the ability to hack further into the systems than he was cleared to do. And this is interesting:
He wasn’t just worried that data was being collected, but that it would eventually be used selectively to derive sinister conclusions from the actions of people living innocent lives.
In other words he has no proof that innocent people were being targeted with intrusive data intercepts, he just decided it was going to happen someday. In other words he lied, or exaggerated if you prefer, to get the media's attention. Which still makes me wonder if he either invented those powerpoints himself or if they were really a sales pitch from one of his many jobs with outside contractors and not from the NSA at all.

The more real information that comes out, the more it looks to me he's more interested in fame than in exposing actual government wrongdoing. I hope you'll forgive me for finding that less than heroic.

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Media fails on Snowden story

So I'm still catching up the Snowden story. It's not that easy because it seems the facts keep changing and there's a metric ton of noise with everybody fighting about whether this kid is a hero or a traitor. Jeffrey Toobin doesn't think Snowden is a hero. He thinks he's " a grandiose narcissist." At this point, I tend to agree with that. It's not that I don't appreciate the guy restarting the debate about domestic surveillance, but I'm finding Snowden vaguely sociopathic for a number of reasons.

A lot of fighting appears to be based on incomplete information. Media has been flooding the zone with a grand rush to be first with any hot rumor they can get their hands on. Then stealthily correcting the record after the rumors turn out to be bogus.

Ed Bott continues to track the ever changing stories being quietly corrected. Guessing few people caught this correcton on the WaPo story.
Update June 10: And one more thing. In its original story, the Post calls the source of the documents "a career intelligence officer" who provided these materials "in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy." We now know that the source was Edward Snowden, who was not an intelligence officer but an "infrastructure analyst" who had been in his current position with an external contractor for only three months. The "career intelligence officer" description seems exaggerated.
Seems exaggerated? How about entirely made up to point of near delusional? Suggests to me Snowden never had the authority to "wiretap the President" as he initially claimed. Seems to be a correction that big deserves a headline, but I haven't seen one yet. This is why I don't trust the media to get the story right anymore than I trust government claims of national security necessity. As Ed put it:
In short, one of the great journalistic institutions of the 20th Century is now engaged in outright click-baiting, following the same “publish first, fact-check later” rules as its newer online competitors.
Click-bait reporting is the new business model of the news biz. It's killing what's left of the profession of journalism and it's at the root of the ruination of civil society.

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Edward Snowden, drama queen

"He was capable of melodrama but wrote with some eloquence about his beliefs."
Just catching up on this story of our intrepid leaker. Snowden claims he's not comfortable in the spotlight but everything I've read about this so far reads like a bad spy novel starting with his code name Verax which means “truth teller” in Latin.

Furthermore, he obviously planned to come forward from the beginning, making elaborate plans to secure asylum.
To effect his plan, Snowden asked for a guarantee that The Washington Post would publish — within 72 hours — the full text of a PowerPoint presentation describing PRISM, a top-secret surveillance program that gathered intelligence from Microsoft, Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley giants. He also asked that The Post publish online a cryptographic key that he could use to prove to a foreign embassy that he was the document’s source.

I told him we would not make any guarantee about what we published or when. (The Post broke the story two weeks later, on Thursday. The Post sought the views of government officials about the potential harm to national security prior to publication and decided to reproduce only four of the 41 slides.)

Snowden replied succinctly, “I regret that we weren’t able to keep this project unilateral.” Shortly afterward he made contact with Glenn Greenwald of the British newspaper the Guardian.
Glenn of course, ran with the whole story without an apparent shred of skepticism, including publishing all the powerpoint slides. Speaking of those slides, this doesn't seem to have received a whole lot of attention. Declan McCullagh of CNET is skeptical. He noticed the WaPo surrepitiously revised their initial account. [See the complete revisions here]

Declan also found a named expert who wasn't impressed.
The biggest problem was that the Post took a leaked PowerPoint presentation from a single anonymous source and leaped to conclusions without supporting evidence. McCullagh quotes one of his named (not anonymous) sources, former general counsel of the NSA Stewart Baker, as saying the slides look “flaky."
Not saying Snowden made the whole thing up. We all know the program exists. Just saying it's entirely possible he's embellished his data to make it a better story.

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Your moment of Zen

A bonsai hobbit house. [photo via]

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Sunday, June 09, 2013

The NSA leaker outs himself

I want to think this kid is a hero but I'm not sure I believe him.

I've been traveling all day so I'm just catching up. Read a couple of posts and watched Snowden's interview. Something about his body language strikes me as a bit off. He's clearly smart and articulate but his story is odd. As the kids say, I have questions.

For one thing, I actually know someone who tried to get a job with the CIA. She was also very bright, very beautiful and a college graduate. Not sure if she ever got the job. She moved away before it happened but the process is really long. She had been working at it for months. You don't just go in for a couple of interviews and pass a security check to get in.

The other thing I wonder just off the top is if he was so high in the agency that he had clearance to, as he put it, "wiretap anyone, even the president" why wasn't he still in Washington? Or Arlington, or wherever they house this secret operation? Why was he now working in Hawaii at some lower level contractor? Even using the word wiretap doesn't sound like CIA jargon to me.

And what about this girlfriend they say he was living with in Hawaii? I mean, he just packed a few things and took off to Hong Kong, never to come back? I wonder if he told her what he was planning to do? I don't know. Maybe it's just because I'm tired, I haven't read enough about it yet and I'm missing some key details but I'm getting a weird vibe from this guy.

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Your moment of Zen

Comet moth, also known as Moon moth from Madagascar. [photographer unknown]

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Saturday, June 08, 2013

You know who's really reading your email?

Hackers and thieves. Finding the assumption that the government is really reading all our email somewhat amusing. Atrios says there's 25K or maybe up to 50K NSA employees. He's wondering what they do. Willing to guess lots of them are inventing new algorithms to extrapolate patterns from metadata. Lots more on the legal team figuring how to get warrants based on the data no one is allowed to talk about. Not saying that's not a problem but I doubt they have thousands of people reading millions of emails about your upcoming big event or what your kids are doing or trash talking your mutual friends.

Hackers are much more likely to be in your private correspondence for various reasons, mostly not good. They're also in your social nets where you post a dozen clues a day about your personal life. The hackers are likely to post your info, sell it, or steal it for fame and glory or for profit. Whatever the government is, or isn't, doing with your personal information -- at least they keep your secrets and they never charge anything to your credit card.

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Why photojournalists are important

Also historians. Abraham Lincoln in the White House, 1864, upon having won his second nomination for POTUS. [via hudsonette]

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Your moment of Zen

A bridge to a peaceful place. Art by Frédéric Pillot.

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Friday, June 07, 2013

Screw it all

I unexpectedly ended up offline all day. I'm cruising the headlines and see it's outrage city out there. Everybody all hyped up about anonymous leaks regarding domestic surveillance and all I can say is if we had seen this level of hysteria when Bush was caught doing this crap without a warrant, the damn program would never have been continued. It was all about respect for the office, and support the War President then and Downing St memos? WTF did they know?

I see a bunch of loose and unverified rumors being eagerly pushed by people who trade in outrage for a living. I see a media who's been pissed at our current President from day one for making them work too damm hard to get sound bytes hyping a torrent of sudden leaks without any skepticism whatsoever. And I see every major internet carrier who is allegedly allowing the government free and unfettered access to their servers vigorously denying the rumors.

As Steve M. points out this is all pretty fucking convenient for China. And for Glenn Greenwald, who just happens to be in Hong Kong instead of Brazil right now. Odd coincidence. And I'd add the internets tell me three days ago Greenwald was begging for readers to send him money, and then suddenly he has a huge scoop that gets him tons of attention after nearly everyone has ignored him for months on end and he's all over the teevee for the first time in years. But by all means, let's just take every anonymous leak as gospel because leakers never have an agenda. No one in the media has ever prematurely pushed a story without vetting it into the news stream simply to win a damn cycle. (See Boston Marathon bombing.) And of course, the media has never been burned by these anonymous leakers. Just ask Jon Karl. Or Judith Miller.

I'll probably be less incredulous about it all tomorrow but right now I'm tired, cranky, and sick of instant outrage born of unproven rumors. I'm done for the day.
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Awesome domino book chain

Possibly the most awesome thing on the internet ever, at least so far.



It took a total of seven hours of setup and five tries, but at around 11 p.m. Friday, May 31, The Seattle Public Library set the world’s record for the longest book domino chain using a record-breaking total of 2,131 books. The previous record was a 1,000-book domino chain set in 2011. [Via Paul Constant by way of Anne Laurie.]
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Your moment of Zen

Cave homes, Cappadocia, Turkey. [photo via]



[click to embiggen.]

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Thursday, June 06, 2013

GOP Obamacare hypocrisy

Proving that the GOP's alleged concern about Obamacare is based solely on politics and Obama Derangement Syndrome, Lee Fang at the Nation unearthed a treasure trove of Republican requests for Obamacare funding from Republicans who trash the program on a near daily basis and have voted dozens of times to repeal the bill altogether.

The list of these hypocrites is too long to list to them all, but it's instructional to see how they praise the program when they've got their hand out for the money.
House Republicans and the Senate Republican Policy Committee have trashed the ACA’s Community Transformation grants as an Obamacare “slush fund.” In the letters seeking these grants, however, GOP lawmakers have heaped praise on their potential. Cornyn writes in his letter that the grant would help “improve the health and quality of life of area residents.” Congressman Aaron Schock, a Republican from Illinois, congratulated a local nonprofit for winning a Community Transformation grant, noting that the program will give “people the tools to live healthier and longer lives.”
And adding to their disgusting deceit:
Whether cutting a ribbon or signing a letter, no Republicans have acknowledged that the health programs they are endorsing are provided by Obamacare.
You won't see this mendacity reported on the teevee news programs outside of MSNBC. But the rest of the BigMedia will be happy to "report" every false utterance these asshats spew to try undermine the program simply to rob Obama and the American people of a chance at successful health care reform.

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How you gonna cry victim now?

I wrote about this a while back. The IRS received applications from 298 groups for tax exempt status and a quick look at the approved groups sure looked like the majority were conservative. Now Kevin Drum found an intrepid soul who did the real work.
However, the IRS does publish the names of groups that have received special scrutiny and been approved for tax-exempt status. They recently released a list of 176 organizations that have been approved since 2010, so Martin Sullivan checked each one to figure out if it was liberal or conservative. Here's what he found:

122 conservative
48 liberal/nonconservative
6 unknown
Sure makes their whining about being suppressed ridiculous. Not that it will stop them from crying about it. [graphic via]

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Shocked to learn there's surveillance going on in this place

Anybody who's old enough to have been paying attention shouldn't be surprised to learn the huge telecom data sweeps are still going on unabated. Adding, I'd be willing to bet it's not only AT&T who's cooperating on this. The only thing that's changed is now they do actually get a secret court warrant to conduct surveillance. Furthermore this didn't start with the bed wetting after 9/11 when the vast majority of Americans willing gave up their privacy rights for imagined security against those scary terrorists. Government has been spying us for as long as I can remember in some way or another.

I don't like domestic surveillance. I was out there ringing the alarm when they passed the Patriot Act. I begged the cons to fight with us when the Bush era warrantless surveillance programs were revealed precisely because nobody in government gives up a power once they get it. So I don't have much patience with the hysteria now and especially find those using this as yet another excuse for Obama bashing more than a little tiresome.

I would love to think this latest revelation would consolidate enough mass outrage to end the whole damn program, but I'd also love to think I'll be the next one to win a multimillion dollar jackpot in the lottery. Not going to happen. Still, it's useful to look at the facts about the program and consider exactly what we let happen right under our noses.

As Charlie Pierce so adroitly points out:
This is the surveillance state writ large, with large corporations and the government in close cooperation...

And because we are supposed to be a self-governing political commonwealth, we are complicit, too. All of the powers under which the NSA operated were approved, over and over again, by the Congress, the members of which we freely elect, and none of whom will ever win an election on issues like this because, all tricornered hats and the outrage of the Paul family aside, there is no electoral constituency for the Bill of Rights any more. All of the powers under which Verizon operated were approved, over and over again, by its customers, who now know what the company was doing, and who, I predict, will keep handing over the data. Given the dark, midnight nature of government secrecy, a lot of the infrastructure behind this current outrage was put in place in the daylight. The fault, dear Brutus...
Read Charlie's whole post to put this in perspective. This didn't happen in a vacuum. Corporations, under sanction of the courts, have been chipping away at our privacy rights for years. Drug testing in the workplace. Social media monitoring of employees even when they're off the clock. Kids being searched without probable cause in the schools. The list is nearly endless and we probably waited too long to stop it now.

Which is not to say we shouldn't try to stop it but it's not going to happen overnight because of internet outrage. It would take a sustained effort over years. Not sure we're capable as a society of pulling that off anymore. Meanwhile, I'll be over here sitting with Steve M. doing my best to at least minimize the damage by keeping people in government whom I trust marginally more with power I never wanted them to have in the first place. [graphic via]

Addendum: More from Charlie. Not to be expecting much help from Congress on ending the surveillance. Especially precious is when the Republican author of the Patriot Act is very concerned it's being abused by that uppity blah guy in their White House.

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Your moment of Zen

Village by the sea. Reminds me of Portugal. [Frédéric Pillot]



[click to embiggen.]

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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Yes, austerity kills economies

Just when you think there's no hope left for this country, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) does something spectacular:
So it was a little striking to see her using the Senate Budget Committee, which she chairs, to hold a hearing on the negative effects of austerity. This isn’t a flip on policy; her budget does, after all, include some stimulus spending. But instead of the usual routine of emphasizing the importance of medium-run deficit reduction, while paying lip service to the need to prevent premature cuts, Murray used the hearing to focus almost exclusively on the latter concern.

The CBO’s latest projections and the Reinhart-Rogoff debacle, she argued, “make it clearer than ever that now we need to focus above all else on our fragile economic recovery, and that the case for austerity in a time of economic weakness is simply wrong.”
Lots of charts and wonkery at the link, but the other important point is The Heritage Foundation has devolved under DeMint from a pseudo think tank that at least made some attempt to advance logical argument into a hotbed of pure conservative crackpottery. Steve Benen makes the case for why any remaining pundits of good conscience should be embarrassed to afford Heritage any credibilty at all.

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Obama fights back at last

It's about damn time our President accepted his political opponents are irredeemable crackpots who care only about their own political power and dropped the nice guy routine. You can't meet people halfway when their definition of compromise is they get everything they want and you get to take all the blame for their inhumane agenda. But it is interesting to see how our "liberal" media plays the change. David Graham at The Atlantic lays it out under the headline, Forget the Charm, Keep the Offensive: Obama's Aggressive New Strategy.

Get that? Republicans can say any damn offensive thing they please, vandalize our system of government, advance the most obvious lies about the President's policy proposals, sabotage our economy, deliberately ignore the most pressing problems facing the nation and relentlessly attempt to destroy every vestige of humane government policy while wasting millions of our money on their political chicanery and the media merely transcribes it without any colorful adjectives that might even faintly suggest they're destroying America as we know it. But now that the President has finally decided to fight them on their own damn terms, he's aggressive. On the offensive. You can almost hear the word uppity just dying to get out.

But leaving the media's long entrenched GOPcentric mindset aside, I for one welcome the newly combative Obama. He's the President dammit. He was elected by a landslide by present day standards and this is what people stood in eight hour long lines for. A real fight. Republicans are out of control. They need to called out. Let them whine. It only exposes their weakness and their perfidy.

[Big thanks to Michael J.W. Stickings of The Reaction (Twitter: @mjwstickings) for kindly linking in.]

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Heckling is not helping - Updated

Lots of people talking about the heckler who rudely interupted Michelle Obama yesterday during the First Lady's speech at a private fundraiser. The heckler was said to be a 56 year old lesbian activist who demanded our FLOTUS get the President to immeditaely sign an executive order on gay rights in the workplace. I'm seeing Michelle's response being called confrontational, but we can't know for sure since there's no video. I imagine in reality the FLOTUS was polite but firm, though clearly she wasn't going to ignore it.
“One of the things that I don’t do well is this,” she said to applause from most of the guests, according to a White House transcript. “Do you understand?”

A pool report from a reporter in the room said Obama “left the lectern and moved over to the protester.” The pool report quoted Obama as saying: “Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice.”
The heckler spun it like this:
“Basically, I was asked by the first lady to be quiet, and I can’t be quiet any longer,” Sturtz told the Huffington Post. “I was surprised by how negative the crowd seemed to be. It was actually a little unsettling and disturbing.”
Well actually FLOTUS told her to stop rudely interupting while it was her turn to talk, not that the Ms. Self-Important Heckler should shut up about the issue altogether. And the heckler was surprised the crowd wasn't applauding her disrupting the event and clamoring for her to take the mic instead? Maybe she should consider they paid their $500 bucks or more to hear Michelle Obama speak and heckler woman was abridging their right to do so.

I love and support activists. I strongly believe in standing up and fighting for causes you believe in, but this isn't activism. It's selfish attention seeking that smacks of nothing so much as a bid for 15 minutes of media fame. Who walked out of the event feeling enlightened on gay rights policy I wonder. I'd guess no one. More likely they were disgusted by inappropriate tactics and far less likely to support the heckler's cause.

So to answer Charlie's question, no, not only is it not helping, it's counterproductive. Her conduct reinforced every negative stereotype about harsh, in your face lesbians. It far more likely to validate the conservative argument that "those people" don't deserve special rights at all.

Adding, the really ridiculous thing is, no one has done more for gay rights than Barack Obama. The gay activist community's relentless demands to get everything, all at once, even at the expense of other equally deserving communities -- thinking here of threats to blow up the immigration bill because it doesn't address gays -- makes them look pretty damn selfish besides. That's no way to win hearts and minds over to their side. And I say that as life long supporter of their cause. [image via]

Update: Jake Tapper at his new gig The Lead comes up with some sketchy video of the encounter. Clearly Michelle was polite about it under the circumstances. Jake also retweets this from an attendee:
@atidman: @jaketapper @TheLeadCNN I was there and I agree with Jay Carney @PressSec that she handled it brilliantly!
And Laura tweets that the heckler claims she hadn't planned in advance. But Laura links to the heckler's tweets from May 30 that suggest otherwise.

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Your moment of Zen

In recognition of the current Game of Thrones angst. Awesome photoshop via Joseph Werner.

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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Moral Mondays

It started with 5 or 6 people getting arrested at the North Carolina statehouse a few weeks ago. Every Monday since it's grown until yesterday, about 150 were deliberately arrested by NC statehouse security and over a thousand demonstrators were massed outside to protest the real life tyranny of Republicans ramrodding their insane agenda through the legislature.

The craziest stuff makes the national news but it's bigger than just trying to establish a state religion. They've decimated the public school system, they're destroying the social safety net, criminalizing poverty, dismantling environmental safeguards and trying to sell off the public assets to their cronies just to start. And that's just at the state level. What's happening in the counties shouldn't even be legal.

Republicans claim the polling is on their side, but I wouldn't bet on it. The crowds outside the statehouse are diverse. It's not just poor people. Well off professionals and older people are marching in to be arrested. This week even the mayor of Carrsboro was carted off to jail. Even the national media has begun to notice. I have to believe the more the GOPers overreach, the more inspired the people of conscience who have long sat silent on the sidelines will be inspired to fight back. The damage being done is great, but it will be undone.

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Pseudoscoop of the day: secret email addresses

Another big AP scoop. Administration appointees maintain "secret email addresses" if by secret you mean a separate unpublished intra-office address they use to conduct agency business. AP is not buying the reasoning that they do this to avoid having to filter out extraneous public contacts from their accounts while they engaged in critical communications required to do their job. Because you know, nobody else does that, anywhere. Not ever. And never have before. If by never you forget to mention it was a common practice for years in the Bush administration.

Leaving aside that omission, do you know anybody know who doesn't have at least two accounts, even when they're not highly visible public figures? I don't. Furthermore, AP has no evidence of any misconduct involved in the use of the private addys. They aren't in widespread use. In fact AP found only a few of the employees have them at all. They appear to be mainly confined to the agency heads. There's no evidence they're being used to circumvent public records laws. All the AP has here is allegations from "Republicans in Congress" and the "Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank." Plus their own gut feeling that the very existence of such accounts "drive perceptions that government officials are trying to hide actions or decisions."

I find that rather hilarious, in a sardonic laugh kind of way. In fact, I seem to remember Bush administration White House staff using effectively illegal accounts with the practical result of circumventing public records laws. And then somehow managed to "lose" millions of them having to do with major policy decisions and deceptions of the Bush tenure. Many important electronic records were never recovered. What I don't remember is any great outcry from AP demanding accountability then.

But leaving history behind, the AP did manage to get the private address for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. They were asked not to publish it, but they decided to ignore that request "because the secretary is a high-ranking civil servant who oversees not only major agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services but also the implementation of Obama's signature health care law." I imagine having her private address inundated with crazed emails from crackpots every time Beck or Malkin or whoever sic their hordes of flying monkeys on her won't be interfering with her ability to conduct the business of the people at all. So great journalism in service of the public interest with that bold revelation guys.

What's most amusing about this little outrage is I see these journos bitch all day long on the twitter about having to deal with angry trolls who blast them with unwanted communications. Willing to bet they all have private addresses as well that they use to conduct their work. Maybe in the interests of media transparency, they'd like to give those out to the public... I didn't think so.

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