Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Friday, August 30, 2013

Buried in the ground

 Get it while it's hot!


At the beginning of World War II, aerial bombardment of civilians was considered a horror that might, after that war, have been labelled a "war crime."


And then the Allies decided they had to do it to defeat Germany and Japan, and we got Dresden and Munich and Berlin and Nagasaki and Hiroshima and Tokyo and probably a lot of other places I can't call to mind just now.

Later we invented the concept of "carpet bombing" in Vietnam.  That was supposed to win for us, too.

Of course, prior to all that, both sides used "gas" during World War I, but it was so hideous:

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest 
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

That we decided war was too hideous to talk of with such high zest, or to tell children ardent for some desperate glory "Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori."

Naahh!  Just kidding.  We only decided the gas was a terrible thing.

Today the U.S. deploys "daisy cutters" which are designed to suck all the of air out of the space reached by the bomb blast.  It's an "anti-personnel" weapon.  And we have bombs that drop mines on parachutes, "bomblets" that are designed to go off when touched or picked up, that are colorful and attractive to children.  There are stories Israel has used such bombs.

But gas is horrible and terrible and must never ever be used again.  Not land mines; not bomblets brightly colored and rained down as anti-personnel weaponry; not even "daisy cutters" or "neutron bombs," which are meant to do less property damage than "regular" nuclear bombs, but with more effective killing of living things.  Gas is the weapon we cannot tolerate.

Gas, said Sec. Kerry today, is the reason we must punish, or bomb, or do SOMETHING to Syria.  Gas.

Gas is reprehensible.  Other ways of killing lots and lots of people quickly and easily, be they soldiers of be they civilians; the deaths of all those people during "shock and awe" in Iraq, for example:  well, they didn't die from gas, did they?

That's just the cost of freedom, isn't it?

Flag on the play

Or uses one o' them whistles only dogs can hear

Okay, here we go again:
I'm sorry for all the people who don't invite Glenn Greenwald to dinner, but this is actual whistleblowing.

Sez Charlie Pierce.  And the news the whistle blows?  The CIA is not dead yet!
The CIA’s dominant position will likely stun outside experts. It represents a remarkable recovery for an agency that seemed poised to lose power and prestige after acknowledging intelligence failures leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The surge in resources for the agency funded secret prisons, a controversial interrogation program, the deployment of lethal drones and a huge expansion of its counterterrorism center. The agency was transformed from a spy service struggling to emerge from the Cold War into a paramilitary force.
Actually, I think the news here is that the CIA has a big budget, and we finally know what it is, thanks to Edward Snowden.   The CIA funded secret prisons?  Say it ain't so, Joe! Yr. host is just a humble blogger, but haven't we known that for at least 8 years? The CIA is using drones? Stop the presses! I had no idea! Oh, wait, we did know that. So what is the news here?  That the CIA has a budget, and it's far bigger than the NSA's budget? However:

Of note is the lack of any language detailing abuse or misconduct, ostensibly the reason for these leaks to begin with.
Or maybe it's this:

The agencies had budgeted for a major counterintelligence initiative in fiscal 2012, but most of those resources were diverted to an all-hands, emergency response to successive floods of classified data released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

For this year, the budget promised a renewed “focus . . . on safeguarding classified networks” and a strict “review of high-risk, high-gain applicants and contractors” — the young, nontraditional computer coders with the skills the NSA needed.

Among them was Snowden, then a 29-year-old contract computer specialist who had been trained by the NSA to circumvent computer network security. He was copying thousands of highly classified documents at an NSA facility in Hawaii, and preparing to leak them, as the agency embarked on a security sweep.

“NSA will initiate a minimum of 4,000 periodic reinvestigations of potential insider compromise of sensitive information,” according to the budget, scanning its systems for “anomalies and alerts.”
 Which prompts Joshua Foust to note this:

But more immediately: an insider threat program was derailed because of Wikileaks. Specifically, the government panicked so strongly about the threat caused by leaking documents classified at a lower level than this document that it diverted resources from the very program that possibly would have exposed Edward Snowden before he could have leaked.

Lots of people, opposed to all forms of government secrecy, will applaud this report as a great moment in Transparency, capital-T. And I do think Barton Gellman and his reporting team deserve praise for not publishing full programmatic details online — that truly would have presented a grave threat to national security. But I just don’t understand how honest observers can look at the massive, systemic destruction Chelsea Manning’s leaks caused and still say, with a straight face, that they did no damage. They did enormous damage, and we’re still dealing with the aftermath of it.
I'm still listening for the whistle that's allegedly being blown.  Snowden is now in the custody of the Russians, with his four computers and who knows how many copies of the documents he took.  The NSA doesn't even know how much information he took, but I'm betting the Russians, at least, know by now.  To imagine the Russians don't have that information is to imagine a world of fairies and unicorns.  To imagine the release of those documents hasn't done considerable damage is to not be paying attention; if only because they have led to overblown claims the NSA knows when you are sleeping and knows when you're awake, because their technology is not only super-powerful, it's actually magical.

There's been a great deal of bafflegab and balderdash announced around this story, and some of the stupidest now is the idea Snowden was merely a whistleblower.  The problem with that scenario is no one can point to an actual crime by the NSA, or even to valid claims of violations of privacy. And is that because we don't yet know all the truth?  Or because we insist on turning every scrap of information into the worst case scenario possible, and attributing powers to the NSA that a super-villain in a comic book couldn't have?

There's a lot of damage being done by this story, alright; but the damage is to reasoning and common sense, at least.  There is also evidence, thanks to the detention of David Miranda, that the damage may be more serious than that:

  • Statement from senior Cabinet Office civil servant to Miranda case says material was 58000 ‘highly classified UK intelligence documents’
  • Police who seized documents from Miranda found among them a piece of paper with the decryption password, the statement says
  • This password allowed them to decrypt one file on his seized hard drive, adds Oliver Robbins, Cabinet Office security adviser 
  • The Govt believes Edward Snowden, the NSA ‘whistleblower’, “indiscriminately appropriated material in bulk” 
  • The material contains personal information that would allow British intelligence staff to be identified, inc some overseas, it adds 
  • The Govt has had to assume Snowden data is now in the hands of foreign governments, since his travel abroad (to HK and Russia) 
  • Statement specifically says UK but they haven’t finish decrypting yet
  • It is “impossible” for Glenn Greenwald or any other journalist to determine which info could damage UK national security: Robbins statement
  • “The claimant & his associates have demonstrated very poor judgment in their security arrangements with respect to the material…”
  • “…rendering the appropriation of the material, or at least access to it by other, non-State actors, a real possibility” 
  • “The fact that…the claimant was carrying on his person a handwritten piece of paper containing the password for one of the encrypted files recovered from him is a sign of very poor information security practice,” says Govt statement 
  • Statement implies GCHQ as well as Scotland Yard are working on the electronic media seized from 
  • The Govt statement sets out how they approached the Guardian because they were convinced it could not safeguard the sensitive data 
  • “The Guardian appeared to accept our assessment that their continued possession of the information was untenable,” says Govt
  • “Therefore destruction of the material, under our supervision, was assessed to be the best practicable option,” it adds
  • Govt says it needs to share data with “foreign third parties” but refuses to say whom. (I think we can assume they’re talking about the CIA)
  • Today’s court order widened the scope of exceptions from last week. It means police can now look at material for a wider range of reasons.
  • Means police can specifically look at seized documents to see if Miranda broke Official Secrets Acts.
Those are a set of bullet points from a government witness in the court case regarding the detention of Mr. Miranda at Heathrow.  Note the information was indiscriminately gathered, meaning Mr. Snowden didn't really evaluate what he had, he just grabbed as much as he could.  I seem to recall the venerable Daniel Ellsberg knew exactly what he was releasing, and exactly what it meant.  Not exactly the track record of Mr. Snowden.

Note it isn't up to Glenn Greenwald to decide on behalf of the British people, or the American people for that matter, what is in the national security interest of the United States or Britain.  Note also that the material would allow the identification of British intelligence staff.

I pause here to note the screams of outrage when Scooter Libby outed Valerie Plame.  Not sure now why Scooter wasn't just a "whistleblower," except, of course, he had an ideological axe to grind.  Good thing Greenwald and Snowden's motives are pure, huh?

I know I'm laying this on with a trowel when I thought I would just walk away from it, but dammit, this is important and we need to get it right!  This newest revelation is not the story of a whistleblower revealing wrongdoing; this is the revelation of a secret, the CIA budget.  Except for confirming how much we spend on that agency, it doesn't tell us a thing that's new or noteworthy.

Yet it is supposed to make Edward Snowden a national hero, and Glenn Greenwald a real journalist.

Feh.

Can we stop trying to justify every new article on this story, and start paying serious attention to just what is being revealed, and just what it really tells us, without embellishment or enlargement or filling in the blanks with magical thinking and baseless paranoia?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Visualize Whirled Peas

Who is that masked man?

I have only this to say about Syria:


Why is it that every time the US must back up it words with actions, those actions have to be military ones?

Why is it "humane" to lob missiles into a country when we do it, but an act of war/terrorism when other countries/actors do it?

Why does our credibility in the region rest on military action?  After Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, isn't our credibility through military action pretty much shredded?

Maybe if we had a Department of Peace instead of a War Department (Like Lucifer in "Constantine," I do miss the old names), we would have some answers ready for these questions.

Touch my heart but stay 'way from my treasure

Jobs.  Or Freedom.  Which is it gonna be?

Charlie Pierce sorta noticed yesterday, but he made no specific reference to President Carter's speech.

ThinkProgress highlighted President Clinton's very political remarks and filed it under "Justice."

NPR highlighted President Obama's speech, which I personally thought was the least interesting of those given yesterday. 

Huffington Post seems to have disappeared all the speeches this morning, in favor of news from Syria.  The Huffington Post article on President Carter's speech is brief and almost dismissive.  It's also about the only news I can find on Google about President Carter's speech.

These are editorial decisions and matters of opinion upon which reasonable minds can differ, so I'm not declaring all news outlets unmutual.  But it is interesting how these decisions are made, how the narrative of history is formed.

Because among the remarks former President Carter made were two quotes from Martin Luther King's father, "Daddy" King.  Jimmy Carter  reminded the crowd that "Daddy" King said the ghetto still looks like the ghetto from the front seat of the bus; and it doesn't matter if you finally get a seat at the lunch counter, if you can't afford lunch.

Bill Clinton, who followed, was careful to make no such mention about the legacy of Dr. King.  The audience sat resolutely on their hands while Mr. Carter mentioned those things.

They loved anything about "the dream," though.

So does the press, apparently.

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be, also.  And don't mess with my treasure.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Too many words today

 
 So why not just a few more?

"Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty!  We're free at last!"

When Dr. King ended his most famous speech with those words, he was speaking from the deep heart's core of Christianity.  He had gone fully into his faith to bring out those words.  He said, just before the litany of freedom ringing from every mountaintop of the country and even every hill of Mississippi:

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.  This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.  With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. 

That "faith" came straight from the vision of Isaiah, the vision of the presence of God when "all flesh shall see it together."  And what is the freedom of that vision?  That the oppressor is as chained by systems of oppression as the oppressed; that the freedom of political power and economic power and social power and cultural power, is not freedom at all.  That only when we all are freed, can there truly be freedom. And he's also quite clear where that freedom comes from. Which sounds exclusionary; but it isn't.

It is not freedom based on belief, or faith, or even acknowledging the presence of God.  The vision of the leveling and the straightening and the raising up is metaphorical, not literal; the presence of God is confessional, not empirical.  The liberation of being free at last, of everyone being free at last, is not faith based, but does rely on faith, and that faith is not faith in God per se, but trust.  It is trust.  And it is open to everyone.

Don't doubt it is Christian; don't doubt it is a religious vision; but don't let that vision be an exclusive one, because it isn't.  All that is excluded in it is power:  power over one other human being, is not empowering; it is enslaving.  It is the power of powerlessness that makes that vision ring, that makes it sing, and soar, and lift us up; if only for the moment we hear those words, and think we might have faith that they could come true.

"This is the end, my beautiful friend, the end....*

Dial "F" for Frankenstein

Interestingly, if you wander beyond the squabble between Charlie Pierce and Booman (I'm not even gonna link it), you can stumble into a world of facts and reason about NSA and Glenn Greenwald.  And no, the two are not yet separable.

Understanding the fact that they aren't begins with this very long post, which I will summarize for you (aren't you lucky!?).  I will summarize it by going to some of the source material Paul Canning cites, such as a post from Kurt Eichenwald (coincidentally, a journalist Pierce has cited favorably on other topics).

First, let's establish Eichenwald's claim to authority, especially since Greenwald has been spectacularly wrong in his assertions and suppositions:

Some explanation up front: I spent seven years investigating the national-security systems and policies established in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks for my book 500 Days. I learned a fair amount about the data-mining programs of the N.S.A. and wrote about it. I summarized those findings in my last post.
As Eichenwald pointed out in that post:

 Think about it for a second: all of us submit much more personal information to the government every year in our tax returns. We disclose the cost of our medical bills, how much we spent on computers or copy paper, child support, and on and on. And unlike the data collected for this portion of the Stellar Wind program, that personal information can be studied minutely and directly by a government employee.
There is also this problem, which I alluded to earlier:

 The NSA would have no authority to pull up, say, some American’s email account out of curiosity. Anyone violating this ban could potentially be committing a crime, just as an unauthorized IRS employee sneaking a peek at an individual tax return could be cited for wrongdoing. But the stricture was largely theoretical; sifting through the metadata to isolate an (arbitrary) individual’s records would be an almost impossible—and pointless—undertaking.
They have to find individual information, in other words; and they aren't set up to do that.  Need I say, rather like finding a particular cell phone anywhere in the world and turning it into a listening device, somewhat a la "The Dark Knight"?  No, that's just a ludicrous suggestion.

GG: The NSA has the capability, which is widely reported, to remotely activate people’s cellphones and turn them into listening devices. Even if you turn your cellphone off, as long as the battery is in it, it will still function that way. You could take the battery out, but I actually had a cellphone of the type where the battery could not be taken out. The only real solution was to leave it somewhere outside of the room but there was no real place we could leave it. So Snowden suggested that we put it in the refrigerator; there, it would be hermetically sealed and there would be no pickup of audio.

Why wouldn't I believe a journalist who says things like that?

Back to the sheer mass of material:  if the policy doesn't stop ya, the bulk certainly will.  Sure, NSA may have all this data; but then somebody has to tell a computer to sift through it; and somebody has to look at the results; and it still seems to me that's a task that would require most of the employees of the federal government to accomplish, and I'm not yet convinced Edward Snowden is the most reliable source for how much easier those things are than I think they are.

But, of course, this story isn't about Snowden; or his credibility.  How could it be?

So what is PRISM?  A super deep secret, like the aliens in Area 51?  Not according to Eichenwald:

First, the much-ballyhooed PRISM program is not a program and not a secret, and anyone who says it is should not be trusted because they don’t know what they’re talking about. PRISM is the name for the government computer system that is used to handle the foreign-intelligence data collected under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
That link, by the way, is to the statute authorizing a program like PRISM.  Statutes are public documents.

As for the purported secrecy of this program—folks haven’t been listening. Section 702 was widely debated and parsed through by the Congress before its adoption in 2008 (under the Bush administration). It was widely debated and parsed through by Congress before its re-authorization in December 2012 (under the Obama administration). Any supposed expert who feigns surprise here is, once again, either uninformed or hyping.
I know it's not about Glenn Greenwald, but has he ever been accused of expertise in this area?  Have any of his supporters?

We should also consider what we know about data mining. Is it the magical ability to read all e-mails and text messages and electronic communications from everywhere at once, and know what you said and who you said it to?  Is it, like the movie "Enemy of the State," the ability to locate an active cell phone conversation in real time and pinpoint the location of the person having that conversation as they have it? Well, no, not really:

 the National Security Agency puts the information through a larger process known as “knowledge discovery in database”—or K.D.D.—which cleans, selects, integrates, and analyzes the data. It is also run against a large set of what are known as “dirty numbers”—telephones linked to terrorists either through American signals intelligence or information provided by foreign services. Even the Libyans under Qaddafi turned over huge stacks of dirty numbers to us.

So, on its simplest level, the program—part of a broader enterprise codenamed Stellar Wind, which includes the now infamous warrantless-wiretapping initiative—allows the government to detect when someone in the United States calls a dirty number. (For those who love irony, one of the first phones found to have placed a call to a dirty number was located in the West Wing of the Bush White House; investigators determined it was a fluke, although it did raise questions about the integrity of such inquiries.)

In addition, as part of K.D.D., an algorithm was applied to the broader data set in efforts to detect patterns of behavior fitting models that had been previously established as being indicative of the activities of a terrorist cell.
Are there privacy interests involved there; reasonable expectations of privacy, as the Court says?  Perhaps.  All I can tell you is that as a teacher I can't put personal information to students, like grades, in an e-mail; e-mail is not private communication, since anyone with access to the e-mail account can access the message, too.  Still, Eichenwald's description is a far cry from someone assigned to record and then listen to every phone call you ever make, or every phone call ever made in the world. To begin with, why would they be listening to your phone calls?  Out of all the people on the planet, what would make them stumble on you?  Unless there's some kind of one-to-one correspondence between you and an NSA employee, the odds against anyone's calls being monitored is actually pretty damned high.  There may still be a theoretical problem here; but let's get some perspective on even that possibility.

And speaking (again) of Greenwald, why do we care what he says?  Well, for a very good reason, it turns out:

There are other major errors of logic in how NSA programs are being covered as well. The distinction between a capability and the legal right to use it is acknowledged but completely fudged together in the piece. Hence, people left angry comments demanding to know why the NSA is reading Americans’ emails, when nothing of the sort is suggested by either the slides or even by a close reading of Greenwald’s story. Nevertheless, he’s writing in such a way that people will think the NSA is both surveilling the content of Americans’s phone calls and emails, and it is doing so in contravention of U.S. law — despite not actually providing any evidence to support either claim.

This sort of mendacious narrative-building is, sadly, now a regular feature of the Guardian’s coverage of the NSA. Which is a real shame, since there are serious qualms to raise about blanket surveillance programs (Senator Wyden has been the clearest voice in the Senate questioning not just their legality but their utility as well), about oversight, and about the law writ large. But that debate is getting crowded out by the misinformation and exaggerations that have replaced any sort of factual debate about the NSA. We’re going to lose out big time on a chance for real reform if it continues.
 I think we can say, very plainly and simply, that Glenn Greenwald is a liar, and most of the information we are getting is being read through the lens of lies he originally put in place.  That doesn't really help the conversation, does it?  It doesn't really matter now what Pro Publica or The New York Times or Der Spiegel report on, unless we understand the context we've been given for understanding this information is badly skewed and largely misrepresented.  The mad hyperbole of the government monitoring every single thing you do needs some perspective:

 When the government grabs every single fucking telephone call made from the United States over a period of months and years, it is not a prelude to monitoring anything in particular. Why not? Because that is tens of billions of phone calls and for the love of god, how many agents do you think the FBI has? How many computer-runs do you think the NSA can do — and then specifically analyze and assess each result? When the government asks for something, it is notable to wonder what they are seeking and for what purpose. When they ask for everything, it is not for specific snooping or violations of civil rights, but rather a data base that is being maintained as an investigative tool.
And a data base is not a particularized review of everything you said by e-mail, text message, or over a phone.  But Mr. Greenwald doesn't want perspective; he has an ideological axe to grind ("Both Snowden and Greenwald have made standard Libertarian attacks on US foreign policy alongside defences on Libertarian domestic policy."), and he wants to be sure everyone who disagrees with him is proven wrong:

 Greenwald is clearly an ideologue, and I’m sure he sincerely believes that the government’s use of drones and waging of covert wars and the drug war are the most pressing problems facing the planet. Or at least he believes that now. But his most consistent pattern seems to be a rapier’s edge applied to anyone who disagrees with him. And unlike, say, the late Christopher Hitchens, Greenwald applies the sword without the ballet of swordsmanship. His attacks are more like serial killings than swashbuckling. One has to be, in Greenwaldian terms, literally evil to not agree with his point of view. And he’s not afraid to say so. Anyone who fails to loathe Obama as he does is an “Obama lover” (just chew on that, if you’re African-American) or a “cultist.” It isn’t possible that Obama could do anything that isn’t vile and insipid and worthy of continual, emphatic condemnation.
So we're back to Aristotle's concept of Ethos:  Greenwald is not reporting on a story, he's making an argument.  The first legitimate question is not:  is his logic sound, but:  can he be trusted to tell the truth?

No, he can't.

And finally, the argument that Snowden (and Greenwald) have at least started a conversation is, as Mr. Pierce (who continually forwards that argument) would say, "all my balls":

 Snowden/Greenwald claim to have started a debate. This is rubbish. Just one month before Snowden appeared Obama made his big speech on terrorism which covered reining in surveillance. Plenty of others have been reporting on the NSA, in fact much of what is being sold as new 'revelations' has already been reported.



Even if the MSM has been sucked in and covered his 'revelations', hence 'debate', how can any proper 'debate' happen when it is being fed by 'reporting', not just by Greenwald (more later), best characterised as 'shoddy'? And lying behind all this of course is that it is simply untrue, as many appear to believe (even with mass jail breakouts, or whatever it was, causing those embassy closures) that no terrorism threat exists.
There is a serious and legitimate discussion to be had here about the NSA and surveillance, especially surveillance of anyone in the U.S. (the 4th Amendment is not limited to "citizens").  But it cannot be had on the terms established by Mr. Greenwald.

*and not a moment too soon!

Pounding my own drum until it breaks....

“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, 
say that I was a drum major for justice.
 Say that I was a drum major for peace.
 I was a drum major for righteousness.
 And all of the other things will not matter.”

50 years later and the March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, D.C. is still largely known as the "March on Washington," and for the "dream" Martin Luther King, Jr., had.

You'd never know anybody else spoke that day, nor that the first part of King's speech was about social justice couched in starkly economic metaphors, and not just about the sons of slaves and the sons of slaveowners one day holding hands (the part we'd all like to get to while skipping over the intervening economic and social justice it takes to get there).

It is interesting that the full title of the March is at least being bandied about in some quarters.  Although no one is yet making the connection to 1968, and Dr. King being in Atlanta to advocate for striking garbage workers.

His civil rights struggle was always also a struggle for economic justice.  But we've made sure, in 50 years, to keep the focus on race ("We won!  We won!") and away from economic justice ("Don't mess with free markets!")  Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

For example :

DAVID BROOKS: Well, let me play at the positives, because I want to ask you something Congressman Labrador just said. We are still an amazingly talented country. You go to schools, you've got kids named Juan Hernandez Goldberg floating around there, mixtures of all these different ethnicities. We're really tolerant compared to other countries. And we still have these fantastic stories. I just had lunch with a woman named Katie who was from a not great family, she's homeless, spends part her time homeless, decides she's going to enlist in the navy, the enlistment officer says, "No, you shouldn't enlist in the navy, you should go to Annapolis." She graduates this year number one academically in her class, she gets a Rhodes Scholarship, she runs track, she's a Marine. You run across these stories all the time and they still are endemic to the way we live.

SHERYL WUDUNN: There's no question that those inspiring stories still exist. The question is, is there a generation where too many people are not having that inspirational moment? I grew up in the World War II generation. There's a reason why that generation-- my father had an eighth-grade education. He left work because he was orphaned. He had a mathematical ability, he became a bank examiner, we had a house in the suburbs. I was part of a whole generation in the '50s that moved up together, why? There was full employment in World War II, there was the G.I. Bill of Rights, there was an income tax that was passed, there was a sense of commitment at that point to bringing that generation, going, "That's eroded." And it started eroding in the '70s and the '80s for the middle class and the poverty. It doesn't mean that you always have these wonderful people that come up. But how many people with talent are not being realized? Lincoln used to be haunted about a poem of a person who had great talent and was in his grave in an unmarked grave because he never had the chance. And there's too many of those kids without chances.

DAVID BROOKS: All of these realities are true. 

And thus do we solve our problems.  With hopeful stories of particular individuals, and sweeping generalizations that aren't allowed to contradict anything we want to believe is true, or that point us in a direction toward real change.

This is what still passes as the national discussion on race and economics.

And the beat goes on....

On this day in history....

That was then; this is now.

Rather than repeat myself, I'll just link to something I said 3 years ago.

Peace, love, woodstock, y'all.

Looking for perspective

Tiny Dancers

Just to put this argument under the microscope:

First, notice that Mr. Toobin makes an excellent point, that pretty much disappears:

Mr. Toobin agrees that an important debate has been joined, but says no story, no matter how big, justifies journalists’ abetting illegal acts, saying, “Journalists are not above the law.”

“The Jane Mayers, Sy Hershes and Walter Pincuses have all done superb work for decades without the rampant lawlessness that was behind these stories,” he said, adding later, “I’ve never heard any of those journalists endorsing the wholesale theft of thousands of classified government records.”
But the crux of the argument is here:

 The larger sense I get from the criticism directed at Mr. Assange and Mr. Greenwald is one of distaste — that they aren’t what we think of as real journalists. Instead, they represent an emerging Fifth Estate composed of leakers, activists and bloggers who threaten those of us in traditional media. They are, as one says, not like us.
Which is supposed to explain why journalists are turning on:  journalists (although until this essay, I've never heard Julian Assange called a "journalist."  Maybe we do need a definition here.)  But as for them not being "traditional," well, who needs objectivity anyway?

 It is true that Mr. Assange and Mr. Greenwald are activists with the kind of clearly defined political agendas that would be frowned upon in a traditional newsroom. But they are acting in a more transparent age — they are their own newsrooms in a sense — and their political beliefs haven’t precluded other news organizations from following their leads.
 Kids these days!  They're young, they're with it, they know where it's at!  They're the coming thing, amirite?  And after all, the definition stuff is just how the Man harshes your buzz, ya know?

The reflex is understandable, but by dwelling on who precisely deserves to be called a journalist and legally protected as such, critics within the press are giving the current administration a justification for their focus on the ethics of disclosure rather than the morality of government behavior. 
Because, after all, the story is about the message, not the messenger.

At which point now I want to bring in Aristotle, a "truly veteran scribe" and the father of Logic, who is also in many ways the father of Rhetoric.  Aristotle identified four major elements of argument:  Ethos; Logos; Pathos, and Kairos (yeah, they sound like the Four Musketeers).  Of those four, only Logos has to do with the facts and reasons of the argument (what everyone here who wants to ignore Mr. Greenwald calls "the real story").  Pathos is about the sympathy the speaker generates from the audience; call it a sense of empathy.  Because they don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.  Kairos is the sense of the present situation, the urgency of the now.  We need to come back to that in this continuously unfolding story; to examine just how urgent this whole mess really is.

Ethos, the first and last, is the character of the speaker.  As I often tell my students:  if the person making the argument is a child molester, nothing he says is going to be heard, no matter how sound his Logos.  The audience stops listening because they don't respect his moral character.

Like it or not, the character of Mr. Assange and Mr. Greenwald is part of their arguments.

And, yet, leaking documents is what journalists do, so why all the hubbub, bub?
 
If the revelations about the N.S.A. surveillance were broken by Time, CNN or The New York Times, executives there would already be building new shelves to hold all the Pulitzer Prizes and Peabodies they expected. Same with the 2010 WikiLeaks video of the Apache helicopter attack.

Instead, the journalists and organizations who did that work find themselves under attack, not just from a government bent on keeping its secrets, but from friendly fire by fellow journalists. What are we thinking?
 One problem, of course, and this is where the missing Mr. Toobin comes in.  Breaking revelations based on the word of an informant is one thing; possessing 50,000 classified documents illegally removed from that government, is another.

Are the governments of the U.S. and Britain simply being overzealous in their desire to squelch these leakers, these "whistleblowers"? (and do definitions about their actions matter?  Why?  Why not?  Inquiring minds want to know....)  Or are they worried about a kind of theft impossible before, well, almost just now?

Edward Snowden reportedly walked away from Hawaii with 50,000 documents.  In terms of packages of 500 sheets of paper, that's 100 packages, or at 6 packages per box about 16 boxes of documents, packed neatly and tightly and very compactly.  He walked away with that in his pockets.  A theft that should have taken several handcarts and a lot of helping hands.  For all I know he just sent it to himself, he didn't even have to get a thumb drive past security (if there was such security, which is one of the questions really not being addressed in public here).

A theft absolutely unimaginable just a few years ago; and now governments face the threat it could become commonplace.  First Chelsea Manning; then Edward Snowden.  You're in charge of this stuff; you're responsible; how would you react?

And why, if it's stolen government documents, is it okay for journalists (but not anybody else) to have them?  Possession of any other stolen property by anyone without a possessory interest in them is a crime.  Why do "journalists" get to commit a crime the rest of us can't?  Especially possession of such a vast amount of property, which is so important to the government?  Libertarian Rand Paul argues all government programs are a form of slavery.  Which means they are invalid at a level where they can never be valid at all, at a deeply moral level  Are we now saying that government programs relating to national security are equally invalid at a deeply moral level, and that illegal possession of documents regarding those programs is morally justified because it serves a higher purpose?

And what purpose is that?  And what government would we have left, if we so thoroughly insisted so many basic government functions are not only illegitimate but contrary to human society, the way slavery is?  As I plan to lay out shortly, most of what we "know" about the NSA, through the writings of Glenn Greenwald, are simply false.  The man loves unfounded allegations that allow him flights of paranoid fantasy.  And he declares himself and anyone associated with him (so far as I can tell he isn't married to David Miranda) above and impervious to the law, and any action against him grounds for revenge.

This is the brave new world of journalism?  Then Thoreau was right, and it really is just trading in gossip; gossip, and stolen goods.

And here I have to point out the "Pentagon Papers" were published.  We aren't getting published versions of Snowden's documents (the few Greenwald released proved he didn't know what he was writing about, that he misunderstood them very badly).  We're getting Greenwald's version (or some other reporter's) of what those documents say.  The usual press protection in this country is the protection against "prior restraint," against preventing a news outlet from publishing a story.  The work on these documents is straining that concept, especially when there is a small library of documents available, and all that's being said about them is what the journalists want to tell us.

I'm not sure the comparison to the Pentagon Papers case is valid at all.  They were reported by the New York Times; but I used to have a copy of them on my bookshelf.

Which brings us back to the problem of dealing in stolen goods.  If these documents are something the public needs to know, they are something the public needs to see.  Even Wikileaks at least published everything, rather than interpreting it for us.  Where I come from, people who knowingly trade in stolen goods are not universally adored and revered.

Renaissance wags mocked their predecessors, the medieval scholars, by saying the scholars were obsessed with absurdities such as how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.  Today the popular mind takes that as a truism, a historical indication of what medieval scholars were studying.  But applying the same mistaken notion of metaphysics we've decided the new supernatural powers of computers raises a new question:  how many people does it take to read the e-mails of everyone on the planet, including everyone in America?  And the answer, of course, is:  not that many.  But computers have made the production of e-mails enormous; in some offices people can't wade through the e-mails they receive in a day.  That sheer bulk requires eyes and minds to read and comprehend, and the magic of computers doesn't reduce the bulk of that task, or the need of human minds to comprehend.   With world enough and time, perhaps the Federal government could keep track of every piece of electronic communication on the planet; but on what world, and with how much time, would that be possible, or even feasible?

And that's a critique of the NSA, as well as of its harshest critics.

I have a memory today....

Get a job!

I have this desperate need not to gloss over recent history;

May 17, 1954:  The U.S. Supreme Court declares "separate but equal" unconstitutional.

December 1, 1955--Rosa Parks is arrested, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott begins

December 13, 1956:  The U.S. Supreme court affirms the district court decision to find Alabama state statutes and Montgomery city ordinances segregating public busses unconstitutional.

January 1957:  Following the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., C.K. Steele, and Fred Shuttlesworth form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  "As early as 1962 SCLC began to broaden its focus to include issues of economic inequality...[s]eeing poverty as the root of social inequality...."

May 17, 1957:  The SCLC leads the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, to urge President Eisenhower to push harder against the slow implementation of Brown v. Board of Education.   Dr. King's speech is "Give Us the Ballot."

April 16, 1963--Dr. King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail"  "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word 'Wait!' It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.' We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that 'justice too long delayed is justice denied.' "

August 28, 1963--March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  "Those who have said be patient and wait — we must say that we cannot be patient,  We do not want our freedom gradually. But we want to be free now."--John Lewis

July 2, 1964--LBJ signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964

March 7, 1965--"Bloody Sunday"

August 6, 1965--LBJ signs the Voting Rights Act

April 4, 1967--Dr. King gives a sermon denouncing the Vietnam War

April 4, 1968--While in Memphis, Tennessee to support striking sanitation workers, Dr. King is assassinated.

Fall, 1970:  16 years after Brown v. Board of Education, the "separate but equal" black high school in my hometown is finally closed by Federal court order, and the school year begins with the integration of the two remaining "white" high schools, and all other schools in the district.

June 21, 1974:  Schools in Boston are ordered to desegregate.  " White parents stage a boycott, pulling their children from the schools. The violence persists inside and outside the schools, and white resistance continues for years. Not until Louise Day Hicks is unseated and a black school committee member is elected in 1977 will the situation start to stabilize."


Just a trip down some of memory lane, to show the "dream" was not at the end, or at the beginning, of Dr. King's struggle for justice.  It wasn't even the sum total of that day in Washington. And justice is not imaginary, something merely dreamed of.  Starting with Rosa Parks, this is all within my lifetime. Unfortunately, so is this:

Conservative radio host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham attacked the speakers at the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, at one point using the sound of a gunshot to cut off a sound bite of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) -- a man whose skull was infamously fractured by a state trooper on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, AL, in 1965. Ingraham used the speech's anniversary to race-bait about black-on-white crime statistics and hosted Pat Buchanan to bemoan the idea that minorities face any higher level of adversity in America 50 years later.
....
On her August 26 radio broadcast, Ingraham criticized the event and its speakers, saying the goal "was to co-opt the legacy of Martin Luther King into a modern-day liberal agenda," and scoffing at the topics speakers supposedly discussed: "From gay marriage, to immigration -- amnesty, was thrown in for good measure. We talked about the Voting Rights Act."

Ingraham ran through a list of African-American crime rates before hosting Pat Buchanan, a prominent racist with white nationalist ties. Buchanan dismissed the idea that minorities suffer any disadvantages in contemporary America, calling the idea "absurd" because "black folks excel and are hugely popular figures in everything from sports to entertainment to athletics to politics. Everywhere you go ... So the progress has been enormous."
In the 1960's, we told African-Americans to "wait."  Now we tell them to quit talking about race.  So the progress has, indeed, been enormous.

By the way:

The unemployment rate among blacks is about double that among whites, as it has been for most of the past six decades.

I still don't understand why people like Ingram and Buchanan are allowed in decent company.


Dr. King not being treated as a liberal in his lifetime.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

 Coming soon to a paranoid fantasy near you.

GG: I think this will be the time the world realizes that the US and its closest allies are trying to build a surveillance system that has as its primary objective the elimination of privacy globally, by which I mean that everyone’s communications electronically will be collected, stored, analyzed and monitored by the US government.

Think about that for a moment, and it's ludicrous.  It's not reality, it's paranoid fantasy.  It's not the product of reason but of delusion.*

If everyone's communications were electronically collected, stored, analyzed, and monitored by the US government, how many people would it take to do that?  Computers, we are told, can "mine" data.  But not by themselves.  We haven't built Skynet yet; we don't have a computer capable of such independent action, or even of self-awareness.  The problem of consciousness and self-awareness necessary to create an intellectual distinction between "self" and "object" such as to be aware one could "know" data, is far beyond the capability of the most advanced computer available; and probably always will be.

So for a computer program to mine data, the program has to be written; then it has to be run; and someone, at least one human being, has to put an eyeball on the results, and decide what to do with them.  How many human beings does it take to look at the results of the data mining of every piece of electronic communications on the planet?  Not half of them; technology means we don't need a 1:1 ratio.  But how many?

The world population is estimated at 7 billion.  Not nearly all of those people are engaged in electronic communications, but still, let's say half are, so 3.5 billion.  The US population is 316 million.  If we employed about half the US population, or 158 million people, in tracking the electronic communications of everyone else, they could each track about 20 people per day, all day, every day.  Frankly, much more than 20 people and you'd start to lose efficiency, I think.  And of course some of those 20 people apiece would have to be employees of the US government.  Somebody's gotta watch the watchers, right?

Including the military (but not the Snowdens), the federal government  employs about 4.1 million people.  If we engaged every one of those people in spying on the entire planet, they'd each have to keep track of 853 people every day, all day.  That's if you want government to know what everyone else on the planet is saying.  Just having the data is, apparently, meaningless.  Ask Google.  Ask Verizon.  Ask AT&T.  They have this stuff already, or a lot of it; but no one is accusing them of "knowing" this data.  Even Google "reading" e-mail is just a program looking for and identifying a set of keywords.  There is no group of human beings reading every e-mail sent through Google mail and deciding what ad to pop up in response to it.

Knowing takes human beings.  I know what I am typing here, but my computer no more "knows" what these words mean than my cat does.  Knowledge takes human beings.  And how is one human being going to "know" what 853 human beings are saying all day, every day?

And I haven't even addressed what kind of data storage and computational power it would take to "data mine" all the electronic communications of the entire world.  This isn't science fiction; someone somewhere doesn't push a button and the blinkenlights blink and the spiztensparkens spit, and an answer pops out.  The sheer weight of data would overwhelm any system; by the time you had analyzed something, you'd find out in 2003 that Osama Bin Laden was determined to strike in the US.

Maybe.  If he was stupid enough to use electronic communications, instead of couriers, as we know Al Qaeda usually does.

You may say I'm stretching the meaning of the verb "to know" here, but what else can it mean?  This data is generated even as I press the button to publish this post.  It's generated when I hit "send" on an e-mail, or a text message; it's generated when I push "Call" and make a phone call.  That's not even news.  Who "knows" that data is apparently the scare point.  But who realistically can?  If the US government is engaged in a nefarious plot to know all the electronic communications of the world, then the people in charge of that are delusional and mad, and I'm worried about them.

But so far the only evidence I see of delusion is the guy saying this is all possible and its going to happen.  And he doesn't work for the government.

Or so he says.....

*but remember, this isn't about Glenn Greenwald. It can't possibly be.

I only want to say...

Have you seen this man?


I'm fighting above my weight class because Charlie Pierce will never link to me, but:

For the benefit of anyone for whom reading is perhaps not fundamental, Glenn Greenwald's personality, and the peripatetic globe-trotting of Edward Snowden, are not the story here. If you decide to make them the story, then you are taking yourself off the real story, and that's your fault, not Greenwald's or Snowden's.
When reporters for Pro Publica, or the New York Times, or Der Spiegel, or even Barton Gellman of WaPo, start giving interviews about how brave they are for reporting on this story in the face of certain arrest and imprisonment, I'll agree the story isn't at all about Glenn Greenwald or Edward Snowden.

But as long as Greenwald insists on putting himself or Snowden at the center of the reporting....

The Looming Hiddenness

We're good!  Y'all commence to forgettin' about America's racist past now!


The looming anniversary of 8/28/2013 is making all white pundits realize they are not racists any more no sir not at all, and they are not afraid of a brown planet they just wish all the browner people, and especially the really brown people, would stop bringing up racism because everybody knows THAT'S what's really racist!


George Will wants you to quit blaming white people, because what Daniel Patrick Moynihan said is sciency!

“The events to which you refer were foreshadowed by something eight months after the march … A young social scientist from Harvard working in the Labor Department published a report. His name was Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He said, ‘There is a crisis in the African American community, because 24% of African American children are born to unmarried women.’ Today it’s tripled to 72%. That, and not an absence of rights, is surely the biggest impediment.” 

And Kathleen Parker wants to just nip it!  Nip it in the bud!  Nip it nip it nip it!

I make these observations not to exacerbate a problem but in the hope that we can stop this craziness before things escalate. The conversation-about-race that pundits keep insisting we need to have should end where it began.

Because we shall not cease from exploration until we return to where we started; or we just give up because it's getting too close to the bone.

And besides, if President Obama doesn't stop pointing out he has the same skin color as Trayvon Martin, we'll have to impeach him for being the Racist-in-Chief.  No, seriously:

 In so saying, he essentially gave permission for all to identify themselves by race with the victim or the accused. How sad, as we approach the 50th anniversary of the march Martin Luther King Jr. led on Washington, that even the president resorts to judging not by the content of one’s character but by the color of his skin — the antithesis of the great dream King articulated.
I've no doubt George Zimmerman judged Travyon by the content of his character, so everything about that case is Obama's fault.

And wasn't that Dr. King's dream?  That one day white people wouldn't have to feel guilty about how they treated black people for almost 400 years.


Monday, August 26, 2013

I have some Dream Whip

Fresh from contented chemistry labs

Mitt Romney on the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King's most famous speech:

I have a dream that what made America great will make our kids great. That superb schools, inspired churches, and parents that put their kids above everything else will lift our children and preserve the greatness of America.
I'm guessing these are not the "inspired churches" he's thinking of:

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle--have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger-lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?"

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

Everything old is new again

Bobby Jindal explains it all to you.


So, according to Gov. "Bobby" Jindal, the way to end "race" in America is for everybody to be white.  No, seriously:

Yet we still place far too much emphasis on our “separateness,” our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc. We live in the age of hyphenated Americans: Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Indian-Americans, and Native Americans, to name just a few.

Here’s an idea: How about just “Americans?” That has a nice ring to it, if you ask me. Placing undue emphasis on our “separateness” is a step backward. Bring back the melting pot.
I know that argument is older than the Governor; and, if possible, even more discredited.  Granted, this sounds like a laudable sentiment:

We are all created in the image of God — skinny, fat, tall, short, dark, light, whatever. Who cares? What does it matter? It’s time to get over it. It’s time for the end of race in America. Now that would be progress.
But it doesn't address "white" America.  It explicitly addresses "non-white" America.  Clearly that is where our "race problem" comes from.  If Aaron McGruder were to include this editorial on "The Boondocks," it would be the rantings of Uncle Ruckus, the black man who hates blacks and black American culture, and literally worships white Americans.  Jindal really is that transparent in his "argument."

Now somebody explain to him he's not "white."


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mostly because I watched "Silk" tonight....

Do you want to reconsider your answer, Mr. Rumpole?


And "Silk" is so good it almost made me forget how much I loved "Rumpole" (who got a mention in the story, which is even better!), but now I have this urge to go off into matters legalistic.  And so this quote from comments below:

I don't know that we can dismiss the issue of the legality of the NSA's actions so readily. The constitution is the ultimate law of our land, and at some point we need to ask ourselves: are these searches "reasonable" and are the warrants from FISC "particular"? If not, then the NSA's actions are illegal. Of course, part of the reason why the law is an ass is because lawyers give words like "reasonable" and "particular" assinine definitions (points out someone married to a lawyer). Of course, who's to say any non-lawyer's definitions are any less assinine?

However, what worries me more about all these secret databases, no fly lists and other similar parts of our security state is that databases always have mistakes. And it's bad enough to try and fix a mistake on your credit report. How do you fix incorrect information in a massive TOP SECRET database when you don't know which database has what data on you?*

Also, does collecting all this data actually keep us safe or just help spies out? I.e. what would have happened if Snowden, rather than being a glibertarian, were a corporate spy or foreign agent?

Let's consider "Reasonable expectation of privacy".

Most of us reading this are probably old enough to remember phone booths.  Maybe you even remember the old ones, like in movies from the '40's:  you entered, closed the door, and made your phone call.  There was a serious expectation of privacy there:  you didn't expect anyone to hear even your half of the conversation.

Leave the booth, return to the public place (let's say a restaurant) and engage a conversation with your friends at the table.  If you are overheard, do you still expect your conversation to be private?  It may be rude to listen, but does it violate the 4th amendment if the person listening is a government agent?

Now replace the phone in the booth with a cell-phone.  One of my mail carriers seems to always be on her cell-phone.  She uses a Bluetooth headset so she can talk and walk and deliver mail.  I usually hear her coming from a house away.  Is she expecting privacy in a conversation she's broadcasting at least one-half of to the entire neighborhood?  And don't most of us hear one side of the conversation of anyone in a restaurant, a store, a movie theater, who is on their cell phone?  Does that person legitimately expect that no one is listening to what is being said?  Is a cell phone in public as private as a public phone booth? (Sorta like this.)

What about e-mail?  If I send you a letter, I expect you to keep it private, or at least not send it on to ten or twenty or 100 of your friends.  But if you put anything in an e-mail you want only one person to see, you're a damned fool.  It's easier to forward an e-mail than it is to forward a phone call.  How many of us have received replies to e-mails where the sender hit "Reply All" instead of just "Reply"?  Do they have a reasonable expectation of privacy if they are so clumsy in their use of the technology?

I ask because what is "Constitutional" is a lot like Howland Owl's description of nuclear physics:  "It ain't so new, and it ain't so clear."  And ultimately, we must have legitimate boundaries to the conversation.  So if something is "legal," that means it conforms to the law as interpreted by the courts.  I don't, for example, think Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is illegal; but the current Supreme Court says it is.  I think they are wrong, but that doesn't mean I get to enforce my own interpretation of the VRA.  And the VRA is enabling legislation for the 15th Amendment, so that makes it a Constitutional issue.

But I lose that one, whether I like it or not.

Let me put this in a slightly different way, in honor of tonight's episode of "Silk"?  When is consent given?  And how must it be communicated?

I mean "consent" in the context of  rape, which is non-consensual penetration (Did Bill rape Monica with that cigar?  You see why I am purposely clinical about definitions).  First, when must consent be given?  Before?  After?  During?  These are important questions (they didn't come up in "Silk," and likely wouldn't in a trial, but still....).  How must it be conveyed?  If you thought you had consent, and she says you didn't, who should win that fight?  Why?  What if consent is withdrawn after the fact, like the next morning?

This actually happened in a case I read about.  Two friends, male and female, get drunk at college, sleep together, wake up the next morning realizing that wasn't so smart.  She decides later she doesn't want to consent to the drunken sex, so she calls her one-night lover a rapist.  No criminal charges, of course, because legally it's too late (damned legalisms!).  But the male part of this "couple" is decried, formally and publicly, all over campus, as a rapist.

Was it rape?  She thinks so.  Is she right?

When actions require not just the consent of the individual, but the consent of the community, how should these things be decided?

Is the NSA behaving legally?  Unless that term means "within the law as interpreted by the courts, " the question really has no meaning.  Or rather, its meaning is subject to a great deal of unfortunate confusion.  How should these things be decided?  "Is the law correct?" is a separate question.  "Is the law in conformity with the Constitution?" is yet another question.  I may not think it is; but until the Supreme Court agrees with me, my opinion is meaningless.

So I shouldn't have an opinion?  No, I don't mean that, either.  Perhaps the solution here is political.  But then you have to consider how much of the NSA we can do away with (more than we think, IMHO).  That discussion, however, needs to be conducted on the basis of facts, not diatribes, and at least some understanding that the law is a complex web because it has to be.  You may have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your landline phone calls, which require a great deal of specific effort to listen in on; but you clearly don't have any expectation of privacy in a public place.  So how private is a personal cell-phone call in a public place where you are apt to speak abnormally loudly?

Or is that the question of a ass?

*the eternal problem of the FBI file, eh?

How do you do a mic drop in print?

I really should be going...

One of the joys of the internet is finding content free arguments that rely on the fact they have no facts to prove their conclusions are obviously sound.

Here's one:

For any ordinary organization, the detention of David Miranda by British security authorities, coming hot on the heels of a major NY Times article detailing the similar treatment routinely dished out to Laura Poitras and other critics of the US security establishment would seem like a major PR blunder.

But, in this case, it seems more like an upraised middle finger, one in a series designed to show that the security apparatus can do whatever it likes, and no one who matters will try to rein it in, let alone hold it accountable.
Because whenever a government does what we don't like, it's clearly acting without legal warrant and above and beyond it's legitimate powers, which powers are only equivalent to my self-interests.  Right?

Here's another, by the same author:

In other words, while NSA monitors everything you and I do all the time, it relies on witchcraft to detect wrongdoing by its own employees. I guess we’ll just have to hope that NSA staff are too busy snooping on our emails to read any of the 194 000 Google hits on “how to cheat a polygraph”.
Because, of course, the NSA does monitor "everything you and I do all the time," because we're that important to the security of the United States, donchaknow, and the United States is that paranoid about us that it watches everything we do, but can't stop a madman with an arsenal from shooting up a school because, well.....stop asking logical questions!

Here's a third, this time from the Rude Pundit by way of Thought Criminal:

This morning, the Rude Pundit was plugging away, researching a piece on how, during the Watergate scandal, media figures went apeshit berserker over Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, seeing them as self-aggrandizing fame whores who'd blow an anonymous source in a corner if it'd get them one more front page scoop. He was working on this as a reaction to the deep well of animosity towards Guardian columnist/classified document depository Glenn Greenwald.

'Cause, see, history has proven Woodward and Bernstein's reporting, while just a piece of the overall story of the fall of Richard Nixon (something they themselves admitted in the book All the President's Men, which nobody actually reads since the film came out), was a valid and necessary exercise of a free press. Who cares if they made money on it? Who cares if they had huge-dick egos about breaking one of the biggest stories in, you know, American history? Christ, if Twitter and comments threads were around in the early 1970s, they'd've been vilified as assholes and liars. As it was, they were accused of that, of making up Deep Throat and more. But none of that changes the importance of their reporting, especially against an administration that had been openly contemptuous and criminally active towards the media.

The story ain't the messenger. It's the story. If you make it about the messenger, then you are ignoring the story, which is just what the subject of the story wants.

Oh, the Rude Pundit had good intentions. And then something in his brain popped, and, like an exploding bottle rocket, the migraine burst in stars all over his head. He vomited. He passed out, delirious, and awoke a little while ago wondering where the fuck the day had gone. So little drinking time left in the afternoon. Gotta take advantage of that empty stomach fast track to inebriation.

So he'll leave you with this quote, from Chet Huntley, he of the Huntley-Brinkley Report, which was NBC's evening news until 1970. He gave a speech in 1973 at the Montana Press Association's annual convention titled "A Disturbing Arrogance in the Press." In it, Huntley played the old sage taking the young whippersnappers to the woodshed for a good spanking with a switch. While disturbed a bit by Nixon's press attacks, he said, "In my opinion, there is an arrogance, a haughty smugness, a conceit running through too damned much of our journalism today." This attitude, he felt, got in the way of telling a fair and balanced story. Get off his lawn.

Would that more of our journalists were arrogant, smug, and conceited enough to believe they had a duty to go after the powerful instead of being merely arrogant, smug, and conceited because they have access to the powerful.

Now, just think about that a minute, and you'll see there's a comparison of the Obama administration and the Nixon administration in there somewhere, and also Glenn Greenwald is now Woodstein.  Oh lucky us, to be alive in such halcyon days!

Except Woodstein never threatened a foreign government because of the way a friend of theirs was treated while carrying documents that foreign government now says endanger the national security of that nation.  But of course those documents can't be dangerous because we trust Woodstein not the government.  Except I watched "All the President's Men" and they got three sources for everything they published, and Greenwald has....?  And they never made themselves the center of the story or made public proclamations about how the Nixon Administration was releasing secret information in order to undermine their reporting, even though there is no evidence presented to support that claim.   And even Woodward on his worst day has never gotten into a pissing match on Twitter (yes, Woodward is still alive, and still reporting!) where he lied about what he had just posted on Twitter:
  
What makes any tiff with Greenwald so exhausting is not just the needlessly personal nature of his attacks, but rather his outright lies. That’s correct: Glenn Greenwald is a serial liar. He is pathological about it. And he pretends like people are too dumb to notice. He did this in 2010. On the morning of November 30, 2010, he tweeted this about me:
Greenwald2

Notice the familiar slander, that I had undisclosed contracts? It wasn’t true at the time — I even wrote in the New York Times that I worked at a defense contractor! — he “discovered” my “undisclosed” ties by looking at… my LinkedIn profile. But, almost casually, he lied about it just a few hours later.

greenwald3
 Yeah, there really isn't any reason I shouldn't believe everything Glenn Greenwald has ever written, and I should write off his critics as so many Chet Huntley's shillin' for "The Man!"

I've no doubt the reporting of Woodstein was not received favorably in 1972.  In fact, I know it wasn't; I was there, I remember.  I know people who still think Nixon got a raw deal.  But if you strike at a king, you had better kill him, and nobody jumps on the bandwagon when you strike, unless they are House Republicans determined to impeach of Democratic President (and then what credibility do they have?).  Greenwald's credibility should not rest on the fact that we want what he says to be true; it should rest on the fact that it is true.

Or at least news.

For example:  everything the NSA does is illegal, immoral, unconstitutional, and the NSA doesn't give a wet snap about it!  Right?

The intelligence agency requires the Fisa court to sign annual "certifications" that provide the legal framework for surveillance operations. But in the wake of the court judgment these were only being renewed on a temporary basis while the agency worked on a solution to the processes that had been ruled illegal

Which means the NSA, rather like a cop who found something illegal in your possession he then used to arrest you, violated the fourth amendment when the courts reviewed the situation and told the cop he can't do that (or, in this case, when FISA reviewed the actions of the NSA).  So what did NSA do?  Like the police department should in my hypothetical, they set about making sure what they were doing was in accordance with the law.

Or, if you prefer the paranoid view, they went on hoovering up every piece of information about you they could, and that Gene Hackman/Will Smith movie really was a documentary and not fiction like they want you to believe it was.   One view is credible; the other is paranoid ranting which ignores documentable reality.  But the internet doesn't believe in documentation; it believes in ranting and raving and being rude.  So LOVEINT is either the willful violation of NSA rules by employees spying on spouses and significant others overseas, or it's one more proof the NSA sees us when we're sleeping and knows when we're awake, so we should be outraged for outrage's sake, because: derp.

So somehow, somewhere, in some alternative universe that exists solely on the intertoobs, Glenn Greenwald is Woodstein bravely exposing Richard M. Obama's evil deeds in getting re-elected...oh, what, that's not the analogy at all, is it?  But somehow a man who uses his partner as a mule to carry documents the British government considers very sensitive, and which the British courts have decided were properly acquired and can be at least partially reviewed, a man who issues threats against that same government and spews all manner of invective on Twitter because that's what real journalists do today boys and girls, that man who has insisted he is the center of the story to the point of decrying any story he doesn't authorize as a way of discrediting him, that man is the model for journalism we should follow and honor in the next forty years.

Right.  Because anything the government does is bad, and anything secret is secret from me because my worst paranoid fantasies would be confirmed if they told the truth but they won't because my worst paranoid fantasies are never confirmed, which proves they are liars, and....

Yeah, I know that sounds wildly exaggerated.  But honestly, when you're talking about journalists who are "arrogant, smug, and conceited enough to believe they had a duty to go after the powerful instead of being merely arrogant, smug, and conceited because they have access to the powerful," you're patting yourself on the back so hard I'm surprised you don't break your arm.

Enough with the psychic echo-chamber.  Is there no room for reasoning based on evidence in these toobs?