Monthly Archive: October 2013

Oct 31 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting thea Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Dean Baker: Alan Greenspan owes America an apology

The former Fed chair is promoting his new book. He should admit his role in the housing crisis, not insult our intelligence

Alan Greenspan will go down in history as the person most responsible for the enormous economic damage caused by the housing bubble and the subsequent collapse of the market. The United States is still down almost 9m jobs from its trend path. We are losing close to $1tn a year in potential output, with cumulative losses to date approaching $5tn. [..]

The horror story could have easily been prevented had there been intelligent life at the Federal Reserve Board in the years when the housing bubble was growing to ever more dangerous proportions (2002-2006). But the Fed did nothing to curb the bubble. Arguably, it even acted to foster its growth with Greenspan cheering the development of exotic mortgages and completely ignoring its regulatory responsibilities.

Most people who had this incredible infamy attached to their name would have the decency to find a large rock to hide behind; but not Alan Greenspan. He apparently believes that he has not punished us enough. Greenspan has a new book which he is now hawking on radio and television shows everywhere.

Jeremy Scahill: Will the Global War on Terror Ever End?

Policies initiated under President Bush and continued and expanded under Obama have brought the world to the dawn of a new age, the era of the Dirty War on Terror.

On January 21, 2013, Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term as president of the United States. Just as he had promised when he began his first campaign for president six years earlier, he pledged again to turn the page on history and take U.S. foreign policy in a different direction. “A decade of war is now ending,” Obama declared. “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”  [..]

Yet, as Obama embarked on his second term in office, the United States was once again at odds with the rest of the world on one of the central components of its foreign policy. The drone strike in Yemen the day Obama was sworn in served as a potent symbol of a reality that had been clearly established during his first four years in office: U.S. unilateralism and exceptionalism were not only bipartisan principles in Washington, but a permanent American institution. As large-scale military deployments wound down, the United States had simultaneously escalated its use of drones, cruise missiles, and Special Ops raids in an unprecedented number of countries. The war on terror had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The question all Americans must ask themselves lingers painfully: How does a war like this ever end?

Robert Sheer: Obama, Congress Owe Snowden Thanks, and a Pardon

Now we know that even the president needs leaks from Edward Snowden to be fully informed about the dastardly acts of his own top spy agency. It was Snowden’s recent revelations that led Obama to order an investigation into spying on private communications of 35 world leaders, including our closest allies, a clear betrayal of the trust needed to establish a more peaceful world.

According to a Wall Street Journal account from senior U.S. officials, the president had been kept in the dark as to the extent of the NSA spy program: “President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders. Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn’t have been practical to brief him on all of them. They added that the president was briefed on and approved of broader intelligence-collection ‘priorities,’ but that those below him make decisions about specific intelligence targets.” Huh?  

Ana Marie Cox: Dick Cheney, one-man zombie apocalypse

The former VP has returned from the shadows – weirdly, to court the Tea Party for daughter Liz’s Senate run. Happy Halloween!

Rationally, I realize that the reappearance of Dick Cheney in the media landscape is tied to his promoting his new book, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey. And, with equal clear-mindedness, I know that his publisher no doubt timed the book’s debut to capitalize on the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act – Cheney has gravely insisted in interviews that the ACA would limit the technological innovations that allow his own survival.

A more primal part of me simply sees “Cheney”, “heart” and “Halloween” and I clutch my own chest in fear. [..]

‘m as eager a student of horror novels as politics, but I don’t usually get a chance to bring the wisdom of one field into the other. By way of wishing you a happy Halloween, let me also issue a reminder: the risk of bringing someone back from the dead is that they turn on you. When people play God, they only create monsters … boo!

Eugene Robinson: The Out-of-Control NSA

Let’s get this straight: The National Security Agency snooped on the cellphone conversations of German Chancellor Angela Merkel? Perhaps for as long as a decade? And President Obama didn’t know a thing about it?

Either somebody’s lying or Obama needs to acknowledge that the NSA, in its quest for omniscience beyond anything Orwell could have imagined, is simply out of control.

The White House has not denied news reports-courtesy of disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden-that the spy agency eavesdropped on Merkel’s phone calls. Press secretary Jay Carney said that “the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor,” which sure sounds like an admission that such “monitoring” took place in the past.

Karen Higgins: Targeting Wall Street, Robin Hood Tax Comes to Washington

With Congress about to begin the next cycle of budget battles – mostly focused on how much more pain to inflict on Main Street communities across America – a far different message is bubbling up across the land.

Activists from across the land gathered in Washington October 29 to step up what has become an increasingly vocal demand for a change of priorities and tone – with a call to expand the revenue pie with a tax on Wall Street speculation, the Robin Hood tax.

“The fire in this room will light up the sky for a lot of people,” said Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union surveying the room in the closing session of an action conference for the Robin Hood Tax campaign.

For the past two years, a movement has been building in the U.S., now endorsed by more than 160 local and national organizations who are calling for a sharp turn away from policies of austerity and more budget cuts with a financial transaction tax on stocks, bonds, derivatives and other financial instruments, paid by those very same banks, investment houses, hedge fund managers, and Wall Street traders who created the latest financial crisis.

Or as Hanley put it, “There’s been a 40 year crime wave and we’ve been the victims.”

Oct 31 2013

The Heart, She Holler

Because I’ve always wanted to write about dancing vaginas pizza.

Oct 31 2013

On This Day In History October 31

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 31 is the 304th day of the year (305th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 61 days remaining until the end of the year.

This day is internationally known as Halloween, also known as All Hallow’s Eve, Reformation Day, and Day of the Dead for the Philippines

On this day in 1926, Harry Houdini, the most celebrated magician and escape artist of the 20th century, dies of peritonitis in a Detroit hospital.

Houdini was born Erik Weisz in Budapest in 1874, the son of a rabbi. At a young age, he immigrated with his family to Appleton, Wisconsin, and soon demonstrated a natural acrobatic ability and an extraordinary skill at picking locks.

He went on his first international tour in 1900 and performed all over Europe to great acclaim. In executing his escapes, he relied on strength, dexterity, and concentration-not trickery-and was a great showman.

In 1908, Houdini began performing more dangerous and dramatic escapes. In a favorite act, he was bound and then locked in an ironbound chest that was dropped into a water tank or thrown off a boat. In another, he was heavily bound and then suspended upside down in a glass-walled water tank. Other acts featured Houdini being hung from a skyscraper in a straitjacket, or bound and buried-without a coffin-under six feet of dirt.

In his later years, Houdini campaigned against mediums, mind readers, fakirs, and others who claimed supernatural talents but depended on tricks. At the same time, he was deeply interested in spiritualism and made a pact with his wife and friends that the first to die was to try and communicate with the world of reality from the spirit world.

Eyewitnesses to an incident in Montreal gave rise to speculation that Houdini’s death was caused by a McGill University student, J. Gordon Whitehead, who delivered multiple blows to Houdini’s abdomen to test Houdini’s claim that he was able to take any blow to the body above the waist without injury.

The eyewitnesses, students named Jacques Price and Sam Smilovitz (sometimes called Jack Price and Sam Smiley), proferred accounts of the incident that generally corroborated one another. The following is Price’s description of events:

   Houdini was reclining on his couch after his performance, having an art student sketch him. When Whitehead came in and asked if it was true that Houdini could take any blow to the stomach, Houdini replied groggily in the affirmative. In this instance, he was hit three times before Houdini could tighten up his stomach muscles to avoid serious injury. Whitehead reportedly continued hitting Houdini several more times and Houdini acted as though he were in some pain.

Houdini reportedly stated that if he had time to prepare himself properly he would have been in a better position to take the blows. He had apparently been suffering from appendicitis for several days prior and yet refused medical treatment. His appendix would likely have burst on its own without the trauma. Although in serious pain, Houdini continued to travel without seeking medical attention.

When Houdini arrived at the Garrick Theater in Detroit, Michigan on October 24, 1926, for what would be his last performance, he had a fever of 104 F (40 C). Despite a diagnosis of acute appendicitis, Houdini took the stage. He was reported to have passed out during the show, but was revived and continued. Afterwards, he was hospitalized at Detroit’s Grace Hospital.

Houdini died of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix at 1:26 p.m. in Room 401 on October 31, aged 52.

After taking statements from Price and Smilovitz, Houdini’s insurance company concluded that the death was due to the dressing-room incident and paid double indemnity.

Houdini’s funeral was held on November 4, 1926 in New York, with more than 2,000 mourners in attendance. He was interred in the Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, New York, with the crest of the Society of American Magicians inscribed on his gravesite. To this day the Society holds a broken wand ceremony at the grave site in November. Houdini’s widow, Bess, died on February 11, 1943, aged 67, in Needles, California. She had expressed a wish to be buried next to him but instead was interred at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Westchester, New York, as her Catholic family refused to allow her to be buried in a Jewish cemetery out of concern for her soul.

Oct 31 2013

2013 Major League Baseball Championship Game 6: Cardinals @ Red Sox

Well, the highlight could turn out to be American Celtic punk music group Dropkick Murphys singing the national anthem, especially if you’re a Cards fan.

In Monday’s game the Sox scored in the Top of the 1st off a 1 Out Double followed by another for an RBI.  In the 4th the Cards tied it up on a Solo Shot.  Then in the 7th the Sox put it away with a 1 Out Single, a Walk, an RBI Double, and an RBI Single.  Red Sox 3 – 1, lead Series 3 – 2.

Now the Cards have to win 2 straight at Fenway which will not be easy.

Facing elimination tonight’s lineup features Allen Craig at DH replaced at 1st by Matt Adams for the Cardinals with Daniel Descalso replacing the error prone Pete Kozma at Short and Jon Jay instead of Shane Robinson in Center.  The Sox will DH David Ortiz substituting Mike Napoli at 1st and replace Daniel Nava with Shane Victorino in Right.

Boston will start John Lackey (10 – 13, 3.52 ERA R).  He’s not much better than that in the post-season, he lost Game 2 last Thursday at Fenway in this same matchup and is 2 – 1 with 16 hits and 7 runs in 19 and a 3rd innings for an ERA of 3.36 (6.75 in the loss).  He’ll be countered by rookie phenom Michael Wacha (4 – 1, 2.78 ERA R) who is 4 – 0 in the playoffs with 11 hits and 3 runs in 27 innings for a still stunningly low (anything less than 1.0 is pretty gosh darn stunning) ERA of 0.98.

Now if it wasn’t for Thursday’s game I might be more pessimistic about the Cardinal’s prospects for extending the Series to 7.  They are facing elimination in one of the quirkiest Parks in all Baseball, but Lackey is no prize.  I would expect Sox Manager John Farrell to tap the Bullpen early if he gets into trouble, but the Sox Bullpen is no prize either.  I suspect instead he’s playing for a deciding Game 7 tomorrow when he’ll probably start Peavy against Kelly.

But, since I do naturally favor the Senior League over the Junior and the Cards are most in need of the help (and the video is so much more entertaining), tonight the Rally Squirrel will make what could be his last appearance this season.

Oct 30 2013

‘Plausible’ Deniability?

HHS chief: President didn’t know of Obamacare website woes beforehand

By Greg Botelho, CNN

updated 10:29 PM EDT, Wed October 23, 2013

President Barack Obama didn’t know of problems with the Affordable Care Act’s website — despite insurance companies’ complaints and the site’s crashing during a test run — until after its now well-documented abysmal launch, the nation’s health chief told CNN on Tuesday.

In an exclusive interview with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked when the President first learned about the considerable issues with the Obamacare website. Sebelius responded that it was in “the first couple of days” after the site went live October 1.

“But not before that?” Gupta followed up.

To which Sebelius replied, “No, sir.”

Spying Known at Top Levels, Officials Say

By MARK LANDLER and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, The New York Times

Published: October 29, 2013

The nation’s top spymaster said on Tuesday that the White House had long been aware in general terms of the National Security Agency’s overseas eavesdropping, stoutly defending the agency’s intelligence-gathering methods and suggesting possible divisions within the Obama administration.

The official, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that the N.S.A. had kept senior officials in the National Security Council informed of surveillance it was conducting in foreign countries. He did not specifically say whether President Obama was told of these spying efforts, but he appeared to challenge assertions in recent days that the White House had been in the dark about some of the agency’s practices.



The White House has faced criticism for the N.S.A.’s surveillance practices since the first revelations by a former agency contractor, Edward J. Snowden, in June. But in recent weeks it has struggled to quell a new diplomatic storm over reports that the agency monitored the cellphone of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany for more than a decade. White House officials said that the president did not know of that surveillance, but that he has told Ms. Merkel that the United States is not monitoring her phone now and would not in the future.

NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say

By Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani, Washinton Post

Wednesday, October 30, 12:19 PM

According to a top secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records – ranging from “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, to content such as text, audio and video.

The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, GCHQ. From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.



Outside U.S. territory, statutory restrictions on surveillance seldom apply and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has no jurisdiction. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein has acknowledged that Congress conducts little oversight of intelligence-gathering under the presidential authority of Executive Order 12333 , which defines the basic powers and responsibilities of the intelligence agencies.

John Schindler, a former NSA chief analyst and frequent defender who teaches at the Naval War College, said it was obvious why the agency would prefer to avoid restrictions where it can.

“Look, NSA has platoons of lawyers and their entire job is figuring out how to stay within the law and maximize collection by exploiting every loophole,” he said. “It’s fair to say the rules are less restrictive under Executive Order 12333 than they are under FISA.”



In 2011, when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court learned that the NSA was using similar methods to collect and analyze data streams – on a much smaller scale – from cables on U.S. territory, Judge John D. Bates ruled that the program was illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and inconsistent with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

Today, of course they deny everything, including that they said what they said yesterday or last week.

Even though it’s on video tape.

Who you going to believe?  Proven, admitted liars or your own lying eyes?

Oct 30 2013

‘Plausable’ Deniability?

HHS chief: President didn’t know of Obamacare website woes beforehand

By Greg Botelho, CNN

updated 10:29 PM EDT, Wed October 23, 2013

President Barack Obama didn’t know of problems with the Affordable Care Act’s website — despite insurance companies’ complaints and the site’s crashing during a test run — until after its now well-documented abysmal launch, the nation’s health chief told CNN on Tuesday.

In an exclusive interview with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked when the President first learned about the considerable issues with the Obamacare website. Sebelius responded that it was in “the first couple of days” after the site went live October 1.

“But not before that?” Gupta followed up.

To which Sebelius replied, “No, sir.”

Spying Known at Top Levels, Officials Say

By MARK LANDLER and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, The New York Times

Published: October 29, 2013

The nation’s top spymaster said on Tuesday that the White House had long been aware in general terms of the National Security Agency’s overseas eavesdropping, stoutly defending the agency’s intelligence-gathering methods and suggesting possible divisions within the Obama administration.

The official, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that the N.S.A. had kept senior officials in the National Security Council informed of surveillance it was conducting in foreign countries. He did not specifically say whether President Obama was told of these spying efforts, but he appeared to challenge assertions in recent days that the White House had been in the dark about some of the agency’s practices.



The White House has faced criticism for the N.S.A.’s surveillance practices since the first revelations by a former agency contractor, Edward J. Snowden, in June. But in recent weeks it has struggled to quell a new diplomatic storm over reports that the agency monitored the cellphone of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany for more than a decade. White House officials said that the president did not know of that surveillance, but that he has told Ms. Merkel that the United States is not monitoring her phone now and would not in the future.

NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say

By Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani, Washinton Post

Wednesday, October 30, 12:19 PM

According to a top secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records – ranging from “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, to content such as text, audio and video.

The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, GCHQ. From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.



Outside U.S. territory, statutory restrictions on surveillance seldom apply and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has no jurisdiction. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein has acknowledged that Congress conducts little oversight of intelligence-gathering under the presidential authority of Executive Order 12333 , which defines the basic powers and responsibilities of the intelligence agencies.

John Schindler, a former NSA chief analyst and frequent defender who teaches at the Naval War College, said it was obvious why the agency would prefer to avoid restrictions where it can.

“Look, NSA has platoons of lawyers and their entire job is figuring out how to stay within the law and maximize collection by exploiting every loophole,” he said. “It’s fair to say the rules are less restrictive under Executive Order 12333 than they are under FISA.”



In 2011, when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court learned that the NSA was using similar methods to collect and analyze data streams – on a much smaller scale – from cables on U.S. territory, Judge John D. Bates ruled that the program was illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and inconsistent with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

Today, of course they deny everything, including that they said what they said yesterday or last week.

Even though it’s on video tape.

Who you going to believe?  Proven, admitted liars or your own lying eyes?

Oct 30 2013

Admiral Zhao

Word up Aasif.

Fired by the way.  Barnum, Buncombe, Bastard.

Oct 30 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting thea Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: JPMorgan settlement is justice, not a shakedown

Is JPMorgan Chase, the imperious mega-bank, a hapless victim of what a Post editorial dubbed “political persecution”? Is it the innocent target of a Justice Department “shakedown,” as the Wall Street Journal‘s editors charged, with Justice “confiscating” JPMorgan’s earnings “for no other reason than because they can and because they want to appease their left-wing populist allies”?

The announcement that JPMorgan’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, personally negotiated the announced $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department has set off howls in the press. The Post suggested that JPMorgan only made the same errors about housing prices that everyone else made. The government was charged with acting in bad faith, holding JPMorgan accountable for misdeeds committed by Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual before Dimon agreed to acquire them at the behest of the government. All in all, we’re supposed to see this deal as a miscarriage of justice.

Give me a break.

Jessica Valente: How to Write About Rape: Rules for Journalists

Feminists spend a lot of time taking journalists and media institutions to task for the way they cover rape-and for good reason. Victim-blaming runs rampant in headlines and news features, sexual assault is often misnamed or mischaracterized, and women’s behavior is treated with more scrutiny than rapists’ crimes. Media makers are smart, interesting people who-like all people-make mistakes. But even well-meaning missteps cause harm.  [..]

The United States does not have a rape problem-it has a rape epidemic. A woman in this country is raped every two minutes, 42 percent of victims are raped before they are 18 years old (pdf). One in three Native women report being raped, as do almost 19 percent of black women. Ninety-seven percent of rapists will never go to jail.

It’s our responsibility as journalists to ensure that we are covering stories of sexual assault with truthfulness, care, and in a way that does not make the country a safer place for rapists. We are not just media makers-we shape the culture as well. So let’s make it a culture that’s safer and more just for girls, women and all survivors of sexual assault.

Aura Bogado: Halloween Has Already Become a Horror Show

It’s not yet Halloween, and Julianne Hough is already apologizing for her decision to don blackface at Mike Meldman’s annual party. She attended the festivities with a group of friends who dressed up as the cast of Orange Is the New Black-with Hough as the character known as Crazy Eyes. Unfortunately, Hough wasn’t the only adult who made the choice to wear blackface this year.

I was disappointed, though not too surprised, when I saw that Hough wore blackface. Racist costumes are a sad staple of each year’s Halloween. I also wasn’t too surprised that someone reappropriated a character of color from Orange Is the New Black this Halloween. Although some have argued that the show provides its audience with a humanizing view of prison life and reveals the horrors of the prison industrial complex, many of us have also argued otherwise. The characters are often written as caricatures rather than anything else-and are easily digested as such. A Netflix series that leans on racist tropes becomes a problematic inspiration for someone who seems unable to heed numerous advisories against blackface. Let the nightmare begin.

Laura Flanders: Anyone for a Real Inform Act?

It was early and I hadn’t downed my coffee yet, but for a moment I thought I was reading something important in one of those tightly printed full-page ads that appear from time to time in the The New York Times.

Headlined “Enact the Inform Act,” the ad called on Congress and the president to pass a, quote, “bipartisan bill to reveal the full size and inter-generational consequences of our country’s fiscal imbalance.”

As I said, it was early but my mind was off. Finally, I thought to myself, someone is taking seriously our country’s teetering imbalance. [..]

But then, I hold the paper a little closer. The INFORM Act is not about any of those things. It’s about the deficit. The phony fiscal gap, not the flesh-and-blood one of inequality. The ad is signed by the 1 percent who want to do what? Cut taxes and shrink government. Who else can afford one of those one page ads?

Pity. Sometimes it’s good not to look too closely. Anyone interested in a genuine Inform Act?

Zoë Carpenter: Privacy Advocates Turn Up the Heat on the ‘Business-as-Usual Brigade’

On Saturday, thousands of people are expected to rally in Washington, DC, to protest the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs that, according to documents released by Edward Snowden, collect data from American citizens. Saturday’s rally comes at a key moment, as the Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to take up legislation to revise the NSA’s spying authority next week.

It’s clear that reform is needed-but less so that it will come out of the Intelligence Committee. Instead, committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein wants to make the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records permanent. In an op-ed published in USA Today on Monday, the California senator called the program “legal,” “effective in helping to prevent terrorist plots,” and claimed it was “not surveillance.” She argued that the metadata program should continue, and said her bill would “codify existing procedures into law.”

Bryce Covert: Don’t Be Fooled: Flexible Scheduling Is No Cure for the Workplace Gender Divide

The city of San Francisco just passed a little-noticed policy in an attempt to address the work and family conflict increasingly experienced by today’s workers: a “right-to-request” law that requires all employers to set up a process so that workers can negotiate flexible schedules. That means that starting January 1, city residents will be able to ask their employers about whether they can change their start and end times, telecommute or go part-time and the boss will have to prove “undue hardship” if he refuses. Vermont passed a similar statewide policy in May. These are the only places in the United States to take up such a law, although the UK, New Zealand and Australia have countrywide ones.

Supporters tout such laws as a way to help resolve the conflict of work and family for all. And for those who feel torn between these two worlds, this streamlined path to changing schedules will likely come as a relief. But if the goal of resolving the work/family conflict with policy is to level the playing field for mothers who work and to allow women to catch up to men, flexible scheduling, at least for now, falls short. It cures a symptom without touching the disease.

Oct 30 2013

On This Day In History October 30

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 30 is the 303rd day of the year (304th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 62 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1938, Orson Welles scares the nation.

The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938 and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds.

The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated “news bulletins”, which suggested to many listeners that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress. Compounding the issue was the fact that the Mercury Theatre on the Air was a ‘sustaining show’ (it ran without commercial breaks), thus adding to the program’s quality of realism. Although there were sensationalist accounts in the press about a supposed panic in response to the broadcast, the precise extent of listener response has been debated. In the days following the adaptation, however, there was widespread outrage. The program’s news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast, but the episode secured Orson Welles’ fame.

Oct 30 2013

Dueling Privacy Bills

The definition of a Beltway Conventional Wisdom summary.

NSA chief denies collecting millions of phone records on European citizens

By Ellen Nakashima and William Branigin, Washington Post

Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 3:30 PM

On one hand, there is the approach taken by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman; Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), a former House Judiciary Committee chairman; and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. They would end the mass collection of phone data by requiring the government to prove to a court that it is seeking call records relevant to either an agent of a foreign power who is the subject of a terrorism investigation or someone with a link to that agent. Such a requirement would make bulk collection impossible, the proponents say.

The legislation also would require a warrant to deliberately search for the e-mail and phone call content of Americans that is collected as part of a surveillance program targeting foreigners located overseas.

“The government has not made its case that bulk collection of domestic phone records is an effective counterterrorism tool, especially in light of the intrusion on American privacy,” Leahy said at a hearing this month.



On the other hand, the approach taken by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, focuses on increasing transparency and privacy protections.

The intelligence committee leaders have not introduced their respective bills, but Feinstein has outlined the changes under consideration. They include limiting access to the call database; codifying the requirement that analysts have a “reasonable articulable suspicion” that a phone number is associated with terrorism to query the database; requiring that the FISA court promptly review each such determination; and limiting the retention period for phone records, now five years.



The Intelligence Committee’s bill, she said, would also expand the NSA’s authority to allow it to continue intercepting for three days the phone calls and e-mails of an overseas foreign target who had entered the United States. That would give the government a chance to go to the FISA court to seek a traditional individual warrant to continue the collection. If the warrant was denied, the intercepts would have to be deleted.

The bill would also require Senate confirmation of the NSA director and inspector general.



The proposal to end bulk collection, if it is allowed to reach the floor, could succeed in the House, where a similar effort failed by only 12 votes in July. At least eight lawmakers who voted against the July measure and two who did not vote on it are now in favor of Leahy and Sensenbrenner’s approach, congressional aides said.

“The public is justifiably concerned about the fact that everybody’s phone calls apparently have been snared in this – even people who have no relationship to terrorism,” Sensenbrenner said in an interview. “But what has come out since the end of July, I think, is going to tip the scales in favor of a significant NSA reform.”

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