Apr 17 2019

Julian Assange

tl;dr, I know.

I feel I should state my position up front. I think that Wikileaks performs a valuable service which is fully covered by all the protection the First Amendment offers. I think that Julian Assange is a hero for helping to initiate it and the allegations against him by the Swedes unfounded and probably motivated by anger of the U.S. National Security apparatus over the Chelsea Manning Release.

Didn’t know we shot screaming, fleeing Brown Babies from Helicopters? We do that.

That is merely a discussion on Al Jazeera (which YouTube intrusively reminds me is owned by the Qatari Government which is another one of those Sunni oppressive Shia majority Gulf of Persia countries, one where the U.S. has a huge Naval Base and was blockaded last year by The House of Saud at the behest of Jared Kushner who wanted to extort the Qataris into bailing him out of his Billion Dollar Boondoggle at 666 Fifth Av) of the actual 38 minute video passed by Chelsea Manning to Wikileaks. That video too is hosted on YouTube by Al Jazeera but it’s age restricted because of its brutality and I’m not willing to sign into Google just to watch it, which you can here.

Anyway that’s why Assange ended up in the Ecuadorian Embassy and… he wasn’t exactly a good neighbor. He let his cat crap in the hall, stole the freaking wireless AND the Netflix password, didn’t trim his beard, probably left the toilet seat up too.

What he is charged with now is that he actually actively helped Chelsea Manning steal the files, which, if true, is exactly the same as the Versailles Villagers suggest- a case of actually breaking and entering as opposed to merely distributing the stolen goods which is something The New York Times and Washington Post do all day, every day, 24/7/365.

It is a totally legitimate business practice they share with the National Enquirer which is by the way available if you have some Millions lying around. C’mon, don’t you want to see what’s in the vault?

Some reports (see below) suggest the overt act was simply the suggestion that Manning set up anonymous accounts, recorded in e-mails.

Folks: If you are active on the Internet and are not famous (or Certified and “well respected” in your field) and looking to trade on that to make an argumentum ad verecundiam, set up an anonymous avatar so you don’t get doxxed and trolled. Don’t invest too much time in it and don’t dwell on identifying personal details. I find this a fundamentally harmless piece of advice that everybody knows, or should.

Me? Been the same since April 1, 2005. Obnoxious.

Benedict Arnold

Benedict was born in Norwich and moved to New Haven where he established himself as a rather minor but still relatively well off merchant shipper, pharmacist, and bookseller. Immediately after Lexington and Concord he raised a Company (mostly paid and equipped out of his own pocket) to take part in the Siege of Boston. The problem with that is they didn’t have any cannon capable of taking on the British ships so Arnold took his Company and some other forces, headed north, hooked up with Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, captured Fort Ticonderoga and sent its cannons back (courtesy also a bookseller- Henry Knox from Derby, the smallest town in Connecticut) so that when they were placed on Breed’s Hill Boston Harbor was under fire and after a battle where the British could not take the emplacements they withdrew from Boston to Halifax (you shoot the ships which will fall apart and burn and they shoot at a big pile of rocks and dirt).

The next thing he did was gather up Dan Morgan and his Virginia Sharpshooters and head from Arundel (Kennebunkport, Maine) and slog up to Quebec (it was horrible, read Arundel by Kenneth Roberts), meet up with Richard Montgomery (who had already taken Montreal and forced the Canadian Government to retreat to Quebec) and try and cut off Canada.

It was a huge failure that might have worked. Montgomery was killed, Arnold badly wounded, and Morgan captured.

With about 600 men left Arnold laid seige and was later relieved by David Wooster (also from Connecticut). He was terrible and his anti-Catholic bigotry soon made the mostly French population turn against him. By the time he was replaced with John Thomas (Massachusetts) their position was hopeless (an army must swim in the people as a fish swims in the sea) and they had to retreat.

There was also smallpox which claimed Thomas.

Benedict Arnold, somewhat recovered, fought a surprisingly successful retreat down Lake Champlain in little more than rafts of green timber. Ticonderoga was abandoned after a token defense because, well, it didn’t have any cannons left and the British laboriously dragged a Battery or two up an over topping peak so the fortress was under fire.

In 1777 (that didn’t take long, did it?) the grand British Plan was to divide the Colonies along the Hudson and so Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne went dutifully down to capture the headwaters while William Howe, Commander In Chief, sent his forces in New York City…

To Philadelphia.

Now to be fair it was the Colonial Capital and when you capture the Capital you win, right? Not so much. The Continental Congress moved to Lancaster (forgive me, nowhere) and York (also nowhere). Howe had no forces left to send North up the Hudson and so we come to Saratoga.

I’ll not delve too much into details. The Continental forces were under the command of Horatio “Run Away” Gates. Why the “Run Away”? Halfway through the rout at Camden South Carolina in 1780, despite having a superior force numerically, he abandoned his troops and fled the field to Hillsborough, 180 miles away in North Carolina.

Also, before being totally discredited by that debacle, he incessantly schemed against Washington who he thought poorly qualified and wished to replace.

Anyway, at Saratoga 3 years earlier, he was his usual incompetent self and the position was only saved by the independent actions of Arnold, Morgan, and Benjamin Lincoln who was forced to surrender Charleston but later accepted the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.

After Burgoyne was defeated Benjamin Franklin was able to leverage that momentum to form active alliances with France and Spain and ultimately the Dutch that made the United States Revolution the Anglo-French War of 1778 and shifted the focus to more lucrative colonial battles in the West and East Indies and the Indian Subcontinent while sucking away resources like ships and troops from America del Norte.

You could call it World War 0 but unless you have broad minded teachers you don’t get that in school.

At this point I think it’s fair to say that Benedict Arnold is as responsible for United States independence as George Washington, Nathaniel Greene, and Dan Morgan.

Arnold was horribly injured again, in the same leg, and was basically a disfigured cripple. His wife died, he was broke, and Washington out of gratitude wangled him a position as Quartermaster. It was a thankless task as Congress would rarely allocate sufficient funds and constantly complained about the disposition of those they did. Arnold was no more inclined to graft than average (Nathaniel Greene was a Saint) but endured constant criticism, which he resented.

He was also flattered by the attentions of his future wife, Peggy Shippen, who was a flat out British spy and cheated on him with Major John André who was the head of the English espionage network in the United States, kind of like Bill Hayden and Anna if you Le Carré.

Benedict engineered an appointment as Commander of the fortress of West Point, not really a flashpoint of conflict but of great strategic significance.

You look at it today and you think it’s not much, a fort on top of a hill, and not a big hill at that, but the business end was the lines and lines of artillery batteries sloping down to the Hudson River protecting the great log boom that prevented British ships from sailing farther without dismantling it under fire or landing assault parties to defeat the defenders. If in British hands it would be 1777 all over again, but done right.

So that’s what Benedict turned over to André for 40 pieces of silver (hah, £20,000 Sterling) and he would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for that meddling Washington who decided to pay a sympathy visit and blew the plot. André hung and Arnold got his money and Peggy and a commission in the British Army where he served indifferently in India.

He is my favorite traitor. I use Quisling as an insult because Vidkun was a weakling bully who was always a coward and never a patriot. If Arnold had died of his wounds at Saratoga he would have been proclaimed a great hero.

Why do I know all this? Connecticut, duh. We do State History here. Oh, and he was able to work and act as a Mason, not that any of this is secret.

So it is with Assange (well, I don’t know about the Masonic part). During his time in Landsberg he developed a severe case of Hillary hate and either under Russian influence or on his own decided to do what he could to prevent her from winning the 2016 election. For me the dispositive proof is that he suppressed equally embarrassing revelations about the Russians and Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio, but Thumb On The Scale doesn’t make you less of a Journalist, National Enquirer.

Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits— a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage. It is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There is also a negative side.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as Journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.

The most consistent and ultimately damaging failure of Political Journalism in America (is that it) has its roots in the clubby/cocktail personal relationships that inevitably develop between Politicians and Journalists. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms. Objective Journalism is one of the main reasons that American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long.

I am a Journalist. I write a Journal about Politics and stuff and while you may think I’m scum and disagree it’s hard to argue with my assertion since I’ve taken classes and worked for print publications which is better qualification than most. I have transferred to ephemeral photons which is equally protected.

Assange may have a lot to answer for, especially the things they’re not charging him with which is direct conspiracy with the GRU to damage the Clinton Campaign. Unless they amend their indictment to include that they may lose their opportunity to do so and thus any leverage to compel his testimony.

I think overall that this whole sordid affair is indeed a blow both to Press Freedom and Government Credibility. I’m more concerned about the Press Freedom part.

The U.S. Government’s Indictment of Julian Assange Poses Grave Threats to Press Freedom
by Glenn Greenwald, Micah Lee, The Intercept
April 11 2019

The indictment of Julian Assange unsealed today by the Trump Justice Department poses grave threats to press freedoms, not only in the U.S. but around the world. The charging document and accompanying extradition request from the U.S. government, used by the U.K. police to arrest Assange once Ecuador officially withdrew its asylum protection, seeks to criminalize numerous activities at the core of investigative journalism.

So much of what has been reported today about this indictment has been false. Two facts in particular have been utterly distorted by the DOJ and then misreported by numerous media organizations.

The first crucial fact about the indictment is that its key allegation — that Assange did not merely receive classified documents from Chelsea Manning but tried to help her crack a password in order to cover her tracks — is not new. It was long known by the Obama DOJ and was explicitly part of Manning’s trial, yet the Obama DOJ — not exactly renowned for being stalwart guardians of press freedoms — concluded that it could not and should not prosecute Assange because indicting him would pose serious threats to press freedom. In sum, today’s indictment contains no new evidence or facts about Assange’s actions; all of it has been known for years.

The other key fact being widely misreported is that the indictment accuses Assange of trying to help Manning obtain access to document databases to which she had no valid access: i.e., hacking rather than journalism. But the indictment alleges no such thing. Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different username so that she could maintain her anonymity while downloading documents in the public interest and then furnish them to WikiLeaks to publish.

In other words, the indictment seeks to criminalize what journalists are not only permitted but ethically required to do: take steps to help their sources maintain their anonymity. As longtime Assange lawyer Barry Pollack put it: “The factual allegations … boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”

That’s why the indictment poses such a grave threat to press freedom. It characterizes as a felony many actions that journalists are not just permitted but required to take in order to conduct sensitive reporting in the digital age.

The U.S. government has been determined to indict Julian Assange and WikiLeaks since at least 2010, when the group published hundreds of thousands of war logs and diplomatic cables revealing numerous war crimes and other acts of corruption by the U.S., the U.K., and other governments around the world. To achieve that goal, the Obama DOJ empaneled a grand jury in 2011 and conducted a sweeping investigation into WikiLeaks, Assange, and Manning.

But in 2013, the Obama DOJ concluded that it could not prosecute Assange in connection with the publication of those documents because there was no way to distinguish what WikiLeaks did from what the New York Times, The Guardian, and numerous media outlets around the world routinely do: namely, work with sources to publish classified documents.

The Obama DOJ tried for years to find evidence to justify a claim that Assange did more than act as a journalist — that he, for instance, illegally worked with Manning to steal the documents — but found nothing to justify that accusation and thus, never indicted Assange (as noted, the Obama DOJ since at least 2011 was well-aware of the core allegation of today’s indictment — that Assange tried to help Manning circumvent a password wall so she could use a different username — because that was all part of Manning’s charges).

As the New York Times reported late last year, “Soon after he took over as C.I.A. director, [current Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo privately told lawmakers about a new target for American spies: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.” The Times added that “Mr. Pompeo and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions unleashed an aggressive campaign against Mr. Assange, reversing an Obama-era view of WikiLeaks as a journalistic entity.”

In April, 2017, Pompeo, while still CIA chief, delivered a deranged speech proclaiming that “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” He punctuated his speech with this threat: “To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.”

From the start, the Trump DOJ has made no secret of its desire to criminalize journalism generally. Early in the Trump administration, Sessions explicitly discussed the possibility of prosecuting journalists for publishing classified information. Trump and his key aides were open about how eager they were to build on, and escalate, the Obama administration’s progress in enabling journalism in the U.S. to be criminalized.

Today’s arrest of Assange is clearly the culmination of a two-year effort by the U.S. government to coerce Ecuador — under its new and submissive president, Lenín Moreno — to withdraw the asylum protection it extended to Assange in 2012. Rescinding Assange’s asylum would enable the U.K. to arrest Assange on minor bail-jumping charges pending in London and, far more significantly, to rely on an extradition request from the U.S. government to send him to a country to which he has no connection (the U.S.) to stand trial relating to leaked documents.

Indeed, the Trump administration’s motive here is clear. With Ecuador withdrawing its asylum protection and subserviently allowing the U.K. to enter its own embassy to arrest Assange, Assange faced no charges other than a minor bail-jumping charge in the U.K. (Sweden closed its sexual assault investigation not because they concluded Assange was innocent, but because they spent years unsuccessfully trying to extradite him). By indicting Assange and demanding his extradition, it ensures that Assange — once he serves his time in a London jail for bail-jumping — will be kept in a British prison for the full year or longer that it takes for the U.S. extradition request, which Assange will certainly contest, to wind its way through the British courts.

The indictment tries to cast itself as charging Assange not with journalistic activities but with criminal hacking. But it is a thinly disguised pretext for prosecuting Assange for publishing the U.S. government’s secret documents while pretending to make it about something else.

Whatever else is true about the indictment, substantial parts of the document explicitly characterize as criminal exactly the actions that journalists routinely engage in with their sources and thus, constitutes a dangerous attempt to criminalize investigative journalism.

The indictment, for instance, places great emphasis on Assange’s alleged encouragement that Manning — after she already turned over hundreds of thousands of classified documents — try to get more documents for WikiLeaks to publish. The indictment claims that “discussions also reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information. During an exchange, Manning told Assange that ‘after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.’ To which Assange replied, ‘curious eyes never run dry in my experience.’”

But encouraging sources to obtain more information is something journalists do routinely. Indeed, it would be a breach of one’s journalistic duties not to ask vital sources with access to classified information if they could provide even more information so as to allow more complete reporting. If a source comes to a journalist with information, it is entirely common and expected that the journalist would reply: Can you also get me X, Y, and Z to complete the story or to make it better? As Edward Snowden said this morning, “Bob Woodward stated publicly he would have advised me to remain in place and act as a mole.”

Investigative journalism in many, if not most, cases, entails a constant back and forth between journalist and source in which the journalist tries to induce the source to provide more classified information, even if doing so is illegal. To include such “encouragement” as part of a criminal indictment — as the Trump DOJ did today — is to criminalize the crux of investigative journalism itself, even if the indictment includes other activities you believe fall outside the scope of journalism.

Most of the reports about the Assange indictment today have falsely suggested that the Trump DOJ discovered some sort of new evidence that proved Assange tried to help Manning hack through a password in order to use a different username to download documents. Aside from the fact that those attempts failed, none of this is new: As the last five paragraphs of this 2011 Politico story demonstrate, that Assange talked to Manning about ways to use a different username so as to avoid detection was part of Manning’s trial and was long known to the Obama DOJ when they decided not to prosecute.

There are only two new events that explain today’s indictment of Assange: 1) The Trump administration from the start included authoritarian extremists such as Sessions and Pompeo who do not care in the slightest about press freedom and were determined to criminalize journalism against the U.S., and 2) With Ecuador about to withdraw its asylum protection, the U.S. government needed an excuse to prevent Assange from walking free.

A technical analysis of the indictment’s claims similarly proves the charge against Assange to be a serious threat to First Amendment press liberties, primarily because it seeks to criminalize what is actually a journalist’s core duty: helping one’s source avoid detection. The indictment deceitfully seeks to cast Assange’s efforts to help Manning maintain her anonymity as some sort of sinister hacking attack.

The Defense Department computer that Manning used to download the documents which she then furnished to WikiLeaks was likely running the Windows operating system. It had multiple user accounts on it, including an account to which Manning had legitimate access. Each account is protected by a password, and Windows computers store a file that contains a list of usernames and password “hashes,” or scrambled versions of the passwords. Only accounts designated as “administrator,” a designation Manning’s account lacked, have permission to access this file.

The indictment suggests that Manning, in order to access this password file, powered off her computer and then powered it back on, this time booting to a CD running the Linux operating system. From within Linux, she allegedly accessed this file full of password hashes. The indictment alleges that Assange agreed to try to crack one of these password hashes, which, if successful, would recover the original password. With the original password, Manning would be able to log directly into that other user’s account, which — as the indictment puts it — “would have made it more difficult for investigators to identify Manning as the source of disclosures of classified information.”

Assange appears to have been unsuccessful in cracking the password. The indictment alleges that “Assange indicated that he had been trying to crack the password by stating that he had ‘no luck so far.’”

Thus, even if one accepts all of the indictment’s claims as true, Assange was not trying to hack into new document files to which Manning had no access, but rather trying to help Manning avoid detection as a source. For that reason, the precedent that this case would set would be a devastating blow to investigative journalists and press freedom everywhere.

Journalists have an ethical obligation to take steps to protect their sources from retaliation, which sometimes includes granting them anonymity and employing technical measures to help ensure that their identity is not discovered. When journalists take source protection seriously, they strip metadata and redact information from documents before publishing them if that information could have been used to identify their source; they host cloud-based systems such as SecureDrop, now employed by dozens of major newsrooms around the world, that make it easier and safer for whistleblowers, who may be under surveillance, to send messages and classified documents to journalists without their employers knowing; and they use secure communication tools like Signal and set them to automatically delete messages.

But today’s indictment of Assange seeks to criminalize exactly these types of source-protection efforts, as it states that “it was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning used a special folder on a cloud drop box of WikiLeaks to transmit classified records containing information related to the national defense of the United States.”

The indictment, in numerous other passages, plainly conflates standard newsroom best practices with a criminal conspiracy. It states, for instance, that “it was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning used the ‘Jabber’ online chat service to collaborate on the acquisition and dissemination of the classified records, and to enter into the agreement to crack the password […].” There is no question that using Jabber, or any other encrypted messaging system, to communicate with sources and acquire documents with the intent to publish them, is a completely lawful and standard part of modern investigative journalism. Newsrooms across the world now use similar technologies to communicate securely with their sources and to help their sources avoid detection by the government.

The indictment similarly alleges that “it was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure of classified records to WikiLeaks, including by removing usernames from the disclosed information and deleting chat logs between Assange and Manning.”

Assange is a deeply polarizing figure. That’s almost certainly why the Trump DOJ believes that it could get away with indicting him based on a theory that would clearly endanger core journalistic functions: because it hopes that the intense animosity for Assange personally will blind people to the dangers this indictment poses.

But far more important than one’s personal feelings about Assange is the huge step this indictment represents in the Trump administration’s explicitly stated goal to criminalize journalism that involves reporting on classified information. Opposition to that menacing goal does not require admiration or affection for Assange. It simply requires a belief in the critical importance of a free press in a democracy.

Yeah, inserting a boot device that loads another OS almost always works provided it supports the target file system. Is this a flaw? Without the ability it is rarely possible to recover data from a damaged drive and that happens all the time, it’s my second most frequent task as a technician.

Having a day gig doesn’t make me less of a Journalist either. Artists need food on the table like everyone else, otherwise we starve and play music on street corners and paint horrible pictures of Elvis on black velvet.

Apr 17 2019

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering 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 “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Republicans Are the Real Extremists

Conspiracy theorists and enemies of democracy, oh my.

All of Donald Trump’s major policies have failed substantively, politically, or both. His one big legislative achievement, the 2017 tax cut, remains unpopular. His attacks on Obamacare have only enhanced public approval of the program. His fearmongering has cemented majority opposition to his proposed border wall.

But while today’s G.O.P. can’t do policy, it commands a powerful propaganda machine. And this machine is now dedicated to a strategy of portraying Democrats as extremists. It might work — but it shouldn’t, because Democrats aren’t extremists, but Republicans are.

The attack on Democrats has largely involved demonizing two new members of Congress, Representative Ilhan Omar and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Omar is Muslim, and the usual suspects have gone all-out in using an out-of-context quotation to portray her, completely falsely, as sympathetic to terrorists. AOC, who calls herself a democratic socialist — although she’s really just a social democrat — has been the subject of obsessive coverage on the right. Over a six-week period, Fox News and Fox Business mentioned her more than 3,000 times, invariably portraying her as ignorant, radical, or both.

It’s surely not an accident that these two principal targets are both women of color; there’s a sense in which supposed concerns about extremism are just a cover for sexism and white nationalism. But it’s still worth pointing out that while both Omar and AOC are on the left of the Democratic Party, neither is staking out policy positions that are extreme compared with either expert views or public opinion.

Harry Litman: If Congress wants the unredacted Mueller report, here’s how to get it

The Justice Department has announced that it will deliver special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report to Congress and the public on Thursday morning, but with redactions of grand jury information (and other categories of information) that will leave innumerable gaps in our understanding of what Mueller uncovered. Many commentators have suggested that Congress’s only mechanism for securing an unredacted report is to launch a formal impeachment inquiry — a blind step forward with great political risks for congressional Democrats and the party overall. [..]

But that’s not correct. In fact, Congress has immediate recourse to seek the unredacted report pursuant to the ”judicial proceeding” exception, without having to initiate an impeachment inquiry.

How do we know? Well, for starters, we need look no further than the Starr investigation of President Bill Clinton and the succeeding impeachment proceedings in Congress. In September 1998, before the House had initiated an impeachment inquiry, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr sought and received from federal district court an order to provide to Congress his report, including voluminous grand jury materials. The court’s order granting the request provided expressly that it constituted an order for purposes of the “judicial proceeding” exception in the federal rules.

It was only after digesting Starr’s report, and based upon the report, that the House decided to initiate an impeachment proceeding.

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Apr 17 2019

An Embarrassment Of Lies

PragerU, Candace Owens, and Cody testifies before Congress in the body of a young Black woman from Connecticut by warging ala Bran Stark and the Night King.

C’mon people, I only have 5 more weeks to work off my Game of Thrones trivia.

Apr 17 2019


Along with the Portuguese, Connecticut is infested with Poles (don’t get me started about the Italians and Irish).

I hope you realize that I’m merely being sardonic about Racism and Bigotry in general. It’s not that I have no opinion, I think it’s bad and you should publicly shame Racists and Bigots at the very least and, depending on how bad and entrenched the attitude is, sometimes more energetic action is required.

Anyway it doesn’t seem you can drive 5 minutes without finding a Pulaski Club or a Pulaski Monument or a Pulaski Bridge or Highway or Street.

Who was Casimir Pulaski?

Umm… yeah. Also this

A Revolutionary War hero who served alongside Washington may have been intersex
By Kayla Epstein, Washington Post
April 8, 2019

Gen. Casimir Pulaski didn’t make it into”Hamilton,” but the world still knows his name. The Revolutionary War hero is considered the “father of the American cavalry,” and even if you aren’t aware of his story, you may have driven over a bridge, joined a society or gazed up at a monument named in his memory. In the mid-19th century, Polish and Catholic immigrants looked to him as a celebrated figure, a sign that they, too, had been part of the American origin story.

Intersex individuals have biological variations that do not fit typical categories of male or female. The variations can be chromosomal or differences in a person’s genitalia, hormones or sex organs. Intersex traits can manifest in a variety of ways, some less detectable than others, and members of the intersex community have several ways of identifying their gender.

Virginia Estabrook, an anthropologist at Georgia Southern University who helped identify Pulaski’s remains, noted that “there’s a lot of erasure of intersex people over a long period of time.” While historical records show Pulaski was identified and raised as male from birth, and lived as a man, Estabrook said that this new discovery gave his legacy a new significance.

Pulaski is “somebody who was a historical figure, we know a lot about his life,” Estabrook said. “He’s got a story, he’s got a presence. He’s got highways and roads and national holidays named after him. This could be a figure that is a touchstone for a totally different group of people than Pulaski had been a touchstone for in the past.”

As much as 1.7 percent of the world’s population are born with intersex traits, the Intersex Campaign for Equality estimates, and the United Nations points out that these individuals are often stigmatized and abused.

Pulaski was born into nobility in Warsaw, in what was then the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. There, he began his military career before Benjamin Franklin ultimately recommended that he join the American Revolution on the other side of the sea. Pulaski reached Massachusetts in July 1777, and made a name for himself only a few months later at the Battle of Brandywine, where he was credited with leading a charge that helped save George Washington’s life and the Continental Army from a disastrous defeat.

He stood 5-foot-1 to 5-foot-4, and appears in portraits with dark hair, a strong brow and a slender mustache.

“He was small but also incredibly strong, and incredibly skilled,” Maj. Douglas Shores, author of “Kasimierz Pulaski: General of Two Nations,” says in the Smithsonian Channel documentary. “And was willing to lead people by example, lead out in front.”

Washington made Pulaski a general, and the young commander set to work remaking the Colonial cavalry. He died after being wounded at the Siege of Savannah, Ga., in 1779, where revolutionary forces suffered a resounding defeat. However, Pulaski’s death at 34 solidified his reputation as an American military hero.

When examining the remains, forensic anthropologist Karen Burns realized that the pelvic bone appeared to be that of a woman. It seemed to rule out the possibility that the bones belonged to the father of the American cavalry.

But there were other indicators that pointed to Pulaski: similar height and age, scarring in the pelvis that indicated extensive horseback riding and an injury on the hand that matched one he had sustained in battle.

Burns died in 2012, with the identity of the bones still unanswered. But a new generation of researchers, including Estabrook, carried on the investigation. A new round of mitochondrial DNA tests in 2018 showed a match between the skeleton and Pulaski’s deceased Polish relative.

The skeleton belonged to Pulaski. But what to make of the pelvis that appeared to be that of a woman? The scientists concluded that he may have been intersex, which would have accounted for the discrepancy.

“What we do know is that we have a disconnect between what we see in the skeleton and what we know about Pulaski’s life,” Estabrook said. She noted that there was little research on how intersex conditions impacted skeletal development, and that the Pulaski case was a sign of the work that needs to be done in this field.

The findings help bring new significance to the life of a soldier who already occupied a distinguished place in history. That he was able to rise up the ranks of the Continental Army is a remarkable achievement, said Hida Viloria, an intersex and non-binary activist and author, in the documentary.

“I think that Pulaski being intersex doesn’t impact or change his legacy at all,” Viloria said. “If anything, I think it enhances it.”

Apr 17 2019

The Breakfast Club (Abstinence)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

Cuban exiles invade Bay of Pigs; Three astronauts of Apollo 13 land safely in pacific ocean; Benjamin Franklin dies at age 84; JP Morgan born in Connecticut; Ford rolls out the Mustang convertible.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

War will disappear only when men shall take no part whatever in violence and shall be ready to suffer every persecution that their abstention will bring them. It is the only way to abolish war.

Anatole France

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Apr 16 2019

Kangaroo Court Show Trials

Well, we won’t be getting them soon. Let’s take a moment to remember why we can’t have just a plain old regular trial instead of these cobbled together travesties.


And evidence obtained by torture is inadmissible.

Guantanamo military tribunal hit with another legal setback

A federal appeals court dealt another severe blow to the beleaguered Guantanamo Bay military tribunals Tuesday, tossing out three years worth of rulings in a key terror case after deciding the judge overseeing the proceedings did not appear to be impartial.

In a blistering opinion, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that Air Force Col. Vance Spath created “an intolerable cloud of partiality” over the military commission by pursuing a job at the Justice Department while simultaneously presiding over the case against Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the U.S.S. Cole bombing in Yemen in 2000.

The unanimous opinion from a three-judge panel also accused Spath of a “lack of candor” for obscuring his pending job change by not revealing it when he halted proceedings in the case in July 2018.

Judge David Tatel said that under the circumstances, Al-Nashiri had “a clear and indisputable right to relief.”

The case is being handled under Guantanamo Bay’s military commissions, created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to prosecute detainees at the military prison.

The process — intended to bypass civilian courts out of concerns they might offer too many rights to the accused and jeopardize classified information — has run into one hurdle after another, including repeated allegations of intrusions on the confidentiality of defense communications.

The problems have led to a tangle of litigation that has resulted in protracted delays, not only in the Cole case, but in another case against men accused of involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Tuesday’s ruling is yet another setback for the tribunal system. The order included an extraordinary rebuke of military judges, prosecutors and other officials for failing to ensure that the commission process remained free of bias and the appearance of bias.

(I)n this case, save for Al-Nashiri’s defense counsel, all elements of the military commission system—from the prosecution team to the Justice Department to the [Court of Military Commission Review] to the judge himself—failed to live up to that responsibility,” Tatel wrote. “And we cannot dismiss Spath’s lapse as a one-time aberration, as Al-Nashiri’s is not the first meritorious request for recusal that our court has considered with respect to military commission proceedings.”

Tatel added that the need for an independent judge in Al-Nashiri’s case was heightened by the fact that the government is seeking the death penalty in connection with the deaths of 17 soldiers in the Cole attack.

“In no proceeding is the need for an impartial judge more acute than one that may end in death,” Tatel wrote in an opinion joined by Judges Judith Rogers and Thomas Griffith.

The ruling will void about 460 written orders Spath issued as well as an untold number of oral rulings, including rulings he issued against defense attorneys who attempted to withdraw from the case over ethics concerns.

The decision means any trial for Nashiri, an alleged al-Qaida operative, will likely come more than two decades after his alleged crime.

Tatel said the court recognized that the ruling would lead to further delays in a process already faulted for its glacial pace, but added that upholding the legitimacy of the process had to take precedence over speed.

“Surely the public’s interest in efficient justice is no greater than its interest in impartial justice,” Tatel wrote. “Any institution that wields the government’s power to deny life and liberty must do so fairly, as the public’s ultimate objective is not in securing a conviction but in achieving a just outcome.”

The appeals court also noted that the military initially replaced Spath with another military judge, Air Force Col. Shelly Schools. However, earlier this year, government lawyers said her retirement was imminent — as she also had accepted a position in the Justice Department’s burgeoning ranks of immigration judges.

The Justice Department declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. The Defense Department had no immediate comment on the ruling.

An attorney for Nashiri, Michael Paradis, said the D.C. Circuit decision ruling is an indictment of the military commissions system.

“It is a disgrace that it had to come to this,” Paradis told POLITICO. “These are basic rules of judicial ethics. They were violated for years. They were violated in secret. And no one within the military commission system … did anything even after they came to light.”

“Things like this would never have happened in a federal court, let alone festered for years as they have,” Paradis added.

Apr 16 2019

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering 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 “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Michael Tomasky: Is America Becoming an Oligarchy?

Growing inequality threatens our most basic democratic principles.

Pete Buttigieg, who’s shown an impressive knack for putting matters well in these early days of the 2020 presidential race, nailed it recently when Chuck Todd of NBC asked him about capitalism. Of course I’m a capitalist, he said; America “is a capitalist society.”

But, he continued: “It’s got to be democratic capitalism.”

Mr. Buttigieg said that when capitalism becomes unrestrained by democratic checks and impulses, that’s no longer the kind of capitalism that once produced broad prosperity in this country. “If you want to see what happens when you have capitalism without democracy, you can see it very clearly in Russia,” he said. “It turns into crony capitalism, and that turns into oligarchy.”

Aside from enabling Mr. Buttigieg, the South Bend, Ind., mayor, to swat away a question that has bedeviled some others, his rhetoric reminds us of a crucial point: There is, or should be, a democratic element to capitalism — and an economic element to how we define democracy. [..]

But somehow, as the definition of democracy has been handed down to us over the years, the word has come to mean the existence and exercise of a few basic rights and principles. The people — the “demos” — are imbued with no particular economic characteristic. This is wrong. Our definition of democracy needs to change.

Democracy can’t flourish in a context of grotesque concentration of wealth. This idea is neither new nor radical nor alien. It is old, mainstream and as American as Thomas Jefferson.

Charles M. Blow: Demonizing Minority Women

Representative Ilhan Omar is the latest target in a trend of conservatives attacking women of color.

Last month at an event hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, delivered a speech in which she correctly derided Islamophobia, a real and persistent problem in this country and others.

In that speech, Representative Omar invoked the attacks of Sept. 11, saying the council was created “because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

(As The New York Times pointed out, “The Council on American-Islamic Relations was actually founded in 1994.)

The congresswoman could have used different, more severe language to describe the attacks, but she didn’t. Maybe we could judge her use of language as inartful, but we all succumb to that occasionally, me included. Error is inevitable among the loquacious. But, the Omar of the speech stands. I saw nowhere in it a thread of terror apologia. [..]

While the unrelenting attacks on Omar are newsworthy unto themselves as a conservative peculiarity, I believe that the attacks should be viewed through a wider and longer lens. Omar is only the most recent minority woman onto whom conservatives have trained their fire.

While white supremacy has historically tried to paint minority men as physically dangerous, it has routinely painted minority women, particularly those strong and vocal, as pathological and reprobate.

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Apr 16 2019

The Modern Monetary Theory Wave

Frankly when I started highlighting it and writing about some of the core concepts it was because I thought it was hip and edgy. I certainly never expected it to find such wide acceptance so soon.

Understanding Fiat Money is easy if you have a background in Keynesian Economics. Some still dismiss it (looking at you Krugman), even if they have adopted most of the primary principles, as mere accounting. Nothing mere about accounting.

Now my home Local (Capo di Tutti remember) we had strict rules set by our National Organization for budgeting local projects and expenses. Every report started with “Allocation from Local”, ended with “Return to Local” and the net economic activity was Zero. Project reports were submitted to the State, Regional, and National Organization for competitive judging based on completeness and beauty and as a veteran Judge (they operated under the illusion I was fair and impartial) the easiest way to cull the herd was to take a look at the budget and see if it conformed to guidelines.

People balk at the notion that the expenditure of funds can take place before any income is received, but you do have income- right up front. In my case you went to the Local Treasurer and they cut you a check, in a Government with a sovereign currency you print what you need to get the ball rolling.

Later you give it all back of course, to the Local if the intent was profit, or to your chosen charity if that was the purpose. In the mean time you spend it and all your vendors are a little wealthier and they spend money too, it’s called the multiplier effect.

So, mere accounting. In the case of a Government with a sovereign currency “later” effectively means never unless hyper-inflation gets you. Debt service? It’s a “sovereign” currency. You pay it back in the same notes you printed to get it.

Anyway it’s getting disgustingly mainstream and I’ll have to cook up a new way to be peculiar.

Modern Monetary Theory Finds an Embrace in an Unexpected Place: Wall Street
By Patricia Cohen, The New York Times
April 5, 2019

The package of eccentric ideas known as modern monetary theory — for example, that annual deficits are too small, and that the United States can essentially print money to pay off its debt — has been on the receiving end of a remarkable level of vitriol.

In policy circles, heavyweight economists have churned out scathing attacks. In the business arena, titans like Laurence D. Fink and Bill Gates have labeled it “garbage” and “crazy talk.” And in academia, when the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business asked top scholars about a couple of its claims, they split between the 28 percent who disagreed and the 72 percent who strongly disagreed.

But M.M.T., as it’s known, is attracting a conspicuous number of fans in an unexpected place: Wall Street. Money managers, chief executives and business analysts maintain that the approach offers several important and overlooked insights, and far from finding it fanciful or deranged, they are using M.M.T. to build economic forecasts and even trading strategies.

That framework helped produce billion-dollar gains for the company after the 2008 financial crisis. Dismissing alarms about outsize government debt and white-knuckle interest rates, Pimco instead bet successfully that rates would remain low. When it came to decision-making during this period, Mr. McCulley said, M.M.T. and other unorthodox approaches helped him “get it right.”

Richard C. Koo, chief economist at the Nomura Research Institute in Tokyo, said he had been telling his clients for years that “even with huge budget deficits in the U.S., interest rates would actually come down, not go up.”

Wall Street is not immune to the herd mentality, but Mr. Koo and several other analysts argued that academic economists had a vested interest in certain theories and were, therefore, more likely to suffer from groupthink.

In an article posted on Wednesday on the website of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Company, known as GMO, the strategist James Montier wrote: “For me an economic approach must help me understand the world, and provide me with some useful insights (preferably about my day job — investing). On those measures, let me assure you that M.M.T. thrashes neoclassical economics, hands down.”

And Daniel Alpert, a managing partner of the investment bank Westwood Capital, credited the theory with preventing him from panicking that rates would soar when the Federal Reserve set off a brief “taper tantrum” in 2013 and announced it was easing its stimulus program.

Over the past couple of years, he said, the Fed tried everything — “it did a belly dance to get long-term interest rates up” — and it didn’t work.

M.M.T., Mr. Alpert said, “successfully debunks 40 years of misassumptions of how markets and public credit work.”

Progressive politicians like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York are among the most vocal supporters of M.M.T., but the theory’s appeal crosses political lines in part because it offers a narrative for a series of events that the established wisdom failed to anticipate or explain.

Big government deficits, for instance, were supposed to mop up available pools of capital and drive up interest rates, which would, in turn, elbow out private investors, damage growth and feed inflation.

But the last decade was different. When deficits soared after the recession, interest rates fell and savings rates climbed. Investors are awash in capital. The economy has been expanding, slowly, for 10 years, with unemployment and inflation rates ensconced at record-low levels.

One reason for the misjudgments may be that the economic models that confidently strode down the mainstream were hammered out in the decades after World War II, when American companies had an enormous appetite for capital investment. “We don’t live in that world anymore,” said Mr. Koo of Nomura. Today, vast fortunes shift across oceans in an instant, currencies are untethered from gold, and your local coffee shop may no longer accept cash.

Technological advances, demographic shifts and persistently lower interest rates have further altered the global economy. Mohamed A. El-Erian, chief economic adviser at the financial firm Allianz, wrote in an email that “modern monetary theory has merit in stimulating debate” on whether those changes provide “for governments to run larger economically sustainable deficits than was previously thought possible.”

Besides the risk of government deficits, M.M.T. throws out a drawerful of other venerable assumptions with Marie Kondo-esque ruthlessness. To start, it instructs you to erase that textbook drawing of a white-haired Uncle Sam collecting tax dollars from the public and then using them to pay for military weapons, highway repairs, federal workers’ wages and more.

Tax revenues are not what finance the government’s expenditures, argues Stephanie Kelton, an economist at Stony Brook University and one of the most influential modern monetary theorists. What actually happens in a country that controls its own currency, she says, is that the government first decides what it’s going to spend. In the United States, Congress agrees on a budget. Then government agencies start handing out dollars to the public to pay for those tanks, earth movers and salaries. Afterward, it takes a portion back in the form of taxes. If the government takes back less than it gave out, there will be a deficit.

“The national debt is nothing more than a historical record of all of the dollars that were spent into the economy and not taxed back, and are currently being saved in the form of Treasury securities,” Ms. Kelton said.

Ms. Kelton, a frequent speaker at business and financial conferences and the chief economic adviser to Mr. Sanders during his 2016 presidential campaign, points out that every dollar the government spends translates into a dollar of income for someone else. So a deficit in the public sector simultaneously produces a surplus outside the government.

The reverse is also true, Ms. Kelton maintains, and that can lead to trouble. The seven biggest American depressions or downturns going back 200 years, she said, were all preceded by government surpluses.

Ms. Kelton complains that modern monetary theorists are often incorrectly described as contending that “deficits don’t matter.” Of course they matter, she said.

What she disagrees with is the reason given. In her view, deficits are not a sign of excessive spending or necessarily a forerunner of inflation. They can be too big, especially if they are not used to increase the nation’s productive capacity, or if there is a shortage of labor, raw materials and factories.

“If Congress authorizes too much spending and businesses are not nimble enough” to absorb it, there can be bottlenecks and price pressure, she acknowledged.

But she argues that it is much more likely that deficits are too small, depriving the economy of critical investments. The best way to stabilize the economy and ensure full employment and a humming economy, she said, is to have the federal government guarantee every American a job.

The notion that surpluses could cause economic downturns flips conventional thinking. Yet the idea of sectoral balances — that government or nongovernment deficits are offset by surpluses on the other side — is what some financial economists find so illuminating, even if they stop short of endorsing all of the theory’s tenets.

“It is a great way of summarizing whether households and firms are living beyond their means,” said Mr. Hatzius of Goldman Sachs. “It is a great indicator of potential financial crises.”

In his view, giant private-sector deficits are much more alarming than public-sector ones because households and companies are at much greater risk of losing access to credit in a downturn. Unlike the Treasury, they can’t print money — or issue bonds — when they run out.

Mr. Koo of Nomura has further developed the idea of sectoral balances to explain the most recent wave of recessions and argue for larger government deficits. The problem that major economies in Japan, Europe and the United States have today, he said, is that despite low interest rates, investment opportunities in domestic markets don’t offer sufficient returns to lure borrowers to go into debt, using the vast pools of available savings.

That means “the government has to spend money to keep the economy going,” he said. And as long as the government invests in projects that produce an economic return greater than the yield on 10-year Treasury notes — currently about 2.5 percent — “this will never be a burden on taxpayers.”

To many mainstream economists, though, M.M.T. is a confused mishmash that proponents use to support their political objectives, whether big government programs like “Medicare for all” and the Green New Deal or smaller taxes. Think of the Mirror of Erised in the Harry Potter saga, which shows the heart’s desire — a tantalizing prospect that ultimately brings ruin.

From this perspective, M.M.T. is a version of free-lunchonomics, leaving the next generation to pay for this generation’s profligacy.

Although several prominent mainstream economists have recently revised their thinking about the risks of large government debt, they continue to reject other tenets of M.M.T.

At some point, they insist, if the government just creates money to pay the bills, hyperinflation will kick in.

Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 2009 to 2015, is aware of the conflicts between M.M.T. and the traditional framework developed by John Maynard Keynes, in which it is rooted.

But he is more struck by their similarities rather than their differences. Both recommend that government should spend when the private sector isn’t doing enough to employ the nation’s work force, raw materials and factories to prompt growth. Both deem inflation to be insidious.

The inflationary threat looms particularly large for economists of his generation, Mr. Kocherlakota, 55, said. For them, the seminal experience was the scarring inflation of the 1970s. “The big lesson was that resources are always scarce,” he said.

But over the past decade, he said, his thinking has evolved. Now Mr. Kocherlakota is more inclined to believe that scarcity is not the overriding problem and that the federal government could spend more without risk of excessive inflation.

If you put aside the theoretical disputations, Mr. Kocherlakota said, the important question is: How far is the United States from reaching the limits of its capacity?

Even with a jobless rate under 4 percent, he believes there is room to maneuver.

Mr. Kocherlakota said that compared to those within the Fed, chief executives, financiers and analysts who operate internationally tend to be more open to modern monetary theory in their analyses of government deficits and inflation.

“Folks who take a global perspective are much more likely to see a lot of unused capacity,” he said. They realize “inflation is not built at home anymore, it’s built through global pressures.”

Mr. McCulley, the Pimco alumnus, would put his money on that. Increasing the deficit so that the government could invest in infrastructure and the labor force “would not make me bearish on the stock market at all,” he said.

“At all,” he repeated. “If anything, it would make me bullish.”

The Chicago School is nothing more than a bunch of rattleshaking Shamen chanting “Inflation. Inflation.” Also Social Darwinism and Economic Calvinism.

Show me some or shut up. Bless your heart (in Dixie) idiots.

Apr 16 2019


Too soon?

Apr 16 2019

The Breakfast Club (Unawakened)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Virginia Tech shooting kills 32 students and faculty; Country’s deadliest industrial accident in Texas; Vladimir Lenin returns to Russia after years of exile; Charlie Chaplin born; Prince Andrew and Duchess of York announce divorce; Rolling Stone release debut album; Michael Jordan plays last NBA game.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.

Anatole France

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