Daily Archive: 02/07/2014

Feb 07 2014

Marcy joins Glenn at First Look

Investigative journalist ( yew, journalist) and proprietress of emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler announced the she is joining Glenn Greenwald at First Look the new on-line magazine venture by billionaire Pierre Omidyar.

I’ve got some exciting new beginnings – and some continuity – to announce.

As Pierre Omidyar and Eric Bates just announced, I will be joining First Look Media as part of a new magazine that will publish Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill, and others’ work. It’s really exciting to join Glenn and others in their work, and to join the larger First Look effort as it launches.

But that opportunity won’t change much here. I am just working for First Look as a consultant – just doing document analysis, not my own reporting – and just part time. I will continue to do the kind of reporting I always do here – and potentially for other media outlets.

Here are some Tweets from Glenn welcoming Marcy and announcing the launch of First Look early next week.

We congratulate Marcy on new job and look forward to reading her analysis.

Feb 07 2014

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 the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Dan Gillmor: Get ready: the day we fight back against mass surveillance is coming

Lawmakers must understand that we will no longer tolerate a surveillance state. An online protest on 11 February is a first step

Two years ago, major websites like Google, Reddit and Wikipedia went dark for a day. They were protesting the then-pending “Stop Online Piracy Act,” federal legislation that would have done enormous damage to the open internet by creating system of censorship and deterring digital-media innovators. The 18 January 2012 blackout created an outpouring of opposition from average Americans who suddenly realized what was at stake, and Congress backed off a bill that almost certainly would have passed otherwise.

There won’t be a website blackout next Tuesday, 11 February, but there will be another virtual call to arms. In the US the primary goal this time is to help reverse America’s retreat from liberty by telling lawmakers we can’t abide a surveillance state – and by insisting they vote for a measure, called the USA Freedom Act, that would begin to restore the civil liberties we’ve lost in recent times. (For people outside the US the goal will be similar, to push authorities toward policies favoring liberty and privacy.)

Next week’s protest organizers are calling it “The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance“. They’ve lined up an array of backers of various political persuasions. You don’t often see the American Civil Liberties Union on the same side of an issue as the very conservative FreedomWorks, but they are this time.

Michael Cohen: James Clapper might as well be called director of US fearmongering

There are real threats to the US, but Clapper should be able to talk about them in sober, evidence-based, non-hysterical terms

James Clapper is very worried. It’s not the first time.

Last week the man who serves as America’s Director of National Intelligence trudged up to Capitol Hill to tell the assembled members of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee (pdf) that the annual worldwide threat assessment, put together by the intelligence community, has filled him with dread. [..]

So what precisely is worrying Clapper? There are the old stand-bys like “the scourge and diversification of terrorism” both of the global jihadist and home-grown variety. We’ll simply put aside for a second the fact that significantly more Americans die each year from falling furniture and exponentially more die from freedom … er, [I mean guns v].

Clapper is concerned about “implications of the drawdown in Afghanistan”, which is a nice pivot from a few years ago when Afghanistan was a vital national interest that necessitated a ramp up of US military engagement there v] (pdf). There’s also the “sectarian war in Syria” and “its attraction as a growing center of radical extremism”, which is compelling evidence that Syria is poised to take up the mantle of “[failed state that foreign policy elites are really worried about.”

Ana Marie Cox: Excuse me, but we shouldn’t be moving on from West Virginia’s chemical spill

America has grown a vast and complex regulatory and financial support system for cheap, dirty energy. This isn’t over

Authorities in West Virginia declared the water of 300,000 residents affected by last month’s chemical spill safe to drink on 14 January, just five days after the incident. Since then, a few things have happened. Stop me if you’ve heard them before (but I doubt you have). [..]

To anyone that follows environmental news, this arc is familiar: A human-interest story with an environmental pollution angle breaks through the media chatter. Cable news outlets roll clips of distraught residents. Footage the damage unspools (with or without stomach-turning images of dead or injured wildlife). There is a news conference of dubious utility. Investigative reporters find evidence of previous infractions of safety and environmental regulations. Politicians declare the need for hearings and more strict enforcement. Volunteers show up to help. Sometimes there’s a concert.

Then we move on. We move on despite the fact that the chemical leak was, in some ways, an improvement on the status quo for West Virginians: at least the residents knew there were questions about the water piped into their homes. Most of the time, most West Virginians simply live in the toxic aftermath of the daily release of not-quite-as-verifiably deadly chemicals. The mix of air, water, and soil pollution that is a matter of course in coal mining counties means that children born in those areas have a 26% higher risk of developing birth defects than those born in non-coal-mining counties. That’s not from drinking water that’s been declared contaminated, that’s from drinking water, breathing air, and playing on ground they’ve been told is safe.

Russell Brand: Philip Seymour Hoffman is another victim of extremely stupid drug laws

In Hoffman’s domestic or sex life there is no undiscovered riddle – the man was a drug addict and, thanks to our drug laws, his death inevitable

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death was not on the bill.

If it’d been the sacrifice of Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber, that we are invited to anticipate daily, we could delight in the Faustian justice of the righteous dispatch of a fast-living, sequin-spattered denizen of eMpTyV. We are tacitly instructed to await their demise with necrophilic sanctimony. When the end comes, they screech on Fox and TMZ, it will be deserved. The Mail provokes indignation, luridly baiting us with the sidebar that scrolls from the headline down to hell.

But Philip Seymour Hoffman? A middle-aged man, a credible and decorated actor, the industrious and unglamorous artisan of Broadway and serious cinema? The disease of addiction recognises none of these distinctions. Whilst routinely described as tragic, Hoffman’s death is insufficiently sad to be left un-supplemented in the mandatory posthumous scramble for salacious garnish; we will now be subjected to mourn-ography posing as analysis. I can assure you that there is no as yet undiscovered riddle in his domestic life or sex life, the man was a drug addict and his death inevitable.

Chris Kluwe: Athletes in Sochi must speak up about Russia’s intolerance. I did it in the NFL

Olympians shouldn’t be silent about abuse against LGBTQ people in Russia. Doing what’s right is better than winning

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), chief benefactor of these big money sponsors, has determined that any athlete speaking out in “accredited areas” against the human rights violations occurring in Russia right now will be found in violation of the Olympic Charter, banned from the games, and stripped of any medals. Corporate sponsorships, the pot of gold at the end of the Olympic rainbow, will disappear. A lifetime spent preparing, training, hour after agonizing hour, will have been for naught if an athlete dares to make a political statement at the wrong time about political events happening in a politicized Olympics; politicized in no small part by the IOC refusing to uphold their own charter when it applies to themselves.

How can the IOC get away with this blatant disregard of their own rules? Easy. The IOC has what Olympic athletes want. Money. Power. Fame. [..]

What is the true price of fame?

The price of fame is being a role model, whether you like it or not, and people are always watching.

The world is watching. The platform is yours.

Nicholas Freudenberg CVS stores will no longer sell cigarettes. It’s the health over profit revolution

The decision to cut tobacco shows that advocates and public opinion can swing the profit-loss calculus in favour of health

The CVS decision announced today to stop selling tobacco products at its 7,600 pharmacies around the United States by 1 October is an important step forward for public health – and for tobacco control activists.  [..]

From a public health perspective, the CVS decision is good news because research shows that the ubiquity of unhealthy products contributes to their overuse. The more places people can purchase and consume alcohol, tobacco, sugary beverages, salty snacks and fast food, the more they ingest. Alcohol, tobacco and processed food corporations know that easy access triggers the cravings or addictions their products are designed to elicit. Normally, they vociferously oppose any limits on their right to put their wares within arm’s reach. The decision by the nation’s second largest pharmacy chain to choose a different path shows that public mobilization, changing social norms and regulation can combine to persuade at least some companies to choose the high road.

Feb 07 2014

On This Day In History February 7

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.

February 7 is the 38th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 327 days remaining until the end of the year (328 in leap years).

On this day in 1795, The 11th Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified. It dealt with each state’s sovereign immunity from being sued in federal court by someone of another state or country.

The Eleventh Amendment (Amendment XI) to the United States Constitution, which was passed by the Congress on March 4, 1794 and was ratified on February 7, 1795, deals with each state’s sovereign immunity from being sued in federal court by someone of another state or country. This amendment was adopted in order to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court‘s decision in Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793).]

Amendment Eleven:

   The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

By itself this Amendment is a little impenetrable. It was passed as a clarification of Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution, specifically Clause One which reads:

Clause 1:

   The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;–to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;–to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;–to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;–to Controversies between two or more States;–between a State and Citizens of another State; between Citizens of different States,–between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects

Basically what this boils down to is the concept of Sovereign Immunity. Basically you can not use the Federal Government unless it agrees to let the case be heard. Yes, you read that right. The Government reserves the right to prevent you from suing it, as a citizen, except under very specific circumstances. The exceptions are detailed in the Federal Tort Claims Act and the Tucker Act. These acts allow a citizen to sue the Government if there is a claim resulting from either the actions of a federal employee or if there is a case involving contracts with the Federal Government.

Now, Amendment 11 extends this same sovereign immunity to the States in terms of the Federal Courts. What that means is that you as a citizen can not use the Federal Courts to sue your State Government, without the consent of the State. The Dog believes the reason for this is to prevent citizens from tying up their government with suits that arise from the normal operation of the government. As a practical matter it forces citizens that don’t like the way things are being run to replace their government officials instead of just suing the government.

Now, this does not apply to crimes committed by members of the government or the government itself. There is what is called a Stripping Doctrine that says when a government employee or official commits a crime, they have lost their immunity. So, in the case of torture or War Crimes there can be no reasonable sovereign immunity defense.

h/t Something the Dog Said

Feb 07 2014

Unemployment Deficit Disorder

The Democratic held Senate tried to pass a three month extension of unemployment benefits for 1.7 million people whose benefits had run out since December. It failed by 2 votes, 58-to-40, the second vote was by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), a formality so he could reintroduce the bill at a later date. So, it actually failed by one vote. Since 2008, the federal government has provided extended benefits to the unemployed who used up the standard 26 weeks provided by the states. The average time it takes to find another job is at least 37 weeks. Republican Sens. Dean Heller (Nev.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) voted with Democrats to end debate.

In other words, the Republicans filibustered, again. Yes, I know it is a cloture vote to end debate. No matter what you call the need for 60 votes, a super majority, for whatever reason, that is a filibuster. They refused to end debate to bring the bill to the floor for a majority vote.

Democrats tried to sweeten the deal by banning millionaires from receiving benefits. Thursday’s measure would have required unemployment claimants to certify they’d earned less than $1 million in the previous year; currently, there is no income restriction.

The bill’s cost would have been offset through “pension smoothing,” or allowing companies to make smaller contributions to employee pensions, thus earning higher profits and giving the government more tax revenue.

But that’s wasn’t good enough for 40 Republican senators. Sen, Reid has vowed not to give up getting the long term unemployed the benefits they need.

Feb 07 2014

The Story of the Tryal and Captain Amasa Delano

Transcript

Feb 07 2014

Punk Prayer

Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk rock protest group based in Moscow. Founded in August 2011, it has a variable membership of approximately 11 women ranging in age from about 20 to 33. They stage unauthorized provocative guerrilla performances in unusual public locations, which are edited into music videos and posted on the Internet. Their lyrical themes include feminism, LGBT rights, opposition to the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom they regard as a dictator, and links between Putin and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church.

On February 21, 2012, five members of the group staged a performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Their actions were stopped by church security officials. By that evening, they had turned the performance into a music video entitled “Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” The women said their protest was directed at the Orthodox Church leader’s support for Putin during his election campaign.

On March 3, 2012, two of the group members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were arrested and charged with hooliganism. A third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was arrested on March 16. Denied bail, they were held in custody until their trial began in late July. On August 17, 2012, the three members were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”, and each was sentenced to two years imprisonment. Two other members of the group, who escaped arrest after February’s protest, reportedly left Russia fearing prosecution. On October 10, following an appeal, Samutsevich was freed on probation, her sentence suspended. The sentences of the other two women were upheld. In late October 2012, Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were sent to separate prisons.

The trial and sentence attracted considerable criticism, particularly in the West. The case was adopted by human rights groups including Amnesty International, which designated the women prisoners of conscience, and by a number of prominent entertainers. Public opinion in Russia was generally less sympathetic towards the women. Putin stated that the band had “undermined the moral foundations” of the nation and “got what they asked for”. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he did not think the three members of Pussy Riot should have been sent to jail, but stressed that the release of the remaining two imprisoned members was a matter for the courts. Having served 21 months, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were released on December 23, 2013 after the State Duma approved an amnesty.

Vlad, in addition to having the perkiest nipples of any major world leader which he loves to expose at every opportunity by posing topless, is a 16 year veteran of the KGB, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  To note he’s a ruthless corrupt despot is as obvious as pointing out that homophobic persecution is symptomatic of individuals who have unresolved issues with their own sexual desires.

Just saying.

Pussy Riot tell New York ahead of Sochi they will perform again

By Edith Honan, Reuters

NEW YORK Tue Feb 4, 2014 7:16pm EST

Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot may have remade themselves as global human rights advocates since their imprisonment for hooliganism, but on Tuesday they vowed to return to the stage as performers.

“It’s absolutely impossible to take this out of us,” Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24 told a New York news conference ahead of Pussy Riot’s appearance at an Amnesty International concert on Wednesday, a day before the Winter Olympics open in Sochi, Russia.

Tolokonnikova and her bandmate, Maria Alyokhina, 25, will be introduced at the Amnesty concert by pop star Madonna, and will speak but are not expected to perform at the event.

Feb 07 2014

Twenty Two

Oh, where to begin.  Perhaps with the fact that Sochi is a sub-tropical beach resort and all the snow is manufactured.  In it’s own way that’s the perfect metaphor for the Potempkin Village that is the XXII Winter Olympiad.

It’s long been known that the International Olympic Committee is the most corrupt governing body in sports, eclipsing Bernie Ecclestone, FIFA, the NFL, Major League Baseball, and the World Wrestling Federation aggregated in a package.  Indeed this 18 day spectacle will cost more than all the previous Games put together, $51 BILLION, most of which is going into the pockets of Putin’s toadies, sycophants, and cronies because it sure isn’t going into the half finished hotels and venues or the stinky yellow water or the two toilet ‘lover’s stall’ bathrooms.

Then of course there’s the Phineas and Ferb edge-of-insanity, kiss-your-butt-goodbye, gravity’s-a-stone-cold-sucker nightmare rail skate track obstacle course of doom athletic safety issues that have competitors standing at the top of the hill debating whether a shot at what is basically just another Gold Medal that will gather dust in your trophy case until you blow it off to show your Grandkids (assuming you live that long) is worth a career and endorsement ending injury, and some are already saying- no.

There is the threat of terrorism delivered by the #1 sponsor of State terrorism, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar “Bush”, who’s pissed off that because John Kerry’s an idiot who should never have been let near the State Department stupidly told the truth instead of lying the way the House of Saud instructed him and his boss Barack to and has made it impossible (so far) for Saudi backed Al-Queda elements to take over the Syrian government and maintain Saudi (and Wahabi Sunni) dominance in the oil trade under increasing pressure from Shia Iran to be the “swing” producer who can cover shortfalls in periods of high demand and dial back production to jack up the prices when necessary.  That’s why it’s soooo important we bomb, bomb, bomb Iran too.

Oh, and for the record I think Mohammed’s nephew had at least as good a claim to be his spiritual heir as any of the regional warlords they called Caliphs, not that as an atheist I believe in anything except the historical (but non-Western) record of 600 or so C.E.

Anyway, this threat has led Budwieser (Budwieser!) to scale back it’s sponsorship (though they’re contractually obligated for some things) and keep it’s executives away from Sochi where they had expected to do the usual round of boozing and schmoozing favored and potential clients.  Coca Cola on the other hand has no problem with private security guards prominently sporting the ‘Coke’ logo while they beat up protesters for LGBT rights and turn them over to the real cops for a nice Siberian vacation in the Gulag.

And let me state once again for the record that I think Mr. “Perky Nipples” Putin has some issues with his own fantasies.  Big game hunting?  Treasure diving?  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s damn hypocritical which is I suppose the best you can say about a Lt. Colonel in the KGB who spent 16 years torturing and murdering people as a profession.

They are also killing dogs.

You may ask yourself, and I have, why I’ll be covering this at all.  My only answer does me no credit, which is that at the Olympics, every 4 years, you get to see some sports that you never see anyplace else.  For me it’s Curling and Women’s Hockey, you might be into Figure Skating or Biathalon.  Women’s Ski Jumping is making its debut and I’m looking forward to that, there are several technical reasons Women might (in time) come to dominate Ski Jumping just as they dominate long distance swimming today.

Here’s how it will work- every day at about 6 pm I’ll put up the schedule for the next 24 hours.  This will be at some disconnect with actual events because NBC is broadcasting most things on an at least 11 hour time delayed basis so if you have an ignorant friend you want to sucker into a bet you can play the ‘Wire’ scam from The Sting.  

I’ll try to include some suggested alternatives if you are boycotting.  I respect your convictions.

Events of interest that deserve live blogging will be live blogged.  If you’re following something and don’t wish to diary yourself, well, that’s what the comments section is for.

Tonight is fairly simple, Opening Ceremony (broadcast) is scheduled for tomorrow.  This evening we have footage of some sports that start early because of the short schedule of the Games.

8 pm NBC Figure Skating, Snowboarding, Freestyle Skiing

From Sochi, Russia. Figure skating team events: men’s short program, pairs’ short program; snowboarding: men’s and women’s slopestyle; freestyle skiing: women’s moguls.

(Slopestyle == Phineas and Ferb edge-of-insanity, kiss-your-butt-goodbye, gravity’s-a-stone-cold-sucker nightmare rail skate track obstacle course of doom)

Repeats at 1:30 am and 3 am.