Daily Archive: 02/11/2014

Feb 11 2014

XXII Day 5

Sigh, both the Men’s and Women’s Curling teams are 0 – 2.

    Time     Network Event
5 pm CNBC Curling, women’s: USA vs. Great Britain.
5 pm Vs. Hockey, women’s: Russia vs. Japan.
8 pm NBC Snowboarding: men’s halfpipe gold medal final; figure skating: pairs’ short program; freestyle skiing: women’s slopestyle gold medal final; ski jumping: women’s individual K-95 gold medal final.
12:05 am NBC Speed skating: women’s 500m gold medal final; biathlon: women’s 10km pursuit gold medal final.
1:05 am NBC Snowboarding: men’s halfpipe gold medal final; figure skating: pairs’ short program; freestyle skiing: women’s slopestyle gold medal final; ski jumping: women’s individual K-95 gold medal final.
3 am MSNBC Hockey, women’s: Switzerland vs. Finland.
3 am Vs. Curling, men’s: USA vs. Denmark; Nordic Combined: men’s individual K-95, ski jumping.
5 am USA Curling, women’s: USA vs. China.
7 am Vs. Hockey, women’s: Canada vs. USA.
10 am Vs. Figure skating: pairs’ gold medal final; Nordic Combined: men’s individual K-95, cross-country.
noon MSNBC Hockey, men’s: Latvia vs. Switzerland.
noon USA Hockey, men’s: Czech Republic vs. Sweden.
1:45 pm Vs. Luge: doubles gold medal final runs.
3 pm NBC Nordic Combined: men’s individual K-95 gold medal final.
5 pm CNBC Curling, men’s: Switzerland vs. Great Britain.
5:30 pm Vs. Hockey: Game of the Day.

Feb 11 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

Dean Baker: The disastrous idea for privatizing Fannie and Freddie

A new bill proposes that government guarantee mortgage-backed securities

In his State of the Union Address on Jan. 28, President Barack Obama briefly referred to his hopes for reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-sponsored and publicly traded entities that support the mortgage market by buying and securitizing mortgages. Both companies failed during the 2008 financial crisis and had to be taken over by the government. [..]

The smart money in Washington is betting on the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act, sponsored by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Mark Warner, D-Va. The Corker-Warner bill, put together by two of the more centrist senators in both parties, does not simply get the government out of the mortgage guarantee business – an idea that actually has a plausible argument in its favor.

Instead, Corker-Warner would replace Fannie and Freddie with a new a system in which private financial institutions could issue mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) that carry a government guarantee. In the event that a large number of mortgages in the MBS market went bad, the investors would be on the hook for losses up to 10 percent of their value, after which the government would cover the rest. [..]

In short, the Corker-Warner plan to privatize Fannie and Freddie is essentially a proposal to reinstitute the structure of incentives that gave us the housing bubble and the financial crisis, this time with the added fuel of an explicit government guarantee on subprime MBSs. If that sounds like a stupid idea, you obviously haven’t spent enough time being convinced by lobbyists at one of Washington’s finest restaurants.

Henry A. Giroux: Totalitarian Paranoia in the Post-Orwellian Surveillance State

The revelations of whistle-blowers such as Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond and Edward Snowden about government lawlessness and corporate spying provide a new meaning if not a revitalized urgency and relevance to George Orwell’s dystopian fable 1984. Orwell offered his readers an image of the modern state that had become dystopian – one in which privacy as a civil virtue and a crucial right was no longer valued as a measure of the robust strength of a healthy and thriving democracy. Orwell was clear that the right to privacy had come under egregious assault. But the right to privacy pointed to something more sinister than the violation of individual rights. When ruthlessly transgressed, the issue of privacy became a moral and political principle by which to assess the nature, power and severity of an emerging totalitarian state. As important as Orwell’s warning was in shedding light on the horrors of mid-20th century totalitarianism and the endless regimes of state spying imposed on citizens, the text serves as a brilliant but limited metaphor for mapping the expansive trajectory of global surveillance and authoritarianism now characteristic of the first decades of the new millennium. As Marjorie Cohn has indicated, “Orwell never could have imagined that the National Security Agency (NSA) would amass metadata on billions of our phone calls and 200 million of our text messages every day. Orwell could not have foreseen that our government would read the content of our emails, file transfers, and live chats from the social media we use.” [..]

The dangers of the surveillance state far exceed the attack on privacy or warrant simply a discussion about balancing security against civil liberties. The latter argument fails to address how the growth of the surveillance state is connected to the rise of the punishing state, the militarization of American society, secret prisons, state-sanctioned torture, a growing culture of violence, the criminalization of social problems, the depoliticization of public memory, and one of the largest prison systems in the world, all of which “are only the most concrete, condensed manifestations of a diffuse security regime in which we are all interned and enlisted.” The authoritarian nature of the corporate-state surveillance apparatus and security system with its “urge to surveill, eavesdrop on, spy on, monitor, record, and save every communication of any sort on the planet” can only be fully understood when its ubiquitous tentacles are connected to wider cultures of control and punishment, including security-patrolled corridors of public schools, the rise in super-max prisons, the hyper-militarization of local police forces, the rise of the military-industrial-academic complex, and the increasing labeling of dissent as an act of terrorism in the United States.

Mike Konczal: Liberals should question Obama’s ‘opportunity agenda’

When focus shifts from inequality to opportunity, progressives lose

Inequality is out, opportunity is in. Or so read the tea leaves from President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. As late as December the president described “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility … this is the defining challenge of our time.” However, by the time of his Jan. 28 speech, the framing of his agenda had morphed to “opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation must be to restore that promise,” with barely any mention of inequality.

Some commentators welcome this shift in focus. Political analyst Ruy Teixeira, for example, argued that discussing opportunity is the “most effective way to sell the progressive vision for the economy” and “challenge inequality.” This may be the case, and so far the substantive policy agenda the president has forwarded hasn’t changed with the language.

With this change in focus, however, there’s a real chance that important pieces of progressive agenda could disappear and ideological blind spots be introduced. It’s crucial, then, to identify these, in order to better combat them in advance.

Paul Buchheit: How Entitlements for the Rich Cheat the Rest of Us

The word ‘entitlement’ is ambiguous. For working people it means “earned benefits.” For the rich, the concept of entitlement is compatible with the Merriam-Webster definition: “The feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges).” Recent studies agree, concluding that higher social class is associated with increased entitlement and narcissism.

The sense of entitlement among the very rich is understandable, for it helps them to justify the massive redistribution of wealth that has occurred over the past 65 years, especially in the past 30 years. National investment in infrastructure, technology, and security has made America a rich country. The financial industry has used our publicly-developed communications technology to generate trillions of dollars in new earnings, while national security protects their interests. The major beneficiaries have convinced themselves they did it on their own. They believe they’re entitled to it all.

Their entitlements can be summarized into four categories, each of which reveals clear advantages that the very rich take for granted. [..]

Entitlements for the rich mean cuts in safety net programs for children, women, retirees, and low-income families. They threaten Social Security. They redirect money from infrastructure repair, education, and job creation.

And the more the super-rich take from us, the greater their belief that they’re entitled to the wealth we all helped to create.

Michael P. Jeffries: Reaction to Michael Sam coming out is as much about race as homophobia

Michael Sam doesn’t conform to what the white dominated media and entertainment corporations are used to. It scares them

But when Sam came out as gay to the rest of the public yesterday, National Football League executives and coaches surveyed by Sports Illustrated were clear in their response: risky move. They said Sam’s announcement would mark him as a man on “a lonely path”, hurt his stock in the upcoming NFL Draft, and damage his chance to have a prosperous career. One executive said, “It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker and meeting room.”

Sam’s star is rising, and NFL executives’ skies are falling. How can the league’s gatekeepers be so deaf and blind to the evidence that Sam’s sexual orientation does not inhibit his play or damage his team? Why can’t they see Sam for what he is or read the situation correctly?

Part of the answer is, of course, the immense power of homophobia, which continues to sew injustice and insult across all sorts of workplaces and social situations. But the reaction to the NFL’s would-be first out gay player is about way more than that – it’s about the ways gender combines with race and class, the roles and stereotypes cast upon black men in America, and the peculiar position Michael Sam now occupies.

Jeffrey Bachman: Time to Take a Stand to End US Impunity

Why is it that when the United States is responsible for violations of international law, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law, discussions of the violations center almost exclusively on whether such violations are necessary and effective? It’s almost as if international law only exists for others, and even then the ‘others’ to which international law applies is limited to those the U.S. views as ‘rogue’ states.

The United States has disregarded international law time and again, making a mockery of its very existence. Such behavior makes clear to the rest of the world that the U.S. lacks the moral authority necessary to make serious and substantiate its proclamations. I cannot help but conclude that U.S. hypocrisy, along with the clarity with which the populations of other states view U.S. policy, contributed to the U.S. being ranked as the greatest threat to world peace.

More significantly, the term ‘hypocrisy’ is incapable of contextualizing exactly what it is being used to describe. In just the past twelve-plus years, the United States has illegally invaded one country and systematically tortured individuals it has rendered and detained. Currently, the U.S. maintains oversight over facilities in Afghanistan at which detainees are still systematically tortured, force-feeds individuals protesting their indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay, and operates a “targeted” killing program that continues to kill innocent people. As per usual, the U.S. has succeeded in egregiously violating some of the most significant international legal standards with complete impunity.

Feb 11 2014

Death by Metadata

In their premier article for the new online magazine, The Intercept, co-founders Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald take an in-depth look at how the NSA mass surveillance plays an intrinsic role in President Barack Obama’s assassination program. In the article they reveal how the NSA is providing information that targets, not an individual, but a nameless SIM cards that have led to the deaths of innocent civilians:

According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using. [..]

In one tactic, the NSA “geolocates” the SIM card or handset of a suspected terrorist’s mobile phone, enabling the CIA and U.S. military to conduct night raids and drone strikes to kill or capture the individual in possession of the device. [..]

One problem, he explains, is that targets are increasingly aware of the NSA’s reliance on geolocating, and have moved to thwart the tactic. Some have as many as 16 different SIM cards associated with their identity within the High Value Target system. Others, unaware that their mobile phone is being targeted, lend their phone, with the SIM card in it, to friends, children, spouses and family members.

As a result, even when the agency correctly identifies and targets a SIM card belonging to a terror suspect, the phone may actually be carried by someone else, who is then killed in a strike. According to the former drone operator, the geolocation cells at the NSA that run the tracking program – known as Geo Cell – sometimes facilitate strikes without knowing whether the individual in possession of a tracked cell phone or SIM card is in fact the intended target of the strike. [..]

What’s more, he adds, the NSA often locates drone targets by analyzing the activity of a SIM card, rather than the actual content of the calls. Based on his experience, he has come to believe that the drone program amounts to little more than death by unreliable metadata.

(emphasis mine)

Jeremy and Glenn joined Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman to discuss the NSA’s secret role in President Obama’s assassination program and, defying the threats, the launch of The Intercept.



Transcript can be read here



Transcript can be read here

Feb 11 2014

Today We Fight Back

Today we take action to end the massive surveillance of the National Security Agency (NSA).

Today We Fight BAck photo 11484530_m_zpsa0cbe199.png

Click on image to participate

End NSA Massive Spying Programs

Dear Supporter,

We’ve told you about TODAY’s massive action against mass spying — and now it’s time to act.  We’re calling today The Day We Fight Back, and dozens of large organizations and websites and thousands of smaller ones are mobilizing their members and visitors to demand an end to broad suspicion-less surveillance.  

We announced it on the anniversary of the passing of Aaron Swartz, to honor him and to celebrate the victory over SOPA that he helped us achieve two years ago.

Today We Fight BAck photo 11484530_m_zpsa0cbe199.png

If all of the organizations and sites that have signed on to the cause press forward today, we should be able to drive tens of thousands of phone calls to lawmakers to demand that the NSA’s mass spying programs be reined in.

Will you place one of those calls?  It’ll only take 2 minutes, and we’ll make it easy for you by giving you a call script and connecting you to the right office.

Just click here to call your lawmakers.

Then, or if you can’t call, please click here to send an email to your lawmakers

We understand the United States to be a democracy, founded upon a Constitution that affords us critical rights, and governed by the rule of law.

Yet for years, the NSA has exploited secret legal interpretations to undermine our privacy rights — thus chilling speech and activism, and thereby threatening to subvert the very underpinnings of our democracy itself.

We are demanding that decision makers remedy this by:

  * Passing the USA FREEDOM Act, which would end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records and institute other key reforms.

  * Defeating the so-called FISA Improvements Act, which would entrench — and potentially expand — the spying.

  * Creating additional privacy protections for non-Americans.

  * Ending the NSA’s subversion of encryption and other data security measures.

And we’re not even that far from winning on at least one key front:

The USA FREEDOM Act has more than 100 bipartisan sponsors, including two powerful lead sponsors: Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who was the original author of the PATRIOT Act and is furious that it has been abused to spy on Americans en masse.

This summer an amendment that’s very similar to parts of the USA FREEDOM Act failed to pass in the House of Representatives by just a handful of votes. Enough lawmakers now say they would have voted in support that it would pass if it came up for a vote today.

Now we need to force a vote on the issue in the House, and a first vote on it in the Senate — and we’ll do that by putting pressure on lawmakers by calling and emailing them today.  Tens of thousands of people are poised to join the cause: Please be one of them.

Just click here to call your lawmakers.

Then, or if you can’t call, please click here to send an email to your lawmakers

We’re going to persist in this fight, and we will win it.

In Solidarity,

Tim Carpenter

PDA National Director

We are in this fight together. It is time to act and end the massive surveillance of the NSA. Do it for yourself, for the future and to remember Aaron.

Today We Fight BAck photo 11484530_m_zpsa0cbe199.png

Just click here to call your lawmakers.

Then, or if you can’t call, please click here to send an email to your lawmakers

Feb 11 2014

On This Day In History February 11

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 11 is the 42nd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 323 days remaining until the end of the year (324 in leap years).

On this day in 1990, Nelson Mandela is released from prison

Nelson Mandela, leader of the movement to end South African apartheid, is released from prison after 27 years on February 11, 1990.

In 1944, Mandela, a lawyer, joined the African National Congress (ANC), the oldest black political organization in South Africa, where he became a leader of Johannesburg’s youth wing of the ANC. In 1952, he became deputy national president of the ANC, advocating nonviolent resistance to apartheid–South Africa’s institutionalized system of white supremacy and racial segregation. However, after the massacre of peaceful black demonstrators at Sharpeville in 1960, Nelson helped organize a paramilitary branch of the ANC to engage in guerrilla warfare against the white minority government.

In 1961, he was arrested for treason, and although acquitted he was arrested again in 1962 for illegally leaving the country. Convicted and sentenced to five years at Robben Island Prison, he was put on trial again in 1964 on charges of sabotage. In June 1964, he was convicted along with several other ANC leaders and sentenced to life in prison.

Imprisonment

Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island where he remained for the next eighteen of his twenty-seven years in prison. While in jail, his reputation grew and he became widely known as the most significant black leader in South Africa. On the island, he and others performed hard labour in a lime quarry. Prison conditions were very basic. Prisoners were segregated by race, with black prisoners receiving the fewest rations. Political prisoners were kept separate from ordinary criminals and received fewer privileges. Mandela describes how, as a D-group prisoner (the lowest classification) he was allowed one visitor and one letter every six months. Letters, when they came, were often delayed for long periods and made unreadable by the prison censors.

Whilst in prison Mandela undertook study with the University of London by correspondence through its External Programme and received the degree of Bachelor of Laws. He was subsequently nominated for the position of Chancellor of the University of London in the 1981 election, but lost to Princess Anne.

In his 1981 memoir Inside BOSS secret agent Gordon Winter describes his involvement in a plot to rescue Mandela from prison in 1969: this plot was infiltrated by Winter on behalf of South African intelligence, who wanted Mandela to escape so they could shoot him during recapture. The plot was foiled by British Intelligence.

In March 1982 Mandela was transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, along with other senior ANC leaders Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada and Raymond Mhlaba. It was speculated that this was to remove the influence of these senior leaders on the new generation of young black activists imprisoned on Robben Island, the so-called “Mandela University”. However, National Party minister Kobie Coetsee says that the move was to enable discreet contact between them and the South African government.

In February 1985 President P.W. Botha offered Mandela his freedom on condition that he ‘unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon’. Coetsee and other ministers had advised Botha against this, saying that Mandela would never commit his organisation to giving up the armed struggle in exchange for personal freedom. Mandela indeed spurned the offer, releasing a statement via his daughter Zindzi saying “What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts.”

The first meeting between Mandela and the National Party government came in November 1985 when Kobie Coetsee met Mandela in Volks Hospital in Cape Town where Mandela was recovering from prostate surgery. Over the next four years, a series of tentative meetings took place, laying the groundwork for further contact and future negotiations, but little real progress was made.

In 1988 Mandela was moved to Victor Verster Prison and would remain there until his release. Various restrictions were lifted and people such as Harry Schwarz were able to visit him. Schwarz, a friend of Mandela, had known him since university when they were in the same law class. He was also a defence barrister at the Rivonia Trial and would become Mandela’s ambassador to Washington during his presidency.

Throughout Mandela’s imprisonment, local and international pressure mounted on the South African government to release him, under the resounding slogan Free Nelson Mandela! In 1989, South Africa reached a crossroads when Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced as president by Frederik Willem de Klerk. De Klerk announced Mandela’s release in February 1990.

Mandela was visited several times by delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross, while at Robben Island and later at Pollsmoor prison. Mandela had this to say about the visits: “to me personally, and those who shared the experience of being political prisoners, the Red Cross was a beacon of humanity within the dark inhumane world of political imprisonment.”

Feb 11 2014

138th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

When I get to it.

Hound

Afghan Hound American English Coonhound American Foxhound
Basenji Basset Hound Beagle, 13 In.
Beagle, 15 In. Black and Tan Coonhound Bloodhound
Bluetick Coonhound Borzoi Dachshund (Longhaired)
Dachshund (Smooth) Dachshund (Wirehaired) English Foxhound
Greyhound Harrier Ibizan Hound
Irish Wolfhound Norwegian Elkhound Otterhound
Petits Bassets Griffons Vendeen Pharaoh Hound Plott
Portuguese Podengo Pequeno (new for 2014) Redbone Coonhound Rhodesian Ridgeback
Saluki Scottish Deerhound Treeing Walker Coonhound
Whippet

Toy

Affenpinscher Brussels Griffon Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Chihuahua (Long Coat) Chihuahua (Smooth Coat) Chinese Crested
English Toy Spaniel (B&PC) English Toy Spaniel (KC&R) Havanese
Italian Greyhound Japanese Chin Maltese
Manchester Terrier (Toy) Miniature Pinscher Papillon
Pekingese Pomeranian Poodle (Toy)
Pug Shih Tzu Silky Terrier
Toy Fox Terrier Yorkshire Terrier

Non-Sporting

American Eskimo Dog Bichons Frise Boston Terrier
Bulldog Chinese Shar-Pei Chow Chow
Dalmatian Finnish Spitz French Bulldog
Keeshond Lhasa Apso Löwchen
Norwegian Lundehund Poodle (Miniature) Poodle (Standard)
Schipperke Shiba Inu Tibetan Spaniel
Tibetan Terrier Xoloitzcuintli

Herding

Australian Cattle Dog Australian Shepherd Bearded Collie
Beauceron Belgian Malinois Belgian Sheepdog
Belgian Tervuren Border Collie Bouviers des Flandres
Briard Canaan Dog Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Collie (Rough) Collie (Smooth) Entlebucher Mountain Dog
Finnish Lapphund German Shepherd Dog Icelandic Sheepdog
Norwegian Buhund Old English Sheepdog Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Polish Lowland Sheepdog Puli Pyrenean Shepherd
Shetland Sheepdog Swedish Vallhund

Feb 11 2014

XXII Day 4

When I get to it.

I got to it. ek is busy with canines. 😉 TMC

TV SChedule for Monday evening 2/10 – Tuesday afternoon 2/11

8:00 PM NBC: Alpine Skiing, Freestyle Skiing, Short Track

12:05 AM NBC: Short Track, Luge

1:05 AM NBC: Alpine Skiing, Freestyle Skiing, Short Track (Repeat of Prime Time)

3:00 AM NBCSP:  Curling, women’s: USA vs. Russia.

5:00 AM USA:  Curling, men’s: USA vs. China.

5:00 AM NBCSP:  Cross-country skiing: men’s and women’s individual sprint competitions.

6:00 AM NBCSP:  Cross-country skiing: men’s and women’s individual sprint gold medal finals.

10:00 AM MSNBC:  Hockey, women’s: Russia vs. Japan.

10:00 AM NBCSP:  Figure skating: pairs’ short program.

1:30 PM: NBCSP:  Ski jumping: women’s individual K-95 gold medal final; speed skating: women’s 500m gold medal final.

3:00 PM: NBC: Cross-country skiing: men’s and women’s individual sprint gold medal finals; luge: women’s gold medal final runs; freestyle skiing: women’s slopestyle.

5:00 PM CNBC:  Curling, women’s: USA vs. Great Britain.

5:00 NBCSP:  Hockey: Game of the Day.

8:00 PM NBC:  Snowboarding: men’s halfpipe gold medal final; figure skating: pairs’ short program; freestyle skiing: women’s slopestyle gold medal final; ski jumping: women’s individual K-95 gold medal final.

Medal Events for Monday 2/10

Alpine Skiing: Women’s Super Combined Slalom

Official Results

Gold: GER Maria HOEFL-RIESCH 2:34.62

Silver: AUT Nicole HOSP 2:35.02

Bronze: USA Julia MANCUSO 2:35.15

Biathlon: Men’s 12.5 km Pursuit

Official Results

Gold: FRA Martin FOURCADE 33:48.6

Silver: CZE Ondrej MORAVEC 34:02.7

Bronze: FRA Jean Guillaume BEATRIX 34:12.8

Short Track: Men’s 1500 m Finals

Official Results

Gold: CAN Charles HAMELIN 2:14.985

Silver: CHN Tianyu HAN 2:15.055

Bronze: RUS Victor AN 2:15.062

Speed Skating: Men’s 500 m Race

Official Results

Gold: NED Michel MULDER 69.312

Silver: NED Jan SMEEKENS 69.324

Bronze: NED Ronald MULDER 69.46

A sweep by the Netherlands and two brothers TMC