Daily Archive: 04/14/2014

Apr 14 2014

“This Is For Edward Snowden”

Investigative journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras returned to the United States on Friday for the first time since exposing the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance operations. They arrived in New York City to accept the Polk Award for national security reporting.

Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras of The Guardian became a story of their own amid speculation they could be arrested upon arriving at Kennedy Airport. They were instead confronted by only reporters and photographers before fighting through traffic en route to a midtown Manhattan hotel to receive a George Polk Award for national security reporting.

In remarks before an audience of other journalists and editors, the pair credited the courage of Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked the information for their story.

“This award is really for Edward Snowden,” Poitras said.

Greenwald said, “I hope that as journalists we realize not only the importance of defending our own rights, but also those of our sources like Edward Snowden.”

The pair shared the award with The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill and Barton Gellman, who has led The Washington Post’s reporting on National Security Agency surveillance. Revelations about the spy programs were first published in the two newspapers in June.

In an announcement this afternoon, the Pulitzer Prize committee has awarded the Pulitzer Prize for public service to The Washington Post and the Guardian for their stories based on National Security Agency documents leaked by the former government contractor Edward J. Snowden. The citation did not mention Mr. Greenwald, Ms. Poitras or Mr. Gerlman.

“This Award is for Snowden”: Greenwald, Poitras Accept Polk Honor for Exposing NSA Surveillance



Full transcript can be read here

LAURA POITRAS: So, I’m really incredibly honored to be here and thankful to the Polk committee for giving me a really good excuse to come home. This is the first time I’ve been home since I boarded a plane with Glenn and Ewen to go to Hong Kong, and so it’s really spectacular to be here. And it’s also quite disorienting. Last May, you know, the field, what we looked at, was a lot of uncertainty, risk, concern for everyone, and so it’s really extraordinary to be here and receive this award. But I think that it’s important also that we remember that when we actually do this reporting, the enormous risks that journalists take on and especially that sources take on, and in the case of Snowden, putting his life on the line, literally, to share this information to the public, not just the American public, but to the public internationally. [..]

GLENN GREENWALD: First of all, thank you so much to the Polk committee and Long Island University for this award. The reporting that we’ve done has received a lot of support and a lot of praise and the like, but it’s also received some very intense criticism, primarily in the United States and the U.K. And so, to be honored and recognized by our journalistic colleagues this way-speaking for myself, at least-means a great deal. I’m also really honored to be able to share the award with the people that I call my journalistic colleagues, who are on stage here with me, the people that James Clapper calls “accomplices.” You know, it really is true that the story could not have been told without numerous people, committed to telling it, involved every step of the way. [..]

And then, finally, you know, I think journalism in general is impossible without brave sources. I know our journalism, in particular, would have been impossible without the incredible courage of Edward Snowden. And it’s really remarkable that the reporting that we’ve done has won all sorts of awards, not just in the United States, but around the world, and he, in particular, has received immense support, incredible amounts of praise from countries all over the world and all sorts of awards, and the fact that for the act of bringing to the world’s attention this system of mass surveillance that had been constructed in the dark, he’s now threatened with literally decades in prison, probably the rest of his life, as a result of what the United States government is doing, I think, is really odious and unacceptable. And I hope that, as journalists, we realize how important it is not only to defend our own rights, but also those of our sources like Edward Snowden. And I think each one of these awards just provides further vindication that what he did in coming forward was absolutely the right thing to do and merits gratitude, and not indictments and decades in prison. Thanks very much.

Apr 14 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

New York Times Editorial: Echoes of the Superpredator

Remember “superpredators”? Nearly 20 years ago, they prowled into the American consciousness – a menacing new breed of children, born of crack-addled mothers and absent fathers, and programmed solely for murder and mayhem. [..]

Of course, the superpredator predictions were completely unfounded, as Mr. DiIulio himself later admitted. “Thank God we were wrong,” he said in 2001, from his comfortable post in the Bush White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Juvenile crime, like all crime, was in fact declining(PDF) throughout the 1990s.

Two decades later, it’s easy to look back in judgment, but it would be a mistake to think the nation has fully moved beyond that mind-set. Many states continue to punish juveniles as harshly as they can, even though the Supreme Court has held in a series of landmark rulings(pdf) since 2005 that young people are “constitutionally different” from adults.

Paul Krugman: Three Expensive Milliseconds

Four years ago Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, abruptly canceled America’s biggest and arguably most important infrastructure project, a desperately needed new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. Count me among those who blame his presidential ambitions, and believe that he was trying to curry favor with the government- and public-transit-hating Republican base.

Even as one tunnel was being canceled, however, another was nearing completion, as Spread Networks finished boring its way through the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. Spread’s tunnel was not, however, intended to carry passengers, or even freight; it was for a fiber-optic cable that would shave three milliseconds – three-thousandths of a second – off communication time between the futures markets of Chicago and the stock markets of New York. And the fact that this tunnel was built while the rail tunnel wasn’t tells you a lot about what’s wrong with America today.

Julian Sanchez: The NSA’s Heartbleed problem is the problem with the NSA

What the agency’s denial isn’t telling you: it didn’t even need know about the bug to vacuum your privacy and store it indefinitely

The American intelligence community is forcefully denying reports that the National Security Agency has long known about the Heartbleed bug, a catastrophic vulnerability inside one of the most widely-used encryption protocols upon which we rely every day to secure our web communications. But the denial itself serves as a reminder that NSA’s two fundamental missions – one defensive, one offensive – are fundamentally incompatible, and that they can’t both be handled credibly by the same government agency. [..]

It’s exactly the kind of bug you’d expect NSA to be on the lookout for, since documents leaked by Edward Snowden confirm that the agency has long been engaged in an “aggressive, multi-pronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies”. In fact, that effort appears to have yielded a major breakthrough against SSL/TLS way back in 2010, two years before the Heartbleed bug was introduced – a revelation that sparked a flurry of speculation among encryption experts, who wondered what hidden flaw the agency had found in the protocol so essential to the Internet’s security.

Daniel G. Newman: Campaign fundraising is bribery

The bribery allegations against California state Sen. Leland Yee expose the folly of the U.S. Supreme Court’s logic in its April 2 decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down restrictions on the amount of money individuals may donate to federal campaigns in an election cycle.

The only legitimate reason to set limits on funding politicians’ campaigns, according to the court’s majority opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, is explicit trades of campaign dollars for action – quid pro quo corruption. The court pointedly dismissed “the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner ‘influence over or access to’ elected officials” as a reason to limit campaign donations.

The way our broken political system works, though, is that the chief place to raise money for campaigns is from industries and interest groups that want something from government. Influence is purchased all the time, whether in explicit quid pro quo trades or not, and such influence peddling just as bad for democracy as bribery. The real scandal in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., is not the occasional lawbreaking; it’s what’s legal.

Gar Alperovitz: Growth for growth’s sake will kill us all

Moral and ecological truths are challenging economic doctrines

One economic fact is held to be self-evident: that the future well-being of the United States requires economic growth – preferably, as much of it as we can muster. Despite wildly divergent policy recommendations, this basic assumption is made clear and explicit by everyone from the fiscally conservative Club for Growth to the left-leaning Center for American Progress. In the boardroom of the Federal Reserve, at the negotiating table for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and on the shale fields of North Dakota, our national economic policy is built on the unshakable conviction that the only way to grow the middle class is to grow the economy – by any means necessary.

Aside from the fact that the top 1 percent has taken most of the gains of growth, leaving the rest of society in virtual stalemate for three decades, there is a profound problem with this solution. Indeed, it’s time to face an ecological truth that makes the traditional assumption increasingly untenable, as unpopular and difficult as this conclusion might be: Growth isn’t always possible. Nor is it necessarily desirable.

Justin Elliott and Jesse Eisinger: Long After Sandy, Red Cross Post-Storm Spending Still a Black Box

Following Superstorm Sandy, donors gave $312 million to the American Red Cross. How did the aid organization spend that money?

A year and a half after the storm, it’s surprisingly difficult to get a detailed answer.

Red Cross officials told ProPublica the organization has spent or committed $291 million on Sandy through the end of February 2014. But the organization has not given a breakdown showing how, where, and when the money was spent.

“The Red Cross is too big and too important to be allowed to be this secretive,” said Doug White, a charity expert who has written extensively on nonprofit finances.

White said such a lack of transparency is common among charities. Like other non-profits, the Red Cross is required to disclose only top-line numbers on its fundraising and spending, which it publishes in an annual report and a standard tax filing.

But the Red Cross stands out both for the scale of its operations and the unique role it plays in domestic disasters.

Apr 14 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

Apr 14 2014

On This Day In History April 14

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.

April 14 is the 104th day of the year (105th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 261 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln is shot in the head at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. The assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis! (Ever thus to tyrants!) The South is avenged,” as he jumped onto the stage and fled on horseback. Lincoln died the next morning.

The assassination of President of the United States Abraham Lincoln took place as the American Civil War was drawing to a close, just five days after the surrender of the commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee, and his battered [Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln was the first American president to be assassinated, though an unsuccessful attempt had been made on Andrew Jackson in 1835.

The assassination was planned and carried out by well-known actor John Wilkes Booth as part of a larger conspiracy intended to rally the remaining Confederate troops to continue fighting. Booth plotted with Lewis Powell and George Atzerodt to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward and Vice President Andrew Johnson as well.

Lincoln was shot while watching the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln . He died the next morning. The rest of the plot failed. Powell only managed to wound Seward, while Atzerodt, Johnson’s would-be assassin, lost his nerve and fled.

Death of President Lincoln

Dr. Charles Leale, a young Army surgeon on liberty for the night and attending the play, made his way through the crowd to the door at the rear of the Presidential box. It would not open. Finally Rathbone saw a notch carved in the door and a wooden brace jammed there to hold the door shut. Booth had carved the notch there earlier in the day and noiselessly put the brace up against the door after entering the box. Rathbone shouted to Leale, who stepped back from the door, allowing Rathbone to remove the brace and open the door.

Leale entered the box to find Rathbone bleeding profusely from a deep gash that ran the length of his upper left arm. Nonetheless, he passed Rathbone by and stepped forward to find Lincoln slumped forward in his chair, held up by Mary, who was sobbing. Lincoln had no pulse and Leale believed him to be dead. Leale lowered the President to the floor. A second doctor in the audience, Dr. Charles Sabin Taft, was lifted bodily from the stage over the railing and into the box. Taft and Leale cut away Lincoln’s blood-stained collar and opened his shirt, and Leale, feeling around by hand, discovered the bullet hole in the back of the head by the left ear. Leale removed a clot of blood in the wound and Lincoln’s breathing improved. Still, Leale knew it made no difference: “His wound is mortal. It is impossible for him to recover”.

Leale, Taft, and another doctor from the audience, Dr. Albert King, quickly consulted and decided that while the President must be moved, a bumpy carriage ride across town to the White House was out of the question. After briefly considering Peter Taltavull‘s Star Saloon next door, they chose to carry Lincoln across the street and find a house. The three doctors and some soldiers who had been in the audience carried the President out the front entrance of Ford’s. Across the street, a man was holding a lantern and calling “Bring him in here! Bring him in here!” The man was Henry Safford, a boarder at William Petersen’s boarding house opposite Ford’s. The men carried Lincoln into the boarding house and into the first-floor bedroom, where they laid him diagonally on the bed because he was too tall to lie straight.

A vigil began at the Petersen House. The three physicians were joined by Surgeon General of the United States Army Dr. Joseph K. Barnes, Dr. Charles Henry Crane, Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott, and Dr. Robert K. Stone. Crane was a major and Barnes’ assistant. Stone was Lincoln’s personal physician. Robert Lincoln, home at the White House that evening, arrived at the Petersen House after being told of the shooting at about midnight. Tad Lincoln, who had attended Grover’s Theater to see Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, was not allowed to go to the Peterson House.

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles and United States Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton came and took charge of the scene. Mary Lincoln was so unhinged by the experience of the assassination that Stanton ordered her out of the room by shouting, “Take that woman out of here and do not let her in here again!” While Mary Lincoln sobbed in the front parlor, Stanton set up shop in the rear parlor, effectively running the United States government for several hours, sending and receiving telegrams, taking reports from witnesses, and issuing orders for the pursuit of Booth.

Nothing more could be done for President Lincoln. At 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865, he died. He was 56 years old. Mary Lincoln was not present at the time of his death. The crowd around the bed knelt for a prayer, and when they were finished, Stanton said, “Now he belongs to the ages”. There is some disagreement among historians as to Stanton’s words after Lincoln died. All agree that he began “Now he belongs to the…” with some stating he said “ages” while others believe he said “angels”

Apr 14 2014

The Breakfast Club: 4-14-2014

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 10:30am (ET) 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

Apr 14 2014

Sunday Train: Transport Cycling and Austin’s Awesome Bike Plan

Last week, I came across a post at People for Bike, called Four Simple Lessons from Austin’s Brilliant Bike Plan Update … and after reading the post, I clicked on through to the overview of the Bike Plan Update that they were referring to, and it was even better than they said. Once I saw that, I know that Sunday Train was going to talk about both Austin’s Awesome Bike Plan and the Four Key Lessons that People for Bikes draw from it:

  • 1) The point of bike plans isn’t to appease bikers, it’s to make bikes useful to everyone.
  • 2) Good biking makes good transit better.
  • 3) You’re not going to turn every long car trip into a bike trip – all you have to do is turn short trips into bike trips.
  • 4) A good bike network increases the capacity of your entire road system.

So follow me below the fold to consider both these four important points and also the general Awesomeness of Austin’s Bike Plan Update.  

Apr 14 2014

Venezuela Under Fascist Attack — with U.S. Help.

American progressives must recognize the urgent need to support and preserve the Venezuelan socialist revolution. The peaceful, democratically elected socialist government serves as a model for the kind of programs that our own country desperately needs.

Look at what Venezuelan socialists have already accomplished and why they have consistently been under attack by Venezuela’s  wealthy classes and their U.S. government, CIA and USAID funders:  (See Eva Golinger’s “Post Cards from the Revolution” archives for details of U.S. funding at http://www.chavezcode.com/)

In 1998, Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela. He was democratically re-elected twice in the following 14 years until his death in March of 2013, even triumphing over a separate right-wing generated national recall referendum in 2004.  

During those years, Chavez and his socialist party, the PSUV, set out to reverse the power relations of the pre-1998 years of capitalist rule and giving voice to the millions of Venezuelans who had previously been poor, hungry, uneducated and ill under those capitalist regimes.  

Chavez and his government created what they termed  “social missions”, focused programs to deal with depredations that had previously affected the majority of citizens.  Their literacy mIssion  sent thousands of high school and university students  into the country side to teach reading and writing, virally whipping out illiteracy in the country according to UN statistics.  A similar project provided high school level education to those without previous access, while hundreds of new university and technical programs were created where no tuition was charged and students were actually paid a stipend to go to school.

An early mission, called Mission Adentro, brought free neighborhood medical and dental clinics by the thousands into neighborhoods throughout the country which were previously unserved. A mission to provide good nutritional food provides subsidized markets and restaurants.  

After the extreme flooding throughout the country in 2010, which destroyed thousands of homes, a new Mission to build 2 million new homes began, homes to be given to families at very low interest rates or even free, depending on family income.  

There followed a massive training and employment program for up to two million people, wherein folks received job training and thereafter job placements at government expense.

Since 2003, more than the equivalent of $772 billion  has been invested in the social missions programs.These funds came from the profits of Venezuela’s nationalized oil industry.  

In 2011, five new “great social missions” were launched to build upon the work of previous programs and achieve specific objectives regarding health, employment, housing, social security, and agriculture.  Millions of workers, students, mothers, children and the disabled have received the benefits of these social services while receiving government financial support to utilize these programs.

 

Apr 14 2014

Rant of the Week: Jon Stewart: Back to the Torture

Back to the Torture

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Portrait Accomplished

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Why aren’t these people in jail? One word answer: Obama