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May 20 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”.

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Trevor Timm: Everyone should know just how much the government lied to defend the NSA

A web of deception has finally been untangled: the Justice Department got the US supreme court to dismiss a case that could have curtailed the NSA’s dragnet. Why?

If you blinked this week, you might have missed the news: two Senators accused the Justice Department of lying about NSA warrantless surveillance to the US supreme court last year, and those falsehoods all but ensured that mass spying on Americans would continue. But hardly anyone seems to care – least of all those who lied and who should have already come forward with the truth.

Here’s what happened: just before Edward Snowden became a household name, the ACLU argued before the supreme court that the Fisa Amendments Act – one of the two main laws used by the NSA to conduct mass surveillance – was unconstitutional.

In a sharply divided opinion, the supreme court ruled, 5-4, that the case should be dismissed because the plaintiffs didn’t have “standing” – in other words, that the ACLU couldn’t prove with near-certainty that their clients, which included journalists and human rights advocates, were targets of surveillance, so they couldn’t challenge the law. As the New York Times noted this week, the court relied on two claims by the Justice Department to support their ruling: 1) that the NSA would only get the content of Americans’ communications without a warrant when they are targeting a foreigner abroad for surveillance, and 2) that the Justice Department would notify criminal defendants who have been spied on under the Fisa Amendments Act, so there exists some way to challenge the law in court.

It turns out that neither of those statements were true – but it took Snowden’s historic whistleblowing to prove it.

Daniel Devir: The resegregation of America’s schools

The Supreme Court ruled 60 years ago this May 17 in Brown v. Board of Education that “segregation of white and Negro children in the public schools of a State solely on the basis of race, pursuant to state laws permitting or requiring such segregation,” is unconstitutional.

The ruling abolished the explicitly mandated segregation made infamous in the Deep South. But political reaction and larger structural shifts, such as white suburbanization, quickly overwhelmed tentative progress. Today, segregation – both racial and economic – remains the core organizational feature of American public education. In 1980, the typical black student attended a school where 36 percent of students were white. Today, the average black student attends a school where only 29 percent are. Many black and Latino students attend schools where nearly every other student is nonwhite – including in supposed liberal bastions such as New York and Chicago.

Indeed, New York state’s public schools are the most segregated in the nation, according to a March report from the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. In New York City, 19 of 32 community school districts are less than 10 percent white. That includes all of the Bronx, two-thirds of Brooklyn and half of Manhattan.

This is no time for an anniversary celebration.

Ladar Levinson: Secrets, lies and Snowden’s email: why I was forced to shut down Lavabit

For the first time, the founder of an encrypted email startup that was supposed to insure privacy for all reveals how the FBI and the US legal system made sure we don’t have the right to much privacy in the first place

My legal saga started last summer with a knock at the door, behind which stood two federal agents ready to to serve me with a court order requiring the installation of surveillance equipment on my company’s network. [..]

The problem here is technological: until any communication has been decrypted and the contents parsed, it is currently impossible for a surveillance device to determine which network connections belong to any given suspect. The government argued that, since the “inspection” of the data was to be carried out by a machine, they were exempt from the normal search-and-seizure protections of the Fourth Amendment.

More importantly for my case, the prosecution also argued that my users had no expectation of privacy, even though the service I provided – encryption – is designed for users’ privacy.

If my experience serves any purpose, it is to illustrate what most already know: courts must not be allowed to consider matters of great importance under the shroud of secrecy, lest we find ourselves summarily deprived of meaningful due process. If we allow our government to continue operating in secret, it is only a matter of time before you or a loved one find yourself in a position like I did – standing in a secret courtroom, alone, and without any of the meaningful protections that were always supposed to be the people’s defense against an abuse of the state’s power.

Gary Younge: Racism is far more than old white men using the N-word

Why is there outrage only when epithets are caught on tape? Discrimination is in reality carried out by well-mannered people

Let’s hear it for Robert Copeland. The police commissioner of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire (population 6,083) sticks to his principles. Even if those principles are stuck in a previous century and mired in bigotry. In March Jane O’Toole was finishing her dinner at a bistro in town when she heard Copeland, 82, announce loudly that he hated watching television because every time he turned on the TV he kept seeing “that fucking nigger”. The “nigger” in question was the president of the United States. [..]

By the time Copeland’s outburst became a matter of national note a week later, the pattern had been set: old white men with mouths writing cheques their status won’t cash, in currencies that went out of date decades ago. So far so bad. None are worthy of sympathy.

And yet the magnitude of the response to each incident exemplifies how high the bar is now set for challenging racist behaviour and how distorted our understanding has become of what that behaviour constitutes.

Chris Arnade: Transgender Latinas’ stories reveal how much intolerance they still endure

Facing poverty and with no support network, some Latina transwomen turn to the streets to survive

In downtown Manhattan same sex marriages have become beautifully normal. No longer are they celebrated for their rarity, they are simply celebrated as any wedding is: in whatever manner the couple wants.

Go only five or 10 miles away, to the poorer parts of New York City, and things are dramatically different.

In these communities many LGBT people face an abusive environment. Getting married to someone of the same sex is almost unimaginable. Instead, the LGBT community is still fighting a more primary battle – for basic acceptance of their identities, and to convince their families and friends to let them remain a part of their communities.

One of those neighborhoods is Jackson Heights, a mostly Latino working-class community in Queens where I have spent time documenting a portion of the trans community.

Jonathan Freedalnd: Hillary Clinton needs Hollywood: Modern Family proves it

Drama, like satire, can shape politics and alter society. From 24 to Borgen, TV does more than reflect life: it changes it

Hillary Clinton should steer well clear of Nicole Kidman. The latter’s performance in a new movie of the life of Princess Grace, formerly Grace Kelly, has come in for some acid criticism. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw declared Grace “so awe-inspiringly wooden that it is basically a fire-risk”.

Twisting the knife, he likened it to the dire Diana movie, a film whose arteries were similarly clogged with saccharine. Admittedly, Helen Mirren did a wonderful PR job for the Queen, but often even the most hagiographic screen treatments can end up diminishing rather than dignifying their subjects.

What’s this got to do with the former secretary of state and could-be presidential candidate for 2016? No producer is likely to begin shooting Hillary: the Movie anytime soon – not now, when the final reel of the story is still undecided. And yet, Ms Clinton needs Hollywood’s help.

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