07/23/2014 archive

HopeX: A Hackers Convention Meets New York City

While a couple of thousand people spent a lost weekend in Detroit Michigan at Netroots Network 2014, a few thousand crammed themselves into the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City at HopeX, a convention for hackers. Hackers? Really? The reason for the enthusiasm was the agenda with speakers, guests and fascinating workshops and projects. It was the place to be for Jane Hamsher and Kevin Gosztola of FireDogLake.

We went in large part because Daniel Ellsberg, Jessalyn Raddack, Thomas Drake and Edward Snowden were all speaking at the event. But I have to give the conference high marks overall; the panels and talks were extremely well coordinated and really interesting. And surprisingly political. [..]

I went there thinking that 50% of the presentations would be extremely technical and go way over my head, but that didn’t happen. Among the programs that I attended:

   Barrett Brown and Anonymous: Persecution of Information Activists with Gabriella Coleman, Kevin Gallagher and Brown’s attorney Ahmed Ghappour.

   Community Owned and Operated Cellular Networks in Rural America with Peter Bloom and Maka Munoz

   Building an Open Source Cellular Network at Burning Man with Johnny Diggz and Willow Brugh

  Darkmail:  A preview of the new encrypted email program being developed by Ladar Levinson (Lavabit) and Stephen Watt, which will attempt to encrypt metadata

   Unmasking a CIA Criminal, Alfreda Frances Bikowsky: A really fascinating presentation by Ray Nowosielski about a largely unknown figure inside the CIA who may have been responsible for epic screw-ups ranging from hoarding data about Al Quada prior to 9/11 to the distorting the truth of the efficacy of torture

   SecureDrop: A Wikileaks in Every Newsroom with William Budington, Garrett Robinson and Yan Zhu

   When You Are the Adversary: Discussion of the infosec needs of the 99% with Quinn Norton

   Biohacking and DIYbiology North of the 45th Parallel with Kevin Chen and Connor Dickie

  Codesigning Countersurveillance: Projects of the MIT Civic Media Codesign Studio which develops civic media projects with community-based organizations

Normally I probably wouldn’t got to that many presentations at a conference but by and large they were all really interesting and many dealt with subjects (like building open source cellular networks and biohacking) that I previously knew nothing about.

However, the highlight of the convention was the conversation between NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and the Pentagon Papers leaker, Danile Ellsberg.

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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

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Ana Marie Cox: The GOP’s real shame on the border: ignoring an industry that makes billions off immigrants to give to politicians

Private prisons have taken up immigration as a profit center, based on assembly-line ‘justice’ of the Bush era – and kept alive by Republican presidential contenders who look the other way

High-profile Republicans, from Governors Rick Perry and Rick Scott to even Chris Christie, have gone hoarse these past few weeks in denouncing the overflow of migrant detention centers at the US-Central American border as “the federal government’s failure.” All of them have ignored – or blissfully forgotten – that privatization, not government overreach, lies at the heart of America’s suppurating arrest and deportation policy.

Despite growing evidence that the private prison industry is neither humane nor cost-effective (pdf), for-profit incarceration has increased dramatically in the past 10 years, and nowhere has the boom been more obvious – and had more devastating impact – than along the United States’ border.

The tragedy of prison privatization is well-documented. For-profit institutions allows states to pass on overcrowding problems rather than solve them. There is lax attention to government regulations. This is a system designed for the benefit of its owners, not in the best interests of the state – or the prisoners themselves.

Amanda Marcotte: Americans Are Leaving Religion Behind and It Scares the Hell Out of the Christian Right

Conservatives are getting more frantic and repressive by the minute, in response to America’s growing secularism.

There’s been a lot of ink spilled about the increasing political polarization in America, which is at historically high levels. There are a lot of reasons for it, including changing demographics, women’s growing empowerment, the internet, the economy and cable news. But religion and religious belief plays an important role as well. There’s no way around it: America is quickly becoming two nations, one ruled over by fundamentalist Christians and their supporters and one that is becoming all the more secular over time, looking more and more like western Europe in its relative indifference to religion. And caught in between are a group of liberal Christians that are culturally aligned with secularists and are increasingly and dismayingly seeing the concept of “faith” aligned with a narrow and conservative political worldview.

That this polarization is happening is hard to deny, even if it’s harder to measure that political polarization. The number of Americans who cite “none” when asked about a religious identity is rising rapidly, up to nearly 20% from 15% in 2007, with a third of people under 30 identifying with no religious faith. Two-thirds of the “nones” say they believe in God, suggesting that this is more of a cultural drift towards secularism than some kind of crisis of faith across the country.

Kathy Kelly: Harassing the Drones

On July 10, 2014, in New York State, Judge David Gideon sentenced Mary Anne Grady Flores to a year in prison and fined her $1,000 for photographing a peaceful demonstration at the U.S. Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field  (near Syracuse) where weaponized Reaper drones are remotely piloted in lethal flights over Afghanistan.  Dozens have been sentenced, previously, for peaceful protest there. But uniquely, the court convicted her under laws meant to punish stalkers, deciding that by taking pictures outside the heavily guarded base she violated a previous order of protection not to stalk or harass the commanding officer.

Mary Anne is a 58 year-old grandmother of three, from Ithaca, New York, where she is part of the Upstate Drone Action. [..]

The problem is not that Mary Anne lacks appreciation for the law of the land. She’s exercising her First Amendment right to assemble peaceably for redress of grievance. The problem is that Judge Gideon refuses to challenge military elites, some of whom never, ever want people of compassion and conscience to interfere with their use of threat, force, and even assassination to control people in other lands.

Mary Anne has appealed her case, and a NY judge has released her from prison until the appeal is resolved.  Another activist, Jack Gilroy, awaits sentencing, and in coming days and weeks, more activists will be tried on similar charges in the De Witt Town court. Judge Gideon and his fellow DeWitt Court Judge Robert Jokl have many more opportunities to think about these critical issues.  I hope they’ll be influenced by having encountered some of the finest people in the world as they hear the cases of peace activists in upstate New York.

Donna Smith: With New Obamacare Rulings, One Thing Is Certain: We Need Medicare for All for Life

It makes me crazy to see the latest news about a Federal Court striking down the tax credits (subsidies) offered on the Federal Affordable Care Act health exchanges because I know the media commentators will go crazy analyzing the politics of it all. The Republicans are celebrating; the Democrats are scrambling. And the people who hate the ACA/Obamacare as well as those who are pushing to achieve a longer term solution through single-payer reform will claim victory. The camp that will once again be completely ignored in this whirl of political analyzing will be the patients and the caregivers whose lives and security are threatened once again.

We won’t hear the patient and caregiver stories unless and until some of the politicians decide it would benefit them to prop us up in front of a camera in support of their particular position on health reform. While there are some very limited efforts going on to record stories, it has been since before the ACA/Obamacare was passed since anyone really cared to hear what happens to average people about their struggles with the profit-driven, dysfunctional US health system. No, Michael Moore will not be making another updated version of SiCKO and gathering stories for it as some have suggested to me — the original version still holds up well, sadly. [..]

What I really first thought when I saw the latest hit to people who need and want those tax credits/subsidies was too colorful to write here, but it wasn’t because I would lose anything as a result. I was so angry that more months and years of political manipulation would damage so many people when the solution that could heal us is so readily available and has been for almost half a century now. Medicare turns 49 on July 30th. We would do well to celebrate the program’s successes, acknowledge improvements we need to make, and share with our neighbors and friends how badly this nation needs to extend Medicare to all for life.

Laila Atawa: Muslims aren’t shocked to discover we are watched. But we won’t be scared

Can revelations about ‘sting’ operations move the government beyond 9/11-era discrimination? Because you can’t stop terrorism by alienating a generation of people

We know that we’re often discriminated against by our government and our fellow Americans, but studies still show that Muslim Americans feel more loyalty to the US than ever. Every year, more and more individuals from my faith commit themselves to civic engagement, seeking to educate themselves and their neighbors, and better the country in which they live – often because of the conviction that nobody else should have to face what they went through growing up after 9/11.

Though many Muslims Americans like me kept quiet in the years after 9/11 for fear of arousing illegitimate government suspicion, we’ve since learned that it is not silence that will keep the government from overstepping its bounds. We need to be visible, to be active, and to speak up when the government uses our religion as the basis for persecution. Revelations like even those in this latest, extensive report won’t scare us any more – they’ll only serve to push more Muslim Americans into public service.

Katrina vanden Huevel: The Downing of Flight 17 Should Trigger Talks, Not More Violence

The violence in eastern Ukraine has now claimed more innocent victims, with 298 dead in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Children, scientists headed to an AIDS conference, families on vacation-their deaths add to the hundreds of civilian casualties and tens of thousands of refugees victimized by the spreading conflict, which the Kiev government is now escalating.

The shooting of a civilian airliner is clearly a tragic mistake that no one wants to own, but that comes all too often in war zones. Currently, the Dutch government – 193 of its citizens perished in the crash – said it “would hold off assigning blame as it pursues its top priorities of recovering the victims’ bodies and conducting an independent investigation of the crash site in eastern Ukraine.”

However, in the United States, the tragedy has triggered a ferocious chorus of media and political condemnation of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Putin is called the “puppet master” or worse, with commentators asserting that he can end the war at will. The separatist militias in the east are scorned as Moscow’s pawns. The Kiev government’s bombing of its own cities and people is treated as a necessary response to Russian provocation.

All this ignores the context of this crisis and worse seems designed to fan the flames of the conflict. Already the United States has pimposed new sanctions http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/16/… on Russia and is pushing its reluctant European allies to join. The Russians have responded with sanctions of their own. The Ukrainian government’s attacks in the eastern regions continue, with US aid and involvement certain to increase.

Pity Party

What we learned from liberals at Netroots Nation


7/20/14 10:09 AM EDT

At a high-profile gathering of progressives this week, Hillary Clinton was tolerated, Barack Obama was pitied, and Elizabeth Warren was treated like a hero.

Candidates hoping to harness this crowd’s enthusiasm will need to embrace that pugnacious stance toward big business, not just talk about creating more opportunities for the middle class. Attendees here see Wall Street as a deeply damaging force in American politics and they want the kind of retribution Warren promises.

Netroots attendees hail from the most liberal corners of the Democratic Party. To them Clinton is simply too conservative on fiscal and foreign policy matters. They see the former New York senator as tight with Wall Street, and she doesn’t strike them as willing to fight for working people the way Warren does.

Yet interviews with several attendees suggest it’s not a lost cause for Clinton. If she distances herself from big business, highlights her support for labor – a point that came up several times here, given the big union representation at the conference – and demonstrates she cares about the struggles of ordinary Americans, she could go a long way with this group. What it really comes down to, activists say, is a shift in what Clinton emphasizes.

“She would have to have Elizabeth Warren’s message,” said Cindy Pettibone, an activist from the Washington, D.C., area. “Against big banks and corporations, for the little guy, restoring the middle class and unions.”

Even though grassroots activists acknowledge that Clinton is the most electable Democrat on the radar right now, they don’t want a Clinton coronation.

And if Warren doesn’t run, they are hoping another left-leaning candidate will challenge Clinton so that the party will have to engage in a full-throated debate about where it stands on economic issues. They also believe that regardless of whether other candidates are viable, a contested primary would push Clinton to the left.

Potential alternatives some cited include Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described socialist. There’s also Vice President Joe Biden, whose keynote speech Thursday was well-received. Though some activists said they don’t view Biden much to the left of Clinton, they love that he pushed (if only inadvertently) President Barack Obama to endorse gay marriage in 2012. And they perceive him as slightly less hawkish than the president.

The president has had a tumultuous relationship with the Netroots crowd.

They loved him during his nomination fight ahead of the 2008 election, but many of these activists have grown disillusioned at seeing the White House fail to produce much of the change they felt they’d been promised.

Dem base: Fine with Hillary Clinton, pining for Elizabeth Warren


7/18/14 4:31 PM EDT

Netroots draws the most liberal elements of the Democratic base – but they are also among the most politically active, and Clinton will need to inspire enthusiasm among them should she run. And it’s not as if that sentiment is nonexistent: Several people said they see her as a trailblazer for women in politics. But many others also described the former secretary of state and first lady as too close to Wall Street, too conservative on national security issues and as an insufficiently fiery champion for the middle class.

“Does she connect with people? Can she articulate [their struggles]?” Wherley said. “Elizabeth Warren speaks regularly about that. Hillary Clinton does not. … Elizabeth Warren intends to lift up the middle class. I don’t know what Hillary’s vision is for doing that. Would she cross bankers? Payday lenders?”

Clinton is “fairly close to Wall Street, she’s less aggressive about standing up,” said Derek Cressman, who just lost a bid for California secretary of state. “On economic populism, Warren is stronger. Credible and stronger language, standing up to banks, standing up to Wall Street.”

The Elizabeth Warren Fantasy

By BILL SCHER, Politico

July 17, 2014

Her traveling road show powerfully demonstrates why. Warren blows past any Beltway skittishness over “class warfare.” In her recent appearances alongside Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes and West Virginia’s Natalie Tennant, she portrayed the options before voters as “a choice between billionaires and students” or between someone who will “stand up for Wall Street” or “stand up for the families.” She name-checked Citibank and Goldman Sachs as among the Wall Streeters who already have “plenty of folks in the United State Senate who are willing to work on their side,” suggesting they don’t need to hold on to eager recipients of financial industry campaign cash like Sen. Mitch McConnell or Rep. Shelley Capito. And she used her signature student loan bill that would pay for refinancing by closing tax loopholes, filibustered by Republicans but embraced by the two Appalachian Democrats, as a case study of whose side each candidate is on.

Warren’s Wall Street bashing has a good chance of boosting Tennant and Grimes because no matter what shade the state, people hate Wall Street. Already this year, Rep. Eric Cantor lost his job in part because Tea Party conservatives felt he was too close to big banks. After that Virginia primary, pollster Greenberg Quinlain Rosner conducted a national survey showing that 64 percent believe “the stock market is rigged for insiders” and 60 percent support “stricter regulation” on financial institutions, reflecting support that spans across the partisan spectrum.

Obama doesn’t neglect the populist critique of a system skewed toward the top one percent. But he stops short of embracing Warren’s us-versus-them framework. “Wall Street,” or its unpopular representatives, are never mentioned by name. Obama prefers the word “everybody,” as when he declared in Colorado, “we’re fighting for the idea that everybody gets opportunity” with robust investments in infrastructure, energy and education, along with a higher minimum wage and increased workplace flexibility. Clinton is singing from the same hymnal, reportedly using the line “we’re all in this mess together” when discussing her thinking on economic issues in recent speeches.

The Breakfast Club 7-23-2014

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. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

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.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History

Le Tour 2014: Stage 17, Saint-Gaudens / Saint-Lary Pla d’Adet

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

So the story yesterday was Movistar and Astana setting a blistering pace that eventually delivered the stage win to Michael Rodgers, one of the oldest riders in the Tour and a Time Trial specialist, and protecting Vincenzo Nibali’s maillot jaune.  The defense of Nibali was a little less successful since it failed to drop either of the top 2 contenders much, but it left Tejay Van Garderen, the highest ranked U.S. rider remaining, in the dust and probably out of contention for a podium spot.  Thibaut Pinot was able to take a good chunk out of his 2 main rivals, Romain Bardet and ean-Christophe Péraud. The decisive move was up the Beyond Category Port de Balès where Rodgers and Thomas Voeckler had a minor exchange over whether Voeckler was doing his fair share of the pace setting.

On the stage it was Michael Rogers, Thomas Voeckler, Vasili Kiryenka, José Serpa, and Cyril Gautier tied at :09, Greg Van Avermaet (:13), Michal Kwiatkowski (:36), Matteo Montaguti (:50), Tom Jelte Slagter and Tony Gallopin tied at 2:11, Jan Bakelants (3:33), Florian Vachon (3:45), and Anthony Delaplace and Kévin Reza tied at 4:47.  Everyone else was more than 8 minutes behind.  In the General Classification it is Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (4:37), Thibaut Pinot (5:06), Jean-Christophe Péraud (6:08), Romain Bardet (6:40), Tejay Van Garderen (9:25), and Leopold Konig (9:32).  Everyone else is over 11 minutes behind.  For Points it is Peter Sagan (402), Bryan Coquard (226), Alexander Kristoff (217), Marcel Kittel (177), Mark Renshaw (153), Greg Van Avermaet (147), André Greipel (143), and Vincenzo Nibali (134).  Everyone else is 29 points behind.  In the Climbing contest it is Rafal Majka (89), Joaquim Rodriguez (88), and Vincenzo Nibali (86).  Everyone else is 25 points behind.  In Team competition it is AG2R, Belkin (26:21), and Sky (39:19).  Everybody else is about 55 minutes or more behind.  In Youth it is Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot (1:34), and  Michal Kwiatkowski (6:22).  Everybody else is 55 minutes or more behind.

In today’s 77 and a third miles from Saint-Gaudens to Saint-Lary Pla d’Adet there are “only” 4 climbs, 3 Category 1 and 1 Beyond Category.  The Sprint Checkpoint is early, before any real climbing.

Distance Name Length Category
Km 57.5 Col du Portillon (1 292 m) 8.3 @ 7.1% 1
Km 82.0 Col de Peyresourde (1 569 m) 13.2 @ 7% 1
Km 102.5 Col de Val Louron-Azet (1 580 m) 7.4 @ 8.3% 1
Km 124.5 Montée de Saint-Lary Pla d’Adet (1 680 m) 10.2 @ 8.3% H

The Col du Portillon and Col de Peyresourde are nothing special as far as Category 1 climbs go, but the Col de Val Louron-Azet and Montée de Saint-Lary Pla d’Adet are very steep with a little over 3 km and 4 km respectively of 10% gradient each.  The Montée de Saint-Lary Pla d’Adet is also quite long and though it flattens a little at the very end is basically an up hill finish.

On This Day In History July 23

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.

Click on images to enlarge

July 23 is the 204th day of the year (205th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 161 days remaining until the end of the year.

THE GREAT COMET OF 1997. Above, the bright head of comet Hale-Bopp, called the coma, is pointed towards the Sun. The coma is composed of dust and gas, masking the solid nucleus of the comet made up of rock, dust and ice. Photo taken by Jim Young at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories Table Mountain Observatory in March 1997.

The comet was discovered in 1995 by two independent observers, Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp, both in the United States. Hale had spent many hundreds of hours searching for comets without success, and was tracking known comets from his driveway in New Mexico when he chanced upon Hale-Bopp just after midnight. The comet had an apparent magnitude of 10.5 and lay near the globular cluster M70 in the constellation of Sagittarius. Hale first established that there was no other deep-sky object  near M70, and then consulted a directory of known comets, finding that none were known to be in this area of the sky. Once he had established that the object was moving relative to the background stars, he emailed the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, the clearing house for astronomical discoveries.

Bopp did not own a telescope. He was out with friends near Stanfield, Arizona observing star clusters and galaxies when he chanced across the comet while at the eyepiece of his friend’s telescope. He realized he might have spotted something new when, like Hale, he checked his star maps to determine if any other deep-sky objects were known to be near M70, and found that there were none. He alerted the Central Bureau of Astronomical Telegrams through a Western Union telegram. Brian Marsden, who has run the bureau since 1968, laughed, “Nobody sends telegrams anymore. I mean, by the time that telegram got here, Alan Hale had already e-mailed us three times with updated coordinates.”

The following morning, it was confirmed that this was a new comet, and it was named Comet Hale-Bopp, with the designation C/1995 O1. The discovery was announced in International Astronomical Union circular 6187.

TDS/TCR (Flaming Telepaths)


Why we don’t do I/P (without pre-approval) here.

Yup.  Always ends up like that.  Every.  single.  time.


I think I’ll spare you Nancy’s two segments, but for tonight’s guests and the real news join me below.