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Showing posts from June, 2013

Photo of the Day: 92 Years Young

Rosanell Eaton is participating in the Moral Mondays Movement. Think Progress caught up with her to find out why.  (Relayed by her daughter Armenta while Rosanell rested her voice) “What brought her out was the possibility of requiring voter ID. She was required when she was 21 years old to repeat the preamble to the Constitution in order to register. She did it! She didn’t even know she had to do it, she was just smart. They would yank you around back in those days. She was valedictorian of her class, she knew all that stuff. It’s what she had to go through. She thought things were smooth sailing. She’s seen the good, bad, and the ugly. Now she’s seeing the ugly again. ” You looking for heroes? I think we found one!

On heroes and power

We've been talking a lot about heroes lately. The conversation actually started when, the day after he published the first leak by Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald instructed us about who fits in that category (namely: Snowden and other whistleblowers leakers). The people who do this are heroes. They are the embodiment of heroism.  But a lot of that talk went silent after Snowden's stint in Hong Kong followed by his suggestion that  he was prepared to leak more documents to foreign journalists  and then a trip to Russia. All of this calls into question the whole idea of how we go about anointing heroes. That's why I found this statement by Greenwald to be fascinating . “My grandfather...taught me that whatever skills you have should be devoted toward undermining the people who are the strongest and most powerful,” Greenwald said. Based on what I've seen from Greenwald over the years, that statement is a pretty clear reflection of his approach. But I think it als

"Change is a motherf*cker when you run from it"

As the backlash develops to what Dr. William Barber II calls the "third reconstruction,"  I am reminded of how perceptively Derrick Jensen described what we're seeing these days in his book The Culture of Make Believe . From the perspective of those who are entitled, the problems begin when those they despise do not go along with—and have the power and wherewithal to not go along with—the perceived entitlement... Several times I have commented that hatred felt long and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred, but more like tradition, economics, religion, what have you. It is when those traditions are challenged, when the entitlement is threatened, when the masks of religion, economics, and so on are pulled away that hate transforms from its more seemingly sophisticated, "normal," chronic state—where those exploited are looked down upon, or despised—to a more acute and obvious manifestation. Hate becomes more perceptible when it is no longer normalized. A

A theme emerges when you take it all in

Perhaps you've noticed that I haven't been writing as much lately as I normally do. There's a reason for that. I've always said that my tendency is to pay attention to the big picture (if you're looking for a site to keep you up-to-the-minute on the latest news, this is definitely the wrong one to watch). This week big stories have been coming at us so fast that its impossible to have the time to digest them - much less reflect. Frankly, I'm exhausted just trying to keep up. I think it would be helpful to list the big things that happened in the last few days: The SCOTUS decision to basically gut the Voting Rights Act. DOMA is unconstitutional and equal marriage returns to California. The awakening of Texas Democrats with the Wendy Davis filibuster. The Senate passes Comprehensive Immigration Reform 68-32 to shouts of "Yes We Can" from Dreamers in the gallery. Please proceed Speaker Boehner. President Obama's trip to Africa and images like

"Thus the wise win before the fight"

"There's something happening here..."

As regular readers here know, I've been talking for awhile now about how what we're witnessing is the white male patriarchy in its death throes. Yesterday 5 Justices on the Supreme Court were the latest to lash out when they basically issued a ruling that guts the Voting Rights Act. What I've also been suggesting is that we are in the midst of a third wave of a movement to remedy this country's original sin of slavery and racism. Of course the first was the Civil War that ended slavery and the second was the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 60's that ended Jim Crow. In both of those movements white people gave African Americans legal standing. Over the course of the last 50 years, they've used those legal rights to raise themselves up. The challenge white people are facing today is that it is finally time to look African Americans (and other people of color) in the eye - face to face as equals. And even occasionally see them as our leaders. That'

Keeping our eyes on the ball

Heading into his second term, President Obama laid out his agenda: a balanced approach to deficit reduction, gun violence reform, immigration reform and dealing with climate change. So lets take a quick look at where that all stands. In January a deal to raise taxes on the wealthiest of Americans was reached. And then the sequester kicked in. We'll be dealing with all of that further this fall. But the table has been set with massive deficit reduction underway - taking away a key Republican talking point. Yes, when it comes to gun violence reform, the bill to require background checks on all sales failed in the Senate. But just the other day, VP Biden said that there are 5 Senators who voted "no" who are now prepared to vote "yes." Last night immigration reform passed a crucial hurdle in the Senate . Its now clear that it will pass that body and all eyes are on Speaker Boehner to see what he'll do in the House. And today, President Obama will give a

Why did Snowden take the job at Booz Allen? (important update)

For a while now some of us have noticed that Edward Snowden took his job at Booz Allen after he contacted Glenn Greenwald to discuss leaking information about the NSA. Greenwald has always dismissed questions about this because he says Snowden worked on contract with the NSA in previous positions. That was never the point. The question has always been, why would he decide to leak and THEN take the job at Booz Allen? Today, the South China Morning Post (the Hong Kong paper Snowden has been talking to for awhile now) answered that question. If true (and we have no reason to doubt these folks based on their previous reporting), this is HUGE! Edward Snowden secured a job with a US government contractor for one reason alone – to obtain evidence on Washington’s cyberspying networks, the South China Morning Post can reveal. For the first time, Snowden has admitted he sought a position at Booz Allen Hamilton so he could collect proof about the US National Security Agency’s secret survei

Is Snowden committing an act of civil disobedience?

There are those who are trying to cast Edward Snowden's actions as civil disobedience . I suspect that this argument will be intensified now that he has been charged under the Espionage Act by the DOJ. There is some acceptance among his supporters that he has broken the law. But they want to claim the mantle of it being an "unjust law" that requires civil disobedience. I'm sure there are legal cases to be made on both sides of this claim. But the fact that Snowden fled to Hong Kong to avoid the consequences of his law breaking - more than anything else - disqualifies him from claiming that mantle. Take a look at how the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. described his understanding of civil disobedience after careful study in his Letter from Birmingham Jail (the title of which should be a give-away). One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty . I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tel

Emo cognitive dissonance

Perhaps the emos can clear up this bit of cognitive dissonance in their arguments about NSA surveillance. On the one hand, they tell us that the REAL danger lies in its potential for abuse by an administration. On the other hand, they tell us that it is hypocritical to have opposed it during a Bush administration (when it was abused) and not oppose it under President Obama (when there is no evidence of abuse). All I've got to say about it is this: ELECTIONS MATTER!!!

Greenwald is headed down the wormhole

Here's Glenn Greenwald's description of his approach to journalism. “I approach my journalism as a litigator,” he said. “People say things, you assume they are lying, and dig for documents to prove it.” And here's how he described where he's headed with the NSA story the other day on twitter. The more they lie, the more documents will be released showing they're lying. That, my friends, is what you call a negative feedback loop  (accompanied - of course - by an ill-conceived threat). Negative feedback occurs when the result of a process influences the operation of the process itself in such a way as to reduce changes. There's nowhere for Greenwald to go with these kinds of assumptions but down the wormhole. He'll keep assuming that everything anyone in government says is a lie that validates his assumption that they are lying. In other words, it is the classic case of what Chris Mooney described as motivated reasoning . ...when we think we’re

Wishes come true

Going Bulworth

I missed a story last week. Sure, I heard that sometimes President Obama fantasizes about "going Bulworth."  But it had been so long since I saw the movie, I totally missed why he chose that one instead of - as Michael Tomasky suggested - something like Rambo . My guess is that a lot of other white people missed it too. Bulworth is currently running on HBO. So a few days later I watched it again. Low and behold I finally understood that what President Obama fantasizes about is going all "angry black man" on the country. The best example of that is at about 1:17:00 in the movie. Bulworth shows up at a TV studio for an interview in the midst of the 1996 election. He's dressed all "ghetto" and - pay attention to this one - walks in to the back drop of the song "The Wrong Nigga To Fuck With" by Ice Cube. When the reporter asks him why he's changed his campaign approach and specifically mentions using obscenities, he goes off on a really

Avoiding the poutrage

Chris Mooney explains: ...when we think we’re reasoning, we may instead be rationalizing. Or to use an analogy offered by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt: We may think we’re being scientists, but we’re actually being lawyers. Our “reasoning” is a means to a predetermined end—winning our “case”—and is shot through with biases. They include “confirmation bias,” in which we give greater heed to evidence and arguments that bolster our beliefs, and “disconfirmation bias,” in which we expend disproportionate energy trying to debunk or refute views and arguments that we find uncongenial. Liberals like to illustrate this by pointing to conservatives who are climate change deniers in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence. But this particular quote from Mooney's description can't help but remind us of certain lawyers-turned-ideologues  on the left who demonstrate their capacity for what he calls  motivated reasoning . If those ideologues close themselves off

Hillary Clinton has some work to do

President Obama won re-election by mobilizing the coalition of the ascendant ...people of color and young voters. Everyone knows that the Republicans are toast unless/until they find a way to connect with the changing face of America. I don't know yet if Hillary Clinton plans to run in 2016 - at this point I'd give it slightly better than even odds. But if she does, the one thing I'll be watching is whether or not she is able to match President Obama's appeal to that winning coalition. The truth is that due to some of the tension that arose during the 2008 primary, the Clintons have some bridges to rebuild with the rank and file in the African American community (a major player in that coalition). My word of advice to her right now would be that this is a good time to start doing that. I know that many in the black intelligentsia (ie, the Wests and Smiley's of the world) feel perfectly comfortable in criticizing the President. But based on what I'm hearing

President Obama responds to the "Bush light" crowd

One of the things I've been doing for over 5 years is watching President Obama closely - trying to get a feel for who he is and how he approaches his job. In other words, I listen carefully to what he says and does. I'd suggest that a lot of people on both the left and right don't do that and - as I said the other day  - simply project onto him their own expectation of politicians. Doing so means that many on the left would have missed what he said when  Charlie Rose asked him how he responds to those who say he is simply "Bush light" on national security issues. I think its fair to say that there are going to be folks on the left - and now what amuses me is folks on the right who were fine when it was a republican president but now Obama's coming in with the black helicopters - who are not yet going to be satisfied. I've got to tell you though Charlie, I think this is a healthy thing because its a sign of maturity that this debate would not have been


After all the accusations and hysteria, most of what Edward Snowden leaked turns out to be one big nothingburger. Over a week ago, I quoted the analogy used by Mark Ambinde r to demonstrate what's actually going on. One official likened the NSA's collection authority to a van full of sealed boxes that are delivered to the agency. A court order, similar to the one revealed by the Guardian, permits the transfer of custody of the "boxes." But the NSA needs something else, a specific purpose or investigation, in order to open a particular box... In the government's eyes, the data is simply moving from one place to another. It does not become, in the government's eyes, relevant or protected in any way unless and until it is subject to analysis. Analysis requires that second order. And the government insists that the rules allowing the NSA or the FBI to analyze anything relating to U.S. persons or corporations are strict, bright-line, and are regularly scrutin

Busy day today...late night

I'm going to be busy with other things today so I don't have time to write much. I'll just say that it was interesting being on Twitter the last couple of days and watching the firestorm that erupted over a CNET article claiming that the NSA could listen to American's telephone calls without a warrant. Like so much of what's been written/talked about in the press on this story...turns out it was false. If you're interested in the details, Bob Cesca (once again) has it all. As is my usual wont, I'm especially interested in the big picture conclusions - and I totally agree with Cesca. Instead of focusing on how we can cut away any government abuses of power, the real story...has become the collapse of journalism. In addition to the sad state of digital journalism, the truly harrowing impact of this trend is the rapid unraveling of activist credibility when, in fact, it’s critical for any effort against government overreach to stand above reproach...That’s

The Wire: Colvin and Wee-Bay on fatherhood

When it comes to fatherhood, it sometimes comes down to very difficult choices. In this clip from The Wir e, Colvin steps up on Namond's (Nay's) behalf. That's pretty righteous . And yet I can't help but think that the real test of fatherhood here is the one faced by Wee-Bay. Powerful stuff!!!

"The character called Barack Obama"

There are a lot of people who are trying to get in President Obama's head these days to interpret his motivation for deciding to supply the Syrian rebels with small arms and ammunitions. As is often the case,  Maureen Dowd demonstrates the most noxious element of that genre. Of course she, like some others, thinks the "boy" Barry needed to be "schooled" by the man Clinton (yes, its just that obnoxious). Folks who aren't into assuming these kinds of decisions resemble a sixth grade playground altercation know that when it comes to Syria - there are no good options. And so I began to think about what I knew about how the President tends to handle those kinds of decisions. I immediately thought of the article by Michael Lewis published in Vanity Fair back in October 2012 titled Obama's Way . At one point in the article, President Obama comments on the kind of analysis people like Dowd are engaged in. One of the things you realize fairly quickly in th

Is it possible to talk about the inequities in our justice system without mentioning race?

I guess it is if you're two white guys. I post this for two reasons. The first is that it is one of the most blatant examples of white privilege I've ever seen. Even a blue dog like former Senator Jim Webb made the racial inequities of our current criminal justice system the center piece of his attempts at reform. And if you're going to talk about our history, how about discussing the decades when - for all practical purposes - there actually was no justice system for African American...lynching via mob violence was adequate. My second reason is that this is the backdrop from which many of us are viewing Glenn Greenwald's reporting these days. Its not just that he's blind to his own white privilege, he regularly ignores whole parts of a story in order to bend it to the agenda he wants to promote. Some of us have been watching him do that for years now. Little by little others are beginning to catch on .

My personal thoughts on privacy

All this hysteria about the NSA spying made me ponder my own personal thoughts about privacy. For me, the most annoying part of this technological era is the spam emails and phone calls I get due to the fact that my private contact information is so widely shared. I'm pretty vigilant about not giving that information out (yes, even if it means losing out on a discount at Target) and I unsubscribe regularly. But overall its an annoyance more than any real threat. I'm pretty addicted to online shopping - mostly because I HATE the alternative of shopping by foot. So I can live with the fact that sites I've visited generate ads on blogs I read. I figure this kind of information has to be paid for somehow, doesn't it? And like many of you, I live a supremely boring life. I can't even imagine anyone wanting information about that. And if they get it - they better have stocked up on coffee to keep them awake. But there are two issues that remain for me in all this. W

Facebook news (updated)

Just to let you know, I finally bit the bullet and started a Smartypants Facebook page. Come visit ;) While doing that I noticed something interesting. Check out the cover photo on the OFA Facebook page . It makes me wonder how many of the people who are screaming about government surveillance are actually busy organizing people to try to do something about it. I constantly hear people saying that President Obama quoted that line from FDR about "make me do it." Its interesting that he has also given us a tool to do just that. So if you don't like what the Patriot Act has authorized the government to do - join OFA and start organizing to get it repealed. Finally Facebook published some interesting information about their involvement in surveillance. For the six months ending December 31, 2012, the total number of user-data requests Facebook received from any and all government entities in the U.S. (including local, state, and federal, and including crimina

The United States of America

In case you missed the story behind this, you can read it here .

Have you ever wondered what life is like for a child whose parent is in jail?

If not, don't worry - you're not alone. Because of the work I do in a nonprofit whose mission is "to redirect youth who are starting to get in trouble at home, at school or with the law," I think about it a lot since that is the experience of many of them. It's no surprise that children tend to follow in the footsteps of their parents. And our criminal justice system is filled with inequities that ensure that - as much as possible - the experience is one that affects "those" children rather than "ours." African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population  African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites  Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were incarcerated a

How ideologues sabotage their own cause

Today's must-reads on the NSA story come to us from Extreme Liberal and (once again) Bob Cesca. Extreme Liberal does a great job of breaking down The Top 5 Exaggerations by Glenn Greenwald on NSA . In order to get the level of hyperbole we're dealing with here, you need to read all 5 points, so its impossible to summarize. Just go read the whole thing. Bob Cesca points out that - due to all this hyperbole - even  The Nation and Mother Jones  writers have recognized that what Greenwald reported is full of holes. But then Cesca gets to the heart of what is going on here. Greenwald’s stubbornness and Snowden’s foolishness are actually self-destructive to what they’re attempting to achieve. As I’ve written from day one, credibility will make or break not only this story, but anyone who chooses to blindly latch their own credibility to it. If Greenwald was truly interested in the endurance of this story, he would’ve stowed his ego and done whatever was necessary to preserve i

Guardian poll reporter: Its working!

Harry Enten reports on polling for the US edition of the Guardian. Here's his headline today:  Polls show Obama's real worry: NSA leaks erode trust in government . After summarizing some polling numbers, he says this: When the IRS and Associated Press scandals first broke, I pointed out that the one factor that predicts election results better than consumer sentiment is trust in government . I'm going to stop right there for a moment because Enten left out an important point. Of course we all know that "trust in government" predicts election favor of Republicans! And so, he goes on to point out how these faux scandals are affecting that. Trust in government after these scandals has been falling. In the recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 55% of Americans said the IRS targeting made them doubt the "overall honesty and integrity" of the Obama administration. Only 48% of voters in Fox News poll taken after the release of the NSA informati

NSA story demonstrates why the media is in trouble

Like many of you political junkies out there, I watched Chris Hayes interview Glenn Greenwald on his MSNBC show last night. I heard Greenwald continue to talk about a discrepancy between the government and the tech companies on how the PRISM program works. Greenwald: Our story is that there is a discrepancy between the relationship that these, that the private sector and the government has, in terms of what the NSA claims and what the technology companies claim. Greenwald says the slides he published demonstrate that the NSA has direct access to Facebook, Google, etc. company's servers and just goes in and grabs private data at will. The tech companies deny that happens. So we need to get to the bottom of who is lying. Chris Hayes not only didn't challenge him, he ran with that characterization in other stories later in the show. Trouble is - prior to that interview I had also been reading folks like Bob Cesca and Little Green Footballs . So not only did I know that the

Photo of the Day: Immigration is about families

In a protest, Renata Teodoro, right, and her mother, Gorete Borges Teodoro, who was deported in 2007, met at a Mexican border fence. You can read more about Renata and Gorete's story here.

"Trading credibility for the advancement of an agenda"

Today I ran across two articles that are must-reads on the NSA surveillance leak story. The first is from Bob Cesca . He does a great job of summarizing the questions that remain to be answered on this story (please go read the whole article - these are critical questions). He makes an important point about how Greenwald says that his goal was to spur a public debate about surveillance, but then he refuses to answer the questions and blocks people like Cesca on Twitter. In the post, Cesca theorizes that its because Greenwald has an agenda and is approaching this as an activist instead of a journalist. For a guy who talks constantly about "transparency," Greenwald isn't handling his moment in the sun very well. As Chez Pazienza so brilliantly wrote on Monday, “Being a good journalist is a little like being a scientist: You should constantly be testing your theory and findings for signs of confirmation bias or an agenda that’s getting the better of your commitment to th

All the True Vows

Given the topic of conversation here the last few days, this one seemed pertinent. There really is one person in your life that it is critically important for you to trust. All the True Vows are secret vows, the ones we speak out loud are the ones we break. There is only one life you can call your own and a thousand others you can call by any name you want. Hold to the truth you make every day with your own body, don’t turn your face away. Hold to the truth at the center of the image you were born with, don’t turn your face away. …Remember, in this place no one can hear you and out of the silence you can make a new promise it will kill you to break, that way you’ll find out what it is real and what is not. - David Whyte

The latest libertarian craze and the death of normal

I wrote the other day about how all of the recent so-called "scandals" are providing a platform for people who used to call themselves liberals to join up with right wing libertarians. It comes as no surprise that Edward Snowden supported Ron Paul's presidential campaign and Glenn Greenwald was a major force in the #StandWithRand movement recently. They are surely kindred spirits. But take a look at similar statements made recently by rightwing radio talk-jock Rush Limbaugh and one of Daily Kos' favorite diarists One Pissed Off Liberal . First, here's Rush: This government’s already too big, it’s too damn powerful, and it’s too unforgiving — and this doesn’t have anything to do with competent intelligence gathering. And now OPOL: I'm saying our particular government, dominated and owned as it is by the 1%, is bad to the bone, lies through its teeth and supports all the wrong people doing all the wrong things. OPOL then goes on to sound positively G

Before we anoint him "hero" status, there are a few questions I have about Edward Snowden (updated)

Now that we know that the guy who leaked the information about NSA is 29 year-old Edward Snowden and we've heard what Glenn Greenwald wants us to know about him, there are a few questions that real journalists should pursue about this story. On twitter I ran across a potential candidate: Jan Crawford with CBS News. Re Snowden: why does a guy who purports to be disgusted by the motives for the Iraq war pursue a career in the natl security establishment? — Jan Crawford (@JanCBS) June 10, 2013 Re Snowden: How a guy with 3 months on the job for Booz Allen have that kind of access? — Jan Crawford (@JanCBS) June 10, 2013 Re Snowden: In his three mos at BAH, he tried to talk to whom about the program? He learned about it when? — Jan Crawford (@JanCBS) June 10, 2013 Re Snowden: Why go to Hong Kong If you're thinking about seeking asylum in Iceland?cc: @ mattapuzzo — Jan Crawford (@JanCBS) June 10, 2013 This too---> RT @ chucklane1 : @ jancbs I'm curious about

The NSA story and the role of government

For my own benefit as much as anyone else's, I'd like to recap where we are right now on this whole story about what the NSA is doing. I feel overwhelmed with noise these days and would like to think that its possible to deal with the facts we have now in order to have a rational discussion about the issues at hand - silly me ;-) First of all, we know that NSA is collecting metadata on phone calls. It seems to me that what David Simon said about that rings true - its analogous to what law enforcement has always done, but bigger in scope due to advances in technology. I found this description by Mark Ambinder about what's happening to be really helpful for us non-techies. One official likened the NSA's collection authority to a van full of sealed boxes that are delivered to the agency. A court order, similar to the one revealed by the Guardian, permits the transfer of custody of the "boxes." But the NSA needs something else, a specific purpose or invest