Posted by Rojas @ 1:14 pm on August 28th 2013

Worth noting

There exist in the world otherwise intelligent people who care, profoundly and deeply, about whether white girls “twerk.” They consider this to be a matter of deep import with regard to both feminism and racial inequality.

I repeat: these people exist.

Posted by Brad @ 11:04 pm on August 27th 2013

“Edward Snowden Should Have Gone Through the Proper Channels”

Jennifer I. Hoelzer asks “why?” and “what channels were those?”

I love articles like these. Succinct, step-by-step, taking a straw man on its own terms and then deconstructing, and devastating.

Posted by Brad @ 3:51 pm on August 22nd 2013

Viral blah blah blah

And making its rounds in particularly the conservative circles.

I don’t much go in for the “everybody is special” esteem-boosting philosophy towards educating tweens, but Ashton Kutcher’s messaging accepting a Teen Choice Award I can get behind.

Posted by Brad @ 12:38 pm on August 20th 2013

Quote of the Day

A veteran intelligence official with decades of experience at various agencies identified to me what he sees as the real problem with the current NSA: “It’s increasingly become a culture of arrogance. They tell Congress what they want to tell them. Mike Rogers and Dianne Feinstein at the Intelligence Committees don’t know what they don’t know about the programs.”


It was Senator Wyden who famously asked Director of Intelligence James Clapper last March, before the Snowden revelations, whether the NSA collected “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper’s response was pretty clear: “No, Sir.” When pressed, Clapper amended his answer to “not wittingly.” He later told NBC News that he had given the “least untruthful” answer he could think of.


In 1999, then-senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote Secrecy: The American Experience, in which he analyzed the parallel growth of secrecy and bureaucracy in the U.S. “Secrecy is a form of regulation,” he warned. “At times, in the name of national security, secrecy has put that very security in harm’s way.” He observed that although secrecy is absolutely necessary for our protection, it all too often serves as the first refuge of incompetents or those drunk with arrogance. We should not give these groups the ability to cloak their operations — no matter how virtuous the goal.

Really, go read John Fund’s op-ed.

Posted by Brad @ 12:19 pm on August 20th 2013

The First Concrete Causulty in the Death of Privacy – Journalism?

Just to spell out one of the most important shades in the Miranda story.

There have been a lot of at-times seemingly disparate conversations these last few years that are beginning to coalesce. There is the all-encompassing surveillance state, and all that entails (FISA courts, broadening from terrorism to anything the state finds threatening, etc.). There is also the war on whistleblowers, which includes not only all the “leaking” or data-dump controversies (Assange, Snowden, Manning), but also perhaps more run-of-the-mill sorts (the “war on whistleblowers,” most of which are sources passing specific confidential information to the press as opposed to just the blanket data dumps). And of course any conversation about leaking must include the fact that, in fact, the government does not oppose leaking at all – the biggest source of leaks, technically speaking, is the government itself, which leaks things all the time if it feels it serves their interests. Approved leaks to journalists has in fact nearly replaced the press release as the government’s preferred method of spin and managing news. No, the government is very much in favor of leaking, so long as it serves the government interest – when the government feels that is not the case, it suddenly opposes it very much indeed). And there’s also the whole conversation about the death of journalism, the trading away of the press holding power accountable for the press keeping access and keeping chummy with people that can help advance the careers of individual journalists or keep publications and networks in the pipeline for their positive leaks and stenography. Heck, even the increasingly massive scope of what is classified and what is isn’t, and the boundless ability of the government to determine that for itself, comes into play (indeed, this case regarding the photos of Osama Bin Laden at death may wind up being watershed if the Supreme Court decides that the government can classify things solely because they might wind up causing hypothetical, unspecific harm to “national security”, which would be a very likely ruling given how the top tiers of the justice system have handled such things in the last decade).

But there is a certain coalescence to all these things, I think, that bodes very ill in many ways, but also in a very specific way for journalism. And “journalism” has become almost a useless word – really what we’re talking about is “people who expose information those in power would rather control and set the terms of to serve their own agenda”. Calling it “journalism” or trying to demarcate the line between who is a card-carrying journalist and who is just some punk with a blog and leaked information is besides the point, and frankly harmful in its own right (and not to mention nigh-on useless of a distinction anymore, an archaic but persistent formulation we still cling but which has no real meaning or function anymore). Any judicial review that is protecting Judith Miller but not Edward Snowden – which is very much the impulse of the men and women that are in positions to give judicial review at present – is almost laughable at this point.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s take on the Miranda situation
– and his own experience with the government in relation to information they don’t like being released (some Reason reax to the article as well) – is fairly meandering in its way but also is beginning to get at something that I think we’re having trouble articulating concretely mostly because A. we don’t want to sound like kooks decrying a dystopian conspiracy, and B. it runs so counter to the values and concepts embedded in us that it’s almost impossible to step back far enough to call the present situation for what it is, which might actually be a dystopian conspiracy.

The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes – and, increasingly, it looks like “when”.

It’s ironic that right now a lot of people are discussing whether Miranda was actually working as a de facto journalist rather than just an innocent partner to a journalist – the unspoken undercurrent of that argument is, if the former, well then he’s not so innocent is he?

But of course, I’m not sure which is worse. If the government is harassing the innocent partners of journalists to scare them out of reporting on government actions and using terrorism laws to harass citizenry doing presumptively innocent work (presumptively in the “innocent until proven guilty” sense or even in the “no reasonable cause or warrant for search and seizure” sense)? Or if the government is just grabbing whatever information and assets it feels like from those doing journalistic work, in cases where that work happens to piss them off?

Or if, as I’m guessing the answer is closest to – both?

Posted by Cameron @ 11:19 pm on August 18th 2013

Terror Attack in Britain

Glen Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda who is a Brazilian citizen, was detained for 9 hours without an ability to contact a lawyer under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000 while transiting the UK on his way from Germany to Brazil. This was the maximum time permissible under the law which was supposedly designed to permit the government to question those suspected of having knowledge of actual plans to harm citizens. In this case, the only crime is association with a journalist who has inconveniently broken a story about governmental overreach. Naturally the response is significantly more governmental overreach. The punishment is a detention for 9 hours and the confiscation of all of his electronic devices.

This is unforgivable and shouldn’t happen in any country that considers itself governed by a liberal and free government.

To those who wonder about why we civil libertarians fight so stubbornly against encroaching government authority and against trading freedom for security, I present this action by the British government as Exhibit A. The actions taken against Glen’s partner are why governments are an entity to fear. Grant them power and those powers will likely be twisted and used in oblique means unrelated to their original intention. In this case, unless the Brits come around tomorrow with proof of Glen’s partner discussing plans to blow up parliament on Nov 5th, I simply am at a loss to grasp any justification for this action, particularly with the stated law as justification.

The guy isn’t a terrorist. What reason is there to treat him as one? Inconveniencing governments and association with those who report on its overreach is wholly different from plans to murder civilians. Laws designed to prevent the latter should never be used as tools to dissuade from the former. If a government cannot distinguish between those two eventualities, it deserves nothing less than wholesale and immediate change. The Brits have been going down this totalitarian path for some time now. It’s disturbing to see an example as stark as this, but it is sadly not surprising.

This. Right here. This is what the fear is all about. This is why the trade of freedom for security is the wrong choice. The terror in Britain today flows not from nebulous evil doers in Yemen, but from 10 Downing Street. The fear is present in journalists who are now living in a world in which their family can be detained if they stand up and bravely report something inconvenient. The fear is present in those who travel through (not to), any UK airports. The fear is present in anyone who crosses borders with electronic devices.

Volunteer/donate to the ACLU. Get involved and do not accept this. Seriously.

The terror is real. And it is state sponsored.

Posted by Brad @ 3:30 pm on August 13th 2013

Music Video of the Week

I am, like, fanboy-excited for a new NIN record. This needs a music video immediately.

nine inch nails – Copy of A


Posted by Brad @ 12:35 pm on August 13th 2013

President Calls for an Independent Advisory Group to Review Surveillance Programs; Appoints Jack Clapper to Head That

So yeah, I guess we can finally put this to bed.

Posted by Brad @ 11:52 am on August 13th 2013

Social Science Headline of the Day

White People Think College Admissions Should Be Based on Test Scores, Except When They Learn Asians Score Better Than Whites


Posted by Cameron @ 9:57 pm on August 9th 2013

This is either amazing or awful

I have lately been getting seriously into Google Play Music at work. Without aiming to sound like a shill for the service, I’m digging it pretty thoroughly. It’s like Pandora plus Spotify plus an MP3 player. You get radio stations, but you can skip songs and reorganize the upcoming playlist. You’ve got the library of tons of songs for unlimited streaming plus the ability to save any albums locally which is pretty cool for trips and stuff. And you can upload your own library to fill in the holes of what they offer from their side.

Needless to say I’m impressed and have been stretching my music chops lately because of it.

The discovery today was an album, Living Tree, a collaboration between Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman who are apparently some prog rock folks I’ve never heard of. This creation is certainly different but I’m enjoying it. I can’t quite say that it’s good in the classic sense that I absolutely adore it but I also somehow can’t seem to stop listening either. Conversely, it somehow doesn’t seem that far away from being absolutely terrible either. All the same, there’s something hypnotic going on, and worth sharing.

23/24/11 – Anderson/Wakeman

Posted by Brad @ 6:11 pm on August 5th 2013

DEA Using NSA-Collected Data

Oh, by the way, all that data being scooped up by the NSA to protect us from terrorism?

Yeah, they also hand over all that sh*t to the DEA for drug investigations.

(Reuters) – A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

Wow. I can’t even…begin to formulate the myriad levels of outrage.

Posted by Brad @ 5:33 pm on August 5th 2013

I Still Don’t Care About Steroids, But…

(here is my case for not caring)

But, three random thoughts:

1. I don’t like any cases where an organization agrees to rules governing due process, and then proceeds to break them when they find them inconvenient. In this case, as much as I shed no tears for Alex Rodriguez, baseball has been able to keep the labor peace for longer than any of the other big four American team sports precisely because they painstakingly negotiated with the players unions (who were operating on good faith and with the shared ideal of ridding the sport of PEDs) on the specific rules governing PEDs, testing, and discipline – rules which Bud Selig just decided to unilaterally waive, ultimately making the entire labor agreement not worth the paper its printed on and making it much much harder for the players union to have the full faith of the players they represent. This is why, in an important way, the first Ryan Braun positive test not resulting in a suspension was the right thing to do, despite the fact that he certainly guilty. It showed good faith on the part of baseball to the rules it painstakingly negotiated to, and it showed the credibility of those rules.

Bud Selig has an “out” in a clause relating to “best interests of baseball”, but it’s an awfully pliable out to evoke in this case, clearly violating the spirit of the agreement and, given MLBPA’s very cogent decision to fight Rodriguez’ 211-game ban with him, something that may have some significant aftershocks to the sport. If Selig’s last major act, after so many years of labor peace, is to establish the commissioner’s power to wave away the laws governing the process on his whim, that may wind up biting baseball in the ass down the road.

2. Speaking of which, let’s just say this, definitively: baseball is almost certainly the cleanest of the big four professional sports (and many other sports beyond that set), and by far the one that most takes seriously and does the best job of keeping steroids out of it. Any discussion should begin and end with those statement, because they’re absolutely true. It’s unfortunate that baseball is in a weird position where the more effective they are, the more “dirty” the sport seems – they become victims of their own successes in that regard. You never hear about football players using PEDs, because football doesn’t care enough to police it effectively to hand down big suspensions that make headlines (and, to be fair, football fans seem fine with that, so peace be unto you). But one thing that has been interesting about baseball’s evolution since 2003 is it isn’t just the commissioner’s office – most of the players also seem to now mostly be on the same boat in terms of wanting PEDs out of the sport and punishing guys found guilty. That’s a far far cry from the late 90s, when mostly it was about holding the line and pushing back against efforts to test and discipline. Whatever else you want to say about it, I think it’s nigh on irrefutable that baseball has largely succeeded in turning itself around dramatically. And it is also irrefutable that the reason you hear about PEDs in baseball is because baseball is serious about getting PEDs out of baseball. So let that be said.

3. As a fan of a different AL East team, I’m a little cheesed off that the Yankees are going to be getting such a windfall. They just got out of paying tens of millions of dollars for a sh*tty player that nobody in the organization likes. Getting out from under a significant portion of that contract will now improve the Yankees miles more than any realistic return and production from Rodriguez himself ever would have. Talk about a Get Out of Jail Free card for the Yankees. Dammit.

Posted by Brad @ 12:50 pm on August 5th 2013

Music Video of the Week

Okay, got a bit out there with the pretentiousness quota of the last few (although, building up to a kazoo song, so points there). Let’s ratchet that down a notch.

Mumford and Sons apparently also feel that maybe they’re getting a little formulaic in their presentation and starting to veer into self-parody. But rather than go a different route, they just embraced it, and decided to make the most Mumford and Sons video ever. Again, this is the actual official music video. Stick with it.

Mumford and Sons – Hopeless Wanderer

Posted by Brad @ 3:17 am on August 3rd 2013

Music Video of the Week

I don’t even care anymore. The greatest kazoo riff in history.

Carolina Chocolate Drops performing “Memphis Shakedown”

Posted by Brad @ 2:37 am on August 3rd 2013

Music Video of the Week

You know, when I say I listen to “all kinds” of music, I really mean it. I always hear people say that, and then qualify it with “except country” or “except rap” depending on what part of the country I’m in, or who I’m talking to (I’ll hear “except country” in Kansas just as sure as I’ll hear “except rap” in West Philly).

Genre, as a concept, is relatively uninteresting to me. I adore Hank Williams as much as I do Eazy E. But, I’m not gonna say that and pretend I’m a blank slate. All things being equal, I do have genre preferences like anyone else. A heavy metal or new school R&B song, for instance, has to really grab me – the style and tropes of the genres don’t interest me on their ownn. On the converse, there are some genres that it almost doesn’t matter the song or the artist, I’ll dig it regardless.

Just flippin’ fingers, I’d say those genres include 1. Bluegrass and 2. Old School Rap (mid-century gospel, ala the Soul Stirrers, is a close third). I’m more likely to go for the former if it’s mountain music (ala in the Pete Seeger school), and more likely to go for the latter on the jazz tip (ala in the Tribe school). But honestly, I could listen to mountain music or old school rap all day long.

All that is a lead-in to the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and it would be tempting to start conflatin’. To say they scratch the itch of mountain music and black music, like they’re a novelty act on par with the (admittedly fantastic) Gangstagrass. But, I say all that above and the truth of it is that, while the musicians are black, there is otherwise no overlap – this is just a great mountain music band.

And I guess that’s what I love about them most. The truth is, I love North Carolina mountain music – and Rhiannon Giddens may be the greatest practitioner of it going. It’s nice to point out that she’s black, and her integration of that fact surely is a part of the music. But on balance: this is music as God intended.

Carolina Chocolate Drops – Cornbread and Butterbeans


Posted by Brad @ 6:49 pm on August 2nd 2013

Quote of the Day

As part of a panel discussion including Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz, facing the Young Americans for Liberty membership (a group of basically college Ron Paul Republicans, headed by Jeff Frazee, a nice guy), the panelists were asked “what were you like when you guys were college-age like us?” Rand “Aqua Buddha” Paul gave the first answer.

“When I was in college, I was in the library every night, home in bed by 9. I never drank any beer or smoked any pot. …Oh, actually, no, no, that’s Mike Lee’s story! I’m stealing Mike Lee’s story!”

There were actually many candidates from Rand that session. One potentially interesting tidbit: Rand Paul claims he’s discussed potentially reforming Social Security by means-testing it with both Obama and Biden, and both agree with him but won’t say so publicly.

Posted by Rojas @ 4:59 pm on August 1st 2013

Okay, this is just plain evil.

Perhaps we TCP bloggers are safer from midnight raids and extrajudicial executions by armed government agents than we pretend we are. But of course, we’re not baby deer.

Posted by Rojas @ 10:56 am on August 1st 2013

So what do you think they know?

Lost in all of our howling about the fact that the President has completely changed his mind about privacy as a civil liberties concern is the question of WHY he’s done so.

One of the common tropes employed by the President’s defenders is the idea that, upon taking office, he became privy to sensitive national security data that convinced him that enhanced and wide-ranging surveillance of American communications was necessary. As much as we like to make fun of this argument, I am on balanced inclined to think it’s probably the best explanation. I don’t know what else accounts for a student and teacher of constitutional law deciding to outright abandon the principles he’s held for all of his adult life. It’s too big a bait-and-switch to have been part of the plan all along, or to be a mere artifact of bureaucratic inertia or political risk-aversion.

And there is a case, of sorts, for this being a defensible action. There are certain circumstances, are there not, when the threat to human life is so immediate and overwhelming that it overrides civil liberties protections generally? Batman thought so.

Consider the existing state of civil liberties in America: the President, once as enthusiastic an advocate of fourth amendment protections as anyone at this blog, now seems to believe that it has ceased to exist. And not temporarily, but on an ongoing basis. Imagine you were President. Under what specific circumstances would you make this call? What would it take? Let’s crank up the paranoiometer and engage in some rampant, baseless speculation.