Tuesday Reads: The Mad OnesPosted: September 5, 2017 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: DACA, Donald Trump, Dreamers program, French Canadians, Hillary Clinton, Hurricane Irma, Jack Kerouac, Jeff Sessions, Lowell MA, Neal Cassady, On the Road 60th anniversary, What Happened? 43 Comments
“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”
Sixty years ago today On the Road, Jack Kerouac’s second novel was published. It was boosted by Gilbert Millstein’s rave review in The New York Times.
“On the Road is the second novel by Jack Kerouac, and its publication is a historic occasion in so far as the exposure of an authentic work of art is of any great moment in an age in which the attention is fragmented and the sensibilities are blunted by the superlatives of fashion (multiplied a millionfold by the speed and pound of communications).
This book requires exegesis and a detailing of background. It is possible that it will be condescended to by, or make uneasy, the neo-academicians and the ‘official’ avant-garde critics, and that it will be dealt with superficially elsewhere as merely ‘absorbing’ or ‘intriguing’ or ‘picaresque’ or any of a dozen convenient banalities, not excluding ‘off beat.’ But the fact is that On the Road is the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as ‘beat,’ and whose principal avatar he is.
“Just as, more than any other novel of the Twenties, The Sun Also Rises came to be regarded as the testament of the ‘Lost Generation,’ so it seems certain that On the Road will come to be known as that of the ‘Beat Generation.’ There is, otherwise, no similarity between the two: technically and philosophically, Hemingway and Kerouac are, at the very least, a depression and a world war apart….
The ‘Beat Generation’ was born disillusioned; it takes for granted the imminence of war, the barrenness of politics and the hostility of the rest of society. It is not even impressed by (although it never pretends to scorn) material well-being (as distinguished from materialism). It does not know what refuge it is seeking, but it is seeking.
Click on the link to read the rest at the Literary Hub.
I first read On the Road in 1969 when I was anticipating a cross country trip from Boston to San Francisco in a second-hand van. Years later, I went back to college in Kerouac’s birthplace of Lowell, Massachusetts.
I majored in psychology, but I also took several courses in political science. I did a major research project on Kerouac and his roots in the French Canadian community in Lowell and another psychological study of Kerouac’s literary references to his brother Gerard, who died at age 9 when Jack was only 4.
I also spent years working with the Kerouac community in Lowell, helping to plan the yearly Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival. I’ve read nearly every published word that Kerouac wrote, including his letters and poetry. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve read his work, but this morning I’ve been enjoying looking back at those joyous years of discovery in Lowell. I think I’m still one of the “mad ones,” and I’m OK with that.
Earlier this summer The Washington Post published a five-part series on the Beat Generation. Read it here if you’re interested. You can also check out this piece at The Independent: ‘On the Road’ at 60: How Jack Kerouac’s drug-infused prose became a classic of 20th-century literature.
After that trip down memory lane I hate the thought of writing about today’s news, but I’ll d.o it anyway.
The Washington Post: Irma intensifies to an ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 5 hurricane on its track toward the U.S.
Hurricane Irma strengthened overnight to a dangerous Category 5 as it barrels toward the Greater Antilles and Southern Florida. It’s likely that Hurricane Irma will affect the U.S. coast — potentially making a direct landfall — this weekend.
Tuesday morning, NOAA Hurricane Hunters found the storm’s maximum wind speeds are 175 mph. It now ranks among the strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. Forecasts suggest it will reach southern Florida and the Gulf of Mexico this weekend.
Hurricane warnings have been issued for portions of the Leeward Islands and the Greater Antilles, including Puerto Rico.
The National Hurricane Center called Hurricane Irma an “extremely dangerous” storm on Tuesday morning. “Preparations should be rushed to completion in the hurricane warning area,” the forecasters wrote in their 8 a.m. update. Devastating winds, a major storm surge and flash floods are all likely in the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico in the next 48 hours.
Over the weekend, the forecast track for this potentially devastating hurricane shifted south and west. It seems likely now that the storm will affect or strike the U.S. coast early next week, although meteorologists don’t know exactly where. Florida and the Gulf Coast continue to be at risk. The East Coast, including the Carolinas and the Delmarva Peninsula, are also potential candidates for landfall — or, at the very least, heavy rain, strong winds and coastal flooding.
Trump took the cowardly route to end DACA–Obama’s Dreamers program–sending Jeff Sessions out this morning to make the announcement.
NBC News: Trump Ends DACA Program, No New Applications Accepted.
President Donald Trump’s Justice Department announced Tuesday it would wind down DACA, putting in place a phased termination plan that would give Congress a six-month window to pass legislation that could eventually save the Obama-era program that allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country.
Under the plan announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Trump administration will stop considering new applications for legal status dated after Tuesday, but will allow any DACA recipients with a permit set to expire before March 5, 2018, the opportunity to apply for a two-year renewal.
Sessions repeatedly referred to DACA as “unconstitutional” and said “the policy is vulnerable to…legal and constitutional challenges.”
“It is my duty to ensure that the laws of the United States are enforced and that the constitutional order is upheld,” Sessions said in explaining his rationale. “Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional executive overreach of authority by the executive branch.”
The decision could affect as many as 800,000 Dreamers who have signed up for the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, since its 2012 inception. Immigrant rights advocates have said 200,000 more have sought DACA status since Trump became president.
Here’s what Jennifer Rubin had to say about this at the Washington Post yesterday: Ending DACA would be Trump’s most evil act.
Some in the media take seriously the notion that he is “conflicted” or “wrestling” with the decision [to end DACA], as though Trump were engaged in a great moral debate. That would be a first for Trump, who counts only winners and losers, never bothering with moral principles or democratic norms. The debate, if there is one, is over whether to disappoint his rabid anti-immigrant base or to, as is his inclination, double down on a losing hand.
The instantaneous backlash on social media Sunday night was a preview of the floodgates of anger that Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would open. Both Democrats and Republicans have urged him not to end the program; about 70 percent of voters in most polls favor keeping the program. Trump, who likes to think of himself as someone with “heart,” may yet decide to reverse course. If he does not, let’s get a few things straight.
First, let’s not think Trump — who invites cops to abuse suspects, who thinks ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio was “doing his job” when denying others their constitutional rights and who issued the Muslim ban — cares about the Constitution (any of the “twelve” articles). Trump says, “We love the dreamers. … We think the dreamers are terrific.” But in fact he loves the applause he derives from his cultist followers more than anything. Otherwise he’d go to the mat to defend the dreamers and secure their legal status.
Anyone who believes Trump is “conflicted” about this is a fool. He loves hurting people–and the more vulnerable those people are the more he enjoys their suffering.
Ben Smith at Buzzfeed: Why Does Trump Always Shoot The Hostages?
President Trump, cornered, weakened, and apparently unable to get his hands on the usual levers of presidential powers, has adopted pretty much the worst possible strategy for someone trying to wield the power of the most powerful job in the world: He’s shooting the hostages.
Trump can’t seem to get the hard stuff associated with the presidency done. He hasn’t been able to mount a legislative agenda or give federal employees (besides ICE agents and the occasional EPA regulator) the foggiest idea of what he wants them to do. Congress is beyond his control and doesn’t fear him: It slapped him in the face on Russia, and when his allies “burned the ships” to pass a health care bill, his confused conquistadors didn’t make it out.
His remaining political leverage has come largely from the policies left to him as hostages by President Barack Obama: the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and, most of all, DACA and the nearly 800,000 sympathetic young Americans it allows to live normal, and sometimes extraordinary, lives.
Trump’s decision to simply kill those Obama-era acts, rather than to even attempt to use them as political leverage, helps explain the surprising weakness of his presidency. It’s far from the only way he’s frittered away his power. But if you are playing a weak political hand, hostages can be a source of enormous power. In the extreme case, it’s why we’re worried about Kim Jong Un. When you threaten to destroy something your political opponents desperately want to preserve, even your enemies will do a deal.
Hillary Clinton’s book What Happened? comes out a week from today. I preordered it and I can’t wait to read it. People were quoting parts of it on Twitter yesterday.
CNN: New Clinton book blasts Sanders for ‘lasting damage’ in 2016 race.
Hillary Clinton casts Bernie Sanders as an unrealistic over-promiser in her new book, according to excerpts posted by a group of Clinton supporters.
She said that his attacks against her during the primary caused “lasting damage” and paved the way for “(Donald) Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.”
Clinton, in a book that will be released September 12 entitled “What Happened,” said Sanders “had to resort to innuendo and impugning my character” because the two Democrats “agreed on so much.”
“She says a lot in this book, and some of it is going to surprise people. People should buy it, read it, and consider what she constructively lays out. It’s a great read,” a Clinton aide said, asking not be named because they were not authorized to discuss the book.
Clinton’s decision to step back into the spotlight with the book will likely be met with wide praise from many in the Democratic Party, including some of the millions of Democrats who backed her over Trump. But it also could tear at wounds that are still open between the wing of the party Sanders animated and those who backed Clinton.
Those are my offerings for today. What stories are you following?
Saturday ReadsPosted: October 10, 2015 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Columbus Day, Gore Vidal, Indigenous Americans, Jack Kerouac, Violence and Anger' 12 Comments
I still can’t believe we celebrate a holiday that basically recognizes the start of the mass slaughter of indigenous Americans. Does any one still believe that some dead European “discovered” a continent teeming with existing civilizations? Many Americans and states are deciding if we should celebrate mass murder and occupation in the name of “discovery.” But then again, I still can’t imagine why we let sports teams use stereotypes and caricatures as mascots still.
About four miles from the world’s largest Christopher Columbus parade in midtown Manhattan on Monday, hundreds of Native Americans and their supporters will hold a sunrise prayer circle to honor ancestors who were slain or driven from their land.
The ceremony will begin the final day of a weekend “powwow” on Randall’s Island in New York’s East River, an event that features traditional dancing, story-telling and art.
The Redhawk Native American Arts Council’s powwow is both a celebration of Native American culture and an unmistakable counterpoint to the parade, which many detractors say honors a man who symbolizes centuries of oppression of aboriginal people by Europeans.
Organizers hope to call attention to issues of social and economic injustice that have dogged Native Americans since Christopher Columbus led his path-finding expedition to the “New World” in 1492.
The powwow has been held for the past 20 years but never on Columbus Day. It is part of a drive by Native Americans and their supporters throughout the country, who are trying to rebrand Columbus Day as a holiday that honors indigenous people, rather than their European conquerors. Their efforts have been successful in several U.S. cities this year.
“The fact that America would honor this man is preposterous,” said Cliff Matias, lead organizer of the powwow and a lifelong Brooklyn resident who claims blood ties with Latin America’s Taino and Kichwa nations. “It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.”
But for many Italian Americans, who take pride in the explorer’s Italian roots, the holiday is a celebration of their heritage and role in building America. Many of them are among the strongest supporters of keeping the traditional holiday alive.
Berkeley, California, was the first city to drop Columbus Day, replacing it in 1992 with Indigenous Peoples Day. The trend has gradually picked up steam across the country.
Last year, Minneapolis and Seattle became the first major U.S. cities to designate the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
This month, Portland, Oregon, Albuquerque, New Mexico and Bexar County, Texas, decided to eliminate Columbus Day and replace it with the new holiday. Oklahoma City is set for a vote on a similar proposal later this month.
So, this is going to be an odd little post since it’s Saturday and I’m still nervous that my computer will go bonkers on me. I’ve never liked Gore Vidal and I’ve really never liked a kiss and tell all but you may find this interesting. Vidal is opening up about a lot of his life including this narrative about meeting and doing Jack Kerouac.
“What did you and Jack do?” Allen Ginsberg asked Gore Vidal one cold January night in 1994.
“Well, I fucked him,” Vidal was pleased to reply. On the night of August 23, 1953, the two men of letters had banged one out in a Chelsea Hotel room following a Greenwich Village bar crawl. Kerouac published a fictionalized account of the assignation in The Subterraneans but, aside from a morning-after moment of “horrible recognition,” he left out the sex. Vidal was annoyed, and said so:
I challenged Jack. “Why did you, the tell-it-all-like-it-is writer, tell everything about that evening with Burroughs and me and then go leave out what happened when we went to bed?”
“I forgot,” he said. The once startlingly clear blue eyes were now bloodshot.
Palimpsest, the first of Gore Vidal’s two memoirs, fills in the lacuna with a detailed record of the evening’s events. It began with William S. Burroughs. Kerouac and Vidal had met before, and in a 1952 letter to Kerouac, Burroughs expressed interest in meeting the author of The Judgment of Paris:
Is Gore Vidal queer or not? Judging from the picture of him that adorns his latest opus I would be interested to make his acquaintance. Always glad to meet a literary gent in any case, and if the man of letters is young and pretty and possibly available my interest understandably increases.
We see so much violence today. Yesterday, there were at least two more shootings on college campuses. It’s good to remind ourselves that violence comes from anger, not mental illness since so many pro-gun fetishists want to blame everything but the guns and the anger. We are a country filled with very angry people.
In the wake of a string of horrific mass shootings by people who in many cases had emotional problems, it has become fashionable to blame mental illness for violent crimes. It has even been suggested that these crimes justify not only banning people with a history of mental illness from buying weapons but also arming those without such diagnoses so that they may protect themselves from the dangerous mentally ill. This fundamentally
misrepresents where the danger lies.
Violence is not a product of mental illness. Nor is violence generally the action of ordinary, stable individuals who suddenly “break” and commit crimes of passion. Violent crimes are committed by violent people, those who do not have the skills to manage their anger. Most homicides are committed by people with a history of violence. Murderers are rarely ordinary, law-abiding citizens, and they are also rarely mentally ill. Violence is a product of compromised anger management skills.
In a summary of studies on murder and prior record of violence, Don Kates and Gary Mauser found that 80 to 90 percent of murderers had prior police records, in contrast to 15 percent of American adults overall. In a study of domestic murderers, 46 percent of the perpetrators had had a restraining order against them at some time. Family murders are preceded by prior domestic violence more than 90 percent of the time. Violent crimes are committed by people who lack the skills to modulate anger, express it constructively, and move beyond it.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, the reference book used by mental health professionals to assign diagnoses of mental illness, does very little to address anger. The one relevant diagnosis is intermittent explosive disorder, a disorder of anger management. People with IED tend to come from backgrounds in which they have been exposed to patterns of IED behavior, often from parents whose own anger is out of control. But the DSM does not provide a diagnostic category helpful for explaining how someone can, with careful advance planning, come to enter an elementary school, nursing home, theater, or government facility and indiscriminately begin to kill.
We came to know the conspiracy that was the Tobacco companies’ concealment of the link between illness and cigarette smoking. We now find out that Exxon’s done similar studies and found connections between fossil fuels and climate change. Like Big Tobacco, Exxon has concealed its findings.
The same thing has happened with climate change, as Inside Climate News, a nonprofit news organization, has been reporting in a series of articles based on internal documents from Exxon Mobil dating from the 1970s and interviews with former company scientists and employees.
Had Exxon been upfront at the time about the dangers of the greenhouse gases we were spewing into the atmosphere, we might have begun decades ago to develop a less carbon-intensive energy path to avert the worst impacts of a changing climate. Amazingly, politicians are still debating the reality of this threat, thanks in no small part to industry disinformation.
Government and academic scientists alerted policy makers to the potential threat of human-driven climate change in the 1960s and ’70s, but at that time climate change was still a prediction. By the late 1980s it had become an observed fact.
But Exxon was sending a different message, even though its own evidence contradicted its public claim that the science was highly uncertain and no one really knew whether the climate was changing or, if it was changing, what was causing it.
Exxon (which became Exxon Mobil in 1999) was a leader in these campaigns of confusion. In 1989, the company helped to create the Global Climate Coalition to question the scientific basis for concern about climate change and prevent the United States from signing on to the international Kyoto Protocol to control greenhouse gas emissions. The coalition disbanded in 2002, but the disinformation continued. Journalists and scientists have identified more than 30 different organizations funded by the company that have worked to undermine the scientific message and prevent policy action to control greenhouse gas emissions.
Too bad that our Congress is so divided between people that seek to govern and people that seek to overthrow our form of government to tackle the problems and issues head on.
So, that’s a little something from me. What interesting things have you found today out there on the web?
Tuesday Reads: Winter Weather, No Hillary Alternatives, New Snowden Leaks, and MorePosted: February 18, 2014 Filed under: Barack Obama, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: 2016 Democratic nomination, Bush administration, Edward Snowden, First Look, GCHQ, Glenn Greenwald, Google Maps, Gregor Weichbrodt, Hillary Clinton, Jack Kerouac, James Clapper, NSA, On The Road, Oymyakon Russia, Siberia, snow, Wikileaks 70 Comments
I’m awaiting what I hope is the last snowstorm to hit the Boston area for a week or so. This one won’t be a big deal compared to what we’ve been hit by over the past few weeks. It will snow most of the day and we’ll end up with another five inches of snow on top of the giant pile of white stuff that is already on the ground.
The good news is that beginning tomorrow and going through the weekend, we are expecting temperatures in the 40s and 50s, along with rain. That should help wash some of the snow away. The Weather Channel has live updates on how this storm is affecting other parts of the country.
While I was perusing the Weather Channel page this morning, I came across this article–with amazing photos–of the coldest city in the world.
Think we’re having a brutal winter? Winter temperatures in Oymyakon, Russia, average minus 50 C (minus 58 F). The remote village is generally considered the coldest inhabited area on Earth. Oymyakon is a two-day drive from Yakutsk, the regional capital which has the lowest winter temperatures of any city in the world.
How do the locals deal with the cold? “Russki chai, literally Russian tea, which is their word for vodka,” photographer Amos Chapple told weather.com after his visit to the coldest city.
Oymyakon ironically means “unfrozen water.” This is due to the thermal spring located nearby. Originally the location was used by reindeer herders who would water their flock in the warm springs.
Oymyakon’s lowest recorded temperature was a frigid minus 71.2 C (minus 96.16 F) back in 1924. According to The Independent, wearing glasses outdoors can cause them to stick to the wearer’s face. This is just one of the more menial problems of the extremely cold weather
After reading that, I suddenly felt very comfy in my cozy house with the temperature outside a mild 18 degrees F.
Whether we like it or not–and I absolutely hate it–the 2016 presidential race has already begun, and along with it the endless Hillary-bashing that we’ll have to put up with not only from Republicans but also from a subset of Democrats. Republicans will need to be reminded that Hillary is running, not “the Clintons”; and Democrats will have to learn that if they don’t want Jeb Bush as president, Hillary is the best alternative.
It’s a little unnerving that Bob Shrum agrees with me, since he’s rarely backed a winner; but honestly in this case he’s right. From The Daily Beast: Yes, Pundits, Hillary Has the 2016 Nomination in the Bag.
Handicappers in the presidential race abhor the opposite of a vacuum—a campaign two years out where one candidate seems to blot out the entire field. Thus a mini-chorus now rises, and may swell, questioning Hillary Clinton’s apparent lock on the 2016 Democratic nomination. It’s a predictable reflex, but in cold, hard reality, logic suggests that the lock is authentic, not just apparent. And in modern history, or virtually all American history, Hillary’s inevitability is unprecedented for a non-incumbent.
Yes, there are pundits like Matt Bai and Krystal Ball who claim that Hillary is vulnerable to a “grass roots” challenge, but they’re in fantasy land. In response to Ball’s suggestion that Elizabeth Warren should be the candidate, because she is “clearly passionate, living and breathing and feeling … the plight of the worker, the middle class,” Shrum writes:
Hillary, Ball asserts, can’t do that because she was once on the board of Walmart and recently accepted speaking fees from Goldman Sachs. That attack, if an opponent advanced it, could and would be swiftly confounded by the Hillary who, in the penultimate primaries of 2008, in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio, emerged as a powerful, persuasive tribune of blue-collar and middle-class Americans.
Of course, there is another slight problem with the Warren option: She’s joined all the other Democratic women senators in signing a letter urging Hillary to run.Warren will probably be out there all right—stumping for Hillary, not against her.
There’s much more at the link about other possible candidates like Andrew Cuomo and Martin O’Malley.
Let me add, btw, for Warren fans who claim that Hillary is “too old,” Warren will be 67 in 2016–just two years younger than Clinton. That’s leaving aside the fact that she has far less political experience than Barack Obama did in 2008 and zero foreign policy experience.
Over at that bastion of Hillary-hatred, DailyKos, Markos broke the news to his followers yesterday: The real primary fight of 2016 (and it’s not an alternative to Hillary.”
Some people have to come to terms. And I’m looking at you, people desperate to find an alternative to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
If Hillary runs, she’s the nominee. I know it’s in vogue to talk about how “inevitable” Hillary was in 2008. But it was a different world. I remember it because I was in the midst of that battle. People wanted an alternative, and alternatives existed. At her best, Hillary’s poll numbers were in the 40s with Obama in the strong 20s. Look for yourself. Yes, she was the frontrunner, but there was a strong primary field within striking distance.
There is no alternative to Hillary this cycle. The last time anyone polled the Democratic primary field, Clinton had 73 percent of the vote, Biden 11, and Elizabeth Warren nine. That tells us a couple of things. One, 73 percent is A WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE. She is the consensus nominee, and if you disagree, you are objectively in the deep minority. Second of all, there is no one to provide even nominal challenge. Clinton (again, assuming she runs) will have some “challengers”, but it’ll be a bunch of people auditioning for her VP slot.
To reiterate, leads like 45-25 in 2007 didn’t make Hillary “inevitable”. Numbers like 73-11 in 2014 absolutely do. And you know what? Those are not irrational numbers. Hillary will be a great president.
Elizabeth Warren isn’t running. I get why people persist with this fantasy, but it’s nothing more than a fantasy. Warren had to be dragged in kicking and screaming into the Massachusetts Senate race, a geographically small state in which she could sleep in her own bed every night. If you barely have the fire to run for Senate, then you absolutely don’t have the fire to mount a brutal presidential campaign. And even if she did, all she’d have to do is look at the polling (73-9!) to realize she’d have a million better things to do with her time and her donors’ money. SHE. AIN’T. RUNNING.
So, I guess we’ll have to wait and see if some Democrats are willing to try to sabotage the party’s chances of continuing to control the White House and very likely Congress as well. It could end up being similar to what the Republicans did to Mitt Romney in 2012. But this time, there won’t be real competition on the Republican side. Who are they going to run? Mitt Romney again? Paul Ryan? My guess is Jeb Bush would be afraid to run against Hillary.
There’s a new article up at Glenn Greenwald’s new site, The Intercept: Snowden Documents Reveal Covert Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Supporters. I haven’t had time to read the whole thing yet, because I want to get this post up soon. I’ll read it carefully once I’ve done that. But here’s the introduction:
Top-secret documents from the National Security Agency and its British counterpart reveal for the first time how the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom targeted WikiLeaks and other activist groups with tactics ranging from covert surveillance to prosecution.
The efforts – detailed in documents provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – included a broad campaign of international pressure aimed not only at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but at what the U.S. government calls “the human network that supports WikiLeaks.” The documents also contain internal discussions about targeting the file-sharing site Pirate Bay and hacktivist collectives such as Anonymous.
One classified document from Government Communications Headquarters, Britain’s top spy agency, shows that GCHQ used its surveillance system to secretly monitor visitors to a WikiLeaks site. By exploiting its ability to tap into the fiber-optic cables that make up the backbone of the Internet, the agency confided to allies in 2012, it was able to collect the IP addresses of visitors in real time, as well as the search terms that visitors used to reach the site from search engines like Google.
Another classified document from the U.S. intelligence community, dated August 2010, recounts how the Obama administration urged foreign allies to file criminal charges against Assange over the group’s publication of the Afghanistan war logs.
A third document, from July 2011, contains a summary of an internal discussion in which officials from two NSA offices – including the agency’s general counsel and an arm of its Threat Operations Center – considered designating WikiLeaks as “a ‘malicious foreign actor’ for the purpose of targeting.” Such a designation would have allowed the group to be targeted with extensive electronic surveillance – without the need to exclude U.S. persons from the surveillance searches.
My immediate reaction is that if NSA were not monitoring Wikileaks, they would not be doing their job. As for the claims that individual visitors to the website were actually targeted, I’ll have to reserve judgment until I read the whole piece and it has been fact-checked by people who understand the technology involved better than the authors. I’ve learned from months of experience that Glenn Greenwald’s articles tend to be filled with errors as well as over-the-top melodrama.
In other NSA news, James Clapper admitted in an interview with Eli Lake of The Daily Beast that “We Should’ve Told You We Track Your Calls.”
Ya think? Here’s an excerpt:
Clapper said the problems facing the U.S. intelligence community over its collection of phone records could have been avoided. “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11—which is the genesis of the 215 program—and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards… We wouldn’t have had the problem we had,” Clapper said.
“What did us in here, what worked against us was this shocking revelation,” he said, referring to the first disclosures from Snowden. If the program had been publicly introduced in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, most Americans would probably have supported it. “I don’t think it would be of any greater concern to most Americans than fingerprints. Well people kind of accept that because they know about it. But had we been transparent about it and say here’s one more thing we have to do as citizens for the common good, just like we have to go to airports two hours early and take our shoes off, all the other things we do for the common good, this is one more thing.”
Since the first Snowden revelations in June, Clapper has declassified reams of material relating to the 215 program, including opinions and warrants signed by the top secret court that approves domestic snooping. But he has not publicly acknowledged until now his thoughts that the initial secrecy surrounding the program was ill-considered.
No shit Sherlock! Americans most likely would have supported the program if the Bush administration had been up front about it. Of course, then Congress would have regulated it more–as is happening under Obama–and that wouldn’t have pleased President Cheney. Even now, if Obama and NSA officials would come out and explain exactly what the program is, the fear-mongering by Greenwald and the gang would be far less effective.
Basically, the “metadata” that is collected is just the same information that we used to get on our phone bills: time call was initiated, how long it lasted, and the number that was called. The phone company kept all this “metadata” on file, and law enforcement could access the phone records of a suspect by getting a warrant from a judge–which is the same thing the NSA does. I have way fewer problems with this kind of data collection than what corporations are doing on a daily basis with my internet browsing and purchases.
I’ll end with a couple of fun items.
First, I hope you’ll check out these awesome photos of Russians with their cats at Buzzfeed.
Second, from The Guardian: Kerouac’s On the Road followed on the road via Google Maps:
“The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream,” wrote Jack Kerouac, famously, in On the Road. “Head northwest on W 47th St toward 7th Ave. Take the 1st left onto 7th Ave. Turn right onto W 39th St,” writes Gregor Weichbrodt, less poetically but more accurately, in On the Road for 17527 Miles, a new book tracing the Beat writer’s famous journey across America – with the aid of Google Maps.
Going through On the Road with a fine-toothed comb, Weichbrodt took the “exact and approximate” spots to which the author – via his alter ego Sal Paradise – travelled, and entered them into Google’s Direction Service. “The result is a huge direction instruction of 55 pages,” says the German student. “All in all, as Google shows, the journey takes 272.26 hours (for 17,527 miles).”
Weichbrodt’s chapters match those of Kerouac’s original. He has now self-published the book, which is also part of the current exhibition Poetry Will Be Made By All! in Zurich, and has, he says, sold six copies so far.
You can read the book at at Open Culture. The site has also published a photo of Jack Kerouac’s Hand-Drawn Map of the Hitchhiking Trip Narrated in On the Road. Very cool.
Now what are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a tremendous Tuesday!
Monday ReadsPosted: May 28, 2012 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, Fox News, Mitt Romney, morning reads, Republican presidential politics, Syria, The DNC, U.S. Politics | Tags: "the vision thing", Barack Obama, Bob Shieffer, cell phones, Cory Booker, Ed Gillespie, feckless, headphones, Jack Kerouac, John McCain, Mitch Daniels, NPR, On The Road, Richard Lugar, Rudy Giuliani, Scott Walker, smart phones, U.N. Security Council, Wisconsin recall election 24 Comments
I’m filling in for Dakinikat today, while she wends her way back down to New Orleans after her daughter’s great big Bollywood wedding. It’s another very slow news day today, but I’ve tried to dig up some interesting reads for you anyway.
The U.N. Security Council has condemned Syria’s government for the Houla massacre.
An emergency council meeting in New York on Sunday accused President Bashar al-Assad’s forces of unleashing havoc in the town, calling the bombardment of residential areas “an outrageous use of force” which violated international law.
“The security council condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more … in attacks that involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighbourhood,” the non-binding statement said.
Russia, which has resisted previous western-led condemnations of its Damascus ally, signed up to the declaration, signalling the extent of revulsion over images of infant corpses lined side by side after Friday’s slaughter, one of the worst incidents in the 14-month conflict.
You probably heard that John McCain, who for mysterious reasons is a permanent fixture on the Sunday talk shows even though he’s wrong about everything, has called Obama’s foreign policy and especially his caution on Syria “feckless.” The Villagers really love that word for some reason….why not just say “irresponsible” or “lazy”? Those are some of the definitions of the word.
On the other hand, outgoing Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, who is a lot more thoughtful than McCain, thinks Obama is right to be cautious on Syria. From TPM:
“I think that he has been very cautions. And I think that he’s cautions because he’s in the process of withdrawing our troops along with NATO from Afghanistan, pivoting our policy toward China and the east, more toward a situation of using robots – the ability to not to have to send in troops. It’s a difficult situation. So when you talk about Syria, and you talk about troops or intervention, the president has been very cautious. I think properly so.”
Also on the Sunday shows, Bob Shieffer asked Romney adviser Ed Gillespie why Mitt won’t appear anywhere except Fox News. Gillespie responded that Romney meet with “some schoolchildren last week.” Shieffer said, “I know schoolchildren are happy to see him.”
Good one, Bob!
On Candy Crowley’s show Rudy Giuliani was supposed to be playing surrogate for Romney and pulled a Cory Booker. Giuliani began by announcing that Romney is “the perfect choice” and then proceeded to “trash” Romney’s Massachusetts record while “explaining” his trashing of Romney back in 2008.
“Well, I mean, there’s a certain amount of personal ego in that — at that point, I was probably comparing his record to my record,” he said about his dings at Romney. “And maybe it was circumstances or whatever, but I had massive reductions in unemployment. He had a reduction in unemployment of about 8,10 percent — I think it was 15 percent. I had a reduction of unemployment of 50 percent. He had a growth of jobs of about 40,000; we had a growth of jobs of about 500,000. So I was comparing what I thought was my far superior record to his otherwise decent record. … That’s all part of campaigning.”
But, he added, Romney is much better than President Barack Obama.
I guess it’s still not quite as bad as the “endorsement” Romney got from Mitch Daniels.
Politico has a somewhat long piece for them on why Republicans are afraid that Romney “lacks the ‘vision thing'” For example:
“At the end of the day, you can’t just be all, you know, anti-Obama,” said former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, whose state is key to Romney’s chances. “It has to be, I think, two parts that and one part here’s the antidote, here’s the vision, here’s the path that I would like to lead America down.”
And GOP strategist Mark McKinnon — who advised former two-term Republican president George W. Bush — said it’s time for Romney to outline his agenda.
“It’s important to establish the problem when you are a challenger because you are asking voters to fire the incumbent. So, Romney has to file his grievances,” McKinnon said. “But at some point he has to show that he has a vision of a better way. He can’t just say ‘The future is bleak, follow me.’ Because no one will.”
That sounds a little bit like the “advice” Mitch Daniels gave to Mitt. Sadly, Mitt has no vision for a better way. He just wants to be King so he can order everyone around and fire people when he feels like it.
I’ve been so focused on politics for the past several years that I’ve somewhat lost touch with popular culture. So it came as a shock to me today when reading an article about the Cannes Film Festival that one of the movies being shown there is an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. I knew instantly it would be horrible. Every Kerouac adaptation has been.
I used to be fascinated by Kerouac. I was on the Lowell, MA, Kerouac Festival Board for a few years, I’ve done two major research projects on Kerouac’s life and work, one of which I presented at at academic conference. I’ve read everything Kerouac has written, including his letters. I will never see this film, because I don’t want the book ruined for me. Trust me on this, just read the book if you haven’t already, and skip the movie.
The Washington Post has a piece on the Wisconsin recall election which is coming up on June 5: Scott Walker’s fate will have November implications.
Walker made national headlines last year when he eliminated most collective-bargaining rights for public employee unions, triggering huge protests. The fight put friends, neighbors and family members on opposite sides and left the state as polarized as any in the nation. It will culminate in next month’s recall election, only the third for a sitting governor in U.S. history.
The Democrats need to get off their butts and into Wisconsin soon or Walker is going to win. That would be disastrous, and would likely put the state in play for Romney in November. Wisconsin Democrats have been begging for help from the DNC, and it has been slow in coming.
I recently heard an interesting interview on NPR about Lulu DeCarrone, a coffee shop owner who decided to pull the plug on WiFi in her shop. She suddenly realized that her customers were sitting alone at tables for hours just staring at their computers and not talking. No one was having fun anymore and Lulu wasn’t making much money either. Quoting her:
It happened around three or four years ago. One afternoon, I was standing behind the counter and I allowed laptops for a while. And there were four tables, and four people sitting with laptops there. And I remember thinking, “This is like a crypt. I don’t like the feel of it.” Well, two ladies came in a little bit later and they were having such a good time. They were old friends, they haven’t seen each other in a long time and they were laughing and just carrying on. And the people who were sitting on the laptops kept glaring at them. And I made the decision right then and there. I thought I would rather lose my business and sell pencils out of a hat in front of the British Art Museum, than have this atmosphere in my store….
I thought, “Oh my God, maybe no one will come. Maybe I’ll lose it.” And I swear to you, that I was willing to do that. But it worked in reverse. I am the absolute opposite of what Starbucks does, and I’m very happy about it.
It’s become like Mecca for people who are disgusted. I never expected this. This has blown my mind; I never thought that would happen. I get compliments every single day. So I think that’s what it’s given me: Not a big bank account, certainly not driving a fancy car — but it has given me something that’s much harder to get, joy.
I’m no Luddite, but I have to admit, I do get disgusted sometimes the way gadgets have taken over and replaced socializing in public. When I was teaching at a large university, it was rare to see a student who wasn’t either listening to music on headphones, talking on the phone, or texting. They were completely out of touch with whatever was happening in their surroundings in the present moment. And so I also enjoyed this piece at the WaPo on people who ruin things for everyone around them by talking loudly on their cell phones. Here’s a sample:
I love taking the train and typically enjoy the ride. It can be so peaceful, and you don’t have the stress that comes with flying. But if I don’t get a seat in the “quiet car” that Amtrak has designated for those us who want peace, I’m privy to some conversations that should only be conducted in private.
I understand the occasional short conversation to let someone know when to pick you up or that the train is running late, but people are holding long and involved conversations, often about inane stuff. Businessmen are barking orders or, in one case I overheard, holding a conference call. I really don’t want to know your business.
On a recent Amtrak trip, a woman sat next to me and made a call to her friend who, I learned, was afraid she had a sexually transmitted disease. Thankfully, another seat opened up and the woman moved. But I could still hear her describing the test for the disease.
And have you noticed that many people seem to have no compunction about making you wait while they take calls? Why not just call the person back later and talk to the person you’re with?
OK, that’s all I’ve got. What are your recommended links for today?