Tuesday Reads: Rachel and Trayvon, Reid Going Nuclear, Spy Stories, and Much MorePosted: July 16, 2013 Filed under: Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Crime, Criminal Justice System, Foreign Affairs, Lebanon, morning reads, NSA, National Security Agency, Political Affective Disorder, racism, Russia, U.S. Politics | Tags: al Qaida, Alexei Nikitin, Amnesty International, Charles Ramsey, Edward Snowden, Filibuster, George Zimmerman, Harry Reid, Hezbollah, Human Rights Watch, Mitch McConnell, NSA, nuclear option, Piers Morgan, political asylum, Rachel Jeantel, Tanya Lokshina, Trayvon Martin, US Senate, Vladimir Putin 42 Comments
I’m not sure if it’s the heat or the depressing news, but I’m having a hard time getting going this morning.
We’re into our third heat wave of the summer, and I’m actually getting acclimated to 90 degree weather; but I suppose it still has an effect on my body and mind.
I’m also somewhat depressed about the Zimmerman verdict and by the often ignorant reactions I see on-line and on TV.
Rachel and Trayvon
One bright spot in the coverage for me was Rachel Jeantel’s interview with Piers Morgan last night. She was real and authentic, and Morgan pretty much stayed out of the way and let her talk. I think she made a real impression on him and the reaction from the live audience was very positive too. It was refreshing. IMO, it says a lot about Travon Martin’s character that he had a friend like Rachel. I’m going to post the whole interview here in case you missed it or you want to watch it again.
Asked about what Trayvon Martin was like as a friend, Jeantel described him as a “calm, chill, loving person” and said she never saw him get “aggressive” or “lose his temper.” She said that the defense’s attempts to portray Martin as a “thug” were unfounded and defended his relatively mild drug use. “Weed don’t make him go crazy,” she said, “it just makes him go hungry.”
Jeantel also responded to the massive mockery she received in social media for the way she speaks, explaining that she was born with an under-bite that has made it difficult for her to speak clearly. When Morgan asked if she’d been bullied for her condition, she simply responded, “Look at me,” to laughter from the studio audience.
Morgan attempted to get Jeantel to offer her opinion of defense attorney Don West, who many claimed was condescending towards her when she was on the stand. Jeantel shook her head, declining to say anything bad about the man given her “Christian” upbringing.
In the second part of his interview with Jeantel, Morgan turned to the “creepy-ass cracker” comment she made and the major impact it had on the tenor of the case. She explained that the term is actually spelled “cracka” and defined it as “people who are acting like they’re police.” She said that if Zimmerman had calmly approached Martin and introduced himself, her friend would have politely said what he was doing there and nothing more would have happened.
Unlike the juror, Jeantel did think Zimmerman was racially motivated. “It was racial,” she said. “Let’s be honest, racial. If Trayvon was white and he had a hoodie on, would that happen?”
I’d also like to recommend this piece by Robin D.G. Kelley at Counterpunch: The US v. Trayvon Martin.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Senator Rand Paul, Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley (also sponsor of his state’s Stand Your Ground law), along with a host of other Republicans, argued that had the teachers and administrators been armed, those twenty little kids whose lives Adam Lanza stole would be alive today. Of course, they were parroting the National Rifle Association’s talking points. The NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative lobbying group responsible for drafting and pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws across the country, insist that an armed citizenry is the only effective defense against imminent threats, assailants, and predators.
But when George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, teenage pedestrian returning home one rainy February evening from a neighborhood convenience store, the NRA went mute. Neither NRA officials nor the pro-gun wing of the Republican Party argued that had Trayvon Martin been armed, he would be alive today. The basic facts are indisputable: Martin was on his way home when Zimmerman began to follow him—first in his SUV, and then on foot. Zimmerman told the police he had been following this “suspicious-looking” young man. Martin knew he was being followed and told his friend, Rachel Jeantel, that the man might be some kind of sexual predator. At some point, Martin and Zimmerman confronted each other, a fight ensued, and in the struggle Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.
Zimmerman pursued Martin. This is a fact. Martin could have run, I suppose, but every black man knows that unless you’re on a field, a track, or a basketball court, running is suspicious and could get you a bullet in the back. The other option was to ask this stranger what he was doing, but confrontations can also be dangerous—especially without witnesses and without a weapon besides a cell phone and his fists. Florida law did not require Martin to retreat, though it is not clear if he had tried to retreat. He did know he was in imminent danger.
Why didn’t Trayvon have a right to stand his ground? Why didn’t his fear for his safety matter? We need to answer these questions as a society. Please read the whole article if you can.
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Tuesday Reads: The Snowden-Greenwald ShowPosted: June 11, 2013 Filed under: China, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Crime, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bob Cesca, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Hong Kong, Matt Schiavenza, narcissism, NSA, political asylum, Russia, The Q Group, whistleblowers, Willard Foxton 99 Comments
Edward Snowden is still the top news story this morning. It’s starting to look as if he made a mistake by going to Hong Kong, unless his goal was to gain asylum from the Chinese government. Hong Kong is apparently not interested in fighting an extradition request from the U.S. But it’s also possible he saw Hong Kong as a springboard to other places in Asia where he could hide.
Matt Schiavenza writes at The Atlantic:
In a comment about the case published this morning, my colleague James Fallows brought up a salient point about Hong Kong: it isn’t a sovereign country, and remains very much a part of the People’s Republic of China — a country which notably lacks free speech or any right of political dissent. And while Hong Kong has a different currency, political structure, and legal system from the mainland, divisions between the two are actually far murkier than Snowden’s explanation indicates.
Hong Kong is to some extent in control of its own legal decisions
But in the case of Edward Snowden, which is likely to involve an extradition request by the United States, the Basic Law is less clear. Hong Kong, unlike China, has an extradition arrangement with the United States. But China has the right to intercede in an extradition request if Beijing has an interest in “defense or foreign affairs.” In other words, if China wants to detain Snowden as a useful intelligence asset, Hong Kong couldn’t legally do much about it. And that illustrates an important part of Hong Kong’s current situation: its free speech and political dissent really only go as far as Beijing lets it.
According to Schiavenza,
it’s become increasingly clear that Snowden’s decision to go to Hong Kong was a serious miscalculation. The idiosyncratic territory may in some ways be a libertarian paradise of free speech, robust media, and low taxes, but is in no way independent of China. If Snowden’s ultimate goal were to damage the United States government as much as possible, then going to a Chinese territory would make some sense. But this obviously isn’t what he wanted; in The Guardian interview, Snowden disagreed with Glenn Greenwald’s characterization of China as an “enemy” of the United States by stressing the healthy trade relationship between the two countries. Aiding China — whose record of state surveillance and abrogation of civil liberties is inarguably worse than the United States — would go against the entire moral foundation of Snowden’s decision to leak the NSA secrets.
I’m still not convinced yet about Snowden’s motives. One thing I have concluded is that he’s a very narcissistic young man. I can’t believe he chose to leave without even explaining to his girlfriend and his family. He also chose to tell his story to a high narcissistic writer, Glenn Greewald. More on that later.
From USA Today: Edward Snowden’s travel options
HONG KONG — Whether Edward Snowden misjudged the odds of extradition from Hong Kong before revealing his identity here as the man who exposed secret U.S. surveillance programs may be irrelevant.
The National Security Agency contractor may have chosen to surface in the city for the same reason so many companies from the U.S. and other countries choose to use it for a regional base: It’s the best gateway to much of the world’s largest continent….
Hong Kong is connected to 180 cities in dozens of countries by some 850 flights a day. As the city’s investment development agency says on its marketing web site, “Easy and efficient regional travel is key to Hong Kong’s success as a regional centre.” Many of these countries have loose entry requirements for Americans.
He could go to Vietnam, the Phillippines, or any number of other Asian countries. Or perhaps he could go to Russia, which has already offered to consider a request for asylum from him.
USA Today also notes that Snowden has been “contacted by ‘countless people’ offering to pay for ‘anything [he] might need.'”
Meanwhile, an entity called “The Q Group” is trying to hunt Snowden down before he finds a safe harbor. From The Daily Beast:
Even before last week’s revelations by The Guardian newspaper that the National Security Agency (NSA) was collecting call records from telecommunications companies and had the ability to mine user data from major U.S. Internet companies, the NSA was already on the trail of the leaker, according to two former U.S. intelligence officers with close ties to the agency….
The people who began chasing Snowden work for the Associate Directorate for Security and Counterintelligence, according to former U.S. intelligence officers who spoke on condition of anonymity. The directorate, sometimes known as “the Q Group,” is continuing to track Snowden now that he’s outed himself as The Guardian’s source, according to the intelligence officers….
The security and counterintelligence directorate serves as the NSA’s internal police force, in effect watching the agency’s watchers for behavior that could pose an intelligence risk. It has the authority to interview an NSA contractor or employee’s known associates, and even to activate a digital dragnet capable of finding out where a target travels, what the target has purchased, and the target’s online activity.
Are there more bombshells coming from Snowden? Glenn Greenwald says there are. According to TPM,
According to Greenwald, Snowden has provided the archives of “thousands” of documents and “dozens” are newsworthy. Greenwald has suggested in recent days that more revelations are imminent, saying Monday during an interview on MSNBC that “there’s a lot more coming.”
Dozens of hit out of thousands of documents doesn’t sound like a very good ratio to me, but I’m not a reporter.
On Glenn Greenwald, it seems the general consensus is that people either love him or hate him. Personally, I don’t hate him but I find him annoying and part of my suspicion of Snowden probably stems from my mixed feelings about Greenwald. In my opinion, he cares only about his own pet issues and disdains anyone who cares passionately about, for example, women’s rights, the environment, or the plight of people with less money and fewer choices than he has. I guess he’s a libertarian, but again only in terms of his own pet issues.
Anyway it seems there are lots of Greenwald haters out there. One is Willard Foxton of The Telegraph, who today has a piece called The problem with Glenn Greenwald and the creepy cult that surrounds him. Foxton isn’t quite sure why he can’t stand Greenwald.
Maybe it’s because of the enormous, turgid pieces he writes, complete with 500-word updates when people challenge him. Maybe it’s the run-ins he had with other British journalists while he was fanatically defending Julian Assange.
Maybe it’s the petty stuff, like the fact he insists on special rock-star privileges, like policing the comments beneath his articles himself and his reluctance to let his pieces be edited, prior to the NSA/Prism disclosures. Maybe it’s the things that suggest he’s a little odd, like self-searching his own name so he can pounce on people criticising him, or the accusations he’s used internet sock puppets to go after people anonymously.
Maybe it’s the devotion of his legion of fans who consider him to be the greatest and most fearless journalist on earth, who hate anyone who dares disagree with their idol. The last time I criticised him I got a barrage of online abuse – including memorably a 24-slide PowerPoint presentation explaining how the American security services had “got” to me, and how Greenwald was their number-one target. Maybe, as his adoring public have suggested, I’m either a homophobe or in the pay of the CIA. Perhaps both.
That said, I’m honest enough to admit that maybe it’s because I’m jealous of the success he’s had, and the stories he’s broken. I’m not the only one. You can practically hear the disdain in the New York Times’s tone here, where it describes him as a “blogger” for a “British News Website” (The Guardian).
What I think is more likely is I dislike him because he has built a huge platform with opinion writing, and now he’s blurring the line between opinion pieces and straight reporting. That huge platform he’s built means sources come forward to him from his vast base of followers, with real hard news stories, and then he insists on reporting them.
In line with the “creepy cult” notion, the Guardian actually published this fan-boy article about Greenwald today. Bizarrely, it asks readers to describe how they feel about Greenwald with a fill-in-the-blanks questionnaire! You have to see it to believe it.
Another writer who seems to strongly dislike Greenwald is Bob Cesca, who critiqued Greenwald’s scoop early on. He offered a few more comments on the Snowden/Greenwald story yesterday. Here are three of them.
–Once again, it’s nearly impossible to have a nuanced position these days. I bent over backwards to repeat my ongoing opposition to the growing surveillance state, and made it abundantly clear that my intent with the column was to question some of the problems with the reporting and why there were such glaring omissions and errors. But there’s an increasingly evident overlap between the kneejerking on the far-right and the kneejerking on the far-left (I will make an effort to point it out whenever I can) and too many people tend to blurt things out without reading or grasping what’s being said. Consequently, criticizing Greenwald makes me an Obamabot. End of story. The left is sliding into a very dangerous place right now, and I’ll definitely report back on this one.
–There are some questions emerging regarding Ed Snowden’s story. Why did someone who was disillusioned with Obama’s record on national security continue to work for Obama’s national security apparatus — for more than four years? Why did he escape to Hong Kong when it’s clearly not the free speech haven he claimed it was? If he prefers to seek asylum in Iceland, why didn’t he go there before the story went public? How did he attain the access to be able to “wiretap anyone?” I assume we’ll get answers to some of these questions. Maybe?
–Marc Ambinder wrote a blindly complicated article for The Week in which he explained what PRISM is. It’s essentially a program that analyses data. It doesn’t retrieve the data, it merely compiles it. He also explained that the way the NSA can have “direct access” is via servers that mirror the tech giant servers. So if the NSA requests information from Facebook about an account in Pakistan, Facebook creates a mirror that clones the real time date from that account. But that mirror site has to be hosted on a server and all of the tech giants denied giving the NSA access to their servers. More questions.
We’ll have to wait and see whether Snowden’s revelations are truly groundbreaking or not. But as Cesca writes, the “war on terror” must come to an end. If what’s happening now helps that happen, I’ll certainly cheer loudly. But I suspect the U.S. government will react by simply doubling down on its current policies.
I’ll end there. Now what are you reading and blogging about this morning? Please share your links on any topic in the comment thread.