June 14, 2013 archive

Jun 14

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Our regular featured content-

These featured articles-

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Write more and often.  This is an Open Thread.

The Stars Hollow Gazette

Jun 14

Cartnoon

Jun 14

On This Day In History June 14

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

June 14 is the 165th day of the year (166th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 200 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1777, during the American Revolution, the Continental Congress adopts a resolution stating that “the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white” and that “the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

The Flag Resolution of 1777

On June 14, 1777, the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution which stated: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” Flag Day is now observed on June 14 of each year. A false tradition holds that the new flag was first hoisted in June 1777 by the Continental Army at the Middlebrook encampment.

The 1777 resolution was most probably meant to define a naval ensign, rather than a national flag. It appears between other resolutions from the Marine Committee. On May 10, 1779, Secretary of the Board of War Richard Peters expressed concern “it is not yet settled what is the Standard of the United States.”

The Flag Resolution did not specify any particular arrangement, number of points, nor orientation for the stars. The pictured flag shows 13 outwardly-oriented five-pointed stars arranged in a circle, the so-called Betsy Ross flag. Although the Betsy Ross legend is controversial, the design is among the oldest of any U.S. flags. Popular designs at the time were varied and most were individually crafted rather than mass-produced. Other examples of 13-star arrangements can be found on the Francis Hopkinson flag, the Cowpens flag, and the Brandywine flag. Given the scant archaeological and written evidence, it is unknown which design was the most popular at that time.

Despite the 1777 resolution, a number of flags only loosely based on the prescribed design were used in the early years of American independence. One example may have been the Guilford Court House Flag, traditionally believed to have been carried by the American troops at the Battle of Guilford Court House in 1781.

The origin of the stars and stripes design is inadequately documented. The apocryphal story credits Betsy Ross for sewing the first flag from a pencil sketch handed to her by George Washington. No evidence for this exists; indeed, nearly a century had passed before Ross’ grandson, William Canby, first publicly suggested it. Another woman, Rebecca Young, has also been credited as having made the first flag by later generations of her family. Rebecca Young’s daughter was Mary Pickersgill, who made the Star Spangled Banner Flag.

It is likely that Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, designed the 1777 flag while he was the Chairman of the Continental Navy Board’s Middle Department, sometime between his appointment to that position in November 1776 and the time that the flag resolution was adopted in June 1777. This contradicts the Betsy Ross legend, which suggests that she sewed the first Stars and Stripes flag by request of the government in the Spring of 1776. Hopkinson was the only person to have made such a claim during his own lifetime, when he sent a bill to Congress for his work. He asked for a “Quarter Cask of the Public Wine” as payment initially. The payment was not made, however, because it was determined he had already received a salary as a member of Congress, and he was not the only person to have contributed to the design. No one else contested his claim at the time.

Jun 14

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning


Catcher 8

Jun 14

Late Night Karaoke

Jun 14

Around the Blogosphere

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

 photo Winter_solstice.gifThe main purpose our blogging is to communicate our ideas, opinions, and stories both fact and fiction. The best part about the the blogs is information that we might not find in our local news, even if we read it online. Sharing that information is important, especially if it educates, sparks conversation and new ideas. We have all found places that are our favorites that we read everyday, not everyone’s are the same. The Internet is a vast place. Unlike Punting the Pundits which focuses on opinion pieces mostly from the mainstream media and the larger news web sites, “Around the Blogosphere” will focus more on the medium to smaller blogs and articles written by some of the anonymous and not so anonymous writers and links to some of the smaller pieces that don’t make it to “Pundits” by Krugman, Baker, etc.

We encourage you to share your finds with us. It is important that we all stay as well informed as we can.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

This is an Open Thread.

Our friend Cassiodorus at Voices on the Square, has the eighth article in his series This is a conservative country.

The PPACA FAQ project is up and running at Corrente, along with lambert‘s marathon rant on the ObamaCare Clusterf**k.

Corrente‘s DCblogger is keeping an eye on the Koch brothers with a link to the web site Koch Watch and libbyliberal remembers Germany 75 years ago. Also Rainbow Girl is keeping tabs on NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. On his way out after a 12 year reign, he’s making a land grab of public real estate for his wealthy subjects.

Dean Baker at his blog Beat the Press asks Why Does Reform of Fannie and Freddie Have to Mean More Profits for the Banks? He also points out that Home Prices are Not Affordable and we are Fighting Corruption in the Pharmaceutical Industry With a Water Pistol.

At FDL Action, Jon Walker reports on today’s Supreme Court ruling that Your Genes Are Safe From Being Patented. Also:

Bradley Manning’s trial has recessed until Monday, you can read FDL The Dissenter, Kevin Gosztola‘s Live Up Dates here and here. Also from Kevin:

At the FDL News Desk, DSWright reports:

Marcy Wheeler, at emptywheel, reports on that members of the House Intelligence Committee confirm that while these surveillance, data mining program are not secret, but revealing them will kill us all.

From the environmental bloggers at Grist:

From Mike Masnick at TechDirt, it’s about time somebody challenged this:

Also from Mike:

At Esquire’s Political Blog, Charles Pierce asks a simple question of the government: Tell Me What Is Being Done In My Name. So would we all. Follow the hashtag #InMyName on Twitter to demand to know.

The last words go to All In host Chris Hayes who reports on the continuing “War on Women” by Republicans:

Jun 14

Clapper Louder

Snowden Has Already Exposed Potentially Illegal Activity

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Wednesday June 12, 2013 11:21 am

Snowden’s actions have already technically revealed illegal activity. This can be proven without even engaging in a debate about whether the programs revealed have been operating in a fully legal manner.

Perjury is a crime and misleading Congress while it is trying to engage in oversight of the executive branch is very serious wrongdoing. By revealing that the NSA has been secretly collecting data on millions of Americanshttp://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2013/06/11/clappers-lie-to-congress-was-prepared-in-advance/http:// Snowden proved that Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper’s [prepared answers to Congress were false ].

While Clapper currently engaged in extremely semantic hair splitting to make the case he didn’t actually lie but simply answered the question in the “least untruthful manner,” it is clear that Snowden’s actions exposed what was at least potentially a criminal act by a top government official. Regardless if a case is actually brought against Clapper, a serious potential act of wrongdoing was brought to light by this leak.

Fire James Clapper

By Fred Kaplan, Slate

Posted Tuesday, June 11, 2013, at 12:44 PM

Back at an open congressional hearing on March 12, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper replied, “No sir … not wittingly.” As we all now know, he was lying.

We also now know that Clapper knew he was lying.



As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Wyden had been briefed on the top-secret-plus programs that we now all know about. That is, he knew that he was putting Clapper in a box; He knew that the true answer to his question was “Yes,” but he also knew that Clapper would have a hard time saying so without making headlines.

But the question was straightforward. It could be answered “yes” or “no,” and Clapper had to know this when he sat there in the witness chair. (Notice that, in his response to Mitchell, Clapper said he came up with the wife-beating analogy only “in retrospect.”) There are many ways that he could have finessed the question, as administration witnesses have done in such settings for decades, but Clapper chose simply to lie. “Truthful” and “untruthful” are not relative terms; a statement either is or isn’t; there’s no such thing as speaking in a “most truthful” or “least untruthful” manner.

Nor was this a spontaneous lie or a lie he regretted making. Wyden revealed in a statement today that he’d given Clapper advance notice that he would ask the question and that, after the hearing, he offered Clapper a chance to revise his answer. Clapper didn’t take the offer.



It is irrelevant whether Clapper really believes his definition of “collect” or made it up on the spot. Either way, this is a man who cannot be trusted to hold an honest discussion about these issues. If he lied about what he thinks “collect” means, he will lie about lots of things. If he really thinks the English language is this flexible, it is unwise to assume that any statement he makes means what it appears to mean.

This is crucial. We as a nation are being asked to let the National Security Agency continue doing the intrusive things it’s been doing on the premise that congressional oversight will rein in abuses. But it’s hard to have meaningful oversight when an official in charge of the program lies so blatantly in one of the rare open hearings on the subject. (Wyden, who had been briefed on the program, knew that Clapper was lying, but he couldn’t say so without violating the terms of his own security clearance.)

And so, again, if President Obama really welcomes an open debate on this subject, James Clapper has disqualified himself from participation in it. He has to go.

Clapper’s Lie to Congress was Prepared in Advance

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Tuesday June 11, 2013 9:19 am

Apparently, when Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper misled Congress it wasn’t simply the case of providing an inarticulate answer to a surprise question. Senator Ron Wyden let it be known today that he not only told Clapper in advance that he would ask the question about domestic surveillance, but even give Clapper a chance afterwards to officially revise his on the record remarks.



If Clapper is not seriously investigated for misleading Congress it should bring into question why we even bother put people under Oath before testimony to Congress. If the people in power are going to be above this law, both the law and the concept of Congressional oversight are worthless.

Apparently Clapper Makes It a Habit to Lie While Defending NSA Programs

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Wednesday June 12, 2013 6:52 am

Not only did Director of National Intelligence James Clapper purposely give misleading answers to Congress while under oath to hide the existence of NSA programs, but he also apparently lies about what these programs accomplished. The Obama administration declassified details about a terrorist plot that was supposedly stopped by PRISM, but Clapper got the basic details wrong.

NYC Bomb Plot Details Settle Little In NSA Debate

By MATT APUZZO and ADAM GOLDMAN, Associated Press

06/11/13 03:58 PM ET EDT

In the rush to defend the surveillance programs, however, government officials have changed their stories and misstated key facts of the Zazi plot. And they’ve left out one important detail: The email that disrupted the plan could easily have been intercepted without PRISM.



Zazi, an Afghan-American cab driver living in the Denver suburbs, was an al-Qaida-trained bomber. In September 2009, he sent a coded message to a Yahoo email address in Pakistan. Months earlier, British officials had linked the Yahoo address to a known al-Qaida operative.



The NSA intercepted that email, touching off a frenzied two-week investigation in New York and Colorado that led to Zazi’s arrest. He pleaded guilty and provided information that helped send two friends to prison.



When news of the phone-records program broke, officials quickly credited it with thwarting an attack.



A senior intelligence official confirmed soon afterward that Rogers was talking about Zazi, but offered no explanation.



Now, in talking points declassified by the administration, the government says that Internet eavesdropping, not archiving phone records, disrupted Zazi’s plans.

The use of PRISM to catch Zazi does little to resolve one of the key questions in the surveillance debate: whether the government needs to take such vast amounts of data, sometimes sweeping up information on American citizens, to keep the country safe.

That’s because, even before the surveillance laws of 2007 and 2008, the FBI had the authority to – and did, regularly – monitor email accounts linked to terrorists. The only difference was, before the laws changed, the government needed a warrant.

To get a warrant, the law requires that the government show that the target is a suspected member of a terrorist group or foreign government, something that had been well established at that point in the Zazi case.

In using Zazi to defend the surveillance program, government officials have further confused things by misstating key details about the plot.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said investigators “found backpacks with bombs.” Really, the bombs hadn’t been completed and the backpacks the FBI found were unrelated to the plot.

Why Clapper’s Deception Destroys Obama’s Defense of Newly Revealed NSA Programs

By: Jon Walker Tuesday June 11, 2013 9:57 am

Not only are the prepared deceptive answers given by Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper in Congressional testimony potentially serious crimes, but the entire incident completely undermines President Obama defense of the newly revealed NSA domestic surveillance programs.

When asked about revelations Obama defended both the legality and legitimacy of the programs by repeatedly claiming they were subject checks by the other branches of government. Obama’s entire case for why these programs are acceptable is based on the premise that Congress is fully briefed and has complete oversight.



If this member of the executive branch in charge of said programs is going to mislead Congress under oath about the program then Congress is not being “fully briefed.” If the executive branch is going to actively and potentially illegally deceive Congress then it is impossible for Congress to engage in real oversight. Congress can’t provide a real check on that which it has been lied to about.

This problem is not only limited to Clapper. It should be noted that several members of the administration should have known about Clapper deceptive remarks when they were made. Yet apparently the administration did nothing to encourage Clapper to amend his answers while there was still ample time, publicly correct the record or punish him for his unacceptable behavior.

Jun 14

Metadata: More Intrusive Than You Think

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Metadata:

Simply put, metadata is data about data. It is descriptive information about a particular data set, object, or resource, including how it is formatted, and when and by whom it was collected. Although metadata most commonly refers to web resources, it can be about either physical or electronic resources.

Sounds harmless, so how bad could it be? According to mathematician and former Sun Microsystems engineer Susan Landau who was interviewed by Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, it’s worse than many might think:

“The public doesn’t understand,” she told me, speaking about so-called metadata. “It’s much more intrusive than content.” She explained that the government can learn immense amounts of proprietary information by studying “who you call, and who they call. If you can track that, you know exactly what is happening-you don’t need the content.”

For example, she said, in the world of business, a pattern of phone calls from key executives can reveal impending corporate takeovers. Personal phone calls can also reveal sensitive medical information: “You can see a call to a gynecologist, and then a call to an oncologist, and then a call to close family members.” And information from cell-phone towers can reveal the caller’s location. Metadata, she pointed out, can be so revelatory about whom reporters talk to in order to get sensitive stories that it can make more traditional tools in leak investigations, like search warrants and subpoenas, look quaint. “You can see the sources,” she said. When the F.B.I. obtains such records from news agencies, the Attorney General is required to sign off on each invasion of privacy. When the N.S.A. sweeps up millions of records a minute, it’s unclear if any such brakes are applied.

Metadata, Landau noted, can also reveal sensitive political information, showing, for instance, if opposition leaders are meeting, who is involved, where they gather, and for how long. Such data can reveal, too, who is romantically involved with whom, by tracking the locations of cell phones at night.

Ms. Landua joined Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now to explain just how intrusive the government’s collection of metadata is.



Transcript can be read here.

Jun 14

This is a conservative country.

This diary is eighth in a series on “excuses for why we can’t have socialism.”  Previous entries:

Socialism is like total equality y’know.

Socialism has never happened before

Socialism is like Sweden y’know.

Socialism is a utopian fantasy.

Socialism is dead/ Socialism is against human nature.

Omigod the Soviet Union!

To those who freak out about “socialism”

I don’t see “America is a conservative country” being posed as rationalization for “why we can’t have socialism” a lot.  More often, it’s posed as a rationalization for why liberals/ progressives can’t have what they want from government.  But since both liberals/progressives and socialists tend to want at least some of the same things, the argument that “America is a conservative country” serves as a general pretext for denying the Left its wish-list.  This is of course significant for those who view socialism as something on their wish-lists.

Here’s how it works: generally the mainstream of opinion-formation, the folks who engineer what Walter Lippmann called the “manufacture of consent,” regard America as a fundamentally conservative country.  This particular Gallup Poll, taken from early 2012, reflects how consent is manufactured in today’s political climate:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/152…

PRINCETON, NJ — Political ideology in the U.S. held steady in 2011, with 40% of Americans continuing to describe their views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This marks the third straight year that conservatives have outnumbered moderates, after more than a decade in which moderates mainly tied or outnumbered conservatives.

This kind of consideration is usually used at DailyKos.com to accuse liberals of wanting something from government of being “purists.”  After all, liberals are statistically measured to be in a significant minority (21%, then), or at least they are if you believe Gallup, and so we can expect them to be in an even more extreme minority when it comes to the occupation of the White House and of Congress.  Never mind that if 95+% of the American public self-identifies as “liberal,” “moderate,” or “conservative,” that leaves how much room for the socialists?  At any rate, the important fact is that liberals are consistently asked to compromise their beliefs and take what they can get from government by those arguing for “realism” in American politics.

Now of course there are some rather severe limitations to the assessment presented by Lydia Saad, the Gallup author of the above 2012 poll.  I see three main weaknesses: first off, the poll does not reflect the extent to which the moderates and conservatives might agree to (or at least acquiesce in) portions of an agenda often championed by liberals.  Now that we have two states that have voted to legalize marijuana, we can at the very least say that the pro-marijuana-legalization agenda is not the exclusive domain of the Left.  So indeed there are aspects of a “liberal agenda” (if you want to name it that) that can get across-the-board support.  You can also, for instance, find broad support for “Medicare for All” across America.  Socialists would probably view Medicare for All as a step forward, because it would take “medical insurance” out of the hands of financial elites.  I’ll bet you could get a lot of what counts as “socialism” approved even by conservatives, if it were promoted in an appropriate way.

The “leakage” of the liberal agenda, as such, is the best thing going for American politics, now, under what Antonio Gramsci would call the current hegemonic formation.  It’s the best we can do absent what David Graeber calls a “revolution”:


Revolutions are thus planetary phenomena.  But there is more.  What they really do is transform basic assumptions about what politics is ultimately about.  In the wake of a revolution, ideas that had been considered veritably lunatic fringe quickly become the accepted currency of debate (page 275).  

A revolution, as such, is without doubt a prerequisite for any future social change, or for that matter any change drastic enough to produce lasting solutions to our world’s most pressing problems: global warming, economic poverty, and so on.  For Graeber, the world experienced revolutions in 1789, 1848, 1917, and 1968.

Secondly, the Gallup poll cited above does not distinguish between different types of conservatives.  This is a flaw of separating out Americans into three and only three categories, “liberal,” “moderate,” and “conservative,” with no alternate categories considered.  In this diary (“What If Barack Obama Weren’t A Leftist?”) I argue that Federal-level American politics is a battleground between two different types of conservatism.  Most everyone here is familiar with anti-public conservatism — the Tea Party Republicans embody it just fine, and it gets plenty of press coverage.  But then you also have corporate conservatism, which I describe in the diary as follows:

Corporate conservatives — conservatives who are mainly interested in “saving capitalism” (Obama’s primary mandate) and who do so by maintaining corporate hegemony but who are also interested in buying off the mass public to the extent necessary to preserve the social order… Such a breed of conservatism, then, attempts to preserve the status quo (or perhaps to return it to its pre-recession form, say perhaps America in the Clinton era) through acceptance, rather than denial, of the existence of society.

Now of course many of the corporate conservatives may not identify (for the purposes of instruments such as the abovecited Gallup poll) as conservatives.  They nonetheless are conservatives, though in a different sense than that in which the antipublic conservatives of the Tea Party are conservative.  It makes no sense, either, to identify them as “centrists,” because there’s no “center” to Federal-level American politics outside of the government’s use as a conduit by corporate interests for the sake of increased profit, which is a fundamentally conservative position — keeping society “the same” with an eye toward preserving the economy of 2006.  There is, as I pointed out in my diary on why I am not a progressive, nothing toward which we are progressing, so there is nothing about which we can be “moderate,” either.  My point in bringing all of this out is to show that conservatism is divided in America.  There is no monolithic unity among American conservatives.  This fact may not do us much good if we hope for socialism, but it does make socialism seem a little less impossible.

 Lastly, and most importantly for socialists, the poll does not consider the extent to which the Left has been repressed, and has repressed itself.

Now, external repression is of course not the fault of the Left — it consumes everyone’s resources when we are obliged to “fight back,” and sometimes the Left does not have those resources.  The Left, for instance, does not have the resources to run popular mass-media outlets, unless you count MSNBC, which I would count as an ideological ally of the corporate-conservative Obama administration.  If you want to see a situation in which there is a Left undergoing plenty of external repression, but no self-repression, check out the situation in Turkey today.  At any rate, self-repression seems to emanate from a quirk of America’s electoral political culture — voting for the “lesser of two evils.”  Voters decide, for a number of reasons, that they are to select Party A over Party B because Party A is the “lesser of two evils” — even though they don’t really agree with what Party A is doing.  

Eventually, however, American “leftists” begin to advocate for Party A — out of the reasoning that if Party B is to be defeated in elections, the positions of Party A need to be promoted regardless of the moral respectability or lack thereof of such positions.  In short, they become party tribalists.  I suppose one can call this “selling out to the two-party system.”  It seems to me that the lack of a serious Left in America is largely due to this “selling out to the two party system” phenomenon.  The socialists aren’t immune — witness, for instance, the Communist Party of the USA, which views itself as the vanguard of the Democratic Party and endorses Democratic Party positions regardless of how irrelevant to communism such positions might happen to be.

Books, of course, have been written about the topic I’m discussing here, attempting to explain why America has not developed a strong socialist movement.  The most famous of these books is probably Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks’ It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States.  In this book, the authors give a wide variety of reasons for why a socialist movement didn’t take root here.  The unions in America never quite endorsed socialism fully, American workers have been differentially privileged, and thus divided against each other, the socialists and communists in the US pursued bad political strategies, and so on.  

Some of these reasons, such as the Socialist Party’s failure to co-operate with other organizations, seem to be peculiarities of the Progressive Era, which I discussed in my last diary.  My reading of all of this history is that none of it seems to portend any significant failure for socialism in American politics in the future, outside of the daunting task of cracking the American political system, slanted as it is against minority efforts trying to become majority efforts.

Now, one way America could have a Left in both word and deed if its real leftists decided to form a political party of their own, or to take over an existing political party such as the Green Party.  Yes, I’m aware of the objections commonly recited as regards “third parties.”  However, a popular leftist third party in the United States would most directly solve the “selling out to the two-party system” problem from the leftist perspective.  It might immediately lead to electoral defeat, yet clarify like nothing else what “victory” has actually meant over the past thirty-plus years of neoliberal rule.  

The alternative approach would be the Eric Stetson approach, where an organized Left primaries all of the Blue Dog Democrats at once.  It hasn’t worked so far, largely for the reasons cited by Lance Selfa — the Democratic Party has at times been a graveyard for Left causes.  That fact does not by itself rule out the Eric Stetson strategy as a future possibility.  But it seems highly unlikely with so many major political organizations ensnared in what Jane Hamsher calls the “Veal Pen” — which compels most of them to “support the Democrat” regardless of what the Democrat in each instance supports.

My point here is that the “America is a conservative country” excuse is self-fulfilling.  As long as the American Left self-represses, you’re going to have polls like the Gallup Poll, above, in which maybe 21% of the polled public identifies as “liberal,” and that’s the best you will get — and socialists won’t be represented at all. Most of the American public just doesn’t want to be part of a group that suppresses its best moral and political instincts.  When the American Left decides that it no longer wishes to “compromise” (i.e. sacrifice) its principles on the altar of “pragmatism,” (while at the same time the whole of Congress supports “austerity planning” in one form or another), soon thereafter the pollsters will wake up to discover that America will have become no longer a conservative country.  Once you get an assertive Left, you will also make socialism possible in America, because you’ll have opened up the conversation to a Left that isn’t self-repressing.  It may take a long time for this to happen.  I’m willing to wait, and work.