September 27, 2013 archive

Sep 27

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Sep 27

On This Day In History September 27

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.

September 27 is the 270th day of the year (271st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 95 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1922, Jean-François Champollion deciphered the hieroglyphs of the Rosetta Stone with the help of groundwork laid by his predecessors: Athanasius Kircher, Silvestre de Sacy, Johan David Akerblad, Thomas Young, and William John Bankes. Champollion translated parts of the Rosetta Stone, showing that the Egyptian writing system was a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs.

Thomas Young was one of the first to attempt decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, basing his own work on the investigations of Swedish diplomat Akerblad, who built up a demotic  alphabet of 29 letters (15 turned out to be correct) and translated all personal names and other words in the Demotic part of the Rosetta Stone  in 1802. Akerblad however, wrongly believed that demotic was entirely phonetic or alphabetic. Young thought the same, and by 1814 he had completely translated the enchorial (which Champollion labeled Demotic as it is called today) text of the Rosetta Stone (he had a list with 86 demotic words). Young then studied the hieroglyphic alphabet and made some progress but failed to recognise that demotic and hieroglyphic texts were paraphrases and not simple translations. In 1823 he published an Account of the Recent Discoveries in Hieroglyphic Literature and Egyptian Antiquities. Some of Young’s conclusions appeared in the famous article Egypt he wrote for the 1818 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

When Champollion, in 1822, published his translation of the hieroglyphs and the key to the grammatical system, Young and all others praised this work. Young had indicated in a letter to Gurney that he wished to see Champollion acknowledge that he had made use of Young’s earlier work in assisting his eventual deciphering of hieroglyphics. Champollion was unwilling to share the credit even though initially he had not recognized that hieroglyphics were phonetic. Young corrected him on this, and Champollion attempted to have an early article withdrawn once he realized his mistake. Strongly motivated by the political tensions of that time, the British supported Young and the French Champollion. Champollion completely translated the hieroglyphic grammar based in part upon the earlier work of others including Young. However, Champollion maintained that he alone had deciphered the hieroglyphs. After 1826, he did offer Young access to demotic manuscripts in the Louvre, when he was a curator. Baron Georges Cuvier (1825) credited Champollion’s work as an important aid in dating the Dendera Zodiac.

Sep 27

Cartnoon

Sep 27

Crossfire

Sep 27

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning


Name It

Sep 27

Late Night Karaoke

Sep 27

The First Thing We Do, Fire All the Liars

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In Shakespeare’s “Henry VI,” the character Dick the Butcher, a follower of the rebel Jack Cade, uttered the words, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” If taken in the context of the play, the line, intended as a comedic aside, was actually a compliment to those lawyers who upheld the laws and protected society. Those words have taken on different meaning over the years and are now often used in reference to those lawyers who have twisted the laws to protect the corrupt and dishonest and, often as not, defend illegal wars and torture, as well as, circumvent the US Constitution. It has often been rephrased, as the title of this article, to fit a narrative, as in the case of “reforming” the NSA, “the first thing we do, is fire all the liars.

Leading First Amendment lawyer, James Goodale, is the former general council to the New York Times and was the driving force behind the NYT‘s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971. He was instrumental in the winning strategy that resulted in the 6 – 3 Supreme Court ruling that the US government could not stop the Times from publishing the documents. In his opinion piece at The Guardian on the proposed reforming of the NSA, Prof. Goodale noted that President Barack Obama’s first concern should be to fire all the liars, starting with the Director of National Intelligence, James R Clapper and  General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, among others who have both blatantly lied to Congress.

NSA lawyers lied to secret Fisa court Judges John D Bates and Reggie B Walton. In recently released opinions, Bates said he had been lied to on three separate occasions and Walton said he had been lied to several times also.

But Clapper and Alexander have not been held in contempt of Congress. Nor have the Justice Department attorneys, who lied to Judges Walton and Bates, been disciplined. Part of the answer as to why this is so came out last week.

The Justice Department told USA Today that it had no intention of investigating the attorneys who lied to those judges. In the ordinary course, the Justice Department’s office of professional responsibility investigates the behavior of lawyers who have been subject to accusations such as those made by Judges Bates and Walton.

(emphasis mine)

You read that correctly, the Obama DOJ has no intention of investigating the attorneys who lied to Judges Bates and Walton

The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility routinely probes judges’ allegations that the department’s lawyers may have violated ethics rules that prohibit attorneys from misleading courts. Still, OPR said in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by USA TODAY that it had no record of ever having investigated – or even being made aware of – the scathing and, at the time, classified, critiques from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court between 2009 and 2011.

Prof. Goodall also calls Pres. Obama’s statement in his August 9, 2013 address on the NSA that he would appoint experts to examine NSA practices, “reasonable” but points out that it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere:

Robert Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and an attendee, told the Guardian the he “did not hear much discussion” of changes to the bulk surveillance activities.

“My fear is it’s a simulacrum of meaningful reform,” said Sascha Meinrath, a vice president of the New America Foundation, an influential Washington think tank, and the director of the Open Technology Institute, who also attended. “Its function is to bleed off pressure, without getting to the meaningful reform.”

It’s pretty predictable that there will be no meaningful reform coming from a committee comprised of intelligence insiders, former White House officials and Obama advisers.

Michael Morell, a former deputy CIA director, is a member, as is Richard Clarke, a White House counter-terrorism aide to three presidents. Cass Sunstein, a former White House regulatory staffer who is married to the new US ambassador to the United Nations; Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor; and Peter Swire, a Georgia Tech professor and former aide to Obama and Bill Clinton, round out the panel.

Over at emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler pointed out a detail that Prof. Goodale missed:

In just its third open hearing this year, the Senate Intelligence Committee has arranged the following witnesses for tomorrow’s hearing on NSA’s spying.

   Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) today announced the committee will hold an open hearing to consider legislative changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to include the NSA call records program, on Thursday, September 26, at 2 p.m.

   WHAT:  Public hearing on FISA, NSA call records

   WHO:

   Panel I

       Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

       National Security AgencyDirector General Keith Alexander

       Deputy Attorney General James Cole

   Panel II

       Ben Wittes, Brookings Institution

       Tim Edgar, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University

So DiFi’s idea of an “open hearing” is to invite two established liars. And for her non-governmental witnesses, one keeps declaring Congress NAKED! in the face of evidence the government lies to them, and the other tells fanciful stories about how much data NSA shares.

It’s like DiFi goes out of her way to find liars and their apologists to testify publicly. [..]

It’s DiFi’s committee. And if she wants every single open hearing to serve as a platform for accomplished liars, I guess that’s her prerogative.

But observers should be clear that’s the purpose of the hearings.

As Prof Goodale concludes, the culture of lying to the public and courts by the US intelligence community is nothing new but it lies with President Obama to force the NSA to change. The best place for that change would be to fire the liars, Clapper and Alexander. So far, it appears the president is not much interested in that solution.

Sep 27

Iran: Giant Steps and Baby Steps

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani addressed the UN General Assembly taking a far more moderate and diplomatic course than his firebrand predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Propelled into office by a broad coalition of support from elites to students to former political prisoners, Mr. Rouhani has taken the West aback with his moderate and conciliatory approach to solving Iran’s problem’s with them and moving to resolve the differences over Iran’s nuclear energy program that resulted in crippling economic sanctions.

While the much anticipated meeting with US President Barack Obama did not take place, talks are scheduled for Thursday with Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State, John Kerry, the first ministerial talks between Tehran and Washington since the Islamic revolution in 1979. Despite the softening of the rhetoric by Iran and the outreach to repair the damage done by Ahmadinejad, there were still those who are not just wary but completely unconvinced with their own agenda. In any case, Pres. Rouhani was well received and has continued on his mission to repair Iran’s image. It is quite understandable that both sides are easing into this new relationship, one giant step, lots of baby steps towards better cooperation.



The full transcript can be read here (pdf)

Iran’s new president treads middle ground in United Nations address

Breaking from his predecessor’s combative rhetoric, Hassan Rouhani spoke to concerns of both conservatives and liberals

With expectations so high, Hassan Rouhani’s speech to the general assembly was never going to be an easy one. In Iran, radicals will have listened intently to their new president, keen to ensure he wouldn’t be too soft on the west, especially the United States, Tehran’s sworn enemy since the 1979 Islamic revolution. After all, 34 years on, faithfuls still chant “death to America” every Friday after performing their weekly prayers.

Reformists, too, had pinned their hopes on Rouhani, expecting him to impress the world with a moderate voice, and to globally revamp Iran’s image, so badly hurt under eight years of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Being a moderate, an ultimate insider who has tried to bridge the gap between major factions of the Islamic republic, Rouhani succeeded in being just moderate enough – albeit judged by Iranian standards. He didn’t impress either group, nor did he particularly disappoint them. It was a speech that both sides seemed to agree was worth listening to.