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Gender: Male
Hometown: VA
Home country: USA
Current location: VA
Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 39,193

About Me

Blocked on Twitter by that rat bastard fuck @ggreenwald

Journal Archives

The Surveillance State and You

Citizenfour is about surveillance. But its also about what surveillance does to you. How does authority's gaze change us? In a world where every keystoke is potentially watched, and every heartbeat potentially counted, does knowledge of that change how you act? Will you still allow yourself to question? How can you organize against power when you live entirely in its sight?

While Snowden's NSA revelations are most associated with the internet, "online surveillance" is a bit of a misnomer. The web long ago bled into meatspace. A CCTV camera could easily capture your face, then link that up to your Facebook profile, your purchases, your friends. You shed data like strands of hair. You're both made up of data and more than the sum of it, like DNA.

Critics sometimes chide the American anti-surveillance movement for the whiteness and maleness of its public faces. While women and people of color have done brilliant, under-recognized work against surveillance, this perception might be no coincidence: White men are the last people in America who thought they had privacy.

"Invasive spying and government surveillance in the name of fighting terrorism is hardly news for Arab and Muslim-American communities," wrote Anna Lekas Miller in the Guardian last year when Snowden's leaks went public. Since 9/11, the US government has flooded Muslim communities with informants. FBI and NYPD plants haunted mosques and bookshops, sometimes trying to pressure innocent men into making plans, or even expressing sentiments, that could get them charged with terrorism.

The history of black people in this country is one of even more intimate-and bloody-state intrusions. Think of the FBI infiltrating black power groups, of the government blackmailing MLK. America's prison system disproportionately cages the black and brown, capturing not just the incarcerated, but their families, in its nets. Those visiting loved ones at Rikers must submit to fingerprinting, lift up their tongues and shake out their bras in front of a prison guard. Outside the cages, this lack of privacy is reinforced by police who grope and question black youth just for walking-is it any wonder that young men in these communities are finely attuned to the movements and whims of the police? That they internalize a fear of authority that's proven expert at wielding fear as a tool.


‘Then you need to go back to Africa!’

A request to relocate a Confederate flag from outside a Virginia museum to a display indoors prompted an angry showdown between local residents, some of whom don’t want the divisive symbol moved.

State law, however, appears to be on the flag supporters’ side.

The director of the Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History asked the City Council to remove the flag from a monument outside and relocate it as part of an indoor exhibit.

Confederate heritage organizations protested the request, while civil rights groups described the flag as a “gang or Klan sign” of hatred little different than a Nazi flag.

“The Confederate flag has been used by many in acts of hate in the process of hate crimes,” said the Rev. Avon Keen, president of the Danville/Pittsylvania County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

However, the city manager said last month that Danville lacks the authority to remove the monument – although museum director Cara Burton said she asked only to relocate the flag.

Burton said a new three-year strategic plan calls for a Confederate exhibit including the flag inside the museum, which is located inside the historic Sutherlin Mansion.

The city took over ownership of the dilapidated mansion in 1914 with $20,000 contribution from the Anne Eliza Johns Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The museum leased the renovated mansion in 1983, and in 1994 the Historic Preservation Association installed a seven-foot granite obelisk and flagpole flying the third national flag of the Confederacy to celebrate the building’s Civil War history.

“Jefferson Davis was in that building right there when he got news that Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox,” said Frank Harvey, the commander of the local chapter of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. “They could do the last days of the Confederacy right here in Danville and bring a lot of tourism to this area.”

But opponents of the flag argue that its display harms the town’s reputation and economy, and they could ask the U.S. Attorney General to become involved in a legal challenge.


African migrants in Russia describe 'hell on Earth'

First they spat angry words at Remy Bazie. Then they struck him in the face with an iron bar, knocking him unconscious..

The men who jumped the Ivory Coast migrant at a crowded Moscow train station last November did not rob him. But they damaged his jaw to the degree that doctors had to install a metal plate to hold it in place. It took Bazie four months to raise the $3,600 to undergo surgery.

"Most of the time I'm harassed, but this was the worst experience," Bazie, 28, said recently as he sat at a parish community center in Moscow where African migrants often seek refuge.

His story is not uncommon, Russian civil and human rights leaders say. African migrants face widespread hostility and racism that usually go unpunished.

According to the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, a Moscow-based advocacy group and think tank, 177 acts of violence against blacks have been reported in Russia since 2010.

But rights advocates said interviews with Africans living in the capital, as well as anecdotal evidence, indicate that a far higher number have been victims of racial attacks and experienced race-based harassment. Most, however, never report the assaults, the advocates said.

"Living here in Russia is like living in hell on Earth," said Osman Kamara, 35, a Liberian who fled civil conflict in his homeland 10 years ago, only to fall victim to a skinhead attack in Moscow. "They don't like our color. Going out is a problem. Maybe if you go out, you might not return."

Some Africans say that after arriving here, they heard the Russian word "obezyana" directed at them so often that they initially thought it meant "black person." It means "monkey."


Alabama school system paid former FBI agent $157,000 to spy on black students: critics

Huntsville City Schools (HCS) paid a former Federal Bureau of Investigations agent $157,000 to direct security last year, but critics contend that the system he implemented is designed to monitor the social media activity of black students, according to AL.com.

Chris McRae, the agent in question, was brought in to oversee the Students Against Fear (SAFe) program, which works by allowing students and teachers to provide anonymous tips to security personnel, who then scour social media sites like Facebook to determine the credibility of the threat.

Over 600 Huntsville City School students had their social media presence monitored last year. Of the students expelled last year for reasons related to social media, 86 percent were African-American. The school system as a whole is 40 percent black — but 78 percent of all students expelled are black.
Madison County Commissioner Bob Harrison said that the policy “is effectively targeting or profiling black children in terms of behavior and behavioral issues.”

Last month, Superintendent Casey Wardynski told AL.com that “our SAFe program is really about bringing information together. Often we’ll find on Facebook things going on right now, kids are posting from inside school or on Twitter. Here’s a kid with a pistol on Facebook. These are his buddies, each with a gun. We’re instantly interested in that.”


Edward Snowden and the Justice League: A review of Citizenfour

We’re living in strange times, and we have the films to prove it. Today’s exhibit: Citizenfour, a movie about…well, I don’t know what. I’m baffled.

Citizenfour seems to present itself as a documentary that’s been awkwardly welded to a political thriller “starring” Edward Snowden as himself—a pale, nerdy political martyr urging film director and journalist Laura Poitras to spare others by “nailing me to the cross” and revealing to the public his leaked documentation of the NSA massive domestic and international surveillance programs. It co-stars Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill as, respectively, the obnoxious career-obsessed newshound who manipulates the naïve Snowden for his own purposes, and the old mensch journalist who tries to inject a note of common sense into the bizarre proceedings. The female lead is played by Poitras herself, a shadowy narrator figure behind the camera who shares an intense communion with Snowden and whose point of view defines Snowden for us. In a supporting role, William Binney, by far the most likable character, plays the tough old codger who’s already paid a heavy price for being an NSA whistleblower and is refreshingly practical and unself-pitying.

But it ends up turning into a ponderous thriller indeed, mostly filmed in a hotel room in Hong Kong, where Poitras was holed up with Snowden for eight days. There she records extended interviews in which he tells her, Greenwald, and MacAskill his story, discusses the journalists’ rollout of his NSA documents, frets, stares out the window, and awaits discovery.

It’s a strange interlude in that hotel room. It’s speciously informative as we hear Snowden tell the journalists who he is and, broadly, what he’s handing over to them, as well as conveying his own sense of himself as a man with a mission, sacrificing himself for a highly moral cause. Only the details of how Snowden went about leaking the information are new to anyone who’s been halfway paying attention, as many critics have observed. The film contains no major revelations about NSA and other government surveillance programs that haven’t already been widely reported.

But you can’t help asking a lot of awkward questions about “character motivation” while you’re stuck in that hotel room with Poitras and Snowden. For example, what possessed Snowden to allow this whole super-secret process to be filmed in the first place? Snowden is so worried about being “viewed” that he drapes a towel over his head and his laptop while typing a message, lest there be a hidden camera planted behind him in the headboard of his bed. Didn’t he worry about being “viewed” as the hero of a film?

And despite all the time we spend in that hotel room, watching Snowden, we never find out what triggered the key plot-turn of this thriller: Snowden’s decision to flee, rather than offer himself up to the authorities after he’s handed over the documents to Greenwald and Poitras, as originally planned. Did Greenwald persuade him to take a new course of action, at some point that remains off-screen? We certainly see Greenwald urge Snowden not to “do their work for them” by identifying himself to as the leaker and surrendering. But Snowden seems set on his “locked plan.” Greenwald then agrees with Snowden that, by surrendering, Snowden would send the message that “I’m not hiding for one second!”

No one in the room seems to see the humor of that message, coming from a man who’s sequestered himself in a hotel room for days, and who turns ashen and round-eyed at the sound of a hotel fire alarm test which might be a ruse designed to force him out of hiding.


The Pierre Omidyar Insurgency

Every September, for a siren-snarled week, much of midtown Manhattan surrenders to a pair of occupying powers: the United Nations and the Clinton Global Initiative. The U.N.’s annual General Assembly brings in the foreign excellencies and tin-pot dictators, but it’s Bill Clinton’s event that attracts the billionaires. This year’s edition, co-sponsored by, among others, a Greek shipping magnate’s wife and a Ukrainian oligarch, took place inside the barricaded Times Square Sheraton, where the Clintons made evangelical “calls to action” on issues like water scarcity and women’s empowerment.

One evening, in conjunction with CGI, Pierre Omidyar threw a reception across the street. Omidyar, the programmer who created eBay, is one of America’s richest men, a 47-year-old philanthropist intent on giving away the fortune he made when he was 31. He is on collegial terms with the Clintons and has been a partner in their charity work. His guests, sipping wine inside a vaulted glass atrium, represented foundations and banks, governments and NGOs, tech start-ups and McKinsey. Omidyar’s foundation had just unveiled a $200 million Global Innovation Fund, established in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development. The announcement was timed to coincide with President Obama’s speech to the conference that afternoon on nurturing civil society.

Omidyar was late to the party, however — he’d spent much of his day hatching plans with some of Obama’s most uncivil opponents. Down in the Flatiron District, he has been building a ­digital-media organization dedicated to a scorching brand of “fearless, adversarial journalism.” Its prime target is the U.S. intelligence apparatus, and its marquee voice is Glenn Greenwald, the columnist who shared a Pulitzer Prize this year with documentarian Laura Poitras and others for obtaining and publishing Edward Snowden’s leaks about NSA surveillance. Since that story broke, Snowden, Greenwald, and Poitras have become heroes of a crypto-insurgency. More quietly, Omidyar has become the movement’s prime benefactor, financing an operation to disseminate government secrets.

Earlier this year, Greenwald, Poitras, and a third comrade in arms — former Nation writer Jeremy Scahill — launched a website called the Intercept. It is meant to be the prototype for a fleet of publications funded by Omidyar’s flagship company, First Look Media, to which Omidyar has initially committed $250 million. “We have the luxury of doing something different because we have this kind of infinite-resource backer,” Greenwald told me on the phone from Brazil, where he is based. “We’re thinking about how to do journalism structurally differently.” At the time of Omidyar’s visit, a second site, Racket, was also revving up for its launch. Headed by the polemical magazine writer Matt Taibbi, it was going to offer scabrous satire of the financial industry and politics.

Omidyar’s organization operates a little like WikiLeaks, except it is staffed by well-salaried journalists and backed by Silicon Valley money. It aims to unite strident ideology with publishing technology, cryptography, and aggressive legal defense. The Intercept has become the custodian of Snowden’s immense archive of classified documents, which it continues to mine for stories. Greenwald says the site also plans to share them with outside reporters and is building a secure “reading room” in its Fifth Avenue headquarters building, where it is currently renovating three floors. The Intercept is encouraging others in the intelligence world to leak via an encrypted system called SecureDrop. Between its periodic scoops, it serves up regular doses of acidic commentary by critics of Obama’s national-security policies.


As if it was possible for me to loathe these fuckwits any more than I already do

To this day Greenwald has never even bothered to MEET his generous benefactor??

Glenn Greenwald to Be Awarded the 2014 Lanny Friedlander Prize From Reason Magazine

The Lanny Friedlander Prize honors an individual or group who has created a publication, medium, or distribution platform that vastly expands human freedom by increasing our ability to express ourselves, engage in debate, and generate new ways of understanding the power of “Free Minds and Free Markets." Journalist Glenn Greenwald will be the recipient of the 2014 Prize. It was first awarded in 2013, to Jane Metcalfe and Louis Rossetto, the co-founders of Wired magazine.

The award is named for Lanny Friedlander (1947-2011), who founded Reason magazine in 1968 as a 20-year-old college student at Boston University. An admirer of the Austrian School of economics, Ayn Rand, and Swiss typography, he was agitated by the violent campus atmosphere of the day and the equally brutal response of the authorities. He intended Reason to act as a sort of libertarian conversation pit, where members of that fledgling movement could share news and commentary while building a community. The first issue of the magazine included this mission statement:

“When REASON speaks of poverty, racism, the draft, the war, student power, politics, and other vital issues, it shall be reasons, not slogans, it gives for conclusions... Proof, not belligerent assertion. Logic, not legends. Coherence, not contradictions. This is our promise: This is the reason for REASON.”

Friedlander, a talented graphic artist who went on to work with Massimo Vignelli, sold the magazine to contributors Robert W. Poole, Manny Klausner, and Tibor Machan in 1971.


This just gets better and better...

In case anyone is wondering, it's Koch money that keeps Reason propped up...

Ferguson police chief says he won't resign

The embattled police chief of Ferguson, Mo., said he's not stepping down amid reports that he will be forced out by city officials seeking to reform the department.

Police Chief Thomas Jackson refuted the news of his departure through Twitter late Tuesday, asserting that he "has not resigned. He has not been told to resign. He has not been fired. If he leaves, it will be his choice alone."

Citing government officials with knowledge of the plan, CNN reported that Thomas would step down in the next week and the city would ask the St. Louis County police chief to assume control of the local police force.

Yet Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III played down the proposal.

"People have been saying that for months, I mean for him to step down," Knowles told CNN. "But we've stood by him this entire time. So there is no change on that."

Michael Brown Jr., who was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer, in a Facebook photo dated March 26.Big'mike Jr Brown via FacebookMichael Brown Jr., who was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer, in a Facebook photo dated March 26.

Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. in a violent confrontation on Aug. 9 that sparked months of unrest in the Missouri city.


The Problem With That Catcalling Video

On Tuesday, Slate and everyone else posted a video of a woman who is harassed more than 100 times by men as she walks around New York City for 10 hours. More specifically, it’s a video of a young white woman who is harassed by mostly black and Latino men as she walks around New York City for 10 hours. The one dude who turns around and says, “Nice,” is white, but the guys who do the most egregious things—like the one who harangues her, “Somebody’s acknowledging you for being beautiful! You should say thank you more,” or the one who follows her down the street too closely for five whole minutes—are not.

This doesn’t mean that the video doesn’t still effectively make its point: that a woman can’t walk down the street lost in her own thoughts, that men feel totally free to demand her attention and get annoyed when she doesn’t respond, that a woman can’t be at ease in public spaces in the same way a man can. But the video also unintentionally makes another point: that harassers are mostly black and Latino, and hanging out on the streets in midday in clothes that suggest they are not on their lunch break. As Roxane Gay tweeted, “The racial politics of the video are fucked up. Like, she didn’t walk through any white neighborhoods?”

The video is a collaboration between Hollaback, an anti-street harassment organization, and the marketing agency Rob Bliss Creative. At the end they claim the woman experienced 100-plus incidents of harassment “involving people of all backgrounds.” Since that obviously doesn’t show up in the video, Bliss addressed it in a post. He wrote, “We got a fair amount of white guys, but for whatever reason, a lot of what they said was in passing, or off camera,” or was ruined by a siren or other noise. The final product, he writes, “is not a perfect representation of everything that happened.” That may be true but if you find yourself editing out all the catcalling white guys, maybe you should try another take.

This is not the first time Bliss has been called out for race blindness. In a video to promote Grand Rapids, Michigan, he was criticized for making a city that’s a third minority and a quarter poor look like it was filled with people who have “been reincarnated from those peppy family-style 1970s musical acts from Disney World or Knott’s Berry Farm,” as a local blogger wrote.


EDIT: and this piece raises even more questions: http://jezebel.com/christine-quinn-cant-be-anti-street-harassment-but-pro-1172794405

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility Completes Initial Assessment after Orbital Launch Mishap

The Wallops Incident Response Team completed today an initial assessment of Wallops Island, Virginia, following the catastrophic failure of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket shortly after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 28, from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The initial assessment is a cursory look; it will take many more weeks to further understand and analyze the full extent of the effects of the event. A number of support buildings in the immediate area have broken windows and imploded doors. A sounding rocket launcher adjacent to the pad, and buildings nearest the pad, suffered the most severe damage.

At Pad 0A the initial assessment showed damage to the transporter erector launcher and lightning suppression rods, as well as debris around the pad.

The Wallops team also met with a group of state and local officials, including the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Virginia Marine Police, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Wallops environmental team also is conducting assessments at the site. Preliminary observations are that the environmental effects of the launch failure were largely contained within the southern third of Wallops Island, in the area immediately adjacent to the pad. Immediately after the incident, the Wallops’ industrial hygienist collected air samples at the Wallops mainland area, the Highway 175 causeway, and on Chincoteague Island. No hazardous substances were detected at the sampled locations.

Additional air, soil and water samples will be collected from the incident area as well as at control sites for comparative analysis.

The Coast Guard and Virginia Marine Resources Commission reported today they have not observed any obvious signs of water pollution, such as oil sheens. Furthermore, initial assessments have not revealed any obvious impacts to fish or wildlife resources. The Incident Response Team continues to monitor and assess.

Following the initial assessment, the response team will open the area of Wallops Island, north of the island flagpole opposite of the launch pad location, to allow the U.S. Navy to return back to work.

Anyone who finds debris or damage to their property in the vicinity of the launch mishap is cautioned to stay away from it and call the Incident Response Team at 757-824-1295.

Further updates on the situation and the progress of the ongoing investigation will be available at:

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