Saturday, August 10, 2013


Bedřich Smetana

Czech Dance No. 6 Dupak

Rudolf Firkusny - piano

Thank You All of My Many Detractors

I just read a well-respected journalist I like who, until recently, had taken the entirely unfashionable position that Edward Snowden was incredibly irresponsible in taking his four laptops to Hong Kong.   In his hedging and walk back I think there is the tell-tale sign of someone anxious that he's no longer kewl due to an excess of realism.  Like owning an enormously expensive car or jewel,  the price of having the kewl is to be constantly anxious at losing it.   And you can lose it so easily, you can stumble into it merely by reasoning your way out of it.  

In my recent research of the kewl kids at a still kewl blog, I saw the signs of said well-respected journalist having his kewl kuotient suffering over his excessively realistic line on Snowden and the required faith that master spy Snowden was right, that those honorable, honest, privacy-respecting, civil libertarians of the Chinese intelligence service hadn't gotten a thing from him. By virtue of his supernatural wiles and superhuman abilities to resist drugging, sleep deprivation, pressure, coercion, threat, bribe, etc.  Edward Snowden was able to guarantee the total security of his laptops and any magical, unbreakable encryption codes he relied on.   The Chinese Intelligence Services vs. Edward - in their physical control in Hong Kong, desperate to avoid return to the U.S. desperate to get somewhere else safe from them - Snowden.   That's VS. CHINESE INTELLIGENCE.   Oh, and, yes, then Russian intelligence. 

And that those oh, so honorable Chinese government officials would arrange his travel plans making sure that their rivals in Moscow practiced the same levels of honor and Boy Scout level code of conduct that they did, not extracting any kind of favor from the Russians to allow Snowden and, you remember, his laptops to enjoy their hospitality.  

Thank God I'm not tempted to pretend that quantity of complete crap to keep my cache of kewl.   Thank you, my detractors, you've spared me from having to make those kinds of decisions. 

PZ Myers Has Become Unquestionable and Infallible To His Fans And That Has Made Him Reckless

The temptation in the accusation of serial rape that PZ Myers made against Michael Shermer is to assume you know what happened when you have no evidence to base that on.   But you don't.  I don't, neither does Myers, which is  why accusations of rape belong in the hands of the police and prosecutors or, those failing, RESPONSIBLE investigative reporters who are answerable to their publishers.  Other than the very vague and oddly phrased passage that Myers presents as a rape victim's account, several years after the rape may have happened, and lots of assertions of rumors about Shermer's behavior towards women, literally everything said in this is an expression of opinions and attitudes where facts and evidence should be required.   A charge of a crime depends only and completely on the facts of that particular incident, it doesn't depend on any or even every other possible case or assertion presented as similar, though that is the practice of the "skeptics" discussing this at Myers' blog.  If that were not the case then an accusation of rape against Myers could be determined to be true based on the kind of thing he presented on his blog and brought to his comment thread by his fan club.  It is the standard that anyone could be up against based on the whim of any popular blogger without so much as an editor to hold them back.

I've read through a good part of the comments at PZ's  and, aside from a very few people who don't figure they already know what happened in the complete absence of facts, it's  about 2000 comments of some of the most wildly irresponsible blog babble I've ever seen anywhere.   None of them more irresponsible than Myers' own comments.  Here's what he said BEFORE any discussion happened, at comment #1.

PZ Myers
8 August 2013 at 11:14 pm (UTC -5) Link to this comment
Oh, hey, look — the explosion to also took out my career within this community!


Given his title and this first comment, it's clear that Myers figured on setting off an "explosion".  Which is what he did.  He's done that before, his Great Desecration a well known example,  it's a well established part of his act.   But when he makes an accusation of serial rape against a named person, that turns what might be merely irresponsible into epic irresponsibility.   That is true if the accusation is true, possibly damaging any future prosecution of perpetrators at "skeptical" conferences.  I bet that by the end of next week, virtually every person who might attend those will have read PZ's post and or the blog chatter about it, polluting the pool of witnesses.  Of course, if the charge is false, then its irresponsibly is magnified many times.

One thing that I think Myers counted on was that his explosion was going to be an IED, not a suicide bomb. Despite his peremptory self-pity, short of a successful suit for libel, PZ will probably come out of this more famous, more the adored hero of a large number of "skeptics" who unquestioningly accept what he said, no evidence required.

It also exposes how PZ Myers has become a problem through his assumption of prosecutorial powers to himself,  influencing a large number of internet fans.

At #53 he shows just how little in the way of checking his story he figures he's required to do before making such a serious accusation.

PZ Myers
9 August 2013 at 12:06 am (UTC -5) Link to this comment
"Personally, I think I would have first taken it up with Shermer before coming out with this."

Yeah? And what do you think he would have said if he were guilty?

Apparently Myers didn't ask himself if maybe he should have done more than assume he already knew what happened.   Which is rather odd for someone who bills himself as a skeptic, or at least it should be.  I've had this kind of experience with professional "skeptics" before.   Would you believe me if I said that there are few groups I've encountered who are more certain of their beliefs than skeptics?   Would you just take my word for that assertion involving no accusations of committing serous felonies which, from my brief look at possible penalties, could send someone to prison for the rest of his life or, in the absence of any finding of guilt, destroy his life?  Will Myers and his fan club be willing to live with this standard of "evidence" having it applied to them?   Of course not.  I've never yet encountered a professional or avocational "skeptic" who was willing to live by their own standards of evidence, including, to be fair, Michael Shermer.

What if I said that Myers was looking for an easy way to get a lot of hits on his blog and he knew from past experience that this post was a sure way to do that?   Would I have to do more research than he did before launching an accusation of serial rape against a named individual?    Would  it be demanded that I talk to Myers and see what he could present as evidence that he hadn't made the whole thing up including the two women he claims sent him e-mails?  Not by his fans who believe, on the basis of what he's presented is entirely real and accurate and they've been proposing punishments for Shermer and even the unnamed "organization" that they assume is guilty of sweeping true and well evidenced accusations under the rug. . That is, not if they aren't going to hold themselves to the more favorable side of a double standard.  Which is exactly what they do.

But, as I said last night, I'm not insisting that Myers publish the names of the women along with their entire e-mails on his blog, I'm insisting that this is an extremely serious accusation of an extremely serious crime, which may or may not be true and that it belongs in the hands of the legal authorities who can prosecute that. Or, if the women are unwilling to go to them, then their evidence should be given to a responsible and professional investigative reporter such as those who broke the pedophile priest scandal.   Responsible and professional reporters who will do what Myers has not, find supporting evidence and making a logical and evidence based accusation.  Or, failing to find that, not publish what are accusations they couldn't support with evidence.

Considering the body of his published claims about what is required before you are allowed to believe even a neutral idea, considering he's supposed to be a scientist, Myers' failure to live up to the requirement to rely on evidence completely discredits his position.   Given his influence, it is just a matter of time before he produces real victims in the way Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh can,  real victims whose lives are destroyed and who can not get relief or redress.  And I'm not going anywhere near as far as Myers' has in making these accusations.  No one is going to bring a criminal prosecution against Myers for being entirely irresponsible.   "Free Thought" Blogs shares some of the blame for this.  They provide Myers a platform from which to throw his bombs.

Friday, August 9, 2013

An Accusation of Serial Rape Is Too Serious To Turn It Into Vent-a-thon Porn

See updates below

In one of the most stunningly irresponsible blog posts I've ever seen, PZ Myers accused Michael Shermer of serial rape, naming him and giving what he says is part of the account given to him of a victim of the rape. I have no idea if the accusation is true or not but, either way, this belongs in the hands of a prosecutor or, at the very least, in the hands of a COMPETENT investigative reporter who could generate what Myers doesn't present, evidence to support the charge he made.   I have no idea if it is true or not and neither does anyone else but those making the accusation and Shermer.   Nothing has been proved, no evidence has been presented, only fragments of what Myers says is testimony.   All of this, so far, is based on Myers' say so.   And that isn't enough to know anything because he doesn't claim to have been a witness.  To increase the seriousness, the accusation is that he has raped many other women.

Myer's accusation was first published as a single allegation  he says is from a woman he says he knows, which may be entirely accurate or it may not be.  Later, after I briefly entered the discussion, he presented what he said was confirmation from another woman.  Both of the women are unnamed, neither of the statements I read were an entire document but were, apparently, edited by Myers.  One thing that all of us apart from the unnamed women knows, we don't know if what PZ posted was an accurate account of a crime or not.  But the person accused as a rapist is named.

If a charge of rape is true, the case should be given to the police or the prosecutor in the district where the crime was committed.  It is irresponsible to write a blog post about it before that is done.  Myers says that the woman making the accusation "reported it to an organization".

It’s been a few years, so no law agency is going to do anything about it now; she reported it to an organization at the time, and it was dismissed. Swept under the rug. Ignored.

Given how he phrased that, I gather the "organization" was not the police.  One of the problems is that Myers doesn't come out and say exactly what this means.   If the woman did give the information to the police, it's possible that they were negligent or it's possible her accusation couldn't be prosecuted.  We don't know because nothing is said about that.  If it's the case that the police were negligent then it is important for people reading his account to know that.  If that's the case, then their higher-ups should be made aware of the fact.  If the "organization" was not the police or prosecutor, then they should have had the account of the crime given to them.  An "organization" other than the police or the prosecutor's office can do nothing to bring justice in the matter.

An accusation made in such vague terms by an unnamed person against a named individual is extremely dangerous.  It could, conceivably, scotch a possible prosecution of a criminal or it could falsely destroy the life of an innocent person.   At this point, having gone this far, Myers owes it to Michael Shermer to reveal more about his accusation.   And, until the individuals who say they were attacked come forward, it is Myers who is making the accusation.   And he owes it to people who read him and, generally, to all of us.  If the women who are telling him this will not bring it to the police then there is nothing they can do about it, if they are not willing to do that they could bring it, as already noted, to a COMPETENT investigative reporter who will follow up their information to find corroborating accounts, testimony and evidence BEFORE PUBLISHING.   If the accusation is as old as Myers indicates, then all of that should have been done long before now, any possible future victims alerted by a legitimate criminal accusation or,  at the very least, a competently investigated and evidence based report in a reputable newspaper or magazine that passed by their editors and legal council.

No one is served by what Myers did except those of his fans who, by their disgusting behavior on his comment threads, prove that they are not interested in justice, they're interested in venting and posing and playing.   If Shermer is innocent, I hope he at least gets a cease and desist and gets Myers to stop doing this kind of thing.   If it were me, I'd be calling a good lawyer to bring a libel action against him.  If the accusations are true, that's an entirely different matter.  In that case I hope a prosecutor tells Myers to stop playing Grand Inquisitor and leave it to the professionals.  And then the professionals can deal with it professionally and responsibly.

I truly dislike Michael Shermer, I dislike his career and don't find him honest.  But I don't have to like him to know that no one should have to answer this kind of blog post and the jury of Myers' fan club which has already filled in for the lack of evidence and decided the case.  If he committed a crime, he has an absolute right to face his accusers in a court of law.  So would Meyers or the women who he says told him what he posted.  So would any of us accused of a very serious felony.   This isn't truth or dare, this isn't a game, it is entirely serious.

Update:  OK, as of now, this morning, the links seem to be working again.  

Smetana: Hulán Jan Bartoš -Piano

from Czech Dances, Series II

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of The "Reality Community"

Anyone who thinks a modern country could operate allowing what Edward Snowden did to be perfectly legal has marked themselves as hopelessly unrealistic and deluded.  If there's one thing about that which is certain, the world where he could have stolen what he is known to have stolen and remain at perfect liberty and unharassed does not and will not ever exist.   Such a state would cease to exist quite rapidly.   Including  those countries and institutions pretending that isn't the case, including those who have voiced such support for Snowden stealing and revealing information from another country.  I can guarantee you that if it were their country or institution whose sensitive information was stolen and revealed, it would be different.  Even civil liberties groups depend on some information being concealed, which is why they so often protest - often quite legitimately - when they find they've been spied on.  I'd like it if that wasn't true and there were total and absolute transparency everywhere on Earth but I'd also like to have wings and be able to fly while invisible.  People in hell want ice water, too. 

Not to mention the myriad of bloggers and commentators who wax unrealistically about it WHILE CONCEALING THEIR IDENTITY BEHIND PSEUDONYMS AND TROLL NAMES. 

Grow up. 

Update:  Someone remind me to not write two involved series while something like this stuff is going on.  By the time I can give it my full attention everyone's gone nuts over it.  It's best to see something like that happening gradually. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Smetana - On the Sea Shore - Concert Etude in G sharp minor, Op. 17

Jitka Čechová - pianist

There are so many really great pianists you'll never hear of because there are just so many and so few get all the attention.  Not always the ones who deserve it, either.

A Few More Thinking Points For the Snowden Cult To Consider

Update response as prelude:  What people were getting worked up about was that the NSA were collecting the records of communications between the United States and other countries.  Even if they weren't collecting that information here THE COMMUNICATIONS WERE TO OTHER COUNTRIES, MANY OF WHICH HAVE NO RESTRICTIONS ON TAPPING INTO THE COMMUNICATIONS OF THOSE ON THEIR END INCLUDING THAT SAME INFORMATION YOU'RE WORKED UP ABOUT BEING COLLECTED BY THE U. S. GOVERNMENT.  It really isn't hard to figure these things out, all of the information required is contained in the same news stories, only, you've got to do something called thinking about them.   No reason to be so rude about it.  On the other hand, comment moderation is making my life a lot easier.

As pointed out, whatever Snowden brought with him from his position sort of at the NSA is now certainly in the hands of the Chinese and Russian intelligence.   They would never have let him leave Hong Kong for anywhere else but American custody or allowed him to stay in Russia without him surrendering everything he had with him, including the keys to any encryption he had it "protected" by.  Possibly that information could open up even more information that they have access to through espionage or hacking. That could very well mean they've now got access to whatever it is you were upset with the NSA having and the means to get more.

The point made in a comment below about what a Chinese or Russian incarnation of Alan Turing could do with the clues embedded in any material Snowden surrendered to those intelligence agencies could allow them to reproduce a lot of if not all of the same apparatus that you're so worked up about the NSA having, including whatever of Snowden's  claims about the close to all-seeing, all-knowing powers the NSA and its contractors actually have.   Now in addition to the American system with FISA, you'll have the intelligence services in those two countries to worry about and I'm not aware of them having anything like the FISA courts to keep them from snooping into your records etc.   You figure they're more open than even that far from transparent process meant to protect U.S. citizens in a way that is going to protect you?   Oh, if you hadn't considered the possibility of either of those countries producing someone who could figure that out, consider it now.  Turing's task was a lot harder in his day than this one would be today and Turing had far, far less evidence to go on than would be contained in the codes copied by  Snowden. 

You still think Snowden is a hero?   I thought he might be before thinking about what he's done and who he stupidly put himself in the hands of.   That he isn't is one of the few things about this that I'm certain of now.   If you hadn't thought about those things, try it.  I'm sure they did in Hong Kong and Moscow.

Update:  Oh, and something for all of us to consider.   The Republicans, mostly, who were so hot on privatizing all of this stuff, especially the Bush family and its allies, are responsible for creating a system in which the highest level of spying and espionage is guaranteed.   Edward Snowden was a creation of the privatization cult and the ideology that invented it.   If there's one thing that this proves it is that the system they created destroys national security.   Who knows how much of the information that goes through corporations owned by the Carlyle Group and others isn't being skimmed for their corporate use?  You want to bet that their sense of honor, morality and patriotism would keep them from stealing data in their financial interest? 

Magical Thinking of the Naive Left

It used to be that it was conservatives of the strict constructionist type who held a truly superstitious view of the Constitution of the United States.  They believe that it is some kind of infallible document which, in its pure and pristine form, held in the minds of the supernatural figures called "The Founding Fathers" -all dead in the pre-electronic past- was mystically  inerrant, a potent magical talisman against all that is evil and taboo.  But those times are past.  Not that that isn't the current ahistorical and nonsensical assertion of "strict constructionists" or the various other cults that go by different names but boil down to about the same superstition, it's that the delusion has spread throughout those who believe themselves to be liberals, though, as I've said before, a lot of them are a lot closer to conservatives than true liberals.  When the great Barbara Jordan thundered that her faith in The Constitution "is whole; it is complete; it is total", she didn't mean that kind of thing.

I've had several comments on what I've written about the Snowden affair that seem to not realize that none of the provisions of the Bill of Rights is going to protect their online communications in other countries through which they physically pass and in which copies of those are retained on servers.  Which is not only stunning but potentially dangerous naivety.  The United States Bill of Rights does not apply in those countries, it isn't going to magically prevent the governments in those countries from reading and revealing your e-mails and nothing is going to keep internet companies in those countries from fully complying with demands or even requests to hand those over.  And even your e-mail to the person in the next room can pass through lines and servers all over the world, or so I've read over and over again.  Those are not protected by the patron saints Jefferson, Madison and Mason from being retrieved.  They're not even going to be really protected from countries friendly to the United States - and by "countries friendly" when it's one government to another you should understand that to mean "governments who think they can trade information for something they want a lot more than protecting your privacy."

Do you think that your messages aren't being collected by any government outside of the United States and, in those countries with sufficient technical ability, analyzed for their own purposes, including sharing information they find therein with some branch of the United States government?   How much do you want to bet that that isn't being done right now?   Just how many cookies do you have on your computer right now?   Do you know what they are and, really, where those come from?   Do you think that, in addition to companies and those terrifyingly knowledgeable and potent computer gangsters (many of the most able and equipped, by the way and apropos of the Snowden affair, located in Russia) the governments in which those are would not have the ability to stealthily get right into your computer now?  

The convenience of pretending that the privacy that always depended on mutually held beliefs in honor and morality being generally held in societies holds in online communications doesn't do anything to change the fact that by putting information online exposes it to people who don't have that or, in many cases, any code of honor and no moral restraints on their stealing your information and using it in what ever way they want or see as more important than your privacy.   When you put even encrypted messages online you're trading convenience and speed for increased possibilities that the message, or copies of it routinely held in who knows where, can be retrieved and decoded.   And the abilities that the NSA have to do that with computers will, very soon, be available to many other governments and many large corporations, the very companies that develop the encryption you rely on will probably sell them the keys.  If there's one thing you shouldn't rely on, it's the honor and morality of people who can make a lot of money by violating even the moral code they, themselves claim to follow.  That's business, especially in the absence of legal regulation.  Ah, legal regulations and the judges who get to decide on those, you can't get away from that weak link in the chain of privacy.

If you want a secret held in absolute security, don't tell anyone, not even those you trust.  Especially don't write it down, paper is no guardian of a secret, it will spill your guts to anyone who looks at it.   As soon as you either tell a trusted friend or put it on paper, you've already compromised its security.  And when you send it online you've put your secret in so many other hands, in so many other lands and you've also created many copies of it stored in places you don't even know exist.   You don't only have to depend on the United States government to follow your idea of the law to prevent them copying it and reading it, you've got to depend on judges and "justices" agreeing with your idea of the law and, trust me, they often won't.  And, as I said above, those won't protect you from other countries, even those who follow their own laws.  Of course, none of them will protect you from people outside of governments who successfully break laws.  They also won't protect you from the company that provides you your browser in exchange for their use of your information, including, it seems, selling what of that they find it in their interest to sell, here and abroad.   You get to vote for the United States government and have the minimal amount of control that that fact provides, you're at the mercy of the internet providers. You do what they demand to get online or you stay off line.   And they demand that you hand over some of your privacy. You've already agreed to give that up.

So, can we at least get that nonsense out of the way?  By your putting your information online you've already given away your 4th 5th amendment protections and all other protection to privacy under the Bill of Rights?   Because if you think its power extends that far, you are thinking magically, no matter how much you insist you don't do that.   If you want a good example of what can happen to even the most heavily protected secrets look at what Snowden made off with, which I'm just about 100% sure Chinese and Russian intelligence has already had from him, while he slept or in exchange for keeping him out of the hands of .... how did Putin put it?  "our American partners."   Ian Flemming couldn't have said it with more deliciously insincere, and self-serving hypocrisy.   Would you like to be in Snowden's position of having to trust Putin's sense of honor and morality?   Snowden has got whatever information he purloined. Snowden has got nothing else that they'd want more than they'd want the U.S. government to owe them one.  I wouldn't be surprised if his passage from Hong Kong to Moscow wasn't in accord to some trade between the Chinese and Russian governments,  conveying the carrier of information they both wanted and what the Chinese government didn't mind each other having.   I think Snowden figured on gaming the Chinese government for his own gain like the plot of a spy novel, or, more likely movie or video game.  His travel itinerary has no other explanation.  He'd have gone directly to Venezuela or Ecuador and communicated with Greenwald directly and privately if he hadn't been playing some kind of game like that.  He really believed he could work it his way. The guy is a total idiot anyway you look at it.   The privacy of your online information depends on people like him.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Answer to an E-mail

Well, some people figure that toodeling around and over a back beat - oh so often on a pentatonic skeleton - is improvising.  But here's a masterful lecture about real improvisation by the man who is reported to have said,  "Don't ever play a back beat to my music again."

Gary Burton Improvisation Class

And for another flavor of improvisation

Lying on Blogs Petty and Otherwise

A lie is often a minor detail to most people except the one who the lie is told about.  It's easy for other people to discount their importance but, when it's not them, that's easy for them to say.  I've collected a number of examples of lies or distortions and harassment concerning named individuals of the kind that I talked about yesterday.  Of course if I posted those here it would risk giving the lie feet so I can't do that.   So, I'll use one told just the other day about me.  But, first, and most importantly in this,  "Moonbtootica" is an innocent bystander and I am not implying that she had any part in lying about me, she's not the one who accused me of  approving of the assassination of a  Canadian politician who, probably unknown to the liar, I'd seem to share a number of ideas with, including the independence of Canada.
the only British PM to ever be assassinated was Spencer Perceval in 1812

Needless to say, I haven't been favorably commenting on the assassination of 19th century Canadian nationalist - also, perhaps unknown to Freki, Irish nationalist - politicians.  "Freki" who formerly was known at Eschaton as "JR" has been riffing mendaciously for several years off of a comment I made about the 19th century author Charles MacKay's writing against 19th century Irish nationalism.

I could go into detail about that including charges that in addition to the posthumous approval of the assassination -allegedly by Catholic nationalists but there are those who suspect it may have been members or allies of the Orange Order who killed Thomas D'arcy McGee, and the man hanged for it, Patrick Wheelan, was certainly railroaded - but I won't;  Freki has also turned that comment into claims of my approval of the killing of the race horse Shergar - who was indisputably stolen and killed by members of the IRA, a group I've never considered anything but organized criminals.  I will point out that I've been a vegetarian my entire adult life in favor of animals rights while Freki is an enthusiastic carnivore.  Though until she brought the horse up, I'd never so much as typed the name.

But you really, really don't want me to go into the details.  Just let me say it's been an ongoing thing for years on Eschaton.   Which may seem petty unless you happen to be the one being repeatedly lied about.   Worse lies have been told and, apparently, believed by a number of Eschatonians but I'm not interested in giving those an extended life, either.   Needless to say, others at Eschaton, not to mention other popular and influential blogs,  are indifferent to such things.  A few even manage to stay above that kind of thing, to tell the truth of it.  But that kind of thing, unsurprisingly, has brought down the tone considerably.

If lying is considered unimportant or, idiotically, granted the status of a right by the Supreme Court, people who get lied about are frequently going to pay some price which can look insignificant to casual or indifferent onlookers but which cumulatively can ruin someone's reputation.  It also empowers liars.  If the pretensions of the blogger are that they are an alternative to the corporate media, on even a small scale, but their content is as reflective of reality as the check-out stand tabloids or low grade radio call-in shows, then they are really no different from them. Bloggers who don't go to the bother of attempting to remove Lies and the Lying Liars who tell them on their blogs when those are pointed out shouldn't be surprised when people point that out as well, those lied about having the largest stake in that exposure.  Tabloids at least make an attempt at the appearance of editing.

Update:   They Write Snark.

OK, you think I'm being really mean to Eschaton, Eschatonians and the blog's owner and petty as well.  Here's an example of what Atrios was writing in his early days as Atrios,  The Hunting of the Snitch.  Instead of a complete analysis in relation to this post, I'll point out two passages.

- Snitch turned to the crowd, “Don’t worry, it’s a private feud…” 

- Did I get my man?  I will give you a hint – he told me to “Get a life.”  Remember that.  It is important.

If I had a dollar for every time someone said that at Eschaton, I could have made a bid for The Washington Post.

See Also:  "An MWO Reader tries to bring down The Nation  (sort of) By Atrios".

I remember that Atrios, I read THotS on Media Whores Online.  I really liked that Atrios, even  if I had a bit of a problem when he went after Pollitt instead of the idiotic publishers who hired Hitchens - who I thought was a total jerk from the first time his "Minority Report" appeared in  The Nation (I'd subscribed for decades).  I was never a Hitchens fan.  Where did Atrios go?

Update 2:  You do understand the incident Atrios was writing about back then, don't you?  How he came to call Christopher Hitchens "Snitchens"?   It was when Hitchens lied about his, about to become former, friend Sidney Blumenthal, ruining his reputation and causing him all kinds of other trouble as well.  Hitchens' lies had all kinds of support too.   You see, getting lied about in public sort of puts an end to a friendship.  So does being told to get over being lied about.  Take my word for it.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

When The "Convene A Blogger Ethics Panel" Schtick Gets Really Old and Tedious

I don't remember once calling the owner of Eschaton by his name before last weekend.  Though he'd been outed, largely through his own efforts, for almost a decade, I'd always respected his privacy to the extent that he was always "Atrios" when I talked about him.  And, also, for most of that time I avoided public criticism of him.  He'd hosted my comments on his blog, after all.  You don't just ignore that someone has hosted you.
I have also made it a point to not know much about him, not even reading his Wiki bio (assuming he cares enough about that to insure its accuracy) before last Friday.  It seemed like a violation of his privacy. On his blog, he revealed some things about himself and his educational and historical history but everything else was conjecture.  Was he the trust-fund-baby that some of his critics alleged?  I don't know.  Was he one of those very rare bloggers who managed to make a living off of it during the brief period when that seemed to be a possibility?  I don't know.  It's obvious that he makes money from it, he's always had advertising, a donations system, fund raising periods and an Amazon Wish List.  And, on occasion, he used to post thanks to people who bought stuff for him.  It would seem to be a justified conclusion that, for him, Eschaton was a cash cow for most if not all of its history.

While the Supreme Court would seem to have protected bloggers from legal responsibility for things posted by their commentators, mere invulnerability to legal and civil risk doesn't seem to be an especially high standard, considering the pretensions of bloggers.  What responsibility does a blogger have for allowing definitely untrue statements about named people to remain on their comment threads?  Is the length of those and the tedium of monitoring them an excuse?   How about a reluctance to ban people from their comments when they're documented as doing that?   As I pointed out, Duncan Black has banned people from his blog, I know that I wasn't banned for lying about people.   As far as chronology seems to indicate, I was banned for saying that Penn Jillette's stupidly disgusting movie The Aristocrats was stupid and disgusting and boring. For which I was declared to be boring by his commentators.   Perhaps in his set an accusation of being boooorrrrringg! is the ultimate slander, being booorrrinng, the ultimate offense.  Perhaps if I'd left it at calling Jillette and his movie stupid and disgusting it wouldn't have offended.

What legal obligations or liabilities come with even that minimal level of moderation of blog comments, I don't know.   But I'm interested in something beyond mere legalities.

One of Duncan Black's standing jokes on Eschaton has been his periodic declarations that it was time to "Convene A Blogger Ethics Panel."  Which, apparently,  is a real hoot if you haven't been being lied about on his comment threads and had reports posted on it bragging that you were trolled on other blogs by his regulars.

But,  just maybe,  it's time for him to explain just what ethics he operates under, what ethical considerations he follows in what he hosts as content on his blog.   He has removed comments, I am almost certain, and he has banned people so he does have some limits on content.   Does he do that according to some unstated ethical consideration or on the basis of whimsy?   If he doesn't have any ethical standards regarding the honesty of the content he hosts, on what basis does he criticize the corporate media?   That, as another commentator here the other day, seems to have been the original motivation of his blogging, it was what he was writing about even before he started Eschaton, his famous "Hunting of the Snitch" series at Media Whores Online.

Back when he wrote full length posts for his blog about public policy and the such,  the excuse that he didn't have time to monitor the content threads might have had at least an understandable reason.  But he doesn't do anything like that these days and hasn't for a good long time.  From reports going back years he's derived a not inconsiderable income from his blogging, if he's got a real job doesn't seem to be at issue, considering the posting schedule.   How long does he get to benefit by being given some slack in the matter of the basic honesty of his content - for years now, most of that has been provided on his comment threads.

If blogging was supposed to develop into a more honest, more dependable form of media with more integrity than the corporate media,  what does it say that one of its most prominent professionals not only rejects ethical standards but mocks the concept?   From what I've observed over more than a decade is that blogging can be a real source of reliable information free from corrupt motives but not if there is no hard ethical standard followed.  Though, usually, it's on small, obscure blogs that that is kept up.   It's devolved into talk radio in pixels in too many cases, the hate-talk blogs seem to be the most successful ones.  It's looking more like the deregulated radio market.  Perhaps that Duncan Black is reported to be an opponent of the Fairness Doctrine and other requirements for pubic service by broadcasters reveals more than his generally libertarian tendencies in media matters.   Perhaps more about media matters in a later post.

You Want An Important Cause That Could Really Save Democracy in the United States ?

De-Nazification of domestic police agencies could be a good place to start.  From Digby:

Taking down and killing a 95-year-old WWII veteran USING A WALKER and, apparently, lying about him having a kitchen knife to cover it up.

Also from Digby, a storm trooper style SWAT assault on a humane society animal shelter to kill a contraband deer fawn. 

The police in the United States have been militarized and are acting like para-military storm troopers.  The style of policing practiced in countries where The People are seen as the enemy of the government and the oligarchs it exists to serve.   FOX TV shows about cops have certainly not helped. 

Answer to an Unpublished Comment

My points in my post aren't Yeah NSA and Down with Glenn Greenwald,  they are:

1.  There is no such a thing as a guarantee of privacy online

Even if the United States government wasn't collecting any of the information that it has been exposed as collecting, THOSE ARE COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES AND OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, MANY OF THOSE TO COUNTRIES WITHOUT ANY SUPPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTION OF PRIVACY AT ALL.  It is The World Wide Web,  your messages are already going through countries in which governments practice a far more extensive level of direct spying on people who live in those countries.  THOSE GOVERNMENTS COULD DIRECTLY COLLECT YOUR E-MAIL AND OTHER COMMUNICATIONS AND GLENN, THE GUARDIAN AND THE ENTIRE COMBINED PRO-SNOWDEN TWITTERSPHERE-BLOGOSPHERE-U.S. MEDIA AIN'T ABOUT TO STOP THEM OR EVEN SLOW THEM DOWN.

If you believe that the 4th and 5th and every other amendment in the United States Constitution, applied in a way that would make the shade of Louis Brandeis smile, is possible with online communication you are living in a fools paradise.

Ironically, the one venue of remote communication that is as fully protected as possible is THE U. S. MAIL as long as it stays within the United States.  Good old, union member handled, in many cases union member delivered, snail mail has as full protection as you're going to get anywhere. Of course it's not anywhere near as fast and easy and convenient but it's not going to be ROUTINELY ROUTED THROUGH OTHER COUNTRIES LIKE THE ONES THAT EDWARD SNOWDEN SOUGHT SANCTUARY FROM THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IN WHICH NO ONE HAS ANY REAL LEGAL GUARANTEES OF PRIVACY TO SPEAK OF.  And even the U.S. Mail isn't an absolute guarantee of privacy.

Geesh, all of these so, so, sophisticated tech-age people so naive about these things.  You'd probably have a better chance of stumbling across security if you scribbled your information on the wall of a men's toilet in a sleazy bar.

2.  Edward Snowden's fleeing to two very far from democratic countries with both a vital interest in the information that he took with him and the technical ability to take it from him, frankly, STINKS.

Especially considering the guy was working for A SPY AGENCY CONTRACTOR.   Why two of the countries with the greatest interest and that technical and legal ability to get it from him as he slept?   Pure stupidity and coincidence would be hard put to get him to those two particular places.  And why, if he were really interested in not being detected, did he do everything he could to not only be detected but to be presented in the media as a hero to the people who have become sort of a Snowden cult.

If there's one thing that I'm relatively certain of, if he'd requested it and gradually leaked information to him from a far more out of the way venue in another country LIKE BRAZIL WHERE GREENWALD LIVES,   SNOWDEN COULD HAVE DEPENDED ON GLENN GREENWALD TO PROTECT HIS PRIVACY IF HE HAD INSISTED ON IT.  It is one of the most bizarre features of this that, by his own course of conduct and that of the journalist he leaked it to, Snowden freely and, it seems to me, eagerly gave up his own privacy for the purpose of becoming an international celebrity.  If he valued it so much, you'd think he would have done more to keep it.   All of which makes his decision to go to Hong Kong and then Moscow not only incomprehensible as a planned getaway but peculiarly like what I can understand as a sort of sales trip itinerary, given what he took with him on it.

I began entirely on the Snowden-Greenwald side of this, thinking of it as another Bradley Manning case but as their behavior and claims have developed, it's looked like something very different to me.  Manning is a far more heroic figure.  He was truly tortured by the deaths he was witnessing which he knew were being covered up.  His big mistake was that he gave the information to a source that didn't do much to protect him. How Julian Assange handled it did a lot to lose him my respect.

These two incidents have really put me off the celebrity leaker phenomenon, about the only person who seems to deserve the most respect is the one whose ass is in the most serious sling.  Manning has my complete sympathy and support,  others involved, not so much.  I'm not opposed to forcing the NSA to operate more openly and with more protection than the current FISA process.  For a start I'd like better judges involved with FISA because I don't trust the reported identity of the current judges involved.  But this argument, based in its breathtaking naivety and the dodgy conduct of Snowden and the less than stellar journalism of Greenwald, isn't going to do it.

I'd like to review Greenwald's archive to see what he might have said about the Judith Miller case.  In her case I held that she was the witness to a crime, in the leak of Valerie Plame's identity by members of the Bush II regime and that even journalists have no protection that allows them to conceal crimes.  If Greenwald was in another country when he received the leaks, that makes it somewhat different in terms of legality but I don't really see the act as being all that different, though the motives could have been.   I don't know what else Snowden might have on those hard drives he's got with him that even Greenwald might not know about and which could, conceivably be sold for a large price.  Does Greenwald have that much faith in his source that he believes he has everything Snowden has?

AND I HAVEN'T EVEN MENTIONED THOSE POINTS ABOUT INFORMATION COLLECTING AND SELLING BY PRIVATE CORPORATIONS A LOT OF THAT FREELY THOUGH UNKNOWINGLY SURRENDERED BY THE SAME PEOPLE WHO ARE IN A DAILY SWIVET OVER THESE ISSUES.   You've almost certainly done that if you are reading this.  If you didn't, I for one would like to know how you protected your privacy because I'd like to be able to do that. 


Update:  I didn't say Snowden's travels and conduct made sense as a sales trip as planned by a genius.  If there's one thing that is obvious,  Edward Snowdon isn't the brightest pebble on the beach.

Update 2:   If you want more about the myth of online privacy and what you could do to obtain real privacy, here's something you should listen to.  Though real privacy isn't EZ convenient and as fast as photons in ultra-fast connections.  And if you want your leak of information or just plain information to be as private as possible, here's an even better how-to do it.

Monday, August 5, 2013

This is something I'd like to play some day.  One of the wildest development sections in a sonata of that period.  Smetana was a far better composer than he's generally credited as having been, especially his piano music.

Smetana: Sonata for 2 Pianos in 8 Hands

Some Questions About Snowden Greenwald and the Myth of Online Security

1.  How does Glenn Greenwald get his columns from Brazil to The Guardian?   Some super-secure internet channel that he imagines no government in the world could hack?   What e-mail accounts does he use? Something as plebeian as G-Mail?  Some other industrial source that requires signing away far more privacy than even he has implied the NSA has taken with the permission of the FISA oversight process (Note:  NOT that I trust the FISA process, it should be totally overhauled).   How many of his fans who are going into spasmodic knee jerk whenever Greenwald crooks his little finger have breezily and routinely signed away access to their communications far surpassing what even he has revealed the NSA to be doing?  ON THE BASIS OF CONTRACTS THAT EVEN COURTS WOULD SAY LEAVE THEM WITH NO PROTECTION?    I've got the impression that a lot of them are doing so on blogs, with browsers, linked to e-mail accounts that combine all of those into one identifiable person (linked to their real names and addresses) making that available to whoever pays them for the information.   I mean, haven't you noticed that your e-mail topics are often reflected in the ads you see on the side panel?   Does Greenwald really trust the Brazilian government and.... wait, I'll have more of that in the fullness of time.

2.  How stupid can Edward Snowden be to take it on the lam to Hong Kong, you know, controlled by that well known champion of freedom justice and personal privacy, the Chinese government and to then go to that other well known locus of the same, Russia?   I mean take it on the lam WITH A LAPTOP WITH ALL OF HIS PURLOINED NSA GOODIES.  Oh, yes, protected by "encryption", of whatever allegedly unbreakable character which Snowden is staking his faith in.

Let me ask you, would you like your most personal and imitate e-mails of interest to those governments sitting on a laptop in the airport limbo Snowden was in desperately waiting for some way to get out of it?   You want your personal information dependent on the wiles of the waking Snowden to keep Russian (or Chinese) intelligence agencies from sneaking a download from it?  Never mind the less than superhuman sleeping Snowden?   You think he's more than a match for Russian intelligence which has access to everything he drinks and eats?   And, don't forget, the only thing that kept the Russians from handing him over to the U.S. government was whatever the Russians saw in it for themselves.   You think they wouldn't have used the information he had on his laptop as a bargaining chip with the guy who seems to have never known much in the way of personal discomfort before this caper, using the prospect of handing him over to the feds for indictment?   If the Russians (or the Chinese) governments didn't have a vital interest in that information do you really believe it was secure on Snowden's laptop under those scenarios dependent on his wits, integrity and willingness to suffer whatever means the various governments he's placed himself in the hands of to force him to give them the key?

3.  Did you really believe that your online communications were secure from, not only the United States goverenments but whatever governments through which that information has passed and been stored?  I mean IT'S CALLED "THE WORLD WIDE WEB" FOR A REASON!

The information you put online goes all over creation, stored in servers and collected all over the place, THE PLACE BEING THE WORLD, most of which has no 4th Amendment or Bill of Rights

and even if they did have the equivalent no one in the world is going to make them really comply with it. ONLINE PRIVACY IS A MYTH, IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN, IT ALWAYS WILL BE.  IF YOU DON'T WANT SOMEONE TO FIND OUT WHAT YOU'RE SAYING AND DOING DON'T PUT IT ONLINE IN ANY FORM "ENCRYPTED" OR OTHERWISE.

Do I think Greenwald should be prosecuted for publishing the leaks Snowden gave him?  Of course not.  Do I think Snowden should be prosecuted for treason?  Of course not.  Whatever else he may be found guilty of in a court of law, he's not guilty of treason.   If he broke the law or violated anything he signed is for courts and judges to decide and I'm not a lawyer.  Do I think he's some kind of hero?  No, I think he's an irresponsible jerk.  I think he's jealous of Bradley Manning, someone for whom I have far more sympathy who exposed some actually important information, revealing war crimes.   I'd sign a free Bradley Manning petition interrupting my writing right now to do that.  I would have to have a much better case made to me for Snowden than the one I've seen so far before I'd consider it.



Note:  Someone told me something I'd never realized before, the color I'd chosen for links doesn't show up very well on some browsers, they'd not realized I'd placed links to sources of what I'd said.  So, I've changed to a brighter shade of red.  Let me know if it helps.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Even Rarer

So Rare -Toots Thielemans

Once In About Every Five Years Or So I Have a Yen To Hear Jimmy Dorsey Play So Rare

Am I the last person to have yens?