On Saturday, the government’s program for bulk collection of phone records ended, sorta:
The language in the US Justice Department statement is far from inspiring, written in bland legalese, but it still represents an important victory for the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The statement, dated 28 November 2015, says: “Final temporary reauthorization of the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata data program in the US expires.”
But only sorta, says Marcy Wheeler:
Just a tiny corner of the phone dragnet will shut down, and the government will continue to collect “telephony metadata records in bulk … including records of both U.S. and non-U.S. persons” under EO 12333. Hypothetically, for every single international call that had been picked up under the Section 215 dragnet and more (at a minimum, because NSA collects phone records overseas with location information), a matching record has been and will continue to be collected overseas, under EO 12333.
They’re still collecting your phone records in bulk, not to mention collecting a great deal of your Internet records in bulk as well. BREAKING.
What interests me here is how a former government official (and a former George W. Bush press secretary) can blame Snowden somehow for the Paris attacks. Glenn Greenwald took to the pages of the L.A. Times last week to counter that claim:
More tales of the drone wars.
Citizen, now you can do your part to fight international terrorism from the comfort of your own MQ-9 Reaper drone console. Citing “lack of appropriately cleared and currently qualified MQ-9 pilots,” the Air Force is now hiring civilian contractors to fly the patrols in “global hot spots,” reports the L.A. Times:
For the first time, civilian pilots and crews now operate what the Air Force calls “combat air patrols,” daily round-the-clock flights above areas of military operations to provide video and collect other sensitive intelligence.
Civilians are not allowed to pinpoint targets with lasers or fire missiles. They operate only Reapers that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, known as ISR, said Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command.
So that’s comforting. Still:
“He must have done something,” says the voice in my head when I think about Laquan McDonald. It is the voice of my parents’ generation, a generation that went from seemingly never questioning authority to always questioning it. Except when members of minorities run afoul of police. I wonder if “He must have done something” was the model of justice our Founders thought they were pledging their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to establish? Or is that the kind of colonial-rule justice from which they fought to separate themselves? Are they now rolling over in their graves?
As police in Colorado Springs led away the alleged Planned Parenthood murderer in handcuffs, I was still trying to process the latest police shooting news from Chicago. The Guardian’s database this morning lists 1033 people killed by police in the U.S. so far this year. Police killed “more people in the first 24 days of 2015 than police in England and Wales did in the last 24 years,” as reported by the Independent, noting “police in Norway fired their guns only twice last year – and no one was hurt.”
Brian Burghart’s web site fatalencounters.org tracks police shootings in the U.S. because the government will not. Burghart and colleagues are building a database of people killed in interactions with American law enforcement since 2000:
Which way to the orgy?
News reports of the annually banal pardoning of the White House turkey triggered memories of that video where Sarah Palin blathers on about whatever Sarah Palin was blathering on about, word-salad-wise, while behind her a workman looks on while he slaughters a turkey.
Several of our current GOP presidential candidates thought it might look more dignified if the turkey they were mock-pardoning was in black tie:
Gotta say the hands visibly holding the turkey’s legs from underneath a velvet cushion are bit of a distraction, if not quite as Palinesque as a workman holding a turkey’s legs while bleeding it out into a trough.
Disturbing and unsurprising events are still unfolding in Minneapolis and Chicago.
In Chicago last night, police released a dash-cam video of the shooting last year of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by then-Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke. A judge’s order forced the release, which the department fought. The video is here. McDonald went down and Van Dyke just kept shooting until he’d emptied his gun. It’s sickening:
Hours after a Chicago police officer was ordered held without bond on a first-degree murder charge, the city released a shocking police dash-cam video that captured the white officer opening fire on an African American teen on a Southwest Side street, striking him 16 times and killing him.
The video is about six minutes long and appears to show 17-year-old Laquan McDonald running down the middle of Pulaski Road near 41st Street when Officer Jason Van Dyke, standing next to his SUV, opens fire.
It was released to the media after a late afternoon news conference by Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
That took over a year and multiple FOIA lawsuits.
When challenged, Trump doubles down, citing vague sources he fails to name. He has a “pretty good source.” He is “hearing … from other people” something no one else has heard. Trump got “hundreds of calls” from people who imagined they saw what he imagined he saw. James Downie writes at the Washington Post:
It’s all eerily similar to a claim made by a U.S. senator in Wheeling, W.Va., 65 years ago: “I have here a list of 205 [State Department employees] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party.” Sen. Joe McCarthy never revealed where he got that list; the number changed from 205 all the way down to seven, and he never provided any concrete evidence. But, as Trump knows, McCarthy’s lack of evidence was no hindrance to tapping into the fears of a portion of the U.S. electorate. In those days, communists were coming for you; now, Muslims and immigrants are, and in both cases, the U.S. government won’t stop them. The message remains: Be afraid. The more that people buy into the message, the worse off America is.
At an event Saturday night in eastern Tennessee, an organizer brought up the meme that poor people tend to “vote against their best interests,” for Republicans who vote to slash safety net programs that keep them afloat. This complaint, as I have written, is an old pet peeve. First, because it’s a lefty dog whistle for saying those voters are stupid — which they hear clearly even if we cannot. And second, as liberals do we really want our neighbors to go into the voting booth to vote what’s best for No. 1 rather than for an America that aspires to something better? But Saturday night, the same organizer offered a new twist from a New York Timesarticle by ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis:
In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.
This is perhaps a manifestation of the “last place aversion” I wrote about in February. It is the need to have someone to look down on so you do not see yourself on the bottom rung of life’s ladder: Read More→
Salon’s headline is more satisfying than the text, but Bill Curry’s prescription for Democrats not being Republican punching bags on foreign policy again after the Paris attacks cuts to the heart of it:
Democrats have been losing the national security debate for years. Most aren’t any good at it. Some don’t even try. Few have the courage or conviction to challenge failed doctrines. So they crouch in the cellar praying the storm will soon pass. If this one doesn’t, its blood-dimmed tide may sweep a Republican into the White House and the country into a limitless, trackless war. To keep that from happening Democrats must find the courage and skill to lay out a clear, credible alternative to the reflexive militarism of the past. As things stand, they aren’t even close.