B12 Solipsism

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House Farm Bill Collapses Amid Republican Disarray

Smiling Tractors Sometimes
Smiling Tractors Sometimes

The NYT reports:

The factional rancor threatening Republicans heading into the midterm elections this fall erupted into the open on Friday when a slugfest among moderates, hard-line conservatives and House leaders over immigration and welfare policy sank the party’s multiyear farm bill.

The twice-a-decade measure — which would have imposed strict new work requirements on food aid recipients while maintaining farm subsidies important to rural lawmakers — failed on a 213-to-198 vote. It was a rebuke of Speaker Paul D. Ryan by a key bloc of conservatives over his refusal to schedule an immediate vote on a restrictive immigration bill sponsored by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Republican moderates, for their part, were moving in the opposite direction, shrugging off the pleas of their leaders as they worked toward forcing votes on legislation to protect from deportation young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

The fights were striking, not only because of their intensity but also because of the participants. Capitol Hill has grown used to altercations between Republican leaders and their adamant right flank — showdowns that have shut down the government and edged the government toward defaulting on its debt. But in past fights, the party’s moderates have proved compliant.

This time, with their districts dominating the Democrats’ target list for the coming midterm races, the moderates are holding firm to their own demands.

(click here to continue reading House Farm Bill Collapses Amid Republican Disarray – The New York Times.)

More Congressional disfunction, and with no easy solution, at least until the 2018 elections. Paul Ryan has no “juice” left, as he’s a lame duck. He actually should go ahead and resign his Speakership now.

Hay Bales
Hay Bales

Tom Philpott of Mother Jones adds a little context:

 

Back in 2016, the Republican Party won the presidency and both chambers of Congress with strong support in rural areas, particularly among farmers. But since that triumph, the Grand Old Party hasn’t exactly been a champion of rural interests. As I’ve written in recent months, President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration is essentially an attack on the workers who keep America’s farms and many rural towns humming. And his trade belligerence with China and Mexico amount to near-surgical strikes against farmers who supported him in California, the Southeast, and the Midwest’s corn and soybean belt.

 

In the middle of this drama, Congress is tasked with renewing the farm bill—twice-a-decade legislation that shapes US agriculture and food-aid policy. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), chair of the House Agriculture Committee, hopes to bring his version to a vote on the House floor this week. Let us count the ways it would bring pain to the US heartland:

The US House of Representatives voted down the farm bill this morning by a margin of 198-213. The Washington Post called it a “major embarrassment to GOP leaders” like outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who had hotly promoted the bill. In a Thursday Twitter thread, I laid out the political dynamics that ultimately killed the bill. It remains unclear whether the House Agriculture Committee chair, Rep. Mike Conaway (R.-Texas), will attempt to bring it back to the floor for another vote. House Democrats, who universally opposed the bill, hailed the failure as a victory for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which the bill would have effectively cut. Here’s Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.)

 

 

(click here to continue reading The House Farm Bill Just Failed – Mother Jones.)

Wisconsin countryside
Wisconsin countryside

and from that referenced WaPo article, the bill is dead anyway, as the Senate is not even close to accepting the House version:

 

 

A sweeping farm bill failed in the House on Friday in a blow to GOP leaders who were unable to placate conservative lawmakers demanding commitments on immigration.

 

The House leadership put the bill on the floor gambling it would pass despite unanimous Democratic opposition. They negotiated with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus up to the last minutes.

 

But their gamble failed. The vote was 213 to 198, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats in defeating the bill.

 

The outcome exposed what is becoming an all-out war within the House GOP over immigration, a divisive fight the Republicans did not want to have heading into midterm elections in November that will decide control of Congress.

The House farm bill would have been a non-starter anyway in the Senate, which is writing its own farm bill. Any legislation that ultimately makes it to Trump’s desk will have to look more like the version in the Senate, where bipartisan support will be necessary for anything to pass and there is not sufficient support for the food-stamp changes.

 

 

(click here to continue reading In blow to GOP, House fails to pass massive farm bill in face of conservative Republican showdown – The Washington Post.)

Sad that these are the supposed leaders of our country, and they can’t get anything accomplished. I blame gerrymandered districts…

Written by Seth Anderson

May 20th, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Food and Drink,government,politics

Tagged with , ,

Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon

Post Office Gilbert Ark
Post Office Gilbert Ark

The Washington Post reports:

President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.

Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.

Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery.

Few U.S. companies have drawn Trump’s ire as much as Amazon, which has rapidly grown to be the second-largest U.S. company in terms of market capitalization. For more than three years, Trump has fumed publicly and privately about the giant commerce and services company and its founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, who is also the owner of The Washington Post.

Trump’s attacks on Amazon date to 2015, when he accused Bezos of using The Post as a tax shelter to allow Amazon to avoid paying taxes, a false accusation. (Amazon is a publicly traded company, and The Post, wholly owned by Bezos, is private. The companies’ finances are not intermingled. The Post’s editors and Bezos also have declared that he is not involved in any journalistic decisions.)

Bezos responded to Trump’s 2015 attack with a tweet.

“Finally trashed by @realDonaldTrump. Will still reserve him a seat on the Blue Origin rocket. #sendDonaldtospace,” Bezos, who owns a space company, tweeted in December 2015.

This angered Trump, who at the time was fighting for credibility during the GOP primary.

(click here to continue reading Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, other firms – The Washington Post.)

It isn’t that Amazon irks Trump, it is that the Washington Post is reporting on Trump’s (mal)administration, and by the transitive property, since Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, and is a majority owner/founder of Amazon, Trump is angry at Amazon. 

Bezos is no saint, the USPS certainly has issues, the Washington Post has published plenty of ignorant or misleading articles over the years, but there is no reason Trump should be foaming at the mouth like this towards a corporation, much less a journalistic institution like the Washington Post.

The Irony of Freedom
The Irony of Freedom

Written by Seth Anderson

May 19th, 2018 at 7:49 am

Posted in Business,government

Tagged with , , ,

Illinois Supreme Court to weigh tax exemption for not-for-profit hospitals

Window Washers at The Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning
Window Washers at The Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning

The Chicago Tribune reports on a story we’ve been following for a while:

The state’s highest court will weigh the constitutionality of a law that lets not-for-profit hospitals skip paying property taxes — a question with potentially hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.

Current law says that not-for-profit hospitals in Illinois don’t have to pay property taxes as long as the value of their charitable services is at least equal to what they would otherwise pay in taxes. About three-fourths of the state’s more than 200 hospitals are not-for-profit.

But a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of that law has been working its way through the courts and will be heard Tuesday before the Illinois Supreme Court.

It’s an issue that’s stirred debate in Illinois and across the country, with some saying not-for-profit hospitals operate more like businesses and should have to pay taxes.

(click here to continue reading Illinois Supreme Court to weigh tax exemption for not-for-profit hospitals – Chicago Tribune.)

My position is the same as in previous blog posts: wealthy non-profits shouldn’t be able to avoid paying taxes simply because they sometimes do charitable work. If 100% of a particular hospital’s clients were not required to pay for any services, than perhaps I’d change my opinion. Wealthy non-profits shouldn’t be leeches on society.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 19th, 2018 at 7:19 am

Posted in Business,government,health

Tagged with ,

NRA gathers docs amid scrutiny over ties to Kremlin-linked banker

Buy A Dog Not A Gun
Buy A Dog Not A Gun

CNN reported recently:

The National Rifle Association is setting aside years of documents related to its interactions with a Kremlin-linked banker, as the gun-rights group appears to be bracing for a possible investigation, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The NRA has faced fresh scrutiny from congressional investigators about its finances and ties to Alexander Torshin, one of the 17 prominent Russian government officials the US Treasury Department recently slapped with sanctions. The gun-rights group has said it is reexamining its relationship with Torshin, who is a lifetime NRA member, in the wake of the sanctions. The renewed attention has highlighted the close-knit if sometimes uneasy alliance between top NRA officials and Torshin — a relationship that ensnared members of Trump’s team during the presidential campaign, inviting further congressional scrutiny.

Those inquiries could shed light on the tightly held fundraising practices and political activities of the NRA. The political powerhouse shelled out more than $30 million in 2016 to back Donald Trump’s candidacy — more than it spent on 2008 and 2012 political races combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

(click here to continue reading NRA gathers docs amid scrutiny over ties to Kremlin-linked banker – CNNPolitics.)

A deep, longstanding relationship between Russia and the NRA would not surprise me in the slightest. Where does the NRA get all of its funds anyway? Not from individual contributions, the math doesn’t work. At best, the NRA has 5 million members, and allegedly, many of these are inactive.

I find it extremely plausible that the Russians were funneling funds through the willing NRA leadership to help Trump, and other Republicans. 

FCK NRA
FCK NRA

McClatchy reported earlier this year:

The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.

FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.

It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.

It’s unclear how long the Torshin inquiry has been ongoing, but the news comes as Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign, has been heating up.

Last February when Torshin visited Washington, Rockefeller heir and conservative patron George O’Neill Jr. hosted a fancy four-hour dinner for the banker on Capitol Hill, an event that drew Rohrabacher, Erickson and other big names on the right. Rohrabacher has labeled Torshin as “conservatives’ favorite Russian,” Torshin was in Washington at the time to lead his country’s delegation to the National Prayer Breakfast, where Trump spoke. The banker also was slated to see the presidentat a meet-and-greet event prior to a White House breakfast, but Torshin’s invitation was canceled after the White House learned of his alleged mob connections, Yahoo News reported.

Torshin’s involvement with the NRA may have begun in 2013 when he attended the group’s convention in Houston. Keene, the ex-NRA leader and an avid hunter, was instrumental in building a relationship with the Russian, according to multiple conservative sources.

Keene also helped lead a high-level NRA delegation to Moscow in December 2015 for a week of lavish meals and meetings with Russian business and political leaders. The week’s festivities included a visit to a Russian gun company and a meeting with a senior Kremlin official and wealthy Russians, according to a member of the delegation, Arnold Goldschlager, a California doctor who has been active in NRA programs to raise large donations.

Others on the trip included Joe Gregory, who runs the NRA’s Ring of Freedom program for elite donors who chip in checks of $1 million and upwards, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke and Pete Brownell, a chief executive of a gun company and longtime NRA board member.

In a phone interview, Goldschlager described the trip as a “people-to-people mission,” and said he was impressed with Torshin — who, he noted, hosted both a “welcoming” dinner for the NRA contingent and another one.

“They were killing us with vodka and the best Russian food,” Goldschlager said. “The trip exceeded my expectations by logarithmic levels.”

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article195231139.html#storylink=cpy

 

(click here to continue reading FBI investigating whether Russia funneled cash to NRA to aid Trump’s campaign | McClatchy Washington Bureau.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 18th, 2018 at 12:57 pm

Posted in crime,politics

Tagged with , ,

Phage Therapy in the US

Natural Science
Natural Science

Have you ever heard of phages? aka bacteriophages? I had not, nor phage therapy.

Mother Jones reports:

The Food and Drug Administration has not licensed phage therapy, keeping it out of pharmacies and hospitals. Few physicians have used it even experimentally, and most civilians have never heard of it. But phages are a natural phenomenon, frequently deployed in the former Soviet Union. When used properly, they can save lives.

To understand how phage therapy works, it helps to know a little biology, starting with the distinction between bacteria and viruses. Most of the drug-resistant superbugs that cause medical havoc are bacteria, microscopic single-celled organisms that do most of the things that other living things do: seek nutrition, metabolize it into energy, produce offspring. Viruses, which are much smaller than bacteria, exist only to reproduce: They attach to a cell, hijack its reproductive machinery to make fresh viruses, and then, in most cases, explode the cell to let viral copies float free.

Phages are viruses. In the wild, they are the cleanup crew that keeps bacteria from taking over the world. Bacteria reproduce relentlessly, a new generation every 20 minutes or so, and phages kill them just as rapidly, preventing the burgeoning bacterial biomass from swamping the planet like a B-movie slime monster. But phages do not kill indiscriminately: Though there are trillions in the world, each is tuned evolutionarily to destroy only particular bacteria. In 1917, a self-taught microbiologist named Félix d’Herelle recognized phages’ talent for targeted killing. He imagined that if he could find the correct phages, he could use them to cure deadly bacterial infections.

That was a gleaming hope, because at the time, nothing else could. (Sir Alexander Fleming wouldn’t find the mold that makes penicillin, the first antibiotic, until 1928.) Treatments were primitive: aspirin and ice baths to knock down fever, injections of crude immunotherapy extracted from the blood of horses and sheep, and amputation when a scratch or cut let infection burgeon in a limb and threaten the rest of the body with sepsis. Phages—whose full name, bacteriophages (or “bacteria eaters”), was given by d’Herelle in 1916—did something that medicine had never before been able to accomplish: They vanquished the infections for which they were administered without otherwise harming patients. A medical sensation and a cultural phenomenon, they provided the key plot device in the novel Arrowsmith, about an idealistic doctor, that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1926, and they saved the life of the Hollywood cowboy actor Tom Mix, a 1930s superstar.

D’Herelle was a restless researcher who seems to have felt undervalued despite being awarded jobs in Paris and Vietnam and at Yale. That insecurity made him vulnerable to an offer he received in 1933 to relocate to Tbilisi in Georgia, home territory of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. With a protégé, Georgi Eliava, d’Herelle co-founded the Eliava Institute of Bacteriophages, Microbiology and Virology. Stalin showered the institute with attention and money because it offered something he badly wanted: a scientific achievement that he could portray as a pure product of communism. Antibiotics became the basis of infectious-disease medicine in the West, but behind the Iron Curtain, phages took their place.

Eliava was murdered in a political purge in 1937, and d’Herelle died in 1949. Their institute dwindled, but it survived the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the Georgian civil war the following year. When the former USSR opened up to the West, physicians in the United States and Europe learned the Eliava Institute was one of the few places in the world where researchers were still studying and administering phages. That was fortunate timing, because antibiotics in the West were losing their power under the onslaught of antibiotic resistance.

(click here to continue reading He Was Dying. Antibiotics Weren’t Working. Then Doctors Tried a Forgotten Treatment. – Mother Jones.)

Fascinating article, well worth reading. 

Will phage therapy ever catch on in the US? Maybe, but our medical system is dependent upon the profit motive, thus pharmaceutical corporations are less interested in phage therapy because the resultant drugs won’t be so easily monetized. Plus the FDA’s bureaucratic infrastructure impedes studying these kinds of medicines.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 16th, 2018 at 11:11 am

Aon Center makeover treats big banal skyscraper with respect

BP Amoco is not greener than me
Aon building

The Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin reports:

Now Aon’s owner, the New York-based firm of 601W Cos., wants to take advantage of the neighborhood’s newfound popularity with a new observatory that would compete with existing ones at Willis Tower and 875 N. Michigan. But there’s no room inside Aon for an elevator leading to the aerie, so 601W charged Chicago architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz with putting one on the outside.

Crafted by principal Martin Wolf, SCB’s plan starts with a wedge-shaped, metal-and-glass entry pavilion that would rise on the southeast corner of Aon Center’s plaza — an appropriately simple form for this simple building. Descending on escalators to below-street passageways, visitors would wend their way to the elevator tower. City officials wisely insisted that the tower rise on the building’s northwest corner (and not on the southeast corner, as originally planned) so it would not disturb the clean lines of Aon’s park-facing side.

If you’re an acrophobe, the high-speed double-deck elevators that shoot up and down the tower won’t be for you. But for those who get a kick out of seeing a city from on high, the elevators could be the ultimate version of those glass-covered cabs that enlivened the hotels of the late Atlanta architect and developer John Portman. Portman’s genius was to make an elevator ride an event, not just a trip in a box.

While the elevator tower will be visible from Michigan Avenue, it promises to be a light and lacy presence rather than a mechanical eyesore. It might even be exciting at night as the cabs of its double-deck elevators create trails of light like comet tails, said Phil Hettema of Pasadena, Calif., the designer of the still-unnamed observatory and the spaces leading to it. The two-level observatory would occupy space above the building’s office floors that was originally devoted to cooling towers.

For those willing to pay more than the price of admission, an internal elevator would transport them from the observatory to the thrill ride, a mechanical-lift contraption called the Sky Summit. Its steel arms would lift a glass-sheathed cab with room for about 20 people nearly 30 feet above the roof, then lower the cab over Aon’s edge, holding it there for about 30 seconds as the floor changed from opaque to transparent to reveal views of Millennium Park far below. Next, the cab would bring everybody back to Aon’s rooftop, presumably glad to be alive. The engineers assure me it’s a tried-and-true system. (Pass the Valium.)

(click here to continue reading Aon Center makeover treats big banal skyscraper with respect. But about that thrill ride … – Chicago Tribune.)

I’m looking forward to riding this.

Aon Infrared
Aon Infrared

Written by Seth Anderson

May 15th, 2018 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Arts,Chicago-esque

Tagged with

Trump cuts to H-2B guest worker visas hurt small business

Stark beauty of snowy cemetery
Stark beauty of snowy cemetery

There’s an evergreen news topic: Trump voter screwed by Trump. It’s almost a joke, but certainly real for the people and business screwed by Trump and the GOP.

The Lexington Herald Leader reports:

Eddie Devine voted for President Donald Trump because he thought he would be good for American business. Now, he says, the Trump administration’s restrictions on seasonal foreign labor may put him out of business.

“I feel like I’ve been tricked by the devil,” said Devine, owner of Harrodsburg-based Devine Creations Landscaping. “I feel so stupid.”

Devine says it has been years since he could find enough dependable, drug-free American workers for his $12-an-hour jobs mowing and tending landscapes for cemeteries, shopping centers and apartment complexes across Central Kentucky.

Devine says he lost a $100,000 account because he didn’t have enough men to do the job. He’s worried he may be out of business next year if things don’t improve.

He isn’t alone. Cuts in H-2B visas are hurting small businesses across the country that can’t find Americans willing to do hard, manual labor: Maryland crab processors, Texas shrimp fishermen, and Kentucky landscapers and construction companies.

But what makes him most angry is that Trump’s properties in Florida and New York have used 144 H-2B workers since 2016. “I want to know why it’s OK for him to get his workers, but supporters like me don’t get theirs,” Devine said.

(click here to continue reading Trump cuts to H-2B guest worker visas hurt small business | Lexington Herald Leader.)

Do I have sympathy for Eddie Devine? Not much. Trump’s anti-immigration stance wasn’t some secret, only known to Steven Miller and John Kelly, no, Trump led chants of “Build the Wall” at seemingly every rally. Perhaps in the future, Trumpers might think a little bit harder about what they are really voting for, instead of becoming part of the Fox News mob. I doubt it, though. 

Fading One By One
Fading One By One

Thomas Frank wrote a book about this phenomena, even before Trump made this worse:

Wikipedia:

 

What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004) is a book by American journalist and historian Thomas Frank, which explores the rise of populist anti-elitist conservatism in the United States, centering on the experience of Kansas, Frank’s native state. In the late 19th century, says Frank, Kansas was known as a hotbed of the left-wing Populist movement, but in recent decades, it has become overwhelmingly conservative. The book was published in Britain and Australia as What’s the Matter with America?.

Frank applies his thesis to answer the question of why these social conservatives continue to vote for Republicans, even though they are voting against their best interests. He argues that politicians and pundits stir the “Cons” to action by evoking certain issues, such as abortion, immigration, and taxation. By portraying themselves as champions of the conservatives on these issues, the politicians can get “Cons” to vote them into office. However, once in office, these politicians turn their attention to more mundane economic issues, such as business tax reduction or deregulation. Frank’s thesis goes thus: In order to explain to the “Cons” why no progress gets made on these issues, politicians and pundits point their fingers to a “liberal elite,” a straw man representing everything that conservatism is not. When reasons are given, they eschew economic reasons in favor of accusing this elite of simply hating America, or having a desire to harm “average” Americans. This theme of victimization by these “elites” is pervasive in conservative literature, despite the fact that at the time conservatives controlled all three branches of government, were being served by an extensive media devoted only to conservative ideology, and had won 6 of the previous 9 presidential elections.

 

 

(click here to continue reading What’s the Matter with Kansas? – Wikipedia.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 15th, 2018 at 10:41 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with ,

Idiot Illinois governor wants the state to revive its death penalty

The government should not be in the business of revenge killings.

Dance of Death
Dance of Death

The Washington Post reports:

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday called for reviving the death penalty in his state, which banned the practice in 2011 and has not carried out an execution in nearly two decades.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D), the House majority leader, dismissed Rauner’s call to reinstate the death penalty with a brief statement Monday.

“On its merits, the governor’s proposal is a terrible idea,” she said.

Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton (D) also was critical, noting that prior issues with capital punishment prompted lawmakers to abolish it years earlier.

“The death penalty should never be used as a political tool to advance one’s agenda,” Cullerton said in a statement. “Doing so is in large part why we had so many problems and overturned convictions. That’s why we had bipartisan support to abolish capital punishment. I’ve seen nothing from today’s announcement to suggest that lesson has been learned.”

(click here to continue reading Illinois governor wants the state to revive its death penalty for mass murderers and people who kill police – The Washington Post.)

Yet another reason not to vote for Rauner, as if there were even any room left on the column.

Rauner’s cynical move is solely about the election, shoring up support with the right-wing which is rightfully suspicious of Rauner’s conservative credentials, and should be seen as such. 

Illinois banned its death penalty in 2011, but the state had halted executions long before that. In 2000, then-Gov. George Ryan (R) declared a moratorium and decried the death penalty as “fraught with error.” He then commuted all of the state’s death sentences in 2003, an unprecedented move.

One of his successors, Pat Quinn (D), signed legislation that abolished the death penalty entirely in 2011. He also pointed to the risks of executing a potentially innocent person, saying: “If the system can’t be guaranteed, 100-percent error-free, then we shouldn’t have the system.”

Written by Seth Anderson

May 15th, 2018 at 10:08 am

Posted in crime,government

Tagged with

Advertisers Are Salivating About 5G-Fueled Marketing

Calumet 5 6969
Calumet 5-6969

Adweek reports:

Kevin Crull, chief operating officer at Sprint, envisions a world in the coming years where his phone is able to automatically book an Uber ride from an airport based on a calendar reminder that he created about an upcoming flight. The calendar reminder feeds real-time travel stats to his device and then recommends a meal for his Uber driver to pick up on the way based on what items he has previously ordered through Uber Eats.

“I can see in the future where it brings in information from other devices and third-party services to get much more predictive and successful in how we’re targeting people,” he said.

Crull’s futuristic scenario isn’t just wishful (or hungry) thinking. It’s the product of 5G technology that constantly pings data back and forth between smartphones and connected devices, making it possible for devices to essentially predict what actions a consumer takes. At its core, the widespread rollout of 5G promises to increase connection speeds by up to 10 times while cutting latency by a factor of five, he said. Videos—and commercials—powered with 5G will stream faster and look crisper on smartphones. And with more data flowing quickly between networks and devices, the so-called Internet of Things will take a bit more shape for marketers who have long strived to ping a user’s smartphone with a relevant message as he passes a billboard or store.

(click here to continue reading With Faster Speeds and Connections, Brands Are Planning for 5G-Fueled Marketing – Adweek.)

Here’s the nub: 5 G as a technology is not necessarily better for average users, but it sure is for the industries that want to monetize your information and sell it, and you, to corporations.

Jogging After the End of Times
Jogging After the End of Times

For instance: Augmented Reality, and self-driving cars – with television screens…

By the middle of next year, Sprint plans to have 5G up and running “in many markets,” while AT&T plans to equip 12 markets including Atlanta and Dallas with mobile 5G this year. T-Mobile says that it’s on track to have 5G rolled out to 30 cities such as New York and Los Angeles in 2018, and Verizon is also enabling five markets including Sacramento, Calif., with the technology.

For advertisers, 5G opens up new video opportunities with formats like virtual reality and interactive clips that require hefty amounts of data to view today. Sprint’s Crull said he also expects for advertisers to play with dynamic creative and video lengths that are customized to users depending on how much content they typically watch on their phone.

And as Apple, Facebook and Snapchat invest in augmented reality, expect for 5G to open up more detailed AR experiences for marketers to experiment with, said Malmad.

“In a world of 5G, you aren’t going to be constrained by [bandwidth]—you can showcase whatever you like and have a rich, deep experience, so I do believe that augmented reality will benefit greatly from 5G,” he said.

Malmad said that 5G will also make it easier for marketers to target ads to connected cars, particularly once autonomous driving becomes more mainstream. For example, self-driving cars are expected to free up people’s time and attention so that they can watch TV or stream programs, meaning that automakers may build screens into seats.

No wonder telecoms are forcing municipalities to install 5G towers, whether or not communities want them, with the help of the Republican FCC chairman, Ajit Pai.

Come Rain Come Shine
Come Rain Come Shine

The NYT reported a few months ago:

The future of cellular service is coming to a neighborhood near you.

But who gets to decide when, where and how it gets delivered is still a heated fight.

The new technology, known as 5G, delivers wireless internet at far faster speeds than existing cellular connections. But it also requires different hardware to deliver the signals.

Instead of relying on large towers placed far apart, the new signals will come from smaller equipment placed an average of 500 feet apart in neighborhoods and business districts. Much of the equipment will be on streetlights or utility poles, often accompanied by containers the size of refrigerators on the ground. More than 300,000 cell stations now provide wireless connections, and 5G will bring hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — more.

The prospect of their installation has many communities and their officials, from Woodbury, N.Y., to Olympia, Wash., insisting that local governments control the placement and look of the new equipment. They say that the cell stations could clutter neighborhoods with eyesores and cost the communities a lot of potential revenue. “Residents across the country are just now beginning to understand the harms that hasty and insensitive small cell deployments can inflict on their communities,” said Jim Baller, the president of Baller Stokes & Lide, a law firm in Washington that represents municipalities on communications issues.

But telecommunications companies — hoping to cash in on what is predicted to be $250 billion in annual service revenue from 5G by 2025 — are pushing to build the system as quickly and cheaply as possible. And they have the federal government on their side.

(click here to continue reading 5G Cell Service Is Coming. Who Decides Where It Goes? – The New York Times.)

City of Lights
City of Lights

Some states have preemptively stopped municipalities from having a say in the matter, or in receiving fees for these 5G poles:

And the F.C.C., under the leadership of Ajit Pai, its Republican chairman, has strongly encouraged weakening regulations to accelerate the deployment of new 5G technology — including reducing the role of local governments.

Texas cities can’t negotiate rates. Last year, the State Legislature passed a law pushed by AT&T that allows cities to charge carriers no more than $250 per pole each year. Before the law, cities often charged $1,500 to $2,500 a year per pole, and the change will cost Texas cities as much as $1 billion over eight years, the Texas Municipal League estimated.

A group of Texas cities led by the city of McAllen, near the Mexico border, filed a lawsuit last year against the state, arguing that the new cell-site law violated the state Constitution, which prohibits the Legislature from forcing cities to grant something of value to corporations.

Talk about Big Government…

Written by Seth Anderson

May 15th, 2018 at 9:25 am

Posted in Advertising,government

Tagged with , , ,

Maryland seafood industry loses 40 percent of work force in visa lottery

Claw
Crab Claw

The Baltimore Sun reports about another industry who voted for Trump with no regrets, yet is now feeling the effects of Trump’s campaign promises:

Maryland’s seafood industry is in crisis: Nearly half of the Eastern Shore’s crab houses have no workers to pick the meat sold in restaurants and supermarkets.

They failed to get visas for their mostly Mexican workforce, including many women who have been coming north to Maryland for crab season for as long as two decades. The Trump administration for the first time awarded them this year in a lottery, instead of on a first-come, first-served basis.

Maryland’s 20 licensed crab processors typically employ some 500 foreign workers each season, from April to November, through the H-2B visa program, Seiling said. The visas are for seasonal workers in non-agricultural jobs. Pickers are paid by the pound of meat they produce, and the most productive ones make up to $500 a week.

“Nobody wants to do manual labor anymore,” Seiling said. “Its just a very, very tight labor market right now, particularly in industries that are seasonal.”

(click here to continue reading Crab crisis: Maryland seafood industry loses 40 percent of work force in visa lottery – Baltimore Sun.)

Hmm, the best, most productive, hardest workers get nearly $500 a week ($2,000 a month). I’m guessing there aren’t many benefits included: no healthcare, no pension, and probably not including taxes. Doesn’t sound a great job for most.

And then there’s this:

“I voted for Donald Trump and I’d vote for President Trump again,” he said. “But I think in small rural towns in America, we’re getting the short end of the stick on labor.”

Personally, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for this dude. Trump repeatedly sneered loudly of his plans to stop immigration, but crab man decided   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ the racism and Hillary bashing and so on was enough to earn his vote.

I Am Going To Eat You - Paul Noth 

King Crab Stuffed Tuna  Kamehachi
King Crab Stuffed Tuna – Kamehachi

The Guardian/Observer followed up:

Nearly half of the Eastern Shore’s crab houses have lost the temporary workers, mostly from Mexico, who come every season to pick crabs, The Baltimore Sun reported last week. The businesses couldn’t get visas for the crab pickers because the Trump administration awarded them by lottery this year, instead of on a first come, first served basis.

Just one month into crabbing season, everyone here is feeling it. The guy who builds the crab pots, the bait fishermen, the crabbers, the crab house suppliers, the little roadside crab shack, the local general store, the waterman’s wife who can’t afford to stay home with the kids anymore – all of them are in trouble thanks to the fear of immigrants that helped elect President Trump and is now shaping the administration’s hardline approach towards legal and illegal immigration.

Harry Phillips, owner of Russell Hall Seafood, understands that. Like his neighbours, he voted for Trump and supports him. But he believes the president has been misinformed on the seasonal H-2B worker visas and would see the devastating results in one quick visit to the island.

“We’re 15 minutes away from Washington by helicopter,” says Phillips, whose crab house was quiet Sunday morning, with empty bushel baskets stacked high because the crab pickers aren’t coming. “There’s a landing pad for the helicopter, and we would welcome him here. If the president could just come and see what’s happening to American workers, he could see it right here, the effects of all this.”

 

(click here to continue reading Trump’s tighter immigration restrictions causing ‘crab crisis’ in Maryland | The Independent.)

Yeah, that’s not happening. Trump doesn’t give a shit about anyone other than himself. You were just fooled. Were you one of those chanting “build the wall”? What did you think that meant? Keep those other immigrants out, but not the ones you need for your business?

World Without Borders
World Without Borders

Personally, I have no problem with as many immigrants coming to the US as can make it here. Money doesn’t have to respect borders, why do people? Have you ever driven in rural America? Say Iowa, or South Dakota? Or West Texas? There’s a lot of empty land out there. I think the US could continue to grow and thrive by going back to an open door immigration policy. 

Written by Seth Anderson

May 13th, 2018 at 9:36 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

Service Meant to Monitor Inmates’ Calls Could Track You, Too, and Probably Does

Cell Phone Evolution
Cell Phone Evolution

Cell phones are useful for a lot of things, but owning one does have consequences, like the ability for 3rd party organizations or government entities to track your location down to 25-50 feet at any time your phone is connected to a cell tower.

The NYT reports:

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, wrote in a letter this week to the Federal Communications Commission that Securus confirmed that it did not “conduct any review of surveillance requests.” The senator said relying on customers to provide documentation was inadequate. “Wireless carriers have an obligation to take affirmative steps to verify law enforcement requests,” he wrote, adding that Securus did not follow those procedures.

The service provided by Securus reveals a potential weakness in a system that is supposed to protect the private information of millions of cellphone users. With customers’ consent, carriers sell the ability to acquire location data for marketing purposes like providing coupons when someone is near a business, or services like roadside assistance or bank fraud protection. Companies that use the data generally sign contracts pledging to get people’s approval — through a response to a text message, for example, or the push of a button on a menu — or to otherwise use the data legally.

But the contracts between the companies, including Securus, are “the legal equivalent of a pinky promise,” Mr. Wyden wrote. The F.C.C. said it was reviewing the letter.

Courts are split on whether investigators need a warrant based on probable cause to acquire location data. In some states, a warrant is required for any sort of cellphone tracking. In other states, it is needed only if an investigator wants the data in real time. And in others no warrant is needed at all.

Other experts said the law should apply for any communications on a network, not just phone calls. “If the phone companies are giving someone a direct portal into the real-time location data on all of their customers, they should be policing it,” said Laura Moy, the deputy director of the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology.

Mr. Wyden, in his letter to the F.C.C., also said that carriers had an obligation to verify whether law enforcement requests were legal. But Securus cuts the carriers out of the review process, because the carriers do not receive the legal documents.

The letter called for an F.C.C. investigation into Securus, as well as the phone companies and their protections of user data. Mr. Wyden also sent letters to the major carriers, seeking audits of their relationships with companies that buy consumer data. Representatives for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon said the companies had received the letters and were investigating.

(click here to continue reading Service Meant to Monitor Inmates’ Calls Could Track You, Too – The New York Times.)

In this particular instance, the 3rd parties selling your location data is called 3Cinteractive and LocationSmart, but there are hundreds more such companies who have built their businesses on turning your location into sellable data, most of which are relatively obscure.

Securus received the data from a mobile marketing company called 3Cinteractive, according to 2013 documents from the Florida Department of Corrections. Securus said that for confidentiality reasons it could not confirm whether that deal was still in place, but a spokesman for Mr. Wyden said the company told the senator’s office it was. In turn, 3Cinteractive got its data from LocationSmart, a firm known as a location aggregator, according to documents from those companies. LocationSmart buys access to the data from all the major American carriers, it says.

How does it work?

CBS News:

 “Envision a cell site,” says Allen (a typical tower appears in the photo above). “They’re triangular, and each side has about 120 degrees of sweep.” Every time a signal is transmitted to a nearby phone, says Allen, there is a round-trip delay to the mobile device and back. By using all three sides of the triangle to “talk” to the mobile device, the tower can triangulate which edge of the base station is closest to the device. “Typically the accuracy return varies,” says Allen. “In urban settings, it can be accurate down to several blocks; in suburban settings, several hundred meters.”

“We can locate any subscriber,” says Allen, “and companies want all those subscribers to be addressable,” or discoverable. Normally, this requires passing through some privacy gateways, says Allen. “The end user must opt in through a Web portal or SMS, or an app like Foursquare,” he says, per “universal” CTIA and MMA guidelines, and carriers’ own privacy protocol.

But with enterprise services, there’s a catch. “In a workplace scenario, the corporate entity has the right to opt-in those devices,” says Allen. “The [employee] is typically notified, but the opt-in is up to the employer.”

In other words: if your employer owns your phone, tablet or 3G-enabled computer, they’re entitled to own your location, too.

(click here to continue reading iPhones as Homing Beacons: How AT&T and Verizon Help Companies Track Employees – CBS News.)

Apple Rising
Apple Rising

Even Apple, a corporation that prides itself on not selling users data as much as their competitors, has acknowledged that users data has sometimes been sold.

9To5 Mac reports:

Over the last few days, Apple has seemingly started cracking down on applications that share location data with third-parties. In such cases, Apple has been removing the application in question and informing developers that their app violates two parts of the App Store Review Guidelines…

Sylvania HomeKit Light Strip Thus far, we’ve seen several cases of Apple cracking down on these types of applications. The company informs developers via email that “upon re-evaluation,” their application is in violation of sections 5.1.1 and 5.1.2 of the App Store Review Guidelines, which pertain to transmitting user location data and user awareness of data collection.

Legal – 5.1.1 and Legal 5.1.2

The app transmits user location data to third parties without explicit consent from the user and for unapproved purposes.

Apple explains that developers must remove any code, frameworks, or SDKs that relate to the violation before their app can be resubmitted to the App Store

(click here to continue reading Apple cracking down on applications that send location data to third-parties | 9to5Mac.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 11th, 2018 at 8:26 am

Russia-linked company Columbus Nova that hired Trump lawyer Michael Cohen registered alt-right websites

Part of Your Secret Life
Part of Your Secret Life

An odd thing for an investment firm to spend money on, wouldn’t you say?

The Washington Post reports:

A company at the center of widening questions involving President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen is listed as the organization behind a string of websites targeted toward white nationalists and other members of the alt-right.

Columbus Nova, a company whose U.S. chief executive, Andrew Intrater, and Russian investment partner Viktor Vekselberg have both reportedly been interviewed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team, is listed as the registrant behind a handful of domains for websites named after the alt-right that were created during the 2016 election.

It is unclear if any of these websites were launched or ever hosted content.

These sites include Alt-right.co, Alternate-right.com, Alternate-rt.com, Alt-rite.com, and other similar combinations, which were all registered in the two days following a speech given by then candidate Hillary Clinton in August 2016 in which she excoriated the far-right movement known for its extremist, racist, anti-Semitic and sexist viewpoints.

(click here to continue reading Russia-linked company that hired Trump lawyer Michael Cohen registered alt-right websites during election – The Washington Post.)

Columbus Novus has been around for while, acting as an Angel Investor firm.

Crunchbase reports on typical investments that Columbus Novus has made in the past, like Atlis:

 

– Local search platforms using average star ratings are antiquated, creating a poor user experience, and causing significant harm to local business reputations. These products still live in the desktop era.

 

– The system has removed negativity from the consumer feedback loop to prevent toxicity and abuse of local businesses, instead empowering satisfied customers to have a larger voice than ever before.

 

– Atlis has taken the preferred channel of “friendly advice” and applied it to a city-wide audience, letting users ask each other for various local businesses, products, and services to receive suggestions directly in real-time.

 

– Atlis tracks user preferences and collects a repository of the word-of-mouth advice across an entire city, making that dataset consumable via a passive search experience, as well. Machine learning will eventually transform this the data collection into smart, personalized search results that knows what people would have suggested to you.

 

– Company launched in NYC in October 2016 with its R&D team based in Tel Aviv. It has already built an engaged user base of over 10,000 and has signed up over 200 local businesses (without any B2B efforts). It has also secured valuable partnerships with Google, OpenTable, and others.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Atlis | Crunchbase.)

How does one make a business case that purchasing alt-right domain names is part of investment strategy? Unless your real strategy is assisting Putin put Trump in office by any means available.

The secrets of the world are whispered
The secrets of the world are whispered

I guess the Russians didn’t want to spend all of their funds with the NRA, and decided to spread it around a bit?

Natasha Bertrand, when she was with Business Insider, reported:

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has emerged as a hero of several prominent alt-right figures, raising new questions about the Kremlin’s influence on the far-right, white nationalist movement that has asserted itself as a new force in American politics. Whether Russia has played a direct role in awakening the American alt-right, whose resurgence as a crusade against establishment politics coincided with the rise of President-elect Donald Trump, is debatable.

 

But the extent to which the alt-right has found a natural ally in Russia’s current zeitgeist — which perceives the US as a globalist, imperialist power working on behalf of liberal elites — is hard to overstate.

 

Self-described white nationalist Matthew Heimbach, who said he identifies as a member of the alt-right, has praised Putin’s Russia as “the axis for nationalists.”

 

“I really believe that Russia is the leader of the free world right now,” Heimbach told Business Insider in a recent interview. “Putin is supporting nationalists around the world and building an anti-globalist alliance, while promoting traditional values and self-determination.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Alt-right connections to Putin and Russia – Business Insider.)

or as Michelle Wolf put it:

 

 

Trump is racist, though. He loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a ‘white nationalist’ is like calling a pedophile a ‘kid friend,’ or Harvey Weinstein a ‘ladies man,’ which isn’t really fair — he also likes plants.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Michelle Wolf’s Best White House Correspondents Dinner Jokes.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 10th, 2018 at 9:41 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

Boeing C.E.O. Downplays Loss of $20 Billion Contract With Iran

Which End Has the Pot of Gold
Which End Has the Pot of Gold?

The NYT reports:

The chief executive of the aerospace giant Boeing downplayed the fallout from the president’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear pact, saying on Wednesday that the company would abide by the Trump administration’s decision to cancel Boeing’s licenses to sell $20 billion of aircraft to Iran.

“We will continue to follow the U.S. government’s lead,” Dennis A. Muilenburg, the chief executive, told a luncheon crowd at the Economic Club of Washington.

(click here to continue reading Boeing C.E.O. Downplays Loss of $20 Billion Contract With Iran – The New York Times.)

Craven. Is there any other word for it? $20,000,000,000 is a rather large contract, wouldn’t you say?

I wouldn’t be surprised if Boeing has had discussions with Michael Cohen for a “consultant” deal, like AT&T, Novartis, or Korea Aerospace Industries. I wonder if Boeing agreed to it? I’m guessing they did not, and thus Trump has gone out of his way to antagonize Boeing.

Double Rainbow Over Boeing
Double Rainbow Over Boeing

3rd World Man:

 

Among the other payments to Mr. Cohen’s company described in the financial records were four for $99,980 each between October and January by Novartis Investments S.A.R.L., a subsidiary of Novartis, the multinational pharmaceutical giant based in Switzerland. Novartis — whose chief executive was among 15 business leaders invited to dinner with Mr. Trump at the World Economic Forum in January — spent more than $10 million on lobbying in Washington last year and frequently seeks approvals from federal drug regulators. Novartis said in a statement that its agreement with Essential Consultants had expired.

 

In addition, Korea Aerospace Industries paid Mr. Cohen’s company $150,000 last November, according to the records. The company, an aircraft manufacturer, has teamed with the American defense contractor Lockheed Martin in competing for a multibillion-dollar contract to provide trainer jets for the United States Air Force that is expected to be awarded this year.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Firm Tied to Russian Oligarch Made Payments to Michael Cohen – The New York Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 9th, 2018 at 7:20 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with ,

Lawyers Told Gina Haspel Torture Was Legal. But It Never Was

Can You Show Me Your Dream
Can You Show Me Your Dream?

Even the thought of torture-enabler Gina Haspel being promoted makes me angry.

Claire Finkelstein and Stephen N. Xenakis write:

As the Senate considers Gina Haspel’s nomination as director of the C.I.A., it is time to dispel the false narrative about her record. That narrative says that Ms. Haspel’s involvement in torture, as well as the order she drafted authorizing the destruction of videotapes documenting this abusive practice, was legal and justifiable.

Torture — “enhanced interrogation,” as it was called — was supposedly legal because Justice Department lawyers had given it their blessing at the time, and destroying evidence of it was legal not only because government lawyers said it was, but also because Ms. Haspel was just following orders.

But Ms. Haspel’s supporters, many of whom are lawyers, should know better: the faulty advice of government lawyers and bosses cannot make illegal conduct legal. And C.I.A. investigations that rely on these specious justifications to excuse her decisions should be given no weight.

In 2002, Ms. Haspel ran a secret detention site in Thailand, code-named Cat’s Eye, that was known for its use of harsh interrogation techniques that amounted to torture. She was also chief of staff to Jose Rodriguez, director of the National Clandestine Service for the agency.

The Nuremberg trials after World War II established that following orders is not a defense for conduct that is patently illegal. Under the Geneva Conventions, torture, like genocide, belongs in that category. A similar principle says that incorrect legal advice cannot shield one from liability when such advice is promoting transparently unlawful conduct. Torture, like genocide, is of such patent illegality that we are entitled to hold all who engage in it responsible, whether they knew it was illegal or not. Under both domestic and international law, a manifestly evil act puts perpetrators on notice they are committing a crime, and they can be held responsible for such knowledge.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | Lawyers Told Gina Haspel Torture Was Legal. But It Never Was. – The New York Times.)

History Is Myth
History Is Myth

Torture is just wrong. It should never be used. Not only that, but it doesn’t even work!

The NYT reports that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed wants to release a six paragraph statement about Gina Haspel:

Ms. Haspel ran a black-site prison in Thailand where another high-level detainee was tortured in late 2002. But it is not known whether she was involved, directly or indirectly, in Mr. Mohammed’s torture. Mr. Mohammed was held in secret C.I.A. prisons in Afghanistan and Poland.

In the weeks after his capture, an Intelligence Committee report said, Mr. Mohammed was subjected to the suffocation technique called waterboarding 183 times over 15 sessions, stripped naked, doused with water, slapped, slammed into a wall, given rectal rehydrations without medical need, shackled into painful stress positions and sleep-deprived for about a week by being forced to stand with his hands chained above his head.

While being subjected to that treatment, he made alarming confessions about purported terrorist plots — like recruiting black Muslims in Montana to carry out attacks — that he later retracted. They were apparently made up, the Senate report said.

 

(click here to continue reading 9/11 Planner, Tortured by C.I.A., Asks to Tell Senators About Gina Haspel – The New York Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 9th, 2018 at 8:49 am

Gina Haspel Should Be Sent To Trial At The Hague Not Promoted To Head The CIA

It s About Judge Ment
It’s About Judge Ment

One of my biggest disappointments with Obama’s presidency is that he never vigorously prosecuted those in the US Government who conducted torture, or in Gina Haspel’s case, enabled torturers to evade public scrutiny by covering up evidence of crimes.

Gina Haspel should not be promoted, she should be sent to The Hague to stand trial for war crimes, along with others like Dick Cheney. Torture is not an American value, at least not in the America I want to live in.

The Guardian reports:

 

Gina Haspel is set to become the first female director in the 70-year history of the CIA. But smashing that glass ceiling will depend on offering the US Senate a convincing explanation about her dark past.

 

More than a decade ago Haspel reportedly oversaw an infamous secret CIA prison in Thailand where a terrorism suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was waterboarded, a process that simulates drowning. She is also said to have drafted orders to destroy video evidence of such torture, which prompted a lengthy justice department investigation that ended without charges.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Torture allegations dog Gina Haspel as she is poised to be first female CIA head | US news | The Guardian.)

I am personally not reassured by her assertion that the CIA won’t restart torture:

 

Gina Haspel is expected to tell the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday that she “will not restart” the CIA’s brutal interrogation program if confirmed to lead the agency, according to excerpts of her remarks released by the agency in advance of what is expected to be a contentious confirmation hearing.

But that is unlikely to satisfy those senators who have called for more public disclosure about her career. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the Intelligence Committee’s vice chairman, told Haspel in a letter earlier this week that her recalcitrance was “unacceptable.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Gina Haspel hearing for CIA director: Senate questions Trump’s nominee on interrogation program – The Washington Post.)

Not reassured at all that Haspel, Bolton and Trump won’t quickly start up black sites and begin torturing people again. Who would even know, at first? She seems quite happy with herself, able to sleep at night, unlike some of her victims.

In October 2002, she took over a secret CIA detention facility in Thailand where an al-Qaeda suspect was waterboarded. Another suspect was subjected to the same so-called enhanced interrogation technique before Haspel arrived. At the time, she was serving in a senior leadership position in the agency’s counterterrorism center.

In 2005, Haspel drafted a cable, ultimately issued by her boss, ordering the destruction of nearly 100 videotapes of the interrogation sessions. Officials familiar with the episode have said that Haspel believed her boss, Jose Rodriquez, then the director of the National Clandestine Service, would obtain approval from the CIA director and general counsel before issuing the order. But Haspel was a strong advocate within the agency for destroying the tapes, believing that were they to become public and reveal the identity of CIA interrogators, they could face reprisals from terrorists.

End Torture in Illinois
End Torture in Illinois, and everywhere

James Cavallaro of The Guardian writes:

In the coming days, Gina Haspel will testify before the Senate in connection with her nomination by Donald Trump to direct the Central Intelligence Agency. Much has been written about whether someone who oversaw a secret CIA detention site where detainees were tortured should be eligible to head the nation’s leading intelligence agency.

At first blush, this may appear to be the central debate. What ethical transgressions are inconsistent with an agency-level directorship in the United States government? Certainly, participation in torture should render a candidate unqualified. Yet, on further inspection, the focus on whether Haspel’s abusive conduct disqualifies her from CIA leadership cloaks a far more important and revealing debate.

Judging candidates to direct the CIA presupposes knowledge of the history of the CIA and a vision for its role – if any – in a society that purports to be democratic. Interrogating, so to speak, that knowledge and understanding that vision have been painfully absent from the national debate.

More recently, the CIA created black sites around the world to host programs of institutionalized torture, documented by the Senate itself. The torture memos, written to justify this torture, so twisted and distorted legal norms that they were kept secret for years. The agency also facilitated creation of a black hole legal regime in Guantánamo, where the US has indefinitely detained hundreds of people in violation of international law.

My guess is that none of this bleak history will be raised when Gina Haspel appears before the Senate. Since 9/11, we have witnessed a national, collective effort to rehabilitate the CIA and champion its role as a noble protector of the US. Our post-9/11 reverence for all those tasked with defending us against real and perceived terrorist threats has crippled our ability to assess the actions and role of agencies like the CIA critically. This collective amnesia regarding the agency’s abuses, including its pattern of interference in democratic processes, is particularly stark today, as our nation grapples with the consequences of Russian efforts to undermine our elections and those of other nations.

Given its sordid history, the question to ask might not be whether Haspel rises to the caliber of the CIA. The question might be whether Haspel descends to the level of instigator of torture, murder and interference in foreign governments that has marked the history of the CIA. Unless and until we examine the difficult questions about the past and future of the CIA, Haspel may just be perfect for the job.

(click here to continue reading The CIA has a long history of torture. Gina Haspel will be perfect for the job | James Cavallaro | Opinion | The Guardian.)

The Arc of History Is Rusted
The Arc of History Is Rusted

The AP reports:

 

Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, offered to withdraw her nomination amid concerns that a debate over a harsh interrogation program would tarnish her reputation and that of the CIA. That’s according to two senior administration officials.

 

White House aides on Friday sought out additional details about Haspel’s involvement in the CIA’s now-defunct program of detaining and brutally interrogating terror suspects after 9/11 as they prepared her for Wednesday’s confirmation hearing. This is when she offered to withdraw.

 

They said Haspel, who is the acting director of the CIA, was reassured that her nomination was still on track and she will not withdraw.

 

 

(click here to continue reading The Latest: Sanders: Haspel offered withdrawal to shield CIA – The Washington Post.)

If Ms. Haspel had any honor, and there is no evidence she does, she would immediately withdraw her nomination and start a non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of human rights abuses around the world as a kind of penance. Even still, she should become a pariah, unwelcome to visit civilized societies.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 9th, 2018 at 8:29 am