July 25, 2014 archive

The Breakfast Club: 7-25-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History


How To Get On The Terrorist Watch List Without Ever Trying

Are you on the Department of Homeland Security’s Terrorist Watch List or No-Fly List? If you are, there is no way for you to find out but we now know what the criteria is and it’s pretty fast and loose with the rules. The Intercept investigative journalists Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux have obtained a copy of the guidelines from a document that was issued by the National Counterterrorism Center, the “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance.” In an extensive article, they examine how the government is using secret rules  “putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings.”

The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place “entire categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.

Over the years, the Obama and Bush Administrations have fiercely resisted disclosing the criteria for placing names on the databases-though the guidelines are officially labeled as unclassified. In May, Attorney General Eric Holder even invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent watchlisting guidelines from being disclosed in litigation launched by an American who was on the no fly list. In an affidavit, Holder called them a “clear roadmap” to the government’s terrorist-tracking apparatus, adding: “The Watchlisting Guidance, although unclassified, contains national security information that, if disclosed … could cause significant harm to national security.” [..]

The document’s definition of “terrorist” activity includes actions that fall far short of bombing or hijacking. In addition to expected crimes, such as assassination or hostage-taking, the guidelines also define destruction of government property and damaging computers used by financial institutions as activities meriting placement on a list. They also define as terrorism any act that is “dangerous” to property and intended to influence government policy through intimidation.

This combination-a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism and a low threshold for designating someone a terrorist-opens the way to ensnaring innocent people in secret government dragnets. It can also be counterproductive. When resources are devoted to tracking people who are not genuine risks to national security, the actual threats get fewer resources-and might go unnoticed. [..]

The fallout is personal too. There are severe consequences for people unfairly labeled a terrorist by the U.S. government, which shares its watchlist data with local law enforcement, foreign governments, and “private entities.” Once the U.S. government secretly labels you a terrorist or terrorist suspect, other institutions tend to treat you as one. It can become difficult to get a job (or simply to stay out of jail). It can become burdensome-or impossible-to travel. And routine encounters with law enforcement can turn into ordeals. [..]

The government has been widely criticized for making it impossible for people to know why they have been placed on a watchlist, and for making it nearly impossible to get off. The guidelines bluntly state that “the general policy of the U.S. Government is to neither confirm nor deny an individual’s watchlist status.” But the courts have taken exception to the official silence and footdragging: In June, a federal judge described the government’s secretive removal process as unconstitutional and “wholly ineffective.”

The difficulty of getting off the list is highlighted by a passage in the guidelines stating that an individual can be kept on the watchlist, or even placed onto the watchlist, despite being acquitted of a terrorism-related crime. The rulebook justifies this by noting that conviction in U.S. courts requires evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas watchlisting requires only a reasonable suspicion. Once suspicion is raised, even a jury’s verdict cannot erase it.

Not even death provides a guarantee of getting off the list. The guidelines say the names of dead people will stay on the list if there is reason to believe the deceased’s identity may be used by a suspected terrorist-which the National Counterterrorism Center calls a “demonstrated terrorist tactic.” In fact, for the same reason, the rules permit the deceased spouses of suspected terrorists to be placed onto the list after they have died.

Essentially, once a person is on these lists their Fourth Amendment rights are completely ignored, as Mike Masnick at Techdirt points out individuals are subjected to extra scrutiny, essentially allowing the government to sift through every aspect of a person’s life:

In addition to data like fingerprints, travel itineraries, identification documents and gun licenses, the rules encourage screeners to acquire health insurance information, drug prescriptions, “any cards with an electronic strip on it (hotel cards, grocery cards, gift cards, frequent flyer cards),” cellphones, email addresses, binoculars, peroxide, bank account numbers, pay stubs, academic transcripts, parking and speeding tickets, and want ads. The digital information singled out for collection includes social media accounts, cell phone lists, speed dial numbers, laptop images, thumb drives, iPods, Kindles, and cameras. All of the information is then uploaded to the TIDE (Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment) database.

Screeners are also instructed to collect data on any “pocket litter,” scuba gear, EZ Passes, library cards, and the titles of any books, along with information about their condition-“e.g., new, dog-eared, annotated, unopened.” Business cards and conference materials are also targeted, as well as “anything with an account number” and information about any gold or jewelry worn by the watchlisted individual. Even “animal information” – details about pets from veterinarians or tracking chips-is requested. The rulebook also encourages the collection of biometric or biographical data about the travel partners of watchlisted individuals.

At FDL’s The Dissenter, Kevin Gosztola discusses how this loop-hole ridden criteria violate a person’s rights and are inherently discriminatory towards Muslims:

There are a few general points to make in order to fully understand what this vague criteria for watchlisting means.

First of all, it is important not to ignore the anti-Muslim racism that likely influences a number of aspects of the watchlisting process. The idea that Muslims are “predisposed” to commit acts of violence is pervades the national security establishment. Training materials on fighting terrorism have been used by government agencies in previous years that deal with theories of “radicalization” and such training promotes prejudice, as evidenced by the fact that one NSA official used the slur “Mohammed Raghead” in an NSA memo.

Second, a federal district court in Oregon recently decided violated due process rights of Americans placed on the No-Fly List because it is nearly impossible to challenge inclusion and clear one’s name. The ACLU represented thirteen Americans, who have never engaged in any terrorist activity, in this case. Each person experienced hardship because they ended up on the No-Fly List.

The guidance shows why there needs to be a process established for getting off watchlists, especially the No-Fly List.

Finally, there is absolutely no reasonable justification for why this rulebook and any version of it from 2001 to 2014 should be secret. The watchlisting guidance is marked “unclassified.” There is nothing in it that will endanger any Americans.

Jeremy and Ryna sat down for an an interview with Huffington Post‘s Alyona Minkovski. During the discussion, Ryan called the these guidelines a “global stop and frisk program.”

Recently there were two court rulings that pertain to getting off the No-Fly list and a Supreme Court decision that bars warrantless searches of cell phones. Precisely how how those rulings will impact the guidelines remains to be seen but it is fairly obvious that the Obama administration has little regard for the rule of law.

On This Day In History July 25

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 25 is the 206th day of the year (207th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 159 days remaining until the end of the year.


On this day in 1788, Wolfgang Mozart completes his Symphony No. 40 in G minor.

The question of the Symphony’s premiere

There is no completely solid documentary evidence that the premiere of the 40th Symphony took place in Mozart’s lifetime. However, as Zaslaw (1983) points out, the circumstantial evidence that it was performed is very strong. On several occasions between the composition of the symphony and the composer’s death, symphony concerts were given featuring Mozart’s music, including concerts in which the program has survived, including a symphony, unidentified by date or key.

Most important is the fact that Mozart revised his symphony (the manuscripts of both versions still exist). As Zaslaw says, this “demonstrates that [the symphony] was performed, for Mozart would hardly have gone to the trouble of adding the clarinets and rewriting the flutes and oboes to accommodate them, had he not had a specific performance in view.” The orchestra for the 1791 Vienna concert included the clarinetist brothers Anton and Johann Stadler; which, as Zaslaw points out, limits the possibilities to just the 39th and 40th symphonies.

Zaslaw adds: “The version without clarinets must also have been performed, for the reorchestrated version of two passages in the slow movement, which exists in Mozart’s hand, must have resulted from his having heard the work and discovered an aspect needing improvement.”

Concerning the concerts for which the Symphony was originally (1788) intended, Otto Erich Deutsch suggests that Mozart was preparing to hold a series of three “Concerts in the Casino”, in a new casino in the Spiegelgasse owned by Philipp Otto. Mozart even sent a pair of tickets for this series to his friend Michael Puchberg. But it seems impossible to determine whether the concert series was held, or was cancelled for lack of interest. Zaslaw suggests that only the first of the three concerts was actually held.

Le Tour 2014: Stage 19, Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour / Bergerac

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

And so we are virtually done except for the Youth competition and some podium positions that have yet to be decided.  Vincenzo Nibali’s first place finish on the slopes of Montée du Hautacam has created an insurmountable lead that will not change in the 2 days of actual racing left.

After about 2 km of climbing Nibali took the stage lead from Mikel Nieve who had led an early breakaway and after that it was mere jockying for position among the back markers.  Rafal Majka had the most to lose because if he finished worse than 6th Nibali would also grab the King of the Mountains title.  Thibaut Pinot, Alejandro Valverde BelMonte, Jean-Christophe Péraud, and Tejay Van Garderen were looking for advantage headed into Saturday’s Time Trial.

On the stage it was  Vincenzo Nibali, Thibaut Pinot (1:10), Rafal Majka (1:12), Jean-Christophe Péraud and Tejay Van Garderen tied at 1:15, Romain Bardet (1:53), Bauke Mollema and Leopold Konig tied at 1:57, and Haimar Zubeldia Agirre, Alejandro Valverde BelMonte, and Laurens Ten Dam tied at 1:59.  Everyone else was over 3 and a half minutes behind.

In the General Classification it is Vincenzo Nibali, Thibaut Pinot (7:10), Jean-Christophe Péraud (7:23), Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (7:25), and Romain Bardet (9:27).  Everyone else is over 11 and a half minutes behind.  Unless there are notable external developments (crash, injury, sickness) the last stages will be a contest between Pinot, Péraud, and Valverde BelMonte for 2nd and 3rd positions.

For Points it is Peter Sagan (408), Bryan Coquard (253), Alexander Kristoff (217), Marcel Kittel (177), Vincenzo Nibali (169), Mark Renshaw (153), Greg Van Avermaet (147), and André Greipel (143).  Everyone else is 38 points behind.  Sagan has enough points to win without needing any more so this category is a duel between Coquard and Kristoff over who finishes 2nd and who finishes 3rd.

With only one Category 4 climb left King of the Mountains is decided.  There are not enough points left to change the results.  It is Rafal Majka (181), Vincenzo Nibali (168), and Joaquim Rodriguez (112).  Everyone else is 23 points behind.

In Team competition it is theoretically possible (but highly unlikely) for Belkin (28:33) to pass AG2R for the win.  Otherwise it is a contest for 3rd with the top contenders being Movistar (1:05:47) and BMC (1:12:25), and Europcar (1:26:50), Sky (1:32:46), and Astana (1:39:06) having a very slim chance indeed.  Everyone else is over 2 hours behind.

For the Young Rider Classification it’s still a 2 way race between Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet (2:17).  Michal Kwiatkowski (1:01:45) is a pretty sure 3rd since he has a 38 minute margin over Tom Dumoulin (1:40:19).

Today’s 129 and 2/3rds mile stage between Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour and Bergerac compared to the 3 Pyrenees stages is almost completely flat though there is a little Category 4 bump, Côte de Monbazillac, at the end which will give the riders a final descent boost.  It’s mostly a rolling rest day before tomorrow’s final Time Trial, but you might see some action from Pinot and Bardet (Young Rider still very much in contention), Coquard and Kristoff (for 2nd and 3rd in Points, the Sprint Checkpoint is 130.5 km in), and otherwise people who need to win a stage for pride as much as anything else.  Nibali should find it easy enough to maintain his margin going into the Time Trial and only disaster or idiocy will prevent him from doing that.

Late Night Karaoke

TDS/TCR (Driving Around Milford)


Professional Courtesy

Being Rich Doesn’t Make You Smart

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