This post starts with the juxtaposition of the Olympic Opening and my surgery for a detached retina, please skip it if you are squeamish about things going poke in your eye. However, no gross pictures below the fold.
The two ministers come across as reasonably similar in personality and emotional tone -- I suspect they would get along quite well. Both read the Bible in historical-critical context, but they insist that it is necessary to read the Bible, not to just follow your bliss. Neither is willing to accept the "genocide commandments" as-is, but neither is willing to just throw them out or ignore them, either.
And they approach this text from different perspectives: asking different questions, using different tools. I was brought up as a Christian (in a Catholic/Lutheran family) but am now a practicing Jew, so I find a compare/contrast very illuminating. In this case, the Christian asks about the character or personality of God; the Jew asks what we Jews should *do*.
I am cutting this because it's almost 2500(!!) words. A lot are quotes, thank goodness, but even so I may have gone a trifle overboard for many tastes.
I'm assuming that those of you who aren't either questioning or defending your 2nd amendment rights (and for you outlanders, wondering WTF it all means) were watching the opening ceremony apparently conveniently time delayed by NBC. Because of my surgery, I couldn't watch, but was greatly amused by the Guardian's live blog of the event. I also missed the last episode of MASH and Seinfeld, so I suppose I'm batting 1.000. I'm just waiting for Tim Berners-Lee patent troll letter explaining why I owe him a bazillion dollars. My reply is Caliban's
You taught me language, and my profit on it Is I know how to curse. The red plague on you for learning me your language!
True to form, the real open thread material was waiting until I made some ill advised attemp at a post, whereupon it leaps out. Fortunately, my surgery isn't until this afternoon, so, from Nation, here it is
in an effort to more deeply understand Pompeii, researchers have delved not only into the city’s architecture and frescoes, but also all the graffiti to be found throughout its ancient walls. But before you go assuming the ancient Pompeiians vandalized with only the most brilliant bons mots—“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” everywhere, perhaps—I suggest reading exactly what the excavators have dug up.
Not particularly NFSW, and the page with all the grafitti is here. I love this next one, which seems a bit more vivid in the context of Pompeii
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1880: The man I am having dinner with is a barbarian.
Unfortunately, tomorrow, I need to have a second operation on my eye, so I'm posting this Thursday evening. (One can do a timed post, but I'm feeling a bit lazy) I brought Antony Beevor's The Battle for Spain to read, which uses newly opened archives in the Soviet Union to help create a full history of the Spanish Civil War and have just finished it. A great read, and Beevor tells the story of Miguel de Unamuno's last speech. which I share below the fold:
While the automotive industry also has to compete against its own products over on the Used Car lot, no other industry—not even the jewelry business—has products with such longevity as the gun business.
A shrinking customer base for very durable products should mean that the market is contracting, right?
The last time American firearms sales spiked like this (1994), Uncle Billy’s Boys were about to implement the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Also worth noting: during the period when the AWB was in effect, long gun sales far outpaced handgun sales. In the last three years, the gap between sales of the two genres has narrowed considerably. Thanks to liberalized concealed carry laws, it looks like handguns will outperform long guns (sales wise) in 2010—for the first time since these records were collated by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. No wonder Ruger’s stock is on a high.
What this all says to me is that the gun market is being driven by buyers who are stockpiling weapons. They probably don't represent a very large proportion of all gun owners, but they are a large -- and, I suspect, growing -- proportion of all gun *sales*.
Apparently the Administration is leveraging torture victims into plea bargained fact witnesses. This article reveals some of the details (I know it is from February, but I somehow missed it. And the fact that it hasn't been all over the news suggests that worrying about it hasn't gained much traction).
When a suburban Baltimore high school graduate steps out of the shadows of CIA detention this week to admit to serving the senior leadership of al Qaida, the Obama administration will be unveiling its latest strategy toward an endgame.
Majid Khan has agreed to be a government witness at future military commissions, sources say, in exchange for Wednesday’s guilty plea and the possibility of return to his native Pakistan in four years. It’s part of an evolving effort to quell criticism that confessions were extracted through torture by offering live testimony from willing captive witnesses.
“It’s like organized crime,” said retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis, a Bush-era Pentagon war crimes prosecutor. “Sometimes you pick the lesser of the two evils and bargain with who you can.”
Federal prosecutors describe Khan, who turns 32 Tuesday, as a one-time willing foot soldier for radical Islam. He allegedly recorded a martyr’s message and donned a fake bomb vest in 2003 in a test to see whether he was willing to kill then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. He allegedly delivered $50,000 from Pakistan to Thailand, money used to fund an al Qaida affiliate’s August 2003 suicide attack on a Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia. Eleven people died, and more than 80 others were wounded.
The attack’s alleged architect, Riduan Bin Ismouddin, an Indonesian man known as Hambali, and two reputed Malaysian deputies were, like Khan, subjected to years of secret CIA interrogations — never charged but still at Guantánamo and, according to a Malaysian newspaper’s report, in the queue to face military trials.
Khan has always been a bit of an anomaly among the CIA’s so-called “ghost prisoners” who were subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques.” His parents live in suburban Baltimore, where they moved the family in the ’90s and became legal residents. Khan graduated from Owings Mills High School in 1999 and went back to Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks over the objections of his parents, who hid his passport.
Pakistani security forces arrested him in 2003. FBI agents searched the family’s Baltimore house and trailed them for a time. The family heard no news of their son until September 2006 when President George W. Bush announced that “a terrorist named Majid Khan” was in custody and had confessed under interrogation to delivering “$50,000 to individuals working for a suspected terrorist leader named Hambali, the leader of al Qaeda’s Southeast Asian affiliate.”
A year later, defense attorneys filed a brief in federal court declaring him a torture victim of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program. “Khan admitted anything his interrogators demanded of him,” his lawyers wrote, “regardless of the truth, in order to end his suffering.”
According to transcripts, Khan told a military board in April 2007 that he emerged from CIA custody so despairing of his isolation that he tried to kill himself by chewing through an artery in his arm.
So this is the person who is going to give useful factual testimony as part of his plea bargain? This is the person whose testimony will be used to create the factual underpinnings for other convictions? The practice of leveraging a plea bargain into flipping you for testimony against people 'higher up the chain' has serious reliability problems built in, even as currently practiced. It seems like a great way to have the prosecution encourage perjury. But linking it with torture makes it even more obvious: torturing someone so much that they want to kill themselves, and then offering to free them if they give the 'right' testimony is almost guaranteed to get false testimony.
As John Quiggin wrote at Crooked Timber: "The idea that the state can torture someone, imprison them indefinitely, and then use their “voluntary” testimony (given in the hope of release) against another, then claim that this is an improvement on using confessions extracted by torture of the accused is more reminiscent of the legalisms of a totalitarian state than of anything that could be described as the rule of law."
Unfortunately, not a misspelling. My vision went blurry yesterday, went to the eye doctor at 10 am, was diagnosed as suffering from a detached retina, on the operating table at 4, and getting this open thread up at 9, though I wish I didn't have such a strong anecdotal example of why shopping around for medical care is not such a good idea. I'm in the hospital for at least 5 days, maybe 10, because I have to sleep on my stomach and not look up (they put air into your eye to push the retina back so that it will reconnect. Not fun) Will tell everyone how much this adventure was, and the person who guesses the closest gets a free open thread of their choice.
The Kensington and Chelsea Library system (in London) has been posting clandestine street photos taken by Edward Linley Sambourne in the early 20th century. It's not clear if Sambourne had a fetish for taking pictures of women who didn't know they were being photographed or if these were intended as reference photos for his cartoons, but they are *fascinating*. What really strikes me is how women's postures and gaits are much more modern than I expected.
A young woman reading and walking. I'm not sure, but I believe the sleeve-thing on her left arm may be to protect her clothes from ink stains. Taken June 30, 1908.
A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug Administration against a group of its own scientists used an enemies list of sorts as it secretly captured thousands of e-mails that the disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials, journalists and even President Obama, previously undisclosed records show.
What began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process, according to the cache of more than 80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort.
The existence of such an operation doesn't shock cynical me, but I am truly astonished by how it was uncovered:
The documents captured in the surveillance effort — including confidential letters to at least a half-dozen Congressional offices and oversight committees, drafts of legal filings and grievances, and personal e-mails — were posted on a public Web site, apparently by mistake, by a private document-handling contractor that works for the F.D.A.
While the surveillance was intended to protect trade secrets for companies like G.E., it may have done just the opposite. The data posted publicly by the F.D.A. contractor — and taken down late Friday after inquiries by The Times — includes hundreds of confidential documents on the design of imaging devices and other detailed, proprietary information.
The posting of the documents was discovered inadvertently by one of the researchers whose e-mails were monitored. The researcher did Google searches for scientists involved in the case to check for negative publicity that might hinder chances of finding work. Within a few minutes, the researcher stumbled upon the database.[bold mine]
Update the Evil Overlord List: "My secret programs must not be discoverable by Google. If I *must* have a webpage for a covert operation, it will have the following code in the header:
My husband and I have been trying to figure out how you could post that much surveillance material "by mistake", and how Google could have found it. Our theories so far:
The contractor and the FDA agreed that the contractor would collect the material and put it online so people at the FDA could look at it via the general Internet and decide what to do with it. Clearly, whatever else happened, permissions weren't set properly for the site. I bet the FDA users had to log in to see the home page, but apparently no-one checked whether the other 80,000(!) pages were password-protected, too. So we start with a big Security FAIL.
To that Security Fail, we add the fact that search-engine robots weren't blocked. AHAHAH, I think I see why -- I bet they were using Google as the site's search engine. They didn't have the *content* of the documents in their database, only indexing information (subject(s), author, etc.), so they couldn't turn off the googlebot, they needed it for the site to be useful.
But given that the material was supposed do be "secret" and unlinked, how did the public googlebot get to the site to index it? We've come up with 4 possibilities so far:
Someone trying to get to some other page on the contractor's site made a typo, got to the secure material by mistake, and started poking around. They later posted a link somewhere to something they found.
Authorized users (FDA or the contractor) sent links back and forth in Gmail, which Google uses to "seed" the googlebot webcrawler.
One or more authorized users went to the site via Google Chrome, and that's how the URL got into the Google system.
An authorized user was *really, really* dumb, and posted a link somewhere public to a document buried in those 80,000 pages. Probably to make a point in a blog comments section.
The moral of this story: password-protected directories are slow and a pain, but they are your *friend*! Google, on the other hand, is *not* your friend, no matter how hard it pretends to be.
I have a suggestion for the Constitutional Law Professor In Chief.
Knock off this scarifying pissantery. Today.
Some slopes are not necessarily slippery, but some of them are luge runs, and this is one of them. If you allow one part of the executive branch — the intelligence community, let's say — to act beyond the Constitution, and you do so with such regularity that it seems to become the political status quo, well, then you license every department of the executive branch to behave the same way. And thus does the FDA take upon itself some of the essential functions and justifications of the CIA, as ludicrous as that sounds in theory.