Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Links -- October 28

Today's popular news may or may not cover this story well. 
I'll be watching.

Three people died and others were injured after a car drove into a crowd in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the site of 1989 pro-democracy protests that were bloodily suppressed by the government, and burst into flames. 

A jeep drove off a road about 400 metres from Tiananmen Square and onto a pedestrian walkway leading the main entrance of the Forbidden City, along the way injuring multiple tourists and police officers, according to a statement on the Beijing police microblog.

The vehicle was stopped when it crashed into a barrier in front of the entrance. Three people inside the jeep, including the driver, reportedly died in the crash. All injured have been taken to hospital, the statement said. 

Chinese police closed the road which runs through the square and evacuated the area following a fire.

Pictures posted on Chinese social media sites showed a plume of black smoke rising in front of the portrait of Mao Zedong hanging on the towering wall of the former imperial palace, police vehicles, and crowds looking on.

Several were deleted within minutes, streets leading to the square were blocked off, and two AFP reporters were detained close to the site.

Beijing transport authorities said on a verified social media account that a subway station next to the square had been closed at the request of police.

The Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said on its website that a car had caught fire. It provided no other details.

And in other news... 

Don't skip this link. 
Picking mushrooms is not for sissies. 


From the Facebook Timeline...

America’s Secret 4th Branch of Government: The NSA kept even Obama in the Dark
Posted on 10/28/2013 by Juan Cole

The revelation from the Snowden Papers that the National Security Agency had German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal cell phone under surveillance has produced a central fallout. Dueling leaks over the international embarrassment have forced the White House to a key admission: President Barack Obama did not know what the NSA was up to. 
Ever since the Snowden revelations of the massive, world-girdling extent of NSA electronic surveillance surfaced, I have been wondering two things: Did they tell Obama about it when they took office in 2009? And, do they have something on Obama?

[...]  The White House then leaked on Sunday that the Snowden revelations provoked a review of NSA programs and procedures, and the fact that the NSA had Merkel’s and 35 other world leaders’ personal phones under surveillance was revealed to the White House. Someone there then ordered this summer that the personal spying on Merkel and “some” other leaders be halted (the halt wasn’t ordered on all 35?). 
In attempting to repair Obama’s reputation with his colleagues at the G-20, however, the White House counter-leakers have made an epochal and very serious revelation: The President wasn’t in the know. (Even in the best case scenario that he was told in 2010, he wasn’t in the know for the first 18 months of his presidency!) 
Edward Snowden’s critics have alleged that he revealed classified US secrets to the enemies of the US. But it seems increasingly likely that he revealed them to . . . Barack Obama. 
If so, imagine how furious Obama is behind the scenes. It is not his style to act out in public. But the sudden announcements of the retirement of NSA chief Keith Alexander (who apparently should be in jail) and of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (who certainly should be in jail for lying to Congress) likely signal that Obama demanded they leave. 
All of these revelations are being treated as bureaucratic infighting by the inside-the-Beltway courtier press. 
It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone to ask what the implications are that an occult intelligence bureaucracy funded at $52 billion a year by your and my tax dollars keeps our elected leaders in the dark about its activities.
  • [...]  How much of our society and politics are shaped by selective leaks about individuals gained from this surveillance? 
  • Did the 2008 Wall Street Crash occur in part because the Bush administration had removed pro-regulation New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, using information gathered from his bank accounts, cell phone and personal computer? 
  • How many Iraq War critics were, like myself, targeted for surveillance? 
  • How many seemingly minor scandals that force decision-makers from office are actually a conspiracy of shadowy intelligence operatives? 
  • How many of the vocal defenders of the NSA, or of those politicians too timid to demand reform, fear revelation of personal secrets? 
  • Do we have a government or a Mafia extortion racket? 
These questions may seem outlandish, but they are evidence of the corrosive impact of covert government on a Republic. One can never know what politics is legitimate and what is the result of manipulation. NSA denials that they are using this material gathered on US citizens are not very credible given their officials’ repeated lies and also given their hiding of their activities from the President of the United States.
Juan Cole is no conspiracy nut. 
He is a non-partisan academic. 
He raises some very good questions. 
And he's been doing it for years. 


According to a 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, at least seven percent of eligible voters “do not have ready access to the documents needed to prove citizenship.” The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court ruling, finding that states like Arizona could not reject applicants who registered using the NVRA form.

Now Arizona and Kansas — which passed a similar proof-of-citizenship law in 2011 — are arguing that the Supreme Court’s decision applies only to federal elections and that those who register using the federal form cannot vote in state and local elections. The two states have sued the Election Assistance Commission and are setting up a two-tiered system of voter registration, which could disenfranchise thousands of voters and infringe on state and federal law.

The tactics of Arizona and Kansas recall the days of segregation and the Supreme Court’s 1896 “separate but equal” ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson. “These dual registration systems have a really ugly racial history,” says Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “They were set up after Reconstruction alongside poll taxes, literacy tests and all the other devices that were used to disenfranchise African-American voters.”

Worth reading, indeed. This colloquy between two top-tier journalists makes really good reading for anyone interested in the subject. I'm not particularly interested, being more attracted to facts than spin. But I deeply appreciate the power of spin and the effect it has on outcomes. (I almost said "democratic" outcomes until I realized the even more devastating impact spin can have on extremists -- whether they be suicide bombers, or those who send them, or duly elected representatives to the US House or those who organized the districts sending them.)
Excerpt here:
Dear Bill, 
There’s no question that journalists at establishment media venues, certainly including The New York Times, have produced some superb reporting over the last couple of decades. I don’t think anyone contends that what has become (rather recently) the standard model for a reporter — concealing one’s subjective perspectives or what appears to be “opinions” — precludes good journalism. 
But this model has also produced lots of atrocious journalism and some toxic habits that are weakening the profession. A journalist who is petrified of appearing to express any opinions will often steer clear of declarative sentences about what is true, opting instead for a cowardly and unhelpful “here’s-what-both-sides-say-and-I-won’t-resolve-the-conflicts” formulation. That rewards dishonesty on the part of political and corporate officials who know they can rely on “objective” reporters to amplify their falsehoods without challenge (i.e., reporting is reduced to “X says Y” rather than “X says Y and that’s false”). 
Worse still, this suffocating constraint on how reporters are permitted to express themselves produces a self-neutering form of journalism that becomes as ineffectual as it is boring. A failure to call torture “torture” because government officials demand that a more pleasant euphemism be used, or lazily equating a demonstrably true assertion with a demonstrably false one, drains journalism of its passion, vibrancy, vitality and soul. 
Worst of all, this model rests on a false conceit. Human beings are not objectivity-driven machines. We all intrinsically perceive and process the world through subjective prisms. What is the value in pretending otherwise? 
The relevant distinction is not between journalists who have opinions and those who do not, because the latter category is mythical. The relevant distinction is between journalists who honestly disclose their subjective assumptions and political values and those who dishonestly pretend they have none or conceal them from their readers.

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