Eric Holder is apparently drawing his net around a retired general in the Stuxnet leak investigation, per Michael Isikoff:
Legal sources tell NBC News that the former second ranking officer in the U.S. military is now the target of a Justice Department investigation into a politically sensitive leak of classified information about a covert U.S. cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear program.
Yet here are passages in which the Times described their sources (my emphasis):
At a tense meeting in the White House Situation Room within days of the worm’s “escape,” Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, Leon E. Panetta, considered whether America’s most ambitious attempt to slow the progress of Iran’s nuclear efforts had been fatally compromised.
“Should we shut this thing down?” Mr. Obama asked, according to members of the president’s national security team who were in the room.
And a bit later:
This account of the American and Israeli effort to undermine the Iranian nuclear program is based on interviews over the past 18 months with current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program, as well as a range of outside experts.
Yet Holder has only tracked down one former Pentagon official. No one from the political side? No one from the White House?
You can't imagine my surprise.
Although we are formally in the prosecution phase of the trial, the defense had yet another great witness called by the state today:
A resident of the Florida community where George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin last year after a confrontation took the stand Friday and described going out to investigate a noise and seeing one person straddling another and throwing punches down at the person on the ground.
John Good said he was watching TV with his wife when they heard a noise and he went out to investigate, despite his wife warning him not to. At first, he thought a dog might be attacking someone, but as he moved closer, he said he observed what looked like "a tussle" between two people.
"It looked like a tussle," Good said. "I could only see one person. At one point, I yelled out, 'What's going on? Stop it,' I believe," Good said.
Under questioning by Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda, Good said one of the combatants was straddling a man lying face up on the pavement, and throwing punches. The testimony appeared to corroborate Zimmerman's claims that he shot the 17-year-old African-American with a legally registered gun in self defense, as he was being pummeled.
"I could tell that the person on the bottom had a lighter skin color," testified Good, who also said the person on the bottom appeared to be wearing "white or red," while the one on top wore dark clothing. Zimmerman identified that day as Hispanic and was wearing a red jacket.
None of this is a surprise, since the testimony was consistent with his statements to the police and in news interviews. One does wonder where the prosecution is headed.
And I'll say it again - I'm proud to be an American, a great country that does a miserable job with show trials.
Ms. Alvarez of the NY Times recounts a dramatic moment from the Zimmerman trial:
Later that afternoon, defense lawyers opened the door for the jury to learn that Mr. Zimmerman had a history of confrontation. Prosecutors told jurors that his former girlfriend was granted a domestic violence restraining order against him and that Mr. Zimmerman had been charged with battery of a law enforcement officer.
But Mr. O’Mara quickly countered that Mr. Zimmerman also was granted a restraining order against his former girlfriend and that those charges were later dismissed. He clarified that the battery charge was reduced and eventually dismissed.
Geez, that was widely unreported. Not to mention wrong. And as my coffee cooled this morning, the Times provided a correction and ruined my 'gotcha':
An earlier version of this article misstated the location of the jury when prosecutors brought up two earlier instances of confrontation involving Mr. Zimmerman. The jury was not in the jury room, not the courtroom.
Well, someone is still reading this stuff. The judge will rule on whether Zimmerman's past behavior was made relevant by the defense questions. Andrew Branca, a defense attorney blogging at Legal Insurrection, has analysis.
Try as they might the NY Times knows which side they are rooting for in the Zimmerman trial. Here is a sadly typical bit of reporting:
At Zimmerman Trial, a Tale of Pursuit and Attack
SANFORD, Fla. — One of the prosecution’s star witnesses, the young woman who spoke on the phone with Trayvon Martin moments before he was killed, told the jury in the George Zimmerman trial on Wednesday that Mr. Martin was being followed and tried to get away from the man pursuing him.
As spectators and jurors looked on rapt, the witness, Rachel Jeantel, 19, a high school senior from Miami and a friend of Mr. Martin’s, told her story quietly, sometimes haltingly, sometimes with irritation, at times dabbing her eyes with a tissue. Asked by a prosecutor to talk about her final conversation with Mr. Martin, Ms. Jeantel drove home the state’s contention: as Mr. Martin was trying to avoid Mr. Zimmerman, he was accosted and wound up dead.
"He was accosted"? Wait a second - I thought Martin initated the verbal exchange. Wouldn't that be Martin "accosting" Zimmerman?
Ms. Alvarez, ignoring her own lead, confirms that:
“He say, ‘Why are you following me for?’ ” Ms. Jeantel recounted, quoting Mr. Martin. “I heard him, a hard-breathing man, saying, ‘What you doing around here?’ ”
Is that really unclear?
Next, a bit of what may be unexplained urban slang:
Then she said she heard a bump — the headset — and “the sound of wet grass.” “I calling, ‘Trayvon, Trayvon,’ ” Ms. Jeantel said. “I kind of heard Trayvon saying, ‘Get off, get off.’ Suddenly the phone hung up, shut off.”
Boring middle-aged white guys like me (or the defense attorneys) might think "Get off" meant that Zimmerman was on top of Martin. Keep up, and celebrate diversity! From the dictionary of Street Gang Slang:
Get off the gate - Get it on: to start fighting
Who knew? More to the point, did Martin or Ms. Jeantel employ this sort of slang? Maybe the defense could lighten her mood by giving her a chance to talk about a subject she can address with authority. Of course, that is tricky (asking an unfriendly witness questions to which the answer is not known is hardly viewed as Best Practice) but I do wonder how the defense might constructively explore this possibility.
She's now impeached on several areas, especially GZ's response to TM after TM confronted GZ and asked him, "What are you following me for?" I'm so glad West brought this out, see my post here. Her first answer to Crump was that GZ responded with "What are you talking about" not "What are you doing around here." (Audio clip here.)Crump, immediately realizing that this was different than what she had told Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, stopped her and told her she had said something different to the Martins, and asked her to start over. She began again, and told it the Crump and Martin way.
Jeralyn Merritt studied the witness interviews and appraised the state's case here. This forecast seems to be half true:
The state isn't dumb enough to rely on phone friend Dee Dee other than in a minor, supporting role. The roommates and the Teacher would be demolished on cross-examination by what they said on their 911 calls.
Yes, after a month of publicity these folks had seen a lot more than they saw the night of the killing. But as to how dumb the state is, well, this seems to be their case.
I ASSUME THAT FOR CURRENT PURPOSES THIS COULDN'T BE HATE SPEECH:
The star prosecution witness in the murder trial of George Zimmerman took the stand to recount her cell phone conversation with Trayvon Martin in the moments before he was shot to death, saying the Florida teen said he was being followed by “a creepy-ass cracker” just before the fatal confrontation.
HOMOPHOBIC PLOT TWIST: Staid middle aged white guys like me probably thought that creepy ass cracker is a phrase in which 'creepy-ass' modifies the traditional southern "cracker". Creepy-ass, smart-ass, big-ass: the variations are limited only by your lack of imagination.
But folks dialed in to the Urban Dictionary will recognize "ass cracker" as a person interested in anal sex. And now "creepy" probably means, well, creepy.
This alternative view explains the next bit of the Fox story:
The star prosecution witness in the murder trial of George Zimmerman took the stand to recount her cell phone conversation with Trayvon Martin in the moments before he was shot to death, saying the Florida teen said he was being followed by “a creepy-ass cracker” just before the fatal confrontation.
Rachel Jeantel, 19, told jurors she warned Martin to walk away, saying "it might be a rapist."
A rapist? I had ignored that, figuring Rachel was being Rachel. But it certainly be a logically linear response to the suggestion that Zimmerman was an ominous chap interested in anal sex. Too linear, maybe.
But still - Martin, in a fit of homophobia, doubles back and bashes the 'gay' man following him. So who is the profiler committing a hate crime now?
Was "creepy ass cracker" in any of the depositions or did it surprise the defense? And where might the defense go with this?
But let's switch sources:
“Yes,” Jeantel replied. “I asked him how the man looked like. He just told me the man — the man looked creepy.”
“He said the man looked creepy?” the prosecutor asked.
“Creepy, white, kill-my-neighbors cracker,” Jeantel replied, and when asked to repeat her testimony a few times, added, “He looked like a creepy ass cracker.”
“He told me the man was looking at him,” she added, “so I had to think it might have been a rapist. Might have been a rapist.”
Now Martin is using 'cracker' conventionally and it is Rachel who is going homophobic.
QUITE A WITNESS: Danielle Cadet of The HuffPo liveblogged this. Their headline sort of overlaps with the presentation, which partially interesects with reality.
Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon Martin Friend: Teen Was Trying To Escape George Zimmerman
Trying to escape? Maybe - this is their text:
Jeantel said Martin told her the man watching him was a "creepy-ass cracker." She recalled suggesting that the man might be a rapist. She went on to say that Martin told her he was going to try to elude the man, and that the teen left the area but that he was still being followed. Jeantel said she told him to run, but Martin replied that he was close to his father's fiance's house. Shortly after, Martin told Jeantel he would run home and then the phone went dead.
Later in her testimony, Jeantel said that when she called Martin back, he told her "the nigga is behind me." Jeantel said she heard a bump and then the sound of "wet grass." She said she heard Martin say "get off," the call was cut off and she never spoke to Martin again.
Back in the day we looked at the Google Maps photo of the area. Martin was roughly thirty yards from his home, with Zimmerman behind him. Yet several minutes later "the nigga" is still behind him and a scuffle ensues. The notion that Martin was determined to get home but cpouldn't manage it doesn't add up.
I NEED TO SWITCH PHONE PLANS: Jeantel testified that after the scuffle began she heard the sound of wet grass. I don't get that kind of clarity on Verizon.
MARATHON GAL: Witness Jane (Three Shots) Surdyka apparently claimed to have qualified for the 1980 Women's Olympic Marathon but missed because of the US-led boycott. An awkward memory, since the first women's Olympic marathon was at the 1984 games in LA.
However, she was on the list of top marathoners in 1980 (trailing roughly twenty other Americans, but that is why they have a trial), so she had some street cred. In fact, per this photograph description, she represented the US (along with Joan Benoit and six others) at the third Avon International Marathon, held in London on the last day of the Moscow Olympics in 1980.
As to boycotts, well, there was a push to include more women's Olympic track events beginning in the late 1970's (Grete Waitz won the NYC Maratrhin for the second time in 1979 and would have owned Moscow), so one view might be that the US boycott delayed the inclusion of more events in 1980. Historians would probably dispute that, but the Zimmerman defense would have been insane to pursue her down that rabbitt hole.
The NY Times shows some big city chutzpah in their analysis of the politics of Obama's latest greenhouse gas initiative:
Republican leaders immediately condemned the plan as a job-killer and framed it as an attack on coal.
Those dastardly Republicans and their insidious framing! But wait - where could they have gotten the idea of a war on coal? Let's cut to the Times original story on this:
Daniel P. Schrag, a geochemist who is the head of Harvard University’s Center for the Environment and a member of a presidential science panel that has helped advise the White House on climate change, said he hoped the presidential speech would mark a turning point in the national debate on climate change.
“Everybody is waiting for action,” he said. “The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”
Did that link not work for you? No kidding - the Times has edited that "War on Coal" quote down the memory hole, although the WaPo has already immortalized it. The phrase does cling to life in the Times 'Search' function and was widely picked up before the Times editors realized they had inadvertently switched sides in their message management.
Well, hmm - maybe science advisor Daniel Schrag is the only Republican at Harvard? Per Open Secrets Prof. Schrag donated $2000 to Obama in 2008 and another $750 in 2012, so his Republican credentials are in doubt.
What if they gave a war on coal and nobody came?
LEST YOU DOUBT: I happen to have a screenshot of the original story. And folks with their Tuesday dead tree version handy can find the quote there.
WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said it's hard to tell so far which side the state's witnesses are testifying for.
“The defense has managed to turn the state's witnesses and get good testimony that supports Zimmerman's defense,” Sheaffer said.
Well, I'm proud to say I live in a country where the show trials look more like an SNL skit.
The WaPo questions Obama's handling of the Snowden debacle:
Obama’s hands-off approach to extraditing Snowden draws criticism
By Philip Rucker, Published: June 24
It was bright and sunny in Washington on Saturday as President Obama stepped out of the White House in flip-flops and khaki shorts to hit the golf course with his buddies.
At the same time, officials throughout his administration were scrambling to keep one of America’s most-wanted fugitives from evading extradition in Hong Kong.
And that went poorly. On the other hand:
But some foreign policy experts were more sympathetic to the administration, saying that inserting Obama directly into the negotiations would be folly. It is embarrassing enough that Snowden is on the run, they said; the president’s personal involvement would only further risk the United States’ credibility abroad.
Better for Obama to risk a bogey on the links than a birdy from the Chinese. Well judged! Hard to imagine this happening if Hillary were still in charge. No its not.
The prosecution is putting 'Dee Dee' on the stand for the second day of the Zimmerman trial. The circumstances of her original deposition are, hmm, controversial and her credibility may not be all the state might hope for in a star witness. And credibility aside, her basic story has Trayvon Martin initiating the verbal confrontation:
Fourth: This is now the third time Witness 8 has said Trayvon Martin initiated the verbal encounter between him and Zimmerman. In her March 19 account to Crump, her April 2 account to the prosecutor and again in this letter, she says Martin asked Zimmerman some variation of, "What are you following me for?" to which Zimmerman responded. The state continues to ignore its own witness' account.
However, she may be a tricky witness for the defense since, in this audio deposition with the state investigators (and others unmentioned), she sounds barely capable of forming sentences.That may make her appear helpless and sympathetic.
As I was saying:
George Zimmerman Judge Denies Use of State Audio Experts' Testimony
George Zimmerman, the Florida man accused of second-degree murder for the death of Trayvon Martin, was given a major legal victory less than 48 hours before opening statements begin in his highly controversial trial.
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson ruled today that prosecutors cannot bring two audio experts to the stand who claim they heard Martin screaming for help in 911 audio moments before he died. According to the court order, "there is no evidence to establish that their scientific techniques have been tested and found reliable."
The ABC News video report includes the tidbit that their independent expert thinks the screams for help probably came from Zimmerman, but the expert can't be sure.
WALK OF NOSTALGIA: I've seen bigger.
Ross Douthat on the gap between Obama's agenda and the public appetite:
THIS January, as President Obama began his second term, the Pew Research Center asked Americans to list their policy priorities for 2013. Huge majorities cited jobs and the economy; sizable majorities cited health care costs and entitlement reform; more modest majorities cited fighting poverty and reforming the tax code. Down at the bottom of the list, with less than 40 percent support in each case, were gun control, immigration and climate change.
Yet six months later, the public’s non-priorities look like the entirety of the White House’s second-term agenda. The president’s failed push for background checks has given way to an ongoing push for immigration reform, and the administration is reportedly planning a sweeping regulatory push on carbon emissions this summer. Meanwhile, nobody expects much action on the issues that Americans actually wanted Washington to focus on: tax and entitlement reform have been back-burnered, and the plight of the unemployed seems to have dropped off the D.C. radar screen entirely.
Some of that is partisan gridlock, but Douthat has more:
After all, gun control, immigration reform and climate change aren’t just random targets of opportunity. They’re pillars of Acela Corridor ideology, core elements of Bloombergism, places where Obama-era liberalism overlaps with the views of Davos-goers and the Wall Street 1 percent. If you move in those circles, the political circumstances don’t necessarily matter: these ideas always look like uncontroversial common sense.
Step outside those circles, though, and the timing of their elevation looks at best peculiar, at worst perverse. The president decided to make gun control legislation a major second-term priority ... with firearm homicides at a 30-year low. Congress is pursuing a sharp increase in low-skilled immigration ... when the foreign-born share of the American population is already headed for historical highs. The administration is drawing up major new carbon regulations ... when actual existing global warming has been well below projections for 15 years and counting.
And what about jobs, jobs, jobs? Never mind:
What’s more, on the issues that Americans actually prioritize — jobs, wages, the economy — it’s likely that both immigration reform and whatever the White House decides to do on greenhouse gases will make the short-term picture somewhat worse. The Congressional Budget Office’s recent analysis of the immigration bill errs on the side of optimism, but it still projects that the legislation would leave unemployment “slightly elevated” through 2020, and average wages modestly reduced. Given that similar estimates greeted the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill in 2009, it’s reasonable to assume that carbon regulations would slightly raise the unemployment rate as well.
These costs might be more acceptable in a world where Washington was also readying, say, payroll tax relief for working-class families, or measures to help the long-term uninsured. But since those ideas currently lack constituencies in the capital, we’re left with the peculiar spectacle of a political class responding to a period of destructive long-term unemployment with an agenda that threatens to help extend that crisis toward 2020 and beyond.
We have a jury in the Zimmerman show trial:
6 Female Jurors Are Selected for Zimmerman Trial
By CARA BUCKLEY
SANFORD, Fla. — A jury of six women will decide whether George Zimmerman was acting in self-defense when he fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in an altercation at a townhouse community here in February last year. Mr. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the case, which set off national protests and cries of injustice because he was not initially arrested after claiming self-defense.
The jurors, none of them black, include a Hispanic woman with eight children, an animal rescuer who once had a concealed-weapons permit, and a woman who said she had used Mr. Martin’s death as a cautionary example for her two adolescent children. Of the four alternates chosen for the case, two were men, and all were white. Nearly all of the jurors have children.
Presumably each side had a strategy:
Experts had various opinions on whether an all-female pool of jurors would be more of a benefit to the prosecution or to the defense. “Women as a group might be less receptive to Zimmerman’s behavior than men,” Jules Epstein, an associate professor at Widener University School of Law, wrote in an e-mail. Also, Ms. Tennis said, women might be more sympathetic to the loss of a child.
Luis Calderon, a criminal lawyer in Orlando, said that because many of the women were older, they might identify with Mr. Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense more. “One of the things you have to show is reasonable fear,” he said, “Of being overpowered, of being helpless, of being in a situation where you can’t defend yourself physically.” Older women, he said, “would be more inclined to understand that.”
Yet another Glenn Reynolds drollery, inspired by Obama's Syria 'policy':
I just wish Obama would show the steely determination and merciless follow-through that he displays with regard to his domestic political enemies when dealing with America’s foreign enemies.
Umm, doesn't he? As a fellow-traveling gun nut, how are we doing after Obama's all-out assault?
I think it is fair to say the First Ditherer brings more commitment to his domestic efforts but with this crowd, "more" is rarely synonomous with "effective".
Via The Corner:
MSNBC host and Obama sycophant Chris Matthews blamed the sun for spoiling the president’s speech in Berlin today.
“I think a lot of the problem he had today was the late afternoon sun in Berlin ruined his use of the teleprompter and so his usual dramatic windup was ruined,” Matthews said immediately after the speech. “I think he was really struggling with the text there.”
I think Obama was distracted by the memory of the lives ruined by Bush's senseless wars, not to mention Bush's endless recession. Well, we all have excuses for The Once.
Hamlet on the Potomac explains to Charlie Rose that if the rubes only understood the Syrian situation in all its Rubik complexities they would applaud his dithering and seeming indecision.
I have the vage memory that when Dick Cheney said this sort of thing libs clutched their hearts and keeled over. Oh, well - let's have this Glenn Greenwald flashback. The specific topic was the tactics of the War on terror, but the larger point endures:
The American Right constantly said during the Bush years that any President who knew what Bush knew and was faced with the duty of keeping the country safe would do the same thing. Obama has provided the best possible evidence imaginable to prove those claims true.
And now it is Obama taking his turn at "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen".
Glenn links to M.D. Harmon, who ruminates about the dangers of teenage drivers and wonders what a world would look like in which we treated cars like guns:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, automobile accidents are the leading cause of teenage deaths in the United States.
Some 2,700 teens aged 16-19 died in car crashes in 2010, the most recent year for which the federal agency's website has figures, and 282,000 were injured. So, the nation's schools have rightly implemented programs that teach teens to be safer drivers.
Yet, suppose educators instead declared that cars themselves were harmful instruments of death and destruction with no useful purpose.
Then they began punishing students at all ages, even down to kindergarten level, for such "offenses" as drawing pictures of cars, bringing toy cars to school or even mentioning the word "car."
You'd likely think this was an extreme overreaction, a textbook example of irrational behavior that was likely to punish innocent students for harmless words and actions.
Now, substitute the word "guns" for "cars," and you have a description of what appears to be a widespread mindset on the part of school officials nationwide that one psychologist and family doctor has called "psychotic."
Hmm. I think the daily utility of cars in most people's lives outweighs that of guns. However, I would have taken the metaphor in a different direction - since dreaded ASSAULT WEAPONS are fundamentally semiautomatic rifles with cool Arnold Schwarzneggerian cosmetic enhancements, maybe the Feds should crack down on automotive flame decals, rear spoilers and mag wheels in order to make strong statement encouraging responsible driving at moderate speeds.
To arm or not to arm? That was the question vexing our Hamlet of the Potomac as he grappled with the Syria problem.
Fortunately, he had a lot of angst and recognized it as a troublesome, nuanced problem, so libs who would otherwise be appalled by this decision to arm the rebels can be reassured - the President is no more committed to our current course of action than they are. His application of the Powell doctrine is that he didn't break it and he is damn well not going to own it.
A few years down the road his daughters will be arrested as part of their role in anti-war demonstrations, so its all good.
What is the word for Chinese Trojan horse?
The NSA is saying that leaker Edward Snowden couldn't have gotten the information he obviously got.
So one wonders whether he is a front man for some other group. And he gave his big interviews in Hong Kong, leaving us to revive our theory that Chinese hackers may have been behind this. (The timing, just before the US-Chinese conference, was really a coincidence?)
Well, whether the US accuses the Chinese or not they will deny it. Not that I would believe anybody's claims or denials...
One would need a heart of stone to resist the NY Times latest propagandizing in favor of immigration reform:
In Reprieves, a Preview of Immigration Bill’s Effect
By KIRK SEMPLE
One found a job as a teacher’s assistant at a center for children with autism. Another became a kitchen designer in Manhattan for an Italian company and is setting up his own general contracting firm. A third started driving a taxi to help pay for college.
They are among more than 291,000 immigrants who have been granted temporary reprieves from deportation under a program President Obama announced last June.
The program, which is open to young people who were brought to the United States as children and are here illegally, allows them to obtain a Social Security number, apply for driver’s licenses and work.
This was Obama's order to Federal prosecutors to exert their prosecutorial discretion and implement the dream Act by ignoring the law. But who could object to this heartwarming outcome?
Making ends meet was tough. So, upon receiving the reprieve, recipients have quickly shifted from the shadow economy to legal employment.
Erika Flores, 24, who has lived in New York City since she immigrated from Mexico when she was 4, said that until the announcement of the deferred-action policy, she braced for a sudden dead end in her life.
But the policy coincided with her completion of a master’s program focusing on early childhood special education, and she was recently hired as a teacher’s assistant in an early intervention center on the Lower East Side, where she works with children with autism.
“I sort of felt relieved that I didn’t go to school for nothing and could go and do what I want to do, like everyone else in this country,” she said. “I can go out and execute what I learned, working with kids.”
There is no doubt that this is a great country. Left unreported is an interview with the (possibly native) masters student who is looking at huge student loans and was turned down for that very job, but hey - it's not like the American job machine is sputterring under Obama, right? And maybe the person turned down was one of Mitt Romney's grandkids or the offspring of some other deplorable one-percenter, so screw 'em. Or, In TimesWorld, ignore their existence.
ALSO LEFT UNMENTIONED: Huge portions of the War on Drugs could end before this weekend if Obama ordered another area of prosecutorial forebearance. Why wait for Congress or that tedious legislative process?
The Zimmerman trial is underway with jury selection, so it is time for the mainstream media to start making thiungs up.
Our fave du jour comes from the New Yorker, where Jelani Cobb links the Martin shooting with the larger liberal ongoing nightmare:
It’s possible—no, reasonable—to look at Martin’s death as the opening scene in a four-act drama centering on American gun culture. The subsequent scenes were set in Aurora, Colorado; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; and Newtown, Connecticut.
From an overzealous neighborhood watchman to a lunatic gunning down kindergartners. Hmm - that connection is not really explained, but I think liberals all just "get it". Which leaves me stuck outside, but I can still nitpick at factual claims:
In the weeks following Zimmerman’s arrest, the already-febrile imaginations of Internet conspiracy jockeys were arguing that Martin was far from the baby-faced tween we’ve seen repeatedly but rather a six-foot, hundred-and-ninety-pound, facially-tatted thug apparent.
One hundred ninety? The police report had Martin at 160, which is the highest estimate I can recall seeing, and I do my share of non-mainstream poking about. By way of example, I daresay David Duke counts as a febrile conspiracy jockey; Google tells me that he was putting Martin's weight at 160.
I have no doubt the New Yorker will provide some supplemental links documenting this claim, given their legion of fact-checkers. I'm lying - Hades will freeze before Jelani Cobb comes back to this.
And why did anyone care? Folks who remember the background will remember that Martin's supporters were pooh-poohing the notion that tiny Trayvon could have possibly initiated an attack on Zimmerman. Let's cut to Charles Blow, a reliable font of CW:
To believe Zimmerman’s [self-defense] scenario, you have to believe that Trayvon, an unarmed boy, a boy so thin that people called him Slimm, a boy whose mother said that he had not had a fight since he was a preschooler, chose that night and that man to attack. You have to believe that Trayvon chose to attack a man who outweighed him by 100 pounds and who, according to the Sanford police, was wearing his gun in a holster. You have to believe that Trayvon chose to attack even though he was less than a hundred yards from the safety of the home where he was staying.
This is possible, but hardly sounds plausible.
The estimated weight for Zimmerman came from an old arrest report (and he is apparently back to that weight now). Eventually the NY Times looked at the video of Zimmerman from the night of the incident, looked at the police report (splitting the difference), and reported this:
However it started, witnesses described to the 911 dispatcher what resulted: the neighborhood watch coordinator, 5 foot 9 and 170 pounds, and the visitor, 6 foot 1 and 150, wrestling on the ground.
Charles Blow never, to my knowldege, offered a revised assessment of the plausibility of such an encounter being initated by the 150 pounder.
And now the New Yorker has Martin up to 190 and Zimmerman gunning him down because he looked like a kindergartner, or a movie-goer, or something. This will be a long trial however short it is.
I finally got around to looking at a New Republic story I had clicked on late last week:
Why Tech Companies Are Better Than Phone Companies at Protecting Your Privacy
Verizon handed over data to the NSA. Why don't Google or Facebook?
Ooops. Now I am left wondering whether the page that sent me there billed this article as rare insight or comic gold.
A Zimmerman hearing has moved on to voice recognition experts. Thay are having a Frye hearing to determine whether the state can introduce evidence exhumed from a 911 call that included screaming from Martin, Zimmerman or both in the background.
The state is probably not carrying the day, so far anyway:
SANFORD -- George Zimmerman is at the Seminole County Courthouse for the final hearing before his second-degree murder trial for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin begins Monday.
Judge Debra Nelson is hearing testimony from a voice expert who analyzed 911 calls made by witnesses of the shooting, in which someone -- either Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin -- can be heard screaming for help in the background. The defense wants to be sure the expert's methods are generally accepted by others in the same field.
The WaPo is mystified:
D.C. marijuana study: Blacks far more likely to be arrested than whites, ACLU says
Possession arrests surged more than 60 percent between 2001 and 2010, one of the largest increases in the nation, the civil liberties group found. Arrests of African Americans accounted for much of that increase, raising concerns among community leaders and criminal justice experts about racial profiling by police.
“I travel around the city and I see undercover ‘jump-out’ cars east of the river, and I don’t see them uptown or in Georgetown,” said the Rev. Anthony J. Motley, a prominent Southeast pastor. “We want the laws enforced, but make it equal.”
[Peter Reuter, a public-policy professor at the University of Maryland who has studied arrest rates for marijuana possession] has found the same widening of racial disparities in arrests for marijuana possession in his own research. The reasons behind the increase in possession arrests among African Americans, however, is unclear, he said.
This is only a mystery if you think the police are patrolling high-crime areas hoping to make marijuana busts. Oddly, the ACLU and I are in complete agreement on the explanation, at which Prof. Reuter hints. Here is the ACLU version of the "broken-windows" policing strategy:
Concentrated enforcement of marijuana laws based on a person’s race or community
has not only been a central component of this country’s broader assault on drugs and
drug users, it has also resulted from shifts in policing strategies, and the incentives
driving such strategies. Over the past 20 years, various policing models rooted in the “broken windows” theory, such as order-maintenance and zero-tolerance policing, have resulted in law enforcement pouring resources into targeted communities to enforce
aggressively a wide array of low-level offenses, infractions, and ordinances through
tenacious stop, frisk, and search practices. Indeed, it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that police tactics of effectuating a high volume of arrests for minor offenses has been a major contributor to the 51% rise in marijuana arrests between 1995 and 2010.
Well, yeah - part of the "broken windows" approach is to bust everybody who can be busted for anything that can be made to stick and then hope to get lucky by discovering, in the course of arraignment, some dramatic outstanding warrants against the recently arrested. Hence the lack of police "jump-out" cars in my boring middle-class neighborhood neighborhood.
The ACLU report presents the numbers pretty clearly, although they duck the obvious conclusion:
In 2010, there were more than 20,000 people incarcerated on the sole charge of marijuana possession.
Stated simply, marijuana has become the drug of choice for state and local police departments nationwide. Between 2001 and 2010, there were 8,244,943 marijuana arrests, of which 7,295,880, or 88%, were for marijuana possession. In 2010 alone, there were 889,133 marijuana arrests — 300,000 more than arrests for all violent crimes combined — or one every 37 seconds.
So over 7 million arrest for possession led to only 20,000 people in jail for possession? The ACLU does not say so, but I will bet that many of the other arrestees ended up doing time for something else. Or, it may be that the police have been utterly wasting their time with this approach and the crime rate has been falling in most cities for other reasons (I am burying the lead).
My hunch is that the racial disparity in marijuana arrests is probably mirrored by a racial disparity in jaywalking summons and other minor charges. As a matter of social policy we surely don't want to criminalize all common behaviors, thereby giving the police an excuse to detain all of us. But I also suspect that if it wasn't marijuana it would be something else in these high crime neighborhoods.
Who is the source for Glenn Greenwald's massive scoop about Verizon's hoovering up of phone metadata for the NSA? Let me toss out a longshot that, if nothing else, will work in a screenplay.
Last May 20 the WaPo reported that back in 2009 Chinese hackers engaged in counterintelligence work had cracked a Google database of court ordered surveillance:
Chinese hackers who breached Google’s servers several years ago gained access to a sensitive database with years’ worth of information about U.S. surveillance targets, according to current and former government officials.
The breach appears to have been aimed at unearthing the identities of Chinese intelligence operatives in the United States who may have been under surveillance by American law enforcement agencies.
It’s unclear how much the hackers were able to discover. But former U.S. officials familiar with the breach said the Chinese stood to gain valuable intelligence. The database included information about court orders authorizing surveillance — orders that could have signaled active espionage investigations into Chinese agents who maintained e-mail accounts through Google’s Gmail service.
So if the Chinese were worried that Agent Doe was under surveillance they could check to see whether the FBI was monitoring his GMail. Very clever.
Chinese hackers have been all over the news lately. And why would they abandon this particular counter-espionage ploy? Perhaps in the course of checking the logical places (cell phone companies, email providers) hackers have stumbled across this surveillance order on a Verizon server. It doesn't relate to their specific concern of identifying agents at risk, but...
I doubt that "Chinese hackers" are monolithic and operating under a unified command structure. So maybe some hot dog thought it would be cool to embarrass Obama and fire a warning shot across the US bows prior to the big summit at which Obama is meant to berate the Chinese for hacking broach cybersecurity concerns with them.
This leak is quite different from the Obama 2012 re-election leaks meant to remind us that the guy who got Osama is keeping us safe 24/7. Of course, Holder is under pressure for absurd over-reach so it might just be somebody pushing from inside the Administration to keep the pressure on him and hasten his departure. Do keep in mind - neither the AP nor Rosen stories emerged as leaks; the AP story broke as an advisory from DoJ, and the Rosen story came from a long-sealed court order that was belatedly opened. So this Verizon story is the first actual leak in the Holder Over-reach drama.
PILING ON: The WaPo gets an even bigger leak, which makes me downgrade the Chinese theory and upgrade the whistleblower and/or Get Holder pile on:
Documents: U.S. mining data from 9 leading Internet firms; companies deny knowledge
Gleen Greenwald gets a monster scoop that once upon a time would have gone to the Times:
NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily
Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama
Hot Air has the "obligatory" video of Obama denouncing such broad sweeps back when it was politically expedicent for our Civil Libereties President to do so.
And Orin Kerr notes that this is "potentially a huge story" but offers a yellow flag:
2) One caveat is that The Guardian has the FISC order [link] but was unable to get anyone to say anything about its context. I don’t think we yet know if this 3-page order is what it appears to be, or if there is some other document that may reveal limitations not clear from the 3-page order. Note that the order is titled “Secondary Order,” which presumably means that there is a primary one that it follows; we don’t know what that order said. So while this is potentially a huge story, we don’t yet have substantial certainty that the facts are what they have been reported to be.
I think "huge" will understate it.
The NY Times reports on a conference meant to focus research money on gun violence, but only if the proper topics are researched:
WASHINGTON — A panel of experts convened in response to the school shooting last year in Newtown, Conn., gave the federal government an ambitious set of priorities on Wednesday for research on guns, ending what experts said has been a 17-year hiatus in the study of gun violence after Congress took away federal money for the topic in the 1990s.
President Obama has included $10 million for gun-related research in his 2014 budget, the first federal financing for the topic in years, and the panel’s chairman, Alan I. Leshner, said the report was a first step to deepen evidence about the public health implications of guns. The panel was assembled by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council at President Obama’s request.
We can see this train wreck coming down the tracks. I love the optimism here:
“We need a science base so we are not wasting money on things that don’t work,” [panel’s chairman, Alan I. Leshner] said.
Uh huh. Because only science can really tell us whether adding flash suppressors, bayonet lugs and pistol grips to a semi-automatic rifle makes it a Truly Dangerous ASSAULT WEAPON. I am strangely confident that the panel will eventually support an assault weapons ban regardless of the evidence, sort of like NYC Police Chief Kelly.
And you can already guess where "the science" won't be headed:
Some lines of inquiry were rejected as not worth pursuing. Ronald C. Kessler, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, led a discussion on whether media, including television and video games, were a motivating factor for gun violence.
He said the panel “looked deeply” into the question and concluded that it was not a research priority.
Is it not a priority becasue they honestly think there is no likelihood of a link being established? Or it it not a priority because the politics of overcoming Hollywood money and the free speech issues appear insurmountable? And if it is the latter, there are plenty of other avenues of research the NRA would be happy to pre-emptively eliminate - are they also being abandoned?
What we probably have here is a panel designed to study all the liberal answers to gun violence and present rationales for same.
JUST THINKING OUT LOUD HERE... If the NRA spokesflack had real gumption he would promise that if the panel's final report concluded that an assault weapons ban was a waste of time, he would eat it.
By way of the WSJ, more news from the world of pseudoscience:
Vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters, according to a study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, a Journal of the American Medical Association.
The authors tracked 73,308 members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for almost six years. The church is known for promoting a vegetarian diet, though not all of its followers adhere to that teaching. Researchers found out what type of diet participants ate, then followed up to find out how many of those participants had died and how.
Vegetarians in the study experienced 12% fewer deaths over the period. Dietary choices appeared to play a big role in protecting the participants from heart disease, from which vegetarians were 19% less likely to die than meat-eaters.
A still more subtle component of healthy-user bias has to be confronted. This is the compliance or adherer effect. Quite simply, people who comply with their doctors’ orders when given a prescription are different and healthier than people who don’t. This difference may be ultimately unquantifiable.
He describes a drug trial meant to prevent heart attacks. Among other things researchers tracked whether people took their medicine diligently, with an odd result:
As it turned out, those men who said they took more than 80 percent of the pills prescribed fared substantially better than those who didn’t. Only 15 percent of these faithful “adherers” died, compared with almost 25 percent of what the project researchers called “poor adherers.” This might have been taken as reason to believe that clofibrate actually did cut heart-disease deaths almost by half, but then the researchers looked at those men who faithfully took their placebos. And those men, too, seemed to benefit from adhering closely to their prescription: only 15 percent of them died compared with 28 percent who were less conscientious. “So faithfully taking the placebo cuts the death rate by a factor of two,” says David Freedman, a professor of statistics at the University of California, Berkeley [who passed away, regrettably, in 2008]. “How can this be? Well, people who take their placebo regularly are just different than the others. The rest is a little speculative. Maybe they take better care of themselves in general. But this compliance effect is quite a big effect.”
A Seventh-day Adventist who is ignoring his religion's stance on meat is in the non-complier category and is probaby not taking his other placebos diligently either.
FLASHBACK: This post looked at The Times recent summaries of studies bashing eggs and red meat due to carnitine and TMAO.
The Sunday Times is going to give me a stroke.
First, the Dead Tree edition has a great headline on the Heat-Pacers game after the Pacers forced a Game Seven - "Pacers Taking Everyone's Talent To South Beach" - but I deplore the breakdown of coaching concentration in Indiana (subsequently6 edited out of the Times version):
Pacers forward plays despite battling flu: Pacers power forward David West played Saturday despite battling the flu.
He arrived at the arena in the morning for shootaround and was sent home. Coach Frank Vogel said West’s fever was “slightly over 100.”
Vogel had no doubt West would play.
“We’ll play with the normal plan,” the coach said. “If I see something or if I notice he’s struggling, we’ll make decisions at that point. What did they say in ‘Rocky,’ what did Apollo Creed say? ‘Don’t stop this fight.’ I think we’re going to have a hard time pulling him out of the game.”
I was able to move on, but the real damage to the old BP was done yet another feminist screed in the Sunday Review:
The Triumph of the Working Mother
By STEPHANIE COONTZ
FIFTY years ago, Betty Friedan made a startling prediction in her controversial best seller, “The Feminine Mystique.” If American housewives would embark on lifelong careers, she claimed, they would be happier and healthier, their marriages would be more satisfying, and their children would thrive.
At the time, experts believed that a married woman should work only to kill time while searching for a husband or to fill time after the children had left home. A wife who pursued a career was considered a maladjusted woman who would damage her marriage and her kids.
Today, with almost two-thirds of married mothers employed and women the sole or main breadwinner in 40 percent of households, according to a Pew study released Wednesday, we can test these competing points of view.
Ms. Friedan wins on the question of whether working improves women’s well-being. At all income levels, stay-at-home mothers report more sadness, anger, and episodes of diagnosed depression than their employed counterparts.
And the benefits of employment mount over a lifetime. A recent multiyear study by the sociologists Adrianne Frech and Sarah Damaske found that women who worked full time following the birth of their first child had better mental and physical health at age 40 than women who had not worked for pay. Low-wage jobs with urgent and inflexible time demands do raise the risk of depression, especially among new mothers. But in less stressful low-wage jobs, mothers who work relatively long hours during the first year following childbirth experience less depression than those who cut back to fewer hours.
Oh, please. Is correlation now causation? Or was this a randomly controlled trial in which women, regardles of their baseline health, happiness and energy, were randomly assigned either to home or the workplace?
I don't think it was a random trial. Which means the results may simply be telling us something about the sort of woman who is comfortable working versus those who choose (or end up) staying at home.
OK, I have to go treat my blood pressure.
This is news to me - the NY Times found some West Wingers who have come to bury Eric Holder, not to praise him:
While the White House publicly backed Mr. Holder as he tried to smooth over the latest uproar amid new speculation about his future, some in the West Wing privately tell associates they wish he would step down, viewing him as politically maladroit.
However, they can't make these calls public (except they just did):
But the latest attacks may stiffen the administration’s resistance in the near term to a change for fear of emboldening critics.
I think the critcs are already pretty emboldened. Where spirits seem to be sagging is at the White House Press Office. The original Times headline, per the URL, was:
Goals To Fulfill And Foes To Foil Keep Holder Going
Reality triumphed; the final headline is this:
Seeking a Fresh Start, Holder Finds a Fresh Set of Troubles
ERRATA: In my headline fantasy, the final version is "...Holder Finds A Sea of Troubles". That preserves the absurd notion that these troubles just happened without involvement from the passive Holder and also works in a Shakespearean theme that ties back to the Hamlet on the Potomac shtick that Obama and Holder love.
DOUBLE PLAY: The Times could have shown a real independent streak if the original headline had been changed to "Goals to Foil And Foes To Fulfill Keep Holder Going". Darn.
According to an adviser familiar with the deliberations, Mr. Holder has discussed expanding a requirement for high-level review of proposed subpoenas for reporters’ phone records so that it would include e-mails.
But per NBC News, Eric Holder personally signed off on the controversial warrant for Fox News reporter James Rosen. Maybe Holder thinks we need presidential review? or maybe his new rule will be that the AG must actually read documents before approving them. Baffling.
The "Anguished and Introspective" sham has been in play for a while. This comic gold from the NY Times is nearly a year old, and follows the designation of two non-special prosecutors to investigate the Obama 2012 "Tough On Terror" leaks:
Administration Took Accidental Path to Setting Record for Leak Cases
WASHINGTON — Under fire from Republicans who claim that the White House has leaked classified information to make him look tough, President Obama has pointed to his administration’s unmatched record in prosecuting leaks.
...But a closer look reveals a surprising conclusion: the crackdown has nothing to do with any directive from the president, even though he is now promoting his record as a political asset.
Even Mr. Obama’s attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., whose Justice Department has pursued five of the six cases, was surprised by news reports pointing out that the number of cases was unprecedented, colleagues said. He has told associates that he has no desire for leak prosecutions to be his legacy.
“When we took office in January 2009, I don’t think bringing a lot of leak cases was high on anyone’s agenda,” said Matthew Miller, who was director of public affairs at the Justice Department until July. “But then they came up one by one, and without anyone realizing it, we had set a record.”
They learned about it by watching the news! Well, as long as there was no plan...