Saturday, May 31, 2014

What I am reading 5/31/2014

MacMillian - Excerpt from No Place to Hide -

The first 22 pages of Glenn Greenwald's new book.  It's about what you expect Greenwald hates the US and he thinks he is better than 99% of the people in his chosen profession of journalist (and maybe he is, I don't know).  He pushes those views pretty hard.  No problem, that's his right, and normally I might or might not buy the book based on that knowledge. In this case I won't.  I may read it 20 pages at a time at the bookstore or check it out from the library but I wont give the guy money.

 My first problem is I think Greenwald is both a blowhard and a fabulist.   I remember when he was accused of sockpuppeting back in 2006, it was the first time I had heard of him, despite his being a constitutional lawyer that was so well regarded his bestselling book was quoted on the floor of the Senate, so I started reading his pieces on Wired or Salon or wherever he was writing at the time.  The were always overly long, very boring and seemed filled lawyered-up half-truths.  I just started assuming anytime I saw something with his name on it that it was a) Anti-Bush, b) Anti-American, c) a lie wrapped in enough facts to make is sound plausible. And, I wasn't the only one, Greenwald was a running joke in the dextrosphere.   Imagine my surprise when the entire right-wing blogosphere looked at these "revelations" and swallowed them whole hog.  So far I think it's me and Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs who actively disbelieve  Greenwald, and honestly I am not sure I like that company (and yes I know Johnson isn't right-wing and in general is a douche).

My second problem with this book (or at least what I have read of it) is that the stories and the timelines never seem to quite work out.  I have posted bout these previously on my Google+ page and there are tons of them but in the excerpt that I read last night / early this morning a couple stood out:

As I continued reading, two things struck me about the archive. The first was how extraordinarily well organized it was. The source had created countless folders and then sub-folders and sub-sub-folders. Every last document had been placed exactly where it belonged. I never found a single misplaced or misfiled document.
...
In sixteen hours of barely interrupted reading, I managed to get through only a small fraction of the archive. But as the plane landed in Hong Kong, I knew two things for certain. First, the source was highly sophisticated and politically astute, evident in his recognition of the significance of most of the documents. He was also highly rational. The way he chose, analyzed, and described the thousands of documents I now had in my possession proved that. Second, it would be very difficult to deny his status as a classic whistle-blower. If disclosing proof that top-level national security officials lied outright to Congress about domestic spying programs doesn’t make one indisputably a whistle-blower, then what does?

does anyone realize what a time sink this type of activity is? Hundreds, maybe thousands of hours. Couple this with other stuff from previous interviews and articles in my mind it just doesn't add up to Snowden as a lone actor.  Maybe Greenwald accounts for this later in the book, or questions it at least, but in this excerpt it doesn't appear so.  Also look at Snowden's signature block:

Edward Joseph Snowden, SSN: ■■■■■
CIA Alias "■■■■■"
Agency Identification Number: ■■■■■
Former Senior Advisor | United States National Security Agency, 
under corporate cover
Former Field Officer | United States Central Intelligence Agency, 
under diplomatic cover
Former Lecturer | United States Defense Intelligence Agency, 
under corporate cover
Did Greenwald make an effort to validate these claims?  I mean lets assume that Snowden is being a little loose with the term field agent and simply referring to the time he was with the CIA in Geneva, if he was a senior advisor to the NSA people would know.  Someone, somewhere would talk.  If he were a lecturer someone would have attended one of his lecturers.  To my knowledge no information has come forward to validate these claims and in my mind that's important because it addresses the credibility of Snowden and his doucuments.

That leads me to my third problem with Greenwald and his claims, and this isn't in the book excerpt, but how do we know what the Snowden documents contain?  Has anyone seen a complete set; anyone besides Poitras and Greenwald that is?  Again this is important, because all the initial releases were slides that weren't presented in complete context, and since then it seems that whenever a major world event is happening there is a document release that just happens to coincide with that event.  Since the complete set of documents haven't been released we are just assuming that Greenwald is being truthful.  There is no way to check his claims.  As I pointed out above, in my mind trusting Greenwald is not the way to go.

So there you go my take on the first 22 pages of No Place to Hide.

Other Stuff

Bring the Heat Bring the Stupid - Leaders Go Hungry: 10 Leadership Habits Developed in Uniform | Team Rubicon -

Ars Technica - Universities can’t fulfil the myth, but they can’t become a vocational school either

Usually when people extol the virtues of universities, they discuss teaching people how to think, and how to critically examine evidence and ideas. The ideal role of this sort of university is to churn out well-rounded individuals who can think independently. Most people who despair of today's youth seem to think that these ideal universities are a casualty of the modern world. The young lads that universities used to produce—ladies being considered too delicate in nature to actually think in those days—were supposed to cast a jaundiced eye over society and to defend against iniquities of government, big business, and, in general, be superheroes without a secret identity.
My point here is not that this ideal was a bad thing, but that universities were never intended to be places to develop independent inquiring minds. And today, universities are ill suited to developing independent inquiring minds.
MIT News - Q&A: David Autor on inequality among the “99 percent”

Today’s wealth gap does not just exist between the richest 1 percent of the population and everyone else; there have been growing inequalities among the less-wealthy 99 percent of people, too. In an article published today in Science, MIT economist David Autor contends that much of our present inequality stems from disparities in education. 
Slashdot - New Federal Database Will Track Americans' Credit Ratings, Other Financial Info -

Let the games begin


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