Here we are at yet another Christmas. We have been doing this a long time now, and even longer for those that go back to The Next Hurrah. Yes, we are all getting old together. But let that be painfully, fitfully and difficult for the government, corporate and political forces. And that battle is not done yet.
We are all for the better for gathering here. So, to one and all, thank you. It means everything to us. Seriously. And the Merriest of Christmases to one and all, no matter what your faith or following. It is a season for sharing and love, and we send that to one and all.
With that said, let’s give thanks to one and all, not only here, but who have come and left. There are so many friends that have come and, sadly, departed there is no good way to cover one and all. There have been so many.
We can only say thanks to one and all. It is one thing to have a forum to talk to people. It is yet another where people both listen and interact positively and brightly better than what you ever hoped. That has been the hallmark here from the start. Thank you for that. And, a Christmas Eve should never go without a mention and thank you to our early friend and colleague, Mary, who left us on Christmas Eve 2011. Vaya con dios Mary Beth Perdue, you are still remembered and missed.
For all, sincerely, thanks, both for the year that was, and the time to come. Be well.
I was going to wax politic about our Constitution. And oh, what the heck — why not quote from the end of John Roberts’ decision in Riley v. California (even if he doesn’t believe the Fourth Amendment extends to women’s uteri) — for a reminder of how we got here.
Our cases have recognized that the Fourth Amendment was the founding generation’s response to the reviled “general warrants” and “writs of assistance” of the colonial era, which allowed British officers to rummage through homes in an unrestrained search for evidence of criminal activity. Opposition to such searches was in fact one of thedriving forces behind the Revolution itself. In 1761, the patriot James Otis delivered a speech in Boston denouncing the use of writs of assistance. A young John Adams was there, and he would later write that “[e]very man of a crowded audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance.” 10 Works of John Adams 247–248 (C. Adams ed. 1856). According to Adams, Otis’s speech was “the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the child Independence was born.” Id., at 248 (quoted in Boyd v. United States, 116 U. S. 616, 625 (1886)).
May we renew James Otis’ fight as we go forward.
But I wanted instead to express my gratitude to several people, who have already made my Fourth. First, the guy collecting cans for deposits who I often see as I walk McCaffrey the MilleniaLab in the early morning. He was the first to wish me a — shouting across the street, in joyous whoops — a Happy Fourth this morning, which gave me great joy. This day belongs to all Americans — may we remember that common purpose and start serving it for all to benefit.
And I especially want to thank the West Michigan farmers who made it to the Farmer’s Market this morning. Not only does that mean we’ll be having strawberry-rhubarb and (the first of the season) cherry pies at our barbecue this evening. But the farmers who picked their first crop of blueberries last night to have them for today will make the kids at the barbecue very happy.
A safe and joyous Fourth to all emptywheel’s readers!
[EW: Rosalind stole the keys! Awesome!!! Uh. Ut oh.]
Looks like Mom and Dad have been so consumed with all-things NSA they went and left the keys to the joint right out in the open. I better write fast.
One week ago the America’s Cup standing stood at New Zealand eight wins, USA one (they actually had three, but more on that later), with first team to reach nine the champion. Everyone – everyone – hoped the US boat could eke out a couple more wins before the Kiwis got that inevitable last win and took the Cup back home. Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill had other plans, calmly proclaiming his team focused on winning not just the next race, but the Cup itself. The World politely smiled and nodded, while rolling our eyes. Dude, c’mon, you’d need to reel off eight sudden death wins in – a – row.
I attended the Opening Weekend races and watched New Zealand take 3 out of 4, but what I saw in those races should’ve prepared me for the amazing feat Oracle was about to pull off. The US boat could’ve won two more of those opening races if not for some bad tactical decisions and poor boat handling during key tacks and gybes. The Kiwis had the faster boat upwind, but Oracle was faster downwind. If they could improve the tactical and stabilize the maneuvers, they had a real chance to get back into things.
They replaced the tactician with 5-time Olympian Ben Ainslie, got the new crew in sync, made tweaks to the boat night after night, and started to win. Every race. Every day. The World stopped smirking and the thousands along the San Francisco waterfront went wild as the US boat now stretched out its leads on the upwind legs thanks to whatever engineering tweak magic the techs had made.
(A moment to address the, uh, cheating thing: Oracle started the series in the hole -2 races due to a cheating incident with their AC45 boat in an earlier series. I can’t believe they were so stupid, and they deserve what they got, which was a 2 point race penalty, and the removal of their wing trimmer four days before the start of the series. Add in Oracle owner billionaire Larry Ellison’s uncanny ability to come off like a Bond Villain sent straight from central casting, and well, it can lead to rather fantastical musings – “That’s it! An Oracle sub with a magnet pulled the US boat upwind!”)
In today’s final the Kiwis got the jump at the start, rounding the first mark ahead while Oracle buried their bow and dropped their speed. They recovered, gave chase and took the lead, which New Zealand grabbed back, then USA pulled ahead. And then came Leg 4, a downwind leg, and Oracle put on their jets, shifted into a whole new gear and left the Kiwis almost 700 meters behind. From there the US boat just had to stay in one piece.
My sailing friends and I have long dreamed of an America’s Cup series on the San Francisco Bay, and the reality has surpassed even our highest hopes. A gorgeous natural amphitheatre, miles of shoreline to watch up close, scary-fast boats that fly across the water and along the waterfront, so close the crowd and crew are able to feed off each others energy.
I celebrate the Oracle team for pulling off one of the most incredible sporting comebacks in history. I salute the New Zealand team for a great run and the Kiwi fans for being the nicest, funniest, fervent fans this side of Middle Earth.
And I raise a toast to the City of San Francisco and the America’s Cup Organization for showing what a true public and private partnership can reap, how beautiful public spaces can be used to great effect and benefit for the public.
To the thousands of fans who flocked to the City, and the happy hotel owners and cafe managers and taxi drivers et al, meet you back here in a few years!
The Steubenville rape case is so offensive in so many ways I can’t even begin to tackle them all.
• CNN and a number of other news outlets cast the rapists as victims;
• Idiots who “don’t believe in rape” come out of the woodwork and spew their insanity;
• Society follows the spectacle of the case for entertainment, but fails to take action about the culture of rape perpetuated by their demand for this amusement.
Yet there’s a missing component in this mess, just as there was in Columbine, Colorado years ago, just as there was in Central Falls, Rhode Island.
Where are the parents and what the hell was going on BEFORE the rape?
I ask this knowing how very culpable the parents are. I’m guilty of failing my kids, and I learned it the hard way this past year.
How did this happen? I’m the mom who gave her kids books like Our Bodies, Ourselves and Changing Bodies, Changing Lives in middle school, gave demonstrations of condom use (with fruits and vegetables and condoms, get your mind out of the gutter). I’ve had numerous, lengthy conversations with my kids about sexuality, from first sex to masturbation, to contraception and STDs. We’ve talked openly about bisexuality, transgender, and homosexuality; they’ve told their friends my door is open to any kid who has a problem about their sexual identity.
Some of these conversations also included discussions about other kids and their parents’ failures. At least one of my kids’ closest friends was sexually active as a junior in high school and her parents had NEVER had any discussion about sex with her, before she became active, and not for the rest of her high school tenure.
What? Are you fucking kidding me? was my initial reaction. How can parents these days trust public OR private schools to do an adequate job teaching their kids about sexuality, let alone contraception? How can parents stick their heads in the sand when there are so many misleading messages offered to kids over the internet as well as traditional media?
Take that “Don’t believe in rape” asshole linked above; how can parents not offer their own messages about rape and the nature of consent when that kind of toxic idiocy is being spewed? (And where in the hell did that idiot acquire his ignorant, poisonous attitude about rape? His parents?)
No fucking way should any parent assume that no news is good news, that what they have to say as parents will be ignored or discounted. In the absence of parental messaging on both values and laws, the morons will win.
As I said, I’m guilty of failing my kids. I know EXACTLY how big the hole is that parents should fill, even after very concerted, conscious efforts to fill that gap. Continue reading
And so we reach another Christmas Eve together here at the Emptywheel Blog. And I mean together, because this is a community, from Marcy, Jim White and me, to all of you who participate here with us. You are not just names on a computer screen, you are our friends and colleagues.
We deal with a lot of hard, and far too often infuriating and depressing, topics. Sometimes you just want to scream, because really success seems to be measured only in whether you can slow down by a fraction, or put a slight dent in, the bad things going on in this country and the world.
Occasionally, however, there are truly bright spots in what we cover and push. One of these is certainly the movement on marriage equality and equal protection for sexual preference. Another is, as problematic as they are in their own right, the victory of the Democrats and Obama over a slate of Republicans who would have materially regressed about everything we hold near and dear. It may be small solace, but it is far better than the alternative. So there are good things too.
But the one irreducible minimum is, despite the passion we all have for various subjects and policies, life will actually always plug on one way or another for most, it is simply a matter of how it does so. And that is really something too easily lost sight of…what really counts when you get down to it are the people.
Here at Emptywheel, so it is the people who really count too. And we would like to take a moment to thank you for sharing your time, your experience, your knowledge, your humor and yourselves. It makes all of us richer and that is something to be thankful for as we look forward to Christmas day and the week of festivities that culminates in New Years Day. Health and happiness to one and all.
I’d also like to take a minute to remember that not all are doing well. Some are struggling and have health problems. We know of several, but it would not be appropriate to discuss the individual situations. Just know that we know, we care and our thoughts are with you.
And then there are those that we have lost along the way this year. One in that category really stands out. One year ago tonight, our friend, colleague, and contributor to this blog, Mary Perdue, passed away. We miss Mary a lot, both in content and in her unique character. I constantly see discussions and think “Damn, Mary would have been all over this”.
However, Mary is not the only important voice here that has gone dark this year. We also seem to have lost MadDog. I first encountered MadDog at FDL during pretrial proceedings in the Libby case. We both quickly became regulars at the precursor to Emptywheel, known as The Next Hurrah. He followed us from TNH to Firedoglake and then to here. Like Mary, MadDog was a constant colleague with a well developed sense of irony and sharp analytical skills. The last comment by MadDog was on September 11 at 8:16 pm, since then a deafening silence. We have tried to determine what happened by both email and phone, but no luck so far. We miss him greatly.
In that regard, I want to excerpt part of a post we did in memory of Mary when we learned she had passed. Not just to honor her again, but because much of it applies to the nature of all who participate here, have participated here, and how we feel about them and you:
The internet is a strange and wonderful thing. Just about everyone and everything in the world is on it, even though it is nothing but data in the form of binary computer code traversing by random electrons. Yet thought is crystalized, and friendships born and nurtured, through commonality of interest and purpose. And so it is here at Emptywheel, where many of us have been together since the days at The Next Hurrah, through years at Firedoglake, and now at our new home. Just because it germinates via the net does nothing to detract from the sense of community, friendship and admiration for each other gained over time.
With profound sadness, I report we have lost a true friend, and one of our longest tenured contributors, Mary. Mary Beth Perdue left us on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2011.
Here at Emptywheel, she was just Mary; and she was so much more than a simple obituary can convey. She was funny, kind, and, most of all, razor sharp in analysis of extremely complex issues surrounding torture, indefinite detention, international human rights, illegal wiretapping and executive branch overreach.
But this is the way it is with one and all here. You all contribute so much. Thank you. All here are indeed more than electrons and impersonal screen names.
It is the people – you – that count. Marcy, Jim and I raise a glass of fine IPA in toast to one and all. So, as you sit down with your families and friends for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the holiday week, from our family to yours, enjoy and thanks!
This is an open thread for all things – news, politics, cooking, sports, holiday greetings and all manner of discussion. Music by the incomparable Alicia Keys.
Marcy is probably up to her eyeballs in boxes both empty and full right now. I picture McCaffrey the MilleniaLab wandering lost if excited among them, wearing a loose doggy grin as his nails tick-tack across the new floor. Mr. Emptywheel may likewise be wandering between boxes while muttering in an Irish accent under his breath about a well-deserved beer.
Ah, but they’re home for the holiday. What a great memory this will be in years to come. Congrats to Mr. and Mrs. Emptywheel on their new digs!
Most of us have memories of home on this holiday–many good, some bad, but enough decent ones to compel us to go home to give thanks with others. Many of you are preparing for a harried road trip, or an even more hectic trip by air. I wish you safe and secure between here and wherever it is you need to be. Watch out for deer if you’re driving.
A number of my own best/worst Thanksgiving memories involve travel. Like the time I flew from Detroit to Omaha to see my folks and kid brother; it was like landing in another world, a movie set replete with All-American high school football stars and cheerleaders. We drove from the airport past the Platte River, where sandhill cranes amassed by the thousands along the banks in nearby fields. I made my dad stop the car to hear the roar they made as these dinosaur-ish creatures chattered at one another.
Or another year when I drove hundreds of miles to volunteer with my nurse-mom at a convent. Well, more like a nursing home for nuns; I helped with bedpans, walkers, visited and served dinner, attended an utterly silent prayer service. Absolutely insane experience, all the elderly women patting me on the cheek like I was the one who needed care. I will never forget the tiny, frail 80-something sister who sat next to me during their turkey dinner; she clutched my hand, then patted it, and rasped, “This’ll be one Thanksgiving you’ll never forget.” She fricking winked at me and smirked, and then tried to recruit me to take vows in their order.
Hell yes, sister, I still think of it and you every year. Sorry about those vows, though. I know you meant well. I’ve never been nun material.
When I was growing up, nearly every T-Day holiday my family took in a new movie. We don’t do that anymore, but we do watch oldies but goodies at home. They’ve become part the rituals that my kids will remember in the future as they think back on their Thanksgiving holidays past. Like watching my personal favorite, Home for the Holidays, while we bake something yeasty for tomorrow’s feast at the in-laws. There’s nothing quite like Home for the Holidays to brace one’s self for visiting the extended dysfunction that is family. Tomorrow we’ll watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles while we cuddle up on our couch, lolling about in our overfed discomfort,and enjoy a fire in the fireplace.
What about you? What are your favorite Thanksgiving Day memories? Are you traveling? And what about holiday movies–is there one you’d share or enjoy every year?
Last Friday, DHS’ Inspector General released two reports purportedly written in response to an April 28, 2011 request from Zoe Lofgren to determine whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement and DHS more generally were lying about the Secure Communities program, and if so, if doing so was criminal.
As a threshold matter, the completion of two reports, rather than just the one, seems to be a bit of a smokescreen. Lofgren asked if government officials lied. In response, DHS’ IG decided to answer two questions:
In addition to reframing Lofgren’s question to avoid fully considering why people had misinformed Congress and localities (and also, given the scope of their work, to avoid inquiring whether DHS, rather than ICE, had decided to do so), DHS IG first decided to see whether Secure Communities was effective. According to the list of major contributors included with each report, with the sole exception of Communications Analyst Kelly Herberger, two entirely different teams conducted the reviews. The report that at least sort of responded to Lofgren’s questions was issued on March 27, whereas the non-responsive efficacy report was issued April 5, though both were apparently sent out Friday together. ICE responded to both reports on the same day–February 23, 2012–so it seems the different release dates comes because the efficacy report was revised in some way (the date on the conveyance letter for the efficacy report is in a non-standard sans serif font, which sort of makes you wonder…).
In short, the submission of these two reports together stinks, though it presumably had the desired effect, as the NYT reported “mixed reviews” for Secure Communities. HuffPo and LAT were less compliant, focusing instead on the communications report instead.
That said, the purported “good” efficacy report doesn’t actually prove that Secure Communities is working all that well. Here’s the summary of their results:
We performed this audit to determine if Secure Communities was effective in identifying criminal aliens and if Immigration and Customs Enforcement appropriately prioritized cases for removal action.
Secure Communities was effective in identifying criminal aliens, and in most cases, ICE officers took enforcement actions according to agency enforcement policy. Under Secure Communities, the agency expanded its ability to identify criminal aliens in areas not covered by its other programs. In addition, it was able to identify criminal aliens earlier in the justice process, some of whom it would not have identified under other programs. Secure Communities was implemented at little or no additional cost to local law enforcement jurisdictions. Although ICE was able to identify and detain criminal aliens, field offices duplicated the research associated with their detention, and officers did not always sufficiently document their enforcement actions. To improve the transparency and thoroughness of its processes under Secure Communities, the agency needs to eliminate the duplication of research and ensure that officers fully document their actions.
One of the ways they quantify that success is with a claim that they had identified 692,000 “criminal aliens.”
According to ICE, as of September 30, 2011, it had spent most of the $750 million and identified more than 692,000 criminal aliens.
Never mind that the program has become less efficient over the years. In FY2009, ICE had 1,087 fingerprint matches for each activated jurisdiction, in FY2011 ICE had 372 matches. To some degree that’s expected–jurisdictions along the southern border joined in first–but also suggests getting every jurisdiction in the country involved has diminishing returns.
More troubling, the report also reveals that some of the people–it doesn’t say how many–in IDENT are citizens.
Individuals with fingerprints in IDENT include persons with an immigration history, such as aliens who have been removed but have reentered the country, immigration visa applicants, legal permanent residents, naturalized citizens, and some U.S. citizens.
IDENT includes two categories of U.S. citizens:
- Citizens who have adopted a child from abroad (which involves U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), participated in a trusted traveler program, or may have been fingerprinted by immigration officials for smuggling aliens or drugs across U.S. borders;
- Individuals who were not citizens at the time that their fingerprints were collected, but subsequently became citizens through naturalization, legal permanent residency, or immigration.
So if you’ve adopted a kid from China? You’re in this database too. Continue reading
You’ve found our new digs!
Thanks to Chris, Dan, Rayne, Brian, and Jason for helping with this transition–particularly Chris and Dan who helped with a lot of last minute surprises.
The site is not yet fully functional–most notably, we’re working on comments. Right now, we don’t have a registration system like we did at FDL: you need to enter your username and email address and it will need approved. Also, comments from yesterday afternoon and today at the FDL site are not yet in these posts.
Also, we don’t yet have the RSS feeds working. We have the RSS feed for the posts set up–working on comments.
We should be fully up and running early next week.
It is with very mixed feelings that I announce emptywheel will be leaving Firedoglake at the end of this week.
About six years ago, I started blogging on the abuse of power. At first it was the CIA Leak case. Then it was torture. And warrantless wiretapping. And now drones and Gitmo and corruption and the withering rule of law. With things like auto bailouts and healthcare interspersed along the way.
I’ve been doing this a long time, and never took the time to take a step back to figure out how best to do this work. And while I’ve been privileged to have had the opportunity to do so, six years of manic blogging wears on you. Particularly when that blogging has mostly chronicled a long string of bad news about the rule of law and our Constitution.
It’s time for me to take that step back, and to change the way I work to make sure I can continue to keep it up over what looks to be a long term slog. A key part of that step back will be stepping away from the manic, reactive rhythm I’ve established here at Firedoglake.
So sometime on Friday, emptywheel will move to its own server at a different URL (obviously, I’ll let everyone know the new details).
At emptywheel’s new home, I will continue doing what I’m doing. I’ll be covering civil liberties and abuse of power and the way that ties into our crashing economy. I will no doubt continue to write, a lot. I will continue to do the really weedy work I’ve always done. But I plan to change the way I work–with a focus on also producing longer, more finished articles and possibly another book project. And bmaz will be coming along to contribute as he has for so long. (Yes, there will be Trash Talk!)
Meanwhile, FDL will still have superb civil liberties coverage. Later today, Jane will announce more details, but I can say Kevin Gosztola, who has already been doing great work at MyFDL, and who I consider to be one of the most exciting new voices on this beat, will pick up much of the load.
Look for more details–and a lot of thanks–in a few days.
Hi folks, Happy Easter! It has been a pretty frustrating week on a lot of the fronts we follow here. There are far too many such weeks. Even the one piece of positive news, the reinstating of the charges against the Blackwater Nisour Square shooters, was based on a somewhat suspect decision by the DC Circuit Court and still very well may lead to another dismissal of the charges in the District Court because, quite frankly, it is probably appropriate that they be dismissed due to the monkeywrenching by the State Department and their demand for Garrity statements from the individuals involved in the shooting.
But that was the week that was, now it is Easter Sunday and it is time to relax, eat and have some fun, whether it is a religious holiday for you or just a good chance to chill. Marcy and Mr. Wheel have been enjoying the last few days by moving. You know how much fun moving is! As for myself, after an extremely busy week, the bmaz family went driveabout in Southern Arizona. Thought, just for grins, I would share a little of our trip. One of the places we went to was San Xavier del Bac Mission, which is just due south of Tucson.
A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797.
The oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the church’s interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings. It is a place where visitors can truly step back in time and enter an authentic 18th Century space.
The church retains its original purpose of ministering to the religious needs of its parishioners.
The current church dates from the late 1700’s, when Southern Arizona was part of New Spain. In 1783, Franciscan missionary Fr. Juan Bautista Velderrain was able to begin contruction on the present structure usin money borrowed from a Sonoran rancher. He hired an architect, Ignacio Gaona, and a large workforce of O’odham to create the present church.
Following Mexican independence in 1821, San Xavier became part of Mexico. The last resident Franciscan of the 19th Century departed in 1837. With the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, the Mission joined the United States. In 1859 San Xavier became part of the Diocese of Santa Fe. In 1866 Tucson became an incipient diocese and regular services were held at the Mission once again. Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet opened a school at the Mission in 1872. Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity now teach at the school and reside in the convent.
Clicking on any of the images will give a full size view. The upper is obviously the outside of the mission, the middle one a view of the inside of the church portion and the final view more of a closeup of the altar area, which is simply ornate beyond description and beautiful. It is guarded by two huge golden lions on each side, although they are a bit hard to see well in the picture. San Xavier is pretty cool and just about the only place like it still standing this completely in what what was referred to in the 1600s and 1700s as New Spain.
The other completely awesome place we went was Kartchner Caverns. Kartchner Caverns State Park is about 50 miles southeast of Tucson, is only about ten miles off of Interstate 10 and is easily accessible. It is one of the most beautiful state park facilities you can imagine. Here is a wonderful history of how the cave came to be a jewel in the state park system in Arizona. One of the key players you will read about is Ken Travous, who was along with us on the tour the bmaz family took Saturday; it was really a special occasion.
In November 1974 two young cavers, Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts, were exploring the limestone hills at the base of the Whetstone Mountains. In the bottom of a sinkhole they found a narrow crack leading into the hillside. Warm, moist air flowed out, signaling the existence of a cave. After several hours of crawling, they entered a pristine cavern.
The formations that decorate caves are called “speleothems.” Usually formations are composed of layers of calcite called travertine deposited by water. The form a speleothem takes is determined by whether the water drips, flows, seeps, condenses, or pools.
Kartchner Caverns is home to:
one of the world’s longest soda straw stalactites: 21 feet 3 inches (Throne Room)
the tallest and most massive column in Arizona, Kubla Khan: 58 feet tall (Throne Room)
the world’s most extensive formation of brushite moonmilk (Big Room)
the first reported occurrence of “turnip” shields (Big Room)
the first cave occurrence of “birdsnest” needle quartz formations
many other unusual formations such as shields, totems, helictites, and rimstone dams.
The complex at Kartchner Caverns features a Discovery Center with museum exhibits, a large gift shop, regional displays, a gorgeous theater, and extensive educational information about the caverns and surrounding landscape. There are also campgrounds, hiking trails, lockers, shaded picnic areas, a deli, an amphitheater, and a hummingbird garden. It is simply an incredible experience, and I highly recommend it for anyone visiting the Southern Arizona area. Seriously cool.
So, the members of the bmaz family are back home now, the Wheels are semi-unpacked in their groovy new digs, and all are ready to eat and have happy hour. The best from all of us to all of you, the greatest readers and commenters in the blogosphere. Enjoy!