Wednesday, July 20, 2016

More on the Clinton E-mails

As I said in a previous post deciding what is classified is not an exact science. There are lots of shades of grey and some things are just considered classified just because no one is sure whether they're really important or not.

I've been wondering exactly what the content of the eight Top Secret e-mail consisted of and now I've gotten some information as to the topics but not the exact content.

Take this with a grain of salt because obviously I haven't actually seen the e-mails and I'm relying on second hand information but from a reliable source.

The information I have says that seven of the eight were related to CIA drone strikes in countries that prefer it wasn't known that they were co-operating with the CIA.

While these strikes are considered "classified," everyone fucking knows they're happening. There are even Internet web sites that are counting when, where and with what result.

The eighth was reportedly about a conversation with the President of Malawi and conversations with foreign leaders are routinely classified. Somehow I doubt Clinton was discussing anything of critical importance with the worthy executive of Malawi.

So, if what I've been told is correct, the whole deal is much ado about nothing in terms of the criticality of the information but it doesn't change my suspicion that this whole fiasco was more due to arrogance than carelessness.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

More on Alton Sterling

I did a little more research on the Alton Sterling case and watched the videos.

The problem is the critical questions are actually from before the videos start.

 Police can use deadly force to protect their lives or the life of another innocent party. A key thing to remember, which I often think those who are quick to blame the police forget or aren't aware of, is that it doesn't matter if there is an actual threat. It only matters if the officer has an "objectively reasonable" belief that there is a threat.

When you're on the ground wrestling with a suspect, the suspect is still resisting and the suspect is armed, I think it's safe to say you would have an "objectively reasonable" belief that there is a threat. 

The bigger issue for the Baton Rouge police is how did things deteriorate into a situation where the officers only option to protect their own lives was to use deadly force?

There are all sorts of questions about how much they knew, what they assumed and what procedures they used. He was reported as armed! Why weren't they behind their vehicle and ordering him onto the ground?

Sterling was a twice convicted felon so simply carrying a firearm was a felony. That would be three strikes and Louisiana has a pretty nasty three strikes law. Alton Sterling was going away for a long, long time if the police found that gun.

So I suppose this wasn't going to end well for Sterling no matter what but I still question how things got to a wrestling match on the ground?

That's the key question to my mind.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

I talked about the shooting of the police officers in Dallas so I suppose I should address the two incidents that were the immediate motive for the Black Lives Matter demonstration.

But before I do that I'm going to say that NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING, justifies a sniper taking it upon himself to shoot at police officers. We are supposed to be a nations of laws instead we seem to be becoming a nation of lunatics.

Clearly there is no definitive, accepted description of exactly what happened with either Castile or Sterling. The facts are not all in so I can only talk about what seems to be agreed upon.

Philando Castile was driving in Falcon Heights Minnesota with his girlfriend Lavish "Diamond" Reynolds in the passenger seat and her 4 year-old daughter in the rear seat. Philando Castile worked at a St, Paul high school as a cafeteria supervisor. He had no criminal record beyond traffic violations.

Castile was pulled over by two police officers Jeronimo Yanez and Joseph Kauser. Exactly why Castile was pulled over is unclear. Reynolds claims it was for a broken tail light but police chatter from the squad car prior to the stop indicated that the officers thought Castile fit the description of an armed robbery suspect from four days prior.

In any event the officers performed a standard traffic stop rather than a felony stop and approached Castile's car. Yanez asked for his driver's license and registration.

Here's where things get murky. Castile had a concealed carry license and had a gun in the car. I haven't seen anything that indicates exactly where the gun was. Reynolds claims that Castile informed the officers that he had a gun and that he was going to get his wallet which had his license.

Yanez, on the video, is heard to claim he told Castile to stop reaching. Reynolds claims that Castile was putting his hands back up when Yanez opened fired and shot Castile four times. I suppose she means that he was following the officer's instructions.

He had a gun in the car? Another Darwin Award nominee.

If Yanez suspected Castile might have been guilty of armed robbery he would understandably have been on a hair trigger. If he thought Castile was going for the gun that would certainly explain his opening fire. If there was any suspicion they were dealing with an armed felon they should have proceeded accordingly rather than doing a regular traffic stop. You can always apologize later.

If it's decided there was no clear danger this officer is probably toast. If he avoids jail his career as a police officer is probably over.

The Alton Sterling case is even murkier.

Apparently Sterling used to hang out in front of the market selling CDs. Sterling supposedly did have a criminal record including carrying a firearm while in possession of a controlled substance.

A call went in to Baton Rouge police that a man selling CDs had used a gun to threaten someone outside the market.

Officers Howie Lake II and Blaine Salamoni responded to the call.

The officers tasered Sterling, twice. Exactly why they thought that necessary is unclear but Sterling was reportedly a hefty guy. They then wrestled him to the ground and pinned him with one officer on his chest and the other on his thigh.

People were recording the confrontation on their phones and one officer yelled "He's got a gun. Gun!" Officer Salamoni can then be heard to yell "Lake, he's going for the gun!"

Then there were three gunshots and then three more. The store owner reported that the officers then removed a gun from Sterling's pocket.

He had a gun in his pocket? Another Darwin Award nominee.

If they thought he was going for his gun I can understand firing. But six bullets? I suppose in the panic of the moment no one bothers to count. Besides they could have come from two guns. It's not clear which officer or officers fired.

These two seem to have a better case than the cop in Minnesota but who knows?

Both cases are being independently investigated by the Department of Justice which I also find disturbing. It means either local authorities no longer have confidence in their own ability to impartially investigate incidents or, more likely, they no longer believe their investigations will be believed by the public.

Either is a really, really bad thing.

I have no opinions on these two cases because all the facts aren't in. I suppose we shall see what we shall see as the investigations proceed.


Five police officers are dead, killed by a black marksman. Exactly why Micah Xavier Johnson decided to begin a one man war isn't entirely clear but he apparently frequented extremist sites that called for the killing of police officers.

I've seen this all before. A rash of unjustified and questionable police shooting of black men followed by whack job calls for retribution resulting in dead police officers.

This isn't the way to accomplish change. This is just going to get a lot of people dead.

So what about Black Lives Matter, the group protesting police killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota? Are they a positive group for change for a negative group making matters worse?

To my mind the jury is still out on that one. I understand the concept that there is an implied "too" at the end of the BLM name. I just think it would be better if it was overt rather than implied.

Be that as it may, killing police officers is unacceptable. I can't think of a better way to turn people against you.

As I've told a number of black acquaintances, you can't win without white support. A lot of white support. Praise Martin Luther King Jr. all you want but without large numbers of whites being revolted and horrified by southern white tactics during the 1960s the Civil Rights movement might still be trying to accomplish it's minimum objectives.

Is racism completely done? Of course not and it probably never will be. But at least it's no longer a de jure fact of life. That doesn't help guys like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, but it should give the rest of us some hope.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Hillary Clinton's E-Mails

I happened to be on the treadmill this morning when FBI Director James Comey gave his report on Clinton's use of personal e-mail servers.

They reviewed and recreated something like 31,000 emails. Of those something like 110 were flagged as potentially classified and 52 of those were determined to contain information which was classified at the time; 8 as Top Secret, 36 as Secret and 8 at Confidential.

Confidential is usually personnel information such as reviews or salary information but Secret and especially Top Secret are designations usually reserved for technical or policy information which could cause harm to US interests or US personnel if it became known to hostile agents.

I say usually because assigning classifications to stuff is far from an exact science. Often it comes down to what someone thinks is important and sometimes even oblique allusions to classified information can be construed as classified in and of itself.

None of that excuses being careless with this stuff and the FBI directer criticized both Clinton specifically and the State Department in general for being extremely careless in their handling of sensitive information.

That's a polite way of saying "how fucking stupid can you be?"

However, the FBI recommended that no charges be filed.

I think the issue probably wasn't carelessness as much as arrogance. Anyone who has had to navigate through government e-mail servers in general, and classified government e-mail servers in particular, knows they tend to be slow and far from the state of the art.

Worse is when you're on the road, there generally isn't any physical access to classified networks and you have to resort to awkward solutions such as individually encrypting the e-mails, usually with other slow, out of date software.

Well, the time of people high up in the State Department must be too fucking important to follow the rules and go through a little extra effort. That's arrogance and not carelessness.

What a dummy. If this had come out a year or two ago Sanders would be the nominee but now, unless someone can figure out how to pull a rabbit out of a hat, it's going to be Clinton or Trump.

Trump is such a poor choice that even if Clinton had published state secrets in the Washington Post I'd still vote for her over Trump.

And that's a sad commentary on the state of things.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Over 11,000 Amendments

A new exhibit at the National Archives is about the over 11,000 amendments proposed to the US Constitution. All of the attempts are listed on a 225 foot banner in the National Archives.

Of the 11,372 at last count, only 27 have passed and two of those, Prohibition and the Repeal of Prohibition, canceled each other out.

Some of them have been real doozies including:

A proposed amendment in 1861 to protect slavery.

An amendment proposed in 1912 that would have banned blacks from marrying whites or people of other races.

An amendment to replace the presidency with an executive council.

An amendment to change the selection of the president to a lottery. Each state would nominate a candidate and then the name would be chosen by chance.

An amendment to outlaw drunkenness.

An amendment to prohibit anyone who had participated in a duel from holding public office.

An amendment in 1888 to give the vote to widows and spinsters. Married women didn't need it because they had their husbands to vote for them. Hmm, interesting idea.

And last, but not unexpected, a 19th century amendment to put the authority for the Constitution in God and Jesus Christ rather than We the People.

The almost zero chance of success is why I ignore e-mails about any attempt to amend the Constitution.