Monday, May 30, 2016

Last Call For Deflecting Defection

So a lot is being made of former AG Eric Holder saying that Edward Snowden "performed a service" to the government by taking a treasure trove of NSA documents to leak, but it's more complicated than that.

In an appearance on former Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod’s podcast, Holder said Snowden’s 2013 leaks “harmed American interests” but that the light he shone on controversial government practices could mitigate some of the damage done.

"I know there are ways in which certain of our agents were put at risk, relationships with other countries were harmed, our ability to keep the American people safe was compromised,” Holder told Axelrod. “There were all kinds of re-dos that had to be put in place as a result of what he did, and while those things were being done we were blind in certain really critical areas. So what he did was not without consequence."

In other words, Snowden forced the NSA to re-examine methods and manners across the board, which for an intelligence agency is I guess a good thing, being stuck with outdated (or in this case, wholly compromised) resources makes the agency useless.

Which of course was Snowden's entire point, to render the NSA powerless internationally. 

“He's broken the law in my view. He needs to get lawyers, come on back, and decide, see what he wants to do: Go to trial, try to cut a deal. I think there has to be a consequence for what he has done,” Holder continued. "I think in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate."

Appearing from Russia via videoconference at a University of Chicago event earlier this month, Snowden reiterated his willingness to return to the U.S., but only if he could be guaranteed a “fair trial.”

“If I had access to public interest defenses and other things like that, I would want to come home and make my case to the jury," Snowden said. "But, as I think you're quite familiar, the Espionage Act does not permit a public interest defense. You're not allowed to speak the word 'whistleblower' at trial."

Since Snowden's definition of a fair trial is "one where he walks free and is treated like a hero after delivering reams of classified NSA information to Russia and China" no, he's not going to get a fair trial and should stay in Moscow.

Besides Putin is having too much fun laughing at us. In a lot of ways, Edward Snowden is one of the Obama administration's biggest failures with repercussions affecting American intelligence services for years, if not decades to come.

Whether or not you agree that Snowden jump-started the debate over civil liberties in America is one thing, but the fact that Snowden broke the law doing it doesn't absolve him of the crime, either.  Both can be true, that Snowden started a needed debate, and that Snowden needs to face trial, and that continues to be my position.

The Kroog Versus The Math

As Paul Krugman points out, the horse race political "journalism" covering the Democratic primary season is full of crap, and that the people who are telling you Bernie Sanders is going to be the nominee are willfully lying.

First, at a certain point you have to stop reporting about the race for a party’s nomination as if it’s mainly about narrative and “momentum.” That may be true at an early stage, when candidates are competing for credibility and dollars. Eventually, however, it all becomes a simple, concrete matter of delegate counts.

That’s why Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee; she locked it up over a month ago with her big Mid-Atlantic wins, leaving Bernie Sanders no way to overtake her without gigantic, implausible landslides — winning two-thirds of the vote! — in states with large nonwhite populations, which have supported Mrs. Clinton by huge margins throughout the campaign.

And no, saying that the race is effectively over isn’t somehow aiding a nefarious plot to shut it down by prematurely declaring victory. Nate Silver recently summed it up: “Clinton ‘strategy’ is to persuade more ‘people’ to ‘vote’ for her, hence producing ‘majority’ of ‘delegates.’” You may think those people chose the wrong candidate, but choose her they did.

Second, polls can be really helpful at assessing the state of a race, but only if you fight the temptation to cherry-pick, to only cite polls telling the story you want to hear. Recent hyperventilating over the California primary is a classic example. Most polls show Mrs. Clinton with a solid lead, but one recent poll shows a very close race. So, has her lead “evaporated,” as some reports suggest? Probably not: Another poll, taken at the very same time, showed an 18-point lead.

What the polling experts keep telling us to do is rely on averages of polls rather than highlighting any one poll in particular. This does double duty: it prevents cherry-picking, and it also helps smooth out the random fluctuations that are an inherent part of polling, but can all too easily be mistaken for real movement. And the polling average for California has, in fact, been pretty stable, with a solid Clinton lead.

Polls can, of course, be wrong, and have been a number of times this cycle. But they’ve worked better than many people think. Most notably, Donald Trump’s rise didn’t defy the polls — on the contrary, he was solidly leading the polls by last September. Pundits who dismissed his chances were overruling what the surveys were trying to tell them.

Which brings us to the general election. Here’s what you should know, but may not be hearing clearly in the political reporting: Mrs. Clinton is clearly ahead, both in general election polls and in Electoral College projections based on state polls.

It’s true that her lead isn’t as big as it was before Mr. Trump clinched the G.O.P. nomination, largely because Republicans have consolidated around their presumptive nominee, while many Sanders supporters are still balking at saying that they’ll vote for her.

But that probably won’t last; many Clinton supporters said similar things about Barack Obama in 2008, but eventually rallied around the nominee. So unless Bernie Sanders refuses to concede and insinuates that the nomination was somehow stolen by the candidate who won more votes, Mrs. Clinton is a clear favorite to win the White House

Accept the things you cannot change, and have the wisdom to know the difference, as the back two-thirds of the serenity prayer goes.

Like A Kansas Tornado, Con't.

The ultimate insult to the injury of the Sam Brownback Austerity Regime is that, like most GOP-controlled governments, what sacrifices that are demanded of the little people are never enforced upon those who make the laws. After all, Kansas has got to cut salaries for state employees like teachers, but not so much for lawmakers.

The one-of-a-kind Kansas pension plan lets representatives and senators sign up for full-time pension benefits while working their part-time elected positions.

“Legislators,” notes an employee benefit sheet explaining the pension plan to new lawmakers, “have a special deal here.”

They get a modest salary for the roughly four months they spend each year in Topeka, but their pensions grow as if the state paid them for a year-round gig.

All told, a salary shy of $15,000 makes a lawmaker eligible for a pension that any teacher, road worker, prison employee or Kansas bureaucrat could qualify for only if their actual pay ran north of $90,000.

“It’s not fair or appropriate,” said Rebecca Proctor, the executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, a union representing 8,000 workers.

She was a member of a Kansas Public Employees Retirement System study commission that in 2011 suggested changing the system for legislators. The Legislature never acted on that recommendation.

Instead, she said, lawmakers have attempted to shore up KPERS by increasing contributions required of regular state employees. In addition, some legislators have floated proposals limiting whether those workers could count unused vacation and sick time toward their pension benefits.

“It’s hypocritical,” Proctor said.

To be sure, members of the House and Senate must pay into the kitty, 6 percent of the supposed salary on which their pensions are calculated. But it’s such a good deal that few pass it up.

Taxpayers typically pay about twice an employee’s contribution toward the pension. So the more legislators sign up for, the more the state also must chip in.

Read more here:

And of course this awesome pension deal isn't new, Kansas lawmakers have been enjoying this since 1982 and no other state employee gets that kind of deal.  But the state lawmaker pension plan wasn't touched when Gov. Brownback installed his austerity regime, while other state employees received massive pension cuts, especially teachers.

Did you think austerity in Kansas actually counted for the "servants of the people"?



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