March 11, 2017

Feds another non-ruling "ruling" against Texas on voting rights

Texas' racially-driven gerrymandering of Congressional districts has been in the federal court system for about five years now.

Friday, a three-judge panel of federal district judges, on a 2-1 split, made another ruling that confirms previous ones. It's clearly the correct decision, just as much as it's clear how much Will Hurd's 23rd District is gerrymandered, as further detailed here. Some Texas Democrats are hoping that the latest ruling will wind up putting Texas under preclearance stipulations that existed before the Supreme Court gutted them in 2013.

More here from Rick Hasen.

Not likely on that preclearance issue. Nothing's changing on the court since then, other than Gorsuch presumably replacing Scalia.

See, first of all, that panel of judges ordered no specific remedies. Second, their ruling came at the end of business on Friday — the same Friday that's the deadline for filing bills in the Texas Legislature session.

Over all the time the judges have dealt with redistricting, I cannot believe they're ignorant of the Lege's bills calendar, nor can I believe the two judges in the majority are ignorant of Texas AG Ken Paxton and minions — and before him, AG Greg Abbott and minions — attempting to run out various clocks whenever possible.

Hasen has an updated, in-depth analysis. He may be right that this will indeed lead to new maps for the 2018 midterms. But, really, I kind of doubt it. And, I'm less optimistic than him about a court imposing "bail-in" preclearance. For more on why I doubt this will happen before 2021, read this piece about the anti-immigrant and anti-minority troika of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, White House Counsel Steve Bannon and henchman Stephen Miller, formerly of Sessions' Senate staff. At least Hasen has the proper degree of skepticism about Sessions actually enforcing any pre-2021 preclearance.

March 10, 2017

Leftism — race and class again

Having blogged here about how, contra The Atlantic and Doug Henwood, segregation and Jim Crow were ultimately about race and NOT about some 11-dimensional chess way of breaking up white-black working class solidarity, and having followed up here on how Adolph Reed, along with Henwood, and many acolytes, take a class-first, or almost a class-only stance, even vis-a-vis Black Lives Matter, I was quite pleased by this week's Existential Comics. The last one third is pictured in the panel at left; the full comic is here.

It also led me to note how little I'd seen Henwood, or Reed, from lesser amounts of reading him, mention Frantz Fanon in the first place.

Per "The Wretched of the Earth," Fanon also challenges Marxist-type revolutionaries to actively engage the lumpenproletariat. In reality, that never happened. In the early USSR, the Social-Revolutionaries, NOT the Bolsheviks, won the one semi-free election after the Revolution was consolidated. Lenin forced that party to integrate with the Bolsheviks.

Stalin did the same after World War II in his conquest area. Farmers and peasants parties in places like Poland were forced to amalgamate with Marxists. In China, starting from scratch, Mao ignored peasants in the first place, as actions like the Great Leap Forward showed.

March 09, 2017

Bakken dropoff shows reality of #fracking

Those of us who used to visit places like The Oil Drum have long known the reality of fracking for oil.

Yes, it does increase total well production somewhat. But what it really does is increase flowrate from a well, making it look like one's hit a liquid gold mine.

Then, reality hits.

With the Bakken, it's hitting hard. Wells there have less total oil production, a higher gas-oil ratio, and a higher water cut. One of the three alone would be not good.  All three together are very not good.

There's a lot more about that, in detail, at that link.

The United States is NOT about to become a new Saudi Arabia of oil and the idea of Peak Oil has not been refuted. That's even with the "Permania" about the Permian Basin that Daniel Yergin cited earlier this week at CERA Week.

Speaking of, part of why Prince Salman wants to create an IPO for Saudi Aramco is surely to build even more solar panels, as is starting to happen.

March 08, 2017

The dysfunctional Land of Disenchantment

About a month ago, I blogged about how New Mexico — the state and state goverment alike — were slouching further toward Gomorrah.

I basically said it sucked, and that denial was part of the problem. Residents admit that.

But, per another Albuquerque Journal piece, many of the same residents refuse to admit that
1. The Great Recession is over;
2. NM has been governed by a Republican gov the last six years;
3. The GOP has had partial control of the NM state legislature during part of that time. (The previous session of the House was Republican, and the first session of the Senate in her first term was controlled by a coalition of Republicans and select Democrats, per Wikipedia.)

In other words, Gov. Susana Martinez, in her first six years, had either one side of the Roundhouse or the other in her corner four of six years. And, during her first term, she got at least some Senate Dems in her corner the first two years. (The coalition was a carryover from the last Senate session under her gubernatorial predecessor, Big Bill Richardson.)

When Martinez is being called a RINO, you know the river Denial is running deeper, especially in red-state areas south of Duke City, than is the Rio Grande. And, per the previous paragraph, no, wingnuts, not all Democratic legiscritters were "librulz" determined to oppose her agenda.

But state Democrats, specifically the state legiscritters in the Roundhouse, aren't helping.

They now have the majority in both chambers, yet fiddle while Rome, Santa Fe and Albuquerque burn by debating, or perhaps, "debating," an official state cheeseburger, an official state dance and green chile vanity license plates. That's on top of the Land of Enchantment already overloading with such nuttery to the point of having a state question. (Of course, when it comes to state foods, pandering and related, once again, the blather is bigger in Texas.)

Oh, making a wedding polka the official song of a state with a below-average marriage rate and above-average divorce rate is ironic at a minimum, hypocritical at the most.

It seems clear that New Mexico Democrats don't want the responsibility of the tough decisions, even if Martinez's poll slump means it would be easy to blame her for them, and keep doing so through the 2018 state elections.

Well, if they keep playing that way, it WILL backfire. Now is not the time to be dilatory.

(Welcome here, readers of Joe Monahans' site. In case you're wondering, I grew up in Gallup and have relatives in Grants and Farmington. Take a look at my Flickr albums for a few of my photos of adult returns to the area.)

March 07, 2017

Wikileaks, the CIA and cybersecurity (updated)

Julian Assange
Folks like Mark Ames and Yasha Levine are way ahead of me on their take on Wikileaks' new revelation  (NYT) of CIA hacking into various consumer devices, including but not limited to cell phones, means. Tim Shorrock is also weighing in on some connected issues.

Basically, it means we need to have some concerns over these government-funded, national-security sector funded, online communications security applications, and indirectly, the operational systems running them. It also means we need to keep tabs on all the private agencies to whom the government has contracted more and more of its mushroomed national security operations.

Yes, technically, it wasn't the devices themselves, and it wasn't hacking — it was keeping open holes to bypass encryption on apps like Signal. Apps that, per Yasha Levine:
Snowden has touted, both directly and through intermediaries such as Glenn Greenwald.

Snowden, after spinning the language of whether or not it's a hack, and software vs. hardware, does repeated spinning of his own, in Tweets like this:
You'll never find "NSA," for whom Snowden used to work as a contractor, in those Tweets.

Nor will you likely find any admission that he had heard of such holes when he was an NSA contractor.

Speaking of, speculation — reasonably informed speculation — is high that it was a CIA contractor that was behind this dump. They, like NSA contractors, generally have lower standards of security, especially in the actual enforcement of said standards, than the Agency's own direct employees do. Snowden probably doesn't want to comment on that, either.

Related to that is the fact that the last two presidencies and the eternal? "War on Terra" have insisted on a large national security establishment, and both Obama and Bush have held fast to the idea that the private sector can do many national security functions more cheaply than the CIA.


The reality is that the private sector usually both costs more and delivers worse work. The fact that Dear Leader didn't overturn this, as part of not overturn other elements of the War on Terra he inherited from Bush, is yet another reason for real "progressives" or left-liberals or beyond to #DemExit.


Tim Shorrock has more on this at the Washington Post. Key takeaway? A full 70 cents on each government dollar of intelligence spending goes to the private sector.

Key takeaway No. 2? Nobody within the government-sector base of the intelligence world seems to want to admit this is a problem. It sounds like that would mean admitting some mix of oversight failure on their part and limitations on oversight controls that they can't fix. The fact that problems at Booz Allen persisted after Snowden's flight show it IS a problem, whatever the cause.

Now, back to our main narrative.

On the former, surely the NSA is using those same holes. (And, probably, in a Mad magazine Spy vs. Spy angle, NSA and CIA are trying to steal each other's hacking tools.) On the latter, if you believe he knew nothing, I'll sell you Snowden's Putin-provided Crimean dacha.

To the degree The Intercept is discussing this, they do mention the CIA developed this in conjunction with the British, which also means that there's another reason the NSA has had possibility to hear about it — or to do its own work in the same area, that we don't know about yet, or so it would seem to me.

That said, let's go straight to Wikileaks' cyber-presser, specifically, this:
As an example, specific CIA malware revealed in "Year Zero" is able to penetrate, infest and control both the Android phone and iPhone software that runs or has run presidential Twitter accounts. The CIA attacks this software by using undisclosed security vulnerabilities ("zero days") possessed by the CIA but if the CIA can hack these phones then so can everyone else who has obtained or discovered the vulnerability. As long as the CIA keeps these vulnerabilities concealed from Apple and Google (who make the phones) they will not be fixed, and the phones will remain hackable.
So, on paper, at least, the CIA could hack at least @realDonaldTrump, if not also @POTUS?

First of all, this update, per Reuters.
Stuart McClure, CEO of Cylance, an Irvine, California, cyber security firm, said that one of the most significant disclosures shows how CIA hackers cover their tracks by leaving electronic trails suggesting they are from Russia, China and Iran rather than the United States.
This is directly relevant to Cozy Bear, Fancy Bear, Schmaltzy Bear, etc. Yes, those attacks MAY well be by Russian intelligence services. (If so, whether they were deliberate on the DNC at first, or just general fishing expeditions, and even after they eventually became deliberate at some point, how high the knowledge trail went within Russian intelligence circles are yet other questions.)

That said, national security establishment "eggs" claiming that Russian intelligence was incompetent here and there and with Guccifer 2.0 as well, when he was alleged to be a Russian agent? What if those were CIA bread crumbs instead? Not likely, but officially now not disprovable. 

A couple of other things to note.

First, Wikileaks noted, in the dump, that other countries may have similar potential to exploit these holes. Russia was mentioned by name. For those who think Assange butters up Russia, you're again proven wrong.

Second, let's see if Snowden mentions Russia at some point in the future.

Third, speaking of Levine, he's got a must-read at the Baffler on what's behind Cozy Bear, et al, from last year's Russian snooping and hacking.

Fourth, Levine notes — presumably as a counter to Snowden — that Signal is not a "chat app." He calls it a social network based on telephone numbers. Wiki calls it an app but does note the phone number backbone.

Fifth, yes, OpenWhisper has received government funding for Signal development. That may, or may not, have been contingent on government knowledge of coding for it or whatever.

Now, what about Assange? Nobody caped crusader? Willing partner of Putin? Somewhat unaware co-opted agent of Vlad? Willful individualist, still with hacker's blood in his veins, who runs Wikileaks on a whim?

Per this piece from Moscow Times, which reinforced Daniel Domscheit-Berg's old book on Assange and Wikileaks, reviewed by me here, it's primarily the latter. It's probably about 70 percent this and 10 percent each of the other three.

March 06, 2017

#KhizrKhan — what's really up?

Khizr Khan and wife Ghazala.
As of this moment, it's his word that unnamed US officials have put his travel privileges "under review" vs. some facts that lead me to wonder if he might not be engaging in self-martyrdom or other puffery.

First, per Raw Story, an unnamed spokesperson from Customs and Border Protection says that the US doesn't contact citizens, or noncitizen residents, before they leave the country to warn about travel privileges being "under review."

Sounds right to me. Even at the heart of the early post-9/11 days under BushCo, I never heard of such a thing. (We're ultimately at he-said, she-said on that.)

Second, per The Week, Trump's latest travel ban executive order does not affect either residents of Pakistan or American citizens. Khan is a naturalized citizen and a native of Pakistan. Yes, Muhammad Ali Jr. faced his own problems with Customs two weeks ago, though CPB says there was no religious angle.

Third, the WaPost reminds us that American citizens don't need visas to enter Canada. Post 9/11, they do need a passport to return, but that's all.

It's really hard in general, in fact, to figure out how much of the new barrage of complaints against Customs is real, and grounded, how much is semi-real, but still within its traditional scope of operations, and how much is groundless. Per the Wiki page about the two Khans, if he wanted to exploit the current environment, he could.

So, who knows?

Third option is that some Customs employee said this, but it was purely personal, or even "having fun." I think we've already had indications that such things are more likely in a Trump Administration than otherwise. (That said, the previous administration saw individuals in political-appointment post surf through IRS returns, so again, this is not unique to Trump.)

A fourth option is it was an anonymous wingnut claiming to be an immigration lawyer.

In any case? Stay tuned.

As for people who say, "But he wouldn't do that," how do you know?

At the same time, he has, per the Federal Elections Commission, made no campaign donations to any candidate in his past. And, in case you're wondering, here is the actual background of how he came to speak at the DNC last year. And, while he may have helped on an immigration case on occasion, even someone as mainstream and inside-the-Beltway as Politico gets it wrong in another area. He may be a lawyer, but, per his own website, he is NOT an immigration lawyer.

Update: Mic notes that some Americans who have been signed up for the Global Entry program, a program supposed to expedite re-entry into the country, have had their membership in it revoked. On that basis, The Daily Beast asked Khan if this was the reason for his decision — and he no-commented the mag.

Again, he could cite outside legal counsel, or something, as the reason for the no-comment. But, he didn't. If Khan wants to end this speculation, all he has to do is speak.

It's also "interesting" that this news, whatever the cause, came up just a day before his conference.

==

This is even as Jonathan Turley joins other lawyers of mainstream right, center and liberal in saying that Jeff Sessions did NOT commit perjury.

The bottom line again, is that "resist" should be done only to things we know Trump has done. And it also means calling out Democrats for hypocrisy, when they talk about "resisting" some actions of Trump that are indeed, what he at times correctly claims — extensions of what Obama did.

President Zuckerberg? I just threw up in Facebook's mouth (new updates)

Mark Zuckerberg via President of Mexico
To be halfway serious, as well as halfway snarky, I think I would take a President Trump over a President Zuckerberg, whose ambitions are hinted at in this Vanity Fair piece.

I think he is:
1. At least as vain as Trump if not more so, albeit in a less mercurial way;
2. Probably as thin-skinned as Trump;
3. At least as imperious as Trump;
4. With a better business and management skill set behind 1-3, which makes them all scarier.
5. Add in that he's surely a tech-neoliberal who thinks that an app, or better, social media (gee, which one?) is the solution to everything, which cultural critic Evgeny Morozov has rightly called "solutionism" and which I call "salvific technologism."

Despite not disclosing party affiliation, I'll list him as a tech-neoliberal Democrat. (I think he's smart enough in terms of current American politics to try to buck the two-party system, so, he's not running Libertarian and he's sure as hell not Green. Plus, he'd probably assume that Dems will slaver for him more than Republicans and that it will be "Dems' turn" in 2024.)

Contra Nick Bilton's claim that Marky Mark would be "an astounding president," for anybody outside the 1 percent, or even more, the 0.1 percent, he'd be a gigantic kick in the nads. Let's not forget he's already ripping off poor and middle-class taxpayers with his "public benefit" foundation. That said, per the foundation, and cluelessness about it, as blogged before, I know that some Skeptics™ would cream their pants over a Zuckerberg run.

Hell, it wouldn't surprise me if he tried to launder campaign finance funds through that foundation in case of a presidential run, via super-PACing off of it or something.

Hell, I distrust him so much I even did a riff on a Shakespearean sonnet about it.

Let's hope that Bilton's right and his lack of a politician's personality bars his run.

==

Update, Feb. 17: A 5,000-word manifesto posted by Hucksterman on Effbook, and analyzed by the Guardian, sure makes it look like he's eyeballing the world of politics.

Update, March 6, 2017: And now, Facebook is bragging about being able to influence elections. Would Zuckerberg conduct a more thorough detachment from Facebook than Trump has from his businesses, and far earlier in the process? I doubt it.

Update, March 12: Maegan Carberry of Salon is now on the wagon, saying Hucksterberg would be good because he would be the shortest route to defeating Trump. First, she's thinking inside the duopoly box, error No. 1. Second, she's thinking inside a top-down version of the Dem half of that box, a move that would further kill grassroots level Dems. Third, her idea only inflates the whole imperial presidency issue. Per her five options, even if the Dem half of the duopoly doesn't have time enough for Option 5, failure to do much on Options 2-3 would merely reflect how bad the party is and how much it needs to be blown up. Of course, Obama himself undercut the possibility of Options 2-3 from the 2010 midterms on.

TX Progressives talk Obama, energy and more

The Texas Progressives await new Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s pronunciation of “nuclear” while giving you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at precinct data in Senate districts, which present some interesting opportunities next year.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos is not surprised that a political party -- aka Trump's Republican Russian Party -- that relies upon gerrymandering, voter suppression efforts, dirty dark money, and Russian hackers (ed. note: sic) to win elections is hard-wired for right wing authoritarianism and corporate fascism.

Socratic Gadfly heard about President Obama's new book coming out, got a secret advance copy through The Dark Side and wrote up a quick review.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme sees the Trump angry white man as a domestic abuser. Texas Republicans vote to increase maternal deaths spawning trickle down violence against women.

While most DC Democrats were focused on Trump's latest Russian affair, Bernie Sanders went to Mississippi to rally with Nissan autoworkers who've been abused by the automaker's plant managers there.   PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wonders when the Democrats who want labor's help in 2018 will start showing up to support the working class.

jobsanger uses the Texas Tribune's data to bar-graph the cost per vote to elect Texas Congressional representatives in the 2016 election.

The Lewisville Texan Journal published an LTTE reminding Cong. Michael Burgess that citizen activists at town hall meetings are not paid protestors.

In the run-up to yesterday's Harris County Democratic chair election (won by Lillie Schechter), John Coby at Bay Area Houston posted twice, about the candidates and about their campaign treasurers (or lack thereof).

And Neil at All People Have Value was once again out on the streets of Houston asking for kindness and respect for all.  APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

==============

The CERAWeek conference opens in Houston today.  It's a gathering of oil company executives as well as government officials of oil-producing nations, and there's more at stake than usual, as OPEC and some non-OPEC countries such as Russia agreed to production cuts at the end of last November in order to stabilize global oil prices.  That worked, but now that oil has risen back into the mid-50s, US companies are ramping up domestic fracking operations, and that threatens the game of Jenga they all began three months ago.

Exxon Mobil in particular has a lot at stake with shale plays, especially in the Permian Basin.  So there may be repercussions to the new petroleum world order, or there may be just some threats and bluster coming out of CERAWeek.  It's news worth looking out for, as speakers include author Daniel Yergin, EPA chief Scott Pruitt, and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau (keynoting on March 9).

The Midland Reporter-Telegram sees that US oil exports have already exceeded one million barrels per day, adding to the business opportunities for West Texas producers.

The San Antonio Express News (via Sayfie Review Texas) writes about two bills in the Texas Lege that aim to protect kids from the anti-vaxx crowd, and the Texas Election Law Blog analyzes two more bills that would limit voting.

Grits for Breakfast still opposes a law against texting while driving.

Texas Freedom Network notes that the public hearing for Senate Bill 6, aka the bathroom bill, is scheduled on the same day that a parade of prominent anti-LGBT speakers will join Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and Ken Paxton at a so-called “Pastors’ Briefing” at the state capital.

Somervell County Salon wants to know why Trump's babysitters are taking weekends off.

Pages of Victory also noticed Bernie Sanders' helping hand to organized labor by rallying with Nissan workers in Canton, MS.

The Lunch Tray assures us that Betsy DeVos doesn't have the power to change the National School Lunch Program, but Congressional Republicans and other federal officials do.

Lone Star Ma focuses on the 15th of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals: forestry management, desertification, land degradation, and biodiversity loss.

The TSTA Blog reminds us that vouchers never truly go away.

Better Texas Blog finds the Republicans' Obamacare replacement plans to be wanting.

And Houstonia has photos and a story about the history of the trail riders, who arrived in Houston for the Livestock Show and Rodeo.