In defense of Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day

As you may have heard, our go-to groundhog is only right 39% of the time, at least when it comes to predicting winter’s duration. A coin toss would be a better predictor in Groundhog Day’s either/or racket. 39% is worse than chance.

As I heard this yesterday, I got to thinking. Unfortunately, my thinking only goes so far as, I must admit, I’ve got a hazy grasp of things statistical and probabilistic. “What if,” I wondered, “instead of seeing that as only being right 39% of the time, we rephrased it as being wrong 61% of the time?” 39% is such a sad, dismal little number, reminiscent of presidential approval ratings. It’s a number that won’t impress anyone. 61%, on the other hand, that might almost have a certain appeal to it. Continue reading

Obama-Nope

State of the Union Address – rebuttal from the easy chair

If there’s anything better than screaming at football or rasslin’ on the tee vee, it’s throwing fits at political speeches.

First things first. The Onion captured my evening just about perfectly, except I’m not a dad.

I went into tonight’s State of the Union address with the usual trepidation. First, there were Robert Reich’s words via Facebook earlier in the day:

WHAT OBAMA WON’T SAY TODAY. The State of the Union is abysmal. Continue reading

CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment3

The irony runs deep with this one: Norquist vs. Cruz smackdown

Grover Norquist slams Cruz: ‘He pushed House Republicans into traffic and wandered away’

Prominent Republican lobbyist Grover Norquist accused Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) of causing the shuttering of government operations by selling his counterparts in the House a bill of goods he couldn’t provide.

Hold on, what? The fellow famed for his drown it in a bathtub quip has a problem with the shutdown?

I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
NPR’s Mara Liasson interview with Grover Norquist, May 25, 2001 Continue reading

PoliticsLawGovernment4

I hate to say it, but the GOP is right

I hope you didn’t sprain anything or break anything irreplaceable.  For what it’s worth, you people have no idea how hard it is to resist the trite “wipe coffee off monitor” quip at this juncture.

Bear with me.

Time and again we hear the GOP, establishment and fringe alike, tell us that we’ve got too much government. Never mind the irony of a party that practices medicine without a license by way of routinely mandating transvaginal ultrasounds telling us what too much government is. Just, um, never mind. Never mind a lot of horribly invasive “small” government ironies.

Damn, it’s hard to do this with a straight face.

Let me try again. Continue reading

CATEGORY: BusinessFinance2

Why we’ll continue to face shutdown battles and debt ceiling debates

Stocks End Week Lower As Govt. Shutdown Deadline Approaches

U.S. stock indexes fell on Friday as the September 30 deadline for an emergency budget deal in Washington to avoid a Government shutdown loomed ever closer.

Is it correlation or causation? Tough call. The way McSherry puts it in the Forbes article, one thing happens as another thing happens. Sounds like correlation, right?

But it was more company-specific issues that affected many stock prices on Friday.

McSherry provides several supporting examples following that last statement. I would think rational-sounding answers replete with performance figures, even bad ones, would do more to placate nervous shareholders. Bad figures are things that management can do something about. The last thing shareholders want to hear is that their investments are entirely at the mercy of a capricious DC establishment engaged in a junkpunching contest. Continue reading

CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment

Is James “The Liar” Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, on the way out?

I wonder if he can lie with his mouth closed?

Every once in a while, I like to check the Federal Register. This is a vice I should indulge more frequently, apparently. This evening I indulged, and discovered this:

Designation of Officers of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence To Act as Director of National Intelligence
A Presidential Document by the Executive Office of the President on 09/25/2013

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, as amended, 5 U.S.C. 3345 et seq. (the “Act”), it is hereby ordered that:

Section 1. Order of Succession. Subject to the provisions of sections 2 and 3 of this memorandum, and to the limitations set forth in the Act, the following officials of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in the order listed, shall act as and perform the functions and duties of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) during any period in which the DNI and the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence have died, resigned, or otherwise become unable to perform the functions and duties of the DNI:…

This couldn’t get much hotter off the press if it tried, and it strikes me as a very big deal, indeed. Surely someone in the media caught wind of this, right?

Not that I can find.

A variety of news searches using Google turned up nothing on today’s presidential memo on succession for the role of Director of National Intelligence. For that matter, nothing came up about the memo when I search my news sources and blog roll in InoReader (the tool I use now that Google’s Reader is caput). That, however, is not to say that there wasn’t anything relevant out there.

Marcy Wheeler’s emptywheel had this fresh, new content today:

Senate Intelligence Committee Open Hearings: A Platform for Liars

So DiFi’s [Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA] idea of an “open hearing” is to invite two established liars. And for her non-governmental witnesses, one keeps declaring Congress NAKED! in the face of evidence the government lies to them, and the other tells fanciful stories about how much data NSA shares.

It’s like DiFi goes out of her way to find liars and their apologists to testify publicly.

I love it.  For that matter, Ms. Wheeler starts the piece off strong with:

Pentagon Papers era NYT Counsel James Goodale has a piece in the Guardian attracting a lot of attention. In it, he says the first step to reform NSA is to fire the liars.

Excellent. Ms. Wheeler might not have mentioned today’s succession memo, but perhaps Mr. Goodale did over at the Guardian?

To reform the NSA, fire officials who lie

This article is also from today, and it’s an excellent bit of reportage. Mr. Goodale ends it on this note:

Obviously, if this culture seeps into popular culture, lies and deceits will be easily tolerated – and we will all be the worse for it. President Obama should focus on this issue before it is too late. But it is not at all clear that he cares about it any more than Congress or the Justice Department do.

Interestingly, he also makes no mention of the memo hot off President Obama’s desk.

If this were a reshuffling of succession rules for just about any other agency, it would probably be among the dullest things ever. With James “The Liar” Clapper at the center of so much controversy, however, should we see this as just a bit of housekeeping minutiae? Or should we expect to see an announcement of Clapper’s resignation soon?

I hope so. Part of me will cheer. The dominant, cynical side of me will just wonder who will be signing Clapper’s checks next. My gut says he’ll still be an intelligence insider, just on a private contractor’s payroll.

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Image credit: Official portrait in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Cross-posted from Ars Skeptica

CATEGORY: Taxation

Aren’t crippling sanctions and regime change what we seek against enemies?

A wild GOP appears!

Seriously. If one searches on the terms effect of crippling sanctions, one finds over 800,000 results at Google. A quick review of the first great many confirms, at the very least, that Iran, an enemy (so-called), is the primary subject. Debate rages as to whether sanctions are effective for accomplishing their intended goals, but there seems to be a fair amount of detailed information that they are certainly effective at damaging the enemy’s middle class.

This just in! Partisan radicals have stormed buildings nationwide and are holding hostages at gunpoint. If their demands are not met, they will kill as many hostages as they need to until the Obama administration backs down on the Affordable Care Act.

Here we are, the 21st Century barely warming up, and a select band of partisan radicals famous for co-opting an unholy trinity of political party, fake philosophy, and extremist religion are proposing just such crippling sanctions that would certainly do more to harm the middle class than they would to meet stated objectives. The problem is, those partisans are right here in America, the regime they seek to change is our own, and the net result is that they are treating America as the enemy.

Terrorism is the application of violence or threat of violence to attain political goals. Repeal of the ACA is the obstructionist GOP contingent’s stated political goal. That the threat of government shutdown almost certainly results in the death of greater than 0% of those affected is, of necessity, a threat of violence in the same way that this particular politically partisan contingent construes taxation to be violence. Ergo, GOP obstructionist radicals are, like Al Nusra Front, terrorists actively engaged not only in threats of violence against the American people for their political goals, but in the undermining of national security. Adding insult to injury, their assault on the American people won’t even accomplish their goal if they start executing hostages.

Taxation as theft

Mr. Boehner said the dispute with Democrats amounted to a question of “how much more money do we want to steal from the American people to fund more government.” 

Clearly, we are dealing with folks that believe that the apparently non-violent is, by extension, actually violence. For them, the abstract is concrete. I believe I fairly make their case when I put it thusly:

The government sends you a polite letter notifying you that taxes are due and payable. You send a polite letter back indicating that you will not relinquish your funds upon their polite request. The government proceeds to shuffle about other seemingly polite pieces of paper such that you are required to appear in court. Not wishing to appear ungracious, you make your appearance. The judge informs you, ever so politely, that payment is not optional. It is mandatory. You politely decline. The government proceeds to shuffle about more seemingly polite pieces of paper. At some point, gentlemen armed with guns and authority arrive at your home or place of employment, presenting polite pieces of paper indicating seizure of a variety of your assets. Followed through to its logical fruition, the peaceful and noncompliant citizen is eventually faced with drawn weapons. Violence!

Terrorism

The use of violence or the threat of violence, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political goals.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

Simplified rendering of the latest GOP legislative tactic: Repeal Obamacare (political goal) or we will shut down the government.

See what you made us do?

Fox News: Capitol Hill report warns shutdown could pose risks to national security

“We had victory today,” House Speaker John Boehner said after the vote. “The House has listened to the American people. Now it’s time for the U.S. Senate to listen.”

Yes, because taking America hostage and issuing a credible threat of indiscrimate death to achieve your political goals is a victory.  Added bonus, you actually jeopardize American national security.  We see what you did there.

With that bit of preamble out of the way, let’s take a look at a slice of America as an example of the potential effects of a government shutdown, shall we?

America Under Siege

What a government shutdown would look like in Nevada

The current threats, however, may be more plausible than earlier occasions when Congress sounded an alarm. For the first time, there’s a solid faction of the Republican Party openly angling for a shutdown and for lawmakers to vote to prove how much they really hate Obamacare.

And it’s not like Democrats are about to wave a white flag in surrender just days before the health care exchanges are scheduled for their national debut.

So if a government shutdown is on the horizon, what would it look like for Nevada? Here’s a list of what and where to expect the local effects.

For the sake of simplicity, however illusory, let’s assume that while the numbers presented in the Sun’s article will differ from region to region, the effect of a government shutdown as experienced elsewhere in the country will essentially mirror the effect in Nevada.

Number, numbers everywhere, and not a drop of blood to drink. Pity that, because we only seem to understand blood. Allow me to reframe issue a touch. We’re not just dealing with clowns in clown cars here. We’re dealing with clowns like this:

I’ve got your number, and it’s sweet and gooey!

Hold on, what? Blood? Clowns? Bloodthirsty clowns? What the hell?

Simple. Numbers are the crunchy outside. Blood is what makes numbers gooey in the middle.  These clownish bloodthirsty freaks holding America hostage talk numbers, numbers without calling attention to the fact that it’s actual American blood they’ll gladly spill in pursuit of their agenda.  Hell, even if they actually believe that they’re preventing a greater harm, Obamacare, with its fictitious death panels, that’s just not going to wash.  Destroying the village to save it wasn’t good enough for My Lai.  It’s not good enough for us here.  And it doesn’t change the fact that threatening violence in pursuit of a political goal is a form of terrorism.

This is one arena where GOP & Co. have Team Blue at a severe disadvantage. These clown-headed redshirts (therein lies our sole cause for optimism where they are concerned) are content to use their croupier’s rakes to push little plastic political soldiers around on maps and to hell with the short-term consequences, except when that means they get to gorge on blood-filled numbers that fall out of their cracked and broken toys. It makes great political theater, after all. Pass the popcorn!

Team Blue, on the other hand (provided I leave my cynicism at the door for a moment), positions itself as those who see those little plastic figures as representing very real people, so short-term consequences are as important as the long ones. If the Blues can’t outnumber these Clown Patrol at the polls in deep red territory, at some point Team Blue needs to be willing to make the painful sacrifices necessary to meet bloodthirsty clowns in the abstract.

“Hyperbole!” you say. “Hogwash,” I reply.

For that matter, at the end of this post, I suggest how to concretely drub them about the head and shoulders with their own abstractions.  Far be if from me to show up with a bucket of bitching and not have a solution to offer.

A Dash of Legalese

“But for” – In the law, a proximate cause is an event sufficiently related to a legally recognizable injury to be held to be the cause of that injury. There are two types of causation in the law: cause-in-fact, and proximate (or legal) cause. Cause-in-fact is determined by the “but for” test: But for the action, the result would not have happened. For example, but for running the red light, the collision would not have occurred. For an act to cause a harm, both tests must be met; proximate cause is a legal limitation on cause-in-fact.

Proximate Cause @ Wikipedia

A Look at Those Tasty, Crunchy Numbers and Their Gooey, Bloody Filling

God always punishes us for what we can’t imagine.

Stephen King, Duma Key

The article at the Las Vegas Sun highlights a great many consequences that, but for GOP terrorist hostage-taking, would not occur.

Approximately 11,000 civilian federal workers in Nevada may be furloughed or asked to work, temporarily, without pay. Does this mean their bills stop? That a bank will kindly waive mortgage payments? That they cease needing food, clothing, healthcare, fuel, automotive insurance, or a host of other necessities? Of course not. Is it really that much of a stretch of the imagination to believe that at least one of these workers or their family members may actually die as a result of such deprivations as may be caused by the GOP’s act of terror? To wit, I posit that some percentage greater than 0% of affected workers and/or their family members face a threat of death that, but for GOP hostage-taking, they would not face.

Active duty service members should not expect to be paid until after the shutdown is ended. I posit that some percentage greater than 0% of active duty service members, distracted by a financial crisis imposed on them by GOP terrorists, and perhaps other service members and/or civilians that rely upon the effective discharge of their duties, will die. Is it really too much to imagine that an interruption of soldiers’ allotments to their families back home be would weigh heavily and distractingly on their hearts? That worries about keeping the lights on and mortgages paid back home would add to the already inordinate burdens they bear in the name of patriotism and service to country? Do we not have enough active duty military suicides already? But for GOP terrorism, this additional risk would not exist.

What about the risk of death faced by military contractors and their families? Is it too much to think that even one might die for no other reason than hardships caused by GOP terrorism?

Some in the country, depending on the ability of their state to bridge the gap between unemployment benefits due and funds available from the federal government, might suddenly find themselves even farther up shit creek without a paddle. Again, I don’t think it’s a stretch of the imagination to suggest that greater than 0% of the people already struggling to survive will experience the slashing of their unemployment benefits in the form of death that, but for GOP terrorism, would not occur.

Social Security benefits for existing recipients may be safe, for some value of the word “safe,” but new applicants and those awaiting adjudication won’t be so lucky. Will every single one of those unfortunates be able to bridge the gap between existing resources and the start of their benefits? That’s yet another risk the GOP is willing to take with American lives.

The same goes for new applicants for VA benefits. Once again, when it comes to fully supporting our troops, the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way for the good of our nation, the GOP sees no problem with putting this incredibly at-risk population under the gun. Think that active duty suicide rate was jaw dropping? Can anyone believe that a government shutdown will do anything to improve on the suicide rate among veterans? Yet again, but for GOP terrorism, some percentage greater than 0% of veterans will likely die.

Surely none of this affects civilians who work in the home construction market, right? Wrong. FHA won’t be processing loans under a shutdown. No loans, no purchases. No purchases, less work for contractors, less sales for home improvement businesses and suppliers. Take everything you know about trickle-down economics and apply it to loss instead. If someone, due to a political hit on an already struggling recovery, should lose their job, how much luck are they going to have, as a new applicant, in getting unemployment benefits from strapped state coffers? Don’t get weary of my repetition just yet. Death is death, after all, each one a tragedy, each one a mere speck of collateral damage the GOP is willing to embrace as part of its political machinations. But for GOP terrorism, some percentage greater than 0% of workers in the construction and allied trades will die.

Are the good folks in the private sector working to address our renewable energy issues immune? Nope. As indicated in the article, programs expecting payments at the beginning of the fiscal year might just have to wait. Sometimes waiting is not an option. If those concerns cannot find a way to stay operational while funds are pending, doors get closed, sometimes permanently. Not only is that bad for our energy independence and bad for the environment, that’s bad for workers who, like construction industry workers, could end up competing for limited assistance resources. Yet again, but for GOP terrorism, some percentage greater than 0% of workers in the renewable energy industry will die.

Think the latest attempt at slashing $40 billion from food stamps was extreme? Heaven help you if you rely on that or similar public assistance if your state draws the short straw when it comes to timing. Yet again, but for GOP terrorism, some percentage greater than 0% of public assistance recipients will die.

Even vacationers, but more importantly, those who depend upon them, would feel the bite. With visa and passport processing being delayed, a great many, tens of thousands if history is a sufficient guide, will have to cancel plans. Those counting on tourism revenue will surely be adversely affected. Remember, all it takes is one layoff, one desperate soul pushed beyond despair. That’s a life and death risk the GOP is willing to take. Yet again, but for GOP terrorism, some percentage greater than 0% of tourism and hospitality workers will die.

All of that, all of those possible indiscriminate deaths that, but for GOP terrorism wouldn’t even be up for discussion, and their hostage-taking goal won’t even stop Obamacare thanks to the fact that the money that needs to be spent for the next stage in the rollout has already been spent. As pointed out in the article, at least this time we don’t have to worry about critical emergency services. We’ll just have to wait for America’s own Al Nusra Front as embodied in the current obstructionist GOP contingent to pull out their guns again when the next debt ceiling debacle comes into play.

Now, I realize that the temptation will be great to rebut with the claim that death is an unfortunate possible unintended consequence of even the most well-intended policies.  I submit that the difference here is quite stark and simple.  Faced with a failure to prevail in the election booth, terrorists hiding behind the GOP front are overtly threatening to harm our nation if their demands are not met.  As for my seemingly strident cry, again and again, that greater than 0% of affected populations will die, let me as you this.  What is more likely to be true, an absolute assertion that nobody will die as a result of this GOP threat (100% will survive), or that even one will will perish?  How does this differ from a madman pointing a scary rifle into a crowd and letting off ten rounds if he doesn’t get his way?  Would it even matter if all ten rounds miss?  The threat is all too horribly real.

To recapitulate, nearly verbatim, from the beginning of this post, terrorism is the application of violence or threat of violence to attain political goals. Repeal of the ACA is the obstructionist GOP contingent’s stated political goal. The threat of government shutdown which, as suggested above, almost certainly results in the death of greater than 0% of those affected, is, of necessity, a threat of violence in at least the same way that this particular politically partisan contingent construes taxation to be violence, although I contend that my claim is far more grounded in reality. GOP obstructionist radicals are, like Al Nusra Front, terrorists actively engaged, not only in threats of indiscriminate violence, in this case directly against the American people, for the attainment of political goals, but also in compromising America’s national security.   Perhaps its time we start treating them as terrorists.

To the extent that their efforts undermine national security, I would also argue that the GOP terrorist contingent lends aid and support to the enemy and should, as such, be charged and tried for treason.

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Image credits:

Al Nusra Front Executions. Image, as released by Al Nusra Front, posted at Threat Matrix.

Dice. Photo by John Morgan @ flikr.com.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

Scary Clown Face by Spider.Dog @ flikr.com. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Taxation is Force. Posted at thinksquad, unattributed.

CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment3

Progressives don’t vote Hillary

Hi-Lie-ry Clinton

Disclosure: I have never been a fan of Hillary Clinton, so I’m just going to wear my bias on my sleeve right here and now. My opinions are my own and are not to be construed as representative of Scholar & Rogues or any other group of civilized people.  Am I trolling?  You decide.

Policy differences aside, this, almost more than any other reason, is why I simply cannot abide the thought of a President Hillary:

Hillary Clinton calls Bosnia sniper story a mistake

Mistake is a funny thing to call a lie, I think.

If that’s not enough, here’s Chelsea Clinton weaseling her way through a ham-fisted support of that lie.

Chelsea Clinton lies about Bosnia

How is it possible for the two of them to have misremembered the same fictional event?

As a dear friend once pointed out to me, if opportunism alone were sufficient reason to dislike a candidate, I could never vote for anyone. There’s a difference here, in my opinion. “Falling back” on her Southern drawl to pander to a black audience is one thing. But to lie about being under sniper fire should be grotesquely offensive to any member of our armed forces that has actually been under enemy fire, should be repugnant to honorable members of our police forces that risk their lives day in and day out, and should be repudiated in full by any electorate that is sick and tired of being lied to by our “representative” government.

That said, let’s segue to a recent poll by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Liberals Aren’t Buying Obama And Kerry’s Arguments For Action In Syria

By 73% to 18%, respondents oppose U.S. military action in Syria.

Further, in an email I (and a great many others) received from MoveOn.org:

Because this is such a big decision, we asked every MoveOn member to weigh in on whether MoveOn should support or oppose the congressional authorization to use military force in Syria.

The results are in, and they are unequivocal:

73% said MoveOn should oppose the congressional Authorization to Use Military Force in Syria.

Summary: progressives do not support President Obama in his quest to attack Syria.

Who does?

Why, Hillary Clinton, of course.

Hillary Clinton backs President Obama on Syria

Ergo, Hillary Clinton is no progressive.

Ergo, progressives do not vote Hillary in 2016. Progressives need a horse in that race, and she just isn’t it. We desperately need to remember this if she shows her face in the primaries.

What do you think?  Speak out, or the crickets win.

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Image credit: Donkey Hotey.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

This “just” in: Jabhat al-Nusra rebels claim chemical weapons attack in Ghouta with an oops

StopJabhat al-Nusra Rebels Admit Responsibility for Chemical Weapons Attack
Paul Joseph Watson, Global Research/Centre for Research on Globalization
September 1, 2013

Militants tell AP reporter they mishandled Saudi-supplied chemical weapons, causing accident

 Syrian rebels in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta have admitted to Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak that they were responsible for last week’s chemical weapons incident which western powers have blamed on Bashar Al-Assad’s forces, revealing that the casualties were the result of an accident caused by rebels mishandling chemical weapons provided to them by Saudi Arabia.

This article also posted the following important update:

UPDATE: Associated Press contacted us to confirm that Dave Gavlak is an AP correspondent, but that her story was not published under the banner of the Associated Press. We didn’t claim this was the case, we merely pointed to Gavlak’s credentials to stress that she is a credible source, being not only an AP correspondent, but also having written for PBS, BBC and Salon.com.

By all means, take a few minutes to read the full article and peruse the ones linked below.

From a Google news search just now, Monday, September 2, 2013 2:42 AM MST, here is what amounts to full coverage of this claim at a first pass.

Saudi Prince Bandar behind chemical attack in Syria: report
Tehran Times, August 31, 2013

Syria: Rebel Groups, Not Assad, Behind Chemical Attacks Says Pat Buchanan
IBTimes, September 1, 2013

Saudi Bandar Provided Gouta Chemical Weapons, Militants Mishandled
Al-Manar TV Lebanon, August 31, 2013

Further, a search on Bandar chemical weapons turns up the these results.  One might say there is a dearth of Western coverage.

Syria’s deputy foreign minister on accusations over chemical weapons
Euronews.com, September 1, 2013

What passes for American coverage?  The New York Times does not disappoint.  By that, I mean if you expect selective silence and beating the drum for war, you’ll not be disappointed.

President Seeks to Rally Support for Syria Strike
2 hours ago

To be certain, Saudi Prince Bandar is mentioned…in exactly one sentence.  That sentence, however, had absolutely nothing to do with the context presented above.  One might think, given the gravity of the allegations and, for that matter, the sheer mind-boggling nature of a terrorist organization issuing a mea culpa rather than a boast, as well as the implication of an AP reporter’s credibility in the matter, that maybe some mention would be made of these journalistic developments from the Middle East.

Naturally, a cosmic prank of this magnitude must come with a punchline.  Here it is, from three days ago.

EXCLUSIVE: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack
MintPress News, August 29, 2013

Of note at the end of the MintPress article:

Some information in this article could not be independently verified. Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates . 

The same can be said, in spades, for US claims. See the FAIR analysis for examples.

With all the doubt flying around, let’s take just a moment to vet MintPress as a source, shall we?  Here’s their About page.  Here’s a write-up from MinnPost from nearly two years ago. Here is an excellent compare and contrast analysis from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.

Zero Hedge, a blog of mixed distinctions, was also on top of the MintPress story. Examiner.com covered the story from MintPress.

Here’s my burning question for you, dear reader.  Where else have you heard this coverage?

Whatever the truth is, before we go lobbing so much as one shot across the bow the American public would be well advised, whatever the short-term humanitarian cost, however horrible it is, to demand a full independent investigation to ascertain as well as possible just what the hell actually happened.  We have had far too many conflicting claims, far too many inconsistencies, and far, far too many weasel words, strong assurances, and empty platitudes compounded with nothing but circumstantial evidence and strident demands for trust from this administration to just sit back and let hawks from both the left and right railroad us into what may turn out to be a cataclysmic conflict.

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Image credit: MSVG @ flikr.com.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

PoliticsLawGovernment4

PSA: “Communism” means something. Dictionary doesn’t say, “see also: Obama.”

Looks like someone wasn’t invited

Name calling–It’s all the rage. Unfortunately, people like to call other people names without first learning what the name means. If it were stupid names like spleendorper (which in some non-existent urban sense could mean “super awesome person,” but likely never will) and it were used incorrectly, nobody that matters would care. Nonsense word gets made into more nonsense. No biggie.

But if I call you something that’s an actual word and I’m just horribly mistaken in my word choice, not only am I wrong but, if it catches on, I damage the language. A word with meaning loses meaning. If that keeps happening, nothing means anything. Continue reading

What will you name your Brain-in-a-Jar(TM)?

Abby?

Lab-Grown Model Brains

In an Austrian laboratory, a team of scientists has grown three-dimensional models of embryonic human brains. These “cerebral organoids” are made from stem cells, which are simply bathed in the right cocktail of nutrients and grown in a spinning chamber. Over a few weeks, they arrange themselves into pea-sized balls of white tissue, which recapitulate some of the complex features of a growing brain, including distinct layers and regions.

On the one hand, awesome! On the other hand, what if *coughsplutterahem* consciousness emerges from the brain once it reaches a certain degree physical maturity?

Babies Learn to Recognize Words in the Womb

[P]regnant mothers listened to a recording that included a nonsensical word several times a week. By the time the babies were born, they had heard the word over 25,000 times. After birth, brain activity of infants who had heard the made up word showed signs of recognition upon hearing it again, while the control group did not.

If researchers eventually grow a brain to sufficient maturity, would they be able to expose it via SCIENCE! (TBA) to language in such a way that they could test the brain for recognition? Could you teach such a brain enough language for it to understand when you tell it, “just btw, you’re a brain in a jar. You’ve never actually been a person.” For that matter, would you be ethically obligated to inform it of its peculiar circumstances?

Would you give it a name? “Specimen X23CQ42M” is just so awkward.

Could it develop a personality?

Would one need to go through IRB to conduct experiments on it?

Do you want this brain upset at you if you’re using it in brain-to-brain body control and/or brain-to-machine  control research?

I’m no Luddite, but I think one really does have to wonder about the ramifications here. We can hope and wish for all scientists to be pillars of virtue, but it hasn’t been that long since human vivisection was an issue. Dr. Mengele is within the living memory of a great many. Animal vivisection is still a thing.  It seems that nearly every day, there’s a new reason to believe that there’s more than a handful of scientists willing to generate whatever research results their corporate and/or governmental sponsors demand of them. At what point will we absolutely have to answer these apparently frivolous questions? To what degree do we need to be concerned about unethical research transgressing boundaries we can’t even imagine yet?

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Image credit: Kazarelth @ flikr.com . Licensed under Creative Commons.

CATEGORY: Syria

Syria and chemical weapons attacks: “Just trust us,” says everybody.

Sarin

Today, as covered by nearly everyone, Secretary of State John Kerry said:

“The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable. And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.”

Mr. Kerry alleges that the Assad regime destroyed evidence:

“Instead, for five days, the Syrian regime refused to allow the U.N. investigators access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them,” Mr. Kerry said. “Instead, it attacked the area further, shelling it and systematically destroying evidence.”

Evidence, of course, is forthcoming. Until then, just trust us.

 In the coming days, officials said, the nation’s intelligence agencies will disclose information to bolster their case that chemical weapons were used by Mr. Assad’s forces. The information could include so-called signals intelligence — intercepted radio or telephone calls between Syrian military commanders.

Meanwhile, Walid Shoebat, who claims to be a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, presents some kind of evidence that it was the rebels that used the chemical weapons, not Assad. Was Shoebat a member of the Muslim Brotherhood? Confirmation is needed, but how rigorous would the confirmation need to be for it to be accepted as fact? Would it matter if he were? As for the evidence he presents, how good is it? Is it merely circumstantial? Taken out of context? Entirely fabricated? Who should judge?

Meanwhile, Russia, likely to veto any UN Security Council measures against Assad, claims that there is no evidence that Assad did use chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, Assad denies using chemical weapons.

The drums are beating for war, and all too many, some perhaps with dubious motives, are eager to get the jump on Assad. How about we wait until the UN inspectors actually have a chance to report on the evidence, if any is found?

Meanwhile, speaking of obscenities committed with chemical weapons:

“They are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.”

And:

“The declassified CIA documents show that Casey and other top officials were repeatedly informed about Iraq’s chemical attacks and its plans for launching more. “If the Iraqis produce or acquire large new supplies of mustard agent, they almost certainly would use it against Iranian troops and towns near the border,” the CIA said in a top secret document.But it was the express policy of Reagan to ensure an Iraqi victory in the war, whatever the cost.”

Surprising no one, Mr. Kerry didn’t mention this bit of our history.

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Image credit: US Army Materiel Command http://www.flickr.com/photos/armymaterielcommand/877765649/sizes/m/in/photostream/. Licenced under Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en.

Privacy

Prediction: President Obama announces NSA panel on…

If you caught my article about President Obama’s picks for the NSA review panel somewhere in the last 24 hours, or if you’ve spotted other posts on the subject elsewhere (a mixed bag, that), you might have noticed that the whole messy story is predicated on an unnamed source/single source blog post from ABC News. A quick review of a great many websites today has yet to reveal a single confirmation. By all means, please correct me if I’m mistaken.

Even stranger is the occasional silence surrounding the story. Who has had nothing to say (that I could find)?

CBS
NBC
CNN
Rush Limbaugh
Rachel Maddow
Glenn Beck
Chris Matthews
Drudge Report
Chris Hayes

Surely that motley crew can’t be in cahoots, right?

Who else has been silent? President Obama, as far as I can tell. ABC’s Levine indicated the announcement would come today. Today came and went with nary a word from the White House. Again, correct me if I missed the announcement for which I searched high and low. Now, why might we be waiting with baited breath for the real deal? Well, Obama, savvy political chess player that he is, has a well-developed habit of making unsavory announcements on Friday, so that we can all get distracted with all things weekend. Surely he’ll make his announcement tomorrow, right?

No, I don’t think so. I could be wrong (like that would be a first!), but there’s another Friday coming up that would be absolutely ideal, being both really, really close to today and leading right into a lovely three day vacation weekend of barbecues and a dire lack of giving shits. Naturally, I mean Labor Day.

Prediction: President Obama will announce the composition of his all insider outsider panel on August 30. Don’t worry, right as Cass Sunstein gets his uber-creepy day in the sun, we’ll be distracted from giving shits once again by something truly momentous like a drunken celebrity, or maybe even pictures of cats.

Who needs that annoying fourth amendment, anyway?

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Image credit: Spixey @ flikr.com. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Image (1) obama_apocalypse.jpg for post 42896

Obama’s picks for “outsider” NSA review — looks like the fix is in

Spy vs. Spy

Spy vs. Spy

This just in via ABC News blogger Mike Levine:

White House Picks Panel to Review NSA Programs

I don’t know whether ABC’s Mike Levine just rubber-stamped brief bios of the panel picks or if there were any degree of research done, but here’s what I’ve come up with regarding what President Obama refers to as “outside experts.”

Right off the bat, let’s look at one detail fairly well buried in Levine’s blog post at ABC.

In 60 days, the review panel will provide an interim report to the director of national intelligence, who will then brief the president on the panel’s findings.

Note how Levine fails to mention James Clapper by name. Isn’t that just a touch odd in an article about such a momentous occasion, especially an article rife with names, especially when the name omitted is that of someone folks on both the left and right would like to see, by respectable majorities, prosecuted for perjury? That James Clapper will receive the interim report and brief the President. Feel better yet?

So let’s take a closer look at these “outsider” panel picks.

Michael Morell

ABC/Levine:

Morell was acting director of the CIA until March, when John Brennan was sworn in as director.

Morell has worked at the CIA since 1980, holding a variety of senior positions, according to the CIA. In fact, he was serving as President George W. Bush’s intelligence briefer on the day of the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks.

Independent citizen “journalist” (read: me):

Morell’s bio at allgov.com had this to say:

Morell served as a presidential briefer, i.e., chief of the staff who presents the President’s Daily Brief, for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and he was with President Bush on September 11, 2001. After serving as executive assistant to CIA Director George J. Tenet, from 2003 to 2006, during which time the CIA was engaged in torture [emphasis added], Morell took a secret assignment overseas, including in London, UK.

Just peachy.

Things really start to get interesting at Wikipedia, though.  The Wikipedia article shows that Morell only just recently retired from his post as Deputy Director of the CIA, and that he served as Acting Director twice. Why did her retire? According to Wikipedia, “to devote more time to his family and to pursue other professional opportunities.”

I did say that things only start to get interesting there, right?  What did The Atlantic Wire have to say about Morell’s resignation? Oh, nothing much, certainly nothing to suggest that he resigned because of his role in deleting mentions of terrorism in the Benghazi talking points. Oh, wait. I lie. That’s exactly what the article is about.

My takeaway? This “outsider” was an insider to no less than three presidents and their intelligence apparatus. Those presidents can be fairly classified as “neoliberal,” “neoconservative,” and “neoliberal” respectively. Take that how you list. Oh, and torture! And Benghazi! I managed to collect this much less flattering info in a matter of minutes. I dread to think what I might find if I actually had a massive media outlet’s resources at my disposal.

Richard Clarke

ABC/Levine:

Richard Clarke served the last three presidents as a senior White House adviser, including as national coordinator for security and counterterrorism, according to his private security firm’s website. He became a vocal critic of the Bush administration, causing consternation in some Republican circles.

He has been an on-air consultant on terrorism for ABC News.

Citizen “journalist”:

Really, Levine?  That’s all you could come up with?  According to Wikipedia, Clarke is “the former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism for the United States.” He served under Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush. ABC’s blogger apparently loses track after three. To Clarke’s credit, he was critical of the Bush 43 administration for their approach to counter-terrorism and the war on Iraq. In all reality, Clarke may just be a bright spot on this panel. Then again, did he or did he not play a role in letting the bin Laden family out of the US on September 20, 2001? Would that matter? Does Clarke’s endorsement of President Obama for his second run at the White House compromise his impartiality? In any event, there’s a ton of information on Clarke, both laudatory and damning. ABC’s Levine doesn’t seem to think any of that relevant. Chalk this one up as another inside “outsider.”

Peter Swire

ABC/Levine:

Swire recently became a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. At the start of the Obama administration, he served as a special assistant to the president for economic policy and, during the Clinton administration, he served as the chief counselor for privacy.

Citizen “journalist”:

Swire, like Clarke, appears to be a good, if apparently unlikely, Obama pick for a place on the panel. Yet again, however, a not insignificant point here is Levine’s failure to do more by way of reportage. Another quick search on Wikipedia reveals more relevant information than ABC’s blogger does. Swire has served under two presidents, Clinton and Obama, sure. He’s an internationally recognized expert on privacy. He was instrumental in the creation of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. He’s actively involved in the development of the World Wide Web Consortium’s effort to mediate a global Do Not Track standard.

Further, Swire is actively antagonistic to NSA abuses of section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. According to Indiana University News Room, Peter Swire is a co-signer of an amicus brief urging SCOTUS to overturn the FISC authorization for the NSA to collect “”all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon,” including calls wholly within the U.S. and calls between the U.S. and abroad.” If President Obama is trying to create a stacked deck, he’s got a funny way of going about it.  Nevertheless, this outsider is still an inside job, and that keeps me leery.

Cass Sunstein

ABC/Levine:

Sunstein left the White House a year ago as President Obama’s so-called “regulatory czar,” returning to Harvard Law School, according to the Center for American Progress, where Sunstein is also a senior fellow. As President Obama’s administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Sunstein’s post was considered one of the most powerful in Washington, given its ability to shape how laws were implemented.

Again, this is all ABC’s Levine can come up with? Your friendly neighborhood citizen “journalist,” relying once again on the most cursory attempts at fact-finding, and doing so mainly via Wikipedia (a big no-no, right?) still managed to find this out…

“Some view him as liberal, despite Sunstein’s public support for George W. Bush’s judicial nominees Michael W. McConnell and John G. Roberts…”

Now hold on a cotton-pickin’ minute. Would that be THE Chief Justice John Roberts, who single-handedly, and with no oversight or confirmation process, picks all the FISA judges until he dies or retires? THAT John Roberts?

This is the same Sunstein that has said:

There is no reason to believe that in the face of statutory ambiguity, the meaning of federal law should be settled by the inclinations and predispositions of federal judges. The outcome should instead depend on the commitments and beliefs of the President and those who operate under him.

Can you say, “Unitary Executive?” Can you say, “Cheney?”

This is the same Sunstein who thinks that thinks, “in light of astonishing economic and technological changes, we must doubt whether, as interpreted, the constitutional guarantee of free speech is adequately serving democratic goals.” That’s right.  Our free speech needs fiddling and tweaking, and he’s just the guy to do it.

Straight from good ol’ Wikipedia, Sunstein thinks that:

“[T]here is a need to reformulate First Amendment law. He thinks that the current formulation, based on Justice Holmes’conception of free speech as a marketplace “disserves the aspirations of those who wrote America’s founding document.” The purpose of this reformulation would be to “reinvigorate processes of democratic deliberation, by ensuring greater attention [emphasis added] to public issues and greater diversity of views.”

Given some of his other views, I dread to think what Sunstein means by “ensuring greater attention.” A Clockwork Orange comes to mind. Oh, we don’t have to guess much. He just wants to nudge us, because what we need is more alternately neoconservative/neoliberal paternalism.

Last, but not least, (and remember, I barely even got my muckraking shovel dirty) Sunstein also thinks the government should “cognitively infiltrate” anti-government groups. That’s right, this guy, in a time of IRS ham-fisted SNAFUs, will have a say in the reports that go through the Official Liar Clapper before landing in Obama’s Chicago School lap.

My count?  Four insiders and one that’s so inside he could Tweet pictures of Obama’s appendix.  My gut instincts?  2 for the NSA programs, 2 against, and a ref who guarantees the fix is in.

Now, lest I show up to the choir only singing in my bitchy, whiny voice, I’d like to propose a completely different solution to this really tough problem of picking real outsiders in a way that might actually cause citizens to trust the government a bit more.  You know, exactly in a way that President Obama fails to do.  It’s simple.

We’ve got 50 states.  We’ve got 50 governors.  Each governor vets and nominates a candidate for the panel.  The governors then have a meeting (teleconference using AT&T would be AWESOME, right?) to vote on six.  The US House gets to pick one.  The US Senate gets to pick one.  These eight, if qualified, get the necessary clearances.  POTUS gets one.  Whatever comes out of such a group would almost necessarily be bi-partisan.  At the very least, it would create a tremendous appearance of genuine accountability to the people.

So what about it, ABC? You guys hiring? I know a guy who at least knows where the hell to find Wikipedia and Google when doing a quick and dirty takedown on a topic.

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Image credit: Spy vs. Spy by tr.robinson @ flikr.com. Licensed under Creative Commons.

CATEGORY: Journalism

Transparency. See also: opacity. Obama admin puts hit out on meaning of antonym.

Neon sign,

Here’s your big red neon warning sign.

Friday morning, TechDirt had this insightful little snippet of pithy analysis to share.

Read that again. This is the same White House that has been saying that they want to be as transparent as possible and to rebuild trust. And yet, here they are trying to block the Post from using an interview — an interview they suggested in the first place — and then to replace it with a bland and bogus “statement.”

To what does that refer? This, from the WashPo article cited.:

The Obama administration referred all questions for this article to John DeLong, the NSA’s director of compliance, who answered questions freely in a 90-minute interview. DeLong and members of the NSA communications staff said he could be quoted “by name and title” on some of his answers after an unspecified internal review. The Post said it would not permit the editing of quotes. Two days later, White House and NSA spokesmen said that none of DeLong’s comments could be quoted on the record and sent instead a prepared statement in his name. The Post declines to accept the substitute language as quotations from DeLong.

Seriously, truly, we all, every last one of us, need to hold elected officials to a far higher standard. I don’t care which party is in. I don’t care which base is being appealed to. Lies, distortions, obfuscation, and the outright trash talk that are our daily fare are beneath us. We can and must do better.

I offer these few humble words for your consideration not just because I’m increasingly against this administration in particular, but because its behavior and TechDirt’s analysis in brief are instructive going forward, regardless of which party is in power in which branch of government.

If in one breath one tries to calm the jitters of a disillusioned electorate with lip service to transparency, one should simply not get away with this kind of overt and blisteringly incompetent interference in the next.

Enough platitudes and equivocations. The buck stops in the Oval Office. Heads need to roll, figuratively, of course, or we have zero reason for faith in the way the duties of the office are being discharged.

Like I said, we can and must do better. Or maybe we should just stop calling ourselves Americans if this is what we’re willing to stoop to and settle for.

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Image credit: Adapted from original photo by grisei @ flikr.com.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

CATEGORY: SchadenFriday

It’s SchadenFriday! Who really got theirs this week?

You want to get away with this? Then be this guy. Otherwise, stop.

Sadly, nobody really.  Surprising no one, I’m sure, it can be terribly difficult to find tales of people who actually get the full spectrum what’s coming to them. That’s the degree of trouble that causes me the most perverse dance-a-jig-on-a-grave glee. Failing that, I’ll gladly accept for my prurient amusement any troubles at all for folks and institutions that, in my estimation, deserve that and so much more. This week we’ve got six stories that detail people who are at least feeling the heat for one kind of asshattery or another, or should be sometime soon.

Christian family home after ill-fated Pacific voyage to escape US tyranny

First up, we’ve got the Gastonguay family. This would be a real rib-tickler if not for one key point…children were endangered. I’ll settle for a round of hoots and jeers. Why is it even remotely amusing? Well, while I do give Ma and Pa props for having the courage of their convictions, I have a huge problem with a) inflicting those ill-informed convictions on children when b) such courage puts the lives of those children in jeopardy.

For one thing, these miscreants (if reckless endangerment of children isn’t a crime, it damned well should be) have the problem ass-backward. Government isn’t interfering with religion. Proponents of one particular religion, particularly the faithful in an especially virulent strain of that religion are interfering with government. Facts matter.

Ma feels deeply wronged because they have to pay taxes for things they don’t agree with, specifically, abortion provided for by Obamacare. Funny thing about that, there’s no truth in it.

For that matter, cry me a river when it comes to paying taxes for things you don’t agree with.  Maybe those of us who are against wars of aggression rife with “conflict of interest,” dare I say greed, should be exempted from paying taxes because that’s just not fair? After all, we have a bit of a history of killing hundreds of thousands of people for trumped up reasons, and those people happen to include civilians, women, children.

And puh-lease!  The state is controlling religion?  News flash:  nobody forces churches to file for tax exempt status to keep them however ineffectually, out of the political arena.  Smarter churches have even realized that the tax exemption is basically the government bribe to shut the hell up.  I don’t think you get to collect the bribe and still complain about being regulated.  Want to talk about having real government intrusions into your faith?  First, consider the Navajo.

Poor dear also feels, “”The Bible is pretty clear.” Really, now? Is that why the history of Christianity is a history of bloody schism and war resulting in no less than 200 denominations? Clear as mother’s milk, it seems. So clear, for that matter, that Skeptic’s Annotated Bible has a heyday with all that crystal clarity.  The Bible may deserve praise for a number of reasons, but clarity just isn’t one of them.

The just desserts? Poor Pa Cretin will now have to get a job to pay back the government to the tune of $10,000. Now if only someone would bring criminal charges against them for endangering their children and see to it that those kids are raised in a safe home, regardless of the religion (or lack of) espoused by the foster parents.

Tenn. judge changes infant’s name from ‘Messiah’

Next up, we have a judge who is actually either stupid enough or genuinely corrupt enough to say out loud that her ruling boils down to, “because Jesus.” For now, I hope she’s squirming from all the attention. I’ll be much happier when her ruling is overturned. I will be ecstatic if she never gets to darken the bench again with her oppressive bigotry. Bonus points? There’s some indication that this is an issue where the left and libertarians have a chance of reaching agreement.

Charges: W.Va. judge tried to frame ex-mistress’ husband

For now we’re still stuck at the stage of allegations and accusations. Should it turn out this poor schmo has been unjustly targeted and that he’s really a nice, upstanding guy, I’ll feel bad for feeling good. I won’t hold my breath. Should it turn out that this man actually is a feculent lump of injustice disgracing his robe, I really hope he has to spend some time behind bars.  This story makes Newt Gingrich and Anthony Wiener look like ardent defenders of the sanctity of marriage by comparison.

Rick Santorum accused of soliciting illegal campaign contributions

This story should surprise nobody that already suspects Santorum of schmuckitude in the first dregree. It really would just be a matter of time that this walking conflation of stupidity and malice would cross a line where money is concerned. Oh, please, please, please let there be evidence that would grace a prison with his presence.

NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds

I really want to be clear here. It’s not the difficulties of some nebulous “NSA” (as though it doesn’t comprise flesh and blood people), or even of people I’m mostly willing to give the benefit of the doubt to when it comes to good intentions and service to country, that make me merry when doused in sunlight. It’s the death throes of misbegotten policy that hit the sweet spot as far as I’m concerned. The more that comes out about NSA overreach and outright incompetence, the closer we get (I hope!) to drawing some clear and proper boundaries around their actions and those of the government in general. Just don’t bank on it coming from empty (or worse, misdirecting) posturing from the POTUS. After all, only three days after announcing that he wants an independent body to provide some oversight he suggests that known liar and policy apologist Clapper would be just the guy to set up that “independent” body. I can’t wait until the next Snowden release. Eventually we’ll hit a tipping point where we must do something adequate to remedy these violations of our constitutional rights.

Photo: Hooters Restaurants in San Diego Won’t Serve Bob Filner

Finally, SOMEBODY has to pay a pound of flesh now, sort of.  Pa Gastonguay’s $10k bill is ultimately far more satisfying, but it lacks a certain immediacy.  Right now, America’s new poster boy for misogynistic douchebaggery, Filner, is barred from America’s most mainstream meatmarket’s locations in San Diego. I’m sure he would have gone just for the sliders, right? Oh, wait, I guess that depends on whether that’s a euphemism. Seriously, when you get called out by Hooter’s for disrespecting women, you’re doing it terribly wrong.

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Image credit: twm1340 @ flikr.com. Licensed under Creative Commons.

All of my wut

Forty-five years, and this happened.

So, I’m sitting outside on the steps, as I’m prone to do, having a cigarette and talking with someone, when I hear a male voice behind me and to the left saying something in a way that sounds like it might be addressed to me, but I can’t tell what he said. So I turn to see who it is, and there’s a young white male maybe 18-20something years old, swaggering in my direction, all by his lonesome. Yup, likely addressed to me, then.

“What’s that?” I ask.

“I said, ‘Yo, dude, vote for me.’”

“Okay,” I reply, with some curiosity, “for whom am I voting, and why?”

“For coolest kid in America. It’s us against the girls. They have boobs. It’s not fair.”

“Ahhh, I see.” I didn’t. “Well, you’ve already lost points with me.”

“Why?” says Swinging Dick, more than a little defensively.

“Sexism.” I didn’t see the point in wasting big words or real effort. This was going nowhere.

“Huh?”

“You’ll read about it someday, and maybe you’ll understand.”

“You serious?”

“Yup.”

Consternation crossed his face, though I’m fairly sure he wouldn’t know to call it that. With a bit of awkward delay, he reaches deep down inside and comes up with, “You’re a tool!” He turned heel and started swaggering away.

“Hey, what are your parents’ names?”

“Huh?” Doppler effect probably helped him sound dumber, but I’m not sure how possible that was. “Doesn’t matter,” he replied. I think my question confused him.

Even though he was now swaggerstalkstomping away in a pronounced and aggravated fashion, I asked, amid a wave of bemusement coursing through my brain, “you in high school?”

His diminishing voice, among other things, I’m sure, threw back, “[unintelligible yup/nope]. I’m twenty-one.”

I sat there, somewhat stunned, and looked at my friend.

“That gets all of my wut.”

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Image credit: gurdonark @ flikr.com. Licensed under Creative Commons.

CATEGORY: Freedom

Bradley Manning helped al Qaeda recruitment? Obama administration has no sense of irony

Uncle Sam, pointing

Who’s recruiting whom for whom?

On Thursday, Reuters had this to report:

Manning’s WikiLeaks breach helped al Qaeda recruit: witness

Of course, Aboul-Enein is an expert for the prosecution, so naturally he’s going to be a douche-and-a-half. It’s hardly like the administration is going to find an expert that disagrees with them. And hey, they even trotted one out with an exotic name, so clearly he must really understand the enemy. I suppose he should get extra points for so clearly missing the irony in his testimony. Evidence of US wrongdoing helps advance recruiting talking points that already existed. Really, now? I suppose al Qaeda failed to hear about the dead journalists and everyone was just mysteriously quiet about it on the street before, voila, evidence!

If the leaks actually did help with al Qaeda recruitment, and if “recruitment boost” is a significant factor in deciding whether Manning needs to rot in prison for as long as possible, then there’s a terribly long list of people who need to go away for much, much longer.

What helps al Qaeda recruitment? Look online for a minute or three, and you’ll find experts that suggest the following:

  • US propping up brutal, repressive, dictatorial regimes
  • US supporting Israel, even (and especially) when Israel is antagonizing the locals
  • US violating national sovereignty
  • US drone strike terrorism (if those drones were over your skies, you’d see it that way)
  • Dead babies
  • Dead civilians
  • Dead journalists (oh, which we know about because of Manning long after the locals knew…so clearly he’s the bad guy, not the government that killed the journalists)

The list could go on, and on, and on.  By all means, please, let’s talk about how horrible it is to help al Qaeda with their recruitment efforts, especially if it leads to sentencing the right people.

CATEGORY: SchadenFriday

It’s SchadenFriday: three maybes and a real winner

A toast! Here’s to Mr. Corti!

It’s SchadenFriday!

We’ve got four unlucky contenders for this week’s most deserved expression of schadenfreude. Three are heavy hitters, but honestly I don’t think their problems are nearly big enough yet.

The winner is actually a solid case of someone getting their due in an epic fashion.

This week’s runners-up:

Probe of Keystone Contractor Energizes U.S. Pipeline Foes

Unfortunately, this is just a case of the Department of State following up with an inquiry. I see nothing to indicate that they will drop ERM and start over in hopes of receiving a less tainted assessment. Even so, I’m happy any time TransCanada runs into another obstacle.

McConnell Campaign Manager: ‘I’m Sorta Holding My Nose For Two Years’

As with TransCanada, I’m delighted any time McConnell even stands a chance of taking some lumps. In this case, I can’t imagine McConnell actually has any trouble personally with Benton’s “holding my nose” comment. That doesn’t keep me from snickering, though.

Virginia’s ‘Gov. Ultrasound’ facing possible criminal charges

This one is another near miss with too many maybes for me to dance a jig. I’d settle for nearly any reason to see him out office. Jail would be just fine.

Didn’t anybody actually get what was coming to them, though? Just once, didn’t the iron fist of come-uppance smack a deserving soul all toward our greater amusement? Why, yes. At least this one time.

Burglar left bruised and bleeding by retired boxer, 72

Does a burglar need a beating? Maybe. Maybe no. What about a knife-wielding burglar that attacks an old man? Absolutely! And who better to bust open that can of whoop-ass than the old man himself? Icing on the cake: I’m sure McCalium’s new buddies will give hm lots of reminders of that awesome time he got his ass beat for breaking into the wrong damned house.  Here’s to you, Mr. Iron Fist, and your demonstration of how to stand your ground.

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Image credit: YellowDog @ flikr.com. Licensed under Creative Commons.