21 December 2014

You Don't Need to be an Alcoholic to Work with Richard Nixon, but it Helps

A while back, NPR had a story about Stephen Hess's book, The Professor And The President, which detailed how Daniel Patrick Moynihan became one of Richard M. Nixon's most influential domestic policy advisers.

I'm thinking that it Moynihan's heavy drinking might have had something to do with is.

If I found myself working as Nixon as a domestic policy adviser, I'd be polishing off a 5th of Bourbon a day.

Natalie Should be in Hilo Now

We got up an ungodly hour this morning to put Natalie on a flight to San Francisco, and then connects to Honolulu and from there to Hilo airport on the big island.

The flight left at 6:00 am, so we set our alarms at 3:00 am.

My daughter is being to Hawaii to be with her Grandparents tomorrow.

It's a senior year thing.

My little girl is graduating from high school this year, which is unbelievably f%$#ing weird.

I remember holding her in one hand at her naming about a week after her birth.

They grow up so fast.

Have a Recipe

I give you 3 minute microwave meringues:

Note that Icing Sugar = Confectioners Sugar = Powdered Sugar, which is not a part of the largely allergic to corn Saroff family, as everyone in the house but the cats and me are allergic to corn, but you could use glazing sugar, which is corn free, or make powdered sugar in a blender, which seems to work better than a food processor.

It's dead simple: Egg whites and powdered sugar which is then nuked until done.

Alfreda Frances Bikowsky, the Torture Loving, Incompetent, and Always Wrong Poster Child for CIA Lack of Accountability and Misuse of Secrecy

She appears to be the Forrest Gump of CIA.

She refused to share data with the FBI about the 911 hijackers, she was instrumental in setting up the torture progam and lobbied for its excesses, and she lied repeatedly to Congress:
A top al Qaeda expert who remains in a senior position at the CIA was a key architect of the agency's defense of its detention and "enhanced interrogation" program for suspected terrorists, developing oft-repeated talking points that misrepresented and overstated its effectiveness, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee's report released last week.

The report singles out the female expert as a key apologist for the program, stating that she repeatedly told her superiors and others — including members of Congress — that the "torture" was working and producing useful intelligence, when it was not. She wrote the "template on which future justifications for the CIA program and the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques were based," it said.

The expert also participated in "enhanced interrogations" of self-professed 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, witnessed the waterboarding of terror suspect Abu Zubaydah and ordered the detention of a suspected terrorist who turned out to be unconnected to al Qaeda, according to the report.

The expert is no stranger to controversy. She was criticized after 9/11 terrorist attacks for countenancing a subordinate's refusal to share the names of two of the hijackers with the FBI prior to the terror attacks.

But instead of being sanctioned, she was promoted.

The expert was not identified by name in the unclassified 528-page summary of the report, but U.S. officials who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity confirmed that her name was redacted at least three dozen times in an effort to avoid publicly identifying her. In fact, much of the four-month battle between Senate Democrats and the CIA about redactions centered on protecting the identity of the woman, an analyst and later "deputy chief" of the unit devoted to catching or killing Osama bin Laden, according to U.S. officials familiar with the negotiations.

NBC News is withholding her name at the request of the CIA, which cited a climate of fear and retaliation in the wake of the release of the committee's report in asking that her anonymity be protected.
Yeah, well, her identity is already a matter of public record, so f%$# that last bit:
NBC News yesterday called her a “key apologist” for the CIA’s torture program. A follow-up New Yorker article dubbed her “The Unidentified Queen of Torture” and in part “the model for the lead character in ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’” Yet in both articles she was anonymous.

The person described by both NBC and The New Yorker is senior CIA officer Alfreda Frances Bikowsky. Multiple news outlets have reported that as the result of a long string of significant errors and malfeasance, her competence and integrity are doubted — even by some within the agency.

The Intercept is naming Bikowsky over CIA objections because of her key role in misleading Congress about the agency’s use of torture, and her active participation in the torture program (including playing a direct part in the torture of at least one innocent detainee). Moreover, Bikowsky has already been publicly identified by news organizations as the CIA officer responsible for many of these acts.

The executive summary of the torture report released by the Senate last week provides abundant documentation that the CIA repeatedly and deliberately misled Congress about multiple aspects of its interrogation program. Yesterday, NBC News reported that one senior CIA officer in particular was responsible for many of those false claims, describing her as “a top al Qaeda expert who remains in a senior position at the CIA.”
It turns out that it's not just people like Glenn Greenwald who condemn her, so do a number of her colleagues at the CIA
The NBC News investigative reporter Matthew Cole has pieced together a remarkable story revealing that a single senior officer, who is still in a position of high authority over counterterrorism at the C.I.A.—a woman who he does not name—appears to have been a source of years’ worth of terrible judgment, with tragic consequences for the United States. Her story runs through the entire report. She dropped the ball when the C.I.A. was given information that might very well have prevented the 9/11 attacks; she gleefully participated in torture sessions afterward; she misinterpreted intelligence in such a way that it sent the C.I.A. on an absurd chase for Al Qaeda sleeper cells in Montana. And then she falsely told congressional overseers that the torture worked.

Had the Senate Intelligence Committee been permitted to use pseudonyms for the central characters in its report, as all previous congressional studies of intelligence failures, including the widely heralded Church Committee report in 1975, have done, it might not have taken a painstaking, and still somewhat cryptic, investigation after the fact in order for the American public to hold this senior official accountable. Many people who have worked with her over the years expressed shock to NBC that she has been entrusted with so much power. A former intelligence officer who worked directly with her is quoted by NBC, on background, as saying that she bears so much responsibility for so many intelligence failures that “she should be put on trial and put in jail for what she has done.”
(emphasis mine)

She also has a f%$#ing wiki page, which makes her about as out as Valerie Plame.

Or as John Cook notes, "It should come as no surprise that a secret organization with no accountability promotes incompetents—but the CIA is actively encouraging the careers of the most aggressively error-prone employees it has."

Note that she also authorized the kidnapping and torture of an innocent man, and tortured the completely bogus story about Al Qaeda cells involving black Muslims in Montana.  (No, this is not The Onion, she actually tortured this fairy tale out of KSM, and believed it).

Excessive secrecy and lack of accountability within our state security apparatus is a threat to our security.

NLRB Brings Charges Against McDonald's "Co-Employer" with its Franchisees

This is a very big deal.

It was a big deal when the NLRB found the fast food chain shared some responsibility as to the treatment of their employees with their franchisees, and now its general counsel has Basically, the National Labor Relations Board has charged the company with violation of labor laws:
The National Labor Relations Board announced on Friday that its general counsel had brought 78 charges against McDonald’s and some of its franchise operators, accusing them of violating federal labor law in response to workers’ protests for higher wages around the country.

The general counsel’s move immediately drew outrage from a variety of national business groups because the labor action deemed McDonald’s a joint employer, a status that would make the fast-food titan equally responsible for actions taken at its franchised restaurants.

The labor board’s complaint asserts that McDonald’s and numerous franchise operators in more than a dozen cities illegally retaliated and made threats against workers who had joined national protests pushing for a base wage of $15 an hour in the nation’s fast-food restaurants.


The N.L.R.B.’s general counsel, Richard F. Griffin Jr., said that McDonald’s was a joint employer because it set numerous requirements for how food was prepared, how stores were run and how employees were managed. About 90 percent of the company’s restaurants in the United States are franchise operations.

Mary Joyce Carlson, a lawyer for the Fight for 15 movement seeking higher wages for the workers, said, “Today’s news makes it clear that the N.L.R.B.’s general counsel finds merit in the claim that McDonald’s — a $5.6 billion global company — is a joint employer because it exerts substantial power over the working conditions of employees at McDonald’s franchise stores and is therefore responsible for compliance with employment and labor laws.”
As I have noted before, McDonald's franchising program places much tighter controls over the behavior of their franchise holders than most other similar restaurant chains, physically owning the property, directing personnel policy and, it appears, directing retaliation against legal unionization activities.
The general counsel issued the charges through 13 regional offices, including Manhattan, Chicago and Los Angeles. The first trials are scheduled to begin in March. The charges said that McDonald’s and its franchisees illegally disciplined employees who had protested, reduced their hours, spied on them and restricted their ability to communicate with union representatives.
For a company the size of McDonald's, I don't think that any penalties will meaningfully impact on their bottom line, they are a big company, but if this holds, it could form a foundation for criminal prosecutions against management, because it could form the basis of a criminal conspiracy.

Of course, we would need a DoJ that didn't ignore law breaking by CEOs **cough** Eric "Place" Holder **cough**, but I can dream about this.

After All, Spying on Congress and Lying About is No Big Deal………

Investigators Said to Seek No Penalty for C.I.A. s Computer Search - NYTimes.com:
A panel investigating the Central Intelligence Agency’s search of a computer network used by staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who were looking into the C.I.A.’s use of torture will recommend against punishing anyone involved in the episode, according to current and former government officials.

The panel will make that recommendation after the five C.I.A. officials who were singled out by the agency’s inspector general this year for improperly ordering and carrying out the computer searches staunchly defended their actions, saying that they were lawful and in some cases done at the behest of John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director.

While effectively rejecting the most significant conclusions of the inspector general’s report, the panel, appointed by Mr. Brennan and composed of three C.I.A. officers and two members from outside the agency, is still expected to criticize agency missteps that contributed to the fight with Congress.

But its decision not to recommend anyone for disciplinary action is likely to anger members of the Intelligence Committee, who have accused the C.I.A. of trampling on the independence of Congress and interfering with its investigation of agency wrongdoing. The computer searches occurred late last year while the committee was finishing an excoriating report on the agency’s detention and interrogation program.
So, the investigative body created by John O. Brennan has discovered that the CIA, on the orders of John O. Brennan, spied on the committee investigating them, but hey, no harm no foul.

Which means that no one at the CIA, including John O. Brennan, suffers any discipline.

If Barack "The Worst Constitutional Law Professor Ever." Obama actually cared about the constitutional checks and balances, or his promise to run a transparent government, John O. Brennan would be spending more time with his family right now.

This is Pretty Much what I Hear They Play It………

Yeah, this is pretty much what happens when you pass a PBS sponsorship clip through a Bullsh%$ to English translator:

H/t Neo at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

20 December 2014

Quote of the Day

It's a tough decision to normalize relations with a country whose police force routinely murders civilians, but Cuba made the right choice.
—George the Skeptical in the comments of a Crooks and Liars post.

19 December 2014

It's Bank Failure Friday!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.

Slow year for bank failures, which is a good thing.
  1. Northern Star Bank, Mankato, MN
Full FDIC list

So, here is the graph pr0n with last few years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

Deep Thought

I Haz a Sad

Arguably his finest moment
I just watched the last episode of the Colbert Report, and I am going to miss him.

He will, of course, be taking over for Letterman, but that will be Stephen Colbert the person, and not the Bill O'Reilly inspired character that he has played on his show.

I'll miss the character.

18 December 2014

As Dime Store Psychoanalysis Goes, This is Pretty Damn Good

This is a very interesting quote from historian Gary Wills:
I think one of the things that may be hindering him is that he’s so aware that he is the change — that it’s such a break with our history to elect a black President — and that’s such an odd thing to some people and that’s why they’re calling him “not an American” or “socialist” or “fascist” or whatever — that he wants to emphasize continuity almost to a fault. So even though he came to national attention by opposing the Iraq War, he appointed his Secretary of State (someone who voted for the Iraq War), his Vice-President (someone who voted for the Iraq War), his Secretary of Defense (someone who conducted the Iraq War), the two generals in Afghanistan (who conducted the Iraq War). That’s continuity, all right! But is it the continuity that we need?
(emphasis mine)

I don't know if this is accurate, but this thesis is consistent with what we have observed over the past 6 years.

Barack Obama is Never Going to Say What Hilary Just Said

Hillary spoke the three words that Barack Obama never will, "Black lives matter."

Obama's entire professional life has been about avoiding anything that would make him to appear to be an "angry black man", so we won't here this from him:
Clinton also addressed the recent protests that have erupted across the US and drew links between violence at home and abroad.

She declared: “Yes, black lives matter,” a mantra of demonstrators around the country who have been protesting about grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers involved in the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and in New York.

She wondered what Kennedy would say about “the thousands of Americans marching in our streets demanding justice for all” and “the mothers who’ve lost their sons”.

“What would he say to all those who have lost trust in our government and our other intuitions, who shudder at images of excessive force, who read reports about torture done in the name of our country, who see too many representatives in Washington quick to protect a big bank from regulation but slow to take action to help working families facing ever greater pressure?” Clinton said.
Props to Hillary for saying those three words, and shame on Obama for not saying those three words.


Taking a page from the Barack Obama book of pre-capitulation as a negotiating tactic, the Syriza party has ruled out any possibility of Greece exiting the Euro:

Last week, the stock market in Athens suffered its worst day in decades, and Greek politicians bickered over the political uncertainty provoked by the presidential vote.

Greece's largest opposition party, Syriza is currently ahead in the polls. A snap election could find the party into power.

In an interview with EurActiv Greece, Papadimoulis, an influential figure in Syriza, attempted to dash these fears, saying that a Syriza government is committed to keeping the country in the eurozone.

“There is absolutely no case for a Grexit. Those who invoke such a possibility play a propaganda game against the Greek and European economy,” Papadimoulis said.

He added that the actual danger for Greece is its social disintegration and its transformation intoto a “debt colony” and for Europe, a new phase of recession, higher unemployment and poverty.

In an attempt to appease international lenders and possible investors’ fears, Papadimoulis made it clear that there is no Syriza party member who speaks in favour of returning to the drachma.
If you want to avoid Greece becoming a debt colony of Frau Merkel,* you cannot unilaterally disarm.

To the degree that you take a Greek exit from the Euro Zone, or possibly an exit from the EU off of the table, you are weakening your bargaining position.

Look at what Iceland did, and take f%$#ing notes.

*Horses whinnying.

Cable Company F%$#ery

South Park got it right
HBO Go is a service that allows subscribers to the HBO channel to view content on PCs, tablets, and other devices.

The kicker is that for now, though I expect this to change as it renegotiates contracts, in order to use this service, you need to have your cable/fiber company certify that you are an HBO subscriber in order to get the service.

Guess what? Comcast, the most loathed company in America, is refusing to provide this information for its subscribers:
One of the more dubious Comcast practices brought up by opponents of Comcast's planned $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable is the cable giant's sluggish refusal to support certain internet video services and platforms running over its broadband network. Case in point is the HBO Go app on Roku, which Comcast hasn't supported since around 2011 or so for no coherent reason. To get the app to work, it needs to simply authenticate with the cable provider to prove you are a cable subscriber (since, at least until next year, there's no HBO Go standalone option).

Much smaller cable companies haven't had a problem in getting this to work, but Comcast, with its limited resources, somehow just can't seem to spend the time. Roku's neutrality filing with the FCC expressed concern that cable authentication systems could be used as yet another way gatekeepers could extract tolls from streaming services. As we noted when Comcast similarly refused to support HBO Go on the Playstation 3, the company -- when it can be bothered to comment on the issue at all -- usually trots out the excuse that getting this stuff to work is well, gosh -- time consuming:
"With every new website, device or player we authenticate, we need to work through technical integration and customer service which takes time and resources. Moving forward, we will continue to prioritize as we partner with various players."
It certainly does appear to be a case of priorities. With Comcast looking to eliminate any and all justifications to reject its merger, the company this week announced its network would finally support HBO Go on Roku -- some three years later. It couldn't possibly be that Comcast intentionally stalled on supporting HBO Go on the country's best-selling third-party streaming device because it wants to keep customers contained within the Comcast set top ecosystem and away from other options, could it?
I really think that if a politician of either party were to say that his goal would to make Comcast, "Squeal like a pig," he would be elected President.

But we still have politicians going to their knees to "service" the cable giants.

What the Rude one Said

Note to Cops: If You're Gonna Be So Thin-Skinned, You Should Stop Killing People:
That's Andrew Hawkins, a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns. He wore that shirt while warming up for his team's game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunay. As you can read, it calls for justice in the deaths of Tamir Rice, the 12 year-old who was shot to death by a Cleveland cop for holding a toy gun, and John Crawford, who was shot to death by a cop outside Dayton, Ohio, for the crime of holding a BB gun he had picked up while shopping in a Walmart. Both were killed within seconds of the arrival of the police, with no attempt to ascertain what was occurring. They are both awful situations that call for serious soul-searching by the police in Ohio, to hold the officers accountable in some way, to improve training so that such tragedies don't happen again, to perhaps confront the racism that seems to heighten the violence in these situations. That would all be meaningful and sensitive.

But it's so much easier to go batsh%$ and attack Hawkins.

Yeah, like teenaged girls who just saw that bitch Tanya wearing that purple dress on Instagram when she knew perfectly well that Alicia was gonna wear the same one to the dance (god, Tanya, you don't even look good in purple), the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association stomped its feet and demanded an apology: "It's pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law. They should stick to what they know best on the field. The Cleveland police protect and serve the Browns stadium and the Browns organization owes us an apology." You gotta love the implied threat there: "Mighty nice stadium you have here. Be a shame if we let your animal fans run wild."
Read the rest of the Rude Pundit's essay.

Ho ……… Ho ……… Ho ………

Red and white as camouflage
You may have heard about the SantaCon, a costumed pubcrawl that has, since its founding in (where else?) San Francisco.

Increasingly, it has been the accompanied by drunkenness, violence, public urination, and general mischief.

Well, a criminal mastermind, in what is certain to be a movie or a cable release in the next 18 months, robbed a bank disguised as Santa and then vanished in the crimson clad crowd:
Roughly after 1 p.m. on Saturday, at the peak of SantaCon debauchery, a 40-something white man in a Santa suit walked into a San Francisco bank and handed the teller a note demanding money. The teller handed him an undisclosed amount of cash, and then—like in the St. Patrick’s Day scene from “The Fugitive”—the man walked outside and disappeared into the crowd of Santas.

So far, the police have made no arrests, and it seems very likely the man might actually get away. It was a perfect heist—a festive, vomit-soaked “Ocean’s 11.”
My only question is whether this was a run of the mill criminal who had a bright idea, or a really smart guy.

If it's the former, he'll do something stupid now that he has the money.

If it's the latter, this guy will be calling a literary agent when the statute of limitations runs out.