31 October 2014

Give Me a High 4, Jose

There are a number of rules to responsible gun ownership.

Number 1 on the list should be, "Make sure that the gun is unloaded before you try to clean it."

It appears that this bit of common sense has escaped former Baseball all-star Jose Canseco:
Former major league slugger Jose Canseco blew his middle finger clear off his hand while cleaning his handgun at home in Las Vegas.

Jose's fiancée Leila Knight tells TMZ Sports ... he was sitting at a table in their home cleaning the gun when it went off. She says he didn't know it was loaded -- and the shot ripped through the middle finger on his left hand.

Leila tells us 50-year-old Canseco is in surgery right now as doctors desperately try to save what's left of the finger. She says the bullet tore through the bottom part of the finger and doctors have already said he'll never have full use of it again ... even under the best of circumstances.
Here is a suggestion for gun owners out there, and I am not kidding: create a checklist for yourself for each weapon that you own, much like the one that is used for flying aircraft.

If you use it, one of the early steps will be something along the lines of, "Remove the magazine and confirm that there are no rounds in the chamber."

Really, I am not being snarky here.

Everyone has a brain fart occasionally, and that is what check lists are for.

30 October 2014

20 Years ……… Jeebus

It's my 20th wedding anniversary tonight.

We will be celebrating it on the Hebrew calendar date, because today is my Mom's Yartzheit, and so a celebration is not in order tonight. (Yes, I lit a candle)

I am stunned.

Note that I am not stunned that Sharon is still with me, she is not the divorcing kind, but rather that she has not (yet) murdered me, because my little Cutsie Woodles IS the murdering kind.

Thank God for women with poor taste in men.

Seen on Facebook

Needs no explanation:

29 October 2014

I Think that This is an Indication that Glenn Greenwald's New Employer is Circling the Drain

First, Matt Taibbi has left First Look:
Matt Taibbi, the star magazine writer hired earlier this year to start a satirical website for billionaire Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media, is on a leave of absence from the company after disagreements with higher-ups inside Omidyar's organization, a source close to First Look confirmed today. (UPDATE: Taibbi has left the company. See statement below.)

Taibbi's abrupt disappearance from the company's Fifth Avenue headquarters has cast doubt on the fate of his highly anticipated digital publication, reportedly to be called Racket, which First Look executives had previously said would launch sometime this autumn.
UPDATE:  Omidyar announced on Tuesday night that Taibbi has left the company. Here's the full statement posted on FirstLook.org:
I regret to announce that after several weeks of discussions, Matt Taibbi has left First Look. We wish him well.

Our differences were never about editorial independence. We have never wavered from our pledge that journalistic content is for the journalists to decide, period.

We’re disappointed by how things have turned out. I was excited by Matt’s editorial vision and hoped to help him bring it to fruition. Now we turn our focus to exploring next steps for the talented team that has worked to create Matt’s publication.

I remain an enthusiastic supporter of the kind of independent journalism found at The Intercept and the site we were preparing to launch. As a startup, we’ll take what we’ve learned in the last several months and apply it to our efforts in the future.

Above all, we remain committed to our team and to the First Look mission.
The word for Mr. Omidyar's claim about it not being editorial independence is best described as a lie.

When this enterprise was announced, Taibbi noted in interviews it would be "focusing on financial and political corruption," while Omidyar described it as, "A new digital magazine with a satirical approach to American politics and culture."

These are not the same things, and Taibbi's understanding was that he would be going after people who are very much like Pierre Omidyar friends and business associates.

There is also the issue of Marcy Wheeler's brief tenure with First Look, which appeared to be caused by her writing about entities linked to Pierre Omidyar being linked to the coup in the Ukraine. (Though Wheeler denies that this the proximate cause of her exit.)

When all this is juxtaposed along with Omidyar's own statements about how First Look was moving from news organization to news platform, (think eBay for journalists) will leave him with very little in the way of a news organization:
I mean, I get it. Editorial is expensive. Christ, it’s so expensive… But it gets worse: Not only is editorial expensive, but nobody wants to pay for it. Readers, we’re told, don’t want to pay for it (I’ll deal with that bullshit another time). And investors certainly don’t want to pay for it… No investor of sound mind thinks he or she will make money from a magazine, any more than they think investing in restaurants or airlines is a smart move.

A platform, on the other hand… well, that’s the answer to everything. Noone ever went broke building a platform. For one thing, a platform doesn’t need to commission editorial: some other sap takes care of that — either clients (Atavist, Punch!) or Joe User (GOOD magazine).
First Look is not going to mature into an internet news org like Pro PublicaTalking Points Memo, or Pando, and I expect to see further staff defections in the not too distant future.

OK, this is Weird

Republicans like Nickelback. No Surprise.

Republicans hate the Empire State Building. So did King Kong. Coincidence? I think not.

Ronald Reagan wrote a book? Was it a coloring book?

Man the 'Phants hate Maddow.

Click for slideshow.
I was reading Kevin Drum, and he pointed me toward an article that polled people on their musical preferences and politics.

While I would expect some differences, I don't expect 'Phants to like Springsteen or the Dixie Chicks, but it turns out that conservatives hate The Beatles:
With the 2014 midterm elections approaching, we decided to take a look at the cultural similarities and differences between people who support Democrats and people who support Republicans. To do this, we looked at everyone who liked the campaign page of any Democrat or Republican running for governor, U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives. We then looked at what other pages those people liked on Facebook and identified the pages that were most differentiating—that is, the pages which were disproportionately liked by the supporters of one party versus the other—and those that were most balanced.

Note: in all of the figures below, the more a page is disproportionately liked by fans of Republican candidates, the farther right the page name appears (precisely indicated by the darker line in the middle). Conversely, the more a page is disproportionately liked by fans of Democratic candidates, the farther left the page name appears. The font size of the name is proportional to the total number of people from the US who liked that page.
I have a theory, with absolutely no facts to back me up, about why Republicans hate The Beatles:  Jealousy.

You see, of all the bands listed here, none is more closely connected with the 1960s, and the changes in cultural mores, the whole sex and drugs and rock and roll thing, and the Republicans are pissed off that they spent the 60s defending "virtue" while everyone else got their piece of ass.

Of course, the children of the 60s are in their 60s now, and while most of the Republican apparatchiks are younger than that, they were brought up under the tutelage of those frustrated segment of the children of the '60s, and the rage remains.

It's kind of sick, and kind of juvenile, but it's the Republican Party,

Bad Day at the Office

The Orbital Sciences resupply mission to the International Space Station experienced what is euphemistically called "rapid disassembly" yesterday.

Thankfully, there were no casualties:

28 October 2014

You Can Tell that Colbert is a Short Timer

He no longer cares who he pisses off, as this bit about the stupidest man in Texas, Louis Gohmert.

This the most brutal I have ever seen him.

Streamlining = Enabling Fraud, Waste, and Inefficiency

I am very dubious of this proposal to, "streamline military acquisitions."

Basically, the problem is a lack of adult supervision of either the defense contractors, or the Pentagon, or the resulting revolving door, is the problem with our current system,. not excessive regulation:
The Pentagon and Congress have better odds of reaching agreement on how to streamline myriad overlapping laws that slow the process of buying military equipment and services, a top Defense Department official said.

“I am optimistic,” Andrew Hunter, a former congressional aide who helped draft many of those laws before joining the Pentagon four years ago, told reporters Thursday. He said he saw emerging consensus among industry, lawmakers and defense officials about the need for changes.

Hunter, who runs the Pentagon’s joint rapid-acquisition initiative, also has led a drive to simplify current laws, which Frank Kendall, an arms buyer for the Department of Defense, has said put “an extraordinary and unnecessarily complex burden on our program managers and staff.”

U.S. defense officials have been in talks with congressional committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and hope to submit some reform legislation as part of the fiscal 2016 budget process, said Hunter, who is moving to a job with the Center for Strategic and International Studies next month.

“We’ve come up with some proposals that we hope will be favorably received,” he said. Hunter said the goal was to build on some key legislation already in place while giving program managers more flexibility to focus on the main issues.

The Pentagon initiative dovetails with fresh efforts by the House and Senate armed services committees to reform the slow, cumbersome U.S. military acquisition process and reverse years of schedule delays, cost overruns and other challenges.
Sorry, but the problem ain't excessive regulation, it's a system which is corrupt and dysfunctional to its core.

27 October 2014

If Anyone Out There Knows How to Make Link2SD work on a Kyocera Torque, Help Would Be Appreciated

Once again, reality has conspired to make me the family's tech support, in this case for both kids.

26 October 2014

Another Bank Failure

This Friday was another bank failure Friday.

We've had the 16th bank failure of the year, The National Republic Bank of Chicago, in Chicago, Illinois. (Full FDIC list)

Wouldn't you know it, I comment on how commercial bank failures were low relative to Credit Unions on October 10, and there are failures in each of the following weeks.

Go figure.

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

This Will Be Before the Supreme Court in the Next 2-3 Years

A state court in Florida just ruled that police need a search warrant to access cell phone tower data:
Americans may have a Florida drug dealer to thank for expanding our right to privacy.
Police departments around the country have been collecting phone metadata from telecoms and using a sophisticated spy tool to track people through their mobile phones—often without obtaining a warrant. But a new ruling out of Florida has curbed the activity in that state, on constitutional grounds. It raises hope among civil liberties advocates that other jurisdictions around the country may follow suit.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that obtaining cell phone location data to track a person’s location or movement in real time constitutes a Fourth Amendment search and therefore requires a court-ordered warrant.

The case specifically involves cell tower data for a convicted drug dealer that police obtained from a telecom without a warrant. But the way the ruling is written (.pdf), it would also cover the use of so-called “stingrays”—sophisticated technology law enforcement agencies use to locate and track people in the field without assistance from telecoms. Agencies around the country, including in Florida, have been using the technology to track suspects—sometimes without obtaining a court order, other times deliberately deceiving judges and defendants about their use of the devices to track suspects, telling judges the information came from “confidential” sources rather than disclose their use of stingrays. The new ruling would require them to obtain a warrant or stop using the devices.


The Justice Department has long asserted that law enforcement agencies don’t need a probable-cause warrant to use stingrays because they don’t collect the content of phone calls and text messages. Instead, authorities say, they operate like pen-register and trap-and-trace systems, collecting the equivalent of header information. A pen register system records the phone numbers that a person dials, while a trap-and-trace system records the phone numbers of incoming calls to that phone.
This is going to be appealed to the Federal Courts, and it will end up at the Supreme Court, where, unless Antonin Scalia chokes on his own bile in the interim, I expect a 5-4 decision saying that no warrant is needed.

With the NSA, It's Not Just the Orwellian Stuff, it's also the Outright Corruption

There are reasons for secrecy, but we need to remember that secrecy is the enemy of competent and honest government, as the recent corruption scandals at the National Security Agency proves:
One of the nation’s top spies is leaving her position at the National Security Agency (NSA), a spokesman confirmed Friday, amid growing disclosures of possible conflicts of interest at the secretive agency.

The shakeup comes just a month after BuzzFeed News began reporting on the financial interests of the official, Teresa Shea, and her husband.

Shea was the director of signals intelligence, or SIGINT, which involves intercepting and decoding electronic communications via phones, email, chat, Skype, and radio. It’s widely considered the most important mission of the NSA, and includes some of the most controversial programs disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden, including the mass domestic surveillance program.

The NSA provided a statement Friday that said Teresa Shea’s “transition” from the SIGINT director job was routine and “planned well before recent news articles.” The agency indicated she would remain employed, but did not provide specifics.

The Sheas did not respond to a message left at their home telephone number.

In September, BuzzFeed News reported that a SIGINT “contracting and consulting” company was registered at Shea’s house, even while she was the SIGINT director at NSA. The resident agent of the company, Telic Networks, was listed as James Shea, her husband.
This is in addition to the trail of corruption that the former NSA head Keith Alexander left behind him, with the NSA's CTO taking a lucrative consulting gig with former NSA head Keith Alexander's new security consulting firm, along with Keith Alexander's suspicious stock trades, patents that appear to come from his work product at the NSA, and his consultancy that clearly plays on his connections in the intelligence community.

Secrecy is a petri dish for incompetence, corruption, and dysfunction, which is why our fetishizing of secrecy is so dangerous.

25 October 2014

Quote of the Day

"I didn't exchange any bodily fluids with anyone, so I'm not worried about it," he said. "I'm much more likely to be mistakenly killed by a police officer in this country than to be killed by Ebola, even if you were in the same bridal shop."

Peter Pattakos, who is suitably unconcerned by the fact that he spent 2 hours in a bridal shop while Ebola Nurse Amber Joy Vinson was there.
This is such a nice counterpoint to the freakout from the numerous politicians.

I Have Mixed Emotions About This………

It appears that a guy in Oklahoma drove his car into the 10 Commandments sculpture on the State House Lawn:
A man was taken into custody on Friday on suspicion of knocking over a Ten Commandments monument with a car on the grounds of the Oklahoma statehouse and then fleeing the scene, law enforcement officials said on Friday.

The U.S. Secret Service detained the man, who has not been identified, after he was alleged to have made threatening statements at a federal building in Oklahoma City. The man told agents he urinated on the monument and ran it over with a car, said David Allison, the assistant special agent in charge.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said they believe a single person was responsible for the act on Thursday night that left the 6-foot (1.8-meter) monument broken in several large pieces not far from where it was mounted. The man will be turned over to Oklahoma police.
In some ways, this is a good thing.

Additionally, the monument was clearly intended to enfranchise a religion, specifically Protestant Christian, as their mistranslation is the one used on the sculpture.

On the other hand, I do not approve of someone taking the law into their own hands and knocking it down.

That's just wrong.

Saab Gripen Deal Pending Between Brazil and Argentina

It appears that SAAB wasn't kidding when they promised that the Brazilians could involve their defense industry more heavily with the Gripen than with competing platforms.

It appears that non only are the Brazilians going to manufacture their own fighters, but they will be manufacturing Gripens for Argentina as well:
Saab AB (SAABB) said it’s close to sealing a contract with Brazil that will secure 36 export orders valued at $4.5 billion for the Swedish company’s Gripen jet-fighter while establishing production in the South American country.

Negotiations on the deal are moving forward according to plan and the ambition is to reach an agreement “in the near future,” Saab said today in a statement.

Saab signed a memorandum of understanding with Embraer SA (EMBR3) in July granting the Brazilian planemaker a leading role in Gripen production tied to the signing of an order. According to that deal, Embraer will share joint responsibility for developing a two-seat version of the latest upgrade of the jet and lead marketing efforts to sell it in Latin America.

Partnering with Brazil could give the Gripen a new lease of life after the program suffered a blow in May when Swiss voters rejected a 3.1 billion franc ($3.3 billion) order for 22 fighters that had been awarded 2 1/2 years previously.

Saab, where third-quarter operating profit of 258 million kronor ($35 million) fell short of the 300 million kronor expected by analysts, is pushing the Gripen against rival offerings from companies including Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT:US), the No. 1 defense contractor, just as tighter military spending makes U.S. and European orders harder to come by.

Argentina Interest

A bridgehead in Brazil, where local firms may build as much as 80 percent of the Gripen E model and take on the bulk of development on the two-seat Gripen F, could open up sales to markets where defense budgets are under less pressure. A carrier version of the plane may be an option for Brazil, with Argentina, Ecuador and Mexico among possible export targets.

Brazil is already poised to discuss a possible deal to sell the Gripen to Argentina as part of a plan to boost aerospace cooperation, the defense ministry said this week, adding that terms could include some production component for its neighbor. Brazil’s own contract should be signed by December, it said.

Saab was chosen to fill Brazil’s F-X2 fighter requirement last December, fending off the Boeing Co. (BA:US) F/A-18 Super Hornet after allegations that the U.S. spied on President Dilma Rousseff. Paris-based Dassault Aviation SA (AM)’s Rafale also lost.
The Gripen is cheaper to own, and cheaper to operate than the competition, even platforms that are a half generation older like the F-16 and F-18.

If Saab can keep the line open until the true cost of the F-35 becomes clear to potential customers, and this is by no means a sure thing, they could have the Mirage III of this generation.

24 October 2014

This is a Huge and Well Deserved F%$# You to the CIA and the NSA

It's well deserved too.

You see the Federal Trade (FTC) commission has hired hired Ashkan Soltan as their new Chief Technical Officer.

The reason that this is a giant f%$# you to the US state security apparatus is because (wait for it) he helped the Washington Post do its news stories on the Snowden affair:
The Federal Trade Commission has hired privacy and technology expert Ashkan Soltani to serve as the commission’s chief technology officer. But security experts and former senior U.S. intelligence officials are questioning the FTC’s decision, given Soltani’s very public role as a consultant for The Washington Post, where he co-authored multiple articles based on classified documents stolen from the National Security Agency by former contractor Edward Snowden.

The FTC said in a press release that Soltani will join FTC in November and will replace Latanya Sweeney, who is returning to Harvard University, where she founded and directs the school’s Data Privacy Lab. His job will be to advise the commission on evolving technology and policy issues, a role similar to one he held previously at the FTC before leaving government to become an independent consultant.
Needless to say, Michael Hayden and His Evil Minions heads are exploding:
The news has elicited wails from NSA’s mail mouthpieces, Stewart Baker and Michael Hayden.
“I’m not trying to demonize this fella, but he’s been working through criminally exposed documents and making decisions about making those documents public,” said Michael Hayden, a former NSA director who also served as CIA director from 2006 to 2009. In a telephone interview with FedScoop, Hayden said he wasn’t surprised by the lack of concern about Soltani’s participation in the Post’s Snowden stories. “I have no good answer for that.”


Stewart Baker, a former NSA general counsel, said, while he’s not familiar with the role Soltani would play at the FTC, there are still problems with his appointment. “I don’t think anyone who justified or exploited Snowden’s breach of confidentiality obligations should be trusted to serve in government,” Baker said.

I find Hayden’s wails especially disgusting, given the way — it is now clear — the government spent so much effort covering up how he extended the illegal wiretap program in March 2004. I mean, I’m not trying to demonize the fella, but he’s a criminal, and yet he’s complaining about the press reporting on abuses?


At FTC, Soltani will be in a role where he can directly influence the kind of regulatory pressure placed on data collectors to protect user privacy. He understands — probably far more than we know from the WaPo stories — how NSA is capitalizing on already collected data. Which means he may be able to influence how much remains available to the spooks.
I do not expect Soltani to actually get the job.

It's clear that Obama is very much in the pocket of the US state security apparatus, and he will find a way to stop this.

But still, it is very well deserved push-back against the what can only be described as the forces of evil in America's shadow government.

There May be Hope for Us as a Civilization

TLC has canceled Here Comes Honey Boo Boo:
Cable television network TLC on Friday said it has canceled "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," the popular cable reality series, about a rural Georgia family and their precocious beauty pageant daughter.

TLC, owned by Discovery Communications Inc, did not explain why it was canceling the show but said in a statement that "supporting the health and welfare of these remarkable children is our only priority. TLC is faithfully committed to the children's ongoing comfort and well-being."
Hopefully this is the first of many cancellations or reality TV.

Also, I really hope that Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson doesn't end up too screwed up as an adult.

It Appears that Our Canadian Terrorists Weren't

Terrorists, I mean.  They were Canadians.

What they were was seriously mentally ill, and rather unsurprisingly, they were attracted to the batsh%$ insane world view of ISIS an their ilk.

The one that shot up the parliament?  He attempted to rob McDonalds with a pointed stick because he wanted to go to jail:
Ottawa shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau attempted to confess to a historical armed robbery that the RCMP believed didn’t happen, then attempted an armed robbery at a McDonald’s to go to jail, court recordings provided to CTV News show.

It was all part of a bizarre plan by the man who attacked Parliament Hill to get to jail to atone for his sins and get clean from a crack addiction, the audio recordings show.

“Perfect, perfect,” a Zehaf-Bibeau says with a French accent on the tapes, when he is finally allowed to be incarcerated. “The RCMP are investigating.”

Zehaf-Bibeau visited the Burnaby detachment of the RCMP to claim he had committed an armed robbery in Quebec 10 years ago, but an officer could find no evidence of the crime. Instead, the RCMP arrested Zehaf Bibeau under the B.C.’s Mental Health Act, and released him the next day.

Zehaf-Bibeau then attempted to rob a Vancouver McDonald’s with a pointed stick, the recording reveals.

His grin unnerved the McDonald’s clerk, who asked if the man was serious. Zehaf-Bibeau said, “Yes, hand over the money, homeboy.”

The McDonald’s clerk refused, telling Zihaf-Bibeau that he had already phoned the police.

“Beat it,” the clerk said.

Zehaf-Bibeau walked out of the McDonald’s, and dropped his stick on the pavement to wait for police to arrive.

At a Dec. 19, 2011 bail hearing, Zehaf-Bibeau told the court that he didn’t want to be on the outside.

“I wanted to come to jail,” he said. “The RCMP couldn’t do the work fast enough."

“I warned them that if you can’t keep me in I will do something right now to put me in.”
And the guy who ran down the soldiers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, near Montreal the day before? 

Just as nuts:

The tragic death on Monday of Canadian Forces Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, run over by a recently “radicalized” 25-year-old from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, was not an act of terror as much as it was an indictment of our ineffectiveness in dealing with mental illness.

Martin Couture-Rouleau, who up until two years ago was a normal pseudo-Catholic Québécois kid, a recent father struggling to keep his new pressure-washing business afloat, changed seemingly overnight into someone obsessed with the illuminati and conspiracy theories, one friend told La Presse.

It was in that period he converted to Islam and underwent such a significant personality change that it was his own father who reported him to the RCMP as a possible threat. Put on a federal watch list, he was prevented from carrying out his plan to travel to Turkey when he was arrested last summer and had his passport taken away.

His alienation from family and friends became even more pronounced in the past year. “People turned away from him, thinking he was crazy,” a friend told La Presse. His wife had also recently taken steps to gain sole custody of their child because of the changes in Couture-Rouleau’s behaviour.

Sûreté du Québec officers had even met with Couture-Rouleau and his imam just two weeks ago to try to turn him away from the radical thoughts he had been muttering about to friends and on his social networks. Although that’s the kind of talk that can get you put on watch lists, rambling about God and punishment and hell and paradise isn’t a crime, or else our jails would be full of preachers and pundits of every stripe.
No terrorism.  No ties to anyone outside of Canada.

The real concern is not terrorism.  It is how Canada's mental health system failed, and how it can be fixed.

23 October 2014

Why Republicans will take the Senate in November

Because when the populace is in a state of abject pants soiling terror, people are more likely to vote conservative, and between Isis, Ebola, and the shootings in Ottawa, when juxtaposed with the hysterical coverage of our national press, leaves me unable to reach any other conclusion.

So, I expect Democrats to lose the Senate, and I expect Obama to use it as an excuse to try and privatize Social Security, which he has been itching to do since his election in 2008.

I hope that it fails because the Republicans are unwilling to give him a win.

You Know, the Whole Hamlet Thing Didn't Work for Adlai Stevenson………

Elizabeth Warren is not being not quite so categorical in her denial of a 2016 Presidential run:
Senator Elizabeth Warren gave an interview to People magazine for this week’s issue and was asked for roughly the thousandth time if she planned to run for president. But her answer to this query was different than all the others:
But is the freshman senator from Massachusetts herself on board with a run for the White House? Warren wrinkles her nose.

“I don’t think so,” she tells PEOPLE in an interview conducted at Warren’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, home for this week’s issue. “If there’s any lesson I’ve learned in the last five years, it’s don’t be so sure about what lies ahead. There are amazing doors that could open.”

She just doesn’t see the door of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue being one of them. Not yet, anyway. “Right now,” Warren says, “I’m focused on figuring out what else I can do from this spot” in the U.S. Senate.
As a veteran Warren-watcher, I can say with certainty this is more ambiguous than she’s ever been on the subject. “I don’t think so,” “amazing doors that could open,” and “right now” are the traditional vernacular of a someone flirting with a campaign—-and someone who wants you to know it.

In the past, Warren has been much more unequivocal. (Examples: “I’m not running for president, and I plan to serve out my term,” and “I am not running for president. Do you want to put an exclamation point at the end of that?”)
I understand how tempting it is to play a "will she or won't she" game, it creates a buzz, and it can get one's ego stroked, but you need to be either in or out.

I'd love to see someone from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, as opposed to the current  front runner, Hillary Clinton, but jerking around potential supporters is never winning

Either get serious, and start an exploratory committee, or remain adamant about staying out.

Decent Unemployment News

Claims rose, but the 4 week moving average is at a 14 year low.

Of course, the labor force participation rate still sucks.

This is not The Onion

Following years of misconduct, and a federal consent degree, members of the Seattle police force have brought a lawsuit to protect their constitutional right to police brutality:
Over the past year, the Seattle police department has revised its policies on when police can use force, as part of a settlement with the Justice Department over findings that officers used frequent excessive, unconstitutional force on suspects.

But some 125 Seattle police officers responded by filing a lawsuit challenging the new rules. In their view, the new policies infringe on their rights to use as much force as they deem necessary in self-protection. They represent about ten percent of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild membership. The police union itself declined to endorse the lawsuit.

This week, a federal judge summarily rejected all of their claims, finding that they were without constitutional merit, and that she would have been surprised if such allegations of excessive force by officers did not lead to stricter standards.

The officers claimed the policies infringed on their rights under their Second Amendment and under the Fourth, claiming a self-defense right to use force. Chief U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman pointed out that the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms — not the right to use them — and that the officers “grossly misconstrued” the Fourth Amendment when they claimed that it protects them, and not individuals who would be the subjects of police force or seizures.
Seriously, there is something profoundly wrong with those officers, and the fact that they carry firearms and have the power of arrest makes me want to stay away from Seattle, and vacation someplace safer, like Kabul.

Obama is Hoping to Lose the Senate

Dan Froomkin is claiming that Obama is running out the clock, because he is expecting the Democrats to lose the Senate, and the Republicans will not vote to release the document:
Continued White House foot-dragging on the declassification of a much-anticipated Senate torture report is raising concerns that the administration is holding out until Republicans take over the chamber and kill the report themselves.

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s intelligence committee sent a 480-page executive summary of its extensive report on the CIA’s abuse of detainees to the White House for declassification more than six months ago.

In August, the White House, working closely with the CIA, sent back redactions that Feinstein and other Senate Democrats said rendered the summary unintelligible and unsupported.

Since then, the wrangling has continued behind closed doors, with projected release dates repeatedly falling by the wayside. The Huffington Post reported this week that White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, a close ally of CIA Director John Brennan, is personally leading the negotiations, suggesting keen interest in their progress — or lack thereof — on the part of Brennan and President Obama.

Human-rights lawyer Scott Horton, who interviewed a wide range of intelligence and administration officials for his upcoming book, “Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Foreign Policy,” told The Intercept that the White House and the CIA are hoping a Republican Senate will, in their words, “put an end to this nonsense.”
(emphasis mine)

Seriously.  This is despicable.

Barack Obama in general, and CIA Director John Brennan have no intention of letting this report see the light of day.

This is why the Senate Intel Committee should declassify the document on their own using Senate Resolution 400, which allows them to release the document with a simple majority vote.

It's something to consider for the lame duck session.  Because if they don't do this, or read the report in the well of the Senate, or leak it to Glenn Greenwald, there is a whole bunch of stuff that is both evil and stupid will get buried, and we will do it all again the next time.

History Repeats Itself, First as Tragedy, then as Farce.

After having seized defeat from the jaws of victory in her race against Scott Brown for Senate in 2007, it looks like Martha Coakley is about to turn over the Governor's Mansion to the Republicans:
National Democrats are haunted by memories of Martha Coakley's unforced stumbles and missteps in 2010, which cost them a U.S. Senate seat in one of the country's bluest states.

Four laters later, the Massachusetts attorney general might be about to blow another major contest: The race to succeed Deval Patrick as governor.

With two weeks left to go, a new poll by WBUR, which tracks the race weekly, found Coakley trailing for the first time against Republican Charlie Baker, a former health care CEO who served as secretary of finance and health under Gov. William Weld in the 1990s.

It's still a close contest: Baker has 43 percent while Coakley has 42 percent, well inside the poll's 4.4 percent margin of error.

But the troubling sign for Coakley is that Baker appears to be gaining steam down the stretch after consistently trailing throughout the campaign.
I was a bit alarmed when Coakley got the nomination, seeing as how she had run the worst campaign this side of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002.

I've always had this suspicion that the Democratic Party establishment in Massachusetts discovered that they preferred having Speaker of the state House, and the President of the state Senate as the most senior Democrats in the state, and as such, they have subtly worked to make Republicans governor.

It's what I call the Iron Law of Organizations Institutions, where people will work for power within an organization at the expense of the power of that organization.

22 October 2014

Justice Delayed………

The 4 Blackwater mercenaries whose shooting spree killed 14 people in Baghdad's Nisour Square have been found guilty of murder and other charges:
A federal jury in Washington convicted four Blackwater Worldwide guards Wednesday in the fatal shooting of 14 unarmed Iraqis, seven years after the American security contractors fired machine guns and grenades into a Baghdad traffic circle in one of the most ignominious chapters of the Iraq war.

The guilty verdicts on murder, manslaughter and gun charges marked a sweeping victory for prosecutors, who argued in an 11-week trial that the defendants fired recklessly and out of control in a botched security operation after one of them falsely claimed to believe the driver of an approaching vehicle was a car bomber. Jurors rejected the guards’ claims that they were acting in self-defense and were the target of incoming AK-47 gunfire.

Overall, defendants were charged with the deaths of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of 17 others at Baghdad’s Nisour Square shortly after noon Sept. 16, 2007. None of the victims was an insurgent.

“This verdict is a resounding affirmation of the commitment of the American people to the rule of law, even in times of war,” said Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. attorney for the District, whose office prosecuted the case. “I pray that this verdict will bring some sense of comfort to the survivors of that massacre.”
Fundamentally, the most depressing thing is the counterpoint at the end of the article, which notes that the Haditha Massacre, which involved US troops, was covered up by the military chain of command.

As the old saying goes, "Military justice is to justice as military music is to music."

Get Ready to Eat Tainted Meat from China

The WTO has just ruled that country of origin labels on meat are a violation of trade agreements:
Today’s ruling by a World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance panel against U.S. country-of-origin meat labeling (COOL) policies sets up a no-win dynamic, and the Obama administration should appeal the ruling, Public Citizen said.

If the administration were to weaken COOL, U.S. consumers would lose access to critical information about where their meat comes from at a time when consumer interest in such information is at an all-time high and opposition would only grow to the administration’s beleaguered trade agenda. If the administration again were to seek to comply with the WTO by strengthening COOL, then Mexico and Canada – the two countries that challenged the policy – likely would continue their case, even though cattle imports from Canada have increased since the 2013 strengthening of the policy.

The ruling further complicates the Obama administration’s stalled efforts to obtain Fast Track trade authority for two major agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. Both of these pacts would expose the United States to more such challenges against U.S. consumer, environmental and other policies.
What Public Citizen does not get is that, "More such challenges against U.S. consumer, environmental and other policies," is a feature, not a bug.

It is a goal of the neoliberal policy makers who create such deals to create a regulation free world.

They see it as leading to the Garden of Eden.

Me, I think that it's more likely to lead to Lord of the Flies.

That's Mighty White of Them………

A top National Security Agency official will no longer be moonlighting part-time with a private consulting firm run by former NSA chief Keith Alexander. The end of that arrangement comes days after the NSA said this particular work situation was "under internal review" due to potential conflicts of interest.

The private company at issue— IronNet Cybersecurity—was founded by Alexander, who ran the spy agency from August 2005 until March 2014. IronNet Cybersecurity offers protection services to banks for up to $1 million per month. Patrick Dowd, the NSA's current chief technology officer, had been working with Alexander's private venture for up to 20 hours per week.
20 hours a week?  For the chief f%$#ing technology officer for the f%$#ing National f%$#ing Security Agency?

Tell me that this isn't about using his connections to benefit his new firm.

And then there is the fact that while still heading the NSA, Keith Alexander, the NSA white washed his wide ranging, and highly suspicious tech investments:
New financial disclosure documents released this month by the National Security Agency (NSA) show that Keith Alexander, who served as its director from August 2005 until March 2014, had thousands of dollars of investments during his tenure in a handful of technology firms.

Each year disclosed has a checked box next to this statement: "Reported financial interests or affiliations are unrelated to assigned or prospective duties, and no conflicts appear to exist."

Alexander repeatedly made the public case that the American public is at "greater risk" from a terrorist attack in the wake of the Snowden disclosures. Statements such as those could have a positive impact on the companies he was invested in, which could have eventually helped his personal bottom line.

The NSA did not immediately respond to Ars’ requests for further comment.

The documents were obtained and published Friday by Vice News as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent lawsuit against the NSA brought by Vice News reporter Jason Leopold.
BTW, here is the money quote from the Vice article:
That said, Alexander's interest in surveillance was not limited to his tenure as NSA director. He also invested in firms that are on the cutting edge of surveillance technology.

For example, Alexander invested as much as $15,000 in: Pericom Semiconductor, a company that has designed technology for the closed-circuit television and video surveillance markets; RF Micro Devices designs, which manufactures high-performance radio frequency technology that is also used for surveillance; and as much as $50,000 in Synchronoss Technologies, a cloud storage firm that provides a cloud platform to mobile phone carriers (the NSA has been accused of hacking into cloud storage providers).
Like I said, mighty white of the NSA to give the good General a pass on all of this.

And did I forget to mention this last bit? Since leaving the NSA earlier this year, Alexander has filed at least 9 patents on computer security, that is a something north of 1 patent a month, and the NSA has dutifully signed off of their being unrelated to his work at the NSA:
In an interview Monday with former National Security Agency Director General Keith Alexander, Foreign Policy's Shane Harris learned that Alexander plans to file “at least” nine patent applications—“and possibly more"—pertaining to technology for detecting network intruders.

Alexander left his government post in early 2014 and went on to co-found a private company, IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., with unnamed business partners. Alexander said that these business partners helped him create the “unique” method for detecting hackers that he plans to patent. Of course, Alexander himself had unparalleled access to classified security operations from 2005, when he took charge of the NSA, to 2014, when he retired.

Since starting IronNet, Alexander has been peddling his consulting services to major corporations, especially those in the financial industry, and has quoted fees of up to $1 million per month. That astronomical number drew at least one federal representative to suggest that Alexander might be disclosing or misusing classified information.

Presumably, Alexander's expensive consulting will include access to IronNet's future patented technology, which will cover “a system to detect so-called advanced persistent threats, or hackers who clandestinely burrow into a computer network in order to steal secrets or damage the network itself,” Foreign Policy reported. Alexander specified to the magazine that IronNet's technology is unique because it uses “behavioral models” to anticipate a hacker's next moves.
You know, if I didn't know better, I would swear that this whole dysfunctional security-industrial complex thing would sound like an awful like like our dysfunctional military-industrial complex, where increasingly large sums of money seem to result in nothing more than massive remuneration for retired generals.

Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has not Made me a Moman.*

You know the reasons.
  • He's assertive, she's a bitch.
  • I get paid more for the same work.
  • He's a playa, she's a slut.
  • He's cool, and she's an ice queen.
Finally, and most importantly, I'll never have to deal with the mountain of bullsh%$ that has been sliding toward Renee Zellweger.


What the f%$# is wrong with people?

*This is actually part of the traditional morning prayers for Jewish males. The Hebrew is, "בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֶלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁלֹּא עָשַֽׂנִי אִשָּׁה."

What the Hell?!?!?

There has been what appears to be a terrorist attack on the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa:
A masked gunman killed a soldier standing guard at Canada’s war memorial Wednesday, then stormed Parliament in an attack that was stopped cold when he was shot to death by the ceremonial sergeant-at-arms. Canada’s prime minister called it the country’s second terrorist attack in three days.

“We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed in an address to the nation.

Unfolding just before 10 a.m., while lawmakers were meeting in caucus rooms, the assault rocked Parliament over and over with the boom of gunfire, led MPs to barricade doors with chairs and sent people streaming from the building in fear. Harper was addressing a caucus when the attack began outside the door, but he safely escaped.

Investigators offered little information about the gunman, identified as 32-year-old petty criminal Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. But Harper said: “In the days to come we will learn about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had.”

Canada was already on alert at the time because of a deadly hit-and-run assault Monday against two Canadian soldiers by a man Harper described as an “ISIL-inspired terrorist.” ISIL, or Islamic State, has called for reprisals against Canada and other Western countries that have joined the U.S.-led air campaign against the extremist group in Iraq and Syria.
Needless to say, I expect to see Canada's own "Zombie Eyed Granny Starver", PM Stephen Harper, to milk this for all the electoral advantage that it is worth.

I expect him to start taking some sort of actions that are unpalatable to the opposition in the name of security, much as Bush did with the founding of DHS.

21 October 2014

This is the Best Idea that I have Heard all Day

The canvassing board in Michigan has just certified the language for a petition to prevent hospitals to overcharge the uninsured:
The Board of State Canvassers on Monday unanimously approved the form a statewide ballot initiative petition that aims to prohibit a health care provider from charging a higher price to some for medical goods or services.

A group called Stop Overcharging is backing the "citizen initiated" legislation, which would limit a hospital or provider to charging somebody any more than 150 percent of the lowest amount the provider had accepted as payment in full.

The example they give is if somebody was charged $2,000 for an MRI but the provider accepted $600 as payment in full, the provider couldn't force an uninsured person or auto accident victim to pay more than $900.

It's something that has come up in the discussion of no-fault reforms. The petition is designed to incite action from the state legislature on that topic.

"We would hope that they would, we would wish that they would, but we're preparing if they wouldn't," said Rocky Raczkowski, a former state lawmaker who is heading up the petition drive.


The Board of State Canvassers unanimously approved the petition as to form, meaning it meets state guidelines and can be circulated.

The group can start collecting signatures after the Nov. 4 election, and Raczkowski said they plan to move quickly. Asked if paid circulators would be circulating the petitions, he said the group was still examining its options.
There is some political baggage along with this, it seems to be associated with insurance "Reforms" that favor the auto insurance industry, but the idea that part of the healthcare delivery problem in the USA is the price of healthcare appears to be gaining currency, and this is a good thing.

The idea that, for example, the cost of an identical service can vary by over an order of magnitude at the same hospital in the is much, if not most of the problem here.

The New York Times revealed something very similar recently, when it discovered that many hospitals employed ER physicians who were out of network, who then price gouged patients, since they were not covered by any agreement with insurance carriers:
When Jennifer Hopper raced to the emergency room after her husband, Craig, took a baseball in the face, she made sure they went to a hospital in their insurance network in Texas. So when they got a $937 bill from the emergency room doctor, she called the insurer, assuming it was in error.

But the bill was correct: UnitedHealthcare, the insurance company, had paid its customary fee of $151.02 and expected the Hoppers to pay the remaining $785.98, because the doctor at Seton Northwest Hospital in Austin did not participate in their network.

“It never occurred to me that the first line of defense, the person you have to see in an in-network emergency room, could be out of the network,” said Ms. Hopper, who has spent months fighting the bill. “In-network means we just get the building? I thought the doctor came with the E.R.”

Patients have no choice about which physician they see when they go to an emergency room, even if they have the presence of mind to visit a hospital that is in their insurance network. In the piles of forms that patients sign in those chaotic first moments is often an acknowledgment that they understand some providers may be out of network.
Note that this sort of shenanigans is why ER doctors income has gone up in recent years.

ER's are going Wall Street, and the only people who win in this game are the worst among us.

20 October 2014

The Universal Nature of Humanity*

I can think of nothing that unites us more than the fact that even the Dalai Lama is pissed off about telemarketers:
Tibet’s spiritual leader has delivered an extraordinary rant about the things that do his head in.

The Dalai Lama’s rare display of belligerent human frailty occurred in London, during an acceptance speech for the Templeton Prize for ‘affirming life’s spiritual dimension’.

He said: “I am not a special person. I spend my days mostly in quiet contemplation.

“It is during these moments, when I am tantalisingly close to nirvana, that the phone always rings.

“‘Hello,’ says the voice on the line, ‘can I speak to Mr D Lama?’

“‘He’s not in,’ I always reply, because it is fine to lie in these situations, ‘and if he was he wouldn’t be interested.’

“Then they go, ‘surely he’d be interested on saving 25% on his monthly heating bills with double glazing’. For Zen’s sake!
Now, everyone link hands, and start singing, All we are saying, is telemarketers suck.

*Yes. I know. It's a parody site, and this is fake news, but it really should be real.  After all, who amongst us does not hate phone sales calls?

Worst Constitutional Law Professor, Ever

Note that FBI Director James Comey was specifically chosen by Barack Obama, and the President's behavior to this point has indicated a strong bias toward the position that, "You don't need to worry about privacy if you have nothing to hide."

Thus I see Comey's request for sabotaging the security of computers and mobile devices by requiring back doors to be a position explicitly supported by the whole administration, and as the saying goes, the Cossacks work for the Czar:
FBI Director James Comey has launched a new “crypto war” by asking Congress to update a two-decade-old law to make sure officials can access information from people’s cellphones and other communication devices.

The call is expected to trigger a major Capitol Hill fight about whether or not tech companies need to give the government access to their users' data.

“It's going to be a tough fight for sure,” Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the Patriot Act’s original author, told The Hill in a statement.

He argues Apple and other companies are taking the privacy of consumers into their own hands because Congress has failed to pass legislation in response to public anger over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

“While Director Comey says the pendulum has swung too far toward privacy and away from law enforcement, he fails to acknowledge that Congress has yet to pass any significant privacy reforms,” he added. “Because of this failure, businesses have taken matters into their own hands to protect their consumers and their bottom lines.”

“If this becomes the norm, I suggest to you that homicide cases could be stalled, suspects walked free, child exploitation not discovered and prosecuted,” he said last week.

Comey is asking that Congress update the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), a 1994 law that required telephone companies to make it possible for federal officials to wiretap their users' phone calls.
It's a back door, much like the infamous Clipper chip, and the greatest effect of such a change would be to allow cyber-criminals to access your data, your machines, and your identity, because if they cripple security in the interest of law enforcement, criminals will avail themselves to the same technology.

What Can I Say About Ebola and Fox News that Hasn't Already been said by America's most Influential Writer*

I am referring, of course to Edgar Allan Poe.

What I catch about the Fox News coverage of the epidemic (Mostly via The Daily Show and Crooks and Liars) is very similar to that of the main character Poe's short story, The Masque of the Red Death, Prince Prospero.

The impetus of cowards (Fox News and our Prince) to wall themselves off, and cower behind a facade of bombast is rather illuminating.

Damn, that U Va dropout could write.

It is kind of creepy just how much the Red Death is like Ebola.

I post the story in its entirety, it is in the public domain, after the break:

*Poe can reasonably be credited with creating both the genres of the horror story, and the detective story. The most, the prestigious award for Mystery writing in the United States is called Edgar Allan Poe Awards are named after him for just such a reason.

19 October 2014

I'll Believe It When I See It

Commercial fusion has been just 15 years away for the past 50 years, so I am necessarily skeptical of Lockheed Martin's claims of a fusion break through: (Paid subscription required)
Hidden away in the secret depths of the Skunk Works, a Lockheed Martin research team has been working quietly on a nuclear energy concept they believe has the potential to meet, if not eventually decrease, the world’s insatiable demand for power.

Dubbed the compact fusion reactor (CFR), the device is conceptually safer, cleaner and more powerful than much larger, current nuclear systems that rely on fission, the process of splitting atoms to release energy. Crucially, by being “compact,” Lockheed believes its scalable concept will also be small and practical enough for applications ranging from interplanetary spacecraft and commercial ships to city power stations. It may even revive the concept of large, nuclear-powered aircraft that virtually never require refueling—ideas of which were largely abandoned more than 50 years ago because of the dangers and complexities involved with nuclear fission reactors.


Until now, the majority of fusion reactor systems have used a plasma control device called a tokamak, invented in the 1950s by physicists in the Soviet Union. The tokamak uses a magnetic field to hold the plasma in the shape of a torus, or ring, and maintains the reaction by inducing a current inside the plasma itself with a second set of electromagnets. The challenge with this approach is that the resulting energy generated is almost the same as the amount required to maintain the self-sustaining fusion reaction.

An advanced fusion reactor version, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), being built in Cadarache, France, is expected to generate 500 MW. However, plasma is not due to be generated until the late 2020s, and derivatives are not likely to be producing significant power until at least the 2040s.

The problem with tokamaks is that “they can only hold so much plasma, and we call that the beta limit,” McGuire says. Measured as the ratio of plasma pressure to the magnetic pressure, the beta limit of the average tokamak is low, or about “5% or so of the confining pressure,” he says. Comparing the torus to a bicycle tire, McGuire adds, “if they put too much in, eventually their confining tire will fail and burst—so to operate safely, they don’t go too close to that.” Aside from this inefficiency, the physics of the tokamak dictate huge dimensions and massive cost. The ITER, for example, will cost an estimated $50 billion and when complete will measure around 100 ft. high and weigh 23,000 tons.

The CFR will avoid these issues by tackling plasma confinement in a radically different way. Instead of constraining the plasma within tubular rings, a series of superconducting coils will generate a new magnetic-field geometry in which the plasma is held within the broader confines of the entire reaction chamber. Superconducting magnets within the coils will generate a magnetic field around the outer border of the chamber. “So for us, instead of a bike tire expanding into air, we have something more like a tube that expands into an ever-stronger wall,” McGuire says. The system is therefore regulated by a self-tuning feedback mechanism, whereby the farther out the plasma goes, the stronger the magnetic field pushes back to contain it. The CFR is expected to have a beta limit ratio of one. “We should be able to go to 100% or beyond,” he adds.

This crucial difference means that for the same size, the CFR generates more power than a tokamak by a factor of 10. This in turn means, for the same power output, the CFR can be 10 times smaller. The change in scale is a game-changer in terms of producibility and cost, explains McGuire. “It’s one of the reasons we think it is feasible for development and future economics,” he says. “Ten times smaller is the key. But on the physics side, it still has to work, and one of the reasons we think our physics will work is that we’ve been able to make an inherently stable configuration.” One of the main reasons for this stability is the positioning of the superconductor coils and shape of the magnetic field lines. “In our case, it is always in balance. So if you have less pressure, the plasma will be smaller and will always sit in this magnetic well,” he notes.
These are nice claims, but the only measurable claim that I can see is they might be a smaller and more compact installation. They may actually be onto something, or they may not. What I do know is that there have been claims that a fusion breakthrough is just around the corner for a very time, and their caveats lead me to believe that much of they are implying a level of maturity:
With just such a “Holy Grail” breakthrough seemingly within its grasp, and to help achieve a potentially paradigm-shifting development in global energy, Lockheed has made public its project with the aim of attracting partners, resources and additional researchers.
When a fusion prototype exceeds break even to the degree that it can function as a power station, I'll find it worth my while to look at the relative virtues of different configurations.

Until that point, I will assume that fusion claims of this nature are humbug.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!! (On Sunday)

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

    1.  NBRS Financial, Rising, Sun, MD
    Full FDIC list

    It's the first bank failure in almost 3 months, much better than the peak in 2010.

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

    I'm Back!!!!

    I've missed something less than 10 days blogging since I started in 2007.

    This is the first time that I have taken 2 days off from blogging in a row.

    This was a good thing.

    My kids were helping with a haunted house with Open Space Arts, and Sharon* and I decided to make the most of it.

    We had a couple of romantic evenings, including going to the movies to see The Judge, which has amongst its stars Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, and Billy Bob Thornton, 3 actors for whom I would pay admission to hear them read a phone book.

    *Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.

    16 October 2014

    I am not as Thunk as you Drink

    Today is Simchat Torah, where Jews celebrate getting to the end of the Torah, and starting back at the beginning.

    Sharon will be my designated driver.

    Probably light posting this evening.

    Posted via mobile.

    15 October 2014

    The Banality of Evil at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

    The New York Times is reporting that Obama asked for a report from the CIA on the effectiveness of covert to rebels, and it revealed that it was an almost unbroken string of failure:
    The Central Intelligence Agency has run guns to insurgencies across the world during its 67-year history — from Angola to Nicaragua to Cuba. The continuing C.I.A. effort to train Syrian rebels is just the latest example of an American president becoming enticed by the prospect of using the spy agency to covertly arm and train rebel groups.

    An internal C.I.A. study has found that it rarely works.

    The still-classified review, one of several C.I.A. studies commissioned in 2012 and 2013 in the midst of the Obama administration’s protracted debate about whether to wade into the Syrian civil war, concluded that many past attempts by the agency to arm foreign forces covertly had a minimal impact on the long-term outcome of a conflict. They were even less effective, the report found, when the militias fought without any direct American support on the ground.


    But in April 2013, President Obama authorized the C.I.A. to begin a program to arm the rebels at a base in Jordan, and more recently the administration decided to expand the training mission with a larger parallel Pentagon program in Saudi Arabia to train “vetted” rebels to battle fighters of the Islamic State, with the aim of training approximately 5,000 rebel troops per year.
    George W. Bush was drooling idiot, and Richard Bruce Cheney is, well, Dick Cheney.  They don't know any any better.

    Barack Obama had doubts, and got research done, found out that it was a fool's errand, and then he went ahead and did it anyway.

    Barack Obama is in a very much a hostage of the inside the Beltway/Council on Foreign Relations bellicose consensus, which has led us to nothing but ruin since at least our little adventure in Indochina.

    What's more he is an enthusiastically willing hostage of this whole bomb/drone/invade everything and let God sort them out consensus, but he knows better.

    If he didn't he would not have called for the CIA study on backing insurgents.

    But he let loose the dogs of war, even though he knew better:
    What’s worse: Launching a disastrous military campaign under false pretenses to achieve goals you wrongly believe are attainable? Or launching a disastrous military campaign you know is doomed in order to help your party win an election?

    I ask in light of today’s New York Times story about how President Obama asked the CIA a while back whether arming rebel forces – pretty much the agency’s signature strategy — had ever worked in the past.

    He was told that it almost never has.

    But then in June, once the political pressure for intervention in Syria got too great, he did just that — sending weapons to rebels fighting the Syrian military.

    Yes: He knew better, but he did it anyway.


    As it happens, Syria is hardly the first or most significant place Obama has used his power as Commander-in-Chief in ways that get people slaughtered, even though he knew better, primarily for political purposes.

    Obama’s biggest such decision killed a lot of American servicemembers who he sent to fight and die in Afghanistan.
     During his 2008 presidential campaign, which was marked by his opposition to the war in Iraq, then-Senator Obama’s vow to re-engage in Afghanistan was seen by many as a ploy to avoid being cast as a dove, first by Hillary Clinton and then by John McCain.

    What’s not clear to this day is precisely when Obama knew better; when he realized that the war in Afghanistan was hopeless.

    By inauguration time, that conclusion seemed fairly obvious to many foreign-policy watchers. So why not him?

    But one month into his presidency, Obama announced he was sending more troops there – 30,000, as it would turn out. Despite the obvious lack of what he himself had frequently described as a must — an exit strategy – he increased the number of troops in Afghanistan by 50 percent. And the monthly death tolls shot up.

    Over 1,600 American servicemembers  have died in Afghanistan since the summer of 2009 — well over half of all the dead during the entire war – along with countless Afghans.

    There were public signs in November 2009 that Obama was “rethinking” his plan. David Sanger, in his book Confront and Conceal, wrote that Obama actually began a “reassessment of whether the war was as necessary as he first believed” even earlier, in the summer of 2009. (At an off-the-record June 2009 dinner with historians the “main point” his guests tried to make was “that pursuit of war in Afghanistan would be for him what Vietnam was to Lyndon Johnson,” Garry Wills wrote  later.)
    Unlike Dan Froomkin's analysis above, I am slightly more charitable.  I do not think that politics was the primary motivation.

    This is cowardice and hypocrisy, not the stupidity of Bush, or the violent delusions of Cheney.

    On a moral level, this is worse than Bush, because he has the tools to do the right thing, and he chooses not to use them.

    Not the Onion

    You can get a slightly translation in the subtitles
    A motorcycle gang from the Netherlands is going to Syria to fight ISIS:
    Already battling air strikes from the US and its allies, including the UK, terrorist organisation Isis (Islamic State) now have a new threat to look out for – a motorbike gang from the Netherlands.

    The Dutch bikers, who go by the name No Surrender, reportedly journeyed to Iraq to fight alongside Kurdish troops against IS militants last week.

    Charged with commenting on the legality of that move, the Dutch public prosecutor said that the bikers are not necessarily committing any crime.

    Prosecutor spokesman Wim de Bruin told AFP: "Joining a foreign armed force was previously punishable, now it's no longer forbidden."

    "You just can't join a fight against the Netherlands."
    If it weren't for the likelihood, that they are going to end up on the next ISIS beheading videos, the skills associated with being a bad-ass biker are not necessarily the same as those required for urban or desert warfare against a dedicated foe who is not constrained by the requirements of law enforcement in a western society.

    This is not going to end well.

    14 October 2014

    The Law Giveth, and the Law Taken Away

    An appellate court for the 5th Circuit has stayed a lower court ruling striking down the Texas voter suppression law:
    A federal appeals court said Tuesday that Texas can enforce its strong voter identification requirements in the November election, temporarily blocking a lower court’s ruling last week that the law was an unconstitutional effort to suppress the votes of blacks and Hispanics.

    The three-judge panel put off consideration of whether the lower-court decision, which condemned the law, should stand permanently. Rather, it said that with early voting starting on Oct. 20, a change in the rules could cause confusion among voters and poll workers, something the Supreme Court has sought to avoid in other cases.

    “Based primarily on the extremely fast-approaching election date, we stay the district court’s judgment pending appeal,” Judge Edith Brown Clement wrote on behalf of the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, based in New Orleans.
    This likely to disenfranchise about something around 600,000 otherwise legal voters.

    Needless to say, this sucks wet farts from dead pigeons.

    There is, however a bright side to the case as it has progressed so far:
    In a 147-page opinion issued Thursday, after a two-week trial, Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos had said the law “creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.” She noted the lack of evidence that voter fraud was a threat and cited expert testimony that about 600,000 Texans, mainly poor, black and Hispanic, lack the newly required IDs.

    Judge Ramos ruled that the law was adopted “with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.” If her finding of intentional discrimination is upheld, it could trigger new federal oversight of Texas election procedures, something the Justice Department is seeking.
    I would dearly love Texas back under DoJ pre-clearance.

    I am a Cynic

    I think that the Supreme Court issuing an injunction against the most egregious parts of the Texas anti-abortion laws is just a ploy to push the political effects until after the midterms:
    The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed more than a dozen Texas abortion clinics to reopen, blocking a state law that had imposed strict requirements on abortion providers. Had the law been allowed to stand, it would have caused all but eight of the state’s abortion clinics to close and would have required many women to travel more than 150 miles to the nearest abortion provider.

    The Supreme Court’s order — five sentences long and with no explanation of the justices’ reasoning — represents an interim step in a legal fight that is far from over. But abortion rights advocates welcomed what they said was the enormous practical impact of the move. Had the clinics been forced to remain closed while appeals went forward, they said, they might never have reopened.

    State officials said the law’s requirements were needed to protect women’s health. Abortion providers said the regulations were expensive, unnecessary and a ruse meant to put many of them out of business.
    This is just a temporary injunction, and I'm thinking that either Roberts or Kennedy (Scalia, Alito, and Thomas voted against) will flip once it is sufficiently removed from the midterm elections.

    Nope, No Voter Suppression Here ……… Move Along ………

    In Georgia, the New Georgia Project registered 80,000 new voters.

    After many months, 40,000 legal registrations have remained unprocessed by the Republican Secretary of State:
    Over the last few months, the group submitted some 80,000 voter registration forms to the Georgia secretary of state's office — but as of last week, about half those new registrants, more than 40,000 Georgians, were still not listed on preliminary voter rolls. And there is no public record of those 40,000-plus applications, according to State Representative Stacey Adams, a Democrat.

    Oh, yeah, did we mention: Georgia's Secretary of State Brain Kemp is a Republican.

    The secretary's office says they are not doing anything different than usual in processing the voter applications. These things take time, they say. (Apparently months and months of time — as that is how long some of those forms have been sitting with the state without being processed.)

    That's Kemp's story, and he's sticking to it … except this is also Kemp's story:

    In closing I just wanted to tell you real quick, after we get through this runoff, you know the Democrats are working hard, and all these stories about them, you know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that, they can win these elections in November. But we’ve got to do the exact same thing. I would encourage all of you, if you have an Android or an Apple device, to download that app, and maybe your goal is to register one new Republican voter.
    Kemp said that in July, and in September, Kemp announced he was launching a fraud investigation into the registration drive, though the secretary's office has not produced a reason as to why the state suspects fraud.


    Monday marked the beginning of early voting in a number of Georgia counties, making the case of the 40,000 missing voters all the more urgent.

    To that end, Third Sector Development announced yesterday that, after weeks of fruitless negotiations with the state, they were going to court to find out the status of the missing registrations — or, more to the point, the eligibility of more than 40,000 potential voters.
    And there was also the Republican State Senator who complained that Decalb County was making it too easy for people to register.

    I really hope that Georgia gigged like a frog in court, and possibly end up back under a DoJ pre-clearnace regime under what remains of the Voting Rights Act.

    Silly Rabbit, Stand Your Ground is for White Men!

    I'm, not a fan of "Stand Your Ground", or as I like to call them, "Make My Day" laws, but the determination of prosecutors to ensure that it only applies to white males is unseemly:
    Whitlee Jones screamed for help as her boyfriend pulled her down the street by her hair. Her weave fell from her head and onto the pavement.

    A neighbor heard Jones' cries and dialed 911 on that night in November 2012.

    But the scuffle ended before a North Charleston policeman arrived and asked Jones' boyfriend what happened. Eric Lee, 29, said their argument over a cellphone had never turned physical. The officer left.

    A short time later, Jones went back to the home where she lived with Lee. She planned to pack up and leave for good.

    But after Jones gathered her things, Lee stepped in front of her. Though authorities later contended that Lee didn't attack her, Jones said he shook her and blocked her way out, so she pulled a knife and stabbed him once. Lee died, and Jones was arrested for murder.

    Nearly two years later, a judge found earlier this month that Jones, now 25, had a right to kill Lee under the S.C. Protection of Persons and Property Act, which allows people in certain situations to use force when faced with serious injury. But to the 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office, Jones is not the kind of person legislators had in mind when they passed the "stand your ground" law in 2006. It does not apply to housemates in episodes of domestic violence, the prosecutors argued.
    Because, of course, a woman cannot be in fear for her life from an abusive partner.

    I'm thinking that the prosecutors would need to worry about getting whacked by their wives if they stopped beating them.