Monday, December 30, 2013

The Quenelle

Spurs guard Tony Parker apologized Monday after he drew criticism for a photograph depicting him flashing the “quenelle” gesture, a French hand signal that is said to represent a reverse Nazi salute. 
The five-time All-Star and longtime French basketball captain said in the statement that he was unaware of the gesture’s anti-Semitic implications when he was photographed doing the “quenelle” alongside controversial French comedian Dieudonn√© M’bala M’bala, who has been prosecuted and convicted on multiple occasions for anti-Semitic remarks in France.
I don't buy Parker's apology and I don't understand how stupid people can be. If you are going to give an arm salute like that, learn what it means.

Anti-semitism runs throughout European culture. Dieudonne is a practitioner of hate, and it makes him a living in France. He's far from being alone.

The Video Game Generation

Someone is mad that they didn't get their medal:
I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.
Anyone who equates their experience in life with those who actually go to war is a fool. Actors do it, politicians do it, and armchair warmongers do it, too. I thank God for the fact that I have never heard a shot fired in anger. There is nothing in the world worse than that.

The effort to award drone operators a medal of their own fell flat, chiefly because men and women who faced combat and privation while deployed rightly figured that someone far remote from the battlefield who slept in their own bed at night weren't the equivalent of those who slept within range of the enemy. This is not to say that the drone operators have not suffered--I'm sure that they have. But those who don't go to war aren't in the same league as those who do. It becomes a farce--does a person operating a drone live over a combat zone get a Purple Heart if they fall out of their chair trying to maneuver their aircraft out of harm's way when it takes fire? Where does it end?

Here's more of what Heather Linebaugh has to say:
I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from the mosque.
Which side were they on? If they weren't lawful combatants, then she is admitting a war crime took place because of the incompetence of the drone operator who killed these people. This is why the tactic has to end--it is too imprecise and creates a situation where the law of warfare comes down on the side of the civilians who are being killed. Linebaugh seems to have a great deal of sympathy for people who got killed because someone couldn't do their job properly and evaluate a threat. The people who suffer are the troops in harm's way who face retaliation. Do we hand out medals for that?

I oppose the use of drones for anything other than reconnaissance and a last-ditch defensive weapon. I think their use as indiscriminate killing machines across international borders is a mistake that will escalate the tactical need to hide among civilians to a much greater degree, further eliminating the line between combatants and non-combatants. But Linebaugh goes way too far with her commentary for the Guardian, trying to make herself the focus of the need to dramatically scale back the use of drones.

Now that we have canonized Edward Snowden, and made the traitor a hero, the rush to be the next Snowden begins with Linebaugh. Would you sell out your country in order to be a media darling? Linebaugh can't wait to tell you how bad it was for her and her colleagues. Good. It was bad for them. Why does that inspire them to be someone rather than do something? The video game generation has been told, again and again, how special and wonderful they are and how everyone deserves a reward for participating. When you transfer these ideas to the people asked to serve in the military, the lines are blurred and they end up being unable to put military service ahead of their own needs and feelings. This is how we end up with problems.

Imagine a survivor of Verdun, of whom there are now none left, being introduced to someone who can't handle their tenure as a drone operator. Both may suffer legitimate mental scars, but their variance couldn't be greater.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Things We Leave Behind

When we went to war with the Army we had, and not the one we desperately needed, billions were spent in a mad frenzy to get the troops a vehicle that would get the war off of the front pages. Turns out, we screwed the pooch coming and going:
Faced with an epidemic of deadly roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. military officials ordered up a fleet of V-hulled 16-ton armored behemoths in 2007 to help protect American soldiers and Marines.
At a cost of $1 million each, the ugly tan beasts known as MRAPS have saved countless lives and absorbed or deflected thousands of insurgent bomb blasts in teeming cities, desert flats and rutted mountain roadways. The lumbering vehicles are so beloved that soldiers have scrawled notes of thanks on their armor.
So why would the U.S. military suddenly start chopping up as many as 2,000 of the vehicles and selling them as scrap? After all, just six years have passed since high-tech MRAPs were developed and 27,000 of them cranked out and shipped in a $50-billion production blitz.
As it turns out, the Pentagon produced a glut of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks. The military brass has now calculated that it's not worth the cost of shipping home damaged, worn or excess MRAPs to bases already deemed oversupplied with the blast-deflecting vehicles.

All along the way, there is one fact that is evidence: we went to war without thinking of the logistics. We ended up fighting enemies who used hidden bombs to snipe at us and we insisted on "security operations" as a normal, day to day method of dealing with insurgency tactics. Instead of fighting a war we could win with what we had, we have abandoned thousands of expensive vehicles because the war we got was the one we couldn't win in the first place.

The next time someone starts talking about how we should bomb those people or invade that country, slap them really hard and point out the fact that, without logistics, we're not going anywhere.

Why Not Just Mail Them to Iran?

Stop the insanity:
Two years after bringing home U.S. troops from Iraq, the Obama administration is sending Hellfire rockets and ScanEagle surveillance drones to help government forces fight al Qaeda affiliates growing in influence, a State Department official confirmed to CNN on Thursday. 
As first reported by The New York Times, a shipment of 75 Hellfire rockets bought by Iraq arrived last week. Plans call for 10 ScanEagle drones to be sent in the early months of 2014. 
"The recent delivery of Hellfire missiles and an upcoming delivery of ScanEagles are standard FMS (foreign military sales) cases that we have with Iraq to strengthen their capabilities to combat this threat," the State Department official said on condition of not being identified. "We remain committed to supporting the government of Iraq in meeting its defense needs in the face of these challenges."
Each and every item transferred to the government of Iraq immediately becomes available to the government of Iran. There's no getting around that fact. So, my question is--why don't we just cut out the middleman and send this technology straight to the Iranian government? Why not just wrap a bow around them and send a mash note?

Did someone "promise" to use these weapons on terrorists, and terrorists only? If so they are a liar. These weapons become low-grade bargaining chips. Iraq will send these weapons to Iran; Iran will send them to Lebanon. Their use will touch off outrage. Who can't see that scenario coming?

This is how you spread stability throughout an unstable region? By upping the ante with weapons that can wipe out entire families by accident?

This is how you carry out internal security? By indiscriminately killing your own people with drones and Hellfire missiles? How is that supposed to stabilize Iraq when Iraq's government is really locked in a Shia vs Sunni conflict? Didn't anyone learn anything?

I mean, where's the common sense?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Until We Meet Again

So much for the comeback of America's hypocrite:
Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and his wife are ending their two-decade marriage. 
Spitzer and his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, issued a statement late Tuesday announcing the split. 
"We regret that our marital relationship has come to an end," the statement reads. 
The couple then said they will not address the subject further.
The subject won't come up again until Eliot Spitzer decides that he deserves the power being denied to him and that he should run for political office. He is addicted to the power and respectability that negates his inability to control his libido. They love this stuff in New York until they feel that someone is just not worth the time or effort. Spitzer doesn't strike the kind of fear that he used to. Without that juice, he's just another washed up old man who keeps trying to wear a hole in his pants.

Things Are Better Than We're Being Told

The recession hasn't ended for the under-employed and for the people who haven't gone back to work; we have seen far too many people drop out of the economy. And the reason why this is important is pretty basic--there's no incentive for anyone in business to hire people and pay them a living wage because there's no compelling government program to provide an incentive to engage in positive economic activity.

The goal should be 5% unemployment or less. Will we ever see that again?

If you doubled the tax credit for hiring a Veteran, would it matter? Probably, but there isn't anyone willing to go that far. If you made it cheaper for an employer who hires ten new workers in the coming year to cover their employees under the ACA, would it help? Good luck getting that through today's Congress. What about a comprehensive jobs program designed to reward companies that add new workers by July 1? Never going to happen.

Blaming this on the President ignores one simple truth--he cannot persuade crazy people to stop shooting themselves in the foot over and over again. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has a better chance at passing a dozen more attempts at repealing Obamacare or impeaching the President for Benghazi than it does a bill that would put a single American back to work. When the House is ruled by crazies, nothing happens. The mechanism is hopelessly jammed with careerism and hubris.

This obstructionist, economy-killing Congress is the problem. The media won't tell the story and the American people haven't figured it out yet. If the Congress took up a small business tax credit bill or pushed companies to hire workers and pay them a living wage, and if it rewarded them for doing the right thing, we might see an improvement. If we were to put a million people in this country back to work just this year, we would see the deficit go down even further and we would see some serious relief for state and local governments.

We are not being told what we need to know. What few improvements we've seen are happening in spite of the obstructionism of the Republican-controlled House. The deficit is falling. Obamacare is signing up thousands of people who never thought they would have a chance at health care insurance. The DOW is going through the roof.

We are not being told enough about the effects of putting people back to work. We are not being told why that isn't happening. We are not being told how the simple act of making the lives of people who live in the middle of this country better would resonate through the economy and confound the pervasive narrative that tells us that this is a failed President, that Benghazi is bigger than Watergate, and that Obamacare killed your grandma. It's all bullshit and it's all designed to get you to stop screaming about jobs, jobs, jobs. The American standard of living is under attack because no one wants to add a single job to the economy on purpose.

When you transition people from benefits to salaries, you provide a stimulus for economic growth. When you don't, things suck. Why isn't this story being told over and over again?

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Best Christmas Present

Today is the day when we rolled over 10,000 followers on Google+. I am humbled by this and astonished that we have broken through what seemed like an impossible ceiling. For months, it seemed like I was going to be stuck at a thousand or so followers or maybe even have to move on and do something else. Even though the count may fall back a little in the days ahead, or race out ahead of us, it's still worth noting that this has brought me tons of new readers and lots of great interaction. Hitting this milestone right before Christmas is a fantastic present. Thank you to everyone who has added me.

I still don't get why there's all this hate for Google+. Doesn't anyone know that you're supposed to share, interact, and engage?

We Need to Get Out of the Nation Building Business

I hate to throw cold water on all of this, but we really do need to get out of the nation building business, and fast.

No matter what happens in South Sudan, the inescapable fact is that the people of that country have to build their own nation. If they are plagued by lawlessness and predatory militia forces, then the young men of that country who want to build a nation have to go and fight the bad guys. I'm less against giving them guns, more against putting U.S. troops on the ground, but I can't help but point this out--introducing more guns into the region would further destabilize things.

This is not where we want to start pouring troops. Do we even have a Congress anymore? What possible input could the Congress we have right now provide? Next to nothing, I'm afraid.

Winter Driving

Several years ago, this is what happened to my Honda. I'm putting this up here because finding this old photo made my night.

Now, before anyone say anything, it was my fault. I was on the wrong street at the wrong time of morning. If the salt truck had been ahead of me and not behind me, slipping through the intersection and hitting the car in front of me probably wouldn't have happened. The cars ahead of me stopped after going down a hill (why they didn't keep going is another question) and I couldn't stop on the ice that morning. I paid for it and I still don't feel bad about it. No one was hurt, except the Honda. When they fixed it up, you couldn't tell it had been damaged.

I mention this because I've rejoined the Honda family. A certain amount of gratitude is in order because it was time to make a change in the transportation department. Let's hope this new one does not end up the same way. I love the idea of owning a Honda but, in practice, it has been a bit of a pain in the ass for me. The car pictured above was a 2009 Honda Accord, and it was a stick with cloth seats. Never again on that front.

Winter driving is a matter of judging when it is safe to be on the road and when you should go home and take a sick day. I should have taken the sick day.

Cracker Barrel is Immune to Boycotts

Cracker Barrel does not care if you hate them or if you boycott them. They don't care if there is any kind of backlash whatsoever. Their core market demographic? The people who buy Duck Dynasty crap:
Country store and restaurant Cracker Barrel filled display stands once more with "Duck Dynasty" merchandise on Sunday, only two days after removing the products in the wake of a cast member's anti-gay comments and his subsequent suspension from the A&E show.
"Dear Cracker Barrel Customer: When we made the decision to remove and evaluate certain Duck Dynasty items, we offended many of our loyal customers. Our intent was to avoid offending, but that’s just what we've done," a letter from Cracker Barrel posted on its website said.
Cracker Barrel announced on Friday in a Facebook post that stores stopped selling "Duck Dynasty" paraphernalia "which we were concerned might offend some of our guests while we evaluate the situation."

Nobody with class or dignity is going to go into a Cracker Barrel anyway. Enjoy the slop.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cocaine Use Never Impaired Trey Radel

Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., said Thursday he has no plans to resign from Congress after being arrested trying to purchase cocaine in October, and that it was his struggles with alcoholism that led him to use the drug.

"I love what I do and I'm going to return to what I do, what you sent me to do in Washington D.C., which is working for you and your family while I relish mine," Radel said in a press conference following his release from a Florida rehab center.

Radel said he has used cocaine only “a handful of times,” and insisted he was never impaired while voting or carrying out any of his other congressional responsibilities.

“Alcohol does not work for me… It led me down a path that that slowly and surely chipped away at my relationship with my wife, my child and God," Radel said. "And it led to really bad decisions, which put me here today."

Representative Trey Radel wants you to understand one thing--his drug use is perfectly normal and recreational but yours isn't so he won't resign from office because shut up that's why.

I get the gist of what he's saying--I'm better than you because it didn't impair me and I only did it a few times--but it should be noted that you can now do anything and not have to quit the House of Representatives. Mark Foley is probably howling over this, but who cares? It's the holidays and no one is paying attention.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Hating People is Un-American

The last time I checked, hating people was not a Christian or American attribute. The kinds of hate espoused by Phil Robertson are inherently un-American and go against the teachings of Jesus. Hating people puts you at odds with the Price of Peace.

Robertson and his ilk hide behind items found largely in the Old Testament. Where are his slaves? His extra wives? His sacrificial goats?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Slumlords and Urban Blight

There was a time when shaming people actually meant something:
“Most people just assumed that for somebody to go into some of the neighborhoods I spend a lot of time in, that I would be this large, burly, tough sort of man,” says Carol Ott. “Well, no, I’m just a 45-year-old mother of two who thinks that our city deserves a little bit better.” 
Ott is the person behind Baltimore Slumlord Watch, a website dedicated to documenting every abandoned property in Baltimore. She’s also the director of a new organization called Housing Policy Watch, which means that thinking about blight is Ott’s full-time job.
More here:

Dennis Rodman is a Useful Idiot

What a fiasco:
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea on Thursday, the country's state-run media reported.
Rodman was there for his latest round of controversial "basketball diplomacy" in a country ruled by one of the world's most repressive regimes.
The former player and a documentary crew were scheduled to spend four days helping to train a team of North Korean basketball players for a January exhibition in Pyongyang. 
That January 8 exhibition -- said to be against a yet-unannounced team of former NBA players -- will celebrate the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whom Rodman has called a friend and a "very good guy" despite international condemnation of the country's human rights records.
Dennis Rodman is not a traitor, however. A traitor is someone who has some merit or value to the state that they have betrayed. Rodman is a broke NBA player with child support issues. The North Koreans might very well be paying him--I don't know. All of that meth money has to go somewhere.

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise--he is dealing with psychopaths and a criminal element that has enslaved millions. The average North Korean will never see Rodman or get a change to talk about starvation and fear. He is very useful to the psychopath who holds the reins right now and, for that, Rodman is well qualified. He played a game run by psychopaths with psychopaths, but, at least in his day, they could hit the rim when shooting from 15 feet away.

Rupert Murdoch is a Monster

The scandal over phone hacking has exploded once again:
Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, had her cellphone voicemails hacked by staff members of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World while she was dating Prince William, a London court learned Thursday. 
The revelation marked the first time that a member of the British royal family has been hacked by the Murdoch media empire, which already has acknowledged tapping into phone calls of royal aides. 
On Thursday, a London jury heard transcripts of 2006 voicemails left for the former Kate Middleton by Prince William as they dated. In those intercepted messages, the future king of England called his sweetheart pet names like “baby” and “babykins” and recounted how he nearly got "shot" (with blanks) during a military training exercise, according to court reporting by Central News UK. 
“Hi baby, it’s me,” one message from the prince begins. William then details an evening navigation exercise at the Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, during which, he admits, he got “horribly lost.”
This is way, way different than listening in on the late Amy Winehouse and randy old Hugh Grant. That's because this young generation of royals have become incredibly popular, to the point where this assault on their privacy, no matter how many years old, should bring new scrutiny on the monstrous press operation of Rupert Murdoch. His underlings are in legal jeopardy. He sent his people out there to get whatever dirt they could and no one in the mid-2000s could have possibly guessed that Kate Middleton, a commoner, would become the iconic face of the scandal-plagued British royal family. The view from that point was that the royals were dysfunctional and fair game, worthy of the mockery that they had earned. One royal wedding and baby later, forget it. The brand is saved, and the next hundred years will be full of kings and affection.

Why isn't Murdoch being dragged before the British courts? Why haven't they regulated and shattered his businesses and brought the full weight of British law down upon him? He is revealed to be the monster he always was, flaunting decency and the law in favor of making money by trading in stolen information.

The Brits need to get rid of David Cameron and demand new laws governing the press. That's a no-brainer.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Obama is Not a Failed President

President Obama keeps being called a failed President, a lame duck, and just about anything else you could throw in there.

If his tenure as President is so awful, why is the Dow shooting past 16,000? This might not provide much of an indication, but it does seem to set on fire the idea that things are really all that bad.

How Dumb is Chris Cillizza?

We're already talking about 2014? Okay, then.

Chris Cilizza is dumb on purpose. How could he possibly know which ad is going to cause the country to send more obstructionist, crazy Tea Party Republicans to Congress? Cilizza forgets three things that negate everything he's saying.

One, we just saw what happens when you elect Republicans. The government shuts down and the economy takes a hit--all in the name of accomplishing nothing. Republicans cannot govern or lead. The American people have been made hip to this in ways which, demographically speaking, should spell disaster for the idea of accomplishing anything next year based on an ad. For the Republicans, they need a massive game changing event, not a marketing plan based on something as self-defeating as ending government spending.

Two, there was a thing called "You didn't build that" which should have ended the Obama presidency with the election of Mitt Romney. How'd that turn out?

Three, the American people actually like government spending. They like getting their Social Security and their other benefits. They have been manipulated into thinking that Democrats want to give everything away for nothing. As soon as you explain this to people, they tend to vote for the guy who makes it a part of his agenda to keep Grandma from eating catfood and moving back home.

How dumb can you get? Well, you can get Chris Cilizza kinda dumb, that's for sure.

End Credit Checks on Prospective Employees

Senator Elizabeth Warren is actually doing something on behalf of freedom and fairness--a rare novelty in a world where the only entities who get anything do so through cheating and bribery. This is what a Senator ought to be doing--standing up for working Americans by delivering a tangible protection of their privacy and freedom.

There definitely should be limits on the information that can be shared or divulged about people. The disappearance of privacy is a direct result of The Patriot Act and all of the nonsense that has gone into denying freedom to Americans solely to keep them from being attacked by terrorists. One of the fun things about The Patriot Act is that they decided to add in some bullshit about not being able to buy certain kinds of cold medicine because criminals were using it to make crystal meth.

Well, there's still no shortage of crystal meth, is there? But I'll be damned if I can get Sudafed when I need it. Thanks for what little freedom I can enjoy.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Andrew Sullivan Destroys Ron Fournier

Andrew Sullivan rips into Ron Fournier and leaves him with nothing to stand on. The payoff is right here:
And the truth is: nothing this president has done compares even faintly with the damage wrought by his predecessor. Bush exploded the deficit in a time of growth; Obama has cut it dramatically in a time of near-depression. Bush gave us two disastrous wars; Obama has largely ended both, and set in process diplomatic initiatives in Syria, Iran and Israel-Palestine that, if successful, can defuse potential new ones. Obama has tackled a huge domestic problem – the accessibility and cost of healthcare – which Bush allowed to fester and on which the current GOP has no policies except a return to the disastrous status quo ante. Bush initiated the first ever American-run program of torture of prisoners. Obama ended it. Bush presided over the worst breach of national security since Pearl Harbor. Obama killed Osama bin Laden and decimated his forces on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bush presided over the total collapse of the free market system in the US; Obama has painstakingly rebuilt it. 
If you exclude all this context and focus on superficial Washington games and tropes, you can maybe concoct a theory of the past five years that makes Fournier’s analysis seem plausible. It’s just that you have to erase the actual events from your brain and your memory.
Sullivan rightly exposes the "village mentality" that Fournier espouses. If Obama looks like a failure to the inside the beltway types who believe their own hype, he obviously has failed. The reality is vastly different when you've been paying attention.

Vitamins Are a Waste of Money

Somebody's $25 billion dollar industry is likely to get a lot smaller once people realize that they're throwing their money away on vitamins. This could send shockwaves through the retail world as well--entire sections of stores are planned around vitamin supplements and displays, to say nothing of the health food industry.

Taking vitamins is an ingrained habit that reinforces positive self-identity. Reversing this could take decades. Of course, once people hear something sponsored by the vitamin industry to counteract this assault, well. You'll be living in a world full of confusion and plastic bottles.

Which Police State Do You Live In?

Do you remember voting for this? 

Each and every time you voted since 2001, did you vote specifically for a candidate who would dismantle the Patriot Act? Did you vote in your local elections for a city or county government dedicated to controlling the militarization of the police? Did you sign up for Facebook years ago and forget to read the fine print? Too late now.

The police state arrived while no one was paying attention. Each and every time one of us steps into the world, we are under surveillance. We are being watched on our phones, our computers, and when we drive a car with a GPS device in it. We are being watched by cameras and readers and when we drive into urban areas, we are being watched at an unprecedented rate. When we buy things, we're being tallied and sold off to third party advertisers. Everything we do is under the watchful eye of a cop or a seller or a bureaucrat. So, you can crap yourself and stop living your life or go have a blast and say fuck it all anyway. 

Live weird. Confuse them. Buy things you throw away. Eat crap. Sing and dance like no one is recording. Breathe and enjoy this life.

You see, all is well.
A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records violates the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches, but put his decision on hold pending a near-certain government appeal. 
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon granted a preliminary injunction sought by plaintiffs Larry Klayman and Charles Strange, concluding they were likely to prevail in their constitutional challenge. 
Leon, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, ruled Monday that the two men are likely to be able to show that their privacy interests outweigh the government's interest in collecting the data. Leon says that means that massive collection program is an unreasonable search under the Constitution's Fourth Amendment.
You don't have anything to worry about.
The Metropolitan Police Department is collecting images of license plates by the millions and storing them in a massive database with no regard to whether or not that person is under suspicion of anything, according to WAMU. 
WAMU's Martin Austermuhle reports that D.C. police cars which are equipped with Automatic License Plate Readers have collected more than 150 million images of license plates through this past September. 
They're generally used to match up the license plates with a list of vehicles that are known to be stolen and keeping tabs on high-crime areas, police officials tell WAMU, but civil liberties advocates believe that they can be used to track people who have done no wrong.
As described in "How we use the information we receive" we also put together data from the information we already have about you, your friends, and others, so we can offer and suggest a variety of services and features. For example, we may make friend suggestions, pick stories for your News Feed, or suggest people to tag in photos. We may put together your current city with GPS and other location information we have about you to, for example, tell you and your friends about people or events nearby, or offer deals to you in which you might be interested. We may also put together data about you to serve you ads or other content that might be more relevant to you. 
When we get your GPS location, we put it together with other location information we have about you (like your current city). But we only keep it until it is no longer useful to provide you services, like keeping your last GPS coordinates to send you relevant notifications. 
We only provide data to our advertising partners or customers after we have removed your name and any other personally identifying information from it, or have combined it with other people's data in a way that it no longer personally identifies you.
We are already living in a surveillance state that is driven by paranoia and marketing. The only real difference here is that the Federal agency, which is part of the Department of Defense, that everyone is scared of is actually under far more rigorous oversight than your local cop shop or Facebook. But don't let that get in the way of being terrified. Everyone needs a bogeyman, and now that Osama is dead, why not use whatever is left over?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ed Schultz is a Powerless Hypocrite

The public meltdown of MSNBC host Ed Schultz has played out exactly the way I thought it would--stung by criticism, Schultz reveals that he has no power whatsoever to actually pressure the people who pay him lots of money to create mediocre television:
To rebut criticism over sums paid by unions to advertise on his show, Schultz — after saying it was a “rather awkward thing for me to do, because it sounds rather grandiose” — ran through a list of donations he’d made to charity. Schultz said his the donations or commitments added up to $343,000. He told listeners he would not apologize for making “a hell of a lot of money,” and that “anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I – I show pictures of my airplanes.” He added, “Back when I was in the middle class, I owned a 172.” 
“There’s all kinds of envy out there on the left,” said Schultz. “I’m still there … Don’t be deterred by all of these people that are printing stuff that is flat-out lies.” He told listeners, “Well, now I’m a 59- year-old one-percenter. I’m not gonna hide it.” 
A self-identified conservative radio host called in to defend Schultz taking advertising dollars from unions on the grounds that “you endorse products” and “this is absolutely no different from that … All you’ve got to do is say, ‘Of course I advertise for these guys, I agree with them.” Schultz responded, “Well, that’s the best tip I’ve ever had from a righty … There is no question about it: they’re buying the audience.” 
Later in the show, when a caller referenced Schultz “talking about some other shmegegi[Yiddish for a fool] that was attacking you,” Schultz promised a different tack: “You’ll never hear their names mentioned again. Never. That was my mistake by ever just acknowledging that they breathe air.” (Full disclosure: I’ve appeared once on Schultz’s MSNBC show and a couple times, with a guest host, on his radio show.) When a Twitter user suggested that meant Schultz had “lost it,” Schultz shot back with two tweets during the show. First, “I refuse to waste my time on misinformation and lies..” Then, “is it fair to put up with lies and misinformation?”
Alec Baldwin gave a lot of money to charity as well and it didn't help him keep his gig, either. So what?
This is what it looks like when someone has a public meltdown. They find common cause with a political opponent and ratchet down the crazy. Schultz is crying out that he's the aggrieved party. That's wrong. The people who are aggrieved work for MSNBC and they work for a union. Schultz is too terrified of his employers, who have a long, proud history of punishing him, to say anything to support them.
Nobody envies his wealth; they abhor his inability to see that his wealth could be put to better use helping people to earn a decent living. Schultz doesn't understand the basic maxim of being classy about being successful--kiss down, kick up. Anything else is letting your ego get in the way of taking care of the people who make it possible to be wealthy in the first place. It's very telling that he uses the language of dehumanizing people who disagree with him. His statement that he shouldn't acknowledge that they breathe air is an indication that his anger has risen to the point where he wants them to stop breathing and not exist. This is a man who can't control himself when he's criticized. In other words, he's the classic hypocrite who enjoys screaming at others while he dabs his ample chin with the fine cloth of a privileged man.
I agree with Schultz on political manners more often than not. But that doesn't mean that his peculiar brand of hypocrisy shouldn't be called out, especially when it comes to supporting unions and supporting the rights of workers, which he has tried to tout again and again as what sets him apart from other opinion broadcasters. Now he has, to a large extent, been put through the wringer because he has no power to pressure his employers to deal fairly and honestly with the union employees who work for the same company that he works for. He cannot show solidarity with them--he'll be fired. 
So, like a cowed and beaten man who fears the loss of his extravagant "one percenter" lifestyle, he shuts his mouth when union workers need the support of his voice. If that's not being a hypocrite--if that's not the very face of being utterly classless and cheap about what constitutes standing for something--then what the hell does the word even mean anymore?

China Owns the Moon

I don't know if the Jade Rabbit is going to paint a red star on the visible face of the moon large enough for everyone to see, but I do know this--America needs to send a rover-eating machine five times bigger than this thing and crush it to pieces. American exceptionalism cannot tolerate a world where the Chinese take possession of the moon and begin extracting moon rocks.

America is home to the most valuable moon rocks. Ours are going to be worthless if the Chinese begin sending them back to Earth by the bucket load. If you think Bitcoins are the wave of the future, think again. Our new currency should be moon rocks. American moon rocks and nothing more, platinum be damned.

Patch Couldn't Survive Tim Armstrong

David Carr says that, despite all of the bluster, Patch is all but dead.

What started out as a noble experiment ends up being a cautionary tale for trying to do something--anything--at the local level with respect to news and reporting. There are whole communities that are simply not served by newspapers and media outlets. Patch was supposed to localize and serve. Instead, it drained money from a company that still collects America Online fees from the credit cards of Americans who haven't figured out that they don't have to pay for AOL. Very sad.

Tim Armstrong is the worst CEO in America.

Peter O'Toole 1932-2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Fake and a Fraud

There is no saga here--nothing to laugh at. An extremely dangerous and unstable individual with a background straight out of a horror movie was allowed within mere feet of numerous world leaders, including the President of the United States. And while this may be more of an embarrassment for South Africa than anyone else, someone at the Secret Service failed to review the background of this man.

Will anyone be fired? Probably not. This is the post-accountability age. Kenan Thompson will probably get the call to portray Jantjie before too long. In actuality, this really isn't funny.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Megyn Kelly and the Fox News Brand

You can and you should read this article as a mash note to Fox News and their attempt to rebrand themselves. It fairly reeks of bias and favoritism, presenting Kelly as a "supermodel" who is "responsibly" leading the charge against the Affordable Care Act (which is working, thank you very much).

The network, long defined by the flickering image of an overweight white male who spews lies and garbage (but not Santa Claus, of course), has figured out that it can win by pushing Megyn Kelly out there as a figure that will make it harder to show how the network has embraced race baiting and hating anything about government that succeeds. A key component of that is to separate her from the "opinion" hosts and set her apart so that she can succeed with a gentler brand of racism. Her gender, and her appearance, are all that matters:
“It’s like working on a supermodel every day — a brilliant supermodel,” says makeup artist Maureen Walsh, as she air-brushes Kelly’s skin from milky white to Technicolor. 
The small makeup room is hot from the blow dryer. Pen in hand, Kelly, a former corporate lawyer, reads an article headlined “For Democrats in 2014, the Web site is still the problem,” her eyes zipping over text as Maureen smudges heavy plum-colored eye shadow on her lids. 
Kelly asks a nearby hairstylist to dial a phone number. “So you see Greta’s lead?” she says into the phone, her eyes on a muted TV. Greta Van Susteren’s topic is, whose botched rollout has coincided with Kelly’s prime-time debut. Later that evening, in the third hour of Fox’s extended prime-time lineup, “The Kelly File” will lead with the headline it has flashed almost every night for the past two weeks: “OBAMACARE FALLOUT.” 
In its first 30 seconds the show will quote Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.): “I think the current administration has taken lying to a new level.” 
Her in-person guest Andrew Napolitano, Fox’s senior judicial analyst, will ask rhetorically: Could the president’s implementation of the law “lead to impeachment?”
This is a fluff piece from the Style section of the Washington Post, but it might as well read as a paid piece of advertising. Where is that specific disclosure? Who insisted on allowing Fox News to be able to present itself in such a positive light? Who is the editor who allowed it to land with such a heavy thud? It is heavy on inside baseball politics and overloads on FAIL. As of yesterday, this article has already been overtaken by events. It doesn't even begin to deal with the fact that the Republican strategy of opposing Obamacare has failed and likely won't win them any votes. And these people certainly don't want you to know that their efforts may be responsible for the fact that far too many Americans have been scared away from signing up for Obamacare and are losing money each day because of that.

Which doesn't change the fact that the Washington Post is absolutely guilty of allowing a news organization to carefully cultivate Kelly as the future personality of a brand that doesn't even pretend to be tolerant of women and their issues. Obamacare is a women's issue--millions of women now have access to health care and contraception care at an affordable rate. You wouldn't know that because, well, I'll let the article explain it to you better than I could:
This is Megyn Kelly, responsibly and aggressively covering the nation’s biggest ongoing news story.
Except for the fact that Obamacare is working, and that Kelly is merely the face of an operation dedicated to lying, and that nobody cares anymore, sure. That's all true.

Someone needs to express some embarrassment over the bias and the tone of this piece before the day is out. Wow.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Todd Starnes Writes the Same Story Over and Over Again

Todd Starnes writes an annual "war on Christmas" story and the military obliges him with plenty of examples as to why he needs to be the guy to write this story for Fox News. Every ginned up controversy needs a useful idiot, so why not go with Starnes? He doesn't understand the military or good order and discipline, so, victory, I guess.

You see, the military, which reflects American society, is made up of people who prefer diversity to fundamentalism. The rules actually specify that you can't marginalize or denigrate others and if they complain, you have to respond and try to make things better. Not perfect, just better. The military is made up of people who know what freedom is as opposed to what freedom should be marketed as in order to keep the hits a'comin' on the Fox News website.

Here's Starnes a year ago:

That's the same damned story! How'd he do that?

Not to be outdone, there are other people who want to get in on the phony outrage action:

And then there are people who want to dress up and carry around a fake plastic baby Jesus:

The war on Christmas is a phony, made-up thing and Todd Starnes is making hay from it because he can always count on people to not pay attention to the fact that military bases tend to operate as tolerant, law-abiding places:
“Upon further review, the CRP (Command Religious Program) will be removing the Living Nativity Program from the general base secular holiday festivities and co-locating it more appropriately with some of our other private religious and faith-based observances at the chapel at a separate time,” the Inspector General’s office stated, according to MAAF.
Yes--the religious program that is already a part of the command on the military post are simply going to respect the wishes of others and move the nativity scene to a more appropriate venue--the chapel that is located on the military post. Imagine that.

No one is tearing baby Jesus apart. Nobody's Chaplain is being dragged before an Article 32 hearing. No one is setting fire to the rain or the nativity--they're just acknowledging that people don't want to deal with it and they're moving it to a better location in order to demonstrate respect for others and good order and discipline. Damn, son. Any more of that and we'll see the whole world turned upside down.

In the world where Todd Starnes live, anyone in the military who respects the beliefs and practices of others is weak. In point of fact, they are stronger by country mile just by showing tolerance and acceptance.

The Center of Attention

Welcome to the theater of the absurd.

They brought out a man to translate the ceremony for Nelson Mandela's memorial service and he turned out to be an attention starved incompetent. If you are trying to coordinate such an important event, one of the recurring nightmares is to end up with a clown who can't actually do proper sign language. The temptation of being able to stand there and have people treat him with respect must have been too much.

This will be done to death by Saturday Night Live.

Let's Shake Hands

Another day, another right wing freakout.

Celebrating Dumbassery

I'm sorry, but this happened because of sheer dumbassery:
In a search involving 200 people, rescuers finally located the family on Tuesday after they had gone missing two days earlier during a playful outing in the snow in mountainous northwest Nevada.
This playful outing involved going into a remote area and joyriding. With children, four of them, in a Jeep. Why were they doing this and why isn't anyone else a little more critical of their choices? Why does the article here gloss over why they were in the mountains and focus on the fact that they were found because of a great deal of hard work undertaken by a number of people who risked their own lives?

Grow the hell up. Respect the climate and the geography where you live. And try to remember that a Jeep does not give you a license to fly across valleys and jump mountains and live life like a Mountain Dew commercial.

It's good that everyone was found. I'm sure it was a traumatic event. But it was avoidable. Don't go joyriding on mountain roads during a deep freeze. Watch a weather forecast. Leave the kids out of your plans to go muddin'. And keep some better winter weather emergency supplies in your damned Jeep.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

These Kids Are Alright

The Kids in the Hall have come back together in order to make comedy. There does not have to be any other reason than that for them to entertain people and remind everyone just how good they were back in the 1990s. Every lame comedy troupe since then owes the kids everything.

As for how they have aged, come on, man. None of us are aging well. We need chemicals and implants to survive in these harsh times. Let it go.

John McCain Went There

I will bet you a dollar John McCain doesn't even bother to acknowledge that he has made an unhinged, comically inept comment about Raul Castro and President Barack Obama. This is how the right wing machine operates--McCain says something full of hate and bile, the media invites him on their Sunday morning shows to talk about it, and no one remembers what a crass version of a U.S. Senator he has become.

In order to have credibility in a discussion about world affairs, you'd think that avoiding the comparisons to Chamberlain and Hitler would show a mark of sophistication and an appreciation for diplomacy. McCain is certainly welcome to an opinion that shows that he would like the president to ignore Castro and pass on the chance to open Cuba to American tourism and trade. I have a sneaky suspicion that this will be one of Obama's last acts--to open Cuba and tell the rabid Cuban-American community to go pound sand after Marco Rubio is safely out of the 2016 presidential race.

McCain's comments are the standard now--you can say anything about anyone and people will just shrug and act like nothing happened. There are no standards. Just bile and viciousness, even on the day when we're paying tribute to someone who the right wing in this country hated precisely because he was a man of forgiveness and charity.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Worst NFL Franchise Ever

The team that plays in Washington D.C. and enjoys elite status as a billion dollar NFL franchise? It's the worst ever.

It was Daniel Snyder's idea to fire the last coach--and the five or six coaches before that--and bring in the Shanahans. It was an idea and a move entirely his own. And now what?

The new coach of the team will be Lane Kiffin. If not Kiffin, then someone else will parachute in and sign a deal worth millions. This will lead to losses, griping, failure and high draft picks that won't pan out. A lot of NFL players base their career moves on arriving in Washington just so they can get paid and do nothing.

Worst franchise ever.

Keeping James Lileks Has Not Worked Out For the Star Tribune

James Lileks is the painfully unfunny "columnist" who should have been released from his contract at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune a decade ago. I mean, he is really, really horrible to have to read. I don't know if you can even chew through what he wrote above and yeah, it's. Wow. Leaves you without the strength to continue, doesn't it?

At this point, if you're making hay with the snot jokes as a Minnesotan, well. More power to you. Every nickel they are paying Lileks is money well spent for...for?

Again. I don't have the words. Or the strength to continue.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

They Are All Racists

There are no words for how ugly--and un-American--these people have gotten.

All Native American teams and mascots need to go away. Even the ones that aren't racist. That's because people are just too fucking stupid to handle life in modern society.

Ukraine Turns to the West

There are a number of things happening in Eastern Europe right now. Ukraine is trying to align itself with the euro countries and turn its back on Russia, which is a smart thing for economic reasons but a dangerous thing for political reasons. There is no desire to see Russia become "Russia" again and no one much likes to live under Putin's heel.

Russia needs Ukraine as a cheap and friendly conduit for energy products. The more favorable the Ukrainians are, the cheaper it is for Russia to export critical things like natural gas to Europe. The problem is, Ukrainians hate their combined history with Russia and politicians who downplay such things run the risk of being consumed by the corruption that Russia is using to buy favors.

My first reaction to this was, why is there still a statue of Lenin in Kiev?

Mercilessly Mocking Nikki Finke

More of this, please.

Nikki Finke can't understand why people don't just praise her for all she does. Anyone who doesn't fall down at her feet and acquiesce to her abuse must hate the human experience. Or something along those lines.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Rick Scott Has No Idea How to Create Jobs

Today, two major newspapers tore Rick Scott to pieces over his inability to create jobs: The Herald and the Times examined some 342 job-creation deals (handouts, if you prefer) that involve various tax breaks since Scott took office just two years ago.

Here are the key things to know about Scott and his promise to create jobs:
• Of the jobs Scott can influence most, only a fraction now exist. Scott has pledged $266 million in tax breaks and other incentives in return for 45,258 new jobs. But 96 percent of the jobs have yet to materialize, according to state data. 
• The total number of new jobs Scott ultimately might deliver doesn’t offset the jobs lost at companies with more than 100 workers in the same time period. Between January 2011 and November 2013, large Florida employers reported 49,163 layoffs, according to federal data.
• Nearly 14 percent of Scott’s deals — 46 in all — have collapsed for various reasons, the state says, and more projects are dormant.
• Florida offers tax breaks in most cases only when a company creates the jobs it promised, and $45 million sits idle waiting to be claimed by companies that have not yet reached hiring goals.
• The jobs outlook isn’t better in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where Scott inked deals to create 5,456 jobs in exchange for $25.2 million tax incentives and breaks. Jobs created to date: 61.

Read more here:
Florida, if you give this man anything other than a kick in the ass and an unemployment slip of his own, you deserve everything he inflicts upon you.

Tax cuts don't create jobs without some sort of mechanism on the other side that, you know, requires companies to actually hire people and put them to work. The business community in Florida has to be so thrilled with the idea of another term with Rick Scott running things that I would be willing to bet you that they are going to start giving him paper sacks full of cash to stay in office.

Get Back to Work

Just once, I'd like to see us add a half a million jobs to this economy for three or four straight months:
U.S. employers hired more workers than expected in November and the jobless rate hit a five-year low of 7.0 percent, raising chances the Federal Reserve could start ratcheting back its bond-buying stimulus as soon as this month. 
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 203,000 new jobs last month, following a similarly robust rise in October, the Labor Department said on Friday. The report, which showed broad gains in employment and a rise in hourly earnings, suggested strength in the economy heading into year-end. 
"It will add further confidence to the Fed of a reduced need for monetary stimulus in the U.S. economy. We now see the bias shifting in favor of a January tapering announcement," said Millan Mulraine, senior economist at TD Securities in New York.

The unemployment rate dropped three tenths of a percentage point to its lowest level since November 2008 as some federal employees who were counted as jobless in October returned to work after a 16-day partial shutdown of the government.
We need a hiring boom in this country. We need to get people back to work. Even though unemployment is at 7%, that's still awful for too many people.

The World is Full of Weirdos

How do you react to this image? I looked at it and went...what?

This is an image that was posted on Google+ and it purports to show a "homeless" puppy basking by a fire. Who set the fire? Why isn't someone doing something to keep the puppy safe? Is it really a smart idea to set the goddamned woods on fire and warm up the puppy in this manner?

I mean, what the hell is this?


I Disagree With This

I think that we should honor Nelson Mandela and I think it is more than appropriate to remember how Ronald Reagan and Dick Cheney (and most conservatives) were absolutely wrong about him. But this is wrong:
Word of Nelson Mandela's death spread quickly across the United States, bringing with it a mix of reverence and grief for a man who was born in South Africa but in the end belonged to the world. 
President Barack Obama ordered American flags to be lowered immediately to half-staff until Monday in tribute to Mandela, a rare honor for a foreign leader.
We lower the flag often enough as it is. But, to do so for someone who is not an American is inappropriate. This is now a question of Federalism--will the various states comply with this or will there be holdouts in the South?

And there will be the inevitable comparisons to Margaret Thatcher. Ask the Scots how they felt about that.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

There Will Always Be a Lawsuit

Lawsuits are the American way of life. You just know that there will be one, if not twenty, lawsuits in the wake of the death of Paul Walker. I'm not sure how far you're going to get by suing the maker of a car like the Porsche. Lawsuits are vastly different in Germany. Basically, the German legal mind would look at what happened and say, "if the car was mechanically sound, you can't sue because you did it to yourself."

I don't know if that will work but this was a car that had six different owners. Are they all liable for any modifications to the car?

Glenn Garvin and a Double Standard That Does Not Exist

Alec Baldwin-fired.

Martin Bashir-resigned.

Rush Limbaugh-gainfully employed.

Someone should point this out to Glenn Garvin, and call him out for his inability to know the difference between accountability and a double standard.