Saturday, June 29, 2013

Who Are These People?

I'm beginning to think that all of the events surrounding Edward Snowden are a magical laugh factory designed to entertain us with absurd jokes:
The proposal was laid out in a letter, dated Thursday and obtained Friday by CNN's "Amanpour," addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and written by Bruce Fein, a Washington-based lawyer for Snowden's father, Lonnie G. Snowden. 
It demands that the former National Security Agency computer contractor who exposed details about U.S. surveillance programs remain free prior to trial; not be subject to a gag order; and be tried in a place of his choosing. 
It further demands that, if any of those promises is broken, the prosecution would be dismissed.

Let's say that it was China from which Snowden had stolen classified information. Let's say that Snowden lied to the Chinese government, used a security clearance that they gave him, and then coordinated his efforts with foreign journalists to expose what the Chinese government was doing to its people.

Now imagine Snowden's daddy telling the Chinese exactly what conditions are permissible for him to go back to China and undergo a trial.

Let that sink in for a moment. Snowden's father thinks his son will come back to America if everyone just forgets what he did because, you know, stuff and all that. Jeeeeeeeee-zus.

These people are nuts. I don't know who's crazier--Snowden, Greenwald, the ballerina girlfriend, Crazy Uncle Liberty, Julian Assange, the people defending Snowden, his daddy--they're all crazy. I mean, what the hell is going on here?

At first I thought Snowden was merely someone trying to be someone rather than actually do something; now I think he's just some idiot, running around and pretending he knows where the Holy Grail is hidden.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Nobody Who Understands Racism Should Feel Sorry For Paula Deen

Pitying Paula Deen is misguided and foolish. How can you feel sorry for a woman with multi-million dollar endorsement deals with retailers who routinely prey on the poor? How can you feel sorry for a woman who peddled "southern cuisine" and high sugar recipes while endorsing a diabetes drug? How can you feel a shred of anything for a woman who kept her own diabetes a secret while selling exactly the kinds of foods that create diabetic comas?

Racism is toxic in this country, and it should remain toxic and it should end careers and break multi-million dollar fortunes. In the case of Deen, everything that is happening to her is as it should be. Her ability to make money sickening others has been greatly reduced and her endorsement deals are crashing all around her. Nobody making the kind of money that she was making ever puts enough of it away and so now she'll have to adjust her lifestyle and live like other Americans. This is not about hating the rich. It is about making certain that you can't get rich from hating people.

Censorship and Information

There is no good reason for the Army to censor the Guardian newspaper. All they are doing is increasing the impact of the story and attracting more attention to the issues surrounding the disclosures made by Edward Snowden. This is a stupid move and not only because people are getting their information from handheld devices that cannot be censored--but, maybe, precisely because of it.

When you think about how information savvy people are getting their own personally selected and filtered version of the news, there's no reason to deny access to a newspaper website. The Army can survive non-soldiers like Major Nidal Hasan and Bradley Manning and never-got-out-of-training types like Snowden because it is a dynamic institution that reflects American society.

I am of the opinion that Snowden and his disclosure was an inherently criminal and anti-American act based on Snowden wanting to be somebody rather than do something. His childish libertarianism is the best indicator of a mind focused on the self and not on anything related to a greater good. He lied to get access to classified information and then he went to Hong Kong and played into the hands of the Chinese government. Now he is flirting with the Russians, who live under the yoke of a totalitarian dictator who hides behind his fixed ballot boxes. Putin and the rest of them are loving their chance to tweak America.

How does that advance the cause of privacy?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

James Taranto is a Rape Apologist

Claire McCaskill has decided to punch downwards and smash the nuts of Wall Street Journal hack James Taranto.

Here's the gist of what she said:
It’s notable that Mr. Taranto spends little time discussing the actions of Lt. General Susan Helms—the commander in question, whose lifetime of service to the U.S. Air Force is worthy of our gratitude and appreciation. Instead, he re-litigates the facts of a case he didn’t witness, comparing the recklessness of sending a text message or having a drink, to the “recklessness” involved in sexually assaulting another person. 
Ultimately, in the sexual assault case he references against Capt. Matthew Herrera, the task of examining the evidence and hearing the witnesses’ testimony doesn’t belong to columnists or elected officials—it belonged to a judge and a jury—two words that you won’t find in Mr. Taranto’s piece… 
Mr. Taranto says that I’m involved in a crusade to “criminalize male sexuality.” For decades, from my time as a courtroom prosecutor and throughout my career in public service, I have indeed done my best to criminalize violence. And I have never subscribed to Mr. Taranto’s bizarre and deeply out of touch understanding of sexual assault as somehow being a two-way street between a victim and an assailant.
The rule of law means nothing to people who are convinced--in their abundant gut--that being an asshole about everything is their God-given right. Taranto is a good example of what being an asshole will turn you into right in front of everyone else--a rolling joke who has been handed way, way too much real estate on which to print his garbage. The mere fact that he would apologize or defend rape would normally get a person fired if they weren't already the courtiers to an elite that doesn't care what the common people do to one another.

There is no meritocracy among pundits. 

Never Say You Are Sorry

Sean Parker has written an account of the controversy over his wedding that runs around 9,600 words and no where does the word "sorry" appear.

And why should it? Don't like what he did? Go fuck yourself. He has the money and you do not. The law belongs to the rich. The article is exhaustive and comprehensive and delivers a single message to anyone and everyone who might have a problem with anything Parker did: go fuck yourself. And, by the way, he has a slew of public officials lined up who have been bought off so that he can specifically instruct you to go fuck yourself.

Seriously. This level of elitist delusion and crass hubris is the classic example of how a white person's problem has manifested itself into the perfect symbol of this gilded age of ours. If you have money, you spend it specifically in order to make your own reality because go fuck yourself, that's why.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

CNN and the Power of a Bad Idea

CNN is so desperate for ratings that it will try anything to get people to consume their version of the news
An institution is coming back to CNN.
“Crossfire,” the long-running political debate show that aired on CNN from 1982-2005, is getting a reboot, the news network announced Wednesday. Four new hosts – two on the left, and two on the right - will debut the program this fall. 
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who made a bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, will host on the right alongside S.E. Cupp, the conservative columnist who currently co-anchors “The Cycle,” a television program on MSNBC.
On the left, President Barack Obama’s former deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter will host next to Van Jones, another former Obama adviser who later founded Rebuild the Dream, a group that fosters innovative economic policy.
Nice work if you can get it, but let's be honest about one thing--CNN is not a destination channel for anything resembling entertainment or information. When bad things happen, people go to CNN for news coverage. When there are other programming choices, people run screaming from news and information unless it appeals to their base instincts. Fox is successful because it reinforces hatred for others and tribal instincts. CNN's tribe is the world, and it is too bland.

Putting Newt Gingrinch and S.E. Cupp on television and hoping this will appeal to Americans is like thinking you can get rich changing a dollar into four quartersl. Cupp is great on television, lousy when it comes to having good ideas, and will do nothing to advance actual discourse (but maybe that's never been the plan for the Crossfire reboot). And the American people spoke loudly and honestly when they refused to stop laughing their asses off at the mere idea of a Gingrich presidency. I don't think anyone knows who Stephanie Cutter is and I don't think they'll get past the fact that Van Jones wasn't able to serve in the Obama Administration for the simple crime of being a 9/11 truther.

Really? These are the people who are going to save CNN by talking past one another?

Unless you're going to put up shows where someone might throw out the Ni-clang! word or set fire to the set and run around Lord of the Flies-style, who the hell is going to bother watching? Again, no one watches CNN unless something bad happens. Crossfire, being a bad thing that will happen on a daily basis, isn't newsworthy nor will it be entertaining. It will be point-counterpoint-blowjobs-Katrina-deficit-zinger!

UPDATE: In December 2008, CNN slashed the entire science unit from programming, and this did not lead to anything more than the continual dumbing down of what it puts on television.

Julia Gillard Resigns

Kevin Rudd has seized control of the Australian government and can now call himself the leader of the Labor Party. This effectively ends the tenure of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister and perhaps her career.

Australian politics are extremely poisonous right now, giving little hope for anyone who might want to see what Gillard could have accomplished. Here's a photo of Gillard knitting, and it caused people to lose their mud:

Here's what the reaction was like:
The photoshoot depicts the prime minister in an armchair, surrounded
by balls of wool, with her dog Reuben at her feet
The pictures have sparked controversy in parts of the Australian
media, who have called it "contrived" and "remarkable". Commentators
have pointed out that Gillard has traditionally rejected feminine
News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt said Gillard was "giving
encouragement to young female politicians by plying a hobby now
synonymous with mad old aunts."
 Nationals Senator Fiona Nash told Fairfax it looked like "a bit of a stunt" that showed "a lack of connection" with the Australian public. While senior Liberal Christopher Pyne said to reporters in Canberra: "We know the prime minister is good at spinning a yarn, now we have a picture to prove it."
Gillard has previously been criticised for her perceived lack of
homemaking instincts. In 2005 much was made of a photograph in hersparse-looking kitchen with an empty fruit bowl on the table.
Defenders have pointed out that the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, is
routinely photographed taking part in his hobbies such as cycling and
working with his local surf club.
In an accompanying interview feature published online Gillard spoke on
a range of issues, including her career legacy, family, September's
federal election and her republican views. 
She said she would look back on her time as Australia's first female
prime minister with "a sense of pride and achievement," particularly
for her work in health and education. 
During the knitting photoshoot, Gillard remarked "this feels slightly absurd".
The day that this story ran, she was ousted.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Horrible People Won Today

John Fund is a conservative who is unafraid to tell you exactly why he thinks we should stop letting minorities vote. Be thankful for this horrible man and his horrible ideas. Without them, it would be impossible to see what the face of race-based bigotry really looks like when it comes to the establishment conservatives of the Republican Party. It's a smug face these people wear and they have been enabled by a conservative Supreme Court that is going to leave a lasting legacy of shame and incompetence. In our nation's long history of respecting the rule of law, we have a five person parade of ninnies, and these men are the real faces of institutionalized racism and stupidity.

When he says that "the rest of the Voting Rights Act remains in place" he is telling the truth. What was struck down today was the means by which those tools can be utilized to ensure that states like Florida and Arizona and Texas can be stopped from suppressing the votes of minorities (people of Hispanic descent) and that's all anyone needs to know about that.

In each and every state, people are now going to have to fight harder for the right to vote. If you think that the 2016 election is going to be decided early by the heavy voter suppression that will now follow this Supreme Court ruling, you would probably be correct. We will see an even heavier hand used to stop people from voting, and it will disenfranchise a shocking number of people.

That's pretty much the only way we will get this fixed. We are going to have to live through a nightmare of an election, and then you might see progress in the other direction. You might see someone stand up for the right to vote. Until then, welcome to a country where conservative legislators are going to lose sleep trying to figure out technicalities and the means by which they can stop people from voting.

It Must Be Magic

I thought this was a good example of intellectual wanking in public:
An ancient Egyptian statue appears to have started moving on its own, much to the amazement of scientists and museum curators. 
The statue of Neb-Senu, believed to date to 1800 B.C., is housed in the Manchester Museum in England — at least for now. But if the statue keeps moving, there's no telling where it will end up. 
"I noticed one day that it had turned around," museum curator Campbell Price told the Manchester Evening News. "I thought it was strange because it is in a case and I am the only one who has a key.
Who cares? It's magic. Are we done yet? Don't make me think about it.

It moves because of vibration or magnetism, and it does not move because of anything related to a curse or magic or anything like that. The problem is, we live in an era of anti-intellectualism and ignorance. We see examples of this every day--people smuggling severed bear feet, people using rhino horns to cure cancer, people thinking that we can cut taxes and grow the economy. When does it stop?

Widebody Slapface

This is a still image that has been resting in the celebrity disaster archives for a while now. The policeman on the left is taking a statement or evaluating the widebody slapface on the right who, with his bandaged wrist and forearm, looks all lost and forelorn.

Before you boo hoo for my boy up there, please note that he is a paparazzi who has been injured by a celebrity who drove normally and bounced off of him, thinking he was a traffic cone, or by a maniac behind the wheel.

Today's paparazzi are shells of their former selves. They are simpering idiots who "flatter" the celebrities they are following and try to be their equal or their "buddy." When you watch the celebrity videos that appear on TMZ, you see them, trying to be helpful to the celebrities they are stalking and following.

Remember that most of them look like this fellow, a t-shirt wearing idiot who was photographed faking his injuries because he may have believed that he could sue a celebrity and make some money. Lawyers in the entertainment industry tear these people to shreds every day, just after breakfast, churning out court cases and precedents that are rendering modern celebrity a field day for anyone who can rise above the level of being a pathetic fraud.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Adapt or Else

Smartphones are becoming a new dividing line in American society. Got one? You're fabulous. Don't have one (like me)? You are garbage. Or something along those lines.

I cannot stand small devices; I would rather have ease of use than sit there and tap something, gingerly, with my finger. I would rather spend the money and get a regular desktop computer than get something I can carry in my pocket. The functionality isn't the issue--I know that smartphones can do everything. It's the experience that I don't want to have. I don't want to sit there and fight with a device when I can just use a keyboard (pretty soon, there won't even be desktops or keyboards, and then where will I be?).

It's pretty clear to me that the phone companies weren't ready for the explosion of the smartphone. The networks aren't big enough and the infrastructure isn't there. When you hear about how much trouble people have in urban areas, you have to wonder why anyone would switch at all unless it is a status symbol kind of thing. Real audiophiles didn't stick with cassettes and boomboxes; they kept their vinyl and their turntables. This is how it is with desktop computers. Both are items that are large, clunky, can't be transported, and provide a specific user experience that cannot be replicated by the possession of a miniaturized device.

Oh, and every month I'm not paying over a $140 for a phone I wouldn't want to use is a bonus.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What World Are These People Living In?

Steve Wozniak (Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images for Best Brands)
When I read things like this, I want to tear what is left of my hair completely out:
In an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan on Thursday night, "Woz" shared his thoughts on the recently revealed NSA surveillance programs.

He admitted to feeling bad for somehow contributing to the "crime," as he called it, and said that computers were created to "free the people up, give them instant communication anywhere in the world, any thought you could share it freely."
"That was going to overcome a lot of the government restrictions," he continued. "We didn't realize that in the digital world, there are a lot of ways to use the digital technology to control us, to snoop on us. In the old days of mailing letters, you licked it, and when you got an envelope that was still sealed, nobody had seen it. You could have private communication. Now they say because it's e-mail, it cannot be private, anyone can listen."  [emphasis, mine]
Wozniak also acknowledged that he was fan of Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor behind the documents leaked to The Guardian and The Washington Post. "I felt about Edward Snowden the same way I felt about Daniel Ellsberg," he said, referring to the famous whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers and exposed the U.S. government's misrepresentation of the Vietnam War.
Mr. Wozniak is from a generation that came of age when J. Edgar Hoover was in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Why we are talking about what is being read or intercepted or listened to is baffling because, in the Hoover era, there were no limits. There wasn't anything the government wasn't doing. And Hoover had an army of people who intercepted the physical snail mail, copied it, filed it, and stored it for perpetuity.

At least when they do that now, it is legal. Or did you forget that you voted for it?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Where Do You Park Something You Will Never Use Again?

After all of the screaming about going to war with the Army we had, not the one we wanted, we learn what will happen to it all:
The Pentagon has determined that it will no longer have use for about 12,300 of its 25,500 MRAPs scattered at bases worldwide, officials said. In Afghanistan, the military has labeled about 2,000 of its roughly 11,000 MRAPs “excess.” About 9,000 will be shipped to the United States and U.S. military bases in Kuwait and elsewhere, but the majority of the unwanted vehicles — which cost about $1 million each — will probably be shredded, officials said, because they are unlikely to find clients willing to come pick them up.
A year ago, there was a wonderful plan floating around out there to take care of all of the MRAPs:
The US Army is devising a long-term plan to help preserve its fleet of 20,000 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs), following the completion of the mission in Iraq and strategic withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. 
Colonel Mark Barbosa, US Army G-8 department director and focused logistics division chief, said that roughly 60% of vehicles would be kept in storage or prepositioned stocks. While 30% would be deployed with brigade combat teams to help in troop transport and route clearance missions, with 10% used for home-based troop training. 
"The MRAPs were a very successful programme. The $45bn investment had Office of the Secretary of Defense oversight, with very strong support in Congress," Barbosa added. "The platform was rushed to theatre to protect our soldiers and it did very well."
We will foolishly hang on to the vehicles that we do not abandon; they will be as useless in the next war as anything left over from the Vietnam War would have been to our troops over a decade ago. America will not be fighting any wars on this scale halfway around the world anytime soon. Military vehicles have a shelf life, and they rapidly deteriorate when left idle. If we do fight another war like Iran or Afghanistan in the next few years, that will be the end of our military, which is now broken and exhausted.

The MRAP was a boondoggle. We should have removed our troops BEFORE we needed thousands of these things.

Get rid of all of these vehicles. They will be useless in the future. If we hang on to them, policymakers will find a way to put troops in Africa and do we really need to discuss what sending three or four brigades of Americans into the back areas of Chad would mean for what is left of the U.S. Army?

We are not going to fight a COIN-centric war any time soon and we should not continue to equip ourselves to do so.In a land war against an enemy with tanks and any kind of anti-tank weapon, these high-profile vehicles will not survive. They were built for the Improvised Explosive Device, not the shape-charged projectiles that a land army would use. These are the vehicles of an army of occupation that has to patrol, endlessly, and we would be foolish to seek out another war like that again.

So much for fiscal restraint, asset management, and "the surge" into Afghanistan. The end result of all of this misery? A million dollar vehicle being pulled apart with worn-out tools by underpaid contractors in a far off compound. A hundred years from now, the rusting hulks of what is left of our "bomb proof" vehicles will still be in Afghanistan, left in piles and abandoned. You can see the stuff we left behind in Vietnam, of course, but we didn't have anywhere near as many armored vehicles there.

Oh, and you paid for it. You paid for it with money that no longer exists that could have paid to fix bridges, roads, schools and lives.

The Chilling Effect

The government is getting better and better at rooting out people who leak and give background information to the press. The press, as usual, is so awful that there isn't any point in leaking and what does come out is usually so self-serving as to not be believed.

I don't know what Pruitt is complaining about, however. The Department of Justice openly seized their records; this was not done electronically by covert means. The DOJ grabbed the records in the broad light of day and the public does not care. The media's inherent uselessness precludes the necessary level of outrage and so you are treated to Mr. Pruitt's outrage about being shut out of the usual spate of self-serving leaks.

What, exactly, is the thing we are supposed to lament right now?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

James Gandolfini 1961-2013

Of Course Paula Deen Says the N Word

Paula Deen is in a lot of trouble, public relations-wise. I don't know about the legal ramifications--being ignorant and racist will get you elected to high office as a Republican these days, so all bets are off on that front.

This case is being heard in Georgia. Does that matter? Will Deen's empire be destroyed? Is this worse than anything Martha Stewart has ever done? Even if the lawsuit is settled or dismissed, could the testimony be the thing that lingers?

My guess is that Deen is finished. This is a devastating revelation that makes her a toxic personality.

Why Don't You Visit More Often?

Utter nonsense from the New York Times today:
You might call North Dakota the antithesis of President Obama’s political base.
Whites make up 90 percent of its population, which is fewer than one million people and mostly in rural areas. Its proportion of people 65 and over exceeds the national average. There was never a chance that North Dakota would give Mr. Obama its three electoral votes.
So Mr. Obama has not given North Dakota his time. It is one of six states he has not visited as president, along with South Dakota, Arkansas, Idaho, South Carolina and Utah. He has gone just once to Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Tennessee and Wyoming. 
Mr. Obama’s near-complete absence from more than 25 percent of the states, from which he is politically estranged, is no surprise, in that it reflects routine cost-benefit calculations of the modern presidency. But in a country splintered by partisanship and race, it may also have consequences. 
America’s 21st-century politics, as underscored by the immigration debate now embroiling Congress, increasingly pits the preferences of a dwindling, Republican-leaning white majority against those of expanding, Democratic-leaning Hispanic and black minorities. Even some sympathetic observers fault Mr. Obama for not doing all he could to pull disparate elements of society closer. 
“Every president should make an attempt to bridge the divide,” said Donna Brazile, an African-American Democratic strategist. “It’s a tall order. I wouldn’t give him high marks.”
Donna Brazile is in the tank for the anti-Obama establishment. Her support for Republicans was bought off when President Bush did something nice for New Orleans; her criticisms really don't mean anything but she is a reliable go-to voice for anti-Democratic quotes and things of that nature. Would anyone consider hiring her again? Probably not.

The funny thing about this article is that you can find some pretty clear evidence that the Bush Administration ignored North Dakota as well and took it for granted. Bush visited the state in 2001 and in 2005, and famously had people barred from coming to see him speak; Mrs. Bush didn't visit the state until October, 2008. For a state that represented the natural base of the Bush Administration, you can count barely three visits by the President and the First Lady. Talk about ignoring someone.

The disparate elements of society do not need to be pulled together when they have made the conscious decision to abandon discourse and political interaction. States like North Dakota are responsible for some of the most anti-women legislation in the country. Women are second-class citizens, thanks to the people in the Republican Party who are hell-bent on banning abortion at all costs. We are ruled by obstructionists who hate government. Why is it so difficult to understand the reluctance of President Obama to spend any time worrying about people who vote against their own self-interest on a semi-annual basis?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Melissa Etheridge is Fully of Nutty Ideas

Melissa Etheridge is attempting to supplant Jenny McCarthy as the purveyor of celebrity-based medical advice that is rooted in bullshit and superstition.

Her attack on Angelina Jolie is based on the myth that acidity in the body has a determining impact on cancer. It does not:
While tumors appear to develop acidic pH, we have not yet found any clinical data supporting claims that diet can change the pH balance in the microenvironment of tumors, or, if it could, that doing so would have a clinical effect on the disease.
"The unsubstantiated theory is based on lab studies that suggest cancer cells thrive in an acidic (low pH) environment, but cannot survive in alkaline (high pH) surroundings.
... While these findings are accurate, they apply only to cells in an isolated lab setting. Altering the cell environment of the human body to create a less-acidic, less-cancer-friendly environment is virtually impossible."
While proponents of this myth argue that avoiding certain foods and eating others can change the body’s pH level, these claims stand in stark contrast to everything we know about the chemistry of the human body. Acid-base balance is tightly regulated by several mechanisms, among them kidney and respiratory functions. Even slight changes to your body’s pH are life-threatening events. Patients with kidney disease and pulmonary dysfunction, for example, often rely on dialysis machines and mechanical ventilators (respectively) to avoid even small disruption of acid-base balance. 
Lastly, home “test kits,” which measure the pH of urine, do not relay information about the body’s pH level. True, foods, drinks and supplements will affect the acidity or alkalinity of urine, but it is the only fluid that is affected. In fact, excess acid or base is excreted in the urine to help maintain proper pH balance in the body.
The take-away: What you eat can have a profound affect on your cancer risk, but the acidity or alkalinity of foods is not important. Instead, focus on making dietary choices that can truly affect your risk: Eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans; Limit consumption of red and processed meats; Enjoy alcohol in moderation, if at all.
Etheridge is thus using her own status and celebrity (meager, and declining with each passing year) to influence people to believe something that she believes which has been proven to be a myth. The amount of medical mythology that floats around out there is already well past the danger point, and to continue pushing this bullshit is irresponsible. Etheridge can believe whatever she wants to believe--ignorance is a right--but she needs to explain her scientific basis for all of this so that the actual scientists can, you know, get behind her and her expertise and correct their mistakes.

Far too many celebrities live in the bubble of holistic and alternative medicines. McCarthy and her anti-vaccination advocacy have helped sentence kids to unnecessary health problems and risks. This is all based on for-profit alternative medicine practitioners who profit from celebrities who cling to their stupid misconceptions about health because they refuse to believe that they are like everyone else and did things that made themselves ill like commoners.

Their need to be exceptional and different from everyone else opens up the opportunity for quacks and snake-oil salesmen to take advantage of their vanity and persuade them that they, as special people, only got sick because of some exotic and unsubstantiated reason. They appeal to the celebrities precisely because they have an answer as to why something went wrong--it was not because they were dumb like everyone else--it was because of this mythical cause for which only they have the cure (which, as always, has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration) that is based on emotions, feelings, and a gut instinct that exists outside of scrutiny.

There are, perhaps, some things that are wrong with what Angelina Jolie did to herself, but I haven't seen anyone refute the science of what she did. I have seen people tackle the economics of her decision (she is wealthy and can thus afford what many others can not) and the emotions of her decision, but the science behind why she did what she did and the genetics are solid. This is a woman who, at a young age, has lost two female relatives to breast cancer. She took the statistically sound option and had a double mastectomy.

Now she has to put up with being criticized because some nutty celebrity still clings to the acidity myth?

The world embraces ignorance, and celebrities help it along.

The L.A. Times Has a Long, Proud History of Being a Shitty Newspaper

When you read articles like this, you have to ask yourself--why would I care if the Koch Brothers bought the L.A. Times?

What a crappy, shitty newspaper. They were basically the go-to newspaper for the shaming and discrediting of Ronald Reagan's enemies for as long as they could get away with it. What tradition are they going to cite as a reason to keep consuming the news they produce now?

Monday, June 17, 2013

What Can This Douche Canoe Do For You?

So, if Jon Gosselin can ruin your brand, why wouldn't you admit that your brand was trendy garbage to begin with?

It would seem to me that if your clothes appeal to douchebags, you're selling douchebag attire. That makes you a douche canoe, whatever the heck that is.

Edward Snowden is a Megalomaniac

If I were one of the many people who jumped to the defense of Edward Snowden, I would be looking for a way to walk it all back and delete those old blog posts because today was the day that megalomania set in for this troubled young man.

And, really, this is no longer about what the government is or is not doing. This is about his public meltdown and his descent into delusions and irrationality. His role as the only person who can tell everyone the truth, which was evident the moment he asserted that he couldn't live in a world where his government was doing things he found unconscionable, has brought us to a debacle, not a moment of enlightened discussion. Has the law been broken? If not, then what is this about?

He has socialization issues and a need to be the equal of the people he has a problem with. In reality, he's a 29 year-old who simply hasn't done anything other than steal secrets, run to Hong Kong, and parade them in front of the world. This lack of accomplishment--why not write about what you know and accept punishment as an act of civil disobedience?--and this cowardice will result in the disruption of untold numbers of lives. Private contractors with clearances who have given money to Ron Paul should wake up--this government doesn't want any more screwed-up kids flying to Asia with thumb drives full of crap.

When the former Vice President of the United States calls you a traitor, you don't laugh it off and wear it as a badge of honor for all of your libertarian/privacy advocate friends to chortle about--you really don't. If you arrive at a point where Dick Cheney knows your name, you've already lost. A life lived trying to insult or offend Dick Cheney does not end well, no matter how many times you and your buddies want to joke about his trial for war crimes before The Hague.There are people in this world you can piss off and then there are people you should avoid upsetting. Don't upset Dick Cheney. Unlike virtually every other Vice President in American History, this man comes with a body count that has no equal.

In another time, they would have gotten Edward Snowden the help that he needs. They would have found him some outlet for his issues and dealt with his mental health. In modern society, this is now manifested as damage to the state by way of what was available at work, spread throughout the media and flashed all over the world.

I am no expert on insanity or mental health, but Snowden has seemed crazy to me from the get go. When someone can't stop talking about themselves and when someone welcomes a debate with the former Vice President, there has to be something wrong there.

Snowden does not understand the intelligence world:
Journalists should ask a specific question: since these programs began operation shortly after September 11th, how many terrorist attacks were prevented SOLELY by information derived from this suspicionless surveillance that could not be gained via any other source? Then ask how many individual communications were ingested to acheive that, and ask yourself if it was worth it. Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we’ve been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it.
This is not how we function and it is not how things work. Basing this on what is "solely" prevented by collecting intelligence material is laughable and ridiculous. You don't do anything based on one form of intel; you collect a broad range of pieces of information and then you fuse them together. You combine signals and imagery and human-gathered intelligence and you fill in the gaps with what you can add to those blended pieces of intelligence.

My guess is that we now know exactly what Snowden knew--nothing. Because he came from the fringes and worked on networks, he is ignorant of why we actually do sift through massive amounts of data. We do this to correlate other pieces of information and improve our understanding. We don't do it to violate privacy; we do it because that's how it is done. Don't like it? Too bad. This is how it has been done since forever. This is how police do their work--they gather up different pieces of information and analyze them and interpret them. The world of intelligence didn't spring into existence on September 12, 2001. 

This country is still at war with the tactic of terrorism. The Congress has authorized the President to defend America. Last time I checked, Dick Cheney was free and clear and still part of the national security establishment. As bad as you think these people are, they're accountable to the rule of law. Everything that has been said so far has buried the lede--no one has broken existing laws. In this country, that means something--the rule of law still means legitimacy and anyone challenging the legitimacy of the United States needs to remember that fact. And Mr. Snowden is running around Hong Kong, boasting about what he knows and how he's going to tell everyone the truth. He has violated his agreement to safeguard classified information primary because he learned something that "he" could no longer live with that is, in fact, legal under U.S. laws. He has engaged in a public spat with the last superpower on Earth and he is still alive because, well, we're just not the monstrous killers everyone thinks we are, are we?

If that's not megalomania, I don't know what is.

Otto Fenichel states that, for those who react in later life to narcissistic hurt with denial, ' a regression to narcissism is also a regression to the primary narcissistic omnipotence which makes its reappearance in the form of megalomania'.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Everyone Spies on Everyone Else

Do you know what has been revealed this past week? The naivete of the supposedly smart crowd. That is the case here--anyone who thinks that the British have NOT been spying on others needs to have their head examined.

It can be reasoned that only those countries who have nothing but contempt for themselves would eschew spying or surveillance. No one wants to be helpless and incompetent. Spying is the assertion of the legitimacy of the state--somewhere, in every language, is some version of 'this we'll defend.'

Going back as far as anyone can remember, there have been spies. There has been surveillance and there has been the interception of communications. This is not even a modern or a Napoleonic-era thing--this goes back to whomsoever was reading the mud tablets of their adversary while someone distracted the merchants behind their counters and the men who weighed the money and the wheat. This is a human condition for which only the really, really infantile would claim to be something shocking or new.

Everyone spies and everyone gathers information. Information is then used to assess the situation and go forward. The world is not safe, nor is it full of virtuous people who always do the right thing. If you don't like the tactics of the Americans or the British, grow up. Our adversaries have unlimited budgets and the weight of the state to do far, far worse.

The City of Chicago is an Utter Failure

I am certain that there are hipsters who will disagree with me, but I do not care. The City of Chicago is a complete and utter failure on numerous levels. As far as public safety is concerned, the city is a killing zone that has been so ineffectively policed as to not be believed. Politically, it is rife with corruption and dealmaking. Socially, it is still a heavily segregated city. Education-wise, damn. The largest closing of public schools in the nation, ever, is underway and it hurts African-American areas of the (heavily segregated!) city.

This is not entirely Rahm Emanuel's fault. This is the result of one-party politics, decades of Daley's, and a failure to practice anything resembling good government. Why anyone would want to live there is the mystery. Chicago is going to end up like Detroit at some point and where will the people go?

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Return of the Irish Republican Army

In case you were paying attention to a million other things, we now have word that the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland has decided to resurrect itself and start committing acts of violence.

Given everything that is going on in the world, can you blame these "splinter" groups for not wanting to be left behind?

I think a lot of this is driven by economics and not necessarily ideology. If the average person could reasonably expect to find a job and earn a living wage in Northern Ireland without having to worry about the old sectarian biases, would it be easier to keep disaffected groups from finding ways to terrorize others? Much of the "terrorism" that happened in Northern Ireland was designed to extract money from people. Extortion ruled the day at one point. Perhaps this is what is coming back.

See this and this for good examples.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Do Not Do the Race Material

When you're going to do race material, remember the first rule of doing race material: don't plan on having a job when you hit publish. Oh, and kicking down and making fun of people is automatically going to get you fired no matter how "funny" you think you're being. Nobody laughs at this stuff anymore except racists and buffoons. Let me explain this to you succinctly: don't do the race stuff. It's that simple.

You may want to take offense and note that the only people you can make fun of are overweight poor white people, and that's okay. But, at the end of the day, you can't do the race stuff.

The great Phil Hendrie can do this stuff and thrive in the process. When some assclown working somewhere does it, he gets fired because he doesn't understand context and characterization.Oh, and what will get you fired ought to be at the forefront of your efforts to be funny. If you don't know what these things are, you're going to get fired.

River Scene

This is between Heidelberg and Heilbronn.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Obesity and the Military

Yes, we wouldn't want anyone fat to sit in a room and fly drones around and kill people by remote control, would we? [pdf alert]

This mentality stems from several hundred years of institutional bias. If you do not look good in a uniform, you cannot serve in that uniform. The military is going to have to either accept tubby and fat people or they are going to have to continue to outsource this work to contractors who are, by and large, pretty doggone fat. As in, shove a pair of canned hams in your pants fat. Jeebus.

You see, the military routinely kicks out fat people. Those fat people take their skills and their clearances and go to work for contractors. Those contractors turn right around and run these expensive weapons systems. They have criminal records, they are woefully short of ethics, they are paid a great deal, and they are also fat. Have you ever seen a group of defense contractors? My God, they are huge and they do everything. They fix things, they configure things, and they run things a lot of the time. A good number of them cannot walk up stairs without splitting their pants. I mean, holy hell in a Twinkie kind of overweight.

They are the EXACT SAME PEOPLE who cannot serve in the military. Except that they are doing the jobs military people cannot do because they don't have the skills. It's not rocket science. The contractors are doing everything now, and we are seeing the results of over a decade of outsourcing things to, ahem, lardasses.

At some point, we will figure all of this out. Until then, just enjoy the show.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spying On Europeans is Perfectly Legal

This story is asinine and ridiculous.

Do you suppose that there are people who actually think it is illegal for America to spy on Europeans? Well, guess what? It is perfectly legal, under U.S. law, for us to spy on anyone in Europe. That's actually what our intelligence community is supposed to be doing--spying on people who are not Americans.

The rights of European people mean nothing to us when it comes to privacy. This is why we don't countersue them and claim that they are infringing on the rights of Americans when they spy on us. And if you think they do not spy on Americans, you live in a world of wonder and naivete.

Seth Rogen Craps on His Own Career

Seth Rogen has made a slew of bad movies and a number of bad choices. He has tremendous talent but he's been riding on the coattails of previous achievements for far too long to be able to keep taking a dump on his own decisions and choices.

What producer would want to work with him at this point? He seems to understand that the only thing left to do is television so perhaps he should be lining something up, and soon.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The George Zimmerman Trial

George Zimmerman is on trial this week for killing Trayvon Martin. This has not stopped people from saying stupid things in public:
“I know everybody keeps sarcastically saying about he Skittles,” [Doug] Burns said. “You could probably kill somebody with Skittles.”
Congratulations, Mr. Burns. You are the stupidest fucking guy on the planet.

Not Booz Allen Hamilton Material

About four years ago, I was up for a position with Booz Allen Hamilton. I drove down to one of their myriad facilities in Northern Virginia, sat through a round-robin series of interviews with different hiring managers, and ended up missing several of them because they were held up in traffic. I signaled my thanks, and my willingness to come back for more interviews, and then went home.I figured I had at least one offer coming, maybe two. The interviews went well, the encounters were free of that awkwardness that usually signals a bad interview, and I answered a lot of questions. These were not "dump out" interviews because I was able to talk about what I can do and answer what they wanted to know.

A week went by, and no offers were made. Nothing was explained to me. The recruiter who had brought me in said nothing to me in the way of an explanation. I wrote it off to my being unsuitable for their corporate culture and went on to do other things. I was already employed and I would have had to commute down into Washington D.C. This was not really a tragedy, and I hadn't thought about this incident until today.

I suspect that the fact that I didn't have a degree was what worked against me. Since earning my degree, I'm two for two and I have a lot more confidence. The thing is, I was confident then as well.

What stands out to me is the clear lack of diversity I saw when I visited their facility. There are numerous facilities, so this is not a scientific observation. One of the things you notice when you sit in their corporate area and watch people come and go, randomly, is that they hire people who look like they are ex-military; that's because they hire ex-military at the drop of a hat. I saw hundreds of people coming and going. I didn't see hardly any fat people, and I didn't see any weirdo-looking people. I saw a lot of ex-Air Force and Army officers who were wearing suits with their old dress shoes. I saw conformity and I knew they weren't looking for me.

After what has happened with one of their new hire employees, I've never been happier to have been rejected by a company. Someone hired this man, Edward Snowden, and they brought him in for $200,000? Even for Hawaii, that sounds ridiculously high. I know the cost of living out there is tough, but, I can't imagine how they would rate someone with such a thin resume at that level.

Edward Snowden was Booz Allen Hamilton material, and for a publicly traded company to see a 5% dip in value, in just one day, is priceless.

Since When do Civil Libertarians Make Threats?

Tech bloggers are already blowing apart the story of what has been leaked, and they are comparing the original versions of the story to what we now know, and at the center of this is Glenn Greenwald. The story has become a tiger, and no one wants to let go of the tail. He has moved beyond being a mere advocate for civil liberties and he is publicly engaging government officials and taunting them over his Twitter thread. He is making threats and charges for which he does not appear to have any evidence beyond spending years looking at every worst possible scenario. He may have everything right, but what he has is less important than the story itself, which is his own involvement with a man who went to Hong Kong because he thought his own government was a monster.

What's happening here? Who's really in danger? People like Greenwald consider themselves experts on things they have never actually seen. Has Greenwald ever held a clearance? Would anyone give him one? The only way to determine who has been harmed with regards to these disclosures is to actually see the results of counter-terrorism operations. If it's all a lie, then someone needs to explain why by using actual evidence.

If the only people who have been harmed are the ones who want to conceal their actions and their wrongdoing, as Greenwald alleges, then why isn't anyone under indictment? Why isn't the Congress demanding action from the Justice Department? Our government loves a scandal, and if there is a real scandal here, there is no shortage of people ready to spring to action and begin the process of looking for a hide to nail to the wall.

You have to attack the enemy where they are, not where they have been. If terrorists hide in the population, and strike when there is complacency and weakness, then why are we surprised to discover that our government is savvy enough to attack the enemy where they are hiding? Wouldn't we demand accountability, results and competence and demand wholesale firings if they weren't actually getting anything done?

It would seem to me that the perfect dodge is to make allegations that can never be proven or fully discredited if your target is the government and the subject is classified material. You can sucker people into thinking you're a genius if you ensure that there's no chance anyone can expose your work by the simple method of dropping the veil over classified information. You can allege anything and never have to say you're sorry because, well, the government always lies.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Edward Snowden is Not a Hero

The things that I have read today make my head hurt.

There are a lot of people who will fall down and worship this young man, Edward Snowden, and that's entirely because we are a country that knows nothing about what it takes to stop the people who want to attack us. We are anti-intellectual, against anyone with knowledge we cannot sell, anti-establishment, contrarian, willfully ignorant if it challenges our prejudices, and as long as the government leaves us alone so that we can have our secret lives of self-interest, we are happy (except that, despite living in amazing times, we are not happy).

Everything with this man begins with "I" and ends with how he will not tolerate living in a surveillance state. This is asinine. This is what conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones thrive on. We have lived in a surveillance state for as long as there have been nation/states in this world. Perhaps this man grew up in a world where the king didn't have his spies. I have no idea.

The problem is evident when you start to think about what has actually happened. During the week that the brand new president of China has arrived in America, a massive disclosure of classified information has embarrassed the government, harmed our national security, and weakened our ability to keep track of people who want to kill Americans. The Peoples Republic of China is not our enemy, according to Mr. Snowden, and he says that with all of the self-centeredness of a young man who has been addicted to political science and reading blogs. Good for him. His education will happen whether he wishes it or not.

The PRC has rolled someone, and rolled them hard.

Are there people who hate us? Who want to attack us? How serious should we be about all of this? It comes down whether or not you think all government is evil or whether or not you can accept imperfect governance under the rule of law. Do you want what we have or do you want anarchy?

America's enemies are only marginally of any concern to people like this, if at all, and when they do think of our enemies, they do not grasp the fact that there are vast surveillance states all around the world who protect no civil rights, who tolerate no privacy, who enlist their citizens to spy on one another and allow their populations to have no recourse in the courts. America helped build some of those countries but that was because we wanted to tear down other countries who were much better at being surveillance states because the Soviets doubled down on their willingness to bankrupt themselves in order to become a world power. The law still means nothing in Russia, and it probably never will.

In America, you may not like being surveilled, but you have no equal anywhere when it comes to the rule of law. The solution in most places is a bullet to the head. Run for the highest office in the land in places like Egypt, Ukraine, Pakistan or Malaysia and then tell me I am wrong. In this country, someone snooped in Bill Clinton's passport file and the entire government crapped itself with oversight and compliance.

Mr. Snowden has caught what afflicts Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Glenn Greenwald. They all want to be somebody. They are useful idiots. They are the purity trolls we've been sentenced to live with. They are anarchists whether they will admit it or not--they want America as an idea to end because that will bring evil in the world to a screeching halt. They espouse the Noam Chomsky idea that America is the source of everything bad that happens in the world. The problem is, there is already a Chomsky, and becoming someone with his stature will secure them a place in history that they can use to enhance their own power and influence. They're not really interested in doing anything because being somebody is preferable to actually having to think for a living.

You can be somebody as long as you hurt the government or governments that provide you freedom and security, and you can hurt these entities without fear because there will always be a safe haven or a lawyer or an embassy that can bail you out. This is how anarchists thrive--under the umbrella of protection that they, themselves are unwittingly destroying with their actions. These people lash out because they've been nobodies or they've been marginalized or they've been cheered on by dupes.

In the real world, in places like Colombia or China or Nigeria, you're dead in moments when someone decides you are an enemy of the state and you are dead because no one has figured out that these places have no respect for any rights, human or otherwise, and they are not in any hurry to be like America. We've tried to make Colombia more like America but Colombia will always be exactly what it is--a nation/state with interests that we don't share. We keep trying to make the world a better place when we really need to accept it for what it is and protect our people, protect our interests, and enjoy a lifestyle fitting for a free and democratic people.

Do you want to drive our enemies crazy? Enjoy a ballgame, go to the mall, and do whatever you want. Let your freak flag fly. Be weird and ignore the surveillance apparatus (I love how people who spend all day in front of closed circuit television cameras can express outrage when their banal expressions of whatever about nothing on the Internet might be under someone's watchful eye).

You live in a country where you can do these things. The celebration of the American way of life is the single greatest evil the world has ever known because the rest of the world can't stand the idea of someone having a day in service to themselves and not the state.

You see, all the evil in the world comes from America, and they like it that way. It makes it easier to thrive.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Soldier in the Band

Apparently, Sergeant Sommers cannot follow a lawful order. If he feels he has been given an unlawful order, then he, as a Master Sergeant in the United States Army, should use his chain of command to express his concerns about the order he has been given.

On his own time, he is free to read whatever he wants to read as far as Hannity, Levin and Limbaugh are concerned. He is free to follow the UCMJ as well, and if he expresses displeasure about the chain of command or regulations now being enforced, he needs to make damned certain as to whether or not this is worth throwing away his career (as a singer in the United States Army--think about that) over because that's what it is going to come down to for this soldier.

Sommers has gone beyond having an opinion to making his opinion an expression of politics while in uniform. His chain of command has said that he needs to check his attitude and his disobedience and get back into line with his behavior. I'm sure that they have counseled him and that they just want him to keep his advocacy in line with their idea of good order and discipline.

Clearly, Sommers has gone beyond good order and discipline and has moved into that grey area where it becomes more about attracting attention to himself (hello, news media and retirees) and less about shutting his mouth and playing his band instrument.

In Army parlance, this guy is a joke. He's celebrating the winning of an ARCOM and he's proud of being a funeral soloist? Good for him. Real soldiers don't brag on their ARCOMs.

I'm sorry but he's a musician. He's in the band. He wears the uniform and the rank, but please. He needs to shut his ass up and retire honorably and then go out and make all the noise he wants to make.

Becoming the next LTC Terry Lakin is not something this clown needs to pursue as a career goal.

Sommers is, I'm sad to say, not merely a conservative in uniform but an intolerant bigot:
Sommers claims he was told by an openly-gay superior officer that unidentified members of the U.S. Army were offended by his statements on Twitter. 
Sommers was reprimanded, given a bad report and targeted by an investigation, which found he had tweeted in 2010: “Lordy, Lordy, it’s faggot Tuesday. The lefty loons and Obamabots are out in full force."
I love the words "openly-gay" in this article. Clearly, no one has explained to Fox News that being openly-gay in the military is legal now and is not something salacious or naughty. It's as if Sommers does not have to follow the orders of an openly-gay officer or even someone who is sorta-kinda-gay.

Sommers plans on filing a lawsuit. I hope he has saved a lot of money because he is well on his way to losing his retirement benefits.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

SNAP is Under Attack

America has made the decision to starve children and the elderly. Don't believe me? Read it for yourself:

The majority of the bill’s SNAP cuts come from eliminating a state option known as “categorical eligibility.”  Congress created this option in the 1996 welfare law, allowing states to provide food assistance to households — primarily low-income working families and seniors — that have gross incomes or assets modestly above federal SNAP limits but disposable incomes in most cases below the poverty line.  The bill also would eliminate SNAP incentive payments to states that have improved payment accuracy and service delivery, would cut nutrition education funding, and would curtail a state option that reduces paperwork for many households with utility expenses and also lowers state administrative costs.  Table 1 provides information about the effects of the provisions in specific states.
The proposed cuts would cause significant hardship to several million low-income households.
  • The bill would terminate SNAP eligibility for several million people.
  •   By eliminating the categorical eligibility state option, which over 40 states have adopted, the bill would cut nearly 2 million low-income people off SNAP. 
  • Several hundred thousand low-income children would lose access to free school meals.
  •   According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), 210,000 children in low-income families whose eligibility for free school meals is tied to their receipt of SNAP would lose free school meals when their families lose SNAP benefits.
  • Some working-poor families would lose access to SNAP because they own a modest car, which they often need to commute to their jobs, especially in rural areas.
  •   Eliminating categorical eligibility would cause some low-income working households to lose benefits simply because of the value of a modest car they own.  Many of these families would be forced to choose between owning a reliable car and receiving food assistance to help feed their families.
Contrary to proponents’ claim that the bill’s SNAP cuts are needed to rein in out-of-control program growth, CBO has found that SNAP’s expansion in recent years is primarily due to the severe and prolonged economic downturn and that SNAP spending will fall significantly as the economy recovers.  CBO projects that the share of the population that participates in SNAP will fall back to 2008 levels in coming years and that SNAP costs as a share of the economy will fall back to their 1995 level by 2019. 
Conveniently, we have the distraction of the latest revelations about government spying. This will allow everyone to focus on the wrong issue and ignore the fact that people are, basically, going to go hungry.

This is the kind of thing worth getting outraged about.

Data Mining Metadata Has Been Legal For a Long Time

The left now has a reason to turn on President Obama.

When you see these "George W. Obama" stories, then you know that the President is going to be impeached by the Republicans for abuse of power. It's not a question of whether he will be impeached--it's a matter of when. BEFORE the mid-terms or right after? And they will get away with it because people on the left are too uninformed to understand any of this. They see "Government Can Hear Your Phone Calls!" and other such nonsense and then their inherent inner self starts panicking about all those times they said bad things about black people or Jews or the government or their mother-in-law and they think that everyone will know how shallow/racist/incompetent they are.

Data mining has been legal for years. Everything that falls under the scope of what the Obama Administration is doing is legal. You may not like it, but it falls under the authority of the FISA court, which is what the Bush Administration ignored. And if you still don't like it, then, too bad because we gave up privacy in a panic over a decade ago.

Everyone who is crapping themselves today over this is guilty of closing the barn door after the horse ran off years ago. Talk about a non-story.

This is not that difficult to understand--our enemies know we value privacy and freedom, so they use that to mask their communications. They use American companies to communicate with one another. They use encryption and they use things like Yahoo and Gmail and whatever else to send information, hoping it will get lost in the vast streams of data that transit the world; they hide themselves by looking like SPAM.

You are already being spied on by what I would say are over forty sophisticated spying agencies located throughout the world, all of them under the control of foreign governments that don't care about anyone's privacy.

There is an inherently American belief that we are number one, that we are exceptional, and we are always the ones doing bad things. This is the American Guilt Complex, writ large. That's what makes it difficult to believe that we really do have enemies and that they are motivated by chipping away at America's ability to project power into distant regions.

You think we're bad? How would you feel if the Chinese had all of your E-mails? How would you feel if you knew that the French have your banking information? Do you really think there is one spy agency in the world? There are at least forty that are really, really good and the rest get lucky. At some point, the world will be databased and stored multiple times over in repositories far and wide. If information is power, why wouldn't everyone capable of seeking that power be stockpiling it any way that they can? Moreover, why should you care if the US government is data mining metadata?

Everyone is mining data. That's how the world works. If it is digital, and moving through routers and switches, then the world knows your business. Grow up.

Thanks to Glenn Greenwald, the left will abandon the President and his foolish enemies will stumble over acorns like blind pigs, occasionally finding something they can use. The president is on his way to being impeached.

Good luck with that.

The number one story in American should be the massive, deep, and vicious cuts to the food stamps program. You will hear nothing about this because someone, somewhere might be listening to someone's dopey butt dialing call to their ex-girlfriend.

We continue to be distracted by the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time.


For once, something turned out.

Rhino in water, Stuttgart, Germany. Wilhelma Zoo, probably in June of 2011.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bad Ideas Rule the Day at the TSA

The Transportation Security Administration has thrown everything in the air and they have reversed a decision that no one could understand in the first place. The agency needs to focus on protecting travelers; if this is a part of the "programs" they are going to focus on, then they need to explain to people what these programs entail. If they are going to use this time for junkets and bad decisions, then we might as well shut down travel in this country. The TSA needs to stop jerking people around.

Everyone who shows up with a knife of some kind that was passable under the old rules should not be punished. About 2,000 people per day end up losing their knives to the screeners; why can't they be mailed home automatically>

I highly doubt the TSA will even bother to explain itself to people.

Turkey is Coming Apart

Turkey is a massive country, in both size and population, and it has a highly educated and sophisticated people. There are Turks living all over Europe, and they were my neighbors in Germany. They were everyone's neighbors in Germany, actually, and the events that are happening there are going to be felt all throughout Europe.

NATO is an extremely important thing to remember in any situation with regards toTurkey; how much of this will the NATO countries tolerate and how much secularism will the people demand?

This is all about the intersection of freedom and tolerance and secularism against fundamentalism. Mix in the fact that this culture was founded on the modern basis of anti-fundamentalism and on the bedrock of secularism, and it is easy to see why we should be paying attention. The fundamentalists probably enjoy seeing a "Westernized" woman being assaulted by the riot police; the secularists are, rightly, appalled. Who will win? The rule of law or the morals of people who think women deserve what they get when they stand too close to the tear gas canisters?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


John McCain has lost whatever credibility he might have once had; he is an embarrassment to the United States Senate.

Someone with the decency needed to escort this poor, rambling man from the public stage needs to stop into his office with the men who carry butterfly nets and straitjackets. In the last few weeks, McCain has demonstrated that he is beyond desperate for attention. He needs help, not enablers. He needs his staff to get him under control. At some point, he will end up like Pete Domenici, wandering the hallways of Congress in his pajamas.

His enablers keep putting him on television every Sunday. Then, he spends the rest of the week coming up with things that will ensure he gets asked back on the following Sunday. This circle jerk never stops.

They Sent a Captain

Don't worry, America. They sent a Captain.

The prosecution of Bradley Manning is being handled by military prosecutors and is happening inside of a court room on Fort Meade, Maryland. This facility is over on the "old" side of Fort Meade (at least it was when I was stationed there) and it is located in the area where bakers were trained for the First World War and where Generals Patton and Eisenhower were junior officers.

Fort Meade has a junior officer running Manning's case, probably under the watchful eye of someone with a lot to lose.

There is a bridge over there with a limestone plaque that has seen better days. The plaque is in Latin, and it was put there by the prisoners of war that built it during World War II. There is a cemetery over there as well, and there are all manner of people buried there. Somewhere, on Fort Meade, are the graves of the POWs who didn't get to go home after the war. This being Maryland, there are graves everywhere and planning is something they do as an afterthought. The buildings are ancient, the roads are terrible, and there is a great deal of unused open space because Fort Meade has long been an abandoned post, for all intents and purposes.

Fort Meade is quite large. When you cross over Highway 32 on a special bridge, you are on the part of the post where there are numerous gunnery ranges. For miles in all directions, once you are in this area, you are walking on spent ammunition and unexploded mortar rounds and shells of numerous kinds, all dating back about a hundred years. There are hundreds and hundreds of acres of extremely valuable real estate in this area that would normally be developed into townhomes, stripmalls, and retail outlets. I say normally, but the catch is, no one can do anything with this land except train on it because of all of the hassle that would go into removing the military-grade explosives buried in the ground. As far away as the Russet Community Association area, there are still artillery shells that turn up in gardens and in yards. Back in the day, when Fort Meade was crawling with actual soldiers, they shot the whole place up and no one bothered to aim.

In another part of the old fort, there is a winding road that goes up a low hill; at the top of that hill, there used to be an Army headquarters building. All you will find there now is overgrowth and asphalt. Much of Fort Meade looked that way a decade ago--abandoned, unused, and neglected.

The United States Army needs to convict Manning of the crimes he committed but it has badly bungled the incarceration of this soon-to-be former soldier. They never should have turned him over to the Marines, in other words, because the sympathy being generated on his behalf is an outrage. Manning wanted fame; he wanted to "be" somebody because the Army soon realized he was nobody. This caused him to turn on the military and betray his country.

When you take classified material and hand it over to someone who isn't supposed to have it, you are one of two kinds of people. You are either a highly-placed insider in Washington DC who has been told to leak the information on behalf of the interests of the President or you are operating under the misguided idea that the government won't prosecute you for being a whistleblower. Good luck figuring out which one Manning believes himself to be in his own mind.

In this enormous prosecution, there is this poor Captain, and he is in a tough spot. Inside of a crummy building, on hot days, he has to figure out how to prosecute a misguided young anarchist who forgot he was a soldier.