Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, March 6, 2014 7:52 pm

How many bullets would it take to plunge America into the dark?

Not all that many, unfortunately:

It turns out the United States—which has the largest and most complex electric power network in the world, and which is completely and utterly dependent upon electricity for its daily survival—does not have the capability of manufacturing the single most crucial component of its electrical grid: the TRANSFORMER. To be exact, we can make little transformers, but the really big ones that are necessary to push electric current across long distances (which our electric grid is totally dependent on) are somehow beyond our ken. Or, to be more accurate, the 1% have no interest in building the plants and hiring and training the workers to manufacture the very large-size transformers.

They (the 1%) apparently reason that they don’t need to go to that trouble because in our globalized economy there’s somebody else who can build the really big transformers. It turns out that somebody is South Korea. So when, recently, Pennsylvania badly needed a new very-large transformer they placed an order with the Koreans, who promptly began building it. Two years later, the 400,000 pound item was put on a ship and transported for 26 days at sea to the port of Newark, New Jersey, where it was loaded by crane onto a railcar bound for Pennsylvania. (“Heart of U.S. Grid Difficult to Replace”, W.S.J. March 4, 2014.)

This little tale is made even more interesting by the fact that these very-large transformers—usually situated inside a compound protected by chain-link fencing—are easily destroyed with a few rounds of fire from a semi-automatic assault rifle. Thankfully, semi-automatic assault rifles are difficult to come by in the U.S., otherwise there might be cause for concern. The seventeen transformers recently shot to death in California (we can’t explain how this actually happened, since the NRA is only marginally active on the West Coast) are a cautionary tale: If this were repeated on just a little bit larger scale, the Department of Homeland Security has determined, our entire electric grid could be down for months—or even longer. (Come on South Korea, hurry it up…. We’re waiting!)

This point is just an example from a larger article whose main point has less to do with electricity, per se, than with things that the government could do for the common good with or without the approval of the 1%.

But it caught my attention. Maybe because so much of Greensboro’s electrical infrastructure is above ground and vulnerable to the elements, as I’ve been reminded over and over again, in sticky heat, balmy autumn, and single-digit winter, during my 27 years here. Maybe because while Virginia tends to get snow in the winter and South Carolina gets rain, North Carolina frequently gets ice, which is most likely to bring down power lines. Maybe because I spent 22 of those years in a job in which staying home, or even working from home, during an ice storm simply wasn’t an option.

Or because, like almost every other American, I need reliable electrical service to live safely and work productively.

Risk Assessment 101 requires that you multiply two things: the likelihood that a particular bad thing could happen and the amount of damage/destruction that particular thing would cause if it did happen. For example, it’s almost certain that my cat will want to go outside tonight, even for just a little while, but unless maybe you’re a vole, the damage will be nil. High likelihood, extremely low risk.

On the flip side, based on a couple of centuries of weather observation and zilliabytes* of data, we know that the likelihood that a very-slow-moving Category 5 hurricane will rake North Carolina’s coast from South Carolina to Virginia is vanishingly small. But if it did happen, even with the early warnings we get today, dozens or hundreds of people would die and many more would be injured, thousands upon thousands of homes and businesses would be destroyed, countless numbers of livestock and family pets, as well as wildlife, would perish, and the coast, with its fisheries and tourist spots, often with manufacturing just inland, would be devastated for years. The impact on the federal budget would be non-negligible, and the impact on property insurers might well be unsurvivable for many.

Now, how likely is it that, say, 19 terrorists could arrange to use legally acquired semiautomatic weapons to shoot and disable a like number of very-large transformers in the U.S. simultaneously? Substantially more likely, I’d say, than the possibility that 19 terrorists could hijack four passenger jets and try to crash them into public buildings.

And what would the damage be like? Well, you don’t have to have read Stephen King to take a guess. Not only would most of our electrical infrastructure be offline, so would most of our communications infrastructure, which relies on electricity. Whole regions would go dark, right down to the switching systems that control the pipelines that deliver the natural gas that fires the generators that keep heart-lung machines and incubators working at individual hospitals. We’d have no immediate way of coordinating any sort of systematic response. And right now, fixing that would take months or years, during which time a lot of Americans would die, a lot of businesses would go bankrupt, the financial markets would be disrupted worldwide, and the transportation of essential goods by road or rail would dry up quickly as refined product couldn’t be pumped out of a gas pump, or from a refinery to a pipeline, or loaded from a terminal to a tanker truck, and so on. Shipments of perishable and nonperishable food, essential drugs and medicines, and many other needs would cease. Depending on the time of year, a large proportion of the U.S. population might face the very real threat of death from exposure/hypothermia.

As I write, it’s raining here, with the odd ice pellet thrown in. And the rain is beginning to freeze.

*made-up word

(h/t: Fec

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 12:05 am

The Boston bomb and who we are

I was so buried in my own little world of work and homework today that I didn’t hear about the bombs in Boston until almost five hours after the first explosion. About 4:30 this afternoon, the whole Internet seemed to freeze, so I tweeted from my phone, wondering who had broken the Web. I got answers almost immediately but didn’t see them until much later.

We appear to know little now, and that’s OK. We’ll find out what we need to. I refuse to speculate, except to say this: Whoever set those bombs, whoever killed and wounded those innocent people, is a coward. Of that I’m confident to a moral certainty.

In addition to the Boston Marathon, and tax day, today is the day on which are commemorated the battles of Lexington and Concord, the beginning of the American fight for independence. And so it is that I am reminded of two quotes, both by Edward R. Murrow, the broadcast journalist who grew up a stone’s throw from where I type this evening:

“No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.” – 7 March 1954

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.” — 9 March 1954

The cowards who planted the bombs want us to be afraid. But so do many of our leaders. “Be afraid,” they told us after 9/11. “Be afraid,” they told us after 7/7. “Be afraid,” they told us after 3/11. And why not? For the more afraid we are, the more of our freedoms they can take, and the more they have taken already. If you doubt me, look at what has happened to the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments after 9/11. And yet we worship the Second as if it were some Aztec idol into whose bloody maw the still-beating hearts of our countrymen must be thrown for appeasement, even as we know that no number of firearms could have prevented what happened today.

But no. Let us not be afraid. Not this time, and never again. This time, let us bury our dead, minister to our wounded, and comfort our bereaved as best we can even though we know for some there is no comfort and never will be. And then let us go live as the best Americans and the best human beings we can be, knowing that the time may come when any or all of us might have to run into the fire, like the cops and firefighters and EMTs did today, whether that fire be caused by a bomb or by the sociopathy of those, domestic and foreign, who would destroy what is best about America and who have run wild for far, far too long.

(Edited to correct late-night grammar.)

Thursday, March 7, 2013 8:52 pm

The forever reporter in the forever prison from the forever war

New York magazine profiles Carol Rosenberg, the reporter for the Miami Herald who has been on the Gitmo beat for 11, count ‘em, 11 years, with no end in sight:

How long do you think you’ll continue covering Guantanamo?
There are people who call the War on Terror the “forever war”; if this is the forever war, then this is the forever prison. I want to stay here for the 9/11 trial, which I think is years away. I feel like I have an institutional knowledge. Everyone else rotates in and out of here. The soldiers come and go, the lawyers come and go, most of the reporters come and go. I feel a responsibility to stay. I want to see how it ends. I’m a little concerned it’s never going to.

Camp X-ray was built for the specific purpose of getting around the Constitution, full stop. The people who created it committed crimes, full stop. And if the people who continue to defend it today aren’t criminals, they’re moral pygmies at best.

Rosenberg (who, earlier in her career, reported for the Charlotte Observer) can’t do anything about that, but she’s doing the next best thing: surrendering a significant chunk of her life, and a lot of creature comforts most Americans take for granted, to tell people what’s going on down there. Metaphorically, she’s almost as much a prisoner as the inmates. She seldom talks much about herself — her tweets tend to be about the court proceedings she covers — but I have a feeling that even if the trials ended tomorrow, Gitmo would be with her the rest of her life.

She’s not a prisoner, of course. Subject to the military’s irregular flight schedules, she can and does return to Florida from time to time. But I suspect that for the rest of her life, a significant part of her psyche and self will be living in those nasty tents, tweeting from a makeshift courtroom, knowing that every conversation, call or email she gets or receives will be monitored.

At some point, years from now, perhaps after the 9/11 trials are over, she’ll check out. But the Eagles were right, and so I suspect the only a part of her leaves Gitmo is via death or Alzheimer’s.

 

Thursday, August 9, 2012 8:17 pm

Threat assessment, right-wing Caucasian edition

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 8:17 pm
Tags: , , ,

Conservatives like to claim that America is a conservative country. There’s a certain amount of truth in the claim … and not to the country’s benefit.

For example, Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic makes an observation:

There is, however, another factor that likely explains some of the reticence of some Americans, including professional commentators, to focus very much attention on the Oak Creek massacre.

Their disinclination to grapple with it has less to do with the victims than the gunman. The key factor isn’t that they’re Sikhs; it’s that the apparent homegrown terrorist — a term virtually no one would object to had a murderous Muslim burst into the Sikh temple — was perpetrated by a white guy.

Hold the victims constant and give the perpetrator the last name Mohammed. Does anyone think for a moment that such an attack wouldn’t still be the most discussed story at Fox News and National Review? And at various network news shows and unaffiliated newspapers for that matter?

Instead Wade Michael Page was the gunman.

Attacks like his are disconcerting to some white Americans for a seldom acknowledged reason. Since 9/11, many Americans have conflated terrorism with Muslims; and having done so, they’ve tolerated or supported counterterrorism policies safe in the presumption that people unlike them would bear their brunt. (If Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD sent officers beyond the boundaries of New York City to secretly spy on evangelical Christian students or Israeli students or students who own handguns the national backlash would be swift, brutal, and decisive. The revelation of secret spying on Muslim American students was mostly defended or ignored.)

In the name of counterterrorism, many Americans have given their assent to indefinite detention, the criminalization of gifts to certain charities, the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens, and a sprawling, opaque homeland security bureaucracy; many have also advocated policies like torture or racial profiling that are not presently part of official anti-terror policy.

What if white Americans were as likely as Muslims to be victimized by those policies? What if the sprawling national security bureaucracy we’ve created starts directing attention not just to Muslims and their schools and charities, but to right-wing militias and left-wing environmental groups (or folks falsely accused of being in those groups because they seem like the sort who would be)? There are already dossiers on non-Muslim extremist groups. In a post-9/11 world, Islamic terrorism has nevertheless been the overwhelming priority for law enforcement, and insofar as innocents have suffered, Muslims have been affected far more than any other identifiable group, because the bulk of the paradigm shift in law enforcement hasn’t spread beyond them.

Would that still be true if the next terrorist attack on American soil looks like Oklahoma City? How would President Obama or President Romney wield their unprecedented executive power in the aftermath of such an attack? Who would find that they’d been put on no fly lists? Whose cell phone conversations and email exchanges would be monitored without their ever knowing about it?

Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog has an answer, and it’s depressingly likely that he is correct:

We might have a serious counterterrorism crackdown against whites in the near future, but we absolutely won’t have a serious counterterrorism crackdown against right-wing whites. If a future large terrorist attack is conducted by a Weathermen-like group, the hammer will come down on lefties; by contrast, if the next big attack is like Oklahoma City, the reaction will be … well, like the reaction to Oklahoma City: there’ll be no crackdown on like-minded people, no significantly stepped-up surveillance, no nationwide cloud of suspicion, no wave of new laws. That’s for non-whites and lefties only.

The key factor isn’t just skin color — the ’60s and ’70s leftists who were tracked by law enforcement were mostly white. The key factor is that right-wing extremists share a lot of beliefs with the mainstream right — they’re anti-cultural elite, anti-urbane, distrustful of government, unswervingly opposed to gun control, and fed up with programs meant to help non-whites, the poor, women, and gay people. That’s the resemblance that matters in this society, not skin color; that’s why we’ll never consider a serious crackdown on right-wing extremism, however organized and violent right-wing extremist groups become. No liberal or left-centrist president would dare challenge the pro-”regular American” bias that protects right-wing extremists, and no Republican would even dream of cracking down on the far right.

I don’t generally predict the future, but I will say that I would not be surprised if the next large-scale terrorist action to take place on U.S. soil were the work of the home-grown right-wing fringe rather than Islamists.

 

Thursday, March 22, 2012 8:52 pm

Incoming, or, War on women? WHAT war on women?

I’ve been beyond swamped lately. I worked for 40 hours straight this past weekend on a research paper (yes, “straight” means “without sleeping”), slammed through a boatload of reading and video-watching for school and am leading discussion this week in one of my classes. And that doesn’t even get into the day job and kids.

But I did a little Twittering over meals, during which I was battened onto by some troll claiming to have served someplace where women are second-class citizens and insisting that because the Taliban are stoning women and setting them on fire and whatnot, American women have no right to suggest that there’s a war on women going on in this country. I pointed out that he had the awareness and grasp of metaphor of your average cinder block and then blocked him because I’m too old for that crap.

But there’s a lot of that going around, as Angry Black Lady at Balloon Juice points out with this jaw-droppingly stupid rant from some woman named Cathy McMorris-Rogers. Her thesis: There is no Republican war on women; there is only a Democratic Party trying to scare women for political gain.

No, really:

Because I’m still swamped, I’m outsourcing my response to ABL, who can add a uterocentric perspective that I cannot. her language is a little coarse, which, in light of all the circumstances she describes, I ascribe to her being in good cerebrovascular health:

This woman is out of her f—— skull.  How DARE she? Democrats are scaring women to drum up votes?  Is she serious?  Let’s take a little walk down GOP F—ery Lane, shall we?

  • Republicans want to tax us if we choose to get an abortion.
  • Republicans are forcing doctors to flat-out lie to us about abortions increasing the risk of breast cancer.
  • Republicans are trying to force us to get permission from the man (Father? Rapist? Who cares!) before getting an abortion.
  • Republicans think we’re sluts for wanting insurance coverage for contraception—whether for birth control or otherwise—all the while demonstrating how utterly devoid of brain activity they are by suggesting that the doctor-recommended use for birth control is “a-pill-per-screw,” and that maybe we could pay for our ovarian cyst treatment if we’d just stop drinking so many f—— soy lattes.

(She left out one other one: Tennessee was until just recently considering a bill that would make public details about every abortion in the state, along with information on the doctor who performed it. Because, the sacred notion of medical privacy aside, there’s no way anything bad could come of that. But don’t take my word for it — we can just ask David Gunn, John Britton, James Barrett, Shannon Lowney, Lee Ann Nichols, Robert Sanderson, Barnett Slepian or George Tiller. Oh, wait, no, we can’t.)

Republicans want us to lie back and take it.  They want us to just “close our eyes” while they shame us and guilt us and emotionally traumatize us and out us to the public for making a choice about our bodies that has absolutely f—-all to do with them.  And they’re doing this under the guise of “education” and “life-affirmation”; attaching quaint and pithy names to horrific bills which violate our rights as humans.  Names like “Ultrasound Opportunity” or “Right to Know and See.”  Don’t worry.  It’s all about knowledge.

Knowledge is power, you see, and frankly ladies, you don’t know what the f— you’re doing.  You think you’re incubating baby iguanas in your wombs while storks slingshot babies through open windows in the dead of night.  No, no, silly one.  This here probe will give you all the knowledge about the birds and the bees that you need, and conveniently, since you’re pregnant in the first place, you’ve already consented to be vaginally probed by our metal knowledge stick. Hooray!

Oh yeah—and let’s not forget that we’re getting f—— FIREBOMBED for daring to believe that a woman’s uterus is hers.  Not her husband’s.  Not her boyfriend’s. Not her father’s or uncle’s or brother’s. And certainly not some f—— politician who does not now nor has he ever owned a uterus, or the feckless Republican women who fall in line behind these misogynist [asses].

And you can f— right off with that “oh, the firebomber was just a crazy homeless dude” crap.  As Melissa MacEwan at Shakesville so eloquently put it:

Guess who else is “crazy”? Anyone who sees a pattern of anti-progressive violence—and, very specifically, misogynist and/or homophobic and/or racist violence—and has the unmitigated temerity to suggest that, hey, maybe this [stuff] isn’t happening in a void.

All of this is to say the following—

Cathy McMorris-Rodgers? Jump up your own uterus, lady. You don’t speak for me. You don’t speak for thousands of women who don’t have the distinct privilege of standing on the Capitol steps spewing bullshit in order to protect the misogynist necks of the Republican men to whom you’ve sold your soul, your dignity, your humanity, your personal freedom, and, indeed your life; all the while knowing that should you or your daughter Grace require birth control or an abortion or any of the women’s health services that you and your ilk are viciously stripping from us, you will be able to get them.  After all, as a member of Congress, you have some of the best health insurance in the country!  And we all know that the rules which you seek to apply to millions of women—many of them poor women of color—don’t apply to the daughters of deluded state politicians from the Pacific Northwest. (Dontcha know.)

So, Cathy, you want to give up your reproductive rights? Or the reproductive rights of your daughter? Fine. Go right ahead.

But back the f— up off of mine.

And the notion that Democrats are scaring women by shining a light on the horrific human rights injustices that you Republicans seek to impose on us is patently absurd.  Democrats aren’t scaring women, Cathy. Republicans are scaring women.

I’ll go one better than that: Republicans aren’t just scaring women, they’re terrorizing women.

And I’ll borrow from another of Melissa’s Shakesville tweets to summarize:

There are a lot of things that don’t get called terrorism in this country, but chief among them is the anti-choice movement, which is the most brazen, unapologetic terrorist campaign in the US, its co-ordination and orchestration done right out in the open, where no one in the media or politics will call it what it is. It is an inherently violent ideology, backed by a decades-long campaign of intimidation, harassment and violence directed at abortion providers and abortion seekers, that is ignored by one party and mainstreamed as a central plank of its party platform by the other.

Now, Republicans will deny that they’re involved with such a thing, or that they even could benefit from it, let alone consciously try to cash in. To which I say, with all due respect: Bullshit.

It’s terrorism. The perps need to be locked up in SuperMax for the rest of their miserable, bitter, un-American little lives, and all their privileged enablers (and I’m looking at you, Cathy) need to be held legally and publicly accountable as well, because if there’s a war on terror, then that war, like charity, needs to start at home.

It’s the 21st century folks, and I’m damned tired of coddling criminals.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 8:11 pm

Just the facts, ma’am.

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:11 pm
Tags: ,

More Americans have died in weather events in the past 10 years than in terror attacks (including 9/11).

Sunday, May 1, 2011 10:34 pm

Osama bin Laden: Rest in pieces

Filed under: That's gonna leave a mark — Lex @ 10:34 pm
Tags: ,

UPDATE/DISCLAIMER (ADDED 5/2): Pretty much all of what follows is contingent on the facts in the case being as the administration reported them last night, both in the president’s speech and in administration officials’ background briefings to reporters. At this point I have no reason to doubt them, but I would be insane to assume unquestioningly that what has been reported is true and accurate in all respects, given the hash the government has made of accounts of such incidents as the Jessica Lynch case, the killing of Pat Tillman and so on. Just sayin’.

As I begin this post, President Obama hasn’t actually showed up to confirm it, but apparently, at long last, we found Osama bin Laden, killed him and positively identified the body through DNA matching.

Thoughts on the fly, hastened by some Dos Equis amber in lieu of champagne:

  • Bin Laden said he ordered attacks against the U.S. because of the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. Whether you take that statement at face value or not, the fact remains that long before he died, he already had what he had wanted.
  • The news is being announced eight years to the day (if the president actually appears before midnight ET) after George W. Bush announced “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.
  • Speaking of Iraq, it bears repeating: Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Nothing.
  • The price on bin Laden’s head was $25 million. What’ve we spent to kill him? A trillion dollars, about 4,500 U.S. service members dead and 40,000 wounded, many maimed for life; God alone knows how many hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan; and enormous, and probably permanent, damage to the Bill of Rights and the rule of law. The current president of the United States has ordered extrajudicial assassinations of U.S. citizens. The immediate past president lied us into a war of aggression, ordered torture and other crimes against humanity and ordered serial felony violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Neither man will be investigated, let alone serve a day in prison. And all of the criminal violations of law they have committed are now no longer crimes, merely standard operating procedure.
  • Spare a thought, if you will, for the families of those killed on 9/11: the people on the four airplane flights; the people in the Twin Towers; the people in the Pentagon.
  • We, as a country, soiled our drawers on 9/11. It took us most of a decade to even begin to clean ourselves up, and that job is far from finished and never will be. Our ancestors are probably deeply ashamed of us, and well they should be.
  • After 9/11, many, many Americans, most but not all Republican, treated any criticism, even any questioning, of the Bush administration’s behavior as treasonous. Go to hell, every damned one of you.
  • Politically, this is great news for Obama’s re-election effort … for a while. Keep in mind, Obamanauts, that about this time 20 years ago, Bush 41′s approval rating was roughly 90%.
  • So, um, in a mansion outside Islamabad, huh? LOOOOO-SEEEEE, somebody’s got some ‘SPLAININ’ to do.
  • Bless MS/NBC for reminding us that we had Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, and we let him get away.

11:35: Here we go …

… images of 9/11. Like we needed reminding.

11:37: (My predecessors didn’t make bin Laden top priority), so I told Leon Panetta that now bin Laden was.

11:39: Last August? Last August we found him?

11:40: “Bin Laden was not a Muslim. He was a mass murderer of Muslims.” Nice.

11:42: “We will be true to the values who make us who we are.” Oh, so we get the Bill of Rights back? The rule of law? Cool!

11:43: “Let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11.” And let the historians among us leave no doubt as to who exploited and squandered it.

11:44: And he walks off like Gary Cooper.

Continuing random thoughts:

  • NBC now saying bin Laden was shot at least once in the head. Good. No zombie bin Laden.
  • NBC treating Joint Special Operations Command as if it’s newly discovered. New Yorker has reported on it for a long time.
  • Memo to liberals: It’s OK to cheer the death of a mass murderer. It really is. You won’t go to hell for it or anything.
  • This news is a hanging curve ball to page-1 designers at U.S. newspapers tonight. If y’all’s lede headlines aren’t in type at least 216 points high (that’s 3 inches for you civilians), y’all suck.
  • Terrorism ain’t going away. Al-Qaeda ain’t going away. But when, not if, the next attack comes, let us not soil our drawers, OK?
  • Come down to it, this deal wasn’t much heavier than half the raids you see on “The Chicago Code.” Good thing we spent all those lives and all that money to set it up right.
  • For a decade, we have not just used but abused our military and their families. Time to make it right, and if it takes a 90% marginal rate on top earners to pay for it, I’ll vote for that and give money to opponents of anyone who won’t.
  • Before the 2008 election, Obama said he would send U.S. forces into Pakistan if need be to capture or kill bin Laden. The GOP acted like he’d threatened to torch the Constitution. The GOP now hopes you will forget this.
  • Wouldn’t you love to have been listening in when Obama called George W. Bush to tell him about it?
  • Apparently, about the same time Obama delivered a very nice standup comedy routine to the White House Correspondents’ dinner last night, he also was ordering bin Laden to be killed. As the relative of several former Army snipers, I salute his coolness and focus.
  • It figures, doesn’t it, that a man who would order the murders of civilians would use a woman as a shield in a firefight (or one of his supporters would). But that’s what happened.
  • Someone, some individual U.S. service member, pulled the trigger on the round that sent bin Laden to hell. But, much as I would like to buy that individual a beer, it’s best for him that we never know his name while he lives. We owe him at least that much.
  • Holy crap. This guy inadvertently live-Tweeted the raid.

Well, it’s damn near 2 a.m. and I’ve got to work tomorrow. So I’m going to bed. ‘Night all. Those of you partying in D.C. and New York, be safe. Those of you mourning again in those same locales, I hope you take some measure of comfort from this event.

UPDATE, 8 a.m. 5/2: My daughter had been aware of bin Laden’s death for no more than 90 seconds when she asked, “Does this mean we can bring the troops home?” Much as I might like to think so, the answer to that question is probably somewhat complicated, BUT: The burden of proof needs to be placed heavily on anyone arguing to the contrary — full employment for swindling defense contractors is not a good argument, by the way — and I love how fast her mind went there.

One other thing: I don’t know whether it was news, speculation or just Internet noise, but someone was suggesting last night that our intel source for this raid was Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. Anything’s possible, I suppose, but it’s worth remembering that the compound where bin Laden was found is only about five years old, and we’ve had KSH in what is supposedly very secure custody since 2003.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 8:25 pm

National Security Inc.

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:25 pm
Tags: , , ,

I still haven’t read every last word of The Washington Post’s multi-part project from last month, “National Security Inc.” But I have read enough to take away what I think is the most important conclusion:

The War on Terror will go on without end.

The War on Terror has sucked up and will continue to suck up not just a disproportionate but a crippling share of our national resources, broadly defined.

The War on Terror has been and will continue to be used as an excuse for all manner of government and corp0rate violations of individual rights.

The War on Terror will disproportionately benefit the wealthy and large corporations at the expense of small and medium-sized businesses and individual taxpayers.

The War on Terror will not protect us from terror. It will only break us, legally, financially and socially.

If that all sounds familiar, it’s because the War on Drugs did exactly the same thing. (And while I believe it to be coincidence that the War on Terror is accelerating just as we’re finally starting to have a sane national conversation about drug policy, or at least marijuana policy, I can understand perfectly well why a lot of people believe it to be no coincidence at all.)

The difference is that this time, we’re much more vulnerable, as individuals and as a society.

The difference is that this time, no one — no one with the ability and will to do anything about it — is watching the watchers.

The difference is that this time, if we pursue this war, by far the likeliest outcome is that the United States will cease to exist in any meaningful — that is, exceptional — way. It will become, at best, one more banana republic. And the outcome might well be worse than that — worse in terms of violence and many other forms of human misery.

America. It was a really good idea.

Friday, June 18, 2010 8:30 pm

Threat assessment

A relatively small number of our foes are very bright, very dedicated, very competent, very well funded and very dangerous.

But the rest? Not so much:

Their leaders and recruiters can be lethally subtle and manipulative, but the quiet truth is that many of the deluded foot soldiers are foolish and untrained, perhaps even untrainable. Acknowledging this fact could help us tailor our counterterrorism priorities—and publicizing it could help us erode the powerful images of strength and piety that terrorists rely on for recruiting and funding.

Nowhere is the gap between sinister stereotype and ridiculous reality more apparent than in Afghanistan, where it’s fair to say that the Taliban employ the world’s worst suicide bombers: one in two manages to kill only himself. And this success rate hasn’t improved at all in the five years they’ve been using suicide bombers, despite the experience of hundreds of attacks—or attempted attacks. In Afghanistan, as in many cultures, a manly embrace is a time-honored tradition for warriors before they go off to face death. Thus, many suicide bombers never even make it out of their training camp or safe house, as the pressure from these group hugs triggers the explosives in suicide vests. According to several sources at the United Nations, as many as six would-be suicide bombers died last July after one such embrace in Paktika.

Many Taliban operatives are just as clumsy when suicide is not part of the plan. In November 2009, several Talibs transporting an improvised explosive device were killed when it went off unexpectedly. The blast also took out the insurgents’ shadow governor in the province of Balkh. …

If our terrorist enemies have been successful at cultivating a false notion of expertise, they’ve done an equally convincing job of casting themselves as pious warriors of God. The Taliban and al-Qaeda rely on sympathizers who consider them devoted Muslims fighting immoral Western occupiers. But intelligence picked up by Predator drones and other battlefield cameras challenges that idea—sometimes rather graphically. One video, captured recently by the thermal-imagery technology housed in a sniper rifle, shows two Talibs in southern Afghanistan engaged in intimate relations with a donkey. Similar videos abound, including ground-surveillance footage that records a Talib fighter gratifying himself with a cow.

A number of takeaways from this:

First, to be able to recognize the real threats, we need to be able to acknowledge the “threats” that really aren’t.

Second, while mythologizing an enemy may be essential to uniting an otherwise ambivalent nation, building up your enemy in your mind into something he isn’t will inevitably result in lives needlessly lost, money wasted and security compromised.

Third, it’s important to understand what maroons we’re up against to rebut effectively the claims of the Idiot-Americans that we must scrap the Constitution to save our country.

There are probably more, but those are the biggies.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 9:07 pm

And while we’re on defense issues …

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 9:07 pm
Tags: ,

Spencer Ackerman quotes John O. Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism:

… no nation, no matter how powerful, can prevent every attack from coming to fruition. …

This is the challenge we face. Even more than the attacks that al-Qaeda and its violent affiliates unleash or the blood they spill, they seek to strike at the very essence of who we are as Americans. By replacing our hard-won confidence with fear and by replacing our tolerance with suspicion. By turning our great diversity from a source of strength into a source of division. By causing us to undermine the laws and values that have been a source of our strength and our influence throughout the world. By turning a nation whose global leadership has meant greater security and prosperity for people in every corner of the globe into a nation that retreats from the world stage and abandons allies and partners.

That is what al-Qaeda and its allies want. To achieve their goals by turning us into something that we are not. But that is something they can never achieve. Because only the people of America can change who we are as a nation. al-Qaeda can sow explosives into their clothes or park an SUV filled with explosives on a busy street. But it is our choice to react with panic or resolve. They can seek to recruit people already living among us. But it is our choice to subject entire communities to suspicion or to support those communities in reaching the disaffected before they turn to violence. Terrorists may try to bring death to our cities. But it is our choice to either uphold the rule of law or chip away at it.

Spencer, who covers these issues for a living, notes that even as Brennan is saying these things, the administration for which he works is arguing in court for the right to hold detainees indefinitely without charge. So he asked Brennan how he reconciled what he was saying with that policy. Brennan’s response in its entirety:

When this administration came in, in January of last year, we dealt with a number of legacy situations that we wanted to make sure we were able to deal with appropriately without compromising the security of the American people. I think as everybody recognizes, on both sides of the political spectrum, the situation at Guantanamo is a very, very difficult and challenging one. I think that even as the president said he was determined to close Guantanamo within one year, it still remains open because the president is determined not to do anything that would compromise America’s security. It is something that we are working very closely with the Congress on. We are trying to do things in a very thoughtful manner. We have transfered about 50 of those detainees over the past year and a half, and we’re continuing to look at their situations there. But this is a challenge that we need to look at from a policy perspective, from a legal perspective as well as from a security perspective.

That’s not good enough for me because it sounds as if the administration is continuing to try to defend the very things Brennan has just said will hurt us and help al-Qaeda. Spencer took the same tack:

I go back to the quote that Marc Lynch gave me for my morning piece: “What I’m afraid of is that as soon as you get turbulence — like an actual terrorist attack — there’s going to be a big backlash and you can’t hold the overall structure in place. Right now, Obama’s got the rhetoric, but they’ve done precious little to institutionalize it and put on durable legal foundations.” I think it might be worse than that. The institutionalization that the administration is pursuing will codify indefinite detention without charge. Brennan today vowed fairness and checks and balances in such a system, and careful discretion in when it will apply. But opt-out clauses from the rule of law create an incentive to expand their applicability. And if Brennan’s critique really applies, then that’s an unalloyed strategic asset for al-Qaeda.

Lynch’s fear may not be hypothetical for very long. The attempted-attack level in the U.S. is high by historic standards, even if the sophistication of the attempts are low. Brennan deserves credit for not saying the administration requires more surveillance authorities to handle the domestic threat when he was asked. But how prepared is the Obama administration, really, to withstand the enormous political pressures that will exist for ever-more-draconian measures when another attack finally succeeds?

That, unfortunately, is a very good question. We lost our minds on 9/11, for perfectly understandable reasons. But I hope we also have learned some things, from our own experience and from the experience of other frequent targets of terrorism, such as Britain (dealing with the IRA), Spain (Basques) and Israel (name it).

First, although there are many things we can do to make ourselves safer, the fact is that sometime, somewhere, someone will succeed in a terrorist attack that takes lives, possibly many lives. That is inevitable.

Second, throwing fundamental rights out the window when terrorism happens always ends up being seen in the long run as the wrong thing to do. Not only does it not make us safer, it can alienate some people so much that they become terrorists themselves, and it plays right into the propaganda of our tormentors. It is both a tactical mistake and a strategic mistake.

Risk management is not a total mystery, even with respect to terrorism, so we need to manage our risk as effectively and efficiently as possible. That boils down to prioritizing on the basis of what scenarios would cause the most damage, irrespective of likelihood, and what scenarios are most likely, irrespective of damage, and finding the balance point. From what I’ve read and heard, the biggest risk by these standards is a small nuclear weapon hidden in a vessel in a U.S. port. Having a couple of hundred blood kin living within a couple of miles of Charleston’s harbor does not make me feel especially good about this, but it is what it is.

But risk elimination is a pipe dream, no matter how totalitarian a state we might become. Let’s be grownups, accept that, work systematically and logically to manage and reduce our risk, and remember who we are: a free people.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 5:32 pm

Because the way to get people not to smoke marijuana is to set the marijuana on fire. Right.

Two dispensaries of medical marijuana in Billings, Montana, where — hello! — it is legal to dispense medical marijuana, have been firebombed, and “Not in our town!” spray-painted on the side of one of the dispensaries.

This is using violence to effect political ends (in addition to denying medical relief to people whose doctors say they need it). So, in addition to being cruel, how is this not terrorism? And why is the government not treating accordingly, rather than just as two cases of arson?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 5:39 am

More evidence that Dick Cheney was right

Dick Cheney recently said on a talk show that one of the best things he ever did as vice president was to tell Sen. Pat Leahy, on the Senate floor, to commit an anatomically improbable act.

Given Cheney’s record, the claim seems self-evidently true. Fortunately for Cheney’s reputation for honesty, we have additional evidence to support this claim: “A bunch of NY subway riders may have almost gotten killed last September 11 because Dick Cheney wanted to boost poll numbers in 2006 rather than let law enforcement work.”

Right after 9/11, a lot of fans of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney casually tossed around the word “treason” with respect to anyone who didn’t genuflect at everything they said. But it seems to me as if screwing the pooch on a terrorism investigation just to get yourself a bump in the polls, while perhaps not meeting the legal definition of treason, comes a lot closer to it than anything any honest critic of Bush/Cheney ever did, let alone said.

Thursday, February 25, 2010 11:53 pm

Can you force a magazine out of business for gross unfamiliarity with a dictionary?

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Journalism — Lex @ 11:53 pm
Tags: ,

I guess not; otherwise, Newsweek would be nothing but a memory.

Sunday, February 21, 2010 1:41 pm

Why do most Americans hate America?

Filed under: Cool! — Lex @ 1:41 pm
Tags: ,

A CNN poll finds that 65% of Americans favored Mirandizing the crotch-rocket airline-bombing suspect — and 56% of Americans favor Mirandizing all terror suspects. I’m pleasantly surprised by that last figure. I would have figured a majority would have had a mental reservation along the lines of the ticking-time-bomb scenario or something.

Saturday, February 20, 2010 3:08 pm

Memo to U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 3:08 pm
Tags: , ,

You seem to think that Joe Stack’s flying an airplane into an IRS office in Austin was “understandable” because people don’t like to pay taxes. Tell you what else they don’t like, jackass: giving tax money to your rich friends on Wall Street. And yet somehow, incredibly, no American has flown a small plane into one of the office towers of lower Manhattan in protest.

Joe Stack had, it appears, both serious mental issues and a long string of bad luck. But what he did was terrorism, plain and simple, and it needs to be called out as such. Both a lot of conservatives and some ostensibly objective journalists who ought to know better like to say that “both sides have their lunatics,” but the fact is that only one side’s lunatics are killing people right now, and it ain’t the left.

Saturday, February 13, 2010 10:49 pm

A dozen questions …

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 10:49 pm
Tags: ,

… that Dick Cheney should be asked tomorrow on ABC’s “This Week” but almost certainly won’t be, from HuffPo’s Jason Linkins.

I’ll add a 13th: On a federal pension, how can you afford all the Depends you must need?

Saturday, January 30, 2010 12:29 am

Odds and ends for 1/29

I’ve already called for impeaching Obama. Looks like we can now add Holder to the mix: A draft report from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility that originally found that Bush officials Jay Bybee (now a federal judge) and John Yoo (now a “law” “professor” at Berkeley) committed professional misconduct (which would constitute grounds for impeaching Bybee), the final version was cleaned up to say they showed “poor judgment” only. Granted, fabricating a legal justification for torture out of whole cloth does show “poor judgment,” but it shows criminal intent as well.

Well, OK, it’s a first step: Pravda, of all places, reports that Francis A. Boyle, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law in Champlain, Ill., has requested arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court in The Hague for the arrests of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Rice and Gonzalez for “crimes against humanity” under the Rome Statute, which established the court. For all I know this is an Eastern Hemisphere version of an Onion article, but, hey, a citizen can dream.

Well, this bites: More than 30% of Triad mortgages will be under water by 1Q2011, Deutsche Bank estimates.

Historians finally weigh in Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism.” Only two years after the fat, lying putz laughed his way to the bank. Thanks a ton, guys.

Banksters organize protest of their treatment … indoors, because it was too cold to go outside. Power to the people!

Bloomberg’s David Reilly asks a good question about this week’s bankster-related developments: Where’s the anger? (Besides Chez Blog on the Run, of course.)

Major-league media?: The Los Angeles Times’ Andrew Malcolm keeps using the phrase “discretionary spending.” I do not think that phrase means what he thinks it means.

Every little bit helps: Somali “pirates” pledge aid to Haiti. (Somali pirates’ est. 2008 income: $150MM+).

Possibly the most entertaining appeals court ruling of the year, and it’s still only January: Gender discrimination in the workplace as manifested by rude language (Oh, so NSFW, by the ruling’s own standards).

What’s stopping the Senate from ramming through a public option in reconciliation? I’m just askin’, on account of 51 breathing senators are on records as supporting one. Seriously, Joe Lieberman can go to hell.

Party of fiscal responsibility, my butt: Every single Republican senator voted Thursday against a new pay-as-you-go rule. Every single Democratic senator voted for it. Remind me again, please, who the grownups are. Quoth commenter Chad N. Freude at Balloon Juice: “They are opposed to pay-as-you-go because they are opposed to go.”

Whoux Dat?; or, There’s a reason they call it the No Fun League: Because you can’t abbreviate No Brains League as NFL. No Frontal Lobe, maybe. (h/t: DivaGeek)

The U.S. economy shrank 2.4% in 2009, the worst calendar-year performance since 1946.

California Senate approves single-payer health-care system; the Governator vetoes it on the laughable grounds that the state “can’t afford it.” Dude, you pay either way, and with single payer, there’s an excellent chance you’d pay less.

Terrorist convicted: The jury deliberated only 37 minutes before finding Scott Roeder guilty of first-degree murder for shooting abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in the head at point-blank range. Roeder admitted the shooting and also testified that he considered only chopping off Tiller’s hands instead of killing him. What a great humanitarian. Memo to New York: If Wichita can try a terrorist, so can you. Memo to the Republicans: Americans are beyond tired of government by incontinence.

I’m probably the last person to find this out, but the free audio-editing program Audacity can record streaming audio from, apparently, any Web site. This makes me insanely happy.

So Obama got together with some Congressional Republicans today. And it’s John Cole of Balloon Juice, who, despite humerus- and-clavicle- and scapula-scraping surgery a couple of days ago, is flying without painkillers, For The Win: “If Mike Pence really is regarded as one of the deep thinkers for the GOP, I’m beginning to understand why they refused to admit Terri Schiavo was brain-dead.” Although the prez himself does nicely with the runner-up: “I would have implemented those ideas had I found a credible economist who agreed with them …”

Friday, January 22, 2010 1:44 am

Odds and ends for 1/21

Does Rielle Hunter know?: Former presidential candidate John Edwards finally admits that he is the father of a former campaign staffer’s daughter. I would say “Stop the presses!” except that the presses stopped on this one a long time ago.

One last party before the walls come down: Morgan Stanley has earmarked 62% of revenues for employee compensation. Not earnings, revenues. Which is good if you’re an employee, because there were no earnings; the company posted an annual loss for the first time in its 74-year history. Goldman Sachs will be paying its employees a comparatively modest 36% of annual revenue, although that amounts to 121% of earnings. Question: What do the (non-employee) stockholders think of this?

What part of “all” did you not understand?: Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is asking committee chairman Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., to hold Federal Reserve Bank of New York officials in contempt for turning over only some, but not all, subpoenaed documents relating to the AIG bailout. Zero Hedge, which has been on this subject for close to a year, helpfully offers some other questions Issa could raise.

Why do teabagger leaders hate America?: Tea Party leader arrested on first-degree rape charge; search turns up stolen Army grenade launcher; YouTube video features him planning to be a “domestic terrorist.”

Remind me again who’s not being bipartisan enough?: I happen to think the proposed commission is a horrible idea, if not unconstitutional, but still: Congressional Republicans have demonstrated repeatedly that they cannot take “yes” for an answer. Jackasses.

So. Um. Troops to Haiti — why, exactly?: Two possibilities, neither flattering.

OK, maybe the Mayans were right: Quoth DougJ at Balloon Juice, “With unlimited corporate money fueling crazed Nixon-style anger, things are going to get very, very ugly.”

I sort of want to know what exactly Spencer is talking about and I sort of don’t.

Finally, the people who know what they’re talking about get a turn: Obama pushes a Paul Volcker-backed plan to limit the size of banks, so as to eliminate the possibility of “too big to fail.” The idea here is to reduce the taxpayer’s exposure to any privately incurred risk in the financial industry. And that’s a good idea. (Know who else thinks so? Mark Zandi, the guy who advised McCain’s presidential campaign on economics.)

Purse v. policy-making: The pants-wetters want the Khalid Sheikh Muhammad trial not to be held in civilian court. Congressional Republicans are plotting to get some moron Dems to go along with them on barring funding for it. Now, why is it that the existing appropriation is in such a condition that that approach is even possible? And who would know enough about the appropriations process to have made this possible to begin with? Hint: it ain’t anyone with an R after his name.

As Alannis said, this could get messy: Sen.-elect Scott Brown got a lot of support from teabaggers, and he very quickly and publicly blew them off. We know how Rush reacts to that treatment. Let’s see how the teabaggers do.

And people wonder why I think Christianists and Islamists are essentially the same species.

Ethnic profiling won’t help: “An additional concern, [a Senate Intelligence Committee report] says, ‘is a group of nearly 10 non-Yemeni Americans who traveled to Yemen, converted to Islam, became fundamentalists, and married Yemeni women so they could remain in the country.’ One U.S. official, it reports, described them as ‘blond-haired, blue-eyed types’ who ‘fit a profile of Americans whom al-Qaeda has sought to recruit over the past several years.’”

Related: More pants-wetting. C’mon, America, man/woman up, will ya?

And even more pants-wetting, called out by Digby: “Everyone seems to forget that a year ago, Obama only had 58 votes in the Senate and everyone was in a state of near hysteria over his massive institutional power and soaring mandate. Now he has 59 and he’s suddenly impotent.”

As we turn more security operations in Afghanistan over to that country, we need to beware of residual problems.

AWOL pirate: Well, skull of pirate. Skull of total butt-kicking 14th century German pirate Klaus Störtebeker, who — and I must admit this even though I’m from North Carolina — makes Blackbeard look like Richard Simmons. Reward.

Awwww: Shiba Inu puppycam!

Friday, January 15, 2010 7:15 pm

Odds and ends for 1/15

Why Haiti is so poor: Because it’s an abused nation, David Brooks, you staggeringly stupid person.

The Fort Hood Shootings: DOD’s official report, out today. Haven’t had time to read it.

But Fox News is cracking down on inaccuracy! Really!: The author of a study that Fox claims proves we’re entering a “mini ice age” says, “I don’t know what to do. They just make these things up.”

Relatedly, global-warming denialism is becoming (surprise!) big business.

The Politico has a scoop! “GOP leaders have privately settled on a strategy to win back the House by putting the vast majority of their money and energy into attacking Democrats — and turning this election into a national referendum on the party in power.” Because Wow! They’ve never done that before! [headdesk]

“I want uninterrupted expertise.” Who cares what the public thinks?

For God’s sake, no one tell David Broder: The public thinks bipartisanship is less important than principles. Richard Burr gets this. Does Kay Hagan?

The National Center for Counterterrorism? Has serious problems.

Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Plan: The Pentagon is preparing for the likelihood that DADT will be repealed. Good. Whether they like it or not, Obama certainly campaigned on repeal, so they at least ought to be prepared.

If Joe Lieberman doesn’t like being called “untrustworthy,” maybe he should stop acting, you know, untrustworthy. Because otherwise, a blog not predisposed to liking Joe very much might throw an impromptu contest to see who can come up with the best synonym for “untrustworthy” (oh, so NSFW), and that would be simply awful.

“The costs of imprecision” are staggering and growing.

One of history’s biggest arguments, settled. (I win.) (h/t: Fred)

ZOMG! Real-life “Calvin & Hobbes” snowmen!

Reason No. 4,298 why I love FailBlog (h/t Jill, who had to be a student in sex-ed classes taught by her mom at both school AND church, which must be, like, a preadolescent’s worst nightmare):

Thursday, January 14, 2010 7:49 pm

Thought for the day

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 7:49 pm
Tags: ,

A strong society does not take its security policy directives from the least continent members of its populace.

UPDATE: But don’t take my word for it. Take theirs.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 7:16 pm

Odds and ends for 1/13

Espwa: Our church supports an orphanage in Haiti, Espwa (which means “hope”). The orphanage has a blog. The residents and staff, through (literally) shaken by the earthquake, escaped injury, although several lost loved ones elsewhere in the country. Moreover, the orphanage gets all its food and supplies overland from Port-au-Prince, and it’s not clear right now whether the roads are passable, let alone what shape the city’s shipping infrastructure is in. You can contribute online here.

Goldman Sachs CEO admits under oath to fraud, walks free anyway. No, that’s pretty much what happened. (UPDATE: But Jack Welch calls this “uneventful,” which tells you all you need to know about Jack Welch.)

Jackasses: The SEC, which ought to be clearing up the mysteries around AIG’s use of taxpayer money, instead is trying to bury them. And make no mistake: This would not be happening without the knowledge and approval of Barack Obama. Memo to the Democrats: One real good way to lose Congress is to let hosers like Rep. Darrell Issa play the good guy.

Steepening curve … and not in a a good way: A month ago, the Mortgage Brokers Association was predicting that its members would originate 24% less in mortgages in 2010 than 2009. Now, they’re saying that figure will drop 40%, from $2.11 trillion in 2009 to $1.28 trillion in 2010. That’s the lowest level since $1.14 trillion in 2000.

A clawback, but not for the taxpayers: A large pension fund has sued Goldman Sachs over its bonus policy, asking that money that would be going to Goldman employees go instead to it. Where that budgeted $22 billion in bonus money really needs to be going is the taxpayers, inasmuch as fully two-thirds of Goldman’s 2009 revenues were more or less directly attributable to taxpayers. But I suppose the retirement savings of cops and firefighters is a more productive place for it than Goldman execs’ pockets. And that is where the money (much of it, at least) will go, because Goldman will settle this toot de suite. It does not want its folks answering questions under oath.

A nation of pants-wetters, or, that high-pitched whine you hear is Ben Franklin (“He who would give up liberty for safety deserves neither … and shall have it”) spinning in his grave fast enough to light up Pittsburgh: A majority of Americans want to give up civil liberties to make themselves safer. Cheese and crackers, people, what are all the GUNS for … to HIDE BEHIND? MAN. UP. Or else the terrorists really do win.

Memo to aides to Massachusetts Dem Senate candidate Martha Coakley: I realize that losing Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat to a guy who posed nude for Cosmo might make one’s candidate a bit, um, testy, but still, don’t shove reporters. Or move to China if you want to do that stuff.

Jan. 23 is National Pie Day. I think I may head over to K&W and have some of the chocolate-creme to celebrate.

From Facebook’s Overheard in the Newsroom: Design Editor: “I want the font that makes people addicted to reading newspapers again.” Commenter Bruce Reuben: “The font would have to be made of crack.” Lex: “The font that looks like kick-ass, take-names accountability journalism. Yeah. That. Also.”

Harold Ford: Strikingly un-self-aware. I’m not a huge fan of Sen. Kristen Gillebrand, but having lived in NY I think she’s far more in tune with people than Ford is. As someone else put it, there’s a reason Alabama doesn’t send gun-confiscating atheists to the Senate.

Nobody does human like Tolstoy, as Ishinoy reminds us.

Tucker Carlson won’t tell you, so I (and Crooks & Liars) will: His new site, The Daily Caller, will have a whole section devoted to “environmental scepticism” [sic]. His primary funder — $3M in the first year alone — is a huge global-warming denier.

Now it’s up to Harry Reid … and Barack Obama: Arlen Specter says he’ll back Dawn Johnsen to head Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. So that’s 60 votes. Let the flushing of the Aegean stables begin.

Somali pirates have scared off shipping … including the illegal trawlers that had depleted fisheries, so that legit fisherpeople are having a great year. Hey, you take your good news where you can find it.

Shorter WSJ: Watching TV will kill you dead. (I was never allowed to summarize medical research like this when I was a professional medical writer. I must say, this is fun.)

Bitters shortage: Does anyone who is not either a watcher of or a character on the AMC series “Mad Men” even drink Manhattans? And if so, why?

It’s over: Dan Rather’s lawsuit against CBS has been tossed, probably for good. In effect, the state court system’s Appeals Division identified problems in his case, then refused to allow any depositions or discovery, which could have, as the lawyers say, cured those deficiencies. Oh, well. Sucks to be him. That said, regardless of Rather’s error in relying on documents whose provenance he couldn’t/didn’t verify, other evidence indicates quite clearly that Bush was, in fact, AWOL.

What I’ve learned from reading about “Game Over” (besides the fact that I don’t want to read the whole book): You can make a lot of money publishing anonymous, 2-year-old gossip. And in real life, people who are dying of cancer and whose spouses are cheating on them don’t always behave as nicely as their Movie of the Week counterparts. OK, I already knew that last one.

I think this comment from liveblogger Teddy Partridge tells you all you need to know about the competence of counsel for the bigots defense in the California gay-marriage trial: “Sorry, this lawyer is asking really long questions and requiring YES or NO answers which makes liveblogging almost impossible”

Busted: The American insurance industry, while publicly claiming it favored health-care reform, was giving money to the Chamber of Commerce to produce and air anti-reform TV commercials. I am shocked, shocked, etc. Someone explain to me again why it’s a good idea to point a gun to American taxpayers’ heads and make them give these companies money. Someone else explain to me why the Chamber and the insurance trade group should get to keep their tax exemptions, kthxbai.

Speaking of health care, there’s this notion floating around that taxing health benefits will lead employers to give more to employees in the form of wages. However, this notion is not true.

Quote of the day, from Sen. Harry Reid: “I have no regret over calling [former Fed chairman Alan] Greenspan a political hack. Because he was. The things you heard me say about George Bush? You never heard me apologize about any of them. Because he was. What was I supposed to say? I called him a liar twice. Because he lied to me twice.” Cue Republican efforts to frame this comment as a “gaffe” in 3 … 2 …

This thing where Giuliani said there were no terrorist attacks on the U.S. under Bush? That was no one-time bit of misspeaking. That was an emerging Republican meme. Guys, Goebbels was a cautionary tale, not an exemplar.

Some judges just need impeachin‘, starting with Warren Wilbert, the Kansas judge in the murder trial of Scott Roeder, who assassinated* abortion doctor George Tiller. Wilbert will let Roeder argue that his killing of Tiller actually was voluntary manslaughter because, in some parallel universe, Roeder wordlessly put the barrel of a .22 to Tiller’s head and pulled the trigger because Tiller was doing something besides providing a legal and needed medical service. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear Wilbert just declared open season on abortion providers.

*He has signed a statement admitting to the shooting.

How Lucky could save the planet!


Monday, January 11, 2010 10:55 pm

Odds and ends for 1/11

U.S. v. terror: Conviction rate in civilian courts? 88%. Conviction rate in military tribunals? 15%. So someone explain to me again why Dick and Liz Cheney are still getting airtime?

Harry Reid v. Trent Lott: To elaborate a bit on a comment discussion Fred and I had in a previous thread: What Harry Reid said about Obama was grossly awkward and inept, but he said it in a context of praising Obama. What Lott said, on the other hand, was praising a segregationist. These two things are not logically, linguistically or morally equivalent.

Guantanamo v. the Constitution: Those party animals at McClatchy News Service have served up a pyrotechnic package of print (with a whole bunch o’ Web stuff, too, including source documents) in observance of the eighth anniversary of the incarceration of the first terrorism suspects at Gitmo. The series touches on subjects ranging from holding, and torturing, innocent people to the Taliban’s influence within the prison (yeah, you read that right).

Generation R(ecession) v. the economy: Newsweek’s Rana Foroohar notes some interesting characteristics of people who come of age in bad economic times. Unfortunately, notes Chris Lehmann at The Awl, she draws some of the wrong conclusions.

Afghans v. everybody else: Incredibly mixed findings in this ABC News poll from Afghanistan. They hate both us and the Taliban. They almost unanimously think their government is corrupt, but they actually support President Hamid Karzai more than they used to. And they’re about evenly divided over whether civilian deaths are more NATO’s fault or more the insurgents’ fault for mingling with civilians.

Matt Labash v. perspective women: In his feature “Ask Matt Labash” on Tucker Carlson’s new anti-Huffington Post, the Daily Caller, Matt Labash calls red-light cameras “legalized rape” and calls Rachel Maddow “the sexiest man alive.” Way to court those swing voters, guys.

Dylan Ratigan v. Geithner: The MSNBC reporter/anchor is starting to carve pieces out of SecTreas Tim Geithner’s hide, and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy not named Bush, Cheney or Rove.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger: Gay marriage on trial — literally: The lawsuit Perry v. Schwarzenegger went to trial today in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. At issue is the constitutionality of Proposition 8, enacted last year by referendum to deny the right of marriage to couples of the same sex in Cali. Expected to last about 3 weeks — with the case likely to end up before the Supreme Court no matter who wins. Your all-purpose source for trial info is here, and if the opening arguments are any indication — which they may or may not be — gay-marriage proponents are headed for a big win.

The perfect v. the very good: Actually, the U.S. health-care debate is now more like the acceptable (if you drop the Stupak amendment) v. the bad, and the bad is winning.

Law enforcement v. the drug war: A lot of former cops, judges and prosecutors have endorsed legalizing marijuana in California, where a legislative committee is scheduled to vote on just that next week. Whether the full legislature passes the bill may be immaterial, though; an initiative to regulate and tax pot is on the November ballot and expected to pass.

Congresscritters v. reality: About six in 10 Americans say terrorists probably will find some way to strike us again. Unfortunately, that’s probably correct, but you wouldn’t know it to listen to some of the Congressional Republicans who are suggesting that 1) we should all be peeing in our pants over the guy who nearly set his crotch on fire and 2) that if you torture enough people and bomb enough civilians, all terror can be prevented.

Time v. knowledge: I am shocked, shocked to learn just how many Balloon Juice commenters did not know that the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.

It’s like Vegas: What happens on Facebook stays on Facebook. Forever.

There an app for your cheapo phone if you’re a student at UNC-Wilmington, where a couple of people set out to create useful apps for the 88% of us who can’t afford smartphones.

Shorter Jonathan Alter: Clap louder and the Democrats will be fine in 2010.

Best SEC comment letter EVER: (h/t Zero Hedge)

Sunday, January 3, 2010 9:44 pm

Odds and ends for 1/3

Cliff May really wishes his penis were bigger.

Why it’s important to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in a civilian court in New York City, by Cynthia Kouril: “Treat him like what he is, a common criminal. Not a great boogeyman, not an arch criminal, not a martyr, just a guy who could not make a success in life living within the social contract and resorted to life on the wrong side of the law. Or in other terms, a failure.”

“People who suck … at analyzing events in real time really, really shouldn’t try to do it a year in advance”: John Derbyshire, Katherine Jean Lopez, Mark Hemingway and especially Jonah Goldberg, call your office. It’s called “reporting,” guys. Learn it. Love it. Live it. Hell, just try it once.

We’re the land of Joyce, but we don’t like to talk about that much.: In the Republic of Ireland it is now punishable by a 25,000-Euro fine (about $40KUSD) to commit blasphemy, defined as “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion.” This is just a power grab by some “religious” earthly authorities. Memo to, just for starters, the Roman Catholic Church: Given all your pedophile priests and abusive nuns in Ireland alone, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. Memo to Muslims: I know you want to try to pull this same crap at the global level, but don’t hold your breath.

“Danger, Will Robinson!”: The aforementioned Cynthia Kouril also goes through the string of AIG e-mails recently released and finds that some of those e-mailers are facing, shall we say, significant legal exposure. Interesting how one blogger attorney is laying more prosecutorial groundwork than the SEC.

A moment in time, not a long-term shift: Micah Sifry examines how and why Obama has let down his base. Digby thinks he’ll pay a political price. I think she’s right … and that Congressional Dems will, too, first.

And about those Congressional Dems: They need to listen carefully to what White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanual says and then do the exact opposite.

The good news: New unemployment claims came in at 432,000 for the week ending 12/26, down 22,000 from the week before and lower than expected.

The bad, and more significant, news: The number of people receiving emergency unemployment compensation — money for people whose regular unemployment benefits have been exhausted — hit an all-time record of 4.2 million in November. For the week ended Dec. 12, the number of new EUC claims came in just under 192,000, bringing the overall total to 4.5 million. With numbers like those, consumers won’t be driving any recovery for a long, long time to come.

Follow the money: The Labor Department claims that X number of Americans are unemployed and receiving unemployment or EUC payments. However, cash-flow reports from the Treasury Department suggest that the amount of money going out for such payments would mean that either check amounts have gone up — which hasn’t happened — or the number of people receiving such payments is actually 32% higher than Labor says. That means that if the “official unemployment rate” is roughly 10%, the actual unemployment rate may be more like 13%.

Privacy is so 1984: In case you didn’t know already, police can obtain info from your cell-phone carrier on where you are (or, to be precise, where your phone is) whether or not you have the GPS function enabled, and they don’t need a warrant to do it. The only way you can hide your phone’s location effectively is to remove the battery.

The Bush White House expected congressional Republicans to obstruct justice: So says Alberto Gonzalez in this Esquire interview (how did I miss this earlier?): “We should have abandoned the idea of removing the U. S. attorneys once the Democrats took the Senate. Because at that point we could really not count on Republicans to cut off investigations or help us at all with investigations. We didn’t see that at the Department of Justice. Nor did the White House see that. Karl [Rove] didn’t see it. If we could do something over again, that would be it.”

Fannie and Freddie really are to blame, Marla Singer says, but not in the giving-mortgages-to-poor-black-people-who-shouldn’t-have-gotten-them way that some conservative pundits are arguing. No, it’s worse than that.

What do you call one investment banker out the door? A good first step: A senior AIG officer quits rather than accept a federally imposed salary limit of $500,000 a year. Door. Ass. Of course, for some unfathomable reason the federal “pay czar” let her keep the $2.8 million in severance she claimed she was entitled to, but, hey, at least we’ve called one bankster’s bluff. Sort of.

Speaking of bankers, if you have a money-market fund, you might want to put that money someplace safer because the government may be ending instant redeemability.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 5:28 pm

How not to wet your pants

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 5:28 pm
Tags:

The White House blog shows how it’s (not) done:

[War criminal Dick Cheney] makes the clearly untrue claim that the President – who is this nation’s Commander-in-Chief – needs to realize we are at War. I don’t think anyone realizes this very hard reality more than President Obama. In his inaugural, the President said “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” In a recent speech, Assistant to the President for Terrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan said “Instead, as the president has made clear, we are at war with al-Qaida, which attacked us on 9/11 and killed 3,000 people. We are at war with its violent extremist allies who seek to carry on al-Qaida’s murderous agenda. These are the terrorists we will destroy; these are the extremists we will defeat.” At West Point, the President told the nation why it was “in our vital national interest” to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to fight the war in Afghanistan, adding that as Commander in Chief, “I see firsthand the terrible wages of war.” And at Oslo, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the President said, “We are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land.”

There are numerous other such public statements that explicitly state we are at war. The difference is this: President Obama doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it, and – unlike the last Administration – we are not at war with a tactic (“terrorism”), we at war with something that is tangible: al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered.

More like this, please — from everybody: politicians, pundits, people on the street.

`

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 11:50 pm

Odds and ends for 12/29

Gettin’ back at ‘em: Wall Street’s 10 Greatest Lies of 2009 and 10 Ways to Screw Over the Corporate Jackals Who’ve Been Screwing You. For informational purposes only; no endorsement implied. IANAL. Void where prohibited. Etc.

Waykewl pitchers: Time’s “The Year in Pictures 2009,” National Geographic’s “Top Ten Space Pictures of 2009.”

Denzel in the house: Denzel Washington came to the Davidson-Penn game last night to watch his son’s team lose to the Wildcats. (Malcolm Washington converted a 3-point play for the Quakers’ final points of the game.)

Connecting the dots: Fecund Stench does an excellent, if scary, job of it.

I’m sure the Right-Wing Noise Machine will apologize to the Dixie Chicks right after it excoriates Ted Nugent.

Following in the footsteps of the other death merchants: Like the tobacco industry before them, the health-care industry, not satisfied to mess things up at the national level, is now also messing things up at the state level.

Attention, deficit hawks: Despite what you may have learned in Right-Wing Math Class, a $900 billion health-care program that’s paid for is NOT as big a problem as a $9 trillion unfunded liability.

Chase and Citibank are dropping out of the FDIC 4K program. Uh, what does that mean, you ask? Basically, they’ve found a way to do more gambling with your money.

Two Panthers are going to the Pro Bowl, RB DeAngelo Williams and DE Julius Peppers. RB Jonathan Stewart’s final stats may outshine Williams’s. Peppers, on the other hand, is tied for 305th in the league in tackles through Week 16, with 39; ranks tenth overall, and sixth among defensive ends (fifth among DEs in the NFC), in sacks; tied for 177th in passes defended (eighth among DEs), with five. In his defense, he is tied for third in the league with five forced fumbles and is among only four DEs in the league who have returned an interception for a touchdown.

Carbon gap: All the blather about a carbon/environment/clean-energy bill is overshadowing an ominous fact: China is going to eat our lunch in this arena … if we let it.

Quote of the day, from Bruce Schneier: “Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.” So let’s 1) stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars a year on equipment and people that don’t do what they’re supposed to do and 2) stop making flying commercial any more of a miserable experience than it absolutely has to be. Thank you.

Another quote of the day, from Osama bin Laden, which we really ought to look at again before rushing off to start new wars in Yemen and Somalia: “All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.”

John Dugan owes us trillions, and if he can’t pay, I say we have the Mafia (who pay sales taxes, if nothing else) break his legs.

Pat Buchanan: Still crazy.

Speaking of crazy: It’s time to stop giving Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., air time. He handles it worse than I handled Jell-O shots, which is pretty bad.

I wouldn’t call it a “fix,” but it’d definitely be an improvement: NYU online-journalism guru Jay Rosen suggests the Sunday talk shows start fact-checking their guests. Unlike Jay, however, I wouldn’t wait ’til Wednesday to post the corrections. That ought to be happening in real time, online and with live screen crawls.

Speaking of fixes, if we want to fix the terrorism problem, we have to start with the engineers. They’re dangerous, I tell you. Including my brother.

Mashup du jour: This is genius.

Attention, police: You can’t Taser people just because they don’t do what you want them to do anymore. Not that all that many of you were doing that to begin with, just as almost none of you hit people over the head with your batons just for the hell of it. But those few of you who have been doing this are now on legal notice that you need to stop.

Elections have consequences, and the biggest consequence of the 2008 election so far is that the people who worked hardest to elect Barack Obama president have been serially and collectively screwed.

Reasons to freak out: Number of Americans who’ve died this year for lack of health insurance: about 45,000. Number who’ve died from salmonella: about 600. Number who’ve died from terrorism, including all those at Fort Hood: 16. Let’s keep this in mind before we soil ourselves, shall we?

Parker Griffith didn’t just take a congressional seat with him, he also took some of the Alabama Democratic Party’s voter-registration data. His primary is June 1, so get your popcorn early.

And I’ll bet you thought the story of Orly Taitz and the birthers couldn’t get any weirder: BZZZT! Wrong!

OK, maybe the world really WILL end in 2012, because it sure can’t keep going like this: DougJ at Balloon Juice for the win: “Let’s be frank: at this point, there is no real difference between Michelle Malkin and the Washington Post editorial page, none between Marc Ambinder and Matt Drudge, none between the Republican Congressional delegation and RedState. We have Jim DeMint holding up the confirmation of the head of the TSA while simultaneously acting as the point man for Republican criticism of the TSA … and he’s getting a lot of traction in the very liberal media. Maybe there is no value in saying this over and over again, but our public dialog really, really sucks.”

And, finally, just because it’s cool and you deserve a reward for reading this far:

Monday, December 28, 2009 9:09 pm

Odds and ends for 12/27

Hmm, what else can we screw up in a way that screws poor people worst? Hey, I know! The estate tax!

John Fox can have another year if he wants: So say the Panthers, although they’re not talking any kind of contract extension with him now (he has a year left). I have mixed feelings about this, upon which I’ll elaborate in a separate post.

Utterly un-self-aware: Jonah Goldberg presumes to pass judgment on someone else’s competence.

Utterly un-self-aware, cont.: Before Republicans criticize Democrats on national-security issues, they need to take a few history lessons, starting with the 9/11 commission report.

Related memo to Joe Lieberman, on the off-chance that he can read: How ’bout before we start a third war, let’s take a minute and figure out how this would-be airplane bomber got a visa? (Newsweek offers the strong beginning of an explanation.) Because the purview of the Senate Homeland Security Committee you chair does not extend to foreign policy or strategic (let alone tactical) military planning. You ass.

At least one legitimate criticism can be leveled at the Department of Homeland Security, and John Cole levels it.

One thing liberals applaud Obama on: Tightening restrictions not only on lobbying, but also on when and how ex-industry officials can go to work for the government, so that agencies aren’t “captured” by the companies they’re supposed to regulate. Watch that change get undone the second a Republican retakes the White House.

Which is fine, except that I haven’t heard them come up with an alternative solution to the problem: Blue Dogs Bayh, Landrieu and Conrad say cap ‘n’ trade is DOA. Relatedly, chemicals from power plants in their states are killing trees in the mountains of mine.

Your tax dollars at work: Despite the recent removal of caps on taxpayer assistance to Fannie and Freddie, which already totals $111 billion, they’re resuming foreclosures next week. You’re welcome, guys.

Not just no, but, hell, no: Not content to throw women’s rights under the health-care bus, the evangelistas are now trying to get the failed policy of abstinence-only sex education incorporated into health-care reform. Guys, we tried your flavor of Teh Stoopid once already and got a big jump in unwed pregnancy to show for it. Go. Away.

Tremors: The last time Iran got this shaky, the Shah was ousted. That may or may not mean the current regime will fall. But it almost certainly means blood in the streets, much of it likely innocent. Great.

Antiterrorism 101, which means most current and former government officials probably haven’t read it: Spencer Ackerman: “It’s never sufficient just to observe that a terrorist group has a presence in Country X. We have to ask ourselves: what are the conditions that allowed for said terrorist group to take root? If we don’t, we simply can’t devise an effective strategy against the terrorist group; and we come close to guaranteeing that we’ll flail and make the situation worse.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:54 pm

Odds and ends for 10/27

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 6:02 pm

Shooting at the Holocaust Museum

Of all places. Good God.

My prayers go out to the family of the dead security guard, Stephen Tyrone Johns. My thanks go to the two other security guards who were able to wound suspect James von Brunn before he could hurt anyone else.

Here’s a little background on von Brunn. It ain’t pretty.

Here’s a Google cache of a page from what is purportedly von Brunn’s Web site.

I certainly hope von Brunn survives. If he’s guilty, I think it could be fun to watch how he does in prison.

And I also hope this incident will help the government get it through its thick skull that right-wing domestic terrorism, while obviously not comparable to what might happen if al Qaeda got a nuke, really is a clear and present danger. (And that’s not to say that right-wing domestic terrorists couldn’t get a nuke, either.)

That said, I’m reasonably sure that federal investigators know as much about von Brunn as the Southern Poverty Law Center seems to. I think it would probably make a lot of people feel better if they gave some indication of that.

UPDATE: Greetings to folks stopping by from CNN. Y’all make yourselves at home.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 6:20 pm

Terror works

I mean, what other lesson are we supposed to derive from this?

George Tiller’s clinic will close in the wake of the Wichita abortion provider’s shooting death, lawyers for the Tiller family said today.

Lee Thompson and Dan Monnat, the family’s lawyers, said in a statement that the clinic, Women’s Health Care Services, will be permanently closed, effective immediately.

(For a nice long slug of Teh Crazy, read the comments, too. All some of them lack is a reminder at the end that women need to stay veiled in public.)

And that’s certainly the lesson the accused terrorist seems to have derived:

An anti-abortion activist suspected in the death of Kansas doctor George Tiller said Tuesday that the closing of Tiller’s women’s clinic is “a victory for all the unborn children.”

This is just the latest in a long string of events that the government, for reasons that surpasseth understanding, refuses to acknowledge as terrorism. That terrorism needs to be stopped, swiftly and forcefully.

And given Operation Rescue’s involvement — Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser, kept suspect Scott Roeder apprised of (trumped-up) legal proceedings against Tiller and then said after the shooting, “Who knew? Who knew, you know what I mean?”, which is almost as disingenuous as Pontius Pilate’s hand-washing — I would be delighted to see the Southern Poverty Law Center bring suit against the group. Even if there ultimately aren’t grounds for bankrupting the group — and I wouldn’t bet the farm on that — I think discovery alone would be very, very interesting … to law enforcement, among others.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009 5:59 pm

I only *wish* we were “using the political system to stomp on radicalized fringes”

Shorter Megan McArdle: We should let the terrorists win.

Bonus rant from Athenae at First Draft:

Lady, are you smoking crack? Are you smoking crack while sitting in a cloud of crack-smoke wearing a T-shirt that says I HEART CRACK while waiting for your crackhead boyfriend to come home with more crack that you sent him out to get so that you’d have some crack when you were done with the crack you’re smoking now? Seriously? Because last I checked, “not being able to convince somebody else that you’re not a [expletive] lunatic and that your ideas about everything should be adopted by everybody” doesn’t qualify as “the political process has been closed off” to you.

Next Page »

The Rubric Theme Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,302 other followers

%d bloggers like this: