Posted by Jerrod @ 9:16 pm on November 30th 2010

And speaking of bubbles and stimulus…

Has anyone analyzed the economic effects of the last decade (almost) of expanded security spending? How many jobs has it produced? How much has it stimulated the economy? How much of a bubble is it? What’s going to happen to the economy when (if?) we wake up to how much money is being wasted and we start evaluating our security policies in terms of efficiency rather than indulging in blind panic? I’m curious.

Posted by Jerrod @ 9:13 pm on November 30th 2010

The best argument for taxing the rich I’ve heard yet (really)

Listening to the most recent Zakaria GPS, I was introduced to David Stockman, former congressman from Michigan and President Reagan budget director. Zakaria is pretty good but I was still expecting to hear more of the same tired old dogma about how bad it would be to tax the upper echelon income brackets. Instead, he pointed out that the net worth of the top 5% has quintupled (that’s an increase of 5 times or 500%) since the Reagan era (from 8 to 40 trillion) but of course our economy hasn’t grown that much. That’s an indicator of how our income structures in the US have gotten out of whack. These income levels were not a product of actual productivity of economic contributions by the rich but benefits or side effects of the bubble economies (dotcom, housing).

Stockman advocates taxing the rich not from a Robin Hood-esque steal from the rich to feed the poor redistribution position but from a rebalancing (he uses the word “reset” which I like) of what we’ve always considered appropriate income distribution. It’s especially important to do it now when we need money so desperately. Since the rich didn’t earn that money, they should be tapped for it. This isn’t a punitive argument either (they didn’t earn it so the government should take). Because they didn’t contribute anything to garner those increases, we’re not losing anything by taxing them. If anything, taking away the easy, bubble and debt fueled expansion of income is going to spur innovation. Why do anything when you can get rich doing nothing? Take that (and the fruits of it) away, and the rich will, you know, do something. And that something = economic growth.

Posted by Brad @ 3:45 pm on November 30th 2010

DADT Review Out: Secretary Gates Calls on Congress for Full Repeal

The Pentagon review has determined that repealing DADT wouldn’t cause any adverse effects. Secretary Gates particularly warns Congress that if they don’t repeal it, the courts will, so if you want to give the military the ability to control the repeal process and make it as smooth as possible, pass a damn law.

There is literally nothing left for on-the-fencers to hide behind.

Posted by Rojas @ 2:49 pm on November 30th 2010

You Don’t Want Nun Of This

It has become customary in the American sports vernacular to refer to a college team which schedules weak opponents as “playing the Little Sisters of the Poor.”

Well, in light of the most recent such reference–by Ohio State president Gordon Gee, in reference to non-BCS football teams like TCU and Boise State–the LSoP has had enough, and they’re coming out swinging.

Posted by Brad @ 12:46 pm on November 30th 2010

Oh, About That Ban on Earmarks…

Well, even their symbolic gestures aren’t going anywhere. The earmark ban failed a second Senate vote this morning, 36 to 56, with eight Republicans voting to allow earmarks, and seven Democrats voting against.

Posted by Brad @ 12:38 pm on November 30th 2010

In Case It Has Been Unclear

There is absolutely nothing that will change John McCain’s mind on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Any allusions to him being receptive to new recommendations or open to changing the policy is just performance, trying to give an appearance of flexibility where there is none.

This has been obvious for a long time, but with the Pentagon report due out tomorrow (although we know most everything in it already), it’s worth, one more time, noting.

Posted by Cameron @ 2:40 am on November 30th 2010

The future is going to rock

Below is the the trailer of an upcoming Current TV feature length documentary, Turning Into Gods. I can’t wait to see the entire film; it looks to be absolutely stunning and seems to check all of the boxes of a story that is meaningful to me. I sense an innate optimism about where technology is going to lead and can not help but love the topic.

If you’re interested in this sort of stuff, check out our Infidel friend who is always a fascinating read and has somewhat of a focus on material of a similar bent. One note: his ideological views confound me without fail. I can’t wrap my brain around his viewpoints: he defies categorization and is independent in the strongest way possible.

Without further ado, the coolest thing I’ve seen in quite a while:

TURNING INTO GODS – ‘Concept Teaser’ from jason silva on Vimeo.

Posted by Brad @ 5:48 pm on November 29th 2010

Anti-Anti-Junk Touching at the Nation

I was going to write a post about the spat between The Nation and libertarianism (or, as they see it, the Great Koch Conspiracy to Influence America!). But it’s almost too stupid to recount. This new notion of some liberals to try to paint libertarianism or even libertarian-tinged Republicanism in an untoward light because it is tainted by contributions from the Koch family is just beyond me. Clearly I’m not the audience, but it’s striking to me that every time advocates of a political philosophy encounter advocates of a differing political philosophy, the first instinct is not to argue and discuss political philosophy, but rather circle the wagons and cast aspersions on the advocates themselves, as if, by definition, they cannot be right-thinking people whose motives are the same as theirs. On another level, I just don’t get the outcry that rich people fund every political movement in America, Democrat Republican or otherwise. It reminds me of the Glenn Beck right’s sudden obsession with George Soros. My first, second, and third thought is: so f*&#ing what?

Anyway, I guess I did just sort of write a post about it, but if you want a better one more specific to the Nation’s anti-anti-junk-touching stance, Radley Balko gives a pretty comprehensive rejoinder that’s worth your time, insofar as anything on this matter is.

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve gotten crushingly cynical and curmudgeonly over the last two months. Must be the weather.

Posted by Brad @ 3:20 pm on November 29th 2010

The James O’Keefe Strategy of Defeating Terrorism

That’s perhaps the most apt description that I can think of the now common practice in which the FBI, believing terrorists to be everywhere, goes where they think they probably operate. Failing, apparently, to find any active terrorists, they then find the sad-sackiest (in many cases mentally retarded and probably mentally to boot) loser they can get their hands on, go out of their way to convince him to become a terrorist and to bait him into taking dud bombs or agreeing with his newfound handlers that yeah, maybe I ought to bomb something, and then arresting them for their terrorism, lauding their triumph (who knows what happens to the poor schlubs they bait), and using that as positive reinforcement in their feedback loop. See! We told you there were terrorists there! Job well done gentlemen!

It strikes me as closer to Andrew Brietbart discovering that unions are bad by finding a teacher at a bar, flirting with her all night, and then getting her to reveal at 2 AM her gripes with the union, and trumpeting those as definite proof of conspiracy. SEE!?! UNIONS ARE BAD! Or trolling ACORN hourly wage employees dressed as a pimp, and finally getting one on camera who doesn’t call the cops on him to turn him in for prostitution. SEE?! ACORN WILL DO ANYTHING!!

I’m not saying anything Glenn Greenwald or Ten Conover isn’t saying already. But it just comes off, to me, as desperate and, frankly, a little disquieting. We normally reserve the phrase “security theater” for the TSA, but it applies to our domestic intelligence efforts sometimes too.

Besides O’Keefe, the other reference that keeps coming to me is Walter in the Big Lebowski.

“You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don’t wanna know about it, believe me. Hell, I can get you a toe by 3 o’clock this afternoon… with nail polish.”

I mean, give me a slick car, limitless surveillance, a controlled setting, no deadline, and $50,000 in cash, and then throw me at a disgruntled and possibly retarded 17-year-old pariah or a group of stupid and possibly schizophrenic ex-con homeless guys, and I could probably have them plotting to steal the Mona Lisa. I’m not sure what that would prove though, and certainly not sure it would make me an accomplished preventer of art heists or detector of art thieves.

Posted by Brad @ 1:07 pm on November 29th 2010

Slap on the Wrist Too Slappy for Rep. Rangel

He wants his “censure” for violating ethics rules to be downgraded to just a “reprimand”. Perhaps “we’re not angry, we’re just disappointed.” Or maybe just winky frowny face? Well, frowny might be a little strong..maybe this guy: ;/

So, get on that, Congress.

Posted by Brad @ 12:53 pm on November 29th 2010

Today in Useless Budgetary Posturing…

The federal government, finally serious about fiscal solvency, reforms medicare grapples with social security scales back the American empire puts defense spending on the table decentralizes non-essential governance freezes the pay of federal workers.

In related news, Republicans in Congress, wanting to show Americans who voted for them this year in the basis of fiscal responsibility that they’re super-serious, did at last ban earmarks*.

*Earmarks defined here as spending tangential to already tangential discretionary spending**.

**unless it’s deemed important by the member requesting it***.

***such as transportation projects for Michelle Bachmann, money to Indian tribes for John Kyl, or anything related to Savannah for Saxby Chambliss.****

****Basically, anything that a member declares is not an earmark shall, for purposes of the earmark freeze, not be considered an earmark.*****

*****so really, any earmark is not, in fact, an earmark, by definition. But don ‘t worry – we banned earmarks******! Hooray for limited government fiscal conservatism!

******(for a year******* , anyway.)

*******(year does not start until after the lame duck session concludes.)

Posted by Brad @ 12:08 pm on November 29th 2010

April 11, 1954

Has been officially determined to be the most boring day since 1900.

Posted by Brad @ 11:11 am on November 29th 2010

Mission Creep

One thing that infuriates me about both liberals and conservatives is that they justify the expansion of federal authority with best cases. For instance, for that one time perhaps that the government might listen in on a potential terrorist in Detroit talking to a handler in Yemen, and the government then (in time) uses that information to stop a legitimate bomb plot…for that case, it is justified to let the government listen in on conversations Americans are having with people overseas. Nevermind any discussion of how often that best-case-use-of-powers ever happens – if indeed it ever happens at all – and nevermind how often it might happen relative to the how the power likely will be used. The mere existence of the best-case is a kind of abstract hypothetical moral justification that proves all. And, needless to say, proud that they’ve proven their case, they’ll leave, and not be in the room anymore when the federal authority digs in and is used in all sorts of cases having nothing to do with that original best-case hypothetical. The federal government bypassing the need for a warrant and instead just taking it’s terrorist hotline wiretap info and using it as evidence to prosecute grandma for trying to buy medical marijuana? It is but a small price to pay for the sake of hypothetically catching that hypothetical terrorist.

Today, a few such stories.

1. Here in Philadelphia, TSA agents took it upon themselves to search a woman’s wallet and papers, and then decide there was something suspicious about her checkbook – suspicious not in the sense that it could bring down an airplane (despite the fact that the TSA has perhaps never stopped such a thing, it is at least their ostensible—and only—purpose), but in the sense that it seemed to the officers she might be in a “divorce situation” and trying to steal the checks from her husband, or something. The burden of proof was then on the flyer to show the officers that she was not, in fact, embezzling money (they had not, it seems, learned their lesson from the Campaign for Liberty worker incident, despite the nice press releases).

How any of that relates to a secure airplane is beyond me, but that’s the real truth of federal authority. In this case, folks who have a hard-on for 24 love to imagine their choices to let the government do anything it can to fight evil-doers is some kind of cut-to-the-chase pragmatism, and those who try to “argue” and “logic” and shit are just fantasy-land pacifists. When, actually, Jack Bauer tackling a guy with sticks of dynamite strapped around his torso as he makes a break for it up an airplane boarding ramp is, in fact, the fantasy, while the far more mundane reality is that all you’re doing is having security professional making 33k a year listlessly searching 30,000 Americans every day, and since nobody likes having power and not using it, they’re going to start finding shit to accomplish like forcing you to put shampoo in a baggie, or declaring a jihad on nail clippers, or finding evidence of other crimes. And don’t be surprised when other responsibilities are folded in, like say fighting the War on Drugs. That is the nature of expanded authority.

And that asshole who gave the Jack Bauer scenario as a way to justify creating and handing over this new authority? He’s nowhere to be found, having moved on to his next fantasy to bang on about and leaving the rest of us simps holding the bag.

2. Speaking of the War on Drugs, Willie Nelson was busted for pot possession by border patrol agents despite not being at the, you know, border. But we cry to our politicians about illegals taking our jobs (despite the fact that they probably didn’t), who then bang on about how Mexican thugs are coming into this country in droves to simultaneously be incredibly lazy as well as fleece us all for millions and perpetrate devious schemes to get on welfare and have babies and get free college educations, which then causes them to shovel money and moral authority to border states and border agencies in the hopes that they militarize our border, who then just pump that money into whatever they were doing anyway, in this case hassling senior citizens driving around in fancy RVs that reek of pot but do not contain any illegal immigrants – and really, do you think the officer that stopped Willie Nelson’s tour bus did so because he honestly thought there were a bunch of migrant workers onboard?

They can do this, because every power we give over to protecting our borders are in fact powers that we give to federal agents which they can use at their discretion anywhere within 100 miles of not just the US-Mexican border, but technically anywhere within 100 miles of a border, which includes all coasts and thus, 2/3s of the United States population. But…Mexicans!

3. Also, did you know that the Department of Homeland Security – specifically the division tasked with making sure our borders and ports are protected – is also apparently in the business of shutting down websites that link to torrents due to concerns about copyright infringement? Or, as Kip puts it, “Apparently terrorists were plotting to fly pirated movies into skyscrapers.”

4. Relatedly, the DHS has also decided, in the wake of the Yemeni parcel-bomb plog, that all non-commercial international shipment packages weighing over 16 ounces and destined for hte United States must include the recipient’s social security number or have to go through port screening. The restriction is so bizarrely over-the-top that it has forced countries like Japan to declare that it won’t ship any over-a-pound packages to America unless it’s by sea. This will, of course, cause many billions of dollars of economic damage to the United States for no real purpose aside from looking busy, covering DHS’s ass, and further reiterating that there is nothing the federal government can’t or won’t do in the name of Fighting Terrorism.

And that’s not even getting into the terror-fighting powers that are being used against purported organized crime and/or internet gaming rings.

5. Finally, it is worth noting that Rep. Pete King (R-NY) has officially asked the State Department to pursue the idea of declaring WikiLeaks a terrorist organization (Joe Lieberman is softly backing this). Mark Thiessan asked for this back in August during the first round of leaks, and sounded insane. Now, it’s coming from the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

It is worth pointing out the obvious: that under no conceivable definition that passes any kind of sniff test could what WikiLeaks does be considered an act of terrorism. It is also worth pointing out that declaring an organization terroristic seemingly solely because they embarrass the government and engage in practices that makes operating in secrecy more difficult is the domain of fascistic states, at least as we have conventionally defined fascistic. Also worth pointing out: once something IS declared under the purview of terrorism, that opens up the door to all those things we had previously accepted because of our Jack Bauer hypotheticals. Meaning, when we said that it was okay to kill people without trial, or hold them without charge, or torture them without recourse, we had always imagined that we were talking about some kind of tough-as-nails terrorist mastermind, and probably not a prissy Swede using anonymous sources to leak embarrassing information that our makes our government look bad. But, because we haven’t insisted on any straight-jacket limits to these terror powers, all it takes is a state department directive at the behest of a guy like Rep. King, and any journalist undermining the government line is, theoretically, suddenly subject to drone strikes, assassinations, indefinite detention, a loss of all constitutional protections, etc. If “terrorist” is anyone who undermines the government and makes it harder for them to execute a strategy ostensibly related to fighting terrorists – and that is not a stretch, at this point; we are practically there already – then, quite literally, that is the power the the government has reserving for itself.

All of this authority was, of course, handed to the government in the name of national defense/security in one fashion or another. And all, without exception, are quickly morphing into all-purpose tools. Because it’s mighty handy circumventing the justice system in the prosecution of terror suspects – so, if we ALSO believe, say, pot use or illegal movie downloading or check embezzling are bad, how can you object to applying them there too, unless you’re pro-pot use/illegal movie downloading/check embezzling? Besides, if you’re doing none of those things, you have nothing to worry about, citizen.

This is why, be it in health care or national security, the default position to the federal acquisition of new authority should always be extreme skepticism and intransigence. Because sunset clauses never sunset, power has its own inertia, authority demands action, and freedom, once given up, is almost never given back.

Posted by Brad @ 10:21 am on November 29th 2010

Quote of the Day

I may have more thoughts later; for now, John Cole’s reaction will suffice:

“I generally sense that people, overall, will be more hostile towards wikileaks after this dump. The previous dumps seemed to corroborate competing stories. This dump will just be viewed by many as an attempt to hurt the United States. I have a hard time getting worked up about it- a government that views none of my personal correspondence as confidential really can’t bitch when this sort of thing happens.”

Greenwald, adding

“Note how quickly the ‘if-you’ve-done-nothing-wrong-then-you-have-nothing-to-hide’ mentality disappears when it’s their privacy and communications being invaded rather than yours.”

Both are cheap shots, since what we’re talking about here is the making public of private correspondence, but still.

Posted by Rojas @ 11:09 am on November 28th 2010

Security Theatre Update

Everybody’s outraged about TSA full-body scanners and the invasive alternatives thereto. But which member of Congress wants to make TSA agents legally liable for their behavior during said screenings? Hint: check the category tags at the bottom of this post…

Posted by Adam @ 5:36 pm on November 24th 2010

Telling it how it is

The Irish Daily Star has a subtle message about the Irish Government’s role in the current Irish economic disaster and the humiliation of begging for handouts

Posted by Brad @ 5:23 pm on November 23rd 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Domestic Intelligence Effort

Entrapping retards and schizophrenics into agreeing to plots against the government, and then arresting them and parading them around as activist terrorist cell masterminds, since 2001.

Last month, if you missed the news, four African-American ex-cons from Newburgh, N.Y., were convicted of plotting to bomb two synagogues here, one of them half a block from my house. The government released a photo of some of the men casing the joint that our local paper ran the day they were convicted.

One of the men in the photo is an FBI informant, Shahed Hussain. The case seems like a slam-dunk—until you learn more about him. Hussain, driving a flashy Mercedes and using the alias Maqsood, began to frequent the Masjid al-Ikhlas in down-at-the-heels Newburgh in 2008. Mosque leaders say he would meet congregants in the parking lot afterward, offering gifts and telling them they could make a lot of money—$25,000—if they helped him pursue jihad. The assistant imam said the suspicion Hussain was an informant was so great “it was almost like he had a neon sign on him.” A congregant told a reporter that, in retrospect, everyone wished they’d called him out or turned him in. “Maybe the mistake we made was that we didn’t report him,” the man said. “But how are we going to report the government agent to the government?”

Hussain bought meals for the group of four men he assembled because none of them had jobs or money. The owner of a Newburgh restaurant where they occasionally ate considered him “the boss,” because he would pick up the tab. Among his other inducements were the offer of $250,000 and a BMW to the most volubly anti-Semitic plotter, the man the government says was the ringleader, James Cromitie. To drive that car, Cromitie would have needed a driver’s license—which he didn’t have. Another supposed plotter, a Haitian, was a paranoid schizophrenic (according to his imam), which was the reason his deportation had been deferred (according to The Nation’s, and who kept bottles of urine in his squalid apartment (according to the New York Times). The last two, both surnamed Williams, have histories of drug busts and minimum-wage jobs in Newburgh. At trial the government asserted that the plot was driven by anti-American hatred. But in papers filed in court by defense lawyers before the trial began, Cromitie is quoted in government transcripts explaining to Hussain that the men “will do it for the money….They’re not even thinking about the cause.”

So, to recap: the TSA has never found a single bomb on any or, that we know of foiled a single terrorist plot, despite now fondling all our balls and looking through our clothes. We swept up a gaggle of Arabs and dropped them into black sites across the world where many of them were tortured despite the fact that 80-90% of them were completely innocent of any wrongdoing by the government’s own admission. When we can’t prove a detainee’s guilt, we coerce information through torture, and then get mad that the coercion renders that information inadmissible, thereby making it so we can’t prove the detainee’s guilt – and we view this as proof that the justice system doesn’t work. And, in one of our two wars, after 10 years we try to negotiate a peace with the leader of the guys we’ve been hunting down for the last decade, only to find out after six months that the guy we were negotiating with is just some dude.

Feel better?

Posted by Brad @ 2:45 pm on November 23rd 2010

Thumbed Down

For no particular reason, here are songs I have thumbed down on Pandora, to be banished forever from my playlists. Which, considering how often I listen to Pandora and how long I’ve been on it (since the beginning), is something I do very rarely.


Posted by Brad @ 12:03 pm on November 23rd 2010

Who Speaks For the Tea Party? How About Rand Paul?

It’s a debatable question for sure, but Rand Paul is auditioning for the role. He’s just signed a book deal for a personal manifesto called “The Tea Party Goes to Washington“.

For his part, Brian Doherty straddles the line on whether Rand Paul is a Tea Party avatar, a libertarian avatar, or what, but does say

Thus, any dumb thing Paul says or does, any deviation from small-government principle, will become a public brick against libertarianism. And in an MSNBC world, sticking to his principles will be a weapon used against libertarianism as well. Rand Paul, even given his almost certain inefficacy as senator qua senator, represents a simultaneous opportunity and danger for the small-government cause. With him in the Senate and his father in the House, libertarianism will face unprecedented amounts of harsh attention, including the sort that doesn’t give libertarians the sideways complement of being curious cases of real principle in an ugly GOP swamp. These libertarians, outgunned as they are, could start being dangerous.

After 23 years defending libertarian ideas in public and private, this strikes me as both great and fearful news

His answer, on what good Rand Paul can do, is essentially my answer in 2007 on what good Ron Paul can do, which I might add turns out to be one of the most prescient things I’ve written, considering it is both actually what Ron Paul decided to do (in the Campaign for Liberty), and it has appeared to have panned out, slowly but surely (and Rand Paul is, himself, Exhibit A). That answer is: inspire more to follow you into office. Doherety:

I’d love to see some Rand Paul-inspired candidates with a more robustly expressed love of non-interventionist foreign policy and of ending the drug war with extreme prejudice. But even a few Rand Paul clones would be good. “I have great confidence in the American system,” Paul said in his acceptance speech. “We must believe in ourselves and not believe that somehow, some benevolent leader in a distant capital will take care of us, will save us from ourselves. We must once again believe in ourselves.” That’s not the sound of a modern American politician. Paul’s greatest chance to change his country is managing his difficult public position with enough sense and panache to ensure that two, four, six years from now, more American politicians sound like that.

There is going to be a very tentative congeniality between Sarah Palin and Rand Paul, and those that identify with one but not the other. But the fact that Rand is starting to exist as a central figurehead stand-in for “the Tea Party” is, for this Paulian, nothing but upside. You can’t score any points without skin in the game, Brian, and for the first time in maybe ever, small l libertarians and Ron Paul Republicans have skin in the game.

Posted by Brad @ 11:32 am on November 23rd 2010

More Challenges to Steele Emerge…

Blessedly, the dreadful Saul Anuzis appears to not be the only challenger to Michael Steele emerging, as two more have all put their toes in the water – former Transportation Department official Maria Cino and former Bush administration Ambassador to Luxembourg Ann Wagner.

So, at the very least, let’s hope Mr. Anuzis doesn’t become the “Anybody But Steele” choice.

Posted by Brad @ 11:31 am on November 23rd 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your American War Effort

There have been a lot of leaked stories over the last month about solid progress in brokering peace between Afghanistan’s Karzai-led government and the Taliban, enough to make it seem like there was finally some hope.

Survey sez

KABUL, Afghanistan — For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.

But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.

“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”

Posted by Brad @ 11:05 am on November 23rd 2010

Why Do I Even Bother to Blog?

I just need to have a Glenn Greenwald Quote of the Day Posting Script installed.

Today, he quotes a New York Daily News story touting the next “guy who is spewing radical Islam and is thus a terrorist”.

Jamaican Imam Abdullah el-Faisal wants to be next terror big, U.S. fears

Counterterrorism agents in New York and Washington are keeping tabs on a Jamaican imam whose death-spewing sermons in English raise fears he’ll radicalize American Muslims.

The NYPD intelligence division, CIA and FBI are concerned Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal is becoming a new Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni Al Qaeda cleric who went from preaching to plotting.

“El-Faisal is focused on propaganda,” one U.S. counterterror official in Washington told the Daily News. “But the last few years, he’s dabbled in operational things like recruitment and facilitation.”

He also inspired Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and failed airplane underwear bomber Farouk Abdulmutallab.

“His reach goes far beyond Jamaica,” the U.S. official said. “He’s trying to expand his network in Africa and Asia”. . . .El-Faisal is charismatic like Awlaki, but “willing to say things that would make even Awlaki turn pale,” said terror expert Evan Kohlmann.

To wit Greenwald adds:

For those of you who support Obama’s assassination program aimed at Awlaki: what do you think? Have we read enough anonymous government claims in the newspaper yet about how “he’s dabbled in operational things like recruitment and facilitation” to cheer for his eradication, or do we still need a couple more articles like this one anonymously accusing him of being a Real Terrorist? Maybe we need Leon Panetta going on the TV to decree that he’s guilty in order to really persuade us, followed by a couple of incriminating Wikipedia entries, and then the President is good to go: drones away? That’s how we now determine guilt, isn’t it?

Note that the government official to whom these intrepid, adversarial reporters gave anonymity accused the new Awlaki of being guilty of exactly that which has been repeatedly been blamed on the Old Awlaki: “He also inspired Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and failed airplane underwear bomber Farouk Abdulmutallab.” Maybe that can just be the all-purpose accusation which justifies a whole litany of assassinations: anytime we want to kill someone, we just have a government official anonymously claim in the newspaper that he inspired the Undewear Bomber and Fort Hood Shooter. After all, there’s no limit on how many people can “inspire” someone.

Posted by Brad @ 5:31 pm on November 22nd 2010

Your Historical Idiocy of the Day

The top recommended diary at Dailykos this afternoon is a post explaining that, when JFK was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, right wing criticism of Kennedy existed and was militant. The strong implied message, of course, is that last time there was an activist conservative movement (Tea Party today, John Birch Society then), the liberal President wound up dead.

The post for some reason doesn’t touch on or even mention the, you know, actual killer of Kennedy, a radical and militant leftist who hated those right wing critics even more than the diarist (so much, in fact, he tried to kill one of them).

I really can’t tell you how uninterested I am in the whole Liberal Fascist v. American Taliban debates in general, but in this case…ye Gods. If you’ve got to stretch the analogies this far…

Posted by Brad @ 4:58 pm on November 22nd 2010

Quote of the Day: Nobody Reads Retractions Edition

Al Gore, who let’s remember cast a tie-breaking Senate vote on a bill mandating that ethanol be gifted a government-forced share of the gasoline additives market, on why he was such a fan of ethanol subsidies:

“It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for (U.S.) first generation ethanol,” said Gore, speaking at a green energy business conference in Athens sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank.

“First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.

“It’s hard once such a programme is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going.”

He explained his own support for the original programme on his presidential ambitions.

“One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

These subsidies, which have produced almost no benefits to anyone but the direct recipients of the federal largess, cost 7.7 billion dollars last year.

Two words for Mr. Gore: Fuck. You.

Posted by Brad @ 4:39 pm on November 22nd 2010

Delicious Irony from Park51

I’m sure this wasn’t intended to throw them back into controversy, but I kind of appreciate the developers of the Park51 program applying for $5 million in federal funds as part of a federal aid program intended to subsidize the redevelopment of lower Manhattan after the attacks of September 11th. A large multi-faith community center particularly catering to underrepresented minorities is, of course, the sort of project that one would have to assume the creators of this federal aid program very much had in mind, and which it is explicitly designed to assist. Indeed, the grant being applied for is specifically designated to underwrite “community and cultural enhancement” projects in the area, and the grant application itself states that religious organizations can make funding requests for capital projects “as long as the request is for a facility or portion of a facility that is dedicated to non-religious activities or uses.” Which indeed Park51 has – it’s a proposed 13 story building with a single Islamic prayer room, which it excludes from the application (meaning federal money from the grant won’t go to the portions of the building which are all “muslimy”.

In the end, given that Park51 only has about $20,000 of its proposed $100 million dollar budget, it’s unlikely to get any grants, unrelated to its attendant controversy. Which has, by the way, always been the case. The good bet is that nothing ever comes of the Park51 project at all — really it’s nothing more than a glint in the eye of a muslim real estate developer — except, crucially, a strong signal from a very vocal minority of Americans that there is something inherently offensive about the practice of Islam such that it should be treated differently from the practice of any other religion, which was at the very least a very clarifying moment in modern American political history, and I don’t mind at all if the developers keep visible and keeping that thumb in the eye of that segment of Americans.

Posted by Brad @ 12:27 pm on November 22nd 2010

Your TSA Humor Videos of the Week

SNL nailed it this weekend.


Posted by Brad @ 12:13 pm on November 22nd 2010

Hospital Visitation Rights

Flying under the radar last week: President Obama has signed an executive order advising the nation’s hospitals to allow all visitors approved by a patients – not just legal family members or guardians as defined by state laws – equal visitation rights. While not a law per se, the executive order also appends this standard to Medicare and Medicaid Conditions of Participation – meaning any health care providers who do not adopt and apply this new standard may be ineligible for federal health care money. So, effectively this executive “opinion” will likely enjoy universal implementation.

A pretty weaselly way to do it, but in practice the situation this law is meant to rectify are gay men and women being challenged or barred from visiting their hospitalized partners. And, in addition to being a weaselly way of passing what is in essence a federal law trumping state definitions, it also provides the Obama administration with a data point to throw around with the gay community – and, I’m sure they hope, a diffusing mitigator when it comes to the White House wanting nothing to do with a federal gay marriage or equal protection fight.

Posted by Brad @ 5:30 pm on November 20th 2010

The Vindication of Ron Paul

A nice op-ed in the Baltimore Sun by Ron Smith.

Ron’s influence will always be far greater than generally acknowledged, and that’s particularly true as it concerns the Tea Party movement, arguably the biggest political story of 2008-2012, and which has used Paul’s campaign and ideology as a template from the very beginning. I have no doubt that he’s the Godfather of the movement, even if by now he’s only a small part of it. Still, nice to see the occassional cycle of stories like these.

Posted by Brad @ 3:46 pm on November 19th 2010

MSNBC Suspends Scarborough for Campaign Donations

This is the media’s take on fair and balanced in a nutshell. Better to be stupid across the board than be reasonable sometimes.

What particularly gets me is: who, precisely, did MSNBC President Phil Griffin think he was going to impress?

Posted by Brad @ 1:40 pm on November 18th 2010

Dumbest F’ing Political Controversy of the Month

Bristol Palin may be irrevocably damaging the integrity of Dancing with the Stars.

Runner up: some 16-year-old chick and some dude were totally arguing, and then the chick was all like, “you’re a faggot,” and everybody else was all like “oh no she di’nt!”

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