Posted by Brad @ 5:26 pm on September 27th 2012

Chart of the Day

Context.

Posted by Brad @ 2:30 pm on September 27th 2012

Music Video of the Week

Fun – Some Nights

Not really worth a lot now, but I had been dying to post this song since I first heard it in like February, but they only had a teaser video up, which is totally worth checking out in its own right, but was not the song itself so I figured I’d wait a few days. Cut to March, April, May, June, etc.

Now the real video is out, but the song is also on every Top 40 station in America and you’ve heard it 5000 times already.

All of which is to say I was into this before you.

Nevertheless, it’s an f’ing fantastic song.

Posted by Brad @ 8:44 pm on September 26th 2012

Air Force Declares that Contact with WikiLeaks is Akin to “Communicating With the Enemy”

Which is punishable by death, by the way.

Oh, and because of all these “tough on terror” policies enacted and institutionalized under Bush and then Obama, that basically means that anybody providing material support or even supportive of WikiLeaks is edging very close into “terrorist” class, which is an ambiguous and undefined category in which all your rights – both constitutional ones like due process and human ones like not being summarily executed – are unilaterally deemed null and void at the discretion of the President or agents acting under his (secret and unappealable) orders.

Posted by Brad @ 2:24 pm on September 26th 2012

Conor Friedersdorf on Why He Refuses to Vote Obama

Even a lengthy pull quote doesn’t do it justice, so read it here. I agree with literally every word, and he basically just wrote my own 2012 endorsement for me. In particular, his handling of the argument “…but…but…Romney sucks!” is masterful.

Sometimes a policy is so reckless or immoral that supporting its backer as “the lesser of two evils” is unacceptable. If enough people start refusing to support any candidate who needlessly terrorizes innocents, perpetrates radical assaults on civil liberties, goes to war without Congress, or persecutes whistleblowers, among other misdeeds, post-9/11 excesses will be reined in.

If not?

So long as voters let the bipartisan consensus on these questions stand, we keep going farther down this road.

The Romney argument is entirely unpersuasive to me as well. We have an incumbent president who has established an extra-judicial kill list for American citizens and a standing policy of sending out drones to countries we are not at war with and wantonly terrorize and kill the people there (and please read up on the Atlantic’s coverage of that this week, which is incredibly eye-opening)—neither of those two things being subject to democratic or judicial processes.

These two things alone are, I believe, more dangerous precedents than even anything George W. Bush ever did, and they speak to the most fundamental, the most core values of our republic—the most basic premise of our entire American enterprise. I can literally not even conceive of anything more worthy of being a complete deal-breaker. Tax rates? Medicare? Whatever outrage-of-the-week riles you up regarding science, race, gender, lack of economic empathy, whatever? Those are big issues, no doubt. But, compared to the three fundamental things Conor puts up that rest squarely on Obama’s shoulders – and yours, when you vote for him – they rate as mere distractions to the core violations of the American enterprise under Obama’s watch. And as Conor asks, if those things aren’t enough to put you off casting a ballot for the man…what would be?

Posted by Brad @ 1:25 am on September 26th 2012

Don’t Care

Not that anybody cares, but I’ve added a new category (the thing on the right sidebar or the bottom of posts that lets you pull up the posts we have decided in entirely arbitrarily ways are related and are organized around concepts only we, usually on whims, care about).

This one is simply titled “Don’t Care”, and it includes two pretty ad hoc features I’ve used over the years.

“I Don’t Care About…”: Posts about “issues” that capture column space or cause heated debates that, to me, seem dumb, uninformative, spoken about way out of proportion to their real-world impacts, or are almost always just about wheel-spinning or dog whistling. Things as specific as Jeremiah Wright or 911 Truthers or as general as illegal immigrants, affirmative actions, or steroids – but they can also be sort-of intentionally risable, like gay bullying or Ron Paul’s racist newsletters. I tend to go pretty in depth about why I don’t think the issue is actually important (at least in the sense most people thing it is).

“Dumbest F’ing Political Controversy of the Month”: Similar, except much more specific – things like outrage that Common was invited to the White House, or Meghan McCain wears a Keffiyeh. These can read very dated, because usually a month later nobody remembers them (for very good reason), but they’re those stupid little things that blow up for a week, and are almost always somebody trying to project their own tribalism onto some idiotically insignificant thing. Haven’t done one of those in awhile – feel free to offer up suggestions often.

Really, taken together, these features are about debunking, of a sorts. The kinds of things we often argue about incessantly – either ones with a shelf life of a week or ones with a shelf life of a generation – can be stupid or irrelevant. Nobody’s life was ever actually made worse by ACORN and, really, the people that give a sh*t if Obama does a courtesy bow to the Prime Minister of Japan are assholes (can’t believe I never included those two in the above features). And if you devote genuine headspace to fretting over Aqua Buddha in Kentucky or Sharia Law in Oklahoma, you’re a moron—or, more likely, you’re just a partisan pretending to actually give a sh*t so you can get in knocks or try to fool people who aren’t paying attention or have no perspective.

Anyway, other bloggers, feel free to use those two features and categorize appropriately. And, readers, if you ever want to come to a political blog to taste annoyed ambivalence…why have we got a category for you.

Posted by Brad @ 12:12 am on September 26th 2012

Today in Insane Clown Posse News…

“You’re trying to grow love in your country and shit,” says Shaggy 2 Dope. “Then the head of your country–the FBI–just turns around and fucking kicks you in the nuts. How are you supposed to respond to that?” He and J could only identify one option. “We’re doing the American thing–we’re suing.”

Posted by Brad @ 2:30 pm on September 23rd 2012

Music Video of the Week

Amy Winehouse – Tears Dry On Their Own

Posted by Brad @ 11:59 pm on September 21st 2012

Movie Idea

A man in Point Breeze, a suburb of Philadelphia, builds a business next to a vacant lot. That lot has sat empty for 36 years, and is overgrown and strewn with trash. The business owner seeks to buy it from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, but is rebuffed. He appeals for the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority to clean the lot, and they refuse. He offers to clean it himself, and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority tell him he better not—to do so would be trespassing. So the guy spends 20k of his own money to bring in a landscaping crew to level it, remove 40 tons of trash, put in a wood fence and park benches and picnic tables. The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority threatens legal action, and tells him he had no right. They demand he restore the lot to its previous state. A local controversy ensures.

The hacker group Anonymous takes note, and suddenly this enigmatic group of international renown jumps into the fray, posting a video demanding that the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority cease their action against the business owner, reimburse him the money he spent cleaning it, and sell him the lot. If the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority does not, Anonymous will take action.

The City of Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority does not take any action except a meek condemnation of Anonymous, and so the hacker group retaliates. They target the City of Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, DOS-attacking its website. City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson is targeted, and his government and campaign websites are hacked with disparaging messages. Executive Director Ed Covington’s personal email is hacked and deleted, his credit cards are canceled, and he is signed up for lots of unwanted catalogs.

But what they didn’t account for…was Kratos 6.

You see, for years, the City of Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority has employed a top-secret squadron of the world’s most elite and ruthless hackers. Used mostly as a web development team and the guys that update the property listings on the government agency’s site, this rag-tag group, called Kratos 6, were forced into service after being convicted of a host of federal and international crimes.

One was known by authorities through the former Soviet Bloc simply as “Piotr”, and he had a penchant for silently assassinating, solely through computers, a number of Eastern European business leaders by means such as changing traffic signals, dropping elevators, or even, in a notorious instance, redirecting air traffic. Another, the Azure Siren, would create fake personalities across the web and, like a master puppeteer, manipulate people who had never even met into blood feuding arch enemies – she is thought to be responsible for dozens of murders. Master of surveillance, Loop, is able to effortlessly tap into the world’s digital network and find people anywhere – from CCTV cameras to cell phone data tracking to face analysis software applied to top secret satellite technology. For years the world’s leading practitioner of “social hacking”, Jimmy DeSantos might have been, in another life, a captain of industry, a Hollywood star, or a leading psychological theorist – but instead, he plied his talents by talking his way into the world’s most secure computer networks, from the NSA to Interpol, solely through charm. And then there are the brothers Bing and Bang – all records of their crimes were scrubbed from even the highest level security dossiers. They exist, in the outside world, only as whispered myth.

Together, they form Kratos 6. And on a cool September day, they labor in their squalid basement office in City Hall, updating the Philadelphia Home Improvement Loan Program sub-page of the City of Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority site, unaware that, out in the world, Anonymous has escalated their campaign against city council members and City of Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority staff. At one point, another DOS attack hits the website. Loop, munching on Cool Ranch Doritos, is on it. With a flash of the keyboard, he shuts the attack down, for a third time that week. He thinks nothing of it. Probably just some kid.

But suddenly, the secure line – a 70s-era phone on the far wall – rings. It is the first time the phone has run in 12 years.

The members of Kratos 6 exchange looks. After four rings, Piotr gingerly picks up the phone.

It’s Executive Director of the City of Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority Ed Covington.

We have a situation.

Posted by Brad @ 12:46 am on September 21st 2012

The End of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Rather than add to comments to this post, it’s probably important enough to merit it’s own space.

This last thirty days, America suspending training Afghani security forces – because when we hand them guns, they often shoot us with them right then and there – and more recently we just suspended most joint US-Afghani missions.

Folks, this basically means the War in Afghanistan is over. And that, at least according to our current goals (they have changed a lot), we have lost.

This is important for a whole host of reasons. But I want to make one small point. It almost seems petty, but it needs saying.

During Barack Obama’s tenure, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were ended.

In Iraq, that is because Obama demanded a permanent residual force that would have left troops in indefinitely – and the Iraqis told him to go f*ck himself.

In Afghanistan, we decided we needed to stay just a little while longer yet while we prepared Afghanis to repel foreign and domestic enemies – at which point they decided we were one of them.

This is not, per se, a knock on Obama’s handling of anything. I don’t know that circumstances would have been different under any other President.

But let it be said, loud and clear, that President Obama did not end dick.

He kept trying to reset the clock in both cases, to push American occupation just a little longer, and, ultimately, it was the domestic population that kicked us out, in both cases, and in both cases, against the express plan and wishes of the American government.

I know I’m jumping the gun on how Afghanistan plays out, in this regard. But let’s just say I’d rather try to preempt the coalescence of a narrative that has already formed.

Posted by Brad @ 11:40 am on September 20th 2012

Let’s Not Let This Pass Quietly – Objective Reviews of DADT Repeal Impact

I want to keep this in people’s faces.

Every time an issue of gay equality comes up, we are treated to attempts at passing off subjective biases into mushy objective arguments about “societal harm”. Gay adoption and same-sex parenting, gay marriage, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, whatever.

It used to just pass as a given when those standing in the way of equality would say things like “gay marriage harms the fabric of society” or “gay parents will create depressive and maladjusted children” or “gays in the military will hurt troop morale and military readiness”. But thankfully, we have, like, research that can respectfully take those claims and see if there is any merit to them; we now have falsifiable experience we can look at to see if those arguments came true, or not; and we have a society that is no longer willing to cede those arguments as givens.

Which puts anti-gay equality folks in a bit of a bind, as it turns out none of those things are true. And, indeed, in the last twenty or so years of this particular culture war, I am hard pressed to think of a single quantifiable, falsifiable measure of objective harm that has ever been convincingly produced, while evidence to the contrary mounts, and mounts, and mounts. And the fallbacks are looking more and more made of sand, leading to very satisfying things like plaintiffs suing against gay marriage being unable to find witnesses or experts to bring with them to, you know, a state Supreme Court hearing, or Maggie Gallagher being forced to concede that the main harm she’s seen from states legalizing gay marriage is it’s made people more intolerant of Maggie Gallagher. And, perhaps the surest sign of victory, all the critics of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell who were at a fever pitch only two years ago, suddenly ignoring the question entirely and with no interest in talking about it any more. They’d rather just keep walking.

But I’m not in a mood to let them. Critics of gay equality in the military spent years bringing witnesses, and experts, and making claims – testable claims! – about the harm or potential harm that repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would wreak on the institution of our military. And now that we can cleanly evaluate those claims, we should. And we should put that evidence out there for all to see. So when the next gay equality battle comes to pass and we’re given all kinds of dark cloud scenarios, we can judge whether those people and those claims have borne out in the past.

To wit: a new academic study has done systemic research to see if there has been any harm to the military based on the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Some falsifiable claims are very easy to dismiss (the talking point that repeal could lead to the premature departure of up to 500,000 service members, for instance? The correct answer is two. Ohhh, I’m sorry. Two. it’s two. Thanks for playing). As for the rest, the study authors go scouring for evidence – ANY evidence – in favor of the claims of harm prior to repeal, and come up with absolutely nothing. In fact, the study authors conclude not only that, objectively, quantifiably, there has been absolutely no harm, but they even feel compelled to add that most of what they found suggests it has actually improved the military.

For 15 years this was hotly debated. And in a rare, clean instance where the law was changed over night, giving us a remarkable case study opportunity, every single claim against repeal have turned out false. AT WORST, the entire thing, which harmed so many lives, turned out to be a complete non-issue. Such that even anti-gay equality advocates have more or less chosen to forget that this issue ever existed.

Don’t let them. Any argument with anti-gay equality folks about “fabric of society” bullshit should begin with “we have a test case in repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. What did we discover from that?”

Posted by Brad @ 2:44 pm on September 19th 2012

RIP Thomas Szasz

I somehow completely missed that Thomas Szasz passed away last week (this is the better obit).

I wrote a post the other day of who, in this day and age, you might consider one of your heroes. I am not sure of Szasz was fully in that category for me, but he was close. I originally set out studying psychology as an undergrad, and wound up getting as far into as you can as an undergrad, including running a research laboratory. There is a lot, a LOT, that I love about psychology from the 20th century to today. And, like many Americans, I’ve also certainly spent my fair share of time on the other side of the couch divide. On the whole, I truly believe that psychology is one of the great frontiers, with maybe physics, of both science and philosophy.

But I’ve also seen firsthand its practical limitations – and, very often, its practitioners either ignoring, being ignorant of, or glossing over those limitations, and the damage it can do in real people’s lives (not talking about me here on that latter part). Psychology has reason to be the most ambitious of disciplines, but it also has reason to be the most humble, and sadly, in practice – particularly in clinical settings – those two things don’t always go together.

So when I discovered, after years and years of taking classes, The Myth of Mental Illness, it resonated with me to an extent that I can’t think of with any other book. It really did single-handedly change my entire perspective on the world and the social constructions we all share and live in. It was not that Szasz himself was perfect or even consistently right – like many visionaries, he could run off the rails with the best of them. But his central insight was both so radical, and so intuitive (but so often unexamined, forgotten, ignored, or buried), and so important, that I think it has to be the central dissent to the entire field, and many, many others. Again, he wasn’t the the first to have it by any means. But in his field, in his context, and practically applying it in the way he did – essentially standing in front of a tsunami of social science bent on defining and treating abberation and shouting “there is no normal” – he really remains, to this day, the single arrow stuck in the Achille’s Heel of a discipline that infuses nearly everything we do, and which controls, defines, and guides tens of millions of lives.

Essentially, the day I read it cover to cover is the day I became uninterested in pursing psychology as anything more than an interesting field of study. And it’s also the day I developed a profound skepticism of standing in judgement of certain things and pretending I am doing so objectively; it was almost the day that I became mostly no longer interested in trying to put a stamp on the hearts, minds, and souls of my fellow man (a part of my personality that, weirdly, I developed further through some Catholic exploration).

And I have a first edition of The Myth of Mental Illness proudly displayed on my bookshelf at home.

So yeah, RIP Thomas Szasz – you were one of my heroes.

Posted by Brad @ 2:30 pm on September 19th 2012

Music Video of the Week

Mark Farina featuring Sean Hayes – Dream Machine

Dig it.

Seriously, if I could have this song running through my brain every day, I’d be alright.

Posted by Brad @ 10:13 am on September 19th 2012

Vote Fraud Cases Since 2000

As states are furiously working to establish a higher barrier of entry into the franchise of voting for all Americans, ostensibly to weed out those who vote fraudulently, it’s worth noting, again and again and again, exactly what the problem end of the “solution in search of a problem” entails.

News21 has scoured the public record for all cases of voter fraud since 2000 (not convictions, mind you; cases). They then put the results on a handy interactive map. It is interesting to note that Kansas seems to be the super-concentrated hotbed of vote fraud. But more interested to note that, since the year 2000, they were able to come up with 633 cases. Since 2000. Across the nation. Not convictions – cases. 633. Out of however many votes have been cast in America since 2000.

I’d also love to see some kind of overlay of how many people likely won’t currently meet the requirements for voting under voter ID laws. Likely many tens of millions – and that’s just current (not since 2000). Casually estimating that at 30 million, for every 1 allegedly fraudulent vote case since 2000, that means we’ll be disenfranchising about 47,000 people. Worth it?

Posted by Jack @ 10:33 pm on September 18th 2012

It is not often I brag about my Alma Mater, but this brings tears to my eyes: Naval Academy Gangnam Style

Posted by Jack @ 7:26 pm on September 18th 2012

Let us list the reasons Romney’s hidden video statements are wrong, misleading, and distorted

– The fact that 47% of American households do not pay federal income tax, a technically true statement, intentionally obscures the fact that all of those 47% pay a wide range of other taxes: Social Security and Medicare withholdings, state sales and/or income taxes, property tax, fuel tax, cable tax, cell phone tax, and myriad other taxes often referred to as fees for various federal, state, and local services.
– Of those 47% a high percentage are elderly retired subsisting on social security payments alone. Another not insignificant percentage are non-dependent students struggling to get by, almost all of whom will grow into the income taxpaying workforce. Many are just dirt poor.
– Even of those that are simply too poor to have to pay, for many it is a temporary situation. The vast majority of the population eventually pays consistent income taxes.
– Many of those that do not have to pay income tax do so because of republican supported tax cuts occurring in the wake of successful GOP presidential candidates.
– Romney’s tax proposals would not actually increase the percentage of income tax payers to a significant degree.
– The rather disgusting suggestion that those 47% do not now and perhaps never will learn personal responsibility is rather silly given how many of them worked much of their lives to earn social security, or are at present working through college so they can enter the work force.
– The idea that these 47% are diehard democratic voters is bellied by the fact that many of them vote GOP.
– The idea that these 47% supposed die hard voters must be overcome by massive responsible person turn out strains credulity given that poor people vote at a far lower rate than the middle and upper class.
– Though said as a joke, the idea that Romney would have a better chance of being elected if his parents had been Mexican suggests a breathtaking lack of awareness of his own privilege.
– The loosely disguised pro Greater Israel rhetoric combined with the accusation that all Palestinians oppose a peace settlement hints at either an abandonment of the official US policy of a two state solution, or at least a willingness to let his audience believe it.

All I can come up with for now. Any additions, corrections, quibbles, or just rude remarks?

Posted by Brad @ 2:26 pm on September 18th 2012

Oh, by the way, Jesus was married

FYI.

Posted by Brad @ 2:14 pm on September 17th 2012

Don’t Fear the Reaper: Reality Check on Sequestration

The trickle has already begun, but once Congress closes at the end of the week, expect a full on deluge of stories about how sequestration – the automatic budget cuts that will take effect at the end of the year if the parties don’t agree on a long term budget – will be an economic apocalypse.

But two things to note, right off the bat:

As with all things Washington, “cutting the budget” does not really mean “cutting the budget”. It means “continuing to grow the budget, but growing it slightly less than we would have otherwise over a ten year period”. When you hear “sequestration will forcibly axe $1.2 trillion from government!”, please bear that in mind – the only axing is taking some off the table for a budget that will still be growing by many trillions. In fact, without sequestration we will grow our budget by $1.7 trillion (that’s trillion) over the next ten years. With sequestration, we will ONLY grow our budget by an alarming $1.6 trillion. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

What does that actually look like?

Apocalypse!

(source)

As to what its immediate impact will be…take it away Nice Gillespie:

And this much is complete bullshit: “sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments and core government functions.”

In fact, the cuts for 2013 amount to maybe a whopping $120 billion in an annual budget that is likely to run about $3.8 trillion. Out of the $120 billion, about $50 billion will come out of military budget that will be well north of $650 billion, including war funding.

Let’s leave aside the mad rush by every part of the government to link its current failures to a future spending cut and instead point out the obvious: Sequestration in no way threatens any basic governmental function. Period.

Federal spending has ballooned since George W. Bush first darkened the door at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and was then succeeded by Barack Obama, who continues to max out the credit cards (both had the help of Congress). Over the next decade, the GOP’s budget envisions spending around $40 trillion (in current dollars) and the president estimates spending around $48 trillion (in current dollars).

To pretend that shaving $1.2 trillion off either those totals means any government program anywhere is going to go begging is the biggest con in a long, long time. If we can’t cut spending – or even hold it steady for a few years in a row, fer chrissakes – shouldn’t we just give up now?

Of course, the big X factor is how markets might react – a fair concern, but the markets, in that respect, will be suffering from essentially the same fundamental misconception. Really, this is the Washington we have earned for ourselves, and why I have a hard time calling out fiscal hawks while giving self described “reality-based centrists” a free pass. Making tough fiscal choices is…well, tough. But making them in an environment where even shaving off some of the projecting increase in the federal budget is seen as disastrous austerity – and where the BASELINE understanding of the definition of “government spending” is “what the government wants to spend” – does not leave one with a lot of hope.

Posted by Cameron @ 1:32 am on September 16th 2012

Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten

Idiots say idiotic things. Occasionally people get offended because what some idiot says or writes or films or broadcasts. A piece of advice though? If you feel yourself getting offended, there’s a marvelous schoolyard adage that may be worth reciting: sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.

See that’s the thing about speech, it’s just that: speech. Man up and listen to it. Or don’t and walk the other direction to buy earplugs. Ideas aren’t going to stab you or steal your wallet or make your [insert preferred religious figure here] less sacred. They aren’t going to beat you up or throw you in jail or kill you.

Free speech matters. The protection of that freedom is one thing that the United States of America does uniquely well. Our government doesn’t have laws preventing publication of naked frolicking of the offspring of our national officials. Our government doesn’t have lese-majeste laws preventing critiques leaders like they do in Thailand. Our government doesn’t require that speech not affect the “integrity of the state” like they do in India. Our government doesn’t block vast swaths of the internet like they do in China. Our government doesn’t throw journalists in jail for their reporting like they do in Turkey. Our government doesn’t censor video games like they do in Australia. Our government doesn’t have laws preventing the undermining of the “public order or morality or the authority of the State” as they do in other developed countries like Ireland.

The United States of America does not ban hateful speech. Despicable though some speech is, we protect all speech and afford it equal exposure to sunlight. We let the Nazis march in suburb full of Jewish Holocaust survirors. We let the idiots make movies. We let the Westoboro Baptists protest. But we also let the counter-protesters march. See, the important point is that we also let the people who are hindu/christian/gay/jewish/liberal/conservative/atheist/intellectual/smart/stupid march too. Everybody gets to have their say.

We do not jail individuals for political speech. We do not censor speech once created. We are exceptional in this regard and should remain so, as a shining city on the hill. The misguided among our cacophony of voices may spew filth. We let them. In the end though, they will be drowned out by the masses. And that’s the brilliance of a truly protected freedom of speech.

We do not not ban ideas.

Posted by Brad @ 12:54 am on September 16th 2012

Music Video of the Week

Cage The Elephant – Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked

Posted by Brad @ 1:21 am on September 15th 2012

Why I’m a Registered Republican

I have my own reasons – and I’ve been a Republican since the day I turned 18. But I also completely identify with Tod Kelly’s reasons for switching his own registration this week.

So I’m going to be a Republican, and I’m going to cast my primary vote for the most fiscally conservative, grounded in reality, non-magical believing candidate that’s thrown his or her hat into the ring. I trust the Democrats in Oregon to put up a quality candidate with Big Ideas, even if many of those ideas are terrible. I don’t trust Republicans in Oregon to put up a quality candidate to be the adult voice of reason that demands careful consideration of those Big Ideas. So I’m going to make sure that someone who would be that candidate gets at least one vote.

Look, the Republican party is basically crazy. I get that. Nobody can accuse me of hypocrisy during Republican rule; there is no bigger Republican basher than I.

But, their basic core – their basic, linchpin argument – is that the seat of sovereignty is the individual, and that government exists, primarily, to protect that sovereignty. And I will never get past that, if it’s not first and foremost. I am a Jeffersonian, through and through.

But nearly equal to that, I don’t fear partisanship, particularly; I don’t fear divided government, or one party or the other creating tar pits against change. What I fear are the sort of conditions following 911, that brought us the Patriot Act, the 2002 elections, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and how those were initiated and developed in the early years. I believe, deeply, in the need for a principled and robust opposition – even when I think that opposition is wrong. I cite Kip’s Law a lot, or the idea that we should do X because it solves for those asshole Republicans/Democrats who have screwed everything up and X will totally work great because only Democrats/Republicans will be in charge1 I cite it because I find that notion a lot dumber than just about any other unexamined conceit in politics. Anybody who roots for the opposition party to put up the worst possible candidate because then they’ll be easier to beat is, to me, a complete jagoff, who cares more about party than country.

Mostly, I believe that it’s the tension between competing viewpoints – that is not the same as bipartisanship – that is the secret to our success. I can think of a helluva lot of examples of government/nations/societies that have devolved into horrible things because one party took over rulership and were able to accomplish everything they wished. I can think of very, very few that devolved because people argued too much or the minority opposition was too damn obstinate.

So I remain a Republican, and in every primary election, I research candidates and pull the trigger for the Republican I like the best. In many cases, that is a Republican who I still will vote against in the general election (Arlen Spector/Pat Toomey comes to mind) – but I feel that that vote is worth just as much as most of my general elections lever-pulls. My general election voting record is, at this point, completely all over the place. But I’m proud to be a Republican, and I’m a committed primary voter, and most of all, I reject the notion, put forward to me by a lot of people, that because most Republicans are assholes, I should never vote for any (or, the corollary, that a vote for any Republican is essentially a tactic endorsement of the worst of Republicanism).

I am proud that Mitt Romney won the Republican nomination, in a weird way (and in a totally relative sense). I have absolutely no plans to vote for him.

Those are not mutually exclusive thoughts.

Posted by Brad @ 12:50 am on September 15th 2012

Judge Blocks NDAA – Obama Administration Appeals

We wrote briefly about the NDAA here. Basically, it’s a law that allows America to include Americans, arrested in America, in that category of people who don’t have rights to due process. If the executive decides that any particular American “was a part of or substantially supported Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces” – and the government doesn’t have to prove that, just say, and they get to define, without telling anybody how they define it or having to justify it, what “part of or substantially supported” or “associate forces” means – then that American they pick up joins the Gitmo prisoners in terms of legal rights.

The Obama administration initially opposed this law – because, in essence, they argued that this is something they believe they already can do, but putting it to paper by making it law opens them up to judicial review, and that sucks, so better to just let them have the power without writing it down. That was literally their argument.

Now, however, they figured that since the law has passed, they’re better off defending it than letting it get smashed upon judicial review. Because even if they believe they have this power, that gets put in jeopardy if, say, a federal judge decides that such a power is patently, flagrantly, offensively unconstitutional.

Which is what happened Wednesday, when a federal judge blocked the most odious section of the law – the one that allows the administration to indefinitely detain it says “was a part of or substantially supported Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces.”

Predictably, however, the Obama administration has appealed.

A very telling piece of this last court case: one of the plantiffs – joined by Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky – was Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, who regularly interviews terrorists, Al Queda and Taliban members, and other undesirables. He argued that the law, as written, could potentially subject him to indefinite detention. The judge, Forrest, asked the Obama administration to refute that hypothetical.

They refused.

The real threat of the NDAA, if not in practice for now, then definitely in precedent, was further strengthened by the fact that the government repeatedly refused to address Forrest’s concerns and confirm that the NDAA can or cannot be used against journalists like Hedges.

So there you have it.

Posted by Brad @ 8:55 pm on September 13th 2012

Another Thing Romney Says That is Kind of Right

On the Fed’s announcement today:

“What Bernanke’s doing is saying that what the president’s saying is wrong. The president’s saying the economy’s making progress, coming back. Bernanke’s saying, ‘No, it’s not. I’ve got to print more money.'”

I mean, clearly, it’s more complicated than that. But still…he’s not wrong.

Posted by Jack @ 8:18 pm on September 13th 2012

Professional Courtesy is Corruption

In October of last year the Miami Police Department, already the subject of numerous high profile controversies, shit their collective pants when a Florida Highway Patrol officer pulled over an MPD officer in a marked squad car for speeding, and initially held him at gunpoint before cuffing and arresting him. If that is all you knew of the story and you were prone to outrage at cops not honoring the unwritten rules associated with two levels of justice, otherwise known as “professional courtesy,” then you might feel a bit disgusted at the FHP officer’s gall.

If you had the added information that the MPD cop was doing 120 mph on his way to a moonlighting job and failed to pull over for at least seven minutes while under chase, then even the hard corps cop apologists might acknowledge that the FHP had reasonable worries that something was very wrong, that pulling her service weapon was defensibly prudent, and that the MPD officer deserved a reckless driving charge. Not so. Not so if you are a cop, that is. All of this info became public very quickly, including the FHP officer’s explanation and supporting transcripts that reveal her concern that the MPD car might have been stolen. And yet the MPD engaged in an escalating series of tit for tat pull overs and other illegal retaliation, including the likely related smearing of feces on an FHP car.

Perhaps one can understand, if not agree with, the parochial anger of the MPD tribe, but the anti-FHP feeling was wide spread throughout law enforcement circles and those of their sycophants, as demonstrated on cop message boards and discussion sites. The Miami Fraternal Order of Police even floated the laughable claim that if the speeder had been a civilian, then the FHP officers “excessive force” would have been viewed with outrage by the general public.

Both of my cop acquaintances, though having no association with the MPD, expressed clear sympathies for the Miami cop rather than the FHP officer. Even when challenged on the details, which were conveniently left out of cop acquaintance number 2’s brief explanation of the event, they firmly believe the FHP officer was in the wrong. No argument is provided beyond the tradition of professional courtesy. When challenged on the legitimacy of such split level requirement for compliance with the law, the only response was “it happens everywhere.” Not “it happens everywhere, whaddaya gonna do?” but rather “it happens everywhere, as is well and truly just.”

This is not a healthy position for a free society. It cuts across the principles of democracy and equality, this establishment of special classes of citizenry with unofficial immunity from legal consequences, particularly given how wide spread and near universally tolerated it is.

Officer Lopez pleaded no contest earlier this year, and was fined. This is a very rare case of a police officer actually facing the same consequences as a normal citizen for traffic violations. His conviction was long overdue, as one enterprising reporter discovered by examining the turnpike toll both records for Officer Lopez’ car, which revealed he routinely drove to or from work in excess of 100 mhp, with 18 instances over 110 during the year prior to his arrest.

Professional courtesy is corruption, plain and simple. If you are granting the members of a favored group special treatment, i.e., the ability to act with impunity in violation of the law, and you enforce that special treatment through unofficial codes of conduct, then you and your brave fellow officers are part of the rot.

* Yeah, this post is rather far beyond breaking news, but my conversation with cop acquaintance #2 occurred today, so I’m a bit miffed right now.

Posted by Brad @ 3:12 pm on September 13th 2012

Jesse Benton to run Mitch McConnell 2014 reelection campaign

Passed on without comment.

Posted by Brad @ 3:07 pm on September 13th 2012

Buying Votes

A generic scenario.

A key bill is coming up for a vote in a state legislature. A few critical legislators look set to sink it – in their entire legislative careers they have always vote against such measures. So a group of wealthy individuals and advocacy groups approach these key legislators and explicitly say “if you change your vote, we will give you tons of money.” The congressmen, many of which are in primaries that year, agree. The vote is held, the congressmen hold up their end of the bargain, the measure passes, the rich guys and lobby groups pay up.

Question: is that an example of the corruption that campaign finance regulations are aimed at curtailing?

Is it?

Posted by Brad @ 11:12 am on September 13th 2012

Take a Brief Moment…

To reflect on this man, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif. He was a Yemeni man captured by Pakistani police near the Afghanistan border in December 2001. His explanation for that:

Latif says he left Yemen in 2001 on a quest for medical treatment for head injuries he suffered in a 1994 car accident. He went to Pakistan to get help from Ibrahim, a Yemeni he had met at a charitable organization in Yemen. When Latif arrived in Quetta, Ibrahim had already left Pakistan, so Latif followed him to an Islamic studies institute in Kabul, Afghanistan. But once Latif caught up to Ibrahim at the institute, Ibrahim had to leave again and told Latif to wait for him there until they could travel together to Pakistan. After waiting in vain for several weeks, Latif says, he then returned to Pakistan without Ibrahim, fleeing U.S.-supported forces he had been told were advancing from northern Afghanistan.

Worth noting he had those same persistent health health problems while in Gitmo (and was denied treatment for the 11 years he was there).

Instead, the police turned him over to the Americans, who dropped him into Gitmo. Where he spent 11 years, before dying on Sept. 8 (it is unclear how. He had spent a third of his life there.

In 2009, a U.S. judge reviewed the case and cleared him for release, noting that his detention was unlawful even under the government’s broad stated authority, and that the government had essentially no evidence against him (and never charged him with a crime) and their unsubstantiated claims were entirely “unconvincing”.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration appealed, and kept him in Gitmo, and that previous ruling was overturned. Why?

At the heart of the Government’s case is [redacted]

(more…)

Posted by Rojas @ 6:31 pm on September 12th 2012

An educator reflects on the Chicago teacher strike

Relative to your average Chicago public school teacher, I have it very easy. Most of my students do not come to school hungry. Most of them are relatively willing to at least give an outward appearance of obedience to authority most of the time. My school performs well enough on standardized tests that we don’t feel compelled to make them the centerpiece of our existence. I spend a significant portion of my day working with students of high ability on activities we find mutually rewarding. So, while I envy the Chicago TU their sixish-hour workday (I work about 55 hours a week), their elaborate job protections (I have none), and their mean salary of between $56k and $74k (I earn roughly half of the larger figure), I would not willingly switch places with them. Nor would I do their jobs for any less than their full compensation package, and probably not even for that.

I look on the three-day-old strike in Chicago with no particular allegiance to either faction involved, and with considerable dismay at the thick-headed political provincialism involved. Both on the ground in the Windy City, and in the social media (more…)

Posted by Rojas @ 12:39 am on September 12th 2012

No apology.

The existence of a development of an as-yet-unreleased film depicting the Prophet Muhammad, and incorporating him having sex and questioning his own divine inspiration, has apparently inspired attacks on the US consulates in Egypt and Libya tonight. In both cases the US flag was pulled down; in Libya there were RPG attacks on the consulate itself, which given the territorial status of the consulate is technically an act of war.

Reacting to the attacks, the US embassy in Egypt released the following statement:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

Secretary of State Clinton, to her credit, issued a much less ambiguous condemnation of the attacks. Mitt Romney ignored this, pouncing predictably and instantly on the embassy response as official administration doctrine, and accusing the President of “apologizing for America.”

And, to paraphrase Dennis Miller, the only thing worse that Mitt Romney bitching about an apology is Mitt Romney bitching about an apology and being entirely correct to do so. The embassy statement is garbage. The United States government’s proper stance on artistic expression, whatever its content, is no stance whatsoever. Hurt feelings over religious expression ought to merit no government attention. Not lots. Not some. None.

The marketplace of ideas is a riotous place, full of scary ideas and nasty people. If you go there, bring a helmet. And the moment you employ force in protest of others’ expression, the full power of the state ought to come down on your head. And on nobody else’s. Without apology.

Posted by Brad @ 9:42 pm on September 11th 2012

I Don’t Care About…the Bush Administration’s Prior Warnings About 911

There are many sense, of course, where I do care about it. Clearly, they were not an administration preternaturally focused on Al Queda or Islamic terrorism prior to 911, despite their reputation immediately after and forevermore – the chief foreign policy architects were a Cold War specialist, a Real Politik guy that had no problem using terrorists, and a leader that figured the Middle East began and ended in Iraq. I think it’s hard to argue against the notion that the Clinton administration was far more on point on the matter than the Bush one. Second, as odious as the attempts to rectify this problem were, there was clearly a lot about our intelligence superstructure that wasn’t working well – chiefly their inability to get on the same page and communicate effectively (solution: more agencies and more secrecy). All that’s valid, and there area number of others as well.

But, these kinds of stories just don’t move me at all. Not that, not “Bin Laden determined to strike in US,” none of the kind of thing that either makes Truthers Truthers or that liberals have forever used to argue that…well, I’m not even sure what. That Bush sucks!

We have a disproportionate number of bloggers and commentators that work on the periphery of intelligence and foreign policy (Rojas, however, “is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction”). So maybe I’m off base. But to my mind, the notion that a sitting President of the United States or his Secretary of State got briefings indicating “Information that talked about moving toward decisive acts,” or “Chechen Islamic terrorist leader Ibn Kattab had promised some “very big news” to his troops” or “there had been significant departures of extremist families from Yemen” or “Big American-hating terrorist with history of attacking America wants to attack America”, even explicit suggestions that terrorists may hijack planes (which, if you’ll remember, was kind of their thing for thirty years), all of which may indicate “new threats against U.S. interests in Lebanon, Morocco, and Mauritania” that could be “spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities and interests” or that “Al-Qaida is waiting us out and looking for vulnerability” and even though “intelligence pointed to overseas attacks” they “they couldn’t discount an attack on the US homeland”…well, what do you do with that information, exactly? And how many times a week do you think you hear similar, on all fronts, suggesting every manner of threat or impending attack?

I believe, hindsight being 20/20, that there probably was a “disturbance in the force” in terms of chatter and white noise. But that’s a far, far different thing than assuming it was something a reasonable human being – or even institutions with thousands of them – would have been able to recognize, classify, and find thoughtful action for.

It’s the same reason I never got the idea from neocons that always assumed torture would have guys in detention centers everywhere coughing up immediately truthful and actionable intelligence, or just recording everything that hits the air waves will lead to awesome Alias-type powers of spy agency rather than 99.9% of unlistened-to shit and a 1,000,000 to 1 ration of false positives to genuinely useful and actionable intelligence of the .1% shit you do get to.

In any event, there is no shortage of things to criticize George W. Bush on – quite possibly the worst President in American history – certainly in modern times.

But that he should have prevented 911 isn’t, to my mind, one of them.

Posted by Brad @ 8:13 pm on September 11th 2012

Brandon McCarthy Wins Twitter

Brandon McCarthy is a pitcher for the Oakland A’s who I cover for my Blue Jays, he is awesome, has a hot wife, and, on September 5th, was hit by a line drive to the head pitching against the Angels. He walked off the field himself and was conscious the whole time, but when he was taken to a hospital shortly thereafter, he suddenly had to undergo surgery for an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture, and the injury began to be talked about as life-threatening and critical.

The good news is, within a few days, he was Tweeting again. His first tweet was a quote from Arrest Development. And he kept going from there. And today he left the hospital.

His feed is here, incidentally, and really worth going through over the last week.

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