Friday, July 30, 2010

The Liberal Email Conspiracy

If you set your liberal Gmail filters to route (@Reagan.com) straight to the trash bin, you'll likely never hear from your conservative wingnut relatives again!

That's the bright side of a new scheme from conservative talk radio host Michael Reagan, son of former president Ronald Reagan. He's cashing in on his father's name by selling Reagan.com email addresses for a mere $34.95 a year because all those free email providers are, you know, liberal!
"People who believe in true Reagan Conservative Values are unwittingly supporting the Obama, Pelosi and Reid liberal agenda! What do I mean? Well, every time you use your email from companies like Google, AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, Apple and others, you are helping the liberals. These companies are, and will continue, to be huge supporters financially and with technology of those that are hurting our country."

"Is that where you want your money to go? I didn't so I changed things," he continues. "I came up with the very first conservative email service provider. You now can put your name next to the name of the Greatest Conservative of all, my father Ronald Reagan."

Whether this ridiculous venture succeeds or not boils down to frugality versus political ideology versus stupidity. Trade in your free email address for one with a $34.95 annual fee? Since you can't count on Republican voters to support what's in their own best interest, I think Reagan.com will be a smashing success.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Keeping Secrets

Over the weekend, WikiLeaks released over 75,000 secret US military reports covering the war in Afghanistan. Go read them now. I'll wait.

Good. I actually only read a handful of them myself. I'm mostly relying on the MSM exegesis to tell me that insurgents are using heat-seeking missiles, our coalition forces are killing a lot of civilians, Pakistan has some dirty ties to the Afghan Taliban, the Taliban is resurgent, and war is a terrible thing.

Apparently it is debatable whether these facts are top secret or nothing new.

However, on the topic of government leaks in general, I think I learned plenty from Secrets: a memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon papers by Daniel Ellsberg:
It is a commonplace that "you can't keep secrets in Washington" or "in a democracy," that "no matter how sensitive the secret, you're likely to read it the next day in the New York Times." These truisms are flatly false. They are in fact cover stories, ways of flattering and misleading journalists and their readers, part of the process of keeping secrets well. Of course eventually many secrets do get out that wouldn't in a fully totalitarian society. Bureaucratic rivalries, especially over budget shares, lead to leaks. Moreover, to a certain extent the ability to keep a secret for a given amount of time diminishes the number of people who know it. As secret keepers like to say, "Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead." But the fact is that the overwhelming majority of secrets do not leak to the American public. This is true even when the information withheld is well known to an enemy and when it is clearly essential to the functioning of the congressional war power and to any democratic control of foreign policy. The reality unknown to the public and to most members of Congress and the press is that secrets that would be of the greatest import to many of them can be kept from them reliably for decades by the executive branch, even though they are known to thousands of insiders.
Maybe this is why it's good that these documents were leaked -- somebody was trying to keep them hidden from us. And the more the "experts" keep saying that these documents are too complicated for civilians to comprehend, the more determined I am to keep on reading them.

By the way, if anybody comes across the memo explaining what the hell we're doing in Afghanistan in the first place, please send me a tweet.

Monday, July 26, 2010

All About the Grammar

"To be, or not to be: that is the gotcha question." — The Daily Dorkmonger.
I have to admit it was pretty funny last week when Sarah Palin assaulted the English language, but let's not forget that she was also assaulting religious tolerance:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Yep, the latest conservative conniption is over the plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was also quick to give his puerile opinion: "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia."

The old windbag might want to pause for a second and examine the irony here. If needed, he might also want to brush up on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Then take another minute to review the politics of Saudi Arabia -- a theocratic monarchy which considers the Qur'an their constitution. And then tell me again why freedom-loving Americans should emulate the religious intolerance of such a backassward country?

If Newt can't admit that freedom of speech and religion are our greatest strengths, if he can't admit that Saudi Arabia should try to emulate us and not the other way around, then he can never again utter the old canard "they hate us for our freedom."

Now, back to the subject of Sarah Palin's utterances. While trying to cover for her fake words, she tweeted, "‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up.’ English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!"

At least she's not pretending to be god this time... but Shakespeare? Really? Who has the balls to compare themselves to Shakespeare?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gullibility

I'm sure these Facebook users really thought they uncovered something sinister. "Martial Law Plans Revealed?" the title declares with a Fox-esque question mark. Except the video is a 2007 piece from the Onion which somehow recently resurfaced as real news.

LOL! Those Obama haters sure are gullible!

Oh Wait? What's this about a USDA official wrongfully fired because of a selectively excerpted video on a conservative blog? Oops. The Obama administration and legitimate news outlets vilified USDA official Shirley Sherrod based on bits and pieces of a speech which supposedly revealed her to be a racist, and -- gasp! -- was going to be aired on Glenn Beck's show!

Wow, Andrew Breitbart and Glenn Beck are still dragging our country down by the balls with the same modus operandi they used to attack ACORN -- a collection of lies and video edits promulgated over and over again.

But nothing has been learned. Let me speculate how the conversation went at the White House... "Let's not get a full set of facts! Let's not take a few minutes to view the whole video. Fire her! Fire her! So we look decisive! So we don't lose our own jobs!"

Yeah, pretty much that's how it went:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Kids, remember two things: Google is your friend, and when you hear something outrageously crazy, always consider the source even if it's me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Top-Secret America

The Washington Post has a three part series on the top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

And in case you hadn't guessed, this bureaucracy is endlessly complicated, wasteful, and unchecked. And thanks to FISA and the Patriot Act, which basically legalized warrantless eavesdropping, the data flow is enormous:
Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. The NSA sorts a fraction of those into 70 separate databases. The same problem bedevils every other intelligence agency, none of which have enough analysts and translators for all this work.
And yet they keep telling us we have to give up our privacy for our safety. But as Glenn Greenwald explained, all this surveillance is not keeping us safe:
But as I wrote many times back then -- often by interviewing and otherwise citing House Intelligence Committee member Rush Holt, who has been making this point repeatedly -- the more secret surveillance powers we vest in the Government, the more we allow the unchecked Surveillance State to grow, the more unsafe we become. That's because the public-private axis that is the Surveillance State already collects so much information about us, our activities and our communications -- so indiscriminately and on such a vast scale -- that it cannot possibly detect any actual national security threats. NSA whistle blower Adrienne Kinne, when exposing NSA eavesdropping abuses, warned of what ABC News described as "the waste of time spent listening to innocent Americans, instead of looking for the terrorist needle in the haystack."
This is almost enough to make me join the shouting teabaggers demanding smaller government -- except that the Queen Teabagger wants to exempt defense spending from the group's anti-spending fervor.

Be sure to read tomorrow's WaPo article which will surely describe how all this spending is making a few private contractors filthy rich while giving us nothing in return.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Seven Dirty Words You Won't Be Fined For

"There are some people that aren't into all the words. There are some people who would have you not use certain words. Yeah, there are 400,000 words in the English language, and there are seven of them that you can't say on television." — George Carlin.

I wish Carlin was around to see this. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York ruled on Tuesday that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's indecency policy is unconstitutionally vague and could create a chilling effect beyond "fleeting expletives" heard on broadcasts.

Well, flying fuck! At least Beavis and Butthead will be back on TV to exercise their First Amendment rights.

But for me, I tend to use "shit," "piss," "fuck," "cunt," "cocksucker," "motherfucker," and "tits" sparingly, though I've never really worried about offending anybody. And anyway, I have it on good authority that I write like William Shakespeare.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Loyalty to the Club

"It is easier for a man to be loyal to his club than to his
planet; the bylaws are shorter, and he is personally
acquainted with the other members." — E. B. White, 1899 - 1985.
I found the above quote today and I suppose it makes a good epigraph to any article about cronyism. But should I write about the Florida GOP's spending scandal? Or the cozy relationship between the oil companies and the Bush administration which brought us the de-regulations that lead to this ongoing oil spill?

Or maybe I'll just sit back and enjoy my new TV for the rest of the night. Yeah, I'll probably do that.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Torture Is Not Treatment

I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
— W.H. Auden.
So let me get this straight. A sadist invents a powerful electric shock device to strap on the backs of children, then he opens a school where he's allowed to use the device on autistic, mentally retarded, and emotionally troubled kids, thus creating an environment of constant pain and anxiety.

And no, I'm not talking about some kind of Victorian era insane asylum. I'm not talking about Soviet era brainwashing. I'm talking about public funded education in the USA right now at the Judge Rotenberg Center.

And the torture doesn't end at painful shocks for minor acts of noncooperation. A recent report submitted to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture also revealed the use of restraint boards, isolation, and food deprivation in efforts to control the behaviors of the school's vulnerable students.

The UN Convention against Torture requires each government party to the convention "to ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law." Unfortunately, we've been ignoring that quaint little treaty for far too long.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom

Who said print media is dead?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


I'm as skeptical as Maddow about this al-Qaeda magazine. 4chan couldn't have done it better -- "in the kitchen of your mom" could be the internet meme of the year. But think about what that little phrase undoubtedly implies: real al-Qaeda members still live with their moms. Yes, I think there are some psy-ops going on here.

But just in case this is all real, here is my free advice for Inspire. Be really careful who you get your polling data from.