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Be our guests

I have a couple of guest posts today for your perusal. These are two interesting and insightful posts taken from our comment section. I’m going to go with the most recent comment first. This one is from Tamens in WA state who attended a county caucus to vote for state level delegates to the Democratic convention. It sounds like a trying day:

I spent six hours at my county caucus in WA State. There were 400 of us there to elect 13 delegates to the Washington State Convention.

It took our county officials four hours to count the 210 (or so) local delegates and alternates that had to be seated so they could vote for the 13 state convention delegates. While my county officials were counting assigned delegates, and alternates, we had to listen to 3 1/2 hours of “open mic” for Bernie. It was excruciating.

There was a particularly conspiracy theory believing man yelling about how such and such volunteer was trying to SUBVERT the process because she didn’t know the “white paper” had to go to the delegate counter instead of the delegate himself. And so she was trying to make his vote NOT count…even though he was an alternate and not a pledged delegate.

There were people yelling about how only Bernie cares about climate change, and free college, and he likes guns, and there free college. And some asshat talking about how dare Hillary defend a rapist IN 1975! And how she bullied Bill’s side pieces. And those were just the interesting ones, plenty of people up there talking about how only Bernie could lead the party/country, and why did we insist that Democrats run the primary. And about those super delegates….how dare they exist!

So when we finally split into our 32 Clinton person caucus, it was so nice to be with like minded people! We were courteous to one another, nominated our two Hilary delegates, voted them in, said good bye and as we were leaving, some young woman came over from across the gym to ask us to be quiet as Bernie people were trying to give their speeches. I simply looked at her, and said “we’re leaving”. And left!

I can not wait until this primary is done. I’m over caucuses forever, and it was an awful day.

The second post is from commenter William who had a lot of good insights about political scapegoats and why the left needs one:

Yes, Hillary is the modern political scapegoat. Tragically and awfully, the human race has seemed to need scapegoats throughout its history. The Jewish people have been scapegoated for every event, including invented ones, for the last two thousand years. Humans search for someone to blame for every thing that they do not like, or which frustrates them.

This country fortunately has not done too much of that. kind of scapegoating. But both the Right and Left have found the need for political scapegoats. Strangely, Hillary fits both of their needs. The Right has a mythology of some halcyon time in America; maybe the 1870’s or the 1950’s, whee everyone was patriotic, accepted their lot in life, were cheerful good neightbors. The Left has one mythoogy which revolves around JFK and Camelot, destroyed by the assassination, and leaving a Democratic Party which does not live up to what they want to believe were the thoroughly lofty ideals of the Kenendys. Their other mythology is that of noble revolution, the days when they could root for the Maoists against the imperial Chinese; Castro against Bautista, Sahndanistas against Contras. America seen as the imperalists; the other side glorious freedom fighters. And on the domestic front, they have long believed that various Democrats have sold out New Deal principles. For fifty years they have looked for purity; championing the likes of John Anderson, Gary Hart, Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader, Howard Dean, and now Bernie Sanders.

They did not like Bill Clinton, and they apparently like Hillary even less. Nothing she does or says is good enough for them. They want a holy war against corporations and the industrial complex. They have no real idea how this would happen, or what would be the result of it, but they want the rhetoric, and they want the exhilaration of being able to charge into the breach. They have spent 25 years blaming the Clinton administration for every failure to turn this country into something that it never was, a paradise for workers and consumers, something like they imagine small and homogenous Scandinavia to be. The thing which bothers me the most, besides the incredible unfairness to the very gifted and competent Hillary Clinton, is that it is impossible for her, or for anyone, to compete with a fuzzy and wishful political ideal. By the metrics of the activist Left, everyone falls short. They thought they got one of their own elected in Obama, but of course they were very disappointed in him. But then, rather than admit their own lack of perception, their cognitive dissonance allows them to blame that on Hillary, or to just assume that their next favorite is the true messiah, and that Hillary is once again in the way of his ascension. It is impossible to argue with religious zealots of any denominaton.

And to throw in one more comment, I have no interest in Facebook, or any of the social media sites; which may be my loss, or not. I am glad that President Obama is such a cool guy that he is comfortable with Facebook, and wants to be buddies with the press corps, joking about Hillary’s difficulties in mastering such a cool thing. Obama has gone through eight years of not accomplishing much of anything, and of costing the Democrats about 70 congressional seats, by not stressing the need to vote in midterms, or the need to elect Democrats; but he has been very pleasant and congenial about all of it. He has stuck Hillary with a crucial “swing vote” Supreme Court nominee who is by all accounts a very decent and bright man, but much more centrist than anyone the other side ever picks. No one blames him for that, though; and it is a good laugh that these cool guys and gals are good at Facebook, while “Aunt Hillary” is not.

The “Aunt Hillary doesn’t know how to use Facebook” joke is pretty cringeworthy, IMHO. Apparently, Obama doesn’t know that Facebook is old technology. That just saps the cool right out of him.

I’ll try to be back later tonight.

The Things of May

beltane-fire-fest

The May Queen banishes the spirits of winter and darkness at the Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh

The White House Correspondent’s Dinner was last night. I haven’t watched it since Stephen Colbert did a masterful job of making the media stars look like the self-absorbed, overpaid, underwhelming, lazy “journalists” they are.

Obama was there and couldn’t help but take a swipe at Hillary– for not knowing how to use Facebook.

President Obama poked fun at Hillary Clinton’s lack of appeal among young people Saturday night, joking at the annual White House press corps dinner that Mrs. Clinton was like an aging relative who cannot figure out how to use Facebook.

“Did you get my poke? Is it on my wall?” he said, imagining Mrs. Clinton trying to use the popular social media site. “I’m not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hillary.”

Ok, stop right there. I wasn’t at this dinner so I’m not sure of the context that this comment was made. But I have something to say about Facebook.

I hate Facebook. I’m not the only person who feels this way. And I don’t want to toot my own horn here but throughout my career, I’ve learned many different applications. I even have an application scale of my own making. The hardest one I ever learned was called HKL and I didn’t even really learn it all that well because I ran out of time before we were laid off. New applications do not intimidate me. I look forward to bending them to my will.

Except for Facebook.I don’t like the interface. It’s confusing. I can post stuff on my wall and get around but it doesn’t feel natural to me and probably never will. Perhaps I’m overthinking it. There’s got to be more to it than this stupid wall and how do you see everything in order??

But guess what? I can survive without Facebook. In fact, there is a whole side of the internet that Facebook devotees will not discover unless they leave Facebook and learn to use other apps and browsers on their tablets.

I’ll go even further. You can use Facebook in several different ways. You can use it as a social media tool. It’s a way to post all those pics you took at the last party you went to or the last time you saw all your friends from high school. Or you can use Facebook as your single entry and exit point into the internet. This is how some elderly people I know use it. Unlike what Obama is suggesting, older people get around Facebook fine. They don’t have an issue with it. It’s like the AOL of the 21st century. When everyone else moves on to SnapChat and Periscope, all your older relatives will still be on Facebook.

So, I don’t know where Obama was going with this dig at Hillary and Facebook. But if she were a normal person her age, she would be a master of Facebook. Fortunately, she is not a normal person her age and she uses everything. Or her campaign does.

Will anyone be waiting for updates to Obama’s Facebook page when he leaves office? Um, probably not as many as might have obsessively checked in 2008. Facebook is old. It’s still a classic but the rest of the world has moved on. You have to wonder if Obama knew that when he made that stupid joke.

How many “journalists” thought it was funny? Did anyone watch it last night? I’m curious to know how many younger correspondents were rolling their eyes in embarrassment while people like Chris Matthews was guffawing and chugging his chard.

Anyway, I’m picking up signals here and there that Obama and Hillary have had a strained relationship and are only bound by party obligations. So, I guess it’s no surprise that he would take a few gratuitous digs at her.

I’ll never understand what some people saw in him. Never, never, never.

*********************************************************************

Lance Mannion has a post about why Bernie people and Hillary people see history differently and how this has led some Democrats to put the blame for everything on Hillary’s shoulders. Worth a read. Here’s a sample:

At any rate, it is in Bernie’s interest that Hillary be “remembered” as not just having been wrong but bad. Bad as in a bad person. Evil, in fact.

For many of the Bernie supporters of my online acquaintance, it’s not enough for Clinton to be evil herself. She has to be Evil incarnate, the root of all evil and cause of all that’s wrong with the country and all that electing Bernie would fix. The way they go at it in their tweets and posts it’s as if she was at least co-president through Bill’s two terms, that George W. Bush was president for just long enough to lie us into the war in Iraq, at Hillary’s urging, after which she took over, guiding and prolonging the war from her seat in the Senate, where she did nothing else—Lilly Ledbetter? Never heard of her.—until Barack Obama became president, when once again she assumed the role of co-president, making all his foreign and military policy decisions until she left the State Department to prepare for her coronation as Queen-President in her own right.

But even among the more sensible, reasonable, and less doctrinaire, Bernie’s purity is generally proven by Hillary’s corruption and for that work history must be “remembered” accordingly.  And the ones taking the lead in the misremembering are middle-aged men—almost all the Bernie people I know online are Bernie guys and middle-aged Bernie guys at that—old enough to have been politically aware adults during the years of Bill’s presidency and Hillary’s time in the Senate but who apparently didn’t take notes and haven’t bothered to do the homework needed to make up for it.

Middle aged male Democrats, what’s up with them?? Srsly, I don’t get it.

I agree with him but I think there is another component to this. That is, Hillary takes the place of the sacrificial scapegoat. For some reason, some of it social pressure, these Democrats can not blame the party, Obama, themselves or Republicans for what has happened in the country in the last 20 years. It’s easy to make Hillary the convenient target because the media has beaten up on her continuously since she joined the spotlight and also because she actually has a record to criticize, a point that Lance touched on as well.

But something seems very primal here. There’s an element of ritual about hanging everything bad on this one woman. The Scapegoat Mechanism really is a thing, according to philosophers such as Rene Girard, who describes it like this:

In Girard’s view, it is humankind, not God, who has need for various forms of atoning violence. Humans are driven by desire for that which another has or wants (mimetic desire). This causes a triangulation of desire and results in conflict between the desiring parties. This mimetic contagion increases to a point where society is at risk; it is at this point that the scapegoat mechanism[9] is triggered. This is the point where one person is singled out as the cause of the trouble and is expelled or killed by the group. This person is the scapegoat. Social order is restored as people are contented that they have solved the cause of their problems by removing the scapegoated individual, and the cycle begins again. The keyword here is “content”. Scapegoating serves as a psychological relief for a group of people.

I can think of a lot of things that are desired here. For example, I think a lot of men can not wrap their heads around the idea that we might have a female president when they can think of a lot of “more deserving” men who could do the job. Do “desire” and “deserving” have a common cognate?

The idea that we can’t even contemplate one single woman before we have exhausted all of the other male possibilities who might be a smidgeon better is both funny and horrifying. After all, we have had over 40 presidents so far and all of them have been men. That means that half of them have been below average. (Average, not mean) Isn’t there any curiosity about where a woman would fit on the gaussian distribution graph?

I’m beginning to think that nothing short of a Nobel Prize would be enough to make Hillary comparable to a man who is running. Therefore, there must be something seriously wrong with her. She wants something that others want more and can’t get. She did her homework, got the experience, made all the right friends. Why is she so damned persistent? And how much bad stuff can we hang on her before we send her away again? Again! We thought we got rid of her in 2008 but she’s back. Well, we can’t have that…

(One final note: In this respect, Katiebird and I disagree. I don’t blame Hillary for getting a private email server. I remember in the early days of the Patriot Act when a system administrator working for the Republicans in the Senate broke into the Democrats’ server and made copies of strategic and other documents for his owners. He wasn’t punished or anything and if I recall correctly, the Democrats were blamed for not tightening up security of their server. It’s sort of the same argument that rapists make about their victims. If she hadn’t been wearing a short skirt, none of this would have happened. Nevermind that Nixon had to resign over doing something similar but lower tech before the days of personal computers and the internet.

So, if you are a Secretary of State and you just went through a grueling primary campaign and have 20 years of media and Republican nut cases trying to track down every “LOL!” you’ve ever texted to contort and parade before a gullible public, wouldn’t you want to make sure that nothing you wrote would be hacked into?

If the Republicans can have their own servers that are off limits to the public but through which they conduct public business (and then just conveniently erase when the heat is on), it’s unreasonable for someone who has had a history of bad relations with the other party, her own party and the media to be required more than any other person in government to leave everything open. Better to lock it all down as securely as possible. The State Department servers might not have been (and turns out the unclassified email servers weren’t) secure enough.

It’s up to the accusers to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that something nefarious was going on with her personal email server, which didn’t contain any classified emails at the time she sent them, and that some hard and fast rule was violated that Colin Powell, Condi Rice, Dick Cheney and Barack Obama haven’t also violated. When you can absolutely prove that, then you can make your case and seek indictments. Otherwise, it seems like a lot of cherry picking. Of only Hillary. The Scapegoat.

I guess you could say that it was dumb for her to do it because, as the designated Scapegoat, she should have known she was going to have to bear the blame of everyone else who did it. (“We didn’t say you were at fault, we said we were going to blame you”) It was ok when everyone else did it but it’s IMMORAL and ILLEGAL when Hillary does it. So, yes, that was probably dumb. But then, it would have been dumb to use a less secure system as well knowing that as the designated Scapegoat, everyone and their brother would use the flimsiest of excuses to go through each and every email on the State Department servers. On balance, is it better to ask for forgiveness or permission? Given that this was a no win situation, the more secure server may have been the most responsible, better choice.)

 

 

 

Happy Labor Day to those of you who still have jobs!

Since I cut the cord, I have been blissfully unaware of all the meme pushing out there.  Lambert says there has been quite a stir on the Democratic side over the Clint Eastwood speech at the RNC.  A couple of days ago, I checked out the youtube video of it but couldn’t get past the first few minutes.  But it wasn’t because he sounded incoherent.

It was because I was so touched that Clint Eastwood remembered the unemployed that I didn’t want to see the rest of it where he might have gone completely off the rails.

Remember when Ross Perot went on and on about the deficit being the crazy aunt in the attic or wherever?    Well, he always was one sandwich short of a picnic.  Nowadays, all you hear about is the deficit.  One party is going to gouge us.  One party is going to gouge us and ask for a token sacrifice from the bonus class.

No one is talking about unemployment except everybody I know.  Because everybody I know has been laid off, got a new job, got laid off again, is about to get laid off, is retraining before they get laid off.  Layoff is inevitable.  It’s a fact of life now.

Just because an old semi-conservative Hollywood star talks about unemployment in front of a bunch of heartless, mean spirited rich people doesn’t mean that his criticism of Obama and the Democrats is incorrect.  As Karl Rove said recently, you don’t have to get personal.  The truth is the best thing the Republicans have going for them.  They might have caused the crisis to begin with but they weren’t in charge when the decision was made to ignore the unemployed so the bankers wouldn’t feel inconvenienced.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s something the Republicans would definitely do but voters never expected that kind of behavior from Democrats.

All I want to hear from the Democrats in Charlotte is how they are going to deal with Unemployment.  I don’t want to hear about the deficit or “entitlements”, i.e. those benefits we PREPAID, or any other stupid thing the bonus class would like to use to commandeer our attention.  I don’t want to hear about how this has been “played”, or the style, or the inside baseball, horseracey, competition.

Unemployment is not a competition.

Fortunately for me, I don’t have to watch crappy cable news coverage of things that are of no importance to me.  But I will be periodically perusing the videos coming out of the convention.  You’d better not let us unemployed people down because we may not have money anymore but we do have votes and there are a lot of us out here in the suburbs where four years ago you thought you had us in the bag.

Time to rewrite those speeches, Democrats.

*****************************************

I hate Facebook.  Just thought I’d throw that out there.

I thought I was the only one who hated Facebook.  It’s not like I don’t want to be social. It’s just that I don’t like the interface or any of the stupid things people have to do in order to remain relevant.  I have an account but I NEVER use it except if I have to sign into the damn thing in order to get registered for a sweepstakes at my favorite design blogs.  If I had bothered to accept all the friend invitations I received since 2008, I’d look like one of the most popular people on Facebook.  We hit 58,000+ unique hits here at  The Confluence on one day in 2008.  Everybody wanted to be my friend (I don’t take this as an indication of the attractiveness of my many wonderful qualities or charisma.  As if. It’s just what people do, they “friend” you when you hit their radar).  And I’m sure that most of you are very lovely people…

But I hate Facebook.  Yep, I just hate it.  I’m right up there with George Clooney’s hatred of Facebook when he said “he would rather have a prostate exam on live television by a guy with very cold hands than have a Facebook page”.  Fortunately, I don’t have a prostate but I know the feeling.  Er, not of cold hands in my rectum.  Wait, that didn’t come out right.  Well, anyway, you know what I mean.  I don’t want to get into too many examples and extended metaphors.  Let’s just say that Facebook requires me to use my brain in ways that I find unnatural.  As a person whose former profession involved quite a bit of learning new interfaces, Facebook is non-intuitive to me and besides, why?  Just… why?  I don’t understand what is the big draw?  Don’t people get enough of my trivialities and whining here?  And I’m not interested in your trivialities and whining anymore than you’re interested in mine.  Post a blog and I’ll read it.  I want to hear your thoughts and the way you’re figuring things out in writing, your internal monologue.  That’s interesting.  That you’re eating breakfast?  Not interesting.

So, on the final day of the summer season, but not the season of summer, I’m stepping away from all the tech for awhile so I can do other stuff.  Maybe go outside, go shopping for the kid’s school supplies, see a movie, finish cleaning my basement, you know, useful things.  Don’t look for me on Facebook.

#opBlackout January 23, 2012

Most of you have probably seen this by now.  Internet giants Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, AOL, PayPal and others are contemplating an internet blackout of their services for January 23 to protest proposed SOPA legislation to be voted on January 24.

Companies including Google, Facebook, Twitter, PayPal, Yahoo! and Wikipedia are said to be discussing a coordinated blackout of services to demonstrate the potential effect SOPA would have on the Internet, something already being called a “nuclear option” of protesting. The rumors surrounding the potential blackout were only strengthened by Markham Erickson, executive director of trade association NetCoalition, who told FoxNews that “a number of companies have had discussions about [blacking out services]” last week.

According to Erickson, the companies are well aware of how serious an act such a blackout would be:

“This type of thing doesn’t happen because companies typically don’t want to put their users in that position. The difference is that these bills so fundamentally change the way the Internet works. People need to understand the effect this special-interest legislation will have on those who use the Internet.”

The idea of an Internet blackout should seem familiar to anyone who’s been paying attention to the debate so far. In addition to a blackout already carried out by Mozilla, hacking group Anonymous proposed the same thing a couple of weeks ago, suggesting that sites replace their front pages with a statement protesting SOPA. That suggestion itself came a week after Jimmy Wales had asked Wikipedia users about the possibility of blacking out that site in protest of the bill.

I think they’re serious.  Holy hemiola, we’d have to look stuff up and talk on the phone.  I know it sounds trivial but I think about how I use each one of these services each day and how without them, I would feel disabled.  We would have to relearn how to do things all over again.

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google said:

The bills “give the U.S. government and copyright holders extraordinary powers including the ability to hijack DNS (the Internet’s naming system) and censor search results (and this is even without so much as a proper court trial),” Brin wrote last month on his Google+ page as Congress was considering the measures. “While I support their goal of reducing copyright infringement (which I don’t believe these acts would accomplish), I am shocked that our lawmakers would contemplate such measures that would put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world.”

That CNN article also writes that:

When contacted by CNN, none of those companies would confirm that such a drastic move had ever been considered. By Friday, the advocate whose comments had fueled the speculation appeared to back away from claims that a Web blackout was still likely to occur.

“Internet and technology companies will continue to educate policymakers and other stakeholders on the problems with the (legislation),” Markham Erickson, director of Web trade associationNetCoalition, said in a statement. “An ‘Internet blackout’ would obviously be both drastic and unprecedented.”

Or maybe they’re just not going to tell us what day or hour.  Sort of like Armageddon.

Al Gore appears to oppose SOPA as well.  In a recent speech, “the ex-veep warned that proposals to levy an Internet death penalty against allegedly piratical Web sites “would very probably have the effect of really shutting down the vibrancy of the Internet.”” and  “anything that would serve to threaten the vibrancy and freedom of the Internet in the future, I’m against.”  There was a youtube video of Gore’s remarks on the subject but somewhat ironically, it was deleted from the internet.

I hope they go through with it.  Enough with the copyright smokescreen.  This is a great way for media giants to shut down, well, whatever they want to shut down.  It’s not in their best interests to have people making snide and unpleasant remarks about them.  They’ll be like the whiny billionaires and make our stuff disappear. Oh, they won’t mean to delete your occupy videos and tweets because of alleged copyright violations.  But if you can’t use the internet to file a complaint, you’re kinda stuck, right?

So, black them out for a day and plunge us back to 1992 when no one had ever heard of a browser and we were all just thrilled to death that we could ftp the soda machine in the Computer Science building at CMU to see if the cokes were cold yet.  I hope WordPress, Typepad and other hosting sites follow suit.  But google is going to be a real problem because it affects so many businesses and industries.  I use google to find free scientific software, look up papers and unknown terms, as well as for mail, addresses and phone numbers.  I don’t even know where my phone books are.

This should be good.

And here’s a video from Anonymous on #opBlackout.  It’s pretty heavy on the ominous.

*********************************

In other news: Ron Paul gave a speech in NH.  His buzzword appears to be “liberty”.  Has anyone ever sat down with Paul and asked him to explain just what liberty means to him and whether it applies to all American Citizens equally or just 49% of them?  You can hear a lot of cheering in the background.  It sounds like a bunch of guys.  It has to be guys.  I’d just like to point out that, once again, the so-called liberals are willing to sell out their sisters just so they can say they stopped a war.  And let me add the disclaimer that I opposed these stupid wars from the very beginning when many on the left were supporting them.  I have a brother over there, a brother who was stupid enough to be all enthusiastic about us kicking ass in Iraq 8 years ago and over which we had the kind of argument over dinner that leads to siblings referring to their relationsip as “estranged”.  (Betcha he wishes he’d listented to me now) I want the wars to stop sucking blood and money from us as much as Noam Chomsky.  But getting us out of a mess that Bush deliberately chained us to is not going to be easy and I don’t want to get saddled with Ron Paul for four years.  I want an FDR style Democrat in the White House who will not sacrifice women to score political points with the religious and who has enough foreign policy experience to not trigger Pakistan to go off on a hissy fit.  Enough of the female sacrifices and the economic inertia.  Get Obama out of the White House and replace him with someone who will act like they give a f^*&.  And if you can’t think through this problem long enough to abandon Paul and his Dickensian worldview, you’re no progressive.

BTW, I’d just like to note that if this is some kind of reverse psychology strategy to get us to vote for Obama as the lesser evil, it won’t work for me.  I will never vote for Obama because 1.) he’s been a lousy president and responsible for the livelihoods ruined and families made homeless by his finance industry backed policies, 2.) if he did a lousy job for the first four years, he sure as hell won’t stand up to congressional Republicans in the second four and 3.) our right to vote is our one sacrament and he and the DNC violated that right for 18,000,000 of us in 2008.  That is unforgivable for a politician.  So, if you’re a progressive male, and they’re almost always men, and you are playing some political game of chicken with us, be careful because you might just get stuck with a hardass Republican.  This is not the way to win friends and influence people.

Anyway, here’s the speech.  You be the judge.

Wednesday News

Good Morning Conflucians!!!

First up in weird news, in case you’re not already getting that apocalyptic vibe from earlier this week, more birds have suddenly died, this time not in Arkansas, but in Louisiana:

Birds dropping dead from the skies and rivers flowing with tens of thousands of dead fish sounds like a cheesy Hollywood movie about the Apocalypse. Or the ravings of a Revelation-obsessed street preacher.

But residents of several US states are coping with the reality of mystery mass wildlife deaths, which have left officials scratching their heads and jumpy members of the public joking (nervously) about the end of the world.

Today it emerged that about 500 red-winged blackbirds and starlings had been found dead in Louisiana. Their tiny corpses littered a short stretch of highway near the city of Labarre after apparently falling dead from the sky.

That would be spooky enough. But the Louisiana bird die-off came just a few days after up to 5,000 blackbirds fell to earth in neighbouring Arkansas in the small town of Beebe. Residents there had reported stumbling upon the bodies littering the ground and even being hit by them as they fell. One woman said she was struck while walking a dog. Another avian corpse bounced off a police car.

In even more grim news, anglers and other members of the public reported that more than 80,000 drum fish had suddenly died in the state’s Arkansas river, about 100 miles west of Beebe. The silvery bodies of the fish floated in the river and washed up on its sides having died at roughly the same time. In another incident, hundreds of miles away on the Maryland coast of Chesapeake Bay, tens of thousands of dead fish also washed up on the shore.

Yea, that’s what I said. WTF? I’ve got rosary beads, incense, a statue of Sheba, among a few other things. What are you holding onto for dear life? What was the name of the other horseman anyway?


In a related news, Goldman Sachs and some Russian group invested nearly 1/2 billion in Facebook. That’s right, those two know everything there is to know about a whole hell of a lot of people now. Wonder if their joint bank account number is 666 by any chance. Note to self, get more statues of other religious figures. Here’s some coverage:

The “great vampire squid” of finance, Goldman Sachs, has invested $450 million in the emerging great vampire squid of cyberspace, Facebook. As the New York Times’ DealBook reported, the deal is gives Goldman a leg up on the huge fees investment banks will get when the social-networking company eventually sells shares to the public. And as the Times and Wall Street Journal also report, Goldman will also haul in huge fees from those clients who want to invest themselves.

Meanwhile, Facebook gets the capital to keep buying talent and startups, and to fuel its expansion in all kinds of other ways — and it gets to sell stock in what amounts to a shadow stock market that’s growing faster than regulators seem willing or able to understand, much less deal with.

This looks like a better deal for Facebook than its investor, putting Facebook’s value at $50 billion, which makes sense in today’s increasingly bubble-like market. Silicon Valley is going a bit wild again– not as crazy as the late 1990s, mind you, but there’s a froth element to the local economy.

Given a deal of this size and importance, there should be some SEC scrutiny. Yea right. But some report that there might be:

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s plan to offer clients up to $1.5 billion in Facebook Inc. equity may invite U.S. regulators to take a closer look at whether the owner of the world’s most popular social-networking site is circumventing disclosure rules, securities lawyers said.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, whose rules require any company with more than 499 investors to disclose financial information, is already scrutinizing the market for trading shares of closely held companies including Facebook, according to a person familiar with the inquiry, who declined to be identified because the matter isn’t public

Goldman Sachs invested $450 million in Facebook and is planning to create a special purpose vehicle for its clients to make additional investments worth as much as $1.5 billion, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal is private. Some private companies avoid crossing the disclosure threshold when investors’ funds are channeled through a single entity, such as a private equity firm or hedge fund.

“The real question is, what are the details of this special purpose vehicle?” said James Angel, a finance professor at Georgetown University’s business school in Washington. If the investment is designed to circumvent the rule, “the SEC should be looking very closely at it.”

Good thing we have a Democratic president that is looking out for us and will do what’s right. Oh wait, no we don’t, she was tossed under the bus. Instead we have an empty suit actually owned by Goldman Sachs. Oh yea. Why is this feeling even more biblical all of the sudden? Maybe we could have some leaks about all these things, about how Goldman Sachs helped fund an unknown candidate, about the Banks and their shady deals, about corruption in government at many levels. No, instead we get none of those useful leaks, but instead leaks that lead us to more wars in the middle east. Nice distraction.


Let’s see what our grand congress has in store for us this session. First we have this from Slate about how the Dems sound like Repubs and the Repubs sound like Dems:

The parties have switched not only offices but arguments. Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Republicans were going to spend “countless hours trying to repeal health care reform rather than focusing on jobs, the economy and deficit reduction. Every minute wasted on trying to repeal health care reform fruitlessly is one less minute the Republicans will spend on job creation and turning this economy around.” If that sentiment sounds familiar, it’s because it was a Republican refrain during the House’s debate over health care in 2009 and 2010.

Sometimes this required the Democrats to contradict themselves. They complained that the GOP House effort to repeal health care was a meaningless show because the Democratic Senate will never allow such a measure to proceed. But when defending their record on economic issues from the last session, they pointed to bills they passed that they knew would never get past a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

Democrats also complained that the Republicans were adding to the deficit and have shut them out of the legislative process. Next week, when the House votes to repeal health care (or, “job-killing health care,” as they call it), Democrats will not be allowed to add amendments. They were also not allowed to participate in writing the rules under which the measure will be considered. Democrats did this kind of thing when they were in power, of course, but they say Republicans had pledged to be more open and transparent.

Oh dear. WaPo has more coverage on the upcoming battle over health care insurance bailout. Expect this to be a lot of noise and distraction for a while. Such theater. A Republican bill written by the health insurance lobby where the Repubs (and insurance companies) pretend to hate it and Dems (sadly actually) like it. And the working class are screwed again. As usual.


It looks like there will be some turnover from both the WH staff and the VP staff. There’s some noise about Gibbs possibly leaving. And now we’re hearing that Biden’s CoS is stepping down. Along with that, LATimes has a few more rumors:

The White House staff reshuffle continued Tuesday with Vice President Joe Biden announcing that his chief of staff is leaving, while speculation swirled that the president may appoint a well-connected Chicagoan to a top post.

Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, is resigning to become president of Case Holdings, the holding company of AOL cofounder Steve Case. Over the last two years, Klain helped position Biden as an influential figure in the White House while assisting in the confirmation of a pair of Supreme Court nominees: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

His departure surprised even some members of Biden’s staff. Klain had been mentioned as a possible candidate for President Obama’s chief of staff, but the president may be opting for someone with a higher profile.

After Rahm Emanuel quit to run for mayor of Chicago, Obama appointed longtime aide Peter Rouse to the chief of staff job on an interim basis.

Now, Obama is considering William Daley for a senior position, possibly chief of staff. Daley is the brother of outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, and he served as Commerce secretary under President Clinton.

As the great David Bowie once said: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes.” Something tells me none of these changes are going to be for the better. Any bets?


In some rather funny, in a macabre sort of way, news, a murderer was found guilty in part because of his google search history:

Julie Jensen died as a result of ethylene glycol in her system, an ingredient found in antifreeze. On the morning of her death, someone attempted to “double-delete” (apparently unsuccessfully) the computer’s browsing history, which included a search for “ethylene glycol poisoning.”

Jensen was found guilty of first-degree homicide in 2008 based on this and other incriminating evidence, including a letter written by his wife before her death. He appealed the conviction, arguing for one that the warrantless police search of his computer violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals did not agree as he had signed a consent form.

As the article humorously mentions, does that mean we’ll be getting a CSI Internet Division spin-off?


In sort of related news, CA Supreme Court ruled that police can search your cell phone without a warrant when you’re under arrest:

The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that police do not need a warrant to search a cell phone carried by someone under arrest.

The justices determined a Ventura County deputy had the right to conduct a warrantless search of the text messages of a man he had arrested on suspicion of participating in a drug deal.

The state court ruled 5-2 that U.S. Supreme Court precedent affirms that police can search items found on defendants when they are arrested.

I understand this in terms of searching your pockets, etc. But the problem with this ruling is one of not keeping up with technology. With smartphones these says, searching what’s in your very powerful large computer (in a small space) that can include pretty much every important document found in your house, bank, accountant, etc. That is, all of your personal records of note could actually be on your phone. This can also provide full access to all of your email, all of your social media accounts, and all of your history of communication of every sort for years. It’s possible that your smartphone could easily be the equivalent of raiding your home, your lawyers office, your doctors office, etc. I hope this issue is revisited with those issues in mind sometime soon. In the mean time, I’ll suggest some privacy protection ideas in a later post.

In other court news, CA Prop 8 is heading directly to the state Supreme Court and bypassing the 9th circuit (more accurately, the 9th circuit just punted):

Instead of resolving a thorny “standing” issue itself, and thus launching the appeal on its way to the United States Supreme Court, a three-judge panel instead first asked the Supreme Court of California for guidance on whether the private litigants who appealed the August 2010 ruling striking down the same-sex marriage ban had the legal right to do so.

The 9th Circuit just acted, to be sure, but not even the most conservative legal scholar can dare call this an instance of “judicial activism.” Instead, the tactical punt from one San Francisco court to another is consistent with a centuries-old judicial concept: never decide what you don’t really have to decide, especially when you have a plausible excuse for not deciding it. Here, the 9th Circuit blamed the not-completely-unexpected detour on the lack of “controlling state precedent” on the question of what to do with an appeal where, as here, both the sitting governor (the since-departed Arnold Schwarzenegger) and the sitting attorney general (the since made-governor Jerry Brown) refused to carry it out.

By diverting the case away from the federal courts and toward the state supreme court, by asking for clarification of state law by and from the state’s highest court, the 9th Circuit has almost certainly delayed a substantive ruling on the merits of the case for at least a year and likely longer. The standing issue will likely have to be briefed all over again before the state high court, and a new oral argument date will likely have to be set, and then a new vigil will begin for people all over the world who are waiting for final word from the courts on whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.  All of this will take six to nine months, at least.


In news of the “is that news?” department, many people are obsessing and perplexed that Sarah Palin re-tweeted a pro DADT tweet. Yes, you got that right, just by Palin re-tweeting something (with no extra quote), people are actually spending time trying to figure out what she might have meant. I kid you not:

Online pundits are trying to interpret Sarah Palin’s stance on “don’t ask, don’t tell” after she echoed an Internet post by a conservative lesbian commentator who slammed the opposition to the policy’s repeal.

Tammy Bruce wrote Monday on Twitter that “this hypocrisy is just truly too much. Enuf already – the more someone complains about the homos the more we should look under their bed.”

Palin’s retweet of the post raised questions about her own stance on the military’s policy, which was repealed by Congress late last year. The former 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee hasn’t spoken about the policy except to say last February that she was surprised at President Barack Obama’s support for a repeal because it was not a priority at the time.

Palin representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday, but Politico said the retweet is a hint that Palin supports the repeal. Gawker said Palin is not “in the context of her party, rabidly homophobic,” then wondered if perhaps she didn’t understand the tweet or pushed the wrong button.

Now our pundits are reading tea leaves. Oh wait, that’s what they’ve always done. They really should get out more.

That’s a bit of what’s in the news. Chime in with what you’re reading.

“Never attribute to malice…

…that which can adequately be explained by stupidity”

– Robert Hanlon

For those who are curious, I haven’t been posting much because I’ve been living in interesting times, in the Chinese sense of the term.  I’d love to be a passive observer, sort of an anthropologist, watching fault lines develop and empires rise and fall.  There’s a book to be written about this period of time when the Ozymandius we call the American Dream started to crumble. Fortunately, there will be plenty of documentation for the future author to sift through. Oh, well, it’s very hard to reverse the bad decisions of 2008 when the king makers deceived the general public.  Who could have guessed that Obama would be the guy most likely to reintroduce feudalism?

Um, actually, I think we might have been on to that.  But whatchagonnado?  We’re just a bunch of uneducated working class menopausal sino-peruvian lesbians.  (Sorry, myiq)

Anyway, I thought I’d weigh in on topics I haven’t been following closely because we are all entitled to our own uninformed opinion.

Elena Kagan: All I need to know about Kagan is that Obama is appointing her.  Perhaps this is unfair guilt by association but as I’ve said before, “nothing good grows from a bad seed”.  Obama’s meteoric rise to fame and glory had some notable unpleasant features and starred some very bad actors giving him scads of money and encouraging party officials to reshape the rules to favor a predetermined outcome regardless of the voters’ sentiments.  That was a bad sign of things to come and our concerns were largely born out.  If you want to see what this has done to the party as a whole, you need look no further than BTD’s post from yesterday and the exchange in the comments that followed where several people straighten out his ass.  The Democrats really don’t know what to think about much of anything anymore.  That’s what you get when you opt for political expedience over guiding principles.

Anyway, about Kagan, I would hope that Al Franken questions her about stuff related to commerce and business and labor relationships and finance and pensions and whether investment brokers have an obligation to tell their clients what they’re really up to and free speech and net neutrality and stuff like that.  The abortion ship has sailed.  Roe never meant equality, ladies.  Let it go.  Work on getting real equality.  If the USSC wanted to outlaw abortion today, it has the votes to do it and that’s not going to change with Kagan’s vote.  If it remains the law of the land, it’s only because both parties find it politically expedient, except now we know that the Democrats are hyprocrites.  Let this be a warning to young Democratic women.  Never join a club that has less than 34% women.  If Democrats want my vote back, they’d be wise to implement a quota system in their party membership guaranteeing no less than 34% women running for office.  Scandanavian political parties have a quota system and they have some of the highest living standards and gender equality statistics in the world. But we can save an argument in favor of gender equality in the political parties for another post.  Let’s just say it’s past due and there are very good arguments in favor of it.

Facebook: As many of you may have discovered, I am not a facebook addict.  Send me an invite and I’m likely to ignore it.  I like friends as much as the next person and believe me, it’s not personal.  But I just don’t like the idea of facebook, it’s kludgy interface or the pressure to join it.  In my humble opinion, I feel it has the potential to become the tool to use for social engineering.  Imagine an army of Obot marketers and political psychologists getting their tentacles into facebook through some back room deal with facebook’s founder. The very thought gives me chills.   It would be like the Big Orange Cheeto on crystal meth.  Before you knew it, half the country could be convinced that social security is a commie plot and Democrats have always been against it.  I love to connect with people but prefer my GD independence.  If I wanted peer pressure, I could attend a DFA event.  Not really my thing.  I know some of you don’t see the harm in it and that’s ok.  But that’s how consensus reality works.  You get subsumed into the culture of a thing and before you know it, your perception has changed.  And when your reality is shaped by another entity, how are you going to be sure you’re making up your own mind?

I’ve been following some of the controversy around facebook privacy settings.  This Week in Google, had a very good discussion around the facebook issue and the potential dangers.  (the facebook discussion starts about 1/3 of the way through the podcast)  Also, Al Franken has instructions if you want to disentangle yourself from facebook.  Your choice.

Or it *should* be.

I’ve got a lot of things to say but limited time these days.  But as I watch events around me, I continue to be surprised, but not at all astonished, at the level of incompetence and pointless ambition of the people who we have entrusted to run things.  I can’t imagine why BTD wouldn’t want Bill Clinton back at times like these.  Nor can I understand why the Democrats would slit their throats and destroy the country rather than do the right thing.  If there’s an enthusiasm gap with voters, they brought it on themselves through what I hope is just stupidity. So, to them and all the other clueless who are cannibalizing each other these days, um, have a nice day.

Iranian Government and State-Run Media Escalate Conflict

Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of Ali Rafsanjani

Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of Ali Rafsanjani

It appears that the Iranian government is getting increasingly desperate. Earlier today several relatives of former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashimi Rafsanjani, including his daughter, were arrested and detained for a time. According to The New York Times,

Mr. Rafsanjani, one of the fathers of the Iranian revolution, has been locked in a power struggle with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and worked closely with the reform movement during the disputed presidential election. Sunday morning, state television said five members of his family had been detained, including Mr. Rafsanjani’s daughter, Faezeh Hashemi. Later, family members said all had been released.

The detentions suggested that Mr. Khamenei was facing entrenched resistance among some members of the elite. Though rivalries among top clerics in Iran have been a feature of Iranian politics since the 1979 revolution, analysts said that open factional competition amid a major political crisis could hinder Mr. Khamenei’s ability to restore order.

Now the Washington Post is reporting that the Iranian state-controlled media is calling losing presidential candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi a “criminal” and claiming that protesters are members of a terrorist group based in France, Mudjehadin-e khalq.

Authorities appeared to be seeking to blame the violence on radicals. State television charged that “the presence of terrorists . . . was tangible” in Saturday’s events. It asked viewers to send videoclips of protestors in order to help authorities to arrest them.

Scenes of the violent protest were shown frequently on Iranian state television and in a special broadcast the rioters were said to be members of the Paris based Mudjehadin-e khalq organization, an Islamist Marxist group that is labeled by the United States as a terrorist organization. After siding with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war and a series of terrorists attacks, the group has little support among most Iranians.

Audio clips were played of alleged telephone recordings in which people said to be members of the organization urge others to get information about the protests to Western news organizations. Despite the media claims, involvement of the group seems highly unlikely since supporters are rare in Iran.

In addition, the Post reports that Mousavi has not made any public appearances today, and his followers are very worried that he may be arrested. The Post says that it is becoming clear that there is power struggle going on in the Iranian government between Rafsanjani and Ayatolla Khamenei. Continue reading

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