Month: November 2012


There are indications that MDMA (aka Ecstasy, E, X, and XTC) is showing promise in the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder, and limited clinical trials have been ordered:

Hundreds of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with post-traumatic stress have recently contacted a husband-and-wife team who work in suburban South Carolina to seek help. Many are desperate, pleading for treatment and willing to travel to get it.

The soldiers have no interest in traditional talking cures or prescription drugs that have given them little relief. They are lining up to try an alternative: MDMA, better known as Ecstasy, a party drug that surfaced in the 1980s and ’90s that can induce pulses of euphoria and a radiating affection. Government regulators criminalized the drug in 1985, placing it on a list of prohibited substances that includes heroin and LSD. But in recent years, regulators have licensed a small number of labs to produce MDMA for research purposes.

(emphasis mine)

I’m an engineer, not a doctor, dammit,* so I really don’t have an informed opinion as to the therapeutic value of the drug, but when one considers the fact that THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in Marijuana) is denied this sort of research exemption, despite the fact that therapeutic effects have been fairly conclusively shown with Glaucoma and Multiple Sclerosis, as well as indications that it, much like MDMA, might be effective in the treatment of PTSD, it seems to me that something is seriously out of kilter with this process.

*I Love It when I get to go all Doctor McCoy!!!

Matt Taibbi is Right

When he observes that Paula Broadwell’s hagiography of David Petraeus was indistinguishable from what the rest of what the press corps said:

The book is so one-sided that it is almost supernaturally dull, and I was forgetting about it just minutes after I put it down.

Then it hit me – it was an interesting book, after all! Because if you read All In carefully, the book’s tone will remind you of pretty much any other authorized bio of any major figure in business or politics (particularly in business), and it will most particularly remind you of almost any Time or Newsweek famous-statesperson profile.

Which means: it’s impossible to tell the difference between the tone of a reporter who we now know was literally sucking the dick of her subject and the tone of just about any other modern American reporter who is given access to a powerful person for a biography or feature-length profile

.(Emphasis Mine)

Modern American journalism, by which I mean access journalism, where sucking up to highly placed sources trump shoe leather and intellect is deeply flawed.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone

Celebrated by having a turkey dinner with my wife’s mom, aunt, and uncle.

We had a good time, and we discovered that Agave nectar is a good substitute for corn syrup in pecan pie.

This its a good thing, because Sharon, Natalie, and Charlie all have various levels of allergies to corn, but everyone can eat this variant.

I have been off my laptop all day, snag I am not turning it on now.

Posted via mobile.

I Saw Skyfall Tonight

Family was in town for Thanksgiving, so we all went to see the new Bond film, Skyfall

Daniel Craig … James Bond
Judi Dench Judi Dench … M
Javier Bardem … Silva
Ralph Fiennes … Gareth Mallory
Naomie Harris … Eve
Bérénice Marlohe … Sévérine
Albert Finney … Kincade
Ben Whishaw … Q

Skyfall is a very good movie, though I’m not sure that it’s good Bond per se.

It does not feel like a Bond movie. It feels more like a police procedural, with a bit of John Le Carre and the Bourne movies.

It’s very well done though, and much more character driven than any other Bond movie that I’ve seen. We do get a much more complete picture of James Bond, who he is, and why he is who he is than we have ever gotten before.

My initial impressions:

  • Daniel Craig is magnetic. 
  • Javier Bardem was wonderful to watch, but I wasn’t impressed by the character. As a Bond villain, he was a bit “meh”, and the attempt to graft in some sexual kinks seemed forced.
  • Albert Finney had a relatively small role, but it was important all the same, it provides a lot of the insight into Bond’s character, and he’s just plain fun to watch. (He is also clearly enjoying himself while on camera)
  • Ben Whishaw was good as a very geeky “Q”.
  • Ralph Finnes was a complex and watchable character.
  • Judy Dench was kind of playing Judy Dench more than she was playing “M”.

Recommended. I’d call it 8 out of 10.

No other blogging today.

We are So Lucky that Petraeus is Done

Because his goal at the CIA was to get out of the intelligence collection and analysis business, so that he could go fully into the assassination business, or as Marcy Wheeler puts it, “moar dronz“:

When I saw DHS is acquiring more drones this morning, I joked that the policy response of government agencies when they fail at their core function is to ask for more drones.


I swear, when I made that joke, I had not yet read how the CIA closed its climate change center because David Petraeus thought it more important to hunt terrorists with drones.

The center was designed as a small unit of senior specialists focused on the impact that environmental changes could have on political, economic and social factors in countries of concern to the United States. The analysts probed questions such as, under what scenarios might a massive drought cause large-scale migration, and when might a government’s failure to respond to a devastating flood open the door for terrorist groups to win over the local populace?

Analysts at the center worked to develop warning software that combined regional climate projections with political and demographic information, and held climate war games looking at what might happen in extreme scenarios, such as if rapid glacial melt caused the ocean’s major currents to shut down.

The center didn’t focus on the science behind climate change but instead relied on data from other government agencies as well as recommendations — including ones in a report released just over a week ago — from the National Academy of Sciences (Greenwire, Nov. 9).

But congressional Republicans skeptical of the science behind climate change sought to block the center’s funding shortly after it was launched. Those efforts failed, but sources say the center received little internal support after Panetta left the CIA in 2011 to take the top job at the Defense Department. Under his successor, David Petraeus, the agency was highly focused on terrorism, specifically targeted killings using armed drones. [my (Wheeler’s) emphasis]

The diddling Director, it seems, thought taking out an American teenager with a drone was more important than responding to a crisis that is already leading to migration and increased credibility for terrorist groups.

Even without the devastating take down of Petraeus’s record by Michael Hastings,* the reporter who took down General Stanley McCrystal, it’s pretty clear that we as a nation are in a much better position with someone, anyone, else at the helm of the CIA.

*The nickel tour of Hastings:  Iraq surge was the aiding and abetting ethnic cleansing, his bronze star was political in nature, the Afghan surge was a failure, his first tour in Iraq (training security forces) was a miasma of corruption and weapons going to death squads.

An Open Letter to Anonymous

Anonymous, or someone purporting to be Anonymous is claiming that they thwarted attempts by Karl Rove and other Republican activists to hack electronic voting systems in swing states.

Let me make this clear: I would like to talk to you, or to a representative.

I do not know if this legitimately from anonymous or not, and I’d like to get clarification.

If true, I’d love to have the goods on whoever attempted to hack the vote.

You could contact email, Skype, some form of secure chat, stretched string and a paper cup, or a f%$#ing carrier pigeon.

Obviously, I have no way to know if the claims are true, but I’d love to hear from you.

And yes, I know that this is serious tinfoil hat stuff.

Full letter follows.

Journalists Who Should Be Working as Pastry Chefs

Declan Mccullagh, everyone’s favorite “Draw by crayon Libertarian,”* has a scoop.  That Senator Pat Leahy had an amendment to the privacy bill in his committee that would allow warrantless access to your electronic communications by a big honking number of federal agencies.

One small problem though, he got his hands on an out of date draft that had never been seriously considered, and was not put forward by Leahy:

This would be particularly disturbing in the wake of the scandal surrounding Generals Petraeus and Allen, whose emails were exposed during a wide-ranging and questionable FBI investigation and have brought the discussion of limits on the surveillance state to the fore. But when reached by phone, Patrick Leahy’s spokesperson David Carle bluntly said the article was “wrong.”

The version of the bill that Declan McCullagh excerpts in his report appears to be one of many that have been drafted and passed around, but is not a version that would be considered seriously at a hearing to review the bill next week.

“Senator Leahy does not support broad carve outs for warrantless searches of email content,” says a Senate Judiciary aide. “He remains committed to upholding privacy laws and updating the outdated Electronic Privacy Communications Act.”

A person who has been privy to conversations about the impending bill intended to update privacy protections around digital communications for the modern age said that this was a “snapshot of a discussion point” and that it’s inaccurate to say it’s the version being pushed forward. This particular draft of the bill incorporates amendments suggested by Senator Chuck Grassley who has expressed concern that too much privacy protection for our email could negatively impact safety tasks.

OK, That’s a bit of an oops.

So, he accused Pat Leahy of trying to take away our privacy rights on the basis of a draft from Charles Grassley. ……… Oops.

What is Mccullagh’s response to all of this? He claims that his story forced Leahy to change his bill:

Sen. Patrick Leahy has abandoned his controversial proposal that would grant government agencies more surveillance power — including warrantless access to Americans’ e-mail accounts — than they possess under current law.

The Vermont Democrat said today on Twitter that he would “not support such an exception” for warrantless access. The remarks came a few hours after a CNET article was published this morning that disclosed the existence of the measure.

Not even a mention of reports that it was never a real amendment, and that Chuck Grassley was the author of the draft.

So, he took a draft from a Republican, one that is consistent with that Senator’s history, and ascribed it to a Democrat, because, you know, Democrats are evil!

Not surprising.

Declan McCullagh was one of the chief promoters of the “Al Gore invented the Internet meme.”

His editors need to smack him upside the head with a clue-by-four, and tell him to get the facts straight.

*Not my bon mot. It’s from the always entertaining Andrew Orlowski of The Register.

Please, Do This

In 1968, my father said, “Those stupid bastards, they’ve nominated Nixon. There’s no way that they will win now.”

He was, of course, spectacularly wrong, but I feel much more secure in saying that I support Charlotte Allen’s call for Sarah Palin to be the 2016 Republican nominee:

The Republican Party has been doing a lot of hand-wringing and finger-pointing since the presidential election. Half the conservative columnists and bloggers say the GOP lost because it overemphasized social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. The other half says the party didn’t emphasize them enough. And everyone denounces Project ORCA, the campaign’s attempt to turn out voters via technology.

But I’ve got a suggestion for cutting short the GOP angst: Sarah Palin for president in 2016.

You think I’m joking? Think again.

Read the rest of the article. There’s not a bit of snark. She’s serious.

I so want to see this.

I think that we could have a 40 state Democratic victory.

The difference between Palin and Nixon is two fold:  She’s as dumb as a bag of hammers, and she believes her own PR.

I’m Surprised that It Made It a Full Day

The far right wing caucus of the Republican Party (I know, it buggers the mind), released a paper saying that the current copyright regime destroys markets, and needs to be reformed:

Right after the Presidential election last week, Chris Sprigman and Kal Raustiala penned an opinion piece suggesting that one way the Republicans could “reset”, and actually attract the youth vote, would be to become the party of copyright reform. We had actually wondered if that was going to happen back during the SOPA fight, when it was the Republicans who bailed on the bill, while most of those who kept supporting it were Democrats. Since then, however, there hadn’t been much movement. Until now. Late on Friday, the Republican Study Committee, which is the caucus for the House Republicans, released an amazing document debunking various myths about copyright law and suggesting key reforms.

Among other things, it stated that the purpose of copyright is to benefit society, not to provide a revenue stream to content owners, and among other things, calls for an expansion of fair use.

Basically, they said all the things that I have been saying for years.

Have no fear though. Less than 24 hours later, the IP Mafia browbeat them into withdrawing the report.

Well, there’s another chance to pick up the youth vote that they just pissed away.

H/t Firedog Lake;

A copy of the Report from the Republican Study Committee after the break:


It Appears that the Afghans Fault US On Our Commitment to Human Rights

Because Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered a takeover of the prison at Bagram:

President Hamid Karzai ordered Afghan forces to take control of the American-built Bagram Prison and accused American officials of violating an agreement to fully transfer the facility to the Afghans, according to a statement from his office on Monday.

The move came after what Mr. Karzai said was the expiration of a two-month grace period, agreed to by President Obama, to complete the transfer of the prison at Bagram Air Base.

At issue in particular are 57 prisoners held there who had been acquitted by the Afghan courts but who have been held by American officials at the prison for more than a month in defiance of release orders, Aimal Faizi, the spokesman for President Karzai, said in an interview.

Afghan officials were also concerned about the status of new detainees being captured by American troops. The Afghans feel those detainees should be transferred to their control under the deal signed by the two countries this year.

Mr. Faizi said hundreds of new prisoners were being held by American authorities in a closed-off section of Bagram Prison, which the American military calls the Detention Facility in Parwan. American forces, mainly Special Operations troops carrying out night raids, have been arresting more than 100 suspected insurgents a month, Afghan officials said.

So we are being lectured with justification about our commitment to human rights by Hamid f%$#ing Karzai.

God Bless America

There is a Difference Between a Conservative Democrat and a Disloyal Democrat

That’s Gotta Leavea Mark!

Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, and on the list for the 2016 nominee, appears to have been actively working to maintain a Republican majority in the state senate:

IIf the New York state Senate remains controlled by the Republican Party, it won’t be because of the voters. Democrats have 30 seats, with 32 required for a majority. They’re also ahead in two races currently being recounted. Simcha Felder, who won a Senate seat on the Democratic and Conservative Party lines in Brooklyn, has already announced that he will caucus with the Republicans. If the Democrats end up with a majority, there is a good chance a bunch of conservative Democrats will switch parties to ensure that the GOP retains control. One guy who’s staying conspicuously out of the fight: Democratic governor and 2016 presidential contender Andrew Cuomo.


But it’s not just that Cuomo’s not trying to help his party win a majority that voters actually voted for. He has at times actively hindered their chances. Cuomo signed off on gerrymandered state Senate districts and did not demand independent, nonpartisan redrawing. In doing so he intended to preserve the status quo — Republicans in charge of the state Senate, Democrats in charge of the more representative assembly — but voters in New York pretty clearly decided that they preferred Democrats in charge of both houses, even with districts drawn specifically to make that nearly impossible.


And if Republicans get their majority, with the tacit support of Cuomo, the governor will have once again shown that he is not the progressive figure he will likely try to sell himself as if he runs for president. His tenure so far has been marked by flashy liberal victories on issues like gay marriage, along with a quietly conservative economic agenda: A property tax cap, total neglect of mass transit, and (partial) support for fracking. Even on economic issues where Cuomo has more liberal priorities, he rarely pushes his Republican friends particularly hard. (A Republican-controlled state Senate will almost certainly block a minimum wage increase Cuomo ostensibly supports.) There’s a reason, in other words, that the National Review loves him.

You can also see Chris Hays unload a case of whup ass on him as well. (see vid)

Let’s be clear here: In every case where Andrew Cuomo had to make a decision regarding the state senate, that decision cut to favor Republican control of the state senate to the maximum degree that political realities make it possible.

If there is a lesson to the Democratic party regarding the career of Joe Lieberman, it is that there is a difference between a conservative Democrat and a disloyal one.

Cuomo seems to be inclined toward the latter.

 I don’t know who is going to be the Democratic nominee in 4 years, but I really hope that it is not him.

H/t Crooks and Liars.

This Might Explain the Problems We Have With General Officer Corps

The Washington Post details the rock-star lifestyle of US General Officers (Generals and Admirals), and it goes a long way toward explaining some of the problems that exist with them.

Simply put, they have no connection to reality, and they have every incentive to delay their retirement well past the limits their usefulness:

Then-defense secretary Robert M. Gates stopped bagging his leaves when he moved into a small Washington military enclave in 2007. His next-door neighbor was Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, who had a chef, a personal valet and — not lost on Gates — troops to tend his property.

Gates may have been the civilian leader of the world’s largest military, but his position did not come with household staff. So, he often joked, he disposed of his leaves by blowing them onto the chairman’s lawn.

“I was often jealous because he had four enlisted people helping him all the time,” Gates said in response to a question after a speech Thursday. He wryly complained to his wife that “Mullen’s got guys over there who are fixing meals for him, and I’m shoving something into the microwave. And I’m his boss.”

Of the many facts that have come to light in the scandal involving former CIA director David H. Petraeus, among the most curious was that during his days as a four-star general, he was once escorted by 28 police motorcycles as he traveled from his Central Command headquarters in Tampa to socialite Jill Kelley’s mansion. Although most of his trips did not involve a presidential-size convoy, the scandal has prompted new scrutiny of the imperial trappings that come with a senior general’s lifestyle.

The commanders who lead the nation’s military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms and track their schedules in 10-minute increments. Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs. If they want music with their dinner parties, their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir.

The elite regional commanders who preside over large swaths of the planet don’t have to settle for Gulfstream V jets. They each have a C-40, the military equivalent of a Boeing 737, some of which are configured with beds.

In a war zone, I could understand why a general might have someone to take care of ordinary day-to-day tasks, but for someone deployed to the wilds of Alexandria, Virginia, they can take out their own trash, and mow their own damn lawn.

The ratio of officers to enlisted men is not now 1:5.  For most of history, it was 1:10.  Additionally, we now have more general officers, with 1.5 million active duty military, than we did at the height of the 2nd world war when we had 12+ million men under arms.

The terms “top heavy” and “bloated” come to mind.

An Update of a Classic

Click for full size

Why Not Bullpup

It looks like the Russians are updating the AK series assault rifle: (Paid subscription required)

Russia’s legendary Kalashnikov assault rifle may get a new lease on life as its designers try to improve the weapon’s operational parameters and attract orders from the country’s defense ministry and paramilitary agencies.

The iconic, original 7.62-mm AK-47 rifle entered service in 1949 and since then has undergone several modernizations, mainly aimed at increasing accuracy. The 5.45-mm AK-74M version from the 1990s remains the primary individual weapon for the Russian armed forces. Besides the smaller caliber it differs from the basic model only in its polymer forearm and side-folding buttstock, as well as an improved muzzle-recoil compensator.

However, despite reliability and simplicity in use and maintenance, the Russian military has never been happy with the rifle, because it demonstrated poor accuracy in unstable positions. The problems are due to the AK’s design—its heavy internal mechanical parts move fast when the weapon is fired, producing heavy blowback that disrupts aim . The Avtomat Kalashnikova—or “AK,” as it is officially known—has also been criticized for poor ergonomics, including a nonadjustable buttstock. And use of optical or night sights, as well as other mounted equipment, was limited by the obsolete rail on the left side of the receive

The issue is that the source of the Rifle’s legendary reliability, heavy parts traveling relatively long distances with lots of “wiggle” room, also adversely effect accuracy, because they shake the weapon as it fires.

The new rifle, the AK-12, tweaks the action, while improving ergonomics and adding a Picatinny style rail to mount accessories.

What is interesting here is how they are just tweaks, as opposed to some more ambitious developments which used counter-masses to mitigate the felt recoil.

Whiney Beotch of the Day: John McCain

Just in case you don’t know, the entire Republican Jihad over Susan Rice and Benghazi is about two things: They desparetely want a real Obama scandal, and they realize that if they kill her nomination to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, then the likely alternative is John Kerry, which would open up the other Massachusetts Senate seat, to a run by Scott Brown.

Leading the charge are Lindsay “Mincing Fool” Graham, and John “McCrankypants” McCain, and now we find out that McCain skipped a classified briefing on Benghazi in order posture in front of the press:

I have to tell you something that just happened on Capitol Hill, and that is our senate producer Ted Barrett just ran into John McCain and asked about something that we’re hearing from Democrats, which is John McCain is calling for more information to Congress, but he had a press conference yesterday instead of going to a closed briefing where administration officials were giving more information. Well, Ted Barrett asked John McCain about that, and it was apparently an intense very angry exchange and McCain simply would not comment on it at all.

(Emphasis original)

John McCain seems to have spent most of his entire political career in a fit of pique directed at people who he thinks unfairly kept him from becoming president.


Snatching defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Some people call the US Senate, “the World’s greatest deliberative body”. I call the US Senate, “A petri dish for narcissistic sociopaths,” thanks to the need for unanimous consent (of failing that a vote of 60 Senators) to proceed.

Theoretically, the Senate Democrats can change filibuster rules by a simple majority vote at the start of the next Congress.

Unfortunately, it appears that Harry Reid does not have the votes to make a meaningful reform:

Democrats don’t have the 51 votes they need in the Senate to change filibuster rules that could make it harder for the GOP minority to wield power in the upper chamber.

Lawmakers leading the charge acknowledge they remain short, but express optimism they’ll hit their goal.

“I haven’t counted 51 just yet, but we’re working,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a leading proponent of the so-called constitutional or “nuclear” option, in which Senate rules could be changed by a majority vote.

“We’re building the momentum right now,” Udall said. “It’s hard to say at this point, but I think it’s looking very good. The last two years have really helped coalesce people’s minds around the idea that we need to change the way we do business.”

The problem for Udall and other supporters of filibuster reform is that many veteran Democratic senators remember when the filibuster was a useful tool in their years in the minority.

In the tradition-bound Senate, these veterans aren’t thrilled with changing the upper chamber’s rules, particularly with the use of the controversial constitutional option — which has never been used to change the chamber’s rules.

It’s all well and good to respect Senate tradition, but part of that tradition was to use a bit of restraint, and using the filibuster for the little things.

It’s sh%$ like this that makes people voting for Republicans.

As repugnant as their agenda, and their values, are at least Republicans are willing to fight for them.