Month: September 2013

The New York Times Ratf%$#s* Bill de Blasio

It appears that they are (I’m not joking here) accusing Bill de Blasio of having been a commie during the 1980s:

The scruffy young man who arrived in Nicaragua in 1988 stood out.

He was tall and sometimes goofy, known for his ability to mimic a goose’s honk. He spoke in long, meandering paragraphs, musing on Franklin D. Roosevelt, Karl Marx and Bob Marley. He took painstaking notes on encounters with farmers, doctors and revolutionary fighters.

Bill de Blasio, then 26, went to Nicaragua to help distribute food and medicine in the middle of a war between left and right. But he returned with something else entirely: a vision of the possibilities of an unfettered leftist government.

As he seeks to become the next mayor of New York City, Mr. de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, has spoken only occasionally about his time as a fresh-faced idealist who opposed foreign wars, missile defense systems and apartheid in the late 1980s and early 1990s. References to his early activism have been omitted from his campaign Web site.

But a review of hundreds of pages of records and more than two dozen interviews suggest his time as a young activist was more influential in shaping his ideology than previously known, and far more political than typical humanitarian work.


By the beginning of 1990, Mr. de Blasio had a foot in two worlds — government official by day, activist by night.

He was becoming a part of the institution he had railed against — the establishment — as a low-level aide to Mr. Dinkins in City Hall. On the side, he helped raise funds for the Nicaragua Solidarity Network and forge alliances between New York and Nicaraguan labor unions.

And they f%$#ing put it on the f%$#ing front page.

Gee the US government was funding terrorist operations against the Sandinistas, and they did so in violation of the law.

I think that maybe some of the more overpaid New York Times staffers are upset that de Blasio won’t be genuflecting to the rich like Bloomberg did.

*It’s a term for political dirty tricks, allegedly made popular by Nixon dirty trickster Roger Stone.

Today’s Must Read

Public Knowledge’s Amicus Brief in WildTangent v. Ultramercial, or more accurately their summary of their brief, where they point out that obfuscating on a patent application does not make an idea non-abstract or original.

Or, to put this in a slightly earthier way, they argue that Utramercial, the holder of the “Patent” have engaged in a strategy of, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullsh%$.”

Today, Public Knowledge filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to review an important case on software patents, WildTangent v. Ultramercial. The basic question in this case is whether a patent to a simple, abstract idea can be valid simply by tacking on enough legal and technical language to that idea, even if that extraneous language has no real meaning.

The patent in question is U.S. Patent No. 7,346,545. That patent basically describes a simple idea familiar to anyone who has watched videos on the Internet: the idea of taking a video available for purchase, and showing it for free in exchange for viewing an advertisement first.

If you’re thinking that this idea is too simple to be patented, you’re right. The specific legal concept, as the Supreme Court has said, is the “abstract idea,” which includes things like methods of financial hedging and algorithms for converting decimal to binary numbers. Abstract ideas, like laws of nature and physical phenomena, cannot be patented, because they are the “basic tools of scientific and technological work,” and “monopolization of those tools through the grant of a patent might tend to impede innovation more than it would tend to promote it”—so said our highest court last year, in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories.

Here is the kicker:

Sometimes the courts need a little help in understanding all of this technical stuff, and that’s where we came in. Our brief took the 349-word claim of the patent (for comparison, the 349th word of this blog post is this), and reduced it to 16 lines of computer code.

I have little doubt that most everyone would agree that 16 lines of computer code is not “intricate and complex computer programming.”

As an example, here are two steps of the process claimed in the patent.

a fifth step of offering to a consumer access to the media product without charge to the consumer on the precondition that the consumer views the sponsor message;

a sixth step of receiving from the consumer a request to view the sponsor message, wherein the consumer submits said request in response to being offered access to the media product;

a seventh step of, in response to receiving the request from the consumer, facilitating the display of a sponsor message to the consumer;

For all those words, here’s the computer code that implements them:

if (window.confirm(“View ad or buy?”)) {window.alert(selected_ad.text)

For those of you unfamiliar with JavaScript, this just asks the user whether to view an advertisement (the “window.confirm” part), and if the user says yes, then the advertisement is displayed (the “window.alert” part).

How many federal judges do JavaScript?

How many have done C, or FORTRAN, or even lowly Basic?

So Ultramercial figured that if they threw enough crap against the wall, and couched it in obscure technobabble, that a technically illiterate judge will see some “there” where there is no “there”.


It appears that when Muhammad Morsi became Egypt’s President, Hamas decided to ditch its Syrian and Iran, and hitch their wagon to the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood.

It has not worked out well for them:

The party-militia Hamas, a distant offshoot in Palestinian Gaza of the Muslim Brotherhood, has seldom been on the sunny side of the street. But a combination of difficult political choices has left it more isolated and more broke than ever before in its history, as China’s Xinhua wire service points out. Adding insult to injury, it faces a Tamarrud (Rebellion) youth movement of a strong secularist bent that is vowing to do to it what Tamarrud in Egypt did to former President Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Israel imposed a blockade on the entirety of Gaza in 2007 after its attempt to dislodge the party from power there failed. The blockade was damaging but imperfect, creating deep unemployment and food insecurity. There were ways partially to circumvent it. Egypt winked at the construction of huge underground tunnels from Gaza to the Sinai desert, through which smugglers brought in millions of dollars worth of goods. Moreover, cash came in from Iran to reward Hamas (Sunni fundamentalists) for allying with secular Syria and the Shiite fundamentalist Hizbullah of south Lebanon.

These were not ideological allies but rather strange bedfellows, all of whom only had in common fear of Israeli expansionism. ………

Palestinians have been among the least fundamentalist populations in the Muslim world, and the hard line religious temptation is one that only a minority felt. The party did win the January 2006 elections for the Palestine legislature, but that was a fluke and said more about the corruption and unpopularity of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) than about desire for religious rule. ………

Hamas was presented with a severe dilemma by the outbreak of the attempted popular revolution and then the civil war in Syria. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood enthusiastically joined the opposition to the Baath government of Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood had opposed the socialist, secular policies of the Baath Party and its land reform and large public sector. The Muslim Brotherhood represented urban shopkeepers and entrepreneurs and ideologically is not so far from the evangelical wing of the US Republican Party. Moreover, the Baath came to be dominated by Alawite Shiites, whom Muslim Brothers do not consider Muslims. The MB staged a revolt in Hama in 1982, which Bashar’s father brutally crushed, killing thousands.

Not only was Hamas’s alliance with Bashar al-Assad increasingly uncomfortable, what with the Syrian Muslim Brothers denouncing them as traitors, but then in June of 2012 Muhammad Morsi of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood won the presidency. He opposed al-Assad and was a long-time warm supporter of Hamas.

So most of the Hamas leadership (not all) abandoned al-Assad and Damascus, seeking to replace his patronage and support with that of Morsi in Cairo. ………

But the Hamas abandonment of Syria angered Iran, which allegedly cut Hamas off without a further dime. (The US has to stop charging Iran with being a supporter of ‘terrorism’ if what it means is that it gives money to the government of Gaza.) That cut-off of Tehran support was all right with much of the Hamas leadership, though, because Morsi in Egypt was willing to become the movement’s patron instead.

Then on July 3 of this year, Morsi was overthrown in a combination popular revolution and military coup. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was more or less declared a terrorist organization by the military, with 2000 of its leaders arrested and its sit-ins broken up in a bloody crackdown, killing hundreds.


So the Egyptian military now has it in for Hamas, as well, which they suspect of links to Egyptian militants and rebellious Bedouin in the Sinai Peninsula, where Egyptian troops have lost their lives fighting al-Qaeda affiliates. So the officers have done what Mubarak never dared. They have definitively closed the tunnels. Apparently nothing is getting through. And they closed the Rafah crossing. The Palestinians in Gaza are complaining that Egypt’s Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has deeply harmed “tourism,” but surely that is a euphemism for smuggling.

Just as the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown in part by the militantly secularist Tamarrud or Rebellion movement, so Palestinian youth in Gaza have thrown up their own Rebellion group. They feed stories to the Egyptian press such as that Hamas keeps a secret string of secret prisons where they imprison their ideological (secular) enemies and where they practice the ugliest kinds of torture and interrogations. The Gaza Rebellion/ Tamarrud movement claims to have masses of supporters and to be considered a real threat by Hamas.


While it is true that guerrilla movements are difficult to simply starve out, Hamas does at the moment seem in real trouble. There have long been signs that Palestinian youth in Gaza are sick and tired of its extreme fundamentalism, so if change comes, it could have a local social base.

I cannot say that I am sad about this.

I hope that a movement that is both more secular than Hamas, and less corrupt than Fatah develops out of this, because neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are well served by what amounts to Palestinian leadership.


A while back I reported that a story co-written by Dale Gavlak which related reports that the rebels were responsible for the gas attacks in Ghouta.

Much of the credibility on this story was as a result of Gavlak’s journalistic credibility.

It turns out that she did not write the story. She just provided what amounts to editorial help with the writing of the story:

A freelance contributor to the Associated Press whose byline appeared on a controversial story that alleged Syrian rebels had gassed themselves in an accident told McClatchy on Saturday that she did not write the article and has been seeking to have her name removed from it since it was published by a small Minnesota-based website.

Dale Gavlak, a long time contributor from the Middle East to AP, released an email statement to McClatchy and several blogs denying any role in reporting the story, which was published Aug. 29 by Mint Press News, which describes itself with the phrase “independent advocacy journalism.” The article carried her byline along with that of Yahya Ababneh, a Jordanian Arab-language journalist.


The initial email detailing the filing of the story – Gavlak admits to helping Ababneh convert his Arabic reporting into English – reads “Pls find the Syria story I mentioned uploaded on Google Docs. This should go under Yahya Ababneh’s byline. I helped him write up his story but he should get all the credit for this.”

After seeing the story published under her name and the amount of interest it was generating – in large part because of the credibility lent to it by her relationship with AP, which bills itself as the “world’s oldest and largest newsgathering organization” – Gavlak demanded her name be removed. Muhawesh refused.

“We will not be removing your name from the byline as this is an existential issue for MintPress and an issue of credibility as this will appear as though we are lying,” Gavlak said Muhawesh responded.

Needless to say, any credibility that I assigned to the story by Gavlak’s association with it is now inoperative, and the response of MintPress makes me less inclined to assign any credibility to them.

MintPress has also released a statement on this issue contradicting Dale Gavlak’s account.

Needless to say this is now well and truly a clusterf%$#.

A Low Cost Low Complexity Solution, So the US Air Force Will Hate It

Click for full size

Note Widely Spaced Engines for Damage Tolerance

Performance specs indicate that it could also serve as a trainer

Structures appear to be rather low tech by aerospace standards

Textron is offering an unsolicited proposal for a simpler close support aircraft: (paid subscription required, there is also a CNN story with a bit less detail)

It takes a gutsy move for a company to pitch a brand new, clean-sheet aircraft to the Pentagon for a set of requirements it has not even said it wants, and to present this idea while defense spending in the U.S. faces massive cuts.

But, that is exactly what a newly formed joint venture between Textron and a young company—AirLand Enterprises, formed in 2011—is doing. Textron is best known for its Cessna business jets and turboprops, as well as Bell Helicopter’s long experience with rotorcraft. Its partner, AirLand, however, was formed by a small group of investors, including retired defense officials, to explore a new concept for light attack.

It could actually be the scarce funding environment that validates the strategy behind the joint venture’s new aircraft—the two-seat, twin-engine Scorpion. The team is unveiling its self-funded project Sept. 16 at the annual Air Force Association Air & Space Conference outside Washington, and officials gave Aviation Week an exclusive sneak peak.

The Scorpion demonstrator is intended to whet the U.S. Air Force’s appetite with the promise of a low procurement and operating cost. The pitch is for this aircraft, which is optimized for 5-hr. endurance with onboard intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) collectors and weapons, to handle the Air Force’s low-end missions such as U.S.-based interdiction, quick-reaction natural disaster support and air sovereignty patrols. The goal is to field an aircraft capable of operating for less than $3,000 per flying hour; the company declined to cite a target unit cost. By contrast, the Pentagon in June cited the cost per flying hour of the F-16, which currently performs many of these missions, as $24,899.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, F-15s, F-16s and A-10s have been used for patrols and close air support in completely uncontested airspace. This was overkill, according to some military officials. Built for high-speed, high-G maneuvers, these aircraft made little use of their strengths in these conflicts, but were needed to drop ordnance and provide armed overwatch for ground troops.

Aside from the obvious correction, that the A-10 was not built for high speed, high-G maneuvers, it is clear that the F-15 and F-15 are ill suited to this role: They are too expensive, and they prosecute these missions at speeds and altitudes that are too high, and with far less endurance over the battlefield, particularly at low altitude where CAS aircraft should do their business, than either this aircraft or the A-10.

The A-10 is designed to attack tanks trying to attack NATO through the Fulda Gap, so it is much larger and heavier than is necessary (It’s empty weight is more than max weight for the Scorpion) for a low intensity conflict like Iraq or Afghanistan.

It should be noted that the USAF has been trying to get rid of the A-10 almost since it entered service.

One of the things that I don’t get about this aircraft

Though designed as a tandem-seat aircraft, Scorpion can be flown by a single pilot. Textron is building it to include a highly simplified and reconfigurable bay that is capable of carrying 3,000 lb. of weapons or intelligence-collecting equipment; the aircraft also has six hard points total. The twin Honewell TF731 engines were selected to provide ample power and cooling for a variety of ISR payloads, Donnelly says. Though used for the demonstrator, these engines could be swapped out.

I’m not sure why you want to have an internal weapons bay on what is clearly a non-stealthy subsonic airframe.

I think that this might be a way to create a large avionics bay without having to spend years (decades) developing the custom systems that the Air Force would likely demand.

That being said, I think that this aircraft is dead on arrival.  Low cost and simplicity makes it more difficult for retired Generals to snag highly remunerative jobs with the other side of the military industrial complex.

It’s Bank Failure Friday!!!

I missed stuff over the past month, my bad.

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.

  1. The Community’s Bank, Bridgeport, CT (on September 13)
  2. First National Bank also operating as The National Bank of El Paso, Edinburg, TX (on September 13)

Full FDIC list

And here are the credit union closings:

  1. Craftsman Credit Union, Detroit, MI (on September 6)

Full NCUA list

So, here is the graph pr0n with last years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):


Tom Delay’s money laundering conviction was just overturned:

A Texas appellate court has overturned the conviction of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) for allegedly scheming to influence Texas state elections with corporate money.

A three-judge panel voted 2-1 to overturn the conviction, calling the evidence “legally insufficient,” according to court papers released Thursday. The decision formally acquits DeLay of all charges, but it could still be appealed by the government.

Their ain’t no justice.

I’m Beginning to Really Like His Holiness

He may not be John XXIII, but he is a breath of fresh air after the reactionary JP II and Benedict.

Latest case, he makes the obvious observation that the exclusive focus on abortion and gays by the reactionary wing of the Church is not a good thing:

Six months into his papacy, Pope Francis sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic church on Thursday with the publication of his remarks that the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues despite recriminations from critics.

His surprising comments came in a lengthy interview in which he criticized the church for putting dogma before love, and for prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor and marginalized. He articulated his vision of an inclusive church, a “home for all” — which is a striking contrast with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the doctrinal defender who envisioned a smaller, purer church.

Francis told the interviewer, a fellow Jesuit: “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

It is noteworthy that this is an interview with a Jesuit which was released in Jesuit publications.  This is more than public assertion of his views, but an assertion of the traditional role of the Jesuits as being intellectual gadflies for the church, something which John Paul II detested,

As to the reactionary bigots, like this guy, who are upset that they no longer get to use the institutions of the church to go after people they find “icky”, I say go pound sand:

But there has been a low rumble of discontent from some Catholic advocacy groups, and even from some bishops, who have taken note of his silence on abortion and gay marriage. This month, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., told his diocesan newspaper that he was “a little bit disappointed in Pope Francis” because he had not spoken about abortion. “Many people have noticed that,” he said.

My heart bleeds for the right wingers like Tobin who are intent on abandoning the poor in order to wage war against women and the LGBT community.

This is actually pretty mild.  The Pope is telling the officers of the church to chill out, and remember that there is a lot more to the Catholic Church than abortion, birth control, and gay marriage.

It’s not like he’s forcing them out of the priesthood, like JPII did.

This is Called Catch 22

The FISA court has said that since none of the telcos have ever challenged the collections orders, and that they are the only ones with standing to challenge these orders.

I guess that it might have something to do with the fact that the only time that a phone company resisted their demands, the government retaliated against them and threw their CEO in jail.

So, no harm, no foul, I guess:

No telecommunications company has ever challenged the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court’s orders for bulk phone records under the Patriot Act, the court revealed on Tuesday.

The secretive Fisa court’s disclosure came inside a declassification of its legal reasoning justifying the National Security Agency’s ongoing bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

Citing the “unprecedented disclosures” and the “ongoing public interest in this program”, Judge Claire V Eagan on 29 August not only approved the Obama administration’s request for the bulk collection of data from an unidentified telecommunications firm, but ordered it declassified. Eagan wrote that despite the “lower threshold” for government bulk surveillance under Section 215 of the Patriot Act compared to other laws, the telephone companies who have received Fisa court orders for mass customer data have not challenged the law.

“To date, no holder of records who has received an Order to produce bulk telephony metadata has challenged the legality of such an Order,” Eagan wrote. “Indeed, no recipient of any Section 215 Order has challenged the legality of such an order, despite the mechanism for doing so.”

That complicity has not been total. Before the Bush administration moved the bulk phone records collection under the authority of the Fisa court, around 2006, Qwest Communications refused to participate in the effort.

If you know what happened to Qwest, and you might understand why the telcos have never challenged the order.

Qwest lost numerous government contracts after refusing to collaborate in the Bush administration’s illegal data collection, and missed its numbers, which caused the stock to tank, and then they went after the CEO, Joe Nacchio. who was then prosecuted for insider trading on the basis of his rosy projections for the company.

See Nacchio’s allegations here: (from 2007)

Nacchio was convicted for selling shares of Qwest stock in early 2001, just before financial problems caused the company’s share price to tumble. He has claimed in court papers that he had been optimistic that Qwest would overcome weak sales because of the expected top-secret contract with the government. Nacchio said he was forbidden to mention the specifics during the trial because of secrecy restrictions, but the judge ruled that the issue was irrelevant to the charges against him.

Nacchio’s account, which places the NSA proposal at a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, suggests that the Bush administration was seeking to enlist telecommunications firms in programs without court oversight before the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The Sept. 11 attacks have been cited by the government as the main impetus for its warrantless surveillance efforts.

They sent him to jail for 6 years. (He actually is coming out after a bit less than 5)

Is there any wonder that none of the telcos have challenged such an order?

Even if they don’t send you to jail, supplying secure connectivity to government agencies is a particularly lucrative part of the business, and if they took the NSA to court, it would all end, and they would lose their, “Phoney Baloney Jobs,” to quote Mel Brooks.

Harrumph, indeed.

How About some F%$#ing Details

OK, so now the Russians are denouncing the UN chemical weapons report, claiming that they have been given evidence that the rebels gassed the people in Ghouta:

Russia sharply criticized the new United Nations report on Syria’s chemical arms use on Wednesday as biased and incomplete, hardening the Kremlin’s defense of the Syrian government even while pressing ahead with a plan to disarm its arsenal of the internationally banned weapons.

The Russians also escalated their critiques of Western governments’ interpretations of the report, which offered the first independent confirmation of a large chemical weapons assault on Aug. 21 on the outskirts of Syria’s capital, Damascus, that asphyxiated hundreds of civilians.


Russian news reports quoted the country’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei A. Ryabkov, as saying during a visit to Damascus that Syria’s government had provided additional information that showed insurgents used chemical weapons not only on Aug. 21 but also on other occasions.

The Syrians offered no such information to the United Nations chemical weapons inspectors before they left Syria with a trove of forensic samples on Aug. 31. The inspectors have said they will return to Syria to investigate other reported instances of chemical weapons use, but no dates have been announced.

I called off Obama and His Evil Minions about their profoundly disingenuous claims regarding poison gas use in Syria, where they said that they had incontrovertible evidence, and put out crap completely bereft of information, and I will call out Mr. Ryabkov as well.

If you have information release it.

I have been thinking about the implications of the UN Report (more in a later post) and it does appear to present a much stronger case for the Assad regime having agency in the gas attack than I have previously seen.

I am dubious of the Russian “evidence”.

Your Syria Update

Let us start with the thought that maybe Binyamin Netanyahu should tell his political allies to shut the F%$# up:

‘Israel wanted Assad gone since start of Syria civil war’

“Tehran-Damascus-Beirut arc is the greatest danger,” says outgoing Israeli envoy to US Michael Oren.

“Bad guys” backed by Iran are worse for Israel than “bad guys” who are not supported by the Islamic Republic, Israel’s outgoing ambassador to the US Michael Oren told The Jerusalem Post in a parting interview.

Oren, in the interview that is to be published in full on Friday, traced the evolution of Israel’s message on Syria during the three weeks of the chemical weapons crisis.

“The initial message about the Syrian issue was that we always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran,” he said.

This was the case, he said, even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated to al-Qaida.

Seriously. In one interview, he dissed the United States by saying that al Qaida is not that bad, and effectively endorses Bashir Assad, because if Israel is for it, then the Arab world is against it.

Oh, for f%$# sake, shut the f%$# up!

BTW, in the whole soft on terrorist sh%$, we have Obama waiving the rule against supplying weapons to terrorists:

President Obama, in order to arm Al-Qaeda linked Syrian rebels, has waived a provision of federal law designed to prevent the supply of arms to terrorist groups. Not surprisingly, federal law currently bans giving weapons to terrorists. Though it seems Obama does have the authority to bypass the restriction and he is choosing to do so by arming the Syrian rebels who have links to Al Qaeda, a group still listed as supporting terrorism.

The president, citing his authority under the Arms Export Control Act, announced today that he would “waive the prohibitions in sections 40 and 40A of the AECA related to such a transaction.”
Those two sections prohibit sending weaponry to countries described in section 40(d): “The prohibitions contained in this section apply with respect to a country if the Secretary of State determines that the government of that country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism,” Congress stated in the Arms Control Export Act.

The Syrian rebels not only include factions that are explicitly loyal to Al Qaeda but, according to US intelligence and experts analysts, those factions are now dominant within the opposition. So it is highly likely that some of the arms being shipped into Syria right now by the CIA will fall into the hands of Syrian rebels loyal to Al Qaeda.

This has epic fail written all over it.

As to the UN report it is not conclusive, but it does point toward the Syrian government as being the perps.  Note however though that some people disagree with this strongly.

I’ve looked at the UN report, I have a number of thoughts:
It’s 41 pages long, and pages 9-41 are appendices.  (I like this format, it allows you to take in the information quickly.)

  • It’s definitely Sarin.  The processes and technology are solid.
  • They were scrupulous in maintaining a chain of custody.
  • There are mentions of “interesting chemicals” in addition to decomposition products of Sarin.  

I would assume that this would be stabilizers and production impurities, but my knowledge of the chemistry of chemical weapons is limited.  (I’m sort of in the “biz”, but I just package detection methods, and so have a limited knowledge of the chemistry)

As such, the “interesting” chemicals that could present a clearer picture of how the agents were manufactured and stored.

This would probably give some better indications as to the who produced the agents.

In any case, it appears that my earlier assessment, where I fingered the rebels, now appears to be somewhat less likely.


We live in strange times. H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS for the pic.

If the NSA is Geeks, They are Really Bad Geeks

All on the Taxpayer’s Dime

It turns out that the deranged mind of NSA chief General Keith Alexander has created an “Information Dominance Center” based on the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise:

But a perhaps even more disturbing and revealing vignette into the spy chief’s mind comes from a new Foreign Policy article describing what the journal calls his “all-out, barely-legal drive to build the ultimate spy machine”. The article describes how even his NSA peers see him as a “cowboy” willing to play fast and loose with legal limits in order to construct a system of ubiquitous surveillance. But the personality driving all of this – not just Alexander’s but much of Washington’s – is perhaps best captured by this one passage, highlighted by PBS’ News Hour in a post entitled: “NSA director modeled war room after Star Trek’s Enterprise”. The room was christened as part of the “Information Dominance Center”:

“When he was running the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a ‘whoosh’ sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather ‘captain’s chair’ in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.

“‘Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard,’ says a retired officer in charge of VIP visits.”

It’s not just that it’s wasteful and silly.

It’s also  that it shows a level of narcissism that should disqualify anyone who is going to be going to have anything close to his level of access to personal information.

The fact that General Alexander really appears to be really nuts should scare the hell out of all of us.

Also, it’s the wrong series.

Not only should it be the original, but it should be modeled on the one from this episode:

That is, after all, the reality of what he really wants.

Why do High Fashion Models Look so Pissed Off?

OK, this one I get, if I had to wear that, I’d join a monastery in Tibet

She looks positively murderous

In the final analysis, who pissed in their Cheerios?

OK, so I am looking up a Guardian essay, and there’s a link to a London fashion show, and I pop it open in a new tab, because the picture above the link shows a very skinny woman looking unbelievably miserable, and because, well, the internet.

I peruse the pictures, and they all look like their favorite grandfather just died.

Is there some sort of rule that fashion models have to be miserable?

Because, to me, at least, miserable women are not attractive, and neither are their clothes.  (To be fair, there is some sh%$ on the runway that the Goddess Aphrodite could not save).

Idiot of the Day

David Ignatius:

You can think this new American caution is potentially dangerous (as I do), but there’s no arguing that it’s deeply felt and (given the immense cost and almost nonexistent benefits of war in Iraq and Afghanistan) understandable. The question is what a president should do about it.

It’s dangerous to avoid costly wars with no benefits.

Seriously, what the f%$# is the problem in Washington, DC?

There seems to be a conventional wisdom that in order for us to be “centrist”, we have to bomb the sh%$ out of people just because, or just because the President made a stupid, “Red Line,” comment at a news conference.

Just how small are their penises anyway?

H/t Atrios.