Month: October 2014

Give Me a High 4, Jose

There are a number of rules to responsible gun ownership.

Number 1 on the list should be, “Make sure that the gun is unloaded before you try to clean it.

It appears that this bit of common sense has escaped former Baseball all-star Jose Canseco:

Former major league slugger Jose Canseco blew his middle finger clear off his hand while cleaning his handgun at home in Las Vegas.

Jose’s fiancée Leila Knight tells TMZ Sports … he was sitting at a table in their home cleaning the gun when it went off. She says he didn’t know it was loaded — and the shot ripped through the middle finger on his left hand.

Leila tells us 50-year-old Canseco is in surgery right now as doctors desperately try to save what’s left of the finger. She says the bullet tore through the bottom part of the finger and doctors have already said he’ll never have full use of it again … even under the best of circumstances.

Here is a suggestion for gun owners out there, and I am not kidding: create a checklist for yourself for each weapon that you own, much like the one that is used for flying aircraft.

If you use it, one of the early steps will be something along the lines of, “Remove the magazine and confirm that there are no rounds in the chamber.”

Really, I am not being snarky here.

Everyone has a brain fart occasionally, and that is what check lists are for.

20 Years ……… Jeebus

It’s my 20th wedding anniversary tonight.

We will be celebrating it on the Hebrew calendar date, because today is my Mom’s Yartzheit, and so a celebration is not in order tonight. (Yes, I lit a candle)

I am stunned.

Note that I am not stunned that Sharon is still with me, she is not the divorcing kind, but rather that she has not (yet) murdered me, because my little Cutsie Woodles IS the murdering kind.

Thank God for women with poor taste in men.

I Think that This is an Indication that Glenn Greenwald’s New Employer is Circling the Drain

First, Matt Taibbi has left First Look:

Matt Taibbi, the star magazine writer hired earlier this year to start a satirical website for billionaire Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media, is on a leave of absence from the company after disagreements with higher-ups inside Omidyar’s organization, a source close to First Look confirmed today. (UPDATE: Taibbi has left the company. See statement below.)

Taibbi’s abrupt disappearance from the company’s Fifth Avenue headquarters has cast doubt on the fate of his highly anticipated digital publication, reportedly to be called Racket, which First Look executives had previously said would launch sometime this autumn.
UPDATE:  Omidyar announced on Tuesday night that Taibbi has left the company. Here’s the full statement posted on

I regret to announce that after several weeks of discussions, Matt Taibbi has left First Look. We wish him well.

Our differences were never about editorial independence. We have never wavered from our pledge that journalistic content is for the journalists to decide, period.

We’re disappointed by how things have turned out. I was excited by Matt’s editorial vision and hoped to help him bring it to fruition. Now we turn our focus to exploring next steps for the talented team that has worked to create Matt’s publication.

I remain an enthusiastic supporter of the kind of independent journalism found at The Intercept and the site we were preparing to launch. As a startup, we’ll take what we’ve learned in the last several months and apply it to our efforts in the future.

Above all, we remain committed to our team and to the First Look mission.

The word for Mr. Omidyar’s claim about it not being editorial independence is best described as a lie.

When this enterprise was announced, Taibbi noted in interviews it would be “focusing on financial and political corruption,” while Omidyar described it as, “A new digital magazine with a satirical approach to American politics and culture.”

These are not the same things, and Taibbi’s understanding was that he would be going after people who are very much like Pierre Omidyar friends and business associates.

There is also the issue of Marcy Wheeler’s brief tenure with First Look, which appeared to be caused by her writing about entities linked to Pierre Omidyar being linked to the coup in the Ukraine. (Though Wheeler denies that this the proximate cause of her exit.)

When all this is juxtaposed along with Omidyar’s own statements about how First Look was moving from news organization to news platform, (think eBay for journalists) will leave him with very little in the way of a news organization:

I mean, I get it. Editorial is expensive. Christ, it’s so expensive… But it gets worse: Not only is editorial expensive, but nobody wants to pay for it. Readers, we’re told, don’t want to pay for it (I’ll deal with that bullshit another time). And investors certainly don’t want to pay for it… No investor of sound mind thinks he or she will make money from a magazine, any more than they think investing in restaurants or airlines is a smart move.

A platform, on the other hand… well, that’s the answer to everything. Noone ever went broke building a platform. For one thing, a platform doesn’t need to commission editorial: some other sap takes care of that — either clients (Atavist, Punch!) or Joe User (GOOD magazine).

First Look is not going to mature into an internet news org like Pro PublicaTalking Points Memo, or Pando, and I expect to see further staff defections in the not too distant future.

OK, this is Weird

Republicans like Nickelback. No Surprise.

Republicans hate the Empire State Building. So did King Kong. Coincidence? I think not.

Ronald Reagan wrote a book? Was it a coloring book?

Man the ‘Phants hate Maddow.

Click for slideshow.

I was reading Kevin Drum, and he pointed me toward an article that polled people on their musical preferences and politics.

While I would expect some differences, I don’t expect ‘Phants to like Springsteen or the Dixie Chicks, but it turns out that conservatives hate The Beatles:

With the 2014 midterm elections approaching, we decided to take a look at the cultural similarities and differences between people who support Democrats and people who support Republicans. To do this, we looked at everyone who liked the campaign page of any Democrat or Republican running for governor, U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives. We then looked at what other pages those people liked on Facebook and identified the pages that were most differentiating—that is, the pages which were disproportionately liked by the supporters of one party versus the other—and those that were most balanced.

Note: in all of the figures below, the more a page is disproportionately liked by fans of Republican candidates, the farther right the page name appears (precisely indicated by the darker line in the middle). Conversely, the more a page is disproportionately liked by fans of Democratic candidates, the farther left the page name appears. The font size of the name is proportional to the total number of people from the US who liked that page.

I have a theory, with absolutely no facts to back me up, about why Republicans hate The Beatles:  Jealousy.

You see, of all the bands listed here, none is more closely connected with the 1960s, and the changes in cultural mores, the whole sex and drugs and rock and roll thing, and the Republicans are pissed off that they spent the 60s defending “virtue” while everyone else got their piece of ass.

Of course, the children of the 60s are in their 60s now, and while most of the Republican apparatchiks are younger than that, they were brought up under the tutelage of those frustrated segment of the children of the ’60s, and the rage remains.

It’s kind of sick, and kind of juvenile, but it’s the Republican Party,

Streamlining = Enabling Fraud, Waste, and Inefficiency

I am very dubious of this proposal to, “streamline military acquisitions.”

Basically, the problem is a lack of adult supervision of either the defense contractors, or the Pentagon, or the resulting revolving door, is the problem with our current system,. not excessive regulation:

The Pentagon and Congress have better odds of reaching agreement on how to streamline myriad overlapping laws that slow the process of buying military equipment and services, a top Defense Department official said.

“I am optimistic,” Andrew Hunter, a former congressional aide who helped draft many of those laws before joining the Pentagon four years ago, told reporters Thursday. He said he saw emerging consensus among industry, lawmakers and defense officials about the need for changes.

Hunter, who runs the Pentagon’s joint rapid-acquisition initiative, also has led a drive to simplify current laws, which Frank Kendall, an arms buyer for the Department of Defense, has said put “an extraordinary and unnecessarily complex burden on our program managers and staff.”

U.S. defense officials have been in talks with congressional committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and hope to submit some reform legislation as part of the fiscal 2016 budget process, said Hunter, who is moving to a job with the Center for Strategic and International Studies next month.

“We’ve come up with some proposals that we hope will be favorably received,” he said. Hunter said the goal was to build on some key legislation already in place while giving program managers more flexibility to focus on the main issues.

The Pentagon initiative dovetails with fresh efforts by the House and Senate armed services committees to reform the slow, cumbersome U.S. military acquisition process and reverse years of schedule delays, cost overruns and other challenges.

Sorry, but the problem ain’t excessive regulation, it’s a system which is corrupt and dysfunctional to its core.

Another Bank Failure

This Friday was another bank failure Friday.

We’ve had the 16th bank failure of the year, The National Republic Bank of Chicago, in Chicago, Illinois. (Full FDIC list)

Wouldn’t you know it, I comment on how commercial bank failures were low relative to Credit Unions on October 10, and there are failures in each of the following weeks.

Go figure.

Here is the graph pr0n with last few years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

This Will Be Before the Supreme Court in the Next 2-3 Years

A state court in Florida just ruled that police need a search warrant to access cell phone tower data:
Americans may have a Florida drug dealer to thank for expanding our right to privacy.

Police departments around the country have been collecting phone metadata from telecoms and using a sophisticated spy tool to track people through their mobile phones—often without obtaining a warrant. But a new ruling out of Florida has curbed the activity in that state, on constitutional grounds. It raises hope among civil liberties advocates that other jurisdictions around the country may follow suit.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that obtaining cell phone location data to track a person’s location or movement in real time constitutes a Fourth Amendment search and therefore requires a court-ordered warrant.

The case specifically involves cell tower data for a convicted drug dealer that police obtained from a telecom without a warrant. But the way the ruling is written (.pdf), it would also cover the use of so-called “stingrays”—sophisticated technology law enforcement agencies use to locate and track people in the field without assistance from telecoms. Agencies around the country, including in Florida, have been using the technology to track suspects—sometimes without obtaining a court order, other times deliberately deceiving judges and defendants about their use of the devices to track suspects, telling judges the information came from “confidential” sources rather than disclose their use of stingrays. The new ruling would require them to obtain a warrant or stop using the devices.


The Justice Department has long asserted that law enforcement agencies don’t need a probable-cause warrant to use stingrays because they don’t collect the content of phone calls and text messages. Instead, authorities say, they operate like pen-register and trap-and-trace systems, collecting the equivalent of header information. A pen register system records the phone numbers that a person dials, while a trap-and-trace system records the phone numbers of incoming calls to that phone.

This is going to be appealed to the Federal Courts, and it will end up at the Supreme Court, where, unless Antonin Scalia chokes on his own bile in the interim, I expect a 5-4 decision saying that no warrant is needed.

With the NSA, It’s Not Just the Orwellian Stuff, it’s also the Outright Corruption

There are reasons for secrecy, but we need to remember that secrecy is the enemy of competent and honest government, as the recent corruption scandals at the National Security Agency proves:

One of the nation’s top spies is leaving her position at the National Security Agency (NSA), a spokesman confirmed Friday, amid growing disclosures of possible conflicts of interest at the secretive agency.

The shakeup comes just a month after BuzzFeed News began reporting on the financial interests of the official, Teresa Shea, and her husband.

Shea was the director of signals intelligence, or SIGINT, which involves intercepting and decoding electronic communications via phones, email, chat, Skype, and radio. It’s widely considered the most important mission of the NSA, and includes some of the most controversial programs disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden, including the mass domestic surveillance program.

The NSA provided a statement Friday that said Teresa Shea’s “transition” from the SIGINT director job was routine and “planned well before recent news articles.” The agency indicated she would remain employed, but did not provide specifics.

The Sheas did not respond to a message left at their home telephone number.

In September, BuzzFeed News reported that a SIGINT “contracting and consulting” company was registered at Shea’s house, even while she was the SIGINT director at NSA. The resident agent of the company, Telic Networks, was listed as James Shea, her husband.

This is in addition to the trail of corruption that the former NSA head Keith Alexander left behind him, with the NSA’s CTO taking a lucrative consulting gig with former NSA head Keith Alexander’s new security consulting firm, along with Keith Alexander’s suspicious stock trades, patents that appear to come from his work product at the NSA, and his consultancy that clearly plays on his connections in the intelligence community.

Secrecy is a petri dish for incompetence, corruption, and dysfunction, which is why our fetishizing of secrecy is so dangerous.

Quote of the Day

“I didn’t exchange any bodily fluids with anyone, so I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I’m much more likely to be mistakenly killed by a police officer in this country than to be killed by Ebola, even if you were in the same bridal shop.”

Peter Pattakos, who is suitably unconcerned by the fact that he spent 2 hours in a bridal shop while Ebola Nurse Amber Joy Vinson was there.

This is such a nice counterpoint to the freakout from the numerous politicians.

I Have Mixed Emotions About This………

It appears that a guy in Oklahoma drove his car into the 10 Commandments sculpture on the State House Lawn:

A man was taken into custody on Friday on suspicion of knocking over a Ten Commandments monument with a car on the grounds of the Oklahoma statehouse and then fleeing the scene, law enforcement officials said on Friday.

The U.S. Secret Service detained the man, who has not been identified, after he was alleged to have made threatening statements at a federal building in Oklahoma City. The man told agents he urinated on the monument and ran it over with a car, said David Allison, the assistant special agent in charge.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said they believe a single person was responsible for the act on Thursday night that left the 6-foot (1.8-meter) monument broken in several large pieces not far from where it was mounted. The man will be turned over to Oklahoma police.

In some ways, this is a good thing.

Additionally, the monument was clearly intended to enfranchise a religion, specifically Protestant Christian, as their mistranslation is the one used on the sculpture.

On the other hand, I do not approve of someone taking the law into their own hands and knocking it down.

That’s just wrong.

Saab Gripen Deal Pending Between Brazil and Argentina

It appears that SAAB wasn’t kidding when they promised that the Brazilians could involve their defense industry more heavily with the Gripen than with competing platforms.

It appears that non only are the Brazilians going to manufacture their own fighters, but they will be manufacturing Gripens for Argentina as well:

Saab AB (SAABB) said it’s close to sealing a contract with Brazil that will secure 36 export orders valued at $4.5 billion for the Swedish company’s Gripen jet-fighter while establishing production in the South American country.

Negotiations on the deal are moving forward according to plan and the ambition is to reach an agreement “in the near future,” Saab said today in a statement.

Saab signed a memorandum of understanding with Embraer SA (EMBR3) in July granting the Brazilian planemaker a leading role in Gripen production tied to the signing of an order. According to that deal, Embraer will share joint responsibility for developing a two-seat version of the latest upgrade of the jet and lead marketing efforts to sell it in Latin America.

Partnering with Brazil could give the Gripen a new lease of life after the program suffered a blow in May when Swiss voters rejected a 3.1 billion franc ($3.3 billion) order for 22 fighters that had been awarded 2 1/2 years previously.

Saab, where third-quarter operating profit of 258 million kronor ($35 million) fell short of the 300 million kronor expected by analysts, is pushing the Gripen against rival offerings from companies including Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT:US), the No. 1 defense contractor, just as tighter military spending makes U.S. and European orders harder to come by.

Argentina Interest

A bridgehead in Brazil, where local firms may build as much as 80 percent of the Gripen E model and take on the bulk of development on the two-seat Gripen F, could open up sales to markets where defense budgets are under less pressure. A carrier version of the plane may be an option for Brazil, with Argentina, Ecuador and Mexico among possible export targets.

Brazil is already poised to discuss a possible deal to sell the Gripen to Argentina as part of a plan to boost aerospace cooperation, the defense ministry said this week, adding that terms could include some production component for its neighbor. Brazil’s own contract should be signed by December, it said.

Saab was chosen to fill Brazil’s F-X2 fighter requirement last December, fending off the Boeing Co. (BA:US) F/A-18 Super Hornet after allegations that the U.S. spied on President Dilma Rousseff. Paris-based Dassault Aviation SA (AM)’s Rafale also lost.

The Gripen is cheaper to own, and cheaper to operate than the competition, even platforms that are a half generation older like the F-16 and F-18.

If Saab can keep the line open until the true cost of the F-35 becomes clear to potential customers, and this is by no means a sure thing, they could have the Mirage III of this generation.

This is a Huge and Well Deserved F%$# You to the CIA and the NSA

It’s well deserved too.

You see the Federal Trade (FTC) commission has hired hired Ashkan Soltan as their new Chief Technical Officer.

The reason that this is a giant f%$# you to the US state security apparatus is because (wait for it) he helped the Washington Post do its news stories on the Snowden affair:

The Federal Trade Commission has hired privacy and technology expert Ashkan Soltani to serve as the commission’s chief technology officer. But security experts and former senior U.S. intelligence officials are questioning the FTC’s decision, given Soltani’s very public role as a consultant for The Washington Post, where he co-authored multiple articles based on classified documents stolen from the National Security Agency by former contractor Edward Snowden.

The FTC said in a press release that Soltani will join FTC in November and will replace Latanya Sweeney, who is returning to Harvard University, where she founded and directs the school’s Data Privacy Lab. His job will be to advise the commission on evolving technology and policy issues, a role similar to one he held previously at the FTC before leaving government to become an independent consultant.

Needless to say, Michael Hayden and His Evil Minions heads are exploding:

The news has elicited wails from NSA’s mail mouthpieces, Stewart Baker and Michael Hayden.

“I’m not trying to demonize this fella, but he’s been working through criminally exposed documents and making decisions about making those documents public,” said Michael Hayden, a former NSA director who also served as CIA director from 2006 to 2009. In a telephone interview with FedScoop, Hayden said he wasn’t surprised by the lack of concern about Soltani’s participation in the Post’s Snowden stories. “I have no good answer for that.”


Stewart Baker, a former NSA general counsel, said, while he’s not familiar with the role Soltani would play at the FTC, there are still problems with his appointment. “I don’t think anyone who justified or exploited Snowden’s breach of confidentiality obligations should be trusted to serve in government,” Baker said.

I find Hayden’s wails especially disgusting, given the way — it is now clear — the government spent so much effort covering up how he extended the illegal wiretap program in March 2004. I mean, I’m not trying to demonize the fella, but he’s a criminal, and yet he’s complaining about the press reporting on abuses?


At FTC, Soltani will be in a role where he can directly influence the kind of regulatory pressure placed on data collectors to protect user privacy. He understands — probably far more than we know from the WaPo stories — how NSA is capitalizing on already collected data. Which means he may be able to influence how much remains available to the spooks.

I do not expect Soltani to actually get the job.

It’s clear that Obama is very much in the pocket of the US state security apparatus, and he will find a way to stop this.

But still, it is very well deserved push-back against the what can only be described as the forces of evil in America’s shadow government.

There May be Hope for Us as a Civilization

TLC has canceled Here Comes Honey Boo Boo:

Cable television network TLC on Friday said it has canceled “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” the popular cable reality series, about a rural Georgia family and their precocious beauty pageant daughter.

TLC, owned by Discovery Communications Inc, did not explain why it was canceling the show but said in a statement that “supporting the health and welfare of these remarkable children is our only priority. TLC is faithfully committed to the children’s ongoing comfort and well-being.”

Hopefully this is the first of many cancellations or reality TV.

Also, I really hope that Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson doesn’t end up too screwed up as an adult.

It Appears that Our Canadian Terrorists Weren’t

Terrorists, I mean.  They were Canadians.

What they were was seriously mentally ill, and rather unsurprisingly, they were attracted to the batsh%$ insane world view of ISIS an their ilk.

The one that shot up the parliament?  He attempted to rob McDonalds with a pointed stick because he wanted to go to jail:

Ottawa shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau attempted to confess to a historical armed robbery that the RCMP believed didn’t happen, then attempted an armed robbery at a McDonald’s to go to jail, court recordings provided to CTV News show.

It was all part of a bizarre plan by the man who attacked Parliament Hill to get to jail to atone for his sins and get clean from a crack addiction, the audio recordings show.

“Perfect, perfect,” a Zehaf-Bibeau says with a French accent on the tapes, when he is finally allowed to be incarcerated. “The RCMP are investigating.”

Zehaf-Bibeau visited the Burnaby detachment of the RCMP to claim he had committed an armed robbery in Quebec 10 years ago, but an officer could find no evidence of the crime. Instead, the RCMP arrested Zehaf Bibeau under the B.C.’s Mental Health Act, and released him the next day.

Zehaf-Bibeau then attempted to rob a Vancouver McDonald’s with a pointed stick, the recording reveals.

His grin unnerved the McDonald’s clerk, who asked if the man was serious. Zehaf-Bibeau said, “Yes, hand over the money, homeboy.”

The McDonald’s clerk refused, telling Zihaf-Bibeau that he had already phoned the police.

“Beat it,” the clerk said.

Zehaf-Bibeau walked out of the McDonald’s, and dropped his stick on the pavement to wait for police to arrive.

At a Dec. 19, 2011 bail hearing, Zehaf-Bibeau told the court that he didn’t want to be on the outside.

“I wanted to come to jail,” he said. “The RCMP couldn’t do the work fast enough.”

“I warned them that if you can’t keep me in I will do something right now to put me in.”

And the guy who ran down the soldiers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, near Montreal the day before? 

Just as nuts:

The tragic death on Monday of Canadian Forces Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, run over by a recently “radicalized” 25-year-old from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, was not an act of terror as much as it was an indictment of our ineffectiveness in dealing with mental illness.

Martin Couture-Rouleau, who up until two years ago was a normal pseudo-Catholic Québécois kid, a recent father struggling to keep his new pressure-washing business afloat, changed seemingly overnight into someone obsessed with the illuminati and conspiracy theories, one friend told La Presse.

It was in that period he converted to Islam and underwent such a significant personality change that it was his own father who reported him to the RCMP as a possible threat. Put on a federal watch list, he was prevented from carrying out his plan to travel to Turkey when he was arrested last summer and had his passport taken away.

His alienation from family and friends became even more pronounced in the past year. “People turned away from him, thinking he was crazy,” a friend told La Presse. His wife had also recently taken steps to gain sole custody of their child because of the changes in Couture-Rouleau’s behaviour.

Sûreté du Québec officers had even met with Couture-Rouleau and his imam just two weeks ago to try to turn him away from the radical thoughts he had been muttering about to friends and on his social networks. Although that’s the kind of talk that can get you put on watch lists, rambling about God and punishment and hell and paradise isn’t a crime, or else our jails would be full of preachers and pundits of every stripe.

No terrorism.  No ties to anyone outside of Canada.

The real concern is not terrorism.  It is how Canada’s mental health system failed, and how it can be fixed.

Why Republicans will take the Senate in November

Because when the populace is in a state of abject pants soiling terror, people are more likely to vote conservative, and between Isis, Ebola, and the shootings in Ottawa, when juxtaposed with the hysterical coverage of our national press, leaves me unable to reach any other conclusion.

So, I expect Democrats to lose the Senate, and I expect Obama to use it as an excuse to try and privatize Social Security, which he has been itching to do since his election in 2008.

I hope that it fails because the Republicans are unwilling to give him a win.

You Know, the Whole Hamlet Thing Didn’t Work for Adlai Stevenson………

Elizabeth Warren is not being not quite so categorical in her denial of a 2016 Presidential run:

Senator Elizabeth Warren gave an interview to People magazine for this week’s issue and was asked for roughly the thousandth time if she planned to run for president. But her answer to this query was different than all the others:

But is the freshman senator from Massachusetts herself on board with a run for the White House? Warren wrinkles her nose.

“I don’t think so,” she tells PEOPLE in an interview conducted at Warren’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, home for this week’s issue. “If there’s any lesson I’ve learned in the last five years, it’s don’t be so sure about what lies ahead. There are amazing doors that could open.”

She just doesn’t see the door of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue being one of them. Not yet, anyway. “Right now,” Warren says, “I’m focused on figuring out what else I can do from this spot” in the U.S. Senate.

As a veteran Warren-watcher, I can say with certainty this is more ambiguous than she’s ever been on the subject. “I don’t think so,” “amazing doors that could open,” and “right now” are the traditional vernacular of a someone flirting with a campaign—-and someone who wants you to know it.

In the past, Warren has been much more unequivocal. (Examples: “I’m not running for president, and I plan to serve out my term,” and “I am not running for president. Do you want to put an exclamation point at the end of that?”)

I understand how tempting it is to play a “will she or won’t she” game, it creates a buzz, and it can get one’s ego stroked, but you need to be either in or out.

I’d love to see someone from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, as opposed to the current  front runner, Hillary Clinton, but jerking around potential supporters is never winning

Either get serious, and start an exploratory committee, or remain adamant about staying out.