Daily Archive: 12/24/2013

Dec 24 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

JP Sottile: The real war on Christmas is our corporate-driven material culture

Corporate Christmas is not a time of humble reflection, charity and modesty. It is a market opportunity to be exploited

War is hell.

And let’s face it, the battle for peace on earth and goodwill towards men isn’t for the faint of heart. Or, apparently, for the faint of light. That’s the premise of ABC’s new, three-part special – “The Great Christmas Light Fight”. After all, how better to commemorate the birth of the Prince of Peace than with a fight? And with Christmas lights, no less! [..]

Yes, Virginia, there is a war on Christmas. But it isn’t the misdirected and misanthropic battle ginned-up by self-interested media blatherati and crypto-crusaders. [..]

There is a war, but these Christmas soldiers are massed on the wrong front. The real attack is not being waged by offended non-believers or the incessant meddling of politically-correct busybodies. The real war on the spirit and meaning of Christmas is being waged by corporate profiteers through a grinding campaign of multimedia marketing.

Dean Baker: Ben Bernanke’s tenure at the Fed wasn’t net positive

Bernanke tried to boost demand, but he leaves behind high unemployment and stronger-than-ever Wall Street behemoths

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke gave his last press conference as chair and already the retrospectives have begun. One item that should be corrected off the top, Bernanke did not just inherit an economic disaster from Alan Greenspan.

Bernanke did not go directly from being a Princeton economics professor to being Fed chair. He got there by being a member of the Board of Governors of the Fed from 2002 to 2005, and then was chair of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from the spring of 2005 until he took over as Fed chair in January of 2006. In other words, Bernanke held top policy posts during the period when the housing bubble was growing to ever more dangerous levels, driven by a flood of junk mortgages. [..]

In this role his performance was at best mixed. The pundits routinely give Bernanke credit for heading off a second Great Depression, but this is mostly because they heard someone else say it, not because they have any idea what it actually means.

Eugene Robinson: Person of the Year

There are really just two possible choices for person of the year. I want to say Pope Francis, but I’ve got to go with Edward Snowden.

The spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and a whistleblowing fugitive from American justice have just one thing in common: impact. Francis, by shifting his church’s focus to social justice, may change the world. But Snowden, by revealing the vast extent of government surveillance, already has.

Someday, perhaps, this ranking will be reversed. I hope it is, because the change that Francis advocates is more sweeping-and long overdue. The Catholic Church, despite its many problems, remains a powerful force around the globe. If its energies are directed away from the culture wars-and toward fighting poverty, inequality and injustice-the church can play a hugely influential role in shaping the new century.

Jonathan Turley: The ‘Sister Wives’ lawsuit and the end of morality laws

The decision this month by a federal court striking down the criminalization of polygamy in Utah was met with a mix of rejoicing and rage. What was an emancipating decision for thousands of plural families was denounced as the final descent into a moral abyss by others. [..]

It’s true that the Utah ruling is one of the latest examples of a national trend away from laws that impose a moral code. There is a difference, however, between the demise of morality laws and the demise of morality. This distinction appears to escape social conservatives nostalgic for a time when the government dictated whom you could live with or sleep with. But the rejection of moral codes is no more a rejection of morality than the rejection of speech codes is a rejection of free speech. Our morality laws are falling, and we are a better nation for it.

Dave Johnson: Who Will Fight to Help the Unemployed?

At the beginning of November, the poor went over the “hunger cliff” as Food Stamps were cut. Now long-term unemployment assistance will run out at the end of December. Regular people think the government has given up on them. They have been hit by one blow after another, with little or no help in sight. They see shutdowns and budget cuts at the very time the government needs to spend more to help Americans.

This is part of the Republican effort to turn Americans against government, because the public will blame Democrats. Democrats have to stop letting Republicans get away with it, and return to being seen as trying to help the unemployed and poor. [..]

And unfortunately we need to make more Democrats understand that helping the unemployed and poor is worth going to the mat over. It is job 1 — it has to be. It is the right thing to do for the American people and for our economy. It is the thing that is needed.

If the American public sees Democrats going to the mat for them, and see Republicans continuing to obstruct efforts to help the poor and unemployed, Democracy will take care of the rest.

Robert Creamer: On December 28th Unemployment Benefits End for 1.3 Million Families — Merry Christmas from the GOP

Three days after Christmas, unemployment benefits end for 1.3 million people who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits, but still can’t find a job.

To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you have to be actively looking for a job. Virtually all of these people would rather work, but can’t find a job in today’s economy where there are three applicants for every job available.

But when the budget deal was negotiated in Congress over the last several weeks, Republican negotiators refused to agree to continue those unemployment benefits. And at the same time, they demanded the continuation of tax breaks for big oil companies and loopholes for Wall Street billionaires who get their income from hedge funds.

Merry Christmas from the GOP.

Dec 24 2013

On This Day In History December 24

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 24 is the 358th day of the year (359th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are seven days remaining until the end of the year. This day is commonly known as Christmas Eve.

On this day in 1955, NORAD begins tracking Santa in what will become an annual Christmas Eve tradition.

According to NORAD’s official web page on the NORAD Tracks Santa program, the service began on December 24, 1955. A Sears department store placed an advertisement in a Colorado Springs newspaper. The advertisement told children that they could telephone Santa Claus and included a number for them to call. However, the telephone number printed was incorrect and calls instead came through to Colorado Spring’s Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Shoup, who was on duty that night, told his staff to give all children that called in a “current location” for Santa Claus. A tradition began which continued when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) replaced CONAD in 1958.

On Christmas Eve, the NORAD Tracks Santa website videos page is generally updated each hour, when it is midnight in a different time zone. The “Santa Cam” videos show CGI images of Santa Claus flying over famous landmarks. Each video is accompanied by a voice-over, typically done by NORAD personnel, giving a few facts about the city or country depicted. Celebrity voice-overs have also been used over the years. For the London “Santa Cam” video, English television personality and celebrity Jonathan Ross did the voice-over for 2005 to 2007 and the former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr narrated the same video in 2003 and 2004. In 2002, Aaron Carter provided the voice-over for three videos.

The locations and landmarks depicted in some of the “Santa Cam” videos have changed over the years. In 2009, twenty-nine “Santa Cam” videos were posted on the website. In previous years, twenty-four to twenty-six videos had been posted.

NORAD relies on volunteers to make the program possible. Many volunteers are employees at Cheyenne Mountain and Peterson Air Force Base. Each volunteer handles about forty telephone calls per hour, and the team typically handles more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 70,000 telephone calls from more than two hundred countries and territories. Most of these contacts happen during the twenty-five hours from 2 a.m. on December 24 until 3 a.m. MST on December 25.Google Analytics has been in use since December 2007 to analyze traffic at the NORAD Tracks Santa website. As a result of this analysis information, the program can project and scale volunteer staffing, telephone equipment, and computer equipment needs for Christmas Eve.

By December 25, 2009, the NORAD Tracks Santa program had 27,440 twitter followers and the Facebook page had more than 410,700 fans.

Official NORAD Santa Tracker

Dec 24 2013

Cranberry Canes

A holiday tradition at my house, I enjoy them any time of year.

Cranberry Canes are basically a stuffed yeast bread roll up, like a Cinnamon Roll.  It’s the presentation of twisting the prepared strips and putting a crook at one end that gives them their distinctive appearance.  There are 3 basic elements-

Dough:

Scald 1 Cup Milk, cool to lukewarm
In a large bowl combine:

4 Cups Unsifted All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup Sugar

1 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Grated Lemon Zest

Cut in 1 Cup (2 Sticks) Margarine until like coarse meal
Dissolve 1 Package of Dry Yeast in 1/4 Cup Warm Water
To Flour Mixture add Yeast, Milk, 2 Beaten Eggs.  Combine lightly, dough will be sticky.
Cover dough tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.  When ready to bake prepare filling.

Filling:

In a pot or pan combine:

3 Cups finely chopped Cranberries (about 2 12 oz. bags, freeze before chopping)

1 Cup Rasins (about a 16 oz box)

2/3 Cup Chopped Pecans

2/3 Cup Honey

3 Teaspoons Grated Orange Zest

2 Cups Sugar

Bring to a smimmer over Medium heat.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Cool.

Frosting:

A basic buttercream flavored with some frozen concentrated Orange Juice.

Preparation:

Divide dough in half.  On a floured board roll out the half into an 18″ x 15″ rectangle.
Spread half the filling on the dough.  Fold dough into a 3 layer strip 15″ long and about 6″ wide.
Cut dough into 1″ strips.
Holding the ends of each strip twist lightly in opposite directions.  Pinch ends to seal.  Place on greased baking sheet, shaping the top of each strip to form a cane.
Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Bake in a hot oven, 400 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes or until done.
Cool on racks and frost.

Dec 24 2013

The Quality of Mercy

President Barack Obama has been quite miserly with his power to pardon and commute sentences. Since taking office, the president has only pardoned 39 people and commuted only one sentence, the fewest of any president in history. His recent “binge” commuting the sentences of eight federal prisoners who were convicted of crack cocaine offenses was was the first time retroactive relief was provided to a group of inmates who would most likely have received significantly shorter terms if they had been sentenced under current drug laws, sentencing rules and charging policies. All eight had already served 15 years and six had been sentenced to life. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do much for the thousands of other prisoners sentenced under the draconian laws that preceded  Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. Prison overcrowding in the country costs tax payers billions each year and most of the inmates are minorities and non-violent drug offenders.

The other prison population that could use a little mercy is the aged who, for the most part, no longer a danger to society. According a report by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, in just the past three years, the number of inmates over the age of 65 has grown by almost a third, while the population under 30 fell by 12 percent and are two to three times more expensive to keep in prison than their younger counterparts. Perhaps, as the report suggests, it is time for a compassionate release program for sick and infirm inmates.

“If the Risk Is Low, Let Them Go”: Elderly Prison Population Skyrockets Despite Low Risk to Society

Even amidst a modest reduction in the U.S. prison population, the number of aging men and women expected to die behind bars has skyrocketed in a system ill prepared to handle them and still oriented toward mass incarceration. We speak about the problems facing aging prisoners with Mujahid Farid, who was released from a New York state prison in 2011 after serving 33 years. He is now lead organizer with RAPP, which stands for “Release Aging People in Prison.” Their slogan is “If the risk is low, let them go.” His campaign work is part of Soros Justice Fellowship and is housed at the Correctional Association of New York. We are also joined by Soffiyah Elijah, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, which monitors conditions in state prisons. “The parole board routinely denies people based on the nature of the offense, the one thing that no one can change, just like we can’t change our height or our eye color,” Elijah notes. “We need to look at that and say, if someone presents a low risk to recidivate, then we should be releasing them from prison. We’re wasting precious taxpayer dollars incarcerating people, and it’s much more expensive to incarcerate people who are older.”



Trancript can be read here



Transcript can be read here

Dec 24 2013

Henry Potter

Dec 24 2013

Marley was dead.

Marley was dead: to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that.  The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner.  Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.  Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind!  I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail.  I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade.  But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for.  You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge knew he was dead?  Of course he did. How could it be otherwise?  Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years.  Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend and sole mourner.  And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.

The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to the point I started from.  There is no doubt that Marley was dead.  This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.  If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet’s Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot — say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance — literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.

Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name. There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door: Scrooge and Marley.  The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley.  Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley, but he answered to both names: it was all the same to him.

Oh!  But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind- stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!  Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.  The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.  A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin.  He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge.  No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him.  No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty.  Foul weather didn’t know where to have him.  The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect.  They often “came down” handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, “My dear Scrooge, how are you?  When will you come to see me?”  No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o’clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge.  Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, “No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”

But what did Scrooge care?  It was the very thing he liked.  To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call “nuts” to Scrooge.

Once upon a time — of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve — old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house.  It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal: and he could hear the people in the court outside go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement stones to warm them.  The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already — it had not been light all day: and candles were flaring in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air.  The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms.  To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might have thought that Nature lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale.

The door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters.  Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal.  But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part.  Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.



This lunatic, in letting Scrooge’s nephew out, had let two other people in.  They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge’s office.  They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.

“Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe,” said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list.  “Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?”

“Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years,” Scrooge replied.  “He died seven years ago, this very night.”

“We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner,” said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.

It certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits.  At the ominous word “liberality,” Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.  Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.  “Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.  “And the Union workhouses?”  demanded Scrooge.  “Are they still in operation?”  “They are.  Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”  “The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.  “Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh!  I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge.  “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth.  We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.  What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge.  “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.  I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry.  I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”  “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.  Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.”  “But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.  “It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned.  “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s.  Mine occupies me constantly.  Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Marley’s Ghost

The First of the Three Spirits

The Second of the Three Spirits

The Last of the Spirits

Why is there never any Rum?  Oh, that’s why.

The End of It

Dec 24 2013

Screw them

Every death should be on the front page (2.70)

Let the people see what war is like. This isn’t an Xbox game. There are real repercussions to Bush’s folly.

That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. They aren’t in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.

by kos on Thu Apr 01, 2004 at 12:08:56 PM PST

That was our very own Markos in response to the deaths of 4 BlackwaterUSA mercenaries in Fallujah.  They were killed and their bodies desecrated by being dragged around behind cars, chopped up, and hung from a bridge.

They probably cut off their gonads too.

Now first of all, I don’t imagine unless you’re an ancient Egyptian or a Native American (some tribes) who believe in a physical afterlife where wounds inflicted on the dead are carried over into the spiritual realm you much care about what happens to your body after you die.

You’re dead Jim, dead Jim, DEAD!

Ready for more?

Mercenaries flock into Iraq

by kos

Fri Apr 02, 2004 at 03:17 AM PST

Given the manpower shortage, it’s no surprise that private for-hire armies are filling the vacuum.

The US has so far spent $20bn on reconstruction in Iraq. The companies which have won these contracts currently expect to spend about 10% of their budgets on providing personal security planning and protection for their workers.

Industry insiders say the war has proven a godsend for British security firms – which have picked up much of the work. Their revenues are estimated to have risen fivefold, from around $350m before the invasion to nearly $2bn.

And why is this a problem?

The field of private security is unregulated, and alongside the more reputable companies, gun-slinging, cowboy contractors – whether foreign or Iraqi – are reported to be setting up shop Iraq.

Established companies dislike competition from smaller entrepreneurs, but also worry that their reputations may be damaged by the gung-ho approach of some of the newer firms.

The lack of regulation means mercenaries can often act with impunity.

Stories abound of heavy handed and trigger-happy behaviour. There are reports that some private security companies claim powers to detain people, erect checkpoints without authorisation and confiscate identity cards.

Impunity.

The four merceneries killed yesterday worked for Blackwater Security Consulting. They claim they were in the area “protecting food conviys”, but “declined to provide further deails.

Even Tacitus, my good friend on the Right, doesn’t buy the cover story:

The question is: what were they doing in Fallujah? The Blackwater press release states that they were part of an operation to guard food deliveries in the area. This strikes me as likely false: Iraqis aren’t starving, guerrillas have not targeted food supplies in any case, and thievery is much more likely to strike transports of manufactured goods. Furthermore, even if food shipments did need armed guards, what’s the chance that the CPA has hired highly-trained (and quite expensive) ex-SEAL-types to do it? About zero. Cheaper, and probably as effective, to have Iraqis on the job […]

This, though, does not explain what four of these personnel were doing sans convoy, traveling through the town proper. Lost? Reckless? On their way to a meetup with a client? En route to a hit? One may justly wonder.

As Tacitus notes, there should be no room for merceneries in war, especially since the rules of war forbid it. If we don’t have the forces to take care of our own convoys and maintain local security, that just one more indictment of this administration’s pathetic post-war planning.

Update: More on Blackwater:

Blackwater has about 400 employees in Iraq, said one government official briefed by the company. Its armed commandos earn an average of just under $1,000 a day.

Although most of their work is to act as bodyguards for corporate, humanitarian or government employees, they sometimes perform more precarious jobs that are inherently riskier — escorting VIPs, doing reconnaissance for visits by government officials to particular locations.

The mercenaries weren’t delivering humanitarian supplies. They were supposedly delivering supplies to a private company, Regency Hotel and Hospitality.

No one pays $1,000 a day per mercenary to deliver humanitarian supplies.

Secondly, I agree with kos.  Screw them.

Erik Prince’s habits and morals have not improved-

After Blackwater faced mounting legal problems in the United States, Prince was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and moved to Abu Dhabi in 2010. His task was to assemble an 800-member troupe of foreign troops for the U.A.E., which was planned months before the Arab Spring revolts. He helped the UAE found a new company Reflex Responses, or R2, with 51 percent local ownership, carefully avoiding his name on corporate documents. He worked to oversee the effort and recruit troops, among others from Executive Outcomes, a former South African mercenary firm hired by several African governments during the 1990s to put down rebellions and protect oil and diamond reserves. The battalion was to engage in intelligence gathering, urban combat, special operations “to destroy enemy personnel and equipment, crowd-control operations, response to terrorist attacks, to put down uprisings inside labor camps, and to secure nuclear and radioactive materials in planned nuclear power plants. The force, made up largely of former Colombian soldiers, failed.

In January 2011, the Associated Press reported that Prince was training a force of 2000 Somalis for antipiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. The program was reportedly funded by several Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates and backed by the United States. Prince’s spokesman, Mark Corallo, said that Prince has “no financial role” in the project and declined to answer any questions about Prince’s involvement. The Somali force will also reportedly pursue an Islamist supporting warlord.

The Associated Press quotes John Burnett of Maritime Underwater Security Consultants as saying, “There are 34 nations with naval assets trying to stop piracy and it can only be stopped on land. With Prince’s background and rather illustrious reputation, I think it’s quite possible that it might work.” The company was accused (of conspiring) to violate a U.N. arms embargo.

So he’s not just a bloodthirsty mass murderer and a traitorous sell out, but a dumb, bumbling, incompetent one too.

Dec 24 2013

Not the report they were asked for.

Transcript

Vindication for Snowden? Obama Panel Backs Major Curbs on NSA Surveillance, Phone Record Data Mining

Democracy Now

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A White House-appointed task force has proposed a series of curbs on key National Security Agency surveillance operations exposed by Edward Snowden. On Thursday, the panel recommended the NSA halt its bulk collection of billions of U.S. phone call records, citing “potential risks to public trust, personal privacy, and civil liberty.” The panel says telecommunications providers or a private third party should store the records instead. The panel also calls for banning the NSA from “undermining encryption” and criticizes its use of computer programming flaws to mount cyber-attacks. And it backs the creation of an independent review board to monitor government programs for potential violations of civil liberties.

But, but, but why didn’t Snowden go through ‘normal’ whistleblower channels?

Because this is what happens to whistleblowers,

Transcript

NSA Whistleblower Kirk Wiebe Details Gov’t Retaliation After Helping Expose “Gross Mismanagement”

Democracy Now

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Veteran National Security Agency official Kirk Wiebe helped develop the data processing system ThinThread, which he believed could have potentially prevented the 9/11 attacks. But the NSA sidelined ThinThread instead of the problem-plagued experimental program Trailblazer, which cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Wiebe was among the NSA officials to face retaliation for blowing the whistle on Trailblazer.

Dec 24 2013

A Christmas Song

Christmas Album – Nat King Cole

Dec 24 2013

For the rest of us.

 photo f8ea703c-0f2e-42fd-ab9f-9455b7f58a8e_zps1b3e5b10.jpgSometime around December 23rd, but canonically any time between December and May, we celebrate Festivus.

Symbolically represented by the Festivus Pole (seen at right) an unadorned aluminum pole between 3′ to 6′ high stuck in some drab and out of the way corner.  It can be used as a weapon and frequently is.  Traditionally it is stark and entirely unadorned and the stand crudely fashioned.  Under no circumstances should any ‘presents’ be placed near it unless they’re of the sort a too long ignored pet would leave.

There are several rituals that accompany the celebration of Festivus.

Festivus Dinner

A Festivus Dinner menu is typical of any other holiday, Turkey, Ham, Roast Beef, Lamb, with the customary sides poorly cooked and resentfully served.  It’s rarely if ever eaten and instead used as weapons which explains why it’s frequently over cooked to flacid sogginess except in fundamentalist circles where a Ham Bone or Lamb Shank becomes an instrument of murderous intent.  It is often accompanied by copious consumption of alcohol (well, in fairness, the food is inedible).

The Airing of Grievances

The Airing of Grievances takes place immediately after the Festivus dinner has been served (but frequently before any of it is actually consumed).  It consists of each person lashing out at others and the world about how they have been abused and disappointed in the past year, particularly the other Festivus celebrants.  It often ends in insults that lead to life long resentment and violence.

Feats of Strength

The most misunderstood of the Festivus rituals, there is only one Feat of Strength.  The head of the household picks a challenger and engages in a wrestling match.  They typically pick the weakest first.  This continues until the head of the household is defeated.

That concludes the essential rituals of Festivus.  Now you might think that defeat of the head of the household results in ceremonial bragging rights or change of some sort.

No.

It is essentially pointless as is the rest of the Festivus celebration which is, in fact, entirely the point.

No hugging.  No learning.

Here’s hoping your Festivus is uninterrupted by visits from ‘Law’ Enforcement Officers or trips to the Emergency Room.