Daily Archive: 10/23/2014

Oct 23 2014

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”.

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New York Times Editorial Board: A Verdict on Blackwater

It took far too long, but four former gunslingers with the Blackwater Worldwide security firm have at last been held accountable for the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad in September 2007. It was one of the darkest episodes of America’s long war.

The verdict on Wednesday brings a measure of justice for the innocent victims and their families and offers some assurance that private contractors will not be allowed to operate with impunity in war zones. What it does not do is solve the problem of an American government that is still too dependent on private firms to supplement its military forces during overseas conflicts and is still unable to manage them effectively. [..]

Although there had been talk of reducing reliance on private contractors, they seem likely to continue to play a central role in new American military missions. With the Blackwater verdict, the United States must fully commit itself to making sure that modern-day mercenaries are strictly managed and held accountable for their actions.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: 5 Reasons Dems Should Push Social Security Expansion — Now

In two weeks voters will go to the polls in a race that looks increasingly dire for Democrats. It’s not that voters agree with Republicans on the issues. On the contrary, polls show that a majority of voters across the political spectrum agree with core Democratic principles and programs.

The problem is that Republicans keep changing the subject, and Democrats keep letting them. Rather than letting themselves be kept on the defensive — about President Obama, the Affordable Care Act, Ebola, or the Middle East — Democrats would be wise to pick one or two key issues and keep hammering away at them. [..]

But the days are dwindling down to a precious few. There isn’t enough time left to promote Social Security expansion in depth, but Democrats can still use it as a key campaign tool. Here are five reasons why they should: [..]

Tom Englehardt: Stand Tall, America, We’re No. 1! (When It Comes to Our Military Budget, Knocking Off Wedding Parties, Military Bases, Etc.)

We’re now passing through a no-name election season of a particularly lusterless sort, but don’t count on that for 2016. Here, in fact, is a surefire prediction for that moment, which (given the nature of modern presidential campaigns) will kick off with the usual round of media speculation and odds-making on November 5th. Whoever the presidential candidates may be, expect the political landscape to be littered with references to the United States as an “exceptional nation” and to “American exceptionalism” (as well as its more recent doppelgänger, “indispensable,” as in “indispensable nation”). And the presidential candidates, baying for the exceptional privilege of entering the Oval Office in 2017, will join a jostling crowd of past presidential candidates, presidential wannabes, major politicians, minor figures, and pundits galore who have felt compelled in recent years to tell us and the world just how exceptional we really are.

Such references were once rare in our politics, but that was back in the days when Americans didn’t doubt our exceptional nature, which meant that there was no need to talk about it ad infinitum. Like anything spoken of too insistently, recent rounds of exceptionalist comments surely reveal lurking feelings of doubt about this country, its state, its fate, and its direction (which, according to most polls, Americans believe to be downward, as in “wrong track” or “decline“).

Dean Baker: Ebola Hysteria Fever: A Real Epidemic

Thus far, the Ebola virus has infected three people in the United States that we know of; however, Ebola hysteria seems to have infected somewhere close to 300 million. There are reports of kids being pulled out of schools and even some school closings. People in many areas are not going to work and others are driving cars rather than taking mass transit because they fear catching Ebola from fellow passengers. There are also reports of people staying away from stores, restaurants, and other public places in order to avoid the deadly plague.

This would all be comic if there were not real consequences. People not going to work are going to lose needed paychecks. Our kids need to go to school to get an education. And the cost of the hysteria may grow enormously depending on how the government reacts.

The current fad among politicians is the idea of ban on travel for people from Liberia and other countries where the epidemic is concentrated. This policy is in the “we have to do something” category.

Medea Benjamin: Don’t Ask the Pentagon Where Its Money Goes. It Won’t Tell.

President Barack Obama proudly signed the law that repealed the Pentagon’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (pdf) policy, freeing lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans (although not trans people) to openly serve in the military four years ago.

But when it comes to budgeting, the concept lingers on. “Don’t ask us how we spend money,” the Pentagon basically says. “Because we can’t really tell you.”

Every taxpayer, business, and government agency in America is supposed to be able to pass a financial audit by the feds, every year. It’s the law, so we do our duty. There’s one exception: the Pentagon.

Year after year, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) declares the Pentagon budget to be un-auditable. In 2013, for example, the GAO found that the Pentagon consistently fails to control its costs, measure its performance, or prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse.

Congress thankfully, did give the Pentagon a deadline to get itself in better financial shape — 25 years ago. Taxpayers are still waiting.

Oct 23 2014

More Whitewash

Senate’s inquiry into CIA torture sidesteps blaming Bush, aides

By Jonathan S. Landay, Ali Watkins and Marisa Taylor, McClatchy

October 16, 2014

“This report is not about the White House. It’s not about the president. It’s not about criminal liability. It’s about the CIA’s actions or inactions,” said a person familiar with the document, who asked not to be further identified because the executive summary – the only part to that will be made public – still is in the final stages of declassification.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report also didn’t examine the responsibility of top Bush administration lawyers in crafting the legal framework that permitted the CIA to use simulated drowning called waterboarding and other interrogation methods widely described as torture, McClatchy has learned.

“It does not look at the Bush administration’s lawyers to see if they were trying to literally do an end run around justice and the law,” the person said.



“If it’s the case that the report doesn’t really delve into the White House role, then that’s a pretty serious indictment of the report,” said Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program at the New York University Law School. “Ideally it should come to some sort of conclusions on whether there were legal violations and if so, who was responsible.”

At the same time, she said, the report still is critically important because it will give “the public facts even if it doesn’t come to these conclusions. The reason we have this factual accounting is not for prurient interest. It’s so we can avoid something like this ever happening again in the future.”



However, the Democratic-controlled committee apparently dropped a demand that the White House surrender some 9,400 documents related to the program, raising questions about Feinstein’s claim. The White House had refused to turn over the records for five years, citing “executive branch confidentiality interests.”



Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld relentlessly pressured interrogators to subject detainees to harsh interrogation methods in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, McClatchy reported in April 2009. Such evidence, which was non-existent, would have substantiated one of Bush’s main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003.

Other accounts described how Cheney, Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Secretary of State Colin Powell approved specific harsh interrogation techniques. George Tenet, then the CIA director, also reportedly updated them on the results.

“Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly,” Ashcroft said after one of dozens of meetings on the program, ABC News reported in April 2008 in a story about the White House’s direct oversight of interrogations.

News reports also chronicled the involvement of top White House and Justice Department officials in fashioning a legal rationale giving Bush the authority to override U.S. and international laws prohibiting torture. They also helped craft opinions that effectively legalized the CIA’s use of waterboarding, wall-slamming and sleep deprivation.

Even so, the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report doesn’t examine the responsibility of Bush and his top advisers for abuses committed while the program was in operation from 2002 to 2006, according to several people familiar with the 500-page document.

Their comments are bolstered by the report’s 20 main conclusions, which do not point to any wrongdoing outside of the CIA.

Instead, the conclusions only mention the White House once, asserting that the CIA impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making.



Along with being handicapped by the political considerations, the panel confronted two prior Justice Department investigations that declined to assign criminal liability to any officials involved in the program. One probe was conducted under the Bush administration and the second under President Barack Obama.

Moreover, Obama opposed any further inquiry. Although he signed an executive order banning waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques soon after taking office, he also ruled out future prosecutions of those who participated in the program.

The extent of the Obama’s fury over the panel’s study was revealed in a memoir by former CIA Director Leon Panetta that was released this month. The president, he wrote, was livid that the CIA agreed in 2009 to give the committee access to millions of the agency’s highly classified documents.

“The president wants to know who the f— authorized this release to the committees,” Panetta recalled then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel shouting at him. “I have a president with his hair on fire and I want to know what the f— you did to f— this up so bad!”

My emphasis.

Oct 23 2014

The Breakfast Club (Retro Tech)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgSo, almost a Million for an Apple 1.

Did I mention I have a 2C new in the box?  I do, actually.  Also a Commodor 64 (not in the box), 3 TS 1000s (1 in box), couple of XTs (with Monitor, try finding an MDA today), an all ISA AT, a P-386 500 driving 98 SE and 4 x 8MB drives, and various other spare parts that I could assemble into different configurations of different vintages.

I started out playing Star Trek over a 300 Baud Modem on an ADAM 3A Terminal using CompuServe and did my first programing in COBOL and RPG on Holerith cards.

So I’m not old, I’m well connected.

I started out in the biz with a translation of an Insurance Rating program from TRS-80 to Apple Basic (anyone remember Romar?  It was like the very first clone).

The machine that’s missing from my collection is a Kaypro 10.  64K and 10 Mb of C/PM goodness that I developed my bread and butter XTab app on that I have ported through a variety of iterations of MS-DOS, CCPM, DesqView, OS2, and Windows.

I’ll tell you this- there is no money in poetry for machines or maintaining them either.

I’ve ended up with a skill set that includes 7+ languages- COBOL, RPG, FORTRAN, BASIC, C (and about 5 variants), Postscript and HTML, and MS Macro as well as a heap of hardware that I’m willing to let good homes adopt as well as friends and family who accuse me of being a cat lady who never met a stray I didn’t like.

I have a friend who collects rarer hardware than that.  He has a Poly-88 with full OS source directly from one of the developers.  It’s good for what a 4K 8088 with a hard sectored floppy and an S-100 bus can do.

I also ended up with bookshelves of Bytes, PC Mags, Dr. Dobbs, and Computer Shoppers.

Sigh.  It all ought to go to a museum.  My current main ride (down at the moment after a voltage surge) is a Asus M4A88T-V EVO USB 3.0 with 16 Gb and a 3.7 6 Core AMD Athlon II.  Because it’s not working I’m on my laptop, an HP 6475b sporting the same 16 Gb and a 2.5 Dual Core AMD A4 so don’t cry for me Argentina.  I think the voltage surge screwed up my Windows virtual memory file, but I haven’t tested that yet.  If I have to replace the Motherboard it’s $120.  If I have to replace the CPU it’s $170.  If I have to replace the memory it’s $130.  I think the hard drives are recoverable (already have the important data) but they’re $80 for 2 Tb.

This is why there is no money in computing.

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Science News

Henry Ford Museum acquires 1976 Apple-1 computer

Dearborn Press & Guide

Published: Wednesday, October 22, 2014

“When acquiring artifacts for The Henry Ford’s Archive of American Innovation, we look at how the items will expand our ability to tell the important stories of American culture and its greatest innovators,” said Patricia Mooradian, president of The Henry Ford. “Similar to what Henry Ford did with the Model T, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs put technology directly in the hands of the people with the creation of the Apple-1, completely altering the way we work and live. The Apple-1 was not only innovative, but it is a key artifact in the foundation of the digital revolution.”



Only 64 of the originally produced 200 Apple-1 computers are known to exist – with 15 of this group known to be operational. In addition to the central Apple-1 motherboard, the acquisition also includes a hand-built keyboard interface, power supply, facsimile copies of the owner’s manual and schematics, Sanyo monitor and Apple-1 Cassette Interface.

Just as an aside, the part about “first pre-assembled personal computer ever”, not true.  Altair 8800, IMSAI 8080, Poly-88.  What these all lacked was an integrated video terminal and keyboard.

I was there and I bootstrapped a paper tape reader from front panel switches and I swore I’d never, ever touch a computer in my life.

Heh.

Tech News

Science Oriented Video!

The Obligatories, News, and Blogs below.

Oct 23 2014

On This Day In History October 23

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.

October 23 is the 296th day of the year (297th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 69 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1921, in the French town of Chalons-sur-Marne, an American officer selects the body of the first “Unknown Soldier” to be honored among the approximately 77,000 United States servicemen killed on the Western Front during World War I.

According to the official records of the Army Graves Registration Service deposited in the U.S. National Archives in Washington, four bodies were transported to Chalons from the cemeteries of Aisne-Marne, Somme, Meuse-Argonne and Saint-Mihiel. All were great battlegrounds, and the latter two regions were the sites of two offensive operations in which American troops took a leading role in the decisive summer and fall of 1918. As the service records stated, the identity of the bodies was completely unknown: “The original records showing the internment of these bodies were searched and the four bodies selected represented the remains of soldiers of which there was absolutely no indication as to name, rank, organization or date of death.”

The four bodies arrived at the Hotel de Ville in Chalons-sur-Marne on October 23, 1921. At 10 o’clock the next morning, French and American officials entered a hall where the four caskets were displayed, each draped with an American flag. Sergeant Edward Younger, the man given the task of making the selection, carried a spray of white roses with which to mark the chosen casket. According to the official account, Younger “entered the chamber in which the bodies of the four Unknown Soldiers lay, circled the caskets three times, then silently placed the flowers on the third casket from the left. He faced the body, stood at attention and saluted.”

Bearing the inscription “An Unknown American who gave his life in the World War,” the chosen casket traveled to Paris and then to Le Havre, France, where it would board the cruiser Olympia for the voyage across the Atlantic. Once back in the United States, the Unknown Soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C.

The World War I Unknown lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda from his arrival in the United States until Armistice Day, 1921. On November 11, 1921, President Warren G. Harding officiated at the interment ceremonies at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. During the ceremony, the World War I Unknown was awarded the Victoria Cross by Admiral of the Fleet Lord Beatty, on behalf of King George V of the United Kingdom. (The Victoria Cross being the highest award for valour issued in the UK, on par with the Medal of Honor. Earlier, on March 4, 1921, the British Unknown Warrior was conferred the U.S. Medal of Honor by General of the Armies John Pershing.) In 1928, the Unknown Soldier was presented the Silver Buffalo Award for distinguished service to America’s youth by the Boy Scouts of America.

Oct 23 2014

2014 World Series Game 2: Giants at Royals

So, what happened last night?  Madison Bumgarner dominated and James Shields not so much.  Now everyone may be right about the extraordinary quality of the Royal’s Bullpen but by the time they got the call in the 4th Inning the game was already 5 – 0 and there was no saving to be done.

In the top of the 1st, Leadoff Single, Sacrifice, Single, Runners at the Corners, Double, Caught advancing, 2 RBI HR, Giants 3 – 0.

In the top of the 4th, Leadoff Double, Wild Pitch, Runner at 3rd, Walk, RBI Single, Shields pulled for Duffy, Sacrifice, 2nd and 3rd, Walk, RBI Walk, Giants 5 – 0.

In the top of the 7th, Leadoff Walk, RBI Triple, Pitching Change, Line Out, RBI Single, Giants 7 – 0.

In the bottom of the 7th a 2 Out Solo Shot, 7 – 1 Giants.

Game Over Dude.

Now I heard the announcers make some kind of remark about how it’s not so bad, that in Series where the Home team got blown out (and it was a blowout, make no mistake) the last 4 out of 5 times that team came back to win it.  I wish I could be more encouraging.

With this loss (and it was Ace against Ace on full rest) the Royals surrender Home Field Advantage and will have to win at least one game at the Giants to prevail whereas the Giants could sweep at Home and never have to visit the Royals again after tonight, win or lose.  Also Bumgarner is a rubber arm who threw only slightly more than 100 pitches and could easily make 3 appearences in this Series.

So either the Royals come up with a solution or the Giants only need 1 more game from somebody.

Now lest you think I’m just a heartless bastard who hates the Royals (and I am a heartless bastard, but I don’t necessarily hate the Royals any more than every team that’s not the Mets) I have a smidge of sympathy since it’s been so long for them.

But it’s Chicago Cubs sympathy.

Starting tonight for the Royals is Yordano Ventura (R, 14 – 10, ERA 3.20).  He’s a rookie with 3 appearences but no decisions Post Season and an ERA of 4.61 based on 13 Innings Pitched with 12 Hits, 2 Home Runs, and 7 Runs Scored.

He will be matched for the Giants by Jake Peavy (R, 7 – 13, ERA 3.73).  Post Season he is 1 – 0 in 2 appearences with an ERA of 1.86 based on 9.2 Innings Pitched with 6 hits, 1 Home Runs, and 2 Runs Scored.

This is really a pick ’em.  Peavy’s had a better Post Season but has played fewer innings and he sucked during the regular season.  It all depends on if the Royals bring their bats to the park tonight.

8 pm Fox.