Separating wheat and chaff

Several interesting political discussions ensued with friends over the last few days. There were a few more around because two people some of us knew passed away. One in a plane wreck, the other from cancer. Some friends like to talk politics with a real live blogger, and some of them are informed enough and intellectually honest enough to be worth talking about it with. But not all.

There’s a somewhat simple, almost elegant algorithm for separating the novices and part-timers and hard-core partisan warriors from the more experienced and frank. The latter might lean or reside entirely on one side of the great left-right divide that has come to define modern US politics like North vs South did decades ago. But they’re able to exert some objectivism; there’s a lot of fancy ways we could say this, they live in a reality-based world, they resist cognitive dissonance. But what it boils down to is they know a fact when they see one, plus they value facts as building blocks in effective policy solutions.

It’s not infallible, but below is a fast-food approach to separate the more purely ideological from the more purely rational. [Read more...]

It’s not just that everything you do is being recorded …

 

If you haven’t seen the Snowden interview yet, it’s worth watching in its entirety. Or as much as you can find on the it00bz. But this post isn’t about whether Snowden is a hero or a dick. I have no idea, there are signs of both What’s interesting to a lot of us is what he has to say about the digital-network national security apparatus that has come of age in the last decade and now invades almost every aspect of our private and professional lives. The former security industry analyst’s insights are fascinating, he speaks about the nature of state security technology and speculates on how it may be in the early stages of taking a dark turn. His comments in that regard come off, at least to me, as earnest in intent and plausible in execution; history will be the judge, we may have to wait many years for that verdict to be read.

One of the things he could do better next time, if there is a next time, is talk a little bit more about the databases. From what Snowden said and the reporting done on his behalf, it sounds like it’s not just that you’re being recorded whenever you go online by land or by air, [Read more...]

Nothing says Freedom quite like using human shields

None dare call them terrorists. They’re just lovable red-blooded patriots who like to point guns at people to bring about political change — but they’re not terrorists! Just ask the patriots out in armed force to back up Cliven Bundy over the weekend:

TPM — The Blaze, the conservative news site affiliated with Glenn Beck, flagged the comments made Monday by Richard Mack, identified as a former Arizona sheriff who had joined more than 1,000 other protesters alongside Cliven Bundy, who has been feuding with BLM over his use of federal land to graze his cattle.
“We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front,” Mack said in a Fox News clip pulled by The Blaze. “If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.”

That sounds … familiar.

Wiki — After World War II, it was claimed by German SS general Gottlob Berger that there was a plan, proposed by the Luftwaffe and approved by Adolf Hitler, to set up special POW camps for captured airmen of the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces in large German cities, to act as human shields against their bombing raids.

One of the most famous uses of human shields occurred in Iraq in 1990, following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait that precipitated the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Saddam Hussein’s government detained hundreds of citizens of Western countries who were in Iraq for use as human shields in an attempt to deter nations from participating in military operations against the country. A number of these hostages were filmed meeting Hussein, and kept with him to deter any targeted attacks, whilst others were held in or near military and industrial targets.

According to various accounts—including that of the American ambassador to the U.N., the Taliban used women and children from their own population as human shields against coalition forces in 2006, and 2007, and when the British attacked during August 2008 during the war in Afghanistan

Fort Hood brings out the dumbest politicians in Texas?

The title for dumbest Texas politician is not an easy one to earn. Just for starters, we have Louis Gohmert and Joe Barton setting an impossibly high standard. But several Lone Star congress critters have come out in the wake of another senseless shooting at Fort Hood, this one killing four people including the gunman and injuring more than a dozen others, and are vying for that dubious title. The solution, they say, is more guns in more hands: [Read more...]

Ted Cruz praises Jesse Helms

I don’t know if Senator Ted Cruz has come to terms with this, but he’s foreign born and is a minority. No matter how much applause he draws dissing minorities, he will always be foreign born and have a Latino surname. But ha fancies himself a good ole boy racist nonetheless, and nothing says racism quite like praising an infamous unashamed racist: [Read more...]

If only Al Qaeda was run by a woman

There was quite a free for all on Twitter this week. Some religious nutcase tweeting on behalf of Al Qaeda suggested using an Arabic hashtag for suggestions about how to best leverage terrorism. At which point the twitterverse erupted in a magnificent fever of trolling as the hashtag was copied and added to every kind of sarcastic suggestions imaginable, thus both mocking AQ and rendering the effort worse than futile. Fortunately, the bad guys have good guys on our side working for them, or something: [Read more...]

Terrorism by the numbers

I came across this short piece in Reason Magazine online from several months ago which puts terrorism and counter-terrorism into context. It’s stark. The odds of being killed in a  terrorist attack are lottery odds or higher. What’s even scarier is how much we spend on this crap and how many rights we’ve forked over to unaccountable, secret organizations of government spooks and private, for profit, contractors: [Read more...]