Friday, May 17, 2013

Today's Internets - "War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over." - William Tecumseh Sherman

"Thailand's government is phasing out the use of shackles in prisons in a move aimed at improving its international human rights standards. Hundreds of inmates convicted of major crimes in the country had to wear shackles on their hands and feet. Some shackles can weigh as much as five kilograms. The move has been welcomed by inmates and human rights campaigners."

"I am one of those people - one of those, I suppose, very annoying people - who puts great value in the social contract. I am one of those people who shuts down his phone and laptop etc on airplanes when they tell us to do so, even though I find it impossible to believe my cell phone will be the one to muddle the flight guidance system. I’m the guy who stands in line and waits his turn, and who gets to the theatre 30 minutes before curtain, minimum, and I’m the guy who is trying to teach his kids that civility and manners actually manner. If you cannot live without your phone for the 60 or 90 or 120 minutes asked of you during a performance? Do us all a favor, and don’t attend. Seriously. It comes down to courtesy, which is, in my opinion, a measure of maturity, because courtesy derives from empathy. You don’t have empathy, I don’t want to know you."

"(719): Hey, I'm renting a storage locker for the summer to keep all my bondage shit in so my parents don't see it. You wanna split on it for your all your weed shit?"

"(908): Nursing home in NJ just got busted for prostitution and drugs...dropping off my deposit tomorrow"

"Obama battles AP, Benghazi, IRS scandals and...killer robots? Reason TV's guide to the president's toughest seven days yet!"

"The BEST workout and diet plan is the plan that you actually follow through with. The best coaching, training plan, and/or diet plan based on your dietary needs doesn’t mean ANYTHING if you don’t actually follow through with it!"

"You likely already know how overcrowded and abusive the US prison system is, and you probably are also aware that the US has more people in prison than even China or Russia. In this age of privatization, of course, it’s also not surprising that many of the detention centers are not actually operated by the government, but by for-profit companies. So clearly, some people are making lots and lots of money off the booming business of keeping human beings in cages.    But who are these people?"

Romantic comedies, too.  [Also, apparently, agriculture.]  
"It’s the storybook narrative. And in the 21st century, it really screws up our dating lives: Men spend their entire lives believing they’re not good enough to be with a woman. Men are taught to feel an immense pressure to impress women, to perform for them, to show off their money or their cars or how many digits of Pi they can memorize, so chicks might like them. This is needy and unattractive behavior and reinforces low self esteem as well as sexual anxiety. There’s a reason most guys need to be hammered to even tell a girl they like her. They all feel like they’re not good enough to like her.

Women spend their entire lives waiting for a man to do something amazing to impress her. Or, in other words, she spends her entire life waiting for her prince charming, her knight in shining armor to come “sweep her off her feet.” Women are conditioned to believe that they’re a prize that men are supposed to win through some great achievement. And when no man is saving the world or cutting off people’s heads off with a badass broad sword in the name of her love, then she inevitably ends up disappointed. It sends the message that she’s not good enough. No man is killing himself for her vagina. Therefore her vagina must be faulty in some way.
"But I’ll be real for a second, Disney isn’t actually responsible for this stuff. The storybook narrative has been going on for most of western civilization. It’s littered throughout Shakespeare and medieval texts. Even the Trojan War in The Iliad is started because of a beef over a hottie named Helen.

The reason this narrative has existed so long is because marriage was the economic and political building block for most of the existence of civilization. In feudal societies, the way you guaranteed security to your estate was through marrying women of wealthy (and often competing) families. If you were a man of one of the underclasses, the only way to “marry up” into wealth or greater power was through accomplishing some amazing feat, usually in war. Hence, the epic tale of valiant knights saving the princess that is so often repeated. But we live in the 21st century. Our politics and economics are no longer arranged through marriages. No one marries for political power. Women have jobs and earn their own money. We live in free-market democracies. 99.9% of us will never see a battlefield in our lives...

The idea goes something like this: Anthropological evidence suggests that in pre-history, hunter/gatherer societies were, umm, rather “loose” with their sexual morals. The idea of marriage or sexual possession was (and still is) largely anathema to most of these groups. But with the rise of agriculture, humans, for the first time in our species’ existence, had surpluses of resources. And not only did we have surpluses of resources, but men, due to their size and strength, gained a large competitive advantage at acquiring them over women. Men began to compete against one another economically, hoarding surplus resources and then using those resources to dominate the others around them. Economic hierarchies were born. City/states followed. Monarchs and lords and the feudal system followed from that, as did organized warfare and the first empires.

The problem with this new social structure was that men, for the first time ever, had two major concerns: 1) they needed to guarantee paternity of their own children and 2) they needed to manage their political competition through marriages, alliances and familial bonds. Thus female chastity began to matter. Fidelity began to matter. Fertility began to matter. Sex became an economic and political transaction, and women — who were now useless for war and physical labor — became pro-creating assets for men. Women provided sex and procreation. In return, their families were given resources, dowries, political alliances, land, etc. Men now had to win the vagina. And so they did, for about 7,000 years plus or minus."

"The same official who oversaw the IRS tax-exempt office now under fire for targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny recently took charge of the revenue agency’s Obamacare division, according to ABC News."

"If there is such a thing as strong evidence for the saying, "never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence," it is that eternally gobsmacking institution known as government. Well, except that government is pretty damned malicious, too. But right now, let's focus on the incompetence part. In particular, on the special skill it takes to identify and apprehend terrorism suspects, persuade them to cooperate and participate in a witness protection program, and then ... lose them. Really, lose, as in "where are my car keys?" except that instead of the fob for the Ford Explorer, you're poking through the sofa cushions for people you believe to be homicidal psychopaths."

"Should you ever be accused of terrorism, here’s what you should do: Snitch on your friends, demand to be placed under witness protection, then fly out of the country. According to a stunning report from the Justice Department’s internal watchdog, this is remarkably easy to do — and it’s actually happened.  Not one, but two suspected terrorists placed in the federal witness security (WITSEC) program have managed to elude the U.S. Marshals Service, even though their status as suspected terrorists meant the should have appeared on federal no-fly lists."

Orwell's 1984.
"Last October, senior Obama officials anonymously unveiled to the Washington Post their newly minted "disposition matrix", a complex computer system that will be used to determine how a terrorist suspect will be "disposed of": indefinite detention, prosecution in a real court, assassination-by-CIA-drones, etc. Their rationale for why this was needed now, a full 12 years after the 9/11 attack: Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaida continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight. . . . That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on whether the statutory basis for this "war" - the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) - should be revised (meaning: expanded). This is how Wired's Spencer Ackerman (soon to be the Guardian US's national security editor) described the most significant exchange: "Asked at a Senate hearing today how long the war on terrorism will last, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, answered, 'At least 10 to 20 years.' . . . A spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today - atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted. Welcome to America's Thirty Years War." That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the "war on terror" will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week's big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined."

"Due to the controversies over the IRS and (especially) the DOJ's attack on AP's news gathering process, media outlets have suddenly decided that President Obama has a very poor record on civil liberties, transparency, press freedoms, and a whole variety of other issues on which he based his first campaign. The first two paragraphs of this Washington Post article from yesterday, expressed in tones of recent epiphany, made me laugh audibly:

"President Obama, a former constitutional law lecturer who came to office pledging renewed respect for civil liberties, is today running an administration at odds with his résumé and preelection promises. The Justice Department's collection of journalists' phone records and the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups have challenged Obama's credibility as a champion of civil liberties - and as a president who would heal the country from damage done by his predecessor." 

You don't say! The Washington Post's breaking news here is only about four years late. Back in mid-2010, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero, speaking about Obama's civil liberties record at a progressive conference, put it this way: "I'm disgusted with this president." In the spirit of optimism, one can adopt a "better-late-than-never" outlook regarding this newfound media awakening. is remarkable how media reactions to civil liberties assaults are shaped almost entirely by who the victims are. For years, the Obama administration has been engaged in pervasive spying on American Muslim communities and dissident groups. It demanded a reform-free renewal of the Patriot Act and the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, both of which codify immense powers of warrantless eavesdropping, including ones that can be used against journalists. It has prosecuted double the number of whistleblowers under espionage statutes as all previous administrations combined, threatened to criminalize WikiLeaks, and abused Bradley Manning to the point that a formal UN investigation denounced his treatment as "cruel and inhuman".

But, with a few noble exceptions, most major media outlets said little about any of this, except in those cases when they supported it. It took a direct and blatant attack on them for them to really get worked up, denounce these assaults, and acknowledge this administration's true character. That is redolent of how the general public reacted with rage over privacy invasions only when new TSA airport searches targeted not just Muslims but themselves: what they perceive as "regular Americans". Or how former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman - once the most vocal defender of Bush's vast warrantless eavesdropping programs - suddenly began sounding like a shrill and outraged privacy advocate once it was revealed that her own conversations with Aipac representatives were recorded by the government."

"I believe the American Heart Association was founded with good intentions.  Really, I do.  But they’ve become a perfect example of the phenomenon described in the excellent book Mistake Were Made (but not by me):  after announcing a public position on an issue, they are incapable of admitting they were wrong...

On their web site, they recommend consuming less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.  That’s been their position for years.  Since the average American consumes more like 3,500 mg of sodium per day, that means the AHA is telling us to cut our salt intake by more than half to avoid hypertension and, by extension, heart disease.

The AHA certainly isn’t alone in pushing this advice.  The Guy From CSPI has been on an anti-salt jihad for decades, the USDA Dietary Guidelines call for low-salt meals (the USDA compels schools to comply with that advice), and of course Hizzoner Da Mayor in New York City used the coercive power of government to impose his beliefs about the benefits of sodium restriction on food manufacturers. So how do you suppose the anti-salt hysterics would respond to a big ol’ government-sanctioned study that says they’re wrong?"

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