Friday, May 16, 2014

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Let’s get the really important story out of the way first. ThumbPer, my cat, asked me: “Tal da hoomins dat red ur shitty lettel blawg dat cat es relayded too mee. Ah teeched her haow ta petch. Ah kin haz kontrack naow, Noo Yawk Mats?”

2) The cenotes in Mexico are filled with prehistoric artifacts and skeletons, so we know they are a treasure trove of archaeological information, but this find is right up there in importance.

3) President Obama hit all the right grace notes in his dedication of the 9/11 Memorial museum yesterday. Pity George Bush couldn’t be bothered to attend.

4) Speaking of whom, at least we can be sure this PDB was read.

5) In Southern California, there really are only two seasons: Mud season and fire season.

6)  Look, Donald Sterling…just go away. You can’t possibly believe you’ll prevail here and yes, you’ll tie the NBA up in knots for a while, but do you really think they were surprised or unprepared for your selfish little outburst? Expect players to abandon your team like it’s plague ridden. Which it is: you’re the illness.

7) Bigotry: It’s not just for Southerners.

8) “The rent is too damned high” guy is going to have to up his game.

9) Ring down the curtain and call upon the angelic choir, including HAARPists.

10) First, they came for the chocolate, and I did not speak out because of my acne. Then they came for the coffee, and I did not speak out because I can drink tea. Then they came for the hops, and HOLY SHIT!!!!! WHAAAAAAAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Thursday, May 15, 2014


So Karl Rove got caught with his tongue firmly up his ass cheek by one of his own media outlets and now he’s been forced to jog back some comments:

Last week, Karl Rove questioned her capacity for the White House and reportedly said she had brain damage.

The New York Post reported on Tuesday that Mr Rove, the strategist behind George W Bush's election to the White House, had told an audience in Los Angeles last week, "Thirty days in the hospital? And when she reappears, she's wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury? We need to know what's up with that."

In fact, Mrs Clinton was in hospital for three days after falling ill with a stomach bug in December 2012. After becoming severely dehydrated, Mrs Clinton fell at home and struck her head, suffering a concussion. While she was in hospital doctors diagnosed a blood clot.

Needless to say, when this became public, Rove was forced to eat his words.

"I didn't say she had brain damage. I said she had a serious health episode," he said on Fox News.

It’s incumbent of me to point out that FOX News and the NY Post are both owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., so essentially, Rove is denying that Murdoch’s people can tell the truth.

And the delicious irony is that he used Murdoch’s outlets as his own personal PR machine for decades. The cherry on top? He worked for a man in George W Bush with enough emotional and mental instabilities to likely choke a horse. An unrecovering alcoholic, possible cocaine addict with delusions of godhood and perfection, yet Rove couldn’t quite bring his armchair medical insight to a real problem of a real person with the very real ability to screw us all up, but good. Which Bush managed to do.

Somehow, Rove missed all that.

He seems nice.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Your Basic Quagmire

The more I think about the Chelsea (fka Bradley) Manning situation, the shape it takes gets more and more bizarre:

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — The Pentagon is considering transferring Ptv.[sic] Chelsea Manning to a civilian prison where the soldier serving time for leaking classified documents could receive medical treatment for gender dysphoria, Defense officials said Wednesday.

That option is among several Army leaders are weighing as they wrestle with a dilemma that is likely to set precedent on a fraught issue for the Pentagon, which has come under increasing pressure to reexamine its prohibition on allowing transgender people to serve in uniform.

OK, before you jump ugly on me, I have no problem with what Chelsea did to get her sentence – in fact, I hold her in far higher regard than I do Edward Snowden, especially after Putin has all but discredited Snowden’s pure motives – and I don’t really have a problem with her desire to transform her body into a woman. Hear me out, though.

In the normal course of events, an active-duty Chelsea would have received a medical discharge and been forced to pay for her treatments on her own, which makes sense under the old guard rules where women’s roles in the armed forces were restricted – and I’m not defending those rules, just acknowledging they were a reality under which policies were developed like this.

Under the evolving rules of the military, women have a larger role in all areas of the forces, including combat. A born-male woman could conceivably still maintain whatever role she assumed in her male form with little to no real effect to her performance.

Here’s where things get interesting: as convicted, Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but military rules call for the expulsion of anyone who takes steps to treat her gender dysphoria, therefore Chelsea should be discharged. This is why one option the Pentagon is considering is a transfer to a Federal penitentiary, where she could receive the treatment she needs.

In fact, that has precedent in situations where there is a life-threatening illness that military medicine is ill-equipped to treat. This course of action is further bolstered by the recent decision in the First Circuit Court of Appeals that a transgendered individual who has received a bona fide treatment plan endorsed by physicians must be allowed treatment, that to deny this treatment is unconstitutional under the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause. Chelsea would be entitled to treatment and the military could maintain its façade of “morality” as defined by the right wing yahoos (and avoid an awful lot of awkward publicity.)

So this seems a reasonable gesture for the Pentagon to take for Manning and all other transgender soldiers. Right?

OK, but the forensic auditor in me has a question, and when you consider it, you’ll see why my mind got blown:

What if this was Chelsea’s plan all along?  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Oh, This Isn't Good

Private Eyes Are Watching You

In all the uproar over government surveillance and the NSA wiretaps and what not, we seem to be ignoring a far greater invasion of our collective privacies:

Celebrities can take back exits and limos with tinted windows to dodge the paparazzi -- but a leaked video that purportedly shows Beyoncé’s sister beating up on Jay Z in the elevator of a swanky New York hotel is a reminder that there are still plenty of ways to be caught on candid camera.

The grainy footage obtained by entertainment website TMZ allegedly shows Solange Knowles roughing up the rapper, and was reportedly recorded by a surveillance camera on May 5 at The Standard hotel. While it’s unclear how the footage was leaked, multiple people could have accessed the archives, a security expert told NBC News.

"We are shocked and disappointed that there was a clear breach of our security system and the confidentiality that we count on providing our guests," The Standard told The Grio in an email. The company added it is "investigating with the utmost urgency."

To me, this is merely an extension of the paparazzi phenomenon of the 1970s and 80s: people in public places (and yes, a hotel elevator would be deemed a public place) caught on camera in what one might say are states of public solitude – underdressed, no makeup, engaged in private conversations, being naughty in some respect or other.

Lately, it seems these incidents have become far more commonplace: the rash seems to have started with Congressman Vance McAllister and run through Donald Sterling to Jay-Z and his family. Security footage or other supposedly “private” recordings leaked to the press and published.

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for those caught (indeed, in Sterling’s case, it was his taping system that was used against him, much like Watergate and President Nixon). If you’re not at home, you should assume you’re on camera, particularly if you have any kind of public profile.

The Standard Hotel, in this instance, is likely going to be slapped with a civil suit by Jay-Z et al. And likely, the judge will laugh it out of court (or give some nominal judgment for the plaintiff). Obviously, Jay-Z couldn’t control the physicality of his sister-in-law, and it seems to me that he was aware there might be a camera since all his efforts appear to be put towards calming things down.

Or perhaps I’m being unfair, and he truly was interested in making peace in short order and had no suspicion of a camera. Altho in a New York City elevator…ANY elevator…you can expect you’re on someone’s monitor somewhere. Jay-Z probably knows this as well as I do.

The raft of criminal trials and civil suits from such things as assaults have forced this situation upon us: it’s not a matter of “he said, she said” (or “he said, he said” or “she said, she said”) if there’s a videotape to watch.

Many would argue that the fact that a camera exists is no reason for the tape to be released, but I’d argue that to expect all tapes to remain locked up is not a solution, either. There’s a gray line, a pretty thin one, between proving something did or did not happen, and leaking a private tape.

For instance, one could speculate that this tape of Jay-Z was released with the knowledge of one party or other, to help bolster their side of a different story, one we haven’t heard yet. In the case of Congressman McAllister (and to a degree, Donald Sterling), the tape reveals information about the subject that was not known publicly and would affect the decisions of people in their sphere of influence. The question then becomes, when is it enough?

And that’s the real argument to be had over this issue. To claim it was wrong to release any tape is to argue about the horse after the barn is empty.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Elizabeth Kubler Ross Is Rolling In Her Grave. Laughing.

Who would ever have thought that the five stages of grief could apply to politics? And yet, Nick Gillespie (!) and  The Daily Beast gives us the first hard evidence that the GOP has reached acceptance:

Last month, even as President Obama touted the “8 million people” who signed up for individual coverage under the Affordable Care Act, he granted that the program was far from perfect—or even complete. “There are going to be things that need to be improved,” he told the press, insisting that there wouldn’t be “any hesitation on our part to consider ideas that would actually improve the legislation.”

OK then. Even though I think Obamacare is a truly epic mistake (more on that later), here are three obvious ways to make the president’s signature legislative achievement better, cheaper, and more cost-effective.

The three ways?

Allowing people to purchase plain vanilla “catastrophic health insurance”: In other words, the same crap policies that insurance companies have been issuing for decades to people who don’t give a damn that they’d file bankruptcy and stick us with their medical bills.

Force insurers to compete across state lines: In other words, nationalized health coverage is an improvement over “states first”. Gillespie’s not wrong here, of course, but the reason it wasn’t included specifically is because idiots who like Gillespie’s way of “libertarian” thinking would have been all over socialized medicine like white on rice. So great idea, really rotten politics.

Grow the supply of medical care: In other words, the market should determine pricing and the best way to encourage the market to determine pricing is to increase supply and let microeconomics hold sway. In theory, it makes sense. In a MACROeconomic world, however, it’s not supply that’s going to determine how pricing is structured.

It’s demand. The only way Obamacare works is if more and younger people start engaging in preventive care. Indeed, Gillespie even accounts for as much when he notes that there are effective barriers to competition in many states under the current system. There was actually an oversupply of doctors and medical facilities, and those facilities were concerned about protecting their profits. If they were truly inundated with patients (and not artificially creating over-demand), they’d welcome clinics and offices to shunt off some of their diminished capacity.

A large part of the problem is introduced as far back as medical school admissions. Indeed, to become a doctor requires you already have financial resources beyond those of your patients. That is not conducive to a classical capitalist solution to the delivery of healthcare. If anything, it’s going to retard the growth of the medical industry as doctors will demand a certain level of comfort in their lifestyle, rather than accept the market for what it is (read that as income from practices).

Still, I should give kudos to Gillespie for finally admitting that Obamacare is not going to go away, even if somehow Marco Rubio manages to survive the primary and general elections and steal the White House back for the GOP.

It’s a start.