Sunday Reads: I Witch I may, I Witch I might…

b2d2fed97ae3cb8d4b0f640a90a6ec08Good Mourning…

Yes, it seems that Halloween is coming early this year. All around us we see tricks being played out. Some are the sort of tricks played on people who must really be dumb as dirt to fall for them.

Progressives and libertarians came together in Washington on Saturday to protest widespread government surveillance, taking a tentative step towards creating a coalition that isn’t as awkward as the pairing might appear.

Organized by the coalition Stop Watching Us, which includes dozens of groups ranging from Internet freedom advocates to Tea Party organizations, the rally attracted hundreds of people to the Capitol Reflecting Pool to protest the electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency revealed by Edward Snowden this year. The crowd included Occupy protesters, Ron Paul libertarians, and even strict constitutionalist Oathkeepers. Yet despite some recent grumbling on the left about having to work with libertarians on the issue, attendees and speakers on both sides said they were happy to unite around a common enemy.

Seriously, who the hell would want to be associated with those crazy-ass Oathkeepers? (That link goes to a page over at Southern Poverty Law Center, Oathkeepers are a hate group you know…) Actually, these are not dumb people, that would be an insult to the stupid folks that do have low IQ as an excuse to become partnered with assholes like Ron Paul. So who spoke at this thing?

Onstage, speakers ranged from progressives like former congressman Dennis Kucinich to libertarians like Johnson and Rep. Justin Amash, as well as NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and Jessalyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, who visited Snowden in Russia two weeks ago and read a statement attributed to him for the crowd. Snowden was a central figure in absentia at the protest, with most people holding signs or wearing t-shirts emblazoned with his face.

The article says the rally was mostly “libertarian” in nature…but these are a few of the quotes you should not miss:

A recent article in Salon by progressive journalist Tom Watson had ruffled feathers by calling on liberals to boycott the really[sic] because of its libertarian elements. “I cannot support this coalition or the rally,” Watson wrote. “It is fatally compromised by the prominent leadership and participation of the Libertarian Party and other libertarian student groups; their hardcore ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.” Watson described the Stop Watching Us coalition as “fatally infected.”

Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin rejected this premise in an interview with BuzzFeed next to the main speaker’s stage .

“Left and right doesn’t mean anything anymore,” Benjamin said. Democrats and Republicans, she said, “both like the status quo. Libertarians or leftists are people who want to defend the values of this country and not have party politics and I think we’ve started coming around together on many of these issues.”

“I think that strange bedfellows around particular issues is the way that change has happened throughout history,” she said.

923f0d4eb1cba82cba3ad14e09f0b779Uh…first off, that Medea Benjamin needs to STFU. Its sounds to me like she is fatally ridiculous. I got a question for her. If left and right doesn’t mean anything anymore…How does she feel about the way the “right” values her uterus? Hmmmm…..lets see her libertarian friends get out and defend that part of this country…the 50 percent vagina part!

But wait, and hear it from an actual idiot himself, here’s another quote:

By all appearances at the Stop Watching Us rally, they did — though a bit warily. John McGloin, an Occupy protester from New York who described himself as a “sometimes” progressive, said he could accept working with libertarians to try and curtail government surveillance as long as they weren’t “people who think we should all fend for ourselves — that’s where I draw the line.”“We definitely need all the help we can get,” McGloin said.

3824f7d2bf57d3d02b94160798bb0508Hey buddy, that ain’t help, that is a hindrance!

Alright, up next: A few items on Rural America.

From the “You might be a redneck” theme of news reports, really the headline should say it all: Georgia man runs into burning home to save beer | abc13.com

COLUMBUS, GA (KTRK) — “I went back into the house like a dummy.” That’s what one man in Georgia said after he risked his life to save beer from his fridge while his house was on fire.

The flames broke out while six adults and two young children were watching TV. Everyone quickly made it outside safely.

But then Walter Serpit, who walks with a cane, rushed back into the burning building to save something near and dear to him.

“I told them to get the kids out and everything, and me myself, being an alcoholic, I was trying to get my beer out,” he said. “You feel me?”

Now, remember what I said up top about the folks who have a real excuse for partnering with those libertarian assholes? You feel me?

Walter made it out with a couple of cold ones, and the fire department made a statement that you should never run back into a burning building…period.

That story is actually sad and pathetic.

bbe24b789f085d912abe6483d2667dd2More bad news on the Obamacare front, from the New York Times: Health Care Law Fails to Lower Prices for Rural Areas

As technical failures bedevil the rollout of President Obama’s health care law, evidence is emerging that one of the program’s loftiest goals — to encourage competition among insurers in an effort to keep costs low — is falling short for many rural Americans.

While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. Those places, many of them poor, are being asked to choose from some of the highest-priced plans in the 34 states where the federal government is running the health insurance marketplaces, a review by The New York Times has found.

Of the roughly 2,500 counties served by the federal exchanges, more than half, or 58 percent, have plans offered by just one or two insurance carriers, according to an analysis by The Times of county-level data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. In about 530 counties, only a single insurer is participating.

The analysis suggests that the ambitions of the Affordable Care Act to increase competition have unfolded unevenly, at least in the early going, and have not addressed many of the factors that contribute to high prices. Insurance companies are reluctant to enter challenging new markets, experts say, because medical costs are high, dominant insurers are difficult to unseat, and powerful hospital systems resist efforts to lower rates.

“There’s nothing in the structure of the Affordable Care Act which really deals with that problem,” said John Holahan, a fellow at the Urban Institute, who noted that many factors determine costs in a given market. “I think that all else being equal, premiums will clearly be higher when there’s not that competition.”

And that means that for those people who live out in areas like Banjoville, they are going to be hit with higher premiums because of lack of competition.

In rural Baker County, Ga., where there is only one insurer, a 50-year-old shopping for a silver plan would pay at least $644.05 before federal subsidies. (Plans range in price and levels of coverage from bronze to platinum, with silver a middle option.) A 50-year-old in Atlanta, where there are four carriers, could pay $320.06 for a comparable plan. Federal subsidies could significantly reduce monthly premiums for people with low incomes.

Counties with one carrier are mostly concentrated in the South. Nearly all of the counties in Mississippi and Alabama, for example, are served by just one insurer, according to The Times’s analysis. Other states with scarce competition include Maine, West Virginia, North Carolina and Alaska.

That is a long article, and there is an interactive map at the link too, so take a look at it.

58548dea0a1af4177e71c9ee013059fbSince we are on the subject of healthcare, what about an article on madness…with a witchy twist: 7 Countries That Still Kill Accused Witches

You know how the long-ago witch hunts were stupid and hateful? What a relief those days are over.

Except they’re not. In many countries, people are still killed on suspicion of witchcraft. United Nations experts cautioned in 2009 that murders of women and children accused of sorcery were on the rise. Following are just a few of many examples from around the world.

1. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s religious police department has an official Anti-Witchcraft Unit that it dispatches to catch sorcerers and break their spells. In 2007, the Saudis executed an accused sorcerer. A woman awaiting the death penalty for alleged witchcraft died in prison.

Like the New England witch hunters of yore, those in Saudi Arabia use magic as a convenient excuse to silence inconvenient people. Accusations of sorcery have been leveled against foreign women working as domestics for Saudi families who charge their employers with sexual assault, according to Saudi Arabia expert Christoph Wilcke.

2. Tanzania

This east African country killed approximately 600 elderly women on charges of witchcraft just two years ago. The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life found a strong and pervasive belief in magic among Tanzanians. It sometimes leads to reverence rather than murder. One woman who claims to be a witch charges between $20 and $120 for services including medical cures and exorcisms — in a country where the average income is under two dollars a day.

The other five countries are more disturbing in their descriptions, so you can read them at the link if you like.

59be152a9d9296ccfee540684e2ffa2aHey, since that last article was on the morbid side, let’s have another: What would you choose for your last meal? Final food choices of executed criminals revealed… and they throw up a few oddball selections

Florida has revealed the final food choices of executed criminals, throwing up a number of eccentric final meals in the process.

While many of those spending their last day alive decide to go for the final indulgence of a heaving plate of fatty, fried food and a giant bowl of ice cream, others opt for more Spartan fare – requesting homemade sandwiches or just a simple cup of coffee.

That is one you need to click and read. Wow….

I want to bring you updates on a few other stories that we have discussed on the blog the past couple of weeks, and this will be in a link dump:

Macy’s joins Barneys in NYC ‘shop-and-frisk’ scandal | Reuters

New York civil rights leaders on Saturday decried the city’s brewing “shop-and-frisk” scandal, in which major retailers Barneys and Macy’s are accused of profiling black shoppers who say they were detained by police after buying luxury items.

Tennessee judge who barred baby name ‘Messiah’ rebuked by conduct panel for religious bias | The Raw Story

A magistrate court judge in Tennessee who forced a couple to change the name of their child from Messiah to Martin has been cited for religious bias by a state ethics panel and will face a disciplinary hearing.

Lu Ann Ballew, a child support magistrate in Cocke County of eastern Tennessee, had been settling a dispute about child support and the last name of Messiah Deshawn MCCullough, the child of Jaleesa Martin, and Jawaan McCullough. Neither parent had expressed interest in changing the child’s first name.

b89adc37ebe0fb06a85ff451748ef8bfThe Psychology of Online Comments : The New Yorker

Several weeks ago, on September 24th, Popular Scienceannounced that it would banish comments from its Web site. The editors argued that Internet comments, particularly anonymous ones, undermine the integrity of science and lead to a culture of aggression and mockery that hinders substantive discourse. “Even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story,” wrote the online-content director Suzanne LaBarre, citing a recent study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as evidence. While it’s tempting to blame the Internet, incendiary rhetoric has long been a mainstay of public discourse. Cicero, for one, openly called Mark Antony a “public prostitute,” concluding, “but let us say no more of your profligacy and debauchery.” What, then, has changed with the advent of online comments?

Anonymity, for one thing. According to a September Pew poll, a quarter of Internet users have posted comments anonymously. As the age of a user decreases, his reluctance to link a real name with an online remark increases; forty per cent of people in the eighteen-to-twenty-nine-year-old demographic have posted anonymously. One of the most common critiques of online comments cites a disconnect between the commenter’s identity and what he is saying, a phenomenon that the psychologist John Suler memorably termed the “online disinhibition effect.” The theory is that the moment you shed your identity the usual constraints on your behavior go, too—or, to rearticulate the 1993 Peter Steiner cartoon, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re not a dog.

I’ve got a few on Fukushima alone:

8 months, 10 mishaps: A look at Fukushima errors – The Washington Times, America’s Newspaper

The Global Threat of Fukushima » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Special Report: Help wanted in Fukushima: Low pay, high risks and gangsters | Reuters

With a Plant’s Tainted Water Still Flowing, No End to Environmental Fears – NYTimes.com

Some of those are long articles, so they will take some time.

467f8b89bac3307821e0c15b9528c1ebAnd to end this post today, a couple of stories with Boston Boomer in mind…

UK linguist reconstructs sounds of prehistoric language

What did our ancestors sound like in the 50th century B.C.? University of Kentucky linguistics lecturer Andrew M. Byrd examines ancient Indo-European languages (such as Latin, Greek, Sanskrit and Old English) and the language from which they derive, Proto-Indo-European, or PIE.

PIE is the prehistoric ancestor of hundreds of languages, including English, Spanish, Greek, Farsi, Armenian, and more. The language is typically thought to have been in use around 7,000 years ago, though some suspect it was spoken at an even earlier time.

According to some archaeologists and the majority of linguists like Byrd, the people who spoke PIE were located just to the north of the Black Sea and were likely the first to tame horses, and perhaps even to invent the wheel.

The primary focus of Byrd’s work is to understand what this language would have sounded when it was spoken millennia ago. Byrd says this all begins by looking at similarities in other languages.

“We start by gathering words, such as ‘king,’ from languages that we think are related and then find the common threads among them,” he said. “When you bring these words together, you’ll see that all of the words meaning ‘king’ or ‘ruler’ begin with something like an ‘r’ followed by a long vowel. Through examining trends in each , you can tell which parts of the word have changed over time, and working backward from that … you can peer into the past and get an idea of what PIE might have sounded like.”

I know that BB worked with language in children for her doctorate, so that article will be something cool for her to read about. This second one will be just a joke…because she is my number one when it comes to grammar…and boy do I need her help…

Test Your Grammar Know-How (Or Shame Your Friends) With This Quick Grammar Game | Geekosystem

Are you forever trolling the internet, commenting on posts with incorrect grammar? Do your friends consider you a “Grammar Nazi?” Well, you better put your money where your mouth is, and test your grammar skills using Grammatically Speaking, a quick little grammar game we found online!

Grammar

Grammatically Speaking tests all your grammar know-how, from proper punctuation, to the proper use of “that” or “which” in a sentence. Our favorite part of the test is that it shows you what percentage of users got each question wrong – for example, people are particularly terrible at “it’s” vs. “its” and when to use “me” vs. “I.”

It is fortunate that I have BB to come and fix my post when my grammar is way…way off the mark.  I tend to write like I talk, and then I never could grasp all that proper English stuff anyway.

This is all I have for you this morning. Have a wonderful day, and please leave a comment or two below…so, what are you thinking and reading about today?


Friday Nite Lite: Burning Cross Bar-B-Que…Paula Deen Style

062313-toon-luckovich-ed

Good Evening

We’re gonna jump into this week’s cartoons starting with the one above from Mike Luckovich:  6/23 Luckovich cartoon: Cooking up trouble

I am sure that there will be plenty more Paula Deen cartoons next week, but this one from Luckovich is perfect.

On with the rest of tonight’s funnies.

US arms to rebels by Political Cartoonist Dave Granlund

133161 600 US arms to rebels cartoons

The War Monger by Political Cartoonist Malcolm Evans

133173 600 The War Monger cartoons

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Joe Heller, Green Bay Press-Gazette – 06/19/2013

Cartoon by Joe Heller -

New Chain – Truthdig

War Infinitum – Truthdig

AAEC – Political Cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times – 06/21/2013

Cartoon by David Horsey -

There were some very good ones in that group dealing with war…the rest of the cartoons touch on NSA/Privacy issues, and a few odds and ends that have gone on the past week.

Privacy – Political Cartoon by Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News – 06/19/2013

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Privacy

Untitled – Political Cartoon by Bob Gorrell, Creators Syndicate Inc. – 06/21/2013

Cartoon by Bob Gorrell - Untitled

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Scott Stantis, Chicago Tribune – 06/20/2013

Cartoon by Scott Stantis -

Here are two cartoons dealing with reality shows….

AAEC – Political Cartoon by John R. Rose, Byrd Newspapers of Virginia – 06/21/2013

Cartoon by John R. Rose -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Paul Berge, Q Syndicate – 06/19/2013

Cartoon by Paul Berge -

I could think of another reality show dealing with priest…sort of like a The Bachelorette, Vatican style.

Unrest in Brazil – Truthdig

NHL playoffs diehard by Political Cartoonist Dave Granlund

133524 600 NHL playoffs diehard cartoons

There is a good op/ed here about the haves and have-nots at this link: An E-Z Fix by Peter Funt

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Paul Fell, Artizans Syndicate – 06/21/2013

Cartoon by Paul Fell -

And finally, we will end with a Luckovich cartoon. Yup, this week’s post was a Luckovich sandwich…

6/20 Luckovich cartoon: Paleo politics | Mike Luckovich

062013-toon-luckovich-ed

This is an open thread.


Glenn Greenwald’s NSA Source, Edward Snowden, Outs Himself

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

Another “bombshell” from Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian: the NSA whistleblower reveals his name, his reasons for copying classified material, and his plans for the future.

He has had “a very comfortable life” that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

Three weeks ago, Snowden made final preparations that resulted in last week’s series of blockbuster news stories. At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.

He then advised his NSA supervisor [He is currently employed at Booz Allen Hamilton] that he needed to be away from work for “a couple of weeks” in order to receive treatment for epilepsy, a condition he learned he suffers from after a series of seizures last year.

As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. “That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world.”

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.

Snowden apparently decided to leave his life behind and begin a new one. He told the Guardian “I do not expect to see home again.” And if that isn’t dramatic enough, he has barely left his hotel room since arriving in Hong Kong because

He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.

OK, I’m in no position to evaluate the truth value of all this. It does sound a little paranoid, but look what has happened to Bradley Manning. Certainly the Feds will go after Snowden, whether his revelations are truly damaging to U.S. national security or not and despite the fact that other journalists than Greenwald are now pooh-poohing the revelations.

So who is Snowden? He has an unusual biography for someone in his position. He grew up in North Carolina. He was not a very good student and never graduated from high school, although he took computing courses at a community college. He went into an army special forces training program, hoping to go to Iraq, but he was badly injured and had to be discharged.

After that he worked at the NSA as a security guard, then somehow because of his apparent genius for computers he stepped up the CIA where he worked on IT network security. He eventually worked in Switzerland under diplomatic cover. He gradually became disillusioned and left the CIA to work for private contractors.

He thinks the

value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. “I don’t see myself as a hero,” he said, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.

You can read the rest at the Guardian.

I really don’t know what to think at this point. I’m not sure if we have learned anything new beyond what we have known throughout the Bush and Obama administrations–that we are being spied upon constantly, but government and corporations. I hate it, and I hope these revelations–whether they are new or not–may lead to change.

I’m going to add a few more links to add to the discussion.

Reuters: Senator seeks review of Patriot Act amid surveillance report

Bob Cesca: NSA Bombshell Story Falling Apart Under Scrutiny; Key Facts Turning Out to Be Inaccurate

ZDNet: The real story in the NSA scandal is the collapse of journalism

Rayne at Emptywheel: Truck-sized Holes: Journalists Challenged by Technology Blindness

Reuters: Government likely to open criminal probe into NSA leaks: officials

Tim Shorrock: Who’s helping the NSA? A Look at Palantir

What are you hearing and reading? What do you think?