Thursday, August 30, 2007

The City of God Against teh Dumbasses

By the Nine Pound Hammer of Granthar, my eyes hurt after reading VDare for just a few minutes. But it was worth it to mine this priceless nugget of Right Wing hate splooge masquerading as a thoughtful and considered piece on the nature of St. Augustine's ponderous The City of God and why August of Hippo correctly surmises that God wants you to pick up a gun and go stand at the border.

The best part is that this apparently the "Christmas Message" from one of their authors, the improbably named Chilton Williamson Jr.

Here's yer nut grafs, though. Remember wireheads, we are professional crank watchers on a closed course, do not attempt these stunts yourself...
As I wrote in The Immigration Mystique, “The Western nations, degenerate as they have become, continue to represent systems of relative order in a world that succumbs a little more each day to radical disorder. Can the salvation of man arise from chaos?”

Consider this final extract from The City Of God:
While the Heavenly City…is on a pilgrimage in this world, she calls out citizens from all nations and so collects a society of aliens, speaking all languages. She takes no account of any differences in customs, laws, and institutions, by which earthly peace is achieved and preserved - not that she annuls or abolishes any of these, rather she maintains them (for whatever divergences there are among the diverse nations, those institutions have one aim - earthly peace), provided that no hindrance is presented thereby to the religion which teaches that the one and true God is to be worshipped.( Book XIX, Chapter 17)
At first glance, Augustine might be read as advocating here the creation of the First Universal Nation comprising “a society of nations, speaking all languages.”

A closer reading shows, however, that the “citizens” are called “out” in a spiritual rather than a physical sense. They are “called out,” not from within the boundaries of their earthly nations to create a supernation in some other part of the world, but from the confinements of their spiritual ignorance and sin, to bear witness to the God Who Is Truth in their own lands.

As John Vinson points out in a letter in the February 2002 number of Chronicles, “Jesus told His followers to go to all nations, not to invite all nations.”
Okay... put down the Cliff Notes and step away from the paint soaked rag, you've done quite enough for one day, Mr. Williamson Jr.

Can you now just smell the foetid stench of self-righteous ethnocentrism and sanctimonious piety just rolling off this clown in a pale green mist?

This kind of intellectual dishonesty is what's being passed around for academic rigor on the right to make their agitprop with? That last example he pulls out is really reaching for it. He had to chemically reduce those words to their component molecules and reassemble them in the holodeck to make it look like something familiar.

This is like finding out your beautiful new skyscraper, a gleaming, steel and glass monument to the future is actually made from cheap brittle Pig Iron, and would probably crumble to dust if someone came by and kicked it hard enough...

I need to wash now...

mojo sends

When You Owe The Bank Of China Eleventy Zillion Dollars...

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that Calls Grow for Foreigners to Have a Say on U.S. Market Rules.
Politicians, regulators and financial specialists outside the United States are seeking a role in the oversight of American markets, banks and rating agencies after recent problems related to subprime mortgages.

Their argument is simple: The United States is exporting financial products, but losses to investors in other countries suggest that American regulators are not properly monitoring the products or alerting investors to the risks.

“We need an international approach, and the United States needs to be part of it,” said Peter Bofinger, a member of the German government’s economics advisory board and a professor at the University of W├╝rzburg.

While regulators in the United States have not been receptive to the idea in the past, analysts said that Europe and Asia had more leverage now. Washington might have to yield if it wants to succeed in imposing bilateral regulations on government-owned investment funds from emerging economies.

“America depends on the rest of the world to finance its debt,” Mr. Bofinger said. “If our institutions stopped buying their financial products, it would hurt.”
[...]
It couldn't happen to a more deserving collection of incompetent, greedy, egotistical deadbeats.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Warning: Education Policy Wonkery. Approach with caution!

NCLB update:

A dicusscion draft has emerged from the Ed committee laying out some of the changes that are under discussion in the NCLB re authorization. I wanted to point out a few interesting highlights:

Multiple Indicators/Assessments -
a step away from the time and motion approach of a single measure to a more modern and useful approach.
Growth Models -
A common and legitimate critique of NCLB's approach has been that schools who make real progress but don't quite meet the AYP are labeled as failures, even though they are moving in the right direction. This has the benefit of improving the measuring and denying critics of a club to beat the law with.

N size and Confidence Intervals.
manipulation of the N size, the minimum number of students each subgroup, (African American, Latino, Economically disadvantaged, etc) that the school must have to have it tracked and made accountable for, is one of the little tricks some states engage in to avoid getting dinged on AYP. It's nice to see this obvious problem is being addressed. The same for setting confidence interval standards where a similar game is played.

This one in particular I think is going to really start a brawl so I'll include it entirely:
Graduation Rates – Makes improving graduation rates a priority by:
• Graduation Rate definition:
Sets a single definition of graduation rate to be used across states. The rate includes the option for a 4 or 5 year rate.
• Graduation Rates AYP:
Ensures real accountability for graduation rates by requiring disaggregation of data and by requiring a rigorous, but reasonable, rate of growth that all schools must meet to make AYP. States will either require schools to meet an average growth target of 2.5 percentage points per year to make AYP (3 percentage points if a 5 year rate is used) or may develop an alternate system that is equally rigorous and results in closing the achievement gap between subgroups by 2019-2020.
• Credit for Meeting Full Graduation Rate Requirements:
If schools meet the full state growth target for specific groups of students, it can get credit of up to 15% of their AMO in determining AYP for that group. Creates a single measure for reporting and requires high schools to meet benchmarks for increasing graduation rates with an end goal of a 90% rate. Requires disaggregation of graduation rate data. Allows students who graduate in 5 years to count towards the school’s definition of graduation rate
.


The trick here is to cook up a system that can actually provide a useful number on grad rates. Tracking students in a society that is so mobile in a public school system that is so decentralized and data collection averse is going to be a hefty challenge. Props to them if they can pull this off.

There's plenty more, including some changes in the intervention piece for schools that don't make AYP so go take a look if you have an interest. This is the preliminary round, so the brawl is just beginning. But so far I like what I see. What we don't see here because it's beyond the scope of a law like NCLB is the teacher quality piece, which would require a hard look at the teacher training and recruitment process, and that means getting into the higher education side, a lobby that makes the teacher unions look tame by comparison. I'm working on a piece on that side as well I'll throw up in a week or so to explore those issues.

The politics on this NCLB re authorization are going to be complicated. A law authored by liberals, built on the previous reforms of a Democratic President, pushed forward and supported by a reviled GOP President, loathed by conservatives and their arch foes, the teacher unions. That's quite a stew that cuts across typical lines of political allegiance.

Political Science geeks, fire up your models, this one will be fascinating to watch.

Monday, August 27, 2007

If You Want To End The War And Stuff... You Gotta Sing Loud.

Atrios is doing the right thing here, here and here, banging the drum to raise funds to send a specific message that capitulating to the neocon line about the war in Iraq is no way for their opponents to win friends and get elected to office.

President Bush is coming to the 8th Congressional district to squid for Dave Reichart (R-Rubberbandland), and he's expected to raise over $100k from the typical inbred cabal of decadent GOP elite greedheads. Reichart is a huge idiot for the They'reComingToMakeOurWimminChattelWearBurkasAndPrayToHeathenGods theory of American foreign policy. Atrios is urging his readers to help out the Darcy Burner campaign by matching the fundraising effort the netroots way— they pull a knife, you pull a gun; they put one of yours in the hospital, you send one of theirs to the morgue. He's right about this: if fourteen months out from the election, the netroots can raise $100k for a Congressional race because the DirtyFuckingHippies™ got agitated enough, then it will matter a metric shizzleload more than putting two million feet on the ground in twenty-seven cities for a series of impromptu parades. This kind of mobilization, the Congress cannot fail to recognize.

Please, consider ponying up some cash to help end the war. Whatever her other faults, she's making all the right sounds about the war in Iraq and related issues. Last I checked, the total raised so far is over $80k, and it's rising rapidly. If they meet this goal, you can bet safe money that it will shift the balance in other contested races around the country.



This is how the game is played, people. Suit the hell up, and get into it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Economic Doom

I've been warning for years now that the U.S. economy is on the verge of a major recession, and that the longer we continue without seeing a correction, the worse it will be. I've been saying this since about the time it became clear that our recovery from the recession caused by the 2001 stock market correction [and the malaise experienced in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks] would be led by an inflation of housing asset prices and a continuation of the egregiously irresponsible "twin" deficits, i.e. the U.S. government budget deficit and the U.S. trade deficit. This, it seemed to me, was the inevitable outcome of American imperial overreach in its so-called Global War On Terror long after the end of the Cold War.

Admittedly, I thought sanity could not fail to emerge and the recession would arrive sooner. I predicted more than once that it would probably be here by this time already. I was surprised and dismayed when my predictions failed, because I had always delivered them with the contingency that a downturn was impossible to avoid in the long run, and the only real question was when the downturn would arrive.

I suppose I was too hopeful that we might avoid a hard landing by taking less painful preventative steps before it was too late. Serves me right for overestimating the competence of American financial managers.

Now, it appears that a hard landing may be unavoidable. Here's the [reliably bearish] economist Nouriel Roubini delivering a technical explanation of this bad news:
The Fed finally acknowledged today the risk of a serious US economic slowdown given the current financial and credit markets turmoil. [...]

The statement was very clear in signaling an easing bias and a policy cut ahead: “Financial market conditions have deteriorated, and tighter credit conditions and increased uncertainty have the potential to restrain economic growth forward." The statement also pointed that "the downside risks to growth have increased appreciably". And it clearly signaled that the FOMC is "prepared to act as needed to mitigate the adverse effects on the economy arising from the disruptions in financial markets."

[...] For the first time in over a year the Fed is now implicitly admitting that they underestimated the downside growth risk: until now the official Fed view was that the housing recession was contained and bottoming out and not spilling over to other sectors of the economy; and that the sub-prime problems were also a niche and contained problem. The sudden shift to a strong easing bias suggests that the Fed miscalculated until now the damage to the economy and to financial markets of the housing recession and its real and financial spillovers.
[...]
While you're glugging down that bit of dismal analysis, be sure to check out Brad Setser on the topic of WTF is really going on here:
John Cassidy is right. The leading US export to China is high-quality housing debt.

The toxic waste generally went elsewhere – thought there are now hints that China (perhaps the state banks) may have bought a few triple AAA rated CDOs composed of the tranches of subprime-mortgage backed securities. We just don’t quite know much of this ended in China -- or where the rest went. Elsewhere in Asia? Europe? US hedge funds? US money market funds?

But we do know that China provided – through its purchase of Agency bonds and other mortgage-backed securities – an awful lot of credit to American households over the past two years.

Consider the period from the end of June 2005 to the end of June 2006.

During that period, the US sold – according to the BEA -- $48b of goods to China.

That total was dwarfed by the $83.5b of Agencies and $22.5b of long-term corporate bonds that China bought. “Corporate” debt includes mortgage-backed securities that do not have an Agency guarantee – and China is widely thought to have been a big buyer of these securities. Combine Chinese Agency and corporate bond purchases together, and it is not all together out of the question that China bought $100b of US housing debt between mid-2005 and mid-2006. Most of this was the still-good stuff, not subprime.
Be sure to check out his pretty graphs. They show some revealing trends in the Chinese posture, and none of them are particularly healthy for anybody's sense of rugged individualism and economic freedom.

Here's how Mr. Setser concludes:
In some deep sense, this whole system is nuts.

China is a poor country. It is buying this debt on terms that almost guarantee enormous financial losses for Chinese taxpayers simply from the RMB's appreciation against the dollar.

Plus, Chinese demand for safe assets – and the resulting low-yields on those assets – also helped to induce a lot of the excesses that are now clogging up the arteries of the US financial system. At the same time, if China stopped buying -- especially now, when the private market is clogged up -- US financial markets would really seize up.

The US is in a position where it has no realistic alternative to ongoing financing from China -- at least in the short-run. In the long-run, though, I continue to believe that the scale of China's dependence on the US to provide financial assets that will retain their value and the United States dependence on credit from China is unhealthy for both parties.
It's often said: When you owe the bank ten thousand dollars and you can't pay, it's a big problem for you; when you owe the bank ten million dollars and you can't pay, it's a big problem for the bank.

Alas, when you owe the bank ten trillion dollars and you can't pay, it's a big problem for everybody.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Has Family Security Matters Been Scrubbed?

It would seem so, after Left Blogovia (including the the mojowire) got a hold of the utter asshattery spun by one David Atkinson about the need for an Imperium Americana enforced by nuclear weapons and American colonists, all trace of the said asshat were sanitized from the FamSecMat site... now, it would appear the FamSecMat site itself has been scrubbed...

Go to Family Security Matters website, all you get is a footer for Register.com and the following error message
Error executing query: select asset_url from site_content where content_type='topheader'
Message was: Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/tmp/mysql.sock' (2)
So I'm not sure what to make of it all...

Looking at the the alleged umbrella group under which FamSecMat exists, or existed, Center for Security Policy, there is no mention of it in any space. You would have to do a site search on "Family Security Matters" and even then results look like someone doing a hasty clean up of crime scene...

mojo sends

p.s.: S9, I think you are absolutely correct. The only thing Atkinson did wrong was go public with revolution a little prematurely...

[Update 1.0] Apparently I spoke too soon. FamSecMat is alive and well and as batshit crazy as ever...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Alea iacta est!

"Where further do you march? Where do you take my standards, warriors?"
Patraeus Iraqius

News Story:
"Administration and military officials acknowledge that the September report will not show any significant progress on the political benchmarks laid out by Congress. How to deal in the report with the lack of national reconciliation between Iraq's warring sects has created some tension within the White House.

Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government."
You simply cannot go wrong betting on venality and mendacity with this administration; and they certainly learned their lesson with the ISG, why let wild cards like the people on the ground write your reports, when there are more than enough flying monkeys roaming around the White House who can do it for you...hell, the only thing they need Legatus Legionis Patraeus Iraqius for is the photo-op, or possibly to space out the airlock when it becomes politically necessary...

They did the same thing with David Kay's Iraq Survey Group, remember? When it became clear that Dr. Kay was not going to appear in a victorious flash before Congress with an armful of Iraqi chemical weapons or plutonium, the administration started with "well, this is just preliminary..."

I think we've already seen some of the push back starting on this, when last month some of the flying monkey brigade started with the "well, September will just be a snap shot in time, and the real report will come ... oh ... I dunno ... November? December?"

And to add to the horror, we are now learning that Patreus Iraqius will present himself before the Imperial Senate on 9/11...

Outstanding... You know, I don't believe we're thinking big enough here.

Perhaps he can get Lee Greenwood to warm up the room with "I'm Proud to be an American," get the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders to do an interpretive dance version of his testimony, perhaps move the whole hearing to Ground Zero, and put it on pay-per-view with an under card of Alberto "Sparky G." Gonzalez versus the Mexican Mummy, or Vice President Big Time in a steel cage rusty spoon grudge match with the ghost of Franklin Roosevelt...

I can see no down side!

mojo sends

Friday, August 17, 2007

Where's "there?"

Mojo has a problem...

Many of you wireheads might remember me continuously asking a while back "are we there yet?" as a way of asking whether the waveform of the Republic has finally crashed for good, and we are now in a permanent one-party police state or are we just suffering a proverbial bump in the road?

Being painfully honest, here... I don't know.

I mean, when I hear news stories about Homeland Security recruiting clergy to keep peace in event of martial law combined with the fact that the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 will effectively be rescinded by section 1076 of the John Warner Defense Appropriation Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (H.R. 5122.ENR), when it takes effect October 17, 2007; or the Minutemen sending around snuff films of gunning down migrant workers at the border and all their forums bulging with talk of Civil War and "going after the traitors" (that's us, by the way)...

you tell me... what am I supposed to think is going on?

S9 blogged the other day about a radical right think tank with close ties to Vice President Big Time openly splooging their love of violent fascist world conquest, while alternately exposing their hatred of all that America is supposed to stand for...

Once upon a time, as I noted the other day, we would have had a good laugh at these asshats' entry in High Weirdness, secure in the knowledge that they couldn't possibly aspire to real power... but that now seems like long, long ago.

It is troubling on a really personal level... I don't know what comes next, but I can guess, and it does not make me happy...


mojo sends

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What the hell is he talking about?

Bill Richardson needs to be a bit more clear:

Richardson proposed an extended school year, a longer school day and a complete repeal of President Bush's No Child Left Behind plan. He also pledged to seek a federal minimum wage of $40,000 for teachers. The average first-year teacher earned $31,753 in 2004-2005, according to the American Federation of Teachers' most recent survey


Ummm...Mr. Bill, I have a bottomless well of contempt for this President and his legislative "accomplishments" to date, so I think I have some street cred when I tell you this is moronic, ignorant pandering. Why, you ask? Well Bill, NCLB is just a fnorking name. We used to call this law ESEA, and it is the core element of the Federal Governments role in public education, not to mention one of the crown jewels of the civil rights legislation that came out of the 1960's. If you actually know anything about NCLB, the civil rights component is glaringly obvious. Most notably the requirment to break down scores by race to prevent schools from hiding the terrible scores of African American and Latino students. An issue that would otherwise be obscured through creative management of statistics.

Public education reform is being labeled a Bush initiative because it helps the cause of anti-reform elements like NEA to link it to the Dufus-in-Chief. For those of us who support a strong federal presence in public education to move us out of this hole we've dug for ouselves in public education, it represents a strategic victory in the sense it actually imposes standards, accurate reporting, and some sort of stick to force change in underperforming schools. It certainly could and should be better. But it was the best that could be obtained at the time. The reauthorization process underway should be where that happens.

Conservatives hate NCLB. Which should come as no surprise since they hated ESEA and the entire constellation of civil rights laws that came out of that legislative era. Memo to braindead liberals, you actually support this. Please bone the fnork up on this topic, it's really pissing me off to have to constantly explain it to you.

Mark Kleiman offered an actual cogent critique of NCLB I more or less agree with:
Supporters of NCLB think it puts pressure on schools to actually teach somebody something, and especially to stop failing poor and otherwise disadvantaged kids. Critics focus on the problems: the tests measure to narrow a spectrum of capacities, measure them too infrequently, measure them badly, measure them in ways that aren't robust to "teaching the test," and lead to a soul-deadening rote-learning atmosphere not only in the failing schools where it may be better than the aimless chaos it replaced but also in schools whose demographics ought to make them aspire to do better. I'm definitely on the critical side, but the supporters certainly have a point that the system that NCLB challenged was failing badly and not obviously getting better.
But note that the (non-Luddite) critique of NCLB is precisely that it uses an Industrial Age model of what it means to manage by measurement. The spirit of NCLB is the spirit of Taylorite "scientific management," with time-and-motion experts finding the One Best Way of doing each task, workers treated as interchangeable parts whose only role is to do their job the One Best Way and never think about it (think: Open Court), and quality assurance done by inspecting each part as it comes off the line by comparison with a set of rigid yes-or-no criteria and then counting the number of failing parts. It's as if W. Edwards Deming had never invented statistical QA and Douglas McGregor had never adapted the Maslovian needs hierarchy into the Theory Y approach to encouraging good, creative performance by employees.


My point in bringing this to your attention is to highlight that Kleiman doesn't question the reach or scope of NCLB, or it's intrusive powers to compel state and local action. Rather, he advocates a level of intervention that far surpasses anything NCLB advocates. It's actually constructive, not a defense of the status quo or the usual throwing up the hands in defeat. We need more of this sort of critique.

So would the Democratic candidates for the nomination please get a grip on this issue, and not run around and advocate the repeal of civil rights laws so they can stick their lips further up the buttcheeks of status quo stooges who masquerade as educators. There is a whole slew of GOP candidates who will be happy to nuke federal involvement in education, we don't need any more on our side.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Problem Facing Democracy

On your list of rampant stupids— yeah, I know, they're coming so furiously, we're going to need to expand the website to make room for them all— please add one Philip Atkinson, who claims to be a contributing editor at something called Family Security Matters.

I came into the office today, and one of my coworkers immediately started complaining to me about his insomnia. Seems he found the site linked above late last night (it's a propaganda organ of the neoconservative Center for Security Policy), he read it, and got himself good and scared. He couldn't sleep. He says he knew there are people called neoconservatives, and that they're pretty nutty, but not until last night did he really grasp exactly how nutty.

The article he read last night has been vaporized from the original site, but Google still has a cache of it (at least, until the FrogPolice™ order them to sanitize it). I'm reprinting the entire thing here, so it doesn't disappear forever.
Exclusive: Conquering the Drawbacks of Democracy
Philip Atkinson

Author: Philip Atkinson
Source: The Family Security Foundation, Inc.
Date: August 3, 2007

While democratic government is better than dictatorships and theocracies, it has its pitfalls. FSM Contributing Editor Philip Atkinson describes some of the difficulties facing President Bush today.

Conquering the Drawbacks of Democracy

By Philip Atkinson

President George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States. He was sworn in for a second term on January 20, 2005 after being chosen by the majority of citizens in America to be president.

Yet in 2007 he is generally despised, with many citizens of Western civilization expressing contempt for his person and his policies, sentiments which now abound on the Internet. This rage at President Bush is an inevitable result of the system of government demanded by the people, which is Democracy.

The inadequacy of Democracy, rule by the majority, is undeniable – for it demands adopting ideas because they are popular, rather than because they are wise. This means that any man chosen to act as an agent of the people is placed in an invidious position: if he commits folly because it is popular, then he will be held responsible for the inevitable result. If he refuses to commit folly, then he will be detested by most citizens because he is frustrating their demands.

When faced with the possible threat that the Iraqis might be amassing terrible weapons that could be used to slay millions of citizens of Western Civilization, President Bush took the only action prudence demanded and the electorate allowed: he conquered Iraq with an army.

This dangerous and expensive act did destroy the Iraqi regime, but left an American army without any clear purpose in a hostile country and subject to attack. If the Army merely returns to its home, then the threat it ended would simply return.

The wisest course would have been for President Bush to use his nuclear weapons to slaughter Iraqis until they complied with his demands, or until they were all dead. Then there would be little risk or expense and no American army would be left exposed. But if he did this, his cowardly electorate would have instantly ended his term of office, if not his freedom or his life.

The simple truth that modern weapons now mean a nation must practice genocide or commit suicide. Israel provides the perfect example. If the Israelis do not raze Iran, the Iranians will fulfill their boast and wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Yet Israel is not popular, and so is denied permission to defend itself. In the same vein, President Bush cannot do what is necessary for the survival of Americans. He cannot use the nation's powerful weapons. All he can do is try and discover a result that will be popular with Americans.

As there appears to be no sensible result of the invasion of Iraq that will be popular with his countrymen other than retreat, President Bush is reviled; he has become another victim of Democracy.

By elevating popular fancy over truth, Democracy is clearly an enemy of not just truth, but duty and justice, which makes it the worst form of government. President Bush must overcome not just the situation in Iraq, but democratic government.

However, President Bush has a valuable historical example that he could choose to follow.

When the ancient Roman general Julius Caesar was struggling to conquer ancient Gaul, he not only had to defeat the Gauls, but he also had to defeat his political enemies in Rome who would destroy him the moment his tenure as consul (president) ended.

Caesar pacified Gaul by mass slaughter; he then used his successful army to crush all political opposition at home and establish himself as permanent ruler of ancient Rome. This brilliant action not only ended the personal threat to Caesar, but ended the civil chaos that was threatening anarchy in ancient Rome – thus marking the start of the ancient Roman Empire that gave peace and prosperity to the known world.

If President Bush copied Julius Caesar by ordering his army to empty Iraq of Arabs and repopulate the country with Americans, he would achieve immediate results: popularity with his military; enrichment of America by converting an Arabian Iraq into an American Iraq (therefore turning it from a liability to an asset); and boost American prestiege while terrifying American enemies.

He could then follow Caesar's example and use his newfound popularity with the military to wield military power to become the first permanent president of America, and end the civil chaos caused by the continually squabbling Congress and the out-of-control Supreme Court.

President Bush can fail in his duty to himself, his country, and his God, by becoming “ex-president” Bush or he can become “President-for-Life” Bush: the conqueror of Iraq, who brings sense to the Congress and sanity to the Supreme Court. Then who would be able to stop Bush from emulating Augustus Caesar and becoming ruler of the world? For only an America united under one ruler has the power to save humanity from the threat of a new Dark Age wrought by terrorists armed with nuclear weapons.


# #

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Philip Atkinson is the British born founder of ourcivilisation.com and author of A Study of Our Decline. He is a philosopher specializing in issues concerning the preservation of Western civilization. Mr. Atkinson receives mail at <rpa@ourcivilisation.com>.


read full author bio here

© 2003-2007 FamilySecurityMatters.org All Rights Reserved

Given that it was scrubbed from the Family Security Matters site, it's not clear how this artifact should be interpreted. Was their site hacked? Did Mr. Atkinson forget to take his meds before sitting down to write? Did the managing editor have a moment of panic after seeing the reaction to it on various news aggregation sites, and pull it after the fact? Difficult to know for sure what happened (those damned Stalinists can be some tricksy tricksy critters).

One thing seems certain, though— this family fun-time propaganda show run by the neoconservative fruitbats at the Center for Security Policy is a goddamn motherlode of wingnuttery.

You can bet we're going to be bookmarking that sucker. Oh yeah...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Could This Possibly Be Any More Stupid?

Our hero, Max Blumenthal, recently wrote a nice article in The Nation about Stephen Baldwin, the star of some outfit called "Operation Straight Up" (OSU), an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military.
[...]As an official arm of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq. OSU is also scheduled to embark on a "Military Crusade in Iraq" in the near future.

"We feel the forces of heaven have encouraged us to perform multiple crusades that will sweep through this war torn region," OSU declares on its website about its planned trip to Iraq. "We'll hold the only religious crusade of its size in the dangerous land of Iraq."

The Defense Department's Chaplain's Office, which oversees OSU's activities, has not responded to calls seeking comment.
What a surprise. Continuing...
[...]
With the endorsement of the Defense Department, OSU is mailing "Freedom Packages" to soldiers serving in Iraq. These are not your grandfather's care packages, however. Besides pairs of white socks and boxes of baby wipes (included at the apparent suggestion of Iran-Contra felon Oliver North, according to OSU) OSU's care packages contain the controversial Left Behind: Eternal Forces video game. The game is inspired by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' bestselling pulp fiction series about a blood-soaked Battle of Armageddon pitting born-again Christians against anybody who does not adhere to their particular theology. In LaHaye's and Jenkins' books, the non-believers are ultimately condemned to "everlasting punishment" while the evangelicals are "raptured" up to heaven.

The Left Behind videogame is a real-time strategy game that makes players commanders of a virtual evangelical army in a post-apocalyptic landscape that looks strikingly like New York City after 9/11. With tanks, helicopters and a fearsome arsenal of automatic weapons at their disposal, Left Behind players wage a violent war against United Nations-like peacekeepers who, according to LaHaye's interpretation of Revelation, represent the armies of the Antichrist. Each time a Left Behind player kills a UN soldier, their virtual character exclaims, "Praise the Lord!" To win the game, players must kill or convert all the non-believers left behind after the rapture. They also have the option of reversing roles and commanding the forces of the Antichrist. (Video preview here).


The video game is abysmally bad as first-person shooters go, or so my crack sources in the industry tell me, so I'm not sure I'm going to be overly worried about the psychological effect all that "Kill Or Convert" fantasizing going on.

However.

Our friends at Ars Technica may have found another reason to be concerned.
Now, as if the game itself was not controversial enough, it has been discovered that the publishers, Left Behind Games (a publicly traded company, even) have added money-changers to their particular temple. The game comes fully loaded with what some would term built-in spyware, in the form of in-game advertising that tracks the amount of time ads are seen, how often the game is played, and the player's geographical and personal information. It then sends this data back to the advertiser's servers.
Isn't that great? At the bidding of the Pentagon Chaplain, Stephen Baldwin's freakhead friends are distributing a video game to the troops in Iraq that comes bundled with spyware that tracks their personal information, including things like their movements in and out of various parts of the combat theater. Look on the bright side, Drieuxster... it's the Christian taliban tracking the movements of your brothers in the field instead of those idiots in Waziristan doing it.

I'm sure there's no reason to be alarmed. The military is extremely diligent about running bluecoats on all their networks boundaries. Nothing to worry about, right? The contractors hired to build out the military IP networks in Iraq are millions of times more competent at network security than, say, your average high-tech startup... right?

Right?

Be careful what you wish for

Kevin Drum passes on an interesting rumor:

SMEAR WATCH....Muckraker extrordinaire Dan Moldea tells Howard Kurtz that Hillary Clinton is about to be Swift Boated:

"I have it on very, very good authority that major opposition research has already been conducted on Bill Clinton, and it's going to be a massive smear campaign against him," he says. A group of former intelligence officers, he says, is "going to try to cripple Hillary through Bill."

This oughta be good. What do you think the wingnuts can possibly say about Bill Clinton that's worse than the mud they slung while he was in office? I mean, he's already been accused of dealing drugs, fathering out-of-wedlock babies, murdering Vince Foster, murdering Ron Brown, and being a paid agent of the Chinese government, just to name a few. What the hell is left? Secret meetings with Osama on 9/10


Well, if they have tangible evidence of Bill screwing around Post-Monica, that would certainly could derail her candidacy. But if it is the usual stuff, even swift boat level stuff, they might want to rethink this.

The Clintons know this is coming. And no one is better at fighting this battle than they are. If this rumor is true, and their research does not score a knockout blow, the Clinton machine will turn this back on them. The blowback could make the dire situation for the GOP worse. And yes, it could be worse, alot worse. The people in the Clinton campaign are not pussies or Fnorkfaces like Shrum. They have serious game, and they are the kind of mean it takes to win elections.

People in the GOP need to make sure they think this through. They won't of course. I have no inside information. But I suspect strongly that the Hillary Clinton people are not only expecting this, they are counting on it. This is what I've been suggesting since 2004, the Clintons bring out the worst in the GOP, it's a form of political Tourettes. They better be prepared to really bring it, but the Clinton people will, that's for sure.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

MC Rorty Dropped The Bomb

Richard Rorty talk on Anti-terrorism And The National Security State (Potsdam 2004):

Part 1:



Part 2:



R.I.P. Professor Rorty. You are missed.

Quo Vadis

Mojo is unhappy!

Why, you may ask, is Mojo unhappy?

Mojo is unhappy because he is now learning of Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq which expands the President's ability to simply seize property of anyone who publicly disagrees with his Iraq policy.

No, really... it's all right there, go read it. I especially like this part:
"Sec. 4. I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by section 1 of this order.

Sec. 5. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that, because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render these measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1(a) of this order."
Allow me to translate this for you.

If the President or his flying monkeys decide someone is "interfering" with Iraq policy, by perhaps being too loud publicly, then they can, without prior notice or any due process for the accused, freeze their assets and take their stuff.

And if you are unfortunate enough to have been dealing with that person, or perhaps you just gave money to that person or that person's group, then you are also subject to forfeiture.

As a quick aside, I am also highly displeased that I had to learn about this from some arch-paleo-conservative Reagan-administration aparatchik... why is that?!

This goes straight to the heart of what we've been posting for the last couple of weeks, starting with Hebisner asking if Maximum Leader or Big Time are really planning on leaving in Jan. 2009.

These guys ask essentially the same question, framing it in frighting terms; either they are perfectly content to watch the GOP implode right in front of them for another 40 year run on the back bench, or they have something else in mind.

As we have observed again and again, one simply cannont go wrong taking a long position on the venality, mendacity and utter contempt this administration has for the workings of the Republic.

And these guys should know, they worked for Ronald Reagan... so when they say "something is in the wind," that gets me more than a little curious...

The legislative pieces are in place... even that odious little bit in the 2008 Intelligence Authorization bill granting plenary police powers to the protective services of the CIA and NSA is back again...

So I guess we can only say "Quo Vadis?"

mojo sends

Monday, August 06, 2007

Speaking Of Soldiers Just Doing Their Jobs...

Joseph Darby, the guy who blew the whistle on Charles Graner and the others at Abu Gharib, still can't go home. What's the take-home message here? Do your job as an honorable soldier, and get exiled from your hometown, hated by your comrades, and be forced to live in the practical equivalent of disgrace. Hey, at least the fnorking British will listen to your sob story, though— so, it's not a total loss, right?

Now that's getting tough on crime!

Apparently the GOP has a new crime fighting strategy. When faced with the percieved threat of becoming a criminal statistic, don't exercise your god-given right to a firearm, ask the criminal in question to..well...whip it out. From TPM:

You remember a little while back we brought you the story of Florida McCain campaign co-chair, Rep. Bob Allen (R). Right on the heels of Giuliani Southern Regional Chairman David Vitter's exposure as a serial user of prostitutes, Allen got caught in a Titusville park restroom offering to pay an undercover police officer to allow him to perform oral sex on him.

Now it turns out that Allen revealed the true reason for the alleged park-john-offer in a tape recorded statement he made just after his arrest.

"This was a pretty stocky black guy, and there was nothing but other black guys around in the park," said Allen, according to this article in the Orlando Sentinel. Allen went on to say he was afraid of becoming a "statistic."


Umm..I don't think your attempts at an explanation are helping Congressman Allen. Are you seriously suggesting that a washroom full of black men should prompt white christian men to pay them each twenty dollars for the priviledge of giving them a hummer? And that is preferable than being a statistic?

Aside from the not so shocking revelation that Congressman Allen is a profound racist, this has got to be the worst excuse ever given for engaging in some rough trade. Essentially, this argument is, "I'm not gay, I'm just so pathetically racist that the prescence of multiple black men in a public restroom fills me with such fear that I must pay them a twenty and give them head to avoid a beatdown. Or something.

Look the man likes to give fellatio, I'm not down on him for that. (no pun intended)
But why make this embarrasing incident more insanely humiliating by copping to being a racist and, well..I'm not sure how you would label this. It is actually so incredible a response I'm stunned into silence.

I think Congressman Allen is Presidential timber as the current Republican party measures such things. He clearly has a plan to reduce crime, improve race relations and stimulate the economy. That's more than I can say about the other candidates.

What The FISA Vote Really Means...

Most people think the kind of wiretapping the Democrats allowed FISA to be amended to permit without requiring a warrant is international telephone calls with a foreign participant. Most people are wrong.

What's really going on is the eavesdropping on electronic group communications, like email and web forums, where U.S. citizenship is not required for membership, i.e. pretty much all of them. For example, the comment threads here at MojoWire are subject to unwarranted search. If you posted a comment in our threads, then the U.S. government has been empowered to seize the information necessary to identify you, despite any attempts you may have made to keep your identity from being disclosed to your family, friends, employers, etcetera. It doesn't matter that you're a U.S. citizen. It doesn't matter that the editors at MojoWire are all U.S. citizens, and that the blog and the comments forums are all hosted in data centers in the U.S. All your base belong to them.

Why is that? Because at least one of the people who comments semi-regularly at MojoWire does so from an IPv4 address assigned by RIPE, the European Internet registry. We have strong reason to believe he or she might be located outside the United States. Even if that person were to stop posting, it wouldn't matter. Other bloggers use Blogger from outside the U.S. Foreigners use Haloscan to comment on other blog posts. All it takes is one foreign user and the whole system is available for unwarranted search. Legally, thanks to the Democrats in Congress.

Everything Blogger or Haloscan or anyone else has on file about who any of us might be is subject to secret, unwarranted eavesdropping without even the fig leaf of FISA oversight. And that's just an example. It shouldn't be too hard to see how just about everything you say and do on the Internet is subject to unwarranted eavesdropping, and you have no legal protection from abuse or even any recourse to prevent it from happening. Haloscan and Blogger (or Google, or Microsoft or Apple) can be charged with espionage if they disclose to us or you that they've complied with demands for your private information. The private companies that collect and handle the information produced under the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program are not policed in any meaningful way, and they can share their databases secretly or even publicly rent out derivatives with complete impunity.

Put simply, unless you're already using strong cryptography for all your communications, your personal messages not secure against network attacks on their confidentiality, integrity or authenticity. Furthermore, if you are using strong cryptography, then you'd better already have a plausible reason, or you'll match the profile of a terrorist. Maybe you don't mind having no personal privacy in the face of government nosiness. Maybe you don't mind that government eavesdropping operations have been outsourced to corporations run for profit by criminals and thugs. Maybe it doesn't bother you nobody is empowered to keep the secret police from abusing their surveillance power, and that the people most likely to have their privacy invaded and subject to extortion and blackmail are your elected representatives, your union leaders, the political activists who work to expose wrongdoing and corruption, the list goes on and on.

Maybe the abstract concept of personal privacy is frightening and alien to you. If so, then you should be happy. Otherwise... you ought to be pissed off.

Ten years ago, when Internet communications professionals like me were telling you that not using crypto would put you at risk of not having any expectation of electronic privacy in the future, the situation we were warning you about is the one you are now experiencing. Nothing you send on the Internet is private anymore, and if you insist on encrypting it to protect your privacy anyway, then you must be a terrorist. We've been telling you this would happen. It's happened.

Would you like to know what we're warning you about now?— so as to avoid a situation in another ten years that you might not like? Maybe you would.

That's too bad.

I'm not posting it in the clear. If you want to know, then ask me verbally the next time you see me someplace where there aren't likely to be any listening devices.

Maybe you'll figure it out on your own.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

fsck, fsck, fnorkity, fsck!

FSCK!

Thanks for nothing Democrats!

mojo sends

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Was Abu G Outsourcing Big Brother?

Our heroine, R. J. Hillhouse, claims to have an exclusive on this, but I don't see where she's reporting anything unique beyond her own analysis. Maybe that's what she means. In any case, it sounds like good analysis to me.
At the heart of the Constitutional dispute over domestic spying between current Attorney General [Alberto] Gonzales and former Attorney General John Ashcroft is corporate America. Almost all of the government data mining has been outsourced to corporations. The data mining controversy isn’t about the US government spying on Americans. It’s about the government using big corporations as a Constitutional workarounds to spy on Americans. It’s not the government that actually sifts through our emails and phone records but companies such as Lockheed Marin, Raytheon, SAIC and Booz Allen Hamilton and their subcontractors.
[...]
Comrade Joshua and The Mighty Atrios have both written recently about the curious difference in the accounts of Abu G and FBI Director Robert Mueller for what Abu G went to the dread Count Ashcroft's hospital bed to rattle him about. Was it the TerroristSurveillanceProgram™ (whatever that might officially be called)? Or was it "other intelligence activities" that had half the DOJ ready to resign?

Ms. Hillhouse seems to think the nut of this ambiguity is that the real story is about how the major hostility in DOJ was to the outsourcing of the data mining and surveillance operations to private contractors without even the appearance of an oversight process. For my part, I don't have any trouble at all imagining that happening. She says 70% of the intelligence budget is going to pay independent contractors— companies that can potentially use the same tools the government gives them for building target lists and doing traffic pattern analysis on them to serve their own interests and the interests of their private non-government clients. (She doesn't say it, but the question hangs in the air: is the RNC on the client list?)

Now would be a good time to remind our meager audience that the problem with using data mining and traffic pattern analysis to identify potential terrorists is that false positives will statistically outweigh false negatives by several orders of magnitude in frequency. In English, that means they're a waste of money and they're guaranteed to bring many more civil rights abuses than successful thwarts of terrorist efforts. They are, however, reasonably good at giving over-represented and oppressive minorities the tools they need to tip the balance of democracy and retain power they would otherwise lose in a fair and open society.

Draw your own conclusions about what's been going on for the last five to ten years.