- New York Times: Herman Cain is a Candidate Writing His Own Campaign Rules
Running for president? Nah. Herman Cain has decided he'd rather go on a book tour. Much like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, Cain appears to view running for the Republican nomination as a cheap method of getting national press.
- MSNBC: Secret panel can put Americans on “kill list”
- New York Times: Farmers Strain to Hire American Workers in Place of Migrant Labor
It turns out that if you don't hire immigrants then Americans will not, in fact, do the work. That's the experience of one Colorado farmer, who raised his wages to $10.50/hour. Only 2/3 as many people showed up as he normally gets, and most of them quit within the day. The work is just too hard. I don't want to harvest onions. Do you?
- NPR: Florida Bill Could Muzzle Doctors On Gun Safety
An NRA-written bill has passed the Florida legislature, and is likely to be signed by the governor, that will make it illegal for doctors to advise patients on gun safety. (Pediatricians frequently advise new parents on how to store firearms safely, and doctors concerned about teenagers' mental health want to make sure they're not a danger to themselves or others.) Every time I think about joining the NRA, they remind me that they are wretched human beings.
- Boing Boing: Portable Pepper Mill
I like Boing Boing a lot, I really do. I tire of Cory Doctorow writing about Cory Doctorow—nearly everything he writes—and I even subscribe via a Yahoo Pipe that removes anything containing the word "steampunk," but easily 10% of the posts are pure gold. But their "Cool Tools" section has gotten totally ridiculous. Exhibit A is this post, where the unnamed author says that she would "never go anywhere without [her] portable pepper mill," and then pimps the Vic Firth Pump and Grind Pepper Mill, complete with Amazon referral link. Which raises such questions as a) She really doesn't go to many places, does she? b) Aren't all pepper mills portable? and c) When did she become such an asshole?
- The Guardian: Osama bin Laden death—The conspiracy theories
Here's what the crazies think. A Fox News anchor says that Obama is lying about Bin Laden's death to get reelected. Glenn Beck says Bin Laden is alive, as a captive, being interrogated about where he's hiding his secret nuclear bomb. Conservative radio host Alex Jones says that Bin Laden was killed nine years ago, but was kept frozen until such as time as it would be convenient to claim that he'd just been killed.
- Bacon’s Rebellion: Why, Bob, Why?
Peter Galuszka contrasts Bob McDonnell's cutting $0.4M in funding for public broadcasting from the state budget and giving $3.5M to Steven Spielberg to make a movie. Not only is cutting funding for public broadcasting an economically unsound decision (that's how schools get some of their educational materials, which they'll now have to pay for to get from elsewhere), but giving 775% more to a private film production company a few days later is deeply hypocritical.
- New York Times: A Tipping Point for Gay Marriage?
With the government unable to muster a legally defensible argument against gay marriage, it's amazing that the House of Representatives went ahead and hired their own private law firm to carry on the right. But it's more amazing still that the law firm dropped the case, finding the Republican majority's position impractical to defend. This looks like the beginning of the end of anti-gay discrimination. My children will almost certainly not know a world in which marriage is only for opposite-sex couples.
- Salon.com: "USA! USA!" is the wrong response
I'm glad to see that others share my discomfort with some of the reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden. "In the years since 9/11, we have begun vaguely mimicking those we say we despise, sometimes celebrating bloodshed against those we see as Bad Guys just as vigorously as our enemies celebrate bloodshed against innocent Americans they (wrongly) deem as Bad Guys."
- The Independent: Bush rejects Taliban offer to surrender bin Laden
Remember when the Taliban offered to hand over Osama bin Laden to the U.S., the President Bush rejected the offer? That was in October 2001, a week after we started bombing. Bush's response? "When I said no negotiations I meant no negotiations."
- The Washington Post: How the U.S., on the road to surplus, detoured to massive debt
In case you've forgotten how we went from record surpluses to record deficits in a decade (hint: you have), the Post recounts the story of how President Bush blew President Clinton's carefully crafted budget by going on the largest-ever tax-cutting spree, recklessly distributing our nation's wealth to the nation's wealthiest.
- Wall Street Journal: Jobless claims
The WSJ put a sparkline in a tweet. *swoon*
- Letters of Note: On bureaucratese and gobbledygook
This is a delightful memo sent by Civil Aeronautics Board chairman Alfred E. Kahn to the organization's top staff in 1977, begging them to please stop writing in "bureaucratese," and to instead use "straightforward, quasi-conversational, humane prose." He provides some specific examples that still apply nicely today.
- Wikipedia: List of Guantanamo Bay detainees accused of possessing Casio watches
Just what it says on the tin. (I think I have a Casio in a drawer somewhere. Don't tell the feds.)
- Ezra Grant: Jon Kyl Deletes His Lie From Congressional Record
Here's an insufficiently known fact: the congressional record reflects what legislators wish they'd said, not what they actually said. So if somebody says something stupid—like Sen. Kyl claiming that "abortion [is] well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does" (it's actually 3%)—then they can just have that remark edited out. Once audio transcription improves a bit more, I'm looking forward to somebody (Carl Malamud, I suspect) creating the unofficial—yet more official—congressional record.
- New York Times: A Satisfied Customer, but 50 Times Over?
Lucas Fayne is a very, very satisfied customer. On over fifty businesses’ websites, he praises the quality of their work. In fifty different cities. For fifty different home improvement projects. For fifty different homes. What's the story here?
You’ll remember the name Abu Zubaida. That’s the guy President Bush bragged about capturing back in 2002, describing him as “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations.” Zubaida denied it, saying that he had nothing to do with al-Qaeda. So we held him at a CIA black operations site and tortured him in order to get him to give up the location of Osama bin Laden. We waterboarded him 83 times and brought him to the edge of death on four occasions. And now it turns out—oops!—that he’s not “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations.” He’s just some dude, a Pakastani guy with nothing to do with al-Qaeda, just a fixer for radical Muslim tourists. Where is he now? Guantanamo. The man has broken no laws, committed no act of war, and there has never been any evidence against him…and yet we’ve held him for seven years, with no apparent plan to release him.
What ever happened to that “shining city on a hill”?
A 21-year-old was just released from Guantanamo after being arrested at the age of fourteen for allegedly associating with al-Qaeda at the age of eleven. There was zero evidence of any such thing, hence his release. So we wrongly imprisoned a child for seven years, raised him in a prison, and set him free in Chad where his well-justified hatred for the United States can take form. Good job, War on Terror™!
Prisoners released from Guantanamo have a recidivism rate five times lower than American prisoners. That’s based on comparing the Defense Department’s 14% rate with the DOJ’s general recidivism stats. Those 14% are merely suspected of planning crimes, so I’ve compared them to the 67.5% of released American prisoners who are arrested. So either these suspected terrorists are better human beings than the average U.S. prisoner or they’re five times more likely to be innocent.
Bob McDonnell says he opposes transferring Guantanamo Bay prisoners into any Virginia facilities. For the record, I’d be perfectly happy to have them in Virginia. Hell, I’d be happy to have them right here in Albemarle County, in any place that’s appropriate for a prison facility of that size.
McDonnell describes these guys as “some of the most dangerous men in the world,” but I call bullshit. Though some small fraction of these guys might be dangerous in the abstract—you probably wouldn’t want them on the loose around a bunch of allies with access to weapons—most of that subset is surely significantly less dangerous than some of the violent felons in our most secure facilities. We’re holding a bunch of these guys because it’s not safe for them to send them home, but no other country wants them. Others are pussycats who despise the U.S. and would love to see it violently overthrown. If I’ve got a choice between living near a prison that houses guys who rip off old ladies faces and wear them like ski masks and some dude being held because this other guy who once knew his old roommate says that he once worked as a driver for a guy who knew Osama bin Laden, I know which one I’ll pick.
For a guy who says he supports creating jobs in Virginia, McDonnell sure isn’t doing much for the employment of prison guards or construction workers.
The Bush administration has admitted that they can’t prosecute “the 20th hijacker” because they tortured him. Why can’t they torture him? Because that’s outside of their own claimed standards. It’s amazing—Bush set up his own special courts, his own prosecutors, his own prisons, his own legal system just for convicting supposed terrorists—the whole damned system is rigged—and he still can’t manage to bag this claimed baddie. It’s just pathetic.