Thursday, April 17, 2014

Schadenfreude

Edward Snowden got tired of the lack of attention and decided to shove his foot deeper in his throat:

NSA leaker Edward Snowden put a direct question to Vladimir Putin during a live televised question-and-answer session Thursday, asking Russia's president about Moscow's use of mass surveillance on its citizens.

Speaking via a video link, Snowden asked: "I've seen little public discussion of Russia's own involvement in the policies of mass surveillance, so I'd like to ask you: Does Russia intercept, store or analyze, in any way, the communications of millions of individuals?"

Needless to say, this entire episode appears to have been orchestrated by Vladdy:

"Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law so...you have to get a court permission to stalk that particular person.

"We don't have as much money as they have in the States and we don't have these technical devices that they have in the States. Our special services, thank God, are strictly controlled by society and the law and regulated by the law."

Excuse me a sec. I feel a sneeze coming on…..AhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhBULLSHI!

There, that’s better.

Putin’s former employer, the KGB, practically invented the surveillance state and made it an art form. Who the hell does he think he’s kidding?

Watching Edward Snowden genuflect to a world leader is, however, a very tasty morsel of vengeance, to be sure. Any credibility he may have had in the debate over surveillance and domestic intelligence has likely been spent.

Look, there is no doubt that the Snowden story was the story of 2013. Even the Pulitzer Committee has admitted as much. It finally got people, both in and out of power, to focus on what we on the far left have been complaining about for ten years: that privacy isn’t a gift, that we have to maintain vigilance, and that the contract between government and the governed is a fragile thing when we abdicate our responsibility to pay attention.

That it took a vole-ish little wisp of a man to focus lights on the problem speaks poorly about our democracy. That he now defends Vladimir Putin speaks poorly of him.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In A Shock To No One...

…Joe Biden got out in front of the White House and shamed them into a policy change:

Vice President Joe Biden really did get ahead of President Barack Obama on accepting gay marriage in 2012 — and the White House really wasn’t happy about it, despite their many attempts to claim otherwise.

That’s the story laid out in Jo Becker’s new book, “Forcing the Spring,” which documents the past few years of successful efforts to expand the legalization of gay marriage, according to an advance copy obtained by POLITICO.

Speculation that Biden’s comments on “Meet the Press” in May 2012 were meant as a trial balloon, Becker writes, came from people “not privy to the chaos that erupted inside the West Wing after an emailed transcript of the interview landed in the inbox of the White House press team.” A furious Valerie Jarrett, Becker adds, accused Biden of “downright disloyalty.”

It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Barack Obama, already four tempestuous years into an administration boxed in by Republicans from committing to any legislative achievements, and his staff spent many long nights arguing back and forth about this particular issue, engaged in a deep political calculus of offending moderates while shoring up his liberal wing.

It’s also not hard to imagine Joe Biden becoming frustrated at the inaction and taking a “shit or get off the pot” position with the President.

It’s also not hard to imagine President Obama giving him the ok to go ahead and take the lead on the issue. Valerie Jarrett may simply have been kept in the dark in order to make the kabuki more believable.

We on the far left can argue endlessly about how this was an issue of “do the right thing” and shouldn’t even have been a question of if, but of when. But we on the far left also have to admit there are some things the nation is ready for (same sex marriage) and some things it is not (single payer healthcare) and that there’s a lot of work we have left to do to move the nation into a position more accepting of our sensible policies.

So…let’s get to it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Purple Wedding of Geo-Politics

Sorry if you don’t watch Game of Thrones on Sunday nights, you might not get the title reference. Suffice it to say, without giving a spoiler alert, that there’s vengeance and there’s payback.

Vengeance is when someone who has harmed you gets his or her comeuppance, and while you get to sit back and enjoy the schadenfreude, you really don’t get to revel in it. Payback is when you get to plot and plan the comeuppance, and you can fully indulge your enjoyment. The Purple Wedding was a case of vengeance, in which most of the audience (both in the TeeVeeland and at the wedding of King Joffrey) were simultaneously horrified and gratified by the events.

Likewise, the Purple Wedding of Geopolitics is unwinding in front of our eyes. It explains precisely why President Obama doesn’t have to lift a finger (and why every President after Kennedy could have truly ignored the Soviet threat).

It’s called “economics”:

Russia is at increasing risk of a full-blown financial crisis as the West tightens sanctions and Russian meddling in Ukraine pushes the region towards conflagration.

The country’s private companies have been shut out of global capital markets almost entirely since the crisis erupted, causing a serious credit crunch and raising concerns that firms may not be able to refinace debt without Russian state support.

“No Eurobonds have been rolled over for six weeks. This cannot continue for long and is becoming a massive issue,” said an official from a major Russian bank. “Companies have to roll over $10bn a month and nothing is moving. The markets have been remarkably relaxed about this, given how dangerous it is. Russia’s greatest vulnerability is the bond market,” he said.

The Russian economy is, for all intents and purposes, a one-trick pony: oil and gas control economic growth. When prices are high, Russia is powerful. When prices drop, Russia is hobbled.

This is partly why President Obama has been carefully dancing around the Keystone XL pipeline. An increased flow of US and Canadian oil would defang Putin long-term. (For the record, I oppose XL, always will, because I think a short-term justification like this is not worth the price)

The Ukraine crisis is also tied into the Russian economy – as all aggression is – since Ukraine has ports.

This is also why President Obama put in place sanctions that the EU has little choice but to emulate. Among those sanctions was a cut-off of the assets of Bank Rossiya, which is deeply involved in the Russian oil industry.

In effect, Obama has choked off Russia’s economy just as it needs a long draught from her chalice.

 

 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Y’know that post I made earlier this week about “freedoooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmm”? Not so fasty. I’ve decided to accept an offer to extend my tenure in the salt mines. The only condition placed on me was to swallow my pride and shut my mouth. The carrot dangling before me was too irresistible.

2) Moving on, apparently Obamacare has death paneled Kathleen Sebelius’ Cabinet position

3) Scott Brown will announce his candidacy for the New Hampshire senate seat. His carpetbag is woven from the finest chest-hairs and staples shut.

4) Yes, it’s official: “Truthiness” is a promotion strategy.

5) Here’s the thing: If you’re a married Congressman going to bang a married staffer (and major campaign contributor), get a motel room.

6) Inflation is back. Annualize that, and it’s 6%

7) This is good news for the sex toy industry!

8) I’ve avoided commenting on the Oscar Pistorius trial because, well, it’s a tragedy no matter what happened. But it seems more and more likely that he murdered her, as opposed to accidentally killing her. It’s just a matter of whether he planned it or not. I think not.

9) I have to wonder if the past year of revelations of Pope Francis’ modern attitudes towards the church was all a planned dance leading to this.

10) Finally, Four Blood Moons. This is supposed to portend the Apocalypse.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Imagine If He Had a Gun

That stabber yesterday in Pennsylvania

After a 16-year-old allegedly went on a 5-minute stabbing spree at a Pennsylvia[sic] high school, hurting nearly two dozen people, stories of heroism amid the chaos are coming to light.

The school’s assistant principal is credited with tackling the attacker, ending the bloody Wednesday morning rampage at Franklin Regional Senior High School in Murrsyville [sic], Penn., about 18 miles west of Pittsburgh.

In five minutes, he went running down the halls, stabbing at random, and injured 20 people – but didn’t kill a single one. Because the assailant had only a knife, rather than cower behind barricades or behind doors, another student, along with the assistant principal (who likely would have chased a gunman down as well because, you know, it’s sadly part of his job), grabbed the attacker and quickly disarmed and immobilized him for the police.

Quick, over, and while too many people got hurt, many of those likely were hurt in the mass confusion trying to flee the scene, rather than by actual stab wounds (official estimates have not been made, but the fact that four students were critically injured and one might still die, we can assume at least that many stabbing victims.)

It would be irresponsible to speculate on the whys and wherefores here, altho a picture is being drawn of a student who was victimized by bullies, and who may have had some emotional problems to begin with.

Of course, “irresponsible” is the middle name of conservatives