Saturday, July 21, 2012

Roundup: The Stupid in the Science

Roundup brings you the best (or the worst, depending on how you look at it) in stupid on the part of governments, elected officials, bureaucrats, police power, and individuals.  To these we now add scientists, because science has been quite busy over the past few decades demolishing any credibility it might have in terms of ethical restraint.

As with any discipline, science is susceptible to the temptation of ideology, in particular the false dichotomy between right and left.  In so many respects, the dichotomy between these extremes is false precisely because their ends justifies the means rationales are so similar.  It's just that the ends are different.  Each and every day in this world, each of us are  tempted by ideology to entertain such rationales in our day to day lives.  Hypotheticals and what ifs are the aid of devils who come to us with smiles, offering us an excuse to budge just a little in the name of preventing a catastrophe that might occur.

Our first selection for today's Roundup comes to us courtesy of the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science of St Barnabas in New Jersey. You see, while most of us have DNA from just two people, the individuals born as a result of the cytoplasmic transfer method pioneered by Professor Jacques Cohen, have DNA from three individuals: their father, their mother, and the egg donor.

Cytoplasmic transfer works as follows: cytoplasm from a donor's egg is injected into the fertilized egg of the mother, but in Cohen's methods, he didn't scrub the cytoplasm of all DNA. He and his team left mitochondrial DNA in the cytoplasm, resulting in the aforementioned three DNA profile for the children they engineered.  Dr. Cohen is no longer at the IRMS, because he now works as the Laboratory Director at the ART Institute of Washington at Walter Reed National Military Hospital.

Here's the kicker: although this method became infamous on June 29 of this year when it was revealed that 30 genetically modified babies had been born as a result of cytoplasmic transfer, with 15 of the children conceived over the past three years in a IRMS fertility program by the embryology team that Dr.  Cohen trained.  Two of the one year old infants conceived through these methods have the genes of three parents, an unprecedented development in terms of human evolution and development.

The implications are unknown, because this has never happened before.  These children will pass genes from three parents on to their own children.  The first baby conceived through cytoplasmic transfer was born in 1997, and four years later, the two children referenced above were found to have had the three parent genetic profile.  Still, cytoplasmic transfer continued up to the present day, even though all of this was known as early as 2001.

And this is just what we do know, and Cohen's own statements do not give confidence in what he might not be disclosing.  Cohen has been quoted in the past as saying that cloning a child would be "an afternoon's work for one of my students," and that he had already been approached by "at least three" people who had requested his services in cloning a child.

But researchers from the IRMS were additionally disclosing the fact that one of the children conceived through cytoplasmic transfer had been diagnosed with "pervasive developmental disorder," a phrase that encompasses a wide range of symptoms from delayed speech development to autism.  They did so in 2001.  That was later changed to autism, and two other children among the original 17 were found to have an abnormal 45, XO karyotype.  In laymen's terms, a chromosomal anomaly, which is significant because the FDA's own finding demonstrate a higher incidence of chromosomal anomalies among children conceived with cytoplasmic transfer than those conceived naturally.

Since the mitochondrial DNA inheritance is changed, and since heteroplasmy in mtDNA is associated with certain diseases, these children could conceivably be carrying a lethal and inheritable mtDNA that could lead to harm to themselves or their future children.  We simply don't know what the possible outcomes might be, because there was no testing or research sufficient to gauge the risk of cytoplasmic research. Dr. Cohen developed the procedure, and then he just did it.  His team of embryologists at IRMS did it as well after he left, and now 30 children that we know of have been conceived and born as result of this procedure, two of whom have been tested and found to have inheritable mtDNA irregularities as a result of their having genes from three parents.

Ethical safeguards are in place to check individual scientists like Dr. Cohen whose hubris outpaces their caution.  Unfortunately, nothing like cytoplasmic transfer had been conceived of or successfully executed until Dr. Cohen did it, and so he was able to perform this technique with little if any oversight or restraint.  These 30 human children are the result of his laboratory experiment, and how lucky they and their parents are to have lives of uncertainty ahead of them relative to the general population.

Our next example consists of tree cores from the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia. Twelve tree cores, to be exact, which were used to prove that temperature had risen sharply from the mid 19th century onward.  Dendrochronology, as it is called, uses tree cores to chronicle temperature based on tree rings. The issues with dendrochronology are well-known and documented, because the data from tree rings can vary from the data from instrumentation.

The data from the twelve trees in the Yamal Peninsula was not known to be data from just twelve trees when it was used to prove that temperatures had been rising since the 19th century, and that temperatures in the Middle Ages were cooler.  The scientists who collected the cores refused to release their raw data until the editors of the Royal Society insisted that the full raw data from the Yamal Peninsula study be released in its entirety.

There were 252 cores in the Yamal data set, but the twelve that were picked had a curious distinction that set them apart from the other cores: they all showed temperature increases since the 19th century.  Eight papers were written using the data from the twelve cores, as opposed to data from 34 nearby trees that showed the exact opposite result: a warm Middle Age period and no recent uptick in temperature from the 19th century.  Those eight papers involved a number of senior climatologists from the Climate Centre Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.  You know Climate Centre from the Climategate emails.

As it so happens, one of the major players in this charade was one Keith Briffa, whose 1995 paper alleging that the Middle Ages were really cold and today's temperatures were really, really warm with a rapid uptick in temperatures from the 19th century set off a lot of controversy.  It turns out that Briffa used just three tree cores from Yamal to make his assertions.  In other words, he selected 3 cores out of 252 that bolstered his conclusion and ignored all the other data from the other cores to the contrary.

For his sophistry, his lack of scientific ethics, and his total dishonesty, Briffa has been rewarded with a position on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  That's the UN panel that churns out all those nice papers proving global warming is man-made and real.  Now, you've heard about the emails, but the mainstream media didn't bother to tell you about Yamal in any great depth.  Emails can be interpreted, but the selective excerpting of data to manipulate conclusions cannot be interpreted for anything other than what it is: dishonesty.

Nearly every major climatology paper alleging sharp increases in temperatures over the past 200 years uses the Yamal data from those 12 cores.  One Canadian mathematician by the name of Steve McIntyre wrote 7,000 blog posts and dozens of letters requesting the data and questioning the methods used by the scientists who alleged the cores from Yamal proved that temperatures in the Middle Ages were cold and temperatures today have been on a warming trend since the 19th century.  When the raw data was released, McIntyre's suspicions were borne out.

These twelve cores are at the heart of just about every single climate science paper over the past two decades alleging a sharp increase in temperature during the last 200 years.  Peer review did not detect that the scientists, who have names like Phil Jones, Keith Briffa, Darrell S Kaufman, and Michael E. Mann, were engaged in what can only be classified as purely unethical data excerption to prove their preconceived notion.  Even though these scientists refused to release the raw data they used to generate their conclusions, the scientific community at large did not object.

This despite the fact that the two Russian scientists,  Hantemirov and Shiyatov, who had collected the 252 cores and published their findings from the data in 2002, found no warming trend over the past 200 years whatsoever.  Briffa had fought McIntyre at every turn from 2005 to 2008, refusing to publish the raw data until he was forced to by the Royal Society.  In 2008, Briffa began to publish the raw data, but he did so in a data format last used in the days of punch cards, with no metadata to let anyone know where the data had come from.  In other words, Briffa was making it difficult to verify his findings, a clear sign that those findings were not scientifically credible.  By the time the entire amount of raw data had been released in 2009, McIntyre was able to find not only data from the Yamal area, but also data from nearby areas as well collected by other scientists.

And when McIntyre began to look at those data sets against the 12 cores used by Briffa, he found no hockey stick uptick whatsoever.  The warming trend was gone.

Our final selection for today's Roundup comes to us courtesy of Duke University, which allowed oncologist Anil Potti and his partner cancer geneticist Joseph Nevins to proceed with human clinical trials based on their research even though Duke had been put on notice about the flaws inherent in the research of Potti and Nevins leading up to the clinical trials.  Duke University allowed the trials to proceed without bothering to notify the human subjects.  Dr. Potti gained further infamy for lying about being a Rhodes Scholar and fabricating his statistical analyses.

The human subjects of the clinical trials and their families are now suing Duke University, alleging that when Duke was informed about the flawed science underlying Potti's and Nevin's work, it chose to respond in a deceptive manner in order to "protect its reputation and proprietary interests."  Though eleven settlements related to Potti's trials have been finalized, the North Carolina Medical Board has allowed Potti to keep his medical license.  Additionally, Potti has been issued medical licenses in both South Carolina and Missouri.  Of the 40 publications by Potti that have been examined by Duke University, fully two thirds will be retracted in whole or in part.

While Potti will likely never again have credibility as a researcher due to his unethical conduct, he still gets to practice oncology on human patients thanks to the medical boards of three states.  And Dr. Jacques Cohen, whose methodology has left some 30 children conceived through his technique with a great deal of uncertainty about what the future might hold for them medically speaking, is now an employee of the U.S. federal government at Walter Reed.  The climatologists who used just 12 Yamal cores to kickstart a global warming frenzy that has been the basis of countless are still employed and still pounding a narrative that man-made global warming is real and based in sound science rather than cherry-picked data.

That concludes today's Roundup for Saturday, July 21, 2012.  However, if you'd like to continue the contrarian and examine the flawed science of the anti-smoking lobby, you may do so here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I Give You Gun Porn, Because America II

In these trying times, where the souls of red-blooded law-abiding American men are vexed by a media that carelessly tosses insinuations the way of Tea Party members and conservative Republicans in the aftermath of a mass shooting, Screed of Momus feels that it is important to highlight the fact that law-abiding gun owners exercise their Second Amendment rights responsibly and lawfully each and every day in this great land of ours.  As such, we give you gun porn, because America in our second post in this continuing series that celebrates the beauty of the individual right to bear arms.

Because America, ladies and gentlemen.  Each every day, ordinary Americans go to the firing range and let off some steam legally with their handguns, or they go out to secluded areas fire their semi-automatic assault rifles.  They don't shoot three month old children in their mother's arms, or gun down unarmed individuals in movie theaters.  They protect hearth, home, and country, and their armed status stands as line in the sand to bureaucrats, ideologues, and elected officials  throughout this great land that this aggression shall. not. stand.  Across this line you do not step, for if you do, we will see the whites of your eyes and unleash hell upon you.

If we were allowed to bear our weapons out in public, as God intended, when some snot-nosed degenerate entered the movie theater that we were sitting in to open fire on our fellow citizens, we'd have the wherewithal to defend our own lives and the lives of others.  America has become a nation of zones, free speech zones, zones where you can exercise your right to bear arms and zones where you can't, but goddamnit, this entire fucking country, every last square inch of it, from sea to shining sea, is a constitutional zone where the enumerated powers of government are held in check by the individual rights compiled in the Bill of Rights.

It's time to stand tall, to stand firm, and to raise a middle fingered salute that goddamned mayor of New York who insists on seizing this moment as an opportunity to opine against our constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms.  Well, to hell with Bloomberg.  I give you gun porn, America, smack on the heels of a major tragedy because celebrating your freedoms is never out of season and never inappropriate.  Fuck Michael Moore.

Our first video is of a girl's breast absorbing the recoil from a MAC-10.  God bless America!

Our next video consists of women in bikinis firing a .50 caliber rifle.  You can't stop freedom, people.  And you can't stop gun porn.  
Our next video consists of Heather LaCroix demonstrating why American women are nothing to mess with.  Heather is famed for her appearances on Giggin' and other sportswoman shows, and she owns big guns and big fish and an endowment that is most impressive.  God blessed America with Heather, and with millions of her fellow sisters in arms who stand firm for hearth, home, and country against tyranny and feeble-minded prescriptions and nostrums of leftism where gun control is concerned.  
Here's Heather shooting the .50 caliber BMG for the first time after some coaxing from her coworkers and peers.  For the win, people.  
If Heather LaCroix had been the theater when the shit hit the fan, you better believe she would have regulated.  Because America.  With a .44 or a .357, Heather LaCroix would have defended womanhood and prolonged childhood and adulthood for countless individuals in the early morning hours. And the most that could have happened to Heather would be an ejected hot shell casing going into a most inconvenient area, as in the following video.  
We close with Esquire Magazine's Ask a Beautiful Woman How to Fire a Handgun.  Now, even if you already know how, it's still okay to ask. You might learn something.  As it turns out, Agent Farhanna of the DEA is quite the looker.  Makes me want to engage in a conspiracy to traffic!  
Well, folks, that's all for this edition of I Give You Gun Porn, Because America.  We'll be back with another post next week, and we'll continue to lay into the Left and the gun control ninnies as only we can.  Enjoy, and thanks for reading and watching! BOOM.  

Roundup: Stupid to Make You Smile

Roundup is back for our daily dose of stupid, but in light of the tragic events in the Aurora, CO theater shootings, we'll be examining a different kind of stupid today.  We'll focus on human stupidity with an eye towards making you smile at the foibles of your fellow man, because at a time like this, everyone needs to smile, to laugh, and to get their minds off of tragedy.  Fortunately, there's ample reason to smile at your fellow man and his misdeeds.

We begin today's Roundup with the story of Tonya Fowler, resident of Commerce, GA.  Ms. Fowler makes today's Roundup as a result of her ire over her mugshot, which led to her calling 911 for retake.  Fowler was upset because the mugshot didn't get her good side, which is perfectly understandable when you consider that her new and improved mugshot is to the right. Trust me, the  retake made all the difference.

Fowler had previously called 911 to complain that she needed a place to store her sleeping bags, because the residents of a nearby house in Commerce would not assent to her requests to store the sleeping bags in their home.  Both 911 calls occurred in the same day.

In other news from the best and brightest of the bottom of the barrel, William Henry Oller, Sr. of Shingletown, CA is standing trial for attempted murder in the shooting of his son William Jr.  We do not wish to make light of a father shooting his son, but the motive for shooting the son is quite funny.  William Jr. was apparently singing a karaoke version of Kenny Chesney, and this prompted his 70 year old father to pull a gun and interrupt.  Apparently, William Sr. did not think that William Jr.'s tractor was sexy.

In the ensuing struggle between the two men, the gun went off and William Jr. was shot multiple times, while William Sr. managed to shoot himself in the leg as well.  When the police arrived on the scene, William Sr. did not exercise his right to remain silent, instead choosing to tell officers that "I shot the shit out of him" in reference to his son.  The Southern states of Mississippi and Georgia are considering granting William Sr. honorary citizenship and asylum, and the CMA's are reportedly considering naming an award for William Sr.

Terri Peterson of Atlanta, GA, is rethinking her assessment of a "really good" tattoo parlor after the tattoo artist misspelled Olympic as Oylmpic. The significance of the spelling error is that Peterson was one of 70 individuals selected by her employer to carry the Olympic torch. All a Georgia girl wanted to do was make a special note of the occasion, and she selected the very finest tattoo parlor she could find only to run into the Dan Quayle of tattoo artists.  It was highly unfortunate, but it all worked out in the end, because Peterson decided to keep the misspelled version.  Georgia is as Georgia does, and I am eternally grateful to be an Alabama native.

Tavares Colbert, a convicted felon out of Oklahoma, found out the hard way that you can't fix stupid but you can shoot it in the balls when he pulled over his truck to test out a handgun he found in Kansas and wound up discharging the gun into his genitals.  He managed to drive himself to the hospital, but after being  treated, Colbert was arrested because convicted felons can't own firearms.  Mr. Colbert's prior convictions was for felony drug possession with intent to distribute, but there is no word on whether or not he sampled more of his product than he sold.

We close today's Roundup with the obituary of Val Patterson of Salt Lake City, Utah, because it is quite the rollicking tale of a life lived for amusement by a scamp who left a testament of his good times.  Mr. Patterson, you truly have gone onto your reward, because somewhere in Heaven, God is snickering.

Val Patterson

1953 - 2012
I was Born in Salt Lake City, March 27th 1953. I died of Throat Cancer on July 10th 2012. I went to six different grade schools, then to Churchill, Skyline and the U of U. I loved school, Salt Lake City, the mountains, Utah. I was a true Scientist. Electronics, chemistry, physics, auto mechanic, wood worker, artist, inventor, business man, ribald comedian, husband, brother, son, cat lover, cynic. I had a lot of fun. It was an honor for me to be friends with some truly great people. I thank you. I've had great joy living and playing with my dog, my cats and my parrot. But, the one special thing that made my spirit whole, is my long love and friendship with my remarkable wife, my beloved Mary Jane. I loved her more than I have words to express. Every moment spent with my Mary Jane was time spent wisely. Over time, I became one with her, inseparable, happy, fulfilled. I enjoyed one good life. Traveled to every place on earth that I ever wanted to go. Had every job that I wanted to have. Learned all that I wanted to learn. Fixed everything I wanted to fix. Eaten everything I wanted to eat. My life motto was: "Anything for a Laugh". Other mottos were "If you can break it, I can fix it", "Don't apply for a job, create one". I had three requirements for seeking a great job; 1 - All glory, 2 - Top pay, 3 - No work.
Now that I have gone to my reward, I have confessions and things I should now say. As it turns out, I AM the guy who stole the safe from the Motor View Drive Inn back in June, 1971. I could have left that unsaid, but I wanted to get it off my chest. Also, I really am NOT a PhD. What happened was that the day I went to pay off my college student loan at the U of U, the girl working there put my receipt into the wrong stack, and two weeks later, a PhD diploma came in the mail. I didn't even graduate, I only had about 3 years of college credit. In fact, I never did even learn what the letters "PhD" even stood for. For all of the Electronic Engineers I have worked with, I'm sorry, but you have to admit my designs always worked very well, and were well engineered, and I always made you laugh at work. Now to that really mean Park Ranger; after all, it was me that rolled those rocks into your geyser and ruined it. I did notice a few years later that you did get Old Faithful working again. To Disneyland - you can now throw away that "Banned for Life" file you have on me, I'm not a problem anymore - and SeaWorld San Diego, too, if you read this.
To the gang: We grew up in the very best time to grow up in the history of America. The best music, muscle cars, cheap gas, fun kegs, buying a car for "a buck a year" - before Salt Lake got ruined by over population and Lake Powell was brand new. TV was boring back then, so we went outside and actually had lives. We always tried to have as much fun as possible without doing harm to anybody - we did a good job at that.
If you are trying to decide if you knew me, this might help… My father was RD "Dale" Patterson, older brother "Stan" Patterson, and sister "Bunny" who died in a terrible car wreck when she was a Junior at Skyline. My mom "Ona" and brother "Don" are still alive and well. In college I worked at Vaughns Conoco on 45th South and 29th East. Mary and I are the ones who worked in Saudi Arabia for 8 years when we were young. Mary Jane is now a Fitness Instructor at Golds on Van Winkle - you might be one of her students - see what a lucky guy I am? Yeah, no kidding.
My regret is that I felt invincible when young and smoked cigarettes when I knew they were bad for me. Now, to make it worse, I have robbed my beloved Mary Jane of a decade or more of the two of us growing old together and laughing at all the thousands of simple things that we have come to enjoy and fill our lives with such happy words and moments. My pain is enormous, but it pales in comparison to watching my wife feel my pain as she lovingly cares for and comforts me. I feel such the "thief" now - for stealing so much from her - there is no pill I can take to erase that pain.
If you knew me or not, dear reader, I am happy you got this far into my letter. I speak as a person who had a great life to look back on. My family is following my wishes that I not have a funeral or burial. If you knew me, remember me in your own way. If you want to live forever, then don't stop breathing, like I did.
A celebration of life will be held on Sunday, July 22nd from 4:00 to 6:00 pm at Starks Funeral Parlor, 3651 South 900 East, Salt Lake City, casual dress is encouraged. 

Master thief, fraudulent doctor of Engineering, scourge of Disneyland and Sea World, menace to park rangers and geysers everywhere, husband to Mary Jane, Val Patterson will  be missed by his friends and his family, especially the love of his life Mary Jane. He grew up in a simpler time when life consisted of something beyond sitting in front of the television, and when gas was cheap and kegs were fun.  Those of us who did not know Val are poorer for the lack of his acquaintance, because he was a scamp who would have made our lives far funnier from the experience of knowing him.

Many of us would do well to follow Val's motto in our own lives: don't apply for a job, create one.  That's the Roundup for today, Friday, July 20th, 2012.  Be safe this weekend.

Did Registered Democrat James Holmes Shoot Moviegoers?

Aurora, CO police have taken a suspect into custody in the Century 16 Theater shooting that took place at a midnight Dark Knight Rises premiere.  As moviegoers sat in their seats to watch the final film in the Christopher Nolan directed Batman trilogy, a gunman entered the theater from the emergency exits at around 12:30 MT, tossed out two incendiary canisters that promptly exploded and gave off smoke, and then began to shoot the occupants of the theater.  When the shooting stopped, 12 people had died, and 38 more were injured.

24 year old James Holmes of the Denver area has been taken into custody. Police responding to the scene found Holmes near a car containing firearms, and he reportedly told the police his apartment contained explosives.

Not surprisingly, the media jumped to conclusions that a Jim Holmes listed on the Colorado Tea Party website might be the 24 year old James Holmes of North Aurora, CO who was arrested for the Century 16 Theater shooting. ABC's own George Stephanolpoulos engaged in an exchange with Brian Ross, who had been digging around for information on James Holmes and had come across a Jim Holmes on a Tea Party website.

As Stephanolpoulos said, Ross had come across something that might be significant.  Why would it be significant?  Is there a causal link between having a Tea Party profile page on a website and toting a gun to midnight movie showing? Perhaps George has some new and breaking information on the correlation between mass shooters and political parties?

As's Joel Pollack reports, the Jim Holmes on the Colorado Tea Party website could well be a man in his fifties from Aurora, CO named James Holmes.  But I've got something that could be significant as well: a registered Democrat out of Durango, CO by the name of James Holmes who has been inactive since last year. Perhaps he moved to Aurora, where his deeply held liberal convictions caused him to pick up a few weapons and go wipe out the capitalist scourge at the Century 16 Theaters. After all, my James Holmes was born in 1987.  This would fit the age of the suspect in the shootings, but it would also mean that I was jumping to conclusions.

Perhaps the fact that I'm not a former political lackey for the Clinton Administration and a known Democratic operative causes me to refrain from making such assertions, because doing so with such tenuous connections would reduce my credibility. If Jim Holmes is in fact just a regular Joe who joined the Colorado Tea Party and put up a profile page, it's really unfair to him as well to have a national journalist pundit media figure speculating on live television that he might have just shot 50 people, including a three month old baby.

But even I were a former political activist and operative, I'd like to think that I wouldn't be so heavily invested in a narrative that automatically depicted my political opponents as extremists and potential mass shooters.  But I'm not, so I probably just don't get it, which is why I'm not on the Left and I have this weird need to verify things before I put them in print or say them out loud.  There's a reason why I don't put things like death panels and FEMA concentration camps on Screed of Momus. Granted, those things would suit what I think about the Left personally, but they aren't necessarily factually accurate. You have to make quite a leap in interpretation to get to that point.

It's also the same reason I don't make a lot of hay on this site about President Obama's birth certificate.  I happen to think that any citizen of the United States, not just the natural born ones, should be able to run for any elected office, even if they happen to believe in a political ideology that I find despicable.  That's just me.  I take a little grief from those who are purportedly on my side in this because I'm not pure enough in my beliefs due to the fact that I treat the other side with a modicum of fairness and decency even when they deserve to get slammed in the face with a shovel.  Sometimes, I give them the shovel, rhetorically speaking. It's called a Ragehammer.

However, that isn't appropriate here, because this story isn't about me or my political convictions. It's  s about 12 dead people who went to the movies, and 38 other people who were injured by a gunman who came in through the emergency exit to toss what appeared to be two tear gas canisters on the ground and then open fire on unarmed people.  James Holmes is a suspect, and he hasn't been convicted of anything, but if he did do this, there's an extra hot seat in Hell for him.  For now, we should all bow our heads and say a prayer for the living, the dead, and their families.

There will time to assign blame for what took place, and that time will be later, when the facts have emerged.  Right now, this is time to grieve and to respect the families of the dead and injured as they grieve.  It's not a time to score points politically, unless you're George Stephanopoulos or Brian Ross. For those two guys, and for their colleagues who don't see anything wrong with what they did this morning, it's a time to reflect on why only 1 in 5 Americans has a high level of trust in television journalism.

A Political Analysis of Avengers: Conditioning Unaccountability

Author's Note: The following article is a review of the Movie The Avengers with an emphasis on political themes.  It's something I wrote for my good friend who founded a soon to be launched site,  Politifilm will bring you reviews of movies with insights into their political themes and subtexts, in order to inform moviegoers and culture watchers of ideological trends in entertainment. I'd encourage you all to go check it out when it launches in the next few days.

Avengers opens with the archetypal scene that you’d expect from a film of its genre. Nick Fury and his subordinate Agent Maria Hill arrive at a subterranean research facility where Dr. Erik Selvig and his team are experimenting on the Tesseract, an object that holds the promise of unlimited energy.

Not surprisingly, things go terribly wrong.  The Tesseract activates on its own, opening a portal through which Loki appears.  Loki proceeds to take the Tesseract, because he has bargained with the leader of the extraterrestrial Chitauri.  The Chitauri leader will give Loki an army to conquer Earth in exchange for the Tesseract.

We won’t focus on why Loki would need a Chitauri army to conquer Earth when he has an object like the Tesseract which enables him to traverse time and space.  Loki has his heart set on Earth as a prize, and its inhabitants as subjects.  There’s a scene where Loki appears in Berlin and delivers a monologue that spells out his personal philosophy, which is that human beings are made to be ruled.

It’s standard demagogue and villain rant material, and Tom Hiddleston gives it his best effort as Loki.  What’s more interesting is what the film gives short shrift to, which is a government that experiments with forces and objects it doesn’t completely understand without taking appropriate precautions.  The results are predictably disastrous when a government fails to perform its due diligence and protect the public interest, both in life and in the Avengers, when the Chitauri army storms New York through a portal that Loki uses the Tesseract to open. The Chitauri go on to do what can only be described as tens of billions of dollars in property damage.

Like all art, film is a weapon in an information war. The French philosopher Louis Althusser distinguished between the Repressive State Apparatus, of which there was only one, and the plurality of Ideological State Apparatuses, of which there were many. Two of the ISAs that Althusser examined were the communications ISA (press, radio, and television, etc.) and the cultural ISA (literature, the arts, sports, etc.).  While the State Apparatus functions by violence, the ISAs function by ideology.  Althusser goes further to delineate a primary function of violent repression for the state  and a secondary function of ideology, whereas the functions are inverted for the ISAs.

And that is where our analysis of Avengers must begin: ideology.  To begin with, we must understand that there is no longer a distinction between the communications ISA and the cultural ISA.  Hollywood and the film industry are an extension of the communications ISA, art is a reaction to the repressive State Apparatus if it is independent at all, and an endorsement or affirmation of that apparatus if it is suborned.

Those of us who go into the theaters expecting to be merely entertained are instead lulled into accepting a model of State Repression that is vital and even necessary to our security.  There is no Chitauri army, but then again, there is no Al Qaeda capable of attacking us without massive internal failures by the State security and intelligence communities.

The last thing the Ideological State Apparatus is expected to do is call attention to those failures, or to inculcate the moviegoer into expecting accountability for those who are responsible for the failures.  Nick Fury engaged in conduct that led to a massive security breach.  Think of Loki as an illegal alien and a terrorist, allowed into this world by that breach, and you have a real world parallel that applies.

Because of Nick Fury’s failure, and because of the secrecy with which he operated, secrecy which prevented any independent oversight or check on his decision-making, the entire world was put at risk, and yet the end of Avengers contains a nice, tidy resolution with no consequences for Nick Fury whatsoever.  A coalition of superheroes was assembled out of an assassin gone good in Black Widow, a billionaire genius and inventor in Tony Stark, a super-soldier with enhanced physical abilities in Steve Rogers or Captain America, a master scientist in Dr. Bruce Banner whose own experiment gone awry led to his alter ego the Hulk, and a secret agent named Clint Barton whose abilities with archery give him his identity as Hawkeye.

In other words, the people who save the world are members of intelligence, economic, scientific, or military elites.  Backing these individuals is a World Security Council, comprised of the elites who make difficult decisions like whether or not to deploy a nuclear bomb on New York City in order to save humanity from the Chitauri army assault.

The Avengers is a nice piece of propaganda, because it leaves the central question of the film unexamined.  What cost should a government bear for the consequences of problems it creates with its own hubris?  In the case of the Avengers, the answer is no consequence whatsoever.  There is no regime change, no electoral revolt at the polls, even though these elites caused the very issue that made their collective efforts necessary.

In much the same way, the neglect of the Bush Administration and the Clinton Administration before it, as well as the geopolitical intrigues played by both Reagan and Bush Sr. in Afghanistan, combined to form the perfect storm of conditions for Al Qaeda to pull off an attack on U.S. soil that left over 3,000 Americans dead.  And when all was said and done, what emerged was a picture of 19 men who managed to procure flight training even though they were here illegally in many cases.

Their flight instructors reported them to the FBI well before they pulled off their attacks, to no avail.  Had immigration laws been enforced, they would have been picked up and arrested.  Had warnings from foreign intelligence and even a daily briefing given to the President himself been heeded, 9/11 might have been prevented.  Instead, 19 men who were here illegally, who engaged in suspicious activity that was significant enough to trigger warnings to the FBI, and who had half a million dollars in funding, managed to defeat the most advanced intelligence and military apparatus on Earth to pull off four simultaneous hijackings of passenger airliners and crash three of those airliners into the sides of American landmarks, with the fourth meeting its fiery end in a field in Pennsylvania.

And no one was demoted or fired in the aftermath for the assorted failures that led to 9/11, an attack that killed more than 3,000 Americans whose only crime was going to work that day.

In the end, the best and the brightest of the bottom of the barrel rose to the occasion and launched an invasion of Afghanistan to rout an enemy whose members lived in bunkers and caves.  They were our Avengers, and their masters were the ones who failed us so badly that their invasion and decade long occupation of Afghanistan was necessary.  In back of it all were the elites of our World Security Council, occupying positions of power at think tanks, foundations, and NGOs, firing off white papers about remaking the world and sowing democracy throughout the Middle East.

The Avengers, when viewed through the prism of world events and relevant philosophical frameworks, is not mere entertainment.  It is conditioning, like so many of films of its ilk, for while innocent Americans and civilians pay with their lives as a consequence of the crises created by State neglect and incompetence, the heroism of government in response to those crises is sufficient to make us all forget who really bears the responsibility for what happened.  You can expect the Lokis and Osama bin Ladens of the world to attack us, because that it was they do.  But you do not expect the S.H.I.E.L.D.s and the CIAs and the World Security Councils of the world to be complicit in the failures that lead to those attacks.  And in a free and democratic society where governments have checks and balances, you expect consequences for those failures.

When art and culture are subordinated to the purposes of reinforcing and perpetuating the ideological narratives of a repressive State Apparatus that asks for concessions by citizens, concessions on liberty, freedom, and privacy that it says are necessary to prevent future issue; our problems are much deeper and more pervasive than a mere election could ever hope to fix. What is so dangerous about a film like the Avengers is the fact that Americans are conditioned to expect a lack of accountability for their elected officials, the bureaucracies those officials oversee, and the elites who often populate those bureaucracies, so long as they forcefully respond to resolve the very crisis that their own ineptitude and failure created in the first place.

The most successful propaganda is the kind that you don’t even identify as propaganda.  You’re simply entertained.  You absorb the message without even realizing that there was a message.  The narrative of the State Apparatus is everywhere in its secondary method, the ideology that permeates our entertainment and our culture. Violent repression is no longer so necessary to a State Apparatus that has figured out how to inculcate a violently repressive reaction by its own electorate against those who dissent or question.

The mockery directed at people who question the official version of events is every bit as potent as any force the State might employ to suppress their dissent.  Their credibility is gone.  Their neighbors and peers look at them as kooks and lunatics. The appropriate response to the State Apparatus and its parts is that of  S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson, who reserves hero worship for Captain America. One of the film’s more poignant moments occurs when Coulson dies, and when the trading card he had of Captain America figures prominently.

Avengers is a film that reinforces this unquestioning, reverential, and almost idolatrous worship of so-called heroes and the State Apparatus that creates them and sows the appropriate conditioned response to its manufactured heroes through the Ideological State Apparatuses.   The unthinkable, that our government might have to wipe out one of its own metropolitan area and its inhabitants in the name of the greater good, is tossed in for good measure.

This is nothing new. Films like Outbreak and Contagion reinforced this totalitarian response in the name of saving lives, and what all of these films have in common is the emphasis of the most extreme hypothetical scenarios as real possibilities.  But just as in Outbreak, the Avengers is a film that glosses over the uncomfortable truth that government is responsible for those hypothetical scenarios becoming real as a result of the hubris and neglect of its own employees and bureaucrats.  In the end, our heroes avert the unthinkable and the world is saved.  Nick Fury keeps his job, just as so many officers within our intelligence and defense communities kept their jobs after 9/11.

We are all one, and in the aftermath of the crisis, the excuses for expansion of State power are accepted without hesitation. Inevitably, though, another crisis always occurs and the reason interdiction did not occur is that the State just didn’t have enough power or resources to address the evolving tactics of evildoers.  It is never that the State failed.  The crisis was simply unforeseeable.

The Avengers is a particularly effective piece of entertainment, which is why it makes for such good propaganda.  Audiences will not think about the themes of the film so much as they will focus on the non-stop action, or the humor of the Hulk giving Loki his just deserts.

Avengers is a globalist, neoconservative piece of film-making, which is to say that it is quite liberal in its prescriptions for consolidation of power and information among an elite who can handle it, even when they do not and ordinary civilians die in New York City as a result.  So long as the ultimate consequence of a nuclear incineration is averted, our heroes have done their job.  Left unanswered is why they had a job of such magnitude to do in the first place, and why those responsible for the failures that led to the crisis get to keep their jobs in the aftermath.   Don’t blame the gatekeepers who opened a portal through which a Loki or 19 hijackers could step, blame the Loki, the 19 hijackers, or the Chitauri army that ultimately does the killing.

Most of all, believe that the Chitauri really do exist, and that they are capable of truly terrible things on their own even without elite or government misfeasance.  Believe what your government says about Al Qaeda and nuclear programs abroad, and overlook how those organizations and programs came about as a result of your own government’s failure.  Every State Apparatus requires a bogeyman, just as every film like the Avengers requires a villain that isn’t bureaucratic or government incompetence.

Why the World Doesn't Work: A Response to a Marxist

Recently, as I was promoting Screed of Momus on Twitter, I encountered one Marie from Skopje, Macedonia who studied economics at the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje in Macedonia.  Marie fancies herself a Marxist economist, and she earnestly insisted that Marx's theories on economics were the right prescription for what ails the world economy.  Like any ideologue, Marie is wholly invested in her chosen ideology.  Her assumptions about me were evident from the beginning of our interaction; namely, that I am a capitalist, Westerner who is afraid to do battle with Marxism as an ideology because I am unfamiliar with it.

Because I am a self-identified libertarian and now anarcho-capitalist, Marie and her aide de camp, Eva Hussein Carafa, assumed that I was a huge Ayn Rand fan.  I've never written much about Rand on this blog or anywhere else, although there are a few social profiles scattered on the Internet where I self-identify as an Objectivist.  I also self-identify as the cardinal of the Southeastern United States for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  That's right, I'm a goddamned Pastafarian, and I dress up in a pirate outfit and go out to do battle with ninjas in order to lower global temperatures and combat global warming.  May you be touched by his noodly appendage, RAMEN.

You can't always believe what you read on the Internet, and while I tend to be an honest guy who's upfront about his beliefs, there are some items that are deeply personal to me such as my belief in God.  If I go into any detail in an online interaction about religion, it is generally to mock what I perceive as the absurdities of doctrine and theology.  In much the same way, I loathe ideology and ideologically minded people.

I'm an individual. I'm liberal in some respects, conservative in others, and laissez-faire about a great deal as it relates to other people.  I like Ayn Rand, but I also read and admire a French Marxist philosopher by the name of Louis Althusser.  I don't invest myself in any one personality or school of thought because I've just never been much of a fanboy.  I personally think that hero worship and cults of personality are a big part of the problem with American politics and politics at large.  No one person has a monopoly on the truth.  Some people are generally brilliant in the way they articulate what they believe and why they believe it, but they are still just human beings at the end of the day.

I worship God.  I do not worship men. I question both extensively, but God has never had a problem with it.  Men do.

Marie had sent me her blog link on Twitter for me to read her writing, and I had. The first thing that caught my eye was the quote at the top of her blog post Today dream is tomorow reality...This is our dream...WE BUILD OUR SOCIETY member at the time...

I'm not making that title up. That's the actual title of the post.  I'm not trying to be mean or critical, but that's just honestly what she entitled her blog post.

Beneath that post was the first sign of trouble to me, a quotation from the poem No Man Is An Island:

"No man is an iland, intire of it self; every man is a peece of The Continent, a part of the maine; If a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Man-nor of thy friends or of thine owne were; Any man death diminishes me, because I am involve in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee..."
                                                                                               Ernest Hemingway 

Ernest Hemingway. I was an English major in college, so that immediately stood out to me. The poem's author is John Donne, not Ernest Hemingway.  I resisted my impulse to be a literary snob.  This was hard for me, because I am a snob.  It's not that I think I'm better than you, it's that I worked very hard to take the natural gifts I had in writing and develop them into something more.  I was raised to get quotes and cites right, both by my parents and my teachers.

There's something to be said for getting it right. It means that you care enough to do the legwork to be accurate.  I do not appreciate sloth in writing or scholarship. I never have, and I never will.

I let it go, because getting into a pissing match isn't something I generally do unless someone really presses the issue.  Of the three people I've demolished on Twitter and the Internet, Brett Warren, Neal Rauhauser, and Brooks Bayne, they all had one thing in common: they were persistent in being jerks, and they were extreme in their methods.  They simply wouldn't tone it down no matter how much I pleaded with them, no matter how much I tried to cajole them.  They had to do things like call my law school, or threaten to put me on a hate crimes list, or just inundate my Twitter feed with their rudeness. They had to lie over and over again, and then deny doing so.  They had to impugn my own honesty by doing so.

Well, Marie. Congratulations. You have now earned my focus.  You don't really deserve it, and it is a wasted aside on my part, because you're the type of writer who gives us the following posts:

Mitt Romney will run for President representing GOP and Francois Hollande is the new French President...
Two piece of info that mean so much...having in mind that they represent two political and economic policies, diametrically different as they come...
Europe is under Conservative rule implementing austerity measures more or less since the Global Stock Market crash in 2008...
Francois Hollande run against Conservative Sarkozy, against austerity, he run on platform of few peculiar anti austerity measures: increasing the minimum wage, increasing the Social safety net by hiring, putting money in ordinary people pocket directly, but not by borrowing in order to stimulate the french economy, but by taxing the wealthy who make over one million euro with tax rate of 75%...
We on the other hand, we witnessing a spectacle of unprecedented Media Propaganda Warfare...
We as people are under siege: Corporate Media saturate the air with cleverly design commercials that glorify one candidate and vilify the other...they don't present information, they taking side...they chew the data for us, and give us all the talking points like a bid on the betting score...
Both Party are playing political games "we are right, and they are wrong"...
No time to or blue...time to pick a side...
Red or Blue, the Questions is now...Red or purple...
How to make a decision between Red and Blue? What can be sanity test between them?
How to make a distinction if you are not economist, if you are not politically savvy?
How to make a decision and practice your civil right to vote and participate in our democracy?
My response is simple: The next President will shape our way of life for Generations to come, shaping the politics that will change:
- the way we educate our children,
- how we provide health care to everyone in our Society without discrimination,
- our will to commit portion of our resources to our safety net: social security and basic welfare...
Well, I for one am underwhelmed. Your capacity for succinct analysis and your use of the English language leaves me utterly at a loss for words.  Congratulations. Where so many women have failed, you have succeeded. I am goddamned speechless at your grammar, syntax, and punctuation.  I won't even bother to address the reasoning, or the lack of reasoning, that is present in what you've written.

I realize that English is not your first language, and I probably would write in Macedonian the way you write in English if I were possessed of the sort of hubris to write a blog in another language before I had gained a rudimentary proficiency in said language.  The point is that I'm not.  I'm not nearly arrogant enough to challenge someone to a debate over anything in their native tongue when my execution from a language standpoint alone is so poor.  That's saying something, because in a good many areas, I am the most arrogant person I know.

Red or blue. No purple. When I first read it, I thought someone was pranking me. I literally thought you were someone I knew on Twitter who had concocted your blog to pull my leg.

Its a choice where we wanna live in: in a Human Serengeti where only the strongest survive, and all the rest are left behind to slowly but surly become oblivion...Social Darwinism of highest order...or we can acknowledge that no man is an island on its own and that we can build better Society then Human Serengeti...
We are the one who build our Society...
I believe that Future is never in the's always time offer new solutions...its up to us to catch up with the changes that the horizon offers...we just need to board a train that will take us there...
Instead of living in the past, instead of cherish what was normal or good yesterday, we should look what are the options today... get on board of a Maglev train...
I don't wanna be slave owner who feel good cause he never use a whip to control his slaves... I don't wanna be slave owner...period!
I believe all people are created equal,and we should treat them as equal...principle not slogan...

It's like you're a leftist with a lobotomy, and God just dropped you over home plate at an ultra slow speed and dared me to hit it out of the park.  I feel as though I'm at the Special Olympics, and I'm the mainstream kid playing in a baseball game against a pitcher with nubs for arms.  It's not even fair.  What in the name of holy fuck would make you want to bother with me?  What hope could you possibly have of winning this debate?  For starters, you can't even write a complete sentence without resorting to ellipses. If this is a goddamned human Serengeti, I am the lion and you are an antelope with broken hind legs trying to drag yourself along on your forelegs.

I'd eat you, but you're such a curiosity I have to let you live just see you dragging yourself.  It's not even fair.

Then again, I'm annoyed with you because you're clearly lazy when it comes to citing accurately and you're undisciplined when it comes to writing in general.  It's like reading a stream of consciousness rant by someone who has no filter, someone who doesn't think before they write or speak.  You feel your convictions, and that feeling guides what you write.  Your intuition is who you are.  Like Rigoberta Menchú, you know your truth.

The problem is that your truth is based in an ideology that is demonstrably wrong.  Marx's assertions about the tendency of the rate of profit to fall with increased productivity is plainly asinine.  It's one of the worst goddamned ideas ever articulated by any thinker in human history.  Productivity increases do not result in falling profits at all, on the contrary, they result in greater profitability both to the manufacturer and the wider society in which he operates.

It's why Americans can purchase a computer today with many times the capacity of a computer in the 1980s for a tenth of the price they would have paid in the 1980s, even with a dollar that has been transformed from a dollar in the 1980s to a mere 33 cents today due to inflation.  That inflation, Marie, comes about as direct result of one of Marx's main prescriptions for fixing the supposedly disastrous effects of capitalism: a central bank.  Productivity increases have been one of the countervailing means of limiting the effects of inflation, inflation which you rail against on your own blog:

Think about it...not long a go we print so much money to safe Wall Street, to cover projected profitability of banks...trillions and trillions of dollars, every State, not just us...Europe...
We could have build Eden on Earth with them...
Well, you don't rail against inflationary policies so much, you just rail against what all that printed money was used for because you think it should have been used for other purposes.  Today, Americans pay the same price for smaller packages of foodstuffs.  A five pound bag of sugar has become a four pound bag of sugar.  The price of a gallon of milk has more than doubled in the last three years.  But that would all be okay, had we just built Marie's Eden with those trillions of printed dollars. Having an Eden makes up for having less to eat, or less money to pay for items beyond food and fuel.

Were it not for productivity gains, millions of Americans whose wages had either stayed the same or declined in purchasing power due to inflation would be faced with lives as paupers.  But even if you care to argue the point further, the work of Japanese economist Nobuo Okishio has more or less demolished Marx's arguments about the rate of profit falling with productivity increases by putting basic common sense into economic jargon:

"if the newly introduced technique satisfies the cost criterion [i.e. if it reduces unit costs, given current prices] and the rate of real wage remains constant", then the rate of profit must increase..."
Of course, Marxists in their sophistry call increased profits something else entirely: an increase in surplus value.  The problem with the Marxist outlook is that it focuses on employment to the detriment of everything else.  If the increase in productivity leads to a reduction in employment in the immediate industrial endeavor, even as it raises standards of living across an entire society, it's a loss because it doesn't result in surplus capital to be invested in expanded employment.

To this, those of us who are logical say the following: no shit. The point of expanded productivity is to do more with less, and if you can reduce the per unit cost of the product you are manufacturing by cutting jobs and investing automation, why wouldn't you?  There is a fundamental difference about the purpose of an economy from the Marxist perspective and the capitalist perspective, and that difference is this: the Marxist believes that the economy exists to put people to labor, and the capitalist believes that the economy exists to provide people with goods and services with as little labor as possible in the name of increased profits and lower prices through growth in efficiency and economies of scale.  In other words, if a person can work thirty hours a week and still have the money necessary to buy what they need and want, why not?

To the extent that Marxist ideals like a progressive income tax and an inflation producing central bank have been implemented, Americans have had to do more for less in the name of some greater good that never materializes.  Despite the purportedly progressive redistributionist tendencies of these ideals, the actual result is always regressive.  Money flows up rather than down.  The house always wins in this casino, even as it gives out free chips in the form of welfare and tax credits for the hoi polloi who immediately spend what they are given buying goods and services provided to them by the 1% and the companies the 1% own as shareholders.  As a result, greater amounts of income and capital are consolidated upwards.

When a welfare recipient in Washington state swipes their EBT card, JP Morgan Chase generates a fee. The reason it is so hard to dislodge the welfare state has nothing to do with politically fractious poor people, many of whom don't even vote.  The reason is because welfare is so damned profitable for large corporations.  Medicare and Medicaid are a boon to pharmaceuticals and the healthcare industry at large, because the fact remains that even with below market rates of reimbursement, the cost can be passed on to those who are privately insured.

Welfare, and the Marxist ideology that underlies it, does nothing to emancipate people.  It gives them scraps from the table rather than a seat at that table where their betters make decisions for them.  The basis of individual liberty in a capitalist society is ownership.  It is no accident that the emerging merchant class in England and elsewhere used their newfound power through the individual ownership of capital to demand greater political power and input.  And it is no accident that the overwhelming number of Marxists in America come from the upper classes and privileged economic backgrounds, because their kind get richer as they impose government dependency upon the lower classes and call it liberation.

The ten planks of the Communist Manifesto have already been implemented in the United States, with disastrous results.  No one owns their private property so long as it subjected to annual taxation.  Property taxes are a perpetual mortgage to the state for the land and domiciles you've already paid for as an owner. The progressive income tax was established by the 16th Amendment.  Inheritance rights are placed under assault by estate taxes, although this is less of a problem now at the federal level than it once was.  Executive Order 13224 established the framework for the seizure of private property belonging to those individuals who are designated as terrorists or supporters of terrorism by the Treasury Secretary.  No due process, and no evidentiary hearings are necessary.  One man can designate you as a material supporter of terrorism or terrorist organizations, and your assets are subject to forfeiture.  Credit has been centralized under a monopoly by a central bank, and communication and transportation have been brought under the centralized authority of the federal government with agencies like the FCC and the Department of Transportation.  Instruments of production are in effect controlled by overreaching federal regulation, especially through tax incentives that encourage malinvestment in programs or initiatives encouraged by the federal government.  The spiraling inflation that has accompanied the Federal Reserve's monopoly over the dollar has made it necessary for nearly all parties to work, which is why most families require two incomes instead of just one.  If you don't look at big farming operations by corporate agriculture and see their genesis in federal regulation and tax incentives as well as subsidies, you're an idiot. This is the combination of agriculture with manufacturing, or the Ninth Plank of the Communist Manifesto.  Free education is available and mandatory for children in government schools, and with this you have the Tenth and final plank of the Communist Manifesto.

Far from being a capitalist society as Marie contends, the United States has been transmogrified into an arguably Marxist society.  The results are telling: there is overwhelming equality outside of the top 20%. In other words, the farther you go down the income brackets, the more homogenized Americans look.  They can't afford healthcare, they can't afford to pay off their credit lines, their homes are underwater, and they are equal to each other in those respects.  Isn't equality grand?

Yet Marie encourages more of this Marxism, because she vehemently contends that capitalism is what ails the world today as though capitalism exists! It doesn't.  The free market is an illusion.  Free trade is a concept that exists in the minds of romantics and ideologues, but nowhere does it exist on this planet where states hold sway over trade and commerce with their tariffs.

With a central bank controlling the supply of credit and money, as the Communist Manifesto specifically recommends, Marie has the gall to refer to the arrangement as capitalist. With banks manipulating the LIBOR and the price of precious metals like silver, Marie sees a free market capitalist regime and she fulminates endlessly against it with her broken sentence structures and her ellipses.

Marxism as a philosophy has failed utterly, nowhere more devastatingly than it has in these United States.  Our central bank pumped credit into the economy, and our centralized bureaucrats ensured that their regulations and incentives would funnel that credit into subprime mortgage markets.  This was a planned event.  It was a good idea to provide people credit to buy homes with variable rate mortgages, and to allow the banking industry to make bets on the success or failure of those mortgages in the form of derivatives.  Hell, let the banks buy more derivatives that function as insurance against the other derivatives, and then let the banks bet against their own bundled mortgages, because their credit default swaps will cover them in any event, right?  Right. They tried to build an Eden with subprime home mortgages, but what they got was a Hiroshima of foreclosures and underwater mortgages.

America has had Marxism, without even realizing it. How do you like it?

Marie would tell you that more Marxism is in order, and that only through the prescriptions of Karl Marx can this world economy be saved from itself.  She would represent a command central economy run by tax policies that encourage malinvestment according the dictates of some bureaucrat as the very emblem of capitalism, because Marie gets it.  She had her training from a 2,000 year old university.  True story.

When you look up Marie's alma mater, you find that it was founded in 1946.  That's not 2,000 years old, is it?

When I confronted Marie with this bit of information, she switched gears.

 Right. Marie said the scholarly tradition of her Macedonia, not her University.  Except that she didn't, because it was all there, very clear and to the point in her earlier tweet.  And so I close with one final note to Marie: Marie, it's my firm belief that you're probably just some Internet troll, but on the off chance that you are an actual person from Skopje, Macedonia, this is the response I promised you.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Roundup: Can't Stop the Stupid

At 1:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, Andrew Lee Scott of Lake County, Florida, heard a knock at his door. Despite asking who it was, he received no answer. Like most of us would do, he grabbed his handgun and headed to the door to see who was banging on his front door over and over and over again at 1:30 in the morning on a Sunday.  He had his handgun pointed out in front of him when he walked out, and the Lake County Sheriff's deputies who had pounded on his door shot him when he walked out onto his front doorstep.

The deputies never identified themselves as police. They simply banged on Scott's door repeatedly, because they were executing an arrest warrant for Johnathan Brown, a man wanted for attempted murder. Unfortunately, the deputies went to the wrong residence. That's why Andrew Lee Scott was justified in thinking that there was no good reason for anyone to be knocking on his door at 1:30 in the morning on a Sunday.  That, and the fact that the person on the other side of the door would not identify himself.

The deputy who shot and killed Andrew Lee Scott, along with the other two deputies who were on the scene with him, is now on paid administrative leave after killing a taxpayer.  To protect and serve, indeed.  Andrew Lee Scott was 26 years old.

The Transportation Security Agency finds itself under renewed scrutiny after it approved flight training for 25 illegal aliens, including eight who came into the United States illegally, with the other 17 having gone beyond their allotted time of admission.  Six of these individuals received pilot's licenses.  Local police in the Boston area pulled over the owner of the flight school where this took place, and found out that he was an illegal alien.

The illegal alien who owned and ran the flight school where six others illegal aliens were able to get their  pilot's licenses held two FAA pilot licenses of his own, despite the fact that he had never passed a required TSA security threat assessment and had not been approved for flight training by the TSA.  The TSA's Alien Flight Student Program is supposed to assess whether or not foreign nationals seeking pilot's licenses or flight training are a security threat, but it has one glaring issue: it does not check for immigration status. Also, the information used by the TSA's security threat assessment is provided by the foreign national.

Of the six individuals who received FAA airman certificates or pilot's licenses, three were here as a result of illegal entry.  The other three who received licenses had overstayed their period of admission.  Though the owner of the school had never passed the security threat assessment or been approved by the TSA to obtain or offer flight training, he was registered with the TSA as a flight training provider on the Alien Flight Student Program.

The GAO further confirmed that of the 25,599 foreign nationals in the FAA airmen registry, some have never passed the security threat assessment or even applied to the Alien Flight Student Program to be vetted.  Additionally, a number of these foreign nationals are listed in the Alien Flight Student Program database and can train others, even though they haven't received permission from the TSA to do so.

How many? We don't know. The GAO didn't provide that information.

As reported by CNS News, the GAO's Stephen Lord provided the following reassurances:

The GAO’s Stephen Lord, in his prepared remarks, told lawmakers that the TSA does not screen new and existing FAA pilot license holders against the Terrorist Screening Database until after the foreign national has completed flight training.
“Thus, foreign nationals obtaining flight training with the intent to do harm, such as three of the pilots and leaders of the September 11 terrorist attacks, could have already obtained the training needed to operate an aircraft before they received any type of vetting,” warned the GAO.

The U.S. Postal Service, which hemorrhages money like a hemophiliac with low Vitamin K as a result of alcoholism, has announced that it will default on a required $5.5 billion payment into a health benefits fund for future retirees unless Congress acts.  The USPS says that it will also default on a second payment for 2012 retirees of $5.5 billion that is due Sept. 30 without congressional action.  To be fair, the woes of the Postal Service in this case stem from a 2006 mandate by Congress that it set aside billions for future retirees.  Then again, with the USPS losing $3.2 billion in just the second quarter of the current year, the problem is much deeper than health retiree benefits.

House and Senate leaders have legislation on the table in each respective chamber, but there is little hope that they will resolve the differences in the competing bills before the August recess.

Jewish World Review has an article up noting that just 17 out of the 535 members of Congress have released their most recent tax returns in response to requests from McClatchy Newspapers. 19 more members of Congress have point blank refused to release the information, and the rest have ignored the requests altogether.  Among those members of Congress who have refused to release their tax returns are Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  Their excuse is that they've filed the full financial disclosures required by law, which is exactly what Mitt Romney has done thus far as well.

However, as with most typical left wing attacks on conservatives, Republicans, or even Republicans In Name Only like Mitt Romney, Reid, Pelosi, and Wasserman Schultz have made hay over the irrelevant fact that a Cabinet member would have to release their tax returns.  This misses the point, because Mitt Romney isn't running for Transportation Secretary or any other position that would require confirmation by the Senate. He's running for President.

Reid's claim that Romney couldn't get a job as dogcatcher without releasing his tax returns was given the once over by PolitiFact, and the findings were clear: Reid is barking up the wrong tree.  How fortunate we are in our Republic to have PoliFact and other groups holding the powers that be accountable with their fact-checking skills of obvious hyperbole.

If you want to see further evidence that Obama Administration lackeys will implode under rhetorical pressure and the application of logic to their arguments, watch the following video below consisting of an argument on CNN between Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance and Kevin Sabet, former drug policy advisor for the Obama Administration Kevin Sabet.  Sabet eventually has to admit that drug policy is a failure.

Unfortunately, even though states have moved towards legalization or treatment rather than imprisoning more than the over half a million people currently in jail for drugs, the federal government continue to raid medical marijuana dispensaries and treat individuals with chronic or terminal conditions like they're criminals.  It's a state issue, and absent conventions and treaties signed by the federal government, there would be no basis for federal jurisdiction over drugs whatsoever.

This is why the federal government's treaty power has been so abused to expand federal power, because treaties, like the Constitution, are the supreme law of the land. Though we all believe that expansions of federal power should come through the amendment process, the pernicious quality of federal overreach is that it utilizes treaties to pre-empt a national debate over expansions of its power.  You go through 100 corrupt politicians to ratify a treaty instead of a state by state vote to ratify an amendment.

 Kevin Sabet eventually has to admit that prescription drugs rather than illicit drugs present a greater problem for abuse in this country, and what neither he or Nadelmann ever address is the fact that cigarettes and alcohol kill far more people than pot or even harder drugs like cocaine and heroin.  And regardless of what you may think about drug policies in this country, local and state governments are far more suited to know what is needed at their level than the federal government, because they are more responsive to the concerns of their local constituents than a remote bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.  At the very least, it's time to get the federal government out of drug policy and drug legislation. 

Our last example of why you can't stop the stupid comes to us courtesy of the SEIU and its organizer Clarence S. Haynes, who tried to register to vote in the Wisconsin recall election using an out of state I.D. while claiming residency at a Glendale, WI hotel.  Haynes is a Senor Organizer with $142,444 salary, and his phone records indicate that he actually lives in Clearwater, FL.  Although two other organizers who voted out of the Glendale hotel had been offered jobs in Wisconsin and could therefore present proof of their intent to stay in Wisconsin, Mr. Haynes could not.  He now faces penalties including fines of up to $10,000, imprisonment of up to three and a half years, or both.

 Over 50 SEIU employees stayed at the hotel where Mr. Haynes lived during the recall election, and there is no word on whether or not others may have engaged in the same shenanigans.  This comes on the heels of revelations that public employee pension funds have about $220 billion invested in private equity firms, around 11 percent of their overall assets.

Private sector unions like the SEIU have $4.6 billion invested in private equity. You know, those private equity firms that come in like pirates and shut down unionized factories are burying their parent companies under leveraged debt to pay out huge dividends to guys like Mitt Romney.  Yeah, those private equity firms.  Your union is investing in private equity, which may one day come in and use your dues to buy out your company in a leveraged buy out, financing the bulk of its purchase with borrowed money and paying out enormous dividends with that borrowed money that cripple the long term prospects of your employer  Workers of the world unite!  Right.

Despite all the hullabaloo over Bank of America that SEIU made by protesting at the residence of its deputy general counsel for corporate law Greg Baer, SEIU's favorite lender was...Bank of America. Hypocrisy is par for the course with these unions, as this link makes clear.  Again, whether its law enforcement refusing to identify itself when door knocking on the wrong residence at 1:30 am on a Sunday morning and shooting the owner of the apartment when he comes to the door with his licensed handgun drawn, or the TSA allowing one illegal alien to license eight other illegal aliens to fly, or the SEIU's Senior Organizer illegally registering to vote in Glendale, WI, you can't stop the stupid.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why Twittergate Matters: A Response to Lee Stranahan

Lee Stranahan, photographer, videographer, and blogger for Breitbart sites, has come out with a series of stories on Twittergate in which he downplays the significance of what occurred.

For those of you who do not know what Twittergate is, or who have watched the unfolding events of the past month with confusion as to what Twittergate was and why it is so important now, this piece is intended to clarify where other pieces confuse.  To be quite honest, I didn't get involved in the events of Twittergate until well after they were underway.  I came into the picture in February 2011, and before that moment I was just another blogger writing here at Screed of Momus.

I logged on to my Twitter account like I always do, with the intent of promoting my latest Screed of Momus post.  I checked my mentions.  In those mentions, there was a tweet from one @solaar, who referred to me as a "certified faggot."  When I checked his account out, his stream was littered with threats and invective, much of it directed at one @GregWHoward.

I knew Greg from conversations we'd had on Twitter, and I'd always appreciated his support with Screed of Momus. He reliably and consistently re-tweeted my work, and the significance of his doing so was that he had over 15,000 followers.  I was still under 1,000 at that time, so having someone like Greg or @mikepfs retweet my followers was like putting Screed of Momus on booster rockets for exposure.  Their audience was huge, and I was picking up followers as a result of the exposure I got from them and others like @rockingjude.

I also knew that Greg was from my home state of Alabama, because Alabama boys tend to get along and debate football immediately upon meeting each other in any forum.

What concerned me about @solaar was as follows:

A. Anonymity-I did not know who he was, and he was coming at me out of the clear blue with an insult.
B. Rhetoric-Threatening to slit people's throats and kick their teeth into a masticated paste does not give one confidence in your basic decency.
C. [email protected] was not alone. There were other Twitter accounts that worked in tandem with him and their attacks on individuals like Greg were coordinated.
D. Proximity-by all indicators, the more I dug, the more I became convinced that the central account in all of this was one @StrandedWind.  You know him as Neal Rauhauser.

I set out to put names to accounts.  And I put the name Brett Warren to @solaar, among others.  Brett was the chief guy to deal with, because he seemed to be the most virulent of the group.  A warning shot sufficed for another one of the individuals I'd dealt with that night, and for the most part, things calmed down.  Brett apologized to Greg, changed his avatar to LEAVE ME ALONE in big red letters on his Facebook and his Twitter accounts, and life moved on.

Twittergate was already well underway by the time this happened. Some might even say it had peaked and ended, because Gawker had done a story in October of 2010 on the story.

It was February 2011.  Had the individuals involved in Twittergate simply left me alone, I wouldn't have given the matter much of a thought afterwards.  Unfortunately, both Neal Rauhauser and Brett Warren had to keep playing.  Neal and Brett both called me multiple times, and Neal went so far as to contact the administration of my law school to complain that I had threatened, harassed, and defamed him.  He intimated that he would sue me.

He also told me directly that he would have my name placed on a Southern Poverty Law Center hate crimes and domestic terror watchlist, to which I replied rather forcefully that I would sue him for defamation if he insinuated that I supported racism in any way, shape, fashion, or form.  I am avowedly anti-racist, and I have publicly stated that the only good racist is a dead racist.  My personal convictions on the issue are that those who believe their race gives them claim to superiority have abdicated their humanity, and they have committed themselves to an ideology that inevitably leads to the undermining of any free society that tolerates it.  In short, I don't believe that the First Amendment should be used as a shield for groups who actively espouse outcomes in which the equal protection and application of individual laws do not apply unless you are of a certain race.   I consider racists traitors to the Republic, and I am first and foremost a nationalist who loves the ideals of America even as I utterly loathe the State that is America.

I do not support privilege within the law for anyone based on race, social, economic, religious, ethnic, sexual, or gender identification. For the law to hold credibility and efficacy as a binding agent within a society, it has to apply equally.  Otherwise, the law is no agent of unifying order, but rather a means of enabling divise tyrannies.

I am absolutely opposed to racism as a result of these convictions.

There wasn't anything for Neal to use on me.  I have no bankruptcies, no arrests, no convictions, no judgments, no liens, no prior divorces, nothing in the public record that could be used to embarrass or discredit me.  I've always paid for my cars in cash because I loathe paying interest and I loathe owing a bank anything.  I have one credit card for the same reason.

In other words, Neal Rauhauser had nothing to use because I gave him nothing to use.

I had law school to deal with, and I left Neal Rauhauser alone for a year and a half until the end of my second year of law school.  I had been accumulating information on him during that time.  In late May and early June, I began conducting interviews with people who knew him.  I began getting document dumps on Neal from those people.

What I came to realize about Neal Rauhauser was that no one could or would have hired him had their motivations been legitimate.  Every single person I talked to about Neal Rauhauser save one individual performing community service with Neal said the same thing:

1. Neal was extremely gifted when it came to Cisco Systems hardware, and moderate to advanced in his capabilities with writing software code.
2. Neal was extraordinarily cruel and capable of extremely inappropriate and unethical behavior.
3. Neal was sociopathic.
4. Neal had a disturbing tendency to carry firearms and utilize them in a threatening manner to intimidate people he didn't like.
5. No one I talked to wanted to renew ties or acquaintances with Neal if it could be avoided.

Example after example was recounted to me by these people of Neal's inappropriate and illegal conduct. I have tapes of Neal's outbursts, tapes sent to me by people who recorded him in their interactions.  I have criminal affidavits, and I have transcripts and papers from Neal's divorce proceedings.  I have a paper trail on Neal Rauhauser that backs up what more than one individual has told me and others working this story: "He's absolutely a dangerous fucking guy."

If I as a rising third year law student with minimal money can dig into Neal Rauhauser and find these people and these issues, any of the Democratic candidates who retained his firm Progressive PST to mount an online presence on their behalf should have been able to as well.  Neal's reputation precedes him in political circles, so the need to vet him wouldn't have been all that great because people already knew what he was.  My working theory is that this is why Neal was retained by the clients of Progressive PST, by the people who set up Progressive Congress News, and by the principals in groups like Velvet Revolution and their funders.

They retained him because he was dangerous, unethical, unscrupulous, and thoroughly ruthless individual capable of conceiving and directing extraordinarily venomous campaigns against their targets. I do not think Neal was ever off of the reservation, or that he ever deviated from the course set for him by his handlers.  I do not believe that he was ever out of control, or that he was doing anything beyond following the orders of those who paid him. I believe that everything he did was deliberate, and I believe the people behind him set him loose upon others with deliberate intent.

It is my belief after spending two months immersed in this story that Greg W. Howard was selected as a target because of his online visibility.  He referred to himself as the "Glenn Beck of Twitter," and he had a history of making statements that could easily be twisted out of context to make him come across as bigoted and racist.  Greg's most notable statement in my mind was one in which advocated putting metal detectors in every doorway in America to make Muslims uncomfortable when liberals objected to such detectors and surveillance equipment being used in airports on the grounds that it discomfited Muslims.

It is clear that Greg W. Howard does not like or agree with the tenets of Islam. That is why Greg is Christian. Conversely, it is quite clear that most Muslims do not agree with the tenets of Christianity, which is why they are Muslim.  That does not make either group bigoted, any more than the fact that I call myself a theist rather than a Christian makes me a hater of Christianity.  It means that we disagree. Disagreements on beliefs occur in free societies where individuals can worship according to their consciences.

In the nearly three years that I have known Greg online, I have never seen evidence that he is an actual bigot or that he believes his race is grounds for superior treatment under the law. If I would have seen such evidence, our online relationship would have terminated, and I would have referred Greg's name to other individuals who are far more activist in their outlook towards racism.

Greg is guilty of exercising his freedom of speech and expression to articulate his own particular interpretation of conservatism.  In other words, he engaged in legal conduct, even ordinary conduct, but he did so in a way that resonated with a lot of people. Consequently, he has tens of thousands of followers.

I believe that Neal Rauhauser retained the services of various individuals in Australia, Canada, and the United States to harass, intimidate, and defame individuals like Greg.  I believe that they went online with the express purpose of baiting those individuals into making statements that could be twisted out of context to embarrass and discredit them.  And I believe that Neal Rauhauser did this while he was in the employment of over a dozen progressive candidates for the U.S. Congress, and while he was associating with one Darcy Burner.  It is my deep and abiding conviction that progressives looked at what Neal did as a rousing success, which is why Neal was absorbed into Progressive Congress News to write the software for their news aggregation and email blasting app, among other tasks that have yet to reach the light of day.

I also believe that Neal's services were retained by Velvet Revolution and Brett Kimberlin for similar purposes to those of Twittergate so that Kimberlin's online detractors could be harassed, intimidated, and discredited by their own reactions to Rauhauser's tactics.  I believe the initial purpose was to confront those who were covering the Anthony Weiner scandal, specifically minor individuals who were rising to prominence like Mike Stack.  I also believe that there is far more to Mike Stack's story, and that his version of how he came to associate with one Dan Wolfe is total bullshit.   I can't go into details right now because I have yet to substantiate my theory on Dan Wolfe, and my priority right now is Neal Rauhauser.

I believe that the initial operation of trolling people involved in Weinergate metastasized into a personal vendetta against Brett Kimberlin's critics, and I further believe that the Weinergate operation was funded out D.C. by two prominent and closely linked organizations.  I believe that those organizations used contributions from progressives with money, that they funneled the money to a convicted perjurer, bomber, and drug dealer so that he could in turn retain the services of Neal Rauhauser.

I believe that Twittergate matters because it is part of an ongoing pattern and operation that was planned and implemented in late 2006 to co-opt possible obstacles for a presidential candidate.  I believe that this operation evolved into something else entirely when the Tea Party emerged during the early days of Barack Obama's administration, and I further believe that the people involved have severely underestimated who Neal Rauhauser is.  I would not allow Neal to author software for any application related to my business or foundation without suspecting that he would insert backdoors into the software.

In investigating Neal's past, I have come across evidence of his involvement in at least two criminal incidents, one from his days in Ames, Iowa and the other from his days as a Cisco Systems re-seller in Omaha, Nebraska.  I further believe that he does in fact have a relationship with law enforcement where he serves as a conduit for information on the groups he affiliates with.

Twittergate matters because it ties into a far-reaching effort by candidates, Democratic Party operatives, and their funders to anticipate and pre-empt credible allegations against Barack Obama and the progressive movement at large.  Twittergate matters because some of these operations lead directly to the White House via men like former Fannie Mae head James A. Johnson, whose phone calls were routed through the White House switchboard as he headed up an organized operation to identify, harass, and intimidate so-called birthers as he sat across the street from the White House.

It matters because it destroyed the reputation and life of Greg W. Howard and severely misconstrued his actions as they related to an ex-wife and children.  The activities and insinuations of the Beandogs and Neal Rauhauser were vicious, hurtful, and arguably defamatory.  It matters because ordinary Americans were subjected to a well-funded, organized, and determined slander machine simply because they self-identified as Tea Party supporters and questioned whether a President who had refused to release his records, including his long form birth certificate, was actually eligible to hold office.

It matters because it was the forerunner of another series of pranks involving cloned phone numbers, where individuals were SWATted and their lives were placed in danger as the police stormed their houses in response to fake 9-1-1 calls.

While Twittergate may well have been a side project of Neal Rauhauser's initially, as it wore on it attracted the notice of others within the progressive movement who saw it as useful.  Twittergate and the operation before it that launched Neal Rauhauser into prominence as a political consultant and operative gave rise to the SWATtings and to a defamation campaign that hurt people and wrecked reputations.  It is now acceptable within certain circles to engage in this conduct towards ordinary people who dare to organize and express their political opinions.  These are not professional political operatives, or even career politicians.  They're just Twitter users and bloggers.  Even if you think it is somehow just deserts for a rabid Tea Party supporter or libertarian to be SWATted, it isn't just deserts for their kids to be subjected to the sight of their father being hauled out in handcuffs by the police.

With all due respect to Lee Stranahan, a man who I have defended on this site from attacks by Greg W. Howard and others who criticized his past as an erotic photographer, this is one time where he is absolutely wrong.  Twittergate is one facet of a story that goes directly to the core of what the Obama campaign and its surrogates have done over the past six years, only the targets in this case were not political personalities or operatives. They were regular people starting an political alternative to the two major parties.

Twittergate and every related event since then, as well as the undercurrent of activities that Neal Rauhauser and his associates have been engaged in, stand as an attack on political participation by ordinary people with conservative or libertarian outlooks.  He might not attack everyone, but for those he does attack, it means a great deal.  Their reputations, their safety, their ability to earn a living as working professionals, all of it comes into play.

I understand that Lee Stranahan and Greg W. Howard don't like each other.  But for the former to trivialize what happened to the latter, or to make light of how it fits into the larger pattern of conduct by Neal Rauhauser, who has been central to all of these events, is beneath standards.  I've dealt with Greg's anger in the past over things I've written or said, and I've had to deal with Patrick Read's misgivings as well.  I do not trivialize what happened to those two men as a result of Twittergate, nor do I minimize what it means for regular people trying to become politically active.

I write to combat leftism, and I stand against the idea that you can mount an online cyber-bullying campaign to dissuade people from political participation and activism.  The real legacy of Twittergate was that an outspoken person could have his life ripped apart for making valid points about political figures like Barack Obama.  In a free society, that will always be significant.

I believe that Lee has converted from the left to the right now, and I take his word as such.  I have misgivings about him leaving videos up on Youtube that deride the Tea Party and conservatives, but that's his decision to make. It amazes me that Adam S. Baldwin has such a problem with my criticisms of James O'Keefe and Andrew Breitbart, yet he is conspicuously silent about a Breitbart employee who has those videos up on the Internet from his days on the left.

What I will close with is this: if you're serious about fighting the same enemy, you can put your disagreements aside and accomodate each other in a reasonable sense even when you disagree about tactics and strategies.  Given the events of the past month, and the two people who are involved in this particular dispute, I don't hold out hope for a reconciliation.  However, a truce would be nice before the dispute between Greg W. Howard and Lee Stranahan becomes the story instead of what Rauhauser and Kimberlin have done.

Then again, I can't for the life of me think what possessed Lee Stranahan to switch gears from the Kimberlin story to going back to mock Twittergate.  Perhaps he'll be kind enough to clarify in the comments section.