An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Thursday, February 17, 2011

So This is America?

Did Hilary Clinton think that she was performing in a Monty Python skit?

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her speech at George Washington University yesterday condemning governments that arrest protestors and do not allow free expression, 71-year-old Ray McGovern was grabbed from the audience in plain view of her by police and an unidentified official in plain clothes, brutalized and left bleeding in jail. She never paused speaking. When Secretary Clinton began her speech, Mr. McGovern remained standing silently in the audience and turned his back. Mr. McGovern, a veteran Army officer who also worked as a C.I.A. analyst for 27 years, was wearing a Veterans for Peace t-shirt.

It gets better. This all happened under the watchful eye of a video camera and lots of people taking pictures:

In this more detailed article in OpEd News we learn more about Ray McGovern's views on Hilary Clinton and war:

Hillary is the driving force, together with a few others, behind the wars in Afghanistan. She's one of the big hawks in Iran. When I look at her and her husband that they don't know the first thing about war. I do and so do my fellow Veterans for Peace.
(Neither Hilary Clinton, nor her husband or daughter Chelsea have ever served in the military.)

Earlier in his life McGovern used the same tactics in his Catholic Church in protest to its refusal to ordain women priests.

With this latest example, what Glenn Greenwald calls American Exceptionalism has reached Bizarro World proportions. Were it not for the real life violence, that video showing Clinton continuing to plow through her speech condemning governments that arrest peaceful protesters while shadowy security men drag one out of the room would look like a scene from Duck Soup. Real life imitates a Marx Brothers' movie?!

I hope the cask-strength insanity of this latest assault on civil liberties wakes up some people.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Screwed by "Efficiency"

A NY Daily News story explains how the City of NY has spent $700,000,000 to create unfinished and undistributed software to track the hours worked by its employees. Of course back in the Giuliani administration the sales pitch was that this was only going to cost somewhere around $68,000,000, or less than a tenth of what its cost and counting.

Obviously, its an economic disaster at a time of shrinking budgets, but the extra magical part is the plan to have city workers sign in and out and in again using biometric palm scanners. That is right! There is so much theft of city services by city workers that they have to submit to being scanned every time they leave for lunch and come back. Here is the relevant quote, "The most contentious part of the program has been biometric palm scanners. City labor leaders consider it a huge violation of privacy rights. About 19,000 of the 45,000 workers on the system are being required to use the scanners to clock in and out each day and during lunch hours.

"It's absolutely outrageous, like Big Brother," said Jon Forster, vice president of the Local 375 of AFSCME, which represents the city's architects and technicians.

Now, in the age of swine flu, Forster notes, hundreds of people in various agencies must put their hands into these machines that often get sweaty and unsanitary.

Those who do not use hand scanners must punch in using a time clock each time they log on and off of their computers, or by filling out electronic time sheets. The city has left it up to individual agencies to decide which workers will use which system."

So not only do we not have a functioning new computerized time keeping system, if we do get it we will be asking our municipal workers like the NYPD & FDNY (a.k.a.: our first responder heroes) to give up their civil rights and biometric information multiple times a day just to make sure that nobody signs them in a little early. As Juan Gonzalez writes in his article, "Do the math for a moment: $700 million to track 140,000 city workers is costing $5,000 per worker - all for a new-age time clock!"

- By AR (but posted by Steven).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gun fantasies

AR sent me the following video in which Rachel Maddow explodes the myth that a well armed populace will reduce gun violence by means of return fire. 2nd amendment fans please watch to the end before commenting.

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On the topic of the "gun fantasy" : I suspect that pop culture with its very contrived situations in which friendly fire fatalities never happen may contribute to this fantasy. Contrary to the history documentaries and war movies, a dirty secret about warfare, especially in the 20th century, is that "friendly fire casualties" are endemic. Also in smaller scale rescue operations it frequently occurs that the rescuers kill or wound some number of the people they are trying to rescue (The raid on Entebbe in the 70s comes to mind). The military takes pains to avoid publicizing some of its own research which bears this out, time and again. In the book, War by Gwyne Dyer, you will find a description of how a military doctor during WWI performed autopsies on hundreds of soldiers on both sides who died in combat. Examination of the bullets or fragments indicated that half of the soldiers on both sides were killed by their own people. Most people learn history from TV or movies. Sad but true. Although the book Band of Brothers describes incidents of friendly fire fatalities, none of these appeared in the mini-series. Perception vs. reality.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Dr. Tarr and Professor Feather go to Washington

The above post from Rortybomb also gives a somewhat interesting history of the schism in the Libertarian party/movement.

Professor Feather:
  • Then there's Obama to cut heating oil assistance to the poor. Most of whom are elderly. Not kidding. I guess the reasoning here is that they can't vote him out of office in 2012 if they freeze to death in 2011. That's assuming any reasoning was behind this decision.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

OK, you can have a gold star

Frank Luntz is the republican strategist who wrote a memo to the effect that "climate change" is a better phrase to use than "global warming" as a way to attack and undermine the scientists. Here's a video in a series about global warming that has Luntz on camera (for PBS) admitting that he now accepts global warming as real. You might find his boasting somewhat amusing. Or surreal.

(By the way, the Greenman3610 videos are all great. Along with Potholer54 he has produced some of the best educational videos on climate science I have seen.)
-- Steven.

The weirdest thing about the Frank Luntz interview with Deborah Amos is that he insists that he did a great job and is a good boy. He wants her to be impressed with his skills. Its great language after all, so he's great at his job. Talk about having a narrow field of vision. The other weird thing about Luntz is how much more attention seeking he is compared to most of the people in his business. He is a camera hog, loves the spot light, wants people to publicly acknowledge his brilliance. Can you name another person who does what Luntz does for a living without a Google search? I can't.

-- AR

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Koch Bros. meet Monty Python

From the "striking it rich does not make you smart about everything" department:

Remember the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which one of the peasants start ranting "I'm being oppressed! See, he's oppressing me!" Well, imagine the billionaire Koch brothers in that stellar role.

The Koch brothers hired goons to intimidate reporters at their annual retreat for their loyal followers. From: The problem: you're viewed as sinister moguls, the solution: hired goons.