So What?

This is the latest in a series of stories about the ethics and values of people who hold security clearances. Far too many Americans are "cleared" and far too few of them meet the minimum level of ethical standards.

You can go back and find stories of people who routinely abuse their government credit card, frequent prostitutes, hit their spouse, steal government property, leak sensitive information, lose their homes to foreclosure, and travel overseas without approval and it still won't matter. The process of granting clearances to people is severely broken.

The Shakes

I don't have the answers, I just have the lyrics:

"The only exercise you ever get is the shakes."

-the Replacements.

Why that popped into my head, I have no idea.

Who Donated Money to Keep George Zimmerman Out of Prison?

How'd that donation to the George Zimmerman Defense Fund, Inc., work out for you?

This man is a raging maniac. He has guns, a license to kill people, and drives like he doesn't care what happens to him. A wonderful neighbor, I suppose, especially if you want things to stay interesting.

Zimmerman is exactly the kind of person who should be denied the right to possess a firearm. He has assaulted a police officer, he has repeatedly assaulted women, and he has a history of receiving medication for mental illness. He hits the trifecta, and this society keeps handing him free guns.


Geese on Wilde Lake

This is for a whole slew of new readers coming to the site from HoCo Blogs. Thank you!

Shot today, and shot with a simple digital camera. Some enhancing done on the mac, nothing special.

Today was the most gorgeous day of the year and I had to shoot something.

Banksy Is Running Wild in New York City

Banksy's latest stunt? Take a thrift store painting, change it and give it a new title, and then give it back to the thrift store.

There are no words for how brilliant this is in terms of trolling an art community that has had it coming for a good long while. Everything in New York is about money and Banksy is making people see that every time he drops a pitch-perfect troll bomb in their laps.

They Are All Lying and They Lie All the Time

Gladys Kravitz is the Original Director of National Intelligence

Come on. Who's kidding who?

When it comes to leadership and personal responsibility, President Barack Obama has made his stance very clear: "The buck stops with me." 

It's a phrase he's echoed countless times in the past. But now, he's dealing with an accountability double-whammy -- fallout from the botched Obamacare website and global fury over the wiretapping of some allied leaders' conversations. 

So what all did the President know, and when did he find out? Depends on who you ask.
Some U.S. officials have said that Obama didn't know about problems with the health care enrollment site before it launched and that he only recently learned about a National Security Agency operation that wiretapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone for a decade.

"It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel's communications were being collected since 2002," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said. "That is a big problem."

But other officials said Obama -- or at least his White House staff -- did know about it.

Horseshit. Information is the currency of statecraft. Without it, you are incapable of making strategic and tactical decisions that protect the interests that matter--namely, your own.

This is what Steve Clemons wrote over eight years ago:

We know little about the controversial NSA intercept materials (and roster of redacted names of U.S. officials mentioned in the transcripts) which were requested and reviewed by John Bolton. 

What we do know through sources is that the bulk of the material dealt with incidents in 2003 and 2004. This could mean that Bolton was spying on his colleagues’ North Korea diplomacy, on the International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, or other cases. 

But one of the biggest issues that has eluded the mainstream media and venues like TWN is what Bolton did with the intelligence he reviewed. 

Anyone observing the brewing NSA intercepts controversy and the impact on Congress’s role in investigating Executive Branch appointments and in the principle of “separation of powers” in general must be impressed by the administration’s enormous efforts to keep these intercepts from falling into public hands — so much so that the Director of National Intelligence believes that he has the right to defy the Congressional mandate of U.S. Senators conducting an investigation of an Executive Branch official. 

But John Bolton could get the intercepts easily. And then he was able to ask the National Security Agency for the redacted names of U.S. officials that had been routinely scrubbed from the intercepts. Bolton did this ten and perhaps more times; more if the requests were made by analysts working in Bolton’s department but made in the name of other officials. 

What TWN has just learned from a source — a single source — is that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is now looking into whether or not Bolton misused the super-secret information he retrieved from the intercepts. 

Given the paranoia about Joe Biden, Richard Lugar, or Christopher Dodd seeing the intercept material — one would only imagine that Bolton seeing this information and then DOING SOMETHING WITH IT, or better yet, SHARING THE INFORMATION WITH OTHERS, may have crossed some serious legal lines. 

TWN has no information that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has decided that any criminal activity occurred — nor has information that the Committee is doing anything other than “looking into these questions.” 

But this set of circumstances raises the obvious question: What did John Bolton do with the NSA intercept material? 

Given the obsessive concern over sources and methods being revealed, and about the protocols involved in managing compartmentalized intelligence (as referred to in the last letter of this Biden letter to John Negroponte), if Bolton did share information or revelations from the intercepts, then American national security may have been undermined by Bolton’s actions. 

Without the intercept material, it is very difficult to compare Bolton’s base of knowledge about the people and circumstances of some target the NSA was watching and what Bolton did either publicly or privately with the information he learned. In other words, if he shared such information with the Vice President’s office, or with other officials across the government, then serious violations of protocol occurred.

Anyone trying to make the case that surveillance, spying, eavesdropping, and intelligence gathering is unethical has not lived in the real world. Anyone who thinks what is going on right now is something new is naive and hasn't been paying attention. All of these efforts are the necessary functions and responsibilities of nation/states and have been in place for centuries. If you think allies spying on allies is a new thing, invented by Barack Obama in order to make Republicans cry, I'd like to introduce you to Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich and his sophisticated method of using informants and individuals who were quite skilled at opening diplomatic messages without being detected.

The Snowdens and the Mannings and the Assanges have peeled back a curtain that fools didn't know was there. The world doesn't look anything like what they want it to so now they're freaking out. Grow up, suckers. If you're not spying on your allies, your enemies, your friends, and the denizens of Bumfuck Nowhere, you're not doing it right.

The Current Millennium Has Sucked For Music

If Arcade Fire are slated to be the biggest band in the world, then the world has shrunk to the point where you can't even begin to say that what is going on is a "good" thing.

Audiences fracture, technology marches on, but we are still seeing the impact driven by the idea that "free" music was supposed to create more music. It did, but it's nothing you want to hear. Arcade Fire, for all of the hype, are a great "indie" or niche band but the biggest band in the world? Nope. And the same is true of Radiohead. They were never going to be something like The Who or U2 or the Police. But they were supposed to be great and find their audience. What happened?

Ironically enough, the iPod died this week. Apple isn't going to keep making new models. It's time to go back to stereo equipment, consoles, and vinyl. Arcade Fire are smart enough to put their stuff out in that format and enjoying their music will mean big rooms, big sounds, and actual speakers. The ear bud killed music, if you want to get right down to it. Delivering free songs through a cheap piece of plastic reduced the sonic quality of music down to fucking nothing.

In other words, pull that shit down and create music that explodes out of actual speakers and fills the place up with sound.

No Wonder Sucks

The extension crept into the Google Chrome browser, and I used it to look for The Guardian newspaper.

Instead of going to the newspaper, you're bombarded with ads and sponsored links. Guardian dental shows up as the number one search result? Fine. But I'm used to the idea that there is a hierarchy in search which should lead the user to the most prominent site, and that would be the site of the Guardian newspaper. I suppose you could argue about this, but, to me, sponsored content should not take up as much real estate as you see in the above screenshot. is gone. See ya! No wonder you lost the search engine wars.

Lou Reed Was a Pain in the Ass on Purpose

I was not a fan of Lou Reed, and that stems from the fact that I never fell in love with the whole David Bowie/Iggy Pop/Brian Eno/Lou Reed movement that captivated the kids in the 1970s and then allowed people to spend the 1990s living in the past. It's not hard to appreciate that there was talent and artistry and integrity there--Reed had that in spades and is rightfully lauded as a revolutionary and as an artist with few peers.

While the world was held in thrall of these men, you had Neil Young, Richard Thompson, and Robert Wyatt, to name a few, who were also doing things that were interesting and influential.

But, ultimately, I didn't get into it, probably never will, and I have noted that a lot of people somehow loved Reed without really acknowledging that he was a fogged-up pain in the ass for the majority of his life, often on purpose and in the presence of fanboys who loved him and wanted to record his every difficult rejoinder.

If someone was a pain in the ass, celebrate that in their demise.

Jason Richwine is a Race Hustler

National Review adds a race hustler to its stable, and no one should be surprised that it's Jason Richwine, who was too ridiculous for the Heritage Foundation to keep on the payroll. Richwine hates the Hispanics, you see, and now that we've all but killed off the idea of immigration reform, Rich Lowry has a writer on staff who can beat the horse dead a seventh or eighth time, but with feeling.

Via this to that, and go read this.

London to Beijing by Train

Turkey wants to build an earthquake-safe tunnel under the Bosphorus and connect Europe and Asia with as little fuss as possible. The importance of Turkey in world affairs continues to be a source of conflict, however, and you can lay this at the feet of the man who would be Pharoah:

[...] critics of Prime Minister Erdogan have seen the tunnel as one of his grandiose construction projects for the city where he used to be mayor. 

Detractors of his proposals, including a third airport, a parallel canal, a third bridge over the Bosphorus and a second tunnel, for cars, south of Marmaray, say they illustrate Mr Erdogan's "pharaonic" ambitions. 

Authorities came under fire earlier this year when protesters opposed plans to redevelop a park in Istanbul. Widespread violence between anti-government demonstrators and security forces ensued. 

The rail tunnel will not be fully operational after its official opening on Tuesday, AFP reports. 

"The part that is in service is very limited. All that has been delayed until much later," said Tayfun Kahraman, president of the Istanbul Chamber of Urban Planners. 

"We are wondering why this inauguration is happening so soon."

Russia is in steep decline. Freedom and fundamentalism are struggling inside of Turkey, and I would bet on whichever side is willing to cut some deals and open up this trade route. 

America's contribution to all of this was to create the failed states of Iraq and Afghanistan, destabilize most of Turkey's neighbors, and allow Japan and China to march in and strike deals. Brilliant.

Social Security Is Still Screwing Up?

The government just can't do anything right, can it?

I mean, isn't that what we keep hearing, day in and day out? We keep hearing how Obamacare is a nightmare (it isn't) and that no one is being helped by the new laws (patently untrue) and that our darned government is incompetent and we might as well stop trying to help people (whatever).

Even after 73 years of delivering benefits, the Social Security Administration is having a tough time figuring out how much and when to pay people, including Veterans. Not only are they dealing with the Veteran's Administration, they're dealing with Social Security as well. There are bugs in it and there are problems figuring out who gets what. Social Security has overpaid on benefits by over a billion dollars in some estimates, and figuring out who is entitled to what requires a great deal of tweaking and improving the system.

Why are people freaking out over the ACA website? Because it is the newest red-headed stepchild?

If you hate government, good for you. Enjoy your retirement benefits and your medical coverage. I'm sure it will be a sickening nightmare for you, especially the part where you have to fill out papers and prove you're not ripping off the government. Have a nice day!

Oh My Word

This snuck up on me. The Minnesota Golden Gophers are playing some good football this year. Look who had time to Tweet about it!

All Your Wars Are Over Now

Another blogger stops, another one starts, when will it all end? Who knows?

Rarely will you find a warblogger or a milblogger or a popular blogger who knows how to regulate discussion, appeal to the academics and the amateurs, and provide information with more care and concern than AM.

Now that our wars are coming to an end, we will need peace bloggers and Veteran's issues bloggers and bloggers dedicated to making sure we won't need another AM to explain COIN and counterterrorism and all of that...

The Atomkeller at Haigerloch

This was where Werner Heisenberg and his staff tried to make an atomic bomb. They failed to make a bomb, they were caught, and this room represents a reconstruction of the facility in which they carried out their experiments.

Here, you can see how primitive their efforts were (but no less innovative and groundbreaking):

More here...

Haigerloch Schloss Kirche

The Floating Plastic Gyre

I can specifically remember being told that we, as humans, needed to stop throwing shit into the oceans. That was in the 1970s, and it was not that long after a thing called Earth Day.

Apparently, we haven't been paying attention.

Someone, somewhere, needs to invent something that can go out in the ocean, suck up all of the plastic, and then turn it into magical ocean-renewing pixie dust. We need to turn loose a vast army of ships to go and clean up this mess and I can almost guarantee you, someone somewhere is smirking about how it's not really a problem and that Obama sucks! that's why.

Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Keep Hating The Proclaimers

These guys again? What?

The Proclaimers were annoying, and there's nothing I can do about that. But you can't hate a couple of guys who go around raising money for a Veteran's charity, can you?


That Kind of Asking Price

Guided by Voices is not a happy camp right now.

They have fired their drummer, Kevin Fennell, and Fennell has attempted to auction off his drums for $55,000. This is not a case where Neil Peart has decided to hold a fire sale (Peart could sell his drums for literally any asking price and there are fans who would buy them, sight unseen, for vast sums). This is the drummer for a working band that is doing what it has done for a long time--they play, they record, and they have a fan base. It's respectable, and it's not a joke or anything. It is what it is, to use a phrase.

Here are some of the other details:

Now, the auction's Facebook page -- which no longer exists -- has shared an email correspondence between Fennell and Guided by Voices frontman Robert Pollard. In the exchange, posted by Pitchfork, Fennell claims he resigned from the band, while Pollard maintains he was fired. 

"You have made a fool of yourself by your asking price," Pollard wrote. "Most people would like to know who the fuck you think you are and who you think Guided By Voices is that you can warrant that kind of asking price for your fucking drums." 

Pollard also took Fennell to task on using the band's name in the auction, saying that he had "to ask permission to to use the name Guided By Voices as I own it."

Pollard goes on to insult his former drummer's abilities and he maintains that the ownership of the band's name extends to preventing someone from saying that they used to be in Guided by Voices. Which is fine, but how do you keep someone from trying to make a living or a profit from something they actually did? Fennell should be allowed to say "these are the drums I played when I was in Guided by Voices" and what would you pay to own them?

The fact that he asked too much is irrelevant. I don't know how you stop a guy from trying to making a living when he's not lying about anything. Pollard does have a case if he actually paid for Fennell's drums in some way. Were they acquired through a deal to purchase gear in bulk? Did they get a discount on the drums when they bought gear from a dealer?

That might change things. My guess is that Fennell brought his drums to the band, or bought the set he's selling from tour proceeds or something along those lines out of his own funds and now he wants to get rid of them. Stopping him from doing that isn't as easy as it sounds.

Leaving it All in the Ditch

So, this is done. I'm slowly ramping up more stories and more pieces for the Kindle store. This one is a short story piece that ended up being acceptable enough to publish. It will be on a free promotion starting next Tuesday. If you are a Kindle owner, you can get it free.

Jonathan Franzen Still Hates the Internet

I can see where the despair comes from. Jonathan Franzen is honestly lost when it comes to the issue of whether or not we should even have an Internet. He doesn't care for the technology or the philosophy that goes into it. And he has correctly identified what is happening during our modern phase of being in the thrall of the robber barons. The problem is, he's just not that interested in looking at this from the perspective of someone who studies the Humanities.

This is not a question of technology; it's a question of ethics and regulation. The government needs to correct the direction of capitalism. The technology we use today has no bearing on the discussion of how much the robber barons should restrained and whether or not we're going to guarantee workers some basic rights. The Internet, in many cases, helps educate people about how they're getting fucked over. Once people know they're getting fucked over, the technology is irrelevant. The laws and the ethics of the people fucking them over is what matters.

Everything Franzen cites above is a Humanities problem. How do we reconcile technology and society? How can we have jobs that pay living wages, careers that guide people through the phases of their life, and alleviate the shock of obsolescence? How do we wrestle with this without overreacting? Calling for the Internet to be regulated is the classical overreaction. Good luck with that.

Over a hundred years ago, buggy whip makers and wagon assemblers were rendered obsolete by the invention of the automobile. Those people had to go find something else to do. Their modern counterparts are faced with the same situation, one that is no less more brutal. Where they land will test the ethical positions of our collective governance. Hating people is inherently unethical and yet, in tribal America, we live with the attitude of you're fucked if you're not me because I want the government to take care of me and screw you at the same time. You're not allowed to complain because I have always had it harder than you. All of that is bullshit. We have to exit the era of the modern robber baron.

And that's why Franzen is wrong. Or is that illegal to point out?

We Should Spy on Everyone All the Time

There is something to note about these statements:

One genre I tire of quickly involves variations on "of course that happens you naive fool!" The latest is that of course we spy on world leaders! 

One reason not to do so is that, you know, there is no way to expect to keep the billion secrets we have given the hundreds of thousands of people who have access to them. If your surveillance state is that big, and it involves an unholy alliance of government agencies with cowboy contractors with little oversight (they outsourced the effing granting of security clearances), there is no chance of keeping such things secret. Snowdens everywhere. 

And what are the good reasons to spy on our closest allies in effective peacetime? None, other than blackmail or as part of a broader program of commercial espionage.

Atrios is right about the naivete that surrounds common espionage practices. I think that there are still way too many people who just don't understand that eavesdropping on your enemies, friends, and sometime-adversaries is a pervasive and normal practice. It is the currency of back-channel diplomatic communications. The French want to know what we think of what Chancellor Merkel is saying to members of her party and her opposition as well as to the bureaucrats and the bankers. In many cases, simply having the same take that they are having is essential for everyone's sanity.

Our allies would be privately shocked if we weren't watching them--they would accuse us of not caring about our security and stability and question our dedication to the functioning statecraft necessary for protecting ourselves. We know that industrial espionage is pervasive and routine; we tolerate a great deal of it.

There are not Snowdens everywhere, and that's an outgrowth of this need to be someone rather than do something. The contractor system broke down and allowed a known practitioner of bullshit theories and wild political ideas to hold a clearance well above his pay grade. The real question is what will be done to fix it. The next leak will get around that, security will be refined, and we will ultimately see improvements. Everything has to be tested.

The real justification for spying on Frau Merkel is this--we need to know that she is in charge of her coalition, her country, and her sanity. We may not care what she's saying but we do care whether or not she is delusional, ineffective, out of touch, and stable. America's ally in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is batshit crazy. We can manage that, but we have to watch everybody else in case they start seeing ghosts and begin telling the bankers to print money.

You Are Paying For This

Every individual who receives a Federal benefit puts strain on the system. It's no where near as broken as people claim to be--it's actually very efficient and relatively free of fraud and misuse. But taxpayers should not have to subsidize anyone who works 40 hours a week and plays by the rules. The people who work at McDonald's and do the right thing are being encouraged to sign up for food stamps. Which is a common sense thing because we wouldn't want anyone working in the restaurant industry to starve to death so that their employer can reap obscene profits.

A 40 hour a week job should pay a living wage, period. End of story.

Bonnie Prince Charles

No one is clamoring for the Queen of England to die off so that her son can rule England into his rapidly-approaching dotage. Americans certainly don't care--they want more Kate Middleton! And she isn't even a royal by blood. The royal family of England, these Hanoveran Windsors, will be fundamentally changed for a century or more when Queen Elizabeth II passes away. Charles, William and George will rule England for the next 80 years or so, and it is very likely that the eldest child of George will be a boy as well. After Victoria and Elizabeth II, we are finally done with old women ruling the Commonwealth.

Prince Charles is royal by blood and he will rule, albeit briefly, and he will do so without any real affection. He is superstitious, a man of the 11th Century when it comes to science and technology, and he has muddled about in public affairs with all of the sophistication of someone paying for a seance.

Now is the time for all good men to consider cutting off the Windsors so that the British public can enter modern times. Why does anyone want or need a monarchy?

National Security Wonk

If you truly care about national security, why would you read the bitchy, immature Twitter stream of someone who wants to bring a Gawker-level of sophistication to something no one cares about?

I have a feeling it was read by people looking for mention of their names. Absolutely no one in this country cares about national security outside of the very small community that works on these issues. This is inside baseball stuff as if it were written by one of the three or four guys who edits the gossip page on the back of the Inside Baseball magazine (if one actually existed).

Mr. Joseph will have no trouble bringing his junior high material with him when he tries to live on what the media will pay for his services. Is there a book deal yet? Does he have a monetized blog with plenty of liability-free content? Has Buzzfeed given him an offer?

This is what happens when you encourage people who want to be someone rather than do something.

Get Everything in Writing

The number of top 40 hits from annoying alt/indie/whatever band Sugar Ray would fill one side of a vinyl album; the problem is, who would want Sugar Ray on vinyl? Or at all?

Could anyone in America pick Murphy Karges or Stan Frazier out of a lineup? The "bitter" campaign to destroy their personal and professional reputations should rest squarely on whether or not anybody beyond their own families even knows who the hell they are and why they were famous 15 years ago.

Situations like this remind me of how bands start--nobody writes anything down and it all just sort of evolves and then, one day, the guy who is the most famous walks away with everything while everyone else sucks eggs and begs for someone to listen to their complaints. If you didn't get it in writing, it's gone. And whatever you do get will end up in the hands of the lawyers.

The alternative to all of this is to make music and learn from your mistakes. Did your old indie band succeed a little and make a little money? Good, now keep making music and stay relevant. Your audience might shrink but your sense of self-worth should not be tied to the asshole who rips you off. Half the time, that asshole is ripping you off because he's broke and has run out of ideas. Don't be that guy.

NBC is a Chickenshit Outfit

I am done with NBC. I am absolutely done with this network.

It doesn't matter what you put on your network because I'm not watching it. I'm not going to become invested in anything you broadcast. We're over.

When Parks and Recreation and Community come out on DVD, I'll buy those and watch them. When Community comes on in January, forget it. I'm not watching it. If they have made 13 episodes by then, I am reasonably certain that Season Five will come out on DVD and I will watch it then.

The bullshit shows you produce now mean nothing to me and they never will, not unless they come out on DVD and yeah, I might watch them, but don't count on it.

I'll support the people who made the shows, but I won't support NBC anymore.

It's not you, it's me. I just can't take these cancellations and pre-empting stuff and shuffling it around and playing around with all of that nonsense. Either let the stuff out there or don't take the risk in the first place. Find an audience and respect it or get out of the TV business.

Glenn Taylor is the Dumbass of the Year

That's Glenn Taylor, rocking the grey t-shirt and he might just be the dumbass of the year.

Taylor and his dumb, stunt-filming buddies have been ejected from the Boy Scouts and are facing possible legal ramifications for destroying a natural feature in a state park. Now, come to find out, he's a deadbeat trying to catch some disability money raining down on his goofy head:

The attention has led to revelations that Taylor filed a personal-injury lawsuit in September, claiming he had suffered "serious, permanent and debilitating injuries" from a 4-year-old car crash. 

"Someone with a bad back who's disabled, who can't enjoy life, to me, doesn't step up and push a rock that big off the base," the defendant in Taylor's lawsuit, Alan MacDonald, told Salt Lake City television station KTVX. 

Taylor's lawyer did not return calls for comment. But when CNN affiliate KUTV noted that Taylor didn't look particularly debilitated in the video, he replied, "You didn't see how hard I pushed." 

CNN Legal Analyst Danny Cevallos said when someone has a pending disability lawsuit, "You'd think they'd avoid the camera like the plague. 

"But instead, they think no one will ever see it or repercussions will ever come of it," Cevallos said.

A breathless nation, shocked by the sheer dumbassery evident in the video, can't wait to find out.

Smacking Trolls Around on My Birthday

It's a sad, sad life...

You Will Wait Forever

Shane Meadows knows exactly what he's talking about--he hasn't the faintest idea when the Stone Roses will put out new music. Nobody else does either.

There really is no point in putting out a new album or releasing new songs because, well, the market isn't exactly welcoming of music made by men in their 40s or 50s that would be based on things they did in their 20s. It had to be a shock when they went to Coachella and were largely ignored. The American market is all but indifferent to the idea of the Stone Roses and yet, these big American music companies keep throwing millions at them. Take the money and run.

What they should do is this--release their new stuff or experimental tracks as vinyl only, UK only as they see fit. Ignore the marketplace and put out things that they, and only they, care about.

I mean, why put something out if it's going to be stolen anyway?

Tina Brown is an Expert at Screwing Up Websites

Tina Brown is an expert on fucking up websites and blowing shit up. Her level of credibility on this subject far and away exceeds that of pretty much everyone else, so, you know.

The problem with her article is that she is punching the wrong strawman. The states that deliberately chose not to implement their own versions of Obamacare, and build the requisite websites needed to enroll their citizens, ended up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Accompanying her article is a screenshot of a state-run website designed and intended specifically to ease the burden on the national Obamacare website. This is what people need to remember:

Responsibility for the system is shared between the federal government and some states. The Affordable Care Act gave states the option to run their own exchanges or to leave that job to the federal government. Only 14 states and the District of Columbia opted to operate their own exchange. The other 36 states opted to let the federal government do some or all of the work of setting up the exchange for their consumers. 

That means the bulk of the Obamacare implementation has fallen to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. As its name suggests, this agency has traditionally administered key aspects of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The Affordable Care Act gave it a new role administering the exchanges that form the heart of Obamacare.

Brown couldn't be bothered to connect the dots (plenty of others have already done that) and correctly assign the blame here.

When you dump millions onto a system that wasn't intended to handle the traffic, it fails. It's as simple as that. And that was the plan from the start. States that did not build their own exchange websites ended up abandoning their citizens and those people, desperate to embrace affordable health care, broke the system.

Miss Brown would rather chortle at the fate of the poors than apply common sense. If Jimmy Kimmel is your best "shoe-leather" reporter, you're completely and utterly out of the common sense business and living in the world of viral videos and junk hits for laffs. It's a cock up! Ha! And, meanwhile, who's going to hire her to ruin their next web venture? Wacky!

Dragon at Maulbronn

The Buried Tower

This is the foundation of a tower that once stood at the corner of a castle; it is open like this and there are no safety barriers. If you were to wander into this area and fall in, the German attitude is, "sucks to be you."

A certain amount of caution is needed when looking at ruins, obviously.


A good deal of this tablet is outside of the scope of Google translate; I started trying to decipher this and gave up.

Five couplets, initials at the end--looks poetic to me, but that's fairly obvious. This was found near an abandoned, ruined castle in the Nagold river valley.

Hazmat is Cleaning Your Filthy Locker Room

How bad does it have to get before you admit that your team is full of superstitious players?

The Tampa Bay organization could be faulted for a lot of things, but they don't deserve this. The team has disclosed all it can about what happened with MRSA infections, it has not avoided responsibility, and they have thoroughly cleaned their facilities. What else are they supposed to do?

So much for being tough.

What Are They Going to Talk About?

Come on. This is ridiculous:

France summoned the U.S. ambassador on Monday to protest allegations in Le Monde newspaper about large-scale spying on French citizens by the National Security Agency.

The allegations that the agency was collecting tens of thousands of French telephone records risked turning into a diplomatic row just as Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris for the start of a European tour over Syria.

"I have immediately summoned the U.S. ambassador and he will be received this morning at the Quai d'Orsay (the French Foreign Ministry)," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters on the sidelines of an EU meeting in Luxembourg.

 What are they going to talk about? How no one ever spies on anyone ever for any reason?

Nation/states have engaged in open and flagrant espionage against one another since forever. The French are the most sophisticated practitioners of this kind of thing, and you don't have to cite their efforts in chapter and verse. You merely have to discuss their ongoing and comprehensive industrial espionage campaign and fold your arms and wait for them to bring up something else to talk about.

Natural Jackasses

I am of two minds on this example of this sterling example of wanton public jackassery. Basically, some clowns went into a place called Goblin Valley and altered the physical landscape in a significant enough way to make people mad. The "boy scout" leaders in question here toppled a boulder and bragged about it on social media. Common sense abandoned them. They made the lame excuse of doing something to protect the public.

Utah authorities did not see it that way. County and state prosecutors are considering criminal charges, Eugene Swalberg, a spokesman for the Utah state parks, told the Deseret News newspaper. 

“This is not behavior that is appreciated or should exist in state parks,” he said. “This has been formed for literally millions of years, and it’s supposed to last for a long time. It doesn’t need individuals doing the work of Mother Nature.”

How long should a perched boulder stay perched and can a lawyer successfully claim that the shelf life of this boulder expired several million years ago? And was this incident significant enough to warrant criminal charges?

Humans alter and change the environment every day. This is the natural course of events. We have created state and federal parks so that we can preserve our environment, and I think that is what will come into play here. They're going to fry these jackasses solely because they were stupid enough to post a video on the Internet. You'll note that this comes up quite often and that the number of stupid videos posted on the Internet does not seem to be in decline.

Knobheads and UFOs

This is actually a thing.

Shaun Ryder is going to take a camera crew and go talk about UFOs. I hope they use his music.

Write Another Book, Johnny

John Lydon is getting an award, and it is well deserved. I think it is well past the time to think of him as a modern polymath and an artist who dabbles in multiple formats.

Lydon's recorded legacy is secure; in the realm of music, he cannot be touched. He has made music without having any of the advantages that others possess. He has made decades of music in spite of himself. But it is in the literature of memoirs that he is at the top of the game.

The book Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs is the most significant music memoir of the last century. It is the gold standard by which all other memoirs or biographies or autobiographies should be measured. I would definitely read a follow-up, one covering the point where the original drops off.

Heckuva Job, Luke Russert

Luke Russert continues to half-ass his way through the political culture of the United States. Who elevated this young man to his position ahead of all those other young reporters who actually can operate their Twitter account with some degree of accuracy? How hard is it to get something right?

Are They Pixies Without Kim Deal?

To me, Kim Deal is an indispensable part of the sound of Pixies. When I heard her sing backup live, I was instantly hooked because she has so much presence and charisma. Her bass playing isn't even the half of it. For her to stand there and do what she does is the essence of rock and roll. She is not merely a chick who sings and plays bass. She just fucking rocks. Period. End of story.

The Tea Party Embraces a New Dolchstosslegende

This would be the same media that can't stop talking about how the Republicans are the Daddy Party? The same media that can't stop fawning over John McCain? The same media that gave Ted Cruz a pass so that he could manipulate everyone and lose?

What lie are we talking about? The Tea Party has railed against Obamacare and has called for its repeal. They have passed dozens of bills in the House to repeal Obamacare. And now you have a member of the Republican Party claiming that the whole thing was NOT about repealing Obamacare?

We've been seeing this for months. The shutdown of the government was planned from the start in order to create a mechanism with which to repeal Obamacare. And now they are calling the media liars in order to do what, exactly?

Get out of being held accountable for screwing the pooch?


I mean, honestly?

Who's the liar? Who's actively forgetting everything they have ever done wrong in order to create a stab-in-the-back myth for their own use?

These people have never been acquainted with anything that looks like the truth.

On the Waterfront

I came across this older photo taken along the Rhine River in Speyer, Germany when I was looking for adequate photos to inflict on others. You can see my shadow in the lower right of the photo because I am, of course, the best photographer ever.

This is a good indication of what people will put up with in order to live in proximity to a river. And, even though this is Germany, the houses are fairly new and modern. The photo was taken in the town of Speyer, which goes back to the Middle Ages. The Rhine is transformed by physical engineering--the bank is bricked up or paved, the level of the river is controlled, and the extensive system of docks and causeways allows people to keep their boats secured without actually touching the shore.

The whole thing has a sort of over-industrialized nightmare element to it, but, really, these people just want to live by a river that doesn't flood them out of their homes and destroy their town.

The Fishtank

More of my grossly incompetent aquarium photography. Yes, the Germans think it is funny to put skeletons in fish tanks. I don't know why, either.

Heumaden Path

In this photo, you can see Althengstett in the distance. Behind and to the left is a park with a very, very fun zipline. This was taken adjacent to Heumaden, Germany near Calw.

A Stunning Body of Work

The British Broadcasting Service, otherwise known in America as the BBC, is going to devote a considerable amount of time, effort, and money to commemorate the First World War. This will create a stunning body of work that will make a noble effort towards understanding what happened and maybe, just maybe, help clarify the part that no one gets--the why part.

Why World War I happened is a subject of almost endless debate. Was it really a cousins war? A war of timetables and mobilization? A war unleashed by decades of militarism and nationalism? The BBC should tackle this, and more.

In America, we will commemorate World War I with a Bruce Willis movie and something from the dude who does Family Guy. If that.

The Good Doctor is Being a Ridiculous Fool

“Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is, in a way, it is slavery,” Carson said.
Carson spoke at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. on Friday. He offers this explanation of why he thinks Obamacare is the worst thing in the U.S. since slavery.
“It is making all of us subservient to the government,” he said. “And it was never about health care, it was about control.”
Really? Is that what the Affordable Care Act was about?

It was about controlling costs, and it was actually a Republican idea, passed by Congress, signed into law, and upheld by the Supreme Court.

Dr. Ben Carson is one of those individuals who had a very distinguished career doing something really difficult and ended up not knowing anything about history or the humanities. He is proof that people without context often make statements that are bullshit, through and through, because of their inherent ignorance.

Rielle Hunter Opens Up About Being an Insane Homewrecker

I'm not sure why I can't bring myself to forgive and forget when it comes to John Edwards. I voted for him and I supported him and I thought that he was the best candidate to talk about poverty and the two different Americas that existed in 2008 and that exist today. We are in terrible shape in this country when it comes to having a conversation about the poor and the hungry. We accept, as gospel truth, the idea that we have to cut benefits and entitlements without, um, paying attention to the fact that we have experienced the greatest transfer of wealth to the 1% in recorded human history. Dammit, Edwards was the guy to talk about that. He failed.

Apparently, though, Rielle Hunter was crazy when she exposed Edwards and his lies. We already know what a douchebag he was for running for President while screwing around with a woman who was crazy and not his wife and what that would have done to the country. He's sorry, but still a douche. She's sorry, and has a book to sell.

Can't she and Edwards just go away and give that little girl a good life? Giving a child a good life probably means keeping your scandal-ridden carcass off of websites and out of magazines and it probably means not writing books about how insane you were when you were wrecking someone's life.

In the words of a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party, just go the fuck away and stay there, please.

What You Wear When You Blow Things Up is Important

I wore exactly one uniform while I was in the Army, and I guess I can consider myself lucky. Soldiers on active duty now have to prepare themselves for a complete revamp of their current duty uniform.

There are a number of complaints in this article, but it all comes down to the application of common sense--you can never expect common sense to be a part of the Army. You just have to deal with what they throw at you. The Army did change the PT uniform. Instead of functional, they went with expensive, stylish work out clothing that made people who don't actually exercise and want something cool to wear very happy. The old PT uniforms were perfect--they were cheap, easy to clean, and you could do grass drills in them without a care in the world. The new PT uniforms required soldiers to ground their expensive PT uniform jacket before doing anything.

My belief is that this new uniform is being gotten rid of because you can't iron it flat and look ridiculously turned out and "squared away" in it. You can count on one thing in the Army--if someone wearing rank is offended by the way someone looks in the uniform, everyone will suffer. I remember stories of the pregnant female at one of the major forts who wore maternity BDUs, tennis shoes, and either a green or maroon beret and how that resulted in a massive overreaction and created a backlash against giving everyone a symbol of elite status to wear.

The Army that I knew was full of that nonsense. And the first thing you had to do was get an iron, an ironing board, and a can of starch. We used to spend a fair amount of time starching BDUs and shining the black boots that went with them. Perhaps all of what's happening is being driven by a belief that the people who make Kiwi are going to go out of business if the military doesn't go back to black leather boots. Who knows?

The warrior mentality is all but gone from the Army. It's more about what will look good shuffling around on post. Uniforms should be serviceable and protective; good luck seeing something like that survive if some old Colonel decides he doesn't like a flapping panel or a stray button on his perfectly pressed vanity suit.

The National Football League is in Trouble

I have always thought that if what happened to Junior Seau didn't wake people up, someone would move the story along and present some pretty compelling evidence that professional football is too dangerous to keep playing in its present state.

Here, you can see the effects of that. This article breaks it down pretty succinctly. The evidence is there and the science seems to be pretty solid. And it doesn't help when ambassadors of the game say things like this:

Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, whose concussion in 1994 was featured in the documentary, told PBS: 

"I do not have a son; if I had a son, I wouldn't necessarily discourage him from playing football, but I don't know that I would encourage him to play, either ... I don't know what the data show, but I haven't sensed there's been a reduction in head injuries. With that in mind, that's concerning. As long as we're having contact and as long as there are collisions, there's going to be head injuries."

I guess we have to get to a point where there are few, if any, head injuries. That's just common sense. And if a multi-billion dollar industry has to change, then maybe it should change quickly and hope people don't walk away from the sport.

Belly King Covers and Promotional Material

Was this the album that broke the band?

Belly's King album was a beautifully packaged slow-fading shout out to the end of something that Tanya Donnelly started in order to get out there on her own for the second time or so. The Breeders had come and gone and she had a major hit (in my mind) with Feed the Tree, which is another gorgeously packaged EP.

They did the Star album and it was perfect. They did King and I really liked it and I wish they had done more. The marketplace didn't agree with me.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with making great music and singing great songs. That's what Belly were guilty of, and the grunge kids took a pass.

The Greatest Failure

The track record of House Speaker John Boehner is atrocious when it comes to courage and conviction. This is a bought and paid for man who operates from one position and one position only--what's good for John Boehner is exactly what John Boehner is going to do, no matter what.

America, you're in trouble because this man is a moral and physical coward who won't put anything ahead of his comfort and his ability to strut around and be somebody. He did not come to Washington D.C. in order to be the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He went to Washington D.C. because he was considered the best man for the job of representing the area where he is from in Congress. Now, he represents himself and his own enjoyment of the privileges of his high office.

No one is better at maintaining absolutely little, if any, popular support for the institution that he leads. He is the blight upon democracy that the Founding Fathers figured would be handled by the Senate. How's that going?

The crazies put him in power and the crazies are going to do us all in. I have no optimism that this man would ever do the right thing because he believes he controls the crazies or benefits from them not removing him from the office of Speaker.

Have you started stocking up on guns, toilet paper, and bottled water yet? The stores are flush right now so you'd better get going.

Ian McCulloch Holy Ghosts Cover

I have to confess that this package got past me; normally, I would know a bit more about these things, but there it is. Ian McCulloch has put out a live album and a solo album of works; normally, you might see the album of originals released with a bonus live album; I believe Sugar did this with an album of B-sides and I remember there was a Cracker album that followed this format as well.

McCulloch has put out the live work on the front side and put his new album on the back. I would call this a bold statement, and something original. The cover and the packaging follow the best impulses of the artwork that go with a Bunnymen-related project. Can't wait to get this.

You Don't Mess With the Alamo Drafthouse

When did Madonna decide to start looking like Lucille Ball? And why is anyone surprised that the latest Indie film cannot be counted on to tear people away from their selfish need to text about themselves?

This is a ban that will stand the test of time. Madonna isn't going to go back to your theater chain, sir.

Andy Rourke Leaves Manchester For New York City

This is an excellent read:

The Penguin affair reminded me of a lovely afternoon I spent in the East Village with his former band mate Andy Rourke, the talent behind (partially) bass-driven Smiths classics “This Charming Man,” “Pretty Girls Make Graves,” “Barbarism Begins at Home,” and “You’ve Got Everything Now.” Morrissey and Rourke haven’t spoken in decades; he has since dismissively referred to The Smiths’ rhythm section as mere session musicians. When we chatted in 2011, Rourke dryly noted that his songwriting credits with Morrissey resulted in no royalties. 

During a long, meandering conversation lubricated by much beer and wine, Rourke discussed Morrissey’s famous avariciousness (“If anyone asks for a pay raise, they get fired”), his move to New York, and the just-emerging Anthony Weiner scandal (“He looks like a douchebag”). Unlike Morrissey and former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, Rourke—who since the Smiths breakup has played with Sinead O'Connor, Killing Joke, and members of the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays—lives an ascetic life, though not by choice. When I met him, he had just moved into Manhattan from the part-hipster, part-terrifying Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick.

If you need to read about how difficult Morrissey can be, have at it.

A Frivolous America

This is a cheapshot from the Chinese ministry of propaganda (or whoever thought it would be fun to make a comment today) that won't inspire anyone to abandon the United States and embrace the Chinese culture. What does China have that anyone in Europe wants, culturally or politically? They love the cheap manufactured goods, but are the citizens of Europe going to watch Chinese films and organize their parliaments to accommodate China's new version of Communism? Are they going to shift their currency and banking to Chinese models? Probably not.

Here's what China has gotten good at over the past decade--denying the impact of pollution. Will the world wrap their arms around the methods by which the Chinese kill themselves with poisons? Or are they going to be relegated to lesser status because of concerns over their indifference to how they run things internally?

China is a useful nation for most of the world. It can be used for borrowing, manufacturing, and as a counterweight to the Americans. It can be used as far as the transfer or sale of goods and raw materials. It does not have the cultural cachet that would attract other countries into its sphere of influence. China will have to pummel other nations to dominate them; that is the phase that seems to be around the corner. China would love to pummel Taiwan and Southeast Asia and the Koreans. How they do this is evident in the fact that the Chinese would love to start a war with Japan over long-forgotten islands that are worth nothing.

While the Congress dithers, American exceptionalism takes another hit.

Why Greed Is Not Finished With Us Just Yet

Ronald Reagan still doesn't receive enough blame for exploding our deficits and embarking on a military buildup that left us with a military that had to be drawn down in the 1990s. There is a sunny view of Reagan that ignores the ugly reality of his two terms in office (we are no closer to an accounting of our involvement in Central America than we were twenty years ago).

As historians look at the late 2000s and the subprime meltdown, it is important to note that the working definition of history that we have is going to be tainted by the poor accounts of the facts rendered by media companies. Would you cite Fox News as a source for anything in a serious academic piece? Would you trust the Washington Post to deliver a fair accounting of what happened during the first year of the Obama Administration? The information that historians are going to have to rely on is badly skewed and unreliable. We are entering a period where history isn't going to make sense because it will pit conventional wisdom against facts that no one can agree upon.

In so many ways, this country was righteously fucked in the early Spring of 2009. How we got there is the story of why we are still on the path to economic meltdown--the bankers are not in jail, the money is still pouring in from the theft, sale, and resale of mortgages, and the actual rules around who gets to buy a house are still chaotic and confused. The system still favors the banks over consumers. And the Republican Party's complacency in all of this has not stuck to them any more than incompetence of American Foreign Policy have stuck to Reagan in the 1980s.

Greed, and I would define this as a return to the robber baron mentality of the late 19th Century updated for modern times, has not been regulated properly in decades. Greed is still washing away the foundations of the banking system. Greed is going to bite us in the ass, sooner rather than later, if we don't get a Congress that can perform oversight and compliance and start regulating the mortgage industry. We need this now, and we need to get it done.

Get Yourself a Real Banksy

The artist known as Banksy--and, yes, he has a following much like the Artist Formerly Known as Prince--had a starving artist sale in Central Park over the weekend and all he made was about four hundred bucks. And good for him.

I'm still wondering if the stencils we used to see West of Stuttgart were originals or if they were knockoffs.

A World Without Mistresses

In case you were planning on renting an apartment in Beijing, remember to look for a building that is not full of country girls who are living as mistresses. It's not that you won't enjoy your neighbors--it's that you are going to pay too much in rent.

How is this a uniquely Chinese phenomenon? Couldn't it be said that this problem once plagued New York City or is the scale of mistress keeping much too high in China for this to be a universal problem?

Pedestrian in Calw

I have no memory of shooting this. The area in front looks into downtown Calw. There are shops and apartments behind the house in the center of the photo. Out of frame, and directly behind where I was standing, is the Nagold River.

CBGB is a Big, Wet Fart of a Movie

The one thing you cannot do is make a movie about something and turn it into a joke. The punk scene in New York City has garnered a lot of critical acclaim and attention, but, really. Compared to London and Los Angeles, how can you really call it punk? It may have been the starting place, but no one finished there.

As far as the subject matter goes, James Wolcott has an account of this era that works a lot better. No one could possibly afford to move to New York City and write for a living in this modern era; you would have to be a banker to even try something like that. And you certainly couldn't be a musician, either.

Dan Snyder Fights Back

Dan Snyder is done with your nonsense:

Our franchise has a great history, tradition and legacy representing our proud alumni and literally tens of millions of loyal fans worldwide. We have participated in some of the greatest games in NFL history, and have won five World Championships. We are proud of our team and the passion of our loyal fans. Our fans sing “Hail to the Redskins” in celebration at every Redskins game. They speak proudly of “Redskins Nation” in honor of a sports team they love. 

So when I consider the Washington Redskins name, I think of what it stands for. I think of the Washington Redskins traditions and pride I want to share with my three children, just as my father shared with me -- and just as you have shared with your family and friends. 

I respect the opinions of those who disagree. I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn. But we cannot ignore our 81 year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country. After 81 years, the team name “Redskins” continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come.
We are Redskins Nation and we owe it to our fans and coaches and players, past and present, to preserve that heritage.

With Respect and Appreciation,
Dan Snyder

Translation: Don't ruin my billion dollar franchise.

If you want them to change the name, pay Snyder his billion dollars and be done with it. The team means nothing to him as it relates to the community; it is a turnkey money-making operation. Everything has been monetized to the point where it would be impossible to wring further dollars out of the operation without charging for air to breathe while sitting in Fed-Ex field. As long as he gets his money, you can call them the Buttercups or the Banana Slugs or the Hoobity-Hoos an watch them lose.

Direction Signs

Wolf Pups at the Stieff Bear Museum

Wolf pups on an ice berg.

The Stieff Bear Museum in Giengen an der Brenz, Germany is just a little weird.


This is a photo of playground equipment in Bad Liebenzell, Germany. It was shot on June 10, 2010 with my Nikon Coolpix.

Palace Facade

This was one of mad King Ludwig's Bavarian palaces.

Balls, Bats and Fun Everywhere

The purists will hate this:
A rash of playground injuries has prompted one Long Island, N.Y. school to ban balls and require teacher supervision for games like tag. 
"Some of these injuries can unintentionally become very serious so we want to make sure our children have fun, but are also protected," Dr. Kathleen Maloney, superintendent of Port Washington Schools, told CBS New York. 
The ban at Weber Middle School in Port Washington, N.Y. will apply to footballs, baseballs, soccer balls, lacrosse balls or any other equipment that might harm a child or school friends. Students will be allowed to play with softer Nerf balls. 
Rough games of tag or cartwheels will require supervision from a coach, according to the report.
No one ever cared if we got hurt playing sports during recess when I was an incompetent child athlete. We had bats, balls, footballs, basketballs, and all that good stuff to choose from. I do remember that we were not allowed to play full tackle football, which is more of a nod to laundry and keeping clothes from being ruined than it was about being concerned for our well-being.

This is about liability and insurance rates, plain and simple. You can find fault with the school district all you want, but good luck applying that same rustic common sense when someone breaks a bone and ends up sitting there in front of the judge when the lawsuit is heard in a claims court.

Ratings For Sexy Videos Won't Work

In theory, we would have a perfect ratings system that would keep children from ever seeing anything they are not "supposed" to see. But, that's the problem. We know that they will see things that are inappropriate, and handing those incidents becomes an opportunity to be a parent. You must explain and answer questions when a child is exposed to something. It might be a pain in the ass to talk to your kid, but oh well. You birthed it, you own it, in other words. And no ratings system is ever going to be enough.

The kids already know what's going on. They're going to find a way around a ratings system and they're going to watch and listen to things that are dangerous and exciting. You have to regulate that as best you can but you also have to understand that they are just like you were, and you were a little deviant and daring back in the day, too.

It's sad to see Annie Lennox complaining about sexy, disturbing and dark videos when she has a library full of them that people still watch.

We are all Annie Lennox/Dave Stewart/Eurythmics around here, and the funny thing is, I was never a fan. Ever.

Don't Pretend to Care About Veterans After Shutting Down the Government

In case you missed it, the same people who are now scrambling to restore the death benefits for fallen soldiers are still holding fast to the idea that it is perfectly acceptable to slash the food stamps that deployed soldiers use to feed their families.

They can shut down the government and screw everyone but when some aspect of that becomes too politically charged, these "leaders" will do whatever it takes to turn the headlines around. The families of Veterans are overwhelmingly in the lower economic brackets of our society and these are the people that the Republican Party are punishing in order to balance their phony austerity budgets. When have we, as a society, ever been this schizophrenic? You love Veterans? Really? Then why are you hurting them like this? Why did you insist on sequestration, which further threatened Veterans benefits?

Republican family values demonstrate that it's perfectly okay to hate and hurt the poor. But when they're Veterans, it's a strategic imperative to make the media see that they are willing to pay out the benefits for the dead while cutting what little their families get to buy food.