Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Last Call

If you haven't noticed by now, there's more than one way to conduct war against a country.  Iran surely has figured that out as in addition to the crippling economic sanctions leveled against its oil exports and central bank by the US, it seems they now have a bit of a computer virus problem to boot.

A cyber-attack that targeted Iran’s oil ministry and main export terminal was caused by the most sophisticated computer worm yet developed, experts have warned.

The virus appears to have been directed primarily at a small number of organisations and individuals in Iran, the West Bank, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. This will inevitably raise suspicions that Israel or the US were involved in some way.

Analysts who have been decoding the computer worm, which is called W32.Flamer, have been unable to identify the source. But they say only a professional team working for several months could have been behind it.

The CrySys Laboratory, in Hungary, said: “The results of our technical analysis supports the hypothesis that [the worm] was developed by a government agency of a nation state with significant budget and effort, and it may be related to cyberwarfare activities.”It is certainly the most sophisticated malware we [have] encountered. Arguably, it is the most complex malware ever found.”

Orla Cox, a senior analyst at Symantec, the international computer security firm, said: “I would say that this is the most sophisticated threat we have ever seen.”

Flamer appears to be an advanced version of the Stuxnet worm that ravaged Iran's uranium processing centrifuges last year, and of course there's no way to prove who is behind it, but I'm betting that if we didn't do it, we know exactly who did.  Apparently it lie dormant for two years before waiting to strike, which it did last week.  Some brave warrior up in US Cyber Command got a case of Code Red and some King Dons for this, no doubt.

Welcome to the brave new battlefield frontier, folks.  Diplomacy through other means and all that.

A Long Bout With Chronic Suppression

Both the Congressional Black Caucus and the NAACP are finally doing something about the GOP suppression of African-American votes through the barriers of "Voter ID" and the removal of early voting laws by starting a massive campaign to register new voters and to help voters get the IDs they now have to have in dozens of states.  They key:  reaching potential voters through black churches.

African-American churches, historically at the forefront of the nation’s civil and voting rights efforts, are grappling this election year with how to navigate through the wave of new voting-access laws approved in many Republican-controlled states, laws that many African-Americans believe were implemented to suppress the votes of minorities and others.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and several hundred clergy leaders from the Conference of National Black Churches are scheduled to hold a summit Wednesday in Washington to discuss the new laws, their potential impact on African-American voters and how churches can educate parishioners, help them register and help get them to the polls on Election Day to prevent any significant drop-off from 2008.

“We will have attorneys there who are well-equipped to provide the guidance to the clergy members,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., the Congressional Black Caucus chair and a United Methodist pastor. “They will understand, before they leave, about some of the new laws in certain states designed – as we interpret them – to reduce the turnout. The day is over when they could just stand in the pulpit and say ‘Go vote. It’s your duty.’ They’ve got to now be equipped with some sophisticated information to help inspire a turnout and protect parishioners from some of the schemes that are out there.”

Since last year, at least 15 states have passed a wide array of laws that they say are aimed at reducing voter fraud. Up to 38 states, including some of those 15, are weighing legislation that would require people to show government-approved photo identification or provide proof of citizenship before registering or casting ballots.

That's excellent news to hear, and I only wish it had begun sooner.  And hopefully the Congressional Hispanic Caucus can conduct a similar effort.  The Latino vote is only going to become more and more important for progressives as the elections wear on, but the GOP is doing everything they can to displace minority voters in order to maintain power.

No matter how you feel about GOP or Democratic party policies, the notion that we have to limit voting to only certain groups should greatly disturb all Americans.  Throughout our history, many have given their lives to help secure the right for citizens to vote.  Working now to reverse that trend is simply repugnant and an affront to their sacrifice.

It's good to see the CBC and the NAACP rejoin this fight.  Sadly, it seems that even in 2012 that fight will never end.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/05/28/150182/congressional-black-caucus-rallies.html#storylink=cpy

Minnesota's Burn Notice

A Minneapolis church famous for acceptance of gay rights and progressive causes just happens to burn to the ground during an election year where same-sex marriage is on the ballot.  That's not suspicious in the least.

According to the StarTribune, the Walker Community United Methodist Church caught fire around 8:20 p.m. Five of the firefighters who battled the blaze for hours were taken to the hospital, but their injuries were not life threatening.

“Some people at the scene Sunday night speculated lightning was the culprit, while close neighbors said they thought it could be arson,” the paper reported.

Walker Methodist Church is known within the Minneapolis progressive community as a meeting place for various activist groups. Communities United Against Police Brutality CUAPB, Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC) and the Welfare Rights Committee all had offices in the building.

In June 2011, the church adopted a statement supporting LGBT rights and marriage equality. 

And now a year later, the church is gone.   But don't dare call the other side bigots, extremists, or hypocrites, because I'm sure anti-gay churches famous for their stance on LGBT issues like Westboro Baptist in Kansas get burned down all the time by extremist liberals, right?

Or you know, maybe God just enjoys burning down his own churches.  Who knows.  Hey, accidents happen, just like at southern black churches in the 60's, right?

It's Surprising What One Can Do

Especially when one doesn't care what is labeled "impossible" and tries anyway.

A German 16-year-old has become the first person to solve a mathematical problem posed by Sir Isaac Newton more than 300 years ago. Shouryya Ray worked out how to calculate exactly the path of a projectile under gravity and subject to air resistance, The (London) Sunday Times reported. The Indian-born teen said he solved the problem that had stumped mathematicians for centuries while working on a school project. Mr Ray won a research award for his efforts and has been labeled a genius by the German media, but he put it down to "curiosity and schoolboy naivety". "When it was explained to us that the problems had no solutions, I thought to myself, 'well, there's no harm in trying,'" he said.
His father taught him advanced math at an early age, and not only gave him knowledge but the desire to apply his talent.  At this point, the 16-year-old used math that is far above his father's reach, and is humble enough to play it down.

Well done, sir.  Well done.

Delta Blues

Delta Airlines has introduced a "basic economy" plan that supposedly offers a no-frills option.  Except it doesn't.

The airline tries to spin it like a boon for customers, with phrases such as "it's all about choice" and options.  But there are a few major flaws with basic economy, and travelers will find the meager savings a poor value.

First, you can't change your itinerary.  At all.  Even if you were willing to pay the exorbitant $50 fee to change your plans, it's simply not an option.  The customer's choice is to pay full price ticket to the next destination, or take the bus.

Customers can also choose to travel light, because they will pay even for carry-on bags under this plan.  It's reassuring to know that those traveling with only the clothes on their back will not be stuck with baggage fees.  There's so many of them, you know.

There are other minor sacrifices, such as being assigned seating upon check-in, but the major drawback will be the inability to change travel plans, even for circumstances beyond the traveler's control.  Delta says they are offering a choice, but to me it looks like they are charging a convenience fee to give you the right to pay $50 to change your plans and have a carry-on bag.

According to the article, it wasn't even a $20 savings on a trip from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale.  I expect this to be a black eye for them, at a time when it's hard enough to fill planes.  Delta is given the jackass tag for good reason.

The Invisible Sledgehammer In The Invisible Hand Of The Market

Johnny Volcano tell the truth again:

In defending Mitt Romney’s private sector experience Sunday, top surrogate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) explained that capitalism can be “cruel.”

“This is the free enterprise system. The only place in the world that I can recall where companies never failed was the old Soviet Union,” McCain said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And yes, the free enterprise system can be cruel.”

It exists to cull the weak and endorse the rich, who invest and decide who wins and who loses.  And Mitt Romney wants to do that to all of America.

The Obama campaign has run attack ads highlighting jobs lost at companies owned by Bain Capital, which Romney led. Host Wallace dug up quotes from McCain’s GOP primary campaign against Romney four years ago in which he criticized his Bain Capital record as well.

He managed companies, and he bought and he sold, and sometimes people lost their jobs,” McCain said at the time.

McCain stood by that comment Sunday, arguing that that’s how capitalism works. McCain cited the example of Bain Capital investing in Staples, a successful Bain investment, before turning to attack President Obama. It’s a lack of investment in small businesses that is stifling job growth today, McCain contended.

Sure.  And Mitt Romney wants to run America's government like a for-profit enterprise.  The sick, the poor, the elderly, well, they're a net drain on profits.

We'll have to downsize them under a Romney government, of course.

Behind Every Successful Democrat...

...is a Villager telling him You're Doing It Wrong.  This week's contestant:  New York Magazine's John Heilemann, who is horrified to discover that the Obama campaign isn't rolling over for the hundreds of millions of dollars in GOP super PAC ads already crushing the airwaves in swing states.  He's so horrified that President Obama is fighting back that he completely turns on him:

But if the Obama 2012 strategy in this regard is all about the amplification of 2008, in terms of message it will represent a striking deviation. Though the Obamans certainly hit John McCain hard four years ago—running more negative ads than any campaign in history—what they intend to do to Romney is more savage. They will pummel him for being a vulture-vampire capitalist at Bain Capital. They will pound him for being a miserable failure as the governor of Massachusetts. They will mash him for being a water-carrier for Paul Ryan’s Social Darwinist fiscal program. They will maul him for being a combination of Jerry Falwell, Joe Arpaio, and John Galt on a range of issues that strike deep chords with the Obama coalition. “We’re gonna say, ‘Let’s be clear what he would do as president,’ ” Plouffe explains. “Potentially abortion will be criminalized. Women will be denied contraceptive services. He’s far right on immigration. He supports efforts to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage.”

The Obama effort at disqualifying Romney will go beyond painting him as excessively conservative, however. It will aim to cast him as an avatar of revanchism. “He’s the fifties, he is retro, he is backward, and we are forward—that’s the basic construct,” says a top Obama strategist. “If you’re a woman, you’re Hispanic, you’re young, or you’ve gotten left out, you look at Romney and say, ‘This fucking guy is gonna take us back to the way it always was, and guess what? I’ve never been part of that.’ ”

Thus, to a very real degree, 2008’s candidate of hope stands poised to become 2012’s candidate of fear. For many Democrats, this is just fine and dandy, for they believe that in the Romney-Republican agenda there is plenty to be scared of. For others in the party in both politics and business, however, the new Obama posture is cause for concern. From the gay-­marriage decision to the onslaught on Bain, they see the president and his team as coming across as too divisive, too conventional, and too nakedly political, putting at risk Obama’s greatest asset—his likability—with the voters in the middle of the electorate who will ultimately decide his fate.

Whichever side is right, one thing is undeniable. For anyone still starry-eyed about Obama, the months ahead will provide a bracing revelation about what he truly is: not a savior, not a saint, not a man above the fray, but a brass-knuckled, pipe-hitting, red-in-tooth-and-claw brawler determined to do what is necessary to stay in power—in other words, a politician.

And it goes on for another six and a half pages or so.  The gist is that it's not Mitt Romney you should be afraid of, but Extremist Black Radical Barack Hussein Obama, who can't possibly be a centrist, but an awful politician and not a maverick like Romney.  Indeed, Heilemann goes on to soft-pedal Romney's record as McCain without the anger, a perfectly reasonable, perfectly sensible centrist...and you're not going to vote for...that other guy...are you?  You don't want to be one of the America-destroying partisans, do you?  Heilemann even has his own term for these awful people:  Obamans.

And according to Heilemann, the Obamans are desperate, scared, arrogant, delusional...and going to lose.

What’s clear is that an Obama victory could have profound political implications for the future of the Democratic Party. When 44 arrived in office, some forecast that he might usher in a New New Deal. (Nope.) But if he gains reelection by consolidating his party’s position with the electorate’s ascendant demographic forces, Obama may succeed in creating a viable post–New Deal coalition on which Democrats can build for years to come. “Ronald Reagan turned a whole bunch of people who are now seniors into Republicans,” says Messina. “What is happening now is that young people, women, and Latinos are becoming Democrats. That’s the coalition Obama brought; demographics brought it, too. And for the next 30 years, it is going to be a real challenge for Republicans.”

Of course, if Obama loses, all such grand talk will be consigned to the ash heap of history—and hubris.

The Village has to have their horse race, after all.  What better way than six months of OBAMA IS DOOOOOOOMED pieces in liberal news sources?   After all, these guys don't give a damn who ends up President:  they win either way.


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