Friday, June 14, 2013

Last Call For Early Christmas In Texas

GOP Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is getting an early start on the holiday victim card season.

Buttressing his already formidable reputation as a purveyor of cheap demagoguery, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a so-called “Merry Christmas bill” before jetting off to Washington to speak at Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition conference. The legislation aims at protecting the Lone Star State’s poor persecuted Christians from any lawsuits keeping them from offering specially religious holiday greetings on public property. 

So what does the bill actually do?

It removes legal risks of saying "Merry Christmas" in schools while also protecting traditional holiday symbols, such as a menorah or nativity scene, as long as more than one religion and a secular symbol are also reflected.

"I realize it's only June. But it's a good June and the holidays are coming early this year," Perry said. "It's a shame that a bill like this one I'm signing today is even required, but I'm glad that we're standing up for religious freedom in this state. Religious freedom does not mean freedom from religion."

But it does mean more special legal protections by the state for religious organizations.  There's a word for that, you know.  It describes the government of places like Iran.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Dwayne Bohac of Houston, said he drafted it after discovering that his son's school erected a "holiday tree" in December because any mention of Christmas could spark litigation.

"We hope that this is a fire that will take off and become laws in the other 49 states," said Bohac.

The Founding Fathers had some very choice words about religion, the state, and freedom.  Rick Perry and Republicans have no use for them.

Heavy Snowden Fall

The fragmentation of NSA leaker Edward Snowden's story is now picking up substantial speed.  As he has been since the story started, The Daily Banter's Bob Cesca has continued to document the downfall of Snowden and Glenn Greenwald's account of "facts" coming apart.

It’s now been more than a week since Glenn Greenwald reported that the National Security Agency attained “direct access” to servers owned by the various tech giants, Google, Facebook, Apple and so forth. And it’s been almost a week since other sites, now including Mother Jones, The Nation and Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish, began to notice significant issues with his reporting about PRISM.

I should underscore once again how consequential the “direct access” line happens to be. The implication of “direct access” is clearly that, unbeknownst to the public, the NSA and, apparently, low level IT subcontractors, enjoyed back door access to proprietary server data, horked it at will and, according to Greenwald, did so potentially without a warrant. Rick Perlstein, in a post for The Nation, quoted Mark Jaquith of WordPress who observed that the “direct access” line is “the difference between a bombshell and a yawn of a story.” (I’m sure Perlstein and Jaquith have been inundated with “Obamabot apologist!” accusations for daring to aim an incredulous post in Greenwald’s direction.)

And as I've said before, the "direct access" issue is where the largest discrepancy is...but it's far from the only one.  There may be a much bigger problem with Snowden handing over top secret information to the Chinese and the scramble by Greenwald and company to justify that.

He handed over documents about American cyber warfare against China — to China. Specifically, Snowden gave the documents to a Hong Kong publication. Perhaps he was emboldened by all of the attention, hero worship and deification he received here. Who knows. Whatever drove him to do it, it was phenomenally irresponsible on a couple of fronts. Not only could he have exacerbated an already dubious international relationship, considering how there appears to be an escalating hacking war between the United States and China, but he also managed to turn numerous Americans against him — Americans who believe he crossed the line from whistleblower to traitor.

But this cuts more deeply than any healthy skepticism some of us might possess. Greenwald’s stubbornness and Snowden’s foolishness are actually self-destructive to what they’re attempting to achieve. As I’ve written from day one, credibility will make or break not only this story, but anyone who chooses to blindly latch their own credibility to it. If Greenwald was truly interested in the endurance of this story, he would’ve stowed his ego and done whatever was necessary to preserve its integrity as well as his own reputation; because as long as “direct access” continues to disintegrate, so goes the believability of everything else he’s reported. Instead, the widening holes in this story could indicate Peak Greenwald.

That credibility is rapidly disappearing.  Now we find out from Reuters (via Bob Cesca) that Snowden may have misrepresented his education to his employers:

According to the sources, Snowden told employers he took computer classes at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, earned a certificate from the University of Maryland’s campus in Tokyo, and expected in 2013 to earn a master’s degree in computer security from the University of Liverpool in England.
A Johns Hopkins spokeswoman said she could not find a record of Snowden’s attendance but he may have taken correspondence courses for which records are not kept. A Maryland official confirmed Snowden attended at least one summer class. A Liverpool spokeswoman said Snowden registered for an online master’s degree in computer security in 2011, but did not complete it.


It's all starting to come apart now, a crackup at breakneck speeds and of epic proportions.  Greenwald's ego and Snowden's delusions of being a master spy are blowing up in their respective faces, and if this keeps up, they're going to take down a lot of people who should have known better with them.

And So It Begins

It looks like we're getting into another Libya, folks...only Syria ain't Libya.  We're about to find that out the hard way.  The Obama administration has decided that the Asaad regime has used chemical weapons, and it's time for them to go.  Brian Jones at Business Insider:

For the last two years, the bloody conflict in Syria has careened toward a tipping point.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we may be there.

The timing of this is a little bit crazy:
  • A deputy national security advisor has announced that the White House believes the Bashar al-Assad regime used chemical weapons against the rebels in Syria.
  • The Pentagon has proposed a plan that would arm and train the rebels, as well as instill a limited no-fly zone over Syria.
  • And 4,500 U.S. forces are a stone throw away, in Jordan, conducting a training exercise with Jordanian forces.
President Obama said last year that if Syrian president Bashar al Assad used chemical weapons, it would be a “red line” that would precipitate direct U.S. intervention in the conflict.  

“That would change my calculus,” Obama said. “That would change my equation.”

Presumably the situation in Syria now meets the criteria for U.S. military intervention. 

And so we may be about to commit a horrific mistake.   Even I have to believe that given all the GOP-created scandals, the Obama administration is trying to change the subject in a massive way.  $50 million a day for a no-fly zone over Syria, Jordan being our base of operations, and Russia, Iran and Israel as wild cards.


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