September 30, 2014

ONT 9/30/14 - Homework Edition [krakatoa]
— Open Blogger

YeeIkes. Tuesday already.

Time flies when you have a 7 month old. Some people say it's the added responsibility, the extra work just to get an extra human being through the day, or even just a defense mechanism against remembering in vivid detail what just came out of your perfect little mini-you.

I say it's all the Scotch.

Or in this case, Bulleit Rye, which is my new favorite. It's not terribly pricey, it has a unique flavor, it's smooth, and after the first sip or two, it completely dulls the pain of Val-U-Rite Vodka's well known side effect, open throat ulcers. Or, according to science, Cancer. But then you give a moron enough of anything *, and he or she is sure to get some disease.

So I volunteered to be your Tuesday diversion. Your regularly scheduled ONT host has better things to do, although we promised to tell the regular readers that he misses them greatly, and it is with great regret that he had to foist you off on guest bloggers so that he could pursue "job responsibilities". And then he said something about some tentacle pr0n conference, and a asked whether "these rhinestones make my Cthulothario costume too 'effeminate'". We assured him it was probably the Freddy Mercury mustache, of all things, that was making people uncomfortable.

Anyway, on to the festivities.

Posted by: Open Blogger at 07:00 PM | Comments (765)
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— Open Blogger

Hi there, Morons and Moronettes.

As we're all aware, the first confirmed case of Ebola (that we didn't bring here deliberately) has made it to our shores, and is currently in strict isolation at Dallas Presbyterian Hospital.

This, obviously, is not good news, but let's get everyone up to speed on how Ebola works, how you stay away from it, how it's spread, and a few other bits.

More below the fold...


Posted by: Open Blogger at 07:00 PM | Comments (83)
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Open Thread
— Ace

I've been looking for a nightcap story and I just decided to give up three seconds ago.

The best I got is Mollie Hemingway's report that yes, Saturday Night Live is not merely terrible.

It's been terrible for years. What it is now is frankly embarrassing. The show has a real amateur dinner theater shenanigans vibe to it now.

Remember Senior Follies when seventeen year olds with no comedic ability would get on stage and do sketches?

Yeah, it was bad. Plus, the popular kids tended to get it into their heads that they were So Cute that they would naturally entertain people just by being adorable.

That's what Saturday Night Live is -- the Senior Follies of a school you didn't go to featuring superannuated seniors who aren't adorable.

Posted by: Ace at 02:55 PM | Comments (334)
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A Break From The Constant Cycle Of Horrible News
— JohnE.

Finally, some good news.

World's Oldest Clown Dies at 98.

Posted by: JohnE. at 02:09 PM | Comments (169)
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First US Case of Ebola Confirmed In Dallas
— Ace

Confirmed by the CDC.

Here is what they're saying:

"The patient is an adult with a recent history of travel to West Africa," said Texas' Department of State Health Services, in a statement. "The patient developed symptoms days after returning to Texas from West Africa and was admitted into isolation on Sunday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas."

Meanwhile, Kent Brantly, the doctor who survive his ebola infection, calls the outbreak "a fire from the pit of Hell."

Posted by: Ace at 12:29 PM | Comments (493)
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Prosecutor: Sure Alton Nolen Was "Infatuated with Beheadings" and Sure, Maybe He Used Some "Arabic Words" While He Was Beheading That Woman, But This Sure Looks to Me Like Plain Ol' Workplace Violence
— Ace

Nothing to see here folks.

An Oklahoma man apparently uttered Arabic words during an attack in which he allegedly severed a co-worker's head, and had "some sort of infatuation with beheadings," but the killing appeared to have more to do with the man's suspension from his job than his recent conversion to Islam, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

The statement is technically defensible -- it is possible the man's termination had "more to do" with the sudden decision to go jihad that his fascination with jihad -- but it sure seems aimed to suggest that jihad had nothing to do with this.

By the way, if you're wondering why I say his firing did have something to do with it: Well, the timing. He did this immediately after (or during) the "process of being terminated." Surely that is not a coincidence.

However, he just as surely had a predisposition to publicly behead women, and it is not really a mystery from whence his predisposition came.

I'll just post one more quote:

"There was some sort of infatuation with beheadings. It seemed to be related to his interest in killing someone that way," Cleveland County Prosecutor Greg Mashburn said. "Other than that, it seemed to be related to his being suspended earlier in the day."

Other than that.

Update: Other than this.

On March 7th, Nolen added an image to his Timeline which shows a partially decapitated man with someone standing over him pulling his head back to show the wound. Above the image there is a quote which reads, "Thus do we find the clear precedent that explains the peculiar penchant of Islamic terrorists to behead their victims: it is merely another precedent bestowed by their Prophet." Just below the image is a citation from the Quran, "I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off of them."

Posted by: Ace at 11:45 AM | Comments (302)
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Great Ad Slams Mary Landrieu As Absentee Senator Who's Done Nothing to Help Black Constituents
— Ace

Really good ad.

Posted by: Ace at 11:09 AM | Comments (173)
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Josh Kraushaar: Obama's Pass-the-Buck Presidency
— Ace

Earlier today, on Twitter, I was asking why the media does not see the pattern of Obama's dissembling and ducking of responsibility. They seem to now realize he's lying about his subordinates failing to warn him about ISIS:

Obama has had accurate intelligence about ISIS since BEFORE the 2012 election, says administration insider

A national security staffer in the Obama administration said the president has been seeing 'highly accurate predictions' about the rise of the ISIS terror army since 'before the 2012 election'

Obama insisted in his campaign speeches that year that America was safe and al-Qaeda was 'on the run'

The president said during Sunday's '60 Minutes' program that his Director of National Intelligence had conceded he underestimated ISIS

But the administration aide insisted that Obama's advisers gave him actionable information that sat and gathered dust for more than a year

'He knew what was at stake,' the aide said of the president, and 'he knew where all the moving pieces were'

Obama takes daily intelligence briefings in writing, he explained, because no one will be able to testify about warning the president in person about threats that the White House doesn't act on

That whole piece is good. Those are just the up-top bullet points.

So why doesn't the media see the pattern? Obama absented himself from oversight of, then claimed it was all Kathleen Seblius' fault, for example.

Why don't they connect the dots? This is not an isolated incident; this is the central defining mode of Obama's presidency.

Well, John Kraushaar of the National Journal does see the pattern in all these matters, and lays a bunch of them out.

I really suggest you read this whole thing, but I'll just quote a little, for the lazy:

The elements of the administration's blame, deny, and wait-it-out communications strategy has been front and center amid all the recent controversies. When the administration badly botched the launch of the health care exchange website, Obama said he was "not informed directly that the website would not be working the way it was supposed to." This, for his signature achievement in office. Blame was later pinned on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who left the administration in April.

When officials at the Internal Revenue Service improperly targeted conservative outside groups for scrutiny, Obama first feigned outrage, saying he had "no patience for" the misconduct. But months later, as the public's anger subsided, Obama said there "wasn't even a smidgen of corruption" at the agency, and the administration has done little to hold anyone accountable since.


The administration's approach to controversies was best crystallized by former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, who deflected criticism about allegations that talking points on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were altered for political reasons. "Dude, this was two years ago," he told Bret Baier of Fox News. The remarks were perceived as flippant, but they underscored the success of the administration's public-relations strategy. Buy enough time, and inevitably problems tend to go away--especially in today's attention-deprived environment.

He doesn't say so, but add into that: Especially given a media that affirmatively wants Obama to get away with it, and so will consciously join in his scheme of burying Obama's bad news the moment they feel Obama has successfully deprived the story of enough oxygen to smother it.

Oh, and:

Posted by: Ace at 10:18 AM | Comments (239)
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More: The Judge in Pruitt Scolds the Obama Champions of the Judicial Branch
— Ace

Gabe pointed this out as noteworthy, and I think he's right.

In concluding his ruling, the judge in Pruitt takes time to note the "apocalyptic language" used by the dissent in Halbig (the DC circuit case in which the majority found similarly that the IRS had acted lawlessly).

He notes that a lot of these objections have little do with the actual law or the actual guidelines judges follow when interpreting Congress' law.

A lot of their objections just seem to be of the flavor, "Well if we let these monsters win, Obama's policy goals will be thwarted!"

The judge here chides them for assuming the posture of a political advocate, concerned not with the law but with "helping" certain people (and, coincidentally I'm sure, certain Presidents).

The court is aware that the stakes are higher in the case at bar than they might be in another case. The issue of consequences has been touched upon in the previous decisions discussed. Speaking of its decision to vacate the IRS Rule, the majority in Halbig stated "[w]e reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance." Other judges in similar litigation have cast the plaintiffs' argument in apocalyptic language. The first sentence of Judge Edwards' dissent in Halbig is as follows: "This case is about Appellants' not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ('ACA')." Concurring in King, Judge Davis states that “[a]ppellants' approach would effectively destroy the statute . . . ." Further, "[w]hat [appellants] may not do is rely on our help to deny to millions of Americans desperately-needed health insurance. . . "

Of course, a proper legal decision is not a matter of the court "helping" one side or the other. A lawsuit challenging a federal regulation is a commonplace occurrence in this country, not an affront to judicial dignity. A higher-profile case results in greater scrutiny of the decision, which is understandable and appropriate. "[H]igh as those stakes are, the principle of legislative supremacy that guides us is higher still. . . This limited role serves democratic interests by ensuring that policy is made by elected, politically accountable representatives, not by appointed life-tenured judges."

This is a case of statutory interpretation. "The text is what it is, no matter which side benefits." Such a case (even if affirmed on the inevitable appeal) does not "gut" or "destroy" anything. On the contrary, the court is upholding the Act as written.

Congress is free to amend the ACA to provide for tax credits in both state and federal exchanges, if that is the legislative will. As the Act presently stands, "vague notions of a statute's 'basic purpose' are nonetheless inadequate to overcome the words of its text regarding the specific issue under consideration. It is a "core administrative-law principle that an agency may not rewrite clear statutory terms to suit its own sense of how the statute should operate."


"If Congress enacted into law something different from what it intended, then it should amend the statute to conform to its intent."

(All internal citations omitted -- quoted language is from other cases, obviously, but I didn't feel like formatting all that crap.)

Oh and I meant to note this earlier, but forgot: Remember Jon Gruber, who declared that it was "absurd" that that Congress could possibly intend to withhold subsidies from states that didn't set up their own exchanges?

And then was found talking at conferences stating that that was in fact Congress' intent, and that it all made perfect sense?

He gets name-checked in a footnote:

And I have to correct something: A "circuit split" occurs when the circuit courts of appeals split.

I misinterpreted Gabe. We do not have a circuit split yet, as I think only one appeals court (the Fourth Circuit) has has ruled on this on the circuit level, the appeals level. And there, they claimed that the law could be stretched as Obama liked.

All of the other rulings are from the originating (trial) courts.

Gabe's point was that he doesn't expect the Supreme Court to wait for a bona-fide split, but will probably take an appeal earlier, given the importance of the cases.

That error was mine, not Gabe's.

Posted by: Ace at 09:17 AM | Comments (161)
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Oklahoma Federal Court Rules IRS Attempt to Save Obamacare's Subsidies for Federal Exchange Enrollees "Arbitrary, Capricious, an Abuse of Discretion, and Otherwise Not In Accordance with the Law"
— Ace

The full decision is here.

If you're coming in late to this, or have forgotten, this concerns the IRS granting those who enroll into Obamacare in the federal exchanges the same subsidies as are granted to those who enroll in the state exchanges.

The problem is that the law only specifies subsidies for state exchange enrollees. It appears this was intended to be an encouragement for states to set up their exchanges.

But 26 or so states opted out -- but Obama's IRS, desperate to save his bacon with lots of enrollees, decided that by administrative rule they would trump the law passed by Congress and just rule that anyone signed up for Obamacare should have subsidies.

A federal court in Oklahoma has ruled otherwise.

Now, a DC circuit court also ruled this way a few months ago -- but that is now going to an en banc rehearing, and as the full court is stuffed full with progressives (thanks to Harry Reid's nuclear option), it is widely expected that the full progressive court will countermand the three-judge panel which issued the ruling.

As Gabe says-- Correction; Gabe did not say this; I misinterpreted him; see my full correction below -- this seems to insure that there's a split in the lower courts (there were some liberal judges who ruled that the administrative law-making was a-ok with them), thus dramatically increasing the odds that the Supreme Court will have to rule on the matter.

Correction: And I have to correct something: A "circuit split" occurs when the circuit courts of appeals split.

I misinterpreted Gabe. We do not have a circuit split yet, as I think only one appeals court (the Fourth Circuit) has has ruled on this on the circuit level, the appeals level.

All of the other rulings are from the originating (trial) courts.

Gabe's point was that he doesn't expect the Supreme Court to wait for a bona-fide split, but will probably take an appeal earlier, given the importance of the cases.

That error was mine, not Gabe's.

Posted by: Ace at 08:31 AM | Comments (155)
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Obama Has Attended Less Than Half His Presidential Daily Briefings
— Ace

He showed up for 41%.

And even in the 41% of security briefings he did attend, he spent the most time carpet-putting. (I assume -- but you know I'm right.)

President Pushback is putting out the word that while he may not care about the United States' security to show up for briefings, he reads each report with keen interest, but...

1. That's just him saying that. If he showed up for the actual briefings, we'd have an actual record of his presence. But when he claims "I read the Dickens out of these reports when no one's around," that's just Obama giving you his word that he's awesome.

Anyone still eager to take the word of Barack Obama?

2. The suggestion is made that he is very interested indeed in reading these things. However, when someone is very interested in something, they tend to make additional time for it. Like, say, the time necessary to show up for an hour briefing on the security situation of the United States.

So I don't think he's very interested at all. It seems to be like homework he doesn't want to do.

3. If the president were keenly interested in these matters, he'd want to be physically present for the briefing, so he could ask questions. How confident are you about this prediction? What is this based on? Are there additional possibilities you're not considering?

Obama can't ask such questions of a piece of paper.

I don't believe he asks many questions. (I'll get to that in a second.) Because he doesn't really care.

4. I think Obama's proxies, the guys he makes go to the briefings so that he can watch episodes of Homeland, brief him later, but this is second-hand nonsense, and furthermore, toadying minions will tell the boss what he wants to hear, and avoid telling him what they know he doesn't want to hear, won't they?

I mention that because of fact noted by even arch-liberal Norah O'Donnell, that there is a public paper record of Obama being warned about the rise of ISIS, and yet Obama is simultaneously claiming that he was never so warned, and that other people dropped the ball and let him down.

Well I don't believe a word Obama says, but it should be noted these two claims are in fact reconcilable if you make this assumption:

The intelligence committee did in fact repeatedly warn Obama's minions, attending the briefings and reading the briefings on Obama's behalf, but then his minions, knowing that Obama did not want to deal with any of this and pretty much just wants to go out and do #TheBearIsLoose photo ops with his dwindling number of fans, soft-pedaled it or ignored it entirely.

Obama claims he read this stuff. But going to the briefings would have done something important -- had he attended, he would have been confronted with the information in the briefings.

He would not been able to get a Minion to pipe down about all this IS bother by putting on his Bored Face and then asking "What else you got?" or whatever other signals he uses to indicate that he's got a tee time in 20 minutes.

Being absent from the briefings permits him to cocoon himself from things he doesn't want to think about or deal with, which is of course one of this president's deepest and most dangerous psychological traits.

Posted by: Ace at 07:32 AM | Comments (323)
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A Couple of Silly Things Then I'll Start Working
— Ace

Neil Tyson, apparently, now knows that Bush referred to the God who named the stars in 2003, not 2001, and in relation to the deaths of the crew of the space shuttle Columbia, not in relation to Al Qaeda, terrorism, or Islam generally.

Someone asked him when he intended to apologize:

Now, in case you don't know this, Neil Tyson's Cultists have a bizarre fetish for quoting him, marrying that quote to a dramatic/cool picture of him, and (often) adding a Star Field behind him, to show that Tyson is a Savior sent to us from the Stars to deliver his Wisdom.

Don't believe me? Google it, b*tch.

The one at the end of this list is particularly obnoxious.

So John Ekdahl decided to give Tyson's new quote -- trying to figure out the right "medium" to apologize to Bush on, implicitly admitting he was wrong all along -- the Starborne Savior treatment.

Meanwhile I got annoyed with the Democrats' never-ending fundraising emails. They tend to go like this:


You stood with us in 2008. Will you stand with us now, when your President needs you?

Please send $3 -- we must roll back the Republicans' anti-woman agenda.

They start with "Hey-" because telemarketers have found that many emails from actual friends begin that way, so it's a manner of tricking the eye into stopping at the email slugline. Then they pretend a friendship that doesn't exist -- all of these emails are written as if Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama have a personal relationship with the addressee -- and conjure up some dire emergency just over the horizon.

Then they ask you for money. They often ask for $3, which is not a lot of money, of course ($3 barely covers the costs of processing the credit card transaction), but that $3 indicates the sender is a "live one" -- a Glengarry lead -- and also invests that person emotionally in the cause.

It's a well-known trick of psychological manipulation that if you can get someone to make a small gesture -- a token donation -- the very act of making that tiny donation will tend to make them more emotionally invested in the cause than they otherwise would have been. Now that they have "skin in the game," as it were, even just a tiny amount of skin, they become more reliable partisans in all aspects, from donating further to increasing likelihood of voting to donating time to canvas and so forth.

I think this effect is related to the psychological failing that keeps people at casinos trying to win back all the money they lost (and losing even more money). Once someone has a Sunk Cost, they will be irrationally invested in redeeming that Sunk Cost, in turning that Cost into a Win.

So these emails are crafted by psychological manipulation experts drawn hailing from the shabby field of telemarketing and cold-call high-pressure sales.

And the Democrats send millions of them every day.

So I decided to give them a taste of their own medicine. I began soliciting Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama with the same sorts of manipulative messages, begging for money.

Skip through the first bunch of tweets (which basically duplicate what I just wrote above) to get to the ones where I start asking Nancy Pelosi to contribute to my cause.

Posted by: Ace at 06:18 AM | Comments (323)
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Top Headline Comments 9-30-14
— Gabriel Malor

Happy Tuesday.

Director of the USSS Julia Pierson will testify today before House Oversight about the recent security breach. WSJ has a timeline describing how the details of the incident have evolved.

Ed Morrissey is covering the Extraordinary Synod from the Vatican. What a cool opportunity.

A U.S. air strike last week almost took out a headquarters of our allies, the Free Syrian Army. Whoops. A lack of coordination with the FSA, which Obama proposes to train and arm, gets blamed.

Hundreds of thousands face the (extended) income- and citizenship-verification deadline today for Obamacare subsidies. "White House officials pointed to the health law's requirement that people who are proven to be ineligible for subsidies have to pay them back, but said additional guidance on how to do that will be provided later." Mmmhmm.

The U.S. and Afghanistan have signed a security pact to allow almost 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in the country.

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Posted by: Gabriel Malor at 01:45 AM | Comments (141)
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September 29, 2014

Overnight Open Thread -- 9/29/2014: Corpulent RINO Edition
— Open Blogger

Good evening, 'Rons n' 'Ettes! It's been a spell since I was last permitted to darken the hallowed pages of AoSHQ. But, since your regular ONT provider purportedly has something more important to do, and I called dibs for tonight's iteration, I reckon you'll just have to swallow hard and accept whatever half-assed excuse for infotainment I manage to cobble together in the next couple of hours, or so.

Some of you may recall that I was a bartender the last time I encroached upon this otherwise estimable space. Well, thanks to a shitstorm apocalyptic proportion, I was unceremoniously relieved of those duties a little over a month ago. Since then, I've found employment in a somewhat different industry -- that is, chicken farming. I learned a lot in my first few weeks as a farmhand, first and foremost being that I'm too damned fat and out of shape to be a farmhand. Here's a fair approximation of the physical activity I typically engaged in prior to my unexpected career change. more...

Posted by: Open Blogger at 05:33 PM | Comments (491)
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The World is Stupid - Also MNF
— Dave in Texas

I had to deal with a kid's car today and I got off cheap.

SO I got that goin for me, which is nice.

MNF 9 29.jpg

Patriots. Chiefs. Chiefs is likely the next target.

Posted by: Dave in Texas at 02:51 PM | Comments (401)
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And Speaking of Major Security Breaches: Al Qaeda Claims Guilt for Rocket Attack on US Embassy in Yemen
— Ace

Before getting to that, let me link this, which half of you have already mentioned in comments.

The White House insisted Monday that the U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Yemen is a model for the fight against the Islamic State -- despite the country being engulfed by a violent political crisis that last week led the Obama administration to remove some of its diplomats and urge American citizens to leave.


The White House, though, is standing by claims that the country is a "useful model" for dealing with militants elsewhere. Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Monday claimed fighters in Yemen remain under "continual pressure" from the U.S. despite the latest unrest.

Now, as to that rocket attack.

The State Department claimed that US personnel were being evacuated out of an "abundance of caution."

This phrase is usually meant to mean that there is no actual serious threat -- that steps are being taken in the absence of a serious threat, just to be completely, abundantly on the safe side of things.

But common words and phrases do not mean the same thing when spoken by this administration.

When this administration says it's evacuating personnel out of an "abundance of caution," what they mean is that the capital is overrun and Al Qaeda are shooting rockets are our embassy.

This is like saying "My house was on fire, so, out of an abundance of caution, I called the fire department. Just in case the flames did not choose to self-extinguish harmlessly."

An Al Qaeda splinter group launched a rocket attack on the U.S. embassy in Sanaa on Saturday, injuring several guards, to retaliate for what it said on social media was a U.S. drone strike in a northern province the day before.

The rocket landed 200 meters from the heavily fortified embassy, which lies in a compound surrounded by high walls, hitting members of the Yemeni special police force who guard the site. At least two were injured, police said.

The guards injured by the rocket attack were taken to a hospital, out of an abundance of caution.

Five O'Clock Follies have nothing on this crew.


Posted by: Ace at 01:49 PM | Comments (195)
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White House Fence Jumper Made It Into the East Room; 2011 Shooting Incident Downplayed by Secret Service Revealed to Have Been More Serious Than Claimed
— Ace

This story broke Saturday night, I think.

This 2011 incident was -- well, let me say, as non-provocatively as possible, not reported accurately to the public.

In 2011, a gunman fired a rifle at the White House (when Obama was not present, but members of his family were). Seven bullets hit the White House.

Do you remember reading about that?

Well, if not, there's a reason for that.

A bullet smashed a window on the second floor, just steps from the first family’s formal living room. Another lodged in a window frame, and more pinged off the roof, sending bits of wood and concrete to the ground....

Then came an order that surprised some of the officers. "No shots have been fired. . . . Stand down," a supervisor called over his radio. He said the noise was the backfire from a nearby construction vehicle.


By the end of that Friday night, the agency had confirmed a shooting had occurred but wrongly insisted the gunfire was never aimed at the White House. Instead, Secret Service supervisors theorized, gang members in separate cars got in a gunfight near the White House’s front lawn -- an unlikely scenario in a relatively quiet, touristy part of the nation’s capital.

It took the Secret Service four days to realize that shots had hit the White House residence, a discovery that came about only because a housekeeper noticed broken glass and a chunk of cement on the floor.

It's an important article, with some real reporting going on (for a change).

On the heels of that comes another story in which the Secret Service seems to have seriously downplayed how far an attacker penetrated White House grounds.

Spoiler Alert: The East Room.

The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident.

An alarm box near the front entrance of the White House designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what officers believed was a request of the usher's office, said a Secret Service official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The officer posted inside the front door appeared to be delayed in learning that the intruder, Omar Gonzalez, was about to burst through. Officers are trained that, upon learning of an intruder on the grounds, often through the alarm boxes posted around the property, they must immediately lock the front door.

After barreling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family’s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses.

I sort of understand the reason for, um, less than accurate public reports here. The Secret Service is a security and intelligence outfit. Intelligence outfits generally conceal their successes, and their failures, and especially how they succeeded and how they failed.

This is the "methods" part of intelligence which spooks always claim is highest-level tippy-toppiest top secret. Letting your enemies know how you respond when probed or attacked gives your enemies far too much information about how to probe or attack you in the future.

I doubt this is a genuine "political" scandal, because I'm thinking Obama's political interests lay with overselling the danger here, not underselling it. I imagine, to the extent he blessed the Secret Service's course of action of underplaying these threats, he did so for reasons of concern about his personal safety and that of his family, and not due to any political advantage.

I imagine the Secret Service will be likely given the "methods" pass on this as well -- they do have, I think, a plausible case to make about why they choose to conceal/downplay attacks which are semi-successful (in that they result in far too deep a penetration for comfort).

However, on this last point, it's useful to point out something about human nature.

When one has a failure -- an embarrassment -- one has personal, selfish reasons to conceal that.

But people are very good about making up stories for their own consumption about how The Greater Good actually requires the same thing that their personal good requires (here, downplaying the incidents and concealing the Secret Service's failure).

And if someone in the Secret Service found these lapses embarrassing, I think it's entirely plausible that such a person might have made a good case to himself that the best course of action was to conceal the embarrassing lapse -- for the sake of the President's security, you understand.

Not out of any grubby desire to hide the embarrassing lapse.

I'm not saying that's what did happen * -- I'm just saying that when personal advantage can be argued to align with ethical imperative, people are very eager to believe such arguments, and convince themselves that they're right.

People tend to be very willing to agree with their own interests. We're all pretty great at that.

That said, I don't expect these stories to go anywhere. The Secret Service does have a facially-plausible reason for downplaying these stories -- "We don't wish to give future attackers an insight into our response and the gaps in our security" -- and that will probably be enough to shut people up.

It's enough to shut me up, personally, and I'm a loudmouth.

I just hope that they're right about that being the actual best course of action, and they're not letting a desire to conceal their mistakes color their judgment.

* Intelligence services are prone to repeated mistakes because they always have an easy out: "Shut up and stop asking questions, because asking questions will compromise security."

But sometimes that sort of mindset precludes the sort of criticism and motivated response required to cure the original defect.

And so sometimes the cover-up results in a new crime -- or a new failure.

I'm sure that most of the time the CIA says "We're not answering that because it would compromise security," that is true, most of the time.

However, I'm equally sure that when the CIA is probed about a lapse in judgment, and it says, again, "We're not answering that because it would compromise security," that is false, a lot of the time.

Hmmm... wheatie has an interesting claim.

I know nothing at all about White House security, except from what I see on 24. (Best way to smuggle a bomb into the White House: recruit the Vice President into your terrorist cabal).

But wheatie says this:

That thing about the doors not being locked?

The doors have traditionally been left unlocked for security reasons!

That's because the Secret Service agents need to be able to have instant access to all the event of an emergency situation.

So if they are now going to start locking all the doors, it's going to create an impediment to the SS agents.

That kinda makes a whole lot of sense to me.

The real defense against a threat is not a locked door. It's a Secret Service agent.

Posted by: Ace at 12:43 PM | Comments (220)
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Neil DeGrasse Tyson: Maybe You Can't Find That Anti-Muslim Quote I Claimed Bush Said in Any So-Called "Newspapers" or "Official Records," But I Cite the Highest Authority Possible for It: Me
— Ace

That's a parody headline, but that's pretty much what he says:

Ignore the written record. My memory is an Awesome Thing that should not be easily contradicted.

Let's move on to the Bush quote, which is where things get really bad. To Sean’s request that Tyson verify the quote he’s been using against the former president, Tyson notes that September 11th affected him "deeply" and adds:

I have explicit memory of those words being spoken by the President. I reacted on the spot, making note for possible later reference in my public discourse. Odd that nobody seems to be able to find the quote anywhere -- surely every word publicly uttered by a President gets logged.

Yes, surely, Doctor Science.

But you say you have an explicit memory! Well my stars and garters, I didn't know you had an explicit memory!

Explicit memories are scientifically proven to be much more reliable than plain ol' memories.

So ignore the evidence -- Take my word for it. I'm a Scientist.

He goes on to say:

FYI: There are two kinds of failures of memory. One is remembering that which has never happened and the other is forgetting that which did. In my case, from life experience, I’m vastly more likely to forget an incident than to remember an incident that never happened. So I assure you, the quote is there somewhere. When you find it, tell me. Then I can offer it to others who have taken as much time as you to explore these things.

I am infallible, so ignore the evidence as documented by thousands of disinterested reporters and transcribers in the government, who write down and publish the president's words every single day.

This is all terribly scientific.

Here's What I Know About Memory: I hate to argue with a Scientist, but what I've gathered from actual science is that "memory" is actually very misconceived. We think of it like the memory of a tape recording or video recording.

It's nothing of the sort. It is certain associations (probably involving some basic keywords, like elemental notions of basic nouns and basic concepts like "direction towards" or "direction away" and "happy" and "scared") networked together in the brain as having been implicated together at one time.

When we "remember," we do not replay a tape of past events in our brain. Instead, what we do is conjure up a new narrative, make a new story for ourselves, from the embedded and networked keywords and associations.

Memory changes over time, as we re-conjure images and experiences. Sometimes new parts get added, and others subtracted.

Sometimes we add new parts that were never part of the actual experience at all and make the "memory" about something that never actually even happened.

Surely Tyson is not so completely ignorant of cognitive science that he thinks an "explicit memory" is infallible...?

Even the way Tyson speaks is anti-scientific.

A long time ago, when I was a kid, I had a very explicit memory that a certain cartoon animal was a certain color.

I actually got in a physical fight with a friend over this animal's color. My friend said the animal was one color; but I had an explicit memory of it being a different color.

He was so stupid with his Wrong Color Naming that I got angry and we got to scrappin'.

A year later I saw the cartoon again.

The animal's color? Precisely the color my friend claimed it to have been.

Precisely not the color I had claimed it to have been.

The problem was that I was remembering part of one cartoon animal -- his type, his name, his basic shape and silhouette -- but then remembering a different cartoon animal's color.

My memory glitched, and put together three correct associations (type, name, shape) with a fourth erroneous association (color).

When did this happen? Why did neurons get crossed here?

Who knows -- maybe one time when I re-conjured the image of the cartoon animal, I forgot the color, and my brain, seeking to fill in the blanks, took the color from another cartoon animal. Having a "void" in the memory bank for color, my brain took its best guess and filled the animal's shape with what seemed a plausible color.

And then, whenever I "remembered" that cartoon animal, I "remembered" the three correct attributes with the one false attribute my brain had conjured up in a pinch.

Anyway, as a six-year-old boy, I learned something about memory that the World's Greatest Scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson is still ignorant of.

Posted by: Ace at 11:30 AM | Comments (521)
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So TV Is Pretty Much Just for Women Now, Right?
— Ace

Just looking at the new TV shows -- Madame Secretary, How to Get Away With Murder, Forever, etc. -- it seems almost of all of them are pitched chiefly to appeal to women.

Something similar happened in the movies. 16-to-25 year old males bought most movie tickets. So studios started making more and more movies targeting 16-to-25 year old males. This led to people outside of this demographic buying even fewer tickets -- which meant that an even greater fraction of tickets were bought by males 16 to 25, making it more important to make movies for males 16 to 25, and so on.

Well, from what I'm seeing on TV, it appears that women watch more TV than men (at least more scripted shows), so TV is pitching itself harder to harder to women, thus making men even less likely to watch, thus making it even more important to appeal to women, etc.

Something like this already happened with print fiction -- women, I think, were always better readers than men, and furthermore enjoyed fiction more. So publishers bought more female-skewing novels, thus making it less likely men would buy novels.

And so on. You know the breakdown of novel purchases by gender? Women buy 80% of novels; men buy 20%.

This isn't really a complaint so much as an observation.

Back when I was a younger man, I didn't complain that a suspiciously large number of films seemed designed to appeal to me. I just accepted my good fortune.

(Well, I don't know if I should call it "good fortune." For every Die Hard, there were eight Erasers and four Hard Targets.)

Now that I'm older, most movies aren't for me (I'm a little tired of the Talented but Rebellious Young Man Must Accept His Destiny of Being Awesome character arc) and very few novels and apparently no TV shows at all.

The only TV shows "for men" seem to be those designed to appeal to both sexes equally -- dumb reality shows like Survivor, procedurals-mixed-with-personal-drama like Elementary, and general-audience sitcoms like Big Bang Theory.

The only single scripted TV show -- a single fiction -- whose intended audience is primarily male I can think of is Game of Thrones. But that wound up appealing to women, and if I were to guess, I'd say that women probably made up the majority of the audience.

Again, I'm not really complaining. This seems to be explainable by operation of market forces (with the addition of a vicious cycle whereby the smaller part of the audience becomes smaller and smaller still as the industries pitch to the larger potential audience).

It's not a conspiracy, and it's not really even "political."

Still, if we live in a world where each and every "Gender Gap" must be shrieked about and endlessly discussed as "problematic" (and we do live in precisely such a world) -- how about doing a little shrieking for the poor underserved male potential TV audience?

Commenters Point Out Additional Male-Skewing Shows-- mostly on cable channels, and mostly on FX (or FXX, whatever). Archer and Always Sunny are definitely male-appealing; commenters say "The League" is too.

But these are on a fairly minor cable channel, and certainly it doesn't look like new shows are being pitched to the male audience.

(Update: Oops, someone pointed out Adam Baldwin's vehicle (ahem), The Last Ship. Okay, that counts as "new." But still, on TNT.

Okay, you can point out a few male-skewing shows -- but not many.)

#GamerGate Angle: While the Social Justice Warriors complain mightily that video games seem to feature many more male heroes than female ones, and seem skewed to male tastes as a general matter -- I don't hear the Social Justice Warriors crusading for male-skewing fictions in print or on TV.

Seems the SJWs gladly take their advantages where they find them (that is, in entertainments designed to appeal to their gender identity) and then cry an awful lot because one particular entertainment niche (video games) is still skewed towards male tastes.

Posted by: Ace at 10:11 AM | Comments (457)
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