Posted by: mutantpoodle | May 26, 2014

The good sense of so many women

When details of the warped mindset of the Elliot Rodgers, the Isla Vista shooter, started leaking out this weekend, I thought of two things.

One is that Rodgers was one of Amanda Marcotte’s Nice GuysTM, taken to their murderous extreme.

The other is that apparently, every woman who Elliot Rodgers encountered had extremely good judgement. This post from Vixen Strangely goes into that, the intuitively obvious notion that women probably shouldn’t date men who hate women, plus the diseased community of (some) men who take this incident as proof that women should throw some sex at losers so nobody gets hurt.

And then I thought of the hundreds of young women I have encountered over the past 5 years, teaching self defense at high schools in the LA area.

Impact Personal Safety is a full force self defense system, and its physical tools are geared toward the nightmare of stranger attack. But the reality, of course, is that the vast majority of sexual assault victims know their assailant. And so the most valuable tools we impart to our students (once they know that can physically defend themselves) are the verbal tools to use with people they know. And those are, quite often, more difficult to internalize than the fighting skills we teach.

In the high school classes I teach, we do an exercise where I play a guy (“Mitch”) who the girls know but simply do not (for whatever reason) want to date. I ask them out, and the goal is to get them to say that they’re not interested in going out with Mitch. Invariably, Mitch is told about conflicts, or not feeling well, or being out of town, and so he persists – he can change the date, or get tickets to a different show, or he can wait. Mitch doesn’t go away until the girl tells him she’s not interested in going on a date with him.

Quite often, the young women in the class feel bad about hurting the feelings of a person who’s not real. I imagine that’s both a social construct and a tool for self preservation. And I always tell them that if they’re not interested in someone, it’s better to let them know, because if he is a nice guy, he should be with someone who is interested in him. And then I ask them if they feel that if they like a guy or think he’s cute, that he is somehow obligated to ask them out.

It’s that question that usually registers, because not one of them (of course) thought that obligation exists. If you told the misogynists on the pick-up artist sites that they had to have sex with a woman they found unattractive, they’d dismiss the notion out of hand, while elaborating on said woman’s physical flaws at length.

And yet, somehow some men seem to think that women should have sex with them because they’re such nice guys.

Back to Vixen Strangely:

He proved every woman who rejected him exactly right. Brava, ladies. He was exactly what you thought, and no one is to blame for not ever thinking this piece of crap was worth the time of day–even if there is anyone out there who thinks he might have been–

And if he was a poor, poor, unfuckable boy before, I’m very sorry, but his killing women because he was so mad pretty much confirms his unfuckability. And very much confirms why we shouldn’t feel sorry for him now–had he ever talked to women? Did he know even stuck up blond “bitches” are people? Did he think sorority girls had lives, rights, families, hopes, dreams, and they didn’t have any responsibility to include him in them?

We know the answer to that, of course. It is written in blood on the sidewalks of a small college town.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | June 23, 2013

As more shoes drop

Since I last poked my head out of the cave, Barack Obama went on Charlie Rose to claim the NSA programs revealed by Edward Snowden were ‘transparent’ and pushed back hard against the notion that anyone was listening to Americans’ phone calls sans warrant. (I should note that the claim at the previous link has been walked back significantly.)Meanwhile, it turns out that the FISA court allows the NSA to keep data on Americans collected without a warrant under certain circumstances.

The new documents, published by the two newspapers, indicate the NSA collects, processes, retains and disseminates the contents of Americans’ phone calls and emails under a wide range of circumstances.

They can be seen at tinyurl.com/First-Document and tinyurl.com/Second-Document.

The documents — both dated July 29, 2009, with one classified “Top Secret,” the other labeled “Secret” and both signed by Attorney General Eric Holder — detail the circumstances in which data collected on “U.S. persons” under the foreign intelligence authority must be destroyed.

They outline policies approved by the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that let the NSA — while monitoring the phone or email of a foreign diplomat or a suspected terrorist — keep an intercept if it contains information deemed to be a “threat of serious harm to life or property” or if it sheds light on technical issues like encryption or vulnerability to cyberattacks.

The policies also let the NSA keep “foreign intelligence information” contained within attorney-client communications, one documents says.

So…

It seems to me there are three issues here.

  1. The metadata issue,  where all the records of our calls and emails – sans content – is vacuumed up by the NSA;
  2. The privacy of Americans’ communications, which is certainly compromised when they can get easily swept up when they intermingle with furriners;
  3. The controls/transparency that protect us from abuses in (2).

I think #1 above has already been lost, and it concerns me less than #2.

I think #2 is very problematic, and not just because I have a sister in Paris, although the full content of our phone calls is usually “can you turn on your computer so we can Skype?”.

To call this program “transparent” is a stretch, and I don’t think anyone in their right mind trusts the controls that are in place.

Edward Snowden (more on him later) claimed he listened to some celebrity communications to prove he could, and he didn’t even work for the U.S. Government. And while I’d like to believe he’s lying, what seems far more likely is that the capability to actually spy on Americans exists at the workstations of far too many NSA contractors, much less employees, and the “control” is that they will, theoretically, get an extended paid vacation in Leavenworth if they get caught.

However, much as I think that the ‘legal’ part of #2 is, at the very least, unconstitutional, most of this country clearly bought this burglar alarm after the house was robbed September 11th, 2001, and is only now noticing that the fine print says you can’t ever get out of the contract.

Never mind that quite a few of us wanted to opt out but couldn’t.

In short, what Obama says is technically true, but not terribly reassuring.

The good that can come of this is more stuff gets declassified, because, as I have said, the notion that terrorists and foreign actors don’t already know that the U.S. (and, for that matter, virtually every first world country) can listen in on your phone calls is ludicrous.

As for Mr. Snowden, I mentioned before that he lost a lot of my sympathy when he started talking about operations of the NSA that were directed at foreign governments, revelations that come closer to treason than whistle-blowing.

The only thing that would make him less sympathetic would be if he were to alight to a country that has been a traditional geopolitical foe of the United States, perhaps one with an almost cartoonishly anti-democratic leader.

As if on cue:

Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency charged with espionage, was allowed to leave Hong Kong on Sunday because the U.S. extradition request did not comply with the law, the Hong Kong government said.

“Mr Edward Snowden left Hong Kong today (June 23) on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel,” the government said in a statement.

A statement did not identify the country, but the South China Morning Post newspaper earlier reported that Snowden had left on a flight for Moscow.

Well, sure, because Vladimir Putin is such a defender of free expression. Just ask Pussy Riot.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | June 16, 2013

Maybe it’s not just metadata…

I am not a lawyer, but I’m pretty damned sure this is unconstitutional:

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.”

If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. “I was rather startled,” said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.

Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA’s formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically, it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.

Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler’s disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.

The disclosure appears to confirm some of the allegations made by Edward Snowden, a former NSA infrastructure analyst who leaked classified documents to the Guardian. Snowden said in a video interview that, while not all NSA analysts had this ability, he could from Hawaii “wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president.”

Perhaps now Dianne Feinstein, who is an ever-present wet rag on the flame of civil liberties in this country, can do some serious ‘splainin’ about how this is perfectly fine.

And you, too, Barack Obama. You are a lawyer, and should know better. Plus, you said when this all broke that “no one is listening to your phone calls.”

And, as a handy guide for those of you covering this in our corporate media, here is Mutant Poodle’s guide (on a scale of 1-10) to the relative scandal-worthiness of of three recent imbroglios, now that we have this information from Representative Nadler:

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 7.42.01 AM

If anyone is looking for a good way to motivate Senators and Congresscritters on both sides of the aisle to put a stop to this, simply point out that any NSA analyst could record all their calls with donors, say, or the people who run non-coordinated superpacs.

Come to think of it, I’d almost be willing to put up with this if all of those calls were recorded and transcripts published daily.

And, in closing, I’d like to echo an epic John Cole rant:

No, you want to see the villain, look in the mirror. It’s the pants-wetting populace of the United States, who votes for these assholes who pass bad laws in moments of crisis, because we have to do something and because Americans, unlike every other nation in the world, have a god given right to be safe at all times from all things.

Fuck you all. The only thing that might save this country from a couple more weeks of this partisan bullshit obscuring important issues is maybe we’ll get lucky and a cute young blonde girl will get kidnapped and we can move on to something else.

Amen.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | June 13, 2013

Has anything happened recently?

approved

No excuses. It’s just that at some point in January I got overwhelmed with a sense of deja vu – I knew what was going to happen politically (more or less), and it’s gets tiresome reboooting my outrage and anger.

And then I started working.

And then our national security state went front-and-center.

I wasn’t even that excited by Edward Snowden (or even his pole-dancing girlfriend) because, quite frankly, if you didn’t know the government was mining telephone meta-data all this time (remember the Bush administration, folks?) you weren’t really paying attention.

And it isn’t a news flash that the NSA looks at furriners’ internet activity all the time, either. (How they define “foreign”, however, is a bit problematic.)

That said, I think the conversation is good, and I think people should know what their government is doing (in their name, to paraphrase the great Charlie Pierce). And I didn’t really care about Edward Snowden enough to put him in the category of traitor (not really) or hero (um, no).

Until this:

BEIJING — Edward Snowden told Hong Kong media that the United States is involved in extensive hacking operations directed against China and Hong Kong.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post published on the newspaper’s website early Thursday, Snowden said he wanted to demonstrate “the hypocrisy of the U.S. government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries.’’

Oh, brother.

Let me say, first of all, that I am shocked – SHOCKED – to discover that the land of my birth is engaged in espionage of any kind against any of the other peace-loving nations that share the planet with us.

Here’s why I didn’t have a problem with Snowden sharing the Verizon/NSA story: it wasn’t really news, and any terrorist with half a brain already knew to be wary of cell phones (assuming they watched Zero Dark Thirty, they probably went to rotating burners, at best, or carrier pigeons long ago).

PRISM is newsworthy because a 51% probability that a target is foreign seems like a weak hurdle for, you know, warrantless search. Otherwise, one of the disadvantages of being a non-USA-an living in non-USA is that the constitution of the United States doesn’t protect you.

And it doesn’t protect China.

So: as much as it offends young Edward’s sensibilities that we haven’t copped to hacking into Chinese computers while complaining about them doing the same to us, it seems to me that the National Security Clearance he has and the agreements he signed to protect state secrets most certainly apply to that information, and while it was already hard to call Snowden a whistleblower (based on the statute), there’s no way to justify what Snowden just did, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, treasonous.

And what sucks about that is that it could distract from the real discussion we should be having about what the NSA does, to wit:

  • Is it appropriate (SCOTUS has already ruled that it’s constitutional)?
  • Is it effective?
  • Are there proper (or any) controls?
  • What can be made public without risk of endangering real investigations and intelligence gathering?

I’m going to go with  three “noes” and “quite a bit more than is made public now.”  But I’m happy to have a discussion about all of it, and watch the GOP filibuster and common-sense revisions to how our government looks into everything we do.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | January 8, 2013

Settling scores

It’s an all-sports (sort-of) post, since Congress has done what every hard working American does after returning to work in the new year, which is, of course, give itself another 10 days off.

Score number 1: whatever ranking Notre Dame is given by the humans behind the AP writers and USA Today Coaches Polls must now be adjusted by five spots.

I’m pretty sure Alabama would have beaten anyone lined up against them last night who can’t pay players in the daylight, but Notre Dame is a lot more like Boise State or Northern Illinois in terms of the value of its wins than, say, an Oregon or a Stanford.

And the notion that Notre Dame, in the final polls of the season, ranks ahead of Georgia, which damn near beat ‘Bama in the SEC title game, and Texas A&M, which beat them in Tuscaloosa, strikes me as beyond absurd.

Also, too: no moral high ground for Notre Dame, which apparently thinks rape is OK in the service of a return to football glory.

Score number 2: Pro hockey will return to an arena which may or may not be near you.

I’m not a big pro hockey fan. College and Olympic hockey are more fluid and far less marred by fights. But the NHL has managed to toss an entire season (2004-05) into the dumpster, and was perilously close to doing so again.

Here is my favorite snippet from the story summarizing the deal, about the value of some of the captains of industry who own NHL franchises:

More progress was made in early December when some less militant owners joined the talks and Bettman and Fehr temporarily excluded themselves. But the hardest of the hardliners, Boston’s Jeremy Jacobs and Calgary’s Murray Edwards, remained involved and those sessions couldn’t finish off the agreement. Talks came crashing to a halt when the players said they wanted Fehr back in the process, that they were not trained in the art of closing the deal, and having their leader present was something they were certainly entitled to do. Edwards reportedly told them that Fehr’s return would be a deal-killer and things ground to a halt. Following that episode, the league wisely decided against active ownership participation.

I am just guessing here, but there must be something about being able to buy and sell human beings that warps some people sense of place. Every damned professional league has a Jeremy Jacobs or Murray Edwards (and they are lucky if they only have one or two), and they are always the guys who end up making everything worse.

Score number 3: It may be small of me to take some small amount of comfort, or even pleasure, in USC’s fall from a #1 pre-season football ranking to a 7-6 record, an ugly loss in the Sun Bowl, and a level of backstabbing that clouds their immediate future, but I am, at times, a small man.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | January 4, 2013

Friday (Morning) Tunes

Still in the glow of the new year, so a pre-noon Friday tunes.

There’s so much win in this clip. First, it’s a young Joni Mitchell, before she smoked herself down to an alto (not complaining – some of her later stuff is spectacular); it’s from the Dick Cavett show, and, um, set design.

Have a great weekend. 2013 starts in earnest on Monday.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | January 3, 2013

Orange Man given worst job in America

20130103-144306.jpg

John Boehner has been re-elected Speaker of the House.

With apologies to The Onion.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | January 2, 2013

Still fighting for the taxpayer…

The state of Pennsylvania, at the behest of their Republican governor, plans to sue the NCAA over the sanctions imposed on Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Apparently, there is concern that some of the $60 million fine Penn State is paying into an endowed fund to help prevent child sexual abuse and treat its victims might make its way outside the Keystone state.

I’m sure a few more tax cuts for the rich will cover their legal fees.

I despise the NCAA as much as anyone, but seriously – just shut up about the punishment and let the university recover.  This just makes the parties involved look small.

And what is it about organizations that implicitly condone sex abuse? First, the Roman Catholic Church imposing its band of “higher justice” – which is to say, ignore the victims and shuffle the pedophiles to another diocese to create a new pool of victims, and now the Boy Scouts, who are, shall we say, zealous in defending their organization:

An Oregon man’s lawsuit alleged that Scouting allowed troop leader Timur Dykes to continue in the group after he admitted molesting 17 boys in the early 1980s.

At the trial in 2010, regional Scouts official Eugene Grant faulted parents for letting their sons go to Dykes’ apartment for merit badge work and sleepovers.

“His parents should have known better,” Grant said of one victim. “I think it’s criminal.”

The jury rejected that assertion, finding the Scouts liable for nearly $20 million in damages….

In 2002, Jerrold Schwartz, a 42-year-old former scoutmaster in New York, admitted abusing a boy in his troop in the 1990s. After being secretly recorded saying he “did something very, very wrong” and apologizing to the boy, Schwartz pleaded guilty to four counts of sodomy and was sent to prison.

Despite the conviction and the victim’s testimony that Schwartz “raped me and forced me to perform oral sex on him,” the Scouts, in a motion to dismiss a subsequent lawsuit, contended that the sex was consensual, records show. [Emphasis mine]

“To argue that an adult scoutmaster in his 30s can have consensual sex with a 13-year-old in his Scout troop is something dreamt up in pedophile heaven,” attorney Michael Dowd told the New York Law Journal in 2006 after a judge rejected the Scouts’ motion. The lawsuit was later settled; terms were not disclosed.

The Boy Scouts don’t have a lot of  goodwill in my account anyway. I read this and wonder if anyone involve at the scouts is even partially human.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

So, apparently we won’t be going cliff-diving to start the year. Or curb jumping, or slope rolling, or whatever it would be if we were to do it, which we totally may if the House of Representatives holds to its current level of sanity.

One note to NBC News, which had this paragraph in the above story as of this morning:

NBC Senate Vote

First, the last time Richard Shelby was a Democrat was before Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House, so that’s a solid 18 years ago. Second, it might have been more illuminating to note the actual Democratic nays: Harkin, of Iowa, Bennett, of Colorado, and Carper, of Delaware.

The best thing about this deal is that it extends long-term unemployment benefits. But I’m not sure why the end of the payroll tax holiday couldn’t have been phased in over two years, since that is, in fact, a tax increase on the lower and middle classes – one the GOP was apparently happy to let happen.

Anyway, this has been a stupid process caused by the massive dysfunction on one legislative branch of government. Seriously – does anyone think the last week of House craziness would have happened if Nancy Pelosi were in charge?

Anyway, happy new year. Looks like we have more of this to come.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | December 31, 2012

Looking Back

[Earworm of the year by Owl City with Carly Rae Jepson.]

Vagabond Scholar has taken over for the late Jon Swift’s annual year-end blogger round-up, which presents the best posts of the year, selected by bloggers themselves. Yours truly submitted, but you’ll have to go to Vagabond Scholar’s site to see which one. While you’re there, check out some other small blogs.

I spent a fair amount of time picking the one post I’d submit – not because I think I have so many phenomenal posts, but because it’s hard to put the year into perspective without having actually hopped out into 2013. And I did resist the temptation to select the post where I picked Obama to win the election, way back in February.

Unlike Vagabond Scholar, I have no constraints, so below is my  ten baker’s dozen best Mutant Poodle posts of 2012.

So much for that doom and gloom…

Where I actually make my election call.

It’s a trap!

Reflections on Mitt Romney’s core beliefs.

Profiles in cowardice

The shame of the GOP’s inability to call Rush Limbaugh out for his vile Sandra Fluke slander.

They are good at this stuff…

Musings on the Obama propaganda shop.

Or maybe he’s just, you know, a liar…

Taking exception to lame justifications for Mitt Romney’s casual relationship with the truth.

Mitt is not Nixon – at least on this count.

Why Mitt Romney’s social awkwardness is in no way comparable to Richard Nixon’s.

The Pain from Bain comes ‘cuz you can’t explain

Pretty much what the title indicates.

Dear Media…

A plea to those who spill ink and e-ink by the barrel and megapixel to stop referring to Paul Ryan as a deficit hawk.

The Steel Anniversary

More reflections on 9/11, eleven years on.

The perils of privilege

The weaknesses that accrue to the wealthy and pampered.

Half-right

Pushback on Howard Fineman’s complaint that Barack Obama hasn’t been aggressively challenged by either Mitt Romney or the press on a series of promises and comments that Obama may or may not have made.

Further Reflections

Basking in the post-election glow, and a little schadenfruede.

The Village is tired of sore losers

The shocking development that even Washington insiders were getting tired of Mitt Romney’s excuses.

I write mostly about politics, and these all focus on that subject, or its adjunct, the media. And I don’t know if any of these qualify as great insights. But if I wrote them, I felt the need to write them rather than pound the walls of my house and scream incoherently.

More ranting will come, I’m sure, in 2013.  Have a happy new year, and peace.

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