Flying Saucers Are Back!

It turns out that the government had a secret program on Unidentified Flying Objects, and the New York Times just found out about it. It seems to have ended in 2012, but you never know about that black money!

There are a couple of videos in the article. This one is embeddable, the other one apparently not.

I’m not impressed by either; it seems odd they couldn’t bring the objects into focus, and the motion of the first suggests to me some sort of reflection, although I’d need to see more of the environment to call it that more positively.

But they’re probably not Venus, and it’s worth trying to figure out what they are if only to identify the circumstances that can convince pilots there’s something out there when there isn’t.

And much of the funding ($22 million over five years is not a lot) went to a friend of Harry Reid’s.

The truth is out there.

We (I) Get Letters–Open Thread

Yes, we get letters.  I don’t know about the other Front Pagers, but I’ll bet their public email accounts are full of various people complaining that we don’t cover whatever cause is important to them at that moment.

We have too much coverage of the fiscal slope/curb/cliff or not enough coverage of it, or our coverage is MISSING THE POINT, ZOMG!  Or we aren’t talking enough about Bradley Manning or we aren’t advocating for his release/killing hard enough.  We aren’t telling the commenters about the new science that shows that silver is the cure for EVERYTHING from aphasia to gout to uremia to yellow fever.

It’s all very much like this

Well, this shit is exactly what open threads were invented for.  Instead of trying to convince me to make your case for you, which act is a LOT like trying to teach a mule to tapdance–you won’t get anywhere and you’ll only piss both of us off–use this open thread to make your case about your pet issue to the commenters.  Good luck and remember, it’s all about having fun!


It’s Not Just Airplane Windows

Mitt Romney also thinks cold fusion is a solved problem if only we could duplicate the results at the University of Utah.  (For those of you too young to remember, cold fusion was debunked 22 years ago.) 

Also, too: The one good thing about this whole “plane windows” idiocy is that I learned that Patrick Smith, who wrote the excellent Ask the Pilot column in Salon, has his new site up and running.

Do the Mother Jones Videos of Mitt Romney Violate Florida Wiretapping Laws?


 One traditionally views wiretapping as the illicit recording of private conversations, or, at least, of conversations with respect to which the parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Recording a phone call without obtaining the consent of the party with whom you are speaking? That’s wiretapping. Placing a device on a party’s phone to record phone calls that the party has with third parties? That’s wiretapping. Downloading software onto your computer so that you can record someone on Skype or GoogleTalk? That’s wiretapping. Placing a recording device in a room and recording the conversations that occur in that room?  That’s wiretapping.

Recording a speech at a “closed to the public” campaign fundraiser, even at a private home? Eh. That’s questionable.

At first blush, it seems the Florida statute applies to the Romney videos.  The Florida statute states that it is a punishable offense when a person:

(a) Intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept any wire, oral, or electronic communication; [This section seems to apply to the person who made the recording. “Intercept” is defined in the wiretap statute as “the aural or other acquisition of the contents of any wire, electronic, or oral communication through the use of any electronic, mechanical, or other device.”

Oral communication” is defined as “any oral communication uttered by a person exhibiting an expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation and does not mean any public oral communication uttered at a public meeting or any electronic communication.” The person who recorded the video acquired the contents of Mitt’s oral communication through use of, say, a smart phone. So yeah — it seems applicable.]

(b) Intentionally uses, endeavors to use, or procures any other person to use or endeavor to use any electronic, mechanical, or other device to intercept any oral communication when:

1. Such device is affixed to, or otherwise transmits a signal through, a wire, cable, or other like connection used in wire communication; or [This subsection refers to the sort of wiretapping that one sees in cop movies.]

2. Such device transmits communications by radio or interferes with the transmission of such communication; [Same here.]

(c) Intentionally discloses, or endeavors to disclose, to any other person the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, oral, or electronic communication in violation of this subsection; [Here’s where Mother Jones could, but likely won’t get in trouble. Yes, Mother Jones intentionally disclosed the oral communication, but did Mother Jones have knowledge that the information was obtained “in violation of this subsection”? Probably not. Mother Jones could easily argue that it didn’t expect the recording of a campaign fundraising speech to violate this particular subsection of Florida wiretapping laws since the statute seems to apply to “traditional” wiretapping, i.e., recording phone calls and the like.  This is especially true if Mother Jones was not aware of specific admonishments by the Romney campaign not to record Romney’s speech at the fundraiser.]

(d) Intentionally uses, or endeavors to use, the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, oral, or electronic communication in violation of this subsection; [Same as above — the issue is whether or not Mother Jones knew or had reason to know that the recording was obtained “in violation of this subsection,” which, again, deals with traditional forms of wiretapping.] or

(e) Intentionally discloses, or endeavors to disclose, to any other person the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication intercepted by means authorized by subparagraph (2)(a)2., paragraph (2)(b), paragraph (2)(c), s. 934.07, or s. 934.09 when that person knows or has reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of such a communication in connection with a criminal investigation, has obtained or received the information in connection with a criminal investigation, and intends to improperly obstruct, impede, or interfere with a duly authorized criminal investigation [This section is entirely inapplicable here.]

So, it seems like the statute applies.  As such, should Florida authorities choose to purse the matter, the person who recorded the video might be in trouble. Theoretically, since Mitt Romney didn’t consent to the taping, the person who recorded the speech might be charged with a misdemeanor.  Still, the person who recorded the video has a couple of defenses.

[read full post at ABLC]


Bias Is As Bias Does

Jon Chait’s peculiar, pointless wander through Hollywood’s liberal bias says a lot, I guess, about a lot– about mainstream liberalism’s passionate self-hatred, about liberal commentators’ refusal to straightforwardly express the superiority of their values (as conservatives have done to incredible political effect), and about what a weird form of toothless cultural liberalism New York Magazine now represents.

I find Chait’s repeated claim that conservatives are no longer fighting the culture war against Hollywood to be self-evidently absurd. We’re living in a world with Big Hollywood and An American Carol and Archbishop Dolan and seemingly hundreds of conservative groups that “monitor” Hollywood and televsion…. Michael Medved, quoted credulously and at length in the piece, enjoys national prominence. The Parents Television Council makes national news just about every month. It’s a bizarre claim, the kind that you can only make if you are living the secluded, myopic life that you think you’re critiquing.

But I’ll leave that fight to others. For my part, I just want to point out the incoherence of trying to talk about bias as an expression of anything other than the preferences of the person making the claim. Chait wants us to take conservative claims of cultural bias in Hollywood seriously. He wants to suggest that bias is somehow illegitimate even if he doesn’t agree with the perspective of those claiming bias. “Imagine that large chunks of your entertainment mocked your values and even transformed once-uncontroversial beliefs of yours into a kind of bigotry that might be greeted with revulsion. You’d probably be angry, too.”

You’ll note that conservatives would never undertake a similar project; you are not going to find a conservative writer concern trolling about the massive conservative bias in our military, or in our corporate world, despite the fact that both of these are vastly more powerful forces than Hollywood. Nor will you hear conservatives worrying aloud about the conservative bias of American Christianity, or sports media, or video games. The reason, of course, is that these biases are not seen as bias at all, but just the way things are. To conservatives and ostensibly liberal worriers like Chait, bias is only and ever liberal. Liberal bias in our African American studies programs is a problem to be solved. Conservative bias in the chambers of commerce? Hey, that’s life.

The truth is that there is no vantage point from which you can observe bias that isn’t your own contingent, ideological perspective. Nor are complaints about bias qua bias ever consistently applied. After all, I too hate Hollywood’s biases. I hate Hollywood’s bias towards capitalism, towards simplistic Manicheanism, towards militarism, towards the notion that all problems can be solved through violence, towards the very idea of righteous violence. I hate that Hollywood acts as if every happy life ends in romantic coupling, or that every happy couple has to maintain sexual monogamy, or that raising children is necessarily the endpoint of the good life. I hate Hollywood’s cultural colonialism, its sexism, its heteronormativity, its treatment of gender confusion as comedic. I hate Hollywood for its empty, useless cultural liberalism that suggests that structural changes are never necessary. I hate its bias towards the establishment.

Now: there’s nothing inherently different between my claims of bias and conservative claims of bias. And yet knowing Jon Chait’s work, I can say with certainty that he would never take my complaints seriously in the same way that he takes conservative complaints seriously. He would not ask you to put yourself in my shoes. In fact, as he is the kind of Very Serious liberal that merely dislikes those to his right but passionately hates those to his left, he would be far more likely to treat my complaints with straightforward contempt– which of course is merely to say that he is, himself, biased, as we all are. That’s the problem with claims of bias: there’s no way to stand outside of yourself. Better just to advocate for what you think of as right. (You know what I call more gay characters on television, more nontraditional families in movies, more anti-big business narratives out there? Moral progress.)

Oh, by the way, since it wouldn’t be a piece of neoliberal big think without some flat factual errors: Chait claims that “In Red Dawn, the paranoid 1984 action film about a Communist invasion of America, the Cuban commander of the occupying Communist forces (don’t ask) ultimately lets rebel leader Patrick Swayze go free, and the story ends with a meditation on the evils of war.”

And here’s IMDB’s transcript of the end of that movie:

Erica: [closing narration] I never saw the Eckert Brothers again. In time, this war – like every other war – ended. But I never forgot. And I come to this place often, when no one else does.

[we see “Partisan Rock,” with its memorial plaque, which she reads for us]

Erica: “… In the early days of World War 3, guerillas – mostly children – placed the names of their lost upon this rock. They fought here alone and gave up their lives, so that this nation should not perish from the earth.”

Yeah, it’s straight out of Eugene Debs.

Open Thread

For Olympic discussion, or for any other subject you wish to throw out there. It’s “open” after all.
For me, I went to see ‘The Dark Knight Rises” today. I felt that it was 20 minutes to long, and by the end of it I was pretty much “meh.”

Also, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Dave Camp (r-MI) expects a full recovery from lymphoma.  This unrepentant shit head votes against health benefits for the poor and the working poor, and has done so 33 times just this session, all the while using a cadillac health coverage plan provided by the taxpayers.

me confused

Am I missing something here? Sully has given an Yglesias award to someone saying that we need to cut Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and defense. That person is Kevin Williamson of the National Review. I thought the Yglesias Award was for becoming increasingly indistinguishable from Mickey Kaus going against “your side,” which is understood to be an inherently principled thing in the eyes of the Beltway. (In reality, bullshit.)  But a person at NRO calling for cuts to the three pillars of our social safety net (PPACA is on its way to becoming the fourth) seems like a dog bites man story to me, even if its ostensibly criticism of Romney. Yeah, I get that he threw in defense, but nobody believes a Republican president is going to sign any bill that throws cuts at the Pentagon. I’m not sure I get the reason for the award.

Perhaps the reality is just that, in today’s climate, a Republican saying “three for us, one for you” is about as close to cooperation as the GOP’s ever going to get.