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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

We've Moved... The Ashford Zone at 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Video Immediately After Michael Brown Shooting Supports Story That Brown Had Arms Up When Killed

Two contractors have come forward saying that they witnessed the Michael Brown shooting, and that Michael Brown had his hands up in the air, thus not posing a threat, when he was shot.

Normally, you could discount this eyewitness testimony, coming more than one month after the shooting.

Except that they are saying it.... on video... just after the shooting occurred.  In other words, they hadn't had time to listen to other accounts of the shooting.

Christian Science Monitor:

In that light, the new video is “good evidence,” according to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, because it shows an immediate reaction to what happened. The account given to CNN and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by the two contractors is also significant, legal analysts say, because neither man has any ties to the community where Brown lived (Note from KA: some news reports suggest the two contrators were white).  Many other witnesses knew Brown personally and either lived in the area or were visiting family.

On the other hand, the video is hardly conclusive. The two men told CNN they heard an initial shot but did not see how the confrontation started. (Police say Brown struck the officer in the face inside his patrol car, then reached for the officer’s gun.) About 30 seconds later, they said, they saw a staggering Brown turn around, put his arms up and cry, “OK, OK, OK.” The officer, they said, fired again anyway.

Anyway, here's the video:


So Now What?

It's the 13th anniversary of 9/11, and you would think that we would have learned something since then about... well.... being terrorized.

"Being terrorized" means being so freaked out by the bad guys what our judgment is clouded and we rush into military operations for which (1) we have no exit strategy and (2) there is no way to tell if you won, since the enemy you supposedly defeated will probably be replaced by something just as fucked up.

I'm with Rachel Maddow on the necessity of having a congressional debate on ISIS strategy:

We have a great and recent history of making terrible decisions. Terrible, short-sighted, poorly argued and in some cases based on false premises decisions."

Also too, this:

Yes, some of the U.S. aircraft that are conducting these now 153 airstrikes are drones, so there is no pilot at risk, the the other aircraft that we've got over there are fighter jets and what they describe as attack aircraft. All of those have pilots and crews. And for some reason we've decided not to call what they're doing "combat." But the people they are attacking have some capacity to shoot down aircraft that are attacking them. They've got heavy anti-aircraft weapons. 

So it might be politically convenient to say you support airstrikes, but not combat, or airstrikes but not "boots-on-the-ground. But there are now more than 1100 U.S. personnel in Iraq to support the airstrikes that are already happening. And god forbid if American aircraft start getting shot down by this militant group with their anti-aircraft artillery, then you better believe there are going to be boots on the grounds, and quickly...

Her whole segment is worth watching. 

Republicans in Congress don't want to debate this.  They don't want to go on record as supporting one strategy over another, because they want to be in a position to criticize the strategy when something goes amiss (as it inevitably will).  But a Congressional debate is important, for just that reason.  Our representatives need to take a stand -- any stand -- so that they can't kibbitz from the sidelines (surely the mostly cowardly approach).

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Breaking A 20-Court Victory Streak, A Federal Judge In Louisiana Upholds Gay Marriage Ban

Well, you can't win them all.

The Honorable Marty Fledman (yes, that's his name) -- a Reagan appointtee -- wrote today:

Many states have democratically chosen to
recognize same-sex marriage. But until recent years, it had no
place at all in this nation's history and tradition. Public
attitude might be becoming more diverse, but any right to same-sex
marriage is not yet so entrenched as to be fundamental. See
Malagon, 462 F.3d at 505. There is simply no fundamental right,
historically or traditionally, to same-sex marriage.

The problem with that, of course, is not the "right to same-sex marriage", but the "right to marriage" for same-sex couples.  He deliberately hcnages the focus of the inquiry.  

I mean, one could say the same thing about interracial marriage, too.  There is no "fundamental right to interracial marriage", but that wasn't the issue 50 years ago in the Loving case.  In Loving, the issue was whether the right to marriage (which is a fundamental right) applies to interracial couples.

Then, Feldman engaged the problematic (and in this case, silly) slippery slope:

When a federal court is
obliged to confront a constitutional struggle over what is
marriage, a singularly pivotal issue, the consequence of outcomes,
intended or otherwise, seems an equally compelling part of the
equation. It seems unjust to ignore. And so, inconvenient
questions persist. For example, must the states permit or
recognize a marriage between an aunt and niece? Aunt and nephew?
Brother/brother? Father and child? May minors marry? Must
marriage be limited to only two people? What about a transgender
spouse? Is such a union same-gender or male-female? All such
unions would undeniably be equally committed to love and caring for
one another, just like the plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs' counsel was unable to answer such kinds of
questions; the only hesitant response given was that such unions
would result in "significant societal harms" that the states could
indeed regulate. But not same-gender unions. This Court is
powerless to be indifferent to the unknown and possibly imprudent
consequences of such a decision. A decision for which there
remains the arena of democratic debate. Free and open and probing
debate. Indeed, fractious debate.

I think we can say that incestuous relationships would not become consititutional as a result of lifting the ban on gay marriages, if only because incest is against the law and the state as a compelling interest in regulating what are often abusive and non-consensual relationships.

But, you know, the judge played the "parade of horribles" hand.

A few years ago, Feldman made the news when he blocked Obama's moratorium on deep-wll drilling following the BP oil spill.  Part of the reason his decision made national news was because Feldman himself held significant financial interests in oil companies when he issued his opinion.

He's also on the FIAS court, which is why your phones are being tapped.

Nate's Back.... With Bad News

538 is rebooting today and the great oracle Nate Silver delivers a gut-punch:

But if you’re looking for a headline, we have two. First, Republicans are favored to take the Senate, at least in our view; the FiveThirtyEight forecast model gives them a 64 percent chance of doing so.

The reasons for the GOP advantage are pretty straightforward. Midterm elections are usually poor for the president’s party, and the Senate contests this year are in states where, on average, President Obama won just 46 percent of the vote in 2012. Democrats are battling a hangover effect in these states, most of which were last contested in 2008, a high-water mark for the party. On the basis of polling and the other indicators our model evaluates, Republicans are more likely than not to win the six seats they need to take over the Senate. This isn’t news, exactly; the same conditions held way back in March.

An equally important theme is the high degree of uncertainty around that outcome. A large number of states remain competitive, and Democrats could easily retain the Senate. It’s also possible that the landscape could shift further in Republicans’ direction. Our model regards a true Republican wave as possible: It gives the party almost a 25 percent chance of finishing with 54 or more Senate seats once all the votes are counted.

The Lesson From 2002

We all have felt it from time to time.  The urge to simply go nuclear.

It's understandable.  Some backwoods jihadi moron slices off an American head, or a bunch of them band together and fly hijacked airplanes into sckyscrapers, and our natural reaction is: "Fuck you.  NOW you're going to see the hand of God."

The problem with that is that it doesn't work.  Unless you are prepared to kill every single Muslim whereever they live, and every potential ally of the Muslim, all you are going to do is further enrage the beast.

Bush wanted to invade Iraq.  He didn't have a strategy.  Just a dream.  Number One: we invade and get Saddam... which leads to...  Number Two: Huge power vacuum... which leads to.... uh, peace?

Of course not.  It leads to even scarier fucks occupying the vacuum.  Hello world, meet ISIS.

And once again, we have the right wingers screaming for us to do exactly what was done before -- go in and start bombing things without regard to collateral damage (i.e., innocent civilians) and without any idea of the consequences of our actions.

Obama is right in taking it slowly.  He's thinking "Can we figure out a strategy that might actually work, like the air support that helped Iraqi forces break the siege of one town?"

Take a breath. Figure out the complexity of the situation (which involves more than crazed Islamic radicals taking over territory and nearly genociding people). 

A little patience, maybe. How about getting some allies involved, since -- you know -- this affects them.  And perhaps a whole bunch of American snipers.

That's how we win this.  But to just cowboy up and zoom in guns-ablazin'?  We just did that.  Made it worse.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Life Discovered In Space?

Maybe, maybe not.

There have been seeming credible reports on the Internet that sea plankton has been found on the windows of the International Space Station, plankton that wasn't there at takeoff.

So say some Russians.  But not the official ones:

“Results of the experiment are absolutely unique. We have found traces of sea plankton and microscopic particles on the illuminator surface. This should be studied further,” chief of the Russian ISS orbital mission Vladimir Solovyev told Russia’s state-ownedITAR-TASS news agency.

The Russian report also seems to infer that the plankton finding and other previous surveys indicate such organisms can survive and even grow outside the space station, despite having to contend with being blasted by radiation from the sun and lacking the basic life support system found in Earth.

“Results of the scope of scientific experiments which had been conducted for a quite long time were summed up in the previous year, confirming that some organisms can live on the surface of the International Space Station (ISS) for years amid factors of a space flight, such as zero gravity, temperature conditions and hard cosmic radiation. Several surveys proved that these organisms can even develop.”

But all this seems to be news to NASA.

“As far as we’re concerned, we haven’t heard any official reports from our Roscosmos (Russia’s space agency) colleagues that they’ve found sea plankton,” NASA spokesman Dan Huot told “What they’re actually looking for is residues that can build up on the visually sensitive elements, like windows, as well as just the hull of the ship itself that will build up whenever they do thruster firings for things like re-boosts. That’s what they were taking samples for. I don’t know where all the sea plankton talk is coming from.”

NASA scientists report that it’s possible the reported sea plankton could be a contaminant that hitched a ride from Earth when the space station modules were launched. Previous research has also found that certain tiny species — known as extremophiles — can survive in space and other harsh environments. Just today, new research is being published in the journal Nature that documents the discovery of microbes living beneath a half mile of Antarctic ice without any access to sun or wind.

If the cosmonauts truly did discover sea plankton hanging out in space, it could have interesting new implications for how we view life’s compatibility with the rugged environment that is space; or it might just mean that plankton is a lot tougher than previously expected.

So... maybe yes maybe no, but pretty amazing if yes.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Officer Go-Fuck-Yourself

I swear.  These must be the dumbest cops alive.  I mean, don't they realize the complaint against them is that they are too quick on the draw?  That they are failures as cops by drawing high-powered guns on unarmed civilians?

Yet, this cop goes right ahead and does it.  In front of cameras.  And then he points his gun at the cameramen!  


Fortunately he was suspended for this:

A suburban St. Louis police officer who threatened to kill media members as he pointed his high-powered rifle at a group of people filming Tuesday night’s protests in Ferguson, Mo., has been suspended after video of the incident went viral Wednesday.

The unidentified St. Ann, Mo. police officer, who told one man his name was “go f— yourself,” has been “relieved of duty and suspended indefinitely” for his “inappropriate” actions, the St. Louis County Police Department said in a statement to Mashable.

In the minute-long video clip, the portly, bald police officer is seen pointing his semi-automatic assault rifle at crowds of people walking along a Ferguson street just before midnight Tuesday.

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