If you haven't read "Smuggler Nation" yet (it's on the list), now would be a good time

The NSA-DEA police state tango - Salon.com

So the paranoid hippie pot dealer you knew in college was right all along: The feds really were after him. In the latest post-Snowden bombshell about the extent and consequences of government spying, we learned from Reuters reporters this week that a secret branch of the DEA called the Special Operations Division – so secret that nearly everything about it is classified, including the size of its budget and the location of its office — has been using the immense pools of data collected by the NSA, CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies to go after American citizens for ordinary drug crimes.…

It's a great world after all

Newburyport entrepreneur says his automated line cleaning system makes draft beer tastier - Business - The Boston Globe

Besides the ease of use and “the difference in the drink,” said Buckley, another benefit of Glanola — the name is Gaelic for “clean drink” — is that it eliminates the wasted beer that typically accompanies a line cleaning. Scores of pints of beer are drained away with every manual line flush, he said.

And now — the end of everything

Now it is legit. MLA has announced proper form for citing tweet in an academic paper. http://t.co/MqndMSg8RD"
8/7/13 12:55 AM

The times they are a-changing

Kara Brandeisky: Before Obama was President - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics

As a senator, Obama supported strong controls on surveillance. As president, not so much.

Or, well, were. Too late now. 

98 percent, however, passed the exam in Brooklynese

As Expected, Student Test Scores Have Plummeted in New York City | Mother Jones

Across the city, 26 percent of students in third through eighth grade passed the state exams in English…according to the New York State Education Department…

Shut up and take your oil

Keystone Light: The Keystone XL Alternative You've Never Heard of Is Probably Going to Be Built | Mother Jones

As Inside Climate News reported earlier this summer, Enbridge is building a 5,000-mile network of pipelines that would far overshadow the potential impact of the Keystone line. And TransCanada has new plans in the works in case President Obama blocks the Keystone project. Earlier this month, the company announced its plan for a new venture that would link eastern and western Canada, providing an outlet for Alberta's booming oil sands producers. And the Canadian ambassador to the United States has vowed to ship crude to US refineries on trains if the pipelines aren't approved.

I come from a generation of kids raised on regular doses of cod liver oil, which may have disfigured my taste buds forever. Apparently this oil from tar sands and shale is even worse. But never mind. Open wide.

"Digital dark ages," Rall says

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Editorial Cartooning, R.I.P. | Ted Rall's Rallblog

Alas, editorial cartooning is dying in the United States.…

A hundred years ago, political cartoonists ruled the earth. Like dinosaurs. There were thousands of newspapers and thousands of cartoonists working at them. Bill Mauldin, Paul Conrad, Jeff MacNelly and Pat Oliphant were stars, boldface names. As newspapers declined, cartooning jobs vanished. In 1990 there were about 280 professional political cartoonists left. By 2000, roughly 80. Now less than 30. Many states don’t have one.

Let's everybody chill

Making You "Comfortable" with Spying Is Obama's Big NSA Fix | FP Passport

Barack Obama held a press conference on Friday afternoon, supposedly to announce reforms of the NSA's far-flung surveillance programs. In reality, the White House briefing was the start of a marketing campaign for the spy programs that have turned so controversial in recent months. And the President's message really boiled down to this: It's more important to persuade people surveillance is useful and legal than to make structural changes to the programs.

"The question is, how do I make the American people more comfortable?" Obama said.

Which sounds suspiciously like relax and enjoy it. 

Why does this guy just keep making it worse?



Nag a pagan

Slap a ham on Omaha pals

A slut was I ere I saw Tulsa

Snub noses on buns

Sound like any (other) government agency you know?

Obama, Facebook and the power of friendship: the 2012 data election | World news | theguardian.com

Every time an individual volunteers to help out – for instance by offering to host a fundraising party for the president – he or she will be asked to log onto the re-election website with their Facebook credentials. That in turn will engage Facebook Connect, the digital interface that shares a user's personal information with a third party.

Consciously or otherwise, the individual volunteer will be injecting all the information they store publicly on their Facebook page – home location, date of birth, interests and, crucially, network of friends – directly into the central Obama database.


What we have here is an authentic rainy day

We've had no shortage of rain here this summer but it's had the decency to rain at night til now. (Some people call it Camelot but it's really just Massachusetts.) We haven't had an old-fashioned rainy day for quite some time. Today, though, we do.

It's one of those dark, drippy ones. Which is good in a way because sunny days make my apartment dusty. Now I have new windows which make things worse. They are, among other things, clean, and the sun shines right through and splashes dust all over everything. It got so bad yesterday I even started trying to mop some of it up. But today, rainy and dark, the place doesn't look so bad.

Sort of bad in that corner over there, maybe, but so what.

Very probably not a happy outcome at all

The NSA Will Replace Most of Their Potential Snowdens with Machines - Abby Ohlheiser - The Atlantic Wire

The NSA will eliminate 90 percent of the system administrators who maintain the agency's networks, according to the agency's director Keith Alexander. Speaking on Thursday to a cybersecurity conference, the NSA chief said that most of the current work done by staff and contractor system administrators — Snowden's old job — could be replicated by automated technology. 

Our nomination for campaign slogan of the year

McConnell Campaign Releases Video: 'He's For Guns, Freedom And Coal'

(Although "Hope" is still right up there.)

Go ahead, tell us what you really think

Sorry, But HuffPo's "Fashion Advice" is Utter BS - Huffington Post What Every Guy Needs to Know About Fashion - Esquire

What happens when you purport to offer men style tips, but instead thrust them headfirst into a GIF-filled pit of irrelevancy? Well, you probably know the answer to that one: nothing good. Of course, that didn't stop The Huffington Post…

Let's just not mention this to the NSA

Netflix knows you have horrible taste - Salon.com

“We know what you played, searched for, or rated, as well as the time, date, and device. We even track user interactions such as browsing or scrolling behavior. All that data is fed into several algorithms, each optimized for a different purpose. In a broad sense, most of our algorithms are based on the assumption that similar viewing patterns represent similar user tastes. We can use the behavior of similar users to infer your preferences.”

Is this some big new TV show: The Question of Circles?

How the insurance industry handcuffs Obamacare - Salon.com
“When you create a class of people who are supposed to do many of the things that our guys already do, it begs the question of circles. Is there overlap? Are they separate?” asked Wes Bissett, senior counsel for government affairs at the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America.
Or is it just more jibberish. (Bonus: Guess how we vote.)

Cheap tricks always good for a byline on a slow day

You’re probably not smarter than an 8th grader from 1912 - Salon.com
In the early years of the 20th century, the students in Bullitt County, Kentucky, were asked to clear a test that many full-fledged adults would likely be hard-pressed to pass today.
So if you're a full-fledged adult (WTF does that mean, anyway?) you can go ahead and take the test (you won't ace it, I'm pretty sure).

Then ask one of those 1912 students from Bullitt County what a modem is.


Forgotten cocaine: Van bought from US feds held cocaine, say Mexican teens - CSMonitor.com

Torres Duarte's father, also named Sergio Torres, says he bought the van for $3,900 through a friend at a Customs and Border Protection auction in February 2012 in McAllen, Texas.

And here's one more tip

Google Reveals the 10 Worst Password Ideas | TIME.com

That’s why it’s generally recommended that you lie when setting account security questions like “what is your mother’s maiden name?”

But if you do lie, remember what the lie was.

Didn't see this coming, huh?

Americans Warned Not To Travel To Pakistan

And why should the Egyptians be any different?


In an unusual bit of legal gymnastics, Obama's national security team determined it didn't have to determine that either way.

Playing video games fails to ruin a kid in Colorado

Boy, 10, Steers Speeding Car Down Highway When Grandma Collapses - ABC News

“I could see over the dashboard while I was driving, so I had an idea of where I was driving into. I couldn’t get to the brakes because my grandma great was in the way,” said Gryffin.…

He credits the hours he’s spent playing the video game Mario Kart and his hobbies of driving go-karts and ATVs for being able to handle the car.

The Gradgrinds


They have built their careers, reputations and, in some cases, their fortunes, coming up with inventive ways to show public school teachers as inept and to present the vast majority of public school students as below par.

Hard Times was on our reading list a while back, so surely you have read it.

See blog rule #2

Undernews: Orthographic liberation

Sam Smith  - Under my picture in my high school yearbook was a quote from Winnie the Pooh: "You can't help respecting someone who can spell Tuesday even if he can't spell it right." 

Let's see how much fun this guy has at the next CEO picnic

Time Warner CEO Says Having Game Of Thrones As 'Most Pirated' Is 'Better Than An Emmy' | Techdirt

"We've been dealing with this for 20, 30 years—people sharing subs, running wires down the backs of apartment buildings. Our experience is that it leads to more paying subs. I think you're right that Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world," he said. "That's better than an Emmy."

[Emphasis in original]



I found a giant bumble bee on my arm this morning and brushed it off and stomped on it. But maybe too late. Now I have a big itchy lump, not in exactly the same place but on exactly the same arm, which is close enough for me. I am wounded. Which means I get to eat as many potato chips as I want this evening. Also hot dogs.

But who's counting

Daily Kos: 15 things everyone would know if there were a liberal media
Since 2000, U.S. multinationals have cut 2.9 million jobs here while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million.

Walker Evans

A New Look at Walker Evans's 'American Photographs'

YA dispatch from the land of Big Data

Georgia Miscellany - Public Policy Polling

56% of Georgians have no opinion about William Tecumseh Sherman

William who?

Serious work avoidance and goood too!

Pasta shapes chart: Different types of pasta mapped.

These guys deserve the glory…

US Postal Service Launches 'Made in America' Stamps | Photos - ABC News

…but somehow this still seems like a sad thing. When you start dreaming about the work you used to do you're probably done.

Does Tony Stark worry about scaring a fish? We think not

'Iron Man' Jetpacks Spark Concerns in Hawaii - ABC News

A device called the Jetlev can lift a person 30 feet high by pumping water from a backpack through a hose connected to a small, unmanned boat. Another contraption called the Flyboard, which looks like a small snowboard attached to a hose, can propel riders 45 feet in the air.

Cover your bases: Eat chocolate fish

Is Chocolate the New Brain Food? - ABC News

But it’s important to remember that even if the link holds up, chocolate would not be the only way to maintain a healthy brain and circulatory system.

You are until you're not

Amazon, Kobo and Sony petition FCC to exempt e-readers from accessibility laws — Tech News and Analysis't 

The petition is interesting because it argues that e-readers’ value lies in the fact that they are inherently limited devices and that any non-reading functions they include, like experimental web browsers, are “rudimentary” and not very useful.

Amazon, for one, has at least come pretty darn close to advertising one of their readers as a tablet. One TV commercial I seem to recall compares their Fire to an iPad by showing how each reproduces a photograph, If it were up to me, I'd define e-readers as devices using an E-ink display and let it go at that. But it isn't and they won't and it doesn't matter much.


I finally find something useful for this little guy to do

IMG_1170 by Ted Compton
IMG_1170, a photo by Ted Compton on Flickr.

So complex then?

Homeland Security Taps Generals to Run Domestic Drone Program: The Rise of Predators at Home

DHS's early decision to tap generals involved in the military's own controversial overseas drone program to shape and direct the domestic drone program points to the increasing merger of the post-9/11 homeland security/border security complex with the military-industrial complex.

Oh, bats

Workers have been installing windows in the house for the last two days, which means windows have been open a lot, which means, not surprising around here, I woke up with a bat flying around my bedroom last night. This, in some parts of the country, you should know, is bad news. It may even require shots for rabies. Check with your local bat person if it happens to you.

But where I live we have well-mannered commie pinko liberal brown bats that don't bite people, so no worries there. The thing to do when you get a liberal bat in your bedroom at night is just open a window, leave the room, close the door, and wait. The reason for the closed door is to keep you from bothering the bat, who is only trying to get out of your house. Bats go out at night to feed. They eat huge amounts of flying insects, many of whose names are spelled "mosquito," which is a good thing. The bat in your bedroom is just lost. As soon as it finds the open window it'll be gone.

Last night it took five minutes, max. There were windows open again today (in the daytime bats come in and look for a place to crash) so there may be another batty (but not bloodsucking) visitor tonight. The window installing is done now, however, and the new windows work great. It's all fine.

And now, the scam

Scams, Fraud Among Obamacare Concerns | TIME.com

The bureaucrats at the United States Department of Health and Human Services aren’t the only ones gearing up for the launch of President Obama’s signature health care law. Scammers and peddlers of health insurance-like products that sometimes dupe unsuspecting consumers are also in heavy preparation mode, eager to capitalize on the confusion policy experts say will accompany the Oct. 1 launch of the new insurance marketplaces that are a core feature of the Affordable Care Act. 



There's a reason for everything

T.S.A. officials respond that the random searches are "special needs" or "administrative searches" that are exempt from probable cause because they further the government's need to prevent terrorist attacks.

All this talk about terrorists may of course be dangerously real…

White House: Terrorist attacks in U.S. a possibility - Washington Times

White House press secretary Jay Carney said intelligence reports of a planned attack are centered on the Arabian peninsula but “could potentially be beyond that or elsewhere.”

…but it is certainly hillarious. 

When clarity is not really a goal…

Can the NSA wiretap your phone at will? - The Week

The NSA has the capability to wiretap anyone it targets. It does not have the immediate capability to target Americans at will, but it does have the capability to change capabilities — to a point — to allow it to actually wiretap any American at will.


Yes I twit, occasionally, but…

Nielsen study links Twitter chatter with TV ratings | Reuters

The privately-held microblogging company has long sought to convince large brand marketers that it is a potent, real-time ad-delivery platform that complements and augments the live television-viewing experience. Marketers on TV can simultaneously reach their audience through a "second screen" because Twitter users often watch TV while tweeting away on their phones, Twitter has previously argued.

…it doesn't make much sense to get deeply involved with a service that is actively working to screw itself up. OK, it's working to make money, but the way it's hoping to make money is by screwing itself up, becoming a torrent of commercial messages you can watch in tandem with that other torrent of commerical messages, TV. (Yes, grumpier than usual this morning.)

Anyway, I use Twitter as a sort of alternate news wire, and it does a pretty good job at being that. 

Shut up and eat your Twinkies

5 Surprising Genetically Modified Foods | Mother Jones

Right now there is no strict definition of what constitutes a natural food.


Also they will hold their breath until their faces turn blue, and eat worms

RNC Will Boycott NBC, CNN for Primary Debates If Networks Air Hillary Films | National Review Online
RNC chairman Reince Priebus announced today that if NBC and CNN go forward with their plans to make a miniseries and a documentary respectively about Hillary Clinton, the GOP will not partner with either network for any of the primary debates in 2016.

Radical just doesn't seem to be a big enough word

Radical New Icebreaker Will Travel Through the Ice Sideways - Slashdot

If you're not nuts yet, read this

Living in America will drive you insane — literally - Salon.com
While historically some Americans have consciously faked mental illness to rebel from oppressive societal demands (e.g., a young Malcolm X acted crazy to successfully avoid military service), today, the vast majority of Americans who are diagnosed and treated for mental illness are in no way proud malingerers in the fashion of Malcolm X.

But I hear the borscht is good

Will Putin Ever Let Snowden Leave? - By Milton Bearden | Foreign Policy

Frank Deford, the venerable American sportswriter, once famously
wrote that "professional wrestling is clean and everything else in the world is

Construction zone

Here. Well, not here, but here. My apartment is getting new windows—windows that open in the summer and close in the winter. This is good. But disruptive. (Disruption is supposed to be a good thing in the world of technology but it is not quite equally good in the world of me.)

Tomorrow will be better and the next day will be done.


Not so sad and useless after all

World in 2000 as Predicted in 1910

Quaint, perhaps, but when you think about it surprisingly accurate: Not heating by radium, but by uranium; people see farm animals at the Central Park Zoo (I can't remember if there's an an admission fee, but still); one can dictate email to a smartphone…and more.

No kidding

New to our world-renowned work avoidance list:

The International Hedgehog Association

And who knew the Dull Men's Club had an iPhone app?

New icon for our iPhone app "50 Favorite Shades of Gray" - Dull Men's Club - Celebrating the Ordinary

(That's pretty exciting.)

We will so put this on our calendar for someday

Duct Tape Festival - Dull Men's Club - Celebrating the Ordinary

By the Sign of the Red Door

And we would hate for this "uncompensated care" idea to get out of control

Southern Leaders Opt to Exclude 2.7 Million From Health Care

“The Affordable Care Act’s equation was ‘more covered lives and less uncompensated care,’ ” said Gwen Combs, vice president for policy at the Mississippi Hospital Association.

One more reason not to live in Kansas

Need a Job? Join the New Army (Navy) of Servants

The Guardian newspaper reports that the job market for yacht crews is expanding rapidly.

But can it open the pod bay doors?

Talking humanoid robot launches on Japan rocket

"I wish for this robot to function as a mediator between person and machine, or person and Internet and sometimes even between people," he said.