politics

The Clintons' shell companies

One of the reasons that we haven't heard much about Americans in the Panama Papers scandal is because they don't need to go to Panama. We have Delaware. It's not illegal for the Clinton's to use a on-shore haven to dodge taxes, but it's their usual hypocrisy to do so while promising to go after other millionaire tax dodgers.

The Clintons are using 5 shell companies to save on taxes in Delaware (theweek.com)

The Clintons and their family foundation have at least five shell companies registered to the address 1209 North Orange Street in Wilmington, Delaware — which is also home to some 280,000 other companies who use the location to take advantage of the state's low taxes, limited disclosure requirements, and other business incentives.

Antonin Scalia dies; SCOTUS nomination is going to be interesting

Scalia was a horrible judge who operated under the influence of a legal theory so insane that under it women were not people under the meaning of the 14th Amendment. That had negative consequences for the whole nation. Yet I suppose we should avoid hating a person for being in the grip of bad ideas. "Equally empty, equally to be loved, equally a coming Buddha."

And now, fasten your seatbelts for a SCOTUS nomination during an election campaign. Gonna be interesting.

Supreme court justice Antonin Scalia dies at 79 (the Guardian)

The supreme court justice Antonin Scalia has died. He was 79.

The Republican Texas governor Greg Abbott issued a statement confirming the news and paying tribute to Scalia, a noted and staunch conservative.

Calling out the militia in Maryland in 1942

At the always interesting blog "The Volokh Conspiracy", David Kopel has dug up a 1942 decree by Maryland governor Herbert O’Conor calling on armed citizens to serve in a reserve militia to defend the state against Axis "parachute troops, saboteurs, or organized raiding parties" or the actions of "enemy sympathizers within our State". It's notable for its plain statement that volunteers would be expected to provide their own weapons and would be expected to have basic competence with them -- even at this relatively recent date when the standing army was well-established as a tool of American imperialism and the foundations of the military-industrial complex had been laid.

This is what the "well-regulated militia" in Amendment II means -- a citizen body familiar with the use of arms is necessary for the security of the nation. ("Well-regulated" here does not have the meaning of "subject to extenisve regulatory law" but rather "effective and precise" -- in the same way that a mechanical timepiece is "regulated". In order to have people familiar with arms, it is necessary for the people to have them. Therefore, the Second Amendment tells us, the new nation shall not interfere with the vitally important -- not just for individual liberty but for the security of the nation -- natural right of the people to arm themselves.

Rural America faces rising suicide rates; lower incomes and social disconnection cited.

Small Towns Face Rising Suicide Rates (www.nytimes.com)

Rural adolescents commit suicide at roughly twice the rate of their urban peers, according to a study published in the May issue of the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Although imbalances between city and country have long persisted, “we weren’t expecting that the disparities would be increasing over time,” said the study’s lead author, Cynthia Fontanella, a psychologist at Ohio State University.

“The rates are higher, and the gap is getting wider.”

Suicide is a threat not just to the young. Rates over all rose 7 percent in metropolitan counties from 2004 to 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In rural counties, the increase was 20 percent.

The problem reaches across demographic boundaries, encompassing such groups as older men, Native Americans and veterans. The sons and daughters of small towns are more likely to serve in the military, and nearly half of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans live in rural communities.

Alan Moore on the Guy Fawkes mask

At the BBC, Alan Moore comments on the rise of the Guy Fawkes mask -- made famous by his amazing graphic novel V for Vendetta, and by the mediocre movie adapted from it -- as the face of Anonymous and other protest groups.

(BTW, a guy who seemed to be experiencing a headful of interesting chemicals told me at a New Year's party that I looked like Guy Fawkes...make of that what you will.)

Twitter and the Line-Eater (assassination, dirty bomb, anthrax)

Back in the glory days of USENET, we would half-joke about the "NSA Line Eater", a (hypothetical?) program that scanned posts for keywords like "cocaine", "nuclear materials", or "Palestinian". It was a standard practice to deliberately include these words in one's .sig or in a header, to overwhelm the (supposed?) spooks.

Well my friends, everything old is new again, and history repeats itself as farce. According to our good friends at EPIC, DHS is using fake accounts to routinely monitor Twitter and Facebook for key terms. And they're serious about it: two unfortunate British tourists were denied entry to the U.S., arrested, and had their passports confiscated after joking on Twitter that they were going to "destroy America" and "dig up Marilyn Monroe".

Now, here's the thing about our confused fans in domestic surveillance: they've actually given us a partial list of what they're looking for. Page 17 of this Department of Homeland Security memo tells us that terms like:

  • assassination
  • drill
  • national preparedness
  • dirty bomb
  • domestic nuclear detection
  • militia
  • shots fired
  • hostage
  • explosion
  • state of emergency
  • breach
  • anthrax
  • nerve agent
  • ricin
  • H5N1

-- well, the list goes on for a bit -- will get their attention.

So, in the spirit of the old NSA Line Eater, and to show that broad snooping, arresting tourists for Family Guy-inspired jokes, and security theater are not the ways to keep us safe, I suggest we start incorporating these terms into our tweets and posts. Have fun.

(nerve agent ricin H5N1)

three crazy things before breakfast: bad science and GOP politics

Three crazy things I read before breakfast today:

  • a purported "theory of everything" from an assistant professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Case Western Reserve University. A breathless press release titled "Radical theory explains the origin, evolution, and nature of life, challenges conventional wisdom" has been making the rounds, and kicking up some excitement among people who don't read it thoroughly or don't know enough science to spot it as the gibberish it is:

    By fitting the gyromodel to facts accumulated over scientific history, Dr. Andrulis confirms the proposed existence of eight laws of nature. One of these, the natural law of unity, decrees that the living cell and any part of the visible universe are irreducible. This law formally establishes that there is one physical reality.

    Another natural law dictates that the atomic and cosmic realms abide by identical organizational constraints. Simply put, atoms in the human body and solar systems in the universe move and behave in the exact same manner.

    For thorough debunking, see Ars Technica, Retration Watch, and PZ Myers. My first guess was that we might have a Sokal here, but instead it looks like a smart guy having a breakdown. May his nervous system recover its equilibrium.

    But the product of Dr. Andrulis's unbalanced brain is not nearly as nutso as two proposals I read today from Republicans:

black church owns KKK store building

From the beautiful irony department: a South Carolina circuit court judge has ruled that New Beginnings Baptist Church, a "black church" according to the AP, owns the building housing the "Redneck Shop", a disgusting little business which runs a Klan museum and sells such winning merchandise as KKK robes and T-shirts with racial slurs.

The Redneck Shop runs out of an old movie theater in Laurens, about 70 miles northwest from Columbia. SC. It's been there since 1996, but in 1997 in-fighting within the KKK, and possibly someone seeing the light, resulted in one the Klansmen transferring the building to church ownership.

While a clause in the deed entitles proprietor John Howard, the former KKK grand dragon for the Carolinas who is the store's proprietor, to run his store in the buildng until he dies, the delightful-ness of this irony remains.

the infamous Ron Paul newsletters (and more Paul bits)

I've been pointing out Ron Paul's history of publishing vile racist and homophobic newsletters for years. Now mrdestructo.com has found, scanned, and posted dozens of the documents in question. "Mobutu Sese Seko" also posits a possible explanation I had not considered: Paul is neither a racist nor incompetent to run a 'zine, but is deliberately publishing this crap to rile up support (and money) from racists.

Also on the Paul front, two demonstrations of his opposition to liberty: Paul once introduced a Constitutional amendment to allow the states to outlaw destruction of the flag (i.e., burning the flag in protest), and he has stated that there is no right to privacy and that states can legitimately outlaw consensual sexual behavior. (He also describes here his opposition to the separation of church and state, but that's old news.)

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