New Alabama Food Truck Regulations Prevent Local Churches From Feeding The Homeless

New Alabama food truck regulations prevent local churches from feeding the homeless (via Raw Story )

Food truck regulations that went into effect on January 1, 2014 are preventing churches in Birmingham, Alabama from feeding the homeless. Minister Rick Wood of the Lords House of Prayer told ABC 3340 that police informed him that he would not be able…


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BREAKING: U.S. Spy Agency Has Been Spying…On Countries That Spy On The U.S.

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This might be news to some, but the National Security Agency exists to spy, and spying is the only reason it exists. The NSA was never appointed to protect the privacy of foreign citizens, or corporations, or agencies, but to break said privacy with prejudice in furtherance of national security interests. Everything the NSA does, or has ever done, is illegal in every other country in the world — just as when any country’s intelligence agencies operate in the United States, they break our laws, too. Even before the invention of electronic communications in the 19th Century, this is how the spy game has always been played by every nation. It has never, ever had a different set of rules at any point in human history.

But you would never guess this from the paroxysms of outrage over NSA spying that continue to spill out onto the internet every day. According to the weirdly naive and historically-challenged propaganda of endless self-appointed experts, the NSA has done its job too well, and ought to apologize for being so successful. Ever since Edward Snowden’s purloined PowerPoint slides emerged in the hyperbolic reporting of Glenn Greenwald, there has been a steady drumbeat of this nonsense, with new “revelations” arriving every week to the outraged fanfare of those who mistake the NSA for a historical aberration from some imaginary golden era of blissful, espionage-free peace.

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A Case Study In Wingnut Welfare: Think Freely Media

A Case Study In Wingnut Welfare: Think Freely Media (via Breitbart Unmasked)

In 2012, “Think Freely Media” received over $600,000, mostly from the Koch brothers’s Donors Trust. According to the organization’s IRS 990s, $420,000 of that money was spent on a company called Virion Strategies. But we have found no sign…


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Runaway Plane: A Heroic Hypothesis For Flight MH 370

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It is now certain that the missing Malaysian Airlines plane has been swallowed up by the Indian Ocean. Inmarsat telemetry has confirmed that Flight 370 flew South into remote waters before its fuel ran out. Just as I engaged in speculation about a northern destination last week, when it appeared possible that the plane had been diverted, now I’ll look at the simplest, and saddest, explanation offered so far: that an onboard fire killed the passengers and crew, leaving the Boeing 777-200ER a runaway plane.

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The Lost Horizon Hypothesis: Did Xinjiang Separatists Hijack Flight MH370? (UPDATE)

UPDATE: Scrutiny of the pilots of Flight MH370 has intensified, but nothing so far disproves the Lost Horizon hypothesis, not even a homemade flight simulator. To my mind, the clarified timeline of events supports a scenario in which the pilots acted under duress and according to instructions from a hijacker. From the Associated Press:

Authorities have said someone on board the plane first disabled one of its communications systems — the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS — about 40 minutes after takeoff. The ACARS equipment sends information about the jet’s engines and other data to the airline.

Around 14 minutes later, the transponder that identifies the plane to commercial radar systems was also shut down. The fact that both systems went dark separately offered strong evidence that the plane’s disappearance was deliberate.

On Sunday, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference that that the final, reassuring words from the cockpit — “All right, good night” — were spoken to air traffic controllers after the ACARS system was shut off. Whoever spoke did not mention any trouble on board.

As I said yesterday, a credible threat made to the crew along with detailed instructions is sufficient to explain this sequence. After the plane leveled off and people began to move about the cabin, say about thirty minutes into the flight, our notional hijacker passed his first note to the cockpit. This person may have demonstrated awareness of the plane’s signaling systems, say by allowing the flight attendant to see their laptop screen. When the first specific demands — “turn off the ACARS and follow this course or I will blow up the plane” — were met, a second note may have instructed them further.

Were the pilots acting under a hijacker’s warning? It isn’t hard to imagine someone claiming to be able to hear the pilots and warning them to be tight-lipped. It isn’t hard to imagine a second note with instructions to deactivate the transponder, a third note to fly out over the Strait of Malacca, and a fourth note to turn North or South over the Indian Ocean. Of course, this is all entirely speculative, but so is a suicide run by the pilots. We still have zero proof for that hypothesis, either. The only solid lead we have is some engine telemetry pings that draw a red arc over open ocean and Western China.

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ORIGINAL POST: In 1971, D.B. Cooper hijacked a commercial airliner by passing a note to the flight attendant. At this hour, there is no reason to suspect that the pilots of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 directed the evasive maneuvers and complex flight plan that made the Boeing 777-300 vanish out of some bizarre need to disappear with their plane. Friends and family of the crew reject the idea. I find this theory unlikely, and probably a waste of time, because there are several scenarios in which the crew may have flown the plane under some kind of duress.  Continue reading

Posted in China, crime, terrorism | 1 Comment

Quantum Cryptography

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Before you lose your mind over the possibility that the NSA will hack your medical records with a quantum computer, just remember that quantum cryptography is a real thing, too. Luddite paranoia about technology “informs” the majority of linkbaiting and rhetoric on this topic, which is a sad statement on our post-scientific media. Quantum computers are in everyone’s future whether we want them or not, and so is quantum encryption. We will all have to learn to live in a world with these technologies — all of us, even the NSA.

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The Latest Snowden Linkbait Is Actually Not Even News

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The New York Times has published some delightful linkbait from their Snowden files about American intelligence agents searching for terrorists inside the World of Warcraft and other online “massive multiplayer” games, including Second Life. That would be fine, but the piece makes all of this sound like something we would not have known without Edward Snowden, and that verges on journalistic malpractice. We have in fact known about this program for almost six years.

Be careful who you frag. Having eliminated all terrorism in the real world, the U.S. intelligence community is working to develop software that will detect violent extremists infiltrating World of Warcraft and other massive multiplayer games, according to a data-mining report from the Director of National Intelligence.

That was Ryan Singel at Wired, who actually reported the program’s name. For whatever reason, Mark Mazzetti and Justin Elliot saw fit to elide any reference to the “Reynard project” from their article in the Times. Maybe they were protecting sources and methods? Or maybe there’s some institutional rivalry at work here, because the Times was pretty much scooped completely on this story by Wired in 2008. How realistic are terror threats via online games? Noah Schachtman wrote up this quote for the site’s Danger Room over five years ago:

Steven Aftergood, the Federation of the American Scientists analyst who’s been following the intelligence community for years, wonders how realistic these sorts of scenarios are, really. “This concern is out there. But it has to be viewed in context. It’s the job of intelligence agencies to anticipate threats and counter them. With that orientation, they’re always going to give more weight to a particular scenario than an objective analysis would allow,” he tells Danger Room. “Could terrorists use Second Life? Sure, they can use anything. But is it a significant augmentation? That’s not obvious. It’s a scenario that an intelligence officer is duty-bound to consider. That’s all.”

If a new country suddenly existed tomorrow, you can be sure American intelligence agencies would want to know all about it, and the CIA would send visitors to check out the lay of the land. A new online world is not very different: American spies have every reason and right to explore it and determine what potential threats may exist there. The FBI, CIA, and Pentagon all seem to have decided that World of Warcraft was more dangerous to unicorns and dragons than the United States of America, but the New York Times seems to have decided that the program is still newsworthy because, y’know, Snowden documents.

In the age of Greenwaldian linkbait, that’s all the excuse they need to charge ahead like Leeroy Jenkins.

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Seymour Hersh Versus The Imaginary Warmonger

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In the empirical universe, President Barack Obama responded to the August sarin gas attacks in Syria by threatening force against Bashar al-Assad, who promptly surrendered his chemical stockpiles. In the imaginary universe of Seymour Hersh, the truth is something more like an Alex Jones special:

Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

Begin with the fact that sarin gas is actually hard to make, and also difficult to weaponize, and you can start to understand the totality of this exercise in delusion from Mr. Hersh. I have seen no evidence that al-Nusra has accessed, much less manufactured the Soviet-era BM-14 rocket launchers used to fire sarin-tipped rockets on Ghouta. Whereas Syria’s chemical weapons program has existed for decades, “reports” in a Pentagon warplan do not necessarily authenticate the actual existence of any al-Nusra sarin factories. Syria’s chemical weapon factories have been dismantled, and the US Navy is not parking aircraft carriers in the Eastern Mediterranean; they are instead sending a ship to safely destroy Syria’s stockpiles. These things are happening because Syria has had an actual, real, not-imaginary WMD program, whereas al-Nusrah’s alleged program is more aspirational than factual.

But the “cherry-picking” charge is where Hersh really departs from fact-based journalism into op-ed madness, because Hersh is the one cherry-picking intelligence sources. Having just plucked the existence of an intelligence report from within a warplan (that he has not actually read) while shouting “eureka!,” Hersh then dismisses an entire major branch of the intelligence business:

The NSA would of course monitor Assad’s office around the clock if it could, the former official said. Other communications – from various army units in combat throughout Syria – would be far less important, and not analysed in real time. ‘There are literally thousands of tactical radio frequencies used by field units in Syria for mundane routine communications,’ he said, ‘and it would take a huge number of NSA cryptological technicians to listen in – and the useful return would be zilch.’ But the ‘chatter’ is routinely stored on computers. Once the scale of events on 21 August was understood, the NSA mounted a comprehensive effort to search for any links to the attack, sorting through the full archive of stored communications. A keyword or two would be selected and a filter would be employed to find relevant conversations. ‘What happened here is that the NSA intelligence weenies started with an event – the use of sarin – and reached to find chatter that might relate,’ the former official said. ‘This does not lead to a high confidence assessment, unless you start with high confidence that Bashar Assad ordered it, and began looking for anything that supports that belief.’ The cherry-picking was similar to the process used to justify the Iraq war.

After so many months of hype and linkbaiting about the NSA gathering mass-metadata, it is ironic to have Mr. Hersh suddenly acknowledge what the press largely has not examined: that the primary use of intelligence collection is to respond to events, not prevent them. Yes, the dirty secret of the NSA is that it is much better at responding to attacks than stopping them in their tracks. (The NSA shares some of the blame for this misperception, as the agency has touted its anti-terrorism mission so much in order to win its share of funding.) Yet Mr. Hersh is not acknowledging this reality in order to be fair. On the word of an unnamed source who dismisses signals intelligence professionals as “weenies,” he flatly states that their reports should be disregarded out of hand.

But those unverified reports of al-Nusra sarin factories? Those are totally credible to Mr. Hersh.  Continue reading

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William Hoge’s Downfall

William J. J. Hoge has a gigantic ego, so he couldn’t understand why his little Hogewash blog wasn’t getting any traffic. Even though he blogged about Brett Kimberlin, the bugaboo of the right wing Breitbart universe, Hoge just didn’t have the audience he felt he deserved. But then Hoge got into a pissing match with Bill Schmalfeldt, a liberal blogger who had earned the wrath of East Blogistan for writing about pretenders to the throne of Andrew Breitbart — who were all suing, and screaming about, Brett Kimberlin. This has earned Hoge the undying affection and link-love of a nasty, trollish clique.

Hoge tends to microblog. He writes astronomy posts, which is admirable, but they are short and uninformative. Every day, he uses the same joke borrowed from Pinky and the Brain, a 1990s Warner Brothers cartoon about two mice that repeatedly attempt to seize world power. These non sequitur posts are seldom as funny as the show which inspires them.

But Hoge has put his greatest energy into the war against Brett Kimberlin, the bugaboo of right wing imagination. He fights this war by proxy against a journalist named Bill Schmalfeldt. Hoge’s ammunition is criminal charges, and he fires another round every time Mr. Schmalfeldt tweets “@” him. Mr. Hoge considers this direct contact and a violation of the peace order he won against Schmalfeldt thanks to a judge who doesn’t understand Twitter.

It was the only “win” Hoge has managed to win in his “lawfare” against Schmalfeldt; he has had dozens of failures. In the last year, Hoge has tried to sue Schmalfeldt, pursued nearly two dozen peace orders against him, and sworn to hundreds of criminal harassment charges in Carroll County, Maryland. Altogether, Mr. Hoge has likely put thousands of dollars into his strange hobby.

“Lawfare,” a form of vexatious litigancy characterized by political speech, is expensive. Hoge blogs about his hobby with a dismissive air, as if he knows so much more than he is saying but chooses to play his cards close to his vest. In fact, Hoge knows far less than he supposes, and the notion that Schmalfeldt is realistically threatening to Hoge should give the reader pause to comprehend just how stupid Hoge’s conspiracy theories about Schmalfeldt really are.

Hoge’s problem is that he simply cannot stand to be talked to by unapproved persons, especially the ones who don’t take him seriously. Such people deserve to be destroyed. Continue reading

Posted in Burn Notices, East Blogistan, Psychological Projection | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Austin Smith Clem Must Be Kept Away From Children

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Austin Smith Clem was found guilty of molesting and repeatedly raping a teenager, but will spend no time in prison for it. The more I hear from his attorney, the more outrageous this story gets:

“It would seem to be relatively mild,” Totten tells Mother Jones. “But [Clem's] lifestyle for the next six years is going to be very controlled…If he goes to a party and they’re serving beer, he can’t say, ‘Can I have one?’ If he wanted to go across the Tennessee line, which as the crow flies is eight or nine miles from his house, and buy a lottery ticket, he can’t do that…It’s not a slap on the wrist.”

[...]

“You didn’t hear the evidence,” Totten says. “The original allegation was that both of these crimes were forcible. But then you have to believe that although she was forcibly raped twice, she continued to come back and have a social relationship with Austin Clem and his family—until he told her that he was going back to his wife and child and would not have a relationship with her. And a week later he was charged. There’s always two sides to the story.”

Although the sentencing order states that Clem will serve two years in the community corrections program, Totten says the sentencing judge has since increased that to three years. Jones, the district attorney, says he is not aware of such a change.

Kelly Kazek, an AL.com reporter who reported on the case, says the lenient sentence took her by surprise. “I have known Jimmy Woodroof professionally for years and years and years,” Kazek says of the judge. “He has always been extremely fair and unbiased. So I am very interested to hear his reasoning.”

Totten notes that he and Woodroof are childhood friends who grew up down the street from one another, although Totten says he didn’t feel that affected the sentence.

I am unable to feel sorry for poor Austin Smith Clem serving two years in community corrections. The jury did not buy his defense, and neither should the community it represented in deciding his guilt. Austin Smith Clem is guilty of raping a child, and so he should be kept far, far away from the most vulnerable members of the community. Alabama built a facility right near Athens specifically in order to protect the community from people like Austin Smith Clem, and his occupation therein would do far more justice than many of the petty offenders that Judge Woodruff has undoubtedly sent there.

Video via WAFF

Posted in alabama, crime | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

EXCLUSIVE: Roger Shuler Arrest Scene Photos (VIDEO UPDATE)

Yesterday, I carried out a successful mission to deliver supplies to Mrs. Shuler and make a photographic and video record of the scene where Roger Shuler was arrested by Shelby County deputies. Many thanks to Mrs. Shuler for her courage and hospitality.

UPDATE: I have cut a short video of Carol Shuler relating her husband’s version of events during his arrest.

Posted in alabama, Alabama Republicans, video | Tagged , , | 4 Comments