2012 - %3, November

Music Review: Black Moth Super Rainbow's "Dreamsicle Bomb"

| Mon Nov. 12, 2012 6:08 AM EST

TRACK 9

"Dreamsicle Bomb"

From Black Moth Super Rainbow's Cobra Juicy

(SELF-RELEASED)

Liner notes: It's hard to decide what's most unsettling: the icy synths, the robotic vocals, or the angry lyrics, which declare, "We can go fuck the neighborhood/Smash all their mailboxes and headlights, into the night."

Behind the music: Led by singer Tobacco, Pittsburgh's BMSR once recorded as satanstomping caterpillars. Cobra Juicy, the band's fifth album, raked in $125,000 on Kickstarter—$80,000 over asking.

This review originally appeared in our November/December issue of Mother Jones.

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Quote of the Day: War Doesn't Work Very Well

| Mon Nov. 12, 2012 1:19 AM EST

From John Quiggin:

If we started any analysis of international relations with the assumption that war will end badly for all concerned, and that the threat of war will probably lead to war sooner or later, we would be right most of the time.

Any foreign policy types care to weigh in on this? Over, say, the last 50 years, how often would you say that U.S. wars have achieved their desired outcomes?

The Accidental Investigation That Ruined David Petraeus

| Mon Nov. 12, 2012 12:53 AM EST

I have to say that today's New York Times piece about the FBI's investigation of David Petraeus's affair with Paula Broadwell is pretty fascinating. Apparently it all began with Jill Kelley, a friend of the Petraeus family:

The involvement of the F.B.I., according to government officials, began when Ms. Kelley, alarmed by about half a dozen anonymous e-mails accusing her of inappropriate flirtatious behavior with Mr. Petraeus, complained to an F.B.I. agent who is also a personal friend. That agent, who has not been identified, helped get a preliminary inquiry started. Agents working with federal prosecutors in a local United States attorney’s office began trying to figure out whether the e-mails constituted criminal cyber-stalking.

Because the sender’s account had been registered anonymously, investigators had to use forensic techniques — including a check of what other e-mail accounts had been accessed from the same computer address — to identify who was writing the e-mails.

Eventually they identified Ms. Broadwell as a prime suspect and obtained access to her regular e-mail account. In its in-box, they discovered intimate and sexually explicit e-mails from another account that also was not immediately identifiable. Investigators eventually ascertained that it belonged to Mr. Petraeus and studied the possibility that someone had hacked into Mr. Petraeus’s account or was posing as him to send the explicit messages.

[The investigation proceeds, and the FBI interviews both Broadwell and Petraeus.]

....Meanwhile, the F.B.I. agent who had helped get a preliminary inquiry started, and learned of Mr. Petraeus’s affair and the initial concerns about security breaches, became frustrated. Apparently unaware that those concerns were largely resolved, the agent alerted the office of Representative Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, the House majority leader, about the inquiry in late October. Mr. Cantor passed on the agent’s concerns to Mr. Mueller.

You know, I'm pretty sure that the FBI doesn't routinely put a lot of investigative muscle into a complaint about half a dozen anonymous emails. My guess is that they mostly get filed and forgotten. So why did they do it this time? And how did they "obtain access" to Broadwell's email account? Unless they had a warrant, I sure hope that's not legal. And if they did get a warrant, that suggests that someone was really, really a lot more serious about this investigation than the FBI would normally be.

And then we have our junior J. Edgar Hoover getting so distraught that he decided to compromise the investigation by alerting Eric Cantor. Why Eric Cantor? He's not even on the intelligence committee. And do FBI agents normally alert members of Congress because an investigation hasn't finished up in three months? What the hell?

On a different note, the same story tells us that members of Congress are upset they weren't notified about the investigation earlier. Color me unsympathetic. It was a criminal investigation, and the last thing the FBI should have done is jeopardize it by briefing loudmouth members of Congress. There was also no need to politicize it until and unless they were certain they weren't just chasing ghosts. I'd sure like to know just why the FBI put so much effort into a complaint from someone about receiving a few anonymous emails, but I couldn't care less that they held back on briefing Congress until they were sure they had a case. That's the way things should work.

The Fever Swamp Explodes Over David Petraeus

| Sat Nov. 10, 2012 7:21 PM EST

A friend emails to keep me up to date on how the wingnut wing of the Republican Party is spinning the story of David Petraeus's affair:

The Fox fever swamp is sure and certain this is all related to Benghazi, even if they struggle to figure out a plausible connection. One theory is that Petraeus was more or less "outed" in order to keep him from testifying at the congressional hearings next week.

A competing and more popular theory has it that — let's see if I can get this right — he knew he was being investigated and therefore promoted the Obama administration's "lie" about the YouTube video under threat of being outed. Must be true, see, because the CIA station chief in Tripoli said less than 24 hours after the attack that it was AQ or AQ-linked militias that done the deed, and yet Petraeus several days later was still talking about the video in a closed congressional hearing.

Got that?

Oh yeah, I got it. You can see more along these lines from Laura IngrahamPatterico, Ace of Spades, Allahpundit, Monica Crowley, and (of course) Ben Shapiro. If only Glenn Beck were still around with his whiteboard, maybe someone would put all the pieces together and really explain what's going on here.

There are times when I think the conservative movement is literally going to explode. Their whole Benghazi obsession long ago left reality behind, reduced to a desperate search for impeachable malfeasance even though all the evidence points to nothing more than a fairly routine level of confusion and (at worst) minor ass covering. Now, they're desperate to somehow tie Petraeus to Benghazi because....well, why not? Benghazi is obviously a coverup, and Petraeus obviously must have known about it, and therefore (obviously) Eric Holder must have been ordered to dig up some dirt that would keep him on a tight leash. It's the murder of Vince Foster all over again.

When do the adults in the Republican Party take a stand against this insanity? Wouldn't now be a pretty good time?

Election Results Maps To Make Your Brain Happier

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 9:18 PM EST

Even though by now I am 100 percent sure of who won the 2012 presidential election, looking at a traditional map of the results is unsettling. The red trumps blue, no matter how certain I am that more of the popular vote, and more electoral college seats, went to President Obama than his counterpart. See?

M. E. J. NewmanM. E. J. Newman

So it's somewhat of a relief to see these statistics represented differently. This cartogram below by Mark Newman, a physicist at the University of Michigan, scales each of the lower 48 states according to its population rather than its area.

M. E. J. NewmanM. E. J. Newman

Though the map might make you question your cocktail intake, the increase in blue over red seems a more accurate depiction of how Tuesday went down.

Newman experiments with these type of cartograms here, modeling one map as related to the number of electoral college votes per state, and another based on a proportional representation of county size. You may have seen his work before: He's been making cartograms for the last couple of presidential elections, ever since he helped create an advanced method for creating these "density-equalizing maps," drawing from physics. His software is even free for anyone to download.

Newman also brings clarity to the data by introducing shades of purple to indicate percentage of votes in each county won by the Democratic or Republican candidate, and adjusting the counties for population size. Looking at this map is starting to feel a tad Fear and Loathing:

 

M. E. J. NewmanM. E. J. Newman

If you're getting into it, NPR also has this neat video that uses cartograms to depict outside spending on political ads, especially in swing states—in Nevada, these types of groups coughed up nearly $6 per potential voter between April and October, compared to less than a cent per voter in neighboring California.

These Guys Want to Buy Up Your Debt and Set You Free

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 6:02 PM EST

Going viral today almost as fast as a good pepper spray video is the latest idea from Occupy Wall Street: the Rolling Jubilee, a project to buy up and zero out people's debts. David "How To Sharpen Pencils" Rees explains:

Now OWS is launching the ROLLING JUBILEE, a program that has been in development for months. OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you're a debt broker, once you own someone's debt you can do whatever you want with it—traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We're playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)

Over at Slate, Matthew Yglesias offers limited praise:

That said, almost all charitable undertakings are organized around some gimmick or other that serves as a focal point and helps get people interested. If the pecularity of the distressed debt situation and the concept of a jubilee happens to inspire people and motivate them to be more generous with their time and money than would otherwise be the case, this is a perfectly good idea.

But ultimately, the Rolling Jubilee could do much more than inspire charity. Spending $500 to cancel $14,000 in debt is an amazing bang for the buck—or, seen differently, an amazing illustration of how the financial system that we all bailed out now enslaves many of us. Even if the Rolling Jubilee becomes wildly successful, it probably won't cancel out more than a tiny fraction of our trillions worth of personal debts. Its value is as a devastating political statement: Debt is cheap, except when it's owned by the banks.

Watch...

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Supreme Court Appears Ready to Nuke the Voting Rights Act

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 4:46 PM EST
President Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks at the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965.

A key pillar of American civil rights law is now in danger of being nullified by the Supreme Court. 

Shelby County, Alabama, is seeking to have Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the law that first guaranteed the right of blacks in the South to vote, declared unconstitutional. Section 5 forces areas of the country with a history of discrimination—mostly, but not entirely in the South—to ask the Department of Justice for its approval before making any changes to election rules. The DOJ is then supposed to ensure any changes protect Americans' voting rights. The law has a provision allowing jurisdictions to "bail out," but conservatives have repeatedly challeged the law as unconstitutional federal overreach that is no longer necessary because America has transcended its history of racial discrimination. The Supreme Court announced Friday that it would take up the case.  

The last time conservatives challenged Section 5, in 2009, the Supreme Court handed down a very narrow 8-1 ruling (Clarence Thomas was the only dissenter) that did not declare the law unconstitutional. 

The fact that the court is taking up a Section 5 case again so soon suggests strongly that the intent is to strike down part or all of the Voting Rights Act.

Although Section 5 survived in 2009, conservative justices appeared to believe that the law was discriminatory—against Southern white people. "Is it your position that today Southerners are more likely to discriminate than Northerners?" Chief Justice John Roberts demanded of the attorney defending the Voting Rights Act at the time. Despite the 8-1 vote, the 2009 decision was widely seen as leaving Section 5 hanging by a thread. The justices hinted very strongly that Congress, which had just reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in its entirety in 2006, should change the law soon or risk it being declared unconstitutional next time around

Now it looks like the conservatives on the court will get their chance. A cursory review of recent Republican shenanigans with voting rules should put the notion that the VRA is obsolete entirely to bed. With voting growing more racially polarized, the temptations to alter voting rules to disenfranchise particular constituencies is obvious. Indeed, the Department of Justice successfully challenged Texas' redistricting map because it diluted the voting power of Latinos. If the court strikes Section 5 down, one of the most effective and important powers the federal government has for ensuring that the right to vote is not abridged on the basis of race will be destroyed. 

 

Coal Exec Blames Obama As He Lays Off Miners

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 4:11 PM EST

Throughout the presidential campaign, Republicans repeatedly accused the Obama administration of waging a "war on coal." This despite the fact that the number of coal jobs is actually higher now than it was when President Obama took office, and that many of the reasons the industry has lost jobs in the past year have nothing to do with Obama—like the lower demand for coal because of cheap natural gas or declining quality in reserves.

Now that Obama won, at least one mining executive is aiming to make the "war on coal" real by laying off a bunch of workers. In Carbon County, Utah (yes, that's really its name), UtahAmerican Energy Inc. announced on Thursday that it has laid off 102 employees in response to Obama's reelection. It is a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp., which is, as you may recall, the same company that told Ohio miners that they had to attend a Romney rally in August and that reportedly threatened employees' jobs if they didn't support the company's conservative-aligned political action committee.

The Deseret News reported on the layoffs, citing a statement from the company:

In its statement, UtahAmerican Energy blames the Obama administration for instituting policies that will close down "204 American coal-fired power plants by 2014" and for drastically reducing the market for coal.
"There is nowhere to sell our coal, and when we can, the market prices are far lower," the statement said. "Without markets, there can be no coal mines and no coal jobs."

Murray Energy also laid off 54 miners that worked for its American Coal subsidiary in southern Illinois on Wednesday. A Reddit poster says that he was among the workers laid off at one of those mines (he doesn't mention which). He posted a link to a press release that he says the company distributed to the laid off workers, as well as this statement:

I worked at a coal mine that decided today to layoff over 40 employees and the only reason that was given was that "America has betrayed coal miners" by re-electing President Obama. Despite the fact that nothing has changed in the two days since the election they decide to lay off employees. I've seen how corrupt the company can be over the years and am fairly certain the layoffs are just a way to make the President look bad.

The Washington Post reported today on the layoffs, which came directly from CEO Robert Murray, who read a prayer to staffers on the day after the election that said, "Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corp. for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us build." Murray has been very clear about his political views. He doesn't like Obama. It's hard not to see the layoffs as political—especially since others in the coal industry aren't predicting quite the gloomy outlook that Murray is.

And in an ironic twist, one of the reasons coal demand is down in the US, according to the CEO of another coal company, is because warmer weather means people don't need to heat their homes as much.

CIA Director David Petraeus Resigns

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 3:47 PM EST

On Friday afternoon, four-star general and CIA director David Petraeus resigned, saying he had cheated on his wife of 38 years. Petraeus was widely respected for his involvment in managing the later years of the Iraq War, earning the beltway nickname of "King David," among others. More recently, he has been under fire for this year's Benghazi embassy attack controversy.

Sources tell NBC News that deputy CIA director Mike Morrell would likely be asked to assume the role as acting director, with the possibility of making the promotion more long-term. Petraeus became director of the CIA in September 2011 after his appointment by President Obama.

Read Petraeus' resignation letter here:

HEADQUARTERS Central Intelligence Agency

9 November 2012

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the President to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA.  After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair.  Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.  This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation.

As I depart Langley, I want you to know that it has been the greatest of privileges to have served with you, the officers of our Nation's Silent Service, a work force that is truly exceptional in every regard.  Indeed, you did extraordinary work on a host of critical missions during my time as director, and I am deeply grateful to you for that.

Teddy Roosevelt once observed that life's greatest gift is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing.  I will always treasure my opportunity to have done that with you and I will always regret the circumstances that brought that work with you to an end.
Thank you for your extraordinary service to our country, and best wishes for continued success in the important endeavors that lie ahead for our country and our Agency.

With admiration and appreciation,
David H. Petraeus 

Here's the statement by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:

DNI STATEMENT ON THE RESIGNATION OF CIA DIRECTOR DAVID PETRAEUS:

Today, CIA Director David Petraeus submitted his letter of resignation to the President. Dave's decision to step down represents the loss of one of our nation’s most respected public servants. From his long, illustrious Army career to his leadership at the helm of CIA, Dave has redefined what it means to serve and sacrifice for one's country.

Since he took over as Director in September of last year, he and I have worked together to tackle some of the most challenging issues faced by the Intelligence Community in more than a decade. Under his leadership, the CIA remained instrumental in providing our policy makers decision advantage through the best possible intelligence. I'm particularly thankful for Dave's unwavering support and personal commitment to my efforts to lead the Intelligence Community and integrate our intelligence enterprise.

Whether he was in uniform leading our nation's troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, or at CIA headquarters leading the effort to generate intelligence used to keep our nation safe, Dave inspired people who had the privilege of working with him.

I have spent more than five decades serving our country–in uniform and out–and of all the exceptional men and women I have worked with over the years, I can honestly say that Dave Petraeus stands out as one of our nation's great patriots.

On behalf of the entire Intelligence Community, I thank Dave for his service, his support and his continued friendship.

James R. Clapper

And here is the White House:

November 9, 2012

Statement by President Obama on the Resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus

David Petraeus has provided extraordinary service to the United States for decades. By any measure, he was one of the outstanding General officers of his generation, helping our military adapt to new challenges, and leading our men and women in uniform through a remarkable period of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he helped our nation put those wars on a path to a responsible end. As Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, he has continued to serve with characteristic intellectual rigor, dedication, and patriotism. By any measure, through his lifetime of service David Petraeus has made our country safer and stronger.

Today, I accepted his resignation as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I am completely confident that the CIA will continue to thrive and carry out its essential mission, and I have the utmost confidence in Acting Director Michael Morell and the men and women of the CIA who work every day to keep our nation safe. Going forward, my thoughts and prayers are with Dave and Holly Petraeus, who has done so much to help military families through her own work. I wish them the very best at this difficult time.