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by spocko

They’ll Send Lawyers, Spinners and Money: The NFL Shit Won’t Hit The Fan

3:55 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

Today the AP put out a story that the NFL in April received a DVD containing the surveillance video of Ray Rice slugging his fiancée. As you read the story and the follow up from the NFL you will see the personality of the organization shine through. You will also see the linguistic mark of hot shot lawyers and crisis professionals.  

Barry Petchesky at Deadspin is doing great work on this story. From today:

Update: The NFL has released the following statement in response to the AP’s report.

We have no knowledge of this. We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it.

Here’s what Roger Goodell said last night to CBS when asked if anyone at the NFL had seen the tape before Monday:

No one in the NFL, to my knowledge, and I had been asked that same question and the answer to that is no. We were not granted that. We were told that was not something we would have access to. On multiple occasions, we asked for it. And on multiple occasions we were told no. I understand that there may be legal restrictions on them sharing that with us. And we’ve heard that from attorneys general and former attorneys general.

Weasel words for the win! I get tired of the troupe, “It’s not the crime it’s the cover up.” As if all the would be Woodward and Bernstein’s out in big media there will act now.

The reality is that big media outlets won’t be unleashing investigatory teams (if they even exist) -unless they have no choice.  And then it will be responding to what someone else has dug up, giving the NFL spokespeople multiple bites at the apple to comment.

There is one major media outlet that could dig deeper into the NFL lies. Fox News.

What would it take? What if Hillary Clinton was brought in to give advice to the NFL? What did she know and when did she know it? How much was she paid for this advice? Who did she talk to? Can we get her to talk about it under oath so she can’t lie about it? (Barring Hillary herself, did any of her staff advise the NFL?)

That kind of info would put a partisan organization like Fox News in a bind. They want to make Clinton look bad, but it might hurt the big advertiser. Prediction? They would pass.

El Rushbo is the Real Victim Here

Who else normally would support the NFL and doesn’t have the NFL as a big advertiser? Rush Limbaugh.

If I wanted to push the story against a company that has a right wing personality  and is normally supported by the RW media, I would figure out a reason to give the RW media to pursue the story. They can’t look like they are siding with women, that’s a ‘liberal issue.” What or who can they be against? Elitism.

The elites wouldn’t let Rush buy into the club/franchise. He could get back at the people who snubbed him. He has the means, motive and opportunity to lash back at the NFL management, he might even pretend he cares about women in the process. His internal narrative?

 You think I’M not good enough to be an owner because of MY attitudes toward women? Well guess what? YOU aren’t good enough to be an owner because you rejected me. I’m going to expose your lies out of spite.

I don’t think he will do this, he still thinks he can get back into the club. It would be fun to see them fight each other. Rush won’t be able to burnish his image with women, but he will be able to drag some NFL people down with him.

Now if I can  just get a call into Smeadly…

by spocko

Why Does Fox News Side With Abusers Like Ray Rice?

2:35 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

Today’s Ray Rice story is still developing, but one thing it illustrates is the role outsiders can play in demanding justice and then expecting change from an institution that failed to act–or failed to act with sufficient seriousness about a problem.

Digby and Perlstein wrote today about what happened when we failed to hold individuals accountable for malfeasance. When institutions protect individuals, by explaining away their actions, it prevents change from happening.

The other thing it is illustrating is how great it is to have a group of people like Fox News or the RW media on your side, even if only temporarily.

Last week I wrote this piece, CEO Abuses Puppy. Why RW Media Supports Abusers Instead of Victims. I wondered how the RW media would act when they were told to be on the abusers’ side.

Well today we saw just a peek of what that might look like on Fox and Friends. Now they aren’t totally on the side of Rice, but they are able to get in some victim blaming and pass on some protective advice to their abusing buddies.

 

‘We should also point out, after that video — and now you know what happened in there — she still married him,’ host Steve Doocy explained. ‘They are currently married.’

‘Rihanna went back to Chris Brown right after [he assaulted her],’ co-host Brian Kilmeade noted. ‘A lot of people thought that was a terrible message.’

‘I think the message is take the stairs,’ he added, as co-host Anna Kooiman giggled.

‘The message is, when you’re in an elevator, there’s a camera,’ Doocy concluded.

Kilmeade says to avoid the situation whereas Doocy, the real brains of the outfit, says to avoid the cameras. The person who might be the most righteously upset, Anna Kooiman, first defends football in general (avoiding addressing NFL’s policies) and then giggles at a lame joke.

The message isn’t “don’t do something nasty,” but “don’t get caught doing nasty things on video.”

I’ve read that Rice has now been fired and supposedly some changes will happen at the NFL. Enough people were outraged, and let them know it, that their weak measures were deemed not enough. The firing is important, but it is the promised changes that we hope will have a lasting impact, we need to keep an eye on.

Will there be any changes at Fox and Friends for their victim blaming? Nope, of course not. Because their institution is doing exactly what it was designed to do, protect the abusers in their club, instead of the victims.

Fox and Friends aired before Rice had been drummed out of their club, so they didn’t have to defend him full throatily. If they had, they might have started talking about how, “He’s the real victim here,” because of concussion damage from football. But they got the word from on high, the real client is the NFL.

They will be defending the NFL in the future, and whatever actions they were forced to take to get the rabble to simmer down.

Fox knows that the real clients are the members of the club who pay their bills. The $9 billion dollars a year in revenue, non-profit club calling themselves the NFL.

UPDATE from Raven’s Press conference.

I just watched the Raven’s Press conference. I don’t want to bag on the reporters, they are probably used to asking the coach really hard questions of athletes and getting answers like, “We came to play.” but when talking to the coach, they could have pressed harder, this is some hard news.

One asked, “Why didn’t you have access to the tape before today.

I have no answer to that. (Educational video link for  the purpose of media criticism)

And that was it. Okay then.

No follow up, “Well can we talk to someone who DOES have the answer?”

So to follow up on my theme, from the CEO kicks dog post, the control of this video is a HUGE deal,  ’who saw the video when’ and who has access to it is a huge power play. That the reporters just let it slide might be expected if they are being deferential to the coach, but will we see any follow up? I’m guess that will be coming with the “wrongful termination” suit.

ADDED:

Keith Olbermann

by spocko

Smartest SF Show on TV, Person of Interest, Returns Sept 23. Why Aren’t There More Like It?

5:25 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

 

I’m excited for the return of ” Person of Interest” Season 4 premieres Tuesday, Sept. 23 on CBS. I will not be missing the cancelled TV show Intelligence.

I was praising the show recently and i09 user Longsnake agreed.  ”POI is probably the best show on TV, full stop. “ Agreed.  I wondered, how the hell did this make it to mainstream network TV? J.J. Abrams of course, but I wondered if any of the people who green lighted PoI figured out why it works and make more like it or if they learned the wrong lessons and make crappy copies? The answer: They make crappy copies, like: Intelligence. 

But why make crappy copies? To answer the question I used the power of my mind and my computer hacking skillz to find the answer.

Below is an inexact transcript of the pitch meeting for Intelligence that took place at CBS following the success of Person of Interest.* 

Guy pitching Intelligence: “It’s like Person of Interest meets Chuck. He’s a good looking Navy Seal who has the NSA database in his head. Actually the whole Internet is IN the head of  the hero. He works for a Government cyberspace agency nobody’s heard of and travels the world solving cases.  We show great special effects graphics only he can see, so we skip boring people sitting in front of computer screens typing stuff.  He’s military, but he’s reckless , so they assign a hot woman to “protect” him, but he doesn’t really need it, so there is lots of sexual tension. Plus, he has a dead wife. Or does he!?”

Studio exec: “I love it! We’ll MAKE IT! First, casting. We should use some leftover Lost and CSI people in it. One of those square jaw guys from Lost. I know that Marg what’s her face is free, she can be the ‘smart yet vulnerable female boss’ who has more balls than the men she works with. I’ll hand that part, you handle the rest.

Pitching Guy gets up to leave.

Wait! You need some comic relief like in PoI. Get some goofy nerdy SF characters, my agent knows that fat dumpy guy from Star Trek and says he’s good at technobabble.

Wait! Include family drama for backstories. Do some father and son or father and daughter things. Stay away from mother and daughter or mother and son things, men hate that, makes them feel weird especially if the female lead is a MILF, which Marg is. God she’s hot for her age. Sure Camryn Manheim brings weight to PoI but, HA! Weight! I meant gravity but I said weight, that’s so funny.  My point is family flashbacks sell to women so if the men have to watch them they should be hot women.

Wait! You are going to tie it to big political issues like PoI, right? Don’t be too controversial. There was a China hacking story on the news yesterday something about cyberwars. Use China, they will just pirate the shows anyway, screw ‘em.  Hey, isn’t there some agency that fights cyberwars? They’ll let us use their sets, I mean buildings, we just need to run the scripts by them first to make sure they look great.

Wait! Is there a cute animal in the show? We can’t use a dog like in PoI, too obvious a rip off. Cats aren’t really a guy thing. A parrot? Ravens? Maybe a bionic monkey or something that was a test subject before human trials? Yes! That’s it! Or maybe we could use a dog after all. Everyone loves dogs.

CBS Exec: I see your special effects budget is huge, excellent! I want to see it all up on the screen. That’s what people will notice and remember.

You are new show runner, so who you get as writers is up to you, but remember, the cost for them comes out of  your end, not ours. Let me give you some advice. Don’t hire those hot shot movie or cable TV writers, they want to be all dark and subversive.  Get some novelist to do it, they work cheap and you can punch up their scripts later. Lots of unemployed writers out there will work cheap. Thank you reality TV!

In my opinion the PoI writers are getting paid way more than they should, luckily they haven’t  won any awards besides some bullshit ‘Peoples Choice” crap. An Emmy would go straight to their heads and there would be no controlling them.

Speaking of controlling them, if it wasn’t for that Snowden guy leaking proving what was going on were going to crush the whole, “The Government Really Does This Stuff” line a long time ago. As it is we tricked them into focusing on “Secret Military Contractors” as the bad guys in their next season. Our DC lobbyists say we shouldn’t be on Snowden’s side in anyway. It’s bad for our business.

The PoI writers were trying to push, ‘The Government can do the right thing, and people care about privacy” line and we sent them notes to tell ‘em to stop. Eventually they went with some silly “secret Military contractor ” that makes tech that uses and controls intelligence plot. But, get this, they put a old white guy in charge! Idiots. They should totally have made him Iranian. At least they made him British.  As if British or military contractors have anything to do with US surveillance.

Oh, one more thing. Get more women to watch! PoI has great demos with women over 25, we don’t care about the olds watching, but the young ones are good. It’s totally because of  Jim Caviezel‘s looks, so get the tough guy’s shirt off in as many scenes as possible.

Pitcher: “I’m on it!”

Studio exec: “Why are you standing their looking at me? Go! Start making magic!”

-audio feed ends-

*Like Intelligence and PoI, all the above dialog is fictional. 

by spocko

A Darker Side of Dark Money: Negative Ads Are Just the Start

3:15 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

You're not alone

People in media and politics love dark money, especially if they are gettin’ some. -Spocko

On Fresh Air yesterday they talked to campaign expert Neil Oxman about making political ads. He talks about how much money congressional campaigns spend on TV and how much it costs today.

Even beyond the cost of the way college in tuition have gone up. I mean, the cost of American television has exceeded every year the cost of inflation by many times.

He talks about the new role in social media but explains why it’s still not as important as reaching voters, whom he points out are older people.

And older people watch TV. They’re much more passive about how they get their information. They sit in front of the television. They don’t flick away from commercials. They watch TV. Kids today don’t watch TV on TV. They watch it on every other thing they can get. They watch it on their phones. They watch on their iPads. They watch it on computers.

So his premise, and I’m sure he has data to back it up, is that this expensive medium is the best way to reach the target voter. For conservatives this is great, especially if they don’t care about reaching the “kids today.” If you are progressive, and also convinced that your voters are olds, you join the TV arms race.

This process lines the pockets of the ad makers, media buyers, radio and TV stations. It’s a Win/Win/Win! This isn’t news to most people, but the part that really struck me was the size of the dark money pool and how it will be used.

DAVIES: So the people that are hiring you to make ads aren’t candidates?

OXMAN: No, they’re independent committees because the reporting rules are a lot different. And you can have – it’s not about personal money. You can give corporate money. And so if somebody goes to a friend and says, hey, give me a $100,000 from your corporation – if it’s a privately held corporation – instead of $2,500 from you and this $100,000 is never going to be reported, that’s why so much of this independent money is being raised.

DAVIES: And so if the court decisions now mean there are these independent groups who have a lot of money to put into political advertising, does the character of the advertising itself change? If it’s not the candidate putting their name to it, doesn’t mean it’s…

OXMAN: It’s become much more negative. The ratio of negative to positive has gotten much higher.

We know negative advertising works, and we know why candidates don’t want to be associated with it. Especially when they are now required to say, “I’m Nicey McNicely and I approve this message.”

But dark money independent committees can run really nasty ads.  Later, the candidate they are supporting can come out and denounce the ad, since technically he isn’t supposed to know about it or coordinate with the groups. But by then the image, smear or idea is stuck in the heads of voters.

Following The Money is Confusing and Boring. Follow The People

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of people telling me, “Follow the money.” That comment makes all these assumptions like:

  • The money trail will lead to someone doing something illegal
  • Campaign finance laws that still exist have been violated
  • The penalty for violating the law is criminal and substantial
  • The people doing the financing are stupid
  • Journalists covering politics care about any of this
  • The public will do something after getting the information

I wondered, after Citizens United made almost everything legal, why would anyone still feel the need to use dark money? Habit?

Check out this OpenSecrets.org #darkmoney chart. and this is the easy one to follow!

 Who or what are they afraid of?  (And I, of course, like to add, “How can we make their fears come true?“)

To understand the reasons they want to hide you would have to ask them. Some like Sheldon Aldeson don’t care who knows, “I’m old, rich and I bought these ads with my own money. It’s all legal and you can’t hurt me, piss off.”

But donors must have reasons to stay dark, some more serious than others:

Read the rest of this entry →

by spocko

Nixon Wouldn’t Have Authorized Torture, Suggests John Dean

12:10 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

I asked John Dean a few questions about his new book, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It, during the FDL Book Salon.

1) After listening to hundreds of hours of all conversations did President “Sock it to me” Nixon tell any good jokes? Were they dirty? Racist or sexist? His answer was, “Bottom line: Richard Nixon had almost no sense of humor whatsoever.” My suspicion, confirmed!

2) What did he think Cheney and Rumsfeld learned from the Watergate Scandal? His reply:

Rumsfeld and Cheney volunteered to help Nixon when he was sinking, but Nixon did not trust Rumsfeld (he didn’t know Cheney). Needless to say, it is pure speculation as to what Rummy and Dick ‘learned’ from Watergate. I gave my views on the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld presidency in ‘Worse Than Watergate,’ explaining how they imposed secrecy way beyond Nixon. This was how they got away with blatant violations of law that make Watergate look like little league. I am not sure that Richard Nixon in one of his darkest moods would have authorized torture! 

That last sentence surprised me. So I asked for more insight.

What would Nixon’s reasons have been for not torturing people? Was he close enough to WWII and the Nuremberg trials to remember war crimes? Was it about American ideals? Religious ideals? Did he not have a John Yoo writing legal memos for him?

John Dean August 30th, 2014 at 4:58 pm
In response to spocko @ 114 (show text)

Nixon served in the South Pacific during WWII, and was familiar with the horrors of Japanese torture, so I cannot believe he would have lowered the USA to tolerate such horrific behavior. With foreign policy, Nixon seemed to understand what today we call “blow-back” and that by our engaging in torture he would expose Americans soldiers (if not all Americans) to torture, just as we are seeing with Americans being captured by ISIL. Bush/Cheney have subjected any and every American kidnapped or captured to torture by the likes of ISIL. It is a decision that is going to haunt us and the world for untold decades.

Had the Book Salon not ended, my next question to Dean would have been, “How did we go from Nixon’s views torture and why he understood it was wrong, to Cheney being proud of ‘enhanced interrogation‘ techniques? Also, why won’t Obama’s admission, ‘We tortured some folks’ lead to prosecution?” Maybe another interviewer will ask Dean this or Digby’s friend Rick Perlstein can take a crack at answering the question.

The answer to this question could probably fill several books, luckily I just happened to read a great one that helps explain part of it. Rebecca Gordon has a new book out called Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post – 9/11 United States. Gordon walks the reader through the problem, how we think and talk about torture and how institutionalized state torture is carried out by the United States.

I tend to get very worked up when talking about torture, so much so that it gets in the way of my conversation at parties. “Look out, Spocko wants to talk about torture accountability and the Taguba report again, hide!” Fortunately for me, Mrs. Spocko knows I have this interest, and she bought me Gordon’s book for my birthday. She also knows that understanding isn’t enough for me, I want to do something about the problem.

Fortunately, unlike a number of books that are great at describing the problem, this book has some suggestions on what to do about it in the short, medium and long term. She also emphasizes the personal importance of individuals doing something about torture. In my case I started pushing back at the torture supporters on right wing radio.

If we look at why Nixon, one of our nastier Presidents, didn’t authorize overt torture, but other Presidents did, we might see how it was made acceptable and then develop and reestablish the ethical, intellectual, legal and practical reasons to stop it.

I have often thought that the entire content of this book could be expressed in five words: Torture is wrong. Stop it. –Rebecca Gordon, Mainstreaming Torture

But can we really stop it? Isn’t the water out of the water-boarding bucket forever?

See no Torture, Say no Torture

This weekend was the 10th anniversary of the release of the Abu Ghraib photos. The New York Times thinks we should release the other photos. Remember when they first came out? The RW media went on the air to defend the torture. Rush Limbaugh, “… I’m talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?”

Read the rest of this entry →

by spocko

CEO Abuses Puppy. Why RW Media Supports Abusers Instead of Victims

3:56 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

I spotted this terrible story today CEO Caught on Video Kicking Puppy.  The video is disturbing and seems clear cut. You really feel for the poor dog. But let’s not jump to conclusions until all the facts are in and we hear from all sides.
Puppy

The Vancouver Globe first story describes “surveillance video shot in an elevator of the Private Residences at Hotel Georgia in downtown Vancouver shows an unidentified man kicking a dog several times.”

As more details were revealed, we learned the kicker was Des Hague, the CEO of Centerplate, a  multibillion-dollar sports-catering company that provides concessions for major arenas like the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara and Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

In the company’s first response Hague apologized.

“I take full responsibility for my actions, this incident is completely and utterly out of character and I am ashamed and deeply embarrassed,” he said in a statement. “Under the circumstances of the evening in question, a minor frustration with a friend’s pet caused me to lose control of my emotional response. Unfortunately, I acted inappropriately, and I am deeply sorry for that and am very grateful that no harm was caused to the animal. I have reached out to the SPCA and have personally apologized to the dog’s owner. At this time, I would like to extend my apology to my family, company and clients, as I understand that this has also reflected negatively on them.”

Then, when the San Diego paper looked into it further they found that Hague lied in his statement. The B.C. SPCA determined the dog, Sade, was his, not a family friend’s pet. (I suppose that makes personally apologizing to himself easier.)

Eventually, after multiple stories and worldwide outrage, the board acted.  Des Hague to donate $100,000 and serve 1,000 hours of community service (According to Fortune Centerplate is a privately held $6 billion business with 30,000 employees and more than 350 clients and is challenging industry leader Aramark.) 

People in Vancouver, San Diego and other cities have called for their venues to drop their relationship with Centerplate.  Several articles mentioned people planning to not purchase food and drink at the venues.  Other stories mentioned how canceling the Centerplate contract would end up hurting the local employees and the revenues the cities get from the concessions.

In a statement the San Diego Chargers said,  ”It’s unfortunate that his actions have tainted the local Centerplate employees who devotedly serve our fans.”

For me that statement is key. His actions tainted the Centerplate brand. People want him to pay, not some minimum wage worker pouring beers that cost more than their hourly wage.

So a few days later, it looks like the situation is getting addressed, changes are being made.  Further consequences, including possible jail time, for Hague are still to come.

This story is a good example of the power of video, the established mainstream media being amplified by social media and a demonstration of the economic consequences of bad behavior by a key member of a corporation. Also, not to be missed is our love and support of pets.   I want activists to learn from this story and see how this can apply to other situations.

How the RW Drives a Narrative Flip or “What about the poor CEO? He’s the real victim here.” 

I see too many cases of rich and powerful who change the narrative, become the victims and turn the story around.  Who helps them? Why do they do it? How do they do it?  And finally, can we thwart them in their support of morally repugnant behaviors?  

One of the more powerful narrative players to have on your side is the right wing media.  You need the right credentials and viewpoints, but if they back you, you can steal millions from people, point guns at federal officials and even shoot and kill someone and get lauded for it.    Paul Rosenburg points out in Salon, that media supporting the powerful in not new but the levels they do it at are now extreme.  To get support from RW media, you need to fall under one of these categories,

  1. If Obama is for it we are against it.
  2. This action will piss off the liberals
  3. Our base will like this (aka red meat)
  4. This story will hurt Democrats and/or Hillary Clinton at election time
  5. This action supports a conservative ideal like small government
  6. You are a prominent  conservative politician 

What if Hague fell into one of these categories? What would that look like? Read the rest of this entry →

by spocko

How Many Tanks Can We Take Back Before The Next Ferguson?

10:03 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

I recently suggested that we noodle on some methods to de-militarize the police. I wanted to figure out methods that would actually have people look at publicly available communities’ inventory of equipment and demand they get rid of unnecessary items and equipment that is not designed for a police force, but an occupying army.
BrickArms MAAWS firing via Ice Cream Scoops
D.C. national politicians finally weighed in on the topic and before you can say, “Rocket launchers for cops” the national media talked to all the usual players to explain why any effort for change will be blocked, shouted down, ignored or tabled-until the next event.

The New York Times piece, In Washington, Second Thoughts on Arming Policethey point out the the problem and the standard “solution” in one paragraph.

Though violent crime is at its lowest level in a generation and terrorism, despite fears and continuing global threats, remains exceedingly rare on American soil, any effort to significantly cut police funding would be met with sharp opposition from local and state officials and many in Congress. Even if the political will to review the policies exists now, it is not clear whether it will remain when lawmakers return from vacation next month and see the midterm elections on the horizon.

Of course state and local officials will complain about losing government funding.  (Maybe we should tell them it’s for ObamaCare) But since in many cases they aren’t spending their own money, the Federal government can have some control over what they get and the strings attached to the gear we give them.  They might complain, but if the level of funding stays the same, they are likely to grouse less even if they don’t get that tank they had their eye on.

Today I got a note from the Blue America PAC who told the story of how five weeks ago Alan Grayson tried to get an amendment passed to stop funding the extreme militarization of local police department.  It told the sad story of how “45 Democrats voted with the GOP against a bill that would halt using federal taxpayer dollars to arm local police with rocket launchers, tanks, guided missiles, mines, torpedoes, ballistic missiles, toxicological agents, grenade launchers and even nuclear weapons!”

Now Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson is trying to put out a new bill to demilitarize local police in September. It will we watered down or forgotten especially since in Grayson’s case even top democratic leadership weren’t on-board because the lobbyists spread the money around to Democrats and Republicans evenly. Plus, there was no pressure from the people “below” just pressure from the lobbyists “above.” (I use the quotes to remind us that the money always believe their needs are above the people’s.)

The reason that the right wants to slow things down and “get all the facts in” is not because they want all the facts. They are happy to rush to judgement when they like the facts or even fact-like rumors like the “orbital eye socket fracture” of the police officer. (BTW, when that is proved false can I call up the MSM and get the names of the two anonymous sources who lied to them? Don’t you burn sources that lie to you?)

Between now and when the bill comes up again what can we do?

  1. Identifying which current military “assets” are potentially toxic liabilities, will bring bad PR and are lawsuits waiting to happen.
  2. Get that information to the congress people who get visited by the military and defense contractors lobbyists hawking tanks and rocket launchers.  Remind them, “Your city could be the next Ferguson. Maybe ask for different gear this time or a trade for less military equipment.”

I had relatives who were in the business of selling heavy equipment to police departments. The whole process was filled with huge egos and politics but at the time they bought what they felt was needed to serve the community.  That changed after 9/11.  From the same NY Times article:

Read the rest of this entry →

by spocko

Defective X-Ray Pornscanners: You Can See Sideboobs But Not Sidearms

5:48 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

Wired has a story today about a team of security researchers demonstrated how people can slip weapons and explosives past TSA’s Rapiscan full-body X-ray scanners.

The article talks about blogger Jonathan Corbett who published a YouTube video two years ago showing some of these same failings which the TSA pooh-poohed. Now these researchers from the University of California at San Diego, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins are showing the same things and more.

Corbett has a court case against the TSA which is continuing and you can donate to it here at TSA Out of My Pants. I hope he wins, in a way he was already successful because those scanners are no longer used by the TSA. But as one the the taxpayers who was conned out of one BILLION dollars for a defective product, I want my money back!

How do we get that money back? Qui tam lawsuits.  From the Legal Information Institute.

In a qui tam action, a private party called a relator brings an action on the government’s behalf. The government, not the relator, is considered the real plaintiff. If the government succeeds, the relator receives a share of the award. Also called a popular action.

For example, the federal False Claims Act authorizes qui tam actions against parties who have defrauded the federal government. 31 U.S.C. § 3279 et seq. If successful, a relator in a False Claims Act qui tam action may receive up to 30% of the government’s award.

Now I think this is a perfect opportunity for this kind of case.  I hope that Jonathan Corbett files one. It’s time a whistleblower flip the narrative and make bank on their important work. From legal discovery we could learn a lot, like  ”What did Chertoff know and when did he know it?”  Two years ago the incompetence of the company could be hidden by national security concerns, but now the product isn’t used anymore in airports. This company, and Chertoff, defrauded the federal government. We paid for a defective product. Shouldn’t we get our money back?

Rapidscan Systems will still try to evoke national security and not divulge “methods and practices” on the Rapidscan 1000, but we will say the issue is moot since it is not used by the TSA anymore. I’m sure there are 17 good reasons it’s not feasible to bring this case, but for 30% of a billion dollars those reasons might be overcome, don’t you think?

Who’s Using the Defective Rapidscanners Now? 

One of the points they make in the Wired article is that these scanners are still being sold to courthouses, jails, and other government security checkpoints around the country. I want to take steps to de-militarize our police, but I’m  sympathetic to their concerns that it’s scary out there with the NRA pushing guns everywhere all the time.

Maybe  these cities can also sue to get their money back for buying defective products.

Can We Trade In Our Tanks?

Read the rest of this entry →

by spocko

Robin Williams Found Dead In Tiburon California on Monday August 11, 2014

3:51 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

I’m sure that in the days and weeks to come we will learn more about the circumstances of his death. The Marin Sheriff’s Department is investigating.

See the PDF from the Marin Sheriff’s office.

But first I’d like people to recount a time or place that he made you laugh, think or cry.

I did stand up comedy in San Francisco at the Holy City Zoo where Robin Williams performed. My comedy coach, John Cantu, talked about when he would come to the clubs and take over the stage for an evening. I kept wishing that I was there on one of the nights he did that. Unfortunately he had moved on by the time I started. I had seen him perform at Comedy Day and loved to hear him live. I ran into him one time down at the Marina. He had the hairiest arms of anyone I had ever seen.

We’ve heard tales about his drug problems but not so much about depression. His death might be related, we don’t know yet. But I know a lot of stand-up comedians have suffered from severe depression. And it reminds me of this story:

A man goes to a doctor, claiming he’s depressed. He feels as if the world doesn’t care about his problems, as if he’s the pole the universe pisses on. The doctor ponders the man’s problems, unsure of what to do, until suddenly he remembers: “The circus is in town, and Pagliaccio the clown is there! Why don’t you go see his show, I’m sure that’ll cheer you up.” The man breaks down crying and sobs “But I am Pagliaccio the clown!!”

 Rest in peace Robin, and thanks for all the laughs.

by spocko

Shouldn’t We Laugh When Right Wing Groups Rip Off Tea Partiers?

6:11 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

The first answer to my headline questions would be, YES! We should laugh and rub our hands together in glee. “HA ha! Suckers!” But there is something more to do when we read about conservatives financially conning conservatives.
Faces of the Tea Party Movement 12
The wing nut group I’m talking about is the subject of a ProPublica piece by Kim BarkerPro-Troop’ Charity Pays Off Tea Party Cronies Instead:  In summary she writes: “Move America Forward has collected millions to send care packages to U.S. troops. But its assets have been used to benefit conservative political consulting firms close to its Tea Party founder.” Barker does a tremendous amount of document-based research and makes this comment.

Yet an examination of its fundraising appeals, tax records and other documents shows that Move America Forward has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms.

Over at Salon Digby puts the story of Move America Forward and The Tea Party Express into more context. Wingnut scams the troops: How Tea Party quack uses fake charities to get rich

Meet Sal Russo, the man accused of running a faux veterans charity and Tea Party PAC — to shadily pocket millions

Digby points out that this is nothing new, that conservatives have been using so-called nonprofits to push conservative politics and avoid paying taxes for decades. Even with the rise of SuperPACs and passing Citizens United, some groups still like to tug on the ol’ heart strings to make money from “the base.”

I’m really glad ProPublica commissioned this piece and paid money to Barker to write it.  I’m glad Digby put it in context. But there is a third component that still needs to be addressed. “What is to be done?”

PositiveBrother,  a commenter at Salon said this.

Next I want to read about him being put in JAIL, very, very tired of just reading about, debating about, commenting about these people scamming money from people, while most hard working Americans go to work to try and feed their families.

And then Ranina asked:

Yes! While it’s great that they are exposed, now what? What can we do about it?

I realized years ago that journalism isn’t enough when it comes to these groups and their schemes. Often times these groups are savvy legally, financially, politically and in the media. In the Barker article you see, “Russo didn’t respond to questions from ProPublica” Of course not, because he doesn’t have to. He’s not under oath. Not only doesn’t he have to answer honestly, he doesn’t have to answer at all.

To answer PositiveBrother’s question you just find which laws were broken, find someone who cares and is willing to prosecute. That’s all doable, and if that is your expertise I say go for it! Please report back, I’d like to know what works.

Fighting Logically in an Emotional World

I’ve been working on a guide to using the Spocko Method to fight the forces I think are especially destructive to our society. One of the key ideas is to find the interested 3rd parties who care about the outcome and engage them.  When I was focusing on right wing radio, I went to the advertisers and asked them. “Do you want your brand tainted by being associated with this violent rhetoric, sexist screeds and bigoted comments?”

In this case who has been harmed? The people getting mislead.  How could you engage them? I’d sincerely ask, “Is what they did using your money okay with you?”

We need to understand that my opinion as a left-wing liberal doesn’t matter to MAF and TPE donors. They already know we are god-less troop-hating hippies. The opinion of any media but RW media doesn’t count. In fact, the very act of this story appearing in the liberal media is proof that we are “out to get ‘em.”

Bookmark my words, they will circle the wagons because of the “hit piece” by the liberal media and then they will use it to raise money. All accusations will be denied, and they look forward to their, “day in court” where they will be proved right.  The right wing LOVES to be the victim.  They even need to invent attacks that don’t exist, ‘Obama is coming for your guns!”

It was interesting to note that in the ProPublica piece Melanie Morgan, the co-founder of Move America Forward and major participant in The Tea Party Express, was relegated to the last paragraph. I expect she will go into full denial, excuses and victim mode when she writes about this. Morgan was the public face of MAF and used her position on KSFO radio to constantly promote MAF and Tea Party Express fundraising events. Besides these kind of “charity” promotions, right wing radio gives hours of one sided ‘free advertising” for candidates during campaigns. Yet another FEC violation on our public airwaves that nobody is looking at.

How do you have an impact on people like Russo who use attacks as fund raising opportunities?  You go to the people who supported them and ask how they feel, what they think about the official response and — if they are unhappy — suggest to them something they can do to express their displeasure.

Expressing Displeasure via a Contribution Refund AKA. “I want my money back!”

In 2010 while reading a 494 page FEC documents about the Tea Party Express and writing about how they were sucking up police and community resources in Provo, UT  I spotted a section under itemized dispersion called “Contribution Refund.  Read the rest of this entry →