Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Raul Castro elected president of Cuba

That had to be a nailbiter for him.

Anything can happen. I remember when I was a kid and played FORTRESS with all my stuffed animals and I had an election for Fortress Commander. I just barely won that one. I guess I really didn't do enough to lock down the bear and rabbit vote.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

"I play oboe."


This is a pretty adorable ad from the Super Bowl.

I wish they'd do more ads like this, because there are a lot of people in football who aren't morons, but unless you're Brady or Manning, there's pretty much an inverse relationship between your IQ and your airtime.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bush sends budget electronically

I read it here, but it redirects to here:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. I just met with my Cabinet, where we discussed a lot of issues. And one issue we discussed is the budget. I submitted the budget today to Congress -- it's on a laptop notebook, an e-budget. It saves paper, saves trees, saves money. I think it's the first budget submitted electronically.
Hello, my name is GFK. I have taken the liberty of mailing you this telegram.

Team B

I needed something to take my mind off of the absolute gut-punching feeling I still have from the Patriots' Super Bowl loss, so I decided to write something. Anything. I get the feeling that hollow pit in my stomach isn't going away anytime before the start of the next NFL postseason, so the best I can do in the meantime is try to chase away the pain with good old-fashioned anger. LS's Philby post reminded me of this, which is one of the worst excesses in the history of American intelligence: Team B.

In 1974, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (sound familiar? Same guy. Don's pretty unique in American history in that he held the same job two decades apart and managed to be completely fucking wrong about the most important parts of his job both times) claimed that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the Soviet Union was building up massive armies, missiles and atomic stores in preparation for an apocalyptic war with the United States, advocated by borderline-mad hardline party members and generals. Meanwhile, peaceniks and nearsighted analysts in the U.S. couldn't even see that this was happening!

Another person, professor Albert Wohlstetter said the same thing. Some people consider Wohlstetter one of the founding members of the neocon movement, since he taught at the University of Chicago at the same time that a lot of members of the movement were also teaching or attending school. It's also important to remember that this guy (along with Kissinger) was partly the inspiration for the character Dr. Strangelove. In political terms, that's like saying, "This guy was the inspiration for Dr. Lecter."

Anyway, like a lot of neoconservatives in 2002 and 2003, they managed to scare the everloving fuck out of enough Americans that Team B was created by then Director of the CIA George H. W. Bush. The point behind it was to establish a different evaluation of Russia's military actions, to test if what Rumsfeld and company said was true.

Their conclusions were an entire fabrication, counter to every CIA estimate that preceded them and every conclusion wrought by the end of the Cold War. Declassified documents prove that their assurances were panics and terrors aimed at the American people. I hate to quote Wikipedia, but it simplifies things:
The CIA and other agencies who watched the Soviet Union strongly disagreed with Rumsfeld, calling Rumsfeld's position a "complete fiction" and claiming that the Soviet Union was disintegrating from within, could barely afford to feed its own people, and would collapse within a decade or two if simply left alone.
If this sounds familiar, it's because it's exactly what happened. If it sounds unfamiliar, it's because you're someone who grew up biting hard on the line that the people in Team B, Ronald Reagan and neoconservatives have been feeding you: that Ronnie won the Cold War. Why, without massive tax cuts to the rich and a pointless and wasteful mass increase in defense spending and a concomitant MASS increase in the national debt, the Russians might have conquered us instead! We had to outspend them! Nevermind the fact that most of the generals on the Russian equivalent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to say about the last two decades of the Soviet Union: that they were always terrified, because they were always one large riot or two days of panic or mass desertion away from total collapse.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves. What about Team B and what does this have to do with Philby?

The most important thing here is a concept called "Confirmation Bias." It's a psychological term that you probably suffer from. Hell, I know I do. You think, "Geez, that guy's kind of a dick." So every time you hang out with him and he does something dickish, you say, "Yep, total dick." Then, when he does something nice, you don't notice. Why? Because you're too busy looking for when he's next going to be a dick. Or you rationalize it. You say, "That guy's only being nice now because he knows we think he's a dick, so he's buttering us up for the moment he can act like a dick again." In simple terms: that guy's acting nice because he's a dick.

Think of it another way. You want to find out what the best burger restaurant in town is. You, almost everyone you know, the two food reviewers for the town newspapers, the food reviewer from the local rag that prints News of the Weird, and a bunch of online reviews say that Sal's Burgers is the best burger joint. But you know ten people who think that Mort's Burger Shack is better. You give those ten people $10 each to buy a burger at both places and tell you which one's better. They all tell you it's Mort's Burger Shack. Big motherfucking surprise right there.

Here's the rub: this is exactly what happened with Team B. The people appointed to Team B were all people who already believed what Team B was supposed to investigate. We needed to know, "Is the Soviet Union secretly MUCH more powerful than we think and planning to attack us?" and to prove that we asked a bunch of people who already had that opinion whether it was true. That's like asking OJ if he thinks someone else murdered Nicole and then handing him the keys to the LAPD crime lab to figure it out.

You can Wikipedia Team B and find out a bunch of this stuff pretty quickly. It's absolutely nuts. The best example probably comes from Star Wars/SDI. The CIA and other analysts said that the USSR had too many economic problems and was too disorganized to be able to produce an effective missile defense system like Star Wars/SDI. Team B said, "HAHAHAHAHA! THAT'S WHAT THEY WANTED YOU TO THINK! THEY ALREADY HAVE IT!!!!"

Sound familiar? The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. In fact, it's proof of the opposite. If you want to go back to the OJ example, it'd be like saying, "Of course he killed Nicole! Because there's not a shred of evidence proving he did. Look how crafty he is. The best proof he did it is how perfectly he removed all proof he did it." Or pick any other example. If you read this post and disagree with it, that's just proof of how well you're hiding how true you think it is. The best proof that you're gay as hell is that you're married. The best proof you love Lifetime Original Movies is how you never seem to watch them. You must hate America because you go around not protesting it. What the fuck are you trying to hide???

This goes back to the Philby thing. Once he was outed as a double agent, people wanted (that's probably not the right word, but in some way they sort of needed) to believe there were tons of other double agents out there. The proof they were there was, in fact, all the proof that wasn't there. All the people who were squeaky clean — they must be the guilty ones. There's an old joke in intelligence history: "How can you tell someone's crooked? They've never done anything wrong." We tore our own intelligence networks apart and discredited dozens of loyal operatives because we wanted to find wrongdoing and were willing to believe the absence of it proved its existence. The absence of evidence is not....

Here's the rub again: we can do this with anything. Spies, Iraq, terrorists, Putin. Think about all those liberals you hear about who want to destroy and weaken America. What's the proof of that? That they devote their lives to being public servants by running for elected office in America. Ohmigod, that's so fucking spooky. They're like Manchurian candidates. Maybe you are.

And you.

And you.

And you.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Iran launches rocket into space


TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran fired a rocket from its newly inaugurated space center Monday, laying the groundwork for what it says will be the future launch of its first domestically produced satellite, the semi-official FARS news agency reported.

Congratulations to the New England Patriots


I almost didn't post this. I said to myself, "It's 4th down. You've got to kick it here. Take the three points."

But I said to myself, "No, go for the first down. Don't settle for any less than 7."