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A Hermit Over His Head

Posted on February 12th, 2013 at 21:14 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News


In the wake of Pope Benedict’s resignation yesterday, the world has become re-aquainted with a more famous papal resignation; that of Celestine V, a hermit who proved wildly incompetent as pope and never wanted the job in the first place – but was canonized nevertheless, and received special acclaim from Pope Benedict just three years ago.

Born to Sicilian farmers in 1215 and christened “Pietro Angelerio,” he joined a Benedictine Monastery at 17, then retreated to a nearby cave only seven years later to live a hermit’s life; he moved to Central Italy, just outside Rome, sometime in the 1240’s and spent the next several years in largely uneventful austerity (he did found a new ultra-ascetic order of Benedictine monks, but didn’t want the hassle of dealing with them and turned them all over to someone else to run so he could go back to his cave).

Even so, he heard about and was dismayed by the struggles the church was facing in appointing a successor to Pope Nicholas IV. Nicholas IV died in 1292, but the Papal election – disrupted by plague, Roman riots, and internal power struggles fueled by graft from rival Italian noble families – dragged on for two solid years, long enough that one of the electors died. An incensed Pietro wrote to the cardinals in 1294, warning them that God would punish them if they did not immediately select a pope. When his letter was read aloud to the electorate, Cardinal Latino Malabranca declared out of desperation that Pietro be elected Pope himself. Pietro had no interest in the Papacy, and even tried to run away when his entourage came to escort him to his coronation. But he finally took the name Celestine V and tried to run the church as best he could – which wasn’t very good at all; he would often appoint four clergy to the same post simply because he couldn’t bear to say “no” to any of them.

After five months – reassured by his advisor, one Cardinal Gaetani – Celestine made one final decree affirming the right of a pope to resign, and then stated he was doing just that, moved by “the desire for humility, a purer life, a stainless conscience, the deficiencies of his own physical strength, his ignorance, the perverseness of the people, [and] his longing for the tranquility of his former life.” But he had attracted enough admirers that Gaetani – who succeeded Celestine as Pope Boniface VIII – tried kidnapping him to Rome where he could be kept out of the public eye. Celestine went on the run for several months, until a storm swamped plans to escape to Greece. Celestine accepted his fate (“I only wanted a cell,” he observed, “and a cell you have given me”) and died in prison nine months later.

His chaotic stint as Pope gave him a bad rap – Celestine is believed to be the unnamed person whom Dante refers to in Canto III of The Inferno (“I saw and recognized the shade of him/Who by his cowardice made the great refusal”). But his humility and obvious innocence finally won him sympathy, and he was canonized in 1313. His disastrous election lead to the institution of the Papal Conclave, and his resignation formalized the procedure for any other pope who’s wished to do the same. In fact, any time a modern pope makes a visit to his remains, Vatican insiders and theologians take it as a sign they are considering stepping down themselves.

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  1. On the one hand, I think the resignation of the recent pope was good. (Wicked old b*gger.) On the other hand, it has given rise to steaming piles of unbearable twaddle in the media. (You’d think it was a slow week for news.)

    It’s going to be a long month of breathless speculation and then another outpouring of vile pandering. Once again it all obscures the complete lack of contrition or meaningful change by this ancient and predatory organization.

    Ee, I am vexed!

  2. Just wait until they lock themselves up – speculation on who the new guy is going to be is going to explode. There’s apparently even a Canadian guy in the running! Ehmen!

Assange to Maher: Americans should know how easily their government can kill them

Posted on February 12th, 2013 at 20:32 by Paul Jay in category: News

Julian Assange Interview

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Ancient Magical Illusion Even More Effective Than Magicians May Realize

Posted on February 12th, 2013 at 18:44 by John Sinteur in category: awesome


Scientists analyzing how magicians Penn & Teller perform one of the oldest known illusions now reveal that some aspects of the magic trick are even more effective at manipulating audiences than the magicians predicted.

These findings not only shed light on basic processes such as cognition, but could help advance the art of magic, researchers suggested.

In recent years, neuroscientists have increasingly been analyzing magicians’ performances to gain insights on the human mind.

“We realized that magicians were among the best people at manipulating attention and awareness, far better than scientists,” said cognitive neuroscientist Stephen Macknik, director of the laboratory of behavioral neurobiology at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Ariz. “So we’ve been poaching their techniques, bringing them back to the labs to increase our rate of discovery.”

The latest magic trick Macknik and his colleagues investigated is the classic cups and balls illusion.

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CNN Anchor Asks Bill Nye If Global Warming Had Anything To Do With A Near-Earth Asteroid

Posted on February 12th, 2013 at 18:18 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ, Foyer of Ennui (just short of the Hall of Shame)


After wrapping up a Saturday afternoon segment on the impact climate change may have had on the extreme winter weather that hit the Northeast this weekend, CNN anchor Deb Feyerick turned to a feature on a large asteroid that will just miss earth as it passes by.

“We want to bring in our science guy, Bill Nye, and talk about something else that’s falling from the sky, and that is an asteroid,” said Feyerick. “What’s coming our way? Is this the effect of, perhaps, global warming? Or is this just some meteoric occasion?”

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  1. This shows the importance of blond hair as a qualification for “news anchor”.

Homeland Security: Not Searching Your Laptop Doesn’t Benefit Your Civil Liberties, So We Can Do It

Posted on February 12th, 2013 at 17:35 by Paul Jay in category: Do you feel safer yet?, Security


from the interesting-4th-amendment-interpretation dept

We’ve written many times over the years concerning the legality of Homeland Security searching your laptop at the border without reasonable suspicion. Many courts have held that, effectively, the 4th Amendment does not apply at the border, so they don’t need a warrant to search your laptop. However, they’ve been continually pushing this ability further and further. For example, they got a court to say that this applies not just while you’re at the border — they can take your laptop off site to search it and hang onto it for a while. However, that time, they at least needed to have a “reasonable suspicion.” DHS has taken a pretty firm stand that it must be able to keep doing this. While the ACLU and the EFF and others keep challenging these rules, to date the only possible crack was in a case where there’s evidence that the search was politically motivated.

Late last week, a bizarre finding popped up. Back in 2009, when DHS announced its new rulesfor laptop searches at the border, it also promised that it would do its own “Civil Liberties Impact Assessment” within 120 days. Three years later, Homeland Security’s Orwellian “Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties” has finally released a two page executive summary of the findings, which more or less says “there are no civil liberties issues” with laptop searches. What else would you expect them to say? The ACLU has filed a FOIA request for the full report, but let’s just focus on the most horrifying statement in the executive summary:

We conclude that CBP’s and ICE’s current border search policies comply with the Fourth Amendment. We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits.

That statement is so bizarre I read it half a dozen times before I was sure it really said what it appears to say. It appears to be a somewhat stunning redefinition of how one reviews whether or not something violates the 4th Amendment. Rather than recognizing the rather explicit restrictions under the 4th Amendment, they merely say that it is okay to do these searches because not doing them would not have civil rights/civil liberties “benefits.” That is incredible. The double negative logic there is truly amazing. In other words, we can violate the Constitution, so long as not doing so would not have civil liberties benefits. Wow.

Meanwhile, since Homeland Security has similarly argued (as part of these cases) that its Constitution Free zone for searches applies to any place 100 miles from the United States border, some are pointing out that this means that every electronic device — computers, cell phones, you name it — in Detroit can be searched with absolutely no reasonable suspicion under DHS’s interpretation (since Detroit is less than 100 miles from Canada). But don’t worry, since there is little civil liberties or civil rights benefits to not searching your stuff, DHS says it’s okay.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering on what basis DHS makes this assessment, it appears to bebased on their own directives rather than on any “laws.”

So, if you’re playing along at home, DHS has decided, based on its own review of its own directives, that it can search any electronic device within 100 miles of the border without requiring a warrant, probable cause, reasonable suspicion or anything like that — because actually respecting the Constitution “would be operationally harmful” and wouldn’t really create any “civil rights/civil liberties benefits” for you.

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Twitter, Amex enabling shopping, 140 characters at a time

Posted on February 12th, 2013 at 17:07 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ, If you're in marketing, kill yourself, What were they thinking?


According to an Amex Web page, the arrangement works like this. Amex cardholders first sync their card with Twitter. Then, when they come across products that are eligible to purchase under the plan — products that American Express will promote through a Twitter feed — they simply send out a tweet that includes a special hashtag. Amex will then send them an @-reply with a confirming hashtag. Finally, the buyer has to send out a second tweet with the special hashtag within 15 minutes.

I’m going to “synch” my credit card with my twitter account?

And I’m going to wait for them to send me tweets?

And then I’m going to tweet them back when I want to buy something?

Why would I want to do this?

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce influence in European Parlement

Posted on February 12th, 2013 at 16:54 by John Sinteur in category: News


E.U. Data Protection Directive has many proposed amendments that MEPs cut and pasted directly from American right-wing lobbyists group and ALEC member the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (previously).

from the comments: If only I had standing to bring a copyright complaint against the MEPs involved. The irony would be delicious.


Here, for example, is an important section on profiling. The original version reads:

Every natural person shall have the right not to be subject to a measure which produces legal effects concerning this natural person or significantly affects this natural person, and which is based solely on automated processing intended to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to this natural person or to analyse or predict in particular the natural person’s performance at work, economic situation, location, health, personal preferences, reliability or behaviour.

But the American Chamber of Commerce – that well-known European organisation – didn’t like that, and wanted it changed to this:

A data subject shall not be subject to a decision which is unfair or discriminatory, and which is based solely on automated processing intended to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to this data subject.

Which is rather different – it strips out an important right. So what text did the MEPs in no less than three committees propose? Why this:

A data subject shall not be subject to a decision which is unfair or discriminatory, and which is based solely on automated processing intended to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to this data subject.

Which just happens to be exactly the same as what the American Chamber of Commerce were demanding.

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New York Times Model S review is ‘fake’, says Tesla CEO

Posted on February 12th, 2013 at 15:50 by John Sinteur in category: News



But a few days ago, the prestigious New York Times published a rather negative cold-weather review of the Model S by John M. Broder. The problem? According to Mr. Broder, the Model S doesn’t get the range that it claims to get, at least not in cold weather. This isn’t just a minor aside, but the centerpiece of the review, with a very long description of all the anxiety and problems caused by these range issues.

Well, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has responded on Twitter. You can see the tweets above (and we’ll link to the more detailed blog post when it’s available); basically, Tesla now turns on the logging feature on its EVs when it allows media to borrow them, and the logs on Mr. Broder’s Model S tell a different story from what is in the NYT review. We’ll have to wait for the details to be entirely sure, but I don’t think Elon Musk would pick a fight with the biggest newspaper in the world if he didn’t have a lot of data to back his claims.

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L.A. cocaine bust threatens Canada-U.S. police relations

Posted on February 12th, 2013 at 13:44 by Sueyourdeveloper in category: News


In the early morning of Sept. 7, 2012, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local police descended on an upscale apartment complex in North Hollywood.

They detained two men, seized 15 kilograms of cocaine and $2.5 million … in cash, and ignited a cross-border controversy over how Canadian police handled millions of dollars in illicit cash…

One of the arrested men, who was carrying the money, was a 27-year-old car dealership employee from Vancouver. The U.S.-linked sources say he had worked as a Canadian police agent, fraternizing with importers of cocaine and exporters of marijuana.

Believing he was working as a Canadian police agent, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reluctantly allowed him to return to Vancouver without charge. Shortly after the seizure, the DEA office at the U.S Embassy in Ottawa received a call from Insp. Michel Forget of the Sûreté du Québec, a provincial police force, demanding to know the details of the L.A. arrest, and asking for the $2.5 million back.

Not Inspector Maigret, I gather. But I love a man in uniform.

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Posted on February 12th, 2013 at 10:29 by John Sinteur in category: Great Picture


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  1. Well, technically, they’re faded. That doesn’t mean they ran…

But…. I am still using it!

Posted on February 12th, 2013 at 10:28 by John Sinteur in category: Great Picture

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 10.26.47

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Clearly his boss is creating a hostile work environment.

Posted on February 12th, 2013 at 9:43 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News


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  1. Pleasure or Displeasure?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21421810 (Lightning Strikes – BBC)

    Seems Genuflection had become out of the Question.

  2. They must not make jewel encrusted platinum safety pins.