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Charlatans, Cranks and Kansas

Posted on June 30th, 2014 at 22:43 by Sueyourdeveloper in category: News


But how can you justify enriching the already wealthy while making life harder for those struggling to get by? The answer is, you need an economic theory claiming that such a policy is the key to prosperity for all. So supply-side economics fills a need backed by lots of money, and the fact that it keeps failing doesn’t matter.

And the Kansas debacle won’t matter either. Oh, it will briefly give states considering similar policies pause. But the effect won’t last long, because faith in tax-cut magic isn’t about evidence; it’s about finding reasons to give powerful interests what they want.

It’s like hearing someone in church boasting about not leaving anything in the collection plate.

Pay your taxes you crybabies!

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Supreme Court Rejects Contraceptives Mandate for Some Corporations – NYTimes.com

Posted on June 30th, 2014 at 18:07 by John Sinteur in category: batshitinsane


The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom.

The 5-to-4 decision, which applied to two companies owned by Christian families, opened the door to challenges from other corporations to many laws that may be said to violate their religious liberty.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the court’s five more conservative justices, said a federal religious-freedom law applied to for-profit corporations controlled by religious families. He added that the requirement that the companies provide contraception coverage imposed a substantial burden on the companies’ religious liberty.


a company can now have religious liberty. Can they also play Mario Kart?

And since previously they did not allow religious objections to things like blood transfusions, can we safely assume it mattered this was dealing with ladies fucking?

Weirdly narrow, pretty much blatantly misogynistic, and still kicks the door wide open. Not good.

I’d like to congratulate Hillary Clinton on winning the 2016 Presidential Election today.

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  1. [Quote]:

    Now that the court has made what Justice Ginsburg called “a decision of startling breadth” that would allow corporations to “opt out of any law … they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs”, I’d like to talk about some of my other deeply held beliefs.

  2. I don’t think ladies fucking is the problem here, John.

  3. The reasoning makes *some* sense to me. Closely held companies are a legal wrapper that represents a small set of owners, and thus I think there’s a legitimate argument about where the line is between the owners as people with rights and the corporation as a separate entity. You could argue that when you incorporate to limit your liability exposure, you should also forfeit your personal rights. The counterargument I know of is to think about the ACLU, which is a corporation, and its 4th Amendment rights of privacy. Should the ACLU not be protected against random searches of their premises? Surely that would allow police to intimidate organizations they don’t like?

    I wish the SCOTUS had ruled that corporations may opt to not cover certain birth control, if they do so must pay employees an equivalent amount so employees can buy that supplemental insurance.

  4. When you start the incorporation process, your business adviser will tell you about some of the disadvantages. Among them requirements about corporate records, shareholder and directory meetings, being careful about possible conflicts of interest between shareholders and directors, residency requirements of directors, and most important, a corporation is closely regulated. There are things it is not allowed to do. Most famous examples include wedding cake stores refusing to supply gay weddings.

    So, if you incorporate, you don’t just get extra rights, you also lose some, and get some extra obligations. The 4th amendments example therefore doesn’t make much sense to me. A lot of the regulations a corporation have to follow could already be argued to limit constitutional rights held by individuals.

    I think it should be simple – if you’re a shareholder, your relationship is mostly financial, you can name directors, and you influence policy. You do not get to transfer rights you have to the company, such as this freedom of religion example.

    Here’s a counter example to your 4th. How about the 5th? The big picture rule is that the Fifth Amendment gives you a right not to perform a particular act if that act would be (1) compelled, (2) potentially incriminating, and (3) testimonial. In this case, (2) is the interesting case. If you are asked to provide evidence that is NOT potentially incriminating to YOU, you can NOT “plead the fifth” and keep silent. In such cases, if a judge is of the opinion that you should talk, and you don’t, you can be held in contempt and jailed.

    Now suppose an employee dies, and the difference between it simply being an accident and criminal negligence is some knowledge held by a shareholder, and the shareholder is in no way connected to whatever led up to the death of the employee. In that case, that shareholder would not be able to “plead the fifth” and keep silent.

    Would that change if said shareholder is one in a “closely held company”?

  5. If I’m reading your argument/question right, you’re suggesting that a person could claim that their testimony would incriminate not themselves personally but the closely-held company they are a co-owner of, and thus refuse to testify under the 5th?

    That seems the exact inverse of what happened in this case. Here, rights of the individual are transferred to the corporation because it is seen as a proxy for the person… not vice versa.

    My impression from quick reading of a few articles is that the SCOTUS majority deemed this ruling acceptable because it doesn’t bar the employee from obtaining birth control in other ways, i.e. in their eyes the harm done is relatively small. That’s a matter of judgment, of course. I don’t know offhand how it compares to the wedding cake example you cite.


    > if you incorporate, you don’t just get extra rights, you also lose some, and get some extra obligations. The 4th amendments example therefore doesn’t make much sense to me.

    In the U.S., corporate structure is a bit more varied than the simple BV/NV choice you have in Holland. You can, for example, form an LLC, which does not count as a full corporation. There are also S-Corporations which do not file corporate income taxes, but pass all profit through to the owners. These are corporate structures halfway between operating as an individual (or group) and being a full-blown corporation. Thus, the rights/responsibilities situation isn’t necessarily as clean-cut as you’d like it to be. E.g. closely held corporations aren’t subject to auditing or SEC disclosures.

    I would definitely prefer that these limits of rights & responsibilities be defined by an open political process rather than made up as-we-go by the courts. But, this being the U.S… *sigh*

  6. That seems the exact inverse of what happened in this case. Here, rights of the individual are transferred to the corporation because it is seen as a proxy for the person… not vice versa.

    Yes, exactly. So why one direction and not the other?

    I see two possible great outcomes, neither likely: Obamacare II iz introduced, following Indian example by making the top 40 medications free for everybody. That would include contraception. Or, less unlikely, all current insurance companies offer the exempted medication for free to everybody, costs reimbursed from tax income, with a special rider to the tax bill earmarking all tax levied on Hobby Lobby exclusively for this purpose.

  7. Yes, exactly. So why one direction and not the other?

    In one direction we have individuals who have Constitutionally granted rights which are being extended to their proxies. In the other direction, we have corporations, which in themselves do not have Constitutional rights other than such as are extended from the people who have an interest in them. It makes no sense to transfer rights in the other direction.

  8. 80-90% of all companies in America today qualify for that definition of “closely held.”

    It’s another bombardment of the Right’s war on Labor with a special misogynist payload.

  9. So, if I understand you correctly, the share holder in my example would still have to testify?

    Then, why does his claim about the fifth work differently from Hotel Hobby shareholders claiming the first?

  10. IANAL nor particularly familiar with the law surrounding this, so I certainly don’t claim that the below is legally well-founded. But here’s how I would sketch it:

    The Hobby Lobby owners are personally opposed to certain specific kinds of contraception, which they don’t want to pay for. They also don’t want to pay for it when a few of them get together and form a company, because in effect it would still be their money being spent when the corporation is a thin proxy. Thus, the money does not have to be spent.

    In your example, the owner is already protected by the 5th Amendment and does not have to testify. Making the corporation disclose information does not compel that individual to testify against themselves after all. Thus, the 5th Amendment rights would not transfer to the corporation. But I think there is more specific jurisprudence here on the functioning of the corporate veil and how it applies; I just don’t know it.

    I think my ACLU example is more likely to provide the kind of trouble that you’re trying to create. I would argue that people should be able to organize corporations like the ACLU to advocate for certain causes, and that in that pursuit they should have Free Speech and privacy rights and be free from unreasonable search, etc. Otherwise such a corporation would be useless against a governmental adversary, right? However, when it comes to interaction with elections, it’s less clear to me what rights such corporations should have.

  11. A great HuffPo article on other laws that might have to fall by the wayside if we get to pick and choose which laws we abide by on the basis of religion:


  12. opposed to certain specific kinds of contraception, which they don’t want to pay for

    But that’s just the thing, isn’t it. They are not paying for contraception at all. They paying money earmarked for health care insurance premiums, a small part of which might, and might not, go towards reproductive health products. Are they opposed to Viagra as well?

    If my religion opposed war in all its forms can I get a discount on my tax? How would that be different?

  13. A great HuffPo article

    Why did they leave out slavery?

  14. Democrats love to use the threat of a conservative, out of control, Supreme Court to scare people into voting for them, and the Supreme Court loves to prove them correct.

  15. I think they left out slavery because opposition to the minimum wage is so deeply engrained already to the psyche of those who support this ruling already. Take away the minimum you can pay them and the new “floor” becomes zero…

  16. If corporations have federally protected First Amendment rights, how long before they start asking for the Second?

  17. At what point during a job interview is it appropriate to ask the owner’s religion?

    Since a business owner’s religion subjects their employees to different rules now, it seems like that’s an important question to ask during the interview process. If a candidate does not know if a company is willing to cover something which they may need at what point can it be asked without jeopardizing an offer of employment?

    And if the business changed its religion? Would it be announced with a projected date of faith change. Would workers be grandfathered in to the old faith restrictions or be compelled to adopt the new faith restrictions if they are more cost effective?


Posted on June 30th, 2014 at 17:44 by John Sinteur in category: Cartoon

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How Frozen Should Have Ended

Posted on June 30th, 2014 at 17:08 by John Sinteur in category: News

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Kid Gets Away With Wearing Hilarious Knit Beard in His Yearbook Photo

Posted on June 30th, 2014 at 11:25 by John Sinteur in category: News



This kid is too cool for school.

When David Yearsley, 11, was taking his fifth-grade school photo, he’d thought he’d jazz things up a bit – with a knitted beard hat, no less.

“I had no idea he was going to do it,” his mom, Sonja Yearsley, of West Richland, Washington, told ABC News. “It was all his idea.”

This kid is going places!

Some other parents, however, not so much:


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  1. A very threatening note – all caps and Comic Sans. A wandering apostrophe and at least one grammatical error lead one to the inevitable conclusion that this was written by a humorless pillock.

  2. I am sorry to (k)nitpick, but the beard is actually crocheted, and not knitted.

  3. Forsooth!

Before Shooting in Iraq, a Warning on Blackwater

Posted on June 30th, 2014 at 11:11 by John Sinteur in category: News


Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.

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  1. He could have left out the part of being in Iraq. They are a corporation after all.

Six Months of Legal Marijuana And Colorado Has More Cash And Less Crime

Posted on June 30th, 2014 at 11:02 by John Sinteur in category: News


Though it is far too early to make any definitive declarations about emerging social trends, there are some promising indications that things are moving in the right direction here in Colorado:

  • According to Uniform Crime Reporting data for Denver, there has been a 10.1% decrease in overall crime from this time last year and a 5.2% drop in violent crime.
  • The state has garnered over 10 million in taxes from retail sales in the first 4 months. The first 40 million of this tax revenue is earmarked for public schools and infrastructure, as well as for youth educational campaigns about substance use.
  • There are renewed efforts to study the medical efficacy of marijuana within the state, making Colorado an epicenter for marijuana research.
  • The marijuana industry has developed quickly, generating thousands of new jobs. It is estimated there are currently about 10,000 people directly involved with this industry, with 1,000 to 2,000 gaining employment in the past few months alone.
  • Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who opposed Amendment 64, recently compared Colorado’s economy since legalization to that of other states by noting, “While the rest of the country’s economy is slowly picking back up, we’re thriving here in Colorado.” For example, the demand for commercial real estate has increased drastically, with houses in the state appreciating up to 8.7 percent in the past year alone.
  • The voters of Colorado retain an overall positive view of the regulated marijuana market, with 54% of Colorado voters still supporting marijuana legalization and regulation, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.
  • By removing criminal penalties for certain marijuana-related offenses, thousands of individuals will avoid the collateral consequences associated with a criminal record. The state is estimated to potentially save $12-40 million over the span of a year simply by ending arrests for marijuana possession.

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  1. Peace dividend.

NSA soll auch Merkels neues Handy abgehört haben

Posted on June 30th, 2014 at 9:51 by John Sinteur in category: Privacy, Security


In Sachen Ausspähen scheint die NSA wieder einen Schritt voraus zu sein: Medienberichten zufolge belauscht der amerikanische Geheimdienst auch das neue Krypto-Handy der Kanzlerin.

Nach Bekanntwerden des NSA-Lauschangriffs auf die Bundesregierung sollten neue Verschlüsselungs-Smartphones des Typs BlackBerry 10 die Gespräche der Kanzlerin und ihres Kabinetts vor unbefugtem Mithören schützen. Doch der amerikanische Geheimdienst hat auch die neuen Krypto-Telefone bereits entschlüsselt, berichtet die “Bild am Sonntag”. Ein ranghoher Mitarbeiter des US-Geheimdienstes in Deutschland habe das bestätigt. “Die technischen Veränderungen beeinträchtigen unsere Arbeit nicht” sagte der Abhör-Spezialist der Bild.

The million dollar question is now how the nsa got access to the new blackberry+secusmart…

And to go above the million dollar prize… I find it hard to believe the german government is stupid enough to buy an enhanced version of an insecure and subverted platform. If I were Merkel I would wonder who gave me this advice. Why not follow the same path as the French did – have a local defense contractor do a limited edition modification of the german cryptophone.

And for us peons, it’s safe to assume our smartphone usage is unsecurable and act accordingly.

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Netflix Could Be Classified As a ‘Cybersecurity Threat’ Under New CISPA Rules

Posted on June 29th, 2014 at 21:48 by John Sinteur in category: News


The cybersecurity bill making its way through the Senate right now is so broad that it could allow ISPs to classify Netflix as a “cyber threat,” which would allow them to throttle the streaming service’s delivery to customers.

It would be a backdoor way for ISPs to undermine net neutrality, and it’s one of the reasons why the Cybersecurity Information Protection Act of 2014—modeled on the CISPA bill that the internet has rallied against twice already—is so terrible for consumers (the other is the unfettered ferry of information between companies and the federal government, but that’s another story).

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Mexico tried giving poor people cash instead of food. It worked.

Posted on June 29th, 2014 at 15:06 by John Sinteur in category: News


In the United States, most government aid takes the form of in-kind transfers: that is, the government gives you stuff, or a voucher to buy specific stuff, rather than just cash to buy whatever you like. That has led to a panoply of programs — food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, insurance subsidies — that are each focused on a particular purpose. But there’s only value in giving people, say, food rather than money if they wouldn’t have used the money to buy food anyway. And a new study suggests that when people in Mexico got cash rather than food aid, they spent it on… food.

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  1. [Quote]:

    We’re looking at this the wrong way around. The issue is not about eliminating poverty. It’s about how to motivate rich people to part with their money. After all, aid to the poor comes from taxes, and the rich pay more taxes. So any kind of welfare has to give the donors of the money something in exchange for their donation. But the poor have nothing to trade for what they receive. Right? Wrong.

    The poor have their dignity. That’s what they trade for donations. Every scheme for wealth distribution is informed by that fact. Rich people give money, and poor people abase themselves in exchange. That’s why every welfare scheme always involves humiliation.

    That’s why government housing for the poor looks different from ordinary houses: so the poor will stand out, so they can be shamed.

    That’s why poor people have to endure long lineups at the welfare office: so they can be reminded that they are less worthy of decent consideration.

    That’s why poor people have to endure invasion of their most private aspects of their lives, through visits by social workers: so they can be reminded that they don’t deserve privacy.

    And that’s why the rich don’t like giving out cash: because cash is anonymous, and enables dignity, equality, and privacy.

    As long as this implicit bargain (money in exchange for dignity) is ignored, the cruelty of the social welfare system will seem mysterious.

  2. “After all, aid to the poor comes from taxes, and the rich pay more taxes.”

    What BS! The rich pay less taxes than the lower and middle classes! If they did pay their fair share, then maybe we could really help people in serious poverty!

  3. The first Federal tax booklet I used had a tax table in the back that stated: “Over $114,000 – 70%”. The one I just looked at from 1986 had “Over $88,700 – 50%”. Taxes on the wealthy are less than that today. I don’t have the exact percentage because I use TurboTax and haven’t had a booklet in years. Taxes have gone down since that first booklet but even with a 70% tax rate on the wealthy, we still had poverty and we still had deficits. I don’t think the solution, if there even is a solution, will ever come by taking money from the rich or expecting the rich to give money to the poor. If there is a solution to poverty, it lies elsewhere.

  4. The rich and the poor have an equal right to hire lawyers and accountants to stash their wealth in tax-dodging schemes and tax havens.

    Fairness and honour are for the little people, right?

  5. [Quote]:

    Imagine being excluded from the financial services industry because of your passport.

    That happened to Carrie Walczak, an American living in Germany, in May. She received a letter from Deutsche Bank informing her that her bank account was going to be closed because she is an American.

  6. On your last point, John. A lot of banks got bullied and spanked for letting honest Americans hide their money from the IRS, so it is an obvious thing for them to do.

  7. exactly, sue, but I wasn’t talking about the banks there – in line with porpentine: if you don’t have the money for lawyers and accountants, you’re little people, and fair target no matter where you are on the planet.

  8. I see people starting to use an alternative economy.

  9. John, I’m assuming you quoted that post in #1 because you agree with it.

    That post assumes intent (to humiliate) where none is needed to explain the outcome. Housing is different because it is cheaper, and cheaper housing can house more people at the same cost. Also, it can be explained by the fact that those who start to do better will seek status by moving out of poorer neighborhoods. Waiting in lines for welfare is disappearing as welfare and food stamps are increasingly distributed electronically onto ATM cards, which also reduce the stigma of using food stamps in the supermarket. (Strange, the 0.01% are more powerful than ever, yet the stigma of being poor goes down?)

    The simple reason that aid has been in-kind or in restricted forms of cash is that it intuitively/naively makes sense to try to pay only for basic needs, and not enable people to be alcoholics, or gamble, or buy drugs. It wasn’t obvious that giving cash would produce better outcomes overall.

    [Edit to clarify phrasing of last sentence.]

  10. It wasn’t obvious that giving cash would produce better outcomes overall.

    Cash, Food or Vouchers: What Type of Assistance is Most Effective in Reducing Hunger?

    The three-year collaboration between IFPRI and WFP compared the relative costs and benefits of assistance programs that provided the same value of cash, food baskets, or supermarket vouchers in four countries: Ecuador, Niger, Uganda, and Yemen. (…) Cash assistance was always significantly more cost-effective to deliver. In fact, researchers determined that if they repeated the study, but only distributed cash, they could feed an additional 32,800 people with the same project budget.

  11. HEY. NICE SELECTIVE QUOTING. How about these parts?

    The results, which Hoddinott reiterated should not be generalized given the small scale and short duration of the six-month evaluation, may surprise some.

    Findings revealed that there is no one “right” transfer modality.

    Come on, John.

    More seriously, that link you gave is from November, 2013. This idea that giving cash is more effective than tailored aid is a recent one. I’ve only been aware of studies showing it for a few years. To support all the stuff in your first comment, about the rich repressing the poor, you have to show that food stamps and rent assistance programs enacted decades ago were shaped at the time with the knowledge that cash would work out better and would not be squandered. I believe that that data did not exist.

    It’s easy to look at outcomes and say “the rich have the power so they must’ve intentionally made it so”, but you know that that’s a fallacy.

  12. I believe that that data did not exist.

    Neither do I.

    I’ve only been aware of studies showing it for a few years

    Exactly. And I wonder why. Is this one of the old “that would make my department smaller so we will not try it” policies? Or perhaps simply “we cannot give these people cash! They’d just buy a drink!” – similar to what you said earlier.

    My uptake from all this is that we should at least stop stop with the “they would buy alcohol” mindset, recognize that a significant number of people would not, and tailor whatever we come up with to that. One-size-fits-all doesn’t work.

  13. Exactly. And I wonder why.

    Sorry John, I’m pushing you on this, because I think the stuff you posted in #1 is willful hogwash and I think you just agreed that you have no evidence to support it but you’re willing to throw some evidence-free conspiracy theory at it. Seems like you’re veering towards the people saying that Gates is just giving out vaccines because he knows vaccines cause health problems or because he wants the poor people to be alive and starving.

    I do think the studies on cash grants are super interesting and I hope they affect policy making. (Just saw this here.)

    But for the time being, for my own personal choices I’m going to continue to not give money to guys in the street and instead give it to shelters and food banks and education-for-the-disadvantaged organizations.

  14. But for the time being, for my own personal choices

    Ah, but that’s a whole different question. You won’t find me giving anything to a tjoller either. And I do pick and choose who I donate to in a similar way – small, local organizations (even if they are two continents away from me) with clear simple goals attainable in the short term.

  15. OK, so that choice is OK for you and me to make personally, but when government policy is set along the same lines, it becomes the rich taking away the dignity of the poor? How is that?

  16. but when government policy is set along the same lines

    It is? From the original article:

    During the program’s rollout in 2003, the government did an experiment in 200 villages where households eligible for the program randomly received “either the in-kind food transfer, an unrestricted cash transfer, or no transfer.”

    So no policy there, just testing, with some interesting results. I quoted one other article that you pointed out did support not just one position, you also quoted one that was interesting on cash grants but certainly not about policy.

    And I think I mentioned doubts about the reasons for current policy. I don’t think I ever advocated that government policy follows my personal choices in the matter. Although I would indeed ridicule any government that would follow my personal choices, if only for the simple reason that it doesn’t scale. The dignity bit was an example of the many, many other things that play a role in setting all these policies. If I can get people to critically think about this stuff, I’ve reached my goal. And if, at the end of it all, it turns out I was wrong on every single point, it wouldn’t bother me a bit. It wouldn’t be the first time I learned a thing or two from opening my mouth.

  17. So wait, what are you saying now about the stuff in #1? Do you believe it? Why did you post it exactly?

  18. Because there’s more to poverty than lack of money. Just like there’s more to hunger than lack of food. Never forget to look at other possible reasons.

Failed challenger alleges U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas is dead

Posted on June 29th, 2014 at 13:06 by John Sinteur in category: batshitinsane


A candidate who was soundly defeated in Tuesday’s Republican primary by U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas says he will contest the election because the incumbent congressman is dead and an imposter is filling his shoes.

Timothy Ray Murray garnered 5.2 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s three-candidate Republican primary, which Lucas won outright with 82.8 percent.

On Wednesday, Murray, who listed his residence as Moore on his declaration of candidacy, announced he would contest the election.

In a press release posted on his campaign website, he alleges “it is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive and has been displayed (sic) by a look alike. Rep. Lucas was depicted as being executed along with others on a white stage in southern Ukraine on or about Jan. 11, 2011.”

Lucas could not immediately be reached for comment.

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  1. Clearly ani indirect way to get the undead vote out.

Vatican’s ex-ambassador to Dominican Republic defrocked

Posted on June 29th, 2014 at 11:17 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News


The Vatican has said it will restrict the movements of its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic after the senior papal representative, who was accused of sex abuse, was found guilty by a church court and defrocked.

In a statement on Friday the Vatican said Józef Wesołowski, who was recalled to Rome by Pope Francis last August amid allegations that he had paid for sex with minors, had in recent days been given a first-grade conviction in a canonical trial and sentenced to laicisation – a very rare step for such a senior official.

The Polish ex-nuncio, or ambassador, now has two months to appeal against the verdict of the Congregation of the Faith, said the statement. Criminal proceedings by judicial authorities in the Vatican City state would go ahead after the conviction was made definitive, it added.

And he’ll be convicted to spend time in a cozy Vatican City “restricted movement” instead of a Dominican cell. And they’re saying this with a straight face:

A month after his return, the Vatican said it would cooperate with Dominican authorities, and denied accusations that it was trying to shield him from investigations in the Caribbean , saying it was “in no way an attempt to help him avoid responsibility for whatever is eventually ascertained”


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  1. The ultimate terrorist, molesting small children. Is the Vatican a terrorist state?

Happy ramendan!

Posted on June 29th, 2014 at 11:05 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News

Cheese be upon you after sundown!

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Facebook tinkered with users’ feeds for a massive psychology experiment

Posted on June 28th, 2014 at 23:07 by John Sinteur in category: News


Scientists at Facebook have published a paper showing that they manipulated the content seen by more than 600,000 users in an attempt to determine whether this would affect their emotional state. The paper, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” was published in The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. It shows how Facebook data scientists tweaked the algorithm that determines which posts appear on users’ news feeds—specifically, researchers skewed the number of positive or negative terms seen by randomly selected users. Facebook then analyzed the future postings of those users over the course of a week to see if people responded with increased positivity or negativity of their own, thus answering the question of whether emotional states can be transmitted across a social network. Result: They can! Which is great news for Facebook data scientists hoping to prove a point about modern psychology. It’s less great for the people having their emotions secretly manipulated.

In order to sign up for Facebook, users must click a box saying they agree to the Facebook Data Use Policy, giving the company the right to access and use the information posted on the site. The policy lists a variety of potential uses for your data, most of them related to advertising, but there’s also a bit about “internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.”

So by not reading 100 pages of legal crap about terms and conditions you become a valid research subject?

And this is considered ethical?

Did I somehow miss the part where Freud took money and power for offering his services to the purveyors of war and cigarettes?

If only the people working on the Stanford prison experiment had known…

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  1. Facebook’s sheep..eeerh users, would be perfect for a modern day version of War of the Worlds (..hat tipped to Orson Welles 1938)

  2. I’m sure Facebook will offer a full refund of all service fees which those people paid during that time.

  3. It was free so it was OK? I am sure Joseph Mengele had great things to say about the free board and lodging his subjects enjoyed.

Massachusetts SWAT teams claim they’re private corporations, immune from open records laws

Posted on June 28th, 2014 at 22:57 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ


As part of the American Civil Liberties Union’s recent report on police militarization, the Massachusetts chapter of the organization sent open records requests to SWAT teams across that state. It received an interesting response.

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Posted on June 28th, 2014 at 20:07 by John Sinteur in category: Caturday


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Posted on June 27th, 2014 at 21:05 by John Sinteur in category: News


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New ACLU report takes a snapshot of police militarization in the United States

Posted on June 27th, 2014 at 12:12 by John Sinteur in category: News


In other words, where violent, volatile SWAT tactics were once used only in limited situations where someone was in the process of or about to commit a violent crime — where the police were using violence only to defuse an already violent situation — SWAT teams today are overwhelmingly used to investigate people who are still only suspected of committing nonviolent consensual crimes. And because these raids often involve forced entry into homes, often at night, they’re actually creating violence and confrontation where there was none before.

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The Five Responds to Russell Brand’s Anti-Fox News Rant

Posted on June 27th, 2014 at 12:07 by Paul Jay in category: News

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  1. Blimey! The evil Barbie doll vs. the comedian.

Supreme Court strikes down protest buffer zones around abortion clinics

Posted on June 27th, 2014 at 8:41 by John Sinteur in category: News


The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously rejected a Massachusetts law that created 35-foot buffer zones around entrances to abortion clinics.

The law was prompted by a history of violence, including 1994 shootings at two facilities.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the state claimed “undeniably significant interests in maintaining public safety on streets and sidewalks, as well as in preserving access to adjacent health care facilities.”

But it took an “extreme step” in shutting portions of public sidewalks to protesters exercising their free speech rights, he wrote in a decision that suggested the state could pursue the same goals in other ways.


“The Attorney General alluded to the fact that the Supreme Court has its own buffer zone,” said Walz. “It was silent today about the constitutionality of its own buffer zone. It side-stepped the issue of whether or not its own buffer zone is constitutional, but the rationale expressed in the decision today certainly calls into question the constitutionality of the [court’s] buffer zone, so it will be interesting to see going forward how they address the applicability of today’s decision to what they get the benefit of each and every day that the women in our healthcare centers will no longer get the benefit of.”

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  1. So their won’t be a buffer zone at the GOP convention?

  2. Sorry for the Freudian slip. I’m sure their buffer zone will be there.

  3. I think we ought to start protesting outside Crisis Pregnancy Centers and Catholic hospitals.

  4. @Mudak: They’d like that. It would make true their lies that liberals and progressives are trying to force all pregnant women to have abortions.

  5. That wouldn’t be the message. Places that don’t offer a full scope of options for an unwanted pregnancy think of women as little more than sperm receptacles and incubators. How about someone who thinks of women as, you know, human beings capable of thinking for themselves and making reasonable decisions without being judged for it?

Poorly anonymized logs reveal NYC cab drivers’ detailed whereabouts

Posted on June 27th, 2014 at 0:03 by John Sinteur in category: Privacy, Security


In the latest gaffe to demonstrate the privacy perils of anonymized data, New York City officials have inadvertently revealed the detailed comings and goings of individual taxi drivers over more than 173 million trips.

City officials released the data in response to a public records request and specifically obscured the drivers’ hack license numbers and medallion numbers. Rather than including those numbers in plaintext, the 20 gigabyte file contained one-way cryptographic hashes using the MD5 algorithm. Instead of a record showing medallion number 9Y99 or hack number 5296319, for example, those numbers were converted to 71b9c3f3ee5efb81ca05e9b90c91c88f and 98c2b1aeb8d40ff826c6f1580a600853, respectively. Because they’re one-way hashes, they can’t be mathematically converted back into their original values. Presumably, officials used the hashes to preserve the privacy of individual drivers since the records provide a detailed view of their locations and work performance over an extended period of time.

It turns out there’s a significant flaw in the approach. Because both the medallion and hack numbers are structured in predictable patterns, it was trivial to run all possible iterations through the same MD5 algorithm and then compare the output to the data contained in the 20GB file. Software developer Vijay Pandurangan did just that, and in less than two hours he had completely de-anonymized all 173 million entries.

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He got served!

Posted on June 26th, 2014 at 11:20 by John Sinteur in category: Funny!


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Posted on June 26th, 2014 at 8:45 by John Sinteur in category: Funny!


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US to extend privacy protection rights to EU citizens

Posted on June 26th, 2014 at 7:59 by John Sinteur in category: Privacy, Security


The Obama administration has caved in to pressure from the European Union in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations on surveillance by promising to pass legislation granting European citizens many of the privacy protection rights enjoyed by US citizens.

The proposed law would apply to data on European citizens being transferred to the US for what Washington says is law enforcement purposes.

So they are going to lie to us in the exact same way they lie to their own citizens. Not much of an improvement.

Holder said: “The Obama administration is committed to seeking legislation that would ensure that … EU citizens would have the same right to seek judicial redress for intentional or wilful disclosures of protected information and for refusal to grant access or to rectify any errors in that information, as would a US citizen under the Privacy Act.

So, in practice, none at all.

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  1. On this matter the Obama administration is totally untrustworthy. The software companies are aware that this is damaging to them – at least they say so publicly.
    This is one good reason to avoid the products of major American software giants, the knowledge that personal communications on mobile phones or on Facebook and other social media sites are routinely monitored by GCHQ, NSA and presumably others – they can’t be alone surely – is profoundly disquieting.

    On the plus side this business is a great money spinner for the encryption industry.

  2. The real problem here is the unending surveillance is a huge waste of money, my tax money.

  3. @chas: Absolutely! However, I don’t see that any of today’s political leaders could bring themselves to slacken off the surveillance. There is no major political cost to keeping the police state but it could be difficult for the person that decides to cancel the program if there was another major atrocity (which will happens eventually, anyway).

    There are a lot of jobs in the police state too. Think of it as a government make-work program. Instead of shovels, they get to wear flak jackets and carry guns

Supreme Court Says Phones Can’t Be Searched Without a Warrant

Posted on June 25th, 2014 at 22:52 by John Sinteur in category: Privacy


In a major statement on privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest.

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  1. …and there’s a vending machine selling those just around the corner…

  2. …and a lower federal court ruled that the secret No-Fly list is unconstitutional.

  3. Well, even a broken clock is correct twice a day…

Kelly on excommunication from Mormon church: ‘I’ve done nothing wrong’

Posted on June 25th, 2014 at 19:56 by John Sinteur in category: batshitinsane, Pastafarian News

Next time there’s a Mormon at your door, just quote these ironic parts from their letter to Kate Kelly:


In his letter Monday to Kelly, Harrison said it had been his greatest desire to persuade Kelly to “desist from the course on which you have embarked” to keep her in the faith and to protect the “integrity of the church and its doctrine.”

“The difficulty, Sister Kelly, is not that you say you have questions or even that you believe that women should receive the priesthood. The problem is that you have persisted in an aggressive effort to persuade other church members to your point of view and that your course of action has threatened to erode the faith of others,” Harrison wrote. “You are entitled to your views, but you are not entitled to promote them and proselyte others to them while remaining in full fellowship in the church.”

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Young Mujahid sings Hoor al-Ayn nasheed with his brothers, preparing to meet her

Posted on June 25th, 2014 at 19:47 by John Sinteur in category: batshitinsane, Mess O'Potamia, Pastafarian News

[Who Are Al-Hoor Al-Ayn ?]:

Assalam Alaikum. The Imam Of The Sunnah, Ibn Al-Qayyim (may Allah swt have mercy on him and grant him the highest of Jannah) said in his Haadi al-Arwaah describing Jannah – about the Hoor :

“And if you ask about their brides and wives, then they are young and full-breasted and have had the liquid of youth flow through their limbs; the Sun runs along the beauty of her face if she shows it, light shines from between her teeth if she smiles; if you meet her love, then say whatever you want regarding the joining of two lights; he sees his face in the roundness of her cheek as if he is looking into a polished mirror, and he sees the brightness from behind her muscles and bones; if she were to be unleashed upon the World, she would fill what is between the Heavens and the Earth with a beautiful wind, and the mouths of the creation would glorifiy, praise, and exclaim greatness, and everything between the East and the West would be adorned for her, and every eye would be shut from everthing but her, and the light of the Sun would be outshone just as the light of the Sun outshines the light of the stars, and everyone on the face of the Earth would believe in the Ever-Living, the One who Sustains and Protects all the exists.”

“And the covering on her head is better than the World and all that is in it, and she does not increase with age except in beauty; free from an umbilical cord, childbirth and menses, and pure of mucous, saliva, urine and other filthy things; her youth never fades, her clothing is never worn out, no garment can be created that matches her beauty, and no one who is with her can ever become bored; her attention is restricted to her husband, so she desires none but him, just as his attention is restricted to her so she is the sole object of his desire, and he is with her in utmost safety and security, as none has touched her before of either humans or Jinn.”

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  1. What’s the big deal? You can buy these dolls online if you’re too embarrassed to shop for them personally.


Posted on June 25th, 2014 at 14:29 by John Sinteur in category: News

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 14.28.35

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  1. Ruff.

  2. Don’t know much about futbol. What would be the penalty for knocking his teeth down his throat?

  3. Wasn’t there a certain NFL team who got busted for offering their players a bounty for injuring the other team’s players?

    New Orleans Saints if I’m not mistaken.

  4. It was my team, the New Orleans Saints, porpentine. There was and is still a large dispute in that case over the word “bounty”. It was closer to an office pool. Players were rewarded for big plays. No one got hurt and the Saints are one of the least penalized teams in the NFL. It was against the rules, though, and some punishment was warranted. The NFL commissioner threw the book at them. This biting twit has been caught three times now. Is anyone ever going to do anything about it?

  5. I would be very surprised (and very disappointed) if he played another game in this tournament, and I believe they can ban him for 2 years because of this.

  6. Interesting that now the Uruguayan captain and officials are in a similar state of denial. They also have a ‘large dispute’ with what appears to be clear fact – the film of the incident in this case is quite damning. They are blaming a conspiracy of Italians, Brazilians and the English media.

    If FIFA ( a shower of shits if ever there was one) eventually find him guilty, I too hope he will be banned for a very long time. More importantly, I hope this brilliant player gets the psychiatric help he so obviously needs.

  7. @porpentine: agree about FIFA. Perhaps the biter isn’t mad. Perhaps he was bribed to do it by a betting cartel.

GoPro: Polar Bears – The Quest for Sea Ice

Posted on June 25th, 2014 at 13:21 by Paul Jay in category: News

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  1. Fabulous, fabulous footage!

    But don’t go out and try this, kids – I had friends who were diving in Hudson’s Bay and their boat was chased for several miles by a large adult male. (You need a local guy with a rifle to come with you, just in case).

    I’m sorry to say that these smart, adaptable bears are going to have to find new habitats as the sea ice retreats. And the seals on the shore are a lot less easy to creep up on…

Federal judge rules U.S. no-fly list violates Constitution

Posted on June 25th, 2014 at 12:10 by John Sinteur in category: News


The U.S. government’s no-fly list banning people accused of links to terrorism from commercial flights violates their constitutional rights because it gives them no meaningful way to contest that decision, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Anna Brown, ruling on a lawsuit filed in federal court in Oregon by 13 Muslim Americans who were branded with the no-fly status, ordered the government to come up with new procedures that allow people on the no-fly list to challenge that designation.

“The court concludes international travel is not a mere convenience or luxury in this modern world. Indeed, for many international travel is a necessary aspect of liberties sacred to members of a free society,” Brown wrote in her 65-page ruling.

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  1. So there is some common sense around?

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