Archive for May 2011

Occam’s Razor Unnecessary To Cut Short Weiner

To be honest I haven’t followed this story much. I like computers and use them pretty much around the clock during the week, so when the weekend comes I tend to avoid them and “disconnect” from the online world once the whistle blows on Friday.

This story blew up over the weekend, so that when I returned this morning I was able to learn about it without having to wade through speculation and evidence that turned out later to be false that usually accompany news-breaking stories.

I have dedicated this blog to Occam’s Razor which stipulates that having two theories of equal evidence, the simpler one is most likely true. The key component of Occam’s Razor to function is “equal evidence”. The theory works best when applied in Science to judge the rare cases when two theories explain the same evidence. Usually evidence favors one theory over another but there are times when two explanations work – and those are the times when Occam’s Razor shines like the sharp, gleaming tool it is.

Doug Ross has laid out the chronology, and the evidence against Rep. Weiner’s denials is contained in the large body of tweets that Ross chronicles have been sent over the past 10 weeks.

There are 2 competing theories that explain the evidence: The first is that as Congressman Weiner has asserted, his email, yFrog, Facebook and Twitter accounts were hacked, and that he didn’t know the young woman who received the photograph, Gennette Nicole Cordova. Ms. Cordova has also publicly asserted that she doesn’t personally know the Congressman either.

The second theory is that Weiner and Ms. Cordova are lying, and that the photograph was intentionally sent but mistakenly made public instead of private.

The evidence? The PJ Tatler lays it out in detail, but here are the salient points:
A string of tweets dating back to 4/9/2011. There is an earlier tweet from porn star Ginger Lee who is also a fan of the Congressman’s. “You know it’s a good day when you wake up to a DM from @RepWeiner. (I’m a fangirl, y’all, he’s my trifecta of win.)” Cordova’s first tweet that mentions the congressman came on 4/9/2011: “”I wonder what my boyfriend @RepWeiner is up to right now”.

In Ross’s timeline there are several other tweets from supposedly young women/school age girls that refer to Congressman Weiner.

To hack multiple accounts is extremely difficult, and is usually done by sophisticated hackers – often in the employ of the Chinese government or Russian mafia – for economic gain. To mistakenly send a photo publicly instead of privately requires a single key change:

@RepWeiner @GennetteNicole http://yfrog.com/h25m3luj – public
@RepWeiner d GennetteNicole http://yfrog.com/h25m3luj – private – known as a “direct message (DM)” in Twitter.

If the evidence supporting both theories was equal, Occam’s Razor would favor the simpler explanation, that Congressman Weiner fat-fingered the Twitter command. But the evidence is NOT equal; it is overwhelmingly against Weiner’s explanation. In fact the evidence points to a horny 46 year old Congressman with a penchant for very young women.

It’s not uncommon – especially in New York given that another congressman, albeit a Republican, resigned over a lewd pic sent to someone other than his wife. There must be something in the water up there considering that former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer had a thing about a particular young girl that was not his wife too. As a middle aged happily married man, I can loosely relate to these men – before I laugh at them and call them a pack of cradle-robbing weasels.

The Right is (rightfully in my view) upset over the mainstream media’s ignoring of the story, especially the way it responded to Congressman Lee’s affair. Lee was out in 48 hours; Weiner is still kicking – at least for now. My view though is that he’s dead-(congress)man-walking, and fully expect a resignation by the end of the week. I only wonder how far he will go? I don’t believe he’s perjured himself yet, but his next moves are critical – especially if the FBI gets involved as it must to pursue the hacker who tampered with a congressman’s email accounts in the same way that it pursued the hacking of Sarah Palin’s email accounts. It would be a shame if the Congressman continues the denials and drags Ms. Cordova through the mud with him, but it is probably already too late. As the old cliche goes, it’s not the crime but the coverup that nails you – words of wisdom that came out of the original “Gate” part of “Weinergate”.

The Council Has Spoken: May 27, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Bookworm Room–-Contemporary coverage of the Six Day War — clear-sighted and moral

Noncouncil: Maggie’s Notebook- Israel’s Pre-1967 War Borders: What They Mean – The Reality

Full voting here.

Mother Nature Deserves a Gut Punch

After killing thousands in the quake and tsunami that hit Japan, and racking up a death toll approaching a thousand here in the States with tornadoes and a flooding Mississippi, I think it’s time we struck back at Mother Nature. If I could I’d like nothing more than to open up the nastiest strip mine this planet has ever seen, fill it with the rarest timber from the Amazonian rainforest, then douse it with oil produced from the dirtiest tar sands in Alberta and set it on fire by rubbing the Lorax’s kiln-dried bones together. Later we could douse the embers with radioactive water from the Fukushima power plant.

Mother Nature has been kicking our ass this year. I think it’s time we punched back.

Netanyahu Speaks to Congress

I’ve been a big fan of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since Desert Storm in 1991. The man is extremely media savvy and seems completely comfortable in front of a camera or as today, making a speech in front of Congress. He’s relaxed, witty and unflappable – as proven when he used the squawking of a protestor to emphasize the point that only in free nations such as Israel and the United States can such a person be heard without being silenced forever. His speech was relatively short – about half an hour – and hit all the main points. The speech was very well received by both sides in Congress, and it is clear that Netanyahu’s visit to Washington is much warmer this year than last.

Full text of speech here
. One of my favorite lines: “This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.”

Indeed.

Inexcusable

The fact that the Justice Department has failed to prosecute a single case against anyone involved with tanking the American economy over the past 3 years has finally caught Bloomberg’s attention.

Personally I think it’s because a) The Justice Department won’t do it because potential Obama administration officials were involved in the debacle. b) The Justice Department is politicized. c) The Attorney General is a moron.

We Are Not as Smart as We Think We Are

A few weeks ago I arrived in the office early one morning, logged into my corporate email and found this, titled “Vacation Problems” waiting for me:

I’m sorry this is coming so sudden,John and I are in some terrible situation right now and need your urgent assistance.Some days ago,we came down to Scotland,UK on a short Easter vacation,unfortunately we got mugged by some hoodlums.All our cash,credit cards and phones were taken at gunpoint!It’s such a traumatic experience . right now we’re stranded and need help getting back home. We’ve been to the embassy and the Police here but they’re not being helpful in any way.the good thing is we still have our passports . We just don’t have enough money to get back home.Please i need your help here ! promise to refund you right as soon as we’re back home in a couple of days.
waiting to hear from you.

It was sent by one of my colleagues that I work closely with, one who travels frequently and is married to a man named John. My first thought was “Why didn’t she contact me on my personal account on a weekend?” My next thought was “What are hoodlums in Scotland doing with guns?” And since when were the American embassies not helpful about such matters? This was exactly the kind of thing experience abroad has taught me that embassies and consulates are good at. I went into a panic, but before I did something stupid like alerted my boss, I received a phone call from my colleague. I answered the phone “You’re back!” relieved that I wouldn’t have to bear the guilt for turning her down at her time of need.

She had never left town, let alone the country. Her Yahoo! account, Facebook and Gmail accounts had all been compromised by a scammer who had contacted everyone in her “Sent” box. The con was sophisticated enough to include her husband’s name and the fact that she frequently traveled abroad. She had only been alerted to the scam by her sister who became suspicious after receiving poorly written instructions on how to wire funds via Western Union.

I fell for it. Me – Mr. Paranoid-Trust-No-One who laughed at people that got ripped off by Nigerian 419 scams. I fell for a con that when you read the email carefully has warning bells throughout it but wouldn’t be heard on a Monday morning as you are still sipping your first cup of coffee.

I don’t laugh at people who are conned anymore. The incident reminded me of a quote I ran across long ago from a master con artist who said his easiest marks were the well educated and those who considered themselves worldly and sophisticated. They made his job easier by duping themselves into believing they couldn’t be conned.

That incident came to mind today when a commenter posted this on a friend’s Facebook wall that discussed the fallout to believers who expected the world to end. “I was reading this and I noticed that I had my jaw clenched the whole time. How can people be such big suckers?”

It’s easy to poke fun at those who fell for Harold Camping’s Family Radio network message that the Rapture would begin on May 21, 2011. People have been predicting the end of Time probably since its beginning, and history is littered with Doomsday prophecies – none of which have come true. Why would this prophecy be any different?

I personally would like to see Mr. Camping’s ministry financially ruined, but I can’t help but feel a modicum of pity for his followers that tempers the very human desire to laugh at them. In order for a con to be successful three elements are needed together. First, the message must resonate. It must appeal to an unmet need or desire inside the intended victim. Second, the messenger must be credible. Mr. Camping doesn’t strike me personally as being all that credible, especially considering he has predicted the End of Times in the past. Finally, the timing of the message must be perfect.

Resonance is a matter of timing. For example, when my son was an infant, nearly every story involving the untimely death of a baby nearly brought me to my knees. Timing is why I still, after nearly 15 years, have not forgotten the Grossberg/Peterson infanticide case (I still harbor passionate feelings about it.) They murdered their baby mere weeks after my own child was born. Now such tragedies don’t move me as much as learning about the deaths of teens in car accidents. Simply reading or hearing about such an accident freezes my blood seemingly through to my bones because I now have a son who is approaching legal driving age.

Harold Camping’s Family Radio network message of the Rapture failed with me on all three counts. I am not a Christian nor someone who takes the Bible literally. Second, I trust “holy men” about as much as I trust malpractice attorneys, pit bulls that have never hurt anyone before, or scorpions promising to carry frogs across rivers. Finally, the timing is completely off. There have been times in the past when religious and pseudo-religious messages did catch my interest but this isn’t one of those times.

Now consider the email scam. As a frequent traveler abroad I have been in sticky situations and benefited from the kindness of strangers. I have worked closely with my colleague and trust her more than a complete stranger (but not enough to send thousands of dollars to – sorry Mary!) Finally, because I have been helped so often in the past I do tend to pay more attention to the needs of people traveling.

So I got duped – or almost did (in my own defense the scam didn’t progress very far, nor was sending money to “rescue” my colleague ever an option.) My innate skepticism cultivated by the Jesuits, intense personal study and years of experience failed to protect me from an online scammer with poor punctuation skills.

My failure even reminds me of the answers to larger questions such as “How could the Germans have succumbed to Hitler?” and “How can the Palestinians give in to the ideology of Death promoted by Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and other jihadists?” It’s almost like gullibility is a human trait, that we are hard-wired for idiocy given the right message, messenger and timing.

Clearly we are not as smart as we think we are (or at least, I’m not). Just something to remember as we watch the Camping’s followers pick up the pieces of their lives after their lord failed to come when they expected.

Trending Towards Cain

A week after Huckabee bowed out, Mitch Daniels does the same. That leaves Romney at the top of the molehill – for now. But yesterday Herman Cain announced and honestly, it would be a blast to see Cain debate Obama.

At this point I’m trending towards Cain, and I’m not alone. But it’s very early, and I’m a big fan of the fat guy in New Jersey. Palin too.

We’ll see what transpires.

The Council Has Spoken: May 20, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s winners.
Council: The Colossus of Rhodey–-Why We Don’t Revere Our Intellectuals
Noncouncil: Sultan Knish- Allahu Akbar
Full voting here.

Rain: How Too Much of a Good Thing Can Be Bad

Farmers complain a lot. Having grown up in the midwestern suburbs with Roundup and Lorsban commercials on the local TV channels I was close enough to hear their grumblings but far enough away not to care. As you might expect living on a farm has changed that.

At first the rains were welcome. The area I live in had been under a significant drought until the year I moved in, and of the two too much rain is preferred over too little when you can’t turn on the hose and water 100 acres of corn. In early spring much of the water soaked the earth, rebuilding its moisture content and recharging the ground water that our wells tap.

But it has been raining almost every day now for a week. The ground is saturated. Corn and tobacco seedlings are washing out of their furrows. The land is so muddy that it’s hard to move across it in a tractor without tearing it up. It’s so wet that I can’t even sow a few rows of Silver Queen corn for our dinner table. Evidently I’m not the only one unable to plant. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that farmers are holding back planting because of the rains, boosting the prices of wheat, corn and soybeans.

Osama’s Last Digs Before His Big Splash (into the Indian Ocean)

So Osama had 3 wives who never left his million dollar mansion, yet the place looked like a goat shed. Three wives with NOTHING TO DO and not one could tidy up? Heck you put me under house arrest for 5 years and even I’ll have the place spotless.

Now it turns out Osama had a porn stash - so it appears that his wives didn’t do THAT either. I’m not sure what those women did for five years; you’d think that sheer boredom would have driven them to keep the place clean and their husband’s every desire satiated. Unless of course his “every desire” was for something else. Maybe the CIA should interrogate the goats at the compound…

Who Gives a Huck? I Sure Don’t…

The current headline of Drudge Report is “Huckariddle: Will he or won’t he?” and a link to a WaPo blog post about Huckabee’s “very important announcement.”

I am absolutely no fan of former governor Huckabee, coming from the Libertarian wing of the Republican Party. Here is my take on Huckabee from 2 years ago.

The problem for Huckabee is that these aren’t flukes. Using a software analogy, they aren’t bugs: they are features of the system. A devout Southern Baptist would have to believe that redemption of even the most heinous criminal was possible, and it would require such a believer to divorce his religious beliefs from his secular responsibilities. Huckabee has clearly shown that it was impossible for him to compartmentalize these two spheres in his life.

Worse, by resorting to tarring institutions instead of accepting responsibility Huckabee is acting like the liberals he usually criticizes. Finally, by stating “If I could have known nine years ago this guy was capable of something of this magnitude, obviously I would never have granted a commutation” Huckabee shows poor, liberal-like judgment. His actions would be expected from a bleeding heart, not from a member of Ronald Reagan’s own party.

Huckabee is one of the usual suspects that the media trots out as a presidential contender, but the guy is a loser. In fact so many of the “GOP hopefuls” are right now. Gingrich has personal problems – especially the fact that almost nobody likes him. Ron Paul makes the mistake that most libertarian politicians make: they open their mouths. Paul’s isolationism doesn’t work and hasn’t since the advent of cheap international travel, and his pro-jihadist stances personally appalls a Jew lover like me.

Who else is out there… The Donald has already flamed out. I don’t think I’ve seen a story about him in the news since Bin Laden became lead-tainted chicken of the sea. I get the impression that Trump shrinks or grows depending on the amount of press coverage. Right now he must have no trouble squeezing into Gary Coleman’s hand-me-downs. The people of Pennsylvania got fed up with Rick Santorum and showed him the door; I don’t see why they’d vote for him for president. Besides, we’ve already made one prima donna senator the President, we need to stop before it becomes a habit.

That leaves former governor Mitt Romney. Romney was a governor, which fits the belief that governors make successful presidents. Romney is taking hits for the health care reforms he instituted in Massachusetts as governor; better to get through it now rather than a year from now. Earl Ofari Hutchinson believes that Romney has the best chances to beat Obama, especially with a social conservative like Huckabee as his VP.

My biggest problem with Romney? His first name, but after 2 1/2 years of Barack I can let “Mitt” go. Besides I get emails all the time from Reince Priebus – a name that sounds like it came out of Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica “Captain Picard, may I introduce you to the ambassador to the Federation Reince Priebus.” – so it shouldn’t be tough to get over.

UPDATE:
So The Donald drops out. And the Huckster as well. I can’t say that I miss either of them. As for Newt Gingrich…. (What is it about Republicans and weird names? Is his brother named Salamander?) Newt committed seppuku on national TV by criticizing Paul Ryan, a Republican that people like more than him. Now his best hope is to run as a Democrat.

In the comments Richard asks my opinion about Herman Cain. I like him. He’s a straight talker and I like his candid responses to hypothetical questions in the first debate. But his claim to fame is being a businessman, and I’m not sure the White House is the place for one. Managing a company is different than a democracy. In a company, a boss can issue an order and expect it to be followed. If it’s not, he can fire whomever he wants. The President’s firing abilities are actually quite limited. Beyond his appointees there really isn’t anyone s/he can send packing. Much of the President’s job is arm-twisting and horse-trading, wheeling and dealing with Congress to get his (or her) agenda through the democratic process. In practice that means the President recognizing that others have power and control that s/he doesn’t have. This is the basis of the belief that governors make better presidents.

I also failed to mention Mitch Daniels. Honestly I don’t know much about him even though I’m somewhat of a political junky. There is a personal issue about his wife leaving him and then returning, but that doesn’t seem like a big deal – how can that be used in an attack ad against him? I don’t know much about his record in Indiana, but I’m sure as time goes by I’ll learn more.

The Council Has Spoken: May 13, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s winners.
Council: The Razor –-The Abandoned
Noncouncil: American Digest- September 10, 2001: “Make no mistake, it’s not revenge he’s after. It’s a reckonin’.”
Full voting here.

Taliban Kills Muslims So We Don’t Have To

So to exact revenge for our turning their hero Osama Bin Laden into crab bait, the Taliban attacked a paramilitary training center in northwest Pakistan and killed at least 80 Muslims. I don’t recall reading that strategy in Mao’s On Guerrilla Warfare or Sun Tsu’s Art of War: To best fight your enemy, pee in the water you swim in and kill yourselves and your supporters. That’s the problem when you only read one book in your life and it’s not one on military tactics.

 

Goldman Sachs: Above the Law Because It Bought the Law

How this entity still exists should be a mystery to me. Why its partners aren’t rotting in jail and their minions scattered through the economy working menial jobs should be as well. Unfortunately I know corruption when I see, as does Matt Taibbi. In Rolling Stone – a rare one without Obama on the cover of it – Taibbi lays out in scathing detail how Goldman Sachs has trashed the economy assisted by politicians on both sides of the political divide.

I don’t usually fall for conspiracy theories but when I do I inevitably find Goldman Sachs at the root of them.

The Abandoned

One night last June I was driving into town to pick up the Kid. It was dark, with the heavy black storm clouds that characterize Summer here in the South blocking starlight and keeping the full moon from doing anything more than glow dully in the eastern sky. As I drove across the concrete bridge that crosses a not inconsequential river, something caught my headlight nestled against the wall midway across the span. It could have been a raccoon but it wasn’t. I stopped the car on the bridge and got out.

I called out soothingly as I walked towards the shadow huddled against the concrete. It came to my feet. I wasn’t exactly sure what breed it was because I couldn’t see much, but it was a dog and judging by the wagging shadow of a tail I knew that it was happy to see me. I reached underneath it to pick it up, and felt bulges of flesh that shouldn’t have been there. A twinge of panic raced down my spine. Had it been hit already? As I walked back to the car I felt the coat and didn’t feel the sickening stickiness of blood. As I felt her belly and the large orange-sized irregularly shaped lumps on it I knew what it was.

I had grown up around dogs – mostly poodles with the occasional large breed like a collie or setter. For some reason my parents never got the dogs spayed or neutered even though they never bred them. Most lived long, but when they died breast cancer often took the unspayed females.  I had been a little boy when I had last felt the outward manifestation of breast cancer in a dog, but the knowledge was there. By the time I got her in the car and held her up to the overhead light I had diagnosed her.

How had she ended up in the middle of that bridge? The bridge is a favorite spot for dumping animals, and her owner didn’t have the guts to take her to a vet or even to  put her down “Ol Yeller” style. I suppose they thought they were doing her a favor, but one didn’t need to be psychic to foresee her likely being hit by a car, starving to death or set upon by coyotes.

We have named her Brigette, of course. She is an old beagle with broken teeth and a belly full of  cancer. She has suffered such cruelty at the hands of one human being that I don’t quite understand why she wants the company of another, but she does. On walks she is at my feet and does her best to keep up with my pack of rescued misfits. She doesn’t whine. When I come home she stands on the deck to greet me. I swear the dog smiles.

I had the tumors removed soon after I found her, but another is back. She’s starting to slide downhill; there is urine in her blood and she’s had some small seizures, but her last year has been a warm one. I give her food and medical care, she gives me love. It’s not a bad trade off in the scheme of things.

Since moving here less than two years ago we have rescued 8 dogs and 4 cats. I’ve found homes for two of the dogs; one even went to the realtor who helped us buy the property. The rest have joined my pack where they are sterilized, vaccinated, cleaned up and treated with care. The area is a notorious animal dumping ground. I’ve heard it said that people abandon their pets near my property because there used to be a dog food factory nearby, or that a kind-hearted vet lived across the river. I’ve heard it said that people are dumping their pets because they can’t afford them due to the bad economy, yet somehow the rural poor manage to have satellite dishes on their mobile homes, big screen TVs in their living rooms and cell phones in their pockets. I’ve seen truly poor people in Africa; the problem here isn’t poverty it’s priorities.

The governor recently signed another animal abuse bill into law.  This state does not need any more laws; it needs people believing in them and following them. We are not going to legislate a solution to animal abuse or animal overpopulation. In the remote areas where I live people come here to escape the heavy hands of the law. No one who loves animals and lives out here believes the bill will do any good.

Animal cruelty and animal overpopulation are not legal problems, they are moral ones. The river that I crossed that night is a favorite for baptisms because it is wide and shallow, and there are more baptist churches in my county than fast food joints or liquor stores. I’d like to see a preacher give a rousing sermon on the evils of animal cruelty but being a non-believer in these parts, and a Yankee one at that, doesn’t give my hopes much weight. The last thing the locals want is to be lectured by another outsider and so I’m stuck waiting for Jesus to lead the Baptists to a place where animals are treated humanely and responsibly.

Last weekend I spotted a female Rottweiler standing in the middle of the road that runs through my property. According to the locals at the general store somebody pulled up, laid out a blanket, and left the female along with another dog. I tried to coax her even though the last thing I need is another dog, but she ran off. Unlike Brigette she’s not ready to trust another human.

I can’t say I blame her. I have a hard time trusting them myself.