Quotulatiousness

April 24, 2014

UKIP’s Nigel Farage as the Tories want you to see him

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:25

The Torygraph‘s Tom Chivers has unearthed a photo that will shake the very foundations of the British political scene!

Prepare to be AMAZED. The photo of Nigel Farage that the Ukip ESTABLISHMENT didn’t want you to see:

Nigel Farage as a punk

It’s not so much the fact that he’s such an awful rebel, with no respect for the great British institution of the police, that’s embarrassing for the Ukip leader. The real problem is that this photo was apparently taken in 1983 and Mr Farage still looks about 40.

Of course, it’s not just this damning and clearly not at all Photoshopped photo, which has been doing the rounds on Twitter because of its obvious veracity. There are dozens of equally upsetting Farage photos which his party apparatchiks have been desperately trying to ban.

Reason.tv – Is Democracy Overrated? Q&A with Columnist David Harsanyi

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:51

Published on 22 Apr 2014

“I think the Founders weren’t wary enough of democracy,” says David Harsanyi, senior editor at The Federalist and a nationally syndicated columnist. “I think there are bigger problems with it.”

Harsanyi sat down with Reason TV‘s Nick Gillespie to discuss his new book, The People Have Spoken and They Are Wrong: The Case Against Democracy, why we put too much weight on voting, and why praising democracy is just celebrating mob rule.

“Democracy’s just a process that reflects the morals and ethics of the people who vote,” he said. “It doesn’t guarantee you freedom — just check out the Gaza Strip or Egypt or anywhere else.”

Joe Satriani – world-class musician and self-taught entrepreneur

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:42

Inc. Magazine isn’t where you’d normally expect to find profiles of famous musicians, but Jeff Haden’s article covers both the musical and the entrepreneurial sides of Joe Satriani:

Put aside selling millions of critically acclaimed solo albums. Put aside touring with Mick Jagger, Deep Purple, and Chickenfoot. Put aside teaching legendary guitarists like Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett, Andy Timmons, and Alex Skolnick and creating signature guitar and equipment lines. Put aside founding the long-running G3 concert series.

World class musician? Absolutely — but inside 14-time Grammy nominated guitarist Joe Satriani also beats the heart of a true entrepreneur.

This month marks the release of Satriani’s new book, Strange Beautiful Music: A Musical Memoir, as well as his career retrospective box set, The Complete Studio Recordings. It’s the perfect time to talk to him about the business of Joe Satriani. (Spoiler alert: While you might think entrepreneurs have nothing in common with musicians, you’re definitely wrong.)

[...]

It’s almost a given in the music business that artists eventually regret the terms of their first contract. They’re so happy to get signed that they will sign almost anything. Yet your experience was very different.

Success came to me in my late 20s. I had started touring when I was a teenager so I had already seen the good, the bad, and the ugly side of the music business. Plus setting up my own record company taught me a lot.

I walked into Relativity Records as a musician who could not be taken advantage of. That’s why I wound up owning all my own publishing and making a deal that was quite advantageous for a new solo artist. But I really didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur. I thought of myself as an artist who felt strongly he should control every aspect of his art.

From a business and market opportunity point of view, instrumental rock was not exactly a happening genre. If your goal was to strike while the musical iron was hot your timing was way off.

What you just said is perfect. You encapsulated what I came to grips with when I looked for funding for my first record.

I remember getting turned down by everyone in my local community, and I was just looking for a few thousand dollars. If I had been starting a company to make plastic cups I could probably have gone to a bank and gotten a loan. But a guitar player getting a bank loan to record a record? That was just never going to happen.

After a week of being rejected by local studios and engineers I found this credit card offer in my mailbox. I was pre-approved because of, “My good standing in the community.”

You can’t say the IRS isn’t caring and generous

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:27

Tim Cavanaugh explains that your jaundiced view of the Internal Revenue Service is clearly contradicted by the IRS’s approach to helping people with tax troubles:

Sometimes it seems like you only hear the bad news about the Internal Revenue Service: the targeting of the president’s enemies; the padding of union bosses’ hours.

But sometimes the federal tax collector is there to lend a hand.

During 26 of the darkest months of the post-recession, 1,100 persons in the United States had “substantiated Federal tax compliance problems.”

Yet during that same time period, from October 2010 through December 2012, the IRS showed mercy, even charity. It gave those 1,100 people more than $1 million in cash awards, as well as other considerations of value.

The other considerations included 69 workplace promotions and 10,000 hours worth of what California public employees call “air time.”

That is to say: All of those 1,100 were IRS employees.

Beyond civil disobedience lies a second civil war

Filed under: Americas, Government, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

A short quote posted at KA-CHING! led me to this very alarming blog post at Taxicab Depressions:

Mr Wheeler replied, “There is certainly no shortage of guns and corruption in Central America. If you have the means to smuggle a ton of cocaine, you can probably smuggle a ton of guns, too. But this was easier… the Justice Department and the ATF made the contacts and set up the networks, told the gun shops to cooperate, so all the Mexicans had to do was send in a straw buyer, make the purchase, and move the weapons south of the border.”

I said, “These people aren’t very smart… there are something like 300 million guns in America, and they have a robust shelf life. Even if all gun manufacturing stopped tomorrow, there would still be an abundance of guns in America for decades. The only way to disarm Americans is mass confiscation, and I feel pretty certain that would spark a civil war. I know several gun owners that would rather fight than give up their guns.”

Mr. Wheeler said, “Oh, I know dozens… perhaps hundreds that feel the same way. I really don’t think confiscation is something you need to worry about, because it will never work. There are simply too many of them, and too many people have guns that there is no record of. A confiscation program would only piss off the most dangerous people in America… the people who would shoot back. You are correct, a mass confiscation would provoke a civil war.”

I said, “Well, you are a military man… what would that look like?”

Wheeler said, “Well, it wouldn’t look like the first Civil War… no lines of men standing in ranks and shooting across a field at each other, no “North and South” or sharply defined state lines for friendly and enemy territories, at least, not in the beginning. No, it would look more like Iraq or Afghanistan, with house to house fighting, IED’s, snipers, small factions and independent militias operating on their own, refugees streaming away from battle zones in all directions…”

“But the first question to ask is who would the combatants be? I mean, the Army isn’t going to just roll out onto the street in tanks on day one, so my guess is that it would start out as a police action, with Federal agencies like ATF and FBI taking the lead, supported by local law enforcement. But once people start shooting back, they would have to ratchet things up, do things like institute curfews and roadblocks, and they would eventually try to press the various state Guard units into service. That’s where it all goes squirrelly, because both local law enforcement and the Guard will be riddled with people who support gun rights, regardless of what laws the politicians pass, and they won’t be crazy about having to police, and maybe even fight against, their own people. The Governors may well object to the state Guard units being activated and may not wish to cooperate…”

“And it is not clear to me how many LEO and Guardsmen would remain loyal to the government and how many would join the “rebellion”. My guess is that both sides would be riddled with defections, informants, and spies. But what if, say, the Gulf states like Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida secede, and they take control of all military bases and equipment, and you suddenly have gone from an insurgency with rifles to a breakaway nation, or maybe several breakaway nations, armed with fighter jets, drones, tanks, and a navy? Whoo, buddy… now all bets are off… kiss posse comitatus goodbye. This would be the ugliest thing this county has ever seen…”

I asked him several “what if” questions and let him riff on them… I just let him talk and wargame out the Second Civil War, there in the back seat of my car as we drove to the airport, and he painted a picture of horrific death and destruction. Once this conflict started, even the best-case scenarios he described sounded truly grim. He seemed to believe that civilian casualties would be extremely high, given how much fighting would centered in and around large cities, and that food would be used as a weapon, causing famine and starvation on a terrifying scale. Booby traps, IED’s, rampant bombings, drone strikes, snipers, local-level assassinations, mortars and shelling, death squads (both government and rebel), reprisal killings, torture… it sounded more like the Middle East than middle America.

Wheeler got quiet for a few moments, and then he said something that I will never, ever forget.

“These people are playing with matches… I don’t think they understand the scope and scale of the wildfire they are flirting with. They are fucking around with a civil war that could last a decade and cause millions of deaths… and the sad truth is that 95% of the problems we have in this country could be solved tomorrow, by noon… simply by dragging 100 people out in the street and shooting them in the fucking head.”

April 23, 2014

LibreSSL website – “This page scientifically designed to annoy web hipsters”

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:24

Julian Sanchez linked to this Ars Technica piece on a new fork of OpenSSL:

OpenBSD founder Theo de Raadt has created a fork of OpenSSL, the widely used open source cryptographic software library that contained the notorious Heartbleed security vulnerability.

OpenSSL has suffered from a lack of funding and code contributions despite being used in websites and products by many of the world’s biggest and richest corporations.

The decision to fork OpenSSL is bound to be controversial given that OpenSSL powers hundreds of thousands of Web servers. When asked why he wanted to start over instead of helping to make OpenSSL better, de Raadt said the existing code is too much of a mess.

“Our group removed half of the OpenSSL source tree in a week. It was discarded leftovers,” de Raadt told Ars in an e-mail. “The Open Source model depends [on] people being able to read the code. It depends on clarity. That is not a clear code base, because their community does not appear to care about clarity. Obviously, when such cruft builds up, there is a cultural gap. I did not make this decision… in our larger development group, it made itself.”

The LibreSSL code base is on OpenBSD.org, and the project is supported financially by the OpenBSD Foundation and OpenBSD Project. LibreSSL has a bare bones website that is intentionally unappealing.

“This page scientifically designed to annoy web hipsters,” the site says. “Donate now to stop the Comic Sans and Blink Tags.” In explaining the decision to fork, the site links to a YouTube video of a cover of the Twisted Sister song “We’re not gonna take it.”

Happy Meal toys as human rights violations

Filed under: Business, Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:16

Amy Otto on the attempt to sue McDonald’s because they were handing out “gendered” toys with their Happy Meals:

A recent article in Slate by Antonia Ayres-Brown, a junior in high school, details the valiant feminist struggle she ultimately brought to the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities against McDonald’s for … discriminating on the basis of sex in the distribution of Happy Meal toys. “Despite our evidence showing that, in our test, McDonald’s employees described the toys in gendered terms more than 79 percent of the time, the commission dismissed our allegations as ‘absurd’ and solely for the purposes of ‘titilation [sic] and sociological experimentation,’” she wrote.

Let’s leave aside the fact that Connecticut has a Commission on Human Rights and note that this girl sincerely believes McDonald’s offering toys described, at times, as being for a girl or for a boy is a human rights violation.

While I admire the girl’s plucky disposition and effort, I do hope one day she learns to channel her energy into productive uses that will advance her cause in positive ways. This could have all been solved by her parents simply encouraging her to ask for the toy she wants. If girls are continually taught that they as individuals have no power to negotiate a situation as simple as “I’d like that toy” without the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights getting involved, I submit that these women are proving the case that they should not be put in positions of leadership or power.

By the author’s own admission,“McDonald’s is estimated to sell more than 1 billion Happy Meals each year.” Yet it does not occur to her that the fast food worker giving a “girl’s” toy to a girl is simply trying to give the customer what she wants in the most expeditious manner possible. This is a company that sells a billion of these things a year and gets them in the hands of their customers as fast as possible.

People do not eat at McDonald’s to get into a gender studies discussion with the teenage kid at the register; they go there to get food fast, hence the term “fast food.” If the author had worked in fast food for any nominal period of time, she might realize that the employee’s main motivation is not to spend any time persecuting women but to make it through his or her shift as painlessly as possible.

“[W]hat most ‘studies’ really ‘show’ is that most ‘studies’ are crap”

Filed under: Media — Tags: — Nicholas Russon @ 08:48

Kathy Shaidle‘s investigation of the “science of cool”:

Then something calling itself “science” appeared to offer me an in. Alas, what most “studies” really “show” is that most “studies” are crap. This latest one proved the rule that “social science” is to the real thing what Anna Anderson was to the Romanovs.

The Week promised to teach us “How To Be Cool, According to Science,” relying upon the findings of one Olivia Fox Cabane. Ms. Cabane is not, however, a scientist (of either the “social,” “hard,” or even “Christian” varieties), but an “executive charisma coach for Fortune 500 companies.”

So shame on you, The Week.

Scientific or not, does Ms. Cabane’s grand unified theory of “cool” withstand scrutiny?

At first, she’s persuasive, if prosaic. “Cool,” she declares, “doesn’t try too hard.” In everything — words and deeds — less is more.

Cabane insists that robotically calm, collected mannerisms and Zen master body language are the outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual cool.

A cool individual, Cabane continues, exudes confidence. James Bond, she points out, neither fidgets, nor does he plead.

Tellingly, Fleming’s 007 is the only “proper noun” example she serves up, maybe because a moment’s reflection on other archetypes of cool reveals the flaws in her theory.

Placed side by side, James Cagney fits Cabane’s criteria for cool far better than Humphrey Bogart. Even when merely striding cockily down a sidewalk (then dodging machine gun fire), Cagney’s background as a professional dancer was evident in almost every film he made, not just in Yankee Doodle Dandy. His sharp, frugal gestures and bits of business also live up to Cabane’s bonsai tree ideal. (When you learn that Malcolm McDowell based his performance as “Alex” on Cagney’s screen persona, you never watch A Clockwork Orange the same way.)

We are often surprised to discover how short certain charismatic performers really are, or were. (I still refuse to accept that Freddy Mercury was anything less than 6’ 1”.) The bantamweight Cagney, on the other hand, always seemed short — but it didn’t matter. That alone places him in an even higher stratum of cool, one occupied by a very few, including Cagney’s rival, Humphrey Bogart.

Secret laws and democracy

Filed under: Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:24

In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf says that a new court ruling may actually force President Obama to disclose the secret law under which he ordered the killing of at least one American citizen:

The Obama Administration has fought for years to hide its legal rationale for killing an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, after putting him on a secret kill list. Citizens have an interest in knowing whether the White House follows the law, especially when the stakes are as high as ending a life without due process. President Obama has fought to ensure his legal reasoning would never be revealed, a precedent that would help future presidents to kill without accountability.

His shortsightedness is breathtaking.

Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon expressed frustration that, according to her legal analysis, the Freedom of Information Act couldn’t force a disclosure. “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws,” she wrote, “while keeping the reasons for their conclusions a secret.”

Americans ought to have been alarmed that, according to a federal judge, we’re living in an “Alice in Wonderland” reality where leaders use the law to put themselves beyond the law. But no one paid much attention as The New York Times and the ACLU appealed the decision. On Monday, they won an important victory:

    A federal appeals panel in Manhattan ordered the release… of key portions of a classified Justice Department memorandum that provided the legal justification for the targeted killing of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who intelligence officials contend had joined Al Qaeda and died in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.

    The unanimous three-judge panel, reversing a lower court decision, said the government had waived its right to keep the analysis secret in light of numerous public statements by administration officials and the Justice Department’s release of a “white paper” offering a detailed analysis of why targeted killings were legal.

Desegregation

Filed under: History, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:04

An interesting article in the New Yorker by Jelani Cobb discusses some of the aspects of the struggle to desegregate American schools that I hadn’t heard of:

The architects of Jim Crow were fixated by notions of white racial purity, but black people subjected to that dictatorship of pigment were concerned with a different question: In a hostile society, is it better to be isolated from those who view you with contempt or in close proximity to them? In retrospect, it is easy to see segregation as a moral evil unanimously despised by black people, but even its fiercest critics betrayed ambivalence about what its end would mean. In the thirties, W. E. B. Du Bois inspired rancorous debates within the N.A.A.C.P. by arguing, in his writing, that there were important economic benefits — the built-in market for black businesses, for instance — that came with segregation. James Nabrit, Jr., an attorney who handled a school-desegregation suit in Washington, D.C., that became one of the cases grouped with Brown, went on to become president of Howard University, a job that entailed the seemingly paradoxical task of preserving and furthering an all-black educational institution. Three of the other attorneys who worked on Brown, including Thurgood Marshall, had, in fact, met as students at Howard’s law school, and they began their desegregation work under the tutelage of Charles Hamilton Houston, the school’s dean. Black teachers in South Carolina, where another of the desegregation suits had been filed, worried, with some cause, that integration would end a state of affairs in which black children, though deprived of equal resources, at least benefitted from teachers who did not calibrate their expectations according to the color of their students’ skin.

The Supreme Court decision on Brown, in 1954, marked a moral high point in American history, but the practice that it dispatched to the graveyard had already begun to mutate into something less tangible and far more durable. What would, in the end, preserve the principle of “separate inequality” was not protests like the one staged by Orval Faubus, the governor of Arkansas, who deployed the National Guard to Little Rock’s Central High School, in 1957, in order to keep black students out. Instead, it was policies like the Interstate Highway Act, whose passage one year earlier helped spawn American suburbia. In the wake of Brown, private schools, whose implicit mission was to educate white children, cropped up throughout the South. The persistent legacies of redlining, housing discrimination, and wage disparity conspired to produce segregation without Jim Crow — maintaining all the familiar elements of the past in an updated operating system.

To the extent that the word “desegregation” remains in our vocabulary, it describes an antique principle, not a current priority. Today, we are more likely to talk of diversity — but diversification and desegregation are not the same undertaking. To speak of diversity, in light of this country’s history of racial recidivism, is to focus on bringing ethnic variety to largely white institutions, rather than dismantling the structures that made them so white to begin with.

And so, sixty years after Brown, it is clear that the notion of segregation as a discrete phenomenon, an evil that could be flipped, like a switch, from on to off, by judicial edict, was deeply naïve. The intervening decades have shown, in large measure, the limits of what political efforts directed at desegregation alone could achieve, and the crumbling of both elements of “separate but equal” has left us at an ambivalent juncture. To the extent that desegregation becomes, once again, a pressing concern — and even that may be too grand a hope — it will have to involve the tax code, the minimum wage, and other efforts to redress income inequality. For the tragedy of this moment is not that black students still go to overwhelmingly black schools, long after segregation was banished by law, but that they do so for so many of the same reasons as in the days before Brown.

H/T to ESR for the link.

April 22, 2014

QotD: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:13

The sporting editors had also given me $300 in cash, most of which was already spent on extremely dangerous drugs. The trunk of the car looked like a mobile police narcotics lab. We had two bags of grass, 75 pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers … and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.

All this had been rounded up the night before, in a frenzy of high-speed driving all over Los Angeles County – from Topanga to Watts, we picked up everything we could get our hands on. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.

The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon. Probably at the next gas station. We had sampled almost everything else, and now – yes, it was time for a long snort of ether. And then do the next 100 miles in a horrible, slobbering sort of spastic stupor. The only way to keep alert on ether is to do up a lot of amyls – not all at once, but steadily, just enough to maintain the focus at 90 miles an hour through Barstow.

Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas”, Rolling Stone, 1971-11-11

Half the fleet is in for repair

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:50

As I’ve pointed out before, navies require more ships to do certain jobs because naval vessels require extensive service, repair, and upgrade work such that up to a third of a given ship’s working life will be spent in port and out of service. The Royal Canadian Navy is at a very low point in vessel availability right now:

Of a total of 33 main ships and submarines, 15 are being repaired or undergoing upgrades, while another four are at a lesser state of readiness as they conduct tests on recently installed and modernized systems.

“This is our most challenging year but we have a plan to make sure we have ships available all the time,” Commodore Brian Santarpia, director general, navy strategic readiness, said in an interview with the Citizen. “We’re still quite confident we can fill all the tasks given to us.”

The navy’s 12 frigates are being upgraded as part of the Halifax-class modernization program. Involving $5 billion worth of work, the project will see engineering, radar and weapon systems upgrades, as well as other improvements made to the vessels, Santarpia said.

As part of that process, five frigates are unavailable for operations because they are either in dry-dock or being prepared for the upgrade process.

The Halifax-class frigates are considered the backbone of the navy.

As vessels come out of the modernization process, they go through various stages of readiness as the new systems are being verified and tested and the crew conducts training. “They are available for operations, just not at the very highest levels,” Santarpia explained.

Defence analyst Martin Shadwick said the situation is a result of having a “compact” maritime force and a large number of aging vessels that had to be modernized.

“The navy has known this period was approaching but in the short term they don’t have much choice but to live with it,” said Shadwick, a strategic studies professor at York University in Toronto.

He said a further crunch time for the maritime force will come in the next four years. That is when three aging destroyers, which provide command and control as well as overall air defence for naval task groups, are removed from service.

At that point, the navy goes from the 15 frigates and destroyers, which are the mainstays of the service, down to 12 frigates. In addition, the navy will be without supply ships to provide fuel and provisions at sea. Those two aging ships are to be retired before 2019 and their replacements will not be ready in time.

Under normal circumstances, the RCN would have about 10 frigates and two destroyers available, with the other ships in varying stages of refit, maintenance, and repair. With the recent engine room fire on board HMCS Protecteur, the navy is far more restricted in the kinds of activities it can undertake (only one support ship, HMCS Preserver is available). And let’s just not talk about the state of the RCN’s submarines.

Halifax-class frigate HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331) and Iroquois-class destroyer HMCS Algonquin (DDH 283). Tugboats assist HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331) in departing from Pearl Harbor to participate in exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2006.

Halifax-class frigate HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331) and Iroquois-class destroyer HMCS Algonquin (DDH 283). Tugboats assist HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331) in departing from Pearl Harbor to participate in exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2006.

Obama’s afterthought appointment as US ambassador to Canada

Filed under: Cancon, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:13

Ezra Levant isn’t impressed with President Obama’s choice for ambassador:

Barack Obama waited nine months before replacing the last U.S. ambassador to Canada. The post was empty, and Obama just didn’t care.

He doesn’t much like Stephen Harper – compare Obama’s icy body language towards Harper, to Obama’s deep bow when he met the Saudi king, or his high fives with the Hugo Chavez, the late ruler of Venezuela.

Don’t feel singled out. That’s how Obama treats many of America’s traditional allies. He spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone. The White House’s bust of Winston Churchill was returned to the United Kingdom when Obama became president.

Get used to it. Obama treats his friends worse than his enemies.

You’d think a $600-billion-a-year trade relationship between Canada and the U.S. would warrant sending a new ambassador quickly. Apparently not.

When Ottawa was finally blessed with Obama’s choice this month, it was yet another Chicago crony capitalist – Bruce Heyman, a former Goldman Sachs banker who, together with his socialite wife, bundled $1.7 million for Obama’s election campaign.

That’s what Obama thinks of the diplomatic corps: a reward for personal service, and an incentive to future donors.

A “Western colony for gays and paedophiles” versus “a superpower empire that was not conquered by anybody”

Filed under: Europe, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:02

David Blair compares the two revolutionary movements in Kiev and in Donetsk:

They are bitter enemies, but they run revolutions in much the same way. Here in the “Donetsk People’s Republic” – as pro-Russian demonstrators like to call this part of eastern Ukraine – the protests look much the same as did in Kiev during the February Revolution.

Once again, everything happens around occupied government buildings, where you find barricades piled high with tyres, passionate speakers and vitriolic propaganda, all surrounded by masked men with clubs and iron bars. The pro-Russian protesters of Donetsk took up their cause in bitter opposition to the Maidan revolutionaries of Kiev, but their methods are pretty much identical.

Earlier today, I spent some time behind the barricades of what was once the administrative headquarters of Donetsk region. This 11-storey building is now the seat of power for the “Donetsk People’s Republic”, which plans to hold a referendum on whether to join Russia by May 11. A triple rampart made from tyres laced with barbed wire now protects the building, manned by sentries in miners’ helmets and black balaclavas.

From a wooden stage in front of the building, a constant relay of speakers calls down fury and vituperation on the new government in Kiev and their supposed masters in America and Europe. There is an epic imagination to the crudeness of the propaganda.

My favourite poster shows a crying baby above a picture of Adolf Hitler and an assortment of drag queens. “Where will your baby live?” asks the caption. “In a Western colony for gays and paedophiles? Or in a superpower empire that was not conquered by anybody?” The latter sentence is accompanied by a picture of a jubilant infant raising both tiny fists in triumph.

Rick Spielman and the fine art of pre-draft deception

Filed under: Business, Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:16

The last few weeks before the NFL draft — now pushed back to May — are when even the most hearty draftniks start to flag, having sweated out multiple mock drafts, read far too many scouting reports on can’t-miss players who might be their team’s guarantee of playoff dominance for the next decade, and suffered the agonies of indecision as their team’s management gives out hints of their actual draft plans. It’s a time when every team aside from the Houston Texans (who have the first overall pick) tries with varying degrees of success to obfuscate, confuse, and mislead every other team about who they value as potential draft picks. It’s the time of year when every team press release is written in squid ink.

At such a time, Minnesota football fans get to watch one of the greatest practitioners of pre-draft blather, half-truth, sleight-of-tongue, and deception as he weaves his web of disinformation. Rick Spielman is that guru of illusion at draft time, and Mark Craig is on his tail:

Folks, we’re lost in a choppy sea of predraft chatter with no life preserver and an extra two weeks of dog paddling until Houston mercifully makes the first pick on May 8. The fact that no one has any idea what will happen has not stopped everyone from saying they do.

The original draftnik himself, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., has taken four swings at it (and counting?). He has Bortles going to the Vikings twice followed by Bridgewater (once) and Manziel (once). That’s a 4-for-4 guesstimate that Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman is thinking quarterback all the way.

Meanwhile, Spielman sat in his office this week saying, “We don’t need to reach for a quarterback at No. 8. We signed Matt Cassel.” And that makes sense, although beware. This is the time of year when Spielman is capable of stealing your eyeballs and convincing you that you look better without them.

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