Monthly Archives: June 2014

Just tell them “Drinking drain cleaner is bad for you!” and wait for nature to take its course

Apparently, “rollin’ coal” is a thing.

And what, you ask, is “rollin’ coal?” That’s a great question! It’s, well, I’ll let the article describe it:

In small towns across America, manly men are customizing their jacked-up diesel trucks to intentionally emit giant plumes of toxic smoke every time they rev their engines. They call it “rollin’ coal,” and it’s something they do for fun.

There are a lot of dumb things people (and I fall into that category) do to their vehicles to make them cost more and worth less. It’s practically an American tradition. Where these folks really take the cake is that they’re modifying their trucks just to make them pollute more so they can blow smoke in other people’s faces. I was going to call them the “juggalos of the road” but that’s grossly unfair to juggalos, who mostly just want to be left alone and don’t spend assloads of money to annoy people.

There’s something intensely juvenile about rollin’ coal. The primary targets seem to be “people who think polluting is a not-so-great thing:”

The ultimate highway enemy, however, are “nature nuffies,” or people who drive hybrid cars, because apparently, pro-earth sentiment is an offense to the diesel-trucking lifestyle. “The feeling around here is that everyone who drives a small car is a liberal,” says Ryan. “I rolled coal on a Prius once just because they were tailing me.”

Yeah, liberals think polluting is bad, so we’re going to spend all our money making our trucks pollute more! You’d think that mindless, knee-jerk tendency could be put to good use, eh?

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The stingray story gets weirder still

Yeah, so I know I said I’d keep it positive, but I’ve been feeling very unwell indeed and when I’m unwell and I read stuff like this, it’s tough to let it pass without comment. The U.S. Marshals actively encouraged the police to alter a probable cause affidavit (PCA) in cases where stingrays had been used:

If this is in fact one of your cases [wherein a stingray was identified in the PCA], could you please entertain either having the Detective submit a new PCA and seal the old one, or at minimum instruct the detectives for future cases, regarding the fact that it is unnecessary to provide investigative means to anyone outside of law enforcement, especially in a public document.

Ain’t that a doozy? Please keep in mind that we’re talking about cases that have nothing to do with the feds. The U.S. Marshals are interfering with local law enforcement here, asking them to keep the source of their probable cause confidential. Seems to me, if you need to keep your surveillance tools a secret, they can’t be used in cases where stuff like “due process” applies. In theory, that should exclude the Marshals from keeping their tools a secret, shouldn’t it…?

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Filed under Law Enforcement, Politics

I guess this makes Luis Suarez a tsunami?

This guy’s a lot nicer than I am.

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Filed under Other Stuff

I Need To Be Somebody Else For A While

You know, sometimes when you wallow in snark and negativity and you’ve just trained yourself to notice all the things that are wrong in the world, it can really mess with your head. I needed to take a few days off to re-set myself; I feel like I was starting to cross the line between clever, (hopefully) amusing commentary and just becoming an outrage amplifier.

Sure, there’s plenty that’s wrong with the world, but by choosing to live there, and only there, I could feel myself going down a rabbit hole.

So, yes, the Obama administration sucks, democracy doesn’t work, and the people that are trying the hardest to make it work (the Tea Party) and people with whom I disagree on almost every policy issue. These are all true things.


But I have the ability to communicate with people all over the world, almost instantaneously, and almost free. Hell, I can make packages appear on someone’s doorstep in another country with the click of a button. I remember trying to do that back in the 80’s (because Uncle Pancakes is old) and it was an ordeal that involved a great deal of faith, hope, and cash. Lots of cash.

I don’t have one newspaper and three television stations as my only sources of information. I can’t help but think that politicians aren’t uniquely corrupt in this day and age, but rather we have a much greater ability to expose and communicate that corruption. As ugly as that is, I believe it’s a good thing.

I can access almost any form of entertainment from almost any location almost instantly and, again, at almost no cost. Remember trying to “special order” music at a record store (I said I was old)? You looked up the title in the giant yellow book, you filled out a little order slip with 3 sheets of carbon paper, and then you hoped that, in six weeks or so, your music would show up. Most often, it didn’t. That was only thirty or so years ago.

And, finally, i don’t have to be anyone forever. I can be whoever I want. I can be as many people as I want. I can even tweak the personae of my aliases if they aren’t working for me. Every so often, I need to remind myself that by focusing only on the negative, I’m becoming more negative myself. Old Man Pancakes isn’t leaving, but he is going to try to spend a little less time wallowing in ugliness.

Thanks for sticking around.


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Filed under Blogging, Personal

No matter what you think about Edward Snowden…

Last week, the EFF published a list of 65 things we learned from the Edward Snowden leaks. It’s grim reading, but here are some of the highlights:

5. Although the NSA has repeatedly stated it does not target Americans, its own documents show that searches of data collected under Section 702 are designed simply to determine with 51 percent confidence a target’s “foreignness.’”

 6. If the NSA does not determine a target’s foreignness, it will not stop spying on that target. Instead the NSA will presume that target to be foreign unless they “can be positively identified as a United States person.”

7. A leaked internal NSA audit detailed 2,776 violations of rules or court orders in just a one-year period.

10. The government has destroyed evidence in EFF’s cases against NSA spying. This is incredibly ironic, considering that the government has also claimed EFF’s clients need this evidence to prove standing.  

11. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress when asked directly by Sen. Ron Wyden whether the NSA was gathering any sort of data on millions of Americans.

18. The NSA used supposedly anonymous Google cookies as beacons for surveillance, helping them to track individual users.

27. NSA undermines the encryption tools relied upon by ordinary users, companies, financial institutions, targets, and non-targets as part of BULLRUN, an unparalleled effort to weaken the security of all Internet users, including you.

31. When the DEA acts on information its Special Operations Division receives from the NSA, it cloaks the source of the information through “parallel construction,” going through the charade of recreating an imaginary investigation to hide the source of the tip, not only from the defendant, but from the court. This was intended to ensure that no court rules on the legality or scope of how NSA data is used in ordinary investigations.  

33. Even the President’s handpicked Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board recommended that the government end Section 215 mass telephone records collection, because that collection is ineffective, illegal, and likely unconstitutional.

34. The NSA has plans to infect potentially millions of computers with malware implants as part of its Tailored Access Operations.

35. The NSA had a secret $10 million contract with security firm RSA to create a “back door” in the company’s widely used encryption products.

36. The NSA tracked access to porn and gathered other sexually explicit information “as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches.”

Because all of these leaks have been spaced out over time, it’s easy to lose sight of just how much wrongdoing has been exposed. I believe that, not matter what you think about Edward Snowden, no matter whether you see him as hero, traitor, or whatever, his status as “whistleblower” is beyond doubt. The story here isn’t Edward Snowden; it’s the NSA and its enablers. Let’s keep the focus where it needs to be, folks.

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Filed under Law Enforcement, Politics

The world of Stingrays gets even stranger

If you’re not already familiar with the Stingray cell phone tracking device, let me give you the quick-and-dirty: It’s a device that spoofs cell towers, tricking your phone into connecting to it, and providing law enforcement with information about your whereabouts (and potentially a great deal more). There’s not a great deal of information available about these devices so it’s hard to say exactly what they can do, who’s using them, and what they’re using them for.

What we do know is that some folks are working very, very hard to keep the use of Stingrays a secret. We know this because, recently in Sarasota Florida, an FOIA request had been filed to force the police to provide some specifics about Stingrays.The local head of the ACLU, Michael Barfield contacted SPD officer Michael Jackson, who confirmed that he had sole custody of the Stingray records, and set up an appointment for those records to be reviewed. Then it gets very, very weird.

Sarasota’s assistant city attorney contacted Barfield by email and stated that the city had been :

“instructed not to release the documents requested, as any ‘tap and trace’ orders kept by Special Deputy US Marshal Jackson pursuant to his duties with the Marshals Service belong to the Marshals Service.”

If you’re scratching your head here, you’re not the only one. The U.S. Marshals rushed in and deputized Officer Jackson, and then took the records in question. At which time, the city claimed that it had never had the records as they had always been in the custody of U.S. Marshals.

This move is likely about as legal as the NDAs that law enforcement agencies sign when they buy Stingrays. Just like a non-disclosure agreement doesn’t magically trump laws pertaining to law enforcement, making a police officer what amounts to an honorary federal marshal doesn’t get Sarasota off the hook for producing legally required documents. Of course, when it’s law enforcement playing fast and loose with the laws, holding them accountable can be problematic.

These extraordinary efforts to keep Stingrays shrouded in mystery makes me wonder: Would it be possible for cell phones to detect when they’re connected to a Stingray rather than a cell tower? If not, would it be possible to create a device that would detect Stingrays? If the answer to either of those is “yes”, I hope that someone far more clever than I is already working on the problem.


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Filed under Law Enforcement, Politics

Great Moments in Self-Congratulatory Marketing

Have you seen the 2014 list of the “Most Well-Read Cities in America?”

Without clicking the link, you might wonder how such a list was compiled. Did they survey the inhabitants of each city to determine how many books they read over the previous year? Nope, instead, it’s just a list of who bought books on Amazon.There’s no consideration of the types of books purchased, if they were actually read, or even sales by any other bookseller.

That’s a pretty impressive sleight of hand, isn’t it? By rewording a list of their best customers, they’ve made it sound like a desirable distinction.  Buying something from Amazon does not make you “well-read;” reading does.

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Filed under Business, Writing

Does loving the A.V. Club’s cover series make me a hipster?

If it does, I don’t care. Most of the “Under the Covers” series are forgettable throwaways (with a few exceptions like this and this). The current year, the fifth, is off to an impressive start. Wye Oak’s cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” is a keeper. Eschewing the original’s lush production, they opt for a slow-burn with the bass handling the melody. It’s an interesting choice, and it works beautifully. It’s an interesting (and potentially disastrous) list of songs this year, but who wouldn’t want to hear someone like Mumford & Sons or Low covering Asia’s “Heat of the Moment?” I tell ya, I get chills just thinking about it.

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Filed under Music, Personal, Pop Culture

Consistency has never been this guy’s strong suit, either

So, the President decided that his “constitutional authority” allowed him to ignore the law requiring him to give notice to Congress when releasing prisoner. As the ever-reliable Glenn Greenwald points out, the authority to do this is exactly the authority the President claimed not to have as his reason for not closing Gitmo.  Oh well, another excuse to bust out my favorite bumper sticker (courtesy of The Edge of the American West):




Filed under Politics

Consistency Has Never Been Their Strong Suit

Alrighty! We’re already getting calls to impeach President Obama for trading prisoners to achieve the release of an American P.O.W. Because, you know, an authentic conservative icon would never make an illegal deal to arm terrorists in exchange for hostages and then try to cover it up.*


* To be fair, Reagan said that, even though the facts said otherwise, in his heart he didn’t believe he’d traded arms for hostages. That statement explains a lot about Reagan and the people who continue to lionize him.





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