Hilarity from the Vaults

From the Iraqi Perspectives Project, a description of a 2002 Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) internal review:

“The final page of the M8 annual report lists IIS failures during the year and enumerates several handicaps the IIS faced in trying to do its work: (1) not enough sedans were available to give one to each key officer; (2) foreign intelligence officers were not given permission to leave the country to study their areas of responsibility; and (3) the lack of an Internet connection within IIS caused them to miss many news events. They suggest allocating the office an Internet connection so that they do not have to rely on others to tell them the news. The IIS did claim the establishment of a single e-mail account as one of the year’s significant accomplishments.”

Among the many challenges of running a brutal dictatorship at odds with most of its neighbors: There are never enough sedans.

H/T: Erica Borghard. Thanks Erica!

WTF Friday, 12/14/2012

The petition for the U.S. government to construct a Death Star hit 25,000 signatures yesterday. According to the current Terms of Participation on the “We the People” site, which enables users to petition the government to “address a problem, support or oppose a proposal, or otherwise change or continue federal government policy or actions,” the Obama administration is now required to respond to the petition. Might be about time to tighten up those guidelines, guys.

And some follow-up to the follow-up to last week’s WTF Friday: The Economist explains its beef with the Bangladeshi war crimes tribunal.

WTF Friday 11/30/2012, Opportunity Costs Edition

Yesterday one Lawrence E. Mitchell, Dean of Case Western Reserve Law School, published an Op-Ed in the New York Times entitled “Law School is Worth the Money.” It’s pretty funny.

Amongst the gems contained therein:

  • People shouldn’t be so upset about the bad job market – in which only 50% of new graduates are able to get jobs in law firms – because it’s only 9% worse than the worst market in recent memory. (Oh, well, when you put it that way, of course it’s an excellent use of hundreds of thousands of dollars!)
  • On the subject of that 50% figure, the “focus on first jobs is misplaced,” because law schools are educating people for “40-50 year careers.”  (HA.  Good luck having a 50 year career in the law if you can’t get a first job in it within a few years of graduation.  Law school teaches you nothing about legal practice, and that J.D. credential becomes stale right quick.)
  • Law school is an awesome investment because “Many graduates will find that their legal educations give them the skills to find rich and rewarding lives in business, politics, government, finance, the nonprofit sector, the arts, education and more.”  (I’m sorry, did he actually say that students should drop off a six figure sum with his law school on their way to careers in the arts?  That is messed up, yo.)
  • That the “thousands of students” who have been discouraged from attending law school will be unable to find fulfilling careers elsewhere, because “[t]hey’re not all going to be doctors or investment bankers.”  (Guess what, dude?  They’re not all going to be lawyers, either, even if they graduate from law school.)

To our vulnerable young readers, who might be considering law school: Put down the Op-Ed, and back away slowly.  Dean Mitchell wants your money.  Do not take his advice.  For more on why, see here, here, and here.

Today in “Totally Nailing It”

Via Africa Is a Country, an appeal for Africans to send their spare radiators to warm freezing children in Norway:

A project of the The Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund, Radi-Aid asks us all to “[i]magine if every person in Africa saw the “Africa for Norway” video and this was the only information they ever got about Norway.”

Way to show, not tell, guys!

WTF Friday, 11/16/2012

Apparently American four-star generals are not the only ones suffering from catastrophic email failure.

Via Foreign Policy, ABC news reports that a Taliban spokesman got the “bcc” and “cc” options mixed up on Saturday and accidentally revealed the addresses of over 400 recipients of a press release. One of those recipients, Kabul-based journalist Mustafa Kazemi, notes that the list includes the addresses of “a large number of Taliban personnel.” Oops.

So for those of you keeping track at home: That’s IDF, winning the internet. Taliban and American military and intelligence establishments, not so much.

WTF Friday, 8/24/2012

It’s still Thursday for another 12 hours in my current time zone, but I’m calling it for this week:

An elected judge in Lubbock County, Texas has announced that the United States risks descending into civil war if President Obama is reelected. An armed insurrection will become necessary, Judge Head believes, in order to battle the UN troops that will pour into US territory when Obama surrenders sovereignty of the country to the United Nations. Because the UN would DEFINITELY want to take that on.

I don’t think there’s anything I can add to make this funnier than it already is, so I’ll just echo Lubbock County Commissioner Gilbert Flores’s advice to Judge Head: “I think you better plan to go fishing pretty soon.”

WTF Friday, 8/10/2012

I know it’s technically Saturday, but here’s a little bit of “WTF” for your weekend: A new study finds that stress is “associated with a preference among men for heavier female body sizes.”

The investigators interpret their findings as support for the hypothesis that in difficult times, males prefer a mate with “mature physical traits” who looks better able to survive environmental stresses. I suppose heavier females are more able to withstand food shortages, high winds, etc., but I suggest an alternate analysis: Stressed out men want their mommies.

Fun with the Wikileaks Cables, Cambodia Edition

The 11 hour New York -> Phnom Penh time difference produces pretty crippling jet lag, so I decided that a fun way to pass the time while waiting for my brain to reboot would be to go through the Cambodia Wikileaks cables. (Sounds like a blast, right?)

The highlight so far: “Cambodia’s Burgeoning Youth Population Increasingly Seduced By The ‘perfect High.’

Yes, that’s right, it’s the Reefer Madness of State Department cables: a 2010 communique decrying the allegedly skyrocketing use of meth among Cambodia’s youth. Drug addiction may indeed be a growing problem here (and there are serious issues with the government’s approach to addicts), but it’s hard to tell from this cable, which bases its conclusions on:

  • The inclusion of frightening crime statistics that have no apparent causal relationship to the phenomenon under discussion.

“Although there is currently no empirical evidence linking it to drug use in Cambodia, local NGO Licadho reports the number of rape cases has been steadily increasing over the past few years, with approximately 60% of last year’s cases involving victims who were minors.”

“Middle class teens regularly buy easily available drugs and are known to rent rooms in guest houses with friends to hold ‘drug parties.’”

  • Reliance on the “if one guy said it, it must be true” school of evidence-gathering.

“A Muslim student from Kampong Cham University told Poloff that approximately ’65% of students take meth regularly. It is cheap, cool, easy to access, and then they can’t stop.’”

  • And the kicker: blaming society’s problems on women entering the workforce.

“Besides availability, experts believe that the rise in drug use among the middle class youth can be attributed to a change in the culture where both parents now work and have less control over the daily activities of their children.”

Seems like all kinds of governments are down on Khmer ladies leaving the house lately…

WTF Friday, 6/22/2012

tl;dr of this NATO press release about aerial drones aerial surveillance planes patrolling European skies:  ”Nice Euro 2012 Championship you have there.  Sure would be a shame if anything were to happen to it… *cracks knuckles menacingly*”

“Not many people would immediately associate NATO with the Euro 2012 Football Championship. But NATO’s “Eye in the Sky”, the AWACS (Airborne Warning & Control System) will be playing an important role in the security of the European teams’ competition over the next three weeks.

As a consequence of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NATO governments have been able to request the air surveillance and control capability of NATO AWACS to assist with security for major public events.   Poland, as co-host of the competition along with Ukraine, is the latest NATO member to make such a request. [...]

So as football fans prepare to watch their national teams battle against each other in the Euro 2012 tournament, they can be reassured that some of their fellow citizens are united in ensuring the security of the competition.

In related news, a pioneering Dutch technologist has created the “Orvillecopter,” believed to be the world’s first feline-based drone.

Reports that the Taliban have begun stockpiling cans of tuna remain unconfirmed.

(h/t for the NATO story goes to Ania Zolkiewska, whose football-watching humanitarian friends passed on the article.)

Update: Peter Doerrie informs us via Twitter that “an AWACS is NOT a drone. It is a plane with a pretty big crew and a giant radar on top.” After following his exhortation to “check Wikipedia,” I have concluded that he is correct, and updated this post accordingly.