Friday, November 28, 2014

Beyond Snowden

Ed Snowden, the Movie. Jim DiEugenio has written a fine story about Citizenfour, a.k.a., the Ed Snowden Movie. This piece is far more than film review -- it gives the whole history of NSA abuses and how we learned about them (to the extent that we have learned about them). In 1975, reformist congressman Frank Church offered the following prescient words about the NSA:
“If a dictator ever took over, the NSA could enable it to impose a total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back. That capability could at any time be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide."
DiEugenio goes on to note:
Those comments were probably made because Church found out about Project Minaret, an early and limited attempt at domestic surveillance which targeted the communications of famous personages who criticized the Vietnam War, e.g., himself and King.

Project Minaret lasted from 1967 to 1973 and ended up targeting about 1,650 American citizens. These names were on Watch Lists made up by the executive intelligence agencies. There was no judicial oversight and no warrants were obtained.
The surveillance state does not target them. The state targets us.

Secrecy also fosters corruption. I've mentioned NSA whistleblower William Binney in previous posts. Nevertheless, the facts he brought to light remain too little known: In March of 2013, Senator Ron Wyden asked James Clapper (the National Intelligence Director) if the NSA collects data on millions of Americans. Clapper, of course, said no.

And, of course, he was lying: Just such a program did exist. Its name was STELLARWIND.

But that's not the worst of it. In January of this year, President Obama received a memo from a small group of NSA whistleblowers, including Binney. As DiEugenio summarizes:
What the memo revealed was that the whole pubic scandal about STELLARWIND was unnecessary because Binney, Loomis and Wiebe had devised a much better program called THINTHREAD. This did much the same thing, but it had encryption formulas entered into it so that records relating to American citizens would remain secret at least until a FISA court could decide on whether or not probable cause existed to open them.

The program was also cross-relational: “It united data associated with terrorists/criminals from all databases.” And it was relatively cheap. THINTHREAD was developed in-house for a paltry $3 million and could be fully deployed for about $300 million. But NSA Director Michael Hayden vetoed this program in favor of an outside contractor’s program called TRAILBLAZER, a decision made three weeks before the 9/11 attacks.
One of the bureaucratic “advantages” of TRAILBLAZER was that it cost more than ten times as much as THINTHREAD and allowed the NSA and various members of Congress thus to show that they were doing more about terrorism – and helping out some favored contractors – even though TRAILBLAZER ultimately proved a failure and a waste of some $3.8 billion.
This blog has also discussed the story of Thomas Drake, another NSA whistleblower who went to the Baltimore Sun. The government baselessly sued him because he had dared to reveal (among other things) that the NSA had collected enough information to break up the 9/11 plot well before the disaster happened:
Drake discovered that the NSA had produced a lengthy analytic report that broke open the entire structure of Al-Qaeda and associated groups, including the content of phone calls between hijacker Khalid al-Midhar in San Diego with the known Al-Qaeda safe house communications center in Yemen.

Drake’s information, of course, undermined the whole Bush/Cheney argument that if the U.S. only had a bulk collection program prior to 9/11, the attacks could have been prevented. Instead, the problem was an analytical failure to understand the import of information already collected. Piling on vast amounts of additional data arguably made the problem worse, burying the analysts in an unimaginably giant haystack of data and expecting them to locate the crucial needle.
In an ironic twist, Cheney misused the Khalid al-Midhar case transforming it into an example of how the NSA could have prevented the attacks if it only had more data – when, in fact, the NSA had this information in hand.
In other words, the NSA did not need broader powers. Nevertheless, the misrepresentation of what really happened helped give birth to PRISM:
Snowden secured a 41-frame Power Point presentation on it. The aim of this program is to collect private electronic data belonging to users of major internet carriers like Gmail, AOL, Skype and YouTube.

With the exposure of PRISM, Snowden cut out one of the most often used defenses by both the Bush and Obama administrations, namely, that they were collecting only “metadata,” that is, only the times and durations of communications. PRISM collects the contents of emails, online chats, cloud-stored files, and much more.
As Snowden notes in the film, PRISM is not just a recording device. It can be channeled backward and forwards in time. That is, once the target is identified, PRISM can access all the information from the company’s databank, from the past to the present and monitor it into the future.
Fort Meade is not far away from where I live. I'd like to make a documentary of my own -- a short film in which the NSA workers who live in that town are asked one simple question: How do you sleep at night? I would ask that question politely, of course, and I would behave in a civilized fashion if people chose not to reply.

Now, I have every right to grab my camera, go out to Fort Meade and pose that question to random folk. Not a single person who signed the Constitution would deny my right to do this.

Yet I dare not. The NSA is a whole lot bigger than the Constitution, and don't pretend otherwise.

Note: The video embedded above does not directly relate to the film Citizenfour. It's the record of a conference called Enemies of the State, and it features remarkable disclosures from Jesselyn Radack, Thomas Drake, and William Binney.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The day of the boot

Nick Hanauer is a very affluent businessman who has embarked on a crusade: He wants to inform his fellow plutocrats (and us) that this shit can't go on forever. He delivers that message in the "banned" TED talk embedded above, and in this piece in Politico. The latter piece takes the form of an address to the other gold-plated assholes afflicting this planet.
Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.
You’re living in a dream world. What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That’s the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us.
I'll add this. During this country's best era, the top tax rate hovered around 90 percent. People like Paul Ryan like to remind us that JFK proposed lowering the top tax rate to roughly 70 percent, an idea which came to fruition shortly after his death. What people like Paul Ryan don't tell you is this: The business community fought JFK's proposed tax rate reduction.

Yes, I know that the preceding sentence seems counter-intuitive, but it's true.

Why did businessfolk want to keep a highly progressive tax system untouched? For one simple reason: Everything worked. They didn't want to screw things up. From their perspective, we were all riding in a car that looked stylish and ran fine, and they didn't think that a few minor sputters justified an engine rebuild.

That was the conservative position in the early 1960s. Boy, have things changed!

Now, the rich seem to adhere to an apocalyptic version of IBGYBG -- I'll be gone, you'll be gone. Hanauer says that his fellow plutocrats understand full well that a rebellion is increasingly likely. They are convinced that they are "somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time."

I think that his words reflect actual conversations with actual rich people. They are planning for The Day. They know that Fox News propaganda and the endless repetition of libertarian cliches won't stave off the pitchforks forever.

Well, guess what? Even if the plutocrats make good their escape, there is no place to escape to.

Peter Thiel's Seasteading idea -- Libertarian islands run by and for the rich -- is little more than a sick joke. You can't run such places without material resources and without workers, both of which will be controlled by the pissed-off revolutionaries running the rest of the world. Those islands will be like Gaza: Giant, open-air prisons. Concentration camps on the high seas.

Meanwhile, we will control the nukes and the drones. The rich will live in their island prisons only if we allow them to live.

And even if we do allow them to live, those poor, sick bastards will have to live with each other. Think of it: On Ayn Rand Island, law will be against the law. No government. Just an island filled with hyper-narcissistic Randroid psychotics who have made the phrase "dog-eat-dog" into a religion.

Being psychologically incapable of cooperation, they'll soon go after each other. They'll kill each other. They'll kill and kill and kill, until only one is left. That final victor will hoot and howl in triumph, and then he'll notice the great shadow of humanity's boot hovering over his head.

That's when he'll understand that he was never anything more than an insect.

An insect.

An insect doomed to become a blot on the sidewalk of history.

There is no escape, insects. No island. No refuge. You're trapped on this planet -- with us.

The day of the boot will will be our true day of thanksgiving.
What Nick Hanauer understands is that the middle-class are the job creators. Not the uber-rich. We've been swallowing the trickle-down swill for the last 40 years. It doesn't work. Henry Ford knew the drill--pay your workers well and they will buy what you make. People without disposable income have no money beyond basic needs. Conservatives and the rich yelp about welfare subsidies which would be greatly reduced in a more equitable system. Instead we get ridiculous and cruel pronouncements about stripping food stamps from the poor to 'ennoble' them [ala Mike Pence].

Look at what's happening throughout the country over the Ferguson decision. All these issues are linked--inequities driving economic, social, justice and education opportunities.

The rage is rising. A few burned buildings are the least of it.

If the plutocrats wish to survive, they need to stop killing the host they've been feeding on--the 99%. They smirked and dismissed Occupy. This blows up, they won't be smirking. They'll be lucky to get away with their asses intact.

Floating rich-people islands = "Lord of the Goldbugs"
why did his ted talk get banned? thanks - james
does someone have his whole ted talk somewhere? james
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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I don't know if I should write this

What to write? What to write? I spent all day yesterday trying to think of the right way to respond to the injustices of Ferguson. Anyone unfortunate enough to get within listening distance heard some pretty brutal words -- the kind of words which, if published, might have gotten me into trouble.

The following may seem intemperate. Those around me have heard worse.

While downtown Baltimore yesterday, I talked to an older black guy who derided the rioters in Ferguson. He recalled the riots of April 1968, which destroyed a sector of this city which has never been properly rebuilt. (One of those areas surrounds the cemetery where the fetid cadaver of Allen Dulles lies not far away from the corpse of John Wilkes Booth.) "Rioting never solves anything," he said. Maybe he was right, but I still didn't want to hear it.

Some thoughts:

1. White people -- on teevee and elsewhere -- keep repeating that Michael Brown "charged" the officer's car. McCulloch clearly stated that there was conflicting testimony on this score. The fact that so many white people use that term unthinkingly proves their racism.

I'm sorry, but the R word is justified in this instance. You cannot presume from the outset a point of questioned testimony that should have been determined at trial. Racists consider testimony "credible" only when it buttresses their preconcieved notions. We have to ask ourselves why some pundits don't want "their" witnesses to face cross-examination. What are they afraid of?

2. A man in a car (especially a man in a heavy vehicle like a police cruiser) never -- NEVER -- has anything to fear from a single unarmed individual. That's what the gas pedal is for.

Well, to be fair: If the car is out of gas or trapped between two other cars, the driver may have reason to fear. But Officer Wilson was not in that situation. He could have scooted out of the way and, if need be, called for back-up.

3. McCulloch kept repeating that the Grand Jury made its decision based on physical evidence. It is clear now that this decision was based primarily on Darren Wilson's testimony.

4. McCulloch could have gotten an indictment if he wanted one. As the commonly-heard saying has it, a DA can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. A grand jury was convened purely to allow McCulloch to blame others for his decision.

5. As a reader of this blog put it: "Differing accounts of what happened huh? That's USUALLY why they have trials." Those twelve words sum up this entire post. If we allowed trials to occur only when all witnesses agree, we'd have a lot fewer trials.

6. Wilson's testimony seems to have been a prime example of what the cops in L.A. call "testi-lying." See video above.

7. Why should we trust what the police call "physical evidence"? Why should we trust their testimony? The cops -- in that town and in other towns -- have been running a racket, using poor working people as a cash register. Check out the revealing words about forfeiture in Ferguson's budget (pdf)). And check out this piece. Even the NYT has published an uncharacteristically hip article.

At trial, a clever attorney could have reminded the jury of the many things the cops have done to earn the community's mistrust and hatred.

Frankly, that's the kind of spectacle I long to see.

I would love to see juries automatically presume that the cops are lying in every single case. Not one syllable cops say should be trusted. If a cop says "He wore a blue jacket," presume that the jacket was some other color -- even if you have a photo proving that the jacket was blue.

More than that. Jurors and other citizens should do everything possible to make the lives of cops miserable. A cop's kid should be spat on every single day he goes to school. Cops should wake up to see paint buckets emptied on their cars. Why? Here's why. And here's why.

Keep treating cops like garbage until cops stop acting like garbage. And a hearty FUCK YOU to any thuggish cop who boo-hoo-hoos about being hated by the very people he is trying to serve when he's out there every day putting his life on the line yada yada yada. Cops are hated for good reason, as you can see here.

For the average citizen, the police are worse than the mafia. Until the cops stop functioning as a hyper-mafia, they should be treated the same way the heroic Vietnamese treated French and American soldiers.

I used to have a great respect for policemen. Seriously. I was taught from an early age to revere those guys, and I would love nothing more than to return to that attitude. But damn it, there have been too many stories like this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one.

Cops need to be taught a lesson, and that lesson is this: Actions have consequences. If cops have become robbers -- as indeed they have -- well, they chose that course, and now they must take the consequences.

8. Let's not blame "outside agitators" for the Ferguson riot. Come on: Nobody takes the Revolutionary Communist Party seriously. They're clowns. Frankly, I've always thought that Bob Avakian worked for the feds. The RCP was Ronald Reagan's best recruiting tool on the UCLA campus, back when I was a student there. As for Al Sharpton: He definitely worked for Uncle.

The real "outside agitators" in Ferguson are the cops. The robbing, thieving, ultra-corrupt cops.

9. If a guy like McCulloch recommends peaceful protest -- well, what more evidence do you need? Obviously, peaceful protest is useless. Peaceful protest is what the Establishment wants you to do. (Yeah, I said it: The Establishment. Time for that useful term to come back into circulation.) The Establishment considers protest to be part of the system -- a way for the oppressed to blow off steam.


Do not waste your time with protest. Rebel.

Each of you will have to work out the specifics of how to rebel, although the words written above may suggest an idea or two. But the following two pieces of advice may be of some help.

First, history tells us that the most effective forms of rebellion are planned events, done in cold blood.

Second, being a rebel is like being a boxer: You don't win if you hurt yourself. You have to hurt the other guy.

Added note: I'm getting a lot of hits from the Free Republic. Guess they hate me. Oddly enough, this is one of the few posts I've written containing links to sites run by Libertarians. In these strange times, the usual right/left dichotomy doesn't always tell the full story.
Some good points and real passion behind that. Perhaps that kind of racism you're describing should be explained as internalized or ingrained.

Thanksgiving is going to be tough....
"After the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the government called on police to become the eyes and ears of homeland security on America’s highways."(

CIA ,DHS planning to destroy some of their email archives.

obviously UN-related

Agreed, but.............. In my city in the Midwest we have a concept called Community Policing. Adopted by some and created in Madison by former police Chief Couper (his blog, We may have a few rotten apples but the majority of police here are the most respectful, kind and helpful people in any institution in the city. And yes, they DO save lives every day.

We really need to look to the leaders of any organization. Do they give special preference to friends and the wealthy or do they treat everyone equally? That's nearly impossible in this world today but we can strive for that. Police do serve the community ( break ins, robberies, murders etc) but they have also historically served as protectors of the rich ( oh yes Mr. Big, we understand, you weren't involved at all, thanks for coming in, sorry to bother you).

I'm so saddened when I see the best in blue in my city and they are compared in any way to Ferguson. Our present Chief has referred to the Ferguson cops as "rent-a-cop". He's great, but does he place a high preference on protecting the wealthy? Honestly, I don't know.

Last thought. Everybody likes to talk about how many people police officers kill. Question. How many people do doctors kill? Or any other profession. And in those professions, do they risk they're lives every day?
When Ukrainian Neo-Nazi gangs attacked unarmed police in Kiev with clubs, iron bars, bricks and Molotov cocktails, the American media labelled them as "pro-democracy demonstrators", whereas blacks in Ferguson are now nothing but "rioters". Racism and disinformation run so deep in our society that's it's no wonder most people, including those who call themselves progressives, seem incapable of an unorthodox thought.

As this conflict spreads from city to city across the country it's important to remember that one man's riot is another man's rebellion.

You should not have written this.
Calling all cops garbage is like calling all blacks criminals.

Shame on you
You first instinct was correct.
"Calling all cops garbage is like calling all blacks criminals"

The difference is this: Cops have power. Most black people do not.

Not all cops are garbage, but even the non-garbage cops have learned not to rock the boat and not to air dirty laundry. Everyone knows this. Thus, even the good cops are bad cops, because the good cops acquiesce to the evils within the system.

You can't be a good gear within a bad machine.

Treating the non-garbage cops as if they were garbage cops will have an obvious salutary effect: This tactic will force the good cops to deal with what is happening around them. Maybe they'll become disgusted. Maybe they will start ratting out their corrupt brethren. Better still, maybe they will quit and become agents for change.

Be honest. How many "good" cops have written articles or gone on radio talk shows to denounce the forfeiture racket? Isn't it much more likely that good cops will rationalize the corruption, will go along to get along?

Police forces across the country have become organized theft rings. I used to think that the cops in Tijuana were corrupt, but those guys are pansies compared to what's going on in America.

So what choice do we have? We have to be honest about what is going on. We have to resist what has happened. We have to treat these robbers-with-badges like pariahs. We have to make them hate themselves by treating them -- ALL of them -- like garbage.

I don't see any other way to effect change. "Peaceful protest" clearly does not work.
By the way, I never said that all cops were garbage. I said they should be treated LIKE garbage.
OK, why don't we just disband the police force in Ferguson and let the citizens who live there handle any crime there? Sorta like western justice.

I'm serious. Anytime a population gets over 50% black, just disband the police department.

Could you live with that?
Joseph wrote...As a reader of this blog put it: "Differing accounts of what happened huh? That's USUALLY why they have trials." Those twelve words sum up this entire post. If we allowed trials to occur only when all witnesses agree, we'd have a lot fewer trials.

I KNEW you would twist this around. Of course witnesses can have conflicting viewpoints,but when the viewpoints conflict on the same side, that points to something that could be viewed as racist as well. Or can only caucasians be racist in your world?
As for being safe in the car explanation, that is inaccurate as well. There was another person involved no? Wasn't that person around the car as well? How can the officer keep their eye on the attacker and go forward without even looking where he is going? It can't be done.

It is also possible that if the deceased were actually a pretty bad dude that no one from his community would out him either.

Wasn't he caught on tape stealing from a store just earlier that day? Are we to believe that was his first time ever stealing? Somebody his size stealing, how can that be painted as an innocent young kid? And no I'm not justifying his death, but to portray him as a innocent young boy seems incorrect as well.

Joseph, why don't you go into the Ferguson community and do a fair and balanced tribute video about the deceased. Good luck with that.
You could have constructed a much more useful commentary if you simply had advocated that police officers more closely resemble the racial community they patrol.

Not an exact percentage ratio, but something that is probably closer than what it is in Ferguson.

I think you're going to need one of these:
Freepers are not libertarian, at all. They are neocon, earth-rapers, it's where the Cheney's might hang out. So you linking to libertarian sites is not a 'right' thing.

On Ferguson. we just need to read our Alain Badiou to see why this is happening; why this is the new normal. We will be seeing more and more rioting, as the injustice continues unabated.

And it is a capital injustice. The top 100 people in the usa making more than the bottom 180 million! Come on, you have to go back to medieval times to find something like that disparity.

And the debt. The average student coming out 30 grand in debt. Get in line sucker. The national debt. What a great tool. Make the government do austerity to make payments of increasing percentage of the pie.

The Democratic party is not going to be where the revolution, if we ever see it, happens.
Alessandro and Richard: Follow my links. Most of them don't talk about race; most of them describe crime -- or "legalized" theft. My point is simple: Why should anyone trust or tolerate police who act like mafiosi? And just how bad do things have to get before rebellion becomes justified?
Thanksgiving is always tough with families of disparate views of the world and country. This year the Wilson non-indictment will likely dominate conversations between left and right family members. Makes life interesting. Or not.

No one expected a Wilson indictment because police across the country have gotten away with this and worse. What's worse than a dead body? you ask. Shaking down poor communities on ludicrous charges, stacking escalating fines and charges on people who are living on the edge turns entire neighborhoods into the walking dead--no opportunity to get out from under, few jobs and lousy pay when jobs exist and public officials who take great pride in filling the coffers with confiscated goods and money from people who have little of either. People need to read the shenanigans that public 'servants' have been exacting on communities like Ferguson. It's downright disgusting.

Yes, cops have a hard job and put their lives on the line. The good cops need to start standing up and calling the bad ones out. The systemic theft and brutality in poor neighborhoods needs to stop. Too bad if a police force doesn't have the money for a cappuchino/latte machine or the latest military gear from our pointless ME wars.

The rage we've been seeing across the country isn't the result of one death alone. It's rage against many dead bodies in the street. Like the 12-year old shot to death the other day for having a toy pistol. Anyone think that would happen in an upscale, white neighborhood? And if it did happen, anyone think there wouldn't be demands for the cops head???

Our justice system is no longer even pretending to be equitable. Color blind, class blind, justice for all. It's become a sad, ugly joke.

And just how bad do things have to get before rebellion becomes justified?

I think that's a perfectly valid question. I'm just surprised to hear it coming from someone who cited the fate of the Paris Commune to argue that violent resistance was always a bad idea.
For a minute there I thought you were going to express an independent opinion.
It is indeed ALMOST always a bad idea, and the fate of the Paris Commune proves the point.

I advised people to rebel. There are numerous ways to do so, and many of those ways do not involve violence.

For example, treating policemen as social pariahs is both non-violent and perfectly legal. Choosing not to accord any credibility to police testimony in courtroom proceedings is also non-violent and (I think) legal. Putting emotional pressure on well-meaning cops to tell the truth about the forfeiture racket is a non-violent and legal method of rebellion.

There are many other strategies. As I said, people will have to work out those strategies for themselves.
This won't improve your mood.

Police didn't arrest him or file charges. He was initially listed as the 'victim' (rather than the teenage girl he ran over).
The police lie in every single case. They lie even when they don't have to. There's something about swearing by almighty God and raising their right hand that makes them lie their knickers off and keep a straight face and back while they're doing it. If a police officer showed a proper respect for the truth, his peers would soon ostracise him. Very soon. He'd have made a real boo-boo.

"A cop's kid should be spat on every single day he goes to school." Steady on! That's silly and nasty. You can't blame children for what their parents do.

Where I come from, police are already treated as social pariahs. They are one of the few occupational groups - another being schoolteachers - who predominantly hang out among their own. Not many people want to drink in a pub that cops go to.

But beware the false idea that the police are the main enemy. They're not.
@ Joseph : 8:15 PM
"ALMOST always"
The logical structure of such leaves me ALWAYS mind-buggeled.
"nobody can jump into the same river twice" ALMOST
You propose treating police officers like garbage. That's how Michael Brown treated Darren Wilson.
No, RobJ...that's how Darren Wilson treated Michael Brown.
Well, Joseph, if that's how you feel.

I'm a long time reader and frequent admirer, but I'm also the mother of a cop and the grandmother of one of those children you advocate spitting upon.

At the moment, I see very little difference between you and those whom you profess to hate. Do you honestly believe that we should treat an entire group and their offspring like garbage because of the horrible actions of some?

That's wrong and immoral, whether it's crooked cops, white supremacist bigots, or unhinged Islamophobes, or YOU doing it.
"FBI data released over the past month reveals that so-called “justifiable homicides” reached a record high last year, while the number of officers killed in the line of duty fell to its lowest level in decades."

Dear Anonymous...that says a lot right there since you can make up a nym and that apparently was beyond you. The mother of a cop says more about you than about Joseph. I'm sure the children spitting on your grandkid/s will be doing so on account of the toxic mix of entitlement and ....mentality, and the lack of prowess therein.

I agree completely with the premise that such treatment is necessary for all cops, so that the "good" gears in the bad machine will start to balk.

Everything Peggysue said! It turned out my family was well-behaved, but only because they are such diehard foodies that the only topic ever discussed while eating

The dogs, on the other hand, were total brats. Mine, the worst of them.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

No indictment in the killing of Michael Brown (UPDATED)

Here's the WP story. I've just now heard nearly all of Robert McCulloch's statement to the press, and it was utterly unconvincing and downright infuriating. So what if the grand jury heard conflicting testimony about the position of Brown's hands? The guy was unarmed. If I were sitting in a car and I opened fire at an unarmed man coming toward me (at whatever speed), there's no way I could empty a gun into the guy's body and then claim self defense.

McCulloch kept speaking of "physical evidence," as if repeating that magical mantra could disguise the fact that none of the physical evidence he described justified what Officer Wilson did.

Everyone knows that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich if the D.A. really wants an indictment.

And then McCulloch had the audacity to say that his office would never take the grave step of charging someone with a crime unless the preponderance of physical evidence demanded it. I doubt that the black people of Ferguson would say the same.

We all know by now that the police department in that town has been run as a criminal enterprise for a long, long time. Ferguson makes money by profiling black people. The cops are running a major shakedown racket. What has McCulloch done about that?

When I lived in Los Angeles, much of my city burned after the Rodney King verdict -- a miscarriage of justice that, in retrospect, seems rather less outrageous than what happened in Ferguson.

On that night, I went into Simi Valley and decorated telephone poles with a cartoon of the jury in the Rodney King case, depicting them as Nazis and Klansmen. Got a death threat or two.

But what I did was nothing. Nothing. Others in my town took bolder action.

"No justice: No peace," they cried. Good slogan.

Now, I'm not saying that I approved of everything the insurrectionists did. They gutted the 99 Cent Stores. Why? The good stuff was elsewhere. As a friend from the UK told me that night: "Why don't they just go marching into Bel Air?"

Revolution is a terrible thing and should always be used as a last resort. But revolution is not the worst thing in the world. A stupid revolution is worse. As a wise man once said, the first duty of a revolutionary is to get away with it.

I think that I've made my feelings as clear as I dare.

Added note: Just now, I saw our president speak in calm and folksy tones while, on the other side of the split screen, gas bombs dispersed crowds in Ferguson. We're told that those projectiles were not tear gas, but people seemed to be running away rather rapidly nonetheless. Obama never looked more ineffectual. 

Update: I don't know how many fires have broken out in Ferguson. Television coverage conveys the impression that quite a few buildings are burning, but that impression is probably misleading. One thing is quite clear: There are no firefighters trying to put out those flames. Chris Hayes noted that fact just now on MSNBC.

MSNBC has been doing spectacularly good work in covering this story. All other television news coverage that I've seen has ranged from mediocre to lousy to lousier.

Update 2: Just now on CNN, I saw a particularly ditzy white news anchor decide that she had a right to speak on behalf of the people of Ferguson. She said that they must be angry at the small number of outside agitators who are causing all of the violence now raging.

I got news for you, lady: The agitator who is at fault in this situation is named McCulloch.

And I'm pretty sick of people who insist that the only permissible forms of protest are those forms which don't bring change and don't challenge power.

By the way: It seems clear that the cops must be preventing the fire trucks from getting near the burning buildings and cars.
I've never been so happy to hear someone finally stfu as I did when McCullough ended his hideous drone. That long list of irrelevant hearsay was beyond infuriating. I just drove home thru downtown and it's actions here so far. I'm sure there will be demonstrations. A lone helicopter with a spotlight circled downtown and police were out driving in great numbers...not even stopping a swerving speeding car. I guess they're under orders to give the revenue grubbing a pass while they hunt for unrest...
Sorry, Joseph, but if you were being charged by an unarmed man nearly twice your size who had already assaulted you you might very well be able to claim self-defense. Here's a case from your neck of the woods:

Note that Walker (unlike Wilson) sustained no injuries whatsoever, but was nevertheless acquitted (in a "duty to retreat" state, no less).

Now, I'm not saying that I approved of everything the insurrectionists did. They gutted the 99 Cent Stores.

So, gutting a 99 cent store was bad, but beating Reginald Denny half to death was okay? Nice set of priorities you have there, Joseph.

I will absolutely agree with you that there's every reason to think that corruption and racism are endemic in the Ferguson PD (and the city government, as well).

Frankly, that has absolutely nothing to do with whether the grand jury's decision was justified, although it has certainly factored into the reaction to it.

As for Obama's speech: what, exactly did you want him to say? I actually think he did a pretty good job - and I'm surprised he didn't mention himself once.

Clarification, Firefighers don't fight fires until a location is deemed secured.

Part of what enflamed this event is Mr. Brown's body was left out in the street for hours and one wonders if this was done to send a message, or was it done to make sure all evidence was properly documented.

I haven't followed the Brown death closely enough to have a solid opinion. However, It makes no sense for a community of primarily african american populace to have primarily caucasian police officers.

The assertion that witnesses had wildly different versions of what happened I take seriously and does damage the integrity of the accusations, assuming the assertion is true of course.

Other than the above observations, I stayed out of this one but do wish common sense prevails and the police department more racially reflects the people they are supposed to protect and serve.
in a full scale riot you don't send your firetrucks to ground zero where you will endanger the FF'ers lives and vehicles which may very well be needed to put out fires where people aren't mobbing the streets.

It's funny how Wilson's defenders play up Brown's size and play down Wilson's. Check out the photo of Darren Wilson at a wedding. He towers over the other men. I'm guessing at least 6'3", 270 lbs:
And I noticed that in Wilson's testimony to the grand jury, he claimed Brown was "reaching for his waistband" even as Brown was supposedly charging Wilson.
It makes no sense for a community of primarily african american populace to have primarily caucasian police officers.

Absolutely - and this is the biggest indicator that there are serious problems with institutional racism in Ferguson.

However, that has absolutely nothing to do with whether the grand jury's finding is correct.
Propertius, I've seen pictures of Wilson's "injuries" and I'm not buying that he feared for his life. Police are supposed to use their gun as a last resort. Wilson was the same hight as Brown (both are 6'4"), so hardly twice his size (though Brown was nearly 100 lbs heavier). Also, we have only hearsay that he was "charging" Wilson......basically only Wilson's assertion. Of course, I don't have all the facts the jury had, so there may be more. However, he emptied his clip into an unarmed man. How could that EVER be justified? Joseph is absolutely correct though that McCullogh is corrupt to the core. He has never indicted a police officer for a shooting death, ever. He also had a family member killed by a black man. I'm sure there's no bias there though, uh huh.
Multiculturalism has transparently failed and the US can no longer lecture Russia and China and call itself "indispensable" except maybe to Israel.

American anti-imperialists should support all groups of whatever ethnic/ economic derivation which are also anti-imperialist. The US must solve its own ethnic problems before inflicting its deracinated subculture on the world any longer.
Differing accounts of what happened huh?
That's USUALLY why they have trials.
At the time, the Ferguson police were clear in saying that there was no relationship between the so-called "strong arm robbery" and Wilson's stop of Brown. But in Wilson's Grand Jury testimony he claims to have explicitly identified Brown as the "strong arm" robber and called for backup. Apparently there are no official photographs of the scene because the police photographer's camera battery supposedly had run out, even as Brown was left in the street for some hours. As well, no measurements were taken at the scene because "it was already clear what had happened". The LA Times has run a piece extremely critical of McCullough's approach in context of normal Grand Jury proceedings. As these types of things seep in, this may yet be officially revisited much as the Rodney King case was.
I was in the middle of the L.A. riots in '92, when I was homeless, and now now I'm the middle of the St. Louis riots 22 years later, when I am settled.

In '92, I saw the televised beating of Rodney King and shared the general public's revulsion. Living one day at a time, I looted a pack of cigarettes and a six-pack of beer from a smoldering 7-11 on Santa Monica Blvd. Most of the other looters were local Hispanics who'd never heard of Rodney King.

The next day, on Hollywood Blvd., a carload of black teens screeched to a stop in front of the smoldering Frederick's of Hollywood lingerie store. One of them got out of the car, made a beeline toward my outstretched hand, and punched me in the mouth. As I cupped a bloody tooth in my hand, he returned to the car without saying a word.

A few weeks later, I returned to my hometown of St. Louis.

I am now a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I enter the danger zones of this city on a regular basis. Ferguson is not an especially dicey suburb. Most of the white residents are homeowners; most of the black residents live in subsidized apartments. They were displaced from the north side of St. Louis proper, which has been an empty shell since the auto and shoe industries left town.

Although many of my personal experiences with cops have been negative, I understand they have a tough job in a depressed town like this. I've been mugged at least a half dozen times by young black men, many of whom were armed.

When I read the initial reports that Michael Brown was a “gentle giant,” it set off my bullshit detector. My friends on the crime beat said that Brown was a suspect in a 2013 strong-arm robbery at a hardware store, where a bunch of black teens beat a white clerk with hammers.

When TV aired the video of Michael Brown roughing up an Indian convenience-store clerk, the apologists said it didn't justify Darren Wilson shooting him. Fair enough. But their story kept changing, and the apologies kept piling up. Yes, Michael Brown robbed a store. Yes, he was high. Yes, all the autopsies showed that he tussled with Wilson's gun at close range. But hey, none of that means he deserved to get shot.

Like I said, I'm no fan of cops. But sometimes they are right. If you grab a cop's gun, all bets are off.

When the wounded Brown tried to make a getaway, he didn't obey the reasonable order to freeze. And the number of witnesses—black witnesses—who say Brown actively charged at Wilson is more than the number who say the gentle giant raised his hands to surrender.

MSNBC and the rightly aggrieved black community bet heavily on the wrong horse. If they want to protest against police brutality, I applaud them. There was a good example just a few hours after the Brown shooting, when St. Louis cops killed a psychotic man who was wielding a knife. There's no reason why the cops couldn't tase or out-run that man. If the protesters were rallying behind that cause, I'd be with them on the streets right now.

Instead, Brown's emotional family and friends, as well as outsiders like Al Sharpton and the Revolutionary Communist Party (whose white agitators are very visible with their signage), are steering the discussion away from the evidence. They want to make Mike Brown a poster boy for systemic oppression. He's not. And the white power structure is not cheering while Ferguson burns to the ground.

I live 10 miles from Ferguson. While the businesses burned there, fire trucks in my town and other suburbs were screaming toward the blazes. There were at least 20 major fires. Many of the fires, like the one at the car dealership, were in areas that couldn't be reached because protestors were blocking the streets—and looters with guns were shooting at the fire trucks.

I await the same revolution as you. But I'm from the Show-Me State, which means I don't join a line until I see the evidence.
@Anon 5.41am - "In a full scale riot you don't send your firetrucks to ground zero where you will endanger the FF'ers lives and vehicles which may very well be needed to put out fires where people aren't mobbing the streets."

And where 'you' risk having the firefighters refuse to take sides in the social conflict which has erupted - refuse to take the side of the police, of those whom the police are protecting, of those whose property and order the police are defending. Worse, you may even 'risk' the firefighters going over to the side of the uprising.

I've seen firefighters in fire engines surrounded by rioters, content just to wait while expensive buildings burn, not agitated, not under attack.

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Hagel: If he's going, is war coming?

Chuck Hagel is stepping down as Secretary of Defense. Why? The reasons given by the NYT are pretty fuzzy. For better answers, take note of Hagel's criticism of Obama's Syria strategy. Basically, he seems to be of the (correct) opinion that you can't oppose both ISIS and Assad; if you want rid of ISIS, you should work with Assad.

You should also take a look at an anti-Hagel website amusingly called This site was set up some time ago by people who wanted to deep-six Hagel's appointment. His foes clearly felt that Hagel was insufficiently neoconnish for the job.
Throughout his career, Chuck Hagel has sought to protect Iran from U.S. sanctions and diplomatic pressure.
Chuck Hagel has sought to distance the United States from Israel, blame Israel for Palestinian terrorism, pressure Israel to surrender territory and retreat to indefensible borders, and...
Throughout his career, Chuck Hagel has sought to soften U.S. pressure on Syria, one of the leading sponsors of terrorism in the world and Iran's only Arab ally...
Chuck Hagel seeks to reduce the pressure on, and isolation of, terrorist groups and state sponsors of terrorism. In 1998, Hagel appeared to mimic the talking points of Syria’s dictator...
Hilariously, the neocons labeled Hagel an "extremist." Of course, by world standards, by the standards of all history and morality, the true extremists are the neocons themselves. The Iraq war was pretty damned extreme.

Hagel's exit may mean that the neocons have gained full control of the steering wheel. And they will steer us in but one direction: Toward a dark and dangerous place called WAR.
In the wake of other events I've seen no feedback on this interesting move....I dearly hope this is one time you won't be able to say: you heard it here first. :/
Well, Hagel was hired by Obama to wind down the wars and save some money. He was a Sergeant in Vietnam and knows what war is. He doesn't like war. He's not a warmonger. And he was just fired from his job by Obama. Something's changed. And it does smell like war.
->in the future,
Turkey,US,training anti Assad forces
in Anatolia,etc.
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High-placed pedophiles...?

We have yet another allegation of a VIP pedophile ring in the UK.

This must be the touchiest subject matter imaginable, because the very thought of pedophilia makes most people feel sick. Worse, any attempt to investigate the possibility of a protected pedophile ring -- a ring run by and for powerful people -- can induce another sort of sickness: Paranoia. That's what happened to an acquaintance of mine recently: A investigative writer, one of the more level-headed people I know, started to investigate a missing child case, and now he's jumping at shadows.

Can we blame him? This is icky, scary stuff, and it'll get to you if you're not ultra-careful.

To prove the point, run your eyeballs over the following account in the UK's Mirror. The operation discussed here has no connection to the case referenced above (at least, no connection that I know about). But if the following doesn't give you the parapolitical heebie-jeebies, your heart, brain and soul must be made of concrete.
Paedophile politicians at Westminster murdered young boys at sex orgies, say two former Scotland Yard detectives, writes Mark Conrad and Keir Mudie in the Sunday People.

The retired officers who first investigated the allegations more than 30 years ago have provided explosive testimony to the Yard’s new probe.

The pair have made written statements to the Met Police about the VIP network which they claim was known as The Untouchables because they were too powerful to bring to justice.

It is believed the ex-cops – one of them Special Branch – told the current inquiry that they were ­ordered NOT to investigate the group.

Their dramatic new evidence appears to corroborate claims by a victim known as Nick that he witnessed a young boy being ­murdered by an MP.
Here's the Sunday story about that alleged killing:
Today the Sunday People and Exaro investigations agency expose the full extent of shocking events the witness, known as Nick, has described to the Metropolitan Police paedophile unit.

Nick claims the first death was of a boy aged ten or 11 who was ­deliberately run down by a car.

Another chilling allegation is that he was in the same room in the 1980s when a 12-year-old boy was strangled by a Tory MP.

Nick said: “I watched while that happened. I am not sure how I got out of that. Whether I will ever know why I survived, I am not sure.”

Eighteen months later, he claims a third boy was killed by two unknown men in front of another MP.

Nick told of his terror as he and the strangling victim were driven to an orgy.
In a follow-up story, we learn that the ring operated out of Dolphin Square, a block of luxury apartments for MPs and others of that ilk.

I'd like to think that Nick is a fantasist. Maybe he is. Maybe the cops will one day regret taking his claims seriously.

Still, we've encountered allegations of this sort before, in both the UK and the US.

In the past, I've urged caution in assessing pedophilia charges. For example, In the great contretemps between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, I favor Allen's side, mostly because I don't have much faith in Mia Farrow's credibility (for reasons given here). Of course, a he-said, she-said dispute between a famous couple is very different from the kind of charges now being investigated by Scotland Yard.

A more relevant example would be the Kincora case, which I wrote about here.
These allegations were first aired around 1980, when a man named Colin Wallace helped to expose the abuses at the Kincora boys home in Belfast. Shortly thereafter, Wallace was framed for a murder he did not commit; although he was convicted, he was ultimately cleared of the crime. This horrifying story -- too complex to detail here -- is well-known in the U.K. and Ireland, yet remains untold in this country. Interested readers should seek out the excellent book Who Framed Colin Wallace?
That's a damned fine book, and I wish someone would either re-issue it properly or put an unsanctioned version online (or at least get more copies circulating in the US library system), because one way or the other, that work deserves to be read. Incidentally, Colin Wallace has been completely exonerated by the UK courts and has received respectful treatment in a BBC interview.

This next bit is also relevant...
Over 100 files pertinent to high-level child abuse have gone missing:
One of Britain's most senior civil servants said on Tuesday he did not know who, if anyone, had authorised the removal of over 100 missing government files that could shed light on allegations that well-known politicians abused children in the 1980s.

The disclosure, by Mark Sedwill, the top civil servant in Britain's Home Office (interior ministry), is likely to fuel a media furore in Britain over the allegations, which have not yet been substantiated.

Child protection campaigners have said that at least 10 and possibly more than 20 public figures, including current and former politicians, should be investigated over allegations that they abused young children.
The "Nick" accusations made above may relate to a series of allegations which gave rise to this 2012 post:
There's a politically-tinged sex abuse case case brewing in the U.K. No, I'm not talking about entertainer Jimmy Saville. A man named Steven Messham claims that years ago, when he was growing up in a Welsh children's home, he was "rented" out to a senior Tory political figure who became quite familiar to the British public during the Thatcher era. Apparently, the pedophile ring also supplied children to other British VIPs.

Normally, I would take a somewhat cautious attitude toward Messham's claims. However:
During the 1970s and 1980s almost 40 children’s homes in North Wales were the scene of horrific child abuse in which youngsters were raped and abused by the very people who were paid to look after them.

In the early 1990s, allegations of the abuse started to surface and in March 1994 Clwyd County Council commissioned an independent inquiry into claims of widespread abuse across North Wales.

Professor Jane Tunstill, who was on that inquiry panel told the BBC in 2000 that along with a ‘litany of abusive practices going on in the home on the part of the care staff’ there were rumours that people outside the care system were also involved in the abuse.

However, the inquiry’s report was never published and the copies were pulped to ensure that the local authority was able to maintain its insurance cover.
That post engendered some very heated commentary from readers on the other side of the pond. In the end, I was not able to determine who was telling the truth.
Great post Joseph. Do you think here in the good ol USA that Sandusky was a lone guy? Is that really possible?
Also in the US we had the Franklin Cover-up. Did you ever read Nick Bryant's book on that?

I think we're just getting a glimpse of the system. This may be the way things work. Most of us are unaware because we don't travel in those circles. And as you've said, and others have said, reporting on such matters is dangerous.

I hoping the new year brings a few more people of courage forward.
Of course you know that these stories have also involved George Bush Sr. (young boys) and Dick Cheney (abusing women). The Franklin Scandal was the name of the book I believe...
As you've pointed out before. Rush Limbaugh. Dominican Republic. Illicit drugs.

What better leverage to have over a powerful person (say, a politician) than proof of their pedophilia? I've always shied away from the topic, because it's pretty horrible to read about allegations, let alone proof of them. But this kind of thing has been popping to the surface for many, many years. I have little doubt that many of our leaders are full fledged psychopaths so this would be not much of stretch for people like that. A certain percentage of the population are born without the ability to have empathy....sound like any of our "leaders"?. They can also be created, through extreme psychological trauma and abuse. I have no doubt that very powerful people are involved in this stuff and that we'd all be pretty shocked if we ever found out who (I'm sceptical that we ever will).
WTF is war coming?

It's about profit
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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sorry, Christina -- it was not to be

In this Esquire piece, Christina Hendricks talks about what she wants in a man. Most of her specifications describe your humble host to the proverbial T. Obviously, she is sending a message.

Dare ye scoff, ye scoffing scoffers? Here's the proof...
Any woman who is currently with a man is with him partly because she loves the way he smells. And if we haven't smelled you for a day or two and then we suddenly are within inches of you, we swoon. We get light-headed. It's intoxicating. It's heady.
Just imagine the effect that I would have on you, Christina. You could smell me from yards away. Maybe miles. Parsecs.
When you mention in passing that a certain woman is attractive — could be someone in the office, a woman on the street, a celebrity, any woman in the world, really — your comment goes into a steel box and it stays there forever. We will file the comment under "Women He Finds Attractive." It's not about whether or not we approve of the comment. It's about learning what you think is sexy and how we might be able to convey it.
Okay. When I was entering puberty, I formed a mad crush on St. Bernadette, followed by a mad crush on Ann-Margaret. How would you file that in your steel box, Christina?
We also remember everything you say about our bodies, be it good or bad. Doesn't matter if it's a compliment.
Right, Christina. As if there's a whole list of uncomplimentary things I might say about your body.
Never complain about our friends — even if we do.
I can honestly say that I never have and never will complain about a friend of Christina Hendricks.
Stand up, open a door, offer a jacket.
I do the first two things all the time, even when no women are around. As for my jackets: Christina, you can have either the wool overcoat or the Bogie-style trenchcoat, but not both, because it gets bloody cold out here.
No shorts that go below the knee.
I never wear shorts at all.
Also, no tank tops.
Agreed. Heartily.
No man should be on Facebook. It's an invasion of everyone's privacy. I really cannot stand it.
Christina, this one proves that you read my blog and secretly want me. Cannonfire's legendary campaign against Facebook has cost Mark Zuckerberg a truly immeasurable amount of money.
Panties is a wonderful word. When did you stop saying "panties"? It's sexy. It's girlie. It's naughty. Say it more.
For you, Christina, anything. But why doesn't the word "bra" sound sexy or girlie? Seriously, someone should invent a better word. Or maybe we can use the French term: soutien-gorge. Or maybe we should simplify matters and go with that wonderfully direct Icelandic word: brjóstahaldara. (As everyone knows, Icelandic is the language of love.) You'll adore the way I roll my Rs as I whisper Brjóstahaldara verður að vera eins stór og heimsálfu in your ear...
There are better words than beautiful. Radiant, for instance. It's an underused word. It's a very special word. "You are radiant." Also, enchanting, smoldering, intoxicating, charming, fetching.
And then there's glorious. Dazzling. Superb. Stunning. Exquisite. Pluperfectly prepossessing. Right purty. Being a writer by trade, I know lots of words. But "radiant" is indeed underused.
About ogling: The men who look, they really look. It doesn't insult us. It doesn't faze us, really. It's just — well, it's a little infantile. Which is ironic, isn't it? The men who constantly stare at our breasts are never the men we're attracted to.
As you know, Christina, I long ago developed a superhuman ability to look a woman directly in the eye -- the left eye, because I read somewhere that that's the eye to zero in on -- despite all temptation to gaze elsewhere. I'll be happy to demonstrate.

(Fellas: Proper ogling requires strategy. If she walks across a room, gaze at a spot where she is going to be. Also, the compleat ogler should never overlook the vast possibilities offered by mirrors and windows.)

As I read this list, one message became very clear: Christina wants me. But then it came. The deal-breaker:
We want you to order Scotch. It's the most impressive drink order. It's classic. It's sexy. Such a rich color. The glass, the smell. It's not watered down with fruit juice. It's Scotch. And you ordered it.
Actually, I didn't. Never in my life. Not being much of a drinker, I usually order a beer, just to be sociable. Lately, at home, I've been having the occasional vodka. With fruit juice.

Is it possible? Is it really the case that Christina Hendricks and I were not meant to be?

Damn. I was so close!
That is heartbreaking. So close.

She calls Scotch "classic." I's half a shot off from cliche. There was a bar in Cambridge that served Rye on shaved ice....if only more bars did. I think you'd be able to tolerate that and it would be old school classic.

I think she might be impressed by an astute order of an indie brew, but I'm guessing you're not that into the nuances of beer, so no.

A martini, then. With a twist. Or, a Gimlet. That would be serious old school classic. Start practicing at home with lemons and limes instead of fruit juice!

Don't lose hope!

If you like the Icelandic brjóstahaldara, you'll love the Norwegian and Danish word for nipples: brystvorter.
Best brew: Anchor Steam, ordered IN San Francisco.

And don't sneer at fruit juices, zee. An old school chum later became the world's leading authority on Tiki drinks. I think my Mom had a small role in starting him down that strange path, when she took us out to Ah Fong's...
b, I love it when the brystvorter seem to test the brjóstahaldara...
I'm at Star Buckys this morning (Earl Grey tea) and I'm trying to understand all the pressures wonderful women like Christina have. The right words, the right smells, the right man. It's you Joseph, it's definitely you. Just scratch that scotch off your list, after she stares into your eyes and sees that YOU are the one she'll never leave your side. That's when the real trouble begins.
ooo, I like that word seems to say "breast vortex" ....

Anchor Steam is totally a solid choice, and Tiki drinks are so 70s, therefore I will always remember them fondly....but focus, Joseph! It's Christina sneering at men drinking fruity drinks, not me, and my brystvorter certainly don't stack up to hers!
Great post, Mr. C.

Christina's best role was on the short lived Firefly series (Sci-Fi channel, I think). She was fabulous in that role.

Your mention of Anchor Steam brought back good childhood dad kept a few empty bottles of it in the garage in the 70's. I guess because it was pretty exotic beer for central Pennsylvania at that time.

In any case, she doesn't know what she's missing.....
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The House intel committee on Benghazi

The House intelligence panel has allegedly debunked the leading Benghazi theories. I've always felt that most of those theories were myths created to feed the right-wing scream machine. But one theory comes from non-right-wing sources: The notion that the CIA was transiting Libyan weapons stores to the Syrian opposition.

This is, by far, the most threatening allegation of all, since the Syrian rebels are now better known as ISIS.

Here's what the AP has to say about it:
A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.
Most of the attention goes to the wrangling over the role played by the Innocence of Muslims video. I'm sure that the intel committee won't touch the fairly substantial evidence that a right-wing faction of our own intelligence community helped to create and spread that inflammatory video.

Anyways, that is freakin' it as far as the Syrian angle is concerned. I haven't read the actual report yet, but I'm wary.

(I've read a lot of books about about the CIA, and I've never seen one in which a spook seems fearful of what the watchdogs on the Hill might do. The "watchdogs" have small fangs and tight leashes. Everyone in DC knows that Frank Church was unseated because spooks funneled money to his opponent.)

Let's refresh our memories.

The arms-to-Syrian-rebels claim (the only part of this brouhaha that matters) was first expressed by Jake Tapper, in August of 2013. He was careful to include the word "speculation." The main thrust of Tapper's report concerned the highly unusual amount of polygraph tests on CIA personnel connected to the Benghazi mission. So large a number of tests seemed to indicate fear -- the fear that someone might talk. about what?
Speculation on Capitol Hill has included the possibility the U.S. agencies operating in Benghazi were secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.

It is clear that two U.S. agencies were operating in Benghazi, one was the State Department, and the other was the CIA.

The State Department told CNN in an e-mail that it was only helping the new Libyan government destroy weapons deemed "damaged, aged or too unsafe retain," and that it was not involved in any transfer of weapons to other countries.

But the State Department also clearly told CNN, they "can't speak for any other agencies."
Sy Hersh took up the story next, in April of 2014.
The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida.
Hersh says that there was a "secret annex" to a highly classified Senate intelligence committee report on Benghazi. (Remember, the new report is from the House.) This annex spoke of an agreement with the Turks:
By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping.
‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’
I suppose it is possible that someone disinformed Hersh. He has fallen for bad information before. Not often -- but it has happened. (Cough cough. Marilyn Monroe. Cough cough cough.)

Perhaps someone in Spookworld came up with a clever plan to destroy the credibility of Hersh's main allegation -- that the rebels, not Assad, fired the chemical weapons that nearly dragged us into the Syrian civil war in 2013. That part of Hersh's story has since been verified, although nobody in our media likes to mention the fact.

At any rate, most of the nonsense spouted about Benghazi has come from the Fox Newsers, the Breitbarters, and the Drudge-packers. You can always safely dismiss whatever you hear from those guys. But Hersh...? Okay, maybe he got it wrong. It's possible. But this is the same guy who has broken many important stories in the past, and I won't say that he was mistaken until I see good, hard evidence.
It could just be that the GOP knuckle-draggers in the House finally figured out that they're actually going after the CIA instead of Obama and decided to call off the dogs. I mean, it's conceivable that the operation wasn't even authorized by the Executive; not likely, but possible.
Cannonfire...Thanks to Minnesota native Sigurd Olson; he helped lobby for the Wilderness bill, jets were prohibited from overflying this wilderness area, because the noisy flights were incompatible with Wilderness, "...where man is just a visitor...retains its primeval
character...etc." Wilderness Act of 1964. Will, Minneapolis, MN
Republican politicians would love to smear the label of guns for anything meme on the Democrats since that same tactic was used against the Republicans by democrats regarding the Guns for Hostages allegations and Iran / Contra issues of the 80's.

One of the reports was timed to come out just a few days before a presidential election and apparently it helped the democrats. I forget which year.

The silliness of all other claims is that even if the video story was completely bogus, misdirection is always a possibility when it comes to demoralizing possibly insurgency and terrorists acts.

If an actual terrorism act can be relabeled as something else, that actually can deter future acts of terrorism since it is the publicity that fuels the lust to do more damage. Yet for some reason may republicans just did not seem to understand that.
One would like to believe that this will be the end to the nonsense on Benghazi. But we all know that won't happen with a WH election in 2016. A Friday news dump is telling for most people but Republicans like Graham have already said the report is a pile of crap. So be ready for more endless inquiries and accusations. Anything to smear the Obama Administration in general and Hillary Clinton specifically.

Btw, Joe, I think you're right. This probably has more to do with CIA machinations with the dogs ordered off the hunt and point. We'll likely never know what happened. But the GOP investigators weren't looking for answers, just more material for the spin machine.

The beat goes on and the ugly has just begun.

Interesting article on Benghazi from Webster Tarpley: "The so-called US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was in fact a CIA station with more than 50 personnel on hand to maintain liaison with the Al Qaeda death squads deployed by NATO intelligence in 2010 and 2011 for the purpose of overthrowing the Libyan government of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi."
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Friday, November 21, 2014

The lawsuit

I have made a conscious effort to ignore the GOP's increasingly vituperative anti-Obama fulminations. Discussing their bullshit issues with this president is an unsatisfying task, because exposing their bullshit as bullshit would necessitate coming to Obama's defense. And I don't want to defend the guy. I'd rather critique the president for non-bullshit reasons.

But now there's a lawsuit that the House has filed over Obamacare, and it's a joke. Our nation's right-wing screwballs remind me of an attention-seeking child who, because his screams were ignored, has taken to peeing on the carpet.
The lawsuit — filed against the secretaries of Health and Human Services and the Treasury — focuses on two crucial aspects of the way the administration has put the Affordable Care Act into effect.

The suit accuses the Obama administration of unlawfully postponing a requirement that larger employers offer health coverage to their full-time employees or pay penalties. (Larger companies are defined as those with 50 or more employees.)

In July 2013, the administration deferred that requirement until 2015. Seven months later, the administration announced a further delay, until 2016, for employers with 50 to 99 employees.
A year's delay? So?

I was under the impression that the Republicans didn't like the employer mandate. So let me get this straight -- is the House suing Obama because he did something that agreed with what the Republicans wanted?
The suit also challenges what it says is President Obama’s unlawful giveaway of roughly $175 billion to insurance companies under the law. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the administration will pay that amount to the companies over the next 10 years, though the funds have not been appropriated by Congress. The lawsuit argues that it is an unlawful transfer of funds.
Congress voted for the law. How can paying the money be unlawful?
That issue involves subsidies known as cost-sharing reductions, which the federal government pays to insurers on behalf of people whose incomes range from the poverty threshold to two and a half times the poverty threshold ($11,670 to $29,175 a year for an individual).
And that's what this has always been about. The subsidies are the one truly good thing about Obamacare.

Here's how the Dems should frame the issue: "House Republicans sue to make working people pay more for health care." If they let the Republicans frame the issue their way, they'll lose in the court of public perception, regardless of what happens in an actual court.

There's also talk about an additional lawsuit concerning immigration. Basically, their new strategy is to sue and sue and sue Obama for not being a Republican.

When I think of the obsequious way the Democrats in Congress grovelled before Dubya over the course of eight long years...! I mean, what about the lies that got us into the Iraq war? A lot of money was spent based on a gross misrepresentation of the facts. In the business world, that kind of con-artistry might land a miscreant in court.
I think the suit has a chance sad but it's the demodogs and the beloved potus should have done this in yr one of his term. Then again that wasn't the game plan by corp. owned 0.

We have to remember nancy p. we have to pass the plan to fix it?

That has worked so well hasn't it.
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Weird times

Bloggers are, I think, a little reluctant to write much now, because we're all waiting for the bad news out of Ferguson. Sure, people are talking about Obama's new actions on immigration, but that issue never excited me. One part that bothers me is this:
And Obama will expand the total number of high-tech visas that are available, as well as loosen restrictions so that more would-be entrepreneurs can travel legally to the United States to launch companies.
Do we need more high-tech competition? Do we need more foreign companies?

I am nevertheless quite amused by the Republican reaction, what with Ted Cruz comparing Obama's actions to the Cataline conspiracy to overthrow the Republic of Rome. I really enjoy it when conservatives brag about how they've gone to skul to get all ejikated and stuff. Cruz' complaint would carry more weight if he did not belong to the party of "We're an empire now."

Although the news remains in a holding pattern, there are still a couple of matters we should talk about.

Prohibited airspace. I happened to have a look at Wikipedia's article on restricted and prohibited airspace, taking a special interest in the section on the United States. There are ten permanent prohibited areas in US listed. Most of them are places you would expect to be on the list: Area 51 and environs (known as "The Box" to military pilots); Camp David, the White House and the Capitol; the Kennedy Space Center; Mount Vernon, facilities having to do with nukes, and so forth.

But one listing seems very strange: The Bush compound near Kennebunkport, Maine.

Why does the Bush family rate this kind of protection? Carter doesn't get prohibited airspace. Neither does Clinton. I don't think that Reagan had a no-fly zone over his home in Bel-Air. (Way too much air traffic in L.A.)

(By the way, roughly half a mile away from Stately Bush Mansion is a place called Bumpkin Island. I think that this would be an excellent location for Dubya to create a compound of his own.)

There's another odd item on the no-fly list: The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota, near Lake Superior. It's a place beloved by hikers, fisher-folk and canoe enthusiasts. But why a no-fly zone here, as opposed to any number of other wilderness areas?

I haven't found even the slightest hint of a secret military base in the area.

Max Blumenthal on Ukraine. First, you should understand that I am not an uncritical Blumenthal fan: He's pretty bad on Syria, believe it or not. We can get into that issue at another time. Right now, I strongly recommend that you read this.
AlterNet has learned that an amendment to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have forbidden US assistance, training and weapons to neo-Nazis and other extremists in Ukraine was kept out of the final bill by the Republican-led House Rules Committee.
Basically, this bill would have forbidden any aid to militaristic assholes who wear swastikas and other nazified couture. Guess who made sure that this thing got knocked down?

The Weisenthal center and the ADL!
An ADL lobbyist insisted that “the focus should be on Russia,” while the Wiesenthal Center pointed to meetings between far-right political leaders in Ukraine and the Israeli embassy as evidence that groups like Svoboda and Right Sector had shed their extremism.
No, they have not.

What has happened is that, in very recent times, a large section of the neo-fascist right in Europe has decided that Jews are okay after all. They've shifted targets: They now hate Muslims. And Slavs.

We learned all about this strange development from Anders Brevik, the Norwegian mass murderer who admires Israel and who had a presence on websites run by pro-Israel Islamophobes. Guys like Brevik (and Right Sector) are still extremists, even if they say they're fine with Jews.

Mind you, this shift is pretty recent. As Blumenthal notes, the creeps in Ukraine were singing the old song just a few years ago:
Svobodoa’s leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, once called for the liberation of his country from the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia.” In 2010, following the conviction of the Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk for his supporting role in the death of nearly 30,000 people at the Sobibor camp, Tyahnybok flew to Germany to praise him as a hero who was “fighting for truth.”
But hey -- that was the past. It's all good now:
Since the Euromaidan revolution, however, Svoboda has fought to rehabilitate its image. This has meant meeting with Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Reuven Din El and appealing to shared national values. “I would like to ask Israelis to also respect our patriotic feelings,” Tyahnybok has remarked. “Probably each party in the [Israeli] Knesset is nationalist. With God’s help, let it be this way for us too.”
Reading this story, I keep flashing on those photos of nationalist thugs in Israel wearing "Good night, left side" t-shirts as they beat up peace protesters. The same t-shirt, bearing the same slogan (in English!) is worn by nationalist thugs in Europe.

Ukraine's ruling People's Front party has some interesting characters skulking about in it. There's a guy named Andriy Biletsky, for example. He leads the Azov militia, which is fighting against the people in eastern Ukraine who want no part of Kiev's current madness.
“The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival,” Biletsky recently wrote. “A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”

Azov fighters are united by their nostalgia for Nazi Germany and embrace of open fascism. Sporting swastika tattoos, the battalion “flies a neo-Nazi symbol resembling a Swastika as its flag,” the New York Times’ Andrew Kramer recently reported.
To today's ADL, that's not a problem. They're open-minded. Swastika Schmastika.

On the other hand, if you're a low-level blogger who favors a one-state solution in Israel and who thinks that Palestinians should have full citizenship rights in that state -- God help you. These days, I'm considered an extremist. Not Biletsky. Me.
I might be able to explain the Boundary Waters restricted airspace.

In my energetic youth, I went in there for a 2 week canoe trip. One day paddling along the border with Canada we heard a buzzing sound, so faint at first that we all thought it was just our ears reacting to the prolonged silence. But it kept up and proceeded to get louder for almost 45 minutes. Finally as we rounded a bend in the lake we saw a motorized canoe coming from the other direction. We hailed (not politely) the pesky, lazy schmucks and were informed it had a 3.5 HP engine.

Can you imagine if the BWCA were overflown by sightseeing tourists from both sides of the border?
makes sense, Pennelope. But why can't we have restricted airspace over other nature refuges?
"First, you should understand that I am not an uncritical Blumenthal fan: He's pretty bad on Syria, believe it or not."

Max has done really important work on Israel, but his stand on Syria needs to be examined. Starting, perhaps with his blog post about why he resigned from Al Akhbar. He complained Al Akhbar was too pro-Assad, and then gave some reasons that make him sound extremely naive in the light of everything that has happened since.

Hindsight is always 20/20 but a lot of people understood Syria from the beginning.

This Nazi resurgence in Ukraine has been a long time coming. In WWII the northwestern Ukraine Nazi groups were especially rabid. Unlike other countries, after the war Ukraine never underwent de-nazification. Allen Dulles was a Nazi sympathizer. With the start of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the German intelligence services were incorporated into those of the United States under Nazi spymaster Reinhard Gehlen. Nazi anti-Russian sympathies have been cultivated in Ukraine ever since then by the US intelligence services. And now we have a Nazi government running a country in Europe and a fascist surveillance police state in America. The parallels with the creation of the Taliban are profound.

We always think of antisemitism in association with Nazism, but really the defining factor is fascism with a hatred towards some group of "others". It doesn't have to be Jews, there just needs to be some group to apply the festering hate towards and blame them for everything you think is wrong with your world.

George Eliason quotes Biletsky, a commander of a Ukrainian "Punisher" Battalion, who is now a Ukrainian Senator;

"Unfortunately, among the Ukrainian people today there are a lot of 'Russians' (by their mentality, not their blood), 'kikes,' 'Americans,' 'Europeans' (of the democratic-liberal European Union), 'Arabs,' 'Chinese' and so forth, but there is not much specifically Ukrainian...It's unclear how much time and effort will be needed to eradicate these dangerous viruses from our people."
At least over the John Muir Wilderness in the Sierra Nevada, pilots are supposed to keep their planes at a high enough altitude to not be obnoxious to those down below.
@ CBarr : 11:23 AM
"nazism" is short for "national socialism", which in turn is an oxymoron, a contradictio in adjecto and it came NOT as a lapsus, as it was/is DESIGNED to become propagated through the idiots.
Now it is a meme.
Don't Rumsfeld and Cheney have no-fly zones over their pads in Maryland?

Good to know you're on the same page with Caroline Glick.
Anonymous 10:53
Thank you. My comment definitely traveled through the original meaning of Nazi into meme-dom. With there being an unbroken chain from the World War II Ukrainian SS-Galicia Division to the “Social National Party of Ukraine”, which after Maidan changed its name to the Svoboda Party which sports the swastika-like wolf-trap logo, the true nature of these groups are impossible to deny. But the nature of their thinking is mirrored all over the world. When economic hard times appear there are always nationalist leaning racists who will choose a people of some other ethnic or religious identity, "the others", on whom these fascists will place blame for all their troubles. And unfortunately these people are easily manipulated by the right wing power structure.
Breivik and Right Sector...and the French National Front, and the British National Party, and the English Defence League...

Raving pro-Zionists, the lot of them.

The French National Front came first in the 2014 EU elections.
@CBarr - "after the war Ukraine never underwent de-nazification"

To what extent did Germany? A lot of members of the fascist organisations in the Ukraine were either executed or sent to Soviet labour camps. (As was also true with a lot of people who'd been taken prisoner by German forces and had never substantively 'collaborated'.) The fascist structures continued, though, inside the Ukraine, as readers of this blog are aware, and I'm not saying they weren't resilient and powerful. But as far as I'm aware, they didn't have much of a grip in either the CP or the Ukrainian KGB.

I'm no expert on the Ukraine, but I think that in say 1950 the proportion of Soviet officials in that country who had belonged (or still did) to fascist organisations was much smaller than the proportion of German officials in West Germany who'd been in the Nazi party.

How the Ukraine gets portrayed in official mythology in Israel is weird. The mythology gives a lot of space to a 17th century character called Bohdan Khmelnytsky (Chmelnitsky). Up until recently at least, the Israeli media used to throw the tag "Chmelnitskyist" at Ukrainians it didn't like. Israel Shahak shows how the mythology completely obscures the fact that in the Ukraine in the 17th century the Jews were basically a social class - one of the exploitative ones.

To get a take on the Israeli view on the Ukraine, it may be useful to consider the possibility that when it really comes down to it, many Jewish nationalists hate Christianity more than they hate Islam - often much more.
@CBarr : 11:25 AM
"the true nature of these groups" is that they are LUMPEN.
Lumpen are the fall-out of the social-economic proces that is termed History.
Their true character has long been described in the wider context.
The" right wing power structure" - are the capitalists.
In science we don't use new terms if good ones work fine.
Historians tend to mix their science with the art of literature.
The Boundary Waters were subject to a growing fly-in canoe/lodge fishing industry over the 20th century, and several visionaries saw this coming and got the area preserved as it should be - roadless, motorless true wilderness. No fly means no rich easy-buy fly-in wild fishing. You have to earn it, by portaging a canoe without spoiling the wild

did a trip this summer- one of my most special places on earth. no people, northern lights, wolves howling at night, milky way, fishing like crazy
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Even the good news is scary

Looks as though Jim Webb will run for president. To me, this is good news. Sorry, Hillary fans, but Syria is a deal-breaker -- and Hillary's signature is all over the secret war against Syria. This country's foolish effort to create a proxy army against Assad led directly to the creation of ISIS.

There must be a price to pay for such a debacle. In the old days, students would be burning Hillary in effigy. Artists would do unto her the way Diego Rivera did unto the Dulles brothers in his famous painting commemorating the coup in Guatemala.

(Side note: Did you know that Allen Dulles carried a reproduction of that painting with him everywhere, and often showed it off at dinner parties? In those days, villains had style.)

Even if Hillary wins the contest, a Webb challenge may insure that she'll have to talk to progressives instead of pretending that they don't exist. I'd rather see Elizabeth Warren doing what Webb is doing, but I'm still happy to see Webb doing it.

That said...

This announcement has a scary side. A paragraph such as the following should leave everyone wondering "What the hell has happened to this country?"
Webb, who was Ronald Reagan’s Navy secretary and who has held centrist views on a number of issues, has been bolstered by progressive news outlet The Nation as a potential challenge from the left to Hillary Clinton...
Reagan's Navy secretary is challenging Hillary from the left. If the political 50 yard line keeps moving, what will happen? One day, an American election will be a contest between the person who says "I'm the new Adolf Hitler!" and the person who says "Hitler was a softie. I'll kill way more people than he ever dreamed of!"
Comments: <-- That's what happened ;-)
Cannonfire, you are drinking the kool aide. During his time on the Senate Armed Forces Committee Webb did exactly nothing to get us out of Iraq and scale back our aggressive policies. Furthermore, these are NOT the words of a progressive.

notice that NO ONE from Virginia is rallying to this guy? That should tell you something. Hillary will crush him in Iowa without trying.
A 'challenge from the left' from Webb should be a wonder to behold!

Look I think Hillary Clinton needs a primary just like every other candidate. She became much more focused as the 2008 campaign went on. That speech she gave in Ohio in the rain, fist raised was one of her best moments. If she can retag that passion, I don't see anyone beating her.

On the other hand if her campaign handlers focus only on 'the first woman' thing as I read yesterday then she'll be vulnerable. Not that 'first' is meaningless [particularly for women] but Dems went with the 'first' business in the selection of Barack Obama. The shine has definitely worn off that strategy.

Hillary Clinton has to come out swinging on domestic, bread and butter issues: inequality, jobs, student loans, etc. Yes, foreign policy stances will be discussed ad infinitum. But Americans vote their pocketbooks in the moment. The stock market may be going bonkers but the average citizen doesn't feel it or believe things are substantially better than when the GOP made an utter mess of everything. And would love to repeat their failures and ram the whole shebang down everyone's throat.

This need to reach for the next bright shiny thing in Democratic circles will be the party's undoing. And the country's loss. Bad enough Congress is now in Republican hands. We can only imagine the damage soon to be rendered by the Chuckleheads. Democrats need to win in 2016, not spend time dreaming of the perfect candidate. If HRC gets her mojo on, she'll win. And yes, she will woo Wall St. just like all other candidates because that's the system we're stuck with at the moment, a Gilded Age redux. That's why the voices of Warren and Sanders, et al are so vitally important to keep the push and discussion open, prodding for change which tends to be frustratingly slow.

Then the Bush family can go into retirement. For the time being at least.

Peggysue, much of your analysis is solid, or solid-ish. It's a semi-solid, and that's the best ANYONE can hope for at this point. You're right: Americans usually vote based on domestic concerns, not foreign policy. And that is why I would vote for HC over any Republican.

But...two things:

1. Domestically, the state of our nation kind of sucks. Not enough prosperity; way too much surveillance and corruption. (Especially police corruption.)

2. Foreign policy OUGHT to matter. It's all connected. If we hadn't wasted trillions of the Iraq war, we'd be in fine or nearly-fine shape, economically speaking.

The left might rebel against the wars of a Cruz or a Jeb Bush--not so against Killary.
Jim Webb refused to help Dennis Kucinich cut off funds for the Iraq War. Enough said.
Run Ralph run.
The left might rebel against the wars of a Cruz or a Jeb Bush--not so against Killary.
Jim Webb refused to help Dennis Kucinich cut off funds for the Iraq War. Enough said.
Run Ralph run.

Killary beckons. Jim Webb is closer to her than to Kucinich.
Warren is surrounded by neocons too.
I wouldn't even trust Rand Paul to keep us out of war. Ron and Ralph, yes.
Joe, I agree with you--the foreign policy issues 'should' matter for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the basic morality of endless, pointless war. Doesn't matter whether the continuous war cry is coming from the Left or the Right. You care about the issue. I care about the issue. But the majority of the voting public? DOES NOT CARE. Or even pay that much attention. It's only political hounds that actually read and follow the news whose blood boils with another lame excuse for foreign involvement, ridiculous geopolitical schemes and flat-out lies fed to the weary, scrambling public. As much as like and admire Elizabeth Warren? Her public comments about Israel and Palestine are boilerplate, Beltway cha-cha language. Webb won't be any better. And Bernie Sanders? As much as I love to hear the man rage against the night, he could not win a national election and would/will be twisted every way till Sunday.

In your heart you know that.

People are too busy keeping their families afloat to give a rat's ass about the Ukraine or Syria or whatever new, shocking revelation comes down the pike. Fox News may be able to feed the rage monster but the rest of the Nation is too busy robbing Peter to pay Paul.

For the vast number of middle-class [or formerly middle-class] workers, yes the economy is a stinker. Wages have been so stagnant that workers are neither better off or staying even; they're falling behind. Wages have not increased and overtime, a staple of middle-class existence, has nearly evaporated. There's a comment at Think Progress [I think] on this very question. The comment was written by the billionaire who warned his fellow plutocrats that if they didn't 'see the light' they were likely to see the coming of torches and pitchforks. This could be corrected by POTUS with that well-documented Devil Power: Executive Action. The simple scroll of President Obama's pen could change the fortunes of millions of Americans and spur the economy with extra buying power.

Will it happen? Probably not. Because our elected officials work for the Corporate Cookie Monster.

HRC is not a perfect candidate. But I've always thought she had the potential of being one hell of a leader because she's worked in Washington and will know how to work Washington.

There are no guarantees. But she's the best candidate out there. I hope she wins and has her shot.

Jim Webb could possibly carry Southern States where Warren, as a New England liberal, would have no chance.

Webb's defects are mainly a problem to the careerist Democratic clique, not the average voter. It would be a shame if the Democratic machine destroys him before he can test his appeal nationally, as I expect they will try to do.

I think he's more vulnerable to attacks from Democrats. Therefore, Webb might be smart to run as a Republican, and break off independent when he loses the nomination.

Webb strikes me as too real of a person to get elected President. But one can hope.


Elizabeth Warren has been under fire for supporting the very accounting practices she protested before she became a senator. Curious if she is duplicitous or the attacks on her are not what they seem. Have looked at this controversy, Joe?
So now Hillary Clinton created ISIS?

We need to look at this differently. Sports are not that big in the middle east (one of the best ways to both incite, enflame, and then douse too much male testerone). Women's faces are covered yet anal sex with women or with underaged men is not frowned upon, just don't get caught.

There are too many secrets to keep in the middle east culture and fewer and fewer ways to keep them secret, hence, cradling a gun is the best way to stand out from the crowd and not be humiliated.

Quit blaming Hillary Clinton for cultural inbreeding and hypocrisy in the middle east.

Everything Peggysue said. I was so happy Jim Webb is throwing his name out there. And I'm from VA even tho I don't live there now. I'm thinking he's really running for VP. Fine by me.
Back in the day, with NO help from Obama, Webb partnered with Delahunt (my rep from MA when I lived there) and did their best to reform the prison system.

A Hillary/ Webb ticket would please me immensely.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Eat shit, Tom Friedman

Many people have made a sport of telling NYT columnist Tom Friedman to eat shit. May I join in?

In his latest, he says that freedom-starved Arabs should emulate (or have sought to emulate) the example of the bestest, greatest, most peachy-keeniest Arab country ever: Dubai. Why, even the very name sounds like an ode to capitalism! Do. Buy. Do. Buy. DUBAI!
Did Dubai cause the Arab awakening?

Wait. How could it have? The U.A.E. and Dubai are absolute monarchies that tolerate no opposition or real freedom of the press. It’s because Dubai, beyond the glitz, glass and real estate booms and busts, has become the Manhattan of the Arab world — a place where young Arabs from across the region can come to realize their full potential in arts, business, media, education and technology start-ups — with world-class companies — and in their own culture, their own language, their own religious milieu, their own food preferences, music and clothing.

As more young Arabs came to Dubai, or viewed it on TV from afar, more and more asked: “Why don’t we have that in my Arab country?” The former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said to me: “People know what it means to be a citizen everywhere now.”
“Dubai is the capital of the Arab Spring — the real revolution started here,” argued Mazen Nahawi, 39, a Palestinian who founded News Group International, a media-monitoring company here in Dubai.
And so on.

Tom, Tom, Tom...let me explain something about Dubai to you. Let me tell you the real secret lurking behind those gleaming towers. Let me tell you about something that your Quisling Palestinian mouthpieces may not want to discuss in public.

That secret comes down to one word: slavery.

The people of the Arab world know full well that Dubai and the UAE were built on horrifying exploitation. Yet Friedman thinks that working people in Egypt and Libya want to emulate conditions in those lands. Is he insane?

From a 2008 Guardian story titled "We need slaves to build monuments"...
"They lied to us," a worker with a long beard says. "They told us lies to bring us here. Some of us sold their land; others took big loans to come and work here."
As they eat, the men talk more about their lives. "My shift is eight hours and two overtime, but in reality we work 18 hours," one says. "The supervisors treat us like animals. I don't know if the owners [of the company] know."
Down in the Diera quarter of old Dubai, where many of the city's illegal workers live, 20 men are often crammed into one small room.
The writer then spoke to members of the upper classes:
"We need slaves," my friend says. "We need slaves to build monuments. Look who built the pyramids - they were slaves."

Sharla Musabih, a human rights campaigner who runs the City of Hope shelter for abused women, is familiar with such sentiments. "Once you get rich on the back of the poor," she says, "it's not easy to let go of that lifestyle..."
Here's the BBC from 2009:
"The latrines are so filthy we cannot use them, we are so disgusted. The roads are full of garbage and waterlogged. Living and moving about here is a great problem. We suffer greatly," one of the workers told us.
This story attracted some interesting comments from people who know the truth all too well:
Dubai is a brilliant place for the rich but the poor have very little to reap from it. The poverty gap in Dubai is massive, and I myself am quite disgusted in how the public treat the low pay workers.
Having lived and worked in Dubai, everyone out there knows that Dubai is built on the modern day equivalent of slave labour. It is not a secret, is not hidden, and anyone who tells you different is lying. Whether you choose to ignore it or not is up to you, but do not pretend not to be complicit, when their poor wages subsidise your lavish lifestyle, gas guzzling car, swimming pool, school fees etc etc
From a now-classic expose by the Independent. A Bangladeshi worker named Sahinal was promised a well-paying job if he traveled to Dubai...
So Sahinal sold his family land, and took out a loan from the local lender, to head to this paradise.

As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat – where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degrees – for 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised. If you don't like it, the company told him, go home. "But how can I go home? You have my passport, and I have no money for the ticket," he said. "Well, then you'd better get to work," they replied.
The room stinks, because the lavatories in the corner of the camp – holes in the ground – are backed up with excrement and clouds of black flies. There is no air conditioning or fans, so the heat is "unbearable. You cannot sleep. All you do is sweat and scratch all night." At the height of summer, people sleep on the floor, on the roof, anywhere where they can pray for a moment of breeze.

The water delivered to the camp in huge white containers isn't properly desalinated: it tastes of salt. "It makes us sick, but we have nothing else to drink," he says.

The work is "the worst in the world," he says. "You have to carry 50kg bricks and blocks of cement in the worst heat imaginable ... This heat – it is like nothing else. You sweat so much you can't pee, not for days or weeks. It's like all the liquid comes out through your skin and you stink. You become dizzy and sick but you aren't allowed to stop, except for an hour in the afternoon. You know if you drop anything or slip, you could die. If you take time off sick, your wages are docked, and you are trapped here even longer."
One could cite many similar stories. It's worth noting that all of the above pieces were printed in the UK. I doubt that any British paper would have printed Friedman's garbage.

I used to think that Tom Friedman was just silly, but "silly" doesn't suffice to describe his latest. This shit is evil.
Eventually, the plutocrats, in their folly, are going to bring back Communism, or something like it.

Maybe this time the Marxists, or their equivalents, will be smart enough to make peace with religion, and thus get the most powerful galvanizing force on the planet on their side.

The plutocrats who realize this tend to think their public and private security forces will protect them--at least long enough for them to die of old age, et apres moi, le deluge. IBGYBG and all that.

Maybe so, but the Bourbons and Romanovs thought that, too.

But as Saruman said to Frodo, none of that will be my doing. I merely foretell.
It's hard for little tommy to know the truth when staying $10,000 a night rooms and having dinner with the countries dictator.
And that's why Friedman has a secure pulpit at the NYTimes. He speaks for and to the plutocracy and their servants, NYTimes' core demographic.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A mysterious arrest: If THIS doesn't frighten you, you're an idiot

I've come to admire Ray McGovern, the former CIA analyst turned peace advocate. Although he has said a few things I cannot agree with, his heart seems to be very much in the right place.

Even if you are not a McGovern fan, you should be troubled by the circumstances surrounding his arrest on the 30th of October. He had paid to attend a lecture by General Petraeus. McGovern intended to ask an important (albeit uncomfortable) question or two about the general's ever-optimistic reports about the prospects for victory in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(I'd like to ask the General this question: If America did such a bang-up job of training a new Iraqi army, why did that army fold like origami paper when ISIS came marching in?)

But McGovern never got a chance to ask his question. The "organs of state security" were waiting for McGovern when he showed up, ticket in hand. FDL has a good account of the confrontation:
World Can’t Wait activist Stephanie Rugoff said a guard stopped McGovern. “Ray, you’re not going in,” the guard said.

McGovern, who is 74 years-old, told the guards something to the effect that the Bill of Rights gave him the right to go into the event. McGovern had a ticket too. But the guards would not let him pass and soon New York police officers surrounded him.
McGovern's arms were twisted painfully when he was handcuffed. (He had suffered an injury to his shoulder a few days earlier.) He experienced great pain during his trip to the police station.
Rugoff heard him screaming. He was shouting about how they were hurting his shoulder. He asked the officers to stop twisting it so they did not aggravate his shoulder and possibly re-injure it.

“I had a ticket as well,” Marini explained. “They recognized me as well and called me by my name, my first name. They seemed to know who people were.”
They seemed to know who people were...

And that, my friends, is the mystery -- the big, big mystery which McGovern describes in The Consortium:
The “organs of state security” (the words used by the Soviets to refer to their intelligence/security services) were lying in wait for me when I walked into the Y? Why? How on earth did they know I was coming?
It appears that the authorities knew that McGovern was coming because they were spying on his email. And that, my friends, makes this incident extremely troubling.

McGovern says that when he travels to New York, he stays at the Catholic Worker house founded by Dorothy Day.
Naturally, he communicated with those people before showing up in the city.
Moreover, the Catholic Worker Movement is an international organization widely looked upon as subversive of the Establishment, and this adds to the suspicion. In recent years, many of my Catholic Worker friends have been arrested for protesting the use of drones to kill foreigners dubbed “militants,” most of whom don’t look like most of us.
My Catholic Worker friends comfort the afflicted, while in no way shying away from afflicting the comfortable, as the saying goes. And for that, they often pay a price, including being snooped upon, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, for exercising their rights under the First.

I am not making this up: In the fall of 2010, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine criticized the FBI for conducting “anti-terrorism” spy operations against the Catholic Worker Movement and even the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh. According to Fine, spies were sent into the Merton Center to “look for international terrorists.” One of the informers photographed a woman he thought was of “Middle Eastern descent” to have her checked out by “terrorism analysts.”

So my possible tradecraft lapse may have been contacting my Catholic Worker friends. On Oct. 26, I sent Martha an email with the innocuous title, “Room in the Inn?” It contained the usual request for simple lodging at the Catholic Worker together with details regarding my classes at Fordham and Manhattan and the Petraeus event.
How did they know who Ray and the other unwelcome guests were? How did the cops know them by sight? Why were these people addressed by their first names?

Spying. Unlawful spying on the Catholic Worker people.

I can't think of any other likely explanation.

Our nation's sheep keep bleating the refrain: "If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about." Ray McGovern wasn't doing anything wrong. The authorities had no right to read his private messages to and from the people at the Catholic Worker House.

None. Zero.

Folks, we have plenty to worry about. All of us. A culture in which such things happen cannot be labeled a democracy.
Same thing happened to Ralph Nader when he attempted to attend a presidential debate he was not allowed to debate in. They didn't violently arrest him but they denied him access to the debate even as an audience member.
this is disturbing shit.. thanks for telling this joseph.. i am shocked on some level..what is the message being communicated here? james
Denying access is indeed bad, Alessandro. But the real problem here is the indication that THEY are tracking the movements of certain people.
Not only was the police state tracking Ray, it has probably placed informants inside most of the peace organizations he deals with.
Ray McGovern was manhandled three years ago when he protested silently at a Hillary speech by standing and turning his back on her.

On Saturday Nov. 22, Ray will appear in NYC at 80th and Lexington (All Souls Church, 2 pm) to support H.R. 428, a bill in Congress calling for the release of 28 pages redacted from the original congressional report on 9/11.

The standing up and turning one's back incident was bullshit, on McGovern's part. That is what the outside is for, for protesting. Inside are the listeners and supporters, its really that simple.

So he's an internal disrupter who is being watched for internally disrupting events, that is the right thing to do. That type of distraction is exactly what an actual assassin would relish.
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