Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on April 9, 2017
“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”
― Brian Williams, MSNBC anchor
It's been a week in which we took several steps toward our own Appointment in Samarra. We are expected to believe that the nation's Chief Executive, who heretofore has demonstrated absolutely no empathy for anyone, reversed his own stated foreign policy based on news pictures of children, ostensibly suffering from a Syrian government gas attack. Just the week before, said executive's Secretary of State had affirmed a new policy in which the US would be content to let the destiny of Bashar Al-Assad be settled by the Syrian people.
And who exactly are we fighting in Syria? Is it ISIS? Al Qaeda? Jabhat al Nusra? But Assad purchased oil from ISIS, yes? How did that work? And now we're bombing Assad? All of the Jihadis in opposition to Assad are Sunni, whereas Assad's regime belongs to the Alawite sect of Islam, related somehow to the Shia branch of Islam. One needs a scorecard…
As difficult as this might be to sort out, when the newest atrocity pictures appeared on FOX News, they hit our non-reading president right in the feels. And like Xanadu, a military action was decreed. Meanwhile, trump's legions of right-wing zealots were discomfited that he had bombed Syria and thus had gone "full neocon." Great was the hue and cry therefrom. Meanwhile, in the West Wing, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon wrestled for primacy. If you're not the president's son-in-law, I don't like your chances. Mitch McConnell got clean away with the heist of a Supreme Court seat, and, oh yes, in spite of the Trump administration's decision to ban the phrase "climate change", the Arctic north is melting and we are awash in icebergs. Can global sea level rise be far behind?
The Rockets' Red Glare
We are told the short-fingered vulgarian "became president" by sending a volley of Tomahawk missiles, costing $1-1.5 million the each, to light up a Syrian airstrip, the assets of which had been moved by previously-alerted Russians and Syrians who, unlike Congress, had received prior notice. The air show on a virtually deserted airstrip avoided most of the runways, such that Syrian planes are reported to be flying missions as I write. Thus the US spent about $93,810,000, blowing up very little in order to show them that "we mean business."
The Palmer Report estimates that Donald Trump's ineffective Syria attack could have fully funded Meals on Wheels through 2029.
The MSM, hot on the trail of #trumpRussia connections, were captivated. On MSNBC, which we are constantly reminded is the "left" news network, fake news parolee Brian Williams waxed rhapsodic about the beauty of the rocket launches, if not the tumescence of the manhood which unleashed them. CNN's Fareed Zakaria proudly asserted Trump’s missile strike in Syria shows him emerging from the chrysalis and displaying the same bloodthirsty qualities as America’s past leaders. Friday morning on CNN’s “New Day," I stood openmouthed in astonishment as Zakaria said
“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night. I think this was actually a big moment.”
Making this Zakaria's Van Jones moment, and exposing him as another to-be-ignored careerist. Neocon Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham swooned, and were observed to have rare swellings in their crotches at the audacity of dope. If these last for more than four hours, they should call a doctor. Or a Capitol Hill reporter.
Leading papers published opinions like "Trump’s Chance to Step Into the Global Leadership Vacuum," "Trump Has an Opportunity to Right Obama’s Wrongs in Syria," "Syrian Opposition Leader: Trump Has a Chance to Save Syria" and "Syria Missile Strike Could Lead to Political Solution"–but no pieces opposing an unauthorized military attack against a sovereign nation. Dan Rather had a few choice words.
"War must never be considered a public relations operation. It is not a way for an Administration to gain a narrative," Rather continued. "It is a step into a dangerous unknown and its full impact is impossible to predict, especially in the immediate wake of the first strike."
On other news, Raytheon, the company that makes the Tomahawk missiles used in the air strikes, was rising in early stock trading Friday. In related news, Lockheed Martin, helps Raytheon make the Javelin missile launcher system, gained nearly 1%. We may be headed for the End Times, but we're creating some beautiful opportunities for profit in arms.
Trump's troll army was not pleased, and the alt-right crowd broke with the president over his perfidy. The web-savvy, anti-establishment "alt-right" neo-nazis at the passionate core of Trump’s online support last year, have become apoplectic over the strikes. This "America First" wing, which includes Milo Yiannopolis, Mike Cernovich, Ann Coulter, and the famously punched-in-the-face Richard Spencer, (he of the memes), as well as those basement dwellers on The_Donald subreddit and the /pol/ section of 4Chan, warn of a slippery slope to intervention in Syria.
As recently as last week, they believed Trump would keep the country out of unnecessary wars. Last Thursday on a trip to Turkey, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, the “longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.” And then came the news pictures of Syrian children being gassed. Whereupon, we are told, the president decided to "follow his heart."
Leaving aside for a moment the notion of how a Republican Congress or the American public would react did if a female president had decided to "follow her heart," and launch 59 Tomahawk missiles, we are left to marvel at 180° whipsaw-like change in the direction of American foreign policy.
Meanwhile, about those pictures, and who was responsible for them. Many on the fascist fringe scream that Trump has been duped into a war a "false flag" operation. "The Syrian gas attack was done by deep state agents," tweeted alt right agitator and Pizzagate auteur Mike Cernovich. And other marginal voices, including Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, as well as Ron Paul, Scott Adams and Michael Savage, have upped the ante, blamed the attack on George Soros, and condemned Trump for surrendering to "Republican hawks."
Plus, Julian Assange, believed to have sole control of the WikiLeaks Twitter account, shared a video from a Syrian activist in Germany on Thursday that said Islamist extremists were probably behind the chemical attack, not the Syrian government. Even left-wing observers have opined that the chemical strikes may have originated with Syrian rebels. Assessing the truth is to walk in a hall of mirrors.
Speaking of a hall of mirrors, Tina Nguyen of Vanity Fair does exemplary reporting on all things Trump, and made the following salient observation:
The missile strike came only hours after Bannon, the de facto representative of the alt-right in the White House, had been removed from the National Security Council Principals Committee, cutting off his access to military decision-making. His supporters quickly, and not without logic, blamed the Syria situation on the same people they believed were responsible for Bannon’s ouster and diminishing stature in the West Wing: Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and the leader of what a White House source described to Politico as the “West Wing Democrats.”
Few things gladden my heart more that a right wing circular firing squad, as headlines broke on Friday that Bannon had called Kushner "a cuck" and a "globalist." What the Bannon-Kushner tussle portends for the future, and for Trump's relationship with the reclusive Mercer family (which bankrolled his electoral victory) is anyone's guess.
It Stays Stole
In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said: "One of my proudest moments was when I told Obama, 'You will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy,'" and in 2017, he said, "Apparently there's yet a new standard now, which is not to confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all. I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate."
This week, McConnell invoked a parliamentary maneuver to end the filibuster opposing the nominee, Neil Gorsuch, for the stolen Supreme Court seat, thus clearing the way for Gorsuch to occupy said stolen seat. This legislative coup will ratify the primacy of the corporate state for the next 30 years.
In a related story, hypocrisy stocks were up 12 percent this week.
And in climate change news, which we no longer count anymore because trump, we learn that Greenland’s coastal ice has passed a critical “tipping point,” according to a new study. Which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the island’s ice.
The Greenland ice sheet, which covers about 80 percent of the island’s surface, is the second-largest ice body in the world after the Antarctic ice sheet. The same processes that have caused the accelerated melting of Greenland’s coastal ice bodies could also influence the island’s massive ice sheet — with devastating results, lead study author Bryce Noël said.
“For now, the ice sheet is still safe,” he said. “Its tipping point hasn’t been crossed yet. But if warming continues, it’s very likely that it will be crossed.”
If the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt, it would cause a global sea level rise of more than 20 feet.
In a related story, The Guardian tells of a swarm of more than 400 icebergs that have drifted into the North Atlantic shipping lanes over the past week, unusually large for so early in the season.
Most icebergs entering the North Atlantic have “calved” off the Greenland ice sheet. Michael Mann, director of the earth system science center at Pennsylvania State University, said it was possible climate change was leading to more icebergs in the shipping lanes, but wind patterns were also important.
US Coast Guard Commander Gabrielle McGrath, who leads the ice patrol, said she had never seen such a drastic increase in such a short time. Adding to the danger, three icebergs were discovered outside the boundaries of the area the Coast Guard had advised mariners to avoid, she said.
Another week in which we incrementally slip towards the doom which awaits us for our fecklessness and irresponsibility for failing to summon the will to be good stewards of what we have inherited.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 1, 2017
“History is as light as individual human life, unbearably light, light as a feather,
as dust swirling into the air, as whatever will no longer exist tomorrow."
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Every new year, pundits attempt to make sense of the events of the year past, or make bold predictions about what will happen in the next. Your scribe is neither motivated nor ambitious enough to do either. Our job here is to look at certain of the year's events through the jaundiced filters of collapse and doom, the purpose being to make sense out of what 2016 left at our doorstep like a burning paper bag filled with turds.
Much is been made of the political developments – Brexit, the coup in Turkey, Syria and the refugee crisis, the election of Donald Trump as president, with many thousands of tons of aggrieved punditry launched in a nearly 24–7 assault of PR artillery to try to "make sense of it all." There is simply no making sense of it within the confines of ordinary time and news cycles. Better to soar to the 50,000-foot level, unbearably light, to the vantage point of history, to discern larger trends.
This year's events are symptoms of an evil zeitgeist which is bad news for those of us on the left or so-called "progressive" side of politics. They are harbingers of a sweeping counter-revolution, made possible by a 40-year assault on the funding and functions of government and its efficacy, such that even ordinary people question the very legitimacy of government itself. An underfunded government rarely works.
Never forget that it was the French revolution that gave us Napoleon. And that in 1933, The German Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, which gave Adolf Hitler the power to enact laws without the involvement of the lawmaking body. Thus everything that Hitler would come to do was perfectly legal and achieved through parliamentary means. Consider this on the eve of a Trump presidency and a Tea Party Congress motivated by the most atavistic impulses ever to spring from a Koch brother.
(And if you find this comparison to Hitler overly hysterical and are moved to invoke Godwin's Law, allow me to refer you to the Tea Party Republic of North Carolina, where legislative Republicans enacted a putsch and passed new, restrictive legislation essentially stripping the newly elected democrat governor Roy Cooper of much of his executive power. Watch now for other states to start pulling the same shit. Feel free to join in a rousing chorus of, "It Can't Happen Here.")
When one considers who Trump has chosen for his own cabinet, the one common thread that seems to run through each is a prior career dedicated to opposing the regulations of said department. William Astore describes Trump's cabinet as "a Coup Waiting to Happen" and as a clique of warrior-generals ready to end the American democratic experiment by the time the limos are parked at the White House.
Yet 21st-century America is witnessing a new and revolutionary moment: the elevation of losing generals to the highest offices in the land. Retired Marine Corps general James “Mad Dog” Mattis, known as a tough-talking “warrior-monk,” will soon be the nation’s secretary of defense. He’ll be joined by a real mad dog, retired Army lieutenant general Michael Flynn as President-elect Donald Trump’s national-security adviser. Leading the Department of Homeland Security will be recently retired general John Kelly, another no-nonsense Marine. And even though he wasn’t selected, retired Army general David Petraeus was seriously considered for secretary of state, further proof of Trump’s starry-eyed fascination with the brass of our losing wars.
And why does this matter, you may ask? Didn't Truman appoint McArthur, and Bush appoint Powell? WTF?
A republic… founded on civilian control of the military needs true civilians as a counterweight to militarism as well as military adventurism. Recently retired generals are anything but that; they’re not even speed bumps on the road to the next set of misbegotten military “adventures.” They are likely to be only one thing: enablers of and accelerants to military action. Their presence in the highest civilian positions represents nothing short of a de facto military coup in Washington, a coup that required no violence since the president-elect simply anointed and exalted them as America’s security saviors.
Mattis is one thing; Flynn quite another. By most measures, he has a reputation for not playing well with others. Flynn is known as an ideologue with a virulent, irrational hatred of Islam and a penchant, like his boss, of unburdening himself on Twitter. Often wrong but never in doubt, he was forced from his position as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, after which he became a harsh critic of Obama. Of Flynn, Astore observes:
Rising to prominence during the Trump campaign, he led the chant against Hillary Clinton (“Lock her up!”) at the Republican National Convention in July. (His son recently helped spread the false rumor that Clinton was involved in a child sex trafficking ring involving a Washington, D.C., pizzeria.) Flynn, who sees Islam as a political conspiracy rather than a legitimate religion, is an angry warrior, a dyed-in-the-wool crusader. That Trump sees such a figure as qualified to serve as the nation’s senior civilian security adviser speaks volumes about the president-elect and the crusading militarism likely to be forthcoming from his administration.
One does not have to try hard to imagine a preference for military solutions to diplomatic problems being favored as part of "Making America Great Again." And with Twitler already composing 140-character love poems to nukes, it is a short leap to see the Doom Meter set a couple of clicks higher. Never forget that war is always a great way to balance the books.
“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
– Warren Buffett, The New York Times
Military adventurism is bad enough. Meanwhile at home comes the Trumpenkrieg.
Look at what has happened over the past 40 years. Ever since Saint Reagan announced that "government is not the solution: government is the problem," tax cuts for plutocrats and trims to the social safety net to pay for them have been the order of the day.
In broad strokes , here's what has happened in the last 40 years: The Corporate State's agenda has been to oblige American labor to compete at global prices through an assortment of "trade deals" long on exporting American jobs but short on results: NAFTA, GATT, Fast Track, FTAA , the TPP. Corpstate has worked to privatize social benefits and social services, abolish negotiated benefits like pensions and health care, slash taxes for corporations and the wealthy, and has broken the power of unions. All against a background of massive deregulation: airlines in 1978, trucking in 1980, telecom in 1984 and 1996, electricity in 1992, oil and gas extraction in 1980, and finance, repeatedly between 1978 and 2000. I'm sure you've noticed the benefits "trickling down."
No? Maybe someone's been pissing down your back.
All of these consciously planned policies have led to the manifestation of what Spawn of Satan Allen Greenspan once defined as the "precariat," people who face diminished prospects of achieving middle-class status—a good job, homeownership, decent retirement. This is by design.
If workers are more insecure, that’s very “healthy” for society, because if workers are insecure they won’t ask for wages, they won’t go on strike, they won’t call for benefits; they’ll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that’s optimal for corporations’ economic health. . . how do you ensure “greater worker insecurity”? Crucially, by not guaranteeing employment, by keeping people hanging on a limb than can be sawed off at any time, so that they’d better shut up, take tiny salaries, and do their work; and if they get the gift of being allowed to serve under miserable conditions for another year, they should welcome it and not ask for any more. That’s the way you keep societies efficient and healthy from the point of view of the corporations.
Sound familiar? Don't blame the immigrants, don't blame the Mexicans: blame the plutocrats. By 2020, a study estimates more than 40 percent of Americans, or 60 million people, will be independent workers—freelancers, contractors, and temporary employees. This constituency—notably white—is angry, and with good cause. Since 1998 white Americans have seen declines in both their incomes and life expectancy, with large spikes in suicide and fatalities related to alcohol and drug abuse. These are the people who, in anger and hopelessness, have chosen a billionaire builder who stiffs his subcontractors.
With Trump and the Tea Party foxes in charge of the henhouse, there is little question about the future direction of economic policy. The end game will be not only the dismantling of the New Deal, but also most of the 20th century. The only questions are whether and when the much anguished white working class (who voted for Trump) realizes how badly they have been played, and what they will do about it.
“There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”
— U.S. President Barack Obama
"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."
— U.S. President-Elect Donald J. Trump
The assortment of oilmen, climate change deniers and other sociopaths that Trump has chosen to direct energy and environmental policy will exacerbate the greatest existential threat of the age. We are supposed to ignore the record of the hardcore climate denier that Trump named his chief White House strategist, the hardcore climate denier Trump put in charge of the EPA, the climate action opponent Trump named as his Chief of Staff, the fossil fuel executives and lobbyists placed in charge of Energy and Interior, and the conservative Supreme Court judge he can name who will ratify whatever. This at a time when every sober observer of world climate is waving frantically signaling that we must do something NOW.
The human onslaught to destroy life on Earth is unprecedented in Earth's history. In a sobering article, Life on Earth is Dying. Thousands of Species Cease to Exist, Robert J. Burrowes reviews the heinous toll of man's environmental dominion:
Planet Earth is now experiencing its sixth mass extinction event and Homo sapiens sapiens is the cause. Moreover, this mass extinction event is accelerating and is so comprehensive in its impact that the piecemeal measures being taken by the United Nations, international agencies and governments constitute a tokenism that is breathtaking in the extreme.
And it is no longer the case that mainly ‘invisible’ species are vanishing: those insects, amphibians and small animals about which you had never even heard, assuming they have been identified and given a name by humans.
Of course, some of what is happening is related to the ongoing climate catastrophe and there isn’t any good news on that front. See ‘What’s Happening in the Arctic is Astonishing’.
Of course, military violence has devastating consequences on the Earth’s ecosystems too, destroying land, water and atmosphere (not to mention killing human beings) in the fight over resources.
When Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked Donald Trump about his thoughts on climate change, the president-elect responded,
“Nobody really knows. Look, I’m somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows. It’s not something that’s so hard and fast.”
He’s not alone; according to Pew Research less than half (48%) of all American adults believe that the Earth is warming mostly due to human activity. They are wrong, if consistent; in 2016, news from around the world made climate change undeniable to anyone paying attention. And Trump has made certain noises about getting NASA out of the earth-monitoring business, the better to not confuse citizens with evidence that might interfere with worship of "growth."
As climate change becomes ever more observable and its effects more evident, half of Americans remain firmly in denial. Ecocide is an appropriate word. And in the view of cynics, earth will be just fine in the long run; it's humans that will have it tougher.
An impressive array of notable people left us in 2016: Prince, Mohammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher, Fidel Castro, John Glenn, Nancy Reagan, Arnold Palmer, and Leonard Cohen. But 2016 left us Trump. Fuck us.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 25, 2016
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr.
I wish I were a better person. I'm just not. Let me explain.
This morning, my wife, the redoubtable Contrary, brought an irrestistable news nugget to my attention . Baylor President and Chancellor Kenneth Winston "Ken" Starr, yes THAT Ken Starr, had been sacked by the school’s board of regents amid mounting pressure over how the school handled reports of rape and assault by football players.
Karma comes to Waco. Read the original source report here. Many of us do not follow organized sports because, quite frankly, we have better things to think about. I confess to being a lifelong sports fan, although my attention to sports has waned with age, diminishing interest, lack of time, and the lure of other pursuits. Yet I was enough of a casual fan to recognize that Baylor has developed quite a sports empire, and with it the sort of exuberances and indiscretions that money, power and privilege bring,
Baylor, the largest private Baptist school in the country, has become a burgeoning sports powerhouse in football and basketball. Allegations surround whether Starr, football coach Art Briles and others in the chain of command at Baylor ignored allegations of assaults by players, two of whom were later convicted of sexual assault. Reports of Starr and Briles being on the hot seat have crept into ESPN and other sports reporting enough to apparently discomfit members of the Board.
The Baylor assault scandal exploded last year, when a football player was convicted of sexually assaulting a former Baylor soccer player. The came reports that Baylor ignored repeated allegations of assault against a former player who was convicted of sexual assault in 2014. Other reports of assault allegations surfaced, such that more than 200 Baylor students, faculty and alumni kept a candlelight vigil outside of Starr's Waco residence last February. And if that weren't enough, Baylor now faces a federal lawsuit from a former student claiming the school was "deliberately indifferent" to rape allegations before the playerwas ultimately convicted of assaulting her. A mess.
Starr, of course, was the special prosecutor who investigated the Whitewater development deal gone bad, which mushroomed into a $70 Million bag of insufficient evidence to indict– the original nothingburger. The Clintons themselves were never prosecuted, despite three separate inquiries that found insufficient evidence linking them with the criminal conduct of others related to the land deal. The term Whitewater often conflates other controversies from the Clinton administration, especially Travelgate, Filegate, and the circumstances surrounding Vince Foster's death investigated by the tireless Whitewater independent counsel. Ending up, of course, with the investigation of Bill Clinton's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinski, complete with articles of impeachment. These, comically, were solemnly marched from the House to the Senate by pear-shaped archhypocrite Henry Hyde, himself an example of conduct unbecoming ("It was a youthful indiscretion," said Hyde of his own previous affair with a married woman while in his forties.)
The net result of the many investigations was not only a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars but a lasting fog of shadiness that has bedeviled the Clintons ever since, but that's another subject for another time. Although the Trumpenkrieg has been doing its best to resuscitate these charges with new life.
Starr has been Baylor president since 2010. He reportedly enjoyed the perks of office and the successful sports programs. Reports say he "often ran onto the field with student fans in pregame ceremonies before home games and had become one of the leading voices in the Big 12 as the league considers whether to expand." Indeed, who wouldn't? Riding high in April, etc.
If the Horns Digest report is to be believed, we'll need not pass the hat for Starr:
One source said Starr, an attorney and former judge, would be reassigned to a new role in the Baylor law school. Starr was the dean of Pepperdine's law school when Baylor hired him six years ago.
But it was unclear early Tuesday if Starr would want the new law school post on the Waco campus or if he'd simply want a financial settlement and to part ways, sources said.
A source close to the situation said Starr arrived at his meeting with regents on Tuesday morning "lawyered up" and may not go quietly. A source close to Starr raised questions about how much of the complaints against BU football players actually got to the president's desk versus being handled underneath him without his knowledge.
A source close to the regents board said Starr was removed as president because he was in a position to review associate dean of student conduct Bethany McCraw, who fielded many of the rape and assault complaints from female Baylor students, and Starr took no action.
Apparently the school will not comment further and has issued a statement that they won't have a full report until June 3. And ultimately, most of us won't care. The immense amount of money, power, and prestige that go with a big-time football program will carry the day, Art Briles will probably go on undisturbed as a coach of a national powerhouse. and Ken Starr will be paid handsomely wherever he lands. But the fact remains that the man whose Congressionally-sanctioned pecksniffery resulted in nothing more than a stained dress and a waste of resources is now on the hook for the institutional covering up of sex crimes is just one of those delicious moments of karma that cannot go unremarked.
Barkeep, pour me a double schadenfreude and another for my wife.
UPDATE: The New York Times reports the demotion of Ken Starr from President to Chancellor, and the dismissal of football coach Art Briles.
Mr. Starr was stripped of his title as university president but will remain Baylor’s chancellor and a professor at the law school. The chancellor position is “centered around development and religious liberty,” a regent said on a conference call Thursday afternoon, adding that Mr. Starr’s “operational responsibilities have been removed.”
Mr. Starr’s demotion delivered a twist to the biography of a man whose reputation was built on what many considered an overzealous pursuit of allegations of sexual transgressions by Mr. Clinton. Now he is being punished for leading an administration that, according to a report by an outside law firm commissioned by the university’s governing board, looked the other way when Baylor football players were accused of sex crimes, and sometimes convicted of them.
The Baylor Athletic Director was also put on probation. Whether the University's actions go far enough is a matter for debate. The world we live in: one in five women entering college will be subject to some kind of sexual assault. We also know that only one in eight reports it. We are reminded once again that ESPN reporting affirmed that some female rape victims didn't speak out simply because they already knew Baylor would not do anything about it.
Many of us non-Texans forget that over a decade ago, Baylor was part of another scandal involving murder and drugs, and received some of the harshest penalties ever issued by the NCAA. Now this. The decisions released Thursday 5/26 confirmed their fears. Big-time, big-money Power Five Conference football is far more important than common, human decency. Like the Penn Stte scandal of several years ago, another lesson is what happens when people have access to nearly unlimited money and power without meaningful oversight.
Should you read it, the last sentence of the NYT report is instructive:
The report released on Thursday found that Baylor’s religiously informed outlook on drug use, alcohol and premarital sex made accusers fearful of coming forward.
That Baylor would use its non-transparent status as a private religious institution to intimidate victims should make anyone associated wit this scandal retire immediately from public life. One is reminded of the old saw asking why Baptists frown on premarital sex: because it might lead to dancing.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary in the triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on November 1, 2015
“The highest form of wisdom is kindness."
A man with whom I have crossed rhetorical swords many times over the past several years, a frequent contributor to the Diner Forum, recently made an important point that this week's news reaffirms: it's essential to look beyond the surface to get at the truth of a given set of news reports. Events of this past week bear this out.
In an age of bloggers, self-defined citizen journalists, paid shills, and clickbait sites that proliferate like mushrooms after a summer rain, this is good advice. And anyone who has forwarded a Facebook meme only to be chastened to find it's a scurrilous rumor has lived to regret it, and learned from the experience.
This week, the big newz was the story of the cop in a Spring Valley, South Carolina classroom ejecting a black female student. By now you know the story and the upshot, which will not be improved by further retelling.
It appears that by any reasonable standard, the violence that the cop used in this situation was over-the top and disproportionate to the situation. Criticism went viral, and consequences for the deputy involved, Ben Fields, were quick to follow.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott announces the firing of Ben Fields, a senior deputy who forcibly removed a female student who refused to leave her high school math class at Spring Valley High School on Monday.
Reaction was swift. As NPR reported,
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has fired Senior Deputy Ben Fields over the white deputy's violent arrest of a black student at a South Carolina high school, which was filmed by several students. Lott said Fields broke department policy in the arrest.
"It's not what I expect from my deputies, and it's not what I tolerate from my deputies," Lott said.
The story goes in in a revealing fashion:
The teacher and administrator who were in the classroom during the altercation supported Fields, as did at least one student, Lott said, adding that they felt the deputy acted appropriately.
"They supported his actions," Lott said, adding, "even the physical part. They had no problems with the physical part."
"I'm the one who had problems with it," the sheriff said.
We're sure Sheriff Lott did. Bad optics coupled with national notoriety can lead to political retribution in the absence of swift action along the lines of, "If you don't get rid of him, we'll hire someone who will."
And we learn that Fields had some previous complaints about excessive force in his record. One might wonder, given that record, what qualified him to be a school resource officer? And we learn that the teacher and the principal, who had lost control of the classroom situation, were all in favor of Ben Fields' assault on the girl and her forcible removal. And people still wonder how Hitler came to power. Clearly, many Murkins agree.
Spoiler alert: if you do not agree from the video footage that Ben Fields' use of violence against a passive young woman was over-the-top and disproportionate, you should probably stop reading now; there is nothing for you here. The white/black issue wraps the entire episode in the ever present social layer of racial politics. Would a white child have been thus forcibly removed?
And as a topper, then Niya Kenny, the young woman who videotaped the incident was arrested and charged with "disrupting schools" and released on bond. This could only happen in the insane state of South Carolina, home to American sedition and east-coast distributor for authoritah-loving right wing insanity. A prediction: in the fullness of time, the Spring Valley school board will forbid possession of video recording-equipped technology on school grounds, for the "safety and integrity of the educational process, blah blah." Videos of school violence making the system look bad? Outlaw the videos.
Many of us have teachers in our families, and get a birds-eye view of just how difficult it is to manage a classroom while preparing lesson plans, grading papers, and trying to outsmart young, media-savvy recalcitrants who know that if they get into "trouble" at school, their parents will come to the school and take their side of the argument against the teacher. There was a time when the social contract had the teacher and parent allied on the same side in a partnership to educate the child. That ship has sailed– one of many reasons why the average length of a public school teacher's career is five years.
A Facebook friend from childhood who now lives in South Carolina offered this opinion:
Total disrespect for her elders. If you watch the video closely there is a black adult (probably either the teacher or the principal) standing there watching. They had a defiant incorrigible teen that was disrupting class that needed to be extricated from the class. When she wouldn't leave at the request of the teacher, then the principal and finally the policeman he had little choice but to extricate her physically. Yes he could have probably tried to extricate her less violently out of the chair and gotten himself into a wrestling match with both her and the chair at greater danger to himself… Kids these days are becoming more and more incorrigible and have no respect for their elders. Fire the officer? I say expel the student… When I was in high school or junior high you'd get your ass whipped if you came to school with a transistor radio. Now kids think they have some god given right to text and play with their IPhone in class… That officer could use a little well deserved support from the principal, the teacher, the other students whose education was being disrupted, and the officer's boss.
Those of us of a certain age recall the days when we walked to and from school, uphill in both directions, and a school environment far more ready to bring physical force to bear "in loco parentis." That was also a time when spanking was an accepted part of childrearing, and talking back to an adult was virtually unthinkable. Any incorrigibility at school was met with paddling, a punishment both swift and certain, often wielded by a strapping teacher who had drilled holes in the instrument, the better to hasten its decent and increase the pain upon the recalcitrant butt. But then the partnership between teacher and parent was more secure, and if you got in trouble at school you'd get it twice as bad at home. And your mother would be waiting for you there, having already received the evil news, and prepared to administer additional torments for one's moral uplift.
But those days are gone, times have changed, and kids are different. The legal environment is different. Parents are not to spank children anymore, and should an adult lay his hands on your little perfect snowflake? Unpossible! Deal with it.
In Spring Valley, none of us were there in the classroom. Yet one wonders how the incident came to be, and whether any of the adults nominally in charge asked any questions of the young woman, or simply took her behavior as an affront to authoritah, and manhoods. Compare Spring Valley with this response from a young student teacher to a similar incident:
One wonders if a little human compassion, or at least a question, might not be indicated before grabbing the truncheons? And all we know about the young woman in South Carolina is that she was devastated and traumatized by everything that's happened to her, and that she was recently orphaned and in foster care. We're gratified that in a different circumstance, at least one young teacher-in-becoming had enough courage of her convictions to ask a question, learn what was happening, and perhaps change a life. (H/t Katherine Bushman.)
We read of other ways of de-escalating tense circumstances, like the DC police officer who convinced some girls resistant to dispersing after a fight the chance to participate in a dance-off; absolutely inspired police work.
On Monday afternoon, D.C.. police officers broke up two groups of fighting teenagers. A few minutes later, a female officer approached the lingering crowd and told the teens to disperse.
That’s when Aaliyah Taylor, a 17-year-old senior at Ballou High School, walked up to the officer and started playing “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” on her phone. Then she did the Nae Nae dance.
The officer, according to Taylor, laughed and said she had far better dance moves than that.
What happened from there on the 200 block of K Street SW was a rather impressive dance-off between the police officer and the teen, and an example of positive community policing at a time when national attention is focused on discriminatory and abusive police tactics. The onlooking teens caught the dance battle on their cell phones while a song by rapper Dlow played in the background.
My wife Contrary has been involved with a group working to gather signatures to present a petition to suggest better policing methods and accountabilities in our community, the better to forestall episodes like Ferguson, Cleveland and New York City from happening here. I was part of a retinue of souls who appeared at a City Council meeting this past week to speak in favor of this petition, which had garnered hundreds of signatures. The leader of the group spoke first and presented the petition. She told council that while she was outside the chambers, someone came up to her and asked, "Why do you hate the police?" The irony is that most have us have many friends and close relatives who do police work. Few good cops oppose increased accountability. But the reflexive response to anything that threatens the status quo of thin blue line is, "Why do you hate the police?"
At the same meeting another of our number mentioned the fact that many troublesome cases police encounter involve mental health issues, and that officers need additional training in de-escalation. Even as a reasonably scrawny worker in a mental health facility, he had been trained to defuse potentially troublesome situations involving persons much larger. Why does the first response have to be violence?
Find the answer in the front page of your Sunday paper, which offers the prospect of boots on the ground in Syria, along with Naval dickwaving in the South China Sea. Even looking down the barrel of doom in the form of climate change, financial uncertainty and unrestrained war, we have to believe that it is still possible to make a difference in the lives of others. A little compassion and a bit of patience might go a long way to defusing tensions. Indeed, of all the qualities we would want to teach children or grandchildren, would not compassion be at the top? Our leaders won't do it; it has to start with us.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, posts, comments, interjections, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, who quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement during its ten minutes of notoriety. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and has an adult daughter that is, as of this writing, free on her own recognizance. He remains grateful for the life he has, the people in it and for the fact that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 21, 2015
"A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic."
The deathcount for non-human life forms on this planet continues to mount exponentially. Numbed as we are by technology and distracted by likes, tweets, clicks and noise, the parade of deaths marches on in the face of our collective indifference. Animals inhabit another country, they are not-us, we rationalize to ourselves, so they are as free to die as they are for us to eat, as we have for many lifetimes of living atop to Great Ponzi of Happy Motoring and the Lifestyle the Petrodollar built. Fish kills. Sea lions. Whales. Birds dropping dead from the sky in great flocks. Starfish. Frogs. Snails. Even crickets, at RE's back door just recently. Each death an implicit sacrifice so that we might know something, and by the knowing, do something. Anything. Yet we stare in mute horror, and wring our hands in helplessness, appalled and humbled at the same time, as we do at measurements of the ongoing drought and find out that as bad as it is, it's worse than we thought. Yet climate change deniers continue to "teach the controversy," or otherwise distract the proles, the better to post up the quarterly profit. Even Pope Francis, el supremo of one of the most conservative organizations on the planet, has been moved to issue an encyclical calling for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem.” One wonders what it will take for the calls be heeded?
Yet in the same week we celebrated the 800th birthday of the Magna Carta, that much ballyhooed first step towards universal freedom and liberty, we consider how we have created a market for prison slave labor, the better to honor our contracts with the operators, to whom we have subcontracted our moral responsibilities for rehabilitation. And yes Virginia, slavery is still happily legal for the incarcerated, a blessed state, the returns for which are much beloved by cost accountants, CFOs, and especially the stockholders.
So if you're scoring at home, this week we see a clear distinction between the moral and the immoral, the true vs. the profitable. Our disinterest, some might say, stems from the moral failing at the heart of market triumphalism and its corresponding greed, which leads to irresponsible risk-taking and a continued effort to get some unnamed other to bear the externalized costs. It is the reach of markets and market values into every single sphere of life, including those traditionally governed by moral objectives and principles. Like right and wrong. But that's a rant for another time.
I had done a really good job with this column this week, making notes for it, writing as I went along, instead of waiting for Sunday morning to spit out 2000 words. And then, Charleston. Dylann Roof, the self-styled "Last Rhodesian's" mass murder at the Emmanuel AME church is a tragedy, but not the stuff of doom, you might say. And on the surface I might agree. But the rapid politicization of the responses to that tragedy (the NRA blames the victims, Fox "News" and other right-wing media outlets, including most of the Republican field for President, say some variant of, "we can't possibly know what he was thinking" when Roof left behind a website that said exactly what he was thinking, and Alex Jones, Michael Savage and other conspiracy theorists posit a "programmed government killer set loose so Obama can take our gunz") is in itself disgusting. And if the seeds of doom and total societal collapse are not to be found on the blood stained floors of that South Carolinian church, they are surely to be found in the shrunken, misshapen remains of hearts that continue to beat, inexplicably, inside too many American breasts. As opposed the the grace that has already emanated from some of the families of the victims, who have already forgiven the gunman.
Who is climate change killing this week?
The roll call of the inexplicably dead turning up by the thousands continues this week. But the dead aren't white male Americans, so it really doesn't matter. The dead are voiceless, helpless, and unable to respond except to die, and thus bear mute testimony to our actions. California sea lion pups and New England moose among others.
Let’s start with the moose. According to National Geographic, the moose population in New Hampshire went from about 7,500 in the late 90s to about 4,500 by 2013. In Maine, where about 60,000 moose make up the densest moose population in the lower 48, scientists also suspect a decline (although data is scarce).
The culprit? Our old enemy, climate change, which is giving a boost to another old enemy, bloodthirsty ticks, says National Geographic:
The reason is likely climate change, biologists say, which is ushering in shorter, warmer winters that are boosting the fortunes of winter ticks. The tiny creatures latch on to moose here in staggering numbers: One moose can house 75,000 ticks, which are helping to drive a troubling rise in moose deaths, especially among calves.
Warning: Things are about to get horrifying.
And if that's not enough, then there is this: the largest toxic algal bloom ever recorded on the west coast:
Scientists onboard a NOAA research vessel are beginning a survey of what could be the largest toxic algae bloom ever recorded off the West Coast… At the same time, two other types of toxins rarely seen in combination are turning up along the Washington coast.
And in the spirit of Ron Popeil, "but wait! There's more!" Researchers find that species we normally ignore, such as snails, are disappearing at a rapid pace—another indicator of mass extinction.
For years now, conservationists have warned that Earth is in the middle of the “sixth great extinction,” with dozens of species going extinct every day owing to habitat loss, pollution, climate change, and other factors.
But here’s even worse news: That may be just the tip of the iceberg. According to new research, previous estimates may seriously underestimate the number of species that we’re losing. A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that we may have already lost 130,000 species, or a staggering 7 percent of the world’s total biodiversity.
How could we have lost so many species without noticing? It’s simple: The authors say most of these extinctions are not big, noticeable creatures such as rhinos and tigers. Instead they’re tiny insects and other invertebrates that don’t get much attention. These species tend to have very small ranges with specific habitat needs and aren’t often well studied.
For a more in-depth report on how an unseen extinction is decimating our biota, see this article.
It's bad. Really bad. Really, really bad:
"We don't know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don't know when we're going to run out," said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine, and the study's lead author. "This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking."
"Combined with declining snowpack and population growth, this will likely threaten the long-term ability of the basin to meet its water allocation commitments to the seven basin states and to Mexico," Famiglietti said.
What's more troubling, while westerners are conserving water in a historic drought, the Nestle Corporation is still draining western aquifers for profit. One might legitimately ask on what planet is is legal to take water from a drought zone, bottle it and sell it.
And then there are these assholes: Ultra-wealthy Californians refusing to conserve water may signal the beginning of a much bigger crisis. Meet Steve Yuhas, designated spokesman for the .1 per cent, stakng out a position in the coming class war:
So how do you explain a place like Rancho Santa Fe, an enclave of San Diego County, where water use has gone up by 9 percent since April?
Money. Steve Yuhas, a conservative talk-show host and part-time resident of Rancho Santa Fe, explained in a Washington Post hate-read this weekend: “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he said. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”
Yuhas’ quote is one of many nauseatingly backwards statements in the piece on why ultra-wealthy owners of multi-acre properties—which might boast orchards, stables, elaborate waterworks, and of course, bright sweeps of lawn—deserve more sympathy and fewer penalties.
Add entitlement syndrome, as predictable as sunrise:
Still, for the “1 percent”… a limitless sense of entitlement plus a limitless supply of funds is a powerful combination. With California’s groundwater regulations years away from taking effect, what’s to stop deep-pocketed homeowners from digging their own wells? Or trucking in water? Or striking deals with local politicians? One ultra-wealthy resident compares his sprawling lawns to his Chevy Suburban: He can afford to pay for copious amounts water and gas, so who’s to say it’s not his right to do so?
It’s a chilling analogy, because many predict that water shortages, exacerbated by climate change, are going to cause global warfare similar to the way oil has. Water and oil are both highly limited resources. Yet water, unlike oil, is a human right—for Californians and for the 750 million who live without access to clean water worldwide. The attitude that money can, and should, buy any quantity of water isn’t common yet in California, but as droughts become longer and more dire all over the planet, it will likely spread. And the gap between who can drink freely and who cannot will grow.
This week, Pope Francisco released his much anticipated and relentlessly leaked enclyclical, Laudato Si, or Praised Be to You: On Care for Our Common Home,” which was developed over the past year with the input of dozens of scientists, scholars, theologians and over the objections of opponents such as The Heartland Institute. In the encyclical, Francis aligns himself firmly alongside the environmental movement and its objectives and with the Church's traditional reverence for life. While acknowledging some natural causes of global warming are possible, the Pope asserted that climate change is mostly a human-made problem, one of the “principal challenges facing humanity.” Pope Francis calls on citizens, politicians, business leaders, organizations—in short, all of us—to act immediately and decisively to stop climate change, renew our relationship with Nature, and “enter a dialogue with all people about our common home.”
Some excerpts, which speak eloquently on their own:
“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it,” he wrote. “Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … given off above all because of human activity.”
“A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. … A number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.”
“The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.”
“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years.”
“If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. A rise in the sea level, for example, can create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world’s population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal areas.”
“Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever.”
We “must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”
“One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor…. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.”
The usual butthurt bleatings have been heard from fossil fuel apologists, climate change deniers, and the pols and campaign-donation-receivers-in-becoming who love them. A representative sampling of tweets from paid shill Steven Milloy sets the tone for the critics:
Praised Be to You, Pope Francisco. Steven Milloy and his ilk notwithstanding, the world is with you, for reaffirming climate change as a moral issue and as part of the Church's support for the sanctity of life.
The Modernized Slave Labor System: Also Known as the Prison Industrial Complex
When you create a market for prisoners, as many states have through subcontracting corrections to for-profit third parties, you get distortions. In basic humanity. During a week where the environment gets attention front and center, business usual continues in some of the darkest corners of the human soul.
The United States prison system, not only a machine for mass incarceration, but a machine for modernized slave labor. The United States has 5% of the worlds population, yet we have 25% of the world's prison population. Land of the free right?
It would seem the statistics say otherwise, since the official drug war president Nixon announced in the 70’s, our prison population has grown over 700%! Recent estimates put our prison population to well over 2.4 million inmates. 50% of the federal prison inmates are for non violent drug offenses. All the while 20% of state prison inmates are drug related.
The Magna Carta turned 800 years old on Monday. Known as the "Great Charter," it is widely considered the foundation of parliamentary democracy, human rights and the supremacy of the law over the crown. Signed in Runnymede in 1215, and originally drafted to forge an uneasy peace between an unpopular King John and a group of rebel barons tired of tribute and excessive taxation to fund Joh's endless wars to restore his lands in France. The document promised protection of church rights, for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on how much the Crown could exact. Then as now, neither side stood behind their commitments. Research has shown that the Magna Carta was much more about the relationship between the monarch and the barons, rather than the rights of ordinary people, but the document still resonates as a symbol of the primacy of the rule of law over the rule of men.
A number of legal scholars have made the irrelevant point that the Magna Carta protected rights of the Church, nobles, and free men who were not enserfed, a small percentage of the population in the early 13th century. We hear the same about the US Constitution — it was something the rich did for themselves. I have no sympathy for debunking human achievements that, in the end, gave ordinary people liberty.
At Runnymede in 1215, no one but the armed barons had the power and audacity to make King John submit to law. The rule of law, not the rule of the sovereign or of the executive branch in Washington acceded to by a cowardly and corrupt Congress and Supreme Court, is a human achievement that grew out of the Magna Carta over the centuries, with ups and downs of course.
I get that argument and am not unsympathetic. Speaking to Amy Goodman, Linebaugh said,
Both the big charter and the little charter depend and recognize the 90 percent of the people of England who were serfs and poor people and foresters and commoners. Amy, it took about 40 serfs to produce the food just for one horse of those barons and those knights. So while it was a document settling scores in the ruling class, that ruling class had to recognize the principle of the commons and had to recognize—well, in fact, it abolished capital punishment for killing of deer in the forests of England, a great step forward. It prohibited the disparagement of women. Its seventh chapter called for estovers of the widow in the common. Basically, it meant that she could have her fuel, she could have tools, she could have repairs for her house from the forest. And remember that the forest and woods, that was the petroleum of that epoch. That is, so many materials, so much wealth came exclusively from wood. So, for a woman or a widow, in particular, to have access to the commons meant survival.
We can criticize the Magna Carta as being by nobles for nobles in the same way we can criticize the Declarations's authors for the same reasons. And we do. Yet for all that, a document which gives rise to these words can only be so bad:
"No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights … or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his peers and the law of the land."
“Wherefore we wish and firmly command that the English Church shall be free and that men in our kingdom have and hold all such aforesaid liberties, rights and grants, well and in peace, freely and quietly, fully and completely, for themselves and their heirs, in all things and in all places, in perpetuity.”
Yet no one to date has satisfactorily explained the remedy when one class of "free men" "seizes" or "deprives of standing" another smaller, poorer free man. Some call that the role of government, via regulation, that anathema to corporatists and free-marketeers everywhere. Yet those laws and regulations are what we use instead of resorting to lampposts and 40 feet of sturdy nylon rope. Good words to go out on this week.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 14, 2015
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“If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons,” Assange said. “If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”
-Julian Assange, Founder, Wikileaks, November 15, 2013
In a stunning rejection by his own party, President Barack Obama had the TAA amendment to the TPP go down in flames in a Friday House vote, and with it his earliest effort to get fast track enabled for this sellout of the American people. And demonstrates himself as the latest opportunistic tool of corporations and the hyper rich, and the truth of that trope attributed to Gore Vidal: "There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat." This week deja vu has an American president sending "advisors" into a war-torn area to train the locals; one wonders what sort of training the Iraqis can possibly receive to not throw down their weapons and flee the field of battle? One of the main instigators of last weekend's celebrated Texas pool party/ police riot gets hers, but in a way that leaves us feeling somewhat uneasy. NPR budget cuts have hit their fact checkers, as they run a story on fracking being the next great economic engine for the US economy at a time when rig counts have plummeted and 67 per cent of domestic shale oil production has been taken off line. Almost as if an invisible hand were "suggesting" what they run… And income inequality has gotten so bad that food pantries are running out of food, such is the demand. But, what, me worry? The markets are up!
Democrats reject Obama on trade
The big news this week was when a strange-bedfellows coalition of conservatives and progressive democrats voted to deny President Obama fast track authority for the TPP. Thus the New World Order of transnational corporations hit a small snag in their journey to legalize their current de facto hegemony over nation states and citizens under color of law.
The House voted 302 to 126 to sink a measure to grant financial aid to displaced workers, fracturing hopes at the White House that Congress would grant Obama fast-track trade authority to complete an accord with 11 other Pacific Rim nations."I will be voting to slow down fast-track," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the floor moments before the vote, after keeping her intentions private for months. "Today we have an opportunity to slow down. Whatever the deal is with other countries, we want a better deal for American workers."
Sure she does, and sure they do. Whatever their motivations, I'll take it, as someone unalterably opposed to the TPP, along with legislation-by-lobbyist, secret deals done in secret, and clandestine negotiations held away from the disinfecting power of sunlight. Now comes the whores-trading. Be certain that this weekend the lobbyists have earned their steak and lobster dinners, as round after round of wheedling ensues in Jerusalem on the Potomac.
TAA/TPP was stalled by a huge number of phone calls from angry constituents spluutering with outrage– Outrage, I say! — to staffers in Congressional offices. There is a politics of a changed conversation afoot in this country, in the wake the financial collapse of 2008, and of OWS in 2011– that signals that the winds of political will do not only blow in one direction. Charlie Pierce:
There now is a legitimate progressive power base within the Democratic party that no longer takes the prerogatives of the corporate class as inviolable, and that must be considered seriously by any Democratic president and by any Democratic politician… This is not a failure of presidential leadership. It's the assertion of political power from another direction. If that unnerves the Green Room consensus, that's too bad. The president got a bad beat, not because he is a bad president, but because, on this issue, on this Friday afternoon, he found himself trying to sell something to a constituency that has changed.
The fact is that pro-trade Democrats have been eclipsed by the anti-corporate wing of the party, which has been on the rise since 2008. It also exposed the weakening hand of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who reportedly had been whipping for days to support the president’s agenda, only to throw in with the rank-and-file rebellion at the last minute, ostensibly the better to retain some cred. The fate of this monstrous trade legislation now depends on Obama’s ability, along with business-friendly interests, to twist arms, cajole and/or bribe dozens of Democrats to switch their votes before next week. Apparently the sides are going to line up and scrimmage again next Tuesday. Meanwhile, discuss among yourselves wither John Boehner or Nancy Pelosi has the biggest set of balls in the room.
Neocons Erect: The First 450 Soldiers On Their Way Back to Iraq
I am old enough to have seen this movie before: faced with intransigent guerrilla warfare, an American president decides to send in four hundred or so "advisors," the better to train the locals in in the fine arts and techniques of counterinsurgency, then follow that up with AC-47-loads of all the boodle that emerges from the cornucopia of the arms manufacturers. .
This time the American president is not John F Kennedy, but Barack "Don't do stupid stuff" Obama. The NYT reports on the latest excursions of Empire. For which you continue to foot the bill for with your children's futures…
President Obama is open to expanding the American military footprint in Iraq with a network of bases and possibly hundreds of additional troops to support Iraqi security forces in their fight against the Islamic State, White House officials said on Thursday.
For Mr. Obama, who has long resisted being drawn into another ground war since pulling out all forces in 2011, the latest developments represented another incremental step back into a sectarian conflict he had once hoped to be done with by the time he left office. Supporters of a more robust effort against the Islamic State called it a welcome if inadequate step to make good on the White House’s vow to defeat the Islamic State, while critics warned of sliding into a broader, bloodier and ultimately ineffective campaign.
For a President working on his legacy, this represents a leaden step. Meanwhile war profiteers cheered. (For an interesting but unrelated story of war profiteering and how it works, for the so-called Big 5 and especially for the legions of contractors, see Isaac Faber here.)
Justice of a sort
By now, the story of the pool party in Mckinney Texas, the police overreaction, the termination of the officer involved and the bleats of outrage have all become part of the national conversation. And in the wake of all that, this datum as a coda:
After a video of a 15 year old African-American teen being slammed into the ground by McKinney Police Officer Eric Casebolt went viral last weekend, a twitter campaign was launched to identify the woman involved in the fight that led to police being called. Tracey Carver-Allbritton has now been placed on administrative leave by her employer, CoreLogic Inc., a major financial data and analytics firm closely aligned with Bank of America.
Ms. Carver-Allbritton is demonstrably a racist and should certainly be held legally responsible for her actions, as should any adult who picks a fight with underaged minors. Yet I have certain-to-be unpopular misgivings about her losing her job as a result of this action, as I did for obvious racist and overall lout Donald Sterling being obliged to sell his basketball team as a result of the contents of a conversation illegally recorded and obtained. The end does not always justify the means. Because we all have to live with the implications of what the means… means. Fruit of the poisoned tree, and all that.
National Petroleum Radio: America's Next Economic Boom Could Be Lying Underground
From time to time, I find myself in arguments with well-intentioned liberal friends who argue that National Public Radio is not part of the mainstream media. This is risible, inasmuch as I have firsthand knowledge of the politics and the pressures brought to bear on public media enterprises. I toiled for a time in the management precincts of local public television and radio, and have seen how the system works– or doesn't. Public media has found itself increasingly reliant upon corporate funds which to stretch the modicum of funding provided from government sources, which typically just enough to pay the programming bills. So both stations and producing entities turn to the people with the money, who, as you will see in the media from time to time, exert editorial control over projects. The much ballyhooed documentary, "Citizen Koch" never saw the light of day as a result of meddling by you know who.
Likewise, I know firsthand how the local chief executive officer spiked "Counterspin," the only show that held the media to account, produced by "Fairness and Accuracy in Media." FAIR is the national progressive media watchdog group, challenging corporate media bias, spin and misinformation. "Counterspin" corrects the prevalent bias. The CEO attempted to explain himself in a public forum and found his justifications poorly received and shouted down. What was never made clear was who forced his hand, and why.
All of which we are supposed to blissfully ignore and go on our merry way, continuing to drink from a poison trough. With that background in mind, let's bring this week's monstrosity, courtesy of your tax supported local public media and NPR: wholly in thrall to fracking interests, shale oil is a boom, they say. Harvard economist Michael Porter's new report is exciting, they say, using all the breathless adjectives and adverbs available to a fresh crop of marketing interns. Porter's report is duly excited
about the deep reserves of natural gas and oil that have been made accessible by hydraulic fracturing technology, or fracking — a boon he examines in detail in a new report.
"It is a game changer," Porter says. "We have estimated that already, this is generating a substantial part of our GDP in America. It's at least as big as the state of Ohio. We've added a whole new major state, top-10 state, to our economy."
Woo-hoo! Holy 2012, Batman! Happy days are here again! Perhaps budget cuts at NPR news has meant they don't consult industry reports or the financials. The NPR report fails to mention the shuttering of wells and the thousands of layoffs in the oilfields and in related support industries. Or the worldwide low price of oil, which has become so cheap that many companies have stopped drilling. The sad truth is that the shale oil boom is actually already over. Tom Lewis has the sobering details at his blog, The Daily Impact:
It comes now from the US Energy Information Agency, and is headlined by Bloomberg Business, so yes, it’s official. As Bloomberg put it, “US Shale Boom Grinds to a Halt.” Which, actually, is overstating the case by a good bit, there isn’t going to be a “halt.” Nevertheless, as sane people everywhere have been insisting for years, the shale boom is, as it always was going to be, a bust.
This — now official — assessment is in the form of a set of projections by the EIA, which, we should remember, has pretty consistently been overly optimistic in its assessment of the oil business. Remember, they were the folks who estimated that the Monterey Shale in California held 14 billion barrels of recoverable reserves — two-third of America’s total oil wealth — until they ran the numbers again and re-estimated the Monterey at 96% lower.
This shale oil boom has always been a classic American hustle, designed to coax capital out of investors with the promise of liquid gold in them thar shales. Rig counts have been dropping for 26 straight weeks, since the world price for crude bottomed out late last year. 67% of US rigs have been taken out of service. Don't believe me; do your own due diligence. But remember this story the next time your local public radio station goes on the air begging for funds, or when a friend cites an NPR report as proof of the veracity of some story. Bet them a tote bag they're wrong.
Food Banks In New York Are Running Out Of Food
Here's one of the most depressing stories that moved last week.
Welcome to the Recovery! Food banks across the US state of New York are running out of food (37% of food pantries say they have had to turn away needy people because they ran out of food), amid falling funds and rising demand from people that have trouble affording food. About 2.6 million people have trouble affording food across New York with about 1.4 million New York City residents relying on food pantries to feed themselves, according to the Food Bank For New York City. But as PressTV reports, contrary to the belief that people visiting food pantries are homeless and jobless, most customers are employed, but are not paid enough money to put food on the table without help.
This is a point worth repeating: people using food banks are working people, people who have jobs, people who get up the same way you do, pull on their trousers or slacks, and go put in their 40 to 60 hours, but are still unable to feed themselves and meet their other obligations. You may find yourself asking, "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? Or even, is there no Congress?" Oh yes, Congress has noted well their plight. As Joshua Krause via The Daily Sheeple notes,
Despite the media’s claims that we’re no longer in a recession, millions of Americans are still struggling to make ends meet. It seems that America has developed a permanent underclass of citizens that just can’t quite rise above their poverty. No matter how high home prices rise or how far the stock market soars, the profits never seem to trickle down to this segment of society.
If you’re looking for proof that this permanent underclass exists, look no further than the massive number of people who still rely on food stamps and food pantries to survive. In fact, their ranks may be growing, which is starting to cause some food pantries to run out of resources on a regular basis. In New York City, 1.4 million residents eat at food pantries (out of a total population of 8.5 million), a number which is currently growing 20% every year.
The largest influx of food bank users occurred in 2013, when Congress cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $18 per person. Since that time, 40% of food stamp users have had to turn to food banks to sustain themselves, and 37% of food banks in New York City have admitted that they have turned away hungry residents in recent years, after running out of food.
Meanwhile, televangelists like Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, and Creflo Dollar preach the Gospel of Prosperity to some of the largest congregations in the country, and host television programs that seem to air continously. One recalls the Bible's shortest verse: "Jesus wept."
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in the triumph of hope over experience.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on February 22, 2015
“The viruses that cause smallpox, influenza, hepatitis, measles, encephalitis, and viral pneumonia; the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, diphtheria, cholera, typhus, scarlet fever, and bacterial meningitis—by a quirk of evolutionary history, all were unknown in the Western Hemisphere.”
“In 1491 the Inka ruled the greatest empire on earth. Bigger than Ming Dynasty China, bigger than Ivan the Great’s expanding Russia, bigger than Songhay in the Sahel or powerful Great Zimbabwe in West Africa, bigger than the cresting Ottoman Empire… bigger by far than any European state, the Inka dominion extended over a staggering thirty-two degrees of latitude—as if a single power held sway from St. Petersburg to Cairo.”
― Charles C. Mann
Charles Mann’s landmark, “1491:New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” advances the thesis that the Americas were fairly teeming with native peoples prior to their “discovery” by Columbus and other early explorers. This thesis is supported in part by testimony from early explorers. Traveling up the Mississippi in 1540, De Soto reported teeming cities filled with Native Americans. The Spanish also reported large urban populations upon their first contact with Aztecs and Incas. When LaSalle traveled up the Mississippi 140 years later, he and his party encountered open and desolate spaces, virtually depopulated of native peoples.
Mann advances the theory that disease killed as many as 19 of 20 natives in the Americas, most of whom never laid eyes on a white man. (He lays the blame in large measure on the swine that the Spanish brought along with them as part of their mobile commissary.) The Inca Empire collapsed in part because by the time Pizarro arrived, smallpox and other epidemics had already swept through cities, cutting a wide swath though the natives’ lack of immunity to European diseases.
Mann references the work of historian Henry Dobyns:”The Inca were not defeated by steel and horses, but by disease and factionalism.” Internecine warfare among native tribes also played a factor in the collapse of native societies, as the Spaniards were able to play one faction off against another. “Divide and rule” was a lesson well learned from their Roman forebears.
In his Pulitzer prize-winning book “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies,” Jared Diamond suggests that the early domestication of wild plants and animals among disparate Stone Age peoples in the Fertile Crescent, China, Central America and the Andes conferred a head start on the peoples of those regions, which translated directly to the development of “surplus” and its management.
In a sentence, Diamond’s thesis is thus: “farm-based societies conquered populations of other areas and maintained dominance, despite sometimes being vastly out-numbered – superior weapons provided immediate military superiority (guns); Eurasian diseases weakened and reduced local populations, who had no immunity, making it easier to maintain control over them (germs); and durable means of transport enabled imperialism (steel).”
Societies must move beyond the hunter gatherer stage to develop surplus food, and thus provide the capacity to develop division of labor, which in turn led to writing, technology, societal organization, religion and other forms of social coercion. Societies thus equipped were able to move and expand to the homelands of other, less advanced people and compete with an advantage.
And when these societies expanded, they brought their livestock and other disease vectors with them. Unlike malaria, smallpox is geographically unlimited, and Europeans took it with them wherever they went. Over centuries, they also developed the means by which to cure many of these diseases. Only now are we seeing that cycle, like so many, begin to unwind.
Such thoughts bubble up unbidden as we peruse the headlines emerging from the swamps mainstream media like swamp gas, and we find a recrudescence of disease. This goes beyond the outbreak of measles as reported last week, a disease eradicated in the US in 2000, but now back by popular demand of the anti-vaxxer crowd. The return of measles is the self-inflicted wound of a society rooted in the full-bore embrace of ignorance and superstition. No, this week it’s the superbug, a gift likely purchased by the over prescription and overuse of antibiotics, and which leaves us as helpless as peasants in the face of the Black Death. So with no further preamble, it’s time to offer up a hearty call of, “Bring out your Dead!” and let the week’s summary began. Cue the ritual chanting and the rabbit’s feet.
This report in from LA. Since MRSA wasn’t unmanageable enough, this new drug-resistant superbug both baffles observers and threatens to have healthcare practitioners shaking their last medicine stick as treatment.
A large Los Angeles teaching hospital has told scores of patients they may have been exposed to a drug-resistant bacterial “superbug” during endoscopy procedures that infected seven patients and contributed to two deaths.
More than 170 patients who may have been infected by the carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, are being offered home testing kits that would be analyzed by the University of California at Los Angeles hospital system, UCLA officials said.
It is difficult to believe that in this day and age, we still have not found an appropriate way to sterilize even harder to clean parts on endoscopes, but there you are. No one who ever consults with the surgeon as to the best course of action will be surprised when he recommends surgery. Or more tests. So when the Public Health functionaries speak, keep that in mind:
“It’s important to emphasize: This particular outbreak of CRE is not a threat to the health of the public in Los Angeles County,” said Benjamin Schwartz, deputy chief of the acute communicable disease control program at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
That’s right, citizens, nothing to see here, and move along. There’s a good fellow. Huffpo added this perspective:
For a person to be infected, CRE germs must enter the body, typically through contact with an infected person’s wounds or feces. However, as is suspected in the UCLA exposure, the bacteria can also be passed via medical devices that enter the body. The same type of medical device has been implicated in other CRE exposures, according to UCLA. The hospital says it is now “utilizing a decontamination process that goes above and beyond manufacturer and national standards.”
Deeply reassuring. For now, it would appear that if your plans do not include swallowing an endoscope at the appropriately named Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, you are at low risk for infection.
Currently, the best measures to take are preventive. Hospitals and patients alike should practice careful hand-washing and disinfecting of hospital rooms and medical equipment, and staff may consider keeping patients with CRE infections from sharing rooms with others. The CDC also urges patients and medical professionals to avoid unnecessary prescriptions and use of antibiotics.
Good luck “avoiding unnecessary prescriptions and use of antibiotics” if you are a pediatrician facing the parent of a child with a runny nose. Meanwhile, the prevalence of “superbugs” is on the rise, and it’s not all from our failure to wash hands.
A new study released this week and published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B warns that a warming planet and rapidly changing climate are increasing the appearance of infectious diseases like Ebola.
According to Daniel Brooks, one of the researchers on the study, “It’s not that there’s going to be one ‘Andromeda Strain’ that will wipe everybody out on the planet. There are going to be a lot of localized outbreaks putting pressure on medical and veterinary health systems. It will be the death of a thousand cuts.”
And, to make matters even worse, there’s also the concern of unknown infectious diseases popping up across the globe thanks to climate change.
Last year, scientists were able to successfully “revive” a virus that had been trapped in the Siberian tundra for tens of thousands of years According to the scientists, the virus, now known as Pithovirus sibericum, was lying dormant in the Siberian tundra for around 30,000 years.
But, after thawing the virus out of the ice, the scientists discovered that it hadn’t lost its touch after its 30,000 year nap.
In fact, soon after the virus was thawed, it infected countless single-cell organisms.
Now, just imagine if the thawing of Pithovirus sibericum hadn’t happened in a controlled laboratory, but instead happened in the wilderness of Siberia.
If I were a betting man, as the planet warms I would wager on more rather than fewer And as the ice melts, and those new-to-us pathogens get released, we could see new epidemics for which we are utterly unprepared. But I’m confident that everything will be just fine here, citizen, as long as you wash your hands and shake your rabbit’s foot.
The Islamic state seems intent upon declaring itself the middle east distributor for ninth century savagery, with the recent spate of beheadings of Egyptian Copts. Retaliatory attacks have been answered with suicide attacks. See: IS claimes suicide attacks that kill 42
And now the Islamic State’s Libyan franchise has threatened an assault upon Rome itself. We can’t wait to see the Islamic State navy in action.
With Ukraine’s army in tatters, and the US/UK considering yet another in a futile round of sanctions on Russia, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister says they are “preparing for full scale war with Russia. ” This comes in the wake of the military catastrophe that befell the NATO-backed army in eastern Ukraine, at Debaltsevo.
Last week, Washington suffered its greatest military defeat in more than a decade when Ukraine’s US-backed army was soundly routed in the major railway hub of Debaltsevo. Roughly, 8,000 Ukrainian regulars along with untold numbers of tanks and armored units were surrounded in w Andhat-came-to-be-known-as “the cauldron.” The army of the Donetsk Peoples Republic led by DPR commander Alexander Zakharchenko, encircled the invading army and gradually tightened the cordon, eventually killing or capturing most of the troops within the pocket. The Ukrainian Armed Forces suffered major casualties ranging between 3,000 to 3,500 while a vast amount of lethal military hardware was left behind.
According to Zakharchenko, “The amount of equipment Ukrainian units have lost here is beyond description.”
As Mike Whitney reports, this military catastrophe is the responsibility of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, who may not survive the next putsch.
The Ukrainian President is responsible for the massacre at Debaltsevo. He was fully aware that his army faced encirclement but ordered them to remain in order to satisfy powerful right-wing elements in his government. The disaster is even more terrible due to the fact that it was entirely avoidable and achieved no strategic purpose at all. Extreme hubris frequently impacts outcomes on the battlefield. This was the case at Debaltsevo.
The debacle ensures that the bumbling president’s days are numbered.
The “far-right nationalists” who occupy the Security Services that Poroshenko tried to appease will insist on his ouster. Comes another Maidan, and a second Ukrainian coup in less than a year, testament to the failings of neocon US foreign policy. This from The Vineyard of the Saker:
“Looks like the Nazi death squads are on the march again, this time they are looking at Kiev. Thirteen death-squad (aka “volunteer battalion”) leaders have now declared that they are forming their own military command under the command of the notorious Semen Semenchenko. Officially, they are not in any way opposed to the current regime, so said Semenchenko, but in reality their rank and file members are pretty clear about what they want to do: organize a third Maidan and toss out Poroshenko.
What makes these 21st century version of the SA so dangerous for Poroshenko it that he, unlike Hitler, does not have a 21st century version of the SS to eliminate them all overnight. In fact, according to many reports the entire southern part of the rump-Ukraine is now “Kolomoiski-land” fully under the control of the oligarch who finances these death-squads. Add to this the fact that most of the Rada is composed of the very same battalion commanders and assorted Nazi freaks, and you will why Poroshenko is now very much in danger……
The sad reality is that there is simply nobody in the Ukraine capable of disarming these so-called “volunteer battalions”. There are now thousands of uniformed Nazi freaks roaming around with guns who can now impose their law of the jungle on everybody. It sure looks like the future of Banderastan will be something like a mix of Somalia and Mad Max – a failed state, a comprehensively destroyed economy, a collapsed social order and the law of armed gangs of thugs.”
And now we’re told that Ukraine is”Preparing For Full-Scale War” With Russia, Demands The West Supply Lethal Weapons. Because of the losses at Debaltsevo, Kiev need more arms. If only the West will “stiffen their spines” a bit, we are told, the Banderites will be able to defeat the Russians. Let’s review the bidding: in one year an entire country has been destroyed, thousands murdered and millions left with nothing. The Ukraine is as failed a state as Somalia, having met all conditions of Orlov’s “five stages of collapse.” Kiev is in the hands of madmen advised by madmen, and the only alternative is worse. The obvious solution? More arms…
Dept. of When You’re in a Hole, Stop Digging: How can Rudy Giuliani make his latest mess much worse? On second thought, why bother?
So there’s your week in disease, warfare, cupidity and superstition. Death peeks around every corner: whether from unknown bugs and viruses popping up from global warming, chaotic tinderboxes in world at war, Pat Robertson’s bad comb over or Tea Party stupidity, who can tell? if I were you, I’d stock up on rabbits’ feet.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on September 28, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.
“The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance… In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.” ― George Orwell
Seven for Seven
Eternal war got a boost this week. There was a time when the more credulous among us cast a vote for Barack Obama largely because, no matter what he might be, he wasn’t George W. Bush or his infamous handler. Any thoughts that the two were intrinsically different in terms of foreign-policy, was put to rest this week as the US and its “allies” rained airstrikes on targets in Iraq and Syria. The man who campaigned on a platform of “hope and change” appeared at the UN this week to utter of ISIS:
“The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.”
Having been thwarted last year in Syria by Vladimir Putin, Obama ramped up the rhetoric in order to stampede the recalcitrants to get with the program:
“There can be no reasoning, no negotiation, with this brand of evil,” Obama told the General Assembly. In a striking shift for a president who has been reluctant to take military action in the past, Obama declared that force is the only language the militants understand. He warned those who have joined their cause to “leave the battlefield while they can.”
Previously it seemed that Obama wanted to wind down the foreign wars, in response to the war weariness and general bankruptcy of the American public. But the existential threat presented by what is being marketed as the Islamic State has already sucked Obama back into Levantine conflicts and the middle of Syria’s intractable civil war. A few months ago, Obama had a timetable for extraction of US forces from the endless GWOT-wars he was bequeathed. Perhaps he underestimated the reach and the connections of the neocon embeds salted away in the bowels of his foreign-policy apparatus. They were not to be denied. Let’s recall what the agenda was in 2007:
…a tantalizing passage in Wesley Clark’s new memoir suggests that another war is part of a long-planned Department of Defense strategy that anticipated “regime change” by force in no fewer than seven Mideast states. Critics of the war have often voiced suspicions of such imperial schemes, but this is the first time that a high-ranking former military officer has claimed to know that such plans existed.
In “A Time to Lead: For Duty, Honor and Country,” the former four-star general recalls two visits to the Pentagon following the terrorist attacks of September 2001. On the first visit, less than two weeks after Sept. 11, he writes, a “senior general” told him, “We’re going to attack Iraq. The decision has basically been made.”
Six weeks later, Clark returned to Washington to see the same general and inquired whether the plan to strike Iraq was still under consideration. The general’s response was stunning:
“‘Oh, it’s worse than that,’ he said, holding up a memo on his desk. ‘Here’s the paper from the Office of the Secretary of Defense [then Donald Rumsfeld] outlining the strategy. We’re going to take out seven countries in five years.’ And he named them, starting with Iraq and Syria and ending with Iran.”
While Clark doesn’t name the other four countries, he has mentioned in televised interviews that the hit list included Lebanon, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.
Check, check, check, and check. The agenda for the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) still alive and well. And while we’re shaking off the intoxication of the constant propaganda, never forget that ALL of this “Islamic State™” mayhem is the direct consequence of neocon policy: blowback from the arming and training jihadists by the US and its allies in an effort to overthrow Assad. If you’re scoring at home, you might recall that it was Assad’s government battling the jihadists as they demonstrated ninth-century Islamic justice for today’s audiences by cutting off the heads of Syrians for being Christian, Kurdish, Shia, or insufficiently Muslim. Corpmedia has only recently have taken note of the beheadings since Westerners have been beheaded, (the crucifixions were a deft touch, yes?) while studiously ignoring the blowback.
And those entities who have catapulted the armed ISIS PR juggernaut into the headlines will employ their pliant middlemen to keep them there. From statements like those of hired errand boy David Cameron, one might infer the elites are becoming a bit restive about this Internet thingy, since the proles are discovering that their mistrust and disdain for manufactured narratives is shared by thousands of others. At the UN this week, Cameron affirmed the elites’ belief that “non-violent extremism” is just as dangerous as terrorism and must be eradicated using all means at the government’s disposal.
To defeat ISIL – and organisations like it – we must defeat this ideology in all its forms.
As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by preachers who claim not to encourage violence, but whose world view can be used as a justification for it. We know this world view.
The peddling of lies: that 9/11 was a Jewish plot or that the 7/7 London attacks were staged. The idea that Muslims are persecuted all over the world as a deliberate act of Western policy. The concept of an inevitable clash of civilisations.
We must be clear: to defeat the ideology of extremism we need to deal with all forms of extremism – not just violent extremism.
Cameron makes much of how Britain will “do its part,” by providing not only a military role but by getting its house in order at home:
For our part, in the United Kingdom, we are introducing new powers.
To strengthen our ability to seize passports and stop suspects travelling.
To allow us to strip British identity from dual nationals and temporarily prevent some British nationals getting back into our country.
To ensure that airlines comply with our no fly lists and security screening requirements.
And to enable our police and our security services to apply for stronger locational constraints on those in the UK who pose a risk.
Love those “locational restraints” dreamed up by these children of the Enlightenment. Nothing says “freedom” and “liberty” like locational restraint and other forms of militarized governmental goonery. (See Ferguson, Occupy, et al.).
The BillO Brigade
Meanwhile, in the department of people willing to fight the next war down to your last son or daughter, Fox news walking tantrum Bill O’Reilly called for President Obama to raise an anti-terror mercenary army to defeat Islamic State militants, the “boots on the ground” needed to address the deficiencies in Obama’s air assault. No doubt O’Reilly relied upon his own many years of military service (none) and deep experience as a war planner (uh, no.) The use of mercenary forces has been outlawed by the U.N. General Assembly, but that is the kind of quibble usually raised by the wrong kinds of people. Also no matter that O’Reilly’s expert guest, U.S. Naval War College Professor Tom Nichols, Ph.D., a national security expert, refuted BillO’s plan. Nichols explained that “it is a morally corrosive idea to try to outsource our national security,” a notion that will itself come as a “terrible,” “immoral” idea to Blackwater scion Erik Prince.
“Well, Bill, I understand your frustration. I really do. But this is a terrible idea, a terrible idea not just as a practical matter but a moral matter. It’s a morally corrosive idea to try to outsource our national security. This is something Americans are going to have to deal for themselves. We’re not going to solve this problem by creating an army of Marvel Avengers or the Guardians of the Galaxy…There’s nothing theoretical about it. It’s the worst of both worlds. You’re asking these forces to operate as though they’re U.S. military forces and you’re treating them as though they’re mercenaries merely because you don’t want to have to use American military forces. And I think that that undermines the whole notion of our own security. “
To the barracades, citizens…
Tomorrow Belongs to Me: the Colorado Curriculum Edition
Another front in the war to “keep society intact” was opened in Colorado this week. In response to a conservative school board led proposal that history education should “promote patriotism and respect for authority,” hundreds of insufficiently respectful students walked out of suburban Denver classrooms on Tuesday in protest. The youth protest involved six high schools in and follows a sick-out from teachers that shut down a couple of high schools in the politically and economically diverse area. The AP reported that
The school board proposal that triggered the walkouts in Jefferson County calls for instructional materials that present positive aspects of the nation and its heritage. It would establish a committee to regularly review texts and course plans, starting with Advanced Placement history, to make sure materials “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights” and don’t “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”
And we’ve already seen how unpatriotic and deserving of wholesale assault our attempts to exercise First Amendment rights. Interestingly, none of the proposal advanced by Julie Williams, a member of the board’s conservative majority, calls for the reinstitution of civics education, such that students might know how their government works and what their rights actually are under the Constitution. As history has taught, educated people are insufficiently pliable.
“It’s chilling,” said school board member Lesley Dahlkemper, who typically clashes with the conservative majority. “Does it mean Jeffco will no longer study the civil rights movement, the Boston Tea Party or women’s suffrage?”
It probably means that the Boston Tea Party will be taught as the free enterprise system’s response to the over regulation and taxation of the nanny state. After all, something in the AP curriculum will have to be jettisoned in order to make way for Austrian economics. Fortunately for the Republic, Charlie Pierce is patrolling the perimeter and provides a useful last word:
Luckily, the kids in Colorado’s AP History classes are smarter about history than Ms. Williams and her colleagues, who were, I hasten to add, freely elected. And that’s why you should vote, every time and in every election, no matter how apparently minor the office or how apparently insignificant the issue. You never know who’s breaking in.
Acting Like it Never Happened
On the fourth Friday of every month, my friend Al, known around the Diner as Jaded Prole, hosts a meeting at the home he shares with a local artist. It is a meeting of various progressives, former Occupiers, actors, academics, misfits and left-wing veterans of a certain age. We meet for snacks and drinks, and especially good conversation. This past Friday, conversation at this salon revolved around the climate change march held in New York City the previous weekend. Several of our number were there and shared firsthand accounts and photos from the event. Corpmedia studiously ignored the many, many thousands of people involved in the March.
Sunday news shows on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox failed to cover the People’s Climate March, a massive protest against climate change being held September 21 in New York City in conjunction with events in more than 150 countries worldwide.
Meet the Press, Face the Nation, State of the Union, and Fox News Sunday ignored the event, which is being touted by participants as “the largest mobilization against climate change in the history of the planet.” The Nation editor and publisher Katrina vandenHeuvel briefly mentioned the march on ABC’s This Week while arguing that national security concerns surrounding climate change are not receiving adequate attention.
Our first-hand accounts related how slowly the march moved. The reason it moved slowly was the crush of participants–there were so damned many people there. Reportedly even Fox News pegged the number at 310,000, and reasonable estimates put the number at 400,000 souls. The march moved slowly, but did move. NPR gave the march and the UN climate meeting some coverage, which was more than most.
Skeptics ask the point of the march. Others said there was no agenda. The march was not merely intended for consumption of the UN conferees, or media. It demonstrated that it is still possible to rouse a significant crowd in a mass rally for an important enough issue. Marchers got to see one other, to be validated in what is often a solitary burden of conscience, and to know that others share their concerns in the face of the ceaseless propaganda of the extractive industries.
Inevitably the talk turned to climate change and its deeply unsettling consequences. We discussed the work of Jason Box, the black ice in Greenland, the changing albedo of the Arctic, the melting glaciers, the corporate assault on fresh water, of Guy McPherson’s prediction that in 30 years we’ll all be dead, and we ought be living our lives doing hospice work. Someone observed that earth will be fine, it’s us human beings that will be screwed. At least one of our number stayed for the #floodWallStreet event the following day which featured the usual hospitality of the NYPD as well as the arrest of a polar bear.
What I took away from this discussion, aside from gratitude to my colleagues for making a presence when I could not, was gratitude that it is still possible to mass people in the streets for an important public issue. We discussed the formula by which policymakers weigh public response: an email worth five voters, a phone call worth 10 voters, a letter worth 50 voters, somebody bothering to show up at a civic meeting and weigh-in worth 100. By that measure, at least 40 million fellow Americans hold with those who showed up for the climate March last Sunday. You’d think that even the dimmest bulb in Jerusalem-on-the-Potomac would pay attention. But Louie Gohmert was unavailable for comment.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be briefly active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and is grateful each day for the life he has with her, and that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on September 7, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.
“Good intentions, like mother’s milk, are a perishable commodity. As wealth accumulates, men decay, and sooner or later an aristocracy that once might have aspired to an ideal of wisdom and virtue goes rancid in the sun, becomes an oligarchy distinguished by a character that Aristotle likened to that of the ‘prosperous fool’ – its members so besotted by their faith in money that ‘they therefore imagine there is nothing that it cannot buy.”
― Lewis Lapham, Lapham’s Quarterly, Fall 2012
“Bartender, a double schadenfreude for me, and see what the others here at the Diner will have,” as Charlie Pierce, il miglior fabbro, might have said.
The Old Dominion’s summer spectacle, an antidote for the dog days of August, has drawn to a close. The public corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell (always and forever known in this space as Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound as as result of his tireless campaign against women’s reproductive health in Virginia) and his wife, Maureen, on Federal corruption charges, has concluded. For the first time in the state’s history, an ex-governor, a man who warmed the seat formerly occupied by Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, is a convicted felon – found guilty of selling the power and influence of his office for $177,000 in loans, gifts, luxury vacations, and a swell Rolex.
Here in the Old Dominion, the view of the imminent conviction was by no means as assured as it may have appeared in those regions of the country where people traffic in, say, common sense. The drumbeat listing of gifts, trinkets, loans would cause ordinary people to shake their heads, exchange knowing glances, and think to themselves, “caught dead to rights.” But this is Virginia, or should I say,”Vuh-jun-yuh,” where the fix is always in, where things are done somewhat differently, and you need to be wired just to be able to open a small business (the stories of restauranteurs and other small businesses going belly up because they couldn’t execute their business plans for “permitting issues” and other forms of institutional delay, thus strangling their cash flow, are legion here.)
I readily, even enthusiastically confess my own cynicism in this matter. Yet I was not alone. My former accountant has become a well known and effective political pundit in my little corner of the world, and publishes a blog that pays particular attention to Virginia politics. She also predicted that the Ultrasounds would walk, and also got it wrong. It is important to remember that all of these charges and convictions were brought under Federal law, as nothing that the Ultrasounds did was, or is, illegal according to Virginia law. And that is why the most frequently used modifier to the phrase, “Virginia ethics law” is “lax.” Much is made in these precincts about “the Virginia Way,” and the Virginia governorship as a sacred trust dating back to Henry, Jefferson, et al. All now exposed as just the latest chapter in the continuing saga that reads, “This is America where everything is for sale.”
Some years ago I canceled my newspaper, as I became tired of paying for stale news. Yet one of the last areas of newspapers can still excel is local news, if you can stomach it. I must say that I resubscribed to the paper simply so Contrary and I could get the dispatches from the front, as it were, for this summer soap opera. My inner hunchback was delighted to see Transvaginal Ultrasound go to trial, largely because I was so unalterably opposed to the hallmark “achievements” of his administration: the continued and attempted privatization of public infrastructure, including selling tunnel development projects to private overseas concerns, and an attempt to sell off the port of Virginia; a war waged on the women of Virginia, generaled by his personal Iago, Atty. Gen. Ken Cuccinelli, who lawyered up some torturous regulations that all but assured reproductive health clinics would have to close; and the attempt to create a regulatory regime to legalize uranium mining in Virginia, an existential threat to the health and safety of not only Virginians but millions of others in affected watersheds, a plan so baroque, bizarre and ill-considered that it boggled the imagination. So Contrary and I, having been involved in various acts of civic activism to oppose these private sorties upon the public purse, followed this trial as avidly as the average NFL fans follow their team.
As noted in the article posted above, the Ultrasounds’ legal defense involved dragging Maureen through the mud and making her out to be, as one witness described her, a “nutcase.” This defense seemed remarkable while following the play-by-play each day reports, including the legal theatre staged for the jury’s consumption; after the verdict, and with the distance afforded by hindsight, it seems not only tawdry but inept… For superb Monday Morning quarterbacking of this astonishing legal defense, read the Gawker article, “I Slut-Shamed My Wife and All I Got Was 11 Lousy Federal Convictions.”
And in the department of “ironies abound,” never forget that this defense was mounted by the “family values” campaigner, all shiny and happy with Jaysus, whose campaign ads always featured his beautiful wife and their equally beautiful daughters, perfectly backlit, and showing off their perfect dental work in a tableau whose subtext was, “the perfect Christian family for the perfect candidate blessed by God.”
Also never forget that the disgraced, indicted and convicted former Virginia Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound was Pat Robertson’s personal hand picked mentee. Robertson’s featured McDonnell in long and rambling interviews (does Pat do any other kind?) on the 700 Club. McDonnell was a graduate of Robertson’s Regent “University,” which in itself started as a specious entity called “CBN University,” such schools seemingly a grift specific to televangelists. (Liberty “University” is a similar creation in Lynchburg started by the late, unlamented Jerry Falwell.) The purposes of these so-called schools is the indoctrination with hyper-conservative Christopathic policy and equipage with the tools to dismantle the existing American social contract. One will not soon forget the spectacle of the Justice Department under Bush the Lesser larded with graduates of the Regent “University” law school to execute John Yoo’s “torture memo” and the other singular legal interpretations of that vicarage of Satan.
And for his part, Robertson, whose TV appearances have crossed the line from self-satire to advanced mental infirmity, told America that then entire legal proceedings were a “political prosecution,” ordered up by Obama, Holder, and perhaps the Alien Grays.
The Robertson connection remains worth exploring. When you believe that your life is touched by God, you tend to believe that you can do no wrong. (God has his hand on your shoulder, so, “What? Me worry? Your good fortune is your due, your “blessing,” as a result of having lived a good and godly life, never failing to tithe.) McDonnell sat on the Regent Board of Trustees; Pat donated to his campaigns. McDonnell was the shiniest trophy in Pat Robertson’s trophy case. He used his Regent law degree as a springboard into Virginia politics and rose quickly, featuring chiseled good looks and a made for TV family, and looking to many like the next Great White Hope for 2016. When your career is touched by God, and you can do no wrong, you tend to ignore the warning signs that might make us lesser breeds without the benefits of God’s blessing of abundance worry about things like hubris. It was this arrogance that led McDonnell to reject a plea deal that would have spared him, his wife, and his family this public spectacle and disgrace. It is worth reading about the deal that got away, which you could do here.
A plea deal would have allowed the McDonnells to avoid the release of embarrassing details in an indictment as well as a bruising public trial that will probably put the internal dynamics of their marriage on full display.
Robert McDonnell has said publicly that he was not aware of all of the gifts his family accepted from Williams in 2011 and 2012.
People familiar with the investigation say that in private meetings, the couple’s attorneys have told prosecutors that Maureen McDonnell at times actively worked to hide Williams’s generosity from her husband.
In court, that idea will be tested against the reality of the couple’s relationship as jurors are asked to assess whether they believe the former governor could have been in the dark about Williams’s largesse and his wife’s activities to help Star Scientific.
So the Governor had ample opportunity to exercise those vaunted Christian “family values” and spare his family the indignity of a trial, let alone multiple convictions. He chose instead to rehabilitate his flagging national political ambitions by employing a scorched earth legal defense which traduced his wife and his marriage. And if it cost him a wife, well they’re stamping out younger, shinier trophy editions every day.
The McDonnell legal team (the financing for which remains a matter of speculation- if they are so broke, who’s paying?) vows an appeal. Next step for the Governor and his wife is the sentencing phase, expected to take place in early January. At this point I would be remiss to not point out the extraordinary reporting provided by Virginian Pilot reporter Bill Sizemore and other members of the Pilot editorial team. Sizemore in particular has done an extraordinary job of framing the issues and making nuanced legal points comprehensible to those of us sitting in the cheap seats. An archive of the team’s case reporting can be found here. It rewards investigation.
Up to now, even the Palins, the Kallikak family of American politics, have not been convicted of corruption and fraud.
So when your local politician asks for your vote, and parades his beautiful wife and beautiful family on the end tag of his campaign commercial, check to make sure your wallet is still in place.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and is grateful for every day on this side of the dirt.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on August 19, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.
It was a week in which several horsemen of the apocalypse decamped, suitable booted and spurred, for a ride through the end stages of post-industrial “civilization.” Certainly War, Pestilence and Death each hoisted themselves atop their respective steeds and heralded their news in different quarters, all against a continuing backdrop of climate change and the accompanying chorus of denials from monied interests. And then there is Ferguson, the doom gift that keeps on giving, in the words of RE. Such was the week that it took two weeks to write this column. I began last week with a handful of stories and a surly attitude, and found that I couldn’t complete the column, such did events outstrip the narrative. Weirdnesses began to peek around corners, demanding revisions. Given that a creative project is not so much completed as abandoned, I’m abandoning this overwritten son of a bitch right here.
“Bring it. You fucking animals, bring it…”
For those who studiously the posture of a head in the sand regarding our national security state and the militarization of local police, events in Ferguson, Missouri this week should have roused even you from your torpor. Or would have, were anybody actually able to learn from events. As anyone not living in a cave knows by now, apparently a police officer shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old. Michael Brown was black, his assailant white. Anyone who lived through the 60s and 70s will be able to predict a community’s response to the sort of outrage, but this time the institutional response looks very different. And in Ferguson, the balaclava is pulled back to reveal the snarling face of the weaponized, militarized, national security state in full priapic fury.
By now, thousands of words (and podcasts) have been dumped upon the landfill that passes for public consciousness, by people writing from the safety of armchairs. It will take time to sift through the evidence. The autopsy reveals Brown was shot six times, with two in the head. Cue the riots. And, as if it were the 60s again, Nixon sends in the National Guard. Cue the riots. Security footage is released that seems to demonstrate that Brown was a thug. Cue the riots. Obama is going to send Eric Holder to Missouri, along with a gaggle of his Best Minds, doubtless to bring the sword of justice to bear as it was against the scions of Wall Street and their financial improprieties. (What, you missed that?)
There is little difference in the appearance of the helmeted, militarized, camo – clad forces occupying Ferguson from troops in Afghanistan or Iraq. Intimidation being precisely the point. A report from the ground:
Their uniform would be mistaken for a soldier’s if it weren’t for their “Police” patches. They wear green tops, and pants fashioned after the U.S. Marine Corps MARPAT camouflage pattern. And they stand in front of a massive uparmored truck called a Bearcat, similar in look to a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or as the troops who rode in them call it, the MRAP.
When did this become OK? When did “protect and serve” turn into “us versus them”?
“Why do these cops need MARPAT camo pants again,” I asked on Twitter this morning. One of the most interesting responses came from a follower who says he served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division: “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone.”
A war zone, indeed. The FAA banned flights of low-flying aircraft, the better to keep out news photography teams and their troublesome “evidence.”
The scene is tense, but the presence of what looks like a military force doesn’t seem to be helping.
“Bring it. You fucking animals, bring it,” one police officer was caught on video telling protesters. In Ferguson and beyond, it seems that some police officers have shed the blue uniform and have put on the uniform and gear of the military, bringing the attitude along with it.
If there’s one thing I learned in Afghanistan, it’s this: You can’t win a person’s heart and mind when you are pointing a rifle at his or her chest.
The words of Gen. William Westmoreland reverberates at about this time: “when you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”
One of the issues being addressed here is the provision of military hardware to local constabularies. This bit of purposeless and unnecessary largesse is conducted by the Defense Logistics Agency, or DLA. This group apparently transfers excess military hardware to localities. And local cops, fattened by the proceeds from asset forfeiture laws, simply don’t know how to say no, particularly when the guys in the next county got an MRAP or an LRAD of their own. Who wants to look weak? Good question to ask is, who is paying for all this boodle? You already know the answer. The activities of DLA are made possible by a bloated, out-of-control procurement system that buys far more equipment than even the Empire’s military can possibly use. Reform of the procurement process is one of those “third rail” topics that will end your promising congressional career if you bring it up. Much like criticism of the Zionist apartheid state in that regard; too hot to handle. And the lucky beneficiaries of this bundle of taxpayer funded largesse? The large weapons manufacturers, of course, the people with their thumbs on the scales of American foreign-policy, and, as Ferguson clearly shows, American domestic policy as well
In the face of the worst outbreak ever on the African continent, Ebola panic hit the US whens several sufferers were shipped to the US mainland for treatment. Usually hard-to-nonpluss New Yawkers became unglued as an incipient public health emergency was sent air freight live and direct to our shores. As Gwynn Guilford said in Quartz,
If your Twitter feed is anything like mine, news that Ebola might have turned up in Manhattan is freaking out a lot of Americans. “Helpful” bits of commentary include as that it’s “deadly uncurable,” has a 90% fatality rate, and causes “a hemorrhagic fever that eventually leads to a complete bleed-out.” Today’s news merely amplifies the anxiety that’s been building since word got out that two Americans infected with Ebola have been moved to US hospitals for treatment.
And as if on cue, prominent US right-wingers, such as one D. Trump of said Manhattan, fanned the flames of fear.
Thus, we have Donald Trump freaking out about having Ebola patients brought to the United States for treatment; Rush Limbaugh suggesting that bringing these patients to the US has something to do with the “Democrat agenda”; conservative doctor Ben Carson worrying that a container of Ebola-contaminated urine or vomit will “get disseminated out into the public”; and Republican Rep. Todd Rokita implying that immigrant children arriving from Central America might have Ebola.
While the Ebola outbreak is significant, some perspective is useful. Worldwide, Ebola has killed @2500 souls. Influenza has killed millions. Also Ebola is not that easy to catch—it isn’t an airborne infection, regardless of what some irresponsible pundits have said—and any country with half-decent health infrastructure can easily isolate patients and stop the disease from spreading. A primary reason it has traveled so easily in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea is that their health infrastructure is truly bad. Running out of rubber gloves and dumping corpses along river banks are simply not first world problems. Yet. And for more perspective, from Quartz:
Scott Z. Burns, who wrote the screenplay for Contagion, notes that Americans tend to freak out about “the monster we can see”—in this case, that would mean the gruesome images of Ebola victims bleeding from their faces—while ignoring more familiar but no less deadly risks. He has a point; thanks to the anti-vaccine movement, measles cases in the US have surged nearly fourfold since last year.
HOUNDS OF HELL
What makes ISIL the worst. “Simply put, ISIL is an unholy combination of al-Qaeda, the Khmer Rouge, and the Nazis,” writes Bobby Ghosh, and the minorities in its sights in Kurdistan are at risk of genuine, old-fashioned genocide. For those of us inured to the obeisance and compliance of the usual stenographers to power, one reads this with the usual caverats, grains of salt tossed to the four winds. Cue the Reichstag fire, the Maine, the rape of Belgium, the atrocities against Kuwaiti infants, the Gulf of Tonkin…
Yet the Islamic State demands a second look, if for no reason than their tweets. And lest we chalk ISIL up to a social media marketing effort whose effectiveness is abetted and amplified by the national security state, there is this troubling matter of how much real estate they occupied almost overnight at the expense of the hapless Maliki regime. Apparently Iraqi soldiers threw down their weapons and stripped off their unis at the approach of the Sunni army. Haven’t we seen this movie before? President Droney McDrone authorized “humanitarian” bombing of ISIL sites and airdrops of food and water to an embattled Yazidi minority.
So much for nation-building. Could have rebuilt Detroit for what we spent in Iraq, but then Halliburton and KBR, etc. wouldn’t have fattened on no-bid contracts.
The fact that ISIS could arise seemingly out of nowhere speaks to the incompetence of our intelligence establishment, which seems to be spending most of its resources sifting through Americans’ personal communications for naked selfies from hot girls to trade.
But to return to Bobby Ghosh, who takes the threat seriously:
For sheer, brutal efficiency, ISIL is several steps above Hamas, Hezbollah, Boko Haram or even the Taliban. The closest analog I can think of is the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian movement that killed more than two million people in the mid-1970s. There was a reminder of those horrors this week, when two top Khmer Rouge leaders were finally sentenced for their crimes. In their remorseless advance through eastern Syria and northern Iraq, ISIL’s fighters have demonstrated the same iron will and discipline that Khmer Rouge deployed against the Cambodian army and the Cambodian people. In territory Al-Baghdadi controls, he uses the same tactics of intimidation and public punishment that Pol Pot used to cow his fellow Cambodians.
In its appetite for genocide, ISIL seems to borrow from Adolf Hitler’s Nazis. It, too, has identified for extermination entire categories of people. Its fighters have systematically rounded up groups of “unbelievers”—and remember, that can mean anybody, including their fellow Sunnis—and slaughtered them in a manner Heinrich Himmler would have approved of. If the disturbing photographs (and be warned, they are very disturbing) in this Washington Post story were in grainy black-and-white, they could have come from a Nazi death camp. And online videos of these mass killings clearly show the zealous glee with which the executioners go about the work.
That, then, is the nature of the monster on which the US is finally turning its guns. It will not die easily.
Those whom ISIL has already crucified or beheaded will probably not agree that this is an NSA-sponsored propaganda effort. It appears that in spite of the sheer fecklessness and state-sponsored waste of the surveillance state, there really are people who want us all dead. But who are they? This from a French site, who claims that the nominal “caliph,” al-Baghdadi, is a Mossad mole: (if you visit the site, turn on Google translate)
[The] real name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is ” Simon Elliott, “father and Jewish mother.
The so-called “Elliott” was recruited by Israel’s Mossad for one year during which he was trained in espionage and in the field to conduct a destructive strategy of Arab and Islamic societies.
This information was attributed to Edward Snowden and published by newspapers and other sites Web : the leader of the “Islamic State” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has cooperated with the United States Secret Service, British and Israelis to create an organization capable of attracting terrorist extremists around the world in one place.
MH 17- Down The Memory Hole
As we are putting the finishing touches on this article, the spectacle that was Malasian airlines flight MH 17 recedes from the news cycles. As the wreckage was still smoldering, official Washington and Eurozone apparatchiks were declaring, without fear of contradiction, that Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine had downed the plane with a surface to air missile. Making Vlad the Impaler and mother Russia ultimately responsible. Bad bad Russia.
But the evidence to date is not supported this theory. Indeed, where is the evidence? A mighty surveillance state with the ability to sift through every private communication such that the NSA contractors entrusted with enforcing “national security” are able to amass a collection of naked selfies to trade like baseball cards, is not able to produce undeniable photographic, radar, and satellite evidence of what really happened eastern Ukraine on that day? Are we supposed to believe that our intelligence apparatus is this incompetent? If not, can we get an accounting for several trillion dollars?
Flight MH– 17’s black boxes were supposed to be analyzed in London. Have you heard the report of what the impartial British government learned from its examination? Me neither. In the always dependable Washington’s Blog, Eric Zuesse made a compelling argument:
Only idiots would trust Britain to interpret these black boxes to determine what and who brought down that plane. But, fortunately, the physical evidence lying on the ground at the site in Ukraine was photographed very quickly by locals there and uploaded to the Internet sometimes before any fighters and any governments were able to tamper with anything; and there happened to be one modest-looking item found at the site that tells a remarkably complete and entirely credible and convincing account of how this plane came down.
Photographic evidence that remains show the fragments of the cockpit that impact wounds consistent with 30 mm machine gun fire entering the cockpit.
On July 30th, the retired Lufthansa pilot and published historian Peter Haisenko issued his “Shocking Analysis of the ‘Shooting Down’ of Malaysian MH17,” in which an extremely close-in photo of the most important piece of physical evidence regarding this event is shown — it’s the side-panel on the left-hand side of the cockpit directly where the downed plane’s pilot was seated — and this photo shocked me, too.
Here, first, is that side-panel shown inserted back onto its airliner, so that you can see precisely what and where this piece of the wreckage was on the plane. You will immediately notice the big gaping hole that had been shot through the side-panel where the pilot sits — in other words, targeting directly at the plane’s pilot.
This is incredibly precise targeting, of a specific person, and not merely of the far larger body of an airliner. A ground-based missile-shot fired from 33,000 feet below cannot achieve that gaping hole precisely where the pilot sits. A fighter jet plane that’s escorting the airliner into the conflict-zone can.
Reports indicate that the cockpit and fuselage had been sawed in half and many pieces removed before international inspection teams arrived. In fact, last week the Dutch inspection team left in disgust, unable to see or inspect much of the crash site. And you have to go to the World Socialist website to find this particular piece of information, which in this country might as well be a state secret:
A Thursday article in the New Straits Times, Malaysia’s flagship English-language newspaper, charged the US- and European-backed Ukrainian regime in Kiev with shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH 17 in east Ukraine last month. Given the tightly controlled character of the Malaysian media, it appears that the accusation that Kiev shot down MH17 has the imprimatur of the Malaysian state.
The US and European media have buried this remarkable report, which refutes the wave of allegations planted by the CIA in international media claiming that Russian president Vladimir Putin was responsible for the destruction of MH17, without presenting any evidence to back up this charge.
The New Straits Times article began, “Intelligence analysts in the United States have already concluded that Malaysia flight MH17 was shot down by an air-to-air missile, and that the Ukrainian government had had something to do with it. This corroborates an emerging theory postulated by local investigators that the Boeing 777-200 was crippled by an air-to-air missile and finished off with cannon fire from a jet that had been shadowing it as it plummeted to earth.”
This conclusion is, of course, at sharp variance with the intentions of our foreign-policy establishment and its war munitions paymasters to foment war with Russia. Journalist Pepe Escobar has written effectively about that here. Of course, our best people in London are still on the case prying open the secrets of that black box. Stay tuned.
Summer Soap Opera
August is typically the time for family vacations, the song of the cicadas, campfires and sweet summer corn. Congress typically goes on its richly deserved vacation, thus keeping the wallets of average Americans safe for another five weeks. Typically a slow news time. But in the Commonwealth of Virginia, God save it, not this year. We have the spectacle of the corruption trial of indicted and disgraced former Virginia Governor Transvaginal Ultrasound (Robert McDonnell) and his former cheerleader wife, Maureen. (And for those just joining this overheated screed, the epithet “transvaginal ultrasound” is applied to this former state servant in perpetuity, in tribute to the war on women, specifically on women’s reproductive health that he and his personal Iago, former Atty. Gen. Ken Cuccinelli, waged on Virginia women several years ago. In some circles, especially my own, this ruse was to redirect the energy of activists away from the real agenda, the privatization of state assets and to enablement of uranium mining in Virginia.)
In the aftermath of the 2012 presidential elections, a highly placed McCain aide was supposed to have described the Palins as a gaggle of “Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcuses from coast to coast” on the campaign credit card. When considering the McDonnells, or should I say the Ultrasounds, think “Palins East.” And as revealed by the federal prosecution’s case, there is is a breathtaking series of interlocking scams and grifts, particularly in obtaining cash and “favors” from one Jonny Williams that would make La Palin herself blush with envy. (If you would like to follow the actual reporting of this trial, it is done in exemplary fashion by Bill Sizemore and Joanna Kimberlin of our local paper, who have filed stories here, here, here, and here.) Suffice it to say that Mr. Williams owned a dietary supplement company, and conferred favors upon the first couple in order to gain access and exposure for his products. Or so the prosecution alleges. Gifts and favors included payment for a daughter’s wedding reception, use of a Ferrari, long stays in a Smith Mountain Lake vacation home, and numerous “loans” and gifts, including a Rolex watch that Maureen admired and requested for her husband. Maureen’s chief of staff, who quit on her, described her as a “nutbag,” thus making La Palin look a paragon of decorum.
Here’s what the defense alleges: that the formerly loving first couple were in fact estranged, and that Maureen sought most of these favors by herself without the knowledge of her ostensibly too-busy-to-pay-attention husband. The defense team has concocted a remarkable bit of legal theater for the consumption us in the cheap seats. The former family values candidate is revealed as a man only too willing to do anything, including throw his wife under the proverbial bus, to salvage and resuscitate his dead in the water political career. Maureen is supposed to take the fall for the busy, busy guv. He enters the courtroom all smiles and waves; she enters, gray-headed and head bowed, the better to portray shame. The Guv is seated facing the jury; she sits sideways, head bowed. The narrative the defense is portraying is that the couple was so estranged that they could not have colluded in the extraction of favors from Williams. Recent testimony, from the current mayor of Virginia Beach and president of a local bank, reveals that in the refinancing of loans for properties in Sandbridge, the Ultrasounds neglected to disclose some of these loans. Apparently that’s a felony. Whoopsie…
As I said, you need to read the reporting yourself to keep track of the many ins and outs. Several questions remain: how did they manage to seat a jury for this trial in one day? Between them, the Ultrasounds have a team of 20 lawyers, the best of whom bill at over $750 per hour. Who’s paying for this? If the Ultrasounds are so financially strapped as they testify, it certainly can’t be them. The so-called legal defense fund only has $250K, and simple arithmetic reveals that will soon run dry. And did Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound and his wife get the idea that vitamin supplements might be a good and remunerative idea from his mentor and patron, Pat Robertson? You may recall that in between fleecing elderly widows out of their last quarter and standing up charitable African healthcare efforts in order to provide cover for air shipment of African blood diamonds back to the states, Robertson had a hand in a vitamin business himself. A cursory search with the Google shows no connection between Star Scientific, Jonny Williams, and Pat Robertson’s vitamin company, called Kalo Vita. Yet one wonders…
It says here that when all is said and done, the Gov walks. The primary modifier for the phrase “Virginia ethics laws” is “lax.” All the Gov crackerjack defense team needs to do is create reasonable doubt in the minds of the hastily seated jury, a low bar. Look for former Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound to head the Republican Party as its presidential candidate in 2024, accompanied by a sleek new spouse. And Maureen? There are no laws prohibiting a spouse or relative from profiting from a husband’s (or father’s) public office in Virginia. Craven? Yes? Shameless? Undoubtedly. But BAU in Virginia.
The defense presents its case this week.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and is delighted his daughter got back safely from St. Louis last week.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on July 19, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.
“There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, ‘Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?’ ‘That was not a threatening gesture,’ I said, ‘it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.'”
― ancient Middle eastern tale retold by W. Somerset Maugham
Anyone reading this space on a semi regular basis knows that it is devoted to poking and sifting through the abundant scat left by doom as it slithers its way through the postindustrial economy and neoliberal politics. This week, “doom” dropped a load closer to home, and of a much more personal nature.
At about 9:30 last Sunday morning, I was working at the computer and found myself getting lightheaded, images swimming front of my eyes. Nausea rose, and with it cold sweating, which was curious because the room was reasonably warm. I immediately went to the bedroom to lay down. Contrary, usually hard to arouse and who could probably sleep through percussion grenades detonated in front of the house, cracked one eye open and immediately sat straight up. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked. Because of hardwired habits of mind, and because I’m an idiot, I replied, “Absolutely nothing, I’m just a little dizzy, and I am going to lie here for a little bit.”
She importuned me to go immediately to the hospital. I brushed her concerns aside, and muttered dark oaths. By family example, long-standing habits of mind, and a flinty Pittsburgh upbringing, my reflexive response to injury is along the lines of, “Rub some mud on it.” I was certain I would feel better shortly. After a shower, I joined my daughter and some friends for brunch. I found that I couldn’t eat anything, and found myself sweating through a shirt in a well-air conditioned room. Contrary watched this scene unfold with increasing agitation, but didn’t say anything until our guests left. As the door closed, she turned to me and said, “Are you going to the hospital or do I have to cut you?”
I’ve seen that expression on her face before. When it appears, she means business. This time it was tempered with evident worry, which struck something in the recesses of my mind where empathy lives in sullen exile, like Napoleon on Elba, and I went without more of bitching.
We checked in to the emergency room of our local Sentara hospital complex where, having presented with cardiac symptoms, they saw me reasonably quickly. An intake nurse hooked me up for an EKG. Dropping the various wires on my chest she said, “Excuse my castanets.” I asked, “Does dancing come with an EKG? ” She smiled and quipped, “Yeah, the Dance of the Seven Flails.” That I was in the hands of a clever nurse with a good sense of humor made a fortunate omen. After six hours of monitoring, they admitted me.
After apparently finding my insurance card still carried some headroom, the following day they ran me through every EKG, CT scan, sonogram, echocardiogram, ultrasound and stress test available. (Without doubt the hospital system will make their third-quarter based on this run of diagnostics.) Apparently I have an arrhythmia, and the chambers of my heart are not beating in sync. When I was young and got a pro-forma physical for the junior high school football team, the doctor observed that I had a “heart murmur.” These are apparently pretty common, and certainly had had no practical impact on my life until this moment. But it certainly had claimed my attention now.
The cardiologist assigned to my case, having reviewed the welter of evidence from the tests, suggested an ablation, which is a procedure similar to a cardiac catheterization, in which they Roto-Rooter a garden hose up your femoral artery into your heart, where a tiny laser actually cauterizes the parts of the heart sending aberrant signals. He said that they have 85 per cent success with this procedure, but that it was not without risks. Fortunately for me, the previous evening I have exchanged some personal messages with agelbert, who had also gone through his own rounds of cardiac testing and procedures. AG exhorted me to resist an ablation should it be proffered, and to ask what other options might exist on the continuum of care. Now regular readers of the Diner Forum know AG’s work, and his propensity for tireless research. Plus he’d already gone through many of these procedures himself and was decent enough to share what he knew. Thus armed, when the cardiologist proposed ablation, I asked him if there were not more moderate steps we could take before rushing to do something permanent and irrevocable. He affirmed that there were, and agreed to try another higher-level beta blocker to get my rhythm back in order.
The medical teams are very good at knowing “what,” and even work at “why.” In my case, blood testing ruled out some mineral deficiency as a proximate cause. Of course in my case, the “why” probably centers on years of dissolute, then sedentary living. But here we are.
So they switched my meds and kept me for observation. That evening, Contrary and I went for a walk after dinner down to a station where they have all those cardiac care on monitors. There I was able to see a visual display of my louche heartbeat. Now I’m as competent to read the signals as a plumber, but both sets of signals looked far more synchronous than they had the last couple days. Contrary described it best: she said that by top chamber had been going “Ka-boom, Ka-boom,” while the bottom chamber was going, “Boom-shaka-lacka-lacka, Boom-shaka-lacka-lacka.” Now they were more uniform, with my renegade ventricles tossing off fewer PVCs. But then I’ve always had rhythm.
I remained on low-calorie house arrest for another couple of days tethered to a heart monitor, having my blood pressure and my EKG regularly assessed, and cutting up with the nurses assigned me. And here I would be remiss if I didn’t call out those nurses, as well as all members of the care team, for their professionalism, expertise and good humor. I found them remarkable. The story ends on an up note, in that the hero doesn’t die at the end, but learns on the fourth day of his medical incarceration that the cardiologist says he is stable and good to go home and resume regular life.
This experience has been pretty challenging, as it tests my usual cynicism about what Diner Lucid Dreams, a former EMT with abundant firsthand experience with Big Med, calls the “wealth care system.” Certainly plenty of cynicism is warranted at all times about the interlocking cartel of health insurers and hospital systems, not to mention Big Pharma, at it is with every vertical of crony capitalism. Yet when one’s own health is swinging in the balance, one’s habitual cynicism is directly challenged. Which is quite where I find myself now. During the entire process, was very grateful for the fact that I had employer-provided health insurance. And I wondered what my prospects would be if, like so many others in this toxic economy, I were unemployed and without such insurance. As I’m too young for Medicare, they would be grim, and the Reaper herself might be waiting for me at Samarra.
As you might imagine, friends of long-standing and those more recently acquired, especially via Occupy, have checked for the latest news. For this I am most grateful. One conversation I had is worth repeating.
A friend of extremely long-standing who I have known from third grade, a man in otherwise superb physical condition, found himself with a bout of tachycardia this last August. He felt faint and nearly passed out. His wife implored him to go to the hospital as well. He was initially resistant, but found that he was glad he did. They put in a pacemaker, had a good recovery and now feels like a milk fed athlete. He will retire from his university career this coming fall, and in considering next steps had an epiphany. He realized he might think about it differently: what if, on that day in Augest, he had not gone to the hospital but had died instead? (The doctors told him that it was indeed fortunate that he came in when he did, else he would have been at grave risk.) So he posited: what if you died, but the Great Scorer reviewed the replay and overturned the ref’s call, and gave you a new lease on life, for a to-be-determined term: what would you do with that “bonus time?” How would you live? He certainly considers his pacemaker as providing that new lease on life. And 100 years ago, his story would have ended differently. One of the interesting implications of high-tech medical science.
It’s a provocative question, and a refreshing way to look at the time we have remaining. Every day we spend on this side of the dirt is “bonus time.” Precious, worthy of a sense of gratitude and wonder.
Many years ago I read a little book by Baba Ram Dass entitled, “Be Here Now.” It opened my mind to the importance of living in the present and seizing the moment, but I spent a great deal of that awareness in hedonistic pursuits. There are, in fact, worse ways to spend your time, but it’s not a path to enlightenment, whatever that is. (What is it the Buddhists say – ” Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water?”) It’s not until the last dozen years or so that I’ve actually put into practice the discipline of reminding myself to be aware, to be mindful, to be fully present and in the moment, at many different points during any given day, and to cultivate a sense of gratitude for the life I have and the people in it. Sometimes easier said than done.
Whenever we brush up against intimations of our own mortality, we tend to think about Big Questions, Legacies, and other ephemera that day-to-day living pushes out of our minds when avoidance is not completely up to the task. I am untroubled by such thoughts. If I kicked today, I would leave behind a remarkable daughter with an active mind and a preturnatural capacity for making good decisions, as well as one discomfited Contrary, as well as a handful of friends and family who would tell funny stories about me at my wake. Legacies are much overblown because at the end of the day, none of this lasts aside from the memories we create and the decency we show others along the way. Long time Diner PB Shelley said it best:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
As the many Tyler Durdens say over at ZeroHedge, “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” So the only question that really matters is, “What are you going to do with your time today?” That’s a question worth considering whether you’re on a gurney or at a keyboard. As for me, I’m on “bonus time.”
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and is delighted this week didn’t end in a dirt nap.
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 19, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.
A Week for the Ages . . .
“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” –– Charles Bukowski
“In my head, I hear “pomp and circumstance” being played on Vuvuzelas as the parade of derp that is America the Embarrassing makes its way along the large intestine that is our political system. I can almost smell it from here.” –Peter Kaufman, on William Rivers Pitt’s Facebook page
In the desert I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it “Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”
– Stephen Crane, “In the Desert”
Having thought I would take the week off from another blog post due to travel in the heart of secession, Tea-Partydom, I find the events of this week scream for a resuscitation of that overwrought franchise, “This Week in Doom.”
If ever a week’s events heralded Full Doom sooner rather than later, this was it: a week seen best in the rearview mirror, heralding the arrival of more, worse, and sooner. It was a week in which a retired cop shot a theatre patron and the man’s wife over texting the man’s sitter, and a four year old shot another four year old; in which a neocon shill commemorated the 100th anniversary of WW I by wiping his ass on Wilfred Owen’s elegiac poem; in which we learn more about the TPP; in which the Senate failed to extend unemployment bennies for the poors and out-of-works, The US Appeals Court shreds net neutrality, and the President gives a speech on civil liberties suggesting you kiss them goodbye. A week which invites strong men to drink. In fact, a writer I admire, William Rivers Pitt, has suggested laying in a case of Jameson and buying it a brother— which is not a bad start. (I suggest you read his linked article, in which he does it better and more stylishly.) Charlie Pierce is no doubt ordering up double Prestones for the boys in the bar, asking what the pundits in the back will have. You are, as always, free to choose your own poison. It’s Manhattans here… although a fattie is not a bad idea…
A retired police officer with a taste for confrontation shot and killed a 43 year old father. Chad Oulson and wounded his wife at a Florida theatre. The shooting happened early Monday afternoon. Police retiree Curtis Reeves sat behind Oulson, and his wife, according to authorities.
Oulson was using his cell phone during the previews before the film and Reeves told him to put it away, according to police and witnesses. The two men began to argue and Reeves walked out of the auditorium.
Police said Reeves was going to complain to a theater employee. When Reeves returned, witnesses and authorities said that Oulson asked him if he had gone to tell on him for texting.
Police said Tuesday that Oulson was texting his young daughter’s babysitter. An argument then ensued, in which Oulson threw a bag of popcorn at Reeves, police said. And in response the former police officer took out a .380 semi-automatic handgun and shot Oulson, again according to police.
A report in the Tampa Bay Times portrays a shooter with two sides.
Reeves claimed self-defense, saying he was struck in the face with an unknown object. Deputies dispute that. They arrested him on second-degree murder. How did it get to this? Reeves’ past offers hints, but answers have eluded friends, who both hope and assume that exonerating evidence will soon be revealed. The Tampa Bay Times spoke to a dozen of Reeves’ former and current friends and co-workers, as well as Reeves’ attorney, neighbors and pastor. His family did not respond to several attempts for comment. Friends describe Reeves as a proud, church-going man who spent much of his career in positions of authority, a strong leader who never had a problem telling people what he thinks.
Media speculation has it that Reeves will invoke the “stand your ground” law, because, uh, Florida. And freeeeeeedum.
In other news in responsible gun ownership a four year old shot and killed his four year old cousin in this report from Detroit’s WXYZ.
Detroit police say two people are in custody after a 4-year-old was shot and killed by another 4-year-old on the city’s west side.
Authorities say a male and female are being held on felony possession charges.
Early Friday 7 Action News was told the boy, who we are identifying only as Jamel, was shot by his cousin after she pulled out a long gun from underneath a bed at the home on the 7100 block of Tuxedo.
As officers recover the weapon that took the life of the boy, parents in this neighborhood on Detroit’s west side are thinking of those affected, and holding their own children a little tighter.
“I’m hurt.” said Queensbury, “I’m hurting real bad for the family.
And then there is this that barely needs any exposition–”Responsible Gun Owner ‘Second Amendments’ Himself in the Face While Changing His Pants…” You simply can’t make this stuff up.
A Tennessee man is alive after accidentally shooting himself in the chin as he was getting undressed Sunday night. Carter County Sheriff’s Deputy David Caldwell told the Johnson City Press that William Rood apparently left a loaded .25 caliber Beretta pistol in his right front pants pocket (we gather he packs to the right) and as he placed the pants on his dresser, the weapon fired one bullet striking Rood in the nose and chin, finally lodging in his neck.
In other news, this week marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of “the war to end all wars,” World War I. That obscenity of letters William Kristol, writing in the Weekly Standard, observed that
1914 saw the beginning of World War I, a calamity perhaps unmatched until then in the history of the West. We will be reminded many times this year in centennial commemorations of the war’s terrible destruction, but also of its devastating political and cultural effects over subsequent decades, and of its continuing deep if often indirect contribution to today’s demoralization of the West.
What is this demoralization of which he speaks? It seems to be the fact that we are no longer able to wave the flag and get the poors to leap to the opportunity to wage overseas war with the alacrity that earlier, less educated generations leapt so willingly. In the process Kristol cites and perverts the words of Wilfred Owen, one of the best and brightest of a new generation of English poets coming of age during the second decade of the 20th century, and who, along with so many English, French, Germans and Americans, soaked the fields of Flanders with their blood. The poem is, of course, the luminous and transfixing “Dulce et Decorum Est Pro patria Mori,” one of the most effective anti-war statements ever made. I take this somewhat personally, as I had to memorize this poem as a young man and found myself moved to imagine the sacrifices and sufferings of people I had never met and could scarcely conceive of… In perverting Owen’s poem to his own war-shillery, Kristol reveals the completeness with which he has sold his soul to Satan, in this article in which he ratfucks David Frum:
Writing several years ago in this magazine about its seismic cultural consequences, David Frum quoted the concluding lines of “the most famous poem in our language about World War I”:
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
The Latin, which translates as “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country,” comes from an ode of Horace’s. As Frum pointed out, Horace’s line is one “that any educated Englishman of the last century would have learned in school.” Those pre-War Englishmen would, on the whole, have understood the line earnestly and quoted it respectfully. Not after the War. Living in the shadow of Wilfred Owen rather than Horace, the earnestness yielded to bitterness, the respect to disgust. As Frum puts it, “Scoffing at those words represented more than a rejection of war. It meant a rejection of the schools, the whole society, that had sent Owen to war.”
Recognizing the power of scoffery and ridicule to endanger those institutions which protect and honor his underserved position as a public intellectual, Kristol thus wrinkles his patrician nose. Fortunately, the aforementioned Charlie Pierce recognizes depravity when he sees it and took note of Kristol’s insanity thus:
Given the author, and given the publication, I would like to propose that this is the most singularly obscene paragraph ever written.
Today, after all, we see the full consequences of that rejection in a way Owen and his contemporaries could not. Can’t we acknowledge the meaning, recognize the power, and learn the lessons of 1914 without succumbing to an apparently inexorable gravitational pull toward a posture of ironic passivity or fatalistic regret in the face of civilizational decline? No sensitive person can fail to be moved by Owen’s powerful lament, and no intelligent person can ignore his chastening rebuke. But perhaps a century of increasingly unthinking bitter disgust with our heritage is enough.
So saith the Moloch of the Green Room, from whose hands still drips the blood of Other People’s Children.
Decent folk should spit on him. Daily.
Res ipsa loquitor.
In other news, Wikileaks revealed the environmental section of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, also known as “NAFTA on steroids and meth and in a very bad mood.” If you have not been following this monster, step up your game, because this surly bitch will be Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You. Brought to you by the same civic-spirited public servants who brought you NAFTA, CAFTA, and the other “free-trade™” agreements that resulted in the export of American manufacturing and millions of jobs, this “fast-track” (read minimal oversight or public discussion) treaty will trump national protections on a variety of fronts.
What observers conclude is that the deal says many nice things about protecting the environment, but contains almost no significant means to enforce the sentiments behind those happy burblings. “This draft chapter falls flat on every single one of our issues,” Sierra Club president Michael Brune says, “oceans, fish, wildlife, and forest protections – and in fact, rolls back on the progress made in past free trade pacts.” The fact remains that the negotiations continue to be shrouded in secrecy, while our elected solons have placed its execution of a “fast track.” The coming vitiation of such scant environmental protections as exist (see West, TX and Charleston, WV) will no doubt thrill the residents of the Kanawha Valley, who drink replacement water from tanks filled with the same toxic effluent. You cannot make this shit up. While officials offer an “all clear,” pregnant women are advised not to drink or use it, and meanwhile, the whole toxic blogs makes its way to the Ohio and then to the Mississippi. The gift that keeps on giving. Be sure to that your Repug lawmakers who are ever-so-helpful” to keep the regulations off the backs of the “job creators.” Meanwhile, the toxin that has poisoned WV is utterly unregulated. Coal, you know.
And speaking of the US Senate, this week that world class deliberative body illustrated how the existing system exists only to serve the unelected, monied interests who have purchased it, which serves to illustrate the stark difference between Rs and Ds: “Republicans™” kick the working class in the balls, while the “Democrats™” merely hold their coats so the Rs can kick more freely.
Unemployment benefits for 1.3 million of the long-term unemployed — and millions more in the future — were imperiled on Tuesday after Senate efforts to reach accord on legislation to revive them collapsed in partisan finger-pointing.
After days of negotiations, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, abruptly called a vote to end debate on two Democratic measures that would extend benefits for out-of-work Americans for at least three months, gambling that he could muster enough support from moderate Republicans to move on to final passage for at least one of the proposals.
But both votes failed, and the possibility of a bipartisan deal collapsed during procedural arguments, with Democrats and Republicans accusing one another of negotiating in bad faith.
I am “shocked . . . shocked” at allegations of gambling in Rick’s Cafe.
Meanwhile, in a year where Time’s Man of the Year staff lost the slip of paper on which the name of Edward Snowden was written, our Glorious Leader gave a prononciamento on how you should just get the fuck over yourself and your memories of what used to be a Constitution. Here is BHO himself:
It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to go through after 9/11. Our agencies suddenly needed to do far more than the traditional mission of monitoring hostile powers and gathering information for policymakers. Instead, they were now asked to identify and target plotters in some of the most remote parts of the world, and to anticipate the actions of networks that, by their very nature, cannot be easily penetrated with spies or informants.
And it is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of our intelligence community that over the past decade we’ve made enormous strides in fulfilling this mission. Today, new capabilities allow intelligence agencies to track who a terrorist is in contact with, and follow the trail of his travel or his funding. New laws allow information to be collected and shared more quickly and effectively between federal agencies, and state and local law enforcement. Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded, and our capacity to repel cyber-attacks have been strengthened. And taken together, these efforts have prevented multiple attacks and saved innocent lives — not just here in the United States, but around the globe.
Thus we are asked to accept on faith the speculation that the NSA has actually prevented attacks on US soil, rather than decide for ourselves the facts on the ground, namely that the Surveillance State is designed to observe and suppress any attempt to consolidate the prerogatives and power of the burgeoning Corporate State. Hoovering up your every text message, purchase record and porn search gives the State unlimited power to go back and re-create an ex post facto criminal record for anyone who becomes sufficient source of irritation. Here’s Pierce:
The president’s big speech on the NSA today was an extended exercise in running in place. The one thing it was not was an attempt to strike a “balance” between the current surveillance state and civil liberties “concerns.” (You will note that the Bill of Rights is now apparently a Bill of Concerns.) There is very little question that the former is being asked to give up very little of its power — I decline to feel comforted by the fact that intelligence agencies have to submit requests to a secret court — while the latter are being asked to adjust their expectations to the reality of new and gathering threats.
Throughout this evolution, we benefited from both our Constitution and our traditions of limited government. U.S. intelligence agencies were anchored in a system of checks and balances, with oversight from elected leaders and protections for ordinary citizens.
Balls. COINTELPRO. CISPES. The McCarran Act. The Plumbers. Mossadegh. Arbenz. The “U.S. intelligence agencies” were anchored in nothing but their own arrogance. The president should be ashamed to base his arguments in such plainly ahistorical balderdash.
Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a cautionary tale of what could happen when vast unchecked surveillance turned citizens into informers and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their own homes.
If the bar were any lower, you’d have to dig for it in China. . .
This is the government, in the person of this president, telling you what you have to give up in order to be safe. (As near as I can tell, the NSA is not being asked to stop doing much of anything, and the president’s Bush-standard apocalyptics doesn’t give me a lot of faith in whatever oversight he says he’s put in place.) Perhaps the country is willing to live with the arrangement, but it is a lie to call it a balance.
Thus we are asked to accept the status quo by this president. And if you don’t like it, citizen, go organize a protest using the internet. Heh, heh, heh….
Well, you may be saying, at least we have the internet. Uh… not so fast, did you read about the decision this week by the US Court of Appeals?
U.S. Circuit Judge David Tatel, writing for a three-judge panel, said that while the FCC has the power to regulate Verizon and other broadband companies, it chose the wrong legal framework for its open-Internet regulations.
“Given that the commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the commission from nonetheless regulating them as such,” Tatel wrote.
Long story short, what this ruling means, if it stands, is that bandwidth providers will be free to favor some traffic and throttle others, all in the interest of commerce. The FCC has the option of appeal to the US Supreme Court, that bastion of the Federalist Society, or of reclassifying bandwidth provides as common carriers, which it was loath to do last year amidst a firestorm of opprobrium from some of Verizon’s best friends (see R’s and Ds, above). So if Verizon strikes a deal with, say, Amazon’s streaming service to share profits, Amazon traffic can zip to the front of the bandwidth line while Netflix moves to the back of the line. And alternative news sites? Get them while the getting’s good, citizen. You’re on the clock.
Are you not entertained?
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and a shifting menagerie of adult children in various stages of transition.