August 29, 2014
Monkey See, Monkey Do

From The Washington Post:

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.

James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:17 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Idiots | War on "Terror" | Weakening America
The Changing Face of The Establishment

Owen Jones is talking about the establishment, or perhaps rather The Establishment, in Britain, but his description hits home here in the US as well.

The establishment is a shape-shifter, evolving and adapting as needs must. But one thing that distinguishes today’s establishment from earlier incarnations is its sense of triumphalism. The powerful once faced significant threats that kept them in check. But the opponents of our current establishment have, apparently, ceased to exist in any meaningful, organised way. Politicians largely conform to a similar script; once-mighty trade unions are now treated as if they have no legitimate place in political or even public life; and economists and academics who reject establishment ideology have been largely driven out of the intellectual mainstream. The end of the cold war was spun by politicians, intellectuals and the media to signal the death of any alternative to the status quo: “the end of history”, as the US political scientist Francis Fukuyama put it. All this has left the establishment pushing at an open door. Whereas the position of the powerful was once undermined by the advent of democracy, an opposite process is now underway. The establishment is amassing wealth and aggressively annexing power in a way that has no precedent in modern times. After all, there is nothing to stop it.


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:30 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Political Commentary
August 27, 2014
Read It and Weep

From Al Jazeera:

“Eleven battalions of IDF artillery is equivalent to the artillery we deploy to support two divisions of U.S. infantry,” a senior Pentagon officer with access to the daily briefings said. “That’s a massive amount of firepower, and it’s absolutely deadly.” Another officer, a retired artillery commander who served in Iraq, said the Pentagon’s assessment might well have underestimated the firepower the IDF brought to bear on Shujaiya. “This is the equivalent of the artillery we deploy to support a full corps,” he said. “It’s just a huge number of weapons.”

Artillery pieces used during the operation included a mix of Soltam M71 guns and U.S.-manufactured Paladin M109s (a 155-mm howitzer), each of which can fire three shells per minute. “The only possible reason for doing that is to kill a lot of people in as short a period of time as possible,” said the senior U.S. military officer. “It’s not mowing the lawn,” he added, referring to a popular IDF term for periodic military operations against Hamas in Gaza. “It’s removing the topsoil.”

“Holy bejeezus,” exclaimed retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard when told the numbers of artillery pieces and rounds fired during the July 21 action. “That rate of fire over that period of time is astonishing. If the figures are even half right, Israel’s response was absolutely disproportionate.” A West Point graduate who is a veteran of two wars and is the chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, D.C., he added that even if Israeli artillery units fired guided munitions, it would have made little difference.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:52 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
August 26, 2014
Our Economy Needs Global Conflict

I understand why some folks think it’s cynical to impute motive to action, especially when doing so reflects poorly on them or those they admire. But explain to me if you would the problems with this formulation: we sell weapons to countries who shouldn’t have them because (1) it keeps our economy humming, along the lines of what Chomsky calls the Pentagon system, and (2) Congress consistently manages to find a way around its own laws prohibiting the sale of arms to human rights violators because (1). Once these high-powered weapons are in such questionable hands it’s only a matter of time before they’re used. No, I’m not talking about Ferguson, Missouri, but about the United Arab Emirates (UAE), currently bombing Libya using weapons we built and sold to them. They did not, in the event, feel it necessary to notify the US, let alone seek support, possibly indicating how much they fear America’s wrath.

The first air strikes took place a week ago, focusing on targets in Tripoli held by the militias, including a small weapons depot, according to the [New York] Times. Six people were killed in the bombing.

A second round was conducted south of the city early on Saturday targeting rocket launchers, military vehicles and a warehouse, according to the newspaper.

Those strikes may have represented a bid to prevent the capture of the Tripoli airport, but the militia forces eventually prevailed and seized control of it despite the air attacks.

The UAE — which has spent billions on US-manufactured warplanes and other advanced weaponry — provided the military aircraft, aerial refuelling planes and aviation crews to bomb Libya, while Egypt offered access to its airbases, the paper said.

Somehow that feels weird to me. A country the size of South Carolina with a population less than that of North Carolina has aerial refuelling planes and the expertise to pull off a combat mission using them, though admittedly there were probably few air defenses to contend with.

In light of such disarray, some will argue, we can’t afford to pull out of the Middle East conflict. Just as the weapons dealers wanted, we’ve sold too many weapons there to walk away now; it’d be a bloodbath. But it’s politically impossible to do the only useful thing, which is pressure the Israeli government until it begins to attend to the popular will. That, however, would set a bad precedent that might be recognized here at home.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:18 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
World Affairs
August 25, 2014
Move Along, Folks, Nothing to See Here

Were you expecting great things from the man President Obama charged with getting at the truth of Michael Brown’s death by cop? As I wrote a couple of weeks back, don’t hold your breath. Some more reasons why:

As the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia from 1993 to 1997, Holder was in charge of policing the local police. When police violence spiraled out of control, he did little to protect Washington residents from rampaging lawmen.

The number of killings by Washington police doubled from 1988 to 1995, the year 16 civilians died from officer gunfire. Police shot and killed people at a higher rate than any other major city police department, as a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post investigation revealed. The Post reported that “Holder said he did not detect a pattern of problematic police shootings and could not recall the specifics of cases he personally reviewed.” Holder declared: “I can’t honestly say I saw anything that was excessive…”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:44 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Civil Liberties | Essential Liberties | Fascism in America | Police State | Race | Weakening America
The Good News is You’re Not Pregnant

Just when you thought you had heard it all, along comes this heart-warming story out of California:

After a few minutes, the girl shouted loudly as she found tapeworms in her fecal waste. Cabral-Osorio said, “It was so gross and she had pooped all these tapeworms. There were a couple that were very long and wiggling around trying to get out of the toilet.”

It was quite shocking to see that the mother was quite calm over the situation. Later, the girl’s mother confessed that she had purchased a tapeworm pill in Mexico and had secretly given to her daughter to lose weight.

The mother apologized and said that she had done it to make her daughter thinner for an upcoming beauty pageant…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:09 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (7)
Animal blogging | Reveling in the Weird
August 23, 2014
Sell It All, Let the Market Sort It Out

James Meek has a magnificent article at The Guardian. Were it possible to imagine a riveting description of the impact of privatization of formerly public services in Britain compared with the contemporaneous process in the former Soviet Union, this would be it. Part history and travelogue, part rumination on the relative advantages and disadvantages of socialism and capitalism, the argument is superficially unpretentious but sophisticated and in the end deep, and in lovely prose to boot.

The article can’t easily be summarized, but it recounts the author’s philosophical journey through economics coinciding with a physical one as the tide of capitalism swept aside the old communal structures of the former Soviet Union. He gives credence to often-argued claims about the benefits to society of privatizing public services, then proceeds to explore the available information to see if that credence is warranted. While he does not like the result, he is careful in apportioning responsibility. The National Health Service, for example, remains private but has seen many market-like “reforms” modify its behaviors.

What the story of the latter years of the NHS shows is that the most powerful market force eating away at the core of the welfare state is not so much capitalism as consumer capitalism — the convergence of desires between the users of a public service and the private companies providing it when the companies use the skills of marketing to give users a sense of dissatisfaction and peer disadvantage. “If consumption represents the psychological competition for status,” writes Daniel Bell, “then one can say that bourgeois society is the institutionalisation of envy.” Hip replacement, a procedure invented within the NHS by John Charnley, began as a blessed relief from pain for which patients were, as Charnley said, pathetically grateful. It rapidly progressed to a rationed entitlement. It has now become a competitive market.

Spoiler alert, though, Meek does blame Thatcher for the loss of what was formerly the property of the British people and is now more often than not owned by foreigners. The losses, he asserts, were not measured only in pounds and real estate. In a real sense part of the compact between state and individual was dissolved, and corporations, even more faceless and less accountable than government, took over and immediately began raising rates, the British railways, water, and electricity being prime examples. Ironically, it appears that the best-run, most efficient railway corporations are owned by other, mostly European, states, flatly contradicting the basis for privatizing to begin with.

But Thatcher cut taxes and spending! Well, yes and no. Progressive income tax rates were cut, sure enough, but she also raised the VAT, a consumption-based tax that is inherently highly regressive. So much like the situation here in the US, the actual amount paid by individuals in taxes is adjusted to place the heaviest burden on the lower brackets. And that’s ignoring what I think is a powerful argument Meek makes that given the absolute necessity in today’s world for electricity, water, and communications the amount we pay to have those in our homes is a tax in every way except that it’s collected by private corporations rather than accruing to the common benefit.

All in all, a great piece of writing whose focus on the UK illuminates its idiosyncratic issues as well as the larger human, political and economic, questions that society generally has failed to grapple with.


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:03 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Economics and Society
August 21, 2014
The Occasionally Good Old Days

Back in the late 1950s I worked for a long-dead tabloid called The Washington Daily News. It struggled as the smallest of the three papers in town and was being kept alive, I suspect, mainly to give the Scripps-Howard chain a right-wing voice in the capital. Its editor was John O’Rourke, a remote figure who appeared irregularly in the city room. As far as I can remember, I had never met him.

Until the paper published the first of a three-part series I had written on the crooked practices of local car dealers. Shortly after the paper hit the streets, O’Rourke showed up trailed by four other suits and disappeared into his office. A few minutes later the city editor hollered that Mr. O’Rourke wanted to see me in his office right away. “Tough luck,” the reporter at the desk next to me said. “You’ve just written the world’s first one-part three-part series.” We both knew that auto ads were a major part of the paper’s puny revenue stream.

The four suits in the editor’s office turned out to be the paper’s business manager, its advertising director, and two representatives from the auto dealers. Plainly I was toast.

“Can you back up everything in your pieces?” O’Rourke said without a word of preamble as I stood there.

“Yes, I can.”

“That’s all, then. Go on back to work.”

And so I did. That was the sum total of my first and only meeting with Mr. O’Rourke. The series ran in its entirety.

I mention this because:

Time Inc. has fallen on hard times. Would you believe that this once-proud magazine publishing empire is now explicitly rating its editorial employees based on how friendly their writing is to advertisers?

Last year — in the opposite of a vote of confidence — Time Warner announced that it would spin off Time Inc. into its own company, an act of jettisoning print publications once and for all. Earlier this year, the company laid off 500 employees (and more layoffs are coming soon). And, most dramatically of all, Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp now requires his magazine’s editors to report to the business side of the company, a move that signals the full-scale dismantling of the traditional wall between the advertising and editorial sides of the company’s magazines.

Even with all of that, though, it is still possible to imagine that Time Inc.’s 90+ publications, which include some of the most storied magazines in American history, would continue to adhere to the normal ethical rules of journalism out of simple pride. Not so!

Here you see an internal Time Inc. spreadsheet that was used to rank and evaluate “writer-editors” at SI.com. (Time Inc. provided this document to the Newspaper Guild, which represents some of their employees, and the union provided it to us.) The evaluations were done as part of the process of deciding who would be laid off. Most interesting is this ranking criteria: “Produces content that [is] beneficial to advertiser relationship.” These editorial employees were all ranked in this way, with their scores ranging from 2 to 10.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:35 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Historical Perspectives | Media | Our Sordid Press Corps
August 19, 2014
Why Am I Not Surprised…

…by this from Public Citizen? Because I am deeply versed in economics? Hardly. I never took so much as an introductory course in economics.

No, I was suspicious of NAFTA when Clinton first trotted it out twenty years ago not because I had a deep understanding of the free trade issue but because I was old enough by then, although only sixty, to have already learned the difference between shit and chocolate ice cream.

Cut out those pesky tariffs, Clinton told us, so we can move those unionized auto assembly jobs from Michigan to Mexico and everybody benefits. Mexican wages are bound to go up and if American workers wind up taking a little hit on wages their cars will become cheaper.

See? Easy. In our pursuit of the greatest good for the greatest number there is no need, for instance, to include in NAFTA a requirement to lower American tariffs in lockstep with the predictable increase in Mexican assembly line wages. The invisible hand of the market will take care of that. It wouldn’t (and didn’t), of course, the invisible hand being invisible due to its nonexistence.

Absent any such requirements, it was plain that Clinton wasn’t selling us chocolate ice cream. And sure enough:

On the eve of the North American Free Trade Agreement’s 20th anniversary, a new Public Citizen report shows that not only did promises made by proponents not materialize, but many results are exact ly the opposite. Such outcomes include a staggering $181 billion U.S. trade deficit with NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada, one million net U.S. jobs lost because of NAFTA, a doubling of immigration from Mexico, larger agricultural trade deficits with Mexico and Canada, and more than $360 million paid to corporations after “investor-state” tribunal attacks on, and rollbacks of, domestic public interest policies.

The study tracks the promises made by U.S. corporations like Chrysler and Caterpillar to create specific numbers of American jobs if NAFTA was approved, and reveals government data showing that instead, they fired U.S. workers and moved operations to Mexico. The data also show how post-NAFTA trade and investment trends have contributed to middle-class pay cuts, which in turn contributed to growing income inequality; how since NAFTA, U.S. trade deficit growth with Mexico and Canada has been 45 percent higher than with countries not party to a U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and how U.S. manufacturing and services exports to Canada and Mexico have grown at less than half the pre-NAFTA rate.

“NAFTA’s actual outcomes prove how damaging this type of agreement is for most people, that it should be renegotiated and why we cannot have any more such deals that include job-offshoring incentives, requirements we import food that doesn’t meet our safety standards or new rights for firms to get taxpayer compensation before foreign tribunals over laws they don’t like,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Given NAFTA’s record of damage, it is equal parts disgusting and infuriating that now President Barack Obama has joined the corporate Pinocchios who lied about NAFTA in recycling similar claims to try to sell the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is NAFTA-on-steroids…”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 3:50 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Economics and Society | Historical Perspectives
August 15, 2014
Has Lindsey Graham Heard About This?

Let Carl Strock tell you what it’s all about:

I am all in favor of fairness, but I do think it’s a dangerous business to tout reason on so public a stage as a license plate, which can be seen by innocent children whose minds are not yet fully developed…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:18 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Glimmers of Sanity | Politics and Religion
August 12, 2014
Don’t Hold Your Breath

Here’s the Attorney General, in theory the boss of an FBI which has never once found any of its own agents guilty in the deaths of the hundreds of people they have shot to death over the years, vowing to get to the bottom of the police murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri:

In Washington, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Monday that the episode “deserves a fulsome review.” He added, “Aggressively pursuing investigations such as this is critical for preserving trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

Here’s the dictionary definition of fulsome:

Complimentary or flattering to an excessive degree: they are almost embarrassingly fulsome in their appreciation.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:35 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Police State | Race
United Police States of America

It’s worse than I thought, and I thought it was pretty bad. See this from John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute:

The number of violent crimes in the country is down substantially, the lowest rate in 40 years, while the number of Americans being jailed for nonviolent crimes, such as driving with a suspended license, are skyrocketing…

As with most things, if you want to know the real motives behind any government program, follow the money trail. When you dig down far enough, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, you quickly find that those who profit from Americans being arrested are none other than the police who arrest them, the courts which try them, the prisons which incarcerate them, and the corporations, which manufacture the weapons and equipment used by police, build and run the prisons, and profit from the cheap prison labor…

Second, there’s the profit-incentive for states to lock up large numbers of Americans in private prisons. Just as police departments have quotas for how many tickets are issued and arrests made per month — a number tied directly to revenue — states now have quotas to meet for how many Americans go to jail. Having outsourced their inmate population to private prisons run by corporations such as Corrections Corp of America and the GEO Group, ostensibly as a way to save money, increasing numbers of states have contracted to keep their prisons at 90% to 100% capacity. This profit-driven form of mass punishment has, in turn, given rise to a $70 billion private prison industry that relies on the complicity of state governments to keep the money flowing and their privately run prisons full. No wonder the United States has the largest prison population in the world…

What some Americans may not have realized, however, is that America’s economy has come to depend in large part on prison labor. “Prison labor reportedly produces 100 percent of military helmets, shirts, pants, tents, bags, canteens, and a variety of other equipment. Prison labor makes circuit boards for IBM, Texas Instruments, and Dell. Many McDonald's uniforms are sewn by inmates. Other corporations — Microsoft, Victoria's Secret, Boeing, Motorola, Compaq, Revlon, and Kmart — also benefit from prison labor.” The resulting prison labor industries, which rely on cheap, almost free labor, are doing as much to put the average American out of work as the outsourcing of jobs to China and India.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:03 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
America is Doomed | Civil Liberties | Police State
August 11, 2014
The Grass is Always Greener…

Peter sends this further evidence of our civilization’s collapse:

Unlike most other grass paint, we refuse to use inferior man-made and non-earth friendly pigments that result in a transparent blue/green color which makes grass appear un-natural. LawnLift™ uses only “All Natural” true color pigments that have garnered us the best color in the industry! From small pet urine spots to entire dormant or dead lawns LawnLift™ has you covered….

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:33 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
America is Doomed | Reveling in the Weird
August 10, 2014
Economic Ectomorphism

In case you haven’t already seen it, here’s an interesting chart from the International Comparison Project at the World Bank via Matt Yglesias at Vox. Representing GDP on the vertical scale and population size on the horizontal allows for a grasp on information that is less abstract and more intuitive.


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One can take many lessons from such a graph, of course. I imagine there are capitalists looking at more detailed versions as a map of “national markets”, i.e. populations, to exploit next. But it also puts in perspective that China soon becoming the largest economy doesn’t mean its standard of living (as measured by GDP per capita) has even risen to the world average. Largest is a measure of breadth as well as height.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 4:37 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Economics and Society
August 05, 2014
School for Warmongers?

From Sam Smith. What think?

Places like Harvard and Oxford — and their after-school programs such as the Washington think tanks — teach the few how to control the many and it is impossible to do this without various forms of abuse ranging from sophism to corporate control systems to napalm. It is no accident that a large number of advocates of this war — in government and the media — are the products of elite educations where they were taught both the inevitability of their hegemony and the tools with which to enforce it.

It will be some time before places such as Harvard and the Council on Foreign Relations are seen for what they are: the White Citizens Councils of state violence. Still, in a little gift of history, one of their lesser offspring, George W. Bush, may speed things up a bit as he brags and blithers about, gleefully brutalizes, perversely exaggerates, and cynically promotes cruel and authoritarian ideas his brighter colleagues have worked so hard to wrap in the costume of decency and democracy. He is the Council on Foreign Relations out of the closet, the carefully contrived paradigm run amuck, the great man of history turned dangerous fool, real politik turned into absurdist caricature. For that at least, we should thank him: he has shown us the true nature of a great lie.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:06 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Class Warriors | Education | Warmongers
August 04, 2014
Who’s In Charge Here?

So now that John Brennan has admitted that he lied about CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee as the committee prepared its report on Bush-era torture, his denials and denunciations of his accusers at the time are in retrospect even more clearly self-serving and dishonest. But Obama won’t fire him because he’s afraid of the consequences. Brennan knows where the bodies were buried, which drones killed them, and when Obama ordered those drone strikes.

Whatever happens with the [torture] report itself and despite the recent CIA apology, don’t expect the Senate to bring perjury charges against former CIA leaders for any lies to Congress. (It didn’t do so, after all, in the earlier case of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.) And don’t expect prosecutions of significant figures from a Justice Department that, in the Obama years, refused to prosecute even those in the CIA responsible for the deaths of prisoners.

The fact is that, for the Fourth Branch, this remains the age of impunity. Hidden in a veil of secrecy, bolstered by secret law and secret courts, surrounded by its chosen corporations and politicians, its power to define policy and act as it sees fit in the name of American safety is visibly on the rise. No matter what setbacks it experiences along the way, its urge to expand and control seems, at the moment, beyond staunching. In the context of the Senate’s torture report, the question at hand remains: Who rules Washington?


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 1:43 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
Political Commentary
August 03, 2014
Opie Does Guantanamo

I just can’t get over Obama’s statement the other day: “We tortured some folks.”

We tortured some folks. Is that okay? Does anything about that strike you as wrong? Do you find that phrase as jarring as I do? I’m not the slightest bit surprised we’ve tortured people. I’d be surprised if we didn’t. And I’m glad Obama used the word torture and didn’t hide behind some bullshit euphemism like “enhanced interrogation techniques.” But there is still something grotesque about that sentence and none of the articles I’ve read mention it. In fact, a lot of the commentary makes the same mistake. What am I talking about? Let me show you by way of a brief illustration:

“Say, Harlan, what er y’all doin’ down there?”

“Hey, Hollis, not much. We’re just down here torturin’ some folks.”

“Good deal. You been torturin’ a lot of folks lately?”

“Got a new shipment just last week. Around here we call that job security.”

“You must be doing somethin’ right.”

“We’re doing a lot of things right, and we’re torturin’ some folks.”

“Good deal. Say, Loretta wanted me to invite you over tonight for some pie, but I don’t want to bother you if you’re too busy torturin’ folks and all.”

“Shoot, Hollis, you know I can always take a break from torturin’ folks for some of Loretta’s rhubarb pie!”

See what I mean? Using “torture” and “folks” in the same sentence isn’t just bad style. It’s a slimy way of soft-pedaling bad behavior. Folks don’t really hurt folks. There are just folks doin’ the stuff folks do, and if they occasionally make mistakes and accidentally harm folks, well, most folks don’t mind. Least ways not around here in America, where folks know how to forgive and forget.

It’s even worse when you consider that Obama’s whole statement is aimed at letting the torturers off the hook. How? They were just folks!

“It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had,” Obama said. “A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots. But having said all that we did some things that were wrong,” he said. “And that’s what that report reflects.”

It’s important that folks don’t put on airs and become sanctimonious about the good folks at the CIA, who are just workin’ hard to keep us folks back home safe. You get the idea. And don’t for a second think this effect is incidental. People torture people. Folks are jes folks, tryin’ their hardest in this gosh durn crazy world. People have faces that register pain. Folks are just, well, folks, an abstract mass of sunny beings in a fundamentally benign universe. You’re a folk. I’m a folk. The vicious little sadist pouring water down the nose of a naked man strapped upside down in a gurney, well, he’s a folk, too. And when he gets home from the wars folks are gonna honor his service.

This harmless politician’s word is, in fact, a nasty little euphemism that absolves the guilty and coaxes us into forgetting the victims.

…Read on

Posted by OHollern at 11:10 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (5)
August 01, 2014
The Telegenic Dead

Someday there will be a hardcore band called the “Telegenic Dead” and the world will have Benjamin Netanyahu to thank for it. Apart from that, the world won’t have anything else to thank that SOB for. His epitaph should read, “I was a bigger dick than Cheney.”

I would have thought the term “telegenic dead” referred to people like Pat Sajack and Ted Koppel, or Cokie Roberts and Peggy Noonan, but I guess not. It turns out that in this, as in so much else, I was (untelegenically) dead wrong. The term refers to a class of people, many of them children, who just willed themselves to be dead so Hamas could use them as propaganda. Imagine the deviousness of that! And there are so many of them too, around 1400 and counting, although to these unpracticed eyes they don’t appear too telegenic. But who am I to say? I’ll freely concede that Netanyahu is better at judging the relative pulchritude of mutilated dead bodies than I am.

But I can sympathize with the problem. Americans have had some trouble with telegenically dead Arabs too. We discovered that the only effective solution was not to show them on TV at all. It works like a charm.  No doubt the Yemenis are propping up a few telegenic dead right now, foolishly thinking we’ll see them here in America and be shamed into no longer killing them. How little they know, those poor naive people. If they weren’t all terrorists who hate America it would almost be cute.

You might occasionally get some pain in the ass reporter who still wants to dig deep, tell the truth and all that other outdated horseshit. But we put him in combat fatigues and let him play soldier by embedding him with troops. That usually shuts them right up. It’s like giving chocolate milk and Play-Doh to a five year old. They just love it!

…Read on

Posted by OHollern at 2:12 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
July 31, 2014
How We Forgive Our Debtors

As a people we are vicious, vengeful, ignorant, callous and most of all cowardly. What else could account for the Dickensian criminal “justice” system we permit to exist? Excerpted from We Meant Well:

…Debtors’ prisons in the U.S. were declared unconstitutional, but states have re-implemented them anyway. A person locked up can’t earn money to pay the debt. And most significantly, it ends up costing many jurisdictions more money to punish someone for not paying than they would have “spent” just forgetting the debt. So why do states do this? To be fair, many states do not, and some that do often try and work out some sort of payment plan first. OK, good enough.

Now this may all be for the best. On the streets, nobody is overly concerned about providing food, medical care and shelter to poor people; outside they’re lazy, don’t want to work, nip at the public tit and all. Why, it would be socialism to help them after all. However, inside the prison system they all get food, medical and dental care, all tucked in a warm bed. Our society is apparently more ready to care for a criminal than for a citizen down on his luck.

The reality in America is that far too many people go to jail as punishment for not paying the fees and court costs incurred finding them already guilty of something else. One is left with a tough conclusion: we are more and more a crude, course society on path towards some sort of feudalism, where the rich (if ever brought to court at all) pay their money and walk out, while poor people are punished for no valid reason. We as a society want to set examples, clear the streets of our lowers, punish those who aren’t able to pay the government for giving them their day in court. That’s who we are now. And you better pay your bills…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:37 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Civil Liberties | Class Warriors | Essential Liberties | Legal Absurdities | Police State | Weakening America
July 29, 2014
Back Off, Man, I’m a Neuroscientist!

So a neuroscientist walks into an airport with an AR-15 and orders a cup of coffee. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, which, the location being Arizona, is not entirely false. Given that a full two days had passed since the last TSA agent was fatally shot on duty, everyone was pretty relaxed about the scene, presumably a fairly normal one at the Phoenix airport when a guy comes to pick up his wife. Unfortunately somebody, probably from California on her way to New York or maybe Massachusetts, felt the need to show off in front of her kid and make a scene, and the poor guy ended up getting arrested. Apparently the woman felt threatened when the barrel of his gun pointed at her and her daughter. Jeez, lady, give him a break, you can’t control your barrel every single moment of the day!


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Who could find this threatening?

Josh Marshall at TPM wonders if they thought this through. I imagine they did, and I even think a scenario along these lines might have come up for discussion, with the balance of the argument in favor of the solution to guns being more guns rather than fewer. After all, suppose an actual wacko with a gun showed up in Phoenix and, say, threatened a TSA agent — wouldn’t you want a well-armed neuroscientist nearby to assist in the proceedings? Who better, after all?

You do have to wonder, though, about the ability of said Dr. Steinmetz to produce anything like reasonable science given his relatively loose hold on consensus reality. It’ll be interesting to see how the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center handles his employment status. The medical center confirmed his employment but otherwise refused comment beyond saying that they take it seriously and have referred it to HR.

It will also be interesting to see how the legal proceedings go. Since you can’t base Second Amendment rights on whether some tourist feels threatened, my bet is that the good doctor will suffer no legal repercussions.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 1:28 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Political Commentary
July 28, 2014
Lest We Forget

The excerpt below is from a review by Bill Curry of Ralph Nader’s new book, Unstoppable, which sounds like something we should all read. Curry is a former Clinton White House advisor who ran twice for governor of Connecticut against John Rowland. Both times the voters in their wisdom chose Rowland — a sleaze bag who wound up in prison for corruption and is currently a minor-league Rush Limbaugh who sells his political endorsements on station WTIC.

Between 1996 and 2000 the Wall Street Democrats who by then ruled the party’s upper roosts scored their first big legislative wins. Until then their impact was most visible in the quietude of Congress, which had not enacted any major social or economic reforms since the historic environmental laws of the early ’70s. It was the longest such stretch since the 19th century, but no one seemed to notice.

In the late ’70s, deregulation fever swept the nation. Carter deregulated trucks and airlines; Reagan broke up Ma Bell, ending real oversight of phone companies. But those forays paled next to the assaults of the late ’90s. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 had solid Democratic backing as did the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. The communications bill authorized a massive giveaway of public airwaves to big business and ended the ban on cross ownership of media. The resultant concentration of ownership hastened the rise of hate radio and demise of local news and public affairs programming across America. As for the “modernization” of financial services, suffice to say its effect proved even more devastating. Clinton signed and still defends both bills with seeming enthusiasm.

The Telecommunications Act subverted anti-trust principles traceable to Wilson. The financial services bill gutted Glass-Steagall, FDR’s historic banking reform. You’d think such reversals would spark intra-party debate but Democrats made barely a peep. Nader was a vocal critic of both bills. Democrats, he said, were betraying their heritage and, not incidentally, undoing his life’s work. No one wanted to hear it. When Democrats noticed him again in 2000 the only question they thought to ask was, what’s got into Ralph? Such is politics in the land of the lotus eaters.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:09 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
America is Doomed | Class Warriors | Economics and Society | Historical Perspectives | Political Commentary | Regulation for the Benefit of Public Health, Safety and Welfare
July 27, 2014
Make Thug Cops Pay

From The Third Degree, published in 1969 by Arno Press. The period referenced is the 1920s:

Policemen in Boston must pay their own fines and judgments when convicted or sued for lawlessness. There is a benefit fund for policemen’s widows and orphans and for policemen injured in the performance of their duties. but there is no protective fund maintained out of dues and contributions which can be used for judgments or fines…The policeman’s money liability is said to create a frame of mind that stands in the way of false arrest or the use of club or fist.

This simple measure from the past (along with today’s smartphones) would take all the fun out of police brutality.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 7:45 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Police State
July 26, 2014
CIA Begs for Transparency…

…from that mean old Congress:

WASHINGTON — Just after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted in April to declassify hundreds of pages of a withering report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation program, C.I.A. Director John O. Brennan convened a meeting of the men who had played a role overseeing the program in its seven-year history…

Mr. Tenet, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has arranged a number of conference calls with former C.I.A. officials to discuss the impending report. After private conversations with Mr. Brennan, he and two other former C.I.A. directors — Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden — drafted a letter to Mr. Brennan asking that, as a matter of fairness, they be allowed to see the report before it was made public. Describing the letter, one former C.I.A. officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the former directors “think that those people who were heavily involved in the operations have a right to see what’s being said about them.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:13 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
American Heroes | Fascism in America | Idiots | Sunshine and Growing Government Secrecy | War on "Terror"
July 25, 2014
Hurrah for Texas, Sort of

Who would have thought that Texas voters were capable of electing a man like Craig Watkins? Maybe someday he’ll rise as high as the absurd Rick Perry 0r the creepy Ted Cruz. And maybe someday pigs will fly.

Wait a minute. Pigs actually do fly in, at least in Texas politics. Haven’t we just established that?

From the Houston Chronicle:

The National Registry of Exonerations said it’s the first U.S. case it knows of in which an innocent defendant was identified as a result of a systematic screening and DNA testing of past convictions by a prosecutor’s office, rather than being initiated by a defendant or the defendant’s representatives.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins sought the exoneration after DNA testing identified another man as the culprit in the rape of a 16-year-old girl at a motel where both men lived.

Watkins has an ongoing project of reviewing untested rape kits, even without defendants initiating the request. Should the appeals court decide in Phillips’ favor, it would be the 34th exoneration by Watkins’ Conviction Integrity Unit. On Friday, almost a dozen other men who had been exonerated were in the audience to greet him.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 7:49 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
American Heroes | Glimmers of Sanity | Hope for the Future
July 23, 2014
Lamb Stew

Spotty blogging because I’m involved just now in moving 42 years of detritus into a smaller house. So forget about Kiev and Rick Perry’s pseudo-intellectual glasses, and on to a recipe from a book called A Taste of Murder, subtitled “Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery Writers” —

The hero of my Tom Bethany series lives alone in an apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He mainly eats stew, which he makes on Sundays and freezes. I used to do the same thing when I lived alone in a Cambridge apartment. My favorite and therefore his:

Dump three pounds of lamb, bones and all, into a pot with a teaspoon of peppercorns and nine cups of water. Neck bones are best, but shank or breast will do. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer. Don’t bother to strain the scum unless you’re the kind of person who won’t eat a piece of candy after it’s fallen on the floor. In fact if you’re that kind of person, forget this whole recipe. And get a life.

Once the meat has simmered for one and a half hours, fish it out and set it aside in a bowl to cool. Skim the fat from the broth or don’t. Whatever. Whack up two carrots and three onions. Scrape the carrots first if you feel like it, but the fact is we’re about to sterilize them anyway. Better peel the onions, though, because the papery stuff gets stuck in your teeth. Toss it all in the pot, add a cup of uncooked barley, and start simmering again. Keep going until the onions have pretty much disappeared, the carrots are soft, and the barley is too. Now pick the meat off the bones and toss it back in, minus the fat.

Chop up one of those 10- or 12-ounce boxes of mushrooms, using the same cleaning method you applied or didn't apply to the carrots, bearing in mind that mushrooms grow in horse manure. Dump in the mushrooms, along with as much thyme, cumin, and chopped garlic as you want. Cook just long enough for the mushrooms to soften up, then add a half-stick of butter and a cup of cream. Once the butter melts, you’re done. It may look a little soupy, but it will thicken up as it cools.

For immediate eating, rip a hole in one corner of a bag of frozen peas and pour a handful of them into your bowl. Close up the bag with a twist tie and put it back in the freezer. Now ladle lots of stew on top of the peas, stir, and eat. Trust me on this business with the peas. Just do it the way I say.

Once the remaining stew has cooled, portion it out for freezing into those beautifully designed and incredibly expensive refrigerator containers from Williams-Sonoma or into old yogurt cups. Up to you, but Tom Bethany uses the pint-sized containers that Stoneyfield yogurt comes in. They hold up under repeated microwaving.

This recipe has no salt, because both Tom and I are health and fitness fanatics who regard our bodies as temples. The rest of you may salt to taste.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 8:32 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Arts and Literature | Crime Fiction | Good Eats
July 20, 2014
A Classroom Visit

Excerpted from Undernews:

The teacher was reading a book to the children and it was towards the end of the day. I’ve never seen anything like it. Kids were tilting back their chairs back at extreme angles, others were rocking their bodies back and forth, a few were chewing on the ends of their pencils, and one child was hitting a water bottle against her forehead in a rhythmic pattern.

This was not a special-needs classroom, but a typical classroom at a popular art-integrated charter school. My first thought was that the children might have been fidgeting because it was the end of the day and they were simply tired. Even though this may have been part of the problem, there was certainly another underlying reason.

We quickly learned after further testing, that most of the children in the classroom had poor core strength and balance. In fact, we tested a few other classrooms and found that when compared to children from the early 1980s, only one out of twelve children had normal strength and balance...

Why am I not surprised? But, once again, saddened at the nation of sniveling, fearful cowards that we have become. Zero-sum thinking is not the prudent, responsible attitude toward the normal risks of childhood; it is pathological. It is paranoid. Carried far enough it leads to Cheney land.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:13 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Education | Psychology and Society | Weakening America
July 19, 2014
Presented Without Comment

Sasha Frere-Jones in The New Yorker assesses “The New R & B”—

On “Two Weeks,” the album’s first single, [FKA Twigs] extends the theme of song as prelude, not payoff: “You say you want me, I say you’ll live without it. Unless you’re the only one that instigates, got your mouth, open your heart.” It’s an intriguing and fertile template: she places all the romantic and sexual action offstage, thereby returning to a premodern era of nondisclosure in pop lyrics. Yet it feels entirely postmodern. The sounds of the album span such a wide range that it’s hard to know what to call any of it. Some passages sound like string quartets played backwards, some like eggs dropped from a great height. The main effect is of non-resolution. FKA Twigs dresses like a high-fashion model from antiquity, but her songs promise the very contemporary pleasures of texture and emotional immediacy.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:41 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
Arts and Literature | Music
July 18, 2014
Expect More Of The Same But Worse

I’m creating a formula that can be used to make predictions in American politics. So far, it goes something like this: You take the status quo, add the dullest or most uninspiring possibility, and that is the most likely future outcome. In other terms, SQ + MUP = LFO (where MUP is Most Uninspiring Possibility and LFO is Likely Future Outcome).

When we apply this simple formula to reality, we can easily envision the following scenario: Chief of Staff Lanny Davis and Secretary of the Treasury Rahm Emmanuel convince President Hillary to nominate Elizabeth Warren to the Supreme Court. That way, the court maintains its current balance and a liberal critic is effectively gagged. Wall Street is happy and progressives are out. See how easy that is?

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Posted by OHollern at 1:52 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
July 17, 2014
The Snow Queen

Wisdom from Ronald Reagan’s Peggy Noonan, in the immigrant Rudolph Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal:

There is every sign [Obama] let the crisis on the border build to put heat on Republicans and make them pass his idea of good immigration reform. It would be “comprehensive,” meaning huge, impenetrable and probably full of mischief. His base wants it. It would no doubt benefit the Democratic Party in the long term.

The little children in great danger, holding hands, staring blankly ahead, are pawns in a larger game. That game is run by adults. How cold do you have to be to use children in this way?

Judging by the above excerpt, Peggy, precisely as cold as you.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 9:02 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Idiots | Political Commentary | Republicans
230 Tits for a Tat

Beth Miller at Mondoweiss, on Israel’s invasion of its occupied territory, Palestine. There was a time when the nascent Israel was an exciting experiment in democracy and community, but that was another country and besides, the wench is dead. For the rest of the essay, go here.

I am writing this to my fellow American Jews. Well, to some of them. For a specific type of American Jew, actually. To those whose parents or grandparents were socialists and started unions before marching with Dr. King in Alabama. To those who despised George W. Bush and marched against the invasion of Iraq. To those who knocked on doors for causes they believed in while telling their children “be the change you want to see in the world”. To those who read poems at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs about “first they came for the…and I did not speak out because I was not a…” To those who instilled in me the unshakeable conviction that we must always stand on the side of the oppressed, even when no one else will…
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 8:45 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Historical Perspectives