November 16, 2018
Word Salad

Below are excerpts from Trump’s interview in Wednesday’s Daily Caller. Some of his babble made the news, but the totality of the interview itself is more terrifying than any selection of its parts. Read it all and be afraid, be very afraid. If he ever had it, he has lost it.

But you look at the stories, many of the stories on the front page are about me. You know, all my life I told this story, had stories on the front page. A few, not a big deal. Which wasn’t bad, you know, maybe seven, but, you know, a few. And, you know, now if I have a few each day it’s surprisingly low. . .

I think it’s horrible what’s happening and, you know, building the wall, it’s in smaller stages, we can build it very quickly. I’m building the wall in smaller stages and we moved the military there, we put up barbed wire, we did all sorts of things. You have to have a barrier. You have to have a barrier. Look, we have a chance of, they can do presidential harassment, put very simply, and I’ll be very good at handling that and I think I’ll be better than anybody in the history of this office. And in a certain way I look forward to it because I actually think it’s good for me politically, because everyone knows it’s pure harassment. Just like the witch hunt, the Mueller witch hunt. It’s pure harassment. It’s horrible. It’s horrible that they’re allowed to get away with it. . .

But voter ID is a very important thing. If you look at what happened in New Hampshire, where thousands of people came up and voted from a very liberal part of Massachusetts and they came up in buses and they voted. I said, ‘what’s going on over here,’ my people said, ‘you won New Hampshire easily except they have tremendous numbers of buses coming up.’ They’re pouring up by the hundreds, buses of people getting out, voting. Then they’re supposed to go back within 90 days. And of the people that are supposed to go back, almost none of them do. In other words, they go back after the vote is over. They go back — and I think it’s like three percent — I mean, almost nobody goes back to show that, you know, that they were allowed to vote. And so what do you do? Recall the election. Recall the election. I mean, there, you should be able to recall the election.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:03 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
America is Doomed | Idiots | Our Longest National Nightmare Ever | Psychology and Society | Rich White Trash
November 12, 2018
A Railroad? In Laos?

Back in 1969 I was assigned to our embassy in Laos to be our press attache — the official spokesman for a murderous, illegal, pointless, undeclared, unwinnable and therefore unwon “secret” war in which we dropped more bombs on that tiny country than in all of World War II. I told some of that story in a novel called The Bombing Officer, so go read it. $1.95, how can you go wrong?

Back to the railroad, though. In those days there were about four miles of paved road in the entire country of Laos, from the capital down to the Thailand ferry. A four-story hotel was the tallest building in town. It had the city’s only elevator.

Drivers on Vientiane’s dusty dirt streets seldom blew their horns. They figured that the car in front of them would get out of the way once its driver could deal with whatever was holding him up.

I remember visiting a village six or eight miles down the Mekong for the dedication of a school we had financed. Before the ceremony the USAID director met informally outdoors with village leaders. Improvements were planned for the footpath leading to Vientiane, he told them, so that motorcycles could get there much more quickly.

Why would anyone want to go to Vientiane?, one of the elders asked. Well, you could get your pigs to market. But then what would I give the neighbor I get my bananas and mangoes from? Well, you could sell your pigs for money in Vientiane, couldn’t you? Okay, but what do I need money for? Well, maybe you could buy a radio. Okay, but what would I do with a radio . . .

The provincial governor finally stepped in and led us all to the new school, which consisted of a tin roof supported by posts and beams, open on all sides. Everyone sat on folding chairs while the governor, certainly the highest official any of the villagers had ever seen, launched into his speech.

Seated a couple of rows in front of us were three of four Lao ladies of a certain age, that age when it no longer makes sense to pretend you’re still hot stuff. Consequently you say the hell with it, and whack your white hair into a crew cut because who cares?. And when some big shot starts to get boring one of you calls out, loud enough for everybody to hear, “He’s not too bad-looking a guy, you know it? I wonder what kind of pecker he’s got. If I was thirty years younger I’d take him out back and find out.”

The governor cracked up. Everybody did.

The point I’m making is that Laos was once the most civilized country on earth. And when I read the first two paragraphs of this article in Foreign Policy in Focus, I feared for the worst. I needn’t have. If China can’t do it, nobody can.

…Read on

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:25 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
An Angel Directs the Storm | Glimmers of Sanity | Hope for the Future | What Actually Matters
November 04, 2018
History Doesn’t Repeat Itself . . .

. . . except when it does. This from Seymour Hersh’s recent memoir, Reporter:

The pieces revealed highly classified evidence reporting that Iraq had used a nerve agent in its war with Iran. The intelligence, gathered from satellite coverage, had been presented three times within a week to President Reagan without any indication that he had read it, forcing CIA officials to redline the most pressing issues in the President’s daily intelligence brief that they prepared, which he apparently was not reading. (I was told at the time, but did not verify, that the White House’s national security aides eventually found a way to engage the President — by having the daily CIA intelligence brief recorded on a videotape and screened on TV for him.)

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Republicans | Reveling in the Weird | Rich White Trash
October 25, 2018
Make You Feel Better?

From the New York Times:

Mr. Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cellphone calls are not secure, and they have told him that Russian spies are routinely eavesdropping on the calls, as well…

But hey, no prob…
Administration officials said Mr. Trump’s longtime paranoia about surveillance — well before coming to the White House he believed that his phone conversations were often being recorded — gave them some comfort that he was not disclosing classified information on the calls. They said they had further confidence he was not spilling secrets because he rarely digs into the details of the intelligence he is shown and is not well versed in the operational specifics of military or covert activities.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:41 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Idiots | Rich White Trash
October 24, 2018
Poor Staff Work

From Politico:

“They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly and the cover-up was the worst in the history of cover-ups, very simple,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “They had the worst cover-up ever. Where it should have stopped is at the deal standpoint, when they thought about it. Because whoever thought of that idea, I think is in big trouble. And they should be in big trouble."

. . . . and if they just hadn’t brought along that damned bonesaw our arms sale wouldn’t be in big trouble either.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:46 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Crime Fiction | Fascism in America | Idiots | Police State | Reveling in the Weird | Rich White Trash
October 23, 2018
A Message to Vladimir

What US national security adviser John Bolton said:

Speaking on the Echo Moskvy radio station on Monday, Bolton said: “The point I made to Russian colleagues today was that I didn’t think, whatever they had done in terms of meddling in the 2016 election, that they had any effect on it.”

What VladimirPutin heard:

“We’d better damn well double down on the meddling. We can’t count on the electoral college next time.”
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Essential Liberties
October 17, 2018
Is This What's the Matter?

From The Harvard Business Review:

Recent research indicates that sleep deprivation drains glucose in the prefrontal cortex. In other words, a lack of sleep robs the fuel for self-control from the region of the brain responsible for self-control, whereas sleep restores it. Building from this research, my colleagues and I investigated the effects of sleep on unethical behavior. Across a set of four studies in both laboratory and field contexts, we found that a lack of sleep led to high levels of unethical behavior. Moreover, we found that this was because a lack of sleep depleted self-control, which in turn led to unethical behavior...

Other researchers have found that a lack of sleep leads to deviant behavior at work, similarly because of decrements in self-control. They found that similarly small amounts of sleep matter; those who slept six hours or less were more likely to engage in deviant work behaviors than those who slept more than six hours. Many of the deviant work behaviors they examined, such as falsifying receipts, would also be considered unethical behavior. Thus, their research findings support the idea that sleep is crucial for ethics in the workplace....

This growing health crisis may very well have the side effect of creating an ethics crisis as well. And often, it is the people who are in the most important or most influential jobs in a given firm who are most sleep deprived. Consider that, in contrast to the 30% of Americans in general who get less than six hours of sleep, over 40% of managers sleep less than six hours per night. Thus, people entrusted with the most consequential decisions, and given most leeway to exercise judgment, are in demanding roles that cut into their sleep, which depletes their self-control and leaves them vulnerable to caving to temptations to behave unethically.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:24 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Graft, Corruption and Malfeasance | Rich White Trash
October 15, 2018
It's Tough Painting Portraits

This from The Daily Beast.

President Trump’s latest addition to White House decor is a kitschy fantasy painting that shows him relaxing with Republican presidents of the past—an update to a best-selling image commonly found in tourist gift shops and online galleries...

The painting is the latest in a well-known series by Thomas that depicts past presidents from each party hanging out together. Thomas’ first, which was finished in 2008, included Republicans—minus Trump—playing poker. A subsequent portrait showed Democratic presidents playing pool.

When Thomas decided to add the current president, he said, he found “Trump hard to paint” because of his skin tone and smile.

The painter solved his problem by softening the Trump sneer into a smile, and turning all the other presidents orange too.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 3:56 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Reveling in the Weird | Rich White Trash
October 04, 2018
What Else is New?

From Our Times, the United States 1900 - 1925, by Mark Sullivan:

It is a worthwhile speculation about our American national psychology whether the instinctive emotions of the simpler old-fashioned Americans of the South and West may have gone deeper and may have accounted for, or at least been associated with, some of the social and political phenomena of the time…

In any event, this was precisely the period, in the rural parts of the country especially, of a passionately defensive native Americanism that found expression in the immigration restriction law; in insistence on political isolation for America; in susceptibility to suspicion against institutions charged with having foreign origins or affiliations; in such phrases as “hundred-per-cent American”; in readiness to join a secret society based on intolerance of aliens (including, paradoxically, intolerance toward the Negro); and, as a minor but real manifestation, in suspicion against New York City and ideas emanating from it, on the theory that New York, in its attitude on some matters, was more nearly alien than representative American.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:18 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
America is Doomed | Class Warriors | Historical Perspectives | Our Long National Nightmare
September 26, 2018
Poet Walks with Clod


Gerard Manley Hopkins’ journal entry of November 18, 1874:
Walking with Wm. Splaine we saw a vast multitude of starlings making an unspeakable jangle. They would settle in a row of trees; then, one tree after another, rising at a signal they looked like a cloud of specks of black snuff or powder struck up from a brush or broom or shaken from a wig; then they would sweep around in whirlwinds — you could see the nearer and farther bow of the rings by the size and blackness; many would be in one phase at once, all narrow black flakes hurling around, then in another; then they would fall upon a field and so on. Splaine wanted a gun; then ‘there it would rain meat’ he said.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:10 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Arts and Literature | What Actually Matters
September 21, 2018
Slippery Slopes

The Supreme Court considers it a first amendment violation to limit how much a man may spend on his own campaign. It is not a first amendment problem, however, for the state to limit how much I can give to that man. If money equals free speech, then, the rich man has more free speech than I do, at least as long as he spends it on himself. This is an open encouragement to rich men to run for office, and it has worked very well. We cannot buy votes outright, but we can do so with a condom on, by buying the TV ads without which no one can be elected, and which no one but rich men or their agents can afford.

In effect the Supreme Court has ruled, by its imaginative misreading of the constitution, that money trumps freedom of speech. Rich men or servants bought by them regularly overwhelm the rest of us on election day. Not a thing we can do about it either. They’re just exercising their constitutional rights to free speech. If they do it with a megaphone and all we can do is whisper, it's not the Court's fault.

It's just nature's way that certain people should wind up having more freedom of speech than others. When the articulate and the inarticulate debate, for instance, the articulate tend to have the edge. The inequality is caused by nature, which is notoriously unfair. Nature keeps short men out of the NBA, and there is nothing, constitutionally, to be done about it.

But allowing money to amplify a single voice until no one else can be heard is an inequality of class, not one caused by nature. Not only does it exercise the rich man’s freedom of speech; it smothers the poor man’s. The Supreme Court has served the cause of democracy only if we believe, as the billionaire H.L. Hunt did, that the richer you are, the more votes you should have.

This is the sort of swamp that an idiot insistence on consistency can lead a person into. On the right you see it in the NRA’s support for machine guns; on the left in the ACLU’s defense of pornography and the right of the rich to buy elections. In both cases, the problem comes from reliance on the slippery slope fallacy. But the truth is that most of us, individuals and societies, spend our entire existence on slippery slopes and somehow manage to escape falling in. Freedom from governmental oppression is possible without automatic weapons; political freedom is possible without kiddie porn; democracy is possible without reserving the U.S. Senate for millionaires and their servants.

( I just checked the H.L. Hunt reference with Google, discovering that he wasn’t as dumb as I thought — sometimes, in fact, brilliant. Take this for instance.)

The perfect society would bar political discussion from TV, from radio and from all meetings of more than 200. By confining rhetoric to print, a society would protect the unstable masses from demagoguery.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:57 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Elections | Political Commentary
September 17, 2018
Unearned Income

In my files I find that in 1996 the brother of a former Mexican president, having salted away $80,000,000 abroad out of his government salary of $190,000 a year, was being investigated for the crime of “inexplicable enrichment.” Unhappily this is is not a crime in the United States, but let’s suppose. Manafort? Trump? Et ceteras beyond count. Think how dry the swamp would suddenly get, and not just in Washington.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:23 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Graft, Corruption and Malfeasance | Rich White Trash
September 11, 2018
First National Sperm Bank

I was on Trump’s case back in 1994 when one of my Tom Bethany mysteries, Strangle Hold, was published. Unfortunately it was fiction. The excerpt below describes a bit of improvisational theater. For the full literary experience, go here.

“A sperm bank! Who said that.” Ned pointed me out, making sure everyone would know where the idea had come from. “Let me just say, sir, that you have a genuinely sick mind.” Three or four other suggestions came from the audience, and then the players huddled off to one side as if they were discussing which one to build on. Then a frizzy-haired blonde left the huddle with a chair in hand, and sat down facing us. From rehearsals, I knew her name was Audrey Herman. Audrey made as if she were working at an imaginary desk, while the actor named Harvey came through an imaginary door and stood in front of her. It was all going according to the script:

DONOR: This the First National Sperm Bank?
NURSE: You the ten o’clock? (Looking down at schedule) The Donald?
DONOR nods. NURSE drains the last of an imaginary coffee cup and hands it to him.
NURSE: Fill ’er up.
DONOR: Right here?
NURSE: Go ahead and whip it out. I’m a nurse.
DONOR starts to do so, when ROBBER bursts in and grabs him around the neck while threatening the NURSE with an imaginary gun.
ROBBER: Hand it over!
NURSE and DONOR obey, although the DONOR is in obvious distress from the strangle hold the ROBBER has on him. As the other two speak, he fights silently for breath and his hands lower slowly to his sides.
NURSE: Are you crazy? This is the First National Sperm Bank!
ROBBER: I don’t give a rat’s ass what you call it, sister. Hand the dough over in unmarked tens and twenties or this guy gets it. (Presses gun to DONOR’S head.)
NURSE: You can’t kill that man!
ROBBER: Why not?
NURSE: He’s already dead.
ROBBER notices this is so, and lets DONOR fall to the floor.
ROBBER: Shit, what am I supposed to do for a hostage?
NURSE: You idiot! You’ve killed the most brilliant businessman in America. His sperm was worth a fortune.
ROBBER: Huh? Who is he?
NURSE: Donald Trump. He used to get two million bucks a wad.
ROBBER: Jeez, what kind of broad would pay that kind of money for somebody else’s sperm?
NURSE: Women married to rich morons. Speak of the devil, here comes Mrs. Quayle now.
MARILYN: Hi. I’ve come to pick up my order of Trump sperm. Wait a minute. Isn’t that the Donald on the floor?
ROBBER: He’s just resting. (Aside to NURSE) Keep your mouth shut, sister, and I’ll split with you fifty-fifty. (Back to MARILYN) If you could just step into the other room with my nurse for a minute, give Mr. Trump a little privacy—
MARILYN: Of course. (They turn their backs while the ROBBER retrieves the fallen coffee cup from the floor, turns away from the audience, and goes to work.)
ROBBER: Okay, ladies. All set. (They turn around again.)
MARILYN: Sorry to interrupt your nap, Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump?
ROBBER: He went right back to sleep, I’m afraid. It took a lot out of him.
MARILYN: (Looking into the cup the ROBBER has handed her.) Doesn’t look like much to me.
NURSE: Hey, you know what they say about the Donald, don’t you?
MARILYN: No, what?
NURSE: (Breaking into the old Brylcreem song—) Trumpcreem, a little dab’ll do ya. Trumpcreem, a little dabbledo—
ROBBER: Yeah, I know it don’t look like much, but there’s millions of them little suckers in there. So if you’ll just hand over the dough—
MARILYN: Not so fast. I’ve got to check it first.
ROBBER: (Looking into the cup) Looks okay to me.
MARILYN: (Shoving an imaginary purse protectively under her arm.) Yeah, well, you’re not getting my wad till I’m sure this is the Donald’s wad. I’m taking it to the Cambridge police for a DNA test.
ROBBER: Okay, lady, have it your own way.
(He shoots MARILYN dead and grabs her purse as she crumples, then shoots the NURSE dead, then shakes the purse upside down. Empty. He shoots himself dead.)

And that was the end of our skit. All four players popped back up to their feet, bowed, and exited to applause that did my producer’s heart good.

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Arts and Literature | Crime Fiction | Idiots | Rich White Trash
September 10, 2018
Remind You of Anything?

From Robert Paxton’s interpretation of fascism in The Journal of Modern History, March of 1998:

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion…
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Fascism in America | Idiots | Our Long National Nightmare
September 09, 2018
Good Cop, Good Cop

In my usually hopeless quest for good news, I just came across this on Flagler Live. Full story here.

On August 16, Alphonso Brooks was pulled over as he drove through Bunnell for a traffic violation. Then a K-9 unit was brought in and allegedly alerted deputies to the presence of drugs in Brooks’s car. There would turn out to be no drugs. But Brooks was asked to exit the car so it could be searched. As he did so he appeared to reach for a gun. A deputy immediately rushed him and immobilized him against the car as other cops drew their weapons in a brief but extremely tense moment.

As they had on numerous previous occasions in the past five and a half years, sheriff’s deputies held their fire and defused the situation. What could have been a police-involved shooting turned into a basic arrest. A .32-caliber American Arms gun and five rounds of ammunition, kept separately, were recovered at the scene…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:51 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
American Heroes | Hope for the Future
September 07, 2018
Better is Good

Today former President Barack Obama spoke to students at the University of Illinois. Read it.

Excerpt:

And let me tell you something, particularly young people here, better is good. I used to have to tell my young staff this all the time in the White House, better is good. That’s the history of progress in this country—not perfect, better. The Civil Rights Act didn’t end racism, but it made things better. Social Security didn’t eliminate all poverty for seniors, but it made things better for millions of people.

Do not let people tell you the fight’s not worth it, because you won’t get everything that you want. The idea that, well, there’s racism in America, so I’m not going to bother voting, no point—that makes no sense. You can make it better. Better’s always worth fighting for…
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:16 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Hope for the Future | Strengthening America
August 28, 2018
Back in the Olden Days…

…we had, not often but occasionally, politicians like George Norris of Nebraska, America’s greatest senator. (You could look it up.) He was a Republican for much of his career, long before that party had been hijacked by proto-fascists, and was the father of the Tennessee Valley Authority. (Also the grandfather, full disclosure requires me to add, of my wife.)

I think of George Norris often these days, with each new revelation from Trump’s squalid swamp. Whenever the senator had a buck or two to spare he invested it in U.S. Treasury bonds, for fear that investing in any private securities, might someday, somehow, unconsciously influence his vote. When the senator died in 1943, his estate consisted principally of a small house in McCook, Nebraska, and an old Buick.

And, oh yeah, the Rural Electrification Act, the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the direct election of U.S. Senators, and the Norris Dam.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 7:19 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
American Heroes | Historical Perspectives | Past Progressive | Republicans
August 24, 2018
Dead Poets

Some thirty years ago I warned one of my classes at Harvard not to put off something or other, since "at my back I always hear time's wingèd chariot hurrying near."

They looked puzzled, as if I had broken into demotic Greek. Did what I just said sound like me? I asked. No. Did you think it might have been a quotation? Probably. Has anyone ever heard of a poem called "To His Coy Mistress?" Of Andrew Marvell? No and no.

The next day I handed out the easiest poetry quiz I had been able to put together. The students were to fill in the missing word or words from lines that I figured every high school over-achiever would surely know…

I figured wrong. None of the freshmen got, "The boy stood on the burning _____." None got, "Half a league, half a league, half a league _____." One got, "Beneath the spreading chestnut tree the village _____ _____." One got, "I met a traveler from an antique _____." Only one got, "You're a better man than I am, _____ _____." (Two others guessed, "Charlie Brown.") The highest score was 14 right out of 20 questions; the lowest was two right; the average was seven.

The only question everybody got right was a freebie I had thrown in: "This Bud's for _____." Actually I thought I had thrown in another freebie, "Winstons taste good, like a _____ _____," but only four students got it. Cigarette ads, I remembered too late, had disappeared from TV when they were barely out of diapers. Nor was my class an exception. When a colleague, the poet Felicia Lamport, gave the same quiz to her students, they did no better.

Stupidity can hardly have been the reason. Harvard undergraduates are by no means as brilliant as the world imagines, but most of them are above average and a few are very bright indeed.

Nor were my students likely to have neglected their poetry homework in high school. They didn’t make it to Harvard by neglecting homework. If they hadn't learned poetry, no one had given it to them to learn.Nor were my students likely to have neglected their poetry homework in high school. They didn’t make it to Harvard by neglecting homework. If they hadn't learned poetry, no one had given it to them to learn.


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…Read on

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 7:06 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Arts and Literature | Education
August 20, 2018
Proud to be an American?

I have added a few words to this CNN story in the interest of clarity. See if you can spot them.

The bomb used by the Saudi-led coalition in a devastating attack on a school bus in Yemen was sold as part of a US State Department-sanctioned arms deal with Saudi Arabia, munitions experts told CNN.

Working with local Yemeni journalists and munitions experts, CNN has established that the weapon that left dozens of children dead on August 9 was a 500-pound (227 kilogram) laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defense contractors.

The bomb is very similar to the one that wreaked devastation in an attack on a funeral hall in Yemen in October 2016 in which 155 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. The Saudi coalition blamed "incorrect information" for that strike, admitted it was a mistake and took responsibility.

In March of that year, a strike on a Yemeni market --- this time reportedly by a US-supplied precision-guided MK 84 bomb --- killed 97 people.

In the aftermath of the funeral hall attack, former US President Barack Obama banned the sale of precision-guided military technology to Saudi Arabia over "human rights concerns."

The ban was overturned by the Trump (a mass murderer's) administration's then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a murderer, in March 2017.

As the US-backed Saudi-led coalition scrambles to investigate the strike on the school bus, questions are growing from observers and rights groups about whether the US bears any moral culpability. The US says it does not make targeting decisions for the coalition, which is fighting a Houthi rebel insurgency in Yemen. But it does support its operations through billions of dollars in arms sales, the refueling of Saudi combat aircraft and some sharing of intelligence.

"I will tell you that we do help them plan what we call, kind of targeting," said US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a mass murderer. "We do not do dynamic targeting for them...."

The bomb's impact as it landed on the bus full of excited schoolchildren on a day trip was devastating. Of the 51 people who died in the airstrike, 40 were children, Houthi Health Minister Taha al-Mutawakil said last week. He added that of the 79 people wounded, 56 were children.

Eyewitnesses told CNN it was a direct hit in the middle of a busy market. "I saw the bomb hit the bus," one witness said. "It blew it into those shops and threw the bodies clear to the other side of those buildings. We found bodies scattered everywhere, there was a severed head inside the bomb crater."

Some of the bodies were so mutilated that identification became impossible. Left behind were scraps of schoolbooks, warped metal and a single backpack.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:55 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Our Longest National Nightmare Ever | The Fall of the Roman American Empire | Warmongers | Weakening America
August 15, 2018
Law for Sale

From ‘“Woe Unto You, Lawyers,” (Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939) by Fred Rodell, a Yale Law School professor:

The law not only can be bought, but most of the time it has to be bought. And since it has to be bought, its results tend to favor those who can afford to buy it . . . The law is constantly for sale, and generally to the highest bidder.”
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Legal Absurdities | The Real World
August 14, 2018
The Empty Butterfly Net

I wrote this for our local newsletter, The Cornwall Chronicle, but the subject is much more than local. If you've noticed the same phenomenon elsewhere, let me know in the comments. I'm researching an article on the subject.


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I was eight when the World War II started. We lived on Indian Mountain Road in Lakeville, in a house overlooking the long valley that runs south from the old iron pits. To the west was the mountain itself with an abandoned log cabin on top. In between were meadows, pastures, forest, rock ledges, a stream, a swamp, even a pond. All this, all summer long, was my playground and my laboratory. I wanted to be a naturalist or maybe a zoo keeper when I grew up, whatever would keep me around animals of all descriptions, insects to elephants.

Back then the largest of these available to me were deer and once I was lucky enough to see some from an upstairs window. They were far away across the valley, a doe and two fawns. I called my sister to bring up the binoculars and we took turns watching, excited.

We moved away after the war and when I got back here it was 1972 and deer had become a traffic hazard. The whole composition of wildlife seemed to have changed, almost turned upside down.

In the 1940s the only geese to be seen here were high overhead in V’s on the way to their winter homes on Chesapeake Bay after summering, presumably, in Canada. Crows had always been abundant but now ravens had appeared too. So had bald eagles ands vultures and Great Blue Herons.

In 1982 a yearling bear showed up in Canaan. Some idiot shot it, but more came. So did coyotes, moose, fishers, bobcats, and, very probably, mountain lions. (In 2011 one made it from South Dakota to the Wilbur Cross Parkway, where a car killed it.)

This has all been to the good, in my view. The more the merrier.

What isn’t good is the disappearance of the smaller creatures I remember from my boyhood. My considerable collection of mounted insects had been assembled by swinging a butterfly net at random through the cloud of insects that rose in front of me as I walked through unmowed fields. Try that today.

I seldom see even a grasshopper now. Or an anthill. Or a salamander. Or a toad. Or a daddy-long-legs. Summer nights were once noisy with the one-note symphony made by a thousand musicians. When was the last time you even saw one cricket?

What happened to those elaborate webs with an elegant black and yellow orb weaver spider at the center that used to decorate our fields? Huge Cecropia and Phoenix and Polyphemus and Luna moths used to be drawn to the light from our porches. No more. I have seen exactly one, a Luna, on our screens. Gardens were once alive with Monarch and Viceroy and Mourning Cloak butterflies, Wood Nymphs and Sulfurs and Fritillaries. Look them up on Google Images. That’s where they are now.

I have no proof of what happened to these all these small things, just a suspicion. We happened, with our insecticides.

In the large scheme of things, humanity is best considered as a swarm of mindless cancer cells, multiplying out of control as they feed on their helpless host. Now that this earth is finally dying from our blind greed, we head blindly out to find a new victim. The medical term for this is metastasis, and the process explains the space race. At the rate we’re stuffing this planet into our mouths, even Mars is starting to look pretty good.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:39 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
Animal blogging | Environment | What Actually Matters
August 13, 2018
Twins

What can they possibly see in each other? Themselves that’s what. They could be twins, although that seems unlikely. First cousins, maybe.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:28 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Reveling in the Weird
August 02, 2018
USS Trump

This is the most convincing analysis of the so-called “president” that I have seen anywhere, and so I reproduce it here, almost in full. It’s by Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology:

Trump is not mentally ill, and I doubt that he is even “living in his own reality,” as so many have claimed. He is simply fairly unique in a way that is hard for the public to understand. In a nutshell, Trump is highly vulnerable to what can reasonably be called “sympathetic audience control.” If that sounds jargony, I apologize. It’s actually a pretty simple concept and, in Trump’s case, it explains a lot — maybe even 90 percent of the behavior that seems so baffling.

All normal people are subject to “audience control” to one degree or another. That means simply that they regulate what they say and do based on who’s around them. They are respectful sitting in a church pew, a bit more daring sitting in a classroom, and somewhat wild sitting in the bleachers. Near a police officer, most people are cautious and deferential; near a best friend, people feel comfortable and speak freely.

Sometimes audience control goes haywire. You might behave one way with your parents and a very different way with your new romantic partner. When you finally bring your new friend home to meet the ‘rents, you might feel awkward and barely know what to do or say.

Except for situations like that, audience control doesn’t usually cause problems, and it also usually doesn’t persist when the audience is gone. But for Trump, audience control works in a special way:

When Trump is in the presence of someone he dislikes or distrusts, he attacks and will continue to lash out for a while, but not necessarily forever. When someone he perceives as a threat becomes deferential (Rocket Man, for example), Trump not only stops attacking, he also becomes highly vulnerable to influence.

In general, when Trump is around someone whom he perceives as supportive, or when he gets a phone call from a supportive billionaire, or when he hears a supportive commentator on Fox News, his thinking is rapidly influenced by what that person is saying. This is “sympathetic audience control.” With Trump, the impact is so strong that it persists after the person is gone — maybe even until another sympathetic individual comes along.

When Trump is in front of a large group of cheering people, his thinking is fully controlled by the crowd. It might seem he’s in control, but the opposite is actually the case. The supportive audience completely dominates his thinking, causing him to repeat, over and over, things he believes the audience wants to hear.

We need to add just one more element here to make sense of Trump’s roller coaster mind: Like my 92-year-old mom, Trump lives in a very small window of time, and no, I don’t mean he lives “in the moment” in that healthy, New-Age-y sort of way. I mean he has trouble looking backwards or forwards in time.

You might think he formulates and lives by long-term plans and strategies, but I doubt that very much. He is much more like a rudderless sailboat blown about by the wind, with the direction largely determined moment-to-moment according to who’s got his attention and whether he views that person as friend or foe.

Sympathetic audience control and a small time window produce most of the odd cognitive glitches we see in our president. Moment to moment, he either sees a foe and shoots, or he sees a friend and is influenced. In that kind of perceptual world, Trump inevitably — and without shame or even awareness — shifts his views frequently, sometimes multiple times a day.

Not only do his views shift, he also has no trouble denying, entirely without guile, in my view, what he said yesterday. All that’s shiny and real to him is what friends or foes are saying inside those small time windows. Everything else is fuzzy, and that’s why he can so easily tell so many lies. From his perspective, lying has no meaning. Only reacting has meaning. Trump reacts.

The small time window and sympathetic audience control also explain why Trump always seems to be creating foreign policy on the fly, why his meetings with world leaders rarely produce tangible results, why he can’t get congressional deals, and why he is almost certainly incapable of negotiating those famous bilateral agreements that were supposed to replace the multinational treaties he has swept aside.

If I’m right, and I’m pretty sure I am, Trump is capable of only a minimal level of analytical or critical thinking. Perhaps more alarming, our president — the putative leader of the free world — doesn’t believe in anything and he rarely, if ever, means anything he says. The impulsive tweets, the conservative court appointments, the unfunded tax cuts, the obsession with a wall, the swipes at immigrants — all are byproducts (dross, if you will) of sympathetic audience control operating in small time windows. There are no principles operating here, just gusts of wind.

And if I’m right, Trump will continue to function this way — blindly, erratically and reactively, without principle or direction — for the rest of his life.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 3:22 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
May 10, 2018
Snowflakes

There is still good in our world, if you look hard enough. Alan Tucker has:

There is a new term for those handwringing liberals who whine about poor people, human rights, and all the rest. The word is “snowflakes.” Snowflakes are weaklings, not strong people – not the real Americans who can take life the way it just is, and not simper about “Oh, dear me, the injustice….”

One of the snowflakes died recently, at the age of 97: Donald Seldin. Seldin was a Brooklyn-born child of the Great Depression. His father Abraham, a dentist, came from Bessarabia, in Eastern Europe. As a teenager, Donald worked summers at Grossinger’s resort in the Catskills.

Becoming a physician after he gave up his dream of being a poet, Seldin transformed an abandoned army barracks in Texas into one of the nation’s leading medical school, endowed with a faculty that has included six Nobel laureates: the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He was only 30 years old when he began that transformation. In 1985 the Association of American Physicians awarded him its highest honor, the Kober Medal, as “one of the dominant intellectual forces in American medicine.”

Seldin defined the duty of doctors as “the relief of pain, the prevention of disability, and the postponement of death.” As for society’s larger objectives? According to him, it is to reach toward “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.” Pure socialist drivel.

Rest in peace, another fragile snowflake who sapped America’s inner strength – and another anchor baby of immigrants on top of that. When is enough enough? For the health of the nation, we must surely keep these people out. Right?
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:13 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
American Heroes | Heroes and Friends
May 06, 2018
Pseudo Stud?

You will have noticed, of course, that Trump’s ex-bodyguard walked off with the so-called “president’s” medical records two days after his doctor for 35 years made a terrible mistake. Dr. Harold Bornstein had told the New York Times that Trump took Propecia, a hair-loss drug. This was a firing offense of course, and a White House clean-up squad was sent to disappear the doctor’s medical records.

From NBCNews:

Bornstein said the original and only copy of Trump’s charts, including lab reports under Trump’s name as well as under the pseudonyms his office used for Trump, were taken.
Something queer here. Why not all pseudonyms or no pseudonyms? The doctor knew who was taking which drugs for what problems — so who was the secret being kept from?

The pharmacist?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:14 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Health and Aging
April 29, 2018
Watch The Democrats Lose Again

I was all set to rant about the ineptitude of the Democratic party, but William Astore at Bracing Views beat me to the punch:

Meanwhile, Democratic officialdom is looking backwards, not forwards.  The Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) idea of progress is to bring a lawsuit;against Russia, the Trump campaign, and WikiLeaks for the 2016 election.  This act will “fire up the base,” or so leading Democrats appear to think.  But it’s really sour grapes, a loser policy conducted by pols who remain out of touch with the pressing concerns of ordinary Americans (you know, things like health care, a living wage, and other issues associated with Bernie Sanders’s campaign).  If only America had a true Labor Party instead of a DNC that mirrors the Republicans while lacking their focus and ruthlessness.

And it just gets worse. It turns out the the DCCC or the DNC or some other sclerotic party organ got their big six-figure brains cookin’ and came up with an exciting new message for the upcoming midterms. Or maybe not:

Democrats are looking back to the last time they took control of the House for lessons on what may work this year, and they’re starting to narrow in on a major theme: the Republican “culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence.”
 Yes, the Democratic party, which has become a watchword for corruption, cronysim and incompetence, is running against corruption, cronyism and incompetence. Insert punchline here. In between attacks of aphasia, Nancy Pelosi has repeated the phrase numerous times:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is bringing back her 2006 refrain for this cycle. It first appeared in an April 6 statement calling for the resignation of Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, saying he was “a part of the Trump Administration’s culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence.” It then popped up later that day in one of her press releases, and then three days later in a letter to her colleagues about their priorities in the coming months. In her weekly press conference the following day, she used the phrase twice, reminding reporters of that earlier election: “Some may recall that in 2005, 2006, one of our mantras during the campaign was to drain the swamp, to end the Republican culture of cronyism, corruption and incompetence, and that is exactly what we did. The president has misappropriated that term of art, ‘drain the swamp,’ and what does he do but have an administration that is wallowing in it.”
Is there anything more inspiring than a seventy-eight year old establishment politician repeating a slogan from 2006 over and over again? It’s just the spark we need to beat Trump and the Republicans. If Chuck Schumer takes it up, I just might have to slip into something a little more comfortable.

Good God. Who will rid us of these moribund old fuddy duddies who haven’t had a new idea idea in thirty years? How much longer must the party be ruled by these stale, stagnant, calcified, ossified, visionless, unimaginative, doddering, corrupt cronyist incompetents? They’ve brought us nothing but defeat and humiliation. They’ve driven the Democratic party to the brink of extinction and delivered the country to Donald Trump. They are total fuckin’ losers and they need to go yesterday.

They lost to Donald Fucking Trump. Say those words over and over in a quiet dark room free of all distractions. Say them slowly. Let them linger. Wallow in each syllable until their full impact seeps deep into your brain: They lost to Donald Fucking Trump.

And just know that if the Dems don’t embrace a positive New Deal style populist agenda — an agenda that actually attracts new voters and enlarges the party — they will lose to him again.

But they won’t. They’ll sprinkle socially liberal confetti around to distract from the fact that behind closed doors they fellate the exact same banks, corporations and arms manufacturers who finance the Republicans. They’ll run an exact replay of the 2016 campaign, convinced, as always, of their superiority and wonderfulness. They’ll shiv progressives in the back, screech all day and night about Russia Russia Russia, and run against Trump’s bad manners. Meanwhile, they’ll continue to pray for St. Comey and St. Mueller to save us.

It’s possible that sheer revulsion over Trump might lead to a “blue wave” election, but I’m skeptical. The Democrats are just as arrogant and lead-footed as their standard bearer was in the 2016 campaign, and they show every sign of being similarly blindsided. One can’t escape the suspicion that they are sleepwalking into another massive defeat. They will not, cannot change their agenda. Nancy Pelosi came right out and said, in the wake of historic democratic defeats, “I don’t think people want a change in direction.” (She then gibbered on about “our values” and other such meaningless nonsense that party hack Tom Perez frequently employs). They’ll cling to their neoliberal Washington Consensus agenda until the whole ship fuckin’ sinks, which quite literally might happen, in a manner of speaking. Even if they should win, they must do something with their victory or Trump, or possibly Pence, will beat them again. At any rate, the pundits who are confidently predicting a blue wave  also confidently predicted a Hillary Clinton victory (and before that, they confidently predicted that Bernie Sanders would be out of the race by the South Carolina primary; for the last year, they’ve been confidently predicting, on an almost daily basis, the imminent demise of Trump. Forgive me for not popping out the champagne quite yet.)

This picture sums up how incestuous and corrupt our political establishment is more than anything else I can think of. It clues us in to what we have in store in the event of Democratic victories (hint: not much).



That’s Paul Pelosi, Nancy’s son, partying hearty in the Hamptons with Ivanka Trump, who has replaced Sarah Palin as every seventy year old Republican's favorite masturbation fantasy. That shows you everything you need to know about the impossibility of change in our current system. Viva la Resistance!

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Posted by OHollern at 7:12 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
April 28, 2018
World's Greatest Rant

You've been reading about Trump's unhinged performance on Fox News. You've seen snippets on TV. But that's like hearing snatches from a symphony. You've got to watch the whole half-hour to appreciate the thing. As a public service, here is a video.

Enjoy. Or something.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:13 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
America is Doomed | Idiots | Our Long National Nightmare | Reveling in the Weird | Rich White Trash
April 27, 2018
Fake Nuts

Now if Trump were to have a dog and for some reason it was neutered, do you suppose — Aw, forget it.

However, other procedures are more cosmetic — lifting saggy skin around the face or abdomen, for example. And apparently some owners opt to give their dogs testicular implants after neutering, so they’re (hopefully) less likely to notice or be bothered by the loss of their real testicles.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:50 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Animal blogging | Idiots | Reveling in the Weird
April 24, 2018
A History Lesson From Mitch Daniels

Former Republican governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels has a column in the Washington Post
in which he bemoans America’s historical illiteracy, its growing lack of empathy, its tribalism, and the “sneering denigration of American history and, it seems, almost all who made it.” 

One of today’s premier historians has written that “historical illiteracy is the new normal.” How dismally true that is. The list of basic facts today’s Americans don’t know is too embarrassing and discouraging to repeat. The fundamental civic concepts of which majorities of both young and old are ignorant is equally appalling.
But it’s not just historical illiteracy that has Daniels perturbed, it’s also the fallacy of presentism, by which “the values, mores and conventions of the present day are used to judge, almost always harshly and sanctimoniously, our predecessors.” Although he doesn’t explicitly say it, it’s pretty clear who is to blame for this woeful state of affairs: those divisive, America hating PC leftists. Who else?

No, really, who else? When your party controls the White House, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, thirty-two state house, twenty-six governorships, and when your agenda has been driving American politics, including education policies, for the better part of thirty years but the country still sucks, who, really, are you going to blame?

Well, certainly not Mitch Daniel’s own party and its jihad against public schools. No, their open, systematic, decades long attempt to undermine, defund and destroy public education in this country has nothing to do with our historical illiteracy. No, nothing at all. It’s not Republican education policies like No Child Left Behind. It’s not Rush Limbaugh routinely calling teachers “union thugs,” nor is it the Texas Board of Education’s decision to remove Thomas Jefferson from high school history textbooks and replace him with sections on Phyllis Schlafly and Jerry Falwell. And, of course, it has nothing at to do with starving schools of funds to pay for tax cuts.

Naw, those aren’t to blame. The real problem is leftists and their arrogant presentism.

And let’s also ignore the fact that the last two Republican presidents have been functional illiterates, men who scorn book learning and boastfully rule from gut instinct, and that their apologists and enablers like Mitch Daniels have no problem with this, even when those gut instincts lead us down  bloody rabbit holes like Iraq. And let’s also forget that the current secretary of education is a fundamentalist Christian billionaire with no background in education and who wants to completely privatize all schools, despite that fact that charter schools, on the whole, don't perform much better than public schools.

But that’s not the problem. It’s those PC lefties who can’t get over slavery who are to blame.

…Read on

Posted by OHollern at 10:38 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
April 21, 2018
Unfortunately Not Our Government

From the late, great Philip Larkin:


HOMAGE TO A GOVERNMENT
Next year we are to bring the soldiers home
For lack of money, and it is all right.
Places they guarded, or kept orderly,
Must guard themselves, and keep themselves orderly.
We want the money for ourselves at home
Instead of working. And this is all right.

It’s hard to say who wanted it to happen,
But now it’s been decided nobody minds.
The places are a long way off, not here,
Which is all right, and from what we hear
The soldiers there only made trouble happen.
Next year we shall be easier in our minds.

Next year we shall be living in a country
That brought its soldiers home for lack of money.
The statues will be standing in the same
Tree-muffled squares, and look nearly the same.
Our children will not know it’s a different country
All we can hope to leave them now is money.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:35 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
The Fall of the Roman American Empire | Warmongers | Weakening America