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 (0)
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
July 15, 2014
Why I Don’t Cry For Israel, Or Palestine

The other night, the grumpy old man I’m destined to become made his first appearance in my life. Somebody was watching the nightly news, and the hairdo on screen was affecting that grave tone they reserve for Very Serious Matters, like announcing celebrity deaths. In this case, though, it was nothing so earth shattering. He was just talking about the latest round of fighting in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But suddenly something in me snapped. A surge of bile rose out of my guts, and the voices of all the grouchy old farts from every American Legion Hall in the country spoke as one from my larynx: “Fuck ’em all,” it said. “Both sides can kill each other off for all I care.”

A few minutes later the anchorman, whose name I’ve tragically forgotten, dropped his Edward R. Murrow reporting from London during the Blitz persona and became, as if by magic, a fountain of sunshine and levity as he spoke about LeBron James returning to Cleveland. But it was already too late. The damage was done. The scowling reactionary at the bottom of my soul roamed free all evening long. I spent the whole night yelling at the dog and fighting the mysterious urge to buy all of Jesse Ventura’s books.

(Just kidding. I never yell at the dog.)

(I only yell at the cat.)

…Read on

Posted by OHollern at 10:53 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (8)
July 10, 2014
Lucky Us

In 1972 Gore Vidal wrote:

Political corruption has been with us since the first congress sat at Philadelphia, and there is nothing to be done about it as long as we are what we are. In fact, as election costs mount the corruption will tend to become institutionalized by the small group of legislators and bankers, generals and industrialists, who own and govern the United States, Inc. But it does not take great prescience to realize that that they are playing a losing game. As the polity becomes more and more conscious of the moral nullity at the center of American life, there will develop not the revolutionary situation dreamed of in certain radical circles but rather, a deep contempt for the nation and its institutions, an apathy bound to be exploited by clever human engineers. In the name of saving the environment and restoring virtue, they will continue the dismantling of an unloved and unhonored republic.

Thank God we dodged that bullet, huh?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:05 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
America is Doomed | Congress | Graft, Corruption and Malfeasance | Historical Perspectives | Weakening America
Coal Rolling

Some upstanding citizens on the right have created a cute new way to stick it to the EPA, Obama, and all those liberal fairies who drive Priuses. It’s called coal rolling, and it pushes the frontiers of stupidity towards whole new horizons. In fact, it pushes them towards the event horizon, which is the point where objects get sucked into black holes and no light can ever escape.



Guys, for just about five hundred dollars you can trick out your diesel truck so that it burns more fuel, spews more pollution, and shows the world that you’re opposed to big government tyranny. It also helps beat back the pain of acute penis envy and repressed homosexual urges. What have you got to lose? Step up and make a statement!



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Posted by OHollern at 9:54 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
July 08, 2014
Modern Barbarians

This what my home looks like after the 4th of July. The people who did this were not trailer trash or ignorant lumpenproles. They were, for the most part, well-off white suburbanites from the Bay Area. The have good jobs, nice homes, nice cars. They also have all the latest gadgets, so in addition to being comfortable they are fashionable as well. These are the people we mean when we say “middle class” or higher. Many of them work in the Silicon Valley. They are educated, cutting edge, culturally and economically hip modern Americans.

When given half a chance they immediately become Visigoths:


Is it just me, or do you think that at bottom we really just don’t give a shit anymore?

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Posted by OHollern at 9:46 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (8)
July 02, 2014
Power of the Dark Side?

This quote from Carl Jung is apropos of nothing in particular, but it’s a bit of a mantra right now so I thought I’d pass it around.

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 7:06 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (6)
Psychology and Society
June 29, 2014
White Trash America

I just took a little road trip through northern California and Oregon. The countryside is beautiful, but when you lower your gaze to the things of man you feel naught but desolation and despair. What a ghastly slum we’ve created. We slaughtered an entire race of people and deforested large tracts of land to put up Chevron stations and McDonald’s. If there is a hell we’re surely going to roast in it.

This is nothing new, of course. We turned the county into a standardized corporate purgatory years ago; a parking lot with identical glowing signs in every town. But the cancer, I’m afraid, has spread to the liver and the brain. It’s terminal now. Every place has the same Taco Bell, the same AM/PM, the same Burger King, the same Denny’s, the same Shell. And when you venture into these nothing places, you see the exact same sloven and degraded specimens of humanity behind the registers or milling around out front — tattooed crankster types wandering shirtless through the parking lots; obese rednecks with too tight cut-offs pushing baby strollers into the Carl’s Jr., and scraggly homeless people with dirty backpacks and beat up bicycles traveling in a daze from nowhere to nowhere. The permanent American underclass flourishing in its natural element.

If I was a foreign tourist I would tell people back home that America is a scummy, poor, boring and mildly frightening country. Stay away.

The downtown areas still maintain their individual character, but these seem like so many quaint little museums where you go to get a small taste of what life was like before Corporate America Inc. stamped its iron template down upon our heads. And even there you see the same motley dregs who dwell along the interstate. They are everywhere, the seedy new normal, the white trash remains of consumer culture gone bad. Unfortunately when this, our redneck Third Estate, gets the urge to rebel it will do so under the banner of some right wing monstrosity. But even that’s unlikely. These people are completely out of the loop. They are as cut-off, clueless and tuned-out as the proles in 1984.

…Read on

Posted by OHollern at 9:26 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
I Hope Team USA Loses

I’m getting a little tired of all this World Cup B.S. Team USA is competing so now everyone is a soccer fan. Uh-huh. It’s getting so bad I expect to hear a couple affluent white suburbanites refer to it as futbol, at which point I’ll seriously question my commitment to non-violence.

Last week I heard David Gregory and a panel of smug Romans chirping about it on Meet the Press. Conspicuous among them was famed pundit, sociologist and moral philosopher David Brooks. He conspicuously failed to mention all the poor Brazilians who were booted out of their homes and whose neighborhoods were destroyed so that the world’s one-percent can watch soccer games at a level of comfort they’re accustomed to. No doubt our illustrious pundits discussed this dicey moral conundrum on the back nine at the Chevy Chase Country Club later that afternoon.

But who cares about that? Certainly not Americans. About one half of the electorate would shrug their shoulders and say it was their own damn fault for being poor in the first place. The other half, the ‘liberal’ half, would concede the point, but then sheepishly add that those who were impoverished “through no fault of their own” kinda sorta maybe deserve a little help.

I’m getting that queasy feeling that overcomes me when the vast corporate combine that shapes our culture is attempting to get me to care about something I don’t care about or believe something that isn’t true. It’s a form of peer pressure, but the cool kids are giant media corporations and the school yard is the entire country. It tried to convince me that Princess Diana was a saint who could walk on water and cure lepers when she quite obviously wasn’t and couldn’t. It told me Steve Jobs was the biggest, bestest, most awesomest creative genius in the universe, a man more visionary than Christ, Jefferson, Henry Ford and the guy who thought of putting plus and minus sign on batteries, when to my mind he was just another successful business asshole. His company uses sweatshop labor and his contribution to humanity — the iPhone — is a glorified toy gadget that enables adults to act like rude and distracted teenagers. It has made it socially acceptable for full grown human beings to say things like “check out this cool new app” and to think that ring tones are an interesting thing to talk about. It has helped create a culture where nobody sees anything wrong with this.

It’s the same cultural force that bullies me to automatically root for team USA every four years in the Olympics. Well, why should I? Our athletes have the most money, the best facilities, the wealthiest sponsors and the most coddling of any athletes in the world. Rooting for them is like rooting for a bank or an insurance company. It’s like rooting for the spoiled girl in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The fact that so many of them are unsympathetic whiners just makes it all the more unseemly. Fuck that. I’ll cheer for the poor Nigerian kid over commercialized hipster twits like Apollo Ohno any day.

Now the same process is under way with soccer. I guess our corporate masters have decreed that we need yet another sports spectacle. We need one more gaudy venue where we can be swamped with with Budweiser and Subway commercials. We need one more group of clay-footed multimillionaire heroes to gawk at on talk shows and reality TeeVee — tattoos, goatees and ten pound diamond earrings a plus! One more tribal competition to rekindle our dying national pride. One more source of cheap, superficial nationalism to artificially pump us up on our shameful slide to the bottom.

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Posted by OHollern at 1:03 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
June 28, 2014
This Ain’t Peelin’ Potatoes

In case you haven’t already figured this out yourself, check out this method of removing the skins from a bag of potatoes in less than a minute, via Ezra Klein.


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 2:33 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Good Eats | Reveling in the Weird
June 27, 2014
First Things First

We're taking off tomorrow to make sure our granddaughter Eliza gets properly graduated from the University of Edinburgh. Consequently blogging will be light to nonexistent for a while, unless Chuck and Ohollern feel the urge. Back in a week or two.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:43 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Administrivia
A Sadness About Our Public Discourse

Professor Fouad Ajami died Sunday, at age 68. I thought his obituary in the New York Times, like many of their obits, was deeply interesting. I saw Ajami frequently on television, as an expert commentator, on CNN mostly. He was definitely suave, and I thought persuasive in his analyses, at least on their surface. For me, he did bring a certain credibility: he was an Arab, born and raised in the Levant until he was 18, when his family came to the U.S.

I always had reservations about his analyses, however, as he had become an American college professor rooted in this country, and, worse, a denizen of the ideological think-tank subculture. In other words, for decades he was no longer a day-to-day or more or less continuous presence in his area of expertise — the Middle East, its Arab nations and peoples.

As the obituary makes clear, he was a member of that amazing, only-in-America group, our public commentators who are almost always wrong about the really important things, but who seem never to go away quietly in disgrace (in Olde England, one admiral who failed at war was hanged for it):

● Dick Cheney: “In a speech in 2002 ... Cheney invoked Mr. Ajami as predicting that Iraqis would greet liberation by the American military with joy.” At the time, this astute “expert” assessor of the contemporary Iraqi public temperament was safely ensconsed in his scholar’s office at Johns Hopkins, a short drive from the White House;

● The Condoleezza, who “summoned him to the White House” when she was (ugh!) national security advisor fresh from ... a sunny California campus half the globe away from Iraq;

● The hapless Paul Wolfowitz, whom Ajami advised when Wolfie was deputy secretary of defense under the unbalanced Princeton grad and wrestling cheat Donald Rumsfeld. At least Rummie served in the military;

● And Princeton professor Bernard Lewis (another scholar who moonlighted as an Important Expert Advisor for the powerful). Lewis, who “urged the United States to invade Iraq,” advised President George W. Bush himself — going right to the tippy top, as it were. From the obit, I learned the degree to which Ajami was in that cohort with Professor Lewis. (William Kristol wasn’t mentioned in the obit as one of the always-wrong, as should have been his due. I’m sure Willy published lots of praise about Ajami in his magazine)…

…Read on

Posted by A. David Tucker at 4:32 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Historical Perspectives | Media | Political Commentary | Warmongers | World Affairs
June 25, 2014
Benghazi. Benghazi! BENGHAZI!! beirut?

On that April morning of 1983, when Ronald Reagan was presumably in the Oval Office, John Reid was in what remained of his office in our Beirut embassy, lying under the debris of a fallen wall:

“The first thing I heard was Beth in the adjacent office, shouting, ‘John, are you okay?’ I replied, ‘I don’t think so.’ Blood was running from my face and scalp, I had lost my glasses, I could see out of only one eye, and I was pinned to the floor.”

John, later a colleague of mine in Laos, survived his injuries and so did Ambassador Robert Dillon. But 63 others died. The quote above and the picture below are from Reid’s article, “The Deadliest Attack Ever,” in American Diplomacy. More from that article:

Recently, I listened to recordings of some statements to media after the 1983 bombing. I am astonished by some of my mistakes, some of the details I got wrong. I had not seen or remembered things correctly, I had not yet compared with my experiences with those of others, everything was chaotic and confused, and everyone was under enormous pressure to say something, to do something, to understand and explain what had happened. I regret my errors, I am glad that, 30 years later, they don’t matter, and that’s my excuse. I was not engaged in conspiracy or cover-up, nor were people responsible for errors and contradictions in similar circumstances after the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attack. To allege that they were is demeaning, self-serving and ridiculous.

Several months after the embassy bombing (and after Reagan had ignored numerous warnings that the detachment of American troops at the Beirut airport was a magnet for future terrorist attacks) a suicide bomber killed 241 U.S. Marines there. A mere two days later Reagan responded forcefully by launching “Operation Urgent Fury” (Seriously. You can’t make this shit up.) — an attack on Grenada. Eighty-seven people died in Reagan’s hasty changing of the subject, 18 of them American soldiers and sailors.

Most of our troops, however, were luckier:

The Army has awarded 8,612 medals to individual Americans involved in the October invasion of Grenada, although it never had more than about 7,000 officers and enlisted soldiers on the island.

So was Reagan, whose murderous little misdirection worked so well that he was not only not impeached, but re-elected by the fools he had kept safe from the threat to our freedoms posed by Grenada (population 91,000).


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:33 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Historical Perspectives | Idiots | Republicans | War on "Terror" | Weakening America
June 19, 2014
Sons of Bitches One and All

Here’s a small part of Jim Wright’s advice to the warhogs currently polluting the airwaves. For the full cathartic, go here.

What’s the goal? What’s the objective? Is it to end terrorism? Is it to enforce peace at the muzzle of a gun? Is it it to make defense contractors rich? Is it for jobs? Or is it for magic flying bunnies who shoot rainbows and cheap gasoline out of their little assholes to the sound of Yankee Doodle Dandy?

Or, or, is it just because you hate Barack Obama?

That’s it, isn’t it?

It is.

You sons of bitches one and all, you simpering capering madmen, this time at least have the courage to face the cameras, to look into America’s eyes, and tell them that their sons and daughters will be dying because you John McCain, because you Mitt Romney, because you Dick Cheney, because you Donald Rumsfeld, because you George W. Bush you lying bastard, because you conservatives hate Barack Obama and for no other reason. Go on, tell us, go on. Wave your little flags and beat your fleshy chests, roll out the marching bands and tell us just how many more American soldiers should die. Go on, put a number on it. Ten? A hundred? Fifty four thousand? How many of us have to die? How many more bodies will it take to satiate your mindless hunger for blood and revenge? How many more American lives are worth your insane hatred of the president? How many? How much further into debt should we drive our nation, another trillion dollars? Two? Ten? A hundred? Put a price on it you insane sons of bitches, go on, give me a number, write me a check. Tell me how much you’re willing to pay, show me the goddamned money. How many more years? How many? One? Five? Another decade? Fifty? What is it? Don’t wave your hands and make some vague prognostication, give me a number, how many lives, how much money, how many years? You look us in the eye and you fucking tell us…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:28 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Historical Perspectives | Idiots | McCain | Our Longest National Nightmare Ever | Race | Snark | War on "Terror" | Warmongers
June 16, 2014
Can This Be True?

… in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave? Sure it can. At least We Meant Well seems to think so. Anybody able to confirm this? If so, comment away.

All insurance claims, including date, service, meds, units, all meta data, who you saw and why automatically goes to the government. This has been going on since 2003.

Assume it all automatically goes into the MSA (M=N) database and to every law enforcement fusion (z=s) center. Assume it is linked to your drivers license file.

Let me assure you that a “national ID” has nothing to do with a card, chip, barcode, magnetic strip, etc. It is all about the data on file and how it is linked together. The card, chip, barcode, RFID, whatever, is merely how the data is expressed.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:01 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Civil Liberties | Essential Liberties | Violations of the Constitution
June 15, 2014
Time For a Little Perspective

Before we trembling, ever-fearful Americans lash out around the world once again with our low-risk (low to us, that is) bombings, we might usefully pause to gain a little perspective. Let us put aside for the moment the hysterical excursions into the trendy geopolitical speculations of highly paid but low-information dabblers such as the Times’s David Brooks.

Let’s also pass over their unhelpful invocation of “hegemony” for every entity that would presume to challenge our own hegemony. Let’s agree likewise that the current fatuous name-calling — “autocrat” is today’s favorite epithet, “dictator” apparently having been deemed old-fashioned — is the substitute for analysis that it is. Instead, let’s calm down and meditate on the triggers of today’s alarums.

Item: The turmoil in Ukraine was started by popular — and initially nonviolent — protests against corruption in the country’s governance. That a neighboring autocrat took opportunistic advantage of that uprising and of inherent nationalistic divisions is an adventitious byproduct of that trigger.

Item: The fighting in Syria was somewhat similarly initiated by popular opposition to that country’s dictatorial governance. The opposition was nonviolent at first. Not surprisingly, given the religious divisions common throughout the Middle East and North Africa — the opposition has evolved into a more complex composition.

Item: The current chaotic situation in Libya was triggered by a popular uprising, largely nonviolent in its earliest days, against the country’s dictator and the corruption surrounding him. Other unrest in the region around the same time, first in Egypt and then especially in Tunisia, was likewise initially popular in origin.

Item: Today’s advances that the Sunni-based al-Queda-like ISIS is making into much of Iraq (and, we are told, they had been making from across the Syrian border for a year or more) were essentially triggered de novo by ... oh, dear, not by popular uprising, but by a series of unintended consequences of our own fraudulent “Just do it” invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq in 2003.

Not the least of those consequences is the quite predictable but also virulent anti-Sunni bias of our default puppet there, the Shiite and once-and-future Iranian fellow-traveler, Maliki. While ISIS may be leveraging the toxic effects of Maliki’s bias to their own advantage among Sunni Iraqis, the resulting popular discontent among the Sunni peoples in Iraq is what has enabled that. (Seven or eight years ago, the practical-minded, non-geopolitician Joe Biden said he thought Iraq would end up one way or another split into Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd -- and did he ever get shit dumped on him for that.)

Our own nation was more or less founded in an outburst of popular discontent. Shouldn’t we maybe, kinda, sorta be reassured that popular discontent — We the People — is now showing itself elsewhere in the world? (That there happen to be violent reactions to those shows of popular discontent should not surprise us, or even the amateur geopoliticians such as Brooks or fearless warriors of the podium such as Senator Graham and the always-wrong William Kristol.)

But wait! Is popular discontent starting to show itself again here in the United States as well? Please hold off on the bombs, guys, so we can take stock of our own house first.


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Posted by A. David Tucker at 7:03 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Historical Perspectives | Iraq | Warmongers | Weakening America
June 13, 2014
Spring on Sharon Mountain


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:34 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Animal blogging | Snakes | What Actually Matters
George W. Roosevelt

The recently-deceased historian Gabriel Kolko, writing in Counterpunch:

A Quaker, Hoover was an entirely self-made man, a very successful mining engineer-entrepreneur who made a fortune; he mastered Latin to the point that he made the still-standard translation of Georgius Agricola’s De re metallica and knew Mandarin. Roosevelt was born into privilege, went to Harvard, where he was a “C” student and a cheerleader…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:30 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
American Heroes | Historical Perspectives | Reveling in the Weird
June 10, 2014
Officer Friendly Mans Up

Extracts from yesterday’s New York Times:

Neenah’s police chief, Kevin E. Wilkinson, said he understood the concern. At first, he thought the anti-mine truck was too big. But the department’s old armored car could not withstand high-powered gunfire, he said.

“I don’t like it. I wish it were the way it was when I was a kid,” he said. But he said the possibility of violence, however remote, required taking precautions. “We’re not going to go out there as Officer Friendly with no body armor and just a handgun and say ‘Good enough…’ ”

The ubiquity of SWAT teams has changed not only the way officers look, but also the way departments view themselves. Recruiting videos feature clips of officers storming into homes with smoke grenades and firing automatic weapons. In Springdale, Ark., a police recruiting video is dominated by SWAT clips, including officers throwing a flash grenade into a house and creeping through a field in camouflage.

In South Carolina, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s website features its SWAT team, dressed in black with guns drawn, flanking an armored vehicle that looks like a tank and has a mounted .50-caliber gun. Capt. Chris Cowan, a department spokesman, said the vehicle “allows the department to stay in step with the criminals who are arming themselves more heavily every day…”

I’ve written about Sonny Lee before, but the law enforcement community apparently wasn’t listening. So here goes again.

Back in the late 1950s I was a police reporter in Arlington County, Virginia, across the river from Washington. Sonny Lee was a short, wide, solid, crew-cut detective sergeant, the department’s go-to guy if you needed a brawl broken up or a door kicked down before the man inside succeeded in beating his wife to death. One day I asked him if he had ever had occasion to draw his gun.

“Hell, no,” Sonny said. “A man needs a gun to do this job, he’s in the wrong line of work.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:54 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Police State
June 08, 2014
A Very Modest Proposal

Guest blogger John Shannon, author of the Jack Liffey mysteries, takes on the mystery of economic inequality:

This is not a good era to be a bleeding-heart liberal — or a progressive, as many of us would prefer to be called. Yes, I admit it, I empathize with the orange-sellers on our freeway on-ramps, and with the homeless holding up their hand-lettered squares of cardboard for spare change. I feel for the fast-food workers holding down two or three jobs who were just denied a tiny increase in their minimum wage. And I even sympathize with those who hear a click on their telephone and fear the NSA is on the line, recording. Disheartening times indeed.

But just last week in a flash of inspiration I saw an incredibly simple fix to all these problems. I don’t know why it hasn’t been proposed before. Who could oppose a constitutional amendment that simply declared every person a corporation?

Think of it! Overnight, the Justice Department would be assigning teams to protect our privacy rights as corporations. We know they would, because it’s exactly what the U.S. keeps lecturing China about. That it’s perfectly reasonable to spy on governments, we do it too, and on individuals (even heads of state like Angela Merkel), but it’s unacceptable to spy on corporations. Their secrets are sacred. As individuals our secrets were fair game, but as corporations, not so much. With this new amendment, the NSA would have to be reined in or at least re-aimed overseas.

But that’s only the beginning. We’d all be corporations so we’d be too important to fail. I know, it used to be too big to fail, but we know from the Declaration of Independence that all of us (all of us corporations, remember) were created equal. So if GM and Chase Bank are too important to fail, so are you and I, so is that guy at the stoplight asking for change. Whenever any of us edged toward failure, there would have to be a new TARP fund ready to bail us out.

The banks were offered, what, $700 billion by Congress? And the Federal Reserve, under the table, offered to lend trillions if necessary, though nobody knows how much actually went out. In a new dispensation, we might need even more money than that, there’re so many of us small corporations. That could be a lot of money, of course, but getting it is the government’s problem, not ours. Perhaps they could tax billionaires, or offshore funds, or Wall Street stock transactions, or capital gains.

The working poor would be corporations, too. Since all these hard-working small corporations would need to survive, we would have to boost the minimum wage right up to something above the bottom edge of livable — like most other industrial countries. It’s $17 an hour in Australia after all, $12 to $25 an hour in Switzerland, $13 in France.

There are probably many more unforeseen benefits to making us all corporations. For instance, as we know, the Supreme Court decreed in Citizens’ United that money from corporations is identical to political speech and must be protected against any Congressional or state limitations. It’s perfectly logical then to assume that all us corporations must be guaranteed an equal vote, too.

The Supreme Court would have to protect our corporate voting rights against all the forms of voter suppression and gerrymandering going on in the so-called red states. We certainly don’t want to discourage our poorer and darker-skinned brother and sister corporations from voting. With a little imagination, I’m sure we can identify other benefits, too. Just think of all the state protections that corporations have against “frivolous” lawsuits, liability laws, environmental legislation, etc.

Of course, even this modest proposal might turn out to be controversial to some. After all, Congressional foot-dragging over a straightforward yearly increase in the debt ceiling hurt the U.S. credit rating and nearly brought down the world economy. Just in case, then, we could prepare a back-up proposal. It would follow the legacy of that grand compromise over slavery built into our Constitution — if you recall, for purposes of state taxation and voting rights, each slave was three-fifths of a person. Our backup plan could offer that each of us would be only three-fifths of a corporation. It’s not perfect, of course, like any compromise, but we’d have a lot more rights than we have now.

There’s no time like the present to get to work on a nation-saving “people are corporations” constitutional amendment.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 8:20 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Class Warriors | Economics and Society | Political Commentary
June 07, 2014
Browsing More Securely Is Easier Than You Think

I’m here to advocate for the use of the Tor browser. If you’ve seen mentions of Reset the Net then you may already have installed it. If you were aware of the Snowden documents in which the NSA bemoaned its inability to crack the Tor network, you’re probably already way head of this post. But if you’ve heard of Tor but don’t know what it stands for or why anyone cares, you can find all the details at the Tor project website.

Briefly, the Tor browser is Firefox with a few under-the-hood modifications that generally don’t affect the user experience (with one or two exceptions). After installation it you use it just like Firefox; but with the Tor browser your IP address is not trackable as you wander around the internet.

This has interesting effects, mostly positive but a few negative. Since you appear to arrive from a location other than your own, search results and ads sometimes appear in another language; but that’s not really an issue in my experience, you can always get stuff in English somehow. Google will sometimes present you with Captchas because you seem to be logging in from a continent different from your regular one. Websites that check your location to prevent viewing from blacked-out areas or whatever will no longer know where you really are. You don’t get targeted ads because websites can’t recognize you or track you.

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The major negative is that you can’t watch videos through Tor because opening a remote video file and allowing its contents onto your computer isn’t secure. You can stream video; I watched a baseball game through MLB.com just a few days ago. And you can download stuff and watch it locally, which is more secure. The takeaway here is that to browse safely requires both good tools and good practices.

Having said that, I often use both Tor and another browser, the former for most operations and the latter for a few that don’t work with Tor. Spotify, in particular, won’t play music through Tor because it thinks I’m in Hungary or Malaysia, where Spotify isn’t licensed to play music.

The only other negative is that the Tor browser runs slightly slower than Firefox; that extra time is spent disguising your IP address by bouncing your request around The Onion Router (TOR) network.

Why would you care whether your IP address is scattered as you browse? Because your IP address can be connected with your critical data such as name, address, and so on. Once a site has your IP address they know who you are, and they’ll do everything they can to contact and advertise to you. If you’re lucky it won’t go farther than that.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 2:09 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Civil Liberties
June 06, 2014
Our Own Shadow

According to a former naval officer in our armed forces who is also a former U. S. president, President Carter, the United States is no longer a functioning democracy.

According to Chalmers Johnson, a former Asian expert and CIA consultant turned public intellectual, we can be either a democracy or an empire, but not both.

Former U. S. Army colonel and now public intellectual Andrew Bacevitch explains why we can have either a functioning democracy or a large standing army and worldwide bases (that is, an empire), but not both.

Another public intellectual, Tony Judt, has written that we can have either a democracy or high income and wealth inequality, but not both.

Then there is humble me, up in NW Connecticut. What do I care?

But … I am getting worried about black helicopters landing on our little plot of land, probably bringing down the bluebird and wren houses we’ve set up out there. Hey, I am an American. Now, I know we Americans have enemies abroad, but I found out that I am being monitored by the national government, here in my quiet corner, according to information released by the renegade government operative Edward Snowden.

Also, last week I learned that there are 78 “fusion centers” across my country, operated by “state and local authorities,” a group including “dozens of officials from police and fire departments, federal agencies, and [this is especially intriguing] private companies.” (New York Times.) The centers have been funded by “hundreds of millions of dollars” from the Department of Homeland Security and “other federal agencies” as well as state governments…


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…Read on

Posted by A. David Tucker at 1:59 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Civil Liberties | Essential Liberties | Sunshine and Growing Government Secrecy | Violations of the Constitution | War on "Terror"
May 27, 2014
Gone Fishing

Actually no, just to Maine to see grandchildren. Back next week.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 7:51 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Administrivia | What Actually Matters
Our Broken Fiddle

Poking through the archives I just came across this post from January 2 of 2003. Unfortunately it remains relevant, and so I put it up again:


Could That Shining City
On the Hill Be Helsinki?

For your contemplation, I offer this story by Warren Hoge in today’s New York Times. It is on the front page where it ought to get all our attention, but won’t.

This is because we were raised to withstand all evidence that ours might not actually be in every respect the noblest nation ever to bathe God’s little green footstool in such supernal effulgence.

Nevertheless, let’s take a look at Finland’s system of criminal justice, as Mr. Hoge has…

All done? Interesting stuff, but it would never work here, would it? For one thing Finland is full of Finns, and the United States is full of Americans.

But aren’t those Finns pretty similar to us genetically?, you ask. After all, Doctor Science, aren’t they Christians? Lutherans or something?

Actually, children, religious faith is one of many things that are not genetically determined. Let’s look for others in the story. Did you notice where Mr. Hoge says Finland has “a relatively classless culture with a Scandinavian belief in the benevolence of the state and a trust in its civic institutions?”

No genetic marker for these disorders has been discovered so far either, and we scientists are in pretty general agreement than none ever will be. We say, instead, that such conditions and attitudes grow out of our “culture.”

Okay, enough with the Doctor Science.

I once heard a political consultant describe American democracy as “that system in which you give the people what they want, and you give it to ’em good.”

So think of our culture as a violin, and our politicians as musicians. Any one of them might think he could get better sounds out of a clarinet or a flute, but that isn’t what we’ve given him to play. The only thing that can come out is fiddle music.

And so we ourselves have actually chosen a society with shameful extremes of poverty and immense wealth. We have chosen untrustworthy civic institutions. We have chosen a state that is no more benevolent than it absolutely has to be in order to avoid revolution.

These are the things we demand or permit — it comes to the same thing in practice — on November the fifth of every even year. Because we are this kind of stupid, we have 702 Americans out of every 100,000 in jail. Because the Finns aren’t, they have 52.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 7:28 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
America is Doomed | Historical Perspectives | Police State | Weakening America
May 25, 2014
Going Out With Style

This is the beginning and the end of a long memorial in today’s New York Times. It’s a paid notice, and thus not available on the paper’s website, but Wikipedia can fill in the details of Dr. Bem’s admirable life. The circumstances of her death were equally admirable:

Emerita Professor of Psychology at Cornell, past director of Cornell’s Women’s Study Program, and a psychotherapist, peacefully ended her own life at her home in Ithaca on May 20, 2014, one month before her 70th birthday. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2010, and made known at that time her intention to end her life while she could still do so without assistance if and when the disease became too debilitating for a meaningful quality of life…

Her final months were considerably brightened by her delight with her new grandson, Felix. In lieu of a funeral or memorial service, the family met as a group with Sandra two days prior to her death to share their thoughts, feelings and reminiscences with her and each other.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:47 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Health and Aging | Hope for the Future | What Actually Matters
May 23, 2014
The FBI Gets Its Man

Have I been asleep for the last week, or did this fascinating Boston Globe story die at birth? If the latter, why? Isn’t the unnecessary killing of a man by an incompetent FBI agent a matter of considerable public concern, particularly since it occurred during the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing? Shouldn’t we be mildly interested in why this fool was hired by the FBI in the first place? And wouldn’t we all like to know how he was able to retire from the Oakland police department at the age of 31 on a lifetime disability pension of $52,000 a year? And then go to work a few years later for the FBI, not previously known to have a soft spot in its flinty heart for the disabled?

It isn’t often that we can get behind the Bureau’s redactions and no comments for a good look at how its fabled crimebusters actually work. For more on how pretty it ain’t, go here.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:34 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Police State