April 16, 2014
Headline of the Week


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:47 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Media
April 14, 2014
What Will Future Easters Be Like…

From a recent Pew Research poll and study, a consideration of net financial worth of Americans in 2010. (“Net financial worth” being savings accounts, IRAs, 401(k)s, and even pensions -- exclusive of home value but seemingly inclusive of investments.). Again, this is net financial worth (wealth exclusive of R/E), not annual income.

First, median net financial worth (meaning that half of our citizens are below the following levels):

• WWII babies — $46,000 (i.e., now at least 69)
• Early boomers (b. 1946-55) — $55,000 (now at least 59, at or hovering near retirement age)
• Late boomers (b. 1956-65) — $32,000 (now at least 49, with fifteen years or so left to accumulate net financial worth)

Then, average net financial worth:

• Depression babies — $42,000 (people at least in their 70s)
• WWII babies — $60,000
• Early boomers (b. 1946-55) — $75,000

These are figures for individuals, but even if we call most of them couples and double the figures, it’s frighteningly little to live on for ten years, let alone maybe twenty-five with God’s will. It certainly leaves no room for further investment income of a smashing $180/month on, say, $100,000 principal, assuming the folks don’t eat or heat their homes or get sick. (Thanks to FDR for Social Security — and may those who today would gut that program themselves die in wretched poverty and pain.)

The wealth — net financial worth — of our top-ten-percenters is of course included in both those median and average figures, and even those grotesque imbalances at the top fail to lift the median and average levels from their shocking depths. What does that tell us? More important, what effect will these retirement years of abysmally low net worths have on our society? What will the Easters be like for the lower (say) seventy percent of us — and their Christmases?


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Posted by A. David Tucker at 7:55 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Economics and Society
Florida Is Lost

Florida might seem to be safely inside occupied territory for drug warriors, but ’tis not so. Medical marijuana has widespread support, which when you think about how many elderly folk there are dealing with health problems makes a lot of sense. And as is true nationwide younger people tend to support it more. So some Florida Democrats are pushing a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana, making Florida the first Southern state to legalize any sort of pot use, as a means of attracting precisely those younger voters, who don’t tend to vote in non-Presidential election years at anything like the rate of angry old white guys, a group that would presumably would tend to vote against the measure.

They’re also pushing to get people to vote by absentee ballot. As a drug warrior you know you’re losing when the other side is able to say publicly something everyone knows to be true, and have it be a positive contribution to the campaign:

“We want to be able to have our stereotypical, lazy pothead voters to be able to vote from their couch,” said Ben Pollara, a Democratic fundraiser and campaign manager for the United for Care group, which also plans to get voters to the polls on Election Day.

To the horrified drug warrior: Dude. It’s over, give it up. Like gay marriage, this is a done deal. Adjust.


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 2:37 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Civil Liberties
April 13, 2014
The Death of Racism?

Many of you have written in to ask whether racism is dead in America. Keep those cards and letters coming, folks, but the answer is not yet. Not till we see a black man and a white woman in a Cialis ad.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:48 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Hope for the Future | Race
April 11, 2014
The U.S. of Aliteracy

Once upon a time I delivered appliances. Or I actually helped a guy who did. I was just dumb extra muscle. But I got to go in a lot of houses over the course of a year, and I can count on one hand the number of homes that had books in them. I mean real books, not Chicken Soup for the Soul type crap (although there aren’t really many of those either). I mean nobody but nobody had books. One of those who did was a college teacher. She had all sorts of interesting African artifacts as well, but she was a blessed anomaly. In general, we live in a cultural desert.

A friend of mine works in the homes of the wealthy installing high tech electronics and whatnot. Smart homes are the hip new thing among the rich and well born. At any rate, my friend makes decent money hooking up their silly toys. These are the summer homes of the super-rich, genuine one-percenters, and he tells me the same sad tale: no books. On the other hand, one house has seventeen flat screen TVs. Four in one room. These people are so dull and unimaginative they can’t think of anything more important to spend their money on than televisions. It’s actually quite sad.

“Gee, honey, what should we do today?”

“I know. Let’s buy ten more TVs. One for each bathroom!”

“Baby, you read my mind!”

This is precisely the kind of witless excess that precedes revolutions, or at least reformations. Then again, we have full grown adults who get excited about Captain America in 3D. We have people who think Jay Leno is funny. We have people who watch Good Morning America and consider Go Daddy commercials worthy topics for earnest debate. It is possible that we are so completely narcotized and immature, so utterly flabby and clueless, that we just might be revolution-proof. It just may be that consumer culture has led us to the end of history, as it were, and it’s a fat guy in a baseball cap staring at an iPhone and playing fantasy football. He is completely aliterate and aspires to nothing beyond gross material pleasure. He laughs at commercials and says things like “It’s all good.” If he was a millionaire, he’d own seventeen flat screens too.

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Posted by OHollern at 5:44 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
Mistakes Were Made

Speaking of counterfactuals, as I was in Monday’s posting, here’s another one I wrote elsewhere some years ago on President Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address — the speech in which he warned against “unwarranted influence … by the military-industrial complex.”

I also remember Eisenhower’s farewell address, but have trouble getting too misty-eyed about it. Who had been president for the previous eight years? Who had sent White Star special forces teams to Northern Thailand just months before? Who was to tell the incoming president that the greatest threat to world peace facing him was Laos? Who made the unspeakable Dulles secretary of state and kept him in the job? Who sent thousands of “advisers” and billions in military aid to Diem after he violated the terms reached at Geneva by refusing to hold the national elections that he (and we) knew Ho Chi Minh would win?

Who blew the very real possibility of ending the Cold War by continuing the U-2 flights and making it impossible for Khrushchev to pursue the detente he was plainly seeking? Who let the other unspeakable Dulles gin up an invasion of Cuba and then left the whole mess on Kennedy’s plate? Who was the only president of my lifetime who had the military knowledge, popularity and heroic stature to actually do something about that whole military industrial complex thingy that upset him so?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:14 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
Historical Perspectives | Our Longest National Nightmare Ever | Weakening America
The Source of Our Heartbleed?

Dan Gillmor finally says what I’ve been thinking about the Heartbleed bug in OpenSSL, which if you haven’t heard may have endangered every account password you value. Or it may not, depends on what you do on the internet. If you don’t buy, sell, or bank, and your email doesn’t contain anything valuable or embarrassing, then you’re probably okay.

So who do we know for certain has been exerting active efforts to weaken internet security for several years?

…given how vital encryption is to online safety, we have to assume that the best and best-funded minds in online surveillance and hacking have been relentlessly probing OpenSSL over the years of its existence.

If the NSA has known about Heartbleed for a long time — or even a short time — then the surveillance-staters have possessed a kind a skeleton key to entire swaths of the internet. Part of the NSA’s mission, supposedly, is to protect us from things like this very bug. But it’s clear, based on the Snowden revelations, that the government’s concern for our individual privacy and security takes a distant back seat to its ability to spy on anyone and everyone.

So don’t be surprised to learn someday that the NSA and/or other western security agencies have been exploiting Heartbleed at home and abroad without bothering to alert us. Nor, for that matter, should you be shocked to learn at some point that well-heeled criminal cyber-gangs or the Chinese government’s talented hackers spotted the bug before white-hat hackers revealed it.

The raison d’etre of the US intelligence community is global economic advantage for, not to say dominance by, the largest American capitalist endeavors. Yet in this role it has failed miserably, creating security problems that are certain to be found and exploited, with financial costs that will be disproportionately born by exactly those corporations widely considered the avatars of next-generation American success. There can be no more convincing demonstration of a surveillance state run amok, cut loose even from its at best amoral principles and expanding simply because it can; and unless we do something to change its capabilities it will soon become the ultimate authoritarian regime operating on purely mechanical judgments and without any sense of human values. The SIngularity would be preferable.


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 1:24 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Civil Liberties
April 10, 2014
Non-profit Profiteers

The excerpt below comes from a Bill Moyers interview with Diane Ravitch, the former advocate of both Bush’s educational policies who changed her mind upon further reflection. Presently she sees those policies as part of a drive by the 1% to destroy our public schools. Read the whole scary transcript.

They’re not all bad. The worst thing about the charters is the profit motive. And I want to reiterate that most charters are not for-profit. Although many of the non-profits are run by for-profit organizations. For instance, in Ohio, where they’re overrun with for-profit operations, they’re actually not for-profit charters. It’s just they’re run by a company, in one case, called the White Hat company. Which has extracted about a billion dollars in taxpayer funds since 1999.

In Florida where there are some nearly 600 charter schools, they’re overrun with for-profit schools. There’s a charter empire in Southern Florida where the brother-in-law of the guy who runs the charter empire, which is worth more than $100 million, is in the state legislature and is in charge of education appropriations. And he never recuses himself. And the charter industry has basically taken over the legislature of Florida.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:15 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Class Warriors | Education
April 09, 2014
Your Congress at Work

As The Washington Post reported in December:

The story of Avastin and Lucentis, two nearly identical drugs for blindness, offer a glimpse into the problematic world of Medicare pricing.

A dose of Avastin costs only $50. A dose of Lucentis costs $2,000. Both Avastin and Lucentis are made by the same company, and they're remarkably effective in treating a form of macular degeneration that was long the leading cause of blindness among the elderly, The Post reported. They are very similar on a molecular level and probably cost about the same amount to manufacture.

Nonetheless, doctors prescribe Lucentis almost as often as Avastin. They also make more money doing so. Medicare is legally obliged to pay for any drug a doctor prescribes, and doctors also receive commissions of 6 percent to cover their own expenses. The commission a doctor collects on each dose of Avastin would be only about $3, as opposed to $120 on each dose of Lucentis. Congress and the courts have refused to allow Medicare to save money by scrutinizing doctors' decisions.

As a result, taxpayers spent about $1 billion in 2012 more than they would have if doctors had been prescribing Avastin. Avastin, for all intents and purposes, has been shown to be equivalent to Lucentis in six studies and one massive review of Medicare records.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:19 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Graft, Corruption and Malfeasance | Health and Aging | Public Health and Welfare | Regulation for the Benefit of Public Health, Safety and Welfare
April 08, 2014
The Alien Sex Fiend is Back!

Frank Rich’s monthly essay in New York is out, and let’s hope he’s right. Which I think he is. Excerpt:

The received wisdom that sex scandals threaten a Hillary run is preposterous. It’s the reverse that’s true. The right’s inability to stanch its verbal diarrhea on the subject of female sexuality — whether provoked by rape, contraception, abortion, “traditional marriage,” gay marriage, gay parenting, or pop culture — did as much as anything to defeat Mitt Romney, his “binders full of women” notwithstanding, in 2012. (He lost women voters to Obama by 11 percentage points.) And that obsession with sex can defeat the GOP again. Todd Akin, the avatar of “legitimate rape,” may be gone, but many of the same political players will be in place in 2016 as in 2012 — more than a few of them alumni of the Clinton sexcapades of the 1990s.

No matter how much Republican leaders talk of reining in their sexist language (though not their policies) to counter charges that the GOP conducts a war on women, they just can’t help themselves. Whether or not there’s a war on women in 2016, there will be a rancorous and tasteless war on one woman. And it is guaranteed to backfire, drowning out fair G-rated questions about the Clintons’ dealings just as Monica and other “bimbo eruptions” drowned out such now-forgotten Clinton scandals as Filegate and Castle Grande.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:25 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
APRIL FOOLS | Hope for the Future | Idiots | Political Commentary | Presidential Hopefuls | Republicans | Reveling in the Weird
April 07, 2014
Why We Will Never Learn

Thomas Polgar, the last CIA station chief in Vietnam, died in March at the age of 92. His obit is in today’s New York Times. And here’s Polgar himself, remembering the fall of Saigon. As well as, in this brief aside, the war criminal Henry Kissinger.

One day I had an opportunity to ask Mr. Kissinger what he thought of our intelligence. Not speaking of Vietnam, but generally. He was getting this big flow of intelligence from CIA world wide at the time. What did he think of the value of it? And he thought for a moment and then he said, “Well, when it supports my policy, it’s very useful.” And I think we are here at the heart of the problem. It is that American policy is not formulated in response to what the intelligence shows. We first formulate the policy and then we try to find the intelligence to support it.

It is interesting to speculate what might have happened if Truman had decided to let the country continue to bumble along, as it had somehow since 1776, without any “intelligence” agency at all. No Shah of Iran, hence no hostage crisis and no Ronald Reagan. No U2, hence no refreezing of the Cold War. No Bay of Pigs, hence no Cuban Missile Crisis. No arming of the Taliban, to teach those Russians a lesson. No Weapons of Mass Destruction, hence no… The list goes on and on. The CIA stands in relation to the White House as the drug dealer stands to the addict.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:37 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Afghanistan | Historical Perspectives | Iran | Our Long National Nightmare | The Fall of the Roman American Empire | Weakening America
April 06, 2014
Goin’ Down That Same Old Road…

Larry Elliott has become one of my go-to folks on economics. In The Guardian today he compares the rosy take on the global economy of the near future to views that were popular ten years ago, before the Great Recession, when the economy seemed to be on the mend after the collapse of the dot-com boom. He lists five reasons the presumed economic recovery might turn out to be an illusion, among them historically low interest rates and the apparently widespread idea that fracking will prove to be a profitable method of generating energy. Number five is economic inequality.

For the first three decades after the second world war, the global economy was by and large the story of a rising tide lifting all boats. That is no longer the case, with a tiny elite now grabbing the lion’s share of global growth. At the bottom, and increasingly for those in the middle as well, it is a case of wage squeezes, high unemployment, debt, austerity and poverty. The 85 richest people on the planet own the same wealth as half the world’s population but seem oblivious to the risk of widespread social unrest. So, of course, were the Bourbons and the Romanovs.
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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:08 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Political Commentary
April 05, 2014
Catlick


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:47 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Catblogging
April 04, 2014
We’re from the Koch Brothers…

…and we’re here to help. From The New Yorker:

Because West Virginia has a population of only 1.8 million — less than the city of Houston — an investment in influence goes far. The conservative fossil-fuel magnates Charles and David Koch, through their charitable foundations, have devoted particular attention to the state. The Investigative Reporting Workshop, at American University, found that, between 2007 and 2011, the Kochs gave $30.5 million to two hundred and twenty-one universities; West Virginia University received nine hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars, the third-highest amount, behind George Mason and Florida State. In February, the university announced that it was creating a five-million-dollar Center for Free Enterprise, funded in part by the Charles G. Koch Foundation.

The Kochs also helped fund research at the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia, a think tank that, in 2007, published “Unleashing Capitalism: Why Prosperity Stops at the West Virginia Border and How to Fix It,” edited by a West Virginia University economics professor named Russell Sobel. The book argued against mine-safety regulations, on the ground that “improved safety conditions result in lower money wages for workers,” and asked, “Are workers really better off being safer but making less income?” It also called for relaxing rules on water usage. “Although they are intended to benefit citizens, water use regulations will only hamper prosperity by impeding the state’s ability to retain and attract businesses and to generate new employment opportunities.”

Governor Manchin invited Sobel to brief his cabinet, as well as a joint session of the Senate and the House Finance Committees. The state Republican Party chairman said, “Unleashing capitalism will be our party platform.” In February, Americans for Prosperity, the political-advocacy group funded heavily by the Koch brothers, established a chapter in West Virginia. A state Republican consultant told me, “You can do things here incredibly, incredibly cheaply. For instance, A.F.P., the Koch brothers, went and did North Carolina last time. Well, a legislative seat here is about one-fourth the size of a legislative seat in North Carolina. So there’s bang for your buck.” In any given district, he said, “You can go in for twenty grand, and probably fix a problem.” He also noted, “People are just showing up with pockets full of money, saying, ‘We want to help you out.’ ”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:17 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Class Warriors | Graft, Corruption and Malfeasance | Regulation for the Benefit of Public Health, Safety and Welfare | Republicans | Rich White Trash
April 02, 2014
Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, the 1% is free at last! The Kochsucking majority on the Supreme Court just ruled that money speaks louder than words — your words anyway:

(CNN) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down current limits on the total amount individual donors can make to political campaigns…

The 5-4 ruling could have an immediate impact on November's congressional midterm elections, and add another layer of high-stakes spending in the crowded political arena.

Scalia Thomas & Roberts LLC, the legal branch of the Republican Party, thus returns us to the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Constitutional precedent for today’s ruling is to be found in the three fifths compromise, which took imaginary votes away from slaves and awarded them to their masters.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:40 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
America is Doomed | Elections | Essential Liberties | Legal Absurdities | Republicans | US Supreme Court | Violations of the Constitution | Weakening America
April 01, 2014
Wu Wei

Never do today what can be put off until tomorrow. Chances are, things will change and you won’t have to do what you thought you needed to do in the first place, and it won’t matter anyway: Somebody else will have already done it, assuming it needed to be done, and they’ll be the ones who are responsible for screwing everything up because they did something when doing nothing was required and hurt those who did nothing at all, so relax.

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Posted by OHollern at 6:20 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
April Fool!

…and May, June, July and so on.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:56 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
APRIL FOOLS | American Heroes | Idiots | Presidential Hopefuls | Republicans | Reveling in the Weird
March 30, 2014
Stuffing Socks in Their Jocks

Can there anything more pathetic than a grown “man” who would pay thousands of dollars to shoot a tame deer bred to have great, bulging deformed antlers?

(Now that I think of it, maybe there is. Back in the day in Laos, I worked for an American ambassador who would strap on his six-shooter when he went upcountry to our CIA base near the Plain of Jars, safely surrounded by spooks and our Hmong guerrillas. His own generation’s war was World War II, which he had sat out at our embassy in Switzerland.)


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:40 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Animal blogging | Idiots | Reveling in the Weird | Rich White Trash
March 28, 2014
Are You Surprised?

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The U.S. oil sector is not sharing important information about oil-by-rail shipments sought by regulators seeking to prevent the kinds of fiery derailments that have occurred in recent months, according to the Department of Transportation.

“Despite the energy industry making assurances to DOT more than two months ago, we still lack data we requested and that energy stakeholders agreed to produce,” a spokeswoman said.

“The overall and ongoing lack of cooperation is disappointing, slows progress, and certainly raises concerns.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:01 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Graft, Corruption and Malfeasance | Regulation for the Benefit of Public Health, Safety and Welfare
March 26, 2014
We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ License to Kill

Charles Pierce at Esquire asks:

Is there some kind of employee of the month deal going on at the FBI? Just today, they've busted a California state senator and the mayor of Charlotte, as well as raiding the offices of an state assemblyman in New York?

More likely these obviously well-coordinated news dumps showing Your FBI at Work in War and Peace were planned as distractions. They follow on the heels of two equally well-coordinated news dumps: yesterday’s release of self-exonerating investigations into the FBI’s bungled killing of Ibragim Todashev last May in Orlando:

He hurled a coffee table at the FBI agent’s head, armed himself with a 5-foot metal pole and then charged at another officer, according to more than 100 pages of investigative reports released Tuesday by State Attorney Jeff Ashton.

In a letter written to FBI Director James Comey, Ashton stated: “My conclusion, based upon the facts presented to me in this investigation, is that the actions of the special agent of the FBI were justified in self defense and in defense of another.”

Curiously enough, Comey’s own investigation had come to the same reassuring conclusion. As the FBI has done after every one of the last 150 shootings by its agents. And will continue to do after every one of the next 150.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:59 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Civil Liberties | Legal Absurdities | Police State
Growing the Octopus

From The Angry Bear, on the Hobby Lobby silliness which our Republican federal courts are using to cripple the Affordable Care Act and expand the already enormous control that corporations exercise over our government.

The second momentary jolt for me was [Justice] Kennedy’s repeated indication that he believes that the constitutional rights that he said in Citizens United — he wrote that opinion — accrued to the corporation only derivatively as an “association of citizens,” in other words, through its members rather than as a separate entity, extend to all constitutional rights…

The First Amendment right Kennedy proclaimed of people unaffiliated with the corporation to hear the speech of the corporation was, of course, as I said yesterday really a proclaimed right of unaffiliated people to hear the corporation’s CEO’s speech, funded, though, by all the shareholders — or, as Kennedy out it, the association of citizens. The idea was that the political speech advanced the financial interests of all of the association’s citizen members, because they shared an interest in the financial success of the corporation and the political speech they were funding concerned financial matters. The premise was ridiculous; union members who owned shares of the company through their pension fund probably would not have supported anti-union candidates, for example.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:42 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Civil Liberties | Legal Absurdities | Politics and Religion | Public Health and Welfare | Regulation for the Benefit of Public Health, Safety and Welfare | Religion and Society
March 25, 2014
Toward a Sane Foreign Policy

For too long, American foreign policy has been dominated by the doctrine of American Exceptionalism. There are variations in the public face of policy between the so-called liberals and the right wing, but essentially the basic marketing plan is the same: the United States is the world’s only (and greatest ever) superpower and as such has an obligation to intervene wherever necessary to preserve freedom and democracy and protect American enterprise. Stripped of its marketing veneer, this is old-fashioned “white man’s burden” colonialism updated for the modern age.

As with colonialism, the external civilizing rationale is a cover for the actual motivations: greed and the lust for power. With neocolonialism, like its predecessor, the needs and even the lives of the people whose government is overthrown are not worth consideration — they are collateral damage of the drive toward “progress.”

In recent decades, we have seen the international bankers, led by the IMF and World Bank and the US megabanks, act first by putting the target country into debt far beyond their ability to pay. This was the message of John Perkins’ excellent work in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Once the target nation was in over its head, the country was forced to impose austerity on its citizens and use its resources to pay back the bankers. As Perkins described, this technique was used to great effect in the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America and Asia and elsewhere in the developing world. If the nation’s leaders objected to funneling their people’s wealth to Wall Street, the CIA was more than happy to cook up a plot to assassinate or overthrow them and insure their replacement was a willing pawn of the United States.

Today this same technique has been used in Greece, Spain and Ireland which were previously defanged by joining in the European currency union managed by the German banks. Unlike the developing nations who could have simply defaulted and stuck the banks with their well-deserved losses, these nations no longer had control over their currency so had no choice. Their people got brutal austerity so the bankers could be paid off.

In the developing world, a new paradigm has arisen. A nation that has abundant natural resources or acts as a natural conduit for the resources of another is targeted even if it has no significant national debt. First the National Endowment for Democracy and its slave NGOs move in to “build democracy,” by which they mean support groups in the country that oppose the government even if that government is democratically elected (i.e., Ukraine and Venezuela). These groups get training often in the United States in techniques of organizing protest demonstrations, and can range from genuine peaceful organizations that strive to win elections to outright fascists and terrorists who see a chance to gain power and loot the country for themselves. The NGO and the State Department simply don’t care and find both useful…


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…Read on

Posted by Charles Dunaway at 4:12 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Historical Perspectives | World Affairs
March 24, 2014
The Charge of the Lightweight Brigade

Can’t say I’ve searched the entire narrow span of the MSM, but this is the first major mention I’ve come across of the remote possibility that the United States might in some minuscule fashion if you viewed the matter from just the right angle hold some microscopic measure of responsibility under certain circumstances perhaps not totally unimaginable for the present mess in Crimea. From the New York Times, and good for them:

…Safeguarding this maritime muscle may well have been one reason President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sent armed forces to seize Crimea. But is it possible that the Sevastopol base is just the most concrete manifestation of Russia’s deep interests in Ukraine that the United States and its NATO allies either ignored or forgot as they tried to bind it more tightly with the West?

For years, Mr. Putin has complained about the West moving unilaterally to reorder the Continental balance of power — promoting Western capitalism and democracy — with little indication anyone was heeding his concerns. Its courting of Ukraine, apparently, was a step too far, prompting Mr. Putin to risk sanctions and the worst conflict since the Cold War to make clear that Washington and its friends do not call all of the shots anymore…

Read the rest and then forward it to the idiot McCain and Graham, care of any of the Sunday talk shows.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:18 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Glimmers of Sanity | Historical Perspectives | Idiots | McCain | Media | Warmongers | Weakening America | World Affairs
March 23, 2014
What’s Left for a Leftist to Do?

Today the local Democratic Socialists meeting was held in my town. After the typical business of a volunteer organization, we began a discussion of Adolph Reed’s article Nothing Left – The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals (behind a firewall unfortunately) in the March issue of Harper’s. Far be it from me to attempt a synopsis of this article, but quoting Reed’s closing statements may suffice.

We need to reject the fantasy that some spark will ignite the People to move as a mass. We must create a constituency for a left program — and that cannot occur via MSNBC or blog posts or the New York Times. It requires painstaking organization and building relationships with people outside the Beltway and comfortable leftist groves. Finally, admitting our absolute impotence can be politically liberating; acknowledging that as a left we have no influence on who gets nominated or elected, or what they do in office, should reduce the frenzied self-delusion that rivets attention to the quadrennial, biennial, and now seemingly permanent horse races.

It is long past time for us to begin again to approach leftist critique and strategy by determining what our social and governmental priorities should be and focusing our attention on building the kind of popular movement capable of realizing that vision. Obama and his top aides punctuated that fact by making brutally apparent during the 2008 campaign that no criticism from the left would have a place in this regime of Hope and Change. The message could not be clearer.

This is a bitter pill for long-time leftists to swallow – admitting impotence is not easy for any of us. The discussion went in a few different directions, but ultimately we all came to realize that in electoral politics, leftists have no alternative – either support the Democrat or take the risk that the usually far worse Republican will win.

Every two years, leftists who know that the Democratic candidate does not share their views nevertheless turn out to campaign for that candidate. Most around the table admitted to voting for Obama in 2008, although most of us knew at the time that he was going to serve the interests of Wall Street, not Main Street. A majority voted for Jill Stein in 2012, but only after doing the math and ascertaining that Romney had no chance of winning our state. But what’s a leftist to do?

…Read on

Posted by Charles Dunaway at 4:32 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Class Warriors | Economics and Society | Elections | Past Progressive | Political Commentary
March 22, 2014
Hit with the Ugly Stick

While curled up with Richard Burton’s The Arabian Nights last night, I came across the best physical description of a character I’ve ever seen. Read it and puke:

Now it fortuned that the princesses were behind a curtain, looking on; and when they heard this, the youngest considered her husband to be, and behold, he was an old man, an hundred years of age, with hair frosted, forehead drooping, eye-brows mangy, ears slitten, beard and mustachios stained and dyed; eyes red and goggle; cheeks bleached and hollow; flabby nose like a brinjall or eggplant; face like a cobbler’s apron, teeth overlapping and lips like a camel’s kidneys, loose and pendulous; in brief a terror, a horror, a monster, for he was of the folk of his time the unsightliest; sundry of his grinders had been knocked out and his eyeteeth were like the tusks of the Jinni who frighteneth poultry in henhouses.

The bride to be, on the other hand:

Now the girl was the fairest and most graceful of her time, more elegant than the gazelle however tender, than the gentlest zephyr blander and brighter than the moon at her full; for amorous fray right suitable; confounding in graceful sway the waving bough and outdoing in swimming gait the pacing roe.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:26 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Arts and Literature
March 21, 2014
A Reality Pill from an Actual Expert

In contradistinction to silly blabbermouths like John McCain and Lindsay Graham, Jack F. Matlock, Jr. actually knows a thing or two (or millions) about Russia, Crimea, and the Ukraine. Seeing as how he was Reagan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, you’d think he’d be all over Fox News these days. Here’s why he isn’t:

Well, I think that what we have seen is a reaction, in many respects, to a long history of what the Russian government, the Russian president and many of the Russian people — most of them — feel has been a pattern of American activity that has been hostile to Russia and has simply disregarded their national interests. They feel that having thrown off communism, having dispensed with the Soviet Empire, that the U.S. systematically, from the time it started expanding NATO to the east, without them, and then using NATO to carry out what they consider offensive actions about an — against another country — in this case, Serbia — a country which had not attacked any NATO member, and then detached territory from it — this is very relevant now to what we’re seeing happening in Crimea — and then continued to place bases in these countries, to move closer and closer to borders, and then to talk of taking Ukraine, most of whose people didn’t want to be a member of NATO, into NATO, and Georgia.

Now, this began an intrusion into an area which the Russians are very sensitive. Now, how would Americans feel if some Russian or Chinese or even West European started putting bases in Mexico or in the Caribbean, or trying to form governments that were hostile to us? You know, we saw how we virtually went ballistic over Cuba. And I think that we have not been very attentive to what it takes to have a harmonious relationship with Russia…

You see, in the Orange Revolution in Kiev, foreigners, including Americans, were very active in organizing people and inspiring them. Now, you know, I have to ask Americans: How would Occupy Wall Street have looked if you had foreigners out there leading them? Do you think that would have helped them get their point across? I don’t think so. And I think we have to understand that when we start directly interfering, particularly our government officials, in the internal makeup of other governments, we’re really asking for trouble…

Now, what have we been telling the Ukrainians, the Georgians — at least some of us, officials? “Just hold on. You can join NATO, and that will solve your problems for you.” You know, and yet, it is that very prospect, that the United States and its European allies were trying to surround Russia with hostile bases, that has raised the emotional temperature of all these things. And that was a huge mistake. As George Kennan wrote back in the ’90s when this question came up, the decision to expand NATO the way it was done was one of the most fateful and bad decisions of the late 20th century.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:26 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Historical Perspectives | McCain | The Real World | World Affairs
March 19, 2014
Lost

This is the explanation for the disappearance of Flight 370 that best accords with the few known facts. Good stuff.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:36 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Flight
March 18, 2014
Those Were the Good Old Days?

From A.J. Liebling’s The Wayward Pressman, 1947:

The rigorous economy grafters, and the newspapers that are their mouthpieces, have shoved the level of public education and public hospitals so low that the poor little white-collar gulls have to shun them too. Then, since the public schools and hospitals are no good to them, these invertebrates disassociate themselves from the fate of public institutions. And the economy hogs let things run down some more.

I often wonder what would have happened if all men of military age hadn’t been compelled to go into the same public armed services during the most recent war, and if there had been a nice private auxiliary army available for the sons of large taxpayers. I believe that rations, clothing, medical attention, and pay would have been lousy in the ranks of the public army. To compensate for these drawbacks, discipline would have been much more severe, and the newspapers would have been full of editorials against coddling public soldiers.

There was no attempt to run war on that system, and I sometimes doubt that we should run peace that way.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:09 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
March 17, 2014
Sticker Shock

You know you’re not only as old as you feel when your kids start getting mail from AARP. You know you’re just flat out old. But there’s worse to come, and it came this morning: return address stickers from the Connecticut chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:25 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
March 16, 2014
Cat Snap


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:12 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Catblogging