August 29, 2014
Monkey See, Monkey Do

From The Washington Post:

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

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

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:17 PM
August 25, 2014
Move Along, Folks, Nothing to See Here

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

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

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


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:44 AM
July 31, 2014
How We Forgive Our Debtors

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

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

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

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


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:37 PM
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 02:13 PM
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 02:05 PM
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 01:33 PM
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 07:03 PM
May 27, 2014
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 07:28 PM
May 14, 2014
The Long Con (Pt. I)

Wikipedia: A long con is a scam that unfolds over several days or weeks and involves a team of swindlers, as well as props, sets, extras, costumes, and scripted lines.

The myth of the rugged American individualist works so well because it convinces the poor that they should not act in concert or they will never be rich. The rich, after all, have become that way by being rugged, independent entrepreneurs. Most of them have not, however, as Thomas Piketty has just demonstrated.

In general the rich have got that way by acting in concert, and the poor will remain poor as long as they fail to do the same. Schools, country clubs, corporate bureaucracies, professional societies, stock exchanges, and a wide variety of other social, economic and political organizations are the cooperative tools of a class that habitually acts in concert to advance its interests. One of the ways it advances them is to persuade the poor that nothing of the sort is going on: that each rich man got that way all by himself, and anyone who hopes to imitate him must do the same.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:35 AM
April 23, 2014
Fuck Peace

From a Time story on Chelsea Manning, serving a barbarous 35-year sentence for committing the truth in a public place:

For starters, the Department of Defense was known as the Department of War until 1947, when the newly-created (and named) Air Force, along with the Army, gathered under the same roof for the first time with the Navy (the new outfit was known as the National Military Establishment until 1949).

War has always had, not to put to fine a point on it, a specific and violent meaning. With the end of World War II — and the beginning of the Cold War — the U.S. government found itself needing a standing Army for the first time in its history. Replacing War with Defense made the change more palatable.

It would have been immediately clear to George Orwell (who was to publish 1984 two years later) that the United States was about to embark on a series of wars that would continue, almost unbroken, for the rest of the century and well into the next one.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:45 PM
April 11, 2014
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 02:14 PM
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 01:37 PM
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
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 06:18 PM
March 11, 2014
Benghazi Smokescreen: the Real Story


From Tony Piel, a former director of the World Health Organization:

The current alleged crisis over the “scandal” of Benghazi is obviously totally political, devoid of merit, of both good sense and facts.

The real facts, from a top CIA source, are: circa 2011, our guys got wind of the fact that an al Qaeda-linked cell was forming in Benghazi, Libya. So we put three agents in the U.S. consulate to use paid informers to identify the cell’s members and their “house” address — which they did — and to track back to their origins and network connections.

The problem with using paid informers, of course, is that intelligence can flow both ways. So the Benghazi cell learned about the presence of our guys, too. Then, in September 2012, taking advantage of the smokescreen of Libyan civil unrest (the so-called Arab Spring uprising), when the host country security services were fully occupied with the rioting going on in the streets, the cell members attacked our consulate preemptively, with rockets and other weapons. The limited U.S. security personnel at the compound were not in a position to prevent the attack. These are the facts. What followed is history, exaggerated by useless commentary.

Susan Rice knew nothing of all of this, of course, so she was given a text prepared for the State Department by the CIA, who quite rightly did not want to call attention to the cell connection — because they were still tracking down the source network. So the text was intentionally vague, and Rice read it, as she should. That’s it. There was and is no “crisis” and no “scandal.”

It was — and still is — totally counterproductive for would-be Congressional “patriots,” Fox News, and other irresponsible critics to harp on Benghazi, because it draws attention to methods of counterintelligence operations for tracking terrorist networks that are still in use. Note also: some of these critics are among those who would deny funding to better protect our embassies and consulates around the world.

Whatever we may think about the CIA, the fact is that they are out there risking their lives to anticipate, assess, and counter real acts of terrorism — by lawful means, we hope. The last thing we need is for self-styled “super patriots,” in trying to damage Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, to weaken the security of America in the process.

Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, and Dick Cheney — draft dodgers and combat avoiders all — are hardly the ones to listen to for advice on military matters. But we should expect something a little better of John McCain, who has shown an occasional ability actually to think about certain issues. If he bothered to think about Benghazi, he would realize how counterproductive and damaging his harping on this particular issue really is to America’s security interests.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:04 PM
March 03, 2014
A 19th Century Statesman

Secretary of State John Kerry on Meet the Press yesterday:

Well, we’re now discussing all of the options. This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th-century behavior in the 21st century, and there’s no way to start with that if Russia persists in this, that the G8 countries are going to reassemble in Sochi … And the reason for this, David, is because you just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:54 AM
February 01, 2014
Enemy Allies

It has been plain to me for a long time that the biggest foreign threats to the security of United State do not come from such usual suspects as Iran, Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and North Korea.

They come from inside our tent, not from out: from Israel, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. I’ll address Israel and Pakistan some other day, if I ever get around to it. For now Gary Brecher has done a pretty good job on Saudi Arabia at PandoDaily. Here’s an excerpt, but read it all here.

And of all their many skills, the one the Saudis have mastered most thoroughly is disruption. Not the cute tech-geek kind of disruption, but the real, ugly thing-in-itself. They don’t just “turn a blind eye” to young Saudi men going off to do jihad — they cheer them on. It’s a brilliant strategy that kills two very dangerous birds with one plane ticket. By exporting their dangerous young men, the Saudis rid themselves of a potential troublemaker while creating a huge amount of pain for the people who live wherever those men end up.

Saudis have shipped money, sermons, and volunteers to Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Russia’s North Caucasus just as they’re doing now in Syria. It’s a package deal — to get the money, you have to accept the Wahhabism and the volunteers. And it works. The Saudi package is usually resented at first, like it was by the Afghans who were outraged to be told they were “bad Muslims” by Saudi volunteers.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:52 PM
January 27, 2014
Don’t Be Evil…

…used to be Google’s much admired motto, remember? The full statement of this philosophy, still to be found on the company’s website, is “You can make money without doing evil.” Well, yeah, but it turns out you can make even more money the other way:

The case involves some of the biggest high-tech companies in the business: Apple, Google, Intuit, Intel and others. As outlined in court documents and in a story at Pando.com by Mark Ames, back in mid-2000s the companies decided to limit the potential earning power of their highly educated employees by entering into a secret non-aggression pact or cartel.

As part of the pact, top executives in each company agreed not to recruit employees from each other with offers of higher pay; they agreed to notify each other when employees of another cartel member came to them looking to improve their job situation; and they agreed to share salary information, so that all the employers were basically offering the same pay scale for the same kind of work, making it more difficult for workers to improve their paychecks by shopping their talents.

According to the suit, companies that violated the non-aggression pact were threatened with large raids to steal their workforce, and enforcing the pact was made easier by the fact that top executives sat on the boards of other companies and reaped very handsome rewards for doing so. For example, Paul Otellini, CEO of cartel member Intel, was invited to join cartel member Google’s board of directors in 2004, an arrangement that netted him $23 million in 2007 alone. It was a club that protected itself very well.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:48 PM
January 14, 2014
Just Another Job Creator

At Gin and Tacos Professor Ed says:

General Motors under [CEO Roger] Smith spent $90 billion on robotics and automation in nine years … Of course none of it worked, with factory robots breaking down constantly, painting one another, and welding car doors shut…

The fact is that General Motors didn’t go bankrupt, it committed financial suicide because its executive culture fostered a loathing for the UAW and the hourly workforce that was so extreme that it obliterated basic logic and business sense. The idea was not to replace the workers with Japanese robots (GM Robotics was acquired from Fujitsu) because it would save money; it was to replace the workers with robots because fuck the workers.

Try to picture the mindset of people who would rather run their company into the ground than give their grunt employees a Cost of Living raise. It’s like an airline that would rather blow all of its planes up on the runway than give passengers an entire can of soda.

But enough about Delta.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:56 PM
January 07, 2014
When Will They Ever Learn?

Not that preaching to the deaf again will do much good, but here’s Jay Bookman giving it another shot anyway:

Back in 1993, we spent $1.10 to buy a gallon of gasoline, and the federal gasoline tax accounted for 18.4 cents of that amount.

Today, the price of gasoline has roughly tripled, but the federal gasoline tax hasn’t increased a fraction of a cent. Add in the fact that we drive considerably farther today on a gallon of gasoline than we did 20 years ago, and the buying power of the federal gasoline tax — long the bedrock of our national surface transportation system — has fallen by roughly half.

Then we wonder why we’re stuck in traffic, our roads are potholed and our bridges collapse. As those Americans who have traveled overseas will tell you, our basic infrastructure — roads, bridges, airports, rail, mass transit — is distinctly inferior in design, maintenance and reach to many of our competitors…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:30 PM
December 16, 2013
Closing Gates

Professor Wolff at The Philosopher’s Stone:

Only slightly more than thirty percent of Americans over the age of 25 have earned the B.A. or its equivalent. It is important to pause for a moment to reflect on the significance of that statistic. Seventy per cent of the adults in this country are simply ineligible for almost every decent job because they lack the appropriate educational credentials.

To be sure, you need a college degree to be a professor, a doctor, or a lawyer. Indeed, you need several. But you also need a college degree to be a high school teacher, to be an elementary school teacher, to get into a corporate management training program, to work for a business consulting firm, to be an architect, a Registered Nurse, an FBI agent, to have any hope of working for a non-profit. If the Walmart website is to be believed, your chances of becoming a Walmart store manager without a college degree are minimal. So seventy percent of Americans can kiss all of those jobs goodbye.

Since virtually everyone who talks or writes about education and the American economy is in that thirty percent — and most are in the very much tinier segment of graduates of top colleges and universities (counting UMass and its equivalents as part of the “top”), the talk is all about how hard it is to get into the elite handful of Ivy League schools and their equivalents, as though that were the only question worth discussing.

Save when the conversation turns to African-Americans and Latinos, no one really acknowledges that most Americans do not have college degrees. Now, to be sure, a larger share of each age cohort gets some post-secondary education. After all, those 2774 four-year schools manage, on average, to graduate within six years only about 55% of the students who enroll. But the fact remains that even now, not having a college degree is the norm. By the way, when I was an undergraduate, only about six or seven percent of Americans had a college degree!

Education in America has been transformed from a pathway to prosperity into a barrier across the road. Through underfunding and overcharging, colleges have become important tools in our pursuit of inequality. I served in the army with a fellow draftee named John Schaar, a poor kid from the rural slums of western Pennsylvania. He had heard that a college education was essentially free in California, and so he hitchhiked out.

By the time I knew him he had his Ph.D. in political science. After the government got through with wasting his time at Fort Bragg, he went back to the California and became a legendary scholar and teacher in the state university system that Reagan later did his best to destroy. Today Jack would never have made it out of Pennsylvania.

For today ballooning tuition and crushing student loans effectively wall off most Americans from a college degree. And that wall itself is in large measure artificial. Law schools do little or nothing to prepare graduates for the actual practice of law. The skills required to be successful on the floor of the Stock Exchange are difficult to distinguish from those of a retiree who can keep track of a dozen cards at once at the Bingo parlor. Any good watchmaker or taxidermist or seamstress could become an equally good surgeon after an apprenticeship in the operating room. It is, after all, a manual skill.

By the time I started out as a reporter in the 1950s some of the major papers and a few of the smaller ones had begun to require a bachelor's degree. But the two best writers at the Washington Post in my time there were veterans who had started out as copyboys.

The same barriers were going up in other businesses, with even less justification. At least newspaper work required crude reading and writing skills, but what reason could there be for demanding a college degree from would-be bond salesmen, bankers, advertising men, and insurance adjusters?

Over and over universities have tried to demonstrate the relevance of a college education to job performance. Over and over they have failed, because no such relevance exists. The best argument the academy can come up with is entirely circular: college graduates make more money than nongraduates. Well, duh. People with enough money to buy into the game wind up richer than people who don’t? Is that the best you got? Post hoc is not propter hoc, as the academy should have learned in college.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:48 PM
December 14, 2013
Nothing Gets The Adrenaline Going…

…like a 78-year-old woman. More news from the United Police States of America. Read the whole piece by Emily DePrang from which this is excerpted.

Four of the fired officers were also indicted for misdemeanor official oppression. One was found not guilty — an all-white jury decided in May 2012 that Andrew Blomberg was not stomping on Holley’s hands but was trying to lift them with the back of his foot — one was found guilty and the other two pleaded no contest. All three received probation.

To Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, those former cops are the real victims. “If Chad Holley had been in school and not burglarizing a house,” he told me, “those officers would still be in this department.”

I asked Hunt how often the Chad Holley scenario — one suspect, multiple officers and “a question about force”— happens.

Hunt, who was a Houston patrol officer for 18 years, replied, “That happens a lot. And I can tell you—myself, two paramedics, my old partner and another police officer were in a similar type thing with a 78-year-old woman on a scene one time. And if that had been videotaped, I can only imagine what people would have thought we were doing to this person. All’s we were trying to do was make sure that her knife was gone and she was handcuffed. … But yeah, a lot of times, when you’ve got a citizen that’s fighting with officers, it may take seven, eight, nine officers to subdue that person. The adrenaline’s going, and it can be bad.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:11 PM
December 02, 2013
Watch Out, America!

We’re still number one in unfairness but tiny Israel is closing fast, according to Alex Kane on Alternet

But most Americans probably don’t know that the 2nd most unequal “rich” country is the close ally and client state of Israel, whose own oligarchs own a significant slice of the Israeli economy.…

About 21 percent of Israelis live in poverty, the highest among developed countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

I was 14 in 1948, when Israel was born. It sounded wonderful. From the horror of World War II had come a new nation dedicated to just and progressive communal values, to the dignity of labor, and without poverty or excessive riches. I dreamed of joining a kibbutz some day. Would they take goyim, though? Of course they would. After all, Israel was tomorrow!

…and tomorrow and tomorrow, crept in its petty pace to today.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:33 AM
November 28, 2013
Hiccups of Democracy

Young, old, democracies are all the same. From the New York Times:

NEW DELHI — At a certain point this fall, the presidential elections in the Maldives stopped looking like the hiccups of a young democracy and veered into the realm of farce.

Mohammed Nasheed was the leader after a first-round election back in September, but the country’s Supreme Court begged to differ. The court, which was allied with one of his rivals, voided the September election before it could reach a second round, citing irregularities in voter rolls…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:12 AM
November 11, 2013
The Eternal Politics of Fear

Theoretically the mob is the repository of all wisdom and virtue; actually it is the ultimate source of political power. Even the plutocracy cannot make war upon it openly, or forget the least of its weaknesses. The business of keeping it in order must be done discreetly, warily, with delicate technique.

In the main that business consists of keeping alive its deep-seated fears — of strange faces, of unfamiliar ideas, of unhackneyed gestures, of untested liberties and responsibilities. The one permanent emotion of the inferior man, as of all the simpler mammals, is fear — fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above all is safety. His instincts incline him towards a society so organized that it will protect him at all hazards, and not only against perils to his hide but also against assaults upon his mind — against the need to grapple with unaccustomed problems, to weigh ideas, to think things out for himself, to scrutinize the platitudes upon which his everyday thinking is based…

In America it is the newspaper that is his boss. From it he gets support for his elemental illusions. In it he sees a visible embodiment of his own wisdom and consequence. Out of it he draws fuel for his simple moral passion, his congenital suspicion of heresy, his dread of the unknown. And behind the newspaper stands the plutocracy, ignorant,, unimaginative and timorous…

It is precisely here, the first and favorite scene of the Great Experiment, that the culture of the individual has been reduced to the most rigid and absurd regimentation.

—H. L. Mencken, writing in 1920. The bogeyman of that time was the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, locally represented by unwashed and unintelligible immigrants from Italy, Eastern Europe and Russia itself. What he would have written about the Tea Party, Ayn Rand, the TSA and the NSA, we can never know. For even if the Great Misanthrope were to come back to life, his head would explode upon contact with Fox News.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:59 PM
November 05, 2013
Not Your Grandfather’s GOP?


Ted Cruz tells a Heritage Foundation audience we need a hundred more senators like the gratefully dead racist Jesse Helms, whose own hero was the equally dead miscegenist Strom Thurmond. Wonderment at this public display of GOP racism is widely feigned, which is like being surprised every morning when the sun rises. “Oh, my God, Mabel, come look what’s outside. There’s sunlight everywhere!”

Although to be fair there has been a slight change for the better, in the sense that at least Cruz is being honest about it. In the good old days of the Grand Old Party a Republican could risk apologizing for committing racism in public. Here’s former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, after expressing regret that Thurmond hadn’t been elected president on the States’ Rights ticket in 1948:

“A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embrace the discarded policies of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement.”

And here’s my post on December 11 of 2002, which doesn’t seem to me to require any updating:

This is what most of the press referred to as an “apology” from the racist Trent Lott for his most recent embrace of the policies of the past which others have discarded. It is a curious piece of linguistic work, immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with southern politics.

In 1966 Georgia State Senator Jimmy Carter was beaten for the governorship by an Old South racist named Lester Maddox. The moderate Carter had allowed himself to be, as they say in Dixie, out-niggered. He didn’t make that mistake in 1970, when he beat a moderate former governor by opposing bussing and inviting George Wallace to campaign for him.

Safely elected governor, Carter said in his inaugural address, “I say to you quite frankly that the time for racial discrimination was over.” Quite frankly, this bears a certain resemblance to Lott’s “apology.” Racial discrimination was fun while it lasted? Huh?

Carter, though, was sort of apologizing for having earlier lied that he was a racist when he wasn’t. Lott is lying that he’s not a racist when he is.

This isn’t just Lott’s lie. It’s the lie of the entire Republican Party, which has built its political success on a bedrock of racism since Richard Nixon adopted the Southern Strategy that Lyndon Johnson had handed him on a platter with the civil rights bills.

After the Vietnam War had driven Johnson from office, Richard Nixon ran for president as a “law and order” man. Both black and white voters understood exactly what he meant by that.

They still knew when Ronald Reagan ran for the presidency in 1980 promising even more law and order. They understood what color his “welfare queens” were, too, and they knew why he opposed affirmative action.

Reagan’s second presidential campaign, against the hapless Walter Mondale, was even more openly racist. And George Herbert Walker Bush’s campaign against Dukakis four years later was worse than that. Even the press noticed, as they hadn’t when racism wore Reagan’s smiling face.

All this time, back in the south, the Republicans were at work creating political ghettos — congressional districts with black majorities where African American voters could be safely quarantined while the Republicans corralled the more populous suburbs.

And now the Republican Party, much of the federal judiciary, the White House and both Houses of Congress are ruled by men of the hard right. They have many things in common — militarism, worship of wealth, contempt for the poor, a taste for repression, a distaste for dissent, on and on.

These men — the Lotts and Armeys, the DeLays and Ashcrofts, the Falwells and the Robertsons, the Rehnquists and the Thomases — share another thing, too. Although they lie about it, as Lott is so unconvincingly doing right now, they are every one of them in the service of racism.

And this is the large, putrescent dead rat on the floor of America’s kitchen that we pretend isn’t there.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:07 AM
October 28, 2013
Self-fulfilling Prophecy

From today’s Paul Krugman New York Times, words that ought to be tattooed on every Democratic politician’s teleprompter :

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:08 AM
October 15, 2013
History Doesn’t Repeat Itself…

…but it sure keeps on rhyming. This is from Garry Wills’ 1981 book, The Kennedy Imprisonment:

…Over and over in our recent history, presidents have claimed they had to act tough in order to disarm those demanding that they act tough. The only way to become a peacemaker is first to disarm the warmakers by making a little successful war. And if the little war becomes a big one, it must be pursued energetically or the “hawks” will capitalize on the failure. War wins, either way. If you are for it, you wage it. And if you are against it, you wage it.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:56 AM
October 03, 2013
Marlin’s Wee Wee…

…is bigger than Barack’s wee wee any day.

See?

“This is not just about Obamacare anymore,” centrist Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., said.

We’re not going to be disrespected,” conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:33 PM
September 27, 2013
Jay Bookman Explains…

… in just six words the GOP’s threats to shut down their own country’s government and destroy its credit rating:

This is how white people riot.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:54 PM
September 11, 2013
The Great Misdiagnosis

Jim Wright at Stonekettle explores the true legacy of 9/11 in the excerpt below. As a nation, we have responded to the tragedy like a man stricken with lung cancer who chooses to self-medicate with two packs of Marlboros, taken daily.

…Since 911, an entire generation has been born and grown to self-awareness. Those young Americans have never known their nation at peace.

They have never known a nation that is not divided … They have never had a single day where they weren’t told to hate their neighbors and to report them if they don’t seem patriotic enough … They have never lived a single day in a nation that wasn’t bent to the terrible business of revenge.

They have never known a nation that didn’t roil in fear and cringe in terror every single day … They have never flown on an airplane without having been treated like a criminal … They have never checked out a book from the library without having been subject to secret scrutiny.

They never sent an unmonitored email or made an unmonitored phone call … They have never lived in a house that isn’t subject to unwarranted search … They have never had the right to redress or legal challenge when their name is placed on secret lists — and in point of fact, they don’t even have the right to know if their name is on that list at all.

They have never lived in a nation where they have the right to confront their accuser and demand proof of more than just suspicion … They have never lived without the threat, however unlikely, of being disappeared … They have never lived in a nation that didn’t regard the torture of human beings as an acceptable option.

This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born.

The terrorists didn’t do that to them.

We did.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:02 PM
August 22, 2013
Wanted by the FBI: Ratfinks

Here’s the FBI again, pissing in our national punchbowl again. Now if only they could figure out some way to strip citizenship from any American who refused to rat out his neighbors… Think how happy we would all be then — curled up in the fetal position, all safe and snug under our own little beds.

It cites the case of Hassan Razmara, an Iranian national and green card holder who applied for citizenship in 2007. Razmana attended an Iranian mosque in West Covina, California, which was surveilled by the FBI. In 2008, the mosque’s imam was convicted of fraud, filing false tax returns and violating the US economic embargo against Iran. In early 2009, after passing the naturalisation exam, Razmana attended his second interview, to find an FBI agent present, who asked questions about the mosque and the imam.

Soon afterwards, the agent called him and told him he would expedite his naturalisation case if he would be an informant for the agency. He declined. Four years later, his application for citizenship — which should take six months — is still pending because of “additional background checks.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:33 AM
August 21, 2013
United Snoops of America

Just came across this post from October of 2002:

This is the logo for the proposed Office of Homeland Security. No doubt it will be hissed and booed to death shortly, which will be too bad. Unlike most logos, this one says it all. (Come to think of it, though, the text loses something in translation. Heimat Sicherheit sounds more natural.)


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And sure enough, it was hissed and booed to death in favor of:


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:10 PM
August 20, 2013
Kombat Kops

Here, via Naked Capitalism, is a Marine colonel on how to build a police state right under our cop-loving and soldier-sniffing eyes:

My best friend, who’s a SWAT officer in Nashua, who came to Iraq with me to train the Iraqi police, sent me an email with a picture of him in the media on the streets of Watertown, MA wearing the exact same combat gear that we had in Iraq, only it was a different color. And the way we do things in the military, it’s called task organization: You take a command, and then you attach units to it in order to accomplish the mission. What’s happening is that Homeland Security is pre-staging gear, equipment, consistent: What they’re trying to do is use standardized vehicles, standardized equipment. I saw a picture in the Boston Globe during the Marathon Bombing where there was a state police officer — Actually, there were two officers. They both had identical helmets, flak jackets, weapons, everything I wore in Iraq, only it was all blue. The officer on one side had a big patch on his back that said “MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE.” Another officer next to him, his patch said “BOSTON POLICE.”

And so what we’re doing here, and let’s not kid about it, we’re building a domestic army and we’re shrinking the military because the government is afraid of its own citizens. The last time more than ten terrorists were in the same place at one time was September 11, and all these vehicles in the world wouldn’t have prevented it, nor would it have helped anybody. So, I don’t know where we’re going to use this many vehicles and this many troops; Concord is just one little cog in the wheel. We’re building an Army over here and I can’t believe that people aren’t seeing it. Is everybody blind?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:30 PM
August 11, 2013
The Rich Get Rich…

…and the poor get poorer. Did you know this disturbing little factoid? I didn’t.

Never mind that some states “expanded” Medicaid and others did not. Here is the central point of unfairness for me, and the Kaiser site describes it falsely. They write: “[Y]ou will be eligible for coverage.” In fact, you aren’t “eligible,” because you don’t have a choice. You’re forced into Medicaid. This is important if you’re over 55, because Medicaid expenses will be clawed back from your estate. ObamaCare, in other words, prevents you, by force majeure, from providing for your children if you’re poor and over 55. You don’t even have the option of taking on risk by buying a crappier policy. How can that be fair?
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:21 AM
August 09, 2013
Sadly True

Yves says:

The Democrats have been so deeply penetrated by the neoliberal/Robert Rubin/Hamilton Project types that they aren’t that different from the right on economic issues. Both want little regulation of banking and open trade and international capital flows. Both want to “reform” Medicare and Social Security. Both are leery of a welfare state, the Republicans openly so, the Rubinite Dems with all sorts of hand wringing and clever schemes to incentivize private companies that generally subsidize what they would have done regardless (note that Americans have had a mixed record in providing good social safety nets, but a big reason is our American exceptionalism means we refuse to copy successful models from abroad).

The powerful influence of moneyed interests on the Democratic party has achieved the fondest aims of the right wing extremists of the 1970s: the party of FDR is now lukewarm at best in its support of the New Deal. Most Democrats are embarrassed to be in the same room with union types. They are often afraid to say that government can play a positive role. They were loath to discuss the costs of income inequality until it became so far advanced that it is now well nigh impossible to reverse it. After all, that sort of discussion might sound like class warfare, and God forbid anyone on the mainstream left risk sound like Marx…

So the Democratic party (and remember, our two party system makes the Democrats the home by default for the left) pretends to be a safe haven for all sorts of out groups: women, gays, Hispanics (on their way to being the dominant group but not there yet), blacks, the poor. But this is stands in stark contradiction to its policies of selling out the middle class to banks and big corporate interests, just on a slower and stealthier basis than the right. So its desperate need to maintain its increasingly phony “be nice to the rainbow coalition” branding places a huge premium on appearances. It thus uses identity politics as a cover for policy betrayals. It can motivate various groups on narrow, specific issues, opening the way for the moneyed faction to get what it wants.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:28 PM
July 19, 2013
Glue You, Yankee

From the New York Times:

Just a few years after the setting of an American withdrawal deadline for 2014 evoked alarm and worry among Afghans, the tone now has perceptibly hardened: even the officials who openly want the Americans to stay are now saying that staying must be strictly on Afghan terms.

The latest is Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal, once a favorite of the Western contingent in Afghanistan, whose anger at the American attitude about customs fees led him to institute steep fines and briefly led Afghan officials to close the border crossings to Western military shipments.

“At the heart of all this is not just a revenue collection issue,” Mr. Zakhilwal said in an e-mail on Thursday. It is about “respect of Afghan laws and procedures…”

Now that the coalition is trying to take out its equipment, the Afghan government is demanding each container either come with its paperwork — or a $1,000 fine. Najeebullah Manali, a Finance Ministry official, put the number of trucks at roughly 70,000. That would mean a fine of $70 million.

Or, as a great poet once wrote:

There was an old whore from Peru
Who filled her vagina with glue.
“They paid to get in,”
Said she with a grin,
“And they’ll pay to get out again, too.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:25 PM
July 10, 2013
Congress Throws Anchor to Drowning Grads

Les Leopold asks a question that has never occurred to most Americans. Been down so long it seems like up to us. Luckily Congress has spotted the problem and is moving swiftly to make it worse.

Why are high schools free but colleges aren’t? For over 150 years, our nation has recognized that tuition-free primary and secondary schools were absolutely vital to the growth and functioning of our commonwealth.

By the middle of the 19th century, New York City also provided free higher education through what would become the City College of New York. Hunter and Brooklyn colleges also were tuition-free, as was California’s rapidly growing post-WWII state college and university system. The GI Bill of Rights after WWII provided significant resources to over three million returning veterans to go to school tuition-free, which in no small part, helped to build American prosperity for the next generation. (Tuition was even provided if GIs attended private colleges and universities.) A further impetus to free higher education came as America fell behind the USSR during the Sputnik-era space race.

But the spread of free higher education stalled and then retreated precisely as Wall Street began to grab more and more of the nation’s wealth. As financialization transformed the economy starting in the late 1970s, average wages flattened while Wall Street incomes shot through the roof. At the same time taxes on the super-rich collapsed placing more and more of the burden on working people. Lo and behold, free higher education rapidly became “unaffordable.” Wall Street then swooped in with loans as students and their families loaded up on debt in order to gain access to higher education. This is the very definition of financialization.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:37 PM
July 09, 2013
In Our Name…

…this is what President Obama does to helpless men 88 times a day. No doubt he does it for what he considers to be the greater good: protecting the rest of his agenda from the “national security” cowards who predominate in Congress and the electorate. In some cosmic weighing of the scales, he may be right.  Or not.

Still, this is what President Obama does to helpless men 88 times a day. Every day.




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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:57 PM
June 26, 2013
Just So

Robert Scheer on the duty to blow whistles:

As Principle IV of what came to be known as the Nuremberg Code states: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

That is a heavy obligation, and the question we should be asking is not why do folks like Ellsberg, Snowden and Bradley Manning do the right thing, but rather why aren’t we bringing charges against the many others with access to such damning data of government malfeasance who remain silent?

Is there an international manhunt being organized to bring to justice Dick Cheney, the then-vice president who seized upon the pain and fear of 9/11 to make lying to the public the bedrock of American foreign policy? This traitor to the central integrity of a representative democracy dares condemn Snowden as a “traitor” and suggest that he is a spy for China because he took temporary refuge in Hong Kong.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:05 PM
June 05, 2013
Not a Bug. A Feature

If you’re reading Bad Attitudes, you already know this. But it can’t be said too often. A major point — perhaps the major point — of our criminal “justice” system is to keep the niggers in their place. It’s criminal, all right, our justice. Since the founding of the nation, the “law” in law and order has been systematically perverted to preserve that old natural “order” so beloved by Chief Justice Roger Taney and spelled out by him in Dred Scott v. Sandford [1857].

I know personally people like doctors, lawyers, elected officials, teachers, architects, and accountants (in addition to the waiters, musicians, bartenders, comedians, and people of leisure) for whom not being high is an extreme rarity. In the broadest sense, I am acquainted with hundreds of users – and probably more people who I don't realize are users.

This bothers me not at all, since I give zero shits about whether people smoke weed. What does strike me as odd, though, is that for all the (predominantly white) people I know who use regularly, I know very few people who get arrested for anything drug related. Perhaps that is because, despite surveys showing that nearly identical percentages of black and white Americans use marijuana, new data shows that blacks are 400% more likely to get arrested for marijuana-related offenses. You're shocked, I know.

Notice that this does not say blacks are four times as likely to use marijuana, or be in possession of it, or sell it, or anything of the sort. They are four times more likely to be arrested and charged. The reason, I submit, is that the entire point of the War on Drugs is to put black males in prison. This isn't a bug; it's a feature…

Sure, the dumbass white kids from the suburbs can spend all of mom and dad's money on blow and bad acid and expensive weed for four years in college, but if there's weed to be found in the crappy black neighborhood they'll move heaven and Earth to find it. Ethan might be selling his mom's Vicodin out of their 4000 square-foot home in Barrington, but the crime is Curtis selling dimebags behind the convenience store.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:47 PM
May 07, 2013
The Wrong Train

President Obama himself seems to be the one about to cross the red line — that same red line we’ve crossed so many, many times before:

The United States will “shortly” begin arming Syrian rebels, looking to boost moderate factions over al-Qaida-affiliated extremists whose rise would be a national security “nightmare,” the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told CBS News on Tuesday.

“I do think we’ll be arming the opposition shortly,” Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said in an interview. “We’re doing a lot more there on the ground than really is known, but we do have to change the equation.”

I just have 20 short words for the president: Indonesia, Haiti, Chile, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Angola, Zaire, Libya, Lebanon, Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Just to name a few victims of our never-ending mission to force “democracy“ on the natives.

The invariant rule, Mr. President, goes as follows: When you take the wrong train, every station you reach is the wrong one.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:10 PM
April 30, 2013
The Same Old Lies

Syrbal, at Herlander-Walking, is herself a veteran. So is her husband. They have a son who just left for Afghanistan on his second tour in the Bush-Obama wars. Not that Bush and Obama are the only ones responsible for those evil, idiot wars. Read her post to the end.

I know keeping very, very busy is the best idea right now. Distraction was my only friend the last year he was in the war zone; but this time it is far more difficult to keep my mind away from sharp cliff edges. At least, this time, it seems most Americans, even in this perversely red county of a blue state, have decided the wars are not a jolly good time.

Last time, seeing the service star on my car, or if it came up in conversation I still had idiots say the equivalent of “Right on!” which made me tilt my head and eye them like a hungry raptor before verbally pecking them to death. This time, if I apologize for temporary mental lapses with the explanation of my son being deployed, faces fall and people say “Oh, I’m so sorry,” or “Oh, no!”

Why, oh, why was that not the response in 2001 and 2003? It was the same lie then? And over 8000 men and women from a host of nations including our own have paid for that lie with their deaths. And that is not even beginning the count of Iraqis and Afghanis.

During the long, sad evening of the election night when Reagan won reelection in a landslide, a colleague in Gore campaign headquarters defined the word democracy for me. “Democracy,” he said, “is that system of government in which you give the people what they want. And you give it to ’em good.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:13 PM
April 17, 2013
The World’s Greatest Deliberative Corpse

You ought to see Jay Bookman when he gets really mad!

Senators like to tell each other that their 60-vote rule enhances their individual power, making each of them just a little bit more important and a little bit more necessary to woo. Being important is important to a senator. Being wooed is important. It has become kind of the whole point for many of them.

But in reality, the 60-vote rule renders the Senate as an institution, and each senator individually, almost powerless. As today's vote demonstrates, it produces a body that does nothing and can do nothing. It turns the Senate into a stage for performance art conducted by strutting peacocks and peahens more concerned with getting their dignifed faces onto television than with functioning as a legislative body. And again, they like it that way.

In Senate lore, George Washington is said to have described the upper chamber as a cooling saucer, where the hot passions of the House can be poured and moderated. The metaphor has a nice elegance to it and no doubt appeals to Senate narcissism. But let's be honest. With the 60-vote rule, the Senate is not a cooling saucer. It is a shallow, stagnant, algae-green, mosquito-breeding backwater in which the scum too often rises to the top.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:28 PM
April 16, 2013
Letting the Terrorists Win

From Wonkblog:

Terrorism is a crime against the mind. What happened in Boston, horrific as it is, is theater to make you scared. That’s the point. The message of terrorist attacks is you’re not safe, and the government can’t protect you — that the existing power structure can’t protect you.

I tell people if it’s in the news, don’t worry about it. By definition, news is something that almost never happens. The brain fools you into thinking the news is what’s important. Our brains overreact to this stuff. Terrorism just pegs the fear button.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:26 AM
March 29, 2013
UUUU

Hurrah. Hurrah. We’re getting out of Afghanistan in 2014. Maybe. If and when, we know how it will look, because we’ve been there before. Over and over. And will be again, if we let the disgusting, discredited warhogs who lied us into Iraq do to it to us again. Very likely we will let them. We are what we are.

This is from Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia by Arnold R. Isaacs:


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:37 PM
March 27, 2013
The Endless Loop

One thing about living in a country with amnesia is that the old becomes new over and over again, as we repeat our forgotten idiocies. Here is a post I put up on Bad Attitudes on September 12, 2002, still fresh as a daisy:

Looking up something else in the files I just came across a four-year-old article from the New York Times, written as the Taliban were about to take over Afghanistan.

It’s easy to forget, and most of us conveniently have, that the Taliban was Made in the USA. What if, for just that once, we had managed to mind our own business?

From the Times of August 13, 1998, speaking of the likelihood that the mullahs would soon seize power:

“If so, the outcome is full of tragic irony for a nation that seemed set on a completely opposite course in 1973, when King Zahir Shah, the last representative of the Durrani Dynasty that had ruled the country for 250 years, was ousted in a coup mounted by his cousin, Mohammed Daoud.

“As President, Mohammed Daoud proclaimed himself a modernizer but lasted barely five years before he was killed in April 1978 in a coup staged by the Soviet-backed Communist Party, which proclaimed a still more radical modernization program.

“The Communists’ program aimed at uprooting the pervasive influence of Muslim clerics, whose support of the Durranis had consigned Afghanistan to a social and economic backwardness.

“Within hours of seizing the Arg Palace in Kabul, the Afghan capital, the Communists vowed to emancipate Afghan women, achieve universal literacy, and move the country beyond its bullock-cart economy.

“But the bid to force compliance with the Communist program, especially in the arch-conservative world of the Afghan village, triggered a civil war that drew in Soviet forces in December 1979.

“This in turn prompted President Jimmy Carter and later Ronald Reagan to commit the United States to backing the Afghan Mujahedeen, the self-styled Muslim holy warriors who drove out the Russians in February 1989.”

To put the matter clearly, the Russians were the nearest thing there was to good guys in the Afghanistan of the late seventies. The nearest thing to bad guys, then and now, were the ignorant village clerics…

As so often happened during the Cold War, we jumped eagerly into bed with the worst guys in sight. Even worse than the Russian alternative? Well, figure it out. Our exciting fling with the primitive, lawless Mujahedeen created the conditions for the Taliban takeover that the Russians had feared. And the takeover created the kind of country an Osama Bin Laden could get comfortable in.

Well, okay, but still.. We couldn’t very well have left this tiny land in the terrible claws of godless Russia, could we? Of course we could. We did it all the time, before and during the Cold War. And in this case, so what? Three and a half years later the Soviet Union collapsed anyway, giving everybody a get-out-of-jail card.

But wasn’t that collapse precisely because we had armed and financed those brave Afghan freedom fighters? Pretty doubtful. The Soviet Union had been a basket case for decades. It might have stayed on its feet for a year or two longer if Cold War cowboys like Zbigniew Brzezinski and William J. Casey hadn’t been gnawing at its crutches in Afghanistan, that’s true. But the aging invalid was about to topple in any case..

Suppose those few years had been spent under the Russians rather than the warlords and the Taliban? A number of things would have happened, all of them good. Afghanistan wouldn’t have been devastated in a pointless civil war, hundreds of thousands of Russians and Afghans would still be alive, and the country would be independent today just like the other ’Stans in the neighborhood. No better off, but no worse either.

And yesterday — September 11th of 2002 — could have been just another lovely day in early autumn.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:46 PM
March 26, 2013
Tennessee? Gotta Love It!

From AlterNet:

After the Tennessee State Capitol got a $16 million makeover in December, some members of the Congress were curious why a utility sink, formerly mounted on the wall, was moved to the floor. Some wondered, was it a sink for Muslims to wash their feet before praying?

According to the AP, Legislative Administration Director Connie Ridley wrote in an email:

I confirmed with the facility administrator for the State Capitol Complex that the floor-level sink installed in the men’s restroom outside the House Chamber is for housekeeping use … It is, in layman’s terms, a mop sink.

Although Jesus is certainly welcome to use it (John 13:12) if He decides to land in Tennessee and can find any disciples there. Good luck with that, guys.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:23 PM
March 25, 2013
If It Quacks Like an Oligarch…

From Naked Capitalism:

Now Johnson carefully laid the bread crumbs, but so as not to violate the rules of power player discourse, pointedly switched from the banana republic term “oligarch” to the more genteel and encompassing label “elites” when talking about the US (“elites” goes beyond the controlling interests themselves to include their operatives as well as any independent opinion influencers). Yet despite his depiction of extensive parallels between the role played by oligarchs in emerging economies and the overwhelming influence of the financial elite in the US, there’s been a peculiar sanctimonious reluctance to apply the word oligarch to the members of America’s ruling class…

But the fact that some people have advantages and are able to make the most of them, isn’t the reason to pin the “o” word on America’s top wealthy. It’s that, like Simon’s prototypical emerging market magnates, they increasingly dominate our society and are running it strictly for own self interest and devil take the rest of us. And the results on important metrics are worse than in Russia. The Gini coefficient is a widely-used measure of income inequality. The Gini coefficient is worse (higher) for the US than for Russia. Even though its rich have gotten richer and have pulled away from their lessers, the rest of the population has also done better:

In dollar terms, Russia’s GDP increased 7.5-fold over the last decade from around $200bn to $1.5 trillion; at the same time, nominal average wages increased 14-fold over the same period from $50 to around $700 a month.
And the latest statistics on the Gini coefficients (at least readily findable on the Web) are a few years stale. As we’ve written, the income gains in the US from 2009 to 2011 went entirely to the top 1%, which saw a 121% increase; the rest of the population suffered a small decline. That would increase the US Gini coefficient even further.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:33 PM
March 20, 2013
The Real Lesson of the Iraq War

The architects of the Iraq war are still at large, as are the pundits who cheered them on, as are the bankers who created the economic crash. The lesson is clear in each case: American elites are not held accountable for their failures. They are an aristocracy that is free to do whatever it wants, knowing that it will not lose its power, prestige and status no matter what happens. Once you’re accepted into the club you get tenure, and you can indulge in as much fraud, extortion and folly as you wish. The little people will be tasked to suffer the consequences and pay for the mess, and you can enjoy your evening at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner without any anxiety whatsoever. As long as you don’t download kiddie porn, sleep with 13-year-old girls, frolic with Boy Scouts, or get photographed in a brothel with a chicken mask and a bull whip, you’re golden.

The rest of us get zero tolerance laws, paramilitary police forces, surveillance drones, warrantless wiretaps, German Shepherds sniffing through our kids’ lockers at school, sobriety check points, “click it or ticket” sweeps and other such delightful previews of life in post-Constitutional America. But that shit ain’t for you.

If we sell pot we go to jail, maybe even lose our careers. If you start a disastrous, unnecessary war that kills millions of people and wastes billions of dollars, you go on the Sunday talk shows and get fawned over like you’re the biggest foreign policy wiz since Lord Palmerston, or even Dr. Kissinger! You get a lucrative book deal. You hire a hack to write it. You give it an idiotically simple title that you’ve plagiarized from a third grader’s essay like Lessons Learned or What I’ve Learned. Have your wife go on The View to share your sweet human side to the housewives of America. Put together an exploratory committee. When you’re a member of the elite, failure is an option, and every crisis is indeed an opportunity. There’s nowhere to go but up, up, up.

About that book. Keep it simple. If your average football coach can’t imbibe its main points during a single bout with the piles, you haven’t accomplished your mission. Remember, David Gregory and George Stephanopoulos might be reading. Tailor your prose accordingly. Never mind that no one outside of Chris Matthews’ boudoir actually will read it, and don’t worry that it’s going to end up in a bin at the Salvation Army next to Vanna White’s biography and innumerable copies of A Million Little Pieces. This is about marketing and public relations, not literature. It’s about your worldly success in the here and now. The future doesn’t matter, as one of your colleagues famously observed, because we’ll all be dead.

Thus the same people who brought us the Iraq disaster and the Great Recession are now bringing us bomb Iran and bring on austerity. That’s how the game works. It’s one great big obscene charade. They know it. We know it. They know we know it. They know we know they know we know it, and no one cares. Even if we did, there isn’t a damn thing we could do about it anyway, is there?


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Posted by OHollern at 02:11 PM
March 19, 2013
Lest We Forget…

…not that we ever knew, or knowing, cared.

From The Information Clearing House:

“In Iraq, the US record speaks for itself: it backed Saddam’s party, the Ba’ath, to capture power in 1963, murdering thousands of socialists, communists and democrats; it backed the Ba’ath party in 1968 when Saddam was installed as vice-president; it helped him and the Shah of Iran in 1975 to crush the Kurdish nationalist movement; it increased its support for Saddam in 1979…helping him launch his war of aggression against Iran in 1980; it backed him throughout the horrific eight years of war (1980 to 1988), in which a million Iranians and Iraqis were slaughtered, in the full knowledge that he was using chemical weapons and gassing Kurds and Marsh Arabs; it encouraged him in 1990 to invade Kuwait…; it backed him in 1991 when Bush [senior] suddenly stopped the war, exactly 24 hours after the start of the great March uprising that engulfed the south and Iraqi Kurdistan…”
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:36 PM
March 09, 2013
What Bacevich Said!

Andrew Bacevich is one of the clearest and deepest voices against the war machine the United States has become. A retired Army colonel with a Ph.D. from Princeton whose son was killed in the Iraq war which he opposed, he’s now a professor of international relations at Boston University.

This combination of experience and education positions him perfectly to observe and reflect on the tenth anniversary of the second Bush war against Iraq. Training and inclination give a historical tint to his perspective, and I highly recommend the WaPo article.

Next year marks the centennial of the conflict once known as the Great War. Germany lost that war. Whether France and Britain can be said to have won in any meaningful sense is another matter. Besides planting the seeds for an even more horrific bloodletting just two decades later, the fighting of 1914-1918 served chiefly to provide expansion-minded British politicians with a pretext for carving up the Ottoman Empire. It proved a fateful move.

What London wanted from this new Middle East that it nonchalantly cut and pasted was profit and submission; what it got was resentment and resistance, yielding a host of intractable problems that in due time it bequeathed to Washington. In effect, victory in 1918 expanded Britain’s imperial domain only to accelerate its demise, with the United States naively assuming the mantle of imperial responsibility (euphemistically termed “leadership”). Thank you, Perfidious Albion.

Many another storied triumph has contained its own poison pill. More recent examples include the Six Day War, which saddled Israel with a large, restive minority that it can neither pacify nor assimilate; the ouster of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, giving rise to the Taliban; and Operation Desert Storm, after which the garrisoning of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia helped light the long fuse that would eventually detonate on Sept. 11, 2001.

Think you’ve won? Wait until all the returns are in.

McCain recently tried to use his beloved Surge in Iraq to convict Hagel of incompetence as a potential SecDef, though of course the real issue was that Hagel didn’t endorse McCain in 2008. Bacevich compares the surge to Andrew Jackson’s victory at New Orleans. It was indeed a great victory on the battlefield, but as the returns filtered in Gibbon’s words were recalled.


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Such is the empire of Fortune (if we may still disguise our ignorance under that popular name), that it is almost equally difficult to foresee the events of war or to explain their various consequences. A bloody and complete victory has sometimes yielded no more than possession of the field; and the loss of ten thousand men has sometimes been sufficient to destroy, in a single day, the work of ages.

Jackson’s signature victory, of couse, took place two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent was signed, ending the War of 1812. And McCain’s surge made no difference in the outcome of the war, though of course it killed more Americans. It also caused Americans to kill more Iraqis, and to me it appears that the most underplayed aspect of the story in accounts I’ve been reading is the animosity provoked throughout the Middle East by the three Bush wars, two on Iraq and one on Afghanistan. Bacevich speculates that the entire second war on Iraq will be seen by historians as not very important, like the War of 1812, except that the War of 1812 left us with a national anthem. Even the importance of the American empire is fading in comparison to the rising literacy and production and general capabilities of the rest of the world.

In what has become one of the most momentous stories of the 21st century, the inhabitants of the Islamic world are asserting the prerogative of determining their own destinies. Intent on doing things their way, they are increasingly intolerant of foreign interference. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington sought to revalidate an altogether different prerogative, one pioneered by Britain: an entitlement to meddle.

Britain never learned its lesson; and hubris attracts Nemesis, in this case history, the great teacher. What about the US, will we learn from Britain’s example? Not yet. As Bacevich puts it, “Sure, American troops captured Baghdad and overthrew Saddam Hussein. So what?”

Back in 1947, the promulgation of the Truman Doctrine kicked off Washington’s effort to put its imprint on the Greater Middle East, while affirming that Britain’s exit from the region had begun. U.S. power was going to steer events in directions favorable to U.S. interests. That effort now seems likely to have run its course. The United States finds itself today pretty much where the British were back in the 1920s and 1930s. We’ve bitten off more than we can chew. The only problem is that there’s no readily available sucker to whom we can hand off the mess we’ve managed to create.

Still, we have made some progress: compare McCain’s fate with Jackson’s.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 09:52 PM
March 08, 2013
“War is the Health of the United States”…

…as Randolph Bourne almost said. Jim Fallows, my old colleague and former boss in the White House, has this to say about George W. Bush’s brainless embrace of Bourne’s theory:

This month marks ten years since the U.S. launched its invasion of Iraq. In my view this was the biggest strategic error by the United States since at least the end of World War II and perhaps a much longer period. Vietnam was costlier and more damaging, but also more understandable. As many people have chronicled, the decision to fight in Vietnam was a years-long accretion of step-by-step choices, each of which could be rationalized at the time. Invading Iraq was an unforced, unnecessary decision to risk everything on a “war of choice” whose costs we are still paying…

Anyone now age 30 or above should probably reflect on what he or she got right and wrong ten years ago. I feel I was right in arguing, six months before the war in “The Fifty-First State,” that invading Iraq would bring on a slew of complications and ramifications that would take at least a decade to unwind…

Read the whole post, which is great stuff. But the intro above got me thinking about the most beautiful phrase in the English language, “I told you so.” One of the small rewards of committing words in a public place is the ability to prove that we did in fact tell you so. Like Jim, I really did blog about Saddam’s aluminum tubes and imaginary weapons of mass destruction a decade ago. Further back in the day, I really did attack President Kennedy in my Washington Post column when he sent 16,000 military “advisors” to Vietnam. You could look it up.

Not that it mattered a bit, then or now. We are a nation of cop lovers and soldier sniffers, as George Carlin called us. Our national pastime is war, and we don’t let facts get in the way when we scent other people’s blood in the water.

And right now we are watching the same crowd of vicious cowards — Abrams, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Kristol, Tucker Carlson, Bolton, Lindsey Graham — mongering war with Iran. If they fail, it will only be because we can’t afford a new war just at the moment.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:58 PM
March 07, 2013
Alas…

…and alack, but Ed at Gin and Tacos is, regrettably and inarguably, right that there is no left left:

This is the real drawback of our political system and process. With only two parties and the end of the political-ideological conflict between socialism and capitalist democracy that defined most of the 20th Century we’re left debating most — albeit not all — issues within a very narrow ideological range. We’ve all agreed upon the End of History and that free market capitalism is the final form of human social organization, and that America shall be a hegemonic military power, and that our politicians shall be beholden to the financial interests that back them, and that we will argue only in the margins (except on “social” issues, where legitimate disagreement is permitted because the titans of industry don’t give a shit about them). So we have already settled on policing the world and are now arguing about how best to do it, just as we have decided that the financial industry will shape our society to its liking and we are now arguing about whether a handful of regulators should be tasked with watching them do it.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:53 AM
March 01, 2013
Virginia is for Lovers

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — A Virginia Beach pizza shop owner is showing his support for firearm rights by giving gun owners a 15 percent discount. The discount is given to anyone who brings a gun or concealed handgun permit to All Around Pizzas and Deli…

Since the discount began last Friday, Laze says 80 percent of his customers have brought guns into the pizza shop. He says one customer came in with an AK-47.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:26 AM
February 05, 2013
Torture Mainstreamed

Here’s your monthly reminder to go immediately to New York Magazine and read Frank Rich’s new column. An excerpt:

My own issues with Zero Dark Thirty (a slack second hour, a two-dimensional heroine) have nothing to do with its opaque position (if any) on the usefulness (or not) of torture in pursuing leads to bin Laden. Where the film really stands on that point may never be conclusively adjudicated. But its success does resolve the far more serious question of where most Americans stand on torture four years after George W. Bush disappeared into the witness-protection program: They don’t mind it.

The anguish Zero Dark Thirty has aroused on op-ed pages simply has not spread to the broader public. Moviegoers cheer bin Laden’s death (who wouldn’t?) without asking too many questions about how we got there. This is hardly the movie’s fault. The public reaction to Zero Dark Thirty is consistent with the quiet acquiescence of most Americans, Democrats included, to the Obama administration’s embrace of drone warfare (civilian casualties notwithstanding) and domestic surveillance…

The movie’s popularity offers confirmation, if any is needed, that, for the first time since the Vietnam War, it’s a Democratic president who is presiding over — and countenancing — a national shift to the right on national security.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:30 PM
January 04, 2013
Darkness at the End of the Tunnel

Tired of feeling optimistic? Frank Rich can help with that:

What’s more, the right thinks long-term, and if you look at the long-term, the whole ugly “fiscal cliff” standoff was a win-win for conservatives, no matter what their passing defeats in this week’s deal. The more Washington looks dysfunctional, the more it sows dissatisfaction with the very idea of a Federal government. Yes, Democrats and the White House can argue that polls show that the Republicans would be getting most of the blame if Congress couldn’t reach agreement on the “fiscal cliff.” But that’s short-term liberal wishful thinking. Long-term, this intractable dispute has undermined Americans’ faith in government, period, and the voters’ plague-on-all-your-houses view of Washington is overall a resounding ideological win for a party that wants to dismantle government, the GOP. The conservative movement is no more dead after its 2012 defeat than it was after the Goldwater debacle of 1964.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:00 PM
December 31, 2012
Dredging Up the Past

The late Al Weisel, blogging as Jon Swift, used to run a best blog posts of the year feature, selected by the bloggers themselves. Below is mine for 2007, as I am reminded by Vagabond Scholar. I had completely forgotten the post but it seems to me to hold up, and so I reprint it in an excess of immodesty. And as a demonstration of Plus ça change… And to prove I am smarter than Muammar Qaddafi, who would be alive today if he had listened to me:

In the current Newsweek Evan Thomas has an unusually vapid review of a book by Andrew Roberts which may or may not be equally vapid, depending on how accurately Thomas has described it. The review is in a section called “Ideas,” and here is Thomas’s: People who speak English are really, really special, and the rest of you owe us a really, really lot.

This idea is hardly worth engaging, and so let’s pass on to one which is worth engaging — although only because it has invaded the national brain like some ghastly tumor threatening the very values that Thomas supposes us to possess:

The English-speaking peoples have been seriously threatened by force four times: twice by German aggression, once by Soviet totalitarianism, and most recently by Islamic fanaticism. The forces of freedom and democracy reeled after the first blows—at Dunkirk and Pearl Harbor in World War II and at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11. “The English-speaking peoples rarely win the first battle,” writes Roberts, “but they equally rarely lose the subsequent war.”

All right, everybody. Let’s relax for a minute here.

The English-speaking peoples are not seriously threatened by force from Islamic fanaticism. The only major war subsequent to 9/11 was one we sought in Iraq, and it lasted only a few weeks. Everything after that was a badly botched occupation.

The 9/11 attacks and World War II are no more parallel than longitude and latitude are parallel, no matter how badly George W. Bush wants to be Winston Churchill. (I might mention here that I myself would very much like to be Dame Judi Dench, although the odds are against it.)

The only human force that can seriously threaten the existence of the United States, let alone the English-speaking peoples, would be a full-scale military attack from a combination of opponents. A coalition of Russia, Japan and China might pull it off.

But in the real world this will not happen, because the United States, Russia and China all have atomic weapons and Japan could have them by next Tuesday.

This is why North Korea and Iran are in such a scramble to get nuclear weapons: not to attack us, but to make sure we don’t attack them. The strategy works very well, as may be seen in the case of North Korea. Next thing we know, Bush will visit Pyongyang, nation-building.

Returning to the real world, the war on terror is not a war. Osama attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with stolen airliners and kamikaze pilots because, lacking an air force, he was incapable of war. One engages in terrorism not because one is powerful, but precisely because one is weak.

Terrorism is almost always about real estate, as in Ireland, Chechnya, Spain, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, and elsewhere around the globe. If the United States had remained neutral in the land dispute between the Israel and its Arab neighbors, there would have been no 9/11.

And if we were now to become neutral in that dispute, there would be no more 9/11s. That is the only way to end Islamic terrorism in this country. Every informed American with a double-digit I.Q. knows that; the only meaningful question left is whether our continued blind support of Israel is somehow worth whatever it costs in future terror attacks.

We have been misled to believe that we are mired in an apocalyptic clash between the forces of Islamic darkness and the forces of English-speaking light. But it only seems that way because Bush responded to an act of terror with an act of war against an evil but in this case innocent bystander.

Nor are the Iraqis reacting to Bush’s occupation with some fiendish and unfair new form of combat called “asymmetrical warfare” in which they cunningly “adapt to the enemy” in new and hitherto unimaginable ways. No, the Iraqis are reacting to occupation by a more powerful enemy in the same way that resistance fighters reacted to Hitler’s storm troopers. They are improvising against an occupying army the best they can.

Nor should we be surprised if the neighbors lend a hand. They do so for the same reasons that the Soviets supported Tito and British agents aided guerrillas all over Europe. The neighbors don’t want to be the next ones occupied.

Fortunately even if Bush turns Iran into his very own Cambodia, we will eventually be forced to withdraw from the Middle East just as Nixon did from Southeast Asia.

In both misbegotten struggles, our opponents were clear in what they wanted — our absence — and we were unclear about what we wanted. Our presence? Did we really want to stay? For how long? Forever? Why?

Was such a dubious prize worth the life of even one George Walker Bush or Richard Bruce Cheney? Like millions of other Americans neither of them thought so. But that, of course, was then.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:00 PM
December 05, 2012
The Senate Soils Its Pants

Well, only 37 Republican members of it did. The 38th was Louisiana’s Diaper Dave Vitter. Still, it was enough to shame the United States in the eyes of the world. And yet these 38 despicable men didn’t even have the customary excuse of political cowardice; doing the decent thing would have cost them no more than a handful of votes at home. No, they were acting out of principle. Which ought to tell you something.

WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, his 89-year old body now weakened by age, illness and war injuries, sat quietly in a wheelchair on the Senate floor Tuesday, watching the debate over a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled.

He may have recalled an earlier time.

More than 43 years ago, Dole delivered his first speech on the very same floor — on disability rights. Later, as one of the most powerful members of the Senate, he pushed through the Americans with Disabilities Act, a measure designed to protect citizens grappling with accidents and disease.

Now he had come the Senate floor, perhaps for the last time, to persuade lawmakers to adopt a treaty supporters said would extend disability protections around the world…

Only 61 senators voted for the treaty, officially known as the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Sixty-six votes were needed for passage.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:33 PM
What the Matter With Kansas Is

For those who wonder what would happen if the GOP had won the presidency and both houses last month, an interesting experiment is playing out right now in Kansas. It turns out that the laws of math still apply, even inside The Bubble:

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Acknowledging that the state is facing a “hard dip” in revenues, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Tuesday that the Legislature should consider ways to pay for massive income tax cuts that he signed into law earlier this year…

Legislative fiscal analysts predicted the tax cuts would cost the state about $3.7 billion in revenue over five years.

Brownback and other advocates of the tax plan are banking that a short-term dip in tax revenues will eventually be replaced with revenues created by economic growth spurred by the tax cuts.

When Brownback first proposed the income tax plan in January, he did propose a number of ways to cover lost revenue, but he ran into trouble when lawmakers received a cool reception from constituents who didn’t want to give up their home mortgage interest deduction.

He also ran into a public relations problem when it was revealed that his tax plan — as originally proposed — would actually have raised taxes on people with incomes under $25,000 while lowering taxes for everyone else.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:50 AM
November 22, 2012
Not Even Pakistan?

Or Yemen? Or Somalia? Or Mali? From ABC News (h/t Corey Robin):

Speaking at a joint press conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Obama called for an end to the firing of missiles into Israel by militants inside Gaza, saying “there is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:58 PM
November 07, 2012
Even a Stopped Clock…

How often do I agree wholeheartedly with Fox News. Not often, but not never:

Another myth central to Obama’s campaign is that Mitt Romney wants to go back to the “policies that got us into trouble in the first place.”

What are those injurious Republican policies?

Presumably the president refers to the deregulation of financial institutions that liberals blame for the recession. But, it was Bill Clinton who repealed Glass-Steagall. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley bill, which undid that long-standing law, passed the Senate 90-8, with Vice President Biden among the many Democrats supporting the measure. By contrast, George Bush was a regulation nut. It was during his administration that the country adopted the oppressive Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:11 PM
October 26, 2012
Banning the Bookish

From the Associated Press:

The Tennessee Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the state’s new law requiring voters to show photo identification at polling places and ruled that election officials must accept an ID issued by the Memphis public library. A three-judge panel of the court ruled unanimously in a case brought by the City of Memphis and two voters who lacked photo ID and cast provisional ballots during the August primary. The opinion said that the identification requirement was allowed under the State Constitution and that the cost of obtaining a birth certificate to get a photo ID did not amount to a poll tax.

The court cited Tennessee case law in finding that the City of Memphis is a branch of the state, so the library card, which was redesigned this year to include a photo, is sufficient for proving identity. The Tennessee secretary of state, Tre Hargett, said the library provision would be appealed.

Mr. Hargett, bless his heart, understands that the greatest threat to 21st-century-style American democracy is from voters who are all the time reading books. Here’s Albert Jay Nock on the subject:

[Universal literacy] makes many articulate who should not be so. It enables mediocrity and submediocrity to run rampant, to the detriment of both intelligence and taste. In a word, it puts into a people’s hands an instrument which very few can use, but which everyone supposes himself fully able to use; and the mischief thus wrought is very great.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:15 PM
Read These Stories Or I’ll Kill You

George Packer has a piece in this week’s New Yorker that tells you more about how Washington (and the human species for that matter) actually fits together than anything I’ve read in years. It’s sad and terrifying at the same time.

The full text is behind a pay wall, but a summary is here. Don’t be satisfied with this, though, because the devil is in the details. Get hold of the magazine if you’re not a subscriber. It contains another wonderful piece, this one by Jane Mayer and available on line. It’s called “The Voter Fraud Myth.” The cunning little Bushie behind that myth is pictured below.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:02 PM
October 11, 2012
Our Longest War: The Civil One

A hundred and fifty-one years and still counting, the Civil War goes on. The Confederacy morphed into the Dixiecrats and then into the GOP which was easily swallowed by the Tea Party and here we are. I cannot think of a single core principle of American conservatism which does not, upon close examination, serve the interests of the master over those of the slaves. Wage slaves to be sure, and no longer exclusively black, but a slave is a slave.

An excerpt from Michael Lind’s analysis of the Confederacy’s continuation of war by other means:

…Notwithstanding slavery, segregation and today’s covert racism, the Southern system has always been based on economics, not race. Its rulers have always seen the comparative advantage of the South as arising from the South’s character as a low-wage, low-tax, low-regulation site in the U.S. and world economy. The Southern strategy of attracting foreign investment from New York, London and other centers of capital depends on having a local Southern work force that is forced to work at low wages by the absence of bargaining power.

Anything that increases the bargaining power of Southern workers vs. Southern employers must be opposed, in the interest of the South’s regional economic development model. Unions, federal wage and workplace regulations, and a generous, national welfare state all increase the bargaining power of Southern workers, by reducing their economic desperation. Anti-union right-to-work laws, state control of wages and workplace regulations, and an inadequate welfare state all make Southern workers more helpless, pliant and dependent on the mercy of their employers.

A weak welfare state also maximizes the dependence of ordinary Southerners on the tax-favored clerical allies of the local Southern ruling class, the Protestant megachurches, whose own lucrative business model is to perform welfare functions that are performed by public agencies elsewhere, like child care…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:26 PM
October 05, 2012
Bottom of the Barrel

Here’s another of the many terrifying things that will never come up in the Presidential debates, or the campaign itself. Why should it? After all, the story can’t possibly be true, because we have the finest military in the history of the universe or any other universe now extant or ever to be born. Just ask any American politician.

Also troubling is the argument of how extreme ideology has been allowed into the military. British journalist Matt Kennard in his new book “Irregular Army: How the U.S. Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror,” has tracked how the military has relaxed retention standards to maintain a fighting force for two wars — from raising the enlistment age and repealing the anti-gay Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to tolerating everything from drug abuse, corpulence, gang activity, and extremism. Misconduct discharges have also dropped, from a high of 2,560 before the wars to less than 1,500 by 2006.

The military policy on extremism has evolved since the Vietnam War, Kennard explains to Yahoo!, and “an active-duty soldier must reject active participation in white supremacy groups,” but “tons of discretion is given to the commander” over discipline. His book brings up the example of a criminal Army investigation of a soldier who provided a military technical manual to an extremist group. No charges were filed, since the organization couldn’t obtain the explosives and the “action commander or prosecutor indicated intent to do nothing or at least only ‘action amounting to less than a court proceeding.’”

Even more frightening is how some nihilists recommend using the military to get skills: essentially, government-subsidized training for extremists. That was the advice given by supremacist Dennis Mahon, who spoke to Kennard before he was arrested and sentenced to 40 years for a bomb attack:

“[The military] are so desperate at the moment; they are going to let you in with a small swastika... The soldiers learn from unconventional warfare in Iraq and they realize that they can use that type of warfare in America, and it’s impossible to stop. I tell people to learn as much as you can to improve munitions capabilities, patrolling; I want them to learn sniping and explosives, the Green Berets. Once they go in they are not supposed to tell anyone who they are.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:29 AM
August 27, 2012
Hey, I Didn’t Say It…

James Howard Kunstler did, and he goes on to de-ball the Democrats almost as cruelly. I would never be that mean.

History will notice — even if we are too chickenshit to face it now — that the extraordinary turpitudes of US politics today represent an unprecedented failure of American manhood. It’s everywhere and pervasive along the spectrum of party politics, as untruth is everywhere and pervasive in American life.

The Republican case is too painfully obvious — Congressman Todd Akin being only the latest buffoon from the vast red state flyover cultural wilderness of franchise food and franchise thought to expose himself as lacking the basic male decency to defend womanhood against the consequences of plain-and-simple rape.

In Dixieland Republicanism — now a misty region-of-mind that extends way beyond the old Confederate borders — you have the perfect confluence of sheer stupidity with the put-on, fake religiosity of men too weak to take responsibility for their own actions. They can just pawn everything off on Jesus: the good, the bad, the mystifying, the shameful. All the Republican men have to do is show up at the Nascar oval in time for barbeque.

As for the courage of convictions, watch VP-designate Paul Ryan haul his mom out before a crowd of Florida retirees to prove his allegiance to Medicare and Social Security — two programs he would like to dismantle — on top of the fact that his mom is exactly the sort of multi-millionaire who a sane society would means-test out of receiving old-age support from the less fortunate taxpayers…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:29 AM
August 21, 2012
I’d Rather Die Than

From the New York Times:

KABUL, Afghanistan — Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Afghanistan on Monday for discussions on the progress of the war, including an intensified wave of insider attacks by Afghan forces on NATO service members, even as New Zealand became the latest coalition partner to announce an accelerated troop withdrawal.

The visit by General Dempsey was characterized by NATO as one of his regular visits to Kabul. But it comes after a trust-eroding two-week stretch in which 10 American service members have been killed by Afghan security forces, in violence designated as insider or green-on-blue attacks.

My late stepfather, Ralph Ingersoll, was a magazine editor, newspaper publisher and World War II vet who had been around the block a time or two and kept his eyes open along the way. One day in 1963 the papers ran those famous pictures of the Vietnamese monk, burning himself to death in the middle of Saigon.

“Take a look at this,” Ralph said. “We’re well and truly fucked now.”

“How come?”

“You’re fucked anytime you get into a fight with people who would rather die than.”

“Than what?”

“Than whatever."

What would Ralph have said if American troops were being routinely gunned down in Saigon's streets by ARVN soldiers we ourselves had armed and trained? The question never arose. Things got bad in Vietnam, all right, but not quite that bad.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:34 PM
August 20, 2012
Pennsylvania’s Shame

The shame of Pennsylvania keeps piling up. For me it’s personal because I have worked for the county at the polls each election day. I assume they’ll call me like always before the November election. I will decline, saying, “I will not, even for a much-needed $120, participate in the GOP effort to disenfranchise voters.”

The poll workers will be the on-site enforcers, and they are required to take an oath upholding the law in Pennsylvania. That part of the law which requires picture ID issued by the government is outrageous and immoral. It will deny the vote to young and old alike. l’ll have no part in it.

There are more important things than money.

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Posted by Bill Doolittle at 03:55 PM
Beyond Shame

It’s kind of endearing, really, the way the vote suppressors of the GOP are coming right out and saying what they really mean. Fom The Columbus Dispatch:

…A study by the Franklin County Board of Elections shows that 48 percent of early, in-person votes in 2008 were cast after hours on weekdays, on weekends or on the Monday before the election — almost none of which is available to 2012 voters.

And those late ballots came predominantly from blacks and Democrats, the research shows. In all, 8 percent of whites cast early in-person ballots, while 13.3 percent of blacks did, said the study, which used census data to estimate the racial breakdown of voters…

I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the county Republican Party and elections board member who voted against weekend hours, in an email to The Dispatch. “Let’s be fair and reasonable.”

He called claims of unfairness by Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern and others “bullshit. Quote me!”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:35 PM
August 03, 2012
I Wonder Who's Kissinger Now?

I am trying to dominate the Kindle that Gretchen gave me for my birthday. (Oh, all right. It was my 79th. Incidentally, you know you’re getting old when your kids start getting mail from the AARP.)

In the course of my struggles I came across a collection of very bad short-short stories by A. Conan Doyle. It was a relief to find that he had his off days, too. Back to the point, though.

One of the stories was called The Leather Funnel, after an instrument used in the time of Louis XIV of France to administer “the torture of the water, the ‘extraordinary question,’ as it was called in the genial days of the Roi Soleil.” In the genial days of George W. Bush and his adviser on matters of morality, Dick Cheney, it was called “harsh interrogation.”

Back once more to the point. One of Doyle’s characters describes another this way: “His knowledge was greater than his wisdom, and his powers were far superior to his character.” It occurred to me that these words would go very well on Henry Kissinger’s tombstone. Also on Cheney’s, except for the knowledge part.

Or do I ramble? Hey, cut me a little slack, will you? I’m 79.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:20 PM
June 26, 2012
Thou Hast Taken Usury…

…and increase and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbors by extortion and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord. (Ezekiel, 22.12)

And here is exactly how thou did it, saith Michael Hudson at Naked Capitalism.

The largest asset in any economy is real estate — mainly the land’s site value. So about 80 percent of bank loans are mortgage loans. But by 1980 property prices had turned down as interest rates rose during the Vietnam War and the general Cold War buildup throughout the world. Overseas military spending obliged the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to borrow abroad to prevent the dollar’s exchange rate from declining.

So in the 1980s banks found a new market: corporate raiders treated companies much like real estate, to be bought on credit and managed to create a capital gain. The rise in interest rates to 20 percent by 1980 forced most states to revoke their usury laws, and credit card companies played states against each other in a race to the bottom when it came to protecting consumer rights. So the high-interest junk bond was born, largely at the hands of Michael Milken’s gang at Drexel Burnham.

American industry began to be financialized (and in the process, criminalized). But running a company to make a financial gain is different from running an industrial firm to expand production. Cash flow that was not paid to bankers and bondholders for the credit to buy out stock holders was used for purposes other than direct capital investment — above all for stock buybacks to support their price, and for mergers and acquisitions to acquire yet more companies.

The aim was not to increase production but to increase balance-sheet wealth — while extracting revenue from companies much like landlords bleeding a building. That is the time frame of finance capital, in contrast to industrial capital. It is short-term, not long term. This is why it is extractive rather than productive. The revenue has no counterpart in new direct investment in output, but rather in overhead debt extracting a rising flow of interest from the economy.

“Wealth creation” by debt leveraging — that is, asset-price inflation — was celebrated as a post-industrial economy, as if this were a positive and natural evolution. But in reality it is a lapse back into a rentier economy, and even into a kind of neofeudalism. The post-2008 bailouts have vested a new rentier elite to lord it over the 21st century, thanks to the fact that most gains since 1980 have gone to the 1% — mainly the financial sector, not to the 99%.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:57 PM
June 23, 2012
Scum Rises to the Top

The municipal bond business has always been a cesspool. Nixon’s corrupt attorney general, John Mitchell, crawled out of it and on to greater things, so to speak: Watergate and the plumbers.

But I’ve never seen the bond racket more clearly exposed or better explained than by Matt Taibbi in this month’s Rolling Stone. Read it, and weep for the Republic. He starts out with this:

Someday, it will go down in history as the first trial of the modern American mafia. Of course, you won’t hear the recent financial corruption case, United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm, called anything like that. If you heard about it at all, you’re probably either in the municipal bond business or married to an antitrust lawyer. Even then, all you probably heard was that a threesome of bit players on Wall Street got convicted of obscure antitrust violations in one of the most inscrutable, jargon-packed legal snoozefests since the government’s massive case against Microsoft in the Nineties — not exactly the thrilling courtroom drama offered by the famed trials of old-school mobsters like Al Capone or Anthony “Tony Ducks” Corallo.

But this just-completed trial in downtown New York against three faceless financial executives really was historic. Over 10 years in the making, the case allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:03 PM
June 08, 2012
Watch the Dems Sell Out Public Unions

Ian Welsh gets it right:

Ordinary people hate other ordinary people who are doing better than them. The politics of envy isn’t about the rich, whom ordinary people almost never see, but about their neighbours. And Americans want a mean economy, one where everyone has to suffer like they do. As long as the union movement is about a few people keeping higher wages, it will continue to fail. A union movement which is centered around public service unions cannot stand.
I think this is the real story of the Wisconsin elections. Corporate money was a factor, no doubt, as was conservative propaganda, but all the money and spin in the world won’t help you win if most people just flat out don’t agree with you. The fact is, demagogic appeals to people’s fear and envy almost always trump good will and common sense. Nowhere is this more true than in America, where the only thing we love more than money is kicking someone in the guts when they’re down.

But, say lefties like Michael Moore, poll after poll shows that Americans usually come down on the progressive side of the issues. Well, maybe, but election after election keeps putting reactionary Republicans and conservative Democrats back in office. Why is that?

I don’t care what any poll says. This country is firmly, staunchly, stupidly center-right. It doesn’t matter if a poll says most Americans favor single-payer health care, because those same people will turn right around and vote for some right-wing demagogue who cries that it’s “socialism!” Most Americans would benefit from bigger stimulus spending, extended unemployment benefits, and a strong labor movement, but all of that’s irrelevant. Rational considerations like that get thrown out the window as soon as a politician or a talk show host tells people that the dirty fuckin’ Mexicans are stealing their jobs, or that lazy government workers are prospering on their dime, or that class warfare against multimillionaires in the form of the capital gains tax is wrecking our economy.

If Americans are so damn progressive, why do we live in the least progressive nation of all the advanced industrial democracies? Why does public policy always, always, drift in favor of the rich and powerful? The divide and conquer tactics employed by the likes of Scott Walker succeed because so many American fundamentally agree with them. When they’re told about wicked teacher’s unions, they remember the high school civics teacher who always gave them detention and think, “Yeah, fuck teachers!” When they hear about public service workers getting higher pensions than themselves, they remember some petty government department that levied a fine on them for some minor infraction, and they think, “Yeah, fuck government workers!”

As for the Mexicans, they haven’t got a chance in this environment. Anti-Mexican bigotry is de rigueur among the white working class. It is openly and proudly expressed. It’s just taken for granted that Mexicans, who may work as dishwashers and sleep six to a room, somehow constitute a privileged aristocracy that the government mysteriously favors over good hard working white Americans when dispensing all the benefits. This view as common as the day is long, and it’s impossible to dislodge it from a brain where it’s taken root. I’ve given up trying. I’ve been inches away from fist fights over this issue. The fact is, they want to blame Mexicans for their problems for one simple reason: they want to blame Mexicans for their problems. Period. Keep your logic to yourself.

Appealing to the the lowest common denominator works because the lowest common denominator is our most potent driving force. We are the lowest common denominator. We are overlapping, interwoven bundles of lowest common denominators that, working together in perfect synergy, has produced a nation whose most salient traits are militarism, economic inequality, and authoritarian police agencies. There’s a deeply ingrained core of hysterical, money-grubbing, self-defeating stupidity that makes up a large part of our national character. It goes all the way back to pre-colonial times. It’s just who we are. Read Richard Hofstadter, or even de Tocqueville, where the theme also pops up.

(A side note: while of us liberals and progressives are wringing our hands in despair, I’d bet money that the big strategic brains in the Democratic party are betting that going against public employee unions is smart politics. I heard this being ever so gently mentioned on some of the talk shows after the election results came in. Rather than standing up for organized labor on principle, they’re going to kneecap it for short term political gain. Public employees unions are going to be the next bargaining chip, the next sacrificial lamb, in some Obamian grand bargain with the far right. Watch the Democrats sell them out. You just watch them do it.)

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Posted by OHollern at 09:37 AM
April 24, 2012
Lying in State

In A People’s History of the United States, 1492 - Present Howard Zinn excerpts an article I wrote for the New York Times in 1973. I always figured these few paragraphs would turn out to be my only durable literary legacy, and in an odd way this seems to be coming true.

Chasing down my old op-ed piece earlier today on Google, I discovered that Zinn’s brief excerpts have gone viral in the flourishing world of ghost-written student essays. The following paragraphs are the ones being heisted from Zinn’s book, repackaged, repurposed, and resold to student plagiarists as nuggets of original research. For whatever further service I may be to scholars, a pdf of the full text is here. The map below (you can steal that too; I did) shows where our bombs fell on Laos between 1965 and 1975.

The Pentagon’s most recent lies about bombing Cambodia bring back a question that often occurred to me when I was press attache at the American Embassy in Vientiane, Laos.

Why did we bother to lie? When I first arrived in Laos, I was instructed to answer all press questions about our massive and merciless bombing campaign in that tiny country with: “At the request of the Royal Laotian Government, the United States is conducting unarmed reconnaissance flights accompanied by armed escorts who have the right to return if fired upon.”

This was a lie. Every reporter to whom I told it knew it was a lie. Hanoi knew it was a lie. The International Control Commission knew it was a lie. Every interested Congressman and newspaper reader knew it was a lie....

After all, the lies did serve to keep something from somebody, and the somebody was us.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:55 PM
April 21, 2012
Now We Are All Living in the South

From Jill Lepore’s chilling article on gun laws in this week’s New Yorker:

This issue has been delivering voters to the polls since 1970. Conservatives hope that it will continue to deliver them in 2012. Keene, in his lifetime, has witnessed a revolution. “It’s not just the conservative political victories, the capture of the Republican Party, the creation of a conservative intellectual élite,” he said, “but the whole change in the way Americans look at government.” No conservative victories will last longer than the rulings of this Supreme Court.

One in three Americans knows someone who has been shot. As long as a candid discussion of guns is impossible, unfettered debate about the causes of violence is unimaginable. Gun-control advocates say the answer to gun violence is fewer guns. Gun-rights advocates say that the answer is more guns: things would have gone better, they suggest, if the faculty at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Chardon High School had been armed. That is the logic of the concealed-carry movement; that is how armed citizens have come to be patrolling the streets. That is not how civilians live. When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left.

Very little indeed. George Carlin once wrote, “Living in the South was never an option — the main problem being they have too much respect for authority; they’re soldier-sniffers and cop-lovers.” And now, with a big boost from Osama bin Laden, the South has at last won the Civil War. Local police, the CIA, the FBI, the DEA, the military, the courts, the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security (Heimat Sicherheit in the original German), the prison industry, Blackwater and its mercenary ilk, all have joined hands in the great work of penning us in for our own good. It’s going remarkably smoothly: turns out most of us welcome the barbed wire and feel safe inside it. Turns out we are a nation of bottoms.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:06 AM
April 11, 2012
Back at the Trough Again, Snuffling and Snorting

It is hard to avoid thinking that these people are perfect swine, so I won’t even try. Oh, and let me be clear: I’m not talking about people like Annette Alejandro.

From the New York Times:

Annette Alejandro just emerged from bankruptcy and doesn’t have a job, and her car was repossessed last year. Still, after spending her days job hunting, she returns to her apartment in Brooklyn where, in disbelief, she sorts through the piles of credit card and auto loan offers that have come in the mail…

But as financial institutions recover from the losses on loans made to troubled borrowers, some of the largest lenders to the less than creditworthy, including Capital One and GM Financial, are trying to woo them back, while HSBC and JPMorgan Chase are among those tiptoeing again into subprime lending.

Credit card lenders gave out 1.1 million new cards to borrowers with damaged credit in December, up 12.3 percent from the same month a year earlier, according to Equifax’s credit trends report released in March. These borrowers accounted for 23 percent of new auto loans in the fourth quarter of 2011, up from 17 percent in the same period of 2009, Experian, a credit scoring firm, said.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:43 PM
April 10, 2012
Autophagy

Thanks to Chris Floyd for passing this along. Our nation, horribly enough, is being rotted from the inside:

[In a new book, historian Timothy Parsons] wonders whether America’s empire is really an empire as the Americans don’t seem to get any extractive benefits from it. After eight years of war and attempted occupation of Iraq, all Washington has for its efforts is several trillion dollars of additional debt and no Iraqi oil. After ten years of trillion dollar struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Washington has nothing to show for it except possibly some part of the drug trade that can be used to fund covert CIA operations.

America’s wars are very expensive. Bush and Obama have doubled the national debt, and the American people have no benefits from it. No riches, no bread and circuses flow to Americans from Washington’s wars. So what is it all about?

The answer is that Washington’s empire extracts resources from the American people for the benefit of the few powerful interest groups that rule America … The US Constitution has been extracted in the interests of the Security State, and Americans’ incomes have been redirected to the pockets of the 1 percent. ...

In the New Empire success at war no longer matters. The extraction takes place by being at war. Huge sums of American taxpayers’ money have flowed into the American armaments industries and huge amounts of power into Homeland Security. The American empire works by stripping Americans of wealth and liberty.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:43 PM
April 05, 2012
A Meme is Born

While the rest of us were giggling over Rick Santorum’s fact-free attack in California’s university system, Sara Robinson wasn’t. I’d bet ten thousand Romney dollars that her decoding of Santorum’s babble is right on target.

Santorum was setting the stage. He warned us, very clearly: Following the War on Public Employees and the War on Women, this will be the summer of the War on Public Universities. Whether the proposals will be to revoke their charters, close campuses, or sell off their facilities to for-profit colleges, you can bet that ALEC already has the bills in the can, and will be introducing them in state legislatures presently.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:17 AM
March 25, 2012
A Developing Nation

America continues to soil itself. Ho, hum.

So what is the best anti-poverty program? Higher wages for the jobs that are out there, currently yielding impossibly low annual incomes. The current American minimum wage ranges between $7.25 and $8.67 per hour. From time to time senior executives of Wal-Mart call for a rise in the minimum wage since, in the words of one former CEO, Lee Scott, “our customers simply don’t have the money to buy basic necessities between pay checks.” The minimum wage in Ontario, Canada, is currently well over $10 per hour, while in France it now stands at nearly $13. Australia recently raised its minimum wage to over $16 per hour, and nonetheless has an unemployment rate of just 5 percent.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:15 PM
March 24, 2012
When Will We Ever Learn?

This is from The Twentieth Century by historian Howard Zinn, published 32 years ago. Hardly a word or a number would need to be changed today.

One percent of the nation owns a third of the wealth. The rest of the wealth is distributed in such a way as to turn those in the 99 percent against one another: small property owners against the propertyless, black against white, native-born against foreign-born, intellectuals and professionals against the uneducated and unskilled. These groups have resented one another and warred against one another with such vehemence and violence as to obscure their common position as sharers of leftovers in a very wealthy country…

In this uncertain situation of the seventies, going into the eighties, it is very important to the Establishment — that uneasy club of business executives, generals and politicos — to maintain the historic pretension of national unity, in which the government represents all the people, and the common enemy is overseas, not at home, where disasters of economics or war are unfortunate errors or tragic accidents, to be corrected by the members of the same club that brought the disasters. It is important also to make sure this artificial unity of highly privileged and slightly privileged is the only unity — that the 99 percent remain split in countless ways and turn against one another to vent their angers.

How skillful to tax the middle class to pay for the relief of the poor, building resentment on top of humiliation! How adroit to bus poor black youngsters into poor white neighborhoods while the schools of the rich remain untouched and the wealth of the nation, doled out carefully where children need free milk, is drained for billion-dollar aircraft carriers.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:26 PM
March 23, 2012
Bugsplat


Robert C. Koehler takes apart the Bad Apple myth we find so comforting whenever a Sergeant Bates appears. The whole story from which this excerpt comes is here.

“A freshly captured detainee had been denied his insulin. He was a hadji and probably he won’t die, but it wouldn’t matter if he did. This is what the CO said in denying permission to hospitalize him. His diabetic stroke was mistaken for insubordination. They pepper-sprayed him and put him in a holding cell, where he died.” — Andrew Duffy

“It’s almost impossible to act on your morality. . . . You remove the humanity from them — beat them — and in doing so you remove humanity from yourself.” — Carlos Mejia

Does this begin to penetrate the mystery that so confounds the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media? Stories of American troops’ horrific treatment of Iraqis and Afghans are endless. Most of the time, such treatment was well within the context of orders. Contempt for the people we were “liberating” permeated the chain of command. In 2003, the Washington Post reported that a Defense Department computer program for calculating collateral damage was called “Bugsplat.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:13 PM
March 14, 2012
Nonexistential Nonthreat

We may or may not wind up acting with our customary insanity in reaction to Israel’s current cries for war. Barack Obama and Joe Biden rather than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are in charge, and so this time our strutting chickenhawks might not get their way. Which would spare us another descent into Macbeth’s dilemma:

I am in blood stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er.

McClatchy’s has published a three-part series (excerpts below) that explores the dubious roots of this manufactured crisis: One, Two and Three.

In recent months, talk of Iran’s nuclear ambitions has fueled the Republican presidential campaign, served as the backdrop for this week’s meeting between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and earned a pledge from Obama on Sunday that the United States would resort to military means if necessary to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.

Israeli officials acknowledge that the widespread acceptance in the West that Iran is on the verge of building a nuclear weapon isn’t based just on the findings of Israeli intelligence operatives, but relies in no small part on a steady media campaign that the Israelis have undertaken to persuade the world that Iran is bent on building a nuclear warhead…

His point was driven home in February, when Israel’s minister for strategic affairs, Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon, said that Iran is developing a missile that could strike targets more than 6,000 miles away — such as the East Coast of the United States.

The missile project is “aimed at America, not Israel,” said Yaalon, a well-known hawk who advocates a military strike on Iran by Israel and its allies.

“Israel has everyone so worked up that the thought is, let’s temper what they do, rather than, let’s stop or control what they do,” said one European diplomat based in Jerusalem, who like many diplomats declined to be identified further because of the sensitivity of the subject…

“…I’ve been talking about this since 2005, and nearly every year has been the ‘Iran year,’” Javedanfar said. “I think the level of hysteria has dropped... If Iran gets a bomb it is not something I would like to see, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the end. It’s a mistake to use words like ‘existential threat.’”

The first date-specific prediction of when Iran would have a nuclear weapon was made in 1998, by the then head of military intelligence, Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon, who warned that Iran could have the bomb by 2008…

Not that the predictions have been consistent. In 2009, Israel’s then-spymaster, Meir Dagan, estimated that Iran would have a weapon by 2014. That same year, Yossi Baidetz, the head of Israel’s military intelligence research division, said that Iran had all the nuclear know-how it needed. In 2010, Israeli officials shortened their estimates to 2012.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:57 AM
February 18, 2012
Savage Sheep

This from Mike Lofgren, a retired Republican staffer on the House and Senate budget committees:

An observer of the right-wing phenomenon must explain the paradox of followers who would escape from freedom even as they incessantly invoke the word freedom as if it were a mantra. But freedom so defined does not mean ordinary civil liberties like the prohibition of illegal government search and seizure, the right of due process, or the right not to be tortured. The hard right has never protested the de facto abrogation of much of the Bill of Rights during the last decade.

In the right-wing id, freedom is the emotional release that a hostile and psychologically repressed person feels when he is finally able to lash out at the objects of his resentment. Freedom is his prerogative to rid himself of people who are different, or who unsettle him. Freedom is merging into a like-minded herd. Right-wing alchemy transforms freedom into authoritarianism.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:47 AM
February 13, 2012
Ask the Man Who Was One…

Corporations are indeed people, and very nasty ones, Robert Stein argues. And he ought to know. Here’s an excerpt from his valuable blog, Connecting.the.Dots:


If corporations are indeed people, they are the most greedy, selfish and ruthless in the society. During years of sitting on boards of directors, I was always astonished by what happened to individuals (including myself) when they sat around a corporate table.

Institutional roles acted simultaneously as a narcotic that suppressed conscience and a stimulant to bring out every bit of low cunning to profit the organization. I have seen religious leaders, academics and business statesmen propose solutions to problems that would make a carnival pitchman blush.

If corporations bear any resemblance to individual human beings, they are people who have been lobotomized of all social instincts except their need to protect themselves, profit and grow.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:56 PM
February 08, 2012
Some Things Never Change

Googling myself just now, as who hasn’t, I came across this 1982 meditation in The Nation on the worthlessness of the CIA. Nothing has happened in the 30 years since to change my opinion that we would be better off if the agency had never been spawned. The only change I’d make today is to reveal the identity of Mr. D____. He was the late Larry Devlin, who was to reveal in his 2007 memoirs that he was once ordered to kill Congo’s prime minister Patrice Lumumba with poisoned toothpaste, but dragged his feet until Belgian spooks murdered the man instead.

Most of the piece is after the jump. Here goes:

Years ago there was a really good murder in the upstate New York town where I was a cub reporter. The newsmagazines, the wire services and the seven New York City dailies all sent reporters. But the little Middletown Times-Herald managed to stay out in front of these out-of-town hit-and-run artists, because we knew the territory. So when an eyewitness to the killing turned up, we got the tip.

The managing editor sent me to interview the man, an unemployed laborer with kids to feed. When he seemed reluctant to talk, I encouraged him with $25 of the paper’s money. Not only did we beat the competition with his dramatic eyewitness account, we beat them again the following day with the story of how he flunked a lie detector test on it, up in Albany. I listed the $25 on my expense account as “Bribe,” but the managing editor made me change it to “Miscellaneous Expenses.” I never paid for information again, on that newspaper or any of the others I worked for, even if it did seem like a good way to get imaginative stories.

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The C.I.A. man gave me a holler as I walked by his office in our Casablanca consulate. Since I knew lots of people from my job with the U.S. Information Agency, he thought I might be able to identify some faces in a pile of photos he had. They had been taken at a party the Russians had given to mark the opening of their new consulate in town. (We had all been invited, but the American ambassador didn’t want us to go. He was frightened of the Russians, poor little man; maybe he thought they would infect us.)

I identified a dozen or so of the guests, but I didn’t know one particular man who was in so many of the photos that the C.I.A. officer thought he must be important. “Bill,” I said — that’s not his real name, naturally, since Reagan might jail me for ten years under the naming-of-agents act if I used it —“Bill,” I said, “all you had to do was go to the party and you could have been introduced to him.” It would have been a break for the taxpayers, too, not having to pay for an extra set of prints from the society photographers every time the Communists threw a party.

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A Moroccan came to my office one afternoon to ask if I had seen that month’s copy of the magazine he published. It had a picture of dead Vietnamese on the cover, identified as victims of American bombing. The U.S.Information Agency had sent him the picture a long time ago; it showed civilian victims of a Vietcong rocket attack.

“In Arabic we have a saying,” this poisonous little toad told me. “‘A man can bite, or a man can kiss.”’ Now that he had shown America his teeth, he was ready to kiss her. He would print anything we wanted in his magazine. We could even plant somebody in his office, if we liked, to watch over our interests.

I told him he would just have to keep on biting, since the U.S.I.A. didn’t have funds for that kind of thing. “Well, there are some Americans in your embassy who do,” he said, and he was right. The C.I.A. pays to place garbage in rags like his. Of course I didn’t say that, because I was a diplomat, then.

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One day I went out to the labor office in Khouribga, a Moroccan mining town, with our labor attaché Jim Mattson. (I can reveal his name because he was a State Department officer, not an intelligence op.) He was the only one of us in the consulate who spoke Arabic.

Afterward he told me what he had asked the labor officials: Did a man fill out a card when he registered for work? Where do you put the card then? Do you mind if I look? Where do you put his card after you find him a job? How long does the card stay in that file before you throw it out? How many are still in the file? And so on…

By the end he had learned plenty of things about the labor situation in Morocco’s biggest phosphate mining center. One of them was that the office provided jobs and benefits for practically nobody except the functionaries who worked there. Over the months and years, Jim had gotten to know more about Morocco than any of us, and that’s the way he did it. He just walked in and asked polite questions.

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In my first week as the press attaché at our embassy in Laos, the C.I.A. station chief briefed me on what he thought I should know about his operation. (I won’t reveal his name, either, although it was spelled out on his parking bay in the embassy lot. The signs went like this: “Ambassador,” “Deputy Chief of Mission,” “USAID Director,” “Mr. D_____.”) Mr. D____ told me many secret things, and I learned more elsewhere as time went on. I never leaked them, but every one of them got out somehow and appeared in the papers sooner or later. It didn’t make any difference, though. We kept on doing them anyway, because Nixon and Kissinger felt they were things we ought to be doing. They kept on not working, too, and now Laos is a colony of Vietnam.

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Reagan has fired William Kennedy, his U.S. Attorney in San Diego, for telling the newspapers that the Justice Department was blocking the indictment of a car thief named Miguel Nassar Haro. Nassar used to sunlight as chief of Mexico’s Directorate of Federal Security. He moonlighted not only as the head of a ring that stole cars in the United States for sale in Mexico but as a C.I.A. source on the rebels in El Salvador and Guatemala.

The incident raises disturbing moral and legal questions, unless you are as hard to disturb as the President and his Attorney General. It also raises two questions that are neither moral nor legal but just common-sensical.

This: if Reagan/Haig/Casey/Weinberger had known everything there was to know about the rebels in Central America — not just what a Mexican car thief could tell them, but absolutely everything — what would they have done about it? Anything different? And this: if you pay a car thief to steal you a Chrysler, he will steal you a Chrysler; if you let him know you’re interested in Sandinista support of the Salvadoran rebels, what will turn up in your driveway?

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:09 PM
January 23, 2012
Have You Got What It Takes to Be a Marine?

From the Associated Press:

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A Marine accused of killing 24 unarmed Iraqi women and children pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty on Monday, reaching a deal that will mean a maximum of three months confinement and end the largest and longest-running criminal case against U.S. troops to emerge from the Iraq War…

[Staff Sergeant Frank] Wuterich faces a maximum of three months confinement, two-thirds forfeiture of pay and a rank demotion to private when he’s sentenced, likely on Tuesday. The plea agreement calls for manslaughter charges to be dropped…

Wuterich’s former squad members testified that they did not take any gunfire during the 45-minute raid on the homes nor find any weapons, but several squad members testified that they do not believe they did anything wrong, fearing insurgents were inside hiding.

The prosecution was further hurt by the testimony of Wuterich’s former platoon commander who said the squad was justified in its actions because house was declared “hostile,” and from what he understood of the rules of combat at the time that meant any use of force could be used and Marines did not need to positively identify their targets…

Six squad members have had charges dropped or dismissed, including some in exchange for testifying at the trial. One was acquitted.


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From The Guardian, May 31, 2006:

George Bush pledged yesterday that any marines found to have been responsible for the massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha last year would be punished, and that an investigation into the killings would be made available to the public…

“If, in fact, laws were broken, there will be punishment. I know this. I’ve talked to General Pete Pace [chairman of the joint chiefs of staff] about the subject. He’s a proud marine. And nobody is more concerned about these allegations than the marine corps,” he said…

The army is also examining the possibility of a cover-up by senior officers, who approved compensation to families of the victims, but failed to investigate allegations of execution-style killings until presented with hard evidence by journalists.

The first official report on the incident claimed that the civilian casualties had been killed by the roadside bomb, but the New York Times reported yesterday that a preliminary investigation by an army colonel as early as March uncovered serious discrepancies in the marines’ account.

John Murtha, a veteran marine and Democratic congressman, told CNN: “Something like this happens, they knew about it. The Iraqis knew about it. The Americans pay them, and then it goes up the chain of command and somebody stifles it.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:33 PM
January 16, 2012
Hell-bent for Election

The Rude Pundit quotes Martin Luther King:

Dives went to hell because he sought to be a conscientious objector in the war against poverty.

Exactly. Greenspan and the Chicago boys. Newtie. Governor Walker. The Koch brothers. Cantor. Perry. Reagan. Bush the Lesser. McConnell. The Tea Party. The two Pauls. On and on. All of them conscientious objectors in the war against poverty. And all of them bound, if the Bible is right, for the same place as Dives.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:08 PM
January 03, 2012
Collapse-Up?

Two things here. First the Orwellian splendor of “build-down.” Second, Mr. Adams is unquestionably right. We don’t need a military capable of fighting two wars or 1.5 wars or even one war. We haven’t been invaded since 1812, unless you consider the question from the point of view of a Native American. Our bloated military has become the economic equivalent of a WPA in reverse, blowing things up so it can rebuild them. It would make more sense to fold the Navy into the Coast Guard, the rest of the Army into the Corps of Engineers, and the Air Force into American Airlines.

“Even at a trillion dollars, this is a shallower build-down than any of the last three we’ve done,” said Gordon Adams, who oversaw military budgets in the Clinton White House and is now a fellow at the Stimson Center, a nonprofit research group in Washington. “It would still be the world’s most dominant military. We would be in an arms race with ourselves.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:09 PM
December 21, 2011
The Bush Spring

I can’t let this one slide. Here’s Thomas Friedman — sort of, kind of — calling Baby Bush the father of the Arab Spring. Even putting Shock and Awe into the same paragraph with Tahrir Square is an obscenity.

So no matter the original reasons for the war, in the end, it came down to this: Were America and its Iraqi allies going to defeat Al Qaeda and its allies in the heart of the Arab world or were Al Qaeda and its allies going to defeat them? Thanks to the Sunni Awakening movement in Iraq, and the surge, America and its allies defeated them and laid the groundwork for the most important product of the Iraq war: the first ever voluntary social contract between Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites for how to share power and resources in an Arab country and to govern themselves in a democratic fashion. America helped to midwife that contract in Iraq, and now every other Arab democracy movement is trying to replicate it — without an American midwife. You see how hard it is.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:20 PM
December 15, 2011
The Enemy is Us

We knew it happened. We knew it always happens, on all sides in all wars. The problem is not the warriors, but the wars. Nor are the wars the problem. The politicians who start the wars are the problem. But neither are the politicians the problem. We put them in power. We are the problem.

Read all of the extraordinary New York Times story from which the following is excerpted:

General Johnson, the commander of American forces in Anbar Province, said he did not feel compelled to go back and examine the events because they were part of a continuing pattern of civilian deaths.

“It happened all the time, not necessarily in MNF-West all the time, but throughout the whole country,” General Johnson testified, using a military abbreviation for allied forces in western Iraq.

“So, you know, maybe — I guess maybe if I was sitting here at Quantico and heard that 15 civilians were killed I would have been surprised and shocked and gone — done more to look into it,” he testified, referring to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. “But at that point in time, I felt that was — had been, for whatever reason, part of that engagement and felt that it was just a cost of doing business on that particular engagement.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:22 AM
December 02, 2011
An Entomologist Looks at Inequity

From Edward O. Wilson’s On Human Nature:

I suggest that we will want to give [universal human rights] primary status not because it is a divine ordinance…or through obedience to an abstract principle of unknown extraneous origin, but because we are mammals. Our societies are based on the mammalian plan: the individual strives for personal reproductive success foremost and that of his immediate kin secondarily; further grudging cooperation represents a compromise struck in order to enjoy the benefits of group membership.

A rational ant — let us imagine for a moment that ants and other social insects had succeeded in evolving high intelligence — would find such an arrangement biologically unsound and the very concept of individual freedom intrinsically evil. We will accede to universal rights because power is too fluid in advanced technological societies to circumvent this mammalian imperative; the long-term consequences of inequity will always be visibly dangerous to its temporary beneficiaries. I suggest that this is the true reason for the universal rights movement and that an understanding of its raw biological causation will be more compelling in the end than any rationalization contrived by culture to reinforce and euphemize it.

Is Dr. Wilson right? “In the end,” who knows? At present, in the United States at any rate, the biological consequences of inequity are invisible to its temporary beneficiaries.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:51 AM
October 28, 2011
Too Big, They Failed

Read Krugman today. And copy your Congressperson if he, she or it is a Republican. In a nutshell:

…But a funny thing happened on the way to economic Armageddon: Iceland’s very desperation made conventional behavior impossible, freeing the nation to break the rules. Where everyone else bailed out the bankers and made the public pay the price, Iceland let the banks go bust and actually expanded its social safety net. Where everyone else was fixated on trying to placate international investors, Iceland imposed temporary controls on the movement of capital to give itself room to maneuver.

So how’s it going? Iceland hasn’t avoided major economic damage or a significant drop in living standards. But it has managed to limit both the rise in unemployment and the suffering of the most vulnerable; the social safety net has survived intact, as has the basic decency of its society…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:49 AM
October 22, 2011
My Name is Obamandias, King of Kings…

Charles P. Pierce writes:

Empires make me nervous. Imperial policies — even the gentler ones, even the purely commercial ones, even by proxy, and even when they result in the death of one of the few indisputable madmen on the modern scene — make my skin itch. (It’s the Irish in me.)

As to the blessings of globalization in Africa, well, that continent has been globalized out of most of its wealth and more than a few of its people since long before people invented the hedge fund. Will they do better under Goldman Sachs than they did under the Belgians? (The Nigerian precedent is not encouraging.) Free trade is not democracy, and the latter is in no way an inevitable consequence of the former. I don’t see the arrival of consumer goods and/or the modern financial markets as doing much for the average Ugandan.…

Iraq and Afghanistan aside, we fight our wars by automation, hurling thunderbolts from beyond the horizon, like Jove. There’s something scarifying about that, especially when it’s aimed at an American citizen, and it kills his teenage son, and the people who threw the thunderbolts don’t even try to show us why these people had to die. For a long time, we had people who said that the reason we were sending the Army all over the world was because there wasn’t any draft. One of the most apt criticisms of the “war on terror” was that it was being conducted without engaging the entire country in the effort. Now, not only is the combat removed from the citizenry, it’s increasingly removed from soldiers. Some guy at a console in Kansas City is making war on Pakistan. That makes me nervous.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:43 AM
October 21, 2011
When the Shouting Dies…

Why say it, when JollyRoger at Plutocrat has said it for me? I’ll only add that as we do unto foreign heads of state, foreign heads of state may one day do unto us.

It bothers me to no end to see “leftists” cheering about us having gotten this guy. From a practical perspective, cheering about Qaddafi’s death is no different from cheering about Saddam’s. Qaddafi getting killed doesn’t solve one problem I’m facing.

But, it might give me problems to face later.

Whenever we cheer on simply killing people, rather than lamenting that these people never had a day in Court, we are simply making it easier for Governments to kill off people they find to be irritating. The Government, once given a green light for this kind of behavior, will simply broaden the scope of those it finds reprehensible enough to kill, until the day when Government tries to kill anyone it finds to be irritating.

I far prefer the manner in which we conducted ourselves after World War II. While we made the Nazis and Japanese face the consequences of their activities in Court, Stalin simply murdered millions of German POWs. We established our system as a just system, and our philosophy as one that demanded that even the worst elements among us must be brought before the bar, and prosecuted, so that the whole world would be aware of why it was that we went after these people. We afforded some of the most vile people who ever lived strong defense lawyers, the right to face their accusers, and an opportunity to tell their own stories.

We worked pretty hard to catch people ALIVE back then, just to make sure that we COULD demonstrate to the world that we were dedicated to the cause of justice.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:35 AM
October 07, 2011
The Real Threat of Big Government

Jim Fallows led me to this chart from Mother Jones. Click to enlarge it into legibility.


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The point, which Teddy Roosevelt was the last Republican president to grasp, is that the natural and inevitable result of “free market” competition is not efficiency, invention, a level playing field, personal freedom, or the greatest good for the greatest number. It is monopoly.

This is what the Republican small government types would fear if they had a clue. Not government regulation. Ask anyone for his or her worst experiences with unresponsive, uncaring, indifferent, and rapacious bureaucracies. The answer will seldom be the Post Office or the Social Security Administration or even the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Nine times out of ten it will be a bank, an insurance company, a giant utililty, a cable provider. You can’t vote the rascals out. There is no congressman to complain to. You haven’t got a hope of successfully suing them. Corporate decisions are unappealable, mercilessly and mindlessly enforced by courts and bill collectors.

You can’t even get past the phone tree to speak to anybody in actual authority. Such people must exist, but they are faceless and unaccountable. You are in Kafka country. Just ask any of the poor bastards defrauded and evicted in the great mortgage swindle that blew up the economy for everyone but the bankers responsible.

This is the “big government” the useful idiots of the Tea Party ought to fear. Instead they are speeding its arrival. Perhaps it has already arrived. Look at the chart.

The only thing capable of standing in its way is the regulatory authority of the “big government” that the boobies have been taught to fear. Indeed it may already be too late. The Citizens United decision and the corporate-owned Congress and Obama’s economic team may have seen to that.

In which case God bless us all, and Tiny Tim Geithner.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:04 PM
September 27, 2011
The Good News Just Keeps Coming…

…in this case from The American Conservative:

…The Sailer analysis is ruthlessly logical. Whites are still the overwhelming majority of voters, and will remain so for many decades to come, so raising your share of the white vote by just a couple of points has much more political impact than huge shifts in the non-white vote. As whites become a smaller and smaller portion of the local population in more and more regions, they will naturally become ripe for political polarization based on appeals to their interests as whites. And if Republicans focus their campaigning on racially charged issues such as immigration and affirmative action, they will promote this polarization, gradually transforming the two national political parties into crude proxies for direct racial interests, effectively becoming the “white party” and the “non-white party.” Since white voters are still close to 80 percent of the national electorate, the “white party” — the Republicans — will end up controlling almost all political power and could enact whatever policies they desired, on both racial and non-racial issues.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:11 PM
September 26, 2011
Bipartisan, Schmipartisan

From Frank Rich’s latest, in New York magazine:

The important thing to remember about Perry is that he’s anathema to Mitt Romney, Karl Rove, and many conservative pundits no less than to liberals. His swift rise does not just reflect his enthusiasts’ detestation of Barack Obama. Perry’s constituency rejects the entire bipartisan Establishment of which Obama is merely the latest and shiniest product.

For two decades, the elites in both parties and in the Beltway media-political combine have venerated a vanilla centrism, from Bush 41’s “thousand points of light” to Clinton’s triangulation to Bush 43’s “compassionate conservatism.” They’ve endorsed every useless bipartisan commission and every hapless bipartisan congressional “Gang of Six” (or Twelve, or Twenty, not to mention the new too-big-not-to-fail budget supercommittee).

Perry, by contrast, is a proud and unabashed partisan. If he’s talking about gangs, chances are they’re chain gangs, not dithering conclaves of legislators. He doesn’t aspire to be the adult in the room, as Obama does, but the bull in the china shop of received opinion…

Should Perry get the GOP nomination, he could capsize like Goldwater on Election Day. That’s the universal prediction of today’s Restons. But maybe he won’t. Perry would have a cratered economy to exploit, unlike Goldwater, who ran in a boom time when unemployment was under 6 percent and the GDP was up 5.8 percent from the previous year. Whatever Perry’s 2012 electoral fate, his lightning ascent is final proof, if any further is needed in the day of the tea-party GOP, that a bipartisan consensus in America is as unachievable now as it was after 1964…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:11 AM
September 25, 2011
The Fox That Didn’t Bark in the Night

From New York magazine:

The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” finally opened Wednesday at 45–51 Park Place. Last year, Park51, as the mosque–community center two iconic blocks from the WTC is called, was the flashpoint of the most heated New York City public debate in decades, prompting raucous community-board meetings, much incendiary rhetoric about the supposed Islamization of America, and, eventually, the uncommon sight of Mayor Bloomberg crying on television while defending New York as an unending beacon of tolerance where “no neighborhood is off-limits to God’s love and mercy.”

On Wednesday night, however, aside from the cop car that sits outside the building 24/7 and a number of burly, black-clad bouncers, Park51’s recent history was little in evidence…

No one I talked to wanted to discuss the outrageous events of the past year. In fact, neither Pamela Geller or Robert Spencer — the firebrand bloggers who concocted the bulk of the anti-mosque talking points — even mentioned the Park51 opening on their sites. Then again, they may still by lying low in the wake of the disclosure that their views were widely quoted in the papers of Norwegian gunman Anders Behring Breivik.

From Kevin Drum, in Mother Jones:

The mosque was introduced to the public in December 2009, Pamela Geller shrieked about it, and no one cared. In May 2010 the project was approved, Pamela Geller shrieked about it, and no one cared. A week later, a New York Post columnist wrote a piece called “Mosque Madness at Ground Zero,” Pamela Geller continued shrieking about it, and —

And suddenly Rupert Murdoch’s other New York-based news operation took notice. After all, there was an election coming in November, and what better way to rally the troops? It was just one more log for Fox to toss onto its Bonfire of Xenophobia last summer..


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:32 PM
September 22, 2011
The GOP’s Love Affair with Small Business

The New Yorker has a wonderful story this week about the only pharmacist in Nucla, Colorado (population 700). His name is Don Colcord, and he does his best to serve an area of 4,000 square miles. Somehow he manages in spite of Medicare Part D, George W. Bush’s unfunded gift to the insurance industry and the nation’s deficit:

…He keeps watch-repair tools behind the counter, and he uses them almost as frequently as he complains about Walmart, insurance companies, and Medicare Part D. Since 2006, the program has provided prescription-drug coverage for the elderly and disabled, insuring that millions of people get their medication. But it’s also had the unintended [Editor’s note: my ass] effect of driving rural pharmacies out of business.

Instead of establishing a national formulary with standard drug prices, the way many countries do, the U.S. government allows private insurance plans to negotiate with drug providers. Big chains and mail-order pharmacies receive much better rates than independent stores, because of volume. Within the first two years of the program, more than five hundred rural pharmacies went out of business.

Don gives the example of a local customer who needs Humira for rheumatoid arthritis. The insurance company reimburses $1,721.83 for a month’s supply, but Don pays $1,765.23 for the drug. “I lose $43.40 every time I fill it, once a month,” he says. Don’s customer doesn’t like using mail-order pharmacies; he worries about missing a delivery, and he wants to be able to ask a pharmacist questions face to face. “I like the guy,” Don says. “So I keep doing it.” Don’s margins have grown so small that on three occasions he has had to put his savings into the Apothecary Shoppe in order to keep the doors open…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:04 AM
September 21, 2011
Still Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf

From the New York Times:

The hemisphere’s oil boom is all the more remarkable given that two of its traditional energy powerhouses, Venezuela and Mexico, have largely been left out, held in check by entrenched resource nationalism. Venezuela is now considered to have bigger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, putting it at the top of OPEC’s rankings. If it opened up more to foreign investment, it could tip the scales further in the hemisphere’s direction.

Gee, I thought we were going to have to drill, baby, drill and run Canadian pipelines through the heartland and frack Pennsylvania and New York till flames shot out of everybody’s faucets and poison the Gulf of Mexico to keep our Hummers on the road. (Whatever happened to all those Hummers, anyway?)

Now it turns out that we didn’t really need to waste three trillion dollars to fail to seize the oilfields of Iraq. We could have just acted like adults in 1999 instead of throwing childish tantrums over the election of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s version of Joe Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung combined. (I take it that “entrenched resource nationalism” is double talk for kicking out foreign oil companies, an old commie trick.)


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:20 PM
September 15, 2011
Deadlock

William Pfaff on United Nations membership for Palestine:

However, what al-Faisal does not say is that the U.S. is the only nation to possess the strength and opportunity to act preemptively to solve this crisis. Israel now is incapable of rescuing itself because of its quasi-permanent internal political deadlock.

President Obama could spectacularly reverse policy and save the day. He could declare that the U.S. will vote in support of Palestine’s full membership in the U.N. It will use all of the means at its disposal to support Israeli withdrawal of illegal settlements from territory designated as part of the Palestinian state in the 1948 U.N. partition of Mandate Palestine. It will do all in its power to impose the solution that everyone — including realistic Israelis and the Palestinians — understand to be the inevitable, permanent and just solution of this problem.

True enough. Unfortunately, however, the United States of America now is incapable of rescuing itself because of its quasi-permanent internal political deadlock. For more on how stupid we’re about to be and why, read Pepe Escobar here.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:47 AM
September 11, 2011
Who Really Hates Us for Our Freedom?

Here’s Rick Raznikov’s answer:

“Freedom” was not attacked on September 11, 2001. It was two towers in New York and, apparently, the Pentagon. It had nothing whatever to do with freedom.

On the other hand, America’s freedom has been under attack ever since, mostly by the U.S. government.

One does not defend freedom by wiping out amendments to the Bill of Rights, kidnapping citizens and holding them without trial, torturing thousands and holding them in prisons without habeas corpus, and conducting warrantless wiretapping and unrestricted electronic surveillance of an entire citizenry. That is how one attacks freedom.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:45 AM
Bush’s Two-Trillion-Dollar Baby is 10 Today

From Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz:

Today, the US is focused on unemployment and the deficit. Both threats to America’s future can, in no small measure, be traced to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Increased defense spending, together with the Bush tax cuts, is a key reason why the US went from a fiscal surplus of 2 per cent of GDP when Bush was elected to its parlous deficit and debt position today. Direct government spending on those wars so far amounts to roughly $2 trilllion — $17,000 for every US household — with bills yet to be received increasing this amount by more than 50 per cent.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:33 AM
August 02, 2011
The Gang of 435

How must you feel if you’re a Member of Congress these days? Embarrassed? Unclean? Do you mind being classified with the creepy-crawlies?

There was a time when members of the U.S. House of Representatives were not held in the same esteem as slugs, rodents and lice. But nowadays, when they’re not carrying on like demented five-year-olds, they are featured in ads fleeing from the Orkin man or checking into a Roach Motel.

How did so many Congressmen and Congresswomen fall from respect to obloquy? How many times have you heard your neighbors say, “Let’s get rid of all of them in the next election? Wipe the slate clean and start over. The next batch couldn’t possibly do any worse.”

This is of course the old “Throw the bums out!” refrain, but it doesn’t bode well for the country when people start to think of Congress as so much mildew. It will be a sad day when voters bring bottles of Tilex to the polls. And this day is coming soon.

Was it always thus? Well, maybe not always but too often. The problem seems to be that so many Congresspersons can’t hold a thought for very long. They forget who they are, where they are, and why. Many of them don’t seem to grasp the fundamentals of representative government, and those who do can’t seem to cope with those who don’t. This pathetic corrosion of reasonable governance has now infected both houses and the Oval Office. Nobody can do anything except to vigorously do nothing.

So now, after an incredibly drawn-out and tiresome exercise in schoolyard power politics, we have a “deal,” a bill that creates another commission to study the debt problem and come up with recommendations. Congress apparently forgot that we’ve already done that — twice. But why do something only once if you can spend another few millions doing it again, and again, all the while calling for fiscal responsibility?

Fiscal responsibility used to be the byword of the Republican Party and Republicans are still trumpeting this conceit as the bedrock of their political philosophy. Once upon a time it was a respectable, if selfish, position, but now mainly draws exasperated guffaws and clucking from all but the most deranged right-wingers, the tea party extremists, for instance. Except for its own highly paid ideologues and a profoundly ignorant and mean-spirited segment of the electorate, no one in the GOP, including its elected officials, can possibly believe in its claim to fiscal responsibility.

George W. Bush and a Republican-controlled Congress added more than four trillion dollars to the national debt, which he carried as a non-budget item, off the books, as it were, to finance not one but two ill-advised wars, wars that have accomplished absolutely nothing except to take or ruin the lives of thousands of American soldiers and countless Iraqis and Afghans. Bush loaded more onto the national debt than any president in history.

He also lowered the tax rates to give an unneeded bonanza to the richest people in the country, did much to protect the various exemptions and tax advantages enjoyed by some of the richest companies and then he tried to privatize Social Security, an idea that some scholars have called the single-most irresponsible initiative ever undertaken by an American president.

But, hey, fiscal responsibility takes many forms. And sometimes the people, they just don’t know what’s good for ‘em. But that’s what we’ve got the tea party for, to show us the way. And that’s what the Democrats are for, to mount the loyal opposition — Quiet Please! — and then to roll over so the Republicans can scratch their bellies. Thanks so much; that feels so good.

The very thought of it all brings to mind the first verse (actually, the only verse) of a favorite childhood rhyme:


My name is J. Millbank the Snail;
I have horns and a shell and a tail;
The people go by me,
Say, “Yecch! Oh how slimy!”
And I never get any nice mail.


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Posted by Paul Duffy at 06:18 PM
August 01, 2011
The Bible Tells Us…

…how to figure out which harlot would just as soon see the baby drowned in the bathtub. Once King Solomon determined that, he returned the baby to its mother. Once our solons made the same determination, they decided to leave the kid with the kidnapper.

There’s a upside, though. The harlot who actually gives a shit about the baby will be granted visitation rights. Details yet to be worked out, but the best guess at the moment is from five to seven p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. Supervised visits, of course, so she won’t smuggle in food stamps or Medicaid.

Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house.

And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.

And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.

Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living. And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.

Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.

Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:24 PM
July 31, 2011
Time to Tremble

Gary Hart:

What seems especially unjust — and this is a matter of justice — is the surrender of national progress to the forces whose old ideas brought on the conditions now deemed to require retrenchment to a more primitive past. Resistance to paying for the national and social policies of a great, good, and progressive society by those most able to do so, by those who have benefited most handsomely from American society, by those most protected by the pillars of American strength, is not only aggravating, it is unjust, unfair, and immoral.

However one views history and divine providence, nations are judged and unjust ones are found wanting. Etched on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial are these words of Biblical implications: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:29 PM
Collateral Damage

New York Times:

But by this month, in ultimately unsuccessful talks with Speaker John A. Boehner, Mr. Obama tentatively agreed to a plan that was farther to the right than that of the majority of the fiscal commission and a bipartisan group of senators, the so-called Gang of Six. It also included a slow rise in the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from 65, and, after 2015, a change in the formula for Social Security cost-of-living adjustments long sought by economists.…

“Democrats created Social Security and Medicare, and we have fought for decades against Republican attempts to end these programs,” said Dan Pfeiffer, Mr. Obama’s communications director. “And President Obama believes that now is the time for Democrats to be the ones to step up and save Social Security and Medicare.”

Wikipedia:

One of the most famous quotes of the Vietnam War was a statement attributed to an unnamed U.S. officer by AP correspondent Peter Arnett. Writing about the provincial capital, Ben Tre, on February 7, 1968, Arnett said: “‘It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,’ a United States major said today. He was talking about the decision by allied commanders to bomb and shell the town regardless of civilian casualties, to rout the Vietcong.” The quote was distorted in subsequent publications, eventually becoming the more familiar, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:46 PM
July 30, 2011
We Was Framed

Jonathan Chait cuts to the chase:

The main problem is that the Republican Party does not actually care very much about the deficit. It cares about, in order: Low taxes for high-income earners; reducing social spending, especially for the poor; protecting the defense budget; and low deficits. The Obama administration and many Democrats actually do care about the deficit and are willing to sacrifice their priorities in order to achieve it, a desire that was on full display during the health care reform debate. Republicans care about deficit reduction only to the extent that it can be undertaken without impeding upon other, higher priorities. Primarily “deficit reduction” is a framing device for their opposition to social spending, as opposed to a genuine belief that revenue and outlays ought to bear some relationship to each other.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:45 PM
July 29, 2011
Try Speaking Truth to Power…

…and see how far it gets you:

[Dennis] Blair said the continuing drone strikes are more of a nuisance than a real threat to al-Qaida, and that only a ground campaign by Pakistan would truly threaten it and other militant organizations.

“It can sustain its level of resistance to an air-only campaign,” he said.

The retired admiral also suggested cutting the cost of hunting terrorists by relying more on local forces in places like Yemen and Somalia. The U.S. is already working with indigenous forces in both countries, but also sustains a large and expensive offshore presence aboard a ship off the Yemeni coast, as well as flying armed and observation drones from Djibouti and other sites in the region.

He estimated that there are some 4,000 terrorists worldwide, and a budget of some $80 billion devoted to fighting them — a figure he said did not include the wars of Afghanistan or Iraq.

“That’s $20 million for each of these people ... Is that proportionate?” he asked. He pointed out that 17 Americans have been killed inside the U.S. by terrorists in the decade since Sept. 11, including the 14 killed in the Ft. Hood massacre, while car accidents and daily crime combined have killed some 1.5 million people during the same 10 years.

“What is it that justifies this amount of money on this narrow problem?” he asked.

Blair, who was forced to resign by the Obama administration, says the White House undermined his authority as director of national intelligence by siding with the CIA, instead of telling it to listen to him.

“They sided enough with the CIA in ways that were public enough that it undercut my position,” Blair said.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:36 AM
July 28, 2011
When the Grand Old Party Really Was

The debt ceiling crisis in a nutshell, from Abraham Lincoln via Paul Krugman:

But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:23 PM
July 04, 2011
Cop Lovers and Soldier Sniffers

Here, from Tom Engelhardt, is our text for this Fourth of July:

These days [President Obama] can barely open his mouth without also bowing down before the U.S. military in ways that once would have struck Americans as embarrassing, if not incomprehensible. In addition, he regularly prostrates himself before this country’s special mission to the world and never ceases to emphasize that the United States is indeed an exception among nations. Finally, in a way once alien to American presidents, he invokes God’s blessing upon the military and the country as regularly as you brush your teeth.

Think of these as the triumvirate without which no Obama foreign-policy moment would be complete: greatest military, greatest nation, our God. And in this he follows directly, if awkwardly, in Bush's footsteps…

The president’s recent Afghan remarks were, in this sense, par for the course. As he plugged his plan to bring America’s “long wars” to what he called “a responsible end,” he insisted that “[l]ike generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events.” He then painted this flattering word portrait of us:

“We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination... and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach... we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish.”

I know, I know. You’re wondering whether you just mainlined into a Sarah Palin speech and your eyes are glazing over. But hang in there, because that’s just a start. For example, in an Obama speech of any sort, what America’s soldiers never lack is the extra adjective. They aren’t just soldiers, but “our extraordinary men and women in uniform.” They aren’t just Americans, but “patriotic Americans.” (Since when did an American president have to describe American soldiers as, of all things, “patriotic”?) And in case you missed the point that, in their extraordinariness and their outsized patriotism they are better than other Americans, he made sure to acknowledge them as the ones we “draw inspiration from…”

Oh, and let’s not forget that no significant White House moment ends these days without the president bestowing God’s blessing on the globe’s most extraordinary nation and its extraordinary fighters, or as he put it in his Afghan remarks: “May God bless our troops. And may God bless the United States of America.”

The day after he revealed his drawdown plan to the nation, the president traveled to Ft. Drum in New York State to thank soldiers from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division for their multiple deployments to Afghanistan. Before those extraordinary and patriotic Americans, he quite naturally doubled down.

Summoning another tic of this presidential moment (and of the Bush one before it), he told them that they were part of “the finest fighting force in the world.” Even that evidently seemed inadequate, so he upped the hyperbole. “I have no greater job,” he told them, “nothing gives me more honor than serving as your commander in chief. To all of you who are potentially going to be redeployed, just know that your commander in chief has your back... God bless you, God bless the United States of America, climb to glory.”

As ever, all of this was overlooked. Nowhere did a single commentator wonder, for instance, whether an American president was really supposed to feel that being commander in chief offered greater “honor” than being president of a nation of citizens. In another age, such a statement would have registered as, at best, bizarre. These days, no one even blinks.

In the excerpt above, Engelhardt expands on a point made long ago by the late George Carlin — that America is a nation of “cop lovers and soldier sniffers.”

But Engelhardt goes on to argue, inarguably, that President Obama is leading us into a mess in Afghanistan from which we will never extricate ourselves without further dishonor and defeat. Thus he follows with precision the political strategy of Johnson and Nixon, both of whom also pursued reelection by keeping alive a murderous war that they knew to be pointless and unwinnable.

Please read not just the passages I’ve posted, but Engelhardt’s whole essay.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:48 AM
June 24, 2011
Nothing New Under the Sun

From pages eight and nine of historian Taylor Branch’s 2009 book, The Clinton Tapes:

[President Clinton] remarked, for instance, that he had no idea what Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas thought about the merits of gays in the military. “He may genuinely be for it or against it,” said Clinton. “All of our discussions have been about the politics.” He said Dole advised him quite candidly that he intended to keep the issue alive as long as he could to trap Clinton on weak ground, where he would “take a pretty good beating.”

Similarly the president said Dole consistently advised that budgets were the most partisan matters between Congress and the White House, and that Clinton could expect to get few if any Republican votes for his omnibus bill on taxes and spending. Clinton said Dole spoke of the opposition’s job not as making deals but rather making the president fail.

On page 158, same book:

Clinton praised [Democratic] Senator Robb’s spirited riposte in a recent debate when senatorial opponent Oliver North called him a lackey who voted mostly with Clinton. Robb replied that he had voted mostly with President Bush, too, because his duty was to help presidents when he could, not tear them down.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:55 PM
June 18, 2011
The United States of Paranoia

From CNN we learn that Portland has a zero tolerance policy on urine. Its water bureau subscribes to the Dick Cheney theory of risk management, which on the national scale brought us the Department of Homeland Security (Heimat Sicherheit in the original German), endless war in the Middle East, and a citizenry of cringing cowards. Search a baby’s diaper for explosives at the airport, and a clear majority of Americans will call it regrettable, but a necessary price to pay for our freedoms.

Is it possible that nobody at the Portland Water Bureau has ever visited a public pool full of pissing, splashing and swallowing kids who nonetheless manage to survive? Are the Water Bureau’s managers incapable of calculating the number of ounces in a gallon, multiplying by 8,000,000, dividing by 16, and then having a good laugh over the immeasurable trace of piss remaining in a glass of city water? Of course they’re not, but the poor bastards answer to a public long since reduced to a permanent state of fear. Good Americans snivel their way through life's darkness, cowering at every small sound and literally worried sick.

Oregon’s Portland Water Bureau is draining an 8 million-gallon reservoir after surveillance cameras caught a man urinating into it this week.

The move will cost the water bureau $35,000 – $28,000 in lost revenue and $7,500 in disposal costs, CNN affiliate KATU-TV reports…

A healthy bladder holds up to 16 ounces of urine, according to the National Institutes of Health.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:35 PM
June 15, 2011
The Redder the Deader

From the Washington Post:

In one-quarter of the country, girls born today may live shorter lives than their mothers, and the country as a whole is falling behind other industrialized nations in the march toward longer life, according to the study…

What surprised Murray and his team was that despite increased consciousness about disparities and per capita spending on health care that is at least 50 percent higher than European countries, the United States is falling farther behind them with each passing year.

What failed to surprise me and my team was this:

The region where life expectancy is lowest, and in some places declining, begins in West Virginia, runs through the southern Appalachian Mountains and west through the Deep South into North Texas.

This is a swath of red states where the right to bear arms is particularly cherished. Without it, voters would have trouble shooting themselves in the foot on election day.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:36 AM
May 29, 2011
Business as Usual

CNN World, May 29, 2011:

An investigation was underway Sunday into allegations that a coalition airstrike in southern Afghanistan killed a dozen children and two women, Afghan and NATO officials said…

“We do know about the allegations,” Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ronald Flesvig, an ISAF spokesman, told CNN. There was no mention of possible civilian casualties on ISAF’s daily operational update posted daily on its website…

Residents, according to Ahamadi, said an ISAF helicopter conducted the airstrike, which hit two houses where women and children were staying.

New York Times, September 7, 2002:

The United States Central Command acknowledged tonight that scores of civilians were killed or injured in an American airstrike on a string of Afghan villages in July, but blamed Taliban fighters for placing women and children near valid miitary targets…

“The ground location of the source of the fire was identified and fires were directed to that area,” the summary said. “Just as the weapon itself is not seen, it is also not possible to determine if the fires from the AC-130 gunship have damaged or destroyed the weapon. Consequently, personnel at the weapon’s location were the primary targets. Unfortunately, it is also not possible to distinguish men from women or adults from children.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:39 AM
May 23, 2011
Fake Muscles

Another note on the decline of the American Empire from Robert Stein at his always interesting blog, Connecting.the.Dots. I hope I’ll be that sharp an observer when I get to be his age.

Never mind men in outer space or those slogging in Middle East mud, media attention is on a horny old Frenchman in Manhattan detention, a former body builder with no procreative self-control and a preening pack of politicians playing Chicken with the national debt limit.

In the Age of Viagra, masculinity is being downgraded everywhere. Even 60 Minutes is obsessed with strength cheating by Lance Armstrong and other cycling idols.

The Bogart-Eastwood days of strong, silent men are long gone, replaced by caricatures on the national stage, flexing fake muscles and abandoning all the responsibilities that used to be associated with responsible manhood…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:25 AM
May 17, 2011
The Untouchables

The criminal code is brutally harsh about assigning responsibility where the lower orders are concerned. The kid sitting outside in the car while the others rob a convenience store is responsible for the clerk’s death, even if he didn’t know she was killed. So is the grandmother or girl friend who harbors the suspect knowing of his crime.

Try this on Goldman Sachs, AIG, Countrywide, or BP. The jails would burst. The shakiest entrapment and encitement tactics are routinely used against suspected terrorists, but almost never against bankers or CEOs or industrial polluters. Not to report a crime is a crime for you, but not for them. Shielding a criminal makes you a criminal, but not them.

Where’s the fairness? Fairness is for suckers. Grow up.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:01 AM
May 16, 2011
Changing Partners

Curse you, Red Menace, why did you walk off the floor and leave us dancing all alone? Osama stepped up and filled the gap for a while, but now folks are starting to wonder if the GWOT was really worth bankrupting the country for.

It’s getting scary here in the Pentagon. Maybe we should try pumping up that old Yellow Peril doll in the attic. If we’re lucky Congress won’t notice we’re already getting our bloated ass whipped with roadside bombs at a couple hundred bucks a copy.

From the Associated Press:

…Land-based drones are in wide use in the war in Afghanistan, but sea-based versions will take several more years to develop. Northrop Grumman conducted a first-ever test flight — still on land — earlier this year.

Van Buskirk didn’t mention China specifically, but military analysts agree the drones could offset some of China’s recent advances, notably its work on a “carrier-killer” missile.

“Chinese military modernization is the major long-term threat that the U.S. must prepare for in the Asia-Pacific region, and robotic vehicles — aerial and subsurface — are increasingly critical to countering that potential threat,” said Patrick Cronin, a senior analyst with the Washington-based Center for New American Security.

China is decades away from building a military as strong as America’s, but it is developing air, naval and missile capabilities that could challenge U.S. supremacy in the Pacific — and with it, America’s ability to protect important shipping lanes and allies such as Japan and South Korea…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:41 PM
May 11, 2011
Keeping Our Enemies Closer

I don’t often finding myself writing these words, but here goes: read Thomas L. Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times. He doesn’t mention Israel because he’s Friedman and it’s the New York Times. Being neither I will point out, as I have once or twice before, that those three countries are the greatest actual threats to America’s actual national security.

Friedman sample:

“…Like the hijackers of 9/11, who were also Saudi-Wahhabi ideological exports ... Saudi Arabia’s reserve army of potential terrorists remains, because the Wahhabi factory of fanatical ideas remains intact. So the real battle has not been with Bin Laden, but with that Saudi state-supported ideology factory.”

Ditto Pakistan. The Pakistani ruling bargain is set by the Pakistani Army and says: “We let you civilians pretend to rule, but we will actually call all the key shots, we will consume nearly 25 percent of the state budget and we will justify all of this as necessary for Pakistan to confront its real security challenge: India and its occupation of Kashmir. Looking for Bin Laden became a side-business for Pakistan’s military to generate U.S. aid.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:31 AM
May 09, 2011
Schumer Takes the Cape

Schumer can be such an idiot, particularly when he spots a chance to get on TV:

New York (CNN) — In light of recent findings that al Qaeda was mulling targeting railroad lines to mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, a senator from New York is calling for tighter rail security.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer proposed an increase in rail security and an Amtrak version of the Secure Flight “no-fly” list…

Schumer proposed the creation of a “no-ride” list that would check passengers against a list of suspected terrorists to prevent would-be terrorists from boarding trains. The list would be used like the government “no-fly” list that screens air travelers.

“Obviously there are certain things that would have to be done, but Amtrak, unlike our commuter rails or subways, does have a (manifest) of everyone that rides Amtrak,” he said. “They check your name as you walk down so it doesn’t seem like it’s that difficult to do.”

Even from the bottom of the sea, Osama bin Laden has no trouble getting the senator from Wall Street to take the cape, a concept explained here by former Pentagon official Chuck Spinney. As information from bin Laden’s computer files continues to be released, we will continue to play his game for years.

Did it ever occur to Al Qaeda, for instance, that access to many major bridges in the United States of Paranoia is already controlled by toll booths? Obviously there are certain things that would have to be done, such as requiring all motorists to sign up for E-Z Pass so their names could be checked against a “no-ride” list, but it doesn’t seem like it’s that difficult to do.

And it would certainly give Osama a good giggle, between virgins.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:37 PM
May 07, 2011
Meanwhile, Back at the Nation Formerly Known as America…

From a press release issued by the institution formerly known as the Fort Worth Public Library:

The word “public” has been removed from the name of the Fort Worth Library. Why? Simply put, to keep up with the times. In today’s day and age, the word “public” implies a place that, at one time, might have been viewed as institutional and restrictive. All are welcome at the Fort Worth Library. By removing one word with a potentially negative connotation, the Library aims to appear more welcoming and accessible to all.

American rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, formerly known as Nazi rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, once published a memoir called I Aim at the Stars. The un-American comedian Mort Sahl suggested adding a few words: — but Sometimes I Hit London.

Writing at Alternet, David Morris adds his own few words clarifying Fort Worth’s experiment in rebranding:

All things public are under attack. The Fort Worth rebranding is an indication of how effective this attack has been. The city explained that it was dropping the word “public” because of its “potentially negative connotation.” The Founding Fathers would be disconsolate. John Adams wrote in 1776, “There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest … established in the minds of the people, or there can be no republican government, nor any real liberty: and this public passion must be superior to all private passions.” Thomas Jefferson agreed, “I profess … that to be false pride which postpones the public good to any private or personal considerations.”

Would it be improper for me to mention the Forth Worth rebranding initiative was mostly paid for by a large oil drilling company?

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:49 AM
May 05, 2011
America the Beautiful

From the Associated Press, 9:52 a.m:

WASHINGTON — The number of people applying for unemployment benefits surged last week to the highest level in eight months, a sign the job market may be weakening.

The Labor Department says applications rose by 43,000 to 474,000 in the week ended April 30, the third increase in four weeks. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose for the fourth straight week to 431,250.

From the Associated Press, 9:52 a.m:

NEW YORK — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. remains atop the Fortune 500 list.

The annual ranking, released Thursday, also shows that the largest U.S. companies have fared much better than ordinary Americans. Companies that made the Fortune 500 this year posted the third-largest combined profit gain in the lists’ history.

Fortune Magazine compiled its list based on revenue for 2010. Editors say that companies increased profits by increasing productivity and cutting jobs. They also grew faster overseas than in the U.S.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:16 AM
May 02, 2011
The Price for Bin Laden’s Head

In my morning email was this, from Merry: “I really want to read your take on the ‘killing Bin-Laden’ story.’” Naturally I was excited, since no one had previously given a rat’s fundamental orifice about my take on anything. So here:

I’m ashamed to say that my first reaction was to wonder what effect the assassination would have on the 2012 election. This was narrow, parochial, and in all respects unworthy, but I’m still counting the news cycles till the Republicans start asking the president what took him so long. Maybe because Obama rhymes with Osama? Hmm?

My second reaction was to wonder how much we will wind up paying Pakistan for selling Bin Laden to us. After all, the Saudi millionaire wasn’t hiding in some remote frontier wilderness where the writ of law runneth not. He was in Abbottabad, which turns out to be as far from Islamabad as Manassas is from the White House.

Furthermore, many of Abbottabad’s residents are army personnel and all of them must be blind. (For this and the following details, go here.) The elusive 6' 5" terrorist lived in a million-dollar mansion built five years ago, apparently to hide him. It had 18-foot high walls topped with barbed wire and was “roughly eight times larger than the other homes in the area.” None of this seems to have come to the attention of all those army personnel, or of the Pakistan intelligence service.

A suspicious person might reach a tentative conclusion that Bin Laden had been held in a sort of country club jail until the price was right, and then ratted out to Pakistan’s hated enemy, the United States, for a price that will never be disclosed.

Once again we play the battered wife, submissive and forgiving. Our abusive husband this time is Pakistan. Next time it will be Israel or Saudi Arabia. We cannot bring ourselves to admit that it is these three countries which pose the greatest actual threats to America’s actual security. Unhappily this pathology is bipartisan. There it lies at the heart of our national security policy, unuttered and unutterable.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:25 PM
April 19, 2011
America Goes Third World

An occasionally reliable source in Stockholm tells me he called Ikea the other day to complain about a sofa that was insufficiently bland. The woman who answered spoke excellent Swedish with just a hint of an Appalachian accent. “My name is Moonbeam McSwine,” she said. “How may I help you?”

David Sirota reports on Alternet:

Buried in the Times report is the troubling story of why Ikea opened a plant in the United States in the first place. No, the decision wasn’t made to take advantage of superior workforce skills or productivity — positive attributes that once drove our manufacturing sector and built our middle class. Instead, it was made to exploit our decreasing wage levels and weak worker protections.

Though company factories in Sweden produce the same bookcases as the plant in Virginia, the Times notes that “the big difference is that the Europeans enjoy a minimum wage of about $19 an hour and a government-mandated five weeks of paid vacation (while) full-time employees in Danville start at $8 an hour with 12 vacation days” — and that doesn’t count the one-third of Danville workers who are paid even less because they are subcontracted through temp agencies.

Ikea’s exploitation motive evokes memories of General Electric’s Jack Welch. He famously said that in an era without strong international unions and with standards-free trade pacts, profit-maximizing companies would end up putting “every plant you own on a barge” and trolling the world for the lowest wages and workplace conditions, knowing they would no longer face tariff costs.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:04 AM
April 17, 2011
When Will They Ever Learn…

I’ve mentioned before that it’s never a good idea to take on people who would rather die than ______ (fill in blank). The latest evidence for this proposition just came in a few minutes ago from CNN News:

Five troops killed in a suicide bombing this weekend at a military base in eastern Afghanistan were members of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, a senior U.S. military official said Sunday…

On Saturday, a suicide bomber wearing an Afghan military uniform struck, killing the five, at a military base, Forward Operating Base Gamberi, in eastern Afghanistan's Laghman Province. The attack came during a meeting between Afghan soldiers and their ISAF mentors…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:03 PM
April 13, 2011
The Death of the Bullet Train?

I’ve just finished listening to President Obama’s speech laying out his plans to save the nation’s economy from Paul Ryan, the trust fund baby from Wisconsin.

No politically significant number of American voters watched along with me, because who watches long speeches in the middle of the day? (People whose minds are already made up, that’s who.) Too bad, since it was a simple, clear and convincing takedown of the Grand Old Tea Party’s plan to push our economy underwater for the third and final time.

However (you knew there’d be a however, didn’t you?), one thing struck me as the speech went along. Take a look:

We’ve laid down railroads and highways to facilitate travel and commerce…

We won’t be able to afford good schools, new research, or the repair of roads and bridges – all the things that will create new jobs and businesses here in America…

It’s a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can’t afford to fix them…

We’ll invest in medical research and clean energy technology. We’ll invest in new roads and airports and broadband access:

We are the nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness…

Every reference to railroads is in the past tense, as if no further attention needs to be paid. The golden spike got driven in 1869, after all. Maybe I’m making too much of what may have been an innocent and meaningless oversight. But in my experience major presidential addresses to the nation tend to be vetted pretty carefully by a great many players, each fighting for at least a mention of its pet projects. And not a historical mention.

Note: I love to say I told you so. At 8:18 p.m., CNN Radio moved the story from which this comes:

(CNN) — President Barack Obama’s plan for a national high-speed rail network suffered a serious setback as a result of the fight over budget cuts. No money will be allocated for high-speed rail projects for the remainder of 2011…

The budget bill says the amount of money for “Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration, Capital Assistance for High Speed Rail Corridors and Intercity Passenger Rail Service shall be $0” for the remainder of fiscal year 2011. Another section of the bill rescinds $400 million from the funds that were already budgeted for high-speed rail in 2010…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:49 PM
April 08, 2011
Brainwashing the Bench

While looking for something else I came across this note in my files. The Koch brothers weren’t exactly flying under the radar till Jane Mayer discovered them last August. Their blips had been visible on our screen for a long time, but attention was not paid.

Wall Street Journal 8/9/99 piece on how Koch Industries and other big corporations give judge expenses-paid “Economic Institutes for State Judges” for judges in such hell-holes as Sanibel Island. In such “institutes” these often pretty naïve (to judge by the story) jurists learn the corporate slant on junk science, free market, the cost and ineffectiveness of EPA regulations. Koch is of course a major polluter. First Koch-backed groups rank judges on how their decisions affect business. Political groups use these rankings in judicial elections. Often judges with low scores decide to attend the seminars.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:56 PM
April 04, 2011
America at its Extremes

This is from a Measure of America report which contains, along with a whole raft of other things you didn’t know, the following:

Rankings by state, for each major racial and ethnic group, on the American Human Development Index. The index reveals that the starkest disparities in well-being fall not between blacks and whites, but between Native Americans and Asian Americans. Asian Americans as a group top the rankings, with Asian Americans in New Jersey coming in at number one. If current trends continue, it will take Native Americans in South Dakota an entire century to catch up with where New Jersey Asian Americans are now in terms of life expectancy, educational enrollment and attainment, and median earnings.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:12 PM
March 30, 2011
Vile Shameless Losers

Joe Klein seems to be a tad put off by the current crop of Republican presidential kinda-sorta-candidates:

This is my 10th presidential campaign, Lord help me. I have never before seen such a bunch of vile, desperate-to-please, shameless, embarrassing losers coagulated under a single party’s banner. They are the most compelling argument I’ve seen against American exceptionalism. Even Tim Pawlenty, a decent governor, can’t let a day go by without some bilious nonsense escaping his lizard brain.

Nicely put, except for the part about Pawlenty being a decent governor. After all, this is a guy who prefers letting bridges collapse to raising the taxes necessary to maintain them.

Here is the sad and simple reality of our current political landscape: America has two major political parties. One of them is conservative. The other is insane.

You can decide for yourself which is which...

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Posted by Kurt Weldon at 01:13 PM
March 11, 2011
The Ramadan Plot

The looming imposition of Sharia law on God’s country is bad enough, but at least a handful of courageous politicians are fighting to save America from the horrors of stoning, amputations and 11-year-old brides.

Who, though, will be brave enough and wise enough to save us from the Moslem plot called Ramadan? Representative Peter King (IRA – NY) doesn’t even have Ramadan on his committee’s agenda, possibly under the impression that it’s a hotel chain.

But Ramadan is something far more sinister than the harmless face it shows the world. The terrorists would like you to think that it’s just a sort of Moslem Lent, only more ascetic: no food or drink at all between sunrise and sunset for a whole month.

Sounds more like Weight Watchers than an Al Qaeda plot. But in Michigan this alien practice is already wreaking havoc among America’s unborn, the very cohort upon which we depend to furnish the congressmen of tomorrow.

The mechanism is ingenious, but simple. Women undernourished during pregnancy tend to deliver underweight babies, more of them girls than boys, with an increased risk of mental disabilities. This creates, as our enemies understand, a demographic time bomb. Before long we will be a nation of dummies. Oh, wait…

For details click on this and download the full study. Here’s a taste to get you started:

We use the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as a natural experiment in fasting and fetal health. In Michigan births 1989–2006, we find prenatal exposure to Ramadan among Arab mothers results in lower birthweight. Exposure to Ramadan in the first month of gestation is also associated with a sizable reduction in the number of male births. In Census data for Uganda and Iraq we find strong associations between in utero exposure to Ramadan and the likelihood of being disabled as an adult. Effects are particularly large for mental (or learning) disabilities.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:10 PM
March 09, 2011
Getting What You Asked For

Chuck Butcher at Chuck for… says something that probably needs saying:

In Wisconsin half of you bothered to vote. Half. That means about a quarter of the eligible voters picked your elected officials. How many of you teachers didn’t bother, how many of you public janitors didn’t bother, how many whatevers of you just didn’t bother?

That begs the question of how many of you ignored your actual interests to vote against Obama or for some social right wing hobbyhorse that you won’t get. In point of fact, regarding the “Family Values Party,” not only won’t you get it but they don’t bother with it themselves.

You folks are providing endless amusement for the national media. What the hell, you haven’t listened to what the GOP has actually had to say? You didn’t pay any attention when reputable analysts said, “liars, liars, pants on fire?” Are you now saying, “We thought we were voting for reasonable, responsible Republicans,” and continue to believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:04 AM
March 08, 2011
Fun Fact

From McClatchy:

…With or without the 50 inmates, California will spend $10 billion a year on prisons, more than it spends on the University of California and California State University systems combined.

Until California politicians and voters confront the costs of the three-strikes sentencing law, we will be a little like Roney Nunez, the demented 85-year-old prisoner who reached down from his wheelchair and scratched the surface.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:38 AM
March 07, 2011
The Hundred Years War?

Fom the Associated Press:

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that both the U.S. and Afghan governments agree the American military should remain involved in Afghanistan after the planned 2014 end of combat operations to help train and advise Afghan forces…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:56 AM
March 04, 2011
Making America Less Safe

Let’s start by all agreeing that terrorism is a bad thing, okay? But let’s also agree to the indisputable: that it will not and cannot destroy the United States. Here is a very partial list of states that have been visited by terrorism in recent memory: England, France, Spain, Ireland, Canada, India, Pakistan, Bolivia, Nicaragua. On and on. All of them remain in existence. None has assumed the fetal position, whimpering in fear and laying down unaimed fire in every direction. This is to say that only in the United States have the terrorists won.

More on this point from Daniel Larison at Eunomia.

The latest round of interventionist foreign policy over the last ten to thirteen years has focused heavily, though not exclusively, on countering the threat from jihadist terrorism, and everyone would acknowledge that many of the major policy decisions of the last ten years were made politically viable by the 9/11 attacks. Arguments for all of the policies connected to the “war on terror” lean heavily on the idea that terrorism, and specifically jihadist terrorism, represents a major or even an “existential” threat. Any reasonable assessment of the threat shows this to be absurd, and along with those overblown claims goes a large part of the rationale for pretty much every “war on terror” policy.

It seems to me that non-interventionists and realists make blowback arguments to focus on the consequences of current policy, and to point out the flaw in a national security and warfare state that actively makes America less secure by creating enemies where none should exist and provoking attacks that need not happen. It is also a rhetorical move to appeal to public concerns about security without endorsing standard authoritarian and jingoist responses to threats.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but what non-interventionists and realists should be trying to do is to channel the public’s appropriate moral outrage over terrorist atrocities towards reforming the policies that create these unintended, avoidable consequences. To that end, there doesn’t need to be any exaggeration of the nature of the threat or the power of jihadism, but there should be a steady stream of arguments that the threat can be significantly reduced or possibly eliminated by reforming U.S. policies so that they actually minimize the risks to the nation rather than generate new dangers. The threat from terrorism isn’t all that great, but it could be greatly reduced. All that it will cost us is our undesirable pursuit of hegemony.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:51 AM
February 19, 2011
Meanwhile, Back at Reality Ranch…

As if facts made any difference, but here they are:

…If you prefer it in non-graph form: “Wisconsin public-sector workers face an annual compensation penalty of 11%. Adjusting for the slightly fewer hours worked per week on average, these public workers still face a compensation penalty of 5% for choosing to work in the public sector.”

The deal that unions, state government and — by extension — state residents have made to defer the compensation of public employees was a bad deal — but it was a bad deal for the public employees, not for the state government. State and local governments have been able to hire better workers and get more work out of them by negotiating contracts that they might not follow through on.

The ones who got played here are the public employees, not the residents of the various states. The residents of the various states, when all is said and done, will probably have gotten the work at a steep discount. They’ll force a renegotiation of the contracts and blame overprivileged public employees for resisting shared sacrifice. It’s a neat trick…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:52 PM
February 18, 2011
Monkey See, Monkey Do

What’s going on in Wisconsin is a replay of what Bush did to the whole country’s economy, except that Bin Laden handed Bush a crisis to exploit. While the country was still in the fetal position, whimpering with existential fear, he was able to put two wars and a huge security bureaucracy on the national credit card. Then he cut taxes on the nation’s hard-working millionaires so that the nonproductive rest of us would be stuck with the bill.

But if Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker wanted to succeed in his new job as butler to the rich, he had to do something fast about that pesky balanced budget he inherited. Since he couldn’t go to war (although he’d plainly like to), he did the next best thing. He created a fiscal 9/11 by looting the state treasury for his bosses:

Like just about every other state in the country, Wisconsin is managing in a weak economy. The difference is that Wisconsin is managing better — or at least it had been managing better until Walker took over. Despite shortfalls in revenue following the economic downturn that hit its peak with the Bush-era stock market collapse, the state has balanced budgets, maintained basic services and high-quality schools, and kept employment and business development steadier than the rest of the country. It has managed so well, in fact, that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently released a memo detailing how the state will end the 2009-2011 budget biennium with a budget surplus.

In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.

To the extent that there is an imbalance — Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit — it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes — or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues — the “crisis” would not exist.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:57 PM
February 17, 2011
Dying to Win

My late stepfather Ralph Ingersoll (founder of the New York daily PM) used to say, “If you’re up against people who literally ‘would rather die than—”, sooner or later they’re going to win.”

I thought of him just now, in reading Nicholas D. Kristof’’s report from Bahrain:

Another woman, Hayat, said that she had been shot with rubber bullets twice this week. After hospitalization (which others confirmed), she painfully returned to the streets to continue to demand more democracy. “I will sacrifice my life if necessary so my children can have a better life,” she said.

I thought of it in Poland, in Tiananmen Square, in Northern Ireland, in the Gaza Strip and of course in Tahrir Square. But I also thought of it in Vietnam, and now in Afghanistan. Every suicide bomber, everywhere, makes me think of it.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:10 PM
February 15, 2011
“We’re Broke.”

At a press conference this morning, Li’l Johnny “Where-are-the-jobs?” Boehner had this to say about the presumptive fallout from the GOP’s suggested budget cuts:

“In the last two years, under President Obama, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs,” Boehner said. “If some of those jobs are lost so be it. We’re broke.”

Of course, he neglected to mention one thing: We’re broke because we choose to be. We’re broke because of a deliberate strategy of his party and his party’s backers to bankrupt this nation as a way of targeting those individuals, groups and programs of which they disapprove. (It’s what Grover Norquist means by “starve the beast.”)

And just to add to the fun, yesterday Obama spoke of “living within our means.” Jerry Brown said the same thing not too long ago — I guess this is what Democrats say now to look grown up. But it raises a question that no one seems to be asking anywhere: Just what are our means? A government has the means to increase revenue darn near anytime it wants to. It seems to me if we’re talking about maintaining the basic trappings of a society — which is a topic for another time — that a government has the duty to do so as well.

We’re fond of the metaphor of a family tightening its collective belt. Somehow we’ve overlooked one of the things families consider when they tally up the bills: How to bring more money into the house.

Just ask any parent working multiple jobs…

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Posted by Kurt Weldon at 01:50 PM
February 13, 2011
Doonesbury


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:30 PM
February 05, 2011
America, the Arsenal of Something or Other

Anyone around who still imagines that ours is a peace-loving country should read The Domestic Roots of Perpetual War (pdf), from which this excerpt comes. The author, Franklin Spinney, is not a peacenik or a pacifist. He spent most of his long career as high-ranking Pentagon analyst.

One source of the pressure for more defense spending is that our two relatively small wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both much smaller than the Korean or Vietnam war, have stretched our military to the breaking point. These wars are small in terms of scale and tempo of operations. Bear in mind that the Korean and Vietnam wars took place against a backdrop of cold war commitments. Today, the United States is spending more than it did in 1969, when we had 550,000 troops in Vietnam.

But the cold war meant that we also maintained hundreds of thousands of troops in Western Europe and East Asia, a huge rotation base at home to support these forward deployments, a large Navy fleet of 679 ships (compared with 287 today) to control the seas, and thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert in airborne bombers, missile silos, and submarines. Nevertheless, according to a report issued by the Congressional Research Service, the cumulative costs of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq have made the response to September 11 the second-most-expensive war, adjusted for inflation, in U.S. history, exceeded only by World War II…

In 1981, the Reagan administration was so intent on throwing money at the Defense Department that it rushed through an amendment to President Jimmy Carter’s budget. Without any systematic review — and not having the time to type up a new budget — Reagan’s political appointees directed the department merely to hand-write changes adding billions of dollars to hundreds of line items. Much of this largesse was immediately converted into cost growth in existing programs…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:12 PM
February 04, 2011
Whereas No Troops Could Translate into No Casualties…

From the New York Times review of Donald Rumsfeld’s apologia pro sua vita. It is titled Known and Unknown, and its 800 pages can be yours for the low, low price of $36 — less than a nickel a page! (All sales final.)

“Too many troops could hurt our ability to win Iraqi confidence,” [Rumsfeld] writes, “and it could translate into more casualties, because more troops would mean more targets for our enemies.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:31 AM
February 03, 2011
Sentences I Wish I Had Written…

…but Gail Collins did:

The Senate sponsor is James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who recently claimed that the supercold winter proves that theories about global warming are “an intellectual fraud.” We could blame Senator Inhofe, but he really isn’t all that satisfactory a villain. It’d sort of be like blaming nuclear proliferation on gophers.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:58 AM
January 27, 2011
Malpracticing to Deceive

Anthony Piel, writing in the Lakeville Journal. Piel, a former director and general legal counsel of the World Health Organization, concludes after the jump that “the best way to avoid malpractice suits is to quit malpracticing.”

If good police work is essential to nuclear security, how are we, the United States, actually doing? Here’s an example of the problem: Some years back in Paris, when I was “cooperating” with the International Criminal Police Organization (known as Interpol) tracking suspicious money flows, its chief administrator complained to me (as an American) that all too often when Interpol succeeded in nearly unraveling a network of illicit arms trafficking, they would find again and again the CIA (or MI-6 or Mossad or other intelligence agency) at the base of the illicit arms dealing network under investigation. That makes international police work dicey when facing the world’s greatest superpower and its satellites.

It also turned out, to Interpol’s dismay, that a number of powerful U.S. corporations, asset management firms, hedge funds, private equity firms and overseas tax-evasion subsidiaries were involved (and presumably are still involved) directly or indirectly in the financing, promotion and operation of the illegal international weapons trade.

These creations of deregulated, for-profit capitalism are thus contributing, knowingly or not, to the delivery of illicit weapons to strange places and actors, such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Iranians, Yemenis, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations around the world…

Today, a hedge fund located in Greenwich, Conn., may be financing at least indirectly the killing of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The profit motive underlying “free” global enterprise is one thing; but outright disloyalty to America and putting weapons of destruction in the hands of our enemies is something else — beyond excuse. Obviously, we Americans are not doing a proper job of policing ourselves, let alone policing others.

The same Interpol administrator also complained to me that although Interpol shared virtually all its information with U.S. police and intelligence agencies, the United States did not fully share its information with Interpol, and, he pointed out, U.S. agencies such as the CIA, FBI and NSA appeared to withhold critical information from each other.

The administrator’s comments were prophetic, as we soon found out when the United States failed to prevent the 9/11 surprise attack on Lower Manhattan and the Pentagon, in spite of the information that was available to individual U.S. agencies. This was a clear example of how a false concept of the need for proprietary “state secrets” can be used to undermine effective, cooperative intelligence and police action at home and abroad.

Fortunately, the Obama administration is making an all-out effort to collaborate with Interpol, in our own national interest, and to force the different elements of U.S. Homeland Security to communicate and work together. Also, for the first time in history, an American, Ronald Noble, has been made head of Interpol, an organization that helps coordinate the police work of nearly 200 countries.

Hopefully we shall make full benefit of this kind of international police cooperation. But we have to take care not to abuse the Interpol relationship for our own political ends.

The recent U.S. attempt to recruit Interpol to discredit WikiLeaks’ revelations about U.S. military misbehavior in Iraq and Afghanistan is not necessarily a step in the right direction. As they say in the medical field, the best way to avoid malpractice suits is to quit malpracticing.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:20 PM
January 25, 2011
Empire Building

If we actually want to expand and consolidate our influence abroad, the way to do it is not to bankrupt ourselves by sending in the cavalry. For instance, take our 30-year Southeast Asian War Games. Please. For another instance, look at Obama’s fundamentally insane attempt to colonize Afghanistan with drones.

And for a somewhat different approach, consider this:

China has announced plans to build a high-speed railway linking the southern Chinese Guangxi Zhaung autonomous region with Singapore via Vietnam, according to China Daily

“We will invest 15.6 billion yuan (US$3.05 billion) to build the railway linking Nanning and Singapore via Vietnam,” said Long Li, director of the region’s transportation department. “This is extremely important for the construction of the Nanning - Singapore Economic Corridor.”

The corridor refers to the economic link between China and ASEAN nations, starting at Nanning in Guangxi and passing through Hanoi in Vietnam, Vientiane in Laos, Cambodia’s Phnom Penh, Thailand’s Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on its way to Singapore. China Daily referred to Guangxi as the country’s main foreign-trade center, with ASEAN being its largest bloc trading partner.

Of course everything has its downside, as we see in this email from an old colleague who stayed in Thailand after our own efforts to impose a Southeast Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere had so disastrously failed. So you pays your money and you takes your choice, but the Chinese approach seems to involve lower body counts. At least in the short run.

Lemme tell you, man, it’s really bad. The Chinese squatters are the worst of the worst, obnoxious ass holes who simply buy off local officials and do as they please. I can cite numerous examples from personal experience, e.g., the market vendors in Nam Tha and Phonsavan who know NO Lao and could care less.

In March, I got up to the Bolavens plateau where I spent a year in ’63–’64. A joint Chinese/Australian mining concern has a concession to strip away 1,400 km2 of the plateau for bauxite and send it to Yunnan for an aluminum plant. 1,400 square kilometers! Essentially the entire southern half of the plateau. And the fuckers’ office is in the old IVS house we built in Houei Kong. [Ed. note: The International Voluntary Service in Laos was the rough equivalent of the Peace Corps.]

This is happening on top of Korean and other foreign hydroprojects that have displaced villages and destroyed indigenous cultures. And unrestrained logging everywhere, which destroys the habitat that indigenous groups have preserved for hundreds of years and on which they depend to sustain their way of life.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:56 PM
January 22, 2011
Fire in the Hole

At Ketchup Is A Vegetable, Brady Bonk easily outshoots the NRA. Not that it matters. In a nation of cowards, fear beats logic every time.

A threatening person enters your home. You pick up a gun from your nightstand, and you successfully fire it into the person’s chest, ending his life and protecting your home. The police shake your hand and send you on your merry way and tell you what a good person you are.

It seems more likely to me that you’ll end up killing someone in your family or yourself and end up in jail or dead.

I mean, you think the guy on the phone this morning regularly takes his gun to a range? You think he’s had classes in gun safety, think he’s bothered to learn how to properly handle a firearm?

And, further: Do you think he has a fire extinguisher in his kitchen?

Well, I mean, come on. If your reason for keeping a firearm in your nightstand is that you have to defend your home, don’t you think you should be equally prepared to defend it from fire? And which of the five types of fire extinguisher does he own? And does he know whether to pick up his A, B, C, D, or K model depending on which sort of fire he’s got?

Does his family have an escape route in case of fire? Has he seen about installing a tougher deadbolt? Reinforced the windows? Locked down his sliding glass doors? Has he plugged unused electrical sockets? I mean, if you’re going to be the kind of guy who’s interested in defending his home and his family, then be that guy or stop with the bullshit nonsense…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:11 PM
January 03, 2011
The Medium is the Message

Way back when, I wrote the following:

Lest we forget, American tanks blocked off access to Firdos Square on that triumphant day [April 9, 2003]. Inside were many American soldiers and civilians and a small group of Iraqis, most of them members of Chalabi’s private, U.S.-funded militia. The statue was toppled by an American cable pulled by an American tank retrieval vehicle operated by American soldiers. The American flag which briefly ornamented Saddam’s head was put there by an American soldier. It was an American officer who realized just in time that the stars and stripes were somewhat off-message, and ordered them removed. Somehow or other, an Iraqi flag happened to be on hand…

As an old flack myself, I had recognized a photo-op even as I watched this one over and over on the day it debuted. But I didn’t know the half of it. For the rest of the story, as the unlamented Paul Harvey used to say, read the fascinating full account by Peter Maas in Pro Publica from which this excerpt comes:

Very few Iraqis were there. If you were at the square, or if you watch the footage, you can see, on the rare occasions long shots were used, that the square was mostly empty. You can also see, from photographs as well as video, that much of the crowd was made up of journalists and marines. Because of the lo-fi quality of the video and the shifting composition of the crowd, it’s hard to give a precise number, but perhaps a quarter to a half consisted of journalists or marines.

The crowd’s size — journalists, marines, and Iraqis — does not seem to have exceeded several hundred at its largest, and was much smaller for most of the two hours. The Iraqis who were photogenically enthusiastic — sledgehammering the statue, jumping on it after the toppling — were just an excitable subset of all Iraqis there.

“I saw a lot of people watching with their arms crossed, not at all celebrating,” Collier noted. Closeups filled the screen with the frenzied core of the small crowd and created an illusion of wall-to-wall enthusiasm throughout Baghdad. It was an illusion that reflected only the media’s yearning for exciting visuals…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:14 PM
December 31, 2010
Tea Party Till You Drop

More depressing news from the most self-satisfied, self-absorbed and altogether selfish generation of my lifetime. Unsurprisingly it has now spawned the Tea Party, much as manure kept in the dark grows mushrooms.

Too many boomers have ignored or underestimated the worsening outlook for their finances, says Jean Setzfand, director of financial security for AARP, the group that represents Americans over age 50. By far the greatest shortcoming has been a failure to save. The personal savings rate — the amount of disposable income unspent — averaged close to 10 percent in the 1970s and ’80s. By late 2007, the rate had sunk to negative 1 percent.

The recession has helped improve the savings rate — it’s now back above 5 percent. Yet typical boomers are still woefully short on retirement savings. Even those in their 50s and 60s with a 401(k) for at least six years had an average balance of less than $150,000 at the end of 2009, according to the EBRI.

Signs of coming trouble are visible on several other fronts, too:

• Mortgage Debt. Nearly two in three people age 55 to 64 had a mortgage in 2007, with a median debt of $85,000.

• Social Security. Nearly 3 out of 4 people file to claim Social Security benefits as soon as they’re eligible at age 62. That locks them in at a much lower amount than they would get if they waited…

Many seem to view their plight through rose-colored granny glasses. An AARP survey last month of boomers turning 65 next year found that they worry no more about money than they did at age 60 — before the recession or the collapse of home prices. But in an acknowledgement of reality, 40 percent said they plan to work “until I drop.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:35 PM
December 30, 2010
Hocus Pocus

From Colonel Girdle:

About once a year I re-read Kurt Vonnegut’s brilliant 1990 novel, Hocus Pocus, a prescient satire about America in 2001 when the nation has been thoroughly raped by its capitalist owners & soldoff to other countries. Here is a brief excerpt taken from where the college professor protagonist recollects a speech given by the college’s writer in residence. A speech that causes consternation among the college’s board of trustees:

He predicted, I remember, that human slavery would come back, that it had in fact never gone away. He said that so many people wanted to come here because it was so easy to rob the poor people, who got absolutely no protection from the government. He talked about bridges falling down and water mains breaking because of no maintenance. He talked about oil spills and radioactive waste and poisoned aquifers and looted banks and liquidated corporations. “And nobody ever gets punished for anything,” he said. “Being an American means never having to say you’re sorry.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:44 PM
December 23, 2010
Paranoia, Here We Come, Right Back Where We Started From

History repeats itself, no question. And no surprise either. It was formed and deformed back then by human beings; it still is, and by an unimproved species.

There are two ways of looking at this regular reemergence of past follies in almost identical shapes: either we have learned nothing from our mistakes, never will, and are therefore all doomed; or what the hell, we lived through these stupid patches before and so we probably will this time too. Take your pick, bearing in mind that it is Christmas, a season of hope.

Meanwhile, here’s a patch that I lived through as a young man, more or less intact and still bitching. This description of it is by Richard Hofstadter, in a 1963 speech at Oxford which was later published in Harper’s Magazine as “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” Read “socialism” for “Communism” and “Obama” for “Roosevelt” and you’ll feel right at home. Professor Beck and Deacon McConnell make their appearances, too, along with many other familiar folks.

But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialist and communist schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners but major statesmen seated at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors discovered foreign conspiracies; the modern radical right finds that conspiracy also embraces betrayal at home…

The basic elements of contemporary right-wing thought can be reduced to three: First, there has been the now familiar sustained conspiracy, running over more than a generation, and reaching its climax in Roosevelt’s New Deal, to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for s0cialism or communism. Details might be open to argument among right-wingers, but many would agree with Frank Chodorov, the author of The Income Tax: The Root of All Evil, that this campaign began with the passage of the income tax amendment to the Constitution in 1913.

The second contention is that top government officialdom has been so infiltrated by Communists that American policy, at least since the days leading up to Pearl Harbor, has been dominated by sinister men who were shrewdly and consistently selling out American national interests.

The final contention is that the country is infused with a network of Communist agents, just as in the old days it was infiltrated by Jesuit agents, so that the whole apparatus of education, religion, the press, and the mass media are engaged in a common effort to paralyze the resistance of loyal Americans…


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As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, the quality needed is not a willingness to compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Nothing but complete victory will do.

Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated — if not from the world, at least from the theater of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for unqualified victories leads to the formulation of hopelessly demanding and unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same sense of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.

This enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman: sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, luxury-loving…

Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he directs the public mind through “managed news”; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional); he is gaining a stranglehold on the educational system.

This enemy seems to be on many counts a projection of the self: both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. A fundamental paradox of the paranoid style is the imitation of the enemy. The enemy, for example, may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry…

One of the impressive things about paranoid literature is precisely the elaborate concern with demonstration it almost invariably shows. One should not be misled by the fantastic conclusions that are so characteristic of this political style into imagining that it is not, so to speak, argued out along factual lines. The very fantastic character of its conclusions leads to heroic strivings for “evidence” to prove that the unbelievable is the only thing that can be believed…

The singular thing about all this laborious work is that the passion for factual evidence does not, as in most intellectual exchanges, have the effect of putting the paranoid spokesman into effective two-way communication with the world outside his group — least of all with those who doubt his views. He has little real hope that his evidence will convince a hostile world. His effort to amass it has rather the quality of a defensive act which shuts off his receptive apparatus and protects him from having to attend to disturbing considerations that do not fortify his ideas. He has all the evidence he needs; he is not a receiver, he is a transmitter…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:36 PM
December 17, 2010
Pulling Up the Ladder

During a Google search for something else, I just now came across a nativist blog called stoptheinvasionoforegon. It is a particularly repellent specimen of the genre and contains a particularly revolting selection of racist images. If you have the stomach for this kind of thing, Google it for yourselves.

If the internet had existed in the 1830s I imagine that the Cayuse and Klamath tribes would have spread the same sort of welcome mat for the wagon trains of land-hungry settlers just then arriving from Independence, Missouri.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:49 PM
Solidarity For Never

This is from an essay by George Orwell. Reading it I thought of Nixon’s exploitation of the hard hats whose sons and brothers he was sacrificing in Vietnam to get reelected. And of the working class dupes in the red states who turn out on election day every four years, if they turn out at all, to shoot themselves in the foot.

The backbone of the resistance against Franco was the Spanish working class, especially the urban trade union members. In the long run — it is important to remember that it is only in the long run — the working class remains the most reliable enemy of Fascism, simply because the working-class stands to gain most by a decent reconstruction of society. Unlike other classes or categories, it can't be permanently bribed…

Time after time, in country after country, the organized working-class movements have been crushed by open, illegal violence, and their comrades abroad, linked to them in theoretical solidarity, have simply looked on and done nothing; and underneath this, secret cause of many betrayals, has lain the fact that between white and coloured workers there is not even lip-service to solidarity.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:07 PM
Playing by Torquemada Rules

Like Macbeth, we Americans are by now “in blood stepped in so far that … returning were as tedious as go o’er.” The two torturers named below are psychologists. Their equally responsible enablers, to pick a few out of millions, are John Ashcroft, John Yoo, George Tenet, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and now Eric Holder and Barack Obama.

Joining these moral cripples are the millions who think torture may be regrettable but is sometimes necessary, and after all, Daddy knows best. Besides, waterboarding isn’t really torture anyway. For these last, I refer you to the world’s greatest expert, Henri Alleg. Waterboarding was not the first torture to which French army sadists subjected him. It was the last and most terrible resort, after beating, testicle-burning and electric shocks had failed to break their victim.

WASHINGTON — The CIA agreed to cover at least $5 million in legal fees for two contractors who were the architects of the agency's interrogation program and personally conducted dozens of waterboarding sessions on terror detainees, former U.S. officials said.

The secret agreement means taxpayers are paying to defend the men in a federal investigation over an interrogation tactic the U.S. now says is torture. The deal is even more generous than the protections the agency typically provides its own officers, giving the two men access to more money to finance their defense…

Mitchell and Jessen were recorded interrogating Zubaydah and al-Nashiri and were eager to see those tapes destroyed, fearing their release would jeopardize their safety, former officials and others close to the matter said.

They often contacted senior CIA officials, urging them to destroy the tapes and asking what was taking so long, said a person familiar with the Durham investigation who insisted on anonymity because the case's details remain sensitive. Finally the CIA's top clandestine officer, Jose Rodriguez, made the decision to destroy the tapes in November 2005.

Durham investigated whether that was a crime. He subpoenaed Mitchell, Jessen & Associates last year, looking for calendars, e-mails and phone records showing contact between the contractors and Rodriguez or his chief of staff, according to a federal subpoena. They were ordered to appear before a grand jury in northern Virginia in August 2009.

Last month, Durham closed the tapes destruction investigation without filing charges.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:18 AM
December 15, 2010
Backward Christian Soldiers

It’s curious that Senator Jim DeMint should call himself a Christian when his religious beliefs are revealed by his political ones to be in every important respect the opposite of what the Prince of Peace commands. This, for instance, is what he considers to be sacrilege:

“We shouldn’t be jamming a major arms control treaty up against Christmas; it’s sacrilegious and disrespectful,” he told POLITICO. “What’s going on here is just wrong. This is the most sacred holiday for Christians. They did the same thing last year — they kept everybody here until [Christmas Eve] to force something down everybody’s throat. I think Americans are sick of this.”

And here’s a similar view of what constitutes “disrespect,” from another gentle Christian soul:

DeMint’s comments echo those of Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) who said Tuesday that Reid’s voting schedule is impossible to accomplish “without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:40 PM
December 08, 2010
Whatever You Say, Bibi Dear

Judy from Canada thinks everybody should read Noam Chomsky’s reaction to Obama’s recent “pathetic capitulation to Israel,” and everybody should.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:10 PM
November 29, 2010
Eating Our Young

Read this whole post by Ed Yong at Discover. It seems that the creationists are half right. Sure enough, we have not evolved from the monkeys — we have instead devolved from them.

The anxiety caused by human inequality is unlike anything observed in the natural world. In order to emphasize this point, Robert Sapolsky put all kidding aside and was uncharacteristically grim when describing the affects of human poverty on the incidence of stress-related disease.

“When humans invented poverty,” Sapolsky wrote, “they came up with a way of subjugating the low-ranking like nothing ever before seen in the primate world.”

This is clearly seen in studies looking at human inequality and the rates of maternal infanticide. The World Health Organization Report on Violence and Health reported a strong association between global inequality and child abuse, with the largest incidence in communities with “high levels of unemployment and concentrated poverty.” Another international study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry analyzed infanticide data from 17 countries and found an unmistakable “pattern of powerlessness, poverty, and alienation in the lives of the women studied.”

The United States currently leads the developed world with the highest maternal infanticide rate (an average of 8 deaths for every 100,000 live births, more than twice the rate of Canada). In a systematic analysis of maternal infanticide in the U.S., DeAnn Gauthier and colleagues at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette concluded that this dubious honor falls on us because “extreme poverty amid extreme wealth is conducive to stress-related violence.” Consequently, the highest levels of maternal infanticide were found, not in the poorest states, but in those with the greatest disparity between wealth and poverty (such as Colorado, Oklahoma, and New York with rates 3 to 5 times the national average). According to these researchers, inequality is literally killing our kids.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:33 PM
November 18, 2010
Things I Didn’t Know

From Stephen M. Walt’s answer to Bush’s new book, Decision Points. Professor Walt’s response is called Delusion Points.

In the midst of the “Mission Accomplished” euphoria that followed the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, a worried Iran sent a Swiss intermediary to Washington with a far-reaching offer for a “grand bargain,” including an end to Iranian support for groups such as Hezbollah and a deal on Iran’s nuclear energy program. The offer was reportedly approved by Iran’s top leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Bush administration turned the Iranians down flat — why negotiate with the next candidate for regime change? — and Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reportedly reprimanded the Swiss ambassador for even delivering the message in the first place.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:24 AM
Medical News from the Reality-based World

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A third of Americans say they have gone without medical care or skipped filling a prescription because of cost, compared to 5 percent in the Netherlands, according to study released on Thursday…

Healthcare reform was U.S. President Barack Obama's signature policy effort, but not a single Republican voted for the bill that Obama signed into law this year and conservatives in Congress have promised to try to dismantle it…


And this from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health:

Fifteen-year survival rates for men and women ages 45 and 65 in the U.S. have fallen relative to the other 12 countries over the past 30 years. Forty-five year old U.S. white women fared the worst — by 2005 their 15-year survival rates were lower than that of all the other countries. Moreover, the survival rates of this group in 2005 had not even surpassed the 1975 15-year survival rates for Swiss, Swedish, Dutch or Japanese women. The U.S. ranking for 15-year life expectancy for 45-year-old men also declined, falling from 3rd in 1975 to 12th in 2005.

When the researchers compared risk factors among the 13 countries, they found very little difference in smoking habits between the U.S. and the comparison countries—in fact, the U.S. had faster declines in smoking between 1975 and 2005 than almost all of the other countries. In terms of obesity, researchers found that, while people in the U.S. are more likely to be obese, this was also the case in 1975, when the U.S. was not so far behind in life expectancy…

The researchers say that the failure of the U.S. to make greater gains in survival rates with its greater spending on health care may be attributable to flaws in the overall health care system. Specifically, they point to the role of unregulated fee-for-service payments and our reliance on specialty care as possible drivers of high spending without commensurate gains in life expectancy.

“It was shocking to see the U.S. falling behind other countries even as costs soared ahead of them,” said lead author Peter Muennig, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Health Policy and Management at the Mailman School of Public Health. “But what really surprised us was that all of the usual suspects — smoking, obesity, traffic accidents, homicides, and racial and ethnic diversity are not the culprits. The U.S. doesn’t stand out as doing any worse in these areas than any of the other countries we studied, leading us to believe that failings in the U.S. health care system, such as costly specialized and fragmented care, are likely playing a large role in this relatively poor performance on improvements in life expectancy.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:11 AM
November 17, 2010
The Voice of the Sheeple

CBS News takes the pulse of the nation, and finds it all fluttery:

In response to continued security threats, the Transportation and Security Administration recently began introducing full body scanners with more enhanced technology than past devices into airports nationwide. If a passenger refuses to pass through the new scanners, TSA agents are now allowed to conduct a very detailed, very personal, body search on that person.

Although some civil rights groups allege that they represent an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, Americans overwhelmingly agree that airports should use the digital x-ray machines to electronically screen passengers in airport security lines, according to the new poll. Eighty-one percent think airports should use these new machines — including a majority of both men and women, Americans of all age groups, and Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike. Fifteen percent said airports should not use them.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:30 PM
Dumb and Dumber and Dumber

For the love of God, how stupid are we?

KABUL (Reuters) — The military handover from NATO-led forces to Afghans should start in the first half of 2011 but poor security in some areas could see it run past a 2014 target, a NATO official said on Wednesday before an important summit…

Sedwill said the transition could run “to 2015 and beyond” in some areas that could still face security problems. “We expect to have strategic overwatch in large parts of the country by that time (2014),” he told reporters in Kabul, with civil administration to follow the security transition.

NATO troops would then assume support and training duties as Afghans took on the burden of combat roles. “The end of 2014 does not mean that the mission is over, but the mission changes. It’s the inflection point, if you like,” Sedwill said.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:05 AM
November 16, 2010
The Holocaust Enablers

Did you know that we had hundreds of tactical nuclear weapons stashed away in Europe in case the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ever decides to attack? No? Neither did I.

Read Daniel Larison’s whole article, excerpted below, on the shameful failure of the United States to lead the way in nuclear disarmament. If an individual reacted this way to a threat from a deceased enemy he would be considered clinically insane. Or, as we say in American English, a Republican.

Any U.S.-Russian arms control agreement brings new opportunities to denuclearize the European continent. The strongest advocates of this idea are the European “non-nuclear weapon states” who are hosting U.S. warheads under a NATO flag. These countries — Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Turkey — together host an estimated total of 150 to 220 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. In 2006, the Belgian Senate passed a bill to remove U.S. weapons from Kleine Brogel Air Force Base. Last year, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle singled out the issue of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Germany during his first visits to NATO and the United States. Parliamentarians of all host countries have urged Obama to withdraw U.S. warheads from Europe, and foreign ministers have written to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen asking for the issue to be placed higher on the alliance’s agenda. These European “abolitionists” fear that, without New START, Russia will be more reluctant to negotiate further arms limitations, giving fewer reasons for Washington to remove its weapons from Europe.

The news that U.S. tactical nuclear weapons will remain in Europe means that relations these governments are about to become more difficult. The leaked document ahead of the Lisbon summit means that the Europeans that had hoped New START would lead to the withdrawal of these weapons would have been disappointed no matter what happened in the Senate here. The failure of New START will ensure that there will be no discussion of tactical nuclear weapons with the Russians, who will have no reason to negotiate new arms reduction agreements if the U.S. cannot ratify this agreement. U.S.-Russian relations are going to take a hit because of Republican opposition to the arms reduction treaty, and our relations with Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Turkey are also going to suffer.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:18 PM
November 15, 2010
Take Me to Your Leader…

…whoever they are. From the New York Times:

In a move away from President Obama’s deadline of July 2011 for the start of an American drawdown from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all cited 2014 this week as the key date for handing over the defense of Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves…

“There’s not really any change, but what we’re trying to do is to get past that July 2011 obsession so that people can see what the president’s strategy really entails,” a senior administration official said Wednesday…

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was last in Afghanistan in September, said the 2014 date made sense, because the Afghan Army and the police were scheduled to increase their numbers to 350,000, their goal, by 2013.

“It is far enough away to allow lots to happen, yet it is still close enough to debunk the myth of an indefinite foreign occupation of the country,” Mr. O’Hanlon said.

But Mr. Gates has said that the United States will nonetheless be in Afghanistan for many more years to come.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:48 PM
Till Death Does You Part

We have a bankruptcy lawyer in the family, so we knew from the beginning what a horror the banks had purchased from Congress — from most Republicans and a shamefully large number of Democrats — back in 2005. It was called bankruptcy “reform,” which in a sense it was. In the same sense that changing bank robbery from a felony to a misdemeanor would look like “reform” to Bonnie and Clyde.

So how’s that reformey stuff workin’ out fer ya? Let Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz walk you through it.

In 2005, we passed a bankruptcy reform. It was a reform pushed by the banks. It was designed to allow them to make bad loans to people to who didn’t understand what was going on, and then basically choke them. Squeeze them dry. And we should have called it, “the new indentured servitude law.” Because that’s what it did.

Let me just tell you how bad it is. I don’t think Americans understand how bad it is. It becomes really very difficult for individuals to discharge their debt. The basic principle in the past in America was people should have the right for a fresh start. People make mistakes. Especially when they’re preyed upon. And so you should be able to start afresh again. Get a clean slate. Pay what you can and start again. Now if you do it over and over again that’s a different thing. But at least when there are these lenders preying on you should be able to get a fresh start.

But they [the banks] said, “No, no, you can’t discharge your debt,” or you can’t discharge it very easily. They have a right, now, to take 25% of your before-tax income. Now imagine what that means. Let’s assume that you wound up, as it’s not that hard to do, with a debt equal to 100% of your income. You’re making $40,000, and your debt is $40,000. You have to turn over to the credit card company, to the bank, $10,000 of your before-tax income every year. But, the banks can now charge you 30% interest.

So what does that mean? At the end of the year, you’ve paid the bank $10,000, a quarter of your income. But what you owe the bank has gone from $40,000 to an even larger number because they’re charging you 30%. So you’re debt is larger. So the next year you have to give a quarter of your income again to the bank. And the year after. Until you die.

This is indentured servitude. And we criticize other countries for having indentured servitude of this kind, bonded labor. But in America we instituted this in 2005 with almost no discussion of the consequences. But what it did was encourage the banks to engage in even worse lending practices.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:04 PM
November 08, 2010
Somewhere Jesus Weeps

After all, we’re not as exceptional as the lapel flag crowd likes to think. We’re just as vicious, just as un-Christian — anti-Christian, really; if you’re looking for the Anti-Christ, try Pat Robertson — as is the rest of our unattractive species.

Robert Burns wrote, “O wad some Power the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us!” Below Chase Madar wonders how our own vast gulag system must look to others as we lecture them on human rights. For his complete essay, go here.

The Khadr case should have been a bit queasy-making for us Americanos. Hasn’t there been a surge of concern for child soldiers in book clubs and church groups across the land? Turns out, however, that this long-distance compassion goes up in smoke at closer range. The second a child soldier points his gun at an American, not another African, it’s adiós victimized child, hello hardened terrorist.

The hypocrisy in all this is less flaming than it may appear. After all, clemency for youth offenders, be they child soldiers or just local kids, runs against the American grain these days. If we routinely prosecute children even younger than 15 as adults — and we do — why should a foreign child soldier be any different?

In fact the U.S. even has a few dozen inmates doing life without parole for acts committed when they were 13 or 14, and most of these sentences were mandatory rather than the prerogative of a particularly nasty judge. (Some small progress: last May in Graham v. Florida the Supreme Court decided that juveniles can get life without parole only if there’s homicide involved.) Overall, the U.S. has in recent years had precious little mercy for its children, or anyone else’s…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:18 PM
November 06, 2010
The Job-Killers of the GOP…

…are wasting no time — as you will see by the whole article (and links) from which this excerpt comes:

Republicans who were elected on Tuesday are beginning to deliver on their campaign promises to kill America’s future. Within hours of declaring victory, the incoming tea-party governors of Wisconsin and Ohio stood fast on pledges to kill $1.2 billion in funding for high-speed rail in their states.

The funding, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will revert to the federal government for investment in other states — unless Republicans in Congress are able to kill that, too. Walker warned he would fight President Obama to keep the Milwaukee-Madison link killed “if he tries to force this down the throats of the taxpayers.” Kasich — who called the high-speed rail project linking Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati “one of the dumbest ideas” he’s ever heard — used his victory speech to announce, “That train is dead.”

So is that brain.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:20 PM
November 04, 2010
Memo to the President…

…Which part of “Fuck you” don’t you understand?

“Over the past week, some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term in office,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell plans to tell the conservative Heritage Foundation, according to excerpts of his speech provided to POLITICO.

“But the fact is, if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill; to end the bailouts; cut spending; and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all these things is to put someone in the White House who won’t veto any of these things,” the Kentucky Republican will say.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:35 AM
October 24, 2010
Fine Words

This from Alternet:

ADM. MIKE MULLEN: Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is, they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family. Disagree with the war all you want, take issue with the policy, challenge me or our ground commanders on the decisions we make to accomplish the mission we’ve been given, but don’t put those who willingly go into harm’s way even further in harm’s way just to satisfy your need to make a point.

Words to live by, from the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Whose own mission requires him to have on his hands the blood of thousands of young soldiers and Afghan families in order to make a point.

And what point exactly? In the service of what greater good? Does anyone even remember?

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:32 PM
October 21, 2010
Wasting Bullets on Dogs

From the Washington Post:

When the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade arrived in Afghanistan, its leader, Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV, openly sneered at the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency strategy. The old-school commander barred his officers from even mentioning the term and told shocked U.S. and NATO officials that he was uninterested in winning the trust of the Afghan people…

Some soldiers have since told investigators that their company commander became furious after learning that the platoon had killed a second unarmed Afghan in January. But rather than referring the incident up the chain of command, he demanded that soldiers find evidence that would justify the shooting.

In March, the platoon’s first lieutenant and sergeant were removed from their posts because their soldiers had been caught shooting at dogs, according to Army investigative records. In contrast, no disciplinary action was taken after platoon members shot and killed four Afghan men — who were allegedly unarmed — in as many incidents. (Three of those shootings are now the focus of murder investigations.)


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:51 PM
October 20, 2010
You Can Ignore Some of the People All of the Time

This is from a study (download file) by Larry M. Bartels at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs:

In addition, senators seem to have been quite responsive to the ideological views of their middle- and high-income constituents — though, strikingly, not to the views of their low-income constituents.

Whether we consider the three Congresses separately or together, the data are quite consistent in suggesting that the opinions of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution had no discernible impact on the voting behavior of their senators. (The point estimates are actually negative, but in every case the standard error is large enough to make it quite plausible that the true effect is zero.)…

The apparent responsiveness of senators to the views of high-income constituents was even greater, despite their somewhat smaller numbers; the pooled parameter estimate of 4.15 implies a shift of .39 in a senator’s W-NOMINATE score in response to an equivalent shift in high-income constituency opinion.

These results imply that responsiveness to the views of middle- and high-income constituents account for significant variation in senators’ voting behavior — but that the views of low-income constituents were utterly irrelevant

The roughly linear increase in apparent responsiveness across the three income groups, with those in the bottom third getting no weight and those in the middle and top thirds getting substantial weight, suggests that the modern Senate comes a good deal closer to equal representation of incomes than to equal representation of citizens

The results for the vote on raising the minimum wage reflect the political plight of poor constituents in especially poignant form. Those results suggest that senators attached no weight at all to the views of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution — the constituents whose economic interests were obviously most directly at stake — even as they voted to approve a minimum wage increase.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:36 PM
October 12, 2010
In the Service of Their Lord

From Larry Beinart’s political thriller, The Librarian:

They had two prophets. The first, of course, was Jesus Christ. Scott claimed to have been saved, and the hard core of his support were Jesus people…

Their second prophet, and to Hagopian their real prophet, was Adam Smith, the eighteenth century economist and philosopher who had coined the phrase “invisible hand” to describe the surprising, unplanned, and unlooked-for effects of each individual pursuing his own domestic plans for gain.

To the intellectual mind, that was a simile, an “as if,” but to the believer mind it was God and God wanted us each to pursue profit to our utmost and then His “invisible hand” would combine those efforts and guide them to the true good.

Adam Smith had also said, “Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.”

Hagopian thought that was true.

If Scott’s people were men of vice, merely greedy, there would be limits to what they might do. If they were men of virtue, there were no limits, no point at which they would stop. There was no lie they would not tell, no fraud they would not perpetrate. No murder they would not commit.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:11 PM
October 10, 2010
Their Man in Washington

More news from the swill kings who caused the present depression. (Don’t tell me this isn’t a depression; I have eyes.)

However, while Paulson has been criticized, unfairly or not, because $12.9 billion of the bailout money went to Goldman, he’s drawn little scrutiny for what he did in his first 18 months in office, during the final frenzied stages of the housing bubble.

In his eight years as Goldman’s chief executive, Paulson had presided over the firm’s plunge into the business of buying up subprime mortgages to marginal borrowers and then repackaging them into securities, overseeing the firm’s huge positions in what became a fraud-infested market.

During Paulson’s first 15 months as the treasury secretary and chief presidential economic adviser, Goldman unloaded more than $30 billion in dicey residential mortgage securities to pension funds, foreign banks and other investors and became the only major Wall Street firm to dramatically cut its losses and exit the housing market safely. Goldman also racked up billions of dollars in profits by secretly betting on a downturn in home mortgage securities.

“No one was better positioned . . . than Mr. Paulson to understand exactly what the implications of his moving against the (housing) bubble would have been for Goldman Sachs, because he knew what the Goldman Sachs positions were,” said William Black, a former senior thrift regulator who delivered the harshest criticism of the former secretary.

Paulson “knew that if he acted the way he should, that would have burst the bubble. Then Goldman Sachs would have been left with a very substantial loss, and that would have been the end of bonuses at Goldman Sachs.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:39 AM
October 07, 2010
NATO an Enabler of US Adventurism?

More good sense from Daniel Larison. Worth reading in its entirety:

As much as we can appreciate and honor the support our NATO allies have provided, we shouldn’t drag them into conflicts that have never really been their concern. “Out-of-area” missions will just keep happening again and again as the alliance looks for new conflicts to enter to provide a rationale for its existence. European nations are clearly tired of it, and at present they can’t afford it, either. The need for fiscal retrenchment has been forcing European governments, even the new coalition government in Britain, to make deep cuts in their military budgets.

Making NATO into a political club of democracies in good standing is also no solution to the Alliance’s obsolescence. As we saw in the war in Georgia two years ago, proposed expansion of NATO has been more of a threat to European peace and security than dissolving it. Once again, this is something that most European governments understood at the time, and which Washington refused to see. Without the belief that Georgia was eligible for membership and would eventually be allowed to join, it is unlikely that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili would have escalated a conflict over its separatist regions and plunged his country into war with Russia. That conflict was a good sign that the Alliance had outlived its usefulness. If it isn’t disbanded, it may start to become a menace to the very things it was supposed to keep safe.

America doesn’t need and shouldn’t want to perpetuate an outdated alliance. The creation of NATO was an imaginative solution designed to respond to the security conditions of the immediate aftermath of World War II, and it was an enormous success. But it is time for Americans to begin thinking anew about the world. A first step in doing that is letting go of an alliance neither America nor Europe needs…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:06 PM
October 05, 2010
Remind You of Anybody?

This is from The Authoritarians, by Bob Altemeyer:

But research reveals that authoritarian followers drive through life under the influence of impaired thinking a lot more than most people do, exhibiting sloppy reasoning, highly compartmentalized beliefs, double standards, hypocrisy, self-blindness, a profound ethnocentrism, and — to top it all off a ferocious dogmatism that makes it unlikely anyone could ever change their minds with evidence or logic. These seven deadly shortfalls of authoritarian thinking eminently qualify them to follow a wouldbe dictator. As Hitler is reported to have said, “What good fortune for those in power that people do not think…”

Intrigued, I gave the inferences test that Mary Wegmann had used to two large samples of students at my university. In both studies high Right Wing Authoritarians went down in flames more than others did. They particularly had trouble figuring out that an inference or deduction was wrong. To illustrate, suppose they had gotten the following syllogism:


All fish live in the sea.
Sharks live in the sea..
Therefore, sharks are fish.

The conclusion does not follow, but high RWAs would be more likely to say the reasoning is correct than most people would. If you ask them why it seems right, they would likely tell you, “Because sharks are fish.” In other words, they thought the reasoning was sound because they agreed with the last statement. If the conclusion is right, they figure, then the reasoning must have been right.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:00 PM
September 27, 2010
Studying War Some More

Ross Douthat writes in the New York Times today:

There’s a sound political rationale for this, of course. Reducing spending is always difficult, and a Republican Party coasting toward a midterm victory has little incentive to stake out controversial positions. And as everybody knows, the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security, a topic that nobody in Congress — save the indefatigable Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan — is particularly eager to touch…

Step right along, folks, nothing to see here. Or so goes the Conventional Wisdom, taken totally for granted by the political and the media establishments in our whole debate over taxes and the deficit.

And yet what’s that huge corpse lying beside the road, bloated and stinking in the sun for all to see? Why doesn’t “everybody know” that cutting War Department spending is also a way of balancing the budget, and one that has the added advantage of being sane?

Presidents Johnson and Carter both tried to impose a discipline called zero-based budgeting on the government, with barely visible success. It involved assuming that your department’s budget had just been reduced to zero, and then restoring functions one by one until you reached a prescribed limit.

Let’s try that with the War Department. Overnight it’s all gone, every bit of it. No more soldiers or sailors, tanks, bombs, planes, guns, submarines, aircraft carriers, drones, generals or admirals. Nothing left. The end of our known world. We stand here naked in a hostile world, shivering and defenseless like Costa Rica — which actually does lack an army.

What will become of poor us? Surely we will be crushed by our enemies, all three hundred million of us from sea to shining sea. Our cities burned, our fields sowed with salt, our women raped, our children sent to madrasas, our surviving men reduced to serfdom.

Just like Costa Rica, except that in the real world none of those things ever seems to happen to Costa Rica.

Nor would they happen to us. We, too, have no military enemies — and therefore no rational reason to maintain much more than a token army. After all America hasn’t been invaded since 1812, and then we pretty much asked for it.

We have wars because we have a War Department, simple as that. No department, no wars. Then we might be forced to think for a living instead of priming the pump of our economy with bombs, bullets and blood. Sure it would be tough, but we can handle tough. We’re Americans.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:18 PM
September 20, 2010
The Boss of Us

This, excerpted from a longer piece in Naked Capitalism, sounds right to me. But then what do I know about money-lending and economic theory. How does it strike you?

Wolf then comes perilously close to making a fundamentally important observation, but pulls back (emphasis ours):

We cannot assess the costs of regulation without recognising a few facts: first, both the economy and the financial system have just survived a near death experience; second, the costs of the crisis include millions of unemployed and tens of trillions of dollars in lost output, as the Bank of England’s Andy Haldane has argued; third, governments rescued the financial system by socialising its risks; finally, the financial industry is the only one with limitless access to the public purse and is, as a result, by far the most subsidised in the world.

Read the italicized part again. Big finance has an unlimited credit line with governments around the globe. “Most subsidized industry in the world” is inadequate to describe this relationship. Banks are now in the permanent role of looters, as described in the classic Akerlof/Romer paper. They run highly leveraged operations, extract compensation based on questionable accounting and officially-subsidized risk-taking, and dump their losses on the public at large.

But the subsidies go beyond that. To list only a few examples: we have near zero interest rates, which allow bank to earn risk free profits simply by borrowing short and buying longer-dated Treasuries. We have the IRS refusing to look into violations of REMIC rules, which govern mortgage securitizations. We have massive intervention to prop up real estate prices, with the main objective to shore up banks; any impact on consumers is an afterthought.

The usual narrative, “privatized gains and socialized losses” is insufficient to describe the dynamic at work. The banking industry falsely depicts markets, and by extension, its incumbents as a bastion of capitalism. The blatant manipulations of the equity markets shows that financial activity, which used to be recognized as valuable because it supported commercial activity, is whenever possible being subverted to industry rent-seeking. And worse, these activities are state supported…

So, the reality is that banks can no longer meaningfully be called private enterprises, yet no one in the media will challenge this fiction. And pointing out in a more direct manner that banks should not be considered capitalist ventures would also penetrate the dubious defenses of their need for lavish pay. Why should government-backed businesses run hedge funds or engage in high risk trading, or for that matter, be permitted to offer lucrative products that are valuable because they allow customers to engage in questionable activities, like regulatory arbitrage? The sort of markets that serve a public purpose should be reasonably efficient and transparent, which implies low margins for intermediaries.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:08 PM
September 03, 2010
New Left Media

New Left Media, may Allah smile on all its works, went to the Glenn Beck pray-in so you wouldn’t have to. Take a look at the result, in case you suffer from American exceptionalism. Something is certainly exceptional about us, and certainly Jesus hasn’t been able to cure it. Maybe we need more mosques. More libraries. Less TV. Who knows? Just help us for God’s sake, any God at all, because we’re on the point of drowning here. Already we’re up to the lower lip in stupidity.




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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:28 PM
September 01, 2010
Chief Embezzlement Officers

Hardly a CEO in the country would not argue that high wages are necessary to attract the very best type of chief executive. They make precisely that argument in defense of their own bloated paychecks. Paying less would put the stockholders at the mercy of a lower type of CEO altogether — a less competent and less efficient steward entirely.

But not a one of these CEOs, obscenely overpaid or merely grossly so, would give a moment’s consideration to the idea that low wages might result in less efficient and less competent workmen as well. Nor that higher wages might attract a better class, likely to work smarter and harder. Somehow workers do not need the motivation of good pay, while managers can hardly exist without it.

As we see in this uplifting story from CNN:

According to the report “CEO Pay and the Great Recession,” chief executive officers of the 50 firms that laid off the most workers since the start of the economic crisis earned nearly $12 million on average in 2009. That’s 42 percent more than the average pay of CEOs at S&P 500 firms as a whole.

“I think that really shows a really perverse incentive system in this country,” said Sarah Anderson, lead author of the Institute for Policy Studies’ 17th Annual Executive Compensation Survey. “You are handsomely rewarded for slashing jobs in the middle of the worst economic crisis in 80 years,” she said…

Another disconcerting finding of the report: 72 percent of layoff-leading firms announced mass layoffs while delivering positive earnings reports. Anderson explained layoffs are really driven by efforts “to boost short-term profits even higher and also just to continue to have such high CEO pay levels.” She said these mass cuts are often bad for business over the long-term because they impact worker morale, which can lead to lower productivity. She said they also result in additional costs related to hiring and training new workers down the road.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:42 PM
Today’s Reality Pill

Should we let those terrorists build that mosque on what Chris Matthews keeps calling hollowed ground? Or not until they let us build a megachurch in Mecca? Or until hell freezes over? Or is the whole squalid fuss actually, literally, about nothing? It looks that way, to judge by a Politico story which has so far attracted zero attention.

In GOP World, however, enormous structures can be fabricated easily and profitably on the basis of impossible hypotheticals. One might think the suckers would have wised up by now, but one would be wrong. Look at the birther myth, which has no more substance than a floating figure in a Macy’s parade. Or than a nonexistent non-Mosque never to be built on the unhallowed ground formerly occupied by a Burlington Coat Factory.

When President Barack Obama turned the battle over a planned New York Islamic center into a national debate over religious freedom, he unwittingly allied himself and his party with an ill-planned, long-shot development project described by one of its most prominent allies as “amateur hour.”

The efforts to launch the $100 million Cordoba House (now dubbed Park51) two blocks north of the World Trade Center site have been an uphill battle from the start, and not just because of controversy. And even as the “Ground Zero Mosque” emerges as a hotly debated national symbol, New York government officials and real estate insiders are privately questioning whether the project has much chance of coming to fruition.

The Cordoba Initiative hasn’t begun fundraising yet for its $100 million goal. The group’s latest fundraising report with the State Attorney General’s office, from 2008, shows exactly $18,255 — not enough even for a down payment on the half of the site the group has yet to purchase…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:58 AM
August 25, 2010
Sickly Fear

Below is an August 26, 1875, letter to the Bristol (Connecticut) Press. For the word “tramps” may be substituted, depending on the period, French, Irish, Negroes, Catholics, Polish, Germans, Czechs, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Muslims, illegal immigrants, or an oppressed, defenseless minority of your choice. Tea Partiers will want to choose themselves…

There would appear to be no immediate prospect of abatement of the tramp nuisance. Rather, the tramp seems to have become ubiquitous and the growth of his order is only equaled by his capacity for villainy and “general cussedness.) The few mild measures taken in some sections for the suppression of this dangerous class have proved wholly inoperative, thus far. How long the community at large will continue to bear the afflictions before resorting to a more vigorous and wholesome treatment is difficult to determine.

From the way in which people permit themselves to be imposed upon and cowed into acquiescence with all that these rascals insolently demand, we should judge that this is sort of a tramps’ millenium and is to be of indefinite duration. At any rate the tramps are increasing and with their multiplication, robbery, incendiarism, intimidation, rape and murder in like ratio become more and more common.

This tramp nuisance will continue just as long as people submit to it and no longer. The remedy is within reach. It is a simple remedy, easily supplied. It may appear to some to be harsh, but if people would be rid of the evil, they must first make up their minds that harsh measures are the only ones that can be made effective.

In the first place, stop feeding tramps. Secondly, let every man, woman, and youth learn now to use a revolver and have one or more of these useful articles in every house, especially if in an isolated situation. Then whenever a tramp appears, peremptorily refuse him food or shelter and escort him off the premises at the muzzle of a cocked revolver and if he isn’t easily scared and attempts force, shoot.

A trusty weapon in every house and a disposition to use it on very slight provocation, will do more to squelch this abomination than any other means possible to use. And when people drop their squeamishness and sickly philanthropy and all other classes of criminals with that promptness and fidelity which is possible only by taking the law into their own hands, the moral atmosphere will improve wonderfully and life, property and virtue will be properly respected.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:38 PM
August 19, 2010
Priorities, People!

From the Associated Press:

NEW YORK — The New York Times reported on its website Thursday that federal authorities have decided to indict Roger Clemens on charges of making false statements to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs.

What kind of a society indicts a baseball player while Blankenship, Blankfein, Dimon, and Hayward walk free?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:43 PM
August 09, 2010
Paul Krugman Continues to…

…speak Truth to Power, which does not care.

But Washington is providing only a trickle of help, and even that grudgingly. We must place priority on reducing the deficit, say Republicans and “centrist” Democrats. And then, virtually in the next breath, they declare that we must preserve tax cuts for the very affluent, at a budget cost of $700 billion over the next decade.

In effect, a large part of our political class is showing its priorities: given the choice between asking the richest 2 percent or so of Americans to go back to paying the tax rates they paid during the Clinton-era boom, or allowing the nation’s foundations to crumble — literally in the case of roads, figuratively in the case of education — they’re choosing the latter…

The antigovernment campaign has always been phrased in terms of opposition to waste and fraud — to checks sent to welfare queens driving Cadillacs, to vast armies of bureaucrats uselessly pushing paper around. But those were myths, of course; there was never remotely as much waste and fraud as the right claimed. And now that the campaign has reached fruition, we’re seeing what was actually in the firing line: services that everyone except the very rich need, services that government must provide or nobody will, like lighted streets, drivable roads and decent schooling for the public as a whole.

So the end result of the long campaign against government is that we’ve taken a disastrously wrong turn. America is now on the unlit, unpaved road to nowhere.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:05 PM
July 30, 2010
Letting the Terrorists Win

Every person burdened with both honesty and intelligence already knows what follows, but seldom have I seen it expressed so clearly and unanswerably. Excerpted from an essay by Robert Higgs in The Beacon (h/t to Xymphora):

The announced goal is to identify terrorists and eliminate them or prevent them from carrying out their nefarious acts. This is simultaneously a small task and an impossible one. It is small because the number of persons seeking to carry out a terrorist act of substantial consequence against the United States and in a position to do so cannot be more than a handful. If the number were greater, we would have seen many more attacks or attempted attacks during the past decade — after all, the number of possible targets is virtually unlimited, and the attackers might cause some form of damage in countless ways.

The most plausible reason why so few attacks or attempted attacks have occurred is that very few persons have been trying to carry them out. (I refer to genuine attempts, not to the phony-baloney schemes planted in the minds of simpletons by government undercover agents and then trumpeted to the heavens when the FBI “captures” the unfortunate victims of the government’s entrapment.)

So, the true dimension of the terrorism problem that forms the excuse for these hundreds of programs of official predation against the taxpayers is small — not even in the same class with, say, reducing automobile-accident or household-accident deaths by 20 percent. Yet, at the same time, the antiterrorism task is impossible because terrorism is a simple act available in some form to practically any determined adult with access to Americans and their property at home or abroad.

It is simply not possible to stop all acts of terrorism if potential terrorists have been given a sufficient grievance to motivate their wreaking some form of havoc against Americans. However, it is silly to make the prevention of all terrorist acts the goal. What can’t be done won’t be done, regardless of how many people and how much money one devotes to doing it. We can, though, endure some losses from terrorism in the same way that we routinely endure some losses from accidents, diseases, and ordinary crime.

The sheer idiocy of paying legions of twenty-something grads of Harvard and Yale — youngsters who cannot speak Arabic, Farsi, Pashtun, or any of the other languages of the areas they purport to be analyzing and know practically nothing of the history, customs, folkways, and traditions of these places — indicates that no one seriously expects the promised payoff in intelligence to emerge from the effort.

The whole business is akin to sending a blind person to find a needle inside a maze buried somewhere in a hillside. That the massive effort is utterly uncoordinated and scarcely able to communicate one part’s “findings” to another only strengthens the conclusion that the goal is not stopping terrorism, but getting the taxpayers’ money and putting it into privileged pockets. Even if the expected damage from acts of terrorism against the United States were $10 billion per year, which seems much too high a guess, it makes no sense to spend more than $75 billion every year to prevent it — and it certainly makes no sense to spend any money only pretending to prevent it.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:18 PM
July 18, 2010
Bringing Democracy to Afghanistan

From the New York Times:

KABUL, Afghanistan — The chief judge asked God’s forgiveness if he had reached the wrong decision, and then he sentenced four members of an Afghan family charged with making bombs: two brothers to 10 years in prison and two other family members to time already served…

This trial was the beginning of a confusing period in which two legal systems will be running in parallel at the Parwan detention center — an Afghan one and an American one. Under the American one, detainees, all of whom are detained by American soldiers usually working with Afghan forces, can be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:36 AM
June 09, 2010
And the Beat Goes On…

From Ricardo Garcia Vilanova of The Wall Street Journal:

Staff Sgt. Edward Rosa reads the Bible and extends a cigarette to Pfc. Jorge Rostra Obando, who was stunned by an explosion in Afghanistan’s Arghanab Valley. One comrade was killed and two injured in the blast. Pfc. Rostran asked the sergeant to read Psalm 91, a favorite from his childhood.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:57 PM
May 25, 2010
Still Babies? Still.

I hate to say I told you so, but Jimmy Carter told you so — back in his 1977 energy speech. America yawned. America is still yawning, despite the befouling of the Gulf Coast. Maybe God will help us, but we won’t.

From Grist, via Kate Sheppard:

…The last time lawmakers truly freaked out about the problem of our oil dependence — when gas prices topped $4 a gallon in the summer of 2008 — the Senate Energy Committee called in Skip Laitner, director of economic analysis at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The committee asked Laitner what efficiency — the famously unglamorous energy strategy — could do to relieve gas prices. He gave them an astonishing figure: It could save 46 billion barrels of oil. If the U.S. made an all-out investment in energy efficiency-cutting energy waste out of vehicles, buildings, the electrical grid, and elsewhere in the economy — Laitner believes it could save the energy equivalent of 46 billion barrels by 2030.

Domestic offshore drilling produced 537 million barrels a year over the last nine years, according to the Minerals Management Service. A full-bore efficiency plan would save the equivalent of 85 years of offshore drilling.

Looking at the transportation sector alone, Laitner recommended 10 short-term policies that would cut the need for oil. Congress eventually passed one of them-the “cash for clunkers” program. Even that could be improved upon: the lax fuel-economy standards for new cars meant the trade-in program didn't save nearly as much fuel as it could have…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:50 AM
May 17, 2010
Pathetic

From the Portland Press Herald:

Late Friday afternoon, as Maine’s Republican State Convention fanned out from the Portland Expo to county caucuses at nearby King Middle School, GOP loyalists from Knox County found themselves directed to Classroom 110 — the domain of eighth-grade social studies teacher Paul Clifford…

When he went home for the weekend on Friday, one of Clifford’s most prized teaching tools — a collage-type poster depicting the history of the U.S. labor movement — was affixed to his classroom door. Clifford uses it each year to teach his students how to incorporate collages into their annual project on Norman Rockwell’s historic “Four Freedoms” illustrations…

Details are sketchy — as they often can be when political passion gives way to apparent criminal activity. But this much we know: When Clifford returned to school Monday morning, his cherished labor poster was gone.

In its place, taped to the same door, was a red-white-and-blue bumper sticker that read, “Working People Vote Republican…”

[Republican callers] also objected to the contents of a closed cardboard box they found near Clifford’s desk. Upon opening it for a look-see, they found copies of the U.S. Constitution printed and donated to the school by (gasp) the American Civil Liberties Union.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:37 AM
May 11, 2010
America the Fanciful

I can remember, vividly, the first time that I learned of the curious psychological concept of “emotional contagion.” It was, for me, an “Aha Moment” that put the incomprehensible 1960s and ’70s, with which I was (not entirely successfully) trying to cope, into slightly better focus. For those who are unfamiliar with the term (but probably quite familiar with the social phenomenon, itself), emotional contagion is the tendency to catch and feel emotions that are similar to and influenced by those of others. It is emotional contagion that makes human group dynamics tick along a vast spectrum of emotions; from a crazed lynch mob to an anti-war peace march, emotional contagion plays a role in human group-think.

Faced with another incomprehensible American epoch, I’ve decided to dust off the old text books and look for some comfort, or at least some sense in the context of emotional contagion. The ability to transfer moods appears to be innate in humans; anyone who has raised a child knows all about this innate ability. That knowledge of human behavior has been used to great effect in “persuasion” of all kinds from advertising to political propaganda. Want someone to buy your ridiculously over-priced anti-aging cream? Share your fear of becoming pathetic human detritus as a result of wrinkling and age spots. Want someone to vote you into the Oval Office? Share your fear of a national security breakdown if you are not elected to keep us all safe. A daily barrage of similar appeals to emotion is a familiar fact of American life.

One fine point having to do with emotional contagion that escaped me in my youth, though, is particularly useful in trying to understand the crazy (and quite unattractive) fits that our country is going through in 2010. That point is this most excellent distinction, made by Erich Fromm, that a higher cognitive development, autonomy, is necessary for human empathy but not for emotional contagion and, as most of us can attest, there is a pronounced variable of empathic capacity among humans. As with so many of our human reactions there is a primal element underlying a higher-functioning, thinking element; clearly, we are not yet so highly evolved that the higher functions always prevail.

With all of that in mind, it is a quite interesting conundrum that our generals and politicians are grappling with at the moment and some of the solutions that are being signaled are undesirable to say the very least. I have to assume that, by today, 99% of Americans are at least somewhat familiar with last week’s events in the Big Apple…


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During the course of a fairly humdrum day on Times Square, a Muslim immigrant (no less) street vendor alerted NYPD that a van was double-parked, idling and smoking up his turf. Investigating officers discovered that the vehicle, a van, contained an odd assortment of potentially incendiary devices (propane tanks for gas grills, fireworks in a can, along with a footlocker full of (non-volatile) fertilizer. Now before any patriots get their panties in a wad over my making light of the danger to Manhattanites — a number of whom might have been incinerated, had this been a real car-bomb — I would emphasize the fact that this was NOT a real car-bomb. It was an ass-hat collection of things that might look remotely like a car-bomb to uniformed beat cops, on initial inspection.

Immediate suspicion fell on a skinny, middle-aged white man caught on camera changing his shirt in Shubert Alley. When the vehicle’s VIN number was traced, however, authorities discovered that it had recently been purchased by a young man from Connecticut who was born in — OMG — Pakistan.

In a cinematic race-against-time, Faisal Shahzad was apprehended on a flight departing JFK for Dubai, which event kicked off a bout of political hysteria.

By the time the Sunday Talking Heads were “on air” there was talk of expanding to a ground war in Pakistan and “modifying” Miranda Rights for terrorism suspects. Sheeeeesh…

Attorney General Eric Holder met little to no resistance from Jake Tapper (standing in for George Stephanopoulos) on This Week, when Holder pronounced that:

“Well, we’ve now developed evidence that shows that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack. We know that they helped facilitate it. We know that they probably helped finance it and that he was working at their direction.”

It never occurred to Tapper to “get the story” on the evidence that led to Holder’s statement despite plenty of unclassified, well-publicized reports to the contrary. Like these:

  • Gen. David Petraeus, earlier in the week, telling us that Shahzad was apparently acting as a “lone wolf”
  • The Pakistani Taliban publicly disowning him — several times
  • Ample evidence of his utter ineptitude as a bomber that firmly contradicts any notion that he was “trained” in Pakistan (or anywhere else where effective car bombs go off on a regular basis)
  • Mounting evidence that Shahzad’s life was falling apart — his house was in foreclosure, his wife took his two kids and left him, he was being hounded by bill collectors and was forced to go, “hat-in-hand” to his well-to-do relatives for financial help (which probably has more to do with his annual trips to Pakistan).

Then, on 60 Minutes, we had Secretary of State Clinton banging the drum loudly and matter-of-factly reversing our diplomatic stance toward “our Pakistani allies”:

“We want more. We expect more. We’ve made it very clear that if, heaven forbid, an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences.”

Surely, Clinton’s words on Sunday night were a reprise of a message already delivered to “our Pakistani allies” who pledged their allegiance, on Sunday morning, by carrying out a helicopter gunship assault on insurgent hide-outs in the Orakzai tribal region, killing 23 militants, according to local officials.

So now we have to choose between the “emotional contagion” of: the “Pakistanis are training each other to blow up Times Square so let’s pound them into oblivion” appeal or a more measured (and sure to be dubbed “sissy”) approach of gathering evidence and facts so that we can understand what we’re truly dealing with.

Certainly current events can be twisted to support the “Carpe Diem” approach that our politicians and military seem to favor. How fortuitous for the “Pakistan Problem” to rear its head just in time to deflect attention from our fool’s errand in Afghanistan, our tiresome hounding of Iran, or our loosening grip on global power and respect, generally.

Try, for a minute or two, to detach from the fear and loathing that might well prevent you from ever attending another Broadway show and let’s just look at the facts dispassionately…

  • During the period of time that the suspect was thought to be a 40-year-old white guy, there was far less hysteria despite the fact that the net effect, if that car bomb had gone off, would have been the same regardless of the bomber’s racial background (it just wouldn’t have been a credible excuse for a war on Pakistan).
  • We are expected to believe that the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, went to considerable trouble and expense, at a time that his life was in a shambles, pursuing an education in bomb-building. Does anyone really believe that Shahzad was such a prize that the Taliban was providing him with an all-expense-paid educational grant to learn the ancient art of car-bombing? Most American teenagers, without benefit of a Taliban education, could build a more effective car bomb than Faisal Shahzad did (I daresay, I could) despite his supposed intensive Taliban training. And, too, most American teenagers would have the presence of mind to not leave the keys to the getaway car in the vehicle rigged with the bomb…
  • And then, of course there is the bomb, itself, consisting of propane tanks without the caps removed, rendering them useless as bombs; a fuse, of sorts, fashioned from firecrackers specifically manufactured so that they can’t ignite each other in a chain reaction, and a foot-locker full of non-volatile fertilizer.
  • A far more compelling argument can be made that Shahzad was just a loser who, faced with having to return home to Mom and Dad, without his family and in financial ruin was at least hoping to go back as the mastermind Times Square Bomber.
  • The Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-i-Taliban) were, at first, tempted to take credit for the commotion in Times Square but, when they realized what a joke Shahzad’s bomb attempt was, they quickly made several public statements praising his bravery but, at the same time, confirming that they didn’t have a clue who he was let alone take credit for training him.
  • On May 6, McClatchy newspapers cited “six U.S. officials” who stated that “no credible evidence has been found” that Shahzad “received any serious terrorist training from the Pakistani Taliban or another radical Islamic group.”
  • In fact, Tehrik-i-Taliban has never attempted, nor do they seem to be interested in, carrying out terrorist attacks on foreign soil.
  • Some American reports have suggested a link between Shahzad’s father, a former military officer, and a radical Taliban leader. But, according to Pakistani police, they questioned Shahzad’s father about his son’s activities, but he is not a suspect in the case. And nothing has come out of Islamabad confirming any connection between the Senior Shahzad and the Taliban.
  • And the far-fetched story of Shahzad being located when his cell phone was detected by a secret spy plane? The rather more mundane fact is that, at the last minute, immigration officials recognized Shahzad’s name on a passenger list and contacted the FBI.

    Some of us may really, really want Faisal Shahzad to be taking orders from the Pakistani Taliban but most of the available evidence doesn’t support that scenario. Of course, if one has secret, inside information and isn’t pressed to produce any substantive facts, well … Bombs Away.

    UPDATE: The New York Daily News published results of a poll of their readership, this morning, in answer to the question: Will the recent bomb-scare keep you away from Times Square in the future? The answers:

    • Yes. I refuse to go there — 15%
    • No. Clearly the NYPD has it under control —73%
    • Not sure yet — 11%

    Good for you New York City!

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    Posted by Frumpzilla at 11:00 AM
May 05, 2010
Was Jesus in a Safety Position?

Spencer Ackerman brings us this etymological note from Joint Task Force Guantánamo:

Interrogator #2 also described other techniques allowed for interrogators at Bagram that appeared abusive. ”We could play music, yes sir. … Loud music, yes.” A report about Khadr contemporaneous with Interrogator #2’s time in Bagram said Khadr was “sedated” during an interrogation. And Interrogator #2 chafed when Jackson asked if Bagram interrogators could use “stress positions,” replying that they were cleared to use something called “safety positions.”

“Well, first it was called stress positions, wasn’t it?” Jackson asked. “Yes, sir,” Interrogator #2 replied.

That raised Parrish’s interest: “Is there a difference?”

Interrogator #2 replied, “No, sir.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:06 PM
April 30, 2010
Tall Tales and War Games

President Obama’s official timeline for surging our military presence in Afghanistan still has fourteen months to run; in that timeframe, there is (in some quarters) an expectation that the US and NATO will manage to quell increasing insurgent attacks, convince Afghan government officials that corruption doesn’t pay, plant the framework of a 21st century democracy (i.e., “Government-in-a-box”) — while simultaneously training tens of thousands of illiterate drug addicts to serve as guardians of the peace in the National Police Force — the “mission critical” key to success in Afghanistan, we are told. So far, the insurgent’s “Shadow Government,” alive and well throughout Afghanistan, has “Government-in-a-box” beat all to hell according to this recent report:

The Taliban-led insurgency’s “operational capabilities and operational reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding,” said the report, adding the “strength and ability of (insurgent-run) shadow governance to discredit the authority and legitimacy of the Afghan government is increasing.”

Complicating that already tall order for the next 14 months, is the apparent need for one last face-saving summer offensive on the Taliban’s “spiritual home” turf in Kandahar — the military equivalent of “territorial marking” — so that we can get the hell out of Afghanistan without being called “losers.” General McChrystal has already telegraphed his impending assault and added that this will be “no D-Day or H-hour” — believable enough if the muddled precursor Marjah “offensive” is any indication. The Kandahar Offensive, of course is the public battle that provides distraction from the secret “special operations” program of targeted assassinations and “things that go bump in the night” that have the civilian population of Afghanistan quite effectively terrorized (and blaming the Coalition forces for their state of terror)…


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Surely, as far as President Karzai (and his brother Wali) are concerned, the offensive in Kandahar is unnecessary and politically unpopular. No one in Kandahar is feeling particularly beset by the Taliban, whom they describe as their “Afghan brothers.” Flying solo, Karzai has already launched a fairly sensible-sounding endgame of diplomatic meetings with Taliban leaders that has drawn in Afghanistan’s neighbors, in region — Pakistan, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia — even Russia is said to have dropped in and out. NATO is signaling its weariness with America’s version of the War on Terror; only the US seems out-of-the-loop on winding down, like staggering guests who don’t realize when “the party’s over.”

Who’s Zooming Who?

One of the persistent complaints about our strategy in Afghanistan has been that we don’t seem to have one. No one is very clear on our mission or what victory might look like. Others are getting ever clearer on the need to end it, whatever “it” is. To that end, Hamid Karzai is scheduled to visit the White House, next month and, as Ahmed Rashid has written in the Washington Post, it’s pretty much “crunch time” for our Nobel Laureate President to decide whether he’ll come down on the side of continued war or a regionally-brokered peace in Afghanistan. Here’s a snip from Rashid’s article:

“According to U.S. and Afghan officials, Karzai’s first question when he arrives will be whether Washington supports his efforts at reconciliation with the senior Taliban leadership. In January, the United States and NATO agreed to reintegration — bringing in Taliban foot soldiers and low-level commanders — but Washington balked at full reconciliation, saying it wants to see the Taliban weakened militarily over the next six to 12 months before considering talks with its leaders.”

“Karzai’s representatives, however, have spent the past 12 months holding talks about talks with senior Taliban representatives in several Arab Gulf states. Taliban leaders have made clear that they want to talk directly to the United States, and Karzai knows his discussions with the Taliban cannot go further without public U.S. support and a commitment to engage. The Afghans want a clear answer from Washington that they will lead any future negotiations.”

The position that “Washington balked at full reconciliation, saying it wants to see the Taliban weakened militarily over the next six to 12 months before considering talks with its leaders” smacks of a bout of magical thinking on the part of the Administration. The US military has had close to ten years to a) find Osama bin Laden b) eliminate Al Qaeda and (c) break the back of the Taliban. Osama bin Laden, is, of course, still at large; Al Qaeda has been routed in Afghanistan only to resurface in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, etc; and, as of, six months ago, in October, it was reported that the our nine years of efforts have only resulted in a resurgent Taliban that is growing exponentially and nearing military strength. Here’s a bit from that report:

“WASHINGTON – A recent U.S. intelligence assessment has raised the estimated number of full-time Taliban-led insurgents fighting in Afghanistan to at least 25,000, underscoring how the crisis has worsened even as the U.S. and its allies have beefed up their military forces, a U.S. official said Thursday.”

“The U.S. official, who requested anonymity because the assessment is classified, said the estimate represented an increase of at least 5,000 fighters, or 25 percent, over what an estimate found last year.”

“’The rise can be attributed to, among other things, a sense that the central government in Kabul isn’t delivering (on services), increased local support for insurgent groups, and the perception that the Taliban and others are gaining a firmer foothold and expanding their capabilities,’ the U.S. official said.”

And then there’s this article from March, 2010 handily blaming NATO for the Taliban resurgence:

“‘The Taliban has reaped a recruiting bonanza the past two years, capitalizing on NATO’s stagnant posture in southern Afghanistan by increasing fighter ranks by 35 percent,’ U.S. officials say.”

“The increase is one reason NATO forces, in an ongoing offensive, are meeting strong resistance as they fight town by town to gain control of the Taliban stronghold in the city of Kandahar and in Marjah in neighboring Helmand province.”

“It also shows the enemy’s resilience in an eight-year insurgency. In the face of air strikes and NATO raids that kill scores of Taliban at a time, the former rulers of Afghanistan still have been able to pad their ranks.”

And, finally, we have this “straight from the horse’s mouth”:

“The Taliban commander, who uses the pseudonym Mubeen, told the Associated Press that if military pressure on the insurgents becomes too great, ‘we will just leave and come back after’ the foreign forces leave.’”

“Despite nightly raids by NATO and Afghan troops, Mubeen said his movements have not been restricted. He was interviewed last week in the center of Kandahar, seated with his legs crossed on a cushion in a room. His only concession to security was to lock the door.”

“He made no attempt to hide his face and said he felt comfortable because of widespread support among Kandahar’s 500,000 residents, who, like the Taliban, are mostly Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s biggest ethnic community.”

“’Because of the American attitude to the people, they are sympathetic to us,’ Mubeen said. ‘Every day we are getting more support. We are not strangers…’”

At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, all of this suggests to me that, perhaps, we have been dead wrong about everything Afghan and should reconsider our approach; and I’m not talking about switching from traditional combat to Gen. McChrystal’s odd concoction of public and clandestine “black ops” warfare tricked out as “counterinsurgency.” These Middle East adventures have been propaganda campaigns and it’s pretty much time to send a message to Congress and the Pentagon that the American people are not as stupid, naïve and gullible as they are banking on.

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It . . .

Our military is currently engaged in two separate endeavors in the Middle East that they are ill-equipped to take on as part of their mission – one is PR and the other is nation-building. Bungling these aspects of the conflict do us no good at all; in fact, it’s likely that they do permanent damage to America’s diplomatic stature in the world. Our military is nothing if not persistent, however, so the nonsense goes on until someone has the presence of mind to order them to stop.

Consider some of the more recent SNAFUs and ask yourself if these nonsensical events wouldn’t get you quickly fired if you tried to pull them in your “real-world” job:

The Marjah Offensive — by now many of us (who care to know) discovered that the much-touted Marjah Offensive was a world class Snow Job, not to mention an embarrassing non-event that made Coalition forces look ridiculous. Much is made of the illiteracy of the Afghan population but those illiterates saw through the Marjah Offensive and had a good laugh at the Coalition’s expense. From the distortion of the unincorporated villages of the Marjah district into a bustling city of 80,000 and a hub of Taliban support to the appointment of the ex-con, expatriate governor who hasn’t set foot in Afghanistan for 15 years and who’s afraid to leave home unless he’s in an Osprey, Marjah was an unmitigated pack of lame lies aimed at whipping up some enthusiasm for the War in Afghanistan in a world grown weary of it.

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald did a great job of summing up the Marjah propaganda strategy and telling us what to expect ahead of the Kandahar Offensive:

“The Independent declared on February 9, 2010, that General McChrystal wants the Marjah offensive to “be one of the most significant in the country since the fall of the Taliban in 2001″ and, of Obama’s war strategy, said that “Marjah looks like being its first major — and possibly decisive — test.” The BBC quoted a NATO official who proclaimed that Marjah “was ‘probably the definitive operation’ of the counter-insurgency strategy” and “this operation could potentially define the tipping point, the crucial momentum aspect in the counter-insurgency.” Time helpfully informed us that “U.S. officials believe it will mark a turning point in the war.”

“Now that that ‘make-or-break decisive test’ has failed (or, at best, has produced very muddled outcomes), did the Government and media follow through and declare the war effort broken and the strategy a failure? No; they just pretend it never happened and declare the next, latest, glorious Battle the real ‘make-or-break decisive test’ – until that one fails and the next one is portrayed that way, in an endless tidal wave of war propaganda intended to justify our staying for as long as we want, no matter how pointless and counter-productive it is.”

Sure enough, The New York Times rolled out the “trailer” for the Kandahar Offensive this week, breathlessly pronouncing it:

“The looming battle for the spiritual home of the Taliban . . . shaping up as the pivotal test of President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, including how much the United States can count on the country’s leaders and military for support, and whether a possible increase in civilian casualties from heavy fighting will compromise a strategy that depends on winning over the Afghan people.”

Notice that the Times is already anticipating an “increase in civilian casualties from heavy fighting” that could complicate “winning over the Afghan people.” Of course, those who care to dig out details on where we are in our battle “to win over the Afghan people” will know that the Kandahari’s have already spoken and the only possible way for us to “win over” the 90% of Kandahari’s who despise us is to stay away from their city.

Another fact that could easily slip past us is the mention of Gen. McChrystal’s strategy of keeping American troops outside of Kandahar and send the Afghan Army in to do the fighting as a test of their ability to be effective counterinsurgents. That should yield interesting results . . .

The Morning After

OK, so we declare a “decisive, pivotal, turning point of a win” in Kandahar – and then what? According to Jason Ditz at AntiWar.com the Pentagon just released an ominous report to Congress explaining how it might be disastrous to turn over a “liberated” Afghanistan to the hand-picked, but nonetheless, evil and corrupt (if not drug-addled and downright crazy) Hamid Karzai. Here’s that:

“The Pentagon has issued a new report to Congress about the ongoing war in Afghanistan, warning that the Taliban is increasing the size of their insurgency even as support for President Hamid Karzai remains sparse in the most important regions.”

“In fact of the 121 districts cited as ‘key’ to winning the war in the report, only 29 of those districts had populations seen as even sympathizing with the Karzai government.”

“The report pointed to the enormous levels of corruption in the Karzai government as a major problem fueling this lack of credibility, and warned further that the political will to reform was ‘doubtful.’”

Funny how the same problems are cropping up in Iraq, too? War is over, democratic government has been installed and yet … insurgent attacks are on the rise, and the government can’t get out of it’s own way. Could it be that neither Iraq nor Afghanistan actually want the US (or at least their treasury) to leave before they’ve sucked a lot more US dollars out of them. And could it be that the Pentagon is only too happy to report that the State Department picked a bad “puppet” to install as head of state in Afghanistan and now the military will have to hang around to ensure peace for the couple of years it’ll take to effect regime change?

Along those lines, The Washington Post published an interesting report, this morning, on recent US manipulations of the political scene in Kandahar. Having failed to budge Wali Karzai out of his position of control in Kandahar, the US has decided to try an end-run around him by supporting the prodigiously unimportant Governor of Kandahar, Tooryalai Wesa, another expatriate “outsider” like the newly installed Governor of Marjah. The Post describes Wesa as “a mild-mannered academic who spent more than a decade in Canada and is considered by many Afghans to be ineffectual.”

The American thinking behind the sudden infatuation with Wesa is described this way:

“In the hope of pushing power brokers such as Karzai to the sidelines, American officials are trying to infuse Wesa and his government with more clout and credibility. They see better governance as a central part of a U.S.-led effort that has brought thousands of troops to the region for a summer offensive against the Taliban.”

“But the government headed by Wesa has severe problems of its own. It remains understaffed, is viewed by many as corrupt and does not reflect the province’s tribal mix. Karzai and other allegedly corrupt political bosses who dominate Kandahar show no sign of giving way.”

“’Wesa is a weak governor,’ said Rahmatullah Raufi, a former general and Kandahar governor.

Nevertheless, the US knows best and is busily indoctrinating Governor Wesa in anticipation of turning Kandahar over to him after our “pivotal” win there this summer.

“To bolster Wesa’s beleaguered office, U.S. officials plan to hire about two dozen Afghan staff members, to be split with the mayor. American helicopters ferry Wesa to meetings, where U.S. officials take notes on his progress. They hope that Wesa’s attempts at grass-roots organizing, combined with an infusion of funds into the province, can earn some support from a skeptical public.”

My money says Wesa will be dead sooner rather than later. As Rahmatullah Raufi, former general and Kandahar governor put it: “If Ahmed Wali Karzai wants him to die, he will die. If he says, ‘Live,’ he’ll live.”

The Rumors of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Most of this public relations carnival can at least be quasi-rationalized, but some just gets recycled until it’s totally meaningless. Like the saga of Hakimullah Mehsud, current leader of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who has been “assassinated” and confirmed dead seven times – since last August.

“According to a senior member of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency Hakimullah, who was “confirmed” killed in January and then assumed to be gravely wounded, and who was “confirmed” to have died of his injuries in February, is alive and “basically ok.’”

And of course there was the recent high-fiving in Baghdad over the alleged assassination of two legendary leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq by a joint US – Iraqi force. That news might have been more earthshaking if it had not included the name of “Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the shadowy leader of the group’s umbrella organization, the Islamic State of Iraq.

Here’s al-Baghdadi’s resume:

March 9, 2007 — the Interior Ministry of Iraq claimed that al-Baghdadi was captured in Baghdad on, which claim was later recanted

May 3, 2007 — the Iraqi Interior Ministry said that al-Baghdadi was killed by American and Iraqi forces north of Baghdad

July, 2007 — the U.S. military reported that al-Baghdadi never actually existed. A detainee identified as Khaled al-Mashhadani, a self-proclaimed intermediary to Osama bin Laden, claimed that al-Baghdadi was a fictional character created to give an Iraqi face to a foreign-run terror group, and that statements attributed to al-Baghdadi were actually read by an Iraqi actor.

Autumn, 2008 – US military officials reported that although the previous al-Baghdadi was fictional, Al Qaeda had filled the “Baghdadi vacancy” with an actual Al Qaeda leader.

April 23, 2009, Agence France-Presse reported that al-Baghdadi was arrested by the Iraqi military, and on April 28 the Iraqi government produced photos to prove it to skeptics. The claim was denied by the Islamic State in Iraq which according to SITE Institute released an apparently genuine recording of al-Baghdadi denying the government’s recent claims. However, the Iraqi government refuted this claim and insisted that the man captured was indeed Baghdadi.

Which brings us to April, 2010 in which the previously killed/captured al-Baghdadi somehow got away from his Iraqi captors, last year, and wound up in a safe-house in Tikrit where he was, once again, apprehended and killed.

Pardon my skepticism but I think that there is more truth in this statement from The Washington Post account than in any of the foregoing:

“The two top leaders of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq were slain in a U.S. airstrike over the weekend, a decisive tactical victory for American and Iraqi forces and one that provides Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with additional political leverage at a crucial time.”

“Maliki stands to gain from the slaying of the men — Masri was perhaps the most wanted person in Iraq — at a time that is critical to his political future. He has made restoring security and weaning Iraq from dependence on the U.S. military centerpieces of his bid to keep his job once a new parliament is seated. Maliki’s bloc, which came in second in the elections, securing 89 seats, must woo other coalitions in order to secure the 163 votes needed to appoint a new prime minister.”

How timely. Of course the announcement was met with skepticism in Iraq — Maliki’s government has in the past falsely reported the death and the capture of Baghdadi, most recently last spring. It never retracted the claim back then, making the most recent announcement a sort of back-handed admission that the previous story was total bunk. Oh well…

Now, however, enjoying the last word, the US has confirmed via DNA analysis (please, gimme a break) that the story is true and Gen. Ray Odierno and Vice-President Biden quickly did a little victory dance in the end zone.

I really only have one question remaining and that is “Do our leaders really believe that the American people are stupid enough to be taken in by all of this inane and inexpert propaganda?” But, come to think of it, they probably care less if we “buy” it, as long as we’re willing to keep paying for it…

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Posted by Frumpzilla at 02:06 PM
When Will They Ever Learn, When Will They Ever Learn?

Insert Vietnam for Afghanistan as appropriate:

KABUL, Afghanistan — A Pentagon report on the last six months in Afghanistan portrays an Afghan government with limited credibility among its people, a still active if not growing insurgency and an enormous reliance on American troops to train, outfit and finance the country’s defense forces for the foreseeable future.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:54 AM
April 25, 2010
The Banksters Are Always With Us

This was taken by war photographer Jim Caccavo in 1968. The setting is the former Tan Son Nhut air base near Saigon. The 3rd U.S. Army Field hospial is in the background.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:28 AM
April 21, 2010
Still Crazy After All These Years

Here’s a little quiz for the “armchair generals” among us who may have become a tad disillusioned by the way that our US military appears to be conducting itself over this first decade of The Long War. Here we go, but before you get started here’s a tip: Because this is war we’re talking about, there are no right, wrong or good answers — just questions.

1. It is easy to identify enemy insurgents in Afghanistan. If you see the following behaviors chances are you’ve spotted an insurgent: (a) anyone who acts nervous at checkpoints; (b) anyone digging a hole; (c) anyone who doesn’t instantly follow orders screamed in English; (d) anyone carrying something large, roughly the size and shape of an AK-47 or grenade launcher e.g, camera equipment; (e) people who grab their guns when you break down their door in the middle of the night.

2. The best intelligence sources on where insurgents can be found include: (a) any Afghan willing to talk to you; (b) air-surveillance spotting of people with trucks/vans; (c) local drug lords; (d) little kids.

3. The best way to minimize collateral damage is: (a) stop killing people; (b) clean up the evidence when victims are obviously civilians; (c) deny it — the Taliban human shield defense works well; (d) if all else fails — lie; say the bodies had already been murdered by someone local e.g., honor killings (if victims are female) or “tribal justice” if victims are male.

4. The best ways to win “hearts and minds” are: (a) leave the country; (b) run around shirtless with a “mock” headdress and shades like a Medal of Honor avatar; (c) build things like cutting edge water treatment plants that are too complex for the locals to operate; (d) burn your high-tech trash in open fires to leave your mark on future generations.

5. The best in-country partners for a counterinsurgency are: (a) local CIA assets; (b) ex-cons; (c) local arms smugglers; (d) popular, clueless charlatans.

Well. That’s enough for now, you get the idea…

Whatever the doctrine or mission or strategy that landed US forces in Afghanistan it’s increasingly hard to come up with a good rationale for staying, let alone surging … perhaps it’s battle fatigue; or the growing effect of an influx of Black Water-y commandos and their 21st Century Art of Warfare program; or maybe it’s just plain old ignorance, bungling and mismanagement — more than likely it’s a combination of the three. Whatever the cause, there are legions of dead Iraqis and Afghanis to attest to the fact that “shit happens” in War and a no-win situation only gets more dismal when you throw more resources at it.

Back in the beginning of the century, I don’t think that anyone, no less anyone in the Bush administration, could have foreseen the absolute travesty and international humiliation that these wars would wreak on participant nations. Unfortunately, the rest of the world seems to be awakening and tiring of their supporting role quicker than we’d like. After all, it’s one thing to be Emperor and quite another to be a “friend of the Empire,” at the end of the day.

Also, unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly evident that perhaps the American collective consciousness doesn’t really have the stomach or the inherent ruthlessness to be global conquistadors. It’s difficult to shape a population reared on a public image of honesty, integrity and generosity into a lean, mean permanent war machine.

I’m not saying it can’t be done — just that it takes longer and more concerted effort to root out the innate common decency that has no place in a global domination program. In my opinion that’s why we’re doing such a crappy job of it and why it’s become necessary to contract so much of the job out to sociopathic gunslingers that cause more problems than they solve.


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Posted by Frumpzilla at 06:08 PM
April 10, 2010
The Subhuman Side of the News

Today’s Waterbury Republican-American carried this story on the appearance of beloved elder statesman Henry Kissinger at the Kent, Connecticut, Lions Club:

Kissinger delighted the audience with his humorous remarks and took his time answering a half-dozen different questions.

First Selectman Bruce K. Adams was the last in line and he took the opportunity to ask Kissinger for advice in governing and leading the small town he lived in. Kissinger candidly admitted that he has been focused on foreign policy rather than local politics. “I’m counting on you in making this the special place it is.”

Also today, the Associated Press carried some earlier advice from the retired Sage of Foggy Bottom:

WASHINGTON — As secretary of state, Henry Kissinger canceled a U.S. warning against carrying out international political assassinations that was to have gone to Chile and two neighboring nations just days before a former ambassador was killed by Chilean agents on Washington’s Embassy Row in 1976…

In 1976, the South American nations of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay were engaged in a program of repression code-named Operation Condor that targeted those governments’ political opponents throughout Latin America, Europe and even the United States.

Based on information from the CIA, the U.S. State Department became concerned that Condor included plans for political assassination around the world. The State Department drafted a plan to deliver a stern message to the three governments not to engage in such murders.

In the Sept. 16, 1976 cable, the topic of one paragraph is listed as “Operation Condor,” preceded by the words “(KISSINGER, HENRY A.) SUBJECT: ACTIONS TAKEN.” The cable states that “secretary declined to approve message to Montevideo” Uruguay “and has instructed that no further action be taken on this matter…”

“You can instruct” the U.S. ambassadors “to take no further action” on the subject of Operation Condor, said the Sept. 20 cable by Harry Shlaudeman, assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs, to Shlaudeman’s deputy.

The next day, on Sept. 21, 1976, agents of Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet planted a car bomb and exploded it on a Washington, D.C., street, killing both former Ambassador Orlando Letelier, and an American colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt [below]. Letelier was one of the most outspoken critics of the Pinochet government.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:55 PM
April 07, 2010
Springtime for Karzai

Here in the Northeastern United States Spring has arrived, bringing with it the primal derangements and high spirits historically associated with the season — unmufflered motorcycles, chest-beating, spontaneous Tarzan cries and stuff like that there.

Evidently, roughly the same phenom is occurring in far-off Afghanistan, as well; witness the recent admission, by Gen. McChrystal, to the murder of “way too many” innocent civilians and President Karzai’s recent rant about “meddling foreigners” (I’m expecting another Karzai-Ahmadinejad pow-wow any moment now).

Karzai was most likely reacting to President Obama’s unexpected drop-in last week. Obama was “special-opped” into Bagram, in the dead of night, ostensibly to rally the troops for more murder and mayhem in Kandahar but also, according to reports, to deliver a good old American ass-chewing to “our man in Kabul.” Evidently, Obama is underwhelmed by Karzai’s efforts to clean up his corner of the world in preparation for its long awaited democracy transplant. As all good Americans know, Democracy cannot flourish in a corrupt environment — right?

Rationally, that would put Karzai on the line for one of the most epic turnarounds in human history, to include the public execution of many of his relatives and members of parliament. Karzai is 50, so chances are slim he’ll accomplish that mission in his lifetime; nevertheless, Obama would like to see him making more of an effort…


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For his part, I expect that Karzai’s primary focus is on “stayin’ alive.” Since the beginning of his U.S. sponsorship, Karzai has been the subject of five newsworthy assassination attempts and probably numerous less spectacular attempts. Those attempts were not your lone sniper events, either; most involved rocket attacks, grenades and various other measures designed to take out a city block.

Karzai has always been reluctant to fly solo in his current position. When Obama stated his desire to get out of Afghanistan by 2011, Karzai countered that Obama’s timeline was off by about 15 years. Karzai knows better than anyone that if Coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan, the Taliban will re-establish their government tout de suite.

A year later (or closer to withdrawal, if you believe in that sort of thing), with that sword hanging over his head, Karzai has decided he better start talkin’ some trash against the U.S .or he’s going to wind up the subject of some serious insurgent fatwa. To that end, Karzai took to the airwaves, this week, to express his concern over foreign meddling — a popular topic among Middle East purists, these days.

Karzai accused the West and the United Nations of wanting a “puppet government” and of seeking to make him “psychologically smaller and smaller.”

“They want me to be an illegitimate president,” he announced. “And they want the parliament to be illegitimate.”

He also blamed others for election fraud that, by all accounts, was orchestrated by his regime: “No doubt there was massive fraud. That was not done by the Afghans. The foreigners did that.”

In diplomatic circles this is known as ‘playing both sides against the middle.’ Whereas the U.S. should know better, by now, about the various pitfalls of installing and propping up such worthless puppets, Karzai, himself, might do well to read up on what happens when the puppet-masters lose patience. Or, better yet, what the local population is capable of doing to rid themselves of such buffoons.

Of course, Robert Gibbs sallied forth to express the administration’s “dismay” over Karzai’s accusations, calling Karzai’s words “genuinely troubling.” In addition, Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, quickly met with Karzai “to clarify what he meant by these remarks.” Could it be that the Obama Administration was caught off guard, here; and Obama, like Kennedy before him, is out of sync with national security state powers-that-be who are busily conducting their own “foreign policy?”

Right now, Karzai, (if he’s smart) will figure out a way to make his personal U.S. network ties indispensable to the Taliban, which will surely take back the government in Kabul at their earliest convenience. Upon their return, however, they will now receive US backing in return for their promise to shun al Qaeda — which explains the burgeoning local interest in capturing ex-pat Taliban members to ensure a place at the settlement table — à la Pakistan’s detention of Baradar and their refusal to extradite him to Afghanistan.


Stateside

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Americans are swallowing their daily dose of foreign policy propaganda so that they don’t lose patience, too soon, with our latest experiment in regime change. Most Americans have already bought into the notion that Afghan governmental stability = enhanced U.S .National Security = victory over al Qaeda. As Malou Innocent, a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute, so succinctly put it:

The uncomfortable truth is that without indefinite foreign protection, the Government of Afghanistan would probably fall to the Afghan Taliban. But Americans should not equate the fall of that regime with “losing” to al Qaeda. Violent, Islamist extremist groups indigenous to this region threaten the Afghan government, not the American government. Because these radical groups lack the ambition — let alone the capacity — to threaten the sovereignty or physical security of the United States, they do not merit the strategic obsession that they currently receive.

Washington’s continued fixation on groups that threaten Afghanistan, rather than America, presents a bigger threat to genuine American interests than those groups themselves can pose, especially since there is little assurance that 100,000 foreign troops can capture and kill more insurgents than their presence helps to recruit.

Rather than propping up a failed state, U.S. leaders should focus on countering the al Qaeda threat still clinging to life in this region. Technological advances over the past decade allow us to monitor places without having 100,000 boots on the ground. Furthermore, the blueprint for an effective counterterrorism approach is the initial U.S.-led invasion in 2001, when small Special Forces teams, working in conjunction with local militias, assembled quickly and struck effectively and cheaply at “real” enemies.

In short, Americans should reject the misguided belief that terrorists can only flourish in failed states like Afghanistan. After all, India, a major U.S. ally far more stable than Afghanistan, is fighting several internal insurgencies. Likewise, the very al Qaeda terrorists responsible for 9/11 not only found sanctuary in poverty-stricken Afghanistan, but also in politically free and economically prosperous countries like Germany, Spain, and the United States.

America has a long and tawdry history of justifying its foreign adventures with a full array of fairly irrational strategic, economic, and ideological considerations. Strategically, we must not allow geographically important regions from falling under the sway of regimes that are either anti-US, or simply entirely self-interested. Otherwise, a shift in the balance of global military power could jeopardize American security.

Economically, the US likes to maintain access to vital supplies of raw materials and keep markets open for American products and investments — the Free Market demands it. Finally, the United States must thwart communist terrorist expansion in the Third World Middle East to ensure that America and its democratic allies do not become islands in a global sea of hostile, totalitarian Islamist dictatorships.

These arguments can be (and have been) easily dressed up in American jingoism to rubber stamp some very dubious U.S. foreign policy undertakings. Who hasn’t heard a particular regime described as a “keystone” or “force for stability” or “key to vital US strategic interests” in the region: think Shah of Iran in the Persian Gulf, Mobutu Sese Seko in Central Africa, and any number of South American despots. Reading the history, one would have to surmise that, actually, the entire globe (and parts of the Solar System) are of vital US strategic interest.

In actual fact, US “strategic interests” usually zero in on good sites for bases or forward staging areas for the American military. For example, the Reagan administration defended support of the Marcos dictatorship to protect its installations at Clark Field and Subic Bay, complicating the defense of other Far Eastern allies.

Do we really have strategic interests, vital or otherwise, in squalid little spots thousands of miles from the U.S? Does a firmly ensconced Karzai government in Kabul really somehow enhance our own security? How is it that we’ve come to believe that a handful of small, militarily insignificant nations — like Iraq and Afghanistan — governed by unpopular and unstable regimes, somehow keep Americans safe against the threat of terrorism.

Actually, it is more rational to believe that such foreign adventures seriously compromise our national security by draining U.S. financial resources, stretching defense forces dangerously thin and psychologically boosting recruitment to the very terrorist groups that we are fighting. Whatever — our approach might stink as foreign policy but it keeps the military-industrial business booming.

As Noam Chomsky pointed out in his article “Dictators R Us,” Thomas Jefferson was not fooled by Napoleon’s antics: “We believe no more in Bonaparte’s fighting merely for the liberties of the seas than in Great Britain’s fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth and the resources of other nations.”

Wonder what Jefferson would make of our current foreign policy …?

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Posted by Frumpzilla at 12:17 PM
March 14, 2010
The Return of Cowboyism

Suggested by my last post, the following excerpt is from William Greider’s 2009 book, Come Home, America:

The U. S. military, despite its massive firepower and technological brilliance, has itself become the gravest threat to our peace and security. Our risks and vulnerabilities around the world are magnified and multiplied because the American military has shifted from providing national defense to taking the offensive worldwide, from being a vigilant defender to being an adventurous aggressor in search of enemies.

The predicament this muscle-bound approach puts our country in is dangerous and new. Go looking for trouble around the world and you are likely to find it. The next war may be a fight that is provoked not by them but by us. The next war may already have started somewhere in the world, perhaps in a small, obscure country that we’ve considered threatening.

From a review of the book by George C. Wilson, the Washington Post’s longtime Pentagon correspondent:

I agree with Greider that there is a new attack elephant in the American living room. The old watchdog that would bark if some stranger knocked at the door but only bite if he broke into the house has been retired. Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates seem to have fallen in love with Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Marine special operators who do their deadly work in the shadows. The top of our government was similarly infatuated with special operations during the Vietnam War until some of the operators got out of control and had to be reined in to discourage what was called “cowboyism” back then.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:27 PM
March 11, 2010
A Nation of Cowards

Again the Rude Pundit nails it. (Image by Ben Tolman)

Our unending state of stress-out is al-Qaeda’s greatest victory against the United States. As the AP reports today, al-Qaeda got one big message from the Underwear Bomber’s failure: “the group that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks and has prided itself on its ideological purism seems to be eyeing a more pragmatic and arguably more dangerous shift in tactics. The emerging message appears to be: Big successes are great, but sometimes simply trying can be just as good.”

Yeah, it seems like the simple cave dwellers have figured out big, complex, allegedly bad-ass America: we’re just a bunch of sticky fat kids crying because our ice cream fell off the cone. That wedgie-bait, Adam Gadahn (née “Pearlman”), an American in al-Qaeda, taunted, “Even apparently unsuccessful attacks on Western mass transportation systems can bring major cities to a halt, cost the enemy billions and send his corporations into bankruptcy.” He may be a traitorous asshole who can’t grow a decent beard, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Ask anyone who was at Newark Airport in January, where security imprisoned thousands of innocent people for six hours because some idiot took a shortcut…

Indeed, the right has so successfully torqued the country into what our enemies believe it is, it’s almost as if the GOP is a subversive arm of al-Qaeda. They have nearly bankrupted us, thus making any great social advances impossible; they have turned mild dissent into sedition; and they have turned the Constitution into a loophole-ridden contract, filled with more fine print than a subprime mortgage. They did most of that shit when they were in power. Now, out of power, the right is seeking, as it did in the Clinton years, but even more insidiously, to undermine the very functioning of government…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:44 PM
March 06, 2010
The Warhogs

Just this one more little cigarette and then I promise I’ll quit for good….

From the New York Times:

…But it seems there has been a genuine shift in Somali policy, too, and the Americans have absorbed a Somali truth that eluded them for nearly 20 years: If Somalia is going to be stabilized, it is going to take Somalis.

“This is not an American offensive,” said Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for Africa. “The U.S. military is not on the ground in Somalia. Full stop.”

He added, “There are limits to outside engagement, and there has to be an enormous amount of local buy-in for this work.”

Most of the American military assistance to the Somali government has been focused on training, or has been channeled through African Union peacekeepers. But that could change. An American official in Washington, who said he was not authorized to speak publicly, predicted that American covert forces would get involved if the offensive, which could begin in a few weeks, dislodged Qaeda terrorists.

“What you’re likely to see is airstrikes and Special Ops moving in, hitting and getting out,” the official said.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:52 AM
March 01, 2010
Bait and Switch

Here, via BLCKDGRD, is Walter Benn Michaels, writing in the London Review of Books:

…Race, on the other hand, has been a more successful technology of mystification. In the US, one of the great uses of racism was (and is) to induce poor white people to feel a crucial and entirely specious fellowship with rich white people; one of the great uses of anti-racism is to make poor black people feel a crucial and equally specious fellowship with rich black people.

Furthermore, in the form of the celebration of ‘identity’ and ‘ethnic diversity’, it seeks to create a bond between poor black people and rich white ones. So the African-American woman who cleans my office is supposed to feel not so bad about the fact that I make almost ten times as much money as she does because she can be confident that I’m not racist or sexist and that I respect her culture. And she’s also supposed to feel pride because the dean of our college, who makes much more than ten times what she does, is African-American, like her. And since the chancellor of our university, who makes more than 15 times what she does, is not only African-American but a woman too (the fruits of both anti-racism and anti-sexism!), she can feel doubly good about her.

But, and I acknowledge that this is the thinnest of anecdotal evidence, I somehow doubt she does. If the downside of the politics of anti-discrimination is that it now functions to legitimate the increasing disparities not produced by racism or sexism, the upside is the degree to which it makes visible the fact that the increase in those disparities does indeed have nothing to do with racism or sexism. A social analyst as clear-eyed as a University of Illinois cleaning woman would start from there…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:05 PM
February 26, 2010
Taking Christ Out of the Country

H/T to Swiftspeech for this excerpt from Robert Paul Wolff’s excellent blog, new to me but not for long, The Philosopher’s Stone.

…Do we want to live in a country in which the fortunate (medically speaking) accept additional insurance costs in order to provide for the unfortunate? Or do we wish to live in a country in which the fortunate are permitted to separate what happens to them from what happens to the unfortunate? Notice that by “fortunate” and “unfortunate” I do not mean “those who do not get sick” and “those who do get sick.” That would be looking at the matter ex post. I mean by fortunate “those less less likely ex ante to get sick,” and by “unfortunate” I mean “those more likely ex ante to get sick.” We are still talking probabilities here, of course. Even the young and healthy sometimes get cancer and have heart attacks. They just do so much less often. And by the same token, even multiple cancer sufferers sometimes go cancer free for the rest of their lives. But that too occurs much less often.

When we clear away all the bafflegab, all the confusion, all the posturing and bickering and procedural wrangling, all the political maneuvering, what we find is that the Democrats want America to be a country in which the fortunate shoulder some of the burdens of the unfortunate. And the Republicans want America to be a country in which they do not. In short, if I may put it this way, the Democrats want America to be a Christian country, and the Republicans want America to be a Godless country…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:33 PM
February 20, 2010
Our Great National Pastime

As we live in what is at present the most heavily armed and warlike society on earth, the following symptomatology might be of interest. It is from The Acquisitive Society, by British historian R.H. Tawney, writing in 1920.

Since then, setting World War II aside for the sake of brevity, we have made war, at various levels and in various ways, in Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, South and North Korea, South and North Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, the Congo, Colombia, Kuwait, Iraq, Haiti, the Philippines, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, El Salvador, Sudan, Somalia, the Soviet Union, China, the former Yugoslavia, Indonesia and Angola. No doubt I have forgotten a few; there have been so many.

Militarism is the characteristic, not of an army, but of a society. Its essence is not any particular quality or scale of military preparation, but a state of mind, which, in its concentration on one particular element of social life, ends finally by exalting it until it becomes the arbiter of all the rest. The purpose for which military forces exist is forgotten. They are thought to stand by their own right and to need no justification. Instead of being regarded as an instrument which is necessary in an imperfect world, they are elevated into an object of superstitious veneration, as though the world would be a poor, insipid place without them, so that political institutions and social arrangements and intellect and morality and religion are crushed into a mold made to fit one activity, which in a sane society is a subordinate activity, like the police or the maintenance of prisons or the cleansing of sewers, but which in a militarist state is a kind of mystical epitome of society itself.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:21 PM
February 19, 2010
Rainbow Stew

Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one of the increasingly few reasons America’s newspapers should not be taken out behind the barn and shot, gives judicious consideration to the speech given by the GOP’s Heart Throb of the Week, Marco Rubio, before the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday. Rubio outlined a bold new agenda of cutting taxes on estates, capital gains, interest, dividends and corporations.

To which Bookman replies:

Let me be blunt: That’s infantile. It’s an infantile appeal to an infantile sentiment. Politicians of every stripe make promises they can’t keep and tell us things we want to hear, but rarely is the disconnect from reality so blatant.

I mean, let’s just do away with taxes altogether — nobody likes ’em, right? — and then the national debt will surely vanish altogether! It’s like shooting yourself in the face and calling it cosmetic surgery. It’s like saying four minus two equals eight, and then building your economic future on that “fact.” It’s a world of fantasy.

Or as the great Merle Haggard would put it:

“When they find out how to burn water,
And the gasoline car is gone.
When an airplane flies without any fuel,
And the satellite heats our home.
One of these days when the air clears up,
And the sun comes shinin’ through.
We’ll all be drinkin’ free bubble-up,
An’ eatin’ that rainbow stew.”

And when that happy day comes, Marco Rubio will be right there, dishing out heapin’ servings of that delicious rainbow stew for everybody, with Jim DeMint looking on, crying in happiness.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:39 AM
February 16, 2010
Now If He Had Stolen a Million Golf Clubs…

…and incorporated himself…

From a New York Times editorial:

Under the three-strikes law, a man named Gary Ewing was sentenced to 25 years to life for shoplifting three golf clubs from a golf pro shop.

Mr. Ewing challenged his sentence before the Supreme Court as a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. By a 5-to-4 vote, with Justice Kennedy in the majority, the court rejected the challenge. The dissenters were right that Mr. Ewing’s sentence was so disproportionate to his crime that it should have been declared unconstitutional.

It’s not that the court is insensitive to excessive punishments. It has repeatedly thrown them out — when they are against corporations. In 2003, the year the court rejected Mr. Ewing’s case, it overturned a $145 million punitive damage award against the State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company as so excessive that it violated the 14th Amendment due process clause.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:02 PM
February 02, 2010
Know Your Enemy 101

Here is an economic primer for all your teabagger friends from Fred Clark at slacktivist. It deserves as wide circulation as it can possibly get. Now I’ve done my part. Do yours.

Hey you. You there in the Glenn Beck T-shirt headed off to the Tea Party Patriot rally.

Stop shouting for a moment, please, I want to explain to you why you’re so very angry. You should be angry. You’re getting screwed. I think you know that. But you don’t seem to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can stop it. You can stop it easily because the system that’s screwing you over can only keep screwing you over if you keep demanding that it do so.

So stop demanding that. Stop helping the system screw you over.

Look, you can go back to yelling at me in a minute, but just read this first.

1. Get out your pay stub.

Or, if you have direct deposit — you really should get direct deposit, it saves a lot of time and money (I point this out because, honestly, I’m trying to help you here, even though you don’t make that easy Mr. Angry Screamy Guy) — then take out that little paper receipt they give you when your pay gets directly deposited.

2. Notice that your net pay is lower than your gross pay. This is because some of your wages are withheld every pay period.

3. Notice that only some of this money that was withheld went to pay taxes. (I know, I know — yeearrrgh! me hates taxes! — but just try to stick with me for just a second here.)

4. Notice that some of the money that was withheld didn’t go to taxes, but to your health insurance company.

5. Now go get a pay stub from last year around this time, from January of 2009.

6. Notice that the amount of your pay withheld for taxes in your current paycheck is less than the amount that was withheld a year ago.

That’s because of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, which included more than $200 billion in tax cuts, including the one you’re holding right there in your hand, the tax cut that’s now staring you in the face. Republicans all voted against that tax cut. And then they told you to get angry about the stimulus plan. They didn’t explain, however, why you were supposed to get angry about getting a tax cut. Why would you be? Wouldn’t it make more sense to get angry at the people who voted against that Obama tax cut?

But taxes aren’t the really important thing here. The really important thing starts with the next point…


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7. Notice that the amount of your pay withheld to pay for your health insurance is more than it was last year.

8. Notice that the amount of your pay withheld to pay for your health insurance is a lot more than it was last year. I won’t ask you to dig up old paychecks from 2008 and 2007, but this has been going on for a long time. Every year, the amount of your paycheck withheld to pay for your health insurance goes up. A lot.

9. Notice the one figure there on your two pay stubs that hasn’t changed: Your wage. The raise you didn’t get this year went to pay for that big increase in the cost of your health insurance.

10. Here’s where I need you to start doing a better job of putting two and two together. If you didn’t get a raise last year because the cost of your health insurance went up by a lot, and the cost of your health insurance is going to go up by a lot again this year, what do you think that means for any chance you might have of getting a raise this year?

11. Did you figure it out? That’s right. The increasing cost of health insurance means you won’t get a raise this year. Or next year. Or the year after that. The increasing cost of health insurance means you will never get a raise again.

That’s what I meant when I said you really should be angry. That’s what I meant when I said you’re getting screwed.

OK, we’re almost done. Just a few more points, I promise.

12. The only hope you have of ever seeing another pay raise is if Congress passes health care reform. Without health care reform, the increasing cost of your health insurance will swallow this year’s raise. And next year’s raise. And pretty soon it won’t stop with just your raise. Without health care reform, the increasing cost of your health insurance will start making your pay go down.

13. I wish I could tell you that this was just a worst-case scenario, that this was only something that might, maybe happen, but that wouldn’t be true. Without health care reform, this is what will happen. We know this because this is what is happening now. It has been happening for the past 10 years. In 2008, employers spent on average 25 percent more per employee than they did in 2001, but wages on average did not increase during those years. The price of milk went up. The price of gas went up. But wages did not. All of the money that would have gone to higher wages went to pay the higher and higher and higher cost of health insurance. And unless Congress passes health care reform, that will not change.

Well, it will change in the sense that it will keep getting worse, but it won’t get better. Unless the problem gets fixed, the problem won’t be fixed. That’s kind of what “problem” and “fixed” mean.

14. Sadly for any chance you have of ever seeing a raise again, it looks like Congress may not pass health care reform. It looks like they won’t do that because they’re scared of angry voters who are demanding that they oppose health care reform, angry voters who demand that Congress not do anything that would keep the cost of health insurance from going up and up and up. Angry voters like you.

15. Do you see the point here? You are angrily, loudly demanding that Congress make sure that you never, ever get another pay raise as long as you live. Because of you and because of your angry demands, you and your family and your kids are going to have to get by with less this year than last year. And next year you’re going to have to get by with even less. And if you keep angrily demanding that no one must ever fix this problem, then you’re going to have to figure out how to get by on less and less every year for the rest of your life.

16. So please, for your own sake, for your family’s sake and the sake of your children, stop. Stop demanding that problems not get fixed. Stop demanding that you keep getting screwed. Stay angry — you should be angry — but start directing that anger toward the system that’s screwing you over and taking money out of your pocket. Start directing that anger toward fixing problems instead of toward making sure they never get fixed. Instead of demanding that Congress oppose health care reform so that you never, ever, get another pay raise, start demanding that they pass health care reform, as soon as possible. Because until they do, you’re just going to keep on getting screwed.

And it’s going to be that much worse knowing that you brought this on yourself — that you demanded it.

Thanks for your time.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:59 AM
January 25, 2010
Security Theater

Teresa at Making Light says:

I think about this every time I see a news story about the DHS/NTSA developing elaborate systems that test travelers for trace amounts of chemicals used in explosives.

How do you beat that? By seeding the travel environment with the target chemicals. For instance, you could sprinkle them into the upholstery and/or carpeting of buses, trains, and airport taxis. Travelers who came into contact with them would pick up trace amounts, which would set off the airport chemical detectors. A system that’s swamped with false positives is as blind as one that can’t detect what it’s looking for, and it’s a hell of a lot more nervous.

The beauty part about doing this is that it’s so easy. You don’t have to build a working bomb, learn to fly a plane, target a specific flight, buy a plane ticket, or pass through airport security. All you have to do is sit back and keep pressing the DHS/NTSA’s panic buttons.

Chemicals aren’t terrorism. Terrorism isn’t air travel. Terror is an effect. I don’t know anyone who was made more fearful by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab setting fire to his crotch. I know a lot of people who are afraid to travel because they’ve heard reports of abusive behavior by security personnel at borders and airports.

Next: figuring out how to put miniature cap pistols into coin-operated toy vending machines at highway rest areas near border checkpoints.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:43 PM
December 18, 2009
Then the Tsunami Hit…

A reader who calls himself Colonelgirdle mentioned in a recent comment that he had lost his small business and his livelihood when refused credit by a bank which used its bailout money to buy another bank. I asked him if he could expand on his brief comment, and he has kindly done so:

For three years I owned and operated a mini-market/gas station in a Cincinnati, Ohio suburb. I bought an already existing store using all the assets I had, including my 401K funds, after being down-sized from my middle-management career of 22 years (in one of the many industries which the U.S. can no longer keep onshore).

Things went along fairly well and the business grew as I acquired a large clientele of regular customers from the local construction companies, other business owners, and the Ford plant. My girlfriend and I worked 90+ hour workweeks and, along with help from a few part-time employees, we operated 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In other words, I was a real practitioner of the kind of free-enterprise capitalism that our windbag politicians and business leaders praise to the heavens while making sure it doesn’t apply to them.

In the spring of 2008, I went to the county “economic development board” asking for advice about expanding my business. And because his office is in the same shopping center as my store, I walked over to Representative John Boehner’s (remember him? the Republican House Majority, now Minority, Leader?) office to ask for help. I asked the bureaucrats whether grants or tax breaks were available to help me hire employees, buy equipment, etc. No, no such thing available. Their only advice was to go to the Small Business Administration.

So I called the SBA. I won’t go into details other than that they sent out someone to take a look at my store and see if he had any words of wisdom. He was the former head of Ford’s truck and ambulance division and knew nothing I could discern about small businesses in general nor especially the retail store business.

So back I went to the county development board. After a few lengthy consultations, I was steered to a Vice President of Lending at a local branch of one of our nation’s larger banks (I won’t tell you which one, but their initials are PNC). In cooperation with that very nice VP, my girlfriend and I hashed-out a business plan and jumped through a multitude of hoops necessary to secure a relatively paltry SBA loan of $75,000.

Meanwhile, I realize now that throughout the spring & summer business had started to go sour. We were close enough to our customers that many of them confided their troubles: they were losing their jobs, they were losing their homes, their own small businesses were taking on water like Katrina. We finished up our paperwork with the bank and awaited an answer.The V.P. anticipated no problem as I had A-1 credit, very little debt, and a good plan for growing the business.

Then the financial tsunami hit…

Suddenly, Americans were informed the banks were bust and Wall Street toppled! Fed chief Ben Bernanke and his bankster buddies told us it was our money or our lives: we could either pony up nearly a trillion dollars or our economy would eat lead.

My business flow slowed to a trickle; people who are terrified don’t go out shopping. In the midst of all this it was announced that the bank I had asked for money was using its government bailout to buy the bank where I had my business accounts (National City). I didn’t think badly about that arrangement, until during that same time my business loan was turned down. The nice V.P. confided that “we just aren’t loaning to anyone right now. Come back in the spring and you can probably get it then.”

We hung on for five months after that. The store died a slow death. People without jobs to go to don’t buy near as much gasoline and candy. I let the employees go after the New Year holiday. In late February, I contacted the bank V.P. but was turned-down again. I heard on the news that the credit markets were still frozen.

A few weeks later, I put up the sign that said “Out of Business.” I didn’t get much out of the used equipment because so many businesses have gone belly-up that there’s a glut on the market (part of that real free-enterprise again).

I’m not embarrassed about my story because now most everyone is either financially ruined or close to it. And our so-called “leaders” don’t really seem to know or care about fixing it because the Dow Jones Average is going up again. I’m unemployed, broke, and waiting, praying/working for the revolution that seems inevitable.

(Editor’s note: Earlier today the colonel commented on Chuck Dupree’s posting, Thirty Million More Criminals. Since it follows naturally on the preceding account, I reprint it below.)

As one of America’s many financially-ruined citizens I have first-hand frustrating experience with applying to the government for assistance. To cite two examples: 1) so that my working, divorced daughter could go to college, she needed financial help with my granddaughter’s daycare. That took seven weeks of almost daily calling the social workers and, finally, in desperation a call to our state governor’s office hotline to get results. 2) I applied for heating energy assistance for this winter, which involves getting up about 3 am in order to stand in line in the freezing cold outside the application office to get one of 25 entrance tickets at about 8 am.

I was 17th in line, because some people camp out there all night. There were about 50 people in line, which means a lot of people turned away each day. My point is that there will be a lot of poor people spending a lot of their time going begging “hat in hand” to the bureaucrats in order to buy insurance.

I was once solidly middle-class and paid taxes for 37 years before being destroyed in the Great Recession. I was surprised at how confusing, uncaring, and inadequate our social safety net is. Pray that you don’t have to find out also.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:22 AM
December 15, 2009
We Yield to the Despicable Gentleman from Connecticut

The Washington Independent reports:

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol moments ago, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) seemed surprised by his own endorsement three months ago of a Medicare buy-in proposal he now opposes — saying that he finally saw the video “last night,” as if it were someone else who granted the now-infamous interview to The Connecticut Post in September.

Stuck in a corner, he offered two explanations. (1) He first said that it appeared like his September comments referred back to his endorsement of the Medicare buy-in 2000, when he was running as the vice-presidential candidate on the Al Gore ticket.

“I finally got to see that on TV last night,” Lieberman said, “and it looked to me like I was referring back to things I had supported in the past to make that point that, though I was against the public option, I was not against health care reform.”

(Nevermind that the Post interview was conducted clearly in the context of the current health-care debate.)

And (2) he argued that the comments were made before the Senate Finance Committee had introduced its reform bill, which grants generous insurance subsidies to folks aged 55 to 64. (Nevermind that the Senate HELP bill, which passed earlier in the summer, contained similar subsidies and everyone knew that the Finance bill would follow suit.)

He didn’t seem to mind that the explanations were contradictory.

Only two conclusions remain. Either Lieberman is an amnesiac, or he is a posturing, pompous, preening, self-satisfied and self-deluding little popinjay — a sociopathic liar and spotlight-seeker who would shame the United States Senate if such a thing were possible and has certainly shamed the State of Connecticut.

And he is not an amnesiac, although he plays one on TV.

Here he is once more with his soulmate and BFF; I love this picture.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:33 PM
November 17, 2009
With Friends Like These…

Anyone who follows the news with moderate regularity and an open mind is already well aware that the real force behind jihad and 9/11 was and is our great and good friend, Saudi Arabia.

Anyone else should read the article by Johann Hari of Independent UK from which this is excerpted:

…And so Usama begins to tell me his story. He arrived in Tottenham in North London in the mid-1970s, when he was five years old. His Pakistani father was sent here by the Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs, which aims to spread its puritan desert strain of Islam to every nation. His family led a locked-down life, trying to adhere to Saudi principles in a semi-detached house in the English suburbs. “We weren’t allowed music or TV or any contact with the opposite sex,” he says. “We were very sheltered. I didn’t go out a great deal.” By the age of 10, he had memorised every word of the Koran in its original Arabic…

He started to recruit other students, as he had done so many times before. But it was harder. “Everyone hated the [unelected] government [of Hosni Mubarak], and the US for backing it,” he says. But there was an inhibiting sympathy for the victims of 9/11 — until the Bush administration began to respond with Guantanamo Bay and bombs. “That made it much easier. After that, I could persuade people a lot faster…”

But once they had made that leap to identify with the Umma – the global Muslim community — they got angrier the more abusive our foreign policy came. Every one of them said the Bush administration’s response to 9/11 — from Guantanamo to Iraq — made jihadism seem more like an accurate description of the world. Hadiya Masieh, a tiny female former HT organiser, tells me: “You’d see Bush on the television building torture camps and bombing Muslims and you think — anything is justified to stop this. What are we meant to do, just stand still and let him cut our throats?”

Britain’s foreign policy also helped tug them towards Islamism in another way. Once these teenagers decided to go looking for a harder, tougher Islamist identity, they found a well-oiled state machine waiting to feed it. Usman Raja says: “Saudi literature is everywhere in Britain, and it’s free. When I started exploring my Muslim identity, when I was looking for something more, all the books were Saudi. In the bookshops, in the libraries. All of them. Back when I was fighting, I could go and get a car, open the boot up, and get it filled up with free literature from the Saudis, saying exactly what I believed. Who can compete with that?”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:28 PM
November 11, 2009
Here We Go Again

Excellent piece at Lenin’s Tomb on the Soviet Union’s 1979 military (the Soviets were already present in many other respects) invasion of Afghanistan. The parallels to our own Afghan idiocy just keep on piling up…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:11 AM
October 21, 2009
Blessèd Are the Poor in Spirit

Here’s the Word of the Lord from John Hart, who is communications director for famed Christian Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma:

Coburn’s opposition to government programs, Hart said, stemmed from his concern for the poor. “His faith informs everything he does,” Hart said. He went on to say that, in the New Testament, Jesus mentions the poor some 300 times. “He doesn’t view the Bible as a think-tank document.,” Hart said. So, Coburn, before he contemplates a policy, Hart said, first asks himself, “How will it impact the people least able to fend for themselves?”

“He has come to the conclusion that large government enterprises harm poor more than help them,” Hart said, offering Medicaid as an example. He conceded that the government health-care program does help some poor people, but he contends that it hurts others, because “40 percent of doctors refuse to accept Medicaid.” (Coburn is an MD himself.)

Hart said that the expansion of Medicaid beyond the ranks of the “truly poor” will only hurt more people.

And, in a not unrelated story, we learn that, “Only one in four Oklahoma public high school students can name the first President of the United States, according to a survey released today.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:38 AM
October 14, 2009
Price Fixing is Perfectly Legal…

…if you’re a health insurance company. Astonishing. Something else I unaccountably never knew:

As the debate over health care reform rages on, there’s been almost no attention to the fact that health and medical malpractice insurance companies since 1945 have been exempt from the federal antitrust laws aimed at keeping every other private market competitive. The McCarran-Ferguson Act has allowed insurance companies to dominate markets and reap enormous profits, according to several witnesses who testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning.

As Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) explained at the hearing, the health insurance industry — unlike any other private industry in the country — is allowed to engage in price fixing, bid rigging and market allocation, all of which would violate the law if any other sort of company did it. Last month Leahy introduced the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009, which would repeal the antitrust exemption for health insurance and medical malpractice insurance providers. Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) are co-sponsors.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:43 PM
October 01, 2009
Growing Up in Post-Racist America




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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:01 PM
September 30, 2009
The News from Bedlam

This from the Rude Pundit, who gets it just right:

Let’s push this further. What if CNN or MSNBC interviewed 9/11 truthers on a daily basis during the Bush administration? Even if the hosts scoffed at them, what if, on a semi-regular basis, someone who thought 9/11 was an inside job or that Flight 93 was shot down was allowed to comment on issues related to that day and allowed to say that the Bush administration destroyed the Twin Towers to bring down the nation in order to maintain power? You know what would have happened? Shit would have burned. Conservatives would have exploded with rage, Democratic politicians would have had to condemn the people who said it, and the news networks that gave the truthers time and investigated what they said would have faced boycotts and threats.

Which all leads to what we deal with today: why the fuck are we even hearing about things like whether or not Barack Obama was born in the United States? It’s not a real story. Why the fuck are there serious discussions on the news networks over whether or not the Obama administration’s ultimate plan is to turn America into some kind of socialist dystopia? Or about whether or not Obama is like Hitler (a report that CNN actually did)? Or whether Obama wants to set up “death panels” to kill old people? Why are guests allowed on who believe these things? It ain’t censorship to not give a platform to maniacs…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:08 PM
September 27, 2009
The Big Picture Boys

A shocking story in today’s Washington Post confirms what has seemed probable all along: the subprime housing scams that sank our economy were a vast criminal enterprise that Alan Greenspan not only knew about from the start, but actively encouraged.

Read it all, but here’s a brief excerpt that goes to the underlying problem with the anti-Keynsian Chicago school of economics — what Paul Krugman calls the “freshwater school.” This is a failure to see that the big picture is made up of millions of tiny dots. In laymen’s terms, these are known as “human beings.”

Throughout the lending boom, consumer advocates trooped regularly to the Fed’s monumental marble headquarters on Constitution Avenue to offer specific accounts of abuses in financial transactions. But what seemed powerful to advocates often was dismissed as anecdotal by regulators.

“The response we were getting from most of the governors and the staff was, ‘All you’re able to do is point to the stories of individual consumers, you’re not able to show the macroeconomic effect,’ “ said Patricia McCoy, a law professor at the University of Connecticut who served on the Fed’s consumer advisory council from 2002 to 2004. “That is a classic Fed mindset. If you cannot prove that it is a broad-based problem that threatens systemic consequences, then you will be dismissed.”

Fortunately those dark days at the Fed are past. President Obama’s choice to continue as its chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, is outraged:

Bernanke asked the Fed’s lawyers to revisit their concerns and, in July 2007, the Fed announced a pilot program to examine a few subprime affiliates.This summer, pronouncing itself satisfied with the results, the Fed announced it would launch regular consumer compliance examinations.

“In looking at our responsibility to enforce these consumer laws we believe a somewhat more proactive stance is justified,” Bernanke told Congress.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:08 AM
September 26, 2009
You Can’t Believe Impossible Things

We are asked to believe the following proposition: The United States can’t provide for its citizens what every Western country offers as a matter of common policy, national health insurance.

On the other hand, we’re told, the United States can achieve what no other country has ever done before: win a war in Afghanistan.

Go to the board and write it two-hundred times, children.

It calls to mind a passage from Through The Looking Glass:

“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”


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Posted by OHollern at 04:44 PM
September 21, 2009
Torture Works, and Here’s How

From the Associated Press:

“The assumption is that the (methods) are without effect on memory, or indeed facilitate the retrieval of information from memory,” O’Mara said.

But overwhelmingly, scientific literature shows the opposite: Chronic stress and trauma — the likely result of the CIA’s methods, particularly for long-term prisoners, according to O’Mara — can damage the hippocampus, the part of the brain that integrates memory.

The list of techniques the CIA used included prolonged sleep deprivation — six days in at least one instance — being chained in painful positions, exploitation of prisoners’ phobias, and waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning that President Barack Obama has called torture. Three CIA prisoners were waterboarded, two of them extensively.

Those methods cause the brain to release stress hormones that, if their release is repeated and prolonged, may result in compromised brain function and even tissue loss, O’Mara wrote.

He warned that this could lead to brain lobe disorders, making the prisoners vulnerable to confabulation — in this case, the pathological production of false memories based on suggestions from an interrogator. Those false memories mix with true information in the interrogation, making it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is fabricated.

Waterboarding is especially stressful “with the potential to cause widespread stress-induced changes in the brain, especially when these are repeated frequently and intensively,” O’Mara wrote.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:04 PM
September 14, 2009
Who’s Blinder Now?

Ryan Grim argues that the Federal Reserve Board, over the years, has bought up or otherwise co-opted much of the economic community. With these results:

Greenspan told Congress in October 2008 that he was in a state of “shocked disbelief” and that the “whole intellectual edifice” had “collapsed.” House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) followed up: “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working.”

“Absolutely, precisely,” Greenspan replied. “You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well…”

Though [Alan Blinder] is squarely within the mainstream and considered one of the great economic minds of his generation, he lasted a mere year and a half as vice chairman of the Fed, leaving in January 1996.

Rob Johnson, who watched the Blinder ordeal, says Blinder made the mistake of behaving as if the Fed was a place where competing ideas and assumptions were debated. “Sociologically, what was happening was the Fed staff was really afraid of Blinder. At some level, as an applied empirical economist, Alan Blinder is really brilliant,” says Johnson.

In closed-door meetings, Blinder did what so few do: challenged assumptions. “The Fed staff would come out and their ritual is: Greenspan has kind of told them what to conclude and they produce studies in which they conclude this. And Blinder treated it more like an open academic debate when he first got there and he’d come out and say, ‘Well, that’s not true. If you change this assumption and change this assumption and use this kind of assumption you get a completely different result.’ And it just created a stir inside — it was sort of like the whole pipeline of Greenspan-arriving-at-decisions was disrupted.”

It didn’t sit well with Greenspan or his staff. “A lot of senior staff...were pissed off about Blinder — how should we say? — not playing by the customs that they were accustomed to,” Johnson says.

Ben Bernanke didn’t make that mistake, and look where he is today. We’re in safe hands.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:29 AM
September 13, 2009
We Have Met the Enemy and Once Again, He Is…

These variations on a theme are all excerpted from today’s New York Times:


‘Athens’ on the Net

During the transition, the administration created an online “Citizen’s Briefing Book” for people to submit ideas to the president. “The best-rated ones will rise to the top, and after the Inauguration, we’ll print them out and gather them into a binder like the ones the president receives every day from experts and advisors,” Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, wrote to supporters.

They received 44,000 proposals and 1.4 million votes for those proposals. The results were quietly published, but they were embarrassing — not so much to the administration as to us, the ones we’ve been waiting for.

In the middle of two wars and an economic meltdown, the highest-ranking idea was to legalize marijuana, an idea nearly twice as popular as repealing the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy.


Politics and the Age Gap

The latest CBS News poll found that 51 percent of those over 64 said health care reform would hurt senior citizens, compared with 36 percent of all adults surveyed. Just 31 percent of respondents over 64 said they approved of Mr. Obama’s handling of health care, compared with 40 percent over all.


The Recession’s Racial Divide

What do you get when you combine the worst economic downturn since the Depression with the first black president? A surge of white racial resentment, loosely disguised as a populist revolt. An article on the Fox News Web site has put forth the theory that health reform is a stealth version of reparations for slavery: whites will foot the bill and, by some undisclosed mechanism, blacks will get all the care. President Obama, in such fantasies, is a dictator and, in one image circulated among the anti-tax, anti-health reform “tea parties,” he is depicted as a befeathered African witch doctor with little tusks coming out of his nostrils. When you’re going down, as the white middle class has been doing for several years now, it’s all too easy to imagine that it’s because someone else is climbing up over your back.


Boy, Oh, Boy

Surrounded by middle-aged white guys — a sepia snapshot of the days when such pols ran Washington like their own men’s club — Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at a president who didn’t.

But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!


The Body Count at Home

As Mr. Reid recounts, Nikki tried everything to get medical care, but no insurance company would accept someone with her pre-existing condition…

“When Nikki showed up at the emergency room, she received the best of care, and the hospital spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on her,” her step-father, Tony Deal, told me. “But that’s not when she needed the care.”

By then it was too late. In 2006, Nikki White died at age 32. “Nikki didn’t die from lupus,” her doctor, Amylyn Crawford, told Mr. Reid. “Nikki died from complications of the failing American health care system.”

Complex arguments are being batted around in this health care debate, but the central issue isn’t technical but moral. The first question is simply this: Do we wish to be the only rich nation in the world that lets a 32-year-old woman die because she can’t get health insurance? Is that really us?

Actually, yes. It really is.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:53 PM
August 17, 2009
The Wreck of Empire

This passage by Gore Vidal appeared in the October, 1963, issue of Esquire. He failed to foresee our increasing physical fatness, but he nailed the rest.

Historians often look to the Roman Empire to find analogies with the United States. They flatter us. We live not under the Pax Americana, but the Pax Frigida. I should not look to Rome for comparison but rather to the Most Serene Venetian Republic, a pedestrian state devoted to wealth, comfort, trade and keeping the peace, especially after inheriting the wreck of the Byzantine Empire, as we have inherited the wreck of the British Empire.

Venice was not inspiring but it worked. Ultimately, our danger comes not from the idea of Communism, which (as an Archbishop of Canterbury remarked) is a “Christian heresy” whose materialistic aims (as opposed to means) vary little from our own; rather, it will come from the increasing wealth and skill of other Serene Republics which, taking advantage of our increasing moral and intellectual fatness, will try to seize our markets in the world.

If we are to end, it will not be with a Bomb but a bigger Buck. Fortunately, under that sanctimoniousness so characteristic of the American selling something, our governors know that we are fighting not for “the free world” but to hold onto an economic empire not safe or pleasant to let go. The Arab world — or as a salesmen would say, “territory” — is almost ours, and we must persevere in landing that account. It will be a big one some day.

Vidal wasn’t the only one to have seen that coming. In 1973 I searched out my old two-story wooden barracks at Fort Bragg’s Special Warfare Center to show my young and uninterested sons. By then the building was being used as office space by the Special Forces. I mentioned to a sergeant inside that back in the day we used to have classes in Thai, Lao and Vietnamese. Was the language program still alive?

Oh, yeah, he said, only now it’s Arabic.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:34 PM
August 01, 2009
Here’s Health!

As Congress considers various proposals for overhauling our health care system, it would be well for us to recall the words of former Texas Senator Phil Gramm, who once said, “This is the only country where poor people are fat.”

Ex-senator Gramm, who was known as the bankers’ friend for the many kindnesses he bestowed on the finance industry, brought a brand of “compassionate conservatism” to his politics long before George W. Bush was a gleam in the eye of the Republican Party leaders. Gramm never used the phrase, that we know of, and we don’t hear much about it anymore, but compassionate conservatism is at the heart of the debate over health care reform. What it describes, basically, is a political philosophy that might be summed up thus: We’ve got ours and screw you, Jack.

Congress itself has health care coverage that is better than just about any plan currently available to the public. President Obama has said everybody should have the same coverage as he and all the employees of the federal government, including senators and congressmen, now have. That would be fair, he said.

But “fair” is one of those wishy-washy and fiscally irresponsible notions that liberals are always using to confound their opponents in debate. Phil Gramm had it right: If poor people would take better care of themselves and not go around eating Big Macs with fries and swilling down Pepsi they would be a lot healthier and wouldn’t need health care insurance. Most of the time, when poor people get sick it’s their own fault. If they can’t be bothered to take care of themselves, why should we?

This is a powerful argument and one can only wish that Phil Gramm were still in the Senate to make it. But Phil had to follow his destiny. It wasn’t enough to lead the deregulation charge that made it easier for banks to wheel and deal, Phil secretly yearned to be a banker. And now he is, right there in Washington, D.C., where the best deals have the biggest wheels.

But even without the stalwart leadership of Phil Gramm, Congress seems more than up to the challenge of thwarting the new president’s attempt to foul up a perfectly good national health care system. Since losing so many seats in both houses, the Republicans faced the possibility of being flattened by a unified Democratic Congress. Fortunately, the Democrats are never unified and the party’s dubious leadership in Congress and the Senate seems to be faltering.

Obama, who may be too committed to the idea of bi-partisanship for his own good, has given so much ground to pressure groups from everywhere that the bill, now a thousand pages-long, is all but incomprehensible, much less effective. It is so complicated the Democrats conducted an hours-long seminar in the House basement to make sure its Members understood what the hell the bill provides.

This was a good sign for opponents of the bill. Nothing stops progress like confusion. Meanwhile, help arrived, like the cavalry, with the Blue Dog Democrats of the House. This right-thinking group of fiscally responsible, if sometimes misguided, Democratic Congresspersons has done its obstructionist best to ruin Obama’s reckless plans. With skillful wielding of the monkey wrench and generous deployment of flies to ointment, this estimable band of brothers and sisters is doing its best to discredit the Obama Administration.

With any luck they will so befoul the health care plan that Obama will not recover and his presidency, which some fools believe to have great potential, will be fatally weakened. This would be a kind of justice for a country where the poor people are fat and the head of state is skinny.


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Posted by Paul Duffy at 09:13 PM
July 29, 2009
Feds Trick, Terrify Mother of Five

I have a fat and constantly growing file of FBI stupidity, inefficiency, incompetence, bribery, theft, entrapment, perjury, burglary, and murder. But this — this — still surprised. To think of such a thing requires a mind of vileness beyond the imagination of decent people. To carry it out is unspeakable.

…But Boyd, a 41-year-old mother of five and U.S.-born convert to Islam, reserved her sharpest comments for what she called a cruel trap that law enforcement authorities set up to get her out of her house Monday while agents scoured it for documents after the arrest of her husband, two sons and four other men.

Boyd, whose family lives in the Johnston County community of Willow Spring, described a harrowing experience Monday afternoon when she answered the door to find a man she thought was a family friend wearing a shirt that appeared to be bloodied. He told her that Daniel and their three sons, Dylan, Noah and Zakariya, were in a serious car crash. He asked her to get into a Highway Patrol cruiser that would take her to Duke Hospital, where they were being treated.

Boyd summoned her daughter and pregnant daughter-in-law. They wrapped their heads in scarves, grabbed their Qurans and flew out the door. For Boyd, it was a particularly painful experience. Her 16-year-old son, Luqman, died in a car crash near their home in 2007.

When they arrived at Duke Hospital, the cruiser took them to a construction site at the rear of the facility. A man dressed as a doctor came out and asked whether she was the wife. When she said yes, he extended his hand. She told him she does not shake men’s hands. He then grabbed her wrist and handcuffed her.

“I’m not a doctor. I’m an agent and your family is not in the hospital,” he told her. “You’re being detained, and you need to cooperate with us.”

Boyd estimates she was then surrounded by 30 agents who frisked her and asked whether she had weapons or weapons of mass destruction…

U.S. District Attorney George E. B. Holding declined to respond to Boyd’s version. “I am sticking to the four corners of the indictment. We try our cases in court and won’t go back and forth before then,” he said Tuesday.

Holding, you will be unsurprised to learn, is a piece of legal litter left over from the George W. Bush administration. He is a fat rich kid who owes his job to that unspeakable embarrassment from North Carolina, the late Senator Jesse Helms.

One of Obama’s most puzzling failures has been leaving so many George Holdings in their U.S. Attorney jobs, bad aftertastes from the most disgraceful period in the history of the Justice Department. When you move into a new house, it’s a good idea to clear out the old owner's garbage.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:19 AM
July 27, 2009
Nutrisystem, Army Style

Here’s a little more background on the man President Obama picked to be his General William Westmoreland in Afghanistan:

Dietary manipulation was one of 14 interrogation techniques that were outside the Army Field Manual but used as a matter of policy by the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq when it was under the leadership of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who President Obama has now tapped to run the war in Afghanistan. The 14 techniques were more “than… any other military organization at that time,” according to a 2004 report by Vice Admiral Albert T. Church, then the Naval Inspector General. Other techniques including use of muzzled dogs, “safety positions,” sleep adjustment/management, “mild” physical contact, isolation, sensory overload and sensory deprivation.

McChrystal’s tenure began shortly after Amin’s five-day stay at Camp Nama but coincided with the abuses alleged in the New York Times and Human Rights Watch reports.

None of the senators on the Armed Services Committee asked McChyrstal about Camp Nama during his confirmation hearing for the Afghanistan post last month. McChrystal testified that he does not condone mistreatment of detainees and that he was uncomfortable with some of the interrogation techniques he found in place in Iraq when he assumed his command in October 2003, adding that he immediately sought to reduce the use of certain methods.

In a sharp follow-up query to McChrystal after the hearing, however, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) pointed out that seven months into his command McChrystal made a request to Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, for permission to use five additional “enhanced” interrogation techniques not listed in the Army Field Manual — techniques that had been suspended by Abizaid two months prior — including “sleep management,” “control positions,” and “environmental manipulation.” As an addendum, McChrystal asked that, in “exceptional circumstances,” handcuffs be allowed to “enforce the detainee’s position.”

Abizaid denied McChrystal’s request to use control positions, but approved the other four, which, in his written response to Levin’s query, McChrystal said he used “sparingly.” He also noted that he chose not to request permission to use physical contact or diet manipulation, “techniques which were in use by the SMUs [Special Mission Units] when I assumed command,” he wrote.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:07 AM
July 23, 2009
It’s for Their Own Good

From today’s New York Times:

PHUKET, Thailand — Stiffening the American line against Iran, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Wednesday that the United States would consider extending a “defense umbrella” over the Middle East if the country continued to defy international demands that it halt work that could lead to nuclear weapons.

Defense umbrella, huh? Way to go, Hillary, about time for a little rebranding. Power for peace, manifest destiny, pénétration paisible, mission civilisatrice, lebensraum, Pax Romana, white man’s burden, etc. (here insert your own favorite euphemism), have all gotten a little old.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:05 AM
June 13, 2009
Where Did All the Dollars Go, Long Time Passing?

I knew of course, like most of us, that the current economic collapse was caused by a bunch of horse thieves making shit up. In this case, money.

But I never understood the actual mechanics until I read this analysis on Of Two Minds by Zeus Yiamouyiannis. It sounds right to me, but what do I know? I was an English major. Read it and tell me what you think.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:19 PM
June 09, 2009
If Not Now, When?

Who needs the Mafia when we’ve got Congress? Here’s a taste from William Greider. Go read it all in The Nation.

The much-celebrated “Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights” is a fresh example of how the Democratic Party tries to have it both ways — avoiding the tough votes while mollifying the folks. The credit card reform measure imposes new rules on the industry and does away with many of the most outrageous gimmicks bankers use to extract more money from debtors. Banks cannot raise interest rates retroactively on old credit card balances or pile on hidden fees or fail to give advance notice for rate increases. These and other changes are worthy.

The achievement seems less courageous if you know that Congress was largely ratifying the regulatory rules already adopted by the Federal Reserve last year. Or that the legislation gives the industry another nine months to gouge their customers before the new rules go into effect. Or that Visa and MasterCard, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase are free to raise future interest rates to the sky — without limit. That is the industry’s intention, as bank lobbyists reported after the bill was passed.

One of the fundamental issues that party managers wished to avoid was the scandal of American usury. Usury is the ancient sin of charging inflated interest rates sure to ruin the borrowers. It is considered immoral by Judaism, Christianity and Islam because usury involves the powerful using their wealth to ensnare weak and defenseless borrowers. The classic usurer offers an impossible choice that debtors cannot easily refuse. If they reject the terms of the loan, they will not be able to pay the rent or buy necessities. If they accept the usurious interest rates, their debts will accumulate until they are bankrupted (at which point the creditors claim their property). No civilized society can endure in such conditions.

Usury used to be illegal in the United States but it was “decriminalized” in 1980 — the dawn of financial deregulation. A Democratic president and Congress repealed all interest-rate controls and the federal law prohibiting usury. Thirty years later, American society is permeated with usurious practices — credit cards charging 30 percent and higher, subprime mortgages and other forms of predatory lending, the notorious “payday” loans that charge desperate working people an effective interest rate of 500 percent or more. Businesses, especially smaller firms, are also prey to usury in less direct ways…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:38 AM
June 08, 2009
Saving Us from Ourselves

Father knows best, except, just maybe, when he’s sold us out to his campaign contributors in the insurance industry. Robert Parry at Consortium News:

As the health insurance industry and its defenders in Congress lay out their case against permitting a public option in a reform bill, perhaps their most curious argument is that some 119 million Americans are ready to dump their private plans and jump to something more like Medicare – and that’s why the choice can’t be permitted.

In other words, the industry and its backers are acknowledging that more than one-third of the American people are so dissatisfied with their private health insurance that they trust the U.S. government to give them a fairer shake on health care. The industry says its allies in Congress must prevent that.

The peculiar argument that 119 million Americans must be denied the public option that they prefer has been made most notably by Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which is one of two panels that has jurisdiction over the health insurance bill…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:28 AM
May 29, 2009
What If Torture Does Work, Dick?

Nephew Will Doolittle’s column in today’s Glens Falls Post-Star:

The point of social institutions, especially legal institutions, is to impose uniformity and objectivity on social interactions that would otherwise be personal and unpredictable.

When Mario Cuomo was governor of New York, and debating the death penalty, which he opposed, he would propose a scenario where a member of his own family was killed during a robbery, making the criminal eligible for a first-degree murder charge.

Would he want that murderer executed? Would he want to kill him with his own hands?

Yes, Cuomo would say, but, for the good of all, the legal system would not allow him a personal revenge.

Victims are prohibited from punishing their victimizers, except through the offices of the state. That’s how order is maintained.

When I have criticized Bush-era officials for engaging in torture, the most consistent response from readers has been, “What if your child were in danger?”

Let’s say my child were kidnapped and, by some fantastic set of circumstances, one of the kidnappers was sitting in my kitchen and I believed that, by torturing him, I could save my child — would I do it?

I probably would, which is no justification for legalizing torture.

It is our capacity for violence that makes laws forbidding it necessary, unless, of course, you think torture is fine.

If torture is fine, then, as Jesse Ventura asked recently, why didn’t we torture Timothy McVeigh to find out who helped him in the Oklahoma City attack? Why not torture murderers for the names of their accomplices? Why not torture prisoners of war for information about our enemies?

If, as Dick Cheney asserts, the end of squeezing information out of suspected al-Qaida terrorists justified the means of torturing them, then, surely, torture is worth doing in other circumstances where American lives are threatened.

We should have tortured prisoners we captured during the Vietnam War, for example, to find out what they knew about our enemy’s plans.

We should have tortured Squeaky Fromme after she tried to shoot Gerald Ford, to find out if any other members of the Manson family were planning to attack the president (one of them was).

We should torture teens caught plotting Columbine-style attacks to make sure no co-conspirators are left at large.

The question is not whether torture works. Let’s say it does. The question is whether the costs of employing torture outweigh the benefits of any information you glean. I think they do.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:41 AM
May 26, 2009
Opposite Day

Brady Bonk already wrote it, so I don’t have to. Read his full post here:

The timeline in my head: President Bill Clinton is pursued on a variety of trumped up charges by insane people who clinch their teeth whenever they speak his name, mostly probably because President Bill Clinton gets more pussy than any of them could ever imagine. I am just speculating. One ridiculous charge sticks: He lied about sex. On that one silly charge they can hang a million silly hats. To this day, say “Bill Clinton” in front of a conservative. I guarantee you he will not be able to resist joking about Clinton and women and cigars and the blue dress.

Based on Monigate, the newly-appointed Bush administration could declare it opposite day in America. They are warned by transition team officials that international terrorism might be their biggest dread. The warnings are largely ignored in favor of a general consensus to fight the Cold War all over again and, as was likely discussed though we’ll never know in Chaney’s super-duper top-secret energy meetin’s, to go get all of that frickin’ oil. But the Bush Administration could turn its back on the Israeli peace process, could abrogate treaties, could and should, according to their wisdom, do everything the opposite of how that dumb bubba did it, because, you know … he got a blow job…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:02 PM
May 22, 2009
Ho Chi Minh, Meet George W. Bush…

…you guys have got a lot to talk about. For instance, does this sound familiar?

[Rev. Robert G.] Certain remembers how easily his Vietnamese captors justified crossing the line with him. They said American prisoners weren’t covered by the Geneva Convention.

“They said we were not prisoners of war because there was no legal declaration of war,” Certain says. “Therefore we were air pirates and they could treat us anyway they felt."

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:06 PM
May 20, 2009
The Thing About Chickenhawks, They’re Chicken

Every day in every way, the manufactured debate about closing Guantánamo gets sillier and sillier. Here’s a specimen from Texas laying out the logic:

“No good purpose is served by allowing known terrorists, who trained at terrorist training camps, to come to the U.S. and live among us,” said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the senior Republican on the committee. “Guantanamo Bay was never meant to be an Ellis Island.”
There must be something in the water down in Texas that turns grown men into sniveling, whining, terrified little cowards. For an X-rated examination of this syndrome, see The Rude Pundit.

The picture below shows the GOP firebrand himself in a rare non-whimpering moment. A Vietnam non-vet, he fulfilled his military obligation by attending the Texas Military Institute, an Episcopal prep school in San Antonio.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:56 PM
May 15, 2009
Bush’s Virtual Fence

Subprime mortgages, deregulation, derivatives, huge deficits to finance a stupid war, record trade imbalances, outsourcing jobs … who knew that it was all part of Bush’s secret plan to seal the borders:

MEXICALI, Mexico — Census data from the Mexican government indicate an extraordinary decline in the number of Mexican immigrants going to the United States…

Mexican and American researchers say that the current decline, which has also been manifested in a decrease in arrests along the border, is largely a result of Mexicans’ deciding to delay illegal crossings because of the lack of jobs in the ailing American economy.

The trend emerged clearly with the onset of the recession and, demographers say, provides new evidence that illegal immigrants from Mexico, by far the biggest source of unauthorized migration to the United States, are drawn by jobs and respond to a sinking labor market by staying away.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:42 AM
May 11, 2009
Goldman Sachs=Gulf of Tonkin

Below is an excerpt from a Charles Hugh Smith essay. I’m terribly afraid that he’s right, that our best and brightest Ivy League fools are at it again. I played a small role in their last horror show, and the flashbacks just keep coming: Afghanistan = Cambodia; Goldman Sachs = Gulf of Tonkin. On and on. Once more we see that intelligence and wisdom are not at all the same thing.

When I see Treasury Secretary Geithner justifying the stupendous bailouts of Wall Street and the squandering of taxpayer funds, I conclude he knows he’s lying and deceiving the public — but he apparently thinks that is the only way to persuade the public to bail out Wall Street.

In other words, the U.S. public cannot be trusted with fixing the structural flaws in the U.S. economy and financial system (after all, the public might — gasp! — demand the destruction of the money-center and investment banks) so we have to manipulate them into going along with our plan to save Wall Street and the money-center banks.

Just like in Vietnam, the first step is to scare the bejabbers out of the public: the financial system was moments away from crashing, which would have impoverished every last one of you, not just now, but forever and ever.

There is also a domestic political motivation. President Johnson often obsessed over how his Democratic Party would suffer domestic defeat if he were perceived to have “lost Vietnam” to the Communists. (Never mind Vietnam was arbitrarily divided after World War Two.) Thus winning the war “in the hearts and minds” of the American public was Job One — the actual war could be lost, but it needed to be lost without appearing to be lost.

This is a process otherwise known as “peace with honor.”

Now we find ourselves swamped by relentless waves of financial propaganda, spin, manipulation and bogus statistical “proof” (a.k.a. body count redux) that the “war” on the bad old recession has been “won.”

What a domestic political catastrophe for the ascendant Democrats if they failed to “win the war on recession.” Thus creating the perception that the war has been won is absolutely more important than actually dismantling the Wall Street/money-center banks cabal which created the precarious debt/derivative machine and profited most handsomely from it.

I predict we will get our financial Tet Offensive in 2010. That’s when the propaganda that “the recession is over” will be revealed as a lie foisted on the public “for our own good.” And just as in the Vietnam Era, the American public will lose whatever trust and confidence they once had in their government and its leaders, elected and appointed.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:51 AM
May 07, 2009
Jesus Loves Him, This We Know…

For the rest of the story:

In all, 98 detainees have died while in U.S. hands, with 34 identified as homicides, at least eight of which were tortured to death…

“Abed Hamed Mowhoush [was] a former Iraqi general beaten over days by U.S. Army, CIA and other non-military forces, stuffed into a sleeping bag, wrapped with electrical cord, and suffocated to death,” Human Rights First writes. “In the recently concluded trial of a low-level military officer charged in Mowhoush’s death, [Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer] received a written reprimand, a fine, and 60 days with his movements limited to his work, home, and church.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:37 PM
May 05, 2009
Our Three-Front War

Steve Clemons brings not-so-good news on Pakistan, a nuclear power with which we have been at war since last fall. Didn’t notice? The Taliban did.

The mounting tensions in Pakistan were brought home to me personally when I learned that the United States Central Command has rejected on security grounds the visit of Patrick Cronin to Pakistan today. Cronin is Director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University and Senior Adviser and former Director of Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and also served as Director of Studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

To be clear, although Cronin had received clearance for the Pakistan visit from those in command in Pakistan, his visit was yesterday rejected because “facts on the ground had changed” and CENTCOM refused to override. The fact is that it easier today to visit Baghdad than Pakistan…

Some like National Defense University military expert Patrick Cronin believe that the tactical US military success of knocking out Taliban and related insurgents and disrupting operations that they have planned is blinding General Petraeus and other senior Obama administration officials from the fact that these drone attacks are fueling the growth and popularity of the insurgency — and that the tactical is undermining the strategic.

In other words, some believe that we are potentially on the verge of seeing the Pakistan government collapse and run a serious risk of Taliban/al Qaeda takeover of the Pakistani government because of the corrosive results of drone attacks.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:07 PM
April 23, 2009
Treaty-busting for Fun and Profit

The Rude Pundit is shocked, shocked— You can tell because he got through an entire paragraph without potty-mouthing.

But what doesn’t come through immediately is the answer to a simple question: why? Why did the Bush administration commit and allow (and encourage, if not force others to commit) what are, seemingly without a doubt, treaty-busting crimes? Because, see, you read something like footnote 10 on page 2 and you come across this line: “According to Gonzales, the ‘positive’ consequences of setting aside the Third Geneva Convention include ‘preserving flexibility’ and ‘substantially reduc[ing] the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act,’” and you realize that, whatever the motivation of the people involved, they didn’t care. And they didn’t care for a simple reason to answer that simple question: the Bush administration thought it was the beginning of an ascendant Republican reign and that they’d never be investigated.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:11 PM
April 20, 2009
What Waterboarding Specifically Is

We now know that CIA torturers waterboarded Khalid Sheik Mohammed precisely 183 times and Abu Zubaydah 83 times. That comes to 266 times in all. To get a full sense of what lies behind this number then, you must multiply what you will read below by 266.

I posted it on September 14, 2006, and repost it now to remind us of the exact nature of the crimes committed by Bush, Cheney, Addington, Libby, Tenet, Bybee, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Yoo and the many others in a chain of command that stretched directly from the Oval Office to the secret overseas torture chambers of the CIA. None of these criminals will ever be punished, because our part of the world doesn’t work that way. This isn’t Chile or Germany or Cambodia, after all.

Being of unsound stomach, I tuned out TV’s Monday wallow in the guilty pleasures of 9/11 and only just now came across Matt Lauer’s disturbing interview of Bush, a president.

The president’s body language comes straight from the barroom. He stands too close — into Lauer’s space, almost in his face. Since Bush is on TV, he can’t engage in the usual shoving ritual of the perpetually adolescent male. His jabbing finger, never quite making contact, has to do the job for him. Lauer stands his ground but does not jab back. It would cost him his job, as both men well know.

Lauer can use his words, though. And so he brings up the matter of waterboarding, a form of torture which Bush uses on suspected terrorists. But Bush, as both men also well know, can’t admit to that on TV. So the president, of course, lies. But then — twice, in the same prepared words — he goes on to tell us why he does the thing he doesn’t do:

I’m not going to talk about techniques that we use on people. One reason why is because we don’t want the enemy to adjust …

I’m not going to tell you specifically what’s done because I don’t want the enemy to adjust.”

Adjust? How can the enemy adjust? Grow gills?

Since the torturer Bush won’t tell us specifically what he has done, let’s turn to somebody to whom it was done half a century ago. This is from a 1958 book called The Question. The author, a French newspaper editor in Algeria named Henri Alleg, had already resisted a month of hideous torture at the hands of his own country’s paratroopers, including having his testicles burned. The worst was yet to come:

A few moments later L— came into the room. Twenty-five years old, short, sunburnt, pomaded hair, small forehead. He came up to me, smiling, and said, “Ah! So you’re the customer? Come with me…”

L— now laid on the ground a black plank, sweating with humidity, polluted and sticky with vomit left, no doubt, by previous “customers.”

I lay down on the plank. L—, with the help of another man, attached me by the wrists and ankles with leather straps fixed to the wood…

Together they picked up he plank to which I was attached and carried me into the kitchen. Once there, they rested the top of the plank, where my head was, against the sink. L— fixed a rubber tube to the metal tap which shone just above my face. He wrapped my head in a rag, while Captain D— said: “Put a wedge in his mouth.”

With the rag already over my face, L— held my nose. He tried to jam a piece of wood between my lips in such a way that I could not close my mouth or spit out the tube. When everything was ready, he said to me: “When you want to talk, all you have to do is move your fingers.”

And he turned on the tap. The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could.

But I couldn’t hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, the fingers of both my hands shook uncontrollably,

“That’s it! He’s going to talk,” said a voice.

The water stopped running and they took away the rag. I was able to breathe. In the gloom, I saw the lieutenants and the captain, who, with a cigarette between his lips, was hitting my stomach with his fist to make me throw out the water I had swallowed. Befuddled by the air I was breathing, I hardly felt the blows.

“Well, then?” I remained silent. “He’s playing games with us. Put his head under again!”

This time I clenched my fists, forcing the nails into my palm. I had decided I was not going to move my fingers again. It was better to die of asphyxia right away. I feared to undergo again that terrible moment when I had felt myself losing consciousness, while at the same time I was fighting with all my might not to die.

I did not move my hands, but three times I again experienced this insupportable agony. In extremis, they let me get my breath back while I threw up the water.

The last time, I lost consciousness.

M. Alleg, shown below in a 2004 photo, never broke under the torture and was sent away to ten years in prison, from which he escaped and fled to Czechoslovakia.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:05 PM
Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Any Worse…

…along comes Jeff Stein at CQ Politics:

Rep. Jane Harman, the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington…

And that, contrary to reports that the Harman investigation was dropped for “lack of evidence,” it was Alberto R. Gonzales, President Bush’s top counsel and then attorney general, who intervened to stop the Harman probe.

Why? Because, according to three top former national security officials, Gonzales wanted Harman to be able to help defend the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was about break in The New York Times and engulf the White House…

Harman, he told Goss, had helped persuade the newspaper to hold the wiretap story before, on the eve of the 2004 elections. And although it was too late to stop the Times from publishing now, she could be counted on again to help defend the program.

In this sorry story of corruption and carreerism and high crimes, the most shameful player of all is The New York Times. We don’t expect much of Bush appointees and multimillionaire Blue Dog Democrats like Harman, after all. But like beaten curs that crawl back toward their masters, tails wagging, we still hope for the best from America’s best newspaper. Can there be any doubt that breaking the wiretap story on the eve of the 2004 election would have delivered us from evil for four more years?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:15 AM
April 19, 2009
Soiling America’s Diaper

In August of 2006 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a Justice Department lawyer named Steven G. Bradbury confessed his confusion over certain obscure terms used in the Geneva Conventions:

Although many of the provisions of Common Article 3 prohibit actions that are universally condemned, such as “murder,” “mutilation,” “torture,” and the “taking of hostages,” it is undeniable that some of the terms in Common Article 3 are inherently vague. For example, Common Article 3 prohibits “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment,” a phrase that is susceptible of uncertain and unpredictable application.

Bradbury was being too modest, however. More than a year before, he had already settled on at least one thing that does not constitute humiliation. Here it is, from a memo in May of 2005 to John A. Rizzo, a lawyer for the Central Intelligence Agency:

If the detainee is clothed, he wears an adult diaper under his pants. Detainees subject to sleep deprivation who are also subject to nudity as a separate interrogation technique will at times be nude and wearing a diaper.

If the detainee is wearing a diaper, it is checked regularly and changed as necessary. The use of the diaper is for sanitary and health purposes of the detainee; it is not used for the purpose of humiliating the detainee, and it is not considered to be an interrogation technique. The detainee’s skin condition is monitored, and diapers are changed as needed so that the detainee does not remain in a soiled diaper.…

This makes the matter plain. Forcing a prisoner to defecate in diapers while his jailers watch is not done with intent to humiliate, but simply to keep the man clean and healthy.

Bradbury does not address the possibility of collateral humiliation because for him intent is the main thing at issue. I find this argument convincing, and plan to use it if I am ever charged with murder for shooting Mr. Bradbury through the heart while intending merely to perforate his bowels.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:28 PM
April 04, 2009
The Big Muddy

Read this from Juan Cole. If Obama is playing a deep game in Afghanistan, it must be very deep indeed. Those of us who saw our Southeast Asia stupidity from the inside are living now in a perpetual state of déjà vu. Afghanistan, meet Cambodia.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:38 PM
February 21, 2009
“Facts Are Stupid Things”

The title above is a quote from Ronald Reagan at the 1988 Republican National Convention. He was trying to access a John Adams quote, “Facts are stubborn things,” but something more appropriate to the man and the occasion popped out.

The essay below is from my neighbor Jim, more of whose stuff can be seen here.

Compare and contrast:

1980 may seem kind of arbitrary as the jump off for the end of empire, but the economics bear it out. Under Reagan, government disbursements and revenues, as a share of GDP, jumped a full six percentage points. More, if you include his unfunded moral hygiene mandates.

All the Republicans talked Rand, Friedman, inter alia, but they acted like straightforward right wing military Keynesians. Military Keynesianism is of course nothing new in the US. But prior to 1980 there was a dominant Bismarckian consensus (have I dropped enough names yet?) that it had to be matched by social spending, otherwise the exercise of hard power would eventually become financially unsustainable.

You cannot extract surplus value — i.e. have capitalism — in great heaping bushel baskets unless you have a government willing to exercise single payer monopsony power over basic human needs, basic scientific research and renewable sources of the energy needed to drive all this. Lo and behold, the exercise of hard power is now done on credit, with only the threat of mutually assured destruction holding our creditors at bay.

I suppose one could point to a cultural shift in the eighties, as there certainly was one, but I prefer a bit more systemic determinism.

The political economy of capitalism is easiest to manage through psychological terrorism. It’s a cheap and effective way of outsourcing the quotidian enforcement of corporate feudalism to vigilante moral panic artists. There’s no shortage of people willing to enforce for free. Hell, they’ll even pay for the dubious privilege.

People become inured to this, querulous and rebellious, and the terrorism has to be stepped up. Red scares have to be coupled with ethnic scares, drug scares, satanic child care scares and so forth. Going against that, as Carter did in an achingly minuscule way, is a positive step for capitalism and a negative step for capitalists. Their enforcement costs look to climb. People who aren’t constantly depressed and frightened get a little feisty.

Under Reagan, the “clever” work-around was burgeoning unfunded mandates to make the states take on domestic psychological terrorism, and yanking the social safety net away, while the central government threw surplus value to the cretinous capitalists, hand over fist. It’s been down hill ever since.

I can’t see why anyone would want to be president after Bush. It’s not a sane thing to do. I thought, and still think, that the Democrats would have been better off throwing the election. McCain would probably not have lasted four years and right wing military Keynesianism would have been discredited for a good long time. Getting stuck with cradling the appalling, ghoulish offspring that are roving mindlessly over a dying empire would have ruined him, and the most cretinous of the cretinous capitalists.

The Democrats could have trotted out old social democratic wine in new bottles and enjoyed thirty or forty years of crowing from the top of the DC shit hill. So it goes, I guess. And my goodness, doesn’t Carter look like a saint in comparison to every asshole that’s come since.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:44 AM
February 20, 2009
The Times, They Are a-Suckin’

This from my nephew Will Doolittle, columnist for the Glens Falls PostStar.

Usually, I reject the proposition that “times have changed,” especially when the speaker means “for the worse.” The good old days were very bad, in some ways.

But the part of me that wants to say, “When I was a kid ...” flares up when I read stories like the one in Wednesday’s paper about the two 16-year-olds from Cambridge charged with felonies. They were charged when someone called the State Police after spotting a plastic sled the teens had placed by the road, near the house where one of them lives.

On the sled were a soccer ball wrapped in foil, some wire and a battery pack. Also on the sled was a note that said: “If you touch this, you will be shot.”

They had put this hodgepodge by the road Sunday night because another friend, with whom they often play war games, was supposed to be riding his bike down the road that night to join them. But the friend didn’t show up, and the teens didn’t collect their creation right away Monday. Someone else saw it and was scared by it.

I spoke recently with Anthony Jancek, the father of Nicholas, who was charged. Nick had never even had detention before this happened, Mr. Jancek said. Anthony Jancek doesn’t blame anyone but his son, whom he has grounded, he said, “until the court date, at the very least.”

And Nick, on his own, is writing letters of apology to the person who got scared, and to the troopers who had to spend time dealing with a soccer ball on a sled.

Nick’s good manners and his maturity — when the troopers showed up, he told them exactly what happened, Mr. Jancek said — are encouraging. And Mr. Jancek’s good parenting, insisting that Nick take responsibility, is great.

But, as an uninvolved party, you can’t help thinking, “What the heck?”

And right after that thought come the memories of the things you did when you were a kid, and the times you got caught, and the punishments. What you probably don’t remember are the felony charges you faced.

Because, despite all the understandable precautions officials must take, it is crazy to be charging kids with serious crimes for goofing around with each other. We used to understand, but don’t any longer, that kids need some latitude, so they can learn lessons without collecting big black marks on their records.

But times have changed, and for the worse.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:39 AM
February 19, 2009
The Worst of the Worst…

were never at Guantanamo Bay. They were in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and in the White House:

Recent interviews with troops from the early days at Guantanamo confirm that the “worst of the worst” charge was suspect from the very first encounters with the detainees. There wasn’t any reliable vetting. Although the first troops on the ground at Guantanamo were led to believe that they would be receiving the “worst of the worst,” the detainees themselves seemed from the start to be far from the dangerous men they had expected — symbolically, individuals who, according to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, were capable of chewing through hydraulic cables on board the transport planes but who it turned out arrived with rotting teeth and weakened physiques.

Overall, the U.S. military was blindsided by who they received at Gitmo and by the condition in which the detainees arrived. Arriving dehydrated, and startlingly thin, the detainees were mostly not only small and weak, but did not even speak the languages which the troops on the ground had been told to expect. Many came from countries outside of the Afghanistan/Pakistan area. Some did not even seem capable of any dire acts.

Among the earliest arrivals, one was apparently an octogenarian; another was over ninety. One was a diagnosed schizophrenic. However possible the danger quotient of these first arrivals, the inclusion of these cases made the team at Gitmo suspect that the vetting process had been haphazard at best.

Later investigations have shown that most of the detainees were not captured directly by U.S. troops. Instead, the U.S. paid bounties to, or otherwise received the prisoners from, Pakistani boarder guards and Northern Alliance troops. There was no single profile for the detainees; instead they seemed like a ragtag and miscellaneous group. Nor did they arrive with information.

The pocket litter that detainees were carrying when captured – materials that trained police would have carefully preserved and labeled for use during interrogation – came stuffed randomly into bags but was often not separated per individual. Doubts about the identities of the detainees were registered by visiting Congresspersons and by members of the Bush Administration, but these doubts never seemed to go anywhere.

Thus began the story of defending a mission that seemed in part fraudulent from the start. As the general in charge has noted in retrospect, it took a petty officer to put a detainee on the plane to Guantanamo and an order signed by the President of the United States to get him out.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:01 PM
February 03, 2009
Ask Dr. Science

Here, as promised some time back, is a second installment from the oral history of Bush’s administration in the current Vanity Fair. The speaker is Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s chief of staff at the State Department:

John [Bellinger] and I had to work on the 9/11-commission testimony of Condi. Condi was not gonna do it, not gonna do it, not gonna do it, and then all of a sudden she realized she better do it. That was an appalling enterprise. We would cherry-pick things to make it look like the president had been actually concerned about al-Qaeda. We cherry-picked things to make it look as if the vice president and others, Secretary Rumsfeld and all, had been.

They didn’t give a shit about al-Qaeda. They had priorities. The priorities were lower taxes, ballistic missiles, and the defense thereof.

Ballistic missiles. Interesting that this seems to have been one of “their” two top priorities. Probably we can trace this back to Reagan and his Star Wars dreams. Reagan, like so many conservative Republicans, was a magical thinker. Their magic is Science. Ice cap melting? No problem, Science will take care of it. Peak oil? Relax and keep drilling, Science will turn sewage into electricity pretty soon. You’ll see.

So don’ worry, be happy.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:01 AM
January 19, 2009
George W. Bush’s Real Legacy

The following piece ran May 17, 2006 under the heading, “Mission Almost Accomplished.” Now that Bush’s awful mission is completely accomplished, I put it up again. No updating seems necessary.

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It’s been nearly four years since I first posted my analysis of the nasty psychopathology that has forced George W. Bush to fail all his life, and is causing him to fail so spectacularly now. Consider this from the Washington Post (emphasis added):

Bush’s job approval rating now stands at 33 percent, down five percentage points in barely a month and a new low for him in Post-ABC polls. His current standing with the public is identical to President George H.W. Bush’s worst showing in the Post-ABC poll before he lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton in 1992.
The younger Bush’s career can only be understood as a lifelong obsession with disappointing the father he so plainly hates.

He follows his father’s footsteps in school, as a pilot, as a businessman, and finally as a politician. Unable to fill those footprints, he makes each one seem unimportant by pretending contempt for it. He gets C’s where his father got A’s; he ducks the combat flying that made his father a hero; he burns through the seed money his father’s friends gave him, failing in the oil business which had made his father rich.

Then at last he was taken in hand by a sleazy political op who realized that the father’s name and money would be enough to elect the wayward son governor of Texas. (Polls at the time showed that a significant portion of the voters thought that W. actually was his father.)

Then Rove set out to hand-carry his meal ticket into the White House itself.

Take that, you old fart, junior must have thought as he took the oath of office. Any asshole can get to be president. But even that wasn’t enough. Deep inside, where the Oedipal snakes writhed in his subconscious, there was still work to do.

What better to way to humiliate his father than to degrade the supreme office the old man had spent his life to reach? What sweeter revenge than to slime, like a slug, the presidency itself? And so he enlisted Rumsfeld and Cheney, his father’s ancient enemies, to help in the work of patricide.

Outdoing his father as president, the junior Bush must have known in his heart, was beyond his limited capacities. But his whole life offered proof of his ability to fail, and so he took the only path remaining. He would become, God help the rest of us, the worst president in history.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:16 PM
January 17, 2009
The Kiss of Death

And speaking of Howard Dean, as I was last night, here’s a clue to why he was frozen out (as if the identity of the incoming White House chief of staff wasn’t enough). It’s by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, writing in the London Review of Books:

Key organisations in the Lobby make it their business to ensure that critics of Israel do not get important foreign policy jobs. Jimmy Carter wanted to make George Ball his first secretary of state, but knew that Ball was seen as critical of Israel and that the Lobby would oppose the appointment. In this way any aspiring policymaker is encouraged to become an overt supporter of Israel, which is why public critics of Israeli policy have become an endangered species in the foreign policy establishment.

When Howard Dean called for the United States to take a more ‘even-handed role’ in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Senator Joseph Lieberman accused him of selling Israel down the river and said his statement was ‘irresponsible’. Virtually all the top Democrats in the House signed a letter criticising Dean’s remarks, and the Chicago Jewish Star reported that ‘anonymous attackers … are clogging the email inboxes of Jewish leaders around the country, warning — without much evidence — that Dean would somehow be bad for Israel.’

This worry was absurd; Dean is in fact quite hawkish on Israel: his campaign co-chair was a former AIPAC president, and Dean said his own views on the Middle East more closely reflected those of AIPAC than those of the more moderate Americans for Peace Now. He had merely suggested that to ‘bring the sides together’, Washington should act as an honest broker. This is hardly a radical idea, but the Lobby doesn’t tolerate even-handedness.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:18 PM
December 15, 2008
The Draft Dodger’s Legacy

Martha Raddatz of ABC interviews George W. Bush:

GWB: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take...

MR: But not until after the U.S. invaded.

GWB: Yeah, that's right. So what?

So what? I’ll tell you what, you— Ah, forget it.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:23 PM
November 18, 2008
Shrinking Democracy Around the World

Actions, as usual, are having consequences. Here are some of those consequences, halfway around the world from Bush’s actions. For the context, go to Jim Fallows’ blog from Beijing.

If once upon a time western media coverage, which affects the opinion of western politicians and citizens, mattered to the Chinese people, this is no longer the case.

In the political realm, the Chinese people no longer have to believe in the rhetoric of freedom, liberty, democracy, sovereignty and human rights. The war in Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prison, the Guantanamo camp, hurricane Katrina and other misconduct took care of all that. Why would the Chinese people be interested in what American president George W. Bush have to preach to them about freedom, liberty, democracy, sovereignty and human rights? When the western media invoke those terms, the reaction from the Chinese people is: “Look within yourselves and fix your own problems first!”

In the economic realm, the financial tsunami of 2008 took care of any credibility in the Washington consensus. In its place was an as-yet-undefined Beijing consensus which has less specifics than the general idea of self-determination. Why would the Chinese people be interested in what Alan Greenspan and Henry Paulson have to tell them about how to run their economy when they have failure on their hands?

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:10 AM
November 08, 2008
Return of the Warhogs?

If true, this is very, very disturbing news. Of all Bush’s many idiot moves, his efforts to restart the Cold War may in the long run turn out to be the most perilous to the world. Our best hope is that Obama was mistranslated, or that Kaczynski is a liar.

US President-elect Barack Obama will go ahead with plans to build part of a controversial missile defence system on Polish soil, Poland has announced.

President Lech Kaczynski’s office said the pledge was made during a telephone conversation between the two men.

Russia opposes the US plans, and early this week said it planned to deploy missiles on Poland’s border and electronically jam the US system.

This is the first signal that Mr Obama plans to continue George Bush’s policy.

(Since I posted this, both Agence France Presse and the Associated Press moved stories denying that Obama had made such a commitment. Let’s hope they’re right.)


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:15 PM
November 03, 2008
A Break from Election Coverage

Poking around on The Nation’s website yesterday I came across a piece of mine from November of 1982. As it has no relevance at all to tomorrow’s election, I thought it might be a welcome break.

It has no relevance because neither Obama nor McCain will do a damned thing to curb our dangerous, dysfunctional, incompetent, insanely expensive and mostly useless intelligence community.

Useless? Are you nuts? No, I don’t think so. How do you suppose we stumbled along for all those centuries from 1776 to 1947, when Harry S Truman, the father of the Cold War, fathered the CIA?

The only thing I’d add to the following is that the U.S. ambassador to Morocco, a toady to despots named Henry J. Tasca, later became a footnote to history when it was revealed during the Watergate investigation that in his next posting he had acted as a bagman for Nixon, carrying campaign contributions to him from the despicable junta of colonels who ran Greece in those days.

Oh, and D— has since published his memoirs, so that he can now be revealed as Larry Devlin. He claims in his book to have refused an order to assassinate Lumumba in the Congo, to which he returned after his retirement to represent the De Beers diamond cartel.

Anyway, here are:


NOTES OF A SPOOKWATCHER

Years ago there was a really good murder in the upstate New York town where I was a cub reporter. The newsmagazines, the wire services and the seven New York City dailies all sent reporters. But the little Middletown Times-Herald managed to stay out in front of these out-of-town hit-and-run artists, because we knew the territory. So when an eyewitness to the killing turned up, we got the tip.

The managing editor sent me to interview the man, an unemployed laborer with kids to feed. When he seemed reluctant to talk, I encouraged him with $25 of the paper’s money. Not only did we beat the competition with his dramatic eyewitness account, we beat them again the following day with the story of how he flunked a lie detector test in Albany.

I listed the $25 on my expense account as “Bribe,” but the managing editor made me change it to “Miscellaneous Expenses.” I never paid for information again, on that newspaper or any of the others I worked for, even if it did seem like a good way to get imaginative stories.


* * *

The C.I.A. man gave me a holler as I walked by his office in our Casablanca consulate. Since I knew lots of people from my job with the U.S. Information Agency, he thought I might be able to identify some faces in a pile of photos he had. They had been taken at a party the Russians had given to mark the opening of their new consulate in town. (We had all been invited, but the American ambassador didn’t want us to go. He was frightened of the Russians, poor little man; maybe he thought they would infect us.)

I identified a dozen or so of the guests, but I didn’t know one particular man who was in so many of the photos that the C.I.A. officer thought he must be important. “Bill,” I said — that’s not his real name, naturally, since Reagan might jail me for ten years under the naming-of-agents act if I used it — “Bill,” I said, “all you had to do was go to the party and you could have been introduced to him.” It would have been a break for the taxpayers, too, not having to pay for an extra set of prints from the society photographers every time the Communists threw a party.


* * *

A Moroccan came to my office one afternoon to ask if I had seen that month’s copy of the magazine he published. It had a picture of dead Vietnamese on the cover, identified as victims of American bombing. The U.S.I.A. had sent him the picture a long time ago; it showed civilian victims of a Vietcong rocket attack.

“In Arabic we have a saying,” this poisonous little toad told me. “‘A man can bite, or a man can kiss.”’ Now that he had shown America his teeth, he was ready to kiss her. He would print anything we wanted in his magazine. We could even plant somebody in his office if we liked, to watch over our interests.

I told him he would just have to keep on biting, since the U.S.I.A. didn’t have funds for that kind of thing. “Well, there are some Americans in your embassy who do,” he said, and he was right. The C.I.A. pays to place garbage in rags like his. Of course I didn’t say that, because I was a diplomat, then.


* * *

One day I went out to the labor office in Khouribga, a Moroccan mining town, with our labor attaché Jim Mattson. (I can reveal his name because he was a State Department officer, not an intelligence op.) He was the only one of us in the consulate who spoke Arabic.

Afterward he told me what he had asked the labor officials: Did a man fill out a card when he registered for work? Where do you put the card then? Do you mind if I look? Where do you put his card after you find him a job? How long does the card stay in that file before you throw it out? How many are still in the file? And so on…

By the end he had learned plenty of things about the labor situation in Morocco’s biggest phosphate mining center. One of them was that the office provided jobs and benefits for practically nobody except the functionaries who worked there. Over the months and years, Jim had gotten to know more about Morocco than any of us, and that’s the way he did it. He just walked in and asked polite questions.


* * *

In my first week as the press attaché at our embassy in Laos, the C.I.A. station chief briefed me on what he thought I should know about his operation. (I won’t reveal his name, either, although it was on his parking bay in the embassy lot. The signs went like this: “Ambassador,” “Deputy Chief of Mission,” “USAID Director,” “Mr. D—.”) D— told me about many secret things, and I learned more elsewhere as time went on.

I never leaked them, but every one of them got out somehow and appeared in the papers sooner or later. It didn’t make any difference, though. We kept on doing them anyway, because Nixon and Kissinger felt they were things we ought to be doing. They kept on not working, too, and now Laos is a colony of Vietnam.


* * *

Reagan has fired William Kennedy, his U.S. Attorney in San Diego, for telling the newspapers that the Justice Department was blocking the indictment of a car thief named Miguel Nassar Haro. Nassar used to sunlight as chief of Mexico’s Directorate of Federal Security. He moonlighted not only as the head of a ring that stole cars in the United States for sale in Mexico but as a C.I.A. source on the rebels in El Salvador and Guatemala.

The incident raises disturbing moral and legal questions, unless you are as hard to disturb as the President and his Attorney General. It also raises two questions that are neither moral nor legal but just commonsensical.

This: if Reagan/Haig/Casey/Weinberger had known everything there was to know about the rebels in Central America — not just what a Mexican car thief could tell them, but absolutely everything — what would they have done about it? Anything different?

And this: if you pay a car thief to steal you a Chrysler, he will steal you a Chrysler; if you let him know you’re interested in Sandinista support of the Salvadoran rebels, what will turn up in your driveway?

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:42 AM
October 31, 2008
How Morons Succeed in U.S. Politics

George Monbiot, writing in The Guardian about one of the great mysteries in American policies — why we prefer stupidity, or at least the appearance of it, in the White House. (Another is why we think adultery disqualifies a man for public office — a bizarre notion that has cost the nation dearly.)

But enough of that. Here are some teasers from Monbiot’s essay:

Like most people on this side of the Atlantic I have spent my adult life mystified by American politics. The US has the world’s best universities and attracts the world’s finest minds. It dominates discoveries in science and medicine. Its wealth and power depend on the application of knowledge. Yet, uniquely among the developed nations (with the possible exception of Australia), learning is a grave political disadvantage…

On one level this is easy to answer. Ignorant politicians are elected by ignorant people. US education, like the US health system, is notorious for its failures. In the most powerful nation on earth, one adult in five believes the sun revolves around the earth; only 26% accept that evolution takes place by means of natural selection; two-thirds of young adults are unable to find Iraq on a map; two-thirds of US voters cannot name the three branches of government; the maths skills of 15 year-olds in the US are ranked 24th out of the 29 countries of the OECD…

One theme is both familiar and clear: religion — in particular fundamentalist religion — makes you stupid. The US is the only rich country in which Christian fundamentalism is vast and growing…

A survey by researchers at the University of Texas in 1998 found that one in four of the state’s public school biology teachers believed that humans and dinosaurs lived on earth at the same time.

Monbiot also has interesting things to say about how the revolting philosophy of Herbert Spencer managed to put religion on the side of reason in the latter decades of the 19th century. Too long to excerpt, though, so read the full piece.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:46 PM
October 04, 2008
The Warhogs Go to Pakistan

Has it occurred to anybody that we’re already at war with a nuclear power? No? We’re not? Suppose a country — let’s say Japan — began to bombard American territory — let’s say Hawaii — with guided missiles. Would we get all upset and claim it was an act of war?

October 3:

US air strikes have killed at least 20 people including suspected foreign militants close to Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, reports say. Missiles were launched in attacks on villages in Pakistan's North Waziristan region, Pakistani intelligence officers said, speaking anonymously.

September 3:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) — Around 3,000 Pakistani tribesmen Friday chanted "Allahu Akbar and death to America" in protest at a raid by Afghanistan-based US-led troops that saw at least 15 people killed. One of their elders warned US authorities to prepare for assaults on their bases in Afghanistan if they do not stop attacks on Pakistan's northwest border area, according to local residents and officials.


September 15:

A week ago, U.S. helicopters reportedly landed near Angoor Ada, a border village in nearby South Waziristan, but returned toward Afghanistan after troops fired warning shots. A Pakistani military spokesman said last week that troops had orders to open fire in case of another cross-border raid by foreign troops.

And many more:

Frustrated by an intensifying Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, U.S. forces have in the past month carried out eight missile strikes by pilotless drones and a commando raid on the Pakistani side of the border.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:55 AM
September 24, 2008
Actually, Guys, We Were Just Kidding about that Milton Friedman Stuff…

Former President George W. Bush, who has already made America into an evil, clumsy and stupid clown in the eyes of the world, delivers a farting shot at the United Nations:

Amid a long ode to the importance of continuing the fight against terrorism, [Bush] devoted one paragraph to the rescue plan. “We’ve promoted stability in the markets by preventing the disorderly failure of major companies,” Mr. Bush said. He noted that many were watching how the United States responded because economies were “more closely connected than ever before.”

But for some leaders, the Bush bailout plan seemed hypocritical given the tough course Washington has often advised struggling nations to take.

“What you are seeing here is the letting off of some political steam,” said Mark Malloch Brown, a British cabinet minister and former senior United Nations official. “They are all remembering the very hard, unforgiving advice that they got from American financial institutions” to “deflate your economy, let your banks go to the wall,” he said. “There is a resentment at what they would see as a further evidence of double standards.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:16 AM
Meme of the Day

To: USA

Subject: Not Spam — Important Business Offer!!!

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude. I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars U.S. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gramm, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transaction is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully,

Minister of Treasury Paulson

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:14 AM
September 16, 2008
Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush, Tear Down that Wall!

Noam Chomsky explores the stupidity of the policies toward Russia pursued with such idiot enthusiasm by both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Their ignorant and childish provocations are far more dangerous to the world than a hundred Bin Ladens.

As the USSR collapsed, Mikhail Gorbachev made a concession that was astonishing in the light of recent history and strategic realities: he agreed to allow a united Germany to join a hostile military alliance. This “stunning concession” was hailed by Western media, NATO, and President Bush I, who called it a demonstration of “statesmanship … in the best interests of all countries of Europe, including the Soviet Union.”

Gorbachev agreed to the stunning concession on the basis of “assurances that NATO would not extend its jurisdiction to the east, ‘not one inch’ in [Secretary of State] Jim Baker’s exact words.” This reminder by Jack Matlock, the leading Soviet expert of the Foreign Service and US ambassador to Russia in the crucial years 1987 to 1991, is confirmed by Strobe Talbott, the highest official in charge of Eastern Europe in the Clinton administration.

On the basis of a full review of the diplomatic record, Talbott reports that “Secretary of State Baker did say to then Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze, in the context of the Soviet Union’s reluctant willingness to let a unified Germany remain part of NATO, that NATO would not move to the east.”

Clinton quickly reneged on that commitment, also dismissing Gorbachev’s effort to end the Cold War with cooperation among partners. NATO also rejected a Russian proposal for a nuclear-weapons-free-zone from the Arctic to the Black Sea, which would have “interfered with plans to extend NATO,” strategic analyst and former NATO planner Michael MccGwire observes.

Rejecting these possibilities, the US took a triumphalist stand that threatened Russian security and also played a major role in driving Russia to severe economic and social collapse, with millions of deaths. The process was sharply escalated by Bush’s further expansion of NATO, dismantling of crucial disarmament agreements, and aggressive militarism. Matlock writes that Russia might have tolerated incorporation of former Russian satellites into NATO if it “had not bombed Serbia and continued expanding. But, in the final analysis, ABM missiles in Poland, and the drive for Georgia and Ukraine in NATO crossed absolute red lines.

“The insistence on recognizing Kosovo independence was sort of the very last straw. Putin had learned that concessions to the U.S. were not reciprocated, but used to promote U.S. dominance in the world. Once he had the strength to resist, he did so,” in Georgia.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:00 PM
September 02, 2008
Land That I Loved

Bush has spread his filth from Bagram and Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo all the way back home to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Watch the girl holding the flower — not violent, not impeding in any way the slow march of the cops, anonymous behind their beetle masks — but merely holding out a flower.

Watch the vicious little shit in blue amuse himself by spraying her in the face with pepper spray. Now watch the same cowardly torturer, still safe and unthreatened behind his armor and his gun, as he delivers another long dose of agony, this one even more gratuitous, on the bare back of the helpless girl as she retreats in pain.

And be proud you’re an American.




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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:08 PM
August 28, 2008
The Rats Are Singing / On Bush and His Pals

From the Washington Post:

Since his conviction on fraud and conspiracy charges, former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has spent more than 3,000 hours helping more than 100 law enforcement agents in an ongoing federal corruption probe that has implicated “scores of other persons not yet charged,” lawyers said in court filings yesterday.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:43 AM
August 20, 2008
Clinton and Bush: Dumb and Dumber

More along the same line as my previous posting, just below — this time from the magnificently angry Jim Kunstler at Clusterfuck.

Meanwhile, Russia got its house in order under the non-senile, non-alcoholic Vladimir Putin, and woke up along about 2007 to find itself the leading oil and natural gas producer in the world.

Among the various consequences of this was Russia’s reemergence as a new kind of world power — an energy resource power, with the energy destiny of Europe pretty much in its hands. Also, meanwhile, the USA had set up other client states in the ring of former Soviet republics along Russia’s southern underbelly, complete with US military bases, while fighting active engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, if this wasn’t the dumbest, vainest move in modern geopolitical history!

It’s one thing that US foreign policy wonks imagined that Russia would remain in a coma forever, but the idea that we could encircle Russia strategically with defensible bases in landlocked mountainous countries halfway around the world...? You have to ask what were they smoking over at the Pentagon and the CIA and the NSC?

So, this asinine policy has now come to grief. Not only does Russia stand to gain control over the Baku-to-Ceyhan pipeline, but we now have every indication that they will bring the states on its southern flank back into an active sphere of influence, and there is really not a damn thing that the US can pretend to do about it.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:59 PM
Unaccustomed as I am to Plugging Friedman…

It’s not often that I get a chance to say this, but read today’s column in the Times by Thomas L. Friedman. It’s useful to bear in mind just how brutal and stupid so much of Clinton’s foreign policy was. Excerpt:

No, said the Clinton foreign policy team, we’re going to cram NATO expansion down the Russians’ throats, because Moscow is weak and, by the way, they’ll get used to it. Message to Russians: We expect you to behave like Western democrats, but we’re going to treat you like you’re still the Soviet Union. The cold war is over for you, but not for us.

“The Clinton and Bush foreign policy teams acted on the basis of two false premises,” said Mandelbaum. “One was that Russia is innately aggressive and that the end of the cold war could not possibly change this, so we had to expand our military alliance up to its borders.

Despite all the pious blather about using NATO to promote democracy, the belief in Russia’s eternal aggressiveness is the only basis on which NATO expansion ever made sense — especially when you consider that the Russians were told they could not join. The other premise was that Russia would always be too weak to endanger any new NATO members, so we would never have to commit troops to defend them. It would cost us nothing. They were wrong on both counts.”

The humiliation that NATO expansion bred in Russia was critical in fueling Putin’s rise after Boris Yeltsin moved on. And America’s addiction to oil helped push up energy prices to a level that gave Putin the power to act on that humiliation. This is crucial backdrop.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:04 PM
August 07, 2008
The Home of the Craven

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. military is segregating violent Iraqi prisoners in wooden crates that in some cases are not much bigger than the prisoners.

As a boy I was a great reader of the English adventure writer Percival Christopher Wren. He is remembered today only as the author of the book on which the movie Beau Geste was based, but he wrote many more books about the French Foreign Legion.

Life was hard in Wren’s Foreign Legion. Mess up and you spent the day with a rock-filled pack on your back, double-timing around the parade ground in the North African sun.

Really mess up and the sergeants put you in a stress position called the crapaudine, or locked you inside a box no bigger than a refrigerator where you would stay until you went mad.

I was terrified and yet fascinated. Could people be so cruel to one another? Did such evil really exist outside of books? Later I learned that it once had — in the chain gangs of our own South, where it was called the “hot box.” Imagine a citizenry so primitive, so low, so depraved, so ignorant, so devoid of humanity, as to permit such things!

The chain gangs were history by then, although fairly recent history. But before long, as fear of various Others made us not brave and strong but small and mean, the chain gangs came back. The cancer of prisons spread and metastasized. The land of the scared was becoming the home of a vast corporate gulag.

All the while we sat by and cheered, fat and ignorant and frightened, until now now we have at last what Jimmy Carter in his innocence once promised us — a government as good as the American people themselves.

Now we have our very own hot boxes in our very own colonies and most of us must be just fine with that. After all, none of this is the fault of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, those nasty amoral morons who rule in our name. If our vote could be won by compassion, humility, the rule of law and a preference for peace, they would hide their disgust and try to deliver. No, the draft-dodging duo is the effect, not the cause.

The cause is those nasty amoral morons who put our two warhogs in the White House, and who then, after taking a good, long, four-year look at the results, chose to leave them there.

We built those boxes, and if there were a God in heaven we would be in them ourselves.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:19 PM
July 30, 2008
Read His Lips

Out of the mouths of babes… Bush yesterday, in Ohio:

I’ve worked hard to keep your taxes low. Our energy policy hasn’t done a very good job of keeping your gasoline prices low, and therefore it’s like paying a tax.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:04 AM
July 21, 2008
Will January 20 Never Come?

It just gets sadder and sadder. Here is the highest legal official in the land, God help us:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Congress should explicitly declare war against al Qaeda to make clear the United States can detain suspected members as long as the conflict lasts, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said on Monday…

Hey, kids, I know! Let’s declare war on the Mafia! The president can lock all of ’em up but one and that way the war would never end and we’d never have to let ’em out and there wouldn’t be any more loan sharking except wait a minute, then we’d have to declare war on Visa too so forget about the Mafia and how about we declare war on the ACLU instead? I mean, you know, now that wars don’t have to be with a, like, country anymore.

Cool, dude! Then we could lock up the UN and the DNC and the Harvard Faculty Club and People for the American Way and the Carter Center and the United Auto Workers and all those Friends of Bill, and, and…

Oh, hell, it’s all just too depressing. This guy is a former federal judge and the attorney general of the United States. How pathetic is that?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:42 PM
Just Standard Procedure

The Times brings us another routine story from the new American gulag. For not the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really ashamed of my country. (Video of Michelle Obama here.)

Edmund Burke: “For us to love our country, our country ought to be lovely.”

So when Mrs. Villegas went into labor on the night of July 5, she was handcuffed and accompanied by a deputy as she was taken by ambulance to Nashville General Hospital at Meharry. Cuffs chaining her foot to the hospital bed were opened when she reached the final stages of labor, Mrs. Villegas said…

The phone in her room was turned off, and she was not permitted to speak with her husband when he came to retrieve their newborn son from the hospital on July 7 as she returned to jail, she said.

As Mrs. Villegas left the hospital, a nurse offered her a breast pump but a sheriff’s deputy said she could not take it into the jail, Mrs. Villegas said…

“There is a perception that she was treated different from other inmates, and it just is not true,” Ms. Weikal said. “Unfortunately the business of corrections is that families are separated. It’s not pretty, it’s not understandable to a lot of people.”

She said that it was standard procedure to bar medical equipment like a breast pump from the jail.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:19 PM
July 11, 2008
Bush’s New War

In today’s mail was a message from Mr. Edwin of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Mr. Edwin is a friend from the old days in Southeast Asia. He spent many years inside the world of black ops and secret war. It takes a lot to frighten him. He is frightened.

Everybody, I would hope, has read Seymour Hersh’s essential article in the last New Yorker: Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran. It is a vital piece, and an alarming one.

But until Mr. Edwin alerted me, I was unaware of Terry Gross’s conversation with Hersh about his article, which was broadcast July 1 on NPR’s Fresh Air. It runs for 45 minutes, but take the time to listen to it. Please.

The interview amounts to the author’s gloss on his own story: an assessment of his sources, his feelings about his discoveries, his astonishment at the cowardice of the Democratic leadership, his fears that the Lone Cheney and his faithful companion, Dubya, will trick us into another of their idiot wars before the 22nd Amendment drives them from office.

It’s fascinating and terrifying stuff.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:31 AM
July 09, 2008
To Slime a Nation

I meant to put this up a couple of weeks ago but hey, what’s the rush? If you haven’t read it yet, it’s still news to you.

The link takes you to McClatchy Newspapers’ magnificent week-long series on the open running sore that Bush has created at Guantanamo Bay.

A lot of criticism from both sides of the blogosphere is directed at the press, much of it deserved. When newspapers are bad, they are indeed horrid. But when they are good they are very, good.

I have worked for five of them, from a California weekly to the Washington Post and I’m no more sentimental about the business than my brother Bill is. Which is not sentimental at all, as you may know from his occasional posts on the subject.

But still, but still…

You can’t live with ’em and you can’t live without ’em. Someday somebody somewhere may come up with an internet business model that makes it possible for two reporters to spend eight months in 11 countries interviewing scores of Bush’s victims (a shocking percentage of them plainly innocent), their lawyers, their jailers, their neighbors, and their families. For now, though, the MSM is all we’ve got.

The McLatchy team will win Pulitzers for this job of reporting, if there is a God in heaven. Which there probably isn’t, or creatures like Bush and Cheney wouldn’t be allowed to run loose all over the planet.

Sadly, the “worst of the worst” are not at Guantanamo Bay.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:12 PM
July 08, 2008
McCain = Bush = Fascism



This 61-year-old librarian was arrested by a few members of the McCain Fascist Goons at a public location. The sign she held would be considered unoffensive by at least 25% of the population according to national polls. We have become worse than the Communist and Fascist states we were once able to condemn. Thanks to Joyful Alternative for the link. Freedom in America is dead.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:41 AM
June 19, 2008
American Values

HONOLULU — The Marine Corps said Wednesday it was expelling one Marine and disciplining another for their roles in a video showing a Marine throwing a puppy off a cliff while on patrol in Iraq.

Lance Cpl. David Motari, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment at Kaneohe Bay, is “being processed for separation” from the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps said in a news release. He also received unspecified “non-judicial punishment.”

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CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A military judge dismissed charges Tuesday against a Marine officer accused of failing to investigate the killings of 24 Iraqis.

Col. Steven Folsom dismissed charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani after finding that a four-star general overseeing the case was improperly influenced by an investigator probing the November 2005 shootings by a Marine squad in Haditha…

Of eight Marines originally charged in the case, only one is still facing prosecution in the biggest U.S. criminal prosecution involving Iraqi deaths to come out of the war.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:40 PM
June 13, 2008
Spreading Democracy, Bush Style

Headline from McClatchy Newspapers:


THOUSANDS OF ORDINARY PAKISTANIS
PROTEST GOVERNMENT, UNITED STATES

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — Mullahs and communists, and it seemed everything in between, came out in Pakistan Friday in a massive rally against President Pervez Musharraf, seeking to force the government to restore the judges fired by the U.S.-backed president.

In a huge challenge to Musharraf, and also to the newly elected government, tens of thousands of ordinary Pakistanis confounded all expectations by coming out in noisy, excited support of an independent judiciary…

“Musharraf’s bluster, backed by the American administration, that caused this situation to continue in a stalemate,” said Aitzaz Ahsan, the charismatic leader of the lawyers’ movement, in an interview on top of his campaign truck, as it crawled through the streets of Rawalpindi. “I think that stalemate has now been broken.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:40 PM
Blood for Oil

I’m ashamed to say it but the first official formulation of war as the continuation of the oil business by other means was by Jimmy Carter in 1980. It came to be called the “Carter Doctrine,” and its first misshapen spawn was a Rapid Deployment Joint Task force to conduct military operations in the Persian Gulf.

Further down the road would come such grotesqueries as Bush War I, the stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia, Clinton’s air war in Iraq, September 11, and Bush War II. And now, coming soon to a station near you, five-dollar gas.

For an intelligent (as opposed to insane) approach that could lead to actual energy security, read the essay by Professor Michael T. Klare of Hampshire College from which the following is excerpted:

Some policymakers who agree on the need to develop alternatives to imported energy insist that such an approach should begin with oil extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and other protected wilderness areas. Even while acknowledging that such drilling would not substantially reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil, they nevertheless insist that it’s essential to make every conceivable effort to substitute domestic oil supplies for imports in the nation’s total energy supply. But this argument ignores the fact that oil’s day is drawing to a close, and that any effort to prolong its duration only complicates the inevitable transition to a post-petroleum economy.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:00 PM
May 29, 2008
The U.S. Department of Fear

I’ve seen bits and piece of this before, but Christopher Ketcham has gathered them all under one roof in Radar magazine. Here are a few teasers from his long article; do read the whole thing.

It’s scary stuff, and the Department of Homeland Security is a scary outfit. Joe Lieberman’s brainchild, this product of multiple bureaucratic miscegenation has become the gold standard for incompetence, carelessness, callous indifference, and paranoia posing as prudence.

Under law, during a national emergency, FEMA and its parent organization, the Department of Homeland Security, would be empowered to seize private and public property, all forms of transport, and all food supplies. The agency could dispatch military commanders to run state and local governments, and it could order the arrest of citizens without a warrant, holding them without trial for as long as the acting government deems necessary…

In the late 1980s, the Austin American-Statesman and other publications reported the existence of 10 detention camp sites on military facilities nationwide, where hundreds of thousands of people could be held in the event of domestic political upheaval. More such facilities were commissioned in 2006, when Kellogg Brown & Root—then a subsidiary of Halliburton—was handed a $385 million contract to establish “temporary detention and processing capabilities” for the Department of Homeland Security…

According to the Washington Post, the Terrorist Identities list has quadrupled in size between 2003 and 2007 to include about 435,000 names. The FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center border crossing list, which listed 755,000 persons as of fall 2007, grows by 200,000 names a year…

If previous FEMA and FBI lists are any indication, the Main Core database includes dissidents and activists of various stripes, political and tax protesters, lawyers and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average people…

If Main Core does exist, says Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counterterrorism officer and an outspoken critic of the agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is its likely home. “If a master list is being compiled, it would have to be in a place where there are no legal issues”—the CIA and FBI would be restricted by oversight and accountability laws—”so I suspect it is at DHS, which as far as I know operates with no such restraints.” Giraldi notes that DHS already maintains a central list of suspected terrorists and has been freely adding people who pose no reasonable threat to domestic security…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:25 PM
May 26, 2008
Apocalypse Forever

It’s Memorial Day, so remember this:

Today, at the end of his deployment in Diyala province, Col. Lehr, the commander of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, said he still believed in that strong-armed, high-explosive approach.

It “sends a significant message,” he said in a conference call this morning. “It’s just like if we started shooting artillery rounds into your neighborhood... It would quickly get your attention.”

The brigade fired over 11,500 artillery rounds during their nearly 14-month deployment. Col. Lehr credits the strikes with helping to bring down violence in their area, Diyala province, by nearly 70 percent.

Do you suppose that Colonel Lehr’s 70 percent reduction in violence includes the violence unleashed on random Iraqis by 11,500 artillery rounds? Do you suppose that pigs fly?

If you suppose either thing, you are probably capable of believing that only or even mostly “insurgents” were killed by those bombardments. Long distance killing is by its nature random. Even if bombs and artillery shells were really “smart,” they are not aimed by people smart enough to know which targeted structures contain “insurgents” and which contain innocent bystanders.

Nor does it matter, as Colonel Lehr seems to understand all too well. The point of raining explosives on cities and towns is to create terror among civilians by killing them. And of course it works. It worked on 9/11 when Bin Laden did it to us, and it works when the colonel does it in Diyala province. As both men employ terror, both are terrorists. However harsh this sounds, proper understanding can only proceed from proper naming.

Proper arithmetic helps, too. Here’s some:

Iraqis and Americans both being human beings, one dead American does not = 100 dead Iraqis. The correct equation is: One dead human being = one dead human being.

Keeping this equivalency in mind, let’s examine an equation that Bush used to justify his invasion of a country that only threatened us in the nightmares of neocon fools.

Bush’s argument: leaving Saddam in power would allow a brutal dictator to kill X Iraqis over the next five years. Sanity’s argument: Overthrowing him would result in the deaths of Y Iraqis over the same period.

Is Y larger than X? By how many magnitudes?

If you have trouble solving this equation, ask an Iraqi.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:38 PM
May 15, 2008
At Long Last, Bush, Have You No Shame?

Bush and his people are filth. More from the Washington Post on the cesspool they have made of the Department of Homeland Security. Go read it all.

“After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and after the Bush administration assumed a tough new stance on immigration in its campaign against terrorism, the Justice Department still sounded wary about drugging deportees. In March 2002, a Justice lawyer laid out two options. One choice, he wrote, was to “seek a court order … in every case where the alien’s medication is not therapeutically justified.” The other choice was to create a regulation to grant immigration officials explicit permission to sedate deportees, perhaps including safeguards that would give people a warning that they might be medicated — and a chance to object.

Top immigration officials chose neither. Instead, in May 2003, just after ICE was created, they internally circulated a new policy: “[A]n ICE detainee with or without a diagnosed psychiatric condition who displays overt or threatening aggressive behavior … may be considered a combative detainee and can be sedated if appropriate under the circumstances.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:51 AM
May 13, 2008
Our Huddled Masses

The Immigration and Naturalization Service, as it used to be called, was previously the lead standard for dysfunctional government agencies. By comparison even the FBI was efficient.

Then came the Homeland Security Act of 2002, legislation of a stupidity so stunning that even George W. Bush, in a rare divgation into common sense, at first opposed the measure.

But Senator Joe Lieberman (Likud-CT) shepherded this bureaucratic camelope into law. The old INS disappeared into the bowels of the new Department of Homeland Security, where part of it was reborn as a miscarriage called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

This new monstrosity, created from the conflation of racism and xenophobia with the paranoia of Bush’s “war on terror,” appears to be even more cruel, more indifferent, more sluggish, less accountable and more of a cause for national shame than its unfeeling predecessor.

The Washington Post has exposed the mess to daylight in a shocking series of articles by reporters Dana Priest and Amy Goldstein. This is the kind of thing that newspapers can still do better than any other institution we have. Here’s a good place to start, and I hope you will.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:17 AM
May 09, 2008
Help Wanted

In all the coverage of the subprime mortgage mess, there has been a key element missing: the sales pitch.

This is where the rubber meets the road, where the actual swindle goes down, where the trap snaps shut and the sucker is held fast till he can be skinned alive. It is the Glengarry Glen Ross moment.

We must understand these moments when we listen to the head hogs — Countrywide, Merrill Lynch, Citicorp, AIG and the other giant loan sharks — as they whine that the whole disaster is all the fault of deadbeat borrowers who should have known better.

And these moments are all committed to paper somewhere, except I don’t know how to get my hands on it. So I’m asking for help. Does anybody out there know somebody who was or is involved with a subprime mortgage outfit?

These moneylenders don’t just send their high-pressure sales force into battle unprepared. Like any other high-pressure sales outfit, mortgage brokers must use work sheets, talking points, training manuals and even scripts. These are to be followed, sometimes word for word. That’s what it means when the voice on the phone says, “This conversation may be recorded for training purposes?”

Every reasonable objection the prospect may raise has been anticipated, and a suitably deceptive answer prepared. Every evasion and obfuscation and misdirection has been scripted. And I’d like to put this stuff on the internet where it belongs — not to expose or embarrass any individual, but to expose the shabby trickery of the foundation upon which the huge banking firms are built.

The most likely source for such documentation, it seems to me, would be a remorseful or disgruntled former employee of a mortage broker who hasn’t bothered to throw out the old scripts and manuals.

Do you know any such person? I would offer him or her, and you, complete anonymity of course. Written backwards, my phone number is 0075793068. In the same way, I can be reached on line here: moc.liamg@elttilood.emorej


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:36 PM
May 03, 2008
The Iran Outside Our Bubble

As the Pigmy President and his warhogs continue to beat the drums for an attack on Iran, the need for Americans to step outside our media’s echo chamber becomes more and more desperate.

Brazilian journalist Pepe Escobar gives us a chance to do so, in this analysis from TomDispatch, via The Smirking Chimp. Samples:

Ahmadinejad is relentlessly depicted as an angry, totally irrational, Jew-hating, Holocaust-denying Islamo-fascist who wants to “wipe Israel off the map.” That infamous quote, repeated ad nauseam but out of context, comes from an October 2005 speech at an obscure anti-Zionist student conference. What Ahmadinejad really said, in a literal translation from Farsi, was that “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of time.” He was actually quoting the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, who said it first in the early 1980s. Khomeini hoped that a regime so unjust toward the Palestinians would be replaced by another more equitable one. He was not, however, threatening to nuke Israel…

Speculation is rampant in Tehran that Ahmadinejad, the leadership of the Quds Force, an elite division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), plus the hardcore volunteer militia, the Basij (informally known in Iran as “the army of twenty million”) are betting on a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities to strengthen the country’s theocratic regime and their faction of it…

Rafsanjani is, and will always remain, a supporter of the Supreme Leader. As the regime’s de facto number two, his quest is not only to “save” the Islamic Revolution, but also to consolidate Iran’s regional power and reconcile the country with the West. His reasoning is clear: He knows that an anti-Islamic tempest is already brewing among the young in Iran’s major cities, who dream of integrating with the nomad elites of liquid global modernity.

If the Bush administration had any real desire to let its aircraft carriers float out of the Gulf and establish an entente cordiale with Tehran, Rafsanjani would be the man to talk to …


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:40 AM
May 01, 2008
Playing Soldier

Mayday is the international distress signal. We should have known what was coming, on that Mayday five years ago when the Pigmy President promised us Mission Accomplished. But instead we mostly slobbered and drooled and wagged our tails like ecstatic puppies — the fierce watchdogs of the media very much included.

Only a few habitual whiners failed to join in the general joy, and a search of the archives shows, to my relief, that I was one of them:

I just watched George W. Bush on the seven o’clock news, landing on an aircraft carrier to kick off his reelection campaign.

Here are a few paragraphs from CNN’s account of this photo op:

“ABOARD USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN — President Bush made a historic landing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln Thursday, arriving in the co-pilot’s seat of a Navy S-3B Viking after making two fly-bys of the carrier…

“The exterior of the four-seat Navy S-3B Viking was marked with ‘Navy 1’ in the back and ‘George W. Bush Commander-in-Chief’ just below the cockpit window…”

I tried to imagine other wartime presidents landing on an aircraft carrier, wearing a flight suit for the cameras and saluting every sailor in sight. Roosevelt? Don’t be silly. Truman? Eisenhower? JFK or LBJ? Nixon or George Herbert Walker Bush?

Of them all only Johnson, who habitually wore an unearned Silver Star ribbon in his lapel, would have been capable of a trick so cheap, so tasteless, so tacky.

And two days later, on May 3, I was writing this:

During his campaign kickoff speech Thursday aboard the USS Photo Op, President Bush used the curious phrase, “a target of American justice.”

Of course he didn’t write the words himself, but somebody did and many other somebodies reviewed and approved them. What does the oddly awkward phrase say about all these somebodies and about the president who employs them?

The full sentence is, “Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country, and a target of American justice.”

A person can be the target of terrorists or extortionists or the police, but justice does not “target” and indeed in theory cannot. Justice is blind. That is, or once was, the whole idea of the thing.

That this is no longer so in Bush’s America may explain why nobody at the White House seems to have found the language of the speech peculiar. Targeting, after all, is integral to this administration’s concept of justice. Do profiling and preventive detention amount to anything more than targetting? Mr. Ashcroft may aim badly or indiscriminately, but he aims. He is not blind.

Mr. Bush’s doctrine of preemptive war is not blind, either. Here again the target is chosen and the punishment carried out in advance of a trial. There is no longer any real need for a trial — no need, that is to say, for what Americans have long thought of as justice.

But what this president thinks of as justice is actually vengeance. They are very different things, as Abraham Lincoln well knew and George W. Bush does not.

And after four more days, this:

Senator Byrd was getting at my objections when he talked about exploiting the trappings of war and assuming the garb of a warrior. In this Mr. Bush did worse than violate some mere law of the state. The president put himself in contempt of what Albert Jay Nock once called “that court from which there is no appeal.” He violated the canons of good taste.

For which, see below:


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:39 PM
April 10, 2008
Foolspeak

Just finished listening to Bush regurgitating his customary gobbets of misinformation about his -- and unfortunately our -- open-ended military occupation of Iraq against the expressed wish of most Iraqis and most Americans. Same-old, same-old, except for two things.

First off, by now even the talking heads of TV have figured out that it might be part of their professional responsibility to point out, immediately following another presidential eructation, the lies of which it is composed. At least on CNN, they did just that.

Second, at one point Bush said that failure to fund his miscarriage of a war would “lead to massive humanitarian casualties.” Tough times ahead for all you humanitarians, but then of course you already knew that.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:45 AM
March 26, 2008
Bush’s Folly

Mark Danner is an exceptionally useful citizen who teaches journalism at Bard College and the University of California at Berkeley. What follows are excerpts from a long piece that I hope you’ll be tempted to read in full. Professor Danner has given an explanation as intelligent and convincing as any I’ve seen of why we were dragged into Bush’s Folly in the first place. As to a plan of escape, he has none. No “peace with honor” is by now possible, any more than it was in Kennedy’s, Johnson’s and Nixon’s Folly.

Again, a remarkable statement, as many commentators were quick to point out; for declaring war on “terrorism” — a technique of war, not an identifiable group or target — was simply unprecedented, and, indeed, bewildering in its implications. As one counterinsurgency specialist remarked to me, “Declaring war on terrorism is like declaring war on air power.…”

That broader story comes down to a matter of two strategies and two generals: General Osama bin Laden and General George W. Bush. General bin Laden, from the start, has been waging a campaign of indirection and provocation: that is, bin Laden’s ultimate targets are the so-called apostate regimes of the Muslim world — foremost among them, the Mubarak regime in Egypt and the House of Saud on the Arabian peninsula — which he hopes to overthrow and supplant with a New Caliphate.

For bin Laden, these are the “near enemies,” which rely for their existence on the vital support of the “far enemy,” the United States. By attacking this far enemy, beginning in the mid-1990s, bin Laden hoped both to lead vast numbers of new Muslim recruits to join Al Qaeda and to weaken U.S. support for the Mubarak and Saud regimes. He hoped to succeed, through indirection, in “cutting the strings of the puppets,” eventually leading to the collapse of those regimes…

The latter perception — that terrorism as it struck the United States arose from political factors and that it could only be confronted and defeated with a political response — strikes me as incontestable. The problem the administration faced, or rather didn’t want to face, was that the calcified order that lay at the root of the problem was the very order that, for nearly six decades, had been shaped, shepherded, and sustained by the United States.

We see an explicit acknowledgment of this in the “Bletchley II” report drafted after 9/11 at Defense Department urging by a number of intellectuals close to the administration: “The general analysis,” one of its authors told the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, “was that Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where most of the hijackers came from, were the key, but the problems there are intractable. Iran is more important ... But Iran was similarly difficult to envision dealing with. But Saddam Hussein was different, weaker, more vulnerable ...”

The United States has made possible the rise to power in Iraq of a Shiite government which is allied with its major geopolitical antagonist in the region, the Islamic Republic of Iran. And the United States has been fighting with great persistence and distinctly mixed results a Sunni insurgency which is allied with the Saudis, the Jordanians, and its other longtime friends among the traditional Sunni autocracies of the Gulf…

At this moment, the Iraq War is at a stalemate. Confronted with a growing threat from those “enemies allied with its friends in the region,” the Sunni insurgents, the Bush administration has adopted a practical and typically American strategy: it has bought them. The Americans have purchased the insurgency, hiring its foot soldiers at the rate of $300 per month. The Sunni fighters, once called insurgents, we now refer to as “tribesmen” or “concerned citizens.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:18 PM
March 24, 2008
Outside Agitators Again

General David Petraeus blames Iran for yesterday’s mortaring of our occupation headquarters in the Green Zone. Maybe, but maybe also we should keep in mind the legal principle of cui bono.

Suppose you are the public face of a “surge” which you claim has greatly reduced violence by al-Qaeda in the country your troops occupy. And suppose your own headquarters has just come under heavy bombardment.

Then suppose you run right out and tell the press that al-Qaeda had nothing to do with the attack. No, indeed. Instead, by one of those happy coincidences to which we have become so accustomed since 9/11, it was outside agitators. What’s more they were from Iran which — what are the odds? — your own commander-in-chief happens to be desperate to invade. What a fortunate confluence of God’s own truth and your own self-interest that would be!

And there was more to come, of a surprising nature:

In response to the news that 4,000 US military personnel have now been killed in Iraq, [Petraeus] said it showed how much the mission had cost but added that Americans were realistic about it.

He also said a great deal of progress had been made because of the “flipping” of communities — the decision by Sunni tribes to turn against al-Qaeda militants. The extent of this had surprised even the US military, he said.

Before we let it surprise us, however, we might want to read the full article in Rolling Stone from which this excerpt comes. The author speaks Arabic, which turns out to be handy once you leave the Green Zone. Apparently everybody out there talks funny except the ones who report to General Petraeus.

Having lost the civil war, many Sunnis were suddenly desperate to switch sides — and Gen. David Petraeus was eager to oblige. The U.S. has not only added 30,000 more troops in Iraq — it has essentially bribed the opposition, arming the very Sunni militants who only months ago were waging deadly assaults on American forces. To engineer a fragile peace, the U.S. military has created and backed dozens of new Sunni militias, which now operate beyond the control of Iraq's central government…

In districts like Dora, the strategy of the surge seems simple: to buy off every Iraqi in sight. All told, the U.S. is now backing more than 600,000 Iraqi men in the security sector — more than half the number Saddam had at the height of his power. With the ISVs in place, the Americans are now arming both sides in the civil war. “Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems,” as U.S. strategists like to say. David Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus, calls it “balancing competing armed interest groups…

“Before the war, it was just one party,” Arkan tells me. “Now we have 100,000 parties. I have Sunni officer friends, but nobody lets them get back into service. First they take money, then they ask if you are Sunni or Shiite. If you are Shiite, good.” He dreams of returning to the days when the Iraqi army served the entire country. “In Saddam’s time, nobody knew what is Sunni and what is Shiite,” he says.

The Bush administration based its strategy in Iraq on the mistaken notion that, under Saddam, the Sunni minority ruled the Shiite majority. In fact, Iraq had no history of serious sectarian violence or civil war between the two groups until the Americans invaded. Most Iraqis viewed themselves as Iraqis first, with their religious sects having only personal importance. Intermarriage was widespread, and many Iraqi tribes included both Sunnis and Shiites. Under Saddam, both the ruling Baath Party and the Iraqi army were majority Shiite.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:24 PM
March 09, 2008
Be Afraid, Bush. Be Very Afraid.

Still mongering fear after all these years of plummeting polls, America’s protector spake thus this week to his troops at the Department of Homeland Security:

We're in a battle with evil men — I call them evil because if you murder the innocent to achieve a political objective, you're evil.

The events of September the 11th, 2001 demonstrated the threats of a new era. I say "new" because we found that oceans which separate us from separate — different continents no longer separate us from danger. We saw the cruelty of the terrorists and extremists, and we glimpsed the future they intend for us. In other words, there's some serious lessons on September the 11th that it's important for all Americans to remember.

Two years ago, Osama bin Laden warned the American people: "Operations are under preparation, and you will see them on your own ground once they are finished." All of us, particularly those charged with protecting the American people, need to take the words of this enemy very seriously. And I know you do.

At this moment, somewhere in the world, a terrorist is planning an attack on us. I know that's an inconvenient thought for some, but it is the truth. And the people in this hall understand that truth. We have no greater responsibility, no greater charge, than to stop our enemies and to protect our fellow citizens.

The wonder of it all is that the nation doesn’t collapse in laughter or shame or both when Bush trots out this evildoer stuff. Let us start by understanding that most fights are not between a good guy and a bad guy. Most fights are between two bad guys. The good guys aren’t hanging around bars looking for trouble; they’re home playing with the kids or watching other people fight on TV.

So, in the interest of reason and common sense, let’s drop all this crap about what a rotten swine Saddam was. Of course he was. He deserved to die a thousand times over.

Let’s put him at ten on the evil meter, okay? And let’s assume that leaving this butcher in power over the last five years would have resulted in the murders of 100,000 innocent Iraqis.

Now let’s do the math, our unit of measurement being Iraqi corpses. According to every calculation of Iraqi casualties, even the Pentagon’s, George W. Bush outscores Saddam on the evil meter by at least five to one and probably closer to ten to one.

Set against that pile of corpses Bush’s good intentions will count for nothing when his personal End Time comes. St. Peter knows what the road to hell is paved with; if Bush actually believes in a Judgment Day, he’d better hope he’s wrong.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:58 PM
March 08, 2008
Restoring Morality to Washington, Chapter 4,032:

More news from Halliburton, which as you will recall has Vice President Dick Cheney on its payroll to this day. I urge you to read it the whole story in the Boston Globe. Benumbed as we are from our long wallow in the squalor of the most corrupt administration in American history, this still retains the power to shock.

CAYMAN ISLANDS — Kellogg Brown & Root, the nation’s top Iraq war contractor and until last year a subsidiary of Halliburton Corp., has avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicare and Social Security taxes by hiring workers through shell companies based in this tropical tax haven.

When Texas pipe-fitter Danny Langford applied for unemployment compensation after being let go by Service Employers International Inc., he was rejected, he was told, because he worked for a foreign company.

More than 21,000 people working for KBR in Iraq — including about 10,500 Americans — are listed as employees of two companies that exist in a computer file on the fourth floor of a building on a palm-studded boulevard here in the Caribbean. Neither company has an office or phone number in the Cayman Islands.

The Defense Department has known since at least 2004 that KBR was avoiding taxes by declaring its American workers as employees of Cayman Islands shell companies, and officials said the move allowed KBR to perform the work more cheaply, saving Defense dollars…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:04 PM
March 05, 2008
The Evildoer Behind the Evildoer

Things aren’t as bad as you thought. Once again, they’re worse. This excerpt is from James Fallows’s look back at the Hart-Rudman Commission which, as few now alive remember, predicted in early 2001 that terrorism would be our greatest national security problem.

The commission was wrong, of course. Our greatest national security problem lurked in the West Wing of the White House — and also, it turns out, back in the vice-presidential mansion at Number One Observatory Circle.

At the first meeting, one Republican woman on the commission said that the overwhelming threat was from China. Sooner or later the U.S. would end up in a military showdown with the Chinese Communists. There was no avoiding it, and we would only make ourselves weaker by waiting. No one else spoke up in support.

The same thing happened at the second meeting — discussion from other commissioners about terrorism, nuclear proliferation, anarchy of failed states, etc, and then this one woman warning about the looming Chinese menace. And the third meeting too. Perhaps more.

Finally, in frustration, this woman left the commission.

“Her name was Lynne Cheney,” Hart said. “I am convinced that if it had not been for 9/11, we would be in a military showdown with China today.” Not because of what China was doing, threatening, or intending, he made clear, but because of the assumptions the Administration brought with it when taking office. (My impression is that Chinese leaders know this too, which is why there are relatively few complaints from China about the Iraq war. They know that it got the U.S. off China’s back!)


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:21 AM
March 02, 2008
First Things First

From Reuters. I’m guessing that Stiglitz knows a little something about economics, since he won the Nobel Prize for it. (On the other hand Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize and what he knows about peace could not only fit in the barrel of a gun, but did.)

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is severely underestimating the cost of the war, Joseph Stiglitz and co-author Linda Bilmes write in their book, "The Three Trillion Dollar War" (W.W. Norton), due to be published on Monday…

To illustrate how the money could be spent elsewhere, Bilmes cited the annual U.S. budget for autism research — $108 million — which is spent every four hours in Iraq. A trillion dollars could have hired 15 million additional public school teachers for a year or provided 43 million students with four-year scholarships to public universities, the book says.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:23 PM
February 28, 2008
Stability is our Principal Product

From BBC News:

The United States has ordered a warship into position off the coast of Lebanon…

"The United States believes a show of support is important for regional stability. We are very concerned about the situation in Lebanon. It has dragged on very long," said the unnamed US official.

Speaking as a former unnamed US official myself, I hope the poor bastard at least permitted himself a wink as he dished up this beauty. Probably not, though. When first we practice to deceive, it’s usually on ourselves.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:20 PM
Un-American Activities

Imagine this. Democratic candidate John Doe is set to speak at a local campaign rally that his advance men have prepared.

Chosen to warm up the crowd is a well-known local Communist. He comes out and berates the Republican candidate, dissing his race, religion and capitalist beliefs.

It's on film. When Doe finds out about the speech, he apologizes and says it will never happen again.

A local political commentator explains the Communist has a large following and is good at getting out voters. That explains why Doe's staff chose him to deliver his harangue.

Instantly Doe is pilloried by both Republicans and Democrats and is driven into early retirement. Too bad for him he wasn’t a Republican.

Republican neocons and the GOP's mean trash-talkers are tolerated, even revered, by the Republican establishment.

And yet neocons, having captured the executive branch, have caused far more harm to the United States than any domestic Communist ever dreamed of doing. Still, they are tolerated or embraced by a major American party.

The far left of the Democratic party, on the other hand, has been branded as dangerous to the nation. The mainstream Democrats ousted them and would never choose one of them to warm up the crowd at a political rally.

So which party is radical ? Which one harbors anti-Americans in its ranks? Which tolerates members who are a proven threat to the United States ?

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Posted by Bill Doolittle at 02:55 PM
February 27, 2008
Things Aren’t as Bad as You Thought. They’re Worse.

If you liked the Southeast Asia War Games (as we players sometimes called them), you’ll love Bush’s war of choice in the Middle East. Excerpted from the Times of London:

The cost of direct US military operations — not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans — already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.

And, even in the best case scenario, these costs are projected to be almost ten times the cost of the first Gulf War, almost a third more than the cost of the Vietnam War, and twice that of the First World War. The only war in our history which cost more was the Second World War, when 16.3 million U.S. troops fought in a campaign lasting four years, at a total cost (in 2007 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) of about $5 trillion.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:43 AM
January 01, 2008
A Blast from the Past

Last year — very late last year — Chuck put up a link to Jon Swift’s list of 2007’s best blog postings, as chosen by the bloggers themselves. One of them was mine.

I didn’t remember Jon’s request, or that I had submitted anything to him. And when I read my February posting myself, I couldn’t even remember having written it. This is one of the considerable joys of a fading mind: the world becomes full of wonder and fresh delights. All things are new again.

Actually this guy’s stuff holds up pretty well, it seemed to me once I had rewritten it to disk. In fact it’s more or less what Noam Chomsky finally got around to saying in CT Review just last month. Maybe he stole it, who knows? And so here’s an authorized re-posting, on the theory that maybe it will be new again to you, too:

In the current Newsweek Evan Thomas has an unusually vapid review of a book by Andrew Roberts which may or may not be equally vapid, depending on how accurately Thomas has described it. The review is in a section called “Ideas,” and here is Thomas’s: People who speak English are really, really special, and the rest of you owe us a really, really lot.

This idea is hardly worth engaging, and so let’s pass on to one which is worth engaging — although only because it has invaded the national brain like some ghastly tumor threatening the very values that Thomas supposes us to possess:

The English-speaking peoples have been seriously threatened by force four times: twice by German aggression, once by Soviet totalitarianism, and most recently by Islamic fanaticism. The forces of freedom and democracy reeled after the first blows—at Dunkirk and Pearl Harbor in World War II and at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11. “The English-speaking peoples rarely win the first battle,” writes Roberts, “but they equally rarely lose the subsequent war.”

All right, everybody. Let’s relax for a minute here.

The English-speaking peoples are not seriously threatened by force from Islamic fanaticism. The only major war subsequent to 9/11 was one we sought in Iraq, and it lasted only a few weeks. Everything after that has been a badly botched occupation.

The 9/11 attacks and World War II are no more parallel than longitude and latitude are parallel, no matter how badly George W. Bush wants to be Winston Churchill. (I might mention here that I myself would very much like to be Dame Judi Dench, although the odds are against it.)

The only human force that can seriously threaten the existence of the United States, let alone the English-speaking peoples, would be a full-scale military attack from a combination of opponents. A coalition of Russia, Japan and China might pull it off.

But in the real world this will not happen, because the United States, Russia and China all have atomic weapons and Japan could have them by next Tuesday.

This is why North Korea and Iran are in such a scramble to get nuclear weapons: not to attack us, but to make sure we don’t attack them. The strategy works very well, as may be seen in the case of North Korea. Next thing we know, Bush will visit Pyongyang, nation-building.

Returning to the real world, the war on terror is not a war. Osama attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with stolen airliners and kamikaze pilots because, lacking an air force, he was incapable of war. One engages in terrorism not because one is powerful, but precisely because one is weak.

Terrorism is almost always about real estate, as in Ireland, Chechnya, Spain, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, and elsewhere around the globe. If the United States had remained neutral in the land dispute between Israel and its Arab neighbors, there would have been no 9/11.

And if we were now to become neutral in that dispute, there would be no more 9/11s. That is the only way to end Islamic terrorism in this country. Every informed American with a double-digit I.Q. knows that; the only meaningful question left is whether our continued blind support of Israel is somehow worth whatever it costs in future terror attacks.

We have been misled to believe that we are mired in an apocalyptic clash between the forces of Islamic darkness and the forces of English-speaking light. But it only seems that way because Bush responded to an act of terror with an act of war against an evil but in this case innocent bystander.

Nor are the Iraqis reacting to Bush’s occupation with some fiendish and unfair new form of combat called “asymmetrical warfare” in which they cunningly “adapt to the enemy” in new and hitherto unimaginable ways. No, the Iraqis are reacting to occupation by a more powerful enemy in the same way that resistance fighters reacted to Hitler’s storm troopers. They are improvising against an occupying army the best they can.

Nor should we be surprised if the neighbors lend a hand. They do so for the same reasons that the Soviets supported Tito and British agents aided guerrillas all over Europe. The neighbors don’t want to be the next ones occupied.

Fortunately even if Bush turns Iran into his very own Cambodia, we will eventually be forced to withdraw from the Middle East just as Nixon did from Southeast Asia.

In both misbegotten struggles, our opponents were clear in what they wanted — our absence — and we were unclear about what we wanted. Our presence? Did we really want to stay? For how long? Forever? Why?

Would such dubious prizes be worth the life of even a single George Walker Bush or Richard Bruce Cheney? Like millions of other Americans neither man thought so at the time. But that, of course, was before Richard Nixon gave us the precious gift of a volunteer army.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:10 PM
December 19, 2007
Osama's Sock Puppet

From a fascinating and discouraging Newsweek piece (see note below) about how mindless fear trumps reason in the human brain:

In the final days of the race, most polls showed Kerry leading Bush by about 2 percentage points nationally and edging ahead in such key states as Ohio (50-46), Florida (49-45) and Iowa (48-47, according to the CNN/Gallup poll).

On the Friday before voters went to the polls, however, the Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera broadcast excerpts from a videotape of Osama bin Laden speaking into the camera to Americans, proudly taking responsibility for September 11 and patronizingly explaining "the best way to avoid another Manhattan."

Clips of the diatribe were broadcast repeatedly on American stations over the weekend and described in newspapers. Four days later, the president won re-election. Ohio, Florida and Iowa put him over the top.

Giving Osama bin Laden an instrument like George W.Bush to play is like handing Jascha Heifetz a Stradivarius.

Bin Laden has got from Bush virtually everything he wanted: U.S. troops are out of Saudi Arabia, his enemy Saddam is dead, the Al Qaeda franchise has gone international, his hideout in Pakistan is safer than ever, the Taliban is resurgent, the Great Satan is globally hated and isolated, and Bush has done, praise be to Allah, effectively nothing to end the conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Sweet!

The only tiny cloud on the horizon is the possibility of a Democratic president in 2009. Whichever warhog winds up with the GOP nomination, can anyone doubt that we’ll be hearing from Bin Laden again, in late October or early November of 2008?

(Note I: Maddeningly enough, the URL above takes you to Newsweek’s index page, with no visible link to the story. To access it, you have to do a site search for “Roots of Fear.”)

(Note II: Modulator adds this valid point:)

The way things have played out Bush has gotten from Osama virtually everything that he wanted: a huge popularity hit in his first term, a mission accomplished photo op, a 2nd term in office, billions in oil profit windfalls for his cronies around the world, the war on terror, the shredding of the bill of rights and so on ad infinitum.

It is not at all clear who is pulling the strings.

Perhaps they are each other’s sock puppet and, if so, perhaps they are partners.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:49 PM
December 11, 2007
A Surge of BS

The invaluable Pierre Tristam lays out Bush’s most recent lies about the occupation of Iraq and refutes them one by one. Read it all at The Smirking Chimp.

A Brookings Institution survey of Arab opinion in six countries last year showed bin Laden’s popularity never breaking five percent. Bin Laden’s popularity in the Middle East is itself an invention, convenient to the Bush administration’s offensive posture there, inconvenient to Arabs who must pay its price. Bin Laden is the Arab world’s Timothy McVeigh, a fringe loon, but one lucky enough to be constantly revalidated by Bush’s monomaniacal war on Islamowhatever …

Peace isn’t breaking out in Iraq. A colder, longer war is. It’s further miring the United States in the shards of the Sunni-Shiite divide. And it’s confirming once again in Arab eyes that America’s end game is control of the Middle East’s authoritarian houses of cards. If Enron were an emirate, Bush would be its principal shareholder right now, with America’s foreign policy as collateral …


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:38 PM
July 20, 2007
Tick Fever

From Jenny Anderson’s column, “The Insider,” in today’s New York Times:

For limited [hedge fund] partners, there is cause for concern. Take the fund’s investments. Private equity firms theoretically buy undervalued companies, lever them up, cut waste sharply and then sell, ideally at a higher value. As a public company, they will need to focus on quarterly earnings and those results may influence when they buy or sell — taking in fees when they buy and profits when they sell. (Equity firms insist in their prospectuses that they will not manage investments to meet quarterly earnings).

Our civil religion — unbridled and seldom-questioned capitalism — has led us to believe that cutting jobs is a public service. It is not.

The old company’s profit went, in considerable measure, to provide a living wage to, let’s say, a thousand workers. The new company has now been slimmed down, trimmed. modernized, or streamlined. (Notice the vocabulary, incidentally. We would have a very different view of the process if we used words like gutted, looted, squeezed, or plundered.)

The new company now has five hundred workers. To simplify matters some, but not much, the wages of the other five hundred workers are now in the pockets of a handful of lawyers, moneylenders and stock market gamblers with inside knowledge. (Again, words matter; they prefer to call themselves investment bankers, hedge fund managers, investors, and financiers.)

The true worth of the company may have been — in a more moral society would be held to be — the jobs of the employees, and the value of the goods or services created by the company.

The latter may continue, although very possibly the personnel reductions will result in worse service or shoddy goods. But the jobs lost are gone forever, to the detriment not only of the individuals but the community.

You might as well say that a tick creates value, when all it does is suck your blood for its benefit and leave you with Lyme disease.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:21 AM
July 02, 2007
Bush’s Cold War Nostalgia

Putin isn’t the only one to oppose Bush’s idiot plan to protect Europe from nonexistent Iranian missiles with an unworkable antimissile system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

This pointless and childish attempt to restart the Cold War is just as unpopular with the people it’s supposed to protect, the McClatchy Newspapers report:

There are only about 600 people in this poor but bucolic village in the Brdy district west of Prague, but the view along the cobble-stoned streets is nearly unanimous: they are against the U.S. plan …

In a recent referendum, 98 per cent voiced opposition to the U.S. plan. In nearby Sedlec, 96.5 percent were against it. In Vranovice, it was 96 percent. And, just up the road, in Rozmital, 94.5 percent oppose the plan. Throughout the Czech Republic, public opinion is 60 per cent against the plan …

Magnus Ranstorp, research director for the Swedish Defense College, and one of the world's foremost experts on terrorism, put it this way: “It's a defense system that doesn't yet work intended to stop a threat that does not yet exist…”

Experts said the Bush administration negotiated the radar deal directly with Poland and the Czech Republic, leaving NATO and European nations out of the loop. By doing so, thereby weakening NATO's stature in Europe …

The unilateral U.S. drive for an unproven system has in fact divided Europe, according to Otfried Nassauer, an expert on defense policy at the German research center Berlin Institute for Trans-Atlantic Security.

“In the end, Europeans have to decide whether a theoretical defense system is worth a very real split in Europe,” he said. “It's classic Bush. He had a plan and he's going ahead with it, no matter the costs or arguments against it.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:56 AM
May 11, 2007
The Day the Empire Ended…

From an interview with Chalmers Johnson, historian and military expert:

The world’s balance of power didn’t change one iota on September 11th, 2001. The only way we could lose the power and influence we had at that time was through our own actions, and that’s what we did.

Instead of calling it a war on terrorism, we should have called it a national emergency. We should have gone after the terrorists as criminals, as organized crime, because of their attacks on innocent civilians. Tracked them down — we have the capacity to do that — arrested them, extradited them back to the United States, tried them in our courts, and executed them. Had we done that, we would have retained the support of virtually the entire rest of the world, including the Islamic world, as the victims on 9/11.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:29 PM
April 09, 2007
Bush’s Termite Attack on America

The more important question underlying Bush’s firing of the eight U.S. attorneys has not been what they did to lose their jobs, but what the hundred-odd other U.S. attorneys did to keep theirs.

For a frightening part of the answer see this editorial in today’s New York Times. And bear in mind that Bush has been spreading his poison throughout the government — not just the relatively visible Justice Department.

How many thousands or tens of thousands of dedicated, competent public servants have been replaced by ideological and often corrupt hacks in the Park Service, the Government Printing Office, the Social Security Administration, the National Insitutes of Health, , the General Accounting Office, the Federal Highway Administration, OSHA, the Departments of Labor, Agriculture, Energy? On and on.

Most of our government is largely uncovered by the press and unknown to the electorate at large. This is where Bush has done the greater part of his damage to our nation, and it will take generations to undo.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:39 PM
March 18, 2007
And Sure Enough, We Never Found Them

Richard Perle, the Israeli war party’s most effective mole in the American government ever since the Reagan days, writing in the December 4, 2001, issue of Israel Insider.

By the way, for those who are not sufficiently concerned about the possibility of the anonymous delivery of biological weapons from Saddam’s arsenal of those weapons, he is busily at work on a nuclear weapon. One of the people who ran the nuclear weapons program for Saddam defected to the US in 1996, a man named Khidhir Hamza. He has written a book that I recommend called “Saddam’s Bomb maker.” I met with him in Washington.

Until I started taking him around, the senior-most person Hamza had met with was a GS15 at the State Department. We’ve now gotten him in to see some pretty senior officials. Hamza described the reaction to the bombing of the Osirak reactor as follows: We knew then that we should never again put so much of our program in a single location where it would be vulnerable, so we began to build uranium enrichment facilities, many facilities, and we built 400 of them and they’re all over the country. Some of them look like farmhouses, some of them look like classrooms, and some of them look like warehouses. You’ll never find them.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:15 PM
March 04, 2007
The Unlearned Lesson

More from Sy Hersh’s exposé of Bush’s continuation of Nixon’s and Reagan’s attempts to subvert democracy by setting up secret black ops units within the government:

Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then — notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams — are involved in today’s dealings.

Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress.

As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office” — a reference to Cheney’s role, the former senior intelligence official said.

The anticonstitutional wing of the Republican Party (or do I repeat myself?) keeps learning lessons from each of the messes it keeps making. The lesson of Vietnam, to these deep thinkers, was to muzzle the press. George Herbert Walker Bush did this to great effect during his little Panama weenie-wagger, his son to lesser effect with the embedding process in Iraq.

But none of these congenital meddlers ever stumbles on the real and perfectly obvious lesson taught by their own repeated catastrophes. That lessson, briefly stated:


Mind your own damn business, America.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:38 PM
February 27, 2007
Unneeded Defense Against Nonexistent Missiles Brings Threat of Real Ones

Last week Dante came across an article in Le Monde about Bush’s plan to install missiles in Czechoslovakia and Poland — on Russia’s doorstep. Dante called to tell me that this was a really big deal. He doubted, however, that the American press would pay much attention.

He was right on both counts. The Boston Globe ran a Reuters story and on Saturday the New York Times editorialized about it. And the dependable Guardian of London put an article up on its website.

But by and large the memory hole swallowed the news that Bush is doing his best to reignite the Cold War — and to hamstring the past efforts of better men to defuse the threat of nuclear missiles.

I could go on about this at greater length, but Dante has spared us a thousand words with one picture. Look, read the linked articles, and pray for the Republic.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:54 PM
February 24, 2007
And the Poor Get Poorer…

As I was reminded by Bill Maher a week or so ago, Bush campaigned in 2000 as “a reformer with results.” Here, from McClatchy Newspapers, are some of them. It is important to remember that these “results” are not collateral damage inflicted accidentally by Bush’s economic and regulatory policies. They are the point of those policies:

The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation’s “haves” and “have-nots” continues to widen …

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That’s 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy’s review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn’t confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.

The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:58 PM
February 20, 2007
The Road Not Taken

This is from Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency, by Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein. Lawrence Wilkerson was former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff.

In May 2003 the Iranian government approached the U.S. government with an urgent request to open up negotiations. There had been only one other official communication between Iran and the United States since Iranian radicals seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran during the Carter administration. Now the initial U.S. success in Iraq had the Iranians coming to the bargaining table as supplicants.

“The Iranians came to us through the Swiss ambassador after they saw how fast we moved through Afghanistan and Iraq,” Wilkerson says. “This was in 2003, right after [the invasion of] Iraq.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not yet president and the moderates in charge in Iran wanted to deal.

The letter delivered by Swiss ambassador Tim Guldimann offered concessions on Iran’s nuclear program, Israel policy, and al-Qaeda. “Israel policy,” of course, involved Tehran’s support of Hezbollah. According to Wilkerson, the Iranians offered to exchange al-Qaeda prisoners they held for Mujahedeen e Khalq prisoners the United States had in custody. The MEK was a guerrilla group Saddam Hussein had used in his war against Iran. After the war they engaged in terrorist attacks against Iran and are designated terrorists by the U.S. State Department.

More than a hundred billion dollars, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, America’s allies’ unflagging opposition to the war, and a deeply divided public. Finally it was all paying off. One of the countries Bush had placed in the Axis of Evil was coming in out of the cold.

“We told them no,” Wilkerson says in an interview at George Washington University. “Not only did we tell them no — we wrote a letter of protest to the Swiss for interfering in our foreign policy.”

The entire diplomatic endeavor was immediately curtailed. Asked if he knows who made the decision to reject the Iranian request for negotiations, Larry Wilkerson didn’t miss a beat.

“Yes, I know,” he says. “It was the vice president of the United States.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:20 PM
February 17, 2007
The Prophet Cheney

Way back in 1992, when the world was young and Dick Cheney was sane, here’s what he told the Discovery Institute in Seattle, defending George H.W. Bush’s decision not to invade Iraq:

If we’d gone on to Baghdad, we would have wanted to send a lot of force. One of the lessons we learned was don’t do anythng in a halfhearted fashion … If you go into the streets of Baghdad … all of a sudden you’ve got a battle you’re fighting in a major built-up city, a lot of civilians are around, significant limitations on our ability to use our most effective technologies and techniques …

Once we had rounded him up and gotten rid of his government, then the question is what do you put in its place? You know, you then have accepted the responsibility for governing Iraq …

I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today. We’d be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home.

And the final point that I think needs to be made is this question of casualties. I don’t think you could have done all of that without significant additional U.S. casualties. And while everybody was tremendously impressed with the low cost of the (1991) conflict, for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it wasn’t a cheap war.

And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam (Hussein) worth? And the answer is not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we’d achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.
As of this week, Cheney and George W. Bush, both draft dodgers themselves, had killed 3,133 Americans and wounded 25,530 more.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:00 AM
December 06, 2006
False Friends

Suburban Guerrilla pointed me to Bill Moyers’s superb speech to the West Point cadets last month. Here is an excerpt. Go read the whole thing. Please.

The Armed Services are no longer stepchildren in budgetary terms. Appropriations for defense and defense-related activities (like veterans’ care, pensions, and debt service) remind us that the costs of war continue long after the fighting ends. Objections to ever-swelling defensive expenditures are, except in rare cases, a greased slide to political suicide. It should be troublesome to you as professional soldiers that elevation to the pantheon of untouchable icons —right there alongside motherhood, apple pie and the flag—permits a great deal of political lip service to replace genuine efforts to improve the lives and working conditions—in combat and out—of those who serve.

Let me cut closer to the bone. The chickenhawks in Washington, who at this very moment are busily defending you against supposed “insults” or betrayals by the opponents of the war in Iraq, are likewise those who have cut budgets for medical and psychiatric care; who have been so skimpy and late with pay and with provision of necessities that military families in the United States have had to apply for food stamps; who sent the men and women whom you may soon be commanding into Iraq understrength, underequipped, and unprepared for dealing with a kind of war fought in streets and homes full of civilians against enemies undistinguishable from non-combatants; who have time and again broken promises to the civilian National Guardsmen bearing much of the burden by canceling their redeployment orders and extending their tours.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:21 AM
October 12, 2006
Thanks, George

North Korea has the bomb.

North Korea developed the bomb because it was scared of George Bush.

North Korea became scared of Bush after noticing that when a murderer of 3,000 Americans fled to Pakistan, a country with the bomb, Bush reacted by invading Iraq, a country without the bomb.

George Bush weakened America, and made America less safe, by invading Iraq.

George Bush, Weakener-in-Chief.

North Korea has the bomb.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 12:52 AM
September 29, 2006
The Natives Are Getting Restless, Sir

Easter Lemming points to a fascinating post by J.D. Henderson at Intel Dump. Henderson is a former infantry officer, drill sergeant, and rifleman. Intel Blog is written by men like him: lawyers with extensive military backgrounds. It is not an antiwar blog. It is not an antimilitary blog. Plainly Henderson has come to his conclusions only with great reluctance.

This makes his post especially compelling and convincing — and pay particular attention to the comments. If Bush has lost guys like these, he has lost the military. And the military has got the guns.

The ground under the Decider’s feet is giving away. While I certainly wouldn’t expect the military to turn its guns against the warhogs in the White House, I wouldn’t expect it to turn them against Iran, either. Generals are first and foremost bureaucrats. They know lots of ways to nullify orders without technically disobeying them. Let’s hope so, anyway.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:34 PM
September 26, 2006
The Weakener-in-Chief

The National Intelligence Estimate that everyone is talking about shows, once again, that George Bush’s strategy to fight Islamic terrorists has failed. Instead of reducing the number of young Muslims who hate America and want to kill Americans, the one-track Iraq policy has increased the young haters whose ambition is to kill Americans.

Instead of using the National Guard for its natural mission of securing guarding our ports, chemical plants, and refineries at home, Bush has left our homeland’s belly exposed by sending Guardsmen and women to die in an age-old ethnic strife in a land that did not attack or threaten America.

Instead of building on the unprecedented international primacy and leadership we Americans were accorded in the wake of the 9/11 butchery, he has alienated our friends, and stripped us of much-needed strength.

All this, and much more, is the reason Bush can, and should, be called “the Weakener-in-Chief:” he has weakened, not strengthened our country; he has lifted Osama bin Laden up, not brought him down; he has endangered us, not made us safer.

Given that the Bush strategy in the war on terror has failed so plainly, the “with-us-or-against-us” rhetoric should not work at all any more. George Bush had his chance to fight Islamic terrorism, for five years now, and he has failed. Because of incompetence.

The matter needs to be stated plainly: we don’t hate Bush because he is fighting terrorism, we want to replace him because he is not good at fighting terrorism.

It’s not that Bush’s critics are against the war on terror; quite the contrary, it’s that we want George Bush out of the way because he has failed to launch an effective war on terrorism. We want to start one now. Five years too late, and against an enemy much strengthened by the Bush missteps and bungling, and without many allies by our side any longer, but we’ve got to start sometime.

And, we have to win a few elections at home, before we can start to win the war on islamic terrorists overseas.

So, criticism of Bush, and political opposition to him, is not a way to aid terrorists; it is actually the first step to eradicating them.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 12:30 AM
July 31, 2006
Bushco Doing PR Work for Hizballah

As I’ve said before, there are some horrific pictures of dead children out there. If the US had tried from the start to broker a peace agreement under a cease–fire, it might have done some good for America’s image not to mention saved hundreds of children’s lives. But no, Bushco had to condone the atrocities.

The images of the dead children in southern Lebanon played across the television screens on Sunday over and over again — small and caked in dirt and as lifeless as rag dolls as rescuers hauled them from the wreckage of several residential buildings pulverized hours earlier by the Israeli Air Force.

The images were broadcast on all of the Arab-language satellite channels, but it was the most popular station, Al Jazeera, that made the starkest point. For several hours after rescuers reached Qana, Lebanon, the station took its anchors off the air and just continuously played images of the little bodies there.

“This is the new Middle East,” one report from the shattered town began, making a sarcastic reference to a phrase Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice uttered last week when visiting Beirut and rejecting calls for an immediate cease-fire. American weapons caused the deaths, the report said.

It’s amazing the work Bushco is doing throughout the world in America’s name.

(read more)

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Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 05:36 AM
July 25, 2006
Gutting Justice

There is nothing illegal, unethical, or underhanded about this. Just another one of the hundreds of low-profile ways George Bush, a/k/a the Weakener-in-Chief, has found to weaken and divide our country.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 09:03 PM
April 10, 2006
Bush Plan For America: Swifter, Higher, Stronger Slower, Lower, Weaker

Having spent the past four years turning Iraq from a despotic backwater commanded by a dictator with a 30-year record of not attacking America into the world headquarters for America-hating terrorist recruitment and training, is there anyone out there who doubts that the Weakener-in-Chief will not now do what he can to bolster and strengthen the America-hating elements in neighboring Iran?

Remember, the most precise guide to the foreign policy behavior of the Bush Administration has been simply to imagine what America can do to lift up Osama and let him soar. From attacking Afghanistan but letting Osama escape, to attacking Osama’s sworn enemy Saddam Hussein, to failing to mount a serious rebuilding effort in Afghanistan and perfectly executing a troop-light and rebuilding-light occupation of Iraq that allowed plenty of time for resentment and America-hate to build while providing no security or any other benefit to the people of Iraq — the Bush Administration’s response to 9/11 in every particular has been carefully calculated to please and strengthen Osama bin Laden, while weakening America.

Since we know that bombing Iran would serve the Weakener-in-Chief’s difficult-to-understand but plain-to-see twin goals of weakening America and strengthening America-hate and terrorism, we can be sure that the Weakener-in-Chief will do it.

To find out when America can begin a long-delayed real war on terrorism, click here.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:41 AM
March 21, 2006
You Should Keep Your Voice Down In Church Anyway

Wow. I missed this one: The Pentagon hired a contractor “to help it collect data on houses of worship, schools, power plants and other locations in the United States.”

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:24 AM
March 16, 2006
Iraq-Nam: The Smell Of Victory

KR leads the way again:

A review of military data shows that daily bombing runs and jet-missile launches have increased by more than 50 percent in the past five months, compared with the same period last year.…

The numbers also show that U.S. forces dropped bombs on more cities during the last five months than they did during the same period a year ago. Airstrikes hit at least 11 cities between Oct. 1, 2004, and Feb. 28, 2005, but were mostly concentrated in and around the western city of Fallujah. A year later, U.S. warplanes struck at least 22 cities during the same months.

If you had any doubt that our adventure in Iraq is spinning badly out of control.

To paraphrase the Robert Duvall character in Apocalypse Now who stands on the beach and revels in the smell of the napalm after leading a dawn helipcopter gunship assault on a seaside village, “I love the smell of progress in Iraq in the morning. … Smelled like … victory.”

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:57 AM
Incompetence, Or Raw Evil? You Decide.

Ah yes. That special Bush touch, that certain je ne sais pas, that incomparable and consistent mix of utter blithering incompetence and nation-weakening lawlessness (via):

On February 8, 2006, President Bush signed into law a version of the Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005 that was different in substance from the version that passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Legal scholars have advised me that the substantive differences between the versions — which involve $2 billion in federal spending — mean that this bill did not meet the fundamental constitutional requirement that both Houses of Congress must pass any legislation signed into law by the President.

Rep. Waxman: “If the President signed the Reconciliation Act knowing its constitutional infirmity, he would in effect be placing himself above the Constitution.”

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:09 AM
March 10, 2006
Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch …

… Bush continues to bungle what should have been Item One in any real war on terrorism: finding and killing Osama bin Laden, and getting rid of the Taliban. Both are thriving in Pakistan while we are off frying bigger fish such as tax cuts for the wealthy.

Instead, we’re off weakening our own country by continuing to refuse to do basic, real war-on-terror stuff, such as insuring that freight entering our country is actually inspected. (And, of course, the “it costs too much” defense is ridiculous, since a number of advanced and economically successful ports abroad, such as Hong Kong, in fact do have effective, 100 percent inspection programs: “This low-cost system of inspection is being carried out with no adverse impact on the marine terminals operations and without any U.S. government funding. It could be put in place globally at a cost of $1.5 billion or roughly $10 per container.”)

And, since the apparent goal of the Bush Administration is to weaken our country as much as possible, the proactive steps that the Bush Administration has taken, such as spying on U.S. citizens with no warrant and alienating all our allies, are both ineffective at detecting terrorist plots and corrosive of the strong, liberty-based, individual-protecting model that made our country great.

(For the record, I don’t pretend to know exactly why Bush has made it his goal to weaken and tear down our country; I suspect that with respect to the president personally, it has to do with revenge against the Big Daddy father who so clearly holds him in contempt to this day. But this doesn’t explain his legions of eager enablers, both in his administration, in congress, and in the media. Some crazy self-destructive biological urge like lemmings’ mythical rush to the sea? I don’t know. But it really doesn’t matter why Bush is weakening the country in every way he can. The only important thing is to identify that it is happening, and that the process cannot be reversed until Bush is either hobbled or leaves office. More BA posts on Bush as the “Weakener-in-Chief” here.)

Only then can a real, non-scared shitless, world community-based struggle against the forces that created the murderers of 9/11 begin.


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Posted by Wayne Uff at 05:52 AM
February 24, 2006
W Hits Granny, Protects Corporate Profits — Again

The United States is about to start subsidizing the retiree health insurance plans of big corporations. Like the current disastrous Medicare drug benefit, this amounts to an ill-considered injection of inefficient (because profit-driven) private insurance companies between the health care consumer and the appropriate ultimate payor, the federal government. Because of the proven efficiency of the government — as demonstrated by Medicare and the Veteran’s Health Administration — in delivering health care at the least possible expense, single payer is the way to go. Allowing insurance companies to interfere and create a dense private bureaucracy to cream off unnecessary profits while operating under the strongest possible incentive (i.e., the profit motive) to deliver the least amount of health care possible is a disaster-in-waiting for our already hobbled health care system.

Naturally, though, this is precisely the tack taken by the Weakener-in-Chief, since allowing health insurance companies to rip off patients and taxpayers accomplishes W’s twin goals of weakening the nation and helping big business.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:36 AM
February 23, 2006
No Nerds

More on the nation-weakening folly of the Bush Administration’s relentless drive to erode America’s scientific pre-eminence, by measures such as keeping foreign graduate students out of this country. Now, the Weakener-in-Chief’s war on science and scientists has reached the point where prominent scholars from other countries can’t get a visa to come here temporarily for conferences:

A leading world science body denounced tougher U.S. visa policies on Thursday after its Indian-born president said he failed to get permission to enter the country on charges he was hiding information that could be used for chemical weapons.

Professor Goverdhan Mehta, 62, an internationally recognized organic chemist, invited to a conference by the University of Florida, has denied the charges and said he was rejected because he could not recall details of research he did 40 years ago. …

Mehta, a former head of the Indian Institute of Science who has taught in the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Japan, said the [U.S.] consulate accused him of hiding information that could possibly be used for chemical weapons when he could not give details of his doctoral thesis.

“I did my Ph.D 40 years ago,” he told the Deccan Herald in Bangalore, the southern Indian high-tech center where he lives. “I told them I did not remember the topic. Science has progressed and changed completely since then.”

Forty years. Sounds about right. Wasn’t that the age of the barrels of supposed WMD that Bush and Rove were creaming over for a couple of news cycles back in the days when the WMD hunt in Iraq was still on?

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 10:03 PM
February 20, 2006
Unscientific American

The scientific community, after years of shrugging their shoulders at the Bush Administration anti-science stuff, finally is starting to realize just how dangerous the Bush Administration is to them personally, and to the nation's scientific pre-eminence. That pre-eminence being, of course, the single most important pillar in the creation of America as the dominant nation of the last century-and-a-half.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 01:07 AM
No, My Fault. Really.

More on privatizing profit while publicizing risk:

…when Medtronic and Guidant recalled certain heart defibrillators, both companies provided new devices free and agreed to reimburse patients up to $2,500 in out-of-pocket expenses for replacement operations. …

Neither producer, however, offered to pick up hospital and doctor bills. Instead, publicly funded plans like Medicare and private insurers are typically paying them. …

Manufacturers of implantable devices insist that their responsibilities are clearly spelled out in product warranties and that medical costs related to a device's replacement are not covered.

I'm sorry … somehow, I didn't take the time to read the warranty and replacement policy and maybe do some comparison shopping … ON MY HEART DEFIBRILLATOR!!??

The Bush Administration gives, as one of the reasons for letting the medical device makers get away with this, that keeping track of who gets what medical devices implanted is just too much paperwork. As if this precise type of inventory control were not practiced painlessly by every mom-and-pop retailer in the continental United States.

Of course, foisting risk off on the public to insure risk-free coporate profits is a classic way to weaken the nation while strengthening the corporations. That's why W is the Weakener-in-Chief, and re-earns the title every day.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 12:24 AM
February 08, 2006
Buried

President Bush entered office five years ago hungry to weaken the country. And, oh, how he has succeeded, our little Weakener-in-Chief! We’re weaker now than even the greediest drown-it-in-the-bathtub Weakentrooper could have dreamed.

Here’s what he and his Weakentroopers got up to as soon as he got in:

In 1999, [the federal mine safety agency] proposed strengthening standards on breathing devices, including requiring mines to stock “caches” of extra rescue devices and conduct more frequent hands-on training in how to use them. But by September 2001, the Bush administration withdrew the draft rule, citing “resource constraints and changing safety and health regulatory priorities.”

David Lauriski, the former Bush mine safety official who put the rule aside, is having second thoughts. “In retrospect, maybe we ought to have had requirements for more caches” of the breathing devices, he said Tuesday.

Only now, after an unacceptable number of corpses showed up on the evening news in or near the swing state of Pennsylvania, do we get even a nominal, lip-service, Clinton-level return to strength.

But once the TV lights dim, they won’t follow through. There’s only one real solution.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 09:14 AM
February 03, 2006
Grandmotherfuckers

If you’re like me, you knew that the new Medicare drug program would somehow weaken the nation by ripping off poor old people while lining the pockets of pharmaceutical companies, even if you didn’t know exactly how this was going to be accomplished. Now, as the program takes hold, the disgusting machinery is coming to light:

The boost in profits comes from a shift in the drug coverage of 6.4 million poor and elderly people from Medicaid to the new Medicare drug benefit. Unlike Medicaid, which requires drug companies to charge their lowest or “best price” for medications, the Medicare program relies on competition among private drug plans to keep prices low. By eliminating the need to discount drugs for the government, the industry can now pocket the savings.

“The net effect over 10 years is probably closer to $40 billion in extra profit,” said Stephen Schondelmeyer, a pharmaceutical economics professor … profits would likely increase in coming years as more businesses cut retirees’ drug benefits and steer their former employees into the Medicare drug plans.

I hope Grandma’s got experience taking it up the back door, ‘cause she’s gonna need it.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 12:14 AM
January 31, 2006
First, Let’s Do A Study

The Weakener-in-Chief (a/k/a, “W”) and his zany sidekick Weakentroopers are up to their old tricks of … you guessed it, further weakening the nation while bolstering next quarter’s results for the giant industry du jour. Now, they have come up with a creative and terrific new approach to regulating harmful industries: have the government literally stop enforcing the laws for an extended period, such as four years, and ask the companies in exchange to keep track of how much and to what extent they are breaking the law. The rationale is that this benefits the public good by giving the government an opportunity at the end of the study period to really quantify and get a handle on the scope of the problem, at which point, the government will be in the best position to crack down.

Here’s the first use of this great new enforcement tool: end all environmental enforcement at massive and massively polluting hog and poultry farms for four years. The Weakentroopers at W’s EPA as part of the deal also are letting slide any past violations by these massive farms. In exchange, the farms don’t have to do anything except measure and report how much they are polluting. Am I kidding? Sadly, no:

The Environmental Protection Agency has signed agreements with 2,681 animal feeding operations in the egg, chicken, turkey, dairy and hog industries. They would be exempt from having to pay potential fines of up to $27,500 a day for violations either in the past or over the next four years.

On Monday, the agency said its Environmental Appeals Board had approved the first 20 of those agreements…

The Weakentroopers claim that the public will benefit because at the end of the so-called “study period,” the government will have all the information it needs to start enforcing the law. Others — that is, those whose primary aim is to keep our country strong, rather than boosting next quarter’s profits — say:

The fact is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already has the ability under the Clean Air Act to get this information from the polluters and doesn’t need to give them a special “get out of jail free” card in order to find out about their emissions.

What is most disturbing is that the deal was created by the polluters and for the polluters. Industry lobbyists approached the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the fall of 2001 with their own proposal, and the administration’s final deal closely mirrors the polluters’ wish list.

Please note that the four-year study period takes us out past January 20, 2009.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:40 AM
January 19, 2006
More Weak Lies

After the recent Sago Mine disaster in which 12 men were killed in a mine with a deep history of recent safety violations, KR reported that the federal mining safety watchdog agency had grossly weakened enforcement under the current administration of George W. Bush (a/k/a, the “Weakener-in-Chief”). The administration said, “No, KR, you unpatriotic bad liberal press organization; look at our figures.” So, KR did look and the administration’s own figures — and found that:

When Knight Ridder conducted a new analysis in the manner suggested by [Mine Safety and Health Administration spokesman Dirk Fillpot] using MSHA’s newest database, it showed the same dramatic drop.

The newest data show a 43 percent reduction in proposed median major fines from the last five years of the Clinton administration when compared with the first five years of the Bush administration. That’s the same percentage reduction found in Knight Ridder’s original analysis, using a smaller, online database of MSHA violations.

Here is the misleading and inaccurate MSHA rebuttal that KR smacked down (but read it fast; the Bush Administration already took it down once, and no doubt will again if criticism continues). And here are 11 KR questions that the Bush Administration refused to answer.

After five years, this usual question — more administration lies, or just more incompetence — is getting pretty darn old. Especially when the measure is in wasted American lives, be they overseas or underground.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 10:38 PM
January 09, 2006
Power Tool

The lies of this administration are just so reflexive and consistent:

President Bush agreed with great fanfare last month to accept a ban on torture, but he later quietly reserved the right to ignore it, even as he signed it into law.

Acting from the seclusion of his Texas ranch at the start of New Year’s weekend, Bush said he would interpret the new law in keeping with his expansive view of presidential power. He did it by issuing a bill-signing statement — a little-noticed device that has become a favorite tool of presidential power in the Bush White House.

UPDATE: As Fast Eddie points out in comments, the linked article goes on to note that Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito during his time as a Department of Justice attorney in the Reagan Administration wrote a memo encouraging the use of such bill-signing statements.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:22 AM
Transparent Motives

Just amazing. Wherever you look — or, try to look — Bush is shutting down government transparency, and ignoring public information laws. Check this out. What reason could there be for not continuing the IRS’s 30-year practice of sharing audit information and statistics, other than to keep regular Americans from knowing that they are being increasingly audited, while rich individuals and corporations are not?

The Bush administration has broken the law by stopping the public release of detailed tax-enforcement data, which has been used to show which kinds of taxpayers get the most and toughest audits, a noted tax researcher says.

Professor Susan B. Long of Syracuse University said … the Internal Revenue Service has violated a 1976 court order requiring the release of the data. … Ms. Long, who has researched and written about federal tax administration for more than 30 years, used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to win the court order in 1976 directing the revenue agency to provide her regularly with its data on criminal investigations, tax collections, the number and hours devoted to audits by income level and taxpayer category, and other enforcement records. …

Despite filing regular FOIA requests for the material, the last data Ms. Long received arrived Nov. 1, 2004, and covered only the first six months of fiscal 2004, through March of that year, she said. “They really shut down access,” she said.

Transparency is what makes a government endure. Shutting down access to information weakens the government and the nation. Why does this man hate freedom of information so much? Is he trying to destroy the country?

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:03 AM
Unpaid
At one point last year, the Mine Safety and Health Administration fined a coal company a scant $440 for a “significant and substantial” violation that ended in the death of a Kentucky man. The firm, International Coal Group Inc., is the same company that owns the Sago mine in West Virginia, where 12 workers died earlier this week.

The $440 fine remains unpaid.

One would think it would go without saying that worker safety was fundamental to building a strong, healthy nation. In the era of George W. Bush, a/k/a the “Weakener-in-Chief,” one would be dead wrong.


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Posted by Wayne Uff at 05:44 AM
December 28, 2005
The Solution To 9/11 Is 1/20

Here’s another group of patriotic Americans who are appalled by the White House’s warrantless wiretapping because they understand just how deeply the decision to launch such a lawless program has weakened the nation and damaged the real war on terrorism (which currently is expected to be launched, seven years too late, on January 20, 2009): America’s intelligence professionals.

The White House decision to order surveillance of international phone calls by U.S. citizens without a warrant violated longstanding practices and could undermine a key U.S. intelligence agency that’s critical in the struggle against terrorists, former senior intelligence officials and other experts said this week.…

“The damage it’s done to [the National Security Agency’s] reputation is almost irreversible in my view,” said a longtime top intelligence official with intimate knowledge of the agency’s workings.…

The officials said that morale in the CIA’s Operations Directorate, the spy service, is plummeting and that some senior officials are leaving or planning to leave and others have declined to take assignments.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:00 AM
December 23, 2005
Bush’s War On Veterans Continues

The Bush Administration’s hypocritical bitch-slapping of veterans and the military continues, and the Democrats need to call him on it:

Nearly 2 million poor veterans or their impoverished widows are likely missing out on as much as $22 billion a year in pensions from the U.S. government, but the Department of Veterans Affairs has had only limited success in finding them.

Widows are hardest hit. According to a VA estimate, only one in seven of the survivors of the nation’s deceased soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who likely could qualify for the pension actually get the monthly checks. …

The VA knows that many veterans and widows are missing out on the benefit.

“We obviously are here for any veteran or survivor who qualifies,” said Tom Pamperin, a VA pension official. “But so many of these people — we don’t know who they are, where they are.”

Indeed, a VA report from late 2004 recommended that the agency “improve its outreach efforts” with public service announcements and other pilot programs.

While it made limited efforts to reach veterans or their widows through existing channels, it is “difficult to determine” whether such efforts have been successful, Pamperin said.

Let’s get this straight: those who have borne the burden of defending our contry, and their families and widows, are owed $22 billion per year for the services they rendered; and the Bush Administration hasn’t done a blessed thing to find and pay these vets the money they are owed.

“We don’t know who they are, where they are?” Are we talking about al Qaeda operatives, or our own veterans? This may be one of the areas where privatizing of government functions may make sense: pay a $100 bounty to anyone who brings in a veteran who is missing out on the benefits he earned while in uniform. The Bush Administration ’s dogged refusal to try to do the right thing by poor veterans is especially disgusting given that the men and women of the military are the crucial pawns in Bush’s political strategy to get and keep power.

This weakens America in lots of ways. One example: why does the Bush Administration think that they are missing their military recruitment numbers? Could it be because veterans are not valued? Jerks.

And isn’t this a perfect political opportunity to highlight the reality that despite Bush’s flag-waving and chest-thumping, it is the Democrats, and not the Republicans, who support and value veterans and military personnel? It’s simply not acceptable for veterans, especially those who are known to the VA because they are receiving VA health benefits, to be unaware that they are owed pension benefits. The Democrats need to introduce legislation requiring the VA to start a new program to identify the veterans and widows who are being bilked. Let the Republicans oppose that one.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 07:05 PM
December 21, 2005
Either Way, It’s All Thumbs

More Bush Administration incompetence, or just more thumbing its nose at the international community? You decide:

Despite U.S. assurances that any mistreatment of prisoners will be investigated and punished, German prosecutors have been waiting since May for the American government to respond to charges that the CIA kidnapped and mistreated a German citizen named Khaled al-Masri.
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Posted by Wayne Uff at 10:43 PM
The Perils of Populism

The thing about Bush is that he’s a uniter, not a divider. The entire Middle East, most of Europe, and just about all of Latin America are now united in their hatred and mistrust of our nation under Bush.

Take for instance Evo Morales, the populist who just won election as president of Bolivia. Here’s how that news struck democracy-lovers in Bush’s State Department:

Several State Department officials said the primary challenge that the United States faced in Latin America was the fragility of democratic governments in the region, which makes them vulnerable to populist leaders who, they said, were almost by definition anti-American. Those leaders, the officials said, also tended to chip away at democratic freedoms.

Historically our officials have preferred leaders who don’t chip away democratic freedoms, but instead destroy them instantly and utterly. To name only a handful: the Somozas, Trujillo, Pinochet, Batista, Duvalier, Stroessner, Noriega, Videla and his fellow fascists in the Argentine junta …

Want to be the first kid on your block to own a deck of playing cards featuring murderous puppets we have installed south of the border? Just click here.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:16 PM
December 12, 2005
Department of Injustice
The Justice Department has barred staff attorneys from offering recommendations in major Voting Rights Act cases, marking a significant change in the procedures meant to insulate such decisions from politics, congressional aides and current and former employees familiar with the issue said.

Yes – it makes America much stronger to leave 100 percent of decision-making in voting cases to elected officials and their appointees, without soliciting the advice of career voting enforcement people. (via)

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 11:26 PM
Too Late
Key Republicans yesterday called for a cease-fire on political attacks over the war in Iraq, which they say will weaken national security.

Too late. “Key Republicans” mis-reacting to 9/11 already have weakened national security and strengthened al Qaeda – by invading Iraq. Now is the time to unite the parties and the American people, declare victory, and leave.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 10:37 PM
December 11, 2005
L’Asshole, C’est Moi!
Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

Oh. You mean like the Bible?

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 12:02 AM
December 09, 2005
The End Of The Journey

Two things have been the strength and backbone of this country’s breathtakingly rapid two-century rise from wilderness to unprecedented global dominance. The first is immigration, and the second is public and private respect for and support of scientific and technological development.

The historically unprecedented war on science by Bush (a/k/a, “the Weakener-in-Chief”) and his Congressional allies (a/k/a, “Weakentroopers”) is well-known. It’s an important part of the Weakener-in-Chief’s easy-to-see but hard-to-understand plan to run America aground. Also well known, and equally important to the effort to dilute America’s strength, is the drive to create a meek and powerless underclass by denying immigrants any sort of legal status. (Note that this is not the same as trying to prevent immigration, something the Weakentroopers have no interest in; they want the cheap labor, it’s just that they want to insure that immigrants never gain the rights and powers of citizenship.)

Here’s the latest effort to create a permanent immigrant underclass by circumventing the clear constitutional dictate that any baby born in the U.S. is an American citizen:

Now some conservatives are taking aim at that birthright.

They call the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants “anchor babies” because at age 18 the children can apply to bring other family members here from abroad, and a growing group of House Republicans wants to change the policy. They hope to add a provision to the immigration bill that the House of Representatives will consider next week that would deny citizenship to those children.

Little brown babies aren’t the anchor keeping America from forging ahead; that would be shortsighted scared white men who want to end the thrill and promise and strength of coming to America.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:13 AM
December 05, 2005
Less Safe Than On 9/11

9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick:

“I think that we're less safe than we were 18 months ago,” she added. “We have a tremendous agenda and we have just not been about doing what we need to make us safe.” …

When the 9/11 commission released its report, it was met with “tremendous interest,” Gorelick said. Yet there was no follow through.

“You know, we have short memories,” Gorelick said. “The interest has faded. We’ve gone on to other issues.”

The irony and incompetence continues: every move the Weakener-in-Chief (a/k/a, “W”) makes ostensibly to fight terrorism and make this country safer, instead winds ups building terrorism and making this country dangerous and vulnerable.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:21 AM
December 02, 2005
Corrupting Justice
Justice Department lawyers [unanimously] concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act … But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan. …

“The State of Texas has not met its burden in showing that the proposed congressional redistricting plan does not have a discriminatory effect,” the memo concluded.

The memo also found that Republican lawmakers and state officials who helped craft the proposal were aware it posed a high risk of being ruled discriminatory compared with other options. …

J. Gerald “Gerry” Hebert, one of the lawyers representing Texas Democrats who are challenging the redistricting in court, said of the Justice Department’s action: “We always felt that the process … wouldn’t be corrupt, but it was… The staff didn’t see this as a close call or a mixed bag or anything like that. This should have been a very clear-cut case.”

The nation has been greatly strengthened over the years by the tradition in the Department of Justice of giving great, and almost invariably decisive, weight to the recommendations of staff attorneys in specific cases, even headline ones, while leaving matters of overarching policy firmly in the hands of political appointees. That process has now been corrupted, and the political appointees are not just setting policy, but are micro-managing specific cases. The concept, hitherto foreign to Justice Department career attorneys, is that the client is not the nation, but rather the president and his political party.

The issue is not whether this case-specific, result-oriented approach to justice and government is illegal; it is not. The issue is whether a nation can long remain great, strong, and respected when it is run as Tammany Hall. The answer is that it cannot; the Tammany Hall approach — bad government conservatism — in the long run weakens the nation.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 09:40 PM